A group of Texas civilians have volunteered to monitor a military training exercise and will be posting group members' reports via Facebook for the public to view.
Dubbed Counter Jade Helm, the surveillance operation is led by 44-year-old former Marine Pete Lanteri, who founded the Facebook page now with more than 6,000 members and created a website and forum for the same purpose.
"We're going to be watching what they do in public," Lanteri told the Houston 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."
The counter operation's troops consist of some 200 civilians, many of them former military and law enforcement officers who volunteered to monitor the Navy Seals, Green Berets and Air Force Special Ops during the seven-state training exercise that kicks off on July 15 and ends on Sept. 15.
Lanteri says the counter operation is strictly no-camouflage to avoid being branded as a radical group, and volunteers will not be allowed to bring firearms or weapons of any sort. Instead, they will be carrying binoculars and spotting scopes and will be sending field reports about things such as military numbers, uniforms and activities.
These reports will be sent to the counter operation's headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona where its intelligence team, mostly composed of former Army intelligence staff, will be verifying the information before being posted on Facebook and on the website.
"If a team member sees two Humvees full of soldiers driving through town, they're going to follow them. And they're going to radio back their ultimate location," explained Eric Johnston, a firefighter and sheriff's deputy who will lead a team of 20 in Bastrop, Big Spring and Junction. "We just want to see what they're doing and make the information public."
That the military has banned members of the media from attending the drills has raised suspicions that it is up to no good. In fact, conspiracy theorists have surfaced, suggesting that Jade Helm is merely a front for a military invasion and the institution of martial law in Texas, and raising suspicions that shuttered Walmart stores in the area are being prepared as concentration camps where citizens will be relocated.
Lanteri, however, says there is no reason to believe the conspiracy theories, saying he has been filtering them out from the Facebook page, but that does not stop him from thinking Jade Helm is suspicious.
"Once I saw the freaking nut-jobs coming out of the woodwork I was spending half my day discrediting what they were posting," he said. "No nut-jobs will be put in the field."