McVeigh Execution Gives Feds Reason to Fear May 16
In preparation for the May 16 killing of bomber Timothy McVeigh, the FBI is transforming Terre Haute, Indiana—scene of the first federal execution since 1963—into a virtual police state. Federal marshals and FBI agents have been dispatched to reinforce staffers at the federal prison where McVeigh is to die. Most protesters and gawkers, expected to number in the thousands, won’t be allowed within a mile of the facility.
The rest of Terre Haute will be on holiday, with schools, courts, and government offices closed. Sporting events slated for May 16 have been rescheduled. Police will operate checkpoints along the city’s main drag, Route 63, which goes past the prison. To prevent any attempted breakout by plane or chopper, the Federal Aviation Administration has set up a no-fly zone lasting from 4 p.m. on May 15 to 6 a.m. on May 16.
What, exactly, do the feds fear? The Turner Diaries, the thinly disguised story of a racist revolution in the U.S., has presaged two key events in recent far-right history. The book, published in 1978 by William Pierce, the leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, includes a shadowy network called the Order and an attack on a federal installation. In fact, an underground terror gang called the Order operated in the 1980s, and the far right had plotted to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City back in 1983, a dozen years before McVeigh carried out his devastation.
Poring over the book for a hint of what might happen next, one comes to the description of how the narrator, Earl Turner, is freed from Fort Belvoir, an army base in Virginia, where he is taken after capture, held in solitary confinement, and tortured by Jewish interrogators. Around midnight during a heavy rainstorm, two olive-drab buses pull up carrying military police officers for the guard change. Only they aren’t real MPs, but racist revolutionaries. Rushing forward, they capture a tank sitting outside the prison and turn its barrel on the watchtowers. “Finally, the wooden door of my cell burst inward under the blow of a sledgehammer, and I was free,” Turner says.
Is Tim McVeigh waiting for a similar last-minute rescue? Hardly likely, although it would spice up Gore Vidal’s impending Vanity Fair story.
Others look to a more mystical source, numerology, for clues about what the fringe might be up to, before the execution and in days to come. The movement has a tradition of marking anniversaries with violence. April 19, the date of the 1995 Oklahoma City explosion, was critical for several reasons.
The following date, April 20, is always celebrated among racialists because it’s Hitler’s birthday. The Columbine shooters suggested they timed their 1998 massacre of classmates in honor of the führer.
By contrast, May 16 appears to have been little noted—at least until now. Napoleon was formally declared the leader of France on that date in 1804. Charles Elmer Hires invented root beer in 1866. Germany made its last major air attack on Britain in 1941. Two years later, the Nazis finally crushed Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto. In 1944, some 180,000 Hungarian Jews were sent to Auschwitz.
Now, with the killing of McVeigh, law enforcement may get another date on which to be wary.
Oklahoma City Alums Pick Way Through Broken World
Shattered and Scattered
Here’s a roll call of the leading players and supporting cast in the Oklahoma City tragedy.
Timothy McVeigh: The lead bomber awaits death in the Terre Haute, Indiana, federal prison.
Terry Nichols: Sentenced to life by a federal court, he awaits his fate in Oklahoma state proceedings, held a few blocks from where tourists troop through the blast museum. Oklahoma prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Michael Fortier: The man who ratted out McVeigh and Nichols to spare his wife and get a lighter sentence of 12 years reportedly thinks he’s been in jail long enough and wants out. Now the government’s meek lover, he writes Kathy Wilburn, who lost two grandchildren in the blast, “I have faith that the feds have uncovered everything and I do not believe they would cover anything up.”
Lori Fortier: Michael’s wife does manicures in the back room of a Kingman, Arizona, hair salon.
Glenn Wilburn: The Oklahoma City accountant, married to Kathy Wilburn, died in July 1997 of pancreatic cancer. Suspecting a broader conspiracy, he was the first person to question the government’s case.
Richard Butler: The white supremacist is stepping down as Aryan Nations leader. In July 1999, he told Kathy Wilburn she’d meet her grandchildren in heaven. She remembers him saying: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Tim McVeigh is a great martyr to the cause.”
Michael Vanderboegh: This former Alabama aluminum warehouse manager and militiaman became the editor and publisher of John Doe Times, the hot e-zine covering plots and counterplots in the case. He has restarted the Times and has it going full bore.
Stephen Jones: McVeigh’s conspiracy-minded trial attorney is polishing up a revision of his book, Others Unknown, practicing real estate law in Enid, Oklahoma, and looking forward to making money by defending small businessmen in the looming recession. Jones thinks the nation will never get the full story of what happened in Oklahoma City, but suspects a minimum of six to eight people were involved. “Some known,” he says, “some unknown.”
J.D. Cash: The small-town Oklahoma reporter, whose close ties to the Jones defense team helped him break conspiracy stories, now spends his days mowing the lawn and fishing at his log cabin in the mountains. He still files an occasional article for the McCurtain Daily Gazette, posted at www.mccurtain.com.
Dennis Mahon: The former Tulsa Klansman who praised McVeigh was last heard from with his brother, Dan, somewhere in Arizona.
Carol Howe: The blond debutante, a one-time Nazi who became a government informant, has a nonworking phone number in California.
Robert Millar: The patriarch and pastor of the notorious outlaw hangout Elohim City is reportedly ailing. Millar predicted an invasion by Asians at the turn of the millennium. He now waits for natural disasters to purge the planet.
Richard Matsch: The judge for the trials of McVeigh and Nichols remains on the federal bench in Denver.
Lana Padilla: Terry Nichols’s first wife still sells real estate in Las Vegas.
Marife Nichols: Terry’s Filipina second wife reportedly lives in Oklahoma City.
Jennifer McVeigh: Tim’s sister changed her name and teaches school in the Carolinas.
Bill McVeigh: Tim’s dad, from upstate New York, had his feelings hurt because his son refused to hug him goodbye at their last contact visit.
Michael Tigar: Nichols’s trial attorney teaches at American University in Washington. He played a key role in bringing the Chilean dictator Pinochet to justice.
Beth Wilkinson: The sweet and sour federal prosecutor who devastated the McVeigh defense married David Gregory, an NBC reporter who covered the trial.
Joe Hartzler: The wheelchair-bound lead government prosecutor against McVeigh serves as an assistant U.S. attorney in Springfield, Illinois.
Charles Farley: One of Tigar’s more jolting witnesses, he has dropped off the radar. The Fort Riley civilian employee may have saved Nichols from the death penalty when he testified that he saw three other vehicles—including a truck piled with bags of what looked like fertilizer—and a group of men on the day McVeigh claims he and Nichols put together the bomb by themselves.
Charles Key: The Oklahoma state legislator and former insurance salesman thinks the government case is a cover-up for a wider conspiracy. This week he publishes a private 500-page analysis, the Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building, which tracks the perpetrators through the Philippines to meetings with Middle Eastern terrorists, and thence to a Nazi network with ties to the American white-power crowd. He’s taking over as executive director of the Fully Informed Jury Association, a group that argues juries should have more weight in the court system.
Additional reporting: Rouven Gueissaz and Adam Gray