Earlier this month, the United States Coast Guard upheld its self-declared status as a 'special' branch of the military with the ability to prosecute civilians in military tribunals. This startling declaration, unreported in the media, came in a Decision on Appeal related to the case of Lieutenant Eric Shine, a commissioned Naval officer in the Merchant Marines and a graduate of Kings Point Military Service Academy, and was penned by the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard. The decision can be downloaded and read here.
The Coast Guard began proceedings to strip Lieutenant Shine of his merchant mariner license in March, 2003, supposedly as the result of incidents related to his service on two private vessels in 2001. In actuality, as Lieutenant Shine points out, the charges were brought in retaliation for attempting to blow the whistle on illegal dumping and other practices he had been asked to engage in during his employment. The Coast Guard's case against him rested on two hostile witnesses (who had previously been named by Shine in his whistleblower litigation) and the Chief of the Coast Guard Medical Evaluations Office, an officer in the Coast Guard who had never examined Shine but was willing to testify to his medical incompetence.
Download an interview with Eric Shine about his case, the Coast Guard and the open implementation of martial law here
The precedent-setting nature of Lieutenant Shine's case—with the Coast Guard prosecuting him as an alleged civilian in an Article 32 military tribunal—is disturbing enough. But when this case is set in the history and context of the Coast Guard and its repeated attempts at "crossing the Rubicon," an even more disturbing picture emerges.
In 49 B.C., Julius Caesar led the Roman Legion across the Rubicon and into Rome itself, defying the Roman Senate and soon thereafter declaring himself Emperor for life. This was the beginning of the changeover from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire and the phrase "Crossing the Rubicon" is now used to refer to a move by government toward military dictatorship and the suspension of civil liberties.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, the United States Coast Guard has been attempting to 'cross the Rubicon' for decades, and actually achieved that goal in a silent coup in 2003 when it was moved from the Department of Transportation into the newly-created Department of Homeland Security. This change was not merely bureaucratic; it allows the Coast Guard to now openly declare itself "one of the five armed forces of the United States and the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security." The problem is that the Coast Guard is now attempting to straddle the line between a civil service agency (as it was set up to be and indeed has always been, except during times when it was specifically placed in the service of the Navy) and a branch of the military, conforming to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Join us on our
Share this page with your friends
on your favorite social network: