FBI blunders

On May 16th, Timothy McVeigh was scheduled to die by lethal injection for one of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil. However, due to bungling at one of our nations supposedly premiere institutions, McVeigh was given a one-month reprieve while his lawyers pour over newly released documents. As part of the FBI’s continued inability to handle vital matters of American interest, it was revealed the agency did not turn over all documents concerning McVeigh to his lawyers. The lapse appears due to the inability of Director Louis Freeh, who will soon be leaving the bureau, to reign in the “cowboy culture” that is present. The next director must be willing to change the mindset of the FBI for the better.

The FBI agent out of Oklahoma City who was in charge of gathering the information about the bombing admitted to a Senate committee that as early as January he was aware that something was amiss with the files being gathered about McVeigh. By March, an analyst with the bureau had collected several documents that did not show up in databases used in the case. However, no one in the bureau seemed to deem it important enough to mention to higher-ups. It appears a culture of arrogance and a false sense of righteousness exists within the FBI.

The only saving grace for the bureau comes from the fact that they even acknowledged they had the documents and turned them over to McVeigh’s lawyers. The setbacks from the last decade, which include Ruby Ridge, the Branch Davidians, Richard Jewell, Wen Ho Lee and Robert Hansen show a government agency quick to take action and slow to take responsibility. Though it seems unlikely these newly found documents will allow McVeigh room for an appeal, it is a travesty the FBI could not even keep track of the papers relating to the case.

This delay has undoubtedly been painful for the survivors and the families of the victims. However, their anger and desire for vengeance must be tempered with the knowledge that all people in this country, including McVeigh, deserve a chance at a fair and unbiased trial. If people are so certain of McVeigh’s guilt, this delay in his execution should not be a great matter of concern.

Though Freeh has stated he is now intent on hiring a records expert to assist the FBI, this is not enough. As some lawmakers have suggested, a commission must be formed to carefully scrutinize the actions of the bureau and to make suggestions and enforce changes for an organization that appears to have lost its focus. The FBI must be willing to shed its current mindset and work toward improving itself so it can begin slowly to regain the confidence of American citizens.