| Why did the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms raid the Branch Davidian compound on February 28, 1993?|
The ATF raided the Branch Davidian compound to serve arrest and search warrants as part of an investigation into illegal posession of firearms and explosives there. (Treasury Department press memorandum, July 13, 1995)
| Who fired first on that day, the Branch Davidians or the ATF?|
The question of who fired first is in dispute. ATF agents who participated in the raid have testified in court and at a congressional hearing that the Branch Davidians fired the first shots. Right after the raid, however, one ATF agent told an investigator that a fellow agent may have shot first, when he killed a dog outside the compound. The agent later retracted the statement, saying that the Branch Davidians had initiated the gunfire. Surviving Branch Davidians have maintained that they did not shoot their guns until they were fired upon by federal authorities.
|Had the Branch Davidian leader, David Koresh, been abusing children in the compound?|
The issue of whether David Koresh sexually and physically abused children in the compound is also not entirely resolved. Koresh acknowledged on a videotape sent out of the compound during the standoff that he had fathered more than 12 children by several "wives" who were as young as 12 or 13 when they became pregnant. ("Why Waco?," by James D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher.) A review of Waco events published by the Justice Department in October 1993 concludes, "Evidence suggested that Koresh had 'wives' who were in their mid-teens, that Koresh told detailed and inappropriate sexual stories in front of the children during his Bible study sessions, and that Koresh taught the young girls that it was a privilege for them to become old enough (i.e., reach puberty) to have sex with him." (Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas February 28 to April 19, 1993.)
There is considerable evidence as well that Koresh harshly disciplined the children in the compound. According to affidavits obtained by the FBI from several former Branch Davidians and from Dr. Bruce Perry, a psychiatrist who examined several Branch Davidian children, Koresh beat young children with a wooden spoon or withheld food for as much as a day to punish them. (op cit pp. 224-226)
Assuming that Koresh had been abusing children before Feb. 28, 1993, a related question is whether the abuse continued during the 51-day siege of the compound. At first Reno explained that a paramount reason for approving the tear-gas assault on April 19 was that "babies were being beaten." ("Reno Says, I Made the Decision," WPost, Apr. 20, 1993.) FBI Director Sessions, however, said the next day there was "no contemporary evidence" of child abuse. ( Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas, February 28 to April 19, 1993.) And Reno revised her statement several months later, agreeing there was no evidence of ongoing child abuse by Koresh, who was wounded in the shootout on Feb. 28, at Mt. Carmel, as the Branch Davidians' residence was known. ("Waco Siege Prompts Crisis Training for Top Justice Department Officials," WPost, Dec. 9, 1993.)
| ||Why did Attorney General Janet Reno approve the FBI's CS gas plan to end the standoff at the compound after 51 days?|
Reno has cited a number of factors to explain why she endorsed the tear-gas plan. She has said that she had concluded that negotiations with the Branch Davidians were indefinitely stalemated, that the FBI's hostage rescue team on duty at Waco was becoming fatigued, that the security perimeter established by the FBI around the compound was endangered and that the children inside the compound were at risk because of deteriorating sanitary conditions and the potential for sexual and physical abuse. According to Justice Department reports and congressional testimony, Reno gave only a cursory reading of the three-inch thick operations plan and back-up documentation about CS gas provided by the FBI two days before the assault on the compound. (Joint Hearing of the Crime Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee and National Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the House Government Reform and The Oversight Committee, July 1995; Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas February 28 to April 19, 1993.)
[Janet Reno's opening statement before the Congressional Hearings on August 1, 1995.]
| || What role did President Clinton play in overseeing the handling of the crisis and in authorizing the tear-gas plan?|
In the early days of the crisis Clinton endorsed a "wait-and-see" strategy, asking to be consulted before a change in strategy. On April 18, in a conversation with Reno, the President endorsed the gas plan. Although Clinton distanced himself from the matter after April 19, saying it has been Reno's call, FRONTLINE has learned that Clinton apparently followed developments at Waco closely through some of his closest White House aides.