[Rushtalk] William Barr's connection to Ruby Ridge--defending FBI snipers

Carl Spitzer {C Juno} cwsiv at juno.com
Sat Jan 19 07:38:13 MST 2019

Published: Jan 16, 2019
Author: James Bovard

Trump's AG pick was top cop during the federal siege and killing of
Randy Weaver's wife and son.

(Washington Post)

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Attorney General nominee
William Barr have focused heavily on Barr's views on Special Counsel
Robert Mueller. But nobody is asking about Barr's legal crusade for
blanket immunity for federal agents who killed American citizens.

Barr received a routine questionnaire from the Judiciary Committee
asking him to disclose his past work including pro bono activities
"serving the disadvantaged." The "disadvantaged" that Barr spent the
most time helping was an FBI agent who slayed an Idaho mother holding
her baby in 1992. Barr spent two weeks organizing former Attorneys
General and others to support "an FBI sniper in defending against
criminal charges in connection with the Ruby Ridge incident." Barr also
"assisted in framing legal arguments advanced... in the district court
and the subsequent appeal to the Ninth Circuit," he told the committee.

That charitable work (for an FBI agent who already had a federally-paid
law firm defending him) helped tamp down one of the biggest scandals
during Barr's time as Attorney General from 1991 to early 1993. Barr was
responsible for both the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, two federal agencies whose misconduct at Ruby Ridge
"helped to weaken the bond of trust that must exist between ordinary
Americans and our law enforcement agencies," according to a 1995 Senate
Judiciary Committee report.

After Randy Weaver, an outspoken white separatist living on a
mountaintop in northern Idaho, was entrapped by an undercover federal
agent, U.S. marshals trespassed on Weaver's land and killed his
14-year-old son, Sammy. The following day, FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi
killed his wife, Vicki, as she was standing in the cabin doorway.
Horiuchi had previously shot Randy Weaver in the back after he stepped
out of the cabin. The suspects were never given a warning or a chance to
surrender and had taken no action against FBI agents. Weaver survived.

After an Idaho jury found Weaver not guilty on almost all charges,
federal judge Edward Lodge slammed the Justice Department and FBI for
concealing evidence and showing "a callous disregard for the rights of
the defendants and the interests of justice." A Justice Department
internal investigation compiled a 542-page report detailing federal
misconduct and coverups in the case and suggested criminal charges
against FBI officials involved in Ruby Ridge.

Barr told the New York Times in 1993 that he was not directly involved
in the Ruby Ridge operation. Two years later, the Washington Post
revealed that "top officials of the Bush Justice Department had at least
20 [phone] contacts concerning Ruby Ridge in the 24 hours before Vicki
Weaver was shot," including two calls involving Barr.

In January 1995, FBI director Louis Freeh announced wrist slaps for the
FBI officials involved, including his friend Larry Potts, who supervised
the operation from headquarters and who approved the
shoot-without-provocation orders that "contravened the constitution of
the United States," according to the Justice Department internal report.
When Attorney General Janet Reno later nominated Potts for deputy
director of the FBI, top newspapers and members of Congress protested
but Barr told the New York Times that his friend Potts "was deliberate
and careful, and I developed a great deal of confidence in his
judgment... I can't think of enough good things to say about him." A few
months later, the FBI suspended Potts after suspected perjury regarding
Ruby Ridge. (Potts was not charged and retired two years later.)

The Justice Department paid $3 million to settle a wrongful death
lawsuit from the Weaver family. But when Boundary County, Idaho filed
criminal charges against Horiuchi, Barr sprang to action seeking
immunity for FBI snipers. He spearheaded efforts to sway the court to
dismiss all charges because holding a sniper liable would "severely
undermine, if not cripple, the ability of future attorneys general to
rely on such specialized units in moments of crisis such as hostage
taking and terrorist acts."

8 Questions Senators Must Ask William Barr on Executive Power

When the Justice Department won an initial appeals court victory in the
case in 2000, federal judge Alex Kozinski warned in a dissent of a new
James Bond "007 standard for the use of deadly force" against American
citizens. The same court reversed that decision the following year.
Kozinski, writing for the majority, declared: "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."

Does William Barr still endorse "wartime rules" and a "007 standard"
that absolve federal agents for questionable shootings of Americans?
Does Barr consider "illegal government killings" to be an oxymoron? Best
of all, can Barr explain to us his understanding of the phrase
"government under the law"?

James Bovard is the author of Lost Rights, Attention Deficit Democracy,
and Public Policy Hooligan. He is also a USA Today columnist. Follow him
on Twitter @JimBovard. 

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