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Tear Gas

June 11, 1995

In "Use of Tear Gas in Waco Raid Under Scrutiny" (May 30), your reporter omitted mention of the key flaw in his reasoning, even though we urgently pointed it out to him. His alarm about the use of tear gas was based on the aggregate effect of repeated insertions of gas. To be sure, if people are trapped, repeated injection of almost any substance will asphyxiate them. But the purpose of using tear gas is to make people move, not stay in place. That's why the FBI made openings in the walls after Branch Davidian leader David Koresh had the doors barricaded. Your reporter posited a harm which is inconsistent with the use of tear gas, and which did not occur.

Other parts of the article were similarly skewed. It was irresponsible to invoke the possibility that the gas and flames produced lethal cyanide, when, in fact, none of the deaths were attributed to cyanide.

If there is an agenda at work here other than providing accurate information about Waco, I am concerned that it will not serve us well.

CARL STERN

Director of Public Affairs

U.S. Department of Justice

Washington

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