Sunday, September 7, 2008

Soft Underbelly, Part 1

The Oklahoma City bombing (OKBOMB) was not unlike the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, or the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, or the bombing of the US embassies in Africa. For that matter, it was not unlike the bombing of the USS Cole, except for the rental truck carrying the OKBOMB versus a boat carrying the Cole bomb.

Yet, we are assured by our government that there was no Middle Eastern connection with the OKBOMB.

From testimony in the US Senate in late 2001, THE GLOBAL REACH OF AL–QAEDA:


Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you for having me today, Senator Boxer, and I submitted my statement, and presumably it will be included in the record. I can tell you a first-hand story of an experience that I had in Panama in the Colon Free Zone to illustrate some of the issues that were brought up.

I agree with everything that the FBI colleagues expressed beforehand. The al-Qaeda network exists. They have sympathizers around the world, but they are not these Islamic supermen that can go anywhere, do anything, anytime that they want. They are human beings. They face the same kind of limitations that every other human being does, and as someone who has been involved with scripting counterterrorism exercises for the U.S. military forces that have that mission, I know what it takes to put those folks in motion and to get them from point A to point B, and it is not easy. It is not something you do at a snap of the fingers. They can do it fairly quickly, but you have an enormous amount of resources dedicated to that task. These terrorists fortunately do not have those kinds of resources. They do not have their own military airlift command. They do not have their own logistics support agency.

Twelve years ago, I was involved in Central America, doing an investigation into product counterfeiting that was taking place against a U.S. company, and one of the individuals that we discovered—he is not an al-Qaeda member, but he is involved with radical Palestinian groups that are involved with terrorism. The person we found selling the stuff was named Waleed Sayeed Mazees, and he was out in San Francisco at one point, I think you will be happy to know.

When we busted him for selling these counterfeit products, the local Panamians working with me said this guy is a terrorist, did you know that? I said, no. They said, and he also went to jail for money-laundering, and in this book that he wrote — it is in Spanish — Palestine, the "Burning Silence," he details his secret entries into Palestine to meet with members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and some other groups.

The reason I raise him is, you find right now throughout Latin America, particularly in the Colon Free Zone of Panama, in a little town up in the Guajira Peninsula of Colombia called Maicao and down on the triborder area, in the Cuidad Del Este, which is on the border of Paraguay and Brazil, with Argentina close, there are networks of good Muslims and there are also networks of people affiliated with radical Islamic groups such as Hezbollah, some Hamas ties, and people with sympathies with al-Qaeda.

What makes these potentially of concern, and I can cite the case of Argentina in particular, you have radical groups that sympathize with the Muslims that also have some ties with neo-Nazi groups and that have ties with right-wing groups up here in the United States. Now, fortunately, none of those groups have been willing to carry out attacks against the United States, but these groups exist, they are there, they are operating, and when you look at the case of Argentina, I led a U.S. team when I was with the State Department to Buenos Aires in the aftermath of the bombing of the Israeli Embassy back in 1992, and to this day there is some suspicion that elements of Argentinian intelligence were involved, or at least were sympathetic in helping facilitate the activities of groups like Hezbollah.

Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups are active in Latin America, and have ties to neo-Nazi and right-wing groups here in the U.S.; furthermore, these groups have the sympathies of elements of the intelligence services of some Latin American nations -- you know if Argentine intelligence personnel are sympathetic, some Venezuelan personnel are, as well.

From An Investigation of the Belated Production of Documents in the Oklahoma City Bombing Case, Chapter 1, dated March 19, 2002, by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General:

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, exploded on April 19, 1995, following the detonation of a bomb. One hundred and sixty-eight individuals died and several hundred more were injured in the explosion. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began an international investigation to identify and capture the perpetrators.

Just 77 minutes after the explosion at the Murrah Building, an Oklahoma State Trooper stopped Timothy McVeigh for a traffic offense less than 80 miles from the bombing site and subsequently arrested him for unlawfully carrying a handgun. Within 48 hours, the FBI identified McVeigh as a prime suspect in the attack on the Murrah Building. Federal officials charged McVeigh with unlawful destruction by explosives.

Over the course of the next several months, the FBI dedicated enormous resources to identifying the perpetrators of the bombing and obtaining the necessary evidence to indict and convict them. The FBI's 56 domestic field offices, as well as its foreign offices, were involved in the investigation. A task force coordinated the efforts of the FBI, prosecutors, and agents from other law enforcement agencies. The investigation, known as OKBOMB, led to the arrests of two additional suspects: Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier. McVeigh and Nichols were indicted on August 10, 1995, for 11 counts of violating Title 18 of the United States Code relating to unlawful use of explosives and weapons of mass destruction as well as first degree murder. Fortier was indicted for conspiracy, false statements, and other crimes.1

In criminal trials, the government must provide to the defense some of the information contained within its files. This is known as the discovery process. The discovery rules that govern all federal trials require that statements of witnesses testifying at trial, evidentiary items to be used at trial, and information exculpatory to the defendants be disclosed. See Rule 16, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure; Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); Jencks Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3500. Early in the OKBOMB discovery process, however, the United States agreed to go beyond these requirements and disclose all investigative reports. Over 27,000 investigative reports, 13,000 items of physical evidence, and millions of pages of hotel, motel, and telephone records were produced or made available to the defense before or during the trials.

McVeigh's and Nichols' trials were severed. McVeigh was convicted on all 11 counts on June 2, 1997. On August 14, 1997, following a sentencing hearing, McVeigh was sentenced to death. On December 23, 1997, Nichols was convicted of eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of conspiracy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Both McVeigh and Nichols appealed their convictions, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld the convictions and sentences. In December 2000, McVeigh ended his appeals, and his execution was set for May 16, 2001.

Independent of the trial and appellate process, in February 2000, personnel in the FBI's Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Field Office recognized that the warehouse being used to store the OKBOMB investigative materials was probably inadequate for long-term storage. They sought advice from the FBI's archivist on February 18, 2000. After viewing the warehouse storage facility in May 2000, the archivist agreed that the storage facility was inadequate, and he initiated an archival process to preserve the OKBOMB documents. As part of that process, on December 20, 2000, the archivist sent a memorandum to all FBI field offices instructing them to identify their OKBOMB files, permitting them to destroy copies of certain documents previously sent to the OKBOMB Task Force, and requiring them to send a list of the items that had not been destroyed to the Oklahoma City Field Office.

In January 2001, several field offices responded to the archivist's memorandum by destroying some of their OKBOMB documents as they had been authorized to do. Two field offices sent their entire OKBOMB files to Oklahoma City. When Oklahoma City Field Office personnel examined the material sent by the two field offices, they observed documents that they suspected had not been sent previously to the OKBOMB Task Force and that might not have been disclosed to the OKBOMB defendants as part of the discovery process. The Oklahoma City Field Office personnel notified three FBI supervisors about the potential problem: OKBOMB Inspector in Charge Danny Defenbaugh, who was then the Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas, Texas, Field Office; OKBOMB Supervisory Special Agent Mark White, who was then a Supervisory Special Agent in the Dallas Field Office; and Oklahoma City Field Office Supervisory Special Agent William Teater. After consulting with the archivist, the Oklahoma City personnel sent a memorandum on January 30, 2001, to the field offices instructing them not to destroy any material and to send all OKBOMB materials to Oklahoma City.

Over the course of the next several months, FBI personnel in Oklahoma City received OKBOMB files from FBI field offices and foreign offices. Personnel carefully compared the incoming material to OKBOMB records to determine whether the material had been disclosed to defense counsel. By March 2001, FBI personnel determined that a significant number of items sent in by the field offices likely had not been disclosed to defense counsel even though they were within the categories of items that should have been disclosed pursuant to the discovery agreement. By the end of April 2001, when the review process was completed, the number of suspected undisclosed items was over 700.

On May 7, 2001, nine days before McVeigh's scheduled execution, OKBOMB Inspector in Charge Defenbaugh first notified FBI Headquarters about problems with the discovery in the case, and on May 8 he notified the OKBOMB prosecutor. On the same day, the prosecutor contacted the defense attorneys to notify them of the issue. By the next day, May 9, 2001, the OKBOMB prosecutor provided 715 documents, consisting of approximately 3,100 pages, to the defense attorneys.

The problem with the documents in the McVeigh case was immediately disclosed to the press, and on May 10, 2001, the media reported that the FBI had failed to disclose thousands of pages of documents to the defense. On May 11, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft postponed McVeigh's execution until June 11, 2001. The Attorney General stated that he was taking the extraordinary action to allow defense attorneys adequate time to review the documents and to "protect the integrity of our system of justice." Also on May 11, the Attorney General requested that the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigate the circumstances surrounding the FBI's belated production of OKBOMB documents.

Within a few days following the initial disclosure, over a hundred more documents that had not been disclosed previously were found in two FBI field offices. As a result, concerns arose as to whether the field offices possessed still more OKBOMB material that needed to be reviewed to determine whether the items had been properly disclosed. During the week following the public disclosure of the problem, FBI Headquarters on several occasions instructed all FBI field offices to send OKBOMB material to Oklahoma City for review. The field offices sent in boxes of additional material, which the FBI also reviewed to determine if any discoverable items had not been disclosed properly. As a result, the FBI determined that a "second wave" of discoverable items, consisting of almost 200 documents, likely had not been disclosed to the defense before the trials. By the end of May, a total of 1,033 items were provided to the defense.

A total of 1033 items that had not been provided to the defense...

Did the truth really come out...?

The whole truth?

Or, might certain aspects of this affair not have, uh, "surfaced", due to concerns about who might be involved, and in what?

From my earlier post, Out of Context, Part 1:

In the context of the Oklahoma City bombing:

According to Keating, President Clinton's first comment to him after the bombing was "God, I hope there's no Middle Eastern connection to this."

In the context of the Sibel Edmonds case:

SE: In some cases where the FBI stumbles upon evidence of high-level officials being involved in drug-smuggling, they're even prevented from sharing it with the DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency]. The Department of State just comes in and says, "Leave it."

You know, it's funny, after 9/11, the common criticism was that there was "no information-sharing" between the FBI, CIA, and the like, and this is why the terrorists pulled it off -- as if we didn't want to cooperate. No information-sharing? That's the biggest BS I ever heard!

See also:

Out of Context, Part 2

Out of Context, Part 3

Out of Context, Part 4

Out of Context, Part 5

Out of Context, Part 6

Out of Context, Part 7

Out of Context, Part 8

Meanwhile, as this series continues, we will examine security issues related to our our border. We will examine drug-, human- and arms-trafficking; we will see how terrorists interact with drug cartels and with Latin American governments and authorities. And, we will see how that impacts us in the United States.

Stay tuned!

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