As a writer and producer on the newly released documentary, A Noble Lie: Oklahoma City 1995, this is my second article in a series I am writing interpreting the various strands of evidence that are anomalous to the official story of the OKC bombing. A Noble Lie was the cumulative effort of the film crew building on years of independent research and investigation by journalists, police officers, public office holders, and others who became convinced that the government was involved in a massive cover up regarding the true perpetrators.
For the purposes of the film, we traced a direct trail of evidence that details the prior knowledge and guilty actions of the ATF, FBI, and other government agencies; the fact that the exterior truck bomb was not the sole cause of destruction to the federal building; that at least four explosive charges were placed on interior columns to maximize damage; that the rescue efforts were halted to recover documents and unexploded bombs; that others known and unknown participated in the attack and remain unprosecuted; that witnesses were surveilled, threatened, intimidated, and sometimes killed to silence their testimony; and that certain government officials, both state and local, are complicit in a cover up of the tragedy that defines April 19th, 1995.
So who did it? Why? And why is the government lying? There are several competing bodies of evidence. The official story is that Tim McVeigh, angry at the federal government for its annihilation of the Branch Davidian Church at Waco, Texas in 1993, blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building exactly two years later as revenge. He received the assistance of one conspirator, army buddy Terry Nichols, in making the bomb. Only one other person in the universe knew of the plot, another army buddy named Michael Fortier. Tim McVeigh was executed, Terry Nichols will die in prison, and Fortier is in the witness protection program. Case solved. Put it down in the history books.
But given the train of official malfeasance that characterized the investigation and its conclusion, it was inevitable that counter-narratives to the official story would arise. And is often the case, the competing narratives are often grounded in particular worldviews.
One faction focuses on McVeigh’s known and otherwise disputed association with the radical right and neo-Nazis. McVeigh dabbled in conspiracy theories, worked the gun control circuit selling anti-government knick-knacks, and consorted with some dangerous characters that make for scary mug shots. This school of thought is rooted in academia and the bulletins of hate group watchdogs, who assert that McVeigh was assisted by neo-Nazis intent on inciting a race war and inaugurating the Fourth Reich. The Federal Government’s handling of the case is dismissed as incompetence and shortsightedness regarding the true danger of “militias” and “patriots.” This right-wing menace is regarded as more potentially harmful than any admitted abuses by federal law enforcement in pursuit of “justice.”
This view of the bombing, while acknowledging the admitted participation of other perpetrators, tends to ignore the fact that many of these people implicated in the bombing were government informants and that the FBI was not just bungling the investigation into these suspects, but downright ignoring their involvement and oftentimes only submitting them to cursory questioning upon public protest from survivors and victims’ family members. It also ignores the fact that McVeigh told his family, his first set of attorneys, and Terry Nichols that he was working undercover for the government.
A more cynical school of thought, based upon a credible body of evidence, proposes that the bombing was the result of a law enforcement sting operation that went awry, probably rooted in Operation PATCON. They see the mangling of justice wrought by the FBI/ ATF fiascos at Ruby Ridge and the first WTC bombing in 1992, Waco in 1993, and OKC in 1995 as a train of abuses by Federal authorities intent on trying to shore up their flagging credibility. The current headlines detailing the failed Operation Fast and Furious, with over 2,000 dead Mexican citizens and 3 American law enforcement officers, certainly portends the body count that can come about from a ruthless disregard for public safety.
The more conspiratorial among us assert that the bombing was a deliberate act by this government to fulfill a political agenda. In my previous article, I attempt to reconcile these bodies of evidence and demonstrate the principle articulated to me by journalist and military intelligence veteran, Colonel Roger Charles, “For every White Op, there is a Black Op.”
There is another contender, also endowed with its own credible body of evidence, for the key to the truth in Oklahoma City. This viewpoint asserts that the bombing was a plot by al-Qaeda and/ or Saddam Hussein, the so-called Middle Eastern connection.
One of the few criticisms directed at A Noble Lie was its apparent avoidance of the evidence that implicates several Middle Eastern suspects, whose names are known. The decision to exclude this materiel was not taken lightly, or with an agenda in mind. But with an unwillingness to extend our running time over two hours, we had to make a lot of painful decisions about what materiel to keep or cut.
In A Noble Lie, we can and do trace a direct line of evidence from Tim McVeigh, his association with informant Andy Strassmeier, McVeigh’s known participation in the bombing, and credible eyewitness testimony placing Strassmeier in the basement of the Murrah building before the attack with plastic explosive and detonation components. Strassmeier was friends with McVeigh and an outed agent provocateur among the neo-Nazi movement. This obviously points toward a deliberate government provocation, or at the very least, a horribly bungled sting operation.
So how do we reconcile this with the Middle Eastern connection? An overview of the evidence will explain its significance.
The eyewitness accounts record that shortly before the bombing, two Middle Eastern-looking males in blue jogging suits were seen running from the Federal building and getting into a brown pickup truck (this truck is significant) with a third person, similar in appearance. They sped away from the scene. Very suspicious, given that the building blew up a couple of minutes later.
In A Noble Lie, we interview OKC police officer Don Browning, one of the first responders. He relates a conversation he had with an FBI agent a few hours after the bombing. Asking about the progress of the Be On the Look Out alert for the suspects, the FBI agent told Officer Browning that the BOLO had been “misinformation” designed to throw the media off. Browning, incensed that the law enforcement efforts of five states were being devoted to a fraudulent lead, while the real suspects might be getting away, was almost kicked out of the command post because of his objections.
Was it misinformation, or disinformation, or was it true? Or is it a combination thereof?
What we know to be true is that Two BOLO’s were issued, the first: “Be on the look out for a late model, almost new, Chevrolet, full-sized pick up. It will be brown in color with tinted windows, smoke colored bug deflector on the front of the pickup… middle eastern male, 25 to 28 years of age, six feet tall, athletic build, dark hair and a beard… driver of the vehicle was not identified. Subjects were last seen heading north on Walker at a high rate of speed…Authorization FBI.”
The second: “Attempt to locate possible suspects and vehicle involved in bombing OKC 4-19-95 0900 hrs… Use extreme caution…Stop and check all vehicles matching the following description: blue small to medium size GM product possibly Chev. Cavalier or Blazer. Vehicle may be rental car from National Car Rental Systems DFW, Texas. Possible tag of PTF54F Texas. Suspect information: Occupied by Middle Eastern male subject or subjects.”
According the Dallas Morning News, the FBI raided an apartment in Dallas the night of the bombing and questioned three Middle Eastern males. They had been riding in Chevy SUV whose tag had been switched with a Cavalier owned by one of the men (most of this information is from the Final Report of the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee).
The next day an FBI agent swore out an affidavit for an arrest warrant for an Abraham Abdullah Ahmad. Two hours after the bombing, Ahmad was on a plane to Jordan. He was detained in Chicago and then released by the FBI. His luggage went on to Rome and Italian officials searched it and found car radios, electronics gear and a blue jogging suit.
Ahmad was further detained in London and refused entry. He was sent back to the U.S., questioned once again, and released despite the arrest warrant. These events revolve around the original elements of the two BOLO’s: three Middle Eastern males, blue jogging suits, Chevy SUV, and Cavalier. The only thing missing is the brown pickup truck.
Ahmad’s employer in OKC was a Samir Khalil, a slumlord who owns hundreds of low-income properties. His ex-wife, Carole Khalil, died in the bombing. She was employed in the Murrah building, and she was working on her usual day off. She had to switch days in order to complete Samir Khalil’s tax returns at his request the day before.
Another of Khalil’s employees was Hussain al-Hussaini, who owned a pickup truck, “…brown in color with tinted windows, smoke colored bug deflector on the front of the pickup.” His truck matched the BOLO. It appears that the two alerts were not complete misinformation.
Local NBC affiliate KFOR investigated these charges, and many other anomalous aspects of the bombing. As shown in A Noble Lie, KFOR was purchased by the New York Times Broadcasting Company a year after the bombing and all reporting contrary to the official story was shut down. After her contract was not renewed, journalist Jayna Davis continued her investigation and published her findings in The Third Terrorist.
Jayna Davis focuses on Hussaini, with the brown pickup, as the fabled John Doe #2, the man whom everyone saw get out of the Ryder truck with McVeigh. Eyewitnesses identified Hussain as the man accompanying McVeigh as they walked away from the truck, and witnesses tracked down by KFOR place the two together, with other Middle Eastern suspects, in the days before the bombing.
Hussain later sued Jayna Davis and KFOR for defamation when they named him on air as John Doe #2, but his case was dismissed after his alibi for April 19th was found to be fabricated. Hussain later went on to Boston and worked as a baggage handler. He was on the job when two flights out of Logan airport were hijacked on 9/11. This terrorist cell’s connections to OKC and 9/11 are ably covered in Davis’s book and in my previous work.
So, how do we reconcile McVeigh’s known collusion with neo-Nazis and the credible body of evidence implicating Middle Eastern suspects? Most researchers have decided to discard one in favor of the other, but a fusion is possible. Neo-Nazis and radical jihadists have a long working relationship, sharing hatred of Israel and of the U.S. Government. I have interviewed a prominent neo-Nazi, someone that McVeigh was trying to approach before the bombing, who verifies that there was a direct line of communication, logistics, and supply between radical groups in the U.S. and jihadist groups overseas.
The evidence indicates the al-Hussaini, Ahmad, and other known Middle Eastern suspects were involved in parking the Ryder truck, and external perimeter security, and possibly with decoy Ryder trucks (which indicates they were trying to fool law enforcement). But we also have Andy Strassmeier, the neo-Nazi agent provocateur, inside the building with plastic explosive, and we know that the truck bomb was not the sole agent of destruction.
So, are we to believe that OKC was a joint operation? The problem with the Middle Eastern theory is that it tends to pin the blame on Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. This theory is in fact pushed by former CIA Director James Woolsey. The implications of that are troubling, and just gives impetus to the ongoing War on Terror. But both Saddam and bin Laden are now dead, so what are we to make of these connections?
I have barely given the Middle Eastern connection its due justice in this article, and to give it enough space to justify its presence in A Noble Lie would have pushed the running time beyond reasonable. It deserves its own spotlight.
And furthermore, the purpose of A Noble Lie was not to answer every loose thread of the bombing, but to wake people up to the fact that the official story is nonsense, and the government is invested in the lie. And for those without a deeper understanding of the true nature of terrorism, it would be too easy to lay the blame directly at the hands of Middle Easterners, and thus justify more atrocities.
Were there two endings to the script? We know that the bombing was blamed on right wing politics, although the government denies there was any “conspiracy” beyond McVeigh and two of his friends. I personally think, based upon my interviews and research, that the bombing was planned by federal law enforcement to take place at night, in an empty building. With little to no casualties, it would have been easy to pin it on a “vast, right-wing conspiracy” and wrap up the militia movement in one fell swoop.
But someone hijacked the operation and made it go live on a work day, while it was full of people. I suspect those hijackers resided in Langley. The “vast, right-wing conspiracy” fell apart because there was none, besides those people who were government informants or dupes.
But that is ultimately informed speculation, and we reserved no space for that in A Noble Lie. And it ultimately invites more investigation, which this case definitely needs.
Holland Vandennieuwenhof resides in Oklahoma City and can be reached at [email protected]