Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
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Tue, 21 Feb 2023 08:01
Timothy McVeigh enlists in the military. When he returns home, he struggles to find a sense of purpose.
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Hey, prime members, you can listen to American Scandal add-free on Amazon music, download the app today. A listener note, this episode contains graphic details and may not be suitable for a younger audience. It's April 19, 1995. 60 miles north of Oklahoma City, an old yellow sedan comes gliding through a stretch of empty highway. It's mid-morning and quiet on the open road, with nothing but farmland and flat terrain as far as the eye can see. It's the kind of place where you can lay down and walk. It's the kind of place where you can lay your foot on the pedal and probably get away with it. But the man behind the wheel isn't taking any risks. He looks down at the speedometer. He's only going about two miles an hour over the speed limit, slow enough that he shouldn't be drawing any attention from law enforcement. And right now, even a minor brush with a highway patrolman is the last thing he needs. About 90 minutes ago, the man driving this car, Timothy McVeigh, executed one of the most brazen crimes in American history. McVeigh parked a moving truck full of explosives in front of a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City. He lit a fuse and hopped out of the truck and began walking in the other direction. Two minutes later, McVeigh was knocked off his feet by the blast. He didn't see the damage, but judging by the sound and force of the explosion, McVeigh was sure he brought down the entire building. He probably killed hundreds. McVeigh knows some people are going to call this a terrorist attack, claiming that innocent people lost their lives. But McVeigh believes that's just a cost of war. There are always going to be casualties when you're fighting a righteous cause. As far as McVeigh sees it, nothing is more righteous or more just than his campaign against the federal government. In recent years, McVeigh has grown convinced that the government has been a threat to the government. McVeigh has grown convinced that the government is trampling on citizens' liberties, stripping people of their legal rights and acting like tyrants. McVeigh knew something had to change, so he decided to launch a war against the government. His first step was this attack in downtown Oklahoma City, going after federal employees. But now that the operation is complete, McVeigh knows he needs to get off the grid for a bit. Maybe hide out in Arizona or Oregon and get far from anyone in law enforcement. McVeigh continues cruising down the highway when he spots another car quickly approaching. It's an Oklahoma Highway Patrol car and it must be going 95 miles an hour. McVeigh tenses up. He removed his license plate a few days ago, but now that he's on the open road, he's realizing that's a liability. McVeigh braces, waiting for the flash of red and blue lights. But the patrolman just speeds past him, racing down the highway. McVeigh lets himself relax. If he keeps up this steady pace, doesn't have any more run-ins, he should be fine. But then, suddenly, the patrol car slows down, enough so that McVeigh passes. Then the trooper pulls behind McVeigh and flashes his lights. McVeigh hesitates. He could try to make a run for it, but there's no way this old mercury could outrun a patrol car. So McVeigh pulls over and kills the engine. As he sits waiting, McVeigh feels around, checking that he still has the gun holstered under his windbreaker. That's option number two. He could shoot the cop and make a run for it. But it's a huge risk. McVeigh decides the best avenue is to take care of this the old-fashioned way, with friendliness and charm. McVeigh steps out of the car and begins walking toward the trooper. Hey, hold it. I didn't tell you to get out of your vehicle. Well, I thought I'd come to you. Make your job a little easier. Uh-huh. Well, just stop right there. All right, just try to help. The trooper takes a few careful steps toward McVeigh. You know why I pulled you over? Probably my license plate, right? Yeah, it's missing. I bought this car and had an old Arizona plate. I thought it'd be better to drive with no plate than the wrong one, but maybe that was the wrong call. Uh-huh. You got registration? No, I hasn't come through yet. I just bought this car a few days ago. Have an insurance. No, I'm sorry. I don't have a copy. Do you have anything? A bill of sale? Not on me. No, but I can show you my driver's license. McVeigh reaches into his pocket when suddenly the trooper draws his gun. Hands above your head. Hey, oh, I don't want any trouble. What's that on your hip? The trooper points at a ball under McVeigh's windbreaker. It's a gun. Put your hands on the trunk now. McVeigh lays his hands palm down on his car. The trooper approaches and begins frisking McVeigh. Hey, careful, that gun's loaded. Yeah, so is mine. Listen, officer, I'm sorry. I'm sure you understand. I carry a gun from my own protection. I've got to conceal carry permit. It's just, you know, it's from New York. Well, buddy, this is Oklahoma, and you're under arrest. The trooper places McVeigh in handcuffs and announces he's taking him to jail on three charges, carrying a concealed weapon, transporting a firearm, and not having a current place or proof of insurance. The officer begins reading McVeigh his Miranda rights, and that's when the reality of the situation begins to sink in. McVeigh is about to be taken to jail, probably no more than an hour away from the federal bill. He's going to be surrounded by members of law enforcement on high alert, but the crimes he's been charged with are relatively minor. And as long as no one connects the dots, Veigh should be able to secure a bond, get back on the road, and continue getting as far away as possible from Oklahoma City. American scandal is sponsored by Dell Technologies, whose president's day event is here, with deals to power all your passions. The savings start now on selects, leak, exps, laptops, and more, powered by 12th-gen Intel Core processors. Don't forget special pricing on the latest monitors, docs, and accessories, plus free shipping on everything, and monthly payment options with Dell Preferred Account. Just call 877-Ask-Dell for these limited-time president-stay deals. That's 877-Ask-Dell. Hey, I'm Cassie DePeckel, the host of Wunderies podcast against the odds. In our next season, a team of American and Indian climbers are on a top secret cold war mission to place a nuclear-powered spine device atop a deadly Himalayan mountain. Listen to against the odds on Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcasts. From Wunderie, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American Scam. On April 19, 1995, a truck full of explosives detonated in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring over 600 more. At first, law enforcement suspected the attack was the work of international terrorists, but evidence soon emerged that the suspect was a young American citizen and Gulf War veteran named Timothy McVeigh. As law enforcement raised to find McVeigh, the American public was consumed with questions. What drove McVeigh to kill so many of his fellow Americans? How had he grown so radicalized? And how could a man once sworn to protect his country had transformed into a domestic terrorist? This is Episode 2, American Radical. It's early 1988, seven years before the attack on the Murrah Federal Building. It's before dawn, and Timothy McVeigh is speeding down a highway headed toward Buffalo, New York. The sky is glowing a dark purple, and all around this two-lane road, the trees are barren, and fields lie fallow. McVeigh lays his foot on the pedal, feeling the car fly down the empty highway. It's one of the benefits of having to be at work before 6am, and there's hardly any traffic. Still, it's only a minor consolation. McVeigh is stuck working on mine, numbing job. He drives an armored car, running the same route over and over for a security company that contracts with banks. There's no room for advancement, and McVeigh hasn't been able to find anything else better for himself. He knows that's partly because he doesn't have a college degree. He graduated high school almost two years ago, but didn't have the patience for college. So instead, he got himself a permit to carry a concealed weapon and went to work as a security guard. At first, it wasn't so bad. McVeigh even got the carrier weapon on the job, and he's always loved guns. They give him a feeling of power and strength, a feeling he never had when he was a kid. He was bullied at school, bullied for being awkward and bad at sports. But when his grandfather taught him how to shoot a gun, something changed. McVeigh began to feel less weak and less vulnerable, and it seemed he had a natural gift for Marksmanship. Now that he's an adult, McVeigh spends almost every weekend at a local gun club. He even started investing in weapons, putting the majority of his spare cash into guns. But the thrill of carrying a weapon at work soon more off. McVeigh now feels bored and restless. He isn't even 20 years old, but already he can imagine the rest of his life stretching out in front of him like one long monotonous day. He knows he wants something more, but he isn't sure what it is or what he could do to change his future. As McVeigh drives down the highway, he sees a pickup truck ahead. He's about to pass it when he glimpses a deer, standing alert on the side of the road, its eyes shining in the headlights. McVeigh slows his car down, but then he spots another deer on the other side of the highway, and another one. McVeigh slows down even more, he must be driving through the middle of a herd. McVeigh carefully steers his car trying to avoid the amnes. When suddenly he hears the screeching of breaks. McVeigh looks over and sees the pickup ahead of him, slam into a deer that suddenly startled and ran into the road. McVeigh jumps out and rushes to the pickup. The young man driving it seems to be fine, but on the side of the road, one of the deer lies covered in blood. Its hind legs bent and at an unnatural angle. McVeigh calls out to the driver. Hey you okay? Yeah man, just a bit rattled. That deer just left into the road. McVeigh looks over and can see the deer is an excruciating paint, so he unhulsed her his pistol and offers it to the other man. Well that thing's suffering here, take this, put it out of his misery. What? I'm not gonna do that. Look at it, it's nagging. This is the humane thing to do. No, no, I don't even know how to shoot a gun. Well that's okay, it's easy enough, I'll show you. No, no man, you do it. Hey, I can't, look it's technically illegal. If I shoot a gun right here and get caught, I'll lose my permit, which I need for my job. You have to do it. Also you want me to break the law. You're the one who hit the deer. No man, I'm not doing anything like that. The driver turns and begins walking back to his truck. Oh come on, the thing's suffering. Don't be a coward. No man, that's not for me. You want to see that happen, you do it yourself. The driver hops back in his pickup and starts it up. McVeigh looks down at the deer. In size are darting around in distress, it has to be put down. But McVeigh is badly conflicted. He was raised to respect the rules, to never break the law. And he believes firing his weapon would be illegal. But he also can't let this animal suffer. Maybe he thinks right and wrong aren't so simple. Maybe it's not just a matter of blindly following the law, doing what you've been told to do. So McVeigh raises his pistol and holding his hand steady. He fires, the buck chults, and then goes still. It's early 1989, about a year later and just before 5 a.m. at a military base in northeast Kansas. Inside an army barracks, a group of soldiers lie sleeping in the dark. Other than some snoring and a man tossing here and there, the room is mostly quiet. But in the corner, Timothy McVeigh is kneeling, scrubbing the edge of a base board. McVeigh is trying to be as quiet as he can. He doesn't want to wake the guys. But when he begins cleaning a nightstand, one of the soldiers turns over and mutters a curse, calling him a brown noser, telling him to get back to sleep. McVeigh is stung. He knows the other guys think he's weird. They don't understand his work ethic. Why he gets up before dawn to clean his small corner of the barracks, why he insists on getting every wall and every base board spotless. But military life has changed everything for McVeigh. He enlisted in the army about a year ago, at a time when he grown deeply pessimistic about his own future, feeling like he was spinning in place, going nowhere. But McVeigh wasn't only fixated on himself. He'd also started to worry about the future of America. After reading that the federal government was trying to restrict people's access to guns. Increasingly, it felt like America was heading down a dangerous path. And it turned out McVeigh wasn't alone in feeling this way. He found other people who were also concerned that the federal government was overstepping and stripping Americans of the rights. McVeigh's concerns reached a fever pitch when he read a novel describing a doomed day scenario, with white people like him being left behind in a societal collapse appearing imminent. McVeigh decided that wasn't a future he was going to let happen, not to him. So he started stockpiling weapons and other supplies, preparing for the worst. But he also realized that if the country was about to fall apart, he needed more than to store ammunition and canned goods. He needed survival skills. So when a friend suggested he enlisted in the military, McVeigh jumped at the idea. The army could teach him everything he needed to know, so he could make it through the coming catastrophe. But now that he's here on an army base in Kansas, McVeigh has realized he's getting a lot more than just survival skills. McVeigh finally feels like he's living with a sense of purpose. Being a soldier is offering him a chance to actually be good at something, to be more than just a security guard in upstate New York. Which is what the other guys in his unit don't understand. This sense of purpose is why he's been waking up every day at 4am, getting ready for the daily inspections. McVeigh wants to prove he's the best of the best, and even capable of joining an elite team like the Green Berets. McVeigh checks his watch. It's coming up on 5.30am. Time to stop cleaning and get dressed. McVeigh pulls out his uniform jacket and puts it on. But when he reaches the third button, he sees that for some reason it's missing. McVeigh glances around the barracks trying to figure out what happened. He has two sets of uniforms, but he only wears this one for inspection. He keeps it in perfect condition to show his superiors he's attentive to detail. But now a button's missing. He's gonna have to find some way to fix it, and quickly. McVeigh grabs a sewing kit from his foot locker, and gets to work. But as he hurries to repair the missing button, he hears snickers from a guy two beds away. A laughter quickly spreads, until it seems like the whole barracks is snideily chuckling, taking joy in McVeigh's misfortune. A wave of humiliation hits McVeigh. Now he knows what happened to his uniform. It's a prank. They think he's a suck up, wanting to teach him a lesson or something. But McVeigh isn't going to be beaten down. He's not a kid anymore, and he's not gonna let himself be bullied. So McVeigh continues diligently sewing on this spare button. And right as he finishes, the sergeant enters the room. McVeigh throws on his jacket and stands, rising to attention. And as inspections get underway, McVeigh holds his back straight and keeps his gaze level. The sergeant will see that he's a model soldier, the best of the best. And McVeigh can only be that, if he wakes up at 4 a.m., and can endure pranks from other soldiers. McVeigh knows all of this is worth it. It's February, 1991, about two years later. In a desert in southern Iraq, an American tank comes rumbling across a patch of barren landscape. It rolls over clusters of brown rocks and small banks of wispy sand, all bathed in the piercing white light of the afternoon sun. Riding up top in the tank's turret, Timothy McVeigh peers through binoculars out at this vast expanse of desert, deep in the Middle East. So far, he hasn't seen anything concerning. But McVeigh knows that could change in a heartbeat. America is at war, and the enemy could be anywhere. Two years ago, when McVeigh was stationed at a military base in Kansas, he had his eyes set on getting into the army's special forces, and was eventually invited to try out for the Green Berets. But fate would intervene when America launched Operation Desert Storm. The U.S. invaded Iraq in a mission to force Iraqi troops out of neighboring Kuwait, and McVeigh was sent to the Middle East to take part in the mission. And while he has had to put his tryout for the special forces on hold, there was an upside. McVeigh would get to take part in real combat, and prove that at 22 years old, he was one of the best soldiers in the U.S. military. But in all of his fantasies about combat, McVeigh didn't think it would be like this. The Iraqi army is poorly trained and badly equipped. It's a lopsided fight and could be over in just a matter of days. And when McVeigh stops to think about it, he isn't sure how Operation Desert Storm advances the army's mission. It seems like they're involved in someone else's dispute, not fighting to protect and defend the United States. Still, McVeigh has a job to do. I can't sit around dwelling on moral dilemmas. So he continues scanning the desert, looking for the enemy. For a while, McVeigh doesn't see anything other than more mounds of brown rocks. But then he catches sight of a group of Iraqi men about a mile away. They're huddled together around what appears to be a large machine gun mounted on a low wall. McVeigh squins at the men, trying to figure out what's going on. When suddenly there's a flash of light and bullets begin flying at McVeigh's convoy. McVeigh ducks into the turret as the men inside the tank snap into action. McVeigh's lieutenant barks in order to return fire with their machine guns, but at this distance it's going to be a tough shot. Still, McVeigh is a skilled marksman. So he breathes deeply, focuses and sice in. McVeigh pulls the trigger and the gun rattles off a swift volley of rounds. Moments later, cheers erupt over the radio. McVeigh not only hit the target, but nearly tore him in half. The other guy starts shouting out that McVeigh is a legend, one of the best shots they've ever seen. But McVeigh leans back from his weapon and shock. He's never killed another person, and he doesn't feel triumphant. He feels numb. But McVeigh doesn't have time to process his feelings. His lieutenant yells to keep firing. There are more targets. Snapping back to reality, McVeigh returns to his weapon, checks his aim and fires again. Seconds later, a white flag rises from behind the wall. Iraqis are surrendering. McVeigh's fellow soldiers let out another cheer. But McVeigh remains silent. He's not opposed to bloodshed in theory. But it has to be a righteous cause. And if this war is any indication, the US government is no longer in the moral right. Not fighting far-flung, lot-sided wars in the Middle East. And not with its radical agenda back home. American scandal is sponsored by Audible. My wife didn't want to listen to any more of her book. She hadn't grown tired of it. She just didn't want it to end. And good books are like that. But thankfully, with Audible and their Premium Plus catalog, there's an almost boundless world of audio entertainment waiting for my wife when she does finish it. You've got all the classics and best sellers, but there's a lot more, too. A giant selection of podcasts like this one and ad-free. There's also a bunch of Audible originals. Audio entertainment you can't find anywhere else, including a whole series of stories, soundscapes, and meditations to lull you to sleep. Audible members get full access to all of these and more, and the Audible app makes it easy to listen anytime, anywhere. While traveling, working out, walking, or doing chores. And like all Audible members, my wife and I get one credit every month. Good for any title in the entire Premium Selection of best sellers and new releases regardless of price to keep forever. And by the way, my wife was listening to the seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Read. Listen with her. New members can try Audible free for 30 days. Visit audible.com slash AS, or text AS to 500-500. Love can take many forms. Love can be the comfort you feel around the person you call your soulmate. Or the heart-pounding thrill of a passionate twist with a mysterious stranger. From Wondery, true love is a fictional series of scandalous love stories, ranging from soul tree to lustful, funny to heartbreaking. With each episode you'll bear witness to another installment of an epic love story that can only be described as the marriage of your favorite daytime soap opera with the juicy romance novel. With all six seasons now available on Wondery Plus, there's a storyline for every taste and preference. These stories are grounded in the cold truth. Love is hard and messy. And sometimes you just can't make it work. But at least you still had that one special night. Listen to all six seasons of true love, ad-free, and exclusively on Wondery Plus. Find Wondery Plus on Apple Podcasts or the Wondery app. It's February 1992 in Pendleton, New York. Bill McVeigh looks at his watch and checks the time. His son Timothy is about to get home from work and face a confrontation. It's going to be uncomfortable. But Bill has to say something because his son has taken things too far. Bill grabs the newspaper, takes another look at the rambling letter that Tim just got published in the local paper. In the letter, Tim raises a jumble of concerns about the future of America. He rails against politicians who supposedly only care about themselves. He complains about spiraling crime rates and taxes and predicts that democracy is going to fail just like communism, unless the country radically resets. Tim even suggests that violent action, even a civil war, might be necessary. Bill sets down the paper, feeling both upset and mystified by the recent turn of events. He couldn't understand why the newspaper decided to print such an incendiary letter. But more importantly, Bill can't make sense of what's happened to his son. Tim got back home only two months ago and Bill was proud of his son for serving his country in a time of war. And at first it seemed like military service had had a positive effect on Tim, giving him a sense of purpose and direction for his future. But not long after getting back to New York, Tim fell back on old habits. He took another job as a security guard. And just like old times, he grew listless and bored. And then he wrote this letter to the editor. A messy, screed, arguing that America would be a better place if it went through another civil war. It's hogwash. Bill doesn't share many interests with his son, and he knows he hasn't always been the best father. But he thought he raised Tim to have good values and to love his country. Bill is a veteran himself having served in the Vietnam War, and he believes it's every citizen's duty to support the country. And it's every parent's duty to correct a wayward child. Tim's an adult, of course. But Bill still believes he has responsibilities as a parent. So today he's going to try and convince his son to change his mind. Just stop it with this madness. A few minutes later, the front door opens, and Tim steps into the living room, looking tired and irritable from his day at work. Tim sets down his keys and then walks into the kitchen, noticing the newspaper sitting in his father's lap. Tim stops and shakes his head, warning his father not to start. But Bill insists that they need to talk. He doesn't understand what Tim was thinking. Why would he write those horrible things and mail them to the paper? Tim gets a dark look. Says he wrote that because everything he said is true. The American dream is dead. Decent, hardworking citizens like him can't get ahead anymore. And greedy politicians don't care. The entire government is dysfunctional. He doesn't want to be a security guard. He's taken civil service exams and scored well. But he hasn't landed any of the government jobs he's applied for. And while he can't prove it, Tim believes it's because he's white. And he's getting the short end of the stick because of affirmative action. He's a veteran that served his country for four years. But still, his country doesn't care about him. Hearing his son's pain, Bill softens a bit. He knows it's been hard for Tim since he left the army. His son was especially crushed after he failed out of training to be a green beret. He had his whole self-worth wrapped up and being part of the special forces. Still, no amount of disappointment can excuse what Tim wrote in this letter. Bill tries a different approach, saying Tim has the right to think whatever he wants. But he shouldn't put it in writing for everyone to read. Tim's having none of that. And says expressing his thoughts as one of his fundamental rights. It's in the Constitution. And he's not giving that up. Then Tim turns around and heads back towards the front door. He calls out over his shoulder that he's going for a drive. And he'll be back later. Then slams the door behind him and drives off into the night. Bill is left alone in the living room, feeling an anguish that only a parent could understand. He wishes there was something he could do. Some way to change his son to get him to see the light. But Tim is 23 years old. He's no longer a child. And at this point, all Bill can do is keep trying to chip away at Tim's worst and most dangerous beliefs. While hoping that his son will find a way to turn himself around. Several months later, Carl LeBron scans security camera feeds on a row of monitors in front of him. There's not much happening during the graveyard shift. But on one of the monitors, LeBron can see his coworker Timothy McVeigh patrolling the eighth floor, making his rounds through the building. It's about the only excitement LeBron can expect as a security guard for a high-tech research firm. The work is pretty tedious. So LeBron was relieved when he learned that McVeigh, his new partner on the graveyard shift, shared some political beliefs. They'd have a lot to talk about, including their concerns about the new world order, the supposed group of global elites conspiring to rule the world. LeBron and McVeigh were both outraged by the federal government siege at Ruby Ridge in Idaho as well. Armed agents had surrounded the cabin of a survivalist who'd failed to appear in court for possessing illegal firearms. For 11 days, the two sides were locked in a standoff, but it ended in a shootout, with federal agents killing the man's wife and 14-year-old son. LeBron and McVeigh believed the event was a horrifying show for us by the federal government, and proof that something needed to change. McVeigh certainly thought so, began taking the conversation in a more extreme direction. He started bringing in pamphlets promoting white supremacy. And McVeigh encouraged LeBron to read a novel with an extreme political message. In this fictional story, an oppressive government persecutes white citizens and confiscates their weapons. A group of revolutionaries fight back, blowing up FBI headquarters and committing genocide against people of color. McVeigh seemed energized by the book, and that was concerning enough. But then McVeigh made a comment that went far beyond the simple manner of opinion. McVeigh explained that it would be easy for two people to steal a cache of firearms from a nearby army base. And from what LeBron could tell, McVeigh was sussing him out, seeing if he was up for such a mission. And sure, LeBron has gripes about the federal government, but he has no interest in crime or violence, and he doesn't want to work with anyone who does either. So LeBron has to plan. He's hoping to bait McVeigh into a charged conversation, and get him to repeat his plan to steal guns from a military installation. And while McVeigh is talking, LeBron is going to secretly tape everything, and then share the evidence with their supervisor. The elevator door opens and McVeigh comes ambling back into the security room. LeBron reaches into his pocket and carefully hits a button on the tape recorder. Now he just needs to get McVeigh talking, without being too obvious about it. Hey Tim, everything good up there? Yep, all quiet on the western front. Well good. Hey, you know, I was thinking about something. You mentioned those rifles. AR-15s? You got a few, right? But if a man wanted to buy something like that, where would he go? A normal place of gun shops? Maybe a gun show? I'll take you to one if you want. Oh, so that's kind of normal? What about some of the bigger ones? You know, the stuff you don't find at a gun show, if you know what I mean. Oh, I know what you mean. I fired him in a rack. I know what they can do, and that's why the government makes them off limits. Yeah, that's the problem, isn't it? But let's say you wanted one, and real firepower. Not street legal, probably not legal at all. Well, I don't know, man. There'd be different ways, I guess. You don't have any ideas? No, but why are you asking? What's this for? Oh, nothing. You know, just bored. I was thinking about some of the things you said. Yeah, man, I get it. And I've been meaning to talk to you about something. It's been on my mind. LeBron sits forward, his hand lightly grazing the tape recorder. Alright, what? Have you seen the last episode of Star Trek? God, they drove me crazy. Did you see it? No. No, I didn't catch it. As McVeigh begins giving a long-winded recap, LeBron reaches into his pocket and switches off the recorder. There's no point taping anything else now. Once McVeigh begins talking about Star Trek, there's no stopping him. But LeBron might try this again, and maybe he'll be successful next time, or maybe it's all just a big misunderstanding. Maybe LeBron has the wrong idea about Timothy McVeigh. It's March 1993. Timothy McVeigh pulls off the highway outside Waco, Texas. His hair is greasy and his eyes are red and dry. McVeigh has been on the road for over 15 hours straight, and he's starting to feel a pinch of exhaustion. But despite the long day behind the wheel, McVeigh is wide awake. All along the road are groups of protesters, holding signs, pushing back against the federal government, and supporting the right to bear arms. These are McVeigh's kind of people. Kindred spirits in a battle to save the soul of America, and the presence of anti-government protesters is also a sign that McVeigh is getting closer to his destination, the sign of one of the most tense standoffs in American history. It all started about a month ago, when federal agents attempted to raid a compound here in central Texas. The property is owned by some religious sect called the Branch Dividians, but the federal government claimed the group and its leader, David Kuresh, had a massed a cache of illegal weapons. And when the federal agents made their move, the branch divisions fought back. The two sides exchanged fire, and four federal agents were killed. Six members of the religious group died also. But the conflict didn't end with a shootout. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms surrounded the compound and has held the position for weeks, but the Branch Dividians are refusing to surrender. The story has made national headlines, and Timothy McVeigh has been following the developments obsessively. The way he sees it, this standoff in Waco, is yet another example of the government attacking its own people, trying to prevent citizens from exercising their rights. And while McVeigh knows he can't personally stop the ATF, he wanted to come down to Waco to bear witness, and make sure the feds knew that the people were watching. So McVeigh keeps driving, eager after a long day to get to the Branch Dividians compound. But within a few miles of his destination, he arrives at a checkpoint. There's an olive green tent and a truck parked to the side, the kind of military equipment used by the army. McVeigh pulls over, and six federal agents immediately surround his car, demanding to know where McVeigh is going. McVeigh tenses up. He hasn't felt like this since he was deployed in Iraq, a fear being ambushed by the enemy. But keeping his voice steady, McVeigh says he's going to the Branch Dividian compound. One of the agents shoots him a look, and asks if McVeigh is with the press. McVeigh shakes his head and says, no, he's just a regular guy. The federal agent then tells McVeigh that he's not allowed any further. He's going to have to turn around. McVeigh protests saying this is a public road. But the agent doesn't budge. McVeigh is going to have to drive away. McVeigh then looks again at all the military equipment deployed at the side of a quiet American road, and he feels himself growing consumed with rage. The federal government is treating public space like a war zone, responding to American citizens like enemy combatants. McVeigh would love to fight back against these tyrants, but he's outnumbered and outgunned. So with a heavy heart, McVeigh turns around, drives away, and soon the checkpoint receives into the distance, and McVeigh gets back on the open road. But he can't shake the feeling that he was back in a war zone, under siege, it's frightening. This is Texas, not some country in the Middle East, but McVeigh doesn't know what to do. It appears that the United States government is becoming increasingly oppressive, stripping citizens of their legal rights and killing people, and they stand up for themselves. And if that's the case, if America really is slipping into tyranny, then McVeigh may only have one option. He needs to find a place of his own, somewhere where no one will find him, somewhere far from the long arm of the federal government. It's April 19, 1993, outside of Farmhouse in Decker, Michigan. Timothy McVeigh slides underneath his 1987 Chevy Spectrum, and moves a drain pan into position. He unscrews the oil filter, and watches as the black liquid oozes into the pan. While he waits, McVeigh taps his foot, impatient to finish changing the oil, and get back on the road. McVeigh still can't believe he made the mistake of leaving Texas. He wanted to bear witness to the federal government standoff with a religious group there, but McVeigh was running out of money. So he hit the road and came to Michigan to stand on farm with Terry Nichols, one of his friends from the army. It seemed like a good idea at the time. McVeigh was convinced the standoff in Waco was the beginning of a larger crackdown on civil liberties, and he wanted to get somewhere far off the grid, somewhere he'd be free. But ever since arriving in Michigan, he hasn't been able to stop thinking about the events in Waco. The standoff has been going on for 51 days, and the government is taking increasingly extreme measures to force this group to surrender, including surrounding the Davidians' compound with tanks. McVeigh is now certain he has to return to Texas. He doesn't know exactly what he'll do there, but he has to do something. So as McVeigh finishes up the oil change, he begins mentally preparing for the 21 hour drive ahead, but the door to the farmhouse suddenly swings open, and the brother of McVeigh's friend yells that he needs to get inside now. McVeigh drops what he's doing and rushes into the house. When he reaches the living room, he finds his friend, Terry Nichols, sitting on the couch, eyes glued to the TV. Onscreen is one of the most haunting images McVeigh has ever seen. The branch Davidians' compound is a wash and flames. Government tanks are punching holes through the walls of the building. Thick black smoke is billowing from the roof. McVeigh turns to his friend hoping that this isn't what it looks like, that this is something other than a senseless tragedy. But Nichols explains that federal agents shot tear gas into the compound, and then they attack the people inside. Now the buildings on fire, and federal agents are letting everyone die. McVeigh stares at the TV and shock, when the voiceover of a newscaster breaks in. This fire is really rolling now. I don't see from that vantage point any effort on anybody's part to bring a fire truck up there. If in fact there is one here, I've not seen one come by. The newscaster is careful to say they don't know who started the fire, but to McVeigh that doesn't matter. There are women and children inside that compound. The government isn't doing anything to save them. If something like this had happened in Iraq, it would be considered a war crime. A tear comes creeping down McVeigh's cheek. He can't remember the last time he cried, but he also can't remember the last time he was this afraid. For himself, for his friends and family, for the future of his country. A year later, Timothy McVeigh walks through a large convention hall, where dozens of men and women stand in front of folding tables and exhibits, inspecting and admiring a large array of guns. It's a decent turnout for a gun show. And as McVeigh wanders through the convention hall, he says hi to groups of people he's never met before, people who could be his next customers. It's been a good few months for McVeigh. He's been working the gun show circuit, making most of his money as what's known as a straw buyer. He purchases guns at gun stores, filling out all the necessary government paperwork, but then McVeigh heads to the gun shows, where he sells the weapons privately, so the new buyers don't have to fill out any of the paperwork themselves, or attract any attention from the government. McVeigh has done some good business this way, especially now that President Bill Clinton is about to sign a bill banning assault weapons. Everyone seems to be in a hurry to get their guns before they become illegal. But making money is not the only reason McVeigh has drawn to the work. Ever since the siege at Waco, McVeigh has been convinced the government is laying the foundation for a complete takeover. He's been telling everyone he knows that the government is going to wage a war on American citizens, and that taking away their guns is the first step. McVeigh has passed out pamphlets. He's made copies of documentaries and showed them to friends and family. He's done everything he can to raise these people's awareness, but no one seems to care. They even act like he's paranoid or delusional. It's only at gun shows that McVeigh has found a receptive audience, the kind of people who are willing to listen, and serious about the situation. McVeigh has been convinced that the federal government is threatening freedom in America. McVeigh is about to head back to his booth when he hears another vendor yell out from the other side of the convention hall. McVeigh looks up as a commotion or raps among buyers and sellers. Everyone seems to know what the vendor is yelling about, though. McVeigh has been clintoned by just sign the bill banning assault rifles. McVeigh shakes his head, feeling outraged. McVeigh turns to another vendor, a man with gray hair and light blue eyes. McVeigh is really done. McVeigh is just the first step. McVeigh is a man who has a lot of money to pay for his crimes. McVeigh is a man who has a lot of money to pay for his crimes. McVeigh is just a man who has a lot of money to pay for his crimes. Most people call me Tim. Well, Tim, you sound like you've got a good head on your shoulders. And I don't know if you're a student of history, but I promise you this is how it starts. You go back, look at British. They disarmed American colonists right before the revolution. It's more, right? Nazi Germany, the same thing. They took away the guns from the Jews. We all know what happened there. They're gearing up for a slaughter. Well, Tim, I don't know if it's a slaughter or something else, but you know what they say about a man without a gun. He's a subject, not a citizen. He veys shakes his head and rests a hand on his concealed pistol. I'm not a subject. I don't care what I have to do to keep it that way. I've been at war and I'll fight again. Tim, you've got a good spirit, but you've got to be smart too. No sense fighting if you can't win. Well, tell me what's the alternative. We just keep waiting for things to get worse, but the key is never to let them know who you are or where you are. You've got to become invisible. Get off the grid. Oh man, I don't know. He saw what they didn't wake up. Those guys were about as off the grid as you can get. And they're not going to stop until all of us every last American is under their control. No, I don't want to go off the grid. I want to do something. It's got to be something big. For it's too late. Well, Tim, whatever that big thing is, I wish you luck. McVeigh walks away from the vendor's table. It begins making his way back to his booth. He appreciates the old man's words of caution, and he's under no illusion about the power of the federal government. McVeigh served in the army. He knows the firepower they can bring to bear. But McVeigh meant what he said. He can't remain a bystander. He has to do something, even if that means risking his life, and going to war with the government of the United States. From Warnery, this is Episode 2 of the Oklahoma City Bombing from Americans Camp. In our next episode, Timothy McVeigh's friends and family grow nervous about his heated rhetoric. Meanwhile, McVeigh begins planning an attack. If you'd like to learn more about the Oklahoma City Bombing, we recommend the book's American Terrorist by Lou Michelle and Dan Hervec, one of ours by Richard A. Serrano, Oklahoma City, what the investigation missed and why it still matters by Andrew Gumball and Roger Cheat Charles. In the documentary, American Experience, Oklahoma City, directed by Barrett Goodman, airing on PBS. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. In the wild, in most cases, we can't know exactly what was said. All our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scanell is hosted, edited, and executed produced by me, Lindsay Graham, for airship. On your editing by Molly Bach, sound designed by Derek Barrett's, music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Austin Racklis, edited by Christina Malzberg. Our senior producer is Gabe Ribbon, executive producers, our Stephanie Jens, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and Marsha Louie for Wondering.