FEMA Crooks and Thieves


    On the morning of Friday, July 18, 1997, agents from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wearing bulletproof vests and accompanied by two State Police officers, entered the Idaho Clearwater County Flood Control Command Center, located near the small central Idaho town of Orofino. When they departed, they took with them two large vans and a sports utility vehicle loaded with county records and left behind stunned and confused office personnel, some of whom were in tears, said Clearwater County Commissioner, Bud Bonner.

    Confronting the federal agents, Commissioner Bonner demanded of the agent in charge what they wanted. He was simply informed that they would not tell him. Pressing further Bonner said, "Well, let me see the search warrant, that'll tell me." To the commissioner's surprise, except for the signature of the issuing judge, the affiant (person requesting the warrant) and the handwritten word "sealed" in the upper right hand corner, the warrant was blank. Bonner thought this strange since the fourth article of amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, "...and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized." The WINDS obtained a copy of the warrant and the only description on the document is the location of the county's Flood Control Command Center. No mention, whatever, is made of the reason ("probable cause") or description of items to be seized.

    When Bonner again asked what the purpose of the raid was, the agent indicated that the information was "sealed." Again upon pressing the issue, Bonner was told by the agent who filed for the search warrant that the original document read, "Reasonable cause has been presented that a crime has been committed against the government of the United States."

    According to an article in the Washington newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, there is "a grand jury investigation under way, apparently into county handling of money it received from FEMA." Clearwater County and the city of Orofino suffered extensive damage in the fall flooding and had applied to FEMA for, and received a portion of, reimbursement for the rebuilding of the county's infrastructure.

    Commissioner Bonner admitted to considerable anger over the incident. "Those records are open to anyone, anytime to examine," Bonner said. Good people, he added, who are just doing their jobs were frightened and confused. "You can go to anybody's bookkeeping system and find a mistake or a fault, but you don't send a hit squad....The Assessor and Clerk Auditor," he continued, "were both in tears and that upsets you to see good, honest people that have tried their best to make this thing work, in tears."

    Orofino city Mayor, Roy Clay, whose records were also seized in the raid, affirmed Commissioner Bonner's claim stating that, "Those records are public." He told The WINDS that he didn't have a problem with their examination of them. "That's what audits are for," he said. "But this storm trooper tactic, like somebody's a crook--I don't approve of that."

    "To me it was a slap in the face," Bonner said, "that they were afraid that we were going to shoot them or resist...all they had to do was ask." When he inquired of them why they felt the need for bulletproof vests, the agents refused to respond. Bonner said that he felt that they were of the mind set that they were entering the wilderness of Idaho -- Ruby Ridge country -- and, hence, their paranoid behavior. Even though Commissioner Bonner states that he does not agree with the philosophy or methods of the militias or far right patriot groups,"They," he observed of the FEMA agents, "did exactly what the constitutionalists, the militia people are accusing them of doing....This is more than Clearwater County, it's more than the State of Idaho [this] goes right back to Janet Reno and Bill Clinton."

    Having been in law enforcement as a police officer and police chief for thirty years before becoming commissioner for Clearwater County Bonner said, "I'm an old man and I've never been arrested in my life and I would sure hate to be arrested by FEMA for my first time."

    When approached for comment, an official in FEMA's Inspector General's office, the department conducting the raid on Clearwater County, would say only that it is agency policy that, "In any search warrant or arrest situation [FEMA] agents will wear protective vests." When asked if there is no differentiation made between governmental agencies (state, county or municipal) and groups that are reportedly violent in nature, like militias or paramilitary organizations, the official's abrupt response was that he was "...not going to go any further in discussing the policy." This entire incident raises the ominous specter of a federal government that has taken an adversarial posture toward the states, as if they were rivals for power or even outright enemies.

    Ten days after the flooding in February of last year, FEMA responded to the county's request for assistance and told them to repair their infrastructure and return it to county standards. Commissioner Bonner asked for written codes and guidelines for record keeping and procedures by which to comply with FEMA requirements. He was told that there is no such documentation. "Six months later, I asked the same question," Bonner said, "and they were saying, `You're not playing by the rules'...and to this day they have not produced one written instruction. We started the game," he added, "and then they made up the rules as they went along."

    Mayor Clay told The WINDS that he also "pointedly asked" for any documentation FEMA had that would guide them through the unfamiliar territory of the appropriation of government funds and, as did Commissioner Bonner, he received nothing. For a bureaucracy that runs on paperwork that defines the minutest requirements and procedures, this seems to raise considerably more questions than it answers--such as: to what purpose is FEMA's lack of specific, written guidelines in the use of disaster funding and record keeping? Do they intentionally create situations whereby they can maintain the leverage of intimidation over states and counties, illustrating to all the consequences of departing from the will of the federal government--even if that will is not revealed?

    "States have certain rights," Commissioner Bonner expressed, "that are being abridged by the federal government right now." Before Clearwater County ever again applies to FEMA for any kind of relief, he said, "I think we'll take a hard look at other sources."

    In response to their methods of procuring the county's and city's records, Mayor Clay also strongly stated, along with Bonner, that all their records were open and could be inspected at any time by anyone. The Mayor said that those files are their means to prove to FEMA that they qualify for disaster reimbursement. "Why would we hide something," Clay asked rhetorically, "that we need them to pay on? Does that make sense?"

    At this time, neither the mayor of Orofino, Idaho nor the commissioner for Clearwater County knows why they were treated as they were or what the Grand Jury is investigating.

    FEMA's action will potentially cause severe fiscal problems for Clearwater County which, to date, has spent, at FEMA's instruction, $1.1 million more than they have received in reimbursement for disaster relief. Commissioner Bonner expressed concern over the considerable tax burden that this would lay upon a county with a population of only 9,500 people if they do not receive what FEMA has promised.

    What has been brought to view about this federal agency by the Orofino incident is apparently only the tip of an iceberg. Created by President Carter under Executive Order #12148, FEMA's legal authorization is under Title 2, United States Code, Section 5121 called, "The Stafford Act." In a previous article, subtitled, "FEMA, The Velvet Hammer", The WINDS presented substantiated facts on the enormous power that this agency possesses. During our investigations into FEMA's virtual dictatorial authority during any declared national emergency, this office obtained a considerable quantity of information that, even though each item was received from more than one source, was deemed unusable because this reporter was unable to thoroughly corroborate the original sources. In light of the clearly heavy-handed approach and assumption of dominance that FEMA has taken, the rumors and allegations appear considerably more plausible.

   To many Americans various assertions of governmental crimes and conspiracies may seem imaginary. While most government workers see their own function as genuinely and sincerely protective of human rights, there are times when it is brought to one's attention that things are no longer as they have previously appeared. The Orofino raid has become one of those times. It may be only a short while until these matters will be seen in the light of a different and more accurate reality. Perhaps all who heretofore have summarily dismissed such ideas are in for a considerable surprise.

    The WINDS contacted FEMA's Director of Communications, Morrie Goodman, to present his agency's official response to those allegations and rumors. Mr. Goodman allowed only the mention of two of them before interrupting with, "That's enough. What I have to say is good for all of it," and issued a denial. "These things come probably from the same people who swear they've been visited by aliens....We go on with our important work for disasters, and that's about as much credence as we give it."

   Does this allow for the question as to whether this "important work for disasters" by the agency tasked with the welfare of American citizens during times of emergency is not now evolving into a system of creating "disasters" rather than merely responding to them?

   Are FEMA's actions in Clearwater County only a small but portentous sign of the emergence of a very large beast? Is Orofino only a beginning?

In the Protocols it is written: "There remains a small space to cross and the whole, long path we have trodden is now ready to close its cycle of the Symbolic Snake....When this ring closes, all the nation states...will be locked into its coil as in a powerful vice."

Recommended reading: "FEMA - The Secret Government" by Harry V. Martin


Written 7/31/97


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