- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001

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 days 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 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. Bushs 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. Danforths 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 days 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. Danforths re-enactment. (The film is available at www.flirproject.com).
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 weapons 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 masters.
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 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 governments 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. Hardys skill in hammering federal agencies with Freedom of Information Act requests was a decisive factor in making Waco a hot political potato in 1999. Mr. Hardys book will be soon available at www.xlibris.com.
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. Martins Press).


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