Bob Barr

On February 28, 1993, 76 agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) arrived at the Branch Davidian compound just outside Waco, Texas. By the time they left on April 19th, more than six dozen men, women and children (including several infants) were dead; many burned alive in an inferno that destroyed the compound during the federal government’s final, massive assault on the flimsy structure. Despite then-Attorney General Janet Reno publicly accepting “responsibility” for the catastrophe, no agent or employee of the federal government was ever held accountable. I know; I participated in the lengthy 1995 congressional oversight hearings in which we attempted to hold the feds accountable.

In December 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for committing perjury and obstruction of justice. Barely two months later, in a raw display of partisan voting, the Senate permitted Clinton to remain in office and complete his second term; he left office on January 20, 2001 to great fanfare.

In the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks -- despite clear shortcomings in the government’s handling of intelligence and security measures prior to the attacks – not a single federal agency or high official stepped forward and admitted mistakes. The refrain most often heard in testimony before the Congress following the attacks was, “we need more money” and “we need more authority;” not, “we had plenty of money already and more than adequate powers, but mistakes were made and we will do much better from now on.” Ultimately, those agencies (and new ones) were given massive sums of money and awesome expanded powers; and no accountability was forthcoming.

In fact, kudos were the order of the day. Shortly after his retirement as CIA director in 2004, after seven years on the job, George Tenet was presented the Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush, our country’s highest honor awarded for non-military service.

So much for accountability.

But wait, one might ask, what about Lois Lerner? Lerner was the IRS official responsible for the scandalous – if not criminal – targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status by the IRS. Did she not resign within the past week, and does this not illustrate that Uncle Sam is finally holding its employees accountable if they engage in wrongdoing? Is not Lerner – who brazenly refused to answer questions, put to her by the Congress about her shenanigans while at IRS – being punished for her misdeeds? Hardly.

Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.