Recently, the Port Militarization Resistance in Olympia, Wash., accused John J. Towery, of infiltrating the anti-war organization and spying for the military. PMR made the accusation after receiving documents under an open government request. PMR claims Towery admitted that he is a civilian employee of Fort Lewis Force Protection and became a PMR member under the name “John Jacob.” The Olympian reports that Towery denied to PMR that he was assigned to infiltrate the organization.
Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek confirmed Monday that Towery is a civilian employed at Fort Lewis. “Mr. John Towery performs sensitive work within the installation law enforcement community, and it would not be appropriate for him to discuss his duties with the media,” Piek wrote in an e-mail to The Olympian.
Piek added in the e-mail that Fort Lewis is aware of the claim against Towery, and that Fort Lewis is investigating.
The Fort Lewis spokesman defined the agency to the Olympian, “The Fort Lewis Force Protection Division, under the Directorate of Emergency Services, consists of both military and civilian employees whose focus is on supporting law enforcement and security operations to ensure the safety and security of Fort Lewis, soldiers, family members, the workforce and those personnel accessing the installation.”
It is possible that Towery’s actions violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the military from conducting domestic law enforcement activities, states:
Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
In a follow-up story, the Olympian looks at the legal questions.
Stanford Law School lecturer Steven Weiner, said there are exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act that allow the secretary of defense to authorize the Army to pass on information to local law enforcement agencies when it is gathered through normal military training and operations. Weiner said that does not sound like what happened in Olympia. Weiner, an expert in national security law, added that for the military to use “an employee as a covert operative … is probably over the line.”
“The basic rule is the military’s not supposed to be engaged in law enforcement activities,” he said.
More coverage on this story is at radio show Democracy Now!, which has interviews with some activists, an expert from the ACLU and a legal expert.