Reno - No Evidence FBI Caused Branch Davidian Fire

Excite, July 29, 1999

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Attorney General Janet Reno said Thursday she has found no evidence the FBI caused the 1993 fire at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, that killed cult leader David Koresh and about 80 followers.

Reno responded at her weekly news briefing to comments by a Texas state commissioner that evidence held by the Texas Rangers raised legitimate questions about how the blaze started and may contradict the Justice Department's version.

"I have gone over everything and I know of no such evidence," said Reno, who repeated the Justice Department's long-stated view that members of the cult deliberately set the fires that engulfed their compound.

"Our practice has been ... to review all reports, to consider all allegations. And to date, I have found no basis for concluding that the FBI was in any way responsible," Reno said.

Reno on April 19, 1993, approved the disastrous raid by FBI agents who conducted an armored assault on the compound after a 51-day standoff.

The siege started with a shoot-out between agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Branch Davidians that killed four agents and six members of the sect.

Dallas businessman James Francis Jr, the chairman of the three-member Public Safety Commission that oversees the state police, has cited three types of evidence among the materials gathered by the Texas Rangers that have raised questions for him about the origin of the fire.

"One is shells, shell casings, physical things. The second type of evidence is video and still photographs. The third type are interviews done there on the spot at the time," Francis has said.

A Justice Department official dismissed as "nonsense" any claim the FBI may be responsible. The official said electronic surveillance of the compound picked up the orders for the cult members to set the fire right before the blaze started, and that the government's conclusion has been accepted after countless congressional hearings.

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