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McVeigh Chronology
Background on this Document by FRONTLINE producer Martin Smith

A few weeks before Timothy James McVeigh was to go on trial in Denver, Colorado on April 24, 1997 for the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a freelance reporter, Ben Fenwick, approached ABC News with an extraordinary document. Members of McVeigh's defense team had compiled, for internal use only, a "Factual Chronology" of his movements and activities in the years, months and days leading up to the bombing.

The document had been leaked to Fenwick by an insider on the defense team -- reportedly disgruntled with how lead attorney Stephen Jones was handling the case and desiring that someone eventually set the record straight. After sitting on it for several months, Fenwick came to ABC and allowed me and colleagues to have a look. At the time I was working for ABC News which produced two television reports on the McVeigh story. These programs, along with an article Fenwick wrote for Playboy magazine, were the first to publish excerpts from this "Factual Chronology."

I had spent over a year researching the lives of the accused bombers, McVeigh and his old army buddy Terry Nichols. With co-producer Mark Atkinson I had already prepared and aired a 90 minute long dual biography of the two men based on more than 150 interviews with family members, friends, and acquaintances -- "Rage and Betrayal, the Lives of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols" a Peter Jennings Reporting documentary. I had even met and talked with Tim McVeigh himself while he awaited trial in a maximum security prison. This 66-page chronology is extraordinary in that it correlates in great detail with everything I had learned about McVeigh and Nichols and provided a great deal of new detail on McVeigh's movements and actions in the crucial days and hours leading up to the bombing.

According to the source who leaked the document, highlighted sections in this chronology came directly from McVeigh. As such, these sections read as a startling confession, outlining in considerable detail how McVeigh prepared and carried out the attack. This chronology also appears to be consistent with statements made by McVeigh during dozens of hours of interviews done with him by reporters Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck for their recent book, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing.



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