Where is the work of Carlos Ghigliotti?

The work of the Waco infrared analyst, who died of a heart attack before presenting his results showing government gunfire against civilians, has never seen the light of day.

It was late March in 2000, and I’d just gotten off the phone with Carlos Ghigliotti, owner and operator of Infrared Technologies in Laurel, MD. An infrared analyst with extensive experience retained by the U. S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Government Reform, he’d reviewed the videotapes taken by a device called a FLIR—a forward-looking infrared camera—and concluded that the FBI shot streams of automatic weapons fire at Branch Davidian religious sect members as they tried to flee their burning buildings on April 19, 1993, the last day of a 51-day standoff between the Davidians and the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team.

I could admit to being nonplussed. Carlos had yelled at me, declining my invitation to speak at a technical seminar I was trying to put together that would feature analysts on both sides of the Waco FLIR flash problem. That problem–were bright flashes on Waco’s infrared videotapes evidence of government gunfire against civilians, or sun reflections off debris?–had dominated the national spotlight during a re-examination of the 1993 standoff brought about by the work of individuals including (the late) Waco documentarian, Michael McNulty, Tucson attorney and weapons expert David Hardy, Hollywood producer Dan Gifford (Waco: The Rules of Engagement) and (the late) investigator, Gordon Novel.

Carlos had told me not to conduct the seminar, as the problem would be solved long before my meeting date. He had the answer, he said, adding that he was the only analyst who’d actually understood what Waco’s infrared tapes revealed.

And what was that? I’d asked.

“The FBI lied!” he’d shouted.

By that statement, I took Carlos to mean that the flashes he’d studied constituted evidence of government gunfire against civilians. While it was common to ask the question, “Did the FBI shoot at Waco?” a technical analysis, by itself, cannot determine the agency affiliation of a shooter. Other groups were present on the standoff’s last day, including the U. S. Army’s Combat Applications Group (Delta Force) and the British SAS; and some alleged that Delta was involved in the killing.

Carlos declined to provide additional details, telling me that all would be revealed when he decided to call a press conference. It never happened. Instead, his badly decomposed body was found in his office in late April. His death, at age 42, was determined to have been caused by a heart attack—the latest occurrence in a string of medical maladies affecting FLIR analysts who’d arrived at a “gunfire” conclusion.

What had his analysis revealed? According to Hardy, with whom Carlos had shared his results, Carlos had correlated an infrared flash with visible light photography of a shooter, in both time and space. This result would have been very significant, effectively solving the problem. Unknown to most in the general public, infrared cameras such as Waco’s FLIR do not operate in the same manner as your digital camera. While spatial resolution—being close enough to an object to see details—is important in both visible and infrared imaging, objects within an infrared image must possess sufficient thermal contrast against their background in order to be seen. In other words, if a target—such as a human—exhibits a similar amount of infrared radiation as an earth background, the human may not be seen on infrared even though the spatial resolution is sufficient. This clip, taken from Waco’s infrared tapes after fire consumed the complex, illustrates the point.

Significant, also, was the fact that during the time this controversy raged in the national spotlight, government experts went out of their way to make sure the public misunderstood the connection between seeing shooters on the tapes and the flashes’ origin. No shooters, no shots was the maxim promulgated by anonymous government sources close to the investigation. Vector Data Systems, an expert group working for Waco Special Counsel John Danforth, averred that flashes must always be associated with a shooter firing position in order to have come from the muzzles of guns. And the Federal judge presiding in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought against the FBI by Davidian survivors and relatives of the deceased also negated the gunfire as the flashes’ cause because persons were not seen nearby.

In short, the government rode the public’s lack of knowledge to victory on its side of the argument, utilizing “facts” they should have known were bogus.

What happened to Carlos’ work product (which also included infrared footage of the Davidians’ dwindling water supply, making a raid unnecessary)? According to Hardy, Carlos had delivered a preliminary report to the House Committee before his death, and was working on his final document at the time he died. According to the Washington Post, Special Counsel Danforth directed a federal court to take control of the material found in Carlos’ lab.

The events at Waco, TX in 1993, in which scores of civilians lost their lives, remain an American tragedy. But they are also important for another reason: the individual in charge of their resolution, Hillary Clinton, is running for President.

Now is the time to bring Carlos Ghigliotti’s work to light.

Originally published 8/13/2016.


At The Truckee Riverwalk

It was early in the morning on a Saturday, mid-October, 2016, and I woke in my room at the Circus Circus Reno well before dawn, as I usually do. I turned over in bed to look out the window from my 24th floor tower room. East, beyond Sparks, the first rays of the new day were just beginning to peek above the horizon. Below, on the street, all seemed quiet except for the occasional limo or taxicab making its way down Virginia Street. I got up and made some coffee, then sat back down among the pillows to watch the spectacle slowly unfurling in the distance, and to collect my thoughts.

This was my third trip to Nevada in as many months. My first had been to the Carson Valley, a place I’d never heard of before seeing a commercial about Nevada vacations on YouTube. State officials were trying to change Nevada’s image, and were touting their state as a place for adventure—rock climbing, cycling, and extreme hiking. The small towns of Minden and Gardnerville I’d visited weren’t exactly adventurers’ haunts, but I appreciated them as two of the most charming towns I’d ever seen in my life. They even had some good restaurants, where I could sit at the bar during Happy Hour and have a meal for a much lower price than offered in the main dining area.

My second trip, the following month, had been all about business. I was working in the field of drones and hoped to secure a customer in eastern Nevada for my services. Taking only a backpack with me, I drove my rental car east along the I-80 (even though I’d not driven any freeway in 7 years) and then north, at 5 miles an hour over a gravel road, out to a ranch near the Utah state line. I’d made my pitch but, to date, had not yet secured a customer. That didn’t stop me, however, and I resolved to keep trying.

On this, my third trip, I’d registered my business in Carson City and spent two nights there before traveling to Reno. After a few unsuccessful attempts to meet with potential customers, I’d resolved to just enjoy Reno and the early morning show I now witnessed.

Far off in the east, the sun’s orange and pink-colored rays washed away the early morning clouds. Below me, the Silver Legacy’s dome yawned awake as the green tinge faded. In the near distance, the parade of cars east and west on the I-80 began and soon gathered steam. Thirty minutes later, it was time for breakfast.

Bored of the tourist fare in the mall downstairs that connected three hotels—Circus Circus, the Silver Legacy, and the El Dorado–I headed out onto Virginia Street, not the safest place in the world but okay, I thought, after sunrise. I knew my destination: the restaurant in the Club Cal-Neva that advertised large breakfasts at low prices. Within minutes, I was through the downstairs door of the iconic casino and saw a gambling floor that looked shabby, compared to those in my hotel area. Even at this early hour, the slot machines were active, their chairs filled by the mesmerized who I imagined had been up all night for their “chance” to get something for nothing. Up two flights on an escalator, I arrived at the restaurant and received water and a menu. True to its advertising, the prices for breakfast were low. I ordered a scramble and asked for only two eggs, rather than the three they offered. The server, arriving with my meal and the check a short time later, told me to pay at the register when I finished.

I dug in. The portion was ample, but not particularly flavorful. Well, for $5, what can one expect? This club, like others nearby, was a remnant from the past—part of the old downtown that would, I suspected, be one day swept away if or when Reno developed…and with new business ventures like the Tesla Gigafactory located not far away, along with the area’s growing pre-eminence in the emerging drone business, who was to say that it wouldn’t happen, soon? Better to enjoy an old relic once, I thought, even if the food could have been better.

I finished my meal and proceeded to the register. Even with coffee, my bill came to less than $10.00. I handed my debit card to one of the two young women at the register, whose nametags also displayed their country of origin (the Philippines) and she astounded me by asking for my driver’s license. “For an $8.00 check?” I asked. She assured me it was standard procedure, and told me that my license was due to expire soon.

Well of course…remember where you are, I told myself. Remember downstairs, the slots, the fixed gazes of the gamblers, communing with the machines as though in a quasi-religious trance, and the smell of alcohol and cigarettes at 6:00 AM in an enclosed, air-conditioned room that knows neither day nor night.

I thanked the ladies, and left. Out on Virginia Street once more, the quietly decaying facades of the other old clubs now held no attraction for me. I’d done my “authentic” and wanted to walk, over near the Truckee River with its new high-rises, restaurants, and artsy places. I pulled my coat tighter around me, as the chilly temps made the October morning air seem cold rather than crisp.

The plaza was spacious, but deserted at this early hour, and I walked over to the river. Even looking down at it flowing over the rocks below made me feel colder. But the space, the newness, the cleanliness, even, of this location so close to the area I’d just left, made me want to sit and stay a while. Actually, not sit…it was too cold for me to stop, so I continued to walk, or actually, to meander.

And then I saw her.

Sitting down on the plaza about 20 ft away from me, a crutch by her side and a sign in her hand, was a young woman with a bright smile, all alone in the early morning chill. Had I missed her when I’d passed by, or had she recently arrived? I didn’t know. As I approached her, her face appeared almost beatific and I could see that her sign was an appeal for help. I walked right past her…not because I wouldn’t help, but because I’d trained myself to _never_ dig into my purse while standing.

I found a ledge nearby and placed my purse upon it. I looked around and noticed a long black limo stopped at a light nearby. I turned back to my purse and pulled out my wallet, emptying it of the bills I carried, no more than $10, a tad more than I’d paid for my unremarkable breakfast.

Turning back again toward the woman, I saw an unexpected sight: the limo driver had exited his vehicle, and was now walking over to the woman. I gave her my money and he presented her with a thick wad of bills in a clip, then turned to leave. She smiled and thanked us both; but who carries so much cash? I wondered. Isn’t everything done electronically now, including booking limos and tipping their driver?

Yes, everything done electronically. Legal transactions, that is. No prostitution inside county lines. And no drug sales, ever.

The woman smiled graciously at the few bills I gave her, and placed the limo driver’s billfold into her bag. “Pray for me!” she said. “I’m having surgery on Monday.”

I smiled and told her that I would, indeed, pray. The limo had driven on. And in that moment, I knew that God had brought three people together: one needing help and two willing to help, whose hearts He had touched for the benefit of a woman in need. And in that moment, it didn’t matter so much how the man had gotten his money, but only that the Lord had told him to give it to her.

And he had listened.