By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
As printed in Human Events, October 31, 1997, pp. 12,13,18.
In his new book The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories, just published by Regnery, renowned investigative reported Ambrose Evans-Pritchard alleges massive corruption and cover-ups in the Clinton Administration in connection with many incidents, including the death of Vincent Foster, drug dealing in Arkansas, and the Paula Jones case.
He also raises, as the Terry Nichols trial begins, some very serious questions about the tragic 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. There is no doubt that Timothy McVeigh was guilty, says Evans-Pritchard, but he believes that nothing like the full story has ever come out. Why? Because the government, although it interviewed over 20,000 people, failed to call many knowledgeable witnesses during the trial, witnesses who could discuss collaborators with McVeigh and Nichols. He makes a strong case that the reason the government covered up--and continues to cover up--is that bumbling FBI agents knew in advance that the bombing plot was afoot but failed to stop it.
He discloses what he calls "the smoking gun of the Oklahoma bombing," a memo written only two days after the bombing. The memo discusses the FBI's debriefing of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms undercover agent who infiltrated a neo-Nazi paramilitary group where men close to McVeigh talked about using violence against the U.S. government.
The charges in this book are sure to stir emotional reactions, but, writing about the book last week, national syndicated columnist Robert Novak said that Evans-Pritchard "is no conspiracy theory lunatic [and] is known for accuracy, industry, and courage." Evans-Pritchard has reported from the United States for both the Spectator and the Sunday Telegraph, for which he was Washington bureau chief.. He has recently returned to England and is now serving as the Daily Telegraph's roving European correspondent. In the following excerpts from the first two chapters of The Secret Life of Bill Clinton, Evans-Pritchard explains why so many families of bombing victims are suspicious of the official story of what happened that day and why hundreds have now filed suit against the government.
The searing destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, was the most traumatic event in the United States since the assassination of President Kennedy. . .
Clinton seized the moment. He castigated talk radio for broadcasting "a relentless clamor of hatred and division." The Right, he said, was sowing distrust of government institutions and creating a climate that fostered recourse to violence.
He did not name the Republicans as co-conspirators; he did not have to. The media clerisy made the connection for him. They all but said that Tim McVeigh was the military expression of the Gingrich agenda. Republicans had failed to understand that rhetoric has consequences, opined the commentators, and now look what had happened.
The Republicans were dumbstruck. A few dared to reply that it was the deployment of tanks by a militarized FBI against women and children in Waco that had set off the deadly spiral. But most were too intimidated, or horrified, to articulate a defense.
President Clinton traveled to Oklahoma and handled the ceremony of grief with consummate skill. . .
The polls noted that four-fifths of Americans admired his human touch. Overall, Clinton's job rating jumped from 42% to 51 %. Clinton had come back to life, and the Justice Department was riding high.
Valuable Witnesses Never Called to Trial
But what if the Clinton Administration has not told the full truth about the Oklahoma bombing, as many of the families now suspect? What if some of the perpetrators are still at large, freely walking the streets and giving remarkably candid interviews to this author, because it is not in the political interests of the White House or the FBI to bring them to justice? I think that would give a different complexion to the matter. I hope that the following chapter will make it clear that these are not idle questions.
I do not wish to revisit the Denver trial of Tim McVeigh. I am convinced that McVeigh was guilty, and his own lawyer admitted as much during the sentencing hearings. But the trial did not bring out the full story. Indeed, it was skillfully managed to ensure that collateral revelations were kept to a minimum.
This was a terrible mistake. The Oklahoma bombing was the most deadly act of terrorism ever committed on U.S. soil. It was no time for a sloppy investigation or a trial that could be considered expedited, abridged, or rigged in any way.
Jurists concurred that it was imperative that the Justice Department conduct itself beyond reproach if this tragedy was to attain closure. Retribution was important, of course, but it was even more important to sustain confidence in the American democratic system for decades to come. The President professed agreement. The attorney general promised to make this an exhibit of American excellence.
It did not happen. In violation of its "Brady" responsibilities, the prosecution withheld material from the defense that was exculpatory or impeached the credibility of government witnesses.
It delayed a year in handing over FD-302 witness statements that were critical to the defense. It stonewalled, obstructed, and dragged its feet at every turn. It also told a series of demonstrable lies that will be enumerated in this book.
As for the FBI, the proven malfeasance of the crime labs in the handling of scientific evidence from the crime scene makes it clear that the "OKBOMB" investigation was rotten from the foundations up. The report of 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.
It is worth dwelling on this point because the FBI has been patting itself on the back for "solving" the Oklahoma bombing, as if it had cause for self-congratulation. In the first place, the FBI had no scientific basis for concluding that the Murrah Building was blown up by an ammonium nitrate fertilizer bomb. The FBI did not know in 1995, and does not know to this day, what actually caused the explosion. The Justice Department report concluded that the explosives unit simply guessed that the bomb was made of 4,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate after "the recovery of receipts showing that defendant Nichols purchased 4,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate."
The labs guessed that the explosive charge was placed in 50-gallon white plastic barrels, without conducting the requisite tests, after the discovery of 50-gallon plastic containers at the house of Terry Nichols. They said that the detonator appeared to be a Primadet Delay system, but no trace of this was found at the crime scene. Primadet was, however, found at the house of Terry Nichols.... You get the picture.
The FBI crime labs sculpted a theory of the bombing that would help the prosecution secure convictions against Tim Mcveigh and Terry Nichols--and science be damned. Once it is understood that the FBI behaved this way in handling empirical evidence-- where malfeasance is susceptible to exposure--it becomes easier to discern the attitudes that informed the rest of the OKBOMB investigation.
It is my contention that the crime labs were no worse than other divisions of the FBI. The only difference is that the technicians were caught red-handed, while certain corrupt field agents and their superiors have yet to be exposed.
In summing up, the inspector General's report found that the FBI crime labs had "repeatedly reached conclusions that incriminated the defendants without a scientific basis" in the Oklahoma bombing case.
Was Crime Shaped To Fit the Suspect?
I find this quite staggering. In Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence, shared by Britain and America, it is not acceptable to shape the crime to fit the suspect. It is a practice we condemn as "framing." I do not understand why the current director of the FBI is still drawing a paycheck from the U.S. taxpayer after a scandal of this magnitude, especially since he permitted the retaliatory harassment of Dr. Frederick Whitehurst, the chief whistle-blower.
It was the duty of Judge Richard Matsch to prevent the executive branch from conducting a politicized trial that obscured the facts. Instead he went with the flow, acceding to the prosecution's request that the Inspector General's report be barred as evidence. It was never made clear to the jury that the FBI did not know what kind of bomb initially caused the blast, nor that the FBI had forfeited its magisterial authority.
But most serious of all the judge refused to allow the testimony of an ATF informant with very relevant information indicating that the Oklahoma bombing was a broad conspiracy involving several members of the neo-Nazi movement in Oklahoma, an assertion that the U.S. government had gone to great lengths to suppress.
Whether or not Judge Richard Matsch was acting in tacit concert with the Justice Department is a matter that will demand hard scrutiny by historians. Doubtless Judge Matsch is sure that he can justify his decision on technical grounds. No judge likes to commit reversible error.
But even if he can do so, I still believe that he betrayed his mission as a U.S. federal judge. There was more riding on the trial than the guilt or innocence of Tim McVeigh. The greater cause of justice was obstructed.
Needless to say. the Mcveigh trial was described in this way by the American media. The outcome was seen as a triumph. Judge Matsch was lionized, praised for restoring confidence in the criminal justice system. The reaction of the press disturbed me deeply. I never imagined that the machinery of cover-up could be so oppressively efficient.
McVeigh's mercurial counsel, Stephen Jones, allowed himself a moment of angry passion when he returned home to Oklahoma. If anybody thinks that the full story came out in the trial, he said, he could guarantee them that it most assuredly did not. Jones was bound to silence by the rules of attorney-client confidentiality, while McVeigh was "hanging tough" out of loyalty to his sworn brothers in the Aryan order.
Indebted to the Oklahoma families who have refused to accept the half-truths of the U.S. Justice Department, I offer a fragment of the story that these two men cannot or will not reveal.
Federal Law Agents Shunned Murrah Day Care
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.
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 day-care 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 creche 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. 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....
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.'"
No ATF Field Agents Were Hurt
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."
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 all right.' 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.
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.
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 ATF 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 15 or 17 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 bad 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.'"
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."
ATF Peddled Phony Elevator Story
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 over-reached, the instinctive reflex of an agency accustomed to operating without accountability. "We were there, and we were heros," 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 Co., 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 for 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 elevators 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 12 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%."
The Midwestern Elevator Co. 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 mailer 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 day," 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....
The kidney-shaped table in the kitchen of Glenn and Kathy had become the nerve center of the Oklahoma dissident movement. Their closest friend and ally was J.D. Cash from the McCurtain Daily Gazette.... [He had proved] himself to be a reporter of extraordinary skill--a loose cannon, perhaps, a wild man, a transgressor of every rule in the Columbia School codex--but still one of the best investigative journalists of modern times.
Among his friends was Richard Reyna, the court-appointed investigator for Timothy McVeigh. It was a relationship that would lead to an unholy alliance between the Wilburns and the defense lawyers of the man who murdered their grandchildren.
Documents have a habit of leaking when friendships are formed across a broad front, and it was not long before the Wilburns acquired the raw material of the OKBOMB investigation--FBI 302 witness statements, Tim McVeigh's phone logs, surveillance reports, the unfiltered facts. They were no longer competing at a total disadvantage against the U.S. Justice Department.
The alliance made sense. The Wilburns and the McVeigh defense team both wanted to know whether the U.S. government was telling the truth.
It caused consternation in Oklahoma City. Glenn and Kathy were denounced by the state media as "conspiracy theorists" and tools of the far right. For a year they endured bitter recriminations from many of the families.
But that would change.
When the Wilburns filed a federal tort claim against the U.S. government in April 1997, just in time for the two-year statutory deadline, they were joined by 170 of the Oklahoma family members.
The claim alleges that the U.S. federal government "knew or should have known" that the Murrah Building was a likely target of attack. Their chief counsel Connecticut lawyer Richard Bieder, brought in three other law firms with specialist expertise in a legal alliance that had very deep pockets and a track record of confronting the government.
Another group of five families signed up shortly afterward with the Los Angeles firm Baum, Hedland, Aristie, Guilford, and Downey. Finally, more than 300 family members joined a third suit with John Merritt in Oklahoma State jurisdiction against the FBI, the ATF and other agencies of the U.S. government. The Merritt lawsuit alleged outright that the disaster was a failed "sting operation."
The claim stated that the U.S. authorities had "detailed prior knowledge of the planned bombing of the Murrah Building yet failed to prevent the bombing from taking place." It alleged that ATF agents were "alerted not go to work on April 19, 1995."
Civil lawsuits are the great purgative instrument of the American system. They are the safeguard against abuse. The rules of civil litigation are very different from criminal trials. The power to subpoena documents and witnesses under legal discovery is much broader, while the power of tame judges to exclude evidence is much narrower. The truth has a way of forcing itself to the surface.
The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard $24.95, free shipping, payable by credit card Regnery Publishing, Inc (SEC-HE) PO Box 39 Federalsburg, MD 21632-0039 1-888-219-4747