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DEA Agent’s Death a Reminder of Courage in a Dangerous World and the Good Work of the DEA Survivors Benefit Fund

James Watson

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

DEA Special Agent James “Terry” Watson had spent an enjoyable evening with friends at a Bogota restaurant watching Game 7 of the Heat-Spurs NBA Championship game. He was assigned to Cartagena but was in the Colombian capital as part of his duties.

Agent Watson knew how dangerous being in law enforcement could be but he had regularly volunteered for the most challenging assignments all over the globe. Like during one of his three deployments in Afghanistan for DEA in 2009 when he and Army Special Forces were under fire from 500 Taliban in the Farah Province. Or when he rappelled down 3,000 foot rock facings in the mountains near Pakistan to bomb heroin dens. He had also volunteered for difficult cases in Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Panama.

A short distance from the Bogota restaurant Terry Watson was stabbed and ran a block before collapsing. Several assailants immediately fled the scene without taking any money or other property. He died en route to a medical clinic.

Bogota police have arrested six men for the murders, and the Justice Department has indicated its intention to seek extradition. The police have announced their conclusion that the murder was part of a random robbery, but others have doubts because of the circumstances of the assault and question whether Agent Watson’s successful investigations of high level drug traffickers in Colombia was the real motive behind murder.

At his memorial service on Wednesday at the Rayville, Louisiana, Richland Arts Center near where he had grown up in Holly Ridge, his family said, “Terry dedicated his life to serving the public and making the world a better and safer place. Terry never wasted a minute of his life and never took it for granted.”

Agent Watson had recently married Fadia Margarita de la Rosa Watson, whom he had met during his service in Colombia.

Another DEA agent who had also been assigned to Cartagena during his deployment there told me that he was constantly aware of the potential for violence during his term. No matter how careful an agent was, if he did his job, the cartels were always in the front part of his mind. Years later he remembers his time there as an ordeal that required him to always remain aware of surroundings. But he also knew that even this awareness was no guarantee that he would survive the assignment.

Earlier articles in this column have made plain my own position that responsibility for these deaths and violence, both to Americans and those in Central America, civilians and law enforcement, can be directly traced to America’s insatiable appetite for the drugs.

Read more »

MLB May Never Eliminate Steroid Problem, But It Has Come a Long Way to Substantially Reducing It

This column first appeared in the New York Daily News on June 22. 

istock photo

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

In August 1994, I was attending an FBI sports presentation conference. The bureau has a program where trained agents make presentations to college and professional sports teams regarding illegal sports gambling and other topics. Representatives from the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NCAA were on hand as well, and attendees were made aware of an article I had recently written for the FBI magazine about an undercover operation (named Equine) that targeted illegal steroid distribution. Copies of the article were distributed at the conference.

One evening over some beers, some of the attendees were discussing steroids and their use by players in various sports. I told Kevin Hallinan, then the head of MLB security, that myself and fellow agent, Bill Randall, had learned through the Equine case that a dealer we prosecuted had told us he’d been supplying some MLB players with steroids. I also mentioned to Hallinan that the dealer believed steroid use in MLB was widespread and becoming a bigger problem. One of the players the dealer mentioned was Jose Canseco, then with the A’s.

Hallinan said he had heard reports of steroid use by players, but he didn’t think MLB could do much about it. Baseball was in the midst of trying to resolve a debilitating strike (which would end in 1995), there was no drug-testing program and it would be a full decade before players began being tested for performance-enhancing drug use. Hallinan did not express any interest in talking to the dealer or following up on the information.

The time frame of the FBI conference fell smack in the middle of baseball’s infamous “steroid era,” with such iconic events as the 1998 home run derby between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, which culminated with McGwire breaking Roger Maris’ single-season home run record. These long-ball extravaganzas were putting fans back in the seats, but the cost was the integrity of the game.

In the early 2000s, there were revelations of steroid/PED use by players, including Ken Caminiti’s 2002 interview with Sports Illustrated, in which he speculated about widespread doping. Congressional hearings followed in 2005 and 2008, the latter featuring seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens pitted against his former trainer, Brian McNamee. Both Clemens and home run king Barry Bonds were tried in criminal trials, Bonds getting convicted on one count, and Clemens being acquitted of all charges. MLB was on the defensive and initially didn’t react well. But that has changed; MLB has taken the initiative and gained the support of the Players Association in the fight against PEDs. They’ve instituted rigorous testing protocols in their drug-testing program, including taking blood samples to test for human growth hormone.

In my view, more importantly, they are not relying on testing alone to ferret out drug use by players. When a Miami New Times report named numerous major leaguers’ PED links to the Miami anti-aging clinic, Biogenesis, MLB attempted to identify the players and get specific information from the newspaper. MLB also sent investigators to Florida and filed a civil suit against Biogenesis, its founder and several others in order to subpoena their records. It appears their aggressive efforts are about to bear fruit. MLB has reportedly convinced Anthony Bosch, the owner of Biogenesis, to name names and supply records. Players could ultimately be suspended, and it appears that the Players Association is in full support of baseball’s efforts.

You would think the baseball commentators and writers would be supportive, too. After all, a few years ago they were chastising MLB for having ignored the PED issue and not taking stronger action. Now, some pundits have said baseball has lost its “war on drugs,” and the large number of players apparently getting steroids from Biogenesis proves it. I would argue that MLB’s dogged efforts and apparent success in identifying the players linked to Biogenesis shows it is beginning to win the war.

I have never been in favor of criminal prosecution of players. They are nothing more than high-profile users. I think MLB is right to aggressively pursue the identification of PED users and then apply the appropriate sanctions. (The standard of proof in an administrative action is considerably lower than in a criminal prosecution.)

Although I warned MLB about the steroid problem almost 19 years ago, and I was concerned that it seemed to ignore the problem, I now commend MLB’s aggressive efforts to continue to rid baseball of performance-enhancing drug use. MLB may never totally eradicate the problem, but it has gone a long way in substantially reducing use. The other professional leagues and the NCAA should take note.

I think Abraham Lincoln’s words are appropriate: “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.”

 

The Collision Between Drugs and Environmental Forces in Central America

By Ross Paker
ticklethewire.com

Two months ago this column discussed the effect that America’s insatiable appetite for drugs was having on two contrasting Central American nations—violent and impoverished Honduras and peaceful and idyllic Costa Rica.

Because of the success of DEA and the U.S. military at interdicting South American drug shipments by sea, the Colombian cartels and the Mexican Mafia now move virtually all drugs from South America by land, transporting it through those two countries. The under-resourced law enforcement systems of Honduras and Costa Rica have proven to be no match for the well-armed smugglers.

The latest evidence of this struggle for control in Costa Rica has been a violent incident resulting in the collision between the cartels and powerful environmental forces, a collision likely to accelerate the enhancement of law enforcement resources in that country in its fight against the smugglers.

During the night of May 30th, a popular young biology student, Jairo Mora Sandoval, along with four female volunteers (three Americans and one from Spain), were patrolling a beach on the Caribbean coast to protect the nests of Leatherhead turtles, whose eggs were constantly subject to poachers in the area. The Leatherhead is an endangered species whose eggs illegally sell for a dollar a piece to buyers who believe them to be an aphrodisiac. They are also a dining delicacy in restaurants and sidewalk cafes.

Mora had been an outspoken advocate for increased law enforcement in the area both against poachers and also drug trafficking in nearby Limon. As reported in the earlier column, Limon was the location where two policemen were recently murdered as part of the increased criminal atmosphere in that district. An atmosphere fueled by the invasion of drug smugglers into this peaceful country.

Costa Rica is one of the most eco-friendly places on the planet. The result is that a sizeable portion of the nation’s GDP comes from eco-tourism. A threat to its abundant natural resources is likely to mobilize thousands of environmentalists, as well as threaten an important source of revenue for this prosperous country. Cries for action from both of these sources shake and shape the government’s policies in all respects.

As the five volunteers traveled along the remote Caribbean beach, they were seized by five armed kidnappers. The women were able to escape from the abandoned house where they had been tied up, but Mora’s body was found the next day, tortured and bludgeoned to death. The murder is believed to be a threat by poachers and smugglers to frighten other environmentalists.

The connection between poaching and the drug smugglers has several facets. The cartels use the same beaches where the turtles lay their eggs, in order to bring their product in from boats off the coast for transport to Mexico and the United States. They employ locals for warehousing and overland shipment and frequently pay them with cocaine. This has created a drug user population that often resorts to smuggling the turtle eggs to feed their habit. The population also spawns the other social problems ancillary to drug activity.

The reaction worldwide by environmentalists to the murder has resulted in a crisis in Costa Rica and has prompted the government to pledge to implement a plan to combat poaching and drug trafficking more aggressively.

(For an excellent report on the policy and environmental intricacies of this incident, check out National Geographic’s story here. Thanks to Caleb in Kansas City for the heads up on this story.)

No one has yet pointed the finger at the wealthy northern neighbor, the U.S., whose lucrative market provides the financial incentive for the smuggling cartels. But it would be hard to deny that we share some responsibility for such violent incidents, as well as countless others that threaten the equanimity of this beautiful country.

Which makes it more than fair that we fully respond to requests for help from the beleaguered law enforcement communities in Costa Rica and Honduras, both with financial and advisory support.

 

An Analysis: The Illicit Prescription Drug Epidemic Just Keeps Getting Worse

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
 
The following are a few of the true stories from the cinema verite of America’s Prescription Addiction already playing in real life near you. Half of Americans received at least one prescription in the last month, and almost three billion prescriptions for 100 billion pills were dispensed last year. Both numbers are on a steady increase.

Scene #1 – In the early morning hours the “patients” are lined up out the door and around the block of the suburban Detroit clinic.  Each has a well rehearsed set of subjective symptoms that will produce a scrip for Xanax, Vicodin or another drug that they can sell on the street. Muted cheers as the doctor pulls up in his expensive European sedan, gives them a friendly wave, and then enters the side door of the office. By noon he will have completed his “treatment” of those in the line, and he will retire to the doctors’ lounge at a nearby hospital where he can check his stocks on his laptop.

Scene #2 – The federal prosecutor and case agent view the latest day’s video of a court-authorized Title III from a camera inserted into another doctor’s office, this time in the inner city. The investigation had shown that no “patients” ever entered this office. The doctor enters the office and, using the list of names and drugs given to him by his assistant, proceeds to write out dozens of prescriptions for patients he never sees. What is striking to the prosecution team is that he always puts on his starched white coat and checks his appearance in the mirror before sitting at his desk to complete his task.

Scene #3 – Fourteen year old Sally digs through her parents’ medicine cabinet before leaving the house to join her friends. She thought there was some Valium left from last week but decides to settle for a few of these OxyContins her father had left over from some back surgery. A friend would bring some alcohol to share with the group. Her parents would receive a call later that night from the hospital emergency room where she had been taken after she went into seizure at the party.

Scene #4 – Max was a good student at the state university, but this semester’s course load was a ball-buster, and his performance on final exams next week would determine whether he would keep his scholarship for the rest of the year. Fortunately he had a buddy down the hall who had been diagnosed as ADHD and who would always slide him a few Adderall to boost his concentration level.

Scene #5 – Dr. Anderson gets a call as he is leaving the house with his family to see a Friday night movie. He has to take it because it is his turn to be on call. A desperate sounding patient of the clinic where he works is in a great deal of pain from a recent surgery. She needs a prescription for a pain killer called in to the pharmacy so that she can get through the weekend. Although he knows it will mess up the movie schedule, the doctor takes the time to check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database and discovers that the patient has been getting the same pain pills from two other physicians and an emergency room in the last month. He refuses the request and makes a mental note to address the issue with her regular physician.

Like most things, along with the use comes the abuse. Over one-fifth of Americans have taken prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. One-quarter of high school students have abused them, a 33% increase in the last four years. Six of the ten most popular illegal drugs used by 12th graders were originally obtained by prescription, and half of them came from mom and dad’s medicine cabinet.

The epidemic of illicit prescription drug abuse continues to gain speed.  Its use exceeds the combined use of cocaine, heroin, and all inhalants. Marijuana is the only illegal drug used more than pharmaceuticals.

Drug overdose deaths exceeded automobile accident fatalities last year, and most of these (about 24,000) involved prescription drugs, especially addictive painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin.

Read more »

Justice Department’s Seizure of Associated Press Phone Records is Disgusting!

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Last time I checked, John Mitchell of the Nixonian era was no longer our Attorney General.

But you’d be hard pressed not to feel that the crooked Mitchell was heading up the Justice Department, which we now learn,  secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press. It’s something John Mitchell would have done.

AP calls it a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”

I call it one of the most disgusting things to come out of Justice  in a long long time.

Eric Holder’s Justice Department has offered no public justification.

That’s because there is no justification in a nation where we have a First Amendment, in a nation where the government is not supposed to run amok and trample on the rights of press.

(Update: Holder said Tuesday that he recused himself from the probe involving AP and that deputy Attorney General James Cole supervised the probe. He said he’s certain everything was done according to the law, and that the aggressive probe into a leak was essential.)

In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012, according to AP.

AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt shot off a letter to Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr.:

“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

The Obama administration has come under constant attack by the right. With offensive antics like this,  it may not be able to count on support from the other side of the aisle in the future.

This shouldn’t happen, that is, unless it’s really the ghost of John Mitchell who’s running the Justice Department.

I’m not sure Attorney General Eric Holder would like to be saddled with a legacy like that.

 

What We Can Do to Confront the Threat of New Designer Drugs from China

 This is the second in a two-part series.  To read the first part click here.
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Part one of this report discussed the menace of a new generation of synthetic designer drugs from China causing a public health crisis in Europe. In America, in the last two years, enterprising rogue Chinese chemists have introduced hundreds of these new chemical combinations into the market.

This plague in America is steadily growing worse.  Law enforcement and medical experts believe that the tens of thousands of reported cases in hospitals in the last year are just the tip of the iceberg. These numbers have essentially doubled just in the last year. The rate of reporting by the agencies like DAWN, which records emergency room admissions, and NFLIS, which keeps track of law enforcement laboratory tests on drugs, is a bleak harbinger of things to come.

Unless aggressive action is taken, we can expect the same panic the British are experiencing from this onslaught. On a more optimistic note, there are positive steps that can be taken and virtually all individuals and groups can have a role in this defense. This part will outline a strategy which can meet this oncoming crisis.

Parents —– Since the victims are largely teenagers living at home, the first line of defense has to be the parents. At a minimum all parents of teens and pre-teens should have a frank and two-sided conversation to educate their children on the life-threatening effects of these drugs, which are deceptively packaged and marketed as a “legal high.”

Teens think they are immortal and the prospect of some exciting new forbidden experience can be irresistible. Information and misinformation about the synthetics are spread by friends and acquaintances, and the availability is cheap and accessible. Many of these new consumers are naïve about drugs in general, as well as their dangers.

A teenage boy in North Dakota is currently facing murder charges because he gave a single tablet of a synthetic drug to a friend. The friend died shortly after ingesting it at a party. The consequences of such single acts are beyond the comprehension of most teens.

Read more »

China Exporting Dangerous Designer Drugs for U.S. Teens


By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Cyber information is not the only thing the Chinese are stealing from the United States. A new generation of synthetic designer drugs is robbing the physical and mental health of thousands of American teenagers. In the last two years enterprising rogue Chinese chemists have introduced hundreds of these new chemical combinations into the American market.

Although the motive is crassly profit-oriented rather than something even more sinister, the effect is sadly the same. Emergency room admissions and law enforcement reports reveal a looming public health crisis unlike that caused by any preceding class of drugs.

And there is often little either group can do about it as they struggle to react to the problem.

A dizzying variety of medical and psychological problems are listed in recent reports.

A Hawaii man tried to throw his girlfriend off the 11th floor balcony of their apartment building.

A Kentucky woman threw her two-year old son from her car onto the highway because she believed him to be a demon.

A Mississippi man stabbed himself repeatedly in the abdomen with a hunting knife to remove wires he thought were inside his body.

The list of bizarre and tragic stories of behavior caused by the psychoactive drugs goes on and on and on.

Just when the public and law enforcement were beginning to grab a hold on the problems caused by cathinones (“bath salts”) and cannabinoids (“spice,” incorrectly referred to as synthetic marijuana), Chinese laboratories have unleashed modified chemical compounds beyond the practical and legal reach of all but the most sophisticated law enforcement authorities. The public, parents, and teachers, are almost completely unaware of the new drug problem that is unfolding. Medical professionals who treat these kids in hospitals are just becoming aware of the problem.

Drug analogues and chemical compounds altered to avoid enforcement are not a new phenomenon. Since heroin was made illegal in the 1920s, amoral profiteers have developed related and uncontrolled substances whose effects mimic, or even exceed, those of the illegal substance.

Efforts to modify illegal drugs are unwittingly assisted by legitimate, academic researchers studying psychoactive drugs for medical purposes who then publish the results of their research. A current example is a Purdue University professor studying the effect such compounds have on brain receptors in animals. His scientific publications are immediately co-opted by renegade chemists who use the knowledge to create new “legal” drugs to sell to their customers.

About a decade ago rogue chemists from China and elsewhere started using similar research to develop drugs such as bath salts and spice. The market developed in a generally westerly direction into Russia, then Europe, and finally to the United States.

These drugs were cheap. They were beyond law enforcement, and easily accessible through the internet. Middlemen wholesalers sold them in gas stations, convenience and liquor stores, and smoke shops. They were advertised as plant food, incense, and other purposes for which they had no actual utility. In fact, the substances have no legitimate medical or industrial application. For example, “bath salts” is just a street name and has nothing in common with those colorful little granules you put in your bathtub to make it bubbly. The sellers side-stepped even a misdemeanor FDA violation by printing “not for human consumption” on the brightly colored packaging–sometimes adding a cartoon character to appeal to youthful customers.

Read more »

The History of April 19th: American Revolution, Waco, Oklahoma Bombing

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Listen my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy Five….

Longfellow’s poem forever immortalized Paul Revere’s ride. What the poem does not say is that Revere’s mission that night was to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British soldiers were coming to Lexington to arrest them. It was after midnight, April 19th, when Revere arrived in Lexington and warned Adams and Hancock. Revere also aroused the country side, and that morning the “Minute Men” met the British regulars on Lexington green. No one knows who fired the first shot- “the shot heard around the world”. But on that morning, April 19, 1775, the American Revolution began.

Paul Revere/istock photo

Paul Revere/istock photo

In a perverse twist of fate, on April 19, 1993, it is the 51st day of a siege at the Branch Davidian compound, also known as Mt Carmel, outside of Waco, Texas. It is to be the last day of the siege, a culmination of a series of bad decisions and missed opportunities.

The siege began on February 28th. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) had gone to the Davidian compound to execute search warrants. The warrants were based on affidavits stating the Davidians possessed certain illegal weapons to include fully automatic weapons and components to convert semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic. Some of the Davidians were known to have a propensity for violence including their leader, David Koresh, who had changed his name from Vernon Howell. There had been a power struggle a few years earlier within the Branch Davidians and a gun fight had ensued. The history of the Branch Davidians and how they ended up here, led by Koresh is a long story and won’t be told here. Suffice it to say, Koresh became the leader and subsequently claimed to be a messiah, who could procreate with any women followers irrespective of their age or marital status. The group embraced an apocalyptic philosophy, which relied heavily on the Book of Revelation.

The ATF had been surveilling the compound for several weeks prior to the raid from a home across the road. They had also placed an undercover (UC) agent within the Davidians. However, the surveillance was compromised, and at some point Koresh learned of the UC agent. In addition one of the Davidians was the local postman. On the morning of the ATF raid, a TV crew asked the postman for directions to the compound as they had learned there was to be a raid. The postman gave them directions and took the news of the impending raid back to the compound.

The ATF was aware of the Davidian’s potential for violence and obviously knew they had a large stockpile of firearms and ammunition. Consequently the element of surprise was an important aspect of their raid plan. However, surprise was an early casualty. ATF’s leadership was aware their plan had been compromised, but chose to proceed anyway.

waco-branch-davidians

The ATF agents were met at the front door of the compound by Koresh and some of his “Mighty Men” (that’s how Koresh referred to his young male followers). There was a short stand-off . A shot or shots was fired. It has never been determined who fired the first shot-both sides claim it was the other. Whoever fired it, it escalated into a gun battle resulting in the deaths of four ATF agents (16 wounded) and six Davidians. Koresh was wounded along with several of his followers. Thus began the siege of the Branch Davidian compound.

The FBI was given control of the siege. Negotiations between the Davidians and the FBI began and continued throughout the siege. Although the FBI was thrust into a situation not of its making, it learned valuable lessons. Unfortunately many of the lessons were learned from mistakes.

Ultimately it became clear Koresh was not negotiating in good faith. Koresh had said that he would surrender, but he needed to finish his own scripture, something he called the “Seven Seals”. But surreptitiously placed microphones inside the compound had picked up conversations indicating that Koresh was stalling and did not intend to surrender.

The FBI with concurrence of Attorney General Reno and President Clinton decided to pressure Koresh and his followers into surrender by punching holes into the compound walls and injecting tear gas. The conventional way to place tear gas is to fire projectiles containing tear gas into the target area. These projectiles explode on impact and expel tear gas, but this process also produces heat which can result in fire. The method devised for the compound entailed the use of converted tanks to spray the tear gas directly into the holes made in the walls. The error was not how the tear gas was injected, but rather underestimating the potential for mass suicide of an apocalyptic cult. The FBI was warned of this potential, but it was discounted- what person would choose suicide over surrender, not only for themselves, but for their children?

Then there were the fires that ultimately consumed the entire compound. Although a Congressional investigation determined the fires were actually set by the Davidians, the anti-government conspiracy minded will forever believe that they were set or caused by the government. Seventy six Davidians including Koresh died on that day at least twenty of those were killed by self-inflicted gunshot wounds or consensual execution (suicide by proxy). Nine people escaped from the fire and presumably others could have if they wanted. (One woman ran out of the compound and was tackled by a FBI agent to keep her from going back.)

Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber witnessed part of the siege. McVeigh was sympathetic with the Davidians and was outraged that the siege ended in the conflagration and death of Koresh and most of his followers. It’s not clear when McVeigh’s anti-government beliefs began, but those beliefs were growing and becoming an obsession.

Federal Building in Oklahoma at time of explosion/fbi photo

Federal Building in Oklahoma at time of explosion/fbi photo

It’s difficult to encapsulate McVeigh’s philosophy. It was clearly anti-government and became virulently so. It was an amalgamation of white supremacy, anti-Semitism and fear of a “New World Order”, i.e., a belief in a world-wide conspiracy to take over the world and the US Government’s leadership being in league with this conspiracy. If there was an over-riding theme to McVeigh’s beliefs, it was probably his trying to replicate the plot of The Turner Diaries, a 1978 novel written by William Luther Piece (a white supremacist) under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald. The book depicts a violent revolution in the US ignited by the bombing of the FBI headquarters, which leads to the overthrow of the US Government, nuclear war and ultimately to a race war resulting in the extermination of all Jews and non-whites.

While in the military, McVeigh met Terry Nichols. They became friends and their friendship continued after they left the military. Nichols was a follower and embraced McVeigh’s philosophy and paranoia. After the Davidian compound siege ended, McVeigh began to develop a plan to destroy a Federal Building- an act of retaliation for what had occurred at Waco. Initially the plan was to destroy the building when it was unoccupied, but McVeigh decided he needed to send a stronger message and that would require people to die. Later McVeigh would say, “Kids and women are fair game”.

McVeigh and Nichols plan coalesced into the selection of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as the target. The plan was to build a bomb and place it in the back of a truck. McVeigh and Nichols researched how to construct a large bomb and experimented with making and detonating explosives at the Nichols’ farm in Decker, Michigan.

In April, 1995, McVeigh, using another name, rented a truck in Junction City, Kansas. McVeigh and Nichols had previously obtained and stored the components for the bomb. In a park outside of Junction City, they assembled the bomb in the back of the rental truck. The bomb consisted 13-55 gal. drums: 9 containing ammonium nitrate (fertilizer) and nitromethane (racing fuel); 4 had fertilizer and diesel fuel. Also with the drums was about 350 lbs of Tovex, a commercial explosive. TheTovex would act as primary or initiator. McVeigh ran 2 fuses from the cargo bay to the cab of the truck. The fuses were attached to blasting caps that would set off the Tovex. The bomb weighed about 4,800 lbs. and cost about $5,000.

Prior to April 19th, Nichols and McVeigh drove to Oklahoma City and parked the getaway car several blocks from the Murrah Federal Building. They then drove back to Junction City. McVeigh stayed at a motel in Junction City. Although McVeigh used another name when he rented the truck, at the motel he used his true name with the Decker farm as his permanent address.

On April 19th, McVeigh drove the bomb laden truck to Oklahoma City. A few blocks from the Federal Building, he lit one fuse. Then just prior to parking the truck at the Federal Building, he lit the back-up fuse. He exited the truck and ran the few blocks to the getaway car. When the bomb exploded, it did so with the force of 5,000 lbs of TNT.

It destroyed the Federal Building and killed 168 people and injured over 700. It also damaged or destroyed 324 other buildings. Among the fatalities were children as the Federal Building housed a child care center on the street level. McVeigh had known of the child care center.

Within hours the FBI had identified the rental truck (from the VIN on an axle that had been blown some distance from the site) and knew it had been rented in Junction City. Agents dispatched to Junction City discovered the truck was rented under a false name, but the same person used a different name, Timothy McVeigh, at a nearby motel. A BOL (BE On The Lookout) bulletin was broadcast, and it was learned McVeigh had been arrested by the Oklahoma State Police driving a car without a license plate. An alert trooper also saw that McVeigh was carrying a concealed handgun. McVeigh was about to be released, but a hold was placed, and FBI agents took him into custody.

Two days later, the FBI went to the Decker farm to execute search warrants. The Detroit FBI SWAT team was sent in first to secure the farm as there was a concern about armed co-conspirators (The extent of the conspiracy was not yet known.) and explosives at the farm. I was one of the SWAT team leaders involved. The farm was operated by James Nichols, Terry’s brother. It was known James had anti-government sentiments, but there was never sufficient evidence to prosecute him for being involved in the conspiracy. The search of the farm did find bomb making materials and evidence bombs had been tested there.

McVeigh had picked April 19th for the bombing because it was second anniversary of the end of the siege at the Davidian compound. It also happened to be the 220th anniversary of that shot heard around the world. When McVeigh was arrested he had a quote from Samuel Adams (one of the men Paul Revere was sent to warn): “When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” Underneath McVeigh had scrawled, “Maybe now there will be liberty.” McVeigh also had pages from the Turner Diaries, the racist/anti-Semitic diatribe masquerading as a novel.

It dishonors our founding fathers when McVeigh and some militias try to cloak themselves in the legitimacy of the men who valiantly fought for our independence and at the same time embrace the ideology of the white supremacy movement. It is perverse to equate what our founding fathers did and endured to establish a Constitutional government with the bombing of a Federal building- killing 168 people, whose only crime was being in or near that building.

The lesson that was learned on April 19, 1995, was that we in law enforcement or as citizens have to take the anti-government movements seriously. Their ideology may seem foolish, historically and theologically spurious, but that does not diminish their potential for harm.

This column was previously  published in ticklethewire.com.