Document Friday: “Garden Plot:” The Army’s Emergency Plan to Restore “Law and Order” to America
Reposted in response to the London unrest.
Here’s one that might make you dust off your tinfoil hat. It’s the US Army’s 1968 “Civil Disturbance Plan,” codenamed Garden Plot. The plan –first posted by governmentattic.org– explains how the Army planned to “employ Federal forces to assist local authorities in the restoration and maintenance of law and order in the 50 states [and all other districts and territories].”
Of course, for the “restoration of law and order” to be legal, the president must decree it. Planning ahead, the Army drafted Annex Five (pg. 59): a five-section executive order that authorized the Secretary of Defense to “take all appropriate steps” to quell the restive population… All the president needed to do to allow the military to operate domestically was sign the dotted line.
The Garden Plot plan –drafted after the Watts, Newark, and Detroit riots– captures the acrimonious times when the document was drawn up. The section outlining the Army’s perception of the “situation” in America certainly insinuates an establishment that was afraid the disenfranchised. The Plot warns against “racial unrest,” as well as “anti-draft” and “anti-Vietnam” elements. It deserves a read in full (pgs. 36-37):
What the Army considered “indicators of potential violence (pg. 37)” are also telling (if jarring):
Garden Plot is a much larger and more broadly orchestrated operation than a governor “merely” calling in the Federal Guard (which happened 92 times from 1 July 1969-30 June 1970). And because historic Garden Plot activity was classified and current activity likely remains so, it is difficult to discern exactly how many times Garden Plot was evoked.
The Los Angeles Times reported that until 1971, there were two brigades (4,800 troops) on permanent standby to quell unrest. The Times also reported that Governor Ronald Reagan once addressed 500 soldiers drilling for Garden Plot; he joked that if his political enemies saw him they would accuse him of “planning a military takeover.”
Globalsecurity.org reports that Garden Plot deployments “were commonplace” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Among other instances, deployments occurred after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, in response to the US invasion of Cambodia in 1970, and the Republican and Democratic conventions of 1972. There is speculation that Garden Plot was evoked after the 1992 Rodney King Riots and the 1999 Seattle WTO riots. The 1968 plan lists 25 “high priority” cities (pg. 177).
Establishing a contingency plan for civil unrest may have been a prudent and constitutional action by the US military. But by cloaking Garden Plot in unnecessarily secrecy, the executive branch contributed to the erosion of the US public’s trust of its government. (Egads! Black Helicopters!)