A civilian group is readying to monitor Operation Jade Helm, the military training mission that will begin next week in Southwestern states involving thousands of troops as well as aircraft and heavy vehicles.
According to the Houston Chronicle
, the surveillance operation, Counter Jade Helm, has been coordinated by hundreds of people to keep an eye on the two-month military drill, which many view with suspicion, charging a possible federal territorial grab.
Three groups of volunteers, or 20 people in total, will monitor the SEALs, Green Berets, and Air Force Special Ops in Texas where Jade Helm starts Wednesday. Details of where the military will be operating throughout the seven-state territory have remained a secret, posing a challenge for the monitoring effort.
"If a team member sees two Humvees full of soldiers driving through town, they're going to follow them," Eric Johnston, a surveillance team leader in Texas, told the Chronicle. "And they're going to radio back their ultimate location."
Johnston said that the group is not worried about martial law but does not trust the government. Critics and conspiracy theorists have cited a range of concerns, prompting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
in April to order the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation.
The regiment in Texas is just one in the national effort. Counter Jade Helm has a Facebook page with roughly 6,000 "likes," and there is also a website and forum that will post updates about the exercise.
"We're going to be watching what they do in the public," former Marine Pete Lanteri from Arizona told the Chronicle. "Obviously on a military base they can do whatever they want. But if they're going to train on public land we have a right as American citizens to watch what they're doing."
In total, the volunteer force has 200 people, with the largest group in Arizona, the Chronicle reported. The force includes many former military and law enforcement officials in addition to civilians.
Reports will be relayed to the headquarters in Arizona where intelligence staff will review and verify information.
"We just want to see what they're doing and make that information public," Johnston said.
The group insists that it is not conspiracy-minded but it does have suspicions about the government's intentions, the Chronicle reported.
"If the government wants to put troops in place for a takeover, they aren't going to put them in Bastrop [Texas]," Johnston said, according to the Chronicle.
Army Special Operations declined to comment on the civilian surveillance operation but said in a statement, according to the Chronicle, "This training exercise will go mostly unnoticed; not interfere with private citizens and not violate their privacy and rights. It will not disrupt their economies or livelihoods. State and local officials will receive updates as the exercise progresses and they are equally committed to ensuring the training occurs smoothly."
Meanwhile, dozens of people gathered at the Alamo over the weekend to protest the designation of the Shrine of Texas Liberty as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations, News Radio 1200 WOAI
One protester said that while he was not concerned that the U.N. would take control of the Alamo, he was worried that San Antonio and Texas officials may defer to the U.N. on matters relating to the development of Alamo Plaza and in the surrounding area.
"You can imagine a time when the U.N. would say 'we think it is inconsistent for a World Heritage Site to allow the carrying of firearms,'" David Watts told WOAI. "Today if you are a concealed carry holder you can go in lawfully. But it is not difficult to imagine that the U.N. might have a problem with that."
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