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Context of 'May 1968: Military, Law Enforcement Officials Participate in First Cable Splicer Seminar'

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In the wake of anti-war demonstrations and urban rioting in several US cities, the Pentagon establishes a set of civil disturbance plans designed to put down political protests and civil unrest. Conducted under the codename Operation Garden Plot, the new program significantly increases the role of the military in training for and intervening in social uprisings. The Pentagon develops contingency plans for every city considered to have potential for uprisings by students, minorities, or labor unions. Each area of the country follows a subplan of Operation Garden Plot. Operation Cable Splicer, for instance, covers the states of California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona (see May 1968, February 10, 1969, March 1969, and May 1970). Each region will conduct exercises and war games to practice and develop its individual plans. To oversee the operations, the Pentagon establishes the Directorate of Civil Disturbance and Planning Operations. The directorate will operate from the basement of the Pentagon in what becomes known as the “domestic war room” (see April 1968). [New Times, 11/28/1975; Salon, 3/15/2002; U.S Army, 8/18/2009]

Entity Tags: Directorate of Civil Disturbance and Planning Operations, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The government establishes the Directorate of Civil Disturbance and Planning Operations within the Department of Defense. The directorate will oversee civil disturbance operations, such as Garden Plot and Cable Splicer (see Winter 1967-1968), and conduct surveillance on US citizens in search of possible security threats. The directorate is headquartered in the basement of the Pentagon in what will become known as the “domestic war room.” The center utilizes a massive computer system to monitor “all public outbursts and political dissent” within the United States. New Times magazine will describe the war room as follows: “Surrounded by acetate map overlays, a fulltime staff of 180, including around-the-clock ‘watch teams,’ [uses] teletype machines, telephones, and radios to keep in constant communication with every National Guard headquarters and all major military installations in the continental United States.” Seven Army infantry brigades totaling 21,000 troops are at the directorate’s disposal. [New Times, 11/28/1975]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Directorate of Civil Disturbance and Planning Operations

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Military and law enforcement officials gather at the California National Guard’s training center for a workshop seminar on civil disturbance control. The program, known as Cable Splicer I, is designed to prepare officials for a future exercise, Cable Splicer II, which will be conducted in March 1969 (see February 10, 1969 and March 1969). Operation Cable Splicer is a subplan of Operation Garden Plot, a national program established by the Pentagon to quash political uprisings and social unrest (see Winter 1967-1968). The subplan is designed to cover the states of California, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona. [New Times, 11/28/1975]

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

California Governor Ronald Reagan, along with a variety of other local, state, and federal officials, kicks off a regional exercise known as Cable Splicer II at the Governor’s Orientation Conference. Operation Cable Splicer is part of Operation Garden Plot, a program established by the Pentagon to monitor and put down civil unrest (see Winter 1967-1968). Cable Splicer is a subplan designed to cover the states of California, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona. Governor Reagan addresses an audience of approximately 500 Army officials and troops, local and state police officers, military intelligence personnel, private executives, and state legislators. “You know,” he says, “there are people in the state who, if they could see this gathering right now and my presence here, would decide that their worst fears and convictions had been realized—I was planning a military takeover.” According to New Times magazine, Chief Deputy Attorney General Charles O’Brien speaks bluntly about constitutional rights, “arguing at one point that if the Constitution prevents the police from gathering political intelligence, then the Constitution goes too far.” O’Brien continues: “This is a revolution, and anything goes. A civil disturbance anywhere in this state is an attack on the state itself.” Deputy Attorney General Buck Compton argues that “free speech, civil rights, [and] rights to assembly” have all become “clich├ęs.” Congressman Clair Burgener attends the conference, but is only vaguely aware of the scope of the upcoming exercise and emergency plans. He is later surprised to learn of the conference’s true nature. He will later tell New Times magazine, “If this was going on in this spirit, they were certainly pulling the wool over the eyes of the invited guests.” After reviewing the plans, he will say: “Well, I’ll be damned! This is what I call subversive.” The Cable Splicer II exercise will be conducted a month later (see March 1969). [New Times, 11/28/1975]

Entity Tags: Charles O’Brien, California National Guard, Ronald Reagan, US Department of Defense, Clair Burgener

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

A large exercise, codenamed Cable Splicer II, is conducted in California to test and develop the ability of local, state, and federal officials to deal with political protests and urban rioting. Operation Cable Splicer is a regional subplan of the Pentagon’s Operation Garden Plot (see Winter 1967-1968). A month earlier, Governor Ronald Reagan and other officials ceremoniously kicked off the war game (see February 10, 1969). The exercise, which simulates a variety of civil disturbances, is spread across 23 political jurisdictions and includes National Guard officers, Army advisers, senior police and sheriff officers, and private executives. According to New Times magazine, “over 1,200 preplanned intelligence reports on supposedly imaginary events, people, and organizations” are pasted on index cards and handed to the participants to help “generate the make-believe war.” The magazine will later report: “The players listen to a special intelligence summary, learning the background of the civil disturbance that has led to the current ‘emergency.’ At that point, the ‘controllers’—usually senior National Guard officers and their Army advisers—begin play, feeding the IBM-card preplanned intelligence reports of dissident activity to the players. Seated at rows of desks dotted with telephones, facing a ‘situation map’ of their community, the players respond to the unfolding scenario.”
Storyline - In the first phase of the exercise, an arrest and shooting “provoke crowd unrest and threats against public officials.” Fourteen simulated hours later, rioters attack a police car and injure an officer. A member of a minority group is killed and two others are wounded. There are threats of retaliation against police officers. Mock intelligence reports suggest widespread rioting is likely, as dozens of apparent radicals are flown in on a “chartered flight” and picked up at the airport by 20 separate vehicles. The second phase of the exercise begins with “the ambush of several police cars, the attempted assassination of the mayor, the bombing of local armories, the destruction of vehicles and ammunition stocks, and the gathering of thousands of people in the streets.” The exercise participants call in police from outside jurisdictions and cities, but they are unsuccessful at quelling the violence. In the third phase of the exercise, according to New Times, “intelligence reports pouring into the Emergency Operations Center disclose more fire bombings, attempted assassinations of public officials, hoarding of water in certain areas, and sniping of fire trucks. The streets remain filled with thousands of people, and the National Guard is called to active duty.” As the crowd turns increasingly violent, the Army is called upon to take over for the National Guard. The crowd is finally dispersed, although the details of exactly how are unknown. “At their disposal,” New Times reports, “there are heavy artillery, armor, chemical and psychological warfare teams, and tactical air support.” The third phase concludes with a few “loose militants” unable to gain popular influence. [New Times, 11/28/1975]

Entity Tags: California National Guard, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Participants in a California civil disturbance exercise, codenamed Cable Splicer III, hold an “After Action Conference” to discuss the results. The exercise was designed to pracitce Operation Cable Splicer, a regional subplan of the Pentagon’s Operation Garden Plot (see Winter 1967-1968). The participants, which include Army officials, local police officers, and private executives, spend much of the conference pronouncing their disgust for leftists and other activists. According to New Times magazine, speakers at the conference condemn “university administrators who demur at giving the police free rein on the campuses; parents of ‘would-be revolutionaries’ who support their children; and legislators who investigate police actions.” Political demonstrators are referred to as “guerrillas,” “modern day barbarians,” “Brown Shirts,” “kooks,” and “VC.” Los Angeles Police Department Inspector John A. McAllister gives a lecture listing activities that “require police action,” including “loud, boisterous, or obscene” behavior on beaches, “love-in type gatherings in parks where in large numbers they freak out,” disruptions by “noisy and sometimes violent dissidents,” peace marches and rock festivals where “violence is commonplace and sex is unrestrained,” and “campus disruptions—which in fact are nothing more than mini-revolutions.” [New Times, 11/28/1975]

Entity Tags: John A. McAllister, Los Angeles Police Department

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

California Governor Ronald Reagan establishes the California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI) to oversee disaster training and exercises for the state. The CSTI, which will serve as a branch of the governor’s Office of Emergency Services, will prepare emergency personnel for a variety of scenarios ranging from terrorist attacks, to environmental hazards, to civil disturbances. The creation of the institute was recommended by participants in the exercises Cable Splicer II and Cable Splicer III (see March 1969 and May 1970). The facility, built with a $425,000 grant from the Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, is meant to duplicate the functions of the Senior Officers Civil Disturbance Course (SEADOC) in Fort Gordon, Georgia. The CSTI will be criticized for training police officers to use military-style tactics in domestic law enforcement situations. It will teach a controversial program known as the Civil Emergency Management Course (see September 1971). Reagan appoints Louis O. Giuffrida, a US Army colonel, to head the CSTI. A year earlier, Giuffrida wrote a paper advocating martial law and the emergency roundup of 21 million “American Negroes” to “assembly centers or relocation camps” in the event of a militant uprising by African Americans (see 1970). Giuffrida will later be appointed to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during Reagan’s presidency (see May 18, 1981). [New Times, 11/28/1975; California Specialized Training Institute, 11/28/1975 pdf file; Reynolds, 1990]

Entity Tags: Louis Giuffrida, Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, Senior Officers Civil Disturbance Course, California Specialized Training Institute, Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The Department of Defense updates its civil disturbance response plan, codenamed Operation Garden Plot. The program was originally established in the 1960s (see Winter 1967-1968). The Pentagon utilizes lessons learned from the recent deployment of Marines and Army infantry troops in Los Angeles (see May 1-May 6, 1992). Marines called into Los Angeles had not been trained for domestic disturbances. An Army official reportedly says the military will now “provide standard riot duty training for all combat forces that could be called into the nation’s cities.” National Guard troops will also get “refresher training on riot control as part of their regular weekend training and two weeks of active duty.” [San Antonio Express-News, 5/17/1992]

Entity Tags: US Marine Corps, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

After two days of widespread rioting in the city of Los Angeles, Mayor Tom Bradley and Governor Pete Wilson ask the White House for military assistance to supplement the California National Guard. President George H. W. Bush deploys 2,500 soldiers of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division from Fort Ord and 1,500 Marines from Camp Pendleton. Bush also federalizes approximately 8,000 National Guard troops. All three groups are placed under the command of Major General Marvin L. Covault as part of a decades-old Pentagon program codenamed Operation Garden Plot (see Winter 1967-1968). Combat troops, equipped with M-16 rifles, flak jackets, helmets, and riot batons, are the first to enter a US city since 1972. Marines take up positions in Compton and Long Beach; Army troops are sent to patrol the streets of Watts; and National Guard soldiers are deployed throughout the area. In a television address, Bush says the military will “use whatever force is necessary to restore order.” Bush announces he is sending into Los Angeles an additional 1,000 federal law enforcement officials, “including FBI SWAT teams and riot control units of the US Marshals Service, the Border Patrol, and other agencies.” According to the Washington Post, a Marine unit is on standby at Camp Pendleton “with light armored vehicles, eight-wheeled, 14-ton armored personnel carriers armed with 25mm cannon.” The troops in Los Angeles are ordered to return fire only when fired upon. Although few conflicts arise between soldiers and rioters, members of the National Guard shoot and kill a motorist that allegedly tries to run them down. Bush’s decision to activate the military will later be criticized for being unnecessary and coming after the majority of the violence had already ended. The riots will lead the military to increase military training for Operation Garden Plot in the coming months (see Spring 1992). [Washington Post, 5/2/1992; New York Times, 5/3/1992; Los Angeles Times, 5/10/1992; Reuters, 5/11/1992; San Antonio Express-News, 5/17/1992]

Entity Tags: George Herbert Walker Bush, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Defense, US Border Patrol, Tom Bradley, Pete Wilson, US Marine Corps, California National Guard

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

A confidential Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) document obtained by Wired news says the US Army is prepared to deploy combat troops in US cities in response to disruptions ranging from civil disobedience to a nuclear attack. The 75-page operations manual, created by FEMA in preparation for the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, stresses the importance of preparing for “nuclear, biological, chemical, and civil disturbance events, as well as potential weather-related disaster events.” The document, according to Wired, “says that the US First Army will, if necessary, execute Operation Garden Plot to quell any serious civil disturbances.” Operation Garden Plot was first developed in the late 1960s to deal with potential protests and urban riots (see Winter 1967-1968). According to Wired, the current terrorism plans for the convention include “flying giant C-5 Galaxy cargo planes loaded with military gear into Willow Grove Naval Air Station, about 25 miles outside the city, and assembling troops at three National Guard armories near the downtown protest areas.” The FEMA document states, “The potential occurrence of an event that would reflect negatively on Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or the United States demands that every effort to preclude such an event be taken.” FEMA has a similar plan for the upcoming Democratic National Convention. [Wired News, 8/1/2000]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, US First Army, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

According to columnist and defense expert William M. Arkin, the Bush administration updates the civil disturbance plan known as Operation Garden Plot. This military plan was first established in the late 1960s to deal with anti-war protests and urban riots (see Winter 1967-1968). Arkin reports: “The Army’s ‘Operation Garden Plot,’ a plan formulated in the 1960s for dealing with large civil disturbances, has been dusted off and updated to focus mostly on military intervention in response to a domestic event involving weapons of mass destruction.… Special Operations Command, and more specifically the super-secret Delta Force, now have a role in thwarting and responding to domestic terrorist incidents.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/26/2002]

Entity Tags: US Special Operations Command, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment--Delta, Bush administration (43), US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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