White House chief of staff John Kelly signs off on use of force, law enforcement role for border troops

Denis Slattery

White House chief of staff John Kelly authorized troops stationed at the southern border to engage in some law enforcement activities and potentially to use deadly force — if necessary, according to a report Wednesday.

The order, which may violate the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, was issued late Tuesday and not signed by President Trump, only Kelly, the Military Times reported.

According to the order, military personnel at the border are allowed to “perform those military protective activities that the Secretary of Defense determines are reasonably necessary.”

“Protective activities” include “a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention. and cursory search.”

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Trump deployed 5,900 active duty soldiers to the border, along with 2,100 National Guard troops, just before the midterm elections as he railed against a migrant caravan of Central American migrant who are making their way to the U.S. with the hopes of applying for asylum.

The Pentagon said Tuesday that stationing the troops along the border will cost taxpayers $72 million through Dec. 15.

In the “Cabinet memo,” Kelly justified the shift by writing that “credible evidence and intelligence” had suggested the migrants “may prompt incidents of violence and disorder.”

The order is likely to be challenged in court, as many critics have warned such a move would violate the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act barring the armed services from performing “tasks assigned to an organ of civil government.”