Published: May 25, 2002
The Indianapolis Star
Eleven months after Timothy McVeigh was put to death for the Oklahoma
City bombing, a startling revelation has come to light.
Specific information has surfaced that the FBI and other
intelligence agencies were told in early 1995, shortly before the bombing of
the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, that Islamic terrorists were about to
strike government institutions in Washington, D.C.
Less than a week later, a federal task force updated its
warning. The target focus had shifted from the East Coast to
"government installations" located "at the heart of the
U.S.," which would include Oklahoma City.
Shortly after the bombing of the Murrah building, Yossef
Bodansky, executive director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism
and Unconventional Warfare, pieced together intelligence data strongly
indicating that Islamic veterans of the 1979-89 Afghan war with the Soviet
Union, who trained under Osama bin Laden, were responsible for the 1993
bombing of the World Trade Center and the Oklahoma federal building.
Sandra Howell-Elliot, assistant district attorney in
Oklahoma County, asserted in a Jan. 18, 2000, affidavit, that there are
"intra-agency memoranda between the FBI and a host of other agencies
that were not provided to either Nichols' or McVeigh's lawyers or the State
of Oklahoma." She didn't know it then, but she was on to something. But
Most likely prior warnings, the same type of information
that bothers the nation today about Sept. 11. A CBS News poll out this week
found that two-thirds of those surveyed don't think the Bush administration
is "telling the entire truth" about what it knew before Sept. 11.
The Congressional Task Force's warning revealed that
Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations sponsored by Iran and Syria had
been discussing since late 1994 a campaign of attacks beginning in 1995.
That document boils down to ideological differences between radical Muslims,
peace-loving Muslims and the rest of the world.
"In a series of gatherings and conferences in
mid-February 1995, senior officials of the Hizballah (Hezbollah) and other
terrorist organizations, as well as senior officials of Iran and Syria, made
specific threats against the U.S. Congress and the White House," the
"These threats were made during conferences devoted to
declaring the forthcoming phase in Islamist 'Jihad' against the West, and
particularly the U.S. Congress and the president of the United States as
institutions that are great enemies of the Islamist movement and especially
Iran. This is a deviation from past discussion of the subject of struggle
against the U.S. in that the Islamist leaders went beyond referring to the
U.S. as a single entity to pointing to specific branches of government as
their true enemies."
So American intelligence agencies had knowledge nearly two
months before the Oklahoma bombing that an Islamic terrorist campaign was
about to begin against the United States. But they failed to tell that to
the McVeigh and Terry Nichols defense teams, who were looking for any shred
of evidence connecting Middle Eastern terrorists to the bombing.
On March 3, 1995, the threat to U.S. targets became even
clearer. The task force built a stronger case that something big was in the
offing by issuing an update of the Feb. 27 warning to intelligence agencies.
"It was based on very special material I received and
verified after the first warning had already been issued,'' Bodansky wrote
in 1996. "The key message of this 'update' was that there was greater
likelihood that the terrorists would strike in the heartland. The language
that should be of interest is that the terrorists were expected to 'strike
at the heart of the U.S.' We also put 'government installations' on the list
of possible objectives ahead of the communication and transportation
objectives (as in the Feb. 27 warning)."
The Oklahoma bomb exploded 47 days after the task force
issued its March 3 update. Bodansky later indicated that intelligence showed
Oklahoma City had been at the top of the terrorists' list.
"I did get, and later confirmed by numerous sources,
certain criteria on how to better identify possible terrorist targets,"
he wrote in 1996. "By the time I mastered this 'method,' it was too
late for Oklahoma City. However, going over and reconstructing relevant data
(some of which arrived only after the bombing but had originated prior to
it), Oklahoma City was on the list of potential targets."
The American people have a right to see any warnings about
terrorism issued in the months preceding Sept. 11 and the Oklahoma bombing.
Isn't it time to release those documents now?
Patterson is a Star editorial writer. Contact him at
1-317-444-6174 or by e-mail at email@example.com.