The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:Diane Jennings

Cult report meets with skepticism
Officials aren't `holding their breath' for end to siege, agent says

WACO -- Federal authorities are not overly optimistic about ending the standoff with the Branch Davidian sect any time soon, despite word that cult leader David Koresh has received his long-awaited message from God.

That message apparently instructed Mr. Koresh to write down his interpretation of the Seven Seals of the Bible's Book of Revelation. Such a task could take a while, FBI Agent Richard Swensen said during the daily news briefing.

"Nobody at our place is holding their breath' for a quick resolution, he said.

Mr. Koresh has not spoken to authorities since Tuesday morning. When negotiators asked his second-in-command, Steve Schneider, about progress on the manuscript, Mr. Schneider said the interpretation of the first seal has yet to be edited, Agent Swensen reported.

In the final book of the New Testament, a violent prediction of the world's last days, the Seven Seals hold the final horror that humans must face before the world's end.

In a letter read by Mr. Koresh's attorney Wednesday, the cult leader said he and his 95 followers will leave the compound when his writings have been delivered to biblical scholars.

The siege began Feb. 28 after authorities tried to serve a search warrant on Mr. Koresh. In an ensuing gunbattle, four agents and an unknown number of cult members were killed.

Mr. Koresh's divine message may be a stalling tactic, Agent Swensen said. "We've had so many stalling tactics over such a long period of time, that we're not overly optimistic.'

Authorities will continue to pressure cult members with sound and light, "to hasten the manuscript,' he said.

Agent Swensen said negotiations were proceeding according to authorities' schedule, not Mr. Koresh's. "We're doing what we're doing based on our own time frame, our own agenda,' he said.

During the briefing, he also clarified Mr. Koresh's recent prediction about a disaster at the dam near Waco.

Agent Swensen read from a letter that Mr. Koresh sent April 9, in which he warned that the area around Lake Waco would be "terribly shaken.'

From conversations with Mr. Schneider, Agent Swensen said that reference was intended merely as a "prediction of a natural event that was going to happen,' as opposed to Mr. Koresh's "encouraging people to actually, pro-actively do something to the dam.'

Meanwhile life -- and taxes -- go on for the army of agents surrounding the compound. Agent Swensen, who has been in Waco since the siege began almost seven weeks ago, said on tax-filing day, "Most of us have been rapidly and feverishly trying to fill out those extension forms.'