Rumor: Is there a government plot to impose martial law?

A routine check of a truck driver's cargo unveiled road signs revealing a government plot to impose martial law

UNCONFIRMED: The hoax is one of the most commonly circulated forms of conspiracy theory.

According to rumor-fixing website, the "martial law signs" hoax has been making the rounds for years. Snopes cites a couple examples of hoax e-mails being circulated in 1999. Most recently, in September 2012, another e-mail was sent out stating that a truck driver had unloaded 50,000 marshal law signs at a Phoenix warehouse.

Rumors of martial law being declared typically ramp up after large-scale catastrophes, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or in anticipation of troubling times to come – in this case, the passage of more-stringent gun-control laws, according to Snopes.

Snopes goes on to say that this type of rumor typically "features a plot in which the government's plan to impose martial law has been inadvertently revealed through some minor accidental or coincidental incident" such as a truck carrying road signs.

Martial law in U.S.

Martial law in the U.S. is limited by several court decisions handed down between the Civil War and World War II. Ex Parte Milligan, passed in 1866, states, in part, that military tribunals could not try civilians in areas where civil courts were open, even when the military had been authorized to detain individuals without trial.

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, prompted then-Hawaii Gov. Joseph Poindexter to declare martial law. Originally thought to be temporary, martial law continued until the end of World War II. (Read more about it here.)

In 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the John Warner Defense Authorization Act, a move many critics said was a major step toward martial law.



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