New York Post: Disastrous Waco raid 30 years ago still fuels extremism

New York Post, February 28, 2023

Disastrous Waco raid 30 years ago still fuels extremism

by James Bovard

In his “V for Vendetta” raging September speech in Philadelphia, President Joe Biden denounced “an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” His Department of Homeland Security and FBI are ramping up crackdowns on “domestic violent extremists.”

But federal brutality and wrongful killings spawned the extremism that politicians seek to exterminate. According to a DHS official, “The modern-day militia movement owes its existence to Waco.”

Thirty years ago Tuesday — Feb. 28, 1993 — 76 federal agents assaulted the peaceful residents of a ramshackle, sprawling wooden home in Waco, Texas. The result was “the deadliest U.S. government action on American soil since the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee,” the New Republic recently observed.

Few Americans are aware of the deceit and abuse of power that permeated the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms assault on the Branch Davidians and their leader, David Koresh. The ATF investigation preceding the attack was a sham from the start.

In July 1992, ATF agent Davy Aguilera visited Koresh’s gun dealer, Henry McMahon, and questioned whether Davidians were violating the National Firearms Act by illegally converting semiautomatic firearms to full automatic.

The dealer picked up the phone and called Koresh, who immediately invited the agent to visit the Davidians’ residence — no search warrant needed — and carry out an inspection on the spot. Aguilera refused the invitation.

A 1996 congressional report noted the ATF application for a search warrant on the Davidians’ home “contained an incredible number of false statements.” The search was “justified” in part because an informant had spotted a Gun Owners of America video criticizing ATF inside the residence.

The 1993 ATF raid’s code name was “Showtime,” and the 76 attacking agents were accompanied by local TV crews to chronicle their triumph.

ATF agents never rehearsed how to conduct a legal, nonviolent search of the Davidians’ residence. The raid quickly went awry, leaving four ATF agents and eight Davidians dead.

CBS’s “60 Minutes” disclosed that ATF agents said “the initial attack on that cult in Waco was a publicity stunt — the main goal of which was to improve ATF’s tarnished image.”

The congressional report noted ATF deliberately chose a “dynamic entry approach. The bias toward the use of force may in large part be explained by a culture within ATF,” including “promotional criteria.”

The more violence ATF used, the easier it became to vilify the agency’s victims.

Waco was a landmark in the militarization of law enforcement that has helped spur massive protests in recent years. The US military provided armaments to ATF before the raid, and ATF used National Guard helicopters to fly over and shoot into the Davidians’ home.

ATF justified the military aid by claiming a drug nexus, accusing the Davidians of having a meth lab in their basement. But that charge was never mentioned again after the raid.

The congressional report noted, “The only consistent mention of any drug activity by Branch Davidians in any of the ATF Waco documents is in requests for military assistance which required drug activity to justify military intervention and assistance.”

After its attack was repulsed, ATF told the media the Davidians ambushed its agents. But several agents stated ATF had fired first. The agency claimed it had a video proving the Davidians fired first but never produced it at the subsequent federal trial.

The Clinton administration launched a coverup within days of the attack. The Justice Department, recognizing the ATF agents’ stories “didn’t add up,” ordered the agency to cease any internal review to avoid creating exculpatory evidence.

A September 1993 Treasury Department report found “disturbing evidence of flawed decision making, inadequate intelligence gathering, miscommunication, supervisory failures, and deliberately misleading post-raid statements about the raid . . . by certain ATF supervisors.”

The biggest fraud of the 1993 raid wasn’t disclosed until six years later. ATF claimed a surprise attack was necessary because Koresh almost never came out of his home — an assertion the September 1993 report debunked. But the ATF’s perfidy was far worse than it appeared at the time.

Former federal lawyer David Hardy pounded ATF with Freedom of Information Act requests. In 1999, ATF finally disclosed a memo revealing that nine days before the raid, two undercover ATF agents (recognized as such by Koresh) knocked on the door of the Davidian residence and invited Koresh to go shooting. Koresh, two other Davidians and the two agents shot AR-15s and SIG Sauer semiautomatic pistols.

The undercover agents’ official report on that outing noted: “Mr. Koresh stated that he believed that every person had the right to own firearms and protect their homes.” With such crazy ideas, the feds had no choice but to destroy Koresh.

If the ATF-Koresh target-shooting outing had been revealed at the time of ATF’s attack, the Clinton administration could not have demonized the Davidians as maniacs determined to die resisting the feds. That would have precluded the FBI tank assault 51 days later that ended with 80 dead civilians.

The ATF Waco raid vivifies how federal bureaucrats convert a right to regulate into a license to kill. Federal agencies will cover up damning facts until long after their victims are buried — or burnt beyond recognition. But don’t expect the mainstream media to recognize the role of federal tyranny in fueling distrust of Washington.

James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.


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