Former Sen. Danforth likely head of independent Waco probe, official says
September 3, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A senior law enforcement official tells CNN that former Republican Sen. John Danforth has emerged as the leading candidate to head an independent probe of the 1993 Waco siege.
The move follows recent disclosures about the FBI's handling of the siege.
Attorney General Janet Reno is expected to spell out her plans for the outside investigation at a news conference on Friday, although she is not expected to name the head of the investigation at that time, the official said.
Danforth had an 18-year career in the Senate, and was previously an attorney general in Missouri.
Reno has pledged to "get to the bottom" of what happened on April 19, 1993 at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.
Last week the FBI admitted that potentially flammable tear gas canisters were fired at a bunker near the compound. The admission reversed six years of denials.
The 51-day Waco siege ended when a massive fire destroyed the home of the Branch Davidian religious cult. Leader David Koresh and some 80 followers died during the inferno -- some from gunshot wounds, others from the fire.
The FBI's admission that potentially flammable devices were used provoked a furor. Congressional hearings are expected to be convened in the fall, and Reno wants to know why her orders to use only non-flammable tear gas were ignored.
The White House has called for an independent probe, and White House spokesman Jake Siewert said President Clinton is "deeply concerned that the attorney general appears to have been misled and may have been lied to" about use of the pyrotechnic canisters.
On Thursday, the FBI released copies of a videotape which contained audio of an FBI field commander apparently granting permission for tear gas cannisters to be used.
The senior official said choosing a Republican could assure Reno's critics that the investigation would not be a whitewash.
But the law enforcement official said that as of Thursday night Reno had not made a final decision on the appointment.
Danforth, a fifth generation Missourian, was elected Attorney General of Missouri in 1968 in the first statewide victory for a Republican in more than 20 years. He won re-election as attorney general in 1972.
Danforth then went on to a prominent 18-year career in the U.S. Senate, from 1976 to 1994. He ranked 21st in seniority among the 100 senators just before he retired, and served on three key committees: the Committee on Finance; the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; and the Select Committee on Intelligence.
Contacted by phone at his St. Louis home, Danforth had no immediate comment, and said Justice officials "will have to speak for themselves."
"I don't have any real information for you," he told CNN. "Sorry I can't tell you more."
FBI finds additional materials on Waco gas cannisters
Federal Bureau of Investigation
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