In The Federal Government, Even The Weather Forecasters Have SWAT Teams

Over the weekend the Wall Street Journal ran an interesting piece about the growth in federal law enforcement officers working for non-traditional civilian agencies like the Department of Education and the Social Security Administration. Even the weather forecasters at NOAA have their own SWAT team:

For years, the public face of federal law enforcement has been the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Today, for many people, the knock on the door is increasingly likely to come from a dizzying array of other police forces tucked away inside lesser-known crime-fighting agencies.

They could be from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor or Education departments, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency known for its weather forecasts.

Agents from NOAA, in fact, along with the Fish and Wildlife Service, raided the Miami business of Morgan Mok in 2008, seeking evidence she had broken the Endangered Species Act trading in coral.

The agents had assault rifles with them, and the case documents indicated her house and business records had been under surveillance over a six-month period, says Ms. Mok. Under the 1973 law, the departments of Interior and Commerce (home to NOAA) must write regulations to define what is endangered and how it must be protected. One of those regulations specifies coral.

“I felt like I was being busted for drugs, instead of coral,” Ms. Mok says. “It was crazy.”

Ms. Mok says she showed that her coral had been properly obtained. She paid a $500 fine and served one year of probation for failing to complete paperwork for an otherwise legal transaction.

Mok’s story sounds suspiciously like the NASA take down of a woman trying to sell her moon rock online.

Clearly this is all a symptom of federal agencies featherbedding their budgets. It’s hard to imagine why Fish and Wildlife, or the Social Security Administration, couldn’t call on existing federal law enforcement officers from the FBI to execute any raids they have need for. To the extent that federal agents armed with assault rifles are needed to take down a woman guilty of a misdemeanor paperwork violation (and that’s a subject for another post), wouldn’t it be simpler for these agencies to partner rather than creating dozens of smaller law enforcement enclaves within the federal budgets?

The WSJ has a run-down of law enforcement forces in non-law enforcement federal agencies, and the number is staggering. With that kind of budget bloat and mission creep, it’s little wonder the federal government is going bankrupt.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • Deb La Vigne

    How can you blame this on Bush? Federal Jobs and wages are UP 1600% since Obama took office and his administration has written laws to circumvent every one of our Bill of Rights. Historically it is always the Democrats who build a big Government and create more & more social programs hoping to buy votes.

    • realitybasedbob

      It must be liberating to live in a fact free world, huh Deborah?

      I hope you stick around, you’ll fit right in.

      • LenYol

        Speaking of being fact free, bobblehead. Have you found the answer to your dilemma?

        realitybasedbob LenYol • a month ago
        I’m a job creator, Leonard, have been since 1976.

        realitybasedbob • 3 days ago

        I don’t know. Why are the job creators failing to create jobs, or at least as you suggest, fill those jobs?

        • realitybasedbob

          Well Jerry Gheri Geri or Jeri, as a matter of fact, I just hired another person about a month ago.

          Why are you still a moocher?

          • LenYol

            Gee, bobblehead, I’m impressed, you being a big time job creator and all…one person in a month. Business must be booming, oh wait, it isn’t. Why is that?

            “Commerce Department issues a revised estimate showing the economy
            shrank in the first quarter at a 1 percent rate, marking the worst performance since 2011.”

            More on this story:

          • 2hotel9

            Len? “I just hired another person” is realitydenyingboob’s shorthand for picking up another under age prostitute.

          • LenYol

            His mommy will be jealous.

          • 2hotel9

            I figure it as more like relief.

  • Nought

    Stormtrooper. I see what you did there.

  • LenYol

    “For Obama’s part, federal employment also increased from 2008 through
    2011, the last year for which statistics were available. In 2011,
    there were 4,403,000 federal workers, an increase of 197,000 from 2008.
    The 2011 total was slightly lower than 2010, due to the inclusion of
    temporary census workers in 2010. Under Obama, executive branch
    employees increased by 64,000 and uniformed military personnel increased
    by 133,000.

    During President Obama’s first term, federal outlays increased from
    $3.5 trillion in 2009 to $3.6 trillion in 2011. The estimated total
    outlays for 2012 are estimated to be $3.8 trillion. In Obama’s first
    year, the deficit increased by almost a trillion dollars from 2008.
    Obama has not had a single year in which the deficit was less than a
    trillion dollars. Obama’s average deficit was $1.3 trillion during his
    first three years. This translates into an average deficit that is 9.2
    percent of GDP.

    Under President Obama, spending dramatically increased at the same
    time that tax revenues dropped sharply due to the Great Recession. By
    2012, revenues were almost recovered to pre-2008 levels, but spending
    had risen even faster. Even three years in to the recovery, deficit
    levels remain above eight percent of GDP.

    Some liberals might prefer to use 2009 numbers rather than 2008, but
    that would let Obama escape responsibility for the stimulus spending
    that he initiated. In reality, President Obama’s “emergency” stimulus
    spending never went away and the increased spending levels have now
    become permanent.

    It is true that Bush left office in 2009, but he served less than a
    month. President Bush submitted the proposed budget for the 2009 fiscal
    year to Congress, but it was President Obama who signed it into law. In either case, the average deficit under Obama is more than four times greater than that of President Bush.

    Both presidents increased the national debt according to statistical data from the U.S. Treasury.
    On January 20, 2001 when President Bush took office, the total
    national debt stood at $5.7 trillion. Eight years later on January 20,
    2009 the debt had risen to $10.6 trillion.

    During President Obama’s first term the debt increased to $16.4
    trillion on January 20, 2013. This means that under Obama, the debt had
    increased by $5.8 trillion in four years as opposed to President Bush’s
    increase of $4.9 trillion over eight years.

    The only other period in American history in which spending levels
    matched those under Obama was when the country mobilized to fight the
    Axis during World War II.
    In the 1940s, government spending decreased at the end of the war. So
    far President Obama has shown no signs of ever slowing his spending.”