New York

Operation Garden Plot


Yes, it’s real. It’s the U.S. military’s actual name for its plan to quell ‘civil disturbances.’

Governor George Pataki must have been thinking of the upcoming siege of Republican Square Garden when he said Thursday, after the arrests in Albany of two mosque members in an FBI phony-terror-plot sting, that “there are terrorists among us who would do us harm.”

Whoa, said U.S. Attorney James Comey, in a D.C. press conference. “This is not a case connected to the current terrorism threat,” Comey said. “It was not real. We hope it will send a disrupting message to those out there who might be plotting” to hurt the country.

But Pataki was partly right when he also said that the government is “taking these threats to our freedom very seriously.” In addition to the specter of terrorist attack, there’s also this threat to his GOP of massive and loud protest at the approaching Republican National Convention.

No problem, George. The U.S. military already has something fittingly named Operation Garden Plot: detailed instructions on how to curb protests and other civil disorder within what the Department of Defense always so charmingly calls “CONUS” (the continental United States).

The web’s crawling with references to this very real and chilling plan, which has been around since the urban insurrections of the ’60s but was pried from the government for public perusal only after an arduous freedom-of-information struggle. (See some of the documents and the FOIA requests, by John Greenewald Jr. and others, here and here.)

One of the most detailed analyses of the documents is by Frank Morales, who won a Project Censored prize in 2003 for his investigative work on Operation Garden Plot. His award-winning and now updated story for Canada’s Global Outlook magazine, ” ‘Homeland Defense’ and the Militarization of America,” makes a point that’s particularly appropriate for New York City in August 2004:

The Army “civil disturbance” manual, correlated to present-day realities, also makes the point that “civil disturbances include acts of terrorism,” which “may be organized by disaffected groups,” who hope to “embarrass the government,” and who may in fact “demonstrate as a cover for terrorism.

The sophistry involved in turning a peace rally into a pro–Al Qaeda rally is precisely the logic that is operative within Pentagon-driven civil disturbance planning situated within the broader context of so-called “homeland defense.” In fact, rather than protest being the occasion of “terrorism,” the “war on terrorism” is the cover for the war on dissent.

(Tellingly, the Department of Defense defines “domestic intelligence” not as having to do with outside threats to the nation’s security, but with people or things that are “potentially or actually dangerous to the security of the Department of Defense.” See the DoD Word of the Day for August 6, immediately below.)

Harry Helms, in his 2003 book Inside the Shadow Government, traced the origin of Operation Garden Plot’s name. An excerpt on says, “Somewhere along the line, the plans produced by the [Department of Defense] Directorate acquired the name ‘Operation Garden Plot,’ first publicly uttered in 1971, when Senator Sam Ervin (D-North Carolina), chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, held hearings about allegations of Army spying on U.S. civilians. The hearings revealed that the Army had indeed been keeping records on hundreds of thousands of American citizens connected with anti-war and radical politics, and that such activities were part of Operation Garden Plot.”

And send in the Marines! The military itself now uses the moniker in numerous publications, including the U.S. Marine Corps Field Manual 100-19 for “Domestic Support Operations,” which notes, “The Defense Logistics Agency supports civil disturbance operations under the provisions of OPLAN GARDEN PLOT, the National Civil Disturbance Plan.”

As Frank Morales points out, this stuff is nothing really new. “Current U.S. military preparations for suppressing domestic civil disturbance, including the training of National Guard troops and police, are actually part of a long history of American ‘internal security’ measures dating back to the first American Revolution,” he writes. “Generally, these measures have sought to thwart the aims of social-justice movements, embodying the concept that within the civilian body politic lurks an enemy that one day the military might have to fight, or at least be ordered to fight.”

More on this next week.

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