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Reno clears up Brown death

Janet Reno’s Justice Department has looked into Commerce Secretary Ron Brown’s death and — surprise, surprise — found no evidence of a crime. Aren’t you relieved? Isn’t it nice that they cleared all that up? I sure feel better about this story now, don’t you. I’ll sleep better tonight.

I heard an ABC News radio report that explained the Justice Department’s findings would “put to rest” concerns about a possible gunshot wound in Brown’s head. Pretty funny. If I had been relying on ABC News for my information, I wouldn’t even know there had been any such concerns.

The Justice Department says it reviewed with Defense Department officials the information obtained by military pathologists after Brown and 34 others died in the 1996 crash of a U.S. military plane. Officials found no evidence of a crime “at this time,” hedged head mouthpiece Bert Brandenburg. To the best of his knowledge, no crime took place. To the best of Reno’s recollection, it was just a simple plane crash. Yada yada yada.

Despite the hedging, Reno does not plan any further investigation into the Brown affair. But, she adds, “If there is credible information developed that a crime has been committed, then we will pursue it immediately.”

I guess what that means is that if the guy who shot Brown turns himself in, confesses to the crime and brings a witness with him to verify every word he says, the Justice Department will consider looking into the matter. Maybe.

It seems to me, these folks at the Justice Department have kind of a funny standard for judging whether a crime has taken place. For instance, a Cabinet official, near indictment, is killed in a plane crash and winds up with what appears to be a mysterious gunshot wound to the head. That’s not evidence of a crime. Drop it like a hot potato. Meanwhile, someone raises questions about possible illegal guns in a Branch Davidian church out in the middle of nowhere and Reno sends in the tanks and the heavy artillery for a pre-emptive massacre of men, women and children.

Then there’s overwhelming evidence of illegal foreign money pouring into the 1996 Democratic presidential campaign. Even the FBI director thinks an independent counsel should be named to investigate whether a hostile foreign power might have bought influence with the White House. Reno, however, disagrees. It’s not even worth investigating. There’s no evidence. Don’t bother her with the facts. But let Bill Gates try to package his browser and operating system for sale and SWAT teams are preparing to extract million-dollar-a-day fines.

Are these just misplaced priorities? Is Reno protecting someone? Hmmmm? Or is Ron Brown not the only Cabinet official with a hole in his head?

Apparently, the Justice-Pentagon review of the case consisted of allowing the same officers to defend their previous conclusions without any examination or hearing for the dissenting opinions of qualified forensics experts. The review also didn’t turn up the missing photos and x-rays that help make this case so suspicious. Apparently, the official line is based on the year-old recollections of some of those who examined Brown’s body.

What about Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell and Army Lt. Col. David Hause? Are they nuts? Were they hallucinating? Were they seeking early retirement from the military? How does the Justice Department-Pentagon official line explain these guys away? The answer is: They don’t bother. They don’t even acknowledge their existence. And because the establishment press is so willing to accept and disseminate the official handouts, they really don’t have to explain much. Nobody in the press is even asking intelligent questions. As far as they’re concerned, it’s just another conspiracy theory shattered.

But what should we expect? After all, Mike McCurry, spokesman for Janet Reno’s boss, last weekend accused Christopher Ruddy, the reporter who broke the story about Ron Brown, of being a “hate merchant.” That, I would say, sent a pretty clear message to Janet Reno that the president had strong feelings about the case.

For once, God bless Maxine Waters. She’s not going to be stonewalled. She points out that this controversy didn’t start with some politician making a charge. It began with the cold, hard medical facts discovered by trained military doctors. It grew with the acknowledgment that authorities had misplaced the x-rays and other forensic evidence. Despite what ABC News and Janet Reno may think, this controversy will continue to fester until Ron Brown’s body is exhumed and a real investigation takes place.