Oklahoma City Bombing
On the morning of April 19, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. By official figures, 168 people died. Until the September 11th attacks in 2001, this was the deadliest terrorist incident in the United States. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were convicted for their parts in the bombing, and Michael Fortier plead guilty after cooperating with the prosecution.
On the days leading up to April 19, McVeigh and Nichols filled a rented Ryder truck with approximately 5000 pounds of a fuel oil and fertilizer mixture. On the morning of April 19, Timothy McVeigh drove the truck into downtown Oklahoma City, parking it directly in front of the Murrah Federal Building. At 9:02 am the bomb detonated, collapsing the front facade of the federal building and severely damaging several surrounding buildings. The explosion could be heard and felt several miles away.
McVeigh intended to avenge the deaths among the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas, a third of which were members of minority groups, including 30 blacks, 6 Hispanics and 7 Asians, as well as a number of interracial marriages. Despite widespread allegations of racial motivations behind the bombings, which were spread through the mainstream media and sourced to leftist, self-styled "anti-racist" watchdog groups, Nichols himself was married to a Philippine national. McVeigh had been politically profiled in Brandon Stickney's All-American Monster - The Unauthorized Biography of Timothy McVeigh, allegations which were responded to in an article by Lawrence W. Myers in Media Bypass magazine.
On the day of the bombing, the brown pickup truck was apparently found and cleared, and an additional set of sketches were released, of Johns Doe #1 and #2. These sketches were apparently based on witness reports from the Ryder shop where the truck was rented; the truck had been identified by its VIN found on an axle.
Ninety minutes after the explosion, Timothy McVeigh was pulled over by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer for driving a car without a license plate. During the stop, a weapon was discovered, and McVeigh was booked into jail on a weapons charge. Before he was released, he was identified as John Doe #1 in the sketches and was taken into federal custody. Terry Nichols, a known friend of McVeigh's, turned himself in soon afterwards. One of the most extensive FBI investigations ever undertaken has failed to implicate any militia group or any group of any kind. The FBI agent in charge of the Oklahoma City Bombing Task Force recently said:
|“||The investigation, as thorough as it was, was not able to identify other individuals involved other than those who admitted their knowledge or were convicted through two trials.||”|
Following the Oklahoma City bombing the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a far-left activist group led by Morris Dees, gave the FBI a list of several thousand alleged members of militias and “hate groups” culled from its files. None of them had anything to do with the bombing. These names came from letters to newspapers expressing patriotic and conservative political views, lists of “members” supplied by informants, names from license plate numbers collected outside public meetings, pilfered mailing lists, and so on.
During the early days of the media feeding frenzy following the bombing, militia organizations were widely suspected and even charged with complicity in the crime. Watchdog groups were regularly quoted by the media as “experts” on the militias and made fantastic claims of vast membership and influence. Militias had absolutely nothing to do with the bombing, but the incredible media onslaught had a part in further marginalizing them, and changing their composition in the process.
Writer Adam Parfrey observed after the Oklahoma City bombing some watchdog groups information was absorbed whole into mainstream news sources as unimpeachable and objective news sources, whereas the watchdog organizations coffers bulged when constituent donors were led to believe through fundraising newsletters they were fighting an enemy of enormous evil and mounting strength. Despite their altruistic claims, the watchdog organizations
|“||profited directly off the sensationalism that acts as a sparkplug for Hollywood and the weekly tabloids.||”|
The SPLC's Klanwatch Intelligence Report of June 1995 claimed that “over 200 militia and support groups operate nationwide.”  Three months later, in September 1995 the SPLC issued a report that identified seventy-three “militias or militia support groups nationwide, with a total of 30,000 to 40,000 members.” The SPLC also claimed that about forty-five have “ties to the Ku Klux Klan.”  127 “militia and support groups” suddenly disappeared. The actual number of militia group is believed no more than 20% of what SPLC claimed, and the Anti-Defamation League claimed only 10,000 members.
As for militia complicity in the bombing itself—after more than three years of intensive investigation neither the FBI nor any other law enforcement agency has produced evidence that the perpetrators were members of or in any substantial way connected with any militia, anywhere, anytime. A county grand jury arrived at the same conclusions. No militias were implicated by government prosecutors at Timothy McVeigh's or Terry Nichols’ trials. Militias had nothing to do with the Oklahoma City bombing. The perpetrators were acting entirely on their own. The only organizational “links and ties” they shared was service in the U. S. Army.
Charges, Trials, Convictions, and Punishment
McVeigh was charged in Federal court with 8 counts of murder of federal officers, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, and destroying government property via explosive. To avoid a contaminated jury pool, the trial was held in Denver. On June 3, 1997, McVeigh was convicted of all charges. He was sentenced to death and the sentence was carried out on June 11, 2001 by lethal injection in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Terry Nichols was convicted of Federal charges of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and 8 counts of involuntary manslaughter of federal officers. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In 2004, he was found guilty on state charges of 161 counts of first degree murder, but the jury deadlocked on sentencing. The judge imposed 161 a sentence of 161 consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole.
Micheal Fortier testified against McVeigh in exchange for a light charge and sentence; he pled guilty to a single charge of failing to warn authorities about the attack and was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $200,000. In January 2006 he was released into the Witness Protection program.
John Doe #2 has never been officially identified; the current FBI theory appears to be that he was an unrelated person who happened to be at the Ryder office about the same time McVeigh was.
The site of the Murrah Building was converted into a memorial for those who had died.
Its most striking feature is 168 chairs, one for each of the deceased, arranged by the floors on which the deceased were located at the time of the bombing. The memorial also features the Survivor Tree, an American elm tree that miraculously survived the blast (the tree is portrayed in the memorial's website).
- There's an open question about a possible 169th victim. See Others Unknown.
- David B. Kopel and Paul H. Blackman, No More Wacos: What’s Wrong With Federal Law Enforcement and How To Fix It, Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1997, 409-411.
- Lawrence W. Myers, Tim McVeigh: An Interview, Media Bypass, February 1996, pg. 36.
- Diana Baldwin, Some Still Hunt For John Doe 2, Sunday Oklahoman, 13 December 1998, A-8.
- Adam Parfrey, Cult Rapture: Revelations of the Apocalyptic Mind (Portland, OR: Feral House, 1995), 327.
- Southern Poverty Law Center, “Over 200 Militias and Support Groups Operate Nationwide,” Klanwatch Intelligence Report (June 1995).
- Dick Foster, “10 Militias at Home in Colorado” Rocky Mountain News, (6 September 1995).
- The Watchdogs: A Close Look at Anti-Racist "Watchdog" Groups, Laird Wilcox, Editorial Research Service, 1999, pg. 85. ISBN 0-993592-96-5.
- Diana Baldwin, “Some Still Huntfor John Doe 2,” Sunday Oklahoman 13 December 1998, A-8.
- Ron Jenkins, “Oklahoma Bomb Jury Rules Out Conspiracy,” Associated Press, 30 December 1998.
- Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing Conspiracy by Stephen Jones and Peter Israel.