You may have seen this equipment order going around:
May 07, 2014 2:03 pm
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, located in Washington, DC, pursuant to the authority of FAR Part 13, has a requirement for the commerical acquisition of submachine guns, .40 Cal. S&W, ambidextrous safety, semi-automatic or 2 shot burts trigger group, Tritium night sights for front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore grip) and scope (top rear), stock-collapsilbe or folding, magazine—30 rd. capacity, sling, light weight, and oversized trigger guard for gloved operation.
Bolding mine, to emphasize OMG WHY ARE WE MILITARIZING THE LETTUCE INSPECTORS?
This story has mostly drawn attention from the journalistic right: Breitbart.com's Big Government, The Drudge Report, Washington Times, Examiner.com, Guns Save Lives, Personal Liberty Digest, American Thinker, and so on. Last week on The Independents, we had two different Republicans—Rep. Thomas Massie (Kentucky) and Rep. Chris Stewart (Utah)—come on to bemoan the militarization of federal agencies. They are right to do so. But it's equally true that the GOP is heavily responsible for the arming of the executive branch in the first place, and has in its hands the power to change the bad underlying legislation.
OIGs weren't always in the submachine business. The Inspector General Act of 1978 was enacted not so that armed federal agents could kick in doors of raw milk farmers before dawn, but rather (in the words of the Inspector General inside the General Services Administration),
to detect and prevent fraud, waste, abuse, and violations of law while promoting economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the operations of the Federal Government.
Italics mine, to illustrate the sour irony of it all.
So how did an internal government watchdog turn into an external projection of U.S. power against its own citizens? Because of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which amended the IG Act to grant inspectors "full law enforcement authority to carry firearms, make arrests and execute search warrants." The law was sponsored by then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), passed with a heavily Republican majority (207-10 in favor, versus 88-110 among Democrats), passed overwhelmingly in the Senate (90-9, with no Republicans voting against), and then signed into law by President George W. Bush. The blunt truth is that after 9/11, a vast majority of elected conservatives want to arm the bejeebus out of the feds, with little or no deliberation about long-term consequences.
If Republicans now belatedly loathe the creation of dozens of new police units within the federal government, here is what they can do about it: Draft a bill reversing the 2002 amendment to the IG Act, and then pass it.
After the jump, read on for some USDA justification for submachine guns.
According to Politico,
USDA responded to POLITICO by explaining that there are more than 100 agents employed by the law enforcement division of the department's Office of the Inspector General who carry such weapons because they are involved in the investigation of criminal activities, including fraud, theft of government property, bribery, extortion, smuggling and assaults on employees. From fiscal 2012 through March 2014, OIG investigations pertaining to USDA operations have netted more than 2,000 indictments, 1,350 convictions and over $460 million in monetary results, the OIG told POLITICO in a subsequent email.
USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe says the guns are needed by the more than 100 agents employed by the law-enforcement division of the department's Office of the Inspector General. They've carried machine guns for 20 years, she notes. USDA OIG officers "are placed in very dangerous law enforcement situations," another USDA official told POLITICO. "They make arrests, they serve subpoenas and they engage in undercover operations."
Thanks to reader Chris Herald for the tip.