US Posse Comitatus Act

The US Posse Comitatus Act governs what US Army soldiers may, and may not, do regarding law enforcement within the boundaries of the United States. According to the Rand Corporation, there are legal distinctions between the Active Component and the Reserve Component of the Army:
  • The Active Component is comprised of professional full-time US Regular Army soldiers who are Federal troops taking their orders directly from the US President.
  • The Reserve Component is comprised of part-time citizen soldiers, who, under normal circumstances, train for one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer. The rest of the time they are civilians. The Reserve consists of the Army Reserve and the National Guard.
    • US Army Reserve soldiers are part-time soldiers who are Federal, that is, they take their orders directly from the President. The President may call them up to full-time, Regular status anytime he wants to in order to respond to a national emergency. The war in Iraq is one such emergency--many Army Reserve troops are now in Iraq.
    • US National Guard soldiers are part-time soldiers who serve two masters; the governor of their home state and the President of the United States. When National Guard troops are taking orders from the governor of their home state, they are serving under Title 32 of the United States Code. Governors typically call up their National Guard troops to fight forest fires, provide flood relief, suppress riots in the streets, etc.

The President has the power to take National Guard troops away from the governors of their home states and "federalize" them, that is, make them the same as full-time Regular Army troops. National Guard troops who have been federalized are serving under Title 10, United States Code. The President typically federalizes National Guard troops to go overseas to fight in major wars, as happened in both World Wars. The National Guard troops now in Iraq have been taken from their home state governors by the President and federalized under Title 10. Under Posse Comitatus:

1. Federal troops do NOT have domestic law enforcement authority.

2. National Guard troops in home state Title 32 status DO have domestic law enforcement authority.

3. National Guard troops in federalized Title 10 status do NOT have domestic law enforcement authority.

EXCEPTION: If the situation has gone TOTALLY to hell, the President can employ even Regular Federal troops to enforce domestic order. That situation HAS taken place a very few times in the history of the U.S.. It is called martial law and has been considered for the situation in New Orleans.