Report of the Department of the Treasury on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Investigation of Vernon Wayne Howell Also Known as David Koresh September 1993/Conclusion

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


On February 28, 1993, near Waco, Texas, a major law enforcement operation failed. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tried to carry out a flawed raid plan based on one critical element, the element of surprise. Despite knowing in advance that the element of surprise was lost, the raid commanders made the decision to go forward. This decision was brutally exploited by Koresh and his followers. Despite the courageous efforts of ATF agents, four agents were murdered and twenty others were wounded. The vivid and painful conclusion of the operation focussed national attention on these events and on ATF. The Review was a response to that public concern.

This review of ATF's investigation of Koresh, ATF's attempt to plan and to execute search and arrest warrants at the Compound, and its efforts to "manage" the aftermath of the raid, provides a rare opportunity to identify what went wrong, to understand the mistakes that were made, and to learn from this experience to make future operations wiser and safer. Although a few in ATF's management saw the Review as an effort to be resisted, the line agents, throughout the process, have been partners with the Review team. They have been cooperative and committed to finding the truth as an essential effort to advancing the professionalism of their agency.

In the course of its examination, the Review identified significant failures on the part of a few individuals. But more importantly, it uncovered serious, systemic defects in ATF's ability to plan for and to conduct a large scale, tactical operation in the context of the difficult circumstances confronted near Waco. These shortcomings, however, should not minimize the difficult challenge such a situation presents to all law enforcement.

ATF should not be judged by the events of February 28 alone. There is strength, experience and professionalism throughout the agency, and this Review identifies no problems that cannot be corrected. ATF's leadership can take steps to repair the agency's bruised morale and sharpen and refocus its skills on those unique capabilities which have contributed to its pride and its effectiveness in the past. However, to do so the leadership must be committed to positive change and reform.

The Review has greatly benefited from the wisdom and experience of the three distinguished independent reviewers and the six renowned tactical experts. In addition to the contributions they have made to the Review itself, all nine have drawn generously on their substantial expertise to make concrete, forward-looking recommendations to improve ATF's future performance. Treasury's Office of Enforcement, working in partnership with ATF's leadership, must embark upon a process of evaluating these recommendations.

Specific recommendations will be provided separately to ATF's leadership in such areas as improving oversight of major operations through early notification; clarifying the rules regarding media contacts; developing effective supervisory training programs; improving the agency's capacity to perform intelligence operations and to integrate them with the overall tactical operation; and reexamining the uses of Special Response Teams.

ATF's leadership has much to accomplish; they also have much to build upon. Despite the flaws exposed by the events outside Waco, the agency is made up of dedicated, committed and experienced professionals, who have regularly demonstrated sound judgment and remarkable courage in enforcing the law. ATF has a history of success in conducting complex investigations and executing dangerous and challenging law enforcement missions. That fine tradition, together with the line agents' commitment to the truth, and their courage and determination has enabled ATF to provide our country with a safer and more secure nation under law.


At the outset, the Review and I want to extend our appreciation for the support we have received from Secretary Bentsen, who provided the Review with everything necessary to accomplish its mission of finding out what happened near Waco and why. Perhaps more importantly, the Secretary set the tone for the Review through his commitment to uncovering the truth and his insistence that the Review accomplish its work both quickly and thoroughly. At critical stages, the Secretary provided essential advice and counsel to the Review.

This Report reflects a great deal of effort by an exceptionally talented group of people. Although it is impossible to acknowledge properly all the contributions that were made, a few require special mention.

The seventeen agents and two specialists that conducted the investigation were drawn from all of the law enforcement bureaus of the Treasury aside from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, including the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), the United States Customs Service, the United States Secret Service, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network ("FinCEN") and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center ("FLETC"). Their integrity and commitment to finding out what happened should give the American public confidence in federal law enforcement. To articulate the contributions of each of the individuals listed below would dwarf the contents of this report. I can conceive of no greater compliment than to say: There is no project too complex, no level of trust too great, and no expectation of commitment too high for this fine group of public servants. Specifically, Secret Service gave the Review: Robert B. Blossman, Colleen B. Callahan, Rafael A. Gonzales, Paul D. Irving, Frederick R. Klare, Joseph A. Masonis, Lewis H. McClam and Dick M. Suekawa. The Customs Service provided: Robert L. Cockrell, John J. Devaney, Robert M. Gattison, Susan G. Rowley, Thomas R. Smith and Robert K. Tevens. The IRS contributed Mary C. Balberchak, Kenneth L. Buck and James Rice.

The agents generated a tremendous number of interview reports and collected thousands of documents, and related items. Organizing, reviewing and analyzing this wealth of material in the short period of time allotted for the review would not have been possible but for the expertise and unflagging efforts of the Review's computer specialist, John H. Battle, who came from FLETC, and its intelligence research specialist, Ina W.E. Boston.

Assistant Project Director Lewis C. Merletti, Deputy Assistant Director, U.S. Secret Service, brought to the Review leadership skills developed over 19 years with the Secret Service and limitless good humor that is his, naturally. His talent and energy set a standard of excellence for the entire investigative effort.

The Review also was truly fortunate to have a team of dedicated lawyers that provided direction and focus to the investigation. It was the steady hand of Project Director H. Geoffrey Moulton, Jr., an experienced former federal prosecutor, that guided this project. He possesses the breadth of experience, legal and practical, essential to conducting an investigation that had little precedent. The Review and I are indebted to Moulton for his sage counsel, integrity and uncompromising dedication to making this project a success. Assistant Project Director David L. Douglass, a former federal prosecutor, brought seasoned judgment and ready familiarity with a breadth of legal issues. His perceptiveness, organizational skills and calming influence over me proved invaluable.

The Review also benefited from the efforts of other former federal prosecutors. Andrew E. Tomback, who was detailed to the Review from the Interagency Council on the Homeless, contributed legal expertise, sharp analytical writing abilities and a knack for synthesizing facts quickly. Professor Daniel C. Richman, Fordham Law School, conscientiously edited the report and provided cohesiveness to the Review's written product. The report's readability owes much to Richman's facility with the written word. The Review also received substantial support from Sarah Elizabeth Jones and Billy S. Bradley of Treasury's Office of the General Counsel, both of whom contributed abundant legal expertise and law enforcement knowledge. They provided the experience and knowledge of Treasury procedures, formal and informal, necessary for a team drawn primarily from outside the Department. Kenneth Thompson, a former student of mine at the New York University School of Law, received permission to conclude his clerkship early in order to contribute an intellectual rigor and seriousness of purpose beyond my highest expectations.

In addition to the agents and the attorneys, the Review received stellar support from a number of others. Jennell L. Jenkins, Lead Document Control Assistant, offered creativity and grace under pressure that was greatly appreciated. The logistics of conducting a lengthy investigation were accomplished by the diligent efforts of the Review's support staff, including: Mary Steinbacher, who handled correspondence, and secretaries, Vanessa L. Bolden and Deborah Jenkins. The meticulous professionalism of the principal copy editors, Beth A. Rosenfeld and Adele H. Mujal, improved the product immeasurably. Finally, Alison Kindler combined superb computer skills and incredible dedication to bring our product to conclusion.

Aside from the "team" itself, the Review was greatly strengthened by many independent persons. The Review's investigation and its final report benefited significantly from the scrutiny and guidance provided by its three independent reviewers, Edwin O. Guthman, Henry S. Ruth, Jr. and Chief Willie Williams. Each of the reviewers brought tremendous integrity, objectivity and knowledge to the Review. Their rigorous questioning of the Review's agents and attorneys and their probing examination of the Review's reasoning and findings ensured that the Review asked and answered the tough questions. Their efforts substantially strengthened the accuracy and reliability of the final report. Likewise, the Review thanks the Treasury's Office of Inspector General for thoroughly monitoring the Review's investigation and ensuring that the Review pursued all leads.

Similarly, the six tactical experts helped guide the Review's tactical investigation and informed its analysis of ATF's tactical planning. The tactical experts' analyses of the raid plan and ATF's planning process greatly aided the Review team. The questions they asked and the experience they brought to bear helped the Review both identify the key issues and gain a proper understanding .of them. Likewise, the weapons and explosives experts assisted the Review's evaluation of whether ATF had a sound basis cause to search the Branch Davidian Compound.

The Review thanks all of the experts and reviewers for contributing their time and energy. Their willingness to provide such fine service without pay is a testament to their commitment to helping American law enforcement. Their reports are in the Appendix.

The Review also wishes to acknowledge the support and assistance of the following agencies: The Texas Department of Public Safety, especially the Texas Rangers; the Department of Justice, specifically the United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas and the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the McLennan County Sheriff's Department; the Waco Police Department; and the Tarrant County Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The Review and I also wish to thank the employees of the Department of the Treasury for their support and encouragement, especially the employees of the Office of Enforcement, for their willingness to shoulder an extra burden while the Review was in progress.

Finally, I thank the agents of ATF. From the beginning, they answered the Review's questions candidly. Throughout the process they have supported our work. These agents were the most powerful advocates for telling the true story. It is our hope that this report supports their courageous efforts to provide quality law enforcement.

Ronald K. Noble
Assistant Secretary for the Treasury (Enforcement)