Interview With Harold May -- February 16, 1996
I spoke with Dr. Harold May, a scientist who worked for 30 years
at the Argonne National Laboratory near Lemont, Illinois. Dr.
May received his Ph.D. from Northwestern University and is an
expert in the field of radiation physics, particularly human
reactions to whole body radiation.
CONSPIRACY NATION: You belong to the Seventh Day Adventist
HAROLD MAY: That's right.
CONSPIRACY NATION: In Dick Reavis' book [The Ashes Of Waco], he
goes into the religious background of the Branch Davidians. The
name "Branch" Davidian would mean that they're a branch of the
Adventist church -- is that right?
HAROLD MAY: Well, I think it's a little more remote than that:
they were a branch of what primarily came to be called
CONSPIRACY NATION: So maybe they're a branch of a branch?
HAROLD MAY: That's more like it. Yeah.
CONSPIRACY NATION: Is the Seventh Day Adventist Church, or
portions of it... to your knowledge are they taking a special
interest in the Waco tragedy and its aftermath?
HAROLD MAY: Actually, the official church tried to have as
little to do with it as possible; they acted as if they were
terribly embarrassed, and they didn't want to have their name
mentioned in the same sentences or anything. They went out of
their way to disassociate the church. But individual members did
not like that attitude. They thought that it was rather
hypocritical that, if you accept the literal teachings of Jesus
to forgive your brother, to look to the needy without any
reservations as to why they got themselves into that fix -- then
I think that you act more like a real Christian. So there's
rather a sharp division.
CONSPIRACY NATION: So you're, maybe, saying that the hierarchy
of the church wanted to disassociate themselves from this...
HAROLD MAY: Exactly.
CONSPIRACY NATION: ...but the people within the church... there
was a kind of grassroots opposition to that; that they thought
that they should protest against it.
HAROLD MAY: Yeah. There probably are three actual reactions:
the two that you've mentioned, and a large, probably a majority
of people in the middle who took [the Waco tragedy] like any
other news: namely, as hot for a few days and then it's
CONSPIRACY NATION: The way that I had some idea as to what was
really going on at the time was, I was connected to the Internet
and I was getting news reports that were telling me things that I
wasn't getting from the mainstream media.
HAROLD MAY: Oh sure!
CONSPIRACY NATION: How were you able to see through the official
story about what was going on, to see that there was more going
HAROLD MAY: Well, first of all I collected from databases a lot
of articles quite distinct from what the mainline media carried
-- the "mainline media" being the big-circulation papers and the
TV. I think the New York Times had some fairly decent editorial
comments. The Washington Times had a great deal of good
comments. There were articles in places like The New Republic,
CONSPIRACY NATION: More specifically, why is it that you
bothered to ask questions, to look more deeply into things, and
other people just accepted what they were told?
HAROLD MAY: [Laughs] That's a very good question.
There's an old saying, you know: "Trivial minds are
concerned with people. Many minds are concerned with what
happened, the happenings. And truly inquisitive and truly
intelligent minds ask the 'why' questions: 'What's behind it?
Why did this happen? What are the implications?'"
I think that separates the general reading public from those
who decided some things are truly important and others aren't. I
personally think that this case says a great deal more about our
justice system than the O.J. Simpson business does -- but compare
the amount of publicity they got. (I'm thinking now more about
the trial of the Waco survivors, the trial down in San Antonio,
than I am about the lurid happenings at Waco.)
Now to go back to your initial question: I wanted to find
out why the Adventist Church acted like it did and why most
Adventists really didn't pay much attention. And so I began
reading extensively (as I mentioned). And then I went down to
Waco to see the second memorial service [April 19, 1995] and I
met Dick Reavis, who's written a good book. (I was impressed by
Dick. Dick is a journalism graduate who won a very prestigious
fellowship: the Nieman Fellowship.) And I had quite a talk with
Dick, at Waco. And I think that, as much as anything, convinced
me that there was much, behind the scenes.
CONSPIRACY NATION: As an aside: for me, I just kind of had an
awakening -- that, during the Gulf War, I just felt something was
wrong; that the story that I was being told by the major media
just didn't make sense. It seemed like there had to be more
So would you say, did you have sort of an awakening, that
something was wrong; where you used to trust the media, and
HAROLD MAY: Oh definitely. Definitely. Sure.
CONSPIRACY NATION: So there's kind of a sharp juncture there.
HAROLD MAY: That's right.
It's interesting that you mention the Gulf War, because the
former Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, has also written a book
about the Gulf War and the misuse of power in the Gulf War. But
Ramsey Clark and some others have a lawsuit coming up sometime
soon in Houston -- not against the FBI or ATF people, but going
after some of the very higher-ups. I don't know who all the
defendants are, but I know that Lloyd Bentsen and Ann Richards
are amongst the defendants.
CONSPIRACY NATION: Yeah. Carol Moore, in her book [The Davidian
Massacre], talks about this lawsuit.
When we had talked before, you talked about that you had
talked to some policeman, or policemen, and that they told you
about this use of CS gas.
HAROLD MAY: Yeah. That's a very interesting portion of it
because, being a scientist, I picked up on the CS gas business
quickly and wanted to know more about it.
I talked to the head of the Cook County SWAT team. The day I
got in touch with him, I was down at the Cook County Coroner's
Office, looking at some of the forensic literature on CS gas and
getting some references out of stuff that they had in their
library. And there was a squad car parked in the parking lot,
and I discovered that it was a member of the Cook County SWAT
team. And he referred me to their leader, and this guy told me
all about their experiences with CS gas... [And] the leader of
the Cook County SWAT team said, quite casually, "Oh yes. We
killed a man with CS gas a couple of years ago." He was very
matter-of-fact, very cavalier about it.
CONSPIRACY NATION: And you're still continuing to look into the
Branch Davidian massacre? Slowly digging up whatever information
HAROLD MAY: Very much so. There's a fellow in Maine who is
quite active in maintaining archives. You can obtain from him
complete transcripts of the Senate hearings, complete transcripts
of the 911 tape (that was recorded at the time that the people
inside the compound were talking with the sheriff and trying to
get him to call off the ATF.)
Regarding CS gas: This was the gas used by the FBI on April 19,
1993 against the Branch Davidians at the now burned-down Mount
Carmel Center. The United States is one of 100 countries that
has signed an agreement banning the use of this gas in war.
According to Justice Department outside expert Alan A. Stone,
M.D., "It is difficult to believe that the U.S. government would
deliberately plan to expose twenty-five children [present at
Mount Carmel on April 19th], most of them infants and toddlers,
to C.S. gas..." [qtd. in Moore, 293-294] The manufacturers of CS
specifically warn against its being used indoors. And, "In a
June 1, 1988, report Amnesty International claimed that CS gas
had contributed to or caused the deaths of more than forty
Palestinians -- including eighteen babies under six months of age
-- who had been exposed to tear gas in enclosed spaces." [Moore,
Moore, Carol. *The Davidian Massacre* (Best is to order directly
from Moore; phone (202) 986-1847 for more info; or order from Gun
Owners of America.)
Reavis, Dick J. *The Ashes Of Waco*. New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1995. ISBN: 0-648-81132-4