Q: Is Jade Helm 15 a government attempt to create martial law in the U.S.?
A: No. It's a joint military training exercise lasting two months this summer.
What is Jade Helm and are we facing martial law as is suggested on many news outlets?
In July, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command will begin an expansive military training exercise across several southwestern states. It is not, as some have claimed, the latest covert government attempt to introduce martial law.
Jade Helm 15, as the exercise is called, is an eight-week training program with members of the Green Berets, Navy SEALS and other special operations forces. The USASOC, in a statement, said it "periodically conducts training exercises such as these to practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies." But the size and scope of the operation, USASOC says, makes it different from other exercises.
Training will take place on private and public land throughout Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. Accordingly, USASOC says it obtained permission from private landowners and state and local authorities to conduct the drills.
"The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and its associated noise," the USASOC statement said.
However, some aren't buying the military's explanation for the exercise.
"These are not 'training exercises' for soldiers to be deployed in the defense of America, as we are told, but a training exercise for the potential of Martial Law," says a post on the website of Oath Keepers, a group of current and former military members, police and first responders. Founded by Stewart Rhodes, who says he served as an aide to former Rep. Ron Paul, Oath Keepers pledges to "defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic."
Infowars.com, a conspiracy website run by libertarian radio host and author Alex Jones, initially ran a story on March 22 with the headline: "Feds Preparing to Invade Texas, List State as 'Hostile.' " The item went on to claim that a "newly released military document" detailed the Army's "plan to wage war on the American people."
Even celebrity Chuck Norris, in an opinion piece for the conservative WorldNetDaily website, suggested there may be more to the training exercise than officials claimed. "It's neither over-reactionary nor conspiratorial to call into question or ask for transparency about Jade Helm 15 or any other government activity," he wrote.
But the government isn't invading Texas or waging a war on Americans. And the retail giant Wal-Mart isn't involved either, as some conspiracy theories suggest.
Much of the suspicion of the exercise stems from a USASOC document pertaining to Texas that explained the reasons for Jade Helm 15 and asked permission from local authorities to move forward with the training. The document highlighted Texas, Utah and a small portion of southern California in red and labeled them "hostile" areas.
Republican Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert issued a statement saying that he was "appalled that the hostile areas amazingly have a Republican majority." He added that he "can understand" concerns that "the U.S. Army is preparing for modern-day martial law."
It's true that Texas and Utah have Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures. But so do Arizona and Nevada, and neither state is listed as "hostile." Arizona is listed as "uncertain" but "leaning friendly," and Nevada is listed as "permissive."
The "hostile" labels aren't to be taken seriously, anyway. They're part of a "fictional" exercise, says USASOC. Here's what a USASOC spokesman told Fox 13 News in Salt Lake City:
Other Texas Republicans accept that and have attempted to put residents at ease.
In a statement, Rep. Kay Granger, who represents the 12th Congressional District, called rumors of martial law being declared in Texas "entirely false."
Rep. Ted Poe of the 2nd Congressional District took his message to Facebook. "The labels 'hostile,' 'friendly' and 'neutral' are standard protocol in most domestic military exercises and help the military participants plan their missions in complex scenarios," he wrote.
Even Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has now said, according to the Austin American-Statesman, that he has "seen nothing to worry about what's going on."
That was after Abbott, responding to growing public concern, directed the Texas State Guardto monitor the training exercise so that Texans would know that their "safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed."
He told the paper: "We have been provided assurance by the Special Operations Forces that there is nothing for the public to worry about. This is consistent with past operations. Texas has a long tradition of supporting our troops and I don't think this will be any different."
No Wal-Mart Connection
Wild claims that Wal-Mart recently closed five stores nationwide, including two in Texas, to assist in the alleged government takeover are also baseless.
All News Pipeline advanced the theory that the stores would serve as "food distribution centers" and "the headquarters of invading troops from China, here to disarm Americans one by one." Also, Before It's News speculated that the government had built a network of tunnels beneath the closed stores. Never mind that two of the store closings were in Oklahoma and Florida, where Jade Helm 15 trainings are not scheduled to take place.
Wal-Mart, in a statement to TPM, said "there's no truth to the rumors."
Martial, Martial, Martial
This isn't the first time we've addressed unfounded claims of martial law in the U.S.
In September 2012, we wrote about the false claim that President Obama had signed 900 executives orders, including one declaring martial law. That rumor was actually advanced by Rep. Kay Granger, who later retracted many of the claims she had made about the "National Defense Resources Preparedness" order that Obama had signed. Like presidents before him, Obama issued an order updating the resources covered under that order, which allows presidents to delegate authority to various federal departments and agencies in the event of national emergencies.
Claims of martial law appeared in another viral email we wrote about in November 2012. That one claimed that the federal government was stockpiling ammunition and that Obama was creating a "standing army of government youth." Neither claim was accurate. In fact, the National Rifle Association — no friend of the president — said the suggestion that the Obama administration was stockpiling ammunition and "preparing for a war with the American people" displays "a lack of understanding of the law enforcement functions carried about by officers in small federal agencies."
And just last year, after several readers asked about it, we wrote about a video supposedly showing Obama going even further by calling for a "new world order." But the creators of the video selectively edited the president's words, combining clips from two different parts of his speech in a way that completely changed the meaning of what he said.
We always encourage readers to be suspicious of such messages. For more, see thisFlackCheck.org video on spotting bogus claims in viral emails.
— D'Angelo Gore
U.S. Army Special Operations Command. "Exercise readies SOF for threats abroad." News Release. 24 Mar 2015.
"Jade Helm15: Decoded." OathKeepers.org. 22 Apr 2015.
Infowars.com. "Feds Preparing to Invade Texas, List State as 'Hostile.' " 22 Mar 2015.
Norris, Chuck. "Jade Helm 15, Crime Stoppers and KSK." WND.com. 3 May 2015.
Edwards, Ashton, and Roth, Max. "Planned military training 'Jade Helm 15′ ignites firestorm in Utah." Fox News 13. 5 May 2015.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Request to Conduct Realistic Military Training (RMT) Jade Helm 15.
Office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. "Governor Abbott Directs Texas State Guard To Monitor Operation Jade Helm 15." News release. 28 Apr 2015.
Tilove, Jonathan. "Greg Abbott defends his Jade Helm directive." Austin American-Statesman. 4 May 2015.
Gohmert, Louie. Gohmert Statement on Jade Helm Exercises. News release. 5 May 2015.
Granger, Kay. Jade Helm 15. Letter to constituents. 30 Apr 2015.
Poe, Ted. Facebook post. 4 May 2015.
Lamothe, Dan. "Why Operation Jade Helm 15 is freaking out the Internet — and why it shouldn't be." Washington Post. 31 Mar 2015.
Finley, Ben. "Obama's Executive Orders." FactCheck.org. 25 Sep 2012.
Finley, Ben. "Did FEMA Create a Youth Army?" FactCheck.org. 30 Nov 2012.
Piaker, Zachary. "No 'New World Order.' " 5 Nov 2014.
Lobosco, Katie. "Walmart fired 2,200 to fix the plumbing." CNN Money. 17 Apr 2015.
Garcia, Ahiza. "Wal-Mart: 'No Truth To The Rumors' Of Tunnels Being Built To Take Over Texas." TPM. 4 May 2015.
FactCheck.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. Based in Philadelphia, FactCheck monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Its goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding. Find a list of FactCheck.org funders here.