A private security company is recruiting former U.S. military Special Operations personnel to guard polling sites in Minnesota on Election Day, an effort the chairman of the company said is intended to prevent left-wing activists from disrupting the election but that the state attorney general warned would amount to voter intimidation and violate the law.
The recruiting effort is being done by Atlas Aegis, a private security company based in Tennessee that was formed last year and is run by U.S. military veterans, including people with Special Operations experience, according to its website.
The company chairman, Anthony Caudle, posted a message through a defense industry jobs site this week calling for former Special Operations forces to staff “security positions in Minnesota during the November Election and beyond to protect election polls, local businesses and residences from looting and destruction.” He said in an interview earlier this week he is planning to send a “large contingent” to Minnesota but did not specify the numbers.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) said in a statement Friday that he joined election officials in “strongly discouraging this unnecessary interference in Minnesota’s elections, which we have not asked for and do not welcome.”
“Federal law and state law are both clear: No one may interfere with or intimidate a voter at a polling place,” he said. “The presence of armed outside contractors at polling places would constitute intimidation and violate the law. I request this company cease and desist any planning and stop making any statements about engaging in this activity.”
Ellison added that “we don’t expect to have to enforce our laws against voter intimidation, but we will use every resource available to us and all the power of the law if we have to.”
Caudle did not respond to a request for comment Friday on Ellison’s statement.
Much more at the link.
I just checked out Atlas Aegis’s “Our Team” page, their Chairman, Anthony Caudle is not part of the Special Operations community. He was in the 1st Battalion/509th Airborne Infantry Regiment, which serves as the Opposing Force personnel at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk. It is not attached to or part of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is garrisoned at Ft. Bragg. 1st Battalion/509th ABN INF is not an operational unit or element it is a training unit/element. Moreover, he indicates he was in their Headquarters and Headquarters Command Company, which means he was part of a group of Soldiers responsible for paperwork, bunks, showers, equipment, and meals. Is he Airborne? Yes. Does his bio indicate any operational deployments as an Airborne Soldier? No, not it does not.
Of the remaining four members of the team one is a Green Beret, one served in both the Ranger Regiment and in 1st Special Operational Detachment Delta, and one is a physician who is certified in Undersea Warfare Medicine, which is what is taught at the Navy Undersea Medical Institute. It means he is certified to work as a doctor on a submarine. Naval Special Warfare medical training is done within the Navy Special Operations Medical Institute, which certifies corpsmen and combat medics for the Naval Special Warfare community. So it is unclear if he comes out of the Navy Special Warfare community, ie Navy Special Ops, or if he wore dolphins, not a trident. The final member has no military experience, or even civilian service with the Department of Defense or the Services.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, as reported by The Washington Post and quoted above, has already indicated that what Aegis is saying it has been contracted to do will run afoul of both Federal and Minnesota state laws regarding elections.
It will also run afoul of Minnesota’s laws on unlawful militias.
Does the Second Amendment protect private militias?
No. In fact, the Supreme Court decided in 1886—and repeated in 2008—that the Second Amendment “does not prevent the prohibition of private paramilitary organizations.” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 621 (2008) (citing Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252 (1886)).
Is it legal to act as a private militia in Minnesota?
No. All 50 states prohibit private, unauthorized militias and military units from engaging in activities reserved for the state militia, including law enforcement activities. Some, including Minnesota, also prohibit paramilitary activity during or in furtherance of a civil disorder. Minnesota’s laws are described below:
Minnesota Constitution: The Minnesota Constitution forbids private military units from operating outside state authority, providing that “[t]he military shall be subordinate to the civil power.” Minn. Const. art. I, § 14.
Prohibition on private military units: Minnesota law makes it illegal for groups of people to organize as private militias without permission from the state. It is a misdemeanor for “any body of persons, other than the National Guard, troops of the United States,” military students, and veterans organizations, “to associate themselves together as a military company with arms.” Minn. Stat. § 624.61.
Prohibition on paramilitary activity: In Minnesota, it is a gross misdemeanor to either:
“(1) teach or demonstrate to any other person how to use or make any firearm, or explosive or incendiary device capable of causing injury or death, knowing or having reason to know that it will be unlawfully employed for use in, or in furtherance of, a civil disorder”; or
(2) “assemble with one or more persons for the purpose of training with, practicing with, or being instructed in the use of any firearm, or explosive or incendiary device capable of causing injury or death, with the intent that it be unlawfully employed for use in, or in furtherance of, a civil disorder.” Minn. Stat. § 609.669.
Georgetown University Law School’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) recommends the following actions at the bottom of their fact sheets on the illegality of militias in all fifty states if one sees armed groups and/or individuals near a polling place:
What should I do if I see armed groups near a polling place or voter registration drive?
First, document what you see:
- What are the armed people doing?
- What are the armed people wearing?
- Are they carrying firearms? If so, what type? If not, are they carrying other types of weapons?
- Are they wearing insignia? If so, what does it say or look like?
- Are they bearing signs or flags?
- Do they seem to be patrolling like a law enforcement officer might do?
- Do they seem to be coordinating their actions?
- Do they have a leader?
- Are they stopping or talking to people outside of their group?
- Do they appear to be provoking or threatening violence? If so, what are they doing specifically?
- Are people turning away from the polling station after seeing or speaking with them?Second, call Election Protection at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) to report what you see.Assistance in also available in Spanish at 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888- 839-8682), in Arabic at 844- YALLA-US (844-915-5187), and Asian languages at 888-API-VOTE (1-888-174-8683). A video call number for American Sign Language is available at 301-818-VOTE (301-818-8683).
If Mr. Caudle deploys his paramilitary contractors to Minnesota on behalf of unidentified Minnesota business owners with the contract run through a shell company (unidentified business organization/UBO) to obscure who is actually hiring and paying him, they are not only going to run afoul of Federal and Minnesota election law, but also Minnesota’s state laws against private paramilitary units and activities.
As they say in the Ranger Regiment: “That’s a technique!”
Adam L. Silverman, PhD served as a Senior Fellow for Special Operations at the Center for Special Operations Study and Research at US Special Operations Command’s Joint Special Operations University in 2015. He served as the Senior Civilian Advisor/Cultural Advisor, under temporary assigned control, to the Branch Chief at US Army Civil Affairs, which is part of US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), from October 2012 through December 2013. In November 2018 he gave the keynote address at the US Army Psychological Operations Regiment’s 100th Anniversary Regimental Dinner.