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A New York Times analysis of indicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) uses an interview with FBI profiler Jack Douglas to paint a picture of McVeigh as a burgeoning serial killer. Douglas, the model for the FBI analyst in the movie The Silence of the Lambs, describes McVeigh as an underachieving loner whose stunted social development, obsessive neatness, inability to deal with his abandonment by his mother, sexual frustration, obsession with guns, and overarching alienation led him to conceive and execute a plot that killed scores of innocent people. “There are the same kind of characteristics” in McVeigh’s makeup as serial killers possess, Douglas says. “Asocial, asexual, a loner, withdrawn, from a family with problems, strong feelings of inadequacy from early in life, an underachiever.” McVeigh did well in the highly structured environment of the US Army (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After), Douglas notes, but was unable to function successfully outside of that environment (see November 1991 - Summer 1992). His lifelong obsession with guns (see 1987-1988) blended with his increasing fascination with far-right militia, white supremacist, and separatist ideologies that led him to believe the government was actively plotting to disarm and repress its citizenry. McVeigh, always fascinated with computers, used the burgeoning network of computerized bulletin boards, email clients, videotape exchanges, shortwave radio broadcasts, and other information resources to fuel his beliefs, all codified in what Times reporter John Kifner calls “a venomous novel called The Turner Diaries” (see 1978) that depicts rebel white supremacists overthrowing the federal government and committing genocide against minority citizens.
Apocalyptic World View Triggered by Events - McVeigh’s increasingly apocalyptic world view, Douglas says, led him to carry out the bomb plot, perhaps in an effort to bring about the same supremacist rebellion that The Turner Diaries depicts. The federal raids on Randy Weaver’s cabin in Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992), and the Branch Davidian compound in Texas (see April 19, 1993), the passage of the Brady gun control bill (see November 30, 1993), and the birth of the paramilitary militia movement (see August 1994 - March 1995) all spurred McVeigh forward. Kifner writes: “The paramilitary movement vowed to resist the government and publish manuals on forming underground guerrilla squads. Mr. McVeigh was just a little ahead of the curve.” The final straw for McVeigh, Kifner and Douglas theorize, was the passage of the August 1994 crime bill that outlawed 19 types of semiautomatic assault weapons (see September 13, 1994). Shortly thereafter, McVeigh wrote an angry letter to his friend Michael Fortier alerting him that he intended to take some sort of “positive action” against the government (see September 13, 1994).
Shared Inadequacies - Douglas calls McVeigh’s “obsession with weapons” an “overcompensation for deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy.… They compensate for a while by talking the talk, but after a while they have to go out and do something about it. Typically the time for violence is in the mid-20s. They look in the mirror and see they’re going nowhere fast. This is an easily controlled and manipulated personality. They are looking for something to hang their hat on, some ideology. They have difficulty fitting into groups, but they are more mission-oriented, more focused.” Seattle forensic psychiatrist Kenneth Muscatel has called this type of personality disorder “Smerdyakov syndrome,” after the scorned half-brother in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, who listens to the other brothers inveigh against their father until, finally, he murders the father. Douglas notes the devoted friendship between McVeigh and indicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols, another underachieving loner who did well in the Army. “These two are birds of a feather,” Douglas says. “Each feeds off the other’s inadequacies.” Of McVeigh, Douglas says: “These people are comfortable in a structured environment, they do very well. But outside of a structured environment, without that rigidity, he just can’t survive. On the other hand, he’s probably doing fine now in jail. I bet they would say he’s a model prisoner.”
'Red Dawn' and the Militia Movement - McVeigh’s favorite movie is, by all accounts, a 1984 film called Red Dawn that depicts a group of Texas high school football players banding together to defeat an invasion of Soviet paratroopers. The “Wolverines,” as the footballers term themselves, transform themselves into a polished, lethal guerrilla force. The film contains a number of tropes that resonate with McVeigh and other militia sympathizers: the use of gun-registration forms to enable the Soviet invasion, political leaders eager to betray the American citizenry they represent, and others. The film is a cult classic among militia members. Along with another extraordinarily popular series of movies, the Rambo films, Red Dawn expresses what sociologist James William Gibson has noted is a new perspective on military veterans and popular culture; whereas traditional war movies show raw recruits uniting to battle an evil enemy on behalf of a just national cause, post-Vietnam movies such as Red Dawn and the Rambo films popularize the archetype of an alienated loner or small band of outlaws, betrayed by their own government and fighting for their view of the American ideal as renegades. Another favorite film of McVeigh’s is a very different offering, the 1985 black comedy Brazil, which depicts an Orwellian future dominated by an all-powerful bureaucracy. Actor Robert DeNiro plays a commando-like “outlaw repairman”; his character’s name is “Tuttle,” one of the aliases used by McVeigh (see April 19, 1993 and After, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, December 1993, February - July 1994, and May 12, 1995). The last movie McVeigh rented before the Oklahoma City bombing was Blown Away, the tale of a mad bomber.
'The Turner Diaries', Gun Regulation, and the Militia Movement - Kifner notes that much has been made of McVeigh’s fascination with William Pierce’s novel The Turner Diaries. McVeigh was an avid reader, paging through mercenary and gun magazines, white supremacist and anti-Semitic newsletters and fliers, and an array of apocalyptic and war novels. One of the more unusual works found in McVeigh’s possessions is a document titled “Operation Vampire Killer 2000,” written by militia leader Jack McLamb and predicting a “globalist,” “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990) takeover of the US by “the year 2000.” The document names the plotters against American democracy as, among others, the Order of the Illuminati, international bankers, the United Nations, the “Rothschild Dynasty,” the Internal Revenue Service, CBS News, Communists, the Yale secret society Skull and Bones, “humanist wackos,” and, possibly, aliens from outer space in Unidentified Flying Objects. McLamb writes: “For the World Elite to truly enjoy their ‘utopian’ Socialist Society, the subject masses must not have the means to protect themselves against more ‘voluntary compliance.’ When one grasps this logical position, there is no longer any question about it: THE GUNS WILL HAVE TO GO.” But The Turner Diaries was, according to one person involved in the investigation, McVeigh’s “Bible” (see August 20, 1995). As with so much of McVeigh’s reading material, Turner posited the forcible confiscation of citizen-owned guns by the US government as the presage to tyranny. In a book on the paramilitary movement, Kenneth Stern wrote: “Those who would regulate guns were cast as tyrants who were coming for people’s guns first. The government had to disarm citizens in order to subjugate them. The United Nations could march in and take over America; loyal Americans could be sent to concentration camps.” Both McVeigh and the paramilitary movement were “developing in the same time line,” Stern tells Kifner. “I would date the first functioning militia as February of 1994 in Montana, and then spreading to Michigan and other places” (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994). McVeigh and Nichols were apparently influenced by the writings of former Ku Klux Klan leader Louis Beam, who advocated a “leaderless resistance” of tiny, independent cells that “state tyranny” would find more difficult to control (see February 1992). “No one need issue an order to anyone,” Beam wrotes. “These idealists truly committed to the cause of freedom will act when they feel the time is ripe, or will take their cues from others who proceed them.” In Pierce’s novel, a bombing almost exactly like the Oklahoma City blast is carried out by the novel’s hero Earl Turner; the novel’s bombing destroys the FBI headquarters in Washington and inspires a nationwide revolt by white supremacists against the “tyrannical” government. It is conceivable, Kifner concludes, that McVeigh’s bomb was intended to strike the same sort of blow, and perhaps evoke the same results. (Kifner 12/31/1995)
The FBI refuses to allow three “celebrity” would-be negotiators to enter the Montana Freemen compound, currently surrounded by federal and local authorities (see March 25, 1996). Famed “Patriot” leader James “Bo” Gritz (see March 25 - April 1, 1996), Gritz’s associate Jack McLamb, and Ruby Ridge survivor Randy Weaver (see August 31, 1992) offer their services as negotiators, but are not allowed to go through the perimeter. (Mark Pitcavage 5/6/1996) The FBI will eventually allow Gritz and McLamb to attempt to negotiate with the Freemen (see April 27, 1996).
The FBI allows “Patriot” militia leader James “Bo” Gritz and his partner, former police officer Jack McLamb, to take part in negotiations to end the siege of the Freemen compound outside Jordan, Montana (see March 25, 1996 and April 25, 1996). The two men helped end the Ruby Ridge siege in Idaho (see August 31, 1992). Most law enforcement officials do not like either Gritz or McLamb, but they hope that with the two’s established credibility in the militia movement and their success in Idaho, they may be able to negotiate a successful surrender. Garfield County prosecutor Nick Murnion says: “There’s some hope. I think [Gritz] is of the right political persuasion, and certainly probably has more credibility with these folks than a lot of potential negotiators. So he does seem to offer them the possibility to come out in a more dignified manner.” After seven hours of negotiations with the Freemen, militiaman Stewart Waterhouse, who joined the besieged Freemen weeks before (see March 25 - April 1, 1996), leaves the compound, and authorities begin to hope that Gritz and McLamb are making headway. But Gritz gives mixed impressions in his initial reports to the press. He says the situation is “bridgeable,” but seems to fundamentally misunderstand the Freemen, saying that they “have no white supremacy, separatist tendencies that I saw. None at all.… They brought up the fact and said, ‘Where is the media getting the idea we have any prejudice or bias?’” Many of the Freemen, including leader Rodney Skurdal, have produced inordinate reams of court documents and other statements laced with virulently racist and anti-Semitic diatribes. Author Mark Pitcavage will later write, “In any event, there was something that Gritz was not ‘getting.’” (Mark Pitcavage 5/6/1996; Billings Gazette 3/25/2006) Gritz and McLamb will give up after four days (see May 1, 1996).
Militia leader James “Bo” Gritz, brought in four days earlier to help negotiate an end to the Freemen standoff in Montana (see March 25, 1996 and April 27, 1996), quits. On the third day of negotiations, the Freemen told Gritz and his partner, Jack McLamb, that they would surrender if they could speak before the Montana legislature—which is not due to convene until 1997. No one was sure if the offer was a sincere one. Gritz relayed offers of reduced or even dropped charges for some of the Freemen. He and McLamb, along with Soldier of Fortune reporter Jim Pate, believe that the Freemen are divided into two groups: one willing to negotiate a deal, and one controlling the group and entirely unwilling to make any deal. Despite the hopes of the negotiators, no one else leaves the compound. Instead, the Freemen tell Gritz that all of them have made an “affirmation” to God not to surrender, and even say that God has placed an invisible barrier around the farm that protects the Freemen from outsiders. They restate their demands for a common law court of male, “non-14th Amendment” citizens, not government employees or in debt to anyone (see Fall 2010). (Billings Gazette 3/25/2006) In his newsletter, Gritz will say that the Freemen are ruled by a small “hard core” of leaders—Edwin Clark, Dale Jacobi, Russell Landers, and Rodney Skurdal—who are holding others hostage, including three young girls. Gritz will write that he had implored Clark to let the nonmembers go, to no avail. “I beseeched Edwin to release the non-Freemen,” he will write. “His pained reply made it clear that they knew the value of placing children between themselves and the FBI.” Gritz will write that Clark replied, “But, Bo, if the others left, what would happen to the Freemen?” Gritz says his time with the Freemen was marked by dwindling food stores, a large weapons arsenal, and incessant rants about the “Zionist Occupational Government” the Freemen say is manipulating the United States. According to Gritz, the oldest of the three girls, 14-year-old Ashley Taylor, tells him: “I am only here because of my mom. This is not something I am willing to die for. I haven’t even started to live.” Her mother is Dana Dudley Landers. (Brooke 5/18/1996) Gritz calls the Freemen a “potpourri circus of over-the-hill outlaws, people with no past or future.” According to Gritz, the Freemen’s grip on reality is sometimes tenuous. He will say that Dudley Landers told him her father had been a great physicist murdered in Europe because he knew the truth about flying saucers; recalling that tale, Gritz will say, “I expected to see Alice and the Mad Hatter appear.” (Goldberg 6/15/1996)
The besieged Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996) surrender peacefully to federal authorities. Officials credit Freemen leader Edwin Clark (see June 11, 1996) with playing a key role in negotiating the surrender. (Billings Gazette 3/25/2006) The New York Times writes that the siege ends “so peacefully that the surrender [does] not even disturb the cows grazing at the group’s remote Montana ranch.” Local postal carrier and rancher Ruth Coulter exclaims after the surrender: “My God, it’s finally over! And nobody got killed! Wonderful. Wonderful!” (Goldberg 6/14/1996)
16 Freemen Surrender - CNN identifies 16 people still inside the compound: Ralph Clark (see 1980s-1994), the elderly leader of the Clark family and one of the group’s leaders; Clark’s wife Kay; Clark’s brother Emmett Clark, the actual former owner of the 960-acre wheat farm occupied by the Freemen and dubbed “Justus Township” (see September 28, 1995 and After); Emmett Clark’s wife Rosie; Ralph Clark’s son Edwin; Edwin Clark’s son Casey Clark; Rodney Skurdal, a founder of the group (see 1983-1995); Russell Dean Landers, one of the leaders of the group and a member of a North Carolina anti-government, anti-tax group called “Civil Rights Task Force”; Dana Dudley Landers, Landers’s common-law wife, a fugitive from federal and state charges, and a member of the “Civil Rights Task Force”; Dale Jacobi, a former Canadian policemen; Steven Hance, who faces state charges from North Carolina; Hance’s sons John Hance and James Hance; Cherlyn Petersen, the wife of arrested Freemen member Daniel Petersen; Casey Valheimer; and Barry Nelson, who with another man entered the ranch after eluding blockades (see March 25 - April 1, 1996). (CNN 6/12/1996) The surrender is peaceful; the Freemen drive to the ranch gates in cars, trucks, and a Winnebago motor home. They gather in a quiet circle for a final prayer. Then Edwin Clark approaches an agent and shakes hands. Finally, in pairs escorted by Clark, they surrender to waiting agents, who ease them into passenger vans. Clark is the last one to enter custody. Fourteen of the Freemen are taken to the Yellowstone County jail in Billings, 175 miles away from Jordan. Two, Kay Clark and Rosie Clark, face no charges and are not jailed, though the FBI says they will not be allowed to return to the compound. After hearing of the surrender, President Clinton tells guests at a state dinner, “We will all say a little prayer tonight for this peaceful settlement.” (Sahagun 6/14/1996)
FBI Director 'Obviously Relieved' - FBI Director Louis Freeh, described by the Los Angeles Times as “obviously relieved,” says the FBI “put patience above the risk of bloodshed” to end the standoff. He says the bureau “made no deals to drop or lessen the federal charges” against any of the Freemen in order to precipitate the surrender. Of critics who called for quicker and perhaps more “tactical” solutions, Freeh says: “I understand their impatience. But it was essential that we followed our established crisis management procedures.” He says the standoff proves the worth of the new crisis response plans implemented after the tragedies in Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992), and Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). This time, the bureau used “a fundamentally different approach” that “may not always work, but it worked here.” Giving negotiators more influence during the standoff did cause some “disagreements” and “friction” within the FBI, Freeh acknowledges, but it was the right decision to make. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick says “[t]he tactical option was always on the table.” Freeh notes that as the standoff wore on, the Freemen gained a certain level of reluctant trust in the bureau. “We never broke a promise to them,” he says, and “we told them before things happened,” such as cutting off electrical power (see June 3, 1996). (Ostrow 6/15/1996)
Outreach to Rightist Figures, Low-Key Techniques Brought Successful Resolution - FBI agents credit help they received from militia members in helping to resolve the standoff, along with the new, more low-key techniques of handling such confrontations now being used by the bureau. “Overall, our approach was to find a balance between negotiations and other lawful means,” says FBI agent Ron VanVranken, who took part in the final settlement negotiations. “We recognized it would be prudent and beneficial to use the services of third-party intermediaries and to be constantly soliciting the advice of outside experts.” Freeh says he was supportive of the decision to use third-party negotiators who hold similar anti-government views to those of the Freemen: “I think that, given all the other cumulative steps over the last 81 days, that that helped persuade the remaining subjects to finally come out of the compound.” The Los Angeles Times says that the FBI’s strategy of reaching out to far-right figures may have had an added benefit of creating dissension among rightist groups (see March 25 - April 1, 1996) and avoiding a “united front” of opposition that might have helped strengthen the Freemen’s resolve to continue holding out. “It was probably a wise move that the Freemen came out, as opposed to being burned out or shot,” says Clay Douglas, publisher of the far-right Free American newspaper and a leading member of the “Patriot” movement. “And it’s an election year, so the FBI had to be good.” However, the FBI’s decision to use “Patriot” negotiators “was pretty smart on their part. It has divided a lot of patriots. A lot of people thought they were being traitors for going in and trying to talk them out. Some people side with the Freemen. Some people side with the ‘Patriot’ leaders. So it’s just another small part of how the government keeps America divided. It’s called gradualism. They keep gradually encroaching on our freedoms.” The FBI brought in militia leaders James “Bo” Gritz and Jack McLamb (see April 27, 1996), Colorado State Senator Charles Duke, a rightist sympathizer (see May 15-21, 1996), and white supremacist lawyer Kirk Lyons (see June 11, 1996); even though most of their attempts at negotiations failed, it served to build a “bridge” between the FBI and the Freemen. Another technique was to promote Edwin Clark, the Freeman the FBI considered the most likely to leave the compound, as a leader in the absence of arrested Freemen LeRoy Schweitzer and Daniel Petersen (see March 25, 1996). The final element was the introduction of Lyons, who was contacted three weeks ago by FBI agents and asked for a plan to negotiate with the Freemen. Lyons’s colleague Neill Payne says somewhat incredulously, “It is to Director Freeh’s credit that he was broad-minded enough to go along with a crazy scheme like ours.” (Sahagun and Serrano 6/15/1996)
The first annual American Heritage Festival, billed as a family-friendly “patriotic Woodstock” aimed at drawing militia members, Patriot group members, and others, draws some 3,000 participants to the Carthage, Missouri, event over two days. Some of the scheduled speakers include well-known militia figures James “Bo” Gritz, Jack McLamb, Oklahoma State Representative Charles Key, right-wing investigative reporter Christopher Ruddy, and others. (Center for New Community 6/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center 6/2001)
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