The FBI videotape’s revelation that incendiary tear gas canisters were used at Waco with the knowledge of at least two of its agents there and the political fallout this is generating leads at USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. The New York Times fronts a story about tension between Janet Reno and Louis Freeh (ditto the WP) but leads instead with an evergreen: the failure of an American diplomatic mission (led by Madeleine Albright) to produce a peace accord between the Palestinians and Israel, a story that is fronted at the LAT and WP. The sticking point du jour is how many Palestinians in Israeli jails should be released. Israel is willing to spring 350, but the Palestinians want another 50 the Israelis are saying no to.
USAT’s lead mainly dwells on the imminent outside investigation of Waco, saying that its honcho could be named as early as today and that candidates include two Republican ex-senators. The WP has this as well. But the Post and especially the LAT focus instead on wringing significance from the videotape released yesterday by the DOJ. The WP says it shows a “hurried and seemingly casual decision” arrived at by the then-head of the FBI’s hostage rescue team, Richard Rogers, in a discussion with a subordinate to allow one of the team members to use incendiary military tear gas cartridges against an underground shelter near the main compound building. The Post notes that in a subsequent FBI account of the Waco assault, Rogers made no mention of the incendiary rounds. The LAT adds that when in an appearance before Congress, then-FBI director William Sessions testified that his agents did not use any flammable munitions at Waco, Rogers was sitting behind him. The Post adds that in court documents, FBI officials stated that no videotape existed covering the phase of the operation when, it turns out, Rogers’ directive was issued. Rogers, the LAT reminds, was later removed from his hostage team job, because of his role at the Ruby Ridge, Idaho standoff the year before Waco in which an unarmed woman was killed by a sniper under Rogers’ command.
The LAT raises another interesting point: Did senior DOJ and FBI officials in the Washington command center listening to “sporadic” radio communications from Waco hear the conversation on the videotape? The paper quotes Carl Stern, then Reno’s press spokesman, who was at the command center that day, as saying that he does not recall hearing it.
There is much discussion in the stories about how these revelations have hurt the credibility of federal law enforcement. But somebody else’s credibility takes a hit too: the media’s. It’s a little hard to believe that if dozens and dozens of children of a fringe-left group had died in similar circumstances, the mainstream media would have left the story to a documentary filmmaker.
A WP front-pager reports that George W. Bush vowed yesterday that if elected president, he would strip federal funding from failing public schools and give the money to parents for tutors or to help them transfer their kids to other schools, including private ones. The NYT and LAT run the story inside. The coverage notes that Bush never used the word “voucher.”
The Wall Street Journal reports a new finding in the unraveling Russian funds scandal: hundreds of corporate and individual bank accounts at dozens of banks around the world are now suspected of receiving parts of the estimated $10 billion that is missing. On some days, some of these accounts, says the paper, received transfers of more than $100 million.
The NYT goes top-front with word that President Clinton and Hillary Clinton have signed a contract to buy a $1.7 million, 11-room colonial home in Chappaqua, New York. They will close in November. The Times runs the item under a nice headline, WITH SOME HELP, CLINTONS PURCHASE A WHITE HOUSE. The “help” refers to the $1.35 million in collateral President Clinton’s chief fund-raiser, Terry McAuliffe, put up to secure the house loan. The paper quotes one source as saying that since the Clintons have assets of just over $1 million but legal debts of $5.2 million, “banks were a little bit wary about providing such a large mortgage without some extra security.” The WP reports that the angel was supposed to be former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, who bowed out at the last minute, to “the consternation of the Clintons.” Isn’t it a little surprising that the papers don’t mention the similarity to the way Richard Nixon got his house with a little help from his rich friends?
The NYT reports that until yesterday afternoon, Ebay was offering for bidding a “fully functional” human kidney. The opening bid was $25,000 and the last bid was $5,750,100 before the company ended the auction, no doubt because trafficking in organs is a felony.
The WP reports that AOL, having reprogrammed its computers to allow much longer screen-names, has also taken the step of preventing subscribers from using as their log-ons any of the celebrity names that are now for the first time technically available. So, the paper explains, no Billclinton@aol.com unless you’re Him. Today’s Papers is reminded of something it just learned about the NYT online. The paper requires readers to register with a screen-name, but doesn’t require real names. One potential reader suggested he’d like the screen-name, “IhatetheNYtimes.” No, the Electric Lady told him, that one’s already taken. Would you like “IhatetheNYtimes3”?