WASHINGTON - The Bush administration in 2002 considered sending U.S. troops into a Buffalo, New York, suburb to arrest a group of terror suspects in what would have been a nearly unprecedented use of military power within the United States, The New York Times reported.
Vice President Dick Cheney and several other Bush advisers at the time strongly urged that the military be used to apprehend men who were suspected of plotting with Al Qaeda, who later became known as the Lackawanna Six, the Times reported on its Web site Friday night. It cited former administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The proposal advanced to at least one-high level administration meeting, before President George W. Bush decided against it.
The six young Yemeni-American men from Lackawanna were arrested in September 2002 after investigators learned they received military-type training at Usama bin Laden's al-Farooq training camp in Afghanistan. All pleaded guilty and received sentences between seven and 10 years.
Dispatching troops into the streets is virtually unheard of. The U.S. Constitution and various laws restrict the military from being used to conduct domestic raids and seize property.
According to the Times, Cheney and other Bush aides said an Oct. 23, 2001, Justice Department memo gave broad presidential authority that allowed Bush to use the domestic use of the military against Al Qaeda if it was justified on the grounds of national security, rather than law enforcement.
Among those arguing for the military use besides Cheney were his legal adviser David S. Addington and some senior Defense Department officials, the Times reported.
Opposing the idea were Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser; John B. Bellinger III, the top lawyer at the National Security Council; FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Michael Chertoff, then the head of the Justice Department's criminal division.
Bush ultimately nixed the proposal and ordered the FBI to make the arrests in Lackawanna. The men were subsequently arrested and pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges.
Scott L. Silliman, a Duke University law professor specializing in national security law, told the Times that a U.S. president had not deployed the active-duty military on domestic soil in a law enforcement capacity, without specific statutory authority, since the Civil War.