No Waco cover-up


THE CONSPIRACY theorists won't be satisfied. But for the rest of us, the recently released interim report of special counsel John C. Danforth on the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco ends questions about federal wrongdoing.

Mr. Danforth, the respected former Republican senator from Missouri, was brought in to investigate allegations that federal agents started the fire at the compound in which 80 people died and that a conspiracy ensued to hide that fact.

That those agents were not responsible for the deadly incident and, therefore, there was no attempted government cover-up, was stated by Mr. Danforth in the strongest terms last week. "We are certain" of the inquiry's findings, Mr. Danforth said. "And I give you these conclusions with 100 percent certainty."

In fact, Mr. Danforth added: "The blame rests squarely on the shoulders of [Branch Davidian leader] David Koresh."(A week earlier, a jury in Texas similarly concluded that the government was not responsible for the deaths.)

The report does not address the question of judgment. And, clearly, there were some lapses. A few relatively low-level individuals in the FBI and elsewhere in the Justice Department actively sought to conceal that tear gas cartridges that could cause a fire were launched into the compound.

But that's it. Attorney General Janet Reno didn't conspire to hide any activity by the FBI or anyone else.

Neither did President Clinton. Nor any of the other senior officials whom the lunatic fringe has sought to connect to the Waco tragedy.

Many people who look for a conspiracy in every government action will continue to find one in the raid on the Branch Davidian compound. There's nothing, however, in the findings of special counsel Danforth that even vaguely hints at an attempted cover-up by high-ranking federal officials.

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