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Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) is charged as a co-conspirator in connection with the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Prosecutors say that Nichols, though he did not participate directly in the bombing, played a direct and central role in carrying it out with accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995). Nichols is charged in a criminal complaint that is filed under seal with the court; a lawyer involved in the case says the prosecution may be trying to keep some undisclosed details of the evidence it is providing out of the public eye for the time being. Nichols’s lawyer, public defender David Phillips, says he expects Nichols to be indicted at any time. Nichols is being held in custody in Wichita, and will likely be moved to Oklahoma City soon. Prosecutors may be pressuring Nichols to turn state’s evidence against McVeigh, and lead them to others who may have been involved in the plot, particularly the elusive “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995). Nichols insists that he had no idea McVeigh planned to bomb the Murrah Federal Building, but prosecutors believe otherwise. One witness who may testify against Nichols is his former wife, Lana Padilla. In an interview Padilla recently gave to a tabloid television show, American Journal, she said Nichols gave her a package in 1994 that contained a key to a storage locker; the locker contained thousands of dollars in gold and silver bouillon (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). In previous interviews with reporters, Padilla had not mentioned the locker. Investigators also believe that their 12-year-old son, Joshua Nichols, may have been at the rental office in Junction City where the Ryder truck containing the bomb was rented (see April 15, 1995). Some witnesses in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995)), say they saw Joshua Nichols in town the same day that McVeigh rented the Ryder truck in Junction City; a supermarket manager recalls seeing Nichols and his son on April 17, when they rented three film videos and bought a can of peanuts. “They browsed around about 30 minutes,” the manager says. “He came up to the clerk and said he was a new customer. She asked for his driver’s license and he said he didn’t have one. She asked for his Social Security number, and he just told us a number.” (Johnston 5/9/1995; Douglas O. Linder 2001; Fox News 4/13/2005) Joshua Nichols tells reporters for ABC News that he was not with his father as the supermarket manager has stated. Prosecutors say Padilla put her son on a plane for their home in Las Vegas on April 17. (Kilborn 5/10/1995) Nichols is formally charged the following day (see May 10, 1995).
Federal prosecutors charge Terry Nichols, a suspected co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and May 9, 1995), with conspiring to carry out the bombing along with accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995). If convicted, Nichols could face the death penalty under federal anti-terrorism laws. Nichols is escorted under heavy guard into the Wichita, Kansas, federal courthouse; a woman in the crowd screams at him, “Baby killer!” Nichols is charged with being a direct participant in the “malicious damage and destruction” of a federal building, and charged with aiding and abetting the attack. Prosecutors have not yet revealed the evidence they have against him. The charges faced by McVeigh and Nichols are likely to be augmented or replaced entirely by a broader conspiracy indictment, federal officials say. Nichols’s public defender, Steven Gradert, refuses to speculate on whether the prosecutors are attempting to pressure Nichols into cooperating with their prosecution of McVeigh. “I don’t know,” Gradert says, and adds that he believes “the government is not quite sure what the theory of this case is.” Nichols is being transported to Oklahoma, where he will be incarcerated at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center, the same facility that currently houses McVeigh. Nichols’s ex-wife Lana Padilla and their son Joshua Nichols are in Oklahoma City to testify before a grand jury empaneled to hear evidence about the bombing. The FBI is also pressuring another friend of McVeigh’s and Nichols’s, Michael Fortier, to give more information (see April 23 - May 6, 1995, May 1, 1995 and May 8, 1995). Nichols has been held in the Sedgwick County, Oklahoma, jail since April 22 as a material witness to the bombing. He is accompanied by his two public defenders, Gradert and David Phillips. Gradert calls his client “scared… upset, and… nervous.” (Kilborn 5/10/1995)
An FBI affidavit filed today in Oklahoma suggests that planning for the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) began as early as September 1994, when accused bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995 and April 24, 1995) began buying thousands of pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and rented the first of several storage sheds in small towns in Kansas (see October 17, 1994). Nichols is accused of accumulating two tons of ammonium nitrate and, just before the bombing, purchasing an unspecified quantity of diesel fuel, another essential ingredient for the bomb. The affidavit, unsealed at a hearing for Nichols at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center outside Oklahoma City and intended to show a judge that sufficient grounds exist to charge Nichols with the bombing, provides the first look at the government’s case against Nichols and accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995). The affidavit provides a chronological timeline of events that together portray Nichols and McVeigh as Army buddies turned amateur terrorists, and suggests that Nichols may have actually led the bomb-making effort, though he did not participate in the bombing itself. Nichols’s brother James Nichols has also been indicted on charges of building bombs (see May 11, 1995). However, the indictment shows no direct involvement by James Nichols or anyone else in the bombing conspiracy. The indictment specifically offers no evidence that the as-yet unidentified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), suspected of accompanying McVeigh when he rented the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see April 15-16, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), is involved in the bombing, though authorities continue to search for him, believing him to be either a co-conspirator or a valuable witness. The affidavit states that “an explosive device of the magnitude” that wrecked the Murrah Federal Building “would have been constructed over a period of time utilizing a large quantity of bomb paraphernalia and materials.” Building such a bomb, the document says, “would necessarily have involved the efforts of more than one person,” although it does not say how many. The affidavit also reveals that five months before the bombing, Nichols left a letter that instructed McVeigh to clean out two of the storage sheds if Nichols were to unexpectedly die, told McVeigh he would be “on his own,” and said he should “go for it!” (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). It shows that a search of Nichols’s home found numerous materials appearing to be related to the bomb, including explosive and other materials used in the bomb itself. And Nichols has admitted to having the knowledge required to make an ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil) bomb such as the one used in Oklahoma City. He said he disposed of ammonium nitrate by spreading it on his yard on April 21 after reading press accounts that the substance was one of the ingredients used in the bomb, and told investigators that the materials they found at his home were “household items.” After the 13-minute hearing, US Magistrate Ronald L. Howland orders Nichols held without bail pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 18. Patrick M. Ryan, the interim US Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, reads the charges against Nichols, and says the government will seek the death penalty. Nichols is currently represented by two federal public defenders, David Phillips and Steven Gradert, but the judge is expected to appoint another lawyer to represent Nichols on the bombing charges. (Belluck 5/12/1995)
Dick Cheney’s Office of the Vice President (OVP) is so cloaked in secrecy, journalist Robert Dreyfuss reports, that it routinely refuses to provide a directory of staff members or even the numbers of staff and employees. Dreyfus writes, “Like disciplined Bolsheviks slicing through a fractious opposition, Cheney’s team operates with a single-minded, ideological focus on the exercise of American military power, a belief in the untrammeled power of the presidency, and a fierce penchant for secrecy.” The list of current and former staffers includes, as of April 2006: former chief of staff Lewis Libby; his replacement, David Addington; top national security advisers Eric Edelman and Victoria Nuland; neoconservative and hardline Middle East specialists such as John Hannah, William Luti, and David Wurmser; anti-Chinese Asia specialists such as Stephen Yates and Samantha Ravich; a varying number of technocratic neoconservatives in other posts; and an array of communications specialists, including “Cheney’s Angels”: Mary Matalin, Juleanna Glover Weiss, Jennifer Millerwise, Jennifer Mayfield, Catherine Martin, and Lea Anne McBride. It is known that Cheney’s national security staff was assembled by Libby from various far-right think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), as well as carefully screened Cheney supporters from a variety of Washington law firms. (Dreyfuss 4/16/2006) Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, will recall in early 2007: “A friend of mine counted noses [at the office] and came away with 88. That doesn’t count others seconded from other agencies.” (Rozen 1/7/2007)
'Cabal' of Zealots - Wilkerson calls Cheney’s inner group a “cabal” of arrogant, intensely zealous, highly focused loyalists. Recalling Cheney’s staff interacting in a variety of interagency meetings and committees, “The staff that the vice president sent out made sure that those [committees] didn’t key anything up that wasn’t what the vice president wanted,” says Wilkerson. “Their style was simply to sit and listen, and take notes. And if things looked like they were going to go speedily to a decision that they knew that the vice president wasn’t going to like, generally they would, at the end of the meeting, in great bureaucratic style, they’d say: ‘We totally disagree. Meeting’s over.’” The committee agendas were generally scuttled. And if something did get written up as a “decision memo” bound for the Oval Office, Cheney himself would ensure that it died before ever reaching fruition.”
Sidestepping the NSC - The National Security Council (NSC) is designated as the ultimate arbiter for foreign policy options and recommendations for the president. But, according to Wilkerson, Cheney’s office and the NSC were often at loggerheads, and Cheney’s “shadow NSC” had the upper bureaucratic hand. Cheney “set up a staff that knew what the statutory NSC was doing, but the NSC statutory staff didn’t know what his staff was doing,” says Wilkerson.
China Threat - Cheney’s Asia advisers, Yates and Ravich, were most often encountered by Wilkerson. They helped drive Cheney’s agenda for China, which was obsessive to the point of paranoia. China was a grave, if long-term, threat to the US, they believed. The US must begin strongly cultivating Taiwan as a counterbalance to China, whom they asserted was preparing for military action against the US. Former US ambassador to China Charles Freeman compares Yates to the Defense Department’s Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith; all three believed, Freeman says, that China was “the solution to ‘enemy deprivation syndrome.’”
Iraq Policy - Cheney’s current and former staffers played an even larger role in shaping the administration’s Iraq policy than is generally known, and Cheney “seeded” staffers in other departments to promote his war agenda. Luti left the OVP in 2001 to join the Department of Defense, where he organized the Office of Special Plans (OSP). Wurmser, an AEI neoconservative, joined the Pentagon and created the forerunner of the OSP, the Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, which helped manufacture the evidence of connections between Hussein and al-Qaeda. Wurmser worked closely with Hannah, Libby, Luti, and another Pentagon official, Harold Rhode. Ravich worked with neoconservative Middle East analyst Zalmay Khalilzad to build up Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, their designated supplanter of Hussein.
US or Israel Interests? - Many of Cheney’s most influential staffers are pro-Israeli to the point where many observers wonder where their ultimate loyalties lie. David Wurmser is a standout of this group. Wurmser worked at WINEP with Hannah, then joined the AEI, where he directed that group’s Middle East affairs, then joined Feith’s OSP before moving on to Bolton’s inner circle at the State Department, all before joining Cheney in the OVP. Most outsiders consider Wurmser’s ideas wildly unrealistic. A former ambassador says of Wurmser, “I’ve known him for years, and I consider him to be a naive simpleton.” (Dreyfuss 4/16/2006)
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