Governor Greg Abbott’s (R-Texas) decision to deploy the Texas State Guard to monitor a US military training exercise was met with puzzlement by the White House on Wednesday.
“I have no idea what he’s thinking,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a news conference. The eight-week training known as “Jade Helm 15” is a multi-state exercise with members of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
“The thing that I can say without having a lot of detailed knowledge about the particular exercise is that in no way will the constitutional rights or civil liberties of any American citizen be infringed upon while this exercise is being conducted,” he said.
In an open letter to the commander of the state guard on Tuesday, Abbott praised the members of the U.S. military, but directed the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercise to ensure that the military did not violate Texans’ rights.
“During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” Abbott said
The governor’s decision to deploy state troops comes after a series of bizarre conspiracy theories began circulating several weeks ago on conservative sites and right wing radio. A post on Teaparty.org claims that in more than 15 Texas cities special forces troops will try to blend in undetected among civilian populations to prepare for the imposition of martial law.
Though the governor did not specifically mention the conspiracy theorists, Abbott’s deputy press secretary John Wittman told Business Insider that the decision was prompted by apprehension among some Texans.
“The Governor directed the State Guard to monitor and report on Operation Jade Helm 15 due to concerns being raised by Texas citizens,” Wittman said.
The U.S. Army Special Operations Command said in a March news release the operation will take place in states including Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado that have terrain similar to areas where Special Forces train overseas.
It will be mostly conducted in remote areas to help develop techniques and tactics for Special Operations warfare overseas, it said.
“This exercise is routine training to maintain a high level of readiness for Army Special Operations Forces since they must be ready to support potential missions anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice,” it said.
(Reuters reporting by Jon Herskovitz, Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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