ARMED AND DANGEROUS
Danforth denies charges of Waco producer
Rebuttal seeks to debunk film alleging feds fired on Davidians
Former Waco Special Counsel John C. Danforth has reaffirmed his office's earlier conclusion that FBI agents did not fire on fleeing Branch Davidians as they tried to escape their burning complex more than eight years ago.
Danforth, in a three-page statement dated June 20, specifically addressed charges leveled by video documentary producer Michael McNulty, who has criticized the special counsel's March 2000 Waco reenactment at Fort Hood, Texas, as flawed. Though reportedly two months old, officials said the statement had never before been released to the media.
In the video documentary, "The F.L.I.R. Project" – his third Waco-related film – McNulty characterizes flashes of light seen on FBI infrared film as gunfire. Quoting expert analysts, the film claims that FBI agents fired on Branch Davidians as they tried to run out of the burning Mount Carmel buildings. However, in the months and years following the April 19, 1993, raid, the government has concluded on several occasions that those flashes were not gunfire but instead flashes of sunlight off of debris.
Danforth reaffirmed those conclusions as special counsel.
In his statement, the former Missouri Republican senator said his office's final report on Waco – which was issued in November 2000 – concluded "with complete certainty that the government did not direct gunfire at the Branch Davidian complex. …"
St. Louis-based attorney Tom Schweich, Danforth's chief of staff while he served as Waco special counsel, provided WND with the statement. It essentially criticizes McNulty because he "seeks to have this issue reopened."
The former special counsel indicated, however, that wasn't necessary because "there is nothing … which in anyway changes the certainty of my conclusion that the FBI did not direct gunfire at the Davidians … or my conclusion that responsibility for the deaths of the Davidians rest with certain Davidians and their leader, David Koresh."
Danforth said his office "undertook an exhaustive investigation into the allegation that the government pinned the Davidians in the burning building with gunfire."
"There simply was no evidence to support this allegation," he added. In fact, he said the Davidians were firing at agents.
"Because the Davidians were firing upon government agents throughout the morning of April 19, the FBI had the authority to return fire under the law and its deadly force policy," Danforth said. "But to have done so in a manner as suggested by Mr. McNulty defies all common sense."
Danforth also took exception to claims that agents exited "their armored vehicles in close proximity to the Davidian complex. …"
To do so, he insisted, would have meant "exposing themselves to Davidian gunfire from fortified and elevated positions. This would have unnecessarily and unreasonably risked the agents' lives," wrote Danforth.
In an earlier exclusive interview with WND, Schweich also said Danforth's investigation "left no doubt" that the FBI did not fire on church members as they fled the conflagration, and that in the end all members of Danforth's team – including Davidian representatives and attorneys – agreed with the special counsel's conclusions.
Schweich also refuted McNulty's charges that improper ammunition and the wrong rifle were used during the reenactment of the raid.
"The protocol by which we conducted the FLIR test [at Fort Hood, Texas, last spring] was developed with substantial input both from government entities that were interested in the event, as well as parties representing Branch Davidians," Schweich said in May.
"It was agreed to at a meeting in St. Louis with all parties present," he said, which included "all the FBI people, all the military people, all the various lawyers representing the Davidians, and their experts."
In his rebuttal, Danforth said his office conducted "hundreds of interviews" and "reviewed thousands of photographs and audio and video recordings" taken April 19, 1993. He said his office also "studied all the autopsy and pathology reports regarding the Davidians."
"Again, there was no evidence which even remotely suggested that the FBI directed gunfire" at Davidians, Danforth said. "In fact, the evidence indicated that the Davidians who died of gunshot wounds died from low-velocity weapons, unlike the ones Mr. McNulty claims the FBI used that day."
McNulty, in his latest film, says FBI agents were carrying new "experimental" carbine versions of the standard M-16 rifle, called the M-4. The carbine is shorter, in that it has a 14.5-inch barrel as opposed to a 20-inch barrel on the standard rifle.
In interviews with WND, FBI officials have said their agents were carrying carbines that day but that the rifles were standard "CAR-15/16" rifles, not the newer M-4s.
Danforth said "the gunshot injuries" discovered on some Davidians included "shots to the head and mouth," indicating those "who died from gunfire either committed suicide or were shot by other Davidians."
"Furthermore, Mr. McNulty does not even attempt to propose a motive for why the FBI would fire their weapons at the Davidians while the building was fully engulfed in flames," Danforth said. "The theory that the government deliberately shot at the Davidians runs contrary to the overwhelming evidence that during and after the fire," agents and government personnel tried "to save lives."
McNulty said he questioned the timing of the release of the statement.
"For the record," he told WND, "I sent my film to him in April, but he wrote this report at the end of June – and still didn't see any reason to release it until now."
When asked why his former boss waited so long to release his statement, Schweich replied, "We saw no reason to release it before now."
For the most part, McNulty stuck by his assertion that Danforth's reenactment "not only appears to be flawed, but rigged as well" in favor of the government.
In earlier interviews, the Emmy-nominated producer said he believes Danforth's team tested the wrong rifle, as well as the wrong ammunition, in order to arrive at the government's pre-determined conclusion that its agents didn't fire at Davidians.
Danforth also criticized some of the methods McNulty's own reenactment team – on a much smaller budget – used to draw conclusions for the "F.L.I.R." video.
But McNulty countered that he has never asserted that his own tests were scientific.
"We were just trying to show the discrepancies in the Danforth test and the government's conclusions," he told WND. "We have never – and will not – claim that 'The F.L.I.R. Project' is a scientific re-creation of either the Mount Carmel events or the Fort Hood reenactment."
In the meantime, McNulty says Senate and House panels may be poised to examine evidence he says draws into question Danforth's conclusions, and the official conclusions drawn earlier by other government sources, including the FBI. He did not elaborate.
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Jon E. Dougherty is a staff reporter and columnist for WorldNetDaily, and author of the special report, "Election 2000: How the Military Vote Was Suppressed."
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