Saturday, May 12, 2012

A terrorist attack mystery

I was a reporter for many years in Oklahoma, and like every other newspaper reporter in the state, I wrote stories about the April 19, 1995, terrorist attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City. I was pleased when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were convicted, as the evidence of their guilt seemed overwhelming. (I was driving when the results of Nichol's first trial was announced live on NPR -- I pulled over to the side of the road to concentrate.)

There's a new book out on the bombing, and Edward Jay Epstein's review of it in the Wall Street Journal seems to suggest strongly that not everyone who committed the crime was caught. Two paragraphs from Epstein's review:

Among the glaring gaps in the investigation was the failure of the FBI to attempt to match the more than 1,000 unidentified latent fingerprints found in the investigation—taken from McVeigh's car and motel room, as well as from the office where he had rented the truck—to the FBI's computerized database or even to perform a comparison among them to see how many belonged to the same people. This failure proved important because, as the authors demonstrate, almost all the eyewitnesses to the crime claimed that McVeigh was not alone. 


No fewer than 24 witnesses said that they saw McVeigh, just before and after the crime, with a man who could not have been either Mr. Nichols or Mr. Fortier. The FBI concluded that these witnesses had all been confused. Certainly eyewitness testimony can be unreliable, but 24 mistaken witnesses—and no accurate ones? The authors suggest that the FBI missed the chance to track down a third conspirator. "One of the prickliest problems with the government's case," they write, "was its failure to explain how McVeigh and Nichols could build a huge destructive device without advanced explosives training and be confident it would go off."


When I read Epstein's review, I assumed the book would get a lot of attention, but I've seen nothing about it anywhere else. Is Oklahoma just too far from the beaten track for anyone to care? The book is Oklahoma City by Andrew Gumbel and Roger Charles.

2 comments:

PQ said...

Have you heard about or viewed the recent documentary called "A Noble Lie"?

I haven't but I've heard good things about it and it's all about the OKC bombing.

Speed Dating Glasgow said...

I didn't hear of it, but I think it's up to someone's taste.