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Military Plans to Squash Civil Unrest in the USA

Aug 17, 20115 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

If civil unrest and London-like riots happened in the USA, what would happen here to suppress the insurrection? CONPLAN 3502 deals with the DoD and U.S. military's plans for the "use of deadly force, detention and interrogation of U.S. Civilians." This is a look at some of what might happen under martial law and a U.S. government police force under CONPLAN 3502.

We know the U.S. government monitors social networks for Intelligence, but would that monitoring of technology turn out the same way as it did for the UK if civil unrest and London-like riots happened in the states? Among other things, the UK arrested a 20-year-old man “for allegedly organizing a giant water gun fight via the Blackberry Messenger service and Facebook,” and now has sentenced two men to four years for “inciting riots on Facebook”. After White House correspondent Marc Ambinder tweeted, “If what happened in London ever happened in the US, the military has plans — CONPLAN 3501 and 3502 — to suppress the insurrection’,” The Atlantic reported on CONPLAN (which stands for an “operation plan in concept format” at the Pentagon) and the subject of martial law in the U.S.

Public Intelligence picked up the ball and ran with it, posting more about the U.S. military’s plans for the “use of deadly force, detention and interrogation of U.S. Civilians.” CONPLAN 3502 deals with military support operations conducted with local law enforcement during times of civil disturbance. It’s classified “Secret” information, so piecing it together from various documents is like a mind-bending puzzle. Previously, these plans were called the Garden Plot and there have been at least four separate versions of the plan. Garden Plot “domestic” civil disturbances that are “likely to require the use of Federal Armed Forces,” according to Global Security information, “are riots, acts of violence, insurrections, unlawful obstructions or assemblages, or other disorders prejudicial to public law and order.”

In what is now called CONPLAN 3502, the Domestic Operational Law Handbook, states, “Military forces have the authority to detain rioters, looters or other civilians committing criminal offenses. . . If civilian police are not available, CID agents or military police may conduct interrogations only if the interrogation is essential to the civil disturbance mission.”

U.S. Army Field Manual 3-19.15 lists instructions for “searching and detaining individuals, conducting riot control operations, as well as creating ‘temporary detention facilities’.” Previously during Jesse Ventura’s Conspiracy Theory “Police State” about “secret” FEMA camps or fusion centers, Ventura stated, “That Government plan to suspend the Constitution, declare martial law, and round up anyone deemed a National Security threat, it’s documented; it’s called Rex 84. It was cooked up under the Reagan Administration by Col. Oliver North.” He adds that the Council of Governors, established by President Obama on Jan. 11, 2010, divides America into 10 sectors. In case of a national emergency, the country is quarantined into these sectors and the president can send in the military and round up dissidents. Where would these people be taken?

These maps, the first is FEMA and the second is Council of Governors, may be where “detained” citizens are held.

During a civil disturbance, if the president were to authorize it, the Tactical Level Commander and Staff Toolkit [PDF] (which expires January 2012) seems to give a decent snapshot of what military force would be used if “local authorities are unable to control the situation” or unable to “protect federal property or federal governmental functions.” That lack of “control” may be what would trigger CONPLAN 3502, when martial law and the military would take over to police We the People.

The image above came from the Liaison Officer Toolkit [PDF] which describes how civil disturbances and riots should be handled. The mere fact that it would need to be emphasized that we are not the enemy is unsettling. If the U.S. military is called in to deal with a civil disturbance, the DoD Defense Support to Civil Authorities Handbook lists the “standing rules” for the use of force. Below are screenshots of rules taken from the SRUF Card Template Title 10 Forces:

Back to the question of what monitoring of technology would be used during civil unrest. Based upon a slightly different emergency, but one that would have the military policing the civilian population, in US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) Concept of Operations Plan (CON PLAN) 3591-09, Response to Pandemic Influenza, 13 August 2009 [81 MB PDF], it appears as if the DoD would certainly take advantage of satellite imagery during civil unrest. However there are lots of totally redacted, blacked out, areas over defense imagery and imagery dissemination, over Intelligence actions, and even over some areas of dealing with or controlling the media during such times of crisis.

Although I poured over a ton of documents, I saw no direct reference to “insurrection” and Intelligence monitoring social networks and then arresting or prosecuting citizens based upon a tweet or a Facebook post. It’s very complex and very unpleasant, but what I did find seems like U.S. brother/sister citizen against military brother/sister, bad karma. I encourage you to scour Public Intelligence to help piece together what would happen in the United States if London-like riots or civil disturbances, even a “pandemic” were to occur.

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.