[Prepared May, 2000]
Carlos Ghigliotti, circa 1994
Click here for another memorial to Carlos, by Richard Leiby of the Washington Post.
Memorial to a Honest Man
What follows is something I have not been able to reveal prior to this point. As I mention at the end, I am now released from my promise of secrecy.
Last year, the House Gov't Reform Committee retained an infrared expert
named Carlos Ghigliotti, of Laurel, Md. Carlos had been working on the FLIR
for months, and shared a lot of his results with me. I'd pass him data when
he needed it, and he knew he could count on me to keep my mouth shut.
Carlos had no politics that I ever noticed, and his interest in Waco was objective. He had no grudge against the FBI -- in fact, they had once hired him for IR work that their lab was not up to handling, and he used them as a reference.
Thru the committee, Carlos was able to obtain a much better quality tape
than any anyone else had. He discovered that, when FBI gave out "first
generation copies," it was in fact giving out copies of a digitized
"master," not of the original analog tape. Digitization compresses
the image, and loses some of its quality. He demanded and got, thru the
Committee, a copy of the original tape, on Super VHS, with some other tweakings
to make it the most perfect copy possible.
Then he imported the video into his lab equipment (which I've seen--VERY impressive.). He was thorough, refusing to make a finding until he had it pinned down from every angle. In one case, he told me last month, he'd finally managed to link by time and location an image of a person shouldering a weapon, shown on the regular media videotapes made from the media locations, with a flash on the FLIR. That, as far as I was concerned, ended the issue of whether the flashes were gunshots. The game was simply over. Or would have been, if he'd lived.
He found nearly 200 suspected gunshots, and had done the work necessary to verify that many of these were genuine. Understand that his idea of "verify" wasn't just to see the image. He wanted to find the shooters, as well, and to plot their movement from one flash location to another. And he wanted to correlate the FLIR images to every possible ordinary video image, to see if he could link up what the media filmed from the side with what the FLIR registered from overhead.
On the side (and I have no idea why he was analysing this) he said it had been determined that almost the entire Waco operation, not only 2/28 but the siege, had been improperly financed from money that law enforcement was supposed to use only in the war on drugs. He said there was plenty of documentation here, showing flow of money. In the 2/28 videotape, the ATF agents are all trying on new uniforms, new equipment -- everything down to the computers in the media area of the raid HQ were bought out of money supposed to be used only in drug enforcement. He said that much or all of the siege had been financed the same way. There were written standards in the gov't for when the drug enforcement money could be used, and these could be shown to have been violated in black and white terms. A considerable amount of money had been, well, embezzled, to support the effort.
Carlos also told me, last month, that he'd seen FLIRs from nights before 4/19, and that it was apparent that the FLIR aircraft was being used to monitor the Davidians' water supply. The water was stored in those big plastic tanks at the rear of the building, and the coolness of the water inside showed up as a darker area. It was apparent that the water supply was shrinking, and by 4/19 was almost gone. He had heard the aircraft crew talking about it, and noting that the level was going down. So, essentially, they knew that thirst would force an end to the siege within a few days of 4/19. Which also meant that the FBI officials had lied to Reno when they said the Davidians had plenty of food and water and the siege was unlikely to end soon.
While I was in his lab, he showed me some footage where it was clear, beyond any doubt, that a man was moving in the wreckage of the gym. The guy gets up from behind one pile of cover and races to another. In between, you see a very long flash that exists only for an instant -- much longer in terms of physical length than could be attributed to a gunshot. He said that was a bullet imaged in flight- he'd imaged them before, while flying past shooting ranges. (Shooters know that a bullet after firing is too hot to pick up in the hand. I'd never suspected that one would show up on IR.). These scenes I saw with my own eyes, on his equipment--it was clear there was a person there. The mere movement of the person would pin any number of FBI officials, who had sworn that no one left their tanks before the fire broke out, on perjury.
He'd done a preliminary report for the House committee before they had a falling out--he wanted to do a really throrough job, which he said would take months, and they wanted him to do a final report quickly. He said that someone (I think he said Rep. Burton himself) had called and threatened that they'd sue him for what he'd already been paid, and he decided he wouldn't take that guff from anyone. He would finalize his report, brief everyone, and that would be it.
The prelim report I have here. Carlos is precise -- he refers to two likely FBI shooters as unidentified subjects, because obviously FLIR can't differentiate between an FBI agent and anyone else. To summarize:
11:24:16 to 36: shots from two locations into hole made by CEV in gym.
11:24:50 to 11:25:04 apparent return fire from inside of gym.
11:26:13 to 11:26:27 additional return fire. If the dark objects behind the tank are indeed shooters, this may have pinned them down. Following this, the tank backs over the dark spots.
11:26:39 "One of the two unknown subjects is clearly visible exiting out of the hole in the front wall of the gym which the tank previously made. The unknown subject turns to the right into the courtyard."
11:28:04 to 11:28:14: gunfire from this person's approximate position, directed toward building.
11:28:18 to 11:28:22: return fire from structure.
11:30:09 to 11:30:15: gunfire from shooter in courtyard, toward building.
11:33:51: gunfire between gym wall and swimming pool, into the structure. The infrared signature of these shots differs from those seen earlier in courtyard area. [This may be where the shooter is covered by a piece of toppled wall; Carlos mentioned that the flashes appear somewhat distorted.].
11:34:32: one shot at unknown subject that is running and hiding between gym and swimming pool. [This may be the video sequence that he showed me, of the fellow moving aroud in the gym wreckage, where the signature of a bullet in flight is seen.]
11:38:34: unknown subject is seen hiding in front of tank.
11:43:36 to 11:59:03: gunshots from 2d story of building directed at tank (I believe he is here referring to the tank penetrating the front, not the one at the rear or gym area.).
12:03:59: An unknown subject appears next to the tank in rear of structure.
12:07:42: fire is visible in 2nd story tower.
12:08:12: Unknown subject comes out of tank and shows up at 12:08:51 shooting at another unknown subject that appears at 12:08:34.
12:08:31 to 12:08:32: "A cluster of thermal anomalies appears at the corner of the gym." [This is the large flash near the "dog run." Carlos assessed it as probable flash bang grenades. He suspected the individual described above, visible at 12:08:34, might be a Davidian who had hurled them. It might also be that the Davidian was fleeing the fire, and driven back in by the grenades and the gunfire.]
12:08:34 and 12:08:44: unknown subject runs from the area where the thermal anomalies were seen, hops over rubble, and hides in gym.
12:08:51: automatic gunfire into area where previous subject had last been seen, apparently hiding.
12:10:41 to 12:11:15 numerous rounds shot from center of courtyard, directed at structure.
Past this point, nothing of importance since fire overloads FLIR, but ordinary videotapes made by media and the soundtrack of FLIR suggests that gunfire did continue. [Carlos told me that the ordinary videotapes bore images of FBI agents taking stances as if firing shoulder weapons, and the FLIR soundtrack picked up a radio transmission that bore popping sounds sounding like gunfire, with the FLIR aircraft pilot asking another crewman "did you hear that?"]
"Total number of events that occured between 10:41:57 and 12:16:13: 198." [That's his last count. He wasn't yet able to verify that all were gunshots, but regarded them, with a few exceptions, as suspected shots. FBI wasn't just firing a few shots at the building. It had been engaged in a major gun battle, regarding which its agents have lied for seven years.]
He told me, in late March, that he'd met with both the majority and the minority of the committee and shown them his results. Each briefing was in detail and consumed several hours. I forget the exact numbers, but somewhere around 3-8 people, mostly attorneys for the committee, were present at each briefing. He was still working on a final report when last I spoke with him. He was rather miffed that they had not given him time to analyse everything, and said he intended to insert a final section outlining all the things he had wanted to analyse when relations were broken off.
My memory may be imperfect here, but as I recall he talked about the scene at the rear, where there is that big flash near the "dog house." His interpretation:
The flash appeared to be multiple flash-bangs. It was possible they were actually thrown by a Davidian, altho not certain. But right after it, a person can be see running back into the building.
A hatch opens on the CEV. When it opens, the cooler, darker interior of the vehicle is visible. The opening of the hatch is clear, and both majority and minority of committee agreed with his interpretation. A person exits the hatch. This is not totally clear, and some committee staff agreed with his interpretation and others did not. [It was very much like Carlos to be this frank about his assessments.] But the person who dismounts then fires, the shots going toward the last location where the suspected Davidian is seen. He added that the Committee knew exactly who was under that hatch, so they could actually name the guy who did it. He'd been told that, when this agent's deposition was taken, the agent denied everything, but was trembling uncontrollably as he did so.
He could afterward track at least two suspected FBI shooters. He could
spot their location--one stayed in the gym wreckage, and the other moved
out into the courtyard, where he shoots. Note here Carlos' thoroughness.
The fact that shooters are visible at one point, then at another minutes
later, was not enough for him. He had to study the tape until he could determine
if they were the same person, and if so, plot his movement from one set
of flashes to another.
Ian Goddard had spotted what he thought was a structure, alongside the gym, and from which some shots come. I checked a color photo, and the structure is actually a big chunk of gym wall that the tank has knocked over and falls outward into the courtyard. I mentioned that to Carlos, and Carlos said it was more complex than that. The shooter had been in the courtyard to begin with, and the tank knocked the wall segment atop him. If there hadn't been other wreckage to catch it and hold it up a bit, he would have been squashed. He stays there, either to use it for cover or because he's getting return fire and doesn't want to move. I believe Carlos said that the gunshot images from that location were a little distorted.
Carlos also found indications that shots were being fired into the underground storm shelter after the fire began. On one of the regular media videotapes, you could see a long, bright flash going down into the pit, from in front of one of the armored vehicles. He said it was no sunlight flash, he'd imaged it on three different media tapes from slightly different angles. His best assessment was that it was the fuse on a pyrotechnic round. I saw this tape, also, with my own eyes. The flash was clear, bright, and elongated, rather like a tracer round but larger in diameter. His view was that they were gassing the underground vault to pin Davidians in place during the fire.
He also directed me to the soundtrack of the FLIR at that point (the aircraft crew has turned it back on). That picks up radio transmissions between the FBI commanders, in which one is calling for fire engines, the other assuring him they are on the way (they were being held a half-mile off), and none arrive -- even after the one commander begins shouting "If you have any fire engines down there, SA-1, send them up right now!" Also, he pointed out, after the fire is burning down, there is a radio communication between T-1 and T-3, in which T-3 asks if we can "begin taking this place apart now." (So much for the missing door and other evidence.). T-1 replies "3, go to Whiskey Nine." Carlos said the key would be to get the frequency references, and you would probably find that Whiskey Nine was an additional, secure, frequency where they could talk in relative privacy.
The whole of his findings: not only was there a gunfight at the rear, but FBI was firing as the fire spread. They gassed the storm shelter, which was the exit point of the underground tunnel where they believed (incorrectly) that the women and children had been taken. They pinned the Davidians in the fire and held off the fire engines.
He also told me that that the House Gov't Reform Committee had even more data than he did, that he knew only part of it and couldn't talk about it, but that it was really shocking. REALLY shocking. He said that the big problem the Committee seemed to see was the question of how they could get the information out, while at the same time preventing another Oklahoma City type reprisal--it was that shocking. This conversation came shortly after Carlos' name had first been mentioned in the press, and the Committee rather played down his statements, saying they were based on visual video rather than FLIR (which was true only in small part). I asked about that- was the Committee getting cold feet over his evidence, or just playing their cards close to the chest. He said it was the latter -- they just hadn't figured out how to let the info out yet.
I talked to him after the re-creation, and his assessment was that it was pure junk -- the aircraft wasn't even at the right altitude, they didn't have the right procedures to verify that the sensor was functioning comparable to the one of 4/19, etc. He predicted (correctly, as I learned this week) that a British camera would be set to record on the European PAL format, rather than the American NTSC format, and this would create a major complication, since they use different frame rates and frame sizes. The best thing that could be done with any resulting tape (and this is BEFORE the results were known) was to drop it in the wastecan. The Independent Counsel had blown it.
I remember talking to him outside his office, after the first visit, standing there in the parking lot after dark. He'd mentioned that the guy with Infraspection Institute, who had analysed the FLIR for 60 Minutes back in '95 or '96, and found FBI gunshots and shooters on it, had been terrified. In fact, he'd sent copies of the tape to Carlos and to several others in the IR field, with notes saying "If anything happens to me, you'll know why." I asked Carlos if he'd ever been fearful. He said only for a while, between the time he made his findings and the time he reported them to the Committee. But once he told others of his results, he figured the cat was out of the bag.
This is a rather long post, but there is a reason. It's in part a memorial for a feisty and totally honest guy I came to like a good deal.
On April 19 of this year, from the hotel room in Waco, I called Carlos to report a minor discovery. I got his answering machine, but when it came time to leave a message, the tape just said "tape finished. Thank you for calling." I thought he'd run out of tape--never happened before, but who knows? I tried again from time to time -- same result. I sent email asking him to call. No reply. Well, maybe he was out of town.
Early today (April 29) I tried again, and this time nothing picked up, the phone just rang off the hook. Then this afternoon I received a call. Carlos was found dead in his apartment. (Actually, the address given in the press reports is that of his office... it had only two rooms, and no living quarters. I've been there.). Perhaps the guy with Infraspection was right. Or perhaps his time was up. He was only 42, and looked in excellent shape (I bet he worked out), but he did have a Type-A personality. Heart attacks or strokes at 42 are rare, but not unknown.
On the other hand, he had the prospects for being very dangerous to some rather powerful people. The evidence he uncovered in March (linking the regular video of the agent shouldering a weapon to the FLIR image of a gunshot in the same time and place) was going to put the case for gunshots on the FLIR on ice. That would mean (a) a lot of agents facing perjury raps or worse, since they had all sworn that neither they nor anyone else had show; (b) virtually destruction of the FBI's vaunted Hostage Rescue Team -- every single member would be implicated in perjury or concealment of evidence -- and (c) an unprecedented blow to the prestige of the entire agency. Hoover's fondness for "dressing up" and COINTELPRO operations would seem minor. Carlos was still working on a final report, and he had just become dangerous -- with his breakup with the Committee, there was no handle left on him, and he had talked to the media and to the Davidians' attorneys, one of whom was briefed by him only a few weeks before his death. You can have handles on the Committee (their innate sympathy for law enforcement, or simple blackmail ala J. Edgar's files) but none on an honest man who has all the key evidence and knows exactly what it means.
Too damn bad. He was a good man, and I'd come rather to like him. He was rigorously honest -- his own man, and no one elses'.
A brief followup:
Carlos' body was only found yesterday, but already the House Government Reform Committee is distancing itself from its own expert, a man who had been briefing it for months, and whom it had been pestering for a quicker report.
Police Probe Death of Waco Expert
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Police said Saturday they are investigating the death of
an expert hired by a congressional committee who alleged last October that
shots were fired in the Waco siege.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the congressional committee chaired by Rep. Dan
Burton, R-Ind., said Saturday that police found the business card of a
committee investigator in Ghigliotti's office. Corallo said Ghigliotti's work
for the committee ended some time ago.
"Ended some time ago?" Here are the facts:
(1) Carlos was working hand-in-hand with the committee well into March-- that is, up to a month before his death. He had a falling out with them and quit (was not fired, as they say -- of course, I have to admit I was only hearing his side of it) sometime in mid-March The conflict wasn't over the quality of his work -- rather, they wanted a fast report, and he was unwilling to stake his reputation on it until he'd thoroughly studied every event. Some of the younger staffers got mad and threatened to sue him for return of his past payments, then got Burton to call him personally and chew him out. Carlos wasn't the guy to be pushed. He told them to get lost, he would complete his report on the events he'd already analyzed, and that was going to be it. I know this in detail, because Carlos sought my advice *before* he made that decision. I suggested he ought to keep working with them and shrug it off. He called later and said he'd thought it over, and wasn't going to put up with it. He had plenty of other work, and would be happy to get on with that.
On March 18, he faxed me his preliminary report to the Committee -- that's the time stamp on his fax of it to me. I believe that was within a short time of its actual submission. I seem to remember they had just had the falling out, but were still working together. He asked me, in a later call, to keep quiet the fact that he'd faxed it on that date, and to cut off the header that showed the date if ever I used it. Something about the Committee might be angry if they knew he had faxed it to me that early--I seem to recall that he hadn't submitted it to them until a little later. There would have been no reason for such concern if he wasn't still working with the Committee when he called me, sometime after the fax of 3/18/2000.
In my phone log I have two calls from him, sometime between 3/18 and 3/23 (I often overlook writing in the new day).
Notes on first call: Kevin Binger [ph.], chief of staff to Burton, wanted report rewritten his way. Carlos needed stuff from locker (presumably Rangers' evidence locker or locker in custody of court) and committee refused to send him (Carlos) down there. [Again, the indication is that he's still compiling evidence for them, in late March.].
Notes on second call:
Shots from side of tank. He had been showing the FLIR of a tank hatch opening and a guy coming out of the CEV to the Demo staff members; they agreed that the hatch opened but some didn't agree they could see the person. They knew by name the person under that hatch. Guy dismounts and shoots at a Davidian. Something about audio track at another point says tank is in pursuit of an unidentified subject. [Word unclear, likely "Congress"] only wanted his anomaly list [i.e., his list of thermal anomalies, rather than a study of each]. Over a hundred of those. He suggested Demos might pay for analysis of the rest. Demos unaware. [As I recall, he said the minority staff had been kept apprised only of the major developments, and were surprised to learn of all the details.]
I am getting a little bent at these claims. Carlos is still submitting preliminary reports around March 18, still briefing their staffers around March 23, and is still working on the project and preparing a polished report the last I heard from him, probably in early April. He dies, sometime in mid-April, and the Committee staffers claim claim his work for them "ended sometime ago." I've also heard rumors that the Committee is claiming they fired him, which sure wasn't the way I heard it -- he quit, and it was over time pressure and his wanting to do a thorough job rather than a fast one, not over any question of quality.
I'd placed high hopes on the Congressional inquiry, but my trust level is rapidly declining. Carlos had said that the Committee would let it all out eventually, that they were just keeping a distance from him in the press reports until that time. He also said that he'd spoken to members of the press, off the record, and that they would eventually break it even if the Committee did not. I knew that there are ways to deal with Congressional oversight. J. Edgar Hoover was a master of that; every public person has some dirty laundry in the right files. But Carlos thought the House Government Reform Committee inquiry was the real thing. They'd uncovered some evidence that would shock us to the core, and were going to use it.
I'm beginning to wonder if Carlos wasn't a bit too trusting of his employers. Nobody ever said that politics is conducive to honor. But Carlos deserved better -- he was a geninely honorable man.