Army reportedly declined to review FBI approach to Waco siege
'Can't grade your paper'
From CNN National Security Producer Chris Plante
August 31, 1999
Web posted at: 2:41 a.m. EDT (0641 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, August 31) -- Just days before the fiery end to the Waco standoff, top Army Special Forces officials were asked to offer their views of an FBI assault plan for the Branch Davidian compound but refused to do so, CNN has learned.
The meeting, held on April 14, 1993 at FBI headquarters, was called at the request of the Justice Department and attended by Attorney General Janet Reno and top FBI officials.
According to a once-secret Army memo, Gen. Peter Jan Schoomaker, who was in charge of a special forces unit at the time, declined
to provide an assessment of the FBI plan for the siege of the compound.
The siege ended on April 19, 1993, when the compound was engulfed in flames, killing about 80 people, including 21 children.
Senior congressional Republicans said this week they intend to move quickly to open House and Senate investigations of the handling of the 1993 Branch Davidian confrontation.
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said he would issue subpoenas this week to Justice and Defense Department officials to ask why information on the Waco operation is just coming to light now.
Last week, the FBI revealed that military-style tear gas grenades -- which are flammable -- were fired at a bunker near the central compound where the government lay siege to the Branch Davidians for 51 days. The news contradicted prior claims that no pyrotechnic devices were used in the final assault on the compound.
"This was not a military operation and could not be assessed as such," Schoomaker, a career special forces soldier, wrote in the memo describing the meeting.
"We explained that the situation was not one that we had ever encountered and that the Rules of Engagement for the FBI were substantially different than for a military operation."
One of the soldiers told the Justice Department officials in attendance: "We can't grade your paper," according to the memo.
Experts in hostage missions attended meeting
Two senior U.S. Army special forces soldiers attended the meeting,
including Schoomaker and Major Gen. (then Colonel) William Boykin. Both men are considered experts in hostage rescue missions.
There was a third soldier at the meeting; a U.S. Army major assigned to the Army Deputy Chief of Staff's Operations section. The major's name was apparently never noted in the U.S. Army memo regarding the meeting.
The names of Schoomaker and Boykin initially were redacted from the once secret memo outlining the substance of the meeting.
In April 1993, Schoomaker was a brigadier general (one star) assigned to Fort Hood, Texas as Assistant Division Commander, 1st Cavalry Division, according to his biography. Schoomaker also participated in the ill-fated 1980 effort to rescue U.S. hostages held by Iran known as "Desert One".
He is now a four-star general.
Military not authorized for domestic actions
Despite the new admissions by the FBI, officials continue to insist the Davidians started the fire that engulfed the compound.
It also was learned that three Army soldiers from the shadowy Special Operations unit known as the Delta Force were present during the FBI raid.
The Defense Department said the soldiers were there in an "observer role" for the FBI and "did not perform law enforcement functions."
The U.S. military is not legally authorized to participate in domestic law enforcement actions such as the one at Waco without a presidential waiver.
Reno is considering hiring an investigator from outside the Justice Department to conduct an independent review of the case, Justice Department officials have told CNN.