Good Essay On Oklahoma City Bombing: Terror Before 9/11
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On the 19th of April, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, a former soldier and security officer, positioned a leased Ryder truck at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal establishment in central Oklahoma City. In the truck was an extremely powerful explosive composed of agricultural fertilizer, diesel and a host of other munitions. McVeigh got down from the truck, secured the vehicle, and ignited two “timed fuses” one after another. McVeigh’s deadly cocktail exploded with devastating effects.
In the immediate aftermath of the detonation, the area resembled an area in the middle of a war than an urban area. One third of the Murrah building had been destroyed, many of the levels of the buildings leveled like pancakes. A number of cars were burned and at least 300 establishments near the area were either damaged or demolished. What was more tragic was the needless toll on innocent bystanders. The death toll in the aftermath of the attack stood at 168 individuals died, inclusive of 19 children. The bombing is still regarded as the most catastrophic act of local extremism in America’s history (United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d., p. 1).
The devastation was extended across the downtown area, encompassing a 48 block radius. The blast upturned cars and other vehicles exploded into flames; the external destruction was not limited to the Murrah building. The Regency Tower, a large 273 unit apartment tower, one block west of the Murrah, was also heavily damaged; north of the Murrah, the building of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board Building, the historical Journal Record edifice, as well as the Athenian Building sustained extensive damage as well. Other structures that sustained heavy damage owing to the blast included the YMCA and the First Methodist Church, the Federal courthouse, and St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral and Rectory and the United States Post Office building.
Communication was restricted to 911 systems with first line and back up telephone for the Emergency Medical Services Authority systems rendered inoperable by the blast. First response companies were confronted with a gargantuan rescue effort. The first units at the scene belonged to the Oklahoma City Fire Department’s Station One, approximately five blocks away from “ground zero.” Over the next few hours, more units arrived at the scene and firefighters went through the debris spread over the ground.
The streets had to be cleared for additional units to help in locating victims as well as transporting the injured. Various agencies-emergency, volunteers, law enforcement, and other organizations flooded the scene to conduct a massive rescue effort. In a number of areas, human chains were formed to facilitate the movements of victims and personnel out of the blast site.
Owing to the character of the crime, standard crime scene policies and practices were followed. The FBI quarantined the perimeter of the Murrah Building, allowing limited access to emergency and law enforcement personnel, and even restricting that further by issuing numeric-based identification cards with photos for critical personnel. Furthermore, Oklahoma Fire Department officials established a “day pass” policy to confine the number of personnel that will be able to enter the site.
In addition, the agency created a “Forward Command Post” within the Murrah’s interior loading area. Here, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Incident Support Team (IST) was set in motion and located within the Forward Command Post; the IST is an equipped and skilled unit of front line personnel from across the United States geared to monitor and guide the site-specific response from the FEMA in the course of calamitous events (Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management, 1995, n. page).
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, law enforcement officials launched an aggressive manhunt for the suspect/s involved. Then President William Clinton announced that the government will hunt down the “evil cowards” that committed the attack. Attorney General Janet Reno in another conference stated that the death toll continued to rise as 300 of the 550 people that were in the building at the time of the bombing remaining unaccounted for. A number of Federal law enforcement agencies averred that the bombing was linked to the unfortunate assault by Federal agents in Waco, Texas on the compound of the Branch Davidians that resulted in the death of 80 people, including a number of children.
The agency that launched the Branch Davidians’ assault was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, one of the agencies that were located in the Murrah building in Oklahoma. However, security officials ruled out the involvement of the Branch Davidians or right wing paramilitary groups owing to the absence of any protests from this sector, and of the reactionary groups that did contend the attack, none of these factions were known to have the technical skills to develop an explosive device with the force that devastated the area (Johnston, 2010, p. 1).
The investigation of the incidents led to the arrests of three individuals- Michael Fortier, Timothy McVeigh, and Terry Nichols. Of the three, McVeigh was the most known. McVeigh’s childhood was not an ideal one; with his parents divorcing when McVeigh was only ten, McVeigh lived mainly with his father. Unathletic and gaunt, McVeigh was often bullied in the neighborhood. This led to an overarching revulsion against bullies at all levels, including an overly encroaching government. McVeigh’s inordinate admiration of guns was probably developed in hours of adoring the .22 caliber long arm of his grandfather.
In addition, this also can be factored in when establishing McVeigh’s belief that guns are “a great equalizer.” McVeigh enlisted in the military, where McVeigh found a friend in his platoon leader, Terry Nichol; McVeigh seemed to blend well into the rigid lifestyle in the military. McVeigh was deployed in Fort Riley in Kansas, where he met Michael Fortier. It was Fortier that served as a critical component in McVeigh’s conviction at trial (Linder, 2006, p. 1). By late 1994, McVeigh began to strategize on bombing the Murrah building. McVeigh began purchasing the materials for the bomb, purchasing ammonium nitrate and pilfered blasting caps from a quarry (University of Missouri-Kansas City, n.d., p. 1).
McVeigh was obsessed over civil rights and personal liberties. McVeigh took up history, constitutional studies, and the changes in the US Constitution. McVeigh carried books wherever he went. McVeigh also regarded the Ruby Ridge incident in the same manner as Waco as an attack on individual freedoms and civil rights (US Army Training and Doctrine Command, 2007, p. 2-3). Investigators who had discovered McVeigh’s leasing of the Ryder truck found McVeigh in a jail in Noble County, Oklahoma on unrelated misdemeanor offenses. Federal agents went to Perry, where McVeigh was transferred to their custody and shipped him to Tinker Air Force near Oklahoma City. During the proceedings before his arraignment, McVeigh briefly met with court appointed lawyers where he admitted to the bombings (Linder, 2006, p. 1).
Casing a target: Tactical efficacy
McVeigh selected the Murrah from a number of possible targets; McVeigh chose the target on two factors, that the ATF operatives who he charges with the bloody Waco raid, had their offices in the building and two, McViegh believed that the Murrah was an “easy target.” McVeigh also considered other targets in other states, such as Texas, Missouri, Texas, and Arkansas.
McVeigh contemplated targeting individual targets or their families; however, McVeigh arrived at launching a bombing believing that the incident would leave a more opprobrious legacy. The location of the Murrah also played a high factor in its selection as a target. McVeigh considered the close location of the Murrah to the I35 would ensure unhindered access and exit from the location. McVeigh also based his decision to attack the Murrah given that the façade of the building has extensive glass panes; when the bomb explodes, the resulting glass shattering would inflict even more damage combined with the blast.
The structure of the building also allowed deliveries or pickup of parcels and individuals due to the curb design in the building’s façade. In essence, McVeigh could drive his “weapon” right up the front of the Murrah without much difficulty. McVeigh personally conducted reconnaissance on the location and the avenues to approach the building; in addition, McVeigh noted that the large amount of casualties, preferably of Federal agents, would ensure significant media attention, one thing McVeigh craved for to effectively vent his anger at the government.
In addition, McVeigh extensively trained in building explosive devices and examined the effects of the detonation of small munitions by utilizing a small jug and exploding the device; McVeigh’s main bomb consisted of 5000 of “ammonium nitrate fertilizer” and 1200 pounds of “liquid nitromethane,” 350 pounds of “Toxex” munitions, and 16 fifty five gallon barrels, coming to around 7000 lbs. The “truck bomb” was relatively cheap to build; the truck charter cost $250; the fertilizer $500, and the nitromethane close to $3000. All in all, the cost to McVeigh to build the truck “weapon”-$5000 (US Army Training and Doctrine Command, 2007, p. 2-3).
Incident Command System: Response in times of exigencies
Upon arriving at the site, the Disaster Recovery Manager, Albert Ashwood, located the “Incident Command Post (ICP) and proceeded to coordinate with the Incident Commander (IC). Ashwood the offered all necessary state resources to be able to facilitate the response mechanism in the area; after this, other units soon arrived at the scene, including those from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) (Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management, 1995, n. page).
In times of exigencies, coordination to maximize response and facilitation of resources are critical in being able to mitigate damage. The Incident Command System (ICS) was the result of the response dilemma during the widespread California forest fires in the 1970s; in that time, variegations in personnel, methodologies, resources, and organizational approaches among the concerned entities negatively affected their effectiveness in being able to address the concern. Initiatives to rectify the absence of any integration in agency efforts resulted in the development of the “Firescope Program,” a collaborative effort between firefighting departments at the local, state, and Federal levels in the state of California.
Among the products of the Firescope agenda is the “Incident Command System” or the ICS. Agencies that adopted the use of the ICS mechanism were the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Forest Service, and the National Park Service; the Park Service termed their ICS mechanism the “National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS).
The ICS is a “disaster management tool based on a series of rational bureaucratic principles similar to those often used in organizational studies as classical management theory.” The ICS expands the sphere of reason and bureaucratic facilitation to the anarchic and ambiguous disaster situations. The mechanism establishes a system of rules and processes to govern the activities of the various agencies that will respond to a calamity. In addition, the plan establishes the appropriate separation of labor and the attendant coordination mechanisms to ensure interoperability.
The overall response from the emergency mitigation community has been in praise of the ICS. However, there are those that castigate the system for being less than effective as stated by its proponents. The feedback of the analysts has centered on the “command and control” mechanism of the ICS; critics, on the other hand, have expressed apprehension on the system’s seeming dearth of coordination between agencies and the various levels of government responding to the incident. The conflict has gained significance owing to the existing efforts of the Federal government to establish ICS the standard disaster response policy in the form of the “National Incident Management System (NIMS).
In the appreciation of the critics of the ICS approach, it is deficient, and widening the implementation of the ICS may even worsen the complexities in the strategizing of the response to the calamity. Wenger, Quarantelli and Dynes (1990) offer the most recognized commentary of the ICS approach utilizing the reasoning of the “coordination model.” Structured on a number of onsite assessments of responses to calamities conducted by the Disaster Research Center (DRC), the researchers arrived at the conclusion that the ICS system will only serve to worsen the burdens experienced in monitoring disaster incidents.
In the example of the Oklahoma incident, command units were established by a number of agencies such as police and firefighting departments; what exacerbated the coordination crisis was the entry of local exigency supervision, relief organizations and volunteer groups into the “fray.” In addition, there are other considerations being thrown at the ICS approach. One, the deployment of the ICS, completely done in isolated incidents, resulted in an over allocation of resources including overlapping staff and equipment resources; two, the ICS is not a “panacea” for resolving communications and intra-agency issues; third, unless these agencies had prior interoperability activities, the ICS did not resolve issues among “mutual aid providers; fourth, the “command and control” aspect of the ICS did not efficiently function in coordinating with civilian groups (Buck, Trainor, Aguirre, 2006, p. 4).
The following day after the brutal attack, and the whirlwind of rescue and law enforcement activities the day before, a sense of structure and accountability slowly rose in the course of the rescue and rehabilitation initiatives. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents held twice daily consultations and consistently briefed the public daily. In order to harmonize the efforts of local and Federal rescue initiatives, a Disaster Field Office (DFO was established at 420 W. Main Street; a call from the Incident Command (IC) to locate a “Multi-Agency Coordination Center (MACC) was established within the Myriad Convention Center on the 23rd, or four days after the attack.
The facility would help in facilitating the coordination of Federal and state agencies can bolster local efforts. Previously, the location housed the Joint Information Center, where much of the news regarding the blast emanated from. More than a month after the vicious attack, the Alfred P Murrah building was deliberately caved in on the 23rd of March (Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management, 1995, n. page).
According to Goldfarb (1997), there are various versions of the ICS. Nevertheless, all of the types will generally consist of the following components. One, itemized job positions with the particularized equipping program for the position; two, standardized terms for the equipment and the resources; three, a set “chain of command” from the technician on the ground to the Incident Commander with interoperability of command highlighted and every individual in the group being accountable to one head; fourth, the mandate that is proportionate to the task, and responsibilities disclosed logically to the person that is best suited for the task regardless of the position of the person within the hierarchy.
Further considerations involve the limiting of the power of the person to the amount of individuals that one individual can sufficiently manage, sharing the work to ensure effectiveness, efficacy and safety, and applying the “principle of scale” to match the magnitude and complexity of the disaster or exigency that the ICS is applied to. The ICS is geared to integrate different internal as well as external elements into a response framework; the mechanisms was, as mentioned earlier, created for firefighting where multiple resources from different bases are expected to arrive and operate seamlessly to achieve maximum efficiency.
The cynosure of the ICS approach is centered on operations, strategizing, and coordination. In the ICS format, the collaborative arm transports the needed resources to an organizing area. From this area, the operations arm ships them, for it is this arm that has the authority and governs all the activities at the site. However, the third arm is the most critical of all the functions; the strategizing section is the core of the ICS approach.
It is this arm that provides the cohesion for an operation to successfully achieve its objective. The strategizing stage establishes clear-cut objectives to attain for each of the operational stages. In the plans, there must be campaign strategy and an action program. The action program outlines goals that must be attained for each period. Here, the operational stage not only establishes objectives, but also determines the agency responsible for their attainment (Buck, Trainor, Aguirre, 2006, p. 1).
Overall, the Incident Command System was effective in coordinating response units for the incident. From the initial response to the blast, Oklahoma City Fire Department (OCFD) units were committed to implementing the ICS model. During the course of the response of the agency to the incident, the OCFD was in charge of responses to the incident. The staff was prepared in the ICS approach which greatly aided their collaboration with the other units responding to incidents. Though majority of the responding units were not trained together in previous incidents, these were thoroughly familiar with ICS and were equipped on its principles, and after a number of refinements, had come to use the formula to coordinate their activities to the blast (Buck, Trainor, Aguirre, 2006, p. 8).
Buck, D.A., Trainor, J.E., Aguirre, B.E. (2006). A critical evaluation of the incident command system and NIMS. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Volume 3, Issue 3 pp. 1-22
Johnston, D. (1995, April 20). At least 31 are dead, scores are missing after car bomb in Oklahoma City wrecks 9-story Federal office building. The New York Times Headlines
Linder, D.O (2006). “The Oklahoma City bombing and the trial of Timothy McVeigh” Retrieved 15 April 2015 from <http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/mcveigh/mcveighaccount.html
Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management (1995) “After action report: Alfred P. Murrah Building bombing 19 April 1995 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma” Retrieved 15 April 2015 from <http://www.ok.gov/OEM/documents/BombingAfterActionReport.pdf
US Army Training and Doctrine Command (2007) “Terror operations: case studies in terrorism.” Retrieved 17 April 2015 from <https://fas.org/irp/threat/terrorism/sup1.pdf
United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (n.d) “Terror hits home: the Oklahoma City bombing.” Retrieved 15 April 2015 from <http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/oklahoma-city-bombing
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