In-depth coverage about
Oklahoma City Bombing
Related News Stories
Warnings Cited Before Oklahoma Bombing - Associated
Press (Jun 20, 2002)
United by grief - San Francisco Chronicle (Apr 20,
Communities joined in aftermath of loss - Oklahoman
(Apr 19, 2002)
Opinion & Editorials
Terry Nichols's Filipino Connection - Village Voice
(Mar 27, 2002)
Right-to-Work Measure Passes in Oklahoma - Concerned
Women for America (Sep 26, 2001)
Okeene to Manhattan: a legacy - Oklahoman (Sep 16,
Communities joined in aftermath of loss - Oklahoman
(Apr 19, 2002)
Key Report on OKC Bombing - The New American (Jul
Related Web Sites
Timoth McVeigh Death Certificate - fascimile of the
document filed with the Vigo County, Indiana health
department. From the Smoking Gun.
Oklahoma City National Memorial - official site of
the memorial museum located in Oklahoma City dedicated
to remembering the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.
After Oklahoma City - features interviews, analysis,
and related news about the bombing, McVeigh's trial and
conviction, and execution proceedings. From PBS' Online
Warnings Before 1995 Oklahoma Bombing
Thu Jun 20, 5:12 AM ET
By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated
WASHINGTON (AP) - Just weeks before Timothy McVeigh (
web sites) bombed the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995,
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement received several warnings that
Islamic terrorists were seeking to strike on American soil and that
a likely target was government buildings, documents show.
The information, though it was never linked to McVeigh, was stark
enough that the Clinton administration urged stepped up security
patrols and screening at federal buildings nationwide, including
those in Oklahoma.
The government, however, didn't fortify buildings with cement
barriers like those hurriedly installed after McVeigh detonated his
explosive-laden truck at the curb of the Murrah building on April
19, 1995, officials said.
Islamic extremists are determined to "strike inside the U.S.
against objects symbolizing the American government in the near
future," said one warning obtained by The Associated Press.
The intelligence that prompted the warnings was gathered across
the globe from Iran and Syria to the Philippines and became more
specific as to the potential type attack (suicide bombing), target
(government building) and likely date (after the third week in March
1995), the documents show.
The U.S. Marshal's Service issued an alert on March 15, 1995, to
federal courthouses it protects, including the one in Oklahoma City
across the street from where McVeigh's truck bomb killed 168 people,
the documents show.
"Iranian extremists want it made clear that steps are being taken
to strike at the Great Satan," a term used frequently in the Mideast
to describe the United States, the marshal's memo said. It said a
fatwa — a religious order — had been issued to attack marshals or
"There is sufficient threat potential to request that a
heightened level of security awareness and caution be implemented,"
the memo added.
Separately, the General Services Administration received a
warning from the FBI (
web sites) and asked hundreds of federal buildings it operates
to increase security details, including the Murrah building,
"We were told there was a fatwa threatening to target federal
buildings," GSA spokeswoman Viki Reath said this week. "We increased
our patrols to 12-hour shifts."
More than two dozen current and former intelligence and law
enforcement officials interviewed by AP said the period of spring
1995 was a time of heightened "chatter" among terrorists seeking to
strike the United States.
But the officials cautioned the FBI and CIA (
web sites) exhaustively investigated whether McVeigh could have
been aided by Mideast terrorist and found no credible evidence
linking him to any Islamic extremists, including those who prompted
the 1995 warnings.
The information about 1995 emerges as a joint House-Senate panel
examining the intelligence and law enforcement failures that
preceded Sept. 11 has expanded its mission to look back at the late
1980s and 1990s.
John Gannon, former deputy CIA director for intelligence under
President Clinton (
web sites), said spring 1995 was one of a handful of periods in
the 1990s when intelligence on terror threats peaked as the
government increasingly turned its attention to Osama bin Laden (
web sites) and his emerging terrorist network.
Gannon said the 1995 warnings were plentiful enough that he
initially assumed Islamic extremists had struck when the bomb
exploded in Oklahoma City. Law enforcement too issued initial
bulletins looking for Arab suspects and borrowed Arabic translators
from the military.
"When I first heard about the Oklahoma bombing, the first
reaction I had was I wonder if this were a foreign group that had
done this or the Islamic extremists that had come up on our screen,"
He said it was in 1998, after bin Laden issued a fatwa urging
specific attacks on America and two U.S. embassies in Africa were
bombed, that U.S. anti-terrorism efforts escalated markedly.
"If there was a watershed year, it was 1998. That significantly
elevated our concern and resulted in a concerted effort, and a very
strong program to go get Osama bin Laden," he said.
The 1995 intelligence was specific enough that "if that was
today, you'd have (Bush Homeland Security Director) Tom Ridge going
out and saying we have this threat," said former Rep. Bill McCollum,
R-Fla., who in 1995 was a member of the House Intelligence
McCollum formed a congressional task force in the late 1980s that
began warning of the growing threat of terrorism, and which issued
some of the 1995 alerts.
"For a good number of years, there was a failure to acknowledge
the severity of the threat," he said. "There really had been this
disbelief or unwillingness to scare people."
Former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said
"protecting America against terrorists was a high priority" during
the 1990s. "Threat information regularly came in and steps were
taken to deal with it," he said.
"In general, the record is very clear that the Clinton
administration increased counterterrorism funding and focus more
than any other prior administration based on the emerging threats,"
Some of the 1995 warnings were pointed.
"Iranian sources confirmed Tehran's desire and determination to
strike inside the U.S. against objects symbolizing the American
government in the near future," said a Feb. 27, 1995, terror warning
by the House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare.
The warnings became increasingly specific as to the possible
location, type of attack and likely dates.
"These strikes are most likely to occur either in the immediate
future or in the new Iranian year — starting 21 March 1995," the
congressional task force predicted.
U.S. intelligence monitored a series of meetings and conferences
between senior officials of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and other terror
organizations in mid-February 1995 in which the subject of killing
Americans on U.S. soil came up, officials said.
During these conferences, known terrorists made specific mention
of Congress and the White House as "institutions that are great
enemies of the Islamist movement," according to a congressional
"This is a deviation from past discussions beyond referring to
the U.S. as a single entity to pointing to specific branches of
government as their true enemies," it added.
Around the same time, the FBI received intelligence from the
Philippines that two men later convicted in the 1993 World Trade
Center bombing had been arrested as they were plotting to blow up
U.S. airliners. The men planned to hijack one airliner and crash it
into the CIA, Pentagon (
web sites) or White House, documents show.
The marshal's warning explained that Islamic extremists had
issued a fatwa to kill marshals personnel or strike their buildings
because of an episode at the end of the World Trade Center bombing
trial in which deputy marshals accidentally stepped on a copy of the
Koran during a scuffle.
"Allegedly, the fatwa is being disseminated to persons in the
United States who have the capability to carry it out," the memo
The terrorists could be suicide bombers who may "target as many
victims as possible and draw as much media coverage as possible," it
added. "Once the press is on the scene the new plans call for
blowing up everyone."