WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With the FBI (news - web sites) under fire from the Senate Judiciary Committee (news - web sites) for a series of blunders, Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) announced on Wednesday a ``comprehensive review'' of the federal law enforcement agency.
Minutes before a committee hearing to consider how to restore confidence in the FBI, Ashcroft directed a high-level Justice Department (news - web sites) group called the ``Strategic Management Council'' to propose reforms by Jan.1.
The group, chaired by the deputy attorney general, should recommend actions aimed at ``improving and upgrading the performance of the FBI,'' Ashcroft said in a memo calling for the review.
In the first in a series of hearings being held by new Democratic Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the committee planned to focus on FBI polices and will review whether there is adequate oversight of it and how it can be improved.
``The FBI has long been considered a crown jewel of law enforcement agencies,'' Leahy said in opening the hearings. ''Unfortunately today it has lost a lot of its earlier luster.''
He said the image of the FBI for too many Americans has become one of an agency that is ``unmanageable, unaccountable and unreliable.''
``It's much vaunted independence has transformed for some into an image of insular arrogance,'' he said.
Former Republican Sen. John Danforth of Missouri, who investigated the FBI's conduct in the 1993 standoff with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, was to testify about the resistance he faced in getting documents from the law enforcement agency for his review.
Danforth was appointed special counsel in 1999 to investigate the Waco stand-off after FBI officials revealed that potentially incendiary tear gas canisters were fired on the Branch Davidian compound.
His investigation concluded the canisters did not start the fires on April 19, 1993 that wiped out the compound in which 80 sect members died. The fires ended a 51-day stand-off that began when four federal agents were killed trying to conduct a raid on the compound.
``The FBI did not do the dark things some people suspected,'' Danforth said in testimony prepared for the hearing. But he added that some FBI personnel and Justice Department lawyers were not forthcoming about events at Waco.
``I think that the motive is not to hide evil deeds, but to avoid embarrassment. A long-standing value of the FBI is not to embarrass the FBI,'' he said.
Also testifying at the hearing is former FBI and CIA (news - web sites) Director William Webster, who was tapped by FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate security at the law enforcement agency after the arrest of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen (news - web sites) on charges of spying for Moscow.
HANSSEN CASE A BLACK EYE
Hanssen was charged with 21 counts of espionage for allegedly selling U.S.
secrets to Moscow since 1985 for $1.4 million in money and diamonds. He has pleaded not guilty.
Current Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine also was scheduled to appear at the hearing. Fine is examining why it took the FBI 15 years to discover Hanssen's alleged spying activities and why FBI documents in the Oklahoma City bombing case were not given to defense lawyers earlier.
Ashcroft said the Webster review and Fine investigations should be submitted to the council by Nov. 1. He also requested that a private firm conduct a management study of the FBI and it be completed by Nov 1.
Lastly, Ashcroft asked the council to get the views of individuals and groups, including members of Congress, on ways to improve the FBI.
Convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (news - web sites)'s execution was delayed for a month because the FBI discovered it had thousands of pages of documents never turned over to the defense.
Other incidents that have dented the bureau's image in recent years including its investigation of Taiwan-born nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee (news - web sites) and its handling of a stand-off with a white separatist and his family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
Just last week an FBI employee was arrested for allegedly selling bureau secrets to the Mafia and criminal defense lawyers over the past 19 months for thousands of dollars.
Also testifying at the hearing will be former Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich who conducted investigations on the FBI crime laboratory which was embroiled in a scandal over mishandling evidence.
Freeh met on Wednesday with employees in the courtyard at FBI headquarters to say goodbye and thank them for their efforts, an FBI spokeswoman said. Freeh is expected to leave by the end of the week. The event was closed to the news media.
President Bush (news - web sites) is searching for a new FBI chief, and U.S.
Attorney Robert Mueller in San Francisco is the leading candidate for the job, administration officials said.
A group of Branch Davidians studied the Bible for about three hours Saturday. Nobody mentioned Timothy McVeigh.
The Davidians themselves may be the only ones not linking the Oklahoma City bomber to the sect whose legacy Waco cannot escape. Almost any account of McVeigh's motives for bombing the Alfred P. Murrah federal building traces back to the 1993 compound fire in which 76 Davidians died 10 miles east of town.
But Sunday, just hours before McVeigh was to leave the world he so violently shook, Davidian Clive Doyle said his group does not appreciate the supposed act of retribution.
"I don't see that blowing up a building that kills a whole bunch of kids really makes a strike against the government or law enforcement, if that's what you're against," said Doyle, who escaped with burns from the Davidian fire but lost his 18-year-old daughter. "It didn't hurt them all that much and it didn't help us."
Doyle, who shares a trailer at Mount Carmel with his mother, woke up at 7 a.m. Sunday to build a fence around the property where the famous compound once stood. The 5-foot-high fence is to keep out the vandals who come by late at night or on Saturdays, when a 10 to 20 Davidians gather to observe the Sabbath.
The group usually opens its gate and allows visitors to view its 77-acre property during the day. Many have come over the last eight years to rally behind the sect members, whom they see as victims of an aggressive and irresponsible federal government.
A federal judge last year ruled that Koresh was solely responsible for the 1993 fire.
McVeigh himself has said he visited Mount Carmel after the deadly fire. But Doyle said he never heard of McVeigh until the bomber was arrested.
"It's kind of hard to say in some way what we could have done to stop him," said Doyle, 60.
Robert Darden, an assistant professor of English at Baylor University and co-author of the Davidian book Mad Man in Waco , said sect members were pacifists until David Koresh became their leader. He said they continue to be reactive people who do not promote revenge, but also do not stop others from rallying around them.
"I'm not real sure that they could have prevented (Oklahoma City)," he said. "I don't hold them culpable for this."
Doyle recalled one man who sneaked into the compound during the siege and offered to rally thousands of militiamen who would unleash an attack on federal agents. But Koresh discouraged that, Doyle said.
The man instead stayed in the compound for a few days, where Doyle said he studied the Bible and ate meals with the group. When he left, Koresh gave him new clothes and a pair of cowboy boots.
The April 19, 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City came on the two-year anniversary of the fire at Mount Carmel. About 200 people gathered that day as people do every April 19 for a memorial service where the compound once stood.
Ramsey Clark, a lawyer who has represented some Davidians' family members in lawsuits against the government, gave one of the final speeches at the 1995 service. When he stepped off the makeshift stage at the outdoor service, he was swarmed by reporters asking about a bombing that had just occurred in Oklahoma.
He heard only a little bit of conversation about the bombing at an afternoon lunch.
"I think the Branch Davidians were still very much into the ceremony they had and the remembrance of what had happened at Waco two years before," said Clark, who served as U.S. attorney general under Lyndon B. Johnson. "It wasn't known to be as disastrous as it was."
Davidian Sheila Martin, who lost four children in the blaze, said she regrets that one incident may have led to the other. But she also questions why the Davidian survivors and victims have not received the same sympathy and grief as their counterparts in Oklahoma City.
"We hear that so much has been given to the children in Oklahoma City," she said. "We've never heard of them wanting. They want for their families, of course, but we want for our families also."
Darden questioned her comparison.
"When they had a chance to get out and the people in Oklahoma City had no chance at all, I think that's apples and oranges," he said.
Ron Goins, who moved to Waco from Philadelphia three years ago, helped Doyle put up the fence Sunday. He often spends the night in a camper next to the Mount Carmel church that volunteers built and Davidians opened last year. Goins, who is Jewish, came to Waco in part because he believes the government was wrongly hostile to Koresh and his followers.
"I felt the same rage (as McVeigh), but I didn't feel the responsibility upon myself to take lives, especially since there were innocent people who died in Oklahoma City," said Goins, 46. He added that the McVeigh bombing shifted public attention away from scrutiny of the government and toward "mad bombers, lone gunmen and things like that."
Doyle said he doesn't know enough about the McVeigh case to determine whether the bomber should be put to death. He did not plan to watch news coverage of the morning execution.
But he does know that people will continue to connect the two events. And that, he said, only takes attention away from the memory of Mount Carmel.
"April 19 is not so significant to a lot of people now because of other things."
Former Waco special counsel John Danforth privately assured Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno that she did "exactly the right thing" when she ordered U.S. Army tanks to begin pumping tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, eight years ago, a source familiar with his comments told NewsMax.com Wednesday.
Paraphrasing a letter Danforth wrote to Reno earlier this year, the source said he told her:
"You shouldn't be haunted by Waco. David Koresh caused that. Given the particular circumstances you were in at that particular moment, you did exactly the right thing."
Shortly after the April 19, 1993, tank assault a blaze erupted, killing some 80 church members, including 25 children.
The former attorney general has turned Danforth's letter into a veritable campaign document, citing it twice in recent nationally televised interviews as she considers a run for Florida's Statehouse.
On May 20, Reno invoked Danforth's written comments in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, when he asked whether Waco would hurt her chances for elective office.
She paraphrased the former Waco special counsel's letter, saying he told her:
"I've heard you talk about the decision you made in Waco. I have had the chance as your special counsel to review that decision. I did not pass judgment on it in my report but I want you to know that I think you did exactly the right thing."
On Monday, during a debate on the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on CNN's "Larry King Live," King asked Reno about her previous admission to him that Waco was "a mistake."
Again, Reno invoked the Danforth letter:
"What I said, Larry, was that we would never know what the answer was. ... Senator John Danforth wrote me shortly after I came home, saying: 'You did exactly the right thing in Waco. You couldn't walk away from the deaths of agents. You couldn't stay there forever, and a delay of two weeks or two months wouldn't have made any difference, because David Koresh was out to create his own Armageddon.'"
The Danforth source said the retired senator's note was intended as a private act of compassion, meant to relieve any anxiety Reno might still have about the Waco debacle.
ACO, Tex. - Their ranks are small these days, outnumbered by the 80 crape myrtles planted at the Mount Carmel compound to commemorate each of the Branch Davidians who died here eight years ago.
Their arguments are fierce, for no fewer than three factions of Branch Davidians have laid legal claim to the 77-acre property outside the city, producing yet another bizarre standoff, with separate churches for two factions and a histrionic display by the third, which dismisses the entire 51-day siege by federal agents at the compound as a diversion.
"The standoff was a cover-up of over 30 years religious persecution of the original church including land ripoffs, judicial oppression and murder by poison," a sign just inside the entrance reads. It is the first of several displays to greet curious tourists who still thread the roads east of Waco to visit the site.
Yet the Branch Davidians all agree on one point: Timothy J. McVeigh, who cited his rage over what happened here as the prime reason he blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City two years to the day later, will be no martyr for their cause.
"I don't mourn him, and we would never support what happened in Oklahoma City," said Sheila Martin, 54 years old, in reaction to Mr. McVeigh's execution on Monday. "I wish Timothy McVeigh had come and talked to us. If he really had all that anger, I would have told him to redirect it in a different way. I would have asked him to come and help rebuild our church."
Mrs. Martin's husband and four of her seven children died in the fire that consumed the Branch Davidians' compound on April 19, 1993, shortly after federal agents in tanks rammed the building in an effort to drive the people out.
Clive Doyle, 60, a former government currency printer in Australia who escaped the flames but lost his daughter, Shari, 18, in the fire, also said he saw no honor in Mr. McVeigh's action.
"Retaliation is not what we're about," Mr. Doyle said. "And Tim McVeigh is not any sort of champion from our point of view."
The ruins of the compound's foundation peek out in the tall grass, where children of some Davidians play among the artifacts left behind, including two burned-out buses and a motorcycle that belonged to David Koresh, the group's leader.
A rival faction to the one Mr. Doyle and Mrs. Martin follow has erected a headstone at the compound, memorializing "all the men, women and children who were victimized and brutally slaughtered" in the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing.
Several antigovernment extremist groups carried accounts of Mr. McVeigh's execution on their Web sites, though with little characterization of the man; one, posted by Posse Comitatus, a paramilitary group, issued a call for Monday to be commemorated as Timothy James McVeigh Day.
"The day that this soldier is called home will henceforth be remembered," the site said, "and his efforts will not be forgotten." It added: "The blood of our fallen martyrs shall be avenged!"
But for the Branch Davidians, any prospect of violence, whether in response to what happened here or to Mr. McVeigh's execution, would be abhorrent.
The siege at Mount Carmel began on Feb. 28, 1993, after several dozen federal agents tried to arrest Mr. Koresh on weapons charges, and a gun battle left four agents and six Branch Davidians dead.
Government officials said the Branch Davidians deliberately set fire to the compound and that many inside died of gunshot wounds they inflicted on each other or themselves as the flames spread; the Branch Davidians say tear gas from the tanks ignited the fire. The damage was so severe that neither side has been able to prove what happened.
Last fall, a federal judge in Waco ruled that the government owes nothing to the surviving Branch Davidians or to the families of sect members who died in the fire. About 100 plaintiffs had filed a wrongful- death suit.
In a separate trial, held in state court, the three factions have battled over ownership of the compound, but the matter remains unresolved.
No one disputes that the Branch Davidians still own the property, but no one agrees just who the rightful Branch Davidians are. The sect's roots date back to the 1930's, when disgruntled members of the Seventh- day Adventist Church broke to form their own church.
This year on April 19, the eighth anniversary of the fire, the Branch Davidians held their annual memorial and the bell at the new chapel pealed for those who died in the fire. Mr. Doyle, who has burn marks on his arms from the inferno, read the names, breaking into tears when he recited his daughter's.
Most remaining members expressed a bedrock faith that Mr. Koresh and the others would return to earth someday.
"He's going to come back," Catherine Matteson, who is 85, said of Mr. Koresh. "He'll be back with the Seven Seals, and the Seven Seals will tell you everything."
After losing four children in the fire and the fifth afterward to meningitis, Mrs. Martin has two left, Danny, 14 and Kimmy, 12. They come to services at the compound on Saturday, the Davidians' sabbath, but their beliefs aren't particularly fervent, she said.
"They're typical teenagers," she said. "They'll say, `Is it 4 o'clock yet, Ma? O.K., Ma, it's time to go home and get something to eat.' "
"I'm still waiting for them to come back," she added, referring to her husband, Wayne, and to their children who died in the fire. "I'm still waiting. It feels a little closer. But it's hard.
"Some days I thank God that there's a floor to wash, dishes to do, a lawn to mow, anything to keep busy," she said. "Because the waiting is hard."
Associates of former federal prosecutor Bill Johnston said Thursday they are relieved he was not sentenced to prison for withholding information in connection with the Branch Davidian siege near Waco.
Mr. Johnston, once hailed as a rising star of federal law enforcement, was sentenced by a St. Louis judge to two years' probation and community service.
Mr. Johnston "made a bad judgment of withholding a document over fear it would be stonewalled," Mr. Francis said. "He was in a political infight, thinking his agency was not doing right."
He admitted in July to withholding one page of pretrial notes about the government's use of pyrotechnic tear gas on April 19, 1993, the day the Branch Davidian compound burned down. Cult leader David Koresh and about 80 followers died.
Michael Caddell, lead attorney for Branch Davidians who unsuccessfully sued the government last year, said Mr. Johnston's reputation has been unfairly tainted.
"I'm still offended by the sentence," he said. "The one guy that seemed to be dealing with us on a straightforward, honest level was prosecuted because he was critical of the Justice Department."
Mr. Caddell said former Sen. John Danforth, who led the independent Waco review, should be held to the same level of scrutiny.
The FBI admitted last week that the simulation that concluded that government agents did not fire their guns during the Waco siege did not test the type of assault rifle the FBI had at the scene.
Mr. Danforth has said he did not know what weapons were tested and that his conclusions would not have changed.
'A bad choice'
Michael McNulty, who produced several documentaries about the government's role in Waco, said he also believes Mr. Johnston was unfairly targeted. "It was payback by the federal family to Bill Johnston for being the whistleblower.
"Bill Johnston did something really stupid, but I don't think he did a criminal act," Mr. McNulty said. "He was reacting out of fear. For the first time, he was put in the defendant's seat, and he made a bad choice."
Early career start
Mr. Johnston, appointed a federal prosecutor in 1987 at age 28, is the son of career Dallas County prosecutor Wilson Johnston, who helped try Jack Ruby for shooting accused Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. He hung around the courthouse as a boy, watching trials and getting an early start on the career he pursued upon graduating from Baylor Law School in 1982. He became a McLennan County prosecutor in Waco and later worked as police adviser and in private practice. When a local branch of the San Antonio-based U.S. Attorney's Office opened in Waco, Mr. Johnston was tapped for the job.
In the best-known case of his career, he helped draft the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms search warrant that became the basis of the Feb. 28, 1993, Branch Davidian raid and ensuing 51-day siege.
Afterward, Mr. Johnston assisted in the 1994 criminal trial that resulted in manslaughter and weapons convictions of nine Branch Davidians.
It was uncertain Thursday whether Mr. Johnston would continue practicing law. After an attorney is convicted of an "intentional" crime, the Texas Bar Association generally initiates a disciplinary review, which can lead to license revocation.
ST. LOUIS - Former federal prosecutor Bill Johnston today was sentenced to probation for two years for withholding information in connection with the Branch Davidian siege near Waco, Texas.
U.S. District Judge Charles Shaw also ordered Johnston to perform 200 hours of community service.
"Maybe you need to talk to some high school students," Shaw said. "Maybe you can help somebody not to make a similar mistake."
Johnston, standing before the judge, said: "Whatever my reason, it was wrong. It will never be right to withhold something in fear or panic or whatever reason because that is against the law. This is not what I stood for or what I tried to be, and that is wrong."
Whether Johnston would get probation or jail time remained up in the air prior to Thursday's hearing, despite an earlier agreement reached with prosecutors after Johnston pleaded guilty in February.
Federal prosecutor Jim Martin, assigned to the special counsel's office, said Johnston violated his plea agreement when he made statements to the publication Texas Lawyer after his guilty plea.
In the Feb. 19 issue of Texas Lawyer, Johnston was quoted as saying, "I didn't plead guilty to anything they indicted me for. They charged me with obstruction of justice and five counts of false statements. I did not plead guilty to that and was not guilty of that."
At the hearing, the judge allowed Martin to withdraw his recommendation of probation.
"Bill Johnston's behavior is not atypical of other people that claim to be whistleblowers, often blowing the whistle to cover their own tracks," Martin told reporters afterward.
The case was heard here because special prosecutor John Danforth, assigned by President Clinton to look into possible wrongdoing in the 1993 government siege of the Waco compound, conducted his investigation from his office in downtown St. Louis.
Johnston was convicted of withholding information about the use of pyrotechnic tear gas when the compound burned. Davidian leader David Koresh and some 80 followers died inside.
Johnston set in motion renewed scrutiny of government missteps in the siege by warning then-attorney general Janet Reno in 1999 that she and the public were being misled about the FBI's handling of it.
Johnston admitted withholding one page of pretrial notes related to the 1994 prosecution of several surviving Branch Davidians. He pleaded guilty to one charge of "misprision of a felony," a crime similar to obstruction of justice that carries a lesser penalty. Prosecutors agreed to drop two counts of obstruction of justice and three counts of lying to investigators and a federal grand jury.
The notes included information about the FBI's use of pyrotechnic gas on April 19, 1993, the final day of the 51-day standoff.
Johnston was indicted by a grand jury in St. Louis on Nov. 8, just before Danforth released his final report absolving the government of wrongdoing in the siege.
An independent imagery expert has confirmed the findings contained in a video documentary that government agents fired weapons into the Branch Davidian complex as it burned in Waco, Texas, April 19, 1993.
Also, he says his analysis of the film has turned up even more personnel and gunfire than previously discovered by the producer of a series of Waco documentaries.
Michael A. Weatherford, a Colorado-based analyst and former Air Force master sergeant with extensive imagery intelligence experience, found that "the conclusions of the producers" of "The F.L.I.R. Project," a documentary charging that flashes of light contained in FBI infrared footage shot during the raid were gunfire from federal agents, "appear to be well-justified by both their methodology and their results. "
The documentary is the third in a series of Waco-related films co-produced by Mike McNulty, who has said his latest project effectively debunks government denials that its agents fired their weapons during the final stages of the Mount Carmel raid.
Last year, former Missouri Republican Sen. John Danforth released an extensive report supporting the government's claim. Danforth, who was appointed as special counsel by former Clinton administration Attorney General Janet Reno to examine all Waco-related evidence one final time, has said his investigation "conclusively" proved that FBI agents did not fire on Branch Davidians fleeing their burning complex.
Tom Schweich, a lawyer who was Danforth's chief of staff during the review, told WND in an exclusive interview May 14 that his boss' investigation "left no doubt" that the FBI did not fire on church members.
"The idea that that is gunfire [on the infrared video] is preposterous. Preposterous," he said, noting that during the final investigation, Danforth's team consulted their own imagery experts to refute the claims of gunfire.
But Weatherford, who spent 21 of his 26 years in the Air Force analyzing imagery for some of the military's most prestigious intelligence units, said in a report issued after studying the F.L.I.R. video: "The imagery provided and the methodology of 'The F.L.I.R. Project' indicate that the Danforth report [is] excessively flawed in its methodology, and therefore, questionable in its conclusions."
In his analysis, Weatherford admitted that since McNulty's film was "a commercial project and not raw imagery," it would be "impossible to make a complete and thorough evaluation" of the entire video.
"Without access to all the data available and a considerable amount of time for evaluation, a complete assessment of the results is not possible," he wrote. "Materials such as the raw imagery taken by the FBI, a detailed map of the compound, copies of the color 35mm film shot by the FBI and other imagery from various sources would be needed to evaluate completely what took place at that time."
However, Weatherford who said he was rated one of the Air Force's top 10 imagery analysts on three separate occasions during his career also found that "there is significantly more activity on the imagery than that documented by" McNulty and his production crew.
For example, the career Air Force imagery analyst found "at least three to four times the number of people identified by the producers being visible on the imagery."
"Most of these people are not visible on the imagery when it is run at a 1:1 speed," Weatherford said, "but become discernable when the imagery is evaluated on a frame-by-frame basis. The major characteristic of these people is that they are virtually invisible on the infrared imagery, but their presence can be detected by their blocking out the rough background they are crossing."
In his evaluation, Weatherford said the figures appeared to be "soft fuzzy blotches" that "often obscure the rough, uneven background they are displayed against."
That finding was important, Weatherford said, because he found that more "muzzle flashes" were "visible from more than a dozen persons not identified by the producers" of "The F.L.I.R. Project," "including three to four gunmen advancing on the compound with weapons firing while the fire is blazing. "
"These, too, are most discernable when the film is viewed in a frame-by-frame evaluation," he continued. "The duration of the muzzle blasts are fewer and appear to be either single shots or short-duration (2-5 round) bursts."
In his final report, released Nov. 8, 2000, Danforth said his team of 74 personnel concluded that flashes, or "glint," seen in some frames taken by an infrared camera aboard an FBI-sponsored aircraft the day of the Waco raid were reflections of sunlight off glass and other debris.
In a separate interview last month, McNulty told WND that the "glint" appearing during his video and the FBI's infrared film could not have been flashes of sunlight because the camera used by the agency was set to filter out such environmental anomalies.
Also, he said, timed measurements of the duration and speed of the so-called glint were much slower than, and more indicative of, the cyclic rate of fire for an automatic weapon.
Finally, McNulty said, the Danforth investigation failed to test-fire the correct type of rifle carried by FBI agents the day of the Waco raid.
McNulty has said photographic evidence obtained by the Texas Department of Public Safety during the raid shows FBI agents carrying shortened carbine variants of the standard military M-16 rifle.
The carbines, which, McNulty says, were either CAR-15s or then-experimental M-4s, are several inches shorter than standard 20-inch barrel M-16s. Hence, he said, the characteristics of the muzzle flash would be different as well. He noted that the longer a rifle's barrel, the less muzzle flash it would normally produce.
Had actual carbines been tested by the Danforth team, he said, rather than standard M-16 rifles, the special counsel's expert, Vector Data Systems, may have been able to reproduce the kind of flashes seen on the FBI's infrared video.
The Danforth team conducted the test-firings at Fort Hood, Texas, March 19, 2000.
Weatherford's analysis comes on the heels of other criticism of the Danforth investigation's conclusions regarding possible gunfire by federal agents.
Robert Stewart, a U.S. Postal Service inspector who helped coordinate last year's Fort Hood weapons tests, also said last week that Danforth's team failed to test the proper weapon.
He noted that the FBI does not use standard M-16s, and members of its Hostage Rescue Team who were at Waco carried a version with just a 14-inch barrel information WND reported last month.
Lawyers for the Branch Davidians who survived the fiery end of the siege in April 1993 are now questioning whether the test really proved that FBI agents never fired their guns at the Davidian compound, Reuters reported June 1.
"I think it completely undermines the test results," Mike Caddell, an attorney for surviving Davidians, told the newswire service.
Caddell also said he plans to use the test as evidence if a lawsuit against the federal government his clients are involved in is revived on appeal.
Danforth, like his chief of staff, Tom Schweich, said he personally did not know which type of weapons were actually tested.
"But all of this was part of the agreement, and all of it was pronounced fair at the end of the test," Danforth told Reuters.
Schweich told WND exactly that last month.
"When we got ready to write the final report, we pulled all 74 people involved in the investigation into a room and went through the evidence with them," Schweich said. "We asked them, 'Do any of you 74 people have any doubt as to whether the FBI fired or didn't fire at those people in that complex?' And every single one said, 'There is no doubt that the FBI did not fire at Davidians.'"
When asked if Danforth's office did or did not examine Texas Department of Public Safety photos allegedly showing FBI agents carrying carbines instead of full-size M-16s, Schweich said he couldn't address the specifics of the weapons themselves.
"We had dozens of people working on this, and I can't answer a question that is that specific," he said. "What I can answer is that we had everybody from both sides making inputs as to what should be fired and what shouldn't be fired."
Weatherford's final conclusions were unflattering.
He said he believes "the FBI used excessive force, including significant unreported activity, to brutally suppress the Branch Davidians and destroy their compound."
"Such activity is inconsistent with a republican form of government in response to a free people," Weatherford said.
WASHINGTON -- The simulation that concluded government agents did not fire their guns during the Waco siege did not test the type of assault rifle the FBI had at the scene, according to an official who helped run the test.
The simulation last year used a standard M-16 military rifle with a 20-inch barrel, said Robert Stewart, a U.S. Postal Service inspector who helped coordinate the simulation.
The FBI does not use standard M-16s, and members of its Hostage Rescue Team who were at Waco, Texas, in 1993 carried a version with just a 14-inch barrel, an FBI spokeswoman said.
Firearms experts say the longer gun has less muzzle flash.
Lawyers for the Branch Davidians who survived the fiery end of the siege in April 1993 are now questioning whether the test really proved that FBI agents never fired their guns at the Davidian compound.
"I think it completely undermines the test results," attorney Michael Caddell said. He said he plans to use the test as evidence if the lawsuit his clients filed against the government is restored on appeal.
Former Sen. John Danforth, who led the independent Waco review, said he did not know specifics about the test gun but it would not change his conclusion that the FBI did not fire upon the Davidians at the end of the siege. Eighty Davidians died.
"I don't know what weapons were tested myself," Danforth said yesterday. "But all of this was part of the agreement, and all of it was pronounced fair at the end of the test."
An FBI official said the agency provided one of the shorter rifles to Danforth's office and that the ground rules for the test called for the smaller rifle to be used.
Danforth said yesterday he thought he received "something less than total cooperation" from the FBI, although he said that did not change his findings that absolved the FBI of blame for the Davidians' deaths.
"Do I think there's anything out there hidden in some drawer that would affect the outcome? I don't think there's any chance of that," Danforth said.
DALLAS -- A former federal prosecutor who pleaded guilty to withholding information about the Branch Davidian siege could face jail time, despite the government's earlier pledge to recommend probation.
The government withdrew the pledge, saying Bill Johnston violated his plea agreement by making statements to a legal journal after his February guilty plea.
Sentencing is set for Thursday in St. Louis.
In the Feb. 19 issue of Texas Lawyer, Johnston was quoted as saying, "They charged me with obstruction of justice and five counts of false statements. I did not plead guilty to that and was not guilty of that."
Legal experts said that without the probation recommendation and prosecutors' assurance that he accepted responsibility for wrongdoing, a federal judge could sentence Johnston to six months in federal prison.
The 1993 siege ended with burning of the compound near Waco and the deaths of leader David Koresh and some 80 followers.
Johnston set in motion renewed scrutiny of government missteps in 1999, warning then-attorney general Janet Reno that she and the public were being misled about the FBI's handling of the tragedy. Johnston himself admitted withholding information about the use of pyrotechnic tear gas.
After his indictment, Johnston said he withheld the notes out of fear hostile colleagues might try to use them to discredit him and because Waco special prosecutor John Danforth's investigators "treated me with the same loathing and hostility that I had encountered from the Justice Department."
Investigators eventually concluded the gas did not cause the fire, and Danforth's report absolved the government of wrongdoing.
But just Thursday, Danforth told The Washington Post that the FBI was so uncooperative that he threatened Director Louis Freeh with a search warrant to gain access to relevant documents.
WASHINGTON - Former Sen. John Danforth said the FBI was so uncooperative in his Waco investigation that he threatened FBI Director Louis Freeh with a search warrant to gain access to relevant documents, Danforth told The Washington Post.
As special counsel, the Missouri Republican conducted a 14-month investigation into the deaths of about 80 Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, in 1993.
His inquiry was aimed at determining whether the FBI started a fire that led to the deaths of those inside the religious sect's compound and whether FBI agents opened fire. Danforth's investigation concluded that the FBI did neither.
The process of gaining information from the FBI was harrowing for him, Danforth said. He told the Post that the agency had a ``spirit of resistance'' to outside authority.
While Danforth said it is possible the FBI did not turn over all of its documents on the subject, he doubts that documents were withheld that had any bearing on his investigation.
``It was like pulling teeth to get all this paper from the FBI,'' Danforth said.
``Can I say to you that there isn't some box of paper somewhere that we never found? I can't say that to you,'' he said. ``Do I think there is any chance that it would be paper that would have any effect on our findings? I think there is no chance that it would have any effect on our findings because the evidence was so overwhelming.''
Danforth was appointed special counsel by then-Attorney General Janet Reno after officials disclosed that incendiary tear gas canisters were launched inside the Davididan compound - something that had been denied for years by the FBI and the Justice Department.
His comments come as the FBI tries to explain why it did not turn over 4,000 pages of documents to defense attorneys for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh has asked for a stay of his execution.
The FBI was so uncooperative in the Waco investigation that special counsel John C. Danforth threatened FBI Director Louis J. Freeh with a search warrant to gain access to relevant documents, Danforth said yesterday in an interview with The Washington Post.
Danforth, a former U.S. senator from Missouri who conducted a 14-month investigation into the 1993 deaths of 75 Branch Davidians in Waco, Tex., said that he could not be sure that he received all the records from the FBI because of the agency's poor record keeping and its "spirit of resistance" to outside scrutiny.
But Danforth also said that additional records would not change his conclusion that federal agents did not fire shots at members of the heavily armed religious cult or start the deadly blaze that engulfed their compound.
"It was like pulling teeth to get all this paper from the FBI," Danforth said during an interview in the Washington offices of Bryan Cave LLP, the St. Louis-based law firm in which he is a partner and which assisted in the investigation.
"Can I say to you that there isn't some box of paper somewhere that we never found? I can't say that to you," he said later. "Do I think there is any chance that it would be paper that would have any effect on our findings? I think there is no chance that it would have any effect on our findings because the evidence was so overwhelming."
An FBI official said that many of the problems encountered by Danforth were due to strained relations with one key lawyer in the FBI's general counsel office, and that the problem was fixed once Freeh intervened. The bureau also had trouble locating and retrieving many documents because of outmoded filing and computer systems, the official said.
"Freeh's intent was always to have full cooperation with Danforth," the official said. "He said that on multiple occasions."
Danforth's comments came on the same day that lawyers for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh asked for a stay in McVeigh's execution because the FBI failed to turn over 4,000 pages of records in that case.
Danforth was appointed special counsel in the Waco probe by Attorney General Janet Reno in 1999 after officials disclosed that potentially incendiary tear gas canisters were fired on the Davidian compound on the final day of the standoff -- contrary to years of denials from the Justice Department and the FBI. Danforth's investigation concluded that the canisters did not start any of the fires that consumed the compound, landing 75 feet from the main building hours before the fires started.
Danforth, an ordained Episcopal minister who served in the Senate for 18 years, said his St. Louis-based investigation "had a lot of difficulty" getting documents from the FBI. The problem came to a head in late 1999 when his office threatened to get a search warrant from a federal judge, he said.
Danforth said that he agreed in a phone conversation with Freeh not to seek a warrant if 14 postal inspectors would be allowed to search bureau files themselves. The search netted hundreds of pages of documents that had not been turned over, investigators said.
Freeh sent a clear message that FBI employees should cooperate with the Waco probe, Danforth said, "but I think there was a spirit of resistance elsewhere in the FBI." Earlier in 1999, Reno had sent U.S. marshals into FBI headquarters to seize other Waco-related documents.
Danforth said his experience in the Waco investigation makes him doubt the pledges of Freeh and Attorney General John D. Ashcroft that every FBI document in the McVeigh case has been located. "I bet that Timothy McVeigh at some point in time, I don't when, will be executed, and after the execution, there will be some box found somewhere," he said.
Danforth, who had scheduled yesterday's interview with The Post before the new McVeigh documents came to light, said there is no evidence whatsoever of "dark acts" by federal agents in the 51-day standoff with the Branch Davidians, who killed four officers and wounded 20 others. He said that "conspiracy theorists" will always find fault with the investigation, but that most Americans realize the government did not cause the Davidians' deaths.
Danforth, a Republican, also staunchly defended Reno in a controversy that dogged her throughout her tenure. Danforth said he penned a note to Reno earlier this year commending her handling of the Waco situation.
"She did a very conscientious job of trying to minimize the bad things that could have happened," Danforth said. "She did the right thing."
Waco, FBI and the Branch Davidians: Updates
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