What the Pundits Say

MSNBC, August 26, 1999

Attorney General Janet Reno pledged Thursday to "get to the bottom" of why it took the FBI six years to admit that its agents may have fired potentially flammable tear gas canisters on the final day of the standoff with the Branch Davidian cult near Waco, Texas. Hear what's being said on NBC and MSNBC cable.

Time magazine reporter Elaine Shannon told MSNBC she thinks Reno should have appointed someone from outside the government to investigate why it took so long for the FBI to admit what its agents did. "Someone should go over all the evidence in the evidence bag," Shannon said.

Dick Deguerin, David Koreshs' former attorney told MSNBC that he doesn't think Reno's probe will make any difference in the end. "You can argue all you want about who started the fire and why they did what they did," he said. " But in the end, it wouldn't have ended the way it did if the FBI had shown a little more patience."

Deguerin also said he had been assured that the FBI would not raid the Branch Davidian compound and was very surprised when the agency took action.

Julian Epstein, Democratic counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, told MSNBC that he doesn't think any new evidence turned up by Reno will amount to much. "You can Monday morning quarterback this thing all you want, but that's not going to change what happened," he said. "The FBI had information that children were being hurt inside the building and they took action. Unless we come up with something that contradicts what the FBI was told, I don't think this investigation will amount to much." Even so, Epstein said that he was troubled by the raid. "It wasn't an easy thing to watch. There certainly was a lot of soul-searching after the flames died down."

Clark Hall, a former FBI official, told MSNBC there are some "real" questions about whether the agents at the scene actually knew they were firing potentially flammable tear gas canisters. "They may not have known what was going in all the confusion," he explained. "There certainly was a potential for confusion during all that was going on." Hall also dismissed suggestions that agents or other FBI officials have been trying to cover something up for the past six years.

But Dan Gifford, who produced a documentary called "Waco: The Rules of Engagement", told MSNBC that the FBI lied about what they did at Waco "plain and simple." "What we knew when we made the film is that the chemicals would start a fire," Gifford said. "What the FBI didn't count on was that a fire would start in a place they didn't want it to. There wasn't any doubt by anyone making the film that a fire was going to happen."

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