Behind The Lies
An interview with the executive producer of Waco: The Rules of Engagement

Dan Gifford is the president of SomFord Entertainment, producers of the red-hot, Emmy Award-winning documentary, Waco: The Rules of Engagement. If you haven't seen Waco... do yourself a favor and check it out. The videotape can be rented at any Blockbuster Video, and many metropolitan art house theatres have scrambled to sneak the film (which was released back in 1997) back into their screening schedules.

See also...
... by Steve Robles
... in the Scope section
... from September 15, 1999

If you're lucky enough live to near Berkeley, California, Gifford will be on hand at the California First Amendment Assembly at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism on Sept. 18 for two showings of Waco, accompanied by discussions of the film and of the assembly's theme: Will the First Amendment Survive the New Millennium.

Gifford cut his journalistic teeth as a reporter for CNN and The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. His next project, The Jaundiced Eye, tells the story of Stephen Matthews, a gay man accused of child molestation solely on the basis of his homosexuality.

Flush from his Emmy win for excellence in investigative journalism last week, Gifford took some time out from his hectic schedule to answer a few GettingIt questions.

GETTING IT: How did you first become interested in Waco?

DAN GIFFORD: We became interested in Waco quite by accident. After moving to Los Angeles from New York, I met a man who showed me a copy of the FBI's aerial surveillance Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR) video and told me a pretty wild story along with it.

Coming from a news background with the intention of producing feature films, neither Amy Sommer Gifford, my wife and co-executive producer for Waco, or I had any intention of doing any documentary productions. So we told him to take his tape and story around to the news organizations.

He showed up about six months later, said none of them were interested and asked us to consider putting together a piece using the FLIR. We decided to do that. It was to be a one-hour made-for-TV segment that would cover the last day [of the Waco raid] only and that would use the FLIR as its centerpiece.

Once we got involved and found that the entire official story was untrue (we had thought it was true), the project evolved into a feature film about the entire subject. The first real clue I had of the official lie was the home video of the Davidians taken with a camera the FBI had given them. What struck me was the fact that the Davidians had been portrayed as a group of white racists. Yet I kept seeing black faces and Asian faces. It turned out that half the Davidians were of African descent and another 10 percent or so were of Asian extraction.

Upon learning all of this, I found one of my most cherished principles offended; the application of law by prejudice and politics cannot be allowed to occur. Because when it is allowed, it becomes that much easier to do it to others, including me.

GI: How did you hook up with [Director] Gazecki and [Co-Producer] McNulty?

DG: Michael McNulty was the person who originally showed me the FLIR and William Gazecki was a person with whom McNulty had been talking as he shopped the project with various producers.

GI: Where did you get the copy of the incriminating FLIR tape?

DG: The FLIR tape was obtained from one of the Davidian defense attorneys. The attorney had received it as part of a massive amount of discovery material from the government. When one goes to court against the government or a large corporation, the amount of material one receives can be staggering. That is often done to overwhelm the resources of the other side and the FLIR tape could easily have been overlooked in that mass of material.

GI: Is this the same tape that the media is showing clips of, with the correspondence about the military tear gas canisters on the soundtrack? That one looks like it was taken from a higher altitude...

DG: It should be the same (although there may have been other FLIRs made from different planes), sans the voice track, which we now know was erased from the tape. The real difference between the two is that the most recent one appears to be made from the original, whereas the one in Waco: is a dub that is many generations down from the original.

GI: Did the Senate subcommittees see the entire FLIR tape during the '95 hearings?

DG: No, the committee did not see it all and did not want to see it all.

GI: Is there a high-level cover-up? Is Reno in on it?

DG: Obviously, there is a cover-up at some level. How high it goes is unknown at this time. As for Janet Reno, I have seen no compelling evidence that she is a "bad guy." She had only been in office about 10 days and the FBI clearly manipulated her to get what it wanted.

GI: Rules of Engagement was reviewed on Disney-owned Siskel and Ebert at the Movies, a bastion of mainstream media if there ever was one. It was also nominated for an Academy Award and just won an Emmy... But there has been scant media attention, and what there was has been light on detail. They've treated the film as somehow obscure and unknowable. Why do you think that is?

DG: From what I have seen and been told, Waco has not been honestly reported largely because of politics and personal beliefs that dominate the nation's newsrooms. To anger the FBI is to get cut off from very valuable news leaks, at the very least. And to tell what really happened at Waco is to provide hard evidence of the destructive power of the "war on drugs," the "war on guns," "the war on child abuse," and any number of other popular political ideas that numerous studies have ... shown to dominate the news rooms. When that happens, there is no hope for justice.

GI: Have you ever had any contact with elements of the government, either threatening or assisting?

DG: Other than some rather obvious surveillance at one time, no.

GI: What do you think of Reno's appointment of former Senator John Danforth to lead the independent investigation?

DG: He's probably as good as anyone else. But let's not get any hopes up. Remember that when John F. Kennedy was elected president, he was asked if he planned on firing FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Kennedy replied "you can't fire God." The institution that Hoover created is now God. It knows the dirt on everyone. It can create dirt where none exists. I am not convinced that God can be investigated or held accountable for anything.

GI: In the six years that have passed have you ever given up hope that the public as a whole will know the truth, and that there may finally be accountability?

DG: In a word, yes. And the reason I say that is basically the reason that I stated in answering the prior question.

See also: Waco Bits

Steve Robles worries about the government.