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  • FBI Reverses Its Stand on Waco (Aug. 26)

  • Survivors, Relatives Gather To Remember Deaths Near Waco (April 20, 1997)

  • Reno Strongly Defends Raid on Cult (April 29, 1993)

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    Reno, Angry, Vows to Press FBI on Waco

    U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno speaks during her weekly news conference Thursday at the Justice Department in Washington. (AP)
    By Edward Walsh
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, August 26, 1999; 12:47 p.m. EDT

    A visibly angry Attorney General Janet Reno said today that she had been given repeated assurances by the FBI that the weapons used in the final assault on the Branch Davidian sect near Waco, Tex., six years ago did not include pyrotechnic devices that could have set off the fire that killed 76 people.

    Describing herself as "very, very troubled and "very, very upset," Reno said that she would confer with FBI Director Louis J. Freeh later today on how best to investigate what happened at Waco. On Wednesday, the FBI acknowledged that its agents fired "a very limited number" of potentially incendiary tear gas cartridges on the final day of the 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian compound.

    "Prior to April 19th, 1993, I received assurances that the gas and its means of use were not pyrotechnic," Reno said. "Since then, I have consistently been told that no pyrotechnic devices were used. I will continue to pursue this matter to get to the truth. That is why Director Freeh and I have ordered a full review of all the facts concerning this matter. I intend the results of the review to be made public and I will not stop till I get to the bottom of this."

    While Reno was clearly upset by the latest revelation concerning the Waco incident, she insisted that there was still no reason to believe that the tear gas cartridges used by the FBI in the final assault caused the deadly conflagration.

    "At the time, all available indications are that the devices were not directed at the main wooden compound, were discharged several hours before the fire started and were not the cause of the fire," she said.

    Almost wistfully, Reno also said, "One of the truths that we will never be able to get to is what was the right thing to do, because we don't know whether Branch Davidian leader David Koresh would have done it two weeks later on his own, without any provocation, and we would have been blamed for not acting. All that we can do in law enforcement, where we deal with human beings who do different things and march to different drummers, is make the best judgment we can based on the information we have available, pursue it, and then do everything we can to get to the truth and to determine what can be done to avoid such tragedies for the future."

    © 1999 The Washington Post Company

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