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Hostage Negotiations

Date: 11-13-10
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Gary Noesner

Retired FBI hostage negotiator Gary Noesner joined Ian Punnett to discuss events from his 23-year career working in tense stand-off situations. Noesner first commented on the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge, site of a deadly confrontation between separatist-survivalist Randy Weaver and his family, and federal agents. The mountaintop shootout ultimately claimed the lives of Weaver's wife and son, as well as a deputy U.S. marshal. Although he was not at the scene, Noesner believes the loss of life occurred primarily because the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, empowered by past successes, sought to end the situation through tactics alone, instead of relying on negotiation.

A similar tragic circumstance played out in 1993 in Waco, Texas, when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) attempted to execute an arrest warrant against David Koresh, cult leader of the Branch Davidians. During the initial shootout, four ATF agents and numerous people inside the compound were killed. Noesner said he was brought in to negotiate with Koresh, who he characterized as a con man and manipulator, and successfully secured the release of 35 followers, mostly children. As in Ruby Ridge, a tactical team enacted their own plan to force out the holed-up resisters. The Davidians, perceiving an aggressive act against them, took their own lives by setting their compound on fire, Noesner explained.

Noesner also reported on the account of a distraught father who took his two young children hostage, then killed them and himself because he was given five minutes surrender to police. According to Noesner, issuing time limits in hostage situations is not part of prevailing negotiation methodology.

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