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A Truce to Save Lives

Opinion Editorial
May 29, 1996

By Charles R. Duke

It is believed there is no public figure that has been more critical of the FBI than I have. Without rehashing old stories, the FBI received heavy, deserved criticism from not only me but also from many others, including Congress, for that agency’s handling of the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents.

Nothing has really changed about those incidents today. Instead of cleaning their ranks, the FBI promoted many of the administrators for those two incidents, effectively pouring salt into what many patriots believed was an open wound. Now, here was another incident in Brusett, Montana, threatening stability again between America’s citizens and their government.

The residents of the Clark Ranch represented themselves as patriots and constitutionists under attack for their ideology by the U.S. government. Close inspections reveals that few on the Clark Ranch are ideological zealots. Some are simply fugitives attempting to use constitutional obstructionism to avoid arrest and prosecution. Others are just anti-government-of-any-sort and find the Freeman story a convenient excuse to do nothing in response to the exercise of civil authority.

When I finally reached a point that I could no longer be ideologically neutral between the Freeman and the FBI, I left. Upon leaving, I praised the FBI for their handling of the situation with restraint and understanding. Many in the patriot and militia movements reacted with horror at my comments.

“Good grief!” they said, “Charlie has been co-opted by the FBI. His brain was washed with microwaves while there. He was handed a brown envelope full of money to say that.” There were other, even stronger, comments. None of these comments are true.

During discussions prior to my arrival at Brusett, I pointed out to the FBI that the Freemen and many other believe the FBI has no standing for police action there. The Montana Constitution, in face, prohibits their presence without the explicit request of the Governor. Studies show the FBI was never statutorily created or chartered. Thus, technically speaking, they do not exist.

You can imagine the FBI’s surprise at hearing all this from me. I explained, in Freemen terms, that the FBI agents are 14th Amendment citizens and not sovereigns as the Freemen claim to be. In the FBI’s world, I was speaking a foreign language. They had heard all of these terms but had no clue as to their meaning.

I explained that the Freemen objected to the jurisdiction of the admiralty court (distinguished by an American flag with the gold fringe around it), and, as sovereign citizens, wanted instead a Constitutional court. A court which allows an American flag with no gold fringe is believed by the Freemen to be bound by the Constitution, whereas an admiralty court follows admiralty rules – the rule of necessity – and Constitutional matters are not allowed.

To their credit, the FBI agreed that, if the residents of the Clark Ranch would leave the ranch of their own free will and allow civil authority, the FBI would be willing to step aside and allow processing by any civil authority of the Freemen’s choosing. This was a major concession by the FBI.

The Freemen negotiators wanted only a Common Law Grand Jury with only freeholders on the jury, that is people who have renounced their U.S. citizenship and proclaimed their sovereign status. Again, to the FBI’s credit, they were willing to, and did give serious consideration, as to how this might be offered. In effect, it would amount to the Freeman hand-picking their own jury. Of course, it is highly unlikely that would ever be offered, but it was at least seriously considered.

Throughout the negotiating process, it was the FBI and the sole Freeman, Edwin Clark, who contributed the most to constructive solutions. The FBI met every single request of the Freemen and the Freemen met none of the FBI’s. The other Freemen at the Ranch destroyed ideas rather than building them.

Certainly the FBI still has many problems as far as the patriot and militia community is concerned. They are learning, and showed signs of a great willingness to overcome the black marks of Ruby Ridge and Waco.

The FBI was also confronted with their own behavior, not just once, but many times during the course of my stay in Brusett. Both the FBI and I mutually agreed to set the highly emotional issues of Ruby Ridge and Waco aside temporarily and to work cooperatively to save lives and find a peaceful conclusion to the Brusett standoff. It is my belief that a true patriot could do no less.

It is a mark of the FBI’s character that they were willing to work with a critic such as myself to find a peaceful solution. It would have been a negative reflection on my own character had I not responded in kind.
Colorado State Senator Charles Duke is running for U.S. Senate and appeared at the Independence Institute’s May 24th Senate candidate debate.

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Copyright 2000 David B. Kopel