William Sessions, an FBI director under three presidents, from 1987 to 1993, has died at 90. Sessions challenged racial and gender bias in his agency but struggled to redefine its mission and was fired after being accused of ethical lapses, the New York Times reports. Nominated by President Ronald Reagan, he was regarded as a scrupulously fair federal judge from Texas. Sessions presided over an agency that mounted much-criticized deadly sieges at Ruby Ridge, Id., and Waco, Tx., tried to enlist librarians to catch Soviet spies; and was forced to concede that agents had overzealously spied on Americans protesting government policies in Central America.
Sessions was applauded for broadening the FBI.ranks to include more black, Hispanic and female agents. The FBI faced heavy criticism in 1993 over a standoff that began when four agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and six members of a cult called the Branch Davidians were killed in a gun battle at their compound near Waco. After a 51-day FBI siege, President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno, fearing mass suicide, authorized a tear-gas assault. The compound caught fire and at least 75 people died. By that time, Sessions’ critics said he had failed to redefine the FBI’s crime-fighting and domestic counterintelligence missions after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Most damaging was an internal Justice Department report accusing him of ethical violations, including using FBI planes to visit relatives and friends, using agents to run personal errands, and having a $10,000 fence built around his Washington home at federal expense.