In the summer of 1992, the government was watching Randy Weaver. He was dangerous, authorities concluded. Though he lived rather quietly with his family in the Idaho mountains, he had extremist views and, worst of all, guns.

Because they couldn’t exactly find any laws Weaver had broken, the U.S. Marshals Office decided to entrap him. An undercover agent offered him $700 dollars for two illegal sawed-off shotguns. At first Weaver refused. But, the more he thought about the money, the harder it was to say no.

Now, they could have just arrested Weaver on the spot. But that would have been too easy. So, on Aug. 21, 1992, they decided to send a heavily armed “surveillance team” up to Ruby Ridge to see what they could see. The first thing they saw was Randy Weaver’s 14-year-old son, Samuel. So they shot him dead. They also shot his dog. And, in the process, a marshal, William Degan, was also tragically killed.

The next day, 50 members of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team surrounded Weaver’s cabin with a shoot-on-sight order. And that’s just what they did. They shot and wounded Randy Weaver and, as she cradled her 11-month-old baby in her arms, they shot and killed his wife, Vicki.

Weaver and a friend, Kevin Harris, were arrested and charged with the murder of Degan. They were acquitted. Weaver sued the government and collected a $3.1 million settlement.

But civil fines don’t teach out-of-control governments lessons. The government can simply confiscate more money from taxpayers who have no responsibility for the deadly and foolish deeds committed on Ruby Ridge.

That’s why it is a disgrace that Janet Reno’s Justice Department has closed the books on the Ruby Ridge fiasco and cleared senior FBI officials of any criminal responsibility in the siege. The government had already found its scapegoat — E. Michael Kahoe, the chief of the bureau’s violent crimes and major offenders section. Last year he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and is facing up to 10 years in prison.

Kahoe had tried to destroy every copy of the internal FBI report on Ruby Ridge and ordered a special agent to delete computer copies of the bureau’s “After-Action Critique.” The document showed that FBI agents on the scene complained that officials in Washington, officials like Deputy Director Larry Potts, had “micro-managed” the siege.

The case may be closed, but the question of who issued those “shoot-on-sight” orders remains.

Of course, what other outcome should we have expected from Reno’s Justice Department. After all, she is still washing the blood off her own hands from the worst domestic human rights violation in modern history at Waco.

The government’s closing of the books on Ruby Ridge coincided with an exclusive WorldNetDaily report on the growing “standing army” of armed federal cops. There are nearly 60,000 such agents, and there has been a dramatic increase in Ruby Ridge-style raids by them since 1992.

The FBI is the biggest and the baddest of all the armed federal agencies, but it is hardly the only one conducting military-style raids and “dynamic entries.” There are 12 other agencies that have at least 700 men at arms — the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service — all in the Department of Justice; the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Secret Service, Customs, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Postal Inspection Service in the Treasury Department; and the National Park Service, U.S. Capitol Police, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in other departments.

But even the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife are acting like cowboys, these days. What lesson are all these national cops supposed to draw from Ruby Ridge?

It looks to me like the only lesson is “protect your superiors, and let the taxpayers pick up the tab.”

And where’s Congress? Whatever happened to its oversight authority in such matters? There’s hardly been a whimper of protest or concern from the boys on the Hill. Looks like they decided to sit this one out — just as they did in Waco.

You would expect Bill Clinton to tolerate, if not encourage, the cover-up of such atrocities. You would expect him to wink at the government’s domestic arms buildup. But Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott seem not the least bit alarmed over the growing federal arsenal pointed at the heads of U.S. civilians.

If your kids ever ask you when America became a police state, remember this day.

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