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The Pentagon, rushing to complete lame-duck President George W. Bush’s expansion of the military’s role in the United States, is stepping up to put more troops inside this country and take over key roles in homeland security.
In a move that will certainly alarm civil libertarians and should concern American citizens, the military plan rolls back the Posse Comitatus Act that limits the military’s role as a law enforcement agency inside U.S. borders.
Residents in and around the nation’s capital have already witnessed the transformation of that city into an armed military camp. Assault weapon carrying soldiers guard federal institutions and commuters to and from work pass military vehicles topped with machine guns and manned by troops alongside public highways.
That, some military analysts say, is just the beginning.
The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.
The long-planned shift in the Defense Department’s role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts, defense analysts said.
There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military’s role in domestic law enforcement.
But the Bush administration and some in Congress have pushed for a heightened homeland military role since the middle of this decade, saying the greatest domestic threat is terrorists exploiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.