The Washington Times

April 19, 1995, Wednesday, Final Edition


LENGTH: 1826 words

HEADLINE: Convoluted trail of Waco explanations

BYLINE: James Bovard

At a time when much of the nation's media is frothing over possible CIA
involvement in the murder of a leftist guerrilla in Guatemala a few years ago,
the continuing silence on Waco, Texas, is ever more peculiar. Two years ago
today, the FBI launched a tank assault on a compound holding almost 100 people.
Within a few hours, more than 80 people were dead.

The federal action at Waco has become a symbol of government out of control.
Most Americans recall the pictures of the tanks smashing holes in the compound
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occupied by scores of women and children and pumping that compound full of
potentially lethal CS gas. Some Americans may recall the picture of the Bureau
of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) flag proudly flying on the embers of the
compound after almost all the people inside had perished. But, unfortunately,
few people have followed subsequent developments.

Harvard University professor of law and psychiatry Alan Stone was one of the
experts brought in by the Justice Department in 1993 to evaluate the agency's
action at Waco. Mr. Stone authored a dissenting view to the expert panel
review of the FBI's actions. In an interview last week, Mr. Stone observed, "I
don't think that the Justice Department provided enough information about either
what went on in Washington that day or what went on at the site that day of
[the] holocaust."

According to Mr. Stone, "Some of the government's actions may have killed
people before the fire started. I cannot tell whether the tanks knocked down
places where people were already. I don't know if there were people in there
crushed by the collapsing building" as a result of tanks plowing into the
structure before the fire started.

Mr. Stone believes the public needs more information before final
conclusions can be drawn on what the feds did at Waco, including such things
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as "who were the people in the tanks, what did they know about running tanks,
how did we shift from the plan of breaking through to put gas in a couple places
[in the compound] to tanks knocking down parts of the building" while women and
children were still inside.

Other investigators are also raising questions about the government's
possible role in killing the Davidians.

Michael McNulty, chairman of the Citizens Organization for Public Safety, of
Fort Collins, Colo., has conducted an extensive analysis of videotapes on the
final assault, as well as interviews with forensic scientists and Davidian

Mr. McNulty believes FBI snipers shot Davidians on the morning of April 19
as they were running out of the back of the compound to escape the CS gas.
(During the FBI-Randy Weaver confrontation a few months before the Waco
conflict, one FBI SWAT team member summarized the rules of engagement as "if you
see 'em, shoot 'em," according to a confidential Justice Department report). Mr.
McNulty argues that infrared videotape indicates that the tanks may have pushed
the bodies of the slain Davidians back into the building before the fire began.
(Mr. McNulty has portions of the tape, but there are significant gaps that the
government has refused to release).
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Mr. McNulty also believes the FBI intentionally ignited two fires in the
compound the final day with pyrotechnic devices. He says that FBI pyrotechnic
devices were fired into areas inundated with CS gas particulates at precisely
the same time that fireballs exploded from the back of the gymnasium. According
to Army manuals, there is a significant risk of flammability from CS gas
particulates. For instance, Army field manual FM-21-27 states on page 21:
"Warning: When using the dry agent CS-1, do not discharge indoors. Accumulating
dust may explode when exposed to spark or open flame."

FBI may have thrown or fired flash bang grenades into the Davidian compound
after the compound had been saturated with an explosive combination of CS gas.
Col. Rex Applegate, the inventor of the ferret round and one of the nation's
foremost experts on riot control, observed in an interview last week: "Any flash
bang will start fires."

Col. Applegate noted that the carrying agent, methylene chloride, had
probably been mixed with the CS particulates. Methylene chloride is highly
combustible in heavy concentrations.

Col. Applegate has drawn no conclusions: "As to who started the fire, who
knows? It could have been a lantern, it could have been a flash bang, or a
pyrotechnic device that was shot in there."
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Federal officials rushed to effectively destroy the scene practically as
soon as the fire was out, thereby preventing independent investigators from
examining the evidence.

Mr. Stone does not believe that the FBI intentionally started any fires in
the Davidian compound. But, at the least, the government's claim that the gas
the FBI used is relatively harmless has been debunked. Mr. Stone noted, "Case
reports indicate that prolonged exposure to tear gas in closed quarters causes
chemical pneumonia and lethal pulmonary edema. According to a 1978 report, a
disturbed adult died after only a half-hour exposure to CS gas in closed

Carol Moore, author of a soon-to-be-published book on Waco, notes that a
1988 report by Amnesty International "claimed that CS gas contributed to or
caused the deaths of more than 40 Palestinians - including 18 babies under 6
months of age - who had been exposed to tear gas in enclosed spaces. American
manufacturers of CS gas halted the export of the gas to Israel because of its

A 1975 Army publication on the effects of CS gas noted, "Generally, persons
reacting to CS are incapable of executing organized and concerted actions and
excessive exposure to CS may make them incapable of vacating the area." While
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Attorney General Janet Reno claimed that the FBI hoped that spraying the gas
into the compound would have resulted in people fleeing outside, the gas itself
may have prevented people from escaping.

The government's claim that the military was not involved in the attack on
the Davidians has also been debunked.

James Pate, who has been on the cutting edge of Waco reporting, recently
uncovered several confidential documents exposing military involvement in the
attack on the Davidians.

Mr. Pate, who has written on Waco for the New York Daily News and the
American Spectator, noted in the May issue of Soldier of Fortune that a memo by
Army Maj. Philip Lindley, written three weeks before the BATF launched its raid
on the Davidians, warned that "the degree of [Army] involvement proposed [by
BATF] crossed the [legal] line and exposed the [Special Forces trainers] to
criminal as well as civil liability." Maj. Lindley characterized BATF's plan
for the raid as "an actual law enforcement mission with civilian targets ... to
be attacked."

From his confidential military and law enforcement contacts, as well as from
official documents which he acquired, Mr. Pate concluded: "In direct
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violation of their mission orders, Green Beret trainers wrote a specific assault
scenario for the BATF and participated in rehearsals for that assault." Mr.
Pate concluded that four Green Berets were on the scene on Feb. 28, 1993, when
the BATF launched its original military-style attack on the Davidian compound.

The fig leaf under which the Army provided training to federal agents to
attack American civilians was an allegation that the Davidians were involved in
manufacturing drugs. Making this charge allowed BATF officials to call in
military helicopters from the Texas National Guard to assist in their assault on
the Davidians. Yet the drug charge vanished almost immediately after the raid.
As Mr. Pate noted, "In almost two months of testimony in the criminal trial of
11 Branch Davidians in January-February 1994, federal prosecutors introduced not
one shred of evidence about illegal drug activity."

From the time before the fire began in Waco, the federal government has been
suppressing the truth. At the trial of the Davidian defendants last year, U.S.
Judge Walter Smith proclaimed that "the government is not on trial," and then
proceeded to rig the trial to try to guarantee that the defendants were found
guilty. Judge Smith even prohibited defense counsel from introducing the
official Treasury Department report on the BATF raid - chronicling the lies the
agency had told - into evidence at the trial. The judge also prohibited the
introduction of evidence showing the Davidians acted in self-defense.
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Federal prosecutors were caught manipulating the evidence at the trial.
Prosecutors presented a transcript of tapes made from electronic listening
devices inside the compound in its last days, purportedly showing that the
Davidians intended to commit suicide. But, under cross-examination, the
government's audio expert admitted altering the transcripts after meting with
the chief prosecutor. As the New York Times reported, "Defense lawyer Mike
DeGeurin, demonstrated that more than 100 hours of FBI tapes from the compound
had been reduced to an hour of excerpts by the prosecution's audio expert. 'We
didn't hear things today from the earlier transcripts, such as people praying as
tanks were bashing in their homes, or children calling for their parents.' " The
federal government continues to prohibit gun experts for the convicted Davidians
from examining the allegedly illegal weapons the Davidians possessed. (A
federal judge condemned federal agents in Pennsylvania a few years ago for
tampering with seized weapons to frame defendants).

Col. Applegate complained: "There is a lot of material that has not been
divulged to the public from the FBI's own internal investigations."

When contacted for a response to some of the allegations in this article,
chief Justice Department spokesman Carl Stern said, "We normally do not get
involved with multiple communications except with the press corps that covers us
on a regular basis. We don't have enough staff to get into that pen-pal
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stuff" of answering more than one set of questions from a reporter. Regarding
questions related to the origin of the fire that killed scores of Davidians, Mr.
Stern said, "It is not reasonable at this stage of the game to be setting out
these mischievous hypotheses" that the FBI may have been responsible.

As time passes, it will be increasingly difficult for the federal government
to keep the lid on what really happened at Waco. In the meantime, American
citizens ask the Justice Department, the president and members of Congress at
every opportunity: When will the government stop lying about Waco?

James Bovard is the author of "Lost Rights: The Destruction of American
Liberty" (St. Martin's Press, April, 1994).