April 3, 2013
Dear Dr. Colasante,
Thank you for contacting me regarding Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this issue.
The term SWAT team is commonly used to describe law enforcement personnel specially trained for high-risk operations, including confrontation with highly-armed criminals, performing hostage rescue or counterterrorism operations, and entering armored or barricaded buildings, among others. While SWAT teams have a legitimate purpose within the realm of law enforcement, I understand your concerns.
During my time in the Senate, I have led the effort to limit overzealous federal raids. In August 2011, agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Homeland Security raided the corporate headquarters and two factories of the Gibson Guitar Company. Agents from those agencies seized 24 pallets of Indian rosewood and ebony which had been imported into the United States. The agencies involved in the raid contended that Gibson was in violation of the Lacey Act, a conservation law that attempts to prohibit trafficking in "illegal" wildlife, fish and plants. Allegedly, because the wood was not "finished" in India, it was illegal to import and thus subject to confiscation.
It is long overdue that the Lacey Act be revised to address its broad overcriminalization, which currently exposes every American and American company to criminal prosecution and penalties based solely on a violation of foreign law. The Lacey Act's delegation of Congressional power to foreign governments runs afoul of Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which vests all legislative powers in the U.S. Congress. Moreover, enforcement actions such as the Gibson raid fail to satisfy the basic due process requirement of fair notice.
To correct this overly broad language, on Feb. 2, 2012, I introduced S. 2062, the Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures (FOCUS) Act of 2012, which removes each and every reference to "foreign law" within the Lacey Act and substitutes the Lacey Act's harsh criminal penalties with a reasonable civil penalty system. Federal law enforcement officials involved in the investigation of other federal crimes may continue to carry firearms, but because S. 2062 would decriminalize Lacey Act violations, there would be no need for federal law enforcement officials to conduct criminal investigations. These are common-sense reforms of a law that, as we have seen, threatens American jobs and is subject to abuse by overzealous prosecutors and activist judges. Although the FOCUS Act did not receive Senate consideration during the 112th Congress, I will continue to fight to see its passage during the 113th Congress.
In May 2012, I introduced an amendment to S. 3187, the Food and Drug Administration User Fee Reauthorization, which would curb the FDA's overreach and abuse of power by disarming the FDA, put an end to raids on natural food stores and Amish farmers, and stop FDA censorship of truthful claims of dietary supplements. Unfortunately, my amendment was defeated, but rest assured that I will continue to lead the fight against unnecessary raids and federal law enforcement overreach. Should any legislation addressing the use of SWAT teams come before me in the Senate, I will keep your thoughts in mind.
Once more, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance in the future. I look forward to hearing from you again.
Rand Paul, MD
United States Senator
United States Senator