by David Hardy
The two assaults on the Branch Davidian residence outside Waco, Texas, were an unparalleled law enforcement disaster. In the course of serving warrants which any local law enforcement officer would have handled without bloodshed, nearly ninety Americans--including four Federal agents and 24 children--were killed. One might question not only the competence but the sanity of the government planners: the initial raid plan called for the agents to approach the site in broad daylight, packed shoulder-to-shoulder in unarmored cattle trailers, and to drive off the dogs by spraying them with fire extinguishers.
The total retribution against the planners--whom agency investigators found had compounded their lunacy by lying to them and attempting to blame the one agent who had rationally attempted to stop the raid--consisted of being fired, then reinstated with full back pay, albeit without managerial powers.
During Congressional hearings, participants in the first raid testified that the Davidians fired first. The precise sequence given was that, as agents approached the door, Koresh stepped outside, then went back in and slammed the door in their faces. A burst of gunfire then erupted through the closed door. Unfortunately for the official position, photographs were being taken from the government "undercover house," and these show the door closed while the agents were still far from it. The government time-line continues with the agents being "ambushed" and subjected to a devastating fire--"we were outgunned," one spokesman put it. Yet the government photographs taken during the "cease-fire" show little damage (one broken windshield) to cars behind which they crouched, and massive gunfire damage to the compound.
The doors--especially the right hand door--through which the Davidians allegedly directed their first shots--would obviously be strong evidence of who began the gunfight, given the government position and the fact that they were made of nonflammable sheet metal. The right-hand door has, however, mysteriously vanished. For the last known photo of it, taken from the air during the final assault, click here.
The final assault involved the use of massive quantities of CS gas, a powerful lachriminator. This was sprayed after being dissolved in methylene chloride, an industrial solvent which is itself both toxic and flammable. Both chemicals are heavier than air and sink toward the ground: the women and children within the compound had taken cover by lying flat, under blankets, on the ground floor. (The attorney general had been advised that CS poses no permanent risk to children, based on one incident involving a two (not six) hour exposure of a toddler. Unfortunately, review of the medical journal article on the incident shows that the child developed pneumonia and chemical burns, was placed on a respirator, and spent four weeks in the hospital). For a discussion of use of CS, click here.
A separate issue is posed by the injection of methylene chloride, the solvent used as a carrier of CS. For each ounce of CS sprayed or shot in, up to two pounds of methylene chloride were injected. MeCl, like most solvents, is toxic and a central nervous system depressant. It also is flammable and lowers the flash point of other inflammable substances. For my own study of MeCl use, click here. An industrial chemist has also opined that, given the quantities of MeCl sprayed, it may well have turned the "bunker," where the women and children were housed, into an impromptu gas chamber and left others too drugged to escape the fire.
When the gas assault showed no result, armored vehicles were rammed into the building. The justification given was that this would open avenues for people to leave--but since (1) the building had five doors and about eighty windows and (2) gas was sprayed into the holes thus made, the justification seems a bit thin. In the rear, the ramming actually collapsed half the roof of the "gym:" the armored vehicle then climbed atop and crushed down the collapsed roof. This does seem a rather strange way to make it easier to leave a building.
In the end, the building burned. The cause may never be known. Suicidal arson was the government position, supported by indications the fires are seen at different locations over a brief span. At the same time, it is hard to predict the speed of fire spread in a wooden wind tunnel--a frame building, hay bales placed near windows, with large holes rammed by tanks facing into a 35 mph wind. "Enhanced" audiotapes made by bugs within the building show references to "spread the fuel." Yet those tapes date from 6 A.M., six hours before the fire started; and "enhancement" can cover many "adjustments" to a tape. (There is an amusing .wav file demonstrating how tapes can be "enhanced" to delete or relocate a few words). Moreover, the entire plan for the final assault was supposedly based on the government judgment that the Davidians were clearly not suicidal. Nor is it clear how commands to start a fire could quickly have been relayed down the large building--interrupted by areas where the walls had been driven in--by persons wearing gas masks. At the very least we can say that the women and children in the bunker were not suicides: a person seeking death in fire does not cover themselves with wet blankets.
Other possible fire causes are obvious. The building was lit by gasoline, kerosene, and propane lanterns, and filled with hay bales used to provide cover against possible gunfire: a tank had rammed the area where one fire starts barely a minute before. Survivors Doyle and Thibedeau speak of seeing "Ferret" CS gas projectiles skittering about the floor, shooting off smoke. But "Ferret" rounds do neither: they are plastic, contain a liquid, and burst on impact. There are CS rounds which do skitter and expel smoke--the pyrotechnic rounds such as the "Spede-Heat:" these bear warnings against use against wooden buildings, precisely because of the fire risk. Since the Congressional committees did not pursue Doyle's testimony, nor ask for a listing of all types of CS rounds used, we do not know if pyrotechnic rounds were employed when the 400 Ferret rounds were exhausted early in the assault.
One thing we can deduce. The government anticipated that its final assault might or would cause fire, and it did nothing to prevent that risk from escalating into death for those within. Its own personnel wore fire-retardant Nomex clothing. Newsman David Hall discovered that calls had been made to hospital burn units in the area to ascertain the capacity of each. Overhead were aircraft with FLIR (forward-looking-infrared) cameras--which in daylight produce a distorted grey-scale image, not very useful for documenting most events, but very useful in documenting a blaze. Yet no firefighting equipment was summoned until after the fire began, and when it arrived it was detained at the government checkpoint until it was judged safe--that is, until no one was alive to offer resistance. This may not prove intent, as opposed to negligence... but then, as the traditional jury instruction reads, the law presumes that a man intends the obvious consequences of his actions.
Dave Hardy's Waco Page An attorney helping with the Davidian civil suits, Hardy includes great photos, videos and audios which he got through Freedom of Information requests. http://www.indirect.com/www/dhardy/waco.html
For much MORE about WACO try the following URL.....
Background: CS "gas" is actually a
fine powder: the problem in spraying it is how to get it into the air, evenly,
in tiny particles. One approach is to dissolve it in the industrial solvent
methylene chloride (MeCl), and spray the solution. The tiny droplets of MeCl
evaporate, leaving particles of CS suspended. This is the method used in the
"Ferret" projectile (which splatters the solution when it hits and
bursts) and the model 5 injector (which sprays it).
EYE: May cause
pain, moderate eye irritation and slight corneal injury. Vapors may irritate
eyes. ....... INHALATION: in confined or poorly ventilated areas, vapors can
readily accumulate and can cause unconsciousness and death. Minimal anesthetic
or narcotic effects can be seen in the range of 500-1000 ppm [Parts per million]
methylene chloride. [My note: one Ferret round in a 20x20 room will generate
about 500 ppm: around 400 Ferrets were fired into the building]. Progressively
higher concentrations over 1000 ppm can cause dizziness; drunkenness;
concentrations as low as 10,000 ppm can cause unconsciousness and death. These
high levels can also cause cardiac arrhythmias. Excessive exposure may cause
irritation to upper respiratory tract. Excessive exposure may cause
carboxyhemoglobinemis, thereby impairing the ability of the blood to transport
VENTILATION: Controlling airborne concentrations
below the ACGIH TLV exposure guideline is recommended. Use only with adequate
ventilation. Local exhaust ventilation may be necessary for some operations.
Lethal concentrations may exit in areas with poor ventilation.
I'm a trifle reluctant to parade my background: the evidence presented here either persuades or it does not, and my own beliefs or character cannot alter that. When an argument is made from authority--you should believe this conclusion because I, the expert, tell you it is true--an attacked on the alleged authority is indeed in order. When the person presents the evidence and leaves you to judge, an attack upon the presenter of the evidence is the last refuge of one who cannot answer the proof. [8/31/99 addition: just about the only interpretation of data to be found on these pages is my hypothesis that FBI misled Janet Reno. Today's reports indicate that Ms. Reno agrees with that interpretation.]
But people do occasionally hint that a person interested in Waco must be some manner of anti-government zealot, and I suppose it deserves an answer.
The fact is that I worked for the federal government for nearly a decade, as a headquarters agency attorney in Washington, D.C., representing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I had the lead assignment for representing the agency's law enforcement branch. When I retired, I was a GS-14, the same rank as the leaders of the ATF raid (okay, so they had me beat by a few "steps"). I represented law enforcement with a certain zeal, and we got along well. I even covered up for them on occasion, so long as it involved shafting another agency rather than a member of the public--like the time an agent used an undercover identity as a dentist, got sued for malpractice, and I had to get Justice to represent him on the basis that it was all within the scope of his duties. There was no need to worry Justice about that little memorandum forbidding undercover agents from assuming identities of medical, dental, or legal personnel....
Here are my commendations from Justice's Assistant Attorney General, mentioning my cooperative efforts with Justice, its Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Interior's Solicitor, and its Deputy Solicitor. (The last commendation is specfically for preparing the office manual on civil penalty and forfeiture procedures, to ensure law enforcement was properly represented in those areas.). Rather atypical of an anti-government zealot, I should think.
Personally, I tend to agree with the classical republicans (by which I mean the 17th century political movement): man achieves his highest state as part of a polity, a nation state--a man without a nation is indeed an empty creature. But I also feel that that polity owes duties to its citzens--duties to avoid killing them, lying to them, behaving unjustly or dishonorably toward them. That, and not some generalized objection to government, is at the core of my concern about Waco. One might ask who is genuinely "anti-government" here--the person who believes that the U.S. is capable of acting justly and fairly toward its citizens, or the one who apparently thinks that fabrication and abuse are the inevitable price of government and must thus be excused. One might, I auppose, even ask who is "liberal?"
Some might disagree with my position on gun control: I believe it's foolish social policy and largely unconstitutional to boot, and I'm quite prepared to defend those stances. My writings on the issue (chiefly my Cumberland Law Review piece tracing the history of federal firearms control) have been cited as authoritative by the U.S. Supreme Court (okay, in a dissent), and by all but two of the twelve Federal Circuits. SeeStaples v. United States, 511 U.S. 610, 626 n.4 (1994) (Stevens, J., dissenting);U. S. v. Andrade, 135 F3d. 104, 109 n. 3 (1st Cir. 1998);U.S. v. Hayden, 64 F.3d 126, 129 (3d Cir. 1995);U.S. v. Langley, 62 F.3d 602 (4th Cir. 1995) (en banc); U.S. v. Kirk, 70 F.3d 791, 798 n.1 (5th Cir. 1995), opin. on rehearing 105 F.3d 997, 1006-07 (1997);U.S. v. McGill, 74 F.3d 64, 67 (5th Cir. 1996);U. S. v. Cassidy, 899 F.2d 543, 546 n.8 (6th Cir. 1990); U.S. v. Kenney, 91 F.3d 884, 886 (7th Cir. 1996); U.S. v. Farrell, 69 F.3d 891, 893 (8th Cir. 1995); U.S. v. Sherbondy, 865 F.2d 996, 1002 (9th Cir. 1988); U.S. v. Marchant, 55 F.3d 509, 514 (10th Cir. 1995); U.S. v. Otiaba, 862 F. Supp. 251, 253-54 (D.N.D. 1994) (declining to follow 2d Circuit, since "that court did not have available to it Hardy's analysis...."). They've also been cited with approval by... the Socialist Labor Party.
This has been a long digression: the critical thing is the evidence, not the guy who scanned it in. Read it and judge for yourself.