The White House slapped down rumors that an upcoming multi-state military training exercise would lead to martial law or the violation of constitutional rights.
Conspiracy theorists are warning the two-month Jade Helm 15 exercise planned for seven southwestern states is a prelude to suspension of law or possibly even a foreign invasion, and state and now federal officials have tried to alleviate their concerns.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has asked the commander of the volunteer State Guard to monitor training exercises in the state after fearful residents voiced their concerns to a U.S. Army spokesman this week in Bastrop County.
“I have no idea what he’s thinking,” said Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, of the Republican Abbott’s request. “In no way will the constitutional rights or civil liberties of any American citizen be infringed upon while this exercise is being conducted.”
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, also a Republican, assured residents in his state that Jade Helm 15 is a standard military training exercise after receiving about 25 calls from concerned citizens.
A map shared by the military designates Texas, Utah, and California as “hostile” territories during the training exercise, which will be conducted on private property with consent of the landowner and involve volunteer role players.
The exercise is intended to allow military special operations troops to practice unconventional warfare, officials have said, and the states were chosen due to their topographical resemblance to overseas combat zones.
A spokeswoman for the Utah governor said the exercise would pose minimal inconvenience to local communities, and military officials have insisted no weapons or property would be seized from anyone.
However, these official assurances have seemed to arouse only more suspicion.
“Would the (county) court be offended if I told the (lieutenant) colonel that I didn’t believe a single word that he just said?” said one participant in the Bastrop County public meeting on the exercise.
A prepper website claims that an anonymous Texas Ranger reported “trains are moving throughout Texas and some of them have been outfitted with shackles, presumably to ‘transport prisoners of some sort.’”
The website said the claims back other conspiracy theories about “dissident roundups,” and the alleged “law enforcement insider” also suggested that shuttered Walmart stores might be used as staging points for the Department of Homeland Security.
“We expecting an attack on more than one Texas city or town by ISIS and/or any of their partners,” the anonymous Ranger claims in a letter.
Those partners, apparently, include U.S. Navy SEALs and other American elite forces, according to the website.
“I will support the Feds in their preparation against ISIS,” the alleged Ranger said. “But the moment that this action turns against our locals is the moment I will perform my oath of office. I am not alone in this feeling. None of my brothers trust Homeland. We will have to see where this is going but I have a bad feeling.”