For more than 10 months, I have been wondering out loud if the FBI and other federal authorities would take a new look at the broader conspiracy of the Oklahoma City federal building bombing following the events of Sept. 11.

For several years before Sept. 11, 2001, I have been pointing out the many holes in the government’s cover story about the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building, hoping against hope that those problems might be corrected so that we, as a nation, might not be caught off-guard by Islamic terrorism.

Now it appears the government is ignoring or hiding an Oklahoma City connection between high-profile terrorist suspect Zacarias Moussaoui and Sept. 11 skyjacker Mohamed Atta precisely because it might raise questions about the government’s rush to close the books on the 1995 bombing, which was pinned exclusively on Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

That is the only conclusion I can draw from the L.A. Weekly report tying Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker,” and Atta, the alleged field commander of the Sept. 11 plot.

The story reveals the co-owner of a motel outside Oklahoma City reported to the FBI that Atta, Moussaoui and another Arab who appeared to be Marwan al-Shehhi, another Sept. 11 skyjacker, tried to rent a room around Aug. 1 – six weeks before the biggest terror attack in the history of the world. Asked why they wanted to rent a room on a weekly rate, Atta allegedly told the motel owner the three were taking flight lessons in nearby Norman.

Yet, nowhere in the government’s circumstantial case against Moussaoui is such a meeting mentioned.

But it gets worse. Just prior to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, a man named Mujahid Abdulquaadir Menepta stayed at the motel and spoke for hours with a clerk who was able to pick his likeness out of a photo lineup prepared by a law-enforcement officer. Who is Menepta? He is a friend of Moussaoui’s who was arrested 30 years ago in Colorado for aggravated robbery and served three years in prison.

After Sept. 11, Menepta publicly defended Moussaoui, calling him a “scapegoat.” Menepta was arrested as a material witness in the case and charged with a gun violation. He pleaded guilty and, in April, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. During the preliminary hearing on the charge, an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms testified that a confidential source placed Menepta at a meeting of a radical Islamic group in a St. Louis mosque where he allegedly threatened to shoot any police officer who entered.

Why wouldn’t federal prosecutors want to use this damning evidence in the capital case against Moussaoui?

“One reason for the FBI’s apparent lack of interest might be this motel’s alleged connection to Timothy McVeigh and a group of Iraqis who worked in Oklahoma City,” says the L.A. Weekly report. “According to the motel owner and other witnesses and investigators interviewed by the Weekly, McVeigh and several of these Iraqis were motel guests in the months preceding the 1995 bombing. Witnesses also claimed they saw several of the Iraqis moving barrels of material around on the bed of a truck. The motel owner said the material smelled of diesel fuel and he had to clean up a spill. Diesel fuel was a key component of the truck bomb that blew up the federal building.”

By the way, there’s plenty of forensic evidence tying Moussaoui to Oklahoma City as well. According to his indictment, Moussaoui made e-mail contact with the Airman Flight School in Norman Sept. 29, 2000. On Feb. 23, 2001, he flew from London to Chicago to Oklahoma City. On Feb. 26, he opened a bank account in Norman, depositing $32,000. From Feb. 26 to May 29, he attended flight school there. Between July 29 and Aug. 4, Moussaoui made calls from public pay phones in Norman to Germany. On Aug. 1 and Aug. 3, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, an alleged al-Qaida member tied to skyjackers, wired Moussaoui about $14,000 from two train stops in Germany. A week later, an accomplice drove Moussaoui to Minnesota for enrollment in another flight school. He was arrested a week later on an immigration violation. He had attracted attention because of his interest in flying planes but not necessarily taking off or landing.

While the Moussaoui indictment never mentions the motel sighting with Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, it does state that the pair of skyjackers visited Airman Flight School in Norman in July 2000. On April 2, 2001, Nawaf al-Hazmi, who helped hijack American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, was stopped for speeding in Oklahoma and given two tickets. The Central Intelligence Agency had reportedly been tracking al-Hamzi as a suspected terrorist but never bothered to tell immigration authorities or the FBI during the 21 months he spent in the U.S.

Could the feds be so monumentally stupid and incompetent as to miss the significance of all this evidence? Or, alternatively, and worse yet, could the feds once again intentionally be burying evidence to protect themselves against charges of earlier bungles?

If there are any other possibilities, I haven’t figured out what they might be.

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