New Mount Carmel Center was the home of the students of the seven seals, better known at the time of the Waco Siege as Branch Davidians. It served as a formidable defensive fortress during the two-months long siege and two skirmishes that ultimately left 4 federal agents and more than 80 American citizens dead.
The Branch Davidians had a clear tactical advantage: well- (and incidentally legally-) armed, concealed, firing from windows against a smaller invading force. Although the Branch Davidian side suffered casualties during the first attack, the skirmish not be described as anything but a disaster for the ATF assault.
As the raid became a siege, however, the Branch Davidians did not control the flow of information in any way: their only access to outside communications came via the decisions of the local radio station KRDL, when Koresh’s first message was broadcast, then in another interview with CNN. After those initial media contacts, the media was instructed by the FBI to prevent further messages from being distributed.
Phone lines were cut, and eventually, so was the electricity.
This was 1993, well before the ubiquitous version of the internet, back when people turned to the monolithic television news powers for primary sourcing. Cell phones were in limited use during negotiations and combat…but only on the Federal side of the fighting. Once electricity was cut to the Branch Davidians, they even lost their short range radios. Their only means of communication was through their sole contact point with the FBI.
In the first skirmish, the Branch Davidians were willing to return fire on the ATF, and held a strategic defense. Although their leader David Koresh was wounded in the fight, along with others in the compound, and taking 6 dead, it is obvious that the result of the initial firefight was a successful repulsion of an intentional encroachment.
The final assault and massacre is somewhat confusing: although the inhabitants were fully expecting a raid, it appears as if they were content to die – for the most part – without returning much in the way of fire. It doesn’t appear as if the remaining forces in the compound had done much in the way of planning a coordinated defense.
Diverse communications will be critical in the future. In addition to a combination of landline, cable, radio, satellite connections, a surrounded compound simply has more options than it would have in 1993. More important, social media and internet communications can carry an organizations messages even after the organization itself can be cut off.
Combined with emerging technologies like telepathic EEGs and neural wetworks robotics which – due to their natural advantages in defensive communications and counterattack operations (basically, twinning yourself with another gunner or robot at the neural level is a responsive, and therefore defensive or countermeasure, advantage), a group under siege will be more able to coordinate defenses and – critically – deliver real-time exterior messages. In a future siege, cutting off communications may not be as easy as cutting a line or two, and the technologies that exist today are far more capable of multiplying competing messages.
New Mt. Carmel may have been burned out, but the land of the Branch Davidian compound are still occupied by Branch Davidians: both survivors and new converts, many of whom are quite happy to tell their side of the story, in person, twenty years after the fact.
In a Future Siege, the public may be able to get the defenders’ story, and – if people so chose – lend intelligence and other communications support in real-time.