Editor’s note: The FBI’s shocking 11th-hour admission that it withheld voluminous evidence from the McVeigh defense team and the world has forced to the surface long-suppressed evidence on the Oklahoma City bombing. Arguably the best investigative journalist to have researched the subject is Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London Telegraph.
Each day this week, WorldNetDaily.com will serialize portions of his celebrated book, “The Secret Life of Bill Clinton, fully seven chapters of which are devoted to the Oklahoma City bombing. Following is chapter 1, “The resurrection of President Clinton.”
Relaxing on Air Force One after the 1996 elections, Bill Clinton told a pool of reporters that he owed his political revival to the Oklahoma bombing. He was in a reflective mood, looking back at the ups and downs of his turbulent presidency. As so often, his thoughts lingered on those first painful months after the Republicans captured both Houses of Congress for the first time in almost two generations. It had been a stinging rebuke for the White House. But then that bomb went off. “It broke a spell in the country as people began searching for our common ground again,” he said.
The searing destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, was the most traumatic event in the United States since the assassination of President Kennedy. Had it been carried out by foreign radicals, the impact on the national psyche would have been far less. But this was a homegrown conspiracy. Americans were committing mass murder against other Americans. One hundred and sixty-eight people were dead. A cr?che full of infants had been massacred in cold blood, by Americans.
President Clinton’s analysis cannot be faulted. The bombing had a catalytic effect, abruptly changing the chemistry of American politics. One has to think back to the mood in Washington in April 1995 to understand what Clinton meant. The Republican Congress was completing its one hundred-day march; the Contract with America was being rushed through the House at breakneck speed; and the world was kneeling in obeisance before Speaker Newt Gingrich, even as President Clinton spoke plaintively of being “relevant.”
Think back to the triumphalist language of the Republican diehards. The Education Department was going to be abolished before breakfast, the Commerce Department before lunch, Housing and Urban Development before supper, and the Environmental Protection Agency was going to be torched in a spectacular bonfire before bedtime. Rhetoric was leaping ahead of realty, of course, but the tone and manner of the new leadership was deeply unsettling to great numbers of Americans of mellow, conservative views. Things were getting out of hand.
The bombing brought it into sharp focus. The militia movement, right-wing talk radio, the perceived Gingrich onslaught against government, all melded together in the public mind as one rampant movement of extremism.
Clinton seized the moment. He castigated talk radio for broadcasting “a relentless clamor of hatred and division.” The Right, he said, was sowing distrust of government institutions and creating a climate that fostered recourse to violence. He did not name the Republicans as co-conspirators; he did not have to. The media clerisy made the connection for him. They all but said that Tim McVeigh was the military expression of the Gingrich agenda. Republicans had failed to understand that rhetoric has consequences, opined the commentators, and now look what had happened.
The Republicans were dumbstruck. A few dared to reply that it was the deployment of tanks by a militarized FBI against women and children in Waco that had set off the deadly spiral. But most were too intimidated, or horrified, to articulate a defense. When Sen. Phil Gramm risked a word of polite protest — “I think we all need to be very careful that we keep politics out of this thing” — he was reprimanded for his “mean streak.”
President Clinton traveled to Oklahoma and handled the ceremony of grief with consummate skill. He visited the rescue workers. He held the hands of the victims. He said all the right things. His empathy was boundless. The polls noted that four-fifths of Americans admired his human touch. Overall, Clinton’s job rating jumped from 42 percent to 51 percent, although this did not begin to reflect the tectonic changes beneath the surface of American politics. Clinton had come back to life, and the Justice Department was riding high. There was overwhelming support for White House plans to enhance the anti-terrorist powers of the FBI.
But what if the Clinton administration has not told the full truth about the Oklahoma bombing, as many of the families now suspect? What if some of the perpetrators are still at large, freely walking the streets and giving remarkably candid interviews to this author, because it is not in the political interests of the White House or the FBI to bring them to justice? I think that would give a different complexion to the matter. I hope that the following chapters will make it clear that these are not idle questions.
I do not wish to revisit the Denver trial of Tim McVeigh. I am convinced that McVeigh was guilty, and his own lawyer admitted as much during the sentencing hearings. But the trial did not bring out the full story. Indeed, it was skillfully managed to ensure that collateral revelations were kept to a minimum.
This was a terrible mistake. The Oklahoma bombing was the most deadly act of terrorism ever committed on U. S. soil. It was no time for a sloppy investigation or a trial that could be considered as expedited, abridged, or rigged in any way. Jurists concurred that it was imperative that the Justice Department conduct itself beyond reproach if this tragedy was to attain closure. It would be profoundly injurious to the republic if it were ever felt that the proceedings were manipulated for the benefit of the executive branch. Retribution was important, of course, but it was even more important to sustain confidence in the American democratic system for decades to come. The president professed agreement. The attorney general promised to make this an exhibit of American excellence.
It did not happen. In violation of its “Brady” responsibilities, the prosecution withheld material from the defense that was exculpatory or impeached the credibility of government witnesses. It delayed a year in handing over FD-302 witness statements that were critical to the defense. It stonewalled, obstructed, and dragged its feet at every turn. It also told a series of demonstrable lies that will be enumerated in this book. If this is how the Justice Department behaves in a high-profile case after the president and the attorney general have both made explicit promises of transparency, I dread to think how it conducts itself when nobody is paying attention.
As for the FBI, the proven malfeasance of the crime labs in the handling of scientific evidence from the crime scene makes it clear that the “OKBOMB” investigation was rotten from the foundations up. Far from taking extra precautions to uphold the highest standards of forensic evidence, the FBI resorted to methods that cannot be tolerated in a democratic society. The report of the Justice Department’s inspector general lists the Oklahoma bombing case as one of the worst examples of de facto evidence tampering by the crime labs.
It is worth dwelling on this point because the FBI has been patting itself on the back for “solving” the Oklahoma bombing, as if it had cause for self-congratulation. In the first place, the FBI had no scientific basis for concluding that the Murrah Building was blown up by an ammonium nitrate fertilizer bomb. The FBI did not know in 1995, and does not know to this day, what actually caused the explosion. The Justice Department report concluded that the explosives unit simply guessed that the bomb was made of 4,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate after “the recovery of receipts showing that defendant Nichols purchased 4,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate.”
The labs guessed that the explosive charge was placed in 50-gallon white plastic barrels, without conducting the requisite tests, after the discovery of 50-gallon plastic containers at the house of Terry Nichols. They said that the detonator appeared to be a Primadet Delay system, but no trace of this was found at the crime scene. Primadet was, however, found at the house of Terry Nichols. … You get the picture.
The FBI crime labs sculpted a theory of the bombing that would help the prosecution secure convictions against Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols – and science be damned. Once it is understood that the FBI behaved this way in handling empirical evidence – where malfeasance is susceptible to exposure – it becomes easier to discern the attitudes that informed the rest of the OKBOMB investigation. It is my contention that the crime labs were no worse than other divisions of the FBI. The only difference is that the technicians were caught red-handed, while certain corrupt field agents and their superiors have yet to be exposed.
In summing up, the inspector general’s report found that the FBI crime labs had “repeatedly reached conclusions that incriminated the defendants without a scientific basis” in the Oklahoma bombing case. I find this quite staggering. In Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence, shared by Britain and America, it is not acceptable to shape the crime to fit the suspect. It is a practice we condemn as “framing.” I do not understand why the current director of the FBI is still drawing a paycheck from the U. S. taxpayer after a scandal of this magnitude, especially since he permitted the retaliatory harassment of Dr. Frederick Whitehurst, the chief whistle-blower.
It was the duty of Judge Richard Matsch to prevent the executive branch from conducting a politicized trial that obscured the facts. Instead he went with the flow, acceding to the prosecution’s request that the Inspector General’s report be barred as evidence. It was never made clear to the jury that the FBI did not know what kind of bomb really caused the blast, nor that the FBI had forfeited its magisterial authority.
But most serious of all, the judge refused to allow the testimony of an ATF informant with very relevant information indicating that the Oklahoma bombing was a broad conspiracy involving several members of the neo-Nazi movement in Oklahoma, an assertion that the U. S. government had gone to great lengths to repress. Whether or not Judge Richard Matsch was acting in tacit concert with the Justice Department is a matter that will demand hard scrutiny by historians. Doubtless Judge Matsch is sure that he can justify his decision on technical grounds. No judge likes to commit reversible error. But even if he can do so, I still believe that he betrayed his mission as a U. S. federal judge. There was more riding on the trial than the guilt or innocence of Tim McVeigh. The greater cause of justice was obstructed.
Needless to say, the McVeigh trial was not described in this way to the American media. The outcome was seen as a triumph. Judge Matsch was lionized, praised for restoring confidence in the criminal justice system. The reaction of the press disturbed me deeply. I never imagined that the machinery of cover-up could be so oppressively efficient.
McVeigh’s mercurial counsel, Stephen Jones, allowed himself a moment of angry passion when he returned home to Oklahoma. If anybody thinks that the full story came out in the trial, he said, he could guarantee them that it most assuredly did not. Jones was bound to silence by the rules of attorney-client confidentiality, while McVeigh was “hanging tough” out of loyalty to his sworn brothers in the Aryan order.
Indebted to the Oklahoma families who have refused to accept the half-truths of the U. S. Justice Department, I offer a fragment of the story that these two men cannot or will not reveal.
TOMORROW: In Part 2, Evans-Pritchard helps readers relive April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City from the point of view of a family that lost
two young children in the Murrah Building’s daycare center, and their subsequent horror to discover rampant official lying throughout the tragedy’s aftermath.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s landmark book, “The Secret Life of Bill Clinton” is available from WorldNetDaily’s online store.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has built a stellar career as a journalist, covering Central America for The Economist and The Daily Telegraph, and reporting from the United States for both The Spectator and The Sunday Telegraph, for which he was Washington bureau chief. Cambridge-educated and internationally renowned, Evans-Pritchard has recently returned to England, where he serves as The Daily Telegraph’s roving European correspondent.