Security plan established for McVeigh execution

Saturday, April 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Bureau of Prisons has established a meticulous security plan ahead of the execution of Timothy McVeigh, including the possibilities of hostage taking, prisoner uprisings and attacks on the prison, as well as expected demonstrations.

Step-by-step details on how the execution will be carried out, from arranging for McVeigh's last meal _ he'll be asked what he wants a week before the execution _ to the warden's order _ ``We are ready'' _ signaling the executioner to administer the lethal injection, are contained in a 51-page ``Execution Protocol'' manual published by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

McVeigh's execution is scheduled for May 16.

Even the moment the drapes are opened in front of the execution room, where McVeigh will be strapped to a gurney, will be chronicled.

The manual calls for the establishment of a command center at the prison to coordinate security, handle crowd control and serve as the ``nerve center for the execution.''

A security planner, picked by the warden of the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., where McVeigh will be executed, is directed to prepare contingency plans for emergencies ``such as an institution disturbance, hostage taking, outside demonstration, outside assault on the facility, etc.,'' according to the manual. A copy was provided to The Associated Press by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

The story was first reported by The Los Angeles Times.

Law enforcement officials from state, local and federal agencies met on Tuesday with the prison warden to discuss security procedures, said Dan Dunne, prison bureau spokesman.

Officials are preparing for death penalty protesters and the possibility of security threats by groups or individuals sympathetic to McVeigh. Officials are concerned about safety around the prison and in town, said Dunne.

``We are preparing for any contingency,'' he said.

Warden Harley Lappin at the Terre Haute prison has already met with some protest groups and more meetings are planned.

Asked whether law enforcement officials are monitoring individuals or groups who may travel to Terre Haute for the execution, Dunne said, ``We are working intelligence.''

Officials will arrest people who ``threaten, intimidate or terrorize persons involved in the execution'' and anyone attempting to disrupt, prevent or interfere with the execution. Anyone caught filming or taping the execution (it's against the rules) will also be arrested.

The manual was under development long before McVeigh was sentenced to die for the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, killing 168 people. The procedures will be applied for the first time with McVeigh. No federal inmate has been put to death since 1963.

The manual lays out a checklist of procedures that should occur prior to the execution, starting 30 days before the event, and includes procedures for halting the execution in case the president or a federal judge intervenes. Details of security plans and other sensitive issues are blacked out.

An executioner will be selected by the warden no later than 14 days before the execution and training sessions will be held for the executioner and others involved.

Arrangements for disposing of the body must also be finalized two weeks before the execution. Final security drills will be held.

In the last week, McVeigh will be asked to choose his last meal. The warden will purchase the lethal substance to used in the execution. He will also meet with federal, state and local law enforcement officials to coordinate security.

The manual warns that prison officials should make every effort to ``prevent emotion or intimidation from hindering efforts to carry out assigned duties and conduct themselves at all times in a manner reflecting the solemnity and sensitivity of the occasion.''

Staff participation in the execution is voluntary.

Within 72 to 48 hours before the execution, McVeigh will be transported from death row to a holding cell in the execution facility. His telephone privileges will be terminated 24 hours before he's scheduled to die. He can still get visits by his attorneys, family members or spiritual advisers. The warden will decide when he gets his last meal.

Starting three hours before the execution, prison officials will begin chronicling every detail, down to the minute, execution activities _ the time McVeigh was removed from the holding cells, the time he was strapped to a gurney, the arrival of witnesses and the opening of the drapes.

McVeigh will be asked if he has any ``last words or wishes.'' He will have been told in advance by the warden that his statement ``should be reasonably brief.''

After McVeigh speaks, the warden will say, ``We are ready,'' the signal for the executioner to administer the lethal injection.

A post-execution checklist calls for removal of the body and clean-up in a sanitary manner.

``Institution staff will be trained in infectious disease prevention practices and utilize appropriate precautions in cleaning up the execution facility,'' the manual says.