''The Oklahoma City survivors may be the largest group of crime victims in our history,'' Ashcroft said.
The attorney general said he would restrict McVeigh's access to reporters in the time remaining before his execution, scheduled for May 16 in the federal prison at Terre Haute, Ind. McVeigh's final statement, if he makes one, would be monitored by prison officials, who could cut him off if he speaks ''beyond a reasonable time limit,'' Ashcroft said.
A bomb detonated by McVeigh on April 19, 1995, destroyed Oklahoma City's federal building. The blast killed 168 people and injured more than 500. More than 250 survivors and victims' family members have asked to attend the execution, which can accommodate 10 such witnesses.
McVeigh's execution, which he is not resisting, would be the first carried out by the federal government since 1963. He is to die by chemical injection.
Survivors worry that the unrepentant McVeigh could use his final statement to taunt them or make offensive remarks. Ashcroft acknowledged that there was ''no way of anticipating what his last words would be.'' But officials said microphones inside the death chamber could be cut off if McVeigh speaks too long.
''Mr. McVeigh's expressions have frequently been offensive,'' Ashcroft said, referring to a book in which McVeigh described the 19 children killed as ''collateral damage.''
In Oklahoma, survivors said they were pleased with the attorney general's decisions.
''I don't know anybody who would be unhappy with what the attorney general did for us,'' said Paul Heath, spokesman for a victims group that petitioned for closed-circuit access.
Ashcroft also increased the number of victim witnesses allowed inside the death chamber from eight to 10.
He said the ''savagery'' and ''stunning magnitude'' of McVeigh's crime influenced his decision to allow the execution to be televised to victims.
Ashcroft said the federal government will apply rules set in the McVeigh case to the other prisoners on the federal death row. Such inmates will no longer be permitted to do in-person interviews with reporters. Instead, McVeigh and the 21 other condemned men will continue to be allowed 15 minutes a day to make phone calls. They can talk with reporters during that time, Ashcroft said, if the interviews are approved in advance by the warden.
Several news organizations, including USA TODAY, have requested interviews with McVeigh. For reporters who might speak with the bomber, Ashcroft urged ''self-restraint.''
''I would ask that the news media not become Timothy McVeigh's co-conspirator in his assault on America's public safety and upon America itself,'' the attorney general said.
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