The senior FBI commander at Ruby Ridge says he was like “tuna fed to the sharks” when the 1992 standoff turned politically sour.
Eugene Glenn, who commanded FBI operations in Idaho and Utah, said he was penalized as the FBI director went looking for a scapegoat.
Glenn told a Senate subcommittee Tuesday that he didn’t draft deadly shooting rules written before an FBI sniper shot and killed Vicki Weaver.
“Who did give final approval of the rules of engagement?” asked Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis.
“The highest authority that I know of is Mr. Potts,” Glenn responded, referring to former FBI Deputy Director Larry Potts.
“I don’t know of anybody at a higher level who would be aware of it, but I have to assume they were,” Glenn testified.
Potts has acknowledged discussing the rules of engagement, but he told Justice Department investigators he didn’t think the rules violated the law.
Glenn received the harshest penalty when the FBI investigated its own handling of the Weaver siege.
Four other senior FBI officials all represented by prominent Washington, D.C., attorney Brendan Sullivan - invoked their constitutional right against self-incrimination on Tuesday and refused to testify before the committee.
That angered Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who said he senses a “great public outcry for openness” about the siege.
“The foot-dragging that is now under way at the Department of Justice is inexcusable,” Craig told Sullivan, who represented Oliver North before a congressional committee investigating the Iran Contra affair.
Glenn told the senators he felt “enormous pressure” to invoke his constitutional right and not testify.
But, he said, “I believe the events of Ruby Ridge and my own actions there have become a matter of paramount public interest.”
Even though he has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the Justice Department, Glenn said he and other agents remain possible targets of prosecution by Boundary County Prosecutor Randall Day.
“Ordinarily, I would not be concerned about such a threat for just doing my job, especially since the Department of Justice has declined prosecution,” Glenn said.
“Unfortunately, my fellow FBI agents and I must be vigilant because the Department of Justice has failed to publicly support us in the face of the actions of Mr. Day,” Glenn said.
Day has not said whether he will bring state charges against anyone involved in the case.
Glenn was questioned extensively about the unusual rules of engagement that allowed the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team to shoot any armed adult outside Randy Weaver’s cabin.
One of the team’s snipers shot and killed Vicki Weaver and wounded Kevin Harris on the second day of the siege at Randy Weaver’s North Idaho cabin.
Weaver’s 14-year-old son and a deputy U.S. marshal were killed during a shootout Aug. 21, 1992, that triggered the 11-day siege.
Glenn said the rules were drafted by hostage team leader Richard Rogers, who consulted by telephone with Potts, as the team flew from Virginia to Spokane the day of the shootout.
Rogers is one of the four FBI supervisors who refused to testify Tuesday.
Another witness, Duke Smith, also told the committee he understood the shooting rules were approved at FBI headquarters.
Smith, former deputy director of the U.S. Marshal Service, said he flew with Rogers to North Idaho and heard the rules approved over the telephone.
Months later, after it became clear the shooting rules violated the FBI’s policy that allows agents to shoot only when a life is endangered, FBI Director Louis Freeh disciplined some agents.
Glenn received a letter of reprimand and was suspended for 15 days without pay. After he protested to Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, he was transferred from his command position in Salt Lake City to a low-level administrative job at FBI headquarters.
Glenn said he now faces forced retirement.
Potts also was reprimanded by Freeh, but was promoted a month later to the No. 2 spot in the agency.
That drew immediate derision from Craig and other FBI critics, looking to tag Attorney General Janet Reno with the Weaver case after the equally controversial handling of a 1993 siege at Waco.
“Maybe the ship saw a few sharks swimming nearby and they decided to put a few tuna out there to see if they could satisfy them,” Glenn said when asked why he received the harshest punishment.
His appeal to Gorelick and pressure from Craig and others in the Idaho congressional delegation are seen as the reasons for a new Justice Department investigation and the congressional hearings, now in their third week.
“Do you feel you’ve become a scapegoat?” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked Glenn.
“I have serious questions about what happened to me, yes, I do,” he responded.
Potts and four other senior FBI officials are now suspended, while the new investigation continues. Charges of obstructing justice or destruction of documents are considered likely, according to sources following the process.
Potts is expected to be called before the subcommittee later this week.
It’s not clear whether he also will refuse to testify.
Specter said he admired Glenn’s challenge of the FBI’s internal handling of the Ruby Ridge investigation and his willingness to testify.
“We hope you don’t retire, Special Agent Glenn,” Specter said. “Stay with it.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: TUESDAY’S HEARING Eugene Glenn, the FBI field commander at Ruby Ridge, said the government’s investigation into its “shoot-on-sight” rules of engagement was little more than an attempt at political damage control. He said he is being blamed for shooting rules approved by now-suspended FBI Deputy Director Larry Potts. Four FBI officials including Richard Rogers, chief of the FBI sniper team that shot and killed Vicki Weaver - invoked their right against self incrimination and refused to testify before the committee. Quote of the Day: “I talked to (former FBI deputy director) Larry Potts after I had been presented with the rules of engagement, and we discussed them. We discussed the fact that this was a unique situation and that these rules of engagement would be in existence, and he said he’d approved them.” - Eugene Glenn, FBI field commander at Ruby Ridge