In-depth coverage about
Oklahoma City Bombing
Related News Stories
Warnings Cited Before Oklahoma Bombing - Associated
Press (Jun 20, 2002)
United by grief - San Francisco Chronicle (Apr 20,
Communities joined in aftermath of loss - Oklahoman
(Apr 19, 2002)
Opinion & Editorials
Terry Nichols's Filipino Connection - Village Voice
(Mar 27, 2002)
Right-to-Work Measure Passes in Oklahoma - Concerned
Women for America (Sep 26, 2001)
Okeene to Manhattan: a legacy - Oklahoman (Sep 16,
Communities joined in aftermath of loss - Oklahoman
(Apr 19, 2002)
Key Report on OKC Bombing - The New American (Jul
Related Web Sites
Timoth McVeigh Death Certificate - fascimile of the
document filed with the Vigo County, Indiana health
department. From the Smoking Gun.
Oklahoma City National Memorial - official site of
the memorial museum located in Oklahoma City dedicated
to remembering the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.
After Oklahoma City - features interviews, analysis,
and related news about the bombing, McVeigh's trial and
conviction, and execution proceedings. From PBS' Online
The September 11th terrorist
attacks required extensive planning. Our intelligence services knew
enough to have responded better.
John Philip Walker Lindh, better
known as the "American Taliban," is accused of conspiring with Osama
bin Laden's terrorist network to kill American citizens. According
to the federal criminal complaint, Lindh's role in the terrorist
conspiracy "began in May or June of 2001." It was then that Lindh
"agreed to attend an al-Qaeda training camp for additional and
extensive military training, knowing that America and its citizens
were the enemies of bin Laden and al-Qaeda and that a principal
purpose of al-Qaeda was to fight and kill Americans." While at the
training camp, Lindh allegedly learned that "bin Laden had sent
forth some fifty people to carry out twenty suicide terrorist
operations against the United States and Israel."
Significantly, the indictment does
not accuse Lindh of actively participating in the terrorist plot.
During a visit with senior al-Qaeda official Abu Mohammad Al-Masri,
the self-exiled American was invited to take part in "operations
against the United States and Israel." Lindh allegedly declined to
carry out terrorist missions, choosing instead to fight on the front
lines of the Taliban's civil war with its Northern Alliance rivals.
The case against Lindh rests heavily
on proving that he had foreknowledge of al-Qaeda's plot to commit
mass murder. To make that case it is not necessary to prove that
Lindh actually killed Americans, or that he had specific knowledge
regarding the target of the attack, or the means by which it would
be carried out. The burden on the prosecution is to validate its
conspiracy theory against Lindh by proving that the defendant knew
the attack was coming, and freely chose to associate with the
terrorist cabal who plotted the atrocity.
Federal authorities will be much more
eager to prosecute Lindh than to question how he was able to
penetrate to the very core of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.
This eccentric, alienated California teenager fascinated with
radical Islam managed to do what highly skilled intelligence
professionals supposedly could not: Insinuate himself so deeply into
al-Qaeda - even meeting "The Evil One" himself on one occasion -
that he obtained critical intelligence about the forthcoming attack
Lindh stands accused of hideous
crimes. But from the federal government's perspective, Lindh is
dangerous for another reason: His success as an infiltrator
underscores the consummate failure of our hugely expensive
"intelligence community" to protect our nation from foreign attack.
But the trial could pose an even
graver threat to the intelligence community if it prompts the public
to think seriously about the charges against the "American Taliban."
What if it can be demonstrated that federal authorities responsible
for defending our nation knew as much about the impending terrorist
attack as Lindh did? What would be the political, moral, and legal
liabilities of officials who were in possession of such knowledge,
and failed to act upon it?
As we will show, the feds knew no
later than June that an attack from bin Laden was coming. By August
it had identified several key co-conspirators, and had one in
custody. And two days after the attack Chicago attorney David
Schippers - a lifelong Democrat who was chief investigative counsel
in the Clinton impeachment - disclosed that he had attempted to warn
Attorney General John Ashcroft about the coming attack.
As previously reported in this
Bombing: Precursor to 9-11?" in our January 28, 2002 issue),
Schippers told a Pittsburgh radio audience on September 13th that he
had learned from FBI agents in Minnesota and Chicago that a massive
terrorist attack had been planned for lower Manhattan. He had
developed this information six weeks before the Black Tuesday
atrocity. However, Justice Department officials repeatedly spurned
Schippers' attempts to provide the information to Ashcroft; one of
them reportedly sneered, "We don't start our investigations at the
top." This is a curious objection, given Schippers' credentials and
professional standing - and given that Ashcroft himself had warned
in June that "Americans are a high-priority target for terrorists."
Three veteran federal law enforcement
agents confirmed to THE
that the information provided to Schippers was widely known within
the Bureau before September 11th. Because these individuals face
possible personal or professional retaliation, they agreed to speak
with us on condition of anonymity. Two of them, however, have
expressed a willingness to testify before Congress regarding the
views they have shared with us.
"I don't buy the idea that we didn't
know what was coming," a former FBI official with extensive
counter-terrorism experience commented to THE
"Within 24 hours [of the attack] the Bureau had about 20 people
identified, and photos were sent out to the news media. Obviously
this information was available in the files and somebody was sitting
on it." This former FBI agent noted that before Zacarias Moussaoui,
the so-called "Twentieth Hijacker," was detained in Minneapolis, he
had undergone flight instruction in Oklahoma, "where we know that
Arab terrorist networks have been established for many years."
An active federal counter-terrorism
investigator told THE
that it was well known "all over the Bureau, how these [warnings]
were ignored by Washington.... All indications are that this
information came from some of [the Bureau's] most experienced guys,
people who have devoted their lives to this kind of work. But their
warnings were placed in a pile in someone's office in Washington....
In some cases, these field agents predicted, almost precisely, what
happened on September 11th. So we were all holding our breath …
hoping that the situation would be remedied."
According to the former FBI agent
quoted above, the Bureau could have prevented the Black Tuesday
massacre if it had adequately investigated the Middle East
connection to the
1995 Oklahoma City bombing. This assessment is supported by
another former FBI agent who spoke with this magazine.
"We knew that there were Arab
terrorist groups working in Oklahoma during the mid-1990s, but
nothing was done about it," he recalls. "We were constantly getting
information about terrorist groups working in the area, and it would
be put in what was called a ‘zero file.' Once you sent it in, you
were never told to act on it. And you were never told to follow up
on it." Nor were the agents allowed to share that intelligence with
state and local police: "We had a dissemination form that we could
use in sharing intelligence with local law enforcement. We'd have to
get clearance to give the information out. And this led to a
favorite saying of administrative people in the Bureau: ‘This is on
a need to know basis, and the locals don't need to know.'"
"This is pretty appalling," comments
the first former agent. "The FBI has had access to this information
since at least 1997. We're obviously not doing our job. I never
expected to see something like this happen in our country, but in a
way I wasn't shocked when it did. There's got to be more to this
than we can see - high-level people whose careers are at stake, and
don't want the truth coming out.... What agenda is someone
following? Obviously, people had to know - there had to be people
who knew this information was being circulated. People like [the
Black Tuesday terrorists] don't just move in and out of the country
undetected. If somebody in D.C. is taking this information and
burying it - and it's very easy to control things from D.C. - then
this problem goes much, much deeper.... It's terrible to think this,
but this must have been allowed to happen as part of some other
Negligence - or Worse?
When one talks of hidden agendas
behind the official story of the Black Tuesday attack, he can expect
to be denounced as a "conspiracy theorist." In fact, President Bush
himself condemned such supposedly irresponsible talk during his
November 10th address to the UN General Assembly. "We must speak the
truth about terror," insisted the president. "Let us never tolerate
outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September
the 11th - malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame away from
the terrorists themselves, away from the guilty."
The president's denunciation of
"conspiracy theorists" was echoed in a January 14th "news analysis"
by James Rosen, a Washington correspondent for the McClatchy News
Service. "Even in the wake of unspeakable evil, some people can't
leave bad enough alone," groused Rosen. "While the vast majority of
Americans accept their government's claim that Osama bin Laden and
his Al Qaeda network launched the attacks, a number of boisterous
malcontents are peddling alternative explanations."
It hardly detracts from the guilt of
bin Laden and his henchmen to point out that there are plausible
"alternative explanations" to the government's account of Black
Tuesday - namely, that our conscientious federal law enforcement and
security agencies were caught completely off-guard by an attack they
could not prevent. There is evidence that the feds knew of bin
Laden's impending terrorist strike no later than June. And we know
for certain that by August, federal authorities had identified
several key co-conspirators, and had one in custody.
On June 23rd, air industry officials
received a remarkably detailed warning about a threat from Osama bin
Laden's terrorist network to use airliners to attack Americans.
Citing a report from the Arabic-language MBC satellite television
channel, the AirlineBiz.com news service reported: "In recent years,
U.S. citizens have found themselves the target of several attacks by
the terror network of Osama bin Laden. One such attack involved a
plot to destroy 12 U.S. airliners in Asia. A jury found Ramzi Ahmed
Yousef, the alleged mastermind of the scheme, and two other
defendants, guilty on all counts. Yousef is also the alleged
mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center...."
The scheme to use jetliners as
terrorist weapons, called "Project Bojinka," had been uncovered by
police in the Philippines in 1995, and the details had been provided
to American law enforcement officials. (See "Could
We Have Prevented the Attacks?" in our November 5, 2001 issue.)
The significance of bin Laden's threats was not lost upon Bob
Monetti, president of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, which was
destroyed by a terrorist bomb in 1988. "I hope the airlines are
watching this situation closely," declared Monetti. "The airlines
are at risk. They need to take all appropriate measures and
counter-measures to ensure the safety of their passengers."
According to the June 23rd
AirlineBiz.com report, the Arabic satellite television network MBC
claimed that "the next two weeks will witness a big surprise." An
MBC reporter who had met with bin Laden in Afghanistan on June 21st
predicted that "a severe blow is expected against U.S. and Israeli
interests worldwide. There is a major state of mobilization among
the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race of who
will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?"
Despite such detailed advance warnings, bin Laden won that "race."
Ignoring the "20th Hijacker"
By September 11th, federal
authorities not only had 10 weeks' advance notice of an impending
attack from bin Laden, they also had one of the alleged plotters in
custody. This was acknowledged by CIA Director George Tenet as the
9-11 attack was underway. Amid reports of the suicide hijackings,
Tenet was overheard saying: "I wonder if it has anything to do with
this guy taking pilot training." Tenet "was referring to Zacarias
Moussaoui, who had been detained in August after attracting
suspicion when he sought training at a Minnesota flight school,"
observed the January 27th Washington Post. After the suspect
was taken into custody, "the FBI had asked the CIA and the National
Security Agency to run phone traces on Moussaoui, already the
subject of a five-inch-thick file in the bureau."
According to the December 29th
Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "Moussaoui raised suspicions at the
Pan Am International Flight Academy in Egan [Minnesota]" when he
showed up in August for instruction in piloting jumbo jets. He
"first raised eyebrows when, during a simple introductory exchange,
he said he was from France, but then didn't seem to understand when
the instructor spoke French to him," recalled the paper. "Moussaoui
then became belligerent and evasive about his background.... In
addition, he seemed inept in basic flying procedures, while seeking
expensive training on an advanced commercial jet simulator."
Flight school employees "began
whispering that he could be a hijacker," reported the February 8th
New York Times. John Rosengren, director of operations at the
school, recalled that Moussaoui's instructor was "concerned and
wondered why someone who was not a pilot and had so little
experience was trying to pack so much training into such a short
time." "The more he was able to talk to him, the more he decided he
was not pilot material," observes Rosengren. In addition, "There was
discussion about how much fuel was on board a 747-400 and how much
damage that could cause if it hit anything."
By this time, Moussaoui's instructor
had already scurried to a telephone to call the FBI's Minneapolis
office. "Do you realize how serious this is?" he asked an FBI agent
during the August 15th phone conversation. "This man wants training
on a 747. A 747 fully loaded with fuel could be used as a weapon!"
The FBI arrested Moussaoui the next day. However, notes the
Star-Tribune, "the Minneapolis agents were unable to persuade
FBI lawyers in Washington, D.C., to seek a warrant to search his
possessions under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which
requires evidence that the suspect is an agent of a foreign power or
a terrorist group." The frustrated field agents were trying to
gather sufficient evidence to get a warrant when Moussaoui's alleged
co-conspirators piloted jetliners into the Trade Center towers and
Charged with conspiracy to commit
mass murder, Moussaoui is not the only member of the Black Tuesday
plot whom federal authorities knew about. On the morning of
September 11th, noted the December 30th New York Times, "two
people already identified by the government as suspected terrorists
boarded separate American Airlines flights from Boston using their
own names." Federal officials were also aware of a third hijacker,
Hani Hanjour, who had come to the attention of the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) while studying at the Pan Am International
Flight Academy in Phoenix.
Officials at the school had raised
questions about Hanjour's inability to speak English, the
international language of aviation. When they expressed concerns to
the FAA, the agency stepped in to provide assistance - to Hanjour.
According to the Star-Tribune, "An FAA representative sat in
on a class to observe Hanjour … and discussed with school officials
finding an Arabic-speaking person to help him with his English...."
Hanjour returned the favor by plowing American Airlines Flight 77
into the Pentagon.
A Limited Inquiry?
As Congress probes the security
issues raised by the Black Tuesday attack, the investigation must be
framed by a question similar to that dealt with in the "American
Taliban" trial: What did our federal security and intelligence
agencies know of the impending attack, and when did they know it?
Recall that Lindh supposedly learned of the terrorist plot in May or
June of last year. Evidence available in the public record makes it
clear that the Justice Department and other branches of the federal
government were aware of at least as much as Lindh is accused of
Unfortunately, Congress seems content
thus far to defer to the White House's desire to limit the scope and
intensity of any inquiries into the tragedy. In meetings and phone
conversations with congressional leaders, President Bush and Vice
President Cheney "expressed the concern that a review of what
happened on September 11 would take resources and personnel away
from the effort in the war on terrorism," Senate Majority Leader Tom
Daschle (D-S.D.) told CNN. Daschle promised that he would "limit the
scope and overall review of what happened."
Congressman Porter Goss (R-Fla.) and
Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who head the intelligence committees in
their respective houses of Congress, extended similar assurances as
the joint congressional investigation began in February. "This is
not a who-shall-we-hang type of investigation," stated Rep. Goss.
"It is [a] ‘where are the gaps in America's defense and what do we
do about it' type of investigation" - a "forward-looking" inquiry
intended to bring about needed reforms. But without accountability,
"gaps" will handicap even the most comprehensive security system. As
Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz observed, "How can we
prevent future attacks if we don't understand how we missed the last
Those responsible for the lethal
"intelligence failure" of September 11th must be made to answer for
their inaction. The congressional investigative panel has subpoena
power. It should use it to summon responsible figures from the FBI,
CIA, National Security Agency, and other federal law enforcement and
intelligence agencies. These officials should be subject to
congressional scrutiny at least as severe as that being devoted to
the actions of Enron officials - whose alleged crimes, serious as
they may be, did not contribute to the death of thousands of
In testimony before the Senate
Intelligence Committee, CIA director Tenet "objected to the very
word ‘failure' in connection with the intelligence gathering ahead
of the devastating surprise attacks on the World Trade Center and
the Pentagon," reported the New York Times. "The director
said the CIA knew ‘in broad terms' last summer that terrorists might
be planning major operations in the United States. But, he said, ‘we
never had the texture' - meaning enough specific information - to
stop what happened."
Much the same can be said of John
Walker Lindh: He knew "in broad terms" that the attacks were coming,
even though the specific "texture" was not explained to him. For
refusing to act to prevent the massacre, Lindh has been charged with
conspiracy to murder Americans. In contrast, the FBI and CIA, which
had the same intelligence as Lindh, have been rewarded with generous
Though administrators of federal law
enforcement and intelligence agencies would prefer to cloak the
issue in self-serving euphemisms, Black Tuesday was - at best - a
singular intelligence failure, for which those officials must be
held responsible. And if, as one of the above-quoted former FBI
counter-terrorism agents suggests, efforts to prevent that attack
were compromised because of covert "agendas" in Washington, Congress
must be prepared to take even more serious action.
In any case, the American public must
demand that Congress ask unpleasant questions about federal
foreknowledge of the 9-11 atrocity - and that the inquiry
unflinchingly follow the facts wherever they lead.