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Eye Opener: Attacks on Federal Employees

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Updated 7:03 a.m. ET

Happy Wednesday! Local, state and federal officials continue to investigate the death of Census Bureau employee William Sparkman, 51, found dead on Sept. 12 in the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Sparkman's son Josh has told the AP that he's frustrated with the slow pace of the investigation. Police and FBI searched Sparkman's home, but have not provided any information on the search, the son said.

It is a federal crime to attack or kill a federal worker during or because of their job and government employees regularly face threats due to the nature of their work. Officials insist they have no information suggesting Sparkman was targeted because of his federal employment, but the slaying has raised concerns about the safety of federal employees.

The Justice Department had filed 277 such cases against 299 defendants as of August, according to spokesman Ian McCaleb. It prosecuted 303 cases against 330 defendants in FY '08, 326 cases against 348 defendants in FY '07 and 313 cases filed against 329 defendants in FY '06. McCaleb could not provide details about specific employees or agencies targeted or the number of successful prosecutions.

Union leaders have suggested that statements by lawmakers and commentators about the federal workforce may also be to blame.

"Perhaps, if more of our leaders had talked over the years about the dedication of the federal workforce, and shown us more of the appreciation and trust we deserve, this terrible event might not have happened," said Bill Schauman, president of AFGE Local 2782, which represents workers at Census Bureau headquarters in Suitland.

Other AFGE officials privately expressed concern about anti-government rhetoric, while other union leaders say the threats seem more situational.

"I really think it depends on the agency and the part of the country," said National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley. Her union represents IRS agents and Customs and Border Protection officers that frequently face threats from delinquent taxpayers or unruly passengers.

"We're always looking for ways to improve personal and building security for employees," she said, noting the union always requests more funding for personal and building security, including better perimeter lighting and security equipment.

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry has also expressed concern and said his agency will devote any and all resources necessary if investigators conclude Sparkman was targeted.

"We cannot tolerate essentially domestic terrorism, if that is what this is. But until we understand the law enforcement investigation, we don’t know," Berry said last week.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cabinet and Staff News: The White House renominates a nominee. Is the relationship between Gen. Ray Odierno and Ambassador Christopher Hill deteriorating rapidly? Education Secretary Arne Duncan takes his school reform pitch on the road. Deputy assistant secretary of state spent six days in Cuba for talks. Bernard Kerik's lawyers can't mention 9/11 at this corruption trial. Former Reagan aide tied to Iran-Contra helping the Sudanese government.

Smithsonian Offers Buyout Packages: It's a voluntary buyout to all agency employees to to reduce its workforce, meet its tightened budget goals and restructure the organizationmatch the principles of its new strategic plan.

OPM: Senior Execs Earned Higher Raises, Bonuses in ’08: Members received an average pay raise of 3.7 percent in FY' 08, more than the average 3.6 percent in FY '07.

DOD to Allow Troops, Family to Use Social Network Sites: A memo written by Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn III and due out in days solidly backs the use of social network sites for both official and unofficial purposes.

Pentagon Set To Vaccinate Troops, Assist In Flu Crisis: Officials also said that as many as 400 troops are ready to assist federal health and emergency management officials around the country if needed as the flu season heats up.

U.S. to Send Home More Troops From Iraq: Army Gen. Ray Odierno said in remarks prepared for a congressional hearing Wednesday that the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq will total about 120,000 over the next month.

Immigration Crackdown With Firings, Not Raids: Officials said they would now focus on employers, primarily wielding the threat of civil complaints and fines, instead of raids and worker deportation.

SEC Proposes Changes to Prevent Another Madoff: The agency watchdog recommends a new system for handling the thousands of tips and complaints the agency receives and other changes. The plan also includes making it easier for junior-level enforcement attorneys to bring their concerns to top managers.

FCC Puts Universal Fast-Internet Cost at $350 Billion: The conclusion is part of the agency's initial report after having held dozens of public meetings and collecting thousands of comments on its national broadband plan, which is due in February.

FCC: Internet Speeds Often Slower Than Advertised: The agency also reports that actual broadband speeds lag advertised speeds by as much as 50 percent to 80 percent.

Lack of Equity Slows Federal Aid Program: A program to allow borrowers with little or no equity in their homes to refinance is struggling to gain traction, according to government data released Tuesday, showing that only 93,070 borrowers have been helped since the effort was launched in April.

Nanomaterials Under Study by the EPA: The agency detailed its plans on Tuesday for research into the possible health and environmental risks of nanomaterials, tiny substances that are finding growing use in products like sunscreens and industrial adhesives.

Officials Outline Challenges of Joining Procurement Databases: A plan to integrate the government’s numerous procurement databases must overcome problems that have made data inaccessible, incomplete, inaccurate and out of date, lawmakers and watchdogs caution.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | September 30, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Census, Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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Eye Opener: Attacks on Federal Employees

What a bunch of pansies! "I'M just so SPECIAL! I get paid by the taxpayer so I should get special treatment!"

Why doesn't the 'GOVERNMENT' prosecute ALL crimes against everyone instead of concentrating ONLY on crimes again their workers. A dead person is still dead regardless of who they work for. There are so many 'special' cases these days the ordinary 'non-special' person can just forget trying to get justice from the government.

I say prosecute them all and apply the same laws to everyone and ACTUALLY ENFORCE THE LAWS WE HAVE!

Posted by: joeblotnik49 | September 30, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

There is an amount of hate in the "Deep Red States" that is hard to fathom from the confines of the Beltway. Rwanda-style hate radio permeates these poor, rural communities and fans the flames of their rage.

The shame of it is that, unlike Rwanda, the profit motive is the root cause of all these violence-inciting hate messages. Radio and TV have moved on from the 1980's style "shock jock" to a 21st century invention: the ratings-driven political provocateur. The format is lucrative, and "on-air talent" is competing to see who can have the most outrage-inspiring, over-the-top political rant. All for the money.

An interesting failure mode for our sad, tattered democracy.

Posted by: DupontJay | September 30, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Liberals are already screaming that Beck, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, et al. are DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE for Sparkman's death, but let's face it, the most likely scenario is that he was mistaken for a DEA agent in an area where the DEA has been hunting down and closing meth labs for years. (Even if the murderers realized that Sparkman wasn't a DEA agent, it didn't matter; they couldn't release him since he would have information about them and where they were operating. They had to kill him.)

Posted by: WashingtonDame | September 30, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

For the most part I don't think that Federal Workers are anymore at risk of being killed than most citizens who are not Federal workers. Sure the media and our own Congress, Senate and population have over time gotten a bad impression of a Federal worker and that has or may have caused some groups to hate us or rage about us Federal workers. To say that as a group we are privileged is by far untrue. Federal workers go to work each and every day to give and do work at a much lower pay rate than the civilian counterpart in the normal work place. So like everything else there are tradeoffs. Now can anyone say in a civilian job they don't have some who don't pull their own load, who are lazy and just slackers... I think not every work place has workers like this no matter where you are and Federal work sites are no exceptions. It's just much easier for citizens of our great country to find a scrape goat and Federal workers are an easy target for hate and bad words. It’s such a shame that people as a whole have to find someone else to blame for the trouble or hard times they are in. Look around you and understand we are all in the same boat in one way or the other there are differences sure but until you walk in my shoes who are you to judge who and what I am? I don't judge you or say you a bad group because of a group mentality why would you do that to Federal workers? It's really sad that our citizenry has contributed to this attitude and continues to go down this path. Get a life, live your life and do the best you can. Don't live to be someone else or be someone else. Enjoy your family, neighborhood and friends along with being proud you are an American who is free and can say whatever you want because there are places where that is not true and just is not tolerated. Good luck in all you do and I hope you find happiness in your life rather than to find some group, be that, Federal, religion or whatever to be the bad guys so you can feel better about yourself.

Posted by: Concerned5 | September 30, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

To jblotnik, respectively, you are missing the point. By making it a federal crime to attack a fed performing official duties for the United States, proper jurisdiction for investigation and prosecution are ensured.

If a fed is enforcing federal law or health and safety actions in a sparcely populated region/county, and is attacked by a local - perhaps a person who knows local law enforcement officials or judges, what do you think the chance of fair enforcement will be?

If a federal corruption investigation of a local sheriff is halted by the murder of the federal investigator, who would you trust to investigate the murder? Federal investigators or the local sheriff (who was the subject fo the investigation)?

These issues have come up in thousands of cases and with precedence, built case law and our current legal jurisdictions.

Petty hostility and angst towards federal employees working in the interest of the United States of America is inappropriate. I question the motives and loyalty of those who would attack federal employees, in any form.

Posted by: free-donny | September 30, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

In this country we are all created equal, but certain professions and occupations are targeted and as a result they may need to be PROSECUTED separately. I work for the federal govenrment and because of that fact their are a lot of flag waving social impotents that may want to put a bullet in me for that reason alone. No one in the federal government puts their life above any other Americans, but there is a higher standard placed on federal workers and as such the least the law can do is make it a special circumstance to murder us for who our employer is. I wish this country did not have special circumstances and that every corpse could be treated the same, but I live in the real world and so do we all.

Posted by: kirk2trek | September 30, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Mr. O'Keefe, Thanks for doing the live chat the other day.

FYI, There is an interesting "blogosphere" vs. MSM aspect to the William Sparkman story.

A blogger R.S. McCin who blogs as "the Other McCain", drove from Washington DC to Manchester KY on Monday. McCain is "reporting" from KY through his blog and the American Spectator.

He may be grandstanding, I do not know what his motives are but I find the new media vs old media story fascinating.

Posted by: BBKey | September 30, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I am a federal employee in Oklahoma which is home of the second worst case of terrorism in our history and was also directed at federal employees. It is quite concerning that there is such a level of hate and despisement of the federal government here after this attack, especially on the conservative radio talk shows which subtly threatens violence against the government if things dont change. What is even more unusual is this state is primarily dependent on federal facilitities for its existence. If all the major military and other federal centers were to leave Oklahoma the state would crash. Our cabinet level leadership needs to understand the threat and let us protect ourselves accordingly.

Posted by: gwtfo | September 30, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

People who hate the country like Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and all the other hateful, violent right wing whack jobs are responsible for this, along with just about all of the people who've been elected to lead the government.

Instead of owning up and blaming themselves, they put money and hate into paying people to shout loudly that it's somehow all the fault of people who signed on to help out other Americans.

The GOP and it's rabble of angry crazed nuts will stop at nothing short of a civil war to get their way. When it comes right down to it, they're happy to toss law and order out the window to get what they want.

Starting from the 60's and moving forward until today, who has shot more people & blown up / burned more buildings, the Left or the Right? There is a track record here, and I'd be really curious to see how it turned out. On the Left, they gotta own the environuts, and the Right has to own the pseudo-fascists of all flavors...

I really would like to see which party has the greater problem with crazy violent whackos.

Posted by: timscanlon | September 30, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

While federal employees deserve our thanks for their service, they are no more in harms way than the workforce at large, according to stats. And they are a lot more insulated from job loss and financial shocks, as well as more physically secure in their workplaces. It should remain a federal crime to attack them while working, but it is a crime to do harm to anyone while working. I grieve for Mr. Sparkman, not because he was a fed doing his job, but because, it appears, he was attacked brutally and for no reason. That is enough. The fed thing is being seized by the self-licking unions, which is a sign it is not merited in this case.

Posted by: axolotl | September 30, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Nothing personal, feds, but hatred is just part of the conservative philosophy. conservatives need scapegoats to hate, and y'all are it.

Remember when G Gordon Liddy ranted about "head shots" to federal agents? Nothing happened to him. Now we see what it leads to.

Posted by: Garak | September 30, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

And BTW, isn't there a new law that lets nutcases bring guns into national parks? The attack happened in the Daniel Boone NATIONAL Forest. It would be a real shame if some federal agent could have stopped the killers from bringing guns into the national forest.

If there is no such law, where's the NRA? Why isn't it fighting for the rights of criminal killers to bear arms?

Posted by: Garak | September 30, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks Sparkman was killed by drug-manufacturers/dealers is too stupid to be allowed near a computer. Drug operations in back woods rely on SECRECY and INCONSPICUOUSNESS to function. If a drug operative at any level did this, he's already dead.

Sparkman was found with the word "FED" scrawled (carved?) on his chest, hanged, bound and with his Census Bureau ID taped to his head. Nobody can seriously claim this was anything but a homicide.

I'm hoping that the Fed's are throwing out this "accident" nonsense (and Sparkman's son is playing along) as a way to lure the perpetrators out into the open. That would be smart, at least. And it shouldn't take a whole lot of smart to catch and interrogate the yahoos who did this.

Because this was a lynching - plain and simple, performed in a part of the country that has a history of such things. It could have been a couple of backwoods hicks, it could have been a whole Klan/Sheriff's Dept. contingent. It may have been incited by Beck and Limbaugh or it may be part of a home-grown movement. That's what an investigation needs to find out.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | September 30, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

My sympathy to Mr. Sparkman's family. Hopefully, the investigation will conclude with a successful prosecution of a suspect.
Having worked this year in an early phase for the 2010 census, I found out that people are sometimes hesitant/fearful of talking to anyone with an id badge. The first assumption is that the badge is indicative of a law enforcement presence. Folks would come out of their door and off the porch to speak with you. This case seems to be a possible situation of being too close to whatever was happening in his census area. If he was wearing the badge, presumably he was on duty.
Federal employees are not guaranteed any greater physical safety than those in the private sector. In my career agency job, we had members of the public come in daily. There was no metal detector, so the security guard had to ask people whether they carried a knife or weapon, and then request that it be carried out. We still had no metal detectors even after employees in another agency office in the state were attacked by a man with a knife.
Regardless, whether federal employee or not, a person's untimely death should be resolved.

Posted by: retiredfed08 | September 30, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Let's let the inbreds and yayhoos fly their confederate flags, own all the guns they wish, chew 'baccy, and leave the union again.

We won't fight them to reunite this time.

They're being led around by the nose to be anti-government, so let them live government-less, if they wish. Let them pick up their own trash, build/fix their own roads and pay all their people who are on welfare, food stamps, medicaid, social security.

Don't let the door hit ya, rubes!
Be sure to camp out on Glen Beck's and Sean Hannity's lawn when the money gets tight and you need services. They've made gobs of money off you.

We're done with you.

ps-we don't need no stinkin' extradiction treaty with you - we'll drag your Census worker murdering butts right into the real world here in the USofA, try you in our courts and then kill you.

Posted by: lquarton | September 30, 2009 11:49 PM | Report abuse

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