Feds Tried to Silence Lone Voice for Freedom at Waco
July 12, 1993
Government efforts to clamp down on press coverage of the holocaust at
the Branch Davidian church in Waco, Texas were exposed on the May 26
broadcast of The SPOTLIGHT's nightly call-in talk forum, Radio Free
America, with host Tom Valentine.
The guest was journalist Louis Beam, who was attempting to cover the
events in Waco from an independent point of view. Beam described the
way in which the authorities sought to silence him during official
press conferences being conducted by the BATF and the FBI.
An edited transcript of the interview follows.
V: You just returned from Waco where you were covering the events at
the Branch Davidian compound for the 'Jubilee' newspaper, and
something very interesting happened to you.
Beam: That's right. I was attending the so-called news
conferences--actually they were media shows--that the FBI and BATF
[Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] put on each morning at the
Waco Convention Center.
One of those mornings when I was in attendance, Dan Conroy, an
assistant director from the national BATF office, called on me to ask
Conroy pointed me out, and I asked my question, which was simply this:
"Sir, many of the people who saw the video of the original February 28
BATF assault on the Branch Davidian church compound consider the
tactics used as reminiscent of those used in Nazi Germany and by the
KGB in Soviet Russia. Are we witnessing the emergence of a police
state here in the United States?"
Conroy turned ash white, and there was a pause for about three
seconds, and he said, "I refuse to answer that question."
My question was obviously answered, however, by his response and by
what happened afterward.
V: What about the other reporters in the room?
Beam: They were trained puppies. The whole reason I decided I had to
be at those news conferences was because the reporters who were there
were accomplices with the government, working with the government.
I think from now on we have to consider the Establishment news media
as an arm of the federal government. They were -- and are -- working
hand in hand with the federal government.
The government was handing out press releases each day, outlining what
they claimed was happening, and the media would use these press
releases as the basis upon which to write the stories. There was no
independent research, no inquiring questions -- just drivel and
propaganda handed to them by the federal government.
V: You say the validity of your question was proved to you by what
Beam: Well, as I got up to leave, I noticed police officers and
federal plainclothes officers approaching me from every conceivable
direction. By the time I was approaching the door, I was surrounded.
A woman (who ultimately turned out to be a police sergeant) put her
hand on my arm and said, "Mr. Beam, you will have to come with me."
I responded by asking, "Who are you?"
She was dressed in blue jeans and a blouse of some sort. There was
nothing to identify her as a police officer.
After I asked her identity, she said, again, "You will have to come
I said: "I am not going with anybody. Identify yourself."
Then she gave me her name, and said she was an officer with the Waco
Police Department. I said, "If I am not under arrest, I am not going
She said, "Let me have your drivers license and your press card."
I complied with her request, and she reached out again as if to direct
me toward the back of the room where all of these federal agents were
located. My response to that was to sit down in the nearest chair.
By that time others in the news media saw what was happening, and the
cameras had been turned on, and I was filmed by no less than 30
cameras--maybe as many as 50. I saw the attention was intimidating
this police officer so I launched into my own mini-press conference.
I stated to the media: "This is what happens in America when you ask a
One newsman shouted out, "What was the forbidden question?"
And I repeated what I had said. I guess that newsman had been asleep
during the press conference waiting for his handout to write his
The police sergeant then took my license and my press card, and she
and the FBI and BATF agents huddled. I found out they had run a
computer check on me to see if there were any warrants on me.
I just sat there with the media around me and explained they needed to
start asking important, penetrating questions. They had, instead, been
asking questions such as "What type of vehicle was driven up to the
compound to deliver milk to the children?"
I was sick to my stomach at the sight of people being held hostage by
the hostage rescue team of the FBI, and these media people were acting
A few moments passed, and the sergeant came back and said, "Mr. Beam,
I'm going to ask you one more time to come with me."
I stood up -- with all the cameras running -- and said, "If I am not
under arrest, I'm leaving here," and started for the door.
I knew I was not under arrest, and I hadn't violated any laws, and the
sergeant knew that too. So she just followed me. As I walked outside
the door, the sergeant ran up to me, handed me my driver's license and
my press card and left, not saying a word.
I said, "Thank you, ma'am," and then once again implored the reporters
to at least act as though they had graduated from high school and to
ask a few meaningful questions.
V: You went back to another press conference, didn't you?
Beam: Yes I did.
Now this first incident happened on March 14. On March 17 I returned,
although there had been articles in the Waco papers about the previous
incident. They reported that I had asked "the forbidden question."
V: Did the Waco papers print the forbidden question?
Beam: Yes they did. In fact, it went out on the wire service and was
carried at least once on Cable News Network (CNN). Now I guess CNN can
tell their subscribers they carry "all" the news.
At any rate, when I returned to the convention center, I found they
had moved the location of the press conference. However, they had set
up sawhorses as a barricade, and you now had to present your press
card to the police and the BATF who were standing guard.
V: So they had a new process as a way of screening the reporters?
Beam: That's right. Previously they had checked my press credentials
when I had gone to the press conference, and then everything was fine.
However, as I approached, I saw all of these police giving me the evil
eye. I thought, "This is not good."
I continued up to the barricade. I showed them my identification, but
the same sergeant I had dealt with earlier held up her hand and said,
"I'm sorry, but you cannot come in here."
I said: "Pardon me, I believe you're mistaken. I'm here to cover the
press conference for the newspaper I write for."
She responded, "Mr. Beam, I said you cannot come in here, and you must
I had to think fast, but I was determined to do my duty, so I said:
"Ma'am, I am either going to attend this news conference as a reporter
or I am going to jail. Either step aside and let me in or arrest me."
The sergeant said, "You are under arrest."
V: Were you taken to jail?
Beam: They handcuffed me and took me to the back where they held me
away from the other members of the press who had spotted me being
arrested at the front door.
As they were taking me to the rear, one of the puppies (that is, one
of those alleged "news" reporters) called out, "What are they
arresting you for?"
I answered, "For asking the forbidden question," and that again made
the wire services.
I was held there for a while, and they took me to county jail, locking
me up and taking the film from my camera. They told me I was charged
with "criminal trespass."
When I asked who the complainant was, they said, "We don't have that
So, actuallyI was being arrested, and there was no complainant.
Then when it was time for my bond hearing, a magistrate came to my
cell, rather than taking me to a courtroom. The magistrate tol d me my
bond was $1,000. I told the magistrate that I didn't have $1,000 and
that I am a disabled veteran.
Miss Evans (the magistrate) said, "All you have to do is come up with
15 percent of the total."
I told her: "I will not pay the state of Texas one penny to violate my
civil rights. I will either get out of hre on a personal recognizance
bond or I will rot in this jail cell."
The magistrate looked at me for a moment and said, "Who are you?"
I said, "I am the person who asked the forbidden question at the news
conference the other day."
She looked at me again and said: "That question needed to be asked.
I'll get you a personal recognizance bond form, and you can get out of
V: Do you think the magistrate will lose her job now?
Beam: I don't know if she will or not, but if we've reached the point
where people will get fired for asking what's going on in this
country, then we should just throw up our hands and admit we're living
under a communist regime and live under those rules.
We need to end these charades. This is a free country, and we had
better act like it's free.
V: You've had your own rough experiences with the federal government.
You were once put on trial, along with several others, in Fort Smith,
Arkansas on trumped-up charges of "sedition" -- planning to overthrow
the federal government. However, you were all acquitted, weren't you?
Beam: That's right. The government had this preposterous tale that 14
men (myself among them) were going to overthrow the government of the
United States. The jury laughed them right out of the courtroom.
After the trial was over, some of the newspapers interviewed the jury
and asked them why they found us not guilty (since the media had
already convicted us even before the trial started).
One of the jurors replied it ws obvious the government had concocted
this entire scenario using the help of men who were in jail and who
were promised freedom if they agreed to testify against us.
The second reason, they said, was that out of over 100 government
witnesses, every one of the witnesses who tried to put me or the
others into the allege conspiracy had been paid by the government.
One of these witnesses got $125,000, and another $88,000 -- and he was
the least paid. So the witnesses had been bought and paid for.
V: How much did the government spen on this frame up?
Beam: The 'Houston Chronicle' quoted a federal attorney to the effect
that the government had spent $4.5 o $5 million on this effort to put
us in jail.
Actually, several of the people who were on trial were already in
jail. One of them was already doing 240 years in jail. One was already
on death row. This was an effort to play "guilt by association" to
railroad the others.