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FBI chief hails new Waco report

Freeh and Danforth
FBI Director Louis Freeh, left, says a report by Special Counsel John Danforth, right, vindicates his agency's conduct in the siege of the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas  

Special counsel clears agents of wrongdoing

July 21, 2000
Web posted at: 9:25 p.m. EDT (0125 GMT)

In this story:

Koresh, Davidians blamed for deaths

Answers to 'dark questions'

Agent, lawyers accused of hiding tear gas info

Critic: If conduct was right, why was outcome so wrong?


ST. LOUIS -- FBI Director Louis Freeh said Friday his agency has been vindicated by a special counsel's newly issued interim report clearing the government of wrongdoing in the Branch Davidian siege near Waco, Texas.

"The simple truth, as the FBI has maintained since April 19, 1993, has been unmistakingly confirmed again today," Freeh said.

"The FBI fired no shots on that day and the Davidians started the fires that ultimately engulfed the compound," he said.

Two views of Waco from a former FBI investigator and a Branch Davidian survivor


Koresh, Davidians blamed for deaths

In his preliminary report to the U.S. Justice Department, special counsel and former U.S. Senator John Danforth said that Davidian leader David Koresh and several other group members were entirely responsible for the incident that claimed more than 80 lives.

"The tragedy at Waco rests with certain Branch Davidians and their leader David Koresh who shot and killed four (government) agents, wounded 20 others, shot at FBI agents trying to insert tear gas into the complex, burned down the complex, and shot at least 20 of their own people, including five children," Danforth's report said.

Koresh and the others died in the raid, which came at the end of a 51-day siege. The standoff began on February 28, 1993, when agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tried to serve Koresh a warrant. A gunfight erupted in which four agents and six cult members were killed.

Answers to 'dark questions'

Last September, when Danforth accepted the role of independent special counsel, he said he would attempt to answer four "dark questions":

 • Did FBI agents fire guns at the Davidians?
 • Did the FBI start the fire?
 • Did the military's involvement in the standoff violate federal law?
 • Was there a cover-up?

In his report, he concludes that the answer is "no" to all four questions.

Danforth said the preliminary findings contain 95 percent of the conclusions reached by himself and his team of investigators. "I give you these conclusions with 100 percent certainty," Danforth said at a news conference in St. Louis.

"I hope that it lays these questions, the darkest questions relating to Waco, to rest," he said.

Agent, lawyers accused of hiding tear gas info

The report said there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Attorney General Janet Reno, the present or former directors of the FBI or other top U.S. officials or members of the hostage rescue team, who fired pyrotechnic tear gas at the compound.

But Danforth said the investigation revealed "that a few government lawyers and an FBI agent did conceal from the public, Congress and the courts that an FBI agent fired three pyrotechnic tear gas rounds."

Danforth said the tear gas was "fired at a construction area about 75 feet from the living quarters of the Branch Davidian complex four hours before the fire and ... did not cause the fire."

"Although the government did nothing evil on April 19, 1993, the failure of some of its employees to fully and openly disclose to the American people the use of pyrotechnic devices undermined public confidence in government and caused real damage to our country," Danforth said.

Critic: If conduct was right, why was outcome so wrong?

Danforth's report comes one week after a five-member advisory jury in Texas found in a damage suit that federal agents were not to blame for the deaths in the siege and fire.

Ramsey Clark, who represented several survivors and relatives at the civil trial, said the report "failed to address the obvious."

"If their conduct was so right," Ramsey asked, "how did it end so very wrong, with so many deaths?"

Clark added that Danforth's report, along with the jury verdict, only reinforces dangerous law enforcement practices.

Danforth did not address whether government agents used poor judgment at Waco. "This was an investigation into bad acts, not bad judgment," he said.

Reno named Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, as an outside investigator under pressure from members of Congress who claimed there had been a government cover-up.

His final report is expected in 3 1/2 months and Danforth said the tab for the investigation will be almost $12 million.

CNN National Correspondent Tony Clark contributed to this report

Government not to blame, Waco jury concludes
July 14, 2000
Closing arguments under way in Branch Davidian trial
July 14, 2000
Closing arguments expected Friday in Branch Davidian trial
July 13, 2000
Witness: Branch Davidian fire appears 'coordinated'
July 12, 2000
Government lawyers say tapes show Davidians set fire
July 10, 2000

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno
United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California
Branch Davidian

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