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Imbalance of Power

Opinion Editorial
September 21, 1999

By Linda Gorman

The lesson of the latest evidence in the Waco case is that powerful centralized governments endanger both life and liberty. The founding fathers of the United States knew this. Not content to rely on limiting the U.S. governments lawful activities, they also created multiple centers of power within it.

But limits do little without enforcement, and in the years since World War II, Americans have blithely shifted power from dispersed state and local authorities to centralized national ones. Today, imperious federal bureaucrats routinely cow greedy state officials by threatening to withhold federal monies. As a result, we drive at federally mandated speeds, learn federally mandated curricula, and pour the details of our lives into federally mandated data bases.

Federal officials ultimately serve their own interests. Giving them ever more power simply ensures that there will be nothing to stop them should they decide to use their power to line their own pockets and save their own skin, and one need look no farther than the Clinton administration and the Department of Justice to see just how much harm the corrupt use of power can cause.

Breaking the law and getting away with it is much easier if the agency charged with enforcing it looks the other way, and Mr. Clinton made the Department of Justice a personal fiefdom early in his administration. In what astute observers suspected was an attempt to disrupt ongoing investigations damaging to the Democratic party, Attorney General Janet Reno fired all 63 U.S. Attorneys when she took office. For good measure, Mr. Clinton also appointed Webster Hubbell, a partner in the Rose Law Firm later jailed for defrauding his clients, to the Departments third highest position.

The Reno Justice Department then proceeded to ruin White House Travel Office Director Billy Dale. Mr. Dale was fired by the Clintons, who wanted to award lucrative White House travel business to a couple of campaign loyalists. Embarrassed by the ensuing bad press, they had the Department of Justice prosecute Mr. Dale on trumped-up charges of embezzlement. A jury found him innocent in less than two hours. The “incident” cost Mr. Dale $500,000 that he didnt have, his job, and his privacy. [1]

More injustice followed the FBI slaughter of an unarmed woman and her son in the Ruby Ridge case in 1992. The Justice Departments “investigation” was quietly dropped in 1995. No action was taken against officials who wrote rules of engagement that a Senate Judiciary subcommittee termed blatantly unconstitutional, and Justice protected Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials who made false reports to a federal prosecutor. [2]

The Waco “investigation” appears to have followed the same pattern. We now know that the 1993 raid was scheduled to occur less than two weeks before the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms House Appropriations Committee hearings. BATF notified the newspapers that a major story was on the way, and assembled a photogenic force to lay siege to the Branch Davidian compound. The siege probably had little to do with public safety. Nine days before the raid, BATF agents indulged in a little shooting practice with Branch Davidian leader David Koresh. They went to his compound, he provided the ammunition, and they loaned him their guns. [3]

After six years of denying that it could have had anything to do with the fire that immolated more than 80 people, the Justice Department has now admitted that it did fire pyrotechnic devices into the Branch Davidian compound. It was forced into this admission because Mr. Bill Johnston, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, invited the Texas Rangers to help investigate the Waco tragedy. Much of the Waco evidence fortunately remained in the Rangers custody.

In 1998, Mike McNulty, a producer of the movie “WacoRules of Engagement,” was allowed to view the evidence. What he saw made him question the government denials. The Texas Rangers reexamined what they had. What they found made mincemeat of Justices story.

Justice responded by muzzling Mr. Johnston. Last month, in order to preserve the evidence, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith ordered the government to turn the Waco evidence over to him.

>Had all law enforcement authority been invested in the Justice Department, the Texas Rangers would not have conducted an independent investigation and the Justice Department would have had gotten away with its deception. Presumably it would have had even fewer qualms about killing innocent civilians the next time around.

Without the Rangers to set an independent standard for handling evidence, the Justice Department could have “edited” the evidence any way it wanted. Keep this in mind the next time someone recommends replacing existing institutions with the tender mercies of the federal government. In health care as in law enforcement, independent actors like private physicians and the Texas Rangers are indispensable if one wants to keep the federal government under control.

[1]MediaWatch, December 1995. “Whos Billy Dale?”
[2]James Bovard. December 1997. “Another Justice Cover-Up.” American Spectator, pp. 58-9.
[3]See David T. Hardys Waco homepage http://www.indirect.com/www/dhardy/waco.html. For the BATF report describing the incident see http://www.indirect.com/www/dhardy/DK_Shooting.html.

For more on Waco see the Independence Institute’s Waco page, http://www.davekopel.org/waco.htm. Linda Gorman is a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colorado.

This article, from the Independence Institute staff, fellows and research network, is offered for your use at no charge. Independence Feature Syndicate articles are published for educational purposes only, and the authors speak for themselves. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of the Independence Institute or as an attempt to influence any election or legislative action.
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