By Diane Alden
The NewsMax Years #37
Still ON TARGET: September 12, 2000
Do the worrywarts overstate the case? Do the folks in the bars and cafes in rural America fret about black helicopters or the U.N. camping out in national parks merely to break 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. Marshals 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 overreaction 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 possibilities 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
The growing trend toward militarization of the federal bureaucracy and police forces does not sit well with civil libertarians, who see that trend as antithetical to what America is about. Instances of the use of violent force against Americans are growing. Many times this use has nothing to do with preventing violent or dangerous criminal activity. These days it may mean raiding private property and homes in the name of the environment, or dealing with crimes that could be handled by an accountant or one or two investigators. But overreaction seems to have become the rule.
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 6,500-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 that included 14 federal, state and local government agencies led by the National Park Service. Scott’s alleged crime was growing marijuana on his property, an assertion made by a paid drug informant. No marijuana 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 deputizing of numerous agencies, and that authority has been extended. NASA, departments of Labor, State, Transportation and Veterans Affairs, and Social Security and Small Business administrations 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. Thousands of regulations have been placed on the books in the last 30 years that 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 that 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
Janet Reno recently replaced Defense Secretary William Cohen as head of a combination military and government response team to deal with “national emergencies.”
Now, it may be prudent to prepare for terrorist activities on American soil, but in recent years we have had more to fear from the federal agencies headed by Janet Reno than we have from terrorists.
More and more frequently the Clinton administration has used these agencies as SWAT teams against perceived “enemies” – like the Cuban community in Miami and at Waco and Ruby Ridge. These agencies are barely deserving of any trust from Americans concerned about the political use of their federal police agencies by any executive of either political party. Between Ruby Ridge, Waco and Little Havana, Justice Department guarantees that they will not trample on the Bill of Rights ring hollow.
That the Justice Department and agencies such as FEMA will now have oversight or input into the use of the military in emergencies 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. Just ask the various government whistleblowers such as Kathleen Willey, Linda Tripp, Bill Johnston of the Waco debacle, Marine Corps General Krulack, Major Scott Ritter, and all the men and women of various government agencies from the Forest Service to the FBI who have laid it on the line and paid the price.
Letters from America’s Front Line
I get letters from government agents and the military sometimes, and some of them should anger Americans. But Americans are numb, calloused and accepting of the status quo. These letters complain of corruption and malfeasance and paint a picture that America had better wake up and recognize as dangerous to our continued good health as a nation.
These good people have had to put up with the corruption and inept policies of the Clinton administration, and since they get little or no support from Congress and the American people, they stay silent. The ones who really get fed up get out of government service altogether and remain disgusted and bitter.
Many men and women in the military are saying that if Al Gore is elected the NCOs will bolt and leave the U.S. without its strongest military functionaries. The United States of America will be stuck with a bunch of sycophants and tush-kissers better known as BBs, or Bill’s Boys. Only this time they will be Al’s Boys. The rest will be undereducated, ignorant and undertrained, willing to obey commands that in a better time and place and with better men and women would have been considered unacceptable.
As one 23-year veteran of the Army related, “They would kick in their momma’s door and haul her off if they were told to do so. They are being taught urban door-to-door tactics. Why? So they can fight whom? Don’t count on them not to fire on Americans if it comes to that.” This letter was not unique, and it was one of many.
Therefore, the people who plan on voting for Al Gore need to consider what they are doing. They are setting up their country for a continuation of destructive policies both within and without the military and government agencies.
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 toward 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 operations 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, and once too often the thoughtless acceptance of kicking in the door and rousting of Americans that glorifies police state tactics. It desensitizes us and makes us blind, deaf and dumb to what is happening.
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 suited to a Banana Republic or the Russian night raids of the ’30s.
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. But given the Danforth report in regard to Waco, that is not likely to happen. We don’t have anyone without ties to the government-business-academe complex, who is independent enough to do an honest job.
There are a few people, like former House counsel David Schippers, whose best-selling book “Sellout” chronicles just what a corrupt and inept government we have. Unfortunately, the mainstream press has chosen to ignore the book, and it is left to the Internet news services such as NewsMax.com and others to promote it.
Unless things change, the average 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.
The Founding Fathers had absolute distrust of unrestrained governmental power – which is why they gave us the Bill of Rights.
First published at NewsMax.com on September 12, 2000. Copyright © 2000-2011 Diane Alden
The Moral Liberal Senior Editor, Diane Alden, was one of NewsMax.com’s most popular and outspoken pundits ( 1999–2008), and before that, a wonk for The Nevada Policy Institute. A former DJ in Georgia, Diane of late has been a weekly guest on the East Coast hit program, The Marc Bernier Show. Diane is loved for her quick sense of humor, creative vocabulary, independence of mind, and her penetrating analysis of a wide range of political, economic, and cultural issues.