Dear Secretary Bentsen:

Continuing discussions with Treasury Department officials lead me to believe that the Department and I have substantially different views for the future of ATF following the Waco review. They apparently see what happened in Waco as an indication that ATF needs to make significant changes in direction and focus. In my view Waco was a tragic event from which all of law enforcement can learn, but I believe that ATF was, and continues to be, an outstanding law enforcement agency, a view which I believe is widely shared throughout the law enforcement community.

During my 11 years as Director, I believe I’ve earned the trust of our employees by trying to do what is both right and fair, with candor and concern. I cannot continue to effectively serve as their Director if I betray that trust. Since I do not agree with all of the conclusions reached, and actions proposed, pursuant to Waco incident, and since you apparently support the merger of ATF into the FBI as proposed by the Reinvention Team, I only have two real choices as a career executive where I find myself in serious disagreement with both decisions. I can either ask to be reassigned to another position or retire. This is to advise you I have decided to retire effective October 30, 1993.

There are no finer people in Federal service than those I’ve worked with in ATF these past 32 years, and I’ll miss the opportunity to help them through this difficult and tragic time in our agency’s history. I have no doubt, however, they’ll do it — with class. Hopefully, the timing of my retirement will in some way facilitate that process.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen E. Higgins

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part Two appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

Read the accounts of April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

The 1987 Rodenville shootout and trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more coming soon.