The Washington Times

April 19, 2001, Thursday, Final Edition


LENGTH: 915 words

HEADLINE: Detonating a Waco fireball

BYLINE: James Bovard

April 19 is the eighth anniversary of the final FBI assault on the Branch
Davidians at Waco, Texas. For almost a decade, politicians and bureaucrats have
sweated to withhold key information about that day's events from the American
public. But the ghost of Waco may be rising from the grave once more to place
its ice-cold hand again on the neck of the Washington establishment.

Back in September 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno handpicked former U.S.
Sen. John Danforth to finally put the wooden stake in the heart of the Waco
The Washington Times April 19, 2001, Thursday, Final Edition

issue once and for all. Mr. Danforth, operating supposedly as an independent
counsel,did his pious best - and raced to release his report last summer just as
he became rumored a top prospect to be Mr. Bush's vice presidential candidate.
Mr. Danforth basically exonerated the feds, saving his scorn for low-life
Americans who dared criticize the government tank assault and gassing of the
women, children, and men in the Davidians' home.

A key issue for Mr. Danforth's investigation was whether FBI agents fired on
Davidians during their final attack. Rhythmic patterns on Forward Looking
Infrared ("FLIR") tapes made by an FBI plane strongly suggested automatic
weapons fire came from positions near the FBI tanks. Mr. Danforth persuaded
federal Judge Walter Smith to conduct a re-enactment last year of the final
day's action. Mr. Danforth then proclaimed that the film from the re-enactment
proved beyond a doubt that federal agents did not shoot at Davidians - in large
part because the muzzle flashes on the re-enactment were much shorter than the
shots from the April 19, 1993, tape.

A new film, titled "The F.L.I.R. Project," produced by Mike McNulty (one of
the masterminds behind the Academy Award 1998 finalist documentary, "Waco: Rules
of Engagement") reveals fatal flaws in Mr. Danforth's re-enactment. (The film
is available at
The Washington Times April 19, 2001, Thursday, Final Edition

On April 19, 1993, FBI agents relied on a commercial, off-the-shelf ammo -
the type that would be used by any hunter or shooter. For the March 19, 2000,
Danforth-FBI re-enactment, the FBI used military-issue ammunition that had a
special chemical coating on the gunpowder to reduce muzzle flash (helpful in
preventing soldiers being detected in combat). The military ammo thus had a
built-in flash suppressant.

Since a key issue was the length of the muzzle flashes, using
flash-suppressing ammunition ensured that the re-enactment would be a farce.

The Danforth-FBI re-enactment further biased the test results by having the
FBI agents use weapons with a 20-inch barrel - instead of weapons with 14-inch
barrels that agents carried on April 19, 1993. The longer a weapon's barrel, the
less muzzle flash will be shown from each shot.

Again, this is a tricky way to do an accurate re-enactment. But the
re-enactment produced the politically correct result and Mr. Danforth proceeded
to denounce the American people for thinking bad things about their federal

No doubt Mr. Danforth, the FBI and others will continue to insist there was
no gunfire by FBI agents on April 19, 1993. But if the feds are innocent, why
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have they gone to such absurd lengths to fix the jury? The $12 million in tax
dollars that Mr. Danforth spent for his Waco investigation should have been
categorized as part of the public relations budget of the FBI and Justice
Department - or perhaps as a line item expense in the Clinton Legacy Project.

These revelations come on top of information that has already surfaced
showing the Danforth investigation to be a sham. Mr. Danforth personally chose
Vector Data Systems to carry out the tests, with U.S. military assistance, and
to evaluate the results. Mr. Danforth repeatedly identified Vector as
independent British company. But Vector is actually owned by Anteon, a large
American corporation that on its Web page boasts of contracts with 50 federal
agencies, including the White House Communications Agency.

A new book by former federal attorney David Hardy further debunks the
government's Waco fairy tale. "This Is Not An Assault" provides fascinating
inside details on how private investigators squeezed out damning information on
Waco - how federal judge Walter Smith stifled lawyers at the trial last year to
prevent jurors from learning of more than 100 items of evidence embarrassing or
potentially incriminating the federal government - and how Republican
congressmen (such as Dan Burton) and aides cowered and effectively aided the
Clinton administration cover-up. Mr. Hardy's skill in hammering federal
agencies with Freedom of Information Act requests was a decisive factor in
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making Waco a hot political potato in 1999. Mr. Hardy's book will be soon
available at

If President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft want to restore the
faith of the American people in the federal government, they must open the
vaults on Waco. Neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Ashcroft should have any incentive
to cover up the outrages of Miss Reno and other Clinton administration
officials. On the other hand, if Mr. Bush and Mr. Ashcroft do not have the
will or gumption to force the FBI, the ATF, and the Justice Department to come
clean about Clinton era abuses, what hope can we have of their honesty regarding
any abuses occurring after Jan. 20?

James Bovard is the author of "Feeling Your Pain: The Explosion & Abuse of
Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years" (St. Martin's Press).