Soldier Of FortuneWaco: Still Burning IssuesFri Sep 15, 2006 08:49
Soldier Of Fortune
Waco: Still Burning Issues
SOF Rushed in Where World media Feared to Tread
by James L. Pate
Charles Schumer held up a copy of Soldier Of Fortune magazine before dozens of cameras, pinching the cover's upper corner delicately between his thumb and forefinger, as if holding the tail of a decomposing rat. Smirking at the lenses, he condemned it as "a publication not known for its veracity."
It was the summer of 1995. Weeks of hearings on the Branch Davidian disaster in Waco, Texas, by a special House of Representatives panel had turned to the question of involvement of U.S. Army commandos with federal law enforcement agents at Waco — first reported by (see "Special Forces Involved in Waco Raid," May '94).
Schumer, then a House member, and now a freshman senator from New York City, was the White House's point man among the House panel's minority Democrats when the last hearings on Waco were held in 1995. Schumer led the Clinton Administration's successful effort to divert focus away from any questions about secret authorization to use U.S. Army SpecOps commandos in every stage of planning and execution of the government law enforcement plan at Waco, and whether such authorization broke the law.
As SOF has repeatedly reported over the past five years, the Army's participation at Waco began prior to the bloodily botched raid by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on 28 February 1993, and continued throughout the Federal Bureau of Investigation's ensuing 51-day armored siege of the religious sect's headquarters (see also "No Peace Without Justice," May '95: and "Black Suits, Badges and Bradleys," August '96).
It was with the fiery deaths of more than 80 church members — a fourth of them children — on 19 April 1993, that an ongoing cover-up of the extent of U.S. Army involvement in the Waco disaster began. Led by Schumer, the Democrats turned the hearings away from examining government misconduct and instead diverted focus to a rehash of lurid news accounts about the eccentric and unpopular beliefs shared by Branch Davidians and their leader, David Koresh, regarding marriage, sexuality and child-rearing.
Schumer was back in the news in late August, again talking about Waco, but singing a much different tune. He claimed he was "very disturbed" to learn about possible military involvement at Waco, or that the FBI had lied about the use of pyrotechnic gas devices on the final day. In the eyes of many critics of Schumer, who is widely despised throughout the American heartland by gun-rights advocates, the New Yorker's ersatz concern about Waco while grandstanding in front of cameras illustrates what a lying hypocrite he is.
Turn Over The Rock, Watch Them Run
The Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the FBI had been thrown into turmoil over reports by The Dallas Morning News that members of the Army's Delta anti-terrorism regiment were "up front and close" on the last day at Waco, and on that same day that members of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team had used pyrotechnically activated canisters of CS riot control agent — contradicting what many officials, including Attorney General Janet Reno, have repeatedly denied under oath. The reports which, in essence, repeated allegations made by this magazine in several articles dating back more than five years prompted an ongoing call by several members of Congress for what SOF also has long advocated: Reno's resignation.
The Dallas newspaper took the Delta story one step further, though, quoting a former Central Intelligence Agency clandestine services officer named Gene Cullen. As quoted by that newspaper, Cullen said that while deployed to Somalia in 1993, "he heard the detailed accounts of the military's active involvement from "three or four anti-terrorist Delta commandos" Cullen was working with at the time.
"In the months after the Waco tragedy, Mr. Cullen said, he heard from associates in Delta Force that the secret unit's involvement there amounted to far more than observation or tactical discussions, the newspaper reported. As quoted in the report, Delta commandos told Cullen that their unit "had 10 operators down there, that they were involved in the advanced forward stages of operations" on 19 April.
The Dallas paper also quoted the chairman of the Texas Department of Public Safety, James B. Francis, Jr., who cited "some evidence that may corroborate" the allegation that Delta commandos participated in the assault. He said this evidence indicates that more than three Delta operators were present in Mount Carmel on the final day, as the Pentagon continues to insist, and were "possibly involved in the assault."
One source who spoke to SOF on the condition of anonymity---a government lawyer with a security clearance who is officially involved in the investigation into the Army's role at Waco---said he has seen "at least" 23 sets of travel orders for Delta members sent to Waco. He did not provide a time frame.
"When they explained to me the depth to which they were involved down in Waco, I was quite surprised. They said basically they were out there in the vehicles; the Bradleys, the CEVs," Cullen told Dallas reporter Lee Hancock. "They were active." Since being quoted and also interviewed on television, Cullen apparently has gone to cover, perhaps having had the fear of Big Brother put into him for breaking the code of silence. He has disconnected his telephone at his home in Northern Virginia and has dropped from sight.
SOF Lead The Fourth Estate
Ironically. Hancock, like Schumer, had years earlier privately ridiculed SOF's coverage of Waco. By her own admission to one journalistic colleague, with whom SOF recently spoke, she was "practically an apologist" for the ATF and FBI in her early Waco coverage. She is now widely mentioned as a contender for a Pulitzer Prize, based on her new revelations.
Yes, the grapes are a bit sour, but this reporter is not unhappy to finally get to eat them. The magazine's record of reporting is well-known to those longtime readers who were not fooled by the news media's regurgitation of government press releases about Waco. Because of its delayed publishing schedule as a monthly, SOF is at a perpetual disadvantage in competing on "breaking" news. But we got it right, and, several times, we got it first.
Highlights Of Our Many Waco Stories
• MAY 1994: SOF first reports the use of U.S. Army SpecOps commandos in connection with the Waco raid.
• MAY 1995: SOF reports new details, many gleaned from classified reports, memos and message traffic obtained from official sources by the magazine, about the close involvement of Green Berets with BATE
• MAY 1996: SOF reports that Delta's commandos were "forward deployed" on the inner perimeter with members of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) on the final day at Waco.
SOF also recognized in its very first story about Waco that the case represented "the costliest search warrant service in history" and that the tragedy "will play a major role in determining ATF's future" (see "Gun Gestapo's Day of Infamy," June '93).
That first story also touched on the use of the military, and a federal law that requires a drug nexus in a case before any military assistance to civilian law enforcement agencies is allowed. The article quoted an ATF source, who told SOF on 29 March, that the drug lab allegation "was made up ... out of whole cloth ... a complete fabrication."
In response to routine news media questions, an ATF spokesman went on the record right after the initial raid, saying there was no suspicion of drug activity at Mount Carmel. But when then-Governor Ann Richards of Texas, later complained that the ATF had "misled" state officials about a drug nexus, David Troy, a top-level ATF official, later changed the story telling reporters that "evidence" of a drug lab surfaced "late" in the investigation.
To Build A Disaster, Start With A Lie
It was all a lie. There never had been a drug nexus. Records now indicate that ATF agents Phil Chojnacki and Chuck Sarabyn made up the allegation in a meeting with Green Beret officers in 1992, after being told that would be necessary to gain further Army assistance. Chojnacki and Sarabyn were later fired but then rehired when they suggested they might have stories to tell the news media if they remained unemployed.
In the magazine's second story on Waco, SOF recognized the Waco disaster as "the worst in the history of U.S. federal law enforcement," something that seemed obvious to editors and reporters, but a characterization, now widely shared, that other news media were reluctant to repeat (see "A Blundering Inferno," July '93).
In that second story, the magazine observed that "Waco's final outcome was not an isolated incident ... but a tragic, haunting echo of the repeated violent excesses ... of federal law enforcement...The tragedies of Waco and [the Randy Weaver case eight months earlier in] Idaho will be repeated..."
And they were, in horrifying magnitude, on 19 April 1995. when Timothy McVeigh "and others unknown," upset over the outrageous conduct of government agents at Waco, blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. According to a considerable body of credible evidence, it is also an act which the BATF and FBI could have prevented, and about which both agencies are still hiding key evidence.
"Had there been an honest investigation and inquiry into Waco in 1993, and had there been justice or the appearance of justice, then clearly there would have been no Oklahoma City bombing," said McVeigh's attorney, Stephen Jones.
SOF also reported in its second article about Waco the allegation that pyrotechnic gas canisters were used.
"Reno said that before approving the plan she asked more questions about the potential lethality of the tear has ... especially its potential to start a fire ... than about any other single issue. ... One federal law enforcement source well-known to Soldier Of Fortune contacted us while the flames still raged" it was reported in the issue of July 1993.
"The FBI strikes again," the source said. "I've taught their sniper teams. I've taught their SWAT teams ... Every time they really want to hurt somebody, they use tear gas. They use pyrotechnic burning devices. They do it intentionally."
Noting that the FBI sometimes gets pyrotechnic tear gas canisters from the military, the federal law enforcement source said "they use it when they want to because it burns."
Danforth Should Triage His Investigation
There still is no credible evidence that the government, intentionally or otherwise, set the fire that ultimately engulfed Mount Carmel in a raging inferno. But the oft-repeated evidence still cited by the FBI, surveillance tapes that picked up Davidians talking about setting a fire, also is not conclusive.
Those conversations were recorded hours before the fire, at a time when armored vehicles driven by FBI agents and Delta commandos, were literally knocking the building down around the ears of the men, women and children, many of whom were trapped by falling debris. The context is questionable, because at one point, Harvard-educated attorney Wayne Martin spoke specifically of the possibility of setting tanks on fire as a means of defense.
The FBI also cites evidence of charcoal lighter, lantern fuel and other flammables spread around the building. but there is no way to tell if it was poured deliberately or spilled accidentally when containers were ruptured by the treads of the invading military armor.
As former U.S. Senator John Danforth. named by Reno as an independent prosecutor to look into the "new" revelations, begins his Investigation. the question of who started the fire is irrelevant.
Danforth has already made one error — his decision to exclude any examination of the ATF's role at Waco. There are many unresolved issues, including the perjury of ATF agents before Congress and during the U.S. District Court trial of 11 Branch Davidians. If the guilty aren't punished, and misdeeds have no consequences, we can be confident that agents will continue to use perjury and obstruction of justice as investigative and prosecutorial "tools."
Danforth said he will focus only on the FBI and the "dark questions" of whether the FBI lied about not using pyrotechnic devices and then engaged in a cover-up; and whether federal personnel directed gunfire into the building on the final day, something the FBI continues to deny.
Never fired A Shot, Never Told The Truth
But numerous experts in Forward Looking Infrared Radar are unanimous in their analyses that the FBI's own FLIR video shows men maneuvering behind armored vehicles as they direct automatic weapons fire toward the rear of Mount Carmel at about 0930 on 19 April. If that's not conclusive, some new conventional video unearthed by independent film maker Mike McNulty and viewed by this reporter clearly shows gunfire in the same time frame, fired from a pivot-mounted machine gun toward the rear of Mount Carmel.
If Danforth still wonders about whether the FBI engaged in a cover-up. he should study the Randy Weaver case. The FBI's refusal to release evidence was so outrageous that the prosecutor. former assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Howen, quit in the middle of the trial and did not return to court. U.S. District Court judge Edward Lodge fined the FBI almost $10,000 for misconduct.
Agents also lied initially about illegal shoot-to-kill orders issued in Idaho. A subsequent D0J investigation found that the orders, issued by HRT commander Richard Rogers, were not only illegal, but unconstitutional. A headquarters agent was later fired for destroying documents to facilitate a cover-up in that case, but it was never made public what agents, or what illegal acts, were protected from exposure by the document destruction.
There are two other issues which must be resolved: perjury and the destruction of evidence by government agents.
In the Randy Weaver case, ATF Special Agent Herb Byerly lied in a letter to the U.S. attorney about Randy Weaver's criminal history: Weaver had none. But Byerly stated that Weaver was involved in drug trafficking and was a suspect in cases involving both armed robbers and murder. In Senate testimony, Byerly lamely excused the letter, saying the false allegations were "a typo." He was never punished.
FBI snipers. the same ones who were deployed at Waco with Delta operators. also gave conflicting testimony in the Weaver case. In the Weaver case, in a closed session with Judge Lodge. sources said the snipers repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment while under oath. In that same case, much ballistic evidence and an entire building containing some of that evidence — were either lost or destroyed by the FBI. There are parallels in the Waco case.
Most notable is Mount Caramel's missing front door, a piece of evidence that survived the fire, according to photographs, but then mysteriously disappeared while in FBI custody. It had bullet holes in it that could help prove or disprove the ATF's claim that they were fired on first. Surely if this evidence supported their claim, it would have been produced in court. Why did it conveniently disappear?
The similarities between the Weaver case and, eight months later, Waco should not be a mystery to an honest investigator. The same people at the FBI were in charge: Larry Potts, later promoted to assistant director: Danny Coulson; HRT commander Richard Rogers: and HRT sniper Lon Horiuchi.
Horiuchi played a pivotal role in the final outcomes in both the Weaver and Waco tragedies. In Idaho, it was Horiuchi who shot Vicki Weaver in the head while she was standing in her kitchen door, holding her infant daughter. And it was Horiuchi who claimed to have seen tracer fire coming from Mount Carmel on that final morning, and broadcast a code word that set in motion the final series of events leading up to the fire. Not another agent present reported seeing this tracer fire.
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