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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Friday, January 19, 2007

Virtually No OKC Investigation Seen In State Dept. Docs From Philippines

By J.M. Berger

State Department documents obtained by INTELWIRE contain no indication that the U.S. government investigated possible connections between Terry Nichols and Islamic militants in the Philippines.

INTELWIRE obtained 54 pages of documents from the State Department through the Freedom of Information Act, as part of a request for all cables and electronic communications between the State Department and the government of the Philippines concerning the Oklahoma City bombing through the beginning of 1997.

The request excluded routine summaries of regional news reports.

Only 16 documents were identified as being responsive to the request. Eleven of those documents were released and another five are being withheld pending input from other U.S. agencies.

According to the State Department facilitated travel documents, law enforcement coordination and witness interviews related to Marife Nichols, the Filipina wife of Terry Nichols. But the documents released cite no other activity or prospective witnesses related to the case.

Nichols and Ramzi Yousef were in the Philippines during the same time frame and in close proximity (story and documents).

While a connection between Nichols and Islamic militants in the Philippines has never been proved, the FBI and senior officials have repeatedly indicated that the U.S. government had ruled out such a connection during the course of investigation.

However, virtually no documents or court records have surfaced to show that the FBI conducted any investigation of such possible links.

The five documents that are still pending from this request might shed light on this aspect of the investigation. But even if all five concern the investigation of Islamic militants -- which is by no means certain -- the paper trail would pale in comparison to the mountain of documentation concerning all other aspects of the case.

For instance, there are hundreds of pages of documents showing the FBI's extensive investigation into possible links between Timothy McVeigh and domestic extremists -- a link the FBI has dismissed.

INTELWIRE has queried the FBI with several FOIA requests seeking documents related to an investigation of connections between Islamic militants and the Oklahoma City bombing.

In every instance, those requests were denied, sometimes claiming that the requested documents did not exist, at other times claiming that requested information was exempt from disclosure. Additional relevant requests are pending with other agencies.

Most of the documents released by the State Department in response to INTELWIRE's FOIA request are reproduced below. Two additional documents will be published separately at a later date.

Diplomatic message from Philippines President Fidel Ramos
April 21, 1995

This cable to President Clinton condemns terrorism and offers sympathies to America for the Oklahoma City bombing. The message cites "our recent joint efforts which resulting in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the heinous bombing of the World Trade Center" and further cites the case of Abdul Hakim Murad, who conspired with Ramzi Yousef in a foiled plot to bomb U.S. airliners.

At this point, the arrest of Terry Nichols and his links to the Philippines were not widely known, nor would Ramos have been aware that Murad had claimed on April 19 that Yousef's organization was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. (Murad's bare confession may be the only document currently in circulation that addresses any possible connection between OKC and the Philippines.)

President Bill Clinton's Reply to Ramos Message
April 30, 1995

A fairly standard and minimal diplomatic response. By now, U.S. authorities knew that Nichols trail led to the Philippines, but that fact is not addressed in this communication, nor is there any request or thanks for support provided to the investigation.

U.S. Rep Dana Rohrabacher Visit To Philippines, Detailed Report
May 4, 1995

A detailed description of a visit to the Philippines by U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher from April 22 to April 24, 1995. Discussions with President Ramos cover a wide variety of areas, including the Oklahoma City bombing, the Bojinka (Ramzi Yousef) investigation and other topics including relations with China. Significant portions of this document have been redacted, including portions pertaining to terrorism and adjacent to discussions of Yousef and Murad.

Rohrabacher also discussed extremism emanating from Afghanistan and the Afghan drug trade as a source of financing for terrorism. According to the document, Rohrabacher had once supported the Afghan mujahideen but was now "working to avert a 'disaster' that would come about when terrorists in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region began operating internationally, backed by vast profits from poppy-based narcotics trafficking."

Investigation and Travel to Philippines
June 8, June 10, 1995; February 27, 1996

These documents deal primarily with the U.S. government's efforts to interview Marife Nichols, wife of Terry Nichols, and to ensure her availability. The documents also deal with travel issues surrounding interviews with Marife Nichols. The most striking thing about these documents -- and the set of released documents as a whole -- is the total absence of anything indicating the FBI investigated Nichols activities while in the Philippines. There are no mentions of any effort to investigate possible connections between Nichols and Islamic extremists in the Philippines, or of any interviews with anyone in the Philippines except for Marife Nichols.

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Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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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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