Waco tester is tied to feds

San Antonio Express-News, February 29, 2000
By Dick J. Reavis

A technology firm hired to re-create scenes from the 1993 FBI assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco has links to the federal government, critics of the government's role in the siege say.

The British firm, Vector Data Systems, was selected to oversee the re-enactment, which will seek to determine whether federal agents fired on Davidians on April 19, 1993. Survivors of those who died in the fire that ended the siege have filed a wrongful death suit against the federal government, slated for a May trial in Waco.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs and the government agreed to Vector's appointment to the case, at the suggestion of former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., who is investigating the Mount Carmel events on behalf of the Justice Department.

Danforth's office declined comment on the selection.

The company will supervise the filming of a scene in which U.S. Army personnel will discharge firearms at a Fort Hood range, while two aircraft - one American, one British - will film the scene using FLIR, or forward-looking-infrared, cameras. The exercise will determine whether FLIR equipment is capable of registering images of gun blasts.

Plaintiffs' attorneys allege flashes seen on a FLIR tape made by the FBI on the day of the Mount Carmel fire show flashes of gunfire. Roger Charles, a Washington intelligence affairs expert, and sierratimes.com, a Webzine published by Nevada conspiracy buff J. J. Johnson, claimed last weekend that Vector is too tied to government interests to be objective.

"These guys can show you video, FLIR or otherwise, of a cow jumping over the moon and you'll swear it's what the camera is seeing," Charles said. Vector is a subsidiary of the Anteon Corp., an American firm and a major defense contractor, with more than $300 million in federal contracts, most of them for military projects.

Vector's American office in Virginia developed "Topscene," or the Tactical Operations Preview Scene, a computer combat-simulation program that American military forces have used since the Persian Gulf War.

In 1998, the Washington Post reported a sister company of Vector "performed secret tasks for the CIA and the U.S. military." Spokesmen for Anteon, Vector and the Justice Department didn't return phone calls Monday.

Vector's job in the Waco re-enactment, set for March 18, will be to see that procedures for conducting the test fairly are carried out.

Joining Charles in raising doubt about Vector's role in the test is Gordon Novel, a New Orleans electronics expert and private detective responsible for the allegation that the FBI's FLIR tape shows gunfire.

James Brannon, attorney for David Koresh's survivors, says reports of Vector's defense connections "causes me deep concern." But the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Michael Caddell of Houston, says he expected as much. "My assessment," he said, "is that in this area, you've not going to get anybody who is really expert who isn't connected to the government."

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