The Justice Department says Attorney General John Ashcroft likely won’t have time to meet with former state Rep. Charles Key, head of the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, before convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh is put to death June 11.
On June 1, Key sent a letter to Ashcroft requesting a meeting to discuss what he termed “improprieties” in the entire Oklahoma City bombing case.
Key and his committee have spent six years following the April 19, 1995, bombing attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Building, assembling evidence and witnesses refuting the government’s official conclusion that McVeigh, 33, and convicted coconspirator Terry Nichols, who is serving life in prison, were alone in planning and carrying out the attack.
Nevertheless, so far, the Justice Department has shown little interest in meeting with one of the case’s most enduring investigators.
“I don’t know what [Ashcroft's] schedule looks like,” Justice Department spokeswoman Chris Watney told WND. “It may be that somebody else at the Justice Department meets with him (Key). I just don’t think there’s a timeline on that yet.”
When asked if Ashcroft would be able to meet with Key before McVeigh’s scheduled Monday execution date, Watney said, “I’m sure [Ashcroft] wouldn’t be meeting with him before then.”
Key, in a separate interview, told WND that his letter to Ashcroft was actually the second of two letters he has sent.
After sending the first one in May, he said he was contacted by the Justice Department and told he could meet with a deputy.
“I got a call … on Monday about the first letter from a spokesman who works for Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, saying that he ‘can’t meet with you this week,’” Key said. “I told them, ‘My meeting was not with Thompson; it was with Ashcroft.’ They told me that sometimes these things get passed off to deputies.”
“We talked for a bit, and they said, ‘If you still want to have a meeting with Deputy Attorney General Thompson, you need to submit another letter.’ I told them again I didn’t want to meet with Thompson, I wanted to meet with Ashcroft,” Key said.
“They told me, ‘Well, you’ll just have to call him.’”
Thompson, Key said, was a former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Georgia and was appointed to his position by President Bush.
Key added that he hadn’t heard from the Justice Department regarding his second letter, the details of which were published by WND yesterday.
The head of the bombing committee said he had wanted to meet with Ashcroft before McVeigh was put to death. However, if that couldn’t happen, he added that he still wants a meeting with the attorney general because the issues his investigation brings up are “not tied” exclusively to McVeigh.
“The issue here, is that the mechanism that has allowed the Oklahoma City bombing to even happen … and then its subsequent cover-up, is still in place and always has been,” Key said. “That is the problem. We’re not doing this to inform people about what really happened six year ago. The problem is that the mechanism that allowed this to happen is still in place.
“This will happen again. Another Oklahoma City, or something like it … will happen again, and it will be somewhere else,” Key said.
By “mechanism,” Key said, “I mean the FBI and the Justice Department, the way they’ve been allowed to operate out of control of the legislative bodies for so long.”
Key also said he believes “there clearly was something going on” regarding the bombing in Elohim City, a racist community that was under surveillance by federal law enforcement officials and was visited by McVeigh.
But, he accused others of “trying to make the Middle Eastern connection go away,” and he said there are some facts “out there” that seem to lead in that direction.
Asked specifically if he personally believes there was a Mideast connection to the bombing, Key said, “I lean strongly in that direction,” but qualified that by adding that he couldn’t say for sure.
“We don’t know all the information yet,” he said. “But it seems to me there is something beyond the domestic terrorist scenario here.”
In his June 1 letter to Ashcroft, Key said he would like discuss his committee’s concerns “about governmental improprieties regarding the federal investigation and the federal trials of [convicted OKC bombers] Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. …”
“We know that recent revelations regarding the withholding of documents by the FBI is only a small part of what is wrong with FBI and Justice Department practices,” Key said.
“We would like the opportunity to present evidence showing deliberate subterfuge and misuse of power by the agency and the Justice Department, so that appropriate steps can be taken to make the changes necessary to ensure the survival of our justice system,” he added.
Yesterday, McVeigh, after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his request for a delay of execution, directed his attorneys to stop filing appeals in the case. He said he is ready to die on June 11.
McVeigh’s defense attorneys had argued they needed more time to review nearly 4,500 pages of documents turned over by the FBI in May that had never been given to McVeigh’s original defense team during his 1997 trial.
The FBI said it discovered the documents earlier this year, in January, but did not know how best to proceed with releasing them until last month, when it released them just days before McVeigh’s original May 16 execution date at the federal facility in Terre Haute, Ind.
In light of the discovery, Ashcroft granted McVeigh a 30-day stay of execution to give his defense team time to review the new materials. But over the course of several days following the initial release, the FBI began to locate more pages of evidence, which now total about 4,500 pages.