Washington -- The simulation that concluded government agents did not fire their guns during the Waco siege did not test the type of assault rifle the FBI had at the scene, according to an official who helped run the test.
The simulation last year used a standard M-16 military rifle with a 20-inch barrel, said Robert Stewart, a U.S. Postal Service inspector who helped coordinate the simulation.
The FBI does not use standard M-16s, and members of its Hostage Rescue Team who were at Waco, Texas, in 1993 carried a version with just a 14-inch barrel, an FBI spokeswoman said. Firearms experts say the longer gun has less muzzle flash.
Lawyers for the Branch Davidians who survived the fiery end of the siege in April 1993 are now questioning whether the test really proved that FBI agents never fired their guns at the Davidian compound.
"I think it completely undermines the test results," attorney Michael Caddell said. Caddell said he plans to use the test as evidence if the lawsuit his clients filed against the government is restored on appeal. Former Sen. John Danforth, who led the independent Waco review, said he did not know specifics about the test gun. He said it would not change his conclusion that the FBI did not fire upon the Davidians at the end of the siege. Eighty Davidians died.
"I don't know what weapons were tested my test. Guns with longer barrels produce smaller muzzle flashes than those with shorter barrels because the hot gases released by firing have longer to dissipate and cool, they said. "From my experience, it's intuitive that with a shorter barrel, you're going to get a longer muzzle flash," said Don Bassett, a retired FBI agent who helped create the Hostage Rescue Team.
Caddell said he repeatedly insisted that the test include the smaller M-16, and said that Danforth's office kept him from inspecting the weapons used in the simulation. Caddell said the test protocol called for using the shorter assault rifle.
"We were either suckered by the Office of Special Counsel or we were suckered by the FBI, or both," Caddell said. Danforth denied any wrongdoing.
"The weapons that were used and the way the test was conducted was something that was agreed on by everyone," Danforth said. Ten days before the test, Brad Swenson of Danforth's office wrote Caddell to say that on the FBI's recommendation, testers would only use one type of M-16.
Swenson said the FBI would provide a gun "which is representative of all the M-16 style weapons the HRT had at Waco." Swenson referred to that gun as an M-16A2, the standard rifle with a 20-inch barrel. Swenson also wrote that the test gun would have a 14-inch barrel.
Caddell learned of the weapons discrepancy from McNulty, a filmmaker who has made several documentaries about Waco that accuse the government of a cover-up. The government has maintained that the Davidians led by David Koresh died by their own hand, shooting themselves and setting fire to their compound.