Tape recording of Waco raid allegedly altered

June 17, 1993|By Cox News Service

WASHINGTON -- The tape recording on which members of a House subcommittee listened to frantic telephone conversations between a deputy sheriff and members of the Branch Davidian cult near Waco, Texas, had been altered, members of the subcommittee said yesterday.

But who erased critical conversations -- and when -- was not clear.

The Appropriations subcommittee on treasury, postal service and general government is investigating. So is the Justice Department.

The recording, on which McLennan County Sheriff's Lt. Larry Lynch appealed to David Koresh and his followers to lay down their weapons and end their Feb. 28 gunbattle with federal agents, was played during subcommittee hearings last week.

Lieutenant Lynch's efforts to negotiate a cease-fire while gunfire roared over the telephone lines and Mr. Koresh quoted the Scriptures was the highlight of two days of subcommittee hearings on the ill-fated raid by over 100 agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

The complete recording was released last week by the Waco Police Department after 911 operators read a published subcommittee transcript and realized that large portions of conversation had been omitted.

In fact, the unedited tapes indicate Lieutenant Lynch talked with the ATF agents while he held the Davidian callers on the line, although he did appear to have trouble contacting ATF.

At a closed meeting of the subcommittee yesterday, investigators declined to say where they obtained the tape but specifically said they did not get it from the FBI, according to an aide to Rep. Jim Lightfoot of Iowa, the ranking Republican.

Later in the day, evidently unaware of the closed subcommittee meeting, an FBI spokesman said that the bureau did give the tape to a subcommittee staffer but with the understanding that it was not complete.

Mr. Lightfoot, who called a news conference to talk about the matter, said that the changes appeared to have been designed dTC "to make ATF look bad."

A spokesman for Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat who is chairman of the subcommittee, said that either tape shows that "there was a lack of communication between 911 and ATF."

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