Open main menu

Report of the Department of the Treasury on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Investigation of Vernon Wayne Howell Also Known as David Koresh September 1993/Introduction

INTRODUCTIONEdit

On February 28, 1993, near Waco, Texas, four agents from the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) were killed, and more than 20 other agents were wounded when David Koresh[1] and members of his religious cult, the Branch Davidian,[2] ambushed a force of 76 ATF agents. The ATF agents were attempting to execute lawful search and arrest warrants at Mount Carmel, the Branch Davidian Compound. Tipped off that the agents were coming, Koresh and more than 100 of his followers waited inside the Compound and opened fire using assault weapons before the agents even reached the door. This gunfire continued until the Branch Davidians agreed to a cease-fire. The ensuing standoff lasted 51 days, ending on April 19, when the Compound erupted in fire set by cult members after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used tear gas to force its occupants to leave. The fire destroyed the Compound, and more than 70 residents died, many from gunshot wounds apparently inflicted by fellow cult members.

In the wake of the tragic events of February 28 and April 19, the Executive Branch, Congress, the media, and the general public raised serious questions about ATF and FBI actions at the Compound. President Clinton promptly directed the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice, which are responsible for ATF and the FBI, respectively, to conduct "vigorous and thorough" investigations of the events leading to the loss of law enforcement and civilian lives. The President's directive resulted in three separate yet coordinated inquiries.

On April 29, Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen asked Ronald K. Noble, who was then designated to be Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement, to focus on ATF's involvement in the case, from the initiation of its investigation of Koresh and his followers through its unsuccessful effort to execute search and arrest warrants on February 28. At the same time, Attorney General Janet Reno directed Philip B. Heymann, who was then designated to be Deputy Attorney General,[3] to review FBI involvement in the siege of the Compound from early March, when the FBI Hostage Rescue Team took over the law enforcement effort there, through April 19, when the Compound burned. Secretary Bentsen and Attorney General Reno also directed Heymann and Noble to conduct the third inquiry, a joint assessment of federal law enforcement's capacity to handle such dangerous situations as were presented when ATF tried to enforce federal firearms laws at the Compound and when the Branch Davidians refused to surrender after February 28.

All three inquiries were undertaken in a manner designed not to interfere with ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions resulting from the cult members' conduct. As of September 1993, 12 Compound residents have been indicted on charges including conspiracy to murder federal officers and possessing firearms during a violent crime. Some face additional charges including unlawful possession of machineguns and conspiracy to possess unregistered destructive devices. On September 9, one defendant pleaded guilty to impeding and interfering with the lawful execution of the search warrant by use of a deadly weapon.

Charged by Secretary Bentsen to examine "whether ATF's procedures, policies, and practices were adequate and whether they were followed," Assistant Secretary Noble promised that "no stone would be left unturned in finding out what happened and why." To assure that the Waco Administrative Review, conducted by the Treasury Department, would fulfill its promise of objectivity and comprehensiveness, Secretary Bentsen selected three prominent individuals with extensive expertise in law enforcement and experience in media relations to guide the Review's investigation and report to the public on its findings:

  • Edwin O. Guthman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a professor of journalism at the University of

Southern California, is the former national editor of The Los Angeles Times and former editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer. He also served as press secretary to Robert F. Kennedy when Kennedy was Attorney General and when he was a member of the Senate;

  • Henry S. Ruth, Jr. is an attorney who served in the Department of Justice for more than 15 years and who

was later chief Watergate prosecutor. Ruth has served on many commissions, including the Special Investigative Commission that examined law enforcement actions in connection with MOVE in Philadelphia;

  • Willie L. Williams, Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department since 1991, is a career law enforcement official

who, after joining the Philadelphia Police Department in 1964, rose through its ranks to become Commissioner in 1988.

Each of these distinguished reviewers generously agreed to serve without pay, and each will provide a written assessment of the Review's investigation to the Secretary of the Treasury.[4]

Project StatementEdit

The mission of the Treasury Department Office of Enforcement was to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the ATF operation, from the initiation of its investigation of Koresh's activities through the raid at the Branch Davidian Compound on February 28 and its aftermath. Under the overall supervision of Assistant Secretary Noble, a team of attorneys and law enforcement agents conducted interviews, obtained primary source materials and exhibits, viewed the Compound and other key sites near Waco, and analyzed the materials and information gathered. Based on this investigation, including credibility assessments and circumstantial evidence, the Review made factual determinations and analyzed those facts. Assistant Secretary Noble provided final oversight of the report before its submission to Secretary Bentsen.

The Review's day-to-day operations were supervised by the project director, H. Geoffrey Moulton, Jr., Associate Professor at Widener University School of Law in Delaware, and the assistant project directors, Lewis C. Merletti, Deputy Assistant Director of the U.S. Secret Service, and David L. Douglass, an attorney on leave from Wiley, Rein & Fielding in Washington, D.C. The Review's investigators included 17 senior agents from the Secret Service, the Customs Service, the Internal Revenue Service (both the Criminal Investigation Division and the Internal Security Division), and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. These agents, whose names and bureau affiliations are listed at the front of this report, brought to the Review an extraordinary range of investigative and tactical experience from law enforcement and the military. Their collective expertise enabled the Review to conduct a comprehensive examination of ATF's investigation of Koresh.

In addition, the Review was assisted by a computer expert from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, an intelligence research specialist from the Customs Service, and clerical support from several Treasury agencies. These agents and other personnel were detailed to the Review full-time. Four other attorneys were also assigned to the Review: two from Treasury's Office of General Counsel, another detailed to Treasury from the Interagency Council on the Homeless, and one who had recently completed a federal district court clerkship.

The investigative team maintained offices at the Department of the Treasury's main building. Access to these offices, the Review's computers, and records compiled by the Review was restricted to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of the investigation.

Other Consultants and Experts

The Review sought technical assistance from several specialists with experience in law enforcement and military operations. For their expertise in tactical command and control, intelligence gathering, and crisis decisionmaking issues, the Review consulted the following:

  • Commander George Morrison, a 37-year veteran with the Los Angeles Police Department, with extensive

experience planning and executing tactical operations;

  • Deputy Chief John Murphy and Lieutenant Robert Sobocienski from the New York City Police Department,

the commanding officer and a leading line officer in the department's Special Operations Division, respectively;

  • Captain John Kolman, retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, who planned and carried

out numerous tactical operations in his 23 years with the department and is a founder and director of the National Tactical Officers Association.

  • Colonel Rod Paschall, a retired commander of the U.S. Army First Special Forces Group--Delta (Delta Force)

and now affiliated with the Office of International Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and

  • Wade Ishimoto, a retired Delta Force intelligence officer, who is currently a manager of Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Each of the tactical experts also generously agreed to serve without pay. Each provided the Review with an independent assessment of ATF's operation within their field of expertise. These assessments can be found in Appendix B. The experts had access to all data collected by the investigative team and were free either to request that additional inquiries be pursued or to pursue them on their own.

The Review also received assistance from two weapons experts, William C. Davis, Jr., and Charles R. Fagg, and two explosives experts, Captain Joseph Kennedy, a retired Navy officer, and Paul Cooper. Davis, a registered professional engineer retired from the government, has more than 50 years of federal government and private experience analyzing and designing weapons. Fagg, a mechanical engineer, has more than 30 years of experience analyzing and designing weapons for the federal government and private industry. Kennedy is the former commander of the U.S. Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technology Center in Indian Head, Maryland. Cooper, an explosives expert with Sandia National Laboratories, is well known for his work in the investigation of the battleship New Jersey explosion and the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon.

The weapons and explosives experts also served without pay and provided the Review with written reports answering specific questions about whether the materials ATF investigators determined to have been delivered to Koresh and his followers constituted explosives or illegal firearms or whether they are commonly used to produce such items. These reports are also contained in Appendix B.

Treasury Offices of General Counsel and Inspector General

Treasury Department General Counsel Jean Hanson and Assistant General Counsel Robert M. McNamara served as counsel to the Review. The Office of General Counsel secured employment contracts, ensured that the Review complied with the Privacy Act, and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and provided legal opinions when appropriate during the course of the investigation. The Treasury's Office of Inspector General monitored the Review to ensure that the project plan was complete and implemented properly and that all relevant facts were fully considered and included in this report. In a memorandum to Secretary Bentsen, the Office of Inspector General has concluded that the Review "vigorously and thoroughly examined all significant information surrounding the events leading to ATF's execution of the search warrant at the Branch Davidian Compound" and that "the report provides an accurate account of these events."

Investigative PlanEdit

Even before the Review formally began, the Treasury Department Office of Enforcement directed ATF to gather and provide all information available concerning raid planning and execution.

The process continued throughout the review period, as additional materials were requested and provided to the Review. The Review team also began interviewing ATF agents. Because of allegations that statements by ATF management about the raid did not accurately reflect the understanding of those on the scene, the Review started by interviewing line agents who had been involved in the investigation of the case and the planning and execution of the raid. Before conducting any interviews, peer support counselors briefed the investigative team concerning the reactions they could expect from agents who had lived through the extraordinary trauma of the raid and murders on February 28. Subsequent interviews followed the chain of command, from assistant special agents in charge and special agents in charge, through the ATF director and Treasury Office of Enforcement personnel.

In all, 508 individuals were interviewed between May 17 and the publication of this report. Most interviews were conducted in person, with many lasting more than a full day. As the Review progressed and new facts emerged, agents and attorneys often conducted follow-up interviews.

Throughout its inquiry, the Review took pains to avoid interfering with ongoing investigations and prosecutions being conducted by the Department of Justice into criminal violations by Branch Davidians. The Texas Rangers, deputized as U.S. Marshals for the criminal investigation and prosecution, gave the Review access to their reports, and the Waco U.S. Attorney's Office granted Review investigators access to investigatory materials not restricted by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e). Their willingness to share information with the Review was predicated on their trust that the Review would exercise appropriate judgment in determining what information to make public in light of those sensitive investigations and prosecutions.

OverviewEdit

First and foremost, the Review's goal was to learn what happened near Waco and to tell the story. The Review tried to explain why the February 28 raid ended in tragedy. In the course of that effort, the investigation confirmed that the rank and file agents of ATF who were sent to enforce federal firearms and explosives laws at the Branch Davidian Compound did their best to perform their assigned tasks and showed dedication and often spectacular courage in the face of murderous gunfire. Unfortunately, the investigation also found disturbing evidence of flawed decisionmaking, inadequate intelligence gathering, miscommunication, supervisory failures, and deliberately misleading post-raid statements about the raid and the raid plan by certain ATF supervisors. Inevitably, the Review's discussion of what went wrong in the operation must refer to certain individuals by name, but the Review sought not to accuse but to explain. This explanation contains lessons that can strengthen the ability of the law enforcement community to deal with similar situations, which unfortunately can be expected to occur.

Part One of this report is a narrative account of the events leading up to and through the raid on February 28. The narrative is divided into five sections, each devoted to one of the major components of the story. Part Two presents the Review's analysis of critical aspects of the events addressed in Part One. An overview of the report structure and content follows.

Part One - The FactsEdit

Section One: The Probable Cause Investigation

Part One, Section One summarizes the ATF investigation of David Koresh and his followers to determine whether there was probable cause to believe that federal firearms laws had been violated. The investigation began when a McLennan County sheriff's deputy asked ATF to look into suspicious United Parcel Service (UPS) deliveries to Koresh and the Branch Davidians. After determining that many such deliveries had been made to the Compound, that the packages contained materials commonly used to manufacture grenades unlawfully, and that Koresh had a violent past, Special Agent Davy Aguilera opened a formal investigation.

Section One describes Aguilera's painstaking effort to piece together evidence of Koresh's accumulation of a formidable arsenal of firearms, including many illegal machineguns and other unlawful destructive devices. Aguilera gathered evidence from many sources, such as records of previous deliveries to Koresh and interviews with a broad range of people, including local law enforcement officers and former cult members. The evidence that Koresh posted guards at the Compound, trained followers to fire the weapons, and believed he would have a violent confrontation with law enforcement indicated strongly that Koresh was prepared to use the arsenal he was amassing. Aguilera learned other disconcerting information about Koresh, including his propensity toward violence and violent rhetoric, his sexual conduct with minors, and his control over the lives and minds of his followers.

Eventually, ATF agents established an undercover house near the Compound, met with Koresh, and corroborated some of the evidence Aguilera had obtained. These contacts with Koresh only confirmed the reports about Koresh's violent nature and his hatred for law enforcement.

Section Two: The Decisionmaking Process Leading to Forceful Execution of Warrants

Part One, Section Two describes ATF's effort to develop a tactical plan to execute a search warrant at the Compound. By fall 1992, ATF's investigation had uncovered sufficient evidence of federal firearms violations to meet the threshold probable cause requirements for a warrant to search the Compound. Anticipating having to apply for warrants and recognizing that executing warrants at the Compound safely would pose a substantial challenge, Aguilera's supervisor, Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) Chuck Sarabyn of the ATF Houston office, organized a team of tactical planners. The team consisted of several experienced leaders of ATF Special Response Teams (SRTs), all of whom specialized in dynamic, high-risk entries to execute warrants, but only one of whom had participated previously in a tactical operation comparable to the one being contemplated for the heavily armed, fortresslike Compound.

As Section Two sets forth, the planners concluded that their principal options for executing warrants in the face of resistance were either by a siege, which would establish an armed perimeter around the Compound until its residents surrendered, or a raid, a dynamic entry relying on the element of surprise. Although the planners considered trying to lure Koresh away from the Compound, they abandoned the idea quickly because of intelligence reports that Koresh rarely ventured off Compound grounds. The planners rejected a siege because of the physical attributes of the Compound, because of a fear of mass suicide, and because former cult members reported that Koresh had enough food, water, and other resources to withstand a lengthy siege. The planners decided to conduct a raid and developed a tactical plan that hinged on separating the Compound's men from the weapons.

The section then describes how ATF's plan was formulated, the intelligence on which the planners relied, and how the weaknesses of the intelligence went unrecognized. It explains how the plan that ATF developed contained critical flaws.

Section Three: ATF and the Media Prepare for the Raid

Section Three describes how media interest in the Branch Davidian Compound came to hamper ATF's raid planners and commanders. The Waco Tribune-Herald began investigating Koresh in April 1992. In October 1992, ATF learned of the Tribune-Herald newspaper's investigation. By January 1993, reporters had completed drafting the newspaper's "Sinful Messiah" series, which contained startling revelations about the Branch Davidians' life-style and possession of dangerous weapons.

In January, the raid planners decided to ask the paper to delay publishing the series to ensure the safety of undercover agents and the integrity of the investigation. ATF held two meetings with newspaper representatives in February 1993 and disclosed potential dates for the operation and training. The Tribune-Herald did not agree to withhold publishing its series.

The week before the raid, ATF agents made final raid preparations and the Tribune Herald prepared to publish its "Sinful Messiah" series. ATF teams assembled for three days of training at Fort Hood. In addition, ATF opened a command center at Texas State Technical College (TSTC) near Waco and finalized support services with local suppliers and law enforcement. During this time, the Tribune-Herald contacted Koresh to get his reaction to its series of articles and implemented new security procedures.

On Wednesday, February 24, ATF rescheduled its raid from Monday, March 1 to Sunday, February 28, because it expected the Tribune-Herald to publish its "Sinful Messiah" series on Sunday. However, on Friday afternoon, Tribune-Herald officials notified ATF that the series would begin on Saturday morning. The raid planners did not alter their plan, except to have an undercover agent visit the Compound to gauge Koresh's reaction to the first article. Later that Friday, raid planners learned from ATF headquarters in Washington that Treasury officials had directed that the raid not go forward. By Friday evening, however, Treasury officials permitted the operation to proceed after ATF Director Stephen Higgins addressed Treasury's concerns that the operation could be executed safely, and assured that those directing the raid were under express orders to cancel the operation if they learned that its secrecy had been compromised or if those in the Compound had departed from their established routine in any significant way. On Saturday evening, the undercover agent was directed to visit the Compound on Sunday to make sure that the Branch Davidian routine immediately before the raid was normal.

Meanwhile, the Tribune-Herald and KWTX, a local television station, learned that ATF was about to raid the Compound. The newspaper, which already knew from its negotiations with ATF that the agency was contemplating a major operation, received a tip as to the precise timing of the raid. KWTX received similar information from a dispatcher with the ambulance service ATF had contracted. By Saturday evening, eight Tribune Herald reporters and three KWTX employees were assigned to be in the Compound area to cover what they believed would be a large ATF operation and a significant local news story.

Section Four: The Assault on the Compound

Section Four recounts the events on the day of the raid. The teams were deployed early that morning: the incident commander, the tactical coordinator and other agents gathered at the command post; the deputy tactical commander, forward observer teams and undercover agents were positioned in the undercover house across from the Compound; and the entry teams assembled at a pre-selected staging area in nearby Bellmead.

At approximately 8 a.m., under the pretext of asking Koresh about the "Sinful Messiah" series, the undercover agent went to the Compound to assess whether the article had incited Koresh to order his followers to take up arms. When the agent arrived, Koresh invited him to join a Bible study session. It appeared that the article had not caused the cult to arm itself. However, unknown to ATF, a KWTX cameraman sent to cover the expected raid became lost on roads near the Compound. A letter carrier, who the cameraman did not realize was one of Koresh's followers, stopped and asked if he needed directions. In the course of their conversation, the cameraman told the letter carrier about the impending raid. The letter carrier went directly to Koresh, called him away from the undercover agent and warned him.

The undercover agent did not hear the warning but Koresh returned to the room upset and shaking. Koresh stated words to the effect that the ATF and the National Guard were coming. Concerned for his safety, the undercover agent immediately left the Compound and reported what had happened to the tactical coordinator, who in turn related it to the incident commander. Failing to appreciate the significance of the undercover agent's report, they ordered the raid to proceed.

The entry teams, concealed in cattle trailers, arrived at the Compound more than 40 minutes after Koresh had received the tip. Koresh used that time to prepare a deadly ambush. As the agents exited the trailers, gunfire erupted from the Compound and cult members threw homemade handgrenades at the agents. In the face of overwhelming firepower the agents displayed extraordinary discipline and courage. The gun battle was waged for almost 90 minutes before a cease-fire could be arranged and the agents were able to withdraw from the Compound.

Section Five: Post-raid Events

Section Five describes the hours immediately following the failed raid and recounts ATF's struggle to restore order to its law enforcement effort. ATF evacuated its wounded and dead agents and withdrew from vulnerable positions around the Compound. But ATF failed to maintain a secure perimeter around the Compound immediately after the shoot-out, which resulted in a deadly confrontation away from the Compound between ATF agents and cult members.

Section Five also explains how ATF's command post deteriorated into near chaos after the raid. Still, various agents made efforts to restore order and accomplish urgent tasks, including negotiating with the cult members to continue the cease-fire and release some children. ATF headquarters personnel arrived at the command post and attempted to restore order and reestablish a secure perimeter around the Compound. As additional ATF Special Response Teams provided immediate relief for their embattled colleagues, ATF asked the FBI Hostage Rescue Team for assistance. The Hostage Rescue Team was mobilized and control of the operation shifted from ATF to the FBI.

Finally, the section reviews how ATF attempted to provide support and counseling for raid participants in the days following the failed raid, and how the media descended on Waco to cover what became an international story.

Part Two - AnalysisEdit

Section One: The Propriety of Investigating Koresh and Other Cult Members and Seeking to Enforce Federal Firearms Laws

Part Two, Section One, considers whether ATF properly initiated an investigation of Koresh for suspected violations of federal firearms laws and whether the investigation established probable cause to search the Compound for evidence of such crimes. Based on a review of the evidence, the section concludes that ATF focused properly on Koresh after receiving complaints from local law enforcement officials. Similarly, after reviewing evidence of firearms violations unearthed by the ATF investigation, including Koresh's purchases of weapons and accounts that he was manufacturing weapons illegally on the Compound, the section determines that ATF had a firm basis for searching the Compound and arresting Koresh.

The section also reviews allegations that ATF targeted Koresh because of his religious beliefs and sexual conduct with minors and finds the allegations lacking in merit. The section concludes that ATF focused properly on Koresh because of his propensity toward violence and his ability to control his followers.

Section Two: Analysis of the Tactical Planning Effort

Part Two, Section Two analyzes ATF's tactical planning effort, from the decisionmaking process that led to the choice of a dynamic entry to the development of the raid plan itself. As this section explains, most of the Review's tactical experts agree that the plan had a reasonable chance of success if all of the planners' major assumptions had been correct. If the men in the Compound were working in the pit, separated from the weapons reportedly locked away in the "arms room," and if ATF agents could drive up to the Compound without its residents knowing of the operation until it was too late to offer effective resistance, the warrants might well have been executed without loss of life. But the caveat here is crucial, for significant deficiencies in the tactical intelligence gathering structure, most notably the lack of an agent dedicated to intelligence processing and analysis, resulted in a plan that was based on seriously flawed assumptions.

The problems here lie as much in the planning process as in the plan itself. Not only were the planners too quick to conclude that a massive mid-morning raid was the best possible enforcement option, but they chose a plan whose window of opportunity was much smaller than they realized. The planners also failed to prepare for contingencies that would arise if that window were missed. Against a target as formidable as Koresh, such errors exposed ATF to grievous consequences.

Responsibility for these flaws cannot simply be placed at the feet of those who did the actual planning. Those charged with this mission devoted considerable time and energy to devising a safe and successful operation. They lacked, however, the training, experience, and institutional support necessary for the extraordinary operation they were planning, an operation which was qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from the many smaller enforcement actions each had led successfully in the past. ATF's management never addressed these deficiencies by giving the planners a supportive structure to supplement their own experiences. In addition, ATF's upper management did not actively oversee the development of the tactical plan, even though it involved the mobilization of more than 100 agents--the largest law enforcement effort ever mounted by ATF and one of the largest in the history of civilian law enforcement.

Section Three: Media Impact on ATF's Investigation

Part Two, Section Three analyzes the interaction between ATF and the media before and during ATF's raid on the Branch Davidian Compound. The interest of the media in covering suspected criminal conduct and official responses to it will frequently be at odds with law enforcement's desire to have the advantage of surprise in its activities. Here those interests clashed first before the raid, when ATF was unable to persuade the Waco Tribune Herald to delay publication of its series. Given the substance of ATF's arguments for delay, the Tribune-Herald's decision to go forward with the series is understandable. But had the negotiations been entrusted to those in ATF with more expertise in media relations, an arrangement that would have been more suitable to ATF and the Tribune-Herald might have been made.

On the day of the raid itself, media activity in the vicinity of the Branch Davidian Compound tipped off Koresh, allowing him to lay his ambush for ATF agents. KWTX and the Tribune-Herald roamed the roads in the vicinity of the Compound for more than an hour before the raid. A cameraman for KWTX told a local letter carrier, whom unbeknownst to him was a cult member, that a raid was imminent. The cult member in turn told Koresh, who then prepared his ambush.

Section Four: The Flawed Decision to Go Forward with the Raid

Part Two, Section Four addresses why ATF's raid commanders proceeded with the raid even though they should have realized that the raid had been compromised. The decision to proceed was tragically wrong, not just in retrospect, but based on what the decisionmakers knew at the time. It is now clear that those decisionmakers had sufficient information from the undercover agent to conclude that the raid had been compromised. They learned that Koresh had proclaimed that neither ATF nor the National Guard would ever get him, and that he had said "They're coming . . . the time has come. They're coming." In addition, the undercover agent told two of the raid commanders that Koresh "knows we're coming." Moreover, the actions and statements of certain raid commanders after hearing the undercover agent's report strongly suggest that they not only had reason to believe, but in fact did believe, that the raid had been compromised. Unfortunately, their response was to hurry up, rather than consult further with the undercover agent, case agent, surveillance agents and raid planners, and carefully assess the likely effect of the tip not only on Koresh but also on the prospects for the raid's success.

Section Four concludes, however, that the flawed decision to go forward was not simply a matter of bad judgment by the raid-day decisionmakers. It was, as well, the product of serious deficiencies in the intelligence gathering and processing structure, poor planning and personnel decisions, and a general failure of ATF management to check the momentum of the massive operation.

Section Five: Operational Security

Part Two, Section Five examines ATF's security practices from the beginning of the investigation through the day of the raid. It discredits certain reports that surfaced shortly after the raid claiming it had been compromised because ATF failed to maintain adequate security measures. Some actions undertaken by ATF, however, failed to preserve the secrecy of their investigation and the timing of the raid. The section examines the security issues and recommends that ATF improve its security practices.

Section Six: Treasury Oversight

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Enforcement has oversight responsibility for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. Although ATF's planned raid on the Branch Davidian Compound had been under consideration for months, the Office of Enforcement was not advised of the planned raid until fewer than 48 hours before it was to begin. Although the Office of Enforcement's approval was not sought, concerns about the action caused that office to direct that the raid not go forward. ATF then provided assurances that the raid was necessary, carefully planned and designed to minimize the risks to all involved. Based on these assurances the raid was permitted to proceed.

The Office of Enforcement had no regulation or guideline in place at the time of the raid that required ATF to notify it, instead, it relied on the discretion and judgment of ATF's bureau head. The responsibility for ATF's failure to notify the office until fewer than 48 hours before the raid rests with both ATF and the Office of Enforcement. Given how late in the process the office was notified, there was little opportunity for meaningful review or evaluation of ATF's planned operation. The office has instituted new guidelines and regular meetings with enforcement bureau heads to ensure early notification of significant operations that will permit meaningful oversight and review.

Section Seven: ATF Post-raid Dissemination of Misleading Information about the Raid and the Raid Plan

This section describes how in the wake of the tragedy on February 28, the raid commanders and their superiors in the ATF hierarchy endeavored to answer the call for explanations. Although they had access to the facts, critical aspects of the information that they provided to the public were misleading or wrong. In particular, two of the principal raid commanders appear to have engaged in a concerted effort to conceal their errors in judgment. Their conduct had the effect of wrongfully pointing the finger at a line agent as being responsible for the failed raid. And ATF's top management, perhaps out of a misplaced desire to protect the agency from criticism, offered accounts based on those raid commanders' statements, disregarding evidence that those statements were false. The section also examines the role two of the raid commanders played in the misleading alteration of the written raid plan after the raid had failed, and their failure to be candid with the Review when questioned about their role in altering the plan.

Section Eight: National Guard Support

In the aftermath of the raid, questions were raised about the method by which ATF secured the use of National Guard helicopters. Specifically, ATF was accused of misleading the National Guard by falsely representing that evidence of illegal drug activity would be found at the Compound. This section describes how law enforcement agencies can obtain support from the National Guard and how ATF obtained the use of the National Guard helicopters in the operation. The section concludes that, although the standards governing what constitutes a sufficient "drug nexus" to obtain National Guard support need clarification, ATF did not mislead the National Guard or misrepresent the facts concerning the nexus between the proposed raid and evidence of drug violations.

Notes from original reportEdit

  1. Footnote 1 in original document:Born Vernon Wayne Howell on August 17, 1959, Koresh formally changed his name in 1990. According to his court petition, Koresh changed his name because he was an entertainer, and wished to use the name for publicity and business purposes.
  2. Footnote 2 in original document: The Branch Davidian movement was started by a number of Seventh Day Adventists who believed strongly in the prophecies of the book of Revelation. David Koresh, then named Vernon Wayne Howell, took over leadership of the group in 1987. The Compound residents were extremely devoted to Koresh, and many apparently believed that he was the lamb of God. In the course of this report, the Review has used the term "cult" to refer to Koresh and his followers. The term is not intended and should not be taken as a reference to the Branch Davidian movement generally. The Review is quite aware that "cult" has pejorative connotations, and that outsiders--particularly those in the government--should avoid casting aspersions on those whose religious beliefs are different from their own. The definition of cult in Webster's Third New International Dictionary (unabridged) includes: "a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing" and "a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious." In light of the evidence of the conduct of Koresh and his followers set out in this report, the Review finds "cult" to be an apt characterization.
  3. Footnote 3 in original document:Both Noble and Heymann have since been confirmed by the Senate.
  4. Footnote 4 in original document:Chief Williams' assessment has been received and is included in Appendix A.