CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS CONTINUED THE COVER-UP
1993 CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS REVEALED LITTLE
The U.S. Congress, which is supposed to protect citizens against such abuses
of executive power, bought the lies as well. As notorious poll watchers,
congressional members could not ignore polls claiming 93 percent of the
public backed the FBI's action! During the April 22, 1993 Senate
Appropriations subcommittee on Justice, State and Judiciary hearing Democratic
Senator Bob Kerry told Reno, "I think the vast majority of Americans support
the President's explanation of what happened and are enthusiastically supportive
of the way you handled the situation."
A few representatives spoke out against federal actions after the fire. Representative Harold Volkmer charged that the initial attack on the Davidians was part of a pattern of "Gestapo-like tactics" at the bureau. "I fail to see the crimes committed by those in the Davidian compound that called for the extreme action of BATF on Feb. 28 and the tragic final assault."2/ Representative John Conyers branded the April 19th attack a "military operation" and called it a "profound disgrace to law enforcement in the United States." He told Janet Reno, "you did the right thing by offering to resign. I'd like you to know that there is at least one member of Congress who is not going to rationalize the innocent deaths of two dozen children."3/
However, most representatives largely applauded the efforts of BATF and the FBI. They asked few searching questions that could have brought out the truth about government crimes. Absurdly, even the television movie "In the Line of Duty: Ambush at Waco," which was aired in May, 1993, before one of the most important hearings, managed to uncover important facts which Congress never discovered: that Davidians were working with a licensed gun dealer, that they used legal "hellfire" devices that make guns fire more rapidly, that BATF tried to bypass the Sheriff's office because of the social worker's allegations of "leaks", and that a Davidian in a postal truck was alerted accidentally to the impending raid by a news person.
What was truly frightening about the April 22, 1993 House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing was that, compared to several committee members, BATF Director Stephen Higgins looked like a staunch civil libertarian. After presenting a number of affidavits, Higgins stated, "We had a feeling that something illegal was occurring. The Davidians, as you can see from the affidavit, legally were ordering various parts and components . . .What we were trying to establish was: were they violating the laws?" Committee Chair J. J. Pickle cut Higgins short, declaring: "But, Mr. Higgins. You knew that. That was not the question. You knew they were doing that. You knew they were violating the law."4/
Later Representative Santorum expressed his concern that BATF had been "outgunned" during the "assault" and wondered, "is there a problem with your funding as far as your capability of weapons?" Higgins felt pressed to remind him that "outgunned" was an "unfortunate choice of words in that we did not go there to engage in a gun battle, that is not the way we conduct law enforcement in this country." He even reminded representatives, "We. . . as law enforcement do not have the right to fire through walls and ceilings and roofs."5/ Of course, Davidians and their attorneys accuse BATF agents of doing just that--but no one on the subcommittee ever had an inkling of that fact.
Early in the most in-depth hearing, the April 28, 1993 House Judiciary Committee hearing, any pretense Congress would delve into BATF and FBI crimes was shattered when C-Span microphones and cameras caught committee chair Jack Brooks joking with FBI agents (probably Ricks and Jamar): "You know what I'd a done?" asked Brooks. "The first night, I'd a run everybody off, quietly put a bomb in that damned water tank. Put tear gas in there. If they wanted to shoot, kill 'em when they came out. If they didn't want to shoot, put `em in a paddy wagon. It'd been over by twelve-thirty. That's what Brooks would do!" And during the hearing Brooks made it very clear why he felt so free to make such a joke--he said he had already "read the verdict" on David Koresh in the Gallup Poll.
Appearing at the hearings were BATF Director Stephen Higgins, Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI Director William Sessions, and a phalanx of FBI officials and agents, including Jeff Jamar, Bob Ricks and Dick Rogers. Details of the disinformation and propaganda disseminated at this hearing has been examined here.
Webster Hubbell's May 19, 1993 Senate Confirmation hearing transcript reveals that Senate Judiciary Committee members did not ask Webster Hubbell a single question about the massacre of the Branch Davidians, despite his crucial decision-making role. Senator Arlen Spector did ask Hubbell if he had had any direct contact with Clinton regarding any issues before the Department of Justice. Hubbell answered that the only topic they discussed was appointment of a Supreme Court justice. Considering Hubbell's subsequent guilty pleas for fraud, including against government agencies, his honesty here must be questioned.
The House Appropriations subcommittee on the Treasury's June 9, 1993 hearing focused solely on BATF's actions. Committee chair Democrat Steny Hoyer began the hearing by blaming the deaths of BATF agents and the fire on Koresh. Representative Lightfoot quickly upped the ante, saying, "Just because Adolf Hitler is dead, just because David Koresh is dead, just because people of that ilk are no longer on the face of the earth, does not mean there are not others out there just like them."6/
The most newsworthy revelation of the hearing was the playing of the 9-1-1 tapes, the first unveiling of this evidence of the Davidians' terror and BATF agents' brutality to the public. After hearing the tape of distraught citizens begging for police to "call it off" and shouting that they were being fired upon by helicopters, committee chair Steny Hoyer commented: "First of all, we do not play this tape for the veracity of the representations made be either Mr. Koresh or Wayne Martin. I want everybody to know that. We are not publishing this because we think the representations they made were correct. As a matter of fact, we specifically do not believe they were accurate, and we believe those were misrepresentations."7/ Ten months later, the Davidian jury in San Antonio took the 9-1-1 tapes much more seriously.
1995 HOUSE HEARINGS RAISED MORE SUSPICIONS
In November, 1994, Republicans took control of both the United States Senate
and House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Members
of the new Congress, many elected by pro-Second Amendment constituents,
vowed to re-open hearings into BATF and FBI actions against the Davidians.
The Oklahoma City bombing reinforced their desire for hearings--if only
to debunk "conspiracy theories."
Not surprisingly, the Clinton administration resisted the hearings which were co-sponsored by subcommittees of the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Reform Committees. On the May 14, 1995 "Face the Nation," White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta pronounced those calling for hearings "despicable." Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin publicly begged Congress not to use the hearings to undermine law enforcement. He later requested Democrat Bill Brewster of Oklahoma, a member of the committee, not ask questions that would "make the administration look bad."8/
Mean-spirited White House and congressional Democrats sabotaged the ten day hearings in July, 1995. The Republican majority had to fight to get access to White House documents. The Justice Department gave them 48,000 jumbled documents with no index. The Justice Department refused to allow a highly reputed engineering firm to x-ray the Davidians' weapons to discover if they had in fact been converted when the department learned the National Rifle Association was paying the firm. (Republicans rejected the Justice Department offer to bring the guns to Washington and conduct its own x-ray analysis; perhaps they suspected the department would merely use the guns as a propaganda photo-opportunity, while not properly testing them.) The Defense Department failed to provide post-fire reports on whether tanks, at which the FBI alleged Davidians had shot on April 19, actually showed any evidence of bullet damage. And, of course, the Justice Department was unable to comply with Congressional requests to provide the missing half of the front door or the missing February 28, 1993 video tape.
Most of the ninety-four witnesses the Republican majority called were culpable agents and officials or their apologists. Only eight gave first-hand accounts of the Davidians' side of the story. Unlike during the Davidian trial, where at least defense attorneys could cross-examine witnesses, there were no knowledgeable individuals able and willing to counter point-by-point federal agents' and officials' innumerable and repeated exaggerations and lies. Since so many of these still face potential criminal charges, it is not surprising some committed the relatively minor offense of lying to Congress to cover up their crimes.
Republican committee members, many of them former prosecutors or law enforcement agents, were intimidated by the Democrats' shrill accusations that Republicans were using the hearings to undermine law enforcement and re-habilitate David Koresh. The focus of the hearings became not law enforcement abuses of citizens' rights, but how to bolster the credibility of law enforcement. At the end of the hearings Republican co-chairs Bill Zeliff (R-NH) and Bill McCollum (R-FL) asserted the hearings had "put to rest conspiracy theories."
However, this assertion is illusionary. The 1995 House hearings brought out little information not already available to the public, much of it included in this book. Many important questions and issues never were raised. And the new information revealed only supports the "conspiracy theory" advanced herein: FBI and Justice Department official turned a blind eye while FBI agents in Waco sabotaged negotiations with Davidians in order to give the FBI an excuse to destroy evidence that BATF agents murdered six Davidians during and after their reckless February 28, 1993 raid.
FBI negotiation tapes released just before the hearings show Davidian Steve Schneider told negotiators: "There were a lot of people that got to look out those windows and saw first hand what happened at that approach to the door. They saw. These people get the idea that those on the outside want to do us all in so there's no evidence, period, as to what happened. That they might want to burn the building down. They want to destroy the evidence. Because the evidence from the door will clearly show how many bullets and what happened. . .If this building stands, and the reporters, the press, get to see the evidences, it's going to be seen clearly what happened and what these men came to do." And he worried, "The press are so far back that you guys could come and blow us away and give any kind of a story you want to."
Democrats and law enforcement witnesses did conduct a highly successful campaign to demonize David Koresh and the Davidians. The first day of the hearings Democrats threw their biggest "stink bomb" when they presented fourteen-year-old Kiri Jewell and her father David. For the first time Kiri made public her allegation that David Koresh had sexually molested her when she was ten-years-old. Ambushed Republicans were ignorant of the facts that Kiri had refused to press charges against David Koresh, that even the Department of Justice admitted her statement was insufficient probable cause to indict Koresh, or that her father had put her on the "Donahue" show during the siege as he negotiated to sell her story to television. After the hearing Jewell exposed Kiri to more public scrutiny, doubtless for profit, on two nights of the tabloid television show "Inside Edition."
Throughout the hearings Democrats repeatedly referred to Jewell's testimony, as well as other questionable accusations, as if they excused every law enforcement action against Davidians. The nefarious influence of "cult busters" like Marc Breault, David Jewell and Rick Ross on BATF and FBI decision-making never once was mentioned during the hearings. The now-deceased Murray Mirons' anti-cult bias never was exposed.
BATF and FBI agents and officials, as well as Treasury and Justice Department officials, continued this pattern of demonization. They repeatedly used fantastic worst-case scenarios to excuse their actions: Davidians might assassinate anyone who attempted a peaceful service of warrant; Davidians might attack the citizens of Waco; Davidians might commit mass suicide if there was a siege; Koresh might start systematically shooting other Davidians; Davidians might break out of Mount Carmel with a gun in one hand and a child in another; Davidian supporters might blow up a dam or attack federal agents. Representatives rarely challenged these absurd law enforcement fantasies.
Republicans were angry to learn BATF ignored David Koresh's July, 1995 invitation to BATF, through gun dealer Henry McMahon, to inspect his guns. They solicited from a number of expert and law enforcement witnesses opinions that such an invitation always should be accepted, if only as a means of gathering information for a search warrant. One representative castigated Treasury official Ron Noble for not mentioning the invitation in the official Treasury Department report.
Republicans challenged the need for a paramilitary raid to serve the search warrant. They established that BATF agents had misled the military by claiming that there was a methamphetamine laboratory at Mount Carmel in order to receive training from Joint Task Force 6--training they could obtain only if there was a drug nexus. However, none of the BATF raid commanders would confess to having lied to the military. Meanwhile, Special Forces officers denied either illegally teaching BATF agents techniques like room clearing or attending the raid dressed in "civvies."
U.S. Attorney Bill Johnston denied any role in planning the raid--contrary to the Treasury Department report's assertion and his own statements at trial--or that he witnessed the February 28 raid. Raid co-commander Chuck Sarabyn's excuse for having no written plan was the fact that the raid was moved up one day. He claimed commanders of the six different teams did not have a chance to merge their separate plans.
Issues regarding raid co-commanders Phillip Chojnacki and Chuck Sarabyn dominated the BATF raid panel--and distracted from the issue of the unnecessary brutality of that raid. Had they had lied about not knowing surprise had been lost? Why did BATF re-hire them despite their lies? Why did BATF destroy the files regarding their actions? Did Sarabyn really carry the warrants, as he claimed? (He said he left them in his truck where "they got all shot up," inferring they were not recovered after the FBI towed the truck away.) The Justice Department, looking for some bone to throw to critics of the government's actions, may yet prosecute Sarabyn and Chojnacki for lying to the Treasury review. However, if the agents do have information that could seriously harm BATF or the Clinton administration, they again may escape any real discipline.
BATF agents repeated lies about an "ambush" in which dozens of Davidians assaulted them with machine guns, .50 caliber rifles and grenades. No one challenged them on the lack of physical evidence that these weapons were used. When tearful BATF agent Jim Cavanaugh cried that Davidians had "cannons" and BATF had "popguns"--i.e., only 9-millimeter handguns--no one reminded him that other witnesses had testified BATF agents carried high-powered AR-15 rifles and MP-5 submachine guns.
The issue of whether agents had fired from helicopters was explored, without any systemic presentation of the evidence that they had, and no discussion of Davidians' assertions four died from that gunfire. Davidians David Thibodeau and Clive Doyle, who saw evidence of helicopter gunfire after the fact, were allowed to describe what they and other Davidians saw; surviving Davidians who actually witnessed shooting from the helicopters were not called as witnesses.
One document indicating agents considered using such gunfire was found among thousands turned over to Congress. A handwritten note by some unknown Treasury Department review official read: "HCs [helicopters] as a diversion. Simultaneous gunfire. Worked in Seattle. Three to four hundred meters from boundary. Hover. Practiced at Hood." (Assumedly Fort Hood, where BATF agents trained.)
BATF agent Davy Aguilera revealed that, contrary to one BATF official's assertion, BATF agents in the Blackhawk had had their weapons loaded. He also disclosed agents had been told they would be permitted to fire in self-defense. When asked if any agents had fired, he answered, "No." Raid co-commander Phillip Chojnacki responded to the same question with, "Not to my knowledge." Melvin Watt (D-NC) presented statements from the rest of the agents in the Blackhawk that they had not fired.
Treasury official Ron Noble asserted the Treasury Department had investigated the issue of firing from helicopters thoroughly--even though the allegation was never mentioned in the department's official report. By refusing to take the steps necessary to find out the truth about firing from helicopters, committee members committed their most blatant act of complicity in cover-up.
One important revelation was that the Department of Justice halted its post-February 28 raid shooting review because agent stories "did not add up." Officials were worried that the interviewers were generating "exculpatory" material that could help the Davidian defendants at trial. One memo expressed hope that the memories of those agents not interviewed would "dim" before trial. Davidian attorneys, Texas Rangers and others charged that this was an unprecedented attempt to interfere with the right to a fair trial. Should Davidians receive a re-trial, or should there be another round of appeals, this memorandum surely will become an issue.
Another document discovered by staffers revealed that on the morning of February 28 an unnamed BATF agent in Waco informed BATF's Washington office that the BATF raid had been speeded up because of David Koresh's "comments" to the undercover agent. Treasury official Ron Noble tried to explain this away as an after-the-fact record, of no consequence.
Two evidences of BATF and FBI solidarity emerged during the hearing. Tank drive James McGee emotionally testified: "I'd like to pay tribute on behalf of the Hostage Rescue Team to those four ATF agents who sacrificed their lives for this country. And I'd also like to offer my condolences to their families and also to those agents, those 17 plus who were wounded by hostile fire at the Branch Davidian compound." And social worker Joyce Sparks revealed that while an FBI agent had contacted her about helping women and children if there was a gas assault, it was definitely a BATF agent who called her back later the same day and said her involvement was canceled. Representatives did not follow up on this damning evidence of BATF involvement in the gassing plan.
Despite the use of tanks to destroy Mount Carmel, there was no real challenge to their legality once military representative assured Congress that the tank artillery was not armed. Congress discovered for the first time that British Special Air Service members advised FBI agents about their actions in Waco. Special Air Service is involved with repressive British civilian law enforcement in Northern Ireland. Republicans demanded Janet Reno look into the matter.
The House hearing did elicit abundant evidence that FBI agents sabotaged negotiations. Former FBI behavioral scientist Peter Smerick explained that his superior John Douglas told him that FBI Director William Sessions was unhappy with his analysis and favored stepped up tactical harassment. He felt a "self-imposed" pressure to please his superiors and alter his memorandum. However, Sessions himself denied he supported increased harassment and suggested representatives find out where the opinion credited to him really originated.
Smerick also admitted that there were a number of incidents where the FBI destroyed Davidian property after Davidians had cooperated with them. And FBI siege commander Jeff Jamar revealed that there was a Hostage Rescue Team member in the room with the negotiators at all times--supporting Davidians' contentions tactical agents used information from negotiators to sabotage negotiations.
Dick DeGuerin disclosed that David Koresh told him that he would surrender to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers said they would accept such a surrender if DeGuerin arranged it with the FBI. But, as usual, the FBI rejected any such third party efforts, no matter how credible or promising.
Testimony on the fifth day of hearings by DeGuerin, attorney Jack Zimmermann and theologians Phillip Arnold and James Tabor effected a minor turn-around. Representatives received convincing evidence that Davidians' religious convictions were sincere, that they did intend to exit as soon as Koresh finished his short book about the Seven Seals, and that the FBI had lied when they assured Koresh and his attorney they would permit him to finish his book. Several committee members studied transcripts of Koresh's repeated statements in the last days that he was working on his book and eager to exit Mount Carmel and stand trial. They were impressed by Koresh's statements, "I'll be out. Yes. Definitely. . .It's clarified. Lock, stock, and barrel it," and by his jokes to negotiators, "I'll be in custody in the jailhouse. You can come down there and feed me bananas if you want," and "Did you take a shower for me?"
Representatives grilled siege commander Jeff Jamar, chief negotiator Byron Sage and HRT commander Richard Rogers about who ordered them to go ahead with the gas and tank assault despite this evidence Davidians would soon exit. Jamar asserted to skeptical Republicans that he got no pressure from FBI or Justice Department officials and that the decision to go ahead was his. Subsequent testimony by Jamar, Sage and Rogers seemed to support Jamar's contention–and the theory that agents in Waco were allowed full reign by, rather than tightly controlled by, their FBI and Justice Department superiors.
Jamar and Sage both contended that they gave little weight to Koresh's April 14 promise-to-surrender letter because Koresh "always" talked about the Seven Seals and coming out and that this was just one more Koresh lie. Jamar asserted Steve Schneider told negotiators that he had no idea when Koresh would finish the First Seal and that Judy Schneider declared it might take her a year to finish typing the manuscript. However, Republicans familiar with the negotiation transcripts countered that Koresh was working on the Second Seal, that Steve Schneider had seen pages from the First and said he could quickly edit them, and that Judy Schneider merely had made a sarcastic comment about how long it would take her to type the manuscript using a manual typewriter. They noted that on April 17 Koresh had promised to send out the First Seal to the FBI in a few days.
Jamar first tried to challenge the authenticity of the First Seal brought out by Ruth Riddle. He then claimed he had to execute the gas plan because he did not have hard copy to show the "on-site commanders" as proof that Koresh was writing the book. When Republicans did not buy these excuses, Jamar fell back on FBI paranoia--the FBI had to launch their assault because Davidians might suddenly break out of Mount Carmel shooting or commit mass suicide.
Byron Sage admitted he provided little information to his superiors about what even representatives began to call "Koresh's promise-to-surrender." He sent a copy of David Koresh's April 14 surrender letter solely to FBI analysts in Washington who sent it to FBI consultant Murray Miron. Only this analysis was forwarded to FBI officials and Attorney General Janet Reno. It was revealed that Webster Hubbell had initiated the April 15 call to chief negotiator Byron Sage after Justice Department officials learned, probably from a newspaper, of Koresh's promise to exit after writing the Seven Seals. Sage conceded he mentioned no agreement with Koresh and did not read Hubbell the contents of the letter. Hubbell asserted Sage inferred they had abandoned all negotiations--Sage replied that Hubbell had misunderstood him.
Jamar admitted that while he believed there was a 99 percent possibility Davidians would fire on tanks and that the FBI would speed up the gas and tank attack, he had not shared his certainty with FBI or Justice officials. Former FBI and Justice officials Larry Potts, Floyd Clarke and Webster Hubbell asserted that had they known this, they might have reconsidered the plan. Despite this blatant evidence of ill-intent, Republicans refused to label Jamar's and Sage's actions anything more than bungling.
On the last day of the hearing the sole witness was Attorney General Janet Reno. Representative McCollum systematically shot down her stated reasons for approving the gas and tank assault: that negotiations were at an impasse, children were being abused, the Hostage Rescue Team was becoming fatigued and she feared a violent breakout or suicide by Davidians. Similarly Mark Souder (R-IN), reviewing the dangers of the gas and tank attack to the children, asserted he could not believe she approved the plan for the good of the children.
Pushed to the wall, Reno admitted, "You are right. The reason we did it was that they were dangerous people and they weren't coming out." Nevertheless, she denied that her reasons for approving the plan had anything to do with what one FBI memorandum spotlighted--weakening of the FBI's authority.
Janet Reno continued to defend FBI agents and officials, despite mounting evidence that they had withheld information from or misled her. In her eagerness to excuse her decision, Reno asserted at least three times that Steve Schneider had said it might take six months or six years to finish the manuscript. Finally, Representative McCollum put a stop to her false charge by informing her that there was no such statement in the transcript.
It was discovered that in the April 12 briefing book given Janet Reno that the FBI falsely claimed studies showed the gas would not seriously harm children. However, even Dr. Harry Salem, who had advised Reno, admitted that there were only two studies of children exposed to the gas; they had been exposed for only a few hours, not forty-eight hours. In earlier testimony, chemistry professor George Uhlig held that CS gas could render a poorly ventilated room "similar to one of the gas chambers used by the Nazis at Auschwitz." Bob Barr (R-GA) had displayed the autopsy photo of a six-year-old girl who died in the concrete room of the kind of inflammation of the throat and lungs caused by over-exposure to CS gas. John Mica (R-FL) forced the embarrassed Reno to admit that she did not know that the children did not have gas masks. (It should be noted that Department of Defense Treaty Expert Hays Park claimed that CS gas is outlawed by treaty not because it is dangerous but because the enemy might think its opponent was using poison gas and escalate to the use of that gas.)
Steven Schiff (R-NM) questioned Janet Reno's repeated claims that only the FBI HRT could protect the perimeter against the extremist militia groups which were threatening to attack Mount Carmel, to either support or destroy Davidians. (This was a reference to Linda Thompson's tiny April 3, 1993 "unorganized militia" demonstration.) Given recent publicity about militia activities, Reno obviously was trying to make political hay out of what was in 1993 a minor issue.
Representative McCollum closely questioned Reno on whether she knew siege commander Jamar believed there was a 99 percent chance the Davidians would fire. Reno hesitated, then fumbled into admitting her ignorance: "We expected them to fire, perhaps, in certain instances, or we wouldn't have put the people in the armored vehicles." (At one point, defending the FBI's use of military tanks, Reno callously compared the tanks to "a good rent-a-car.")
However, Reno successfully avoided answering another important question--did she know that once Davidians fired the FBI would quickly accelerate the gassing plan and even proceed to demolition? In a dramatic earlier exchange, Floyd Clarke (corrected) under aggressive questioning by John Shadegg (R-AZ), conceded that the FBI's destruction of the gymnasium was part of the speeded up plan to demolish the building. Clarke angrily declared that Janet Reno's April 12 briefing book outlined that plan and FBI agents had full authority to implement it. Predictably, Jamar and Rogers denied that they were in fact beginning demolition.
Little was learned about decision-making on April 19. Chief negotiator Byron Sage admitted that the FBI thought the Davidians were "not into suicide per se, but sacrifice." In effect, Sage admitted FBI agents knew the Davidians would not be driven out of the building, no matter how fierce the government's gas and tank attacks.
Representatives were confused about what time Attorney General Reno left the FBI Operations Center on April 19 and did not press her to reveal to whom she spoke after she left. Despite their attempts to link Bill Clinton to the operation, Republicans never asked her about her 11:00 a.m. eastern time phone call to him, which she mentioned during the April 28, 1993 House Judiciary hearing.
In contrast to Reno's claim during that hearing that she told the FBI to call off the attack if the children were endangered, she now admitted she was reluctant to call it off. "I don't know what the FBI would have done if I'd done so when their lives were at risk." And she let the FBI talk her into leaving the Operations Center, buying their argument it would "attract attention" if she canceled her speech.
While many representatives seemed convinced that the FBI had proceeded to demolition of the building, most still accepted unquestioningly the FBI and Justice Department assertion that Davidians started the fire. They barely challenged Jamar's and Sage's false accusations that Davidian survivors admitted Davidians started the fires or FBI agent John Morrison's claim he had seen a Davidian start a fire--despite his testimony under cross-examination at trial that he did not know what the suspect Davidian was doing. Representative McCollum conceded that after reading the government-created April 19 surveillance transcripts he still could imagine innocent interpretations of Davidian conversations about spreading and pouring fuel. Nevertheless, he later concluded that Davidians started the fire.
Fire investigators Paul Gray and James Quintiere presented selectively edited infrared and television video and fire report evidence that the Davidians started the fire. Quintiere did concede the fire started on the second floor just ninety seconds after the tank ripped out the corner of the building directly below it. (Unlike the duplicitous Gray on "Nightline," Quintiere admitted that both front and side windows belonged to the same room.) Quintiere challenged accusations the fire started there accidently, asserting the infrared video would have picked up any accidental fire from the moment of its inception. Of course, he never claimed that the infrared video picked up the early inception of the fires he alleged Davidians started.
Former army and BATF fire investigator Rick Sherrow, who has been consulting in Davidian civil suits, also was on the panel. He criticized the government for destruction of, and withholding of, evidence of how the fire started. And he criticized Gray and Quintiere for their ignorance of the flammability and toxicity of CS gas and methylene chloride and their rejecting evidence of accidental fire.
Davidian Clive Doyle denied that Davidians started the fire--though he did admit that early in the siege a few Davidians had discussed making Molotov cocktails to defend themselves against the tanks. And he put to rest theologians' theories that Davidians thought they could set Mount Carmel on fire and, through faith in God, survive the fire. Doyle replied that only God could create such a salvational "ring of fire."
Four skeptical representatives repeatedly questioned FBI siege commander Jeff Jamar, Larry Potts and Janet Reno on why the three FBI monitors listening to the surveillance device inside Mount Carmel could not hear suspicious-sounding Davidian conversations about spreading and pouring fuel. The three variously replied that there was too much background noise, that the conversations only could be heard when they were enhanced, and that no notations of such conversations appeared in the FBI monitors' logs. (Davidian defense attorney Tim Evans earlier had revealed that defense attorneys never did receive those monitor logs. Neither, evidently, did the House committee.) Richard Rogers, Jamar and Reno all argued that agents would have called off the attack and pulled back the tanks immediately if they had had any idea that Davidians were planning to burn down Mount Carmel.
However, in his first day of testimony, Byron Sage made the ambiguous statement that in the first minutes of the gas attack, "The microphones indicate two things--they immediately donned gas masks and they immediately began to spread fuel." Later in the hearing, Jeff Jamar made the more incriminating statement that tanks were trying to gas further inside the building because "there was information that they apparently were able to go places where they didn't need masks. We either heard that on the over hears, it was reported." ("Over hear," of course, would be the surveillance device, heard by monitors. They reported to Jamar.) Obviously the three monitors must be questioned on this and their logs reviewed.
Republicans tried mightily to find evidence that President Bill Clinton had some improper influence on the fatal decision to gas Mount Carmel. Attorney General Janet Reno explained that a memorandum instructing Acting Attorney General Stuart Gerson to inform Clinton of any aggressive tactical actions was a product of Clinton's concern about an unknown Republican holdover. Friend-of-Bill Webster Hubbell denied repeatedly that he and Clinton had discussed the Waco situation informally, and improperly. This despite an Associated Press article claiming Hubbell had revealed he was giving Clinton updates on Waco and despite a memorandum in which Treasury official Ron Noble asserted Hubbell would take the matter up with Clinton if the Treasury Department's review did not downplay BATF errors.
Representatives learned that deceased White House assistant counsel Vince Foster was the White House contact given to Texas Rangers by the Texas Governor's office and that Foster's "Waco file" allegedly contained only a memorandum forwarding to Treasury the "Waco, the Big Lie" video. When Janet Reno was questioned about whether Foster's statement on his "suicide note" about the FBI lying to the Attorney General referred to Waco, she explained it related to "Travelgate." Republicans found no smoking gun proving Clinton's involvement.
Early in the hearing Frederick Heineman (R-NC) declared, "We as a Congress are on trial here. We have to be credible to the people. Because if we are not credible about the oversight of government agencies, then who is?" However, the hearings did little to reassure millions of Americans that Congress will punish federal agents, even when they commit mass murder.
In emotional testimony attorney Jack Zimmermann told of a phone call from the sobbing mother of Davidian and Israeli citizen Pablo Cohen who died in the April 19 fire. Zimmermann recalled, "Then she described for me, an Israeli Jew talking to an American Jewish lawyer, watching that gas be inserted into that building, watching an American tank knock down an American house and then it burst into flames. Can you imagine the images in an Israeli's mind with the Holocaust survivors in Israel?. . .I could not explain to her how that happened. And her comment was, 'I thought he would be safe in America.'" Millions of Americans want to ensure there are no more such Holocausts in America.
For a fuller report on the 1995 House hearings
and a report on the 1995 Senate hearings click
For a list of remaining "Questions for Congress" click here.
"WACO, NEVER AGAIN"
In his paper "Mount Carmel: The Unseen Reality," Davidian Livingstone Fagan
writes: "Whilst not everyone is required to go through our experience at
Mount Carmel, everyone is required to give a response of approval or disapproval."
Fagan speaks in terms of spiritual salvation, yet his words also can be
applied to national salvation. For the government's massacre of the
Davidians created a great divide among Americans, one ripped open even
wider by the Oklahoma City bombing. On one side are those who know
a great wrong was done and want to know the truth and see justice done.
On the other are those who lay all blame on the Davidians, passively accept
the government's explanation--or worry that a thorough investigation would
rattle the political establishment.
As a person who spent 30 hours a week for 18 months writing on the subject, I know the mass of confusing and sometimes conflicting testimony and evidence ' 0 st be sifted through. I know that even a week of congressional hearings in each house of Congress merely will scratch the surface of the crimes committed against the Davidians. Only an Independent Counsel with a full staff of attorneys and investigators empowered to take testimony under oath and grant immunity from prosecution can get to the truth. And only such a thorough investigation will convince millions of Americans that the federal government will not permit another massacre like that of the Branch Davidians.
Citizens must continue to demand Congress appoint an Independent Counsel to fully investigate the crimes against the Branch Davidians by BATF and FBI agents and officials, Treasury and Justice Department officials, federal prosecutors and a federal judge--and the all pervasive coverup of those crimes. And citizens must work for justice for surviving Davidians, i.e., immediate freedom for the nine unjustly prosecuted, convicted and sentenced Davidian prisoners, Renos Avraam, Brad Branch, Jaime Castillo, Graeme Craddock, Livingstone Fagan, Paul Fatta, Ruth Riddle, Kathryn Schroeder and Kevin Whitecliff.
As one who only has begun to read the Bible, I find Isaiah 42:6-7 to be particularly compelling for those who have learned the truth about what really happened at Mount Carmel:
I, the Lord, have called you with righteous purpose
and taken you by the hand;
I have formed you, and appointed you to be a light
to all peoples, a beacon for the nations,
to open eyes that are blind,
to bring captives out of prison,
out of the dungeons where they lie in darkness.
CBS-TV's "48 Hours," May 4, 1995
2. Associated Press wire story, April 26, 1993, 01:26 EDT.
3. Michael Isikoff, "Reno Strongly Defends Raid on Cult," Washington Post, April 29, 1993.
4. April 22, 1993 House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, p. 90.
5. Ibid. p. 97.
6. June 9, 1993 House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, pgs. 2, 3.
7. Ibid. p. 130.
8. John Mintz, "Treasury Chief Airs Concern over Probe of Waco Raids," Washington Post (July 5, 1995); N.R.A. Special Report, "The Waco Hearings: Day 3," July 21, 1995.