The arrest of Roger Stone was accomplished without bloodshed or, for that matter, gunfire. But the FBI must have been convinced that this was no sure thing. It arrived, after all, at Stone’s home before dawn and one assumes that there was a point to the timing. That it was meant to achieve surprise and shock. The same effect that was accomplished in Stalin’s Soviet Union by the knock on the door in the middle of the night.
The FBI could have waited until after breakfast and sent a couple of agents to Stone’s house. Or possibly used the phone to tell him that he was wanted downtown. It chose, instead, to go tactical.
The raid was covered by CNN and in the videos, the agents appear to be carrying what the media likes to call an “assault rifle” and, also, wearing ballistic vests. If the agents were not expecting armed resistance, then this was just another bit of intimidation. A show of force, then, meant to drive home to Stone — and, perhaps, the rest of us — that the FBI does not play around. When you are in your pajamas and facing a man carrying an AR and wearing body armor, you do not think of yourself a free citizen of the Republic but as a suspect and a subject.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. When he was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in the late ’80s, Rudy Giuliani liked to handcuff Wall Street executives he had arrested in their offices for various financial illegalities. “White collar” crime, it was called back then. Giuliani would have the men the frog marched out of the building where the media would be waiting in the street to take photographs and get video for the evening news. He lost some of his most famous cases but he certainly made his point.
Armed FBI agents outside your door in the early morning before sunrise makes the same kind of point. If you are the one they have come for, you will most likely get that point and act on it. Otherwise, you could get hurt. Even killed. And protestations from the FBI about the “professionalism” of the armed agents isn’t all that reassuring. Especially if you recall a 1992 FBI raid in Idaho. A woman was killed, then, by an FBI sniper. She was unarmed and, in fact, holding baby at the time. The sniper fired from a range of 200 yards and a concealed position. So it is hard to argue that he was in imminent danger. He was never prosecuted.
Even if the shooting was “justified” under some FBI rules of engagement, it makes the point that these encounters can go bad and the government might very well resort to deadly force. On you. Or, an agent might just blunder. Like the one who dropped his pistol while doing a backflip on a nightclub dance floor. The piece discharged and the bullet struck another club patron in the leg.
The FBI is not infallible as it has come to be seen by one side of the partisan divide. The FBI is — and pretty much always has been — infected with politics. It has spied, illegally, on American citizens and once sent letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attempting to blackmail him into committing suicide.
Some of the same people who now think of the FBI as the guys in the white hats, once viewed it as some sort of American gestapo.
None of which changes the fact that the FBI, acting under orders, had a responsibility to arrest Roger Stone. No denying that. But one wonders if the pre-dawn raid by heavily armed agents wasn’t excessive and, perhaps, aimed at drawing just the kind of coverage it got.
In any case, the FBI got its man. But you wonder if the rest of us should now sleep more soundly for it.
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