Burton's panel finds links to foreigners in Oklahoma blast'

Indianapolis Star ^ | 8/25/2002 | James Patterson

August 24, 2002

The Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, was back sniffing around Oklahoma City last week looking for reasons to believe that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols had help.

They found plenty. Committee lawyer Marc Chretien interviewed at least six people who claimed to have seen McVeigh keeping company with foreign-looking men in the days, even minutes, before the bombing on April 19, 1995.

What keeps Burton and others pursuing the theory that Nichols and McVeigh, who was executed at Terre Haute last summer for his role in the blast, weren't smart enough to have orchestrated such an abominable plot all by their lonesome? Three reasons: Jayna Davis, David Schippers and Larry Johnson, each a fascinating story in his/her own right.

Davis, an Oklahoma City mother and wife, was at ground zero within minutes of the 9:02 a.m. explosion. She was working as a top gun for NBC affiliate KFOR after a stint with KCRA in Sacramento, the network's No. 3 affiliate, and after graduation from the University of Texas as a class valedictorian.

If Davis is no lightweight, neither are Schippers and Johnson. Schippers is a savvy Chicago lawyer who's risking his considerable reputation and, frankly, place in history by traversing the country to convince people of what Davis found.

Schippers has taken a huge gamble in lending his name to the declaration that foreigners -- most prominently an Iraqi national -- conspired with McVeigh, Nichols and "others unknown" (as the federal indictment proclaimed) to bring down the federal building killing 168. He is former chief investigative counsel for the House Judiciary Committee in the 1998 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton.

Johnson, former deputy director of the State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism, can't be easily dismissed either. He regularly appears on Fox news shows telling this story and has deeply placed law enforcement contacts who have confirmed his suspicions that the Department of Justice should reopen the case because he believes the Middle Eastern terrorist cell is still operational.

If it's true that Oklahoma bombing ties run all the way to Saddam Hussein, that would mean we go to war against Iraq.

So what is this slam dunk evidence that Davis has, over which high-powered men would wager their lofty careers? And why does our government, with the exception of a principled few like Burton, keep ignoring Davis, Schippers, Johnson, hundreds of Oklahomans and others across the country who are convinced of a broader bombing conspiracy?

Simply put, Justice has refused to pursue evidence that McVeigh and Nichols conspired with foreign nationals, specifically, a group of Middle Eastern-born men who had moved to Oklahoma City to work for a local property management company owned by a Palestinian ex-con in November 1994.

Here's a sample of Davis' evidence that the congressional committee is uncovering:

Within 49 days of the bombing, despite the fact the FBI had blamed it on anti-government radicals McVeigh and Nichols, Davis nailed down eyewitnesses who had put disgruntled Gulf-War veteran McVeigh in a tavern drinking beer four days before the blast with a former Gulf War Iraqi soldier who worked for the property company.

Davis has amassed 26 sworn affidavits from eyewitnesses who implicate eight Arab men who colluded with McVeigh and Nichols at various stages of the bombing plot; classified intelligence papers proving the U.S. suspected Middle Eastern involvement in the plot and had warned government agencies against a pending attack; as well as court documents, public records and statements from law enforcement officers that independently corroborate the eyewitnesses' testimony.

Several of the witnesses directly link eight Middle Eastern men, most of whom are former Iraqi soldiers, to McVeigh and Nichols.

Seven of those witnesses, through a photo lineup, link one of the soldiers in particular to McVeigh, the Ryder truck that exploded, the Murrah Building and a getaway pickup truck that sped away, for which police were looking moments after the blast.

Why are Burton's people spending time in Oklahoma? Who needs to ask?

Patterson is a Star editorial writer. Contact him at 1-317-444-6174 or by e-mail at

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