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 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.