Waco Tragedy Must Not Be Forgotten

Unnecessary deaths “nothing short of scandalous”
CATO Institute, Apr. 17, 2003 (Press Release)

Saturday, April 19 marks the 10th anniversary of the Waco tragedy, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a religious group known as the Branch Davidians clashed violently in Waco, Texas. The consequences of that event have had wide-reaching implications for civil liberties and the proper role of the federal government in law enforcement. Accordingly, the Cato Institute‘s director of the Project on Criminal Justice, Timothy Lynch, has released the following statement:

“Ten years ago, more than 80 people lost their lives in an imbroglio that has come to be referred to as ‘Waco.’ The controversial manner in which federal law enforcement agents dealt with a small religious community led to the most tragic police operation in modern American history.

“The government ultimately blamed the carnage at Waco on David Koresh, the leader of a so-called religious ‘cult.’ But the facts demonstrate that federal law enforcement agents abused their power, broke the law, and then covered up their misconduct. Because those crimes were never punished, many people fear that the FBI has become lawless and unaccountable.

“Waco is a vivid example of the danger of the militarization of police tactics. Federal agents at Waco came to view American citizens as an enemy force that had to be attacked with tanks and chemical agents. The resulting deaths were nothing short of scandalous. It was an ugly incident that should not be soon forgotten.”

Timothy Lynch is the author of a policy analysis, No Confidence: An Unofficial Account of the Waco Incident.

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