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

Larwyn’s Linx: Startling: Every Government Agency Is Aggressively Pushing Obama’s Agenda

Send us tips! Bloggers: install a Larwyn’s Linx widget. Get real-time news, 24/7, at BadBlue.

Nation

Startling: Every Government Agency Is Enforcing Obama’s Agenda: Sara Noble
Chicago’s newly armed residents send murder rate plummeting: BPR
Democrats and the Hypocrisy of Campaign Finance Reform: LI

13K In Maryland Lost Insurance Thanks to Obamacare and Never Got It Back: Outcast
Jindal On The Upswing, Landrieu In Trouble In Latest Grigsby Poll: HayRide
GOP Now Leads in Seven Senate Races for Dem Seats: Dick Morris

Why Do ‘Progressives’ Love Moving Backward?: Jim Yardley
Obamacare’s tangled web of lies and loss: RWN
Bruce Braley (D CAND, Iowa-SEN) equates lawyering to farm work: Moe Lane

Hillary Clinton bails on San Diego appearance after Benghazi protest scheduled: BPR
Population in LA County Hits Unsustainable Record High: RWN
War-gaming the opening blows in CT: SSI

Economy

Note: Severe Technical Damage: Karl Denninger
Meet “Lowflation”: Deflation’s Scary Pal: Peter Schiff
NC drivers could be charged by the mile: WGHP

Scandal Central

House Intel Chair: Obama Knows Where Benghazi Terrorists Are, But Won’t Pursue Them: GWP
Rewriting the Second Amendment: Bob Owens
Gutierrez: Obama Ready to Halt Deportations With Executive Orders: Roll Call

Climate & Energy

Russia prepares to attack the petrodollar: VOR
GOP lawmakers push EPA to ax proposed water rule amid outcry from farmers: Fox
Activist Demands Imprisonment for “Climate-Change Liars”: CFIF

Media

Andrew Sullivan: ‘We Are No Better Than The Anti-Gay Bullies’: TR
ABC Smears Former Mozilla CEO with Westboro Baptist Footage: PJM
Hillary: There’s a Double Standard on How Women are Treated in the Media or Something: JWF

Blackout: 140 Days Since ABC’s ‘Nightline’ Has Covered ObamaCare: MRC
USA Today Echoes Occupy Wall Street: MRC
Hostile Takeover Week at College Insurrection: LI

World

Euro crisis worsens and Spanish flock to Britain: Commentator
Islamic group gets OK to cut crosses off New York Catholic church: BCF
Israel, Palestinians, US to meet to revive talks: Times of Israel

Sci-Tech (courtesy BadBlue Tech News)

It’s Time For Christians To Blacklist Mozilla Firefox And OkCupid: John Hawkins
Graphic: A Timeline of Corporations in the Collaborative Economy: Jeremiah Owyang
Ship looking for missing plane detects ‘pulse’ signal: Post

Cornucopia

Ted Cruz presents ‘The Broken Window Theory of Obamacare’: Twitchy
With A Clear Conscience: Christian Mercenary
Musings After Midnight: LibertySphere

Image: Obama Knows Where Benghazi Terrorists Are, But Won’t Pursue
Today’s Larwyn’s Linx sponsored by: Retire John Boehner; Support JD Winteregg for Congress

QOTD: “We have numerous people that we know participated in the Benghazi attacks affiliated with al-Qaeda that are still on the battlefield. We have the capacity to get them but there’s no planning to get them. We have other serious al-Qaeda threats that normally we would take off the battlefield, but because of this Administration’s more kinder, gentler approach we have not done that.” –Rep. Mike Rogers, Chairman of House Intelligence Committee

Doug Ross @ Journal

British PM Cameron announces upcoming trip to Auschwitz. “I want every child in Britain to learn about the Holocaust.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and his British counterpart David Cameron attend a joint press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, following their meeting. (photo credit: AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and his British counterpart David Cameron attend a joint press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, following their meeting. (photo credit: AP)

British Prime Minister David Cameron, on his first state visit to Israel, spoke about his Jewish relatives and about how seriously he takes the history of the Holocaust.

He visited Yad Vashem on Wednesday, the Israeli Holocaust museum and research center.

During his address to the Knesset, Cameron also announced that he will be visiting the Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland later this year, and said, “I want every child in Britain to learn about the Holocaust and to understand just how vital it is to fight discrimination and prejudice in our world.”

Excerpts from an interesting address:

One of the most moving experiences I have had as Prime Minister came in January this year, when I held a reception in Downing Street for 50 Survivors of the Sho’ah. ‪I met some of the most inspiring people and heard some of the most incredible stories.‬‬

‪People like Harry Spiro who couldn’t understand why his mother pushed him out of her house and off to the factory, when she was actually saving his life.‬

‪Gena Turgel, who witnessed her brother being shot by the Nazis and lost another brother and two sisters before she was eventually liberated from Bergen-Belsen and went on to marry the British soldier who freed her.‬

‪And Ben Helfgott who endured 3 years in a ghetto, 2 labour camps and 3 concentration camps to make it to England where he was reunited with one of his sisters, the only other member of his family to survive. Ben went on to represent Britain as a weightlifter in 2 Olympics set up a society for Holocaust survivors and was honoured in Poland for his reconciliation work between Poles and Jews. And I am delighted that Ben has come with me here today.‬

‪All of the survivors have made such an incredible contribution to Britain.‬

‪And one of the things so many of them have done – and which never ceases to amaze me – is to go into our schools and share their testimony first hand.‬

‪It is hard to imagine the sheer strength of humanity it must take to do that.‬

‪‪And I am determined that long after they are gone and long after we are all gone their memory will be as strong and vibrant as it is today.‬‬

‪As a father, I will never forget last year visiting the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin with my young children and for the first time trying to explain to them quite what had happened.‬

‪I want every child in Britain to learn about the Holocaust and to understand just how vital it is to fight discrimination and prejudice in our world.‬

‪It is vital that we do all we can with our international partners to preserve the site at Auschwitz, which I will be visiting later this year.‬

‪But we need to do more.‬

‪That is why I have set up the Holocaust Commission in Britain. A number of the Commissioners are here with Ben and me today and as we visit Yad Vashem together later today, our pledge to Ben will be that Britain will never forget what he and his fellow survivors have taught us.‬

‪We will preserve the memory of that generation for every generation to come.‬

‪But remembering the past goes far beyond that horrific suffering of a generation.‬

‪It is about remembering the long and rightful search of a people for a nation. ‪And the right for the Jewish people to live a peaceful and prosperous life in Israel.

—————————-‬‬

>> Pre-order The Auschwitz Escape — releasing on March 18th — retailers providing steep discounts for pre-orders of hardcover, e-book and audio formats


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Who is investing in you? Whom are you investing in? Every Christian needs to be able to answer these two simple questions.

investedlife-smallAs we head deeper into the new year, how are you investing your life?

According to the Scriptures, every Christian needs to be able to answer two simple questions:

1) Who is investing in you? and

2) In whom are you investing?

In the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20, our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to go and “make disciples of all nations.”

Jesus made disciples. Then He told His disciples to go make disciples.

The Apostle Paul then followed Christ’s model.

Are we obeying the Great Commission? Are we, like Paul, following Christ’s model?

We each need an “Apostle Paul,” an older, wiser believer to invests in us, teaches us, encourages us, corrects us, and helps us truly grow to maturity in our faith in Jesus Christ. We also need a “Timothy,” a younger believer in whom we can invest, someone we can teach, encourage, correct and help to truly grow in the faith.

Sadly, the American Church is experiencing an epic failure of discipleship. Most older believers are not spiritually investing in the lives of younger believers. We are failing to model and transmit Biblical truth and Christ-like character and a passion for evangelism and discipleship to the next generations. Thus the American Church is weak and failing and in desperate need of revival.

The good news is that the Lord is stirring the hearts of many around the country to rediscover the centrality of the Great Commission, and to begin engaging in making disciples here in our nation, and making disciples of all nations.

How about you? Are you living the invested life?

If so, wonderful!

If not, here are some resources you might find helpful:


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

TED CRUZ: This imperial presidency threatens the liberty of every American citizen      

Guest post by Ted Cruz

Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the president’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat. On Monday, Mr. Obama acted unilaterally to raise the minimum wage paid by federal contracts, the first of many executive actions the White House promised would be a theme of his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The president’s taste for unilateral action to circumvent Congress should concern every citizen, regardless of party or ideology. The great 18th-century political philosopher Montesquieu observed: “There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates.” America’s Founding Fathers took this warning to heart, and we should too.

Rule of law doesn’t simply mean that society has laws; dictatorships are often characterized by an abundance of laws. Rather, rule of law means that we are a nation ruled by laws, not men. That no one—and especially not the president—is above the law. For that reason, the U.S. Constitution imposes on every president the express duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Yet rather than honor this duty, President Obama has openly defied it by repeatedly suspending, delaying and waiving portions of the laws he is charged to enforce. When Mr. Obama disagreed with federal immigration laws, he instructed the Justice Department to cease enforcing the laws. He did the same thing with federal welfare law, drug laws and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

On many of those policy issues, reasonable minds can disagree. Mr. Obama may be right that some of those laws should be changed. But the typical way to voice that policy disagreement, for the preceding 43 presidents, has been to work with Congress to change the law. If the president cannot persuade Congress, then the next step is to take the case to the American people. As President Reagan put it: “If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat” of electoral accountability.

President Obama has a different approach. As he said recently, describing his executive powers: “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.” Under the Constitution, that is not the way federal law is supposed to work.

The Obama administration has been so brazen in its attempts to expand federal power that the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected the Justice Department’s efforts to expand federal power nine times since January 2012.

There is no example of lawlessness more egregious than the enforcement—or nonenforcement—of the president’s signature policy, the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Obama has repeatedly declared that “it’s the law of the land.” Yet he has repeatedly violated ObamaCare’s statutory text.

The law says that businesses with 50 or more full-time employees will face the employer mandate on Jan. 1, 2014. President Obama changed that, granting a one-year waiver to employers. How did he do so? Not by going to Congress to change the text of the law, but through a blog post by an assistant secretary at Treasury announcing the change.

The law says that only Americans who have access to state-run exchanges will be subject to employer penalties and may obtain ObamaCare premium subsidies. This was done to entice the states to create exchanges. But, when 34 states decided not to establish state-run exchanges, the Obama administration announced that the statutory words “established by State” would also mean “established by the federal government.”

The law says that members of Congress and their staffs’ health coverage must be an ObamaCare exchange plan, which would prevent them from receiving their current federal-employee health subsidies, just like millions of Americans who can’t receive such benefits. At the behest of Senate Democrats, the Obama administration instead granted a special exemption (deeming “individual” plans to be “group” plans) to members of Congress and their staffs so they could keep their pre-existing health subsidies.

Most strikingly, when over five million Americans found their health insurance plans canceled because ObamaCare made their plans illegal—despite the president’s promise “if you like your plan, you can keep it”—President Obama simply held a news conference where he told private insurance companies to disobey the law and issue plans that ObamaCare regulated out of existence.

In other words, rather than go to Congress and try to provide relief to the millions who are hurting because of the “train wreck” of ObamaCare (as one Senate Democrat put it), the president instructed private companies to violate the law and said he would in effect give them a get-out-of-jail-free card—for one year, and one year only. Moreover, in a move reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s looking-glass world, President Obama simultaneously issued a veto threat if Congress passed legislation doing what he was then ordering.

In the more than two centuries of our nation’s history, there is simply no precedent for the White House wantonly ignoring federal law and asking private companies to do the same. As my colleague Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa asked, “This was the law. How can they change the law?”

Similarly, 11 state attorneys general recently wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying that the continuing changes to ObamaCare are “flatly illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law.” The attorneys general correctly observed that “the only way to fix this problem-ridden law is to enact changes lawfully: through Congressional action.”

In the past, when Republican presidents abused their power, many Republicans—and the press—rightly called them to account. Today many in Congress—and the press—have chosen to give President Obama a pass on his pattern of lawlessness, perhaps letting partisan loyalty to the man supersede their fidelity to the law.

But this should not be a partisan issue. In time, the country will have another president from another party. For all those who are silent now: What would they think of a Republican president who announced that he was going to ignore the law, or unilaterally change the law? Imagine a future president setting aside environmental laws, or tax laws, or labor laws, or tort laws with which he or she disagreed.

That would be wrong—and it is the Obama precedent that is opening the door for future lawlessness. As Montesquieu knew, an imperial presidency threatens the liberty of every citizen. Because when a president can pick and choose which laws to follow and which to ignore, he is no longer a president.

Read more at Opinion Journal.

Doug Ross @ Journal