Two censured ATF officials resign High-ranking pair had role in cult raid

October 04, 1993|By Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON -- Two senior government officials who were censured in a report for their role in the botched Branch Davidian raid resigned in protest during the weekend.

Dan Hartnett, associate director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Dan Conroy, deputy associate director, told Treasury Department officials Saturday that they were leaving the agency immediately.

The two, in their first public comment since the department issued a critical raid review Thursday, said they were unfairly accused of lying and misleading the public and their superiors during the siege near Waco, Texas.

"We are resigning because we do not agree with the findings of the Waco administrative review. The report does not reflect the facts of what occurred in the aftermath of the Waco tragedy," Mr. Hartnett and Mr. Conroy said.

The two men were the agency's highest-ranking law enforcement officials until being placed on administrative leave last week in the wake of the Treasury Department report. Three other ATF officials also were suspended with pay pending further review by the Treasury Department, which oversees the ATF.

The Treasury Department review concluded that ATF officials designed a flawed plan to storm the compound Feb. 28 to arrest sect leader David Koresh and search for illegally stockpiled weapons.

The report said the raid should have been canceled when an undercover ATF agent told commanders that Koresh knew that agents were coming.

The operation left four ATF agents and six cult members dead in a shootout. The confrontation lasted 51 days, ending April 19 when fire consumed the compound. Koresh and more than 80 of his followers burned to death or were shot dead by other members.

Meanwhile, federal officials said that internal disputes about detailing wiretap information and other evidence from the Branch Davidian confrontation have prompted the Justice Department to postpone release of its review of the FBI's role in the siege.

The Justice Department's legal counsel has determined that the recorded information can be used in the trials of the 11 surviving cult members charged in the deaths of the four ATF agents.

But it may not legally be made part of the Justice Department report because that document will be made public before the cult members' trial begins in January, according to the opinion.

Justice Department officials are working to remove the electronic eavesdropping material before the report is officially released, sources said.

Mr. Hartnett, 53, a 24-year veteran, and Mr. Conroy, 50, a 26-year veteran, were the top ATF officials in Waco after the raid. They became recognized during widely broadcast news conferences during the federal government's confrontation with the Branch Davidian sect.

The Treasury report said both men, along with others in Washington, did not take into account the inexperience of the raid commanders in planning the raid and did not recognize the need for less-risky alternative or contingency plans.

They also made misstatements to the public or allowed them to be made and failed to keep superiors fully apprised of key reasons for the raid failure, according to the Treasury review.

In their statement, Mr. Hartnett and Mr. Conroy said they never lied or intentionally misled anyone and that they fully briefed ATF officials daily in Washington during the Waco siege.

Mr. Hartnett and Mr. Conroy said before the Waco operation that they had planned to retire at the end of the year. Saturday's decision, delivered to Treasury officials in Washington, made it effective immediately.

Stephen Higgins, the former ATF director, announced his resignation last week before release of the report.

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