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The Cisneros case isn't closed

| Sunday, Jan. 29, 2006


For eight years, Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno manipulated and frustrated the laws of the United States.

In 1993, 74 law-abiding citizens, including their children, died in Waco, Texas, on her orders. Nine months earlier, at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, Randy Weaver's son and wife were killed by men following her commands.

Perhaps, with a sense of what is appropriate, Janet Reno last week was the distinguished lecturer at the University of Iowa speaking on the urgent need for death-penalty reform in the United States.

During their time in the White House and Department of Justice, the veritable "Gang of Three" -- Bill and Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno -- organized and were a part of a successful cabal that enabled a member of the Clinton Cabinet, Henry Cisneros, to evade justice.

Cisneros was able to parley 18 felony counts into a single "guilty" plea to a misdemeanor on a charge of lying to the FBI. For this, he was convicted and paid a $10,000 fine. The lies were about his income, his IRS tax filings and his adulterous relationship over a number of years with Linda Miller, who received huge and regular payments from him. On Bill Clinton's last day in office, Cisneros received a presidential pardon.

Cisneros, beloved by millions of Hispanics, could have become secretary of the Treasury or even president, anointed by the Gang of Three.

This month a report completed in 2004 by independent counsel David Barrett was made public. It documented the obstruction and impediment of justice that gave the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development a license to lie and cheat.

The term "made public" is a misnomer; 100-plus pages of the original 400-page report were "redacted" by court order.

Those who claim familiarity with the redactions say many concern the work to squelch the special prosecutor's investigation by Margaret "Peggy" Milner Richardson, a former IRS commissioner and a Hillary friend.

The Barrett report also brings into focus the work of Lee Radek, a former employee of the CIA, then the chief of the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department. It is stated in the report that Radek claimed that Cisneros had committed no tax violation, although he admitted he only reviewed eight of the hundreds of checks written by the former San Antonio mayor.

Then there is Barry Finkelstein, an assistant chief counsel for criminal tax matters at the IRS. His role is reported as telling his associates to "kill the Cisneros case." Perhaps to ensure that this was done, and done mercifully, the case was removed from San Antonio to Washington, D.C.

When Barrett, a veteran lawyer with some 30 years of experience, sought authority to examine the Cisneros tax returns, Attorney General Reno agreed. Barrett was allowed to review the return of just one year.

And, when the Democrats under Clinton were dismissed, the incoming Bush administration, seeking national unity, refused to be distracted by the scandals of the Gang of Three.

The Barrett report has revived interest in Reno. She and her associates, now mostly protected by the expiration of the statute of limitations, must be asked about numerous matters that were, at the time, quashed or nullified.

There were the "mistakes" made by Lorel and the Hughes companies, which enabled the Chinese to learn U.S. space research secrets and put our West Coast at risk from Chinese missiles.

There were then-FBI Director William Sessions' investigations of the Department of Justice.

There were the many strange and criminal activities of Webster Hubbell, Reno's deputy and the Clintons' best friend.

There were the forensic pictures of Ron Brown, secretary of Commerce, with a fatal bullet wound in his head, after an air crash.

And there was the even stranger death of Vincent Foster, the close friend and colleague of Hillary Clinton, in a Virginia trysting spot, termed a suicide by inexperienced investigators from the National Parks Service.

The Democrats already have geared up their apologists, ranging from Wesley Clark and Lanny Davis to Eleanor Clift and David Gergen, so that the Gang of Three can feel secure.

But not for long. Someone close to Janet Reno is talking.

Dateline D.C. is written by a Washington-based journalist and political observer.

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