- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001

April 19 is the anniversary of two unhappy events in this country. The first was in 1993, when federal law-enforcement officials began an assault on the Waco home of a religious group known as the Branch Davidians. The attack, led by tanks armed with debilitating chemical agents, concluded a 51-day standoff and ended with the fiery deaths of 76 persons, including 27 children, inside the building. The second event was Timothy McVeighs terrorist bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma in 1995, killing 168 men, women and children. Killing innocent federal employees was McVeighs idea of commemorating the death of innocents at Waco.
Because of the imminence of McVeighs execution and controversy about it, the 1995 bombing is receiving by far the more attention of the two attacks. Some relatives of the victims have asked to see the execution by closed-circuit television, a request to which Attorney General John Ashcroft has agreed. It is a solemn event when the government exacts the ultimate punishment for a criminals just desserts, and in agreeing to the closed circuit broadcast, Mr. Ashcroft may unfortunately have left the door open for a broader call for televised executions. Further, it seems highly unlikely that watching this criminal die will give families relief from their grief and loss. Still, if watching salves the sorrow of some, so be it. It is their choice to participate.
The events of 1993, however, should not be forgotten. In a newly released paper for the Cato Institute, author Timothy Lynch argues that investigations of the final assault, including one by former Sen. John Danforth, essentially whitewashed any misdeeds by the feds and leave many questions unanswered. Further, his chronology of the events serves as a terrible reminder of how unnecessary was the raid of the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in February 1993 that set of the terrible chain of events.
The original reason for the ATF raid was a tip that the Branch Davidians were involved in the illegal manufacture of weapons. During a July 1992 ATF interview with a Texas firearms dealer, the dealer actually called group leader David Koresh to tell him that federal agents had questions about Koreshs firearms. Koresh actually invited the agents to come out and see his inventory and paperwork for themselves. The agents declined even to get on the phone with Koresh. Why?
Mr. Lynch argues, as have many others, that the ATF was trying to offset bad publicity from a "60 Minutes" segment airing complaints that male agents were sexually harassing their female counterparts. A showy raid on a gun-toting religious zany like Koresh, perhaps aired on television, was just the thing.
Many questions remain. Why were ATF agents never prosecuted for beating up a local cameraman as they retreated after the failed February raid? Why were two ATF agents never prosecuted for lying about the events of that terrible day to Texas Rangers deputized as U.S. marshals?
Why were FBI agents never prosecuted for firing rounds of gas shells into the Branch Davidian residence when they had no idea where innocent women and children were in the building, an act Mr. Lynch calls "unconscionable and criminal"? Recall that some of the officers involved in killing Amadou Diallo in 1999 were charged with "depraved indifference to human life." Because numerous crimes at Waco were never prosecuted, Mr. Lynch argues, "federal police agencies may well come to the conclusion that it is permissible to endanger the lives of innocent people, lie to newspapers, obstruct congressional subpoenas and give misleading testimony in our courts." Waco has a sufficiently infamous legacy in the death of innocents in Oklahoma City. This nation does not need lawless federal agencies adding to it.

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