The Oklahoma City Bombing:
A Morass of Unanswered Questions
by Steven Yates
It is official: for whatever reason, thousands of FBI documents related to the Oklahoma City bombing did not make it into the hands of Timothy McVeigh’s defense team. Some are calling for a full investigation into the FBI’s handling of what was their most important and visible criminal investigation of the last decade. As of this writing, McVeigh himself is toying with the idea of fighting his execution by the federal government, postponed by Attorney General John Ashcroft until June 11.
The question comes up: are the missing FBI documents the product of a foul-up of monumental proportions even for a government agency or the result of deliberate concealment? A lot of conspiracy theories have circulated around the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, not all of them consistent with one another, some of them plausible, none of them proven. Although I have no specific theories of my own, I’ve had the suspicion from the start that someone in the federal government had advanced knowledge that something nasty was going to happen in Oklahoma City that day. As to the details, I am as much in the dark as anyone who wasn’t there. Compounding the matter is the fact that – so far, anyway – McVeigh himself isn’t talking. He seems to have dismissed all conspiracy theories and reports of "John Doe No. 2’s" with the remark in a recent interview that "You can’t handle the truth. And the truth is that it is pretty scary that one guy can do this all alone."
Perhaps McVeigh temporarily forgot about his official partner Terry Nichols. But is he covering for others who have never been identified, at least not publicly? Several of the FBI documents apparently refer to a mysterious figure named Robert Jacques (sometimes the name appears as Jacks). There are allegations of connections with a white supremacist compound named Elohim City, near the Oklahoma-Arkansas. I am rather dubious that this is significant, because Terry Nichols was twice married, once to a Mexican woman and the other time to a woman from the Philippines. This doesn’t sound like white supremacist behavior to me. Other allegations connect the Oklahoma City bombing with Osama bin Laden, the Middle East terrorist. Multiple allegations insist that McVeigh was sighted the morning of the bombing, and was never by himself. The FBI allegedly has 22 or more surveillance tapes from cameras mounted on the front of the Murrah Federal Building that survived the blast and would have shown the front of the Ryder truck itself including the driver’s and rider’s seats – presumably revealing whether McVeigh was alone or in the company of others up to the final seconds before the blast. The FBI has refused to release these tapes, although an independent investigator named David Hoffman has sued to obtain them under the Freedom of Information Act.
Does McVeigh even know all the players? It is clear, first of all, that McVeigh held the federal government responsible for the holocaust at Waco. His own anger was enormous. Could it have been used by others, some of them having infiltrated his circle of associates to learn of his plans and then acting without his knowledge? These questions are rhetorical, obviously. We just don’t know – at least, not yet. At least one item that was circulated my way on the Internet suggests that McVeigh cut a secret deal with the feds some time ago. In exchange for his continued silence, the federal government would spare his life at the last minute. I don’t find this idea all that plausible, either. I have a hard time seeing McVeigh, a soldier who faced death in the Gulf War, cutting deals with a government he despises to save his life here. Clearly, whatever one thinks of him, there are things of more value to him than his own life. Perhaps he sees himself as either a martyr or a prisoner of what he perceives to be the cold war going on between patriots and an out-of-control federal government. (Of course, the explanation for McVeigh’s silence could be more prosaic, relatively speaking: a desire to protect his family from possible retaliation.)
John Ashcroft has pledged not to delay McVeigh’s execution again. But if by some chance it should become clear that others – perhaps agents of the federal government itself – were involved in the worst bombing ever to occur on American soil, a bombing that killed 168 people including 19 children and injured hundreds more, heads will roll. The execution of Timothy McVeigh could well be postponed indefinitely as his lawyers demand a new trial. This, of course, is yet another ‘if,’ and we may seem to be piling still more rhetorical questions on top of speculations here. But there are an awful lot of unanswered questions floating around. I tend to think many people dismiss "conspiracy theories" as a kind of reflex, because they have been trained to do so. Some readers may have seen the Internet tract entitled Thirty Oklahoma City Bombing Questions That Demand an Answer Now! This tract raises questions no one has yet addressed, and about which there has been dead silence. Here is a sampling of unanswered questions that suggest that the federal government had advanced knowledge that the Oklahoma City bombing was coming, and that it could not have happened the way the official accounts say it did.
- A number of federal employees were killed in the explosion, but no BATF employees. There were, as everyone knows, BATF offices in the Murrah Federal Building. But very shortly after the bombing, we learned that no BATF personnel were even injured – because none were in the building. Why were all BATF personnel away from their desks on a regular weekday morning? Did someone tip them off in advance? This, obviously, would have required advance knowledge of what would take place that morning. (One story of BATF "heroism," that of a Resident Agent Alex McCauley who supposedly fell three floors in an elevator and then helped rescue others, turned out to be a hoax; there is such a person, but like the rest of the BATF personnel he was nowhere near the building when it exploded.)
- At least one independent report cites "over 70 witnesses" who claimed to have seen Timothy McVeigh on the morning of the explosion in the company of others who were never identified. This includes those who rented McVeigh the Ryder truck in Junction City, Kansas. The manhunts for "John Doe No. 2" were finally discontinued. Some of the composite sketches of other "John Does" seemed to be people of Middle Eastern origin. Who were these people seen by dozens of witnesses, and why did none of these witnesses testify at McVeigh’s trial? Was there a behind-the-scenes campaign to block the airing "conspiracy theories"?
- U.S. Judge Wayne Alley, whose office was located in the Federal Building, reported the next day of having been warned in a Justice Department memo about an unspecified "terrorist act" to be directed against the Federal building? Who issued this memo, and what happened to it? Judge Alley’s statement was published in the Portland Oregonian. Since then he has refused to repeat the allegation and refused all requests for interviews. Why? Along very similar lines, the Oklahoma City Fire Department was allegedly warned by the FBI the weekend before the bombing to be on alert for something that would take place over the next few days.
- "Norma" (not her real name), a witness who worked down the street from the Federal Building, reported seeing what appeared to be bomb squad personnel in the area at 7:45 a.m. – over an hour prior to the explosion. Were these really bomb squad personnel, and if so, what were they doing there if no one had advanced knowledge that the Oklahoma City bombing would take place? Other witnesses claimed to have seen bomb squad personnel around that morning, and still others claimed to have seen suspicious activity in the Federal Building itself the day before – which fits with the idea that someone had planted explosive devices inside the federal building. It might be worth noting that according to Thirty Oklahoma City Bombing Questions "Norma" was one of several such witnesses who have since quit their jobs and relocated, also refusing to talk about the incident any further. Were these people threatened?
- Geophysicist Charles Mankin, Director of the University of Oklahoma’s Geological Survey in Norman, just southeast of Oklahoma City, contended that according to two different seismographic records in the Oklahoma City area there were two distinct explosions, the second coming approximately eight seconds after the first. Along these same lines, several witnesses reported two distinct events, describing how the first event enabled them to dive for cover before the Ryder truck exploded, possibly saving their lives. Within 24 hours such reports would also vanish from the official accounts. Why? Again, no one alleging a two-explosions account of the Oklahoma City bombing was called to testify.
- It seems clear that Timothy McVeigh wanted to be caught. According to one account, he actually stopped and asked directions to the Murrah Building, placing himself on the scene. Within 48 hours after the explosion, he was stopped by police while speeding toward the state line at almost 100 miles an hour in a car with no license plate. Why has he done so little to defend himself this whole time, knowing full well that silence and inaction could cost him his life? (We may well have answered this above.)
- Very damning to the government’s conclusions was the revelation that McVeigh used an ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil) bomb. According toMilitary Explosives, a Department of the Army and Air Force Technical Manual No. 9-1910, an ANFO requires a 99% or greater purity of ammonium nitrate, as well as a specific dryness, before it can be mixed with the fuel. FBI testimony held that McVeigh used 50 bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which comes in much weaker concentrations than the 99% purity necessary for explosives. From this one can infer that that even under ideal conditions, McVeigh’s concoction could not have created a blast capable of destroying the Murrah Building’s concrete structure, nor would it leave a crater the size of the one at the Murrah Building. In other words, the government’s own source materials lead to the conclusion that the Oklahoma City bombing could not have happened in the way the FBI says; it is physically and chemically impossible. Are the details here correct? No one in the government has to my knowledge come forward with a refutation of this account.
- Still more damning is the testimony of Retired Air Force Brigadier General Benton K. Partin, former Commander of the Air Force Armament Technology Laboratory, a demolitions expert with 25 years experience in the design and development of explosives and bombs. He stated, "When I first saw the picture of the truck bomb’s asymmetrical damage to the Federal building…, my immediate reaction was that the pattern of damage would have been technically impossible without supplementary demolition charges at some of the reinforced concrete bases inside the building, a standard demolition technique." Partin went on: "[R]einforced concrete targets in large buildings are hard targets to blast. I know of no way possible to reproduce the apparent building damage through simply a truck bomb effort." In other words, again the truck bomb alone couldn’t have done it. Interestingly, General Partin’s lengthy statement earned him a smear, a false accusation associating him with the John Birch Society when his report was picked up and reprinted by the John Birch Society publication The New American – something not of his doing. General Partin had to threaten lawsuits to end the smear campaign. His detailed evaluation was entered into the Congressional Record, but has been completely ignored by federal investigators and by the news media. Why?
- Also demonized as "cranks" and "right wing extremists" were other explosives experts and professional demolition contractors (such as former FBI agent Ted Gunderson) who reviewed the circumstances surrounding the destruction of the Murrah building and concluded that it was a professional job, with top-grade explosives and devices planted inside the building. No one I know of has come forward to refute the substance of these allegations.
- The reaction to the bombing by both the Clinton Regime and the Republican-controlled Congress was swift. The former immediately blamed "right wing" talk show hosts and militias – despite no evidence connecting Timothy McVeigh or Terry Nichols with either. We saw long articles in leading newspapers like the New York Times dragging "angry white males" (critics of affirmative action) into this thing. A number of "domestic terrorism" bills were introduced in Congress in a matter of days, covering such topics as the banning of firearms to authorizing Federal wiretaps on private citizens and monitoring their activity on the Internet. The million dollar question: was this a pre-arranged and carefully organized response to a tragedy deliberately planned at the highest centers of power to discredit the militia movement and other critics of the federal government’s progressive abandonment of Constitutional government? Was it part of the ongoing campaign to disarm U.S. citizens through so-called gun control laws? Did the federal government sacrifice some of its own employees (and their children) and ruin the lives of many other people just to discredit its critics? The militias were among the first to denounce the bombing. Their leaders took no credit for it, wanted nothing to do with it. They reiterated that their posture was defensive. But since 1995 the number of citizens’ militias has dropped from over 500 to under 200, suggesting that if this was the motive, it worked.
There are additional allegations of curious events taking place when rescue workers first appeared on the scene following the blast. Some of these allegations involve sightings by rescue personnel of unexploded devices being removed from the debris. Others involve a severed leg that was never matched to any of the known victims. It is difficult to verify these accounts completely. The federal government sequestered the area immediately; no one who did not have official approval was allowed in. Eventually, of course, what was left of the building was bulldozed to the ground, its secrets (if there be any) buried.
One of the first rescue workers on the scene, an Oklahoma City police officer named Terrence Yeakey, had expressed deep concern about some of the things he saw to family members. One day not long after he turned up dead. His death was ruled a suicide. Shades of Vince Foster: a very unusual "suicide" it was. The man apparently cut his wrists, made another cut on his elbow and then cut both sides of his neck around the jugular vein. Having already lost a great deal of blood, he was able to walk out into a fenced-off area at the outskirts of the city where he shot himself. His service revolver was not the weapon used. No autopsy was done, despite it being standard procedure to do an autopsy when a police officer dies under unusual circumstances. The obvious question: was Officer Yeakey about to reveal information about the Oklahoma City bombing? Members of his family think so, but of course no one can prove it. Officer Yeakey’s briefcase had disappeared. It turned up later, but had been in the hands of the police who did not want to release it to his family. There was plenty of time and opportunity for someone so inclined to have removed incriminating documents or photographs. It should be added that Officer Yeakey had the respect of his fellow police officers and those in the communities he served. He was not a nut.
While the federal government has more and more relied on brute force to accomplish its goals, domestic as well as foreign, it is still hard for most ordinary people to believe that even the Clinton Regime or Janet Reno’s Justice Department could be involved in something as evil as this. I cannot blame people for being skeptical. These were the federal government’s own employees – and their innocent children – not to mention the countless other people working there or who just happened to be in the building or in the vicinity when the bomb(s) went off. Many skeptics will dismiss this as paranoia gone out of control. A flip response is that a little paranoia never hurt anybody, and that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone is not out to get you. Seriously, I would prefer that the skeptics be right, but I am not convinced they are.
The problem is that the official account of what happened in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, has more holes than Swiss cheese. Every independent investigation I am aware of has concluded that others besides Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were involved, though they diverge on the details. Some pick up on obscure remarks in McVeigh’s recent letter to Fox News as pointing to a connection between the bombing and the leading terrorist Osama bin Laden, suggesting that Terry Nichols met with bin Laden’s agents in the Phillipines two months earlier to help plan the bombing. Jayna Davis, an NBC reporter in Oklahoma City, claimed to have turned up evidence that McVeigh was involved with Iraqi immigrants. There was a group of around 5,000 Iraqi soldiers who had deserted Saddam Hussein’s army and were able to win asylum in the United States following the Gulf War. One such group was settled in Oklahoma City. It was this group that had become the target of Miss Davis’ investigation. She was sued by one of its members. The federal lawsuit went on for two years. Jayna Davis finally won. Neither the lawsuit itself nor the outcome was ever reported in any national media.
McVeigh’s silence is admittedly the most troublesome aspect of all the theories we have. There is no way to get inside his head and divine his motives. But we have already seen that there are reasons why he would be silent. His claiming sole credit for the Oklahoma City bombing doesn’t make it so. Exactly what is the truth here? Did the BATF have advanced knowledge of the Oklahoma City bombing? Had they perhaps infiltrated a local terrorist cell and simply allowed the terrorists and McVeigh to do their dirty work for them, knowing that the Clinton Regime and the media were ready to blame it on militias and "right wing extremists"? Again, I would insist: we don’t really know. But the best thing the FBI could do at this point is come clean about what we haven’t been told about the Oklahoma City bombing, and to do so now – because obviously the official story doesn’t add up. If by some chance there is a connection to terrorist movements originating with immigrants or even overseas, members of the public have a right to know about it! It could significantly impact the public’s willingness to tolerate continued open immigration. As an alternative, the least the FBI and the media can do is consider allegations such as those above and show in detail that they are erroneous – or at least discuss the issues they raise. Anything is better than the official silence that has been in place now for six years running.
May 19, 2001