The following article, from the March 1999 issue of Soldier of Fortune, was included in the letter sent by Timothy McVeigh to Fox News' Rita Cosby. It was part of his response to the question, "Further describe your motivations for the bombing, and why you chose the bombing over other options."
Concerned Citizens Opposed to Police States
The Thin Blurry Line
When Cops and Soldiers Are One-and-the-Same
By Wayne Laugesen
If Zeke Hernandez watched Sesame Street — before a new-age cop blew him away — he knew the jingle well: "The policeman is a person in your neighborhood ... he's a person who you meet each day."
In other words, Zeke, a policeman is your friend. The children's show jingle reflected a long-standing truth in America: Police dress in blue, wear octagonal hats, arrest bad guys, and carry guns as a last-ditch defensive measure.
But the role of police today has blurred, along with that of the military. Today, personnel from all branches of military are acting as police on foreign and domestic soil. And police — representing local, state and federal departments — are acting more as highly trained specops military units, complete with black Ninja suits and automatic weapons.
"Since the late '80s we've been seeing the militarization of police, and the policization of military," says Peter Kraska, a professor of police studies at Eastern Kentucky University, who has studied the militarization of police for more than a decade. "These are converging forces. Soldiers are told to be cops, both domestically and on foreign soil, and cops are becoming more like soldiers, working in elite SWAT-style units."
On a recent morning in Detroit, residents of Cass Corridor awoke to the sounds of explosives and massive gunfire. Those who didn't hide looked outside to find an 80-member "special forces" team from the Detroit Police Department engaged in a practice assault on a vacant four-story building. Such drills are performed routinely throughout the country in conjunction with the U.S. Army and other federal agencies. In peaceful Chapel Hill, N.C., a local SWAT team recently conducted a large-scale, paramilitary crack raid on an entire block of a predominantly African-American neighborhood. The raid resulted in the detention and search of nearly 100 people, mostly black, and nobody was found with drugs.
"The collapse of the Soviet Union has, unfortunately, led many military officials to seek out a new enemy to justify continued funding," writes David Kopel, a New York University law professor and author of No More Wacos. "The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) admits that it is no longer capable of protecting Americans from incoming nuclear missiles. Yet NORAD enjoys hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding, as part of a $1.8 billion systems upgrade, having convinced congress to assign NORAD the mission of tracking planes and ships that might be carrying drugs."
The United States Marshals Service recently established a 100-man Special Operations Group which is "ready to go anywhere in the world at a moment's notice." The SOG is located at the William F. Degan Memorial Special Operations Center in Louisiana, which is named after one of the men involved in the senseless shootout at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in which 14-year-old Sammy Weaver was shot in the back and killed.
New special squads have popped up in the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms in the past decade, making the federal vice cops more of a violent military response agency. Some include, the Tactical Response Teams, High-Risk Warrant Teams, Forced Entry Teams, Entry Control Teams, and Special Response Teams (SRTs).
On the state and local level it's no different. The federal government is actively working to militarize local law enforcement with grants. Mark Lonsdale, director of the federal government's Special Tactical Training Unit, informs local law enforcement of an array of grants available specifically for training and marijuana control. "The thrust of this training is toward developing more of a military approach to tactics," Lonsdale writes in his brochure "A Tactical Guide to High Risk Warrant Service."
Kraska says his research has found that in small town America — towns of 25,000-50,000 — two of every 10 policemen serve on a department paramilitary unit. Throughout America, 11% of police departments have armored personnel carriers. Of all the country's elite paramilitary police units, 20% are used for routine patrol work, and 85% of their calls are to carry out no-knock warrants for drug raids. In 1986, the nation had 3,000 deployments of paramilitary police units. In 1996, it rose to 30,000.
The war on drugs, and the blur between police and military duties, is responsible for the widespread conspiracy theories among "Patriot" groups regarding black helicopters and a secret war on the public. The helicopters, writes Kopel, "are part of the National Guard's marijuana eradication program. They are flying over rural property as a result of 1981 and 1989 congressional amendments which created a partial drug exception to the Posse Comitatus Act."
Justice Department statistics showed an increase of uniformed domestic police up 19% from 1992 to 1996. Nearly all police departments at the federal, local and state levels have elaborate SWAT units, which first emerged in Los Angeles to counter hostage situations. Today, such units are normally sent out with no-knock warrants whenever suspects may have weapons.
These days, it's not just the radical fringe types who warn of a police state. Rather, it is quickly becoming a mainstream concern.
"Once the military is used for local police activity, however minor initially, the march toward martial law with centralized police using military troops as an adjunct force becomes irresistible," said Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, addressing the United States Congress.
History is replete with stories of governments and societies toppling in the wake of martial law. When the Mexican Government ignored the Mexican Constitution in the 1830s and used military to enforce civil law in Texas, the Texas settlers would have no part of it. Their objection and resistance to military policing led to the Battle of San Jacinto. Military law in the colonies led to a similar result, and an oppressed citizenry overthrew its government. The reign of Hitler began with a mixing of police and military roles.
Cops Aren't Soldiers
Although both carry guns and enforce government order, the substantive roles of police and soldiers are supposed to be different, say historians and legal scholars.
"Modern societies are characterized by a rather neat separation between police and military forces: each maintaining very different principles of recruitment, training and organizational functioning and operating under completely different frameworks of legal rules and political supervision," writes Prof. Hans Geser, of the University of Zurich's Institute of Sociology, in a study of United Nations international policing.
Police, Geser's study says, fill the role of reacting quickly to any type of disturbing event, at any unpredictable points in space and time. A policeman's targeted enemy, a suspect, is always innocent until proven guilty by a complex legal system that gives him benefit of the doubt. The policeman, in essence, is historically more social worker than warrior, as described by Geser.
"A bottom-up organization is installed where the lowest ranking members are burdened with the responsibility of scanning the environment, taking notice of relevant events, deciding immediately on the spot whether and in what way intervention shall occur, and whether it is necessary to mobilize higher levels of organization ... police work is heavily dependent on the capabilities of lower level policemen: on their moral integrity, sound judgment and personal authority as well as on various professional skills."
By contrast, the study says, the traditional role of military soldiers has been considerably less complex. Historically, military soldiers are told of a group that's the enemy. The goal is simple: defeat the group.
"The major concern of armies," Geser's report states, "is to focus huge amounts of resources for decisive violent actions against enemy forces or other clearly defined targets."
The goals of military soldiers, unlike police, Geser explains, can be obtained only through a top-down organizational structure, involving adequate strategic and operational planning, well-coordinated supply systems and highly elaborated systems of centralized leadership and hierarchical controls.
"Compared to policemen, soldiers occupy much more specialized and precisely prestructured roles, and their behavior is far more shaped by intra-organizational structures and processes than by autonomous perceptions, judgments and external interactions."
In other words, all hell may break loose in military and domestic populations as the delineating lines continue blurring between the roles of cops and soldiers.
It's already painfully evident on American soil and overseas. In the United States, politicians and pundits blame the "militarization" of police for deadly episodes at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, in which federal agents killed innocent women and children — while focusing huge amounts of resources for decisive violent actions against clearly defined targets. In the old days, suspected crimes at Ruby Ridge and the Waco compound would have been local problems for a county mountie to solve.
"Law enforcement must serve persons largely friendly, who are guaranteed presumptions of innocence and rights not appropriate when dealing with an enemy during times of war," Kopel writes. "Our citizens are not supposed to perceive themselves as subjects of an occupying force."
In the Sesame Street world, a policeman would have knocked on the door at Mount Carmel and handcuffed Mr. Koresh for the welfare of the children and society. Mr. Koresh would have been charged with a crime, tried and imprisoned if found guilty. Under militarization, federal police identified a target (Mount Carmel) and an enemy (Koresh and his adult followers) and planned a strategic attack — a small-scale imitation of military soldiers protecting American sovereignty from a foreign enemy. When it was over, most who were part of the enemy group died, and the attack was akin to a military success. Had it been an actual military function, on foreign turf, there would have been ticker tape parades.
"The declared justification for military intervention at Mount Carmel, although never substantiated, was that the Branch Davidians were manufacturing amphetamines," Rep. Paul said. "This provided the legal cover for the Army tanks to use the poisonous gas which apparently resulted in the devastating fire in what was a military operation to enforce the law, something which in ordinary times would have been strictly a local law enforcement matter."
No evidence of illegal drugs was ever found.
It Started With Drugs
By the accounts of most academic studies, the militarization of American cops began when former President Ronald Reagan declared a "war on drugs" in the 1980s. Before the war on drugs, in fact, it was a criminal offense — under the Posse Comi-tatus Act — for active duty military troops to engage in domestic law enforcement without an official declaration of martial law.
"A series of drug war amendments to Posse Comitatus during the 1980s under Presidents Reagan and Bush, has changed that and placed Marines on patrol at home," says Kevin B. Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, explaining why Marines who shot Zeke Hernandez were patrolling the Texas/Mexico border in the first place.
A recent drug war update to the U.S. Code, in fact, names the Department of Defense as the lead agency for drug interdiction on American soil. (U.S. Code Annotated Title 10, Sect. 124)
So it's little wonder the law enforcer who killed Zeke Hernandez differs dramatically from the stereotypical American cop. The "cop" who killed Zeke was a Marine corporal. The Marine was part of a team on drug patrol in Redford, Texas, on 20 May 1997, doing work traditionally left to cops.
Unlike a cop, the Marine's career isn't founded on two fundamental rules: assumption of innocence and Miranda rights.
"Our soldiers are not trained to make arrests, Mirandize and bring to justice. They are trained to kill," says Mr. Zeese.
Zeke Hernandez was herding goats that day, armed with a single shot .22-caliber rifle passed down by his grandfather. The Marines claim Zeke fired two shots in their direction. They followed him for 20 minutes. They claim Zeke raised his rifle again, prompting the corporal to fire a fatal shot from his M16.
Zeke, a United States citizen — by all accounts an exemplary high school student with a promising future — slowly bled to death before help arrived.
Had Zeke been shot by a traditional cop, there would be hell to pay. Police are supposed to make arrests, and let society decide the suspect's fate.
When forced to kill, a cop is scrutinized by a system of checks and balances that forces him to prove the killing was a legitimate means of self-defense or done in to protect another would-be victim in immediate danger.
Marines are supposed to kill. Forget official policy statements and PR poppycock. Ask any Marine what he learned in basic, and he'll say "to kill."
So when the local district attorney brought evidence of the shooting before a grand jury, the Department of Defense went on the defensive. Department spokesperson Navy Lieutenant Commander Scott Campbell told USA Today it was "not fair to the members of our armed forces," to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing in a deadly shooting. In other words, someone asked for a Marine to patrol for drugs — not a cop. They got Marines, and Marines are paid to kill.
Defense Secretary William Cohen went so far as to suggest border states sign agreements to provide immunity to local criminal laws, similar to the "status of forces agreements" the department has with foreign governments.
Imagine a world in which police are immune from criminal laws. Because these Marines were acting as police, and Cohen boldly made such a request, it's not a big stretch. "Secretary Cohen should have said it was a shame Zeke had to die in order for us to be reminded that military enforcement of civilian law is wrong," Mr. Zeese says.
Local authorities investigated the shooting, but a grand jury handed up no indictment. Several Texans complain they heard only one shot — the shot that killed Zeke — which would indicate the young man did not shoot toward the Marines. Several Redford residents have continued protesting the killing, and say the district attorney failed to tell grand jurors about witnesses who heard only one shot.
Technology Fuels 'Militarization'
Although many of the freedoms and rights enjoyed by Americans are written into the U.S. Constitution, they have largely been upheld by the sheer inability of law enforcement to know what individuals are doing. The habitual drunk driver who never crosses a center line, never runs a red light or never crashes a car is likely to get away with his crime for life.
Without "articulable suspicion," as defined in the Supreme Court's Terry v. Ohio opinion, a cop can't even stop a motorist. With constant advancements in technology, however, police are becoming more capable each day of finding crimes Ð and therefore articulable suspicion — that would otherwise go undetected. A new computer program can tell users whether they should fear someone as the potential perpetrator of a violent crime.
Attorney Dennis Blewitt, who has practiced federal criminal law in 30 states, says technology is fueling the trend of police militarization. No longer, he says, do police have to catch an individual committing a crime. Rather, he says, police departments can find groups of people committing crimes, such as drunk drivers on a grid of streets or highways, and target the group in military fashion. He says today's low-tech sting operations, such as drunk driver check points, will be tomorrow's high tech police department spy missions.
"For an army to have a war, it has to gather intelligence and find out whatever it can about the enemy," Blewitt says. "That's what police are able to do with technology today. They are able to gather information about groups of citizens — just as our National Security Agency collects enemy signals — and create groups of suspects, who then become enemies of the state. Random enforcement is becoming a thing of the past. Today's police are like small armies that target groups in the name of social reform. Now and in the future, you'll have to watch out who your friends are. You can be targeted for who you associate with."
The federal fiasco at Ruby Ridge, says Blewitt, provides one such example. That episode, he says, resembled a military-style intelligence operation from the start. "Federal agents set out to target and vilify an organization of people," Blewitt says. "They found out Randy Weaver knew some white supremacists in the Aryan Nations. They wanted to go after that group, so they set Weaver up to commit a weapons violation because they wanted to arrest him and get him to talk. It was very similar to the way our CIA has traditionally tried to manipulate things to the disadvantage of foreign enemies, only this was the federal government working against an American citizen who had yet to commit a crime."
Crowd Control Tactics
A new software program popping up in some American police departments is known as the Close Action Environment program, designed for control of demonstrations. The program provides a "virtual reality" setting to train officers for close combat and fighting in built-up areas. It allows geographical information to be input, recreating real towns and locations on the screen.
The virtual towns can be populated by computer-generated individuals, who can each be given specific characteristics of behavior by the computer or its operator. The aim of the user is to predict behavior and motivation of crowds, by spotting and understanding the intentions of so-called "ringleaders" who may turn a friendly demonstration into a police-hating mob. Software developer Marcus Warren describes the program as suitable for "anyone involved in conflict operations, rather than outright war."
"There's an unsettling trend among police to view demonstrations as crime scenes," says Blewitt. "Police are beginning to view crowds of demonstrators as enemies of the state, to be controlled, rather than groups of people exercising their constitutional right of demonstration the police should be working to uphold."
Post-Cold War Cops
Ironically, had the Marine who shot Zeke Hernandez been on foreign soil that day, his duties may not have been so different or more logically defined. U.S. military soldiers are bogged down in foreign lands without well-defined goals.
While some legal scholars point to the drug war as the reason American police have adopted military gear and tactics, Prof. Geser says the end of the Cold War is mostly responsible for the blurring of police and military roles in the United States and abroad.
United Nations "peace-keeping" missions, he says, have essentially created a "global police service," and a new type of soldier who is more militaristic than his Cold War counterpart. The whole thing, his research indicates, spills over to influence domestic policing in the United States and other developed countries.
"The end of the Cold War has substituted the single nuclear threat with a multitude of smaller and less predictable international security problems associated with local and regional conflicts all over the world ... On a global scale, it is now understood that the main problem of world peace-keeping is no longer the prevention of wars, but the confinement of many local and regional conflicts going on at the same time ... the conflicts are 'administered' in order to prevent them from escalating."
U.S. military soldiers — traditionally trained to kill common enemies — have been deployed as quasi-police officers on "peacekeeping missions" designed to enforce Western conceptions of government, law and moral order in places including Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Liberia, Angola and Rwanda. No longer is the military soldier's task a simple goal of defending one nation's sovereignty. Today's soldier is a "peace officer," enforcing an elusive definition of morality in places where no enemy is clearly defined. Just as Marines may be confused working as police in Texas, so is the modern warrior who's sent to enforce peace.
"Conventional soldiers in combat are rather autonomous to decide when and where to use their guns or other weapons," Geser wrote. "Modern policing soldiers are typically confronted with the much more fundamental problem to decide between the use of force and many other possible courses of action."
Just Like Traditional American Cops
During the Cold War, conventional soldiers were strongly motivated by feelings of patriotism and a commitment to defend the borders and autonomies of their homelands. In the case of international out-of-area policing missions, such motivation doesn't exist. During the Cold War era, Geser points out, the doctrine of nuclear response resulted in only a small percentage of military personnel being committed specifically to combat activities. Most others were allocated to a wide variety of technical and administrative military occupations not specific only to military organizations. Thus, the military could make use of personnel bringing occupational skills from the civilian sphere, and military soldiers could use military training in subsequent civilian careers.
By contrast, Geser describes the post-Cold War soldier as a "polyvalent soldier; ideally combining classical combat qualities with capacities for providing protection, humanitarian help and medical treatment with empathy for humans of different cultures ... Like social workers, modern soldiers will rather follow the model of semi-professionals." When the modern soldier's military career ends, says Geser, he will find his participation in blue helmet missions of little specific value for most civilian careers. "The spectrum of 'necessary' (or at least 'useful') qualifications is so large that it is likely to be unmatched by any civilian occupation," Geser writes. They will best be qualified to work as cops in modern militarized federal, state, or local police departments.
"A strong professional identity of the 'policing soldiers' may emerge," says Geser, "on the basis of a highly elaborated system of ethical values and rules ... It is evident that global policing missions will function as laboratories where such an encompassing 'global ethic' is worked out and tested."
For the rogue warrior, or would-be mercenary, Gesar says, blue helmet U.N. missions offer excellent opportunities for "military entrepreneurs not fitting into the far more institutionalized" traditional military organizations.
None of the cop/soldier blur is a secret. Rather, it's what a blur is supposed to be —confusing. Night-after-night, American TV audiences are treated to real-life cop shows in which SWAT teams, dressed in camouflage or black, break through doors and hold suspects to the floor — with the aid of fully automatic weapons — in order to confiscate cocaine, marijuana or heroine in varying amounts.
In local newspapers and on local TV, police departments show-off new programs in which Navy SEALS train local officers. Police chiefs and sheriffs brag of acquiring helicopters, armored personnel carriers and airplanes from the federal government's post-Cold War military surplus programs.
One World Wide Web site (www. policeguide.com/swat.htm) features links to 50 colorful home pages of local yokel SWAT teams throughout the United States, in Mayberry settings like Ames, Iowa, and Spartanburg, S.C.
"It's all being done out in the open, and many people don't see it as frightening," says defense lawyer Blewitt. "That's because Americans have been conditioned to think it will only affect criminals. They've been convinced society is being destroyed by crime — even though violent crime has steadily decreased in recent years — and these military-style police are our only hope. What they should worry about is an emerging police state that threatens the very fabric of free society."
In the United States, says Zeese, of Common Sense for Drug Policy, police will continue to resemble military special forces units until the war on drugs is stopped. "We have come a long way, in less than two decades, from prohibition of military involvement (Posse Comitatus Act) to discussions of immunity for fatal shootings," Zeese writes, referring to Cohen's request after the fatal shooting of a Texas teenager.
While Blewitt says Americans should fear for their civil liberties, Prof. Geser suggests it goes deeper than that. International policing in the name of human rights, minority rights, human welfare and ecological protection, he says, will ultimately threaten those very values around the globe.
"Compared to 'classical' international law, which allowed war only in cases of foreign aggressions, such multidimensional value systems are dangerous because they provide limitless opportunities for legitimizing almost any kind of violent action," Geser writes. "Are we no longer aware of the fundamental merits of classical international law, which has painfully evolved out of centuries of fruitless war in order to limit intergovernmental aggression? Don't we recognize that the traditional principle of respecting national sovereignty was particularly apt to preserve the security of small and weaker countries, which nowadays are becoming the preferred targets of international policing missions?"
Who knows? What's certain is this: a policeman is a person in your neighborhood. And he just might be a U.S. Marine or a SEAL-trained, Ninja-clad SWAT member riding in a tank.
This article originally appeared in the March 1999 issue of Soldier of Fortune magazine. © 1999 by Soldier of Fortune Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved.