Skip to comments.Feds on Waco: Shooting in the dark
Posted on 04/12/2003 2:18:24 AM PDT by JohnHuang2
Science offers an unbiased approach to problem solving, but good scientific practice can be jeopardized when controversial topics are at issue. At Waco, government science failed. To illustrate, compare the problem-solving on Waco technical issues with NASA's approach to getting a crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft back to Earth. Who can forget the response to "Houston, we have a problem?" Swiftly, decisively, in a zero-tolerance-for-error atmosphere, engineers, scientists, flight controllers and astronauts formulated a solution that brought the spacecraft home. Calculations were made and checked, models built, hypotheses generated and tested. Many individuals applied their expertise, and the work was folded into a solution. NASA's "successful failure" is something Americans are proud of; it demonstrates how well ingenuity and know-how can operate when facing a critical technical challenge.
Having demonstrated this ability on Apollo 13, at Waco, we forgot we possessed it. Waco's critical challenge was to determine if Federal agents0 fired on members of the Branch Davidian religious group. Unfortunately, government investigations treated this problem not as a scientific issue, but as a legal matter in which they would play the roles of judge and jury. The following paragraphs amplify this claim.
The problem is simply stated. On April 19, 1993, a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) imaging sensor circled Mt. Carmel onboard an FBI surveillance aircraft. The sensor recorded many bright flashes before the complex burned to the ground. The key issue was whether flashes recorded on infrared imagery represented the signatures of weapons fire or some other phenomenon, such as solar reflections off debris. Non-government experts concluded that the flashes were gunfire; experts retained by the government concluded they were not. Three experts presented reports for government investigations, one for the U. S. House of Representatives' Committee on Government Reform and two for the Office of Special Counsel headed by former U. S. Sen. John Danforth. The FLIR controversy received considerable attention in 1999-2000 and was one of five issues raised by Davidian survivors and relatives in a wrongful death lawsuit against government officials.2
There are problems with the government's scientific approach in reaching the "we did not fire" conclusion, and this paper will discuss them. It will show that dogmatic conclusions by government experts are no substitute for the application of real science and engineering as evidenced by NASA on Apollo 13. The paper describes the expertise needed to fully resolve the Waco FLIR controversy and contrasts that with the expertise actually demonstrated in government studies. It also critiques testing performed under the auspices of the Special Counsel. As will be seen, the government's solution strategy fell far short of good scientific practice.
Analysis by experts, judgment by decree
Each side in a trial endeavors to win its case. To this end, each side commissions experts who've arrived at conclusions favorable to the cases of those who've retained them. Experts from opposing sides in litigation do not sit together over coffee and discuss the technical merits of their cases in the interest of science; and one would not expect experts retained by plaintiffs and defendants in the Davidians' wrongful death lawsuit to work out scientific details among themselves.
An analysis also exhibits the character of a solo event, as the analyst provides his or her best interpretation of the data under study. An investigation, however, is different, particularly when it presents itself as the vehicle for uncovering the truth on a disputed matter, as the Special Counsel's investigation into Waco did. While analysis results fold into an investigation, they should be weighed at a higher level. In particular, a distinction between persons and issues should be made. Rather than assuming that the conclusions of its analysts were correct (apparently because they were retained by the Special Counsel) the investigation should have adopted an issues-oriented perspective, noting discrepancies among many analysts on key issues and working to resolve them.
Given the differing interpretations of the Waco data existing at the time of the Special Counsel's inquiry, a good first step toward problem resolution would have been to draw together analysts holding contradictory views, allowing them to go through their arguments point by point. Additional personnel could have been sought and retained to provide peer review the detailed critique of assumptions, methods, and conclusions that is essential to scientific inquiry. At a minimum, the process would have ensured that technologists who'd worked the Waco flash problem were given the opportunity to critique the analyses of their peers before government judgments decided the issue. This did not happen. Special Counsel experts Vector Data Systems Ltd. of the UK and Lena Klasen and Sten Madsen of Sweden concluded that solar reflections caused most Waco flashes. The Special Counsel adopted this conclusion. Thus, the operational definition of "truth" in the investigation was the concurrence of two expert opinions.
The conclusion of the House of Representatives' Committee on Government Reform was even less robust. Physicist Don Frankel of Photon Research Associates found that the FLIR tapes did not contain evidence of gunfire. This conclusion was opposite to that of infrared analyst Carlos Ghigliotti, who had also been retained by the House Committee.3 Ghigliotti, however, suffered a fatal heart attack before delivering his final report. Whether or not the committee intended that the analysts meet and discuss their arguments is unknown. As it stands, the committee's verdict suggests that "truth" is the judgment rendered by the living analyst.
While the House committee's inquiry did not have the resources that the Danforth commission possessed, both approaches suffered the same flaw. Emphasizing persons rather than issues in an investigation serves only to propagate controversy.
The issues-oriented perspective is best illustrated by an example. Addressing the topic of the Waco FLIR imager manufactured by British firm GEC-Marconi, Frankel noted:
"The FLIR video technology has a very low probability of detecting small-arms muzzle flash." 4
To support his claim, Frankel reviewed camera characteristics and compared them to muzzle flash literature and the test results of colleagues. Many months earlier, "60 Minutes II" aired a segment in which Jane's Information Group analyst and spokesman Paul Beaver concluded that the Waco flashes were gunfire. Commenting on the ability of the camera to detect gunfire signatures, he told The Dallas Morning News:
"You're looking for just that. I have personally been in a situation where I've seen gunfire, using the GEC-Marconi system. In a firefight situation, it's very, very useful to detect where the enemy is." 5
Either the Waco FLIR could be used effectively for imaging muzzle flash, or it was essentially useless for that purpose; both arguments cannot be right. Failure to look at the problem on the basis of issues such as these paves the way for continued dispute and is a major flaw in the government's investigative strategy.
Beaver's comments point to another flaw in Waco investigations: the lack of appropriate expertise brought to bear on the problem.
Gunfire issues, scientific experts
Critical to the success of the Apollo 13 mission was the diversity of background applied to it. While some engineers may believe that they can push buttons inside a flight simulator as well as any astronaut can, an individual training with the technology daily will have mastered its nuances and be able to execute maneuvers in the same manner as those in space whose lives depend on them.
Similarly, technologists trained in the scientific side of FLIR imaging which includes disciplines such as infrared instrumentation, imagery interpretation, video engineering and atmospheric analysis may not possess a background in muzzle-flash phenomenology, weapons or tactics. As allegations of gunfire generated the controversy, disciplines bearing upon gunfire must be key to its solution. The paucity of such expertise in official inquiries is testament to the government's failure to investigate well.
For example: Individuals such as Beaver who'd seen gunfire on a similar FLIR were not tasked to determine whether gunfire generated the flashes on the Waco FLIR. Individuals with combat experience did not contribute tactical insights to the analyses. Weapons experts familiar with the many variables that can influence muzzle flash were not among those whose reports dismissed this phenomenon. Technologists who spend significant portions of their careers studying muzzle flash were absent from the analyst roster.
Instead, the final judgment relied on the conclusions of imagery experts such as Vector Data Systems. Addressing the contentious issue of flashes emerging from dark objects6 behind a combat engineering vehicle (CEV) advancing on the Mt. Carmel gymnasium, Vector noted that its imagery analysis "refutes the theory that a person would lie or crouch in such proximity to the very hot CEV engine." 7 The analysts also pointed out that the vehicle rolls over the shapes as it backs away from the gym.
Looking at the problem tactically provides a different perspective. If the "dark objects" were personnel expecting fire from Davidians inside the gym, lying or crouching behind the vehicle would be preferable to being shot. 8 If the vehicle was equipped with a hatch allowing personnel to exit beneath the tank, individuals might lie beneath it without being crushed. The Vector analysts' conclusion that these flashes were generated by heat reflections off debris appears to be based not only on imagery, but also on behaviors they judge to be improbable. A more well-rounded approach would involve assuming that such behaviors are probable; assessing the amount of spatial detail that the camera might record at the altitude at which images were obtained; and determining whether the quality of the videotape used for analysis was sufficient to exploit camera capabilities.
Dismissing gunfire as a cause of the flashes appeared to be relatively easy for some. Imagery experts Klasen and Madsen, whose analysis focused primarily on solar reflections, noted that the work of the Maryland Advanced Development Laboratory (MADL), an expert witness for the Justice Department in the civil lawsuit, provided "a much more accurate and correct explanation of the flashes seen on the April 19, 1993, FLIR imagery"9 than the work of analysts who'd concluded gunfire had been their source.
One wonders how descriptors such as "accurate" and "correct" can be applied by authors who have not studied gunfire. What Klasen and Madsen failed to note was that MADL's conclusion that most flashes on the Waco tape lasted too long to have been generated by gunfire from weapons thought to have been in use at Waco was based on extrapolating test results from single-shot firings. 10 Given that the phenomenology of single-shot firing is different from that of multiple firings, 11 the approach is open to question. Lack of background in the discipline guarantees that the question will not be asked.
The lack of weapons expertise has other implications. Might analysts know that factors such as barrel length, ammunition type and flash suppressants influence muzzle flash signatures? Is a literature search sufficient to gain understanding of these variables, or must testing be performed? And if the latter, in what kinds of conditions must tests be conducted to ensure valid comparison with the conditions at Mt. Carmel?10
Weapons, debris and data anlysis
"Re-creating" the conditions on April 19, 1993, in order to "simulate" events on the standoff's last day is an extremely difficult proposition. Many factors go into the mix weather conditions, soil characteristics; amount, type, location and orientation of reflective material; number and type of weapons alleged to have been carried by federal agents; vehicles, aircraft and FLIR sensor among others. Like a complex choreography comprising difficult dance steps and the transitions that weave them together, a Waco "simulation" would have to account for these factors in the manner in which they were thought to have contributed to events. As both "steps" and "transitions" at Waco are matters of dispute, a "re-enactment" is very difficult to achieve.
The FLIR trial, conducted at Ft. Hood, Texas, in March of 2000 under the auspices of the Special Counsel, was not a re-creation, simulation or re-enactment of April 19 events. Rather, it was an effort to gather data that might be used in analyzing the Waco FLIR tapes. While a detailed critique of the effort is beyond the scope of this paper, examination of some of its aspects can prove useful. Two subjects are of particular interest: solar reflections and muzzle flash.
The Ft. Hood test proved that solar reflections can be imaged with FLIR. At the time of the test, this was a contentious issue. Infrared engineer Edward Allard, the plaintiffs' expert in the wrongful death lawsuit, maintained that solar reflections from debris could not have caused the Waco FLIR flashes due to the inability of the Waco instrument to image them.13 The test proved that contention to be inaccurate, inasmuch as solar reflections can be detected with FLIR. How Allard's analysis of the flashes might have evolved had he interpreted Ft. Hood data is unknown; unfortunately, he suffered a stroke prior to the test.
The test also showed that multiple, repetitive flashes of elongated shape can be generated by debris reflections. This, too, was an important point, given the repetitive nature of some of the Mt. Carmel flash events and their elongated shapes.
However, the conditions under which reflections were imaged at Ft. Hood did not duplicate those at Mt. Carmel. The Ft. Hood debris field consisted of five eight-foot squares, a large area of potentially reflective targets. Reflective debris at Mt. Carmel were scattered due to demolition of the complex, falling to the ground among building material and dirt. Ft. Hood debris had been watered down and covered with tarps prior to the test. Although this created a good field condition for observing the occurrence of reflections, the density of debris material makes correlation of specific flashes with the pieces that generated them very difficult to accomplish.14 In short, while the Ft. Hood test produced solar reflections, it did not do so under conditions approximating those at Waco.
Gunfire testing at Ft. Hood exhibited a similar shortcoming. Data from Ft. Hood firings produced infrared muzzle flashes lasting for shorter durations than the flashes on the Waco tape. Yet the firing area had been watered down prior to the trial15 and the atmospheric particulate generated at Mt. Carmel by the effects of wind and structural demolition was not accounted for in testing. Subsequent testing has shown that firing a weapon through particulate can enhance the flash's infrared duration; 16 survey of the literature on muzzle flash reveals that firing a weapon near dry ground will cause dust to be lifted aloft.17 Adding moisture to the soil prior to a firing test works to diminish this effect and is not representative of Mt. Carmel conditions after demolition began.
Another factor bearing upon the test's validity deserves comment. Months after the Special Counsel issued its judgment, investigator and filmmaker Michael McNulty determined, from a review of video and photographic evidence, that a weapon and ammunition combination present at Waco was not tested at Ft. Hood.18 As the combination of a short-barreled weapon and commercial-grade ammunition had been seen to produce bright, long-duration flashes,19 the discovery was significant. McNulty's findings were incorporated into a film "The FLIR Project," and a report sent to members of Congress.20
Most analysts who concluded that federal agents did not fire at Waco based their gunfire duration criteria on material other than the muzzle flash test results at Ft. Hood. 21 The exception to this generalization was Vector Data Systems, whose report made extensive use of FLIR trial data.22 Thus, results of a test conducted under very different conditions from those at Waco contributed significantly to the Special Counsel's final judgment.
Having considered several complications in the search for "the truth" of what happened at Waco on April 19, 1993, it is instructive to consider what "the truth" tells us about some of the science behind the flash controversy. This consideration will be pursued, as above, with respect to both muzzle flash and solar reflections.
Fact Number One: The infrared signature of small arms fire does not last long enough to have generated the flash signatures at Waco.
Although analysts whose reports contributed to the final judgment placed varying upper limits on muzzle flash duration, all three agreed that it does not last long enough to have generated the flashes on the Waco FLIR tape.
Therefore, data to the contrary showing muzzle flashes lasting long enough to have generated the flash signatures at Waco can be assumed to be (1) a hoax; (2) a misunderstanding; or (3) new science. If (3), continuation of research such as that described in Zegel and the work of McNulty should be considered for a National Science Foundation grant, as it can serve to advance basic understanding of a physical phenomenon.23
There is another possibility. One can hypothesize that data to the contrary could arise due to the characteristics of the particular FLIR used to record it. The Klasen-Madsen authors concluded that just such a characteristic was present within the Waco FLIR imager that "thermal energy of short duration could appear longer in duration than in real life"24 due to sensor effects.
It's a curious position, given that the authors also adopted the view that muzzle flash is of insufficient duration to have generated the Waco flashes. Could such a camera characteristic have allowed muzzle flashes at Waco to last longer than they normally would? This possibility was not addressed in the report; the Special Counsel's judgment means it can't happen, anyway.
Fact Number Two: Solar reflections from debris emerged in appropriate geometrical position to reach the aircraft's FLIR sensor at the times most flash events were recorded.
This fact is critical. Even if muzzle flash and solar reflections appear "identical" in shape, size, brightness and duration, a solar reflection will not be recorded by the FLIR if the aircraft carrying it is not in appropriate alignment with respect to the sun and the debris.
Two opposite positions on this issue were presented. First was that of mathematician and imagery analyst Maurice Cox,25 who'd concluded that the aircraft was not in position to record solar reflections during the times that six key flash events occurred. In an effort to make the flash data fit a solar reflection hypothesis, Cox postulated several scenarios in which reflective material fell onto uneven ground or were "aimed" at the aircraft sensor by conceptual "machines" before concluding that such "aiming" was unlikely to occur naturally.26
On the other hand, Klasen and Madsen determined that proper geometrical alignment between sun, debris, and aircraft did exist during most flash events. Their conclusion was based on a detailed computer model that compared the appearance of flashes with the sun's known position and the aircraft's reconstructed path around the complex. The authors noted that their modeling technique produced aircraft positions that were "accurate and reliable";27 where they located the aircraft during flash events is not mentioned in the report.
If ever a discrepancy within the Waco FLIR problem cried out for the "issues-oriented" approach described earlier in this paper, this was it. Not only did this critical issue not receive such treatment; the Klasen-Madsen document did not appear on the internet until the Special Counsel's final judgment was issued, precluding public comment before the entire matter was deemed "closed."
The Klasen-Madsen authors reviewed Cox's work in their report, but unfortunately, misinterpreted its arguments.28 Cox wrote to the Special Counsel in November of 2000, and has not yet received a reply.
It would be difficult to imagine investigations beset with as many inadequacies as those purporting to offer the last word on the Waco FLIR flashes; nevertheless, official conclusions removed a controversial issue from the national stage. Skeptical consideration of investigative results is justified, particularly in view of the immense resources available to the government.
While the analyses of experts can form a good starting point for investigation, authorities erred by automatically adopting the conclusions of their experts as "the truth." Expertise in the critical areas of muzzle-flash phenomenology, weapons and tactics was missing among analysts whose reports decided the issue. A test still referred to by some as a "re-enactment" of events on April 19, 1993, failed to duplicate (or approximate) conditions at Waco; yet its results contributed significantly to the final judgment. The judgment, exonerating federal agents from wrongdoing at Waco, is predicated on "facts" about muzzle flash and solar reflection conditions at Mt. Carmel that, at the very minimum, deserve considerable additional scrutiny.
Investigative flaws have been noted and described. However, had imagery analysis produced definitive evidence of shooters at Mt. Carmel, the need for a problem-solving approach encompassing a breadth of expertise and tackling a variety of issues would go out the window. This, too, is a contested matter. Special Counsel expert Klasen, experienced in a wide variety of computer image processing techniques, found no evidence of human motion on the Waco tapes in proximity to the flashes.29 Vector's imagery analysts concluded likewise. Veteran imagery analyst Carroll Lucas, however, determined that personnel could be seen within the Mt. Carmel complex on several occasions prior to the fire.30 Former Air Force imagery analyst Michael Weatherford later determined that human figures appeared on the video as "soft fuzzy blotches," several in proximity to flashes, whose presence he'd detected by their "blocking out the rough background they are crossing."31
Missing from the argument was the final report of analyst Carlos Ghigliotti. Unwilling to base his imagery study on data other than the best available, he'd demanded and received a first-generation analog copy of the FBI's FLIR video, whose production from the original he witnessed.32 His methodology involved using both FLIR imagery and visible light video to gain an understanding of events;33 and he'd claimed to have correlated a FLIR flash with a visible image of a shooter.34 After his death, a staffer from the House Committee removed all material deemed "Committee property" from Ghigliotti's lab.35
A final factor deserves mention. While individuals of several technical backgrounds are capable of addressing the Waco problem, all are doubtless aware that the FLIR flash controversy does not exist within a scientific vacuum. This author noted that technologists unconnected to the controversy did not wish to have their names associated with the strictly technical observation that solar reflections can be imaged with infrared equipment.36 Attorney and investigator David Hardy has written of infrared experts who'd concluded that the FLIR flashes represented gunfire, but did not wish to become involved in a trial.37
Perhaps the most telling comment comes from infrared analysis firm Infraspection Institute, who'd analyzed the FLIR video for "60 Minutes." While noting that the firm's expert had concluded that the flashes were gunfire, "due to the potentially sensitive nature of the material, and the potential negative repercussions to Infraspection, we are choosing to decline any further comment."38
Such statements presage a sad day for science; sadder still, for the truth that science may uncover.
1. This paper uses the term "federal agents" to refer to individuals acting on behalf of the Federal government The author does not assume a specific agency affiliation on the part of such individuals.
2. Federal Judge Walter Smith separated the FLIR issue from the other four, with the result that the FLIR was not discussed at trial.
3. More specifically, Ghigliotti claimed that FBI agents fired their weapons at Waco on April 19, 1993, David T. Hardy and Rex Kimball, "This is Not an Assault", Xlibris, 2001, p. 113.
4. Donald Frankel, "Assessment of Waco, Texas FLIR videotape," (Report to U. S. House of Representatives' Committee on Government Reform) Sept. 11, 2000, p 1. Frankel's arguments may also be seen in a paper of the same title, "Proceedings of SPIE," the International Society for Optical Engineering, 4370-51, 2001, pp. 286-300.
5. Lee Hancock, "FBI cameras at Waco same as ones used by British military, expert says," The Dallas Morning News, Jan. 29, 2000.
6. Many who claim that the government fired at Waco allege that these "dark objects" are men; and that the flashes emerging from these positions are weapons fire.
7. Vector Data Systems, Ltd., "Imagery Analysis Report: The Events at Waco, Texas, 19 April 1993," (Report to Office of Special Counsel) May 5, 2000, p. 46.
8. SFC Steven M. Barry, USA (Ret.) communication to author, 2000.
9. Lena Klasen and Sten Madsen, "Waco Analysis: Image Investigation and Video Authentication," (Report to Office of Special Counsel) October 4, 2000, p. 84. Some of the arguments in the report to the Special Counsel may also be found in Klasen, "Waco Investigation: Analysis of FLIR Videotapes," Proc. SPIE 4370-50, 2001, pp. 271-285.
10. Maryland Advanced Development Laboratory, "Analysis of Flashes Recorded by an Infrared Sensor," Feb. 28, 2000, p. 6.
11. See, for example, Gunter Klingenberg and Joseph Heimerl, "Gun Muzzle Blast and Flash," American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1992, p. 203, for a discussion of the effect of firing a burst of rounds. In brief, such firings may generate a secondary combustion effect, causing muzzle flash to appear brighter and last longer than the flash due to a single shot.
12. See, for example, U. S. Army Materiel Command, "Engineering Design Handbook. Guns Series, Muzzle Devices," AMCP 706-251, Washington, 1968, and "Engineering Design Handbook, Elements of Armament Engineering, Part One, Sources of Energy," AMCP 706-106, Washington, 1964, for a discussion of some of the variables influencing muzzle flash.
13. Edward Allard, "Analysis of the April 19, 1993 Waco FLIR Videotapes," (Report to Davidian attorneys in civil lawsuit) March 1, 2000, p. 2-13.
14. Further detail on this subject can be seen at Maurice Cox, "Open Letter to Special Counsel Danforth," http://www.rolandresearch.com, Nov. 20, 2000.
15. A factor allowed by the test protocol. Vector Data Systems, "Protocol for a Forward-Looking Infra-Red Imagery Trial," February 16, 2000, p. B-1.
16. Ferdinand H. Zegel, "Infrared Signatures of Small Arms Weapons Fire," Proc. SPIE 4370-52, 2001, p. 311.
17. U. S. Army Materiel Command, AMCP 706-251, op. cit., pp. 2-3 - 2-4.
18. Jon Dougherty, "FBI weapon not tested in Waco probe," WorldNetDaily, http://www.worldnetdaily.com, May 12, 2001.
19. Zegel, op. cit. p. 310.
20. Jon Dougherty, "Senators take fresh look at Waco evidence," WorldNetDaily, Jan. 17, 2002.
21. Duration contentions of several analysts are listed in Barbara Grant and David Hardy, "Muzzle flash issues related to the Waco FLIR Analysis," Proc. SPIE 4370-53, 2001, p. 317.
22. Vector Data Systems, op. cit
23. Unfortunately, Ferdinand Zegel is not around to continue the work, having passed away in 2002. He will be missed.
24. Lena Klasen and S. Madsen, op. cit., pp. 27-28.
25. Maurice Cox, "Sun Reflection Geometry Technical Report and Appendix," at http://www.rolandresearch.com, Nov. 20, 1998.
26. This is particularly important with respect to the case of multiple flash events, in which several reflections must reach the aircraft sensor in appropriate imaging position. Curious about the disparity in analyst results, this author concluded that in a multiple flash sequence beginning at 11:28, five debris surfaces must be fortuitously positioned. Alan D. Fischer, "Optics expert rebuts Waco standoff report," The Arizona Daily Star, Dec. 7, 2001.
27. Lena Klasen and Sten Madsen, op. cit, p. 47.
28. Maurice Cox, "Open Letter to Special Counsel Danforth," op. cit.
29. Lena Klasen and Sten Madsen, op. cit., pp. 81-82.
30. Carroll Lucas, "Declaration of Carroll L. Lucas," Isabel G. Andrade , et. al., v. Philip J. Chojnacki, et. al., United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Waco Division, Case No. W-96-CA-139, 2000.
31. Jon Dougherty, "Expert supports Waco-video conclusions," WorldNetDaily, June 6, 2001.
32. David T. Hardy and Rex Kimball, op. cit., p. 115.
33. Ibid., p. 116.
34. Ibid., p. 123.
35. Ibid., p. 127.
36. Barbara Grant, "Rekindled Waco debate prompts IR test," Photonics Spectra, March, 2000, p. 24.
37. David T. Hardy and Rex Kimball, op. cit., p. 60.
38. Ibid, p. 62.
Barbara Grant is an electro-optical engineer specializing in the measurement of light. She has studied the Waco problem for the last several years.
Looking to do research with the official documents?
It's the hidden assumptions of the English legal system that are the source of the problem. Here's a quote from my book as concerns the adversarial system and its consequences in environmental science:
The structural problem, with the use of legal processes to decide environmental remedies, is that they are shaped by bipolar outcomes: Whether by adversarial legal process or two-party political system, bipolar decision-making systems are structurally biased toward conflict.One should note that our adoption of the adversarial assumption and precedent structures of English Common Law were never voted upon, are not in the Constitution, nor do they intend to establish Justice, secure the blessings of Liberty, or promote the general welfare. There are a number of its systemic attributes and assumptions that are demonstrably flawed, yet we continue to let the lawyers of the BAR (British Accreditation Registry) run amok with the justice system until its apparent purpose no longer even resembles its constitutional intent.
Adversarial conflict inexorably proceeds toward a bipolar structure whatever the battleground. Bipolar opposition minimizes possible outcomes because each adversary must maximize its contingent. It drives the bases of argument to reflect differentiating properties and reduces the possibility of acknowledging either common ground or external options. The very facts necessary to achieve a satisfactory synthetic solution may thus be deliberately omitted from the argument.
Legal proceedings are founded upon an assumption of bipolar conflict, not multiparty competition. Lawyers do not make as much money by ending a contest with an agreement or by finding that the whole point of contention was a mistake. There is little likelihood that a pair of adversaries will opt for a solution that reflects the interests of a third party. The adversarial system is a great way for one side of a dispute to gain total victory, but it is a lousy way to share information and consider points of interdependence. It is also destructive to the relationships and communication necessary to discovering common interests. How then would potential litigants discover the optimal plan by which to manage a habitat back to health?
The propensity for the legal system is to make enemies out of people who might otherwise cooperate.
A flawed premise is being assumed from the start in this 'piece' ...
The 'problem' is bigger than this -
- when the conspiracy theorists interpret only *selected* evidence that tends to the suppostions and conclusions *they* favor ...
The big lie (Debunking 'claims' about the FLIR used in Waco showing gunmen and gunfire)
by John Blanton
This is not about claims of the paranormal or even about extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary proof. It is about people believing what they want to believe in the face of contrary evidence. It is about people putting aside good judgement and critical thinking and allowing their personal preferences to dictate what is true and what is not. As such, it is rightly a topic for discussion by the skeptics.
The siege and fiery end of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco seven years ago has been a point of controversy ever since. Apologists for the Davidians have maintained the members were innocent victims of an overzealous government. Some have gone so far as to claim the final assault by the government was a calculated move to murder those inside.
One making such a claim was attorney Linda Thompson, who shortly after the fire distributed a video titled Waco: The Big Lie. Scenes and narration in the video attempt to convince the viewer that government tanks using flame throwers torched the building, causing those inside to burn to death.
Professor Ray Eve at the University of Texas at Arlington was called in as a consultant by the attorney for Cathy Schroeder, who was one of the surviving Davidians prosecuted by the government. During the course of his work on the case, Dr. Eve obtained a copy of the video, and he gave it to former NTS President Joe Voelkering for examination.
Joe, who has since died, operated a business investigating aviation accidents and preparing presentations of evidence for court cases. Those who continue to delude themselves will continually find unexpected surprises during cross-examination, and as a result Joe developed a keen sense for putting aside personal preferences and seeing only what the evidence showed.
I viewed the tape, as well, and Joe described to me what was going on. He pointed out the places where severe editing of the tape had placed events out of chronological order to best support the story Linda Thompson wanted to tell. He also pointed out places where large flashes of light were described as flames from the tank (really an armored engineering vehicle). Closer examination showed these flashes were associated with pieces of siding or wall board from the building flashing in the sun.
Others were not so critical in viewing Linda Thompson's video. Apparently Timothy McVeigh watched the video a number of times and convinced himself that the government had murdered the Davidians. This is thought to be part of his motivation for killing 168 people two years later.
More recently writer Mike McNulty has produced a documentary Waco: The Rules of Engagement. While the story line of Rules of Engagement is decidedly anti-government, it goes beyond offering sympathy for the Davidians. A press release states it "is a shocking film which says that the FBI machine-gunned Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas and committed numerous other rights violations there." The press release was related to the announcement in 1998 that the film had been nominated for an Academy Award. Siskel and Ebert gave it "two thumbs up," and it "was named one of the year's best films in The Los Angeles Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, L.A. Weekly and the St. Paul Pioneer Press."
McNulty's conclusions regarding the machine-gunning of innocents seem to hang on his interpretation of FLIR (Forward-Looking Infra-Red) video captured by a reconnaissance aircraft flying overhead at the end of the siege. Flashes of light in the vicinity of the building are perceived as muzzle flashes from automatic and other small arms fire by government agents. In fact, a consultant shown analyzing the FLIR imagery is not circumspect in his statements. He uses phrases similar to "Here we see gunfire toward the kitchen area" and "This is a two-second burst from an automatic weapon."
McNulty is no Linda Thompson. When two NTS members participated in the taping of a McCuistion TV program about the siege recently he was there and repeated the shooting allegations in language less strong than he used in the video. He even had praise for the agents who took part in the initial raid, including Robert White, who was wounded that day and was on the McCuistion show with him.
The NTS has subsequently obtained a copy of the Rules of Engagement video, and at the April 2000 meeting we showed the portions illustrating the purported gunfire. I have some previous experience with FLIR technology and gave my interpretation of what we were seeing. Here is a little background.
FLIR is a remarkable technology. It enables seeing in the dark for all practical purposes. Infra-red film is sensitive to what is called "near infra-red." This is electromagnetic energy with wavelengths just longer than red in the visible spectrum. What IR film sees is very hot objects or reflected solar IR. In contrast, FLIR sees objects that are barely warm. This electromagnetic energy is low energy and is called "far infra-red."
In a laboratory demonstration once I switched off the lights and viewed the imagery on a video monitor (which is what you have to do, since the FLIR just produces digitized images). There was no practical difference between lights on and lights off. Everything in the room showed up to some extent, since everything was about room temperature. People produce remarkable IR images. Certain areas of the face and other exposed skin show up lighter because they are warmer. Clothing is darker because it is closer to room temperature. Cold objects are very dark. Place your hand on a surface and remove it. The outline of you hand shows due to the residual warmth.
Outside, the imagery mostly shows the effects of solar warming and residual warmth. Objects that absorb IR readily also readily emit it. The black lettering on the Wal Mart truck driving by showed up clearly in the imagery. A construction worker's cigarette was a bright beacon.
I did not retain any of the imagery from my FLIR project, but I do have a shot from a Texas Instruments Web page (see Figure 1). The picture shows a highway and railroad bridge north of Dallas. The shot was made in the daytime, when the sun was warming exposed surfaces. Steel structures are hot and show very bright in the image. Bridge piers are shaded and show up dark. I have reversed white and black in this image, because the FLIR operators produced the original in reverse mode, showing hot as dark. The black rectangles were injected into the imagery by a target tracking system to show the operator the tracking points. They show up black here, but they were white in the original.
Figure 1. FLIR image from a missile seeker From the Texas Instruments (now Raytheon) Web site
Other imagery I have dealt with showed automobiles, tanks, and other vehicles, and here is the important point. You can tell by looking at the tires of a car or truck or the treads of a tank whether the vehicle has been moving. The tires and treads are warm and show up brighter.
In the Rules of Engagement video the tank treads show up brighter. The FLIR was sensitive enough to show the extra warmth. In the siege video no shooters show up. "Gunfire" erupts from a patch of ground, supposedly directed at the Davidian's building, and we don't see anybody doing the shooting. The FLIR that is sensitive enough to show warm tank treads does not show a warm (98F) person lying on the ground. More so, there is a two-second burst of automatic weapon fire, and we don't see a stream of hot bullets. A gun barrel that should be too hot to touch does not even register.
Surviving Davidians are now suing the US government for the wrongful deaths of their friends, and they had planned to use the FLIR imagery from the aircraft as evidence. In its defense, the government conducted tests at Fort Hood using similar FLIR equipment plus real gunfire and real shooters.
The results of these tests are now beginning to come in, and it does not look good for the Davidians. The new video shows shooters where there are shooters, and it shows flashes like those in the earlier video where there are no shooters. Science may provide the answer to what has been wild speculation up to now.
In the meantime, Mike McNulty has produced another video, Waco: A New Revelation. We have not seen it yet, but you can get additional information from a Web site devoted to it at www.anewrevelation.com.
It seems everybody has an opinion one way or the other in this matter, and here is mine: Rather than submit to a raid by the AFT and to the surrender of their weapons and rather than face arrest on felony weapons charges, the Davidians chose to shoot it out with the feds. For 51 days they held off the inevitable, knowing the government forces would not attack because of the presence of the children. Finally, when the government did force the issue (in a rather stupid and clumsy manner), the Davidians torched their own compound and killed themselves (with some exceptions) and all of the children. Sometimes the truth is as simple as that.
by John BlantonFLIR is an acronym that stands for Forward Looking Infra-Red. It's a technology that uses far infra-red radiation for seeing without benefit of visible light. Why it's necessary to add the words "forward looking" is not clear, except that IR is not very satisfying as acronyms go, and it's too much like a Spanish verb.
FLIR is also the name of the latest video produced by Mike McNulty concerning claims that government forces killed innocent Branch Davidian members on the final day of the standoff near Waco. McNulty has previously produced Waco: the Rules of Engagement and Waco: A New Revelation. Rules of Engagement was honored as "Documentary Film of the Year" by the International Documentary Association for 1997. It received an Oscar nomination for "Best Feature-Length Documentary Film" for 1997. McNulty won a national Emmy award for "Best Investigative Journalism" in 1999 for his work in the production of Rules of Engagement.
We previously encountered McNulty when he appeared as a panelist on the McCuistion show on PBS. The May 2000 issue of The North Texas Skeptic carries an account of this plus additional details of the Waco controversy. 1
McNulty's two previous videos were highly critical of government actions related to the Mount Carmel siege and the destruction of the Branch Davidian compound on 19 April 1993. The language used in these documentaries states in strong terms that government forces used fire from automatic weapons to prevent the escape of innocent civilians from the fire.
Branch Davidian survivors sued, claiming the US Government was responsible for the deaths of over eighty people in 1993. In 1999 former Republican senator John Danforth was appointed special counsel to investigate possible government culpability in the case. A key issue was the contention by the plaintiffs that FLIR video recorded by the government on the final day of the siege provides incriminating evidence. Plaintiffs alleged that the imagery shows flashes from small arms, including automatic weapons fire, directed at the Branch Davidians. The plaintiffs contended that in some cases they can make out the movements of the shooters. The governments contention was that the flashes that appear in the video result from reflections of infra-red sources by debris on the ground and that no shooters are visible in the video. Senator Danforth retained Vector Data Systems to analyze the Waco FLIR and conduct FLIR test. On 19 March 2000 the government conducted tests at Fort Hood, Texas, to replicate the situation of 19 April 1993. FLIR videos were made from two aircraft flying 4000 to 6000 feet above the test area. The test area included debris on the ground and some scenarios with shooters firing weapons. The conclusion of Senator Danforth was that the test video invalidated the plantiffs' claims. Specifically:1. Plaintiffs claimed the Waco video shows gun fire from locations where no shooters are visible. In the Fort Hood video shooters are always visible.In July 2000 the case was decided against the plaintiffs. In US District Court a 5-person advisory jury reported to Judge Walter Smith " the ATF had not fired indiscriminately or used excessive force. They also agreed that the FBI tanks' actions were not negligent and did not contribute to the fire, and that the FBI commanders were not negligent in their decision not to try to fight any fires at the compound during the tear gas assault." 2
2. The government contended the flashes in the Waco video came from reflections. The Fort Hood video shows similar flashes from a debris field, where no shooters were present.
Response to the decision was swift, broad, and somewhat one-sided. While cooler heads accepted the verdict even if they did not agree with it, many opposed to the government action and to the administration in power at the time denounced the outcome of the trial, the validity of the Fort Hood tests, and even the integrity of Senator Danforth. A Google search revealed a large number of anti-government sites as well as many sites critical of the conspiracy theorists. 3
One response to Judge Smith's decision was the latest McNulty video from COPS Productions L.L.C. In FLIR McNulty has followed up on his claim that the Waco video shows government gunfire directed at the trapped Branch Davidians. He now takes the added step of arguing that the Fort Hood video fails to make the government case and, furthermore, seeks to back up his claims regarding the Waco video. Specifically, McNulty asserts:1. The Fort Hood tests are fatally flawed by not exactly replicating the conditions of the Waco siege: The Fort Hood tests did not use FLIR equipment identical to that used at Waco. The Fort Hood tests did not use the same weapons. Temperatures at Fort Hood were 20 degrees F cooler than existed at the siege. And finally, dusty conditions at the siege site enhanced the flash from the weapons, and the Fort Hood tests did not duplicate these conditions.Many of the points made by McNulty are essentially correct. FBI standard issue is a 14-inch barrel military rifle, and the Fort Hood tests included standard M-16s with 20-inch barrels. It should be noted that the FBI states rifles with 14-inch barrels were also used in the Fort Hood tests. 4 Also, the Fort Hood tests did not use the same type of FLIR equipment, and Fort Hood test conditions were about 20 degrees cooler. Furthermore, combat clothing can reduce the wearer's IR signature, and certain backgrounds can help conceal personnel on the ground.
2. Government forces at Waco wore uniforms that suppressed their IR signature, accounting for why shooters would not be visible.
3. In the Waco video government agents can be clearly seen when standing on a plain, concrete, surface, but they readily disappear when they move onto the grassy areas, which provide a concealing, mottled background.
COPS, the producers of FLIR conducted their own tests, apparently in November 2000, and presented their imagery in the video. The COPS tests did not involve aircraft but used a long boom to place the FLIR equipment high above the ground. The COPS tests were also conducted at the same temperature as the day of the Waco assault and included a variety of weapons, ammunition and ground debris.
A prime assertion of the government side of the case is that the flashes seen in the Waco FLIR are too long to represent muzzle flashes, and the Fort Hood tests demonstrated muzzle flashes much shorter than those that show up on the Waco FLIR. COPS seeks to refute this point by noting that the dusty atmosphere at Waco would have prolonged the duration of the muzzle flashes. The idea is that the heat from the muzzle discharge will heat the dust particles in the air producing a prolonged glow. To demonstrate this, COPS had someone throwing dirt in front of the weapons before they were fired, and they showed that a longer flash was produced under these conditions.
Additionally, COPS seeks to show in its video that it is problematical whether ordinary debris would have produced the flashes seen in the Waco FLIR.
In conclusion, FLIR reiterates McNulty's previous assertions that government agents at the rear of the Branch Davidian compound directed automatic weapons fire at the compound. He further contends this action killed innocent Branch Davidians directly and resulted in the deaths of others by preventing their escape. This is a serious charge that finds many friends. What are we to make of it all?
The problem is that McNulty's claims are made outside the context of a very large body of other information. In fact, it may be that the producers of FLIR have shot themselves in the foot. Here are a number of issues that FLIR failed to note:1. A major claim of FLIR is that the smoky, dusty atmosphere at Waco produced the prolonged flashes seen in the video. By stirring up dust and firing into the dust they seem to have demonstrated their case. However, a reasonable person comparing the Waco imagery and the COPS imagery will find little in common. The COPS video shows a shooter firing directly into a dust cloud right after someone has thrown a handful of dirt in front of the weapon. While the narrator points out that only dust is present, and not dirt, at the time the weapon is fired, it is quite obvious that this procedure produces a heavy concentration of dust that quickly settles out. A look at the Waco video seems to show the ground quite clearly from over 4000 feet up without the obscuration that would result from a heavy concentration of dust at 65 degrees F.References
2. McNulty purports to show muzzle flashes from invisible shooters. He asserts that their camouflage clothing hides them in the Waco imagery. However, the firing demonstration in the COPS video shows a shooter holding a weapon, and the barrel of the weapon shows very bright in the imagery. In the Waco FLIR no hot, bright gun barrels show up.
3. FLIR also completely ignores an issue previously pointed out by other detractors. While McNulty claims to show invisible shooters, there is at least once case in which a tank tread runs completely over one of these invisible "shooters." 5 This would appear to invalidate NcNulty's claim that the flashes could not have been produced by ground debris. If there is at least one case of muzzle flashes without a shooter, then it is up to McNulty to explain what produced those flashes and why this explanation does not apply to all the other cases.
4. The Branch Davidians were killed by their leaders. Eavesdropping federal agents recorded the leadership issuing orders to start the fire. Some children and adults and even leader Vernon Howell (AKA David Koresh) were killed at close range by small arms fire while deep inside the compound.
5. Motive. For 51 days the government tried to coax the Branch Davidians out and even effected the release of some children and adults. On the final day of the siege members of the rescue team risked their lives to save Branch Davidians from the fire. One has to ask: How did the government forces divvy up the chores that day. "Team one, you guys try to save as many people as you can. Team two, you try to kill as many as you can." Inquiring minds would like to know the answer to this riddle.
2 The Dallas Morning News, 15 July 2000. http://www.dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/111922_waco_15tex.html
3 Here are some relevant sites:
4 "Waco Inquiry Failed to Test Correct F.B.I. Gun," Matt Kelley, Associated Press, available at http://www.flirproject.com/current_events.html
5 "The Waco FLIR Flashes" by Ian Goddard at http://iangoddard.net/wacoflir.htm
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