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The FBI's Waco surveillance tapes

fbi videotape
FBI surveillance tape with audio of agents discussing the use of potentially flammable tear gas rounds in the final assault on the Branch Davidian compound
304 K/27 sec.AIFF or WAV
(tape released September 2)

First FBI tape shows approval of military rounds (tape released September 2)
Windows Media 28K 80K


September 3, 1999
Web posted at: 10:22 p.m. EDT (0222 GMT)

(CNN) -- On Thursday, September 2, 1999, the FBI released copies of a portion of a surveillance videotape from April 19, 1993, which 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 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.


Exchange between FBI Hostage Rescue Team supervisor Stephen McGavin and on-scene hostage unit commander Richard Rogers:

McGavin: HR 2 to HR 1.

Rogers: Go ahead, It's HR 1.

McGavin: Currently resupplying Charlie 1. (Unintelligible) with relative safety utilizing the vehicle for cover and attempt to get (unintelligible) penetrate the construction project.

Rogers: You're talking about the block over top the construction?

McGavin: Say again, HR 1.

Rogers: Are you saying he can penetrate the block covering over the construction on the green side?

McGavin: Ten-four. He thinks he can get into position with relative safety utilizing the track for cover and attempt to penetrate it with military rounds.

Rogers: Roger. Of course, if there's water underneath that's just going to extinguish them, but you can try it.

McGavin: Ten-four. Copy. He can try it?

Rogers: Yeah, that's affirmative.

Second tape shows canister 'bounced off'

On Friday, September 3, 1999, the FBI released a second previously undisclosed tapes, recorded from an FBI surveillance plane. The recordings contain voice communication of FBI agents on the ground.

On the tape, agents are heard describing how a potentially flammable tear gas canister "bounced off" a concrete bunker near the main Branch Davidian compound.


Unidentified agents in Bradley armored vehicles talk with Richard M. Rogers, the assistant special agent in charge of the hostage rescue team. This FBI-released transcript records only a portion of the exchange:

191K/19 sec. AIFF or WAV sound (tape released September 3)

FBI video of conversation stating a tear gas canister bounced off the concrete bunker (tape released September 3)
Windows Media 28K 80K

Charlie 1: Charlie TOC (Tactical Operations Center) to HR 1 (Special Agent Richard M. Rogers).

Charlie 1: Yeah, the military gas did not penetrate that, uh, bunker, where the bus was. Copy.

Charlie 1: It bounced off.

Charlie 1: That's a possibility. If [unintelligible] CEVs to push this fence back here, we can get in there and get a good angle.

Charlie 1: I don't think so, but if you took it slow --

Charlie 1: The walls to this thing are, uh, poured concrete.

Charlie 1: Yeah, the wall to the, uh, around the bus are poured concrete.

Echo 1: Echo 1 to Charlie 1.

Charlie 1: Go ahead, Echo 1.

Echo 1: Yeah, if you come to the, uh, green/black side of the structure, I think there's an opening there that you may be able to shoot through, a doorway.

Charlie 1: Is it an underground bus?

Echo 1: Uh, it's just the green side of the, uh, big water tower.

Charlie 1: Ten-nine, HR 1.

Echo 1: If you come just to the green side of the big, tall water tower and look toward the white side from there, you should be able to see a --

Charlie 1: Ten-four.

Echo 1: -- a doorway in the unconstructed part.

The FBI has admitted 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.

But 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.

FBI finds additional materials on Waco gas cannisters
September 2, 1999
New Waco probe ordered
August 26, 1999
FBI admits it may have fired flammable devices in Waco siege
August 25, 1999
Reno rejects suggestions FBI was responsible for Waco fire
July 29, 1999
Waco, Oklahoma City mark anniversary of tragedies
April 19, 1998
McVeigh letter bitterly blames FBI for Waco deaths
April 8, 1997

Federal Bureau of Investigation
U.S. Department of Justice
  • Office of the Attorney General
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
Branch Davidians
The Dallas Morning News
Texas Department of Public Safety
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