Congressional Oversight in the Waco Incident
The Committee on Government Reform and Oversight ("the Committee") was created for the specific purpose of analyzing and evaluating the application and administration of federal laws. To fulfill its purpose, the Committee is authorized to investigate incidents in which the acts of federal agencies may indicate the violation of or need for federal legislation. The 1995 investigation of the Waco incident by the Committee was actually the second investigation of what happened in Texas. This investigation followed the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 persons.
The federal government's investigation of the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City focused the public's attention on militia movements in the United States and the potential threat to public safety presented by some of its adherents. The Oklahoma City bombing occurred on the second anniversary of the Waco fire. The anti-government ravings of its perpetrators encouraged the Committee to re-open the investigation into what happened in Waco. However, the Committee's willingness to link in the public's mind the bombing in Oklahoma City and the actions of federal law enforcement in Waco gave credence to the tenets of patriot-style groups linked to the Oklahoma City bombing and eroded public confidence in federal law enforcement.
Thus, the Waco investigation was based on an investigative assumption that federal agencies had deliberately acted inappropriately in Waco in violation of the Branch Davidians constitutional rights. As Treasury Secretary Robert Rudin stated: "[I]nvestigating events at Waco, without investigating the extreme activities of some militias, seems to suggest that law enforcement agencies are the real threat to the safety of American citizens". In its defense, the Committee stated that it was investigating Waco because the extensive an...