By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
In response to articles published in the L.A. Weekly and Indianapolis Star, U.S. Representative Dan Burton, (R-Indiana) is planning to hold congressional hearings into whether a conspiracy, with Middle East connections, was behind the 1995 truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City.
Burton, the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, is “hot to move on this,” said David Schippers, a high-powered Chicago attorney and lifelong Democrat, who ran the House impeachment inquiry into former President Clinton. Schippers said he found the evidence put together by former Oklahoma City TV reporter Jayna Davis compelling. For the past year, he unsuccessfully pushed the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to reopen the case.
“I’ve tried to reach [U.S. Attorney General] John Ashcroft a number of times. But I‘ve never heard back from the DOJ,” said Schippers.
Last month, Burton called and asked him to head up the Oklahoma inquiry for his committee. Burton had already met with Davis. But Schippers told the congressman that his law practice had gotten too busy, and he couldn’t take on the assignment.
Instead Schippers suggested hiring Jeff Pavletic, another Illinois lawyer, who served with him during the impeachment hearings. Recently, Schippers and Pavletic flew to Washington, D.C., to meet with Burton and his staffers. Pavletic could not be reached for comment.
“We were supposed to meet with the congressman, but he had a family emergency. So we met with five staffers.” They questioned Schippers closely. “For instance, they asked me how Davis‘ witnesses, who said they saw McVeigh in the company of Middle Eastern--looking men, could remember details seven years later. Schippers reminded them those witnesses were interviewed on tape by Davis seven years ago, when their memories were fresh.
Since Schippers returned from D.C., he’s had another call from Burton reaffirming his intention to hold hearings. ”He said the American people deserve the truth, and he intends to discover whether the investigation was botched. He also wants to know if there is an active terror cell operating in Oklahoma City that might have links to the bombing and the 9-11 terror attacks,“ emphasized the attorney.
Burton‘s interest in the alleged conspiracy was heightened by a series of Indianapolis Star articles that appeared in February. The L.A. Weekly story, ”Heartland Conspiracy,“ was published on September 28, 2001. Those stories focused on the bombing investigation done by Davis, a former KFOR-TV reporter.
”I was called by Burton’s office on February 23. They asked me if I would come to Washington and meet with them,“ explained Davis. ”I told them I would.“
Armed with 2,000 pages of documentation and tapes of her KFOR-TV stories, Davis and her husband met with Burton, his staffers and committee staffers for an hour on February 28 and again with staffers, the next day. ”Burton stayed in the first meeting about 15 minutes, and asked very pointed questions. He was intensely interested,“ she said. ”And he seemed committed to getting the truth.“
Davis told the Weekly she explained to the congressman and his people how she got into the investigation and reviewed her findings‘ most sensitive points. ”They seemed especially interested in the Philippines connection to Terry Nichols.“
Davis said she found her congressional audience ”receptive and open-minded.“ She also gave Burton’s staffers the names and numbers of her witnesses, and said they would participate in hearings. Since she‘s returned to Oklahoma, Davis received several follow-up calls from a committee staffer.
Davis, who’s investigated the bombing for the past seven years, obtained 22 signed affidavits from witnesses putting McVeigh in the company of a group of Iraqis working for a local property-management company, in the weeks before the bombing. Davis turned those affidavits over to a 1997 Oklahoma County grand jury.
Davis focused her attention and stories on one Iraqi, who appeared to match the third FBI sketch of John Doe No. 2, a man noted in police-radio traffic moments after the explosion. Some of Davis‘ witnesses said they had seen a man who resembled John Doe No. 2 riding with McVeigh in the bomb-laden truck.
This person, Hussain Al-Hussaini, later came forward and publicly demanded an apology and retraction. Davis and KFOR management refused. Al-Hussaini then sued them twice, first dropping his state suit and then refiling it in federal court. A federal judge dismissed the action as baseless. Al-Hussaini appealed, and a decision is pending.
Davis, who’s since left KFOR, has tried twice to give her material to the FBI. In 1997, DOJ attorneys rejected it, allegedly claiming they didn‘t want more material to turn over to McVeigh’s and Nichols‘ defense attorneys. In 1999 she gave the material to FBI agent Dan Vogel, who unsuccessfully tried to get the Oklahoma Bombing Task Force to accept it. Vogel, now retired, was subpoenaed to testify about Davis’ material at a recent pretrial hearing for Nichols‘ upcoming state murder trial. But the DOJ refused to let him take the stand.
The Weekly made numerous calls to Burton’s office and the Government Reform Committee, but staffers declined to discuss the investigation or their meetings with Davis, Schippers and Pavletic.