A former CIA official says Army commandos played a role in the deadly standoff.
With congressional Republicans calling for hearings on the FBI’s handling of the deadly 1993 Branch Davidian crisis, thanks to new revelations about the bureau’s long-denied use of gas grenades, it’s clear the whole story about the federal response to the Waco conflagration has yet to be told.
Salon News has learned that U.S. Army Delta team commando officers sat in on a meeting at CIA headquarters to discuss the ongoing Waco hostage situation in March 1993, according to a former CIA security officer. Such involvement by U.S. military personnel in a domestic conflict could be illegal.
Former CIA officer Gene Cullen told Salon News he attended a meeting at CIA headquarters on the Waco crisis where Army representatives were “mostly observers,” but indicated they were prepared to step in and help if any more federal agents were killed. The standoff ended with the fiery deaths of 76 people at the Branch Davidian religious compound.
“My charter at the agency was facilities personnel, and operations worldwide. So we called this meeting [at CIA] during the Waco crisis … to see how the [FBI's hostage rescue team] would respond if it was one of our buildings in this country, and if it were overseas, how Delta would respond.
“So we’re all sitting around the room talking about scenarios. The FBI gave us a briefing on what had transpired. The Delta guys didn’t say much. They were playing second fiddle to the FBI.”
Pentagon officials denied the story. “We had no operational involvement in this activity, or planning,” an official said.
Salon has also learned that a senior Army Special Forces lawyer advised the
special operations command that aid to federal police forces could violate
the so-called posse comitatus provision of U.S. law barring the use of
U.S. military forces in domestic operations, except for training, maintenance
of equipment or “expert advice.” There is also an exception to the law
allowing the use of military personnel in drug operations if requested by an
Col. Philip W. Lindley, judge advocate general for the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, wrote a memo on Feb. 3, 1993, three weeks before the Branch Davidian standoff began, saying “an exception under federal law would have to be found.”
“Since there are point targets with identified civilian subjects this falls outside the scope of JTF mission approval and cannot be accomplished” legally, Lindley wrote.
Four agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had been killed during an initial siege of the compound. “Their biggest fear was that more agents would be killed,” said Cullen, who was a senior officer in the CIA’s Office of Security. Participants at the meeting, which occurred in “early or mid-March 1993,” Cullen said, also discussed the use of “sleeping gas” that might end the siege peacefully.
A senior former FBI official, Danny Coulson, admitted this week that
munitions were fired into the Branch Davidian compound that could have set it
on fire — after denying it for six years. A visibly angry Attorney General Janet
Reno said it was news to her and
vowed to get to the bottom of the affair.
Cullen said Delta operatives he met with in Bangkok first told him about the operation in Waco. “They said there were about 10 guys, fully armed, fully operational, they were ready for war. The last thing they wanted was to be sitting there with their thumbs up their rear end.”
One of the Delta commandos was helping drive a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, according to conversations Cullen had with Delta commandos during his trips overseas to inspect security arrangements for CIA installations. Cullen said that in his experience, Delta teams rarely went on any operation with less than 10 commandos.
“I was surprised at the amount of involvement they had,” he added.
Cullen said he heard the “same basic story” separately on “three or four occasions” from different Delta operatives in different places overseas. He was deployed to Somalia during the crisis there in 1996, ferrying payments to an agent on the CIA payroll who turned out to be working as a double agent for a warlord.
After Cullen told a version of this story to the Dallas Morning News, the CIA refused to confirm his employment there. But he showed pay slips to Salon News that confirmed his senior rank.
Cullen joined the CIA in 1980 and attended the career officers course at Camp Peary, Va. He was assigned to CIA headquarters from 1990 to 1995, with primary responsibilities for area security.
More Related Stories
- Crews dig through rubble after deadly tornado
- 51 killed in massive Oklahoma tornado
- Don't cry climate-change wolf
- Record tornado devastates Oklahoma
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- Tornado reduces Oklahoma City suburb to rubble
- AP: Toll at least 37 dead in Okla. tornado
- Entire Midwest on tornado warning
- Oregon senator proposes appeal to Monsanto Protection Act
- Supreme Court to rule on prayer at government meetings
- Beltway scandal machine breaks, knows nothing about America
- Gitmo hunger striker launches Twitter campaign
- "Hero" cop, honored by Obama, accused of double rape
- Father of gay high school student arrested for dating classmate speaks out
- Pentagon adviser pushed Anthrax drug, which his firm produced
- Conservatives A-OK with closeted Boy Scouts
- The new geography of poverty
- Promotion for NYPD cop who cost city $1.5m in settlements
- Obama to all-male university graduates: Be the best husband to "your boyfriend or partner"
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- GOP attorney general candidate tried to force women to report miscarriages to police
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11