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Waco Questions For Congress
Questions which Neither Congress Nor Any "Special Prosecutors"
Have Fully Investigted and/or Answered
Carol Moore, author, The Davidian Massacre
Revised October 21, 1999
David Koresh, the Branch Davidians and “Waco” are back in the news. And millions of Americans are still waiting for the government to tell us the truth. Did federal agents commit crimes against the Davidians and did federal officials help cover up those crimes?
Why We Are Having New Waco Investigations
Brief House and Senate hearings in the spring of 1993 were superficial and even congratulatory of the government. The Treasury and Justice reports issued in the fall of 1993 completely vindicated agents and officials. But Americans were not ready to forget.
Americans' fear and anger over “Waco” were partially responsible for the Republican congressional victories of 1994. Republicans did sponsor more in-depth Waco hearings in 1995. The House of Representatives held 10 days of hearings and the Senate held two days. Despite systematic obstruction by House Democrats and the Departments of Treasury and Justice, the hearings did reveal over-aggressiveness and duplicity by agents and officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, Congress’s final conclusion followed the party line--the Davidians ambushed BATF and committed mass suicide. Questions of actual crimes by these government agents were rarely raised and evidence of such, when alleged or chanced upon, discounted.
Nevertheless, citizens continued to produce new books and films cataloguing compelling evidence that hyped-up BATF agents and vengeful FBI agents murdered a total of 82 Davidians--23 children, 35 women and 24 men--in 1993. The most successful such project was the Academy Award nominated and Emmy Award winning film, “Waco: the Rules of Engagement.” It was produced by bulldog researcher Mike McNulty, along with Amy and Dan Gifford and William Gazecki. The film presented compelling evidence that aggressive BATF agents shot first as David Koresh opened the front door, even as other agents shot from helicopters, killing four Davidians; that BATF left ample bullet hole evidence in the walls and roofs of the building of this indiscriminate and illegal gunfire; that BATF ambushed and assassinated Michael Schroeder outside Mount Carmel; that Davidians told negotiators that when this evidence was discovered Davidians would be freed and federal agents would be prosecuted; that FBI Hostage Rescue Team agents deliberately destroyed evidence of BATF gunfire outside the building and repeatedly sabotaged negotiations; that FBI agents lied to Attorney General Janet Reno and pushed for a gas and tank attack that ultimately destroyed the building, its incriminating evidence and most of the inconvenient Davidian witnesses; that agents may have used pyrotechnic devices to start the fire; that agents shot and killed Davidians who were trying to escape. (I explore the same evidence in my book The Davidian Massacre.)
McNulty shared his findings with attorneys working on the Davidian civil suits against agents, officials and the government. The evidence was so convincing that even the prejudiced U.S. District Judge Walter J. Smith–who sent nine Davidians to jail for a total of 243 years–was forced to rule on July 1, 1999 that the Davidian civil suits against the federal government would go forward.
It was not long after that that a deluge of new revelations, from the head of the Texas Rangers, a former FBI official, a federal prosecutor, and finally, under duress, FBI and Justice Department officials, set off a new fury. Had FBI agents killed Davidians on April 19, 1993? And what were those helicopters up to on February 28, 1993?
Attorney General Janet Reno finally appointed a special prosecutor–former Senator John Danforth. However, Danforth’s repeated statement that he would not be investigating “bad judgment,” clearly telegraphed to agents and officials just what words to use to excuse their actions! “It was just bad judgment, Mr. Danforth!” The American people should not expect much truth about facts, not to mention motives and intentions, from that investigation.
Make Sure Congress Finally Gets to the Truth
The House Reform Committee has promised more in-depth investigations of the actions of both BATF and FBI agents and officials. (A Senate subcommittee will do a much more limited review of Department of Justice cover-ups.) We the people must insist that they do just that. Having myself read all hearing reports–and attended in full the 1995 House and Senate hearings–I know how easy it is for under-informed staffers and representatives to miss the important facts and questions.
Below is a list of questions which must be asked. These especially focus on issues ignored or unresolved in previous Congressional investigations, and not yet exposed or fully explored by the press. Please feel free to mail, email or fax these Questions to your representatives and to the members of the House Reform Committee (202-225-5074) and the Senate Judiciary Committee (202-224-5225). Tell Congress that this time it must prove it cares more about protecting Americans’ lives from out-of-control federal agents than about protecting federal agents from prosecution for their crimes! And remind Congress that if it does not get to the truth--and once again leaves that to citizens and civil suit attorneys--it will be proving to citizens its weakness and corruption.
QUESTIONS ABOUT FEBRUARY 28, 1993
1. What organized groups, individual “cult busters” and former Davidians willfully provided false and exaggerated evidence about the Branch Davidians to law enforcement? And why were BATF and the FBI so eager to listen to, believe and publicize their propaganda?
2. What individual BATF agents lied to the military about Davidian involvement with drugs? During the 1995 Waco hearings House investigators determined that “someone” at BATF lied in order to get U.S. Army Special Forces and other military aid. Instead of pulling out the stops to discover who lied, investigators only whined about the fact that military staff at Fort Bragg either were not made available to them or had been “pre-interviewed.” Needless to say, congressional investigators must ask all military and Delta Force personnel about their involvement on February 28th, throughout the siege, and on April 19th.
3. What communications, direct or indirect, before or after the raid, did raid planner William Buford, Special Agent in Charge of Little Rock BATF, have with his personal friend President Bill Clinton? The day after the February 28th raid, then-Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman visited the injured Buford in a Texas hospital. The next day Altman reported on his condition to President Clinton in person. Congress never asked about this visit or whether Clinton or his staff had any foreknowledge of the raid.
4. Did BATF bring a search warrant on February 28, 1993? During the 1995 House hearings a lead agent claimed that BATF brought a warrant but it was “all shot up” in the truck and they had to make up a new one. Is he lying and did agents really fail to bring a search warrant?
5. Who really shot first? During the House hearings it was revealed that imprisoned Davidian Brad Branch, who was standing behind the unarmed David Koresh at the front door, claims he saw an agent shoot a dog as other agents rushed the door. He claims one approaching agent panicked and started shooting at Koresh, wounding him and mortally wounding his father-in-law. Other Davidians claim agents firing from helicopters fired first. Congressional investigators merely whined in their report that the Treasury Department did not let it interview agents before the hearings; they must do so now. And they must interview Davidian survivors and give their testimony equal weight.
6. Did BATF agents in the Blackhawk helicopter shoot at Davidians, killing four? Despite copious documentary, eyewitness and forensic evidence of just that, Congress quiescently accepted the denials of two BATF agents and 3 National Guard helicopter pilots that agents fired from helicopters during the February 28th raid. Such evidence includes: BATF discussions of using helicopter gunfire as a diversion; an agent in the helicopter admitting agents were armed and permitted to fire in self-defense; BATF video from inside the helicopter showing the closeness of the approach to the building and containing sounds of close-up gunfire; television video showing bullets entering the roof from an almost perpendicular angle; television video which appears to show shooting from a helicopter killing a Davidian on the water tower; two Davidians’ taped complaints to 911 officers during the raid about such firing, with helicopter and gunfire sounds in the background; thirteen Davidian survivors’ testimony about it; Davidian attorneys and a prosecution witness’ testimony about bullet hole evidence in the highest roof; autopsy evidence indicating four Davidians probably were killed from gunfire from above.
7. Where is the BATF video tape taken of the February 28th raid? The FBI now admits it has hours of infrared video tape from April 19, 1993 which it previously denied it had. BATF agents admit they took video tape of the whole raid from an undercover house across the street from Mount Carmel, but claim the film came out “blank.” Doubtless, the video cameras captured agents shooting first at the front door and shooting from helicpters; the tape may have been destroyed. Will Congress interrogate every BATF agent inside the house and ask about the video tapes?
8. Did vengeful BATF agents ambush and then assassinate Davidian Michael Schroeder as he approached Mount Carmel several hours after the raid? There is evidence that BATF agents, angry at BATF agents’ deaths, gave scant warning as they opened fire on Schroeder, who died of three wounds to the back and two to the head. Troubling evidence like shooting heard after the incident and Schroeder’s missing cap suggests that agents then approached and “finished off” the wounded man with shots to the head. The FBI would not allow Texas Rangers to investigate the area for ten days after the shooting, making it impossible to check for footprints.
9. Did BATF agents effectively kidnap David Koresh’s business partners to keep the press and public from finding out about the BATF's refusal to meet with Koresh and about the Davidians legal gun business? The day after the failed BATF raid, agents took "protective custody" of gun dealer Henry McMahon and his partner Karen Kilpatrick, telling them they were in danger. They did not want McMahon telling the press that Koresh had, through McMahon, invited BATF agents to inspect his guns six months before the raid. Nor did they want him talking about Koresh's legal gun business. When the couple finally rebelled against BATF's confinement, BATF agents threatened to arrest them for conspiracy and physically assaulted Kilpatrick. McMahon testified at the 1995 Waco hearings about the gun business, but was not asked about BATF's abusive actions to keep him quiet. He claims BATF agents still harass him today.
QUESTIONS ABOUT FBI ACTIONS DURING THE 51 DAY SIEGE
10. Was destruction of evidence a major motivation for the FBI’s actions during the siege and on April 19th? The FBI moved and destroyed automobiles, trucks and a trailer during the siege, and caused the fire which destroyed the building, making sure there was no remaining evidence of illegal BATF ground and helicopter gunfire. FBI agents lied to Attorney Janet Reno about the status of negotiations, the safety of CS gas, the beating of children and other issues to convince her to approve the April 19th gas and tank attack. Television video clearly shows FBI tanks plowing burning, bullet pocked walls and other evidence into the fire for at least ten minutes at the end of the fire? Only in-depth interviews under oath of BATF and FBI agents will lead to the truth.
11. Did FBI Hostage Rescue Team agents in the field deliberately sabotage negotiations? During the Senate hearings FBI Waco negotiator Cliff Van Zandt confirmed an allegation by a Davidian hearing witness: every time Davidians cooperated with the FBI by releasing people, the Hostage Rescue Team would punish them with acts like destruction of property, turning off electricity, or escalated threatening behaviors and harassment. Why hasn’t Congress grilled Hostage Rescue Team commander Richard Rogers and all Hostage Rescue Team members about this phenomena?
12. How much direct contact did the White House and then-Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell have with FBI agents in Waco? Recently released documents indicate that FBI agents in Waco faxed a plan for a tank and gas assault directly to the White House on March 8. Congress must discover just how much other out-of-the-chain-of-command contact there was between the White House and agents in Waco. Webster Hubbell denied such contacts under oath to Congress.
QUESTIONS ABOUT APRIL 19, 1993
13. Did FBI agents lie when they said Davidians threw their phone out the window on April 19? Davidians deny this, asserting a tank cut the phone wire before the gas attack began. This made it impossible for Davidians to negotiate a safe surrender. They even hung a banner asking that their phones be fixed and Graeme Craddock (who survived the fire) went outside the building and held up the phone wire to show that it had been cut by a tank. Why doesn’t Congress interrogate every FBI agent at the scene about the events of that day?
14. Is there sound on the third April 19th infrared video tape? The FBI has always admitted it shot infrared video from an airplane after 10:30 am on April 19th. But it was only in August of 1999 that the FBI was forced to admit there were two morning tapes (as researchers and Davidian attorneys have suspected all along). These tapes contained voice communications from agents on the ground, including discussions of using pyrotechnic flash bangs–something else the FBI had denied doing for six years. The FBI claims the pilot asked the sound be turned off during the third taping, but Congress must discover if this is true.
15. Did FBI agents lie when they claimed Davidians fired on and hit the tanks? Surviving Davidians deny they heard such gunfire and doubt their friends would have done something that would have provoked agents. This gunfire allegation gave the FBI the excuse to speed up the gas attack and quickly proceed to the demolition of the building--and an excuse not to fix the phones. Does the newly released morning infrared video really show shots coming from the Davidians? How much, when, and who shoots first?
16. Where are the Army reports of alleged damage to tanks? During the 1995 House hearing Representative Howard Coble complained that the U.S. Army had not yet provided to them any evidence of alleged damage to army tanks from Davidian gunfire on April 19th. One former staffer told me they did finally receive that material from the army. However, if so, it was not included in the transcripts, as requested by Mr. Coble. Where is this evidence?
17. Could Janet Reno, Webster Hubbell and high FBI officials hear April 19th discussions inside Mount Carmel that were picked up by FBI surveillance devices? An Army Colonel who was at the FBI operations center outside of Waco on April 19th recently revealed that clearly audible sounds and voices captured by the tapes were broadcast simultaneously over loud speakers in the center. These tapes seem to include discussions of spreading fuel and fire (though the words and the interpretation of the words are open to interpretation). Was there also a simultaneous broadcast of these sounds and voices in the Washington, DC FBI operations center where U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, then-Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell and high FBI officials oversaw the raid?
18. What did Attorney General Janet Reno discuss with President Bill Clinton before she left the FBI Operations Center in Washington on April 19, at 11:00 a.m.? During the 1993 House Judiciary hearings, Janet Reno admitted to this telephone conversation. Incredibly, in neither these nor 1995 hearings did representatives question her about the content of this conversation. Reno left soon after and put Webster Hubbell in charge. Representatives did not ask her questions about what instructions she gave Hubbell before she left.
19. Why did Webster Hubbell leave his post at the FBI Operations Center? Congress never asked Webster Hubbell about his role that day or why, as he revealed in his autobiography, he left the operations center while the tanks were destroying the building. Who was in charge after he left, what were their instructions, and who gave them these instructions?
20. Did FBI agents shoot pyrotechnic devices into the building, causing a fire, and shoot at escaping Davidians? These are the allegations that have prompted the current investigation. Congress must not allow Special Counsel John Danforth–who says he’ll forgive “bad judgement”--to stop Congress from thoroughly interrogating all agents. It must question Lon Horiuchi, who killed Vicki Weaver. He is the only individual the judge allowed Davidians to sue because another FBI agent claimed there was firing from Horiuchi’s snipers nest on April 19th.
21. Will Congress take a serious look at the possibility of accidental fire start and spread? It remains possible that neither federal agents nor Davidians intentionally started the fires, but that one accidentally caused fire spread throughout the building. Former U.S. Army and BATF fire investigator Richard Sherrow, who testified at the 1995 hearings, later signed an affidavit stating that there is a strong probability that an FBI tank started at least one fire on the second floor that, fed by strong winds through long hallways, quickly spread to the rest of the building. Computerized graphics in “Waco: the Rules of Engagement” clearly show how this could have happened.
22. Did FBI tanks trap Davidians in the building so that they could not escape the fire? The FBI and Justice Department claim that dozens of Davidians were on the first floor but refused to leave the building. However, a tank smashed deep into the building, pushing heavy debris against the door area of the concrete room, and trapping 37 people, mostly women and children. Another two dozen Davidians were trapped on the second floor, where they huddled for safety from the tanks, because the tanks destroyed the stairwells. Once the fire started and disabling smoke spread through the building, most could not escape.
23. Is the FBI withholding the coroner's video of the retrieval of bodies? In “Waco: The Rules of Engagement” the coroner, Dr. Peerwani, talks about the FBI’s confiscating and refusing to return his assistant’s video tape. The FBI later claimed the video was lost. Will the FBI be forced to produce this tape which may contain evidence FBI agents shot Davidians or somehow tampered with the evidence?
QUESTIONS ABOUT WHITE HOUSE, DEPARTMENTS OF TREASURY AND JUSTICE COVER-UPS
24. Did the White House destroy evidence that Vince Foster killed himself because of his knowledge of crimes against the Davidians? On July 20, 1993 White House counsel Vince Foster allegedly killed himself. His wife Lisa Foster told the FBI he felt guilty about and responsible for “Waco.” His secretary and an aide told Congressional investigators in another matter that Foster was working on a Waco letter the day he died. That letter, and any other relevant files about Waco, were removed from his office and have never been found. The only material found was a memorandum regarding a just released video about Waco that claimed FBI agents murdered Davidians and started the fire. Will Congress bring Lisa Foster, the secretary, the aide–and all White House employees involved in Waco decision-making--before them to answer questions about Vince Foster and Waco? Linda Tripp was also a Foster aide. What could she tell us about the White House's involvement in Waco?
25. Did the Justice Department withhold or squelch evidence that might have exonerated Davidian defendants at trial? Confidential memoranda and handwritten notes found during the 1995 House Waco hearings exposed the fact that the Treasury Department, under pressure from the Justice Department and Webster Hubbell, halted its post-February 28th raid shooting review because agents’ stories "did not add up." In fact, interviewers were generating "exculpatory" material about BATF agents' misdeeds that could help the Davidian defendants at trial. (Documents show Waco prosecutor Bill Johnston, who recently spoke out against the FBI lying about its pyrotechnic devices, himself called for covering up BATF agent testimony.) Will Congress thoroughly investigate how the Justice Department squelched evidence in this case–and even call for new trials or pardons for the Davidian prisoners?
26. Will Congress finally independently test the Davidians guns? The FBI claims that it found 47 burned up illegal machine guns and a number of illegal grenades and silencers. It also claimed that one pristine machine gun was found in the back of a van–after it stood outside of Mount Carmel for 51 days and then was towed to a storage facility. In 1995, the Department of Justice would not allow a company chosen by House investigators to independently test the Davidians’ guns to see if they really are illegal machine guns. It then claimed the Department could not afford to independently test them. Considering the FBI’s recent lies, and known problems with FBI lab work, Congress must have the burned weapons independently tested. And it must track the true origin of the one intact gun.
Former Los Angeles police officer Mark Fuhrman, of O.J. Simpson case infamy, said on audio tapes played at trial, “cops” don’t need to conspire together to protect each other when they commit crimes, they know what to do. The same goes for federal agents, even from competing agencies like BATF and FBI. These are “cover your butt” conspiracies. However, a truly committed Congress can break through law enforcement’s vow of silence–the thin blue line. Otherwise “Waco” will remain a prime symbol of the crumbling legitimacy of the federal government.
Copyright 1999 by Carol Moore. Permission to reprint freely granted, provided the article is reprinted in full and that any reprint is accompanied by this copyright statement.