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Editor’s note: Reporter Gareth Schweitzer contributed to this column.
It seems like another age, but my thoughts recently took me to a plane ride last June, en route to cover the execution of Timothy McVeigh. In between glancing out of the window, I was reading Stephen Jones’ book, “Others Unknown.” Staring at the passing clouds, I wondered: Somehow, in some way, was Timothy McVeigh worth more to the United States alive rather than dead? After the horrors of Sept. 11, I am wondering again.
It occurred to me that McVeigh might have had some extremely useful things to tell us about Sept. 11, and perhaps to help us in its cruel aftermath. After all, some questions still linger. Did he have foreign accomplices? Why did the Justice Department refuse to investigate this fully? These questions can never be answered now. As Robert Louis Stephenson’s Long John Silver slyly observed, “Dead men tell no tales.” Whatever chances the country had of learning something useful about a potential foreign connection to Oklahoma City died with Timothy McVeigh. One thing is clear: Given the massive intelligence campaign now afoot in the land (and abroad), there seems no reason for the government to suppress and neglect important leads in the Oklahoma City case.
The good news is that there are many who have not rested in their quest for the truth. Former state representative Charles Key and former Channel KFOR TV reporter Jayna Davis – both devoted and patriotic Americans – have been fighting the good fight to force the government to connect the dots between McVeigh and foreign terrorism. Alas, to no avail. Just this week at the state trial for Terry Nichols, former FBI agents Dan Voegel and Rick Ojeda, who were involved in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation, were prohibited from testifying by the FBI. Although a judge could compel them to speak, apparently the government has no interest in furthering the cause of justice.
Far more disturbing is the fact that the infamous “302s,” the boxed field reports that were mysteriously found in the weeks before the McVeigh execution, have never been fully disclosed. Some of those reports, which contain detailed interviews with witnesses who implicate Middle Eastern people in the Murrah Building bombing, were found interesting enough to delay McVeigh’s execution by at least one month. In not releasing these items, one has to ask: What is the government hiding? It is absolutely outrageous that after the millions of man-hours, the tens of millions in tax dollars spent, and the ultimate closing of the case by the execution of McVeigh, the government continues to withhold the surveillance videotapes from the day of the Murrah bombing.
Oklahoma Attorney Mike Johnston believes that the tapes may have been intentionally removed from the Murrah building after the bombing. Jayna Davis found a photograph that discloses the presence of a camera on the northwest corner of the Murrah building, showing that cameras did exist. Of who, or rather of what, is the FBI so afraid of that they continue to withhold these tapes from public inspection? Who else might the public see in these tapes? Where is the report that the crack Israeli team of bomb experts filed after visiting the Murrah building? Where is the ATF bomb-detonation data, which reveals their analysis of the explosion? The list of unreleased and uninvestigated information and clues seems virtually endless.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this is the tantalizing hint of a Middle East connection to McVeigh’s act of terror. Terry Nichols made multiple trips to the Philippines – a known hangout for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida terrorists. Nichols made repeated trips with no known funding to support his travel. According to Nichols’ wife, Timothy McVeigh purchased Nichols’ first ticket to the Philippines. Based on various records, the government knows, but will not release, a list of Nichols’ activities while in the Philippines.
Who did he meet there and why? Jayna Davis has 22 affidavits that connect eight Arab men to various stages of the Oklahoma bombing. Unfortunately, officials working under Attorney General John Ashcroft have thus far expressed no interest in investigating the matter. More outrageous are the Iraqi telephone numbers found on Tim McVeigh at the time of his arrest, which Jayna Davis independently corroborated with military intelligence and the Justice Department. Where are these phone numbers?
If the case is as closed as it is represented to be, why won’t the government release the interagency memos between the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency regarding Oklahoma. What possible justification is there for sealing this matter – if, in fact, the act in question was purely a domestic incident of terrorism? Why would agencies care?
For now, Terry Nichols is still alive, and he’s not talking. In the current atmosphere, he would be crazy to reveal a Middle East connection. He wouldn’t have to worry about being snuffed by the State of Oklahoma. If he ever spilled the beans on this one, he’d be dead in his cell before the story could ever hit the papers.
With the government not investigating, and Terry Nichols refusing to talk, the government has so far pitted the perfect conspiracy against the public’s right to know. How can we let this happen?