Authors Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck on their book
about Timothy McVeigh
April 4, 2001
Web posted at: 4:51 p.m. EDT (2051 GMT)
(CNN) -- Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck are the co-authors
of the book "American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and
the Oklahoma City Bombing." Both Michel and Herbeck
serve as reporters for The Buffalo News. Michel has won
numerous awards for his writings about the Oklahoma
Chat Moderator: Why did you write this book?
Lou Michel: It was the worst mass murder in American
history. We felt it would provide a unique opportunity into
the window of someone who could commit so horrific an
act. We're hoping that society can learn something to thwart another atrocity like this from
Chat Moderator: How were you two able to cultivate a relationship with McVeigh that resulted
in these exclusive interviews?
Dan Herbeck: Hundreds of reporters from all over the country had tried to get interviews with
Tim McVeigh, including reporters from Oklahoma City and many other communities. The way
this all came about is that, a few days after the bombing, people in western New York were
shocked to learn that the bomber was from our community.
Lou Michel was able to establish contact with Bill McVeigh, Tim McVeigh's father. Lou treated
the family fairly. They were going through a lot of stress like everyone else. Lou treated them
fairly, and ultimately Bill McVeigh introduced Lou to Timothy McVeigh, and Timothy McVeigh
finally decided to cooperate with interviews for our book. This took place over the course of
Question from chat room: Is McVeigh getting any money from ALSO
this book? Ashcroft suggests
Lou Michel: Not a dime. Son of Sam state and federal laws
prohibit it, and it would be morally wrong for him and his family to televising of
profit in any way. McVeigh execution
Dan Herbeck: He had no control, whatsoever, over the content of
this book. This is our book, and we interviewed 150 people, not just deal says no 'invasive
Timothy McVeigh. We don't even know if he has read the book. He procedure'
has received no money, and he has no control over what is in the
Chat Moderator: What did you learn about Timothy McVeigh throughout the course of your
interviews with him?
Lou Michel: We learned, of course, that he has no remorse for his acts. We also found common
threads in McVeigh's early life that exists among these school shooters. One, McVeigh was from
broken family bonds. Two, he was bullied as a boy. He was scrawny, and an easy target. Three,
he had failed relationships. Four, he was steeped in a culture of violence.
Question from chat room: Do you feel that your book gives unwarranted attention to McVeigh?
Dan Herbeck: The horrible crime itself already attracted a lot of attention, and if we could turn
the clock back six years and make this bombing go away, we'd do it in a minute. We don't believe
it serves any purpose to try to ignore this event, or try to ignore the story of Timothy McVeigh
and how he became a terrorist.
We think people will learn from this story. We think law enforcement, school officials and
psychologists can learn from this story what makes a terrorist tick. We don't think any other
terrorist has ever opened up and told his whole life story in this manner.
We're not ashamed of our book; we're proud of our book. As journalists, we felt this story needed
to be told.
Chat Moderator: Does McVeigh consider himself a martyr?
Lou Michel: No, he doesn't. He, in a recent letter to The Buffalo News, said that one man's
terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. He views himself as a freedom fighter, against what he
believes were egregious actions of the U.S. government against American citizens.
Question from chat room: Have you heard from any of the victim's families, either for or
against this book being published?
Lou Michel: Yes, we've heard from a number of family members with mixed reactions. Dr. Paul
Heath, who represents hundreds of victims from the bombing, publicly thanked us for providing
this window into Timothy McVeigh's mind.
Others, however, have been very, very hurt by the extremely harsh comments McVeigh has made.
As inconceivable as it may sound, we left out very, very hurtful remarks he made about some of
Chat Moderator: Did McVeigh talk about his upcoming execution?
Dan Herbeck: Yes. He has talked quite a bit about the upcoming execution. He in a way
welcomes it because he has developed an indifference to life. His death to him is just the next
He has also said that he feels that by executing him, the U.S. government is showing that it can be
very barbaric to its own citizens. He says that in using the death penalty, the U.S. government is
doing the same thing that law enforcement put Dr. Kevorkian in jail for doing.
Question from chat room: Does McVeigh have a following of anti-government people? Any
Lou Michel: In the course of the last couple of years, we received Timothy McVeigh's mail.
McVeigh would forward the letters he received to us from prison. We read thousands of letters.
Many, many of those people shared his hateful views of the United States government. But, thank
God, only a handful endorsed his attack on the Murrah Building.
Question from chat room: Do you think McVeigh acted alone?
Dan Herbeck: Contrary to some predictions that were made before the book came out, our book
in no way states that McVeigh acted alone. In fact, in the book, he makes it very clear that he had
help in the early stages of preparing for the bombing, from his two old army friends, Michael
Fortier and Terry Nichols.
McVeigh even explains how Nichols helped him assemble the bomb the day before the bombing.
Some people believe there was a much wider conspiracy in the bombing. The $82 million dollar
investigation conducted by the FBI and other agencies concluded that there was no conspiracy.
After doing our own extensive research, we concluded that the FBI is correct on that one.
Question from chat room: Does McVeigh have any spiritual-religious
Lou Michel: McVeigh is agnostic. He doesn't believe in God, but he won't
rule out the possibility. I asked him, "What if there is a heaven and hell?"
He said that once he crosses over the line from life to death, if there is
something on the other side, he will -- and this is using his military jargon --
"adapt, improvise, and overcome." Death to him is all part of the adventure.
Chat Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts to share?
Dan Herbeck: We would just like to say that we understand that this book is painful for people
to read, especially for people from Oklahoma City. In many ways, it was a painful book for us to
write. It's a true story, but more horrifying than anything even Stephen King could dream up. We
want people to understand that we wrote this book in hopes that understanding McVeigh and this
horrible crime can help us somehow avoid having more terrorist acts like this in the future.
Lou Michel: My fervent hope is that somehow this book becomes an instrument of peace and
creates a greater awareness so that, as a society, we can better care for and nurture our children,
the most sacred thing we have.
Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today.
Lou Michel: Thank you for taking time out to chat with us.
Dan Herbeck: Thanks for hearing us out.
Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck joined the chat via telephone from New York. CNN provided a
typist for them. The above is an edited transcript of the chat on Wednesday, April 4, 2001 at
2:00 p.m. EDT.