On Sunday, the New York Times breathlessly reported on its front page (above the fold, no less) that, "The Bush administration has begun to monitor Iraqis in the United States in an effort to identify potential domestic terrorist threats posed by sympathizers of the Baghdad regime." According to the Times, "a large number of government agencies are part of the new operation, including the Pentagon, the F.B.I., the Central Intelligence Agency, the immigration service, the State Department and the National Security Agency...."
For those of us who have long been worried about the threat posed in this country by Iraqi intelligence operatives and their allies, it is heartening to hear an unnamed "senior government official" cited as saying that, "This is the largest and most aggressive program like this we've ever had. We think we know who most of the bad guys are, but we are going to be very proactive here and not take any chances." Unfortunately, it appears that at least some of the agencies charged with addressing the threat posed by Saddam's operatives and their sympathizers fail utterly to comprehend the challenge the targeted groups and individuals constitute. For example, the Times reports that "according to the CIA," there is no evidence that Iraq has engaged in terrorist activity against the United States" since 1993, when Iraqi agents tried to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush in Kuwait. This statement is deeply disturbing. It not only suggests a lack of appreciation of the present danger. It also evinces an obliviousness to the historical record that raises a question as to whether the existing intelligence and law enforcement agencies are up to the task at hand.
That record includes the impressive investigative research conducted by Jayna Davis, a former reporter with Oklahoma City's KFOR television station. Since the Murrah Building was destroyed in April 1995, Ms. Davis has been tirelessly collecting, sifting and analyzing evidence ( including some 80 pages of affidavits from more than twenty eyewitnesses and 2000 supporting documents) of precisely the sort that the CIA says does not exist. Among Ms. Davis' more telling discoveries are the following: o While Timothy McVeigh, the man executed for his role in the bombing, was widely portrayed as no more than a disgruntled Army veteran, he expressed to friends and at least once publicly (on "60 Minutes") his sympathy for Middle Eastern peoples he felt were victimized by American foreign policy. Shortly after McVeigh's arrest, one of his acquaintances from the military told ABC's "Prime Time Live" that "Tim always wanted to become a mercenary" preferably for a Mideast country because they "paid the best." [o On March 3, 1995, the House of Representatives' Terrorism Task Force issued a warning that Mideast terrorists were planning attacks on the "heart of the U.S.," identifying twelve cities as potential targets, including Oklahoma City. It reported that the terrorists had recruited two "lily whites" -- individuals with no criminal history or obvious connections to the perpetrating organization -- to carry out the bombing of an American federal building.] o Six months prior to the bombing, an Oklahoma City-based Palestinian immigrant who had previously served time for a felony fraud conviction, hired a handful of former Iraqi soldiers to do maintenance work on some of the $4 million in rental property he owned. American co-workers reported their horror as these soldiers "expressed prideful excitement" at initial reports that Islamic extremists had taken credit for the Murrah bombing and "exuberently pledged their allegiance to Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein." Witnesses have put McVeigh and his convicted co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, in the company of these soldiers on one or more occasions. o Importantly, Ms. Davis has determined that one of these soldiers, Hussain Alhussaini, closely matches the composite picture of "John Doe 2" drawn on the basis of numerous eye-witnesses who claim to have seen such a heavy-set, dark-complexioned Middle Eastern man: in the Ryder truck used to destroy the Murrah Building minutes before the attack; putting diesel fuel -- which, together with fertilizer, powered the explosion -- into the vehicle that morning, (even though the truck's own engine used unleaded fuel); at the scene of the crime getting out of the truck seconds before it blew up; and/or fleeing the site in a brown Chevy pickup. Other witnesses had previously seen such a truck parked at the Palestinian's real estate offices before the attack. o Ms. Davis cites a former Chief of Human Intelligence for the Defense Intelligence Agency as saying that Alhussaini wears a military tattoo that suggests he had served in Saddam's trusted Republican Guard and worked in Unit 999, "an elite group based in Salman Pak southeast of Baghdad and...tasked with clandestine operations at home and abroad." Interestingly, after his time in Oklahoma City, Alhussaini found employment at Logan Airport in Boston -- the take-off point of three of the four aircraft hijacked on 9/11. o Nichols had ties to Philippine locales known to be frequented by Middle Eastern terrorists. According to one of the founders of the Filipino Abu Sayyaf terror organization, Edwin Angeles, Nichols even met in the early 1990s with Ramzi Youssef -- the mastermind of the World Trade Center in 1993 and brains behind a scheme to blow-up twelve U.S. airliners over the Pacific. (Iraq expert Dr. Laurie Mylroie has long contended that Youssef was an agent of Iraqi intelligence, implicating Saddam in the first attempt to take down the twin towers.)
This sampling does not begin to do justice to the work done by the intrepid Jayna Davis. Suffice it to say that there is evidence of Iraqi involvement in at least one and perhaps all three of most deadly terrorist attacks in the United States to date. It may or may not prove dispositive, but it can no longer safely be ignored. (To his credit, Senator Arlen Specter, stunned by the difficulty Ms. Davis has had getting government agencies to address her findings, has recently promised an investigation into the matter. Such an effort should be a case study as well for those who believe a new U.S. domestic intelligence agency, perhaps modeled after Britain's famed MI-5, is required.) If the new Iraqi surveillance effort is indeed going to be "aggressive," it would do well to start with the Davis files -- especially since she believes some of the Iraqi soldiers she has identified are still at large in Oklahoma City.
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., is President of the Center for Security Policy, a TownHall.com member organization.