Federal agents, who had learned of the questions we were asking in preparation for our current series on Mount Carmel, approached us about a month ago and asked to hold off.
Our stories were nearly complete then. We told the agents that we appreciated their position but couldn’t make a commitment not to publish.
We waited about a month for other considerations not involved with their request, but we also listened to their concerns.
We knew the situation at Mount Carmel had been going on for quite a while. It was a dangerous and sinister thing the public should know about. We’re not talking just of stockpiling weapons, but such things as sexual exploitation of young girls and other abuses of children in the name of religion.
Local authorities knew about the situation and, as best we could tell, had done next to nothing. We had been seriously looking into it for about eight months.
The ATF suggested to us in private that they were going to do something but couldn’t say what, or really when. How long would the situation remain? After several days of careful consideration, we decided to let the public know of this menace in our community. We did one thing we don’t normally do. As the ATF requested, we let them know Friday, the day before our first story was going to be published Saturday. In our reporting Saturday and Sunday, we carefully avoided even a hint of our knowledge that the ATF might be involved.
Our decisions are always subject to examination, but I don’t agree with the tendency of some to point to our reporting as having affected Sunday’s tragedy. We share the anguish over what happened. Everyone involved or who saw it is devastated.