The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:Lee Hancock

Writings of Koresh analyzed FBI, sect defenders clash over meaning

In his last written messages, Branch Davidian leader David Koresh alternately threatened federal authorities with apocalypse and meekly promised peaceful surrender.

The confused, Scripture-laden writings of the self-proclaimed messiah presented mixed meanings.

Some bolster federal officials' arguments that the self-proclaimed messiah would never surrender. Others back his defenders' claims that he would have come out and led his followers to peaceful surrender if only given time.

In the last nine days of the standoff near Waco, Mr. Koresh sent four letters to FBI officials and a final letter to Dick DeGuerin, a Houston lawyer retained by Mr. Koresh's mother who entered the compound to try to end the siege.

Copies of the letters are part of a Justice Department chronology released Friday, and Mr. DeGuerin released the manuscript to reporters last week.

The department reviewed the FBI's role in the lengthy siege, which began after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the sect Feb. 28 in search of illegal weapons.

Mr. Koresh also began a manuscript carried out of the cultists' home by one of his followers after the structure burned on April 19, leaving Mr. Koresh and about 80 others dead.

Mr. Koresh's first letters to the FBI, dictated to followers and signed "Yawheh Koresh," supposedly are warnings from God to federal authorities. Yahweh is the Hebrew name for God.

"Who are you fighting against? The law is mine. The truth is mine. Will you be acquitted in my judgment. Will you turn back the punishments of my hand?" an April 9 letter states.

"Learn from David my seals or as you have said, bear the conse-quences."

An April 10 letter threatens: "You're not rejecting a man by fighting against David, my servant. No for I have given and revealed my name to him. . . . The name Koresh is my surname."

A letter written the next day warns that the Seven Seals of Revelations, a prophecy that Mr. Koresh claimed to be able to decode, "are the last prophecy to a lost world. Consider it and what it means."

But in a 21/2-page letter April 14 to Mr. DeGuerin, Mr. Koresh suggests that he will come out and give himself up. He stated that God was allowing him to prepare a manuscript outlining the meaning of the Seven Seals and then end his "waiting period."

He told Mr. DeGuerin he would then "stand before man to answer any and all questions regarding my actions."

In his last written words, a partial manuscript dictated to a follower hours before FBI agents began gassing the compound, Mr. Koresh wrote: "Should we not eagerly ourselves be ready to accept this truth and come out of our closet and be revealed to the world as those who love Christ in truth and righteousness?"

A psycholinguist asked to assess the letters for the FBI during the siege concluded that the letters bore "all the hallmarks of rampant, morbidly virulent paranoia."

Murray S. Miron, a professor at Syracuse University, considered the letter to Mr. DeGuerin an insincere ploy to buy more time. He told FBI officials that Mr. Koresh's other letters strongly suggested that he would not surrender but "intends to fight," according to the Justice Department review.

Mr. DeGuerin has said he believes that Mr. Koresh's offer to surrender was sincere and that authorities should have given him more time before the FBI began its tear gas assault.

Federal officials cited the cult's heavy firepower, deteriorating sanitary conditions in the compound and a breakdown in negotiations for ordering the use of tear gas.