Former Waco special counsel John Danforth failed to test fire weapons carried by FBI agents during a 1993 raid on a Texas religious community because the agency denied it had such weapons in its inventory, WorldNetDaily has learned.
Danforth’s Office of the Special Counsel — empowered by then-Attorney General Janet Reno last year to conduct one final examination of all available evidence in the FBI’s April 19, 1993, raid on the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas — had requested a sample of all weapons used by the agency during the raid.
His mandate called for conducting a re-creation of the raid, including the test-firing of all weapons carried by participating FBI personnel, because of accusations that agents fired on Branch Davidians as they tried to flee burning buildings during the government’s final assault.
Some experts who have examined overhead infrared camera footage shot during the raid have said that flashes of light seen in two different infrared videos are automatic weapons being fired by FBI agents who were stationed at the rear of the complex — a charge the agency has vehemently denied.
Mike McNulty, a certified weapons expert and producer of three videos on Waco, told WND that carbine versions of the standard-issue M-16A2 rifle — known as the older CAR-15 or the newer M-4 — were carried by some agents during the raid.
“The difference mainly is barrel-length,” McNulty said, noting that standard M-16 rifles have a 20-inch barrel while carbine models have 14-inch barrels.
However, in a letter to Davidian attorney Michael Caddell, Brad Swenson, an assistant special counsel on Danforth’s team, said the FBI told him the agency had no carbines in its inventory.
“Since our meeting on Feb. 16, 2000, the FBI has advised the OSC that ‘the FBI has never had a CAR-15 weapon in its inventory,'” Swenson’s letter said.
“‘The FBI will supply a[n] M-16A2 weapon, which is representative of all the M-16 style weapons the HRT [Hostage Rescue Team] had at Waco,'” Swenson, quoting FBI officials, told Caddell. “‘It has an approximate barrel length of 14 inches and is capable of firing in the automatic mode.'”
McNulty said that there is a distinct difference between full-length M-16 rifles and carbines, and that the longer model is in no way “representative of a carbine.” He also pointed out that standard M-16 rifles have longer barrels than carbine models.
“If it’s got a 14-inch barrel, it is no longer an M-16A2, it’s either a CAR-15 or an M-4,” he said.
“Based on this representation,” Swenson, in his letter, told Caddell, “VDS [Vector Data Systems] — the court’s expert — has agreed to receive the M-16A2 from the FBI and use it in place of the CAR-15 weapon” agreed upon by all parties in pre-testing protocol meetings — meetings which laid the groundwork for the testing parameters and other details of the recreation.
McNulty said the FBI’s claim that it did not have M-16 carbine variants was false because video and still photographic images taken by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows FBI agents at Waco carrying them.
Danforth’s final report, issued Nov. 8, 2000, said his investigation found “no evidence” that the FBI had fired weapons at fleeing Davidians, and that the flashes of light seen in infrared camera footage were instead “glints” of sunlight reflecting off debris. Therefore, the type of weapon that was to be tested during the recreation, McNulty said, was important: The difference in barrel length — among other factors — produces a different type of flash when the weapon is fired.
McNulty said the Office of the Special Counsel, or OSC, accepted a list of weapons the FBI said it used during the raid, even though attorney Caddell had raised objections about the fact that no carbines were listed for testing, even though video evidence showed agents carrying them.
In discussions with Tom Schweich, chief of staff for Danforth during his investigation, McNulty said he asked if the special counsel’s office “had gone back to the FBI and verify, in some fashion, the type of weapons that were used at Mount Carmel.”
The Waco video producer said Schweich told him that yes, the OSC did verify the weapons.
Said McNulty, “He told me, ‘Yes. … that’s how we came up with our initial list'” of weapons to be tested.
“Now you know, I know you don’t trust the FBI,” McNulty quoted Schweich as saying, “but we had a check on that [the weapons list]. We got the list of weapons that they said they had. That’s what we proposed in the protocol meeting was their [the FBI’s] proposed list. And then we got disagreements — particularly over the CAR-15.”
“At that point,” McNulty told WND, “there would have been an easy way to resolve the conflict. And this is where it gets murky — what should have happened was, the OSC should have gone to the best available data, or evidence, to see for themselves what kind of weapons were there. They could have done that by going and looking at the video made by the Texas Department of Public Safety.”
That video, McNulty said, shows FBI agents carrying carbine-type M-16 rifles.
The OSC “claims they did that,” McNulty said, “but I don’t understand that because if they had … The only thing I can come up with is that they didn’t have firearms experts.”
“I have to allow for the possibility of ignorance, but the bottom line is, they were paid to be the experts,” McNulty added.
Another major point of contention in the weapons testing had to do with the type of ammunition selected, he said.
As WND reported May 8, the ammunition used by the FBI on the day of the raid was also commercial ammunition that does not have anti-flash ingredients and produces a much brighter flash. Plus, McNulty said, the M-4 carbine has a much shorter barrel and would naturally produce a brighter flash anyway.
WND contacted Schweich, who said he could not comment on the allegations until he consulted first with Danforth. By press time, Schweich had not secured permission to speak to WND.
McNulty said the OSC initially did allow for the testing of a CAR-15-type weapon, “but when it came down to the actual testing … the FBI said they didn’t have one, so no carbines were tested.”
By testing a longer-barreled M-16A2 and using standard military-issued ammunition, which has flash suppression ingredients, McNulty indicated it was technically impossible to produce the same kinds of flashes seen on the infrared videos.
Also, McNulty has questioned the veracity of the FBI, if not the OSC’s willingness to accept FBI weapons explanations, given the history of FBI deceit over the Waco case.
For example, he said, for six years, the FBI vehemently denied that it used pyrotechnic devices during the raid, but finally admitted it had after evidence gathered by the Texas Department of Public Safety — including used pyrotechnic devices — was reported.
Also, the FBI initially said that only one videotape showing infrared images of the final raid existed, which was discovered to be inaccurate. McNulty discovered a second infrared tape as well.
“I know Mr. Danforth is not a fool,” McNulty said, “so why is his office relying on FBI information?”
“This whole thing boils down to one thing. The one variant of the M-16 produces a much larger flash signature than the other variant,” he said. “The M-4 carbine/CAR-15 produces a much larger signature when using commercial ammunition.”
On Friday, Attorney General John Ashcroft, at the Justice Department’s urging, delayed the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, after the FBI on Thursday turned over nearly 3,200 documents it had withheld from McVeigh’s attorneys during his 1997 trial.
McNulty pointed out that the new revelation, coupled with reports earlier in May that the FBI had jailed someone for 30 years the agency knew was innocent and that the agency withheld evidence in a church bombing case for more than three decades, makes virtually anything the FBI says suspect.
And now, with FBI Director Louis Freeh stepping down before the official end of his term, “do you suppose [Freeh] could have had knowledge last week of this little problem of the missing FBI evidence in the McVeigh case?”
“Could that have prompted him to cut his term short?” he said.
McNulty’s latest Waco-related film project is “The F.L.I.R. Project,” which features the questionable flashes of light captured by infrared video cameras during the raid.