by Dave Kopel & Paul Blackman
This is an advance copy of the first chapter of the forthcoming book No More Wacos. It is a draft, and all material is subject to revision.
"Suddenly, in the midst of the brilliant civilization of the twentieth century, all the worst attributes of humanity have come to the front; all the most evil passions have been unleashed; all the evil spirits some thought were exorcized centuries ago have returned sevenfold, more loathsome and diabolical than of old." Seventh-Day Adventist writer Arthur Maxwell, History's Crowded Climax.1
"...a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury, confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors, defiling of souls, sexual perversion, disorders in marriage, adultery, and debauchery." Wisdom of Solomon 14:25-26.
On February 28, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (BATF2) sent seventy-six BATF agents to storm the Mount Carmel Center, near Waco, Texas.3 The Center housed the Branch Davidian4 followers of David Koresh. Although it is unclear whether Koresh and his followers or the BATF agents fired first, four BATF agents were killed and many others wounded (some probably struck by "friendly fire"), as were six Branch Davidians. BATF field commanders knew before the raid began that the element of surprise had been lost.
The raid was followed by a fifty-one day standoff led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), including negotiations, the surrender of some of the adult and child residents of Mount Carmel Center, and psychological warfare by the FBI, such as bombarding the Branch Davidians with loud music, the sounds of rabbits being slaughtered, and other unpleasant noises. Then, on April 19, 1993, FBI tanks began ramming holes into the structure in order to pump in CS chemical warfare agent, purportedly because of threats to the twenty-seven children remaining in the residence. A conflagration broke out, killing most persons at Mount Carmel, although Koresh and some of his followers were killed by gunshots rather than fire.5 Some Branch Davidians may have died from inhalation of hydrogen cyanide, which is produced when CS burns under certain conditions, and others may have been asphyxiated or incapacitated by the CS itself. The government reports that the fire was started by Koresh and his followers. The siege ended with the deaths of all the children and almost all the adults remaining inside.
The number of deaths resulting from the events at Waco is over fifty percent of the total American casualties in the Gulf War. But unlike the Gulf War, the Waco disaster resulted from people being killed by Americans, rather than by foreign troops. And unlike the many deaths or injuries inflicted on innocent children every day by abusive parents, incompetent doctors, or criminals, the deaths of the children at Waco would not have occurred but for the acts of the federal government of the United States, which most Americans expect to be under the control of the laws of the United States.
The Waco raid was not merely the largest in the history of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. It was the largest federal armed entry ever against an American home, resulting in the largest number of law enforcement officer deaths in a single operation, as well as the largest number of civilian deaths ever resulting from a law enforcement operation. Not since the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890 had so many Americans been killed as a result of a conflict with the federal government.6 Rep. Charles Schumer explained that "mistakes in outcome are not always the results of mistakes in judgment....We are not dealing with a corrupt or dishonest Government agency, we are not dealing with acts of...coverup...."7 Rep. Schumer was mistaken.
As this book will detail, the adult Branch Davidians, particularly David Koresh, played a large role in the disaster. But while most Americans are not surprised to find poor judgement displayed by self-proclaimed prophets and their followers, the federal government is generally held to a higher standard. The government gave David Koresh unnecessary help in his misguided quest for martyrdom.
After a prologue which sets forth the background of some of the major characters in the Mount Carmel tragedy, Chapter One of this book analyzes the procurement of the warrant to search the Branch Davidian compound, a warrant which was based on a combination of falsehoods, legal error, and apparent bad faith. The BATF assault on the Branch Davidian compound is detailed in Chapter Two, with a particular focus on the lack of justification for an armed, military assault to serve a search warrant. Chapter Three examines the siege, the FBI's psychological warfare tactics, and the FBI's decision to ignore a surrender offer by David Koresh. While the siege was in progress, the FBI deceived Attorney General Reno in order to obtain her approval for an assault to end the siege militarily. Chapter Four studies the FBI tank and chemical warfare attack which brought the fifty-one day standoff to its horrifying finale. In Chapter Five, the investigations which the Departments of Treasury (overseeing BATF) and Justice (overseeing the FBI) performed on themselves are analyzed, and found to be lacking in candor. We also look at the criminal prosecution trial of the Branch Davidians, the Congressional hearings into Waco, and role of the "fourth branch"--the news media. Throughout the book, when we identify problems in federal law enforcement, we propose specific solutions. Chapter Six, the conclusion, proposes additional, broader reforms to prevent the recurrence of mass deaths such as those which took place at Waco. The final chapter is a proposed "Comprehensive Public Safety and Federal Law Enforcement Reform Statute," which offers specific statutory language to implement each of the reforms discussed in the book.
Throughout the book, we place Waco in the broader context of the breakdown in the lawfulness of federal law enforcement. While Waco was a sensational, highly publicized case, there are many other cases of federal law enforcement lawlessness which do not receive national attention. We will discuss some of them, and also discuss the Randy Weaver incident, at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, which revealed law enforcement problems similar to those at Waco.
As the book jacket notes, one of us (Blackman), works for the National Rifle Association. We want to emphasize that the reforms advocated or the arguments advanced in this book are not official policy of the NRA. The opinions expressed in this book do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the authors' employers (or, from time to time, each other).
"I had made up my mind to do what God said, even though I could see only destruction and ruin." Vernon Wayne Howell
You could blame it all on Domitian, the despotic ruler of the Roman Empire from 81 to 96 a.d. Styling himself as "Master and God" of the Roman Empire, the Emperor Domitian built a large network of informers and prosecutors, whose repression inspired further resistance, which in turn inspired further repression, until Domitian was assassinated in 96 a.d by a group of conspirators that included his wife.8 Although the historical evidence is not definitive, it is generally believed that Domitian was the first Emperor to practice empire-wide persecution of Christians for refusing to participate in the cult of the Emperor and recognize him as a god.9
The last book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation, is thought to have been written as a response to the mobilization of the vast resources of the Roman Empire against the struggling Christian communities of the late first century. Revelation is an apocalyptic book, describing the climactic battles between the forces of good and evil that will usher in the final triumph of Christianity, and the destruction of the forces of evil, at the end of time. Replete with fantastic imagery of angels, beasts, battles in the sky, massively destructive wars on the earth, fires, bottomless pits, and immense cataclysms, Revelation is the most difficult book of the Bible to interpret. John Calvin, who wrote a commentary on every other book of the Bible, omitted Revelation from his own Bible, and warned that study of Revelation would drive the student mad.
Mainline religions have rarely focused their teaching on Revelation, perhaps because of its complexity and incomprehensibility, and perhaps because of the subversive tone of the book. The beasts in Revelation who rule the world (before being destroyed in the end) were certainly intended on one level to represent the persecuting Roman Empire; and Revelation was written to give first century Christians hope of an eventual victory over the evil empire that was murdering them for refusing to accept the supremacy of the state. But Revelation has over the centuries been seen as foretelling the triumph and ultimate doom of various empires, including the Holy Roman Empire, the Third Reich, the United States, and the one-world government that is feared to be the objective of the "New World Order." For the last 1,900 years, the groups which have clung most fervently to Revelation have usually been groups marginalized from the existing power structure, groups who are radically dissatisfied with the existing order of society, who look to Revelation for the hope of the imminent destruction of an evil world and its replacement with a holy one. This perspective was shared by members of the Branch Davidian Seventh-Day Adventist faith.
The Seventh-Day Adventist church grew out of the teachings of William Miller, an American religious leader who predicted the Second Advent and end of the world to take place on or before October 22, 1844.10 Although Miller's prediction did not come true, many of his followers continued to observe his teachings. There are approximately eighty-four groups of churches which have historical ties to the Miller movement, with over ten million members worldwide. Miller is the founder of the largest homegrown religious movement in American history, larger even than the movement founded by Joseph Smith.11 By far the largest Millerite group is the Seventh-Day Adventists, whose doctrines were molded in the late nineteenth century by Ellen G. White. Mrs. White is recognized as a prophet by the Seventh-Day Adventist church.
In 1935, Bulgarian immigrant Victor Houteff, who had declared himself the new Adventist prophet and had founded the Shepherd's Rod Church, established a Mount Carmel Center near Waco, Texas. Houteff saw himself in a line of prophets who had successively restored crucial Biblical doctrines: Luther (faith), Knox (holy spirit), Wesley (grace), Campbell (baptism), Miller (second coming), and White (sabbath).12 Houteff's followers expected the establishment of the "Davidic Kingdom," a special society of pure righteousness. Although the world did not end by 1936, as Houteff had expected, the sixty people living at Mount Carmel made their community a success, and won new followers from all over the United States. After the enactment of the military draft in 1942, the group incorporated as Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists in order to certify their status as conscientious objectors. The Adventist church denied that the Davidians were authentic Adventists; Houteff had been disfellowshipped from a California Adventist congregation in 1930.13
Victor Houteff died in 1955. His followers, who believed that he was the new Elijah, were shocked to see him pass away before his mission was completed.14 After some struggle, he was succeeded by his wife Florence, who established a new Mount Carmel Center further outside Waco. As religious historian Bill Pitts observes, the Branch Davidian movement never deviated from the essential shape which Houteff had given it. From 1935 until 1993 (and thereafter), the Branch Davidian religion has been "millenarian, sabbatarian, authoritarian, and communal."15 To these four key traits might be added one other: a belief that the Bible is a complex document which can only be truly understood by a select group of people who know how to decode it. This is why the sect was so heavily oriented towards prophetic leadership; it rejected the idea that individuals could read the Bible by themselves and fully understand it. The Bible was written by inspiration, and must be understood through inspired teaching.16
David Koresh would later radicalize the Branch Davidians by pushing all of the religion's key traits to an extreme, but Koresh could do so only because he was moving the Branch Davidians along a path that had been established for nearly half a century before he discovered the group.
Under Mrs. Houteff's leadership, the Branch Davidian religion of the late 1950s attracted approximately ten thousand followers throughout the world. But many "branches" left the religion when the predicted Second Coming of Jesus Christ (and massacre of mainstream Seventh-Day Adventists pursuant to Ezekiel 9) failed to materialize on April 22, 1959. The event became known in Davidian circles as "The Great Disappointment."17
The group split, with the largest contingent following self-proclaimed prophet Ben Roden. Roden considered himself the messianic "Branch" foretold in Zechariah.18 He introduced the Branch Davidian practice of observing the Old Testament feast days from the Book of Leviticus.19 The Roden group retained control of Mount Carmel, while other groups fanned out to various parts of the United States, where they continue to this day to follow their visions.20
Roden was succeeded upon his death in 1978 by his wife Lois. The Branch Davidian religion stagnated, as a smaller and smaller contingent of the faithful watched Lois Roden draw the same seven-year prophecy chart on the chalkboard every day. A major change was, however, predicted by Mrs. Roden for 1984, growing out of something that would begin in 1981.
Lois Roden was known in Texas Adventist circles for her doctrine that the Holy Spirit was female.21 Attracted by this doctrine, and in search of a living prophet, Vernon Wayne Howell joined the Branch Davidian community at Mount Carmel during the Holy Days of June 1981.22
"My time coming, any day, don't worry about me no.
It's gonna be just like they say, them voices tell me so...
You will follow me and we will ride to glory, way up, the middle of the air!
And I'll call down thunder and speak the same.
My word fills the sky with flame.
Might and glory gonna be my name..."
Estimated Prophet, The Grateful Dead
Vernon Wayne Howell was born on August 17, 1959, the illegitimate son of a fifteen-year-old mother.23 Young Vernon was remembered by his mother as "a smart young boy. Very intelligent for his age...We nicknamed him Sputnik, after the Russian satellite...He couldn't be still; he was so energetic, hyper."
When Vernon was two, his mother married a man who quickly became abusive. He beat little Vernon until he was black and blue, and held his bare feet on a hot furnace grating. The mother obtained a divorce after a year of marriage. The mother moved to Dallas, and left Vernon with his grandmother. Two years later, the mother remarried, and reclaimed Vernon, who had come to consider his grandmother as his mother. "Don't take me from my mama," he pleaded to no avail. "I don't want you to be my mother."
According to what Vernon later privately told some fellow Branch Davidians, from the age of five until age nine, he was frequently raped by one his mother's male relatives.
When Vernon was nine, he and his mother began attending Seventh Day Adventist services in Dallas. Vernon loved Adventism, and embraced Adventism's theory of a small remnant of godly people in a faithless world, emphasis on prophecy, and recognition of modern-day prophets. He eventually memorized large passages from difficult prophetic books such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, all in the King James Version of the Bible, with its seventeenth century English.
The last recognized Adventist prophet, Ellen G. White, had died in 1915, and Vernon was frustrated by the idea that there were no current prophets. He began to wonder if there was an unbroken prophetic chain that continued to the present.24 Vernon had two great interests: the Bible, and the electric guitar, and he devoted himself to both passionately. As a teenager, he often got into scriptural arguments with local Adventist ministers, and he believed that the modern Adventist church had become too mainstream and worldly, and fallen away from its prophetic mission. According to his mother, he would spend hours in prayer, crying and begging God to send the people a living prophet.25
In 1979, at the age of twenty, Howell began attending a Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church in Tyler, Texas. Howell attended a church-sponsored revival meeting featuring traveling evangelist Jim Gilley's "Revelation Seminars." Gilley's multimedia events warned that the fantastic, frightening Apocalypse foretold in the Book of Revelation could take place soon. Howell was fascinated.26
A friend in the Tyler congregation told Howell about the Mount Carmel community.27
When Vernon first arrived at Mount Carmel in 1981, he tried to help out as a handyman.28 But he was also a stuttering, insecure, pesky young man, given to tearful confessions of what he saw as his horrible sins, including his problem with compulsive masturbation. Day after day, he would lie on his bed, not just crying, but sobbing and flailing.29
For a while, Howell participated in both the Branch Davidian community in Waco and the mainstream Seventh-Day Adventist community in Tyler. But Howell was disfellowshipped from the SDA church in 1983, "after a succession of conflicts that precipitated when he announced that God intended him to marry the pastor's daughter, incessantly witnessed to other church members, and on one occasion took over the pulpit to propound his own theological views."30
In retrospect, it seems apparent that one of Vernon Howell's most serious problems was the conflict between his natural sexual urges, and his belief in the wickedness of sexuality--a belief that has been a malignant element of some parts of the Judeo-Christian tradition for many centuries. As a victim of repeated childhood sexual abuse, Howell's internal conflicts would likely have been all the more severe.
The result appears to have been Howell's consistent pattern of entering or attempting to enter into sexual relationships that were "blessed" by what seemed to Howell to be some kind of command from God. Based on the available evidence, it would be overly simplistic to claim that all that was going on was Howell cynically using religion as a pretext for his repulsive sexual behavior. To the contrary, a special dispensation from God appeared to be the only way in which Howell could deal with sex.
Howell's announcement that God wanted him to marry the SDA preacher's daughter had been rebuffed. There would only be one more time when anyone who knew Howell well would reject his sexual message.
Now living full-time at Mount Carmel, Howell was a rising force in the community. He developed a sexual relationship with Lois Roden, who was then in her sixties.31 While the relationship was not publicly acknowledged, even to other Branch Davidians, Roden apparently believed that Howell and she would miraculously conceive a child.32
Leadership was slipping from Lois Roden, who had presided over years of torpor and decline, into the dynamic hands of Vernon Howell. When the main administration building burned down in 1983 (according to some allegations, after Howell started a fire), Howell announced that the fire was God's punishment for the Branch Davidians' spiritual laziness. He began announcing new dietary rules, sticking his nose into everyone else's business and condemning their sins, and injecting excitement into what had been a dying movement.33 The other residents of Mount Carmel, observing Howell's growth into a mature, well-liked member of the community, attributed Howell's beneficial changes to God's work.34 Howell said, and Lois Roden and almost everyone else agreed, that Howell was the "Seventh Angel" (prophet) of the Book of Revelation. Under this theory, the first six angels had been William Miller (preaching the messages of the First and Second Angels), Ellen G. White (Third Angel), Victor Houteff (Fourth Angel), Ben Roden (Fifth Angel), and Lois Roden (who had long proclaimed herself the Sixth Angel).
One night Howell snuck out of Lois Roden's bed, and went to the nearby home of Perry Jones, a long-time Branch Davidian, and one of the most respected members of the community. (Jones eventually served as Vice-President of the Branch Davidians; he was fatally wounded on February 28, 1993, by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.35) Howell told Perry Jones that God had told Howell to marry Jones's fourteen-year-old daughter Rachel. Rachel, a dutiful daughter, did as her father asked, and married Vernon Howell the next day.
When Lois Roden found out, she went berserk. She revealed to the entire group the sexual relationship between herself and Howell. Rachel Jones Howell said she never would have married Vernon if she had known about his relationship with Lois Roden.
George Roden, Lois's son, drove Howell and the Jones family away from Mount Carmel at the point of an Uzi. The Mount Carmel community eventually split, between followers of George Roden, and followers of Howell. Lois Roden died in 1985.
In control of Mount Carmel, George Roden set up a methamphetamine lab, and amassed a large collection of guns and pornography.
The Howell group set up a separate community, under Spartan conditions, near Palestine, Texas. They also acquired group homes in Pomona and La Verne, California, which Howell used as bases for his attempts to become a rock star. At one point, an effort was made to contact Madonna, with the hope that she would become one of his wives.
While visiting Israel in 1985 and studying the Bible with several rabbis, Howell experienced what he described as "a miraculous meeting with God," in which he was instructed to study and then fulfill the prophecies contained in the Seven Seals of the Book of Revelation.36 Howell believed that he heard God talking directly to him, as God had spoken to Moses from the Burning Bush.37 Koresh's stutter disappeared forever, and the quality, energy, and intensity of his preaching improved tremendously. The voice stayed with Howell, and instructed him while he read the Bible. Other times, he would see pictures in his head. He believed that a heavenly "vehicle" transported him past the constellation Orion.38 In a 1987 teaching session, Howell described one of his experiences with the voice:
What--what if you turned on the water in the shower and all of a sudden it said, "Drop down ye waters from above, let the faucets pour out righteousness. I the Lord have created it." Huh? You know. Sh- and, and the songs of blessing, showers of blessing, starts being heard in your room or in the bathroom, right? I mean let's face it. Let's be realistic now. This guy is freaked out now, isn't he? OK? He's--this--Cyrus has an experience which none--very few and far in between have had.39
Around Passover in 1986, Vernon heard a voice say "Give seed to Karen." After some inner struggle, reported Howell, "I had made up my mind to do what God said, even though I could see only destruction and ruin." And so Vernon took thirteen-year-old Karen Doyle, with her consent and her family's blessing, as his second wife.40 This was the beginning of the "House of David," as Howell, who later called himself "David Koresh," eventually dubbed his growing collection of wives.
Howell was a far more charismatic preacher than George Roden, and his group thrived while Roden's withered. Roden refused to pay property taxes for Mount Carmel, while Howell's group strengthened their claim to ownership by paying $68,000 in back taxes. (The property is legally owned by the General Association of Davidian Seventh Day Adventists;41 the legal issue was who was the proper representative of this group.)
George Roden produced two wills by his mother Lois which left Mount Carmel to him, but neither will was properly authenticated. The younger Roden, who had run for President in 1984 on the platform of starting a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, filed court motions filled with obscenities, and threatened judges with herpes and various other plagues. Ignoring repeated orders to improve his behavior, Roden was sentenced to six months in jail. Howell's group moved into Mount Carmel the next day, March 23, 1988.42
Howell's group was conditionally granted possession of the Mount Carmel property, but they were required to occupy the property for a five-year period in order to perfect title. This five-year possession period ran through March 22, 1993, a date which happened to fall three-and- half-weeks after the BATF raided Mount Carmel on February 28, 1993. The property issue would make the Branch Davidians extremely reluctant to comply with FBI orders for a complete surrender in early March. They feared that their sacred home would be left unoccupied, and likely seized by the federal government or other hostiles.43
Taking over Mount Carmel from George Roden, Howell's group cleared away the neglected, crumbling buildings, dismantled the methamphetamine lab, turned the drug equipment and manuals over to the sheriff,44 and began building a large new building which would house everyone in the community.
Over the years, Vernon and the Branch Davidians grew increasingly confident of his prophetic role, and of the special role that they would play in history.
Vernon decided that his true name was David Koresh. The name "David" was an easily-recognizable reference to King David, the greatest King of Israel, and the antitype for the Messiah expected by the Jews.
"Koresh" has a more obscure origin, at least for people who (unlike the Branch Davidians) are not immersed in the Bible.
Around 600 b.c.e. in Persia, a child named "Kurush" was born. The name is rendered as "Cyrus" in Latin (and in English Bibles), and as "Koresh" in Hebrew. In the Old Testament, Kurush/Cyrus/Koresh seized control of the Persian Empire, and then conquered the Middle East all the way to the Aegean Sea.45 In the process, King Cyrus destroyed the Babylonian Empire, which had previously conquered Jerusalem and taken the Jews into captivity. Cyrus allowed some Jews to return to Jerusalem and begin rebuilding the Temple which had been the center of Jewish worship. Although not a Jew, Cyrus was highly regarded by the Jews; the Book of Isaiah calls Cyrus God's "anointed," a term applied to persons, including the Messiah, chosen by God for a special purpose.46
Vernon Wayne Howell saw himself as the messianic fulfillment of both Cyrus and the Hebrew King David. King David played a "stringed instrument," and David Koresh played the guitar. King David (while leading the rebellion against King Saul) hid out in the wilderness with his band of followers, while Koresh had his own remote headquarters.47
David Koresh also saw in himself the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Song of Solomon. In a passage favored by Koresh, King Solomon (David's son and successor), like other Old Testament kings, was surrounded by fierce warriors: "Behold his bed, which is Solomon's; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel. They all hold swords, being expert in war; every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night."48
King Solomon set Koresh's standard for how many wives Koresh should have: "threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number."49 As in Old Testament times, girls as young as twelve were considered old enough to be married.50
Koresh's sexual practices were loathsome, but, unfortunately, not unique in the history of religious leaders. King Solomon, for example, is revered as one of the wisest men who ever lived, and one of Israel's greatest kings, second only to King David. He is the purported author of the Book of Proverbs, and the Book of Ecclesiastes. But, as the Bible teaches, he was apparently sexually insatiable, needing seventy "wives," eighty prostitutes (concubines), and "virgins without number." The sixteenth-century Anabaptist movement (ancestor of today's Mennonite and Hutterite sects) was for a time led by a tailor named Jan Bockelson, who enjoyed free sexual access to his female devotees.51 We will not catalogue the numerous sexual misadventures of some of the medieval Popes, but we will suggest that wrongful sexual behavior by the head of the religion does not mean that the followers of that religion--be they Jews, Anabaptists, Catholics, or Branch Davidians--are fools or "cultists," or that they deserve to be persecuted.
Nor was Koresh unique among religious leaders in believing that he received bizarre instructions from God. Minister Louis Farrakhan, who considers himself to be the messiah,52 has spoken of his 1985 trip on a UFO.53 As Branch Davidian Livingstone Fagan notes,54 according to the Bible, God instructed the prophet Isaiah to walk barefoot and naked for three years,55 the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute,56 and the prophet Ezekiel to make a mixture of cow dung and grain and to eat it before the public (Ezekiel had talked God out of the God's original order to use human dung, rather than cow dung).57 Further, God killed Ezekiel's wife and ordered Ezekiel not to mourn,58 and instructed Abraham to kill his only son Isaac by slitting his throat with a knife, as a human sacrifice to God.59
Messianicly, Koresh saw himself third in line, following Melchizedek, a "high priest" from the book of Genesis who blessed Abraham, and who was "Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God..."60--and Jesus, who had no earthly paternal lineage. In contrast to Melchizedek and Jesus, Koresh "had both a very worldly father and mother."61 Thus, Koresh described himself as "the sinful messiah" because he, unlike Jesus, was riddled with sin, and therefore could fulfill the Biblical prophecies which Koresh thought called for a messiah with the full scope of human frailty. He identified himself as the character in Psalm 40 who "preached righteousness in the great congregation" but who also knew that "my iniquities have taken hold upon me...they are more than the hairs of mine head."
Branch Davidian theology was premised on the idea that the Bible is the infallible word of God. Like previous "Angels," Koresh examined the prophetic books of the Bible, and found numerous prophecies, including prophecies about a messiah, which had never been fulfilled. (For example, Psalm 45 predicts a messiah who will have children, and Jesus never did.) Like many other Christians throughout history, the Branch Davidians believed that they were living in the end-times. The climax of history was foretold in the Book of Revelation, the book in which all the other books of the Bible, especially the prophetic books of the Old Testament, came together.
While the Branch Davidians were unique in seeing Koresh as the messiah, they were not unique in much of their general orientation. For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses (another Millerite group), also believe in an impending but frequently postponed Armageddon, believe that only members of their sect are living according to God's truth, and believe that only the top leaders of their sect can interpret Scripture, which everyone else in the sect must obey unquestioningly.62
Koresh knew the Bible inside-out, and his preaching held an obvious attraction to potential converts who already believed that all truth is contained in the Bible. Koresh's proselytization was especially geared towards mainstream Seventh-Day Adventists, who already believed that God could send prophets as in the days of old. And, like mainstream Christianity for most of its history, Koresh's preaching relied heavily on hellfire. Potential converts were offered a last chance to save themselves from eternal torture, and warned of the consequences of not heeding God's word. Fear of hellfire also played an enormous role in keeping Branch Davidians with doubts from renouncing the faith.63
Although street-corner preaching never attracted any Branch Davidian converts, missions did. Converts came from places as diverse as England, Australia, Hawaii, and California. The Mount Carmel Center became a multiracial, multicultural community, with large numbers of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and whites. Over half the population were people of color; adult women, adult men, and children each comprised about a third of the 130 people present.64 In contrast to stagnant group which had clustered around Lois Roden, Koresh brought in a far more dynamic, expanding group of followers. Although Koresh himself was dyslexic and poorly educated, with weak grammatical and spelling skills, many of the converts held degrees; these included a well-respected attorney who had graduated from Harvard Law School,65 an electrical engineer,66 and others with degrees or advanced degrees from Seventh-Day Adventist theological academies.67
As with sex, Koresh had intensely puritanical, neurotic attitudes towards food. In his early days at Mount Carmel, he had fasted so severely that there was little more to him than skin and bones. The Branch Davidians had already been following Old Testament dietary laws, but Koresh added numerous other restrictions for which he believed he had found scriptural authority. Koresh thought that red meat and foods containing chemical additives were unclean, as were foods with high sugar content. Vitamins and other artificial dietary supplements were forbidden. Like the Mormons, Koresh forbade food containing caffeine,68 and applied the prohibition to soda, as well as tea and coffee. Certain brands of beer were allowed, with consumption limited to two beers, one hour apart. Meals generally consisted of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry, and breads. Turkey hotdogs and popcorn were especially popular. (Some days, popcorn would be the only food.)
The must unusual dietary rules involved food combinations. In particular, certain permissible foods could not be eaten together (such as oranges and raisins). Vegetables and fruit could only be consumed together if the vegetables were fresh cooked corn, and the fruit were lemons, pineapples, or avocados. Apples could be eaten with any vegetable, if the apples were stewed first. From time to time, Koresh would change the rules about food combinations, forbidding new combinations, while authorizing other previously forbidden ones.
Perhaps the most important rule, in terms of its effects on the siege, was that drinks were forbidden with meals.69 Having gotten used to restricting liquid intake, or to eating nothing but popcorn all day, and to rejecting many "worldly" pleasures of food, the ascetic Branch Davidians were extremely well prepared to withstand a long siege.
As with sex, Koresh managed to convince himself that all the worldly temptations which he protected the Branch Davidians from were meant to be experienced by him. He was supposed to suffer the "experience of all sin and degradation on earth" so that he would be ready to stand in judgment of the sinners on Judgment Day. While the Branch Davidians watched, Koresh would sometimes enjoy a large bowl of ice cream; he would tell how grateful they should be that he was taking on the sins of the world, while they remained pure.70
Although Mount Carmel was intended to be distinct from the "Babylonian" outside world, life not was not as entirely abnormal as anti-cult propagandists would suggest. While some Branch Davidians were alienated from their families, others kept in touch with frequent phone calls, letters, or visits.71 People were free to leave, and other the years, many people did leave. Bible studies were, of course, the raison d'être for being at Mount Carmel; but there were also go-karts, movies, music, and the ordinary chores of preparing meals, home-schooling the children, and construction work to expand the Mount Carmel Center.72 McClennan County Sheriff Jack Harwell later recounted that he had met many Branch Davidians, and, although they believed in an odd religion, they all seemed to be likeable, normal people.
What became of Vernon Wayne Howell after he began to be treated as an inerrant prophet confirms Lord Acton's adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Vernon Wayne Howell was an abused child, who grew into an abusive monster named David Koresh. Two incidents, while not typical of Koresh's daily behavior, do illustrate the multi-generational nature of the cycle of abuse.
One incident took place at Mount Carmel, after Vernon's mother Bonnie had become a disciple. (At the time of the BATF raid, she was not living at Mount Carmel.) There was a well-liked, three-legged dog named Buddy tied to a rope outside the compound. Vernon's mother's dog spent hours sneaking up on Buddy, and then biting his leg. When Buddy at last bit back, "Vernon's mother witnessed this and flew into a rage. She picked up a shovel and repeatedly beat the wretched Buddy, eventually slicing open his remaining hind leg. Nobody dared intervene." Vernon came on the scene, declared that he would not tolerate troublemakers, executed Buddy with a rifle, and told the crying children not to be sissies. Later that night, Vernon preached a thirteen hour sermon on love, forgiveness, and eternal life.73
As noted above, Vernon, at the age of five, had been taken away from his grandmother, whom he thought to be his mother, and forced to live with his real mother, despite his tearful protests. When Cyrus, the first-born son of David Koresh was three years old, Koresh decided that Cyrus's mother (Koresh's first wife, seventeen-year-old Rachel) was not raising him right, and sent him to live with another Koresh wife in California. Koresh demanded that little Cyrus acknowledge the new woman as his mother, which Cyrus refused to do, even after being severely beaten for half-an-hour by Koresh. Koresh then locked Cyrus in a dark garage for the night, warning him that giant rats that lived in the garage would attack him.
On a more mundane level, Koresh often had trouble taking personal responsibility. During jam sessions for his rock group, Messiah, if Koresh made a mistake with his guitar lead, he would blame it on the drummer or the bass player.7
But Koresh was not always malevolent. For example, one of his followers reports:
He once stood in the pouring rain for six hours while fixing a follower's pickup truck. He spent thousands of dollars buying new electric guitars for people and he even bought a couple of cars to give away. He gave Davidian Peter Hipsman, who died during the Feb. 28, 1993 ATF raid a newly restored 1968 Camaro!75
Koresh's leadership position was significantly strengthened by his willingness to confess his sins to the rest of the group.76
In any case, the Branch Davidians were not unaware of Koresh's numerous personal flaws. They simply did not believe that it was their place to reject God's decision to choose a sinful messiah. As Koresh's number-one follower Steve Schneider once asked, "Of all the people in the world, why did God have to choose a bum from Texas who can hardly speak English and who is always so rude to you?"77
In public discussion, "child abuse at Waco" means abuse perpetrated by David Koresh after he took control of the Branch Davidians. We will discuss the abuse in more detail, in subsequent chapters. It is important to realize, however, what an essential role child abuse played in the Mount Carmel story long before David Koresh was running things.
The summer before Vernon Howell married fourteen-year-old Rachel Jones, he would give her guitar lessons, and her friend Debbie Bunds would come along as a chaperone. During these lessons, he would ask them intimate sexual questions, such as "Have you ever thought about what sex would be like?" or "When you get married, would you want to share your husband?" He even asked the girls if they had thought about marrying him, and whether they would mind sharing him.
The girls knew that Howell's comments were inappropriate, but they felt that there was no adult they could go to. Debbie Bunds (who left the Branch Davidians years later) explained that adults "just didn't listen to us...we were non-humans to them....They didn't look at us as human beings, as people with feelings and rights and minds. They just looked at us as their little clay. Lumps of clay I guess to mold and do with as they wished."
Rachel Jones had already been repeatedly sexually assaulted by her brothers, while their father Perry Jones remained oblivious. Debbie Bunds's older sister had been raped by their father, and he "was trying to get at me." Debbie Bunds's mother knew about it, but did nothing, while Perry Jones accused young Debbie of seducing her father.78
Put in a broader perspective, one of the reasons that some of the Branch Davidians put up with Koresh's behavior was that they had low expectations for how they deserved to be treated, and sometimes these low expectations were the result of some form of abuse they experienced as children.
The focus of this book is on federal law enforcement, and on how to prevent future Wacos. There is, however, another side of the equation that is also important, and that is how to prevent children from growing into adults like Vernon Howell, or growing into adults who will put their lives in the hands of someone like Vernon Howell.
The solution is not for hate groups to encourage the government to destroy "cults." (We will have much more to say about this topic.) The more fundamental solution is to reduce child abuse, for it is from the ranks of abused children that people like Vernon Howell and his followers are disproportionately drawn.
One of the strategies used in child abuse prevention is to teach children to respect themselves and their feelings. Children are told that when they are touched in way that feels wrong, then something probably is wrong, even when that touch comes from a powerful authority figure such as a relative or teacher.
To maintain one's own integrity--no matter how severe the external demands of authority--takes great courage, for both children and adults. The courage, and the love, of a young man and a young woman were what set in motion the destruction of David Koresh's world.
Among the followers of David Koresh, two were preeminent, both as evangelists and as teachers of doctrine second only to Koresh: Steve Schneider and Marc Breault. After meeting Koresh in a chance encounter in a supermarket in 1986, Breault had recruited his best friend Steve Schneider, who had been teaching comparative religion at the University of Hawaii.79 So blind that he could see no more than three inches in front of his face, Breault was considered to have the gift of prophetic vision, and his dreams and visions were considered very important by his fellow Branches.
Breault and an Australian Branch Davidian, Elizabeth Baranyai, fell in love when she visited Palestine, Texas, in April 1986. Koresh, however, wanted her for one of his own wives, but she had no interest in marrying him.
Conflict began to develop between Breault and Koresh because Koresh refused to consent to Breault's marriage to Elizabeth. Finally, after Breault threatened to leave the group, Koresh acceded. Marc and Elizabeth Breault were married on April 28, 1989, and enjoyed a wedding meal that evening at a local Sizzlers' steakhouse. Elizabeth returned to Australia shortly thereafter when her tourist visa expired.80
On August fifth of that year, David Koresh began expounding a far more radical doctrine of polygamy: all of the Branch Davidians' marriages were invalid because they had been entered into for worldly, lustful reasons. Under the "New Light'" revelation, all of the Davidian women should become the wives of David Koresh. (Later, he announced that their holy offspring would one day rule the world.81)
Steve Schneider and his wife Judy were shocked. At first, Schneider refused to believe that Koresh really meant for married women to become Koresh's wives. He contemplated killing Koresh, but worried what would happen to Judy if he failed. But Steve and Judy talked together and with Koresh and prayed and eventually concluded that they had no choice but to follow God's will. They knew that David Koresh was not very impressive as a person, but they believed that God could work through imperfect instruments, and, rather than lose their salvation, they accepted what seemed to be God's will. The sacrifice was seen as a "piercing test" of devotion to God.82
After Judy Schneider accepted Koresh's "New Light," all of the married Davidians at Mount Carmel, except for one, fell in line with the new doctrine. Including the offspring of Koresh's first wife Rachel, Koresh eventually sired at least thirteen children, eleven of whom died on April 19, 1993.83 These children were seen by all the Branch Davidians as the most important part of Mount Carmel's purpose.84 After ten years of marriage, Steve and Judy Schneider had been unable to conceive, but Judy Schneider Koresh and David Koresh conceived rapidly.85 To the Schneiders, and the rest of the Branch Davidians, it must have been seen as further proof of God's will.
"All right, then, I'll go to Hell," said Huck Finn, when he finally decided to help his slave friend Jim escape, even though Huck, in accordance with the Christian doctrine he had been taught, was certain that he would burn forever for helping a slave escape.86 At the end of the all-night study session in which Koresh had announced the New Light, Marc Breault--while still in the study session--had a dream of himself standing on a small patch of ground, as the fires of hell converged on him.87 Marc and Elizabeth Breault were afraid of hell, but they still knew that something was terribly wrong with the New Light. Breault left the United States, moved to Australia to join Elizabeth, and began what he described as a "vendetta" against David Koresh. Breault argued that the followers of David Koresh (whom he dubbed "the Vernonites") were not true Branch Davidians, but were following a false prophet. His counter-preaching eventually deprived Koresh of most of his followers in Australia and New Zealand. Koresh's followers claimed that Breault left because he lost a power struggle with Koresh over who would run the group.
Self-described as a "cult buster," Breault devoted his life to destroying the Koresh religion. He had all the emotional intensity of someone who has been through an angry divorce, and his view of his former "spouse," the Branch Davidian church, was just as one-sided and selectively focused as in a terrible divorce. The Branch Davidians had looked on the outside world as Satanic, but now Breault reversed that vision, and saw Koresh as evil incarnate.
Along with about a dozen other disaffected Branch Davidians, Breault hired a private detective who tried to interest various local police departments, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the McLennan County [Waco] Sheriff and the Internal Revenue Service into taking action against the Davidians.88
Breault's generally hysterical letters failed to prompt action by the government. But a sensational tabloid television program in Australia got interested, and did a one-hour exposé on Koresh. The tabloid show in turn helped convince the Waco Tribune-Herald to begin a months-long investigation which, after numerous delays, finally began to run on February 27, 1993. The series, titled "The Sinful Messiah," was a lurid, one-sided summary of all of the charges made by Breault and other former followers of Koresh.89
The Waco Tribune-Herald series was the foundation for most of what the American public would know about the Branch Davidians during the fifty-one days of the siege, since the FBI blocked almost all Branch Davidian attempts to communicate with the public. Thus, the American people only knew the Branch Davidians as an apparently insane group of child-abusing, gun nut, sex nut, zombie "cultists," for whom there could be no empathy.
Today, most Americans maintain their one-dimensional view of the Branch Davidians. But as Marc Breault explained in 1995:
I want to dispel the myth that Branch Davidians are stupid. I disagree with many of their interpretations of the Bible, but as a rule, they are far more advanced that your average Christian. Religious people should never mistake their complacency for superior intellect or discernment. Branch Davidians, in their own way, actually gave up all to follow what they believed to be God's truth. In other words, they actually did what Christ commanded. How many others manage that? While Branch Davidians are by no means the only spiritual people around, many so-called religious people never take any risks.
My lament is that the Branch Davidians took risks for the wrong cause, and are now paying the price. I guess that's the chance you take. When you blitz the quarterback, you might give up a long bomb. But at least they tried. If more of us tried while maintaining open minds toward other viewpoints, this world would be a better place. Like everything else, the Branch Davidian movement has good and bad points. Perhaps people can learn from their spirit, dedication, and tenacity, while Branch Davidians can learn to exercise better judgment. In the end, their calamity befell them partly because the US government made a shambles of a law enforcement operation, and partly because of their pride, convinced that they alone had the truth and that no one else understood God as well as they did. I guess we can all learn from that mistake.90
Randy Weaver was a white racist91 who lived with his family92 in a remote construction-grade plywood cabin--later described as "fortified" by the FBI Director--in northern Idaho. In contrast to the Branch Davidians, over half of whom were people of color, Weaver was a follower of Christian Identity, a sect which believes that whites are the true Jews of the Old Testament, and that ordinary Jews and people of color are malign.
A frequent companion of Weaver, building a nearby cabin, was a young man named Kevin Harris. Weaver had no criminal record or predisposition to crime; he did have peculiar and repulsive views, but for the most part he simply wanted to be left alone. While he attended a few meetings of Aryan Nations, he was not a joiner.
He came to BATF's attention when he attended the Aryan Nations meeting in July 1986, where he met a BATF informant, who befriended Weaver. The informant was a private investigator who was paid by BATF on a contingency basis, earning a $3,500 bonus when he got a conviction. After three years, in late 1989, he finally entrapped (a jury later found) Weaver into shortening two shotgun barrels and stocks to well below the legal limit. Weaver had shown no inclination to saw off shotguns but was eventually persuaded to do so by the informant and by Weaver's need for cash. The informant told Weaver precisely where to cut the stocks and barrels.
The practice of paying informants on a contingency basis was and is pervasive throughout federal law enforcement. As in the Weaver case (and other cases we will discuss below), contingency payments inflate the already enormous incentives for informants to lie and to manufacture crimes, thereby bringing down the full wrath of federal law enforcement on innocent persons.
At 1995 Senate hearings about Ruby Ridge, BATF Director John Magaw promised to end immediately BATF's practice of paying informants on a contingency basis.93 This reform should be made permanent, and applied throughout federal law enforcement. Specific statutory language carrying out this reform is included in Chapter Seven, along with statutory language to carry out the other reforms we will propose at various points.
Several months after the informant finally convinced Weaver illegally to shorten the shotgun barrels, BATF threatened to indict Weaver for six offenses involved in making, possessing, and transferring two sawed-off shotguns. BATF further threatened that conviction would result in his losing his property (this was false), his wife's being unable to support the family, and their losing custody of their children. BATF did not want to indict him so much as BATF wanted him to agree to serve as an informer on the Aryan Nations. Weaver refused.
When Weaver declined to cooperate, and his wife warned the Aryan Nations what BATF was up to, BATF revised its description of Weaver. Weaver was now claimed to be a violent conspirator against the government, even though he was so reclusive that he could not--and so paranoid that he would not---conspire with anyone except members of his household and his friend Kevin Harris. BATF also began to claim that Weaver was a bank-robbery suspect and was suspected of harboring another white-supremacist bank robber. Living about as far as possible from the federal government as is possible in the continental United States, Weaver was described as determined to seek a confrontation with the federal government. If BATF could not get Weaver to help them arrest violent racists, then BATF would claim that Weaver was one. And thus he was indicted in December 1990 for gun law violations.
Early in 1991, Randy and Vicky Weaver were driving down the snowy road from their mountain home, when they saw a couple stranded with engine trouble, with their car blocking the road. The Weavers got out to help the couple--who turned out to be decoys--and were promptly surrounded and forcefully subdued by a team of BATF agents, which included a winter-camouflaged sniper. Although Weaver had never been arrested before, and had never threatened violence in his previous conversations with BATF agents, and although the Weavers did not resist the BATF agents in any way, BATF planned for and executed a forceful arrest, which included shoving Mrs. Weaver into a snowbank.
After being held overnight, Randy Weaver was brought before Magistrate Stephen Ayres. BATF argued that Weaver should not be allowed to post bond, and instead should be held in jail until his trial. BATF's argument that Weaver was so dangerous that he must be denied the right to bail was ludicrous, considering that the only crime which Weaver had ever committed was a nonviolent regulatory offense which a BATF informant had spent three years convincing him to commit.
The Magistrate allowed Weaver to post a personal bond, secured by the Weavers's only significant asset, their homestead. The Magistrate correctly told Weaver that if he failed to attend the trial, the bond would be forfeit, meaning that the government could seize the Weavers's home. The Magistrate also informed Weaver that an attorney would be appointed to defend him, and (incorrectly) warned Weaver that if he were convicted Weaver might lose his property to pay the government for the cost of the defense attorney.
Having been wrongly warned by both BATF and the Magistrate that conviction would result in the loss of his home, and the consequent impoverishment of his children, and the government taking the children away from their mother, Weaver made no secret of his plans not to leave his home, not even to attend the trial, which he had been told was scheduled for March 20, 1991.
The proximate reason for his failure to attend his trial, however, was that it was actually scheduled for February 20, 1991, and the Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA), Ron Howen, knew that Weaver's absence could be explained by the error. Nonetheless, Howen obtained an additional indictment for Weaver's failure to appear, and a bench warrant for his arrest. As a result, the law enforcement agency primarily concerned with Weaver changed from BATF to the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), which is in charge of arresting fugitives from the U.S. courts.
The USMS spent the next sixteen months surveying Weaver's home on Ruby Ridge, but made no attempt at a traditional arrest. To the violent background BATF had invented for Weaver, the USMS added suspicions of drug trafficking, thus explaining an imaginary $10,000 the impoverished Weaver supposedly received about the time his desperate desire to feed his children led him to sell a couple of sawed-off shotguns to BATF for a few hundred dollars.
The phony drug connection justified getting the military involved (as would also occur at Waco also, on the basis of dishonest allegations about drugs), since there is a "drug exception" to the federal law against use of the military in domestic law enforcement. (The exception will be discussed in greater detail in chapter two.) So a military aircraft was sent to overfly Weaver's property--a cabin and a few shacks on unfenced acreage, erroneously described as a "compound"--to see if there was evidence of drugs, and to assist in developing plans for arresting Weaver, who had made it clear he planned to remain secluded on his property, and not to report for trial.
The USMS did engage in serious negotiations for ending Weaver's refusal to turn himself in, but negotiations were thwarted by the Assistant U.S. Attorney, who mandated that all negotiations had to go through Weaver's court-assigned lawyer, with whom Weaver was not in contact, and must be part of a plea-bargain arrangement. In other words, the AUSA would not allow any settlement by which Weaver would come down and go to trial. The only settlement terms permissible would have to include Weaver pleading guilty to a crime of which (a jury later found) he was innocent.
At Waco also, the U.S. Attorney's office may have played a role in setting up a needless violent confrontation. According to the BATF, the US Attorney at Waco insisted that the BATF's arrest warrant at Waco could only be served through a "dynamic-entry" (violent break-in) arrest at the Mount Carmel Center.
Unable to negotiate a settlement because of the AUSA's intransigence, the USMS began to work on various apprehension plans, including kidnaping or arresting Weaver's teenage daughter Sara when she slept outside the cabin in the "birthing shed" used by women during menstruation and the final stage of pregnancy,94 and holding her until he turned himself in. USMS remote surveillance teams took careful notes of Sara's menstrual cycle.
Finally, six deputy marshals--four of whom were new to the assignment--snuck onto the property in August 1992. While three were elsewhere on the property, one of the other group of three threw rocks toward the cabin, which eventually caused the Weavers' yellow Labrador to scurry barking in the direction of the camouflaged marshals. Weaver, his neighbor Kevin Harris, and Weaver's fourteen-year-old son Sammy grabbed their guns to run and investigate what they thought was a deer (food). Sammy Weaver and Kevin Harris followed the dog while Randy Weaver ran to where he hoped his son and neighbor would drive the deer into range. Two of the marshals were armed with M16 automatic rifles and one with a 9mm machine pistol.
There are two versions of what happened next. The one the jury believed is that one of the marshals shot the dog in the back, causing an outraged Sammy to curse the trespasser and fire a few shots wildly before responding to his father's shout that he run home. Randy Weaver-- portrayed by the USMS and BATF as a man who had been seeking a violent confrontation with the federal government for nearly a decade--saw a marshal, turned and ran, firing a single shot into the air to get his son's and Harris's attention, to tell them to run home.
In response to Sammy's shooting, Marshal William F. Degan shot at Sammy, hitting and shattering his gun, and doing the same to his arm, which was nearly severed. Sammy dropped his gun, as his arm was no longer capable of holding anything. As Sammy ran, one barely-attached arm flapping precariously, a second marshal, Larry Cooper, fired a 9mm burst, with one round to the back killing Sammy.
Harris's story is that he responded to the violence, firing a shot in the direction of a nearly invisible camouflaged man, killing Degan. The marshals' assertion is that they called out "U.S. Marshals, stop," and that Harris killed Deputy Marshal Degan in cold blood; the Marshals also initially insisted Degan had fired no shots, although he had actually fired seven rounds.
Both sides disengaged. Three of the marshals stayed in the general area, and reported that they were pinned down, unwilling to leave their fallen comrade. Actually, no shots were fired at them for the rest of the day. The only shots were fired in the air by the distraught parents of the deceased Sammy. No shots were fired after early afternoon, although the description of the deputy marshals as "pinned down" was repeated throughout the afternoon, and into the night, until they were rescued by the FBI in the middle of the night.
During the day, Harris and a loudly mourning and cursing Randy Weaver and his wife Vicki took Sammy's body to the shed, somehow retrieving the body without being noticed by marshals who were supposedly pinned down nearby.
The USMS immediately called in the FBI, in addition to state and local law enforcement, for a massive siege. The Marshals' briefing of the FBI was too brief, and misleading. The FBI "Hostage Rescue Team" (HRT), headed by Richard M. Rogers, who would later serve as HRT commander at Waco, was deceived about the nature of the shootout. Told of Weaver's military background, the FBI assumed Weaver had done everything the military had trained him to be capable of doing: booby-trapping the area (an area in which dogs, children, and an infant wandered), digging tunnels, fortifying the home, possessing grenades and automatic weapons; all of which the marshals knew to be untrue. The threat that the FBI perceived upon its arrival was thus drastically overblown.
When the FBI showed up, it proceeded to alienate many long-time residents of the area. For example, the FBI ejected Scott and Kim Dodge from their home, to turn it into an FBI facility. They were promised reimbursement, but they had to write letters for a year to get their motel costs paid. According to Mr. Dodge, the FBI agents, assumed "everyone here was guilty until proven innocent." He said that FBI behavior, "changed the whole community's feelings about the federal government."95
The FBI had been told that most residents of Ruby Ridge were armed (in full compliance with Idaho law) when they left the cabin. Despite that knowledge, but with at least partial approval from Larry Potts (the FBI supervisor in Washington, D.C., who had ultimate authority over the operation), Rogers changed the normal, constitutional, rules of engagement, which allow use of deadly force only when necessary to protect an innocent person from imminent peril. The new rules called on FBI snipers to shoot any adult male armed outside the cabin.96
When the Ruby Ridge shootings were investigated by Congress in 1995, there was great attention paid to whether Potts (who had been promoted to the second-ranking position in the FBI) had approved illegal shoot-to-kill orders. Factually, the only dispute is whether Potts approved changing the language to "can and should" shoot or only to "can" shoot any armed male. "Can and should" would amount to orders to kill, but "can" would be a license to kill. It is not disputed that the license to kill language was approved by Potts before the HRT arrived at Ruby Ridge. The "can and should" order to kill was part of an operational plan sent to the FBI headquarters for approval, and was immediately rejected for want of any provision for negotiating an end to the siege. Since the "can and should" language was in a document which FBI headquarters rejected on other grounds, the order to kill language was never formally approved by Potts.
It is uncontradicted that Rogers proposed a plan which had no possibility of a peaceful, negotiated end to the conflict, and this plan is at least suggestive of problems which later occurred in Waco under Rogers' command. It is also uncontradicted that Larry Potts approved license to kill language, which was illegal.
At Weaver's trial in 1993, HRT Director Rogers was unable to cite any authority for allowing the FBI, in violation of state law, to shoot people who were posing no threat to anyone. (A provision in the 1993 federal crime bill, removed during the bill's final movement through Congress, would have immunized federal agents from state criminal prosecution for crimes committed while on the job.)
When the new license to kill rule went into effect, neither Harris nor Weaver, the adult males at Ruby Ridge, knew of such a rule, nor, indeed, that the FBI was surrounding the cabin.
Once the pro forma addition of a negotiation plan was sent to Washington, Rogers deployed his snipers. Soon after the six two-man sniper teams were in place, but before the rest of the perimeter had been secured for the siege, Harris, Weaver, and Weaver's sixteen-year-old daughter Sara, left the cabin. Sara and Harris went to a high point to see what was happening. Randy Weaver went toward the birthing shed to prepare Sammy for burial, armed with a rifle, but with his back to FBI sniper Lon T. Horiuchi, who has said that he could hit a quarter at two hundred yards, about the distance from which he now fired. Horiuchi later testified that he shot at Weaver to keep him from shooting at a helicopter overhead. But other testimony revealed that the helicopter was not overhead; it was well behind Horiuchi, which meant it was also behind Weaver, who was shot in the back of his shoulder. In addition, the helicopter was engaged in defilade maneuvering, meaning it would dart up and then quickly down behind the wooded hills, so it was not exposed for long enough to make a decent target, even if Weaver wanted to shoot. Horiuchi knew the helicopter was thus in no danger, since he had ridden in the 'copter earlier in the day. At the trial later, charges that Weaver and Harris threatened federal officials in the helicopter were so unsubstantiated that the judge directed a verdict of acquittal.
In response to the shot, from a besieging force which had yet to announce that they were law enforcement officers demanding surrender--and certainly before announcing the new and unconstitutional rules of engagement already in effect--the three persons fled for the safety of the cabin. Sara ran in front of her father, hoping that whoever was shooting would be reluctant to shoot a girl. Weaver's wife, Vicki, holding their ten-month-old daughter Elisheba, opened the door, which stood between her and Horiuchi, and shouted at them to come back to the relative safety of the cabin.
Sniper Horiuchi fired again, at the man he says he incorrectly thought was Weaver, even though Weaver and Harris have noticeable height and age disparities. Horiuchi later testified that he could not identify his target clearly because he could not see through the curtains of the door. After Horiuchi testified, however, the government (illegally late) turned over Horiuchi's official report of the shooting, including a drawing, where two heads appear in the windows of the open door. The drawing suggests that Horiuchi believed, incorrectly, that Randy Weaver and his daughter were crouched behind the door. The cross hairs he drew on the window of the door, the location his shot was to hit, was thus less than a foot above where he thought Sara's head was located. Since even the aggressive license to kill rules of engagement allowed only shots which could be taken "without endangering the children,"97 Horiuchi may have violated the altered FBI rules in addition to permanent FBI rules, state and federal law, and the Constitution.
Another theory is offered by investigative journalist James Bovard: "To shoot at a running target by aiming at the window of a door facing into a cabin would be an idiotic way to try to shoot Kevin Harris. However, the shot that hit Vicki Weaver--severing her carotid artery--was a perfect kill shot."98
The FBI sniper's .308 bullet crashed into Vicki Weaver's head with such force that skull bone fragments and bullet fragments went into Harris, seriously injuring him. Vicki fell to the ground, bleeding profusely, instantly dead.99
During the next week, "the FBI used the microphones to taunt the family. 'Good Morning Mrs. Weaver. We had pancakes for breakfast. What did you have?' asked the agents in at least one exchange. Weaver's daughter, Sara, 16, said the baby, Elisheba, often was crying for its mother's milk when the FBI's messages were heard."100
In defense of the negotiator, forced on Dick Rogers and the HRT by the FBI, he had no idea that Vicki Weaver was dead. He had apparently not been told that Horiuchi believed he had at least wounded one member of the household. The negotiator's good faith, however, could not have been perceived by the remaining Weavers
Bo Gritz, a much-decorated Vietnam war hero, who is now a talk-show host and a right-wing political figure, offered to try to negotiate with Weaver. Shortly before Gritz arrived at the FBI camp, the "Camp Vicki" sign was taken down.101
After Gritz's first negotiation session with Randy Weaver, he returned to the FBI camp and told Rogers that Vicki Weaver was dead. According to Gritz, Rogers expressed no surprise at this news. He mentioned an FBI psychological profile, prepared before the attack, which called Vicki Weaver the "dominant member" of the family, thus implying that if she were "neutralized" everyone else might surrender; further, there was a fear that Vicki Weaver would kill her own children rather than surrender.102 Gritz testified to the Senate that there was never any indication that shooting Vicki Weaver was an accident. He suggests that the first shot at Randy Weaver was intended to bring him down in order to draw Vicki Weaver into the open.
During the eleven-day siege, the FBI repeatedly sent a robot with a telephone in one arm to the front door of Weaver's cabin. The FBI negotiators ordered Weaver to pick up the phone and talk to them, and the FBI press spokesmen criticized Weaver for refusing to pick up the phone and negotiate. But the FBI spokespersons neglected to inform the press of one crucial fact: the robot's other arm held a shotgun, pointed straight at Weaver's door.103
Eight days after Vicki Weaver was shot, Gritz succeeded in convincing Weaver to surrender based on a promise that Weaver could meet with famed criminal defense attorney Gerry Spence. Had Weaver not surrendered, the FBI had plans, the very next day, to launch and CS chemical warfare and armored vehicle assault on Weaver's home, similar to the assault which would take place April 19, 1993, against the Branch Davidians' home.104
Spence agreed to take Weaver's case pro bono, and in April 1993, Kevin Harris went on trial for murder, with Randy Weaver charged with conspiracy to commit murder.105
As with Koresh, the government attempted to portray Weaver as a political and religious zealot who prophesied and then sought to create a holy war with federal agents, even though Weaver's clear goal had been to avoid government agents.106 Weaver and Harris claimed self-defense, and that the government had unjustifiably fired first. With no defense evidence even introduced, the jury acquitted the accused of all charges of criminal violence. The court fined the federal government for withholding evidence and for lying, and complained that the government had acted with "a callous disregard for the rights of the defendants and the interests of justice."107 Weaver was convicted only of his failure to appear for the court hearing growing out of the BATF sting.108 The jury was reportedly of the view that the wrong set of people were being prosecuted.
Sniper Horiuchi was decorated for his actions at Ruby Ridge; he later appeared at Waco with the Hostage Rescue Team. "I am very, very proud...particularly [of] the HRT snipers," said FBI Director Louis Freeh in January 1995.109 Contrary to the findings of the 524-page Department of Justice report on Ruby Ridge, Freeh insisted that the FBI snipers were following standard rules, and not the shoot-to-kill rules of engagement.110
Months after the government settled the Weavers' civil suit for $3.1 million, the six deputy marshals who began the violence and the siege were honored as "heroes" for "their exceptional courage, their sound judgement in the face of attack, and their high degree of professional competence during the incident," by the U.S. Marshals Service in March 1996. This included: a posthumous award for Degan, who fired at Sammy Weaver as he was running away and severed his arm; an award to Larry Cooper, who shot Sammy Weaver in the back with a silenced machine-gun, and later testified under oath that Weaver had shot his own son; and an award to Arthur Roderick, who testified similarly, and who shot Weaver's dog.111 The United States Senate Committee which investigated Ruby Ridge, and which issued its report months before the Marshals received their awards, concluded that Cooper and Roderick had lied during their Senate testimony, and stated that there was no evidence to support Cooper and Roderick's testimony that Sammy Weaver had been shot in the back by his own father.112
Half a year after the killings at Ruby Ridge, Hostage Rescue Team Director Dick Rogers found himself in a command role of the FBI siege of Mount Carmel. Larry Potts, supervisor of the Ruby Ridge siege, also played a major role at Waco, and in formulating the plans for the FBI's tank and chemical warfare assault that brought the Waco siege to an end. In 1995, FBI Director Louis Freeh appointed Potts second-in-command of the FBI, but Potts was forced to step down not long afterward, as a result of public criticism.113
At the end of each chapter, we will suggest particular reforms which would have prevented or mitigated the problems described in each chapter. Since many of the problems in the Randy Weaver case (inappropriate use of deadly force, covering up evidence) also occurred at Waco, we will postpone most Weaver-related reforms until later. We will, at this point, offer one reform which would have prevented the entire Weaver fiasco: government undercover agents should be entirely forbidden to attempt to entrap persons into committing crimes. Of course if an undercover agent observed a crime being perpetrated or planned, he could take action; he simply could not instigate crimes..
As Justice Frankfurter put it: "The power of government is abused and directed to an end for which it was not constituted when employed to promote rather than detect crime and bring about the downfall of those who, left to themselves, might have obeyed the law....Human nature is weak enough and sufficiently beset by temptations without government adding to them and generating crime."114 And as the Weaver case illustrates, once the government begins generating the first crime, all sorts of crimes may spring from the poisonous root.
1 Arthur S. Maxwell, History's Crowded Climax: Prophecy Speaks to Our Time (Mountain
View, Calif.: Pacific Pr. Pub. Assoc., 1940), p. 13 quoted in Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No
More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Harvard: Cambridge, 1992), p. 110.
2 The Violence Policy Center, a research organization which supports stringent gun controls, including handgun prohibition, explains the Bureau's recent use of "ATF" instead of "BATF," as if the FBI dropped the "B" for "Bureau" and started calling itself the "FI":
ATF has recently attained newfound respect by focusing on its law enforcement activities. With TV footage of agents in black jackets with large ATF letters on the back kicking in crack-house doors or interdicting gun runners on Interstate 95 now common, ATF hopes to be seen as a cadre of specialized lawmen--not as drab regulators leafing through gun store account books. (Originally known as BATF, the agency dropped the B so that its acronym would more resemble the better-known FBI and DEA.)
Violence Policy Center, More Gun Dealers than Gas Stations: A Study of Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers in America (Wash.: 1992), p. 42.
The agency has not been uniformly successful in getting "ATF" accepted. See, for example, the Treasury Department's Office of the Inspector General's report, Review of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms's (BATF) Involvement in the Incidents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho (June 30, 1994). The Justice Department's unpublished "Internal Review Regarding the Ruby Ridge Hostage Situation and Shootings of Law Enforcement Personnel" also used "BATF" to identify the bureau.
While three-initial abbreviations are common in the federal government, the usage is by no means universal (the United States Marshals Service is USMS, for example). Most federal abbreviations follow the rule that the abbreviation should specify the type of governmental entity. For example, it is important that the "Federal Bureau of Investigation" include a "B" in the abbreviation ("FBI"), to identify the entity as a bureau (rather than an agency, a department, a commission, or some other type organization). By the same principle that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is abbreviated "FBI" (rather than "FI"), the Internal Revenue Service is "IRS" (rather than "IR"), the United States Marshals Service is "USMS" (rather than "USM"), it is appropriate that the abbreviation for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms include the "B" for Bureau. We shall use "BATF" throughout, unless quoting from a source which does not. In addition to "BATF," other commonly used abbreviations we shall be using are "FBI" for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, "DEA" for the Drug Enforcement Administration, "USMS", and "ASUA" for Assistant United States Attorney.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in its current form was created to enforce the
federal Gun Control Act of 1968. The BATF is a descendant of the Bureau of Prohibition (which
enforced alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s), and traces its lineage back to the federal
"revenuers" who have waged a low-grade war with rural alcohol distillers since the founding of
the United States.
3 Stephen Labaton, "Report to Fault Firearms Bureau for Raid on Cult," N.Y. Times, Aug. 30, 1993; U.S. Dept. of the Treasury, Report on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Investigation of Vernon Wayne Howell also known as David Koresh (Wash.: G.P.O., Sept. 1993)[cited as "Treasury Report."] Although 76 agents participated directly in the raid, over 130 were involved in the overall operation in and around Waco. Id., p. 173.
4 By 1993, many members did not call themselves Branch Davidians, but instead "students of the seven seals." James D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher, Why Waco? Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America (Berkeley: Univ. of Calif. Pr., 1995), p. 213.
When Kathy Schroeder left the besieged center and later telephoned in, Steve Schneider
criticized her for identifying herself as a "Koreshian" or "Davidian," suggesting she could have
said, "Bible student" if the computer lacked space for the full name of the group, Branch
Davidian Seventh Day Adventists. Transcripts of BATF Tapes of the Negotiations between
Federal Law Enforcement and the Branch Davidians, Feb. 28-April 19, 1993 [cited as "Negot.
Tapes"], no. 126, Mar. 13, 1993. We shall refer to the group as "Davidians" or "Branch
Davidians," since that is how they are best known to the general public.
5 U.S. Department of Justice, Report on the Events at Waco, Texas, February 28 to April 19, 1993 (Redacted version, Wash.: Oct. 8, 1993), p. 7 [hereinafter "Justice Report."]
6 See generally David Humphreys Miller, Ghost Dance (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1959).
7 Events Surrounding the Branch Davidian Cult Standoff in Waco, Texas. Hearing before the
Comm. on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives, 103rd Cong., 1st Sess., April 28, 1993
[hereinafter "Hearing"], p. 5.
8 Diana Bowder, ed., Who Was Who in the Roman World (N.Y.: Wash. Sq. Pr., 1980), pp. 171-73.
9 Nero, one of Domitian's predecessors, had persecuted only the Christians in Rome.
10 See generally George R. Knight, Millenial Fever and the End of the Word: A Study of Millerite Adventism (Boise: Pacific Pr., 1993).
11 Tabor and Gallagher, pp. 44, 224 n. 47.
12 Tabor and Gallagher, p. 35.
13 Bill Pitts, "The Davidian Tradition," in James Lewis, ed., From the Ashes: Making Sense of Waco (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1993), pp. 34-35.
14 William L. Pitts, Jr., "Davidians and Branch Davidians 1929-1987," in Stuart A. Wright, ed. Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict (Chicago: Univ. of Chi. Pr., 1995), p. 30.
15 Pitts, "The Davidian Tradition," in Lewis, p. 36.
16 Pitts, in Wright, p. 34.
17 Clifford L. Linedecker, The Massacre at Waco, Texas (N.Y.: St. Martin's Pr., 1993), p. 57.
18 Pitts, in Wright, p. 32; Marc Breault and Martin King, Inside the Cult (N.Y.: Signet, 1993), pp. 359-60. Zechariah 3:8, 6:12; Isaiah 11:1. Compare John 15:1-3 ("I am the vine, you are the branches.")
All Biblical quotations are from the King James Version, the text used by the Branch Davidians.
19 Breault & King, p. 361; J. Philip Arnold, "The Davidian Dilemma: To Obey God or Man? in Lewis, p. 30 (Leviticus as guide for holy days).
20 E.g., Daniel Cattau, "Davidians in Missouri Disavow Waco-area Cult,"" Dallas Morning
News, Mar. 14, 1993 (noting existence of groups in Mountaindale, N.Y.; Spokane, Wash.; and
21 Her prayers called on, "Our mother, who art in Heaven." Linedecker, p. 61. See generally Catherine Wessinger, ed., Women's Leadership in Marginal Religions: Explorations Outside the Mainstream (Urbana: Univ. of Il. Pr., 1993).
Gnostic writings and some other early Christian documents also believed the holy spirit is
female. Sally Cunneed, In Search of Mary: The Woman and the Symbol (N.Y.: Ballantine, 1996),
p. 79. The Gnostics also addressed God as both "our Father" and "our Mother." Elaine Pagels,
"God the Father, God the Mother," in The Gnostic Gospels (N.Y.: Random House, 1979).
22 Kenneth Samples, Erwin de Castro, Richard Abanes, and Robert Lyle, Prophets of the Apocalypse: David Koresh & Other American Messiahs (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994); George W. Reid, "Sorting the Messiahs," Liberty, July/Aug. 1993, p. 19; Carol Moore, The Davidian Massacre (Franklin, Tenn.: Legacy Communications, 1995), p. 16.
23 Breault and King, p. 27.
24 Samples, pp. 17-27.
25 Tabor and Gallagher, pp. 40-41.
26 Thomas Robbins and Dick Anthony, "Sects and Violence: Factors Enhancing the Volatility of Marginal Religious Movements," in Wright , p. 239.
27 David G. Bromley and Edward D. Silver, "The Davidian Tradition: From Patronal Clan to Prophetic Movement," in Wright, p. 53.
28 Pitts, in Wright, p. 37.
29 Samples, pp. 32-34.
30 Bromley and Silver, p. 53.
31 Tabor and Gallagher, p. 41.
32 Samples, pp. 38-41. During the 1993 negotiations with the FBI, Koresh denied any sexual relationship with Lois Roden. Negot. Tape no. 7, Mar. 1, 1993.
33 Samples, pp. 33-39.
34 For example, Robyn Bunds observed that Vernon had become warmer, more considerate, and more capable. Linedecker, p. 68.
35 Jones was standing next to Koresh when the shooting began, and was seriously wounded in his abdomen. During the firefight, one of the Branch Davidians complied with Jones' request to put him out of his misery.
36 Treasury Report, p. 43.
37 Exodus ch. 3.
38 Tabor and Gallagher, pp. 61, 230 n. 15.
39 David Koresh, "The Shower Head Tape," Aug. 24, 1987 (Wisconsin teaching session; transcript available from The Research Center at http://www.ime.net/~mswett ), p. 27. (We have changed some of the punctuation in the transcript, which the transcriber describes as a first draft.)
40 Samples, pp. 47-48.
41 Pete Slover and Diane Jennings, "Source of Money for Davidian Sect Remains a Mystery," Dallas Morning News, Mar. 8, 1993.
42 Pitts, in Wright, pp. 37-38.
In 1988, an ex-Branch Davidian who had been an alcoholic returned to the fold. He went to Koresh and Marc Breault (at the time Koresh's chief disciple), who conducted a Bible study designed to prove that Koresh was the messiah. According to Breault, the man "got a glazed look in his eye. He stared up toward Heaven and said: 'My God, my God. After all these years I understand. I'm the Messiah, I'm the David. Now I know why I've suffered all these years.'" The man promptly headed off to see George Roden was then living in Odessa. Roden, who later claimed that the man was an assassin sent by Howell, split the man's head open with an axe. Acquitted of homicide on grounds of insanity, Roden is now incarcerated in a mental institution.
43 Moore, p. 221, citing Day 51 video interview with Sheila Martin. One of the tasks of the
attorney hired for Koresh during the siege, interpreted by the attorney as evidence Howell/Koresh
was planning for a future on earth, was to perfect legal title to the property. United States House
of Representatives, Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary and the
Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice of the Committee
on Government Reform and Oversight, Joint Hearings on Activities of Federal Law Enforcement
Agencies Toward the Branch Davidians, 104th Cong., 1st sess., July 19-Aug. 1, 1995 (Wash.:
Govt. Printing Office, 1996)[cited as "Joint Hearings."], testimony of Dick DeGuerin, July 25,
1995, morning session.
44 Joyce Sparks, Joint Hearings, part 1, p. 611.
45 Isaac Asimov, Asimov's Guide to the Bible: Old Testament (1968), p. 435.
46 Isaiah 45:1.
47 1 Samuel 22:1-2.
48 Song of Solomon 3:7-8; Karl Hennig, "'Apocalyptic Rock': My Days with David Koresh," Liberty, July/Aug. 1993, p. 14.
49 Song of Solomon 6:8.
50 Ron Cole, "Davidian Tells the Truth about Waco," Boulder Weekly, July 27, 1995, p. 8; Tabor and Gallagher, p. 42 (Koresh's third wife was the Michelle Jones, the twelve-year-old sister of his first wife).
51 Thomas Robbins and Dick Anthony, "Sects and Violence: Factors Enhancing the Volatility of Marginal Religious Movements," in Wright, p. 241.
If the scholars agree that the Jesus of 2,000 years ago prefigured or gave us a picture of the real Jesus, then the historical Jesus is not the real Jesus, but the real Jesus is the one that the historical Jesus prefigures or gives us a type of.
The historical Jesus was not the Messiah; the prophetic Jesus is the Messiah. The historical Jesus prefigured the Messiah, and that's why the Jews never accepted the historical Jesus. They continue to look for the Messiah. They are not wrong.
He wasn't born in Bethlehem or Judea. He was born in Sandersville, Georgia....
When you close the Old Testament, you open the New Testament with the genealogy of Jesus. But the Old Testament closes saying Elijah's coming. God, my God, is coming. Then you open up with the genealogy of Jesus, so who is Jesus? Who is Elijah? Jesus and Elijah are one and the same.
I am that Elijah that was to come and now is.
"The 700 Club," Mar. 6, 1996 (Christian Broadcasting Network), transcript (Burelle's
Information Services), pp. 9, 10.
53 The UFO trip provided Farrakhan's inspiration for the Million Man March. Ken Ringle, "A Look At....Messages from the March," Wash. Post, Oct. 22, 1995, quoting Million Man March Home Study Guide Manual (Honorable Elijah Muhammad Educational Foundation: 1995)(reprinting Farrakhan's Oct. 24, 1989 speech at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, describing his 1985 abduction, trip in a UFO with an invisible pilot, visit to a manufactured planet known as "The Mother Wheel," and meeting there with the voice of the late Elijah Muhammad, warning him that President Reagan and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell were planning a war against Black Americans).
54 Livingstone Fagan, Christ (no date), p. 7, available from The Research Center, http://www.ime.net/~mswett/christ.html. All of Fagan's writings have been composed in federal prison, where he is currently serving a forty year sentence. At his sentencing allocution, Fagan proudly stated that he had never attempted to distance himself from David Koresh. Fagan, the last Davidian to leave Mount Carmel before April 19, 1993, is the only incarcerated Branch Davidian who has refused to appeal his sentence.
55 Isaiah 20:1-3.
56 Hosea 1:2.
57 Ezekiel 4:9-17.
58 Ezekiel 24:15-18.
59 Genesis 22. Just after Abraham "took the knife to slay his son," an angel from God called the whole thing off. The story is generally cited as an example of Abraham's magnificent obedience to the will of God, and modern readers insist that God never intended for the order to be carried out.
From our viewpoint, there is never an acceptable circumstance for human sacrifice; any God who
would order the gratuitous killing of an innocent child is a God who does not deserve to be
60 Hebrews 7:3. See also Genesis 14:18-20 ("the high priest of the most high God"); Psalms 110:4 ("Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek"); Hebrews chs. 5-7.
61 Dick J. Reavis, The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), p. 108.
62 Jerry Bergman, "Paradise Postponed...and Postponed," Christian Research Journal, Summer 1996: 36-41.
63 Victoria Loe, "Ideas Vary on Cults' Appeal to Women," Dallas Morning News, Mar. 21, 1993; David Koresh, "The Shower Head Tape," Aug. 24, 1987 (Wisconsin teaching session; transcript available from The Research Center at http://www.ime.net/~mswett), p. 12 ("...I'm showing you the prophecies and telling you, you better learn them or you're going to hell.")
64 Tabor and Gallagher, p. 23.
65 Harvard Law School graduate Wayne Martin had been the law librarian at the University of North Carolina Central Law School before joining the Branch Davidians. "Branch Davidians Living and Dead," Dallas Morning News, May 16, 1993. "Wayne Martin was recognized here as a good attorney." McClennan County Sheriff Jack Harwell, FRONTLINE interview, Aug. 3, 1995, available at http://www.wgbh.org.
66 "Branch Davidians Living and Dead," Dallas Morning News, May 16, 1993 (Graeme
67 For example, Livingstone Fagan had an advanced degree from Newbold College, an Adventist institution. Tabor and Gallagher, p. 24.
While everyone at Mount Carmel accepted the Branch Davidian religious doctrines, not everyone
had started off with a primary interest in religion. David Thibodeau and Norman Allison had first
been drawn by their interest in music and politics. Reavis, pp. 44-46, 193; David Thibodeau,
Joint Hearings, July 19, 1995, evening session.
68 Doctrines and Covenants 89:9 (Mormon scripture; "Hot drinks are not good for the body or belly.")
69 All the food rules are from Alice Scott, The Incredible Power of Cults (Colo. Springs: Blue River Pub., 1994), p. 56.
70 Scott, p. 56.
71 Diane Jennings, "Public Tragedy, Private Grief," Dallas Morning News, May 6, 1993 (Ruth Mosher, mother of Kiri Jewell; Isabelle Andrade, mother of Kathy and Jennifer Andrade). This undermines an assumption common to most defenders of the federal government's role, as stated by Rep. Barney Frank: "one of the things they [cults] do seem to have in common is that they don't get to family reunions much...one of the factors of cults is an isolation from the families." Hearing, p. 51.
72 FRONTLINE interview with Clive Doyle, July 9, 1995. Available at http://www.wbgh.org.
73 Breault & King, pp. 174-75.
74 Darcey Steinke, "God Rocks," SPIN, 1993, p. 90.
75 Ron Cole, "Davidian Tells Truth About Waco," Boulder Weekly, July 27, 1995, p. 8.
76 Samples, p. 201.
77 Breault & King, p. 156. Koresh could, of course, speak English fluently, but his grammar and spelling skills were weak.
78 Samples, p. 36.
79 Tabor and Gallagher, p. 26.
80 Breault and King, pp. 166-70.
81 See Revelation 4:4, 5:9-10 ("And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white rainment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold...And they sung a new song, saying Thou are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.")
Koresh saw his "House of David" as the fulfillment of Psalms 8:2 and 45:16. J. Philip Arnold,
"The Davidian Dilemma: To Obey God or Man?" in Lewis, p. 30.
82 Livingstone Fagan, Mt. Carmel: The Unseen Reality Part 2, p. 31. Available from The Research Center, http://www.ime.net/~mswett. As partial compensation for the men, the beer rule was relaxed so that there was no limit on consumption. Breault and King, p. 187.
83 According to a lawsuit filed by, among other people, Koresh's mother Bonnie Haldeman, the deceased children were named: Cyrus Ben Joseph, Star Hadassah Howell, Serenity Sea Jones Koresh, Chica Jones Koresh, Little One Jones Koresh, Startle Summers, Chanel Andrade, and Mayana Schneider. Surviving children are Jared Michael Okimoto and Sky Born Okimoto. Plaintiffs' complaint in Brown v. United States, (S.D. Texas, Houston Division), Feb. 25, 1995, paras. 9, 15. The plaintiffs are represented by former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark. For more on the suit, see chapter 5.
84 Tabor and Gallagher, p. 73.
85 Breault and King, p. 185. "Koresh" was the adopted last name of all of the Branch Davidians. To avoid unnecessary verbiage, we refer to them by their pre-Koresh names: e.g. "David Jones" rather than "David Jones Koresh."
86 Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ch. 31 (1885).
87 Breault and King, p. 163.
88 Breault and King, pp. 217-82. For examples, see Geoffrey N. Hossack, Director, ARM (All Risk Management) International, letter of Jan. 3, 1992 to U.S. Consular Office, Melbourne; Hossack, fax of Aug. 16, 1990 to Richard Ludwig, F.B.I. liaison officer, United States Embassy, Australia; Hossack, letter of Aug. 16, 1990, to Terry Lee, Texas Dept. of Public Safety, p. 3 (warning that "it is highly probable" that Vernon would murder/sacrifice one of his children and that "in all probability it will be performed during Yom Kipur [sic].")
Schneider said Breault was "constantly harassing them [the sheriff's office] in regards to getting
some kind of charges on us...the guy was relentless." Negot. Tape no. 65, Mar. 6.
89 Koresh's lieutenant, Steve Schneider immediately thought of Breault when he saw the newspaper story, and thought, "Here we go again." Negot. Tape no. 56, Mar. 5, 1993.
90 Marc Breault, The Return of David Koresh (1995), available on the world-wide web at: http://www.mainelink.net/~mswett/return.html.
91 When the BATF offered not to prosecute Weaver on firearms charges if he would become an undercover informant for the government, Vicki Weaver sent out a letter stating "We cannot make deals with the enemy..." which she addressed to "Aryan Nations & all our brethren of the Anglo Saxon race." George Lardner, Jr., and Richard Leiby, "Botched 'Anti-Terrorist' Operation Began with Series of Overreactions," Wash. Post., Sept. 3, 1995. At the U.S. Senate hearings, Mr. Weaver was asked by Senator Dianne Feinstein if he owned any swastikas, and he replied "maybe."
92 Information on the Weaver incident at Ruby Ridge is based on research for a forthcoming monograph by James O.E. Norell, as well as from the Marshals' logs, the trial transcript, and the 1995 hearings of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information. One other important source is the Department of Justice's internal investigation into Ruby Ridge; although the Department repeatedly refused to release the report, American Lawyer Media obtained a copy, and posted it on the World-Wide Web. United States Department of Justice, Department of Justice Report Regarding Internal Investigation of Shootings at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, during Arrest of Randy Weaver[hereafter, "DOJ Internal Investigation of Ruby Ridge"], available at http://www.courttv.com/library/government/ruby.html
93 "Informer: Weaver Promised Guns," Wash. Post, Sept. 8, 1995 (Assoc. Press).
94 According to Old Testament law, which the Weavers apparently obeyed, menstruating women were considered unclean, and required to be separate from the rest of the population. Leviticus ch. 15.
95 Mark Potok, "Ruby Ridge: Symbol of Government Intrusion," USA Today, Sept. 14, 1995, p. A4.
96 According to the unpublished Department of Justice "Crisis Center Log: Degan Incident," for August 22, 1992, 4:50 p.m. EDT: US Marshall Michael Johnson "reported that...an operational plan has been agreed on and is being telephoned to the Department of Justice. The operational plan is as follows:...3. If Weaver or his older son [Harris, the USMS thought] exit the residence armed, snipers will neutralize them."
97 Perhaps Horiuchi believed his expertise meant he was not endangering Sara by aiming about ten inches from where he suspected her invisible head to be. He had, however, just finished attempting to kill Weaver, whom he believed to be Harris, and failed. And then he fired again at a person whom he believed to be Harris and, again, did not believe he had killed him. When Dick Rogers testified at the Weaver/Harris trial, he noted he had been concerned that his sniper shot twice and apparently missed once and only wounded once.
98 James Bovard, "Hear No Evil," American Spectator, Jan. 1996, p. 42.
99 Later, when the FBI was planning its final assault at Waco, and explaining what would happen if the adult Davidians attempted to use the children as shields, Attorney General Reno was assured that "our snipers are good enough to pick off the people who are holding the children." Hearing, p. 59. Sara Weaver could certainly bear witness to the accuracy of that statement. For those same hearings, BATF Director Stephen Higgins supplied a list of other sieges in which BATF had played some role, including "a support role in the Weaver standoff in Idaho. One U.S. marshal and two suspects were killed; two were wounded." Hearing, p. 122. It unclear what Sammy and Vicki Weaver were suspected of.
100 Jerry Seper, "FBI Agents Waged War on Minds," Wash. Times, Sept. 22, 1993, p. A7.
101 Richard Leiby and George Lardner, Jr., "Seige Guided by Hastily Revised Rules of Engagement," Wash. Post, Sept. 4, 1995.
102 Alan W. Bock, "Ambush at Ruby Ridge," Reason, Oct. 1993, p. 27; Richard Leiby and George Lardner, Jr., "Siege Guided by Hastily Revised Rules of Engagement," Wash. Post, Sept. 4, 1995.
103 James Bovard, "Hear No Evil," American Spectator, Jan. 1996, p. 79.
104 Jerry Seper, "Waco Plan Almost used in Idaho," Wash. Times, Aug. 24, 1995, p. A1. During the 1995 House of Representatives hearings on Waco, Rep. Bob Barr questioned former FBI Assistant Director Larry Potts about an FBI document which read:
On August 23, 1992, the above actions will be repeated. If no response from the compound is received, the APC's, armored personnel carriers, will be prepared to begin destruction of portions of the structure inside the compound. The destruction will not include the major living areas of the main residence. If no response is received at this time, ARC's [sic] will be prepared to deliver chemical agents into the residence in anticipation of conducting an entry into same.
Joint Hearings, part 2, p. 574. Mr. Potts refused to confirm or deny whether the above-quoted
material was part of the official "ops" plan.
105 Jerry Seper, "The Shootout on Ruby Ridge," Wash. Times, Sept. 22, 1993, pp. A6-A7.
106 Louis Sahagan & Doug Conner, "Pair Acquitted of Murder In Idaho Mountain Shootout," Wash. Post, July 9, 1993.
107 Sahagan and Conner; Michele Ingrassia, "Is Deadly Force Justifiable?" Newsweek, June 21, 1993, p. 31; Timothy Egan, "U.S. Hits Snags in Idaho Siege Trial," N.Y. Times, June 23, 1993; Jerry Seper, "FBI Official Called Unfit," Wash. Times, Apr. 14, 1995, p. A6.
108 Gerry Spence, From Freedom to Slavery: The Rebirth of Tyranny in America (N.Y.: St. Martin's Pr., 1993); James L. Pate, "Standoff in Idaho: The Randy Weaver Incident," Soldier of Fortune, Mar. 1993.
109 Press conference, Jan. 6, 1995, quoted in Richard Leiby and George Lardner, Jr., "Seige Guided by Hastily Revised Rules of Engagement," Wash. Post, Sept. 4, 1995.
110 Jess Walter, "Ruby Ridge's Key Question," USA Today, Sept. 6, 1995.
111 Sammy was killed by a 9mm round, with an upward trajectory. Weaver was uphill from his son when Sammy was killed, and carrying a shotgun, although he also had a 9mm pistol with him.
112 Jerry Seper, "Shootout Awards Anger Senator Marshals Honored for Ruby Ridge," Wash. Times, Mar. 4, 1996, p. A3.
113 Potts was given a letter of censure for his role at Ruby Ridge, the same punishment meted out to Director Louis Freeh for losing his car phone. "While letters of censure can temporarily put a crimp in a bureau career, they are forgotten after a year or two." Ronald Kessler, The FBI (N.Y.: Pocket Books, 1993), p. 112.
114 Sherman v. United States, 356 U.S. 369, 384 (1958) (Frankfurter, J., concurring).