"FBI Produces New Waco Documents Logs Detail Aggressive Federal Tactics"
by David A. Vise and Lorraine Adams ("The Washington Post", October 8, 1999)
The FBI has turned over to investigators thousands of pages of newly discovered internal documents that paint the most detailed picture yet of the aggressive federal tactics used during the 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex., in 1993 and offer a revealing look at the inner workings of the operation.
Included among the intelligence reports, operational plans, logs, photos and videos that the bureau did not produce during previous broad-based congressional and federal probes is new information that agents sought approval to shoot at Branch Davidians who were not carrying weapons during the final siege. But headquarters rejected the request. The documents also outline seven instances in which the FBI threw or launched hand-held "flash-bang" grenades at Davidians who were exiting the compound earlier in the standoff.
The new documents were discovered in boxes at the FBI's complex in Quantico after fresh subpoenas and other requests from the Justice Department, various congressional committees and former senator John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), who is spearheading a new federal probe.
Federal officials, who asked not to be identified, said the FBI had not previously provided the records, some of which are stamped "Secret" or "Confidential," because earlier congressional requests were drafted too narrowly or the bureau overlooked the records.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said yesterday that the newly discovered FBI documents raise troubling questions.
"The material does fill in more pieces of the puzzle and paints a disturbing picture of the FBI's judgment and tactics during the final days of the siege," Grassley said. "Did all of the Waco-related documents that would have reflected poorly on the FBI end up at Quantico? How do we know all the documents have been turned over now?"
The FBI documents range from the first day of the failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raid, in which heavily armed Branch Davidians killed four agents, through the aftermath of the fire of April 19, 1993, that left about 75 sect members dead. They appear to contain no conclusive evidence that the FBI contributed to the start of the fire, or fired at the Branch Davidians.
But the new records do provide clues relevant to Danforth's inquiry regarding the possible use of deadly force. And they give a day-by-day description of FBI operations during the almost two-month siege, ranging from the often humorous daily weather report that included a "mud index" to intelligence reports on Waco-related Internet activities by militia groups.
They also reveal for the first time that FBI officials sought medals for the agents involved in the deadly siege; headquarters rejected that request too.
Among the documents are seven drafts of the FBI's operational orders for the final siege, including two that said agents could use deadly force against Branch Davidians carrying no weapons as they emerged from the compound if they failed to respond to commands as they approached law enforcement officials.
The final version of the operational orders reverts to standard FBI policy, which prohibits the use of deadly force except as necessary in self-defense or in the defense of another person.
Byron Sage, the FBI's chief negotiator at Waco, said the modification in the agency's deadly force policy was proposed after FBI agents received information from a Davidian who had left that others inside were considering exiting the compound with explosives strapped to their bodies. In that instance, he said, the Davidians would have posed a danger even though no weapons were visible.
The proposed orders were reviewed by Jeff Jamar and Richard Rogers, the two senior FBI agents at Waco. Rogers also played a role in the pivotal change in deadly-force policy that critics of the FBI argue led to the 1992 fatal shooting of Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
In the first version of the Waco plan, dated March 4, 1993, the field agents propose that the standard FBI deadly-force policy be in effect: "Agents are not to use deadly force against any person except as necessary in self-defense or the defense of another." But in a later version, dated March 10, the FBI added language that said agents could use deadly force against Davidians emerging from the compound who did not respond to directions and approached FBI agents, even if they had no visible weapon. Then, in an April 9 version, the standard FBI policy is again listed, although it is followed by a section that was redacted in the document.
Danny O. Coulson, the FBI agent who manned the command post in Washington during the evenings, emphasized yesterday that the rules ultimately approved by Attorney General Janet Reno did not include firing on unarmed Davidians. "I think the important thing here is what were the rules they were operating under April 19th," he said.
The new documents also detail at least seven occasions in April 1993 when flash-bang grenades were used against Davidians attempting to exit the compound, forcing them to go back inside. Flash-bangs are designed to disorient targets without causing permanent injury by producing a blinding flash of light, a loud blast and smoke.
The FBI's use of flash-bangs was disclosed in a 1993 Justice Department report and later House hearings.
Critics of the FBI's handling of the siege argue the use of flash-bangs encouraged the Davidians to remain inside the compound, where most of them ultimately died during the final assault.
Sage and others said the Davidians had the opportunity to come out if they were prepared to surrender but that they could not allow them to exit at
will. "The use of the flash-bangs was to drive them back inside," Sage said. "It had to be a well-orchestrated and planned exit," so nobody perceived their exit as an attack.
Other information in the newly disclosed FBI documents showed that:
* On April 13, then-Associate Attorney General Webster L. Hubbell advised the FBI that the Clinton administration wanted "military experts' opinion of the operation."
* Even after the FBI took control of the operation following the ATF's failed February 1993 raid, a significant contingent of ATF agents remained on the scene. The FBI documents show that on April 11, 1993, the ATF advised that it still had 136 agents there. "After the initial raid, ATF's role was strictly a support function," said ATF spokesman Jeff Roehm.
* The FBI received a fax in late March urging agents to "step aside" and let the Texas Rangers, a state police force, negotiate a peaceful solution and have an independent grand jury investigation. "The shedding of more blood through more bungling will only further damage the credibility of the FBI and the federal government," the fax says.
Staff writer Richard Leiby and staff researcher Margot Williams contributed to this report.
"Armey questions need for new hearings on Davidian siege"
by David Jackson and Catalina Camia ("The Dallas Morning News", October 8, 1999)
WASHINGTON - House Majority Leader Dick Armey questioned the need for new hearings on the Branch Davidian siege Thursday as senators continued to squabble over how to conduct their review.
Mr. Armey, R-Irving, said the House Government Reform Committee will have to explain the scope and timing of proposed hearings before the leadership approves. But Mr. Armey also said the House would not forfeit its oversight responsibilities.
"I don't know if we see any compelling need for any hearings," Mr. Armey said. "We're not going to shy away . . . but the American people want to know the facts."
A committee spokesman declined to comment. Committee Chairman Dan Burton, R-Ind., has said repeatedly that he plans hearings on new questions surrounding the 51-day siege.
Mr. Armey expressed confidence in the outside investigation now being conducted by former Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., calling him "a man of impeccable integrity."
"I think right now, as I talk to other members, the Danforth investigation is fully functioning, and it's well-researched, and he's getting to the answers the country is looking for," Mr. Armey said.
Mr. Danforth's staff has been trying to coordinate its efforts with House and Senate investigators. But as Mr. Burton's staff continues to investigate, a Senate effort is mired in a partisan dispute.
After a heated argument Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee put off a subpoena request by a special task force that Democrats have refused to join.
Democrats said the task force - which plans to review the Justice Department's investigations of the Davidians, campaign fund raising, and
alleged Chinese spying - seems designed to embarrass Attorney General Janet Reno and perhaps others.
"I'm deeply suspicious," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "There's no need to do this unless there is some subterranean motivation."
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the task force chairman, said he only wants to evaluate the Justice Department's performance.
"I'm a little tired of sitting here and having my motive impugned," Mr. Specter said.
Judiciary Committee Democrats suggested that, rather than a special task force, one of the existing subcommittees should handle the assignment. They said a subcommittee could be expanded to include Mr. Specter.
"There are very serious questions about the authority of a task force, a
single-party task force," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee's ranking Democrat.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the committee's chairman, asked Mr. Specter to give him a week to try to negotiate the impasse.
"We've got to resolve this," Mr. Hatch said. "I want to have Democratic participation in this."
"Documents: FBI wanted clearance to shoot unarmed Branch Davidians"
(CNN, October 8, 1999)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Additional documents have been turned over to Congress showing supervisors in the FBI's standoff with the Branch Davidians asked for permission to shoot unarmed cult members if they approached agents and refused to follow directions, CNN has confirmed.
The FBI said the plans were never enacted during the 1993 incident. But officials acknowledge the issue was raised after agents received information that some cult members Davidians had discussed fleeing their Waco, Texas, compound with explosives strapped to their bodies.
But FBI officials Friday insisted the proposed plan to authorize firing at the Branch Davidians was rejected by executives at headquarters and that such rules were never implemented by agents at Waco. The FBI said it followed standard rules of engagement which permit use of deadly force only in self-defense or defense of another.
The FBI remains adamant that agents never fired shots during the Waco siege.
Records turned up in latest Waco probe The latest documents are among tens of thousands of pages from FBI files at Quantico turned over to investigators for congressional committees, the Justice Department and to former Sen. John Danforth, the newly appointed independent counsel investigating Waco.
Sources in Congress told CNN they were very concerned about the revelations in the documents.
Report: Koresh heard ordering the fires set The Dallas Morning News on Friday quoted a now-retired Army colonel as saying he heard Davidian leader David Koresh give an order to set the fires through bug transmissions on speakers in the FBI Waco command center's monitoring room.
Col. Rodney L. Rawlings, who retired from the Army in 1997, told the Dallas newspaper that he heard Koresh's order and then the sound of gunshots within five minutes after the FBI began its assault on the compound.
"I heard it. Anyone who says you couldn't at the time is being less than truthful," said Rawlings, explaining he was in an adjacent room in the FBI command center at the time.
FBI officials previously have said transmissions from eavesdropping devices inside the Davidians' compound were too garbled to allow agents to hear the sect's discussions.
Only later, after the fire and the tapes were enhanced, did the FBI learn that the Davidians were spreading fuel and preparing to set a fire, they
testified before congressional committees. Had FBI leaders heard that people in the compound were preparing a fire, they would have stopped the assault, they testified.
Deputy FBI Director John Collingwood would not comment on Rawlings' account.
Justice Department Correspondent Pierre Thomas, Producer Terry Frieden and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
"Ex-colonel says FBI heard sect's fire plans - U.S. officials say bugging devices weren't reliable"
by Lee Hancock ("The Dallas Morning News", October 8, 1999)
Bugging devices in the Branch Davidian compound clearly picked up the voices of leader David Koresh and his followers preparing and starting fires that ended the deadly 1993 standoff, according to a now-retired U.S. Army colonel who assisted the FBI at the siege.
Federal officials from Attorney General Janet Reno down have maintained for years that the FBI did not know that the Davidians were spreading fuel and preparing to set a fire throughout the FBI's six-hour tank and tear gas assault on the compound.
But Col. Rodney L. Rawlings of Austin said in an interview that "you could hear everything from the very beginning, as it was happening."
"I heard it," said Col. Rawlings, who said he heard bug transmissions from speakers in an FBI monitoring room. "Anyone who says you couldn't at the time is being less than truthful."
Among the most chilling transmissions was Mr. Koresh's order to set the fires, a command followed by the sound of gunshots, Col. Rawlings said. The bugs then broadcast the voice of Mr. Koresh declaring that God did not want him to die, and his chief lieutenant's response that the sect leader "wasn't going to get out of this," he said.
A senior FBI spokesman in Washington declined to comment on Thursday, citing an ongoing investigation by independent counsel John Danforth.
"We have appropriately relinquished all of these issues to Senator Danforth and are confident he will get to the bottom of this," said FBI Deputy Director John Collingwood.
Officials have told Congress that transmissions from eavesdropping devices inside the compound were too garbled to allow agents to hear the sect's discussions about spreading fuel as the tanks rammed the building.
The tank and tear gas assault began about 6 a.m. on April 19, 1993, and the Davidians began talking about spreading fuel within five minutes, Col. Rawlings said and FBI records confirm.
Ms. Reno testified that she would have stopped the tear gas assault if she had been told anything about the Davidians' plans and preparations for a fire.
Jeffrey Jamar, the FBI's commander in Waco, told Congress that he and his agents "couldn't know that was happening. If we had heard 'spread the fuel,' we'd have stopped right there. We didn't hear. We didn't know that until those tapes [of recorded bug transmissions] were enhanced."
Mr. Jamar could not be reached for comment on Col. Rawlings' account.
Mr. Jamar and other FBI agents have said they learned what was happening inside the compound only after the assault was over, when they analyzed tapes from listening devices.
FBI agents later produced transcripts of the tapes that indicated that the Davidians talked about spreading fuel for nearly six hours before the fire began.
Col. Rawlings, a combat-decorated helicopter pilot and 31-year veteran who retired from the Army in 1997, said he clearly heard those preparations as they were broadcast from a monitoring-room speaker in at the FBI's main Waco command post.
He said he was there as senior Army liaison to the FBI's hostage rescue team. Working in an area adjacent to the open door of the monitoring room, he said, he heard voices of Mr. Koresh and other Davidians praying, planning the fire and preparing to die during the FBI's tank assault.
"They're using the excuse of technical difficulties to cover why they didn't react on the information they had," he said. "They had a very poor plan to begin with that allowed them nothing to fall back on in the event that things went south.
"It bothers me to no end," said Col. Rawlings, 54, now a project manager for a computer firm in Austin. "They've had the opportunity to say, 'We knew.' We've not gotten a straightforward answer."
Col. Rawlings said he was sent to Waco in the last weeks of the 51-day siege from his III Corps command staff post at Fort Hood. His duties included command of 1st Cavalry Division crews sent from Fort Hood to maintain U.S. Army Bradley fighting vehicles and armored M-60 combat engineering vehicles loaned to the FBI.
Col. Rawlings said he spent the night before the FBI assault working in the command post and remained there throughout the April 19 operation.
Course of events
At 6 a.m., as an FBI negotiator called the compound to announce that a tear gas assault was beginning, combat engineering vehicles began smashing into the Davidians' flimsy wooden building with long metal booms. Attached to the booms were spraying devices that pumped in powdered CS gas, a riot-control chemical that causes severe skin and eye irritation, runny eyes and nasal passages, nausea and chest tightness.
Top FBI officials have said their assault plan assumed that mothers in the compound would immediately flee the tear gas with their 20 children and that the physical effects of the gas would cause the others to surrender quickly.
"A lot was hung on the hope that what each individual was going through would've resulted in a lot more confusion and would've prevented them from getting organized," Col. Rawlings said. "The FBI planned only on a total and immediate collapse and surrender."
Government bugs picked up sounds of Davidians running, moving objects and yelling for gas masks, he said.
Within five minutes of the FBI's warning call, he said, he heard Davidians discussing taking their children to a central, concrete-block room that the sect called "the cooler." It had only one door and offered protection for children too small to wear gas masks.
Because the area was bugged, Col. Rawlings said, Davidians who took shelter there could be heard crying, talking and praying.
He said he could also hear Davidians calling back and forth from their stations at various points in the compound. Throughout the morning, there were "a lot of prayers going on. Koresh was doing a final sermon at one point," Col. Rawlings said.
They could be heard talking about spreading and pouring fuel and keeping federal agents out of the building. That talk produced little visible reaction from anyone at the command post, Col. Rawlings said.
As FBI agents milled around the area that included the bug-monitoring room, he said, many agents seemed to listen "with great interest." But he said he heard few conversations among agents and spoke little with them because he was focused on the broadcasts and reporting what was happening to his superiors via telephone.
"It had to have registered, because of the intensity of the activity in the compound," he said. "I think they just didn't want to believe it and accept it. I didn't know what was going to happen, but I was worried."
Just after FBI officials ordered a combat engineering vehicle to drive deep into the compound and to gas the concrete block room, he said, "Koresh gave the order" to start the fires.
"He said, 'OK. Our time is now. It's time to put the children away,' or 'to sleep,' or some such words. When we heard this, it was, 'Oh my God. How can anyone do this?' It got real quiet in the command center. We could not believe this was going on," Col. Rawlings said.
"After the command was given, the individuals given the task of setting fires took their stations and promptly began to do so. There was no time to move. And the FBI had no plans to do anything differently," he said. "They had no way of getting in to stop it."
Gunshots rang out, he said, and the FBI "did a quick perimeter check" in which agents surrounding the compound radioed that they were not firing and that the shots were coming from within.
Col. Rawlings said he then heard Mr. Koresh tell his chief lieutenant, Steve Schneider, that he "was not ready to die, that God wanted him to continue his work."
"Steve Schneider told him, 'You're not going to get away with this. You will go through with this. Look around you. Look around you at all you've caused,' " Col. Rawlings said. "Then we heard more gunshots."
Mr. Koresh's unarmed body was later found lying near Mr. Schneider's. Autopsies determined that Mr. Koresh had been shot once in the center of his forehead and that Mr. Schneider had put an assault rifle in his own mouth and killed himself.
Seventeen of the 80 other Branch Davidians died of gunshots. Several, including a 3-year-old, were fatally stabbed. Bodies of the children and many of the women were in the concrete block room.
Since the standoff, FBI officials have offered little information about the bugs or where they were in the compound. Pressed by defense lawyers at the Davidians' 1994 criminal trial, an FBI supervisor testified that he knew of only two working bugs in the compound on April 19 - one near the front door and another just outside.
The supervisor testified at trial that he and three other agents were monitoring the bugs that day, but government lawyers disclosed in legal filings this week that 24 FBI agents were monitors on April 19.
A video recording from that day only recently disclosed by the FBI captured a radio transmission in which Mr. Jamar discussed how a device he called "the box" was picking up Davidians' voices near the interior "cooler."
On that transmission, an FBI agent can be heard telling hostage rescue team commander Richard Rogers at 7:49 a.m. that Davidians were being told "to stay low and stay ready, as if they were expecting some type of assault."
Mr. Jamar can be heard saying that Davidians were "taking their masks off and on. In fact, one person asked, 'Have we been gassed?' So there's an area that we're not getting gas into."
FBI has not detailed how the bugs were inserted into the compound, but some officials have suggested that devices were sent in with shipments of milk and other items requested by the sect.
Some military experts have said that special operations soldiers assisting the FBI with the siege probably brought state-of-the-art devices utilizing lasers and other technology to capture sounds through windows and other parts of compound.
Col. Rawlings said he was never told details about the eavesdropping technology. He learned of the presence of special operations personnel only last month, when a reporter showed him Defense Department documents detailing the presence of three soldiers from secret units on the day of the assault.
Government lawyers recently acknowledged that a total of 10 military personnel from secret special operations units were present during the 51-day siege.
"I was responsible for every military guy out there. Not knowing that they were there would not relieve me of any responsibility if they were involved in misdeeds," said Col. Rawlings, whose military decorations include three Purple Hearts, 37 Air Medals, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Bronze Star with a V for valor in combat. "They should have at least reported their presence to me."
David Byrnes, a retired Ranger captain who led the Davidian criminal investigation, said CIA officials appeared at the compound immediately after the fire and sought the Rangers' help in recovering their equipment from the burned building.
Those officials were particularly eager to find a device they said was about the size of a small laptop computer, Mr. Byrnes said. He and his investigators assumed they were for eavesdropping.
"They told us what they were looking for, and they wanted to be sure it was found or destroyed," said Mr. Byrnes. "We never did find anything."
FBI tape recordings of the bug transmissions were first made public at the 1994 criminal trial of surviving Branch Davidians and were later played for Congress.
Among the last statements on tape transcripts was an unknown male saying, "I want a fire around back," just after 11:40 a.m. Six minutes later, another voice said, "Let's keep that fire going."
According to FBI logs, the bugs stopped transmitting at 11:57 a.m. The compound fires erupted 10 minutes later, at 12:07 p.m., according to FBI infrared tapes.
FBI agents issued a 911 call to local firefighters at 12:13 p.m.
Mr. Jamar, the FBI's overall commander in Waco, told Congress that the agency did not expect a fire and did not believe Mr. Koresh would lead his followers in mass suicide.
"Fire was a definite possibility. There was no question the place was a tinderbox, but we did not expect a fire," he said. "Had we expected a fire, we would have had a whole another approach."
FBI agents have never fully explained why the bureau, before the April 19 assault, called Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas to ask how many beds its burn unit had available.
Some experts have questioned how the FBI could have missed warning signals from the apocalyptic sect.
On the day before the fire, Mr. Schneider taunted one negotiator with the phrase, "Haven't you always wanted to be a charcoal briquette?" FBI records indicate. That same day, FBI agents saw Davidians holding up a sign in a compound window that read "flames await."
"That they didn't have reason to expect what happened, that is the worst lie of all," Col. Rawlings said. "They had warning for days that fire was a possibility. As they debriefed the individuals who did come out, they learned about suicide plans. They knew."
One day after the fire, federal officials told The Dallas Morning News that authorities had heard the Davidians discussing fire plans on April 19.
But Mr. Jamar and other FBI leaders told reporters that they would not discuss surveillance or what it might have detected.
A later speech
Four months after the siege, the FBI's Waco spokesman gave a Tulsa, Okla., civic group a detailed account of the sect's last moments.
"Based on evidence we have now," said Bob Ricks, then head of the FBI in Oklahoma, investigators believed Mr. Schneider killed Mr. Koresh because he believed his leader was a fraud and was trying to escape the fire.
Just before Mr. Koresh died, Mr. Ricks told listeners at the time, the sect leader first yelled orders to start the fires, then screamed for his followers not to light them when he realized FBI agents were not coming in.
No tapes or transcripts reflecting such conversations between Mr. Koresh and his chief lieutenant have ever been divulged by the FBI. Mr. Ricks said in a recent interview that his account of the final moments was "my own interpretation of the thing."
Mr. Ricks said that although he heard some bug transmissions on April 19, he could not discern any of the sect's fire discussions.
Like other FBI officials, he maintains that transmissions from the bureau's bugs were poor because their signal was being relayed five miles from an observation house near the compound to the command post.
"The value was lost in the transmittal," Mr. Ricks, now commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, said in a recent interview.
He noted, however, that FBI agents stationed in an observation house just across the street from the Davidian compound could have clearly heard the Davidians' conversations if they had been listening.
"They would've heard a much stronger signal and would've heard the statements about spreading fuel," Mr. Ricks said.
Pressed on the matter before Congress in 1995, Mr. Jamar said, "I'm trying to find a plausible explanation. I've been searching this forever. I would love to have known what was going on.
"I can tell you the monitors didn't hear it. The people monitoring didn't hear it," he said.
Col. Rawlings said that was implausible. The FBI had access to the government's best technology in the siege, including CIA and military special operations equipment.
"They had enough electronic gear in there, they could have relayed it to Hawaii and you still could have heard what was going on in that compound," he said.
"The FBI is going to deny that they have all this recorded. They are not going to want to compromise any of the technology they have used to gather and eavesdrop. But it was clear," Col. Rawlings said. "Saying they couldn't hear is a crock."
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.
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