The two federal police agents wearing body armor, one male and one female, entered the store, Glock 19 9mm semi-automatics holstered, to serve a subpoena to the owner, a potential witness in a felony case. It seemed like a routine matter. The owner accepted the summons without protest as he was locking up his store. A friend of the owner came by to ask him to go fishing. But just as everyone was about to leave, gunshots rang out across the street as another store owner attempted to ward off an armed robber.
As the gunbattle between the shopkeeper and the robber spilled out into the street, the federal agents subdued the suspect, disarmed the shopkeeper and successfully protected the innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire. There were high-fives all around. Mission accomplished. No one hurt. Bad guy apprehended.
An FBI case file? A TV action show script? No. This was a training simulation of the kind thousands of agents go through every year at the 1,500-acre site of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. The cops, in this case, weren't agents of the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Office or any other federal law enforcement agency typically associated with street shootouts. Instead, they were two of 200 agents of the Environmental Protection Agency, charged specifically with investigating "environmental crimes," but trained in a state-of-the-art facility and equipped with an arsenal capable of deadly force, to deal with virtually any other crisis situation that might arise.
The FLETC training center is the hub of an effort to train thousands of new federal law enforcement officers in dozens of agencies and upgrade their firepower with modern, high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons. It is also the central networking agency for a growing standing army of federal police forces -- an army now numbering around 60,000, according to the best information publicly available from U.S. government sources. "In the past 10 years, the FLETC has experienced a phenomenal growth in the number of students it trains and the range of instruction it offers," explains a brochure prepared by the center.
To put the growth of federal police agencies in context, FLETC graduated 848 students in 1970. By 1976, the number of graduates rose to 5,152. Last year, the center graduated 18,849 students. In 1997, projections for the graduating class currently stand at 25,077. Since 1970, 325,000 students have gone through the program.
"As a graphic example of the growth experienced by the center, in just two years -- 1989 and 1990 -- more students graduated from the center than in its first 10 years," boasts FLETC promotional material. While the center also trains some local, state and even international police agents, it does not train the federal government's largest police force, the FBI, which maintains its own training center at Quantico, Virginia. FLETC is expecting even more growth for the near future -- most of it training federal police in at least 70 different agencies, from the Border Patrol to National Aeronautics and Space Administration to the Small Business Administration.
"Recent administration and congressional initiatives and enhanced security concerns in the wake of the tragic Oklahoma City bombing incident have resulted in an unprecedented demand for training," an official FLETC document reveals. "Participating agencies are projecting they will need to train almost 79,000 students totaling more than 350,000 student weeks of training over the next three years. "
The surge in training federal law enforcement agents has forced the center to open up two new facilities -- one permanent site in Artesia, New Mexico, near Roswell, and another temporary site at a former naval base in Charleston, South Carolina. Civil libertarians concerned about the growth of a federal police force will derive no comfort from other promotional literature produced by the center.
"A dimension of quality, which is also a function of consolidated training, is the comingling of students from many agencies and the networking and interagency cooperation it fosters," the document reads. "While difficult to quantify, the resulting sense of a federal law enforcement `family' begins to mitigate traditional turf issues which would be heightened in a separated training environment."
FLETC operates under the authority of the U.S. Treasury Department and is one of the fastest growing agencies within that department. In 1975, the center, with its staff of 39 employees, moved from Washington, D.C., to Glynco. Today the center has an authorized staff of 487 and an adjunct staff of 96 detailed from participating agencies. The on-site participating agencies, numbering 20, also have staffs exceeding 592. In 1970, the departments of the Treasury, Interior, Justice, the U.S. Civil Service Commission, the Smithsonian Institution, the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Postal Service -- agencies that comprised the bulk of the federal government's law enforcement activity -- signed a memorandum of understanding to create FLETC. It was established by Treasury Order 217 on March 2 of that year. The original signatories represented the first clients of the training center. That base has now expanded to at least 70 federal agencies.
While the increases in armed federal police agents have been most dramatic during the Clinton administration years, FLETC Director Charles F. Rinkevich takes pride in pointing out the "strong commitment" the consolidation efforts have received from Congress.
Since 1989, Congress has approved $53 million in support of the $121.4 million goal FLETC officials deem necessary for facility expansion efforts. One of the other ways the center supports its rapid growth is through fee services to state and local agencies and, increasingly, through training of foreign cops. "With the break-up of the Eastern Block (sic) countries, the FLETC will be required to play an increasing role in providing law enforcement training to the emerging democracies while at the same time continuing to support the training needs of other foreign countries," reads Objective 1.4 of the center's strategic goals statement.
The center has trained agents of the governments of Brazil, Poland, Russia and Romania and provided assistance to the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest. Besides training law enforcement officers in tactics, survival skills and the use of weapons, the center established in 1989 the Financial Fraud Institute, whose specialty is training related to financial and high-technology crimes including special courses in asset forfeiture procedures, insurance fraud, illegal tax shelters and computer and telecommunications investigative procedures.
Critics of the growing militarization of the federal government will also take no comfort in the fact that the center's program was designed with the help of a team of experts from the U.S. military. "The Department of Defense Army-Air Force Center for Low Intensity Conflict played a key role in the development of this plan by facilitating the planning process for Task Force 2002 and the implementation planning group," one FLETC document explains. "Prior to assisting FLETC, CLIC facilitated the development of strategic plans for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Project North Star and others.
AGRICULTURE - Forest Service
COMMERCE - National Institute of Standards and Technology, Office of Security, Office of Export Administration
HEALTH and HUMAN SERVICES - National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration
INSPECTOR GENERAL OFFICES - Agency for International Development, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Department of the Treasury, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Emergency Management Agency, General Services Administration, Government Printing Office, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Personnel Management, Railroad Retirement Board, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, Veterans Affairs
INTERIOR - Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
JUSTICE - Bureau of Prisons, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Marshals Service
STATE - Bureau of Diplomatic Security
TRANSPORTATION - Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Coast Guard
TREASURY - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Mint, U.S. Secret Service
DEFENSE - Defense Protective Service, Naval Criminal Investigative Service
CONGRESS - Government Printing Office, Library of Congress Police, U. S. Capitol Police
SUPREME COURT - Supreme Court Police
AMTRAK - AMTRAK Police Department
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY - Office of Security
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY - Office of Criminal Investigations
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY - Security Division
GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION - Office of Federal Protective Service
SMITHSONIAN - National Zoological Park Police, Office of Protection Services
TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY - TVA Police Office of the Inspector General
U. S. POSTAL SERVICE - Postal Inspection Service -- Postal Police
Let's face it, the more legislation the federal government approves, the more police power it grabs to enforce it. This is a stark, cold fact seldom considered by members of Congress, the press, ordinary citizens or even the civil libertarians you would most expect to protest the increasing firepower of a rapidly growing standing army of federal police forces.
Who would have expected, for instance, when we created the benign-sounding Environmental Protection Agency a few years ago that in 1997 we would need a force of 200 heavily armed "enviro-cops" to apprehend a new class of environmental criminals? Is this green militarization really necessary? Ask EPA officials and they tell some revealing stories. They don't try to justify their Rambo mentality based on past experiences by agents, but by anticipating the worst-case scenarios in the future.
There's lots of money at stake in environmental crimes, they say. Therefore, it stands to reason that criminal suspects may be desperate. It's not that they can actually cite any real-life examples of agents facing threats to their physical safety, but they know they're coming.
One favorite story of EPA officials involves an unnamed agent who, they say, was killed in the line of duty. But, upon further investigation, it turns out the agent was actually killed in an act of random street violence as he was leaving a restaurant after dinner. Indeed, the agent had spent the day conducting a field investigation, but the fatal attack had no connection to his work whatsoever.
If, indeed, this is an argument for arming EPA agents, it's also an argument for arming every law-abiding citizen in America. After all, don't we all deserve to be as safe from random street violence as federal employees? But, of course, no one in the federal bureaucracy, in the administration, or, even in Congress, would ever suggest such a thing.
Instead, the trend over the last two decades has been just the opposite -- take guns away from citizens and put them in the hands of the government. This is a trend diametrically opposed to both the spirit and the letter of the U.S. Constitution. But still the trend continues. Today, there are nearly 60,000 armed federal agents running around the country often enforcing laws of little value and questionable constitutionality. And the number is rising -- fast. Just look at the statistics published by the federal government itself. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center graduated 848 students in 1970. By 1976, it was turning out 5,152. Last year, the number had risen to 18,849. This year, the center expects to train 25,077.
Though a fraction of those graduates actually work for local and state law enforcement agencies, the biggest federal police force of all -- the FBI's -- maintains its own independent training center. So, if these numbers seem startlingly high, keep in mind the actual increases in federal cops are even higher.
And no one -- not members of Congress, the General Accounting Office, nor even the president of the United States -- knows for certain exactly what the total number of federal police agents is. That's one of the problems with bloated bureaucracies -- no accountability to the people.
Even more alarming is the way Washington is encouraging networking and cooperation between these law enforcement agencies, in effect, establishing a virtual standing army of central government cops -- an idea antithetical to the American constitutional tradition of limited federal power. One of the training center's goals is to establish the feeling that all these federal agents represent one, big happy "family." Doesn't that kind of warm and fuzzy talk just give you goose flesh?
Let's face it. If the government announced one day that it was creating a vast network of armed federal police forces to enforce the tangled web of U.S. laws, there would probably be some organized dissent. There might even be open rebellion against such a patently un-American plan.
Instead, the government has moved slowly, imperceptibly at first, yet inevitably, toward the goal of establishing a national police force. Now the plan is on the fast track. And only one question remains: Is it too late to turn back?
[Joseph Farah is editor of WorldNetDaily and executive director of the Western Journalism Center, an independent group of investigative reporters.]
Who's "they"? What am I talking about? The last couple of years has witnessed the biggest arms buildup in the history of the federal government. No, I don't mean the Defense Department budget is growing. Far from it. That would actually be Constitutional. It might even make sense.
No. The kind of arms that are proliferating in Washington these days are the kind pointed at our own civilian population and carried by a growing number of federal police forces with ever-larger budgets and ever-deadlier arsenals.
In 1996, alone, at least 2,439 new federal cops were authorized to carry firearms. As a result of that record one-year surge, there are nearly 60,000 armed federal agents representing departments as diverse as the FBI, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Post Office.
The Environmental Protection Agency? That's right. I suspect, most Americans would be shocked to learn that agents of the EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corps of Engineers are actually packing heat. Has the protection of spotted owls and kangaroo rats become a matter of life and death? Why do EPA agents need to be armed? Well, if you were in the business of seizing people's personal property in the name of endangered species, you might want to be carrying, too. But, is it wise policy? Is it in the spirit of the Constitution? Where do we draw the line?
A few months ago, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt tried to arm the Bureau of Land Management, thus forming yet another division of enviro-cops. Only a flurry of controversy sparked by one man, Tom McDonnell of the American Sheep Industry Association, temporarily stalled the move.
Ironically, in justifying its need to carry weapons and exert police authority over its 268 million acres of land in the western states, the BLM had cited the long and growing list of other federal agencies -- like the EPA and Fish and Wildlife -- with criminal law enforcement powers. Following such logic, I figure, it's only a matter of time before officials at the National Endowment for the Arts are authorized to carry guns. Art cops -- is it any harder to believe than enviro-cops?
But the arms proliferation at the federal government level is no joke. Innocent people are dying because of it. Lots more are living in fear of their own government and its virtual standing army of 60,000. Where is the American Civil Liberties Union when you need them?
The founders of this country never envisioned the need for a federal police force. They saw the inherent dangers in such ideas. Recent leaders, like Bill Clinton and George Bush who have overseen this domestic arms buildup, seem to think there are no limits to federal authority, nor government intrusion into our daily lives.
Most of the growth is not, ironically, in the large, traditional agencies such as the FBI. Rather, it is among the agencies you would never guess have anything to do with guns. The ranks of armed enviro-cops, for instance, have soared from 2,471 in 1987 to 4,204 as of last September -- a 70 percent increase. Do you feel safer now?
Experts who have been watching such developments over the last few years say all this is leading one place -- to the establishment of a genuine national police force. You can see it in the way the FBI now routinely interferes in local law enforcement affairs. You can also see it in the plans of big-government architects like Vice President Al Gore, who has urged that Treasury Department police agencies -- such as the Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms -- be placed under the control of the Justice Department.
I've got a better idea. Let's disband BATF. That would be a good start. Then Congress should take a look at this whole issue and re-evaluate the police powers of every single federal agency.
Before our legislators pass one more law restricting the right of law-abiding citizens to carry firearms, much tighter controls need to be placed on the proliferation of guns in government. That would be meaningful gun control -- and Constitutional, too.
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