Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas/The Role of Experts During the Standoff

IV. The Role of Experts During the StandoffEdit

A. IntroductionEdit

The FBI has always recognized the value of consulting with behavioral experts in crisis situations. The FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, maintains a Behavioral Sciences Unit and the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, both staffed with experienced forensic psychologists. The Behavioral Sciences Unit's work in profiling serial murderers has earned it a worldwide reputation.

During the Waco standoff the FBI utilized the Behavioral Sciences Unit for advice in dealing with Koresh and his followers. In addition to utilizing its in-house resources, the FBI also solicited and received input from various outside experts in many fields, including:

  • Psychology
  • Psychiatry
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Religion/Theology
  • Cults
  • Threat Assessment
  • Negotiation Techniques
  • Medicine

The FBI received this input both orally and in writing, and in each case ensured that the appropriate officials at FBI headquarters and on scene at Waco were made aware of the input. The FBI and the Attorney General also received input from various military and medical experts in connection with the planning for the April 19 tear gas plan.

The FBI also received unsolicited advice and offers of assistance from many individuals; not surprisingly, this input was rarely useful. For example, on March 16, 1993 a well-known rock band contacted the FBI and offered to perform outside the Mt. Carmel Compound, and to play a song that U.S. helicopters broadcast at enemy troops to demoralize them during the Vietnam War. On the other hand, the FBI received an unsolicited letter from the Harvard Negotiation Project containing thoughtful and specific suggestions to assist the negotiators in formulating a framework for further negotiations with Koresh.

A smaller number of offers came from individuals lacking a firm grip on reality, such as people claiming to be God or Jesus offering to "order" Koresh to leave the compound. One person was arrested on his way to the compound brandishing a samurai sword, which he said God had told him to deliver to Koresh.

Throughout the Waco standoff, the FBI meticulously kept track of all unsolicited offers of assistance, and followed up on those that seemed to promise any reasonable chance of producing helpful information. There were certain areas of activity in which the FBI did not seek outside help. For example, the FBI did not request assistance from any outside law enforcement agencies in performing any of its tactical operations; it did not request assistance with negotiations, since the FBI's best negotiators were assigned to Waco throughout the 51-day standoff; and it did not consult with outside experts regarding the decision to play loud music and Tibetan Monk chants over the loudspeakers to irritate those inside the compound.

Ultimately, the most useful information came from those experts (both inside and outside the FBI) from whom the FBI solicited information. These experts supplied a wide range of information about Koresh's state of mind and behavior, and provided input on some of the most important issues the FBI faced. For example, many of the experts agreed that the possibility of mass suicide existed, but no consensus emerged about the likelihood of suicide.[1] Significantly, all the experts agreed that Koresh would not leave the compound voluntarily. on other issues, however, the expert opinions were not consistent. For example, some of the experts believed that Koresh was psychotic, while others believed he was not. The FBI considered all the information it received and made the best judgment it could considering how such information could best be used to further the FBI's goals of achieving a peaceful end to the standoff with no loss of life.

Following is a summary of the input the FBI received from those experts.

B. Forensic Psychologists/Psychiatrists/PsycholinguistsEdit

The FBI solicited advice from psychologists, psychiatrists, and psycholinguists to assist it in a number of ways, including:

  1. Formulating negotiation strategies;
  2. Formulating tactical strategies;
  3. Understanding the personalities of Koresh and his followers;
  4. Determining the key elements of the relationship between Koresh and his followers;
  5. Determining whether Koresh would leave the Mt. Carmel compound under any circumstances;
  6. Determining whether Koresh suffered from any psychiatric or behavioral disorders;
  7. Determining the risk of suicide by Koresh and his followers.
  8. Determining the threat Koresh and his followers posed to themselves and to law enforcement.

The substance of the expert advice provided to the FBI is summarized below.

1. Dr. Roger BellEdit

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
University of Louisville

On March 3, an FBI negotiator spoke with Dr. Bell about Koresh's failure to carry out his promise to surrender the, previous day, following the broadcast of his radio message. Dr. Bell suggested certain negotiation strategies designed to elicit Koresh's reasons for reneging on the agreement, and to determine whether Koresh might still be persuaded to surrender.

On March 15, the FBI asked Dr. Bell to determine whether Koresh may have suffered from a seizure disorder, and the extent to which such a disorder might affect the negotiation process. The FBI made this request because it had received information suggesting that Koresh occasionally stared into space, experienced hallucinations, or launched into sudden and unpredictable fits of rage.

Dr. Bell sent a memorandum the following day to SSA Gary Noesner. In the memorandum, Dr. Bell indicated that based on "very, very fragmentary information," it was possible that Koresh could have been suffering from a seizure disorder. Dr. Bell explained that a number of physical and psychological symptoms may accompany seizure disorders. The psychological symptoms would include cognitive disturbances, such as time distortion, dreamy states and depersonalization, and affective disturbances such as fear and rage. Dr. Bell noted that these symptoms would make it difficult to achieve continuity and stability in the negotiation process. Dr. Bell also cautioned that it would be very dangerous for a person suffering from seizure disorders to have access to weapons.

2. Dr. Park DietzEdit

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral
Sciences, UCLA School of Medicine

Dr. Dietz is a medical doctor who also has a Ph.D. in sociology and a masters degree in public health. He has served as a consultant to the FBI for several years as a forensic psychiatrist. The FBI contacted Dr. Dietz on March 1, 1993 (the day after the ATF shootout) and asked for his assistance in dealing with Koresh. Dietz arrived in Waco the next day.

When Dr. Dietz arrived in Waco he reviewed approximately 1,000 pages of background material about Koresh and the Branch Davidians. The FBI commanders asked him to develop a personality assessment of Koresh and to deter-mine any possible mental disorders exhibited by Koresh. Dr. Dietz cautioned that absent a personal examination he would be unable to make a formal diagnosis, but he did agree to attempt an assessment of Koresh's personality and mental condition.

Dr. Dietz spent the-next two days monitoring the ongoing negotiations, including the critical events on March 2, when Koresh reneged on his promise to leave the compound with his followers. Dr. Dietz net twice with SAC Ricks during the evening of March 2. At the first meeting, Dietz reported that, based on the course of negotiations and on what he had learned about Koresh so far, he thought it unlikely that Koresh would leave the compound voluntarily. Dr. Dietz also expressed some concern that Koresh might be suicidal, and that Koresh might have made a suicide pact with his followers inside the compound. Dr. Dietz based his view of Koresh's possible suicidal mentality on the manipulative nature of Koresh's leadership style, and on Koresh's constant "gloom and doom" Biblical references. According to Dr. Dietz, SAC Ricks acknowledged that suicide was a possibility, but he rejected any thought of a dynamic entry into the compound because of the certainty that law enforcement agents would be killed.

Dr. Dietz also expressed concern at this meeting with SAC Ricks about the continuing presence of ATF at Waco. In particular, Dr. Dietz thought that ATF agent Cavanaugh (who had helped in supervising the ATF raid, and then switched to negotiator during and immediately following the February 28 shootout) should not participate in negotiations with Koresh. While Dietz acknowledged that Cavanaugh seemed to have established a good rapport with Koresh, Dietz believed that Koresh was a "pro-gun" extremist who despised the ATF and would never negotiate in good faith with or surrender to that agency, especially after the events of February 28th. Consequently, Dietz recommended that Cavanaugh be removed from the scene, and that the FBI incorporate as an element of its negotiating strategy the theme that it was an entirely separate entity from the ATF.

The FBI decided not to remove Cavanaugh as a negotiator, but it did follow Dietz' suggestion that the FBI distance itself from ATF during its subsequent conversations with Koresh and Schneider. At times Koresh and Schneider seemed receptive to this tactic, acknowledging that the FBI could not be held responsible for ATF's actions, and complimenting the FBI for its superior skill. At other times, however, Koresh and Schneider treated the FBI and the ATF both as part of the "monolithic government" that was "persecuting" them.

Following this meeting with SAC Ricks, Dietz debriefed Roberto Rodriguez (the undercover ATF agent) and studied other information that had been compiled about Koresh. At the second meeting with SAC Ricks on March 2, Dietz reported that the additional information he received had led him to conclude that Koresh would not leave the compound, nor would he permit anyone he cared about to leave. Dietz based this opinion on a number of factors: (1) Koresh's manipulative personality; (2) Koresh's fatalistic view of death (for example, his Biblically-inspired comments that all prophets are killed; (3) Koresh's belief, based on the Book of Revelations, that ATF was the "devil" who was disarming the "angel;" (4) Koresh's profound fear of prison; and (5) Koresh's strong inclination to choose death over losing power. Dietz concluded that the only two things the government could offer Koresh were more wives and more followers if he surrendered.

On the following morning, March 3, Dietz met with FBI SSA Pete Smerick to discuss various negotiation strategies. Dietz and Smerick prepared a memorandum recommending the adoption of two overall negotiation themes: First, the negotiators should acknowledge part of Koresh's world view; namely, the existence of a "conspiracy" against the Branch Davidians, and the Davidians' right to defend themselves against what they perceived to have been an illegitimate ATF attack. Second, the negotiators should create the illusion that Koresh could win in court and in the press, that he would not go to prison, and that he would attract many more followers if he came out. Smerick and Dietz gave their memorandum to the FBI commanders.

The commanders subsequently adopted many of the suggestions contained in the memorandum. For example, the FBI negotiators repeatedly stressed to Koresh and Schneider that if they left the compound they would have every opportunity to spread their message to a worldwide audience; that they would be presumed innocent of any wrongdoing with respect to the ATF raid; and that the judicial process would provide them an opportunity to tell their side of their conflict with the ATF. However, the FBI always told Koresh that he would probably go to jail.

Dietz left Waco on March 4, after predicting (accurately) that the standoff would not end anytime soon. The next day (March 5, 1993), Dietz wrote a memorandum to AD Potts and SAC Ricks. In that memorandum Dietz endorsed the overall approach the negotiators were taking, which Dietz described as an appeal to the "rational aspects" of Koresh's personality. However, Dietz explained that such an approach ultimately would not succeed due to the extent of Koresh's psychopathology. Dietz focused on two aspects of Koresh's psychopathology that he described as "central" to Koresh's functioning: First, Koresh had antisocial and narcissistic personality traits that enabled him to become a "master of manipulation." Koresh fully

understood this aspect of his personality, because he had boasted openly to the negotiators about his manipulative skills, including his manipulation of ATF undercover agent Rodriguez. Dietz emphasized that Koresh would use "any ruse, pretext, trick, deception or force necessary to achieve his personal goals." The most notable example of this manipulation was when Koresh did not leave the compound on March 2. As Dietz stated: "[T]he experience of hearing the voice of God tell him to wait should be seen as a self-serving excuse for not keeping his promise."

The second fundamental aspect of Koresh's psychopathology that Dietz identified was an elaborate system of grandiose delusions, in which Koresh saw himself as a prophet of God, uniquely equipped to interpret the Bible. Dietz noted that Koresh seemed to have assumed the identity of the Biblical Cyrus ("Koresh" in Hebrew), who was to have 140 wives deliver the message of the Seven Seals of Revelations. Koresh's delusions of grandeur were accompanied by feelings of persecution by the ATF and the government in general. Dietz believed that while Koresh's grandiosity and persecutory ideas fed each other, his grandiosity was stronger, as evidenced by Koresh's generally friendly tone with the negotiators. Dietz emphasized, however, that if the balance were to shift in favor of persecution, Koresh would become "less communicative, more accusatory, and even more dangerous."

Dietz then analyzed the implications of these two aspects of Koresh's psychopathology for the ongoing negotiations. First, Dietz predicted that Koresh would not come and would not surrender anyone of value to him unless and until he could be assured that his personal goals would be better fulfilled by surrender than by the alternatives. Dietz described Koresh's known goals as (1) power, control, and domination of as many other people as possible, especially people who offer him sex, money, and skills to exploit; (2) promoting himself as a prophet by spreading the message of the Seven Seals as widely as possible; and (3) avoiding imprisonment by justifying the February 28 shooting as a righteous defense of faith, family and self. Second, Dietz suggested that one possible key to successful negotiations would be to allow Koresh to "discover" that the time for his death was not yet at hand because he had not yet had all 140 of his prophesied wives. Dietz argued that this app roach was the only one that would validate rather than undermine Koresh's self-image as a great prophet. Third, Dietz again suggested removing the ATF from the scene, to diminish any connection Koresh might make between the negotiators and the ATF. Fourth, Dietz thought that the FBI should try to undermine Koresh's leadership role within the compound; for example, by driving a wedge between Koresh and Schneider, impeding communication within the compound by creating h -1h volume external noise, or by communicating information to Koresh's followers that would make them question Koresh's infallibility.

Dietz next contacted the FBI commanders on Wednesday, March 10, 1993, to advise that he had seen a television interview with self-described "cult expert" Rick Ross. Ross stated during the interview that he hoped Koresh would prove to be a coward who would prefer to write a book and sell the movie rights from prison rather than end up as a corpse. Dietz thought Ross' televised equation of surrender with cowardice could set back negotiations substantially if Koresh had seen the broadcast.

During the next few weeks the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit at Quantico contacted Dietz occasionally to seek his advice about the progress of the negotiations. On March 11, Behavioral Sciences told Dietz that Koresh had refused to speak to the negotiators for two days. Dietz could not provide any explanation for the impasse. On March 25 and 30 1993, Behavioral Sciences updated Dietz on continuing problems in the progress of negotiations. Dietz suggested that the negotiators' strategy may have been inconsistent with other FBI actions, and that more frequent strategy meetings were needed. Dietz also suggested organizing a fake fan nail campaign to persuade Koresh to surrender.

Finally, on Saturday, April 17, 1993, the FBI requested immediate input from Dietz regarding the prospects for continued negotiations. (This was done as part of the FBI's compilation of all relevant information at the request of the Attorney General).

Dietz prepared a memorandum and faxed it to FBI headquarters. Dietz made the following points: (1) It was still a mistake to allow ATF to participate in the negotiations, since ATF's participation significantly impaired the chances of a peaceful resolution; (2.) The FBI's negotiation strategies were "repeatedly undermined by ancillary actions," such as shutting off electricity; (3) Continuing to negotiate in good faith would not resolve the situation, because Koresh would not come out; Koresh would "continue to make sexual use of any children who remain inside" (for further discussion of child physical and sexual abuse inside the compound see pages 215-226 below); and (4) the continued deterioration of living conditions inside the compound would eventually force the FBI to take some action to save innocent life well before Koresh would ever voluntarily surrender. Dietz's April 17, 1993 memorandum was provided to the Attorney General as part of the binder of documents supporting the FBI's request for approval of the April 19 tear gas operation.

3. Dr. C. Di GiovanniEdit


Dr. Di Giovanni went to Waco from March 27-29. The FBI asked him to render an opinion about Koresh's character and his potential for suicide. (Dr. Di Giovanni later recorded these events in a memorandum written on April 24, 1993). Dr. Di Giovanni reviewed the memoranda prepared earlier that month by Dr. Dietz, transcripts of negotiations, and the videotape sent out from the compound on March 8 showing Koresh interacting with his children.

Dr. Di Giovanni opined that, based on Koresh's behavior on the videotape, Koresh showed no evidence of being actively psychotic. For example, Koresh's speech did not reflect any thought disorder. Koresh's speech, rhythm and tone were normal, and he was able to maintain a thought and express it in a direct, logical and goal-oriented manner. Koresh did not appear to be distracted by hallucinations. He responded directly to comments made to him, and did not appear to be distracted or responsive to imaginary stimuli. Although his movements were restricted due to the gunshot wounds he had sustained on February 28, he did not exhibit any movement disorders associated with psychosis.

With respect to the religious beliefs of Koresh and his followers, Dr. Di Giovanni found no basis to conclude that those beliefs were delusional. Instead, noting that "[t]he basis of any religion is faith, not fact," Dr. Di Giovanni concluded that Koresh's "beliefs about religion and his role in it seemed to have been embraced over the years by many followers and, thus, may have served as the foundation for a religious sect, cult or con game."

Finally, Dr. Di Giovanni offered a tentative opinion about the possibility of suicide. Dr. Di Giovanni cautioned that, absent a personal examination of Koresh, his opinions could only be regarded as speculative. Dr. Di Giovanni stated that Koresh's use of religion seemed designed more to legitimize his thoughts behavior and his desire to live apart from society than to form a basis for martyrdom. Because Koresh had established a community in which "he took the money, the children, the women, the comfort and the relative luxuries rather than sharing in the discomfort of his followers . . . he might be more willing to sacrifice others than himself."

4. Dr. Anthony J. PinizottoEdit

Forensic Psychologist, FBI Headquarters
Criminal Justice Information Division

Dr. Pinizotto was asked to review the videotapes that Koresh had sent out of the compound on March 8 and March 9, and to evaluate Koresh's personality. Dr. Pinizotto viewed the tapes and concluded that Koresh displayed psychopathic behavior, that he was a "con artist" type, and that he had narcissistic tendencies.

5. Dr. Mike WebsterEdit

Retired Psychologist
Formerly Worked With Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The FBI contacted Dr. Webster on March 8, 1993 to solicit his suggestions about how best to negotiate with Koresh.. Webster agreed with the FBI assessment that Koresh appeared to be manifesting anti-social traits. According to Dr. Webster, these traits indicated that Koresh was self-directed, manipulative, and a hedonist.

6. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.Edit

Associate Professor and Vice-Chairman for Research,
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Chief of Psychiatry, Texas Children's Hospital
Director, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders Clinical
Research Team, Houston V.A. Medical Center, Baylor
College of Medicine

Working with FBI SA Nancy Houston, Dr. Perry, an expert in post-traumatic stress disorders, interviewed the children released from the compound during the first days of the standoff. Dr. Perry provided two memoranda (March 14, 1993 and March 26, 1993) to the FBI describing his observations of the children and the implications for the FBI's ongoing negotiations with Koresh.

In his memorandum of March 14, 1993, Dr. Perry first noted that, based on his interviews of some of the older children who had been released, there appeared to be a shared secret. The secret appeared to have two components, one involving unusual sexual practices with the young girls, and the other involving the expectation that the children's families would be destroyed in an explosion. Dr. Perry noted that the children frequently referred to "explosives" and "wiring." Many of the children spoke of their parents as "dead," indicating to Dr. Perry that there may have been some group consensus within the compound about a final end to the standoff. Additionally, Dr. Perry noted that the children were apparently given inconsistent information, and disinformation, prior to leaving the compound.

In his memorandum of March 26, 1993, Dr. Perry provided additional details about the social and religious life inside the compound that he had gleaned from his interviews with the children. The children portrayed life inside the compound as completely revolving around Koresh. The children were instructed to refer to Koresh as their "father" and to their natural parents as "dogs." Children who were not fathered or "adopted" by Koresh were called bastards. When asked to draw family pictures many of the children appeared confused or drew "favorite" groups or clusters of people. The interviews also revealed a siege mentality within the compound; residents felt safe only inside the compound, perceiving a constant threat from "enemies" on the outside.

Dr. Perry also noted that the children lacked formal schooling, that they had been raised in primitive sanitary conditions (many of the children were fascinated at having seen flushing toilets for the first time following their release), and that they had been subjected to strict physical discipline inside, the compound.

With respect to the Branch Davidians' religious beliefs, Dr. Perry ascertained from his interviews with the children that the Davidians were obsessed with the notion that their lives would end in an apocalyptic event. The children related that they had been taught that the "bad guys" from outside would kill Koresh and his followers. Afterward Koresh would come back to earth and "chop off the heads of the bad guys, and then they would burn in hell." Then the children would be reunited in heaven with their parents. In addition, Dr. Perry noted the strong sexual undertones that permeated the religious teachings in the compound. According to Dr. Perry, "there is no doubt that the young girls in the first group of children released were exposed to inappropriate sexual ideations and possibly sexual behaviors."

Following the preparation of the above two memoranda, Dr. Perry and Joyce Sparks, of the Texas Department of Child Protective Services, viewed the videotape of March 28, 1993 showing Koresh and his children. This was the last videotape that Koresh sent out of the compound. Dr. Perry noted that the children appeared to be frightened of Koresh, in that the children were constantly "scanning" Koresh for verbal and nonverbal cues. Dr. Perry described the children as "automatons" who displayed a slower emotional response than typical children of the same age. Dr. Perry also noted that Koresh's statement on the tape that the FBI should "give us time to serve our God" was significant. Dr. Perry believed that the word "time" was important, and Koresh's use of it indicated that Koresh had his own plan to cause an apocalyptic end to the standoff. Ms. Sparks recalled that Koresh had told her during one of her prior visits to the compound that there would be a "fiery" end or an "explosion" at the compound. Dr. Perry believed that Koresh was stalling for time, to prepare for his "final battle" with the authorities. Dr. Perry believed that Koresh might try to lure law enforcement officers inside the compound, so that he could kill himself, his followers, and as many law enforcement agents as possible in a final apocalyptic end. Dr. Perry and Ms. Sparks reported these conclusions to the FBI on April 1, 1993.

7. Dr. Murray S. MironEdit

Professor of Psycholinguistics
Syracuse University

The FBI asked Dr. Miron to analyze five letters that were sent out from the compound on April9-14, 1993. The first letter (April 9) contained a message from Koresh to the FBI, which Koresh dictated to Judy Schneider, who Dr. Miron described as Koresh's "concubine scribe." (Koresh could not handwrite the letter himself, because he suffered from dyslexia, a point he repeatedly discussed with the FBI negotiators). The second letter (April 10) consisted mostly of quotations from Psalms 45 and Revelations 19. The third letter (April 10) was nearly identical to the first letter. The fourth letter (April 11) was identical to the second letter. The fifth letter (April 14) contains Koresh's requests that the FBI give him time to finish his manuscript about the Seven Seals.

Dr. Miron concluded that the first and third letters bore "all of the hallmarks of rampant, morbidly virulent paranoia." The frequent Biblical references indicated to him that Koresh wished to confront and destroy the authorities (the "Babylonians" or "Assyrians"). Dr. Miron did not believe that Koresh intended to give up or that Koresh was suicidal. Indeed, Dr. Miron opined that Koresh's pathology left him functional enough to plan effectively and to vie against his adversaries. According to Dr. Miron, Koresh's delusions were narrowly focused and limited to the "self-aggrandizements of his chosen status as God's hand." Dr. Miron concluded his analysis of the first and third letters as follows:

In my judgment, we are facing a determined, hardened adversary who has no intention of delivering himself or his followers into the hands of his adversaries. It is my belief that he is waiting for an assault. . . Koresh's communication does not resemble the suicidal sermon made by Jim Jones in the last hours of Jonestown. His is not the language of those at Massada or Jonestown. He intends to fight.

With regard to the second and fourth letters, Dr. Miron found nothing significant, given that those letters consisted largely of Biblical quotations. With regard to the fifth letter, Dr. Miron noted that the letter appeared to be a ploy designed to buy more time for Koresh. Dr. Miron noted that Koresh's discussion in the letter of mundane issues such as book rights, and his ability to contact his lawyer after he "comes out," were future oriented and therefore inconsistent with typical suicide precursors such as self-blame, guilt or despair.

After analyzing all five letters, Dr. Miron concluded on April 15, 1993 that he did not believe "there is in these writings any better, or at least certain, hope for an early end to the standoff."

8. Dr. Joseph L. KrofcheckEdit

Threat Assessment Expert

Dr. Krofcheck is a psychiatrist who has provided threat assessment and negotiations support to the FBI for many years. Currently he works as a consultant to various United States government agencies. Dr. Krofcheck, along with FBI SSA Clinton R. Van Zandt, a psychological profiler with the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, analyzed the April 9, 1993 letter (the first Koresh letter). Their analysis was provided to the Attorney General during the week of April 12.

Krofcheck and Van Zandt noted that, based on the content of the letter, Koresh appeared to be a functional, paranoid-type psychotic. They noted that Koresh was a "charismatic, manipulative person with a core delusional system that sees himself as his own form of the trinity consisting of God, Jesus Christ, and David Koresh, the prophet through whom God speaks." They also noted that Koresh seemed capable of moving into and out of his delusional core, to drift seemingly into and out of reality, as it suited his need to manipulate and use others. However, they noted that "Koresh is delusional at times but not stupid."

Krofcheck and Van Zandt assessed the threat Koresh posed to himself, his followers, and law enforcement based on the content of the April 9 letter. They noted that Koresh's frequent references to the "snare" that caught the Babylonians unaware (discussed in Jeremiah 50:24) indicated that Koresh may have been planning to set his own trap for the FBI, including "the destruction by fire and explosion" referred to in many of the scriptural references contained in the April 9 letter. Krofcheck and Van Zandt believed (contrary to Dr. Miron's view) that Koresh was "willing to kill, to see his followers die, and to die himself." They reasoned that for Koresh to give up the power and omnipotence he enjoyed inside the compound for a life in prison would be like "a crack cocaine addict who gets a sexual-like high from crack, to give up his habit cold turkey and obtain a meaningful job and accept the responsibilities of society."

Krofcheck and Van Zandt explained that the threat posed by Koresh included a possible mass break-out, in which the FBI would be faced with women carrying a baby in one arm while firing a weapon from the other. Another possibility could include a massive explosion. In their judgment, Koresh was "fully capable of creating the circumstances to bring this matter to a 'magnificent' end, in his mind, a conclusion that could take the lives of all of his followers and as many of the authorities as possible."

While Krofcheck and Van Zandt concluded that the threat level was "clear," they were less certain about the timing or immediacy of the threat. Koresh would control the timing of any event, and he would not come out under any conditions other than his own.

Finally, Krofcheck and Van Zandt explained that the only way the FBI could influence Koresh's exit from the compound would be some form of tactical intervention. However, they cautioned the FBI to take great care, because they believed that Koresh "may have the motivation and the intent to commit some major violent action."

9. FBI Behavioral ScientistsEdit

Throughout the 51-day standoff, agents at the Behavioral Science Unit and the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime provided advice to the on-scene commanders and negotiators. The advice was both oral and written, and included background information that the FBI has developed on cults, included profiles of cult leaders and followers.

Pete Smerick is a Criminal Investigative Analyst with the Investigative Support Unit of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He served on scene in Waco from March 2 to March 17, 1993. In addition to the memorandum that Smerick co-authored with Park Dietz on March 3, 1993, Smerick also co-authored four other memoranda (dated March 5, 7, 8 and 9, 1993) with fellow psychological profiler SA Mark Young. Those memoranda were provided to the on-scene commanders for their use in formulating a negotiating strategy.

In the March 5 memorandum, Smerick and Young suggested that the FBI's overall strategy should be to insure the safety of the children inside the compound, and to facilitate Koresh's peaceful surrender. Smerick and Young indicated that an FBI profile of Koresh revealed that he possessed "significant characteristics associated with psychopaths; that is, he will generally act only in his self interest, rarely accepts blame for his actions, is manipulative, cunning, and has the ability of controlling the actions of others. He will display rapid flashes of anger, if provoked, and will act impulsively." Smerick and Young also noted that a generic profile of past and present Branch Davidian members indicated that they would not think for themselves, would not question Koresh's authority, and would do whatever he wanted during a crisis.

Smerick and Young noted this was not a typical hostage situation, in that the "hostages" in this situation wanted to be barricaded inside with their leader and had no intention of leaving. Given this dynamic, Smerick and Young suggested a different approach: "In traditional hostage situations, a strategy which has been successful has been negotiations coupled with ever increasing tactical presence. In this situation however, it is believed this strategy, if carried to excess, could eventually be counter productive and could result in loss of life." Based on this suggestion, Smerick and Young suggested temporarily easing the tactical pressure on the compound. It was

their belief that increasing the tactical pressure would simply increase the fear and paranoia of Koresh's followers, thereby reaffirming their desire to stay inside with Koresh. If the followers could be made to see that the government had no intention of engaging them in an apocalyptic final battle, then perhaps they would begin to question the validity of Koresh's predictions about the inevitability of such a battle. This would hopefully begin the process of undermining the bond between Koresh and his followers, which could lead to the release of children.

In their memorandum of March 7, 1993, Smerick and Young listed a number of tactical options that would increase the discomfort of those inside the compound, but they recommended instead that efforts be made to shore up the trust between Koresh and the negotiators. Smerick and Young explained that if the FBI could not establish some trust with Koresh, the FBI would face the possibility of "eventually taking physical action against the compound." They predicted that if such an attack took place, "Koresh and his followers will fight back to the death, to defend their property and their faith, as they believe they did on February 28, 1993.11 Smerick and Young warned that the FBI would be criticized if children were killed in such an attack, just as the Philadelphia Police were criticized after five children died in the assault on the MOVE sect in 1985.

In their memorandum of March 8, 1993, Smerick and Young analyzed the relationship between Koresh and his followers, and the relationship between Koresh and law enforcement. Smerick and Young explained that Koresh's followers were fanatically devoted to him, and that they would not hesitate to kill themselves if Koresh told them to. "Koresh realizes that in an environment outside of the compound, without his control over the followers, he would lose his status as the Messiah, thus a mass suicide ordered by Koresh cannot be discounted. His orders for a mass suicide would be his effort to maintain the ultimate control over his group, in the event of his death."

With respect to Koresh's relationship with law enforcement, Smerick and Young explained that while it would be natural for law enforcement to feel frustrated at the slow pace of negotiations (even as early as March 8), and to feel that Koresh was toying with the FBI, a strong law enforcement show of force would simply play into Koresh's hands and allow him to justify continuing the standoff to his followers. Thus, Smerick and Young suggested moving back from the compound, not to show law enforcement weakness, but to sap from Koresh the source of his powerful hold over his followers -- his prediction that the government was about to start a war against them. Smerick and Young concluded by stating that the FBI could "always resort to tactical pressure, but it should be the absolute last option we should consider." (Emphasis in original). Indeed, the FBI waited six more weeks before using tear gas.

Smerick and Young wrote their last memorandum on March 9, 1993. In that memorandum they recommended, for the first time, that "other measures" be considered to wield control of the situation, because negotiations had met with only limited success. Those measures included sporadically terminating and reinstating of utilities; moving equipment and manpower suddenly; downplaying the importance of Koresh in the daily press conferences; controlling television and radio reception inside the compound; and cutting off negotiations with Koresh. Smerick and Young cautioned that FBI personnel exercise "extreme caution" in light of Koresh's threats of violence.

Smerick has explained that he and Young wrote those four memoranda based on the information he had been given regarding Koresh's past behavior patterns. Smerick also sat in and listened to the early negotiations with Koresh, and he discussed ideas with his colleagues at Quantico before putting them in writing. He wrote the memos because he was concerned that the FBI commanders were moving too rapidly toward a tactical solution, and were not allowing adequate time for negotiations to work. Smerick notes that the FBI commanders were action-oriented; they wanted to treat Koresh not as a negotiation partner, but rather as a "psychotic criminal" who needed to be caught and punished.

Later in the standoff, the Behavioral Sciences Unit prepared a short memorandum commenting on Koresh's personality as observed through the negotiation process. The Behavioral Sciences Unit noted that Koresh had displayed a variety of personality traits throughout the negotiations, ranging from friendly to angry, cooperative to confrontational, compliant to defiant, upbeat to morose, and pragmatic to delusional. The negotiation team reported its "growing concern" that, despite his statements to the contrary, Koresh might be planning a mass suicide similar to Jonestown. Nevertheless, the BSU concluded that Koresh exhibited traits of an anti-social personality, including: (1) exhibits low levels of stress in situations and under conditions others would find extremely stressful; (2) generally acts only in self interest; (3) rarely has close, meaningful relationships; (4) statistically shows a low suicide rate; (5) more likely to arrange a "suicide by cop" situation than to commit suicide; (6) rarely accepts blame for anything negative; and (7) displays rapid flashes of anger.

In hindsight, Smerick regards Koresh as a con man who manipulated people and used religion to obtain sex and power. He does not know whether Koresh actually believed that he was the Messiah or "the Lamb," but he does think that Koresh may have started to believe the sermons that he had been preaching to his followers for the past several years. Finally, Smerick does not think the FBI should have consulted more or different theologians during the standoff. Smerick thinks such consultations would have been useless because in Koresh's theology only Koresh was capable of interpreting the Seven Seals and the Bible. Smerick noted that even if the Pope had come to Waco, Koresh would have said that God told Koresh that only Koresh was able to interpret the scriptures.

The other FBI "in-house" experts felt that the FBI on-scene commanders used tactical methods that undermined the negotiations, and the credibility of the FBI negotiators. Some of the experts felt that the aggressive tactical moves played into Koresh's hands and strengthened Koresh's credibility among his followers, given that Koresh had been prophesizing all along that the government was preparing for the final confrontation. The in-house experts also believe that it was a mistake for the commanders to have "punished" the Davidians by cutting off power (March 12) or clearing out the Davidians' vehicles (March 21) in response to positive acts that the Davidians had taken (allowing people inside to leave).

Finally, the Tibetan Monk chants and other irritating sounds broadcast into the compound were played against the recommendation of some of the FBI's "in-house" experts.

C. Religious/Theological ExpertsEdit

Smerick's feelings notwithstanding, the FBI did use religious experts and theologians to a limited extent during the standoff with the Branch Davidians. The FBI received unsolicited contact from a number of persons claiming religious/Biblical expertise, but most of those contacts resulted in little useful information. The FBI also contacted several religious experts for background information about the Branch Davidians and the Seventh Day Adventists.

1. Dr. Philip ArnoldEdit

Reunion Institute, Houston

On March 17, Schneider told the FBI that he and some of the other compound members had heard of Dr. Arnold as someone with expertise about the Book of Revelations and the Seven Seals, and that they wanted to speak with him. The FBI refused to permit a live telephone conversation, but offered an exchange of audiotapes instead. On March 19, the FBI sent an audiotape that Dr. Arnold had made into the compound.

2. Dr. Bill AustinEdit

Chaplin, Baylor University

During the first few weeks of the standoff, Koresh repeatedly asked the FBI to produce evidence from a Biblical scholar refuting Koresh's religious views. The FBI contacted Dr. Austin, who prepared a letter to Koresh explaining Koresh's Biblical responsibility to resolve the standoff without violence, by coming out so that he could explain his message to the people of the world: 'I implore you to take these scriptures and my letter as a message from God that it is time for you and all your followers to come out safely and claim these promises." Dr. Austin's letter was sent into the compound on March 27, 1993.

3. Jeriel BinghamEdit

Vice President, Davidian Seventh Day Adventists
Association, Exeter, Missouri

On March 7, 1993, the FBI interviewed Mr. Bingham. He and his mother head an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists, headquartered in rural Missouri. Bingham was familiar with the Branch Davidians of Waco, who were not part of his organization, but held similar beliefs. He also knew Koresh. Bingham recalled that Koresh plotted to seize control of the Branch Davidians from former leader George Roden. He recalled that Koresh thought of the Branch Davidian movement as a "game for gain." Bingham mentioned that Koresh likened himself to the Biblical King Cyrus, and that those who did not follow him were "with Satan."

4. Reverend Trevor DelafieldEdit

Seventh Day Adventist Church
Tacoma Park, Maryland

The FBI asked Rev. Delafield to comment on certain aspects of Seventh Day Adventists Doctrine, particularly regarding the meaning of the "silence in heaven" that Koresh had mentioned during early negotiations. Rev. Delafield provided a memorandum to the FBI on March 5, 1993. In the memorandum, Rev. Delafield discussed the Book of Revelations, interpreting the meaning of various chronological references that could be useful in negotiating with Koresh.

5. Dr. Robert WallaceEdit

Dr. John Fredericks
Lighthouse Mission, Bowling Green, Kentucky

The FBI contacted these two individuals, both of whom are doctors of theology, on March 30, 1993, seeking their explanation of certain Biblical references that Koresh had made. Both individuals advised that the FBI consult with an expert in eschatology (the study of prophecy).

6. Dr. Michael HaynesEdit

Dallas, Texas

The FBI contacted Haynes, who has a Ph.D. in theology and psychology, and who had prior experience working with law enforcement, to determine whether he could recommend any theologians who the FBI should contact. Dr. Haynes instead suggested that the FBI allow him to negotiate directly with Koresh, in an effort to talk Koresh out of the compound by promising to assist Koresh in conveying his message to the world. The FBI did not utilize Dr. Haynes' services.

7. Dr. Glenn HilburnEdit

Dean, Department of Religion
Baylor University

The FBI consulted more frequently with Dr. Hilburn throughout the standoff than any other theologian. Dr. Hilburn made his entire staff of 23 available to the FBI, and he and his staff had frequent contact with the negotiators and the commanders. Baylor University has one of the largest "cult" reference and research facilities in the country. It also had the advantage of being located nearby in Waco.

Dr. Hilburn provided information on the Book of Revelations, the Seven Seals, and other Biblical matters. The FBI relied heavily on Dr. Hilburn early on in the negotiations, when it engaged Koresh in long discussions about the Bible as a negotiating tactic.

D. Medical ExpertsEdit

The FBI consulted with various medical experts to ascertain the seriousness of the wounds Koresh had suffered during the February 28 shootout with the ATF. On March 11, 1993, two doctors watched the videotape that Koresh had sent out from the compound, in which Koresh pulled up his shirt and displayed his abdominal wound. One doctor stated that Koresh's wound was infected, but not life-threatening. The other doctor agreed with that diagnosis, but warned that if the wound were left untreated septicemia could develop and spread to Koresh's major organs, guaranteeing that he would not survive.

E. "Cult Experts"Edit

The FBI did not solicit advice from any "cult experts" or "cult deprogrammers." The FBI did receive a number of unsolicited offers of assistance from former Branch Davidian member Marc Breault (who has since published a paperback book about Koresh and the Branch Davidians). The FBI also received input from two self-described cult experts, Rick Ross (who moved to a hotel in Dallas, and later to Waco, during the standoff and appeared on local television programs, as well as the CNN broadcast of March 10 that upset Dr. Dietz) and Kelli Waxman. Following are brief summaries of the input received from these three individuals:

Waxman: Waxman has assisted local police agencies in Arizona in dealing with Satanist religious groups. on March 1, 1993, she called the FBI, and requested that she be interviewed regarding her knowledge of cults in general and the Branch Davidians in particular. Later that day an FBI agent interviewed Waxman. Waxman said the FBI should be cautious in dealing with Koresh, because the Branch Davidians probably had a suicide pact or procedure already in place. Waxman said that if Koresh were to permit all the children to leave, then mass suicide would be the next step. She predicted that the FBI would "have another Jonestown on its hands."

Ross: Ross contacted the FBI on March 4, 1993 and requested that he be interviewed regarding his knowledge of cults in general and the Branch Davidians in particular. Ross said that he had been familiar with the Branch Davidians for several years, and had known several former Davidians. Ross provided information about Koresh to the Waco Tribune Herald for its series about the Branch Davidians. Ross also had been in contact with Steve Schneider's sister, who had asked him to help devise a strategy to "deprogram" Schneider. The ATF also contacted Ross in January 1993 for information about Koresh. Ross also telephoned the FBI on March 27 and March 28, offering advice about negotiation strategies. Ross suggested that the FBI attempt to embarrass Koresh by informing other members of the compound about Koresh's faults and failures in life, in order to convince them that Koresh was not the prophet they had been led to believe.

The FBI did not "rely" on Ross for advice whatsoever during the standoff. The FBI interviewed Ross only at Ross' request, and politely declined his unsolicited offers of assistance throughout the standoff. The FBI treated the information Ross supplied as it would any other unsolicited information received from the public: it evaluated the credibility of the information and treated it accordingly.

Breault: Breault was a member of the Branch Davidians for several years, until he broke with Koresh in 1989 and moved to Australia. Breault contacted U.S. officials in Australia on March 1, 1993 to offer his assistance to the FBI. The State Department relayed the information, including Breault's phone number, to the FBI. The FBI determined within the next day that Breault was talking to the media, and that he had no current reliable information. The FBI decided to compile whatever written information Breault had created but not to contact him.

The FBI obtained a copy of an affidavit Breault had prepared about Koresh in 1990, describing Koresh's manipulative practices, his theology, and the charismatic hold he exercised over his followers. During the standoff Breault sent electronic mail messages from his home in Australia to the FBI offering various suggestions and advice, including that he be allowed to debate Koresh on a radio program to prove that Breault knew more about the Bible than Koresh.

Original footnotesEdit

  1. During the siege SAC Jamar requested that a memorandum be prepared listing all references to suicide that had emerged during the FBI's contacts with the Davidians, to see whether some pattern had emerged that would enable a prediction of Koresh's intention to be formulated. The memorandum was prepared on March 28, 1993, and it demonstrated that there was no consistent pattern of behavior that had developed that would enable anyone to make an accurate prediction of suicide. The evidence described in that memorandum is discussed further below at pages 210-12.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).