OKC: justice denied--again: although the state trial of Terry Nichols offered some hope of finally exposing the massive cover-up concerning the 1995 terror attack, there were no breakthroughs.
Oklahoma prosecutors, hoping to obtain a death sentence in a state trial, charged Nichols for the murder of 161 people, including 19 children and one unborn child. The three-month-long state trial concluded on June 11 with Nichols again eluding the executioner. The state jury, which had convicted him on May 26, announced on June 11 that after three days of deliberation they remained deadlocked over the penalty. Judge Steven Taylor announced that he will sentence Nichols on August 9. By state law, Judge Taylor is required to sentence Nichols to life in prison.
The state trial of Terry Nichols offered a slim but real hope of finally obtaining justice for those killed in the Murrah building and closure for their loved ones still living. A big part of that hope involved the potential to bring forward important evidence and witnesses excluded in the federal OKC trials--evidence and witnesses leading to "John Doe No. 2" and additional conspirators, whom the original federal indictment referred to simply as "others unknown."
Equally important to securing justice for the victims, both living and dead, of the April 19, 1995 bombing is the prevention of future attacks. After vowing to bring all the OKC perpetrators to justice, the Clinton administration declared that only McVeigh and Nichols were involved and then went to extraordinary lengths to cover up, falsify and destroy evidence, intimidate witnesses and muzzle investigators.
As a result, conspirators in the 1995 OKC bombing were allowed to go free and strike again. And they did--on September 11, 2001. Key operatives in both the OKC and 9-11 attacks also played central roles in other terrorist attacks. One of the primary terror ringleaders in this category is top al-Qaeda operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, now in U.S. custody, whom federal authorities have dubbed the "mastermind of 9-11."
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and a number of his confederates in the global terror network have been at the center of an extensive investigation by this magazine over the past nine years. As reported in these pages previously, * our investigation shows that the following terrorist attacks are all closely linked, many involving the same individual planners and perpetrators:
** 1993 New York World Trade Center attack: 12 dead, hundreds injured.
** 1995 Oklahoma City bombing: 269 dead, hundreds injured.
** 1995 "Bojinka" plot to hijack multiple airliners and use some of them to ram buildings, such as the World Trade Center: thousands of deaths and injuries averted when Philippines police foiled that plot.
** 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania: 224 dead, hundreds injured.
** 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen: 17 dead, dozens wounded.
** 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.: 3,000 dead, thousands injured.
The capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed should have caused federal officials, terrorism "experts" and the media to completely rethink and reopen the OKC bombing case. According to charges by federal authorities, Mr. Mohammed was the mastermind who chaired the January 2000 terrorist meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the 9-11 attacks were planned.
After the 9-11 attacks, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and top U.S. intelligence officials insisted that they never had a clue that terrorists might try such a daring, fiendish operation. However, as reported repeatedly by THE NEW AMERICAN years before, the plan had been proposed by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's nephew, Ramzi Yousef, back in 1995.
Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, met in the Philippines with Uncle Mohammed, Abdul Hakim Murad--and Terry Nichols, among others. The plan to use commercial jetliners as missiles against the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the White House and nuclear facilities was detailed on Yousef's laptop computer, which was captured in 1995 by Philippines authorities when Yousef's apartment caught on fire. Yousef's laptop information was given to U.S. authorities, and Philippines law enforcement officials tried to get their American counterparts to take the threat seriously. It was to no avail.
Nichols, McVeigh--"Lily Whites"
The evidence indicates that Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh, far from master minding the OKC bombing, were "lily whites" recruited by a Middle Eastern terrorist ring involving members of the al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad and Abu Sayyef groups. "Lily whites" has a double meaning for the terrorist recruiters; in the broader sense it refers to recruits who, regardless of ethnicity or nationality, have a clean record and would be unlikely to be suspected of terrorism. In a narrower context, it refers to American Caucasians, who could more easily travel and carry out various terrorist operations and support activities, especially inside the U.S., without arousing the suspicion and scrutiny of authorities and neighbors.
McVeigh and Nichols were not the only "lily whites" recruited. Our investigation indicates that perhaps a dozen or more others were involved in the OKC plot, including several inhabitants of, and regular visitors to, "Elohim City," a white separatist commune in rural eastern Oklahoma. As coincidence would have it, members of that commune, including one of its leaders, James Ellison, had been involved in a plot to blow up the Murrah Building a decade before. And--another coincidence--they had surrendered to federal authorities after a tense, four-day siege, on April 19, 1985, exactly 10 years to the day before the 1995 OKC bombing.
Telephone records show that Timothy McVeigh called the Elohim City compound two weeks before the bombing, on April 5, immediately after he had called the Ryder Truck agency in Kansas to rent a truck for the terror attack. Records show that he also received a speeding ticket on a rural road just a few miles from the compound. In addition, as we've previously reported, McVeigh had been in touch with Andreas Strassmeir, a German national who was in the U.S. illegally and who was serving as the Elohim City security chief.
No evidence concerning Elohim City ties to the OKC bombing was allowed into the McVeigh or Nichols federal trials. Nor were any witnesses called to testify on this crucially important matter. Nor was there any mention of McVeigh-Nichols connections to the Aryan Republican Army/Midwest Bank Robbers. The ARA bank robbers were a group of young men, nearly all of whom are on record as having visited Elohim City, who had carried out a series of 22 bank robberies throughout the Midwest. The ARA bandits also had declared war on the federal government, echoing the call of "jihad" by the likes of al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad and Hizbollah.
After the McVeigh and Nichols trials, however, embarrassing documents and evidence of cover-up by the Justice Department and FBI continued to seep out. "It is suspected that members of Elohim City are involved either directly or indirectly through conspiracy," federal agents wrote in one memo only days after McVeigh had been arrested.
Another important revelation was the release of a five-page FBI teletype dated August 1996 from the FBI director to the FBI's Philadelphia office stating that two members of the ARA bank robber gang were present at Elohim City when McVeigh called. The FBI director's teletype referred to the two ARA members as "BOMBROB SUBJECTS," indicating that they were considered suspects in both the OKC bombing and the bank robberies.
Judge Rules Out Evidence, Witnesses
Defense attorneys for Terry Nichols had hoped to use the steadily mounting evidence of ARA/Elohim City involvement in the bombing to direct blame away from their client, who they claimed was the fall guy for other conspirators who got away. The existence of other conspirators would not necessarily absolve Nichols--there is plenty of evidence of his involvement--but the defense team intended to sow doubt, to convince at least one juror that he was an innocent patsy.
However, on April 21, Judge Steven Taylor barred the defense team from introducing evidence tying the bombing to Elohim City or the ARA. "This is a dry hole," said Judge Taylor. "There is ... nothing at all to link the bank robbers to the crime being tried before this court." According to the judge, federal agents "conducted a thorough investigation and followed every lead ... even when it was unlikely to pay off." Undoubtedly, many federal agents did indeed conduct thorough investigations of the subjects assigned them, but many of them were assigned to "dry holes" when they should have been pointed to the real gushers at Elohim City and elsewhere.
Some survivors and family members of the bombing victims have vocally denounced all attempts to advance "conspiracy theories" about a wider involvement beyond McVeigh and Nichols, some of them out of fear that it might jeopardize the chance to obtain a death penalty for Nichols. (McVeigh was executed in 2001.) They rejoiced at Judge Taylor's ruling. "I'm thrilled," widow Diane Leonard said. "God blessed us today. Those questions that so many of us have had for nine years have been answered." Darlene Welch, who lost a niece in the explosion, told reporters: "It was a great relief.... I've never believed in a larger conspiracy."
However, other survivors saw the ruling in an entirely different light. "I was hoping that we might finally get some of the mountain of evidence that was covered up in the federal trials out into the open and bring to justice the others who are out there who carried out this terrible crime," V.Z. Lawton told THE NEW AMERICAN. "Yeah, I'm disappointed, but I'm not giving up. The people who did this killed a lot of my friends and co-workers and almost killed me." Mr. Lawton, who worked for HUD in the Murrah Building, is a member of the Oklahoma Bombing investigation Committee established by former state Representative Charles Key.
Kathy Wilburn, who lost two young grandsons in the Murrah Building day care center, told THE NEW AMERICAN she was disappointed but not surprised that the state court had failed to allow admission of some of the most important evidence and witnesses. "I was glad when it initially looked like the bank robbers and Elohim City might be a major part of the case," she said. Mrs. Wilburn and her late husband, Glenn Wilburn, had tirelessly and fearlessly investigated Elohim City and other leads in the bombing, and much of the suppressed evidence that is now available is due to their efforts.
"Thorough Yes--Thoroughly Corrupt"
One of the things Mrs. Wilburn found most exasperating was the continued refusal of the FBI to run a fingerprint check on unidentified fingerprints found in McVeigh's Dreamland Motel room. "That was one of the things they promised they would do when it became such an obvious issue in the 1998 trial," she said. "Why haven't they still run them against the ARA and Elohim suspects?"
When THE NEW AMERICAN interviewed Kathy Wilburn in Denver following the 1998 Nichols trial, she charged: "They have spent tens of millions of dollars and almost three years investigating this crime, but have repeatedly refused to do some of the most obvious things that might lead to others involved in the bombing besides McVeigh and Nichols. Why, even to this day, have those unidentified prints not been checked? Why have some of the most obvious suspects never been questioned and the most solid evidence ignored? Who is being protected? We keep hearing that this is the most thorough investigation ever conducted. Thorough yes--thoroughly corrupt."
Mrs. Wilburn and many others had hoped that witnesses such as Carol Howe might be allowed to testify. Miss Howe had operated as an undercover informant for the federal ATF in Elohim City before and after the OKC bombing. Prior to the bombing, she had repeatedly warned authorities that members of the commune were planning terrorist attacks, including the one against the federal building in Oklahoma City. Miss Howe's testimony would be especially important because copies of her detailed official ATF reports are available to back up her eye-witness accounts. The defense team had also planned to call Peter Langan, an ARA leader, who is in prison and had agreed to testify.
Former Oklahoma state Rep. Charles Key, who attended some of the state trial, told THE NEW AMER1CAN that one of the "almost" breakthroughs in the trial involved a Secret Service document stating the existence of a surveillance video showing "suspects"--plural--exiting the Ryder truck. "Security video tapes from the area show the truck detonation 3 minutes and 6 seconds after the suspects exited the truck," said a Secret Service agents' log dated six days after the explosion.
A number of witnesses who reportedly saw various security tapes early on in the investigation have stated that the tapes show others besides McVeigh. This comports with the testimony of an eyewitness at ground zero who saw a man who was Middle Eastern in appearance leaving the truck. It also comports with other eyewitness accounts, an FBI affidavit and a police APB reporting two Middle Eastern men fleeing the immediate area of the blast.
Except for a few seconds of videotape shown at the trials, however, none of the more than 20 surveillance videos taken by cameras on, in and around the Murrah building and the surrounding area have been released. "There's no way to justify keeping this evidence locked away for so long," says Key. "If there's nothing on them, then all they have to do is release them and discredit all the 'conspiracy nuts,' but they've kept them under wraps."
One of the most important things to come out of the trial, according to Key, was the testimony of top witnesses totally discrediting claims that the federal investigation was thorough and top-notch. Dr. Frederick Whitehurst, the FBI crime lab's former top chemist, had caused a major sensation following the OKC bombing by charging that some of the primary FBI evidence and testimony that the prosecution was relying on was tainted, false or shoddy. Whitehurst's charges led to an 18-month internal investigation of the crime lab and a critical review of its performance.
At the state trial, Dr. Whitehurst went even further, stating that the prosecution's top forensic expert, FBI Agent Steven Burmeister (whom Whitehurst had trained and considered "like a brother") had "lied under oath" when he testified about ammonium nitrate crystals supposedly from the truck bomb. "Whitehurst's testimony was very devastating to the prosecution," said Key, "but probably even more devastating was the follow-up testimony by Janine Arvizu. She was absolutely brilliant and totally credible."
Arvizu is a nationally recognized top forensic lab auditor who inspects and accredits crime labs for state, local and national law enforcement agencies. She pointed out that the once vaunted FBI crime lab was not accredited at the time of the OKC investigation. "She demonstrated overwhelmingly, with many lab exhibits, how FBI investigators, analysts or superiors violated almost every established protocol for evidence handling and preservation," said Key. "Those who say there has been a complete, good faith effort to bring out the truth in the official investigation and the trials, are either uninformed themselves, or are consciously assisting the cover-up."
It was clear almost from the start that in addition to covering up important evidence during its "investigation" of the bombing, the Clinton Reno Justice Department also was using the attack as a springboard to demonize its "right wing" opposition and push for vast, new, unconstitutional police powers in the name of fighting terrorism. If Congress had conducted a thorough investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing, it not only could have exposed the corruption and conspiracy involved in the Clinton administration's cover-up, but also may have prevented the even more horrendous 9-11 attacks. Members of Congress, however, cowed by the fear of being labeled "anti-government" and "conspiracy wackos" by the administration and the media, abdicated their duty.
The OKC cover-up has continued into the Bush-Ashcroft Justice Department and is now being surpassed by even larger cover-ups in the 9-11 investigation. If this is not exposed and corrected, more deadly terrorist attacks will surely follow, some, perhaps, even bigger than the ones we experienced on September 11, 2001. Congress is the key, but it will not use its powers to unlock the mysteries unless and until the American people demand that it do so. That is the task before all Americans who treasure freedom.
* Read the articles posted online at our website: www.thenewamerican .com/focus/okc/.
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|Author:||Jasper, William F.|
|Publication:||The New American|
|Date:||Jul 26, 2004|
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