With Vicki dead, Randy stayed at home to attend to the mothering of toddling Elisheba. Sometimes he lamented the fact that he fell short as a mother. he was and is a shy man. he usually does not want to talk to the press. He does not wish to be a symbol or a hero for any of the far right radical fringes with whom, he says, he would likely disagree. he lives on the meager pittance he receives from Social Security paid as a result of Vicki's death. He has not sold his rights to movies or books or to tabloid television. He wishes the death of his beautiful wife and his loving son to stand for something. And he grieves, and he is lonely and he struggles to forget, but he remembers that he is an American citizen, and that the rule of law was supposed to protect him and his family, and he tries to understand how, in America, the servants of the people became "the servants of the lawless," how federal officers who are charged with keeping the people safe, should become the killers of women and children, the innocent, whom the federal police are charged to protect. he wonders how, at last, these servants should become the people's fearful oppressors.
Still, Randy Weaver ponders in the night, as even have I. What lessons, what wisdom, what meaning we may glean from this horror that Randy Weaver and his children have endured at the hands of their own government?
Before the trial, and presumably to aid the prosecution at the trial, the FBI did a quick and dirty internal investigation that whitewashed the whole Randy Weaver affair. Nobody did anything wrong. The officers' acts, including the murders, were all sweet roses and tulips. But after the trial, at our urging and the urging of others, the Department of Justice assembled an investigative team consisting of a number of their top agents from around the country, as well as lawyers from the Department of Justice itself. The report of this team took over a years to assemble, and is a massive document of five hundred forty-two pages. It purports to discover what went wrong in the Randy Weaver case. It finds, among other things, that the FBI's "roses and tulips report" was inadequate and negligently done, and the agents responsible for this whitewash were either censured or reprimanded. One was suspended fifteen days. Two others were given letters of reprimand or censure but reportedly had already retired.
As for Ronald Howen, he was referred to the Executive Office for the United States Attorneys, the disciplinary arm of the United States Department of Justice, "for whatever action it deems appropriate." Howen was criticized for, among other things, "significant defects in the indictment" and for the lack of a proper review process that "would insure more relevant charges." The Deputy Attorney General's memorandum to Louis Freeh, the Director of the FBI, charged that Howen should not have rejected the marshal's plan to negotiate surrender terms with Weaver. That deficiency, and others, "forced the Marshal's Service to engage in extraordinary efforts to plan and execute a non-confrontational alternative to require Weaver to respond to the warrant. It was on the reconnaissance phase of the extraordinary plan that the confrontation occurred." The Justice Department further found that the U.S. Attorney's office "drafted an inappropriately broad and aggressive indictment" -- in plain words, they should not have thrown in the kitchen sink and asked for the death penalty -- and failed to provide for internal review thereof and that the U.S. Attorney's office engaged in misconduct before the grand jury (probably a reference to the explicit hearsay testimony concerning the supposed horrendous crimes of the Order which were totally unconnected to Randy Weaver.) But this should not have been any news to the Department of Justice, for in December, before the trial began, we had already filed a fully documented motion to disqualify Howen for misconduct, and we had petitioned the Department of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor, all of which was declined both by the court and the department. It was only after Randy Weaver had walked through and endured the painful coals of the trial that the Department of Justice, in effect, made many of the same findings after the trial that we had complained of before the trial had begun.
I am told that Howen, at this writing, is no longer prosecuting criminal cases and, instead, is employed by the civil division of the United States Attorney's Office. No disciplinary action has been taken against him as far as we know.
The Justice Department further found that the assumptions of the federal officers concerning Weaver -- "that he was a former green beret, that he would shoot on sight anyone who attempted to arrest him, that he had collected certain types of arms, that he had 'booby-trapped' and tunneled his property [which was utterly false but which was alluded to during the trial] exaggerated the threat he posed."
Eugene F. Glenn, the "On-Site Commander at Ruby Ridge," was censured for his "inadequate performance as On-Site Commander" in approving the new rules of engagement, and for his failure to adequately and personally address the poor working relationship with the United States Attorney's office. He received a fifteen-day suspension and was removed from his field command. The FBI claims Richard Rogers voluntarily left the Hostage Rescue Team. He was assigned to fieldwork. He was also suspended for ten days. The Department of Justice, despite the killings of two innocent people, a mother and son, did not choose to prosecute anyone. Yet this same government was only too eager to prosecute two of its citizens who had committed no legal wrongs at all, and was willing to manufacture and secrete evidence to accomplish the same.
At this writing Glenn claims that Larry Potts, then the Assistant Director of the FBI at FBI Headquarters in Washing, D.C. was fully aware of the new shoot-on-sight rule of engagement adopted for Ruby Ridge, and that Potts signed off on it, a claim which Potts now denies. Glenn identifies two other witnesses high up in the FBI who support his assertion. The FBI agent in charge of this internal investigation, one Charles Matthews, II, found that, "the rules of engagement are considered unconstitutional; therefore, there is no need to further discuss them." Potts was censured for failure to clearly define the rules of engagement, and then promptly promoted to Deputy Director of the FBI, the clear message to all in government and elsewhere being that if an agent of the FBI aborts the law by decree and such unconstitutional act results in the killing of innocent people, especially if the people harbor beliefs different from our own, those responsible persons at headquarters will be promoted, and those in the field who carry out the killings will only be censured and given a few days vacation without pay.
Lon Horiuchi, the trigger man, received neither suspension nor censure.
The came the cowardly bombing at Oklahoma City. The world has indeed changed. But as the world changes, our fervent love of freedom must not change. The federal police are not composed of the Andy Sutkas of the country. Perhaps none of the police ever were. The friendly quiet villages of my childhood, where people lived without fear and loved their neighbors and left their keys in the cars and their doors unlocked at night have mostly disappeared. The earth has become a dangerous place in which to live. But we must not surrender our simple faith in freedom, for freedom has always been risky, and its price has always been high.
Still, Lord Acton's sage rejoinder endures: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." When we face the heinous and dastardly tragedy of the Oklahoma City bombing, one of our first concerns becomes our protection. "Protect us," we beseech the government. "Protect us, the people from our enemies, from the fringes and the radicals and the crazies. Protect us from those who bear arms, from those who believe differently than we, from those we fear, whether we fear with justification or not. Protect us from our neighbors, from aliens, from terrorists, protect us from everyone, including ourselves."
And the government, the embodiment of power that years always for more power, responds, "Give the government more of your freedom. Freedom is the price you must pay for your safety. Let us tap your phones more easily. Let us break into your homes without warrants. Let us snoop and spy on you and your families and your neighbors. Let us have more police. Give the government more power." And out of the ethos, if one were to listen, one might hear the high sweet voices of Vicki and little Sammy whispering, "Listen once more to our story. Power is a dreadful disease. We were the victims of power. We were murdered by power. Give the government more agents? More agents to entrap you and to frighten you, to oppress you and to tell all measure of untruths against you, and, at last, more agents to murder you and to prosecute your family for crimes they did not commit?"
Or, perhaps, if you listen, you will hear nothing.
But have we not already identified the enemy of freedom? The enemies of freedom are not the fringes and the radicals and the crazies or those who want to own guns. We are the enemy. Our fear is the enemy -- our fear that would allow a couple of lunatic bombers at Oklahoma City to corner two hundred and fifty million of us with fear, in response to which and in exchange for the bald promise of protection, we are petitioned by the government to abdicate our freedom and renounce our sacred rights as free people.
The lesson of the Weaver trial must never become the vindication of Weaver's beliefs, but, instead, the need of all Americans freely to believe as they will, without risk of persecution by a government or by a majority or by a power clique. And to preserve this precious birthright we must dedicate our constant attention, our unmitigated courage and our purest full energy.
The enemy is, indeed, our fear of mad dogs like those who struck at Oklahoma City. Yet there have always been mad dogs in our society who will attack the innocent flock. But will there not also always be the willing, waiting wolf, the hungry wolf standing by who will offer to protect us from the mad dogs, if only we will deliver ourselves to the wolf?
Eternal vigilance is still the price of freedom, eternal vigilance, and today, more than ever, courage. For now, as always, it takes courage to remain free.