U.S. military troops participate in an exercise Nov. 22, 1918, at the San Ysidro port of entry.

 

(Image: Photo by Mario Tama / Getty).

Military May Use Lethal Force on Civil Disturbances at Border

President Trump’s U.S. military deployment at the southern border has been authorized to use lethal force in response to civil disturbances at ports of entry, according to Pentagon documents obtained exclusively by The Young Turks.

The documents, marked For Official Use Only (“FOUO”), reveal that during civil disturbance operations, certain military personnel have been granted “lethal capability” to protect soldiers in riot control formation at ports of entry. Military personnel are also permitted, the documents show, to use “deadly force” to protect other personnel engaged in border security operations and even to protect property.

Screengrab from Feb. 2019 Operations Order on use of lethal force.

The documents, a military Operations Order dated February 2019, were provided to TYT by a Pentagon source who requested anonymity to avoid professional reprisal.

This follows a recent report by Newsweek which revealed that U.S. military forces at the border are authorized to use lethal force on moving vehicles reasonably believed to pose an imminent threat of death or bodily harm to civilians in the immediate area. The director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, Hina Shamsi, told Newsweek that the authorization was “incredibly dangerous,” and that the military is “perilously closer to violating the spirit, if not the letter of Posse Comitatus prohibitions.”

The Posse Comitatus Act, passed at the end of Reconstruction in 1878, limits the military from enforcing domestic policies on U.S. soil.

The documents obtained by TYT show that the military’s authority to exercise lethal force extends to cases of “civil disturbance.” The documents do not define this term.

However, the Army Field Manual publication “Civil Disturbance Operations” stresses the importance of nonlethal measures: “In the past, commanders were limited to the type of force they could apply to quell a riot. Riot batons, riot control agents, or lethal force were often used. Today, there is a wide array of nonlethal weapons (NLW) available to the commander that extends his use of force along the force continuum.”

The Operations Order obtained by TYT describes at least three cases in which lethal force may be authorized at the border: to protect personnel engaged in civil disturbance operations, barbed wire installation operations, and mobile surveillance camera operations.

The document’s “CIVIL DISTURBANCE OPERATIONS” section states, “LEADERS IN THE POSITION OF PLATOON SERGEANT AND HIGHER, WHO ARE 10-20 METERS BEHIND THE FORMATION THAT IS ENGAGED IN CIVIL DISTURBANCE OPERATIONS AT A PORT OF ENTRY, ARE AUTHORIZED ARMING LEVEL III WITH WEAPON STATUS RED. THIS LETHAL CAPABILITY PROVIDES FOR PROTECTION FOR MILITARY POLICE SOLDIERS IN THE RIOT CONTROL FORMATION WHO ARE EQUIPPED WITH ONLY SHIELDS AND RIOT BATONS.”

This lethal force authorization appears to derive from Trump’s mandate that the military protect Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other government personnel at the border. The sentence immediately following the civil disturbance section states: “THE PRESIDENT DIRECTED DOD TO TEMPORARILY PROTECT CBP AND OTHER U.S. GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL WHO ARE PERFORMING FEDERAL FUNCTIONS AND DESIGNATED POE(S).”

Other sections describe how military forces are also authorized to use deadly force to protect property deemed inherently dangerous: “BORDER SUPPORT OPERATIONS FOR PROTECTION OF CBP AT POE [ports of entry]. BRIGADE LEVEL COMMANDERS ARE AUTHORIZED TO ARM MPS [military police] IN ORDER TO PROTECT DOD FORCES AND PROPERTY DESIGNATED AS INHERENTLY DANGEROUS PROPERTY BY THE ON-SCENE COMMANDER (ARMS, AMMUNITION, AND THE LIKE) WITH DEADLY FORCE.”

The Defense Department did not immediately respond to questions from TYT about the lethal force authorization.

You can view the documents on which this article is based here.

Ken Klippenstein is a senior investigative reporter for TYT. He can be reached securely via Signal at 202-510-1268, on Twitter @kenklippenstein or via email: [email protected].

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