Jon E. Dougherty is a Missouri-based political science major, author, writer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
The FBI’s top counterterrorism agent checked into an Oklahoma City hotel nearly nine hours before a truck bomb nearly leveled the Alfred P. Murrah Building, according to a receipt obtained by WorldNetDaily, despite claims that he was in Texas the morning of the attack.
The Embassy Suites Hotel receipt of Danny Coulson, then-director of the FBI’s Terrorist Task Force and founding commander of the bureau’s Hostage Rescue Team was dated April 19, 1995, with a check-in time of “00:20″ – military time for 12:20 a.m. (Editor’s note: His last name is spelled “Coulsen” on the receipt, but it indicates he is with the “FBI,” located at “50 Penn Place, Suite 1600; OKC, OK.”)
The truck bomb exploded at 9:03 a.m., devastating half the building and killing 168 men, women and children.
According to the receipt, Coulson checked out of his hotel – room 406 – April 27 at 11:16 a.m.
The existence of the receipt and subsequent questions it raises surrounding the FBI’s official denial of prior knowledge of the OKC bombing was first reported by J.D. Cash of the McCurtain (Oklahoma) Daily Gazette – a small-town paper that has been out in front of scores of OKC-related stories.
“Since the bombing, officials at the Department of Justice have repeatedly assured victims that the FBI had no prior knowledge of any plot to bomb the Murrah federal building,” the paper said Wednesday. However, “evidence of Coulson’s clandestine trip fits squarely with a substantial body of details found in hundreds of pages of other official documents obtained [via Freedom of Information Act requests] by” the paper – “evidence revealing weeks of planning by an elite corps of drug and counterterrorism experts who were closely monitoring members of various far-right groups they considered religious extremists and threats to the safety and security of the nation.”
WorldNetDaily reported June 1 that Ricardo “Rick” J. W. Ojeda, a former FBI special agent involved in the original Oklahoma City bombing investigation, was given details of a relationship between convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh and members of a white supremacist group that may have helped McVeigh carry out the attack.
McVeigh was put to death 10 days later. His accomplice, Terry Nichols, is facing state charges in Oklahoma for his role in the bombing after having been convicted in 1997 on federal charges.
In his 1999 book, “No Heroes: Inside the FBI’s Secret Counter-Terror Force,” authored with Time magazine’s Elaine Shannon, Coulson said he was in Dallas the morning of the Murrah attack. He said he and his wife were house-hunting and staying with friends:
We were finishing up breakfast with some old friends in Fort Worth when we heard the first news bulletin, something about a big explosion up in Oklahoma. … My pager went off, displaying a number I knew by heart. “It’s the SIOC,” I said. The Strategic Information and Operations Center at the Hoover Building in Washington. John O’Neil, the headquarters official in charge of domestic terrorism investigations, answered. His voice was flat. “I guess you heard a bomb went off in Oklahoma City. 9:02 a.m.” “Yes, it’s all over the news.” “A lot of people have been killed and injured. We don’t know what we have. Ricks needs help. Can you catch the next flight?” “We’re right in the middle of thunderstorms,” I said. “Nobody in Texas is getting on a plane. I’ll drive. …”
But according to the Gazette’s investigation – aided by the discovery of the hotel receipt – Coulson was apparently already in OKC, “tied to an FBI investigation that … was part of a highly sensitive operation that few outside the criminal division of the FBI knew existed until long after it was disbanded.”
That operation, allegedly begun by then-Attorney General Janet Reno in August 1994, was dubbed VAAPCON, assigned the number MC-111 (Major Case 111) and was aimed at investigating “the so-called religious right in America and possible ties to violent acts,” the paper said.
Cash said he was unclear what VAAPCON meant, but he believes it has something to do with a Reno initiative to investigate violence against abortion providers.
The paper also noted that Coulson referred to MC-111 as his initial reason for going to Oklahoma City, using the case number in a May 16, 1995, report filed he filed with the bureau.
Others have also tied McVeigh and Nichols to white supremacist groups. WND reported June 27 that Indiana State University criminologist Mark Hamm, in a book published last fall, named former Aryan Republican Army member Mark Thomas, originally of Pennsylvania, and other members of his group as alleged coconspirators.
Others, however, have said they believe McVeigh and Nichols were tied to Middle Eastern terrorists.
Jayna Davis, a former investigative reporter for the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City told Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly May 14 that she had gathered massive evidence pointing to a conspiracy between McVeigh, Terry Nichols and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization.
Davis said last year that she took her evidence – including hundreds of court records, 24 sworn witness affidavits and reports from law enforcement, intelligence and terror experts – to the FBI, which refused to accept the material or the leads.
Some details may never be revealed. For example, travel records and vouchers for Coulson and fellow FBI agent Larry Potts, also assigned to investigate the OKC bombing, were listed as “missing,” according to documents examined by WND. One for Coulson, in the amount of $1,313.80, was dated the day of the explosion – “4-19-95.”
“After this many years, the National Archives regularly disposes of these kind of records,” FBI spokeswoman Barbara Miller told the Gazette.
Coulson could not be contacted for comment.
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