Re: Waco: Govt Set Fire
Wed, 10 Nov 1999 11:26:50 -0800

The Dallas Morning News reports today on new developments regarding the proposed re-creation of the infrared imagery from the Waco raid in order to try to resolve the question of whether it shows gunshots.

> Throwing its weight behind lawyers for the Branch Davidians, the Waco
> special counsel's office is asking for court-supervised tests to determine
> if flashes recorded by FBI infrared cameras in the last hours of the
> 1993 siege came from government gunfire.
> The request came less than two weeks after the Justice Department
> flatly rejected a proposal by the Branch Davidians' lawyers for joint
> field tests. Justice warned that such testing would be hopelessly
> flawed without key data that the government is withholding as national
> security secrets.
> [...]
> The letter from the office of special counsel John Danforth increases
> pressure on the government's lawyers. The Justice Department has faced
> growing criticism from Judge Smith and congressional investigators for
> its slowness in handing over government documents and other evidence
> relating to the 1993 incident.

The FBI offers a new explanation for the flashes seen on the FLIR video:

> Bureau officials then began inviting reporters into the FBI laboratory in
> Washington to view snippets of digitized footage from the Waco infrared
> video. They also presented arguments from FBI video experts that flashes
> on the tape were electrical anomalies or "unexplained FLIR phenomena."

Previously they had suggested that they were reflections from blowing debris and broken glass. Calling them "unexplained" is not a very strong answer, in my opinion. I would still like to know why they only seem to occur in a certain area and when seen from a certain angle (assuming that the full tape confirms this pattern).

An interesting point is made by someone on the other side:

> "The only way to resolve this is experimentally," said one expert
> with more than 30 years experience using and designing similar infrared
> technology. "Only an experiment makes sense. But the key is an experiment
> that takes into account the low probability of intercept: The way these
> cameras work, if 50 flashes were captured on film, there must have been
> a far higher number of gunshots that actually occurred."

This is a surprising comment, because it seemed to me that the flashes were relatively obvious and well defined compared to the background noise. I'm not sure what effects he is imagining which would lead to a low probability of seeing them. It almost sounds like he's doing a little preparatory CYA in the event that the re-creation doesn't show flashes; he can explain it as due to the "low probability of interecept".

The article also says that the FBI has offered to run a private re-creation for Danforth's people, because they can get security clearances. However the new letter from Danforth's office indicates that he would prefer the test to be run openly, for public view. The House committee backs Danforth, and it looks to me like Justice will be forced to back down and cooperate.