Under What Conditions Can The US Army Engage Citizens: The Army's "Civil Disturbances" Primer

Tyler Durden's picture

With events in Ferguson deteriorating from day to day, despite the arrival of the Missouri National Guard, some have asked what further escalation steps are possible.

As a reminder, the reason Missouri governor Jay Nixon resorted to the aid of the National Guard is due to the limitations imposed by the Posse Comitatus Act which, broadly, seeks to limit the powers of Federal government in using federal military personnel, i.e., the Armed Forces of the United States, to enforce state laws. The Act does not apply to the National Guard, nor to the US Coast Guard, although the former will likely not see much practical use in Missouri.

However, as usually happens, there are loopholes and the best place to uncover these is in a 132-page primer conveniently released by none other than the US Army back on April 21, known simply as ATP 3-39.33 "Civil Disturbances." The primer begins with the umbrella statement:

Civil unrest may range from simple, nonviolent protests that address specific issues, to events that turn into full-scale riots. Gathering in protest may be a recognized right of any person or group, regardless of where U.S. forces may be operating. In the United States, this fundamental right is protected under the Constitution of the United States...

"Protected" it may be, but as usual, the interpretation of the Constitution is in the eye of the beholder, or more appropriately, gun holder. Because shortly thereafter we further read the following:

The Constitution of the United States, laws, regulations, policies, and other legal issues limit the use of federal military personnel in domestic support operations. Any Army involvement in civil disturbance operations involves many legal issues requiring comprehensive legal reviews. However, federal forces are authorized for use in civil disturbance operations under certain circumstances.

What circumstances? For the answer we turn to section, 2-8, whose provisions may soon become applicable to Ferguson and/or other municipal regions, should the rioting in the St. Louis suburb escalate further. To wit:

The Constitution of the United States provides two exceptions for which the Posse Comitatus Act does not apply. These exceptions are based upon the inherent right of the U.S. government to ensure the preservation of public order and to carrying out governmental operations within its territorial limits by force, if necessary. These two exceptions are—

  • Emergency authority. A sudden and unexpected civil disturbance, disaster, or calamity may seriously endanger life and property and disrupt normal governmental functions to such an extent that local authorities cannot control the situation. At such times, the federal government may use military force to prevent the loss of life or wanton destruction of property and to restore government functions and public order. In these circumstances, federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances (see DODD 3025.18).
  • Protection of federal property and functions. When the need for the protection of federal property or federal functions exists, and duly constituted local authorities are unable to, or decline to provide adequate protection, federal action, including the use of military forces, is authorized.

2-9. Laws passed by the U.S. congress include four exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act. With the first three laws discussed below (10 USC 331–333) there is a prerequisite that the President must take personal action, including the issuance of a proclamation calling upon insurgents to disperse and retire peaceably within a limited time. The four exceptions, based on law are—

  • 10 USC 331. When a state is unable to control domestic violence and they have requested federal assistance, the use of the militia or Armed Forces is authorized.
  • 10 USC 332. When ordinary enforcement means are unworkable due to unlawful obstructions or rebellion against the authority of the United States, use of the militia or Armed Forces is authorized.
  • 10 USC 333. When a state cannot or will not protect the constitutional rights of the citizens, due to domestic violence or conspiracy to hinder execution of State or Federal law, the use of the militia or Armed Forces is authorized.
  • House Joint Resolution 1292. This resolution directs all departments of the U.S. government, upon request of the Secret Service, to assist in carrying out its statutory duties to protect government officials and major political candidates from physical harm.

In other words, if and when the US Armed Forces decide that rioting infringes upon any of these exclusions, then the constitution no longer applies and the use of lethal force becomes a viable option against US citizens.

It gets worse, because whereas one would expect that a "Constitutional expert" such as the president, Barack Obama would be the one tasked with interpreting if and when the Constitution no longer applies, the primer is quite explicit in handing over responsibility to "federal military commanders":

... federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbance.

So should Obama resume his vacation even as things in Missouri escalate dramatically, and be "unreachable", it may well come to pass that Obama's opinion will be irrelevant not only whether the National Guard should be unleashed in Ferguson, but whether Posse Comitatus is suddenly null and void.

The good news: the use of lethal force is not the only option the US Army would have if and when it engages with the population. US citizens may simply  be herded into "temporary internment camps" for reindoctrination purposes under the supervision of PSYOP Officer (no really, they used that word), as follows from the Army's FM3-39.40 "Internment and Resettlment Operations" manual:

Internment and Resettlement (I/R) operations facilitate the ability to conduct rapid and decisive combat operations; deter, mitigate, and defeat threats to populations that may result in conflict; reverse conditions of human suffering; and build the capacity  of a foreign government to effectively care for and govern its population. This includes capabilities to conduct  shaping operations across the spectrum of military operations to mitigate and defeat the underlying conditions  for conflict and counter the core motivations that result in support to criminal, terrorist, insurgent, and other destabilizing groups. I/R operations also include the daily incarceration of U.S. military prisoners at facilities  throughout the world.


An adaptive enemy will manipulate populations that are hostile to U.S. intent by instigating mass civil disobedience, directing criminal activity, masking their operations in urban and other complex terrain, maintaining an indistinguishable presence through cultural anonymity, and actively seeking the traditional sanctuary of protected areas as defined by the rules of land warfare. Such actions will facilitate the dispersal of threat forces, negate technological overmatches, and degrade targeting opportunities. Commanders will use technology and conduct police intelligence operations to influence and control populations, evacuate detainees and, conclusively, transition rehabilitative and reconciliation operations to other functional agencies. The combat identification of friend, foe, or neutral is used to differentiate combatants from noncombatants and friendly forces from threat forces.

Presenting army camps, hopefully not in a city near you:

Detainee facilities, an important planning consideration, are treated in the same basic fashion as any base camps. The same basic planning considerations are taken into  account. Some detainee facilities will be subordinate to a larger base camp but they may also be at a separate location.


The PSYOP officer in charge of supporting I/R operations serves as the special staff officer responsible for PSYOP. The PSYOP officer advises the military police commander on the psychological impact of military police or MI actions to prevent misunderstandings and disturbances by detainees and DCs. The supporting I/R PSYOP team has two missions that reduce the need to divert military police assets to maintain security in the I/R facility.  The team—

  • Assists the military police force in controlling detainees and DCs.
  • Introduces detainees or DCs to U.S. and multinational policy.
  • Develops PSYOP products that are designed to pacify and acclimate detainees or DCs to accept U.S. I/R facility authority and regulations.
  • Gains the cooperation of detainees or DCs to reduce the number of guards needed.
  • Identifies malcontents, trained agitators, and political leaders within the facility who may try to organize resistance or create disturbances.
  • Develops and executes indoctrination programs to reduce or remove antagonistic attitudes.
  • Identifies political activists.
  • Provides loudspeaker support (such as administrative announcements and facility instructions when necessary).
  • Helps the military police commander control detainee and DC populations during emergencies.
  • Plans and executes a PSYOP

In other words, if and when the time comes to "override" Posse Comitatus, random US citizens may have two options: i) end up in the US version of a Gulag or, worse, ii) be shot.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
y3maxx's picture

...Time for Crosby, Stills & Nash to step up w/ Anti Washington, Anti War, Anti Nuclear & Pro Rights platform and music.

nope-1004's picture

Maybe John Kerry will show up in his tie dye T-shirt, sniffing Ketchup.


Deathrips's picture

For National Security it is ok to kill the people of that nation?



CH1's picture

Conditions to engage civilians? When their bosses tell them to.

Any of them with conscience enough to say no were weeded out.

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Under What Conditions Can The US Army Engage American Citizens?

When we are unarmed students on a university campus protesting the draft and war.


orangegeek's picture

I bet this guy's parents were proud that he "stuck up for his rights".


They must have been the talk of the town afterward.

hedgeless_horseman's picture



I bet this guy's parents were proud...

Probably more proud than the parents of the "heroic service men" that killed him and his unarmed classmates.


Do the world a service and educate a teenager about the Kent State Massacre today.

McMolotov's picture

"What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground? How can you run when you know?"

The longer this whole thing lasts, the harder it is for me to get this song out of my head. I might just post "WTF?!?" for the foreseeable future, as I can't really come up with anything else.

WTF, America?

CrazyCooter's picture

HH, you left out the Bonus Army. Authorized by none other than peace loving progressive ... Roosevelt.

If they will shoot *vets* protesting ...



Joe Davola's picture

Posse Comitatus Act - we really expect the maker of the laws to adhere to them?

SilverIsKing's picture

 I thought for a second I read "Constitutional expert" and Barack Obama in the same sentence.

Sashko89's picture


Guys your government supports nazi/oligarchs in Ukraine that bomb their own civilians with grad rockets, arms terrorists in Syria, supports the zionists of Israel and human rights champions Saudia Arabia & Bahrain, pretty much if shit hits the fan, I think Obama will have no problem using force against civilians to protect the banker class... Freedom is an illusion today. The us population needs its own citizens to be dumbed down, for otherwise you stand in the way of ur master satanists imperialistic agenda of a one world government.

SWRichmond's picture

When the need for the protection of federal property or federal functions exists, and duly constituted local authorities are unable to, or decline to provide adequate protection, federal action, including the use of military forces, is authorized.

So much for "federalism".  The Constitution is dead, and Lincoln killed it.

Stackers's picture

Make sure not to forget good old DoD Directive 3025.18



Also dont forget that the John Warner National Defense Act of 2006 nullified the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act


Bad Attitude's picture

"Identifies malcontents... within the facility who may try to organize resistance or create disturbances."

I'm in trouble!

Forward (over the cliff)!

TeamDepends's picture

This is where the Tenth Amendment kicks in. Where is the state with balls? "Yeah, you "gave" us these weapons of war and we're going to use them AGAINST YOU, you NATO/Nazi scum!!!!"

BraveSirRobin's picture

The writer of the article gets a lot of things wrong and out of context, some which if corrected hurts his arguments, and others that would support it. I could go on in great detail. Let me note, however. that the PCA only applies to the US Army and Air Force. It does NOT apply to the US Navy or the Marine Corps, which is part of the Department of the Navy. The Navy and USMC comply with the PCA only by Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV} directive who can modify or cancel said directive at any time. This is a huge loop hole. I mention it because it is not the US Army you have to worry about.

The Coast Guard is not a military organization, but rather a federal law enforcement organization formerly under the Department of the Treasury but transferred to the Department of Homeland Security after the post-911 reorganization. 

As to military commanders using discretion to impose order, in full context, this only applies to local environs immediately around a military facility, primarily to ensure base safety, security and operations, and secondarily, to prevent local property destruction or bloodshed as it is deemed immoral to have commanders watch carnage and destruction outside their gates and do nothing about it if they have the power to do so. The provisions do NOT allow commanders to deploy outside of immediate local areas to quell unrest without presidential order. It is NOT a PCA loophole. 

In reality, however, the PCA is rather meaningless, because the president is authorized under the Insurrection Act to declare an insurrection in any given area, and supplant local and state civil authority with federal and/or military authority. The IA, therefore, is potentially the most serious threat to local and state civil authority.  

The Attorney General of the United States is also allowed to request military support, but this is limited to logistics, transport, vehicles and equipment, intelligence such as imagery, medical, EOD, and such material support, but military personnel cannot be directly employed against US citizens.


The part about internment camps only applies to overseas military operations. Could they employ these techniques against US citizens? Sure, but the same could be said of any military capability to include nuclear strike. To imply any of these capabilites are built and designed for use against US citizens is utter ignorance, or a wilful and malicious lie. 

saints51's picture

So everything else the ZH community has been smeared over that came true was lies before it was facts??????? i think its ignorant to think you are safe in a little bubble. Everybody always says, can't happen to me, so why worry. Then it does and too late.

BraveSirRobin's picture

I am saying you are looking in the wrong place. The Inssurection Act is the threat, not violation of the PCA. As stated in the constitution, it is the power of congress to declare war, and declaration of an insurrection is basically a declaration of war against some domestic entity. Therefore, it should be the power of congress to to declare an insurection. That power should not be vested in one man as currently authorized by the IA. Congress gave this imperial power to the president because they are cowards and do not want to make the call. If things go badly they can blame the president and hold themselves harmless, eventhough they are the ones who empowered the president to act by abdicating their responsibility.  

No bubble here at all.

Having said that, the president will not call upon the IA in this instance. He will simply not sick the dogs on his core base of support. Sure, he is actually a tool or corporatist and other special interests, but his legitimacy is based on winning the vote and maintaing the consent of that voting base. If blacks do not vote in mass and as a block for Democrats, then Democrats cannot win statewide and national elections, unless they cheat or rig said elections.

In this instance, the president has to find a way to satisfy both his core base and corporatist special interests who do not look upon roving mobs kindly. He has to smehow square a circle. Since the governor is a Democrat, he will need to find a Republican to put this thing down. Believe me, generals did not make rank by being stupid. They are trained to recognize ambushes, military, beauracratic, and political. They will not act without direct presidential order to intervene. They will not be his fall guy.

Paveway IV's picture

WTF is going on? 

I was talking to a guy in St. Paul, Minnesota yesterday night and could barely hear him for the racket outside. He told me there were blackhawk helicopters outside his apartment building window doing some kind of exercise. I reminded him that by time he would see the muzzle flash, his head would have been taken clean off by the minigun. He really should have paid those parking tickets last year and avoided showing up on the DHS kill list. Goddam terrorist! He insisted it wasn't a joke but the noise went away and we continued our conversation. Didn't think anything of it until he sent me these articles today:



So my questions are:

a) What dipshit military commanders and Stazi local police figure that an urban terrorist Blackhawk exercise needs to take place the day after the National Guard are deployed to control St. Louis? 

b) The local police were promised more free military shit if they participated? Really? Jesus....

c) Why were these helicopters also practicing evacuations off the top of the Federal Reserve Building in Minneapolis again (like in 2012)?

d) Why the fuck am I paying the 160th SOAR and Navy Seals to practice evacuating dual-citizen BANKERS?? 

bigrooster's picture

"d) Why the fuck am I paying the 160th SOAR and Navy Seals to practice evacuating dual-citizen BANKERS?? "

Because members of the tribe know that people are waking up to what they have been doing to us for 100 years.  The time will come soon when they have to run for their lives.

Took Red Pill's picture

Paveway, you've touched on a story that is huge in my opinion. haven't heard about this anywhere. It's very disturbing. WTF is going on is right!

herohedge's picture

The Constitution was dead on arrival. Remember slavery? The sentiment right now is just American exceptionalism turned on its head: exceptionally bad. That's a bit of fresh air actually. Humility never hurt anyone. Today was a good day.

BraveSirRobin's picture

Anarchy and rule by the mob is not freedom. It is uncontrolled tyranny of th emost powerful. You may say that is what we are progressing to in this country with the capture of the government by corporatist and other special interests, but that is NOT what the founding fathers envisioned and was what the bill or rights tried to avert. Looting mobs are not a breath of fresh air, either those who arrive with badges or pieces or paper from the government, or those who don't.

TheReplacement's picture

Freedom is never an illusion.  You either live free or you die (figuratively speaking for those who need assistance).  The choice is yours.

Cobra's picture

Ah, our motto (NH) - It's Live Free or Die. It was actually part of a toast made by General John Stark during the Revolutionary War. However, in this context it is to be taken literally. The whole toast is:

Live Free or Die. Death is not the worst of evils!

boogerbently's picture

It's sad that most ZH'ers are softer on these rioting CRIMINALS than Holder and Obama.

In your zeal to repudiate the "police state", you're condoning this behavior.

hedgeless_horseman's picture



In your zeal to repudiate the "police state", you're condoning this behavior.


That being said, if my only two choices are a police state or letting pissed of Americans burn down their own neighborhood and kill each other, then I would always pick the latter.

SofaPapa's picture

Exactly.  These people rioting are being stupid, no doubt.  But it's THEIR home.  Having an external force come in overwhelming fashion solves nothing, just puts off the underlying issues for another day.  True "justice" and "peace", those words the protesters keep chanting, can only come from within their own community.  It cannot be imposed from outside, as those fond of federal intervention love to suggest.

Sirius Wonderblast's picture

After all, it certainly isn't damage to a relatively few shops in St. Louis that has TPTB mobilising forces.

BobPaulson's picture

Thank you, thank you, thank you. The bogus debating arguments lately have been barely tolerable. Yes looters are bad. Yes, the kid who was shot was breaking the law. Then? Incredibly specious jumps of illogic that show a lot of folks would love to be on the front lines in that riot gear.

JuliaS's picture

And google - the company where every enthusiastic propellerhead dreams of working, willingly supplies intel to the government and sells mass surveillance technologies to countries like China, along with Cisco and virtually every telecom company in existence.

InjectTheVenom's picture

LOL most likely that mf'er can't even spell the word 'constitution' without help ... #USSA

kliguy38's picture

you might want to go and check WHO the two commanders were that destroyed the bonus army...ehhehehe......one Dugout Douglas MacArthur and one Wild Man Georgie pearled handled Patton........no shit......check it out

666's picture
  • Protection of federal property and functions. When the need for the protection of federal property or federal functions exists, and duly constituted local authorities are unable to, or decline to provide adequate protection, federal action, including the use of military forces, is authorized.

Since I pay federal taxes, which constitute federal property and functions, does this mean the US army will protect me wherever I go, just like Obummer is protected by the SS? Who do I call? What's the phone number?

knukles's picture

You will be safe and protected in Camp 17, comrade means of production subject. 

Socratic Dog's picture

You missed one.  McArthur was senior.  Under him were Patton and....Eisenhower.  Good training for a future US president.

JoeSexPack's picture

Eisenhower spent 16 years at rank of major. He was promoted quickly after that.


Find a below-average officer, desperate to move up, then give him a dirty job.

Gringo Viejo's picture

MY mother was 7 years old when she accompanied my grandfather at The Bonus March. You never brought up MacArthur's name in our house. He was a visible coward as per his actions in leaving Corregidor. My mother is stll alive @ 90. My father, 82nd Airborne, is still alive @ 94.

greatbeard's picture

>> 82nd Airborne,

Damnit man, good on him.  I've had MacArthur on my chitbag list for some time but I didn't know about the bonus army stuff.  Interesting.

Amish Hacker's picture

Your mom's 90 and your dad's 94, and you're the one they call "Viejo?"

RafterManFMJ's picture

TBH, part of the fault of the Bone-US Army lies with the vets, who thought the .gov was trustworthy.  And today's military, and vets, STILL believe the .gov gives two shits in a sandstorm about them.  

In Haig's presence, Kissinger referred pointedly to military men as "dumb, stupid animals to be used" as pawns for foreign policy. -WIKI


puckles's picture

You are confusing the Bonus Armies; the primary one was in 1932, just prior to FDR's election, and terribly mis-managed by Herbert Hoover. It is among the major things thought to have cost Hoover re-election.  The Bonus Army (and other veterans) had been given certificates in 1924, not redeemable until 1945, as war service compensation, under the World War Adjusted Compensation Act. Needless to say, they found this a bit inadequate when they were starving to death.

That much said, I would hardly quantify either Roosevelt as "peace-loving."  Progressive, hell yes.  Indeed, the incessantly meddling, messianic, bloodthirsty TR defined the damned terminology and world view of the so-called 'Progressives." He merely left the details of the Federal Reserve Act and the Income Tax Amendment to his hand-chosen successor, Taft.  TR's Westchester County cousin proved even worse, many times over, devaluing the dollar by 33% overnight by fiat and rendering any gold holdings illegal (with certain exceptions); and don't get me started on the waste and abuse of FDR's many idiotic programs, virtually none of which did anything to end the Depression, but arguably prolonged it. When a third crash appeared to diminish not only any hope of recovery, but his own legacy, FDR actively sought means to engage the USA in a World War most of the population did not want, just like Wilson, in WWI--who clearly fitted the Lusitania with forbidden munitions for England, just as the NYT warning advert by the Germans alleged.  Yes, the Germans warned Americans in the New York Times not to board the Lusitania.

FDR did no such service to his fellow citizens.  He desperately wanted to get the US into the war. For years, he had been assisting the UK with Lend-Lease, which already skirted neutrality in a very big way.  His intelligence services had deciphered the Japanese codes well prior to Pearl Harbor, and he knew that an attack was planned. He sent some of the newer ships stateside, and left the oldest bunch at Pearl, while positioning others strageically.  Anybody with half a brain, knowing what sort of draconian sanctions he'd imposed on the Japanese prior to this--depriving them of any US fuel--would have understood that he wanted war with the Japanese; they certainly did.

BTW, it has long been suspected that the assassination of McKinley was set up to guarantee the ascendancy of the Morgan Bank, via TR, in the US.  The Morgan bank was the NY nominee of the Rothschild organization.  If one follows the long debate regarding gold and silver during the 1890's--e.g. the "Cross of Gold" speech by Bryant, McKinley's arch opponent, typified in the original L. Frank Baum Wizard of Oz books (they were NOT written for children), one will begin to see just what the stakes were surrounding the Presidential election that so quickly--rather unseemly quickly--propelled TR to the White House.

Nothing really changes.



Gringo Viejo's picture

Kent State and people looting liquor stores?
I'm not gettin' it............
That's like equating Iwo Jima with My Lai.

onthesquare's picture

Emotions run deep after that first shot.  The next 4 or 5 are hard to remember.

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Emotions run deep after that first shot.

So did the blood.

The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others.

TheReplacement's picture

So you're saying that either a bunch of them missed on purpose or they were lousy shots.

swmnguy's picture

They were also shooting at unarmed college students who were a long way away, and running further away as fast as they could.