The preliminary findings were released Friday during a news conference here and echo the conclusions a jury reached a week ago Friday. The report contains most of the conclusions reached by Danforth and his team of investigators.
"I give you these conclusions with 100 percent certainty," Danforth said.
Danforth, seeking to answer what he called the four "dark questions" surrounding the siege near Waco, Texas, said government agents did not start the fire that killed most of the cult members and did not shoot at the Davidians. He also said the government did not improperly use the military and did not engage in a major cover-up.
However, Danforth said that some employees of the Justice Department and the FBI, including some attorneys, failed to disclose information that agents had fired pyrotechnic devices--specifically, tear-gas canisters--near the compound.
The devices, Danforth concluded, were harmless, were fired four hours before the fire, and had nothing to do with it. Details of the agents' use of those devices surfaced last year, more than six years after the siege.
"Yet its failure to disclose that information, more than anything else, is responsible for the loss of the public faith in the government's actions at Waco, and it led directly to this investigation," Danforth wrote in his report.
Danforth said the report cleared Attorney General Janet Reno and other top government officials. She had appointed Danforth, a former senator, in September following the relevations about the incendiary devices.
Danforth's final report is expected in about 3 1/2 months. He said investigators were still looking at issues surrounding the FBI's denial about the pyrotechnic devices. He did not rule out the possibility of criminal prosecution.
It was the second time in a week that federal agents have been exonerated in the 51-day standoff in 1993. A five-member jury decided the civil trial July 14 that the government was not negligent in its handling of the siege.
That verdict was an advisory one for U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, who will make his final ruling after he considers whether federal agents shot at the Davidians at the end of the siege.
The siege began Feb. 28, 1993, when Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents attempted to serve a search and arrest warrant on David Koresh, the sect's leader. A gunfight broke out, leaving four ATF agents and six Davidians dead, and the standoff began.
It ended April 19, 1993, when converted tanks driven by FBI agents pumped tear gas into the compound. A fire began and about 80 Davidians died, some from effects of the fire and some from gunshots. Koresh was among those who died.
The government had long contended the Davidians themselves set fire to the retreat and caused their own deaths, whether by fire or gunshots. The FBI and Reno, who was interviewed by Danforth, denied any wrongdoing.
Danforth, a longtime Republican senator from Missouri, an ordained Episcopal priest, and an heir to the Ralston-Purina fortune, hired a British firm to stage a simulation of events that happened on the final day of the siege.
He declined to comment after the firm, Vector Data Systems, issued its final report that said flashes seen on a videotape of the siege's final day were sunlight reflecting off debris, not government gunfire.
In its report, which was submitted in the wrongful death case, Vector compared results from the simulation with the video and concluded: "We were unable to identify any gunfire, either from government forces or from Davidians."
The FBI said the report vindicated agents accused of shooting into the compound, but an attorney for Davidian survivors and relatives, Jim Brannon, has called Vector's analysis "fatally flawed."
Danforth's budget indicated that he did not use Justice Department investigators to avoid a conflict of interest, since the actions of FBI agents were under scrutiny. Most of the work was done by a staff of 17 lawyers--including Danforth--and 32 postal investigators.
Danforth was expected to spend nearly $11 million, not counting the postal investigators' salaries, interview up to 1,000 people, and review 1.5 million pages of documents, as well as hours of video, audio, and infrared tapes.