Another Justice Cover-Up

By Bovard, James | The American Spectator, December 1997 | Go to article overview

Another Justice Cover-Up


Bovard, James, The American Spectator


Ruby Ridge goes the way of the fundraising scandals.

While many are appalled that the Justice Department has degenerated into a White House puppet, few pay attention to the other ways in which the agency is proving its name an oxymoron. The Justice Department's continued stonewalling, obstruction of justice, and lying on Ruby Ridge exemplify its dedication to covering up crimes against the American people.

The case began more than five years ago, when an informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms entrapped Randy Weaver of Ruby Ridge, Idaho, into selling him two sawed-off shotguns. BATF officials made false reports to a federal prosecutor, who indicted Weaver. After Weaver received the wrong court date and did not show up for his trial, the U. S. Marshals Service (one of the four sub-agencies of Justice) obtained an arrest warrant. On August 21, 1992, after more than twenty intrusions onto Weaver's property, three U.S. marshals ambushed Weaver's 14- year old son and family friend Kevin Harris. Marshal Arthur Roderick shot the boy's dog, the boy fired back, and a firefight ensued in which marshal William Degan was killed. As Sammy Weaver ran from the scene towards the family's shack, Marshal Larry Cooper shot him in the back and killed him.

The next day, FBI snipers arrived on the scene and were given rules of engagement declaring that "any armed male adult observed in the vicinity of the Weaver cabin could and should be killed." Within an hour of the snipers taking position, every adult in the cabin was either dead or severely wounded, even though no one had offered any resistance. FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi shot Randy Weaver in the back as he stood outside his shack, then killed Vicki Weaver as she stood in the cabin doorway holding their ten-month-old baby. A federal jury found Weaver and co-defendant Kevin Harris innocent on almost all charges, and the federal government paid a $3.1 million wrongful death settlement to the Weaver family in 1995.

A confidential Justice Department report indicated that numerous federal officials may have obstructed justice, perjured themselves, or otherwise broken the law-but the Justice Department dropped its investigation in early 1995. In July of that year, after a public squabble between high-ranking FBI agents and the leaking of the Justice Department report, Michael Kahoe, the director of the Bureau's Violent Crimes and Major Offenders Section, was suspended on the suspicion that he had shredded a key document on the FBI's actions at Ruby Ridge. A month later, Deputy Director Larry Potts and four other high-ranking officials were suspended from their positions (with full pay)-on suspicions of having destroyed evidence, or for their role in issuing illegal rules of engagement. Naturally, a major investigation was launched amid all the usual solemn promises that no stone would be left unturned.

But last August 15-significantly on a Friday afternoon, with most news reporters off-duty-the Justice Department announced that it intended to file no criminal charges against high-ranking FBI agents in the Ruby Ridge case. The press release bespoke a typical Clinton administration investigation: after proudly bragging about the number of pages examined, computer disks checked, and people interviewed, it announced that there was nothing prosecutable that had not already been known at the beginning of the process. The announcement outraged many people, such as Sen. Charles Grassley, who believe that the government may still be covering up its role in the killing of Vicki Weaver.

From the beginning of this case, Justice Department officials have repeatedly lied about Ruby Ridge. Initial FBI internal reports contained such ludicrous claims as that Vicki Weaver had been in the front yard pointing her gun at a helicopter when she was gunned down. In the same spirit, Justice's official statement on the two-year investigation declares:

the little circumstantial evidence from which it could be argued that there may have been an intent [by FBI snipers] to use more force than was necessary was far outweighed by a significant amount of evidence that law enforcement had no such intention here. …

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