View Full Version : Tactical mistakes at WACO.

November 4, 1998, 08:35 PM
I am not keen on the idea of federal police, and the record does seem to show a propensity on their part for abuse of power. Without going into the motivation for the Waco raid, I would like to discuss what could have been done better.

1. The idea of a dynamic raid on a survivalist sect seems ludicrous if any other reasonable choices exist. Other choices did exist, as it was known that the sect leader went into town every Tuesday.

2. If dynamic entry is the only reasonable option, surprise must surely be essential. The Branch Davidians knew the ATF was going to raid in advance. The SAC was informed that the sect knew, and still went ahead with the raid.

3. Fire control has got to be one of the most essential areas for any police agency. I watched, disbelieving, as ATF agents pumped rounds out of their sidearms at distance at obscured targets, when there were known numbers of innocents inside. I also watched, swearing, as several agents stepped into an upstairs window, and then the agent behind them tossed in a device (flash-bang?), then fired into the same room his compatriots had just entered. What the hell?

4. There were evidently suppressive rounds fired from choppers. This is, again, in an atmosphere where there are a high number of known innocents, and I do not believe that the agency in question regularly practiced such fire with the surgical accuracy needed, if they were even fired from platforms capable of the extreme accuracy and stability needed at the ranges used.

5. The vehicles used for the assault (towed cattle trailers) were totally unsuited for the purpose.

6. The media had been invited, and was within harm's way.

7. Many, if not most, of the team seemed to be armed with sidearms.

8. The agencies in question used tactics designed to break down an opponent (PsyOp warfare) on someone they described as being unstable, again with numerous innocents still in danger.

9. There was CS gas introduced into a confined space with children present (with no known current threat to children, but concentrated CS is a threat).

10. The chemical agent used kerosene as a carrier. This is in a target that was constructed of salvaged '50's lumber, that had hay bales in front of the windows, and known to be lit by gas lanterns.

I know there are numerous legal issues, but those can be addressed elsewhere.

November 6, 1998, 07:13 PM

November 19, 1998, 05:46 PM
Um, this is not because I was there or I know what's going on. I guess I'm more curious than anything, but I was told that the FBI tipped off the local newspaper a day or two prior to the actual raid. Why?

Please do correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe what the ATF did was simply following their standard procedure for serving warrants. The key to any dynamic entry is the element of surprise, with speed/efficiency being a close second. (Incidentally, this is why many people won't talk about it in detail, so as to not end up having another Waco.) But anyways, you lose much of the element of surprise when you surround a place and say, "Hey, we've got you surrounded. What're you gonna do about that?" Please keep in mind that the Davidian compound was a veritable fortress. Naturally, after the incident, the ATF policy was changed and they're much more cautious now. Otherwise, the ATF's prior record for serving warrants, from what I understand, was sterling and thus, had no reason to change its policy.

November 19, 1998, 06:38 PM
Confusing a photo op with a tactical one.

Why do you think the media were there? I find it hard to believe that's SOP, even for the ATF.

As I said (and lots of sources have mentioned), "Koresh" went to town every week. There was no need for the raid. Given that the raid was done, it was done poorly.

Mike in VA
November 20, 1998, 09:22 AM
That raid was a typical example of a bunch of cowboys with too many expensive toys that they had to use to justify thier budget. Those clowns got so deep into a tactical mindset and believing their own rhetoric that they couldn't conceive of a better approach, let alone think outside the dots. Musta been real hard on their egos to be repelled by a bunch of jesusfreaks. As Spectre pointed out, Koresh would have been easy to grab if they had thought it through. BTW, SOP for serving a warrant??? What happened to a guy in suit ringing the bell and handing them the papers, then bringing up the search team? I have no particular use for the Davidians, but they are American citizens, and if 'they' can do it to them, they can do it to you and me. The whole thing was just chillling (and I mean that in a most negative way).

Ooops, sorry, I just re-read the orignal post, and this was supposed to be a critique of tactics, not an emotional blather. All I can say, tactically, is that if those guys were supposed to be 'profesionals', God help us all. Based on the list in first post, they are obviously undertrained and poorly prepared,did not appear to have gelled as a team. The bigger issue to me, though, was the general stupidity and half-baked nature of the original plan. Even sound tactics rarely save a poor strategy. M2

[This message has been edited by Mike in VA (edited 11-20-98).]

November 20, 1998, 10:53 AM
I have to agree with Mike in VA about the serving of the warrant. Had that been the approach, the whole affair had a much better chance of ending peacefully. The ATF escalated the use of force in that situation, even though the necessary suprise element for a dynamic entry had been completely blown.

When you make a dynamic entry of a structure that large, with that many armed enemies, you need good intel on the people and the layout of the building. I doubt the ATF had either. They were just waiting to prove how big and bad they were and underestimated their opponent.

November 20, 1998, 06:51 PM

Your "Even sound tactics rarely save a poor strategy." comment is telling. I will take it to heart. I suppose no group is better than its leadership, and this was no exception.

November 20, 1998, 10:21 PM
I agree with all of you guys, especially you, Mike. But I dont think they(ATF) were thinking of tactics at all. I think the media was intentionally notified by the ATF, Dept of Justice, White house, whoever. And it was so the sheep of this country would see how this administration dealt with citizens who stockpile arms. Of course, accusations of child abuse( didnt know that was ATF's juristiction and there was no evidence that the children's safety was so jeopordized to warrent a dynamic entry) and the fact they were a little......different in their religious beliefs( constitution? what constitution?) didnt help the Davidians any. Oh yeah, there was that claim of illegally modified "assault weapons" but was that even substantiated? I mean, the people who tested the weapons were from the same agencies that conducted the assault, correct? Sounds more like a serious CYA session to me, but hey, I'm a skeptic :) As to the assault itself:
They seriously underestimated the Davidian's capabilities, they notified the press and thus the Davidians, Their delivery stratagy was a joke, they didnt work together as a team, they conducted the raid IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, I guess so all the press they invited could see what bad-a$$es they were, there was no other contingencies, they never, at any time during the raid or the seige, took into account the children or other innocents and they let their egos get in the way and, unfortunately, people died. Children died.
All of you guys are correct. I just hope the "powers that be" learned their lesson and it doesnt happen again.
Take care guys,

Harry Humphries
November 22, 1998, 09:40 PM
Politics have never proven to be the basis of sound judgement. Take it for what it's worth but some good people died that should never have died on either side.

Ed Brunner
November 23, 1998, 07:50 AM
My biggest concern in the incidents like Waco,Ruby Ridge etc, is that they are ALL perpertrated by people who had sworn to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States.

Better days to be,


Mike in VA
November 23, 1998, 07:41 PM
Yup. Grandstanding by a bunch of cowboys what drink their own bathwater (and like it!), political agenda rather than a stragtegic one, poor prep, poor training, bad law, under-estimating your opponent, failure to understand your opponent. Left no room for escalation. Idjits!! I want my [tax] money back!

To me there are two really sad things here (unnecessary carnage aside): 1) most of the f*kk*rs in charge are still around; and 2) what Ed said - they're supposed to be upholding the Constitution & protecting our rights.

Oh, well, let us eschew deceased equine flagilation. Solutions, anyone? M2

Ed Brunner
November 23, 1998, 07:49 PM
My latest solution is to REALLY lobby your Senators and representatives to cut the funding for agencies which have no resoect for the Constitution.
Dont know if it would happen but we are going nowhere now.

Better days to be,


December 8, 1998, 03:45 AM
I spoke personally with one of the agents who was shot up. They had several leaks, one of which was when they contracted with a local ambulance company to supply emergency equipment and transport. It happens one of the employees at the ambulance company had a relative that worked on the local paper.

Also, on the day of the raid, a news crew got lost in the area and stopped to ask directions from a postal carrier. During the conversation they happended to mention that the "National Guard" was going to raid the compound, not realizing (or probably not caring either way even if they did know) that the postal employee was a Branch Davidian.

On the morning of the raid, an agent who had infriltated the group was present with Koresh when the postal employee came rushing in and requested an audience with Koresh, telling him what he had learned from the news crew.

Koresh was reported to say that this is it, they're coming. He then shook the undercover agent's hand and wished him well. The agent beat feet out of there and dutifully reported all of this to his superiors, however it was decided to forge ahead when the agent reported that the last thing he had seen was all of the members gathering in the church for prayers. This prayer meeting may have been done for the agent's benefit.

When the team drove into the compound from the main highway to effect the raid, a news team followed them in and subsequently obtained the footage you all saw on the news.

December 9, 1998, 09:05 PM
The ATF agents that were involved in the ‘raid’ should thank God that the Dividians practiced their religion more than they practiced tactics and marksmanship. My old squad would have ripped the ATF a new one. If this is the best that the Feds can field, when they go up against a hard target they are going to get a serious and unpleasant surprise.

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.

-- H.L. Mencken

December 10, 1998, 08:19 PM

Yup. I'm no great shakes with a (n iron sighted) rifle, but I could hit more targets than the Davidians did with my Glocks!

Jeff Thomas
December 10, 1998, 10:44 PM
Probably the most telling comments I saw about this sad affair were contained in a newspaper writeup in which the author discussed a federal raid, with automatic weapons, upon a religious sect. It went on for quite a while with various descriptions of the raid, the terror, the murders and so on. This article appeared just after Waco. At the end of the article the author states that the year was 1943, and this story was about Nazi's going after Jews. [If this offends you, I would respectfully request that you stop and think about it. Waco certainly made me reconsider the image I held of the FBI.]

I believe the feds have learned some hard lessons here, but as Americans we must always remember that we cannot tolerate the attitudes displayed at Waco. I hope their lessons learned are not simply about improved tactics. It was a damn shame the only criminal convictions obtained were against the surviving Davidians.

December 10, 1998, 11:29 PM
Jeff - can you recall what paper, author, etc., that article was in? I'd love to get my hands on it.

December 11, 1998, 01:11 AM
You're exactally right. Its a travesty that the only ones charged were the Davidians. There is an HBO documentary ( yeah, I know, but this one isnt half bad) about Waco. Any of you guys see it? They play 911 tapes of the Davidians calling asking for the feds to withdraw as soon as the fighting started. The firefight lasted 2 hours after that.
I think the feds learned a hard lesson that day, but I hope it wasnt just an exercise to improve tactics. We need to let them know we're watching them for a change. Any ideas? Were there any civilian watchdog groups formed after this tragedy? I hadnt heard of any but I guess that doesnt mean anything when your dealing with the "mainstream media" does it?

December 11, 1998, 02:20 AM
The parallel drawn to NAZI Germany is an interesting one. A couple of problems with that comparison though. As far as history tells, the Jews had not compiled a quantity of illegal weapons and munitions including M-16 components, AR-15 and Ak-47 full auto conversion kits, grenade launchers, grenade bodies and components to render them active, 50 caliber rifles, as well as a significant quantity of black powder. The Jews also were probably not made up of former members of the CSA (The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord), or the Order; groups who practiced tactics involving the killing of police officers on car stops and were in support of the overthrow of the government.

What happened to the Jews was deplorable and inexusable. What happened at WACO was poor planning and the inability to recognize a flawed plan for what it was.

What greeted the raid team in the first few moments as they pulled up in front of the compound buildings was automatic weapons fire coming through the walls and doors. If some of my compatriots had been killed in those first moments, I probably would not have wanted to withdraw either. I would have wanted to stick around for awhile at least and kick some Davidian ass.


December 11, 1998, 06:21 PM

You have your opinion, and are welcome to it. I think perhaps you should consider, though

(1) What the 2nd amendment means, and

(2) That the "good guys" in this case broke numerous laws. These would include perjury, assault with intent to kill, theft, burglary, murder ("David Koresh"'s daughter was shot in his arms at the beginning of the shooting.), obstruction of justice, criminal trespass...is that enough for you?

To everyone else, I apologize, as the usage of crime should not be considered a part of tactics. There was a series of articles SOF did on this, with a high proportion of the information coming from the trials of the surviving Davidians...

Edmund Rowe
December 12, 1998, 07:40 PM
I'm not sure how "tactics" is being defined in this discussion. I define tactics as the methods used on site to execute the mission, not the why or the "is this right" side of it.

The biggest thing I'd be concerned about in the raid's execution is the wholesale use of indiscriminate firepower at the compound. If I was an agent who got a successful entry inside the compound and then there's bullets flying through the walls, what in the world am I to do?

Would radio chatter be something like "friendlies in the compound, check fire" to be answered with "hostile fire coming from your side. You're on your own, buddy"??

From what little I know about dynamic entries and building clearances, there has to be a very detailed plan in place for communicating to all friendlies that "This room cleared" as well as a careful plan for taking the compound down without endangering fellow officers.

I'm not an expert, just an RKI.


Byron Quick
December 12, 1998, 11:00 PM
The Jews in Europe pre-1938 would have certainly been in better shape if they HAD stockpiled all those illegal weapons, ammo, and more besides...now wouldn't they? Before you answer consider that a few score Jewish heroes armed with a pitiful handful of firearms and ammunition held off the German "dynamic entry" of the Warsaw Ghetto for longer than the Polish Army resisted the invasion of Poland. Consider the result if six million Jews as well as the additional six million Poles, gypsies, and whoever else "qualified"...had fought for their lives.

Not much on tactics here or strategy. More on the level of doctrine.

I've seen two federal investigations. Judging the ethics of the agents involved by their actions in each unrelated investigation... if a federal agent told me the sun was rising in the east I'd grab a compass and go outside to check. Before I get flamed by LEO's let me state I like, respect, and admire many of the city policemen, deputy sheriffs, state troopers, and state investigators I know...to date none of the federal agents I've met make the grade.

[This message has been edited by Spartacus (edited 12-12-98).]

Jeff Thomas
December 13, 1998, 01:39 AM
Morgan, I'm sorry, but I just can't remember the source of that article, or the name of the author. My guess would be that it was in the Mesa or Scottsdale Tribune, Arizona Republic or the Wall Street Journal. Sounds like something James Bovard would write, but that's a guess.

o1paw, I never heard of any civilian groups being formed after this, but I know I would never join such a group unless things became much, much more dire. I don't care to have my home searched or my tax returns audited. ;)

Mikep, I think Spartacus and Spectre hit the nail right on the head. When I read your comment I thought immediately of Warsaw, 1943. At that point in time the Jews gathered every weapon they could lay their hands on. The web site for the National Holocaust Museum has some great information on this uprising, and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership ( http://www.jpfo.org/ ) have some unique insight into this question as well. I would only add that while the Davidians may have broken some firearms laws (and others?), it hardly justified the result we witnessed. I never, ever thought I would see in my lifetime such callous disregard by federal agents for the lives of innocent children (at the very least). Finally, while we all have to live within the laws of the land, I would suggest that our country's legal system has evolved to such an extent that our government(s) can probably bust almost any one of us for breaking one or more laws at any time. Perhaps ten years from now it will be illegal to eat hamburger, and then we'll see the FBI's hostage rescue team staking out clandestine burger grills! ;)

I know this topic is supposed to be about tactics, so I'll drop out. However, this incident was so 'unAmerican' that it pains me to ignore the underlying rationale and tragic results in human life ... and in lost respect for the federal agencies involved. What a damn shame. Thank you.

Rich Lucibella
December 13, 1998, 09:32 AM
Respectfully, generalization is the the first step down the road to ignorance and ignorance is the path to slavery.

To wit: you are a Registered Nurse...were you to become a QA Nurse, you'd be considered by many in your industry, the lowest form of life in the universe. Hardly reasonable since you, hopefully, would still be you.

Regarding Federal Officers, I have several that I consider friends....and I know one or two who'd take a bullet in defense of our freedoms more quickly than most of us.

I believe there *is* bad management in many Federal Agencies...BATF being the prime example; IRS running a close second. There are even pockets of bad agents in Federal Agencies. However, since these agencies seem to be here to stay, our feeding into the growing polarization serves no purpose other than to hasten the trend toward a police state, as it alienates those who are just trying to do an honorable job.

Off my soapbox.
ps: I have yet to see acceptable evidence that the BATF received heavy fire from the Davidian home when they attacked. However, when the shooting starts, it's pretty tough for individual agents to determine who started it.

I wonder what the Founding Fathers would say about this incident in light of the fact that the infamous Boston Massacre ended with 2 (5?) persons dead.

[This message has been edited by Rich Lucibella (edited 12-13-98).]

December 13, 1998, 11:13 AM
I can understand people's concern over the WACO incident, however, once the wheels were in motion, you've dedicated youself. I find that many don't know the true facts of some of the factors such as the FBI inserted extremely high tech listening devices to listen in and hopefully know positions. If you were lucky enough to hear the tapes you can hear orders being given to torch the place in different places which were also consistant with the arial photos of many small fires at different locations. I also wish everyone was able to view the video tapes made inside by KORESH and some of the negotiations which gives a better understanding of his insanity and the haunting audio tapes hearing the execution one by one of the kids and elders that had "taken refuge" in the concrete bunker under the tower with KORESH.

My point to this is that yes, ATF and FBI may have made some mistakes but the fact is they had a legal warrant and how long should it take to turn yourself in when knowing your under arrest? So is every person you arrest now ok to get into a philosophical debate before he's off to the klink?

They had to use whatever weapons and tactics that were authorized by their agency. If you don't like that then push for better weapons than 9mm sub guns.

As far as guns and gear I thought everyone there did as good as they could have under the circumstances. I would like to hear what they could have done better based on the real facts, not on a paranoid alarmist's anti-government post WACO video.

December 13, 1998, 12:14 PM
Ok. I'll bite! (I feel you were "fishing" for rebuttal with your "paranoid, alarmist" comment.)
Part of the problem is we civilians are not given the complete story - total and free of bias. Part of the problem for you is that we live in a country where some civilians have the (perhaps mistaken) impression we have the right to question why tanks were used on civilians. Why were the front doors disposed of so quickly? Why was the place bulldozed so quickly? Why was the NRA told they could examine the so-called fully automatic firearms - but when BATF learned NRA would x-ray (or whatever) the guns to learn if they were in fact auto or semi-auto access was immediately cancelled without explanation?
I'm not attacking the BATF (at the moment) for anything other than their secrecy. To permit only certain information to be published, to blatantly hide and distort facts (even AFTER the trials are over) wipes out the BATF's right to be insulted when "paranoid alarmists" ask, "What the heck happened? And why won't you tell me?"
And about being a nurse. I'm an EMT-Basic. I teach First Aid and CPR for a living.
But my background is twenty years in military intelligence. I can continue this conversation in Russian or German if you so desire. (I've lost my Polish, Hindustani, and Urdu language skills due to lack of use.)
I am also an American, as you are, and as the nurse is. I also support my local LEOs and LE agencies, physically, financially, morally, and with my teaching skills. Don't you EVER imply we "civilians" have lost the right to question your actions - regardless of what our profession happens to be. We have the right to question law enforcement because we're Americans.
I'll quit now because I'm pissed.

[This message has been edited by Dennis (edited 12-13-98).]

Rich Lucibella
December 13, 1998, 03:10 PM
Everyone please take a deep breath and count to 10. The Firing Line is an excercise in exchange of ideas...it is not rec.guns.

We have attracted a higher percentage of LEO's than most other boards for a reason...this site provides an interface for civil discussion and debate. I can not allow it to degenerate into a pissing contest.

I sat thru and recorded the entire Senate Hearings on Waco in 1995. I personally believe it was the single, greatest FUBAR perpetrated by Federal Law Enforcement on the American Public. I personally believe the military was duped into violating the doctrine of Posse Comitatus. I personally believe careers should have been ended (beginning with Janet Reno) and criminal charges considered. While I may personally believe I'm right, I also respect others' rights to disagree.

However, we can not allow every (or even most) Federal agents to be held responsible....any more than we can allow every citizen who refuses to own a firearm to be labeled "Sheeple", or every NRA member to be labeled a crazed, militia marching, NeoNazi. When we fall into these traps, the we all loose.

This discussion is already *way* off topic. We will allow it to continue, only because I, too, have contributed and it would be unfair to deny others the same right. But I ask you each to keep it civil...I know that is difficult in light of the deaths of scores of American citizens (both private and LEO)....but I think we can do it.

To this end, let me offer the first apology to Spartacus. In rereading my post to you, I can see how it might be interpreted as an ad hominem attack...please accept my sincere apology and my pledge that it was never intended as such.

OK....exhale :).

[This message has been edited by Rich Lucibella (edited 12-13-98).]

Byron Quick
December 13, 1998, 03:14 PM
Sorry. Reread my post. I did not generalize. I specifically limited my observations to the federal agents I have seen with my own eyes. No media or hearsay was mentioned. Granted I have only seen about 15 in action. I am also open to the possibility that there are many honorable agents. I have one question for them: How can you consider yourself to be honorable defenders of the Constitution while taking the orders of Ms. Reno, Mr. Freeh, Mr. Clinton, et. al.? The FBI agents from the Ruby Ridge incident who testified in open court that they disregarder the "modified" rules of engagement for those rules were obviously illegal were honorable men. Wonder how their careers are doing in relation to Lon Horiuchi?

There is no excuse, no mitigating circumstance, and no ex post facto rationalization which will justify the federal government's actions at Waco. Waco was the result of arrogant abuse of power and a blatant disregard for the Constitution as well as-apparently- an utter lack of humanity.

On a humorous note in regard to your observation about Quality Assurance nurses. I've a friend who was written up for only obtaining one IV access on a trauma patient when the standard of care is for a minimum of two large bore IV's. His reply? "Well, since the patient was on a stretcher hanging from the side of a cliff, at 2AM, and in a blinding deluge of a thunderstorm...I'm actually very proud of what you described as my substandard care of this patient>."

Rob Pincus
December 13, 1998, 08:31 PM
--swooping down from the rafters...--

Okay. I have watched this thread develop and even sent out a couple of private emails a couple of days ago, because of where I thought it was going. Well it got there.
I thank Rich for stepping in, as I did not feel it was my place to do so, but now that he has commented....

What you did was make a typical statement. I would expect to here it in many settings, but I would prefer not to read it at TFL. I respect just about everyone here very much and have recommended this site to a great many people as what a Forum should be. No offense to anyone who particpated, but I felt that this topic was loaded. Spartacus pulled the trigger.
You did generalize when you stated:
"if a federal agent told me the sun was rising in the east I'd grab a compass and go outside to check"
Hey, I generalize all the time, but not to denigrate a group of people who out there standing on the line trying to protect our country. Sure, many of them make mistakes, but a great many more of them do the right thing, every day. A guy with a badge should get the benefit of the doubt until he proves he doesn't deserve it, IMHO.

I've been on both sides of an investigation and understand that things are not always fair-- for either side.

Discussing the Tactics involved at Waco is kinda like discussing the JFK Assassination. Lots of theories, lots of ideas, but only a few people were there. Only a few people really know what happened. As none of them are here it is kinda hard to have something to really discuss.

This is a great resource that we have, one that everyone can contribute to in one way or another. It will only get better if we continue to add facts, ideas and opinions. If we start throwing accusation and conjecture into the mix, we will follow a whole lot of other online forums into a maze of immaturity, bad info, personality cults and flame wars.

This is all my opinion, FWIW, if I've stepped over a line, send me an email and I'll edit this whole message to read:

"Hey, whatever, come find me when you're ready to talk guns...."


Byron Quick
December 14, 1998, 06:59 PM
Rich, no problem here. Wasn't offended then...not offended now. FWIW, the local, county, and state LEO's I've talked with share my opinion of the Federal law enforcement agencies, i.e, they need a thorough house cleaning from the top down and a watchdog Congressional committee such as the intelligence community must coordinate with. Let's talk guns.

Rob Pincus
December 14, 1998, 07:03 PM
Okay, If there is anything left to say on the politics of this situation, lets take it to the Political Forum.


If you have a problem with this thread getting closed down, send me an Email.