Iraqi Connection to Oklahoma Bombing
Posted March 25, 2002 By
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah reportedly rejected
a direct request from Vice President Dick Cheney during a March 16 meeting
in Jeddah that Saudi Arabia support a U.S.-led attack on Iraq. Other Arab
countries have followed suit. But new information linking Iraq to terrorist
attacks against the U.S. mainland could at least change the equation ? or at
least the U.S. resolve to move against Iraq unilaterally if necessary.
President George W. Bush and top administration officials have expanded the
war on terror to include regimes, such as Iraq's, that are developing
weapons of mass destruction. In testimony March 19 before the Senate Armed
Services Committee, CIA Director George Tenet made clear that Iraq's ongoing
nuclear-weapons program constitutes a clear and present danger to the United
States. The president repeatedly has said the same. But until now the United
States has taken no steps to deploy the forces most observers believe would
be necessary to support military action to depose Saddam Hussein.
That was before an Oklahoma City lawyer named Mike Johnston, aided by Larry
Klayman of Judicial Watch, filed a federal lawsuit against Iraq on behalf of
victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. The lawsuit alleges that "the entire
plot to blow up the Murrah Building on April 19, 1995, in whole or in part,
was orchestrated, assisted technically and/ or financially and directly
aided by agents of the Republic of Iraq."
The facts Johnston and his team of investigators uncovered could blow the
lid off the U.S. government cover-up of the "others unknown" who conspired
with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols to murder 168 Americans. If proven,
says Richard Perle, chairman of the Bush administration's advisory Defense
Policy Board, "it would add a lot to the justification of what we do."
However, Perle cautioned INSIGHT in an interview, "The case against Saddam
is so powerful it would be unnecessary and unwise to pin our case on one
single act, however heinous. We're looking at the aggregate of the
indictment of Iraq: their weapons of mass destruction, their refusal to
allow U.N. arms inspectors into the weapons facilities, their support for
terrorism. If we clutched at one single act, some people might see it as an
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Washington on March 14, alleges
that convicted Oklahoma City conspirator Nichols met repeatedly in the
Philippines with World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Youssef, and that Youssef
was an Iraqi intelligence agent. If these allegations are confirmed in
court, they constitute a stunning indictment of Iraqi state complicity in
murderous attacks on the United States well before Sept. 11.
As if anticipating new developments on the terrorism front, CIA Director
Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee in unusually frank testimony
on March 19 that the United States now is actively examining potential Iraqi
and Iranian involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks.
"As to where we are in [investigating] Sept. 11, the jury's out," Tenet told
senators. "And it would be a mistake to dismiss the possibility of state
sponsorship, whether Iranian or Iraqi, and we'll see where the evidence
The evidence could take the CIA and the White House to both Middle Eastern
states, as Tenet made clear. "The distinctions between Sunni and Shia
[Islam] that have traditionally divided terrorist groups are not
distinctions you should make anymore because there is a common interest
against the United States and its allies in this region, and they will seek
capability wherever they can get it," he said. Saddam Hussein and his
governing Baathist elite are predominantly Sunni, while neighboring Iran is
majority Shiite. Both have helped Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, U.S.
counterterrorism officials now believe.
Some of the evidence cited in the complaint was developed by Stephen Jones,
the McVeigh defense attorney who first aired allegations of Iraqi
involvement in his book Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma
City Bombing Conspiracy. But other facts will surprise even veteran Oklahoma
City watchers, who long have known the government was withholding evidence,
as Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn A. Fine admitted in an
official report released on March 18.
Jones tells INSIGHT that the new allegations, combined with evidence he had
uncovered earlier, bear the weight of prima facie evidence of a broader
conspiracy involving Iraq.
"We went to the Philippines four times to investigate Terry Nichols'
meetings with Ramzi Youssef and other known terrorists," Jones tells
INSIGHT. That evidence, now being expanded by Johnston and his
investigators, includes testimony from Edwin Angeles, a
Philippine-government intelligence operative who was infiltrated into the
top echelon of the radical Islamic terrorist group known as Abu Sayyaf.
Angeles "turned himself in" to Philippine authorities in December 1994 and
provided videotaped testimony to an American private investigator working
for Jones who interviewed him in the Basilan provincial jail. On the tape,
never admitted into evidence at the Oklahoma City trial, Angeles says he met
on several occasions with Youssef, coconspirators Abdul Hakim Murad, Wali
Khan Amin Shah and a visiting American known as "The Farmer."
At one meeting in late 1994 in Davao on the island of Mindanao, a hotbed of
Muslim extremism, the group discussed specific terrorist targets in the
United States, including the federal building in Oklahoma City, as INSIGHT
reported last November (see "Iraq Connection to U.S. Extremists," Nov. 19,
2001). Angeles then made a sketch of The Farmer that he gave to the
investigators. Says Jones: "The man it depicted was a dead ringer for Terry
According to Jones, as well as new witnesses uncovered by Johnston and his
investigators working on the ground in the Philippines, Nichols went to the
Philippines to learn bomb-making techniques in late 1994 after he and
McVeigh had attempted unsuccessfully to build an explosive device. "In
October," Jones says, "Tim couldn't blow up a rock. Then Terry goes to the
Philippines, and Tim says he builds the bomb." Despite repeated demands from
his lawyers for the truth, McVeigh "never accounted for how he learned to
build the bomb," Jones says. Jones and Johnston believe it was Nichols who
brought back that expertise from the Philippines after extensive meetings
with bomb expert Youssef.
Nichols' father-in-law, a Filipino policeman named Torres, told
Philippine-government investigators that he had found bomb-making manuals in
Nichols' luggage in late 1994 when Nichols stayed at the family's home in
Cebu City, at precisely the same time Angeles placed Nichols in meetings
there with Youssef. The FBI claims Torres retracted these statements, but
Jones says he reaffirmed them in subsequent depositions with Philippine
authorities. "To me, that increased his credibility," Jones tells INSIGHT.
And then there's the strange package Nichols left with his ex-wife in the
United States before making the last of his many previously tranquil trips
to the Philippines. In the package, which he instructed her to open only if
he didn't return to the United States within 90 days, Nichols included a
letter to McVeigh ("You're on your own," he wrote). He also left what
amounted to a will, instructing his ex-wife in the event of his death to
reclaim gold bars, $20,000 in cash and other monetary instruments from a
"We have reason to believe that Terry Nichols was planning to take part in
Project Bojinka [the plot to attack U.S. airliners]," Johnston tells
INSIGHT. "He only returned to the United States after Ramzi Youssef's plans
were foiled and Youssef fled the Philippines for Pakistan." Youssef was
arrested by Pakistani authorities in February 1995 and promptly extradited
to the United States to stand trial for the 1993 bomb attacks on the World
Youssef's past has proved elusive. When he was brought to trial for the 1993
World Trade Center bombing, he was presented as a Palestinian refugee who
grew up in Kuwait and traveled to Afghanistan in the late 1980s to join
forces with bin Laden.
But new evidence uncovered by Johnston and his investigators suggests that
Youssef may have had direct ties to Iraqi intelligence all along. "We have
sworn witness statements and affidavits from court cases that predate the
Oklahoma City bombing that directly tie Ramzi Youssef to Dr. Ihsan Barbouti,"
Johnston tells INSIGHT. "The witnesses say Barbouti introduced Ramzi Youssef
as an 'explosives expert for the Iraqi National Oil Company,' and that
Youssef was working in Kuwait for Barbouti prior to the Iraqi invasion."
Johnston says that he believes Barbouti was married to a member of Saddam
Hussein's al-Tikriti clan. In tribal Iraq, such ties create bonds of
In January 1995, the record shows Youssef was mixing explosives in a Manila
apartment with Abdul Hakim Murad when his deadly brew caught fire, billowing
smoke into the hallway and the street. The pair fled, but Murad went back
after the fire to retrieve a computer hard drive containing evidence of
their terrorist plans and was arrested. Once Youssef was extradited to the
United States, the FBI decrypted the files and found detailed plans,
code-named Project Bojinka, to blow up 11 U.S. airliners over the Pacific.
On the day of the Oklahoma City bombing, Murad summoned his prison guards in
a New York jail and told them he had important information about the attack.
In a signed statement, he said it had been carried out by the Liberation
Army of the Philippines. Questioned about that allegation in jail, Angeles
was quick to correct him, Jones says. "It had nothing to do with the
Philippines, Angeles told our investigator. It was the Palestine Liberation
Army [PLA] that Abdul Hakim was referring to, working with Islamic Jihad."
The PLA was established in 1979 after the Camp David Peace Accord by Saddam
Hussein, who was then chairman of a radical Arab coalition known as the
Front of Refusal. The PLA trained in Iraq and had units that this reporter
encountered in Lebanon in the early 1980s. No one besides Jones has until
now picked up on Angeles' claim of their involvement in the Oklahoma City
The new legal complaint by Oklahoma City victims argues the attack "was an
illegal continuation of the Persian Gulf War" and that Iraq had the "means,
opportunity and motive" to carry it out. It contends Youssef was the main
vehicle of the conspiracy working through Nichols, who became "a willing
convert" to Youssef's anti-American agenda during his frequent meetings in
But troubling new evidence directly tying McVeigh to Iraq also is beginning
to emerge. In McVeigh's lengthy March 1998 "Essay on Hypocrisy," in which he
explained his motives for the bombing, he repeatedly compared his actions in
taking the lives of U.S. government workers to U.S. air strikes on Iraq.
"The people of the nation approve the bombing of government employees
because they are 'guilty' by association ? they are Iraqi government
employees," McVeigh wrote. "In regard to the bombing in Oklahoma City,
however, such logic is condemned."
Last October, U.S. News & World Report revealed in its "Washington Whispers"
column that McVeigh was carrying Iraqi telephone numbers when he was
arrested on the day of the bombing. Sources tell INSIGHT that the phone
numbers apparently were contained in a sealed manila envelope that was
turned over to the FBI unopened by the Oklahoma state troopers who arrested
McVeigh. The FBI logged in the evidence as "manila envelope with content,"
but never disclosed what was inside.
Yet another potential Iraqi connection to the Oklahoma City bombing is being
promoted by a former Oklahoma City TV reporter named Jayna Davis, who claims
to have discovered an Iraqi terrorist network embedded within the Arab
immigrant community in the city.
According to Davis, she found a "perfect match" when she compared the sketch
of John Doe No. 2 to video surveillance photos of an Iraqi refugee named
Hussein al-Hosseini. Davis ran several TV news reports on al-Hosseini and a
mysterious brown pickup truck spotted by eyewitnesses at the scene of the
bombing in the weeks following the attack. She alleged that a similar pickup
was seen before the attack at the house where al-Hosseini was staying. Davis
tells INSIGHT she didn't know how many brown pickups were registered in
Oklahoma, but that the truck at al-Hosseini's house disappeared after the
Davis was sued by al-Hosseini for libel after airing her allegations on KFOR-TV.
But she insists that he never provided a convincing alibi for his
whereabouts at key moments in the Oklahoma City conspiracy. After extensive
civil-court proceedings, al-Hosseini dropped the lawsuit and has dropped out
Davis admits she never successfully penetrated al-Hosseini's past, nor
investigated his contradictory claims to have been a member of Iraq's elite
Republican Guard or just an ordinary military conscript who subsequently
requested and received political asylum in the United States. While Davis
has presented the information she gathered on al-Hosseini and his friends to
congressional staffers and to former counterterrorism officials ? who told
INSIGHT they were "intrigued" by her findings ? her allegations of an Iraqi
connection to the Oklahoma City bombing, while promising, remain tenuous.
But one thing is clear: Bill Clinton and Janet Reno exulted when they found
a domestic conspiracy behind the Oklahoma City bombing, say administration
insiders, and immediately ordered the FBI to call off its investigation of
any international connection. Details of that connection finally are
beginning to emerge.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior
writer for Insight magazine and author of the best-seller