By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Rational discourse is not the basis of the militia movement. Theirs is a religion; as such, it is beyond common sense.
Deep-faith patriots are almost mystical in their anger against the federal government and Bill Clinton.
Last summer, Ron Elliot, a resident of Wickenburg and a friend of Cheryl Burgess, left town headed for the remote village of Crown King in the nearby Bradshaw Mountains. He had a case of dynamite strapped to his back.
Though stricken with cancer, Elliot did not focus upon his illness when he talked to sheriff's deputies who tried to prevent the man's suicide. The former Green Beret Vietnam veteran told the lawmen that he was furious at President Clinton's participation in Europe's V-E Day celebration of the triumph over Nazi Germany. The despondent veteran was enraged that Clinton, who ducked the war in southeast Asia, participated in a military observance.
After explaining his thoughts, Elliot detonated the dynamite.
There wasn't enough left of him to hold a closed-thimble service.
It would be a mistake to build a case against President Clinton's policies based upon the demented actions of one man.
So, too, it is a mistake to build federal policy upon the deranged behavior of Timothy McVeigh, even if Bill Clinton could connect McVeigh to the militia movement, which he cannot.
You do not stop psychopaths with wiretaps.
There is a national sentiment, reflected in the polls, to crack down on the patriots, the militias, the white supremacists and other fellow travelers in the aftermath of the 168 bodies recovered in Oklahoma City.
Commenting on the bill, ACLU's legislative director Lauren Murphy Lee labeled it "one of this country's periodic descents into hysteria and overreaction."
Under Clinton's legislation, foreigners could be deported without the government showing cause. You'd have to take the government's word that something was wrong. The potential for abuse of American citizens is just as bad.
The civil liberties watchdogs are particularly concerned that Clinton's bill would allow the FBI to infiltrate organizations without any reasonable proof that a federal law was broken, which the ACLU says is "a radical departure from current rules."
It was just such a departure that created one of the militia movement's martyrs.
In 1992, the BATF tried to force Randy Weaver, a man with no criminal record, to infiltrate a neo-Nazi group. A BATF informant had convinced Weaver, who barely made ends meet for his family, to saw off two shotgun barrels shorter than the law allowed and sell the weapon to the informant. Using this firearms violation as leverage, the BATF then tried to make a snitch of Weaver, an admitted white separatist.
After Weaver declined, then missed his court date, six marshals sneaked onto his property. The family dog raised a ruckus as the half-dozen strangers advanced, camouflaged and faces painted. When Weaver's 14-year-old son and a friend went to investigate, the marshals shot the dog dead. The two young men returned fire, killing a marshal. The 14-year-old in turn was shot to death. Later, lawmen would wound Weaver and kill his wife in a doorway as she held their ten-month-old daughter.
A grand jury eventually absolved Weaver of any wrongdoing except his failure to make his initial court appearance.
In the uproar over the National Rifle Association's clumsy fund-raising letter that identified federal agents as "jackbooted thugs," the public and the press have completely lost sight that militia members and patriots have legitimate beefs with the conduct of federal agents.
It wasn't the NRA fund-raising letter that blew the whistle on the excess of federal agents.
On January 10, 1994, Ira Glasser, executive director of the ACLU, contacted President Clinton seeking relief.
Glasser wrote that there were numerous cases, some of which he detailed, that merited investigation. He cited chapter and verse, case after case, of lying informants, entrapment, outrageous and forcible entry ending with wanton killing by federal agents.
In the summer of 1991, I covered the prosecution of Earth First! in Prescott, Arizona. The FBI infiltrated the environmental group when a handsome agent pitched romance to a lonely woman who sometimes fantasized about striking a blow for Mother Nature. The band of eco-warriors was arrested, prosecuted and sent to prison when its members tried to topple a power line linked to a nuclear energy plant.
The deed would never have come to pass without the FBI agent who channeled the group's unfocused anger into action; the agent fanned the heated dialogue, supplied the tools, as well as the car and even the gas to fuel the trip. Not content to jail the perpetrators, the government reached out and charged the national founder of Earth First!, Dave Foreman.
As part of a chilling plea agreement, the federal government insisted upon silencing Foreman's articulate voice. He was ordered never to talk again of Earth First!.
In legal circles, the conduct of federal agents is no secret.
Randy Weaver wasn't represented in court by a right-wing paranoid. His lawyer was Gerry Spence.