Panel Faults FBI in Okla. Bombing Follow-Up
Monday, December 25, 2006
The FBI failed to fully investigate information suggesting other suspects may have helped Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols with the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, allowing questions to linger more than a decade after the deadly attack, a congressional inquiry concludes.
The House International Relations investigative subcommittee will release the findings of its two-year review as early as Wednesday, declaring that no conclusive evidence of a foreign connection to the attack exists but that far too many unanswered questions remain.
The report sharply criticizes the FBI for failing to be curious enough to pursue credible information that foreign or U.S. citizens may have had contact with Nichols or McVeigh and could have assisted the pair. Their truck bomb killed 168 people in the main federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.
McVeigh and Nichols were convicted of murder. McVeigh was executed in 2001; Nichols is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
"We did our best with limited resources, and I think we moved the understanding of this issue forward a couple of notches, even though important questions remain unanswered," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), the subcommittee chairman, said in an interview.
The subcommittee's report discloses for the first time that Nichols admitted participating in the robbery of an Arkansas gun dealer, the crime that funded the attack. There have long been questions about that robbery because the FBI concluded McVeigh was in another state when it occurred.
Rohrabacher's subcommittee saved its sharpest words for the Justice Department, saying officials there exhibited a mindset of thwarting congressional oversight and did not assist the investigation fully.
The report says the inadequacy of the FBI's work was exposed two years ago when some bombing evidence overlooked for 10 years was discovered in a house linked to Nichols that had been searched repeatedly by agents.
Special Agent Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman, declined to comment on the report yesterday because he had not seen it.
Kolko said: "The Oklahoma City bombing case was the largest case the FBI worked on before 9/11. Agents at virtually every office, domestically and overseas, covered thousands of leads. Every bit of information was investigated and reviewed. The FBI worked tirelessly to cover all of the leads and conducted a thorough and complete investigation."
The bureau has said previously there is no credible evidence that other people were involved.
The subcommittee concludes that the Justice Department should not have rushed to execute McVeigh after he dropped his court appeals, and that officials should have made more efforts to interview and question him about evidence suggesting he might have had help beyond Nichols's.