FBI tape shows field commander OK'd use of tear gas at Waco
September 3, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Newly released videotape containing audio of FBI agents near the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993 was released Thursday by the federal investigative agency.
A portion of the surveillance videotape from April 19, 1993, contains audio of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team requesting -- and receiving -- approval to fire potentially flammable "military rounds" of tear gas at a concrete bunker near the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.
The original tape, which was discovered by the FBI last weekend, is now in the hands of U.S. marshals after U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno Wednesday ordered the marshals to go to FBI headquarters and take custody of the material, which will be used as evidence in a new Waco investigation.
On the audio track of the infrared tape, a voice asks to use military rounds of ordnance that are potentially flammable devices.
"He thinks he can get into position with relative safety utilizing the track for cover and attempt to penetrate it with military rounds," says Stephen McGavin, a supervisor of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team.
Richard Rogers, on-scene commander for the hostage unit, responds: "Roger. Of course if there's water underneath that's just going to extinguish them but you can try it.
"10-4. Copy. He can try it?" asked McGavin.
Rogers responds: "Yeah that's affirmative".
The conversation is heard from radio traffic monitored by the FBI surveillance aircraft recording tape from its Forward Looking Infrared Radar.
The radio traffic is from 7:48 a.m. local time, several hours before the fire erupted, killing more than 80 people.
The FBI says the tape proves the command to use the military rounds on the day of the Waco fire shows the approval was given on the scene, not at headquarters.
Pentagon, Justice, FBI subpoenaed
However, Justice Department officials are described as furious because the tape was discovered by the FBI only after six years of repeated denials that any potentially flammable material was fired on the day of the fatal fire.
Both the Justice Department and the FBI -- as well as the Pentagon -- were staring down the barrels of Congressional subpoenas on Friday, issued by a House committee investigating several new disclosures about the Waco siege.
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana), chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, said the subpoenas seek all pertinent government documents and records relating to the siege.
Copies of the tapes also have been turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee investigating the fiery raid on the compound and the government's follow-up probe.
The FBI on Wednesday notified the Justice Department it had discovered the previously undisclosed tapes in its possession at FBI facilities in Quantico, Virginia.
That discovery was the latest embarrassment for authorities following last week's FBI admission that tear gas grenades were fired at a concrete bunker away from the main wooden compound on April 19 -- contradicting prior claims no pyrotechnic devices were used in the final assault.
FBI officials maintain the Davidians hours later started the fire that swept through the compound. Cult leader David Koresh and some 80 followers -- including 21 children -- died during the inferno, some from gunshot wounds, others from the fire.
Producer Terry Frieden and Correspondent Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.
FBI finds additional materials on Waco gas cannisters
Federal Bureau of Investigation
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