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  January 19, 2016

Navy Schedules War Games in Washington State With No Public Disclosure

Truthout's Dahr Jamail reveals his investigation into how Navy Seals will be practicing combat exercises in Washington state on public and private lands and why state government officials and the public are left in the dark
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Dahr Jamail has written extensively about climate change as well as the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. He is the author of two books: Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq and The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.


JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

War games, or simulated combat exercises, will be taking place across Washington state's coastal areas by the Navy SEALs starting in mid-January. The military training exercises have been quite controversial because Navy SEALs will be using private and public land, raising concerns about regulation as well as what our guest, Dahr Jamail says calls domestic military expansionism into public areas. Dahr revealed all of this in his recent expose titled Navy Uses U.S. Citizens as Pawns In Domestic War Games.

Dahr Jamail is a staff reporter with Truthout, currently writing about the environment, climate change, war crimes, and war games. Thank you so much for joining us, Dahr.

DAHR JAMAIL: Thanks, Jessica. Good to be with you.

DESVARIEUX: So Dahr, I'd like to start off by asking you, how safe is it for the Navy to be conducting these war game exercises in state parks, where there are presumably many bystanders?

JAMAIL: Well, that's a really important part of this story. It's, the short version is it's not safe, because you're going to have SEALs carrying simulated weapons into state parks, residential areas, private property. These exercises could take place at any time, day or night, without any public notice given in advance whatsoever. And so most of the people in these areas where they're going to take place have no idea, even, what's coming. So the potential for disaster is there. If someone wakes up in the middle of the night and sees a group of armed men walking outside their house, or if there's SEALs coming up in marina areas where people are living on boats, this type of thing has a lot of potential for things to not end well.

DESVARIEUX: And wasn't there something that happened similarly in Texas and Utah in May of 2015?

JAMAIL: That's right. Operation Jade Helm, which got a whole lot of national media attention, because there was similar outrage. And the military basically deciding on its own volition, without properly contacting state or local authorities, and in some instances even federal authorities, that they need to usually go through usual channels to carry out exercises like this, to make proper preparations. They didn't do so. A lot of people got really up in arms, even a lot of governments.

So what we're seeing in Washington now really is kind of a smaller example of what happened during Operation Jade Helm. No public notifications given. When I released this story and released these documents in Truthout on Monday, a bit of a maelstrom erupted across the Pacific Northwest region, because the governor's office wasn't aware of it. State and local officials, things like U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, local fishing authorities. So what happens when SEALs decide they're going to close off an entire beachhead area, and a 1,000 meter perimeter around it, as it says in their documentation? So people were very, very disturbed by this.

DESVARIEUX: But the next question, the obvious one, is why? Why wouldn't you give the public notice? You mention in your article that many are claiming that this is, in fact, illegal. And you quote Karen Sullivan of the West Coast Action Alliance, who says that the Navy is violating the National Environmental Policy Act, Administrative Procedures Act, National Historic Preservation Act. It goes on and on, possibly others. As well as violating the public trust, of course. Can you explain how they're even, even able to circumvent these laws, and why hasn't there been more of a public process?

JAMAIL: All those are very important points. And a lot of my sources in the story, like Karen Sullivan, who you mentioned, believe the primary reason just really shows a Naval contempt towards the public process and towards the, the authorities that they're supposed to be working with in order to conduct these exercises in the right way. And instead of doing so, they went to great lengths to really secretively try to push forward with this and just do it, without having to go through the normal channels.

In fact, one of the things they did, the documents that I, I published on Monday on Truthout, as well as a lot of the emails that I got access to in order to write this story, the Navy had labeled the relevant files, quote, “for official use only”, and then some of them labeled as attorney-client privilege. That doesn't mean that they're necessarily exempt from public access, but it does--it did exempt all those files from a Freedom of Information Act. So it was clearly an overt attempt by the Navy to try to secretize what they were doing, and keep these files off the public record. And so when we published them, that's why it's caused so much of a hoopla around the Pacific Northwest. All of the state and local officials very, very angry about being bypassed and left out of a bureaucratic process that, by law, the Navy is required to follow.

DESVARIEUX: Dahr, you also mention in your article domestic military expansion, and this being sort of an example of that. Can you just talk about that a little bit?

JAMAIL: It is a very worrisome trend, and I've been seeing it firsthand up where I live in Washington State and across the Pacific Northwest, with what the Navy's doing. But as you brought up earlier, Operation Jade Helm is another blatant example that occurred last year. And we're seeing this all across the country, whether it's Naval exercises or exercises on land that are, where the military is literally intentionally operating in areas where they know there are going to be civilians. It's part of their war games, to train--to both train the soldiers in how to deal with civilians and treat them as possible belligerents, to use their own lingo, as well as, I think, kind of a dangerous desensitization among the civilian population, getting used to having military hardware and soldiers walking around with guns among the civilian population.

So it's a very, very worrisome thing. And I would cite two, two articles in the Quadrennial Defense Review report from the Pentagon, where they say that they, they are gearing up and training for potential unrest in light of another giant economic crisis in this country, or potential unrest that could be generated from ramifications of climate destruction, things like drought, lack of available food resources, et cetera. So it is stated even in the military's own documentation that part of the aims of these exercises is to prepare the military for these things that they expect could come.

DESVARIEUX: All right, this is some scary stuff, and I'm sure people are wondering what they can do about this. So Dahr, just really quickly, what would you recommend?

JAMAIL: I think it's a very important time for people to contact their, their political representatives on a state level and local level and alert them that they're very concerned about this, and look into what's going on in their own communities, because as usual nothing's going to happen if people just sit by and allow these things to, to progress and grow worse, which is what's happening right now.

DESVARIEUX: All right. Dahr Jamail joining us. Thank you so much for being with us.

JAMAIL: Thank you, Jessica.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for watching the Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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