Carol Moore's Waco Pages: The Davidian Massacre
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Story, click here; text of the actual appeal, click here;
story, click here; photos and info about prisoners, click here;
summary of the trial and appeals, click here.

More information

November, 2000 -- Danforth Report Absolves Government of Blame, Blames Davidians
     See details of report on this page.

November, 2000 Davidian Raid Whistle-Blower Indicted on Obstruction Charges
    Washington Post, November 8, 2000 The whistle-blower who triggered the probe into the 1993 deaths of 74 Branch  Davidians near Waco, Tex., was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury on charges of obstructing justice and making false statements to investigators for special counsel John C. Danforth.
     In a five-count criminal indictment handed up in St. Louis, former assistant U.S. attorney William Johnston was accused of concealing his knowledge that potentially incendiary devices were used in the FBI's 1993 raid on the
compound and trying to shift blame to others.
     Johnston, a former Texas prosecutor, maintained his innocence and said he is being made a scapegoat because he embarrassed top government officials. Danforth said Johnston is being prosecuted because he broke the law.
      "Johnston hid evidence and then lied about it repeatedly to our office and to a grand jury," Danforth said. "Instead of bringing to light facts about Waco, Bill Johnston hid them from view and obstructed a grand jury. That is not my idea of a whistle-blower."
      Johnston's lawyer, Michael Kennedy, said his client will vigorously fight the charges. He said Johnston has been targeted because he embarassed the government by forcing disclosure that the FBI fired pyrotechnic tear gas
projectiles in the raid that left 74 Branch Davidians dead after their compound went up in flames. Attorney General Janet Reno and others had told Congress no such devices were used.
    ....Johnston is the only person facing criminal prosecution as a result of Danforth's $17 million probe of the April 19, 1993, raid. In July, Danforth determined that while pyrotechnic devices had been used, they did not cause
the blaze. He also concluded that FBI agents fired no shots in the raid, that Reno had not intentionally misled Congress and that the Davidians themselves were responsible for setting fire to the compound.
     .....Johnston acknowledges that he failed to give Danforth's investigators several pages of notes from a 1993 meeting, including one page on which he had written "incind," an abbreviation for incendiary.
      Johnston says he used bad judgment but feared the notes would be used by adversaries in the Justice Department. Johnston said he turned down an offer from Danforth to plead guilty to a single felony count.
     ....Johnston said he corrected his testimony in a later appearance before grand jurors in St. Louis and apologized for misleading them about his notes. "I owe the American public an apology as well," Johnston said.

(Note: in June, 2001 Johnston plea bargained with with the government, admitting only that he lied to a federal grand jury, and was placed on probation and ordered to serve 200 hours of community service by U.S. District Judge Charles Shaw. The State Bar of Texas took no disciplinary action against Johnston.)
September 18, 2000: Judge reduces sentences for six Branch Davidians

          A federal judge in Waco has reduced the lengthy prison sentences of six  Branch Davidians, three months after the U.S. Supreme Court said he  overstepped his authority by increasing punishments for most of them by 25  years.
          The order by U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. will cut the sentences  of five of the six Branch Davidians from 40 to 15 years and the sixth from 20  years to 15.
          Although Branch Davidian Livingstone Fagan chose not to appeal, the judge  reduced his sentence anyway.
          The judge wrote in his two-page order that it would be "manifestly unfair"  not to reduce Fagan's sentence despite his decision not to appeal.
          Smith's order reduces from 30 years to five years the sentences he imposed on  Fagan, Kevin Whitecliff, Jaime Castillo, Renos Avraam and Brad Branch in 1994  for using a weapon during a crime of violence. Those five-year terms will be  stacked on 10-year sentences for manslaughter.
          Graeme Craddock, who was sentenced to 10 years for possession of a grenade  and 10 years for using a firearm, will have his sentence reduced by five  years.
          Waco attorney Richard Ferguson, who represents Branch, said the sentence  reductions likely will make the Davidians eligible for release in about 51/2  years.
          "We are very happy for our clients," Ferguson said. "Forty years is almost  like a life sentence without parole for men who are in their 30s and this  gives them a chance at having a life. My clients feel they should be let out  now. They feel they were wronged as much as anyone. But we feel we have given  them 25 years of their life back and we feel like we have accomplished  something."
          Another by-product of the ruling, Ferguson said, is that the Davidians likely  will be sent to less-restrictive prisons.
          "When you go from having a 40-year sentence for manslaughter and for using a  machine gun to a 15-year sentence with just an ordinary firearm, you get  reclassified and sent to a place that is a lot more palatable. They were  putting them in with some pretty tough cats," Ferguson said.
          The Supreme Court ruled that Smith erred when he determined on his own at  sentencing that the Branch Davidians used machine guns or "enhanced weapons"  during their Feb. 28, 1993, firefight with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol,  Tobacco and Firearms.
          The agents had come to arrest cult leader David Koresh for weapons violations  when the gun battle erupted. Four agents and five Davidians were killed and  many more, including Koresh, were wounded.
          The high court ruled that the type of firearm used in a crime is an essential  element of the offense alleged and must be decided by a jury during trial,  not by a judge at sentencing.
          Members of the federal court jury in San Antonio, who acquitted the Davidians  in 1994 of the more serious charge of conspiracy to murder federal agents,  were not asked to determine what types of weapons were used.
          Four Branch Davidians were acquitted of all charges stemming from the raid  and a fifth was convicted on a weapons count. Six others were convicted of  manslaughter and carrying or using a firearm during a crime of violence.
          Davidian attorneys believed the firearm charge carried a mandatory five-year  prison term.
          However, Smith, adopting a motion by federal prosecutors, found the Davidians  used machine guns and increased their prison sentences from five to 30 years  on the weapons conviction.
          "The court has been advised by the government that it has no desire to  attempt to retry the defendants on the offense charged in Count 3," Smith  wrote in his order. "Therefore, the court will impose the least sentence for  that offense” five years of imprisonment consecutive to the sentences  imposed on the other counts for which the defendants were convicted."
          U.S. Attorney Bill Blagg of San Antonio, whose office prosecuted the  Davidians, declined comment Monday, saying his office had been recused from  all matters relating to the Branch Davidians before the trial of the  wrongful-death case against the government in Smith's court this summer.
          Craddock's attorney, Stanley Rentz of Waco, said he had hoped Smith would  have reduced Craddock's sentence more.
           "I would have liked to have seen him cut it down to one or two years or a  proportionate departure downward off the five years," Rentz said. "But it is  certainly better than nothing."
          Stephen P. Halbrook, the Fairfax, Va., attorney who argued the case before  the Supreme Court in April, said it would have been "quite a tragedy" if the  Supreme Court had not reversed the case.
          "It took going all the way to the Supreme Court and a lot of persistence, but  we are thankful that the case has reached this point."
Whole story at :

Steve Halbrook, Esq.'s (lead attorney for the Davidians_ summary of today's Supreme Court opinion in Castillo v. U.S., June 5, 2000

          The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided today in Castillo et al. v. United States that firearm types defined in the federal Gun Control Act are elements of offenses that must be alleged in the indictment and decided by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.  The case involves the 30-year sentences imposed on Branch Davidians who escaped from the tragic fire near Waco, Texas, in 1993.  They were charged with and convicted of carrying or using a "firearm" in a crime of violence during the BATF raid.  18 U.S.C. º 924(c) makes this a 5-year offense, but the sentencing judge decided that "machineguns" were used and imposed a 30-year sentence.

          Stephen P. Halbrook argued the case for the imprisoned Davidians in the Supreme Court on April 24.  Today's 9-0 opinion, authored by Justice Breyer, held that whether a gun is a "firearm," "machinegun," or other listed weapon is an element of the offense and not a sentencing factor.  The Court agreed at the outset that "treating facts that lead to an increase in the maximum sentence as a sentencing factor would give rise to significant constitutional questions. . . . Here, even apart from the doctrine of constitutional doubt, our consideration of º 924(c)(1)'s language, structure, context, history, and such other factors as typically help courts determine a statute's objectives, leads us to conclude that the relevant words create a separate substantive crime."  The statute provides that whoever, during and in relation to any crime of violence, "uses or carries a firearm, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for five years, and if the firearm is a . . . machinegun, . . .to imprisonment for thirty years."

         First, this language can be read "as simply substituting the word æmachinegun' for the initial word æfirearm'; thereby both incorporating by reference the initial phrases that relate the basic elements of the crime and creating a different crime containing one new element, i.e., the use or carrying of a æmachinegun' during and in relation to a crime of violence." The structure clarifies any ambiguity in that carrying or using a firearm is clearly an offense, and the machinegun language appears in the same sentence without being broken up into subsections.    Second, "we cannot say that courts have typically or traditionally used firearm types (such as æshotgun' or æmachinegun') as sentencing factors . . .."  The Court emphasized that "the difference between carrying, say, a pistol and carrying a machinegun . . . is great, both in degree and kind."  Several provisions of the Gun Control Act distinguish firearm types in defining offenses.  Here, machinegun use is punishable by six-times greater imprisonment than firearm use.

        Third, determination of the issue by the jury rather than a judge does not complicate a trial or risk unfairness.  Indeed, "in determining whether a defendant used or carried a æfirearm,' the jury ordinarily will be asked to assess the particular weapon at issue as well as the circumstances under which it was allegedly used."  Leaving it to the judge to decide whether a machinegun was used "might unnecessarily produce a conflict between the judge and the jury."  Where two weapons are allegedly used, the jury may decide that only oneûsuch as a pistolûwas used.  "A judge's later, sentencing-related decision that the defendant used the machinegun, rather than, say, the pistol, might conflict with the jury's belief that he actively used the pistol, which factual belief underlay its firearm æuse' conviction."  "There is no reason to think that Congress would have wanted a judge's views to prevail in a case of so direct a factual conflict, particularly when the sentencing judge applies a lower standard of proof and when 25 additional years in prison are at stake."

 Davidian Attorneys and Jury Forewoman Sarah Bain at Supreme Court 4/24/00
       Fourth, the legislative history does not support the government.  The º 924(c) firearm offense was enacted in the Gun Control Act of 1968, which was amended with the machinegun clause in the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986.  Among other sponsors and supporters, Rep. Volkmer explained that the latter amendment "includes stiff mandatory sentences for the use of firearms, including machineguns and silencers, in relation to violent or drug trafficking crimes."  Such statements "show only that Congress believed that the æmachinegun' and æfirearm' provisions would work similarly" and "seemingly describe offense conduct, and, thus, argue against (not for) the Government's position."

         Fifth, "the length and severity of an added mandatory sentence that turns on the presence or absence of a æmachinegun' (or any of the other listed firearm types) weighs in favor of treating such offense-related words as referring to an element. Thus, if after considering traditional interpretive factors, we were left genuinely uncertain as to Congress' intent in this regard, we would assume a preference for traditional jury determination of so important a factual matter."  The Court refers to several precedents holding that the "rule of lenity requires that ambiguous criminal statutes be construed in favor of the accused."

        For the above reasons, the Court reversed the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and remanded the case for proceedings consistent with the opinion.  The effect of this is that the defendants' 30-year sentences for machinegun use must be vacated and that they should be resentenced to 5-years imprisonment for firearm use, the charge on which they were indicted and convicted.

APRIL 24, 2000
        The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the way a judge sentenced Branch Davidians who are seeking to cut 25 years from their prison terms for the deadly 1993 raid near Waco.
        The justices will decide whether the judge or jury should have decided whether machine guns were involved in the deaths of four agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
        U.S. District Judge Walter Smith included that finding in sentencing four defendants to a total of 40 years in prison and a fifth to 20 years. The offenses included voluntary manslaughter and use of a machine gun during a violent crime.
        In appealing to the Supreme Court, a defense attorney said the jury never got the chance to decide whether machine guns were used.
        That finding by the judge constituted 30 years of the 40-year prison sentences; crimes with unspecified firearms normally require only five years, which would reduce the sentences to 15 years.
        "Firearm type is frequently contested at trial, and it's usually an issue for the jury," attorney Stephen P. Halbrook told the court during an hourlong hearing.
        A Justice Department attorney said Congress gave judges wide discretion in applying federal sentencing guidelines.
...The Supreme Court will decide the case by early July.
        ...A jury acquitted the Branch Davidian defendants of the major charges: conspiracy to murder federal agents or aiding and abetting the murder of federal agents.
        Mr. Halbrook said prosecutors urged the judge to make machine guns part of the sentencing to "jack up" punishment for the lesser convictions.
        "It was never really part of the case until it came around on sentencing," Mr. Halbrook said.
        Sarah Bain, the jury forewoman during the 1994 trial, flew to Washington for the Supreme Court hearing as a show of support for the defendants.
        "We were absolutely shocked with the severity of the judge's augmentation," Ms. Bain said after the hearing. "We thought it would be a slap-on-the-wrist sentence."
        ...The justices asked more questions of the government lawyer. Chief Justice William Rehnquist questioned whether certain factual findings can be made after a jury verdict, saying, "The tail can't wag the dog."
         Noting the difference between the five-year standard for offenses with "firearms" and the 30-year standard for those with "machine guns," Justice Antonin Scalia said, "That's a long tail."
        ..."The evidence isn't all clear linking this particular individual with a machine gun," Justice O'Connor said. "And we don't know if a jury would have been able to reach that determination."
        For whole story go to:

MARCH 19, 2000

    Rapid-fire bursts of light appearing on aerial infrared surveillance footage made by the FBI during the 1993 showdown at Waco were spectacularly recreated on Sunday, according to investigators, rapid-fire bursts recreated by flashes from gunfire!
    "The hot flashes were completely recreated using a sniper on the ground," revealed a congressional source, one of 35 people to witness the court-ordered re-enactment of the final hours.
    A second source also present at the tightly-controlled test conducted at Fort Hood said the FBI, which claimed the '93 flashes were simply reflections of sunlight off debris and water, was been dealt a setback on Sunday.
    But the source cautioned the test results would be open to different interpretations:
    "We may never know the truth of what happened, from what I witnessed, both sides could spin this.  There are more flashes than on the original tape, because of the debris and broken glass thrown everywhere"
    A British Royal Navy helicopter equipped with an infrared camera like the one the FBI used during the assault videotaped the test on Sunday while circling overhead as tanks rumbled and camouflaged gunmen fired off rounds on the ground.
    "The gunfire was clearly picked up on tape," said the well-placed source who demanded anonymity.  "It looks like a match of 1993."
    A Branch Davidian wrongful death lawsuit charges that the FBI fired at the sect members, which prevented them from fleeing the burning compound and thus caused them to die.
    The judge overseeing the case has issued an order blocking any release of the re-enactment tape until his own investigators have studied them and made a final report.
    "The test today went smoothly, but we're really kind of limited right now as to what we can share with you," U.S.  Attorney Mike Bradford, one of the government's lead lawyers, told reporters late Sunday.
(Note: otherwise behind on other Waco News and will try to catch up soon)

FEBRUARY 28, 2000

          A key FBI decision-maker wrote in late March 1993 that he feared bureau officials in Waco were lobbying to gas the Branch Davidians because the officials were tired, frustrated and under pressure from the FBI's hostage rescue team commander, documents show.
          Congressional officials said that memo is particularly disturbing because they have never seen it or other internal FBI records detailing the contentious decision-making process that lead to the tear-gassing of the Branch Davidian compound. Some of those documents, which The Dallas Morning News recently obtained, show that senior FBI officials were initially deeply skeptical of their on-scene commander's insistence that tear gas was the only safe way to end the Waco standoff.
          The memo, by the bureau's most experienced tactical expert, said that hostage rescue team commander Richard Rogers had been the cause of similar concerns in the deadly 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. In that incident, the wife of white supremacist Randy Weaver was killed by an FBI sniper under Mr. Rogers' command after he relaxed bureau rules of engagement and pushed for an all-out tank and tear-gas assault on the Weavers' cabin.
          "A lot of pressure is coming from Rogers," deputy assistant FBI director Danny O. Coulson wrote in an internal FBI memo during the Waco siege on March 23, 1993. "We had similar problems in Idaho with him and he argued and convinced the SACs [local FBI special agents in charge of the incident] that Weaver would not come out. That proved to be wrong. I believe he is a significant part of the problem here."
          ....House officials say that even their sweeping subpoena for Waco records in September has failed to force full cooperation by the FBI and the Department of Justice. More than five months after the subpoena was issued, House officials say, they have also been told that thousands of pages of records have been withheld because they are still under review.
          ...Other FBI records also show bureau leaders were skeptical of Mr. Jamar's gas plan. One set of unsigned notes from FBI headquarters stated, "We cannot go forward believing we will receive massive gunfire."
          ....For whole story go to:">

FEBRUARY 26, 2000

          The top FBI commander on the scene at Waco says that a government tank unintentionally knocked down the gymnasium of the complex as agents tried to inject tear gas into a room where about 20 Branch Davidians were hiding.
          That account by Jeff Jamar, the special agent in charge of the 1993 siege, is at odds with the evidence that the Branch Davidians' lawyers are compiling. They are trying to show that the FBI commanders scrapped an assault plan approved by Attorney General Janet Reno and rushed the destruction of the complex.
          The tank knocked down the gym six hours after the tear gas was administered, rather than the 48 hours called for in the Reno plan.
          Mike Caddell, the lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians, says Jamar is lying. "Every person who has looked at the pictures of the tank destroying the gym has characterized it as demolition," he said. "Jamar and Dick Rogers are trying to keep themselves out of prison." Rogers was head of the hostage rescue team at Waco, and directed most of the assault.
          ....Jamar said he believed that the successful gassing of the kitchen had led the Branch Davidians to ignite fuel they had spread on the floor of the complex. The fire was the cause of most of the deaths.
        But Caddell lists these objections:
* At the time he ordered the attack on the gym, Jamar said it was time to go "all out." That account was given by a senior member of the hostage rescue team after the incident.
* Senior FBI officials monitoring from Washington concluded that Jamar and Rogers had deviated from a plan to end the siege when the tanks began ramming the gym. Danny Coulson, the first leader of the hostage rescue team, testified in a deposition last week that the siege plan he helped draft did not provide for knocking into the gym. He said he was surprised when the tank
did so.
* An FBI briefing paper prepared before the assault said the gym side of the complex "is not of good quality" - so Jamar had notice that the gym would fall easily.
* After a pass into the gym and toward the kitchen, the first tank moved away from the kitchen and knocked into other portions of the gym wall five or six times.
* The tank with tear gas sent the fumes into the kitchen from the front of the complex, rather than the back, where the first tank had knocked down the gym. So the destruction of the gym was not needed.
         For whole story go to:

FEBRUARY 24, 2000

          A former top FBI official has acknowledged that sending tanks into the Branch Davidian compound was inconsistent with the Washington-approved plan for ending the 51-day siege, the sect's lead lawyer said Wednesday.
          Former deputy assistant FBI director Danny Coulson also testified in a deposition on Tuesday that he and other senior FBI leaders were stunned when they saw live network TV images of FBI tanks ramming deep into the sect's compound on April 19, 1993, said Houston attorney Michael Caddell.
          Mr. Coulson is the first top FBI official involved in the 1993 incident to be questioned under oath in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit. The founding commander of the FBI's hostage rescue team and one of its most experienced tactical experts, Mr. Coulson was one of the bureau's key decision-makers in drafting the detailed gassing-operation plan that Attorney General Janet Reno ultimately approved.
          That plan called for demolition of the sect's building only after tear gas had been sprayed in for 48 hours. If Branch Davidians began firing guns at the tanks, the plan allowed FBI agents to begin a large-scale insertion of tear gas.
          But early proposals that called for using tanks in the initial stages of the operation to demolish the building were removed from the final plan approved in Washington, FBI and Justice Department records show.
          On April 19, however, FBI tanks began demolishing the rear of the building less than five hours after the gas operation began. A fire consumed the compound less than an hour later.
          ...The FBI's lawyers have contended in legal pleadings that the two FBI officials did nothing that would justify lifting the strict legal restrictions on bringing civil lawsuits against federal officials or agencies.
          One Justice Department official said that Mr. Coulson's testimony may be of limited importance because he acknowledged that he was not in the FBI command center that kept direct communications with FBI leaders in Waco.

FEBRUARY 19, 2000

          Showing that infrared video can detect weapons fire won't constitute a smoking gun proving that government agents shot at the Branch Davidians on April 19, 1993, said U.S. Attorney Michael Bradford of Beaumont.
          If shots were fired, where are the shooters?
          That's the question asked Friday by Bradford, who attended the St. Louis meeting where protocol was adopted for a test to determine whether an infrared video taken on the final day at Mount Carmel picked up evidence of FBI agents firing at the Davidians.
          ....The Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) video from Mount Carmel shows repeated flashes, but no people are visible.
          ...Plaintiffs have argued there are several reasons why people aren't visible on the FLIR video taken at Mount Carmel.
          Since a FLIR camera creates video images by registering temperature differences between objects, Houston attorney Mike Caddell contends that a person lying on the ground would gradually disappear from a FLIR video as his body temperature adjusted to the environment.
          "No one has suggested the FBI was so stupid as to run around Mount Carmel firing weapons in an exposed, standing position," said Caddell, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. "The protocol will start out with guys in a prone position on the ground. If those people disappear from the thermal imaging after a few minutes, I think the government's got no case. What's Michael
Bradford going to say then?"
          Caddell also has questioned whether the clothing worn by government agents shielded them from detection.   That's why the protocol for the test calls for those firing weapons to wear Nomex flight suits, fire retardant suits and camouflage sniper garb, clothing worn by government agents on the final day at Mount Carmel.
          "As I understand the plaintiffs' position, the reason we don't see a person holding a gun is that the people were wearing FLIR-resistant clothing," Bradford said. "During the test, we'll have people moving around wearing clothing that the plaintiffs requested, clothing they contend is FLIR-resistant. If we can see them walking around, that will be significant. We will clearly have a different situation from one tape to another.”...

FEBRUARY 18, 2000

          WACO, Texas (AP) - An attorney for Branch Davidians suing the government asked the Department of Defense on Friday to declassify 5,000 pages of documents that he says could help show whether soldiers fired at the burning compound.
          ``Public interest demands the public be informed of the military activities undertaken against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil,'' Jim Brannon wrote Defense Secretary William Cohen.
          Brannon said he will ask a federal judge to grant access to the documents if
Cohen declines his request. The Defense Department did not return telephone
calls seeking comment....
AP-NY-02-18-00 2036EST

FEBRUARY 17, 2000

          One of the government's lead lawyers defending the Branch Davidian case said for the first time Wednesday that an upcoming field test could capture flashes of gunfire on the type of infrared camera used by the FBI at the end of the 1993 siege.
          "It's not impossible for this camera to detect gunfire. That doesn't, in and of itself, answer the question if these particular flashes on this tape are gunfire," said U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford of Beaumont, one of two lead lawyers on the Justice Department's team. "We have consistently said that the flashes on the April 19 [1993] tape are not gunfire."
          ...Lawyers for the sect said Mr. Bradford's comments were especially notable in light of the government's previous insistence that any field test would be scientifically invalid and that testing, at best, could address only theoretical questions about whether gunfire might be seen at all on the FBI's camera.
          "This is a complete about-face for the government, and coming on the eve of the demonstration, it's very telling," said Mike Caddell, lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians. "It can only mean that they realize that this demonstration is going to prove what we've said all along: that the flashes on the April 19 videotape are gunfire from government positions."

FEBRUARY 16, 2000

           One lawyer for the Branch Davidians said Tuesday that he was so suspicious  about the plans for the infrared field test that he was preparing a backup test at  the site of the standoff.
          James Brannon, one of several lawyers representing sect members in a federal  wrongful-death lawsuit, said his backup test would be carried out if the  court-sponsored field trial at Fort Hood in March did not clearly demonstrate  that the infrared camera used in the Waco siege could and did detect gunfire.
           But Mike Caddell, lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians, said after meeting  Tuesday with the scientific experts who will supervise the test that he thought its design would address not only valid scientific questions but even popular theories unsupported by evidence.
          He said a court order barring public discussion of the test plans prevented him from discussing specifics....
           Two cameras will be used: an upgraded version of the camera flown by the FBI at Waco in 1993 and a British Royal Navy camera made by the same manufacturer that is said to be virtually identical to the FBI's 1993 equipment.
          ... The Dallas Morning News and The Associated Press filed a joint motion Tuesday requesting access to the test.
           "The public's interest in having an independent and objective source for information about the field test far outweighs any reason that might be offered for prohibiting media access," the motion argued. "Insofar as the government seeks to protect top secret or otherwise classified information, the media's  presence at the field test does not compromise any such secrets....
For whole story go to:

FEBRUARY 15, 2000

          The public and the press will be barred from next month's test to determine whether the FBI fired on the Branch  Davidians during the 1993 siege near Waco, Texas. The public  will also be barred from Wednesday's meeting to plan the test.
          [ U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr.] said the decision was not his.  "You have two governments here, and the British government is the one with the national security concerns," he said.
           A British helicopter and infrared camera are being used in the  re-enactment to determine whether they record gunfire as  flashes. Flashes appear on an infrared videotape taken of the complex on the day of the assault, April 19, 1993.
          ... Paul McMasters, the First Amendment ombudsman at the  Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va., noted that the government  had pushed back the press before the ill-fated assault on the  complex in 1993.
           "If the press had been allowed to cover the actual event, we might not be having to go through a court case and a  government investigation seven years later," said McMasters,  the former managing editor of the Springfield (Mo.)  News-Leader.
          ... Bruce LaPierre, a constitutional law expert at Washington  University, said the "First Amendment presumption is that the  government is open to public scrutiny. There ought to be a reason before the government restricts access. But no one  has told you what the reason is."
          ... Michael Caddell, the lawyer for the Branch Davidians, blamed the Justice Department for the secrecy. "I know that obviously the government was adamantly  opposed to having anyone present," he said. "I think the judge probably erred on the side of caution. When you raise the specter of national security, it's kind of hard for a judge to say no to that. It's a trump card that gets pulled out, and frankly, there is little he can do. It would be beneficial for the press . . . to observe the test. People will be comforted by the fact that we have gone to great lengths to conduct a fair and  thorough demonstration."
For whole article go to:

FEBRUARY 14, 2000

           A military scientist told Justice Department lawyers in 1996 that the FBI's infrared camera was capable of recording gunshots at Waco. But the  government never pursued his proposal for tests to determine whether gunfire  caused repeated flashes recorded at the end of the Branch Davidian siege, officials said.
           The scientist, a U.S. Air Force research physicist, was recently questioned by  U.S. Senate and House committees and the Waco special counsel's office  re-examining the government's handling of the deadly 1993 standoff, said federal officials familiar with his interviews.
          ... The scientist recalled that Justice lawyers did not contact him after he told  them that he could not rule out gunfire and recommended field tests to help  resolve the issue, the officials said. The scientist declined to be interviewed. Defense Department officials asked that investigators keep his name confidential because of his ongoing work on sensitive military projects.
          ... "This goes back to 1996. That's three years after the tragedy at Waco,"  committee spokesman Mark Corallo said. "So here we are, three years after the fact, with still unanswered questions, and the Justice Department somehow  decided not to get the answers."
          .... In October [1999], the sect's lawyers challenged the government to a public field test
 to settle the issue. They proposed that cameras similar to the FBI device be flown above a firing range to record test shots from weapons similar to those carried by both sides in the Waco siege. Those recordings would with the April 19 tape.
          ... Government lawyers responded with letters ridiculing the idea. They said that any test would be flawed without data on the FBI's camera and how it operated  in Waco, information that Justice lawyers said was classified and would not be  released. ...
For whole story go to:

FEBRUARY 10, 2000

          The Waco special counsel has asked the Army to lend a small arsenal of firearms, tanks, camouflage gear and personnel for a March field test aimed at determining whether government agents fired guns at the end of the 1993 Branch Davidian standoff.
          A Feb. 1 letter to the Pentagon from deputy special counsel Thomas A. Schweich stated that the planned test will require a wide array of military gear and personnel and a full week's access to a restricted Fort Hood firing range.
          The office of independent counsel John Danforth has declined to answer questions about any aspect of its inquiry, including how it will conduct a scientific re-creation that could prove pivotal to the government and surviving Branch Davidians
Whole story at:
          Lawyers, scientists and a judge will meet in St. Louis  next week to draft the blueprint for an unusual experiment that could prove pivotal in determining whether government agents fired on the Branch Davidian complex during the siege at Waco, Texas, in 1993.
          Because of the "top secret" nature of some of the information to be discussed at the meeting, the participants will need security clearances..
          For whole story go to:

FEBRUARY 8, 2000

           AUSTIN - Attorney General Janet Reno fended off numerous questions  Monday night about the government's role in the Branch Davidian tragedy, saying that special counsel John C. Danforth's investigation will provide the  needed answers.
           Speaking to 1,000 community volunteers at the University of Texas, Ms. Reno said the pending lawsuit accusing the government of wrongful death and the  investigation by former Sen. Danforth require her to allow previous statements  to speak for themselves.
          ... About a dozen protesters [led by talk show host Alex Jones] handed out leaflets outside the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, where Ms. Reno spoke, and some of their questions about the Branch  Davidian standoff were posed during a question-and-answer session.
           Asked about the presence of elite Delta Force military personnel, the use of  incendiary gas and whether Mr. Danforth can be truly independent, because  Ms. Reno appointed him, the attorney general responded: "I will continue to try  and provide every bit of information that I can, in every appropriate forum that  I can."
           She said she had no information concerning how Delta Force personnel were  used.
          ..Audience member Mary Aleshire said she has devoted much of her free time to  helping clear the site and rebuild a chapel at Mount Carmel in hopes of  promoting reconciliation. She asked Ms. Reno whether she would join the  effort.
           "If I get in my truck when I leave office and have time, I'll stop by," Ms. Reno  said. Her answers were met with supportive applause....
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FEBRUARY 3, 2000

          The FBI's two lead Waco commanders violated a Washington-approved plan by ordering tanks to begin demolishing the Branch Davidian compound in 1993, and thus should be liable for the horrific tragedy that ensued, the sect's lawyers argued Wednesday.
          Their Wednesday plea in a Waco federal court lays out a detailed case for how FBI commanders Jeffrey Jamar and Richard Rogers within hours diverted from the plan authorized by top FBI officials and approved by Attorney General Janet Reno. That written plan allowed for demolition of the sect's embattled building only after tear gas had been sprayed into it for 48 hours, but FBI tanks began demolishing the rear of the building less than five hours after the gassing began.
          "The decisions made by Rogers and Jamar were unauthorized, outside the scope of their authority, unjustified by the circumstances, and caused or contributed to the deaths of countless innocent children and some adults," the plaintiff's motion argued.
          ...In his decision last July to allow the Branch Davidians' case to go to trial, Judge Smith dismissed Agent Jamar, Agent Rogers and most other federal officials from the lawsuit.
          He left one defendant in the case: a hostage rescue team sniper accused by the sect of firing at the compound during the April 19, 1993, tear-gas assault. The judge based that decision largely on the statement of another FBI agent, who told investigators after the siege that he heard shots fired from the position where the sniper was assigned that day. The agent has since said he was misquoted, and other agents in the area have said that the only gunfire they heard came from the sect.
          The sniper, FBI Agent Lon Horiuchi, has denied firing a shot. Earlier this week, lawyers for the agent asked the judge to dismiss him from the case for a lack of evidence.
          Lawyers for the sect have conceded that the agent will probably be dismissed, despite recent revelations about evidence that could support the gunfire claim. Texas Rangers issued a report last fall that described how a dozen spent .308 shell casings had been found after the incident in the house where Agent Horiuchi was stationed.
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FEBRUARY 2, 2000

           Arguing that the U.S. government can't be sued even if its agents' judgment  calls prove negligent, Justice Department lawyers asked a Waco federal judge  Tuesday to throw out two key charges in the Branch Davidians'  wrongful-death lawsuit.
           The Justice Department's pleading argues that strict federal limits on how and  when the government can be sued should prevent the court from considering  whether authorities contributed to the 1993 tragedy by ordering tanks to  demolish the sect's building and refusing to let fire trucks approach after it  caught fire.
           If successful, the bid would leave only two major issues for trial: Did federal  agents use excessive force when they shot at sect members during the raid that  began the standoff near Waco? And did agents fire again, trapping Branch  Davidians inside their burning building, as the siege came to an end?
          ... Graeme Craddock, an Australian serving 20 years for convictions arising from  the standoff [Note: he admitted to Texas Rangers he was given a live grenade which he deposited outside the building so no one would be hurt by it; for this he is serving 20 years], recounted in a December deposition that he saw and heard other  sect members talking about pouring fuel.
           Drawn by shouts of "Wait, wait. Not inside. Outside," he said, he saw another  sect member with a fuel can. "It looked to me like they were pouring fuel on  the floor."
           "It was a few minutes later I heard a call from upstairs . . . 'The building's on  fire," Mr. Craddock said.
           He added that he looked out the window for smoke and then heard the same  voice. "He said this time, 'Light the fire.' " (For whole confusing transcript, click here)
           The fires broke out just after FBI tanks demolished the entire rear area of the building and then drove deep into the structure. ....
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JANUARY 31, 2000

          The Waco special counsel, responding to questions about a Delta Force commando's whereabouts at the end of the Branch Davidian siege, used a polygraph on him last week to confirm that he wasn't actively involved in the FBI's assault on the sect's compound, officials said.
          The former commando passed the lie-detector test after disputing another Delta Force soldier's sworn testimony. That soldier said the commando wasn't seen during the entire six-hour tank-and-tear-gas operation on April 19, 1993, and showed up hours after it ended, red-faced, tired and disheveled, officials said.
          Determining the military's involvement in Waco has been a major focus of special counsel John Danforth and committees in both houses of Congress. The issue has been sensitive because of the nature of Delta Force, a unit so secretive that its existence is not officially acknowledged, and because of constitutional restrictions on the use of the military in civilian U.S. police actions.
          Mike Caddell, lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians, said he was troubled by the commando's testimony - particularly its conflict with the sworn accounts of two other Delta Force soldiers.
          "This guy is there longer than anyone else from Delta, and he remembers nothing? He can't remember anyone he talked to, hung out with, saw," Mr. Caddell said. "The contradiction between his testimony and that of the previous two soldiers is striking and incredible."
          ...The former commando drew intense interest last week not only from the Waco special counsel but from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. Defense Department officials have said he was one of only three special forces soldiers - and the lone combat specialist - in Waco in the final days of the standoff.
          ...So the commando questioned last week was subjected to particularly intense scrutiny. He was questioned closely about the testimony of a Delta colleague, an electronics specialist who said the commando showed up hours after the Waco fire, looked hungover, and announced he had gotten so drunk the night before that he overslept and missed everything.
          ...Mr. Caddell, the Branch Davidians' lawyer, said he doubts that the discrepancies in Delta Force testimony can be resolved. "But as we have said all along, to a small child trapped inside that building, whether it was Delta Force or the FBI pulling the triggers was irrelevant."...
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JANUARY 28, 2000

          A British military expert said Friday that infrared cameras identical to those used by the FBI in the Branch Davidian siege have been used regularly by British military forces to identify and record gunfire.
          ...Paul Beaver, a former military pilot who is now an analyst and spokesman for Jane's Information Group, said he has participated in British military operations in which such airborne forward-looking-infrared or FLIR cameras detected and recorded distinctive flashes or thermal signatures of gunfire.
          "We were doing similar operations in Northern Ireland. You're looking for just that," said Mr. Beaver, who has worked extensively with infrared technology during a 10-year military career and two decades as a defense analyst and writer for Jane's. The British company is among the world's leading authorities on military technology.
          "I have personally been in a situation where I've seen gunfire, using the GEC-Marconi system," he said. "In a firefight situation, it's very, very useful to detect where the enemy is."
           FBI officials have refused to reveal the make or manufacturer of the airborne infrared camera used at the Branch Davidian compound during the siege. They have said the information is classified because even the most general details about their infrared surveillance systems could compromise U.S. law enforcement operations.
          ..."There is one obstacle: transportation. The cost of getting it here could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.
          Mr. Beaver said he learned earlier this week from British defense ministry officials that the camera is mounted on a Royal Navy helicopter, and the British government has indicated its willingness to lend the aircraft and its crew to U.S. officials. The aircraft does not have the range needed for the trans-Atlantic flight and would have to be transported in a cargo plane.
          ...Justice Department officials initially tried to convince Judge Smith that it would be impossible to conduct a scientifically valid field test to determine whether gunfire could have caused the flashes.
For whole article go to:

JANUARY 28, 2000

          The special counsel investigating FBI activities on the last day of the Branch Davidian siege will be allowed to perform his own tests on the remains of sect members killed in the April 19, 1993, fire at Mount Carmel, a judge ruled Friday.
          U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Waco granted a motion filed last week by Special Counsel John Danforth to take custody of all tissue and bone samples of the human remains recovered after the fire that are being stored by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville, Md.
          The judge said Danforth's office could keep the items for 60 days, after which they must be returned to the institute. Danforth's office had requested to keep the remains for 120 days.
          ...Houston attorney Mike Cadell, lead plaintiff's attorney in the suit brought by Branch Davidian survivors against the government, has said that he, too, will be seeking permission from the court to perform similar toxicological tests.
          "I think (Danforth's investigators) are looking for several things," Caddell said. "I think they want to know who died from gunshots, who died from smoke inhalation. One of the issues is if you don't have any smoke in your body, if those were the toxicological results that there is no smoke in your lungs, that means you were dead when the fire started."
          ...In another order Friday, Smith granted a motion from Danforth's office for more time to return to the court shell casings taken from a government sniper position and shell casings taken from the test firing of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms weapons...
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JANUARY 28, 20000

          The Waco special counsel's office asked a federal judge Thursday for permission to perform independent testing on tape recordings made from FBI surveillance devices on the crucial last day of the 1993 Branch Davidian siege.
          The tests could help resolve whether the tapes now being held by the federal court in Waco are originals or altered copies - a concern raised last year by a recording expert hired by lawyers for the sect.
          An independent analysis also might help address the question of what could be heard as the devices broadcast to an FBI command post on April 19, 1993, the day that the Branch Davidian compound near Waco burned with leader David Koresh and more than 80 followers inside.
          One FBI agent who helped monitor the bugs said in a deposition last month that little or nothing could be discerned from the surveillance devices during the last hours of the siege because of poor transmission quality and background noise.
          But a retired Army colonel who was in the FBI's command post as a military liaison that day told The Dallas Morning News last fall that he clearly heard voices of Davidians being broadcast by the bugs, including discussions in which the sect members talked about spreading fuel and setting fires.
          ....Government lawyers told the court that the surveillance tapes sent to Waco from FBI headquarters were originals. But a former U.S. Secret Service scientist hired by lawyers for the Davidians began examining those recordings in Waco late last year and issued a preliminary finding that the surveillance tapes from April 19 did not appear to be originals.
          Mike Caddell, lead lawyer for the sect, said the expert found evidence that the tapes from that day were recorded in stereo, while bugging devices typically used by U.S. police agencies transmit their signals in a single monaural or "mono" channel. He said the expert also found suspicious signs of cutouts or editing on some of the tapes.
    For whole story go to:

JANUARY 26, 2000

           Saying he wants to hold the government accountable for "the torture of innocent children," the attorney for David and Rachel Koresh's three children -- all of whom perished, along with 14 other children in the Branch Davidian fire in Waco, Texas -- has already deposed, under oath, over 30 FBI and Delta Force personnel regarding their role in the April 19, 1993 disaster.
           ...."Almost all of them from FBI people. Two of them from military people, and it seems as though an almost universal amnesia has struck -- an epidemic of amnesia," explained attorney Jim Brannon in a telephone interview.
           ..."Naturally they don't remember anything, but they sure remember there wasn't anybody there on the ground shooting," Brannon told WorldNetDaily.
           ...."My fundamental position in the case, just from the standpoint of the limited claim that I have, is very simply this: We don't authorize under any conditions, any circumstances, not a single instance, nowhere, no time, do we tell any law enforcement officer as part of the arrow in your quiver you get to torture babies to accomplish your ends," stated Brannon emphatically.
           Although the FBI and other federal officials have tried to justify their actions, Brannon said there is no justification and believes his case will be an easy one to win.
           The FBI should know "you don't ever torture a baby for any reason, however noble it may be," he said. "You don't get to torture a baby to save your life. We don't pay you to torture babies, and that's what you did there, and you knew you did it, and you advertised you did it, and you bragged that you did it, and you said, 'Oh, but we didn't think it would hurt them much.'
           "That's not the worst thing you said. The other thing you said was, 'Well, all their parents have to do is bring them out, so don't blame us.' The translation is, if you have bad parents in this country, and you're a little kid, law enforcement gets to torture you because they don't like your parents.
           "Ain't that a hell of a note for the government to take! Nobody says you get to torture babies in America -- period. Not for any reason. Not for any purpose," stated Brannon.
           ...Brannon initially had difficulty getting the government to admit that the Delta Force exists. Once an agreement was reached that he could depose members of the elite fighting team, a series of strict rules was put in place.
           Brannon is not permitted to know the names of the Delta Force members being deposed, or even to see them. They are kept behind a screen for "national security" reasons.
           No recordings of the interviews are permitted on video or audiotape. The only record of the deposition is by a court stenographer.
           Brannon said the process is worse than the amnesia of the FBI agents. After he asks questions, the Delta Force members are most often directed by government attorneys not to answer, he said.
           "I want the helicopter pilots. I want the snipers -- all of them. I want to see if they can all tell the same lies. I don't think they're that good. I might get real lucky and run across one or two of them who is willing under oath -- when they have to tell the truth -- [to] tell the truth. Maybe I'll find some that won't lie for them. I believe the truth won't hurt my side. Not out of what I've seen up to now," Brannon said.
           Since there is no judge present during the questioning, Brannon is left with no means to compel the witnesses to answer. Indeed, government attorneys direct Delta Force members not to respond to most of Brannon's questions.
           Despite the fact that the government admits to the presence of only three Delta Force members at Waco, Brannon claims there were at least 10.
           "The 10 have been traced on their travel vouchers. They came and went during the 51-day siege at Waco. Sometimes there were only three from that group present at one time," Brannon explained. He hopes eventually to get depositions from all of them.
           ...Brannon has plans to depose Reno. "It's just a question of scheduling," he said. He would not rule out depositions of Gen. Colin Powell, Les Aspen, Hillary Clinton, and President Bill Clinton, all of whom had roles in the Waco event, according to government documents.
           "If Clinton did what I think he did, if I can ever prove it, I think he gave the okay to the Delta Force to go in there and help those guys. I think he said, 'They don't know what they're doing. Y'all go in there and take care of it.' Or words to that effect," said Brannon.
           ..."They can't hide behind a classified heading when they're going down there shooting Americans," he said. "I will be seeking to declassify all information pertaining to military operations against civilians."

JANUARY 26, 2000

           Government lawyers formally denied Tuesday that anyone in federal law enforcement or the U.S. military shot at the Branch Davidian compound at the end of the deadly 1993 siege.
           ...Their four-page federal court filing, including sworn statements by Defense Department and U.S. Treasury Department lawyers, came a week after lawyers for the Branch Davidians complained to a federal judge in Waco about the government's refusal to answer that key question.
           ...Under federal civil court rules, government lawyers were supposed to respond under oath months ago to questions about gunfire and other issues raised by lawyers to the sect.
           But while the government filed a pleading in September stating that no one from the FBI or under its control shot guns at the compound, its lawyers failed to produce similar sworn statements from the Defense Department and Treasury until sect lawyers complained to the court last week.
           ATF agents helped man a large law-enforcement perimeter around the compound April 19. But officials with that agency and the FBI have said that no ATF agents were directly involved in the tear-gas assault.
           Soldiers from the U.S. Army's secret anti-terrorism unit, Delta Force, were also in Waco that day. But Defense Department officials have said that no military personnel were actively involved in the April 19 operation.
           Two Delta soldiers questioned last month in depositions swore that they got no closer than a kilometer from the compound. But they acknowledged that they could not account for the whereabouts of a third Delta Force soldier.
           That soldier, a combat specialist, told his colleagues that he got drunk the night before, slept late and missed the entire FBI assault, one soldier testified.
           He is scheduled to be questioned later this week in Washington by lawyers for the sect....
For whole story go to:

World Net Daily on Johnston Resignation

Waco prosecutor quits 'I have a hard time working for people that I don't respect'
By David M. Bresnahan

....Johnston began to express concerns about the possibility of a cover-up by the Department of Justice after he gave documentary film producer Michael McNulty an opportunity to examine the Waco evidence. McNulty produced the Oscar-nominated documentary, "Waco: The Rules of Engagement."

Johnston came under fire when he gave McNulty a tour of the government's evidence locker last spring. McNulty found remains of FBI tear gas devices used in the Waco raid -- devices that could have caused the fire that killed
the Branch Davidians and their children in a blazing inferno.

Until recently, the FBI denied claims that pyrotechnic devices were used at Waco. Such devices, combined with the dangerous levels of CS gas sprayed on adults and children, could have started the fire. The discovery of this
device and others by filmmaker Michael McNulty finally caused the Department of Justice to acknowledge their use in a press conference. Photo courtesy of MGA Films, Inc.

Johnston was removed from the Waco case after he wrote to Reno and warned her that he had documents clearly showing the government had known about the pyrotechnic tear gas devices used in the final assault on Mt. Carmel. Reno and the FBI finally were forced to admit the existence of the devices last August.

"Waco: A New Revelation" is McNulty's newest production. In it, he shows convincing evidence that the government withheld information from the public and the court. The video uses government evidence and experts to document inaccuracies by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and military involved in the Waco raid.

The FBI now admits that incendiary pyrotechnic devices were used, but denies those devices started the fire on April 19, 1993, in which Davidian leader David Koresh and about 80 others perished. The government has not changed its claim that no shots were fired at the Branch Davidians shortly before and during the fire....

JANUARY 25, 2000


          Veteran federal prosecutor Bill Johnston says he is quitting the Justice Department, a move that comes five months after he warned Attorney General Janet Reno of a possible cover-up of key information on government actions in the 1993 Branch Davidian siege.
           Mr. Johnston said he will submit his resignation Tuesday, ending a 12-year stint as chief federal prosecutor in Waco.
           He said he was not being forced out and was not leaving as an act of protest but needed "a breather" after almost two decades of prosecuting state and federal cases. He acknowledged that the strain of the last six months, a period in which federal colleagues outside Waco have ostracized him, was a major reason behind his decision to leave the office he opened for the Justice Department in 1987.
           ...."I have a hard time working for people that I don't respect. I've had a harder and harder time within this organization," he said. "The vast majority of people at the Department of Justice and the FBI are fine people. But in terms of leadership and policy and direction, I've had an increasingly hard time working within the current framework. So it's time for a breather."
           ...."Bill Johnston has given the Congress his full cooperation. We have a very high regard for him," said Kevin Binger, chief of staff for the House Government Reform Committee, which called Mr. Johnston as a witness in 1995 hearings and sent investigators to talk with him again last fall when the committee began a new inquiry.
           "It's a shame that good people who feel strongly about public service no longer feel comfortable in this Justice Department," Mr. Binger said.
           ...Mr. Johnston said he is hopeful that ongoing investigations by Congress and by Waco special counsel John Danforth will finally and fully account for the government's actions in the 1993 standoff.
           "All that I can hope for is that we'll get closer and closer to the truth. I'm not sure that we'll ever have all of it," he said. "I hope that these investigations will begin to restore the credibility of federal law enforcement and the Justice Department. I don't think that will solve it, because we'll have the same people there. I think it will take a change in leadership."
      For whole story go to:

           [Note: Johnston cooperated with the Justice Department in calling for suppression of evidence that would have helped the Davidian defendants at trial; suddenly he doesn’t trust the government when they try to pin the fault for “covering up” the use of pyrotechnics on April 19, 1993.)

JANUARY 24, 2000

          Although most admit never seeing as many multiple flashes before, FBI agents and technicians are adamant that the flashes seen on an infrared video of Mount Carmel on April 19, 1993, are "glint" and not gunfire, according to depositions for the upcoming wrongful-death lawsuit filed against the government by surviving Branch Davidians.
           .....Caddell asked if the FLIR could detect smoke and hot gases. The pilot said it could under certain conditions.
           "But it's your belief that there's something special about hot gases from the muzzle of a gun, that it wouldn't detect those, but it would detect the hot gases from a Davidian starting a fire, right?"
           "There is a difference in the spectrum," the pilot said....
For whole story go to: .0076.html

JANUARY 22, 2000
Conspiracy dreams are an FBI nightmare; Charges by private eye spur probe in Waco
By Dick J. Reavis Express-News Staff Writer

          A colorful New Orleans electronics expert, private eye and business promoter ù like a mischievous twin of Forrest Gump ù is back on the fringes of history.
           His story stretches credibility, perhaps, but the man whose last name is synonymous with fiction is in the news again, this time in connection with controversy over the 1993 federal siege at Mount Carmel near Waco that left about 80 people dead.
           Gordon Novel, 61, is the originator of allegations ù recently popularized by "conspiracist" documentariesù that federal agents fired upon David Koresh's followers as Mount Carmel was bursting into flames.
           Because of the charges that Novel developed, government investigators and the media now are looking into the possibility that at Waco, federal agents might have been guilty of attempted murder, not negligence.
           Sometime between now and April, at the request of the Justice Department's special counsel, former Sen. John Danforth, and at the order of Waco's federal district court, experts will re-enact a scenario intended to prove or debunk Novel's contentions.
           But Novel is not the sort of figure whose charges the media or the courts are accustomed to taking seriously, and his background only adds to the furor over the Mount Carmel events.
           The trouble begins, perhaps, with his birth. Novel says he is the illegitimate son of showman and songwriter Billy Rose ("Without a Song," "Me and My Shadow"), who famously said, "I sell ballyhoo, not genius."
           ....The FLIR tape at the center of today's debate was declassified by the FBI in 1994, during the criminal trial of 11 Mount Carmel survivors, including five who survived the fatal April 19 fire. Prosecutors argued that the FLIR showed that on April 19, 1993, residents of the complex set three separate fires inside the building.
           But in late 1995, while viewing the 90-minute tape with a stepbrother and son, Novel says he saw something in the FLIR that no one else had noticed: flashes on the back side of Mount Carmel ù out of the view of news cameras. Novel alleges the flashes are "thermal signatures" of weapons' fire.
           Whether the FLIR flashes are pictures of gun- and grenade-launcher fire is a critical issue, because FBI spokesmen have always denied that their agents took shots at anyone on April 19.
           ...Among those who put faith in Novel's interpretation of the FLIR is Clark, President Johnson's attorney general, who is representing plaintiffs in the suit.
           "It seems clear to me," Clark said from his offices in New York, "that the FLIR tape shows repeated gunfire, toward and into the church complex, from positions where only federal people could have been."
           Clark puts such faith in Novel's discovery, in fact, that he has hired Novel as his chief investigator for the case.
           ...."You can't afford to ignore Novel, but you can't take what he says at face value," said Mike McNulty, whose Emmy-award-winning documentary "Waco: The Rules of Engagement" brought the gunfire thesis to public attention. "You have to discount for 'the Novel factor.'"
           ...Novel has buttressed his arguments on behalf of the FLIR/gunfire thesis by dropping the name of another luminary, William Colby. Like most Novel stories, the tale of the former CIA's involvement is of the shaggy dog type.
           ...It was the retired Colby to whom Novel turned in 1995, he said, for confirmation that the FLIR flashes were actually gunshot signatures. He telephoned Colby, sent him a copy of the FLIR, "told him, 'if you've got any technology that you could put on it, I'd like to know what it says.'"
           A few weeks later, according to Novel's account, Colby called to say that, "You've got a positive on this stuff and I've got something that we probably shouldn't have, but I am going to show it to you."
           Not long after Colby's call, Novel said, "some company guys show up at the New Orleans airport Hilton, with an IBM laptop and player. The FLIR had been put onto a hard disc and colorized, with fire in green, explosions in blue and gunshots in red. Everything you saw was event-designated."
           Novel also claims the film showed federal agents "using blinding lasers, firing them at the Davidians coming out of the building in the rear." But that scene, he says, occurs in a five-minute span of the tape that was not in the copy that he had sent to Colby, and that is missing from the version that the FBI has declassified.
           Novel has explained the former CIA director's assistance by saying that, "Colby was helping us because he was tired of the CIA being framed for the murder of JFK." He's also said that, "when Colby gave me this intelligence, he wasn't ratting on anybody. He was simply pro-CIA. He was extremely angry about seeing the FBI pushing for a world government."
           After viewing the colorized FLIR, Novel took his interpretation to filmmaker McNulty, who brought in Edward Allard, formerly an analyst with the Defense Department's Night Vision Laboratory and a pioneer of FLIR technology.
           Allard's conclusion, after studying a copy of the tape that McNulty provided, was that it "clearly showed gunfire toward the building."
           His opinion and a subsequent meeting, at which Novel, Allard and McNulty all were present, shortly led to the making of "Rules of Engagement," whose sequel, "Waco: A New Revelation," is spurring much of the renewed attention to the events at Waco...
           If the re-enactment confirms that, indeed, weapons' fire does leave telltale tracks on FLIR tapes, a generation of conspiracy buffs will believe that Gordon Novel was an operative of the CIA, chosen to deliver Colby's message as an agent of plausible deniability ù as one to whom spooks and spies turn in order to conceal their tracks.
           If, on the other hand, the FLIR camera records no flashes, those who subscribe to the official version of the Waco events will doubtless point out that Novel's credibility was always weak.
           The New Orleans private eye and conspiracy-weaver already has prepared for that turn of events. Predicting that the test will be rigged with high-tech gimmickry and gadgetry, he is denouncing it as an "out-and-out sham."....
For whole story go to:

JANUARY 22, 2000

           Waco special counsel John Danforth asked a federal judge Friday for permission to conduct toxicology tests on tissue and bone samples from the Branch Davidians killed in a 1993 standoff.
           The tests could address allegations that some of the Branch Davidians suffered cyanide poisoning as the gas pumped into the compound by federal authorities burned and broke down, and that some of the sect's 17 children had been sedated by the Branch Davidians when fire swept through their compound.
           Mr. Danforth's filing came as lawyers representing the sect released transcripts from the December depositions of 19 FBI agents and two Special Forces soldiers involved in the final days of the 1993 incident.
           The FBI agents who made airborne infrared videotapes during the last day of the Branch Davidian siege denied that repeated rhythmic flashes captured during the crucial last hours before the compound burned could be gunfire.
           But none of the agents, including some of the bureau's most experienced pilots and infrared camera operators, could say why the bureau has recorded nothing else like them on its infrared videotapes - including those made in dozens of earlier recordings during the Branch Davidian siege.
           ...On Friday afternoon, the special counsel filed a three-page motion in U.S. District Court in Waco seeking custody of tissue samples stored at the U.S. Armed Services Institute of Pathology in Maryland.
           ...In Friday's pleading, Mr. Danforth told U.S. District Judge Walter Smith that an independent toxicologist would need the samples for three months to verify previous testing done during 1993 autopsies by the Fort Worth medical examiner's office.
           Those toxicology tests found that some sect members who died on April 19 had abnormal levels of cyanide in their blood. More than 80 sect members died after the compound caught fire as FBI tanks sprayed in powdered "CS" tear gas.
           ...Many of the agents involved in making the April 19 infrared tapes acknowledged in December depositions that they could not identify the cause of the flashes and had not seen anything like them - despite months of trying to find similar white blips on other FBI infrared recordings.
           ...Under sometimes heated questioning by lawyers for the sect, the agents said they were puzzled and stunned at the large gaps in the audio tracks on the videotapes presented to a federal court as the original infrared recordings taken April 19. The audio tracks that remain contain discussions from the plane's occupants and radio communications between FBI commanders and agents on the ground.
           An audio and video recording expert hired by the Branch Davidians' lawyers has issued preliminary findings that even the videotapes termed originals by the FBI appear to have been edited or deliberately altered.
        For whole story go to:

JANUARY 19, 2000

           It is the key question in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death suit against the federal government: Did anyone under U.S. control shoot at the sect's compound during the fiery ending of the 1993 standoff?
           Lawyers for the sect told a federal judge Tuesday that Justice Department lawyers must be forced to provide complete written answers because they have dodged the question for months, failing to make good on promises to fully respond.
           Mike Bradford, one of the lead lawyers on the government's Waco trial team, declined to comment on the plaintiffs' latest pleading. But he said U.S. officials have not altered their position that no government agents or employees fired guns at the Branch Davidians on April 19, 1993.
           The legal skirmishing came as lawyers for the sect began a new round of government depositions and the Justice Department acknowledged that it was still days away from complying with a Jan. 15 court deadline for turning over government documents.
           In a caustic five-page pleading, Mike Caddell of Houston, lead lawyer for the sect, asked U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. to force the government to provide complete sworn answers to his questions about government gunfire.
           He argued that a full answer is even more crucial in light of recent sworn admissions by two U.S. Army Delta Force technicians that a Delta colleague trained in close-quarter combat could not be accounted for after the Branch Davidian compound burned.
           The two soldiers said last month in depositions that the Delta combat expert was not seen until several hours after the compound burned and appeared " 'tired,' 'somewhat disheveled,' and 'red-eyed.' " the pleading stated.
           Defense Department officials have said that no military personnel were actively involved in the FBI's tank-and-tear-gas assault on the compound. The assault ended when the compound near Waco erupted in flames, consuming the building with sect leader David Koresh and more than 80 followers inside.
Whole story at:

           And another note of interest: Lead plaintiffs' attorney Michael Caddell said last week that he had "zero sympathy" for the government's argument that it cannot meet court-imposed deadlines because it has limited resources to cull through the requested information.
           "There are over 9,000 lawyers in the Justice Department," he said. "They can put as many lawyers on this project as they feel appropriate. If this were something that were important to the Justice Department, they would man up and get the job done."
Whole story at:

JANUARY 14, 2000

        The Supreme Court agreed Friday to review an appeal in which five Branch Davidians challenged their sentences for using firearms during a gun battle that began the 1993 standoff at the cult's compound near Waco, Texas.
        The court said it will hear the Davidians' argument that they could not be given longer sentences for using machine guns, rather than some other kind of firearms, because a jury never decided what type of weapons were used.
        A decision is expected by July.
        ...After a trial, Jaime Castillo, Brad Eugene Branch, Renos Lenny Avraam and Kevin A. Whitecliff were sentenced to consecutive terms of 10 years in prison for manslaughter and 30 years for using machine guns during a violent crime. Graeme Leonard Craddock was sentenced to 10 years for using a grenade and a consecutive 10 years for using a machine gun.
        The firearm law set a five-year sentence but allowed a 10-year term if the weapon was a semiautomatic firearm and a 30-year term for use of a machine gun or grenade.
        The jury was not asked to decide what type of firearm was used. The judge made that determination during sentencing.
        The five Davidians challenged the firearm sentences, saying the type of weapon should be considered an element of the offense that must be submitted to the jury.
        The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against them, saying the type of weapon need not be decided by the jury.
        In the appeal acted on Friday, the Davidians' lawyers said the firearm law's sentence-enhancing provision was similar to one in the federal carjacking law allowing longer sentences in cases of serious injury. Last year, the Supreme Court decided the serious-injury issue was an element of the carjacking crime that must be submitted to the jury.
        Justice Department lawyers acknowledged that federal appeals courts had differed on the firearm law. But they added the law has been revised to clarify that the type of weapon was a sentencing issue and need not be decided by the jury.
       The case is Castillo vs. U.S., 99-658.
Associated Press story
Friday January 14 7:23 PM ET

JANUARY 11, 2000

          Houston attorney Mike Caddell filed a motion Tuesday urging U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Waco to fine the government $50,000, claiming it is preparing to dump thousands of pages of documents on plaintiffs as the deadline nears for document production in the Branch Davidian wrongful death lawsuit.
          Caddell also asked that any request by the United States for more time to produce documents be denied.
          Smith set a Jan. 15th deadline for document production after meeting with both sides last fall.
          ....Caddell accused the government of stockpiling documents in order to dump them on the plaintiffs at the last possible moment, four months before trial.
          "It was very clear at the status conference that discovery was to be done on an ongoing basis," Caddell said. "The 15th was more of cleanup date, for us to get the few documents not already produced. But it now looks like the vast majority of documents will not even be produced until after the deadline. At some point, the word inexcusable doesn't seem sufficient. These people basically have thumbed their nose at the court's orders."
          Last November, Smith threatened to hold government attorneys in contempt if they did not promptly turn over evidence related to the Branch Davidian siege. Smith bluntly stated that the government "waits not only until the last day, but until the last minute to respond to every order this court has issued."
          ...As an example, Caddell cited files and notebooks taken from the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team's headquarters at Quantico, Va.
          "We know they exist because they were turned over to Congress," he said. "But we haven't gotten them."
          Caddell asked for attorney fees in the amount of $50,000, which his motion said will allow plaintiffs to hire additional personnel to sort through any last-minute documents....
For whole story go to:

JANUARY 11, 2000

          A newly  released FBI  photograph  appears to  undercut claims  that government  forces opened fire  on Branch  Davidians during the assault on the compound outside Waco in 1993.
           The photograph, which was obtained by the Post-Dispatch,  is part of a batch of photos the government recently turned  over to Special Counsel John C. Danforth and to U.S. District  Judge Walter S. Smith, who is presiding over a  wrongful-death suit filed by Branch Davidian survivors.
           If accurate, the photo could help Danforth determine  whether agents fired shots, which is also one of the key  claims in the separate civil suit in Waco.
           The FBI surveillance photo appears to have been snapped on  April 19, 1993, within seconds of the time when a flash  appears on a separate infrared tape at 11:24 a.m. The  Branch Davidians and their experts claim that flashes on the  infrared film at that time are the muzzle blasts from the guns  of government agents. The surveillance photo shows no one  in the vicinity of the flash.
           The flashes on the infrared tape have been the strongest  evidence to date that government forces fired on the Branch  Davidians. Danforth thinks the flashes are important; at his  request, the judge has ordered a court-supervised test by  an independent expert to determine if small arms fire shows  up as flashes on infrared tape. Fort Hood, Texas, is under consideration as the site for the test.

          ..... Mike Caddell, the lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians, said  he had not seen the photograph the Post-Dispatch had  obtained for the comparison. He said a fair comparison  required seeing all the photographs, which he has requested but not yet received.
      "Seeing one or two or 10 photographs doesn't tell you a  whole lot," Caddell said.
           .....  Caddell, the Branch Davidian lawyer, was not impressed by  the comparison of the surveillance photo with the FLIR.
           "There were a lot of times when that tank went in and out  of the building," he said. "Being able to identify what time it  is and whatever the precise moment when someone was  firing from the rear of the tank is very suspect unless you've  got a complete roll of film and you can see the entire sequence." ....
    For whole story go to:

JANUARY 11, 2000

          The court-ordered re-creation of the events at Mount Carmel on April 19, 1993, to determine whether FBI agents shot at the Branch Davidians will probably be in March at Fort Hood, the plaintiffs' lead attorney in the wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government said Tuesday.
          Houston attorney Mike Caddell said Fort Hood is the ideal location to fly an airplane equipped with an infrared camera overhead while weapons identical to those at Mount Carmel are fired.
          Fort Hood, the world's largest military base, is 50 miles southwest of Waco near Killeen.
          "The terrain is similar to that at Mount Carmel," Caddell said. "The ATF used Fort Hood to train for the initial raid. There's even a building there that mimics some of the conditions at Mount Carmel. The weather is similar. The soil conditions are similar. There would be no security problems. And they fire off weapons all the time. You wouldn't have to worry about getting special permits."
          ...Caddell said the simulation would be staged by a British firm recommended by Danforth's office.
          "The FLIR camera is a British-made camera," Caddell said. "So these guys have experience with the FBI's type of camera. We're happy having them rather than the ringers recommended by the Justice Department."
          ...Results from the re-creation should be known almost instantly, however, Caddell said.
          "I think it's possible we may not go to trial after the re-creation," Caddell said. "I think it's possible that the government's case could just collapse like a house of cards."
    For whole article go to:

Davidian survivor David Thibodeau was given a black t-shirt with this graphic (click here for page with larger photo and more details) by a person he'd prefer not to identify. The shirt shows a caricature of Koresh, with cross hairs drawn centering right on his forehead, and gives the date and time with the caption: "Here's a sight we've been waiting for!"  David is currently investigatin whether the shirt is legitimate and information about the shirt has been set to Davidian civil suit and defense attorneys.  If this isn't evidence of malicious intent by ATF, I don't know what is! Check out Thibodeau's web page: