The removal of the No. 2 man at the FBI for his role in the Randy Weaver siege in North Idaho isn’t quieting critics.
Weaver’s attorney, Gerry Spence, says he has evidence suggesting FBI Director Louis Freeh should have known that the man he promoted in May to be the bureau’s second-in-command approved illegal shoot-to-kill rules.
Freeh removed Larry Potts Friday as the FBI’s deputy director after another FBI supervisor admitted destroying documents showing that Potts OK’d the rules of engagement.
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig says questions remain whether ranking FBI officials engaged in criminal conduct.
“It’s yet to be seen, but obviously if there were destruction of documents, that’s a criminal act - obstruction of justice,” Craig said.
The Republican senator said if the public’s questions aren’t answered at congressional hearings, there may be the need for a special prosecutor.
Craig and Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth said Freeh should have suspended Potts from all duty, instead of reassigning him to an FBI training unit.
“It is an issue of public perception and confidence in the FBI, the Idaho senator said.
Chenoweth said she will “continue to push” Attorney General Janet Reno to fire Potts.
“I hope this signals a realization on the part of the Justice Department and the FBI that steps need to be taken to repair confidence in the institution.”
The Republican congresswoman said the FBI broke its public trust “by the promotion of an individual who trampled (on) the rights of an individual in my district, then did his best to cover his tracks.”
Chenoweth joined Craig in calling for congressional hearings into the way the FBI responded in August 1992 after a deputy U.S. Marshal was fatally shot near Weaver’s cabin.
Weaver’s son, Sammy, 14, was shot by another federal marshal, and the next day, Weaver’s wife, Vicki, was fatally shot by an FBI sharpshooter.
Weaver was on trial in Boise, Idaho, in April 1993, on charges involving the 11-day seige, about the same time Potts supervised the FBI’s fiery siege with the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas.
Within months, Waco and Weaver became the battle themes for anti-government citizen groups, militia organizers and others concerned about government excesses.
Two House Judiciary subcommittees begin hearings on Waco next week, and Potts is scheduled to be a witness.
The lingering question in the Weaver case is: Who in the FBI hierarchy approved the rules of engagement at Ruby Ridge?
Normally, FBI agents can only shoot in self-defense.
But at Weaver’s cabin on Ruby Ridge in 1992, FBI sharpshooters were told they could shoot any armed male adult who came out of the cabin.
Spence, who successfully defended Weaver on murder charges, said he has a Justice Department affidavit, signed on Sept. 28, 1992, by Potts.
“It says, ‘I approved these rules of engagement,”’ Spence said from his law office in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
“Any adult with a weapon who is observed in the vicinity of Randy Weaver’s cabin or fire-fight areas could be the subject of deadly force,” Spence said, quoting Potts’ affidavit.
Potts was censured in April by Freeh for his “management omissions” during the North Idaho standoff. But less than a month later, Attorney General Janet Reno approved Freeh’s recommendation that his longtime friend be promoted to the No. 2 job with the FBI.
“This is something we have known for a long time, that Mr. Potts approved these rules of engagement, and had from the beginning,” Spence said.
Although Freeh wasn’t the FBI director in 1992, he had every reason to know about the approval of the rules of engagement when he and Reno promoted Potts, Spence said.
Craig said he got a personal call Friday from Freeh, moments before the FBI director announced Potts’ demotion.
“He pledged his full cooperation with congressional hearings into the Weaver case, Craig said.