WASHINGTON — The FBI failed to fully investigate information suggesting other suspects might have helped Timothy J. McVeigh and Terry L. Nichols with the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, allowing questions to linger more than a decade after the deadly attack, a congressional inquiry concludes.
The House International Relations Committee's investigative subcommittee will release the findings of its two-year review as early as Wednesday, declaring that there is no conclusive evidence of a foreign connection to the attack but that far too many unanswered questions remain.
"We did our best with limited resources, and I think we moved the understanding of this issue forward a couple of notches even though important questions remain unanswered," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), the subcommittee chairman, said.
The report will conclude there is no doubt McVeigh and Nichols were the main perpetrators, and it discloses for the first time that Nichols confirmed to House investigators he participated in the robbery of an Arkansas gun dealer that provided the proceeds for the attack.
There have long been questions about that robbery because the FBI concluded McVeigh was in another state at the time it occurred.
The report criticizes the FBI for failing to pursue credible information that foreign or U.S. citizens may have had contact with Nichols or McVeigh and could have assisted their plot.
Rohrabacher's subcommittee saved its sharpest words for the Justice Department, saying that officials there exhibited a mind-set of thwarting congressional oversight and did not assist the investigation fully.
The report rebukes the FBI for not fully pursuing leads suggesting other suspects may have provided support to McVeigh and Nichols before their truck bomb killed 168 people in the main federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.
The report says the inadequacy of the bureau's work was exposed two years ago when some bombing evidence overlooked for 10 years was discovered in a home linked to Nichols that had been searched repeatedly by agents.
"Having not yet read the report, it would be inappropriate to comment on its contents," FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said Sunday.
Nonetheless, Kolko said: "The Oklahoma City bombing case was the largest case the FBI worked on before 9/11. Agents at virtually every office, domestically and overseas, covered thousands of leads. Every bit of information was investigated and reviewed. The FBI worked tirelessly to cover all of the leads and conducted a thorough and complete investigation."
Previously, the bureau has said it believes that its investigation of the bombing was exhaustive and that there is no credible evidence that other people were involved.
The subcommittee concludes the Justice Department should not have rushed to execute McVeigh in 2001 after he dropped his court appeals, and officials should have made more efforts to interview and question him about evidence suggesting he may have gotten help from other people.
The former lead FBI agent in the case, Danny Defenbaugh, has said he was trying to get one last interview with McVeigh to go over questions in the case but could not get it arranged before McVeigh was executed.