Militia Movement

Ruby Ridge: When Officials Realized That We Scare Them


The cabin at Ruby Ridge

Twenty years since the Ruby Ridge siege, the event is usually remembered as a major motivator to the militia movement and the anti-government fervor of the '90s. It was cited, together with the following year's bloody fiasco in Waco, Texas, as an outrage to be avenged, by Timothy McVeigh. And, sure enough, the Associated Press story on the legacy of Ruby Ridge specifies that the incident "helped spark an anti-government patriot movement that grew to include the Oklahoma City bombing." But if the siege and killings in Idaho helped make many Americans fear the government, a strong case can be made that it also pushed the federal government to fear many of the people over whom it rules.

Let's not forget that the stand-off at Ruby Ridge began with nothing more than Randy Weaver's failure to appear on a charge of selling two slightly too-short-by-law shotguns to an ATF informant. The ATF then tried to use that sale to leverage Weaver into the very dangerous position of informing on the white-supremacist Aryan Nations group.

Weaver believed some stupid and hateful things, but he wasn't looking to participate or even pretend to participate in some white-supremacist play-revolution, and he was charged after he refused to play ball with the ATF. He posted bond, hunkered down at home, and didn't show up to answer the charges against him (and was actually given, at one point, an erroneous court date). That's a crime, and it's the feds' justification for everything that followed.

As the Spokesman-Review editorialized yesterday:

[F]ederal law enforcement agencies were caught up then in the hunt for criminals with  political axes. It was an investigation into illegal weapons manufacturing that snared Randy Weaver, who sold two sawed-off shotguns to an undercover agent. After posting a $10,000 bond, he gathered his family at a self-made cabin on a ridge in remote North Idaho.

The events of the ensuing standoff that were recounted in the Sunday paper by on-the-scene reporter Bill Morlin remain disturbing. Weaver's poor judgment was trumped in multi-spades by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and other lawmen angered by the loss of one of their own and unaware 14-year-old Samuel Weaver had died in the encounter.

In subsequent studies and testimony, the response was characterized as "terribly flawed."

Many of the locals, even those not exactly enamored of the Weavers' odd-ball views, were thoroughly unimpressed by the penny-ante justification for the resulting siege. That was a siege that involved multiple federal agencies and led to deaths of Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan, Samuel Weaver, Vicki Weaver and a dog, and the wounding of Kevin Harris and Randy Weaver. During that siege, the FBI operated under Rules of Engagement that many local agents quietly rejected as too severe, and which a Senate subcommittee report later labeled, "virtual shoot on sight orders."

In his book on the incident, Ambush at Ruby Ridge, Alan W. Bock, one-time editorial page editor for the Orange County Register and an occasional Reason contributor, wrote of how, during the siege, many of the federal agents rented rooms at the Deep Creek Inn, owned by a Swiss immigrant named Lorenz Caduff. Caduff took their money and gave them polite service, But the agents couldn't have failed to notice that he made his business equipment and facilities available, free of charge, to those who were not sympathetic to the federal presence.

At the conclusion of the trial of Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris, the jury acquitted Kevin Harris of all charges, and found Weaver guilty only of failure to appear on the original weapons charge, and violating the terms of his bail, The weapons charge itself, along with other serious charges, like murder and conspiracy, were tossed.

Some of the jurors then participated in the sentencing hearing, describing the treatment of the Weavers as an "injustice," sparring with the prosecutor and calling for short prison time for Randy Weaver.

In 1995, facing a lawsuit by the surviving members of the Weaver family, the federal government settled for $3.1 million. The New York Times reported, "lawyers involved in the negotiations said the size of the settlement was a tacit acknowledgment that officials feared a substantially larger verdict if the case had gone to a jury in Idaho."

To add insult to injury, the Boundary County prosecutor actually indicted FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi, who had killed Vicki Weaver, for manslaughter — a charge later dropped amidst much political and legal maneuvering.

Even before Waco and Oklahoma City, the federal government had stuck its fingers out into flyover country — and yanked them back after a good scorching. These weren't just fringe groups exchanging newsletters and camping in the forest. There are so many of them that they own the businesses that service agents in the field, vote on juries and even hold local office!

That the lesson the feds took from all of this was a loss-of-innocence along "you folks really don't like us" lines has been its growing overt suspicion of … well … us. While much of the surveillance state and related anti-terrorism measures came in after 9/11, in many cases, they'd already been in the works.

When the Patriot Act was introduced in 2001, then-Senator Joseph Biden boasted, "I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing. And the bill John Ashcroft sent up was my bill." True enough, the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995 bears strong enough similarities to the Patriot Act that we could be forgiven for thinking it was dusted off, polished and reintroduced when the moment arose. That 1995 bill was explicitly targeted at Americans in a decade full of fears about the "antigovernment movement."

And the growing phenomena of "fusion centers" combining federal, state and local talent to combat the dread threat of "terrorism" are designed to focus on the domestic landscape, where they have scrutinized a hodge-podge of political groups and activists who have nothing more in common than that they worry some bureaucrat. The feds have taken a closer look at the people they rule, and they don't like what they see.

Yes, twenty years on, Ruby Ridge continues to fan fears — among government officials, of the people over whom they exercise their power.

NEXT: Mobility and Equality for All

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  1. “he gathered his family at a self-made cabin”

    The cabin made itself?

    1. All the more reason to kill them and their magical powers.

    2. If you lived in a cabin….you didn’t make that cabin. So, yeah.

    3. makes sense. he [weaver] didn’t built that.

    4. I despair at the grammar knots journalists tie themselves into. I often wonder if they learn to write English without hearing it spoken or reading any of it first.

      Is “a cabin he built himself” that difficult to formulate? Is there really any need in the story to point out he built the cabin in the first place? Wouldn’t “gathered his family at a remote cabin on a ridge in North Idaho” have been easier to both write and get the point across with?

      1. But that didn’t make him sound redneck-y enough.

        1. “gathered his family at a hand-constructed cabin on a remote ridge in North Idaho”

          I would have destroyed these people in creative writing class. They aren’t even doing a stupid passive voice “the gun was then discharged” cop-suck;–it’s just plain old bad writing.

          1. Wow, it’s impressive that you can beat up the 90-pound retarded kid.

            Sara: What I’d like to know is, why are there retarded people in school with my daughter?

            Principal Onyx Blackman: Mrs. Blank, we’re doing our best to weed them out, but some of these retards are extremely clever.

            1. Yes, it is impressive that I can beat you up.

              1. 90 pounds?!?

                1. 90 stone, maybe.

                  1. 90 stone, maybe

                    Considering my first girlfriend weighed 9 stone… Yikes!

          2. “gathered his family at a hand-constructed cabin on a remote ridge in North Idaho”

            Putting hand-constructed in there still sounds ambiguous. Take it out or clarify further. Who’s hands? How else would a cabin be built, if not by someone’s hands?

      2. Journalism School is where you go when you can’t hack a real major and can’t even hack an Education major.

    5. Mock away, you won’t be laughing when the gray goo comes for you.

      1. The Eschaton is going to be pissed.

  2. Is it also a crime to make my barrel thicker and longer?

    1. Nobody wants a short one.

    2. “My shotgun is a choad.”

    3. I swear, baby! That’s not mine!

      1. “One credit card receipt for Swedish-made penis enlarger signed by Austin Powers.”

  3. The feds have taken a closer look at the people they rule, and they don’t like what they see.

    They have the power, and they will not give it up.

  4. But if the siege and killings in Idaho helped make many Americans fear the government, a strong case can be made that it also pushed the federal government to fear many of the people over whom it rules.

    This is precisely the problem. Subjects and slaves need to be ruled over, free men do not. A government established by free men serves them by enforcing the law and doing justice where it is required, not by using bad law to coerce them into risking their own lives to do government agents’ dirty work.

  5. If this had happened today, there would be no internal investigation. No one would bat an eye.

  6. Well, this is a blast from the past.
    Are we going to be dressing all retro militia style this winter?

    1. If hipsters get into the ‘isolated loner Army surplus store’ look, I doubt many on this board will pick it up.

      1. I would just assume they were homeless dudes.

        I shudder at how many street people seem to look like they wandered out of a post nuclear war scenario, circa 1979-1985.

        1. I saw a bum who looked like Jimi Hendrix in a wheel chair, wearing a Vietnam retro army style jacket, headband, and a safety vest. I spotted him in several places throughout the boroughs in a ten day period.

      2. Dude, hipsters have been into the army surplus store look for decades. You just have to accessorize with a few Russian or Chinese emblems military insignia to complete the outfit. Camos and a beret go great with a Che T-shirt.

        Where have you been?

  7. “During that siege, the FBI operated under Rules of Engagement that many local agents quietly rejected as too severe, and which a Senate subcommittee report later labeled, “virtual shoot on sight orders.”

    Jesus wept – we operate under stricter ROEs in the Armed Forces in war.

    Fuck off, slavers.*

    *Note “slavers” includes, but is not limited to; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and other lawmen. Thank you.

    1. Drug Enforcement Agency.

      Also, the Federal Trade Commision, murderous paper pushing jackboots.

      1. actually, it’s the drug enforcement ADMINISTRATION, not agency fwiw

  8. If I recall correctly, the original shotguns Weaver had for sale were of legal lentgth but the atf agent talked him into cutti.g the brrels down. I believe he intially did not want to.

    1. this matches my recollection as well.

      and it stinks.

      it’s the same kind of bullshit they used against tommy chong

    2. He actually cut them to legal length. The BATFuckers cut them even shorter so they could have a handle on him. Then arrested him when the handle failed.

  9. “Women and children first!” -Lon Horiuchi

  10. Sheehy: Who was up there firing that cannon?

    Boyle: The FBI lad. Probably hadn’t had this much fun since they burned all those kids up in Waco.

  11. Boyle: Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, these men are armed and dangerous, and you being an FBI agent you’re more used to shooting at unarmed women and children…

    Everett: Oh, fuck you, Sergeant!

  12. the obscenity in the ruby ridge siege was the blatantly unconstitutional shoot on sight order

    period. sovereign immunity can take a flying @#$(#$(

    horiuchi, and the superior who gave that order should have been charged

    we operate under rules. when we follow the rules, even given awful results, we deserve protection. many here disagree with those rules (established under tenn v. garner, etc.)

    i think IN GENERAL cop rules of engagement/force are a fair balance between state power and individual rights. i may not agree with, for example, miranda v. arizona, but i follow it- because it’s the law.

    i am happy to live in a state that places much greater restrictions on search and seizure than others but fortunately it is pretty reasonable vis a vis miranda warnings (when required. in hawaii, it was required upon focus, which is gross and ridiculous. i had to mirandize suspects iw as talking to ON THE PHONE). custody was irrelevant.

    cops (nor “civilains” ) cannot lay down suppressive fire, and they cannot “shoot on sight”. PER-I-OD

    we have, and should have, differet ROE than the military and all this paramilitary jackbooting aside, we do.

  13. The article defines the “problem” quite neatly.
    City people expect services [as in utilities, police, fire suppression, sanitation] from the government. The rest of us just want to be left alone and have the feds keep the crazy people [including the banana republic colonels with visions of empire] out of the country. Not a lot to expect for what we surrender [at implied gun point]in taxes.

    The problem with government think is they think they are there to ~rule~.
    Kings rule over people.
    Government functionaries provide some level of service ~to~ the people.

    Until we can come to an agreement on this basic idea we will all be working at cross purposes.

  14. That the FBI believes to this day that there could ever be a scenario where they can legitimately shoot an unarmed mother in the head while she is holding an infant just shows how far out of bounds they operate. “Oops” just ain’t going to cover it. They need a profound mental restructuring – from the top down – about their place in society .

  15. I almost choked

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