Social dissidents don't see McVeigh as martyr

CHICAGO -- As Timothy McVeigh awaits execution, antigovernment groups suspect the Oklahoma City bomber of being a brainwashed "patsy" who undermined them, not a martyr to their cause, experts who monitor the groups say.

McVeigh is scheduled to die by lethal injection in an Indiana prison May 16 for killing 168 people with a fertilizer bomb detonated outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

"They view Timothy McVeigh as a patsy, as a sort of Lee Harvey Oswald type," said Mark Pitcavage, who tracks right-wing hate groups for the Anti-Defamation League. "Why hasn't he come clean? Because he's been brainwashed, and the government wants to execute him before he can wake up."

Oswald, who killed President John F. Kennedy in 1963, was suspected to have acted on behalf of groups opposing Kennedy. Official investigations have dismissed such speculation.

Some extremists believe McVeigh was programmed by government agents to derail the right wing by providing an excuse for a government crackdown. Many right-wing groups splintered, and some members were imprisoned.

McVeigh, 32, has been quoted as saying the U.S. military had implanted a computer chip in his body to control him.

Yet, as McVeigh's execution date approaches, right-wing groups that distrust the mainstream media but communicate extensively through the Internet will note the attention McVeigh's execution gets and may try to attract some publicity for themselves, experts said.

And beforehand, April 19 looms as a key date for those whose cause is nothing less than the overthrow of a corrupt U.S. government.

McVeigh has said he chose April 19 for the bombing to avenge the FBI raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. On that date in 1993, 80 people were killed.

Since the bombing, the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, the date has put authorities on alert.

"Every April 19, everyone should hold their breath," said Evan McKenzie, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

But McVeigh may still become a martyr, experts said.

"The difference between a martyr and a mope is how popular the cause is after his death," said Northwestern University law professor Steven Lubet.