Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Did the Wall put us in danger?

As Captain Ed reports here, people in a position to know were keenly aware of the dangers of reducing the visibility of intelligence throughout the government.

A "wall" had been put in place, putting restrictions on how intelligence could be shared between law enforcement agencies and federal intelligence agencies.

This "wall" was certainly a reaction to the furor over the siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, in 1993. There was concern that the involvement of federal troops might have violated the Posse Comitatus law. Though the FBI and BATF were the agencies running things on the ground, military units provided some support and logistics to the siege. (Under the rubric of "drug assistance". A little dodgy, if you ask me, and was part of the furor.)

A 1999 GAO report (PDF) concluded the support was legal, citing several statutes in Appendix II, starting on page 26. One statute cited explained "Section 1004 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1991 authorized the Secretary of Defense to provide the support of active military units for the counterdrug activities 'of any other department or agency of the Federal Government or of any State, local, or foreign law enforcement agency.'" Another statute cited is the Reagan era 1981 law codified 10 USC 371-78.

These subtleties were generally lost on the public, though, and the political upheaval following the Waco siege was enormous.

The Posse Comitatus Act dates to the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, was intended to prevent Federal troops from acting as law enforcement officers. It arose out of a concern for Federal troops being present during elections in former Confederate states.

I mention this because the Branch Davidians were related, if in an indirect way, to a larger separatist movement. A history of this movement is beyond my reach, but such groups got a fair amount of attention in the 1990s. "Militias" were much in the news.

Going back further, one such group literally called themselves "Posse Comitatus". This group refused to recognize the authority of the federal government. In fact, they didn't recognize the authority of any law enforcement agency higher than county sheriff. As such, Posse members refused to pay taxes, they didn't recognize the obligation to get drivers licenses. They wanted a return to the gold standard, and didn't recognize the Federal Reserve. They saw themselves as "sovereign citizens".

This group became known nationwide when one of its members, Gordon Kahl, his son and a few others, resisted arrest and killed two federal marshals near Medina, North Dakota, on February 13, 1983. Kahl fled to Arkansas, where he was killed in a shootout on June 3, 1983, A local sheriff was also killed in that engagement.

(Ironically, the governor of Arkansas at the time was Bill Clinton. Did this and the Waco siege play a factor in the decision to put up the wall?

The first brick in the wall came in a March 1995 memo. Then, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City happened in April 1995. The wall was then strengthened in a July 1995 memo. Again, were strong restrictions related to a fear of enflaming radical domestic parties with federal involvement?)

The Clinton Administration did not erect this wall solely out of a desire to assuage the sensitivities of these separatist groups. As was typical of President Clinton, there was a desire to avoid confrontation, to not ruffle feathers, to hide our eyes from what was going on in the world and pretend the danger wasn't real. The wisdom of that strategy become apparent on September 11, 2001.

Austin Bay calls for some presidential leadership on this issue.
Vox Taciturn has a summary here, and commentary here.
Patrick Ruffini comments on Clinton's fighting qualities.
The Anchoress is seeing pointillism where it doesn't belong.
Strata-Sphere points out the MSM is paying attention.
GOP Bloggers wonder if this will affect Hillary and her presidential hopes.
The Jawa Report has strong words for the Clinton Administration.
Right Wing Nut House has some thoughts on the military involvement at Waco.
Mark Tapscott looks at Gorelick's role in creating the wall.
Captain Ed takes another look at Gorelick's role.


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