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By Bob Hegamin and Nigel Keiffer May 14, 2000

At every level of government in the United States, a few extraordinary citizens "watchdog" officials for mismanagement, ethics violations, and unlawful acts. Officials who refuse to accept responsibility or provide any accountability also face scrutiny. They would violate their oaths of office even as they extol the "Rule of Law," knowing there is little to risk so long as people -- in relative ignorance of the law and with blind faith -- continue to trust them. "Well-informed " Americans, however, who recognize the pattern are impatient, resentful and working tirelessly to correct this growing practice of official arrogance.

This problem was recently acted out when Federal agents forcibly removed Elian Gonzalez from a family residence. The country was subjected to endless polls and the minutest details of the armed raid, but the issue of constitutionality was simply ignored . A few examples from the incident, including its aftermath, show how "Government" had misrepresented its actions as constitutional.

· Family members of the boy considered the civil matter a custody case, which would have legally established whether Elian belonged with his father, or not. They had denied all accusations of holding the boy hostage or violating immigration laws. Thus, from their perspective, the raid was a violent solution to a civil problem, worthy only of a totalitarian regime. Since then, it has become obvious that "Government" had yielded to the hue and cry of the "son belongs with his father" syndrome and utilized the unconstitutional "Mob Rule" rather than the "Rule of Law."

· It is also interesting to note how "Government" manipulated the law in Elian's case. Immediately after the raid, government officials at first could not confirm that a warrant of any kind had been obtained. It was only after some time, and under direct questioning by the media, did "Government" allege it had a search warrant. And, almost as an afterthought, disclosed that it also had an arrest warrant. "Government" had insulted the American's sense of justice as the "Rule of Law" was seemingly used to incrementally justify the raid and only after the fact.

· The Federal Government apparently did not inform Miami's Mayor of the impending raid. It is further unsettling to learn that Miami's Police Chief, who having had prior knowledge of the raid, later stated that under federal law he had not been required to divulge the information to the Mayor. The acts of the Police Chief and the Federal Government had essentially usurped the power of the legally elected Mayor and indirectly showed that neither trusted the people.

· Miami's controversy over the firing of the City Manager by the Mayor and the resignation of the Police Chief illustrates yet another interesting problem. The two city officials had together described the Mayor as "out-of-control", "divisive", and "irresponsible" for which their supporters demanded his recall. The controversy emphasizes how petty politics overrode the government's prime function, which is to act on behalf of the people despite any internal strife.

The indiscriminate use of the "Rule of Law" has spearheaded the erosion of the U.S. Constitution. Americans now have a precedent setting incident. As a means to an end in the Elian case, "Government" had carried out an armed raid against civilians -- in the name of the "Rule of Law." The action replicated exactly a "police state" response for civil and political disagreements, a lesson that must not be lost to Americans. Yet, where was the public outrage when one branch of government violated the rights of individuals while the other two branches just looked on? And, when it's the Justice Department that engages in such conduct, to whom can the people turn?