EITHER CONVICTED OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBERS Timothy
McVeigh and Terry Nichols were part of a conspiracy, possibly
involving Middle Eastern and Filipino connections, or they were not.
Seven years later, the authorities have still not fully examined this
But taking on this issue would seem to fit the
mission of the House and Senate Intelligence committees, which are
jointly investigating intelligence failures by the FBI and CIA before
9/11. Chaired by two Floridians -- Republican Representative Porter
Goss and Democratic Senator Bob Graham -- the Committees' began their
closed-door work by focusing on two areas: U.S. investigations of
terrorism since the CIA established a counterterrorism unit in 1986
and Osama bin Laden's role in sponsoring international terrorism since
Back in 1995, several Congressional Committees did
search for international ties to the Oklahoma City attack, but came up
empty, explained former Representative Bill McCollum in an interview.
Still, the reports issued by the House Republican Task Force on
Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, which McCollum chaired until
1995, were quite prescient.
"The task force was on the mark when it came to
their warnings about the emerging threat of Middle Eastern terrorism,"
McCollum said. "I can tell you that we were very concerned about the
possibility of a Middle East connection to Oklahoma City. But we never
found any evidence there was one."
McCollum, however, said he never heard of the
reporting done by TV journalist Jayna Davis, which connected McVeigh
and Nichols with Middle Eastern figures in Oklahoma City and the
Philippines. Nor did he know of Davis' ongoing communications with
Yossef Bodansky, executive director of the Task Force on Terrorism and
Unconventional Warfare. "Seffy [Bodansky] never told me anything about
that," he said. "This is all news to me."
After the bombing, Bodansky marshaled his
intelligence sources and began an investigation. He found some of the
same Middle Eastern connections uncovered by reporter Davis. "The
stories you are telling fit very closely with the stories I have," he
told Davis, in a taped conversation on April 24, 1996.
In the tape, Davis asks if the names are tied to the
bombing. And Bodansky responds, "I didn't get them because I am trying
to run a private, one-man census of the Oklahoma City area."
The government also turned up experts who believed
they found possible evidence of a Middle Eastern signature on the
bombing. In 1997, Stephen Jones, lead attorney for McVeigh, filed a
motion claiming the defense team had acquired a one-page summary of a
government report by two unnamed Israeli experts who examined the
Murrah Building. "Their conclusion was the Oklahoma City bombing bore
the indisputable earmark of Middle Eastern terrorists," said Jones in
The men were eventually identified as Dorom
Bergerbest-Eliom, chief of security for the Israeli Embassy in
Washington, D.C., and Yakov (or Yaskov) Yerushalmi, a civil engineer
and Israeli government consultant. Attorney Jones filed a court motion
complaining to federal Judge Richard Matsch that the government had
wrongly denied the document to McVeigh's defense team.
"We never did get the full report," Jones continued.
"Judge Matsch reminded the prosecutors they had a legal obligation to
turn over any exculpatory material to the defense. However, the judge
left it to the Justice Department to decide what was exculpatory."
DAVIS, THE FORMER TV REPORTER FOR KFOR-TV in
Oklahoma City, began investigating the bombing the day after the
attack. In seven years, she's accumulated 26 affidavits and more than
100 hours of taped interviews. In particular, she zeroed in on a group
of Iraqis who worked for Samir Khalil, a Palestinian-born businessman
and owner of a property-management company in Oklahoma City. Davis
also did pieces on John Doe No. 2, the mysterious figure identified in
initial police bulletins as having been seen fleeing the federal
building after the bombing. The FBI later announced that John Doe No.
2 never existed.
One of the Iraqis, Hussain Alhussaini, later came
forward and identified himself as the person being fingered in Davis'
television reports as John Doe No. 2. He sued the reporter for
defamation. A federal judge dismissed the suit; Alhussaini has
appealed. (See: Heartland Conspiracy, published in the L.A. Weekly,
Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 2001.)
The TV reporter, who has since quit the station,
also interviewed Lana Padilla, Nichols' first wife. She told Davis
that McVeigh had given her ex-husband thousands of dollars and paid
for his first trip to the Philippines. Nichols, who is now awaiting
trial in Oklahoma City on state murder charges, traveled extensively
to the islands and eventually married a Filipino woman. Padilla has
now been subpoenaed as a prosecution witness in Nichols' state case.
Davis also turned up material that appeared to
connect Nichols to Ramzi Yousef and Abdul Hakim Murad. Yousef, the
convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, is now
serving a life sentence in federal prison. He also had hatched
unrealized plans to blow up 12 airliners and to assassinate Pope John
Murad, a confederate of Yousef, is also in federal
custody. He told Philippine police about a plot to hijack an airliner
and crash it into CIA headquarters. Murad also claimed in 1996 that a
large number of Middle Eastern men were being trained at U.S. flight
schools in connection with these plots. This information was passed on
to the FBI. What the agency did with it is unknown.
Court documents, related to this alleged Filipino
connection, were attached to a motion filed by McVeigh's defense team
in 1996. One is an FBI memo detailing a conversation between Murad and
a U.S. prison guard after the Oklahoma City bombing. Murad told his
jailer that the Filipino Liberation Army was responsible for that
attack. The memo also cites a note Murad gave his guard, reiterating
Another exhibit from the defense motion is an
affidavit filed by Edwin Angeles, a founder of Abu Sayyaf, a Filipino
terrorist group. Angeles, who was assassinated by former comrades,
wrote in 1996 that he was at a 1991 meeting in Davao City, attended by
Yousef, Murad and Nichols, at which, they discussed "bombing
activities, providing firearms and ammo" to terrorists and "training
in bomb making and handling" of explosives. Nichols, he claimed, was
introduced to him as "the farmer."
In February 1995 -- months before the Oklahoma City
blast -- the House Task Force on Terrorism issued a warning that
Middle Eastern Islamists, under the leadership of Iran, were preparing
a series of terrorist attacks against the U.S. An update, issued in
March 1995 -- just a month before the bombing -- stated the target
list had shifted from Washington, D.C., to government installations
and buildings in America's heartland. The task force distributed these
alerts to federal intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. In 1996,
terrorism-task-force director Bodansky gave a copy of the original
warning and update to Davis. Reportedly Bodansky, recently passed on
Davis' affidavits and taped interviews to the U.S. House Government
Reform Committee, about which he refuses to comment. "I work for the
government, and I can't talk about Oklahoma City," he said.
IN THE NINE MONTHS SINCE THE Weekly
published details of Davis' story, new information has emerged
that raises more questions about the FBI's investigation into the
On April 19, 1995 -- immediately after the bombing
-- the FBI sent an urgent request to the U.S. Defense Intelligence
Agency requesting 10 Arabic linguists to help in its Oklahoma City
bombing investigation. Linguists, serving on a 30-day loan, would not
be permitted to monitor electronic surveillance.
After McVeigh's arrest, the FBI was contacted by
the Defense Department to see if they still needed the linguists.
According to an April 22, 1995 memo from the Department of the Army,
an FBI agent said the linguists were being used to "monitor wiretaps
of radical fundamentalist Islamists to protect the President from
possible attack" during his upcoming appearance at an Oklahoma City
On August 2, 1995, Federal Protective Services
special agent Thomas Williams sent a memo to his branch chief, John
Crowe, detailing his communication with terrorism task-force director
Yossef Bodansky. In it, he states Bodansky told him that a lot of
names that came up in NBC reports (by TV journalist Jayna Davis)
overlapped with the names of suspects Bodansky had compiled.
In a taped conversation between Bodansky and Davis
on May 18, 1996, Bodansky tells the reporter that by mid-April,
intelligence information suggested that government buildings had been
specifically targeted. He said the intelligence had been accumulated
over 18 months. He also said he had gotten another warning from
Israeli intelligence, a week before the bombing, that an attack would
be launched in America's heartland.
Also on May 18, Bodansky faxed two notes to Davis
in which he provides more details about the task force's intelligence
analysis. Bodansky writes that after the bombing, it was determined
that Oklahoma City had been "on the list of potential targets." The
second note states that "The initial forensic investigation of the
explosion in Oklahoma suggested strong similarities to bombing
techniques used by Iran-sponsored Islamist terrorists, including the
car bomb that destroyed [a] building in Buenos Aires on 18 July 1994."
An undated intelligence report by Bodansky
discusses alleged terrorist training inside the U.S. that included
some "Lilly Whites," people whose background would not tie them to
terrorism. Bodansky states the training was ordered by Iran and
conducted by Hamas operatives. His intelligence sources told him that
the training occurred at a camp near Chicago. The first camp was
allegedly held in 1990 and included about 25 trainees, who used code
names. One group, he states, was reportedly given instructions on
building car bombs from available materials. The second training
occurred in 1993. It was specifically for Lilly Whites. They also used
code names and were given state-of-the-art car-bomb training.
Bodansky's sources also report that at least two of the 1993
participants came from Oklahoma City.
During a legal dispute with her former employer
Bodansky wrote Davis a letter of support stating, "Having studied the
material provided by Ms. Davis very closely, I consider it most
sensitive, reliable and important evidence for the Task Force
investigation." Bodansky also wrote, "Having carefully studied these
tapes, as well as other work of Ms. Davis, I'm convinced that the
witnesses she had interviewed provide credible testimony."
During a civil suit for defamation against Davis
and KFOR-TV, Hussain Alhussaini, a former Iraqi soldier, submitted
psychiatric reports from 1997, in which he states that he worked for a
while at Boston's Logan Airport (where two of the planes were hijacked
on September 11). Alhussaini first told his psychiatrist that he quit
his airport job because "If anything happens there, I will be a
suspect." Then he later contradicts himself, saying that he wants to
look for another job "because he feels unsafe in the environment he
works in, in the airport, given the recent events involving his being
previously suspected of involvement in the Oklahoma bombing." In a
1998 deposition, Alhussaini states he is still working at the airport
and has fears of losing his job. Alhussaini's specific job was never
identified. Alhussaini still appears to be living in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Port Authority, which oversees Logan's operations,
declined comment on Alhussaini's current work status or his airport
An analysis of raw news footage and reports in the
immediate aftermath of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in
Oklahoma City, Okla., shows local television reporters stating repeatedly
that two additional, sophisticated, undetonated explosive devices were found
by investigators on the scene.
The television reports raise questions about the official government
version of events that an "extremist" and his friend acted alone, using a
Ryder rental truck and a 1,200-pound ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, or ANFO,
bomb to destroy the face of the building.
For example, initial news broadcasts by KWTV-9, KFOR TV-5 and Channel 4
News all feature reports confirmed by state, local and federal officials
that a total of three bombs had been placed inside the Murrah building.
TV news footage showed Oklahoma County Sheriff's Department bomb squad
vehicles being brought to the scene within a half-hour of the explosion,
"amid reports" that "more bombs have been found" by rescuers.
Also, reporters at the scene confirmed that the two other bombs were
larger than the first one, and that the bomb that had exploded blew up
inside -- not outside -- the building.
Reports said the other two bombs were found on the east and west sides of
the building; the explosion occurred at the front, or north side, of the
In one clip, the medical director for St. Anthony's Hospital told
reporters that local OKC police had informed him that rescue efforts had
been called off temporarily "because of the other bombs found in the
And, TV-9 reported that "the U.S. Justice Department has confirmed" that
other bombs were found in the structure.
In subsequent reports, within the first few hours of the explosion, news
crews were reporting that federal and local authorities had confirmed that
the two other explosives had been "defused" and "moved off site."
The 'lone' suspects
Timothy McVeigh, now 32, was convicted in 1997 for his role in the April
19, 1995, bombing, and is scheduled to be executed by the government May 16
at a federal prison facility in Terre Haute, Ind.
The Justice Department said Friday that bombing survivors and victims'
families would be able to view the execution via closed-circuit television.
He will be the first federal prisoner executed in 36 years. In 1997, he was
convicted in the bombing deaths of 168 people, including 19 children.
McVeigh has said he bombed the Murrah building in retaliation for the
FBI's raid on a Branch Davidian religious facility April 19, 1993, in Waco,
Texas, which led to a fire that killed 80 men, women and children.
McVeigh said he did it to give the federal government "dirty for dirty."
Meanwhile, Terry Nichols, also convicted in 1997 as an accomplice in the
OKC attack, is currently serving a life sentence in federal prison. But he
also faces Oklahoma state charges of capital murder pressed by prosecutors
who have pledged to seek the death penalty.
Early news reports indicated government sources were saying that "bombs
were brought into" the Murrah building, and that because they were able to
find undetonated devices, authorities would be able to "find out who is
responsible" for the bombing.
In one clip, Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating also confirmed the presence of
"The reports I have are that one device was deactivated … [and]
apparently, there was another device. Whatever did the damage to the Murrah
building was a tremendous … a very sophisticated explosive device. …"
Keating was heard saying.
One TV news report then said that then-President Bill Clinton "has called
Gov. Keating … and said three FBI anti-terrorist teams" were being sent from
Washington, D.C., to OKC, ostensibly to investigate the incident. The report
further stated that "the White House and Justice Department … have said [the
bombing] was the work of a sophisticated group … and would have to have been
carried out by an explosives expert."
McVeigh and Nichols were not explosives experts, critics of the
government's official version of events point out.
Later in the day and into the next day, details of the official
explanations and information that had been witnessed or confirmed early on
by news organizations, reporters and authorities handling the rescue efforts
began to change.
Within 24 hours, federal officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and Firearms were saying that the explosion had not occurred within the
building itself but instead the damage had been caused by a "car" parked in
front of the building, loaded with the ANFO bomb. Soon afterward, the "car"
became a Ryder rental truck and the explosives grew in size, to about 4,500
Also, officials began to discount the second- and third bomb story,
instead focusing only on the outside, north-face explosion as the one and
only explosive source at the entire complex.
At one point, news reports began to suggest that officials believed the
outside explosion was intended to set off the other explosions inside, but
witness statements began to be reported that would refute the single-bomb
Witnesses interviewed by local TV affiliates said they felt the Murrah
building "shake and shift" for several seconds before "glass blew in"
on top of them. One witness said he saw the ceiling collapse as he dove
under his desk, "several seconds before the glass came in at me."
Experts began to theorize that the ANFO bomb in the Ryder truck was
indeed integral to what happened, but not as Washington said. Rather, they
theorized that the ANFO explosion -- which came after the internal explosion
-- was intended to mask that first explosion and gave the government
plausibility for its single-bomb-outside-the-structure version of events;
the version that eventually became widely accepted.
In the years following the bombing, independent investigators,
journalists and bomb experts have studied the available evidence and found
new evidence to suggest the earliest reports of what happened just over six
years ago were probably the most accurate.
particular website has published official government documents and
statements that substantiate the 3-bomb reports first aired by local
A Department of Defense Atlantic Command memo, issued one day after the
bombing, says "… a second bomb was disarmed; a third bomb was evacuated. …"
A Federal Emergency Management Agency "SitRep" (situational report),
dated April 20, 1995, also confirms the presence of three bombs inside the
building. And a U.S. Forces Command daily log report from the same day said:
"Two more explosive devices were located vicinity the explosion site.
Evidently intended for the rescuers."
Finally, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol radio log said, "OC Fire Dept.
confirms they did find a second device in the bldg/OK. …"
Also, independent engineers, explosives experts and military analysts
conducted studies of the available evidence, many concluding that the
government's "single truck-single bomb" explanation was technically
Perhaps one of the most dominant of these was conducted by Brig. Gen. Ben
K. Partin, a retired Air Force officer with decades of military experience
in the design of explosives and warheads.
exhaustive study, completed July 30, 1995 -- less than three months
after the bombing -- also concluded that explosive charges, or
"demolitions," were most likely placed inside the structure at key points
designed to "bring the building down. …"
Coming to closure
Despite those early reports and later studies that appear to substantiate
the information contained in them, federal prosecutors and the FBI were
resolute in discounting much of it when the case went to trial. Instead, the
Justice Department's cases were entirely built on McVeigh, Nichols, and the
Ryder truck bomb theory.
Even though McVeigh is scheduled to be executed in just a few short
weeks, and even if Nichols ends up with a similar fate, there will always be
questions from some who remain convinced -- as those early reporters were --
that something other than Washington's official version really happened that
fateful day in 1995.
Many questions will probably never be answered, however. The Murrah
building was demolished two weeks after the attack; the site was covered
with dirt and the building materials were trucked to an off-site dump manned
by armed guards and buried.
Further independent analysis of the materials was not, and has not, been
Other questions still nag critics of the government case: