An independent forward-looking infrared, or FLIR, analyst says the government used inappropriate scientific methods to “prove” federal agents did not fire at Branch Davidians as they tried to escape their burning complex in Waco, Texas, a decade ago – perhaps, she says, to reach a predetermined conclusion that exonerates federal agents.
Barbara Grant, an independent consultant in electro-optics who has studied extensively the March 2000 re-enactment of the final hours of the Waco siege authorized by special counsel John Danforth, says in a new research paper, “The key issue [of the test] was whether flashes recorded on infrared imagery represented the signatures of weapons fire or some other phenomenon, such as solar reflections off debris.”
“Non-government experts concluded that the flashes were gunfire; experts retained by the government concluded they were not,” she said.
Grant told WorldNetDaily that, based on her expertise and observations, the government re-enactment seemed destined to reach a pre-determined conclusion – one that cleared federal agents of firing their weapons into the burning complex, allegedly at Branch Davidians as they tried to flee the carnage.
Federal officials have regularly denied such claims, pointing to the conclusions reached during the 2000 reenactment by government-hired analysts, by congressional inquiries into Waco, and by court rulings that clear agents of wrongdoing. Government analysts say “glint” – bright light reflections that appear on an FBI infrared videotape shot from a plane as it flew over the Mount Carmel complex during the final hours of the raid – were reflections of sunlight off debris.
Grant and others say the glint on the tape is gunfire. And she said of the government’s investigations, “Their conclusions say something about some of the scientific issues at Waco that I believe really … need to be looked into further, because I disagree” with the government’s findings.
In her paper, Grant refutes the government’s claim that muzzle flashes, allegedly from federal agents’ rifles that she and other experts claim are visible on the FBI’s original FLIR video, don’t last long enough “to have generated the flash signatures” visible on tape. The FBI’s FLIR videotape was shot by an agency plane circling above the complex during the government’s final assault.
“This conclusion was based on the analysis results in three expert reports – two of who were working for [Danforth] and one for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform,” she told WND. “And they never really explained how long this phenomenon can last, yet they all three agree that no way could muzzle flashes last long enough to have generated the flashes at Waco.
“That’s particularly interesting to me, having participated in muzzle-flash tests,” she continued. “We saw flashes lasting far longer than what the government had claimed.”
The results Grant witnessed were included in a documentary film “The F.L.I.R. Project,” produced by Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist Mike McNulty.
One phenomenon present at Mount Carmel the day of the April 19, 1993, raid was heavy dust churned up by government vehicles and agents conducting the final push – a condition not duplicated at the re-enactment at Food Hood, Texas, some seven years later.
That dust, McNulty, Grant and other experts say, has a “dampening” effect on reflective sunlight. The result is that the “glint” – which appeared on the FBI’s original infrared film – could not have come from ground debris, as Danforth concluded; it would have been covered with heavy dust and, therefore, the reflectivity of sunlight greatly diminished.
But there are other problems with the government’s testing too, Grant says, which she spelled out in her paper. All of them, she says, lead to this conclusion – that the test may have been rigged.
“I’ve thought about that for years now,” she said. “What I would say is that the  test was conditioned to produce a predetermined result.”
Grant also questioned the ability of the government’s analysts. In the case of Vector Data Systems Ltd. of the United Kingdom – one of the primary analysts for the Fort Hood test – she said, “Their report does not really demonstrate a lot of expertise with the issue of muzzle flash.”
“[Vector] is an imagery analyst firm,” she said, “but when I study the test, when I study Vector’s report and the data from the test, it seems to me that there was a lot of expertise in putting that test together that I can’t attribute to Vector.”
In other words, she said, it seems as though experts outside of Vector and the other analysts employed by Danforth who did have lots of experience analyzing muzzle flashes on FLIR may have set up the test a certain way to pre-empt findings that government agents fired their weapons.
“If you were a person who had never gone into this before, I think that you might take a look at some of the very gusty, windy conditions that existed at Mount Carmel on April 19, and then you take a look at the conditions under which gunfire was tested at Fort Hood, and the difference between the two is just stunning,” Grant said.
“It’s almost like somebody, somewhere … knew that the presence of particulate [dust] can influence the muzzle flash signature and in particular can lengthen it,” she said. “That’s why I’m saying I think more expertise went into putting this test together than just Vector.”
In her paper, Grant quotes one expert who says the British-built GEC Marconi FLIR – the one used by the FBI the day of the raid – has been used specifically in the past to detect gunfire.
Jane’s Information Group analyst and spokesman Paul Beaver, who concluded that the glint on the FBI tape was gunfire, told the Dallas Morning News Jan. 29, 2000: “I have personally been in a situation where I’ve seen gunfire, using the GEC-Marconi system. … In a firefight situation, it’s very, very useful to detect where the enemy is.”
Some law-enforcement experts have opined that the overhead FBI FLIR camera was in use to detect gunfire coming from heavily armed Branch Davidians, especially after events that triggered the 51-day siege.
A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms team exchanged fire with Davidians when agents arrived to serve warrants Feb. 28, 1993; four ATF agents and six Davidians were killed in the initial melee. Eighty-six people died in the final siege and fire.