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Context of 'September 2001: Vidal Profiles Oklahoma City Bomber, Promotes Claims of Militia Involvement, Government ‘Cover-Up’'

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Cover of ‘The Turner Diaries.’Cover of ‘The Turner Diaries.’ [Source: Associated Content]White supremacist and separatist William Pierce, a leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974), publishes a novel called The Turner Diaries under the pseudonym “Andrew Macdonald.”
Former College Professor - Pierce has a doctorate in physics from the University of Colorado, and taught at Oregon State University for three years before joining the American Nazi Party, taking over leadership of the group after its head, George Lincoln Rockwell, was assassinated. In 1970, Pierce and others left that organization and joined the National Youth Alliance, later renamed the National Alliance. He will later say that the violence and disruption of the civil rights movement prompted his decision to join Nazi and white supremacist organizations. “I became concerned with the general abandonment of standards and long-accepted values,” he will write. “The standards of excellence that had prevailed at most universities were becoming abandoned ideas that were in the way of social progress for people of color. The old-fogey standards had to go, and now we had to judge students and professors by the new standards of social relevance and performance. That concerned me a lot.”
Genocidal 'Future History' - The novel is a “future history” of the US after the nation, and eventually the world, is “purged” of “inferior” races via an Aryan revolution that overthrows the US government and puts white “Aryans” in charge. Pierce actually began the book as a series of installments for the racist tabloid “Attack!” a publication of the National Youth Alliance. The Anti-Defamation League will term the book “[l]urid, violent, apocalyptic, misogynistic, racist, and anti-Semitic.” The book is privately printed through the National Alliance’s National Vanguard Press, but in 1998, independent publisher Barricade Books will begin publishing it as well. From 1975 through 1978, Pierce serialized the novel in the Alliance’s newsletter, “Attack!” (later renamed “National Vanguard”). In March 1997, he will explain his rationale for writing the novel, saying: “In 1975, when I began writing The Turner Diaries… I wanted to take all of the feminist agitators and propagandists and all of the race-mixing fanatics and all of the media bosses and all of the bureaucrats and politicians who were collaborating with them, and I wanted to put them up against a wall, in batches of a thousand or so at a time, and machine-gun them. And I still want to do that. I am convinced that one day we will have to do that before we can get our civilization back on track, and I look forward to the day.”
Fictional Story Inspires Oklahoma City Bombing - The story hinges on the experiences and “recollections” of Earl Turner, an Aryan separatist who chronicles the extermination of minorities, Jews, and other “undesirables” via an armed insurrection. The book will become highly influential in far-right circles. One of the most notable scenes in it is that of Turner’s guerrilla unit detonating a homemade “fertilizer bomb” at FBI headquarters, killing hundreds; the ADL will note it as “a passage that came to be seen as foreshadowing, and as an inspiration to, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh” (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The white supremacist guerrilla army of the book is called “The Organization”; its vocabulary and methodologies will be adopted to one extend or another by a number of white supremacist and separatist organizations. The novel begins by stating: “If the White nations of the world had not allowed themselves to become subject to the Jew, to Jewish ideas, to the Jewish spirit, this war would not be necessary. We can hardly consider ourselves blameless. We can hardly say we had no choice, no chance to avoid the Jew’s snare. We can hardly say we were not warned.… The people had finally had their fill of the Jews and their tricks.… If the Organization survives this contest, no Jew will—anywhere. We’ll go to the Uttermost ends of the earth to hunt down the last of Satan’s spawn.” The revolution of the “Organization” is triggered by the passage of the “Cohen Act,” legislation which effectively bans Americans from owning weapons. Pierce writes that the forcible disarming of the citizenry results in anarchy: “Robberies of this sort had become all too common since the Cohen Act, with groups of Blacks forcing their way into White homes to rob and rape, knowing that even if their victims had guns they would probably not dare use them.” The book depicts scenes of violence in gory, graphic detail (including torture and racially-motivated lynchings), and gives detailed explanations of how the characters construct a variety of explosive devices. The book gives the rationale for its fictional murder of hundreds at the FBI building: “It is a heavy burden of responsibility for us to bear, since most of the victims of our bomb were only pawns who were no more committed to the sick philosophy or the racially destructive goals of the System than we are. But there is no way we can destroy the System without hurting many thousands of innocent people.… And if we don’t destroy the System before it destroys us… our whole race will die.” In the novel, Turner dies during a successful suicide mission, when he detonates a nuclear weapon over the Pentagon. White domination of the planet is ultimately achieved by the massive deployment of nuclear weapons. Organizations such as The Order (which will carry out the murder of progressive talk show host Alan Berg—see June 18, 1984 and After), The New Order, and the Aryan Republican Army (see 1992 - 1995) will cite the novel as inspiration for their efforts. [New York Times, 7/5/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 99; Center for New Community, 8/2002 pdf file; Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2004; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Inspiration for Texas Murder - In Texas in 1998, when African-American James Byrd Jr. is beaten and dragged to his death behind a pickup truck (see June 7, 1998 and After), one of his assailants, John King, will say, “We’re starting The Turner Diaries early.”
Sparks Many Imitators - The novel will spark a number of imitations, including 2003’s Angle Iron, about a right-wing attack on the US power grid; 2001’s Dark Millennium, depicting a white supremacist president presiding over the extermination of African-Americans; 2004’s Deep Blue, which transports the racial themes into a science-fictional presentation; 2001’s Hold Back This Day, in which whites establish an Aryan colony on Mars; 1999’s One in a Million, in which a white separatist declares war on the IRS; 2001’s The Outsider, whose white hero goes on a murderous spree among African-Americans; and 1991’s Serpent’s Walk, in which a resurgent Nazi underground claims the planet for its own. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2004]
Wide Influence - Both Pierce and his novel will become highly influential in white supremacist and anti-government circles. Jerry Dale, a West Virginia sheriff who monitors Pierce for years, says: “He’s become a spiritual leader. He’s not a nut. Looking at him and talking to him, you don’t get a feeling he’s crazy. He’s not violent. But the way he incites people, to me, that is frightening.” Pierce will go on to write a number of books (including comic books) and periodicals, and host a radio show that will be broadcast in a dozen states. However, he always publicly states that he does not advocate actual violence. [New York Times, 7/5/1995]
Second Novel - Ten years later, Pierce will publish a second novel, Hunter, which depicts a lone assassin targeting Jews and African-Americans. Both this book and a reprint of The Turner Diaries will be released by a publishing house affiliated with the National Alliance, the National Vanguard Press (see 1988).

Entity Tags: William Luther Pierce, The Order, John William (“Bill”) King, National Youth Alliance, American Nazi Party, Anti-Defamation League, Aryan Republican Army, Barricade Books, George Lincoln Rockwell, The New Order, National Alliance, James Byrd Jr., Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A young Timothy McVeigh, wearing quasi-military garb.A young Timothy McVeigh, wearing quasi-military garb. [Source: ForbiddenTruth (.com)]Timothy McVeigh, a distant, solitary young man in Pendleton, New York, takes a job as a security guard with an armored car company after graduating from Starpoint High School in 1986. (Some sources will inaccurately give his home town as nearby Lockport, New York; he did live there for a time as a child.) He grew up as an outgoing and easygoing young man, but began to withdraw into himself after his mother began leaving home (and having extramarital affairs) in 1977. McVeigh began retreating into himself even more after his parents separated in 1984 and his mother left for Florida with his two sisters. He received his first rifle, a .22 caliber gift from his gun-collector grandfather, when he was 13, and was immediately fascinated with the weapon, though he never became interested in hunting, as so many others in the area were (McVeigh always displayed a strong empathy towards animals). He joined the National Rifle Association in 1985. In high school, he told counselors he wanted to be a gun shop owner; though he earned a Regents Scholarship upon graduating, he only spent a few months at a nearby business college before deciding further schooling was not for him. McVeigh has already begun to turn his father’s home into a survivalist compound, stockpiling water, gunpowder, and other items in the basement and amassing a collection of magazines like Guns & Ammo and SCOPE Minuteman, a local publication distributed by a Niagara County gun advocacy organization. His father, William “Bill” McVeigh, will later explain: “I guess he thought that someday a nuclear attack or something was going to happen. That was my feeling. You know, he was ready for anything.” [New York Times, 5/4/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 44, 49, 65-66, 70; Serrano, 1998, pp. 11-20; Douglas O. Linder, 2006]
First Exposure to African-Americans, Survivalism - McVeigh, a 19-year-old sometimes called by the disparaging nickname “Noodle” who is unable to connect with women on almost any level due to his shyness, works for a firm currently called Burke Armor Inc., which will later rename itself as Armored Services of America, though he has a considerable amount of expertise with computers and conceivably could have landed a job in that field. McVeigh works out of a depot in Cheektowaga, near Buffalo, mostly delivering money to and from banks and stores, quickly earning a reputation as a reliable, hardworking employee. He works for eight months with a partner, Jeff Camp. This job gives him his first opportunity to work closely with African-Americans; the region of upstate New York he resides in is almost devoid of African-Americans, and the area has long supported a large and active Ku Klux Klan chapter. McVeigh learns from some of his fellow employees about inner-city strife and other related racial and economic issues. Later, he will recall making special deliveries at the beginning and end of each month to check-cashing firms; sometimes he would have to wade through long lines of African-American welfare recipients, and on occasion would brandish his gun to get through the lines. He often drives by African-American homes and sees the residents sitting on their porches, one of the reasons he begins calling African-Americans “porch monkeys.” He also begins reading “survivalist” books such as The Turner Diaries (see 1978), The Anarchist’s Cookbook, and The Poor Man’s James Bond.
Discomfits Co-Workers with Militia-Style Appearance - Several months into the job, as Camp will recall, McVeigh begins coming to work “looking like Rambo.” McVeigh has frequently expressed an interest in guns—some sources say he calls guns “the great equalizer[s]”—and has a licensed handgun for his job along with other weapons, including an AR-15 assault rifle. On one particular morning, he comes in with a sawed-off shotgun and ammunition bandoliers slung in an “X” over his chest, apparently as a joke meant to surprise and discomfit his colleagues. “It looked like World War III,” Camp will recall. McVeigh’s supervisor refuses to let McVeigh go out on the truck, angering him. Camp will later recall: “He used to bring in two or three guns that he carried all the time. He had a .45 and a .38. He had a Desert Eagle [pistol]. That thing was huge.” (McVeigh will later sell the Desert Eagle, calling it “unreliable.”) McVeigh, Camp will continue, is “intense.… He ate a lot. I don’t know if it was nervousness. Sometimes he could be quiet. Some days he was hyper, some days he wouldn’t say a word.”
Buys Property for Shooting Range - After getting his first gun permit, McVeigh buys 10 acres of wooded property north of Olean, New York, with a partner, David Darlak, and the two use it as a shooting range. As teenagers, he and Darlak formed their version of a “survivalist group” after watching movies such as The Day After, a television movie about the aftermath of a nuclear strike in Kansas. A neighbor, Robert Morgan, later recalls his father calling the police to complain about the incessant gunfire. “My dad turned him in,” Morgan will recall. “One day it sounded like a war out there. Sometimes he’d come down during the week, sometimes the weekend. He had on hunting clothes. Camouflage.” McVeigh continues his shooting activities even after Darlak loses interest.
Joins US Army - On May 24, 1988, spurred by his partner Darlak, he joins the Army (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990). [New York Times, 5/4/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 54-57, 72, 82; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 20-24; Douglas O. Linder, 2006]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Robert Morgan, Armored Services of America, David Darlak, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Jeff Camp

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Combat engineering vehicles (CEVs) lined up outside the blazing Branch Davidian compound.Combat engineering vehicles (CEVs) lined up outside the blazing Branch Davidian compound. [Source: PBS]The FBI and local law enforcement officials begin their planned assault on the besieged Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993, March 1, 1993, and April 17-18, 1993), despite indications that the Davidians inside the compound will retaliate either by firing on the gathered law enforcement officials, by torching the main residential building, or perhaps both (see April 18, 1993). [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Warning - At 5:55 a.m., Richard Rogers, the commander of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), orders two combat engineering vehicles (CEVs, unarmed modifications of Bradley fighting vehicles and the primary means for deplying CS “riot control agent” into the main building) deployed to the main building. One minute later, senior negotiator Byron Sage telephones the residence and speaks with Davidian Steve Schneider. At 5:59, Schneider comes to the phone. Sage tells him: “We are in the process of putting tear gas into the building. This is not an assault. We will not enter the building.” Schneider replies, “You are going to spray tear gas into the building?” Sage says, “In the building… no, we are not entering the building.” At the conclusion of the conversation, Schneider or another Davidian throws the telephone out of the building. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] Minutes later, Schneider slips out, retrieves the phone, and ducks back inside. [Time, 5/3/1993]
Combat Vehicles Begin Deploying Gas, Davidians Open Fire - At 6:02 a.m., the two CEVs begin inserting CS gas into the compound, using spray nozzles attached to booms. The booms punch holes through the exterior walls of the building. The FBI uses unarmed Bradley Fighting Vehicles to deploy “ferret rounds,” military ammunition designed to release CS after penetrating a barricade such as a wall or window. As the CEVs and the Bradleys punch holes into the buildings for the deployment of the gas, Sage makes the following statement over the loudspeakers: “We are in the process of placing tear gas into the building. This is not an assault. We are not entering the building. This is not an assault. Do not fire your weapons. If you fire, fire will be returned. Do not shoot. This is not an assault. The gas you smell is a non-lethal tear gas. This gas will temporarily render the building uninhabitable. Exit the residence now and follow instructions. You are not to have anyone in the tower. The [guard] tower is off limits. No one is to be in the tower. Anyone observed to be in the tower will be considered to be an act of aggression [sic] and will be dealt with accordingly. If you come out now, you will not be harmed. Follow all instructions. Come out with your hands up. Carry nothing. Come out of the building and walk up the driveway toward the Double-E Ranch Road. Walk toward the large Red Cross flag. Follow all instructions of the FBI agents in the Bradleys. Follow all instructions. You are under arrest. This standoff is over. We do not want to hurt anyone. Follow all instructions. This is not an assault. Do not fire any weapons. We do not want anyone hurt. Gas will continue to be delivered until everyone is out of the building.” Two minutes later, Davidians begin firing on the vehicles from the windows. The gunfire from the Davidians prompts Rogers and FBI commander Jeffrey Jamar to decide to change tactics; at 6:07 a.m., the assault forces begin deploying all of the gas at once instead of dispersing it in a controlled manner over the course of 48-72 hours as originally envisioned. [Dean M. Kelley, 5/1995; PBS Frontline, 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; USMC Weapons, 2002] (Jamar will later testify that before the assault even began, he was “99 percent certain” that the FBI would have to escalate its assault because the Davidians would open fire.) [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] As a CEV demolishes the back wall of the gymnasium area of the compound, negotiators broadcast: “David, we are facilitating you leaving the compound by enlarging the door.… Leave the building now.” [Cox News Service, 1/30/2000] Jamar will later explain that the Bradleys do not carry military weaponry. “Of course we had all the firepower removed,” he will say in a 1995 interview. “There were no cannons or anything on them. We used them for transportation. And they’re more than a personnel carrier—they’re a track vehicle. I mean it’s mud, just thick mud there the whole time. And the agents learned how to drive ‘em. But the idea was to protect them as best we could. And we didn’t know—they talked about blowing a 50—did they have rockets? Who knows? Did they have explosives buried in various vicinities? Are they prepared to run out with Molatov cocktails? What’s in their mind?” Jamar is referring to threats made by Koresh and other Davidians to blow up FBI vehicles. As for the CEVs, they are tanks modified for construction and engineering purposes, and are often used as bulldozers. Observers watching the events live on television or later on videotape will sometimes mistake the CEVs for actual tanks, though two M1A1 Abrams tanks are actually on site and take part in the assault. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
House Report: Davidians Would Certainly Consider FBI's Actions an Assault - A 1996 report by a House of Representatives investigative committee (see August 2, 1996) will note that it is almost impossible for the Davidians not to consider themselves under assault, with tank-like vehicles tearing holes in the building, CS being sprayed everywhere, grenade-like projectiles crashing through windows, men in body armor swarming around the compound, and the sounds of what seems like combat all around them. “Most people would consider this to be an attack on them—an ‘assault’ in the simplest terms,” the report will find. “If they then saw other military vehicles approaching, from which projectiles were fired through the windows of their home, most people are even more likely to believe that they were under an assault. If those vehicles then began to tear down their home there would be little doubt that they were being attacked. These events are what the Davidians inside the residence experienced on April 19, yet the FBI did not consider their actions an assault.” Moreover, the FBI did not consider the close-knit, home-centered community the Davidians have long since formed. “Their religious leader led them to believe that one day a group of outsiders, non-believers, most likely in the form of government agents, would come for them,” the report will state. “Indeed, they believed that this destiny had been predicted 2,000 years before in Biblical prophecy. Given this mindset, it can hardly be disputed that the Davidians thought they were under assault at 6 a.m. on April 19.” [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Monitoring from Washington - At 7:00 a.m., Attorney General Janet Reno and senior Justice Department and FBI officials go to the FBI situation room to monitor the assault. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Buildings Breached - At 7:30 a.m., a CEV breaches the side of one of the main buildings and injects large amounts of tear gas into the interior of the compound. At 7:58 a.m., gas is fired into the second floor of the back-right corner of the building. The FBI asks for more ferret rounds, and by 9:30 a.m., 48 more ferret rounds arrive from Houston. The assault is hampered by the FBI’s dwindling supply of ferret rounds, a CEV with mechanical difficulties, and high winds dispersing the gas. Another CEV enlarges the opening in the center-front of the building, with the idea of providing an escape route for the trapped Davidians. A third CEV breaches the rear of the building, according to a later Justice Department report, “to create openings near the gymnasium.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Clinton Told Assault Progressing Well - At about 11 a.m., Reno briefs President Clinton, tells him that the assault seems to be going well, and leaves for a judicial conference in Baltimore. During this time, a CEV breaches the back side of the compound. At 11:40 a.m., the FBI fires the last of the ferret rounds into the building. At 11:45 a.m., one wall of the compound collapses. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Transcriptionist Escapes - Ruth Riddle, the typist and transcriptionist sent inside the compound by the FBI to help Koresh finish his “Seven Seals” manuscript (see April 18, 1993), escapes the compound before the fire. She brings out a computer disk containing the unfinished manuscript. [Dean M. Kelley, 5/1995]
Davidians Set Fires throughout Compound - At 12:07 p.m., according to the Justice Department and House reports, the Davidians start “simultaneous fires at three or more different locations within the compound.” An FBI Hostage Rescue Team member reports seeing “a male starting a fire” in the front of the building. Later analyses show that the first fire begins in a second-floor bedroom, the second in the first floor dining room, and the third in the first floor chapel. Evidence also shows that the fires spread according to “accelerant trails,” such as a trail of flammable liquid being poured on the floor. Some of the Davidians’ clothing found in the rubble also shows traces of gasoline, kerosene, Coleman fuel (liquid petroleum, sometimes called “white gas”), and lighter fluid, further suggesting that the Davidians use accelerants to start and spread the fires. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] Within eight minutes, the main building is engulfed in flames. One explosion, probably from a propane gas tank, is observed. Later investigation will find a propane tank with its top blown off in the debris. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] After the compound burns to the ground, FBI agent Bob Ricks tells reporters, “David Koresh, we believe, gave the order to commit suicide and they all willingly followed.” [New York Times, 4/20/1993] Some of the Davidians who survive the conflagration later claim that the Davidians did not start the fires, but arson investigators with the Justice Department and the Texas Rangers, as well as an independent investigator, will conclude that Davidians did indeed start the fires in at least three different areas of the main building. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995] A 1993 Treasury Department report (see Late September - October 1993) will produce audiotapes of Davidians inside the compound and transcripts of conversations, secured via electronic surveillance, discussing the means of setting the fires. Voices on the tapes and in the transcripts say such things as: “The fuel has to go all around to get started.” “Got to put enough fuel in there.” “So, we only light ‘em as they come in,” or as a slightly different version has it, “So, we only light ‘em as soon as they tell me.” Once the fires begin, high winds and the breaches in the walls cause the flames to almost immediately begin consuming the compound. [Dean M. Kelley, 5/1995] In 1999, Colonel Rodney Rawlings, the senior military liaison to the HRT, will tell reporters that he heard Koresh give the orders to start the fires over FBI surveillance “bugs” (see October 8, 1999). Sage later describes the horror that goes through him and his fellow agents when they realize that the Davidians have torched the compound. He will recall “pleading” with the Davidians to leave the compound, and say: “I can’t express the emotions that goes through you. I had to physically turn around away from the monitor to keep my mind focused on what I was trying to broadcast to those people.” He will recall being horrified by the failure of people to flee the compound. “I fully anticipated those people would come pouring out of there,” he says. “I’d been through CS teargas on numerous occasions [in training exercises]. And I would move heaven and earth to get my kids out of that kind of an environment. And that’s frankly what we were banking on. That at least the parents would remove their children from that kind of situation.” Of Koresh, he will say: “By him intentionally lighting that place afire and consuming the lives of 78 people, including over 20 young children, was just inconceivable to me. In 25 years of law enforcement I’ve never been faced with someone that was capable of doing that.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995] Six years later, the FBI will admit to releasing two pyrotechnic grenades into the compound, but insists the grenades did not start the fires (see August 25, 1999 and After).
Plea for Release - At 12:12 p.m., Sage calls on Koresh to lead the Davidians to safety. Nine Davidians flee the compound and are arrested [PBS Frontline, 10/1995] , including one woman who leaves, attempts to return to the burning building, and tries unsuccessfully to fight off a federal agent who comes to her aid. [New York Times, 4/20/1993] One of the nine runs out of the building at around 12:28 p.m., indicating that even 21 minutes after the fire, it is possible for some of the inhabitants to make their escape. However, most of the Davidians retreat to areas in the center of the building and do not attempt to get out. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
'Systematic Gunfire' - At 12:25 p.m., FBI agents hear “systematic gunfire” coming from inside of the building; some agents believe that the Davidians are either killing themselves or each other. The House committee investigation later finds that FBI agents hear rapid-fire gunshots coming from the compound; while many of the gunshots are probably caused by exploding ammunition, “other sounds were methodical and evenly-spaced, indicating the deliberate firing of weapons.”
Fire Department Responds; Search for Survivors - At 12:41 p.m., fire trucks and firefighters begin attempting to put out the flames. HRT agents enter tunnels to search for survivors, particularly children. [Dean M. Kelley, 5/1995; PBS Frontline, 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] No fire trucks are at the scene when the assault begins, and it takes around 25 minutes for the first fire department vehicles to respond to emergency calls from their stations in Waco. Bob Sheehy, mayor of Waco, later says the city fire department “first got a call after the fire had already started.” Ricks explains that fire engines were not brought to the compound earlier for fear that firefighters might have been exposed to gunfire from the compound, and because FBI officials did not expect a fire. “We did not introduce fire to this compound, and it was not our intention that this compound be burned down. I can’t tell you the shock and the horror that all of us felt when we saw those flames coming out of there. It was, ‘Oh, my God, they’re killing themselves.’” [New York Times, 4/20/1993]
Death Toll - In all, 78 Branch Davidians, including over 20 children, two pregnant women, and Koresh himself, die in the fire. Nineteen of the dead are killed by close-range gunshot wounds. Almost all of the others either die from smoke inhalation, burns, or both. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] The number is improperly reported in a number of media sources, and varies from 75 to 81. Even the House committee report does not cite a definitive total. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] Some of the FBI negotiators involved in the siege later say that they feel continued negotiations might have saved many, perhaps all, of the lives of those inside the compound. In an interview later in the year, one negotiator tells a reporter, “I’ll always, in my own mind, feel like maybe we could have gotten some more people out.” [New Yorker, 5/15/1995] But HRT member Barry Higginbotham, one of the snipers who observes the Davidians throughout the siege, will later state that neither he nor anyone on his team believed the Davidians would ever willingly surrender. Higginbotham will say: “We just felt that if you make them suffer a little more, deny them perhaps a little more food, lighting, power, things like that inside, that would cause more pressure on their leadership inside. And perhaps their leadership would go to Koresh and pressure him to start negotiating in good faith. It was hard to believe that Koresh was ever negotiating in good faith.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995] In the hours after the conflagration, Ricks tells reporters: “We had hoped the women would grab their children and flee. That did not occur and they bunkered down the children and allowed them to go up in flames with them.… It was truly an inferno of flames.” Ricks says that authorities receive reports, perhaps from some of the survivors, that the children had been injected with some kind of poison to ease their pain. This claim is never confirmed. [New York Times, 4/20/1993]
In the Bunker - FBI investigators combing the building after the conflagration find an enormous amount of guns and other weaponry inside. Dr. Rodney Crow, the FBI’s chief of identification services and one of the officials who examine the bodies of the Davidians, spends much of his time in the compound’s underground bunker, where many of the bodies are found. Crow later says: “There were weapons everywhere. I don’t remember moving a body that didn’t have a gun melted to it, intertwined with it, between the legs, under the arm, or in close proximity. And I’d say 18 inches to 20 inches would be close proximity.… The women were probably more immersed in the weapons than anyone else, because there was so much weaponry inside the bunker. It was like sea shells on a beach, but they were spent casings and spent bullets. If you had rubber gloves and tried to smooth it away, you’d tear your gloves away from the bullet points that are unexploded, or unspent ammunition. Then as you went through layer after layer, you came upon weapons that were totally burned. Until we got down to the floor, and it was mint condition ammunition there. Ammunition boxes not even singed.” The most powerful weapon Crow finds is a .50-caliber machine gun. Some of the bodies have gunshot wounds. Crow will say: “My theory is there was a lot of euthanasia and mercy killing. That group probably were just about as active as anywhere in the compound, mercifully putting each other out of misery in the last moments.” In total, 33 bodies are found inside the bunker; almost all the women and children found inside the compound are in the bunker. Many are found to have died from suffocation or smoke inhalation (two died from falling debris), but some died from gunshot wounds, and one woman was stabbed to death. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; PBS Frontline, 10/1995] Local medical examiner Nizam Peerwani later says he does not believe the people in the bunker committed suicide, saying: “There has been a lot of speculation if this is a mass suicide or not. And—did they all go there to die? Ah, we don’t really think so. What I feel personally is that they tried to escape. A bunker was perhaps the safest area in the compound.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995] Sage will say that he knew the children were dead sometime around 12:30 p.m. He recalls terminating the negotiations at that time, “because I didn’t want the loudspeaker bank to interfere with instructions being given on the ground. At that point in time, I walked over to the site in shock, basically. And, uh, the first thing I asked is, ‘Where are the kids?’” He is told, “Nowhere.” Sage will say: “They had not come out. They had been consumed.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Koresh's Fate - Koresh and Schneider are found in a small room the authorities call “the communication room.” Koresh is dead of a single gunshot wound to the forehead. Schneider is dead from a gunshot wound in the mouth. Peerwani later says: “Did David Koresh shoot himself and Schneider shoot himself? Or did Schneider shoot David Koresh and then turn around and shoot himself? Certainly both are possible. We cannot be certain as to what really transpired.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
No Ill Effects from Gas - Peerwani and his colleagues examine the bodies for damage caused by the CS gas used in the assault, and find none. While many of the Davidians were exposed to the gas, according to tissue and blood studies, none inhaled enough of it to cause anything more than short-term discomfort. Concurrently, Peerwani and his colleagues find no damage from the propellant used in the ferret rounds. A fire report later written by Texas-based investigators will call the tear gas operation a failure at dispersing the Davidians. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; PBS Frontline, 10/1995] Medical examinations show that some of the children may well have been overcome by the gas, and rendered unable to escape, but the compound had not been gassed for an hour before the fires began, and CS has a persistence factor of only 10 minutes—in other words, the effects should have worn off by the time the fires broke out. The gas proves ineffective against the adults, because the adult Davidians are equipped with gas masks. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Wrongly Executed Plan - The plan as signed by Reno called on law enforcement forces to deploy tear gas into the compound at stated intervals, then have agents retreat to await evacuees before approaching again. This “passive,” “restrained” approach was to have been followed for up to 72 hours before using assault vehicles to force entry. Instead, the agents wait only 12 minutes before beginning a motorized vehicle assault. [New Yorker, 5/15/1995]
Taking Responsibility - One of the unlikely “heroes” of the debacle is Reno. She signed off on the attack (see April 17-18, 1993), and within hours of the attacks, she holds a televised press conference where she says: “I made the decision. I am accountable . The buck stops here” (see April 19, 1993). She repeats this statement over and over again on national television. [New Yorker, 5/15/1995]

Entity Tags: Bob Ricks, Bob Sheehy, Branch Davidians, David Koresh, FBI Hostage Rescue Team, Barry Higginbotham, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Janet Reno, Jeffrey Jamar, Byron Sage, US Department of Justice, Nizam Peerwani, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Richard Rogers, Rodney Rawlings, Rodney Crow, Ruth Riddle, Texas Rangers, Steve Schneider

Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis

Some of the assault weapons banned under the 1994 crime bill.Some of the assault weapons banned under the 1994 crime bill. [Source: Senator Dianne Feinstein]Congress authorizes the passage of the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill, later named “The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act,” which among other elements outlaws 19 separate types of assault weapons. The original bill, HR 4092, passed the House of Representatives in April on a 285-141 vote. The House bill provides $28 billion in spending for police hiring and training, prison construction, and crime prevention; expands the death penalty to cover an array of federal crimes; introduces the federal “three strikes” provision that automatically incarcerates three-time felons for lengthy jail terms; includes the Racial Justice Act that allows defendants to challenge death-penalty sentences on a racial basis; and bans the sale or transfer of handguns to juveniles without parental consent. A separate House vote in May approved the ban on the sale of assault weapons by a narrow 216-214 vote, and the entire package went to the Senate for reconciliation with that body’s own crime bill. A later version of the bill increased spending to $30 billion, shifted more funds to police training and less to prison construction, and dropped the Racial Justice Act along with funding for a crime prevention center in Texas. On August 25, the Senate thwarted efforts by Republicans to reopen debate on the bill, and the bill passed on a final vote of 61-38. President Clinton signs the bill into law on September 13. Within days of its passage, Congressional Republicans will announce their intention to revamp the bill as part of their “Contract with America,” charging that it fails to address the “broken” criminal justice system that fails “to hold criminals accountable” for their actions. Many Republicans will base their intention to revamp the bill on their opposition to the assault weapons ban. [McCollum, 1994; Time, 9/5/1994]

Entity Tags: US Congress, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, US Domestic Terrorism

In the hours after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), some believe that the bombing was the work of Islamist terrorists. Televised news reports air theories of Islamist involvement, and say that eyewitnesses have reported seeing “Middle Eastern-looking men” fleeing the scene of the crime. [Los Angeles Times, 4/20/1995; Fox News, 4/13/2005] One eyewitness describes a man running from the scene clad in a black jogging outfit; many both in US intelligence and in the media assume that the man is likely Middle Eastern. One source tells reporters that the FBI has received claims of responsibility from at least eight groups, seven of which seem to be of Middle Eastern origin. Some officials privately fear that the bombing is the work of either Hamas or Islamic Jihad, two violently militant Islamist organizations. [Los Angeles Times, 4/20/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 185] Later in the day, Abdul Hakim Murad, an al-Qaeda operative in US custody, attempts to take credit for the bombing, but his associate Ramzi Yousef, also in US custody, does not (see April 19, 1995). In another instance, Jordanian-American Abraham Ahmad, attempting to fly to Jordan to visit relatives, is detained and questioned during a layover in Chicago. Ahmad, whom some sources describe as Palestinian-American, lives in Oklahoma City. A naturalized citizen who has lived in Oklahoma City since 1982, he has a background in computer science and is making a scheduled departure this morning to Jordan. His five suitcases contain, among other items, several car radios, large amounts of electrical wires, solder, a VCR, and a tool kit. He has packed a blue jogging suit and a pair of black sweatpants. Federal magistrates rush to serve him with a material warrant, moving so quickly that they misspell his name. He is stopped and questioned in Chicago before being allowed to continue his flight. He is stopped again in London, and this time is detained, strip-searched, and paraded in handcuffs through the crowded airport. He is photographed, fingerprinted, and returned to Washington before being transported to Oklahoma City. His name is leaked to the news media as a possible bombing suspect, creating a firestorm of interest; reporters crowd around his family’s home in Oklahoma City, and angry citizens vandalize his front yard. Authorities learn that Ahmad is going to Jordan for a family emergency. He will be released on April 21, will attend a memorial service for the bombing victims, and will file a $1.9 million lawsuit against the federal government. In later days, government officials such as counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will say that the possibility of Islamist involvement on some level is difficult to disprove (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994 and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 185-186; Clarke, 2004, pp. 127; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Justice Department spokesman John Russell says of Ahmad: “He cooperated. There is no reason for him to be held.” (The Washington Post, in reporting this, does not name Ahmad, and identifies him as “Palestinian-American.”) [Washington Post, 4/22/1995] Shortly after the bombing, senior FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, who had worked with the FBI at the Branch Davidian siege outside Waco, concludes that the bomber is probably a white male with militia ties and not an Islamist terrorist (see April 19, 1995).

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Murrah Federal Building, John Russell, Clinton R. Van Zandt, Abraham Ahmad, Abdul Hakim Murad, Richard A. Clarke, Timothy James McVeigh, Ramzi Yousef, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The search for bodies at the bombed-out Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) is called off due to the instability of the remaining structure. The bodies of Christi Rosas, Virginia Thompson, and Alvin Justes, who were all in the building’s credit union, remain buried in unstable rubble. The bodies will be recovered on May 29. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Fox News, 4/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Christi Rosas, Alvin Justes, Murrah Federal Building, Virginia Thompson

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Murrah Federal Building is demolished.The Murrah Federal Building is demolished. [Source: The Oklahoman]The wrecked hulk of the Murrah Federal Building, destroyed in the Oklahoma City bombing a month ago (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), is brought down in a planned demolition. The demolition consists of 150 pounds of dynamite placed in 300 carefully selected locations, and costs the federal and state governments around $404,000. The entire demolition takes about eight seconds. Retired highway department employee Lawrence Glover says: “You can’t stand to look at something like that forever. It’s like when a family member dies and your heart is broken, but you’ve got to bury them and try to get back to the land of the living. Even when you don’t think you ever can.” Linda West of nearby Yukon says: “I had stayed away before now because I felt guilty. I felt like I was intruding somehow. Now that it’s all over, I need some sort of—it’s not closure, because there is no closure on this thing, but it’s like going to the cemetery after the funeral. I was listening to a radio talk show about how most people didn’t know why they came here, they just felt like they had to. I’m like that. I don’t know why, but I had to.” Hundreds of spectators watch the demolition in almost complete silence. Afterwards, many cry, hug one another, and slowly leave the scene. Many at the scene believe a memorial to the dead, and to the responders and rescue workers who saved so many from the rubble, should be erected on the site; others say a children’s playground or library would be fitting. Onlooker Bruce Ligon says, “It doesn’t really matter what they choose, because nobody in this town, or in this country either, is ever going to forget what happened.” [Washington Post, 5/24/1995; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Authorities had considered using cranes and wrecking balls instead of explosives to bring the building down, in concern that a second explosion, no matter how controlled, might further traumatize city residents. “The psychological ramifications were a real consideration of everyone involved in the decision,” Douglas Loizeaux, vice president of Controlled Demolition Inc, whose firm handles the demolition process, said last week. “There was a serious discussion about whether we would be traumatizing people even more by having another explosion. But by using implosion, we can bring the building down weeks sooner than by using a crane, and so the mending process can begin that much quicker.” Dusty Bowenkamp, a psychological nurse from Los Angeles who is coordinating the emergency mental health services of the American Red Cross in Oklahoma City, agreed with Loizeaux’s assessment. The building, she said last week, is “a magnet for people with grief.” She said she and her colleagues had discussed the ramifications of a second explosion, and talked with dozens of people who helped bring the dead and injured out of the rubble and others who carried blast victims into hospitals or the morgue. A few, she said, thought imploding the building was a bad idea: “it’s too much like what happened before—too much like the bomb.” The city residents were informed well in advance of the planned demolition so it would not “retrigger more fear.” The lawyer for accused bomber Timothy McVeigh, Stephen Jones (see May 8, 1995), had filed a motion to delay the demolition so he could examine the building for evidence, but that motion was denied. [New York Times, 5/16/1995; New York Times, 5/16/1995] Two days ago, a team of people hired by Jones did examine the building for clues; that team included an explosives expert, an architect, and a camera crew. Jones explained that he wanted to understand “the dynamics of the bomb” and “the physics of the explosion.… There needs to be a separate record from that of the government. There is a criminal litigation and civil litigation. All sides will need a record, and the government’s record wouldn’t necessarily be available.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 222-223] A brick wall from another damaged building stands nearby. Written on it in dark red paint is:
bullet 4-19-95.
bullet We Search for the Truth.
bullet We Seek Justice.
bullet The Courts Require it.
bullet The Victims Cry for it.
bullet And GOD Demands it! [Serrano, 1998, pp. 174]

Entity Tags: Lawrence Glover, Douglas Loizeaux, Dusty Bowenkamp, Linda West, Controlled Demolition Inc, Timothy James McVeigh, Bruce Ligon, Murrah Federal Building, Stephen Jones

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Federal officials state that the circulation of a sketch identified as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), a man once believed to have had some connection with accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), was a mistake. The person, described as short, stocky, thick-necked, and olive-skinned, was misidentified by a witness who gave an incorrect recollection to federal investigators. Prosecutors say that while the possibility exists that others besides McVeigh and Terry Nichols were involved in the bombing, they have no physical descriptions to give to the public. Prosecutors identify the man in the “John Doe No. 2” sketch as Private Todd Bunting, an Army soldier stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, near Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh rented a Ryder truck used in the bombing (see April 15, 1995). Bunting entered the same Ryder rental office on April 18, a day after McVeigh entered the office. The sketch is based on the recollections of Tom Kessinger, a mechanic in the truck rental office. He and two other employees identified McVeigh from the sketch, but Kessinger’s recollection of “John Doe No. 2” as a man accompanying McVeigh was not supported by the others. McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones says that because of the misidentification of Bunting, all the identifications of all the Ryder clerks must be thrown out. “I don’t think any of those identifications are now safe,” Jones says. Bunting is 5’11”, 200 pounds, muscular and stocky, with dark brown hair, a wide, square chin, and relatively dark skin. On April 18, he accompanied Sergeant Michael Hertig, another Fort Riley soldier, to pick up a truck that Hertig had reserved five days before. Prosecutors believe Kessinger, pressured by investigators, became confused in his recollections and mistakenly identified Bunting as accompanying McVeigh and not Hertig. On November 22, 1996, Kessinger positively identified Bunting as “John Doe No. 2.” He also says he is now unsure that McVeigh was with anyone when he came to rent the Ryder truck. The other Ryder clerks, Vicki Beemer and Eldon Elliott (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995), have said that they believe McVeigh was with another man, but cannot recall what that man looks like. [New York Times, 1/30/1997]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Eldon Elliott, Michael Hertig, Timothy James McVeigh, Stephen Jones, Tom Kessinger, Todd David Bunting, Vicki Beemer

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Timothy McVeigh sits in the courtroom during his trial.Timothy McVeigh sits in the courtroom during his trial. [Source: India Times]Accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) is convicted on all 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 6/2/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The jury deliberates for over 23 hours, spread over four days (including a weekend), before announcing it has a verdict. McVeigh, who enters the courtroom with a smile on his face, shows no emotion when the guilty verdicts are read aloud by US District Judge Richard Matsch; Matsch polls the 12 jurors to ensure that they are indeed unanimous in their verdict. McVeigh is convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of eight law enforcement agents who died in the blast, one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of using a weapon of mass destruction, and one count of destruction of a federal building. McVeigh awaits a trial in Oklahoma, where he will face 160 counts of murdering the civilians who died in the bombing; Oklahoma City district attorney Bob Macy says he will file state charges that will bring both McVeigh and fellow conspirator Terry Nichols to court to face the death penalty. Many family members break down in tears as the verdicts are read; one woman shouts, “We got him!” Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler accepts an ovation from the gallery, and later says: “We’re obviously very pleased with the verdict. We always had confidence in our evidence. Now maybe everyone else will have confidence in our evidence.” Defense attorney Stephen Jones says he will prepare his client for the sentencing phase, where many feel McVeigh will be sentenced to death (see June 11-13, 1997). (Both sets of attorneys are under a judicial gag order preventing them from discussing the details of the case.) Jannie Coverdale, who lost her grandchildren in the blast, says she has mixed emotions: “This is bittersweet. After all, this is a young man who has wasted his life. I’m glad they found him guilty, but I’m sad for him, too. I feel sorry for him. He had so much to offer his country.… I want him to get the death penalty, but not out of revenge. It’s necessary. I haven’t seen any remorse from Timothy McVeigh. If he ever walked the streets, he would murder again. I don’t want to see that.” Asked if the verdict will bring her closure, she says: “I don’t think there will ever be closure. Too many people are missing.” Sharon Ice, whose brother Paul Douglas Ice was one of the federal agents killed in the bombing, calls McVeigh a “monster.” Former judge Durant Davidson says he supports the verdict: “I don’t have any question about that. There was a time before the trial started that I didn’t know. [But] after having followed it, there would not have been any question in my mind.” In Washington, President Clinton refuses to comment directly on the verdict, citing the judge’s gag order, but says: “This is a very important and long overdue day for the survivors and families of those who died in Oklahoma City.… I say to the families of the victims, no single verdict can bring an end to your anguish. But your courage has been an inspiration to all Americans. Our prayers are with you.” [Denver Post, 6/3/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Washington Post, 6/3/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] McVeigh’s father William and his sister Jennifer release a statement from their Pendleton, New York, home that reads in part: “Even though the jury has found Tim guilty, we still love him very much and intend to stand by him no matter what happens. We would like to ask everyone to pray for Tim in this difficult time.” [Washington Post, 6/3/1997] Later, a juror says he and his fellows grew more convinced of McVeigh’s guilt with each day that the trial continued. “There is no justification for that kind of action,” juror Tony Stedman will say. [Associated Press, 1/11/1998] As the prosecution leaves the courthouse, a weeping woman pushes her way towards lead attorney Joseph Hartzler, throws her arms around him, and says, “Dear God, thank you for what you have done.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 292]

Entity Tags: Jannie Coverdale, Paul Douglas Ice, Jennifer McVeigh, Joseph H. Hartzler, Richard P. Matsch, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Robert (“Bob”) Macy, Tony Stedman, Sharon Ice, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Accused Oklahoma City conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and December 15-16, 1997) is convicted of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter. He is found not guilty of use of a weapon of mass destruction (see April 16-17, 1995), and of using an explosive, as well as the more serious charges of first-degree and second-degree murder. The jury took 41 hours over six days to decide Nichols’s fate (see December 16-18, 1997). By rejecting the murder charges in the deaths of eight federal law-enforcement officials, the jury concludes that Nichols did not provably intend to kill the people inside the Murrah building. Observers and researchers such as law professor Douglas O. Linder will later conclude that the jury believed the defense’s contention that Nichols had withdrawn from the bombing plot (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995), and was probably swayed by Nichols’s decision to stay home on the day of the bombing instead of joining convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City (see June 2, 1997) at the bomb site. The jury may also have been moved by Nichols’s show of emotion during the trial; unlike the stoic McVeigh, Nichols broke down and wept during several moments in the proceedings. Legal analysts say the split verdict is in part because of a much more effective defense (see December 2, 1997) than that presented by Nichols’s co-conspirator, McVeigh (see August 14-27, 1997), who was sentenced to death for carrying out the bombing (see June 2, 1997). Kentucky defense lawyer Kevin McNally says of the verdicts: “[They mean] he had a much less culpable state of mind regarding the homicides. To the jury, he engaged in certain actions that were reckless, but it wasn’t a premeditated killing.” Former federal prosecutor Marvin L. Rudnick says the jury “probably compromised” on the involuntary manslaughter verdicts. Lead prosecutor Larry Mackey says: “The jury has spoken. We accept their verdict in its entirety. We are prepared to go forward now with the penalty phase.” Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, immediately files an appeal and says he will challenge any attempt by the jury to sentence Nichols to death. However, analysts feel that Nichols will escape execution. Denver attorney Andrew Cohen says: “I would be very surprised if the jury sentenced Nichols to death. They distinguished in their own minds what both men did.” Both McVeigh and Nichols face 160 counts of murder in an Oklahoma state court. [New York Times, 12/23/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; New York Times, 12/24/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Under federal law, a conviction of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction can lead to the death penalty. The law is only three years old and has never been used. This death penalty provision was passed by Congress in 1994 after the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York (see February 26, 1993). [New York Times, 12/25/1997]
Mixed Reactions - Predictably, reactions regarding the verdict are mixed. Claudia Denny, whose two children were seriously injured in the blast, says, “We’re all disappointed, but we can live with it.” She says she would have preferred murder convictions, but “one more terrorist is off the street.… The important thing to us now is our children. This doesn’t change that. It doesn’t matter.” Bud Welch, who lost his daughter in the bombing, says that the involuntary manslaughter convictions were inappropriate because that charge is what people get “for running a stoplight” and killing someone with a car. Diane Leonard, whose husband was one of the eight law enforcement agents killed, calls the verdict “a slap in the face.” Marsha Knight, whose daughter was one of the 160 civilians killed in the blast, says: “He conspired to build the bomb. What the hell did they think he was going to do with it?” [New York Times, 12/24/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997] President Clinton says the convictions of McVeigh and Nichols “should offer a measure of comfort” to the relatives of the victims. But, he adds, “I know that no verdict in a court of law can ease the loss of a loved one.” [New York Times, 12/23/1997]
Judge Offers Leniency, Nichols Turns Down Offer - Judge Richard Matsch later tells Nichols he will consider some leniency in sentencing him to prison if he cooperates in helping the government learn more about the bombing conspiracy. Nichols rejects the offer. [Indianapolis Star, 2003]

Entity Tags: Andrew Cohen, Kevin McNally, Bud Welch, Douglas O. Linder, Claudia Denny, Diane Leonard, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Marvin L. Rudnick, Timothy James McVeigh, Marsha Knight, Michael E. Tigar, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard P. Matsch, Larry A. Mackey

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Judge Richard P. Matsch sentences convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997) to life in prison without the possibility of parole after his jury cannot decide whether to sentence him to death (see January 7, 1998). He is also sentenced to eight concurrent six-year terms for the deaths of eight federal agents. Matsch orders Nichols to pay $14.5 million in restitution to the General Services Administration (GSA) for the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building. Nichols swears he has only $40,000 in assets; Matsch says that any future proceeds he might receive for selling his story would be given over to the government. Nichols’s defense team tried in vain to assert that Nichols was a “dupe” of fellow defendant Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) and should be given a lighter sentence. Nichols, who refused to provide information about the bombing plot, gave Matsch a written apology (see March 10, 1998). Matsch says Nichols committed an act of treason that demands the most severe punishment: “The only inference that can be drawn from the evidence is that the purpose of the plan was to change the course of government through fear and intimidation.… The evidence shows to my satisfaction that the intention was to disrupt, to disorganize, to intimidate the operations of these agencies and United States government. Apparently, the intention was that the response would be fear and terror and intimidation and that these people would not be able to perform their work and that the response throughout the nation would be hysteria.… But you know, it didn’t work out that way. There was no anarchy. There was no reign of terror.… What occurred was that a community became even more united, and I think perhaps the country as well. We proceeded with the orderly processes of recovery and of restoration.… What he did was participate with others in a conspiracy that would seek to destroy all of the things that the Constitution protects. My obligation as a judge is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Terry Nichols has proven to be an enemy of the Constitution, and accordingly the sentence I am going to impose will be for the duration of his life. Anyone, no matter who that person might be or what his background might be, who participates in a crime of this magnitude has forfeited the freedoms that this government is designed to protect.” Prosecutors say they are pleased with the sentence, while Nichols’s defense lawyers continue to assert that Nichols did not intend to kill anyone in the bombing. Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, files papers calling for a new trial; Matsch says he will schedule a hearing. Marsha Kight, whose daughter Frankie Ann Merrell was killed in the bombing, says: “I’m proud of what happened in the judicial system. I felt like singing ‘God Bless America.’ He got what he deserved.” [Chicago Tribune, 6/5/1998; Washington Post, 6/5/1998; New York Times, 6/5/1998; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Nichols will serve his term in the “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczysnki, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Nichols refused an offer of leniency in return for his cooperation in further investigation of the bombing (see April 21, 1998).

Entity Tags: Frankie Ann Merrell, General Services Administration, Michael E. Tigar, Marsha Kight, Ramzi Yousef, Richard P. Matsch, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Charles Key.Charles Key. [Source: Oklahoma City Sentinel]An Oklahoma County grand jury investigating alternative theories about the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 30, 1997) wraps up without naming any new suspects aside from convicted bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) and Terry Nichols (see June 4, 1998). After hearing 117 witnesses and weathering criticism that its work gave legitimacy to wild conspiracy theories surrounding the blast, the grand jury reports: “We cannot affirmatively state that absolutely no one else was involved in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. However, we have not been presented with or uncovered information sufficient to indict any additional conspirators.” [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; New York Times, 12/31/1998; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Findings - The jury reviewed documentation of a number of “warning” telephone calls to federal and local law enforcement agencies, and determined that none of them warned of a bombing attack against the Murrah Building, or any other attack. One such call came a week before the blast, a 911 call from an Oklahoma City restaurant that warned the operator of an upcoming bombing. The caller gave no more details. Police quickly looked into the call and determined it came from a mental patient who lived in a nearby care facility. The jury also investigated the numerous claims of sightings of a possible third bomber, “John Doe No. 2,” and determined that the information given by the witnesses was so disparate and general that nothing useful could be concluded. The jury reports that the sightings were most likely of Todd Bunting, an Army private who had no connection to McVeigh or the bombing (see January 29, 1997). “The similarity of… Todd Bunting to the composite of John Doe No. 2 [is] remarkable, particularly when you take into account Bunting’s tattoo of a Playboy bunny on his upper left arm and the fact that he was wearing a black T-shirt and a Carolina Panthers ball cap when he was at Elliott’s Body Shop,” the report states. Witness statements of “John Doe No. 2” fleeing the scene of the bombing in a “brown pickup truck” were erroneous, the report finds. A brown pickup truck did leave the area shortly before the bombing, driven by an employee of the Journal Record Building near the Murrah Building. The driver left the building shortly before the bombing after being informed that her child was ill. The jury finds no evidence that the bombing was orchestrated by the federal government, or that any agency knew about the bombing in advance. [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; Denver Post, 1/9/1999]
Journalist Indicted for Jury Tampering - The jury does bring an indictment against investigative journalist David Hoffman, who will plead guilty to jury tampering, admitting that he sent one of the alternate grand jurors a letter copy of a book on conspiracy theories about the bombing. In a sealed indictment, the jury cited Hoffman for “improper and perhaps illegal attempts to exert influence on the outcome of our investigation.” Hoffman will be given a suspended sentence and 200 hours of community service. Hoffman will later call the indictment “a sham charge by a corrupt government designed to silence me,” and will write a book, The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror, which says the government falsely accused McVeigh and Nichols of the crime, concealing the involvement of others, perhaps members of neo-Nazi groups with which McVeigh was involved (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994 and (April 1) - April 18, 1995). [New York Times, 12/31/1998; Vanity Fair, 9/2001; Lukeford (.net), 11/25/2002]
Report Denounced - Former Oklahoma State Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City), who helped convene the grand jury, immediately denounces the findings. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001] Key has insisted that McVeigh and Nichols had unplumbed connections with Islamist terrorists (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, and 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After), and has insisted that what he calls “revisionist news reports” by the mainstream media have failed to show Islamist connections to the bombing. He has even implied that government officials were complicit in the bombing. [Charles Key, 3/12/1997] The grand jury reports, “We can state with assurance that we do not believe that the federal government had prior knowledge that this horrible terrorist attack was going to happen.” The jury findings are “a ditto of what the federal government presented in the McVeigh trial,” Key states. “It had huge, gaping holes.” Glenn Wilburn, who lost two grandchildren in the bombing, died in 1997 before the jury returned its findings. Key has set up a private non-profit group, the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, which also gathered information about possible witnesses and submitted their names to the grand jury and urged Congress not to let the federal investigation drop. Key says that group will issue a final report of its own that “will read quite differently than this report today.” [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; New York Times, 12/31/1998]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, David Hoffman, Glenn Wilburn, Terry Lynn Nichols, Todd David Bunting, Charles R. Key

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Gore Vidal and friend.Gore Vidal and friend. [Source: Economist]Author Gore Vidal says he will attend the execution of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Vidal was offered one of three witness slots McVeigh was given for friends or family members. Vidal says he has “exchanged several letters” with McVeigh since McVeigh wrote him in 1998 about an article Vidal wrote on the Bill of Rights. Vidal says that while he does not approve of the bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), he and McVeigh share some views on the federal government. “He’s very intelligent,” Vidal says of McVeigh. “He’s not insane.” Vidal says he and McVeigh agree that the federal government went far beyond its limits in the FBI’s assault on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas, an assault that resulted in the deaths of 78 people (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “This guy’s got a case—you don’t send the FBI in to kill women and children,” Vidal says. “The boy has a sense of justice.” Vidal says he intends to write an article for Vanity Fair about the execution. [New York Times, 5/7/2001]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Gore Vidal

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Justice Department reveals that it failed to turn over nearly 4,000 pages of documentary evidence to the defense in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 2, 1997). Attorney General John Ashcroft postpones McVeigh’s execution (see January 16, 2001) for 30 days to allow defense attorneys to review the newly released documents. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; New York Times, 5/11/2001; Washington Post, 5/11/2001; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Apparently many of the documents relate to the FBI’s investigation into the never-identified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995), which the agency now terms a “dead-end” investigation. Sources say many of the documents are “302 forms,” the forms that document the raw interviews conducted by agents with witnesses. [Washington Post, 5/11/2001; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009] The documents were found by bureau archivists in Oklahoma City as they canvassed the agency’s 56 field offices in a final search of records related to the bombing in anticipation of McVeigh’s execution (see June 11-13, 1997). Lawyers for both McVeigh and his convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) were legally entitled to review the records as they prepared for the two trials. Justice Department spokesperson Mindy Tucker issues the following statement: “On Tuesday, May 8, the Department of Justice notified Timothy McVeigh’s attorney of a number of FBI documents that should have been provided to them during the discovery phase of the trial. While the department is confident the documents do not in any way create any reasonable doubt about McVeigh’s guilt and do not contradict his repeated confessions of guilt, the department is concerned that McVeigh’s attorneys were not able to review them at the appropriate time.” The FBI blames its obsolete computer system for the error. Prosecutors say the documents were not material to either case. McVeigh’s former lawyer Stephen Jones says, “I said all along they weren’t giving us everything.” [New York Times, 5/11/2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003] Law professor James S. Liebman, who helped conduct an extensive study of death penalty appeals across the country, says the failure to produce the documents is “something I’ve just never heard of.… I can tell you, it’s extremely rare if it’s ever happened before.” [Washington Post, 5/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, James S. Liebman, Mindy Tucker, Stephen Jones, John Ashcroft, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

June 1-7, 2001: McVeigh Execution Delay Denied

Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, awaiting execution (see January 16, 2001), changes his mind about his appeals, and allows his attorneys to file a motion to delay his execution. Six days later, an appeals court refuses to delay the execution and McVeigh announces he is ready to die. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Fox News, 4/13/2005] McVeigh’s attorneys write in their motion that the government continues to withhold evidence (see May 10-11, 2001): “The overt acts alleged against Mr. McVeigh, together with the circumstantial evidence and absence of proof concerning the making of the bomb, created the impressions that Mr. McVeigh was the primary actor bearing full responsibility for the bombing. In this context, any credible evidence that other specific individuals played a major role in the bombing, for example construction of the bomb, would have cast doubt on the overt acts committed by Mr. McVeigh. If Mr. McVeigh’s execution is stayed and he is given access to the tools of civil discovery, there is reason to believe that a nexus between some of these individuals and Mr. McVeigh will be established.” Judge Richard P. Matsch, who presided over the McVeigh trial, has called the prosecution’s failure to turn over the evidence “shocking.” [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Richard P. Matsch

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001: McVeigh Executed

The execution chamber in the Terre Haute, Indiana, federal prison. McVeigh is strapped into this chair and executed by lethal injection.The execution chamber in the Terre Haute, Indiana, federal prison. McVeigh is strapped into this chair and executed by lethal injection. [Source: Agence France-Presse / University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law]Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see January 16, 2001) is executed by lethal injection as survivors of the bombing and relatives of the victims watch on closed-circuit television. His last meal was two pints of chocolate chip ice cream. According to his lawyers, McVeigh is “upbeat” about his upcoming execution, saying he prefers dying to life in prison. At 7 a.m., dressed in a shirt, khaki pants, and slip-on shoes, McVeigh is led to the execution chamber and strapped to a padded gurney. The curtains over glass panels separating the chamber from a viewing area are opened to allow 30 people to directly watch McVeigh’s final moments, while another 300 victims and relatives gather in Oklahoma City to watch the event on closed-circuit television. (McVeigh’s father William McVeigh chose not to attend the execution, and later tells reporters that he prefers to remember his son as a smiling toddler.) According to witnesses, McVeigh acts as if he is in control of the proceedings, staring straight into the television cameras until the lethal injection—three injections of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and finally potassium chloride—causes him to slip into unconsciousness and death. McVeigh is pronounced dead at 7:14 a.m. local time. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Fox News, 4/13/2005; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; TruTV, 2008; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009] His is the first federal execution in over 30 years. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001] McVeigh says nothing before his execution, but issues a written statement quoting from the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. [Indianapolis Star, 2003] The last stanza of the poem reads:
bullet “It matters not how strait the gate,
bullet “How charged with punishments the scroll,
bullet “I am the master of my fate:
bullet “I am the captain of my soul.” [Guardian, 6/11/2001; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 6/11/2001]
He has written to reporters that his body will be released to one of his attorneys and cremated, and his ashes spread over an undisclosed location. He wrote that he considers the bloodshed caused by his bombing unfortunate, but is not sorry for his actions, calling the bombing a “legit tactic” in his “war” against the federal government. [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009] He has also asked that his body not be autopsied, a request the prison system grants upon his signature on a form reading: “I, Timothy McVeigh, hereby certify; that no abuse has been inflicted upon me while I have been in the custody of the US Bureau of Prisons. I hereby waive any claim of such abuse.” Presumably he signed the form before his execution, as his body will not be autopsied. [TruTV, 2008]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, William (“Bill”) McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Part of the opening page of Gore Vidal’s article about Timothy McVeigh in Vanity Fair.Part of the opening page of Gore Vidal’s article about Timothy McVeigh in Vanity Fair. [Source: Vanity Fair]Vanity Fair publishes a profile of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001) by author and pundit Gore Vidal, who attended McVeigh’s execution (see May 6, 2001) and who exchanged letters with McVeigh for three years while he awaited execution. McVeigh invited Vidal to attend his execution as a result of their letter exchange.
Simplistic Portrayal of McVeigh as Lone 'Mad Bomber' - Vidal is convinced that the government orchestrated McVeigh’s conviction (see June 2, 1997) and the media’s portrayal of McVeigh as a lone mad bomber who “wanted to destroy innocent lives for no reason other than a spontaneous joy in evildoing.” Vidal also asserts that, in the government’s story, McVeigh “had no serious accomplices” (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). Orchestrating the media response was not particularly difficult, he writes, as few in the mainstream press were particularly interested in why McVeigh carried out the bombing aside from the simple explanation that he was “evil incarnate.” Any explanation of more complexity, Vidal writes, was dismissed as wild conspiracy theories. It was predictable, Vidal writes, that evidence pertinent to McVeigh’s case was not provided until well after his conviction and sentencing (see May 10-11, 2001), and that it would be largely ignored (see June 1-7, 2001). Vidal recounts numerous instances where, when he began to attempt an explanation of McVeigh’s obsession with the 1993 Branch Davidian conflagration (see April 19, 1993) and his belief that he was at war with the US government on a variety of news broadcasts, he was cut short by the hosts.
'Counter-Attack' against US Government - According to Vidal, McVeigh was clear in his letters that the bombing was more than just, McVeigh wrote, “a simple act of ‘revenge’ for Waco,” but “a strike against the US government,” or more precisely, “a ‘counter-attack’ rather than a self-declared war.” In one letter, he quoted pundit H.L. Mencken as writing, “Every normal man must be temped at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” Vidal recalls that he warned McVeigh that “Mencken often resorted to Swiftian hyperbole and was not to be taken too literally.” He then speculates on the “interesting possibility,” perhaps “the grandest conspiracy of all… that he neither made nor set off the bomb outside the Murrah Building: it was only later, when facing either death or life imprisonment, that he saw to it that would be given sole credit for hoisting the black flag and slitting throats, to the rising fury of various ‘militias’ across the land who are currently outraged that he is getting sole credit for a revolutionary act organized, some say, by many others. At the end, if this scenario is correct, he and the detested Feds were of a single mind.” Regardless of who carried out the bombing, Vidal writes, it is clear that “McVeigh himself was eager to commit what he called ‘federally assisted suicide.’” Vidal quotes an interview with Dr. John Smith, a psychiatrist who interviewed McVeigh in prison and was then released from his oath of confidentiality by McVeigh to discuss his findings with reporters, who concluded that McVeigh was quite sane, and carried out the bombing both in revenge for the Waco assault and because “he also wanted to make a political statement about the role of the federal government and protest the use of force against the citizens.” Smith found that McVeigh was disappointed that the media had refused to discuss what he considered “the misuse of power by the federal government” that impelled him to carry out the bombing.
Limited Contact with Militias - According to Smith, McVeigh told him, “I did not expect a revolution.” He had had numerous discussions with some of the militia groups around Kingman, Arizona, Smith said, about how easy it would be to “cut Interstate 40 in two” and thereby disrupt the transportation between the eastern and western portions of the country, but those discussions, McVeigh told Smith, were “rather grandiose” and never acted upon. Vidal acknowledges that for three years before the bombing, McVeigh lived in the semi-underground world of the American militia movement. During that time, he came to believe, as many militia members did at the time, that the federal government planned on following up its assault weapons ban (see September 13, 1994) with a massive, nationwide raid on gun owners and militia members in the spring of 1995. Vidal writes, “This was all the trigger that McVeigh needed for what he would do—shuffled the deck, as it were.” Vidal claims that McVeigh, unlike many militia members, had “no hang-ups about blacks, Jews, and all the other enemies of the various ‘Aryan’ white nations to be found in the Patriots’ ranks.” He was fascinated with the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978) and 1987-1988), he acknowledges, but only for its themes of individual Americans using guns and explosives to overthrow “the System.” Smith bolstered Vidal’s contention by reporting that McVeigh had insisted to him that he was not a racist nor a homophobe—“he made that very clear.”
Rationale for Bombing, and for Killing Civilians, Children - Vidal quotes a 1998 essay McVeigh wrote for the right-wing publication Media Bypass, “Essay on Hypocrisy,” that addressed his choice to blow up the Murrah Building, which contained a daycare center. The US, he wrote, set the precedent for bombing and killing civilians. When US military forces attack Iraqi government buildings with daycare centers or schools in them, McVeigh wrote, the media reported the children were being used as “shields” by the Iraqis. Vidal claims that no evidence exists that proves McVeigh knew about the presence of children in the Murrah Building, and repeats McVeigh’s claims that he had no such foreknowledge. However, Vidal notes, the FBI knew about the children in the Branch Davidian compound, “and managed to kill 27 of them.” In a final set of longhand notes McVeigh sent to Vidal in the weeks before his execution, McVeigh wrote: “I explain herein why I bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I explain this not for publicity, nor seeking to win an argument of right or wrong, I explain so that the record is clear as to my thinking and motivations in bombing a government installation. I chose to bomb a Federal Building because such an action served more purposes than other options. Foremost, the bombing was a retaliatory strike: a counter-attack, for the cumulative raids (and subsequent violence and damage) that federal agents had participated in over the preceding years (including, but not limited to, Waco). From the formation of such units as the FBI’s ‘Hostage Rescue’ and other assault teams amongst federal agencies during the 80s, culminating in the Waco incident, federal actions grew increasingly militaristic and violent, to the point where at Waco, our government—like the Chinese—was deploying tanks against its own citizens.” The federal government has militarized the police, he wrote, and his bombing was designed as a “pre-emptive (or pro-active) strike against those forces and their command and control centers within the federal building. When an aggressor force continually launches attacks from a particular base of operations, it is sound military strategy to take the flight to the enemy. Additionally, borrowing a page from US foreign policy, I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile, by bombing a government building and the government employees within that building who represent that government. Bombing the Murrah Federal Building was morally and strategically equivalent to the US hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq, or other nations. Based on observations of the policies of my own government, I viewed this action as an acceptable option. From this perspective what occurred in Oklahoma City was no different than what Americans rain on the heads of others all the time, and, subsequently, my mindset was and is one of clinical detachment. (The bombing of the Murrah Building was not personal no more than when Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marine personnel bomb or launch cruise missiles against (foreign) government installations and their personnel.)”
'Exaggerated Sense of Justice' - Vidal has previously written that McVeigh suffered from what he called “an exaggerated sense of justice,” outraging many who read his words. He defends that characterization, and writes, “I knew that few Americans seriously believe that anyone is capable of doing anything except out of personal self-interest, while anyone who deliberately risks—and gives—his life to alert his fellow citizens to an onerous government is truly crazy.” McVeigh’s act may not have sparked a rebellion, Vidal writes, but it did presage an explosion of sorts in the number of citizens identifying themselves with the militia movement, many of whom joined local militia groups because they believed the government had orchestrated the bombing and then unjustly blamed McVeigh for it. Others believe that government agents planted bombs inside the Murrah Building set to go off when McVeigh’s truck bomb detonated. Many believe that McVeigh was used by the government to perpetuate “state police power,” similar to instances during the Vietnam War when “bogus Viet Cong units that were sent out to rape and murder Vietnamese to discredit the National Liberation Front,” or when US forces pretended to “find” Communist arms dumps in El Salvador. Vidal repeats the tale that all 17 members of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) working in their Murrah Building office suspiciously failed to report to work on the day of the bombing, suggesting that they knew of the bombing in advance (see December 30, 1998).
Militia Involvement? - Vidal then engages in a long and detailed attack on the evidence that shows McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols built the bomb themselves. He believes that McVeigh and Nichols were involved in a complex and shadowy “plot involving militia types and government infiltrators—who knows?—as prime movers to create panic in order to get” President Clinton to enact the Anti-Terrorism Act, and cites research by journalist and author Joel Dyer, who in his own writings detailed his belief that the government downplayed McVeigh’s militia affiliations to make a case that he was a quintessential and possibly deranged “lone bomber.” Dyer and Vidal both cite the poor defense put on by McVeigh’s trial lawyer, Stephen Jones, who, Dyer contended, “often left the jury more confused and bored than convinced of his client’s innocence. Even when he succeeded in his attempts to demonstrate that a large conspiracy was behind the bombing, he did little to show that McVeigh was not at the center of the conspiracy. Jones’s case led some reporters to speculate that McVeigh himself was limiting his own defense in order to prevent evidence that might implicate others in the bombing from entering the record.” McVeigh did indeed confess to the bombing to his defense lawyers and, later, to Vidal, but, Vidal writes, “I believe that by confessing McVeigh was, once again, playing the soldier, attempting to protect his co-conspirators.” Vidal writes that his own research has unearthed a number of militia members who may have played a part in the April 19 bombing, and a systematic effort by the FBI and the McVeigh prosecution team to quash any evidence of that sort during McVeigh’s trial. He also challenges the government’s assertion that the reports of a third co-conspirator, “John Doe No. 2,” was a US Army private with no connection to McVeigh or the bombing (see January 29, 1997). Instead, he writes, that person was likely a well-known militia member in Shawnee County, Kansas, and possibly a member of the separatist Republic of Texas organization. He cites a book on the bombing by former journalist David Hoffman, who was convicted of trying to tamper with the McVeigh jury (see December 30, 1998), as being “the most thorough of a dozen or two accounts of what did and did not happen on that day in April.” Like Vidal, Hoffman does not believe that McVeigh’s truck bomb could have caused the damage inflicted on the Murrah Building, and cites a number of military and government experts who make the same contentions, even citing one report that claims the “five separate bombs” used in the explosion “have a Middle Eastern ‘signature,’ pointing to either Iraqi or Syrian involvement” (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Vidal notes that the search for bodies in the destroyed building was halted after 16 days (see May 4, 1995), against the wishes of those who wanted to continue attempting to search for more evidence in the bomb site. Six days later the building was demolished (see 7:01 a.m. May 23, 1995), leading one critic, retired Air Force Brigadier General Benton K. Partin, to declare that the building was demolished as “a classic cover-up” executed by Communist agents. Vidal writes of Partin’s belief that Communists orchestrated the cover-up, “Well, nobody’s perfect.” (Vidal errs in his “six day” claim; the building was demolished 19 days later.) Vidal writes: “In the end, McVeigh, already condemned to death, decided to take full credit for the bombing. Was he being a good professional soldier, covering up for others? Or did he, perhaps, now see himself in a historic role with his own private Harper’s Ferry, and though his ashes molder in the grave, his spirit is marching on? We may know—one day.” [Vanity Fair, 9/2001]

Entity Tags: Joel Dyer, David Hoffman, Benton K. Partin, Federal Bureau of Investigation, H.L. Mencken, Timothy James McVeigh, Gore Vidal, Stephen Jones, Terry Lynn Nichols, Vanity Fair, John Smith, Murrah Federal Building

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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