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From killings to cover-ups, rogue agency has no place in free nation
By Vin Suprynowicz
The FBI has been much in the news, of late. Federal agents don't hesitate to arrest and imprison licensed gun-shop owners if they're careless enough to "lose" firearms recorded on their books -- especially if one or more turn out to have been used in a crime. But on the eve of congressional oversight hearings, officials revealed last month that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is in precisely that posture: 184 of their weapons have been stolen and 265 "lost," one of those illegally transferred weapons having been used in a homicide and many being fully automatic submachine guns.
(One hundred eighty-four laptop computers are also missing, at least one containing classified material.)
FBI agents led away in chains? Dream on.
A one-time misstep?
John E. Roberts, himself an agent with the FBI's internal watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that approximately 140 high-ranking FBI agents from around the country attended the retirement bash of disgraced former Deputy Director Larry Potts back in 1997. To get the federal government to pay for their travel, many of those FBI big-wigs signed up for (ironically enough) an "ethics conference" scheduled for the next day in Quantico, Va. -- though only five of the party-going federal police actually showed up for the seminar.
Mind you, this is the supposedly elite agency designated to enforce our nation's highest laws -- supposed paragons of civic virtue and examples of selfless service to little children everywhere.
If Potts' name is familiar it's because it was he who approved the outrageous "shoot-any-adult-who-moves" rules of engagement which led FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi to assassinate the unarmed Vicki Weaver as she stood in her kitchen holding her baby at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, nine years ago.
(Undercover federal ATF agents had entrapped her husband, Randy Weaver, into a minor firearms violation concerning the length of a wooden shotgun stock -- then offered to go easy on him if he agreed to infiltrate and snitch on the members of a neighboring church -- their goal from the start.
After Weaver refused, U.S. marshals with fully automatic military rifles but carrying no warrant entered the family's property, shooting and killing both Weaver's 12-year-old son Samuel and the family dog. One marshal was shot in self-defense -- an Idaho jury ruled that killing justified.)
If Agent Roberts' name is familiar it's because it was he who was subjected to threats and retaliation by FBI higher-ups for conducting a thorough investigation of those Ruby Ridge killings.
The government was later held by a civil jury to have wrongfully caused the deaths of Vicki Weaver and her teen-age son, and was required to pay the family more than $1 million in damages. Justice Department officials last year called for the disciplining of FBI Director Louis Freeh and three other FBI honchos after they learned of the attempts to block Agent Roberts' inquiry into the agency's homicidal misconduct at Ruby Ridge, but that recommendation was overruled in the waning days of the corrupt and bribe-riddled Clinton administration.
FBI agents who spent years exposing the agency's misconduct at Ruby Ridge told the Washington Post that Clinton Assistant Attorney General Stephen Colgate's refusal to discipline Freeh and others was "outrageous" and "a whitewash."
Ruby Ridge was "a textbook example of (FBI) abuses," Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a recent statement. (The committee learned of Colgate's decision only last month.)
These problems, of course, come hot on the heels of the Bureau's still inexplicable failure to provide thousands of "discovery" documents to Timothy McVeigh's lawyers (McVeigh was unpopular enough that the government decided it was politically safe to execute him, anyway); the bizarre Robert Hanssen spy case; the Branch Davidian massacre by fire at Waco, Texas; and the botched investigation of former nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee -- in the end never even charged with espionage but meantime buffaloed into signing English-language statements which he probably did not understand and which the Bureau then incorrectly represented as "confessions."
(There's little doubt the Red Chinese received much classified American technology during the time in question. There's also little doubt who gave it to them -- President Bill Clinton, overruling the advice of his own departments of State and Defense after receiving million in "laundered" Red Chinese campaign contributions.)
The Founding Fathers never intended for our central government to have its own federal police force, and thus created none. Though it dates from the days of Teddy Roosevelt, the FBI was a small agency of extremely limited function until J. Edgar Hoover led it to prominence fighting the bootleggers of the 1920s.
The Bureau might have dwindled away again after alcohol was re-legalized, but the cross-dressing Hoover and his boyfriend and assistant chief, Clyde Tolson, developed a legendary expertise at assembling classified dossiers on congressional leaders, the better to blackmail them into assuring the agency's continued (and ever-expanding) funding.
Hoover -- who denied the existence of the Mafia and was extremely reluctant to aid the fight for Civil Rights in the South in the 1960s, who knew or should have known of the plans of New Orleans mobsters to assassinate President Kennedy but did nothing to inform either the president or Attorney General Robert Kennedy (whom Hoover despised) -- is still honored with his name on the Bureau's Washington headquarters.
What are the FBI's legitimate functions? Maintaining a central index of the fingerprints of known felons (though I suspect the number of suspects thus apprehended is grossly exaggerated), chasing foreign spies, and doing background checks on prospective employees of secure federal facilities (though "We do FBI background checks on far too many people ... jobs that aren't really security-related" U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., told me last week.)
Which of these legitimate functions could possibly lead a federal bureau to dispatch a military sniper to shoot an Idaho housewife through the throat as she stood holding her baby in her own kitchen? Which could lead it to dispatch agents to inject toxic gases in flammable suspension from armored vehicles into a Texas church full of women and children, leading to a fire which killed dozens of innocent citizens ... all over the invented suspicion that the church's leader might have failed to pay a $200 tax?
A free nation has no need of an agency which undertakes such pursuits. "Reforming" the FBI is unlikely to change the agency's nature, or increasingly misguided mission. Its few legitimate functions should be divested to other agencies, and the FBI should be closed -- its headquarters razed and converted into a park.
With a statue of Vicki Weaver.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter by sending $72 to Privacy Alert, 561 Keystone Ave., Suite 684, Reno, NV 89503 -- or dialing 775-348-8591. His book, "Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998," is available at 1-800-244-2224, or via web site www.thespiritof76.com/wacokillers.html.
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