RICHARD ROGERS GAINED SUPPORT FOR HIS PLAN
In late March, FBI Hostage Rescue Team commander Richard Rogers, who was
continuing to push for more aggressive action, gave visiting FBI officials
"a briefing on the use of CS gas and suggested an operation plan for such
use." FBI Director Sessions approved it the first week of April.3/
Sessions' own plan to use water cannon to drive the Davidians out already
had been shot down as unrealistic.4/ Rogers' plan had two steps,
with the second step even more vicious than the first. The first
was to "introduce the liquid CS into the compound in stages"; the second,
"eventually walls would be torn down to increase the exposure of those
remaining inside." The Justice report notes, "While it was conceivable
that tanks and other armored vehicles could be used to demolish the compound,
the FBI considered that such a plan would risk harming the children inside."5/
Nevertheless, Rogers' plan clearly included defacto demolition of Mount Carmel. "If all subjects failed to exit the structure after 48 hours of tear gas, then a modified CEV [tank] would proceed to open up and begin disassembling the structure at the location that was least exposed to the gas. The CEV would continue until all the Branch Davidians were located."6/ On April 28, 1993 FBI Deputy Director Floyd Clarke told the House Judiciary Committee that the FBI thought two days of gassing would drive out most but the hard core. "At that point, we would systematically take away parts of the building to reduce it down to a section where we could control it." In fact, the FBI would proceed with this plan only five hours into the assault.
Justice Department outside expert Robert Cancro writes of the plan: "A decision was made to utilize gas to drive out the occupants of the compound with the full knowledge that infants and children were in the compound. . .The rationale appeared to be that the parents would leave the compound in order to protect the children from the potential noxious effects of the gas."7/ In effect, the children would be tortured in order to force the parents to surrender.
Cancro notes the limitations of this defacto torture strategy: "If a significant percentage of a group are willing to die for their beliefs, the death of their children may not have the same meaning as it would to other people."8/ The gas never reached such a level of consistent concentration to prompt any parents to leave with their children.
Rogers' plan first was introduced to Attorney General Reno and Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell on April 12th, with a suggested implementation date of April 14th. Reno asked, "Why now? Why not wait?" and refused to approve the plan.9/
On April 13th (though the Justice report claims none of the participants could recall the exact date) Hubbell explained the gassing plan to White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, Deputy Counsel Vince Foster, and presidential advisor Bruce Lindsey. No one objected to it. Doubtless, this regarded it as a convenient way to end a politcally embarrassing situation. Nussbaum then met with President Clinton about the plan and told him that the "handling of the standoff was `a Department of Justice call, not a White House call'." Clinton responded that he had great confidence in the Attorney General and the FBI.10/
Whether Hubbell and Clinton had any private conversations about the matter remains a subject of conjecture. Reno, Hubbell and FBI officials attended further meetings to discuss the effects of the gas on April 14th. Richard Rogers himself traveled to Washington to promote the plan. However, Reno was not ready to act.11/
ATTORNEY GENERAL APPROVED PLAN AFTER "CURSORY REVIEW"
FBI officials and agents, with Webster Hubbell as an intermediary, continued
to "work on" Reno for the next three days. On April 16th she still
disapproved the plan--until a telephone conversation with FBI Director
William Sessions which even the Justice report admits swayed her to the
point that she asked for a documented statement of why the plan should
go forward.12/ This may be the conversation in which the most inflammatory
accusations of child abuse were made.
On April 17th Reno received the documents. According to the Justice report, "She read only a chronology, gave the rest of the materials a cursory review, and satisfied herself that `the documentation was there'." In contrast, Reno assured the House Judiciary Committee she had been thorough, saying, "I'm not a law enforcement expert, but I was asking every question I knew to ask."13/) After this cursory review, Reno approved the gassing plan."14/ The known arguments the FBI used to break down Janet Reno's resistance to the plan follow. Despite Reno's assertions to the contrary, we can see that the FBI clearly did mislead and even bully her into approving their plan.
FBI MISINFORMED RENO ABOUT PROGRESS OF NEGOTIATIONS
Outside expert Alan A. Stone writes: "It is unclear from the reports whether the FBI even explained to the AG [Reno] that the agency had rejected the advice of their own experts in behavioral science and negotiation, or whether the AG was told that FBI negotiators believed that they could get more people out of the compound by negotiation. By the time the AG made her decision, the noose was closed and, as one agent told me, the FBI believed they had `three options - gas, gas, and gas.'"15/
Rogers Met with Reno
HRT commander Richard Rogers himself met with Reno. "Rogers and others offered the following additional reasons [for the assault]: Koresh had broken every promise he had made; negotiations had broken down; no one had been released since March 23rd; and it appeared that no one else would surrender."16/ In effect, HRT commander Rogers, who had pushed SAC Jamar to use the tactical harassment that had so disrupted negotiations, now informed Attorney Janet Reno that negotiations were not working!
It is possible Rogers' impatience to end the standoff in part was related to his fear the upcoming Weaver trial would bring out facts about Rogers' criminal misconduct in that case--something the Waco spotlight would only exaggerate. In case Rogers needed reminding, on April 10th an article, "Trial to view actions of marshals in Idaho," appeared in the Waco Tribune-Herald which explicitly compared the siege of the Branch Davidians to that of Randy Weaver.17/
On April 28, 1993 Janet Reno told the House Judiciary Committee: "Throughout this 51-day process, Koresh continued to assert that he and the others inside would at some point surrender. However, the FBI advised that at no point did he keep his word on any of these promises."18/ On this point, the FBI had thoroughly "brainwashed" Janet Reno.
Hubbell Conveyed FBI Disinformation
On April 15th Webster Hubbell, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Richard, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division John C. Keeney, and two unidentified FBI officials had a two-hour conversation with chief FBI negotiator Byron Sage. "Hubbell recalls that Sage said further negotiations with the subjects in the compound would be fruitless. . .Sage further advised Hubbell that Koresh had been disingenuous in his discussions with Sage about the `Seven Seals'. . .Hubbell recalls Sage saying he believed there was nothing more he or the negotiators could do to persuade Koresh to release anyone else, or to come out himself. . .Hubbell advised the Attorney General about this conversation."19/ Whether Hubbell uncritically accepted the FBI's disinformation or was part and parcel of creating it is unknown. Many more questions should be asked about Hubbell's involvement in convincing Reno that negotiations were not working.
FBI Withheld Koresh's Promise-to-Surrender
There is no evidence that the FBI showed David Koresh's April 14, 1993 letter--what Dick DeGuerin called "an absolute agreement signed that they would come out peacefully"--to Attorney General Reno. The Justice report states only, "The FBI provided the Attorney General with copies of the memoranda prepared by Dr. Miron and Dr. Krofcheck and SSA Van Zandt analyzing Koresh's April 9th letter, both in the April 12 briefing book and in the briefing book prepared over the weekend of April 17-18."20/ There is no mention of providing her with the April 14th letter.
During both her April 19th post-fire press conference and the House Judiciary Committee hearing, Reno was asked direct questions about Koresh's writing his book. At the press conference she asserted, "negotiators had told them that they wouldn't negotiate and weren't coming out." During the hearing she said, "The FBI felt he had lied to them." Her answers were sufficiently vague to indicate that she had bought the FBI line, without either receiving or bothering to read Koresh's letter.
At the 1993 House Judiciary Committee hearing, FBI Director Sessions insisted that the last Koresh letter was related to Passover, i.e, one of Koresh's earlier letters. And when Representative Schiff asked a question regarding the fact David Koresh had "inferred" to his attorneys he would come out after he finished his book, no one bothered to inform him it was more than a mere inference.
If the letter was withheld from Reno, it would have been especially important to withhold it from the press--which the FBI and Justice Department proceeded to do. Two days after the fire senior FBI officials held a background briefing for reporters to explain their decision to gas Mount Carmel. They included Koresh's April 9th and 10th letters as examples of "his irrational and `insane' behavior during negotiations."21/ However, there is no indication they showed reporters the April 14th letter or reminded them of its existence. While the May 3, 1993 issue of Time mentions the letter, it displays color photographs of only the April 10th and 11th letters under the heading of "Last Letters from David."
FBI MISINFORMED RENO ABOUT CS GAS SAFETY
CS gas is a white crystalline powder that causes involuntary closure of eyes, burning of the skin, severe respiratory problems and vomiting. The United States is one of 100 countries that signed an agreement banning the use of CS gas in war during the Chemical Weapons Convention in Paris in January of 1993. FBI officials claimed they did not know this when they recommended it.22/ The FBI withheld from Janet Reno evidence about CS gas dangers to health and its flammability. It probably downplayed the dangers of the delivery system.
Dangers to Health
The goal of the gassing was to drive Davidians out of the building. However, the U.S. Department of the Army manual on Civil Disturbances (October, 1975, FM19-15) notes: "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."
Dr. Alan A. Stone was particularly critical of the FBI's decision to use CS gas against the Davidians, especially the children: "I can testify from personal experience to the power of C.S. gas to quickly inflame eyes, nose, and throat, to produce choking, chest pain, gagging, and nausea in healthy adult males. It is difficult to believe that the U.S. government would deliberately plan to expose twenty-five children, most of them infants and toddlers, to C.S. gas for forty-eight hours. . .The official reports are silent about these issues and do not reveal what the FBI told the AG [Attorney General] about this matter. . .Based on my own medical knowledge and review of scientific literature, the information supplied to the AG seems to minimize the potential harmful consequences for infants and children."23/
Dr. Stone quotes a case of an unprotected child's two to three hour exposure to CS gas which resulted in first degree facial burns, severe respiratory distress typical of chemical pneumonia and an enlarged liver. "The infant's reactions reported in this case history were of a vastly different dimension than the information given the AG suggested. . .Whatever the actual effects may have been, I find it hard to accept a deliberate plan to insert C.S. gas for forty-eight hours in a building with so many children. It certainly makes it more difficult to believe that the health and safety of the children was our primary concern."24/
Attorney General Reno met with Dr. Harry Salem an army toxicologist, who assured her that CS gas "powder," which would be delivered only through "compressed air," simply would cause temporary discomfort and that it posed no danger of fire or explosion.25/ What the Justice Department experts never told Reno, and Stone evidently did not know, is that in a June 1, 1988 report Amnesty International claimed that CS (and CN) gas had 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. The Israeli government never acknowledged the gas had caused the deaths, but the American manufacturers of CS gas halted the export of the gas to Israel because of its misuse.
Flammability of Gas and Solvent
The CS gas particulate was mixed with a solvent, methylene chloride, something army toxicologist Harry Salem did not tell Janet Reno. One manufacturer of CS gas told a reporter that "he was not certain if the chemical--when spread as a fine powder throughout buildings and exposed to fire--would act as a catalyst for flames." Chemical consultant Dr. Jay Young said that a mixture of CS gas and air could be ignited, but only if the ratio of the gas and air was within a very narrow range.26/ Attorney Jack Zimmermann, who spoke with military experts, asserted, "All three types of CS can spontaneously ignite if occurring in a high-enough concentration in a confined space that is exposed to open flame."27/ Rick Sherrow, a former army and BATF explosives expert and fire investigator consulting for a Davidian civil suit, confirms this, though he doubts the CS gas ever became dry enough inside Mount Carmel to explode. He asserts that once a fire starts CS gas sustains the combustion.28/ Nevertheless, "the FBI informed [Reno] that the tear gas would not cause a fire."29/
The FBI evidently did not inform Reno that manufacturers like Aldrich Chemical Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, clearly warn that when burned, CS gas emits toxic fumes, including hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen chloride. Aldrich also warns that when water is poured on a CS gas fire it can release a lethal cloud of hydrogen cyanide gas.30/
At trial two fire investigators, Andrew Armstrong and James Quintiere, conceded that there was "ambiguity" in the literature about the flammability of methylene chloride, in both its vapor and liquid states. Rick Sherrow reveals that when burned the solvent gives off toxic phosgene gas.31/
Dangers of Delivery Systems
Both methods of delivering the CS gas which the FBI used also are dangerous. One was the Mark-V system, "a liquid tear gas dispenser that shoots a stream of liquid tear gas (propelled by noncombustible carbon dioxide) approximately 50 feet for a duration of approximately 15 seconds."32/ The highly irritating gas, which was sprayed out the thirty foot booms, could suffocate a child or person with respiratory problems if sprayed directly into their face.
The second method of delivery--"40mm ferret liquid tear gas rounds" delivered by a M79 grenade launchers--was even more lethal. According to the Justice report, more than 400 of these "gas grenades" were used to deliver the 25 grams of CS gas on impact. The report notes: "when fired from 20 yards or less the rounds are capable of penetrating a hollow core door."33/ According to Dick DeGuerin, survivors claim that during the gas attack the grenades did in fact penetrate multiple walls before exploding.34/
What the FBI and Justice Department have denied repeatedly is that these ferret liquid tear gas rounds or gas grenades are "pyrotechnic," i.e., burn and give off sparks upon impact. What they cannot deny is that FBI agents used the same M79 grenade launchers used to deliver flash-bangs and other pyrotechnic grenades to deliver the gas grenades.35/ This leads some to suspect agents could have substituted the pyrotechnic flash-bang for a non-pyrotechnic gas grenade.
FBI PUSHED RENO'S CHILD ABUSE "HOT BUTTON"
The one bit of possible FBI trickery which the mainstream press has noted is Janet Reno's original assertion that she had been told children were being beaten in Mount Carmel. She withdrew her assertion as soon as the FBI denied making such claims, yet it appears the FBI did indeed trick her.
Child Abuse Information Available to Reno
The Justice Department summarizes some, but not all, of the evidence of alleged child abuse and sex with minors presented to Janet Reno. Reno would have read the social workers report on Kiri Jewell's allegation Koresh "got on top of her" in a hotel room; she also would have read that the girl refused to press charges. She doubtless was not told that David Jewell seemed as committed to the destruction of the Davidians as was Marc Breault.
The Justice Department report quotes just two 1990 affidavits by former members. Ian and Allison Manning alleged that Koresh insisted disobedient children be spanked with a wooden paddle and that such beatings sometimes severely bruised the children's bottoms. Michelle Tom alleged that in 1988 Howell (Koresh) once threatened to kill a child if her mother gave her a pacifier, and he spanked her eight-month-old daughter for forty minutes because she would not sit on his lap.36/
It is unknown how much information was presented to Reno about the 1992 Texas Department of Human Services investigation by social worker Joyce Sparks. On three occasions she visited Mount Carmel with two other Human Services employees and two McLennan County Sheriff's deputies. Koresh allowed the visit to be videotaped.37/ Koresh also visited her office. The case was closed on April 30, 1992. The Department offered this summary of the nine-week investigation: "None of the allegations could be verified. The children denied being abused in any way by adults in the compound. They denied any knowledge of other children being abused. The adults consistently denied participation in or knowledge of any abuse to children. Examinations of the children produced no indication of current or previous injuries."38/
Dr. Bruce Perry, who interviewed children released from Mount Carmel during the siege, told the FBI on March 26, "these children had a number of strict behavioral and verbal prohibitions. Violations of these resulted in punishment, sometimes severe. The children, for example, expected to be hit when they spilled. The style of discipline often involved being beaten with what these children labeled `the Helper'. . .some variation on a wooden spoon. Other forms of discipline included restrictions of food, sometimes for a day."39/
However, after the fire, at a May, 1993 press conference Dr. Perry confessed: "We can't say, `Aha, physical abuse,' that's the crux of the issue. President Clinton and Janet Reno say `child abuse.' Child protective services say, `Well, we didn't see any.'. . .It's very complicated. It is an ongoing dilemma for what is the threshold for saying what is abuse."40/
BATF agent Davy Aguilera's February 25, 1993 affidavit, which was used to secure search and arrest warrants, states: "Mrs. [Jeannine] Bunds also told me that Howell had fathered at least fifteen (15) children from various women and young girls at the compound. Some of the girls who had babies fathered by Howell were as young as 12 years old. . .He also, according to Mrs. Bunds, has regular sexual relations with young girls there. The girls' ages are from eleven (11) years old to adulthood."
However, only six of Koresh's children had been born by the time Bunds left Mount Carmel. And a review of the ages of living and deceased mothers of Koresh's children shows only one was fourteen years old when she had her first child; the rest were 17 or over.
In the Waco Tribune-Herald "The Sinful Messiah" series former Davidians Marc Breault, Bruce Gent, Robyn Bunds, and Joel Jones allege that in 1989 Koresh talked about having had sex with Michelle Jones when she was 12. They allege Koresh admitted that she had fought him off on the first occasion.41/ They charge Aisha Gyarfas had sex with Koresh when she was 14. However, even Marc Breault admitted that Aisha Gyarfas was "completely captivated by Vernon. She was like his little puppy dog tied to his leash. Aisha would do anything for Vernon."42/ Michelle later married David Thibodeau and Aisha married Greg Summers. Both young women, then ages 17 and 18, chose to stay with Koresh inside Mount Carmel and died with their five children by him in the April 19th fire.
Moreover, Dr. Park Dietz wrote in a memorandum, "Koresh may continue to make sexual use of any female children who remain inside."43/ FBI Director William Sessions went on at length during the April 28, 1993 House Judiciary Committee hearings about Victorine Hollingsworth leaving her 13- or 14-year-old daughter inside Mount Carmel where she was one of David Koresh's "child brides." Deputy Director Floyd Clarke, sitting next to Sessions, confirmed the information to him. However, the 59-year-old Hollingsworth, a single woman, did not leave a teenage daughter inside Mount Carmel. We must wonder if this is one of the things Sessions told Reno during the private conversation that evidently convinced her to approve the gassing plan.
Child Abuse "Misunderstanding"
The Justice report states: "During the week of April 12, someone had made a comment in one of the meetings that Koresh was beating babies. When Reno inquired further, she had the clear impression that, at some point, since the FBI had assumed command and control of the situation they had learned that the Davidians were beating babies. She had no doubt that the children were living in intolerable conditions."44/ On April 19th Janet Reno pronounced with confidence: "We had information that babies were being beaten. I specifically asked, `You really mean babies?' `Yes, that he's slapping babies around.'"45/
After the FBI denied that they had emphasized child abuse, Reno retracted her allegation. On April 28, 1993 she admitted to Congress, "I can't tell you that a child was being beaten after the 28th [of February]." The Justice report relates that in retrospect Reno "did not believe that anyone at the FBI deliberately played up the issue of child abuse."46/
Did the FBI Lie About Davidian Water Shortage?
If Davidians had run out of water they would have had to exit immediately or their children would have died quickly of dehydration. Janet Reno has admitted that "exhausting their water supply" was one of the options at which she looked. The Justice Department report appendix "Intelligence on Water Supply" notes that Louis Alaniz, a sympathizer who sneaked into Mount Carmel and left on April 17th, said each individual was receiving two eight ounce glasses of water a day. Davidian survivor Clive Doyle reveals that at the end Davidians were praying for rain, and knew they would have to leave soon for that reason.
Did the FBI tell Janet Reno this? Did she fail to note it in her cursory review of information the FBI gave her? The possibility they did not is suggested by the fact that the appendix blacks out the April 13th and 15th water intelligence entries. These entries may contain evidence--such as Davidian comments in negotiations or those caught on surveillance audio tape--the FBI knew Davidians were almost out of water and would soon exit because of this.47/
FBI THREATENED TO WITHDRAW HOSTAGE RESCUE TEAM
On April 14th HRT commander Richard Rogers "advised that his team had received
sufficient breaks during the standoff that they were not too fatigued to
perform at top capacity in any tactical operation at the time. He
added, however, that if the standoff continued for an extended length of
time, he would propose that the HRT stand down for rest and retraining."48/
When Reno asked about using SWAT teams to take the place of the HRT, "she was told that the HRT's expertise in dealing with the powerful weapons inside the compound, driving the armored vehicles, and maintaining the security of the perimeter was essential." She also was discouraged from using the Army's "Delta Force" or other forces because of posse comitatus restrictions. The FBI put further pressure on Reno warning her that "Koresh might actually mount an offensive attack against the perimeter security, with Branch Davidians using children as shields. This would have required the best trained forces available to the FBI." They also expressed concerns about the "possible incursion of fringe groups."49/
On April 15th FBI chief negotiator Byron Sage told Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell that "law enforcement personnel at Waco were getting tired and their tempers were fraying." Hubbell passed this information on to Reno. Upon hearing on April 16th that Reno had turned down the gassing plan, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Richard told Hubbell "that the FBI would not be pleased, that they would nonetheless accept the decision, and that they may then talk in terms of withdrawal." Despite these threats to withdraw the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, the Justice report asserts Reno believes, "The FBI did not try to `railroad' her."50/
FBI SUDDENLY DE-EMPHASIZED MASS SUICIDE
BATF had used rumors that the Davidians might commit suicide to excuse
the paramilitary raid. And the FBI had alluded to the possibility
of mass suicide, as when SAC Bob Ricks told the press in March, "We're
very concerned that part of Koresh's grand scheme is he would like to see
a large number of his people die, which would be justification for his
pronouncements of the fulfillment of the Scriptures."51/ However,
when it came to promoting their gassing plan, the possibility of mass suicide
suddenly became a minor issue. "[T]he FBI told the Attorney General
they regarded the possibility of mass suicide as remote."52/
Given the other information withheld from Reno, one wonders if the FBI revealed to her the facts about former and still-affiliated Davidians' disturbing allegations of potential mass suicide listed in the Justice report: March 2nd suicide discussions by a few Davidians convinced Koresh was dying; Dana Okimoto's allegation that if Koresh died, all his followers would commit suicide; Marguerita Vaega's note sent out with her released daughter telling relatives the mother might soon be dead53/; or Kiri Jewell's allegation she had been "taught" to commit suicide.54/ (The seriousness of these incidents probably have been blown out of proportion.)
Janet Reno's response to a Larry King question during his April 19, 1993 broadcast on which she appeared suggests she had not been well briefed on these possibilities. King asked her, "Didn't Koresh say it would end in fire?" Reno snapped back, "I forget exactly now what his particular description of it was."
Reno asserted during the October 8, 1993 Justice Department press conference on federal actions in Waco, "I don't think there were any misleading statements about suicide because we talked about it."55/ During the 1993 House Judiciary Committee hearing she repeated essentially what FBI spokesperson Bob Ricks told the press after the fire: "We went through the world and interviewed former cult members, associates of cult members, the number that I last checked was 61 people. The vast bulk, the substantial majority of those believed that they would not commit suicide."56/
Given even the remote possibility that the allegations were true, the FBI's plan to gas and demolish the building was as irresponsible as yelling "jump" to a person threatening to leap from a ledge. Dr. Stone, who believes Davidians did commit suicide, wrote he is "convinced that the FBI's noose-tightening tactics may well have precipitated Koresh's decision to commit suicide and his followers to this course of mass suicide. The official reports have shied away from directly confronting the possible causal relationship."57/ Much as the FBI denied to Reno that the Davidians would commit suicide, within minutes of the fire's beginning both the FBI and the Justice Department declared that the Davidians had set the fire in an act of mass suicide.
FBI ASSURED RENO "THIS IS NOT D-DAY"
The Justice report states: "The action was viewed as a gradual, step-by-step
process. It was not law enforcement's intent that this was to be
`D-Day.' Both the Attorney General and Director Sessions voiced concern
for achieving the end result with maximum safety. [FBI Deputy Director
Floyd] Clarke made it clear that the goal of the plan was to introduce
the tear gas one step at a time to avoid confusing the Branch Davidians
and thereby maintain the impression that they were not trapped."58/
Reno asserted at her April 19th press conference, "Today was not meant to be D-Day. We were prepared to carry it out tomorrow and the next day, and do everything we could to effect a peaceful resolution of this matter."59/ In her April 18th telephone briefing of President Clinton, Reno "emphasized that the operation was intended to proceed incrementally, and that it might take two or three days before the Davidians surrendered. The Attorney General told the President that Monday, April 19th was not `D-Day'."60/
FBI WITHHELD EVIDENCE OF SELF-DEFENSE DISCUSSION
While both Attorney General Janet Reno and the Justice Department have
gone into detail about their consideration of the suicide issue, neither
has addressed evidence that Davidians discussed fighting off any tank attack
against Mount Carmel. This is probably because the FBI withheld such
alarming last-minute evidence from Reno.
It is unknown whether the FBI told Reno--or she bothered to read in their briefing papers--about Koresh's early threats to "blow the tanks to pieces" if agents attacked Mount Carmel again.61/ In the March 8, 1993 "home movie" sent out of Mount Carmel Koresh said to the FBI, "Being an American first, I'm the type of guy, I'll stand in front of the tank. You can run over me, but I'll be biting one of the tracks. No one is going to hurt me or my family, that's American policy here."
There is evidence the FBI misled Reno about Koresh's reaction to their moving obstructions, including his favorite black camaro automobile, away from the building on April 18th. During the April 28, 1993 House Judiciary Committee hearing, Reno declared that Koresh was not alarmed when the FBI moved his car on April 18th, and that the FBI thought that was a good sign. Yet a week before FBI Director William Sessions said during an April 20, 1993 ABC-TV special, "Koresh had great distress over moving of the camaro." The Justice report alleges Koresh was extremely angry and that FBI agents reported seeing a sign in the window reading, "Flames await."62/ (Davidian Graeme Craddock claims that he witnessed this conversation and Koresh actually was not angry and threatening, as the FBI has alleged.63/ So his actual reaction remains unclear.
On April 18th FBI surveillance devices picked up a conversation in which several Davidians discuss the possiblity God would "take us up like flames of fire." Some consider these disucsisons suspicious. (Jack Zimmermann testified at trial Graeme Craddock said Wayne Martin had suggested "if a tank penetrated the building and was actually in there attacking them, to throw one of those coleman lantern storage on cans on the tank and light it up.")64/
At trial tank drive R.J. Craig revealed that "a tankers' biggest fear is fire, and I had been concerned all along, getting to close to the building, of a burning object coming out of there, a bottle of gasoline that's a fire and landing on top of the tank, then you're trapped inside."65/ (The Davidians' relatively non-violent behavior is illustrated that they did not use "molotov cocktails" against the tanks, as rioters and revolutionaries have done for decades, while tanks were still outside the building.)
During the trial prosecutors objected to the jurys' hearing April 18th taped statements and Judge Smith upheld their objection.66/ Prosecutors did not want the jury to hear clear evidence that the FBI went ahead with the attack despite their knowledge the night before that Davidians discussed fire. Nevertheless, prosecutor Jahn later used Zimmermann's testimony to allege to the jury that setting tanks on fire was part of the "conspiracy."67/
On April 19th, after the fire, Janet Reno appeared on "Larry King Live" and inadvertently revealed that the FBI withheld from her these last minute facts when she said, "We heard nothing that would indicate that he would do something like this, so we stepped up the pressure." However, in an August, 1993 speech SAC Bob Ricks said, "What we think was in his mind was that he expected us to come in and mount a frontal tactical assault against the compound. Once we were inside, he would light it up and burn us up with his own people."68/ Would Janet Reno have approved the gas and tank assault had she heard about this speculative Davidian discussion about fire the day before the attack?
DID THE FBI TRICK RENO REGARDING "RULES OF ENGAGEMENT"?
Despite Janet Reno's stated concern for the safety of the Davidians and their children, and her desire to "effect a peaceful resolution of this matter," she approved rules of engagement which ensured the resolution would be violent. And there is evidence that the FBI tricked Reno regarding the true rules of engagement--assuming that she bothered to read them at all.
Did Reno Know Agents Might Fire on Davidians?
As described in the Justice report, the "rules of engagement that the Attorney General and the FBI had agreed to observe" for April 19th, which were communicated to siege commander Jeff Jamar and HRT commander Rogers on April 17th, were: "(1) If during the insertion of the CS gas, the Davidians told the FBI to back off or they would harm the children, then the FBI should back off and continue to negotiate; (2) If a Davidian threatened a child, the FBI snipers were to shoot the threatening subject only if they had a clear shot; otherwise, the FBI was to back off and continue to negotiate; (3) Ensure that all those who leave the compound following the insertion of the CS gas were interviewed regarding the condition and location of the children and the other subjects still inside; (4) The mere presence of a child in plain view in a door or other opening would not require the FBI to cease the gas insertions. Instead, the gas should be injected at an alternative point, away from the child; (5) If mass suicides were indicated, then the FBI was to proceed with the emergency rescue plan."69/
These rules of engagement make no reference to FBI agents' permitted response to Davidians firing on the tanks or agents in sniper positions. On April 28, 1993 Janet Reno told the House Judiciary Committee that if the Davidians fired at the tanks or agents--something she said she knew was a likely contingency--the FBI would be permitted "to return fire." Or, as the Justice Department report states: "Under the operations plan, approved by the Attorney General, 'If during any tear gas delivery operations, subjects open fire with a weapon, then the FBI rules of engagement will apply and appropriate deadly force will be used. Additionally, tear gas will immediately be inserted into all windows of the compound utilizing the four BV's as well as the CEVs.'"70/ Still it is not clear that Janet Reno knew agents might resort to deadly force on April 19th.
One possible evidence that Reno did not understand the rules of engagement is President Clinton's statements during his April 20th press conference: "The plan included a decision to withhold the use of ammunition, even in the face of fire, and instead to use tear gas that would not cause permanent harm to health, but would, it was hoped, force the people in the compound to come outside and to surrender." Later, he repeats this assertion, "I was further told that under no circumstance would our people fire any shots at them even if fired upon." Yet on April 19th negotiators were telling Davidians over loud speakers, "Do not fire your weapons. If you fire your weapons, fire will be returned."71/
Were Janet Reno and Davidians Given Different
FBI snipers and tank drivers assigned to carry out HRT commander Rogers' plan may have been confused by the rules. Tank driver R. J. Craig revealed at trial that in their three briefings, Rogers gave them no written plan or rules of engagement for the dangerous and unprecedented gas and tank attack. Drivers were never even told they might be expected to to demolish the building.72/
The April 19th rules of engagement the FBI communicated to the Davidians sounded much more aggressive than the April 17th rules approved by Janet Reno. While Rogers had told Reno that if Davidians went into the tower the FBI would simply inject gas grenades to drive them out, negotiators announced repeatedly over loudspeakers, "Anyone observed to be in the tower will be considered to be an act of aggression (sic) and will be dealt with accordingly."73/ This implies anyone merely looking out a window of the four story tower would become a target of FBI snipers.
Did Reno Know FBI Might Speed Up Demolition?
Attorney General Reno told the House Judiciary Committee that she would leave tactical decisions up to the FBI because she was not "an expert in tactical law enforcement." The Justice report states: "It was also agreed that once she approved the overall plan, decisions would be made on the scene. Although she had the specific authority to stop the action and tell the FBI to leave, tactical decisions were to be made by law enforcement officers in Waco."74/ Did the FBI ever tell Reno that if Davidians fired they would speed up demolition of the building, as they did in fact do?
The Justice report asserts Reno made it clear that if children were endangered, to "get the hell out of there. Don't take any risks with the children.'"75/ Janet Reno obviously did not make it clear that the FBI should be equally careful not to do anything themselves to harm the children. In fact, FBI agents in Waco were certain the outcome would be violent. According to one news report the day after the fire Bob Ricks told the Dallas Morning News, "We knew that the chances were great that the adults would not come out unharmed. So we felt that if we got any of them out safely, that would be a great bonus."76/ However, anything that threatened the adults, inevitably would threaten the children. Once FBI agents killed all Davidians, Attorney General Janet Reno stood solidly behind the perpetrators.
Paul Craig Roberts, "Unsettling questions in probe of Waco," Washington
Times, June 1, 1993, E3.
2. James Adams, "They Could Have Waited: A Lesson in How Not to Play the Hostage Game," Washington Post, April 25, 1993, C3.
3. Justice Department report, p. 256-58.
4. Time, May 3, 1993, p. 36.
5. Justice Department report, pgs. 260-63.
6. Ibid. pgs. 277-278.
7. Robert Cancro report to the Justice Department, 1993, p. 4.
8. Ibid. p. 4.
9. Justice Department report, pgs. 264-66.
10. Ibid. pgs. 264-66.
11. Ibid. pgs. 262-70.
12. Justice Department report, p. 271.
13. Associated Press wire story, April 28, 1993, 16:15 EDT.
14. Justice Department report, pgs. 271-72.
15. Alan A. Stone, M.D. report to the Justice Department, 1993, pgs. 10-11.
16. Justice Department report, p. 269.
17. Christopher Hall, "Trial to view actions of marshals in Idaho," Waco Tribune-Herald, April 10, 1993, 4A.
18. Associated Press wire story, April 28, 1993, 16:15 EDT.
19. Justice Department report, pgs. 270-71.
20. Ibid. p. 274.
21. Michael Isikoff and Pierre Thomas, "FBI Negotiators Detail Koresh's Threats to Avoid Being Captured," Washington Post, April 22, 1993, A14.
22. Jerry Seper, "FBI used chemical banned for war," Washington Times, April 22, 1993.
23 Alan A. Stone, M.D. report to Justice Department, 1993, pgs. 29-30.
24. Ibid. p. 35.
25. Paul Anderson, Janet Reno: Doing the Right Thing, (John Wiley and Sons: New York, 1994), p. 187.
26. Malcolm W. Browne, "Chemical Isn't Meant to Cause Fire," New York Times, April 20, 1993.
27. James L. Pate, October, 1993, p. 102
28. Rick Sherrow, private communication, May, 1995.
29. Justice Department report, p. 266.
30. Aldrich Chemical Company information on CS gas; "Waco Suits Continue," The Balance, newsletter of the Cause Foundation, July, 1994, p. 5.
31. Trial transcript, pgs. 5735, 5756, 5916, 5921.
32. Justice Department report, p. 278.
33. Ibid. p. 277.
34. Dick DeGuerin interview, ABC-TV's "Primetime Live," April 22, 1993.
35. Trial transcript, p. 5162.
36. Justice Department report, pgs. 224-26.
37. Trial transcript, p. 5600.
38. Gustav Nieguhr and Pierre Thomas, April 25, 1993, A20.
39. Justice Department report, p. 224.
40. Sue Anne Pressley, "Waco Cult's Children Describe Beatings, Lectures, War Games: Experts Fail to Confirm Abuse of Cult's Children," Washington Post, May 5, 1993, A17.
41. Mark England and Darlene McCormick, "The Sinful Messiah," Waco Tribune-Herald, March 1, 1993, 7A; Davy Aguilera April 12, 1993 affidavit in support of search warrant.
42. Marc Breault and Martin King, p. 92.
43. Justice Department report, p. 223.
44. Ibid. p. 275; Ibid., Appendix H, "Sanitary Conditions in the Compound."
45. Sam Howe Verhovek, "Scores Die as Cult Compound is Set Afire," New York Times, April 20, 1993, A20.
46. Justice Department report, pgs. 268-69.
47. Janet Reno interview, CBS-TV's "60 Minutes," May 14, 1995; Clive Doyle, private communication, April, 1995; Justice Department report, Appendix I, "Intelligence on Water Supply."
48. Justice Department report, p. 268.
49. Ibid. pgs. 268-69.
50. Ibid. pgs. 271, 275-76.
51. Associated Press wire story, March 18, 1993, 21:40 EST.
52. Justice Department report, p. 274.
53. Ibid. pgs. 210-11.
54. Edward S. G. Dennis, Jr. report to Justice Department, 1993, p. 37.
55. Michael Isikoff, "FBI Clashed Over Waco, Report Says," Washington Post, October 9, 1993, A10.
56. Michael deCourcy Hinds, "Texas Cult Membership," New York Times, April 20, 1993, A20.
57. Alan A. Stone, M.D. report to the Justice Department, 1993, p. 15.
58. Justice Department report, p. 267.
59. Michael Isikoff and Pierre Thomas, "Reno Says, `I Made the Decision,'" Washington Post, April 20, 1993, A9.
60. Justice Department report, p. 280.
61. Ibid. p. 45.
62. Ibid. p. 273.
63. Graeme Craddock, private communication, August, 1994.
64. Dick Reavis, Ashes of Waco, (New York: Simon & Schuster), 1995, p. 272; trial transcript, p. 6770.
65. Trial transcript, p. 5514.
66. "Tape Transcripts from Agents' Bug Indicate Fire Plans," San Antonio Express-News, February 15, 1994.
67. Trial transcript, pgs. 6161-62.
68. Associated Press wire story, August 26, 1993, 05:29 EDT.
69. Justice Department report, pgs. 281-82.
70. Ibid. p. 288.
71. Ibid. p. 286.
72. Trial transcript, pgs. 5652-53.
73. Justice Department Report, p. 286.
74. Ibid. p. 273.
75. Ibid. p. 273.
76. Dirk Johnson, April 26, 1993, B10.