Agents from the Department of Homeland Security posing as national “police” were deployed across the country this week to monitor and intimidate Tea Party activists, who were peacefully protesting the Obama administration and its abuse of the IRS to target conservative groups. The apparently unlawful spying and bullying has drawn outrage from analysts, experts, and commentators from across the political spectrum worried that the federal government is going off the rails.
From California to Florida and everywhere in between, armed DHS functionaries — part of the so-called “Federal Protective Service” (FPS) — intimidated and spied on peaceful activists, according to protesters in attendance. News reports were filled with pictures and videos of large Homeland Security trucks that said “police” in giant letters, along with armed DHS personnel dressed in “police” outfits. At a rally in Los Angeles, a DHS helicopter was even spotted flying overhead as federal “police” ordered protesters to get off of government property.
More than a few attendees at the rallies expressed fears about being spied on by authorities in the future — or even being targeted by the IRS. Some analysts said the federal show of force was probably an effort by the administration to intimidate Americans into remaining silent, while others speculated that the U.S. government was hoping to provoke a reaction out of the protesters that could be used to demonize activists concerned about lawless federal activities.
Among the most serious concerns cited by critics — aside from federal spying and intimidation of citizens exercising rights guaranteed under the First Amendment — were the giant letters reading “police” emblazoned on DHS vehicles and personnel. Of course, the Constitution does not grant the U.S. government any power to establish a national police force or anything even remotely resembling one.