In the early morning of April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh drove into downtown Oklahoma City in a rented Ryder truck containing a deadly fertilizer bomb that he and his army buddy Terry Nichols had made the previous day. He parked in a handicapped-parking zone, hopped out of the truck, and walked away into a series of alleys and streets. Shortly after 9:00 A.M, the bomb obliterated one-third of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, including 19 infants and toddlers. McVeigh claimed he'd worked only with Nichols, and at least officially, the government believed him. But McVeigh's was just one version of events. And much of it was wrong.
In Oklahoma City, veteran investigative journalists Andrew Gumbel and Roger G. Charles puncture the myth about what happened on that day - one that has persisted in the minds of the American public for nearly two decades. Working with unprecedented access to government documents, a voluminous correspondence with Terry Nichols, and more than 150 interviews with those immediately involved, Gumbel and Charles demonstrate how much was missed beyond the guilt of the two principal defendants: in particular, the dysfunction within the country's law enforcement agencies, which squandered opportunities to penetrate the radical right and prevent the bombing, and the unanswered question of who inspired the plot and who else might have been involved.
To this day, the FBI heralds the Oklahoma City investigation as one of its great triumphs. In reality, though, its handling of the bombing foreshadowed many of the problems that made the country vulnerable to attack again on 9/11. Law enforcement agencies could not see past their own rivalries and underestimated the seriousness of the deadly rhetoric coming from the radical far right. In Oklahoma City, Gumbel and Charles give the fullest, most honest account to date of both the plot and the investigation, drawing a vivid portrait of the unfailingly compelling - driven, eccentric, fractious, funny, and wildly paranoid -characters involved.
©2012 Andrew Gumbel and Roger G. Charles (P)2012 HarperCollinsPublishers
In Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed – and Why It Still Matters Andrew Gumbel and Roger G. Charles detail what might well have gone wrong in the investigation and prosecution of that crime. Much has been written about the 1995 explosion and this volume certainly raises many questions about the investigation. The book is a valuable addition to this genre, but I would have liked for Gumbel and Charles to have included a clear summary chapter. I would have like for them to speculate or suggest why the investigation was carried out in this way? Tell us what has been learned about how these crimes are investigated? Comment on the limits of law enforcement to cover all leads. Is it even good to prosecute everyone involved? The book catalogs the issues associated with Oklahoma City, but a current perspective on what happened would have added a lot to the narrative.
For those interested in Oklahoma City in general and the mindset of individuals involved in such crimes, readers might turn to (a friend of mine) Stuart A. Wright and his book Patriots, Politics, and the Oklahoma City Bombing (Oxford University Press). Dr. Wright has an impressive list of academic books on this and other occurrences such as Waco which readers might find interesting as well. The reading of Todd Waring is excellent.
Although I thought I was familiar with the story of the Oklahoma City bombing, I now realize that I actually knew very few of the details of this awful event. I thought the naration was very good and appreciated that the story didn't get bogged down with overly detailed facts/information that might not work well in an audio book.
Listening to it was time well spent.
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