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Potts promoted despite censure

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WASHINGTON, May 2 -- Acting FBI Deputy Director Larry Potts, who only last month was censured for his supervisory role in an FBI siege, has been appointed to fill the bureau's No. 2 position permanently, FBI Director Louis Freeh announced Tuesday. Freeh said the appointment had been approved by Attorney General Janet Reno. Potts was named as acting deputy last December replacing David Binney who retired. Tuesday, Freeh said Potts 'is superbly qualified to be the deputy director.' In a prepared statement, Freeh said Potts was placed 'in personal charge' of the FBI investigation in the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City because of those abilities. Potts has been directing operations at the FBI's Command Center in Oklahoma City since the April 19 bombing, Freeh said. Potts' promotion to FBI deputy director comes despite his recent censure for his supervisory role in the 1992 siege of a white supremacist's compound in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. The siege began when U.S. marshals tried to serve a federal firearms warrant on the owner of the compound, Randy Weaver, and were fired upon. In the subsequent exchange of gunfire, Weaver's 13-year-old son was shot and killed. FBI agents were called in to surround the house. While shooting at one of the armed men in the compound who was firing at an FBI helicopter, an FBI sniper missed and instead killed Weaver's wife as she stood in a doorway, a Justice Department investigation determined. Weaver was later acquitted by a federal jury of the firearms charge.

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Potts was censured last month by Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick at Freeh's request. The formal censure said Potts, as a supervising official in Washington, failed to adequately define the rules of engagement to be used during the siege. The Ruby Ridge incident and the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas -- in which Davidian leaders killed other cult members, children and ultimately themselves rather than surrender to storming FBI agents -- have been frequently cited by right-wing militias as 'evidence' of federal wrongdoing. Pott's Ruby Ridge censure was one of the few dark spots on an otherwise highly successful career in the bureau. While serving as assistant director in charge of the criminal investigative division, Potts was named acting deputy director by Freeh last December. Potts, 47, has served in Pittsburgh, Denver and Boston, and in a number of criminal division management posts in Washington. In 1990, Potts was inspector-in-charge of a multi-agency task force which investigated and helped convict Walter Leroy Moody in the mail- bomb murders of a federal judge in Birmingham, Ala., and a civil rights attorney in Savannah, Ga. Potts received a citation from President George Bush in 1991 for his role in the mail-bomb investigations. (Written by Michael Kirkland in Washington)

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