Hillary’s Waco Deception
Before Benghazi, before the e-mail scandal, before the numerous allegations of impropriety involving the Clinton Foundation, there was Waco. On April 19, 1993, a few short months into Bill Clinton’s first presidential term, nearly 80 men, women, and children perished at Mt. Carmel, their religious community and home near Waco, Texas. A Federal investigation into the tragedy in 2000 found that government agents were not responsible for the deaths of Davidian civilians — that the sect members who died there had committed mass suicide, similar to the Kool-Aid drinking by Jim Jones’ aficionados, but more violent. This verdict was significant, given the allegations by Davidian survivors and relatives that sect members had been shot as they tried to flee their burning buildings. And while many laid blame for the outcome at the feet of then-Attorney General Janet Reno, there are claims that Hillary Clinton was actually the one in charge .
Allegations of gunfire were based on more than Davidian survivors’ testimony. They were based, also, on interpretations of imagery collected by an infrared camera on a fixed-wing aircraft that circled Mt. Carmel in the hours surrounding the fire. Bright, repetitive flashes were thought, by some infrared experts, to constitute evidence of weapons fire from outside the buildings in which the Davidians were pinned. While this circumstance encouraged the question, “Did the FBI shoot at civilians?” -- its Hostage Rescue Team had managed a 51-day standoff prior to the fiery climax -- members of the U. S. Army’s Delta Force and the elite British SAS were also present on site.
The 2000 investigation, headed by former Republican Senator John Danforth and costing the U. S. taxpayer about $17 M, was concurrent with a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Davidian survivors and relatives against the FBI. Government experts contended that the flashes’ most likely cause was sun reflections off debris in the Mt. Carmel courtyard: the infrared camera, they said, would have been unlikely to register muzzle flash as bright and long-lasting as the flashes seen on Mt. Carmel’s video. As experts waged thermal warfare in affidavits and in the press, other investigators researched the basics of infrared gunfire signatures.
To the general public, this talk of an unfamiliar technology sounded very confusing; and the government, which had nearly exclusively developed it, made no attempt to educate them. In fact, the Federal judge presiding over the civil trial decided against gunfire based on his reading of the affidavits, depriving a jury of the opportunity to hear the evidence directly from those who’d studied the problem. In doing so, he negated the one and only chance members of the public might have had to weigh in on the issue before an official judgment was rendered.
Might official verdicts have been different if the public had known something about infrared technology while the controversy flared? For instance, what if it had been known that a thermal infrared image, captured at wavelengths longer than the eye can see, allows objects to be discerned not only when they are of sufficient size, but are also of sufficient brightness relative to their background, as this clip from the Waco video demonstrates?
If the public had been able to see demonstrations like this one, then perhaps a key government claim — that persons must be seen near the flashes in order to conclude gunfire — would have been easily dismissed, if not laughed off. No shooters equals no shots — while sounding very reasonable to those familiar only with visible light imagery — became instead a clever tool in the government’s deception arsenal.
A Now-Defunct Government Lab’s Shadowy Role in Danforth’s Waco investigation
Given that nearly all U.S. infrared technology since WW II had been developed by the US Government, it should not have been surprising that the majority of infrared practitioners, even in 2000, owed their livelihoods to it. As a result, infrared experts willing to go on record with their opinions of the Waco tapes were difficult to find. Tucson attorney David Hardy wrote of retired engineers who’d believed Waco’s flashes were gunfire, but did not wish to become involved in a trial. An infrared inspection firm whose analyst had claimed gunfire on 60 Minutes years before declined further involvement due to the possibility of negative business repercussions. The Davidians’ primary expert in their civil lawsuit, retired Army scientist Dr. Edward Allard, suffered a disabling stroke just weeks before the investigation’s field tests were run. Another expert, Carlos Ghigliotti, had given Hardy a data dump of his results concluding gunfire and told this author that the Waco situation would be resolved soon, when he called a press conference. Unfortunately, that call was never made: Carlos was found dead in his home in late April, of an apparent heart attack at age 42.
The infrared test was conducted at Ft. Hood, Texas, the place later made notorious by the killing spree of Nidal Malik Hasan. Erroneously referred to in press reports as a “re-creation” of conditions on the standoff’s last day, its conditions and those under which the Davidians perished could not have been more different. The test’s errors, omissions, and obfuscations were so egregious that they could not have been anything other than deliberate — particularly given the high caliber of the so-called “neutral experts” selected as test conductors.
Those experts — and experts, they were — came from ERIM, the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan, up until 2001 the sanctum sanctorum of U. S. infrared technology. They, literally, wrote the book on infrared.
Some of the anomalies: the Ft. Hood test featured an infrared camera collecting data at U. K. rates of 25 frames per second, mounted on a helicopter. The Waco imager of 1993 collected data at U. S. rates, 30 frames per second, and was mounted on a fixed-wing aircraft. In any reasonable test, the choice of sensor frame rate and platform should match the original — which did not happen at Ft. Hood. Moreover, the slower frame rate of the 2000 test camera worked against imaging a fast-moving phenomenon — infrared muzzle flash — for as long as it might appear on the original Mt. Carmel video. As flash duration was a critical element in the controversy, the choice of a camera with a slower frame rate worked against reasonable comparison, making gunfire muzzle flash a less likely conclusion from the test.
Other factors worked to decrease the brightness and duration of muzzle flash captured on the 2000 test camera, making it appear as though gunfire could not have caused the bright Waco flashes in 1993. These included the field’s lack of atmospheric particulate (dust -- which works to produce a bright secondary combustion effect from muzzle exhaust gases) and an earth background so bright that muzzle flash would scarcely be seen against it (Davidian expert Ferdinand Zegel believed that the test camera’s infrared detector had malfunctioned to create this effect.)
These were just a few of the obvious errors and omissions. Several others were identified including the fact that a weapons-ammunition combination at Waco which had been shown to produce bright flashes was not tested at Ft. Hood.
I’d consulted more than one ERIM-associated expert in my attempts to better understand the phenomena and bring wider expertise to bear on the problem — something I believed a nationally-prominent scientist should have been doing, but wasn’t. As I shared more information with my contacts, including results of muzzle flash tests I’d conducted with attorney David Hardy, the e-mails stopped returning and my phone calls went unanswered. One colleague even told me he’d been advised to “cool it” regarding his study of Waco’s technical issues; and he suggested I do the same.
“Cool it.” Why? Well, since my colleague was a university professor, perhaps the university (my alma mater, too, The University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences) worried about continued funding — not only in infrared technology, but in any major technology related to optics, also. It just wouldn’t do to accuse one’s major customer — the U. S. government — of murdering civilians within its borders.
I declined to “cool it” and offered my own conclusion about the flashes on the Waco FLIR in late 2001: that they were likely to have come from government gunfire. In the years since, as I’ve studied the problem, it is more apparent to me than ever that the government shot and killed civilians at Waco on April 19, 1993.
And those experts in the 2000 Ft. Hood tests, from ERIM, who were so good that they absolutely knew what they were doing, but produced an unscientific comparison, anyway? I’m not certain what happened to them, individually, but in 2001, ERIM ceased to exist as a separate entity. “ERIM acquired Vector Research, Inc. (VRI) in 2001 to form the Altarum Institute4] headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan.” Given that Vector Research had been a part of Anteon — the parent company of Danforth’s Special Counsel experts, Vector Data Systems, that association is significant. How neutral was ERIM — a so-called “neutral expert” — to begin with?
These are critical questions that deserve careful examination by a highly skilled investigator. Unfortunately, Michael McNulty passed away in 2015 so he is unable to continue this work. This is not only a good time to review events surrounding the Waco controversy: it is the optimum time, given the responsibility of the individual who called the final shots at Waco — Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Electro-optical engineer Barbara G Grant, M. S., is a consultant in electro-optics, an author of three engineering books, and an educator who teaches the practical applications of optical radiant energy to professional engineers and scientists. Her website is http://www.linesandlights.com.