WASHINGTON — IT has become the story of the cryptic fax. This single sheaf of paper, which arrived mysteriously in the office of a Texas congressman around the time of the Oklahoma bombing, may hold important clues for federal officials piecing together the tragic events of last week.
The main questions: Who sent it, from where, and when?
The fax, received by Rep. Steve Stockman (R) of Texas at his Washington office Wednesday morning, contained a jumbled message about a building and a bomb in Oklahoma. It bore a time stamp that indicated it has been sent at 8:59 a.m. Eastern time -- a full hour before the bombing.
The fax was signed ''Wolverine,'' likely a reference to ''Wolverine Productions,'' a militant anti-government group based in Augusta, Mich. The group's founder, Mark Koernke, who reportedly is an acquaintance of bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh, was being sought by the FBI for questioning at press time, though law enforcement officials say he is not a major suspect.
But the Monitor has learned that the fax may not have originated from Wolverine Productions, but from an unidentified source in Oklahoma City. Less than four hours after the bombing, a woman in the Wolverine Productions office who called herself ''Libby,'' told the Monitor that she had sent the fax to Rep. Stockman's office, but that neither she, nor anyone else at Wolverine, had written the note.
Libby, whose full name is Libby ''Malloy,'' according to Stockman's office, explained that the message arrived first on her fax machine. She says she then made a copy of the note, wrote ''Wolverine'' on it, and forwarded it on to Stockman.
When asked who sent the fax to Wolverine Productions, Libby said it was sent by one of Wolverine's sympathizers in Oklahoma City whose identity, she said, ''is none of your business.''
The handwritten fax read: ''First update. Building 7 to 10 floors only. Military people on scene -- BATF/FBI. Bomb threat received last week. Perpetrator unknown at this time. Oklahoma.''
Both Libby and fellow Wolverine Productions staffer Jeff Stadtmiller describe the fax as an innocent ''heads-up'' that arrived after the bombing -- a long-winded way of saying ''turn on your television set.'' They said Wolverine Productions collects ''intelligence reports'' from sympathizers across the nation.
But the timing of both faxes remains an issue. According to Rep. Stockman, the fax his office received bore a time stamp of 8:59 Eastern time, suggesting it was sent well before the 10:04 Eastern time bombing.
WHEN asked why the fax she sent Stockman was timed before the bombing, Libby and Mr. Stadtmiller said they had neglected to set their fax machine clock forward an hour for daylight savings time earlier this month.
But on the day of the bombing, when asked to read the time stamp on the fax she received from the unidentified source in Oklahoma city, Libby said it read 8:48 a.m. Central time, 12 minutes before the bomb exploded.
In explanation, Libby said that the person who sent the fax must also have forgotten to change his or her clock. Libby added that she always sends relevant ''intelligence'' to Stockman's staff, whom she considers ''friendly.''
Stockman, a freshman congressman from Beaumont, Texas, unseated 21-term Democrat Jack Brooks last year. He made Brooks' support of the federal crime bill, which contained a provision banning 19 types of assault weapons, a major issue in the campaign.
Rep. Stockman says that when he first heard of the fax he turned it over to authorities, contrary to what some press reports have indicated. Several reports have suggested that Stockman sent the fax only to the National Rifle Association (NRA), a powerful gun lobby.
While the NRA did receive a copy, the congressman says he ordered his office to send a version to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) -- once they realized it might be important.
Initially, he says, his staff threw the message in the wastebasket. ''We get whacked out faxes all the time,'' he says.
Stockman says he had never heard of Wolverine or Libby, though some members of his staff say they have spoken with her in the past. The congressman's spokesman, Jeff Fisher, says he has heard, although he could not confirm, that Libby used to be in the Republican party in Orange County, Texas, part of Stockman's district.
Wolverine Productions, a paramilitary group, is best known for its nightly shortwave radio show hosted by ''Mark from Michigan,'' who has been identified as Koernke. Mr. Koernke works by day as a custodian at the University of Michigan.
Koernke holds the belief that the United States government is planning to submit to a ''New World Order'' in which the US and other nations will be governed by a one-world police force coordinated by the United Nations.
His video ''America in Peril'' describes a forthcoming battle between the government and ''citizen patriots.'' Koernke has traveled to several states to lecture to groups about paramilitary techniques. At press time yesterday, nobody was answering telephones at Wolverine Productions.