PrimeTime: McVeigh's Own Words

ByABC News

March 29, 2001 -- Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh has no serious regrets for the attack that killed 168 people, and he calls the deaths of 19 children in the 1995 blast "collateral damage," according to a new book.

Authors Dan Herbeck and Lou Michel, who interviewed McVeigh for 75 hours, tell ABCNEWS' PrimeTime Thursday that he only wishes the dead children didn't distract people from his message, and he feels no pity for the victims or their families.

"I understand what they felt in Oklahoma City. I have no sympathy for them," McVeigh says in the book, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing.

In his interviews with Herbeck and Michel, reporters for McVeigh's hometown newspaper the Buffalo News, McVeigh publicly admits to his crime for the first time.

McVeigh says he was the sole architect of the plan to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. No foreign terrorists or domestic militias helped him, he says. "The truth is, I blew up the Murrah Building. And isn't it kind of scary that one man could reap this kind of hell?"

"He has never expressed one ounce of remorse for the Oklahoma City bombing," Herbeck tells PrimeTime, though McVeigh did get choked up when he spoke about once killing a gopher.

‘Dirty for Dirty’

When the bomb went off, McVeigh was two blocks away. He says he didn't look back and his feet were lifted off the ground by the blast's force. He recited to himself a bitter lyric from a song by Bad Company: "Dirty for Dirty."

"What the U.S. government did at Waco and Ruby Ridge was dirty," he says. "And I gave dirty back to them at Oklahoma City."

In 1992 at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, the wife and son of a white separatist, Randy Weaver, were killed by federal agents during a standoff.

McVeigh tells the authors he knew he would get caught and even anticipated execution as a form of "state-assisted suicide." He only wanted to make sure his message first reached the American public.

Did He Know There Was a Day-Care Center?

Though he considered other possibilities, including assassinating elected officials, ultimately McVeigh chose that building because it had everything he wanted, including federal agents with offices there, glass in the front of the building, which made it especially vulnerable, and good camera angles for media coverage.

Michel describes McVeigh's instant appraisal of the damage caused by his 7,000-pound explosives: "Damn, I didn't knock the building down. I didn't take it down."

Michel and Herbeck say McVeigh claims he had no idea there was a day-care center in the building. According to them, McVeigh said, "I recognized beforehand that someone might be … bringing their kid to work. However, if I had known there was an entire day-care center, it might have given me pause to switch targets. That's a large amount of collateral damage."

But Jim Denny, whose two children were injured, insists the day-care center was visible. "You could see that day-care center from the street, from the sidewalk," he says. "You could see cribs. You could see drawings in the windows."

And Dr. John Smith, a psychiatrist who evaluated McVeigh for the defense, says McVeigh had seen a crib inside the building from afar. Smith also says that McVeigh chose the Murrah Building because it was fairly isolated, and "he wanted to minimize death away from the Federal Building … He didn't want to kill any more civilians than was necessary."

In fact, Smith says, McVeigh had first seriously considered targeting the Federal Building in Phoenix, but "he decided that there were too many buildings around it."

Inside McVeigh's Mind

"I asked him," recalls Smith, "'Tim, why did you go ahead with the bombing?' And he said, 'The date was too important to put off — the 19th.'"

April 19, 1995, was the two-year anniversary of the government's siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. McVeigh was brought to tears while watching the death of about 80 members of the religious sect. Then, when Congress banned certain assault weapons, McVeigh says, "I snapped."

Smith, who speaks for the first time, with McVeigh's permission, says McVeigh is not mentally ill. "I wondered before I saw him if in fact he was going to have a paranoid delusional system," says Smith. "After I examined Tim, I knew that he was not deranged," he says. "He has no major mental illness."

As a young boy, McVeigh's parents fought often and fiercely, says Smith, and eventually McVeigh retreated into a world of comic books and superheroes, finding comfort in fantasy.

"He entertained himself throughout his childhood by creating fantasy monsters of various kinds," says Smith. "He was the warrior hero who always fought these monsters."

Smith adds, "Tim is really immature. He's almost childlike in some ways, boylike … But there's a certain gleefulness, a certain excitement that came from Tim when I examined him, about pulling this prank off downtown, as if it were a childish prank."

McVeigh’s Prison Neighbor: Kaczynski

After he was convicted and sent to Supermax, a federal prison in Florence, Colo., McVeigh was housed in a cell not far from Ted Kacynski, the "Unabomber" who is responsible for three mail bomb deaths.

"As we walked down this row of cells, it sort of reminded me of Silence of the Lambs," says Larry Homenick, the Supermax Prison U.S. Marshal who escorted McVeigh there. "The first cell was Ted K, the Unabomber, and next to him was Ramsey Youssef, the bomber responsible for the World Trade Center bombing."

In their book, Michel and Herbeck reveal Kaczynski's reaction to his fellow terrorist. McVeigh's action, he says, was "unnecessarily inhumane," but "on a personal level, I like McVeigh and I imagine most people would like him."

Now, the authors say, McVeigh has regrets that he has no family.

As for his experience in prison, McVeigh says, "I lay in bed all day and watch cable television … I don't pay the electrical bill or the cable bill."

McVeigh is currently awaiting execution at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., the only federal facility in the country with a death chamber. He is scheduled to die May 16.