Special counsel to investigate armed EPA mining raid in Alaska

Alaska's governor, Sean Parnell, announced Thursday that a special counsel has been named to investigate raids by conducted by federal and state authorities near the town of Chicken.

"Alaskans deserve to know all the facts in this case," Parnell said in a Thursday press release. "While these facts are being gathered, I will continue to be vigilant in defense of Alaskans' liberty and personal property.

Anchorage attorney Brent Cole will be asked to determine, among other things, whether any laws were violated and if different actions could have been taken. The report is due within 90 days.

A spokesman for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, at the time, did not deny that agents wore body armor and carried guns, but said it was not a "raid." The task force included members from 10 state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Some miners, however, saw it differently.

"Imagine coming up to your diggings, only to see agents swarming over it like ants, wearing full body armor, with jackets that say "POLICE" emblazoned on them, and all packing side arms,” gold miner C.R. Hammond told the Alaska Dispatch after the incident. "How would you have felt? You would be wondering, 'My God, what have I done now?'"

Parnell has said federal enforcement officers were armed while looking for federal Clean Water Act violations during the raid and an investigator with the state Department of Environmental Conservation joined the agents.

The director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal investigation division has said meetings with miners were cordial and disputed any suggestion that state agency involvement came at the last minute.