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Pentagon Exploring Border Control Patrols

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-5816419,00.html Pentagon Exploring Border Control Patrols Friday May 12, 2006 2:46 AM By LOLITA C. BALDOR
    Message 1 of 1 , May 11 7:17 PM
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      http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-5816419,00.html

      Pentagon Exploring Border Control Patrols

      Friday May 12, 2006 2:46 AM

      By LOLITA C. BALDOR

      Associated Press Writer

      WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon is looking at ways the
      military can help provide more security along the U.S.
      southern border, defense officials said Thursday, once
      again drawing the nation's armed forces into a
      politically sensitive domestic role.

      On Capitol Hill on Thursday, the House voted 252-171
      to allow Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to
      assign military personnel under certain circumstances
      to help the Homeland Security Department perform
      border security. The House added the provision to a
      larger military measure.

      Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for
      homeland defense, asked officials this week to come up
      with options for the use of military resources and
      troops - particularly the National Guard - along the
      border with Mexico, according to defense officials
      familiar with the discussions. The officials, who
      requested anonymity because the matter has not been
      made public, said there are no details yet on a
      defense strategy.

      The request comes as some Southern lawmakers met this
      week with White House strategist Karl Rove for a
      discussion that included making greater use of
      National Guard troops to shore up border control.
      Congress is poised to pass legislation this month that
      would call for additional border security, a new guest
      worker program and provisions opening the way to
      eventual citizenship for many of the estimated 11
      million illegal immigrants in the country.

      ``The Texas delegation is very concerned about the
      border and are pushing urgency,'' said Rep. Kevin
      Brady, R-Texas, who joined other Texas Republicans in
      a meeting with Rove this week. He said Rove was ``very
      forthright'' about border projects that Homeland
      Security is starting up, its current projects and what
      the needs are.

      Rep. Ken Marchant, R-Texas, who also attended the
      meeting, said the lawmakers left ``very encouraged.''

      Currently, the military plays a very limited role
      along the borders, but some armed forces have been
      used in the past to help battle drug traffickers.
      National Guard units, meanwhile, have been used at
      time by Southern and Western governors to provide
      assistance at border crossings.

      Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano said the military help
      ``is basically what she has been asking for,''
      spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer said. Napolitano has been
      asking the Pentagon to send more National Guard troops
      - but not regular military - to confont illegal
      immigration from Mexico. About 170 National Guard
      troops are helping in such efforts in the state now.

      Defense officials said they have been asked to map out
      what military resources could be made available if
      needed - including options for using the National
      Guard under either state or federal control. The
      strategy would also explore the legal guidelines for
      use of the military on domestic soil, the officials
      said.

      The National Guard is generally under the control of
      the state governors, but Guard units can be
      federalized by the president, such as those sent to
      the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Active duty military
      cannot be used for law enforcement unless the
      president specifically decides to exercise that
      option.

      Officials wrangled over the use of the active military
      during Hurricane Katrina, with some suggesting that
      troops be used for law enforcement to quell violence
      and looters in New Orleans. There were also
      suggestions that Bush federalize the National Guard
      there - removing them from state control, but state
      officials opposed that proposal. In the end, neither
      move was made.

      At its peak during Katrina, the military had about
      22,000 active-duty troops in the Gulf region, in
      addition to about 50,000 National Guard troops
      operating under the state governors' command. The
      active- duty military provided ships, helicopters,
      search-and-rescue aid, evacuations and other
      assistance.

      In the aftermath of the hurricane, Bush asked Pentagon
      officials to review ways to give the military a bigger
      role in responding to major disasters. But officials
      are somewhat reluctant to make major changes, leery of
      the image of armed military troops patrolling U.S.
      cities.

      Under the Civil War-era Posse Comitatus Act, federal
      troops are prohibited from performing law enforcement
      actions, such as making arrests, seizing property or
      searching people. In extreme cases, however, the
      president can invoke the Insurrection Act, also from
      the Civil War, which allows him to use active-duty or
      National Guard troops for law enforcement.

      ---

      Associated Press writer Suzanne Gamboa contributed to
      this report.

      ---

      On the Net:

      Defense Department: http://www.defenselink.mil
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