EDITOR’S NOTE: The article below was originally published Sept. 30, 2009. I share it again today with only minor modifications and the addition of some new graphics as I continue my six years of coverage on this earthshaking event that changed the lives of so many in Oklahoma, the state where I was born and raised.
“Someday, somewhere, somebody is going to have the guts to release that stuff,” said David P. Schippers, speaking to me by phone from his office in downtown Chicago Tuesday afternoon.
The “stuff” to which Schippers was referring is surveillance-camera footage recorded in downtown Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19, 1995, prior to the truck-bomb explosion that killed 168 people at 9:02 a.m. Central. It’s the same footage the FBI failed to release along with post-blast footage in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue and highlighted in a NewsOK.com article published Sunday.
Who is David P. Schippers?
If you recognize his name, chances are it’s because of the notoriety he received while serving as chief investigative counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee during the Clinton Impeachment Hearings and as manager of the proceedings that followed in the U.S. Senate. Likewise, it could be that you know him as the author of the book, “SELLOUT: The Inside Story of President Clinton’s Impeachment.”
I was introduced to the 70-something Chicago-based attorney by Jayna Davis, author of the book, The Third Terrorist, which chronicled her decade-long investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing and became a New York Times Best Seller. Some 30 years his junior, Davis considers Schippers a close personal friend and something of a father figure. Moreover, she trusts and respects him — so much so, in fact, that she had him write the foreword for her book.
Barely 24 hours after publishing a series of three copyrighted posts containing never-before-published information about Davis’ investigation of the bombing, I had the opportunity to interview Schipper for almost an hour. And he did not disappoint.
I began the interview by asking Schippers why no one had pursued Hussain Al-Hussaini, the Iraqi native Davis identified in her book as the third terrorist who, along with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, carried out the attack?
“My honest opinion is that the original shot was made by (President Bill) Clinton in 1995,” he explained. “Remember, it was 1995, and he had lost the congress — both houses of Congress — and people were saying he would never get reelected, and his numbers were way the hell down.
“If he had had another attack against the United States, he would have had to act, and he didn’t do a damn thing on the first Twin Towers bombing,” he continued. “Clinton said, ‘Let’s not overreact,’ and, at that time, we had the Department of Justice with (Janet) Reno in there who was completely politicized, and I think (Clinton) just decided we’re not going to do it.”
Schippers continued, “riding” a bipartisan train of thought.
“Now, why didn’t the (President George W.) Bush people do it?” he asked rhetorically. “That’s the one that really bothered me. We deliberately waited until Reno and that gang got out of the administration and then Bush came in.”
Unfortunately, no one ever bit on the information Schippers said a president could have used as a legitimate reason to invade Iraq, and he blames it on a pact between the Bushes and Clintons — something akin to the mutually-assured destruction mindset that prevailed during the Cold War between Russia and the United States.
“I’m convinced that both sides know that if they blow the other up, they’re both going to get it,” he said.
He didn’t stop there.
“Now, why aren’t these people (in the Obama Administration) doing anything about it?” he asked. “Because they’re not doing a (expletive) thing about anything!”
‘The Unedited Versions are Somewhere’
Asked whether he thinks anyone still has copies of the pre-explosion surveillance-camera videotapes, he said, “The answer is ‘yes.’”
“I maintain that those tapes were edited, and there’s no question about it,” he said, referring to the tapes the FBI released to Trentadue. “They were edited. That means the unedited versions are somewhere, and that’s the key. I think the FBI still has all of those tapes, and I don’t think we’re ever going to see ‘em.”
Why? He explained without prompting.
“I’ve lost all faith in the Department of Justice,” he said. “I’ve lost all faith in anything in Washington.”
Proof in a Wanted Poster?
Amidst a pause, Schippers turned the table on the interviewer and asked how many times I had seen sketches of suspects on wanted posters. I told him I had seen them often.
Then he asked, “Have you ever seen a profile?” I said I had not, and he continued.
“Do you know why the drawing of the guy was a profile? Because they took it off the tape,” he explained. “That’s where it came from. You never see a profile. It’s always a front view.”
Except in this case.
Schippers said he talked to the people in Oklahoma City who gave the FBI information and that there is no question in his mind — and in Jayna’s mind — that the side view of Hussain Al-Hussaini bears a more-than-striking resemblance to the profile sketch of John Doe 2.
It’s likely, according to Davis’ law enforcement sources who she cannot name in order to protect them, the sketch was taken from the missing surveillance tape footage.
“Why would you edit tapes unless there was something on there that’s gonna blow you sky high?” he asked, his voice animated over the phone line. “What’s on there, on those tapes that they showed, that they gave this guy? It was either Hussain Al-Hussaini — he was the passenger — or just a Ryder truck with unidentified people in it.
“But that picture with the side view of him was so obvious that it was taken from the passenger side and that was him sitting in the front seat.”
The One Thing He Wanted to Share
Asked what one thing he would share with the world about the matter of the missing pre-attack surveillance-camera footage from downtown OKC, Schippers pulled no punches.
“It would be that there is absolutely no question that those tapes existed and, if those tapes ever came forward, they would show conclusively that there was an Iraqi connection to the bombing and that there was an Iraqi sitting in the passenger seat of that truck as it pulled up to the Murrah building and that there was an Iraqi who jumped out with McVeigh and ran like hell.
“There’s a reason they’re not releasing it,” he continued. “There were two cameras in one place. They released (footage from) one that shows a hazy picture of a Ryder truck going by. The other one would have been in such a position as to show everything about it — who’s in the front seat, the whole works. And that’s the one that hasn’t surfaced.”
While his high-profile work on Capitol Hill was important, Schippers said he would “without question” prefer to be remembered for his work with Davis rather than his involvement with the impeachment of a president.
“I’d take Jayna anytime.”
Be sure to read Flashback: Best-Selling Author, Investigative Journalist Breaks Silence About OKC Bombing Videotapes, and other articles in my coverage of the little-publicized Oklahoma City Bombing Trial going on NOW in federal court in Salt Lake City. Also, please check out my second nonfiction book, The Clapper Memo, which Schippers endorsed as “perhaps the most thorough investigative reporting I have encountered in years.“
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