By Dan Gifford
"The federal government was absolutely out of control there. We spoke in the jury room about the fact that the wrong people were on trial, that it should have been the ones that planned the raid and orchestrated it and insisted on carrying out this plan who should have been on trial."
Davidian trial jury forewoman
Several highly promoted network TV specials have aired during past years about the 1993 attack by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) on the Branch Davidian religious sect in Waco, Texas, the ensuing 51 day siege of the group by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the climatic conflagration that killed almost 80 Davidian men, women and children.
In brief, the BATF, FBI and Clinton administration said that happened because BATF agents were ambushed while serving a warrant on a dangerous, drug dealing, doomsday, "red neck" racist religious "cult" with an "arsenal" of guns illegally converted to machine guns led by a child molester named David Koresh who started his own religion. That narrative further holds that Koresh beat babies, held his followers hostage and made them commit mass suicide in a fire he started rather than allow their rescue by the FBI. That story was cinched in the public mind by round the clock demonizations of the Davidians in news coverage and TV dramatizations.
It's an account that delights the elitist snobs of America's liberal chattering class who spread it so long as its misrepresentations, hypocrisies and omissions aren't mentioned -- like the fact that almost half the Davidians were black and that outrageous racist motives were an integral part of the decision to attack the Davidians . None among America's elite journalism clique wanted to hear that for reasons many readers will remember.
During the 1990s, those who poked holes in official narratives were slimed in mainstream media as anti-police, anti-government, militia, conspiracy nut jobs and, the nuclear all purpose smears, Nazis and racists. Nobody wanted to know that the real bad guys and racists at Waco were members of the BATF and FBI. Having been introduced into a group of BATF agents by a connected source, I was able to anonymously mingle with agents and hear their "in whiskey veritas" bar talk. It was there I was told that a significant reason the Davidians were targeted for attack was that Koresh was miscegenating with "niggers." And yes, that was the word used.
That agent anger at race mixing was expressed in various ways. Best known of those ways was the annual outing of the red neck bubbas who used to -- and probably still do -- heavily populate BATF ranks. New York Times: F.B.I. Says at Least 7 Agents Attended Gatherings Displaying Racist Paraphernalia
Said event was called the "Good Ol' Boys Round-Up" and it was there that "nigger hunting licenses" were handed out, I was told. When that was first revealed, the event did make it into the public square for a short time but was quickly kiboshed by government political spin as anti-government conspiracy hyperbola. However, this official photo of one such "Good Ol' Boys" gathering required extraordinary measures to obtain and tells about all one needs to know.
Only the Klan robes are missing.
I received both arrest and death threats after offering it to members of our legacy media. Had they shown it to counter the false narrative in play instead of constantly repeating it, the entire Waco incident would have been seen in a different light and possibly have lead to BATF disbandment or prison time for its many agent criminals.
Both are infamous for inducing people thru various forms of coercion and outright threat -- often through color of authority -- to commit crimes they would not otherwise have committed so BATF officials could arrest them and then claim to be heroes who deserve more power and taxpayer money . Black Lives may Matter as a politically chic paradigm, but within the virtue signaling limousine liberal class of media and academe that controls public perceptions, Waco shows that only politically useful black lives really matter. So do know the official government/media story is baloney as are like accounts printed in newspapers like the Dallas Morning News.
But it's baloney that continues to be fed to and swallowed by a gullible American public despite the public confession of the truth by one of those most responsible for establishing the false public perception via a TV script he wrote for an NBC network special.
"Within days of the BATF raid, the Davidians and especially Koresh, were demonized as the Jews were in Germany before W.W.II. As we all now know, the government and the media painted a portrait of Koresh and the Davidians that I now know was insidious, malevolent, and ultimately destructive. To my everlasting shame, I added to that distorted view."
Penningroth's mea culpa received no media attention because it undermined the government/media complex political language narrative on which NBC's special was based. George Orwell told us the reason regimes propagate and robustly defend such verbiage: “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” So the political language characterization of noble government police saving us all from a murderous, Jim Jones People's Temple type evil -- a narrative I too at first believed -- persists despite the known contrary facts.
It's a fiction my film, "Waco: The Rules of Engagement" (WTRE), attempted to correct via William Gazecki's magnificent direction and editing in the face of massive government, media and pop culture opposition that included what we now call cancellation, various forms of intimidation and even murder. Unfortunately, it now appears that film record may have been undone to some degree.
The WTRE versions I have seen posted on the internet have been re-edited to fit the religious, political and or conspiracy agendas of others. One of those bogus re-edits was unfortunately done by the late Michael McNulty, WTRE's own chief researcher. When I exercised my final edit authority and removed material he'd added that was both speculative and imprudent (as you'll read), he made his own version from stolen material and sold it in boxes that looked like the real film. His bogus film is still around and continues to spread false claims as does the account of WTRE posted by Wikipedia, which co founder Larry Sanger says is now "badly biased" to the political left.
I am told that is even true of the greatly reduced length film available on the official film WTRE website now owned by persons unknown to me. That has been the case since my former wife got ownership of the film when we divorced. Given the opposition to the film while being made and after, none of that is surprising.
Said opposition included activist liberals (many of whom delivered scorching rants against the film at theaters for aiding "anti - government militia"), a government shill Hollywood casting director and more. More included slams from law und order conservatives and Soviet style active measure secret police surveillance that was confirmed by a former US Army intelligence officer and West Point grad. More also included intimidations and death threats against WTRE filmmakers by agents of, among others, the the FBI, BATF, U.S. Army and Los Angeles Police Department working in concert with the feds which preceded a still unsolved 1999 murder.
Those efforts made me a very popular guy for a time. Women I'd never seen before propositioned me while other total strangers would start chatty conversations at coffee shops. Those segued into leading questions that included mention of my email contents and phone conversations while casually running threat scenarios about the many ways I could be destroyed as others had been.
What if an agent claimed I lied to him or her, I was asked, or child porn was planted on my computer, or a traffic cop impersonator stopped me on the road? A couple of them even tried to get me to commit the federal crime of saying I wanted to kill Bill Clinton, the President of the U.S. at the time. All that and more may befall me, I was told, if I did not agree to edit certain material from the film or name the sources only I knew who provided information somebody did not want revealed.
The gravity of those threats made me a believer in a couple of other things I'd heard but had dismissed. First, that the Waco information in contention was a breach of national security on someone's radar screen. Second, that the core catalyst for my receipt of such information was former CIA Director William Colby.
It was said he was outraged at the Waco events and that he knew honest FBI agents had quietly brought info to my Houston home for use in prior documentaries and news stories I did for KUHT-TV (PBS) , The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour (PBS), The Nightly Business Report (PBS) and KTRK-TV (ABC) on subjects like financial fraud and satanic child abuse. Agents supplied that information because the political powers that be had undermined their investigations to protect the powerful and they knew all who broadcast my stories had refused to cut embarrassing facts I found that Washington apparatchiks demanded be removed. What those agents provided was vital to exposing the politically protected big shots behind the bank - savings and loan looting of the 1980s and the police and prosecutor corruptions that had imprisoned innocent people for ritual child abuse all over America -- quite often for the career advancement of police and prosecutors.
Colby's stance on corruption of power was well known, especially when power intended for use against foreign military enemies was used against American civilians as was the case at Waco. Considering the home of William Colby's son, Carl, was a few blocks from mine, I wondered at times if there may be a connection between that geography and the information that showed-up at my Los Angeles home and some other places. It's a question I posed to Carl over lunch in 1998.
He was making a film about his father at the time and had concluded his dad's 1996 "accidental" death under questionable circumstances was a suicide he'd committed out of guilt -- possibly for the many civilians he had caused to be killed thru black operation "civilian assassination programs" in places like Vietnam. Others disagreed. But there was another story. I told Carl I'd heard he may have been killed for causing secrets about what the US government did at Waco and other places to be revealed. Which story, if any of them, is true cannot be conclusively determined, but the mystery certainly fits the title of Carl's film, "The Man Nobody Knew."
If even a part of the Colby information connection was true, it would explain the crosscurrents of encountered strangers and the 20 years of stonewalled Freedom of Information Requests (FOIA). It would also explain some of the speaking invitations I received and the disruptive, menacing presence of a man who claimed to be a former U.S. Army Special Forces operative at many of them.
In what appeared to be coordinated invites, I was asked to attend a Skeptics Society meeting at California Institute of Technology, a U.S. Army War College conference and the annual William Colby Military Writer's Conference at Vermont's Norwich Military Academy -- known, I was told, as "the academy nobody has heard of for people who do things nobody hears about." The reason I say they appeared coordinated is that invitations to the latter two gatherings (and others) extended to one in my position are almost always done as an investigation technique to put one at ease so information can be had under relaxed circumstances.
Sure enough, clever gretchenfrage was in abundance regarding my sources, my loyalty to America and my political views. So were familiar faces that told volumes about about those who front and write intelligence and military community propaganda in our nation's news media. There is a reason U.S. Army psychological warfare propaganda experts from Fort Bragg have been in CNN's newsroom for years despite denials.
Other investigation feints were more straightforward.
THE HONEY TRAP
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Lieutenant Gary Rogers was at the center of a "honey trap" baited by an attractive California attorney undercover operative named Irene M. Corcoran working out of McNulty & Saacke, a known front, sources told me, for federal police.
That the LAPD would be engaged in this way was no surprise given its long, not so Secret History of Citizen Spying.
Plan "A," it soon became clear, was to have me allow electronic surveillance experts Clyde R. Widrig and William H. Snell plant listening devices inside my home on the pretext they were looking for bugs federal agents had possibly planted to learn my sources. Even though I wasn't told they were LAPD and FBI operatives, both had "cop" so plainly written all over them that I suspected their intentions from the start. The existence of their planted listening devices was confirmed when they interfered with the audio of the film "Star Maps," a 1997 film that leased my home for a location shoot. Plan B was to blackmail me for the honey trap dalliance into revealing them if the bugs were fruitless. What none realized was there was no blackmail leverage since I wasn't married and that I allowed their listening devices to be planted in order to mislead those listening with my own narrative or "legend." That required no brilliance on my part because the government's snares were so implausibly stupid and transparent.
THE AUDITION RUSE
Hollywood casting director Shiela Manning sent me to an audition for a news show that didn't exist. That became obvious when I saw the El Monte (a small town East of Los Angeles) audition location was in a building that housed government offices. That made no more sense than did the show's "newsroom." It appeared to be an electronic operations and communications center someone tried to make look like a news room. As for the "audition," those conducting it were "wrong." That's wrong dress, body language and vibe for ones casting a show. Like Widreg, Snell and others I encountered, all had "cop" written across their foreheads. So it was no surprise when the audition became an interrogation intended to get me to name sources or say something that would allow the triangulation of sources.
THE CAR BUG RUSE
My car was bugged for audio and tracking. The devices were installed after both front tires were slashed in a public Santa Monica parking garage one night. No other cars were touched. When I called the Santa Monica police to report the incident, SM officers came right to the garage (which is unusual) to take my report. The car had to be towed and was taken to a nearby dealership to await its opening in the morning. During the night or at the dealership, the bugs were placed inside the vehicle's CB radio, it was expertly determined. About a year later, that CB was stolen (or retrieved) after my locked car was broken into sans any damage or sign of forced entry while parked in a private condo locked garage containing around 12 other cars. The CB may have been worth about $5 if fenced. But other cars, many unlocked, that contained real valuables like cash, jewelry and computers were untouched. LAPD investigators went through the motions consistent with the ploy.
The last such encounter occurred one year ago at a West Los Angeles coffee shop when a good looking woman approached and began to flatter me with the same verbiage others like her had used.
If that and more seems like a lot of effort, you're right. But the government's actions against the Branch Davidians were so heinous that it wanted its leakers spiked and the truths they told undermined at any cost, even if that meant committing murder. Their efforts partially succeeded.
Explicit death threats against me, my family and collaborators were followed by the 1999 unsolved murder of pregnant Wolper productions executive Janet Burrows - Tapia. She was found stuffed in a home closet with a bullet in the back of her head and LAPD has shown no interest in solving her murder despite my attempts. Her murder caused a planned dramatic film about Waco under discussion with Warner Brothers to be dropped and it caused me to omit video material shot by the Waco NBC TV affiliate about FBI retaliation threats against both local police and the Texas Rangers if they told what they knew. That the Rangers would back off and hide the truth surprised and angered me. My frontier Texas family had four Rangers in it and they didn't back off from anything when in the right. But then, they didn't have to deal with the awesome power and deadly privilege of today's federal police bureaucracy. That was a reality I got.
Having seen the unsolved murder fate of others like Houston M.D. Anderson physician Fred Conrad who had displeased a Washington agency agenda, I too acceded or "chickened out," whichever term you prefer. Conrad was both my cancer doctor and the head of patient care at Anderson and had opposed the official Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) position that marijuana had no legitimate medical use even if it did stop the nausea chemotherapy drugs cause and even if it was grown and dispensed by the U.S. government. Conrad was set to tell me about the nasty turn that DEA disagreement had taken. But then, someone walked into his hospital office one morning and shot him 6 times in the head. Conrad's 1981 murder remains unsolved.
Despite those and other horrors, WTRE got made and received an Oscar nomination, the National Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Reporting, The International Documentary Association's highest award, was named the decade's most important film by New York critic Godfrey Cheshire, among others, led the World Human Rights Watch Film Tour at showings and discussion forums around the world and got a double "thumbs up" from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, the most famous film critics at the time.
They both saw the reason for the "distorted view" Penningroth noted:
Roger Ebert: "What it amounts to here is that the American people were sold a bill of goods about the Branch Davidians that wasn't true, that these people were demonized in a way that wasn't accurate. And then boys with toys, Gene, all those boys who never got a chance to drive a tank before and were excited and ready to go like that [FBI] guy that says "I'm honed to kill -- honed to kill." They just couldn't wait to start shooting."
Gene Siskel: "That's why this is an important documentary ... For me,
the stunner is who was in that compound ..."
Ebert: "When you see this film, what's interesting is that if you're
looking for unbalanced zealots, you don't find them among the Branch
Davidians. You find them among the FBI and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms -- those are the people in this movie who deserve to be feared, I think."
Harvard professor of Law and Psychiatry, Alan Stone, came to the same conclusion as Ebert about the identity of the "unbalanced zealots." Stone was retained by the government to asses the mental state of the Davidians: "I had expected to discover that the people inside the compound were unbalanced and dangerous. What I found instead was that it was those outside (the FBI, BATF et al) the compound that were unbalanced."
But that wasn't what Uncle Sam wanted to hear. The experts he retains are expected to toe Uncle's line and back his version of events. And so in a Boston Review piece, Stone wrote what happened to him for not being a team player: "As the only member of the Justice Department's panel appointed after the tragedy at Waco who had been openly critical both of the federal agencies involved and of the subsequent government investigation. As a reward I have been taken up by right-wing fanatics, pilloried by the liberal Democrats to whose campaigns I contribute, and assured by knowledgeable colleagues that my services will never again be needed in Washington."
Despite the accolades received by WTRE for exposing the huge number of lies government officials told and continue to tell about its actions at Waco against the Davidians and the fact TV productions have borrowed from my film sans credit, no producer on any previous program has contacted me, the producer with final edit authority, director William Gazecki, lead researcher Michael McNulty (now deceased) or anyone else on my film production team for either information or comment.
The WTRE Human Rights Watch recognition was particularly apt given that massacre of civilians was carried out by government police forces of the BATF and FBI plus military forces of the US Army Delta Force and British Special Air Service (SAS). The official story said those Delta Force soldiers and British commandos were at Waco only as "observers." What I took to be the truth, as provided by confidential sources, was that both participated and fired their weapons at the Davidians. That was confirmed to my satisfaction after a 1998 Q&A at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts after WTRE was shown. It was there that fit, earnest young British military men told me "we gave them [the Davidians] what they deserved" and "beat the clock" at Waco.
To "Beat the clock" in SAS parlance means one has survived combat since the names of its dead are listed on the side of the plinth on which a large clock stands at SAS headquarters. On the front is written "We are the Pilgrims, Master; We shall go always a little further: It may be beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow, across that angry or that glimmering sea". The passage is from "The Golden road to Samarkand" by James Elroy Flecker
That experience and others with military personnel further confirmed both my suspicions and source info that our soldiers, our HRT and our British commando cousins train together and that they did illegally kill Davidians on American soil despite the denials of a political theater Congressional investigation by former Republican Senator John Danforth.
Prominent academics like Professor Eileen Barker of the London School of Economics agreed about the likely SAS involvement in the killing of British subject Davidians and brought that matter before the British Home Office but nothing came of their effort. During a dinner at Barker's home, professors from other British institutions were livid at that Home Office snubbing as well as the American government's officially endorsed cover-up that has left the world with Danforth's official imprimatur on the folklore known as the official Waco narrative that writer Phil Penningroth lamented he was duped into legitimizing.
The only true parts of that official story are that the BATF was serving a warrant to seize what the Bureau characterized as an "arsenal" of firearms and arrest David Koresh, the leader of the Bible believing religious sect of the Seventh Day Adventist Church known as the Branch Davidians.
Did that require an armed raid? No.
Government claims the Davidians had converted legal firearms into illegal machine guns are highly suspect. A Davidian neighbor did say he thought he once heard machine gun fire and what sounds like it can be heard on a tape of the gun battle during the BATF raid. But as was learned from the Las Vegas Mirage Hotel mass shooting, just because something sounds like a machine gun doesn't mean that it is and the neighbor report turned out to be bogus. That's also likely the case with BATF claims it found a rifle converted to a machine gun amid the fire rubble.
Those inclined to believe them should recall how often the BATF has, during past years, insidiously framed and killed people for favorable agency publicity and then lied about it. As for that claimed Davidian rifle conversion, BATF agents have bragged in my presence and that of others' that they can easily fake a machine gun in order to arrest someone for its illegal possession.
That alleged "arsenal" the BATF said the Davidians had was what "Ashes of Waco" author and North Carolina State journalism professor Dick Reavis reminded Congress was an inventory for a legal side business. The Davidians had several income producers and one of them legally bought and sold firearms. They were savvy enough to notice that when politicians talked about gun bans, their prices rose. So they legally purchased guns from a local dealer, held them in inventory, and then legally resold them back to the dealer when the prices were above what they paid.
Like the firearms inventory, reports that UPS driver Larry Gilbreath discovered a box of grenades bound for the Davidians also left a malum in se impression that they were illegal explosives intended for a bad purpose when in fact, they were the same harmless dummy grenade hulls found at many Army-Navy surplus stores. The Davidians used them to make flea market novelties like this one that's advertised on line.
Gilbreath now says "I have been blamed for what happened out there" and agenda driven reporters like CBS' Peter Van Sant and former Dallas Morning News scribe Lee Hancock who uncritically spread the government's lies, have exploited that ridiculous remorse.
BATF lies about possible Davidian drug trafficking in its warrant application were classics of its prevarications. Officials told them so they could get military equipment for free. A "War on Drugs" fact few know is that if a police agency says it's raiding a drug dealer, that agency can receive the use of military gear like tanks free of reimbursement charges.
Bluntly put, the BATF attack on the Davidians was simply a public relations ploy to scare Congress into passing more gun control laws which, for the BATF, meant bigger budgets and more power. It would probably have worked. Few visuals would motivate lawmakers more than a big perp walk of claimed child abusing cultists with "stockpiled" guns. As for who shot first, all of the available evidence WTRE researchers found indicated the BATF agents fired first into the building they knew was full of woman and children from the front and through the roof from a helicopter. It was not "shot down" as is repeatedly claimed but landed safely after being hit by a Davidian rifle shot.
In front, they gunned down the Davidian pet dogs in their pen and fired through the large, metal double front door.
Sworn congressional testimony of those who parleyed with the Davidians in their abode during the siege said the bullet holes were punched in from the outside. That's important because the BATF claims the opposite and pop culture has embraced it. Examination of the whole front door to settle the question isn't possible because federal agents made the key half of it with the damning evidence disappear.
The Davidians faced a situation most never will and cannot comprehend. That is, when the police show up, immediately start shooting and make it plain they intend to kill everyone they can as Davidian survivor Livingston Fagan said it appeared, does one have an obligation to be a good citizen and die or a right to fight back to preserve one's life?
Davidians called 911 when the attack started but it did no good. The BATF had not told the Waco Sheriff's office it planned to raid the group and so had not provided any way to get in touch with BATF commanders to stop its fusillade.
An early realization of the truth about Waco caused the late Democratic Michigan Congressman John Dingell to call the BATF agents "jack booted thugs," a phrase agenda driven reporters and government propagandists quickly ascribed to their favorite demon, the National Rifle Association (NRA) where it still sticks.
That the BATF obtained its warrant by lie, deceit and false claims of jurisdiction over child abuse and other questionable hearsay are still almost never mentioned. The claim that David Koresh was "beating babies" was a lie FBI officials told Attorney General Janet Reno to trigger her well known anger regarding child abuse accusations and gain an OK for its final attack.
But did Reno, as the official story maintains, give the green light or was it actually Hillary Clinton, as political consultant Roger Stone told me in 1996? It's a claim repeated in his book, "Stone's Rules" and could well be a reason someone obviously wants him dead. Whichever is true, the fact is Reno only knew what the FBI told her which means the closer one examines the folklore propaganda manure spread by the government, the more its constructed, cross cultural political appeal stinks.
Those politically and culturally "left" tend to hate both gun owners and Bible believers and will countenance almost any police violence against either. On the flip side, conservatives tend to believe in police authority uber alles. Both have a knee jerk hatred of alleged child abusers even in the absence of supporting fact.
Waco Sheriff Jack Harwell stated on camera there was no evidence of Davidian child abuse or pedophilia related to Koresh marrying girls under the legal age of consent before making another point that has fallen deaf media ears: it was legal for 14 year olds in Texas, as it was in some other states, to get married. That aside, federal authorities had no jurisdiction over allegations of under age sex. Not that legal irrelevancy mattered to BATF officials. They knew the time honored "save the children" emotion was exploitable when couched among negative image "C" words like "cult," and "compound" and would render the legal jurisdiction deficiency emotionally irrelevant.
Together, all the aforementioned pejoratives and more were intended to justify the initial BATF attack. When four agents were killed and the rest had to retreat because they'd run out of ammunition, the FBI took over and agent anger for revenge grew during the ensuing 51 day siege to the point that federal agents got into fights and even pointed guns at each other, according to a terrified cleaning woman I spoke with at a Waco motel where agents were bunking. "What police do I call?" she asked.
Demonizations were dialed up to portray David Koresh as a child molesting Elmer Gantry -- Sinclair Lewis' fictional evil minister played by Burt Lancaster in the 1960 film of the same name -- or Jim Jones, the murderous People's Temple leader who made his flock drink cyanide laced cool aide. Never mind it was the FBI that actually did kill many Davidians with cyanide when agents filled the Davidian church and living quarters with a banned chemical warfare substance that produces that deadly chemical when burned. It was a well played media propaganda hand in keeping with the zeitgeist of the time when I received an "invitation" to appear before the investigators conducting the Danforth inquiry.
I skirted that summons for good reason.
It was obvious the fix was in plus his people said they could not stop the harassment and threats by obvious federal agents which had spilled over to the discussion section of the film website. WTRE lead researcher Michael McNulty was the target of similar intimidations that he told me included ominous visits by FBI agents to his children's school.
McNulty had miraculously gotten access to the FBI evidence locker via a Freedom of Information Act filed by Tuscon attorney David Hardy and discovered, among other things, that the Bureau withheld exculpatory evidence and hornswoggled the federal court that tried the surviving Davidians into believing the FBI did not use any munitions designed to kill or that were capable of starting a fire. Burned munition remnants, it said, were Davidian machine gun parts, silencers and illegal explosives. The FBI stuck to that lie for six years before admitting the truth.
Other damaging information was also to be featured in a second planned film in conjunction with Warner Brothers and Wolper Productions. But that was before the body of Wolper production executive Janet Burrows-Tapia, as previously noted, was found in her home closet with a bullet in the back of her head. Both Wolper and Warner quickly freaked and would talk no more about the film or the subject. Neither would anyone else here in Hollywood then.
That's why Paramount's multi part TV series was such a surprise. It's based on Davidian survivor David Thibodeau's book, "A place called Waco" and is the most accurate of the specials. Had creators Drew and John Erick Dowdle stuck closer to the the book instead of taking creative license, their telling would probably have been spot on.
I last spoke with David by phone in April 2021 and in person on the UCLA campus at the 1998 Los Angeles Times Book Fair amid rather obvious plain clothes federal agents who were trying their best to get David or me to say something useful and or possibly incriminating that might support a charge of obstruction or lying to a federal agent. That was a chilling threat made to me several times. It's the treacherous police state tool used to obtain an unjust felony conviction against celebrity Martha Stewart and a confession under duress from former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn and many others. FBI agents know that "lying" is whatever they say it is. They also know that the lawyer fees alone to fight such a charge can bankrupt whoever they accuse. The law or laws that make that threat possible need to be expunged along with other equally heinous statutes.
Against that background and more, Danforth's finding as trumpeted in this New York Times July 22, 2000 headline was no surprise: "A SPECIAL COUNSEL FINDS GOVERNMENT FAULTLESS AT WACO."
If there was a way to characterize the government's actions against the Davidians as something other than a reprehensible pack of perjuries to legitimize the initial BATF attack followed by pre-meditated mass murder under FBI direction that has been covered-up with rigged political inquiries, government biased experts, lackey judges, official lies, perjured evidence, the intimidation of question askers and an unsolved murder, we, the producers of WTRE could not find it.
The FBI was in charge on the final day and its intent to kill the Davidians was as plain as that of British Army Colonel Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, aka "The Butcher of Amritsar," for ordering Gurkha troops to massacre more than 1,000 Indian men, women and children in an enclosed courtyard. Dyer would have killed many more had he been able to get an armored car mounted machine gun to fit through the courtyard's narrow entrance.
Likewise, HRT commander Richard Rogers, shown above holding a .50 caliber Browning Machine Gun cartridge, would probably have had all the Davidians killed early on had he gotten permission to rake them with machine gun fire, sources told me. Rogers was the man previously mentioned who authorized the use of explosive munitions intended to kill that WTRE investigators found had apparently been mislabeled to fool the jury which Bureau PR lied about for the six years. It's a rather easy lie to make stick in a post military draft world where so few civilians have had weapon or munitions experience.
But should we expect truth from an agency so known for lying, tainting evidence and damaging civil society? Do recall these are the federal police that smeared the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King with pernicious lies, lied for years about President Donald Trump being involved in a "Russian collusion" and lied about its prosecutor friendly forensic fraud that violated due process rights and incriminated many innocents. That sorry fact was exposed by "America’s first successful FBI whistleblower," FBI crime lab director Frederic Whitehurst.
That Whitehurst was "the first successful FBI whistleblower" speaks volumes about the culture inside the house J. Edgar Hoover built.
Unlike Rogers and his superiors, Dyer admitted his heinous actions to Parliament. Our government's commanders have not and probably never will since all Freedom of Information Requests save Hardy's have been stonewalled. An integral part of that stonewall has been the deafening silence or outright support of the government's atrocious actions by many civil rights organizations and media commentators that normally complain about out of control government. I was asked by several foreign students about that silence at Cal Tech after the Skeptics Society showing of WTRE:
"Why do you Americans demand justice when foreign governments commit mass murder in their country but not when your own government commits mass murder in your country?"
"Why isn't Noam Chomsky speaking out about the government atrocities committed at Waco?"
"Why isn't the ACLU interested in Waco?"
The proper answer, I believe, is the hypocrisy of politics, culture and money -- particularly among the chattering class of our media elites. Noam Chomsky, the MIT superstar professor and self appointed champion of the average person who has received millions from the Pentagon (which he describes as pure evil), was indignant at my request for an interview about mass murder at Waco when a much larger mass murder, he said, was committed against residents of East Timor by Indonesian soldiers. "Nobody else has spoken up about East Timor," he said. Chomsky was right, but why could he not see or care about an atrocity right under his nose by agents of the American government he claims to loath? Especially so considering his 1967 New York Review of Books call to arms, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals.” In that screed, he challenged the nation’s writers and thinkers “to speak the truth and to expose lies.” Chomski's hypocrisy is not unique.
My fellow ACLU of Southern California board members at the time liked the money they received from sales of WTRE tapes on the Union website and all expressed appropriate Casablanca "shock" at what the FBI and the forces it commanded did to the Davidians, but neither they or national ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser, whom I spoke with several times, could have cared less about taking Union legal actions over the civil rights violations at Waco and still don't.
Neither did most among the national talking head chattering class whether left or right. The Davidians, you see, were NOCD -- "not our class, darling." It's a behind the scenes elitist parry against calls for action in support of those deemed politically powerless "deplorables" that assures continued bi-partisan cover-up support among almost all mainstream politicians, pundits and news organizations.
That's a bias I'd hoped could be overcome by hiring a public relations person who had cache within government, establishment Democrats and the snobbery of the mainstream media. But former George McGovern presidential campaign manager Frank Mankiewicz -- my top choice -- saw Waco as a third rail to his liberal contacts. So did top New York public relations man Dan Klores and others.
Only Robert Preiss, a Washington K Street booking agent for authors, lobbyist and Army reserve intelligence officer, agreed to represent WTRE for media coverage. All the others I spoke with were privately appalled, sickened and angry at what the BATF and FBI obviously did, but none could bring themselves to challenge the powerful prevailing narrative that has so far deflected damaging political blame and real accountability from the Clinton administration, the FBI, BATF or any of the others responsible for the mass murder of the Davidians.
So despite WTRE's many honors for exposing the huge number of provable lies government officials told Congress, federal judges and the public about its actions at Waco, WTRE film publicist Preiss found both liberal and conservative talk hosts refused to discuss WTRE. The liberal's attitude was within character. But the surprise was that talkers on the other side of the ideology fence acted the same.
Conservative, nationally syndicated radio talk stars like Dennis Prager, Larry Elder, Sean Hannity and John and Ken who regularly rail against abuses of power by Big Brother government and have used Waco as an example, showed their true hypocrisy by refusing to discuss the film or have any of the WTRE filmmakers on their shows. Even my nationally syndicated radio talk show friend, the late Barry Farber refused. He'd buy me dinner when I was in NYC, but the fire for the Waco injustice was just not the same as for other injustices he'd challenged. Same for nationally known Marxist turned conservative leader David Horowitz. He also warns about Big Brother atrocities yet refused to support WTRE and did not invite any of the film's makers to speak at his toni Wednesday Morning breakfast gathering of Hollywood machers (big shots) even as he solicited me for donations.
Conservative talk host John Gibson did have me on his MSNBC show to face off against several FBI agent propagandists, but threw me off when I showed the agents were lying. FOX' Bill O'Reilly did likewise when he framed me on his O'Reilly Factor as a foil against an FBI agent lie team. My former employers at CNN, MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour and ABC News simply put the FBI liars on without opposition.
As for the political left, Ed Asner implied I was a Nazi -- a standard left slur of last resort -- for challenging the official government account during an MSNBC Today segment we were both on even though he admitted he had not seen the film. Afterwards, an MSNBC producer who knew some people I knew asked if it was true I had a framed swastika in my living room. I told her that actually was true.
And here it is.
That's my father holding a Nazi flag he captured after "a small arms skirmish" during WWII after crossing Germany's Rhine River with the lead 78th Lightning Division (the same division Mel brooks served in) to capture the Remagen Bridge.
Of such things are Nazis made. But the Nazi aspersions were not done.
Immediately after my Today appearance, NBC anchor Brian Williams' producer asked me to be on his show that same day.
Knowing the theatrics game Williams would want to play of also characterizing me as a Nazi or militia member. I refused and offered my wife and production partner, Amy Sommer Gifford, instead.
She had been Maury Povich's assistant and knew the media optics game Williams intended to play by following up the Today insinuation I was a Nazi or something equally nefarious. After much pleading, Williams' producer finally agreed to have him interview my spouse. That left Williams, a man suspended by his network for lying at least once, with the impossible task of trying to slime a beautiful Park Avenue Jewish woman with a Wellesley degree as a Nazi. Williams frustration turned him beet red.
If you are wondering why Asner, an actor, was called to lambast me and a film he admitted to not having seen, there's a reason. Asner is a politically left activist who, knowingly or unknowingly, was part of the propaganda effort to hide or divert attention from what the FBI and other government employees did at Waco. It's a common tactic most are not aware of that has and does involve other celebrities.
Along with stars like Jean Stapleton and Lloyd Bridges, Asner was a prominent member of the American Movement for World Government (AMWG). Like the World Government Association (WGA) that Walter Cronkite, former Moscow bureau chief for United Press, said he wanted to be the spokesman for instead of the CBS anchor known as "the most trusted man in America," both orgs purport to simply advocate the establishment of a global federal government for the sake of world peace.
However, what I found, while a member of both groups during the 1960s, was that they were actually Soviet front organizations. As a November 23, 1981 New York Times entry noted about the WFA which also applies to the AMWG: "... Communist apparatchiks maneuvered cynically and effectively to obtain control of this and other antiwar organizations and exploit them for doctrinaire Communist purposes." Given those purposes were the spread of hegemonic Communism, groups like the Branch Davidians that worship the God of the Bible and view the god of leftist centralized government as an evil have to be destroyed and the destroyers made to look righteous. And that is the role Asner was cast to play that day on MSNBC. It's a scheme that works with almost all politicians, pundits and news organizations.
That was made particularly plain from the questions feminist blue collar slummer Susan Faludi asked the WTRE team when writing her book "Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man"
According to the New Yorker, Faludi believed "that men outraged over Waco "were fighting a world transformed by the women’s movement by joining anti-government militias." She had latched onto McNulty as an example of that even though he wasn't a part of any such group. He had taken her to a shooting range and that resulted in questions that attempted to demonize him and then me about gun ownership. In keeping with a political theme of the times that endures today, she relentlessly asked how many "assault rifles" McNulty owned before turning to me.
None was not the answer she wanted since that undercut the angry white guys in militias stereotype she so obviously wanted to cinch. However, Faludi's pursuit of a political agenda caused her to miss the real point of WTRE.
"Waco: The Rules of Engagement" is about the same core thing that director Barbara Trent was booed for saying when her film, "The Panama Deception," won the 1992 Best Documentary Feature Oscar: "This film is about one thing: Our government lied to us."
Government lies are one thing. That too many in our media have blindly repeated them is another. So here's a list of Waco facts for the record.
WHO THE BRANCH DAVIDIANS WERE AND ARE
The Branch Davidians are a 1920s schismatic sect of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
According to University of North Carolina, Charlotte professor of religion James Tabor and others who testified on the subject, the Branch Davidians believe their leader is a living prophet who interprets the Bible and prepares them for Christ's return and the final battle between good and evil as prophesied in the Bible. David Koresh was the current Davidian living prophet when the troubles started but he had altered the Davidian theology in one important way. Because he claimed to be the "Lamb of God" with the ability to correctly interpret the Bible's Seven Seals in the book of Revelation about the last days, he also claimed to have the sole right to procreate children who would then lead in the world after Jesus' return. That meant all marriages were annulled and all women married to Koresh including those 14 or older, the legal marriageable age with parental permission in Texas and many other states. That's polygamy and all Davidians had a free will choice to accept it or not. Those who did stayed. Those who didn't left. Claims that anyone was forced to marry their wife to Koresh are not true, former Mount Carmel residents told me.
THE CHILD RAPE STORIES
The oft repeated "Sinful Messiah" stories in the Waco-Tribune Herald about statutory rape by Koresh originated with Davidian apostate Marc Breault. Thibodeau notes in his book that Breault told anyone who would listen that David Koresh had sex with or molested underage girls, including an 11 year old named Kiri Jewell.
She appeared a number of times on TV, including once before Congress with her father, to tell a story written for her, according to her grandmother, Ruth Mosher. She did not want to go on camera, but I personally spoke with her several times and what she said convinced me the story Kiri told under oath to Congress and on numerous talk show venues is a lie. That story Kiri told was that Koresh forced her to have sex with him when she was eleven.
If you feel anger welling against the "child molester" Koresh, that was the intent of having Kiri tell that story. However, both Mike McNulty and I spoke with Mosher in 1997, and she maintained Kiri's story wasn't true. Mosher said the molestation allegation was made as part of a nasty child custody battle and that Kiri's disc jockey father was exploiting it to get self attention for a show biz career he hoped to get going by appearing with Kiri.
David Thibodeau wrote that Kiri's Davidian mother was angry about that and "hated what Kiri's father had pumped into her mind." That the original source for the Kiri Jewell story in public was Marc Breault is also significant because in his book, Thibodeau says that Marc Breault was not only bitter at Koresh over some theological differences, Breault, Thibodeau said, was known for "telling some real whoppers."
How Kiri came to testify before Congress is a story unto itself of manipulative mendacity. We discovered Kiri was put into the Waco witness chair by the late California Democratic Party Congressman Tom Lantos.
Lantos would not allow Kiri's grandmother, Ruth Mosher, to testify that Kiri's story was not true because Mosher said Kiri was with her at the time of the alleged molestation. So sans Mosher, the public only got to hear Kiri's unchallenged story that created the indelible perception of a young girl sexually exploited by Koresh. It was a damning scam Lantos had used before.
Years earlier, Lantos scammed both Congress and the country with the sworn testimony of this woman you may recall in 1990 when the public was being incited to go to war in Iraq against Saadam Hussein.
Nayirah al-Sabah testified before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1990. She was presented by the Caucus co-Chairman Tom Lantos as a Kuwaiti nurse who had witnessed atrocities committed by Iraqi troops.
"I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where 15 babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die." Can you feel your viscera building to go to war and kill Saddam Hussein's murdering bastards? Good. That's what President George H. W.Bush and the U.S. government "Deep State" of CIA spooks and other members of the military industrial establishment wanted. But the story "Nurse Nayirah" told was a lie orchestrated by Lantos and others.
She was not a Kuwaiti nurse, she was the Kuwaiti ambassador's 15 year old daughter and the story she told was a scripted scam concocted by the public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton, a powerful firm with well known ties to the CIA and other Washington interests. In sum, "Nurse Nayirah's" story was no more true than Kiri's. Yet the perception at the time both were lingers on.
PROPAGANDA THAT DE HUMANIZED AND VILIFIED THE DAVIDIANS
Coordinated word weaponization is a basic propaganda technique used to delegitimize and or dehumanize a target so that it can be attacked with public support, as Phil Penningroth noted the Nazis did to the Jews. For that reason, the late star anchor Peter Jennings was shown in the ABC trailer for its Waco TV special using the government provided phrase "fortified compound" to describe the Davidian church and dormitory building even though it was neither fortified nor a compound. The oft used word "compound" is a psychological warfare term police began using years ago to justify militarized police attacks. Other pejoratized words included "cult," "cache" and "arsenal." Those words beg at least a couple of questions:
FBI AGENT DEPRAVITY
FBI agents regularly mooned the Davidians and openly fondled their genitalia, leading Davidians to conclude the FBI was rife with demented perverts. Said one Davidian to the FBI negotiator, "You expect us to turn women and children over to people like that?"
FBI MURDER PRE-MEDITATION
During congressional hearings, FBI commander Jeff Jamar was asked why he chose the day he did for the assault. He said "the weather." What about the weather? A 30 MPH wind was blowing on one corner of the Davidian building. The FBI's aerial surveillance video shows that, after agents had injected the Davidian building with CS, a substance that produces hydrogen cyanide when it burns, holes punched in the walls provided free air flow when a last hole was made by tearing off a piece of the windward corner. It's the spot where flame can first be seen.
Retired Houston Fire Chief Joseph Penno said the FBI action had created a "pot bellied stove" of the Davidian building to facilitate the fireball survivors said ripped through the structure driven by the wind. Many of the contorted Davidian dead (a result of cyanide poisoning)
showed cyanide in levels far higher than those normally found in fire victims.
HOW DID THE FIRE START?
The spots where fires started (in the lower left corner of the building above) were places where spent pyrotechnic grenades were found. That fact was covered-up.
Claims the Davidians started the fire based on surveillance recordings about pouring fuel fell apart under cross examination during the Davidian trial. No survivor has said there was a plan to burn the building. However, the probable intent of the FBI to burn the building was telegraphed during the siege by agents who chided Davidians about the number of fire extinguishers they had and their need to up their "fire insurance."
THE FBI GUNFIRE LIE
FBI claims no shots were fired by government forces of the FBI, BATF, US Army or British SAS were a lie.
WTRE showed damning identification and analysis by Dr Edward Allard, the retired director of the Defense Department's Night Vision Laboratory, of gunfire by government forces to keep Davidians from escaping the burning building shown on the government's own infra red photography? Allard: "This is the most disgusting thing I've had to witness."
Confirmation of Allard's expert observation was made by British army sniper location specialist Paul Beaver who also identified the muzzle flashes of government forces shooting into the Davidian building to keep them from escaping the fire during a CBS 60 Minutes II segment. Beaver: "It's not a glitch in the camera. It's not the sun striking something. It's not swamp gas reflecting off the planet Venus. This is somebody [among government forces] shooting [into the Davidian building."]
The only analysis testimony allowed in court about the government's gunfire Allard and Beaver saw was made by those whose livelihood depended on government contracts. That's important to note because disagreeing with Uncle Sam has consequences, as Harvard professor Alan Stone stated in his previously cited Boston Review article.
FEDERAL AGENT TRIAL LIES
BATF and FBI officials hid exculpatory evidence from both federal prosecutor Bill Johnston and the Davidian defense attorneys in addition to proof that FBI and BATF officials lied about having fragmentation grenades and pyrotechnic devices that could start a fire. When Michael McNulty and attorney David Hardy found that illegally withheld evidence, federal prosecutor Bill Johnston feared he would be blamed for those withholdings and covered up the found cover up only to find himself being prosecuted. Texas Monthly recounts:
"Johnston was originally charged by the Office of Special Counsel with two counts of obstructing justice and three counts of lying to investigators and the grand jury. All of those charges were later dropped in return for Johnston’s plea to a single count of misprision of felony, which covers a variety of sins, including the failure to perform an official duty. The crime, unfortunately, was his own. I wish that I could tell you that Bill Johnston is an innocent victim of a government vendetta, but he isn’t. In 1999, responding to a subpoena to send all of his Davidian-related documents to his superiors, Johnston came across notes that he feared could be interpreted to implicate him in a cover-up, ripped them from a notepad of interviews conducted six years earlier, and later lied about it. What he did was wrong, but if he had not been such an outspoken critic of the Justice Department, he probably would have been given a slap on the wrist, as were others involved in the Waco fiasco.
The accusations of obstruction of justice have a distinct whiff of Orwellian irony. For more than six years the FBI and the Justice Department denied that pyrotechnics were used during the assault. Johnston didn’t obstruct justice—he pursued it, even if it meant blackening the eye of his own agency. That may explain why Danforth and his minions went after him."
Again, I and the WTRE production team at first thought the government's entire story about illegal and even heinous activities by David Koresh and the Davidians were true.
Instead, we found that almost the entire official story was untrue and that those untruths presaged other government agency lies about tainted crime lab evidence, the withholding of exculpatory evidence, suspect framing and the blaming of legitimate gun dealers for the BATF'S own plan to allow criminals to sell guns and hand grenades to Mexican drug gangs.
That and more indicate nothing has really changed since 1925 when H.L. Mencken observed in the Baltimore Sun that federal agents were too often simply "legalized murderers."
Good luck to us all.
Note: Additions will be made to this story as they are determined safe to disclose.
Dan Gifford is a national Emmy-winning,
Oscar-nominated film producer and former
reporter for CNN, The MacNeil Lehrer
News Hour and ABC News.