At Waco, ATF agents committed the fatal blunder of acting upon information from a convicted felon, jewel thief and psychopath named Rick Ross. Obsessed with kidnapping Christians out of their religions, Ross had earlier deprogrammed former Branch Davidian David Block at the home of Priscilla Coates, former national director of a hate group.
n examination of evidence related to the conflagration and loss of 86 lives which occurred at Waco, Texas, in 1993 reveals that the ATF played a singular role in provoking that tragedy. This role is important to understand in light of what Freedom uncovered concerning the recent epidemic of black church burnings.
It is, after all, the same ATF. Indeed, information obtained by Freedom shows that one of the ATF agents killed during the raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco had attended the previous years Good Ole Boys Roundup in Tennessee. These roundups, annual bashes where drugs, beer and racism flowed freely, were launched in 1980 by ATF officials and held every year through 1995. (For more information on the Good Ole Boys Roundup, see A Fire on the Cross.)
Rick Ross, formerly a top deprogrammer with the recently shut down hate group called the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), arrived in Waco a year before the deadly incident and helped to set the stage for the bloodbath by beginning his own assault on the Branch Davidians. Ross later boasted of serving as consultant to both the ATF and the FBI during that tragedy.
The entire justification for the February 28, 1993, raid conducted by the ATF against the Davidians was the allegation that they were illegally stockpiling arms.
On its face, the claim was ludicrous. Even the FBIs chief negotiator later stated, Nothing in this country says you cant own 100 rifles. Furthermore, illegal weapons charges previously brought against the Davidians had been investigated and dismissed.
But new factors were now present: Ross and CAN, working closely with former Davidians they had disaffected from the movement.
Unlike the KKK, CAN was an equal opportunity hate group, its bigotry extending to religious denominations of all descriptions. As CANs executive director told the Cleveland Plain Dealer: If he [Jesus Christ] were alive now wed take an interest in him because of the great controversy surrounding his fringe activities. ... Wed try to see if there was abuse, unethical behavior or deceptive practices. And Id send whatever we could find to reporters.
Ross, obsessed with kidnapping Christians out of their religious communities, deprogrammed David Block, a Branch Davidian from Waco, at the home of Priscilla Coates, former national director of CAN.
Encouraged by Ross, Block turned apostate and became an enemy of his former faith. At Ross urging, he reported to the ATF that the Davidians were illegally stockpiling firearms. He was, in all respects, supported by Rosswho later stated in a television interview that he personally consulted with ATF agents on the Waco sect and told them about the guns in the compound.
Ross had also been in touch with a local newspaper, the Waco Tribune-Herald, in connection with a series of articles the Herald was running on the Davidians which ridiculed their beliefs and practices. Allegations of abuse, imprisonment and bizarre rituals were trumpeted. The Herald was only too willing to accept Ross claims at face value for the sake of a sensational story. They were just as willing to avoid looking too closely into Ross credentials.
The paper relied almost exclusively on information from Ross, CAN and former Davidians and had forwarded their allegations to the ATFwhich, at the time, was looking to pull off a major PR coup to ward off proposed budget cuts, according to information provided to Freedom by sources within the Treasury Department.
The ATF took the bait. Information provided by former Davidians, including Block, made up almost the entire content of the warrant drawn up by the ATF authorizing the fatal February 28 raid on the Davidian compound. That raid left four ATF agents and five Davidians dead, and many wounded on both sides.
Sharp criticism of the ATFs tactics immediately followed. Vic Feazell, a former district attorney, described how he had arrested Koresh in 1987 without bloodshed on charges that were later dropped. If theyd [the ATF] called and talked to them, they [the Davidians] would have given them what they wanted, he told Associated Press. They were extremely polite people.
After a 13-month investigation of the Waco disaster, two committees of the U.S. House of Representatives issued a joint report in July 1996 blasting the ATFs investigation of the Davidians as grossly incompetent, and noting that It lacked the minimum professionalism expected of a major federal law enforcement agency.
The report, issued jointly by the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight and the Committee on the Judiciary, scored ATF agents on many counts, including false statements, deceit and misrepresentations toward other government agencies. It also castigated Attorney General Janet Reno, calling her approval of the assault plan premature, wrong and highly irresponsible, and concluding that President Clinton should have accepted her resignation when she offered it in light of her ultimate repsonsiblity for the disastrous assault and its resulting deaths.
Justice caught up to Ross and the Cult Awareness Network hate group in 1995 when Ross, two accomplices and CAN itself were ordered by a federal court in Seattle, Washington, to pay nearly $5 million in damages to Jason Scott. Ross and his colleagues had attempted to break Scotts Christian beliefscharacterized as Bible-intoxicated by Ross at the trialthrough the use of force and violence. (See Death Knell to Deprogramming.)
Faced with this judgment, Ross and CAN have gone bankrupt, and CAN has been ordered to cease all operations. It seems apt that such instigators of intolerance would finally be forced out of business by their own deeds; but it doesnt even begin to compensate the toll suffered by the victims of Waco.