“God Help Us, We Want The Press”

The 1993 Waco Disaster and Government/Media Relations


By Anthony Gregory

History 101

Spring 2003

Instructor: Charles Postel


Ten years after the federal government’s siege on Mount Carmel just outside of Waco, Texas, the Waco Tribune Herald published a series of articles to commemorate the fifty-one day standoff and its fiery culmination on April 19, 1993 in which seventy-six people died. In part one of the series the Herald paints the event with a brush of ambiguity. The paper calls the raid “bungled” and accedes that “by most accounts” the federal agents involved failed “to properly conduct the siege.” But otherwise the reporting avoids taking sides in a decade-long controversy that remains important to some and has become forgotten by most. In spite of the mounting evidence over the last ten years that government agents acted in ways ranging from criminally negligent to maliciously homicidal, the Tribune story overall characterizes the authorities involved in the Waco disaster as benevolent – albeit possibly mistaken – law enforcers. [1]

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) trained for eight months to carry out its military-style raid on the home of the Branch Davidian religious sect at Waco, Texas.[2] On the morning of February 28, about one hundred ATF agents drove up concealed in livestock trailers for a surprise assault. Their stated goal was to take sect leader David Koresh into custody and serve a search warrant for illegal weapons possession. A forty-five minute-long shootout ensued. By the end of the day, four agents died, and fifteen were wounded. [3] Six Davidians died.[4]  Authorities arrested two Davidians, one for attempted murder, another for weapons violations.[5] The shootout ended, and the standoff began. One hundred fifty agents eventually arrived at the scene.[6]

The ATF claimed they raided the Davidian home only to arrest David Koresh – not his followers – and to search the place for illegal weapons. But if they only wanted to arrest Koresh, they could have easily taken him into custody when he was out jogging or visiting local bars.[7] If they wanted only to search for illegal weapons, they could have simply asked. Congressional hearings revealed that at the beginning of the ATF weapons investigation, David Koresh invited ATF investigator Davy Aguilera to come to the Davidian home and examine all of the weapons the Davidians owned, but Aguilera refused.[8] The ATF’s investigation never uncovered any evidence of firearms law violations, but the agency went ahead with the raid anyway.[9]

ATF officials stuck by their story that the Davidians fired first, but this remains highly controversial. Jurors later acquitted all the surviving Davidians accused of murder, on grounds of self-defense.[10] Although, in what many consider a lasting injustice, they ended up being imprisoned anyway for murder. The judge had given the jurors a convoluted and confusing set of instructions, which led them to think they had to convict the defendants for breaking firearms laws. The judge then dismissed the jury and ruled that all the firearms convictions were de facto murder convictions.[11]

Right after the raid the FBI took over and turned the situation into a hybrid of a hostage crisis and a military siege. They cut off the Davidians’ electricity and destroyed their water supplies. They used psychological warfare in the form of shining bright lights and playing loud recordings of Nancy Sinatra singing “These Boots are Gonna Walk All Over You” late into the night.[12]

On April 19, after more than one and a half months, the standoff finally ended when the Branch Davidian home went up into flames after the FBI injected tear gas into it. At 5:55 AM an FBI agent phoned a sect member inside and presented the ultimatum that unless they surrendered, the FBI would use tear gas against them. In less than ten minutes, an M-728 tank with a battering ram punched a hole in the building’s front – eight feet tall and ten feet wide – and proceeded to pump CS gas through its accessory tear gas delivery system. At 12:10, after six hours of tear gas injection, smoke and then fire began to appear. Southwest winds of 17 miles per hour encouraged the fire, which grew rapidly after the eruption of a massive fireball. At 12:38 fire trucks and ambulances finally arrived. By the end of the day, nearly eighty civilians, including more than twenty children, had died.[13]

While the FBI has stood by their decision to deploy CS on the day of the fire, some have since scrutinized its use. CS can indeed kill; it is flammable in spite of government claims that it is not; it was banned in the 1993 international Chemical Weapons Convention for use in combat; and it has been implicated in such human rights abuses as 44 killings in the Gaza Strip in 1988. At an investigative hearing, Chemistry professor George Uhlig testified that the high concentration of the gas combined with poor ventilation subjected Davidian children to excruciating conditions “similar to… the gas chambers used by the Nazis in Auschwitz.”[14] Studies have also brought a troubling interpretation on the cause of the fire that ultimately consumed over seventy lives. Infrared evidence shows that the FBI used incendiary devices on April 19, which could have easily sparked the conflagration. The FBI also claimed that some Davidians had died of self-inflicted bullet wounds. But the same infrared evidence also shows that in spite of their claims to the contrary, the FBI shot at Davidians during the fire. They fired machineguns at the only exit and escape left for the sect members after all others fell under the stress of the fire and the tank assault.[15]

A Gallup Poll taken shortly after the fire for CNN and USA Today found that 73% of Americans approved of the FBI’s assault.[16] It is impossible to know definitively why so many approved and a sizable number did not, but it is fair to assume that much of what Americans thought of the incident came from the press. The way that so many Americans could adopt such a distorted view of the event involved press coverage that was, to a large extent, directed and manipulated by government officials for their own ends. Still, many Americans maintained a skeptical outlook on what happened.

Waco is a special, unique case study in the history of the interaction between the press, the government and the people of the United States. Always important to the government during the entire affair, a semi-state-controlled media emerged, which struggled to get the story out while not stepping on the feet of their primary sources of newsworthy information, U.S. government officials. In the case of Waco, the government attempted to and largely succeeded in manipulating the media and using them as a weapon in the execution of the Branch Davidian siege. But even in doing so they could not fully conceal their transparent deceptions – partly due to the press’s remaining aspects of independence, and partly due to the incompetence of authorities in keeping their stories straight. Ultimately, the press reports demonstrated a pro-government bias, but between the lines they revealed massive inconsistencies in government claims.


Well before February 28, 1993, when the national press first showed an interest in Waco, the ATF showed an interest in the national press. The Bureau had publicity problems. The Bureau had a long history, originating during the 1791 Whisky Rebellion, gaining notoriety during 1920s alcohol Prohibition, and eventually coming to regulate firearms and enforce tobacco taxes in the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. Throughout the 1980s, it had a questionable reputation as a rogue agency with inadequate oversight and was targeted for elimination by President Ronald Reagan. Reagan and others who did not like the agency eventually decided that abolishing it might open the door to something worse.[17]

Shortly before the Waco raid, the agency’s public image had hit an especially low point. Back in October of 1992, some African American agents accused the agency of discrimination at a House of Representatives subcommittee meeting – specifically claiming that their superiors assigned them to more dangerous jobs than their white counterparts and denied denied the same opportunities to job promotion as whites received. They filed suit. These allegations of racism were not the end. Female workers from the ATF had also made allegations of sexual harassment, and said they faced retaliatory punishment for voicing their complaints. The ATF announced that it would launch an investigation as a result, two months before the assault at Mount Carmel.[18] A couple of CBS’ 60 Minutes exposés had focused on the harassment charges, including one before the Waco raid and one a month after in which a reporter found, “Almost all the agents we talked to said they believe the initial attack on that cult in Waco was a publicity stunt – the main goal of which was to improve ATF’s tarnished image.”[19] This would explain the codename of the raid, Operation Showtime. [20]

Meanwhile, the local newspaper, The Waco Tribune-Herald, was preparing a seven-part series entitled “the Sinful Messiah” on the Branch Davidians, mostly based on accounts from defected sect members.[21] The series demonized Koresh and the Davidians, and in their investigation for the piece, editors of the Herald came to the conclusion that the sect was beyond eccentric, but rather genuinely dangerous, and worthy of law enforcement and public attention. Bob Lott, editor of the newspaper, said a day after the initial assault that their story “contained a lot of information that the public ought to know. We decided to let the public know about this menace in our backyard.”[22]

The ATF, however, did not want the Herald to print the articles before the siege began, because it might stir up attention and somehow spoil the raid. At the ATF’s request, the Herald delayed publication for about a month, and then decided finally to print it – giving the ATF one day’s notice.[23] The ATF, planning at first to attack on March 1, later said they moved the assault one day back because of the Herald article, and that doing so was no major inconvenience.[24]

When the first piece in the “Sinful Messiah” series came out on the morning of February 27, readers got the first glimpse of an image of the Davidians, and especially David Koresh, that would persist and dominate during the length of the siege and its news coverage:

“[David Koresh] has dimples, claims a ninth-grade education, married his legal wife when she was 14, enjoys a beer now and then, plays a mean guitar, reportedly packs a 9mm Glock and keeps an arsenal of military assault rifles, and willingly admits that he is a sinner without equal.”[25]


The piece went on to make some statements and accusations that also colored public perception of Koresh and his followers, for the rest of the standoff and to this day. It said that authorities “know the cult has weapons and plenty of them” and took defected sect member Marc Breault’s word that Koresh “abused children physically and psychologically” and even hit babies “until their bottoms bled.”[26]

If the ATF did not want an untimely publication of the Waco Tribune-Herald’s piece to interfere with the success of their raid, they sure did not mind the newspaper’s presence. An ATF agent called the newspaper, and though not revealing the agency’s exact plans at least ensured, in editor Bob Lott’s words, that the newspaper got “wind that something was going to happen.” ABC and NBC also said later that the ATF told them to be there for the raid, and so they were.  The assignment editor for ABC’s Dallas affiliate, Gary Nichols, later confided that Sharon Wheeler, a public information officer for the ATF, called and told him, “we have something big going down.” Other press officials from local television stations also arrived at the scene, prompted by the Waco Tribune-Herald edition the morning before, which they said made them think something would happen there soon. [27] Sharon Wheeler later admitted in testimony that she called the media contacts, telling them to be at the scene, but denied that it had anything to do with publicity.[28]

And so the stage was set for Operation Showtime. The ATF planned to raid the Branch Davidian home to search for weapons and arrest Koresh. The ATF could have easily accomplished these two goals without military arsenal or intense publicity. Instead they chose to carry out a lavish operation while press officials from ABC, NBC, and the Waco Tribune-Herald  would be there to watch, just in case ATF pulled the raid off in a successful performance of such skill, heroism, and bravery as to redeem their public image. They targeted  a “cult,” who also had a pubic image, conveniently tarnished in the local daily newspaper the morning before.


Once the raid transformed from an orchestrated publicity stunt into a catastrophe, the ATF became hostile toward the press. Authorities asked some reporters to move away or outright leave the scene. According to Jim Long, program director of television studio KGBS, reporters from his station followed these orders without hesitation: “All they had to do was tell us to leave. What did we do? We left. How could we hinder the process?”[29] Eleven reporters later gave similar accounts of ATF hostility once the raid went awry.[30] Sometimes, officials even used violence. ATF agents physically and verbally assaulted KWTX-TV cameraman Dan Mulloney while he was trying to leave the scene, nearly knocking him to the ground.[31]

Not only did ATF agents begin to vent their anger at the press, some of them even pinned blame on the media for the failure of the raid. At first, ambiguous suspicion arose that the Waco Tribune-Herald ultimately caused the ATF’s failure. A relative of an injured agent went so far as to say, “It’s not responsible journalism. It’s murder. [Herald editor Bob Lott] pulled the trigger just as sure as those people in the compound did.” Officially, the agency had a more ambivalent opinion: ATF spokeswoman Sharon Wheeler – who had told the reporters to be at the scene in the first place – declared that the bureau had no official qualms with the reporting.[32] In spite of this “official” position, the ATF were unhappy with the press enough by March 2, two days after the raid, to order the press to move several miles away from the scene.[33] For the duration of the siege up until its deadly end, reporters would not get closer than 6,000 feet to the subject of their reporting.[34]

Reporters also quickly lost the direct contact with Davidians inside that they had for the first few days of the standoff. On the day of the initial assault, David Koresh conducted an interview with CNN that lasted twenty minutes. That same day, he also spoke with A Current Affair, a television tabloid.[35] On the second day of the standoff, Koresh spoke on the radio and presented his angle on the situation, complete with religious fervor.[36] Officials said they allowed Koresh these privileges of media access in exchange for his promise that he would come out on March 2. When Koresh reneged on this deal, saying that God told him to wait longer, the government officials lost patience and cut him off from the press.[37] This isolation from the media lasted the rest of the siege. The government now had the upper hand in media coverage. The Davidians on the other hand could not get their story out to the world, to explain their perspective to the court of public opinion, for the remainder of the seven-week standoff. Frustrated, the Branch Davidians gave the world a message on March 9 by hanging a banner outside a window, visible to reporters and photographers who by this point began using super high quality lenses to see the standoff from far away. The banner read, “God Help Us. We Want the Press.”[38] The media could probably assume the general meaning from the message, but as implied in the message itself, journalists could not understand the intricacies of the message’s expressed desire.

The FBI found amusing neither the Davidians’ obsession with the media, nor the media’s obsession with the Davidians.  FBI official Bob Ricks said on March 10 that attempts of the media to contact the Davidians inside diverted the negotiation process “from trying to gain release of all those inside to Mr. Koresh’s attempts to gain access to the media.” He called this “counterproductive,” and explained that the FBI “found that [Koresh] loves the attention. If he sees he can get the attention of the media, the longer he will hold out.”[39]

As the standoff continued and became more embarrassing, the FBI continued to keep the press at a distance from the scene, even when new developments emerged. When several Davidians left the building under siege, the New York Times had to admit its inability to describe the events well: “It was difficult for reporters to determine what was happening inside the compound, because the Federal authorities cut off outside lines and prevented the four adults who had come out from being interviewed.” The Davidians hung a third banner on March 14, which read, “F.B.I. broke negotiations. We want press.” The New York Times again admitted its limited comprehension: “It was unclear what prompted the message.”[40] Perhaps it was unclear to the Times because as a member of the press, they were not getting the whole story – just as the banner implied. And perhaps they were not allowed the whole story because the F.B.I. broke negotiations.

Through the middle of March the FBI maintained that they wanted to limit coverage of the event because Koresh wanted publicity – presumably an ignoble goal for religious extremists, if not the ATF. [41]  FBI agent Bob Ricks explained simply that they would deny Koresh access to the press “until [they] are sure he has come out.”[42] In the following few days, Koresh reportedly read news accounts that he considered unfair, and wanted desperately to have a chance to give his perspective. Ricks held his ground, reiterating that “if [Koresh] wants it told his way, he’ll have to come out.”[43] What the government initially planned as a mechanism for winning over the hearts and minds of America’s television enthusiasts had by now become a tool for luring Koresh out, which would, incidentally, serve the initial purpose as well.

 Not only did the FBI want the press kept away from the Davidians, they also wanted to silence whistleblowers who might give accounts of the raid inconsistent with the government’s official story. Some ATF agents began to tell the press anonymously that the agency had inappropriately given certain media representatives information about the raid before it began. Such allegations would make it hard for other agents to blame the press for ruining the assault, if the government asked the press to be there in the first place. ATF and FBI leaders also did not want their employees criticizing each other’s agencies. On March 12, FBI Directior William Sessions and ATF Director Stephen Higgins delivered a joint statement voicing their unease with “unnamed agents speaking to the media about aspects of both operations and critical of the other agency.”[44] On March 15, concern about whistleblowers came from up top, when Washington D.C. sent a memo to agents warning them that those who talked to the public about what happened would risk being fired, punished, or even prosecuted. Because of this, all accounts from agents to the press critical of the way the government handled the raid – and such accounts did exist – were anonymous.[45] This might have made their words less credible to some than those of the named government approved operatives mouthing official stories.

As government-media relations became increasingly important to authorities, the Waco Tribune-Herald controversy also persisted. ATF agent John Risenhoover, wounded in the initial attack, began accusing the Herald of responsibility for the raid’s failure, implicating the newspaper in tipping off the sect before the assault. On March 17, he and others officially filed suit, blaming the Herald for leaking information to the Davidians because they “wanted a conflict that would make a good news story.” Editor Bob Lott responded to the allegations by saying, “The injuries to Agent Risenhoover and the deaths and injuries to others are regrettable. But they were not caused by this paper.” The ATF itself was not officially behind the suit; Risenhoover’s superior said, “We’re unhappy with the timing of the suit, obviously, because there is an ongoing criminal investigation…. We asked them not to file the suit, but we could not order them [not] to.” [46] Risenhoover also complained that the Herald promised not to publish the piece, but did so anyway. The Herald and the ATF said no such promise had been made.[47] Other agents may have also blamed the newspaper, but perhaps vented their anger in other ways. FBI agents in a tank flattened a truck belonging to the newspaper, but claimed they did so accidentally. Bob Ricks explained: “We are not professional tank drivers. We are FBI agents who are driving those vehicles.”[48]

As the standoff ensued, the press continued to get most of their information from the government. The FBI conducted daily press conferences, in effect holding a monopoly on sources of information for the media and the public. These conferences were at least as much used as a weapon against David Koresh as they were used to portray the FBI in a manner favorable to the agency. Hodding Carter, a State Department official who had acted as the government’s voice during the Iran hostage crisis, told reporters, “Almost everything [said at the press conferences have] more to do with that one-person public [Koresh] than with the larger public.”[49]

On March 28, the New York Times published a powerful article, outlining many aspects of government incompetence and negligence and inconsistencies in government claims. Many of the sources were anonymous agents who spoke under anonymity out of fear of being harassed by the government.[50] In spite of the fact that the government had kept the press away from the Davidians, and had threatened their own agents to keep them away from the press, some disturbing facts came out.

In the daily press conferences that followed, reporters mainly asked questions about issues brought up in the March 28 article, or arising from a general skepticism that began to grow toward the end of the standoff. Specifically, the questions pertained to whether the ATF had initiated a raid even though they knew that Koresh was aware it would happen – a concern brought up in the March 28 Times piece. Around the same time that authorities became heavily and detectably annoyed with the standoff, they also revealed a loss of patience with the press, who became increasingly skeptical of the government. On Saturday, April 11, ten nine days before the fire, ATF intelligence chief and press conference regular David Troy stopped holding the meetings with reporters altogether.[51] Not until the April 19 fire would the agency again show interest in talking with the press.


The government had a profound and transparent interest in manipulating the media during the course of the siege. The ATF saw the initial raid as a publicity stunt opportunity. The government moved the press away from the siege as soon as it went sour. At times officials outright harassed and assaulted reporters. The FBI kept the press away from the Davidians, and tried keeping whistleblowers away from the press. The FBI maintained a monopoly on the press’ sources of information, using press conferences as a tactical weapon against Koresh. And when the press became more critical of the government, the ATF stopped its press conferences. While the end of this story shows a media increasingly skeptical of the government, it is worth noting that it was the failure of government agents to maintain uniformity among their stores that exposed the inconsistencies in their claims.


Considering this relationship between the government and the media, the ways in which the press actually covered the fifty-one day standoff, as it unfolded, has great significance. It exposes the limitations in the media when under such government manipulation, as well as the limits of the government in manipulating the media. Receiving most of their information directly from government agents, the press tended to be generally favorable toward the government. They could not be too critical or inquisitive or they might lose some of their major sources for information on the event – which happened eventually in early April with the termination of ATF press conferences. Looking at the coverage of those fifty-one days, one can see how even though the government greatly controlled what information the media could gather, the media ultimately had power over how to convey the information to the people. Since the press still retained some independence from the government, since various actors in the media had independence from each other, and since authorities were unable to keep their stories straight, government folly still ultimately came through in the reporting – if not displayed loudly in the headlines, at least present in the text.

The initial coverage of the raid painted the ATF in a fairly favorable way – insofar as a botched raid that left several dead can be seen is such a light. Most newspapers used the word “cult” in early reporting of the standoff, which had a tendency to dehumanize the Davidians.[52] At the top of the front-page of the March 1 edition of The Washington Post it said, “4 Agents Killed, 16 Hurt in Raid on Cult.”[53] The Los Angeles Times headline read, “4 Federal Agents Killed in Shootout with Cult in Texas.”[54] The Oakland Tribune informed its readers that “4 Agents Die in Cult Fight”; The Orange County Register, while pointing out the failure of the assault, still said, “Raid on Cult goes awry; 6 die.”[55] The San Francisco Chronicle, in reprinting the first Waco Tribune-Herald article of the “Sinful Messiah” series, added its own title, updated to include the sect’s propensity toward violence: “Violent Cult Had Faith in Twisted Leader.”[56] Other similarities ran through these papers. At least three of them poetically described the conversation Koresh had with CNN on the phone on the day of the siege as a “rambling interview.”[57]

The Dallas Morning News and the New York Times typified this type of coverage. But while succumbing to the general bias among most newspapers, each gave a slightly different slant on reporting events. The Dallas Morning News had more extensive coverage, probably because of the local nature of the standoff. The New York Times, aside from being more succinct in its coverage, tended to be more critical in reporting events and in relaying the government’s side of the story. Looking only at these two papers carefully, one can find both the typical pro-government bias as well as many inconsistencies in what government agents said.

Much like the other newspapers, they made sure their readers understood that the raid was a “cult.” Dallas Morning News’ March 1 headline read, “4 Agents Die in Raid on Cult” and the New York Times said, “4 U.S. Agents Killed in Shootout on Cult.”[58] Some differences come through between the two papers in their reporting. It takes some searching in the Dallas Morning News to discover if any Davidians die, whereas the New York Times says in the first sentence of its article that the battle left “at least four Federal agents and two cult members” dead.[59] The Dallas paper further quotes ATF official Jack Killorin, who demonizes the Davidians through guilt of association by saying, “the past decade of so has been spotted by gunbattles between federal officers and religious cults or right wing, Nazi groups.”[60]  In describing the ATF, on the other hand, Dallas Morning News has nothing but praise. It educates its readers with brief biographies of the killed ATF agents, with such introductions to the slain operatives as:  “Todd McKeehan started playing cops and robbers at age 2. He always played the good guy.”[61]

A Texan reader would also learn from his daily newspaper that David Koresh changed his name from Vernon Howell to improve his chances of success as a rock musician. The authorities, however, don’t respect this legal name change, and “still refer to him as Vernon Howell.”[62] What’s more, this bizarre “cult” leader has a cache of illegal weapons, according to authorities. As ATF agent Jack Killorin explained, the agency “knew it was an armed and dangerous encampment” they were raiding; they were “looking at an unusual group that was stockpiling weapons and had shown their willingness to use them.”[63]

There were, however, some ways in which early reporting exposed problems with the ATF’s raid. The New York Times quoted ATF spokesman Ted Royster discussing the possibility that the Davidians knew about the raid in advance: “I cannot tell you what went wrong. It appeared as though [the Davidians] knew from the start” about the raid.[64] The Dallas Morning News had a whole article on March 2 that pondered whether the raid was botched from the beginning.[65]

The ATF and FBI desperately wanted in the weeks that followed a public perception of the Davidians as a fringe, dangerous and violent cult who had a stockpile of illegal weapons, and who engaged in child abuse and other illegal activities. The agencies wanted themselves, on the other hand, to come off as acting completely lawfully, appropriately, competently, and patiently, all in response to the murder of four heroic agents during a lawful raid – a raid planned correctly, but which had gone wrong due to factors outside of the ATF’s control. As demonstrated before, the government used questionable tactics to maintain a grip on the media in order to convey their preferred message. In the end, the government’s incompetence in keeping its stories straight, as well as other facts that emerged, resulted in an eventual weakening of the media’s general bias toward the government. From between the lines in the press reports came reasons to become increasingly skeptical of the danger and illegal activities of the Davidians, as well as the lawfulness, appropriateness, competence, and patience of the government officials at the scene.

The fact that the Davidians were a dangerous “cult” was key. The media never stopped calling them a “cult,” and the coverage for the most part characterized them as a particularly odd one. Throughout much of the more extensive coverage of the “cult” angle, the press would bring in so-called experts on the subject. For example, papers would often consult the Cult Awareness Network, a group with an obvious bias against so-called “cults.” Reporters would lead into their citations of these sources with such loaded questions as, “What kind of women join cults that force them to submit to a life of backbreaking work, loneliness and deprivation?”[66] At one point the Dallas Morning News even implied that a central government agency to track cults would make them more manageable.[67]

To accentuate the Davidians’ cult status, reporters wrote stories that distinguished the sect from more “legitimate” religious groups. The Branch Davidians were a breakaway from the Seventh-day Adventists, and the papers would give the mainstream Adventists a platform to distance themselves from the Davidians. One Dallas Morning News article on the day after the raid quotes Elder Cyril Miller, president of the Southwestern Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as saying of the deaths on February 28 that it was “a deplorable thing that something like this would take place in the name of Christianity.”[68] In another article the 500 member General Association of Seventh –day Adventists assures the public that they “do not advocate the use of guns, violence, free sex, or anything of that nature.”[69] The paper eventually reveals that not only do Koresh’s followers not get along with mainstream Adventists; they have been disavowed by other Davidians, who by comparison, the Dallas Morning News portrays rather favorably.[70] However, as time went on, the press’ independent investigation on the issue of cults brought a different perspective to attention. In one article in late March, Stanford University Psychologist Philip Zimbardo, described as an expert by the Dallas Morning News, says that in defining a cult “there are no clear-cut edges… All religions want to control your mind.”[71]

The idea that the Davidians were odd was not enough for the purposes of fully demonizing them. It also had to be shown that Koresh was a maniac. Many people may have bought this image from reading accounts of a 1987 shootout between two factions of the Davidians. However, the way the press actually described this incident hinted that the shootout might not be reason to condemn Koresh completely and immediately. For one thing, the jury acquitted Koresh in a trial arising from the shootout, and some of the more sympathetic jurors even hugged him.[72] For another thing, Koresh’s chief rival in the battle, George Roden, was later put into a mental hospital after being found guilty in a murder case for reasons of insanity, blaming his placement in the hospital on the fact that Koresh had “convert[ed] the leadership [of the Branch Davidians] to Nazism.”[73] Though this last account comes in an article clearly unfavorable toward Koresh, a responsible reader would probably be skeptical of both Roden’s characterization of Koresh, as well as how compelling the raid was in determining that Koresh was a dangerous lunatic.

A more prevalent way Koresh was portrayed as unstable was through the attempts of authorities in their interviews with reporters to describe Koresh as holding all his followers as hostages. Early in the raid, government officials started off with this portrayal, but would characterize the situation in such vague ways as calling his followers “hostages to circumstance.” They accused Koresh of releasing Davidians only for his own purposes, and “using the children as poker chips.”[74] A few days later, though, FBI official Bob Ricks said he talked to thirty-three sect members on the phone who said they could freely leave but did not want to.[75] By March 16, twenty-one children and four adults had left the Davidian home.[76] In spite of this, about a week later an agent complained, “We’re still not seeing any of his children come out of there. For the most part we’re just seeing old people, old ladies.”[77] In attacking Koresh for not letting more children out, Bob Ricks said, “We believe he either does not care about those children or he is using them as a shield, which is cowardly.”[78]

Although government officials never gave a consistent story as to whether it was a hostage situation or not, they did reveal to the press reasons why Davidians might not want to come out. For one thing, Davidians who left the building immediately became material witnesses whom the government would detain, sometimes without even charging them.[79] The FBI reportedly gave the Davidians even more compelling reasons not to come out, such as throwing flash-bang grenades at the building when people exited it, and then telling the media that they threw these explosives for the express purpose of keeping people inside.[80] The media reports, directly quoting government agents, revealed a naked hypocrisy surrounding the government’s characterization of the event as a hostage situation or not.

Sometimes, the press outright quoted people who said the Davidians were not as crazy as they were thought to be. Wacos’ Baylor University professor of religion Dr. Bill Pitts said to journalists, “For more than 50 years the Davidians were considered ‘different,’ but never posed a threat to anyone.”[81] A neighbor of the Davidians, Richard Cornelius, said, “They never really bothered anybody….  Nobody even knew they were around.”[82]

And sometimes the media even managed to talk with Davidians themselves, despite the government’s best efforts. When Davidians Gladys Ottman and Rita Faye Riddle finally left the building, the press got a few words from them. Ottman resented the popular characterization of her church: “We just like to have our Bibles…. We’re not our cult. We read the Bible. That’s not a cult.” Riddle said that the press was “asking the wrong questions…. You need to be asking the FBI and ATF some questions.”[83] The pinnacle of this type of access to Davidians came when the New York Times gave some space to the words of Paul Fatta, who had missed the raid entirely because he was selling guns at a flea market when it happened. He had not turned himself in and had conducted interviews with reporters over the phone. Fatta had said of Koresh, in attempts to counteract common perception of him: “He loves his kids. He wants, like any father, to see them grow up and be happy.” In discussing the “God Help Us, We Want the Press” banner, he said he thought that press access to the Davidians was “the first step to getting this thing resolved.”[84]


The press coverage of the Davidians as a fringe cult varied somewhat, but overall painted a picture consistent with what the government wanted. But beyond crazy, unusual or religiously fanatic, the cult had to be seen as dangerous. To do this – as well as to legally justify their initial raid – government officials alleged time and again that the Davidians had a hazardous and illegal weapons cache. People probably found this easy to believe; the ATF did in fact have a shootout with the sect for forty-five minutes. But the specifics of the weapons that the Davidians had, in their shifting descriptions as coming from government officials through the media to the public, were never clear.

At first, press reports of the Davidians’ arsenal – as told to the reporters by government officials – came as rather vague. They only said that the “cult” had illegal weapons, and lots of them, limited only by the money the Davidians had. ATF Spokeswoman Sharon Wheeler said early on, “We can’t say absolutely what’s in there…. Obviously, they had bigger guns than we did.[85] (ATF intelligence chief David Troy later insisted that the ATF was not outgunned, and that they had gotten all the weapons they had requested for the raid.) [86] One official predicted in the first week of the raid that “people are going to be stunned at the pile of stuff we finally take out of there.”[87] ATF Director Stephen Higgins assured the public that one agent who said he saw the arsenal inside the building during the raid had “never seen more arms in a room than he saw in that room that day.”[88] There were some early specific accusations of firearms the Davidians allegedly had, but the ATF were inconsistent in these allegations. Early in the stand-off the ATF claimed in one instance that the Davidians had used an illegal tripod-mounted .50 Caliber machine gun in the February 28 gun fight.[89] ATF associate director Daniel Harnett contradicted this several days later when he said, “We’re not able to say that anyone was shooting at us with a .50 caliber weapon.”[90]

As the standoff commenced, so did the ATF’s attempts at demonstrating unlawful firearms conduct on the part of the Davidians. From the beginning of the raid, major evidence existed that the Davidians had an enthusiasm for weapons – which were bought legally.[91] Authorities investigated the connections they could, but yielded no convincing evidence that the Davidians broke any firearms laws. When they raided a nearby garage the Davidians had rented and found only six shotgun shells an agent said they  “were not surprised that there was not much.” Though their expectations may have been modest, their investigative tactics were not. Garage owner Gary Welsh, who rented the garage to the Davidians, complained: “Now the feds have torn the building to pieces…. I don’t understand why they had to do that. I offered yesterday to give them a key.”[92] Further attempts to find proof of illegal weapons came up only with evidence of legal firearms purchases.

News reports may have still made readers imagine huge weapons caches by their accounts of the dollar values of firearms purchases. Authorities estimated at one point that Davidians had bought $100,000 in assault rifles and other weapons (some of which would have been illegal purchases, but again, no evidence existed).[93] By the time the standoff ended, authorities gave the press estimates that the total value of the Davidian arsenal was $280,000.[94] These large dollar amounts may have seemed intimidating to a member of the public who did not consider a few facts, as reported in their daily papers. First of all, even the larger estimate of $280,000, divided among over 100 Branch Davidians, yields a per-capita value in guns owned comparable to those of many other Americans, and especially Texans.[95] Secondly, even if the Davidians engaged in “stock-piling weapons,” many would consider such an activity appropriate for gun dealers, which some of the Branch Davidians in fact were.[96]

Moreover, the locals, including the regional criminal justice system, had little problem with the Davidians’ weapons possession. After a jury acquitted Koresh in the trial arising from the 1987 shootout with rival George Roden, the authorities returned to the Davidians all the weapons used in the melee. McLennan County Deputy Sheriff Dan Weyenberg explained it was simply because “they had a constitutional right to own guns.”[97] If the locals did not seem to be scared of the Davidians with weapons – even after they used the weapons in a shootout among themselves – skeptical readers of the news might have begun to wonder why the federal ATF was so obsessed with the issue.

Some in the public must have realized that the official story had holes in it. When authorities still could not find evidence of illegal arms purchases, and perhaps when they realized the sheer size of the weapons cache was not impressive enough, they changed their story. On CBS’ 48 Hours, ATF Director Stephen Higgins claimed that the problem was not that the Davidians had too many guns – or that they bought them illegally – but that the sect members had bought legal guns and illegally converted them to automatics.[98] The evidence behind this assertion was flimsy. An investigation revealed that the Davidians owned a lathe – which was supposedly used in the weapons conversion process – but very little other proof came out of any significance.[99]

Much talk of the Davidians’ weapon cache penetrated discussion of the standoff in progress, and such talk persists to this day. The alleged weapons violations were the primary reported reason for the ATF going there in the first place. The supposedly gargantuan Davidian arsenal – and by corollary the dangerousness of the sect – presumably justified the government’s strong-arm tactics throughout the standoff. Koresh and his followers’ alleged obsession with weapons, some illegal, distracted many from the absolute terror of the fire that ended the raid. To this day thoughts of unlawful firearms in the hands of Koresh keep many from second guessing the actions of federal officials at Mount Carmel in 1993. But the media reports taken as a whole showed claims that the Davidians broke gun laws as inconsistent, self-conflicted, ever-changing and based on no solid evidence. Government officials perhaps knew this, which might explain why they spent so much time asserting that the Davidians broke other laws as well.

The most commonly invoked type of crime, other than firearms-related ones, was that David Koresh sexually and in other ways abused children. Authorities presented no evidence to support these allegations either, but the press, as on other matters, went along and conveyed to the public what government officials said. Early reports included vague mentions of child abuse, making assertions such as, “Published reports say that cult life included child abuse,” but not expounding much on the allegations.[100] Quickly, though, the press began to report in a way that implicitly weakened the credibility of these accusations – even if not due to the intentions of the journalists. On March 8, New York Times reported:

“Despite accusations that Mr. Koresh sexually abused girls, there is considerable evidence that the [released] children were, in at least some important respects, well cared for. None show any signs of physical abuse, and most seem consumed with a wish to see their parent.”[101]


As far as the children not released, a March 30 article reported that authorities had seen a videotape of sixteen of the seventeen children assumed to reside in the Davidian building, and that they all appeared in good condition.[102]

A number of other legal offenses supposedly committed by the Davidians also got some attention, whose mention may have served to demonize them, but whose relevance authorities and the press quickly abandoned. Most of these offenses would logically involve multiple members of the Davidian sect – odd, considering that ATF Associate Director Dan Harnett had claimed that they planned originally only to take Koresh into custody.[103] In the first week of the standoff, the Dallas Morning News discussed the possibility that the Davidians were guilty of property tax evasion.[104] Soon after, authorities began barking up the tree of money laundering as an explanation as to how one hundred adults could possibly afford so many weapons.[105] They apparently did not consider the fact that most Davidians had jobs.

Once in a while, reports had vague talk of drugs.[106] Indeed, the ATF had used the possibility of drug activity in the Davidian home to justify the initial raid – as well as use of military vehicles – to local authorities. Texas Governor Ann Richard’s press secretary explained in late March, “We had been informed several days previously that federal agents had obtained a search warrant involving, as I recall, drugs and possible firearms.” ATF spokesman gave no comment, but ATF officials denied that drugs were an original concern. [107] A couple days later, the ATF admitted that they had indeed believed that the Davidian home had contained a methamphetamine lab.[108] The same day other federal officials maintained that they never suspected the Davidians of breaking drug laws.[109]


While the press reports failed to show a strong legal case against the Davidians to justify the February 28 raid, it presented many reasons to be skeptical as to whether the government officials involved in the siege respected the law themselves. From early on, the government detained Davidians released from the building under siege, jailing them as witnesses.[110] After they detained Kathryn Shroeder, she had bail set for her, only to have the bail ruling appealed by authorities. She remained detained, still not charged with a crime.[111] FBI official Bob Ricks rationalized this detainment policy by saying that since “[gun]fire was indiscriminately coming out of the compound” on March 28, all surrendered Davidians must be detained because they were all assumed to be guilty.[112] Speaking of this maneuver – arguably questionable both legally and pragmatically for a “hostage” situation – Davidian Oliver Gyarfas’ lawyer, Brian Polland, said he suspected that “if people think they’re going to be detained when they get out, they’re not going to want to come out.”[113] Many detained Davidians were eventually charged with conspiracy to murder federal officers.[114] And when authorities finally charged some of them with crimes, they often did so based on weak reasoning. In the case of Shroeder, the affidavit cited her commando-style clothes as evidence that she was guilty.[115]

The press reported the government doing other legally precarious things. From the beginning, officials kept government files on the Davidians secret.[116] Davidians inside the building were not allowed access to lawyers unless they came out, but when they came out they were simply detained on no charges. Legal charges filed against surrendered Davidians were also kept secret; U.S. attorneys would not even say when hearings were scheduled.[117]

In the last days of March, the FBI finally let attorneys enter the Davidian home.[118] Up to that point, the FBI had filled the role of explaining to the Davidians their legal rights. Davidian Steve Shneider’s attorney, Jack Zimmerman, saw the possible problems with this, declaring that the Davidians “had people they viewed as adversaries explaining their legal rights to them…. I think it’s a natural human reaction that they may not trust that.”[119] In the next couple weeks, the attorneys raised many concerns, reported for the world to read about. The attorneys in a sense became the Davidians’ voice box. Much of what they said were grievances about the government’s legal wrangling. In early April, Zimmerman and Koresh’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin complained that the FBI were destroying evidence at the scene with bulldozers.[120] Around the same time, Zimmerman tried to attain some footage of the raid that the ATF had captured on film. The ATF said they gave the tape to Texan authorities, who in turn told him to ask the U.S. attorney for it, who declined to comment on the matter. Zimmerman became concerned the ATF would alter the evidence.[121] He filed a motion to have the tape released to him. The decision on his motion was quickly sealed by the U.S. magistrate.[122]

If the government’s questionable conduct in legalistic matters came across as bothersome in the reporting, the military-like attitude and tactics of the government in their execution of the standoff was even more glaringly disturbing. From the beginning of the stand-off, the government’s given justifications for and characterizations of their own militaristic conduct ranged from impossible to believe to frightening if taken at face value. Though primarily an ATF and FBI operation, officials were deployed early in the siege from the National Guard, Texas Department of Public Safety, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the local sheriff and police departments.[123]

 Some of the authorities had tanks. Lloyd Bentsen, the Secretary of the Treasury – which oversees ATF – advised his agents, as he recalled to the press, to “be sure those Bradley vehicles are not in a position where it looks like we’re making an assault. Be in a defensive mode.”[124] To serve the duel purposes of justifying heavier artillery as well as further characterizing Koresh as overwhelmingly armed and dangerous, federal officials said that Koresh claimed he could blow the tanks “forty or fifty feet into the air.” To preemptively counteract this supposed threat, the government brought M-1A1 Abrams tanks onto the scene, replacing the Bradley fighting vehicles. [125] The Abrams is the army’s heaviest tank, which the FBI said was necessary because of Koresh’s arsenal and his desire to wage an all-out war. Paul Fatta, a Davidian in contact with the New York Times, said the very idea that the Davidians had weapons that could disrupt the Bradley vehicles was ridiculous.[126] Although authorities attempted to characterize Koresh as violent and warlike, it was they who came across that way in their deployment of heavy artillery and in their chest-beating comments, such as agent Bob Ricks’ promise that the FBI would “take whatever action is necessary to neutralize [the Davidians].”[127]

The FBI engaged in other devious tactics against the Davidian church. They did not allow medical personnel into the building – all while some officials still insisted it was a hostage situation, and as they expressly said people inside might die without proper medical care.[128] And then the FBI began to practice all-out psychological warfare. They shut off the Davidians’ electricity and they shined powerful bright lights at the building.[129] FBI Special Agent Richard Swenson reportedly explained the bright lights the same way the tanks were earlier described, as “purely defensive.”[130] Soon after, agents began blaring ridiculously loud recordings of music at 3 AM such as “Hail to the Chief,” “Reveille,” “Jingle Bells” and the Andy Williams version of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”;[131] as well as Tibeten Monks chanting. Though their readers might find such tactics distasteful, the Dallas Morning News instead mysteriously focused on the appropriateness of playing the recording of Monks:

“The use of recordings of chants made by the Dalai Lama offers yet another bizarre twist in the negotiations… [He] is a pacifist who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent crusade against aggression… In a speech he said ‘If there are no weapons… I think humans’ aggressive nature would be less dangerous.’”[132]


The government, as reported in the media, treated the Branch Davidian stand-off as a military operation, complete with heavy artillery, psychological warfare, and the truth-twisting often associated with wartime. Beyond warlike, the government at times came off in the reporting as incompetent. In spite of the government’s massive weaponry, scores of agents, and other obvious advantages, they could not even keep random people from sneaking into the Davidian home to visit Koresh and his followers.[133]

Also indicative of incompetence, government agents could not keep straight who was in charge of the investigation. The FBI did not even know about the ATF’s initial plans to execute the raid.[134] Once the standoff began, the agencies appeared confused as to which agency had jurisdiction. On March 2, ATF spokesman Les Stanford said, “ATF remains in control.” A Treasury Department spokesman meanwhile said, “The FBI has the lead role,” because it was a “hostage situation.” FBI spokesman Bill Carter explained, “it’s a joint effort. There is very close coordination.” [135] If there was “close coordination,” it didn’t last long. Just as the FBI did not know of the ATF’s initial plans, the ATF was puzzled at the FBI’s introduction of bright lights to the scene.[136] At a press conference on March 6, officials refused to answer questions as to who planned the original raid.[137] It would be neither the first nor last time that the press would seriously question the nature of the planning of the February 28 assault that began this whole ordeal, and eventually such nagging would bring frustrated officials to ending their cherished press conferences altogether – at least until the fire in which scores of American civilians burned to death.


Criticism of the raid’s planning graced the pages of newspapers from the very beginning, eventually snowballed in late March and early April, and ultimately severed the tight, daily relations between the media and the government. People knew that something went terribly, inexcusably wrong even in early reporting, which otherwise treated the government quite favorably. A March 2 New York Times article quoted an ATF special agent as saying, “It appeared as though [the Davidians] were waiting there for us.” It also cited some anonymous officials who suspected the ATF violated procedures, and told reporters of the raid. At a time when the press was being implicated as at fault for the raid’s failure, such a causation of the press’ knowledge of events resting in the hands of the government did not look good. Even the White House began to question whether a feud between law enforcers was the cause of the mishap.[138]

The main theory was that the raid was botched because ATF lost the element of surprise: Koresh knew it would happen, and acted accordingly. On March 4,  the New York Times quoted ATF’s deputy director on law enforcement Daniel Harnett as saying, “There is no doubt they were expecting our arrival.”[139] ATF director Stephen Higgins defended the raid’s planning on CBS’ Face the Nation on March 7: “Our agents walked into an ambush…. We would not have sent our agents into a situation where we didn’t think we had that element of surprise.”[140] All the while, some agents held on to the hypothesis that the Waco Tribune Herald had tipped off Koresh, while others said the newspaper did not – though they did not say how they knew.[141] Eventually, some began to attribute the loss of the element of surprise to the ATF’s own ineptitude. The ATF had conducted practice-drills on a replica of the Davidian home at nearby staging areas. The activities there had been described on police scanners, which some suspected the Davidians perhaps picked up on receivers.[142]

In spite of mounting criticism, top ATF officials continued to defend the integrity of the initial plans. David Troy said on March 26, “we feel confident that there were no mistakes made on our part.” All the talk of the raid began to expose the details of how militaristic the plan actually was. Agents had gone onto the Branch Davidian property in two cattle trailers. In seven seconds they were to breach the front door and within thirteen seconds be fully deployed and off the trailers. Ladders would be mounted within twenty seconds to the roof and they would enter the armory within forty five seconds. [143]

A lot of inconsistency also circulated around the fact that the ATF moved the date of the raid back one day. Back in early March, the first explanation was because of the publication of the Waco Tribune-Herald article, which might interfere with the raid’s effectiveness.[144] Around the same time, undercover agents reported that they wanted to move it back to Sunday because on Sundays the men were isolated from the women, children, and weapons as part of the Davidian prayer schedule.[145] FBI official Swenson later vaguely explained that the date was moved for “tactical and other reasons.”[146]

And then, on March 28, the New York Times published the most critical article to date. In it, interviewed agents had claimed that their supervisors knew they had lost the element of surprise, but had gone along regardless. Interviewed agents complained about the quality of their communications methods and equipment. They said that no contingency plans existed if the Davidians fired upon them heavily or injured their squad leaders, and no medical assistance was ready for injured ATF agents. The article also raised questions as to why Koresh had not simply been arrested while he was out jogging or at bars in the weeks before the raid, during which the ATF heavily monitored him and could have easily brought him into custody. It exposed government hostilities toward and attempts to capitalize off the press, inconstancies in the government’s official story on certain matters, and was otherwise fairly critical.[147] The same day the Dallas Morning News published an article that cited an anonymous agent who thought some of the ATF agents had possibly killed or wounded each other in friendly fire.[148]

In the days that followed, inspired by this new critical tendency in news reports, more attacks came from the press. ATF director Stephen Higgins defended the raid against these attacks, but conceded a little: “We did it in what we thought was the safest way, and we had a tragedy.”[149] New questions arose, such as whether ATF agents had been captured by the Davidians during the raid but let go.[150] Sickened by the barrage of critical questions, ATF intelligence chief David Troy stopped participating in press conferences on April 11.[151]


Just as the federal officials began to lose patience with the media, they also lost patience of the standoff itself. On March 3, FBI agent Jeffrey Jamar explained that since “the goal is to resolve this situation… without further bloodshed,” it would simply do “no good to set deadlines.”[152] The next day he was already calling the negotiations a “very tedious process.”[153] ATF director Stephen Higgins declared his patience on March 9, saying that “we’re prepared to stay here a long time. Indefinitely.”[154] Midway through March FBI agent Bob Ricks said such conflicting things as, “We are not losing patience…. We are willing to go for the long haul,” and, “This needs to be ended, and ended quickly.”[155]

In conveying their optimism and pessimism about the negotiations process, authorities seemed particularly conflicted on whether to engage in religious discussions with Koresh. FBI Agent Swenson became very frustrated with the “long, long periods” of “hours and hours” of religious talk that he saw as “not leading to anything.” In saying, “we’re not here to be converted” but rather “to get this thing resolved peacefully” he revealed his belief that discussing theology was futile for – indeed, mutually exclusive to – succeeding in negotiations.[156] A few days later, though, Swenson not only seemed to accept that considering Koresh’s religion was a good idea; he was optimistic of a prompt resolution based on his sudden theological expertise: “We notice that we’ve got a new moon coming up on the 23rd. The vernal equinox is today, which has some significance within the religion.”[157] Bob Ricks seemed more invariably pessimistic. Though he claimed it was possible to end the standoff peacefully, he fatalistically said in late March that to incite Koresh’s surrender they would have “to prove that David’s not Christ – which is an impossible task.”[158]

By late March, FBI agent Ricks came across as rather tired of the whole situation. He asserted on March 22 that the authorities “are not going to be jerked around.”[159] By early April, he was discussing “other measures [they could] take.” “There are other weapons in our arsenal,” he ambiguously promised.[160] A few days later On April 12 he said it must be understood that “negotiations are over” so there could not be “any guarantee as to how this could be done without more people hurt.”[161] The next day Bob Ricks talked about “turn[ing] up the heat,” and admitted that “the FBI’s patience is not inexhaustible.”[162] The day after, some officials were still considering waiting it out, whereas one authority said, “the only thing that’s on the table” was tear gas, or other chemicals weapons.[163] It was clear that the authorities were running out of patience. And it seems at least odd that their patience with Koresh deteriorated in parallel with the decline of their pleasantries with the press. No one can definitively prove that the final assault came about because they simply got bored. But it is documented that newly appointed Attorney General Janet Reno approved of the tear gas assault in part because the agents were tired and there was no back up team for them. She said as much on CNN’s Larry King Live the night of April 19, the day that 76 people she swore to serve and protect were gassed, burned, crushed and shot to death.[164]


The day after the deadly fire, the news media had much uniformity in the general way they covered the event. Most headlines, again, used the word “cult.” The Washington Post announced: “Waco Siege Ends in Dozens of Deaths as Cult Site Burns After FBI Assault.” The Los Angeles Times headline read: “Waco Cultists Perish in Blaze.” The Oakland Tribune actually avoided the “c” word, but still portrayed the event as a fanatic religious experience: “Texas Apocalypse: Koresh and 24 Children Among The Dozens Dead.” [165]

The newspapers gave priority to government officials in getting their message out. Janet Reno said she approved the raid because she heard babies were being beaten.[166] President Clinton said he stood by the decision, whereas his spin-doctor George Stephanapoulous qualified the degree of his boss’ responsibility: “Of course, the president takes responsibility for what’s done in his government, but it is under the operational control of the Justice Department.”[167] Immediately, authorities blamed it all on Koresh. Bob Ricks said, “David Koresh, we believe gave the order to commit suicide and they all willingly followed… They bunkered down their children and allowed them to go up in flames with them.”[168] ATF agent Jack Killorin, in attempting to ensure the public that he did not want the fire to happen, said, “We dared on February 29th to try to take the compound in the way that we did because of this, because of this end.”[169] One could probably decipher two meanings from that quote.

Soon after the flames died down, people began asking questions. Some of these questions, while not asked by mainstream media reports, were incited by them. People learned in the days that followed the conflagration that the FBI had bugged the Davidian home for the entire siege, a questionable maneuver[170] Some wondered about the use of tear gas. On April 12 the FBI had expressly ruled out using tear gas because of its potential effects on children.[171] On April 19, it was suddenly okay. Bob Ricks, when asked at a press conference during the actual gassing on the morning of April 19 purpose of the gas attack was, he said it was “to make their environment as uncomfortable as possible until they do exit the compound.”[172] But Janet Reno said later that the gas attack “was not meant to be D-Day. This was just a step forward in trying to bring about a peaceful resolution by constantly exerting further pressure to shrink the perimeter.”[173] All of these inconsistencies aside, the press still overwhelmingly sided with the government. At a press conference on April 20, a day after the FBI gassed and machinegunned scores of civilians, President Clinton scoffed at the very notion that “the Attorney General should resign because some religious fanatics murdered themselves.” The press corps, in an unusually naked expression of solidarity with the government, applauded Clinton’s statement.[174]


Since the deaths of the Branch Davidians, much has been learned which might make one even more suspicious of the government’s role in the tragedy, as summarily described earlier in this paper. But the main point here is not to assess that the government agents committed a crime – an argument well advanced in previous works – but to demonstrate that the authorities interacted with the press in bringing about a situation in which even though so many facts were available to the public that punched deep holes in government credibility, the public by and large still approved of the actions of the agents in question.

The main point is also not a comparison between the New York Times and The Dallas Morning News. They both provide valuable insights which overlap at times and at times do not. The Times had more succinct coverage, and tended to be more critical of the government as seen in their powerful March 28 exposé. The Dallas paper, on the other hand, had more extensive coverage, probably due to the more regional nature of the event, and allowed the government more page space to present its story. Due to the incompetence of the government in keeping its stories straight, however, this hardly was a benefit to government credibility.

The government attempted to control and monopolize the use of the media, as evidenced in its initial intended use of the press for publicity purposes, its rapidly growing hostility towards the press when things went sour, and the government’s threats of prosecution and physical force against whistleblowers and reporters. But although the incriminating facts of government wrongdoing were not available then, the press reports that the government tried to control still exposed multitudes of contradictions and inconsistencies in government claims. The authorities contradicted themselves practically every day. It takes looking between the lines, but could have easily come to question the official characterizations of the Branch Davidians, as well as in the integrity and credibility surrounding the actions of the government at the time.

Ten years after the Waco fire, Americans need to look back and see what happened. A free, independent press is the bulwark of a free society as the United States is often claimed the be. Americans live in an era, however, in which the government does try to manage the press, succeeding somewhat. Though attempts at controlling the press are numerous and obvious at wartime, rarely in recent history has the government used such tactics over domestic matters. This marks another way in which Waco was a U.S. military operation against American civilians. As during wartime, government officials used the media to demonize their target to justify the use of excessive force. As during wartime, the government has tried to suppress facts inconvenient for the proliferation of its side of the stories, and in both cases the facts have been available – between the lines of mainstream press articles and in alternative news sources – for anyone determined enough to find them.

The First Amendment is enshrined in America’s Bill of Rights, not only as a law that politicians are supposed to observe, but to outline an important principle for all Americans to acknowledge. Interestingly, the freedom of the press, religious liberty, the right to bear arms, and due process – all rights explicitly guaranteed in the Constitution – were all issues in the Waco siege. Waco not only shows what the government is capable of in its control of the press – it not only shows how a little digging can unveil the truth – it demonstrates the central importance of the freedom of the press in protecting all others. It must be restored, and until it is, Americans must learn to live in a country without it, reading press reports more carefully and critically than they might otherwise. If this is the case, it is worth reflecting on what Waco mayor Robert Sheehy said shortly after the fire to protect his town’s reputation: “We can’t control events. They could have happened in any one of your cities, anyplace across the United States.”[175] He said this to ensure that Waco would not be remembered for what happened on April 19, 1993. Hopefully, his statement will have the opposite effect.


[1] Jason Embry, “Still Seeking Answers,” Waco Tribune-Herald, online edition, http://www.wacotrib.com/news/content/coxnet/branchdavidian/0223_overview.html.

[2] Tracy Everback, “Bureau Had Trained Months for Raid,” Waco Tribune Herald, March 1, 1993.

[3] Sam Howe Verhovek, “4 U.S. Agents Killed in Texas Shootout with Cult,” New York Times, March 1, 1993.

[4] Carol Moore, The Davidian Massacre: Disturbing Questions About Waco Which Must Be Answered (Legacy Communications: Franklin, Tennessee, 1995), xii.

[5] “4 U.S. Agents Killed,” New York Times, March 1, 1993.

[6] Lee Hancock, “4 Agents Die in Raid on Cult,” Waco Tribune Herald, March 1, 1993.

[7] Stephen Labaton and Sam Howe Verhovek, “U.S. Agents Say Fatal Flaws Doomed Raid on Waco Cult,” New York Times, March 28, 1993.

[8] House of Representatives, Investigation into the Activities of Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Toward the Branch Davidians, House Report 104-749, August 2, 1996, cited in James Bovard, “Feeling Your Pain”: The Explosion of Government Power and Abuse in the Clinton-Gore Years (Palgrave: New York, 2000), 269.

[9] Carol Moore, 48-53.

[10] Waco: Rules of Engagement, prod. Dan Gifford, William Gazecki, and Michael McNulty, dir. William Gazecki, Fifth Estate Productions, 2 hr. 16 min., 1997, videocassette.

[11] Waco: The New Revelation, prod. Rick Van Vleet, Stephen M. Novak, Michael McNulty, dir. Jason Van Vleet, MGA Films, 1999, videocassette.

[12] Waco, Rules of Engagement.

[13] Dallas Morning News, April 20, 1993, drawing from Associated Press and Reuter. Most of this information was in the New York Times that day, and many other papers.

[14] Laurie Kellman, “Gas Hit Children Hardest, Panel Told,” Washington Times, July 27, 1995, cited in James Bovard, 275. The CS gas mixture the FBI used is particularly deadly when it burns, because it undergoes a chemical reaction and produces the same gas used in gas chambers.

[15] Waco: Rules of Engagement; Waco: The New Revelation.

[16] Bruce Tomaso and Lee Hancock, “Views of Cult Called Hard to Reconcile,” Dallas Morning News, April 22, 1993.

[17] Stephen Labaton, “Saved from Extinction, New Agency Faces Peril,” Dallas Morning News, March 4, 1993.

[18] Same.

[19] “Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Harassment; Female ATF Agents Say Sexual Harassment within the Agency is Rampant and Unchecked,” CBS News Transcripts, 60 Minutes, May 23, 1993, cited in Bovard, 271.

[20] Dick J. Reavis, The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 33; James D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher, Why Waco: Cults and Religious Freedom in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 103. The unofficial codename, used by most ATF officials, was “Operation Showtime.” The official codename was strangely “Operation Trojan Horse.” Agents thought about the raid in terms of the unofficial name, yelling “showtime!” as the raid began.

[21] Lee Hancock, “Questions Arise on Media’s Role in Raid,” Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1993.

[22] Bill Carter, “After Gunfire Dies Down, Questions Arise on Newspaper’s Role,” New York Times, March 2, 1993.

[23] Same.

[24] Dallas Morning News, March 3, 1993.

[25] Waco-Tribune Herald, February 27, 1993, reprinted in San Francisco Chronicle, March 1, 1993.

[26] Same

[27] “After Gunfire Dies Down, Questions Arise on Newspaper’s Role,” New York Times, March 2, 1993.

[28] Waco: Rules of Engagement.

[29] Terrence Stutz, “Cult Displays Banner Seeking Talk with Rights Group,” Dallas Morning News, March 11, 1993.

[30] Stephen Labaton and Sam Howe Verhovek, “U.S. Agents Say Fatal Flaws Doomed Raid on Waco Cult,” New York Times, March 28, 1993.

[31] Described in Carol Moore, 149, citing trial transcripts. Actual footage of the assault, recorded on Mulloney’s camera, can be seen in Waco: the New Revelation.

[32] “After Gunfire Dies Down, Questions Arise on Newspaper’s Role,” New York Times, March 2, 1993.

[33] Don Terry, “Shootout in Texas Goes on After Cult Chief’s Broadcast,” New York Times, March 3, 1993.

[34] Dallas Morning News, April 20, 1993

[35] “After Gunfire Dies Down, Questions Arise on Newspaper’s Role,” New York Times, March 2, 1993.

[36] “400 Law Agents Are in Standoff with Texas Cult,” New York Times, March 2, 1993.

[37] Lee Hancock and George Kuempel, “U.S. Agents Seem Ready for Long Wait,” Dallas Morning News, March 4, 1993.

[38] George Kuemple, “McLennan Sheriff Joins Talks with Cult Leader,” Dallas Morning News, March 10, 1993.

[39] David McLemore, “Agents Claim Control: Man Arrested Outside Cult Site,” Dallas Morning News, March 11, 1993.

[40] Robert Reinhold, “Members of Texas Sect Hint Resolve is Weakening,” New York Times, March 15, 1993.

[41] Lee Hancock, “Officials Use Secrecy as Siege Tactic,” New York Times, March 16, 1993.

[42] Todd Copilevitz, “Up to 20 in Cult Want to Leave, FBI Agent Says,” Dallas Morning News, March 18, 1993.

[43] Victoria Lee and Lee Hancock, “2 Leave Sect Compound; Koresh Talks to Agents,” Dallas Morning News, March 20, 1993.

[44] Bruce Nichols, “Lawyers Complain About Secrecy on U.S. Documents About Cult,” Dallas Morning News, March 13, 1993.

[45] Stephen Labaton and Sam Howe Verhovek, “U.S. Agents Say Fatal Flaws Doomed Raid on Waco Cult,” New York Times, March 28, 1993.

[46] Lee Hancock, “Inquiry Shifts to Media, Dallas Morning News, March 18, 1993.

[47] Sam Howe Verhovek, “Agent Injured by Cult Gunfire Blames Texas Newspaper in Lawsuit,” New York Times, March 18, 1993.

[48] Christy Hoppe, “FBI Challenges Koresh to Let Followers Leave,” Dallas Morning News, March 19, 1993.

[49] Victoria Lee, “Between the Lines: FBI Uses Briefings As Tactical Weapons,” Dallas Morning News, March 25, 1993.

[50] Stephen Labaton and Sam Howe Verhovek, “U.S. Agents Say Fatal Flaws Doomed Raid on Waco Cult,” New York Times, March 28, 1993.

[51] Victoria Lee, “Koresh Threatens to Smite His Enemies,” Dallas Morning News, April 11, 1993.

[52] Media dehumanization of the Branch Davidians is discussed in James T. Richardson, “Manufacturing Consent About Koresh: A Structural Analysis of the Role of Media in the Waco Tragedy,” an essay in Stuart A. Wright, ed., Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives of the Branch Davidian Conflict (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 153-176.

[53] The Washington Post, March 1, 1993.

[54] Los Angeles Times, Match 1, 1993.

[55] Oakland Tribune, March 1, 1993; Orange County Register, March 1, 1993.

[56] “Violent Cult Had Faith in Twisted Leader,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 1, 1993.

[57] Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1993; New York Times, March 1, 1993; The Washington Post, March 1, 1993.

[58] Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1993; New York Times, March 1, 1993.

[59] Sam Howe Verhovek, “4 U.S. Agents Killed in Texas Shootout with Cult,” New York Times, March 1, 1993.

[60] Tracy Everbach, “Bureau Had Trained Months for Raid,” Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1993.

[61] Todd J. Gillman and Frank Trejo, “Protecting the Country,” Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1993.

[62] Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1993. Eventually, authorities began to refer to David Koresh by his legal name. One explanation is that at first they wanted to marginalize his beliefs and lifestyle, including his name change, but then decided that emphasizing his eccentricities was a better strategy.

[63] Tracy Everbach, “Bureau Had Trained Months for Raid,” Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1993.

[64] Sam Howe Verhovek, “4 U.S. Agents Killed in Texas Shootout with Cult,” New York Times, March 1, 1993.

[65] Nancy St. Pierre, “Experts Say Raid Doomed From the Start,” Dallas Morning News, March 2, 1993.

[66] Dallas Morning News, March 20, 1993.

[67] Terry Box, “Texas May Have Many Extremist Groups,” Dallas Morning News, March 7, 1993.

[68] Daniel Cattau, “Adventists Say Sect Has Been a ‘Constant Embarrassment’,” Dallas Morning News,  March 1, 1993.

[69] New York Times, March 6, 1993.

[70] Daniel Cattau, “Davidians in Missouri Disavow Waco Cult,” March 14, 1993.

[71] Victoria Lee, “Defining a Cult No Easy Task, Experts Say,” Dallas Morning News, March 28, 1993.

[72] Adam Nossiter, “Warning of Violence Unheeded After Cult Leader’s Gun Battle in ’87,” New York Times, March 10, 1993.

[73] “October 16, 1991 Massacre of 23 Customers at Luby’s Cafeteria in Kilteen Remembered,” Dallas Morning News, March 3, 1993.

[74] Don Terry, “Cult Frees Another Child, Raising Hopes in Standoff,” Dallas Morning News, March 5, 1993.

[75] Lee Hancock, “Koresh Trying to Provoke ‘War,’ Federal Officials Say,” Dallas Morning News, March 9, 1993.

[76] Bruce Tomaso, “Cult Members Refuse Medical Help, FBI Says,” Dallas Morning News, March 14, 1993.

[77] David McLemore, “Release of 7 Buys Hope for End to Cult Shootout,” March 22, 1993.

[78] Victoria Lee, “Between the Lines: FBI Uses Briefings As Tactical Weapons,” Dallas Morning News, March 25, 1993.

[79] Lee Hancock, “Agents Use Light Against Sect As A Psychological Maneuver.” Dallas Morning News, March 15 ,1993.

[80] Christy Hoppe, “Hopes for Sect Surrender Dim,”Dallas Morning News, April 9, 1993.

[81] Terry Box, “Texas May Have Many Extremist Groups,” Dallas Morning News, March 7, 1993.

[82] Peter Applebome, “Bloody Sunday’s Roots in Deep Religious Soil,” New York Times, March 2, 1993.

[83] Sylvia Moreno, “Weekend Hopes for End to Cult Siege Are Dashed,” Dallas Morning News, March 23, 1993.

[84] Peter AppleBome , “Negotiations with Texas Cult Cover Ever-Shifting Ground,” New York Times, March 11, 1993.

[85] Todd Copilevitz, “Cult’s Arsenal May Be Limited Only By Bankroll,” Dallas Morning News, March 2, 1993.

[86] Al Brumley, “Agents Fear Suicides by Cult, Call Koresh a ‘Cheap Thug,’” New York Times, March 29, 1993.

[87] Lee Hancock, “Agency Says Tips on Sect Point to Holy War,” Dallas Morning News, March 7, 1993.

[88] Peter Applebome, “Talks with Leader of Sect Have Stalled,” New York Times, March 8, 1993.

[89] Sam Howe Verhovek, “300 Law Agents Are in Standoff with Texas Cult,” New York Times, March 2, 1993.

[90] Michael DeCourcy Hinds, “U.S Pleads With Cult Leader to Let His Followers Go,” New York Times, March 7, 1993.

[91] New York Times, March 3, 1993.

[92] Lee Hancock, “Koresh Trying to Provoke ‘War,’ Federal Officials Say,” Dallas Morning News, March 9, 1993.

[93] Lee Hancock, “Cult Arms Buildup Described,” Dallas Morning News, March 26 ,1993.

[94] Lee Hancock, “Blaze Follows Attempt by Authorities to Drive Sect Out with Tear Gas,” Dallas Morning News, April 20, 1993.

[95] One calculation indicated that each Davidian had four firearms, whereas the average Texan had four, according to Daniel Wattenberg, “Gunning for Koresh,” American Spectator, August, 1993, cited in Carol Moore, 54.

[96] Peter Applebome, “Cult’s Leader Raises Specter of Fight to Finish, U.S. Says,” New York Times, March 8, 1993.

[97] Adam Nossiter, “Warning of Violence Unheeded After Cult Leader’s Gun Battle in ’87,” New York Times, March 10, 1993.

[98] Stephen Labaton and Sam Howe Verhovek, “U.S. Agents Say Fatal Flaws Doomed Raid on Waco Cult,” New York Times, March 28, 1993.

[99] Lee Hancock, “Cult Arms Buildup Described,” Dallas Morning News, March 26, 1993.

[100] Jeffrey Weiss, “Released Youngsters Comforted,” Dallas Morning News, March 3, 2003.

[101] Sam Howe Verhovek, “In Shadow of Texas Siege, Uncertainty for Innocents,” New York Times, March 8, 1993.

[102] Sam Howe Labaton, “U.S. Agency Chief Defends Cult Raid,” New York Times, March 30, 1993.

[103] Lee Handcock, “Agency Says Tips on Sect Point to Holy War,” Dallas Morning News, March 7, 1993.

[104] Dallas Morning News, March 5, 1993.

[105] Al Brumley and Lee Hancock, “Agents Say ‘Positive’ Ties Forged: But FBI Doesn’t Hint Standoff is Almost Over,” Dallas Morning News, March 5, 1993.

[106] Pete Slover, “No Visible Means,” Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1993.

[107] George Kuempel, “Richards Says ATF Cited Drug Suspicions on Cult: U.S. Officials’ Comments Differ from Governors,” New York Times, March 26, 1993.

[108] Victoria Lee, “Agents Warn of Tighter Security After Infiltrations of Cult Compound” Dallas Morning News, March 28, 1993.

[109] Stephen Labaton and Sam Howe Verhovek, “U.S. Agents Say Fatal Flaws Doomed Raid on Waco Cult,” New York Times, March 28, 1993.

[110] George Keumpel, “McLennan Sheriff Joins Talks With Cult Leader,” Dallas Morning News, March 10, 1993.

[111] Victoria Lee, “Bail Set for Sect Member, But Appeal Delays Release,” Dallas Morning News, March 19, 1993.

[112] Robert Reinhold, “Members of Texas Sect Hint Resolve is Weakening,” New York Times, March 15, 1993.

[113] Christy Hoppe, “Teen-ager Who Left Sect Suspected As A Material Witness,” Dallas Morning News, March 18, 1993.

[114] New York Times, March 31, 1993.

[115] Lee Hancock, “Koresh, Attorney Meet Again,”Dallas Morning News, March 31, 1993.

[116] Bruce Nichols, “Lawyers Complain of Secrecy on U.S. Documents About Cult,” Dallas Morning News, March 13, 1993.

[117] Lee Hancock, “Officials Use Secrecy as Siege Tactic,” New York Times, March 16, 1993.

[118] Lee Hancock, “Koresh, Attorney Meet Again,”Dallas Morning News, March 31, 1993.

[119] Lee Hancock, “Cult Lawyers Given More Time,” Dallas Morning News, April 1, 1993.

[120] “Sect’s Lawyers Dispute Gunfight Details,” New York Times, April 5 ,1993.

[121] Sam Howe Verhovek, “Cult Lawyers Seek Raid Videotape,” New York Times, April 7, 1993.

[122] Arnold Hamilton, “Cloudy Skies Confuse Cult in Opening Passover Observance,” Dallas Morning News, April 7, 1993.

[123] Dallas Morning News, March 2, 1993. The Army Delta Force, a special military unit, eventually arrived at the scene as well, but government officials denied their presence until years after the raid. This was exposed in Waco: The New Revelation.

[124] “400 Law Agents Are in Standoff with Texas Cult,” New York Times, March 2, 1993.

[125] Ed Timms, “Experts Assess Significance of Tanks’ Arrival: They Believe Sect May Have Anti-Tank Weapons, Armor-Piercing Bullets,” Dallas Morning News, March 9, 1993.

[126] Peter Applebome, “Cult’s Leader Raises Specter of Fight to Finish, U.S. Says,” New York Times, March 9, 1993.

[127] Victoria Lee, “Agents Warn of Tighter Security After Infiltrations of Cult Compound,” Dallas Morning News, March 28, 1993.

[128] Bruce Tomasco, “Cult Members Refuse Medical Help,” Dallas Morning News, March 14, 1993.

[129] Lee Hancock, “Agents Use Light Against Sect as a Psychological Maneuver,” Dallas Morning News, March 15, 1993.

[130] Lee Hancock, “FBI Officials Are Starting to Boost Pressure on Cult,” Dallas Morning News, March 16,1993.

[131] Bruce Tomasco, “Koresh Rejects FBI Deal For Surrender,” Dallas Morning News, March 24, 1993.

[132] Sylvia Moreno, “Weekend Hopes for End to Cult Siege Are Dashed,” Dallas Morning News, March 23, 1993.

[133] Al Brumley, “Agents Fear Suicides by Cult, Call Koresh a “Cheap Thug,” Dallas Morning News, March 29, 1993.

[134] Steve McGonigle, “FBI Says Its Probe of Sect Inconclusive,” Dallas Morning News, March 5 ,1993.

[135] Steve McGonigle, “Agency in Charge is Unclear,” Dallas Morning News, March 3, 1993.

[136] Lee Hancock, “Cult Talks Stalled,” Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1993.

[137] Michael DeCourcy Hinds, “U.S Pleads With Cult Leader to Let His Followers Go,” New York Times, March 7, 1993.

[138] Sam Howe Verhovek,“400 Law Agents Are in Standoff with Texas Cult,” New York Times, March 2, 1993.


[139] Don Terry, “Authorities Plan to Wait for End of Cult Standoff,” New York Times, March 4 ,1993.

[140] Peter Applebome, “Talks with Leader of Sect Have Stalled,” New York Times, March 8, 1993.

[141] Dallas Morning News, March 4 ,1993.

[142] Sam Howe Verhovek, “Agent Injured by Cult Gunfire Blames Texas Newspaper in Lawsuit,” New York Times, March 18, 1993.

[143] Lee Hancock, “ATF Official Defends Raid Planning,” Dallas Morning News, March 27, 1993.

[144] Dallas Morning News, March 3, 1993.

[145] Stephen Labaton, “Agents’ Advice: Attack on Sunday,” Dallas Morning News, March 3, 1993.

[146] Arnold Hamilton, “FBI Meets With Cult Leaders,” Dallas Morning News, March 17, 1993.

[147] Stephen Labaton and Sam Howe Verhovek, “U.S. Agents Say Fatal Flaws Doomed Raid on Waco Cult,” New York Times, March 28, 1993.

[148] Victoria Lee, “Agents Warn of Tighter Security After Infiltrations of Cult Compound,” Dallas Morning News, March 28.

[149] Sam Howe Labaton, “U.S. Agency Chief Defends Cult Raid,” New York Times, March 30, 1993.

[150] Lee Handcock and Diane Jennings, “Agents Doubt Claims That Siege Near an End,” Dallas Morning News, April 6, 1993.

[151] Victoria Lee, “Koresh Threatens to Smite His Enemies,” Dallas Morning News, April 11, 1993.

[152] Don Terry, Authorities Wait For End To Cult Standoff,” Dallas Morning News, March 4, 1993.

[153] Don Terry, “Cult Frees Another Child, Raising Hopes in Standoff,” Dallas Morning News, March 5, 1993.

[154] George Kuemple, “McLennan Sheriff Joins Talks with Cult Leader,” Dallas Morning News, March 10, 1993.

[155] Robert Reinhold, “Sect Members Are Hurting but the Siege Goes On,” New York Times, March 14, 1993; Bruce Tomaso, “Cult Members Refuse Medical Help, FBI Says,” Dallas Morning News, March 14, 1993.

[156] Lee Hancock, “FBI Officials Are Starting to Boost Pressure on Cult,” Dallas Morning News, March 16 ,1993.

[157] Lee Hancock, “Official Cautiously Optimistic Cult Standoff Will End Soon,” Dallas Morning News, March 21, 1993.

[158] Al Brumley, “Agents Fear Suicides by Cult, Call Koresh a ‘Cheap Thug,’” New York Times, March 29, 1993.

[159] Sylvia Moreno, “Weekend Hopes for End to Cult Siege Are Dashed,” Dallas Morning News, March 23, 1993.

[160] Christy Hoppe, “Hopes for Sect Surrender Dim,” Dallas Morning News, April 9, 1993.

[161] Lee Handcock, “Officials Doubt Standoff With Cult Will End Soon,” Dallas Morning News, April 13, 1993.

[162] Bruce Tomasco and Lee Hancock, “Koresh Refuses Lawyer’s Call,” Dallas Morning News, April 14, 1993.

[163] Lee Hancock, “No Easy Answers,” Dallas Morning News, April 15, 1993.

[164] Stephen Labaton, “Reno Sees Error in Move on Cult: Fatigue of Agents and Failure of Talks Brought Assault,” New York Times, April 20, 1993.

[165] Washington Post, April 20, 1993; Los Angeles Times, April 20, 1993

[166] Anne Marie Kilday, “Clinton Pledges Probes of Siege,” Dallas Morning News, April 20, 1993.

[167] Anne Marie Kilday and Kathy Lewis, “FBI plan had Reno’s Approval,” Dallas Morning News, April 20, 1993.

[168] Sam Howe Verhovek, “Apparent Mass Suicide Ends a 51-Day Standoff in Texas,” New York Times, April 20, 1993.

[169] Lee Hancock, “Blaze Follows Attempt by Authorities to Drive Sect Out With Tear Gas,” Dallas Morning News, April 20, 1993.

[170] Lee Handcock, “FBI Bugged Compound, Heard Plans,” Waco Tribune Herald, April 20, 1993.

[171] Sam Howe Verhovek, “Texas Cult Fortress is Becoming Prison Behind Barbed Wire,” New York Times, April 12, 1993.

[172] Stephen Labaton, “Reno Sees Error in Move on Cult,” New York Times, April 20, 1993.

[173] Sam Howe Verhovek, “Apparent Mass Suicide Ends a 51-Day Standoff in Texas,” New York Times, April 20, 1993.

[174] “President Bill Clinton News Conference White House Rose Garden,” Federal News Service, April 20, 1993, cited in James Bovard, 279.

[175] Christian Science Monitor, April 21, 1993.