Worrywarts, Black Helicopters and Trust

Do the worrywarts overstate the case? Do the folks in the bars and cafes in rural America fret about black helicopters or the UN camping out in national parks, merely to break up the monotony? Does this fundamental mistrust of government and the misuse of federal power have legitimacy? The answer may lie in recent events.

No longer does the federal government merely arm the U.S. Marshall’s service, the Secret Service, the FBI, the Border Patrol, DEA, BATF and the military. Today the IRS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA, the Forest Service and even the Small Business Administration are carrying firearms.

In the deadly incidents of over-reaction at Ruby Ridge and Waco, hardly a flak-jacketed bureaucrat paid any meaningful price. Expanding the power of federal agencies to use force against U.S. citizens means the possibility of another Ruby Ridge or Waco are increasing. Every state can cite instances in which bureaucrats armed to the teeth are conducting military style operations.

To the Founding Fathers, a federal police force was unthinkable, and individual citizens were advised to keep and bear arms. Thomas Jefferson said, “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms as a last resort to protect themselves against tyranny of government.”

Bureaucrats in Ninja Mode

In a devastating series of articles in World Net Daily several years ago, an expose detailed how far we have come in the United States towards the police state tactics of the totalitarian state. According to the article by journalist Sarah Foster, life in America is not what it used to be. As she recounts early one morning in July of 1997, two men went to work at the Clearwater County flood control center in rural northwest Idaho. Immediately they were accosted by six heavily armed federal agents carrying 9 mm Glock sidearms and wearing flak jackets.

The agents hauled away 40 banker boxes of county records relating to the 1996 flood recovery work. The basis for the search warrant was kept secret. Local officials wondered why they weren’t simply issued a subpoena for the records. Eventually, the Justice Department closed the investigation for lack of evidence.

The aftermath of the Clearwater incident left residents wondering why the federal government had sent a swat team to their community when an accountant would have been sufficient.

The answer to that question may be found in the growing trend towards militarization of the federal bureaucracy. For instance, the Clearwater commando raid was not conducted by the FBI but by the Federal Emergency Management Agency Office (FEMA). In a more civil time, the agency would have sent auditors to investigate allegations of financial mismanagement.

A similar incident took place on Santa Clara Island in California in January of 1998. Using the force of a small army, the U.S. Park Service conducted a surprise raid on a nature camp, employing the excuse that the camp’s owner was robbing Chumash Indian graves.

The commando style raid included rousting and handcuffing a 15-year-old girl asleep in her cabin. The park rangers wore ski masks, carried machine guns and kept the girl handcuffed for two hours. In actuality, the Park Service wasn’t after illegally obtained artifacts. Using forfeiture laws, they were after the last bit of private property on Santa Cruz Island.

For years, the National Park Service had been attempting to obtain a privately owned 6500-acre-ranch, which covers 10 percent of the island. The federal government’s stalking horse, the Nature Conservancy, owns the other 90 percent.

Similarly, one month after Ruby Ridge, Malibu millionaire Donald Scott was gunned down in his home in an assault which included 14 federal, state and local government agencies led by the National Park Service. The alleged crime was the assertion by a paid drug informant that Scott was growing marijuana on his property. None was ever found, but the government got control of the dead man’s land.

There are also thousands of incidents of intimidation, terror and confiscation of property by the IRS. The political use of the IRS has been standard operating procedure for quite some time. In recent memory the organizations on its hit list are conservative, like the Christian Coalition and the Western Journalism Center to name a few, and this reeks of politicization. You won’t see the left leaning Sierra Club on the IRS hit list, or any labor unions for that matter.

Countless cases of intimidation by the IRS against ordinary citizens would fill the phone book of a small city. Yet even when Congress responds and asks for accountability, it is merely to proffer a slap on the wrist and say “now be good boys and go play.” Apparently Congress doesn’t have a clue, it doesn’t care, or it is impotent.

The Nanny State is Packing Heat

Under the Congressional nose and in the name of efficiency, in 1994 the Justice Department began to allow blanket deputations of numerous agencies, and that authority has been extended. Agencies such as the National Air and Space Administration, Labor, State, Transportation, Veteran’s Administration, Social Security Administration, and the small Business Administration have received permission for agents to carry weapons.

According to the General Accounting Office the number of armed federal bureaucrats is more than 80,000, but the specific number is unknown. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center produced 848 graduates in 1970. In 1998, the center turned out 25,077. This number does not include FBI agents trained at the FBI center in Quantico, Virginia.

Incredibly, of the federal agencies with at least 500-armed officers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has grown the most—40 percent in 15 years.

Federal agents are trained and authorized to enforce over 3,000 criminal laws that Congress has passed. In addition, they must now deal with hundreds of thousands of regulations that carry criminal penalties. Thousand of regulations have been placed on the books in the last 30 years, and relate to environmental or endangered species “crimes,” or efforts to enforce a federal “war” on tobacco and drugs.

Military forces have been enlisted in this “war” and serve in disparate places. They are being used as a surrogate federal police agency which includes 10,000 military personnel stationed on the border between Mexico and the U.S., as well as in Central and South America.

Some of them are coming back in body bags. Some are involved in shooting civilians. But any way you slice it, the military is being used as police. This has nothing to do with their primary function and it sets a profoundly dangerous precedent for the Republic.

Speaks with Forked Tongue

Secretary Cohen’s reassurances, like all too many promises coming from federal bureaucrats, have a hollow ring. Given past actions, Cohen’s guarantee that the Justice Department and agencies such as FEMA will have oversight or input into the use of the military in an emergency, should not persuade a reasonably intelligent citizen that his government will do the right thing. Past experience shows that trusting the government has cost American citizens their lives, their fortunes and their honor.

Congress would do well to find its courage and stop acting like the poor relation begging for a crumb. Accepting its oversight responsibilities by demanding cooperation from the Executive Branch would do a great deal to stop the slide towards a police state.

Even Congressional leaders like Dan Burton and Christopher Cox say the Clinton Justice Department is so out of control it does not respond to Congress except in a perfunctory fashion. By stonewalling efforts to obtain information on Chinagate, and other incidents of government corruption, it betrays its contempt for Congress and the rule of law. Former Democratic Attorney General Griffin Bell said that the next president would have to clean the Justice Department from the top down. That is a corrupt institution.

The tendency to use commando style military raids at all levels of police activity is not a hopeful sign in a free country. But the American public has been desensitized to such activities. One too many cop shows, one too many movies which glorify police state activities is making us blind, deaf and dumb.

We used to be able to count on the police and the federal agencies to do a job. But more and more often that job would be better in a Banana Republic or a Russian night raid.

A thorough housecleaning should be ordered before any of the alphabet agencies is anywhere near ready to talk about how to use the military in an emergency. FEMA, the IRS, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife and other “benign” agencies have obviously lost their job descriptions.

Part of their training should include a course on Constitutional guarantees and respect due the citizens of the United States. Congress should defang, defund, deregulate, disarm and tame the 8,000-pound bureaucratic beast.

Additionally, until a couple of feds are thrown in the slammer, or made accountable for their abusive and shameful actions, pathological mistrust of government will continue.

The little guy in fly over country will persist in believing he sees U.N. troops in the park, and a Fed behind every bush. The powers that be need to wise up and pay attention to the fears that haunt Americans. The fear of government is not baseless. Nor are those who worry about their government’s actions, all deranged whackos.

The Founding Fathers had absolute distrust of unrestrained government power—that is why they gave us the Bill of Rights.