As expected, a large document dump was dropped on Friday at the start of a three-day weekend, hoping most Americans wouldn’t pay attention. Politico reports on many of the revelations from Clinton’s term as President, but this one about militias is especially interesting:
In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Clinton administration considered the possibility of aggressive new regulation of domestic militia groups, including publishing membership lists of such organization, requiring them to register with the federal government or to get permission before offering “paramilitary” training.
Some of the ideas were championed by Clinton adviser Dick Morris, who was known for advancing policy proposals that resonated well in polls.
“The public overwhelmingly supports a significant expansion in the FBI’s ability to investigate militia groups. If you and the Justice Department believe such an expansion would be in the public interest, I would recommend that we go ahead with it with a high profile announcement,” Morris wrote in an Oct. 6, 1995, memo to Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, as well as Deputy Chiefs of Staff Erskine Bowles and Harold Ickes.
The proposals seem to have produced widespread alarm in the administration, among Justice Department officials, White House lawyers and even other political advisers. Some worried that even reducing the proposals to writing could provoke a backlash from conservatives already wary of the federal government following high-profile showdowns at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas.
It’s interesting to note that the only thing that stopped them from trying to implement these restrictions on militias was the expected political backlash. They had no principled or constitutional objection to making them register with the federal government. Now imagine what the Obama administration would have done with such a list after they forwarded it to Lois Lerner.
“The Justice Department has stopped working on the terrorism question. They say this is because [White House Counsel Ab Mikva] instructed them that this is not information that should be on paper,” wrote Clinton White House aide Jennifer O’Connor. She’s now back at the White House, working in President Barack Obama’s counsel’s office after serving as a crisis-response lawyer handling problems at the Internal Revenue Service and with the roll-out of Obamacare.
O’Connor wrote that Mikva concluded “politically, the ideas we talked about are really bad ideas.”
“All of the lawyers analyzing these proposals (in this office and at DOJ) strongly believe it is a serious mistake—as a policy but especially as a political matter to impose militia controls of the type now being discussed, even if they would be constitutional,” Mikva and others wrote, warning that measures already announced had prompted “an unprecedented alliance” between the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association.