ARMS RACE AMONG THE BUREAUCRATS: Why has every government agency become militarized?

Guest post by Rob Nikolewski

SANTA FE, N.M. — In late February, four federal agents carrying side arms with a drug-sniffing dog descended on the Taos Ski Valley in what was called a “saturation patrol.”

Authorities were working on tips of possible drug selling and impaired driving in the ski resort’s parking lot and surrounding area.

But the agents weren’t from the FBI, ATF or even the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Rather, the agents represented the U.S. Forest Service.

“It’s one of the untold stories about government,” said former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who lives in Taos, is an avid skier and has been a leading critic of the operation that turned up only a few minor infractions. “People don’t grasp the size and the scope of these entities and their law enforcement arms.”

It may come as a surprise to many U.S. taxpayers, but a slew of federal agencies — some whose responsibilities seem to have little to do with combating crime — carry active law enforcement operations.

Here’s a partial list:

That’s right, NOAA — the folks who forecast the weather, monitor the atmosphere and keep tabs on the oceans and waterways — has its own law enforcement division. It has a budget of $ 65 million and consists of 191 employees, including 96 special agents and 28 enforcement officers who carry weapons.

“There’s no question there’s been a proliferation of police units at the federal level,” said Tim Lynch, director of the Project On Criminal Justice for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C. “To me, it’s been a never-ending expansion, a natural progression, if you will, of these administrative agencies always asking for bigger budgets and a little bit more power.”

It’s been estimated the U.S. has some 25,000 sworn law enforcement officers in departments not traditionally associated with fighting crime. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and in a tabulation compiled by the Wall Street Journal in 2011, 3,812 criminal investigators are working in areas other than the U.S. departments of Treasury, Justice, Defense and Homeland Security.

Lynch says it’s hard to tell how much money federal agencies spend on their respective law enforcement divisions.

“We need a fuller accounting of exactly how many police units have proliferated in the federal government and how much it’s costing taxpayers,” said Lynch, who said he would like to see members of Congress ask agency officials direct questions about budget and staffing.

The Wall Street Journal reported that, in 2008, agents armed with assault rifles from NOAA, along with officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, raided a businesswoman’s offices in Miami looking into charges that she was violating the Endangered Species Act by trading in coral.

“I felt like I was being busted for drugs, instead of coral,” Morgan Mok said afterward. “It was crazy.”

Mok said she obtained the coral legally and eventually paid a $ 500 fine and served a year’s probation for failing to complete the proper paperwork.

Why is a law enforcement arm necessary at NOAA?

“NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement protects marine wildlife and habitat by enforcing domestic laws and international treaty requirements designed to ensure these global resources are available for future generations,” NOAA spokesman David Miller said in an email to New Mexico Watchdog, pointing out that the division has existed since 1970. “Our special agents and enforcement officers ensure compliance with the nation’s marine resource laws and take enforcement action when these laws are violated.”

As for the U.S. Forest Service, Special Agent Robin Poague defended the use of the agency’s law enforcement officers — called LEOs — in the Taos operation that resulted in harsh criticism from many residents.

“Rangers were armed when the Forest Service started 100 years ago,” Poague said. “We have a long history of law enforcement.”

Portions of the Taos Ski Valley sit on federal land. If there were suspicions of drug activity leading to the operation in February, why not use the DEA instead?

“U.S. Forest Service land is our primary responsibility, it’s not the DEA’s,” Poague told New Mexico Watchdog by telephone from his office in Albuquerque.

A Forest Service recruitment video says the agency employs about 700 law enforcement personnel. Poague said the service’s law enforcement division was created in 1994.

But many other federal agencies established their own after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In the aftermath of the attacks, the FBI shifted its attention to tackling terrorism, and Congress gave permanent powers to inspectors general in more than two dozen agencies.

By last count, 25 agencies with law enforcement divisions fall under their respective offices of inspectors general.

With their growth has come criticism that officers are becoming overly militarized.

“The whole notion of police operations these days, that they’re dressed to kill, that they’re up against an enemy, is wrong,” Johnson said. “Citizens are not the enemy.”

In 2010, the Department of Education defended its purchase of 27 12-gauge shotguns to replace old firearms used by its Office of Inspector General, the law enforcement arm of the department. DoE said the guns were necessary to help combat “waste, fraud, abuse, and other criminal activity involving Federal education funds, programs and operations.”

A year later, DoE Office of Inspector General special agents raided a California home at 6 a.m. to apprehend a man the department said was involved in criminal activity. DoE officials did not say why the raid was conducted, releasing a statement that said, “the office conducts raids on issues such as bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student aid funds.”

“In these cases, it causes you to think, is this agency really necessary, is this unit really necessary,” Lynch said.

In an email to New Mexico Watchdog, a spokeswoman for the DoE Office of Inspector General — the department’s law enforcement arm — reported it has a staff of 260 members, 90 of which are criminal investigators. Its budget is $ 57.7 million for fiscal 2014.

Defenders of the agencies say armed law enforcement provides a deterrent and that agents need to be armed to protect themselves against potentially dangerous criminals.

In fact, just last month a Forest Service ranger in North Carolina was shot and killed by a murder suspect, who also killed a police dog. On Jan. 1, 2012, a National Park ranger was shot and killed at Mount Rainier, in Washington state.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

Doug Ross @ Journal

I’m stunned by the tragic death of Phil Hoffman. We went to high school together, but few of us had any idea he would become such a star.

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman in "Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman."  (Photo credit: New York Times)

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman in “Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.” (Photo credit: New York Times)

Lynn and I just heard the news of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, apparently of a heroin overdose. We feel so sick and so sad. Grieving for him. Grieving for his family. And his friends. We are praying for each of them to find Christ’s comfort at this hour. Praying they experience what the Apostle Paul calls “the peace that passes all comprehension” in Philippians chapter four. When we were growing up in the same town in Upstate New York (Fairport), we all knew him simply as “Phil.” We were in the same graduating class of about 575. I remember seeing him in the Fairport High School senior year drama in “Death of a Salesman.” He played the lead, Willy Loman, and he was phenomenal. It was stunning how good. Phil had always been a class clown. I had no idea until then he could act at all much less so well. We all knew at that point that he could be a breakout, but did any of us in the Class of ’85 really know how huge a star he’d become? Indeed, after graduating from New York University, he became one of the most impressive and celebrated actors of our generation. Oscar award winner. Tony award winner. You name it, he won it. A few years ago I took Lynn to see Phil play Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” – but this time on Broadway. He’d been amazing in high school, but he was, of course, even far more effective after years of training and experience — which made a sad and tragic play 1000 times sadder. I remember seeing him first in Scent of a Woman. Twister was fantastic. Hunger Games, too, and so many other of his films and TV shows. My favorite has to be Mission Impossible when Tom Cruise disguises himself as Phil Hoffman! I sat in the theater blown away. Suddenly, Cruise (the biggest box office star of our time) was gone. It was just Phil vs. Phil on the silver screen. Though we grew up in the same town and went to the same schools, I never knew him really. But I’ve prayed for him often, and for all the Raiders of ’85. I am heartbroken he struggled so much to find hope in this world and that he is gone so soon, and so tragically. Good bye, Phil. You will be deeply missed.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

CHANGE: U.S. Admiral Warns that Red China is Poised to Become Dominant Superpower in Pacific

Guest post by Investor’s Business Daily

Power Shift: Despite the White House’s much-lauded pivot to the Pacific, the Navy’s Pacific commander warns that an increasingly hostile and assertive China threatens U.S. air and sea superiority in the region.

If jaws didn’t drop, they should have last week when Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, chief of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), said: “Our historic dominance that most of us in this room have enjoyed is diminishing, no question.”

U.S. naval and air superiority, particularly in the Pacific, has been taken for granted. But as Obama administration budget cuts and the effects of sequestration take their toll, our position is being severely challenged by a Chinese military benefiting from years of double-digit spending increases and a commitment from Beijing to push the U.S. out of the area.

Locklear noted the regional power shift at the annual Surface Navy Association conference in Virginia.

“We need to think about all scenarios, not just the ones we’ve been dealing with over the last several years, where we’ve enjoyed basic air superiority and basic sea superiority,” he said. “There are places in the world where in this century we won’t have them.”

The irony is that this warning of the U.S. losing its Pacific dominance comes after the administration announced its plans for a Pacific pivot that de-emphasizes commitments in Europe and elsewhere.

President Obama pledged on Jan. 5, 2012, that his strategy would put more military muscle in Asia. The goal is to have about 60% of Navy ships dedicated to the Pacific by 2020. Of 11 active aircraft carriers, six would be committed to the region.

But these are not the heady days of President Reagan’s 600-ship navy that helped buttress his strategy of “we win, they lose.” Neither that Navy nor that strategy is in play anymore as the U.S. fleet dwindles from attrition while China rapidly expands its navy and develops weapons to counter ours.

One of these weapons is the Dong Feng-21D missile, intended to give China “the capability to attack large ships, particularly aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific,” the Pentagon’s 2012 China report said. The paper cites estimates that the missile’s range exceeds 930 miles (1,500 kilometers).

Coincidentally, China’s defense ministry last Wednesday announced the test of a hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed the WU-14, designed to evade U.S. missile and other defense systems, such as the Aegis sea-based missile shield guarding our Pacific fleet and carrier battle groups.

China’s Communist Party-affiliated newspaper, Global Times, gloated over Locklear’s warning, noting his remarks in a story beneath the headline “U.S. losing grip on Pacific: PACOM.”

In the Times story, Jin Canrong, a deputy dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China, said the American admiral’s comments recognize China as a rising military power. Indeed, it is. China has launched its first stealth drone, known as Sharp Sword, and is developing indigenous aircraft carriers. Its “two-ocean strategy” is based on the goal of building a fleet of five or six carrier battle groups.

China’s first battle group, led by its first carrier, the Liaoning, recently conducted a monthlong exercise that saw the refurbished Soviet-built flattop and her escorts sail south to the waters near Taiwan. During the exercise, a Chinese warship nearly collided with the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens, which was shadowing the battle group.

China recently declared an Air Defense Identification Zone encompassing the Japanese Senkaku islands. While we sent two B-52s through the zone without asking permission, the administration also advised U.S. airlines to comply with China’s demands and file their flight plans with Beijing in advance.

These days are eerily reminiscent of the 1920s and 1930s, when Imperial Japan built carrier fleets while we signed naval disarmament treaties. Our ability to dominate is diminishing, and so is our will.


Read more at Investor’s Business Daily

Doug Ross @ Journal

Human Fatality Rate 60%: “Grave Concerns that H5N1 Will Become Easily Transmissible Between Humans”

Health Officials Admit Canadian Woman’s Bird Flu Death is ‘Odd’

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Canadian health officials have admitted they are confused over how a fit and healthy 20 year old hospital worker has died of H5N1.

The Alberta woman was a care worker at the Red Deer regional Hospital. She showed signs of illness on the return flight from Beijing on December 27th and died, in hospital on January 3rd.

Wenquing Zhang head of the World Health Organization said of the case:

“At the moment, we know that the woman didn’t visit a poultry farm or a poultry market.”

The fact that the first case of H5N1 in North America does not seem to have come from direct contact with poultry is worrying doctors and scientists alike. There is no evidence of H5N1 spreading between humans without sustained contact, and questions are being asked about if the flight from Beijing to Edmonton, which takes a touch over 11 hours qualifies as sustained contact. If so, then other passengers may well have been exposed and are at risk from the virus. Symptoms usually show up between two and ten days after exposure to the virus, with the mean average being eight days.

Coming in winter, and with seasonal flu cases mounting there are grave concerns that H5N1 will mix with this years circulating virus and via genetic reassortment will become easily transmissible between humans.

The Pandemic potential of H5N1 is frightening. Currently humans have no immunity from the virus and with a 60% mortality rate the consequences of such a pandemic would be devastating. Osteltamivir (Tamiflu) has proved effective in some cases but not in all, with the virus showing resistance in some patients, just as it has in H1N1.

Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.

Delivered by The Daily Sheeple

Also see:

Research Suggests H7N9 Has Serious Pandemic Potential (Underground Medic)

Gov Estimates Pandemic Would Kill At Least 2 Million (SHTFplan)

Are You Ready: Pandemic Preparedness (Ready Nutrition)

Forget the Flu Shot: Hand-washing and Elderberry Extract Are the Best Defenses Against the Deadly Swine Flu Outbreak (The Organic Prepper)


SHTF Plan – When It Hits The Fan, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You