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McVeigh not alone + Oklahoma Conspiracy (3 parts)

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  • Loren Coleman
    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=71599 11 May 2001 12:15 GMT+1 The Independent, UK McVeigh did not act alone in Oklahoma bombing
    Message 1 of 1 , May 11, 2001
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      http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=71599
      11 May 2001 12:15 GMT+1
      The Independent, UK

      McVeigh 'did not act alone in Oklahoma bombing'

      By Andrew Gumbel in Terre Haute, Indiana

      11 May 2001

      The Oklahoma conspiracy. A special report by Andrew Gumbel

      For six years, there have been suspicions that Timothy McVeigh did not act
      alone when he bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City. Today, The
      Independent reveals he was part of an underground network of
      white-supremacist guerrillas dedicated to the overthrow of the American
      government, and explains how the group kept its role hidden for so long.

      Known as the Aryan Republican Army, the network came to light five years ago
      when its leaders were arrested for 22 bank robberies committed across the
      Midwest from late 1993 until several months after the April 1995 bombing.
      They were prosecuted and imprisoned for the robberies, but their links to
      the Oklahoma bomb never came out in court.

      Those have emerged through the efforts of a handful of reporters, academics
      and relatives of the bombing victims who found copies of confidential
      prosecution documents, saw written and video material recovered from the
      gang and interviewed some of the protagonists.

      It is now believed the ARA financed and helped to stage the bombing, the
      worst peacetime atrocity on US soil, which claimed 168 lives including 19
      children. There is also evidence that McVeigh, who faces death by lethal
      injection at a US penitentiary in Indiana next Wednesday, was part of the
      robbery gang and participated in at least the planning stage of some of the
      hold-ups.

      The Independent's Review section today demolishes the theory that McVeigh
      was alone in Oklahoma City on the morning of the bombing. It shows why many
      of the claims made by McVeigh in a series of interviews for the recently
      published book American Terrorist do not stand up to scrutiny.

      It also explains why the Federal Bureau of Investigation and government
      prosecutors gave up their efforts to find his accomplices.

      It describes the extraordinary exploits of the ARA's two ringleaders, Pete
      Langan and Richard Guthrie, accomplished career criminals who happened to be
      secret cross-dressers as well as virulent exponents of racist
      anti-government ideology. The Independent has obtained a 300-page
      handwritten memoir penned by Guthrie in prison before he was found hanging
      from a bedsheet in his cell in July 1996. In it, he names one of the robbery
      gang members as a certain "Tim".

      The links between the ARA and McVeigh were established in 1993 and continued
      regularly until the time of the bombing. All of them led frantically
      itinerant lifestyles, driving cross-country and staying in motels under
      assumed names, but on several occasions were in the same place at the same
      time on similar business. In January 1995, all of them abruptly left Kansas
      for a six-week stint in Arizona where there is evidence that a trial
      fertiliser bomb was exploded in the desert.

      The ARA developed the notion of "leaderless resistance", a cell-based
      guerrilla structure in which individual members knew next to nothing about
      each other. Operating out of a safe-house in eastern Kansas, it also
      developed contacts with various far-right groups including a white
      supremacist religious compound in Oklahoma, Elohim City, which has long been
      suspected of involvement in the bombing.
      ----
      11 May 2001 12:18 GMT+1
      Home > News  > World  > Americas

      Next week, one man will be executed for carrying out america's worst
      peacetime atrocity. Timothy McVeigh claims to have acted alone. but new
      evidence reveals he was part of an undergound network of white supremacists

      The Oklahoma conspiracy

      A special report by Andrew Gumbel

      10 May 2001

      Internal links

      McVeigh 'did not act alone in Oklahoma bombing'

      Forgotten' evidence could delay McVeigh execution

      Imagine this scene in Oklahoma City, in the early morning of 19 April 1995.
      Timothy McVeigh is driving into town in a rented removal lorry that contains
      a deadly fertiliser bomb: more than 6,000lbs of ammonium nitrate soaked in
      nitromethane fuel, supplemented by several sausage-shaped strings of
      commercial Tovex explosive, all of it wired up to blasting caps and shock
      tube.

      McVeigh has driven down from Kansas, where he spent the previous day making
      the bomb with his old army buddy and fellow right-wing survivalist Terry
      Nichols. And now, the deadly plan he has worked on for so long, his
      gigantic, foolhardy act of revenge against his own government, is about to
      come to fruition. The front of his T-shirt bears the slogan shouted by John
      Wilkes Booth as he assassinated Abraham Lincoln, "Sic semper tyrannis". The
      back carries a quote from Thomas Jefferson: "The tree of liberty must be
      refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

      Shortly before 9am, as he approaches the Alfred P Murrah federal building in
      improbably sunny weather, McVeigh pops in a pair of earplugs. He lights one
      five-minute fuse and another two-minute one. He parks in a
      handicapped-parking zone, right beneath the America's Kids infant daycare
      centre on the first floor, hops out of the truck and walks away into a
      series of alleys and streets, taking him safely out of his target's
      immediate shadow.

      His getaway car, a busted-up 18-year-old Mercury Marquis, is parked several
      blocks away, exactly where he left it four days earlier (again, with
      Nichols's help). But he has covered barely 150 yards when the deafening roar
      of the explosion lifts him off his feet, knocks out the glass of the windows
      all around him, sets off hundreds of car alarms and causes the buildings,
      even at this distance, to shake violently, sending cascades of brick and
      stonework into the streets. One-third of the Murrah building has been
      obliterated, and 168 people - including 19 children - have been killed, in
      the deadliest peacetime assault on American soil.

      That, at least, is Tim McVeigh's version of events. It is the story he gave
      to two journalists from his hometown of Buffalo, New York, in an extensive
      series of interviews that forms the centrepiece of the recent book American
      Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & the Oklahoma City Bombing. It is clearly the
      way he would like his act to be remembered, as he prepares for death by
      lethal injection at a federal penitentiary in Indiana next Wednesday. It is
      an account that, for all the media hullaballoo surrounding his execution,
      has gone largely unquestioned by the US's raucous punditocracy.

      It is also, give or take a few details, the official version presented by
      the Federal Bureau of Investigation and government lawyers at his trial in
      1997. McVeigh, the argument ran, had some help from Nichols and another
      friend from army days, Michael Fortier, but essentially he carried out the
      bombing alone. No accomplices, no broader network of conspirators, nothing.
      Case closed, as far as the government was concerned.

      Now imagine the scene all over again, this time with extra details supplied
      by eyewitnesses interviewed in the immediate aftermath of thebombing and by
      the investigative work of a handful of journalists, lawyers and academics
      who have spent the past six years going over every detail of the calamity to
      try to wheedle out its mysteries.

      Suddenly, the picture is very different. McVeigh is still driving the yellow
      Ryder removal truck, but he is not alone. The truck contains the unmixed
      bomb components, minus the detonators and caps which are being transported
      separately, either in a brown 1970s-era Chevy pick-up or possibly another
      vehicle.

      In the early morning, the vehicles pull up in a derelict section of
      Bricktown, a mile from the Murrah building, where the accomplices make the
      bomb at high speed, IRA-style. After filling nine of the 13 barrels in the
      back of the truck, they run out of nitromethane and switch to diesel fuel.
      McVeigh cuts open the Tovex sausages to insert the blasting caps (explaining
      why traces of PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, are later found on his
      clothing).

      Then, according to the accounts of at least 10 eyewitnesses, there is a
      flurry of activity across Oklahoma City in the hour before the bombing. Just
      after eight o'clock, the brown pick-up roars out of the Murrah building car
      park with McVeigh and another man inside. Half an hour later, the Ryder
      truck drives from Bricktown to the top of a hill a mile or so to the north.
      It is followed along part of the route by both the pick-up and the Mercury
      Marquis, the latter with three men inside. The truck waits at a tyre store,
      possibly for a radio signal giving the all-clear (hence the choice of a high
      altitude). McVeigh, identified once again as the Ryder driver, allays
      immediate suspicion by asking the store owner for directions to the Murrah
      building.

      At about 8.45am, the Ryder pulls up across from the Regency Apartments,
      within sight of the target. Again, at least one person is seen with McVeigh,
      who goes into a convenience store on the ground floor of the building to buy
      two Cokes and a pack of cigarettes, even though he does not smoke.

      At 8.57am, McVeigh pulls into the handicapped zone of the federal building,
      walks across the street and gets into the Mercury with another man. From the
      passenger side of the Ryder truck emerges yet another man, who jumps into
      the brown pick-up parked just in front and drives away. By the time the bomb
      explodes at 9.02am, both the Mercury and the pick-up are on the freeway
      heading north back up to Kansas.

      Fact or fantasy? The result of confusion among traumatised eyewitnesses, or
      an elaborate scheme in which decoys and rapid place-shifting among vehicles
      are all part of the plan? And who are these supposed accomplices exactly?
      How many of them are there?

      These are the questions that have been gnawing away at investigators and
      victims of the bombing from day one. The government itself spent more than a
      year hunting for a so-called "John Doe 2", a second bombing suspect, before
      giving up and switching its story to the lone-bomber theory. The original
      grand jury indictment named McVeigh, Nichols "and others unknown" in what it
      called a "conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction". When the defence
      team put McVeigh through a polygraph test, he passed on all questions
      concerning his own role; when asked whether anybody else was involved,
      however, he failed.

      The FBI now says the supposition of a wider plot was simply wrong. Before
      one dismisses the alternate theory as the stuff of conspiratorial fantasy,
      however, it is worth examining the deep flaws in the government's side of
      the story and asking why its early lines of investigation into John Doe 2,
      the brown pick-up and the rest all came to naught. The reasons are neither
      as mysterious nor as murkily conspiratorial as one might think.

      The government's problem is neatly summarised by Stephen Jones, who, as
      McVeigh's trial lawyer, had the advantage of examining every document and
      witness statement gathered by the prosecution. "They got very lucky very
      early, then their luck turned sour," he said. McVeigh was found in just 48
      hours, largely thanks to the fact he had been pulled over on the freeway for
      a missing back licence plate and remanded in police custody for possession
      of an illegal concealed weapon. Nichols gave himself up in Kansas, and
      Fortier was a logical port of call because McVeigh had stayed extensively at
      his house in Arizona.

      But the wider conspiracy proved maddeningly difficult to crack. The people
      who will be named in this article are well known to the authorities; indeed,
      most are by now either behind bars for other crimes or dead. At the time of
      the McVeigh and Nichols trials, however, their relationship to the bombing
      was either unknown or unsupported by sufficient evidence. Even the case
      against McVeigh was riddled with holes, leading several commentators at the
      time to speculate that he might be acquitted. The government team had to ask
      itself: should we dilute our case against McVeigh by admitting we can't nail
      his co-conspirators? Or should we simply pretend they don't exist? They
      plumped for the latter, and the fact that McVeigh was convicted and
      sentenced to death suggests it was indeed a smart strategy to bring to
      court. That, however, does not make it anything close to the full truth.

      The government did not call a single eyewitness who saw McVeigh, either in
      Oklahoma City or in Junction City, Kansas, where the Ryder truck had been
      rented two days earlier. Why not? Because every one of them saw McVeigh with
      someone else. At Elliott's Body Shop, the rental agency, there are strong
      doubts whether McVeigh was seen at all. Although it was his alias, Robert
      Kling, that was used to secure the rental agreement, neither of the two men
      described by employees entirely fit McVeigh's profile. McVeigh had been
      filmed by a security camera at a nearby McDonald's 24 minutes before the
      time stamped on the rental agreement, wearing clothes that did not match
      either of the men seen at Elliott's. There is also no plausible explanation
      of how he travelled the mile and a quarter from McDonald's to the rental
      agency, carless and alone as he claims, without getting soaked in the rain.
      The three people interviewed agreed John Does 1 and 2 were dry.

      According to Stephen Jones, who has seen the interview transcripts, it took
      44 days for the FBI to convince the car rental agency owner that John Doe 1
      was Timothy McVeigh. And in the end they did not dare put him on the witness
      stand, for fear of what might happen under cross-examination.

      Jones, a man widely criticised - notably by his client - for his apparently
      gutless handling of the trial, could have called many of the eyewitnesses
      himself if he had wanted. His problem was that for all the evidence he could
      have presented about John Doe 2 (not to mention Does 3, 4, 5 and up), few if
      any of the witnesses would have proved exculpatory to McVeigh. The one
      person he did call, Daina Bradley, had seen a second man from inside the
      Murrah building; her credibility, however, was demolished under
      cross-examination when she admitted a history of mental problems and
      continuing trauma after the bombing, in which she lost two children and her
      mother and had to have her right leg hacked off without anaesthetic by
      rescue workers after it became trapped in rubble.

      Jones was more successful in attacking the internal logic of the
      government's lone-bomber theory. It beggared belief that McVeigh would drive
      the Ryder truck several hundred miles with the bomb fully loaded, he argued,
      particularly given the history of car bombers inadvertently blowing
      themselves up in Northern Ireland. McVeigh himself had a close call with a
      car crash in Michigan in December 1994, when he was carrying detonators in
      his car; he swore at the time to be more careful around explosives.

      And then there was the mystery of the extra leg. The rescue teams who
      cleaned up after the bombing had found nine severed left legs, but only
      eight bodies to match them with. The government's medical examiner confirmed
      this in court. Moreover, the state of the extra leg was consistent with
      someone who had been extremely close to the source of the blast. Who could
      it belong to? Jones is convinced it must be one of the bombers. In the
      course of his research he talked to the former chief state pathologist for
      Northern Ireland who had conducted more than 2,500 autopsies on bombing
      victims, and told him: "In the Western world, there is no such thing as an
      unclaimed innocent victim. Everyone gets claimed, sooner or later, unless
      there is a particular reason not to."

      There are other questions for which the official account has no satisfactory
      answer, notably how McVeigh managed to support himself financially after he
      stopped regular paid work in late 1992. The bomb itself was not particularly
      expensive, no more than a few thousand dollars once you consider that the
      Tovex and blasting caps were stolen from a quarry in Kansas. But McVeigh led
      an extraordinarily itinerant lifestyle, particularly after November 1994,
      when he barely stopped moving, frantically criss-crossing the country in his
      car and staying in motels at almost every turn. Somehow, he paid cash for
      everything.

      After he left the army, McVeigh actually fell heavily in debt, partly
      because of his habit of gambling on the Buffalo Bills football team. Terry
      Nichols, meanwhile, accumulated about $50,000 in credit-card bills by
      mid-1993. These are not problems that can be explained away by the pair's
      occasional selling activities at gun shows; numerous gun-show participants
      have testified they were usually so broke, they could not afford an
      exhibition table.

      According to the official version of the bombing, the major source of
      funding was a November 1994 robbery at the Arkansas home of Roger Moore, a
      gun collector and self-made businessman who knew McVeigh from the gun-show
      circuit. Although McVeigh did not commit the robbery himself - who did is a
      source of some mystery - he has admitted being behind it, netting $8,700 in
      cash and an estimated $60,000 in silver bars, gold bullion, jewellery and
      firearms.

      It is not clear, however, how much of this loot was put to use. Some of the
      weapons were later sold, but much of the rest was recovered untouched from a
      storage locker in Las Vegas where it had been stashed by Nichols. The Moore
      robbery only helps to account for one of several plane trips Nichols made to
      his mail-order bride's home in the Philippines, for which he paid cash every
      time. And it does not begin to explain how McVeigh - to take one example of
      many - repaid a $4,000 debt to his father in $100 bills a full year before
      the robbery.

      From the start, there has been no lack of conspiracy theories about the
      Oklahoma City bombing, many of them absurd and many displaying the same
      government-hating bias that drove McVeigh. There was one claim that the
      bombing was a federal sting operation gone horribly wrong; another that
      there were explosive packs strapped to the internal pillars of the Murrah
      building, timed to go off at the same time as the fertiliser bomb. There is
      no credible evidence for either claim.

      11 May 2001 12:19 GMT+1
      Home > News  > World  > Americas

      The Oklahoma Conspiracy - PartTwo

      The Aryan Republican Army could become a force to be reckoned with

      10 May 2001

      Internal links

      McVeigh 'did not act alone in Oklahoma bombing'

      The Oklahoma conspiracy. A special report by Andrew Gumbel

      Forgotten' evidence could delay McVeigh execution

      Much serious inquiry focused instead on Elohim City, a heavily armed
      religious compound in a remote part of eastern Oklahoma with strong links to
      a group of Aryan supremacists who had previously plotted to blow up the
      Murrah building in the 1980s. By macabre coincidence, one of those original
      conspirators, Richard Wayne Snell, was executed in Arkansas on the day of
      the bombing - for the murder of a state trooper and a pawnbroker whose name
      sounded Jewish - and his body brought to Elohim City the next day for
      burial.

      It emerged that a secret informant for the federal Bureau of Alcohol,
      Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), reporting from inside Elohim City, told her
      handlers in late 1994 that at least two residents, a formidable White Aryan
      Resistance leader called Dennis Mahon and a German ex-serviceman called
      Andreas Strassmeir, had talked about blowing up a government installation
      and mentioned the Murrah building as a possible target. She accompanied
      members of the commune on one of three field trips to Oklahoma City in late
      1994 and early 1995. She also reported sightings of McVeigh at the compound
      under the pseudonym Tim Tuttle.

      To many people, the link seemed irresistible, not least because one Elohim
      City resident, Michael Brescia, bore a striking resemblance to the composite
      sketch of John Doe 2, right down to the tattoo on his upper left arm. But
      nobody - not the few journalists who got into Elohim City and not, one
      presumes, the FBI - could quite join all the dots.

      McVeigh admitted having met Andreas Strassmeir at a gun show in Tulsa in
      March 1993, and is on record as having made a brief phone call to Elohim
      City two weeks before the bombing, a call he now says was a part of an
      unsuccessful attempt to find a place to hide after 19 April. That, on its
      own, didn't prove much. There were reports of many other contacts and
      visits, but even these did not establish, without further corroboration,
      more than an association between like-minded people.

      The ATF informant, Carol Howe, had her credibility hammered as the FBI
      accused her of mental instability and put her on trial for harbouring her
      own bomb plots. Many of the accusations against her were grossly unfair,
      seemingly the result of attempts ahead of the McVeigh trial to pour cold
      water on the whole Elohim City connection; she was acquitted of the charges
      against her in less than a week. Still, there are grounds for thinking she
      embroidered some of the reports she filed after the bombing to justify her
      hastily increased government pay cheque. Those who have met her in recent
      years have described her as "a walking crackpipe" - armed, paranoid, and
      living under a variety of aliases in ever-changing locations for fear of
      reprisals from the people she snitched on.

      In short, after a burst of investigative energy in the first couple of years
      after the bombing, the conspiracy trail appeared to go cold. But that was
      before people had heard of the Aryan Republican Army.

       

      Over a two-year period, from late 1993 until the end of 1995, a small band
      of robbers managed to hold up 22 banks across the American Midwest. It was
      an unfailingly colourful affair. The ringleader, Pete Langan, would shout
      "No alarms, no hostages!" as he leapfrogged over the tellers' desks and
      emptied their cash drawers. His main associate, Richard "Wild Bill" Guthrie,
      would yell phrases in Arabic, or Spanish, or Serbo-Croat, just to rattle
      everyone.

      The team would snatch and run, making sure they were in and out in under 60
      seconds. To sow confusion, they liked to leave a hoax explosive device on
      the scene, using real gunpowder and plenty of scary-looking wires to divert
      police attention. If possible, they used two getaway vehicles - the "drop
      car" they would abandon, plus their own Ford van they nicknamed "the
      Blitzenvagon". Sometimes, a fake bomb would be left in the drop car, too.

      They liked to wear toyshop masks of politicians, a touch straight out of the
      1991 Hollywood heist movie Point Break. They frequently donned costumes,
      wigs and make-up. They never failed to display a humorous sense of occasion.
      One Christmas, Langan dressed up as Santa and announced: "Ho ho ho, get down
      on the floor." One Easter, the fake explosive came in a little basket with
      Easter treats in it. Whenever they took off from an establishment, they
      would shout out: "Bank you very much!"

      Before they were caught, the bankrobbers netted about $250,000 and, perhaps
      more remarkably, gave away almost nothing about their identities or their
      safe house in Pittsburg. Guthrie proved to be the weak link in the chain,
      first being cut out of new jobs because he was deemed too wild - he thought,
      for example, it was great fun to taunt law enforcement officials with
      announcements of the gang's exploits - and then betrayed to the police by a
      friend turned informer. Guthrie, in turn, squealed on the others.

      When the FBI came for Langan, they opened fire on him in his truck (they
      thought, wrongly, that he had fired first), spraying him with more than 50
      bullets but miraculously missing every time. They later discovered that he
      had shaved his pubic hair and painted his toenails pink. Yes, the
      ringleaders of the Midwest bank robbery gang were closet transvestites - and
      that was only the first of many secrets to be learned about them.

      They were also virulent anti-government white supremacists, for whom bank
      robbery was merely a means to a much more ambitious end. "Make the land
      ungovernable - that's what we want to do," Langan, aka Commander Pedro, had
      said in an extraordinary recruitment video made at the height of the gang's
      success in early 1995.

      Both Langan and Guthrie had frequented the Aryan Nations and other
      right-wing hate groups. They modelled themselves on the Order, the
      underground guerrilla movement that stole $3.8m from an armoured truck in
      California and killed the Jewish talk-radio host Alan Berg in Denver in the
      early 1980s before going out in a blaze of gunfire in an FBI siege on
      Whidbey Island, near Seattle. They were fond of a propaganda novel called
      The Turner Diaries, written by the leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance,
      in which a gang of revolutionaries blows up the FBI's Washington
      headquarters with a truck bomb. (The Turner Diaries was Tim McVeigh's
      favourite book, too.)

      They had also read an influential neo-Nazi essay espousing the notion of
      "leaderless resistance" - developing a guerrilla-style cell structure in
      which nobody knew more than was strictly necessary and each element worked
      as independently as possible of the others.

      The Aryan Republican Army (ARA) was born when Langan and Guthrie, after
      their first few successful robberies, went to see Mark Thomas, a
      Ku-Klux-Klan leader in western Pennsylvania, in search of new recruits.
      Thomas, in turn, put them in touch with Scott Stedeford and Kevin McCarthy,
      two young Philadelphia skinheads who had played together in a Nazi punk band
      called Cyanide. Soon, with HK-91 assault weapons packed into their old
      guitar cases, they formed a revolutionary cell whose aims stretched far
      beyond bank robbery.

      "Mark... believed that if the Company [a nickname for the ARA inspired by
      the CIA] attacked various places like utilities, railways, communications
      and even government installations, [then] ARA would become a force that the
      government would have to reckon with," Guthrie wrote in a 300-page
      handwritten memoir that he completed in prison before hanging himself with a
      bedsheet in July 1996. Bob Mathews, the inspirational leader of the Order,
      had advocated something very similar a decade earlier.

      The members of the ARA knew each other only by their first names, or by noms
      de guerre like Pedro (Langan), Pavell (Guthrie), Tuco (Stedeford) and Newt
      (McCarthy). They gathered at the safe house in Kansas, and later at a second
      one in Columbus, Ohio, discussing the coming revolution as they divided up
      the bank spoils between themselves and a Company fund set aside to finance
      other guerrilla cells.

      In the recruitment video, a weird Pythonesque assemblage of goose-stepping,
      semi-humorous drunken rants, spoof commercial breaks and racist invective
      entitled "The Aryan Republican Army Presents: The Armed Struggle
      Underground", a masked Commander Pedro shows off his arsenal of weaponry and
      pulls wads of banknotes out of pickle jars on his desk, all the while
      declaring war on the "federal whores". "Linger on this continent at your own
      peril," he says. "We have endeavoured to keep collateral damage and civilian
      casualties to a minimum... but, as in all wars, some innocents shall suffer.
      So be it."

      The full significance of these words did not become clear for several years.
      The leading academic researcher on the ARA, an Indiana State University
      criminologist called Mark Hamm, failed to see any meaningful link to McVeigh
      when he began writing about the group in 1997, even though his previous book
      had been about the Oklahoma City bomb and its roots in far-right political
      ideology.

      "I thought I was done with the bombing and was now writing about a gang of
      bank robbers," Hamm said. But then something decidedly odd happened. In
      August last year, shortly before his book on the ARA was due to go to press,
      he sent the manuscript to Pete Langan at the Supermax prison in Florence,
      Colorado, where he is serving life without parole. Langan, who has
      consistently denied all involvement in the Oklahoma bomb and denounced the
      killing of innocent civilians, phoned him to say the book was fine as far as
      it went but was missing a crucial element - the work of an Oklahoma
      journalist called JD Cash.

      Cash is a name that anybody who looks into the Oklahoma City bombing runs
      into sooner or later. A former banker and property manager, he was inspired
      to go into journalism by a friend who was killed in the Murrah building and
      has devoted the last six years to a single subject, the bombing and the
      possible conspiracy behind it. His newspaper, the McCurtain Gazette, serves
      a tiny town in south-eastern Oklahoma called Idabel (pop: 6,500) and yet has
      somehow managed to break story after story on the bombing. ("Where the
      hell's Idabel?" one Justice Department official was overheard exclaiming
      after one spectacular leak of FBI documents in 1996.)

      Despite mutterings about some kind of political agenda, Cash's information
      has proved unnervingly correct on numerous occasions. He got out in front of
      the story by forming a strategic alliance with McVeigh's defence team: he
      broke the ice for Stephen Jones's investigators with a number of key
      witnesses who were otherwise reluctant to talk to representativesof an
      indicted killer, and in return he got to see several confidential trial
      documents. He found out about McVeigh's 5 April phone call to Elohim City.
      He discovered Carol Howe and revealed that she had been a government
      informer. He was also convinced - and this is why Langan's tip was important
      - that the ARA was deeply involved in the bombing.

      "Like many people, I had been a bit sceptical about Cash's work," Hamm
      explained. "But when the main character you're writing about tells you to go
      look somewhere, you go look." One of the first things Hamm did was to take
      the detailed timeline he had developed of the ARA's activities and overlay
      it with an equally detailed timeline on McVeigh, adding bits of Cash's
      research as he went. The result was akin to placing layers of the same film
      animation frame on top of each other - a remarkable series of concurrent and
      complementary events that fit so snugly together it became hard, if not
      impossible, to regard them as simple coincidence. Much of the activity
      centred on the four-state area comprising Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and
      Oklahoma, an area known historically as a hotbed of tax revolts, white
      supremacist Christian sects, Ku-Klux-Klan chapters and overt hostility to
      the federal government.

      On 11-12 October 1993, McVeigh, Nichols and the ARA were all in
      Fayetteville, Arkansas. The ARA was there on an unsuccessful mission to rob
      an armoured truck in Springdale, 20 miles to the north; Guthrie wrote in his
      memoir that the job needed "at least one additional participant" and McVeigh
      had worked as an armoured truck driver. Fayetteville was close to Elohim
      City (McVeigh received a speeding ticket just four miles from the compound),
      and also to the home of the leader of the Arkansas Knights of the
      Ku-Klux-Klan who had met and possibly inducted both McVeigh and Guthrie a
      year earlier.

      On 20 October, McVeigh wrote to his sister Jennifer saying he had met "a
      network of friends who share [my] beliefs". At the time of nine out of the
      ARA's first 10 bank jobs, which began around this time, McVeigh's
      whereabouts are unaccounted for. (The one exception was a robbery in
      Missouri in July 1994, when McVeigh was with his ailing grandfather in New
      York state.)

      On Christmas Eve, 1993, McVeigh alluded to bank robberies in another letter
      to his sister: "The Federal Reserve and the banks are the real criminals, so
      where is the crime in getting even? I guess if I reflect, it's sort of a
      Robin Hood thing..." About a year later, according to Jennifer's testimony
      to the FBI, McVeigh produced a wad of $100 notes he claimed to have received
      as payment for helping to organise a bank robbery; he gave her three of
      them, asking her to exchange them for clean money. Shortly afterwards,
      Jennifer paid $25,000 in cash for a spanking new Jeep Cherokee.

      On 12 September 1994, McVeigh checked into a hotel in Vian, Oklahoma, a
      20-minute drive from Elohim City. He was later seen on the compound's gun
      range with Dennis Mahon, a close friend of Mark Thomas. Elohim City's
      residents at that time included two of the newer ARA members, Kevin McCarthy
      and Michael Brescia, the man later suspected of being John Doe 2, who also
      happened to be another Cyanide band member.

      On 10-11 December 1994, McVeigh, McCarthy and Stedeford all attended the
      same gun show in Overland Park, a Kansas City suburb where Langan kept a
      residence for his cross-dressing escapades. At around this time, McVeigh
      wrote to his sister about "something big" that he was planning and added: "I
      have also been working and establishing a network of friends so that if
      someone does start looking for me, I will know ahead of time and be warned.
      If that tip ever comes (I have 'ears' all over the country) that's when I
      disappear or go completely underground." Langan and Guthrie, both wanted for
      a long catalogue of past crimes, had been successfully living beyond the
      reach of the law for two years.

      At the beginning of February 1995, there was another startling series of
      coincidences. McVeigh broke off a gunshow tour of Kansas with Nichols and
      headed for Arizona. The ARA, who had been in Kansas at their safe house,
      also dropped everything and went to Arizona - the first time they had ever
      left the Midwest. Ostensibly, according to Guthrie's memoir, the idea was to
      find an armoured truck to rob in a Phoenix suburb, although no such robbery
      ever took place. The record of McVeigh's telephone card shows he called a
      few armoured truck companies in Arizona before starting his journey west.
      Both McVeigh and the ARA spent much of the next month and a half in Arizona.

       

      When criminologist Mark Hamm saw the pattern, he was flabbergasted. "Are we
      to assume that these people came together by happenstance?" he said. "So
      many random coincidences have to be statistically impossible. There must
      have been some larger card at play."

      The pattern only grew stronger once he added in the extraordinary legwork
      put in by the journalist JD Cash and a handful of other dogged reporters and
      investigators. These people had followed McVeigh's every step, quizzing
      anyone who might have seen him or had dealings with him, and painstakingly
      matched one eyewitness account against another to build up a fuller picture.
      Cash even passed himself off as a far-right activist for a while, accepting
      an invitation to speak at a neo-Nazi rally and allowing his work to appear
      on websites operated by militia groups. The purpose of this subterfuge was
      to gain access to individuals like informant Carol Howe, Dennis Mahon and
      the patriarch of Elohim City.

      It was an investigative strategy fraught with personal risk, particularly
      after Cash told his extremist contacts in 1997 that he was not one of them
      after all. But it also paid off handsomely, netting Cash a trove of valuable
      new information that Hamm now considers to be at least 90 per cent reliable.
      For the past six months, the two men have pooled their information and found
      agreement on almost every key point.

      The more Hamm looked at it, the involvement of the ARA was the only
      plausible explanation for the bombing. Looking to Elohim City for the key to
      the mystery had been only half-right, because these people were not based in
      any one place, did not communicate anything except on a strict
      "need-to-know" basis, and barely knew each others' names. They moved
      constantly across the country under a variety of aliases, operating entirely
      in cash.

      According to the scheme laid out above, McVeigh and ARA had time to develop
      a history together. They had money to fund their ambitions. They also had
      the skills necessary to carry out the bombing - skills that McVeigh lacked
      on his own. Guthrie, for example, had been trained in explosives handling
      during his time as a Navy Seal (he was expelled for painting a swastika on a
      ship). Langan was a master of decoy, disguise and complex planning. McVeigh,
      by contrast, knew about weapons and armoured cars and trucks but little
      else. The notion, put forward in the book American Terrorist, that he taught
      himself bomb-making out of books does not pass muster with military experts.

      "In criminology, there is a theory that the two elements you need to pull
      off a major crime are ideology and skill. I'd add to that and say you also
      need organisation and fanatical dedication," Hamm said.

      Ideology was something shared by everyone, their anti-government rage
      sharpened by the deaths of more than 80 residents at the Branch Davidian
      religious compound near Waco, Texas, at the apocalyptic climax to a 51-day
      law enforcement siege that took place two years to the day before the
      Oklahoma bombing. The other three elements, however, were not apparent in
      McVeigh's official co-conspirators. Neither Nichols nor Fortier, the
      drug-addicted friend from Arizona whose trial testimony, following a plea
      bargain, proved crucial in securing McVeigh's conviction, had the necessary
      skills or experience. Both wavered in their commitment to the bombing
      several times, prompting McVeigh, according to Fortier's account, to storm
      off at one point in search of "some manly friends". A rich irony this: could
      he possibly have meant the transvestite Pete Langan?

      The ARA, on the other hand, experienced no wavering, at least during the
      period in question. Hamm now believes the ARA financed several cells, some
      or all of which could have been involved in the Oklahoma City bombing:
      McVeigh's operational cell, including Nichols and Fortier, whose key role
      was not so much to carry out the bombing as to take the fall for it if
      necessary; a security and fund-raising cell, essentially the hard core of
      the ARA; a training cell, led by Andreas Strassmeir, whose "platoon-sized
      groups" of militia trainees were noted in a May 1995 FBI report and prompted
      the federal authorities to think about a Waco-stye raid on Elohim City on
      two separate occasions; a bomb-building cell, and possibly a leadership
      cell, co-ordinated by people such as Mark Thomas and Dennis Mahon who had
      direct links to the elder statesmen of the far-right movement.

      Why did none of this come out at the ARA trials? Why didn't the FBI, which
      had access to all the information, actively pursue the links to the Oklahoma
      bombing? The answer, as in the McVeigh trial, was largely to do with
      courtroom strategy. To be sure of convicting the surviving defendants -
      Langan, Stedeford, McCarthy, Brescia and Thomas - they persuaded two of
      them, McCarthy and Thomas, to testify against the others in exchange for
      reduced sentences. That, in turn, left them with a dilemma. If they
      introduced the idea of complicity in the bombing, they risked tainting the
      credibility of the two witnesses to such a degree that the prosecution might
      end up with no convictions for the bank robberies at all. And that, in turn,
      might jeopardise the prospects of pressing bomb conspiracy charges in the
      future. Was the risk worth it?

      According to a confidential source who was involved, the FBI was initially
      very active in pursuing the bombing angle but then dropped all mention of it
      once the two witnesses entered the government protection programme. One can
      only speculate exactly why the feds made that decision, but embarrassment
      must have played some role. Embarrassment to admit they had some idea about
      McVeigh's possible accomplices after all. Embarrassment, too, over the fact
      that in 1992 the Secret Service let Langan out of prison following a Pizza
      Hut robbery in Georgia and paid for him to go home to Cincinnati on the
      understanding he would lead the authorities to Guthrie, who had been
      overheard threatening to assassinate President Bush. Langan strung the
      government along for six weeks before vanishing, with Guthrie, to begin a
      new underground life of anti-government subversion.

      In his memoir, Guthrie dismisses Cash's early allegations of a link between
      McVeigh and the ARA as "flambéed gobbledygook", but he also describes the
      Oklahoma bombing as "the beginning of what lies [ahead]". He wrote: "Simply
      put, within 10 years it's my opinion that this country will resemble
      Sarajevo."

      Here's one more intriguing titbit. In his witness statement to the FBI,
      Guthrie named one of the ARA bank robbery gang as an individual named "Tim".
      The FBI insists that "Tim" is a nickname for Brescia. (He wasn't arrested
      until six months after the others.) But isn't the FBI avoiding the more
      obvious conclusion - that "Tim" refers to McVeigh?

      11 May 2001 12:20 GMT+1
      Home > News  > World  > Americas

      The Oklahoma Conspiracy - Part 3

      'As in all wars, some innocents shall suffer. So be it'

      10 May 2001

      Internal links

      McVeigh 'did not act alone in Oklahoma bombing'

      The Oklahoma conspiracy. A special report by Andrew Gumbel

      Forgotten' evidence could delay McVeigh execution

      Nobody knows exactly what McVeigh and the ARA got up to in Arizona in
      February and March 1995, but something else was going on that may have been
      directly related to them. Two survivalists called Steve Colbern and Dennis
      Malzac began experimenting with detonators and small explosives in the
      desert outside Kingman, the town where Michael Fortier lived and McVeigh had
      taken up temporary residence.

      McVeigh had heard about Colbern from Roger Moore, the businessman robbed in
      Arkansas three months previously, and had written him a recruitment letter
      at the end of November 1994 that was never received: a water company
      employee found it strapped to the leg of a transmission tower on the
      Arizona-California border. "I'm not looking for talkers, I'm looking for
      fighters," McVeigh had written. "And if you are a fed, think twice."

      On 21 February, a large ammonium nitrate bomb exploded outside the home of
      one Rocky McPeak, just outside Kingman, apparently the work of Colbern,
      Malzac and a local loan shark called Clark Vollmer. McPeak later testified
      to an Oklahoma grand jury investigation that when he went to Vollmer's home
      the next day to confront him about it, he found McVeigh and another
      unidentified man there. Was the McPeak incident a trial run for Oklahoma
      City, with McVeigh taking lessons in bomb-building?

      During this time, McVeigh was described by several people as agitated to the
      point of paranoia, leading to speculation that he was strung out on crystal
      meth. By his own admission, he had tried the drug before, and crystal meth
      does not lend itself easily to occasional use. It is noted for the
      short-term sense of empowerment it gives its users, and its tendency to
      instill paranoid delusions. On several occasions, a stream of people was
      seen flowing in and out of McVeigh's motel room, and in one establishment
      his guests made so much noise that he was thrown out. This was not the
      behaviour of a lone-wolf terrorist mastermind.

      As 19 April approached, the number of coincidences and bizarre sightings
      multiplied. An unusual flag previously seen in the ARA's propaganda video,
      featuring a coiled snake against a white background, appeared outside
      Michael Fortier's Kingman home.

      In February, Guthrie bought a 1970s-era Chevy pickup, the same make and era
      as the vehicle seen so often in Oklahoma City on the morning of the bombing.
      On 1 April, a pickup matching its description was seen outside Terry
      Nichols' house in Herington, Kansas.

      Also on 1 April, Stedeford, McCarthy and Thomas went to Elohim City,
      ostensibly to wait for the funeral of Richard Snell following his execution
      in Arkansas. But they, along with Dennis Mahon, left again a few days before
      the funeral had taken place. Thomas went to Pennsylvania and Mahon to
      Illinois, possibly to establish alibis for the bombing. The whereabouts of
      the other two men on 19 April are unknown.

      Then, as first reported in the Denver Post, there were the anomalous
      sightings of yellow moving trucks around Kansas and Oklahoma, well before
      the Ryder was rented from Elliott's on 17 April. As early as 8 April, one
      was seen parked outside the Lady Godiva strip club in Tulsa, at the same
      time as three men, later identified as McVeigh, Strassmeir and Brescia, were
      inside. A showgirl, captured on a dressing-room security video, told her
      fellow strippers that one of the three had boasted to her: "On 19 April
      1995, you'll remember me for the rest of your life."

      Another yellow truck, along with a Chevy pickup, turned up on 10 April at
      Geary Lake in Kansas, not far from Nichols's house. The truck was seen again
      repeatedly over the next week, both at the lake, where McVeigh claimed he
      mixed the bomb with Nichols, and at the Dreamland Motel in Junction City,
      where McVeigh checked in on the 14th.

      Were the witnesses imagining things, or was there a deliberate strategy to
      try to confuse everyone? Mark Hamm argues vigorously for the latter,
      pointing to the ARA's track record of switch cars, disguises and very
      careful staking of their territory before every crime.

      If he is right, then who exactly was in Oklahoma City on 19 April? That is a
      tough question, and no serious researcher claims to have anything close to a
      definitive answer. Michael Brescia, with his strong resemblance to John Doe
      2, is a leading candidate. So too is Pete Langan, whose likeness was
      captured with remarkable accuracy in an artist's sketch of a man seen by a
      loading bay worker in downtown Oklahoma City who signalled in vain to the
      Ryder truck to pull into his slot as it approached.

      As for the others, one can only guess. Hamm describes the left leg recovered
      without a body as "The Phantom", a member of the bombing team whose identity
      has never even been hinted at. "I'm not saying I have all the answers. I
      don't have any smoking gun. As a criminologist I look for patterns and
      develop theories. I don't necessarily have hard evidence that can stand up
      in court."

      That probably also summarises the way government investigators feel about
      their flawed efforts. For all the bruising disappointments and public
      distortions of the past six years, the FBI can at least console itself that
      most, if not all, of the suspected conspirators are out of harm's way - for
      the moment. Guthrie is dead, and Langan is in prison for life. But Brescia
      got only six years, and Thomas and McCarthy - who will be under government
      supervision as protected witnesses when they are released - were given eight
      and five respectively. Stedeford got 20 years, but could well be out sooner.
      And that's not to mention those suspects who have escaped the judicial heat
      altogether: Dennis Mahon, who still lives in Tulsa, and Andreas Strassmeir,
      who returned to Germany nine months after the bombing.

      It remains to be seen how the public reacts once these findings receive a
      wide airing. Hamm's book - now heavily rewritten - will be published in the
      autumn. Will Americans accept his conclusions and, if so, will they find the
      justice system at fault?

      The man best placed to fill in the gaps and provide some concrete answers
      is, of course, McVeigh himself. He has given little away in his
      correspondence and in media interviews, beyond what he told the two Buffalo
      journalists for their book. In a few days, assuming that here is no dramatic
      11th-hour reversal, he will be strapped into a mounted stretcher at the US
      penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, and become the first federal prisoner
      to be put to death in almost 40 years.

      Nobody doubts his guilt, which he now freely confesses. Everyone agrees that
      he is utterly unrepentant. John Ashcroft, President Bush's
      ultra-conservative attorney general, would have us believe that his death,
      which is to be broadcast on closed-circuit television to the victims and
      their relatives in Oklahoma City, will enable the country to achieve
      "closure".

      Shouldn't we worry, though, that the networks of guerrilla activism that
      gave rise to the bombing may be very far from closed? Aren't there a few
      things the world's most notorious mass murderer should tell us before he is
      allowed to depart this life and descend into silence for ever?
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