Is a vast military exercise called Jade Helm taking place in the United States in the summer of 2023? No, that's not true: A video about Jade Helm reused a 2015 news report.
The story appeared in a video published on TikTok on May 17, 2023. A banner on the right side of the frame said:
U.S. Military conducting
suspect training near
you called Jade Helm 15!
Text overlaid in the left corner continued:
Military will be dressed as
civilians and driving
civilian cars pay attention,
The description of the video stated:
#duet with @Wmt martial law might be coming
(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Wed May 24 17:28:12 2023 UTC)
The clip, however, did not describe events of the summer of 2023.
The video reused a news report aired by the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN News) in 2015. It discussed the military training exercise named Jade Helm 15 that took place that year between July 15 and September 15 in seven states: Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.
On April 20, 2015, the Army's Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, issued a press release explaining the objectives of the war game in advance:
USASOC periodically conducts training exercises such as these to practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies. It is imperative that Special Operations Soldiers receive the best training, equipment and resources possible.
While acknowledging that the exercise would take place on public and private land, the official statement made it clear that it would not significantly disrupt the day-to-day lives of local residents:
The public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas. 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. There will also be economic gain: an increase in the local economy, in fuel and food purchases and hotel lodging.
But as the war game was approaching, the rumor about the purported planned military takeover started to circulate online and offline. As reported by The New York Times, it was promoted by bloggers, conservative commentators, one separatist group believing that "Texas never officially joined the United States," Sen. Ted Cruz and even Chuck Norris, known for his role as a Texas ranger.
One variation of this conspiracy theory disseminated by Alex Jones claimed that the federal government was preparing to "invade Texas" and that the military training could signal that Barack Obama, who at the time was finishing his second presidential term, might refuse to leave office.
Another version, already debunked by Lead Stories, implied that Walmart stores could be hidden military bases connected by underground tunnels.
On April 28, 2015, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercise to ensure that Texans' "safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed." But even he declared support for the U.S. military:
As Governor, I have the utmost respect for the deep patriotism of the brave military men and women who put their lives on the line to fight for and defend our freedom. I remain certain that our military members will keep America the freest and strongest nation the world has ever known.
On May 5, 2015, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren additionally refuted the claims:
We are not taking over anything.
Martial law has been declared at least 68 times in the U.S., but, according to NYU's Brennan Center, in most cases, the call was made by governors at the state level, not by the federal authorities. As Axios specified, it happened in Texas more often than in any other state.
Martial law was declared in the U.S. for the last time in 1963.
There are no known martial law declarations between 2015 and this writing.
No credible media organizations reported such a development within the given period of time.
Since the last day of the Jade Helm war game, no military takeover has happened in the United States either.
Other Lead Stories fact checks about the U.S. military can be found here.