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We should fear the federal government more than any terrorist

By Scott Tibbs, April 20, 2009

Yesterday marked 16 years since the terrible massacre in Waco, Texas, when 76 people, including 21 children, perished in the fire that obliterated the Branch Davidian compound. The Clinton Administration's foolish raid in February of 1993 provoked an unnecessary armed confrontation that resulted in the deaths of several federal agents as they invaded the compound through the windows. The standoff that followed ended with the tragic fire on April 19. Waco, Texas should forever be remembered as a shocking abuse of power by the federal government.

That wasn't the last abuse of power scandal involving disgraced ex-President Clinton. We know that the Internal Revenue Service conveniently audited a number of Clinton's political opponents, including Paula Jones during the sexual harassment case she was pursuing against the President. We know that the Clinton Administration improperly held 900 FBI files in the White House, many on prominent political opponents of the President.

On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked passenger planes using box cutters, and crashed those planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In response, Congress overwhelmingly passed and President Bush signed the so-called "Patriot Act" to combat terrorism. I had a letter to the editor published two months after 9/11 warning of the dangers of giving significantly expanded police and surveillance powers to the federal government, citing disgraced ex-President Clinton as an example of how these powers could be abused. When you give the government more power, you can expect that power will be abused eventually, because fallible human beings will always seek more power for themselves.

Now, President Barack Obama's administration has issued a report warning of the "dangers" from "right wing extremists", targeting returning military veterans, gun-rights advocates, and abortion opponents as potential terrorists. The Department of Homeland Security report warns of "right wing extremism" despite the fact that the third page of the report admits that the DHS "has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence." This has provoked outrage at disrespect for military veterans, as well as fears from conservatives that the Obama Administration will be using federal power to harass (or worse) political opponents.

I must admit that part of me is personally satisfied by this revelation. It is satisfying to tell my fellow conservatives "I told you so" after listening to them blather about how "you don't have anything to worry about if you're not doing anything wrong" for the last eight years. It is satisfying to be proven right. My hope, however, is that Obama's DHS report targeting "right wing extremists" teaches conservatives a valuable lesson about the limits of government power, especially at the federal level. Republicans have been the party of big government for too long, and the conservative base needs to bring the party back to its foundation.