Former US attorney general Janet Reno dead at 78

The first female attorney general of the United States, Janet Reno, has died following a long battle with Parkinson's disease.  She was 78.

Reno served as Bill Clinton's only A.G. from 1993-2001.  Her tenure was marked with numerous controversies that most observers believe would have forced any other A.G. to resign in disgrace.  But President Clinton reportedly refused to accept her resignation offered after 80 people were killed in an FBI raid she ordered on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.


As part of the Clinton administration, Reno oversaw the high-profile convictions of numerous bombers including Ted Kaczynski, the domestic terrorist infamously known as the "Unabomber;" Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; and Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols for their roles in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

"Speak out against the hatred, the bigotry and the violence in this land. Most haters are cowards. When confronted, they back down. When we remain silent, they flourish," Reno said one month after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Reno's time in office was also bookended with a pair of major controversies that gripped the country. In 1993, she took office as the Waco, Texas, standoff was already underway. On the 51st day of the standoff, the attorney general ordered federal agents to raid the compound -- a decision that resulted in the death of approximately 80 members of the Branch Davidian sect.

"The buck stops with me," Reno said after the incident. She later said on CNN's "Larry King Live" that her decision was "obviously wrong."

In April 2000, Reno played a pivotal role in the saga of six-year-old Cuban immigrant Elian Gonzalez. Gonzalez, found off the coast of Fort Lauderdale in November 1999, was the only survivor among a group of 13 Cuban migrants trying to make it to the US. The incident sparked an international custody dispute between Gonzalez's relatives in the US and his father in Cuba.

Reno ultimately ordered a raid that sent Gonzalez back to Cuba.

When Clinton's administration was rocked by the Whitewater scandal, Reno was the person tasked with appointing special prosecutor Robert Fiske to lead the probe in 1994.

The Clintons were never charged with criminal wrongdoing.

In Clinton's second term -- months before his impeachment -- the Republican-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted to cite Reno for contempt of Congress for failing to hand over key memos.

Reno eventually provided those documents. Congress never moved forward with a vote on the matter.

The DoJ investigation into what happened in Waco when the FBI raided the compound covered up several key facts, not the least of which was the incompetent decision-making process that led to the tragedy.  There was no reason to raid the compound.  The children, despite claims by the FBI to the contrary, were not in danger.  But Waco had become a political liability for President Clinton.  Reno dutifully sought to eliminate the problem, only making it worse in the end.

She ran point for the administration against GOP investigations into Bill and Hillary Clinton's business dealings, as well as Bill's affairs that led to the president lying under oath.  Her managing the Clinton scandals drew high praise from the president.

Reno was overtly partisan just another cog in the Clinton political machine.  That the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the nation was reduced to carrying water for partisan reasons will be Janet Reno's real legacy.

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