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Tag: elohim city

Questions Remain in Oklahoma Bombing: Book Excerpts from Oklahoma City: What The Investigation Missed — and Why It Still Matters

Perhaps no lead in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation was left hanging more glaringly than the radical community in eastern Oklahoma known as Elohim City.

It played host to some of dangerous radical criminals of the time, and there are multiple indications from law enforcement sources McVeigh himself either spent time there or met its residents nearby.

The ATF, through its undercover informant Carol Howe, knew that people at Elohim City were talking about waging war against the government and had made specific reference to blowing up federal buildings.

The failure to follow up on this intelligence speaks to a lot of the systemic problems that beset federal law enforcement not only in the lead-up to the bombing, but also in the lead-up to 9/11 — warnings signs that were missed, individual agents whose investigative instincts were ignored, and agencies more interested in protecting their own turf than in talking to one another.

Andrew Gumbel, co-author of Oklahoma City: What The Investigation Missed — And Why It Still Matters, talked to almost all the major players involved in the Elohim City fiasco, and he and his co-author, Roger G. Charles, gained access to all the government files that have been made available to date.

The characters in this extract include Dennis Mahon, a Ku Klu Klan leader from Tulsa, Oklahoma who first took Carol Howe into Elohim City; Bob Ricks, the FBI special agent in charge in Oklahoma at the time; Robert Millar, Elohim City’s spiritual leader; and Lester Martz, the head of the ATF’s Dallas field division, with responsibility for Oklahoma.

Excerpted from OKLAHOMA CITY, reprinted with permission from William Morrow

Copyright © 2012 by Andrew Gumbel & Roger C. Charles

The ATF made many excuses for failing to follow up on the leads Carol Howe had established at Elohim City. One was that Howe had been a nightmare from start to finish and her information unusable—an argument undermined by the reliability of much of what she reported back. Another was that they were ordered by Bob Ricks to back off.

That, too, appears to be untrue. John Magaw, the ATF director at the time, said the decision to stop almost certainly came from within his agency, before Ricks had a chance to express an opinion.

“I wanted to make sure that before we conducted any more raids of those kinds of places, we were properly retrained, had the right equipment, did really good intelligence, and had done very good practicing and planning,” Magaw explained in a 2010 interview. “We weren’t ready at that time.”

Magaw could not remember exactly how the decision was made, but Lester Martz most likely brought the problem to him, and he and his assistant director for operations supported Martz’s inclination to close Howe down. Remarkably, Magaw also acknowledged that the decision might have cost the federal government an opportunity to prevent the bombing.

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