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Reports Says Branch Davidians Raid Riddled with Mistakes

By Douglas Frantz
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

Lax supervision by senior federal officials and serious mistakes by inexperienced field commanders were blamed Thursday for the botched raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in February in which four federal agents were killed.

A team of 30 investigators from various federal agencies concluded that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms assault on the compound on Feb. 28 failed because of poor planning, bad supervision and a refusal to stop the raid after the cult was warned that agents were coming.

The report accuses senior ATF officials of misleading investigators and the public in an attempt to cover up the errors in Waco in the raid's aftermath.

Five of the officials involved were placed on leave with pay Thursday pending further hearings. Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen said some of the individual cases may be referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation.

"Mistakes and errors in judgment were made," said Bentsen, whose department includes the ATF bureau. "Numerous officials were less than truthful about the facts."

Bentsen brought in an outsider, John Magaw of the U.S. Secret Service, as the new ATF director. He replaces Stephen E. Higgins, who said Monday he was resigning over differences with the report.

President Clinton ordered the investigation following the disastrous end to the standoff between cult members and law enforcement officials in April. As many as 86 members of the cult, including leader David Koresh, died after FBI agents fired tear gas into the compound in a final, fiery assault. A Justice Department analysis of that event is expected next week.

The Treasury Department report provides the most-detailed account yet of how the largest tactical operation in ATF history turned into the bloody prelude to an even greater disaster. It depicts an agency in which field commanders had no experience in launching a major armed assault and their superiors in Washington were content to watch rather than actively supervise.

"Unfortunately, the investigation also found disturbing evidence of flawed decision-making, inadequate intelligence gathering, miscommunication, supervisory failures and deliberately misleading post-raid statements," said the report.

The findings faulted ATF for not trying to arrest Koresh away from the compound and said the high-risk assault was carried out without adequate planning and training.

As recounted in the report, the descent to tragedy began the Sunday morning of the raid. The key element was catching the Branch Davidians by surprise.

A few miles away, a Waco television cameraman who had learned of the impending raid stopped a mailman to ask directions to the compound. He told the mailman there was to be an assault on the Branch Davidians.

The mailman was cult member David Jones, who sped back to the compound and telephoned Koresh.

WASHINGTON

President Clinton awarded the nation's highest honors in science and technology at the White House Thursday in a brief ceremony celebrating the spirit of innovation and scientific inquiry.

In presenting the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology to 17 recipients, Clinton saluted the accomplishments of "the dreamers, the pioneers, the risk-takers."

With achievements ranging from fundmental advances in molecular biology to synthesis of more efficient herbicides, the scientists, academics and executives made up a varied group.

Recipients of the National Medal of Science were Alfred Y. Cho of AT&T Laboratories for work in semiconductors; Donald J. Cram of the University of California at Los Angeles for work in organic chemistry; physicist Val Fitch of Princeton University; Norman Hackerman of the Houston-based Welch Foundation for work in electrochemistry and education; mathematician Martin Kruskal of Rutgers University; Daniel Nathans of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for contributions to genetics research; Astronomer Vera Rubin of the Carnegie Institution of Washington; and genetics expert Salome G. Waelsch of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Awarded the Medal of Technology, which recognizes advances in the commercialization of technology, were: Walter L. Robb of General Electric; Hans W. Liepmann of CalTech; Amos E. Joel of AT&T Bell Laboratories; Willam H. Joyce of Union Carbide; Digital Equipment Corp. founder Kenneth H. Olsen; technology transfer guru George Kozmetsky, founder of the IC Institute in Austin, Texas; William D. Manly of Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Inc; and George Levitt of Dupont Co. and Marinus Los of American Cyanamid Company, who won jointly for work in herbicides.

Clinton Awards Science Honors

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

President Clinton awarded the nation's highest honors in science and technology at the White House Thursday in a brief ceremony celebrating the spirit of innovation and scientific inquiry.

In presenting the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology to 17 recipients, Clinton saluted the accomplishments of "the dreamers, the pioneers, the risk-takers."

With achievements ranging from fundmental advances in molecular biology to synthesis of more efficient herbicides, the scientists, academics and executives made up a varied group.

Recipients of the National Medal of Science were Alfred Y. Cho of AT&T Laboratories for work in semiconductors; Donald J. Cram of the University of California at Los Angeles for work in organic chemistry; physicist Val Fitch of Princeton University; Norman Hackerman of the Houston-based Welch Foundation for work in electrochemistry and education; mathematician Martin Kruskal of Rutgers University; Daniel Nathans of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for contributions to genetics research; Astronomer Vera Rubin of the Carnegie Institution of Washington; and genetics expert Salome G. Waelsch of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Awarded the Medal of Technology, which recognizes advances in the commercialization of technology, were: Walter L. Robb of General Electric; Hans W. Liepmann of CalTech; Amos E. Joel of AT&T Bell Laboratories; Willam H. Joyce of Union Carbide; Digital Equipment Corp. founder Kenneth H. Olsen; technology transfer guru George Kozmetsky, founder of the IC Institute in Austin, Texas; William D. Manly of Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Inc; and George Levitt of Dupont Co. and Marinus Los of American Cyanamid Company, who won jointly for work in herbicides.

Most of the honorees are already widely recognized in their fields, and have shelves of awards. Cram, Nathans and Fitch have won Nobel prizes for chemistry, physiology of medicine and physics, respectively.

Mathematician Kruskal admitted a tendency to become blase about a glut of honors, but said "It's good to have a few and not one -- that gives you the idea that it's not a fluke." Kruskal's work identified the "soliton," a wave that acts like a particle -- an important concept both for pure scientific research and for such real-world applications as fiber optics. Kruskal said that the secret of his success in mathematics is questioning conventional wisdom: "In every subject there are all types of things people take for granted that can be challenged."

Clinton Proposes Teamwork Program for Fuel Efficiency

Newsday

Steering for the middle of the road in the controversy over fuel-efficiency standards, President Clinton Wednesday announced a joint government-industry research program aimed at developing cars that are three times as efficient as current models.

"We intend to do nothing less than to define the world car of the next century," said Clinton, who was joined on the White House lawn by the chief executives of the Big Three domestic automakers. Under the deal, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors agreed to a goal of producing a high-efficiency prototype car within a decade.

The agreement does not call for extra federal spending, nor does it require automakers to market the prototypes. Instead, it calls for government and corporate engineers to coordinate their fuel-efficiency research in a way that emulates similar partnerships in Japan.

Despite its vagueness, the plan could have important political benefits for Clinton, who critics say has vacillated on the hot-button environmental issue of raising the federal Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards.

"This allows them to do something on fuel economy without having to do the CAFE standards, at least in the short term," said Christopher Flavin, vice president of the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based non-profit group that studies energy issues. "Clearly there is an element of being caught between the environmental community and the auto industry, and wanting to find a middle ground."

Clinton's announcement came on the same day that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its 1994 fuel-efficiency statistics, which showed that fleet averages for U.S. automakers essentially remained stagnant for the eighth consecutive year, at about 28 miles per gallon. The current CAFE standard requires automakers to have a fleet average of at least 27.5 mpg or face financial penalties.

As a presidential candidate, Clinton had told environmental groups that he favored raising the CAFE standard to 45 miles per gallon. But a few weeks before Election Day in a meeting with Detroit business leaders, Clinton said 40 miles per gallon was a more realistic goal, and endorsed a "flexible" approach without mentioning legislation.

The auto industry fiercely has opposed stricter efficiency standards, arguing that the technology required to comply would threaten vehicle safety and add thousands of dollars to sticker prices. Besides, automakers say, consumers have expressed little interest in the high-efficiency models that are available.

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"By and large, what can be done with the current technology to produce an affordable, reasonable car for the consumer has been done," said Diane Steed, president of the Coalition for Vehicle Choice, a Washington-based industry-funded group. "You simply cannot do more without a dramatic technological breakthrough."

Clinton Wednesday did not refer directly to the fuel-efficiency controversy, but stressed that he preferred non-mandated solutions. "The government will in no way abdicate its responsibility in the search for near-term improvements in fuel efficiency, but we do want to break the wasteful gridlock in Washington over auto issues," he said.

Aides said Wednesday that the president had made no decision about whether to seek higher fuel-efficiency standards, but said the issue is likely to be addressed in the next few weeks when the administration releases its "climate action plan" aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming.