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View Full Version : Constitutional / posse comitatus question (I think)



Fredster
10-08-2009, 08:45 PM
Suppose a general received word that a US citizen had commandeered an aircraft, and was currently flying toward a heavily populated area with a bomb he intended to detonate. Further suppose he's only minutes away, and there's an Air Force base nearby.

Would it be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act for the president or that general to direct the Air Force base to dispatch something to shoot him down?

The guy flying the aircraft is in essence committing an act of war, right? And therefore it would be legal / believable for them to try and stop him, correct?

And now the REAL question: Suppose the guy survives, and is on the ground in this densely populated area. Is it a violation of Posse Comitatus for them to use the military to look for him? Is it a criminal matter once the emergency is over?

Because it sure would put some awesome pressure on my guy if the police, the FBI, and the military were looking for him. :D

Mike Martyn
10-08-2009, 09:12 PM
As far as I know theres is no such legislation as the Posse Commitatus Act.

As for your MC, they'd scramble the fighter jets and blow him out of the air. This is post 9/11 after all.

Noah Body
10-08-2009, 09:23 PM
Suppose a general received word that a US citizen had commandeered an aircraft, and was currently flying toward a heavily populated area with a bomb he intended to detonate. Further suppose he's only minutes away, and there's an Air Force base nearby.

Would it be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act for the president or that general to direct the Air Force base to dispatch something to shoot him down?

The guy flying the aircraft is in essence committing an act of war, right? And therefore it would be legal / believable for them to try and stop him, correct?

And now the REAL question: Suppose the guy survives, and is on the ground in this densely populated area. Is it a violation of Posse Comitatus for them to use the military to look for him? Is it a criminal matter once the emergency is over?

Because it sure would put some awesome pressure on my guy if the police, the FBI, and the military were looking for him. :D

In this instance, the USAF can splash the bogie.

Preventing an attack on US soil--by a US citizen, even--doesn't fall under the restrictions of posse comitatus, as we're ostensibly talking about a terrorist act. (Legal eagles may differ on this, of course, but there is reasonable expectation that in the post 9/11 environment, the military would be able to execute a mission like this without the approval of law enforcement.) I'm not sure exactly what the regulations require at the Northern Command level, but you can take a look here (http://www.northcom.mil/) and perhaps find that out.

Info on posse comitatus can be found here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act).

PeterL
10-08-2009, 09:26 PM
Suppose a general received word that a US citizen had commandeered an aircraft, and was currently flying toward a heavily populated area with a bomb he intended to detonate. Further suppose he's only minutes away, and there's an Air Force base nearby.

Would it be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act for the president or that general to direct the Air Force base to dispatch something to shoot him down?


The guy flying the aircraft is in essence committing an act of war, right? And therefore it would be legal / believable for them to try
and stop him, correct?


I do not believe that would violate the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_18_of_the_United_States_Code) 1385 (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/1385.html)) because it appears to be an act of war or insurrection.


And now the REAL question: Suppose the guy survives, and is on the ground in this densely populated area. Is it a violation of Posse Comitatus for them to use the military to look for him? Is it a criminal matter once the emergency is over?

Because it sure would put some awesome pressure on my guy if the police, the FBI, and the military were looking for him. :D

You might want to read 18 U.S.C. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_18_of_the_United_States_Code) 1385 (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/1385.html) to find out. There might also be some relevant court cases. I think that the military could chase him for a time as "hot pursuit", but the civilian authorities woul take over when the immeiate crisis was over.

PeterL
10-08-2009, 09:27 PM
Posse Comitatus Act is a United States federal law (18 U.S.C. 1385) passed on June 18, 1878

DavidZahir
10-08-2009, 09:48 PM
As I understand the relevant legislation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act), the Secretary of Defense may indeed request the use of US military in an emergency. And in fact evidently some army units are in fact ready in reserve to act in cases of widespread violence and/or the threat of massive loss of life.

Fredster
10-08-2009, 11:35 PM
Thanks, guys. :)

ideagirl
10-11-2009, 01:27 AM
Posse comitatus prohibits the use of the federal armed forces FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT, i.e., as police. Shooting a terrorist out of the sky isn't law enforcement--it's a military act.

But as for using military to hunt for the guy when he's a fugitive, I'm not sure that would be ok. Also not sure what the point would be--why not just bring in the FBI? Even aside from posse comitatus, the FBI probably have far greater skills in that area, because tracking down and capturing criminals is part of the FBI's job description.

WriteKnight
10-11-2009, 07:02 AM
Yeah, I'm onboard with the shootdown, but the ground search is going to go civil - especially if it cools a bit. (He dissapears into a city or a crowd.) That's the LEO's area.