Danforth estimates he will spend $11 million by fall on Waco investigation

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 15, 2000
By William H. Freivogel

Finding out if the government did bad things at Waco could turn out to be a lot less expensive than finding out if the president did bad things in the Oval Office.

Special counsel John C. Danforth estimated in a budget filed last year that he would spend about $11 million by this fall - a fraction of the $47 million that independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr spent investigating President Bill Clinton.

Seventeen lawyers and 32 postal inspectors make up the bulk of Danforth's 69-person, $3 million-a-year staff. Danforth said the staff's main jobs will be to:

  • Interview as many as 1,000 people with "personal knowledge" of the Waco incident.

  • Review 1.5 million pages of documents, using a special $1.2 million computer system that makes it easy to retrieve the documents.

  • Examine thousands of pounds of uncataloged physical evidence stored in big repositories in Waco, Texas.

  • Analyze hundreds of hours of audio, video and infrared tapes, paying seven experts a total of about $700,000.

    Danforth said he would hire experts in infrared technology, audio and video image enhancement and authentication, explosives, ballistics, pathology, toxicology and fire.

    The Department of Justice released Danforth's budget in response to a Freedom of Information request by the Associated Press.

    Seven of the 17 attorneys are being paid at a rate of $118,400 a year, plus expenses. That includes Danforth and his chief of staff, Edward L. Dowd Jr.

    Thirty-two postal inspectors - 17 full-time and 15 part-time - do most of the legwork for the investigation. But their salaries are not paid out of Danforth's budget.

    Most of the staff - 55 of them - are stationed at Danforth's 15th floor offices in the St. Louis Place office building at 200 North Broadway. Of the remaining employees, 11 are in Washington and three at Waco.

    Danforth spent $374,167 for the 17,124-square feet of office space in St. Louis and another $443,000 making alterations and leasing furniture. In addition, Danforth is paying about $145,000 for security at his St. Louis office.

    The guards and metal detectors there got a workout last month when Danforth's guards ordered reporters to leave the 15th floor office while lawyers and experts devised a test plan for the re-enactment of the conditions of the Waco siege.

    The cost of that re-enactment is not estimated in the budget. The test, now scheduled for Sunday, is designed to determine if flashes that appeared on FBI infrared surveillance tapes of the 1993 siege could have been from the muzzles of government guns. The Branch Davidians claim that the government fired on the last day of the Waco siege, when the Branch Davidians' complex burned and 80 people died.

    Danforth's expenses are likely to grow during the next fiscal year.

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