February 2000

HEADLINE: Whitewash Queen : Janet Reno May Not Like How She's Remembered; Brief Article



Last year, The Washingtonian revealed that Janet Reno had "much of the Justice Department" working on a document to chronicle what she considered to be her legacy as the nation's attorney general. "It is to comprise 16 chapters that will summarize her accomplishments and spell out the challenges to her successor," the magazine reported. "Attorneys working on the project say that she has urged them to 'speed it up.'"

If Reno is in fact hoping to produce such a document, it's hard to believe she could fill a page, let alone 16 chapters. Her record includes few accomplishments worthy of applause.


Within 36 days of taking office, Reno secured her place in history by green-lighting the FBI's use of toxic gas on children. Scores of people died in the inferno.

Reno later asserted that the gas pumped into the Davidian compound was only an "irritant." Yet the same type of gas was linked to the 1988 deaths of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip.

In the summer of 1995, House Republicans held the first substantive hearings on Waco. The highlight of Reno's testimony on August 1 was her revelation that the Bradley tanks that smashed through the complex should not be considered military vehicles. Instead, she said, they were "like a good rent-a-car."

When evidence surfaced that the government had used incendiary devices at Waco, Reno appointed former senator John Danforth to investigate. He remarked: "Our country can survive bad judgment. But the thing that really undermines the integrity of government is whether there were bad acts-whether the government killed people."


It is hard to recall an attorney general with less respect for the Second Amendment. Reno has supported every gun control bill floated by Congress. At the same time she has done everything to take guns out of the hands of the populace, she has overseen a huge arms buildup for police forces and SWAT teams. She is horrified by citizens who misuse guns (she keeps a photo in her office of one of the students slain at Columbine) but has a different attitude toward gun-toting government agents. In 1994 a Reno aide announced that no charges would be filed against an FBI sniper who killed Vicki Weaver as she held her baby in a doorway on Ruby Ridge. Reno later approved the promotion of Larry Potts, chief of the Ruby Ridge operation, to the number two post at the FBI.


When voters in California and Arizona supported the medicinal use of marijuana, Reno and drug czar Barry McCaffrey threatened to punish any doctor who recommended cannabis to patients.


Reno has championed the government's power to confiscate private property, even when citizens have not been convicted of a crime. She has repeatedly derailed congressional efforts to reform forfeiture laws by promising to fix the problems internally, while her lackeys put forward legislation to give the government even more power to plunder.


Reno's worst abuse of the independent counsel law was not what she did, but what she didn't do. She unleashed seven independent prosecutors, and allowed Ken Starr to expand and extend his investigation to include Bill Clinton's private life. That was bad. What was worse was not letting federal judges appoint an independent prosecutor to look into alleged Clinton-Gore campaign fund-raising violations.


Reno's record on defending free speech is without honor. In 1996 Congress passed the Communications Decency Act. The measure would have effectively curtailed sexual expression on the Internet. A three-judge panel found the law "profoundly repugnant" to the First Amendment. Reno went out of her way to defend it.

In October 1993, Reno announced that there was too much violence on television and hinted darkly that Uncle Sam should control programming. "If immediate voluntary steps are not taken by television producers, the government should set those standards."

Television survived the threat and created its own Reno legacy: "Janet Reno's Dance Party," a skit on Saturday Night Live. And Skinner, the brooding FBI boss on The X-Files, displays a photo of the attorney general above his desk.

Some legacy.