Thursday, April 29, 2010
The Fort Knox Contretemps: “Army Preps for Tea Party 'Terrorists'.”
My thanks to many of you who forwarded me this link. In response, after consulting my many friends in places high and low, I wrote this email to MG James M. Milano, Commander of the United States Army Armor Center at Fort Knox.
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Sent: Thu, Apr 29, 2010 10:39 pm
Subject: Pertinent questions raised by the Fort Knox exercise controversy that require your personal answer.
29 April 2010
MG James M. Milano
CDR, US Armor Center
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear General Milano,
You are no doubt by now well aware of the controversy ignited by Mark Alexander’s article “Army Preps for Tea Party 'Terrorists'.” Mr. Alexander updated his post this evening thusly:
Publisher's Note: Regarding my essay, Army Preps for Tea Party 'Terrorists,' I was contacted by senior command staff at Ft. Knox this week, but an officer in the security loop altered the scenario "in order to make it more realistic." Those alterations were described in my essay, exactly as they appeared. The command staff informed me that the alterations were not approved at the command level and that the individual who circulated the scenario through official channels will "receive appropriate counsel." I was assured that the Command staff would not have authorized such a scenario.
This response is all well and good, sir, but it does raise some issues and questions that should be answered, if not now in the court of public opinion then certainly later in front of Congress.
The over-arching concerns raised by this incident are, in order,
a. The politicization of US Army security exercise, targeting ‘US Persons’ and associated groups to which they belong, for constitutionally protected behavior (free speech, protest for redress of grievances; keeping and bearing arms; expression of political/ideological opinions).
b. The conflation of peaceful, constitutionally protected activity, with arguably militant but mis-characterized “violent” protest groups. (Muslim, Black-Nationalist, and left-progressive and anarchist groups, who do in fact commit violence, are seemingly never mentioned in these scenarios.)
c. The following concerns, excerpted from Alexander’s essay:
“amateurish in its construct …the fact that it made it out into official channels sets an ominous political precedent.”
“… the scenario "misrepresents freedom loving Americans as drunken, violent racists -- the opponents of Obama's policies have been made the enemy of the U.S. Army.”
“... equally concerned that it appears the command staff at Ft. Knox had signed off on this exercise.”
“One officer insisted, "The American people should require greater accountability of their commissioned officers, that they abide by their oath and never allow politically motivated propaganda like this exercise on any post or base again.”
Now if I may guess, and feel free to correct me if I am wrong, this was almost certainly a STAFFEX (Staff Exercise) or possibly a Command Post Exercise – although I doubt that. I very much doubt that this involved any actual ‘troop’ action. I would be very surprised if anyone, other than a few operations and training personnel, and security types were even aware of the exercise or participated. Such participation would have been limited to release of ‘scenario events’ (programmed from the Master Event Scenario List aka ‘MESL’; otherwise known as “MESLs”), acknowledgement by targeted recipients, with appropriate (fictional) responses. Actual dispatch of the QRF is not normally an actual part of such an exercise -- it tests and exercises systems, chains-of-command, and responsiveness of headquarters. As you know, occasionally these do go to the next level and involve actual units and troops.
That being the case, I must ask the following relevant questions:
1. To what level were soldiers and units participant in this exercise? Please specify at minimum the level of participation of the following named organizations: 5-15 CAV (read as “Fifth of the Fifteenth Cavalry Squadron”); 16th Cavalry Brigade; and 194th Cavalry Brigade (both of which are schools units – not operationally deployable maneuver brigades).
2: Were the field or operations command posts of the US Armor Center, US Army Garrison, Fort Knox; 16th Cav Bde (QRF I), 194th Cav Bde (QRF II), and 5-15 Cav Sqdn set up in field or simulated field conditions?
3: Which office (US Armor Center, G3 or US Army Garrison, Fort Knox, DPTMS) planned and developed the exercise? Who developed the scenario event items, specifically the characterization of the “threat” as a mixture of
· “White Supremacists [sic] Organizations”;
· “Local Militia Groups”;
· Anti-Government (Health-Care) Protestors;
· Tea Party
4: Who approved the scenario and the characterization of the “threat” as “armed”; with “combative training”; “some are former Military Snipers”; “Some may have explosives training/experience”; “Viable Threats have been made”; “Many members were extremely agitated at what they referred to as Government intervention and over taxation in their lives….”; “Some members have criminal records relating to explosive and weapons violations.”
5: Does Commander, Fort Knox (either one) consider it appropriate to conflate constitutionally protected speech and civic action seeking “a redress of grievances” (the Tea Party’s purpose and activity) with violent, criminal behavior? Does Commander, Fort Knox, have an opinion regarding the political characterization evident in the conflation of (presumably violent) “white supremacists” and “militia groups” – without appropriate differentiation regarding which type of group have actually been violent in recent political history? Specifically, what about left-leaning progressives and/or anarchists (SDS, etc.), militant environmentalists, or Aryan/Neo-NAZI collectivists – not constitutional militia who are defensive in nature or groups who protest the over-reach of government? Or, as Mark Alexander observes:
“Perhaps the author of the Ft. Knox scenario should focus on a response plan for, say, an Islamic terrorist who attacks unarmed troops on his own post. -- See Ft. Hood / Major Nidal Malik Hasan.”
6: As noted above, Mark Alexander, Publisher The Patriot Post who broke this story on Thursday, 29 April, published an update:
“I was contacted by senior command staff at Ft. Knox on the afternoon of the date of publication. There was a security exercise at Ft. Knox this week, but an officer in the security loop altered the scenario "in order to make it more realistic." Those alterations were described in my essay, exactly as they appeared. The command staff informed me that the alterations were not approved at the command level and that the individual who circulated the scenario through official channels will 'receive appropriate counsel.'”
That being the case, was the person or persons responsible for “altering the scenario” to “make it more realistic” actually disciplined; or is that merely a cover-up to appease concerned citizens questioning the propriety of this event? What was the nature of the discipline?
7: Will Fort Knox publish policy guidance preventing conflation of groups and/or individuals that participate in constitutionally protected behavior (speaking out for redress of grievances; protesting; keeping and bearing arms) as opposed to militant or criminal elements that have broken laws, communicated threats, attacked military installations?
8: Does Fort Knox gather intelligence or security information on US citizens and groups? As you know, gathering intelligence on ‘US Persons’ is a violation of public law and executive order whereas gathering and maintaining records on security threats is arguably not. Where does Fort Knox draw this line, and to what extent does the exercise as written and amended reflect or contradict that policy?
I await your response with great interest.
PO Box 926
Pinson, AL 35126
CC: Knox PAO: email@example.com; COL Eric Schwartz, CDR, US Army Garrison, Fort Knox; firstname.lastname@example.org