You have to consider the fact that John Mitchell, Attorney-General under Richard Nixon, was essentially a thug who was convicted of perjury, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice and probably allowed his own wife to be assaulted in order to protect the Nixon Presidency. Pretty impressive for the nation’s top law enforcement officer. His loyalty was rewarded. Mr. Nixon, who promised, in the 1968 election, to restore law and order to America, greeted Mr. Mitchell with a party after he was released from prison.
Even so, Janet Reno has assembled a personal history that certainly puts her into the hall of shame for attorney generals.
Janet Reno’s political star began to rise with the prosecution of several “Satanic Ritual Abuse” cases in Miami, Florida. The most celebrated of these was the Frank and Ileana Furster Case. This is a very strange story. Ileana Furster, a 17-year-old native of rural Honduras, and her 36-year-old husband Francisco (Frank) ran a day-care centre in the affluent suburb of Miami called Country Walk. Ileana was a native of rural Honduras, where mothers and other care-givers thought nothing of kissing male babies on the genitals. To them, it was no more weird or unusual then men kissing each other on both cheeks, or even on the lips in some cultures. It was a considered a gesture of affection, something we may find as strange to us as the way Eastern European men will kiss each other in greeting, or the way women in some areas of Africa do not cover their breasts, or the way some Americans celebrate state executions with “tailgate parties”.
When one little boy reported the genital kissing to his mother, she called the local child welfare authorities who called the police who called the prosecutors– including head prosecutor Janet Reno. Ileana was arrested, placed in solitary confinement, and subjected to a continuous barrage of interrogations and dubious psychoanalysis. Reno’s strategy should be familiar to us from subsequent history. Ileana was offered a plea bargain: implicate her husband and get off with a light sentence, or continue to deny that anything happened and spend the rest of your life in prison. Meanwhile so-called “experts” on child abuse tried to convince her to “recover” repressed memories of her own possible abuse at the hands of her husband. Even so, it took more than a year before she caved and testified against her husband. She was then deported to the Honduras, where she immediately recanted her confession.
One of the little boys who, under the usual manipulative interrogation techniques used at that time, implicated Frank Furster also recanted as soon as the police were unable to continue to intimidate him. He maintains to this very day that no abuse occurred at Country Walk.
The children at Country Walk told the prosecutors that they had been made to drink urine and eat feces, and that some of the children had been tossed into the ocean to be eaten by sharks, and that Mr. Furster had video-taped the acts of abuse. Ms. Reno conveniently chose only the credible accusations to bring to court, disregarding the possibility that all of the accusations were fantastical, and the result of leading questions.
Frank went to jail for 165 years. He’s still there. Ileana remains in the Honduras surrounded by women who kiss baby’s genitals, and she probably thinks the United States is the wackiest, most bizarre country in the world.
The sharks got off scot-free.
Janet Reno, well, went on to contribute her savvy management to the Waco disaster. If you recall, a group of Branch Davidians were holed up in a large club house outside of Waco, Texas. The Bureau of Firearms and Tobacco and the FBI wanted to take away their guns. Kind of odd in a nation that markets and distributes guns like lollipops, especially in the State of Texas. But the Branch Davidians were, well, not like you or me. They were weird. They had to be controlled. And that was the real dynamic at play. The government allowed the confrontation to intensify into a control issue, thereby virtually guaranteeing a violent conclusion.
The strategy here was, once again, idiotic. Police and officials from the Bureau surrounded the building– even though no one inside was in imminent danger from the Branch Davidians– and terrorized the Branch Davidians and their leader David Koresh until they were able to create a crisis, which then, of course, “justified” violent police action. On April 19, 1993–after a 51-day standoff!– they assaulted the compound with explosives, tear gas, and incendiary devices, a fire broke out, and 75 people were killed. It appears that Koresh’s followers may have set some of the fires.
If only they had had the good sense to walk out into a sea of automatic rifles, tanks, and tear gas!
The issue is not whether the Branch Davidians were responsible for the disaster or not. We know they had some very strange ideas and attitudes about the civil authorities. The issue is simply one of management. You have a bunch of allegedly crazy religious fanatics holed up in a compound with a large number of women and children. Is your goal to show them who’s who, or is it to ensure the safety of as many people as possible?
It was obvious from the actions of the government that they lost sight of the real issue and became absorbed in a power struggle with a group of highly unstable, unbalanced people. They had had the opportunity to arrest Koresh in the town of Waco, but they elected to wait until he returned to the compound and then demand that all of the persons inside surrender, unconditionally. In other words, they created the optimum conditions under which a disaster was likely to happen.
Afterwards, the courts got involved in the absurd argument of whether or not the FBI and ATF started the fires that killed most of the Branch Davidians. Why did no one ask if the FBI and ATF should have surrounded the building and applied as much pressure as possible to a group of unstable religious fanatics for 51 days?
You have to think that Reno is one of those naïve people who honestly, earnestly believes that innocent people have nothing to fear from the police.
Incidentally, a “motivational speaker” from Waco, Bill Powers, stood on a hill 3.5 miles from the compound and sold t-shirts to tourists as the place burned to the ground. I am not making this up. There are some very sick people in Texas, although most of them are shielded from us by holding comfortable positions in the government.
And he wasn’t alone. Another souvenir salesman, Hector Antuna, was also doing a booming business. He actually made jokes about it, intentionally and unintentionally: “I hate it. It’s awful. I feel for the people bad,” said Mr. Antuna. “But someone has to sell something. It’s just an honest living.” He addressed the 24 customers crowded around his tables: “Everyone, we are having a fire sale. Dishwasher, microwave safe,” he shouted, holding aloft a mug commemorating the standoff. “ATF, FBI approved.”
Reno’s adventures continued. She initiated the Whitewater investigation, which cost $50 million and yielded nothing of substance, and she appointed Kenneth Starr to slime Clinton.
Now, I know everyone feels that she was caught in a quandary. She was appointed Attorney General by Clinton. Had she suppressed the Whitewater investigation, the Republicans would have screamed like a pack of hysterical hyenas. To the Republicans, Whitewater was payback time for Watergate, which this generation of Republicans, apparently, really believes was just a Democratic putsch.
Reno didn’t have the guts to withstand that kind of pressure, so she caved. She wanted to look non-partisan, stately, and wise. Instead, by any objective measure, the Whitewater investigation was a colossal waste of resources and money. It came up bone dry. It found nothing. It is one of the great congenital faults of the Democratic Party that they can be bullied into doing stupid, self-destructive things like this.
Now, when a man like Kenneth Starr, a passionate enemy of Bill Clinton, is unable to come up with the goods after three years and $50 million, you have to ask yourself if anyone but Janet Reno would have allowed the investigation to go that far in the first place. You have to ask yourself if a man like that is going to admit that he spent $50 million of tax payer money on a wild goose chase. You have to ask yourself if man like that can admit he is stupid.
Then there was the Cisneros Affair. Henry Cisneros had an adulterous affair with a woman, Linda Jones, while he was mayor of San Antonio. He admitted the affair. He broke it off and moved back in with his wife. For some reason, he didn’t tell the FBI exactly how much money he paid in support of his mistress after he left her to move back in with his wife. Reno ordered an investigation (after Cisneros was appointed head of the Housing and Urban Development Department) which cost $9 million to find out what everybody already knew.
If the issue was the money paid to Jones, why not just give her a check for $1 million and save the taxpayer $8 million? Because Reno has no sense of proportion. She has no common sense.
Then we have Elian. Reno had Elian Gonzalez kidnapped and returned to Cuba– doing the right thing, the wrong way. Here again, she chose a method that almost seemed calculated to bring confrontation. This is one macho attorney-general lady!
And now she is unrepentant about harassing Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist who was charged with selling the “crown jewels” of nuclear weapons to the Chinese. The pattern is similar to the Country Walk case. The prosecution lays a large number of absurd charges. When it finds that it can’t actually prove any of the charges, it tries to bully the defendant into a guilty plea on one or two of the least significant charges, thus “proving” that there must have been something going on. Reno is kind of saying, hey, trust me— we know he’s guilty. She can’t believe we won’t just take her word for it. And those judges! Actually demanding evidence for everything! How inconvenient!
It would almost be worth seeing George Bush Jr. win the presidential election if that’s what it would take to get rid of this megalomaniac Attorney General. Fortunately, Al Gore isn’t likely to reappoint her either.
Yes, even John Mitchell pales by comparison. Janet Reno is the worst Attorney-General ever.