Proposals in Congress Make Future Wacos More Likely, Not Less
Washington, DC (July 19, 1995) -- "Even as these Subcommittees begin to review the tragic debacle at Waco, ironically both Houses of Congress are considering measures to expand still further the powers of the very federal agencies responsible for that and other disasters. Those measures would bring about dramatic increases in the unchecked power, authority, and role of federal officials in everyday American life," according to National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) President Gerald H. Goldstein.
In testimony today to the House Crime and Criminal Justice Subcommittees on the first day of hearings to examine the tragic 1993 events at the Branch Dividian compound near Waco, Texas, Goldstein attacked political leaders of both parties for hypocrisy in condemning law enforcement abuses at Waco while at the same time pushing new measures to expand the powers of federal law enforcement agents and weaken civil liberties.
Among the measures to which Goldstein referred are pending proposals to (1) abolish or severely curtail the exclusionary rule, the only effective means of enforcing the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable government intrusions into citizens' lives; (2) exempt federal prosecutors from state ethical rules that have applied to all lawyers since our nation's founding; and (3) curtail Fifth Amendment protections against coercive police interrogations.
"The[se measures] are inconsistent with the concept of limiting the power of the federal government otherwise advanced by these same political leaders and are contrary to the principles of limited government upon which this nation was founded. . . . This is not the time to loosen the constitutional reins on federal law enforcement or scale back protection of citizens' individual and property rights," Goldstein warned.
"Some of those who today express concern about federal law enforcement tactics in Waco are the sponsors and supporters of pending proposals to emasculate and even eliminate the very safeguards that provide our citizenry protection against such governmental abuses. Election-day rhetoric has given many citizens the misconception that "liberal courts" using "technicalities" regularly loose criminals to prey upon innocent citizens. It is rarely mentioned that among these "technicalities" are the first ten amendments to our constitutional bulwark that separates us from those totalitarian states we so regularly denounce," Goldstein reminded subcommittee members.