Janet Reno: Justice Delayed was Justice Denied

Janet Reno ordered the FBI’s 1993 attack in Waco, in which 76 men, women and children were murdered using chemical weapons and fire. [Image public domain, provided by Wikimedia Commons]
In the early hours of November 7, Janet Reno died at the age of 78 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Her niece “confirmed to CBS News that Reno died peacefully at home surrounded by family and friends.” It’s unfortunate that, unlike many of her victims, she was permitted to shuffle off this mortal coil a free woman, unpursued by the hounds of justice. Janet Reno had a lot to answer for.

As state attorney for Dade County, Florida in the 1980s, Reno helped kindle a wildfire of moral panic in America over alleged widespread ritual child sex abuse, leading witch hunts in which children and witnesses were bullied and even tortured into making up the lurid stories Reno and her “expert” child psychologists wanted to hear. People went to prison for crimes that they had not committed — in fact, crimes that hadn’t actually occurred at all. Some may still be there.

Instead of finding herself fired, disbarred and prosecuted for the damage she’d done , Reno was appointed to the position of Attorney General of the United States by president Bill Clinton in 1993. She became the first woman to serve in the position.

She promptly established her approach to the new job, ordering the  FBI’s 1993 massacre, with fire and chemical weapons, of 76 men, women and children at the Branch Davidian  community outside  Waco, Texas, a killing spree for which she publicly took “full responsibility.”

When someone admits to complicity in, let alone “full responsibility” for, 76 murders, it’s reasonable to expect a lengthy prison sentence or perhaps even death by lethal injection to follow the confession. Instead, Reno went on to become the longest-serving US Attorney General of the 20th century.

Another highlight of her tenure was the abduction of young Elian Gonzalez from family in Miami and his return to Cuba. Gonzalez’s mother had risked and lost her life bringing Elian to freedom in Florida. Reno handed him back over to the Castro regime.

Since the mid-1990s, I had devoutly hoped to someday see Janet Reno either brought before the bar of justice — in an individual criminal prosecution or perhaps a mass trial a la Nuremberg — or, at the very least, in perpetual flight and hiding like unto her spiritual exemplar, Adolf Eichmann. Her peaceful death “at home surrounded by family and friends” dashes those hopes.

Janet Reno successfully evaded real responsibility and liability for her actions to the very end. Good riddance.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Also published on Medium.

  • adaptune

    Gonzalez’s mother had risked and lost her life bringing Elian to freedom in Florida. Reno handed him back over to the Castro regime.

    Elian was returned to his FATHER, who happened to live in Cuba. The way you tell the story would make it justifiable for do-gooders to sneak into Cuba and kidnap children (as Elian was kidnapped in America by people he had never known), then act all outraged if those children are returned to their parents (“the Castro regime”).

    Your position is morally bankrupt, and your telling of history is pure fantasy.

    • Question:

      A mother and child flee Auschwitz in 1944 and somehow make it to America. Should the child be handed back over to the Nazis just because the father is still in Auschwitz and says he wants the kid back?

      • Richard Coleman

        WHAT!!?? You’re comparing Cuba with a Nazi extermination camp?

        BTW, you seem to have missed Reno’s far more egregious crime regarding the FBI’s frameup of four innocent black men for murder in Boston to protect their prize witness: murderer and crime boss Whitey Bulger. See among other things:


        “John Durham, a Connecticut prosecutor, was appointed by Attorney General
        Janet Reno to spearhead an investigation, but the Durham report was
        never completed or delivered, and the government has never explained

        • “WHAT!!?? You’re comparing Cuba with a Nazi extermination camp?”

          Yes. But in fairness I sooner or later compare pretty much every political government to a Nazi extermination camp.

          The purpose of the comparison was to find out just how far the original commenter was willing to take the seeming argument that the father’s desire to have the kid back takes precedence over all else.

  • Char

    No because that child would be in their 70’s and unless declared incompetent by mental defect not subject to parental custody orders.

    • Was there some part of “in 1944” that I did not clearly communicate?