Have Martial Law Rules Changed?

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There is quite a to-do in the liberty-oriented blogosphere concerning the rewritten Department of Defense directive on the use of military forces to quell civic disturbances. These kinds of directives go back at least to 1971 and earlier, to the Kerner Commission. My limited research turns up an excerpt from an Army Handbook from 1972 that seems to implement the DoD Directive 3025.12 from August 19, 1971. This says that “…the decision to impose martial law may be made by the local commander on the spot, if the circumstances demand immediate action, and time and available communication facilities do not permit obtaining prior approval from higher authorities.” This Directive has been updated over the years. On Feb. 4, 1994, a new version came out. It had language for the use of the military: “When the use of Military Forces is necessary to prevent loss of life or wanton destruction of property, or to restore governmental functioning and public order.  That ‘emergency authority’ applies when sudden and unexpected civil disturbances (including civil disturbances incident to earthquake, fire, flood, or other such calamity endangering life) occur, if duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation and circumstances preclude obtaining prior authorization by the President.”

The Federal Code also has such language. See, in particular, here: “[Authorizes] prompt and vigorous Federal action, including use of military forces, to prevent loss of life or wanton destruction of property and to restore governmental functioning and public order when sudden and unexpected civil disturbances, disasters, or calamities seriously endanger life and property and disrupt normal governmental functions to such an extent that duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situations.”

5:24 am on May 19, 2013