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.