Police in a Washington, D.C. suburb announced Thursday they were ending their investigation into the death of infrared expert Carlos Ghigliotti, who reported last fall that he believed his analysis of the 1993 aerial tapes taken at Mount Carmel revealed gunshots.
A spokesman for the police department in Laurel, Md. said the preliminary autopsy conducted by the Maryland Medical Examiner's office listed natural causes as the reason for Ghigliotti's death.
Ghigliotti, 42, died of a heart attack triggered by arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, the preliminary autopsy reported. Authorities found his body April 28 at his place of business: Infrared Technology.
Ghigliotti's body was badly decomposed, according to police.
"I can't say it's impossible, but I would like a second opinion," said David Hardy, an Arizona attorney who successfully sued the federal government for access to evidence regarding Mount Carmel. "I talked to a friend who is an anesthesiologist. He said he once knew a guy who died at 38 from the same thing. But he was into drugs. I'd just like someone to take another look so we could be sure." Houston attorney Mike Caddell said he's negotiating with Laurel police to gain access to Ghigliotti's workplace.
Ghigliotti had been consulting with Caddell, the lead plaintiffs' attorney in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by surviving Branch Davidians against the government. Before that, Ghigliotti reviewed the infrared tape from Mount Carmel for the House Committee on Government Reform. That relationship ended in March after a dispute apparently over pay, among other issues.
Caddell filed a motion in Waco last week asking U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. to intervene and impound any evidence in Ghigliotti's workplace.
"We're working with Laurel police to see if we can't gain access to materials that way," Caddell said. "I think we'll be able to get access, possibly by next week." Special Counsel John Danforth joined Caddell in calling for Smith to impound evidence at Ghigliotti's workplace.
"What do I want?" Caddell asked. "Well, I know what I saw. I'll be looking for what Carlos showed me a week or two before he died: enhanced versions of the FLIR tapes that showed a lot of information from April 19th, as well as his notes. I think a lot of it contradicts the Vector report." Vector Data Research released a report Wednesday to Judge Smith stating its experts had determined that the flashes seen on the infrared tape from Mount Carmel were not gunshots but reflections from debris.
Hardy said he's suspicious of how Ghigliotti died given the misfortune to befall the plaintiffs' other infrared experts.
Edward Allard, a physicist who worked 10 years for the Army's Night Vision Laboratory, was to be Caddell's expert witness at the upcoming civil trial in Waco. However, he suffered a stroke. Ghigliotti was then approached by Caddell. A third infrared expert contacted by plaintiffs almost died recently from blood poisoning.
"The weird part is that you have three experts on the same issue cut down," Hardy said.
Ghigliotti was buried at a private service within the last week, according to Hardy.
"He was his own man," Hardy said. "He had no tolerance for dishonesty in any shape or form. I remember telling him that most of the people concerned about Waco were concerned about public policy issues. He said the only thing that hacked him off is that government officials had lied and he knew they had lied because he had seen the evidence. That was Carlos. Deaths, the course of the republic, those were minor things. Lying, that to him was an important issue."
An autopsy that may be released as early as today showed that 42-year-old Carlos Ghigliotti's arteries were completely clogged and that his death was completely natural," said Posner, quoting an unnamed source close to the investigation.
"This, without any question, ends the conspiracy speculation about Mr. Ghigliotti's death being part of a plot over Waco," said Posner, who was working on a Waco story for Talk magazine.
Ghigliotti, who was hired by the House Government Reform Committee to review tape of the siege, said he determined the FBI fired shots in the April 19, 1993, assault that left some 80 Branch Davidians dead from fire and bullet wounds.
He was scheduled to testify before special counsel John Danforth, whom Attorney General Janet Reno appointed to oversee a probe of the Waco disaster, but he never got the chance.
His decomposed body was found in his Laurel, Md., home April 28.
Ghigliotti had been dead for several weeks.
Ghigliotti's death gave rise to a number of conspiracy theories, many of them on the Internet, which suggested Ghigliotti was murdered to silence him.
A probe by a British company subsequently exonerated the FBI, saying that flashes seen on a video were sunlight reflecting off debris, not gunfire as claimed in a wrongful-death lawsuit.
WASHINGTON - Attorney General Janet Reno said Thursday she has beenquestioned by the special counsel investigating the disastrous 1993 raid at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.
A spokesman for Reno said the questioning by former Sen. John Danforth, who is investigating whether federal agents caused any deaths in the assault or covered up evidence, took place May 3 and lasted nearly six hours.
Danforth has been charged with finding out what happened in the raid and with deciding whether to bring any criminal charges. About 80 members of the religious cult, including leader David Koresh, died on the day of the raid.
At her weekly news briefing, Reno, who gave the go-ahead for the raid, declined to discuss the substance of what she was asked or whether she would be interviewed further.
Reno named Danforth as outside investigator in September 1999 after she admitted, after six years of denials, that FBI agents fired potentially flammable tear-gas canisters near the compound several hours before it burned.
When she appointed Danforth, Reno said she would be a witness in the investigation. Danforth at the time said he would have the authority to question Reno.
Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin said the questioning by Danforth took place at Reno's office. He did not know whether Reno was questioned under oath.
He said Danforth was accompanied by three other aides, but Danforth asked virtually all of the questions. He said Reno had only one aide, who took notes, present.
Marlin said Danforth has made requests to interview other Justice Department officials, but he declined to give details. He said the Justice Department also has provided Danforth with documents.
Reno has maintained that the members of the religious sect set the fires that engulfed the compound April 19, 1993, the final day of a 51-day siege.
A recently released report by an independent British firm found no evidence to support claims by surviving Branch Davidians in a civil lawsuit that government agents fired at the sect members during the raid.
Vector Data Systems found the flashes of light detected on a U.S. government infrared tape made from the air that day were caused by either solar reflections on debris or by windblown debris.
At the end of March Reno was questioned for about two hours at the Justice Department by lawyers representing the family members of the Branch Davidians in the civil lawsuit. The trial has been scheduled to start June 19.
Reno referred further questions to Danforth. A spokeswoman for Danforth, who is conducting the investigation from St. Louis, said he will have no comment until he finishes the investigation.
Special Counsel John C. Danforth spent almost six hours interviewing Attorney General Janet Reno last week about the 1993 Waco siege. She did not have a lawyer present and was not under oath.
Justice Department sources said that Danforth's office was interviewing other officials in the department as well. They said the others include Marie L.
Hagen, one of the lawyers defending the Justice Department in a civil suit filed by survivors of 80 Branch Davidians who died during the siege.
Danforth and three aides questioned Reno in the attorney general's conference room on May 3. The session began at 9 a.m. and lasted long enough to require several breaks, Reno said at her weekly press briefing Thursday. Reno was accompanied by an aide who took notes.
Reno referred reporters to Danforth for details of the questioning. Danforth declined to comment.
Last summer, Reno appointed Danforth to conduct an independent investigation of the events at Waco after the disclosure that the FBI had fired pyrotechnic tear gas near the complex on the final day of the siege, April 19, 1993.
The disclosure contradicted Reno's assurances that no flame-causing tear gas had been used.
Under questioning by Branch Davidian lawyers in a recent deposition, Reno denied government wrongdoing and stoutly defended the FBI's on-scene commanders.
So far, evidence gathered as part of the civil suit and congressional investigations points away from intentional wrongdoing by the government.
A report commissioned by Danforth concluded this week that government agents did not fire at the complex.
In a related matter, Danforth sent a letter to the Post-Dispatch complaining that a May 11 story gave the "false impression" that his general counsel, Thomas Wack, had granted an interview.
Danforth pointed out that the information attributed to Wack was in a written response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
WACO, TEXAS A final report on the simulation of the deadly Branch Davidian siege indicates that flashes caught on a videotape were sunlight reflecting off debris, not government gunfire as claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Vector Data Systems, the British business that conducted the March 19 simulation at Ft. Hood, submitted its conclusions this week to U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr., who is presiding over the Branch Davidian lawsuit. A preliminary report sent to Smith last month gave similar conclusions.
By comparing the simulation to videotapes from the last day of the siege, Vector found that the April 1993 flashes were caused by reflections off metal and glass, including a helicopter canopy and falling and wind-blown debris.
"We were unable to identify any gunfire, either from government forces or from Davidians, from either the [infrared tapes] or other collateral imagery available to us," the report stated.
Seven years after the fact, smoke still lingers over the fatal fire at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas - but FBI officials hope a new report will finally clear the air. According to Vector Data Systems, a British firm contracted to analyze video and reenactments of the 1993 siege, the flashes of light that fueled accusations of government wrongdoing were not FBI gunfire, as victims' family members believe. Instead, the report contends, the flashes were caused by sunlight glinting off metal and pieces of debris.
Case closed? Not so fast. While this latest evidence would appear to set the record straight, the Waco blaze ignited countless feverish conspiracy theories - and one more government-sponsored report isn't likely to do much but fan the flames.
Plenty of people were upset by what happened at Waco, and none more so than family members of the 80-plus victims who died there; they've filed a wrongful death suit against the government, claiming FBI agents on the scene were directly responsible for the fires that consumed the compound.
Government officials deny the allegations, charging that the Branch Davidians set the fires themselves. The embattled Attorney General Janet Reno has met with the lawyer representing the victims' families, and although the lines of communication remain open as evidence is gathered for a trial, no one expects any diplomatic breakthroughs. "There is a small but vocal minority of Americans who believe the government lied to them about Waco," says TIME Washington correspondent Elaine Shannon. "The government, of course, says it's telling the truth." And while each side has collected reams of evidence supporting its case, neither party is likely to convince the other of anything. "In the end, it'll come down to whom a court chooses to believe," says Shannon: "The government or the people who think the government is engaged in the worst kind of cover-up."
Flashes recorded on an FBI infrared video at the end of the Branch Davidian siege came not from government or Davidian gunfire, but from sunlight reflecting off glass, metal and water, and the movement of tanks and windblown debris, court-appointed infrared experts state.
The detailed, 65-page final report by Vector Data Research was released Wednesday to both sides in a federal wrongful death lawsuit arising from the 1993 standoff. The report mirrored an oral briefing made public late last month by U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, the Waco federal judge who appointed the British firm at the recommendation of Waco special counsel John C. Danforth to try to help resolve the gunfire issue.
The report indicated that Vector's analysts employed frame-by-frame analysis and computer imagery enhancement programs as well as detailed comparisons of known thermal signatures of gunfire and sunlight-generated flashes to identify the causes of 57 separate flashes on the infrared recording made by the FBI at Waco on April 19, 1993.
Vector's four-month inquiry also employed detailed comparative studies of still photos and other imagery taken by both the FBI and outsiders on April 19 to support the conclusion that none of the flashes came from gunfire, the report stated.
"From the information available to VDS (UK), we have concluded that the 57 thermal events, including the alleged sighting of a person, are all caused by passive specular solar reflection, active thermal reflection or movement of debris," the report stated. The study also concluded that no people were visible anywhere on the infrared recording until several minutes after the Davidian compound caught fire.
More than 80 sect members died in the blaze. Justice Department lawyers have argued that the government bears no responsibility because the fire was deliberately set by sect members. But lawyers for surviving Davidians and the families of those who died have alleged in their wrongful death lawsuit that government actions caused or contributed heavily to the tragedy.
Government officials and lawyers hailed Vector's final report Wednesday, saying they hope its thoroughness will quiet any lingering public doubts about whether federal agents opened fire on the embattled sect on the final day of the 1993 standoff.
"I'm sure there will be people who continue to question this, but my hope is the fact that this is a truly independent study and a very thorough study will put the majority of people at ease that there was no gunfire by the FBI," said U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford of Beaumont, one of the lead lawyers for the government's trial team.
"It confirms totally the position of the FBI that there were no personnel on the ground and that the flashes were not from gunfire," he said.
One federal official predicted that Vector's report "should drive a stake through the heart of the nuttier theories surrounding this case. This report shows that we might have shot our reputations, but we damn sure didn't shoot any Davidians."
But the lead plaintiff's lawyer in the wrongful death suit said the report appears flawed and contradictory.
"I can pick the thing apart in 30 minutes," said Mike Caddell, a Houston lawyer representing the families of sect members who died in the April 19 fire. "It is impressive in its presentation. They clearly spent a lot of time on it. But having said that, there are some clear disconnects in what they've done - obvious instances in their own report where their conclusions are not supported by their own data, their own analysis."
In some instances, Mr. Caddell said, the Vector report lists only about half of the flashes that appear within rapid sequence on the infrared. And throughout the report, the experts fail to detail the maximum duration of known gunfire recorded in the infrared test, he said.
One infrared expert spotted several "clear" instances of people being visible, and those are not addressed in the Vector report, he said.
Mr. Caddell and other lawyers for the plaintiffs will grill two of Vector's analysts in two days of depositions scheduled for later this month and will question a third in early June. He said a major area of inquiry will be his concern that Vector "had already made their minds up" about the cause of the infrared flashes before they supervised a court-ordered infrared field test at Fort Hood in mid-March.
Judge Smith told both sides last month during a pretrial hearing that he would not consider Vector's report "conclusive evidence," adding that their opinion "may be controverted, and you have the right to do that."
U.S. Attorney Bradford said he expects that Vector's exhaustive analysis will offer strong evidence for the government's defense in the upcoming wrongful death trial, now scheduled to begin June 19.
While Mr. Caddell's infrared experts reported 36 instances that they believed were government or Davidian gunfire or the detonation of government "flash-bang" distraction grenades, Vector analysts identified an additional 20 "thermal events" on the April 19 infrared tape.
Vector's report noted that two flashes similar to those alleged to be gunfire came from "what is believed to be a smooth metal plate" photographed on the ground near the compound before April 19.
It added that at least one flash alleged to be Davidian gunfire "occurs on 23 differently timed occasions. These 23 flashes span some 26 minutes in time and occur only when the sensor is in the same position with regard to the sun and to the roof in question."
The report added that there was a "clear correlation between debris on the roof and the thermal flashes" that appeared in those 23 instances, and each was "consistent with a passive solar reflection" and lacked the "directional properties associated with gunfire."
"Of significance, our analysis indicates that the flashes are not emanating from the windows as alleged in some instances, rather from debris strewn on the roof," the report stated.
None of the flashes alleged by experts for the sect to be government gunfire or other government-generated explosions matched the six "essential criteria" for thermal signatures of gunfire on forward-looking-infrared or FLIR video recordings, the report stated.
Of those 18 alleged instances of gunfire, only one had both the required size and tone, the report stated. Five others approached the required size or tone, but none had the shape, duration, shadow or other associated features of gunfire, the report stated.
Five flashes that appeared to come from the compound windows and which were identified by some infrared analysts as Davidian gunfire were caused by sunlight reflecting off ground debris near the tower, the report stated.
Another eight flashes that appeared in the rear courtyard of the compound, some of which were alleged to be government gunfire, were caused by sunlight reflecting off debris knocked from the compound by FBI tanks, the Vector report stated.
The report noted that none of those eight flashes appeared "prior to the demolition" of the rear of the building by one of the FBI's combat engineering vehicles.
Vector analysts noted that ground conditions and temperatures in that courtyard area would make "government agents alleged to be firing weapons from these particularly exposed positions - identifiable on the FLIR tape as the flashes occur. No personnel are seen in this courtyard, either on the FLIR tapes or the color (still) photographs."
In some instances where flashes appeared in close proximity to the combat engineering vehicles, Vector analysts concluded that they were caused either by sunlight reflecting off debris that had collected on the vehicles or from their engine heat reflecting off ground debris.
Vector analysts also dismissed allegations by some infrared analysts that a hatch could be seen opening on one of the government tanks at 12:08, just before a prolonged series of flashes.
They found, however, that the tank had just pulled away from the rear of the building and was covered in debris that was "blowing in the wind (to) ... give the appearance of a hatch opening." The report added that a still photo of the same tank showed the "debris still in place over the forward deck" of the vehicle!
WACO, Texas (AP) - The final report on a simulation of Branch Davidian siege indicates that flashes seen on a videotape were sunlight reflecting off debris, not government gunfire as claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Vector Data Systems, the British firm that conducted the March 19 simulation at Fort Hood, submitted its conclusions this week to U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr., who is presiding over the Branch Davidian lawsuit. A preliminary report sent to Smith last month gave similar conclusions.
By comparing the simulation to videotapes from the last day of the siege, Vector found that the 1993 flashes were caused by reflections off metal and glass, including a helicopter canopy and falling and wind-blown debris.
``We were unable to identify any gunfire, either from government forces or from Davidians, from either the (infrared tapes) or other collateral imagery available to us,'' the report stated.
The report also states that no one was seen prior to the breakout of two fires that consumed the compound on April 19, 1993. At least 80 people died during the inferno.
``This analysis vindicates those FBI people long accused of shooting into the compound,'' said Deputy FBI Director Thomas Pickard. ``The FBI's long-standing and steadfast position that no shots were fired has now been strongly and independently corroborated.''
But an attorney for Branch Davidian survivors and relatives, Jim Brannon, said he believes Vector's analysis is ``fatally flawed.''
``Vector was either incompetent or they willfully sabotaged the test,'' he said.
The fire started several hours into an FBI operation intended to end a 51-day siege. The government has long contended the Davidians themselves set fire to the retreat and caused their own deaths, whether by fire or gunshots.
Vector was hired to conduct the test by Special Counsel John Danforth, whom Attorney General Janet Reno appointed to oversee an independent investigation into the standoff and fire.
A spokeswoman for Danforth said he would have no comment on Vector's report.
Danforth's appointment followed revelations that the FBI, contradicting a position it had taken for six years, used potentially incendiary devices on the last day of the standoff.
An independent expert hired by Special Counsel John C. Danforth has concluded that government agents did not fire on the Branch Davidian complex near Waco in the hours before the federal siege ended April 19, 1993.
Vector Data Systems, a British-based but American-owned company, reported that its study of infrared surveillance tapes and still photographs did not detect gunfire from either federal agents or Branch Davidians.
The findings, reported Monday, had been disclosed April 24 by U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr., who will hear the Branch Davidians' wrongful death suit against the government next month. The report will help Danforth answer one of the most disturbing questions of the Waco disaster. Branch Davidians and their supporters have claimed for years that the flashes on the infrared FBI surveillance tapes were from the heat of muzzles of agents' guns.
Vector reported that 57 sets of flashes on the tapes came from either sun reflections, blowing debris or reflections from debris heated by tank exhaust.
The Justice Department called the results a "vindication" for wrongfully accused federal agents. But Mike Caddell, the main lawyer for the Branch Davidians, said "glaring inconsistencies" in the report "raise questions about Vector's competence and integrity."
Caddell accused Vector of having come to the March 19 simulation that it conducted at Fort Hood, Texas, with "preconceived ideas and conclusions. They did not approach the test with an open mind," he said.
Vector's final report undermined several other Branch Davidian claims. One of the Branch Davidians' experts maintained that agents fired from a helicopter above the complex. Vector reported that its study of a video indicated the flash is a "visible light energy reflection from the helicopter cockpit canopy."
Vector also reported that no people are visible on the infrared recordings and that the fire that destroyed the complex began almost simultaneously in two different locations: at 12:07 on a second floor corner of the building and at 12:08 in the cafeteria-kitchen area on the first floor. Mike Bradford, the U.S. Attorney in Beaumont, Texas, said that those findings support the government positions that there were no shooters on the ground and that the Branch Davidians started the fire.
Vector identified the cause of each of 57 "flash incidents" it found on the infrared tape of the 1993 siege. A single flash incident could include mulitiple flashes.
Vector found that most of the flashes that Branch Davidians said were government gunfire resulted from the sun reflecting off debris created as a converted government tank was knocking down the gym at the rear of the complex. Another major source of claimed government gunfire came from debris that had been heated by the exhaust of the armored vehicles.
Almost all of the alleged gunfire from Branch Davidians was actually the sun reflecting of debris on the roof, the report said.
Vector also concluded that none of the flashes had the shape or duration of gunfire. The flashes on the 1993 tape were longer in duration than flashes from gunfire recorded during the March simulation.
But Caddell accused Vector of inaccuracy on this point. He noted that a preliminary report filed with the judge last month had said the duration of gunfire was ".02 seconds or less" while the final report said it was "as little as .02 seconds."
This discrepancy is important to the categorization of flashes that occured about 11:30 a.m. - 37 minutes before the fire. The Vector report says mulitiple flashes at that moment lasted .03 seconds, which is is very close to the duration of gunfire, Caddell said.
Caddell said Vector only identified one or two flashes at times where five or six appeared on the tape.
Vector was hired Dec. 2 to act as an independent expert for Danforth and the court. It supervised the March 19 reenactment in which ground fire was recorded by a circling British helicopter using infrared recording equipment similar to that used by the FBI in 1993.
The cost of Vector's work will be divided among the parties in the court case and Danforth's office. There was no competitive bidding to choose Vector.
Thomas Wack, general counsel for Danforth's office, said Vector was chosen because it had "special and unique expertise in the field of imagery exploitation and enhancement."
Wack also said that since it was staffed by people from another company that "added a level of independence not available from U.S. based experts." Vector is owned by Anteon, a Virginia company that does contract work for the Justice Department. The contract between Vector and Danforth's office says it can have no conflicts of interest and that it must provide a fully impartial analysis.
Vector was paid $1,200 per day. At first, the contract contained a $75,000 ceiling; last month, the ceiling was raised to $100,000.
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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