- The FBI doesn't want to talk about it, but the evidence
Critical evidence that several Middle Eastern men may have been connected
to the Oklahoma City bombing appears to have been kept from the public
by the FBI.
By law, such information should have been turned over to lawyers representing
executed bomber Timothy McVeigh, and it must be given to the legal team
for co-conspirator Terry Nichols, whose state case opened in an Oklahoma
court two weeks ago.
Officially, the FBI has dismissed the possibility of a John Doe No. 2,
an olive-skinned man whose sketch they released immediately after the bombing,
or other suspects. But current and former FBI agents in Oklahoma City
say they received documents pointing to another person or even a cell of
Middle Eastern operatives.
At a minimum, Congress should question one former FBI agent who says he
obtained 22 affidavits and more than 30 witness statements describing sightings
of Middle Easterners with McVeigh. Although he passed the materials on
to a superior, the evidence never surfaced and was not given to McVeigh's
or Nichols' defense teams.
The affidavits and witness statements described a close-knit group of
Middle Eastern men living in Oklahoma City and surrounding areas who were
seen with McVeigh on numerous occasions in the months and weeks leading
up to the bombing.
Even worse, the agents believe if that evidence had not been suppressed
by the FBI, it could have helped uncover plans leading to the Sept. 11
attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Lawmakers should demand
a full accounting of the missing documents given to the FBI.
Six days before McVeigh was scheduled to die at the federal prison in
Terre Haute, Attorney General John Ashcroft postponed the execution because
of revelations the FBI had failed to turn over more than 3,000 documents
to McVeigh's defense team.
Though none of the new evidence was able to persuade the trial judge to
save McVeigh, it showed that the FBI had withheld important information
in the April 19, 1995, bombing.
The former agent does not want his name used, but, if subpoenaed, is willing
to testify about the documents either in court or on Capitol Hill.
In January 1999, the agent got the documents from former Oklahoma City
KFOR-TV reporter Jayna Davis. Davis had done a six-year investigation beginning
on the day of the bombing, documenting a cell of Middle Eastern individuals
operating in Oklahoma City under suspicious circumstances.
"She started in 1997 trying to turn those documents over to the FBI
and we refused to take those documents because we knew at the time that
those documents would have to be turned over to the defense attorneys
. . . ," said the former agent.
Two weeks ago, the Justice Department quashed motions to allow 18 FBI
agents, including the agent who received the documents from Davis, to testify
in Nichols' state case. At least one of those agents believes that if
the FBI had followed up on the affidavits that he turned over to his superiors,
the Sept. 11 attacks could have been prevented.
"We don't know what ever happened to those documents," the former
agent said. "We know they were never given to the defense attorneys.
And that's really what I was going to testify about, the fact that those
documents were in FBI custody. And I don't know to this day what happened
to the documents. We did have some Oklahoma connections to the events
in Washington, D.C., and New York City. We did find out that one of these
individuals was trying to take flight training at a Norman (Okla.) flight
Other former and current FBI agents in the Oklahoma City field office
have also questioned the agency's handling of evidence. During an interview
broadcast in May on Sixty Minutes II, they discussed the missing documents
that surfaced right before McVeigh's initial execution date. "There's
no reason for it unless there is negligence," agent Jim Volz told
the news magazine.
These people want the truth. The American people want the truth. Next
week's column will ask members of Congress if they do, too. ___
- Patterson is a Star editorial writer. Contact him at
1-317-444-6174 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
- © 2001Indiana Newspapers Inc. http://www.indystar.com/print/opinion/sat/articles/ecolpatterson17.html