Iraq Connections to U.S. Extremists
By Kelly Patricia O'Meara
In the global war on terror, law-enforcement officials may need to look in
our own backyard for clues about who sent anthrax to Capitol Hill and TV
Who's behind the deadly anthrax letters? That is the hot-button question of
the moment. While federal law-enforcement officials have come up short in
connecting the postal poison to Osama bin Laden, Iraq or any other
individual terrorist or state sponsor of terrorism, experts well-versed in
terrorism wonder why more attention hasn't been focused on a connection much
closer to home.
For example, considerable evidence that may prove helpful in the ongoing
investigation has been made public in other recent terrorism cases. Nowhere
is this more evident than in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah
Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the relationship of convicted bombing
conspirator Terry Nichols to elements of Iraqi intelligence.
During the trial of Timothy McVeigh, the convicted mastermind behind the
Oklahoma City bombing, information surfaced concerning Nichols' frequent
visits to the Philippines; McVeigh attorney Stephen Jones later wrote about
this extensively in his book Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the
Oklahoma City Bombing Conspiracy. According to Jones' investigation, Nichols
made numerous trips to the Philippines beginning in 1990, many lasting more
than a month.
Nichols reportedly attended a meeting in the early 1990s on the
predominantly Muslim island of Mindanao, a hotbed of fundamentalist
activities, at which Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah
were present. The themes of the meeting were "bombing activities, providing
firearms and ammunition, training in making and handling bombs." Yousef was
the mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993; Murad and Shah
were convicted in a 1996 conspiracy to blow up 12 U.S. jetliners.
Laurie Mylroie, a Harvard-trained Ph.D. who is an expert on Iraqi terrorism
and author of Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and
Saddam Hussein's War Against America, was a consultant to Jones during the
Oklahoma City investigation. She tells Insight "the connection of Terry
Nichols, the Philippines and Ramzi Yousef is a very important point that
neither the FBI nor the press pursued." Mylroie adds, "I doubt that Nichols
has ever been asked about his connections to Yousef because the government
didn't want to know. It wanted to say, 'Here are the perpetrators; we
arrested them and we brought them to justice. Case closed.'"
Mylroie continues: "The fact is, Ramzi Yousef was in the Philippines at the
same time as Nichols and visited the same city out of which the Oklahoma
City bombing was planned. I doubt that connection ever was pursued. Only the
people in charge of the investigation can explain their motives in failing
to focus public attention on this, but I can guess. Remember that before the
bombing [President Bill] Clinton was in deep political trouble but, by
dealing with it in the fashion he did, his kite rose and he was able to make
it look like the FBI did a splendid, knockdown investigation. It was kind of
like, 'Okay, Tim McVeigh is the mastermind; Terry Nichols assisted him;
don't ask any more questions.' That settled, with Clinton's tremendous
capacity to feel everyone's pain, he improved his own position."
But suppose the investigation had been done another way, says the terrorist
expert, "such as saying, 'Terry Nichols has all these suspicious contacts in
the Philippines, and we're gonna pursue them because it may be there's been
a foreign bombing on American soil.' More important is that there were other
Americans involved in the McVeigh/Nichols bombing, and they could be
involved today in other terrorist activities. But the FBI just isn't going
to recognize it. The kind of irresponsibility that I and others believe the
Clinton administration committed is so mind-boggling that many well-meaning
people just can't believe it, even though there is significant evidence - a
standard of probable cause. They find it hard to accept because it would
follow that the White House and the FBI were corrupt."
A recent Fox News program appeared to support Mylroie's contention of an FBI
cover-up. Paul Bedard of U.S. News and World Report announced on the Fox and
Friends show that "top defense officials say that in all the evidence used
against Timothy McVeigh to execute him in the Oklahoma City bombing, that he
had Iraqi telephone numbers on his person. He had information about Iraq
which has led some officials to think that he was an Iraqi agent and maybe
was doing Saddam Hussein's business in Oklahoma City."
Bedard further claimed that "the FBI says this is crazy, there is no
evidence. DOD [Department of Defense] comes back and says, 'That's because
you didn't tell us it was a cover-up.' The theory is that he [McVeigh] got
those numbers from some militia groups out west which he was associating
with. This led the FBI to tell the guys at the Pentagon, 'Go fight your
Bedard's "news" is news to those who conducted the investigation of the
Oklahoma City bombing. This startling information never was brought forward
at any time during the investigation or trial. At no point in the last six
years nor the $50 million investigation did such evidence ever surface or
did anyone connect McVeigh to an Iraqi agent, let alone turn up "Iraqi
telephone numbers" on his person or in his effects. Jones tells Insight that
"we spent considerable time and money investigating the connection between
Nichols and the Philippines and Iraq, but I certainly don't know anything
about McVeigh and Iraqi telephone numbers."
While Nichols' ties to the Iraqis are well-documented in numerous books and
independent investigations, such as the recent report of Oklahoma state Rep.
Charles Keys, he also had ties to other militant groups. For instance, he
attended meetings in Michigan of the Posse Comitatus, a militant, right-wing
organization founded by Col. William Potter Gale and headed by James
Wickstrom. Members of Posse Comitatus, according to legal documents released
prior to McVeigh's trial, have for years been in contact with Iraq and other
rogue Arab nations that share a hatred of Israel.
This fits with the Oklahoma City defense team's conclusions concerning
Dennis Mahon, long suspected of being a player in the conspiracy to bomb the
Murrah building. Mahon is described in Jones' book as "a virulent racist and
avowed enemy of the U.S. government" and is a high-ranking member of the
White Aryan Resistance (WAR) movement. The defense team reports that its
investigation shows "the Iraqi government has given Dennis Mahon thousands
of dollars over the past six years, and Mahon has been banned from entering
Canada and the United Kingdom and is classified by Interpol as an
international terrorist." The FBI did not bother to interview Mahon in
connection to the Oklahoma City bombing.
Beyond Nichols and Mahon, there are others with connections to domestic
militant groups sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalists. These include Larry
Wayne Harris, a licensed clinical and public-health microbiologist who was
arrested in Las Vegas in February 1998 for conspiring to "possess biological
agents and toxin, to wit: anthrax and anthrax precursors for use as a
weapon." At the time of Harris' arrest he was on probation for a 1995
conviction for fraudulently obtaining bubonic-plague toxins. According to
the 1998 Las Vegas FBI complaint, "Harris told a group about plans to place
a globe of bubonic-plague toxins in a New York City subway station, where it
would be broken by a passing subway train, causing hundreds of thousands of
Furthermore, in a 1996 letter to Aryan Nation founder Pastor Richard Butler,
the white-supremacist leader says Harris requested that Butler publish his
manuscript on germ warfare, in the preface of which Harris described an
encounter with an Iraqi who provided a lengthy commentary on biological
warfare and detailed the progress of the Iraqi program in the United States.
Butler did not publish the manuscript but confirms that, until his arrest in
1998, Harris had been a member of the Aryan Nation.
Whether any of these men or organizations are involved in or have knowledge
of the current flurry of anthrax attacks is anyone's guess, just as it is
anyone's guess whether anyone in law enforcement is so much as curious about
what these organizations and individuals might have to contribute to the
Still there are other clues pointing to possible domestic involvement in the
anthrax attacks that might be checked. Beyond the acknowledgment that all
the anthrax-infected letters have been mailed from within the United States,
the letters sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and NBC
Nightly News anchorman Tom Brokaw also share similarities to past domestic
For instance, federal law-enforcement officials have confirmed that the
handwriting on both the Daschle and Brokaw letters is the same, and the
media, FBI, and Daschle himself have referred to the handwriting as
"childlike scrawl." An identical reference to a "childlike scrawl" was made
by Associated Press reporter Russ Bynum in a June 1997 article updating the
investigation into a series of bombings around Atlanta. Authorities
"released a letter claiming responsibility for the Jan. 16 [abortion] clinic
blast and the Feb. 21 [gay] nightclub bombing [that] was written by the Army
of God," Bynum reported. "The letter is scrawled in childlike block
That letter spoke of the "ungodly communist regime in New York" and called
for "death to the New World Order," the nom de guerre "signature" of accused
abortion-clinic bomber Eric Rudolph.
In addition to the letters sent to Daschle and Brokaw, more than 100
abortion clinics also received letters containing white powder, of which a
handful made reference to the Army of God, an extremist antiabortion group.
The connection may be of some interest because the FBI charged fugitive
antiabortionist Rudolph for the Atlanta abortion clinic, gay nightclub and
Centennial Park bombings. The Army of God claimed responsibility for those
bombings, but it appears the FBI believes Rudolph himself uses the term the
"Army of God."
It is not known whether Rudolph is a member of the Aryan Nation, but it has
been reported widely that he lived in a trailer at the Christian Identity
Church of Israel in Schell City, Mo., and as a teen-ager participated in at
least one Aryan Nation ceremony. Furthermore, the FBI has produced a profile
of the alleged bomber that states: "Rudolph learned the radical ideology of
the Christian Identity Movement as a teen-ager and espouses the view that
the white race is God's chosen nation." The FBI maintains that Rudolph
appears to have been in contact with the Aryan Nation.
Butler of the Aryan Nation tells Insight any allegations that his
organization is involved in any of the current terrorism events are false.
According to Butler, "We don't have anything to do with the Iraqis. They're
not white people, but we're sympathetic to them. We're not into spreading
plagues, but I say more power to whoever [sic] is doing what he thinks is
best. That's between him and his God. But we've never trained with the
Iraqis or learned from them how to build bombs. For that you just have to go
on the Internet to get the information."
When asked if it was possible that a member of his organization could be
involved in the mailing of the deadly anthrax letters to take advantage of
the current crisis, Butler says he couldn't rule it out. "Biological is
something that is beyond most of us, but it could be a copycat thing or Eric
Rudolph or something like that." Laughing, Butler puts the situation in
perspective, "They had 500 FBI guys looking for him [Rudolph] in the hills
of North Carolina and now we've got an army looking for bin Laden. I guess
this shows that they like to make a target of one man at a time."
Affiliations don't necessarily make a connection or prove culpability, but
in the midst of the largest FBI investigation in history there are many who
are wondering why these groups and individuals have not been questioned.
They might have useful information.