WASHINGTON, April 30 -- Reacting to continuing criticism of the government handling of the Waco siege, in which 81 people died, Attorney General Janet Reno Sunday said she would welcome any help from Congress in determining how to hold people accountable for violence without triggering more violence. But Reno, on NBC's 'Meet the Press,' said the government 'cannot walk away from the death of four agents and 16 people wounded' in the Waco episode, 'and say 'too bad, we're not going to go after them.'' That the Oklahoma City bombing was apparently timed to take place on the second anniversary of the Waco fire that consumed the Branch Davidian compound, has again focused attention on the management of the enforcement action against the cult members. 'What we want to do is to make sure that law enforcement holds people accountable when they commit a crime, when they have engaged in violent acts,' she said. 'But we want to do so according to the Constitution ... without rhetoric.' 'I think the most damaging thing we can do in the country is talk in generalities or in picturesque terms,' she said. 'I think it is important we talk based on the evidence and the law and that we enforce the law the right way, firmly, fairly, holding people accountable.' The burning of the Waco compound two years before the date of the Oklahoma City bombing after nearly two months in which it was ringed by federal agents, can not be used as a justification for Oklahoma City's killings, she said.
'I think to link Waco with what happened in Oklahoma City is wrong because there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for what happened in Oklahoma City,' she said. 'Let us address Waco separately.' 'Lives of officers who were executing a lawful warrant were taken -- four agents were killed, 16 men wounded in a 45-minute gun battle. That's when I came in,' she said. 'We didn't attack. We tried to exercise every restraint possible to avoid violence. We tried, based on what we knew at the time, to negotiate, to work through, to try to understand what we could do to resolve that situation short of violence,' she said. 'The statement was made that something had to be done because it going to go on and it could not be peacefully resolved; we tried to do everything we could,' she said. An independent study by fire experts said 'that fire was not set by government; it was set by David Koresh and his followers.' Asked if she would welcome a congressional investigation of Waco, she replied, 'I have said that we welcome every effort imaginable to figure out how we hold people accountable for their violent acts. You cannot walk away from the death of four agents and 16 people wounded and say 'too bad, we're not going to go after them,'' she said. 'We've got to do it in a fair, thoughtful way and I would welcome as I have every effort to understand how we hold people accountable while minimizing the violence,' she said. Asked who told her that there was sexual molestation of children threatened in the Waco compound, Reno answered that, 'One of the problems is that you all in the media take something that somebody said and throw it out,' she said. 'I do not have the Waco files with me but we will get that information to you to show you the evidence of sexual molestation that was available to us,' she said. There are expected to be hearings on Waco scheduled soon in the House, but not the Senate. In another interview Sunday, Reno told CNN that 'extraordinary progress is being made,' in the investigation of the Oklahoma city bombing. Reno said existing guidelines for monitoring extremist organizations allow the FBI the flexibility it needs, as long as they are applied in a broader way than has been the case in the last two decades. On another public affairs program, ABC's 'This Week with David Brinkley,' Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., said that extremist groups suspicious of conspiracies -- such as the 'militias' in several states, have been a part of the American landscape for more than a century but that the current U.S. government widening of secrecy regulations contributes to the problem. Moynihan, who serves on a commission studying the government's handling of secret documents, says 2 million government employees have security clearances that allow them to keep information, much of it not sensitive, from everyone else.