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US intelligence begins monitoring telephones connected to the Kenyan branch of the charity Mercy International. By mid-1996, US intelligence began wiretapping telephones belonging to Wadih El-Hage, an al-Qaeda operative living in Nairobi, Kenya, and the NSA is also monitoring bin Laden’s satellite phone. By the end of 1996, the number of monitored phones in Kenya increases to five, and two of those are to Mercy International’s offices. What led investigators to this charity is unknown, and details of the calls have never been revealed. [New York Times, 1/13/2001] The Mercy International office will be raided shortly after the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), and incriminating files belonging to El-Hage will be found there (see October 1997). It will be discovered that the office worked closely with al-Qaeda. For instance, it issued identity cards for al-Qaeda leaders Ali Mohamed, Mohammed Atef, and even bin Laden himself. [Bergen, 2001, pp. 140; Financial Times, 11/28/2001] An al-Qaeda defector, L’Houssaine Kherchtou, will testify in a 2001 trial that al-Qaeda was heavily interacting with Mercy International’s Kenya branch, and a number of employees there, including the manager and accountant, were actually al-Qaeda operatives. [United State of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 8, 2/21/2001] A receipt dated just two weeks before the embassy bombings made a reference to “getting the weapons from Somalia.” [New York Times, 1/22/2000] Most crucially, there were a number of calls between Mercy director Ahmad Sheik Adam and bin Laden. [East African, 2/16/2000] And Adam’s mobile phone was used 12 times by El-Hage to speak to bin Laden or his associates. Presumably, such calls would have drawn obvious attention to the Kenya al-Qaeda cell and their embassy attack plans, yet none of the cell members were arrested until after the attack. The Kenya branch of Mercy International will be shut down by the end of 1998, but in 2001 it will be reported that Adam continues to live in Kenya and has not been arrested. [Agence France-Presse, 12/17/1998; BBC, 1/3/2001]
Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, discovers that al-Qaeda has established a communications hub and operations center in Sana’a, Yemen, and that there are frequent calls between it and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan (see May 1996 and November 1996-Late August 1998). [Antiwar, 10/22/2008; PBS, 2/3/2009] According to Alec Station chief Michael Scheuer, the CIA learns of this “communications conduit” through a CIA officer detailed to the NSA and stationed overseas. According to Scheuer, the NSA “refuse[s] to exploit the conduit and threaten[s] legal action against the agency officer who advised of its existence.” Despite the threat, the officer continues to supply the information. Scheuer asks senior CIA officials to intervene with the NSA, but this only leads to “a desultory interagency discussion without resolution.” [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004] Author James Bamford will say: “Scheuer knew how important the house [the operations center in Yemen] was, he knew NSA was eavesdropping on the house. He went to NSA, went to the head of operations for NSA,… Barbara McNamara, and asked for transcripts of the conversations coming into and going out of the house. And the best the NSA would do would be to give them brief summaries every… once a week or something like that, you know, just a report, not the actual transcripts or anything. And so he got very frustrated, he went back there and they still refused.” [Antiwar, 10/22/2008] Because of the lack of information, the CIA will actually build its own listening post to get some of the information the NSA is concealing from it (see After December 1996).
The CIA’s bin Laden unit repeatedly and formally requests assistance from the US military to help plan operations against bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Michael Scheuer, the head of the unit, later will recall, “We needed and asked for special operations officers.” But even after the US embassy bombings in August 1998, cooperation is not forthcoming. Finally, in June 1999, the unit is sent individuals who are not special operations officers and only have experience on Iran. Scheuer later will complain, “The bin Laden unit received no support from senior [CIA] officials vis-a-vis the US military.” Scheuer is fired from the unit in June 1999, so presumably his first-hand knowledge of relations between the CIA and Pentagon ends at this time. [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004]
Jamal al-Fadl, a highly-trusted informant who recently defected from al-Qaeda to the US (see June 1996-April 1997), is debriefed by FBI officials about al-Qaeda’s finances. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 497] According to the New Yorker, al-Fadl “provided a surprisingly full picture of al-Qaeda, depicting it as an international criminal network intent on attacking the United States. Al-Fadl said that he had handled many of al-Qaeda’s financial transactions after bin Laden left Afghanistan and moved the hub of his operations to [Sudan], in 1992. In this role, al-Fadl had access to bin Laden’s payroll and knew the details of al-Qaeda’s global banking networks, its secret membership lists, and its paramilitary training camps in Afghanistan, one of which he had attended, in the late eighties.” [New Yorker, 9/11/2006] For instance, al-Fadl reveals that bin Laden co-founded the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank in Sudan and capitalized it with $50 million. The US will make this allegation public shortly after al-Fadl is debriefed by the CIA (see August 14, 1996). Al-Fadl will further reveal that he and several other al-Qaeda operatives had accounts at the Al-Shamal Bank to finance their militant activities. [Chicago Tribune, 11/3/2001] Al-Fadl also reveals that bin Laden owns a number of businesses in Sudan, including:
The El-Hijra Construction and Development company, which builds a new airport at Port Sudan and a long highway linking Port Sudan to capital of Khartoum.
The Taba Investment Company, which deals in global stock markets and currency trading.
The Wadi al-Aqiq import/export company, which serves as the parent body for most of the other companies.
The Ladin International import-export company. In 1995, the FBI discovered links between this company and the Bojinka plot in the Philippines (see May 23, 1999).
And other businesses, including several farms, a tannery, and a trucking company. Al-Fadl reveals that some of the farms double as training camps.
Furthermore, he gives details of various bin Laden-linked bank accounts in Britain, Austria, Sudan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates. Even though bin Laden leaves Sudan in 1996, most of his businesses there will continue to operate under his ownership. The US will not take any action against these businesses before 9/11 (see March 16, 2000). [Herald Sun (Melbourne), 9/26/2001; London Times, 10/7/2001]
Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, writes a report based on information from al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl saying that al-Qaeda intends to get nuclear weapons (see Late 1993). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 190] Alec Station chief Michael Scheuer will write in 2004 that, by this time, his unit has “acquired detailed information about the careful, professional manner in which al-Qaeda [is] seeking to acquire nuclear weapons… there could be no doubt after this date that al-Qaeda [is] in deadly earnest in seeking nuclear weapons.” [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004] Scheuer will add that due to al-Qaeda’s “extraordinarily sophisticated and professional effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction… by the end of 1996, it [is] clear that this [is] an organization unlike any other one we had ever seen.” [CBS News, 11/14/2004] The 50-paragraph report, which describes in detail how Osama bin Laden sought the scientists and engineers he needed to acquire enriched uranium and then weaponize it, is sent to CIA headquarters. However, Scheuer’s superiors refuse to distribute the report, saying it is alarmist. Instead, only two of the paragraphs are circulated, buried in a larger memo. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 190] However, according to Scheuer: “Three officers of the [CIA]‘s bin Laden cadre [protest] this decision in writing, and [force] an internal review. It [is] only after this review that this report [is] provided in full to [US intelligence] leaders, analysts, and policymakers.” [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004] The memo’s final distribution will come about a year after it is written. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 190]
IARA logo. [Source: IARA]In November 1996, the FBI monitors the progress of bin Laden buying a new satellite phone and tracks the purchase to Ziyad Khaleel, a US citizen and radical militant living in Missouri (see November 1996-Late August 1998). Newsweek will later say that this puts the Sudan-based charity Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA) “on the FBI’s radar screen” because Khaleel is one of IARA’s eight regional US directors. [Newsweek, 10/20/2004] Khaleel is monitored as he continues to buy new minutes and parts for bin Laden’s phone at least through 1998 (see July 29-August 7, 1998). He is also the webmaster of the official Hamas website. His name and a Detroit address where he lived both appear prominently in ledgers taken by US investigators from the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in 1994, a charity front with ties to both bin Laden and the CIA (see 1986-1993). That Detroit address is also tied to Ahmed Abu Marzouk, the nephew of Mousa Abu Marzouk, a high-ranking Hamas leader who is imprisoned in the US between 1995 and 1997 (see July 5, 1995-May 1997). Furthermore, Khaleel is working for the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a Hamas-linked organization cofounded by Mousa Abu Marzook. [National Review, 10/2/2003] A secret CIA report in early 1996 concluded that the IARA was funding radical militants in Bosnia (see January 1996). US intelligence will later reveal that in the late 1990s, IARA is regularly funding al-Qaeda. For instance, it has evidence of IARA giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to bin Laden in 1999. But Newsweek will later note that “at the very moment that the [IARA] was allegedly heavily involved in funneling money to bin Laden, the US branch was receiving ample support from the US Treasury through contracts awarded by the State Department’s Agency for International Development (USAID).” Between 1997 and 1999, USAID gives over $4 million to IARA, mostly meant for charity projects in Africa. Finally, at the end of December 1999, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gets USAID to cut off all funding for IARA. But the charity is merely told in a latter that US government funding for it would not be “in the national interest of the United States” and it is allowed to continue operating. At the same time, US agents arrest Khaleel while he is traveling to Jordan (see December 29, 1999. The US government will wait until 2004 before shutting down IARA in the US and raiding the Missouri branch where Khaleel worked. Newsweek will later comment, “One question that is likely to arise [in the future] is why it took the US government so long to move more aggressively against the group.” [Newsweek, 10/20/2004]
The picture of Ayman al-Zawahiri on the fake Sudanese passport he used to enter Russia in 1996. [Source: Wall Street Journal]Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Islamic Jihad and effective number two leader of al-Qaeda, travels to Chechnya with two associates. His associates are Ahmad Salama Mabruk, head of Islamic Jihad’s cell in Azerbaijan, and Mahmud Hisham al-Hennawi, a well-traveled militant. Chechnya was fighting to break free from Russian rule and achieved a cease-fire and de facto independence earlier in the year (see August 1996). Al-Zawahiri hopes to establish new connections there. However, on December 1, 1996, he and his associates are arrested by Russian authorities as they try to cross into Chechnya. Al-Zawahiri is carrying four passports, none showing his real identity. The Russians confiscate al-Zawahiri’s laptop and send it to Moscow for analysis, but apparently they never translate the Arabic documents on it that could reveal who he really is. Though some Russian investigators suspect al-Zawahiri is a “big fish,” they cannot prove it. He and his two associates are released after six months. [Wall Street Journal, 7/2/2002; Wright, 2006, pp. 249-250] Later in December 1996, Canadian intelligence learns that Mabruk at least is being held. They know his real identity, but apparently do not share this information with Russia (see December 13, 1996-June 1997). Author Lawrence Wright will later comment: “This fiasco had a profound consequence. With even more defectors from [Islamic Jihad during al-Zawahiri’s unexplained absence] and no real source of income, Zawahiri had no choice but to join bin Laden” in Afghanistan. Prior to this arrest, al-Zawahiri had been traveling all over the world and earlier in 1996 he apparently lived in Switzerland and Sarajevo, Bosnia. But afterwards he remains in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden until the 9/11 attacks. As a result, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda will grow even closer until they completely merge a few months before 9/11 (see June 2001). [Wright, 2006, pp. 249-250]
On December 13, 1996, Mahmoud Jaballah, an Islamic Jihad member living in Canada, is told that Ahmad Salama Mabruk, a member of Islamic Jihad’s ruling council, has been “hospitalized.” Canadian intelligence has been closely monitoring Jaballah since 1996, and it intercepts this call as well. This is actually a reference to the fact that Mabruk has been imprisoned in Russia. Mabruk has actually been arrested along with top Islamic Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahiri near Chechnya earlier in the month, but they are both using aliases and it appears the Russian authorities have no idea who they really are or that they have any militant ties (see December 1, 1996-June 1997). However, over the next months, Canadian intelligence continues to monitor Jaballah as he collects $15,000, raised through his network of Canadian contacts, to help free Mabruk. Apparently this is a bribe. He coordinates these efforts with Thirwat Salah Shehata, another member of Islamic Jihad’s ruling council, who is in Azerbaijan close to where Mabruk and al-Zawahiri have been arrested. The Russian government frees Mabruk and al-Zawahiri in June 1997. Since the Canadian government were aware of Mabruk’s real identity and that Jaballah was trying to free him, it is unknown why Canada did not alert Russia that they were holding an important terrorist leader, which might have alerted Russia to al-Zawahiri’s real identity as well. [Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2/22/2008 ]
Beginning in early 1996, the Sudanese government started offering the US its extensive files on bin Laden and al-Qaeda (see March 8, 1996-April 1996). The US will repeatedly reject the files as part of its policy of isolating the Sudanese government (see April 5, 1997; February 5, 1998; May 2000). Around this time, MI6, the British intelligence agency, is also offered access to the files. Sudan reportedly makes a standing offer: “If someone from MI6 comes to us and declares himself, the next day he can be in [the capital city] Khartoum.” A Sudanese government source later adds, “We have been saying this for years.” However, the offer is not taken. Even weeks after 9/11, it will be reported that while the US has finally accepted the offer of the files, Britain has not. [Observer, 9/30/2001]
Special CIA paramilitary teams enter Afghanistan again in 1997. [Washington Post, 11/18/2001] Gary Schroen, head of the CIA’s Pakistan office during the late 1990’s, will later comment, “We had connections to the Northern Alliance, Ahmed Shah Massoud’s group of Tajik fighters up in the north. The CIA was sending teams into northern Afghanistan from ‘97 up until about 2000 to meet with Massoud’s people, to try to get them involved.” [PBS Frontline, 1/20/2006] (The CIA’s anti-Soviet covert operations officially ended in January 1992. [Coll, 2004, pp. 233] ) Around 1999 there will be a push to recruit more agents capable of operating or traveling in Afghanistan. Many locals will be recruited, but apparently none is close to bin Laden (see 1999). This problem is not fixed in succeeding years. [Washington Post, 2/22/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]
9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi visits the Philippines several times this year. He stays at the Woodland Park Resort Hotel near Angeles City, about 60 miles north of Manila and near the former US controlled Clark Air Base. Security guard Antonio Sersoza later claims, “I am sure Alshehhi had been a Woodland guest several times in 1997. I remember him well because I flagged his speeding car at least three times at the gate of Woodland.” He adds that Alshehhi used different cars, knew how to speak some Filipino, and stayed at the hotel on several Saturdays. He is not sure if Mohamed Atta was with him. [Philippine Star, 10/1/2001; Gulf News, 10/2/2001; Asia Times, 10/11/2001] Other eyewitnesses will later recall seeing Alshehhi and Atta at the Woodland hotel in 1999 (see December 1999), and the Philippine military will confirm their presence there. A leader of a militant group connected to al-Qaeda will later confess to helping 9/11 hijacker pilots while they were in this area (see Shortly After October 5, 2005).
A young Zacarias Moussaoui. [Source: Corbis]Zacarias Moussaoui travels to Baku, Azerbaijan. It is not known why he is there, but Baku is often a staging area for people attempting to go to nearby Chechnya, and there is an important al-Qaeda/Islamic Jihad cell there at the time (see Late August 1998). He meets a CIA informer there, but the informer does not learn Moussaoui’s real name, and does not report on Moussaoui to the CIA until April 2001 (see April 2001). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 201]
In 1997, Canadian intelligence begins investigating Abdullah Almalki, a Canadian exporter originally from Syria. Almalki is working with Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi and Abdelrahman Elzahabi, who are brothers and business partners, to send electronic equipment to Pakistan. Around 1995, the three of them sent large numbers of portable field radios to Pakistan. Apparently, some of them are used by Taliban and al-Qaeda forces (the US will later recover many field radios of the same make and model in Afghanistan after 9/11). However, there is no law against exporting the radios, and investigators are unable to prove any crime was committed. Abdelrahman is working in New York City as a mechanic while Mohamad Kamal is working in Boston as a taxi driver. Three other taxi drivers at the same company are al-Qaeda operatives who knew each other and Mohamad Kamal in Afghanistan (see Late 1980s and June 1995-Early 1999), and he will later admit to being a sniper instructor at the Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan in the early 1990s. The FBI in Boston begins investigating him in 1999, but fails to prove he is a terrorist. They lose track of him when he leaves the US later that year to fight the Russians in Chechnya. The FBI later discovers him driving trucks in Minnesota and arrests him for lying to federal agents about his knowledge of the field radios (see Mid-August 2001). [Globe and Mail, 3/17/2007] It seems probable that the investigation of Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi strengthens suspicions about a Boston al-Qaeda cell. One of his associates at the taxi company, Raed Hijazi, works as an FBI informant starting in 1997 (see Early 1997-Late 1998]), and another, Nabil al-Marabh, is questioned by the FBI in 1999 (see April 1999-August 1999). Almalki is later arrested in Syria while visiting relatives there and severely tortured before eventually being released and returned to Canada (see September 19 or 20, 2003).
French authorities question leading Islamist radical Abu Hamza al-Masri, who is an informer for the British authorities (see Early 1997), in London. However, the interview is frustrated by a Scotland Yard detective, who, according to authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory, acts “almost as Abu Hamza’s protector.” The French want to question Abu Hamza about the extremist Christopher Caze, who is said to have met Abu Hamza in Bosnia, and who was shot by police in Roubaix, France, in 1996. The French investigation thwarted a plan to attack a G7 summit, and a huge cache of arms and explosives was found, but one of Caze’s accomplices, Lionel Dumont, escaped. The British police politely tell Abu Hamza the French would like to ask him some questions, but stress that this has nothing to do with them, and that he is free to refuse to talk to the French. Abu Hamza will later say, “They told me I was a British citizen and I didn’t have to answer if I didn’t want to.” However, Abu Hamza comes to the interview, but says he does not know any of Caze’s associates and, when asked about Al Ansar, a propaganda magazine he publishes for the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), an Algerian militant group, he says it is not against the law in Britain. One of the French investigators is “really upset and angry,” but Abu Hamza will later say the British detective “was very easy about it all, he said I didn’t have to answer.” In addition, “At the end of the meeting he walked with me back to my car, he was smiling and chatting and everything.” For this reason and others, French authorities come to believe that Britain is sympathetic to Islamic militancy. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 127-8]
Djamel Beghal, who authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will call “al-Qaeda’s man in Paris,” leaves France and moves to London. He makes the move due to his dissatisfaction with life in France, because of the anti-Islamist climate in Paris and because of poor personal circumstances. On arrival in Britain, he rents properties in Leicester, in central England, and in London, where he begins to frequent Finsbury Park mosque. In early 1997 the mosque becomes a hotbed of Islamist radicalism when it is taken over by Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for British intelligence (see Early 1997 and March 1997). Beghal becomes one of the key figures at the mosque, which he uses to recruit potential al-Qaeda operatives, including shoe bomber Richard Reid (see Spring 1998). One of his recruiting techniques is to constantly lecture impressionable young men and, according to O’Niell and McGrory, “A recurrent theme of [his] nightly lectures [is] to tell the young men sitting at his feet that there [is] no higher duty than to offer themselves for suicide missions.” Beghal also travels the world, going to Afghanistan at least once to meet senior al-Qaeda leaders, possibly even Osama bin Laden, who Beghal claims gives him a set of prayer beads as thanks for his work. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 86-87, 89-90]
A courthouse in Gostivar, Macedonia is attacked, and the National Liberation Army apparently says it is responsible, marking its first public appearance. Two more Macedonian courthouses will be attacked in January 1998. For years the Macedonian government and NATO will consider the NLA part of the KLA, and Macedonia will demand that the guerrillas go back to Kosova and that NATO secure the border. It will later be revealed that, while many in the NLA are veterans of the war in Kosova, most of its leaders and soldiers are from Macedonia. Macedonia believes the NLA wants to create a Greater Albania, including western Macedonia. [Kola, 2003, pp. 376-378]
The Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) claims sole responsibility for burning down an unoccupied Bureau of Land Management (BLM) horse corral in Oregon; previous attacks had been performed in conjuction with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976). [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Cover of ‘ARSON-Around with Auntie ALF’. [Source: Resource Clearinghouse (.com)]Activists with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) use the step-by-step instructions provided by an ALF manual, “ARSON-Around with Auntie ALF,” to make and use homemade napalm to burn down an Oregon slaughterhouse. The manual states, “Arson is not always used by ALF in the course of an action, but when it is, it can be devastatingly effective.” The activists drill holes in the walls, pour in 35 gallons of homemade napalm, and use three electronically timed incendiary devices to, in the words of an ALF statement, “halt what countless protests and letter-writing campaigns could never stop.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) emerges to resist Serbia’s campaign against Yugoslavia’s Albanian population. The force is financed by Albanian expatriates and Kosovar smugglers (see 1996-1999)
(see Early 1999). According to news reports, the KLA receives some $1.5 billion in drug and arms smuggling profits from Kosovar Albanian traffickers each year. [Mother Jones, 1/2000] The US Drug Enforcement Agency office in Rome tells the Philadelphia Inquirer in March 1999 that the KLA is “financing [its] war through drug trafficking activities, weapons trafficking, and the trafficking of other illegal goods, as well as contributions of their countrymen working abroad.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/15/1999] Less than a year later, Mother Jones magazine will report that it obtained a congressional briefing paper which states: “We would be remiss to dismiss allegations that between 30 and 50 percent of the KLA’s money comes from drugs.” [Mother Jones, 1/2000]
Mohamed Atta, from a January, 1996 Egyptian passport photo. [Source: Getty Images]Spanish newspaper El Mundo later reports, “According to several professors at the Valencia School of Medicine, some of whom are forensic experts, [9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta] was a student there in 1997 or 1998. Although he used another name then, they remember his face among the students that attended anatomy classes.” It is also suggested that “years before, as a student he went to Tarragona. That would explain his last visit to Salou [from July 8-19, 2001], where he could have made contact with dormant cells…”(see July 8-19, 2001) [El Mundo (Madrid), 9/30/2001] If this is true, it would contradict reports concerning Atta’s presence as a student in Hamburg, Germany, during this entire period. There is also a later report that in 1999 Atta will meet an al-Qaeda operative in Alicante, less than 100 miles from Valencia (see 1999).
German intelligence unsuccessfully attempts to turn Mohammed Haydar Zammar into an informant. In 1996, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service, learned that Zammar had extensive Islamist militant ties (see 1996). In 1997, the BfV starts an investigation into Islamist militants in Hamburg that is centered on Zammar (see March 1997-Early 2000). Apparently, as part of this investigation, two BfV officials meet with him twice and attempt to get him to become an informant. However, Zammar strongly rejects the proposal. He says he will not serve the West, but will only serve Allah and jihad. However, he is careful to note that he is only interested in jihad outside of Germany, because under German law at this time it is not illegal to be a member of a violent militant group as long as all the violence takes place outside of Germany. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 11/21/2005] German intelligence will continue monitoring Zammar and many of his associates in Hamburg (see for instance March 1997-Early 2000, October 2, 1998, and July 2001).
Al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar is frequently seen with future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta starting this year. According to Time magazine: “Beginning in 1997, neighbors of Atta’s would often see Zammar carrying boxes up to the Egyptian student’s second-story walk-up. US investigators believe he may have persuaded Atta’s Islamic study group to offer its services to al-Qaeda around 1998.” [Time, 7/1/2002] German intelligence begins heavily monitoring Zammar in early 1997 (see March 1997-Early 2000), but it is unclear when it first takes notice of Atta.
The CIA’s bin Laden unit Alec Station sends a memo to CIA Director George Tenet warning him that the Saudi intelligence service should be considered a “hostile service” with regard to al-Qaeda. This means that, at the very least, they could not be trusted. In subsequent years leading up to 9/11, US intelligence will gather intelligence confirming this assessment and even suggesting direct ties between some in Saudi intelligence and al-Qaeda. For instance, according to a top Jordanian official, at some point before 9/11 the Saudis ask Jordan intelligence to conduct a review of the Saudi intelligence agency and then provide it with a set of recommendations for improvement. Jordanians are shocked to find Osama bin Laden screen savers on some of the office computers. Additionally, the CIA will note that in some instances after sharing communications intercepts of al-Qaeda operatives with the Saudis, the suspects would sometimes change communication methods, suggesting the possibility that they had been tipped off by Saudi intelligence. [Risen, 2006, pp. 183-184]
Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi intelligence minister until shortly before 9/11 (see August 31, 2001), will later claim that al-Qaeda attempts to smuggle weapons into Saudi Arabia to mount attacks on police stations. The plot is uncovered and prevented by Saudi intelligence, and two of the unsuccessful gunrunners, future hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, are watchlisted. [Salon, 10/18/2003; Wright, 2006, pp. 266, 310-311, 448] However, Almihdhar and Alhazmi continue to move in and out of Saudi Arabia unchecked and will obtain US visas there in April 1999 (see 1993-1999 and April 3-7, 1999). The US is supposedly informed of Almihdhar and Alhazmi’s al-Qaeda connection by the end of 1999 (see Late 1999). Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, an associate of Almihdhar and Alhazmi (see January 5-8, 2000), is implicated in a plot to smuggle four Russian antitank missiles into Saudi Arabia around the same time, although it is unclear whether this is the same plot or a different one. The Saudi authorities uncover this plot and the US is apparently informed of the missile seizure in June 1998. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 152-3, 491]
The New York Police Department’s Chief of Department Lou Anemone creates a citywide security plan that ranks 1,500 of the city’s buildings, shopping areas, and transportation hubs as potential terrorist targets. The World Trade Center is rated as “critical”—the highest rating possible—on Anemone’s “vulnerability list.” Other “critical” targets include the New York Stock Exchange, and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels. Anemone later says the WTC “was very much near the top of that [vulnerability] list, certainly in the top 20.” He announces his findings in 1998 at one of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s weekly public safety meetings. Yet, he says, after finishing his briefing, Giuliani just “glazed over.” Anemone adds, “We never had any discussion about security at the World Trade Center. We never even had a drill or exercise there.” Anemone will later say that, based upon information from FBI counterterrorism expert John O’Neill, the detectives assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and other intelligence, he “knew the World Trade Center was a real continuing target.” [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 105-106]
Lynne Stewart. [Source: Robert Livingston/ public domain]The ‘Blind Sheikh,’ Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, who has been in a maximum security facility since his conviction on terrorism charges in the mid 1990s, communicates with his supporters through his legal team, radical attorney Lynne Stewart, paralegal Ahmed Abdel Sattar, and interpreter Mohamed Yousry. Abdul-Rahman, who is held at the Supermax prison in Colorado and then at a medical facility in Minnesota, has no access to the outside world except through the team and he uses them to pass on advice. Author Peter Bergen will comment: “Sheikh Abdul-Rahman’s incarceration has not prevented him from communicating important messages to his followers through his family or lawyers; for instance, in 1997 he endorsed a ceasefire between the Egyptian government and the terrorist Islamic Group. Then in 2000 Sheikh Abdul-Rahman publicly withdrew his support from that ceasefire.” In addition, his will, which appears in 1998 and urges attacks against the US, may also be smuggled out by his legal team (see May 1998). However, passing on such information during the thrice-yearly visits is against the rules agreed for the visits. Stewart, who attempts to distract the prison guards while Abdul-Rahman passes on the messages, will be indicted in 2002 and found guilty on several charges, including conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists. She will be sentenced to 28 months in jail. [CounterPunch, 10/12/2002; Fox News, 2/11/2005; CNN, 2/14/2005; Bergen, 2006, pp. 208-9; National Review, 10/17/2006] In 2001, one of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohand Alshehri, is reportedly seen near the Minnesota facility where Abdul-Rahman is being held (see August 2001).
By the start of 1997, Alec Station, the CIA unit created the year before to focus entirely on bin Laden (see February 1996), is certain that bin Laden is not just a financier but an organizer of terrorist activity. It is aware bin Laden is conducting an extensive effort to get and use a nuclear weapon (see Late 1996). It knows that al-Qaeda has a military committee planning operations against US interests worldwide. However, although this information is disseminated in many reports, the unit’s sense of alarm about bin Laden isn’t widely shared or understood within the intelligence and policy communities. Employees in the unit feel their zeal attracts ridicule from their peers. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] Some higher-ups begin to deride the unit as hysterical doomsayers, and refer to the unit as “The Manson Family.” Michael Scheuer, head of the unit until 1999, has an abrasive style. He and counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke do not get along and do not work well together. Scheuer also does not get along with John O’Neill, the FBI’s most knowledgeable agent regarding bin Laden. The FBI and Alec Station rarely share information, and at one point an FBI agent is caught stuffing some of the unit’s files under his shirt to take back to O’Neill. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]
Reda Hassaine, who had previously informed for an Algerian intelligence service in London (see Early 1995), begins working for the French service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE). The co-operation is initiated by Hassaine, who goes to the French embassy in London and says he has information about the 1995 Paris metro bombings (see July-October 1995). Hassaine’s French handler, known only as “Jerome,” wants to know the names of everybody at the mosque in Finsbury Park, a hotbed of extremism where Abu Hamza al-Masri is the imam. Hassaine is shown “hundreds and hundreds of photographs,” and the French appear to have photographed “everyone with a beard in London—even if you were an Irishman with a red beard they took your photograph.” Hassaine’s busiest day of the week is Friday, when he has to hear Abu Hamza pray at Finsbury Park mosque, as well as making a mental note of any announcements and collecting a copy of the Algerian militant newsletter Al Ansar. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 124, 133-134]
Abu Hamza. [Source: Ian Waldie / Reuters / Corbis]London-based imam Abu Hamza al-Masri starts working with two branches of the British security services, the police’s Special Branch and MI5, the domestic counterintelligence service. The relationships continue for several years and there are at least seven meetings between Abu Hamza and MI5 between 1997 and 2000 (see October 1, 1997, November 20, 1997, and September 1998). Based on records of the meetings, authors Daniel O’Neill and Sean McGrory will describe the relationship as “respectful, polite, and often cooperative.”
Rhetoric - One theme in the meetings, which take place at Abu Hamza’s home and a mosque he runs in Finsbury Park, is that the security services tell Abu Hamza that they do not want any trouble and ask him to tone down some of his more inflammatory comments. Abu Hamza listens politely, but always replies he is committed to jihad. However, over this period Abu Hamza’s rhetoric changes subtly, and he begins attacking “Zionists,” rather than simply “Jews.” Abu Hamza will later say that he asks security officers if his sermons are inappropriate, and they reply, “No, freedom of speech, you don’t have to worry unless we see blood on the streets.”
Information - Abu Hamza provides the security services with information about the ideology of various extremist factions, as well as “tidbits” of information about others, although in one case he provides specific intelligence that leads to the detention of two terrorist suspects. He also likes to “tell tales” about one of his rival preachers, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, and his Al-Muhajiroun organization.
Favors - Sometimes Abu Hamza asks for favors from his handlers. For example, on one occasion he requests the release of some associates after promising that they are not a threat in Britain.
Beyond the Reach of British Law - Abu Hamza will tell his aides that he is “beyond the reach of British law,” and will neglect to pay the mosque’s electricity and water bills. Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will later comment: “Increasingly, Abu Hamza acted as if Finsbury Park had divorced itself from Britain and was operating as an independent Muslim state. He contacted extremist groups, offering his services as an ambassador for them in [Britain] and presenting the mosque as a place of guaranteed asylum.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 96-97, 143-5]
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), one of the key bombers in the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), works for the charity Mercy International for a time in Kenya. He then joins Help Africa People, a charity front created by Wadih El-Hage, another key embassy bomber. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 20, 3/20/2001] In 2008, the Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation will post some articles about the African embassy bombings based on declassified documents. One article will reveal that in early 1997, Fazul brought three more al-Qaeda operatives, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, Abdallah Nacha, and Mohamed al-Owhali, into Kenya. All three were also working with Mercy International, but were on temporary loan to Help Africa People. All of them will go on to play important roles in the embassy bombings. [Daily Nation, 8/2/2008; Daily Nation, 8/2/2008] From late 1996 until the embassy bombings, minus a few months near the start of 1998, US intelligence is monitoring two phone numbers at Mercy International’s Kenya office (see Late 1996-August 20, 1998), so it seems probable that the US would be aware of these men. In 1999, it will be alleged that the US-based Mercy International is actually a CIA front (see 1989 and After).
Raed Hijazi’s Boston taxi license. [Source: FBI]Raed Hijazi, an al-Qaeda operative later convicted in Jordan for attempting to blow up hotels there, is living and working in Boston with Nabil al-Marabh. According to an FBI source described in media reports as both “reliable” and “high-level,” Hijazi is approached by FBI agents investigating a drug-trafficking network bringing in white heroin from Afghanistan. According to the source, Hijazi becomes “a willing informant” about the network. The source will claim that Hijazi also provided information about “Arab terrorists and terrorist sympathizers,” but the agents were more interested in the heroin trade. [WCVB 5 (Boston), 10/16/2001] The timing of this is unclear, but it must have occurred between early 1997 and late 1998, the only time Hijazi lived in Boston (see June 1995-Early 1999). An FBI spokeswoman will decline to comment on the issue except to say, “Based on the reporting, I would question [Hijazi’s] reliability [as an informant].” [Boston Herald, 10/17/2001]
The Global Relief Foundation (GRF) is incorporated in Bridgeview, Illinois, in 1992. The US government will later claim that its founders had previously worked with Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK)/ Al-Kifah, which was the precursor to al-Qaeda (see Late 1984). By 2000, the US branch of GRF will report over $5 million in annual contributions, and 90% of that will be sent overseas. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 89-90 ] The FBI’s Chicago office first became aware of GRF in the mid-1990s due to GRF’s connection to MAK/ Al-Kifah and other alleged radical militant links. After discovering a series of calls between GRF officials and others with terrorist links, the Chicago office opens a full field investigation in 1997. FBI agents begin physically monitoring the GRF office and searching through its trash. But the Chicago agents are repeatedly obstructed by FBI headquarters, which takes six months to a year to approve routine requests such as searches for GRF’s telephone and bank records. The Chicago agents get more help from foreign countries where the GRF has offices, and largely based on this overseas information, they conclude the GRF is funding terrorism overseas. They submit a request for a FISA warrant to step up surveillance, but it takes a full year for the warrant to be approved. After getting the approval, they begin electronic surveillance as well. By late 1999, they are convinced that the GRF executive director Mohammad Chehade is a member of both Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and al-Qaeda. For instance, Chehade called a mujaheddin leader closely tied to bin Laden, and there were calls between GRF and Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s former personal secretary and one of the 1998 African embassy bombers. Searching through GRF’s trash, the agents find evidence that GRF has bought sophisticated military-style handheld radios and sent them to Chechnya. By the start of 2001, the agents are convinced that GRF is funding militant groups, but they are unable to prove where the money is going overseas. They cannot make a formal request for bank records in other countries because they are conducting an intelligence investigation, not a criminal investigation. The Chicago agents want to travel to Europe to meet with officials investigating GRF there, but they are not allowed to go. Their superiors site budget constraints. In late spring 2001, the FISA warrant is not extended, effectively ending any chance the FBI could act against GRF before 9/11. No reason has been given why the warrant was not extended, but around this time FBI headquarters do not even submit a valid FISA application for GRF put forth by the FBI’s Detroit office (see March 2000). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 89-94 ] The GRF’s offices in the US and overseas will be shut down shortly after 9/11 (see December 14, 2001). In 2004, it will be reported that Chehade is still living in the US and has not been charged with any crimes. [Metro Times, 3/17/2004]
In mid-1996, Jamal al-Fadl will walk into a US embassy in Eritrea, defect from al-Qaeda, and become a key informant for the US about al-Qaeda’s inner workings and leadership (see June 1996-April 1997). The 9/11 Commission’s final report will later mention, “Corroborating evidence [to al-Fadl’s revelations] came from another walk-in source at a different US embassy.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 109] Nothing more has been publicly revealed about this other defector, except for a 9/11 Commission footnote mentioning that the information about his defection comes from a January 1997 CIA cable. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 479] This person does not seem to be L’Houssaine Kherchtou, another al-Qaeda defector from around this time, since the 9/11 Commission mentions him by name elsewhere in their final report, and he does not talk to the US until mid-2000 (see Summer 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 62] This also does not fit the profile of Essam al Ridi, another al-Qaeda informant, who does not get into contact with US officials until after the embassy bombings in 1998. [Radio Free Europe, 9/10/2006] The 9/11 Commission also notes that, “More confirmation [about al-Fadl’s revelations] was supplied later that year by intelligence and other sources, including material gathered by FBI agents and Kenyan police from an al-Qaeda cell in Nairobi” (see August 21, 1997). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 109]
Ronson’s footage of Omar Bakri Mohammed, left, leading followers in prayer inside the Scout hut. [Source: Jon Ronson]Reporter Jon Ronson is making a documentary about Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical London imam and leader of the militant group Al-Muhajiroun, and is allowed to attend a training camp meeting led by Bakri. Ronson is taken to a well-stocked gym in a Scout hut in a forestry center near Crawley, Britain. There are punchbags, treadmills, and a TV that is showing videos promoting militant action. Ronson watches as Bakri gives a lecture in front of about 30 young men. Bakri tells his audience: “There is a time when a military struggle must take place in [Britain]. Jihad. It’s called conquering. One day, without question, [Britain] is going to be governed by Islam.… You must be ready to defend yourselves militarily.” Ronson, who has a humorous edge to his reporting, calls the place Bakri’s “secret jihad training camp,” not believing that “Bakri’s people were violent or motivated enough to actually initiate a jihad or commit acts of terrorism.” But he will later find he is incorrect. For instance, Omar Khyam will get interested in radical Islam in late 1998, and soon join Al-Muhajiroun. He and other members of the group will be sentenced to life in prison after attempting to build a large fertilizer bomb in 2004 (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). [Guardian, 4/30/2007] In late 2000, Bakri will say he has recruited 600 to 700 volunteers for jihad in the last few years (see December 10, 2000).
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finds at least 136 security violations at Boston’s Logan Airport between 1997 and early 1999. Flights 11 and 175 will depart from Logan on 9/11. Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the airport, is fined $178,000 for these breaches, which include failing to screen baggage properly and easy access to parked planes. In summer 1999, a teenager is able to climb over the airport’s security fence, walk two miles across the tarmac, board a 747, and fly on it to London. In September 1999, the Boston Globe finds that doors are often left open at the airport, making it possible for potentially anyone to gain access to planes on the ground. [Boston Globe, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001] After 9/11, an analysis by the Boston Globe will conclude that Logan’s security record is “dismal” (see 1991-2000). [Boston Globe, 9/26/2001]
The Al Taqwa Bank had offices in this building in Lugano, Italy, on the border with Switzerland. [Source: Keystone]Newsweek will later claim that US investigators “on bin Laden’s trail” had known about the Al Taqwa Bank in Switzerland and its support for al-Qaeda “for years. But the group’s mazelike structure made it hard to track, and the Feds considered it a low priority.” A senior Treasury official later will tell Congress that US investigators learned in 1997 that Hamas had transferred $60 million into accounts at the Al Taqwa Bank. Also in 1997, US investigators learn the names of many Al Taqwa shareholders. Many of them turn out to be rich and powerful Arabs, including members of the bin Laden family and members of the Kuwaiti royal family (see 1997-December 1999). Newsweek later will claim that, “The US took a harder look at Al Taqwa after the [1998 US] embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Sources say US intelligence tracked telephone contacts between Al Taqwa and members of bin Laden’s inner circle. Al-Qaeda operatives would call Al Taqwa representatives in the Bahamas as they moved around the world. Still, the network’s complex structure made it difficult to prove how money changed hands, and the investigation stalled. Under US pressure, the Bahamian government revoked Al Taqwa’s license [in the spring of 2001]. Treasury officials say the network continued to do business anyway.” [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] The US will declare Al Taqwa a terrorist financier two months after 9/11 (see November 7, 2001).
Yousuf Abdullah Al-Qaradawi. [Source: Zuma Press/ Newscom]In December 1999, the FBI apparently discovers a list of shareholders in the Al Taqwa Bank that reflects holdings in the bank at that time. The list is later confirmed as authentic by both US and Al Taqwa officials. It contains over 700 names. Youssef Nada, the president of Al Taqwa, will claim that the FBI knew the essential contents of the list in 1997, the same year they learned of other ties between the bank and officially designated terrorist groups (see 1997-September 11, 2001). [Salon, 3/15/2002] Names on the list include:
Yousuf Abdullah Al-Qaradawi, the grand mufti of the United Arab Emirates, and five members of his family. Qaradawi is said to be a high-ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood and has made statements supporting suicide bombings against Israel (see 1986-October 1999).
Huta and Iman bin Laden, sisters of Osama bin Laden. Salon notes that the presence of their names on the list “undermin[es] the bin Laden family’s claim that it separated itself from [Osama’s] terrorist pursuits after he was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1994.”
Other bin Laden family members. For instance, Ghalib Mohammad Binladin, a brother of Osama, sues Al Taqwa in 1999 for failing to pay him a claim (the suit is thrown out of court.) [Newsweek, 11/7/2001]
Unnamed members of Hamas, which the US declared a terrorist group in 1995.
Members of Kuwait’s royal family.
Hassan el-Banna, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. (A man with this name founded the Muslim Brotherhood but died in 1949; this may be one of his descendants.) Other names on the list are said to be connected to organizations linked to al-Qaeda. Swiss officials later will admit that they were aware of reports connecting Al Taqwa to terrorist groups, but will claim they never had enough evidence to obtain a search warrant. However, no effective action is taken against the bank or anyone on the list. [Salon, 3/15/2002] The Al Taqwa Bank is said to have amassed $229 million in capital by 1997. In 1995, one of the bank’s directors said that oil-rich Saudi families “are very active” in using the bank. The bank will be shut down after 9/11, when US officials will charge it with funding al-Qaeda and other US-designated terrorist groups (see November 7, 2001). [Boston Herald, 11/8/2001]
In 1996, rebel forces in Chechnya outlasted the Russian army and were able to effectively achieve a de facto independence from Russia (see August 1996). Aslan Maskhadov wins presidential elections in early 1997. But in-fighting amongst the victorious Chechen forces begins, and Maskhadov struggles for control against a number of field commanders and local chieftains. In particular, one powerful Chechen warlord named Shamil Basayev quits Maskhadov’s government and joins up with Ibn Khattab, a Saudi who only recently moved to Chechnya and built up his own forces (see February 1995-1996). [Washington Post, 3/10/2000] Khattab is an Islamist who leads many foreigners fighting in Chechnya as a jihad cause. Basayev, while Chechen, trained in a militant training camp in Pakistan around 1990 and is sympathetic to Khattab’s religious cause. [BBC, 3/20/2000] The Washington Post will later comment: “Islamic extremists figured hardly at all in Chechnya’s first war for independence from Russia, from 1994 to 1996. That was clearly a nationalist movement. But when that war ended with no clear winner, Chechnya lay in ruins, presenting fertile ground for Islamic militants.” [Washington Post, 9/26/2001] Russia tries to bolster the Maskhadov government by sending it arms and funds and even training its troops. Several assassination attempts are made against him and he is saved twice by an armored limousine Russia provides him with. Kidnappings for ransom become the order of the day. Between 1997 and 1999, more than 1,000 people are kidnapped in Chechnya. [Washington Post, 3/10/2000] In June 1998, amid growing lawlessness, Maskhadov imposes a state of emergency. But this does not restore order. Radical Islamists led by Basayev and Khattab are growing more popular. In January 1999, Maskhadov gives in to pressure and declares that Sharia (strict Islamic law) will be phased in over three years. But this is not good enough for the Islamists, who announce the formation of a rival body to govern Chechnya according to Sharia immediately, and call on Maskhadov to relinquish the presidency. [BBC, 3/12/2008]
The CIA builds a ground station to intercept calls between Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda’s operations centre in Yemen. [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004; Antiwar, 10/22/2008; PBS, 2/3/2009] According to author James Bamford, the station is “in the Indian Ocean area, I think it was on Madagascar.” [Antiwar, 10/22/2008] The NSA is already intercepting the calls, but refuses to share the raw intelligence with the CIA (see February 1996-May 1998 and December 1996), which is why the agency has to build the station. However, the CIA is only able to get half the conversations, because its technology is not as good as the NSA’s. [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004; Antiwar, 10/22/2008; PBS, 2/3/2009] Bamford will add, “they were only picking up half of the conversations, apparently it was downlink, they weren’t able to get the uplink, you need a satellite.” [Antiwar, 10/22/2008] Presumably, Bamford means the CIA is getting the half of the calls featuring the person talking to bin Laden, but cannot hear the Afghan end of the conversation. To get the other half of the Afghanistan-Yemen calls the CIA would need a satellite. [PBS, 2/3/2009]
Ziad Jarrah. [Source: Reuters]When traveling with a radical associate known to be monitored by German intelligence, Abdulrahman al-Makhadi (see Late 1996 or After), Ziad Jarrah meets another suspicious Islamic radical. The man, a convert, is known in public accounts only as Marcel K and is the vice president of the Islamic center in North-Rhine Westphalia. In March 2001, the Bundeskriminalamt federal criminal service will begin investigating the center’s president with respect to membership in a terrorist organization. Marcel K is apparently a close confidant of Jarrah, because Jarrah always calls him before taking important decisions, for example when he leaves to train in Afghanistan and when he applies for admission to US flight schools. He will also call Marcel K during his pilot training, for the last time shortly before 9/11. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003] Marcel K will be arrested in a Europe-wide sweep of Islamic militants in February 2003. [Deutsche Welle (Bonn), 2/6/2003; Tagesspeigel, 2/7/2003; New York Times News Service, 2/7/2003] It is not known what happens to him after this.
Imagery of bin Laden’s Tarnak Farms compound prepared for the aborted operation. [Source: CBC]In 1997 and early 1998, the US develops a plan to capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. A CIA-owned aircraft is stationed in a nearby country, ready to land on a remote landing strip long enough to pick him up. However, problems with having to hold bin Laden too long in Afghanistan make the operation unlikely. The plan morphs into using a team of Afghan informants to kidnap bin Laden from inside his heavily defended Tarnak Farm complex. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, calls the plan “the perfect operation.” Gary Schroen, the lead CIA officer in the field, agrees, and gives it about a 40 percent chance of succeeding. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 220-221; Washington Post, 2/22/2004; Vanity Fair, 11/2004] The Pentagon also reviews the plan, finding it well crafted. In addition, there is “plausible denialability,” as the US could easily distance itself from the raid. Scheuer will comment, “It was the perfect capture operation becauase even if it went completely wrong and people got killed, there was no evidence of a US hand.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 192] However, higher-ups at the CIA are skeptical of the plan and worry that innocent civilians might die. The plan is given to CIA Director George Tenet for approval, but he rejects it without showing it to President Clinton. He considers it unlikely to succeed and decides the Afghan allies are too unreliable. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 220-221; Washington Post, 2/22/2004; Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Additionally, earlier in May 1998, the Saudis promised to try to bribe the Taliban and try bin Laden themselves, and apparently Tenet preferred this plan (see May 1998). Scheuer is furious. After 9/11 he will complain, “We had more intelligence against this man and organization than we ever had on any other group we ever called a terrorist group, and definitive and widely varied [intelligence] across all the ends, and I could not understand why they didn’t take the chance.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] There will be later speculation that the airstrip used for these purposes is occupied and will be used as a base of operations early in the post-9/11 Afghan war. [Washington Post, 12/19/2001]
The CIA again asks the NSA for part of the transcripts of calls between Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda’s operations center in Yemen. The NSA has been intercepting the calls for some time (see Between May and December 1996), but refuses to share the intelligence with Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, in usable form (see December 1996). During the calls, the al-Qaeda operatives talk in a simplistic code, but the NSA apparently does not decrypt the conversations, and only gives Alec Station meaningless summaries of the calls (see February 1996-May 1998). Without the transcripts, Alec Station cannot crack the code and figure out what the operatives are really talking about. As a result, the CIA built a duplicate ground station in the Indian Ocean, and is replicating half of the NSA’s intelligence take on the calls (see After December 1996). However, it cannot obtain the other end of the calls without a satellite. Alec Station chief Michael Scheuer will say, “We would collect it [one end of the calls], translate it, send it to NSA, and ask them for the other half of it, so we could better understand it, but we never got it.” Author James Bamford will comment: “And so the CIA, Mike Scheuer, went back to NSA and said look,… we’re able to get… half the conversations here, but we still need the other half, and NSA still wouldn’t give them the other half. I mean this is absurd, but this is what was going on.” [Antiwar, 10/22/2008; PBS, 2/3/2009]
Defense lawyers in the Oklahoma City bombing case (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) accuse prosecutors of misconduct in their handling of witness Thomas Manning, a Firestone tire store manager in Junction City, Kansas, who sold a car to accused bomber Timothy McVeigh days before the bombing (see April 13, 1995). Newly unsealed court documents reveal that Manning’s testimony has been a point of contention since November 1996. Manning has heart problems that might preclude his journeying to Denver to testify in McVeigh’s trial. A deposition was videotaped in Topeka on November 7. Manning had been interviewed eight times by government investigators and three times by defense investigators. His story remained essentially consistent regarding McVeigh’s arrival at his store at 9 a.m. with white smoke billowing from his Pontiac station wagon (see January 1 - January 8, 1995) and $300 in his pocket. But in the deposition, Manning added a detail: McVeigh left the store for 10 to 15 minutes and then returned. This absence could have given him time to make telephone calls that could connect him to the bombing, which killed 168 people. McVeigh’s lawyers say in a filing unsealed today: “If Timothy McVeigh had stayed at the Firestone dealership, as each of Mr. Manning’s previous statements suggest, he could not have placed the telephone calls that the government alleges were in furtherance of the conspiracy. This indicates that someone else placed the calls and that someone else committed the overt acts alleged in the indictment.” The defense is referring to calls found on McVeigh’s telephone credit card, issued under an alias, Darryl (or Daryl or Darrell) Bridges (see August 1994). The credit card record shows that someone made a 54-second call from the J & K Bus Depot, a block from the Firestone tire dealership, to co-conspirator Terry Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, home at 9:51 a.m. Two minutes later, a caller using the same credit card from the same telephone called the Ryder rental office in Junction City and talked for 7 minutes and 36 seconds. Prosecutors believe that during the second telephone call, McVeigh rented the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see April 15, 1995). Defense lawyers now say that prosecutors concocted the detail about McVeigh leaving the Firestone store and returning. Michael Tigar, the lawyer for Nichols, says: “The government has a room at the Marriott Hotel in which witnesses are transmogrified. I wish I had a room where I could do that to people.” Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says Manning never mentioned McVeigh’s departure to defense lawyers because they had never asked him about it. In papers filed by the prosecution, the defense is accused of not asking Manning about McVeigh’s departure because it was hoping Manning would not mention it. The defense’s decision to avoid the question, the prosecutors say, does not require government lawyers to disclose that they had asked the question in at least one of their interviews and had received an answer that tended to incriminate McVeigh. Other papers unsealed today reveal that defense lawyers have accused prosecutors of obstructing the defense’s investigation, and of destroying exculpatory evidence surrounding the still-unidentified “John Doe No. 2,” a person some suspect of being McVeigh’s accomplice on the day of the bombing (see April 20, 1995). Prosecutors have said they doubt “John Doe No. 2” has any connection to the bombing. The prosecution interviewed David Shafer, an Indiana seed company salesman, about Nichols and his brother James (see May 22, 1995), and decided not to use his testimony. Defense lawyers say Shafer “has been directed by the FBI to destroy notes concerning his recollection of these events.” [New York Times, 1/4/1997] Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to bar the testimony of any witnesses challenged by the defense, and says there is no evidence that the FBI destroyed information or attempted to influence anyone’s recollections or testimonies. [New York Times, 2/21/1997]
Federal authorities raid the Illinois home of Ricky Salyers, a former Marine and current white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan member. They find 35,000 rounds of heavy ammunition, armor piercing shells, smoke and tear gas grenades, live shells for grenade launchers, artillery shells, and other military gear. Salyers is allegedly a member of the underground Black Dawn group of extremists in the military; he will be sentenced later in the year to serve three years for weapons violations. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Federal officials state that the circulation of a sketch identified as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), a man once believed to have had some connection with accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), was a mistake. The person, described as short, stocky, thick-necked, and olive-skinned, was misidentified by a witness who gave an incorrect recollection to federal investigators. Prosecutors say that while the possibility exists that others besides McVeigh and Terry Nichols were involved in the bombing, they have no physical descriptions to give to the public. Prosecutors identify the man in the “John Doe No. 2” sketch as Private Todd Bunting, an Army soldier stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, near Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh rented a Ryder truck used in the bombing (see April 15, 1995). Bunting entered the same Ryder rental office on April 18, a day after McVeigh entered the office. The sketch is based on the recollections of Tom Kessinger, a mechanic in the truck rental office. He and two other employees identified McVeigh from the sketch, but Kessinger’s recollection of “John Doe No. 2” as a man accompanying McVeigh was not supported by the others. McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones says that because of the misidentification of Bunting, all the identifications of all the Ryder clerks must be thrown out. “I don’t think any of those identifications are now safe,” Jones says. Bunting is 5’11”, 200 pounds, muscular and stocky, with dark brown hair, a wide, square chin, and relatively dark skin. On April 18, he accompanied Sergeant Michael Hertig, another Fort Riley soldier, to pick up a truck that Hertig had reserved five days before. Prosecutors believe Kessinger, pressured by investigators, became confused in his recollections and mistakenly identified Bunting as accompanying McVeigh and not Hertig. On November 22, 1996, Kessinger positively identified Bunting as “John Doe No. 2.” He also says he is now unsure that McVeigh was with anyone when he came to rent the Ryder truck. The other Ryder clerks, Vicki Beemer and Eldon Elliott (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995), have said that they believe McVeigh was with another man, but cannot recall what that man looks like. [New York Times, 1/30/1997]
Mohamed Harkat. [Source: CBC]In February 1997, Mohamed Harkat, an Islamic militant living in Canada who is being monitored by Canadian intelligence (CSIS), contacts a person in Pakistan whom he refers to as Haji Wazir. Harkat asks him about Ibn Khattab, a warlord in Chechnya linked to al-Qaeda, and other people linked to Islamic militancy. Canadian intelligence is monitoring the call. In October 1997, Harkat is interviewed by Canadian intelligence and he tells them he has a banker friend named Haji Wazir and that he has deposited some money in Wazir’s bank. Canadian intelligence will later comment in court documents that Haji Wazir is another name for Pacha Wazir (haji is an honoric for someone who has been on the haj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca), and that Wazir is a “shadowy financial kingpin from the United Arab Emirates.… Wazir was the main money-handler for Osama Bin Laden.” Furthermore, Harkat is involved with terrorist financing for Khattab and al-Qaeda in association with Wazir. [Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2/22/2008 ] Presumably Wazir becomes known to Western intelligence agencies at this time, if he is not known already, but no country will take any action against him until one year after 9/11 (see Late September 2002).
Mustafa Fadhil. [Source: FBI]US intelligence is monitoring the phones of an al-Qaeda cell in Kenya (see
April 1996 and Late 1996-August 1998), as well as the phones of Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan (see November 1996-Late August 1998). Between January 30 and February 3, 1997, al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef calls Wadih El-Hage, the leader of the Kenyan cell, several times. El-Hage then flies to Pakistan and on February 4, he is monitored calling Kenya and gives the address of the hotel in Peshawar where he is staying. On February 7, he calls Kenyan cell member Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul) and says he is still in Peshawar, waiting to enter Afghanistan and meet al-Qaeda leaders. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 37, 5/1/2001] Then, later on February 7, Fazul calls cell member Mohammed Saddiq Odeh. According to a snippet of the call discussed in a 2001 trial, Fazul informs Odeh about a meeting between the “director” and the “big boss,” which are references to El-Hage and Osama bin Laden respectively. In another monitored call around this time, Fazul talks to cell member Mustafa Fadhil, and they complain to each other that Odeh is using a phone for personal business that is only meant to be used for al-Qaeda business. Then, on February 21, El-Hage is back in Kenya and talks to Odeh on the phone in another monitored call. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 37, 5/1/2001; United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 39, 5/3/2001]
Two prosecution witnesses in the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) testify under oath that the person who rented the Ryder truck used to carry the bomb was accused bomber Timothy McVeigh. Eldon Elliott, the owner of Elliott’s Body Shop, the Ryder rental outlet in Junction City, Kansas, and body shop employee Tom Kessinger both say that “Robert Kling,” who paid $280 cash and said he did not need insurance because he was a careful driver, was, in fact, McVeigh (see Mid-March, 1995 and April 15, 1995). Defense lawyer Stephen Jones questions their credibility, saying that because of Kessinger’s misidentification of another person as having accompanied McVeigh to the store to rent the truck (see January 29, 1997), both Elliott’s and Kessinger’s identifications must be thrown out. The defense is expected to argue that “Kling” was someone else and not McVeigh. Kessinger admits that he misidentified Army Private Todd Bunting as “John Doe No. 2,” whom federal investigators have considered a likely accomplice until recently. Kessinger stands by his identification of McVeigh. In court, Kessinger says he was sitting in the back of the truck rental office, taking a break at about 4:15 p.m. on Monday, April 17, 1995, when he saw two men come into the shop. They stood at the counter and began speaking with Vicki Beemer, who handled the paperwork that day. Kessinger remembers McVeigh because of something McVeigh said, which is not disclosed in court. He watched McVeigh and the second man—not Bunting—for about 10 minutes. He met with FBI agent Scott Crabtree at 4:45 p.m. on April 19, the day of the bombing, and met with an FBI sketch artist at 3:30 the next morning, he says, to start work on the composite sketches of the bombing suspects. He was then asked not to watch television news accounts of the bombing or to read the press coverage. “They told me to rely only on my own memory,” he says. Jones elicits that Kessinger watches “a lot of MTV, a lot of Discovery Channel,” but does not watch network television news or local news. He says he never saw a photograph of McVeigh until FBI agents showed him a group of photographs on April 30, 1995. Kessinger identified McVeigh as the man he saw in the body shop. Asked by Jones if McVeigh was accompanied by someone else, Kessinger responds: “I don’t know. I want to say yes, but I don’t know who that individual was.” The transaction with McVeigh was short and businesslike, Kessinger recalls, noting that McVeigh turned down the offer to purchase insurance because, Kessinger recalls, “he said ‘I’m not going very far, I’m used to driving trucks out of Fort Riley [an Army base near Junction City], and I’m a careful driver.’” [New York Times, 2/19/1997]
In February 1997, Wadih El-Hage, Osama bin Laden’s former personal secretary now living in Kenya and working on an al-Qaeda bomb plot, goes to Afghanistan and visits bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef (see February 7-21, 1997). He returns to Kenya with a seven-page report from Atef, al-Qaeda’s military commander, that details al-Qaeda’s new ties to the Taliban. Atef writes: “We wish to put our Muslim friends in the picture of the events, especially that the media portrayed an untrue image about the Taliban movement. Our duty towards the movement is to stand behind it, support it materially and morally.” On February 25, 1997, El-Hage faxes the report to some associates with the suggestion that it be shared with the “brothers in work.” US intelligence is monitoring El-Hage’s phone and learns the contents of the fax and whom it is sent to. The fax is sent to:
Ali Mohamed, the US-al-Qaeda double agent living in California. Mohamed has already been under surveillance since 1993 for his al-Qaeda ties (see Autumn 1993). He will not be arrested until one month after the 1998 African embassy bombings (see September 10, 1998).
Ihab Ali Nawawi, an apparent al-Qaeda operative living in Orlando, Florida. It is not known if Nawawi is monitored after this, but communications between him, Mohamed, and El-Hage are discovered in January 1998 (see January 1998). He will not be arrested until May 1999 (see May 18, 1999).
Farid Adlouni. He is a civil engineer living in Lake Oswego, Oregon. In 1996 and 1997, El-Hage calls Adlouni in Oregon 72 times, sometimes just before or after meeting with bin Laden. Later in 1997, Adlouni’s home phone and fax numbers will be found in two personal phone directories and one notebook kept by El-Hage (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). Records show that El-Hage has extensive dealings with Adlouni, mostly by selling gems El-Hage bought in Africa for a better price in the US. The FBI interviews Adlouni twice in late 1997, but he is not arrested. As of 2002, it will be reported that he continues to live in Oregon and remains a “person of interest” and subject of investigation by the FBI.
Other copies of the fax are sent to associates in Germany, but they have not been named. Apparently these contacts do not result in any arrests, as there are no known arrests of al-Qaeda figures in Germany in 1997. [Oregonian, 9/13/2002]
According to reports by the Dallas Morning News, indicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) has confessed to planning the bombing and detonating a bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003] Reporter Pete Slover cites as his source “summaries of several 1995 interviews with a defense team member” [New York Times, 3/1/1997] , though he later admits in a court filing that he could not be sure the story was true before filing it. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 271] Researchers will later learn that McVeigh suspects his lead attorney Stephen Jones of leaking his purported confession to the press. The leak is later shown to be from a member of Jones’s staff, who gave a computer disk containing FBI reports to Slover, apparently unaware that the McVeigh “confession” was also on the disk. [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] However, this reported speculation is countered by an opinion advanced in 1998 by author Richard A. Serrano, who will write that the defense’s work to humanize McVeigh and “soften” his image (see June 26, 1995) “was blown apart” by the leaked information. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 271] The Morning News prints the article on its Web site seven hours before its next print edition can be published, and later cites a desire to match the immediacy of television and to ensure its exclusive isn’t “scooped” by a competitor. Editors worried before publication that McVeigh’s lawyers might leak the story in one fashion or another to another media outlet. [New York Times, 3/3/1997]
Details of Bombing Plot, Involvement by Co-Conspirator Nichols, Denials of Wider Conspiracy - According to documents obtained by the Morning News, McVeigh’s defense lawyers wrote that McVeigh told one of them that his bombing of the Murrah Federal Building during working hours would leave a “body count” that would make a statement to the federal government. McVeigh also named his friend, alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols, as being intimately involved with the bomb plot (see August 10, 1995), but insisted he alone drove the Ryder truck containing the bomb that destroyed the Murrah Building. McVeigh also denied any involvement by Terry Nichols’s brother James Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988, May 11, 1995, and April 25, 1995). The Morning News describes the source of its reporting as summaries of several 1995 interviews with a member of the defense team’s staff, conducted between July and December 1995 at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center in Oklahoma, where McVeigh was held before his transfer to the Denver area in March 1996. The summaries, the Morning News says, validate much of the prosecution’s contention that McVeigh and Nichols committed robberies and burglary in the course of assembling money and materials for the bombing, even as it acknowledges that they could not be used by prosecutors in either man’s trial. One summary of a July 1995 interview has a staffer asking McVeigh if it would have been better to bomb the building at night when relatively few people would have been present. According to the staffer: “Mr. McVeigh looked directly into my eyes and told me: ‘That would not have gotten the point across to the government. We needed a body count to make our point.’” According to the documents, McVeigh and Nichols used significantly more ammonium nitrate than federal investigators have estimated—some 5,400 pounds as compared to federal estimates of 4,800 pounds—and about $3,000 worth of high-powered racing fuel to make a lethal explosive combination. “Mr. McVeigh states that 108 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer were mixed with the nitro fuel purchased by Terry Nichols,” one summary reads. The summaries also have McVeigh admitting to his involvement in a 1994 robbery carried out by Nichols and himself to fund the bombing plot (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). “Mr. McVeigh stated that he laid out the plan and that Terry Nichols alone broke into [gun dealer Roger] Moore’s house and stole the weapons,” one summary reads. The summary tallies closely with recent statements by McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier, who pled guilty to helping transport the stolen weapons and is now helping the prosecution (see May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995). Fortier has testified that he and McVeigh sold the weapons stolen from Moore in Arizona. McVeigh also detailed a burglary committed by himself and Nichols at a Kansas rock quarry (see October 3, 1994). He also gave information about a third burglary carried out by himself and Fortier of a National Guard armory (see February - July 1994), where they attempted to steal welding tools but only made off with hand tools. According to the summaries, McVeigh denied being part of a larger conspiracy, and said the bomb plot was conceived and executed by himself and Nichols. He called a witness who claimed knowledge of a Middle Eastern or Islamist connection (see February - July 1994) a “bullsh_t artist.” He also said that another conspiracy theory centered around right-wing activist Andreas Strassmeir is groundless (see January 23, 1993 - Early 1994 and April 20, 1995). [Dallas Morning News, 3/1/1997; Washington Post, 3/1/1997] Initially, McVeigh’s lead defense attorney Stephen Jones calls the documents “a hoax” and denies that McVeigh made any of those statements. The Dallas Morning News is trying to garner attention and subscriptions, Jones says, and implies that the Morning News’s source is “setting up” the paper: “They just bought the Brooklyn Bridge,” he says. The Morning News has informed Jones of the identity of the source that provided it with the documents. [Washington Post, 3/1/1997] “This is about the most irresponsible form of journalism,” Jones says. He says that after McVeigh learned of the story, his client said, “There’s a practical joker every week.” [New York Times, 3/1/1997]
Defense Alleges Press Stole Documents - The Morning News denies a subsequent defense allegation that Slover stole thousands of computerized documents belonging to McVeigh’s defense lawyers, documents Jones says were used in the Morning News’s reporting. Jones says the documents acknowledge McVeigh’s responsibility for the bombing, but do not constitute a confession. The Morning News, Jones says, got the documents “by fraud, deception, misrepresentation, and theft” involving the defense’s computer files. Attorney Paul Watler, speaking for the Morning News, “categorically denies it committed any crime,” and says the documents were obtained through “routine news-gathering techniques.” The Morning News “did not hack into Mr. Jones’ computer system, and it did not assist anyone else in doing so,” Watler says. Jones says the documents are not, as some reports say, notes of a defense staffer’s conversations with McVeigh; defense lawyers have previously alleged that they produced a “fake confession” designed to persuade a witness to talk to defense investigators. Jones says any such false confessions, if they exist, would not be used during McVeigh’s trial. Jones says he may ask Judge Richard Matsch to delay the trial for 90 days to allow for a “cooling-off period” and allow “people to move on.” Watler says Jones is using the allegations to cloud the trial proceedings. [Dallas Morning News, 3/4/1997; New York Times, 3/4/1997] Freelance journalist J.D. Cash, who writes for a far-right publication called The Jubilee and a small Oklahoma newspaper, the McCurtain Daily Gazette, denies reports that he is the source of the article. Cash says he is not “the intermediary who set up The Dallas Morning News,” but says he is familiar with the documents described in the newspaper’s accounts. The confession, Cash says, is “a mixture of fact and fantasy.”
Possible Negative Impact on Jury - Observers worry that the story may prejudice a potential jury. “It’s a worst-case scenario,” says legal studies professor Jeffrey Abramson. “At the witching hour, but before people have been isolated from pretrial publicity, you get explosive evidence, exactly the kind of thing that makes it very difficult for a defendant to think he hasn’t already been tried in the press.” Law professor Rita J. Simon says the article could make a fair trial very difficult. “The jurors will know there was some report about a confession,” she says. “I can’t imagine, no matter where you hold the trial, that the jurors will not hear about it. As soon as the trial gets under way, the story will come out afresh.” [New York Times, 3/2/1997]
Second Purported Confession - Days later, a second confession from McVeigh is reported, this time published by Playboy magazine. The article containing the purported confession is written by freelance reporter Ben Fenwick, and is apparently based on an internal summary of the case compiled by the McVeigh defense team (see Early 2005). Fenwick had obtained the document in 1996, he later says, and had kept it under wraps in the hopes of eventually writing a book about the case. He quickly wrote an article based on the document and sold it to Playboy after Slover’s article hit the press. According to Fenwick’s article, McVeigh says he detonated the bomb when he was a block away from the Murrah Building, and admitted to the bombing during a lie detector test administered by his lawyers. Other details in the article contradict physical evidence already presented in open court. Jones says: “These escalating reports of alleged statements by Mr. McVeigh are corrupting the heart of the jury system. The American ideals of justice are being held hostage to sensationalism.” Fenwick is soon hired by ABC News as a legal consultant, an arrangement that allows ABC to quote extensively from the article in a special broadcast aired shortly before the trial begins. Fenwick will later admit that he did not authenticate the document before using it. The document and the article will lead the FBI to discover McVeigh’s purchase of racing fuel from an Ennis, Texas, dealer (see October 21 or 22, 1994). [New York Times, 3/14/1997; New York Times, 3/18/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 271]
Entity Tags: Jeffrey Abramson, James Nichols, Terry Lynn Nichols, Andreas Strassmeir, Dallas Morning News, J.D. Cash, Ben Fenwick, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh, Rita J. Simon, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Murrah Federal Building, Michael Joseph Fortier, Paul Watler, Playboy, Pete Slover, Richard P. Matsch, Richard A. Serrano
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading radical and informer for Britain’s security services (see Early 1997), is given the prestigious Friday sermon spot at the large Finsbury Park mosque in London. He is suggested thanks to his work at a mosque in nearby Luton (see 1996) and at his interviews he manages to charm the mosque’s management committee, which is also pleased by his low financial demands.
Abu Qatada Rejected - The committee had also interviewed radical imam Abu Qatada, a well known scholar and author, for the position—Abu Qatada has militant links, but the committee is apparently not aware of them at this time. However, Abu Qatada told the committee that they should be grateful he was willing to take the job, demanding to see the mosque’s accounts and to receive 50 percent of all monies collected there. It is not known what Abu Qatada, an informer for British intelligence (see June 1996-February 1997), wanted to do with the money, but he is apparently a member of al-Qaeda’s fatwa committee (see June 1996-1997) and is linked to terrorism finance (see 1995-February 2001). Due to the mosque’s financial position, the committee does not offer the job to Abu Qatada.
Mosque Already Infiltrated by GIA - A group of Algerian radicals, many of whom are veterans of the Algerian Civil War and are members of the Algerian militant group the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), had already infiltrated the mosque, and the Algerians assist Abu Hamza after his appointment. One leading Algerian radical seen at the mosque is Ali Touchent, a suspected mole for the Algerian intelligence service (see November 1996).
Takeover - However, Abu Hamza soon begins to take the mosque away from the moderate trustees and turn it into a hotbed of radicalism. Initially, he claims that money has gone missing from a set of flats the mosque rents to tenants, then says that one of the flats is being used as a brothel and that one of the mosque’s old management team is taking a cut. Thanks to Abu Hamza’s exciting sermons, many more people attend the mosque, and there is not enough room to accommodate all of them in the main prayer hall. Abu Hamza makes money by selling tapes of his sermons, as well as videos of radicals fighting in Chechnya, Algeria, and Bosnia, in a shop he opens at the mosque. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 36-43]
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell with three of the 9/11 hijackers, is monitored as he gets help in meeting al-Qaeda spiritual leader Abu Qatada in Britain. In March 1997, Zammar in Germany calls Barakat Yarkas in Spain. Yarkas is widely seen as the top leader of al-Qaeda in Spain, and Spanish intelligence is monitoring his calls. Telephone intercepts show that Zammar tells Yarkas, “I want to meet with brother Abu Qatada,” Zammar said, according to a transcript of the conversation. Yarkas replies, “Yes, I’ll talk to him and I’ll ask him.” Yarkas gives Qatada’s phone number to Zammar two days later. Zammar goes on to meet Qatada, but details of that meeting are unknown. [Los Angeles Times, 1/30/2003] Yarkas has been traveling to Britain for years, meeting with Qatada and giving him money (see 1995-February 2001). In 1996 or 1997, US intelligence learns that Qatada is a key spiritual adviser for al-Qaeda (see June 1996-1997). Shortly before Zammar’s call to Yarkas, British intelligence recruited Qatada as an informant, although he may not be a fully honest one (see June 1996-February 1997). It is unknown if Zammar’s visit with Qatada becomes known to US or German intelligence. Zammar may introduce Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji to Qatada, because Qatada’s phone number will be found in Bahaji’s address book shortly after 9/11 (see Shortly After September 11, 2001).
Apparently, this is news video of Mohammed Haydar Zammar taken shortly after 9/11. [Source: UE-TV]An investigation of al-Qaeda contacts in Hamburg by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service, begins at least by this time (Germany refuses to disclose additional details). The investigation is called Operation Zartheit (Operation Tenderness), and it was started by a tip about Mohammed Haydar Zammar from Turkish intelligence (see 1996). [New York Times, 1/18/2003]
Zammar Linked to Hamburg 9/11 Cell and Bin Laden - It is later believed that Zammar, a German of Syrian origin, is a part of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/2003] Zammar will later claim that he recruited 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and others into the cell. [Washington Post, 6/12/2002] German intelligence is aware that he was personally invited to Afghanistan by bin Laden. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003] The investigation into Zammar allegedly stops in early 2000, after investigators conclude they don’t have enough evidence to convict him of any crime. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 11/21/2005]
CIA Involved with Zammar Operation - Vanity Fair will later claim that “A lone CIA agent, the Germans disclose, attempted to work alongside them” in Operation Zartheit, but German “requests for greater information and cooperation from the CIA, they claim, came to naught.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] This CIA agent is probably Thomas Volz, who is the CIA’s undercover agent in Hamburg at the time (see December 1999).
The FBI is now seeking Robert Jacques, whom it believes sought a remote hideout in the Ozark mountains of Missouri with the two Oklahoma City bombing suspects, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995). The FBI wants to question Jacques to help agents reconstruct McVeigh’s and Nichols’s activities before the bombing. Missouri real estate broker William Maloney tells CNN that in the fall of 1994, Jacques visited his office with Nichols and a man named Tim. Maloney says that several months earlier he got a phone inquiry about land and asked the caller’s name. According to Maloney, “He says ‘McVeigh,’ and I said, ‘M-C-V-E-Y’ and he said, ‘That’s close enough.’” [New York Times, 3/10/1997]
Stephen Jones, the lead lawyer for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), demands that the charges against his client be dismissed “with prejudice,” citing what Jones calls “paralyzing pretrial publicity.” Jones is specifically referring to news articles that report McVeigh has confessed to the bombing (see February 28 - March 4, 1997). As an alternative, Jones asks Judge Richard P. Matsch to delay the trial for a year and change the venue to either Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands. Jones says the purported confessions are fabrications, but also says that the confessions used materials whose publication breaches the attorney-client privilege. Prosecutors object to Jones’s requests, and say that a delay would offer “no guarantee that equally bizarre events would not recur as a new trial date approached.” [New York Times, 3/15/1997] Matsch rejects the motion to dismiss the charges, and the motions to delay and change the venue of the trial. [New York Times, 3/18/1997]
Reda Hassaine, an informer for French and then British intelligence (see Early 1997, (November 11, 1998), and (May 1999)), watches leading radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri at work in Finsbury Park mosque, where he recruits numerous extremist Muslims to take up arms. Abu Hamza is an informer for the British himself (see Early 1997).
Schoolboys - Hassaine will later describe the techniques Abu Hamza used on schoolboys: “They would come to the mosque after they finished school, from 11 years old and upwards, and he would sit them down and first tell them a few funny stories. This was his little madrassa [Islamic boarding school]. Parents were sending their kids to learn about Islam, they didn’t realize they were sending them to be brainwashed. Abu Hamza would talk very slowly to them, telling them about the teachings of the Koran, and the need for violence.”
Young Men - Hassaine will say that recruitment proper began with the older novices, who Abu Hamza met in the first-floor prayer room: “This was the heart of the action. It was how the recruitment began. Many of these kids were British Asian boys, and he would talk to them in English. He would talk about Kashmir. His message was always the same: ‘Islam is all about jihad and at the end the reward is paradise. Paradise is held by two swords and you must use one of those to kill in the name of Allah to get to paradise.’”
Algeria - Hassaine will add: “When the people were Algerians he would sit with them with coffee and dates and show them the GIA videos, and he would say, ‘Look at your brothers, look what they are doing, they are heroes, most of them are now in paradise and if you go there with them you will have 72 wives. All of this will be for ever, for eternity. This life is very short, you have to think about the big journey.’”
Osama bin Laden - Hassaine will also comment: “He used to talk about Yemen and Egypt, but after 1998 all the talk changed, it became all about Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden was there, the Taliban were building the Islamic state. This was the beginning of the recruitment of a second generation of people to go to Afghanistan, not to fight this time but to learn how to fight, to train and then go elsewhere to do damage. It all began in the summer of 1998.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 84-85]
Under Surveillance - Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will also point out: “Foreign intelligence services knew this selection process was happening within months of Abu Hamza taking over in north London in March 1997. They had their own informants inside.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 79]
Militia activist Brendon Blasz is arrested in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and charged with making pipe bombs and other illegal explosives. Blasz allegedly plotted to bomb the federal building in Battle Creek, the IRS building in Portage, a Kalamazoo television station, and federal armories. Prosecutors will recommend leniency on his explosives conviction after Blasz renounces his antigovernment beliefs and cooperates with them. In the end, he is sentenced to more than three years in federal prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Jury selection begins in the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995). Judge Richard Matsch has denied defense attempts to delay the trial after a brief controversy erupted over media reports using defense documents (see February 28 - March 4, 1997). “I have full confidence that a fair-minded jury can and will be impaneled and that those selected will return a just verdict based on the law and evidence presented to them,” Matsch wrote on March 17. Jurors’ identities are kept hidden from the press. One potential juror, asked by US Attorney Patrick Ryan, “Did you watch a lot of the coverage?” answers: “It was unavoidable. In Oklahoma, it was wall to wall and floor to ceiling.” Another potential juror says he worries about his safety in regards to what he will learn in the course of the trial: “It would seem this case goes further, wider, and deeper in many ways. A juror is going to be an insider on information he might just as soon not know.” [Washington Post, 3/18/1997; New York Times, 4/1/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The pressure of this being a death-penalty trial, and the prospect of potentially confusing forensic evidence countered by the raw emotions of the bombing itself and of the conspiracy theories surrounding the proceedings, raises oft-asked questions about the competence of 12 jurors to find the truth in such a complex situation. The difference between an open-minded juror and one who is ignorant or intellectually challenged is difficult for lawyers and observers to assess. New York Times reporter Laura Mansnerus reflects on the trial of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, charged with crimes relating to the Iran-Contra scandal (see July 7-10, 1987 and May-June, 1989), in which, she writes: “When the jury was selected for the 1989 trial of Oliver North, a search went out for 12 people who knew nothing about Oliver North, which produced, well, 12 people who knew nothing about Oliver North. One person who qualified for service said she had seen him on television, but added, ‘It was just like I was focusing on the Three Stooges or something.’” That ill-informed jury proved remarkably pliable to North’s theatrics, Mansnerus writes, and many believe McVeigh’s defense team hopes for a similar jury pool that may be willing to set aside scientific evidence in favor of conspiracy theories and emotional pleas. Jury expert Jeffrey Abramson of Brandeis University tells Mansnerus: “In a case that’s heavy on scientific, forensic evidence, the defense is going to favor people who are less sophisticated about scientific matters and who are prone to conspiracy theories. That’s the classic defense approach.” Philadelphia prosecutor Jack McMahon warned in a well-known 1986 instructional video of the pitfalls that can result in letting “smart people” on the jury, saying: “Smart people will analyze the hell out of your case. They have a higher standard. They take those words ‘reasonable doubt’ and they actually try to think about them. You don’t want those people.” Moreover, people with jobs requiring any real level of responsibility are routinely excused from jury service; this case is no exception, leaving a pool of jurors with little or no steady employment, spotty educational status, and somtimes limited intellectual capabilities to judge McVeigh’s innocence or guilt. [New York Times, 4/6/1997]
After Abu Hamza al-Masri takes over as the Friday preacher at Finsbury Park Mosque, a mole working for the Algerian government is told to find out everything he can about Abu Hamza. The mole, Reda Hassaine, has been working for the Algerians against the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) in London for some time (see Early 1995). The Algerians know that Abu Hamza met with Algerian fighters in Bosnia (see 1995), and is at the top of the GIA’s network of foreign supporters. Hassaine goes to the mosque every day and, as he and Abu Hamza have two mutual acquaintances, he is sometimes able to sit with him and listen to him speak. He does not get to know Abu Hamza well, but hears him constantly talking about jihad, killing, and life after death. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 132]
Leading Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), gives a lecture entitled “Holding Fast to Allah in the Land of Disbelief” explaining to his followers that they can steal from non-Muslims. The date of the lecture is not known precisely, but it is presumably after Abu Hamza takes over Finsbury Park mosque in early 1997 (see March 1997). Abu Hamza’s basic reasoning is that “the unbelievers cheated us and took it [Muslim wealth] away, but we come to take some of it back.” He says that the lives and wealth of Muslims are more valuable that that of unbelievers, and so are protected. Unbelievers’ wealth is not protected, and so can be taken. “If you can claim it [Muslim wealth] back, then do so,” he says, adding: “It is theft but it is theft from non-protected persons. It is like killing a non-protected person, there is nothing in it; it is not protected blood… We have no concern; the nation has no concern with your acts in these things. The nation of Mohammed has no concern…” In the question and answer session afterwards, Abu Hamza is asked about repayment of a student loan, and replies, “Any debts, you just take it, you just take them all and go.” Shoplifting is also permitted: “You break by force and you take it, this is OK.” However, this does not apply to Muslims who have come to Britain seeking protection, for example from religious persecution, as such people owe the country a debt of gratitude. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 70]
[Source: Crescent Hydropolis Resorts publicity photo]The Sudanese government, frustrated in previous efforts to be removed from a US list of terrorism sponsors, tries a back channel approach using Mansoor Ijaz, a multimillionaire Pakistani-American businessman. Ijaz is personally acquainted with President Clinton, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, and other high-level US officials. With help from Ijaz (who is also hoping to invest in Sudan), on April 5, 1997, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir writes a letter to Lee Hamilton (D-NH), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It states, “We extend an offer to the FBI’s Counterterrorism units and any other official delegations which your government may deem appropriate, to come to the Sudan and work with [us] in order to assess the data in our possession and help us counter the forces your government, and ours, seek to contain.” This is a reference to Sudan’s extensive files on al-Qaeda gathered during the years bin Laden lived there, which the Sudanese had offered the US before (see March 8, 1996-April 1996). Sudan allows Ijaz to see some of these files. Ijaz discusses the letter with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Berger, and other prominent US officials, but to no success. No US official sends any reply back to Sudan. Tim Carney, US ambassador to Sudan, will complain, “It was an offer US officials did not take seriously.” ABC News will report in 2002 that the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry plans to investigate Sudan’s offer. Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), co-chairman of the inquiry, will ask, “Why wouldn’t we be accepting intelligence from the Sudanese?” But the inquiry’s 2003 final report will make no mention of this offer or other offers to hand over the files (see February 5, 1998; May 2000). (It should be noted the report is heavily censored so this might be discussed in redacted sections.) Hamilton, the recipient of the letter, will become the Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. The Commission’s 2004 final report will not mention Sudan’s offers, and will fail to mention the direct involvement of the Commission’s Vice Chairman in these matters. [Vanity Fair, 1/2002; ABC News, 2/20/2002]
The Oklahoma Gazette publishes a November 1996 letter written by accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995). The newspaper does not explain why it waited until now to publish the letter, which was addressed to Gazette reporter Phil Bacharach. Bacharach interviewed McVeigh in prison shortly after his incarceration. In the letter, McVeigh lambasts the FBI for the fire that destroyed the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco (see April 19, 1993), writing: “The public never saw the Davidians’ home video of their cute babies, adorable children, loving mothers, or protective fathers. Nor did they see pictures of the charred remains of childrens’ bodies. Therefore, they didn’t care when these families died a slow, tortuous death as they were gassed and burned alive at the hands of the FBI.” It is well documented that McVeigh was enraged about the Davidian tragedy (see March 1993), blaming the government for setting the fires that killed 78 people (see April 19, 1993 and After), and many speculate that part of McVeigh’s motivation to blow up the Murrah Building may have been due to the Davidian incident (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, September 13, 1994 and After, and March 1995). McVeigh’s attorney Stephen Jones confirms that the letter is authentic, saying, “I don’t think there’s anything in the letter that hasn’t been said before.” FBI agents ask Bacharach for the original letter, and the reporter, after making copies, complies. He says that McVeigh told him nothing of substance about the bombing, and that McVeigh wrote the letter to clarify a quote attributed to him in the November 1995 article by Bacharach. [CNN, 4/8/1997; CNN, 4/9/1997]
The Justice Department inspector general releases a report criticizing the FBI’s practices at its crime laboratory that may cast doubts on evidence to be presented in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995). The report, issued after an 18-month investigation of the laboratory, includes questions about the handling of evidence relating to the Oklahoma City bombing, including the size and composition of the bomb, and of chemical residues found on McVeigh’s clothing and on a knife he was carrying when apprehended. McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, says he has always intended to challenge the integrity of the physical evidence against McVeigh. The report, prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael R. Bromwich, finds that FBI examiner David R. Williams prepared his September 5, 1995, report on the explosives used in the Oklahoma City bombing “in a way most incriminating to the defendants” (McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols). Williams, his supervisor, and two other agents were transferred in January in response to Bromwich’s preliminary findings (see January 27, 1997). Williams has been dropped from the government’s witness list. [New York Times, 4/17/1997]
Without comment, the US Supreme Court refuses to hear the appeals of six Branch Davidians convicted of an array of crimes (see January-February 1994) surrounding the February 1993 shootout with federal agents (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) and the subsequent assault on the Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). An appeals court ordered that four Davidians given 30-year sentences for the use of firearms during a violent crime, and a fifth given a 10-year sentence, must be set aside and new sentences given; the appeals court said those sentences could only be reinstated if the lower court found that the four not only had the guns but “actively employed” them during the February 1993 raid. Lawyer Steven Rosen, who represents defendant Kevin A. Whitecliff, says he expects the sentences to be reinstated and the appeals process to start over again. [Houston Chronicle, 4/21/1997] In 2000, the Court will overturn the sentences (see June 5, 2000).
Florida police arrest Todd Vanbiber, an alleged member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974) and the obscure League of the Silent Soldier, after he accidentally sets off pipe bombs he was building. Officials find a League terrorism manual and extremist literature in Vanbiber’s possession, along with a dozen or so pipe bombs. Officials learn that Vanbiber robbed banks before visiting the National Alliance compound in West Virginia (see 1985) and gave the organization $2,000. Authorities accuse him of plotting to use the bombs as part of a string of bank robberies. Vanbiber later pleads guilty to weapons and explosives charges, and is sentenced to more than six years in federal prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; Center for New Community, 8/2002 ]
Opening statements are presented in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995).
Heavy Security - Security in and around the Byron Rogers Federal Building and Courthouse in Denver, where the trial is being held, is tight. Roads and sidewalks approaching the building are blocked off. Special credentials are needed to walk around certain areas inside the courthouse. Pedestrian traffic in and out of the federal office next door is constrained with a heavy police presence. Federal officers look under the hoods of cars and check beneath vehicles with mirrors on the streets surrounding the building. Concrete barriers prevent vehicles from getting too close to the building. Even the nearby manhole covers are sealed shut. [CNN, 4/17/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 274]
Jury Makeup - The jury (see March 31, 1997 and After) is composed of seven men and five women; their identities and personal information have been shielded so they can avoid being sequestered. Six alternate jurors—three men and three women—are also available. The jurors include a retired teacher, a registered nurse, an auto mechanic, a real estate manager, and a store manager who served in the Air Force. Several are military veterans. One said during jury selection that he hopes the trial will not turn McVeigh into another victim: “I believe there have been enough victims. We don’t need another one.” James Osgood, the jury foreman and store manager, believes in mandatory gun ownership. (Like the other members of the jury, Osgood’s identity will not be revealed until after the trial is concluded.) Several expressed their doubts and worry about being able to impose the death penalty if McVeigh is convicted. Some 100 potential jurors were screened to create this jury of 12 members and six alternates. As the trial commences, McVeigh greets the jury by saying, “Good morning.” He will not speak to them again during the trial. Judge Richard P. Matsch begins by saying: “We start the trial, as we are today, with no evidence against Timothy McVeigh. The presumption of innocence applies.” [Washington Post, 4/23/1997; New York Times, 4/23/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 275; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Prosecution: McVeigh a Cold, Calculating Terrorist - Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler begins with an emotional evocation of the bombing and the story of one of the victims, Tevin Garrett, a 16-month-old child who cried when his mother Helena Garrett left him at the Murrah Building’s day care center. The mothers could wave at their children through the day care’s glass windows, Hartzler says. “It was almost as if you could reach up and touch the children. None of those parents ever touched their children again while they were alive.” He says of Tevin Garrett’s mother, “She remembers this morning [the morning of the bombing] because it was the last morning of [Tevin’s] life” (see 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995). Hartzler wastes little time in slamming McVeigh as a “twisted,” calculating terrorist who murdered 168 people in the hope of starting a mass uprising against the US government. McVeigh, Hartzler says, “chose to take their innocent lives to serve his own twisted purposes.… In plain and simple terms, it was an act of terror and violence, intended to serve a selfish political purpose. The man who committed this act is sitting in this courtroom behind me. He is the one who committed those murders.” Hartzler says that McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City to avenge the federal assault on the Branch Davidian religious compound outside Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993, April 19, 1993 and After, and April 24, 1995). “Across the street, the Ryder truck was there to resolve a grievance,” Hartzler says. “The truck was there to impose the will of Timothy McVeigh on the rest of America and to do so by premeditated violence and terror, by murdering innocent men, women, and children, in hopes of seeing blood flow in the streets of America.” He notes that McVeigh carried an excerpt from the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978) that depicts the bombing of FBI headquarters in Washington. Hartzler reads the following line from the excerpt: “The real value of our attack lies in the psychological impact, not in the immediate casualties.” Hartzler also notes the T-shirt McVeigh wore when he was arrested, a shirt that Hartzler says “broadcast his intentions.” On the front was a likeness of Abraham Lincoln and on the back a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Drops of scarlet blood dripped from a picture of a tree. Investigators found traces of residue on McVeigh’s shirt, in his pants pockets, and on a set of earplugs found in his pocket (see Early May 1995 and After). Hartzler reads from a document McVeigh had written on a computer belonging to his sister, Jennifer (see November 1994). In a letter addressed to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, McVeigh wrote: “All you tyrannical [expletive], you’ll swing in the wind one day for your treasonous attacks against the Constitution of the United States.… Die, you spineless, cowardice [sic] b_stards” (see May 5-6, 1997). Hartzler says the trial has nothing to do with McVeigh’s beliefs or his freedoms of expression: “We aren’t prosecuting him because we don’t like his thoughts. We’re prosecuting him because his hatred boiled into violence.” Of the innocent victims, Hartzler tells the jury that McVeigh “compared them to the storm troopers in [the popular science fiction movie] Star Wars (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Even if they are innocent, they work for an evil system and have to be killed.” Hartzler moves to preempt expected defense attacks on the prosecution’s star witness, Michael Fortier (see After May 6, 1995, May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995), on reports that evidence was mishandled by an FBI crime lab (see January 27, 1997), and the failure to identify or apprehend the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2” (see June 14, 1995). Hartzler concludes: “Timothy McVeigh liked to consider himself a patriot, as someone who could start a second American revolution. Ladies and gentlemen, statements from our forefathers can never be twisted to justify warfare against women and children. Our forefathers didn’t fight British women and children. They fought other soldiers, they fought them face to face, hand to hand. They didn’t plant bombs and then run away wearing earplugs” (see Early May 1995 and After) Hartzler returns to the prosecutors’ table; Matsch calls a brief recess.
Defense: McVeigh Innocent, Framed by Lies - McVeigh’s attorney, Stephen Jones, tells the jury that McVeigh is innocent, and says that McVeigh’s views fall within the “political and social mainstream.” Like Hartzler, he begins with the story of a mother who lost one of her two children in the bombing, saying that the mother saw someone other than McVeigh outside the Murrah Building before the bomb went off. “I have waited two years for this moment,” Jones says, and says he will prove that other people, not McVeigh, committed the bombing. Jones sketches McVeigh’s biography, focusing on his exemplary military service and the bitter disappointment he suffered in not being accepted in the Army’s Special Forces (see January - March 1991 and After). It was after he left the Army, Jones says, that McVeigh began to steep himself in political ideology. But far from being an extremist, Jones says, McVeigh began to study the Constitution. The shirt he wore when he was arrested bore the motto “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” but that is not merely a revolutionary slogan, Jones notes: it is the motto of the State of Virginia. McVeigh was “extremely upset” over what he viewed as government abuses of individual liberty, Jones admits, but says it was no different from how “millions of people fear and distrust the government.” McVeigh’s statement that “something big was going to happen” (see Mid-December 1994, March 25, 1995 and After, and April 15, 1995) had nothing to do with the bombing, Jones says, but was merely a reflection of the increasing anxiety and concern he was seeing among his friends and fellow political activists, all of whom believed “that the federal government was about to initiate another Waco raid, except this time on a different scale” (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “[B]eing outraged is no more an excuse for blowing up a federal building than being against the government means that you did it.” Jones spends much of his time attacking Fortier’s credibility as well as the consistency of other prosecution witnesses, saying that they will give “tailored testimony” crafted by the government to bolster its case, and focuses on the reports of crime lab mishandling of key evidence (see April 16, 1997): “The individuals responsible for the evidence… contaminated it… manipulated it, and then they engaged in forensic prostitution,” he says. After the case is done, Jones says, the jury will see that the evidence shows, “not just reasonable doubt, but that my client is innocent.” He closes by reminding the jury, “Every pancake has two sides.” [Washington Post, 4/25/1997; New York Times, 4/25/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 275-280; Douglas O. Linder, 2006]
For the first day of testimony in the Timothy McVeigh trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997), prosecutor Joseph Hartzler puts on an array of victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. Cynthia Klaver, a Water Resources Board attorney who accidentally caught the sound of the explosion on tape (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995), is the first to testify. The first piece of evidence introduced is the copy of the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978) that McVeigh gave to his cousin Kyle Kraus (see November 1991 - Summer 1992). During the trial, the prosecution presents an array of evidence, including computer graphics, video presentations, actual pieces of the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb, hundreds of pages of documents, phone records and motel registration cards (see Early May 1995 and After), receipts showing the purchase of ammonium nitrate (see May 1, 1995), storage locker receipts (see May 1, 1995 and After), and a large scale model of downtown Oklahoma City, featuring a plastic replica of the Murrah Building that snaps apart. Marine Captain Michael Norfleet, whose wounds suffered in the blast forced him to retire from service, tells of his battle to escape the devastated building. Helena Garrett tells of losing her infant son Tevin in the blast; another victim testifies to seeing Garrett hysterically attempting to find her child in the fire and rubble. She recalls watching rescue workers bringing out the bodies of dead children and wrapping them in sheets. She did not find her son; rescue workers found her son’s body three days later. Hartzler also shows the jury a videotape made by a television cameraman minutes after the attack; the tape shows dazed, bloodied survivors stumbling through smoke and debris. A child’s voice can be heard crying: “Daddy! Daddy!” Many in the courtroom weep during the videotape and the victims’ testimonies, including members of the jury, prosecution lawyers, and even one of McVeigh’s lawyers. The first day of testimony establishes a pattern that will hold throughout the prosecution’s case: begin the day with technical and forensic evidence, and end with emotional testimony from witnesses, survivors, and family members of those slain in the blast. The prosecution presents more victims during the days of testimony later in the week. On the first day, and throughout the trial, McVeigh’s co-defendant, Terry Nichols, sits in the front row of the courtroom, watching the proceedings. [New York Times, 4/26/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 280-281]
A cache of explosives stored in a tree near Yuba City, California, explodes. Police arrest Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994) supporter William Robert Goehler in conjunction with the blast. Investigators looking into the explosion later arrest two of Goehler’s associates, one of them a militia leader, after finding 500 pounds of petrogel explosives—enough to level three city blocks—in a motor home parked outside their residence. Six others are later arrested on related charges. Goehler, who has previously been convicted of rape, burglary, and assault, will be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. An associate will be sentenced to three years. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
The jury in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) hears testimony from Oklahoma State Trooper Charles J. Hanger, who arrested McVeigh less than two hours after the bombing (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995). Hanger’s testimony is matter-of-fact, relating the circumstances of his arrest of McVeigh. Among the items found in McVeigh’s car were printed excerpts from the racially inflammatory novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978) and a quote from Revolutionary War figure Samuel Adams, both of which are read aloud in court by FBI agent William Eppright as part of his testimony. From the novel excerpt, Eppright reads: “The real value of all our attacks today lies in the psychological impact, not in the immediate casualties. More important, though, is what we taught the politicians and the bureaucrats. They learned this afternoon that not one of them is beyond our reach. They can huddle behind barbed wire and tanks in the city, or they can hide behind the concrete walls and alarm systems of their country estates, but we can still find them and kill them.” This passage was highlighted, presumably by McVeigh. The Adams quote reads: “When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” A note in McVeigh’s handwriting on the quote reads, “Maybe now, there will be liberty.” A third person to testify, firefighter Daniel Atchley, talks about his attempts to find survivors in the rubble of the destroyed building. He recalls digging several children, living and dead, from the debris. [New York Times, 4/29/1997]
One of the prosecution’s star witnesses in the Timothy McVeigh bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) testifies. Lori Fortier, the wife of McVeigh’s friend and fellow conspirator Michael Fortier, tells the jury that one night in October 1994, McVeigh sat in her Kingman, Arizona, living room and told her and her husband he was going to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. “He drew a diagram, just a box,” she says, “and he filled the box with [soup cans] representing barrels” (see (February 1994)). The box represented the truck he would park in front of the building, and the barrels would be filled with ammonium hydrate and anhydrous hydrazine, a chemical used in rocket fuel. She says she remembers the names of the chemicals because McVeigh borrowed her dictionary the next day to look them up. McVeigh, she says, chose the Murrah Building because it was, in his estimation, “an easy target.” Lori Fortier testifies after being given a grant of immunity (see August 8, 1995); her husband Michael, also cooperating with the investigation and slated to testify, received a plea agreement in return for his cooperation (see May 19, 1995). She also says McVeigh was furious with the federal government over the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993, April 19, 1993 and After, and April 24, 1995), and thought the Murrah Building was the workplace of some of the law enforcement agents involved in the Davidian standoff. She says that McVeigh’s fellow conspirator, Terry Nichols, helped McVeigh in several robberies that the two used to buy the bomb materials (see November 5, 1994), but at the last minute, McVeigh told her and her husband that “Terry wanted out and Terry did not want to mix the bomb” (see March 1995). Her husband also refused to help McVeigh in his getaway after the bombing. She recalls her husband joining McVeigh in building and exploding pipe bombs in the mountains, and remembers a September 1994 letter to her husband from McVeigh in which McVeigh “said he wanted to take action against the government” (see September 13, 1994). Weeks later, McVeigh told the Fortiers that he wanted to blow up a government building. “I think Michael told him he was crazy,” she testifies. She also remembers laminating a fake driver’s license for McVeigh with the name “Robert D. Kling,” an alias McVeigh used to rent the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see Mid-March, 1995, April 15, 1995, 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995, and February 19, 1997). Asked if she feels any responsibility for the bombing, she admits, “I could have stopped it.” She says she didn’t believe McVeigh was capable of actually executing such an action. “I wish I could have stopped it now. If I could do it all over again, I would have.” Fortier holds up under four hours of harsh cross-examination by McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones, who paints her as an unreliable drug addict who had hoped to profit from her and her husband’s knowledge of the bombing and continues to hammer at her over her admission that she could have called authorities and stopped the bombing. Fortier admits to using drugs, and to lying about McVeigh shortly after the attack, explaining that she did so for fear that she and her husband would be implicated. “I never had any interest in selling my story,” she says. [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 4/29/1997; New York Times, 4/30/1997; New York Times, 5/1/1997; New York Times, 5/8/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 284-286]
Tayyib al-Madani (a.k.a. Abu Fadel) turns himself in to the Saudi government. He handled the distribution of al-Qaeda’s finances and ran some of Osama bin Laden’s businesses in Sudan. It is said that he had to approve every al-Qaeda expenditure of more than $1,000. [Risen, 2006, pp. 181] Tayyib is close to bin Laden and is married to bin Laden’s niece. FBI agent Ali Soufan will later say that Tayyib had lost a leg many years earlier, fighting in Afghanistan against the Soviets. In constant pain since his amputation, he went to London to seek treatment. Eventually, he turns himself in to the Saudis in London in the hope that they can help with his medical problems. [Soufan, 2011, pp. 45-46] The Saudi government gives the US some limited information it learns from questioning Tayyib. The US presses the Saudi government for direct access to him to learn more, but the Saudis will not allow it (see September-November 1998). In August 1997, the Daily Telegraph will publicly reveal that Tayyib has turned himself in. The article suggests that he may have been working as a Saudi double agent for some time before defecting. US sources will say that Saudis have shared information that some money has been sent from bin Laden bank accounts in Pakistan and Afghanistan to individuals in London, Detroit, Brooklyn, and Jersey City in New Jersey. The article will note that Tayyib’s “information is thought to have been the reason a federal grand jury has been secretly convened in New York to examine the financing of terrorism in America.” It is unclear what becomes of the individuals being sent the money, but the article will suggest that the recent arrest of two Palestinians planning an attack in New York City is connected to Tayyib’s revelations (see July 31, 1997). [Daily Telegraph, 8/2/1997]
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (a.k.a. Abu Omar), a member of the Egyptian terrorist organization Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya who previously informed for the CIA in Albania (see August 27, 1995 and Shortly After), arrives in Italy and settles in Rome. He obtains asylum in Italy and serves as an imam near the Italian capital for a few years. He will later move to Milan at the same time a key al-Qaeda operative moves there (see Summer 2000). [Chicago Tribune, 7/2/2005; Vidino, 2006, pp. 242]
Virginia gun dealer Gregory Pfaff testifies that Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) wanted to buy detonation cord from him six months before the Murrah Building was destroyed by a bomb (see Late September or October, 1994). McVeigh was so eager to buy “det cord,” Pfaff testifies, that he offered to drive from Arizona to Virginia to pick it up. Pfaff says he met McVeigh at gun shows several times during 1992; in September or October 1994, he testifies, McVeigh called him and “asked if I could get him detonation cord.” Pfaff says that he did not sell “det cord,” a highly regulated item, but did not want to offend McVeigh, so he told him he could not ship it within the US. McVeigh then offered to come to Virginia from Arizona to pick it up. “It was an awful long way to drive,” Pfaff recalls telling McVeigh, but he says McVeigh told him “it didn’t matter, that he needed it bad.” The sale never took place. Pfaff is one of 14 prosecution witnesses to take the stand, all testifying to their knowledge of McVeigh’s bomb-construction scheme. Kyle Kraus, McVeigh’s second cousin, says McVeigh mailed him a copy of The Turner Diaries (see 1978) in 1991, while Kraus was still in high school. The novel is an inflammatory racist work that prosecutors say McVeigh used as an ideological blueprint for the bombing (see April 24, 1997). The prosecution enters the novel as Exhibit #1. Kraus, who with other witnesses testifies that McVeigh has been thinking about explosives and a racially motivated “civil war” for a long time, says that at Christmas of 1991, when McVeigh was at home on leave from the Army (see January - March 1991 and After), he asked Kraus what he thought of the book. Kraus says he told McVeigh the book was “powerful” and added that it “would be very, you know, very frightening if it really did come to this.” McVeigh told him, according to Kraus’s testimony, that “if the government continued its strong hold,” the country could face “a civil war.” Dana Rogers, the finance director of Colorado mail-order house Paladin Press, testifies that McVeigh ordered several books about weapons and explosives, including one titled “Homemade C4.” The book’s description in Paladin’s catalogue, as read by Rogers, says: “Serious survivors knew that the day may come when they need something more powerful than commercial dynamite or common improvised explosives. For blowing bridges, shattering steel, and derailing tanks, they need C-4.” The explosive is “not legally available to civilian and is hard to come by on the black market,” Rogers says; the book offers a recipe with “legal, common, and inexpensive” ingredients. Helen May Mitchell, an employee of the Clark Lumber Company in Herington, Kansas, says she rented a storage locker to a “Shawn Rivers,” who gave alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols’s mailing address in Marion as his contact information. Though Mitchell testifies that she cannot recall what “Rivers” looked like, prosecutors say “Rivers” was another alias used by McVeigh. Robert D. Nattier, the president and general manager of the Mid-Kansas Cooperative, testifies that a man calling himself “Mike Havens” bought 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer on September 30, 1994 (see September 30, 1994) and again on October 18, 1994 (see October 18, 1994) from the store in McPherson, Kansas. “Havens” has been identified as a psuedonym used by McVeigh; the McPherson store is 37 miles west of the ranch near Marion, Kansas, where Nichols worked (see (September 30, 1994)). Nattier’s testimony is bolstered by testimony from FBI agent Louis Michalko, who tells the jury of finding receipts by a “Mike Havens” for 4,000 pounds of fertilizer from the McPherson branch of the co-op (see May 1, 1995 and After). A rancher, Timothy Patrick Donahue, testifies that on Nichols’s last day of work on the ranch, September 30, 1994 (see February - September 30, 1994), he saw McVeigh standing outside Nichols’s home. That same evening, antiques dealer Marion Ogden says he saw McVeigh alone at the Nichols house, and he saw guns stored behind Nichols’s living-room sofa. Sharri Furman, an employee of the Boots-U-Store-It storage locker center in Council Grove, Kansas, testifies that a “Joe Kyle” rented a storage locker there on October 17. She cannot remember what “Kyle” looked like, but prosecutors say Nichols used the name as an alias (see October 17, 1994). She identifies Nichols as “Ted Parker,” who rented a storage unit on November 7, 1994 (see November 7, 1994). [New York Times, 5/2/1997; New York Times, 5/3/1997; Chicago Tribune, 5/3/1997]
Denver police, working in concert with FBI agents, raid a home and arrest three men on charges of possession and manufacture of illegal weapons. FBI supervisory agent John Kundts says the men were arrested after the raid uncovered explosives. A federal source says the focus of the arrests was the unlawful possession of automatic weapons. Two of the men, Ronald David Cole and Wallace Stanley Kennett, have ties to the Branch Davidian sect that was decimated in Waco two years ago (see April 19, 1993). Kennett left the Waco compound shortly before the FBI siege began (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) and joined up with Cole shortly thereafter. Cole wrote a book called Sinister Twilight that accused the FBI of murdering the Davidians. The third man is identified as Kevin Terry. FBI officials say the arrests have no connection to the ongoing trial of Timothy McVeigh, who two years to the day after the Waco tragedy bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), even though Cole has distributed material in support of McVeigh outside the Denver courthouse where McVeigh is being tried (see August 10, 1995 and April 24, 1997). Cole, Kennett, and Terry were found in possession of six AK-47s, three land mines, 75 pounds of rocket fuel, and a pipe bomb. A neighbor of the arrested men, Leo Fritz, says: “One of the cops that evacuated me said there were some semi-automatic weapons, chemicals, and stuff to make bombs with. We were concerned but not nervous. The mention of explosives got us a little.” Neighbors say the three men only moved in last month and kept to themselves. Before the raid, agents’ fear of explosives was strong enough to order the evacuation of six adjacent houses. Kirk Lyons, who represents some of the surviving Davidians in a lawsuit against the federal government, says Cole and Kennett have nothing to do with his clients. Cole and Kennett “are not considered members of the Mount Carmel Survivors Association,” Lyons says. “They are kind of considered outsiders—‘we’re glad you like us, we are glad you support us,’ but the Davidians have always kept an arms’ length, although I think they like Wally and like Ron.” Lyons says Cole and Kennett “are a lot more militant in their pronouncements” than the normal Branch Davidians, whom he says are peaceful and non-violent. According to Lyons, both Cole and Kennett claim to be followers of the message of Branch Davidian founder David Koresh. Cole and Kennett describe themselves as the leaders of a militia called the Colorado First Light Infantry. Cole hosts a newsgroup on the Internet, “misc.activism.militia,” where the prime topic of discussion is the Branch Davidian debacle. [Denver Post, 5/2/1997; New York Times, 5/2/1997; Associated Press, 5/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 294] According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (NCSTRT), the “Colorado First Light Infantry” is made up of only three people: Cole, Kennett, and Terry. The NCSTRT calls the group “an amateurish Patriot militia outfit” formed “in an apparent response to the” Branch Davidian siege. Cole had spent some time with the Davidian survivors of the FBI raid, and had at one time considered himself the successor to Koresh. Kennett is a former Branch Davidian. Though their group has carried out no actions to speak of, the three members are apparently convinced that they are under government surveillance, and maintain what the NCSTRT calls “a heavily armed and fortified compound in rural Colorado.” Cole had moved to Denver to be closer to the McVeigh trial, and, the organization later reports, “was a constant fixture outside the courthouse, protesting in support of McVeigh.” His protests sparked an investigation by the FBI. The three will be sentenced to short prison terms, and the Colorado First Light Infantry effectively disbands after the arrests. The NCSTRT will later report, “While these men have subsequently been released from jail, the group has not resurfaced and its former members have stayed out of trouble.” [National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 2011]
Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Mount Carmel Survivors Association, Wallace Stanley Kennett, Ronald David Cole, Leo Fritz, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, Kevin I. Terry, John Kundts, Colorado First Light Infantry, Branch Davidians, Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Koresh, Kirk Lyons
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism, 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
A five-day standoff between police and “Republic of Texas” common-law separatists ends, with one separatist killed in a gun battle with police officers. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
The emotional testimony of a survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) brings a prosecution lawyer to tears in the trial of accused bomber Timothy McVeigh. The testimony takes place after a morning of tedious legal jousting over telephone records and arguments over McVeigh’s telephone card (see August 1994). Retired Army Captain Lawrence Martin, who worked in the Army recruiting station in the Murrah Federal Building on the day of the blast, tells of the seven colleagues who died that day. Martin’s testimony is handled by US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, who begins to well tears as he elicits Martin’s testimony about Sergeant Bill Titsworth from Fort Riley, who brought his wife and two young daughters to the recruiting station. Titsworth was slated to join Martin and his colleagues in working at the station, and wanted to show his family around his new workplace. Martin says he survived being blown through the wall of his office, though his injuries were so severe that he was forced to retire from service. Ryan asks about Titsworth’s youngest daughter, three-year-old Kayla. “She died that morning on the floor?” he asks. Martin replies, “Yes, sir.” By this point, Ryan is openly weeping; others at the prosecutors’ table are shedding tears, as are some reporters and jurors. In the back of the courtroom, victims and family members are openly crying. According to author Richard A. Serrano, “McVeigh did not flinch.” Ryan concludes his questioning, and says to Judge Richard P. Matsch, “I’m sorry, your honor.” Then he walks back to the prosecutors’ table and buries his head in his hands. [Associated Press, 5/8/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 281-283]
The sister of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997), Jennifer McVeigh, reluctantly testifies for the prosecution under a grant of immunity. Her brother nods at her when she enters the courtroom. She tells jurors that her brother ranted against federal agents as “fascist tyrants,” and told her he intended to move from “the propaganda stage” to “the action stage” in the months before the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building (see Mid-December 1994). She describes a November 1994 visit from her brother (see November 1994), in which he showed her a videotape about the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He was very angry,” she testifies. “He thought the government murdered the people there, basically, gassed and burned them.” Her brother held the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and the FBI responsible: “I think he felt someone should be held accountable,” she says. During his visit, she says McVeigh told her he felt it necessary to do more than hand out pamphlets attacking the government. “He was not in the propaganda stage,” she says he told her. “He was now in the action stage.” He never explained what he meant by this, she says. She also reads aloud a letter he wrote to the American Legion on her word processor, in which he accused the government of drawing “first blood” in its “war” against its citizens, and said only militia groups could protect the citizenry from the government. And, after being prompted by prosecutors, she recalls driving with her brother when “Tim brought up a time when he was traveling with explosives and nearly got into an accident” (see December 18, 1994). They had been “talking about traffic jokes, accident jokes.” She recalls him talking about driving in another car with “up to 1,000 pounds” of explosives. “They were going down a hill. There was a traffic light. They couldn’t stop in time.” Her brother did not run into another car. Asked why she had not pressed her brother for more details, she replies, “I don’t think I wanted to know.” She did not see her brother again after that visit, but kept in touch with him by letters and telephone calls. He told her he had a network of friends around the country, whom she only knows by their first names: Terry (Nichols), Mike (Michael Fortier—see May 12-13, 1997), and Lori (Fortier—see April 29-30, 1997). Her brother wrote her a letter in early 1995 telling her to get in touch with the Fortiers “in case of alert.… Lori is trustworthy. Let them know who you are and why you called.” He told her not to use their home phone, as it was likely the government would be surveilling it. She testifies that after her brother left, she found another document on her computer entitled “ATF—Read,” which prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says reads as if it were meant for the BATF (see November 1994). Jennifer McVeigh testifies that she called her brother and asked him what to do with the file, and he advised her to “just leave it there.” Prosecution lawyer Beth Wilkinson reads the letter aloud. It told the BATF that its agents “will swing in the wind one day for your treasonous acts against the Constitution and the United States,” and ended: “Remember the Nuremberg trials, war trials.… Die, you spineless cowardice [sic] b_stards!” In March and April 1995, she says her brother sent her two letters, the first of which she later burned as he instructed her to in the letter. The first letter told her, “Something big is going to happen in the month of the bull,” indicating April, and advised her to stay on her “vacation longer” (Jennifer planned to go to Pensacola, Florida, for a two-week vacation beginning April 8). The second letter, dated March 25, 1995, told her not to write him after April 1, “even if it’s an emergency,” and advised her to “watch what you say.” He then sent her a third mailing with a short note and three short clippings from the racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978 and April 15, 1995). On April 7, the day before she went on vacation, she says she divided her brother’s belongings into two boxes, putting one into her closet and giving the other to a friend for safekeeping. After hearing of his arrest on August 21 (see April 21, 1995), she burned the Turner clippings. “I was scared,” she explains. “I heard Tim’s name announced, and I figured [the FBI would] come around sooner or later.” The FBI searched her truck and the house in Florida where she vacationed, and were waiting for her when she flew into the Buffalo, New York, airport (see April 21-23, 1995). She says she was questioned eight to nine hours a day for “eight days straight.” Agents showed her a timeline of events culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing, and threatened to charge her with an array of crimes related to her brother’s actions and her own in concealing or destroying evidence. She identifies her brother’s handwriting on an order for a book on how to make explosives, and on a business card for Paulsen’s Military Supplies where he apparently had made notations about buying TNT (see April 21, 1995). She also identifies his handwriting on the back of a copy of the Declaration of Independence found in his car after the bombing (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). It read, “Obey the Constitution of the United States, and we won’t shoot you.” Under cross-examination by her brother’s lawyers, she breaks down in tears, explaining that she agreed to testify because FBI agents “told me he was guilty [and] was going to fry.” She admits to destroying papers she thought might incriminate him, lying to FBI investigators in her first sworn statement, and resisting her parents’ claims to cooperate with the government. She says she began cooperating truthfully after FBI agents threatened to charge her with treason and other crimes that carry the death penalty. [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 5/5/1997; New York Times, 5/6/1997; New York Times, 5/7/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 284-]
Entity Tags: Lori Fortier, Beth Wilkinson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joseph H. Hartzler, Terry Lynn Nichols, Michael Joseph Fortier, Jennifer McVeigh, Timothy James McVeigh, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Prosecutors in the Timothy McVeigh bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) bring on a number of witnesses that show McVeigh was the telephone caller who reserved the Ryder rental truck that carried the Oklahoma City bomb (see April 15, 1995). Both McVeigh and accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols used a telephone debit cart issued under the alias “Daryl Bridges” by The Spotlight, a racist newsletter published by the far-right Liberty Lobby (see August 1994). A telephone debit card is pre-paid and makes it difficult to put together a record of billed calls. Twenty-nine representatives from telephone companies explain how they gathered records related to the case. Frederic Dexter, a computer expert from the FBI who worked on telephone reconstructions on the Unabomber (see April 3, 1996) and World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995) cases, explains how his team had reassembled the records for 647 calls billed to the Daryl Bridges card, sifting through tens of thousands of computerized bits of data. A representative from the long-distance company Sprint tells of a call to the debit card’s toll-free number on the morning of April 14, 1995 from a pay phone in Junction City, Kansas, the same morning that someone called a Junction City truck rental office to reserve the Ryder truck that carried the bomb (see April 13, 1995). At the time, prosecutors say, McVeigh was a block away, buying a car, and had stepped out for a few minutes. The call was made at 9:54 a.m.; phone records show that only two calls came into the rental office that day, one at 9:54 a.m. and the other in the afternoon. The technical testimony is broken by the emotional testimony of a survivor of the blast, former Army Captain Lawrence Martin, who was severely injured when the bomb went off. Martin breaks down in tears while recalling the last moments of life of his friends and colleagues in the Murrah Building. [New York Times, 5/8/1997]
Eyewitness Eric McGown tells the jury in the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) that he saw McVeigh in the parking lot of the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, three times during the weekend before the bombing (see April 13, 1995). McGown’s mother Lea owns and manages the motel. McGown says he first saw McVeigh in a 1977 Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995), then backing up a Ryder rental truck, and finally closing the tailgate of the truck. McGown becomes flustered under cross-examination by McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones, and admits that he is not sure whether he saw the truck on April 16 or April 17, the day prosecutors say McVeigh rented the Ryder truck that carried the bomb. [New York Times, 5/9/1997]
Prosecutors in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) use a number of witnesses to establish a timeline leading up to McVeigh’s rental of a Ryder truck (under the alias “Robert D. Kling”—see Mid-March, 1995) that, they say, he used to bomb an Oklahoma City federal building (see April 15, 1995). Eldon Elliott, the owner of the Junction City, Kansas, truck rental agency that rented McVeigh the truck (see February 19, 1997), identifies McVeigh as the truck renter “Kling.” McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, presses Elliott to admit that he does not remember what McVeigh was wearing the day he rented the truck, though Elliott maintains he remembers McVeigh quite clearly. Jones notes that in his initial statement to the FBI, Elliott told investigators that “Kling” was either 5’10” or 5’11” “or a little taller,” whereas McVeigh is 6’1”. Other witnesses show that a Junction City taxi took a passenger identified as McVeigh from a shopping center near the Dreamland Motel to a McDonald’s restaurant on April 17; McVeigh was staying at the Dreamland on that day (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995) under the alias “Robert Kling.” Security photographs from the Junction City McDonald’s show a man closely resembling McVeigh buying a meal, and, in court, the McDonald’s manager identifies McVeigh as the customer. Prosecutors say McVeigh was in Junction City that afternoon without a car because he had parked his car the night before in Oklahoma City to use for his getaway after the blast. Another witness says he delivered an order of Chinese food ordered by “Kling” to Room 25 of the Dreamland Motel during the time McVeigh stayed in that room, though under cross-examination he says the man who accepted the food was not McVeigh. Perhaps the most memorable witness is Marife Nichols, the Filipina bride of McVeigh’s accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see July - December 1990). She testifies that McVeigh had stayed with her and her husband in their Marion, Kansas, home for a few days in September 1994 (see (September 30, 1994)). She testifies that on April 16, 1995, her family’s dinner was interrupted by a telephone call; her husband then left the house and did not return until the following morning. Prosecutors say that Terry Nichols drove 220 miles from their house in Herington, Kansas, to Oklahoma City, where he picked up McVeigh after McVeigh had stashed his car for his planned getaway (see April 16-17, 1995). Press reports have alleged (see February 28 - March 4, 1997) that McVeigh and Marife Nichols had an affair during the summer of 1994; lawyers do not broach the subject during the trial. [CNN, 5/9/1997; New York Times, 5/10/1997; New York Times, 5/16/1997] Marife Nichols will confirm the affair in 2004. [New York Times, 4/9/2004]
One of the star witnesses for the prosecution in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997), McVeigh’s close friend Michael Fortier (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990), testifies. Fortier’s wife Lori has testified previously (see April 29-30, 1997). She received a grant of immunity, and Fortier himself pled guilty to reduced charges in return for his cooperation (see May 19, 1995). Far from being boisterous and disrespectful during the trial as he once claimed he would be (see April 23 - May 6, 1995), Fortier is somber and repentant. Fortier testifies that he and McVeigh “cased” the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City several months before McVeigh bombed it (see December 16, 1994 and After), and says that McVeigh bombed the building “to cause a general uprising in America.” McVeigh originally planned to bomb the building around 11 a.m. because, Fortier testifies, “everybody would be getting ready for lunch.” Fortier says he expressed his concern that the bombing would kill many people, and McVeigh replied that he “considered all those people to be as if they were storm troopers in the movie Star Wars. They may be individually innocent, but because they are part of the evil empire they were guilty by association.” Fortier says that he sent off for a mail-order identification kit that McVeigh used to make a false driver’s license for himself. Fortier admits that he knew for months of McVeigh’s plans (see September 13, 1994 and After and September 13, 1994), and that he could have prevented the bombing with a single telephone call to law enforcement authorities: “I live with that knowledge every day,” he says. Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler asks Fortier why he did not make the call. Fortier replies that he has no excuse except his friendship with McVeigh, saying: “I’d known Tim for quite a while. If you don’t consider what happened in Oklahoma, Tim is a good person.” Fortier recalls going with McVeigh to Oklahoma City, where they examined the Murrah Building, and McVeigh considered a number of alternatives for delivering the bomb (see December 16, 1994 and After). Fortier testifies as to the location of the alley that McVeigh said he would use to stash his getaway car; investigators found the key to McVeigh’s rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) in that alley. The trip also involved going to Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh sold a number of stolen weapons (see November 5, 1994) in what prosecutors say was an effort to finance the bombing. Fortier testifies, “He told me they picked that building because that was where the orders for the attack on Waco came from,” referring to the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He told me—he also told me that he was wanting to blow up a building to cause a general uprising in America hopefully that would knock some people off the fence into—and urge them into taking action against the federal government.” At one point, testifying about his involvement in the case driving his father into having a nervous breakdown, Fortier weeps on the stand. McVeigh lived with the Fortiers several times in the years leading up to the bombing (see May-September 1993 and February - July 1994), he testifies. He recalls receiving a letter from McVeigh (see September 13, 1994) in which, he says: “Tim told me that him and Terry Nichols had decided to take some type of positive offensive action. He wanted to know if I wanted to partake of it.” A week later, McVeigh came back to Kingman and, Fortier recalls, “we had a conversation near my fence in my front yard. Tim was telling me what he meant by taking action. He told me that he—him and Terry were thinking of blowing up a building. He asked me to help them. I turned him down.” Later in 1994, Fortier testifies, McVeigh asked him to rent a storage locker for him somewhere outside Kingman, but Fortier told McVeigh he could not find one. A few days after that, Fortier testifies, McVeigh and Nichols came to Kingman and rented a storage locker themselves (see October 4 - Late October, 1994). Soon after, McVeigh and Nichols showed Fortier the contents of the locker—about a dozen boxes of explosives that McVeigh said they had stolen from a quarry in Kansas (see October 3, 1994). Just before October 31, 1994, Fortier testifies, “Tim said that him and Terry had chosen a federal building in Oklahoma City” and showed him how he could “make a truck into a bomb.” Under cross-examination, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, lambasts Fortier as a liar, a thief, a drug addict, and an opportunist who had initially tried to profit from his knowledge of the bombing, playing the audiotapes of Fortier’s bluster and bragging as captured on government wiretaps (see After May 6, 1995). Fortier admits to lying to the FBI in his initial interviews. Jones does not shake Fortier from his statements about McVeigh, though he does elicit a statement from Fortier that Nichols had withdrawn from the bomb plot in the final days of preparation (see March 1995). [New York Times, 5/13/1997; New York Times, 5/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 286-287]
Fingerprint expert Louis G. Hupp, a forensic scientist for the FBI, testifies at the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) that no fingerprints belonging to McVeigh were found in many of the places where prosecutors say McVeigh prepared for the Oklahoma City bombing. Hupp has appeared twice before in the trial, testifying for the prosecution. Today he makes his admission under cross-examination from McVeigh’s defense lawyers. No prints belonging to McVeigh were found on the rental contract for the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see April 15, 1995), in the truck rental office, or in the Kansas motel room where McVeigh was staying at the time the truck was rented (see April 13, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Neither were McVeigh’s prints found on any of the storage lockers he used to store explosives before the blast (see September 22, 1994, October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 17, 1994, and November 7, 1994), or in the pickup truck prosecutors say co-conspirator Terry Nichols used to drive to Oklahoma City to meet McVeigh three days before the bombing (see April 16-17, 1995). Hupp says it is not unusual to have found none of McVeigh’s fingerprints at the various locations, as many chemicals used to find fingerprints depend on the presence of perspiration in the fingers. If there is no perspiration, he testifies, it is often likely that no prints will be found. Hupp says he found prints belonging to Nichols on a motel registration card signed by “Joe Kyle,” one of Nichols’s aliases (see October 16, 1994 and October 17, 1994), and on two money orders used to pay for a telephone debit card that prosecutors say Nichols and McVeigh used in their preparations for the bombing (see May 6-7, 1997). Hupp also testifies that after McVeigh was taken into custody (see April 21, 1995), he inventoried and sealed a box of McVeigh’s belongings taken from him by authorities at the Perry, Oklahoma, jail. He took the box to Washington, DC. [New York Times, 5/16/1997]
FBI forensic expert Steven G. Burmeister and chemist Ronald L. Kelly testify in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) that the FBI crime lab found residues of explosives on McVeigh’s shirt and jeans, clothing that McVeigh was wearing when he was arrested less than 90 minutes after allegedly detonating a bomb in front of an Oklahoma City federal building (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995). However, Burmeister says his experts found no such residues in the car McVeigh was driving when he was arrested. Nor did they find any such residues in a Kansas storage locker that prosecutors say McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols used to store bomb supplies (see September 22, 1994, October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 17, 1994, and November 7, 1994). Prosecutors use Burmeister’s testimony to establish the exact composition of the bomb. Lab experts found residue of three substances on earplugs McVeigh was carrying when he was arrested (see Early May 1995 and After): nitroglycerine; PETN, a crystalline substance found in detonation cord; and EGDN, which is added to dynamite. PETN was also found on the white T-shirt and long-sleeved undershirt McVeigh was wearing when he was stopped by a state trooper, and PETN and nitroglycerine were found in the right pocket of McVeigh’s jeans. McVeigh’s lawyers cross-examine the two about a search they performed in the aftermath of the bombing; the two experts found and bagged items, including two fragments of the Ryder rental truck that prosecutors say carried the bomb (see April 15, 1995). One was a red-and-yellow piece of the truck body, which Burmeister later determined contained crystals of the explosive ammonium nitrate. Prosecutors say the bomb was composed of ammonium nitrate, a substance often used as fertilizer but which can become a powerful explosive when mixed with fuel oil or racing fuel. Burmeister testifies that such a bomb would require a detonator and an explosive such as dynamite to boost the explosion. Kelly admits to picking up and bagging several items, including a truck part, before an FBI photographer could take pictures of them; Kelly says he replaced the items, let the photographer take pictures, and rebagged them. Defense lawyer Christopher L. Tritico indirectly accuses Kelly of planting evidence. “You didn’t find it in the parking lot, yourself, isn’t that right?” Tritico asks, to which Kelly replies, “That is absolutely incorrect.” Defense lawyers hammer away at the two over reports that the FBI crime lab had been criticized by a Justice Department report on its use of substandard procedures (see April 16, 1997), but Burmeister emphasizes that he, Kelly, and the other technicians were extremely careful about their evidence retrieval and testing. McVeigh’s lawyers elicit an admission from Burmeister that no PETN or EGDN was found at the scene of the bombing. Burmeister also admits that the crime lab’s handling of the bombing evidence could have been better, citing the practice of using paper bags to transport McVeigh’s clothing from the Perry jail to the FBI lab. Judge Richard P. Matsch limits the scope of the defense’s attack on the lab’s evidence handling, and repeatedly refuses to allow the jury to hear criticisms of the crime lab’s procedures issued by former lab employee Frederic Whitehurst (see January 27, 1997); nor does he allow the defense to introduce the Justice Department report. The last witness of the day, Linda Jones of the British Ministry of Defense’s Forensic Explosives Laboratory, testifies that “it would be fairly simple” for one person to build such a bomb as was used in Oklahoma City, challenging the defense’s theory that only a large number of conspirators and bomb experts could have built the bomb. [New York Times, 5/20/1997; New York Times, 5/21/1997]
The prosecution in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) rests its case on an emotional note after having presented 137 witnesses. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The government presented what many legal analysts call a masterful case, moving far more quickly than anticipated and using witnesses to establish a string of facts that paint a strong picture of McVeigh’s guilt. The prosecution ends on a powerfully emotional note, presenting a number of first responders and survivors. Florence Rogers, a credit union employee who worked in the Murrah Federal Building, tells the jury of the moment when she lost seven of her co-workers in the bomb blast. She recalls the bomb going off with a “torrnado-like rush.” She was thrown to the floor, she recalls, and, she says, “everything else was gone.” Mike Shannon, chief of special operations for the Oklahoma City Fire Department, uses a diagram to show the jury how the bomb took an enormous “bite” from the north face of the building, and to show where rescuers finally freed the last survivor, 15-year-old Brandy Ligons, over 12 hours after the bombing. “To climb into” the area where Ligons was trapped, Shannon testifies, “it took people lying on their stomach, taking debris, pushing it down under their belly down between their legs. The second person would lay his head on the first person’s bottom and take that debris and pass it between his legs, and they would work their way into the pile. It was just big enough for just one person to wiggle through.” Dangling over Ligons and the rescuers was a 40,000-pound slab of concrete, ready to fall and crush everyone involved. Shannon testifies as to the difficulties of rescuing victims and removing the dead from a building whose front had pancaked into a heap of rubble. The effect was “like squeezing grapes,” he says. “Body fluids were dripping through, and it would just drip onto your gear as you were crawling through, onto your helmet.” Responder Alan Prokop tells jurors of the hand that rose from the rubble of the devastated building and grasped his, a hand belonging to a woman trapped under a huge slab of concrete. Prokop held her hand and felt her slowly die while rescuers tried vainly to free her. He recalls hearing the sound of what he thought was running water, and tells of a fellow rescuer saying, “It isn’t water, Alan, it’s blood.” Dr. Frederick B. Jordan, the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner, presents the jury with 163 death certificates for those who died in the bombing. He tells the jury how some of the victims were identified using the mangled remains of their bodies: a fingerprint from a resident alien card, a print taken from a box of Clairol hair coloring agent from a victim’s home, a scar on a little girl’s arm. The prosecution never mentions a contention by a federal grand jury that McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols built the truck bomb at Geary Lake State Park in Kansas (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995); indeed, the prosecution does not attempt to prove how or where the bomb was built. The prosecution does not introduce a letter written by Nichols on November 21, 1994 that advised McVeigh to clean out two storage lockers (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). After the prosecution rests, defense lawyer Stephen Jones moves for a summary acquittal, a motion rejected by Judge Richard P. Matsch. However, the judge says he may delete some portions of the indictment before giving the jury its final instructions. Those portions include references to the purchase of bomb components, the rental of some storage units, the construction of the truck bomb at the Kansas lake, and the robbery of an Arkansas gun dealer used to finance the bombing, another instance not cited by the prosecution (see November 5, 1994). “I had in mind some redaction of the indictment, or perhaps even more substantial changes, before submitting it to the jury,” Matsch says after the jury is excused for the day. “I think we’ll deal with it at the instructions conference as the most appropriate time.” [New York Times, 5/22/1997; Washington Post, 5/22/1997; Denver Post, 6/3/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] Legal analyst Andrew Cohen will say that the prosecutors did not “bore” the jury with a morass of technical details, instead moving swiftly through technical testimony and pacing their witnesses so that each day ended with the emotional testimony of a victim or family member. Law professor Christopher Mueller says after the prosecution rests: “[T]his is a trial the way a trial ought to look.… I think the prosecution has presented a very strong, almost compelling case. The biggest payoff is in the abandonment of much of the scientific proof that would have been enormously distracting” to the jury. [Washington Post, 5/22/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997]
Entity Tags: Florence Rogers, Andrew Cohen, Alan Prokop, Christopher Mueller, Brandy Ligons, Timothy James McVeigh, Stephen Jones, Richard P. Matsch, Mike Shannon, Frederick B. Jordan, Terry Lynn Nichols, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Spanish intelligence has been monitoring an al-Qaeda cell based in Madrid led by Barakat Yarkas (see 1995 and After), and they are aware that a leader of the cell named Chej Salah left Spain in late 1995 and moved to Peshawar, Pakistan. He serves there as an al-Qaeda talent scout, sending the most promising recruits to a training camp in Afghanistan. Yarkas’s cell is recruiting youths in Spanish mosques to join al-Qaeda. On May 22, 1997, the Spanish monitor a phone call in which Salah tells Yarkas that the recruits he is sending are being taken care of by al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. Despite such knowledge, the Spanish government will not arrest any members of the Madrid cell until after 9/11. This is according to a book by Jose María Irujo, lead investigative journalist for the Spanish newspaper El Pais. [Irujo, 2005, pp. 23-40]
The defense for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) opens with the suggestion that the “real” bomber was killed in the explosion. The assertion hinges on a severed leg found in the debris of the Murrah Federal Building (see August 7, 1995 and February 21, 1996). The leg has been identified as belonging to Airman Lakesha Levy, who died in the explosion, but medical examiners had put a leg not belonging to Levy with the rest of her body; that leg remains unidentified. McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, opens with testimony from Dr. Frederick Jordan, Oklahoma’s chief medical examiner, who tells the jury that the left leg originally assigned to Levy remains unidentified. It had already been embalmed, he testifies, rendering DNA identification impossible. “We have one left leg that we do not know where it belongs,” he says. Jones then places Dr. T.K. Marshall on the stand. Marshall, the former chief medical examiner in Northern Ireland who has extensive experience with autopsies of bombing victims, says he believes that the leg belongs to a victim not yet identified; that victim’s body had probably disintegrated except for the leg, he says. “This is an extra left leg,” he says “Until shown otherwise, this must be a 169th victim.” For such a victim to have been almost completely disintegrated, he says, “you have to be near the bomb.” He cites a case from Northern Ireland where a terrorist carrying a bomb into a shed was nearly vaporized when the bomb accidentally detonated. Marshall says his experience with unidentified victims “is that somebody misses them. When nobody misses them, it reinforces the suggestion that the deceased was involved in the bombing.” [New York Times, 5/23/1997]
The defense for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) attempts to cast doubt on the identification of the Ryder truck used in the bombing with one rented by McVeigh under the alias “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995 and April 15, 1995). The jury hears testimony from Herta King, a friend of Lea McGown, the owner and manager of the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh stayed in the days before the bombing (see April 13, 1995). Prosecutors say McVeigh checked into Room 25 of the Dreamland on Good Friday, April 14, 1995. King testifies that her son, David King, was then living at the motel and she took him an Easter basket on Easter Sunday, April 16. She saw a large Ryder truck in the Dreamland parking lot on that day. “Kling” did not rent the Ryder truck used in the bombing until April 17 (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). Renda Truong, a high school student who had Easter dinner with the McGown family, testifies that she, too, saw a Ryder truck in the parking lot on April 16. McGown has testified that she saw McVeigh bring a truck to the motel on April 16 (see May 9, 1997). The New York Times’s Jo Thomas writes, “[T]he testimony elicited by [McVeigh’s lead lawyer Stephen] Jones today may be the start of an effort to establish that Mr. McVeigh had a truck for some innocent purpose, one day before someone else rented the truck that would carry the bomb.” The last witness for the day is Vicki Beemer, who handled the paperwork for Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City, where McVeigh rented the Ryder truck. Beemer says two men came in on April 17 to rent the Ryder truck (see January 29, 1997) but she cannot remember what either man looked like. Asked by Jones, “Are you able to tell us that Mr. McVeigh is Robert Kling?” she replies, “No, I can’t.” Prosecutor Scott Mendeloff, on cross-examination, asks, “Can you say Mr. McVeigh is not Mr. Kling?” She again replies, “No, I can’t.” [New York Times, 5/23/1997]
Entity Tags: Jo Thomas, David King, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Herta King, Vicki Beemer, Stephen Jones, Lea McGown, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Scott Mendeloff, Renda Truong, Timothy James McVeigh
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Judge Richard P. Matsch rules that the defense in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) cannot call former BATF informant Carole Howe to testify (see August 1994 - March 1995). Matsch rules that Howe’s testimony is irrelevant to McVeigh’s case and could confuse or mislead the jury, according to Howe’s lawyer Clark Brewster. Brewster says that Howe was scheduled to appear this afternoon, and would discuss audio recordings and handwritten notes she had made about alleged bomb threats from the white supremacists at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see 1983, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, April 8, 1995, and Before 9:00 A.M. April 19, 1995). Howe was a paid informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for over two years, and has claimed that she warned federal authorities more than four months prior to the Oklahoma City bombing that up to 15 US cities would be bombed. However, government sources have questioned her credibility, and she is under indictment in a separate case in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for alleged bomb threats and possession of a destructive device. [CNN, 5/27/1997]
Security camera footage of the Ryder truck used by Timothy McVeigh to deliver the bomb as it is parked in front of the Murrah Federal Building just minutes before detonation. The truck is barely visible in the upper left of the frame. [Source: Associated Press]The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) suffers a setback when a witness brought on to show that someone else could have bombed the Murrah Federal Building admits that one of the men she saw fleeing the scene might have been McVeigh. Daina Bradley, visiting the building on April 19 to get a Social Security number for her four-year-old son, lost her leg in the blast, and the family members accompanying her, including her mother, her son and her three-year-old daughter, died; her sister was also injured. Her rescuers had to amputate her leg to free her from the rubble. She has said in previous statements that she saw a dark-complexioned man not resembling the tall, pale McVeigh leave the passenger side of the Ryder truck and walk quickly away in the moments before the blast; some suspect Bradley is referring to the infamous, never-identified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). “It was a olive-complexion man with short hair, curly, clean-cut,” she testifies. “He had on a blue Starter jacket, blue jeans, and tennis shoes and a white [baseball cap] with purple flames.” But she now remembers a second man getting out of the driver’s seat of the truck, and says the man she saw resembled McVeigh. Prosecutors elicit the fact that Bradley suffers from serious memory problems and has been treated for mental illness. Her previous testimony had been taken in May 1995 by federal investigators who spoke with her while she was in the hospital recovering from her wounds. She says she has not told anyone about the second man she saw exit the truck until last week, when she spoke with prosecuting attorney Cheryl A. Ramsey. She then told US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, another prosecutor, of her memory of the second man. On the stand, Ryan asks her: “You told me that there was nothing that you saw about the man that ran across the street that was different than what you could see when you looked at Mr. McVeigh. There weren’t any differences that you could see.” She agrees. She also admits that she cannot remember the size of the truck or its orientation to the Murrah Building. [New York Times, 5/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 288-290]
The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) calls a witness who casts doubts on the FBI’s version of the events preceding the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building (see May 9, 1997). Nancy Kindle, a waitress at a Denny’s Restaurant in Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh spent the weekend before the bombing (see April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), testifies that on Easter Sunday, April 16, McVeigh and two other men came into her restaurant for lunch. She placed them on a waiting list, and, she recalls, had to ask how to spell “McVeigh.” She describes one of McVeigh’s companions as “scraggly looking” and short. She cannot recall what the third person looked like. She says she saw McVeigh again later that afternoon at a Junction City Texaco, and remembers speaking to him, because, she says, “he had a cute appearance to me.” McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols has given a different version of events: according to Nichols, McVeigh called him on the afternoon of April 16 and asked him to come to Oklahoma City to pick him up because his car had broken down; during the drive back to Kansas, Nichols said that McVeigh had told him he was planning “something big” (see April 16-17, 1995). Judge Richard P. Matsch has not allowed the prosecution to introduce Nichols’s statements. The call that came to the Nichols home that afternoon came from a telephone booth a few blocks away from the Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, residence, not from Oklahoma City; prosecutors have suggested that the two men made the four-and-a-half-hour drive to Oklahoma City to drop off McVeigh’s car for a getaway after the bombing. Kindle’s version of events seems to corroborate allegations that McVeigh worked in conjunction with several other conspirators aside from Nichols (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). [New York Times, 5/24/1997]
The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) calls Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, an FBI forensic lab specialist who has become a “whistleblower” for what he has called shoddy practices at the central FBI crime lab (see January 27, 1997). Lead defense lawyer Stephen Jones uses Whitehurst’s testimony to attack the credibility of the forensics tying McVeigh to the bombing (see April 16, 1997). Whitehurst casts aspersions on one lab technician’s handling of evidence obtained from a piece of the Ryder truck destroyed in the blast; the lab technician, David Williams, never told Whitehurst that the piece from the truck was found by a civilian and therefore of questionable evidentiary value. However, Whitehurst is unable to say that any evidence from the bombing itself was contaminated or handled poorly. Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to allow the defense to introduce the Justice Department report criticizing the FBI lab’s “poor” handling of evidence in several cases (see April 16, 1997). [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 5/27/1997; CNN, 5/27/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Former US attorney Mimi Wesson later says that “the prosecution was able to dilute quite a bit of the impact of Whitehurst’s testimony during cross-examination.” [Salon, 5/29/1997]
The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) rests after having presented 25 witnesses over less than four days of testimony. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001] McVeigh does not testify in his own defense. [Washington Post, 6/14/1997] Defense lawyers, led by Stephen Jones, found it difficult to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case (see May 21, 1997). Their story was that McVeigh was the unwitting victim of an overzealous federal investigation and the treachery of his friends. Today, they try to cast doubt on some of the witness testimony, with little apparent success, focusing on critical testimony by two friends of McVeigh’s, Michael and Lori Fortier (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, April 29-30, 1997, After May 6, 1995, and May 12-13, 1997), calling them drug addicts who were lying in order to profit from their story and to avoid jail time. The last witness, Deborah Brown, who employed Lori Fortier at her tanning salon in Kingman, Arizona, testifies that she had bought amphetamines from the Fortiers, and tells the jury the Fortiers were so poor that “their baby was on some kind of state assistance to get formula and diapers.” Jones plays an audiotape for the jury of Michael Fortier’s telephone conversations that were wiretapped by federal agents in the weeks after the bombing, when Fortier was considered a suspect. In those recordings, Fortier boasted to his brother John that he could mislead federal agents and make a million dollars through book rights from his connection to McVeigh, saying: “I can tell a fable, I can tell stories all day long. The less I say now, the bigger the price will be later.” On another audiotape, Fortier, his voice slurred from apparent drug use, is heard telling a friend: “The less I say right now, the bigger the price later—there will be books, book rights. I’m the key, the head honcho, General Crank. I hold the key to it all.… I could pick my nose and wipe it on the judge’s desk.” Jones also plays excerpts from an interview Fortier gave CNN, where he said: “My friend Tim McVeigh is not the face of terror that is reported on the cover of Time magazine. I do not believe that Tim blew up any building in Oklahoma.” Fortier has already admitted that he lied to the press and the FBI during the early phases of the investigation. However, the defense has no alibi for McVeigh, nor does it offer an alternative theory to the prosecution’s version of events.
Prosecution's Case Not Challenged, Analysts Say - Legal analysts say Jones did little to challenge the prosecution, and note that Judge Richard Matsch prohibited Jones from presenting his theory of a foreign terrorist conspiracy behind the bombing (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Neither did Matsch allow Jones to put FBI laboratory technicians on the stand to explain their alleged mishandling of evidence in the case (see January 27, 1997), though Jones did present FBI lab technician Frederic Whitehurst, whose whistleblowing led to a Justice Department investigation that revealed the mishandlings (see May 27, 1997). Jones also suffered a setback when his star witness, Daina Bradley, abruptly changed the story she had told for almost two years. Bradley, a victim of the bombing who lost her two children and her mother along with her right leg, had said that she saw a “swarthy” man get out of the Ryder truck that carried the fertilizer bomb. On the witness stand, Bradley added a new detail: a second, light-complexioned man also in the truck. She was also forced to admit that she had been treated for mental illness and had a poor memory (see May 23, 1997). Legal analyst Andrew Cohen says that the jury is most likely to focus on Jones’s inability to prove McVeigh’s innocence. “The message you get as a juror,” Cohen says, “is [that] this is the worst mass murder in American history. There’s 168 dead, and you can only come up with four days of testimony? What about the alibi? If you’re going to call a guy innocent, you’d better make your case.” [Washington Post, 5/29/1997; New York Times, 5/29/1997; Denver Post, 6/3/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] After the final presentation, law professor Mimi Wesson, a former assistant US attorney and death penalty expert, says she is “puzzled” by the defense’s “truncated” presentation. “The main thing they tried to suggest was that McVeigh was not alone. They elicited that through witnesses who testified they saw McVeigh with someone else, or that they saw someone else at places connected to the bombing. But I must say that rather puzzled me, since it is no defense for McVeigh that he acted with a confederate even if that confederate cannot be identified and has not been apprehended and cannot be prosecuted.” Wesson believes that the defense may be conceding guilt, and may be attempting to build a case for “mitigating circumstances” that would spare McVeigh the death penalty. Wesson says that the testimony of Bradley was very damaging for the defense’s case, and doubly so because Bradley was a defense witness. The lawyer who handled the defense’s attack on the forensic evidence (see May 27, 1997), Christopher Tritico, did a “skilled” job in going after the forensics, but Wesson is not convinced Tritico’s assault swayed many jurors. She calls Whitehurst a “prig, a person who has his own fastidious, rather fussy idea about how things ought to be done, who is extremely inflexible and intolerant about things being done any other way” who did not make a good impression on the jury. Jones’s final attack on the Fortiers (see April 29-30, 1997 and May 12-13, 1997) was “predictable,” Wesson says, and nothing the jury had not already heard: “The thing about the Fortiers is not so much that we believe them because they’re truthful—we know they were liars about many things—but in the end I think you believe them because their testimony about McVeigh is corroborated at almost every point by other testimony.” The “parade of victims” put on by the government was tremendously effective, Wesson says: “They did such a tremendously effective case of arousing people’s emotions during the main part of the case.” [Salon, 5/29/1997]
Defense Had 'All but Impossible' Task - In 2006, law professor Douglas O. Linder will write: “The task of the defense team was all but impossible. They could not come up with a single alibi witness. They faced the reality that McVeigh had told dozens of people of his hatred of the government, and had told a friend that he planned to take violent action on April 19. Rental agreements and a drawing of downtown Oklahoma City linked him to the blast. He carried earplugs in his car driving north from Oklahoma City 40 minutes after the explosion. How could it all be explained away?” [Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Entity Tags: Andrew Cohen, Christopher L. Tritico, Deborah Brown, Daina Bradley, Douglas O. Linder, Timothy James McVeigh, Lori Fortier, Michael Joseph Fortier, Mimi Wesson, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Frederic Whitehurst
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The lawyers present their closing arguments in the trial of Timothy McVeigh, the accused Oklahoma City bomber (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
McVeigh 'a Traitor' Who 'Deserves to Die' - Federal prosecutor Larry Mackey delivers a meticulous recap of the prosecution’s case (see May 21, 1997), portraying McVeigh as a “domestic terrorist” guilty of “a crime of ghastly proportions.… Timothy McVeigh is a domestic terrorist [who was] motivated by hatred of the government.… This is not a prosecution of Tim McVeigh for his political beliefs. This is a prosecution of Tim McVeigh because of what he did: He committed murder. This is a murder case.” Mackey asks the jurors: “Who could do such a thing? Who could do such a thing? Based on the evidence, the answer is clear: Timothy McVeigh did it.” Referring to McVeigh’s well-documented hatred of the government and McVeigh’s own writings, Mackey concludes: “The law enforcement officers who died were not treasonous officials… or ‘cowardice bastards.’ The credit union employees who disappeared were not tyrants whose blood had to be spilled. And certainly the 19 children who died were not the storm troopers McVeigh said must die because of their association with the evil empire. In fact, they were bosses and secretaries, they were blacks and whites, they were mothers, daughters, fathers and sons. They were a community. So who are the real patriots and who is the traitor?” Concluding the prosecution’s close, attorney Beth Wilkinson points at McVeigh and says to the jury: “Look into the eyes of a coward and tell him you will have courage. Tell him you will speak with one unified voice as the moral conscience of the community and tell him he is no patriot. He is a traitor and he deserves to die.” [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 5/29/1997; Washington Post, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; Washington Post, 6/14/1997]
McVeigh 'Not a Demon, Though Surely His Act Was Demonic' - For the defense, attorneys Stephen Jones and Robert Nigh Jr. portray McVeigh as the innocent victim of an overzealous investigation and the treachery of his friends (see May 28, 1997). Jones and Nigh say that McVeigh was victimized by a rush to judgment led by a federal government desperate to solve the worst act of terrorism on US soil, and by a public overwhelmed by sympathy for the victims of the bombing. “The emotion is a twin emotion,” Jones says. “On one hand what has been evoked has been sympathy for the victims, and on the other hand repugnance” for McVeigh’s far-right political philosophy. “The evidence demonstrates tragically that what law enforcement did was terribly, terribly wrong,” Nigh adds. “Instead of an objective investigation of the case, the federal law enforcement officials involved decided the case and then jammed the evidence and witnesses to fit the decision.” Jones insists: “There’s no witness who saw Tim McVeigh in a Ryder truck (see May 23, 1997). There’s no witness that saw Tim McVeigh build a bomb. [The prosecution’s case is built of] speculation, inference piled on inference, trying to put an 11 and a half size foot in an eight and a half size shoe.” The defense also insists that evidence presented against their client was tainted by sloppy FBI lab technicians (see January 27, 1997), and that witness testimonies were unreliable and in some cases fabricated (see April 29-30, 1997 and May 12-13, 1997). Defense lawyer Christopher L. Tritico calls the FBI laboratory that handled the case “a ship without a rudder, without a sail, without a captain, adrift, making judgment calls that affect the rest of people’s lives.” In a statement that seemingly concedes McVeigh’s guilt, Jones says of McVeigh, “[H]e is not a demon though surely his act was demonic.” He asks that McVeigh be spared so that some day the full story might come out, and so that the political alienation he personifies would not be rekindled by his execution. [Washington Post, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; New York Times, 5/30/1997; Washington Post, 6/14/1997]
Chevie Kehoe. [Source: Eye on Hate (.com)]Cheyne Kehoe surrenders to federal authorities and tells them where his fugitive brother, Chevie Kehoe, is hiding. Both men were raised as members of the white separatist, overtly racist “Christian Identity” tradition (see 1960s and After) by their parents; the brothers’ father, a Vietnam veteran who hated the government, gave them their first training with weapons. Chevie Kehoe will later recall his father telling them, “If they’re not white then they don’t have the right to exist.” Chevie Kehoe became fascinated with the story of slain white supremacist Robert Jay Mathews, the founder of The Order (see Late September 1983 and December 8, 1984); he, his brother Cheyne, and a few friends formed a small supremacist group they called the Aryan People’s Republic. The Kehoe brothers became notorious in February 1997 after they had a shootout with Ohio Highway Patrol officers and escaped on foot; the videotape of the shootout became a sensation on the national news circuit. Both the Kehoes were suspected of torturing and murdering Arkansas gun dealer William Mueller, his wife Nancy, and his daughter Sarah, after Chevie Kehoe had robbed him in early 1996. The Kehoes spent some time hiding from authorities at the Oklahoma white supremacist compound of Elohim City (see 1973 and After), where at least one of them had received weapons training and the Kehoe family often lived for periods of time. Cheyne Kehoe is convicted of assault and attempted murder in the Ohio shootout, and receives 24 years in prison; Chevie Kehoe pleads guilty and receives 20 years. Chevie Kehoe and Daniel Lee, a member of the Kehoes’ Aryan People’s Republic, are later indicted for the Arkansas murder and a variety of charges based on their plots to attack federal officials; Kehoe will be sentenced to life in prison and Lee will be sentenced to death. [Anti-Defamation League, 8/9/2002; Nicole Nichols, 2003] Investigations later show that the Kehoe brothers had ties of some nature with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and the Aryan Republican Army (ARA—see 1992 - 1995).
Timothy McVeigh sits in the courtroom during his trial. [Source: India Times]Accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) is convicted on all 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 6/2/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The jury deliberates for over 23 hours, spread over four days (including a weekend), before announcing it has a verdict. McVeigh, who enters the courtroom with a smile on his face, shows no emotion when the guilty verdicts are read aloud by US District Judge Richard Matsch; Matsch polls the 12 jurors to ensure that they are indeed unanimous in their verdict. McVeigh is convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of eight law enforcement agents who died in the blast, one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of using a weapon of mass destruction, and one count of destruction of a federal building. McVeigh awaits a trial in Oklahoma, where he will face 160 counts of murdering the civilians who died in the bombing; Oklahoma City district attorney Bob Macy says he will file state charges that will bring both McVeigh and fellow conspirator Terry Nichols to court to face the death penalty. Many family members break down in tears as the verdicts are read; one woman shouts, “We got him!” Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler accepts an ovation from the gallery, and later says: “We’re obviously very pleased with the verdict. We always had confidence in our evidence. Now maybe everyone else will have confidence in our evidence.” Defense attorney Stephen Jones says he will prepare his client for the sentencing phase, where many feel McVeigh will be sentenced to death (see June 11-13, 1997). (Both sets of attorneys are under a judicial gag order preventing them from discussing the details of the case.) Jannie Coverdale, who lost her grandchildren in the blast, says she has mixed emotions: “This is bittersweet. After all, this is a young man who has wasted his life. I’m glad they found him guilty, but I’m sad for him, too. I feel sorry for him. He had so much to offer his country.… I want him to get the death penalty, but not out of revenge. It’s necessary. I haven’t seen any remorse from Timothy McVeigh. If he ever walked the streets, he would murder again. I don’t want to see that.” Asked if the verdict will bring her closure, she says: “I don’t think there will ever be closure. Too many people are missing.” Sharon Ice, whose brother Paul Douglas Ice was one of the federal agents killed in the bombing, calls McVeigh a “monster.” Former judge Durant Davidson says he supports the verdict: “I don’t have any question about that. There was a time before the trial started that I didn’t know. [But] after having followed it, there would not have been any question in my mind.” In Washington, President Clinton refuses to comment directly on the verdict, citing the judge’s gag order, but says: “This is a very important and long overdue day for the survivors and families of those who died in Oklahoma City.… I say to the families of the victims, no single verdict can bring an end to your anguish. But your courage has been an inspiration to all Americans. Our prayers are with you.” [Denver Post, 6/3/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Washington Post, 6/3/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] McVeigh’s father William and his sister Jennifer release a statement from their Pendleton, New York, home that reads in part: “Even though the jury has found Tim guilty, we still love him very much and intend to stand by him no matter what happens. We would like to ask everyone to pray for Tim in this difficult time.” [Washington Post, 6/3/1997] Later, a juror says he and his fellows grew more convinced of McVeigh’s guilt with each day that the trial continued. “There is no justification for that kind of action,” juror Tony Stedman will say. [Associated Press, 1/11/1998] As the prosecution leaves the courthouse, a weeping woman pushes her way towards lead attorney Joseph Hartzler, throws her arms around him, and says, “Dear God, thank you for what you have done.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 292]
Entity Tags: Jannie Coverdale, Paul Douglas Ice, Jennifer McVeigh, Joseph H. Hartzler, Richard P. Matsch, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Robert (“Bob”) Macy, Tony Stedman, Sharon Ice, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Legal observers say that the guilty verdict against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) does not mean that the trial of McVeigh’s accused co-conspirator, Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), will proceed as smoothly for the prosecution. The prosecutors in the Nichols trial will likely have to use witnesses and evidence the McVeigh prosecutors left out of McVeigh’s trial (see May 21, 1997); those witnesses and evidence were considered “shaky” or potentially confusing for the McVeigh jury. For example, the prosecution chose not to present evidence that McVeigh and Nichols assembled the bomb at Geary Lake State Park in Kansas (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), apparently because prosecution lawyers were uncertain over their witnesses’ credibility on that subject. The Geary allegation is a central element of the Nichols indictment. Similarly, the McVeigh prosecutors chose not to mention the robbery of an Arkansas gun dealer, which they believed was used to finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994), but the Nichols prosecutors will undoubtedly use that robbery as another key element of their case against Nichols. Michael Fortier, a friend of McVeigh’s who has extensive knowledge of the bomb plot, testified against McVeigh (see May 12-13, 1997); he will also testify against Nichols, but his testimony is expected to be less effective against Nichols. Perhaps the most powerful argument for the Nichols defense is the allegation that Nichols broke with McVeigh a month before the bombing and did not take part in the bombing itself (see March 1995), an allegation supported not just by Nichols, but by his ex-wife Lana Padilla and by Fortier. [New York Times, 6/3/1997]
Norm Olson, the leader of the Northern Michigan Regional Militia (see April 1994, April 16-17, 1996, and Summer 1996 - June 1997), urges convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) to demand the death penalty (see June 11-13, 1997). In a letter sent to McVeigh through McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones, Olson writes: “Targeting noncombatants is wrong and cannot be condoned by honorable men. As a soldier, you must die for your war crime.… Do the right thing now, Tim. Die for Janet Reno’s sins for allowing Waco (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Here is your chance to tell the world the true cause of your action. Let her forever live with that!” [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
New York Times columnist Frank Rich urges the nation to forego the idea that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s conviction (see June 2, 1997) brings “closure” to the possibility that domestic terrorism could be a problem in America. Rich writes that the national media seems more than ready to move to new subjects, and shows little interest in McVeigh’s connection to what Rich calls “a diverse, violent right-wing fringe, ranging from neo-Nazis to gun-absolutists to Christian Identity white supremacists (see 1960s and After), that most journalists ignored prior to April 19, 1995.” Rich notes that the Anti-Defamation League has documented a sharp spike in “militia-related crime[s]” over the past 18 months, most of which gain little or no national news coverage. Two serious bombing plots in Oklahoma and Michigan by militia cells have recently been foiled. Abortion clinics have been hammered by assaults, prompting Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt to say: “There seems to be an inability to recognize that this terrorism is terrorism. Isn’t bombing a women’s health center terrorism?” Most militia operations and abortion-clinic bombings are being ignored by the national media, even the above-ground operations such as a recent series of public “conclaves” held by the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Author Frederick Clarkson, an expert on far-right violence, writes that it is “an authentic crisis of democracy when people seek to blame the government” for all ills, and “solve” those ills through violence rather than by voting, civil demonstrations, and other means. Another expert on far-right violence, Chip Berlet, says that “perhaps as many as five million” Americans adhere to the most enraged varieties of right-wing populism and are part of “the recruitment pool” for “neo-Nazi demagogues” waiting “to exploit and channel unresolved anger toward bloodshed and terror.” America, Rich concludes, ignores this at the nation’s peril. [New York Times, 6/5/1997]
James Blassengill and his wife, Willie, who lost six family members in the bombing, comfort one another after the verdict. [Source: AP / Washington Post]The jury in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) unanimously decides that McVeigh should be sentenced to death by lethal injection. The verdict is written in heavy black ink by jury foreman James Osgood, a single word: “Death.”
Statements by Prosecution and Defense - The prosecution puts an array of survivors and family members of the victims on the stand to tell their harrowing stories, and shows videotapes of some of the surviving children battling grave injuries in the months after the bombing. The defense counters with testimonials from some of McVeigh’s former Army friends (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After), and a presentation by McVeigh’s divorced parents, Bill McVeigh and Mildred Frazer; the father introduces a 15-minute videotape of McVeigh as a child and concludes simply, “I love Tim.” The defense emphasizes McVeigh’s far-right political views, insisting that his misguided belief that the government intended to impose tyranny on its citizens was fueled by the Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) and Branch Davidian (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) incidents, and drove McVeigh to mount his own strike against a government facility. However, defense lawyer Richard Burr tells the jury, “He is just like any of us.” The defense brings in soldiers who served with McVeigh in the Army to testify about McVeigh’s exemplary service, but their statements are quickly neutralized when prosecutors remind them that they are all taught as their first rule of duty “never to kill noncombatants, including women and children.” Another damning moment comes when prosecutor Beth Wilkinson elicits testimony that shows McVeigh killed more people in the bombing than US forces lost during Desert Storm—168 to 137. Jones pleads for a life sentence without parole. At no time do defense lawyers say that McVeigh feels any remorse towards the lives he took.
Unanimous Verdict - The jury takes about 11 hours over two days to reach its verdict. The jury unanimously finds that at least seven “aggravating circumstances” were associated with McVeigh’s crimes, including his intention to kill, his premeditation and planning, that he created a grave risk to others with reckless disregard for their lives, that he committed offenses against federal law enforcement officials, and that he created severe losses for the victims’ families. They are split in consideration of “mitigating factors” proposed by the defense. Only two find McVeigh to be a “reliable and dependable person”; only four say he had “done good deeds and helped others” during his life; none see him as a “good and loyal friend”; and none agree with the proposition that he “believed deeply in the ideals upon which the United States was founded.” Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says: “This is not a day of great joy for the prosecution team. We’re pleased that the system worked and justice prevailed. But the verdict doesn’t diminish the great sadness that occurred in Oklahoma City two years ago. Our only hope is that the verdict will go some way toward preventing such a terrible, drastic crime from ever occurring again.” Juror Tonya Stedman says that the jury wrestled with the idea of taking McVeigh’s life for his crimes: “It was difficult because we’re talking about a life. Yes, 168 died as a result of it, but this is another life to consider. This was a big decision. I feel confident in the decision we made.” Most relatives of the bombing victims echo the sentiments expressed by Charles Tomlin, who lost a son in the explosion: “I could see the strain on them [the jurors]. You know it was a hard decision to make to put a man to death, but I’m glad they did.” However, some agree with James Kreymborg, who lost his wife and daughter in the blast. Kreymborg says he “really did not want the death penalty” because “I’ve had enough death.” Mike Lenz, whose pregnant wife died in the blast, says: “It’s not going to bring back my wife and lessen my loss. My reason for believing or wanting to put McVeigh to death is it stops. It stops here. He can’t reach out and try to recruit anybody else to his cause.” Marsha Kight, who lost her daughter in the explosion, says she would have preferred a life sentence in prison: “There is a lot of pain in living—death is pretty easy.” Lead defense attorney Stephen Jones acknowledges respect for the jury’s decision, and adds: “We ask that the barriers and intolerance that have divided us may crumble and suspicions disappear and hatred cease. And our divisions and intolerance being healed, we may live together in justice and peace. God save the United States of America. God save this honorable court.” President Clinton had publicly called for the death sentence after the bombing (see April 23, 1995), but avoids directly commenting on the jury’s decision, citing the impending trial of fellow bombing suspect Terry Nichols (see November 3, 1997). Instead, Clinton says: “This investigation and trial have confirmed our country’s faith in its justice system. To the victims and their families, I know that your healing can be measured only one day at a time. The prayers and support of your fellow Americans will be with you every one of those days.” McVeigh faces 160 murder charges under Oklahoma state law. [New York Times, 6/4/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997; Washington Post, 6/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 297-300, 308, 313-315; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] McVeigh shows no emotion when the sentence is read. When he is escorted out of the courtroom, he flashes a peace sign to the jury, then turns to his parents and sister in the front row, and mouths, “It’s okay.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 315]
McVeigh Will Be Incarcerated in Colorado 'Supermax' Facility - McVeigh will be held in the same “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczynski, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). In a letter to the authors of McVeigh’s authorized biography, American Terrorist, Kaczynski will later say he “like[s]” McVeigh, describing him as “an adventurer by nature” who, at the same time, is “very intelligent” and expressed ideas that “seemed rational and sensible.” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] A person who later speaks to McVeigh in prison will call him “the scariest man in the world” because he is so quiet and nondescript. “There’s nothing alarming about him—nothing,” the person will say. “He’s respectful of his elders, he’s polite. When he expresses political views, for most of what he says, Rush Limbaugh is scarier. That’s what’s incredibly frightening. If he is what he appears to be, there must be other people out there like him. You look at him and you think: This isn’t the end of something; this is the beginning of something.” [Nicole Nichols, 2003] McVeigh is one of only 13 people to be sentenced to death under federal law. It has been 34 years since any prisoner sentenced to death under federal law was executed. [New York Times, 6/4/1997] He will speak briefly and obscurely on his own behalf when Judge Richard Matsch formally sentences him to death (see August 14, 1997).
Entity Tags: Joseph H. Hartzler, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Tonya Stedman, James Kreymborg, Charles Tomlin, James Osgood, Beth Wilkinson, Timothy James McVeigh, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Marsha Kight, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Mildred (“Mickey”) Frazer, Mike Lenz, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Richard Burr
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Mildred Frazer, the mother of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), says she blames the government and the news media for both McVeigh’s conviction and his death sentence (see June 11-13, 1997). She tells an ABC News interviewer: “Since my son—the day he was arrested—I feel that it was done, that he was convicted and sentenced to death by the media and the government. I’m not saying he didn’t have a fair trial. I’m just saying that I don’t think that it was done right from the beginning.” [Washington Post, 6/14/1997] During the sentencing hearing hours before, Frazer read a brief statement to the jury that she again shares with reporters. It reads in part: “I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering the people from Oklahoma City have endured since April 19th of 1995. This tragedy has affected many people around the world, including myself. I also understand the anger many people feel. I cannot tell you about Tim McVeigh, the son I love, any better than it already has been told the last three and a half days. He was a loving son and a happy child as he grew up. He was a child any mother could be proud of. I still to this very day cannot believe he could have caused this devastation. There are too many unanswered questions and loose ends. He has seen human loss in the past, and it has torn him apart. He is not the monster he has been portrayed as. He is also a mother and father’s son, a brother to two sisters, a cousin to many and a friend to many more.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 311]
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