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McVeigh: Gulf War killings led him on path to disillusionment

McVeigh, left, appears in his first interview since he was sentenced to death for the Oklahoma City bombing  

March 13, 2000
Web posted at: 11:59 a.m. EST (1659 GMT)

In this story:

McVeigh: I had anger welling in me

Appeal claims trial jury was biased

Lawyer asked for no questions about guilt


TERRE HAUTE, Indiana (CNN) -- The man convicted of the worst instance of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States started becoming disillusioned with the U.S. government during his service in the Gulf War, he told CBS's "60 Minutes" in an interview aired Sunday.

Timothy McVeigh said he killed enemy soldiers there but grew to question whether he was doing the right thing. "I thought ... what right did I have to come over to this person's country and kill him? How did he ever transgress against me?"


That disillusionment grew after he returned to the United States and failed to pass a tryout for the Army's special forces unit. "It was (a disappointment)," McVeigh told CBS from the maximum security prison at Terre Haute, Indiana, in an interview that was taped Feb. 22. "But at the same time, I was losing motivation. This was during a period when I was coming to grips with my role in the Gulf War."

McVeigh: I had anger welling in me

McVeigh received an honorable discharge and returned to upstate New York, where he wrote a letter to a newspaper in which he said, "America is in serious decline."

"I believe I had anger welling in me," McVeigh said in the interview.

Two more events apparently strengthened that anger. In 1992, a federal agent killed the wife and son of white supremacist Randy Weaver during a standoff in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. A judge dismissed manslaughter charges against an agent, which upset McVeigh. "The use of what is no more or less snipers, in a domestic nonwartime situation, federal agents taking on the role of judge, jury and executioner, and then to add insult to injury, you have these people, these federal agents, not held accountable. They become immune from the law."

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building after the 1995 bombing  

During the 1993 siege at Waco, in which 70 Branch Davidians died in a fire after a 51-day standoff with federal agents, McVeigh traveled to Texas to witness the events first-hand. He said he came away "shaken, disillusioned, angered that that could happen in this country, where our core beliefs are freedom and liberty. And what did you do to these people?" he asked rhetorically. "You deprived them of life, liberty and property. You didn't guarantee those rights. You deprived them of them."

Such events, he said, are not merely isolated incidents. "I think for people that follow the news and follow events, there are patterns of abuse evident."

"There are many options" citizens can use to keep government in check, he said. Asked if violence is an acceptable option, he said, "If government is the teacher, violence would be an acceptable option."

Appeal claims trial jury was biased

Asked to elaborate, he said, "What did we do to Sudan? What did we do to Afghanistan? Belgrade? What are we doing with the death penalty? It appears they use violence as an option all the time."

Asked whether it is acceptable for citizens to use violence if the government uses it, he said, "I'll let my explanation stand for itself."

During the interview, McVeigh, 31, was wearing a khaki shirt, khaki pants and white sneakers without laces.

He has appealed his sentence in the blast, which killed 168 people, on the grounds that the jury was biased against him before the start of the trial. Images broadcast around the world showing him in an orange jumpsuit, leg shackles and handcuffs surrounded by federal agents tainted the jurors' perceptions of him, his lawyer has argued.

The image, he said, was an intentional one "to demonize me."

"You see a defendant in an orange jumpsuit, you think that's the person you caught, that person must be guilty. It's natural."

In an interview with seven of the 12 jurors, one told CBS, "He's the Oklahoma City bomber. There's no doubt about it in my mind."

Another said, "I didn't see anybody that came into that room on day one with their mind made up."

Lawyer asked for no questions about guilt

Citing his appeal, McVeigh's lawyer asked -- and CBS agreed -- not to ask whether he in fact committed the crime or knew who did, according to the network.

While he was in prison, McVeigh met Ted Kaczynski, the so- called Unabomber, and found they share "some common ground ... All we ever wanted out of life was the freedom to live our own lives."

If he loses his appeal, McVeigh faces execution by lethal injection. "I am prepared for death," he said. "I came to terms with my mortality in the Gulf War."

Asked if he would like to do anything differently, he said, "I think anybody in life says, 'I wish I could've gone back and done this differently, done that differently.' There are moments, but no one that stands out."

Agent who led arrest of McVeigh tries to put human face on FBI
April 16, 1999
Grand jury finds McVeigh, Nichols acted alone in Oklahoma bombing
December 30, 1998
Oklahoma City bombing trial
March 1997
CNN - Timothy McVeigh and the death penalty
December 1996
McVeigh, Nichols plead not guilty in bombing
August 13, 1996

Federal Bureau of Investigation
U.S. Department of Justice
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
Oklahoma State Government

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