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April 2000 Columns
xmag.com : April 2000 : Secret Cabal Sauce

Secret Cabal Sauce
by Jim Redden

The Waco controversy will not die.

A reenactment of the final FBI assault on the Branch Davidian compound was staged on Sunday, March 20, court ordered to determine whether government agents fired into the compound on April 19, 1993. The Branch Davidians are seeking a wrongful death claim in civil court against the Federal government. The FBI filmed the final assault with Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) video cameras. This original FLIR footage shows flashes of light which the Branch Davidians claim are gunfire. The Davidians attest that these flashes show the government firing at the back of the compound--the only avenue of escape during the fire. The reenactment, March 20, was filmed with two FLIR cameras--a new model operated by the FBI and an older one operated by British soldiers.

Just before the reenactment began, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith unexpectedly ordered that the new videos could not be released to the public. But this did not prevent lawyers from both sides claiming victory. Davidian lawyer Mike Caddell said the new tests clearly showed that the FBI fired into the compound during the final assault. U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford said they did not.

How can that be?

Here's what the government says: Two large weapons (a tripod-mounted M-60 machine gun and a Mark 19 automatic grenade launcher) produced flashes detected by both FBI and British infrared cameras. Other weapons (including a CAR-15 assault rifle, 9 mm pistol and 9 mm machine guns) produced no flashes. Bradford claims the FBI had no Mark 19's at Waco, and their M-60 was never fired. He says the lack of flashes from the smaller weapons proves they didn't fire them, either.

"...two important witnesses suffered serious heart problems just before the reenactment was conducted."

Here's what the Davidian's lawyer says: Both test cameras recorded flashes not only from the M-60 and Mark 19, but also from the CAR-15, which FBI agents say they had in Waco. Test cameras also recorded explosions of "flash-bang" distraction devices, which looked similar to flashes recorded by the FBI on April 19. The two sides also argue over whether people can be seen on the new videos. No people are evident in the original tape on the final assault. Bradford says people are clearly visible at all times on both of the new tapes. Caddell disputes that, saying that the people sometimes vanish from view on the British tape. (The infra red evidence of people is necessary to confirm gunfire. No people, no gunfire.)

And the two sides disagree over whether broken glass, tin foil and other debris reflect sunlight which shows up as flashes on the tapes. Bradford says the debris produces numerous flashes which look like the flashes on the original tapes. But Caddell says "debris flashes" only appear on the video made by the FBI, not the British camera.

So who's right? We may never know. Smith has ordered the tapes be withheld until they are analyzed by court appointed independent experts--at least 30 days. He has retained the Vector Data Systems, a British company, to study the tapes and release a report on them by late April. But Smith has not promised that all of the raw video footage will have to be released, meaning the public may never know what the tapes reveal for sure.

In the meantime, two important witnesses suffered serious heart problems just before the reenactment was conducted. McClennan County Sheriff Jack Harwell died of a heart attack on March 16. His jurisdiction included Waco, and he had been highly critical of the government's handling of the crisis. Waco siege survivor Clive Doyle says Harwell contacted him shortly before he died to say "the death of all the children [killed during the final assault] was starting to weigh on him."

Around the same time, FLIR expert Dr. Edward Allard suffered a serious stroke which has left him hospitalized in critical condition. Allard is the expert who identified the mysterious flashes as gunfire in the Oscar-nominated documentary film, Waco: The Rules of Engagement. After analyzing the original video, Allard said "this type of behavior--men running up and down the building, firing automatic weapons into a church--is disgusting."

Texas radio talk show host Alex Jones finds the timing of the heart attacks suspicious. "Both Harwell and Allard were to be key in proving that the Federal Government premeditatedly murdered the Branch Davidians and then systematically obstructed justice and engaged in huge cover-ups," says Jones.



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