"Report: FBI Fired Shots at Davidians"
("The Associated Press", October 6, 1999)
WASHINGTON (AP) - An expert hired by the House Government Reform Committee says he believes an FBI agent fired shots during the bureau's 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.
That view, expressed in an interview published in today's editions of The Washington Post, is at odds with the FBI's position that none of its agents fired shots at any time during the siege in which about 80 people died.
The expert in thermal imaging and videotape analysis, Carlos Ghigliotti, has done work for the FBI in the past.
``I conclude that the FBI fired shots on that day,'' Ghigliotti told the Post in an interview conducted Tuesday. ``I conclude this based on the ground-view videotapes taken from several different angles simultaneously and based on the overheard thermal tape. The gunfire from the ground is there, without a doubt.''
Ghigliotti, owner of Infrared Technologies Corp., in Laurel, Md., said the tapes also confirm that the Davidians fired at FBI agents repeatedly during the assault.
Although FBI agents were operating under rules that permitted them to return fire, bureau officials have maintained that no agents fired any shots.
Ghigliotti is not asserting that any injuries or deaths were caused by FBI gunshots.
He told the Post he reached his conclusion after spending hundreds of hours reviewing various tapes of the siege, including a newly released FBI audio recording that was part of a videotape turned over to Congress recently in response to a subpoena.
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the committee that retained Ghigliotti said ``it is premature to make any final determination.''
``We don't want to go off half-cocked,'' Burton told the Post. ``As soon as we get all the necessary information, we will hold hearings and present the information to the American people.''
Former Sen. John C. Danforth, R-Mo., has been appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate FBI actions at Waco.
"Expert Reaches Different Conclusion on Waco Events"
by David A. Vise and Richard Leiby ("The Washington Post", October 6, 1999)
An expert retained by the House Government Reform Committee said yesterday that he believes an FBI agent fired shots during the bureau's 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex., a view that is at odds with the FBI's consistent position that none of its agents fired at any time. Carlos Ghigliotti, an expert in thermal imaging and videotape analysis who has done work for the FBI, said he has spent hundreds of hours reviewing various tapes of the siege, including a newly released FBI audio recording that was part of a videotape turned over to Congress recently in response to a subpoena.
Based on his review, Ghigliotti said he is convinced that during the final assault on April 19, 1993, an FBI agent shot in the direction of the Branch Davidian compound.
"I conclude that the FBI fired shots on that day," Ghigliotti said in an interview yesterday. "I conclude this based on the ground-view videotapes taken from several different angles simultaneously and based on the overhead thermal tape. The gunfire from the ground is there, without a doubt."
After being briefed yesterday by Ghigliotti, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), chairman of the committee that retained Ghigliotti as a witness, said: "What we have heard from this expert is troubling, but we think it is premature to make any final determination. We don't want to go off half-cocked. As soon as we get all the necessary information, we will hold hearings and present the information to the American people."
Ghigliotti, owner of Infrared Technologies Corp. in Laurel, said the tapes also confirm that the Davidians fired at FBI agents repeatedly during the assault. Although FBI agents were operating under rules that permitted them to return fire, bureau officials have maintained that no agents fired any shots, a position that has not changed since the day of the raid.
About 75 Branch Davidians perished in a fire that erupted during the assault. Ghigliotti is not asserting that any injuries or deaths were caused by FBI gunfire.
For years, there have been allegations that federal agents fired automatic weapons at the Branch Davidians from behind the compound, an area that was not visible to the media. These assertions were popularized in the 1997 documentary "Waco: The Rules of Engagement."
Ghigliotti said he has not arrived at any conclusion on those allegations. Rather, he has focused on three videotapes taken by news agencies that day and on the new audio tape, which is part of an FBI surveillance video.
The newly released FBI recording indicates that someone was firing shots about 12:44 p.m. and includes expressions of surprise from FBI employees circling in a plane overhead. "You can hear it," one FBI employee in the plane says of the gunfire, which federal agents believed was coming from a man with a handgun north of the compound. However, the tape does not make clear who was firing, and an FBI effort to locate the gunman was unsuccessful.
Ghigliotti said he believes the gunfire came from an FBI agent and was picked up by his microphone as he fired. He said the videotapes he reviewed show gunfire toward the compound at the time that the audio is picking up the shots. Several armored vehicles were clustered in the area of the gunfire, according to Ghigliotti.
From 1991 to 1995, Ghigliotti, 42, was paid by the FBI as a thermal imaging expert on an array of environmental dumping cases, according to an FBI document. Ghigliotti "performed reliable work for the FBI," the 1995 document states.
In 1993, Ghigliotti was sentenced to 18 months of unsupervised probation and fined $250 for assaulting the owner of a dump site. Ghigliotti, who had prepared documents for a Maryland environmental agency, alleged that the dump site owner duped him by posing as a county watchman to improperly gain access to the documents.
Ghigliotti's allegation of FBI gunfire came as former Missouri senator John C. Danforth met yesterday in Texas with attorneys for families of Branch Davidians who died in the siege, who have filed a wrongful-death suit. Danforth was appointed Waco special counsel last month by Attorney General Janet Reno, who directed him to answer a number of key questions, including whether FBI agents fired their weapons.
Michael Caddell, the lead lawyer in the $100 million wrongful-death suit, claimed that he also has new information relating to possible FBI gunfire and said that he intends to give it to Danforth. Based on clearer, newly released FBI infrared surveillance tapes, Caddell contends that there was a gun battle between Davidians and federal agents on April 19 and that gunfire was coming from at least three government positions. "Folks are shooting from both sides," he said.
FBI spokesman John Collingwood said, "We would hope in the end that both Congress and Senator Danforth will have access to every single piece of information . . . that has emerged relating to Waco. That, more than anything, will help the FBI restore its credibility on this issue."
"Expert Says FBI Fired in Waco Siege"
by Michelle Mittelstadt ("Associated Press", October 6, 1999)
WASHINGTON (AP) - An expert retained by a House committee has concluded that videotape of the 1993 Waco standoff shows the FBI fired shots on the siege's final day, contrary to the bureau's insistence its agents did not fire a single round.
Separately, Waco Special Counsel John Danforth has been briefed by another expert who reached a similar conclusion that the government and Branch Davidians exchanged gunfire that day.
FBI officials on Wednesday repeated their position. ``There has been no evidence developed to date to indicate that any FBI agents fired any rounds during the standoff at Waco,'' said FBI spokesman Tron Brekke.
Allegations of government gunfire during the 51-day standoff have circulated for years. The issue was revived by a report Wednesday in The Washington Post in which Carlos Ghigliotti, who has been hired by the House Government Reform Committee to review siege footage, said he determined the FBI fired shots on April 19, 1993.
``I conclude this based on the groundview videotapes taken from several different angles simultaneously and based on the overhead thermal tape,'' Ghigliotti said. ``The gunfire from the ground is there, without a doubt.''
Ghigliotti said the tapes also confirm the Davidians fired repeatedly at FBI agents during the assault, which ended when flames raced through the compound. About 80 Branch Davidians perished that day, some from the fire, others from gunshot wounds.
Ghigliotti, who did not return calls Wednesday from The Associated Press, did not assert that any casualties were caused by FBI gunshots.
His review was based on videotapes shot by media crews and audio from an infrared aerial surveillance tape recently released by the FBI. Ghigliotti has not seen all of the footage compiled by the FBI nor done an official
analysis for the committee, FBI and congressional officials said.
Ghigliotti, who has performed thermal imaging analysis for the FBI, is scheduled to go to the FBI on Friday to review the tapes.
The House Government Reform Committee chairman said the findings are ``troubling, but we think it is premature to make any final determination.''
``We don't want to go off half-cocked,'' Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said. ``As soon as we get all the necessary information, we will hold hearings and present the information to the American people.''
Ghigliotti's views coincide with those of a retired Defense Department thermal imaging analyst who, in a 1997 documentary about Waco, said infrared surveillance footage shot by an FBI plane offers definitive proof that government forces unleashed a barrage of automatic weapon fire on the compound.
The FBI has explained the light bursts on the infrared footage as reflections of sun rays on shards of glass or other debris that littered the scene, a view shared by some thermal imaging experts who reviewed Waco footage for the Post in 1997.
Edward Allard, who was a supervisor at the Army's night vision lab at Fort Belvoir, Va., has been hired as an expert in the Davidian survivors' wrongful-death lawsuit. He said the infrared footage reflects ``the government pouring machine-gun fire into the building and the Davidians firing here and there.''
Allard was among the plaintiffs' experts who briefed Danforth in Houston on Tuesday about their findings. Danforth, a former Republican senator from
Missouri, was appointed last month by Attorney General Janet Reno to re-investigate Waco's unanswered questions.
In his briefing for Danforth, Allard said, he explained why he discounts FBI and Justice Department claims that the bright bursts captured by the ``Nightstalker'' surveillance plane represent solar flashes on shards of glass or other debris around the compound.
``It's impossible for the Waco (forward-looking infrared) to detect solar radiation because the equipment they used is simply not sensitive enough to detect it,'' Allard said.
"FBI Wanted to Reward Waco Agents"
by Michelle Mittelstadt ("Associated Press", October 6, 1999)
WASHINGTON (AP) - FBI supervisors sought to reward agents running its deadly 1993 Waco siege, proposing medals and ``substantial cash incentive awards'' for members of the bureau's elite Hostage Rescue Team, newly released internal documents show.
The documents are silent on the outcome of the request to reward agents who fired tear gas into the Branch Davidians' home, manned sniper positions and drove tanks; and an FBI spokesman said Friday he was unaware whether awards were granted.
But former FBI deputy assistant director Danny Coulson, the founding commander of the HRT and one of the top officials overseeing the Waco operation, said neither medals nor bonuses were handed out.
``It wasn't approved and they received nothing,'' Coulson said Friday.
The FBI documents were recently turned over to investigators probing the bureau's conduct during the 51-day Waco standoff. They show that an extensive effort was made to honor the agents' ``brave and selfless actions.''
One 13-page memo recommended the entire Hostage Rescue Team for the FBI Shield of Bravery, with individual commendations for agents who left their tank during the siege's fiery end to save a Davidian woman caught in the burning building.
Another memo proposed financial rewards for the HRT agents to recognize ``their exceptional and exemplary individual efforts.''
Said Coulson: ``We tend to want to demonize every FBI agent who was there ... (but) the American public needs to remember that agents did risk their lives.''
The government's conduct at Waco has come under renewed scrutiny from Congress and a special counsel appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno in recent weeks with the FBI's belated admission that its agents fired potentially incendiary tear-gas canisters in the hours before flames consumed the Davidians' retreat.
Sect leader David Koresh and some 80 followers died April 19, 1993 in the final hours of the FBI siege.
The thousands of pages of internal documents already turned over to investigators offer the most detailed glimpse yet of the FBI's inner workings at Waco.
The documents are a mix of the serious and the mundane, covering the FBI's evolving final-day tactical plan and daily intelligence reports to a local hotel's invitation to federal agents for a free Easter Sunday brunch.
The records outline the evolution of the FBI's rules of engagement for the final assault, dictating under what conditions agents could use deadly force. Several proposals were drafted, three of which would have permitted agents to use deadly force against unarmed Branch Davidians if they approached ``friendly'' positions and failed to respond to agents' commands.
The FBI has long denied that its agents fired any shots during the siege, and bureau officials stressed Friday that the final rules of engagement did not permit deadly force against unarmed Davidians. The bureau's long-standing policy, which permits agents to use deadly force in self-defense or defense of another, applied on April 19, said FBI spokesman Tron Brekke.
``It would not be unusual, during the deliberation process, to consider various options,'' Brekke said of the earlier drafts. On-scene commanders had been worried by reports that Davidians might come out with explosives strapped to their bodies, he noted.
Other findings in the documents:
-On seven occasions, agents threw flash-bang devices at Davidians who were outdoors to force them back inside the building. Koresh lieutenant Steve
Schneider was ``absolutely distraught over being flash-banged,'' one FBI negotiator wrote April 9.
-The FBI tallied the number of phone conversations negotiators had with each Davidian, the average length of each call and total time spent on the phone. The most prolific talker was Schneider, who had 459 conversations with FBI agents lasting nearly 96 hours. Second was Koresh, with 117 conversations spanning nearly 61 hours.
-The FBI considered, at least briefly, abandoning the site. Under the ``retrogress from Waco'' plan, the proposed manpower requirements to provide cover as the forces retreated included four helicopters, four fixed-wing aircraft and 106 SWAT agents.
-Westinghouse Corp. offered, at no cost, the use of an aircraft and crew with ``state-of-the-art'' radar and infrared technology that not even the military possessed, one handwritten note stated.
-The FBI kept tabs on ``right-wing'' sympathizers who flocked to Waco during the siege and monitored Internet traffic.
Waco, FBI and the Branch Davidians: Updates
CESNUR reproduces or quotes documents from the media and different sources on a number of religious issues. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions expressed are those of the document's author(s), not of CESNUR or its directors.
[Home Page] [Cos'è il CESNUR] [Biblioteca del CESNUR] [Testi e documenti] [Libri] [Convegni]
[Home Page] [About CESNUR] [CESNUR Library] [Texts & Documents] [Book Reviews] [Conferences]