DALLAS (Reuters) - A former CIA officer was quoted Friday as saying members of a secret Army unit played an active role in helping the FBI in the final assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993.
The Dallas Morning News quoted former CIA officer Gene Cullen as saying three or four commandos of the ``Delta Force'' had told him that they were ``present, up front and close'' during the operation.
In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman denied troops took an active part in the raid but said some personnel were present as advisers and observers.
``We acknowledged in 1995 and again this week that there were Department of Defense personnel there at the time, both as observers and advisers to the ATF and FBI,'' said Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley.
``We are forbidden by law from actively participating in police or law enforcement operations,'' Quigley added.
Cullen was quoted as telling the newspaper that the commandos had discussed their role at Waco with him later in 1993 while they worked together on an overseas assignment.
``When they explained to me the depth to which they were involved down in Waco, I was quite surprised. They said basically they were out there in the vehicles, the Bradley (fighting vehicles), the CEV (tanks) ... They were active,'' he said.
``Whether it's the macho-bravo-type talk of guys in the field, I don't know,'' he said, declining to identify the commandos. ``I have no reason to suspect that they lied,'' he added.
The Dallas Morning News said use of active-duty military personnel against civilians without a specific presidential decree was a violation of federal law.
A defense official, who asked not to be identified, told reporters in Washington that military special forces personnel were on the scene at Waco as advisers. The Pentagon does not openly discuss the operations of such troops.
Thursday U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said she was angry at not being told until recently that FBI agents involved in the Waco siege used tear gas canisters capable of sparking a fire. The FBI had previously denied using such canisters.
Reno maintained however the FBI did not cause the fire that
destroyed the compound and killed 80 people.