The strange death of Dr. David M. Graham
ABOVE: Rick Turner, a private investigator in Shreveport, La., talks about how he helped Dr. David M. Graham conduct covert recordings of Mohammad Jamal Khan and Dr. Mohammed Habeeb Ahmed, and talks about the circumstances of Graham’s sudden illness and eventual death. Interviewed by 9-11 researcher Sander Hicks on in Shreveport on Sept. 27, 2007.
John Milkovich, a lawyer in Shreveport, La. who gave the eulogy for Dr. David M. Graham, talks about the life of his friend. Interviewed by 9-11 researcher Sander Hicks in Shreveport on Sept. 26, 2007.
So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
– Matthew 10: 26-28
LeeAnne Scruggs, a dental hygienist from Shreveport, La., had immediately set out on Memorial Day weekend of 2004 for Lufkin, Texas, roughly two hours to the southwest, when she learned that her boss, Dr. David M. Graham, was clinging to life in a hospital bed after being rushed by ambulance from a roadside gas station.
By the time Scruggs reached Graham’s bedside, the comatose dentist’s lungs, heart and kidneys were being sustained by a machine. Later, he would be transported by helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.
“I was upset,” she recalled. “I said, ‘Somebody tried to hurt you. Who tried to hurt you?’ He turned his head. He was in a coma for two weeks. It freaked me out.”
Later, Graham emerged from the coma and though he would never walk again, he regained full command of his mental faculties – a development his friends regard as nothing short of a miracle. Graham told Scruggs he believed the FBI poisoned him. On Sept. 17, 2006, Graham would die in a nursing home in Shreveport. He was 67.
Asked who was responsible for her boss’ poisoning, Scruggs said, “According to Dr. Graham, the FBI.”
The dentist’s son, 28-year-old David M. Graham, who is known by family and friends as Davey, said his father was treated for poisoning by ethylene glycol, an active ingredient in antifreeze. Graham spoke reluctantly to YES! Weekly.
“I know they treated it because he had all the symptoms of ethylene glycol poisoning,” Graham said of his father’s emergency medical treatment in Lufkin. “They hooked him up with a fifth of Everclear. It’s the standard treatment. He literally had a guy go out and get a fifth of Everclear, and put it on a bag. And it saved his life. If they hadn’t have done that, within an hour he would have been dead.”
Graham the son contests Scruggs’ assertion that his father held the FBI responsible for his sudden illness.
“He never strictly pointed the finger at the FBI,” Graham said. “My dad was a doctor and a scientist at heart, and he operated in logical means. He can’t point the finger at the FBI. Obviously they are one of the people that would have had a vested interest in him not being well.”
Graham’s suspicion that he was poisoned by some element of the US government stemmed from a report he’d made to a Shreveport FBI agent in November 2000 – more than three years earlier – concerning Mohammad Jamal Khan, a Pakistani businessman whose blond hair and pale skin contributed to a personal aura of mystery. The US government would later identify Khan as a candidate for prosecution for crimes related to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks by the time Graham fell ill. While visiting Khan’s apartment, Graham met two men he later identified as 9-11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Fayez Banihammad.
Graham, a dentist, amateur investigator and former radio journalist felt rebuffed by the FBI, and set about assembling a report that would grow to hundreds of pages. He covertly taped revealing conversations with Khan and another suspect to substantiate his claim that he had provided the FBI with credible information about a possible terrorist threat.
Initially, the report was compiled for the benefit of the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies. But after hearing comments by a second Shreveport FBI agent that the dentist interpreted as threats against himself, Graham began reaching out to elected officials, including Louisiana Congressman Jim McCrery. A letter from Georgia lawmaker Saxby Chambliss, then a member of the House of Representatives, indicates that he received the report from McCrery and passed it along to Porter Goss, then chair of the House Select Intelligence Committee and later director of the CIA.
In June 2002, Graham drove to Washington, DC so he could personally deliver the report to the Joint Select Intelligence Committee, which was tasked with investigating the causes of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Just before his departure, Scruggs said the house she rented to her boss was shot into. Graham reportedly made a harrowing journey to Washington, DC, zig-zagging along Interstate 20 to avoid interception, and making the final leg of the trip accompanied by a one-time lobbyist for the Christian Coalition after a stop in Charleston, SC.
Noting the circumstances of his trip to Washington, Graham reflected, “A heretofore fearless man began to fear – his own government.”
“He slept with an AK-47,” Scruggs said, recalling the last two years before Graham fell ill. “And he had a bag packed by the door. And he had a plan; if he had to leave, he was going to leave. I was always worried that we were all going to get killed. His clinic was going to get blown up, or my house that he was living in. He had several escape plans.”
When elected officials appeared to neglect the report, Graham decided to present it to an audience of last resort: the American people. Friends say Graham was on the verge of publishing The 9-11 Graham Report when his sudden illness put the citizen-investigator’s plans on hold in May 2004.
Speculation circulated around Shreveport – some of it advanced by the local FBI office – that Graham might have tried to commit suicide. Mike Sledge, a financial planner and writer who sometimes joined Graham for breakfast at George’s Grill, took the allegation directly to Graham.
“I said, ‘You know, David, some people think you did it,'” Sledge recalled recently. “He said, ‘I know they think that, but I know medicine. I know chemicals.’ He said, ‘If I was going to do it, I wouldn’t do this to myself’ – gesturing to himself lying in bed. He said, ‘They poisoned me.’
“There are a lot of people to this day that will say, A: He did it for attention; B: It was an accident or, C: someone else did it to him but we’ll never push through that dark curtain to find out who it is,” Sledge continued. “A lot of people are just kind of scared. They don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
Sledge said he does not believe that Graham poisoned himself. He also said that while parts of Graham’s story are difficult to corroborate, the fact that he spoke to friends for years about individuals he suspected of plotting terrorist attacks makes it clear that if the story was a hoax, it was not conjured up all at once.
“I’ve yet to really see a smoking gun,” said Sledge, who is the author of Soldier Dead: How We Recover, Identify, Bury and Honor Our Military Fallen, “but I don’t think there’s any doubt that he was asking questions that were making a lot of people nervous.”
Those who were close to the dentist and citizen-investigator – members of Shreveport Community Church, acquaintances who congregated at George’s Grill and lifelong friends – say that they do not know who killed Graham.
The Caddo Parish Coroner’s Office in Shreveport has no autopsy on file for Graham, and his death remains a mystery to those who were closest to him.
John Milkovich, a lawyer who worshiped with Graham at Shreveport Community Church – formerly First Assembly of God – and gave Graham’s eulogy, discounts the notion that his friend tried to commit suicide. A 2002 candidate for Congress, Milkovich often notes that Graham was a crusader. The two met in the early 1990s when Graham championed the cause of one of Milkovich’s clients, a Barksdale airman falsely convicted of murder, on his “Counterattack” radio show on KEEL 710 AM. Following an appellate judge’s decision to overturn airman James Monds’ conviction and the airman’s subsequent release from Angola State Penitentiary, the district attorney responsible for Monds’ conviction lost his election bid for state Supreme Court in 1994.
“With respect to the spurious notion that David tried to take his own life, that’s an absolute lie, and it’s repudiated by his behavior after he was poisoned,” Milkovich said. “He was motivated by the challenge and inspired by the issues inherent in 9-11.”
Others, including Milkovich, point out that Graham’s recovery following a near-fatal coma belie the notion that their friend did not want to live. Accounts of Graham’s Christian evangelism to visitors during his time in the hospital, his singing worship songs at the top of his lungs and his mental acuity do not seem consistent with the behavior of a man who harbored a death wish.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that there was foul play involved,” said Denny Duron, pastor at Shreveport Community Church. “He was on his way back to my daughter’s wedding. I don’t know who or how or what. He told me the story [about his investigation] three or four times. I enjoyed it because he was so into it. I knew he was going to publish this book. He just caught on to these guys. He felt compelled that there was something going on.”
Rick Turner, a private investigator who worked with Graham, said he also believes that Graham’s sudden illness resulted from foul play. Turner, a retired police chief who attended the National FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., had been hired by Graham to set up a video camera to record conversations between the dentist and Mohammad Jamal Khan, and between Graham and another individual alleged to have supported terrorists. Turner, like Graham and Milkovich, was involved in the successful effort to clear Barksdale airman James Monds.
Any suspicious death investigation would begin with the most obvious theory, and temporarily put aside the sensational suggestion that elements of the US government were responsible for bringing physical harm to one of its citizens. Friends mull over the possibility that business or personal problems played a role in Graham’s demise.
Graham was not successful at business even though he ran a respected dental practice. In 1984, according to his friend Vernon Moore, Graham went into a partnership to develop a horse-training track in nearby Bossier City that was sold four years later. Because Graham failed to anticipate capital gains taxes he ran afoul of the Internal Revenue Service, said another friend, Gordon Klausman.
Klausman said he believes Graham was on the verge of paying off the last $25,000 of his tax debt when he fell ill. In any case, money did not appear to be important to Graham.
“He once told me that he’d been a millionaire once or twice, maybe more than that,” Milkovich told mourners at Graham’s funeral. “He said he’d have, lose it, have it, lose it. But the perspective that we get from the people that knew him and loved him – LeeAnne, a professional dental hygienist, said [Graham was] the only dentist that she knew of – he never looked at the books to find out which patients were paying their bill, didn’t want someone’s ability to pay to affect the level of his care. You heard the story about his taking in a homeless man…. David didn’t have enough money at times to have a nice house or rent an apartment, but he was providing dental care to the poor.”
Notwithstanding an accident, the remaining possibility is that Graham personally affronted someone who decided to seek revenge. Information provided by friends points to the possibility that Graham may have generated some ill will, although the details falls short of suggesting a plausible motive or suspect. And that notion is contradicted by evidence that Graham cultivated many friendships.
“David never met a stranger,” is a refrain common among his close friends.
Graham himself reported in his manuscript that he had a friend who was prone to panic attacks. Sledge reported that he found Graham’s Land Rover with all four tires slashed in a parking lot near where Sledge kept an office. Graham told Sledge that he had been visiting a woman, and speculated that the vandalism was committed by a jealous boyfriend.
Graham also pursued a drinking life, which he kept discrete from his church friends. The Shreveport Police Department records Graham as having a driving while intoxicated offense in 1992. A friend who asked that he not be identified said Graham was occasionally known to put his hands on women with whom he was not acquainted at public places such as bars. On the last night before he fell ill, Graham had drinks with Ronald K. Smith at the Upper Deck on Lake Conroe near Houston. Because the wife of their friend, Gordon Klausman, was in the advanced stages of terminal breast cancer, Smith said, Graham was in a noticeably subdued state that night.
Graham’s son includes two of the men implicated in his father’s 9-11 investigation in his short list of suspects. Among the two is Mohammad Jamal Khan.
“Other people with motives – Jamal Khan,” Graham said. “He’s the obvious right? Dad turned him in. He went to his hearing. He knows that Dad turned him in.
“It could have been a random bad act,” he continued. “It could have been something he drank that he picked up at a convenience store. It could have been nothing related to this…. The fact is, without the hard information no one will ever know and it’s all circumstantial.”
If Graham’s illness was the result of foul play, the hit was all too perfect because the killer left no trace. Ultimately, friends and acquaintances have come up with no satisfactory answers.
After Graham fell ill, Scruggs went back to the dental clinic in Shreveport to look at herbs and vitamins her boss had been taking to try to figure out whether he’d had some kind of adverse reaction. She noticed Graham’s getaway bag which contained books, photographs and business cards related to his 9-11 investigation.
“I found a bottle of just your basic antifreeze and it looked like someone had just taken it on its side and jammed it on a carjack or something and punctured a hole in it,” Scruggs said. “And it had leaked all into the bottom of the bag, ruining – I was saying, ‘Okay, he’s poisoned with antifreeze. There’s antifreeze on all his good stuff.”
She recalled their conversation later when she visited Graham at the hospital in Houston.
“Did you put the antifreeze in your bag?” Scruggs asked.
“No,” Graham said.
“It had a hole in it and it was running all over your stuff.”
“I came up with the theory,” Scruggs would later say, “that somebody set him up to make him look like he did it to himself.”
“It is true that in March of 2000 David met a doctor at LSU,” Milkovich, the lawyer, told mourners at Graham’s funeral. “David was doing some research into the links between gum disease and heart attacks. And he met a doctor by the name of Mohammed Habeeb Ahmed at LSU Medical Center. And some months later – September of 2000 – he meets another individual by the name of Jamal Khan, who wanted to invest in David’s AdvaLife business.”
In September 2000, Graham put in a call to Khan, and suggested meeting at George’s Grill or several other public places to discuss his new business, a multi-level marketing enterprise to sell dental products. Khan insisted that they meet in private at a townhouse he rented in a gated complex called Eastwood on the Bayou. According to Graham’s report and Milkovich’s eulogy, Graham spotted three cardboard boxes on Khan’s kitchen floor bearing the names Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Fayez Banihammad. Already on guard by Khan’s discretion, Graham told friends that he wrote the names on his hand while Khan was in the bathroom. Early in their acquaintance, Khan suggested that Graham should abandon his plans for AdvaLife, and instead invest in a textile operation with Khan. Graham maintained the relationship under the pretext of discussing that possibility.
About two weeks later, Graham alleged, he was visiting Khan again when Ahmed walked into the townhouse with two young Arab men who were introduced as Nawaf al-Hazmi and Fayez Banihammad, medical doctors from Chicago. One glared at Graham, the dentist said, and the other was unable to carry on a conversation in English.
“And David begins to suspect that they might not be up to the right things,” Milkovich said. “He was friendly to them, as to everyone. But as a decorated war veteran, he had seen the enemy’s fire. As an investigative journalist, as a north Louisiana country boy, he says, ‘Something just ain’t right.'”
After al-Hazmi went upstairs to get some rest at the suggestion of his host, Khan is alleged to have uttered the words that sealed the dentist’s suspicions.
“Jamal Khan makes the remarkable statement in David Graham’s presence. He said, ‘My father has recently been to meet Osama bin Laden,'” Milkovich said. “By now we all know David Graham well enough to know he’s a patriot. And he will act. And he will do the right thing, as patriots do.”
Later, after the FBI contested the pertinence of the information provided by Graham, the dentist would covertly record videotaped conversations with Khan and Ahmed in an effort to establish that he had met with two future 9-11 hijackers in Shreveport in October 2000. On both occasions, private investigator Rick Turner set up a hidden camera in Graham’s dental office.
The two tapes, which were reviewed by YES! Weekly, partially corroborate Graham’s claim to have met Nawaf al-Hazmi and Fayez Banihammad in October 2000. On both tapes, Graham discusses two Arab visitors to Khan’s townhouse who were accompanied by Ahmed. On one tape, Ahmed responds “yes” when Graham asks him nearly two years later if one of the men’s names was Nawaf. And on the other tape Khan brings up the topic of Sept. 11, 2001 without prompting. “Those people is gone,” Khan says of his visitors. “What happened September eleventh, happened.”
Ahmed, a cardiologist, now practices medicine at Regional Medical Center of San Jose in California. Ahmed’s lawyer, Marwa Elzankaly, denied that her client has had any involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, and denied that he had any knowledge of individuals who may have been involved in the attacks.
In one of the videotapes, Khan tells Graham that he received $500 from Ahmed to take care of the two Arab visitors. He attempts to distance himself by referring to Ahmed and “those people” as extremists, and notes that Ahmed wanted him to return the money.
Ahmed also discusses the transaction on video.
“The problem with that guy is he talks too much,” Ahmed says of Khan, adding later: “I paid him five hundred dollars. I don’t know why.”
Ahmed describes his relationship with the two Arab visitors as circumstantial, suggesting that Khan was the first to make contact with them.
“He met them at the mosque. The guy came from Chicago. He needed a place to stay,” Ahmed says. “I shouldn’t have given him that money. You meet so many people. You don’t know. It’s hard.”
The 9-11 Commission Report, which critics fault as incomplete, identifies al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar – Saudi nationals born in Mecca – as being among four individuals personally chosen by Osama bin Laden to serve as suicide operatives. Meeting with 9-11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at the al-Matar complex near Afghanistan in the spring of 1999, bin Laden is reported to have said that “Mihdhar and Hazmi were so eager to participate in an operation against the United States that they had already obtained US visas.”
In October 2002, Gen. Michael Hayden, then director of the National Security Agency and now director of the CIA testified to members of the Joint Select Intelligence Committee investigating the causes of 9-11 that by early 2000, when al-Qaida met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, “we had the al-Hazmi brothers, Nawaf and Salim, as well as Khalid al-Mihdhar, in our sights. We knew of their association with al-Qaida, and we shared this information with the [intelligence] community.”
Soon after the Kuala Lumpur meeting, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar arrived in southern California. Apparently finding Los Angeles too urban for their tastes, the two received an offer of assistance from Omar al-Bayoumi, a resident of San Diego.
“Bayoumi is one of the several mysterious figures in 9-11 whose story has yet to be told,” said retired Sen. Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat who co-chaired the joint congressional inquiry. “What we know about Bayoumi is that he was an accountant by training, had worked for the Saudi Arabian civil aviation authority in Saudi Arabia. In the mid-nineties he was transferred to San Diego, and moved his employment from the civil aviation authority to a firm that had contracts with the civil aviation authority. He was what they referred to as a ghost employee who drew a salary but never showed up for work.
“The FBI in their files prior to 9-11 had referred to Bayoumi as a Saudi agent, and the assumption was that his job was to monitor Saudis – particularly college-aged Saudis – who were living in the San Diego area, to ascertain if there were any activities that would be threatening to the royal family.”
After Sept. 11, Graham said, the FBI concluded that Bayoumi was not an agent of Saudi intelligence. Graham said he believes the FBI has been involved in a post-9-11 cover-up of Saudi Arabia’s role in the attacks as a result of the Bush administration’s desire to avoid straining relations between the two countries.
“I think the fingerprints of the Saudi role are much deeper than has been disclosed,” he said, “and that a large reason for the failure to disclose is that the Bush administration went to extreme lengths to cover up Saudi involvement.”
Al-Bayoumi’s meeting with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Los Angeles in January 2000 has been a source of controversy. Al-Bayoumi had driven from San Diego to Los Angeles with a companion under the pretense of picking someone up at the airport. Instead, by all accounts, he stopped at the Saudi consulate and met with one of the political counselors there. Then he went to a Middle Eastern restaurant – one of roughly 130 in Los Angeles – where al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar happened to be having lunch.
“The federal investigatory agencies have described this as a coincidence, that Bayoumi came independently and just happened to be at the same place at the same time as two of the eventual nineteen hijackers,” Graham said. “Others would suggest that it was not a coincidence – that the whole purpose of the hour-long meeting at the consulate was to get Bayoumi prepared to begin to provide support for these two people.”
Graham counts himself in the latter category.
“The chances of the two groups of two meeting at the same Middle Eastern restaurant at the same time is in the millions to one,” he said. “I personally feel that there’s much more likelihood that at that meeting at the consular office Bayoumi was told to go to this particular restaurant where he would meet these two people, and then he would entice them to come to San Diego. And he did so. And about a week after the luncheon he sent his car up to Los Angeles, packed up their gear.”
When informed of Dr. David M. Graham’s alleged efforts to reach the Joint Select Intelligence Committee in the summer of 2002, the retired senator said he had not received a copy of the report. During the course of his review, he came across no information indicating that al-Hazmi and Banihammad were in Louisiana in October 2000. He said he believes they were in San Diego, but he would not rule out the possibility that they had traveled around the country at the time.
Graham said there are at least a dozen instances of missed opportunities to disrupt the al-Qaida plot to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, half of which involved the FBI.
One clearly took place in San Diego, when al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar boarded with Abdussattar Shaikh, a retired university professor and paid FBI informant.
The 9-11 Commission Report, whether deliberately or credulously, glides lightly over Shaikh’s role.
“The housemate who rented the room to Hazmi and Mihdhar during 2000 is an apparently law-abiding citizen with longstanding, friendly contacts among local police and FBI personnel,” the report concludes. “He did not see anything unusual enough in the behavior of Hazmi or Mihdhar to prompt him to report to his law enforcement contacts. Nor did those contacts ask him for information about his tenants/housemates.”
Graham’s committee was rebuffed in their efforts to interview Shaikh.
“We tried aggressively, including issuing the only involuntary subpoenas of our inquiry to get access to that professor, and the FBI would never make him available,” he said. “And when asked why, their answer was, because the White House had asked them not to make him available.”
Still later, if the report left behind by the late Dr. David M. Graham is accurate, the FBI missed another opportunity to thwart the 9-11 attacks.
Milkovich attested in Graham’s eulogy that the dentist spent an hour with the Shreveport FBI during a first meeting on Nov. 1, 2000, giving the agent the names al-Hazmi, al-Mihdhar and Banihammad; telling him that al-Hazmi and Banihammad were posing as doctors; relaying that Khan had been trying to gain access to Barksdale Air Force Base; and reporting that Khan’s father had recently met with bin Laden. As detailed in his report, Graham envisioned a truck loaded with explosives speeding through the gate outside the base, and destroying a handful of B-52 bombers and taking a dozen or more lives.
Agent Stephen Hayes confirmed in a recent interview that he had met with Graham before Sept. 11, 2001.
Hayes spoke to 9-11 researcher Sander Hicks at the Shreveport FBI office in late September with this reporter as a witness. Asked if Graham arranged the meeting to “discuss young Arabs,” Hayes responded, “It was to discuss an investment in a textile operation.”
After additional prodding, Hayes continued, “Are you saying that he knew all about 9-11 before it happened? I mean, I haven’t read all of his book.”
When Hicks asked if Khan was an FBI informant, the interview soon deteriorated. Hayes terminated the conversation by saying: “We’re done. Call security.”
Neither Hayes nor the Shreveport special agent in charge, Mike Kinder, responded to subsequent requests for comment on the allegation that Graham had provided the names of the three future 9-11 hijackers, or the allegation that he told the FBI in 2000 about Khan’s statement that his father had recently visited bin Laden.
Pat Villafranca, a special agent assigned to the Houston FBI field office, indicated that the information provided by Graham had not been useful in helping the agency thwart any planned terrorist attacks.
“Nine-eleven was the most thoroughly investigated event in the FBI’s history, and at no time was there any indication that Dr. Graham had any pertinent information,” she said. “The 9-11 Commission Report was as complete as it could get. That’s where you should go.”
While no records are available to confirm Dr. Graham’s claims, statements by his son corroborate that the Shreveport dentist possessed critical information that, if acted upon, could have prevented the 9-11 attacks.
“He did mention that he met somebody that said his father had met bin Laden and that he turned him in to the authorities,” David M. Graham said. “At the time I had no idea who bin Laden was, of course, so I didn’t think it was that significant. It was a few months before 9-11 [that Dr. Graham mentioned the incident to his son].
“What do I know about them? Probably more than I’d like to,” Graham said of the three hijackers his father allegedly met in October 2000. “I heard the story from Dad about thirty thousand times.” He said he didn’t remember the names Dr. Graham allegedly provided to the FBI except for one.
“He mentioned to me that one of the guys had ‘Khalid’ in it, which was a sire of – he raised thoroughbreds for years. He got really into the genealogy and Khalid was one of the names. That’s how he remembered that.”
Among the documents left behind by Graham is an unsigned affidavit dated May 28, 2004 – one day before he fell ill – swearing that he had told the truth to federal law enforcement agents and stating his willingness to testify before any court, tribunal or military commission.
“He was nosy; he had a very good mind and a good sense for when things weren’t right,” said Turner, the private investigator. “His comment was that he wanted to make sure all his Is were dotted and his Ts were crossed. A seasoned investigator would do that. I would class Dr. Graham as a seasoned investigator. He wanted to make sure he had every aspect covered.”
A month after Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar took part in the hijacking of Flight 77, which struck the Pentagon, and Fayez Banihammad helped hijack United 175, which flew into the south tower of the World Trade Center, federal authorities detained Mohammad Jamal Khan on unrelated charges.
Khan was arrested in east Texas in October 2001 for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person since the government alleged that he was in the country unlawfully after his visa expired in 1998. In February 2002, a federal indictment for structuring a financial transaction to evade reporting requirements was added. The government alleged that Khan had wired $9,999 to Pakistan as part of a total sum of $50,000 in January 1997 on behalf of a Pakistani storeowner in Shreveport.
That April, in exchange for Khan’s guilty plea, the government agreed to dismiss charges. Khan was fined $100 and sentenced to time served.
The government prosecutors insisted on a curious condition to the plea agreement: “In no case does the [government] agree that there will be no prosecution of the defendant for any crimes concerning the hijacking of any airline or attack on any building or deaths that occurred on or about September 11, 2001. The United States Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana is simply not aware of the involvement of the defendant in these crimes at this time.”
Calls to the US Attorney’s office for the western district of Louisiana to inquire about the government’s reason for insisting on the inclusion of the statement were not returned.
Rebecca L. Hudsmith, the federal public defender who was appointed to represent Khan, said she remains unclear about why the government insisted on the condition, but believes it reflects a mood of general hysteria in the months after Sept. 11, a time when any Muslim immigrant was considered a terrorist suspect.
“If the federal government really thought Jamal Khan was involved, why didn’t they press charges?” she asked. “Why didn’t they detain him and hold him as an enemy combatant?”
“I fought hard for Jamal Khan,” Hudsmith continued. “The government’s testimony raised all kinds of questions about the hysteria surrounding 9-11. I’d like to think that it was my good lawyering that got the charges dropped. Give me a little credit. I said, ‘You’re being hysterical.’ My guess is that the government was suspicious but couldn’t prove anything. Maybe they talked to Graham and believed him. Maybe they just wanted to be able to say they didn’t overlook anything.”
Whether the outcome of the case resulted from the hard work of a dedicated public defender or a government deal to keep the defendant quiet, the covert videotape made by David M. Graham conveys the impression that Khan believed he enjoyed some measure of protection.
Explaining why he wasn’t concerned about prosecution for having two wives – one in Pakistan and one in Texas – he laughs and tells Graham: “FBI – they tried to convict me of that, but they had no chance because I have a lot of people back-up in Washington.”
“If something comes up,” Khan elaborates, “political friends, American friends, my ambassador there.” In the videotape, Khan says that he comes from an important family in Pakistan that owns farms and factories.
Khan’s bravado contrasted with Graham’s increasing sense of vulnerability, as a result of what he perceived as uneven and unsympathetic treatment by the Shreveport FBI.
“Initially, my reporting relationship with the FBI was businesslike,” Graham wrote in his unpublished manuscript. “But after 9-11 and my re-reporting the whole account, they suddenly became distant, almost adversarial. Several months later, beginning in January 2002, their attitude vacillated from friendly to arrogant, seemingly governed by the gravity of my updated information.”
He added: “While never verbally hearing the words, my observations told me that the FBI preferred me to back off this case.”
Vernon Moore, a longtime friend who has spent part of his career in close proximity to power and influence, said he advised Graham to comply with the FBI’s wishes. A 65-year-old oil consultant, Moore holds a resume that lists six years of employment with George HW Bush’s Zapata Offshore Oil Co. – including a stint in the mid-1970s off the coast of the United Arab Emirates that coincided with Bush’s appointment as director of central intelligence. Moore said he has come to believe that the FBI was covering for al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar.
“It upset David, and then when David discusses it with me a couple times and said, ‘What would you do?’ I told him: ‘I would do what they say,'” Moore recalled. “I said, ‘David, you can’t win.’ In fact, David got mad at me and said, ‘All you are – well you’re just one of ’em.’ I said, ‘I’m just telling you. You can’t win, David.'”
By May 2002, Graham had decided to bypass the FBI. He drove east in the late spring and, according to his report, stayed overnight with Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition, and her husband in Charleston, SC. From there, he reportedly traveled with Tracy Ammons, one-time chief lobbyist for the Christian Coalition, to Washington. (Ammons has since left the Christian Coalition following a nasty divorce with Combs’ daughter, Michele, who serves as the national organization’s communications director).
On June 4, 2002, Graham reports, he met Steven A. Cash, counsel for the Joint Select Intelligence Committee. After a 30-minute conversation, Cash reportedly accepted the report. Cash, who is now employed with the global business consulting firm PRTM, declined to comment on the record for this story.
Other Washington officials and power brokers have also distanced themselves from Graham.
“David attended one Road to Victory Conference with thousands of other people,” Michele Combs said. “He never really got involved with the Christian Coalition. I would not connect him with the Christian Coalition.”
Brenda O’Brock, a friend from Graham’s church who had planned to go into business with him, said Roberta Combs scoffed at Graham’s investigation.
“I don’t think she was close enough to it,” O’Brock said. “When he was poisoned we were calling the Christian Coalition to ask them to pray for him. She said, ‘Brenda, this just doesn’t add up.'”
About half a dozen US lawmakers, including Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Rep. Jim McCrery, declined to have staff members respond to an inquiry for this story into their possible role as recipients of the report. Retired Sen. Bob Graham, who said he did not see the report, was alone among lawmakers in agreeing to be interviewed for this story.
Meanwhile, in early 2004 Khan was reportedly struggling to make a living by selling cars. He had publicly converted to Christianity and was attending a Baptist church east of Shreveport.
A hearing had been scheduled after federal authorities alleged Khan violated the terms of his supervised release.
“The last of what I heard is that he left for Pakistan,” said the Rev. Tim Booth, pastor of Haughton Baptist Temple. “I think there were some marshals that were looking for him. I went to a hearing for him that he was supposed to be at and he didn’t show up.”
By all reports, Graham was determined to publish his report of alleged terrorist planning in Shreveport.
“David was a headstrong person,” Moore said. “And he was determined to do the book deal. And he spent a lot of time on it. And at that time that was his life, you know. It was a heck of a story. And [the FBI] told him not to. And he was going to do it regardless. But – it never got off the ground, put it that way.”
In the last weeks of May, Turner recalled, Graham called him and said, “I need another ten copies of those tapes…. Things are heating up.” Three days before Graham was poisoned, he canceled a dental appointment with Turner’s daughter.
“He had to make an unexpected trip to Houston,” Turner said.
Gordon Klausman, a lifelong friend, said he was uncertain whether Graham arrived at his home in Willis, Texas near Lake Conroe on a Wednesday or a Friday. He said Graham called his brother, John K. Graham, who is an associate rector at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, but the two were unable to get together. Klausman said he thought Graham was expecting some phone calls, but he never knew what about. Richard and Tanya Wilkes, friends in the Shreveport area who were helping with the manuscript, said they received a call from Graham in Texas instructing them to hold up publication so he could add a quarter page to the report.
When Graham arrived in Willis, he and Klausman were joined by Ronald K. Smith, a friend of Klausman’s whom Graham had not previously met.
“Gordy’s wife was in the hospital,” Smith said. “She was failing. It was pretty obvious that she wasn’t going to last. Gordy said, ‘Let’s go to Ron’s house.’ Nobody was in a good mood, because of Gordy’s wife. Gordy had to go back to the hospital.”
David had already visited Klausman’s wife and said his goodbye; he didn’t want to go back. Smith invited Graham to stay with him. Around 6 p.m. on May 28, Smith said he suggested to Graham that they go to the Upper Deck, a lakeside bar and restaurant. He said they ate potato skins, but didn’t recall whether they drank bottled beer or cocktails.
Smith was quick to state that although he had been a retired auxiliary member of the Coast Guard at the time of his meeting with Graham, it was merely coincidental that the Coast Guard has recently been absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security.
“He and I were there – not alone – two hours sitting at the bar,” Smith said. “There might have been a wedding…. David told me he thought he had something regarding 9-11. I said, ‘Well shit, why would you want to put effort into this?’ He stands up at the bar and pulls out this thing. It was photos of the guys in 9-11. ‘This one was a patient of mine. This one wanted to go into business with me.’ I said, ‘Holy shmoly! This guy has got some stuff.'”
Smith said he warned Graham to be careful.
“I told him: ‘If you are stepping on people’s toes, you better be careful because nobody’s bulletproof,'” he said. “As far as he went, it was too late. I almost hesitated to give him my card, but I had agreed that I would drive Gordon up to Shreveport to get away when Susie died.”
Klausman, who was not invited to his friend’s funeral, said he remains mystified about the cause of Graham’s sudden illness.
“If he wasn’t with me, he was with Ron,” Klausman said. “They were eating the same things. They were drinking the same thing…. I thought, if someone’s stalking him, maybe somebody put something in his car. I asked the neighbors because we’re a close-knit group, and they said, no, they didn’t see anything.”
Klausman, a supporter of President Bush and the war in Iraq, rejects any notion that Graham was hurt because he was exposing a cover-up of US government complicity in the 9-11 attacks.
“David did not believe 9-11 was an inside job,” he said. “My personal belief is it got personal, and it got to be ‘cover your ass.'”
“I keep wondering, ‘Why in the world?'” he continued. “I wanted to get hold of Davey and say, ‘What happened?’ I would see things on the TV that were given validity that were half of what David had been talking about.”
Within a week of Graham’s sudden illness, KTBS 3 News in Shreveport posted a web story reporting that federal authorities in Shreveport said they didn’t know “if there is anything sinister to Graham’s illness, or if it was a suicide attempt or connected to Graham’s personal or business life.” Reporter Gerry May said recently that it was his FBI source in Shreveport, not he, who introduced the notion of suicide.
Asked why the FBI suggested that Graham might have committed suicide, Agent Hayes asked: “Did you visit where his office was? His secretary had to remind him to lock up his office at night. Did you know he lived upstairs from his office? Did you look into Dr. Graham’s background to see if he had any mental problems?”
The FBI also apparently disparaged Graham to the doctors that provided his emergency care in Lufkin.
“They had just told us about thirty minutes prior that he had about a half percent chance of living,” David M. Graham said of his father. “And his cardiologist comes in screaming to the nurses about how he doesn’t think it’s right that he’s spending so much time on this guy that the FBI thinks is just nuts.”
Shortly after Graham’s sudden illness, Klausman was interviewed by the Houston FBI. He was surprised when the agents peppered him with questions about Graham’s 9-11 research.
“I found that very strange,” Klausman said. “I was expecting, ‘What happened to him?’ What he did that night, what might have been the possibility of him ingesting some substance?”
Villafranca, the special agent in Houston FBI, said the interview was not part of an official investigation. “An interview was conducted,” she said. “Because it never became part of a case or a prosecution that is not public record.”
David M. Graham said it had been his impression that the FBI was considering opening an investigation into the circumstances of his father’s sudden illness.
“I spoke with one of the FBI guys [about] who would want to hurt Dad, where would I look,” Graham said. “He asked me a lot about Dad’s 9-11 story. I told him as much as I knew. Now that you mention it, he did tell me that they were going to open an investigation because he was actually the liaison between the FBI office and Homeland Security. I don’t know the guy’s name. I can’t remember. He did say they were going to open an FBI investigation. If they didn’t, I guess they didn’t see that that needed to be done.
“I never heard a word back from them again,” he added.
Turner, the Shreveport private investigator, indicated a willingness to stake his reputation on Graham’s investigative work. “Dr. Graham was acting in the best interests of the citizens of the United States,” he said. “We have a major military facility here, and we need more people like that here, that will stand up and be counted so to speak.”
At the funeral, Milkovich tried to console Graham’s son.
“All of the machinery of any government, foreign or domestic, any lawyer, any council, any military, none of them can protect them from God’s judgment,” Milkovich said. “God saw what happened. He’s got it on video camera, Davey. And God’s gonna take care of it. That’s been our prayer. God will do justice for our friend.”
Then he turned to Shakespeare as he neared the conclusion of his eulogy.
“In Shakespeare’s famous play, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony has lost a dear friend,” Milkovich said. “He asks to eulogize his dear friend, Julius Caesar with these words: ‘That’s all I seek, and moreover that I may produce his body to the marketplace and in the pulpit as become a friend and speak in the order of his funeral.’
“And this is what Marc Antony had to say about Julius Caesar,” Milkovich continued. “He said: ‘It is not meet that you know how Caesar loved you. You are not wood, you are not stones, but men. And being men, hearing the will of Caesar towards you, it will inflame you, will make you mad.’ Antony understood that when the people understood how much Julius Caesar loved his country and his nation, that it would raise passion.”
And so it would be, Milkovich prayed, with Dr. David M. Graham.
“If only he had consented to keep silent before 9-11, not to report the suspicious men, it would have been better for him, but worse for the nation,” he said. “If only he had consented to keep his mouth closed after 9-11, it would have been better for him but worse for the nation. If only he hadn’t written a book about his investigation, it would have been better for him, but worse for the nation. David fought with the recognition of consequences. He knew and he mentioned to others that what he was doing someday might get him hurt or worse. He understood the consequences. But he also understood the consequences of saying nothing and remaining silent in a republic, a constitutional democracy that values truth and honors freedom. And the two go hand in hand. Truth, freedom and a third, justice – they go together.”
Reported with Sander Hicks
To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.