An expert retained by a House committee has concluded that videotape of the 1993 Waco standoff shows the FBI fired shots on the siege's final day, contrary to the bureau's insistence its agents did not fire a single round.
Separately, Waco Special Counsel John Danforth has been briefed by another expert who reached a similar conclusion that the government and Branch Davidians exchanged gunfire that day.
FBI officials on Wednesday repeated their position. "There has been no evidence developed to date to indicate that any FBI agents fired any rounds during the standoff at Waco," said FBI spokesman Tron Brekke.
Allegations of government gunfire during the 51-day standoff have circulated for years. The issue was revived by a report Wednesday in The Washington Post in which Carlos Ghigliotti, who has been hired by the House Government Reform Committee to review siege footage, said he determined the FBI fired shots on April 19, 1993.
"I conclude this based on the groundview videotapes taken from several different angles simultaneously and based on the overhead thermal tape," Ghigliotti said. "The gunfire from the ground is there, without a doubt."
Ghigliotti said the tapes also confirm the Davidians fired repeatedly at FBI agents during the assault, which ended when flames raced through the compound. About 80 Branch Davidians
perished that day, some from the fire, others from gunshot wounds.
Ghigliotti, who did not return calls Wednesday from The Associated Press, did not assert that any casualties were caused by FBI gunshots.
His review was based on videotapes shot by media crews and audio from an infrared aerial surveillance tape recently released by the FBI. Ghigliotti has not seen all of the footage compiled by the FBI nor done an official analysis for the committee, FBI and
congressional officials said.
Ghigliotti, who has performed thermal imaging analysis for the FBI, is scheduled to go to the FBI on Friday to review the tapes.
The House Government Reform Committee chairman said the findings are "troubling, but we think it is premature to make any final determination."
"We don't want to go off half-cocked," Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said. "As soon as we get all the necessary information, we will hold hearings and present the information to the American
Ghigliotti's views coincide with those of a retired Defense Department thermal imaging analyst who, in a 1997 documentary about Waco, said infrared surveillance footage shot by an FBI plane offers definitive proof that government forces unleashed a barrage of automatic weapon fire on the compound.
The FBI has explained the light bursts on the infrared footage as reflections of sun rays on shards of glass or other debris that littered the scene, a view shared by some thermal imaging experts who reviewed Waco footage for the Post in 1997.
Edward Allard, who was a supervisor at the Army's night vision lab at Fort Belvoir, Va., has been hired as an expert in the Davidian survivors' wrongful-death lawsuit. He said the infrared
footage reflects "the government pouring machine-gun fire into the building and the Davidians firing here and there."
Allard was among the plaintiffs' experts who briefed Danforth in Houston on Tuesday about their findings. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, was appointed last month by
Attorney General Janet Reno to re-investigate Waco's unanswered questions.
In his briefing for Danforth, Allard said, he explained why he discounts FBI and Justice Department claims that the bright bursts captured by the "Nightstalker" surveillance plane represent solar flashes on shards of glass or other debris around the compound.
"It's impossible for the Waco (forward-looking infrared) to detect solar radiation because the equipment they used is simply not sensitive enough to detect it," Allard said.
The Associated Press.