What really happened at waco

Rachel Munroe in The New Yorker:

The federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound, thirty years ago, was flawed from the start. The Branch Davidians were a fringe offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and, in the early nineties, they were led by David Koresh, a charismatic long-haired man who believed that the end of days was imminent. The Davidians lived on a compound called Mount Carmel, twenty miles northeast of Waco, and were well known to local law enforcement, who considered them relatively benign.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms suspected the Davidians of illegally converting semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic weapons. (The weapons allegations seemed to inspire more reason for action than reports that Koresh was sexually assaulting his followers’ underage daughters.) During the ensuing investigation, A.T.F. agents repeatedly overestimated their capacity for subterfuge. When a group of undercover agents posing as college students moved into a house across the street from the Branch Davidian compound, their rental cars gave them away. The agents hosted a party to deflect suspicion, but it had the opposite effect: “Some of the Branch Davidians showed up, mingled, and reported back to Koresh that these were federal agents for sure,” Jeff Guinn writes, in the recently published “Waco: David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and a Legacy of Rage.”

More here.