Ashcroft wants to limit the broadcast's scope to the injection of lethal chemicals that will kill McVeigh, and will try not to broadcast the prisoner's last words, sources said.
Bush administration officials say they want to avoid giving McVeigh a chance to confront or taunt the Oklahoma spectators in his final minutes.
Ashcroft is also expected Thursday to address whether reporters may interview McVeigh during his last weeks. Ashcroft has indicated he is reluctant to do anything that would generate additional publicity for McVeigh and said he wanted to "minimize" McVeigh's opportunities to speak publicly.
Death penalty opponents said the closed-circuit broadcast will only add to the macabre spectacle forming around the federal government's yet-unused execution chamber in Terre Haute, where thousands of journalists, protesters and other spectators are expected to camp out. The United States has not executed a federal prisoner since 1963.
"We have the fullest sympathy for the family members," said Ajamu Baraka, director of Amnesty International USA's anti-death penalty program. "But we are opposed to all executions as a fundamental violation of human rights, whether the person is guilty or innocent. ... We don't think there should be an execution to televise in the first place."
McVeigh, 32, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1997 for detonating a massive truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. It killed 168 people, including 19 children.
Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
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