The Answers To The OKC Committee's Questions
Posted: December 28, 2006
by Jack Cashill
After a two-year inquiry, the House International Relations investigative subcommittee has announced that far too many questions into the origins of the Oklahoma City bombing of April 1995 remain unanswered.
To this point, the FBI and the mainstream media have looked for the truth only in those places where they are least likely to find it. In her stunning book, The Third Terrorist, Jayna Davis documents beyond reasonable doubt where that truth leads: not only to the Philippines, which Nichols visited frequently, but also to an Iraqi cell in Oklahoma City. In her role as a reporter for KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, Davis interviewed more than twenty reliable eyewitnesses who identified a crew of Iraqi nationals that had almost assuredly helped McVeigh assemble and deliver the bomb, among them the most probable John Doe #2, Iraqi national Hussain Al-Hussaini.
This is not to deny that Nichols and McVeigh also received logistical support from local white supremacists. That is altogether likely and not at all contradictory. What is unlikely, however, is that the locals could have taught the boys how to build a truck bomb much like the kind that routinely shake things up the Middle East.
To make the OKC case comprehendible, allow me to focus on one detail. Timothy McVeigh’s missing license plate. If the story McVeigh told about the plate was false, a story the prosecution pushed as well, the Clinton Justice Department likely misdirected the investigation to avoid its larger terrorist implications. As the subcommittee report reveals, McVeigh was fully capable of lying. In fact, he failed his polygraph test on the question of whether he had outside help.
Following the license plate helps cut through the clutter. As is well known, the absence of a rear plate caused the Oklahoma state police to stop McVeigh as he drove north out of Oklahoma City up I-35 an hour and a half after the bombing.
After his conviction, McVeigh told his story to two reporters from his hometown Buffalo News, Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, and they in turn retold it in a useful book published in 2001 called American Terrorist. As McVeigh recounted the incident, he had driven an old yellow Mercury Marquis to Oklahoma City three days before the blast and parked this car in a small, run down parking lot.
After parking, McVeigh claimed he removed the car’s Arizona license plate, stuck it in his pants, and then stashed it in his storage shed when he got back to Kansas. He did so, as he tells the story, in the improbable hope that a trooper would pull him over as he fled the scene and then tie him to the crime through “the envelope of clues on the seat beside him,” a packet of anti-government literature.
The McVeigh that one meets in American Terrorist is a powerful and creative superman. He somehow taught himself how to build a massive truck bomb and was even prepared to assemble the 7,000-pound monster himself--in one morning. This would have meant loading onto his rented truck 108 fifty-pound bags of ammonium nitrate, three 400-pound drums of liquid nitromethane, several crates of highly explosive Tovex sausage, spools of shock tube and cannon fuse and the 55-gallon drums to measure and mix these materials in.
As McVeigh told it, Terry Nichols showed up at his Kansas storage facility when he was half way through the loading process and then only because he was afraid of what McVeigh would do to his family if he did not. The pair then drove to a nearby lake and spent the next three hours mixing the thirteen 500-pound barrels of explosives. When finished, they added seventeen bags of ANFO. Although McVeigh claimed to have been a self-taught bomb-maker, he had no particular mechanical gifts. Still, he managed not only to mix and load all these elements precisely but also to design and perfectly execute a dual-fuse ignition system.
A Washington Post article from a week after the blast—when the truth was still being shared and reported—suggests the improbability of this story. “Law enforcement sources,” reads The Post, “said the 4,800-pound bomb that caused the explosion probably required at least two to three people to construct and considerable patience and planning. Building such a device ‘would be extremely labor-intensive.’” The bomb that McVeigh described proved to be half again bigger than that and built by two inexperienced guys in one morning.
McVeigh’s post-conviction story of his labors largely tracked with the prosecution’s. After constructing the bomb, he allegedly drove alone towards Oklahoma in the loaded truck. After crossing the Oklahoma border, he stopped for the night at a small gravel lot near a conveniently unnamed “roadside motel.” By his own timeline, however, he would have reached this motel about 2 PM. That makes for a really long and pointless night.
The next morning, as he told it, McVeigh drove into Oklahoma City alone, saw no one, and no one saw him. He lit the fuses and then parked the Ryder truck in front of the Murrah building. He then grabbed the thick packet of anti-government materials he brought with him, jumped out of the truck, and walked and ran with packet in hand to the Mercury Marquis parked nearby.
In constructing a story that is in large part false, the storyteller almost inevitably adds a detail that clashes with other elements of his own story. So it is with the license plate. On the same page that authors Herbeck and Michel repeat McVeigh’s account of the plate’s absence, they blandly say of McVeigh’s getaway, “He drove at what he considered the normal speed for motorists, about two miles per hour above the speed limit. He signaled all his turns and obeyed all traffic signs and signals.”
When I met Dan Herbeck for lunch in Buffalo a few summers ago, I just had to ask him about this disparity. Why did McVeigh bother driving so carefully if he purposefully took the plates off? According to Herbeck, that’s what McVeigh told him and Michel, and that’s what they reported.
In her book, Jayna Davis, tells a different story altogether. She interviewed and names a series of people who saw the Ryder truck and identified McVeigh in the minutes before the blast. These witnesses invariably placed a short, foreign-looking, dark-skinned man in the passenger seat.
In fact, the FBI had been looking for a man who fit this description since they first traced the truck back to Eldon Elliot’s body shop in Junction City, Kansas. “FBI spokesman Weldon L. Kennedy said investigators were still trying to identify John Doe No. 2,” wrote The Washington Post on April 28, “a man who accompanied McVeigh when he rented the Ryder truck in Junction City, Kan.”
Twenty minutes before the blast in downtown Oklahoma City, employees at a tire store spotted two men of the same description in the Ryder truck, and even gave the men directions to the Murrah building intersection.
McVeigh’s defense attorney Steven Jones put one eyewitness on the stand in the McVeigh trial, the terribly injured Daina Bradley.
“It was a Ryder truck,” Bradley had cried out to rescuers who were in process of amputating her leg to extricate her from the rubble, “It pulled up, a foreign looking man got out, and then before long, everything went black.” The prosecution undermined Bradley’s testimony by pointing to Bradley’s real history of emotional problems, but Bradley made this claim to her rescuers 24 hours before the FBI knew that a Ryder truck was involved.
Jayna Davis also identified and interviewed numerous eyewitnesses at the Cactus Motel in Oklahoma City who saw—and smelled—the Ryder Truck as well as the Mercury Marquis and a brown late-model pickup. These witnesses traced McVeigh’s arrival to late afternoon on April 18th and swore they watched him leave the motel on the morning of the 19th with several Middle Eastern men in a convoy of three vehicles. An Oklahoma state police teletype, authorized by the FBI, would target a brown pickup driven by a “Middle Eastern male, twenty-five to twenty-eight years of age” throughout the day on the 19th.
One has to read Davis’s book to understand the scope of her investigation, but the license plate tale sums up her case nicely. Five minutes before the blast, printing operator Jerry Nance noticed an unusual car in the downtown Oklahoma City parking lot near where he worked. It was dilapidated yellow Mercury Marquis. Behind the wheel was a dark-skinned, Middle Eastern-looking man in a ball cap.
Nance remembers the car well. When he walked back towards it, after having retrieved something from his own car, the Mercury Marquis almost ran him over. Now, however, the Middle Eastern man was sitting in the passenger seat, and a white man was recklessly driving the car out of the parking lot. As the Mercury Marquis passed Nance, it thumped over a concrete marker and shook the license plate loose so it dangled by a single bolt.
Two minutes later, the Murrah building blew up. Nance informed the FBI of this incident before anyone knew McVeigh had been apprehended in a yellow Mercury Marquis. Eight days later, the FBI extensively quoted Nance and the tire store employees in its request before a federal judge to hold McVeigh over for trial. One tire store eyewitness picked McVeigh out of a line-up of look-alikes even before he saw McVeigh on TV. The Washington Post of April 28 confirms the same:
The magistrate, Ronald L. Howland, ordered McVeigh to be held without bail after listening to four hours of testimony from FBI special agent John Hersley in which he described eyewitness accounts of a yellow Mercury with McVeigh and another man inside speeding away from a parking lot near the federal building (italics mine}.
At some point, McVeigh let his passenger off, and it is possible that the passenger removed the plate under the guise of securing it. To further set McVeigh up for the fall, that passenger might also have left the anti-government materials in McVeigh’s car. This explanation makes more sense than McVeigh running through the Oklahoma City Streets with a packet of literature in hand. It also tracks with the M.O. of Ramzi Yousef at the first World Trade Center bombing, who let his accomplices, the locals who helped construct the bomb, take the fall. Those amateur jihadists got arrested when they went back to get their deposit on the missing truck.
It is possible too that the plate just fell off on its own. In either case, McVeigh could not have known it was gone. In fact, the trooper who arrested him would later report McVeigh’s shock at discovering the plate was missing. If McVeigh had removed it himself, his careful escape seems pointless, even foolish. His use of pseudonyms and pay phones and his earlier calls to the anti-government underground seeking safe haven would likewise make no sense.
The FBI refused to even look at the material Jayna Davis had gathered. Rather than put a single witness on the stand who could place McVeigh in or near Oklahoma City on April 19, the prosecution chose to build an entire case on circumstantial evidence. Much as with TWA 800, however, the FBI lost all interest in the eyewitnesses as soon as the White House had established its talking points.
“Could the al Qaeda explosives expert [Ramzi Yousef] have been introduced to the angry American who proclaimed his hatred for America,” writes Richard Clarke of Nichols’ visit to the Philippines in his book Against All Enemies. “We do not know, despite some FBI investigation.”
“Some FBI investigation?” Why was there not a massive FBI investigation? The House subcommittee now asks this very question. Although the committee may be too polite to say so, the reason Islamic terrorist links were ignored has more to do with politics than with security. Once arrested, McVeigh and Nichols served as poster boys for the natural progression of the “Republican revolution.” The Clinton administration and its media allies spun OKC so hard to the right that it left America dizzy. If, however, the arrested bombers proved to be mere “lily whites”-- that is stooges recruited by Islamic terrorists to take the fall--they would lose their political value.
As an added bonus, the “lily white” factor encouraged America’s progressive to scold those who had publicly presumed that Islamic terrorists were behind the bombing. This included not only the political right but also non-partisan terrorist experts like Steven Emerson, who had already been upbraided for “bigotry and misrepresentations” and “creating mass hysteria against American Arabs” for his PBS documentary American Jihad. In fact, it was in Oklahoma City in late 1992 that Emerson, covering an unrelated press conference for CNN, first stumbled upon the jihadi presence in the United States.
Then too, as with the first World Trade Center bombing and possibly with TWA Flight 800, an Iraqi connection would have forced a serious military response, about which the Clinton administration was always queasy.
To the detriment of our national security, the orchestrated Democratic reaction to Oklahoma City shamed reporters and investigators from pursuing Islamic terrorism aggressively. This, Jayna Davis documents all too painfully from her personal experience. The scary thing is they are still trying to shame us. As to the FBI, its veterans are just trying to cover their tracks and protect their reputations—business as usual.
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