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1997: Waco Questions Congress Refuses to Answer
by Carol Moore, member, Committee for Waco
Justice and author "The Davidian Massacre"
In early 1995 many Americans held high hopes that Republican-promised "Waco hearings" would finally expose federal agents' crimes against the Davidians and the government coverup of those crimes.
The House of Representatives held 10 days of "Waco" hearings in the summer of 1995. The Senate held two days of such hearings in the fall.
The hearings did reveal over-aggressiveness and duplicity by agents and officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, Congress' final conclusion followed the party line--the Davidians ambushed BATF and committed mass suicide. Questions of crimes by these agents were rarely raised and evidence of such, when alleged or chanced upon, discounted.
Nevertheless, citizens continue to produce new books and films cataloguing compelling evidence that hyped-up BATF agents shot first as David Koresh opened the front door, even as other agents shot from helicopters, killing four Davidians. BATF left ample bullet hole evidence in the walls and roofs of the building of this indiscriminate and illegal gunfire. The Davidians repeatedly told negotiators that when this evidence was discovered Davidians would be freed and federal agents would be prosecuted. Fearing they were right, and angry at the deaths of four BATF agents, FBI Hostage Rescue Team agents deliberately destroyed evidence of BATF gunfire outside the building. And they repeatedly sabotaged negotiations and pushed for a gas and tank attack that could--and ultimately did--destroy the building and its incriminating evidence.
Many Americans believe the U.S. Congress cares more about protecting these federal agents from prosecution than about protecting the American people from such agents. If Congress is to reassure the American people this is not true, it must re-open hearings on Waco to answer the questions below and/or call for a special prosecutor.
For action call or fax:
House Judiciary Committee 202/225-3951 fax-225-7682
Senate Judiciary Committee 202/224-5225 fax-224-9102
QUESTIONS ABOUT FEBRUARY 28, 1997
1. House investigators determined that "someone" at BATF lied to the military about the Davidians being involved with drugs in order to get U.S. Army Special Forces and other military aid. Instead of pulling out the stops to discover who lied, investigators only whined about the fact that military staff at Fort Bragg were not made available to them or had been pre-interviewed.
2. One of the chief raid planners was William Buford, Special Agent in Charge of Little Rock BATF and a personal acquaintance of President Bill Clinton. The day after the February 28 raid, then-Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman visited the injured Buford in a Texas hospital. Congress never asked about this visit or whether Clinton or his staff had any foreknowledge of the raid.
3. During the House hearings it was revealed that imprisoned Davidian Brad Branch, who was standing behind the unarmed David Koresh at the front door, claims he saw an agent shoot a dog as other agents rushed the door. He claims one approaching agent panicked and started shooting at Koresh, wounding him and mortally wounding his father- in-law. Why did congressional investigators merely whine in their report that the Treasury Department did not let it interview agents before the hearings?
Why not grill them now?
4. Why doesn't Congress methodologically investigate the copious forensic and eyewitness evidence that BATF agents in the Blackhawk helicopter shot at Davidians? Instead it quiescently accepts the denials of two BATF agents and 3 National Guard helicopter pilots--who themselves may have shot or covered up others' shooting. Such evidence includes:
BATF discussions of using helicopter gunfire as a diversion; an agent in the helicopter admitting agents were armed and permitted to fire in self-defense; the government's allegations Davidians fired at helicopters, which might have triggered such a "self-defense" response, even before such gunfire began; BATF video from inside the helicopter showing the closeness of the approach to the building and containing sounds of close-up gunfire; television video showing bullets entering the roof from an almost perpendicular angle; two Davidians' complaints to 911 officers during the raid about such firing; thirteen Davidian survivors' testimony about it; Davidian attorneys and a prosecution witness' testimony about bullet hole evidence in the highest roof; autopsy evidence indicating four Davidians probably were killed from gunfire from above.
5. Why didn't Congress do a systematic investigation of the "second shooting" of Davidian Michael Schroeder as he approached Mount Carmel several hours after the raid? There is evidence that BATF agents, angry at BATF agents' deaths, gave scant warning as they opened fire on Schroeder, who died of three wounds to the back and two to the head.
Troubling evidence like shooting heard after the incident and Schroeder's missing cap suggests that agents then approached and "finished off" the wounded man with shots to the head. The FBI would not allow Texas Rangers to investigate the area for ten days after the shooting, making it impossible to check for footprints.
QUESTIONS ABOUT SABOTAGE OF NEGOTIATIONS
6. Why didn't Congress grill prosecutors and federal agents about the moving and destruction of automobiles, trucks and a trailer during the siege? Why hasn't Congress asked FBI siege commander Jeff Jamar and chief negotiator Byron Sage--as well as Hostage Rescue Team commander Richard Rogers--about their reactions to the Davidians' allegations that bullet hole evidence in the building would lead to Davidian acquittals and convictions of agents? These questions must be asked in light of Jamar and Sage's conflicting or dubious explanations to Congress about why they withheld from their superiors and Attorney General Janet Reno important information which would have scuttled the gas and tank attack that they supported.
7. During the Senate hearings FBI Waco negotiator Cliff Van Zandt confirmed an allegation by a Davidian hearing witness: every time Davidians cooperated with the FBI by releasing people, the Hostage Rescue Team would punish them with acts like destruction of property, turning off electricity, or escalated harassment. Why hasn't Congress grilled Hostage Rescue Team commander Richard Rogers and all Hostage Rescue Team members about this phenomena?
QUESTIONS ABOUT APRIL 19, 1993
8. While FBI agents claim Davidians threw their phone out the window on April 19, Davidians deny this, asserting a tank cut the phone wire before the gas attack began. This made it impossible for Davidians to negotiate a safe surrender. The same agents claim Davidians immediately fired on the tanks, which Davidians also deny. This gunfire allegation gave the FBI the excuse to speed up the gas attack and quickly proceed to the demolition of the building--and an excuse not to fix the phones. Such actions and lies by the agents ensured the building would be destroyed.
They also ensured Davidians would be terrified of exiting and being shot, even as they hung a banner asking that their phones be fixed. Why doesn't Congress take every FBI agent at the scene aside and grill each about the events of that day?
9. During the House hearing Representative Howard Coble complained that the U.S. Army had not yet provided to the Committee any evidence of alleged damage to army tanks from Davidian gunfire on April 19. One staffer told me they did finally receive that material from the army.
However, if so, it was not included in the transcripts, as requested by Mr. Coble. Is the House investigating committee hiding evidence that there was no Davidian gunfire?
10. Before Attorney General Janet Reno left the FBI Operations Center in Washington on April 19, around 11:00 a.m., she had a telephone conversation with Bill Clinton, one she mentioned during the 1993 House hearings. Incredibly, in neither these nor 1995 hearings did representatives question her about the content of this conversation.
Reno left soon after and put then-Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell in charge. Representatives did not ask her questions about what communication she had with Hubbell in the next two hours that passed before the fire. Nor have they asked if wealthy Waco businessman Bernard Rappaport--who paid Hubbell $18,000 after he resigned in disgrace from the Justice Department--might have had any input into Justice Department or White House decisions on Waco. Nor have they asked Lisa Foster why one reason she believed her husband, White House counsel Vince Foster, killed himself was he felt guilty about "Waco."
11. Will Congress finally dispute the FBI and Justice Department claims that nearly two dozen Davidians were on the first floor but refused to leave the building? Davidians claim these men and women were trapped on the second floor because the tanks destroyed the stairwells.
12. Former U.S. Army and BATF fire investigator Richard Sherrow testified at the hearings. He later signed an affidavit for the Davidian civil suits stating that there is a strong probability that an FBI tank started at least one fire on the second floor that, fed by strong winds through long hallways, quickly spread to the rest of the building. He notes suggestive evidence that FBI agents shot an incendiary "flash bang" into the gymnasium after the first fire started.
Will Congress finally take this evidence seriously--even it means the U.S. government may lose 1.5 billion dollars in lawsuits?
13. Why did several FBI tanks continue ploughing burning, bullet-pocked walls and other evidence into the fire for at least ten minutes towards the end of the fire, as seen on television videos? (During the hearings one FBI tank driver volunteered a dubious answer, a possible attempt to pre-empt such a question.)
14. The controversial new film "Waco: The Rules of Engagement" provides evidence relevant to most of the questions above. It also presents infrared video experts who opine that there is clear infrared video evidence that FBI agents shot at Mount Carmel, perhaps at escaping Davidians, during the fire. Will Congress take these allegations
seriously enough to grill FBI agents about this?
QUESTIONS ABOUT PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT IN BRANCH DAVIDIAN TRIAL
5. Confidential memoranda and handwritten notes revealed during the 1995 House Waco hearings exposed the fact that the Treasury Department, under pressure from the Justice Department and Webster Hubbell, halted its post-February 28 raid shooting review because agents' stories "did not add up." In fact, interviewers were generating "exculpatory" material that could help the Davidian defendants at trial. Hubbell promised to produce his "Waco files" to Congress, but did not do so. Does Congress condone this unconstitutional Justice Department practice of squelching evidence that might help defendants?
16. The Department of Justice would not allow a company chosen by House investigators to independently test the Davidians' guns to see if they really are illegal machine guns, or if the FBI was falsely claiming this. It then claimed the Department could not afford to independently test them. Considering recent findings of faulty FBI lab work, and even evidence of fabrication of evidence, this FBI allegation, which has led to 140 year sentences for six Davidians, must be independently verified.
Former Los Angeles police officer Mark Fuhrman said on his infamous tapes, "cops" don't need to conspire together to protect each other when they commit crimes, they know what to do. The same goes for federal agents, even from competing agencies like BATF and FBI. These are "cover your butt" conspiracies. However, a truly committed Congress can break through law enforcement's vow of silence. Otherwise "Waco" will remain a prime symbol of the crumbling legitimacy of the federal government.
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