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Military plans to counter Iran include possible 120,000 troop deployment, cyber attack ‘Nitro Zeus’

The Pentagon recently presented a military plan to the president’s top national security aides that calls for up to 120,000 troops deploying to the Middle East and a potential crippling cyber-attack on Iran’s infrastructure should Iran speed up its nuclear program or attack U.S. forces. Details of the briefing were first reported by the New…

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Military plans to counter Iran include possible 120,000 troop deployment, cyber attack ‘Nitro Zeus’

The Pentagon recently presented a military plan to the president’s top national security aides that calls for up to 120,000 troops deploying to the Middle East and a potential crippling cyber-attack on Iran’s infrastructure should Iran speed up its nuclear program or attack U.S. forces.

Details of the briefing were first reported by the New York Times, which cited more than half a dozen American national security officials, granted anonymity, who have been briefed on the updated plans.

But today, President Donald Trump brushed aside the Times reporting in comments to the press.

“I think it’s fake news. OK? Now would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully, we’re not gonna have to plan for that, and if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that,” Trump said.

The updated plan comes as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week gave the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal 60 days to come up with a plan to buffer his country from sanctions imposed by Trump when he pulled out of the deal last year.

On Friday, the Pentagon announced it would deploy a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East to defend against Iranian threats. Officials also announced an amphibious ship would be sent to the region, adding better launch capabilities for Marines. The move comes after four Patriot batteries were removed from the region last fall.

New Persian Gulf deployments will also include bombers and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.

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Those shifts in resources came after a new intelligence report on May 3, Shanahan told Congress last week.

Iranian military leaders are calling U.S. assets in the region a target, according to Reuters, citing a report in the Iranian Students’ News Agency (INSA).

“An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now it is a target and the threats have switched to opportunities,” said Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards’ aerospace division.

“If (the Americans) make a move, we will hit them in the head,” he added, according to ISNA.

Also, over the weekend, four oil tankers off of the coast of the United Arab Emirates were damaged in potential sabotage or attacks. The incident remains under investigation. The Iranian government has called it a, “regretful incident.”

“It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens,” Trump told reporters Monday in response to questions about the tankers.

The new intelligence report looks at Iran preparing its proxy forces. But officials told the Times that the most likely scenario that ends up in conflict would be after act or attack by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Navy.

The IRGC has a history of sending small, fast moving boats at U.S. Navy ships in the Gulf, attempting to provoke a military response.

It’s unclear if Trump himself has received the military plan briefing, based on the Times report. But a recent statement does not remove a military response.

“The president has been clear, the United States does not seek military conflict with Iran, and he is open to talks with Iranian leadership,” Garrett Marquis, a National Security Council spokesman, wrote in an email to the Times on Monday. “However, Iran’s default option for 40 years has been violence, and we are ready to defend U.S. personnel and interests in the region.”

At the same time, European allies have reportedly been talking with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in efforts to deescalate any tensions and avoid any inadvertent overstepping on either side that could lead to conflict.

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side,” said Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary told reporters in Brussels, Belgium.

The updated military plans do not call for an Iraq War-style land invasion but instead focus on air strikes and a potential cyber-attack, which in previous plans had been called “Nitro Zeus” and would have attempted to disable major Iranian cities, military facilities and the power grid. That plan dates to at least 2010 or earlier, experts have said.

The cyber attack plan was previously considered as a way to hit Iran in the first hours of a conflict, reducing the need for much of the conventional attacks such as bombings and missile strikes, according to the Times.

But, experts have noted that Iran’s cyber capabilities have increased, pointing to attacks on financial markets in 2012, military targets and a Las Vegas casino. Experts testified to Congress this year that Iranian hackers are advanced enough now to hit U.S. targets.

The Times reports that Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan presented the plan last Thursday in a meeting on “broader Iran policy.” The meeting included National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph E. Dunford Jr., C.I.A. Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, according to the Times.

-Military Times Deputy Editor Leo Shane III contributed to this report

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German government doesn’t have to ensure US follows international law on drone strikes, court rules

BERLIN — Germany’s top administrative court has ruled the country’s government can’t be forced to ensure that U.S. drone strikes controlled via an American military base on German territory are in line with international law. The decision Wednesday by the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig overturns a ruling last year that held the German government…

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German government doesn’t have to ensure US follows international law on drone strikes, court rules

BERLIN — Germany’s top administrative court has ruled the country’s government can’t be forced to ensure that U.S. drone strikes controlled via an American military base on German territory are in line with international law. The decision Wednesday by the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig overturns a ruling last year that held the German government partly responsible for making sure that such military operations comply with international law. The ruling restores a lower court decision in 2015 that concluded the German government had fulfilled its legal duties and was within its rights to balance them with “foreign and defense policy interests.” The case was brought by human rights groups on behalf of three Yemeni plaintiffs who allege their relatives were killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2012. They alleged that the U.S. air base in Ramstein, southern Germany, plays a key role in the relay of flight control data used for armed drone strikes in Yemen. Jennifer Gibson of the human rights group Reprieve said the plaintiffs would continue to campaign against the drone strikes. “What we are talking about here is a secret assassination program that kills scores of civilians each year,” Gibson said. “It is simply unsustainable, and despite today’s ruling, clearly unlawful.” Granting the German government’s appeal against last year’s verdict, judges in Leipzig said that Berlin could only be compelled to take further action if “due to the number and circumstances of the breaches of international law that have already taken place there must be a concrete expectation further actions that are illegal under international law will also occur in future.” Sign up for the Early Bird Brief Get the military’s most comprehensive news and information every morning. 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They also concluded that there was no direct link to Germany in the case, citing the provision of technical relay capabilities as insufficient. Judges noted that the German government had taken some steps to address the issue in its communications by seeking assurances from Washington, thereby proving that Berlin had made an effort to ensure the plaintiffs’ rights were protected. Andreas Schueller, a lawyer with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights who argued the case for the Yemeni plaintiffs, said his clients were considering an appeal before Germany’s highest court. “A state that makes its territory available for military operations must enforce international law and human rights more strongly than the German government does,” he said.

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No SecDef pick from Biden as Flournoy hits resistance from progressives

WASHINGTON ― When President-elect Joe Biden announced the core of his national security team on Monday, there was one glaring omission: his choice for defense secretary. That absence is leading to questions about whether Michèle Flournoy, a politically moderate Pentagon veteran whose confirmation would give the Defense Department its first woman leader, remains the odds-on…

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No SecDef pick from Biden as Flournoy hits resistance from progressives

WASHINGTON ― When President-elect Joe Biden announced the core of his national security team on Monday, there was one glaring omission: his choice for defense secretary. That absence is leading to questions about whether Michèle Flournoy, a politically moderate Pentagon veteran whose confirmation would give the Defense Department its first woman leader, remains the odds-on favorite for the role. The doubts came as Flournoy has been under pressure from the left over her defense industry ties and relatively hawkish views. Flournoy joined Booz Allen Hamilton’s board and co-founded defense consulting firm WestExec Advisors in 2018, and, in 2007, co-founded the Center for a New American Security think tank, which relies on support from defense firms. On Monday, Biden announced Antony Blinken, his longtime advisor and Flournoy’s partner at WestExec, as his nominee for secretary of state. Biden also selected Jake Sullivan for national security advisor; Alejandro Mayorkas for homeland security secretary; Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Avril Haines for director of national intelligence. Haines also has ties to WestExec. Politico reported Monday that while Flournoy is still a strong contender, Biden is not entirely sold on her, though it’s unclear how big of a role the resistance from the left is playing. Jeh Johnson, President Barack Obama’s second secretary of Homeland Security, is another top candidate ― and he would be the first Black defense secretary, but he could also concern progressives as a member of Lockheed Martin’s board. Fox News reported Monday that Flournoy will be the pick, but the timing of the move is not clear. The Biden transition team did not respond to a request for comment. Amid the uncertainty, there is a push to support Flournoy’s candidacy. Sign up for our Early Bird Brief Get the defense industry’s most comprehensive news and information straight to your inbox Subscribe Enter a valid email address (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Thanks for signing up! × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. A group of 11 military and veteran support organizations endorsed Flournoy over the weekend, praising her “undisputed expertise” and calling for a swift confirmation, should she be nominated. And after news of some Biden picks leaked without a defense secretary on Monday, the No Exceptions initiative, which pushed to open all combat positions to women, activated its email network to urgently gather signatures for an open letter to support Flournoy as a historic choice. “Michèle was a tremendous ally to No Exceptions in our fight to open all combat roles in the U.S. Armed Forces to women. Now, it’s our turn to support her,” said the email, which was described as “time sensitive.” The group hoped to release their letter Tuesday or Wednesday, a spokeswoman said. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., right, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speak during a press conference following a vote in the U.S. House on ending U.S. military involvement in the war in Yemen, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 4, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) Flournoy’s Pentagon experience is not in doubt, as she has served multiple times in the Defense Department, starting in the 1990s and most recently as the undersecretary of defense for policy from 2009 to 2012. Still, progressives wary of Flournoy’s business dealings want Biden to show a break from President Donald Trump, who selected two defense secretaries from industry: former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan and former Raytheon executive Mark Esper. Left-leaning Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Barbara Lee, D-Calif., wrote a letter this month asking Biden not to nominate a defense secretary who has ties to defense contractors, which was seen as a veiled shot at Flournoy. Meanwhile, progressive groups are broadly calling for greater transparency into the potential conflicts of interest of executive branch appointees. “After the rampant corruption and conflicts of interest we’ve seen in the Trump administration, it would behoove the Biden administration to really demonstrate they are charting a different course and they are adding some protections to restore faith and trust in these institutions,” said Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War, a progressive foreign policy organization. Another concern for progressives is that Flournoy, as reported by Foreign Policy, clashed with Biden over U.S. force levels in Afghanistan when he was vice president and she was Pentagon policy chief during the Obama administration ― and in the past, she pushed to keep more U.S. forces in Iraq. (Biden is seeking a swift pullout from Afghanistan with a residual counter-terror force.) FILE – In this Sept. 22, 2016, file photo, a man stands among the rubble of the Alsonidar Group’s water pump and pipe factory after it was hit by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File) In a tweet on Sunday, Rep. Ro Khanna, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and House Armed Services Committee, raised questions about Flournoy publicly and by name. “Flournoy supported the war in Iraq & Libya, criticized Obama on Syria, and helped craft the surge in Afghanistan. I want to support the President’s picks,” said Khanna, D-Calif., referring to Biden. “But will Flournoy now commit to a full withdrawal from Afghanistan & a ban on arms sales to the Saudis to end the Yemen war?” Progressives and grassroots advocates spurred congressional actions around ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen ― an end Biden supports and is included in the 2020 Democratic platform ― and they want to ensure his administration keeps human rights concerns at the center of a new, less-militarized U.S. foreign policy. “I think progressives effectively pulled together with the Biden campaign to get a number of important foreign policy priorities into the Democratic Party Platform,” said Matt Duss, foreign policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders. “Now progressives are going to want to hear from any nominee how they’re going to be following through on those commitments.” Flournoy has taken the concerns of progressive foreign policy groups seriously enough that she convened a call with them, and she offered assurances she opposed the sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia that could be used in Yemen, according to Politico. Because Flournoy, Blinken and other Biden team figures have maintained or at least opened communications with progressive groups, some representatives of them say their intent isn’t to block Flournoy or other nominees, but to put progressive issues and foreign policy concerns on the table. “You don’t have to protest outside the White House when you can go into the White House and make the case for your position,” Miles said. “That doesn’t mean you never protest outside the White House, but when there’s a time and a place for it.”

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How the president could invoke martial law

Throughout 2020, America has faced a global pandemic, civil unrest after the death of George Floyd and a contentious election. As a result, an influx of fear about the possibility of the invocation of martial law or unchecked military intervention is circulating around the internet among scholars and civilians alike. “The fear is certainly understandable,…

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How the president could invoke martial law

Throughout 2020, America has faced a global pandemic, civil unrest after the death of George Floyd and a contentious election. As a result, an influx of fear about the possibility of the invocation of martial law or unchecked military intervention is circulating around the internet among scholars and civilians alike. “The fear is certainly understandable, because as I’m sure you know, martial law isn’t described or confined or limited, proscribed in any way by the Constitution or laws,” Bill Banks, a Syracuse professor with an expertise in constitutional and national security law, told Military Times. “If someone has declared martial law, they’re essentially saying that they are the law.” What is ‘martial law’ In short, martial law can be imposed when civil rule fails, temporarily being replaced with military authority in a time of crisis. Though rare, there have been a number of notable U.S. cases where martial law came into play, including in times of war, natural disaster and civic dispute — of which there has been no shortage in 2020. While no precise definition of martial law exists, a precedent for it exists wherein, “certain civil liberties may be suspended, such as the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, freedom of association, and freedom of movement. And the writ of habeas corpus [the right to a trial before imprisonment] may be suspended,” according to documents from JRANK, an online legal encyclopedia. Martial law may be declared by both the president and by Congress. State officials may also declare martial law, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, however, “their actions under the declaration must abide by the U.S. Constitution and are subject to review in federal court.” “Notorious examples include Franklin D. Roosevelt’s internment of U.S. citizens and residents of Japanese descent during World War II and George W. Bush’s programs of warrantless wiretapping and torture after the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” the Atlantic reported. “Abraham Lincoln conceded that his unilateral suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War was constitutionally questionable, but defended it as necessary to preserve the Union.” Throughout the course of U.S. history, federal and state officials have declared martial law at least 68 times, according to Joseph Nunn, an expert with the Brennan Center for Justice. Sign up for the Early Bird Brief Get the military’s most comprehensive news and information every morning (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. How does it work? Martial law does have limits. The Posse Comitatus Act, passed on June 18, 1878, prevented federal troops from supervising Confederate state elections during Reconstruction. Though initially it only applied to the Army, it has been amended to include the Defense Department and, of course, the other service branches. That act prevents troops from enforcing domestic law, preventing such actions as searching and seizing property or dispersing crowds. However, National Guard units, which take their direction from state governors, are exempt from the Posse Comitatus Act. One exception to Posse Comitatus, however, is the Insurrection Act, which allows the use of active-duty or National Guard troops for federal law enforcement in cases when “rebellion against the authority of the U.S. makes it impracticable to enforce the laws of the U.S. by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings,” according to U.S. Northern Command. The text of the Act reads: “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in all cases of insurrection, or obstruction to the laws, either of the United States, or of any individual state or territory, where it is lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia for the purpose of suppressing such insurrection, or of causing the laws to be duly executed, it shall be lawful for him to employ, for the same purposes, such part of the land or naval force of the United States, as shall be judged necessary, having first observed all the pre-requisites of the law in that respect.” But activating the National Guard even under federal Title 32 status, in which the federal government helps pay for Guard troops under state control, does not fall under the Insurrection Act, nor does it equate to martial law in ordinary circumstances. “Governors call the National Guard all the time to respond to a storms or power outages, delivering medical supplies, stuff going on even during COVID,” Banks said. “That’s not extraordinary, nor would it be if the President federalized the National Guard for similar reasons, responding to a need to disseminate vaccines next winter, for example, would be perfectly appropriate, lawful, not martial law.” Should we be worried? “The sort of hellish scenarios that some people talk about is one where the president orders or regular military armed forces the United States to take over cities that he believes are engaged in an unlawful election, disruption or protests in the wake of an unresolved presidential election in the days after November 3,” Banks noted. Though purely a hypothetical, Banks notes that the way it would happen would be through the Insurrection Act. In order to invoke the Insurrection Act, the president “must first issue a proclamation ordering the insurgents to disperse within a limited time, 10 U.S.C. § 334.4. If the situation does not resolve itself, the President may issue an executive order to send in troops,” according to a 2006 Congressional Research Service report. “One of the important things to remember about the Insurrection Act is that it’s not martial law,” Banks said. “The purpose of utilizing the mechanisms of insurrection act is to enforce the law, not replace it.” In June, at the height of the protests surrounding the death of a Black man named George Floyd at the hands of a white Minnesota police officer, President Donald Trump alluded to the Insurrection Act as a means of calling up active duty troops to quell civil unrest as protest erupted across the country. “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump said in a White House statement on June 1 — just before he posed for a photo opportunity outside Washington, D.C.’s St. John’s Church with a bible amid an entourage, which included Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley. Milley publicly apologized for his appearance in Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square to pose for photos in front of a church partially burned during protests. “My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” Milley said. “As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.” But while the Insurrection Act is law, the fact that martial law is not codified lands its use in a distinctly grey legal area. “One of the problems, of course, is that there’s nothing to prevent the president or a military commander from declaring martial law,” Banks noted. “They can just do it. It’s not sanctioned by law.” Banks noted that the civilian in charge of the military — in this case, Defense Secretary Mark Esper — is the key to ensuring the military is kept out of the 2020 elections. “Secretary Esper is in a in a really critical role here,” Banks noted. Esper addressed this in a memo to the force. “As citizens, we exercise our right to vote and participate in government,” he wrote. “However, as public servants who have taken an oath to defend these principles, we uphold DoD’s longstanding tradition of remaining apolitical as we carry out our official responsibilities.” Milley too feels strongly about the necessity of keeping the U.S. military out of politics and the election. “We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to an individual, a king, a queen, a president or anything else,” he said in an interview with NPR. “We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to a country, for that matter. We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to a flag, a tribe, a religion or any of that. We swear an oath to an idea, or a set of ideas and values, that are embedded in our Constitution.” As a result of these comments, Banks is optimistic that the worst case election scenario in the event of disputed election results might just be lawsuits in certain states where the outcomes are murky. “A really important limitation in the event that there is martial law is that it’s highly unlikely to be tolerated in a situation where our civilian institutions are working,” Banks noted. “Martial law requires a complete meltdown. It requires the inability of our civilian institutions to manage government. It’s hard to imagine that.”

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