Posse Comitatus: Some Thoughts on Loosening its Restrictions within the Department of Defense   [open pdf - 1MB]

Posse Comitatus law and/or service policies have prohibited DoD forces from becoming involved in domestic/civil law enforcement since the late 1870s. Focus upon the "war on drugs" during the 1980s generated new laws that significantly changed DoD's role in this long-term battle. Current National Security Strategy (NSS) and National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS) indicate ongoing involvement by DoD forces in the strategy to decrease demand, reduce availability of drugs, and reduce the number of young people who experiment with drugs. Posse Comitatus law does not apply outside of the United States, and the law only applies to the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force; however, Department of Navy officials have crafted their service policy to mirror Posse Comitatus restraints. 10 USC 375 (1988) provided clarification and restricted all DoD forces from becoming directly involved in law enforcement (search, seizure and arrest). It's time for another look at partially increasing DoD involvement in counterdrug operations (CD OPS). This paper presents a case for authorizing U.S. Navy combatants to board foreign vessels upon the high seas. Appendix A includes a detailed summary of Posse Comitatus law and its changes over the past century.

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