An independent imagery expert has confirmed the findings contained in a video documentary that government agents fired weapons into the Branch Davidian complex as it burned in Waco, Texas, April 19, 1993.
Also, he says his analysis of the film has turned up even more personnel – and gunfire – than previously discovered by the producer of a series of Waco documentaries.
Michael A. Weatherford, a Colorado-based analyst and former Air Force master sergeant with extensive imagery intelligence experience, found that “the conclusions of the producers” of “The F.L.I.R. Project,” a documentary charging that flashes of light contained in FBI infrared footage shot during the raid were gunfire from federal agents, “appear to be well-justified by both their methodology and their results. …”
The documentary is the third in a series of Waco-related films co-produced by Mike McNulty, who has said his latest project effectively debunks government denials that its agents fired their weapons during the final stages of the Mount Carmel raid.
Last year, former Missouri Republican Sen. John Danforth released an extensive report supporting the government’s claim. Danforth, who was appointed as special counsel by former Clinton administration Attorney General Janet Reno to examine all Waco-related evidence one final time, has said his investigation “conclusively” proved that FBI agents did not fire on Branch Davidians fleeing their burning complex.
Tom Schweich, a lawyer who was Danforth’s chief of staff during the review, told WND in an exclusive interview May 14 that his boss’ investigation “left no doubt” that the FBI did not fire on church members.
“The idea that that is gunfire [on the infrared video] is preposterous. Preposterous,” he said, noting that during the final investigation, Danforth’s team consulted their own imagery experts to refute the claims of gunfire.
But Weatherford, who spent 21 of his 26 years in the Air Force analyzing imagery for some of the military’s most prestigious intelligence units, said in a report issued after studying the F.L.I.R. video: “The imagery provided and the methodology of ‘The F.L.I.R. Project’ indicate that the Danforth report [is] excessively flawed in its methodology, and therefore, questionable in its conclusions.”
In his analysis, Weatherford admitted that since McNulty’s film was “a commercial project and not raw imagery,” it would be “impossible to make a complete and thorough evaluation” of the entire video.
“Without access to all the data available and a considerable amount of time for evaluation, a complete assessment of the results is not possible,” he wrote. “Materials such as the raw imagery taken by the FBI, a detailed map of the compound, copies of the color 35mm film shot by the FBI and other imagery from various sources would be needed to evaluate completely what took place at that time.”
However, Weatherford – who said he was rated one of the Air Force’s top 10 imagery analysts on three separate occasions during his career – also found that “there is significantly more activity on the imagery than that documented by” McNulty and his production crew.
For example, the career Air Force imagery analyst found “at least three to four times the number of people identified by the producers being visible on the imagery.”
“Most of these people are not visible on the imagery when it is run at a 1:1 speed,” Weatherford said, “but become discernable when the imagery is evaluated on a frame-by-frame basis. The major characteristic of these people is that they are virtually invisible on the infrared imagery, but their presence can be detected by their blocking out the rough background they are crossing.”
In his evaluation, Weatherford said the figures appeared to be “soft fuzzy blotches” that “often obscure the rough, uneven background they are displayed against.”
That finding was important, Weatherford said, because he found that more “muzzle flashes” were “visible from more than a dozen persons not identified by the producers” of “The F.L.I.R. Project,” “including three to four gunmen advancing on the compound with weapons firing while the fire is blazing. …”
“These, too, are most discernable when the film is viewed in a frame-by-frame evaluation,” he continued. “The duration of the muzzle blasts are fewer and appear to be either single shots or short-duration (2-5 round) bursts.”
In his final report, released Nov. 8, 2000, Danforth said his team of 74 personnel concluded that flashes, or “glint,” seen in some frames taken by an infrared camera aboard an FBI-sponsored aircraft the day of the Waco raid were reflections of sunlight off glass and other debris.
In a separate interview last month, McNulty told WND that the “glint” appearing during his video and the FBI’s infrared film could not have been flashes of sunlight because the camera used by the agency was set to filter out such environmental anomalies.
Also, he said, timed measurements of the duration and speed of the so-called glint were much slower than, and more indicative of, the cyclic rate of fire for an automatic weapon.
Finally, McNulty said, the Danforth investigation failed to test-fire the correct type of rifle carried by FBI agents the day of the Waco raid.
McNulty has said photographic evidence obtained by the Texas Department of Public Safety during the raid shows FBI agents carrying shortened carbine variants of the standard military M-16 rifle.
The carbines, which, McNulty says, were either CAR-15s or then-experimental M-4s, are several inches shorter than standard 20-inch barrel M-16s. Hence, he said, the characteristics of the muzzle flash would be different as well. He noted that the longer a rifle’s barrel, the less muzzle flash it would normally produce.
Had actual carbines been tested by the Danforth team, he said, rather than standard M-16 rifles, the special counsel’s expert, Vector Data Systems, may have been able to reproduce the kind of flashes seen on the FBI’s infrared video.
The Danforth team conducted the test-firings at Fort Hood, Texas, March 19, 2000.
Weatherford’s analysis comes on the heels of other criticism of the Danforth investigation’s conclusions regarding possible gunfire by federal agents.
Robert Stewart, a U.S. Postal Service inspector who helped coordinate last year’s Fort Hood weapons tests, also said last week that Danforth’s team failed to test the proper weapon.
He noted that the FBI does not use standard M-16s, and members of its Hostage Rescue Team who were at Waco carried a version with just a 14-inch barrel – information WND reported last month.
Lawyers for the Branch Davidians who survived the fiery end of the siege in April 1993 are now questioning whether the test really proved that FBI agents never fired their guns at the Davidian compound, Reuters reported June 1.
“I think it completely undermines the test results,” Mike Caddell, an attorney for surviving Davidians, told the newswire service.
Caddell also said he plans to use the test as evidence if a lawsuit against the federal government his clients are involved in is revived on appeal.
Danforth, like his chief of staff, Tom Schweich, said he personally did not know which type of weapons were actually tested.
“But all of this was part of the agreement, and all of it was pronounced fair at the end of the test,” Danforth told Reuters.
Schweich told WND exactly that last month.
“When we got ready to write the final report, we pulled all 74 people involved in the investigation into a room and went through the evidence with them,” Schweich said. “We asked them, ‘Do any of you 74 people have any doubt as to whether the FBI fired or didn’t fire at those people in that complex?’ And every single one said, ‘There is no doubt that the FBI did not fire at Davidians.’”
When asked if Danforth’s office did or did not examine Texas Department of Public Safety photos allegedly showing FBI agents carrying carbines instead of full-size M-16s, Schweich said he couldn’t address the specifics of the weapons themselves.
“We had dozens of people working on this, and I can’t answer a question that is that specific,” he said. “What I can answer is that we had everybody from both sides making inputs as to what should be fired and what shouldn’t be fired.”
Weatherford’s final conclusions were unflattering.
He said he believes “the FBI used excessive force, including significant unreported activity, to brutally suppress the Branch Davidians and destroy their compound.”
“Such activity is inconsistent with a republican form of government in response to a free people,” Weatherford said.