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Timothy McVeigh, a nascent white supremacist and survivalist (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990) who is in the process of taking “early termination” from the US Army after being denied a position in Special Forces (see January - March 1991 and After), moves back in with his father in Pendleton, New York. Initially, he joins a National Guard unit and tries unsuccessfully to join the US Marshals. He is formally discharged from the Army on December 31, 1991. His final psychological assessment from the Army shows him to be under extreme stress and experiencing a powerful sense of disillusionment with the federal government. In January 1992, he goes to work for Burns International Security Services in Buffalo after leaving the Guard (see June 1992), and quickly rises to the rank of inspector. (McFadden 5/4/1995; PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Mickolus and Simmons 6/1997, pp. 810; Serrano 1998, pp. 48; Douglas O. Linder 2001; CNN 2001; CNN 12/17/2007) (A New York Times report later says McVeigh leaves the Army in early 1992. A book about McVeigh, One of Ours, claims that McVeigh returns to Pendleton after leaving the Army around Christmas of 1991.) (McFadden 5/4/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 44)
Depressed, Suicidal, Detached, Enraged - Over time, McVeigh becomes increasingly depressed and reportedly considers suicide; friends and colleagues will describe him as deteriorating both mentally and physically, and, in the words of the New York Times, will describe him as “an increasingly unstable man who wavered between gloomy silences and a hair-trigger temper, who lost so much weight he seemed anorexic, and who could follow simple orders but could not handle pressure or take independent action.” Lynda Haner-Mele, a supervisor for Burns Security in Kenmore, New York, later recalls working with McVeigh at the Niagara Falls Convention Center. She remembers calling him “Timmy” and worrying about his weight loss. “He seemed almost lost, like he hadn’t really grown up yet,” she will say. She is unaware of his Army service, later recalling: “He didn’t really carry himself like he came out of the military. He didn’t stand tall with his shoulders back. He was kind of slumped over.… That guy did not have an expression 99 percent of the time. He was cold. He didn’t want to have to deal with people or pressure. Timmy was a good guard, always there prompt, clean, and neat. His only quirk was that he couldn’t deal with people. If someone didn’t cooperate with him, he would start yelling at them, become verbally aggressive. He could be set off easily. He was quiet, but it didn’t take much.”
Increasingly Radicalized - McVeigh becomes increasingly radicalized, growing more disenchanted with the idea of a federal government and distressed about the possibility of a federal crackdown on gun ownership. He talks about the government forcibly confiscating the citizenry’s guns and enslaving citizens. He writes angry letters to newspapers and his congressman on subjects such as his objection to inhumane slaughterhouses and a proposed law prohibiting the possession of “noxious substances,” and warns against an impending dictatorship if action is not soon taken (see February 11, 1992). He urges friends to read a novel, The Turner Diaries (see 1978), which tells the story of a white supremacist revolt against the US government and the extermination of minorities, and gives copies to his friends and relatives. He begins acquiring an arsenal of guns, and sets up a generator and a store of canned food and potable water in his basement so that he would be self-sufficient in case of emergency. He applies to join the Ku Klux Klan, but decides against it because, he believes, the KKK is too focused on race and not enough on gun rights. The Times will later write: “While there was no firm evidence that Mr. McVeigh belonged to any organized right-wing paramilitary or survivalist groups, there was considerable evidence that he sympathized with and espoused their beliefs. He voiced their ideas in conversations, he wrote letters expressing them, he read their literature, and attended their meetings. And he lived, worked, and traded weapons in areas where the paramilitary groups enjoy considerable support, according to numerous interviews.” In the summer of 1992, McVeigh moves to Michigan to stay with his old Army friend Terry Nichols, telling friends he is leaving to find a “free state” in which to live. McVeigh’s and Nichols’s shared hatred of the federal government continues to grow. (McFadden 5/4/1995; PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Mickolus and Simmons 6/1997, pp. 810; Douglas O. Linder 2001; CNN 2001; Douglas O. Linder 2006; CNN 12/17/2007) Reportedly, McVeigh tells people that the Army has placed a computer chip in his buttocks to keep him under surveillance. (Green 5/8/1995) McVeigh’s fellow security guard, Carl Edward Lebron Jr., later recalls long conversations with McVeigh that center around “politics, secret societies, some religion and conspiracy theories,” UFOs, and government conspiracies to addict its citizens to illegal drugs. Lebron wonders if McVeigh himself might belong to a secret society of some sort, perhaps a Freemason sect. Lebron will recall McVeigh showing him Ku Klux Klan newsletters and gold coins, some minted in Canada. Lebron becomes worried enough about McVeigh’s apparent instability to tape-record some of their conversations, and keep notes of what McVeigh tells him. What seems to worry Lebron the most is McVeigh’s talk about stealing weapons from Army bases. In August, McVeigh quits his job at Burns, telling coworkers: “I got to get out of this place. It’s all liberals here.” Lebron bids him goodbye, saying, “Stay out of trouble,” to which McVeigh replies: “I can’t stay out of trouble. Trouble will find me.” (Serrano 1998, pp. 48-57) Law professor Douglas O. Linder will later speculate that McVeigh’s radicalization may have been triggered, and was certainly deepened, by the FBI’s raid on the Ruby Ridge compound of white supremacist Randy Weaver (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992). (Douglas O. Linder 2006) McVeigh later tells his lawyers that during this time, he became increasingly stressed because of what he will call his “heightened sense of awareness of what the news was really saying.” He becomes increasingly obsessed with the news, raging at politicians for trying to blend politics and the military, and at the government for “strong-arming other countries and telling them what to do.” He becomes increasingly enraged by what he calls the increasing anti-gun sentiment in the US, and the “liberal mindset that all things in the world could be solved by discussion.” He learned in the military that most problems can best be solved by aggression, he will say, citing physical fights he had with fellow soldiers and angry confrontations with fellow security workers. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996)
Movements Cloudy - McVeigh’s movements are somewhat cloudy during this period. A New York Times report will say that McVeigh and Nichols may have lived together in Marion, Kansas, not Michigan, and McVeigh may have moved to Kingman, Arizona, during this time or sometime later. (McFadden 4/23/1995)
Future Oklahoma City Bomber - McVeigh will go on to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City, with Nichols’s aid (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Haner-Mele will have difficulty believing McVeigh orchestrated the bombing. “Timmy just wasn’t the type of person who could initiate action,” she will say. “He was very good if you said, ‘Tim, watch this door—don’t let anyone through.’ The Tim I knew couldn’t have masterminded something like this and carried it out himself. It would have had to have been someone who said: ‘Tim, this is what you do. You drive the truck.’” (McFadden 5/4/1995) McVeigh’s cousin Kyle Kraus, who received a copy of The Turner Diaries from McVeigh, puts the book away until after the bombing, when he will reread some of it. Horrified, he will contact the FBI; the copy will become an exhibit in McVeigh’s criminal trial (see August 10, 1995). (Serrano 1998, pp. 51)
White supremacist Randy Weaver surrenders after an 11-day standoff with federal authorities at his cabin on Ruby Ridge, Idaho. The standoff cost the lives of Weaver’s wife and son, and a US marshal. The incident, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, will “galvanize… many on the radical right.” (Southern Poverty Law Center 6/2001)
The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) leader Richard Rogers urges senior FBI and Justice Department officials to use tear gas to bring the Branch Davidian siege (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993) to a close. According to a memo written by Deputy Assistant Director Danny Coulson, the FBI’s top expert on tactical matters, “A lot of pressure is coming from Rogers.” Coulson writes that Rogers urged similar tactics in the 1992 Ruby Ridge debacle (see August 31, 1992): “We had similar problems in Idaho with him [Rogers] and he argued and convinced the SACs [special agents in charge of local FBI offices involved in the incident] that [Randy] Weaver would not come out. That proved to be wrong. I believe he is a significant part of the problem here.” Rogers’s advice, that only extreme and violent action could force Weaver to emerge, sparked the death of Weaver’s wife and son. In 1992, Rogers relaxed FBI rules of engagement and tried to force an all-out assault on the Weaver cabin using tanks and tear gas. Weaver eventually surrendered. Coulson believes that Davidian leader David Koresh will also surrender, if given enough time. “All of their intelligence indicates that David [Koresh] does not intend suicide and that he will come out eventually,” Coulson’s memo concludes. (Hancock 2/28/2000) The day after Coulson’s memo is circulated, the FBI begins bombarding the compound with sound and light (see March 23-24, 1993).
A jury acquits white separatist Randy Weaver and a fellow separatist of murdering a US marshal during the Ruby Ridge standoff (see August 31, 1992), a verdict the Southern Poverty Law Center will later call “a stinging rebuke to federal law enforcement.” Evidence will later emerge that shows the FBI changed its normal rules of engagement during the standoff and later lied about it. (Southern Poverty Law Center 6/2001)
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).
Randy Weaver, the white separatist who was at the heart of the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff with the FBI (see August 31, 1992), says the reasons given by convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) for the bombing ring hollow. A book titled American Terrorist, based on prison interviews given by McVeigh to two reporters, claims that McVeigh targeted a federal building in retaliation for the Ruby Ridge (see August 21-31, 1992) and Branch Davidian (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) tragedies (see March 29, 2001). Weaver is not buying it. “McVeigh took the law into his own hands,” he tells a reporter. “He had justified it in his own mind. I don’t agree with him at all. He has more anger in him than I do, and I don’t know how that could be.” Weaver’s wife and son died by FBI gunfire during the siege. A federal marshal was also killed in the standoff. (Associated Press 3/31/2001)
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