Enemies of the state
By Diane Alden
In a July 26th op-ed for the Washington Post, Secretary of Defense William Cohen said we live in a "grave New World." He expressed a warning to enemies of the United States, both foreign and domestic, that the government was on the case. He also offered a "reassurance" to law-abiding citizens, that the bureaucracy is preparing to deal with terrorist attacks from any quarter. He states, "A special Task Force for Civil Support is being created to ensure that we have the military assets to help respond domestically. Any military assistance in the wake of domestic attack must be in support of the appropriate federal civilian authority -- either the Department of Justice or the Federal Emergency Management Agency...but we must not trample on American lives and liberties in the name of preserving them."
Cohen posted this op-ed with the likely intent of advising people that if there were a terrorist attack that the military would intervene. But the tendency towards using the military as a police force has already begun. In the Balkans, Haiti, and elsewhere, the U.S. army of occupation invariably functions as a police force. In some cases, it also performs as a "meals on wheels with guns."
Recent history indicates that the U.S. military has been used on occasion, to bolster federal and local police agencies. In the case of Waco, the Army provided the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms with support under the operational control of Joint Task Force 6. A request was made by the Justice Department for the Army's special operation forces to accompany BATF agents storming the Branch Davidian Compound. Had it been acted upon by the military, the siege at Waco would have been an even worse fiasco of government over-reaction, than was the case. Using the military against U.S. civilians usually creates a backlash -- affecting it for decades. The two most notorious cases are Kent State and the use of the army against the bonus marchers after World War I.
The Posse Comitatus Act is presumed to be the bulwark against use of the military as a police force; but it has been eroded since the 80s, due in no small part to the "war on drugs." According to a government source, the black helicopters everyone talks about seeing over the boonies are part of the National Guard's participation in the marijuana eradication program. These flights over rural America are as a result of congressional amendments to Posse Comitatus, which created these exceptions.
Other exceptions to the Act include the statutory authority of the President to use federal troops to quell domestic violence. Upon request by a state governor, the President issues a proclamation maintaining a breakdown in public order has occurred. Orders to disperse are issued. If they are not followed the President can order the Secretary of Defense, along with the Attorney General, to quell the insurrection and restore public order.
On the surface the excuse for using the military in emergency situations appears benign. Being prepared for chemical or biological attacks by terrorists, foreign or domestic may be the height of common sense. Cities have used the National Guard to quell disturbances the police can't handle. Ordinarily citizens trust the government in such circumstances because military involvement comes from a need at the state or local level.
But in the "grave new world" of Secretary Cohen, bureaucrats are either unaware or don't care that the trust between the citizens of the United States and its government is at an all time low. Poll after poll shows how mistrustful we have become. The inclination to think the worst of basic institutions is pervasive. A recent Zogby poll shows that a majority of Americans no longer believe that the government is "of" the people or "by" the people. Even some in Congress are concerned. This latest government move to unify military and police into a cohesive "first response" task force should be subjected to the most serious investigation by Congress
On June 25, 1997, Representative Ron Paul of Texas read the following into the Congressional Record: "In a police state the police are national, powerful and authoritarian. Inevitably, national governments yield to the temptation to use the military to do the heavy lifting...once the military is used, however minor initially, the march toward martial law...becomes irresistible."
The Army War College's publication Parameters contains a paper written by a member of the Judge Advocate General's office, and had some interesting things to say about the use of the Army in domestic emergencies. The recent moves to consolidate the National Guard and the Army Reserves into "domestic control units" and the legal transformation of the Army under the Stanford Act (1984) have been incorporated into Army strategy under the acronym OOTW or "operations other than war." The importance and frightening aspects of the Justice Department, FEMA and Army marriage may be found in the essence of the paper: "Civilian and military leaders need to expect an increase in domestic deployments of U.S. military forces. Strategic leaders can take solace in the lessons learned from military participation in domestic disaster relief, for the record indicates that legal niceties or strict construction of prohibited conduct will be of minor concern." In other words -- the rule of law and constitutional guarantees are insignificant in an emergency.
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
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. Larry Klayman's Judicial Watch is fighting a battle with the IRS on behalf of Joe Farah's conservative Western Journalism Center in Sacramento. The political use of the IRS to shut this organization up and shut it down -- reeks of politicization. The overwhelming majority of organizations audited by the IRS are conservative. 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 large city. Yet even when Congress responds and asks for accountability, it is merely to give 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 recently 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.
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 wackos.
In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers had absolute distrust of unrestrained government power -- that is why they gave us the Bill of Rights.
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