by Dick J. Reavis ("The San Antonio Express-News", February 19, 2000)
On a fall afternoon in 1993, Derek Lovelock, a 38-year-old Brit, suddenly found himself standing on the sidewalks of Waco, three hours before the flight that would take him home. He was wearing a secondhand T-shirt, jeans whose origin were a mystery to him °X and rubbery jail sandals. His own clothing had been taken, presumably as evidence, when he was jailed seven months earlier.
Lovelock had never been charged with a crime. Federal authorities had held him, without bond, as a material witness to the 1993 gunfight and fire at David Koresh's Mount Carmel compound.
The British Consulate in Houston intervened to obtain Lovelock's release from jail, because his father had passed away in England.
Once back in Manchester, he was not recalled, either by prosecutors in the 1994 San Antonio trial of 11 other survivors, nor in 1995, when Congress investigated the Waco affair.
Lovelock was back in the United States last week for a Houston interview with attorneys for special counsel John Danforth, who is investigating the Waco events for the Justice Department. Lovelock also returned to Texas to be deposed in a wrongful death suit, slated for trial in May, that other survivors are bringing against the federal government.
In his sworn statements and in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News, the British witness gave an account of his time at Mount Carmel that challenges several points of the official version of the Waco events °X and also debunks some claims that conspiracists and critics have raised.
Like most survivors of the tragedy, whenever the chance presents itself, Lovelock also sought to reaffirm his faith in the religious message that first brought him to Texas.
Shots from above
During the late 1980s, Lovelock, a member of a Seventh-day Adventist Church, ran across a British publication that warned about Koresh, who had come to England to recruit Adventists for his flock. Lovelock was intrigued, despite the church's warning.
In 1990, he went to Mount Carmel, where, he said, "From the Scriptures, David showed me things that no man had shown me." Some two years later, he took up residence at Mount Carmel again, even though there were aspects of its life that displeased him °X first among them, guns. When other males volunteered for lessons in weaponry, he stayed away. "I just don't like guns," he said.
He insists that he didn't take up a weapon, as others did, on the morning of Feb. 28, 1993, when some 75 agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the property. Lovelock says he was in the building's "canteen," or cafeteria area, when "I heard the helicopters. They got louder and louder, almost as if they were landing on the roof." Pleadings in the wrongful death suit allege federal agents in the aircraft fired down upon Mount Carmel. Lovelock did not see bullets strike where he was, nor did any shots come through the walls of the bedroom in which he took cover.
"I ran to the room and threw myself on the floor," he said, not looking up until the shooting stopped.
Four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians died in the Feb. 28 gun battle. More than 70 Branch Davidians, including some 21 children, died during the inferno that ended the siege April 19.
ATF agents who testified in the 1994 San Antonio criminal trial denied that they fired at unseen targets, and the U.S. House of Representatives, during 1995 queries into the Waco events, looked into charges that shots were fired from the helicopters.
While the House found no evidence to substantiate allegations about helicopter gunfire, its report noted that "there is insufficient evidence to determine with certainty as to who fired the shots" that witnesses say left holes in the roof of the Davidian complex.
Lovelock says what he saw in the aftermath of the gun battle convinced him that the helicopters fired at the building and that ATF raiders fired through its doors.
He drew these conclusions partly from viewing the body of Winston Blake, a fellow Brit who had been his roommate. Blake was shot dead, his autopsy and an ATF report say, by a bullet fired at close range.
Lovelock contests that finding. He believes Blake was felled by shots fired from the helicopters toward vinyl water storage tanks that stood in front of a window in the room.
"I saw the bullet holes in the tanks," Lovelock said. "There were three of them, in a straight line. There was water coming into the room." The Treasury Department's 1993 report on the Waco incident lists Perry Jones, 64, as a second murder or suicide victim. The official view is supported by a coroner's report, noting only one wound in Jones' body °X in the roof of his mouth.
Davidians who witnessed the raid admit that one of their number, now dead, killed Jones, but they insist that his killing was an act of mercy. Jones, they say, had been wounded by ATF fire as he stood at Mount Carmel's front door in the early minutes of the raid. He begged to be put out of his misery, they have testified.
Lovelock claims he saw Jones before his death, "lying on his bed, blood on his abdomen. He had been shot by the ATF." When the Feb. 28 raid was over, the Manchester pilgrim did not seriously consider coming out, he said, because "my fear of God was greater than my fear of man. God is in control of my destiny, not man, and I could have lost my soul eternally." He presumed Koresh would eventually arrange an exit with the FBI, which took over the siege shortly after Mount Carmel's residents repelled the ATF.
"I didn't think it would end up like it did," he said, "and I didn't think that I would be put in jail, because I hadn't done anything wrong." Conspiracy theory Lovelock had been free only days when he became the object of hearsay in the conspiracist media, which circulated reports that on April 19, federal agents had tried to kill Lovelock and another Davidian as they sought to flee from the burning building.
The story apparently came from Lovelock's fellow survivor and former cellmate, David Thibodeau. In his memoir, "A Place Called Waco," published in the fall, Thibodeau reports that "Derek said that he was in the back with Jimmy Riddle and they both fled into the cafeteria. Just as the fire was starting they'd tried to run out of the cafeteria but were driven back by gunfire." This account gained momentum in 1997, when a movie, "Waco: The Rules of Engagement," brought to public eyes purported evidence - which is still pending today - that federal agents may have fired upon Mount Carmel's back side, which was out of the view of the media.
But by the time his memoir was published, even Thibodeau had begun to doubt its veracity, writing that the facts Lovelock alleged were "inconclusive." In Houston last week, Lovelock denied he tried to run out of Mount Carmel with Riddle, that he tried to escape on the "black" side of Mount Carmel, that he had any knowledge of federal gunfire on April 19, and that he had ever told anybody as much.
"I don't know where that story came from," he said.
Lovelock claims he was again in the building's canteen on the morning of April 19 when tanks began tear gassing the building.
FBI agents were firing nonpyrotechnic ferret rounds into the structure. Lovelock says he saw a half-dozen of these projectiles penetrate the cafeteria's windows and doors, and that out of curiosity, he reached for one of them. "I touched it, but I couldn't pick it up, because it was hot," he said.
His observation does not square with official accounts; ferret rounds are not pyrotechnic, or heat-generating devices. Instead, it could lend credence to reports that some pyrotechnic rounds were fired into the building °X another of the charges that will be raised in the civil trial.
The FBI last fall reversed its earlier statements and admitted that agents fired two pyrotechnic devices at Mount Carmel on April 19. But it maintains that the rounds were not fired at the compound's residence hall.
By late morning April 19, Lovelock said, "the building was collapsing around us, and we had to find somewhere to go." Because the hallway to a buried school bus was blocked by debris, he says, he and a group of others instead went into the compound's chapel, which adjoined its gymnasium.
Not long afterward, armored vehicles began penetrating the building's chapel and gymnasium. A workshop area lay between them. Soon after the penetrations began, he said, "I hear somebody shout, 'Fire!' We see smoke. It gets denser and denser. Then a ball of fire comes from the gymnasium right into the workshop area." Defense lawyers made the same claim in the 1994 San Antonio trial, arguing that the fire began in the gymnasium °X where no Davidians were present. The account contradicts the official version by the Justice Department, which maintained in its 1993 report that Davidians themselves ignited the fire "at 12:07:41 Central Time on the second floor, front section of the building." As smoke enveloped the chapel, Lovelock said, "I was thinking, if I go out, I'm going to get shot by the FBI. If I stay in, I'm going to burn to death." Still, for a few seconds, he hesitated to abandon what he believed was holy ground; his right forearm bears the scar of a resulting scald. Through an opening that had been created by an armored vehicle, he could see that the way was clear. "I was the first one out," he said.
A prophetic finale
The seven years since have not been kind ones, the survivor says. A cook before he joined Koresh, Lovelock has not resumed life in the workaday world. He is undergoing counseling and treatment for depression, and flashbacks beset him, he says.
"Whenever I see something on TV, like a policeman dressed like the ATF, it all comes back to me," he said.
Even on better days, he says, he is not up to par. "I've lost my get-up-and-go, my concentration and my confidence," he said. Today, Lovelock lives by public assistance, on what Englishmen call "the dole."
If there is light in his life, it antedates the events of 1993. Lovelock, like others who survived the Waco ordeal, is steadfast in his faith that Koresh was a prophet for our time.
One of the Waco Messiah's scriptural interpretations, much on Lovelock's mind during the 51-day siege, remains fresh in his mind today.
Koresh told his flock that what lay ahead for Mount Carmel was foretold in the Bible's Book of Nahum, a book that many scholars think is historical, not predictive, describing events in the seventh century B.C.
The text the Davidian preacher cited says "The chariots shall rage in the streets ... they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings." Koresh told his followers that those "chariots" would be military tanks.
"Even the wicked fulfill prophecy," Lovelock said. "As David said to the FBI, 'You guys made Nahum come true.'"
by Damian Whitworth ("The Times", London, February 19, 2000)
A BRITISH company is to stage a re-enactment of the final day of the Waco siege, with Royal Navy helicopter pilots being given the key role in unravelling the mysteries of how up to 80 people died.
Former Senator John Danforth, the independent prosecutor investigating the 1993 stand-off at the Branch Davidian compound in Texas, has decided that restaging the climactic day is crucial to understanding whether FBI agents fired on cult members.
Vector Data Systems, a Peterborough-based company that often works with the Ministry of Defence and specialises in infra-red imaging, will organise the re-enactment, which is expected to take place next month near Fort Hood, Texas.
As tanks roll in, grenades explode and men representing FBI agents fire submachine guns and pistols, Royal Navy pilots will fly Lynx helicopters above the scene and record it with infrared cameras.
The aim is to try to determine whether flashes seen on surveillance videotape taken on the last day of the siege were simply reflections or gunfire from FBI weapons.
Lawyers representing families of some of the dead cult members believe that David Koresh and his followers did not turn their guns on themselves in the conflagration at the end of the 52-day siege, but that FBI officers began shooting into the compound. The bureau denies the charge.
An investigation was launched last year after it emerged that the FBI had used potentially incendiary explosive devices in the siege. It is estimated that the project will cost around £500,000 and it is understood that British input was sought in order to ensure impartiality in the exercise.
by William H. Freivogel bnd Terry Ganey ("The St. Louis Post-Dispatch", February 19, 2000)
Special counsel John C. Danforth has asked a federal judge to keep the public and the press out of next month's test to determine whether government agents fired at the Branch Davidians during the 1993 Waco siege.
Danforth told U.S. District Walter S. Smith in Texas that "piecemeal" disclosure of his investigation "would be a profound disservice to the cause of justice" and discredit his investigation in the same way that leaks discredited the investigations of other special prosecutors.
Smith is presiding over the Branch Davidians' wrongful death suit against the government. The judge ordered the re-enactment of the conditions of the Waco siege at Danforth's request. As a result, the test has the unusual status of being both part of Danforth's investigation and the court proceeding.
Danforth signed a memo to Judge Smith in response to motions by news organizations seeking to open the test. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the San Antonio Express-News have joined The Associated Press and the Dallas Morning News in seeking access. They claim that closing the test impairs their First Amendment right to gather news and undermines the test's credibility with the public.
The test is scheduled for next month at Fort Hood, Texas. Airborne infrared cameras will record images from the ground in an attempt to determine whether the flashes recorded on a videotape made April 19, 1993, of the FBI assault are from gunfire. The Branch Davidians claim the flashes are proof of government gunfire, but the government insists no agent fired. About 80 people died at Waco.
Danforth told Judge Smith that he had vowed from the day he was appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno not to provide an "inning by inning" report. Piecemeal disclosure is "misleading, incomplete, and creates a feeding frenzy of speculation and rumor" that can damage the investigation and erode public confidence, wrote Danforth.
The "recent history of the Independent Counsel law" demonstrates the problems of "engaging in running banter with the media," said Danforth.
Danforth argued that the press should not have a First Amendment right to attend the test because it is "part of an ongoing investigation and it is part of the pretrial discovery in a civil case." Danforth said that the press was not permitted to attend Ronald Reagan's deposition in the case involving John M. Poindexter during the Iran-Contra scandal or the deposition of President Bill Clinton during the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. Danforth likened the planned test to autopsies, DNA tests, lie detector tests and other pretrial scientific procedures closed to the press.
Danforth said the public's interest in the test is "amply protected" by his office and by experts and lawyers for both sides of the case.
Last Monday, Smith said the test would be closed because of national security and safety concerns. Danforth did not mention either concern.
(Associated Press, February 18, 2000)
WACO, Texas (AP) - An attorney for Branch Davidians suing the government asked the Department of Defense on Friday to declassify 5,000 pages of documents that he says could help show whether soldiers fired at the burning compound.
``Public interest demands the public be informed of the military activities undertaken against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil,'' Jim Brannon wrote Defense Secretary William Cohen.
Brannon said he will ask a federal judge to grant access to the documents if Cohen declines his request. The Defense Department did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
The plaintiffs, whose wrongful-death lawsuit goes to trial in May, contend that infrared surveillance footage taken by the FBI proves that someone fired on the Davidians' compound as it burned on April 19, 1993.
About 80 Branch Davidians died, some from gunshots and others from fire. The government long has maintained that the Davidians died by their own hands.
Last month, the Defense Department, which acknowledges members of its elite Delta Force were on the scene during the siege in an observational role, denied gunfire by personnel in their agencies - ``based on currently available information.''
In another development Friday, Special Counsel John Danforth filed a motion in federal court opposing media access to a re-enactment next month at Fort Hood. The re-enactment is aimed at determining if an infrared camera could have detected gunfire.
The Dallas Morning News and The Associated Press have filed a motion, asserting that the public's interest trumps any secrecy claims that the government could assert.
But Danforth told U.S. District Judge Walter Smith that ``the quickest way to discredit an investigation is to provide the media with selective information during its course.''
Danforth, a former U.S. senator from Missouri, was appointed in September by Attorney General Janet Reno to resolve unanswered questions about the final hours of the siege.
by Mark England ("Waco Tribune-Herald", February 18, 2000)
Showing that infrared video can detect weapons fire won't constitute a smoking gun proving that government agents shot at the Branch Davidians on April 19, 1993, said U.S. Attorney Michael Bradford of Beaumont.
If shots were fired, where are the shooters?
That's the question asked Friday by Bradford, who attended the St. Louis meeting where protocol was adopted for a test to determine whether an infrared video taken on the final day at Mount Carmel picked up evidence of FBI agents firing at the Davidians. Plaintiffs in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by surviving Davidians argue that gunfire prevented many in the group from fleeing Mount Carmel after it erupted in flames. Only nine Davidians survived.
The Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) video from Mount Carmel shows repeated flashes, but no people are visible.
"If there's a flash in the testing, you can't just conclude that means there was gunfire on April 19th," Bradford said. "To me, that would mean the opposite. It would indicate it's not a gun flash because you can't see a person there. There's more to be analyzed than just the flashes."
Plaintiffs have argued there are several reasons why people aren't visible on the FLIR video taken at Mount Carmel. Since a FLIR camera creates video images by registering temperature differences between objects, Houston attorney Mike Caddell contends that a person lying on the ground would gradually disappear from a FLIR video as his body temperature adjusted to the environment. "No one has suggested the FBI was so stupid as to run around Mount Carmel firing weapons in an exposed, standing position," said Caddell, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. "The protocol will start out with guys in a prone position on the ground.
If those people disappear from the thermal imaging after a few minutes, I think the government's got no case. What's Michael Bradford going to say then?" Caddell also has questioned whether the clothing worn by government agents shielded them from detection. That's why the protocol for the test calls for those firing weapons to wear Nomex flight suits, fire retardant suits and camouflage sniper garb - clothing worn by government agents on the final day at Mount Carmel.
"As I understand the plaintiffs' position, the reason we don't see a person holding a gun is that the people were wearing FLIR-resistant clothing," Bradford said. "During the test, we'll have people moving around wearing clothing that the plaintiffs requested, clothing they contend is FLIR-resistant. If we can see them walking around, that will be significant. We will clearly have a different situation from one tape to another." Caddell said he's confident the testing will validate the plaintiffs' case.
"I think the test results will be clear to any objective observer," Caddell said. "Everyone but the FBI will be convinced of what happened at Mount Carmel. The only reason the FBI won't be convinced is because they're in denial. I don't think this is going to be a close call." The re-enactment of the final day at Mount Carmel - ordered by U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Waco, acting on a request from the Office of Special Counsel - will start at Fort Hood on about March 18. It is scheduled for six days. At least six people will fire weapons ranging from a 9mm pistol to an M60 machine gun while a helicopter and airplane equipped with FLIR cameras fly overhead.
Special Counsel John Danforth filed a motion in Waco Friday asking that the media be barred from the re-enactment, arguing that the "piecemeal disclosure of facts is not in the public interest." After the St. Louis meeting, Bradford said he thinks it's possible for a FLIR camera to record gunfire, though he called it a "side issue." His position doesn't represent a switch in the government's stance, Bradford said. "People questioned by Mr. Caddell during depositions were asked about it," Bradford said. "They said they had never seen it. That's different from scientists saying under no circumstances can a FLIR pick up gunfire. People have characterized that as the government's position. I think that's a little unfair."
Caddell countered that the government filed a motion last December stating laboratory tests should be conducted to determine if a FLIR camera can pick up gunfire. "They're the ones who raised the issue, who made the claim that the FLIR couldn't see gunfire," Caddell said.
Vector Data Systems, a British firm, will interpret the test results for Danforth - charged by Attorney General Janet Reno with deciding whether the FBI committed any "bad acts" at Mount Carmel. Both the government and the plaintiffs will have their own FLIR experts.
Bradford said Vector's determination probably won't be a factor in the trial, set for May 15 in Waco.
"It won't play any role in the lawsuit," Bradford said. "They will render their opinion when Sen. Danforth's report comes out. That likely will be after the lawsuit. It will not be given as an opinion to be used in the lawsuit."
by David A. Vise and Lorraine Adams ("The Washington Post', February 18, 2000)
Eight gunmen firing submachine guns and pistols. Grenades exploding near a debris field of broken glass, aluminum and tubs of water. Men with painted faces running from place to place in camouflage fatigues alongside three tanks. And pilots from the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom flying Lynx helicopters overhead carrying special infrared cameras to record the entire event.
Yesterday, U.S. law enforcement officials said they have agreed to all this and more as part of a reenactment of the final day of the deadly 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex., that left lingering questions about whether FBI agents--or military officers--fired shots or launched grenades that contributed to the deaths of 74 people.
The reenactment is designed to answer the question of whether flashes visible on videos taken on the day of the siege show gunfire, as plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit argue, or are something else, as the FBI has maintained.
No one knows precisely how high expenses will run, but one official said it will cost about $300,000 just to transport the British equipment and personnel across the Atlantic Ocean to Texas. A government official has said the entire demonstration will cost an estimated $750,000.
The federal judge presiding over the lawsuit will decide later how to allocate costs between the government and plaintiffs.
Former senator John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), who is overseeing a special investigation to answer the "dark questions" about whether the FBI contributed to the deaths and then engaged, along with Justice Department officials, in a cover-up, presided over a lengthy meeting in St. Louis where the final details of this unprecedented reenactment--a 21-page document--were agreed to by all parties.
When plaintiffs attorney Michael Caddell, who is lead counsel in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the government, first proposed the idea of the reenactment, government lawyers scoffed and poked fun. But Danforth and U.S. District Judge Walter Smith took the idea seriously. Now the FBI also will be participating, with bureau pilots flying overhead in their Nightstalker aircraft with special GE-Marconi cameras attached and Danforth personnel on board to ensure that the exercise is carried out properly.
"If the judge lifted the order requiring the joint demonstration, the FBI and the Justice Department would back out of this in a minute," Caddell said yesterday. "The bottom line is this is something they are being dragged into kicking and screaming and they are gritting their teeth."
Not so, according to U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford of the Eastern District of Texas, who says the reenactment will demonstrate that FBI agents fired no shots at the Branch Davidians and their leader David Koresh on the final day of the 51-day standoff. Bradford credits Danforth with allowing all of the parties to have input into how to do the reenactment, or "controlled test," as he calls it, so it would answer questions not only about gunfire but also about what caused the flashes of light on the FBI's 1993 videos.
"We're going to comply with any orders given to us by the judge," said FBI spokesman Jim Davis yesterday. "And we're going to continue to cooperate fully with Senator Danforth." The FBI previously had maintained that a reenactment was impossible because it would expose classified technology. But now that argument has been overridden by a judge's order, and Bradford said he has no objection to the press attending the event, although a final decision on that has not been made. Danforth reportedly is opposed to the media being present. The Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press have filed motions in court asking Judge Smith to allow the press to attend the extraordinary event.
Bradford said both sides will be given copies of the tapes made during the controlled test next month and allowed to have their own experts look at it in comparison with the videos from April 1993 to determine whether there was FBI gunfire. He also said the new tapes will help answer questions about how reflected sunlight from the debris field appears on infrared video and whether the movement of personnel carrying weapons on the ground is visible.
"Danforth was in favor of the re-creation," Bradford said. "We believe once we see that tape, it will be so starkly different from the April 19th tape that it will make clear there was no FBI gunfire on April 19th."
The re-creation, ordered by Judge Smith, is being organized by Vector Data Systems Ltd., a British firm, and is tentatively scheduled to take place in mid-March in Fort Hood, Tex., on a U.S. military base near Waco. The British military is involved, in part, to provide impartiality.
Danforth was appointed Waco special counsel last fall by Attorney General Janet Reno after she acknowledged that she had misled Congress about whether the FBI had used potentially incendiary devices in the siege.
The bureau had misinformed the attorney general and did not reveal it had used certain explosive devices until last fall. More recently, FBI agents have testified in depositions that no shots were fired at the Branch Davidians.
"Senator Danforth said yesterday he thought this was the most important thing he has ever done," Caddell said. "Many of us feel the same way. This goes to some of the fundamental issues in our democracy, however it turns out."
by Lee Hancock ("The Dallas Morning News", February 18, 2000)
The release of full plans for a potentially pivotal infrared field test in the Branch Davidian case came after FBI officials were forced to abandon their claim that even basic information about the camera used in Waco was classified, an infrared expert said Thursday.
Detailed protocols for the test planned for late March at Fort Hood were released Wednesday after a day of private meetings between both sides, their scientific experts and the federal judge overseeing the Davidians' wrongful death lawsuit.
Justice Department and FBI officials had contended for months, to both a federal court and to congressional investigators, that revealing even the manufacturer of the camera or basic data about how high it operated in Waco would jeopardize law enforcement secrets and classified national security information.
They offered that argument to U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Waco in November when they tried to convince him to reject the recommendation of the Waco special counsel's office for a field test.
Not only would such a test be confusing and scientifically invalid, they wrote in the November pleading, it also could compromise government secrets. "Disclosure of even the most fundamental information would permit identification of the aircraft and provide notice to those who seek to avoid detection by federal law enforcement," the pleading said.
The judge ordered the test late last year.The British government agreed last month to assist in the test with the loan of a Royal Navy Lynx helicopter equipped with a forward-looking-infrared, or FLIR, camera similar to the one the FBI used in the Waco siege. Both the British FLIR and the FBI camera are British-made GEC-Marconi devices.
A British Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday that the loan was contingent on U.S. agreement that there would be no public access to sensitive operational information about the aircraft and its camera.
But in Wednesday's meeting to finalize the March tests, the court's British-based scientific experts and British defense ministry representative said none of the information that the FBI and the Justice Department had tried to withhold was considered secret or sensitive in their country, said Edward Allard, a retired infrared expert who attended the briefing on behalf of the sect's lawyers.
Those discussions took place in a classified meeting that was adjourned after all sides agreed that most of the FLIR information that the FBI had previously sought to withhold was operationally insignificant or available from public sources, Dr. Allard said.
"Right off the bat, the British said this information we're discussing in this meeting is not classified. The British military representatives said the only thing that's classified in our view is if somebody goes in and takes video footage inside our aircraft," he said.
An FBI technical expert who attended the meeting initially argued that information about the plane's altitude might allow someone to calculate the maximum range of their camera and evade detection, Dr. Allard said. But the FBI expert the government's infrared expert agreed that such fears were scientifically baseless, Dr. Allard said.
"The FBI had thought originally that the height of the aircraft, how high it was flying in operation, should be classified, and the British said, 'We don't care,' " Dr. Allard said. "So finally, someone said, 'Is there anything here that is classified?' " FBI officials in Washington did not return phone calls Thursday. U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford of Beaumont, one of the lead lawyers in the government's Waco trial team, also did not return telephone calls. On Wednesday evening, he said that the information was released "by the Defense Department - not by us." Pentagon officials said Thursday that they had no involvement because the information came from the FBI.
The field test could prove crucial in the Branch Davidians' upcoming wrongful-death lawsuit. The Davidians' lawyers have alleged that government negligence and wrongdoing during the 1993 standoff near Waco led to the deaths of more than 80 sect members.
The followers died in a fire that broke out about six hours after FBI agents began assaulting the Branch Davidian compound with tanks and tear gas to end the 51-day standoff. Lawyers for the sect have argued that government gunfire in the last hour before the fire kept women and children from fleeing.
But government officials insist that no one from their side fired a shot on April 19, 1993. They say the government bears no responsibility because a government arson investigation ruled that sect members deliberately set the fire.
Experts for the sect have argued that the infrared videotape recorded from an FBI airplane on April 19 contained repeated rhythmic flashes that could have come only from government gunfire.
FBI officials have said that the flashes that appeared on the back side of the building during the last hour of the siege were caused by sunlight glints or electronic glitches in their camera. Experts hired by the government have also contended that the camera was too far away and not sensitive enough to record ground gunfire.
But after Wednesday's meeting at the office of special counsel John C. Danforth in St. Louis, Mr. Bradford told reporters that the camera used in Waco was capable of detecting some types of gunfire and might record some gun flashes during the March test.
But he said the government remains confident that proper scientific analysis of data from the Fort Hood experiment will show that any gun flashes recorded are different from the flashes on the 1993 Waco infrared video.
On Thursday, however, the Davidians' lead lawyer said that he believes that the test will provide clear evidence that the flashes were gunshots.
"What the government is trying to do is set an impossible standard to give themselves an out," said the lawyer, Mike Caddell of Houston. "If we get flashes from gunfire that are at least similar to the flashes on April 19, I don't think anyone will be fooled."
Conducting the test
The test will involve repeated firing of weapons that both sides carried in Waco, including M-16 and CAR-15 assault rifles, grenade launchers, M-60 machine guns, shotguns and pistols.
The overhead cameras will record footage of armored vehicles like those the FBI used in Waco driving over debris, such as glass and aluminum, as well as footage of the debris itself and pools of standing water.
The test will require a clear day or one that has only partial cloud cover and temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees to approximate weather conditions on April 19, 1993.
The soil at the test site will be "disturbed" by armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Combat Engineering Vehicles involved to approximate how the ground around the compound appeared on April 19.
Although all parties involved in the test will be prepared to work for up to six days to obtain optimal test conditions, the test protocol released Wednesday stated, "It is planned that both helicopter and aircraft can undertake the complete range of imaging tasks between the hours of 10:30 and 12:30 in a single day." The protocol also calls for no news media or public access to the test. After Wednesday's meeting, both sides in the case said they would not oppose some news media presence at Fort Hood.
But on Thursday, Mr. Danforth filed a pleading with Judge Smith arguing that he should deny a motion for media access filed earlier this week by The Dallas Morning News and The Associated Press.
Mr. Danforth's four-page argument noted that no one from the special counsel's office has released information about their ongoing inquiry, and allowing journalists to be present for any part of it - including the infrared test - "would be a profound disservice to the cause of justice."
"The public interest in the reliability of the test and its results is amply protected by the presence of independent experts, attorneys for both sides, and representatives from the office of special counsel," Thursday's motion argued. "The test and its results will not be 'shrouded in secrecy' but will be completely disclosed at trial (if not before) and in the final report of the special counsel."
by William H. Freivogel bnd Terry Ganey ("The St. Louis Post-Dispatch", February 18, 2000)
Everyone agrees now how to re-enact the conditions of the 1993 Waco siege, but the test next month may not conclusively determine if the FBI fired at the Branch Davidians.
"It will still be subject to expert interpretation," said J. Michael Bradford, the U.S. attorney from Beaumont, Texas.
And the lawyers' spin.
That was evident during a news conference Wednesday outside the St. Louis offices of special counsel John C. Danforth. Lawyers for the Branch Davidians and the Justice Department announced that they had agreed on a plan for the test. They also agreed that it might provide useful information.
The harmony ended there. Both sides starting spinning the findings of a test yet to be conducted.
After five months of mostly secret work, the field-test agreement is the biggest public development so far in Danforth's investigation. Without the involvement of his office, it's doubtful that a joint test involving the Branch Davidians and the government would be conducted.
But the data may not be clear-cut.
The Branch Davidians and the government will likely have different interpretations of the test results when the two sides face each other in a trial in May on a wrongful death suit. U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr., who will preside over the trial, could rule for the government or the Branch Davidians based on the evidence he hears.
Later, Danforth could reach a different conclusion in his final report, to be released sometime after the trial. That's because the independent expert -- Vector Data Systems -- will make a separate report to Danforth.
Vector Data is the British company that Danforth recommended and Smith appointed to conduct the tests. While Vector will provide data from the tests to both sides, its analysis and conclusions to Danforth won't be made until after the trial. The results will become public when Danforth reports on his findings, probably later this year.
Mike Caddell, the lead lawyer for the Branch Davidian survivors, is optimistic that the test will be definitive and that there won't be conflicting findings. He and other lawyers for the Branch Davidians and their experts have begun to think about what will come after the test.
Caddell says that if the flashes are gunfire, Danforth probably would want to call back FBI agents who have been questioned before and ask them more questions, this time under oath. Some may be given a lie-detector test. Edward Allard, the Branch Davidians' expert on infrared systems, suggested that Danforth might use his power to call a grand jury to deepen his Waco investigation.
"Some people could be facing the loss of their pensions -- and prison," Allard said.
But Justice Department officials, who never wanted Danforth to conduct the test, worry that inconclusive results would provide conspiracy theorists fodder for a "grassy knoll" version of what happened at Waco. The grassy knoll refers to a theory that an assassin other than Lee Harvey Oswald killed President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.
Bradford, the Justice Department lawyer, said the appearance of gunfire as flashes on the infrared tape during the test will not prove that the flashes on the April 19, 1993, tape were from guns. He said it was "more complicated" than that because flashes that might be caused by gunfire on the test tape may have a different character from the flashes on the 1993 tape.
"I have read that it is the government's position that gunfire would not be able to be detected" by an infrared camera, he said during Wednesday's news conference. "That is not our position and it never has been." Bradford went on to say that the government continues to believe that the flashes on the 1993 tape are not from guns and that no government agents fired at Waco.
Caddell, the Branch Davidians' lawyer, said the government has changed its position from earlier statements by FBI agents that an airborne infrared camera could not detect groundfire. Caddell said Thursday that when the Justice Department resisted the plaintiffs' request for the test, the government said it had not determined whether gunfire shows up on infrared video.
Caddell also cited statements that the operators of the FBI's infrared camera at Waco made during depositions he took from them. Asked if the infrared camera could pick up gunshots, one operator replied, "By its nature, it was not suited to pick them up."
Bradford countered that the FBI operators were appearing as witnesses, not spokesmen, and had begun their answers by saying they were not expert on whether gunfire shows up on infrared tape.
Nonetheless, the lawyers for the Branch Davidians say that a spokesman for the FBI has said for some time that the airborne infrared camera could not detect groundfire.
In conversations with the Post-Dispatch last year, FBI officials said it is unlikely that an infrared camera flying at the altitude of the one at Waco in 1993 could detect groundfire. The officials cited a 1986 shootout at Horseshoe Bay, Texas, where an airborne infrared camera did not detect muzzle flashes.
Justice Department officials said Thursday that they do not know of any airborne infrared surveillance tape shot that has picked up groundfire as flashes.
But the department has long conceded that an infrared camera that is closer to a muzzle flash can detect it. And it thinks that the test next month at Fort Hood, Texas, could pick up muzzle flashes from the test firings.
A last-minute change in plans for the Foot Hood test makes it more likely a flash will turn up on the tape. Allard, the Branch Davidians' expert, persuaded Danforth's infrared expert to include an exotic gun that emits a big flash -- the Mark-19 grenade launcher.
Allard wanted the gun included because it can fire 375 repetitions a minute. He believes he sees flashes on the 1993 tape that repeat at that rate and he thinks grenades from the launcher started the fire that destroyed the complex. The draft plan for the test, drawn up by the British firm Vector Data Systems, did not include the Mark-19.
The government at first objected to its inclusion because there is no record that any government agents had been issued the weapon at Waco, although FBI agents have trained with it. Pentagon officials also questioned whether the Mark-19 could safely fire the 40 mm flashbangs that Allard wants to test.
Allard dismissed this question, citing the government's own specifications. In the end, it was included in the test plan.
Flashes may differ
Justice Department lawyers say that what worries them is that the Fort Hood test will pick up a flash from the Mark-19 and that the Branch Davidians will immediately broadcast to the world that the test picked up gunfire as a flash.
That will be widely interpreted as proving that the FBI fired at Waco, even if a later, more sophisticated analysis, shows otherwise. A flash could turn up that does not have the properties of the flashes on the 1993 tape.
In addition, the Fort Hood test could show that the shooters firing the test weapons are visible on the tape and that their gun barrels heat up during firing -- findings that would indicate the 1993 flashes were not gunfire because shooters are not visible and there is no sign of hot barrels.
Publicly and privately, the lawyers for the Branch Davidians exude confidence that the test will prove their case. This confidence is based partly on their cast of three reputable infrared experts who say they believe the flashes are gunfire, a cast that includes Allard.
In addition, Allard believes that the former Royal Air Force men at Vector Data, the Danforth experts conducting the test, think it is quite possible the flashes are gunfire.
The Justice Department is uneasy with Vector Data's role in the test. The people from Vector Data are experts at interpreting infrared tape but are not scientists. For this reason, the Justice Department sought at Wednesday's meeting to have its own scientists sign off on the scientific validity of the test when it is conducted.
Judge Smith ruled against the government.
by William H. Freivogel and Terry Ganey ("The St. Louis Post-Dispatch", February 17, 2000)
On a warm, sunny day next month, a bizarre scene will unfold at Fort Hood, Texas, as two aircraft equipped with infrared cameras circle above a firing range strewn with debris, barrels of water, armored vehicles and six shooters firing a small arsenal of weapons.
That is what the test site will look like around the middle of March when experts for Special Counsel John C. Danforth perform an experiment to try to determine what caused the flashes on infrared tapes taken of the April 19, 1993, Waco siege. Was it gunfire from government agents, as the Branch Davidians claim, or was it glint from the sun shining off debris, as the government suggests? The scientific protocol for the test calls for two different forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras mounted in two aircraft. A Sea Owl FLIR, nearly identical to the one used by the FBI at Waco in 1993, will be mounted in a Lynx Mk 8 helicopter borrowed from Britain. The other aircraft will be the FBI's Night Stalker equipped with a modernized version of the FLIR.
Each plane will tape the test site from both 4,000 and 6,000 feet, because it appears that some images from 1993 were shot at both altitudes. Factoring in the angle from lens to target, the cameras will be about 5,500 and 7,500 feet away from their targets.
The test is planned for a daywhen weather conditions are similar to the day of the siege. The soil may be moistened to increase the humidity. Tanks will churn up the soil.
Each plane will require about 30 minutes at each altitude to record the scene below.
The firearms range will have two sets of targets, one 10 yards from the firing area and another 30 yards away. In between the two targets will be a debris field with objects that could cause a flash. One square will have junkyard debris - scattered broken vehicle side window glass, side mirrors from a car, tin cans, hub caps, insulation and foil. Another will have three sheets of aluminum. Another will have pieces of crumpled aluminum foil. Two other squares will have scattered fragments of window glass. Two oil drums will be positioned nearby - one a third full and the other two-thirds full of water.
Six shooters will begin the test lying prone for 20 minutes, to see how people are viewed by the infrared cameras. This is important because the 1993 FLIR tape does not show people near the flashes. The soldiers will be wearing camouflage fatigues, sniper suits and Nomex fire-retardant flight suits.
The shooters will rise and run to the shooting position for the 10-yard target and fire five single shots from a standing position. Then they will drop to a crouch position, reload and fire bursts of three shots. Then, from prone positions, the shooters will fire at the 30-yard target.
Finally, an M-79 launcher will shoot rounds of tear gas and flash-bang devices. An M-60 tank, positioned over glass and aluminum debris, will then drive back and forth to see if particles kicked up near the tank's exhaust show up as flashes.
Video footage from ground cameras will be synchronized with the FLIR images. Vector Data Systems, the British firm overseeing the test, will provide the data to lawyers for both the Davidians and the government. And the firm will give Danforth its conclusions.
by Michelle Mittelstadt (Associated Press, February 17, 2000)
WASHINGTON (AP) - The government's acknowledgment that a type of infrared camera the FBI used during the 1993 Waco siege can detect gunfire is a ``stunning reversal'' from its long-held position, Branch Davidian lawyers contended Thursday.
One of the government's lead lawyers in the wrongful death case said Wednesday that the camera is capable of detecting gunfire ``in some circumstances.'' But Michael Bradford, a U.S. attorney in Texas, continued to assert that federal agents did not fire any shots on April 19, 1993.
A demonstration planned for next month in Texas will test the Branch Davidians' claim that federal agents fired their weapons. Both sides hope the test will determine what caused more than 100 flashes to show up on the infrared tape the FBI shot of the siege. They plan to compare the FBI tape and aerial surveillance footage made at the re-creation.
Branch Davidian lawyers contend Bradford's comment about the Forward Looking Infrared camera is a tacit admission that the test will detect gunfire.
``What we're seeing is the government can read the handwriting on the wall, so to speak, and their experts have told them, `Expect to see gunfire flashes on the (infrared) demonstration tapes that are going to look just like the flashes on the April 1993 tape,''' said Michael Caddell, the lead counsel for Davidians suing the government.
Three months ago, the government appeared skeptical about the camera's ability to detect gunfire. In a filing in federal court in Waco, Texas, the Justice Department proposed to test the plaintiffs' ``hypothesis'' that gunfire can be captured on camera.
The FBI's own camera operators, in more recent depositions, denied the camera could detect muzzle blasts, Caddell and co-counsel Jim Brannon said.
``Now they see they are going to lose the test, they are shifting gears,'' Brannon said. ``To diminish the test before you ever run it, that's the best strategy you could ever follow, isn't it?''
The court-ordered field test is expected to play a key role at the trial, which is set to begin in mid-May. Some 80 Davidians died during the siege, some from the fire, others from gunshot wounds.
In their lawsuit, the survivors and relatives of the dead allege that government negligence and excessive force contributed to the tragedy. The government has denied wrongdoing, saying the Davidians set the stage for their own deaths.
The government has long insisted that no shots were directed at the Davidians during the culmination of the 51-day siege, which ended when the compound was consumed by flames several hours into an FBI tear-gassing operation designed to flush them out.
In an interview Thursday, Bradford denied any shift in the government's stance. As for statements made during the depositions, he said the plaintiffs' lawyers interviewed ``individual FBI agents that we did not offer as experts.''
The field test, scheduled for an Army outpost in central Texas in mid-March, is about more than whether FLIR can capture gunfire, Bradford said. Also central to resolving the controversy is whether the cameras used during the field test will detect people on the ground, he said, noting the 1993 FLIR did not capture any agents stationed outside the compound when the bursts of light appear.
People, like bullets, give off heat, so both should appear, the government contends.
``In our opinion, what will show up on that tape will be so starkly different from what is on the April 19th tape that it will be evident that (what occurred) April 19th is not gunfire,'' Bradford said.
The plaintiffs contend the 1993 FLIR didn't record the agents because the temperature of their clothing, as they lay prone, was similar to the ground temperature.
by Lee Hancock ("The Dallas Morning News", February 17, 2000)
One of the government's lead lawyers defending the Branch Davidian case said for the first time Wednesday that an upcoming field test could capture flashes of gunfire on the type of infrared camera used by the FBI at the end of the 1993 siege.
"It's not impossible for this camera to detect gunfire. That doesn't, in and of itself, answer the question if these particular flashes on this tape are gunfire," said U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford of Beaumont, one of two lead lawyers on the Justice Department's team. "We have consistently said that the flashes on the April 19  tape are not gunfire." That statement, offered after a day of private negotiations on ground rules for the test, appeared to be a retreat from months of FBI insistence that the camera used at Waco was too far away and not sensitive enough to record split-second heat flashes of gunshots.
Lawyers for the sect said Mr. Bradford's comments were especially notable in light of the government's previous insistence that any field test would be scientifically invalid and that testing, at best, could address only theoretical questions about whether gunfire might be seen at all on the FBI's camera.
"This is a complete about-face for the government, and coming on the eve of the demonstration, it's very telling," said Mike Caddell, lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians. "It can only mean that they realize that this demonstration is going to prove what we've said all along: that the flashes on the April 19 videotape are gunfire from government positions." As recently as last November, government lawyers argued that testing could determine only the general issue of whether "gunfire can be seen by FLIR (Looking Infrared Camera) technology in a specified spectral range, and if so, what it looks like." On Wednesday, Mr. Bradford said the Justice Department believes that the test plan finalized by both sides in the case can provide useful, scientifically valid data for comparison with the 1993 videotape. But he said he and other government officials remain confident that proper analysis of that data will vindicate the government's long-held position that the repeated, rhythmic flashes on the 1993 videotape did not come from gunfire.
"It doesn't just boil down simply to whether a glint might appear from one of these weapons. It's still going to require an analysis," he said. "The only concern that we have is that this not be simply reduced to that one simple question." But on Capitol Hill, some investigators re-examining the government's handling of the 1993 tragedy said the government's latest comments may only deepen public doubts about what happened in Waco.
"It's fancy lawyering and fancy footwork," one investigator in Washington said Wednesday evening, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There's already great skepticism and this will only compound that."
Could be pivotal
The March field test finalized on Wednesday could be pivotal to the Branch Davidians' upcoming wrongful-death lawsuit. The Davidians' lawyers allege that government negligence and wrongdoing led to the deaths of more than 80 sect members.
The followers died in a fire on the last day of the siege, six hours after FBI agents began assaulting the compound with tanks and tear gas to end the 51-day standoff. Lawyers for the sect have argued that government gunfire in the last hour of the siege kept women and children from fleeing the fire.
But government officials have insisted for years that no one from their side fired a shot on April 19, 1993. They say the government bears no responsibility for the tragedy because a government arson investigation ruled that sect members deliberately set the fire.
The main evidence in the sect's gunfire allegations is the infrared videotape recorded by an airborne FBI camera during the FBI's April 19 assault.
Disputes between experts on both sides about what caused the flashes led Waco special counsel John C. Danforth last November to ask the federal judge in the Waco case to order a court-supervised field test to try to resolve the issue.
U.S. District Judge Walter Smith turned aside government objections and ordered the tests late last fall.
After Wednesday's meeting at the office of Mr. Danforth's office, both sides agreed to the public release of a full set of plans for the test.
The release was in itself a reversal. For months last fall, government officials argued that even basic information about the FBI camera including its manufacturer and the altitude at which it was flown was classified and couldn't be released.
After Judge Smith ordered a field test, lawyers for the sect said,the Justice Department initially tried to force the Davidians' scientific expert, a former defense department infrared researcher with a secret security clearance, to undergo the rigorous background investigation needed for a top-secret clearance before being shown anything about the camera's performance.
But during Wednesday's meeting, attended by lawyers and experts for both sides and Judge Smith, representatives from the Pentagon announced that basic performance data about the British-made GEC-Marconi camera had been declassified.
Mr. Bradford's public statements on Wednesday also appeared to be a shift from earlier statements by FBI officials and the FBI agents assigned to operate the camera in Waco that the device probably wasn't capable of detecting gunfire.
Several of the FBI's most experienced infrared camera operators said in depositions late last year that they did not believe the device could detect gun shots. "By its nature, it was not suited to pick them up," one agent involved in making the Waco infrared recordings testified.
Mr. Bradford said Wednesday that those statements were individual opinions and did not represent the government's official position. He noted that other infrared camera operators said they could not say what the camera might be capable of recording, even though all of the FBI agents agreed they had never seen anything like the Waco infrared flashes before.
"They did not have the technical expertise," he said. "We didn't offer them as experts. They're fact witnesses. They're people who happened to be flying the plane that day." Details on tests The tests hammered out on Wednesday will be conducted during the week of March 18, using a British Royal Navy Lynx Mk 8 helicopter outfitted with a Sea Owl camera, a system similar to that flown by the FBI in Waco.
The FBI also will fly its camera on its "Nightstalker" fixed-wing aircraft. The camera is the same GEC-Marconi used in Waco but has been significantly upgraded since the 1993 siege.
Each aircraft will make two passes over a firing range at altitudes of 4,000 and 6,000 feet for each segment of the test. In one segment, U.S. Army personnel will fire hundreds of rounds from weapons carried by both sides during the Waco siege.
The weapons will include one regular MP-5 machine gun and another equipped with a "suppressor" or silencer , an automatic shotgun, an M-16 rifle, an M-60 machine gun and M-79 grenade launchers outfitted with both non-burning "ferret" tear-gas rounds and military-issue, pyrotechnic gas grenades. An Mark-19 automatic grenade launcher will also be fired.
The cameras will also record footage of fields of debris, including aluminum and glass, as well as containers of water. Some of those test recordings will include exercises in which combat engineering vehicles and Bradley fighting vehicles armored tanks used by the FBI in Waco are driven over the debris fields.
Recording the debris and water will provide comparative data that could help resolve the government's claim that sunlight reflections or flashes generated by actions of the tanks caused the blips of light on the April l9 video.
Footage of personnel
The third and final phase of testing will record footage of personnel running, crouching, firing weapons and maneuvering while wearing fire-resistant "Nomex" flight suits and body armor like that worn by the FBI's hostage rescue team in Waco. Other personnel will be photographed in black raid gear, sniper "ghillie" camouflage suits and camouflage rain gear. That phase of testing will address the government's contention that the flashes on the April 19 tape could not be gunfire because no shooter and no weapons were visible.
The protocol signed by all sides in the case on Wednesday includes no provision for allowing the media to cover the test. But both Mr. Bradford and lawyers for the sect said it remains undecided whether some form of media coverage will be allowed.
The Dallas Morning News and The Associated Press filed a motion Tuesday asking Judge Smith to allow media access.
Mr. Bradford said the Justice Department will not object to having reporters attend but will defer to the judgment of the court and the Waco special counsel.
Mr. Caddell said the matter remains "an open issue. I think it's more likely today than yesterday because we reached agreement to eliminate any national-security or classification issues. The government and the FBI basically acknowledged that there were no real issues with regard to classified secrets."
by Terry Ganey and William Freivogel ("The St. Louis Post-Dispatch", February 16, 2000)
Lawyers, scientists and a judge went behind closed doors today in the office of special Waco counsel John C. Danforth to plan a test to determine whether government agents fired at the Branch Davidians in 1993.
Security guards blocked reporters from attempting to attend the meeting, and tried to prevent reporters from interviewing people as they arrived for the session.
Before the session began, reporters for the Post-Dispatch and the newspaper's attorney, Benjamin A. Lipman, had tried to meet with Danforth or the federal judge handling a wrongful death case against the government. Armed security guards stopped them in front of the office's metal detector and ordered them back on the elevator.
Later the building's security officers evicted reporters from the building's lobby. As a reporter was asking questions of former U.S. Attorney Ramsey Clark, a security guard interrupted the interview and ordered the reporter out. Clark represents some survivors of the Branch Davidians who died during the government's siege.
"I'm a sunshine man," Clark said, when asked if he believed the meeting should be closed. Someone called St. Louis police, who kept reporters away from the building's entrance.
The Pulitzer Publishing Co., publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, had gone to court in Texas to open up some portions of today's meeting. Late Tuesday, the newspaper's motion was denied by a federal appeals court in New Orleans U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr., who is presiding over the Branch Davidians' wrongful death suit against the government, had ordered today's meeting. The meeting is supposed to give the Branch Davidian survivors and the Justice Department information on the re-enactment test. It's also designed to iron out details on how it will be conducted. The test is to determine whether gunfire can be detected by infrared cameras.
An FBI surveillance video recorded by an airborne infrared camera on the last day of the government's siege shows flashes of light coming from government positions. Lawyers and experts for the Branch Davidian survivors say the flashes are measuring heat from the muzzle blasts of government guns. The FBI, which surrounded the religious sect's complex, has said none of its agents fired weapons.
The test, scheduled to take place at Fort Hood in late March, will re-enact the conditions of the siege. Weapons will be fired while overhead infrared cameras in two aircraft will record the action down below. One aircraft will use the FBI's current infrared camera. A British Navy helicopter using a camera like the one the FBI used in 1993 will also record the action.
Judge Smith said on Monday that the test would be secret at the request of the British government. Danforth, who was appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate what happened at Waco, would not say why today's meeting was closed.
As he entered his office building today, Danforth said he had not seen the Post-Dispatch's legal motion to open up the session. As he boarded an elevator, Danforth was asked if he would come down later to brief reporters.
"I'm not buying a house here," Danforth said.
J. Michael Bradford, special assistant U.S. Attorney, said he believed the meeting should be closed because some parts of it involved the disclosure of classified information. He said the government had no position on whether those portions of the meeting dealing with unclassified information should be open. Bradford also said he left to Danforth the question about whether the public and press should be allowed to observe next month's test.
by Terry Ganey and William H. Freivogel ("The St. Louis Post-Dispatch", February 16, 2000)
An agreement was reached Wednesday on a test that will re-enact the conditions that existed during the final siege on the Branch Davidian complex in 1993.
A 21-page test blueprint was drawn up during a five-hour, closed-door meeting in the offices of Waco special counsel John C. Danforth. The re-enactment is designed to determine whether an infrared camera could have detected government gunfire just before the Branch Davidian complex went up in flames and nearly 80 people died.
The test could help determine what caused the mysterious flashes recorded on the FBI's surveillance tape recorded April 19, 1993. Experts for the Branch Davidians say the flashes are gunfire from government positions. The FBI has said none of its agents fired.
Lawyers for the Justice Department and the Branch Davidian survivors signed a document outlining the rules of the test, which may take place as soon as March 18 at Fort Hood, Texas.
As it stands now the test will be closed to the public and the press. But Michael A. Caddell, the lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians, said he believed that because the rules for the test were made public, it might be possible that the test itself would be opened to some press scrutiny. He said issues about logistics and safety still need to be addressed.
"I think the exciting thing about this process is that we have the prospect in five or six weeks from now having better information than what we've had before," Caddell said.
J. Michael Bradford, a special assistant U.S. attorney, said the government had no objections to making the test accessible to reporters. But he said the final decision rested with Danforth. Tom Schweich, Danforth's chief of staff, said he had no comment on any aspect of the test.
Bradford said Wednesday that the government's position was that the flashes recorded on FBI surveillance tape were not gunfire. He said he believed it was possible for an infrared camera to record gunfire, and that if the upcoming test recorded gunfire as flashes, the issue would be whether the flashes on the test are like those recorded on the last day of the siege.
"This test will be helpful in clarifying what the flashes are," Bradford said. "It's a much more complex analysis to determine if the flashes were gunfire." Both Caddell and another Branch Davidian lawyer, James H. Brannon, said government lawyers were laying a foundation to use later if the test results were unfavorable.
Brannon also said that if the test failed to detect gunfire, he would go forward with a test of his own. He said the only way the test could not show gunfire was if the test had been rigged to benefit the government. Brannon represents the estates of three children of David Koresh, the leader of the religious sect who died from gunshots.
In recent depositions, FBI agents have denied firing any weapons while converted tanks inserted tear gas into the structure and then demolished it. Branch Davidian lawyers say the flashes show gunfire at the rear of the complex, and that more people would have survived the siege if they had been able to flee in that direction. Only nine people survived.
The test will involve eight individuals firing an array of weapons in single shots, short bursts and on full automatic. The shooters will fire from various positions°Xprone, kneeling and standing. They will wear various combinations of protective clothing such as body armor, flight suits, fire retardant suits and camouflage sniper garb.
As the firing takes place on the ground it will be videotaped. At the same time, two aircraft flying 4,000 to 6,000 feet overhead will record the action on infrared cameras.
"If the flashes show up on the infrared camera, you will know immediately that the flashes are linked to gunfire," Caddell said.
In addition to the gunfire, conditions will be created that may also show glitches on the infrared videotape. For example, the test field will include debris, water in drums and a mirror.
Experts for the plaintiffs and the government will analyze the results and issue reports to be used during the trial of the Branch Davidians' wrongful death lawsuit against the government. The trial is scheduled to begin May 15. It's possible that the experts will interpret the results differently, and lawyers for both sides say it's possible that the test results could be inconclusive.
Vector Data Systems, a British company, will supervise the test. Danforth recommended Vector as an independent expert, whose appointment was approved by U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr., who is presiding over the wrongful death trial. After the trial, Vector will issue its own conclusions based on its analysis. Schweich said "no comment" when asked how much the test would cost.
Danforth was appointed in September by Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate what happened at Waco. As special counsel, Danforth could have gone forward with the re-enactment test on his own. He hasn't said publicly why he has sought the cooperation of the Branch Davidian lawyers and the government, but having them on board give the results more credibility.
The Branch Davidian lawyers had first suggested the re-enactment, but government lawyers rejected the idea. However, the FBI advised Danforth's office that it would conduct a test for his office exclusively. Caddell said Danforth's office recognized it would have a credibility problem with a private FBI-sponsored test.
"What the office of special counsel has recognized is that only by having all the parties involved in the dispute participating in the test can the American people feel comfortable that this was done in an honest and fair manner," Caddell said.
Reporters attempted to attend Wednesday's meeting but were barred by security guards and ushered outside the building that houses Danforth's office at 200 North Broadway. The Pulitzer Publishing Co.,publisher of the Post-Dispatch, had filed a motion in federal court in Texas seeking to open up the meeting. The motion was denied by a federal appeals court in New Orleans late Tuesday.
Another lawsuit that seeks to open up the re-enactment test is still pending.
by Lee Hancock ("The Dallas Morning News", February 16, 2000)
Media organizations on Tuesday challenged the secrecy of a test to determine whether government agents fired on Branch Davidians in the 1993 siege. And lawyers for the sect publicly acknowledged disagreements about whether secret plans for the test included enough safeguards to ensure its validity.
One lawyer for the Branch Davidians said Tuesday that he was so suspicious about the plans for the infrared field test that he was preparing a backup test at the site of the standoff.
James Brannon, one of several lawyers representing sect members in a federal wrongful-death lawsuit, said his backup test would be carried out if the court-sponsored field trial at Fort Hood in March did not clearly demonstrate that the infrared camera used in the Waco siege could and did detect gunfire.
But Mike Caddell, lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians, said after meeting Tuesday with the scientific experts who will supervise the test that he thought its design would address not only valid scientific questions but even popular theories unsupported by evidence.
He said a court order barring public discussion of the test plans prevented him from discussing specifics. But he said that his Tuesday meeting with the court-appointed experts and with lawyers for the government did not shake his certainty that the tests would prove that government agents fired repeatedly at the Branch Davidian compound on the final day of the standoff.
"I am confident that this test is going to be fair and honest," he said.
He, Mr. Brannon and other lawyers for the Branch Davidians are scheduled to meet Wednesday with lawyers for the government, their scientific experts and the federal judge overseeing the case to complete protocols for the Fort Hood field tests.
Two cameras will be used: an upgraded version of the camera flown by the FBI at Waco in 1993 and a British Royal Navy camera made by the same manufacturer that is said to be virtually identical to the FBI's 1993 equipment.
Weapons similar to those carried by both sides in Waco will be fired repeatedly as each camera is flown overhead several times. The cameras will also record footage of ground debris such as glass and aluminum, as well as pools of water laid out to match environmental conditions at Waco in 1993. The field trials could take a week.
The test could be vital to the Branch Davidians' contention that government gunfire kept women and children from escaping on April 19, 1993, when the sect's compound burned. More than 80 Branch Davidians died.
Government officials have long denied that anyone on their side fired a shot that day as FBI agents drove tanks into the building and tried to force Branch Davidians out with tear gas. Government officials have also contended that the FBI bears no blame for the Waco deaths, noting that government arson investigators determined that sect members deliberately set the fire.
Sect lawyers say an infrared videotape shot by the FBI supports their gunfire contention. That video shows repeated, rhythmic flashes emanating from government positions in the last hour of the standoff, and infrared experts hired by the sect have said that the flashes could have come only from government gunfire.
Some independent experts have echoed that analysis, but experts hired by the government have said that the FBI camera was too far away and that the flashes lasted too long to be gun muzzle flashes.
The government has contended that the flashes on the infrared tape could have been caused by sunlight reflecting off debris or by electronic glitches in the camera. But an expert asked by the government in 1996 to study the issue told the Justice Department that the camera was capable of detecting gunfire at Waco.
U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. ordered a field test late last year after the office of Waco special counsel John C. Danforth said it would be the best way to resolve the issue.
Both the proposed protocols for the test and the meeting to complete those test plans, to be held at Mr. Danforth's St. Louis office, have been ordered kept secret by Judge Smith.
The Waco judge issued a letter to the media Tuesday stating that the test would also be secret and that no media or public observers would be allowed.
"I am advised that for national security and safety reasons, access will be strictly limited," the judge's letter stated. "Neither the media nor the public will be permitted to attend."
The Dallas Morning News and The Associated Press filed a joint motion Tuesday requesting access to the test.
"The public's interest in having an independent and objective source for information about the field test far outweighs any reason that might be offered for prohibiting media access," the motion argued. "Insofar as the government seeks to protect top secret or otherwise classified information, the media's presence at the field test does not compromise any such secrets.
"The military equipment, ordnance and operations that will be utilized during the field test is the same equipment, ordnance and operations the media observed during . . . April 1993," the motion said.
Lawyers for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch filed a motion Tuesday afternoon arguing that Wednesday's closed-door planning meeting with lawyers from all parties and the judge amounts to a court hearing that should be open to the public.
Mr. Brannon said he would argue Wednesday that the media should be allowed to attend the planning session. But Mr. Caddell said he thought that it should be kept private because it amounts to an in-chambers conferences like those often called by federal judges to resolve procedural differences.
He said that he had received indications from all sides in the Branch Davidian case that a declassified version of the protocol for the March field test would be made public this week.
"Judge Smith said at the outset that his goal was to restore public confidence in the system," Mr. Caddell said. "I think that is a very important part of this whole process. And I think making the protocols public will help accomplish that."
He said that he and all the other plaintiffs' lawyers think the media should be allowed to watch the test. But he thinks that federal national security restrictions probably will leave Judge Smith no choice but to declare the test secret if the Justice Department does not back down from its contention that the testing could expose classified information and must be private.
"By not having the press there, we create a platform for the cranks and the nuts," he said.
Justice officials have declined to comment.
Mr. Brannon, whose clients include the family of Branch Davidian leader David Koresh, said he fears that secrecy will undermine public confidence and needed outside scientific scrutiny.
"I cannot put faith in a test that is essentially subject to being sabotaged, and I think this is," he said. "If this test does not show gunfire on both of the cameras being used, we will know that one or both have been rigged, and we will set up another, nonriggable test."
by Connie Farrow (Associated Press, February 16, 2000)
ST. LOUIS (AP) - The government and lawyers for the Branch Davidians agreed Wednesday on how to re-create conditions of the 1993 siege on the group, in hopes of putting to rest questions about whether federal agents fired shots at the compound.
The parties met for nearly five hours with a federal judge at the office of Special Counsel John Danforth in downtown St. Louis and agreed to make the details of the re-creation public.
Both sides hope the test will determine what caused more than 100 flashes to show up on the infrared tape the FBI shot of the siege at Waco, Texas, in 1993. They plan to compare the FBI tape and aerial surveillance footage made at the re-creation, tentatively scheduled to take place March 18 or 19 at Fort Hood, Texas.
It was unclear whether media will be allowed to attend. Branch Davidian lawyers Michael Caddell and Jim Brannon, along with Texas U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford, said they believed the media should be present. It appeared Danforth objected.
Danforth and his chief of staff declined to comment after the meeting.
The decision to open the test rests with U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. He is presiding over the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Branch Davidians against the government.
The government has insisted that no agents fired their weapons. But the Branch Davidian plaintiffs, backed by infrared experts, contend that the bursts of light on the FBI tape can be nothing other than gunfire.
``When the test is completed, it will still be subject to interpretation by various parties,'' Bradford said. ``I think that's going to be inevitable as part of the process.''
The protocol for the re-creation calls for aircraft operated by British pilots and the FBI to fly overhead with infrared equipment.
``Personnel will be filmed in crouching, kneeling and in standing positions,'' Caddell said. ``They will wear different types of body wear, such as body suits and camouflage, to help determine whether the clothing somehow keeps them from being visible'' to infrared cameras.
Caddell said a variety of weapons will be used. He also said the test will spread debris - such as glass, water and aluminum - to determine whether that could have caused the flashes picked up by the FBI's infrared cameras.
After the test, a company chosen by Danforth called Vector Data Systems will verify whether the conditions of the test were satisfactorily met. Vector will give the original tapes to the court, and the parties in the lawsuit will proceed with their own analyses of the data.
Danforth was appointed last September by Attorney General Janet Reno to resolve unanswered questions about the final hours of the deadly 51-day standoff. Davidian leader David Koresh and some 80 followers died some in the fire that engulfed the compound, others from gunshot wounds. The government insists the Davidians perished by their own hands.
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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