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William Barr’s Connection to Ruby Ridge, Defending FBI Snipers

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Attorney General nominee William Barr have focused heavily on Barr’s views on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But nobody is asking about Barr’s legal crusade for blanket immunity for federal agents who killed American citizens.

Barr received a routine questionnaire from the Judiciary Committee asking him to disclose his past work including pro bono activities “serving the disadvantaged.” The “disadvantaged” that Barr spent the most time helping was an FBI agent who slayed an Idaho mother holding her baby in 1992. Barr spent two weeks organizing former Attorneys General [1] and others to support “an FBI sniper in defending against criminal charges in connection with the Ruby Ridge incident.” Barr also “assisted in framing legal arguments advanced… in the district court and the subsequent appeal to the Ninth Circuit,” he told the committee.

That charitable work (for an FBI agent who already had a federally-paid law firm defending him) helped tamp down one of the biggest scandals during Barr’s time as Attorney General from 1991 to early 1993. Barr was responsible for both the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, two federal agencies whose misconduct at Ruby Ridge “helped to weaken the bond of trust [2] that must exist between ordinary Americans and our law enforcement agencies,” according to a 1995 Senate Judiciary Committee report.

After Randy Weaver, an outspoken white separatist living on a mountaintop in northern Idaho, was entrapped by an undercover federal agent, U.S. marshals trespassed on Weaver’s land and killed his 14-year-old son, Sammy. The following day, FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi killed his wife, Vicki, as she was standing in the cabin doorway. Horiuchi had previously shot Randy Weaver in the back after he stepped out of the cabin. The suspects were never given a warning or a chance to surrender and had taken no action against FBI agents. Weaver survived.


After an Idaho jury found Weaver not guilty on almost all charges, federal judge Edward Lodge slammed the Justice Department and FBI for concealing evidence and showing “a callous disregard for the rights of the defendants and the interests of justice [3].” A Justice Department internal investigation compiled a 542-page report [4] detailing federal misconduct and coverups in the case and suggested criminal charges against FBI officials involved in Ruby Ridge.

Barr told the New York Times in 1993 [3] that he was not directly involved in the Ruby Ridge operation. Two years later, the Washington Post revealed [5] that “top officials of the Bush Justice Department had at least 20 [phone] contacts concerning Ruby Ridge in the 24 hours before Vicki Weaver was shot,” including two calls involving Barr.   

In January 1995, FBI director Louis Freeh announced wrist slaps for the FBI officials involved, including his friend Larry Potts, who supervised the operation from headquarters and who approved the shoot-without-provocation orders that “contravened the constitution of the United States,” according to the Justice Department internal report. When Attorney General Janet Reno later nominated Potts for deputy director of the FBI, top newspapers and members of Congress protested but Barr told the New York Times that his friend Potts “was deliberate and careful, and [6] I developed a great deal of confidence in his judgment… I can’t think of enough good things to say about him.”  A few months later, the FBI suspended Potts [7] after suspected perjury regarding Ruby Ridge. (Potts was not charged and retired two years later.)

The Justice Department paid $3 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit from the Weaver family. But when Boundary County, Idaho filed criminal charges against Horiuchi, Barr sprang to action seeking immunity for FBI snipers. He spearheaded efforts to sway the court to dismiss all charges because holding a sniper liable would “severely undermine, if not cripple, the ability of future attorneys general to rely on such specialized [8] units in moments of crisis such as hostage taking and terrorist acts.”

When the Justice Department won an initial appeals court victory in the case in 2000, federal judge Alex Kozinski warned in a dissent of a new James Bond “007 standard for the use of deadly force” [9] against American citizens. The same court reversed that decision the following year. Kozinski, writing for the majority, declared: “A group of FBI agents formulated rules of [10] engagement that permitted their colleagues to hide in the bushes and gun down men who posed no immediate threat.  Such wartime rules are patently unconstitutional for a police action.”

Does William Barr still endorse “wartime rules” and a “007 standard” that absolve federal agents for questionable shootings of Americans?  Does Barr consider “illegal government killings” to be an oxymoron? Best of all, can Barr explain to us his understanding of the phrase “government under the law”?

James Bovard is the author of Lost Rights [11], Attention Deficit Democracy [12], and Public Policy Hooligan [13]. He is also a USA Today columnist. Follow him on Twitter @JimBovard [14].


68 Comments (Open | Close)

68 Comments To "William Barr’s Connection to Ruby Ridge, Defending FBI Snipers"

#1 Comment By mrscracker On January 18, 2019 @ 4:35 pm

Liberty4Ever :
“2) An FBI sniper violated a rule of firearms safety that is learned and thoroughly understood by young children when they’re first taught to shoot.”

That’s a good point, thank you.

#2 Comment By Bluestem On January 18, 2019 @ 5:04 pm

mrscracker persists in her delusion, writing: “I think everything that occurred at Ruby Ridge was a tragedy but if you just read this article as presented it could appear as though Mrs. Weaver’s death was intentional. Which it wasn’t.”

But let’s play along with mrscracker’s delusion.

The killing of the dog was intentional.

The killing of the boy was intentional.

The wounding — and attempted killing of Mr. Weaver — was intentional.

The wounding — and attempted killing of Mr. Harris — was intentional.

And it was all started by federal government employees who entrapped Weaver on a technicality and gave no warning before launching an attack on him and everyone else who was there.

That was not “tragedy.” It was crime, a monstrous crime conceived and carried out by agents of the US government.

#3 Comment By CI On January 18, 2019 @ 6:24 pm

Some folks don’t get it, and they never will.

Here’s the deal folks:
EVERYONE at Ruby Ridge was supposed to be killed, there were not supposed to be ANY survivors.
Had it not been for the civilian outcry and word of what was going on spreading around the area — with a whole bunch of well armed citizens in the area starting to get riled up, not one person would have come out of there alive, not one. The FED’s were never planning on having to defend their actions in a court room, and definitely not in front of an Idaho jury. No way no how.
FBI Deputy Assistant Director Danny Coulson had no doubt figured this out by the time he wrote his memo, he wasn’t stupid, his conscience kicked in and he wrote that memo, he had to have figured out that the FED’s were quite literally sent there to massacre the entire family, and apparently he wanted to be on record as having tried to prevent it, not knowing they’d already succeeded in murdering Vicki when he wrote it.
This guy Coulson would never be allowed in the FBI today, just as anyone with any honor or a conscience would be not welcome in the FBI today.

Murder, by definition, means prior intent, malice aforethought, pre-planning, lying in wait, etc.
And by that definition Horiuchi and anyone else who participated in this travesty is 100% guilty as sin.
They were never charged, and they never will be. That doesn’t make them any less guilty.

Gerry Spence remarked after the trial that the wrong people were tried, and he wasn’t kidding.

#4 Comment By Robert On January 18, 2019 @ 7:31 pm

Secret police are always political police, no exceptions. Unaccountable power is absolute power.

#5 Comment By Mick On January 18, 2019 @ 8:51 pm

A question never addressed is the question of why a Huey was hovering over their cabin with a suspended 55 gal drum containing gas. The FBI filled that 55 gal. drum at the Huskey station in Bonners Ferry. After the FBI informed the family via loudspeaker they were going to drop said 55 gal. drum, burning them alive, the siege came to a fast end. The people at the bridge came close to rioting seeing and hearing what was about to happen. Then the Huey landed. BTW, the cabin was not on Ruby Ridge, it was on Caribou Ridge. The FBI claimed they had the site surrounded but the fact is many people were on the surrounding ridges and in the woods watching and relaying everything down to the bridge. They used timber skid trails to access the entire area. Randy was running for Sheriff at the time the whole cluster f*#k started. He was running on the return to the founding father’s ideals. The FBI could not allow that as he would then be able to countermand all federal laws in Boundary County in violation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He had great support. A Sheriff is the ultimate law in his own county, over and above the Feds… If he had been elected, it would hinder the Feds ability to make up any rule they wanted and apply it as law. I lived in Boundary County when this went down and owned land by the bridge that supporters camped upon when this whole shite storm happened. that sniper KNEW exactly who he was shooting. Randy’s wife was the driving force behind the run for office by Randy and their move to that land and living off the grid. As an FBI agent was heard to say by vendors delivering food to the FBI camp prior to her murder: “Kill the head of the snake and the rest would give up” Randy’s wife was a grand woman who knew exactly what mushrooms could be eaten and where all the best barry patches were…etc.

#6 Comment By MB On January 18, 2019 @ 9:36 pm

So Lon missed who he was shooting at and hit Vicki.
But it was unintentional.
So what?
What in sam hill was he doing aiming at someone else in the first place?
Who he intended to kill.

Roman catholicism is bad enough i.e. there was a reason for the Protestant Reformation, but let’s not bring religion into it. (I speak as a “cradle catholic”).

It was entrapment plain and simple and different rules for the suspect than the Feds: “Trial by sniper”.

All this regardless that Weaver is an adherent of a white supremacist (racist) version of Christianity. Kind of like a pale version of the Black Liberation Theology at J Wright’s church where Geo. W. Obama attended for twenty years.

You’re welcome.

#7 Comment By Elias Alias On January 18, 2019 @ 10:14 pm

@Mrs Cracker —
The man who murdered Mrs. Weaver while she stood in her doorway with her baby in her arms is named Lon Horiuchi. He was FBI.
I don’t mean to be argumentative, but that same Lon Horiuchi was also doing some sniper work at Waco, Texas, a year later, shooting at Christians who were running out of their burning and gas-laden church.
I have never seen a public statement by the guy, and, based on his “service” as a sniper at Waco a year after Ruby Ridge, I must say that he did not seem very repentant.
Remember — he was working for the same federal outfit which only two years ago assassinated LaVoy Finicum. See these two brief “forensic” videos please —

5 — Shot With His Hands In The Air — [15]
4 — Two Shots The FBI Lied About — [16]

Elias Alias

#8 Comment By Sunny On January 18, 2019 @ 10:59 pm

So, mrscracker, you believe the murderer was telling the truth in his testimony? Because I don’t. And seems like most of the folks well, all of them but you, making comments here don’t believe him either.

Do you know this ‘unintentional’ murderer? Why do you keep defending his actions?

Believe what you will but you are fooling yourself.

#9 Comment By David Parker On January 19, 2019 @ 1:13 am


Lon Horiuchi retired from the FBI in October of 2006 and was hired as “FBI Program Manager & COTR” at H.S. Precision, Inc., of Rapid City, South Dakota. This company makes high-quality fiberglass stocks, barrels, finished rifles, gunsmithing tools, and hunting apparel.
The [18] (AFP) called to ask Lon if this was also the weapon he used to blow away the face of Vicki Weaver in her remote cabin at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992, but he did not return the calls.

#10 Comment By Ed On January 19, 2019 @ 5:30 am

Since when does the testimony of a government hit man mean anything? Everything those hit men own has been stolen. Why on earth would you ever believe the words of a known thief?

#11 Comment By DTH On January 19, 2019 @ 9:49 pm

“Intent” — it depends. Does that mean did the sniper intend specifically to kill Vicky Weaver, as opposed to anyone else? Probably not. He meant to kill one of the two men (I forget now which he intended to kill). But the criminal law has a concept called “transferred intent.” A gang-banger shoots at a rival, meaning to kill him, but instead kills a mother in a door. He pleads that it isn’t murder, he never intended to kill the person that died. The law will transfer his intent from his rival target to the person that he did kill, making it murder of her.

A prosecutor friend suggested that Idaho should also have prosecuted the official who gave the illegal “shoot on sight” orders. Anyone who aids and abets (counsels, advises on, or in this case orders) a crime is as guilty of that crime as is the perp. The sniper might paint a picture of “I was just following orders” (and despite Nuremberg, that could be something the jury might buy) but the guy who issued the orders is going to look worse to the jury, and as a guy who issued an illegal order to kill, has less appeal in terms of “the court has to protect this guy lest federal functions be harmed.”

#12 Comment By RegT On January 24, 2019 @ 2:20 am

The notion that Lon Horiuchi “accidently” shot Vicky Weaver is laughable – or it would be if it wasn’t such a horrible, vile crime.

FBI snipers train to shoot at long distances. Not the same as military snipers such as Chris Kyle, but definitely much farther than the measly 200 yards his bullet crossed to kill Vicky. That is a distance that some of us practice shooting with a pistol, without a scope. For a trained sniper to claim a head shot at 200 yards was an accident, that he was aiming at someone who moved out the way, exposing Vicky – and yet hitting her within the “sniper triangle” – is a lie. He hit exactly what he was aiming at.

#13 Comment By 2sheep On January 26, 2019 @ 6:57 pm

Many dreams and visions have been reported of “our troops” rounding up Christians, putting them on trucks and taking them to FEMA camps to be murdered. I have wondered who in WDC would order this to happen or be involved in any way. This article puts more light on the subject. Beware any man ordering or covering up for Hueys sent with 50 gallon drums of gasoline.

“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

#14 Comment By VicM On January 28, 2019 @ 3:55 pm

– As others have Reg, you’ve added some good comments on the terrible Weaver/Ruby Ridge affair.

But then your ludicrous comment, “Thats a distance (200 yards) some of us practice shooting w/ a pistol, w/out a scope”.

Perhaps we take an occasional potshots from 200 yards, but I’d say that NO-One TRAINS from that range. Certainly w/out optics. Unless they’re a real knucklehead & enjoy wasting lead & brass.

Or in a circus, ala Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, etc. But they used long guns, not handguns!

#15 Comment By mac On January 29, 2019 @ 7:29 am

May God have mercy on our poor benighted country, which either blatantly ignores or deliberately turns its back on the slaughter of innocents. I have plenty of my own sins to answer for, but I would not want to be Lon Horiuchi when it comes time to face the Judgment Bar. I would rather die in that instant than live for one day with the knowledge that I had deliberately killed a mother with a nursing baby at the breast. What kind of monster could do such a thing in the first place, much less without the slightest bit of remorse?

#16 Comment By GrayRooster On February 8, 2019 @ 5:15 pm

These comments are evidence we’all know WTF is going on here. The Govt is not your friend…
This tyrant infested country is a stick of dynamite and our leaders are throwing around a sparkler not concerned if the fuse gets lit… When the civil war (fuse) gets lit, a lot of innocent people are going to die at the tyrental Govt’s hands… As Mr Weaver says, the Bible says to kill evil and this will happen…

#17 Comment By Retrocon On February 10, 2019 @ 10:32 am


200 yards is not extreme for steel targets with handguns. Popular sport, actually.

#18 Comment By RegT On March 22, 2019 @ 2:29 pm


You really shouldn’t post your opinions as if they are fact. Just because _you_ don’t think that is a reasonable distance doesn’t make it true. One of my civilian trainers regularly hits eggs at 100 yards.

If you were paying attention, there was an incident about three years ago where an active shooter was stopped by a sheriff’s deputy firing his handgun at over 160 yards. Yes, it took several shots, but without having practiced both the shooting _and_ his ability to judge the distance, he would have never connected.

A) practicing, training, to make pistol shota at that distance is not uncommon among shooters who are serious about their skills. B) many of us – for the same reason – load our own ammo, at approximately one quarter of the cost of commercial ammo.

Connecting at 100 yards with a pistol is easy, with practice. Connecting at 200 yards is difficult, even with practice, but can be done – with practice. Try to refrain from declaring something ludicrous simply because you can’t do it. I’ve been shooting for over fifty years, and reloading for forty-eight of those years.

I don’t require that you understand or change your limited worldview, but others on this list should know you are way off the mark, and it can be done. Even women can do it. If Kirsten Weiss can shoot an egg at 300 yards with a .22 Rifle, a woman who shoots pistols routinely can shoot a man-sized target at 200 yards with a pistol.

And here is a 400 meter shot with a 9mm pistol by Jerry Miculek: [19]