House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill., said Monday that witnesses at next month’s hearings into a 1993 assault on a religious compound near Waco, Texas, would probably include believers in an alleged federal conspiracy to intentionally kill the Branch Davidians who stockpiled weapons there.
Allowing conspiracy theorists to testify, Hyde said, would give a therapeutic but controlled airing to suspicions that support an antigovernment paranoia among some individuals. “Otherwise, they’ll think we’re part of the conspiracy too,” he said.
“I don’t want Waco (hearings) to turn into an orgy of recrimination and vituperation because it can easily,” Hyde told Washington Post editors and reporters during a luncheon interview. “Serious mistakes were made, and I think it’s therapeutic to recognize them … but let’s not characterize all of our law enforcement agencies as monsters ready to shoot from the hip all the time.”
Leaders of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and other federal law enforcement officials are also to testify during several days of joint hearings in the House before a Judiciary subcommittee and a subcommittee of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee.
Hyde praised former President George Bush for resigning from the National Rifle Association in protest over its fund-raising letter that called BATF agents “jackbooted thugs” who wear “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms” and “attack law-abiding citizens.”
“I thought, ‘Good for him,’ ” Hyde said of Bush. “That (letter) was outrageous.”
Hyde has long been regarded by many liberal Democrats as one of the most conservative House members.
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