The FBI's 48-day standoff with anti-government Freemen is seen by experts outside the agency as a no-win proposition, likely to bring it condemnation no matter what course it takes.
Leaders in academia, law enforcement and private security don't agree on whether the FBI should continue isolating the Freemen and simply wait - possibly for months - for the group to surrender, or if agents should storm the 960-acre farm complex.And if they move aggressively, will they they risk killing people who are accused of nonviolent crimes and some who are accused of no crimes at all?
That possibility raises memories of the deadly Branch Davidian siege at Waco, Texas, and the standoff with white separatist Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
"Unfortunately, I think whatever they did, they would be soundly criticized," said Fred Shenkman, professor of criminology at the University of Florida.
FBI agents have surrounded the rural Freemen complex in eastern Montana since March 25, when they arrested two leaders of the anti-government group.
The Freemen have kept armed lookouts on a hilltop a mile south of the main house since the standoff began. On Saturday, they apparently added a second sentry post by towing a small camper trailer to a field north of the house, then moving it onto a nearby hilltop.
The FBI believes 18 Freemen are still in the compound, some of them wanted on state and federal charges ranging from writing millions of dollars in worthless checks to threatening to kidnap and kill a federal judge.
Neighboring ranchers say the group has been stockpiling food, weapons and other supplies for months. The Freemen have refused all proposals to surrender.