SEN. Arlen Specter is right when he says the inquiry as to what happened at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, needs to be pursued. The Pennsylvania Republican is chairing Senate hearings into the assault and siege against white separatist Randy Weaver in 1992. A federal marshal, Weaver's 14-year-old son, and Weaver's wife were killed during the 10-day standoff.
A Justice Department investigation has turned up evidence that top FBI officials misled previous inquiries and destroyed documents relating to the fiasco. It appears that the bureau not only botched the affair, but exceeded its own policy by issuing what, at least, were ambiguous shoot-to-kill orders.
We have no sympathy for the hate-mongering of white supremacists nor for the child sexual abuse practiced by David Koresh in Waco, Texas. But it is increasingly clear that federal authorities in both cases badly miscalculated and contributed to dozens of needless deaths.
Constitutional prohibitions on reckless police behavior distinguish America from, say, Kenya or Algeria. It's clear that Congress, the Justice Department, and the FBI should take immediate steps to prevent a recurrence.