Rep. Chris Stewart: Disarm the Feds!

On last night's episode of The Independents, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) talked about one of the lesser-known factlets illuminated by the standoff between Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management: that dozens of federal agencies have their own fully armed police forces, capable of executing warrants, raids, and arrests:

Rep. Stewart mentioned in his segment an outrageous case that I played a small part in spreading the word about back in June 2011: the dawn raid on the Stockton home of Kenneth Wright, in which a dozen or so armed cops handcuffed the man in front of his three bawling kids in order to execute a warrant on behalf of the Department of Education to gather information on a loan-fraud investigation. Stewart, like many others (including myself, at first) boiled this down into Dept. of Education's SWAT team raids man over financial aid.

As I updated in that original post, and in a follow-up, the raid was part of a more serious criminal investigation than mere loan default, and it also involved at least a token presence of the local Stockton police in addition to the DoE's Office of Inspector General (this is the name that federal agencies put on their police forces, which technically are not SWAT teams, but sure can act like them).

Kenneth Wright and his wife Michelle Wright (from whom he was reportedly estranged at the time of the raid) were later indicted for fraud with some co-conspirators. From the Department of Justice's 2012 description of the indictment:

Michelle Wright, 31; Kenneth Wright, 34; Jaymar Brown, 33; Jennifer Brown, 54; Brandy Miner, 36, all of Stockton, and Janeigh Mendoza, 31, of Tracy.

According to the indictment, from July 2007 to June 2011, the defendants conspired with each other and with others to obtain federal student assistance funds by fraud. Michelle Wright and Mendoza used stolen personal identity information to apply for additional FSA funds. Some of these individuals were severely handicapped and unable to read or write, let alone attend college. The defendants recruited straw students and used their own names to apply for FSA funds. Michelle Wright and Mendoza completed the paperwork necessary to obtain the funds. As a result of their scheme, the Department of Education lost more than $285,000.

In February of this year, the Wrights were convicted and sentenced. From the DoJ press release:  

Michelle Wright was part of a...conspiracy to commit student loan fraud. She and her co-defendants recruited straw students to sign up for college classes for the purpose of receiving financial aid funds. Some of the individuals agreed to have their identities used to commit fraud; other individuals had their personal information used to commit fraud without their consent. [...]

Five others have been convicted and sentenced in Wright’s case. Janeigh Mendoza, 32, of Tracy, was sentenced to four years and three months in prison. The others, including Michelle Wright’s husband Kenneth Wright, were sentenced to terms of probation. Michelle Wright was ordered to pay $129,171 in restitution.

It's important to emphasize, as I did back when this started, that even if the couple were guilty as charged (and now they are!), that doesn't justify sending a dozen armed men into the house of a father of three children at 6 in the morning. You can execute search warrants on suspected non-violent criminals without gratuitously creating a dangerous situation, traumatizing kids, and damaging property. And as Rep. Stewart pointed out, there is no particularly good reason to have a comparatively unaccountable and presumably less-experienced federal agency playing at being cops. 

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  • Pro Libertate||

    Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent.

  • Free Society||

    ...and furthermore the government should be destroyed.

  • CE||

    NSA troll, or just a libertarian?

  • sarcasmic||

    You can execute search warrants on suspected non-violent criminals without gratuitously creating a dangerous situation, traumatizing kids, and damaging property.

    Sure you can, but that's assuming the point of the search is to find evidence of a crime.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Well what's the point of having your jackboot over the face of America if you can't stamp on it repeatedly?

  • GILMORE||

    Please have rep. Stewart on again. He was good.

  • Brett L||

    But was he dressed okay?

  • GILMORE||

    Politicians don't dress to impress = they wear uniforms. Its a whole different ballgame.

  • Bubba Jones||

    I think the source of this problem is that high priority for D o Ed is not necessarily high priority for the FBI. So if they want these investigations to go forward they have to dedicate their own personnel and budget to them.

    The obvious question is whether and how d o Ed should EVER be chasing a truly dangerous suspect.

  • Drake||

    I thought the obvious question was "why do we have a Department of Education?"

  • paranoid android||

    It's important to emphasize, as I did back when this started, that even if the couple were guilty as charged (and now they are!), that doesn't justify sending a dozen armed men into the house of a father of three children at 6 in the morning.

    I get that, and you get that, but we both know there are at least a couple hundred million people in this country that don't get that. These people hear you say this and think, "Why does this guy want to coddle the Very Bad People that those noble heroes with badges put away to make the world a better place? Why do you hate America, Matt?" How does one get through to those people?

    Sometimes I think that these things won't change until every single person in the country either has been or is in close relation to somebody who has been fucked over by the paramilitaries. It's kind of like the problem with public schools--it's too easy for many to ignore how the whole system is crumbling because it's a problem that happens to other people, somewhere, that they don't know.

  • Free Society||

    same reason why so many people don't mind drone strikes in Yemen since it's not their children and families being burned alive.

  • JW||

    If nothing else, the comments sections of the major media outlets show me just how fucked we truly are.

    Once they were found guilty, they ceased to be sympathetic figures in the public's mind.

    They probably weren't all that sympathetic figures before that, since they must have been guilty of something, with all those brave officers there, risking their lives and doing God's work.

  • Free Society||

    If nothing else, the comments sections of the major media outlets show me just how fucked we truly are.

    Oh brother I couldn't agree more. Or better yet the commentors on youtube, are where you can see a statistically significant cross-section of people of various interests, disciplines and levels of intelligence all being a bunch of fucking idiots. Even the smart people, who are a relatively small group themselves, are dominated by idiots and their fallacies.

  • ||

    This problem was inevitable. These agencies/bureaucracies/departments are little fiefdoms. There is no way they would continue to grow and becomes more powerful without the people at the top wanting their own Kingsguard. Having to go beg the FBI to look into a fraud matter doesn't make them feel powerful. They want their own shock troops. And they eventually got them. And as soon as some got them, they all wanted them. Because that's how bureaucracies work.

    The only way to solve this is to reduce the size of these agencies/departments. Good luck with that.

  • ||

    You know, I meant Goldcloaks, not Kingsguard. The Kingsguard are the Secret Service.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Why not a secret organization of women wielding poisoned needles and painboxes?

  • ||

    No one wants to hear about your BDSM fantasies with your mom, ProL.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    They are around, they just hide their power better than most.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Watch out for their breeding program.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    I feel that Bill Clinton was a redneck Kwisatz Haderach. He could espouse all policy positions at once.

    He tried to avoid the breeding program too.

    "I gotta do what with Hillary? Can I have the pain box instead?"

  • Free Society||

    Same box, but for your dick.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Perhaps what we need is a Bene Gesserit but for libertarians.

  • Zeb||

    Hard to see how that would work as their whole purpose was to have Top Women shape the course of humanity.

    Or are you thinking of a voluntary breeding program for people who care about freedom.

    It's hard to find too many libertarians in Dune among the major players. Maybe the spacing guild. They don't really care who or what they are moving around as long as they get paid.

  • ||

    Voluntary breeding program, and the entire female cast of Scream 4 get to become honorary Bene Gesserit.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Secretly breeding for liberty, using trained acolytes to fuck-scandal key statists.

  • Swiss Servator, Gnomes FTW!||

    I'd rather the statists get stuck with a gom jabbar.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's strictly at the discretion of the commanding reverend mother.

  • kinnath||

    Back in the 70s, I read an article that suggested that if the US became a dictatorship, it would start in one of the regulatory agencies. These are the people that can write rules with the power of law without any legislative oversight. The author figured it would be the IRS, because even Congress is afraid of getting audited. But these days, any Fed agency with a private police force could be the culprit.

  • ||

    The DoJ seems like the candidate to me. They have many more jackboots.

  • kinnath||

    The DOJ doesn't write regulations.

    Start with something like the EPA. The EPA writes a rule limiting your CO2 outputs in order to save the planet. They demand you install a monitor on your furnace and A/C to monitor your contribution to greenhouse emissions. Then, they demand inspection authority 24/7 without a warrant. And they bring men with guns to make sure you let them in at 2 am. And if they accidentally find you actively committing some violation of some blue law, they can hand you over to the local police with all the evidence that find at your home.

    SCOTUS says this is a minor civil matter and your 4th amendment rights are not being violated by inspection of green house gas emission monitors at 2 am.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Anything with water in it is wetlands.

  • kinnath||

    Yes, the trick is any regulation that gives an agency a reason to perform an inspection using administrative warrants. Particularly, when violators are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

  • Pro Libertate||

    NASA "owns" space. That could become relevant.

  • kinnath||

    To truly take over everything, the agency has to control something that brings everyone single person into contact with the federal government -- something like mandatory health insurance for all people for instance. Then add regulations that most people will violate on a nearly daily basis (ban tobacco, trans fats, and HFCS), then there regulators have the authority to intimidate every single person (include other agencies). The agency starts with administrative fines for breaking regulations and then works its way up to criminal penalties for not paying the fines. Even legislators and judges can be kept in line.

  • ||

    The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this regulatory agency.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Interior has all of those park cops.

  • JW||

    We need a diversion of bears with pik-i-nik baskets.

  • ||

    They have to be smarter than average bears, though.

  • kinnath||

    yup

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Nevada is too remote to make an effective demonstration, but we'll deal with your rancher friends soon enough.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Bet they control the Yellowstone caldera, too. Fuck with Interior, and we'll blow your country up.

  • Swiss Servator, Gnomes FTW!||

    +1 Regulatory Death Star

  • CE||

    NASA "owns" space. That could become relevant.

    Flying around a few miles above the ground with a few guys doesn't make you the owner of everything above it.

    You can't take the sky from me.

  • ||

    The only way to solve this is to reduce the size of these agencies/departments. Good luck with that.

    We could also eliminate them entirely.

    HAHAHA

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Now if government were serious about respecting Federalism and local autonomy (I know, hardy har har!) they'd disarm the Federal agencies and have them request assistance from the local sheriff in serving search warrants.

  • PD Scott||

    I believe that's how it used to be until there was controversy over FBI agents getting killed in the field because they weren't allowed to be armed. That was back in the 30s.

  • CE||

    Maybe they should have stayed in their offices then, and phoned the sheriffs to see how those warrants were going.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Kennedy looks good in black with her dark hair and fair skin. She really should stick to black and jewel colors and stay away from pastels and prints.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Agreed. Nick is Libertarian Fonzie and Kennedy can be Libertarian Audrey Hepburn.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Which really begs the question: how would Kennedy look with her hair twisted back into a loose French knot? I'm not sure she has the jaw line for it, but it would show off her slim neck.

  • Matt Welch||

    Wait 'til the Friday show....

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    I read that as libertarian Fozzie.

    Wocka-Wocka

  • Swiss Servator, Gnomes FTW!||

    Does that make Matt the libertarian Beaker?

  • JW||

    You can execute search warrants on suspected non-violent criminals without gratuitously creating a dangerous situation, traumatizing kids, and damaging property.

    Where's the fun in that?

  • Jerryskids||

    I still think this is evidence of the trickle-down effect of lawless behaviour on the part of the higher-ups in government. When the President and Congress assert that there are effectively no limits on their powers, that the Constitution is merely a magical Ouija board that gives you whatever answer you desire, how long before agency heads figure "what the hell, if they can make their own rules, why can't I?" and start pushing to see just how much power they can seize? Once they start grabbing power like little warlords, it's every man for himself and first thing you gotta do is protect your little fiefdom from all the other warlords. That means making sure no other agencies have any involvement in your turf. If you need cops, you don't go to the FBI, you make your own.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    As a result of their scheme, the Department of Education lost more than $285,000.

    Somebody needs a bailout.

  • PD Scott||

    "Hopefully these criminals have (puts on sunglasses) learned their lesson." "YEEEAAAAHHH"

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    They piss that away every other hour.

  • GILMORE||

    I admit, these various "regulatory enforcement SWAT teams" really do present one with the ideal opportunity to ask, "...if you're the Police, were are your *Badges*?!"

    http://alturl.com/gtwxj

  • ||

  • sarcasmic||

  • GILMORE||

    Apparently that has something to do with the UK badger cull which was intended to help protect both livestock and the badger population.

    I think this was mentioned in a Brass Eye episode, and that this cartoon is a perfect example of why Brass Eye should qualify as legitimate journalism in the modern day.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYSqqW6hH0w

  • WDATPDIM?!||

    Bundy established that he has no rights. He's lucky we're letting him live. HE'S A RACIST!

  • CE||

    Since SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics, and those weapons and tactics are no longer special, but more typical, why not change the name to Typical Weapons And Tactics?

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