Letter from Timothy McVeigh

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Letter from Timothy McVeigh

Why I Bombed Oklahoma


By: Timothy McVeigh

Date: May 6, 2001

Source: The Observer (London).

About the Author: Timothy McVeigh was the perpetrator of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 19, 1995.


After Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the bombing and while he awaited execution in Terre Haute, Indiana, he wrote the following letter, justifying his act of political terrorism.

[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]

[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]


Until September 11, 2001, the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil occurred in 1995. Shortly before 9:00 a.m. on the morning of April 19, 1995, McVeigh parked a yellow Ryder rental truck on the street in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and walked away. Inside the truck was a powerful bomb made of 4,000–5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane. At 9:02 a.m. the bomb detonated, destroying a third of the seven-story building, including a day-care center on the first floor. The final death toll was 168, including nineteen children and one rescue worker. Over 800 people, many of them blocks away, were injured by flying glass and other debris.

Shortly after the explosion, an Oklahoma highway patrolman pulled over Timothy McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran, for driving without a license plate. The patrolman discovered an illegally concealed handgun, so he arrested McVeigh and took him to the jail in the nearby town of Perry, where he awaited his bail hearing.

Meanwhile, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) profilers working on the bombing investigation noted that it took place on the two-year anniversary of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas. During the siege in Waco, Federal agents acted on evidence that the religious cult's leader, David Koresh, had a cache of illegal weapons. As agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) stormed Koresh's compound, the buildings erupted in flames and seventy-five people died. Because the Waco siege was portrayed as a day of infamy among right-wing militia and anti-government groups, FBI profilers concluded that the Oklahoma City bomber was most likely a white male in his twenties, a military veteran, and a member of a militia group.

As events turned out, the FBI profilers were correct. McVeigh had been fascinated with weaponry from an early age, and he put his skill to good use as a U.S. Army gunner, earning a Bronze Star in the first Gulf War in Iraq. After he left the army, he grew increasingly paranoid about the U.S. government, which he saw as bent on stripping its citizens of their constitutional rights, especially the "right to bear arms" guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Holding the ATF responsible for the disaster in Waco, McVeigh decided to take action. McVeigh took his inspiration from The Turner Diaries, a novel written by American Nazi leader and white supremacist William L. Turner under the name Andrew MacDonald, in which the protagonist, Earl Turner, detonates a truck bomb outside a federal building.

Enlisting the aid of army companions Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier (both later convicted of aiding McVeigh), McVeigh planned a similar strike against the ATF. Ironically, the ATF did not have offices in the Murrah building in Oklahoma City.

The federal investigation of the bombing proceeded quickly. Investigators at the scene found remains of the truck, which they were able to trace to a rental agency in Junction City, Oklahoma, where employees helped an FBI artist create a sketch of the person who rented the truck. The manager of a local motel identified the man in the sketch as the same man who had stayed at the motel two nights earlier, registering under the name Timothy McVeigh. While still in jail on the traffic and gun charges, McVeigh was arrested for the bombing.

Following a change in venue to help assure a fair trial, McVeigh's trial began on April 24, 1997, in Denver, Colorado. He was found guilty and executed on June 11, 2001, in Terre Haute, Indiana. Nichols was later sentenced to life in prison, and Fortier was sentenced to twelve years for failing to warn authorities about the attack.

At the time of the bombing, terrorism for many Americans was defined by images of Islamic fundamentalism and Middle Eastern fanaticism. In fact, in the hours and days following the bombing, many people and news commentators assumed that the bombing was the work of Islamist terrorists.

McVeigh remained an enigma because, with his boyish looks and distinguished Gulf War record, he simply did not fit many people's idea of the profile of a terrorist. Particularly striking to many Americans was McVeigh's utter lack of remorse or expressions of regret, which he described as clinical detachment. From the time he was charged with the crime until the moment of his execution, he maintained the imperturbable demeanor of a man convinced of the rightness of his cause. Most Americans were especially horrified when, in a television interview for ABC's television program PrimeTime Thursday, McVeigh icily referred to the children who died in the bombing as "collateral damage." McVeigh considered the children as incidental civilian casualties unavoidable in his "war" against what he argued was a repressive U.S. government.



Michel, Lou, and Dan Herbeck. American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing. New York: ReganBooks, 2001.

Oklahoma Today. The Official Record of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005.

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Letter from Timothy McVeigh