Timothy McVeigh may have been sent off for life, but the Oklahoma City bombing case is far from over. It looks like the federal government knew all along that Oklahoma City, if not the Alfred P. Murrah building itself, would be the target of a terrorist attack, and somehow (or for some reason) failed to prevent it. The alleged source of this information is none other than U.S. Congressman Ernest Istook (R-OK), who was at the scene of the blast and spoke carelessly to a reserve deputy. The mainstream media have tried to ignore these allegations, but the New American, in a series of articles, won’t give up the bone. In fact, the articles have caused a major spat between Oklahoma State Representative Charles Key and Congressman Istook, who could teach President Clinton a thing or two about the art of damage control.

According to the February 16 issue of the New American, David Kochendorfer, a reserve deputy with the sheriffs department, was driving near the Murrah building at the time of the blast and went immediately there to help in the rescue effort. When he spotted Congressman Istook, he approached him and started talking about the tragedy. Apparently mistaking Kochendorfer’s uniform for that of a highway patrolman, Istook casually remarked, “Yeah, we knew this was going to happen.” When a stunned Kochendorfer asked him how he could have known, Istook replied, “Well, we got word there’s an undercover . . . rightwing, Muslim, fundamentalist group operating in Oklahoma City . . . an information source thought that a federal building was going to be bombed.” Meanwhile, Kochendorfer’s partner Don Hammons was speaking with local attorney Lana Tyree, who was illegally taking pictures at the scene. She said Istook had asked her to take the pictures and had told her that a bomb threat had been made ten full days before the attack which killed 169 people.

When Rep. Charles Key, who has long been skeptical of the official story of the bombing, met with the two deputies, he was impressed with their solid personal backgrounds and their willingness to take a lie detector test to back up their story. Kochendorfer, who agrees with Istook’s stance on abortion, school prayer, and other issues, and had even considered himself a fan of the congressman, could hardly have wanted to smear Istook for political reasons. And so Key decided to take up the deputies’ case, for as he told the New American, he “could find no ulterior motive or reason for them to concoct this story.”

Nor do the facts contradict them. The New American, in its February 16 cover story, presents plenty of evidence pointing to prior knowledge of the blast. Many eyewitnesses, for example, claim to have seen bomb squad trucks and personnel around the Murrah building before the explosion. Conveniently, many BATE agents were absent from their offices in the building when the bomb went off (although this may not have mattered, since McVeigh placed his truck on the wrong side of the building where the daycare, not the BATF, would get the worst of it). BATF informant Carol Howe and federal informant Cary Gagen have also testified that they warned the authorities well in advance that an attack was going to take place in Oklahoma City. On March 22, a U.S. Marshals’ memo had warned that bomb attacks on a federal building were likely.

To get their story out, Kochendorfer and Hammons held a press conference under the auspices of Key’s Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee. Oklahoma City news shows aired part of the conference, and it provided fuel for debate on KTOK’s Mike McCarville show, the most listened-to talk radio program in the state. After McCarville interviewed the deputies. Key, and Istook, over 900 people called in to voice their opinion, with more than 55 percent siding with the deputies.

But in other quarters, their testimony met with a different reaction. As Istook colorfully put it, “It is garbage and a total fabrication to suggest that I have information that the government supposedly had prior knowledge. . . . Any such suggestion is the product of somebody’s sick and warped imagination.” The Daily Oklahoman, the state’s largest newspaper, did not report the press conference at all—despite the fact that its reporter Diana Baldwin had been seen at the conference taking notes. Suspecting a political “spiking” of the story, the New American‘s William F. Jasper called the paper’s city desk, explained that he had attended the press conference, and asked why the state’s largest paper had not covered it. He was told the story was “too bogus.” Jasper then spoke with the paper’s assistant editor, John Perry, who said that any statement on why the paper did not cover the news conference would have to come from either the managing editor or the assistant managing editor, both of whom—as it turned out—had left for the day.

With its cover story, the New American succeeded in irritating Rep. Istook to the point of having his press secretary, Steve Jones, write a letter to the magazine characterizing his boss as a “pit bull when it comes to justice and truth” and charging that the deputies were simply “in error.” (Istook, in media interviews, has reportedly gone much further, characterizing the deputies as stupid slobs.) In his rejoinder, also published in the New American, State Rep. Key asks why, if Istook is such a “pit bull when it comes to justice and truth,” he had ignored the pleas of Key and Glen and Kathy Wilburn, whose grandchildren died in the blast and who desperately want someone to get to the truth of the matter. Apparently, other Oklahoma City residents had also reported “being treated arrogantly and abusively” by Congressman Istook when they questioned the official line about the bombing.

To make things stranger, a deputy bomb squad sergeant in Oklahoma has testified under oath that a Tow missile was in storage inside the Murrah building at the time of the blast. According to Americans for Responsible Media, his statement is confirmed by a transfer report filed by the bomb squad. A.B. Magnus, chairman of the organization, said “it is unconscionable that any federal agency could store heavy battlefield type ordnance in any public building—let alone one where a children’s daycare facility was located.”

So why would the federal government stockpile ammunition at the Murrah building? If it knew an explosion was imminent, why wasn’t the ammunition moved? And how exactly did the government learn about the forthcoming bombing? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard highlights the role of a German intelligence officer and bomb expert, Andreas Strassmeir, who was perhaps the government’s agent provocateur who masterminded the bombing as part of a federal sting operation. Why is Strassmeir now holed up in Germany? If there are any “pit bulls” going after the answers to these questions, they seem to be Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and the New American, not Congressman Istook and Uncle Sam.