Unmarked Security Forces In DC Spark Fear

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Above photo: Unidentified militarized police in Washington, DC June 2020, from Twitter, see Tweet below.

Mistaken for mercenaries, armed personnel from federal agencies refuse to identify themselves to street protestors and media.

The presence of unmarked federal law enforcement officers, dressed in paramilitary uniforms and wearing no identifying insignia, quickly spread among protesters marching through Washington, D.C.’s streets on Tuesday and Wednesday, causing concerned protesters and officials to ask: Who are they?

In some locations, security personnel refused to identify themselves to journalists and protesters who asked which agency sent them, answering only that they worked for the federal government. In other places, they identified themselves as working for the Department of Justice. Some carried rifles, or were equipped with body armor, riot shields, and pepper spray canisters.

Two such clad security members in Washington on Tuesday night identified themselves to Defense One as part of a specialized emergency response force run by the Bureau of Prisons — part of the Justice Department — to help maintain security at correctional facilities. They and others are part of what’s known as the bureau’s Special Operations Response Teams, or SORTs. NPR reported on Monday that Attorney General Bill Barr had ordered BOP to send its specialized riot response teams to assist with the local D.C. law enforcement with the civil unrest that has engulfed downtown Washington this week.

On Wednesday, protesters, former national security officials, and legal analysts raised alarms about the refusal of these units to identify their specific agency, and the legal authority under which they are operating. Some critics compared the units to “little green men” — a reference to the unmarked Russian soldiers who appeared in Crimea, Ukraine, prior to its 2014 annexation by the Russian Federation and were compared to the classic plastic toy soldiers. A few of the personnel in Washington on Tuesday wore patches identifying them as BOP or SORTs, but many did not.

“There is no generic DOJ police force, obviously. No badges, no identifying info, refusal to say who they represent — it’s like Russia’s little green men have taken over the nation’s capital,” tweeted Matt Miller, a former DOJ spokesman under President Barack Obama.

Asked in a brief phone call why the units had been ordered not to identify themselves in more detail, DOJ spokesman Kerri Kupec said, “I don’t know anything about that.” In a separate conversation, another Justice Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity dismissed the concerns as the purview of conspiracy theorists, expressing frustration that officials who were “clearly” part of the enforcement efforts would be mistaken for mercenaries. That official argued that the BOP officers were appropriately identifying themselves as being with DOJ, suggesting that no further detail was required.

Legal analysts have raised questions about what statute authorizes BOP’s use in civil law enforcement efforts. Those nitty-gritty rules dictate what kind of authority the units have — like the power to arrest citizens, for example. That, in turn, dictates how civilians can seek redress for any abuses of power.

BOP, like other federal, state, and local law enforcement officers may be deputized under the authority granted the US Marshals Service to enforce federal criminal statutes and protect federal property and personnel,” DOJ spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said in an email.

That legal rationale — ”if this is really what happened,” cautioned national security law professor Bobby Chesney — means that the BOP officers have the same broad law enforcement authorities that any deputy U.S. marshal would, including the power to carry fire arms and make an arrest without a warrant for any offense.

But the officers’ refusal to identify themselves is still “bonkers,” Chesney said. Some security analysts and protesters argued that the BOP’s reticence was an intimidation tactic.

“The authority they [are] operating under dictates what they are allowed to lawfully do. If DOJ is being intentionally vague in order to intimidate citizens, that is abusive,” tweeted former NSA counsel Susan Hennessey.

Other analysts expressed concerns that tactical teams trained to deal with prison riots by inmates may not know how to cope with civilian unrest on city streets.

BOP officers “are trained for specific missions in specific conditions quite different from working with U.S. civilians—convicted of no crime—exercising their protected 1st A rights,” tweeted Diana Bolsinger, a senior fellow at the Strauss Center for International Security and Law.

It was far from clear that BOP personnel were the only unmarked paramilitary forces on the streets, not was it clear how many BOP officers have been dispatched to Washington. A hodgepodge of federal agencies have loaned their forces to support local law enforcement efforts as D.C.’s protests entered their sixth day on Wednesday, and the BOP units sometimes appeared to be intermingled with officers from these other agencies. Officers from the DEA, FBI, DHS and other federal agencies could be seen around the city, as well as thousands of National Guardsmen.

The BOP did not respond to requests for information on the units by the time this story was published.

Democratic lawmakers and some former military and security officials also have expressed concern.

“Unacceptable for uniformed federal officers policing constitutionally-protected assemblies to refuse to identify themselves to people who pay their salaries,” tweeted Rep. Don Beyer, D, who represents northern Virginia’s 8th congressional district, directly across the Potomac River from Washington. “Denying accountability to the public they serve ensures abuses.” Arlington County, in Beyer’s district, on Tuesday pulled their police forces out of Washington, saying it did not want to participate in Trump’s escalation and commingling of security forces against the protests.

DC police are required by law to wear badges that must be visible ‘even if wearing riot gear,’” Beyer noted. “But because Trump called in federal agencies to crack down on peaceful protests, people in the nation’s capital once again are treated as second class citizens.”

  • In addition to the otherwise authoritarian and largely unaccountable brutality of swat teams and riot police in the streets, it is disturbing that unidentifiable heavily armed militia thugs are being deployed to against unarmed poor and working class protesters.

    What a country..!

  • 0040

    Cryptically marching brown or black shirts around the big cities is a part of capitalism’s control mechanism , and the fear factor , who is the target what are their orders,has always payed dividends , a recommended strategy in times of unrest by our elites since WW1. It terrifies the sheeple, and even the sheepdogs aka media pundits become agitated.

  • Tony

    Authoritarian dystopia.

  • SCM

    Probably Eric Princes black water boys. Why not? Our money is supply and voting booths are privitzed why not our police?

  • Southern

    The contradiction is ID 2020 being introduced while you blink.

    The downloading of a certain app on mobile phones to consent to contact tracing / tracking although it was always possible to track movement via mobile phones locking onto communications towers – the downloading of the app is to voluntarily suspend yet more of one’s right to privacy as detailed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    No more of that – forget about civil rights it’s always been about the demise of them while the powers of the insecurity state are mushrooming like never before.

    Enter contact tracing – only recently I decided on a healthy takeaway food item only to notice that the person before me had decided to sit on a table and seat outside the stall – was subsequently required to fill out all his personal details on a ledger that clearly had been handled by all the previous customers something which obviously defeats the entire purpose of contact tracing as it only add’s to the number of contacts, duh !

    Wikileaks collateral damage video exposed that the US let’s rip when it suspects without verifiable evidence that someone ”might be carrying” a weapon and was proven wrong.

    Yet when unidentified armed man in battle fatigues armed to the teeth with self loading automatic weapons appear in broad daylight in ”DC” there’s no response, there’s no explanation while if it were to happen on another continent where the US has invaded a country the US shoots to kill and then finishes off first responders with a missile attack.

    Unidentified Armed militia are able to walk around ”DC” unchallenged while the Deep State provides the evidence that somehow this doesn’t threatens US interest.

  • Southern

    Perhaps you’re more of an expert on these matters….

    whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

  • dopfa

    They are clearly from the JBTD – the Jack-Booted Thug Department. We’re entering Hitler’s wet dream.
    The US government is out of control, and will do whatever it takes to maintain its power over We the People. It has used trillions of OUR tax dollars to turn a racist nation into a racist empire. March in the streets all you want. Nothing is going to change unless We the People demand our representatives represent WE THE PEOPLE instead of corporate power, and even then, millions will die. Law enforcement in the US has ALWAYS protected corporate power instead of We the People.
    Between the curfews from the virus and the curfews from the protests, we’re looking at the lockdown from hell. We need ALL of our freedoms taken away for our own security. Isn’t that clear by now?

  • Edward Winslow

    These goons remind me of the “guardians” in the HBO adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

  • Edward Winslow

    These unidentifiable thugs are using the same format as the “hunter-killer” teams that the failing empire employed in Central America and Afghanistan. After testing them in foreign wars, the criminals in the illegal and illegitimate government are turning them loose on protesters.


    1933- The social turmoil resulting from mass unemployment leads to Hitler’s (Trump’s) installation as Chancellor. Thereafter Germany’s financial system and the economy in general are geared toward rearmament. Conditions for the Jews, anti-Nazis and communists (today’s Muslims, Mexicans, progressives and Blacks) worsen. From its inception, Hitler’s regime moves quickly to introduce racist and xenophobic policies. They are singled out by the Nazi propaganda machine as an enemy within who are responsible for Germany’s defeat in the First World War, and for her subsequent economic difficulties, such as the 1920s hyperinflation and Great Depression. (Today’s 2008 crash) Hitler moves quickly to remove the non-Nazis from the driver’s seat, making the Party the exclusive master of the State, with an authoritarian government and its police ready to carry out the Nazification of Germany. On May Day, the Nazis organize a massive and enthusiastic worker’s demonstration, with the motto, “Honor work and respect the worker.” The next day they occupy all trade union buildings with no resistance. Union funds are confiscated, leaders arrested, even if they have pledged to cooperate with the Nazis, and sent to concentration camps (US privatized prisons, Guantanamo and detention centers). Three weeks later collective bargaining is brought to an end,”labor trustees” are provided by the Party to “regulate contracts and maintain labor peace. (right to work)” On Hitler’s promise that the Nazi government is going to put organized workers in their place and leave management to run as it wishes, and that armaments are needed to defend the Fatherland, Krupp Von Bohlen, Bosch, Schnitzler, Farben and Vögler pour large sums of money into the Nazi coffers. (Koch Bros., Coca Cola, Shell, etc.) Nazi terror is unleashed against all opposition. Fifty-one anti-Nazis are murdered during the electoral campaign of 1933. Göring establishes an auxiliary force of 50,000, most of them S.A. thugs,

  • Hadley Browning

    Barr was given credit for the act of clearing the streets only to say it wasn’t his decision… so who is the Chief Law Enforcement officer of the Country who ordered Federal Prison Riot Cops to show up and cover their badges?

  • renata

    They refuse to say…

  • Hadley Browning

    Barr is just as much responsible as Esper and Milley for what transpired. The people in charge are passing the blame for which person in charge gave the orders, they don’t want to say who’s in charge of the Pentagon that sent that National Guard helicopter to press down on the protesters in the street.