Bomber Takes Truth to Grave

Stephen Jones, the lead trial attorney for Timothy McVeigh, writes in the newly updated version of his 1998 book, Others Unknown: The Oklahoma City Bombing Case and Conspiracy, that "the real story of the bombing as the McVeigh defense pursued it is complex, shadowy and sinister. It stretches, weblike, from America's heartland to the nation's capital, the Far East, Europe and the Middle East, and much of it remains a mystery."

Jones continues in the tones of a conspiratorial whisper: "There may be reasons why this is so, but perhaps the most important has been the U.S. government. And, in the end, the Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy may not merely be the crime itself but also the systematic, deliberate attempt of our federal government to prevent all of us from finding out what exactly happened on that terrible April morning."

Conspiracy theories from trial lawyers whose clients have been convicted of unfathomable crimes are familiar stuff. But that's the story from the trial attorney for the man who is scheduled to be executed for his part in this nation's worst mass murder and he's sticking to it. Jones, perhaps better than any other, knows more about this crime that didn't make it into the trial, or even the press. And there are others, many others, who believe the whole truth has not been told.

Not the least of these is a host of respected journalists from mainstream media who have spent years pursuing the same leads as McVeigh's defense team, dogging the men and places that seemed to show up on their radar screens again and again: Places such as Elohim City, a fortress of alleged paramilitary radicals on the border between Arkansas and Oklahoma. Names such as Louis Beam, former grand dragon of the Texas Ku Klux Klan and author of the anarchist treatise, The Leaderless Resistance; Kirk Lyons, founder of the Cause Foundation and a long-standing member of the Aryan Nation; David Hollaway, former legal assistant to Lyons and a member of the Christian Identity movement; Dennis Mahon, a former Klansman and head of White Aryan Resistance (WAR) in Oklahoma City; and Andreas (Andi) Strassmeir, chief of security at Elohim City and a close friend of Mahon.

Now, however, for reasons unknown, the investigative reporters and editors who followed all this are refusing even to discuss their investigations of the bombing and the possible conspirators they so tirelessly tracked.

Then there are the nearly 200 relatives of the bombing victims who not only believe there is much more to the story, but that some agents of the federal government had prior knowledge or even warning of the bombing. In fact, questions about what the government may have known are so important to these families that in March 1997 survivors and relatives of the victims filed notice of a federal tort claim against several federal agencies, detailing a variety of potential allegations.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the U.S. Marshal's Service, the Federal Protection Service, the General Services Administration and the FBI are among the agencies given notice that the survivors/families intend to raise serious questions about how much the federal government knew, or should have known, about the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Four years after formal notice was filed, the government has not responded, leaving the door open for the survivors and relatives of the victims to proceed with their lawsuit.

According to the attorney representing the families, this is a negligence action and, most likely, they will claim that the government had enough knowledge and information that federal buildings in Oklahoma City were likely targets on the day of the bombing that extra precautions could and should have been taken. Richard Bieder of the Bridgeport, Conn., law firm of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, is the lead attorney collecting information on the claim. He has zeroed in on many of the same shadowy figures tagged earlier by the McVeigh defense team as it sought to determine whether representatives of the federal government, through operatives or even paid informants, had knowledge the bombing was being planned.

"We're looking," Bieder explains, "for information that will allow us to bring this suit. There is a lot of speculation and rumor, but the original link - the first hint of prior knowledge - is that there were many who reported seeing people in uniform just prior to the bombing. There also is the information about Elohim City, Andreas Strassmeir and government informant Carol Howe. Howe's statements don't provide us with a clear-cut case of prior knowledge - nothing that we can bring suit with - but we're still collecting evidence, still looking at information."

An attorney representing potential claimants in another aspect of the Oklahoma City bombing also raises the names of those being referred to as the "usual suspects." Even relatives of the victims - those with nagging questions about facts surrounding the bombing - are well-versed in the alleged connections of the reportedly suspected conspirators and their alleged relationships to McVeigh.

Take for instance Cathy Wilburn. She and her late husband, Glenn, were among the first to question the official version of events and sign on to the tort claim. Their daughter, Edye Stowe, lost two children in the bombing - Chase, age 3, and Colton, age 2. In the aftermath, very early on, they began learning of oddities and anomalies between what officially was being said and what witnesses said had occurred.

"It was during a meeting at my home of the families who lost children at the day-care center," Wilburn recalls, "that one of the mothers told us she had seen the Oklahoma County Bomb Squad downtown that morning before the bombing. My husband didn't believe she could be right, so he went down to the sheriff's office and questioned them about it. They said, `Absolutely not,' that the bomb squad had not been downtown that morning. Then, little by little, articles would come out in the newspaper about other people who also had seen the bomb squad. It was about two or three months later that the sheriff's department changed its story, and said, `Oh, it's our mistake. Our guy was downtown running errands, and he stopped to get a cup of coffee.'"

Wilburn says it "just seemed odd that they would go out on an errand and hook up the bomb-disposal-unit trailer to get coffee."

Another bothersome issue for the Wilburns was the apparent amnesia of law-enforcement officials with whom they spoke about the significance of April 19. It didn't take long for the families touched by the crisis to learn that people and organizations under suspicion took that date very seriously.

Wilburn tells Insight, "When several law-enforcement officials told us that they didn't know about the importance of April 19, my husband rattled off the events. He said April 19, 1775, was `the shot heard around the world'; April 19, 1942, the Nazis celebrated the burning of the Warsaw Ghetto; April 19, 1985, was the day the FBI raided the compound of the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA); April 19, 1992, was the original aborted raid on Randy Weaver's cabin at Ruby Ridge, Idaho; and April 19, 1993, was the day Mount Carmel was burned to the ground by the ATF at Waco, Texas."

That date is, in short, a kind of mantra for people such as McVeigh and his paramilitary comrades. Those following loose ends of the bombing case say April 19, 1995, was important for another reason, perhaps more directly connected to the bombing than any of the rest. Just hours after the bombing of the Murrah Building, Arkansas prison officials prepared for that afternoon's execution of Richard Wayne Snell, a member of the domestic terrorist organization known as The Order, which was founded out of the Aryan Nation in Idaho. According to court records, Snell conceived the plan to blow up the Murrah Building in 1983. Some investigators think it is not coincidental that McVeigh carried out the bombing in much the same manner as plotted by Snell 12 years earlier.

According to an inside source who asked not to be identified, "The bombing of the Murrah Building was to avenge the execution of Richard Wayne Snell. McVeigh was seen at Elohim City and would have been well aware of Snell's upcoming execution on April 19, 1995." In fact, Rev. Robert Millar, the patriarch of Elohim City, the remote 1,000-acre paramilitary compound, was with Snell in his prison cell on the morning of the bombing watching TV as the Murrah Building crumbled. Later, Snell's body was taken by Millar back to Elohim City for burial. Snell had been a codefendant with Louis Beam in the 1988 Sedition Trial held at Fort Smith, Arkansas, where the [Snell] bombing plot of the Murrah Building was first exposed.

This gets more bizarre. Wilburn also is up to speed on the executed Snell and tells Insight that "just the fact that you've got the building targeted by Snell prior to 1995 and then his execution is on the same day should tell you something. But then his body is taken back to Elohim City for burial. And all along ATF informant Carol Howe is telling her government contact that they're planning to blow up buildings. Connect the dots: There are too many coincidences. I can take one or two, but come on."

How does this support the alleged government prior knowledge? A 500-page report on the bombing will be released within the month that reportedly will reveal the government had not one but two paid informants inside these tangential groups with advance knowledge of the bombing. The report is the result of a two-year investigation conducted by a committee headed by Charles Key, a former Oklahoma state representative and longtime critic of the official investigation conducted by the federal government.

According to "Trail of Terror: McVeigh, Nichols Did Not Act Alone," an article by Jon Doughery for World, the Key committee report will reveal "volumes of evidence citing inconsistencies and omissions in the government's official version of events." Doughery says it will document "that two of the government's own informants" had warned federal officials of "possible terrorist attacks in the United States," but that neither of these witnesses was allowed to testify in the federal trials.

Howe, according to records filed with the federal district court in Denver, was one of the paid informants for the ATF, living off and on for many months at Elohim City. But she was prohibited from testifying at the McVeigh trial, long a sore point for McVeigh's defense team. Although trial judge Richard Matsch learned the ATF had confirmed that Howe reported to it monthly, he refused to allow the federal informant to testify in court about her knowledge of the bombing, deciding her testimony was "not sufficiently relevant to be admissible." For months, according to evidence presented to Matsch, Howe had reported to her ATF case officer that plans to blow up federal buildings were being discussed by members of the Aryan Republican Army (ARA). Many of them lived in or visited Elohim City, including Andi Strassmeir.

For nearly a year leading up to the bombing of the Murrah Building, according to the informant's notes released by the ATF, Howe filed more than 70 reports with the ATF. Directly after the bombing she was sent back into Elohim City to obtain additional information about ARA members.

Strassmeir, a German national illegally residing in the United States at Elohim City, long has been at the top of the list of suspected coconspirators put forward by those investigating the Oklahoma City bombing. Given his background, there are many who wonder how the government let him slip away. Strassmeir's father, Gunther, was German chancellor Helmut Kohl's secretary of state. But more importantly according to Mahon, a close friend at Elohim City, the young Strassmeir was a member of the GSG-9, Germany's elite counterterrorism unit. Despite ATF informant Howe's reports about the presence and activities of Strassmeir, according to court records, federal investigators did not interview him until nearly a year-and-a-half after the bombing, when he safely had returned to Germany.

And, according to the inside source who spoke with Insight on condition of anonymity, "It is most likely Strassmeir was operating out of Elohim City as a shared asset of the German/American governments to penetrate neo-Nazi groups living there. Otherwise, why would a man with a background of privilege and wealth, and trained in counterterrorism, choose to live under such primitive conditions unless he was working undercover?"

There also is evidence - in the form of records related to two prepaid calling cards reportedly belonging to McVeigh - that his last two telephone calls before the bombing were to Strassmeir at Elohim City and to Hollaway, a partner with Lyons in the Cause Foundation, a radical legal organization. Hollaway has said in interviews that he is friends with Strassmeir and that he helped him leave the country several months after the bombing. Insight has obtained documents confirming that Lyons was Strassmeir's attorney and as such advised the young German to leave the country lest he be a "material witness" in the bombing trial. Given the relationship between Strassmeir, Hollaway and Lyons, who also was Beam's attorney in the 1988 Sedition Trial, and that McVeigh's last calls were to these people, investigators and family members wonder why the government didn't interview Strassmeir until a year-and-a-half after the bombing. The government never interviewed Hollaway, Beam or Lyons.

The list of discrepancies turned up within the government investigation of the bombing of the Murrah Building is a long one. Many believe that when McVeigh is executed on May 16 much of the truth about what was behind the bombing will die with him. What is clear, however, is that most of those following this case closely are convinced that the full truth about this terrible crime has yet to be told and, for reasons yet to be confirmed, the government has not been completely forthcoming about its knowledge of related events leading up to the bombing.

Trial attorney Jones sums up what many who independently have investigated this case say they believe: "All of us lost - all Americans - because a government theory full of holes carried the day. Because the `others unknown' who helped [McVeigh] plan and execute the bombing are still out there. Because the whole tragedy might have been averted but wasn't. And because, until we know what really happened, we can't hope to prevent other similar tragedies perhaps carried out by some of the very people who helped destroy the Murrah Building."