Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Reno's Cover-Up of Waco Blunder

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Reno's Cover-Up of Waco Blunder

Article excerpt

If you were the attorney general and had something terribly embarrassing to hide, to whom would you turn to oh-so-gently investigate your conduct?

Janet Reno had that problem in the wake of her blunder at Waco, Texas, after she ordered the storming of a fanatic's compound that resulted in 85 deaths, including 25 children.

We now know that she misled the public after the attack (and probably the president before the attack) by arguing that the children were being "abused" inside. She now admits that was her "misunderstanding" of something somebody - she forgets who - told her.

A footnote buried in the Justice Department's own report illuminates her nonfeasance: After calling for a written analysis with evidence of the situation within the compound, Reno "did not read the prepared statement carefully, nor did she read the supporting documentation."

At the time she was putting out the false excuse of child abuse to justify her misjudgment, Reno was the darling of the media for seeming to accept responsibility bravely. But an investigation could not be avoided; who could be found to put her fumbling in the kindest light?

The answer was provided by her deputy, "Phil the Plumber" Heymann, (that sobriquet earned as President Jimmy Carter's Criminal Division chief, after his surreptitious examination of newspaper telephone records in plumbing for leaks): Find a Republican-administration prosecutor - but a member of the Justice establishment on whom you had a hold.

Enter Ed Dennis, Heymann's longtime protege. Iraqgate buffs will recall him as the chief of the Criminal Division when the Bush administration attorney general, Dick Thornburgh, was asked by the Italian ambassador to raise the Banca Lavoro prosecution "to a political level."

In Iragqate, it was Dennis who provided a briefing paper to Thornburgh on the financing of Iraq through the bank's Atlanta branch. After the political fix was put in, Dennis' Criminal Division moved in to botch the local prosecution.

Dennis soon departed for a lucrative law career dealing with the Justice Department. He was the respectable establishmentarian chosen by Phil the Plumber to protect Reno's reputation. …

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