The Department of Defense will never be accused of adapting quickly to a new situation, and their response protocols to Covid-19 have been no different. A lot of things took place across the broad spectrum of the DOD during 2020 and 2021 which have been unethical at best and flat out illegal at worst. Unfortunately, I’ve come to the realization that a majority of middle America is still unaware of much of what has taken place in the DOD under a veil of “readiness” and “safety.” Enter: USFK, or United States Forces Korea.
A system of surveillance rose up in South Korea during 2020 in a supposed effort to tackle the high volume of Covid positive individuals that were popping up all over the peninsula. Right out of the gate I’ll declare that it was illegal and runs afoul of a number of laws we have in place to protect American citizens from abuses at the hands of their own government.
Under the leadership of General Robert Abrams, a method of contact tracing involving the use of CCTV (closed circuit television, or security footage) was used to track the movement of personnel on Camp Humphreys, collect and store their information, then remove them from their homes and put them in isolation/quarantine facilities.
The process for identifying and tracking personnel worked like this:
- When people entered the PX (post exchange or mini mall) they would scan in with their CAC (common access card or ID) and sign their name along with the time.
- If someone tested positive for Covid, they would use those sheets and CCTV footage to identify anyone who may have had close contact with the individual while out shopping.
- Screenshots would be taken from the saved CCTV footage and posted to the Camp Humphrey’s official facebook page and pushed out for all to see.
The Covid tracking team was called the Covid Surveillance Cell. After personnel were identified and tracked based on the collected and stored information, a contact clean team, along with a team to collect the individual and/or that person’s family to send them into isolation, were sent out from the command.
Before I continue with the process, I need to address why all of this is illegal.
Executive Order 12333 dictates very clearly what is and isn’t allowed within the context of United States Intelligence Activities. This order is well known by commanders at every echelon due to the ramifications it holds if it’s broken.
Elements of the Intelligence Community are authorized to collect, retain, or disseminate information concerning United States persons only in accordance with procedures established by the head of the Intelligence Community element concerned or by the head of a department containing such element and approved by the Attorney General, consistent with the authorities provided by Part 1 of this Order, after consultation with the Director.
A document pertaining to Intelligence Oversight from Marine Corps Headquarters even states,
Generally you may not intentionally target, collect, retain, and disseminate information on U.S.
persons whether CONUS or OCONUS.
It goes on to clarify that law enforcement has the authority to retain information on U.S. persons for up to 90 days who pose a threat to DOD personnel, resources or activities, but I don’t think you could find a sober attorney alive who would argue that shopping at the PX poses a criminal threat to the DOD.
After individuals and their families were identified and teams came to collect them, it was often a hurried process to get them out of their domicile and into isolation.
Then, as if the entire dystopian process wasn’t jarring enough, families were often moved into filthy, unkempt barracks rooms where they had to make due in extremely cramped and unsanitary conditions.
These abuses often go unknown and undocumented except on the comments on social media pages and in grumblings between those effected. The bigger picture is a Department of Defense who callously ignores the rule of law and constitution when they feel the situation merits it. Beyond the immediate impact to the servicemembers and their families who are effected, these are actions that chip away at our national security and lay bare the fundamental flaws the United States has with accountability and a lack of oversight within the most powerful institution in our government. It’s important that you contact your representatives and let them know what’s taking place in the DOD. Accountability will only be enacted if it becomes an issue for those seeking re-election.
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