It’s the mission moniker that has stirred a backlash within the libertarian community for months. Not much is known about Operation Jade Helm, a series of military exercises involving thousands of troops and several of the most elite Special Forces groups in the country. Some fear that these drills represent a serious threat; a U.S. military preparing to take over private land for federal use. Others aren’t casting their suspicions in any specific direction, only concerned that the military isn’t being more open about the purpose of the drills.
The controversy has inspired a civilian group called Counter Jade Helm to form in Texas, where the mission is set to begin next week. The Houston Chronicle reports that a volunteer force of more than 200 people will begin stalking the training drills, monitoring them in an effort to see exactly what they’re up to. “If a team member sees two Humvees full of soldiers driving through town, they’re going to follow them,” said team member Eric Johnston. “And they’re going to radio back their ultimate destination.”
Keeping track of the military’s exercises will be no mean feat; Operation Jade Helm is cloaked in secrecy and there is no public information regarding where the drills will take place. Still, the counter group intends to chip away at that secrecy as much as possible. “We’re going to be watching what they do in the public,” one former Marine 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.”
It may all sound like the stuff of conspiracy theories, but most of the group’s member insist that they are merely trying to figure out what’s going on. “We just want to see what they’re doing and make that information public,” said Johnston.
The military refuses to comment specifically on the drills, but they did release a statement denying the worst of civilian suspicions. “This training exercise will go mostly unnoticed; not interfere with private citizens and not violate their privacy and rights. 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.”
Of course, the civilians suspicious of Jade Helm are not particularly worried about a couple of weeks of “disruption.” They are concerned that the federal government is stepping over the Constitution by pressuring landowners to yield to the armed forces. Governor Greg Abbott is so concerned about the exercises that he has ordered the Texas National Guard to monitor the operation.
Is this much ado about nothing, or is there something sinister being planned by Obama’s military? As nice as it would be to dismiss the worst of the theories, this White House has not earned the benefit of the doubt.