Archive for the Pentagon Category

Pentagon Blocks Access to Southern Baptist Website

Posted in Homeland Security, Pentagon, Religion, Religious Freedom with tags , , , , on April 25, 2013 by saynsumthn

Pentagon Blocks Access to Southern Baptist Website

Apr 24, 2013
By Todd Starnes
The U.S. Military has blocked access to the Southern Baptist Convention’s website on an unknown number of military bases because it contains “hostile content” — just weeks after an Army briefing labeled Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics as examples of religious extremism, Fox News has learned.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination known for its support of the pro-life movement and its strong belief in traditional marriage.
Southern Baptist chaplains reported that SBC.net had been blocked at military installations around the nation. The censorship was made public after an Army officer tried to log onto the denomination’s website and instead — received a warning message.

“The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content,” the message read.

Team CONUS protects the computer network of the Dept. of Defense. The SBC’s website was not blocked at the Pentagon.

It’s unclear what the “hostile content” might have been. The SBC is pro-life and opposed to same-sex marriage.

“So the Southern Baptist Convention is now considered hostile to the U.S. Army,” the officer wrote in an email to the American Family Association.
Sing Oldham, spokesman for the SBC, told Fox News he had been in touch with the Dept. of Defense and had serious concerns.

“This is deeply disturbing,” he told Fox News. “While the Deputy Chief of Operation of the US Army has assured us this is a random event with no malicious intent, the Army must run this to the ground to assure that this is the case.”

However, Fox News has received reports from across the country of Southern Baptist chaplains unable to access the website.

“If the government blocked any portion of the SBC.net Web site for any purpose, that would be an unconscionable breach of trust with the American public,” Oldham said. “The First Amendment exists to protect the church from governmental censorship of or infringement upon religious speech and the free exercise of religion.”

The Dept. of Defense confirmed to Fox News late Wednesday that the SBC website had been blocked — but not intentionally.

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“The Department of Defense is not intentionally blocking access to this site, said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart. “We are working diligently to investigate what might be causing access issues for some of our service members and to correct the situation as quickly as possible.”

The AFA sent out an action alert urging its members to contact the Pentagon and ask them to “stop the military’s alarming trend of hostility towards faith and religious freedom in our military.”

“Most disturbing to him (the Army officer) was the fact that the military labeled his personal religious faith as ‘hostile’ to the U.S. Army,” AFA spokesman Randy Sharp told Fox News.

Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, told Fox News that Southern Baptist chaplains on military bases around the nation have been unable to access the website.

“It’s a concern for the Dept. of Defense to block the website of one of the major evangelical denominations in the country,” Crews told Fox News. “The Southern Baptist Convention has the largest number of chaplains in the military representing Southern Baptist soldiers and churches. Those chaplains need access to their denomination’s website.”
An Army Reservist contacted Fox News and said he tried to log onto the site and an “Access Denied” message appeared on the screen.

“You request was categorized by Blue Coat Web Filter as ‘Religion,’” the message read.

Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission denounced the censorship and demanded that Southern Baptist soldiers be provided access to the site.
“This is outrageous,” Land told Fox News. “Southern Baptists make up a higher percentage of the all-volunteer military than in the general population. It’s outrageous that our website would be blocked for Southern Baptists serving in the military and defending the freedom to access websites.”

Land said the military censorship was part of a “disturbing trend.”

“They need to unblock the website and find out who is responsible,” he said. “That person needs to be fired.”

Pickart told Fox News the Dept. of Defense “strongly supports the rights of service members, to include their ability to access religious websites like that of the SBC.”
“With Internet technology constantly evolving, the Department is working to ensure that service members have access to an open Internet while preserving information and operational security,” he said.

Religious liberty groups were outraged by the block and called for an immediate investigation.

“This is another example of the growing hostility toward evangelical Christians in the armed forces,” Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council told Fox News. “Ironically, the very people who are sworn to support and defend the rights provided in the U.S. Constitution are being denied the right to exercise those rights individually.”

The American Family Association feared it was further evidence of what they called religious hostility within the Pentagon.

“This is one more example of the Defense Department leadership allowing hostility towards faith and religious freedom in our military,” Sharp told Fox News. “The growing list of offenses is overwhelming and Secretary Chuck Hagel should no longer ignore it.”

In recent days, the Army has come under fire after an officer sent an email to subordinates labeling the AFA and the Family Research Council as “domestic hate groups.”
In another incident a group of Army Reservists were told that Evangelical Christians and Catholics are examples of religious extremists.
The Army categorized the incidents as isolated and not condoned by the Dept. of the Army. They said the presentation to the reservists was not produced by the Army nor did it reflect their policy or doctrine.

Last week, soldiers at Fort Wainwright in Alaska were told to scrape off a Bible verse reference on their weapon scopes. That verse had been inscribed by the maker of the scopes.
Among other incidents:
• A War Games scenario at Fort Leavenworth that identified Christian groups and Evangelical groups as being potential threats;
• A 2009 Dept. of Homeland Security memorandum that identified future threats to national security coming from Evangelicals and pro-life groups;
• A West Point study released by the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center that linked pro-lifers to terrorism;
• Evangelical leader Franklin Graham was uninvited from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service because of his comments about Islam;
• Christian prayers were banned at the funeral services for veterans at Houston’s National Cemetery;
• Bibles were banned at Walter Reed Army Medical Center – a decision that was later rescinded;
• Christian crosses and a steeple were removed from a chapel in Afghanistan because the military said the icons disrespected other religions;
• Catholic chaplains were told not to read a letter to parishioners from their archbishop related to Obamacare mandates. The Secretary of the Army feared the letter could be viewed as a call for civil disobedience.

“All of these things make one concerned about the attitude in the military toward evangelicals, Roman Catholics and other people of faith,” Crews said. “He are hoping the military makes every necessary step to correct this.”

The incidents led more than 40 members of Congress to write the Secretary of the Army earlier this month demanding an explanation and an apology.

“This is astonishing and offensive,” read a written by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO). “We call on you to rescind this briefing and apologize for its content and set the record straight on the Army’s view on these faith groups by providing a balanced briefing on religious extremism.”

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2008: Pentagon to Detail Troops to Bolster Domestic Security

Posted in Homeland Security, Pentagon on October 22, 2009 by saynsumthn

Pentagon to Detail Troops to Bolster Domestic Security

By Spencer S. Hsu and Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 1, 2008; A01

The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.

The long-planned shift in the Defense Department’s role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts, defense analysts said.

There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military’s role in domestic law enforcement.

But the Bush administration and some in Congress have pushed for a heightened homeland military role since the middle of this decade, saying the greatest domestic threat is terrorists exploiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, dedicating 20,000 troops to domestic response — a nearly sevenfold increase in five years — “would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable,” Paul McHale, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said in remarks last month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But the realization that civilian authorities may be overwhelmed in a catastrophe prompted “a fundamental change in military culture,” he said.

The Pentagon’s plan calls for three rapid-reaction forces to be ready for emergency response by September 2011. The first 4,700-person unit, built around an active-duty combat brigade based at Fort Stewart, Ga., was available as of Oct. 1, said Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of the U.S. Northern Command.

If funding continues, two additional teams will join nearly 80 smaller National Guard and reserve units made up of about 6,000 troops in supporting local and state officials nationwide. All would be trained to respond to a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive attack, or CBRNE event, as the military calls it.

Military preparations for a domestic weapon-of-mass-destruction attack have been underway since at least 1996, when the Marine Corps activated a 350-member chemical and biological incident response force and later based it in Indian Head, Md., a Washington suburb. Such efforts accelerated after the Sept. 11 attacks, and at the time Iraq was invaded in 2003, a Pentagon joint task force drew on 3,000 civil support personnel across the United States.

In 2005, a new Pentagon homeland defense strategy emphasized “preparing for multiple, simultaneous mass casualty incidents.” National security threats were not limited to adversaries who seek to grind down U.S. combat forces abroad, McHale said, but also include those who “want to inflict such brutality on our society that we give up the fight,” such as by detonating a nuclear bomb in a U.S. city.

In late 2007, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England signed a directive approving more than $556 million over five years to set up the three response teams, known as CBRNE Consequence Management Response Forces. Planners assume an incident could lead to thousands of casualties, more than 1 million evacuees and contamination of as many as 3,000 square miles, about the scope of damage Hurricane Katrina caused in 2005.

Last month, McHale said, authorities agreed to begin a $1.8 million pilot project funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through which civilian authorities in five states could tap military planners to develop disaster response plans. Hawaii, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Washington and West Virginia will each focus on a particular threat — pandemic flu, a terrorist attack, hurricane, earthquake and catastrophic chemical release, respectively — speeding up federal and state emergency planning begun in 2003.

Last Monday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered defense officials to review whether the military, Guard and reserves can respond adequately to domestic disasters.

Gates gave commanders 25 days to propose changes and cost estimates. He cited the work of a congressionally chartered commission, which concluded in January that the Guard and reserve forces are not ready and that they lack equipment and training.

Bert B. Tussing, director of homeland defense and security issues at the U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership, said the new Pentagon approach “breaks the mold” by assigning an active-duty combat brigade to the Northern Command for the first time. Until now, the military required the command to rely on troops requested from other sources.

“This is a genuine recognition that this [job] isn’t something that you want to have a pickup team responsible for,” said Tussing, who has assessed the military’s homeland security strategies.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the libertarian Cato Institute are troubled by what they consider an expansion of executive authority.

Domestic emergency deployment may be “just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority,” or even an increase in domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU’s National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of “a creeping militarization” of homeland security.

“There’s a notion that whenever there’s an important problem, that the thing to do is to call in the boys in green,” Healy said, “and that’s at odds with our long-standing tradition of being wary of the use of standing armies to keep the peace.”

McHale stressed that the response units will be subject to the act, that only 8 percent of their personnel will be responsible for security and that their duties will be to protect the force, not other law enforcement. For decades, the military has assigned larger units to respond to civil disturbances, such as during the Los Angeles riot in 1992.

U.S. forces are already under heavy strain, however. The first reaction force is built around the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, which returned in April after 15 months in Iraq. The team includes operations, aviation and medical task forces that are to be ready to deploy at home or overseas within 48 hours, with units specializing in chemical decontamination, bomb disposal, emergency care and logistics.

The one-year domestic mission, however, does not replace the brigade’s next scheduled combat deployment in 2010. The brigade may get additional time in the United States to rest and regroup, compared with other combat units, but it may also face more training and operational requirements depending on its homeland security assignments.

Renuart said the Pentagon is accounting for the strain of fighting two wars, and the need for troops to spend time with their families. “We want to make sure the parameters are right for Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. The 1st Brigade’s soldiers “will have some very aggressive training, but will also be home for much of that.”

Although some Pentagon leaders initially expected to build the next two response units around combat teams, they are likely to be drawn mainly from reserves and the National Guard, such as the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade from South Carolina, which returned in May after more than a year in Afghanistan.

Now that Pentagon strategy gives new priority to homeland security and calls for heavier reliance on the Guard and reserves, McHale said, Washington has to figure out how to pay for it.

“It’s one thing to decide upon a course of action, and it’s something else to make it happen,” he said. “It’s time to put our money where our mouth is.”