Editor’s note: WND is serializing this week the Oklahoma City bombing reports of one of the world’s foremost investigative journalists, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London Telegraph. Excerpted from his book, “The Secret Life of Bill Clinton, seven chapters analyze the Oklahoma tragedy and devastate the official government version of what occurred on April 19, 1995.
Yesterday, in Part 1, “The resurrection of President Clinton,” Evans-Pritchard revealed that “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.”
In Part 2, today, the author helps readers relive the Oklahoma City tragedy from the point of view of a family that lost two children in the Murrah Building’s daycare center, and their subsequent horror to discover rampant official lying in the tragedy’s aftermath.
The boys were the heart and soul of the house. They lived with their mother and grandparents, three generations together in the suburbs of Oklahoma City. Chase was three; Colton was two. They were lively spirits, with faces lifted from the frescoes of Fra Angelico.
On weekdays they would be dropped off at America’s Kids on the second floor of the Alfred P. Murrah Building. Their mother, Edye Smith, worked as a secretary for the IRS, four blocks away. So did their grandmother, Kathy Wilburn, a training instructor.
The daycare center was an extra perk the two women enjoyed as federal employees. They did not know at the time that none of the law enforcement agents put their own children in the cr?che as a matter of policy. Nor did they know that the ATF, the Secret Service and U. S. Customs had offices in the building.
Glenn Wilburn doubled as father and grandfather. A courteous, gentle, well-fed fellow, aged 44, he had a successful practice as a certified public accountant. He drove a big silver Mercedes 380SE and looked the part of a prosperous citizen of stature, but his tastes were simple. In the evenings after work he would take his grandsons down to the park. On weekends he would take them to a movie. They watched “The Lion King” three times.
Glenn had no interest in politics. He did not listen to talk radio. The word militia had never crossed his lips. He had not given much thought to Ruby Ridge, or NAFTA, or anything else that was exercising so many Americans in the heartland, although he had cried watching the fiery denouement of the Branch Davidian siege. The knowledge that there were young children trapped inside was deeply disturbing to Glenn. But by and large he was a contented man, firm in his belief that the U.S. federal government was a force for good.
On Tuesday, April 18, 1995, Edye was sick with strep throat and stayed at home with the boys. The next day, Patriot’s Day, she was still feeling ill, but her colleagues had made her a birthday cake so she made the extra effort and struggled in to work.
It was the usual morning ritual. The boys were in Edye’s bed, one snuggled up on each side. Glenn and Kathy burst in singing “good morning to you,” and the scramble began.
“Glenn was helping with Colton. He had him sitting up on the bar in the kitchen, putting on his little blue sandals,” said Kathy. “When he finished, Glenn kissed him on the forehead and said ‘You’re a good boy. Papa loves you.'”
* * *
The bomb went off at 9:02 a.m.
Edye was about to blow out the candles on her birthday cake when the shock waves rocked the IRS building.
“I grabbed her and we rushed out into the street,” recounted Kathy. “I could see smoke over towards the Murrah Building, and I screamed, ‘Edye, the babies, the babies,’ and we took off running.”
“It was like the twilight zone. Big plate glass windows were still crashing out of the sky. There was this boom, boom, boom, and we saw all this black smoke everywhere. It was the cars going off in the parking lot.”
“Then we saw it — the total devastation — and Edye crumbled to her knees. I put my arms around her and told her, ‘It’ll be alright.’ But I knew it wasn’t true. I knew already that our babies were gone.”
Both boys were killed. A rescue worker had found Colton still breathing in the ruins, but he would not live long. His stomach had been ripped out. Kathy’s grownup son Daniel had spotted the tiny two-year-old body laid out on a bench.
Glenn had already heard the news. When the women found him in the mayhem outside the Murrah Building, he was leaning over the hood of a pickup truck crying his heart out.
“That was when it all fell apart for Glenn,” said Kathy. “It wasn’t pancreatic cancer that killed him in the end. He really died of a broken heart.”
That night they huddled together at home, silently watching the TV news. The camera picked out a solitary shoe on the edges of the smoking rubble. It was the blue sandal that Glenn had slipped onto Chase’s tiny foot that morning.
Anger, grief, confusion — it was the same for all the families. Glenn and Kathy turned the boys’ room into a shrine, untouched from that day forth, the teddy bears stacked neatly on each of the little beds. The most poignant memento was a ticket found in Chase’s pocket. It was for a Sesame Street Live show entitled “When I grow up.”
Within days of the bombing, the rumors began to circulate. People talked of seeing bomb squads in downtown Oklahoma in the early hours of the morning before the blast. It was said that the ATF did not come to work that morning at the Murrah Building. The families noticed that none of the ATF agents were on the casualty list.
It was the usual sort of talk after a disaster of this scale. Glenn did not pay too much attention at first. He assumed like everybody else that the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department would do all they could to establish the truth. One hundred and sixty-eight people had been killed. It was the most deadly act of terrorism in the history of the United States. If there was a bomb squad on alert that morning, the full story would come out soon enough.
But Edye Smith began to sense that the Justice Department was dissembling. There was a hint of arrogance in the responses of U.S. Attorney Pat Ryan. The man was pleasant enough, but he did not make a serious effort to answer the questions of the families. When Edye asked where the ATF agents were on April 19 he brushed her off with a glib comment that they were playing in a golf tournament at Shawnee. He was mistaken. Some of the DEA were playing golf, but not the ATF.
She contacted the AFT directly, only to hear a babel of improvised spin. There were two ATF agents in their offices on the ninth floor that day, said one message on her answering machine. No, there were four, said another message, left by another official the same day. Edye was being trifled with. Her grief turned to anger. On May 23, 1995, the day the ruined Murrah Building was brought down with demolition charges, she erupted in a live interview on CNN.
“Where the hell was the ATF, I want to know?” she thundered, red hair flying in the breeze. “All fifteen or seventeen of their employees survived, and they were on the ninth floor. They were the target of this explosion, and where were they? Did they have a warning sign? Did they think it might be a bad day to go into the office? They had an option not to go to work that day, and my kids didn’t. They didn’t get that option. Nobody else in the building got that option. And we’re just asking questions. We’re not making accusations. We just want to know. And they’re telling us: ‘Keep your mouth shut, don’t talk about it.'”
CNN cut her off soon enough, but the impact was searing. Edye Smith, aggrieved and defiant, had thrown down the gauntlet. There would be no turning back.
Deluged with calls from the media, the ATF issued a press release. “I strongly suspect that these malicious rumors are fueled by the same sources as the negative rhetoric that has been recently circulating about law enforcement officers,” said Lester D. Martz, the special agent in charge of the Dallas regional office. “The facts are that the ATF’s employees in Oklahoma City were carrying out their assigned duties as they would any workday, and several of them were injured in the explosion.”
In fact, the only people in the office to suffer injuries were two clerical workers. None of the ATF’s field agents were hurt.
If Lester Martz had stopped there, the matter might have subsided. But he overreached, the instinctive reflex of an agency accustomed to operating without accountability. “We were there, and we were heroes,” he said. The ATF claimed that Alex McCauley, the resident agent in charge, was in an elevator when the bomb went off. He survived a free fall from the eighth to the third floor. McCauley escaped by breaking through the thick metal doors, and went on to rescue survivors in the stairwell.
If the ATF thought they could get away with this farrago, they had underestimated the 23-year-old redhead and her affable stepfather. Curiosity piqued, the Wilburns tried their hand as amateur sleuths. With the help of a freelance reporter, John “J. D.” Cash, Glenn contacted the Midwestern Elevator Company, the firm that had actually searched the elevators for survivors.
“The first thing we did was split up and check, then double check, each elevator of occupants,” explained Duane James, one of the engineers. “We found that five of the six elevators were frozen between floors, and a sixth had stopped near floor level. … We had to go in through the ceilings of the elevator to check for people. … All were empty.”
Agent Alex McCauley could not possibly have broken out before the team arrived, said James, “not unless he had a blowtorch with him. … The doors were all frozen shut. … It took several of our men over twelve hours just to get the one elevator [opened].”
None of the elevators had been in a free fall. “That’s pure fantasy. Modern elevators have counterbalances and can’t free-fall unless you cut the cables, and none were. There are a series of backup safety switches that will lock an elevator in place if it increases in speed more than 10 percent.”
The Midwestern Elevator Company took extensive photographs to document the inspection. These records were later reviewed by ABC’s 20/20 program. The pictures confirmed that all the safety cables were intact.
As the details emerged, the ATF began to back away from its claims, suggesting that the blast created the sensation of a falling elevator. “Well, maybe Agent McCauley just imagined he free fell,” said Lester Martz in a taped telephone interview with J. D. Cash.
Agent McCauley was transferred to Kansas City and quietly demoted. The Justice Department, however, clung resolutely to the story of his accomplishments. Joseph Hartzler, the chief prosecutor in the case against McVeigh, repeated the tale in a court filing on Nov. 7, 1996, dismissing any doubts about the matter as “outrageous.” At the time, Hartzler already had the FD-302 witness statements given to the FBI by the elevator engineers, all concurring that the story was fabricated. But Hartzler has never been held to account for deliberately misinforming the court.
The Wilburns had walked through the looking glass. They now knew for a fact that the head of the ATF’s office in Oklahoma City was a shameless liar. And they were learning that some of the others were just as bad. On May 24, 1995, the day after Edye’s outburst on CNN, Glenn was visited by two ATF agents. It was a contentious meeting. Glenn pressed them hard. “Didn’t April 19 have any significance to your people? You know, Patriot’s Day, the Waco raid?”
“No, there was no alert, or any concern on our part about the significance of that,” replied Luke Franey, an undercover agent who sported long hair and a ring in one ear.
Two hours later Glenn was watching the news. It was a live interview with John Magaw, the director of the ATF, explaining that the agency had taken special precautions on April 19. “I was very concerned about that day and issued memos to all our field offices. They were put on alert,” said Magaw.
It was the lies that offended Glenn more than anything else. One lie, after another, after another.
Fresh leads were coming thick and fast. A sheriff’s deputy had scribbled a quick note for Edye when he recognized her at the courthouse one day. Slipping the message into her hand, he added sotto voce: “God bless you people.” The note said that Charles Gaines, chief of operations for the Oklahoma City Fire Department, had received a terrorism alert on Good Friday before the bombing.
Glenn paid the man a visit.
“I understand that the FBI called you,” he said, glowering across the desk. “That’s correct isn’t it, Mr. Gaines?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You know damn well what I’m talking about, you were put on alert five days before the bomb went off, weren’t you?”
Gaines grabbed his hat and hurried out the door, saying that he was late for an appointment. Glenn wandered down the hall until he found an open door. It was the office of Harvey Weathers, the chief of dispatchers. He tried again.
“You’re right,” said Weathers. “We got a message from the FBI on the Friday before the bombing. We were told to be on alert for terrorist activity in the near future. I passed it down the line.”
“Well, it looks like Chief Gaines’s memory is failing. He said it never happened,” said Glenn.
“You asked me, and I told you. I’m not going to lie for anybody.”
TOMORROW: Despite total information blackout and denials on the part of the government, says Evans-Pritchard, “There was no question that there had been a bomb squad truck in downtown Oklahoma before the blast.”
Read Part 1: ‘The resurrection of President Clinton’
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.