If President Barack Obama really is planning to implement martial law under the guise of a military training exercise beginning Wednesday, hundreds of civilian volunteers will be ahead of him.
The Houston Chronicle in a story published Friday spoke with a leader of the Texas branch of a civilian surveillance group calling itself “Counter Jade Helm.” Eric Johnston, 51, told the newspaper that he’s expected to coordinate 20 volunteers throughout the Lone Star state who will monitor incoming troops.
“If a team member sees two Humvees full of soldiers driving through town, they’re going to follow them,” Johnston told the newspaper. “And they’re going to radio back their ultimate location.”
The operation dubbed “Jade Helm 15” is expected to take place across seven states from July 15-Sept. 15. A map from the U.S. Army had labelled Texas as “hostile territory” for the purposes of the training exercise, generating suspicion among Texas residents and giving fuel to an Internet conspiracy theory machine that churned out hundreds of rumors about martial law and secret detention centers inside shuttered Wal-Marts.
The organizer of “Counter Jade Helm” is a former Marine named Pete Lanteri, 44, who currently resides in Arizona. He told the Chronicle that the whole group already has 200 volunteers that include former military and law enforcement officers, with the largest contingent of volunteers based in Arizona.
“We’re going to be watching what they do in the public,” Lanteri told the Chronicle. “Obviously on a military base they can do whatever they want. But if they’re going to train on public land we have a right as American citizens to watch what they’re doing.”
Both Johnston and Lanteri told the newspaper that they do think the military is up to no good. Yet Lanteri said he’s been screening out interested volunteers who’ve wandered too deep into the “Jade Helm 15” conspiracy theory fever swamp.
“Once I saw the freaking nut-jobs coming out of the woodwork I was spending half my day discrediting what they were posting,” Lanteri told the newspaper. “No nut-jobs will be put in the field.”
In Texas, the citizen surveillance group supplements state oversight that’s already been put in place. Back in May, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) requested that the State Guard monitor “Jade Helm 15” to insure that residents’ civil liberties were protected.
Army Special Operations didn’t respond to questions about the civilian operation, according to the Chronicle. But the military did offer a statement that assured the training exercise will have little to no impact on the communities where it is taking place.
“This training exercise will go mostly unnoticed; not interfere with private citizens and not violate their privacy and rights,” the statement read, as quoted by the Chronicle. “It will not disrupt their economies or livelihoods. State and local officials will receive updates as the exercise progresses and they are equally committed to ensuring the training occurs smoothly.”