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Tuesday, 25 April, 2000, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Reno 'allowed' media access to raid

Janet Reno faces questioning over the tactics used
The photograph of Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez has been described by one US commentator as one of the most disturbing images of the year.

A burly, federal officer, helmeted, goggled, wearing a flak jacket and battle fatigues confronting a screaming child.

Why, then, did the federal agents, who conducted the pre-dawn commando-style raid on the Miami home of Elian's relatives allow the media to be present?

The Washington Post, quoting official sources, says Attorney-General Janet Reno personally decided to allow media access to the snatch, in an attempt to avoid allegations of a government cover up.

Haunted by Waco

She also allowed cameramen to film a tearful Elian being carried out of the home, instead of ordering them out of the area.

The paper says the decision, was taken against the advice of some Justice Department officials, who favoured other options.

The alternatives considered, according to the paper's sources, were applying for a court order to remove the media from the area completely, and pulling the agents' van so close to the door of the house to limit pictures of the child being bundled into it.

The paper says the attorney-general has endured seven years of charges that the government covered up its actions in resolving the stand-off with the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas.

Davidian leader David Koresh and some 80 followers died in a fire on 19 April 1993 that started after an FBI operation intended to end their 51-day siege of the sect's headquarters.

The Washington Post reports that in the Elian case, Mrs Reno believed it best to insulate the Justice Department against similar accusations by having news media present.

Mrs Reno is now facing tough questioning from a number of Republicans in Congress over the raid. Some say federal officers used too much force, resulting in an unnecessarily militaristic image.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde said he had directed committee staff to launch a "preliminary inquiry" into the siege - an inquiry he hoped would be bipartisan.

Texas Governor George W Bush denounced the picture as one "a freedom-loving nation" ought not to show the world.

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See also:

23 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: How Elian was seized
23 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian sparks heated emails
24 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian's Easter photographs
22 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Elian seized
23 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian: A miracle child?
22 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Miami protests
22 Apr 00 | Americas
Reno's role in Elian saga
22 Apr 00 | Americas
Analysis: Elian divides America
12 Apr 00 | Americas
What awaits Elian in Cuba?
24 Apr 00 | Americas
US media debates dawn raid
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