Before authorizing the gassing at Waco, Janet Reno received a briefing, and she or someone else requested that military advisors be present. The advisors chosen were reluctant to advise a law enforcement operation, but had little choice.
Here's the memo they made of the meeting. The civilian experts were quite unconcerned about the effects of the gas; the military advisors were far more concerned. Reno then asked "why now," and the FBI grossly misled her. Koresh had in fact said he would be coming out as soon as he finished writing the "little book" (too complex to explain here). The FLIR infrared had shown the Davidians were about out of water anyway (it was stored in big plastic tanks outside the building). As far as HRT suffering from lack of training, the military advisors had the simple answer: just pull them back for training. (FBI also had many of its SWAT teams manning the perimeter). There's also a mention of some military equipment (name and nature redacted) that was deployed to Waco.
Here are two pictures made from the air during the fire of April 19:
In the first, you see the Davidian home almost entirely destroyed by fire. There are no firetrucks present. In the second, you see the fire engines after they were allowed in, at a time when they could do no more than cool the ashes.
The sound track of the FLIR tapes picked up radio traffic. The agent at the scene was desperately calling for fire engines, while his superior was ordering them held up several miles away. The agent at the scene got to where he was practically pleading for them, his superior radioed were the trucks for the women and children, the agent answered yes, and his superior replied "they're the only ones, I hope."
I read in the May American Rifleman that Joe White passed on--I knew him since the late 70s, and was in touch within the last few months. He passed on at age 95. He served as NRA's deputy EVP, the only deputy EVP NRA has ever had, being one of the Border Patrol retired leadership that Harlon Carter brought with him to found the NRA. (I know, it'd been around for a century before then, but the organization as it is known today was really founded in the late 1970s). He's written a number of interesting books on the NRA, on growing up impoverished in the hills, and on handling real estate. Oh, and on being in the Border Patrol. A very good man.
Here's a pic taken late in the process. The forward wall has been crushed in at three places, and in the center the tank entered almost its entire length. The previous photo shows how the right side had been torn open. And at the rear another CEV has destroyed half the "gym." I was there when they took the deposition of Danny Coulson, former HRT commander who monitored the operation from Washington, and he said that until he walked into the room he'd had no idea how much of the building had been destroyed or that tanks penetrated nearly their full length.
One key to what happened on the day of the fire lies in claims that the Davidians shot at the FBI armored vehicles. As a general rule, AR-15s with 55 gr bullets are not considered good anti-tank rounds. Multiple hits in the same place may, however, require touch-up painting.
The FBI plan, as sold to Janet Reno, called for quite slow injections of CS "tear gas," more designed to annoy the Davidians into coming out. However, this could be changed to an all-out assault if the Davidians shot at the tanks (no reason was given for this, but they slid it past Reno).
The claim was that the Davidians began shooting early in the assault and continue throughout it. The incident commander testified that was why he out't let the fire trucks respond to the fire -- too dangerous, with the fanatic Davidians shooting.
Here's one of the aerial photos, taken late in the assault (notice how shredded the building is). Three armored vehicle are parked to the left (I inserted an enlarged area above them). It certainly looks as if one crewman has dismounted and is standing in the open, within about 50 yards of the building. That's not a shadow, the sun is high and notice how small the tank's shadows are.
Here is a pic I objected via FOIA, showing the very beginning of the Feb. 28 firefight in front of the building. The surviving Davidians (who were at the front of the building) said the first shots involved BATF firing through the double doors. The photo shows three agents kneeling and apparently shooting at the double doors. There are also bullet holes, barely visible, there and elsewhere. The agents' "cover" doesn't seem to match claims that the Davidians deluged them with gunfire.
Carlos was an infrared expert-- here's more on him.
On April 19, the day of the fire, FBI had an aircraft circling overhead with a FLIR unit (FLIR=Forward Looking InfraRed, a title still used after the units got small enough to where they no longer had to be mounted looking forward). This produced monochrome videotapes that showed heat. An issue arose as to whether they also showed gunfire coming from FBI positions before and during the fire -- the FBI denied it fired a shot that day. Several experts said the tapes did reflect gunshots.
The House Committee on Government Reform hired Carlos to examine the tapes. Unfortunately, he died from a heart attack (a weakness that ran in his family). The Committee thereupon issued statements that he'd never given them a report, that they were about to fire him, and essentially disavowing everything to do with him.
There was one problem with that story. Carlos had faxed me the report right after he gave it to the committee and briefed its staff. He found there were indeed gunshots. In fact, he pieced together an encounter. A Davidian appeared to throw something at an armored vehicle, and the something went off with a quick burst of heat. The hatches on the vehicle opened, some people dismounted, and fired in the direction of the fleeing Davidian. The battle went on from there. Carlos told me that as he played and paused the video for the congressional staffers, explaining what they were seeing, they looked like they were sucking on lemons.
The events outside Waco unfolded in 1993, at a point when the Clinton Administration was new in office. BATF was facing some pressures -- an initiative to reinvent government by phasing out inefficient agencies was on the table, and the agency looked like a target for that.
What was needed was a big action, one that would bring in lots of favorable publicity and also curry favor with the Clinton White House. There was talk of trying to ban "assault rifles," so those seemed a good target. The agency got wind of a religious group generally called Davidians (they themselves didn't use that term), located in a big building called Mt. Carmel, in a rural area NE of Waco, Texas. The Davidians were headed by a David Koresh, who was said to have a fondness for underage women. BATF also discovered that the Davidians had bought a lot of AR-15s. All were purchased via legal purchases from an FFL. ATF ginned up a search warrant affidavit that claimed (1) a person had heard full auto fire in the vicinity of Mt. Carmel, but Koresh and a few other Davidians who could be checked had never registered full auto firearms and (2) a former Davidian said that they had a .50 cal, but from their description of it it was actually a .55 Boyes rifle, and thus a destructive device.
BATF threw together a SWAT team (some of its members were made members just before the raid) of 80 agents, borrowed three military helicopters, and went off to raid Mt. Carmel, on Feb. 28, 1993.
Koresh had been warned that they were coming, and when they pulled up he ran toward them, asking them to hold on and saying there were women and children inside. A shot rang out (I think it was at the rear of the building, where the helicopters were approaching) and Koresh retreated back inside. A major fire fight erupted, and Koresh was hit twice before he could get thru the door. The Davidians called 911 and eventually worked out a cease-fire: four agents and six (I think) Davidians were killed.
The powers that be decided that FBI and its Hostage Rescue Team would handle the siege of Mt. Carmel. The HRT was well supplied with military vehicles, in particular an M-1 tank, some engineering vehicles, and some Bradley armored personnel carriers. On April 19, 1993, the HRT decided to end the siege: it began firing in tear gas projectiles from the Bradleys, and spraying in massive quantities of "liquid tear gas" (CS dust dissolved in the methylene chloride) from tanks on the engineering vehicles' booms.
After some hours, the armored vehicles began to tear Mt. Carmel down, completely demolishing the "gym" at the rear and smashing into several parts of the front. A fire broke out, and driven by high winds, quickly gutted Mt. Carmel, killing 80+ Davidians, including 24 children.
To start things off, here is a BATF report of their activities on February 19, 1993, nine days before the first raid and gun battle.
Background: BATF claimed that the massive raid (80+ agents, three borrowed military helicopters, a large caravan of vehicles) was necessary because David Koresh was a paranoid recluse who never left the Davidians' building and thus could not be arrested peacefully.
To monitor the Davidians, BATF put several agents in what came to be called the "undercover house," across the street from the Davidian residence (albeit "across the street" here means a couple of hundred yards away). This report details what those agents did on February 19.
They went shooting.
With David Koresh.
They had all the guns. Koresh had one unarmed Davidian with him. Then Koresh went home, and the agents went back to planning the raid.
I attended the Waco memorial this year, first time in years that I haven't had some emergency supervene. I think next week on this blog will be largely devoted to that topic. I found it amazing how forgiving the Davidians are. Example: in front of the rebuilt church is a memorial to the BATF agents killed in the initial assault, and to the dead of Oklahoma City:
"What You Might Not Know About Harriet Tubman, Gun-Toting Slave Liberator" at Conservative Review.
So points out Clayton Cramer.