Heartland Conspiracy 

Unanswered questions about Timothy McVeigh’s and Terry Nichols’ possible links to the Middle East

Wednesday, Sep 26 2001

It is obvious material for conspiracy buffs: Did Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols really act alone, or was some larger terrorist outfit behind the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building?

In Oklahoma City, an investigative reporter began asking the question long before the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Jayna Davis, in a series that aired on KFOR-TV in 1995, examined the possible existence of John Doe No. 2, a man witnesses saw with McVeigh outside the federal building moments before the bomb went off, killing 168 people. Her reports also raised questions about the purpose of several trips Nichols made to the Philippines, into areas in which terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden were known to hide out.

Davis herself no longer freely talks about her work. She has been sued by a subject of her reports and advised by her attorneys not to grant interviews. Earlier this year, however, she appeared on Fox Network‘s The O’Reilly Factor and spoke at length about her investigation: “And what we discovered, an intelligence source at one of the highest levels in the federal government later confirmed, was a Middle Eastern terrorist cell living and operating in the heart of Oklahoma City . . . We have (22) sworn witness affidavits that tie seven to eight Arab men to various stages of the bombing plot . . . It really is a foreign conspiracy masterminded and funded by Osama bin Laden, according to my intelligence sources.”

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McVeigh went to his grave denying any foreign involvement in the bombing. His accomplice, Terry Nichols, swore they acted alone, and no proof of a wider plot ever surfaced.

The arrests of McVeigh and Nichols came quickly and closed the case for many. Less than two hours after the bombing, a state trooper stopped McVeigh‘s 1977 Mercury Marquis 80 miles from Oklahoma City because it was missing a license plate. Two days later, Nichols, who was at his Kansas farm on the day of the bombing, surrendered to police.

Minutes after the bombing, however, police radios carried a description of a brown Chevrolet pickup with “two Middle Eastern men” inside seen speeding away from the federal complex. A short time later and without explanation, police withdrew the all-points bulletin. The mystery over the truck became the starting point for Davis’ investigation.

Davis found people in Oklahoma City who said they remembered seeing McVeigh meet with several men they describe as Middle Eastern in the months before the bombing. She also uncovered confidential warnings that a congressional task force issued about a possible Islamic-fundamentalist terror attack on “America‘s heartland” one month before the Oklahoma bombing.

Davis, in her early reports, makes it clear she is not certain of a connection between McVeigh and any terrorist group. And certainly witnesses were primed to view anyone who looked suspicious as “Middle Eastern” in the hours right after the bombing. What Davis wants, she said, is a full federal inquiry into the matter. One big-name lawyer trying to get such an investigation rolling is David Schippers, former chief counsel to the House of Representatives managers who conducted Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. “I‘ve been practicing law for 40 years, and I know what bullshit is,” said Schippers. “Jayna gave me a stack of affidavits, signed by credible witnesses, connecting McVeigh to Middle Easterners living in Oklahoma City. She also gave me a ton of supporting documents. I’ve reviewed this material, and I‘m convinced there are solid leads here that need to be investigated.”

Schippers said he is trying to get the material to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. “I made some calls, but no one would give me the time of day,” he said. “I tried like hell to get to Ashcroft, but I just couldn’t break through.” He said he has not given up, but would not disclose his plans to get a full airing for Davis‘ findings.

The reports, which aired on KFOR in the months after the Oklahoma City bombing, are based on witness statements, court records, government documents and unnamed sources. A federal court order dismissing a lawsuit filed against Davis mentioned several of her findings, which include:

• A brown Chevrolet truck similar to one seen leaving the federal building had been parked a few weeks earlier -- twice, in fact -- at Samara Properties, according to two employees at the Oklahoma City property-management company owned by Dr. Samir Khalil. In 1991, Khalil pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and spent eight months in federal prison. According to court documents, Khalil denied FBI allegations that linked him to the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Six months before the bombing, Khalil had hired a group of Iraqis for painting and construction work. On the day of the bombing, a former co-worker told Davis they reacted to the news with unrestrained joy. “They even praised [Saddam] Hussein, vowing to die in his service,” a source stated in an affidavit. On April 27, police found a Chevrolet pickup abandoned at an apartment complex in Oklahoma City, stripped of its license plate, inspection tag and other identifying numbers. It had been painted yellow, though it was clear its original color was brown. One resident told Dallas FBI Agent Jim Ellis that the driver was “clean-shaven, with an olive complexion, dark wavy hair, and broad shoulders,” in his late 20s or early 30s, and of Middle Eastern descent. The resident also identified him as a Samara employee from KFOR’s pictures.

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