Jayna Davis probably wishes she never heard of “John Doe No. 2,” the term the FBI originally used to describe a second suspect in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
For the past six years, the former TV reporter has fought a lonely battle to identify John Doe No. 2, even as the FBI has all but abandoned the idea of a second bomber. She insists he’s an Iraqi refugee who’s tied to an Islamic terrorist cell funded by Osama bin Laden, U.S. enemy No. 1.
Her controversial stories about John Doe No. 2 eventually led Davis to leave KFOR-TV, an NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, Okla., where she was an award-winning investigative reporter and a rising star.
She said the station’s new owner, the New York Times Co., “shut down” her investigation. After she left in 1997, the station sued her for removing videotapes – without permission and wrongfully, it claimed – of confidential witnesses she’d interviewed. However, Davis says she was just trying to protect her sources, a position acknowledged by Oklahoma District Judge Bryan Dixon in his 1999 ruling that the tapes had to be returned to KFOR.
Davis also was sued by the Iraqi she accused of being convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh’s partner. Although the Iraqi’s Aug. 24, 1995, defamation lawsuit was dismissed, he refiled the suit six months later, on Sept. 22, 1997.
Some local media, including other TV stations, came to the man’s defense. And one weekly newspaper said Davis, who still lives in Oklahoma City, embellished the story.
However, U.S. District Judge Timothy Leonard on Nov. 17, 1999, vindicated Davis’ reporting on the Iraqi national by awarding KFOR a Summary Judgment motion and ruling that the plaintiff had presented no evidence to refute Channel 4’s stories about him.
Nevertheless, the defamation case is now being heard, on appeal, in federal court.
The Oklahoma Gazette’s reports citing Davis – including one titled “Liar, Liar,” – damaged her reputation, she said, and compelled her to file her own libel suit (though she recently dropped it).
However, the story’s reporter, says Davis, “admitted in a sworn deposition taken on Feb. 2, 2001, that he spoke to me on the phone and conceded that he never checked the federal court record” in the Iraqi’s lawsuit before printing his story. “If he had, he would have learned that Channel 4 listed 58 sources, 30 of whom were named …”
The FBI, which now says that McVeigh acted alone and that John Doe No. 2 was the product of bum witness information, has largely snubbed Davis. As for the grand jury impaneled to hear wider conspiracy theories in the case, Davis says that although it received her 22 signed witness affidavits, it declined to call any of them as witnesses. Ultimately the grand jury decided that her theory linking McVeigh to Islamic terrorists lacked “credible evidence.”
Frustrated, Davis has offered her information to the legal teams defending McVeigh and convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols, even though she’s convinced both are guilty.
In fact, Davis struck a deal with McVeigh’s team to work as a paid consultant. She said that lasted one day, however, after lawyers failed to pay her “even a dollar.” She still shares information with Nichols’ lawyers.
But with the recent revelation that the FBI withheld more than 3,100 pages of evidence from lawyers for McVeigh and Nichols, her story is gaining some currency.
For the first time, Davis has been able to lay out her case on national TV.
On Fox News Channel’s top-rated show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” she claimed the attack was masterminded and funded by bin Laden.
Davis said the Iraqi was a former member of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, and that – according to a witness standing in the social security office 12 feet away – the Iraqi jumped out of the Ryder truck used in the federal-building bombing just moments before the blast that killed 168 people, including 19 children. She said he was with McVeigh at the time.
Davis said the Iraqi was part of a bin Laden terrorist cell that operated out of Oklahoma City.
She also claimed that Nichols had met with bin Laden militants operating out of a safehouse in the Philippines, including Ramzi Yousef, the ringleader of the World Trade Center bombing. In one meeting sometime before the Oklahoma City bombing, they discussed bombing techniques, she further claimed.
Separately, she claims the U.S. intelligence community had issued a general warning prior to the bombing that Islamic terrorists planned an attack on America’s “heartland.”
Davis claims to have evidence to back her sensational charges, and says her findings are based on “hundreds of documents” – almost all of which, it turns out, she gleaned from public records, such as court documents and media reports.
But she says her key evidence is 24 “sworn” statements she took from local witnesses, who she says have never been interviewed by other media (although several have been questioned by the FBI).
Davis declined a request by WorldNetDaily that she fax or FedEx copies of the affidavits – even with the names blacked out – arguing that she must protect her confidential sources, many of whom are “scared” of retaliation, she said, either from Arabs living in Oklahoma City, which has two mosques and a relatively large Middle-Eastern community, or from the federal government.
“I can’t give the affidavits out right now,” Davis said. “I’m not trying to be coy.”
She did offer, however, to show them to WND in person, in Oklahoma, and added that she has shared them with a well-known former federal prosecutor who she hopes can spark a Justice Department investigation. WND spoke with the lawyer, who Davis requested go unnamed for now. Although he finds the documents compelling, he said he hasn’t contacted the Justice Department and doesn’t yet know what he’ll do with them.
Davis says that all of her witnesses are credible.
“I’ve got blue collar; I’ve got white collar,” she said. “Some are very educated, and some just salt of the earth.”
She said many of the witnesses tie “seven to eight Arab men to various stages of the bombing plot, from the beginning all the way to the day in which the plot was executed.”
Three of the 24 witnesses – “A,” “B” and “C,” as Davis calls them – worked with the Iraqi she fingered as McVeigh’s bombing partner. They worked for a property management company owned by an Arab-American whose ex-wife, a U.S. Agriculture Department worker, died in the bombing. The Iraqi did maintenance work during the day and worked as a restaurant janitor at night.
Davis’ assertion of an Arab bomber is largely based on their accounts.
However, she says she also took statements from two local officials, both joggers, who swore they saw an Arab man with a backpack running from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building while looking at his watch on the morning before and the morning of the blast.
Davis said another witness identified a man, who fit the description of the Iraqi, “speeding away from downtown shortly after the blast in a brown Chevy truck that matched the description of a getaway vehicle immediately targeted by the FBI in an all-points bulletin.”
Asked how the witness could get a good look at the man when he was speeding away in a truck, Davis replied, “They locked eyes.”
She also pointed out that two witnesses recalled seeing the same Iraqi drinking beer with McVeigh in a local bar just days before the bombing.
The Iraqi, Al-Hussaini Hussain, who no longer lives in Oklahoma City, has sued KFOR, Davis and former news director Melissa Klinzing, arguing he was falsely identified as the John Doe No. 2 suspect. (Even though Davis didn’t name him and had his face digitally blurred, Al-Hussaini says the newscast ID’d him through “innuendo.”) He said he was painting a garage at the time of the bombing.
His lawyers have slammed Davis’ reporting as “tabloid journalism.”
KFOR Executive Producer Natalie Hughes did not respond to a request for an interview.
The Oklahoma Gazette sided with Al-Hussaini, saying Davis’ stories were a product of “fakery and embellishment.” In a July 1998 piece, “Liar, Liar,” it lumped her in with other journalists who have made up sources and quotes.
In fact, in his 1999 judgment in Al-Hussaini’s suit, Judge Leonard handed Davis a sweeping victory, ruling that “the court accepts as undisputed the following facts as stated by defendants” (KFOR, Davis and others), then lists 50 “statements of fact” — virtually every material fact reported by Davis on Al-Hussaini in her broadcasts.
Gazette Editor Mike Easterling did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Davis contends Al-Hussaini matches a later composite drawing of John Doe No. 2′s profile circulated by the FBI.
In fact, she says she laid the FBI’s profile sketch over a profile shot of Al-Hussaini’s face that she and a private investigator, who was employed by the TV station at the time, had captured on surveillance video.
“The similarities between the profile sketch and Al-Hussaini were uncanny,” she concluded.
But federal prosecutors said the FBI sketch of the dark-haired, muscular suspect, John Doe No. 2, was a case of mistaken identity. They claim it actually depicted an innocent Army private, Todd Bunting, and was drawn from information provided by a mechanic at a Kansas body shop where the Ryder truck was rented.
Bunting went to the shop a day after McVeigh. Prosecutors say the mechanic, Eldon Elliott, confused the two dates and the people who were there on those days when agents questioned him. However, points out British investigative reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in “The Secret Life of Bill Clinton,” “Eldon Elliot had not been the only witness, of course, but the FBI did not mention that at the time.”
Davis says her surveillance of Al-Hussaini revealed a tattoo on his upper left arm matching the location of a tattoo worn by John Doe No. 2, as first described by the FBI.
Of course, tattoos are common among Army privates like Bunting.
Al-Hussaini’s attorneys have claimed the FBI never considered him a suspect. And an FBI agent, speaking at a 1995 newspaper publishers conference, said Davis’ report was untrue, according to The Daily Oklahoman. But Davis says that in a subsequent recorded interview with KFOR, the agent, Jeffrey Jenkins, said The Daily Oklahoman had misquoted him and that his comments hadn’t been in reference to KFOR’s John Doe No. 2 reports.
Bin Laden connection?
Davis told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly that the Oklahoma City bombing “really is a foreign conspiracy masterminded and funded by Osama bin Laden, according to my intelligence sources.”
Who are her intelligence sources? She won’t name them.
But she allowed that one is “an intelligence source on Capitol Hill.”
Through this source she was able to “personally read” a general government advisory issued in the months before the bombing that warned of a possible “Iran-sponsored Islamic attack” targeting Washington, D.C, she said.
An updated warning issued on March 3, 1995, shifted the focus “from Washington to the heartland,” Davis said – as in, Oklahoma. The Murrah Building was blown up April 19, 1995.
Pressed, Davis said that “heartland” was her word. The actual wording in the document she saw said that terrorists were expected to “strike at the heart of the U.S.”
The heart of the U.S. could also mean Washington, she admits.
Asked to see the document, Davis could not confirm that she had a copy.
The federal government, of course, routinely monitors threats from Islamic terrorist groups. That the Oklahoma City bombing occurred after a general warning about Islamic threats may have been only coincidence.
Another “intelligence source,” whom Davis calls “Witness D,” is a former foreign service officer from the State Department. He gave her the Nichols-Philippines lead.
A third unnamed source, Witness I, is a Harvard University government professor. She gave Davis the Yousef-Philippines connection.
To be sure, Davis connects a lot of nebulous dots.
But several things lend some credence to her allegation of an Arab connection to the bombing.
For one, Evans-Pritchard quotes several witnesses in “The Secret Life of Bill Clinton” who insist they saw a “dark-complected” or “olive-skinned” man with McVeigh in Kansas motels before the bombing, and in the Ryder truck in Oklahoma City just before the bombing. (Davis says she hasn’t read the book, which opens with seven straight chapters on the Oklahoma bombing.)
The day of the bombing, moreover, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol warned law enforcement in a bulletin to be on the lookout for a rental car “occupied by Middle-Eastern male subject or subjects” who are “possible suspects in bombing Oklahoma City.”
And the Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently reported that the 3,100-plus missing FBI pages of evidence include Dallas FBI documents that are thought to contain details about the arrest of at least two people of Arab descent – possibly Iranians or Iraqis – after the Oklahoma City bombing.
Davis says the grand jury that interviewed her three times never ruled out a John Doe No. 2.
“They were very interested,” she said. “They wouldn’t have called me back if they weren’t.”
As for Al-Hussaini’s alibi, she claims she and her lawyers “destroyed” it when they deposed him in the defamation case.
“I got to put John Doe No. 2 under oath,” Davis said, “and watched him squirm for six days.”
She declined to go into details about his alibi, adding that the deposition transcripts are “sealed” until the case is settled.
‘What’s the motive?’
Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, a Republican and former FBI agent, rejects Davis’ allegations that the government is hiding a Middle East connection, calling it “wishful thinking.”
“What’s the motive?” he asked recently on Fox. “If Nichols and McVeigh did it, if some other people were associated with them, why cover that up?”
“If there was, in fact, a Middle East connection, we could bomb Osama bin Laden again,” Keating added.
Davis posits, though she admits she can’t prove it, that the Clinton administration may have wanted to hide the connection for political reasons.
She claims that news of Iraqi POWs being involved in the deadliest terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil would have been a political nightmare for the administration, which continued the previous administration’s policy of welcoming thousands of Iraqi refugees here after the Gulf war.
Davis is married to a Gulf war veteran.
Evans-Pritchard has broached a more sinister political motive.
He suggests that McVeigh and Nichols, who were tied to anti-government militia groups, provided former President Clinton with a convenient way to discredit the anti-big-government Republican revolution in 1995, which cost his party long-held power and threatened his own chances at re-election in 1996.
If Clinton could connect the militia movement (melding the bombing in with it) to Republicans – who won Congress just months earlier in a landslide election that Democratic officials and their friends in the media blamed on “angry white males” – he could scare voters into thinking “right-wing extremism” would lead to more hate and violence.
Or, more specifically, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh would lead to more Timothy McVeighs.
The introduction of a foreign element in the bombing, of course, would only have muddied the political picture he was trying to paint.
After his 1996 re-election, “Clinton told a pool of reporters that he owed his political revival to the Oklahoma bombing,” Evans-Pritchard said.
He quoted Clinton saying, “It broke a spell in the country as people began searching for our common ground again.”
Why? Because the conspiracy was home-grown.
“Had it been carried out by foreign radicals,” Evans-Pritchard wrote, “the impact on the national psyche would have been far less.”
But what would McVeigh, in league with white supremacists, have in common with Islamic fundamentalists? Hatred of American government.
Trouble is, McVeigh, just weeks before he was scheduled to die, ridiculed any idea he teamed up with bin Laden. He couldn’t even spell bin Laden’s name correctly in a letter to Fox News.
And earlier this month, McVeigh sent a letter to the Houston Chronicle saying there is no John Doe No. 2.
But Davis doesn’t buy it. Dogged as ever, she says she won’t rest until John Doe No. 2 is behind bars.
The talk of a conspiracy nut? Political luminaries in Oklahoma’s capital city don’t think so.
Said one: “Certainly no one considered her nutty before April 19,” when she won several news broadcasting awards, including ones from the Associated Press. “And my impression is that fair-minded people don’t consider her nutty now.”
Another, however, cautioned that Davis’ station, Channel 4, was the most sensationalistic of the three channels covering the bombing back then and that Davis “was doing her part to participate in that.”
Davis says she’s no conspiracy crank. And to prove it, she says she does not buy into other Oklahoma conspiracy theories, such as the one alleging the explosion was caused by multiple bombs.
Nor does she think the government — including ATF officials, who according to some sources pulled their kids from day care in the building — had specific prior warning that “a Ryder truck loaded with explosives was headed to the Alfred P. Murrah Building at 9 a.m. on April 19, 1995.”
“The bombing could not be stopped,” Davis said.