Timothy McVeigh is scheduled to be executed next month.
I don’t pretend to believe for one minute that this column — urging that the execution be delayed — will have any effect. But I’ve got to write it anyway.
Major media reports tell us that the execution of the convicted Oklahoma City bomber is one even most death penalty critics can support. If we are to believe such reports, nobody wants McVeigh to live another day.
But I do. I’ll tell you why.
McVeigh has never come clean about the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people. There were others involved — as sure as I am writing this column today.
And I’m not just talking about Terry Nichols.
In a nutshell, here are just a few of the unanswered — in many cases, unasked — questions about this case:
- What was the role of Andy Strassmeir in the bombing? Strassmeir was closely associated with McVeigh in the underworld of neo-Nazi activity and terrorist plans, according to witnesses, including a government informant. Why was he never questioned in the case while some 20,000 other people were? Strassmeir’s father is Gunther Strassmeir, Helmut Kohl’s secretary of state, a man known as the “architect of German reunification.” The younger Strassmeir received military intelligence training at Bundeswehr Academy in Hanover. He’s now back in Germany, reportedly living with his parents.
- The Murrah Building was the local home of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Why is it that — coincidentally — most of the ATF’s employees didn’t show up for work the morning of the bombing. Every ATF member survived the attack. It’s a stretch to believe someone wasn’t tipped off about the bombing.
- Why were the reports about a planned bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma on April 19, 1995, by ATF informant Carol Howe ignored? Why have the links she drew between Strassmeir and McVeigh been discredited?
- Why did the FBI report on the day of the bombing that two other explosive devices were found in the building? What happened to those “sophisticated devices” that were larger than the one that went off? And how did the truck bomb create a pattern of devastation unexplainable from its position in front of the building? How does the government explain other witnesses who report seeing bomb squad activity at the Murrah building an hour or more before the blast?
There’s much more if you pry just beneath the surface of the Oklahoma City bombing. But aren’t these questions enough to prove that McVeigh is not coming clean about the conspiracy to blow up the building? Is it just possible that McVeigh is not only a mass murderer but — gasp — a liar, too?
The government has done a very poor job investigating the Oklahoma City bombing. Yesterday, the FBI admitted it had withheld 200 pieces of evidence from McVeigh’s defense attorneys. It has done an even worse job answering obvious questions about its conclusions. Washington will tell you proudly that 2,000 FBI agents were assigned to the probe. The feds will boast about 20,000 witness interviews and hundreds of thousands of man-hours devoted to finding out the truth.
But it is all terribly unpersuasive to those of us who have taken even a cursory look at this tragedy.
Am I suggesting McVeigh is innocent? Hardly. I believe he is guilty of more than just a role in the bombing and murder of 168 people. I believe he has helped to weave a false cover story designed to protect others involved — whether out of a sense of misguided camaraderie or, more likely, out of fear of retribution against members of his own family.
The right thing to do is to make McVeigh talk. He should be forced to come clean. He owes that much to the survivors of this tragedy. And so does the government.
No, I’m not squeamish about the death penalty. I think McVeigh more than deserves it. But as long as he continues to lie to us about the broader conspiracy, he should be made to stay alive in that tiny cell. His wishes for a quick death should be denied. He should be made to talk.
And, more importantly, the government should be made to answer the questions it has been dodging for too long.