Randy Weaver has passed away. Three decades ago, he was entrapped by an ATF agent. Federal agents subsequently killed his son and wife. The Justice Department denied that anyone’s rights were violated but still paid a multi-million dollar settlement for the Weaver family’s wrongful death lawsuit.
Federal abuses at Ruby Ridge, the subsequent FBI cover-up, and the outrageous arguments that federal lawyers made in court to protect the FBI sniper helped awaken legions of Americans to the danger of boundless federal power.
On Aug. 22, 1992, FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi killed Vicki Weaver as she stood in the door of a cabin at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, holding her baby. The FBI initially claimed that killing Mrs. Weaver was justified and then later covered up key details and claimed it was accidental. FBI chief Louis Freeh pretended his agents had done nothing seriously wrong.
After an Idaho prosecutor indicted Horiuchi for manslaughter, the Clinton administration Justice Department swayed a federal court to dismiss the case based on the “supremacy clause” of the Constitution. But the Founding Fathers never intended for “federal supremacy” to nullify all of the Bill of Rights.
A federal judge captured the soul of the case in a dissent that warned of the new James Bond “007 standard for the use of deadly force” against American citizens. U.S. Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski summarized the case: “A group of FBI agents formulated rules of engagement that permitted their colleagues to hide in the bushes and gun down men who posed no immediate threat. Such wartime rules are patently unconstitutional for a police action.”
Though the FBI insisted its agents had behaved impeccably, the feds paid a $3 million wrongful death settlement to the Weaver family. A top FBI official was sent to prison for destroying key evidence in the case.
The FBI has become more powerful and more dangerous since Ruby Ridge.
After 9/11, the FBI turbo-charged its entrapment operations, compensating for its profound failures to detect the 9/11 plotters by generating endless headlines of crimes that its own agents had helped spawn. In 2016, the FBI interfered in a presidential election. Special Counsel John Durham may soon file charges on the FBI’s role in using false information to spur illegal surveillance of the Trump campaign.
Just before the 2020 election, the FBI announced that it had thwarted a high-profile plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but that court case is struggling badly after revelations that the FBI itself was at the heart of the scheme.
After the January 6 Capitol clash, FBI chief Christopher Wray jumped on the Biden administration bandwagon, labeling that ruckus as a domestic terrorism event. Across the nation, the FBI agents tracked down and interrogated anyone who was at that protest, and more than 500 people have been charged in federal court. The feds’ crackdown was spurred by presuming that “trespassing plus thought crimes equals terrorism.” But last Friday, a news report revealed that FBI agents had concluded that the allegations against most of those protestors were wildly overblown.
Ruby Ridge remains the key for understanding how the FBI is no longer leashed by the law.
James Bovard is the author of 10 books, including 2012’s “Public Policy Hooligan” and 2006’s “Attention Deficit Democracy.” He has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Washington Post, and many other publications. Republished from JimBovard.com.
Note: More columns from Bovard on Ruby Ridge can be found with the original post.