Agent who led arrest of McVeigh tries to put human face on FBI
April 16, 1999
(CNN) -- Former FBI agent Danny O. Coulson worked on high-profile cases, including the sieges at Waco and Ruby Ridge, during his 31 years of service with the bureau. In his new book with Elaine Shannon "No Heroes: Inside the FBI's Secret Counter-Terror Force," Coulson seeks to put a human face on the government agency.
During his career Coulson faced some of some of America's deadliest criminals. He led the arrest of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and helped persuade McVeigh's friend Michael Fortier to become the government's star witness. He worked to bring to justice the Black Liberation Army police assassins and the white supremacists of the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord.
The founder and first commander of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), Coulson gives insider details about HRT's training, tactics and philosophy. Through his career experiences he looks at the upturn of domestic terrorism in the United States and discusses the implications for the coming century.
Coulson argues that the government must establish a dialogue with militia-group members to dispel the"faceless enemy" paranoia many of them experience.
"The government is supposed to represent everybody, even people that have peculiar political or religious philosophies," he says. "If we isolate ourselves from them, we can, through omission, actually cause their paranoia to worsen.
"The simplest way the government can prevent feeding into their paranoia is by developing ongoing dialogues with them, so that they put a face on us and we put a face on them. When people are talking, they're not shooting."
In "No Heroes," Coulson discusses being at the center of the FBI command of the Waco and Ruby Ridge operations. The leaders of both operations, Coulson included, found themselves on administrative leave and under criminal investigation for two years.
Coulson, however, was the only FBI agent involved in Ruby Ridge who wasn't later sued by Christian Identity survivalist Randy Weaver. He says he doesn't know why.
"I know that both Congress and the defense attorneys had documents that proved I was trying to encourage a peaceful settlement of the situation," he says. "The on-scene commander wanted to assault that cabin, which had little kids inside, and become involved in a machine gun battle. I wouldn't let him do it ... I think that played a part."
Coulson says the government should be concerned about fears of the approaching millennium and the "Y2K bug" that some analysts say threatens the world's computerized infrastructure.
"People are talking about anarchy and stockpiling guns and C-rations because the world is going to fall apart ... They're looking for the millennium to come, bringing with it an apocalyptic ending and the meaning to their salvation. If it doesn't come, they'll go out and start it," he says.
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