(April 27)  The IRS and other federal agencies continue to militarize at a furious and dangerous pace. Reasonable elected officials would act to demilitarize those agencies forthwith.

A new report by the watchdog group Open The Books tells the tale. Topline number: “There are now more federal agents with arrest and firearm authority (200,000) than U.S. Marines (186,000).” The Department of Health and Human Services alone, just since 2020, has spent $400,000 on tactical combat gear and $85,000 on ballistic plates and body armor. It employs nearly 500 armed agents. Since 2006, it has spent $154 million on guns , ammunition, and military-style equipment.

The numbers are even higher at the IRS, which of course has confiscatory powers against taxpayers while being almost immune from appeals and loath to provide redress even of legitimate grievances. It employs about 2,100 weapons-toting agents, with another 600 or so due to be hired. And it “purchased 3,000 units of optics-compatible tactical holsters for weapons with optical sights and weapons lighting systems.”

Seriously? Night-vision weaponry for IRS agents? The stench of authoritarianism is unmistakable. It becomes frightening when combined with IRS job listings telling applicants they “must be willing to use deadly force , if necessary.”

The overarming of federal domestic agencies has been a problem for a long time, as I first noted back in 2010 , sometimes with tragic consequences for innocent victims. It remains astonishing that numerous armed agents should swell the ranks of not only the IRS and HHS but of the Postal Inspection Service, the Agriculture, Labor, and Veterans Affairs departments, the bureaus of Land Management and Indian Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and even the Small Business Administration and the Railroad Retirement Board.

And as the new Open The Books report details, the problem — the threat to the civil liberties of ordinary people — is getting worse.

It’s a good thing to support the daily work and strength of local police. It’s an awful thing to live in a nationalized police state. For federal domestic agencies, armed officials should be very much the exception, with stringent oversight and frequent duties to justify their existence. Otherwise, the existence of a police state will continue to creep ever closer to horrible realization.

[The above text is the full column, not an excerpt. It originally ran here.]


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