Americans often have short political memories, so many may have forgotten how far out on a limb Attorney General Janet Reno -- and her Democrat echo chambers in Congress -- climbed to repudiate suggestions that the FBI used incendiary devices on the assault on the Branch Davidian complex in 1993.
The conflagration that engulfed the compound near Waco, Texas, killing 76 people was set, or ordered to be set, by cult leader David Koresh. At least that's what Reno purred reassuringly to several congressional inquiries -- and to suggest otherwise was to engage in "mean-spirited partisanship" designed to discredit federal law enforcement.
Now, all these years later, Reno finally admits federal agents did use incendiary devices against Koresh, but only because she can't hide the truth anymore. A former FBI official blew the whistle on just one more of the Clinton administration's big lies.
Moreover, the Texas Rangers have developed evidence of more lying. U.S. military personnel were called in, ostensibly only to give expert advice on pyrotechnics. But in light of past Reno cover-ups, who can be sure the role of an elite Delta Force team's role wasn't more active? -- which would violate the Posse Comitatus law that military personnel cannot be used on U.S. soil against civilians.
To be sure, the FBI says that, yes, though it did fire two incendiary tear gas canisters, they had no impact on events. They were tossed hours before the big blaze set by the Davidians. But why should the FBI be believed now, when it lied for years?
Reno, who "took full responsibility" in 1993 when everyone was applauding her "courage" is, characteristically, ducking responsibility now -- blaming the FBI for the cover-up. Even though that agency is under her jurisdiction, the buck doesn't stop at her desk anymore?
Reno's duplicity, partisanship and incompetence are so stark that even her congressional allies are calling for her to step aside now in favor of an independent investigation. Given her past record of obfuscation and cover-up of controversies like unlawful White House fund-raising and misuse of FBI files, that excellent advice must be heeded.
Of course, an independent investigation still falls far short of what the occasion really calls for: Firing the worst attorney general the nation has ever had.
But since her earlier flagrant abuse of her public office didn't cost Reno her job, this scandal likely won't either. Watch for her to make FBI director Louis Freeh the fall guy, even though he didn't hold that post when the tragedy happened.
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