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Sunday, March 28, 2004

Ex-Terror Czar: Feds Couldn't Disprove Nichols-Yousef Connection

By J.M. Berger

Federal agencies were "never able to disprove" claims that Ramzi Yousef and Terry Nichols may have met in the Philippines prior to the Oklahoma City bombing, according to the former National Security Council director of counterterrorism Richard Clarke, who also reveals that Nichols and Yousef were in Cebu City on the same days.

Amid the controversy over Against All Enemies, Clarke's expose of the Bush Administration, there has been only sporadic coverage of his brief mention of the Oklahoma City bombing and rumors that al Qaeda may have provided training to convicted conspirator Terry Nichols, which he cited as a loose end that still weighs on his mind.

"We were never able to disprove" the alleged connection, wrote Clarke, who headed a Clinton administration interagency task force on terrorism at the time. He said Nichols and Yousef "visited Cebu on the same days." Previously, the two had only been conclusively verified as being in Cebu together on one specific date (Dec. 11, 1994), but there is significant evidence to suggest more overlap.

As previously reported on INTELWIRE, Nichols and Yousef are both documented as having visited the campus of Southwestern University in late 1994 (see story, Analysis of Terry Nichols and Ramzi Yousef timelines shows close correspondences).

Furthermore, al Qaeda is known to have recruited Christians in the Cebu City area (see story, Al Qaeda Recruited Christians in Key Nichols Locale). That recruiting program is linked to Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, who has other possible connections to OKC (see story, INS Deported bin Laden Kin Just Days After OKC Bombing).

It's unclear whether the results of the investigation cited by Clarke were fully disclosed to defense lawyers for Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. The production of documents by the FBI and other federal agencies has been a major issue in the state trial of Terry Nichols.

An investigation by the Associated Press has turned up significant evidence that the FBI failed to provide and in some cases even destroyed evidence related to a broader conspiracy in the Oklahoma City bombing. AP's reports prompted the FBI to open an internal investigation into the bombing last month.

Clarke also cited the fact that Nichols had continued to call Cebu after his wife had returned to the United States, according to phone records.

During the same period of time, a cell phone registered to Abdul Hakim Murad, one of Yousef's co-conspirators, was still in use, despite the fact Murad had been arrested weeks earlier, according to Peter Lance, writing in 1000 Years for Revenge.

According to Philippines police records obtained by Motley Rice, a law firm suing Saudi Arabia for complicity in the 9/11 attacks, Murad made phone calls to Cebu at the time Nichols was staying there. Murad said the calls were made to a friend who was studying dentistry in Cebu. Nichols' wife was studying physical therapy at Southwestern University at the time. Southwestern has a dentistry program, but there is at least one other dentistry school in Cebu City.


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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ISIS: The State of Terror
"Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

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Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
"At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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