This chronology was assembled from the Justice Department report, Dr. James Tabor's chronological log, a Waco Tribune-Herald chronology2/, and sources referenced herein.
March 1--FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Jeff Jamar
arrives at command post. BATF Associate Director of Enforcement Daniel
Hartnett and FBI Hostage Rescue Team arrive. FBI takes charge.
Acting Attorney General Stuart Gerson tells President Clinton the strategy
is negotiation. FBI cuts off Davidian phones except to FBI.
Armored vehicles move into inner perimeter, upsetting Davidians.
Total of 10 children leave. Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman
goes to Waco, meets with BATF agent Bill Buford. Koresh promises
to come out after a taped message is played on nationwide radio in prime
March 2--Two elderly women, Catherine Matteson and Margaret Lawson, and four children leave. Some Davidians allege there were discussions of a suicide plan for that day. At 1:30 p.m. Koresh's message is played over only two radio stations in Waco and Dallas, not nationwide at prime time, as the FBI promised. Koresh reports God has told him to await instructions before exiting.
March 3--Davidians upset when the two elderly women are charged with attempted murder, and FBI has charges dropped. One child exits. BATF agent in helicopter claims to retrieve gun from Michael Schroeder's body, but leaves body at scene.
March 4--One child exits. Koresh admits most remaining children are his. FBI reads Koresh the rules of engagement. Koresh makes a variety of threats against the FBI should they attack Mount Carmel. He reveals his desire for "one honest Bible study in this great nation of America."
March 5--(Or March 6th) Texas Rangers and FBI retrieve Michael Schroeder's body with an armored vehicle. Talk show host Ron Engelman suggests Davidians move satellite dish to communicate with outside world.
March 6--Steve Schneider, Koresh's second in command, asserts the FBI wants to burn the building to destroy the evidence from February 28th. Koresh agrees to send out Melissa Morrison if he can talk to Robert Rodriquez. The FBI refuses, and she does not leave Mount Carmel.
March 7--Dr. Phillip Arnold offers services as a religious consultant to FBI agent Bob Ricks.
March 8--The FBI allows Davidians to bury Peter Gent's body. Davidians send out video tape where many adults state why they refuse to exit.
March 9--Davidians send out second similar video tape. Davidians unfold banner that reads: "God Help Us We Want the Press." Unnamed FBI officials pressure behavioral analysts Smerick and Young into issuing memorandum to support increased harassment of Davidians.
March 11--The FBI turns Koresh's mother Bonnie Haldeman and attorney Dick DeGuerin away from road block. Judge Walter Smith refuses Haldeman's request to allow Koresh to meet with DeGuerin.
March 12--Janet Reno sworn in as Attorney General. Attorneys complain about secrecy of weapons charges. Kathy Schroeder and Oliver Gyrfas exit Mount Carmel. Nevertheless, FBI siege commander Jamar cuts off electricity permanently, angering Schneider and Koresh.
March 13--Schneider charges again that the government wants to kill them all and burn the building. FBI receives letters from attorneys DeGuerin and Zimmermann but will not let them speak with Koresh and Schneider.
March 14--Koresh rebukes Kathryn Schroeder for not being an adequate spokesperson. Davidians hang banner that reads: "FBI broke negotiations, we want press," and flash S.O.S. signals. The FBI begins illuminating Mount Carmel with bright stadium lights at night.
March 15--FBI negotiators insist they will not listen to any more "Bible babble." The FBI allows Schneider and Martin to meet outside with FBI chief negotiator Byron Sage and Sheriff Jack Harwell.
March 16--Schneider repeatedly requests that Dr. Phillip Arnold, who they had heard on KRLD, be allowed to discuss the Seven Seals with Koresh, but FBI refuses permission. The FBI calls Dr. Arnold about getting audio tapes of his radio program, their last contact with Arnold.
March 19--FBI delivers Arnold audio tapes and letters from attorneys to Koresh. After assurances from FBI that Mount Carmel will not be destroyed and Davidians eventually can return. Koresh promises they will all come out soon. Brad Branch and Kevin Whitecliff exit and are jailed.
March 21--Possible beginning of mass exit. Victorine Hollingsworth, Annetta Richards, Rita Riddle, Gladys Ottman, Sheila Martin, James Lawton and Ophelia Santoya leave Mount Carmel. The FBI begins blasting loud music and angry Schneider and Koresh say because of this, no one else will exit.
March 22--Agent Jamar calls strategy session and discusses "stress escalation" and using tear gas. Jamar sends in letter promising Koresh live media coverage of exit, freedom to preach in jail and worldwide radio broadcast. Angry at past FBI lies, Koresh destroys the letter.
March 23--Livingstone Fagan exits.
March 24--The FBI insults Koresh at news conference. Christian sympathizer Louis Alaniz sneaks into Mount Carmel.
March 25--The FBI demands people exit and when they do not tanks destroy go carts and vehicles.
March 26--The FBI demands people exit and removes more vehicles. Christian sympathizer Jesse Amen sneaks into Mount Carmel.
March 27--Angry Schneider asserts they will not come out, no matter what the FBI does.
March 28--The FBI demands people exit and then moves away more cars, fences, trees and other obstructions. The FBI finally allows DeGuerin to talk to Koresh. A third video tape of Koresh interviewing children is sent out.
March 29--Koresh and DeGuerin meet.
March 30--Koresh and DeGuerin meet twice. Schneider speaks with attorney Jack Zimmermann by phone.
March 31--Koresh has two long meetings with DeGuerin. Los Angeles Times reports Rita Riddle claimed BATF shot from helicopters.
April 1--Attorney General Reno appoints Ray Jahn as lead prosecutor. Dr. Arnold and Dr. Tabor broadcast message on Ron Engelman show encouraging Koresh to write a "little book" and leave Mount Carmel. DeGuerin and Zimmermann spend day at Mount Carmel. They report Koresh will exit after Passover.
April 2--Schneider reports they will come out sometime after Passover.
April 3--In a press conference the FBI says if Davidians do not exit after Passover, they will step up their actions. During this week FBI Director approves the gassing plan. Several dozen libertarian, patriot, gun rights activists protest. Linda Thompson's armed "unorganized militia" protests near Mount Carmel.
April 4--Attorneys bring in Arnold and Tabor audio tape. Jesse Amen exits. DeGuerin and Zimmermann claim that BATF shot from helicopters and that they can see such evidence in the roof. New York Times carries the story the next day. BATF denies claims.
April 6--Steve Schneider complains about music and lights disturbing Passover, but the FBI continues harassment.
April 8--Schneider confirms everyone will come out after Passover. Davidians hang out more banners, including one that says: "Rodney King, We Understand."
April 9--Koresh sends out first defiant letter filled with Biblical allusions. The FBI completes plans for gassing Mount Carmel. Schneider gives the FBI names of those killed on February 28th.
April 10--Koresh sends out two more defiant letters. The FBI tells Davidian attorneys they will not be allowed back in unless there is an immediate surrender.
April 11--Koresh sends out fourth defiant letter.
April 12--Attorney General Reno first briefed on gassing plan.
April 13--Koresh repeats he will not exit until God tells him to. Passover ends. At White House meeting Webster Hubbell informs White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum and Deputy Counsel Vince Foster about the plan; Nussbaum informs President Clinton.
April 14--Koresh writes Dick DeGuerin saying God has spoken to him, and promises to exit as soon as he finishes a short book about the Seven Seals. Reno briefed again on gassing plan.
April 15--FBI negotiator Sage tells Assistant Attorney General Webster Hubbell that negotiations are going nowhere.
April 16--Koresh tells the FBI he has completed work on the First Seal. After private conversation with FBI Director William Sessions, Reno requests that the FBI prepare documentation about gassing plan.
April 17--Louis Alaniz exits Mount Carmel. Attorney General Reno approves gassing plan for April 19th.
April 18--Attorney General informs President Clinton about gassing plan. Armored vehicles remove remaining vehicles from around the building.
WHY DAVIDIANS STAYED INSIDE MOUNT CARMEL
Koresh and other Davidians had reasons both spiritual and practical for staying inside Mount Carmel Center. Few of these reasons ever were communicated accurately to the public.
Desire to Spread God's Word
Less than an hour into the raid, David Koresh can be heard on the 9-1-1 tape trying to arrange to get his story out to the media.3/ That night he did two Dallas KRLD radio interviews and a nationally broadcast phone interview on CNN television. He told the CNN interviewer: "If the scholars of this world, if anybody, ministers that claim that God talks to them, will contact me, and I hope it's soon. If they'll call me and show the world what the Seven Seals are and where they're at in the prophecies, then I'll be satisfied. And then we'll all come out to you." He told the KRLD interviewer, "All that is happening here is the fulfillment of prophecy!"
Koresh and other Davidians were convinced that BATF's attack was the opening of the Fifth Seal of the Book of Revelation and that they were living the events predicted in that seal. They believed the six Davidians killed February 28th were slaughtered for "preaching God's word" and the surviving Davidians only would have to "rest a little longer" until the "remainder" also were put to death. Thus would begin the countdown to the Apocalypse and the Second Coming of Christ.
Davidians believed that the siege was a God-given opportunity to spread Koresh's message to the world and that humanity was being given its last opportunity to hear God's word and repent. It was only through repentance that America and the world could save itself from destruction. Rita Riddle, who left Mount Carmel during the siege, told reporters in late March, 1993, that Koresh's goal was not merely publicity. "All he is trying to get out of this is people knowing about these Seven Seals. . .He is interested in lost souls."4/
In his 58 minute March 2, 1993 audio tape, Koresh states that while he was concerned about the lives of his friends at Mount Carmel, "I am really concerned even greater about the lives of all those in this world. Without Christ, without Jesus, we have no hope." Koresh told negotiators, "It would be so awesome if everyone could just sit down and have one honest Bible study in this great nation of America. . .America does not have to be humiliated or destroyed." The Justice report admits, "The FBI has questioned whether its negotiations with David Koresh could even be characterized as `negotiations' at all, but rather as Koresh's attempt to convert the agents before it was too late and God destroyed them."5/
Koresh was angry that the FBI immediately cut off their phone lines to the outside world and even angrier when the FBI broke its promise to play Koresh's 58 minute March 2nd sermon nationwide at prime time. Livingstone Fagan, who left Mount Carmel and became the Davidians' spokesperson, complained in a March 26, 1993 CNN interview that the FBI was preventing Koresh from spreading his message, which would facilitate a resolution. "The whole thing has a divine hand guiding the process. God is really just demonstrating that he can do what he wants."
Koresh's demand would have been reprehensible had he made it as result of some aggressive action. However, because the Davidians were attacked unjustly, many see the demand as a call for understanding from a people wronged, as well as an act of faith. All Davidians were committed to staying inside Mount Carmel until Koresh was satisfied that their stand made a spiritual impression upon the world.
In June, 1993 Ruth Riddle, sister-in-law to Rita, told a television interviewer, "We felt that this would provide us, David, an opportunity to get the message out, in great detail. . .We were all well aware of what was going on, to the extent that we were backing what David wanted to do, and turn a bad situation around into a good one. . .Companionship was closer. Our commitment was stronger. Our desire to study was more. And the more we studied, the more we could see plainly what David had taught."6/ Koresh and the Davidians said they were willing to come out under only two conditions: God instructed Koresh that it was time to leave, or some theologian convinced Koresh he was misinterpreting the word of God.
Angry at/Frightened of Federal Agents
Given David Koresh's past efforts to cooperate, the fact that the arrest warrant had been for Koresh only, and the fact that agents had come in shooting when they could have simply knocked on the door if they wanted to search Mount Carmel, Davidians were angry at the injustice of the BATF attack. Davidians also were afraid of the government. Audio tapes of the 9-1-1 call reveal that just hours into the siege Wayne Martin complained to negotiators that the radio was reporting BATF or the FBI intended to attack them again. In "The Waco Incident: The True Story" video, Sheila Martin revealed, "Those first few days we still worried they were going to come. They would come and get us in the middle of the night. . .It was the scariest time. We knew that they were angry and we knew that they could come."
Some Davidians, convinced that Koresh was about to die from a gunshot wound and convinced the government intended to kill them when they exited, did discuss various "mass suicide" scenarios for their planned exit on Tuesday, March 2nd. However, not all agree that David Koresh knew of or approved of the plan. (According to Kathryn Schroeder and Victorine Hollingsworth, deceased Davidian Neal Vaega was a prime instigator of this plan.) When Koresh began to feel better and told them God had canceled their exit plans, such discussions ceased.7/
Davidians were suspicious of the government's intentions, especially after federal agents broke promises about getting them medical help, keeping armored vehicles off their property, allowing them to retrieve Peter Gent's body, and sending their children to relatives instead of foster homes. The FBI claimed they simply gave the Davidians milk for the children. In truth they sent it in only after Davidians paid $1,000 for it.8/
Federal agents also disconnected their phone lines to the outside world and, probably illegally, cut off their "ham" radio communications and jammed their radio and television reception.9/ And while the FBI claimed that those who left Mount Carmel would be treated fairly, when two old women did so on March 2nd, they were immediately charged with attempted murder.10/ Even though the charges quickly were dropped, Davidians then knew that all would be arrested upon leaving Mount Carmel.
Koresh revealed his distrust of the FBI's motives during the March 8th home movie when he said, "It's like a fight with the neighbors. Little brother comes over to beat you up and then big brother comes over to investigate."
Desire to Preserve Evidence
Davidians were convinced that once they exited Mount Carmel BATF and FBI agents would tamper with or destroy evidence of the BATF attack, such as entry bullet holes in the walls and ceilings and damage from the flash-bang grenades. Koresh told his attorney they also feared BATF would plant evidence of illegal weapons on their property. While the FBI told the press they where fearful of Davidians destroying evidence, they never mentioned the Davidians' fears.11/)
On March 12th Davidians attempted to convince negotiators to allow Ron Engelman or a national news team to come in with television cameras and film the evidence. The FBI refused this request.12/ The Justice Department report does not acknowledge Davidians wanted the press to document these crimes and prevent destruction of evidence.13/ It was not until the Davidians' first meeting with attorneys in April that they received their first credible assurance that Texas Rangers and not federal authorities would be in charge of the investigation.14/
Believing that authorities would want to investigate BATF crimes against the Davidians, Koresh suggested they write down "raid statements" of what happened to them and why they fired. Unfortunately for three Davidians later prosecuted, the person taking their statements was Kathryn Schroeder who prosecutors bullied into becoming a prosecution witness.15/
Fear of Losing Their Church and Home
Davidians were afraid that their church and property would be confiscated permanently if everyone was forced to leave Mount Carmel Center. Dozens of old and poor people would have been rendered homeless. The community they had worked so hard to create would be destroyed. In the video "Day 51," Sheila Martin explained the Davidians' fear that they would lose Mount Carmel Center if they all left before March 22nd, the five-year deadline specified by the court when Koresh took over in 1988. Their fears heightened as they watched FBI agents loot jewelry, cash and other possessions from a house trailer and other buildings on the property and run tanks into and over the Davidians' bus, house trailer, cars and childrens' bicycles and go-carts.
Koresh's attorney Dick DeGuerin stated: "It was their home. They felt persecuted. They felt there was no justification in asking them to give up their home. . .The search warrant doesn't say, `You are hereby dispossessed of your home and all your worldly belongings till we decide you can have them back.' It simply says that the agents are allowed to go inside to seek evidence of wrongdoing."16/ One of the documents which DeGuerin brought in to Koresh was a "trespass to try title lawsuit" to preserve their title when they all came out so that no one could say they abandoned the property.17/
Davidians have been criticized for not sending all the children out of Mount Carmel. However, in the March 8th home movie several parents who did so complained about the childrens' unruly behavior, something which deterred others from letting their children leave. Davidian David Thibodeau's mother Balenda Gamen explained another reason children stayed with their parents: "Because we're a very arrogant, proud nation of people. . .The bottom line is, if you truly believe in what you are doing that passionately, you don't send your children out to the enemy."18/ And Livingstone Fagan notes that in keeping their children with them, "The residents of Mount Carmel are fully persuaded of God's approval of their actions."19/ And, despite their fears, Davidians simply could not believe the government would launch another murderous assault, so they felt their children were safe.20/
While Davidians were willing to defend themselves against federal agents should they try to enter Mount Carmel, David Koresh was looking for a way to come out that would be consistent with their religious views and protect evidence and property. It was for all these reasons that most adults, and even some teenagers, volunteered to take up arms and stand guard during the siege.21/
FBI'S UNPROFESSIONAL MOTIVATIONS
FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Jeff Jamar of the San Antonio office automatically
assumed control of the operation under FBI guidelines. Jamar's chief
contact and immediate superior at FBI headquarters was then-Assistant Director
of the Criminal Investigation Division Larry A. Potts. Potts also
was the supervising FBI official in the siege of Randy Weaver's family.
Potts and his assistants, Danny Coulson and Michael Kahoe, regularly briefed
their superiors, FBI Director William S. Sessions, Deputy Director Floyd
Clarke and Associate Deputy Director for Investigations Doug Gow.22/
The FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) under the command of Richard Rogers and several Special Weapons and Tactics Teams (SWAT) also began arriving that day. HRT commander Dick Rogers soon brought in a .50 caliber rifle, a machinegun and grenade launchers.23/
In the coming weeks law enforcement agencies would deploy the following numbers of personnel: FBI-668, ATF-136, U.S. Customs-6, U.S. Army-15, Texas National Guard-13, Texas Rangers-31, Texas Dept of Public Safety Patrol-131, McLennan County Sheriff's Office-17, and Waco Police-18. While the main headquarters for these agencies was at Texas State Technical College several miles away, Texas Rangers, BATF and the FBI had vans and other offices close to Mount Carmel. FBI tactical agents also were stationed nearby, while negotiators were stationed at the college.24/ Despite its reputation for "professionalism," agents and officials of the lead agency in charge, the FBI, were driven by base and unprofessional emotions: anger, revenge, protection of fellow agents, and bigotry.
Anger and Revenge Against Davidians
That all this law enforcement could not "tame" a small group of defiant "religious fanatics" aggravated agents and officials. According to the Justice report, the FBI regarded Davidian resistance as "a direct challenge to lawful federal warrants and to duly authorized law enforcement officials." The primary goal was to "demonstrate the authority of law enforcement."25/
Scholar Nancy Ammerman, one of the outside experts who reviewed the FBI's handling of the siege for the Justice Department, in her report commented on the FBI's desire for revenge on those they blamed for the deaths of federal agents. "There was an understandable desire among many agents in Waco to make Koresh and the Davidians pay for the harm they had caused. Arguments for patience or unconventional tactics fell on deaf ears."26/
Davidians further angered FBI agents because David Koresh, Steve Schneider and Wayne Martin subjected negotiators to constant sermons, and Koresh issued several threats that either Davidians or God himself would repel any FBI attack. Davidians committed small acts of defiance like hanging out signs for the media to read, putting their amplifiers up to the windows and playing loud rock music and walking outside the building. One commentator opined that the FBI doubtless regarded the whole situation as an "embarrassing daily soap opera starring the FBI and its public enemy number one."27/ Davidian prisoner Livingstone Fagan wrote, "It was evident that these agents were angry, they had just received a major blow to their pride and arrogancy."28/
Desire to Spare BATF Agents from Prosecution
Like BATF, FBI officials and agents had little sympathy with either the Davidians' religious beliefs or their complaints about BATF's use of excessive force. And FBI agents in Waco befriended and sympathized with BATF agents who were intent on revenge against the "cultists" who had killed their comrades.
David Koresh's self-assurance in the March 8th home movie when he asserts the BATF killing of the unarmed Perry Jones will be "taken care of in the investigations" must have infuriated them further. Steve Schneider--Koresh's second-in-command and an ordained minister--was so certain that the evidence was incriminating that on March 6th he told negotiators, "It wouldn't surprise me if they wouldn't want to get rid of the evidence. Because if this building is still standing, you will see the evidences of what took place."29/ On March 13th he again claimed that "the government wanted to kill all of them and burn down the building."30/
News stories about evidence BATF agents had shot from helicopters began circulating at the end of March. A March 30th Los Angeles Times article, "Sect member says helicopters shot at compound in gun battle," repeated such an allegation by Rita Riddle, who had left Mount Carmel a week before. On April 5, 1993 the New York Times published attorneys Jack Zimmermann's and Dick DeGuerin's allegations that they had seen definite evidence that helicopters had been shooting into the upper floors of Mount Carmel Center.31/
The Davidians' cocky assurance that evidence in the building would prove BATF crimes, and even lead to acquittals, plus the increasing public revelations, must have hardened BATF's and the FBI's determination to destroy that evidence, even if it meant many deaths. Leading FBI agents Jeff Jamar and Richard Rogers, spokesperson Bob Ricks, chief negotiator Byron Sage and other agents, well may have adopted a likely BATF agenda: creation of an incident that would give them an excuse to destroy the building and its incriminating evidence.
Scholar Nancy Ammerman believes FBI agents had a negative view of Koresh's religious views for three reasons: some agents did not understand religion, others were antagonistic towards religion in general, and others were antagonistic towards Koresh's specific views, which differed from their own.32/
In her report to the Justice Department, she notes FBI officials and agents' "tendency to discount the influence of religious beliefs and to evaluate situations largely in terms of a leader's individual criminal/psychological motives." Their consensus was that "when they encountered people with religious beliefs, those beliefs were usually a convenient cover for criminal activity."33/ Siege commander Jeff Jamar expressed his contempt for Koresh when he declared at the April 28, 1993 House Judiciary Committee hearing that Koresh had "corrupted people" and "corrupted religion to his own ends" and that there was "no way to convince Koresh that he was not the Messiah." He also declared that having theologians, especially renowned ones, negotiate with Koresh would just make him more egomaniacal.
Possible FBI Racism, Anti-Semitism, Sexual
More than half of those who remained inside Mount Carmel were of African, Asian or Hispanic descent. The sight of more than a dozen people of color explaining to the FBI on the March 8th home movies why they considered the word of Koresh to be more compelling than that of the FBI and the United States government may have raised the hackles of the more racist agents.
Moreover, that Koresh compared himself to the Jewish King David, and flew a big blue and white Star of David flag over Mount Carmel for the duration of the siege, may have annoyed any anti-semites among them. Finally, Koresh used the home movies to freely and boldly introduce in person and in photos some of his wives and all of his natural and adopted children, claiming that the children were "biblical." This may have prompted sexual jealously or disgust among some FBI agents.
FBI'S VIOLENT ATTITUDE
Given that FBI agents and officials were motivated by the desire for control, revenge, coverup and religious and personal animosity, it is not surprising that their "rules of engagement" led to a predicted violent ending.
Rules of Engagement
On March 1, 1993 then-Assistant FBI Director Larry Potts and siege commander Jeff Jamar decided upon the FBI rules of engagement. According to the Justice Department report: "the FBI should avoid any exchange of gunfire with those in the compound, if at all possible. Only if there was a threat of imminent bodily harm or death would the FBI return fire."34/ The report does not reveal if these rules were communicated to the Davidians.
On March 4th, after Davidians did not surrender on March 2nd as planned, the FBI finally conveyed to Davidians their rules of engagement. The FBI drafted a "statement regarding safety" because of "concern that the movement of Branch Davidians in and around the compound might trigger a gunfight." It read as follows: "Rules for your safety: No one will be allowed to exit the building with a weapon. We tell you this for your own protection--for if our agents perceive that their lives or the life of someone else is at risk they will take appropriate action to ensure their own safety. No one will be allowed to aim a weapon from a window as this may also be perceived by our agents as a threat to their lives to the life of others (sic) and compel them to act accordingly. Any time you exit the building and are approaching our agents, you must fully comply with any verbal instruction to avoid exposing yourself to potential risk."35/
These rules of engagement, at least as they were communicated to Davidians, seem to be closer to those approved against Randy Weaver--if you are seen with a gun, you will be shot. However, since few people believe the FBI shot any Davidians, this has not been an issue as it has been in the Weaver case.
Early in the siege Danny Coulson, Deputy Assistant Director of Criminal Investigative Division, and Hostage Rescue Team commander Richard Rogers concluded that a "direct assault would lead to tremendous loss of life on both sides." Evidently the FBI gave agents no specific plan for any large scale action, since FBI agents complained there was no specific plan for a "large scale breakout"--i.e., armed Davidians breaking out of Mount Carmel.36/ Whether the FBI was merely confused about it's various plans and options and their rules of engagement, or "bungling" its way towards allowing the harshest possible treatment of Davidians, is not clear.
FBI Predicted Violent Ending
During the April 19th afternoon FBI conference, Bob Ricks did make one true statement: "I have repeated it often, David wanted as many people killed as possible." The FBI seemed intent on doing everything possible to make sure something happened that they could label another Jonestown. (For this reason many consider it obscene that Ricks, the head of the FBI's Oklahoma office, later was put in charge of the Oklahoma City bombing investigation.37/)
The day after the BATF raid former McLennan County District Attorney Vic Feazell, who had unsuccessfully prosecuted the Davidians for the shootout with George Roden, criticized federal agents for "storm trooper" tactics in laying siege to Mount Carmel. He predicted a grim end to the standoff. "The feds are preparing to kill them," he said, noting the mobilization of military equipment. "That way they can bury their mistakes. And they won't have attorneys looking over what they did later at a trial."38/
FBI's Purposeful "Bungling"
Many have accused the FBI of bungling its handling of negotiations and its April 19th attack on Mount Carmel. Others believe agents and officials purposively bungled their way to exactly the conclusion they preferred--a mass murder they could label as "mass suicide."
Susan J. Palmer, an expert on new religious movements, wrote: "The line between manslaughter and murder begins to attenuate when we consider that some of this `bungling' might have been deliberate. It is impossible for an outsider to understand the process of decision-making in the ATF and FBI, and the complexities of the power relationship between these two agencies; but if one considers that four ATF agents had been killed, one might presume that there is an unwritten code among police officers which would automatically rule out decisions which decreased the opportunity to avenge the death of their comrades. Decisions which endangered lives of Branch Davidians would therefore tend to be favored."39/
James Ridgeway of the Village Voice agreed: "All in all, it's hard to believe that after the first shootout the government had not determined to kill the Branch Davidians. In that sense, the incident leaves the impression of having been a calculated massacre."40/
ABUSE OF THE POSSE COMITATUS LAW
American tanks equipped with bulldozer blades buried alive tens of thousands
of Iraqi soldiers during the 1991 war against Iraq.41/ It is possible
some of these very same army tanks, shipped from Fort Hood, Texas, also
killed dozens of Americans in Waco and then plowed evidence of government
crimes into the burning rubble.
The Justice report is not as forthcoming as the Treasury report regarding the FBI's obtaining military tanks despite posse comitatus prohibitions on the use of the military for civilian law enforcement. First, the report does not reveal whether the FBI used the allegation of a "drug nexus" at Mount Carmel to obtain the tanks from the military on a no-charge, "nonreimbursable" basis. However, a Legal Times reporter wrote, "Much of the equipment used at Waco was provided by the Army, under an agreement that all costs would be reimbursed."42/
The report states: "the FBI requested Bradley fighting vehicles from the U.S. Army. Nine of these--without barrels, pursuant to an agreement between the FBI and the Army to avoid posse comitatus prohibitions--were ultimately provided." However, when David Koresh (falsely) claimed he had weapons that could blow these vehicles into the air, the FBI "sought and obtained from the Army two Abrams (M1A1) tanks and five M728 Combat Engineering Vehicles (CEVs)."43/
At trial tank driver and FBI agent R. J. Craig revealed the tanks did have barrels but insisted they had no ammunition. He acknowledged that he did not know if the Davidians knew these guns were not loaded. However, survivor Jaime Castillo asserts that every time a Davidian would look through a hole in the wall the tank driver would turn its barrel straight at them, convincing them the guns were in fact loaded.44/
These "Combat Engineering Vehicles" (CEVs) are converted M-60A1 tanks. The tanks are 30 feet long and weigh 50 tons, the weight of 25 mid-sized automobiles. Each one has a bulldozer blade on the front and a 30-foot boom on back which can be swung forward to be used as a battering ram.45/
Upon learning that tanks had been brought to Waco, "the President called [Acting Attorney General Stuart] Gerson, requesting an explanation for the deployment of military vehicles. Gerson assured the President that no assault was planned. . .[and] that it was legal for the FBI to use the military vehicles for safety purposes."46/ Evidently, this means that it was illegal to use the tanks for actions like the April 19th assault.
The U.S. government consulted not only with American military, but with British and Russian military advisors and scientists. The Sunday Times of London in a March 21, 1993 article "FBI Brings Out Secret Electronic Weapons as Waco Siege Drags On," alleged that members of the British elite paratroop strike force, the Special Air Service Regiment, were involved in Waco as "observers." One columnist reported the FBI consulted with Russian military scientists about a "mind control" device which supposedly could send subliminal messages over the telephone wires.47/
FBI CONTROLLED THE PRESS
According to Mad Man in Waco authors Brad Bailey and Bob Darden, the FBI used its daily press briefings as a way of "controlling" the media and the public perceptions of David Koresh so that everyone would consider him an unpredictable psychopath. They assert another FBI goal was "inflaming the already beleaguered cult leader."48/ Reporter Charles Jaco confirmed that the FBI used "jamming devices" in Waco and that around 10:30 in the morning the jamming was lifted specifically so Davidians could listen to FBI press briefings.49/ The press and media barely protested these controls. And for the most part reporters did little investigative reporting and merely regurgitated FBI and Justice Department propaganda.
FBI Restricted the Press
The FBI imposed a number of harsh restrictions on the press. It prohibited reporters from getting closer than two to three miles to Mount Carmel Center, claiming the Branch Davidians' .50 caliber "machineguns" could hit anyone closer than 3000 yards, almost two miles. The day before the fire the FBI moved television cameras back another mile from Mount Carmel and away from the northern sides of the building, restricting television cameras to the south front.50/ A Dallas Channel 8 reporter in a helicopter reported the FAA prohibited them from getting closer than five miles to Mount Carmel on April 19th.
The FBI strictly controlled its daily press briefings, limiting the number of questions and punishing reporters who displeased them by refusing to call on them. The FBI also prevented agents and officials from granting media interviews. Federal prosecutors closed magistrate hearings of Davidians who surrendered during the siege and moved hearings from the courthouse to the jail to thwart media coverage.51/
Speaking at the September 10, 1993 Freedom of Information Foundation panel on "Mt. Carmel: What Should the Public Know?", John O. Lumpkin of the Associated Press commented, "it is my personal opinion. . .the argument could be made the situation could have turned out differently, and certainly not tragically, if there had been much more open access instead." Lumpkin asserted that because of FBI control of information, the public still does not know the truth about what happened in Waco. Panelist Shelly Katz, a Time Magazine photographer stationed in Waco, said this was the worst suppression of the press he had seen in 27 years of journalism.52/ And reporter Charles Jaco told another newsman the FBI's control of the press reminded him of his experience reporting during the war against Iraq in "Operation Desert Storm."53/
FBI Intimidated the Press
Federal agents assaulted and arrested a reporter who had merely asked about a Davidian apprehended right after the BATF raid, and illegally confiscated his film. When journalist Louis Beam, who had valid press credentials for the right-wing publication Jubilee, asked whether the country was "witnessing a fascist takeover," he was whisked out of the press room. When he tried to return, he was arrested on charges of criminal trespass.54/ The Society for Professional Journalists' report on Waco stated that SAC Jeff Jamar felt it necessary to remind radio station KRLD that the Federal Communications Commission licenses radio stations.55/
After state troopers arrested two news photographers and confiscated their film near the ruins of Mount Carmel on April 22, 1993, Tony Pederson, managing editor of the Houston Chronicle, protested: "In a situation already marred by tragic loss of life and questionable actions, this seems to be a rather sorry follow-up. One has to wonder seriously if the Bill of Rights has been suspended in McLennan County."56/ During the Freedom of Information Foundation media panel Dick DeGuerin asserted that during the siege the press should have done civil disobedience and continued getting arrested until they were allowed to get closer to the scene of the action.
FBI Lied to the Press
Louis Alaniz, a Christian sympathizer who sneaked into Mount Carmel in late March and left just before the fire, said the Branch Davidians listened to the FBI press conferences. "What really got them is they constantly heard the story changing--another lie, another lie, another lie. These people were saying, `Why are they saying all this about us?' I didn't see anything that [the FBI] was telling the press that was true."57/ Dick Reavis, who has compared the full contents of the 20,000 pages of negotiation tapes to the FBI transcripts of its news conferences, confirms that FBI spokesperson Bob Ricks constantly lied to the press about what was happening in negotiations.58/ In the March 8th home movie Judy Schneider and Kathy Schroeder complained bitterly about the lies the FBI was telling.
The FBI told the press the Davidians had created tunnels and booby traps in back of the property to keep people off it, but reporters who slipped back there did not find any.59/ The FBI made the false claim that Davidians were using illegal drugs.60/ They asserted most of those inside were white, although half were of African, Asian or Hispanic descent. (In early March African-American columnist William Raspberry naively wondered what the government would have done to the Davidians if they were black instead of white.61/)
The FBI claimed Davidians had several years worth of food stored, when they had less than six months. They frothed over descriptions of Mount Carmel's rickety buildings as a bunkered "fortress" built for war. The FBI claimed that Davidians were placing their children in windows as shields when they were merely holding them up to watch the tanks.62/ Bob Ricks claimed that operations were costing two million dollars a day, but it was revealed in June, 1993 congressional hearings that the total was $6,792,000, an average of $130,000 a day.63/ The disinformation ended in a crescendo of falsehoods immediately after the April 19th fire.
The FBI would not let the press or public see video tapes sent out of Mount Carmel. Even the Justice Department report admits Davidians spoke in "calm, assured tones of their desire to remain inside," and that "the abiding impression is not of a bunch of 'lunatics,' but rather of a group of people who, for whatever reason, believed so strongly in Koresh that the notion of leaving the squalid compound was unthinkable."64/
Former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver said of the disinformation campaign: "I recognized early on that the government was systematically poisoning and prejudicing public opinion with a blitz of inflammatory disinformation to stir up hatred against David Koresh and to foment a thirst for his blood. . .Sifting through the tons of verbiage dished out by the government and spewed forth by the genuflecting mass media, I am yet unable to discern any justification for the government's initial, tactically stupid raid on the compound. There's only the arrogant, abusive, fascist exercise of state power."65/
Press Repeated FBI Propaganda
During the Freedom of Information Foundation media panel, Dick DeGuerin condemned journalists for engaging in "pack journalism" and for regurgitating BATF and FBI propaganda and repeating charged words like "cult," "compound," "fortified bunkers," "Ranch Apocalypse," etc. He also criticized journalists for merely waiting for the Treasury and Justice Department reports as if they would be a final "Warren Commission Report" and not doing any investigative reporting to find out the truth. Few members of the press examined their own prejudices against deeply committed religious groups.
Some reporters even lied to the public. At trial KWTX-TV's John McLemore confessed he had lied in his news reports when he reported that he himself had heard automatic gunfire from the Davidians and that he had heard BATF agents announce "search warrant."66/
The media repeated Cult Awareness Network propaganda and gave its spokespersons ample "cult busting" forums. NBC-TV's May, 1993 television movie "In the Line of Duty: Ambush at Waco" presented the law enforcement perspective and repeated dubious government assertions, including that Davidians ambushed BATF and used machineguns and grenades.
After the trial Davidian Livingstone Fagan bitterly criticized the media's role: "And all you media people, what did you do to us during the period between February 28 and April 19? We were dehumanized and demonized. We were a cult! We were portrayed as criminals."67/
Press Practiced Self-Censorship
The press and media also engaged in self-censorship and suppressed criticism of the government. In his media panel comments, Dick DeGuerin chastised the national press for ignoring two important stories: BATF's refusing Koresh's invitation to view his guns before the raid and BATF's taking Koresh's gun dealer and business partner Henry McMahon into "protective custody" after the raid and forbidding him to speak to the press or the FBI. Even reporters at that event, which I attended, reported only the first story and not the second.
The producers of Pensacola's television show "Lawline" sent copies of their April 21, 1993 interview with McMahon, titled "Fiasco in Waco," to television stations all over the country. However, stations ignored McMahon's allegations.68/
After the April 19th fire there was more self-censorship. Despite excellent network video footage of the havoc wreaked by tanks on April 19th, no network has dared to compile and show to the American people the most controversial footage of tanks destroying the gymnasium, ramming the building early in the fire, and later pushing burning debris into the fire. And despite the Davidians' and their attorneys' repeated claims that BATF agents were firing from helicopters, few news reports ever have mentioned this one fact that best explains the FBI's actions on April 19, 1993.
Dallas talk show host Ron Engelman was forced to quit his job because of pro-Davidian advocacy on his radio show. Davidians listened to his show and on March 5th, after Ken Fawcett called in and suggested Engelman ask the Davidians to move a satellite dish if they needed help, he did so, angering the FBI.69/ The Davidians even requested that Engelman be made a negotiator.70/ After the fire, Engelman's callers remained obsessed with the destruction of the Branch Davidians. Management demanded Engelman move his show to 6 a.m., take a co-host and make the show "light and fluffy." Engelman refused and resigned.71/
NBC-TV originally planned to do a sequel to the television movie "Ambush at Waco" about the ending of the siege. However, it canceled the sequel, claiming it would be "too violent." Perhaps NBC-TV network executives did not want to offend government officials with vivid portrayals of tanks gassing Davidians, tanks ramming away at the building, and Davidian men, women and children dying grisly deaths by fire.
While some newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Times denounced the Justice report as a "whitewash," others applauded it. An October 12, 1993 Washington Post editorial declared: "[I]t is difficult to cast blame after reviewing the evidence. . .[A]n earnest effort was being made to talk the group's members out of the buildings. . .The finding of mass suicide and/or murder is a reasonable one."
Ronda Templeton, "3 sect members speak from jail of convictions, Koresh's
return," San Antonio Express-News, February 27, 1994, 3A.
2. "How the Siege Unfolded," Waco Tribune-Herald, April 20, 1994, 7A.
3. Jack DeVault, transcript of 9-1-1 tape, p. 233.
4. Dr. Phillip Arnold and Dr. James Tabor, "Comments and Clarifications" section of "The Decoded Message of the Seven Seals of the Book of Revelation" by David Koresh; Carmen Stair and Glenn Fawcett, "Breaking the Long Silence: Davidian member paints a different picture of the standoff," The East Texan, April 1, 1993, p. 3.
5. Justice Department report, p. 17, 45-46.
6. Ruth Riddle interview, NBC-TV's "Dateline" June 15, 1993.
7. Diana R. Fuentes, February 2, 1994; Jack DeVault, pgs. 104, 130; Dick Reavis, private communication, December, 1994; trial transcript, pgs. 4117, 4480; Marjorie Thomas testimony, November 17-18, 1994, pgs. 59-64, 112-114.
8. Statement from Mount Carmel Survivors, "The Branch Davidian Response," April 17, 1994.
9. George Zimmerlee, in "Waco: Truth and Warning; How Truth Was Suppressed by Technology and Terror," Full Disclosure #30, 1993, alleges these actions violate the 1934 Communications Act (47 USC 305, 326, 333). He states Section 326 refers to the FCC, but holds FBI is a coconspirator. He alleges the FBI's actions violated the International Radio Regulations (ITU 1947, Sec. 44) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Art. 19).
10. Treasury Department report, p. 37.
11. William Claiborne, "Officials in Waco Fear Destruction of Evidence," Washington Post, April 7, 1993, A3.
12. David Thibodeau, private communication, December, 1994; Justice Department report, appendix on Davidians' demands.
13. Justice Department report, p. 65. and Appendix C.
14. Trial transcript, pgs. 6608-09.
15. Ibid. pgs. 4514-17.
16. Steve McVicker, July 22, 1993.
17. Trial transcript, p. 6634.
18. "The Maury Povich Show," November 8, 1993.
19. Livingstone Fagan paper, August, 1994, p. 16.
20. Renos Avraam, private communication, October, 1994.
21. Trial transcript, p. 4723.
22. Justice Department report, pgs. 120-21.
23. Ibid. pgs. 9, 27; trial transcript, p. 5027.
24. Justice Department report, pgs. 10, 117.
25. Ibid. p. 12, 135.
26. Nancy Ammerman report to Justice Department, 1993, p. 4.
27. ABC-TV television program "Turning Point," August 8, 1994.
28. Livingstone Fagan paper, August, 1994, p. 14.
29. Justice Department report, p. 53.
30. Ibid. p. 68.
31. New York Times, April 5, 1993, A10.
32. Nancy Ammerman presentation at November 22, 1993 American Academy of Religion panel on Branch Davidians.
33. Nancy Ammerman report to Justice Department, 1993, p. 5.
34. Justice Department report, pgs. 28, 120.
35. Ibid. pgs. 42-43.
36. Ibid. pgs. 147, 149, 258.
37. All quotes from April 19, 1993 afternoon FBI press conference and April 20, 1993 FBI press conference from CNN broadcast of conference; Quotes from April 19, 1993 morning FBI press briefing, from transcript and from CNN broadcast; Susan Schmidt, "FBI's Point Man at Waco Leads Probe," Washington Post, April 28, 1995.
38. "Ex-prosecutor laments agents' `storm trooper' tactics," Houston Chronicle, March 2, 1993.
39. Susan J. Palmer article, "Excavating Waco," James R. Lewis, Editor, From the Ashes: Making Sense of Waco, p. 106.
40. James Ridgeway, "Armies of God," Village Voice, May 4, 1993, p. 26.
41. Ramsey Clark, The Fire This Time, (New York: Thundermouth Press), 1991.
42. Naftali Bendavid, "The Costs of Cult Standoff: Were Estimates Too High?" Legal Times, May 3, 1993, p. 18.
43. Justice Department report, pgs. 123-124.
44. Trial transcript, p. 5500; Jaime Castillo, private communication, February, 1995.
45. "A countdown to disaster," USA Today, April 20, 1993, 3A.
46. Justice Department report, p. 239.
47. Rowland Nethaway, "`Mind control' machine," Waco Tribune-Herald, March 4, 1994, 8A.
48. Brad Bailey and Bob Darden, pgs. 206-07.
49. Doug Ireland, "Operation Waco Storm," Village Voice, May 4, 1993.
50. Ron Cole, p. 69.
51. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press report, "The Clinton Administration and the News Media," 1994.
52. Audio tape of the September 10, 1993 Freedom of Information Foundation media panel on Waco.
53. Doug Ireland, "Operation Waco Storm," Village Voice, May 4, 1993.
54. Brad Bailey and Bob Darden, p. 232.
55. "Day 51: The True Story of Waco" video.
56. Paul McKay, "Photographers for Chronicle, AP arrested," Houston Chronicle, April 22, 1993.
57. Brad Bailey and Bob Darden, p. 206.
58. Dick Reavis, private communication, December, 1994.
59. James L. Pate, private communication, June, 1994.
60. Tim Sullivan report, "Court TV," February 2, 1994.
61. William Raspberry, "What if they were the Black Davidians?" Washington Post, March 10, 1993, A19.
62. Brad Darden and Bob Bailey, p. 246.
63. Mary Jordan and Sue Anne Pressley, May 9, 1993, A1; April 22, 1993, Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing, p. 122.
64. Justice Department report, p. 205.
65. Eldridge Cleaver, "Waco: Bill Clinton's Bay of Pigs," James R. Lewis, Editor, From the Ashes: Making Sense of Waco, pgs. 235-36.
66. Trial transcript, pgs. 6561, 6569.
67. James L. Pate, July, 1994, p. 76.
68. Paul H. Blackman report, p. 56.
69. Ken Fawcett commentary on Ron Cole's Sinister Twilight, May 11, 1994; "Day 51: The True Story of Waco" video.
70. Justice Department report, Appendix C, p. 3.
71. Libertarian Party of Dallas, Texas 1993 promotional materials on Ron Engelman talk video tape.