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Waco Inquiry Said to Fault ATF Leaders

August 30, 1993| From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Senior officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have been faulted for putting agents with no paramilitary training in charge of the raid on the Branch Davidian cult, a published report says.

A review of the February raid near Waco, Tex., casts doubt on the future of Stephen Higgins, director of the ATF, which is a division of the Treasury Department, the New York Times said in today's editions.

The inquiry found fundamental problems with planning and execution during the 51-day standoff.

The newspaper said investigators also found that senior officials were "too detached" from the operation and that Higgins and others made misleading statements about what had occurred in the Feb. 28 raid, which left four agents and at least six cult members dead.

The standoff ended April 19 when federal agents pumped tear gas into the compound. A fire broke out and most of the Branch Davidian members were killed, including 17 children.

People involved with the review told the newspaper that the Clinton Administration, wary of repeating the messy departure of former FBI Director William Sessions, will likely encourage Higgins to step down when he turns 55 in October.

The findings on the Waco raid are expected to be made public in mid-September, and Higgins told the paper that he would decline to comment until then.

In a brief interview, he said he preferred to stay on but would retire if his leadership was found wanting.

"I'll stay here as long as I and the people in the organization and the department think I can do an effective job," he said.

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