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agents could have arrived at the residence before the Davidians had fully armed and taken up offensive positions against them. Perhaps they even thought that their abilities were so superior to those of the Davidians that they could have successfully overcome the Davidians, even if the Davidians had been expected to be lying in wait. Whatever the reason, however, the facts are that they knew or should have known that the Davidians had become aware of the impending raid and were likely to resist with deadly force. The only realistic conclusion that can be drawn is that Chojnacki and Sarabyn acted recklessly failing to call off the raid.
Given the manner in which Sarabyn relayed the information to Chojnacki, it is perhaps understandable that Chojnacki presumed that the information was not important. But Chojnacki's overriding concern on February 28 should have been that the secrecy of the mission be maintained. When any credible evidence was brought to his attention that secrecy might have been compromised he should have delayed the start of the operation until he could confirm or deny those reports.
As Chojnacki testified before the subcommittees, "I accept the responsibility for making the field decision. I was the incident commander, I was the person to make that decision." 91 Regardless of whether he fully understood the significance of what Sarabyn told him, it was his job to take whatever steps were necessary to insure that secrecy was maintained. Because he did not, his portion of the blame for the failure of the raid and its consequences is equal to that of Sarabyn.
C. OTHER WAYS IN WHICH THE PLAN SELECTED WAS BUNGLED
While the failure of ATF's commanders to recognize and respond to the fact that their raid plan had been severely compromised was, by far, the most significant mistake made on February 28, a number of other failures came to light during the subcommittees' investigation.
1. COMMAND AND CONTROL ISSUES
A number of command and control issues significantly undermined the possibility of success for the raid. Most of these issues were addressed in the Treasury Department Report,9 92 however, three of them bear repeating here.
a. Assigning command and control functions under the ATF's National Response Plan
The decision to designate Chojnacki as incident commander and Sarabyn as tactical commander was mandated under the ATF's National Response Plan. While the tactical experts who testified at the hearings and briefed the subcommittees noted that the use of an overall coordinating document, such as the National Response Plan, is an appropriate organizational and standardization tool, some of the plan's requirements resulted in less qualified people being placed in positions of command and control when agents who
91 Hearings, Part 1 at 751-752
were more qualified for these positions, and who were already selected to be involved in the raid, were available.
Chojnacki was selected as incident commander because he was the Special Agent in Charge of the field office in whose region the raid was to occur. While the Special Agent in Charge of a geographic area may have a great interest in an operation that takes place in his area, his position has little bearing on his qualification to run the operation. And even though Chojnacki had 27 years of law enforcement experience, there were other agents involved in the raid who possessed substantially more experience in tactical operations.
Chojnacki, in turn, appointed Sarabyn, to be tactical coordinator because the National Response Plan required that position to be filled by an Assistant Special Agent in Charge who had completed Special Response Team (SRT) training, as had Sarabyn. But Sarabyn had attended SRT training only as an observer, and there were other agents of lesser rank who had more experience in this area.93 As in the case with Chojnacki, the National Response Plan's emphasis on rank and geographical assignment created the unintended result of placing a less qualified person into a position for which he was either simply not qualified or for which there were others more qualified.
b. Command and control on the scene on raid day
Chojnacki decided to ride in one of the helicopters on raid day.94 This decision placed him out of effective communications with the other raid commanders and SRT teams leaders prior to the beginning of the raid. Had he chosen to remain in central position from which he could control the evolving raid, he might have had other opportunities to learn of Rodriguez' information about what the Davidians' forewarning. He might also have been able to learn from agents in the undercover house that the Davidians were not where the ATF anticipated they would be on the morning of February 28, a key element of the tactical plan, but instead were lying in wait for the agents.
Sarabyn, the tactical commander, chose to ride in one of the cattle trailers 95 rather than observing the residence from a vantage point such as the undercover house, where he could monitor activity in and around the building, as well as view the approach of the ATF agents in the cattle trailers. By riding in the trailers with the agents who were to conduct the raid, Sarabyn severely limited his view of the Branch Davidian residence, which also prevented him from observing that the Davidians were not where the ATF expected them to be just before the raid began.
Additionally, once Sarabyn arrived at the residence he became pinned down with the other agents and was unable to communicate with many of the other agents at different points around the building. Had he chosen to place himself in a position where he would not have come under fire, such as the undercover house, he might have been able to communicate with all of the agents, perhaps di
93 Id. at 153. 94 Id. at 154.
verting or redirecting the actions of some and reducing the number of casualties sustained.
c. Command and control from Washington
On February 28, ATF activated its "National Command Center" at its Washington headquarters staffed with "high-level managers ... experience[d] in field operations." 96 Yet it appears that the command center played no role in the planning or implementation of the operation until after ATF agents had been killed or wounded. The personnel in the command center never learned that Rodriguez knew the Davidians thought the raid was imminent because Chojnacki never told them. Apparently, the person in the command center with whom Chojnacki spoke did not know enough about the raid to know that an undercover agent was to have been inside with the Davidians until shortly before the raid was scheduled to begin and valuable information might have been available. In fact, according to the Treasury Department Report, no one in the command center asked any questions of Chojnacki at all when he reported in shortly before the raid.97
2. THE LACK OF A WRITTEN RAID PLAN
The Treasury Department review of the ATF's investigation of David Koresh noted that the ATF agents who were in command of the raid did not prepare a written raid plan in advance of the raid. While two ATF agents took it upon themselves to create one, it was never reviewed by the senior raid planners and commanders, and never distributed to any of the agents who were to participate in the raid.98
During the hearing before the subcommittees, several tactical experts testified that the drafting of a written raid is an important part of developing an overall operational plan. Indeed, the ATF's own National Response Plan, which was drafted to establish "consistent policies and procedures" when several Special Response Teams are involved in an operation,99 requires that a written plan "for managing the critical incident or major ATF operation" be produced before the operation begins. 100 Yet this was not done in this
3. LACK OF DEPTH IN THE RAID PLAN
One problem with overall planning was the fact that no written plan existed. A factor that may have exacerbated the losses the ATF sustained on February 28 was the lack of depth in the oral raid plan. The plan involved agents in two cattle cars driving up an exposed driveway to the front of the Davidian residence and running out of the cars, with one group storming through the front doors while the other went to the side of the building, climbed ladders carried by agents onto the roof and in through the second
96 Id. at 175.
98 Id. at 207-208. Additionally, Agent Rodriguez testified before the subcommittees that he never saw any written raid plan. Hearings, Part 1 at 813.
99 Treasury Department Report at 152.
story windows. 101 There was little else to the plan and, importantly, little or no discussion of what might go wrong.
There was almost no training given on how to withdraw from the residence.102 Even the written plan created after the raid and given to the Texas Rangers during their investigation (which was never distributed to the commanders or any agents in advance of the raid) devoted much of its 82 pages to administrative issues. It contained no mention of what agents were to do if anything went wrong with the "dynamic entry" into the residence. The three short paragraphs under the heading "contingencies" simply mentioned the presence of an ambulance and nurse near the scene. 103
As discussed above, the most grievous failure on the part of ATF officials on February 28 was the failure to understand and appreciate the significance of undercover agent Rodriguez' report that the Davidians knew the ATF raid was imminent. Yet, the omission of any contingency planning was a failure that may have led to the deaths of agents who might otherwise have survived. Contingency planning might have been effective at a number of stages: when the agents turned into the driveway; when they first realized they were coming under fire from the Davidians; or when the order was given to retreat in the face of the Davidians' fire.
The Treasury Department Report states "the failure of the planners to consider that their operation might go awry and prepare for that eventuality is tragic, but somewhat understandable." 104 It notes that most ATF agents were used to operations going without incident, or at least being resolved in favor of the ATF, and that the only other ATF operation similar in magnitude to the one against the Davidians had been resolved peacefully. The report places stronger blame on ATF's national leadership for this failure, calling its failure to ensure that some contingency planning was done "simply unacceptable." 105
The subcommittees agree that ATF leadership shares the blame for the failure of this operation and that, clearly, it would have been beneficial had they been involved in a meaningful way in the planning of the operation. But it should not take directives from Washington to ensure that agents in charge of the ATF's various field offices and Special Response Teams, the people who actually conduct an operation, will know enough to ask the simple question "what happens if this doesn't go as planned." No amount of past success is reason enough to explain why this possibility wasn't considered and planned for. The fact that it was not done is, at best, additional evidence of the lack of skill and sophistication of senior ATF commanders involved. At worst, it is evidence of grievous negligence on their part.
4. TACTICAL TEAMS TRAINED TOGETHER FOR ONLY 3 DAYS BEFORE THE RAID
Another fact which indicates a lack of skill on the part of both senior ATF officials and the ATF onsite commanders, particularly
101 Id. at 54-64.
102 Id. at 151. 103 Id. at C-19. 104 Id. at 151.
overall incident commander Chojnacki, is the fact that the Special Response Teams (SRT's) involved in conducting the operation trained together for only 3 days prior to the operation. 106 The ATF does not maintain a large standing force of specially trained agents which can be dispatched to the site of a disturbance, such as the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team. Instead, the ATF put together its team for the operation against the Davidians by combining special response teams from several of the ATF's regional offices.
While the subcommittees do not conclude that the ATF should have created a special team such as the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team in advance of the raid (and does not conclude that it need do so now), it appears that the reason why the FBI maintains its HRT as a single unit is because coordination of the agents involved in a tactical operation, especially one involving great risk, is of the utmost importance. Senior ATF officials and the ATF's onsite commanders either were unaware of this fact or, more likely, simply ignored it for reasons which are unknown to the subcommittees. Regardless of the reason, however, the fact that ATF officials believed that they could create a force of over 70 agents, adequately trained to conduct an operation of this complexity against a heavily armed opposing force, indicates a lack of foresight on the part of these senior officials which is unacceptable.
5. TRUE NATIONAL GUARD ROLE ONLY MADE CLEAR 24 HOURS PRIOR TO THE RAID
The subcommittees have learned that when the Texas National Guard was asked to provide helicopters to the ATF, the purpose given was that they would be used as an observation platform or command and control platform. 107 When the National Guard pilots arrived at Fort Hood to train with the ATF the day before the raid they learned for the first time that the ATF intended to use the helicopters as a diversion just before the raid was to begin. The helicopters were to fly close to the residence, attracting the attention of those inside to the back side of the building, while the ATF agents arrived at the front of the structure. 108
While the National Guard was conducting its role in its title 32 status,109 and so was not limited by the terms of the Posse Comitatus Act,110 this change in plan is still troubling. The failure to inform National Guard commanders of the true role for the National Guard troops and equipment well in advance of the raid is an omission that is, at best, additional evidence of the poor planning for the raid done by the ATF commanders. At worst, this may have been an attempt by ATF commanders to obtain operational assistance that, while not prohibited by law, might have been declined by the Governor of Texas as commander of the Texas National Guard had the ATF given sufficient notice for word to have reached her. In any event, it does not appear that senior ATF or Treasury
106 Id. at 73.
107 Interviews of National Guard personnel. [See documents produced to the subcommittees by the Department of the Treasury T005368, T005376 at Appendix (hereinafter Treasury Documents]. The Appendix is published separately.]
108 Treasury Department Report at 95.
109 For an explanation of the three "statuses" in which National Guard forces operate, see Section V of this report.