It’s Time We Get Answers About the FBI’s Involvement In the OKC Bombing

This past week marked the 27th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. As the worst terrorist act committed on U.S. soil at the time, we all know the reported facts of the horrific event well: a 27-year-old Desert Storm-vet, Timothy McVeigh, acting with minimal help from Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier, detonated a 7,000-pound fertilizer bomb from a parked Ryder truck outside the federal Alfred P. Murrah building, killing 168 people, 19 of them children.

Two years later, in 1997, McVeigh was convicted of “Using a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death,” among other federal charges. For a time, he was held on the same cell block as the Unabomber and WTC-bomber Ramzi Yousef (who tried to convert him to Islam), before being put to death by lethal injection in 2001.

There is much we still don’t know about the case, however. Thanks to years of heroic work by people like Salt Lake City-based attorney Jesse Trentadue, writer and researcher J.M. Berger, and independent investigative reporter Wendy S. Painting, the American public is slowly learning more and more key (and disturbing) facts about the case. Facts involving the FBI’s possible incitement of McVeigh and the subsequent cover-up of these facts by Newsweek magazine.

FBI incitement is more topical than ever, of course. Reports of the FBI being involved in Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer’s kidnapping plot and of FBI agents and assets being involved in the January 6th events has collapsed whatever level of trust the public had with federal law enforcement, not to mention the mainstream media whose related coverage rarely digs deeper than the government’s official line.

What other crimes have been committed or conspiracies planned, the public wonders, where the initial momentum was actually created the FBI? How much have FBI infiltrators pushed constitutionally protected “heated talk” into the unlawful planning and execution of deadly crimes? To what extent has the FBI been, as the saying goes, arsonists posing as firefighters? These are especially important questions when it comes to the OKC bombing.

Operation PATCON

As most know, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have conducted surveillance and infiltration operations against right-wing groups for decades. Chief among them being the “Patriotic Conspiracy” or “PATCON” operation. Despite its official ending in late 1993 (although some say it was carried forward in some form), PATCON only became public in 2007 thanks to a public records request.

Partly citing internal FBI documents, Painting in her explosive 2016 book about PATCON and McVeigh, describes how the former’s secret operatives and paid informers “were given license to engage in provocateur activities and instructed to make known their willingness to commit violence and advocate for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.”1P. 362 She quotes one informer who went public about the operation, John Matthews, saying he realized that although initially told “the objective was to infiltrate and monitor,” he would later come to understand that its real objective was to “to infiltrate and incite.”2P. 679 This, says Matthews, included providing “the ideas, detailed instructions, and even live C4 explosives and automatic weapons to targeted individuals as a way of entrapping them into terrorist plots, so the FBI could capitalize on foiled and actualized plots.”3Ibid. According to Trentadue, through PATCON, the FBI was actually trying to sow a full-on rebellion.

While the FBI has indeed infiltrated hard-left and Islamic groups in the past, the extent and complete failure of the FBI’s overreach when it comes to right-wing groups (which diversely included pro-gun, ultra-libertarian, survivalist, and white racist or advocacy groups) makes this area especially alarming. For instance, there was just one minor conviction over stolen military night-vision goggles that was ever made through PATCON, and it relied on army, not FBI, intelligence. As Oklahoma City journalist J.D. Cash said about PATCON and certain precursor programs of the 1980s, “there isn’t a neo-Nazi or racist group in the country that isn’t operationally controlled by the FBI.” This seems to concur with what a former young Aryan Nation-member told Painting for her book4P. 352:

It was well known that at any Aryan Nation event, in a crowd of 300 people, there’d be at least 30 undercover federal agents in attendance to monitor us, and another third of the crowd were informants…It was rampant, just like cops at a Grateful Dead show trying to sell people LSD.

One of those assets was Vietnam War veteran John Matthews. Up until 1986, the government had been supporting U.S. civilian groups conducting operations in Nicaragua for anti-communist contra forces; a cause which Matthews chose to serve. When such efforts turned into a political scandal, however, the government broke-off ties with these groups and refused to help its members. This included people like Matthews’ fellow soldier Tom Posey who would later be indicted on weapons-smuggling charges.5(“Toward the end of the Contra War, Matthews had been one of Posey’s lieutenants, traveling with him around the U.S., helping him raise money, and later, joining him in Nicaragua, where Posey and his fellow soldiers of fortune offered aid, weapons and training to the Contras.”) While he beat the rap, Posey felt cheated and shifted his efforts to anti-U.S. government organizing. When he revealed plans to break into a federal armory, however, Matthews contacted the FBI, establishing a relationship with law enforcement that led him to infiltrate over 20 militia, libertarian, gun-rights, and racist groups over a 20-year period.

Matthews, who has long been suffering from an Agent-Orange-related cancer, is key to what understanding we have about PATCON’s connection to the OKC bombing. In the early nineties, Matthews was assigned to attend a PATCON-infiltrated, militia-training camp in Texas. While there, he met Timothy McVeigh. After the bombing and when McVeigh was arrested, Matthews immediately recognized him and called his FBI handler, Don Jarrett, to tell him this was the same man he saw at the Texas training camp. Jarrett assured Matthews they knew this already and told him to “forget about it.”

In interviews with Painting, Matthews says he was disturbed by this for a few reasons, a major one being, she paraphrases, that “if they were watching McVeigh and friends back then, they had likely continued watching them throughout the bombing plot.”6P. 680 “I felt Don knew more about this,” he said elsewhere.

What other items he knew may have been what came out later in Trentadue’s public records suit against the FBI. Dozens of witnesses to the bombing had apparently reported to police and the FBI they had seen someone in the passenger side of McVeigh’s truck while parked outside the Murrah building. Other witnesses reported seeing McVeigh with several people at his motel the night before, including someone sitting at some point behind the wheel of the truck—And Nichols himself (who was in Kansas when the bombing took place) told journalists in 2007 that FBI provocateurs had lent their support to McVeigh’s plans.7Berger’s piece: https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/resrep10506.pdf (Page 21: “Nichols today claims the entire bombing was directed by the FBI.”)

Also disturbingly, using a fertilizer truck to blow up a federal building had been an idea Matthews had actually heard a few times before, including from suspected FBI infiltrators. For instance, he had heard it raised by two militia members he met who later became part of a busted plot to rob a bank, but who never got arrested, let alone jailed for it.

All of this would seem to point to the OKC bombing being something like 2010’s Operation Fast and Furious, in which the FBI intentionally put guns into the hands of criminals, but failed to close the loop leading to a border agent being killed by a Mexican cartel. Was OKC a similar ‘gunwalking case gone awry’? Only one, far, far deadlier? Someone who McVeigh contacted two weeks before the bombing, Andy Strassmeir, later told a journalist it is possible the FBI was “going to arrest McVeigh at the site with the bomb in hand, but he didn’t come at the right time.” “[M]aybe he changed the time”, he said, “you never know with people who are so unreliable.”8P. 63

Newsweek’s Complicity

In 2011, wishing to tell his story before he died, Matthews was put in touch with former Associated Press-writer and then-editor of Newsweek, John Solomon. At the time, Newsweek was still foremost in the U.S. media field, coming in second in circulation only to Time magazine. It was an important and respected news source. Over months, Solomon and article-author Ross Schneiderman worked with Matthews and other sources, including former FBI officials, to confirm everything he told them about the murky workings of PATCON, including the unanswered questions about its operatives’ possible involvement in the OKC bombing.

Enter Newsweek managing editor, Tina Brown. Above the heads of Solomon and Schneiderman, Brown (who left in 2013 and has been blamed for the periodical’s collapse) took what may have been a Pulitzer-worthy piece of journalism and cut away virtually all detail that could directly or indirectly impugn the government for the fallout of its PATCON operations. In the process, she reduced the original 7,000-word draft (found here) down to a mere 4,000 words (found here). As the since-defunct Examiner detailed at the time, all of the aforementioned suspicions Matthews aired about the FBI’s hand in the OKC bombing were cut.

Brown’s puzzling decision had real consequences for Matthews. As Painting recounts in her book, the dying Matthews had taken a lot of risk by coming forward. He was now Newsweek’s cover story, but for reasons that had been omitted. Now, he was still a target but “for no good reason and he regretted coming forward.”9P. 817

More broadly, by keeping such information away from the public, Brown was confirming the existence of a state-media axis in America. While examples of such direct state-interventions into our otherwise free media system are rare (although certainly plentiful enough), media analysts like Noam Chomsky have long posited that, yes, news outlets do profit off the circulation of their stories and are thus incentivized to objectively report on events potentially embarrassing to the powerful elite. But, the big media houses still need government access and wish to maintain good relations with major power centers; hence, their occasional compliance with direct government demands—One might add the promise of future political jobs as an incentive for compliance or, in cases such as this where right-wing groups were clearly being mistreated, plain old liberal media bias (consider, for instance, the fairly widereporting on the FBI’s infiltration of Islamic extremist groups).

It seems without a doubt that the FBI did get to Brown. At the time Matthews approached Newsweek, Attorney General Eric Holder’s Operation Fast and Furious-debacle was still in the news. How could the Obama Administration handle yet another and far bigger scandal involving the FBI helping dangerous people do harm against innocent Americans?

More Alarming Questions about FBI Conduct

Elsewhere, the FBI has demonstrated a serious interest in keeping any questions about the OKC bombing firmly under wraps. When Matthews was slated to testify in Trentadue’s 2014 public records case over the release of Murrah building surveillance footage, his fear of retaliation led to the judge allowing him to testify at a secret location by video—Trentadue thought what Matthews had witnessed while a PATCON operative would help provide a motive for what had become the FBI’s ongoing, unlawful refusal to provide the footage under public records law.

And despite the judge’s precautions, Matthews’s testimony still never took place. At the last minute, Matthews was supposedly threatened with having his VA medical benefits cut off and told to “stand down” by Jarrett and another FBI agent, Adam Quirk. Such a rank case of witness tampering, in fact, led to the judge ordering the FBI to reveal what exactly they had communicated to Matthews; an investigation that has been strangely ongoing since 2015.

At the heart of Trentadue’s marathon public records case certainly has the FBI worried. Someone who did manage to testify early on in the case was an Oklahoma police officer and first responder to the OKC bombing. He told the court he witnessed the FBI actually stop the beginning of the recovery process while victims were still under piles of rubble in order to remove a surveillance camera from the Murrah building. Some believe the camera would have recorded anyone else besides McVeigh who left the truck after it was parked and, in fact, did so.

Finally, there’s the questions about the FBI’s conduct vis-à-vis Trentadue himself. Why Trentadue got involved with the OKC case is because six weeks after the bombing, his brother Kenneth, another war vet, was taken into custody after a traffic incident triggered a parole violation relating to a minor event from years previous. Soon after, he was found hanging in a cell of a federal detention center.

Photos released to Trentadue following a subsequent lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons, however, showed his brother’s throat having been cut and his body covered in bruises—authorities had apparently tried to cover his wounds with make-up before releasing it to Kenneth’s family. The theory behind his death is, having shared a close resemblance with someone called Richard Guthrie, a white supremacist who the FBI thought had information about the OKC bombing, Kenneth was mistaken as Guthrie and taken in by the FBI for interrogation. McVeigh himself called and advised Trentadue of this, telling him he heard that the FBI had indeed mistaken Kenneth for Guthrie and that his death was the result of a botched interrogation session.

Adding to suspicions, the DOJ formed a special team to handle media inquiries and the Trentadue family’s immediate requests for information. It apparently obstructed and delayed the Trentadue’s right to know what happened to Kenneth in every way it could, even when it came to releasing his corpse. Who happened to be the head of this operation (dubbed internally as “the Trentadue Mission”)?10P. 672 Then-Deputy Attorney General, Eric Holder.

Finally, there are the other related and mysterious deaths. After Guthrie himself was arrested, he told the LA Times he had “a couple grand juries to talk to” about what really happened with the OKC bombing, and was also later found hanging in his cell.11P. 674

And later in 1999, a supposed inmate and witness to Kenneth’s murder, Alden Gillis Baker, threatened to come forward about what he saw. He too was later found hanging in his cell.12P. 673


The details surrounding the OKC bombing show it to have all the elements of a “perfect,” post-war American tragedy: Vietnam vets disrespected by the liberal-media class and tossed aside by a government they loyally served; an unhinged federal bureaucracy using its sprawling resources to violate the civil rights of poor and ignored Americans; and, a state-liberal media-axis willing to cover up for government when the “cause” was right.

And consider the following. Even if we ignore the aforementioned evidence about the FBI’s hand in the OKC bombing, remember that the twin motivations for McVeigh’s crimes were Waco and Ruby Ridge—McVeigh chose April 19 as his bombing date because it was the same day as the Waco massacre two years previous. Matthews has actually expressed the view that both massacres had PATCON fingerprints all over them. That’s certainly the case with Ruby Ridge. There, a federal agent/infiltrator pushed former Green Beret Randy Weaver into selling him an illegal sawed-off shotgun. This led to his attempted arrest and an eventual standoff, which then led to the shooting deaths of his 14-year-son by federal marshals and his unarmed wife (baby in hand) by an FBI sniper.

In public and in private correspondence, McVeigh tore into the federal government over these events, expressing fear of a state that was at war with its own citizens. Without federal law enforcement acting so heinously in these events, it’s likely McVeigh would not have carried out the crime that he did.

Further, these rank FBI abuses ironically pushed “right-wing terror groups” to become the threat we were warned about all along. As the original Newsweek article rightly said about Ruby Ridge, the FBI’s conduct “quickly galvanized the radical right like never before” with talks between “various white supremacists, Neo-Nazis and anti-government groups…about joining forces…quickly turn[ing] to action.”

And as Painting writes, even more absurd perhaps, Ruby Ridge was used by federal law enforcement as a justification for increased PATCON resources and investigatory powers.13P. 356. (“Likewise, federal operations targeting far right radicals also intensified immediately after Ruby Ridge. Hundreds of recently released (but highly redacted) FBI PATCON reports warn of the possibility that the deaths at Ruby Ridge would be violently avenged and emphasize the urgent need to expand both the budget and the scope of the domestic counter-terrorism program to determine the validity of the threat, but also to prevent further working alliances from forming among different radical right-wing groups. And indeed, PATCON’s budget skyrocketed, and the scope of its mission expanded greatly, both geographically and tactically.”)

So, we have FBI abuses leading to organized rage and resistance, which is then given even more momentum by FBI infiltration and incitement. And with the help of a media sphere that refuses to do its job, all of this works to amp up yet more fear, anxiety and division among the public. It’s a spinning wheel which loyal, patriotic Americans never asked for and certainly want off of.

While we should certainly hope these allegations can be explained away, it’s high-time the OKC victims and the American people generally get the transparency they deserve about what really happened that fateful day.

All Points Bulletin: Timothy McVeigh and the Brown Pickup Truck

Timothy McVeigh fled the scene of the Oklahoma City bombing driving a battered old yellow Mercury Marquis that was missing a license plate. He was spotted fleeing the scene, with a passenger sitting next to him in the Marquis, by witness Gary Lewis. FBI agent John Hersley testified about the witness during an April 27, 1995, preliminary hearing, excerpted below1U.S. vs. Timothy McVeigh, № M-95–98-H (Western District of Oklahoma.) Preliminary Hearing, 27 Apr. 1995. Testimony of Jon Hersley, pp 86-87. See also Gary Lewis 302 reports: (1) FBI 302, interview w/ Gary Lewis by SA Leslie Farris. 21 Apr. 1995. 174A-OC-56120 D-245. (2) FBI 302, interview w/ Gary Lewis by Donald J. Albracht. 29 Apr. 1995 #174A-OC-56120 D-1705. (3) FBI 302, interview w/ Gary Lewis by Donald J. Albracht. 29 Apr. 1995 #174A-OC-56120 D-820.:

MR. HERSLEY: the individual saw the Mercury, the yellow Mercury,
speeding away from the location, obviously in an effort to avoid the
bomb blast

MR. COYLE: Did this particular witness indicate to agents of the FBI
how many persons were in the speeding yellow Mercury?


By the time McVeigh was arrested—about an hour after the bombing—he was alone in the Mercury Marquis. What became of his passenger, and where McVeigh might have dropped him off, is a mystery. Also unknown today is what became of McVeigh’s other accomplices who were at the time subjects of a nationwide manhunt.

Dozens of newspaper accounts were published in the days immediately following the bombing that detailed the escape of the other suspects. For example, an April 28, 1995 Associated Press account declares that “authorities
now believe that four or five people were involved” and that “investigators have an Oklahoma City videotape that shows both the Ryder truck believed to have carried the bomb and a vehicle other than the Marquis bearing Arizona license plate LZC646.”2“Blast Probe Zeros In On Missing Plate.” The Buffalo News, 28 Apr. 1995 Additional reports would add detail, reporting that “Timothy McVeigh’s missing Arizona license plate appears on a mystery vehicle in a videotape taken just before the Oklahoma City bombing, and authorities believe the elusive “John Doe 2” may have used that vehicle for his getaway.”3“License Plate Of McVeigh Caught On Tape.” Associated Press, 29 Apr. 1995

“Timothy McVeigh’s missing Arizona license plate appears on a mystery vehicle in a videotape taken just before the Oklahoma City bombing, and authorities believe the elusive “John Doe 2” may have used that vehicle for his getaway.” – Associated Press, 4/29/95

Preceding the press accounts of the mystery vehicle, an FBI teletype dated April 20, 1995 says that “several leads are outstanding relative to a brown pickup truck.”4FBI teletype from Director FBI to Field Offices, April 20th 1995 According to law enforcement sources cited in the press accounts, the FBI’s search for this brown truck was based on surveillance footage from the scene. In addition to the press accounts there is also testimony from multiple eyewitnesses, recorded by the FBI in 302 reports. Taken together, the evidence for additional suspects and corresponding vehicles is compelling.

What became of this mystery vehicle and the videotape so widely publicized just one week after the blast? This second vehicle was a key component of the FBI’s early investigation but has long since disappeared from the FBI’s official narrative of the bombing. However, if you look at the historical record you will find abundant detail concerning the truck: in newspaper accounts, FBI teletypes and 302 reports, in court records. It is through these records that a reconstruction of what might have happened can be illustrated. This is the story of the brown pickup truck, as told by the records on this case.

Downtown Oklahoma City Witnesses

The first appearance of the brown truck in the available records comes about an hour before the bombing. Near 8:00 AM, motorist Leonard Long was traveling down 5th street, adjacent to the Murrah building, when he had to swerve his vehicle to avoid an accident. Long reported that he watched as a brown pickup truck with tinted windows raced out of the parking garage of the Murrah building onto 5th street, changing lanes at a high rate of speed. Long said that the driver, who he identified as Timothy McVeigh, had sitting next to him in the passenger seat a dark-skinned stocky man wearing a camouflage jacket. Long, who is African-American, said that the passenger spewed racist language at him as the vehicle sped past in a reckless and erratic manner.5Mark Hamm. In Bad Company. p 229. See also: J.D. Cash and Jeff Holladay. “Startling New Evidence: At Least 4 People Directly Involved in Bombing.” McCurtain Gazette, Jan 23, 1996. Indiana State University professor and criminologist Mark S. Hamm speculates that Leonard Long may have observed Timothy McVeigh and his accomplice performing a “last-minute security check” in the Murrah parking garage that morning. It’s hard to know precisely what was going on here; however, Long’s sighting won’t be the only one
involving McVeigh and other vehicles in downtown Oklahoma City that morning.

The next significant account involving the brown truck comes from a handful of witnesses who were in front of the Murrah federal building just minutes before the blast. A few minutes before 9:00 AM, the brown pickup truck was parked along 5th street, with its engine idling. The vehicle was parked offset from the curb, described as being “in the lane of traffic” by witness Rodney Johnson.6FBI 302 report, interview w/ Rodney Johnson by SA John Hippard. 28 Apr. 1995. #174A-OC-56120 D-3253 Meanwhile, witnesses Ann Domin and Margaret Hohmann were on their way to the Murrah Building for a meeting. The pair drove down 5th Street mere minutes before the blast, pulling into a parking space in front of the Murrah building. As they arrived, Domin and Hohmann spotted the brown truck parked along 5th Street. Domin and Hohmann would tell the FBI that they watched the truck suddenly accelerate away from its parking spot, “peeling out.”7FBI 302 report, interview w/ Ann Domin by SA Donld Borelli. 5 May, 1995. #174AOC-56120 D-759. See also: interviews w/ David Hoffman 1997. Just a few minutes later, Domin and Hohmann would be inside of the Murrah building’s restroom when the bomb detonated at 9:02 AM. Based on the timing, it’s estimated that they must have arrived and spotted the brown truck peeling out just a few minutes before the blast.

At the same moment Domin and Hohmann arrived, witness Manuel Acosta also saw the brown truck. Manuel Acosta speaks Spanish, but not English. What he observed the morning of the bombing was relayed to the FBI via Dr. Claudia Rossavik, who translated for him. What Acosta told the FBI through Rossavik was that around 8:55 AM he observed two middle-eastern looking males—”in a hurry”—run towards a brown pickup with tinted windows parked on 5th street.8 FBI 302 report, interview w/ Manuel Acosta & Dr. Claudia Rossavik by SA R. Martin Mag (FBI) and Gilbert Salinas (ATF). 19 Apr. 1995. #174A-OC-56120 D-1054. FBI 302 report, interview w/ Manuel Acosta & Dr. Claudia Rossavik by SA Philip R. Hines and James E. Strickland. 20 Apr. 1995. #174A-OC-56120 D-4556 The pickup truck was parked with the engine running. Acosta says that after the two men hurried into the truck, the vehicle “sped away”–driving the wrong way down 5th street, then turning and speeding down Hudson against the flow of traffic, again on a one-way street. The dramatic exit of the two men,
hopping into a brown truck and furiously speeding down two separate one-way streets, would likely have been viewed by law enforcement as a description of suspects fleeing the scene. In retrospect, it still has that appearance, and when you consider the independent witness accounts of Ann Domin and Margaret Hohmann, what Acosta saw can largely be confirmed. Acosta puts the time at around 8:55 AM, while Hohmann and Domin’s sighting of the brown truck speeding away was reported to be shortly before 9:00 AM.

All three witnesses spotted the same brown truck and their accounts serve to establish its presence, along with what appeared to be three men (the fleeing pair plus the driver) leaving the scene. Acosta would, with Dr. Claudia Rossavik’s help, report what he had seen that morning to law enforcement around 11:00 AM. Rossavik approached a police cruiser where she told an officer, in English, what Acosta had seen. The police got on the radio and requested an FBI agent from the command post. FBI Special Agent (S.A.) R. Martin Mag and ATF agent Gilbert Salinas arrived within a half-hour and interviewed Acosta.

S.A. R. Martin Mag would document the sighting, writing in his notes that Acosta spotted a brown Chevrolet pickup with tinted windows idling on 5th Street. Mag notated that Acosta observed two men cross 5th Street—in a hurry—crossing the street from the side of the Murrah building over towards the opposite side of
5th where the brown truck was idling. Acosta would tell the FBI that the first man he saw was 6′, 35 to 39 years of age, dark-skinned, with a beard, muscular build, wearing a blue t-shirt, vest, blue pants and black boots. He said the second darkskinned male was 6′, 25-29 years of age, dark hair, with a muscular build, dressed identically to the fist man. SA Mag documented that after crossing the street the two men got into the brown pickup, which sped off.

“Be on the lookout for a late model, almost new, Chevrolet full-size pickup, will be brown in color with tinted windows and smoke-colored bug deflector on the front of pickup” – OKC Sheriff’s Department APB

Based on Acosta’s report, law enforcement agencies issued an APB for the brown truck that ran for several hours after the bombing.9Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee. The Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, 2001. pp 289-290 The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s department issued the APB around 11:15 AM where it was dispatched to “be on the lookout for a late model, almost new, Chevrolet full-size pickup, will be brown in color with tinted windows and smoke-colored bug deflector on the front of pickup. Middle Eastern male, twenty-five to twenty-eight years of age, six feet tall, athletic build, dark hair and a beard.” Law enforcement would broadcast the APB for several hours. At 4:15 PM the FBI would, without explanation, quash the APB for the brown pickup, instructing the Sheriff’s department to cease broadcasting.

Did Acosta, Domin, and Hohmann all watch as one or more accomplices made a getaway in the brown truck The April 28 news reports and FBI teletype of April 20 indicate that the FBI did, in fact, believe this to be the case. Unfortunately, the APB for the brown truck was issued too late. Had it been broadcast just an hour earlier, it’s possible that the vehicle might have been stopped when Timothy McVeigh was pulled over. As it turns out, a brown pickup truck was traveling in tandem with McVeigh as he made his escape down I-35.

Highway Patrol and the Brown Pickup

When State Trooper Charlie Hanger first heard about the Oklahoma City bombing he was at the Cimarron Turnpike in Noble County, 80 miles from Oklahoma City. Highway Patrol headquarters issued a request over the radio for all units to head to Oklahoma City to assist. Hanger got in his patrol car and headed west on the Cimarron Turnpike to the first exit, U.S. 64. Hanger went west on U.S. 64 through the city of Perry, Oklahoma; on the west edge of Perry, Hanger got on Interstate 35 and began traveling south. Hanger had his lights and siren on and was traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour as he headed towards the city. Mere minutes had passed when Hanger received a radio call from his headquarters advising him to stay put, and to return to his patrol area.10Oklahoma County Grand Jury #CJ-95–7278. District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma. Testimony of Charlie Hanger July 10th, 1998.

Hanger turned around and proceeded north on I-35 when he received a dispatch call to assist a motorist whose vehicle had broken down. Just past the Perry exit, Hanger came upon two ladies with a broken-down van where he stopped for approximately 5-10 minutes to render assistance. Thereafter, Hanger proceeded on I-35 north when he came upon Timothy McVeigh’s Mercury Marquis. Traveling in front of McVeigh’s Mercury, in tandem, was a brown pickup truck.

When Hanger saw that the Mercury had no license plate, he pulled in behind the vehicle and turned on his lights, signaling McVeigh to pull over. McVeigh pulled over to the side of the road, between mile marker 202 and 203, about a mile south of the Billings exit. When McVeigh pulled over to the side of the road, the brown pickup truck pulled over too.

Motorist Kevin Brown was traveling north on I-35 when he passed by Hanger, McVeigh, and the brown pickup. Brown was interviewed by SA Gary Bolin of the DEA when he said it was his impression that the brown truck and McVeigh’s Mercury Marquis were traveling together.11FBI 302 report, interview w/ Kevin Brown by SA Gary Bolin (DEA). 27 Apr. 1995. #174A-OC-56120 D-451. FBI 302 report, interview w/ Kevin Brown by SA Daniel V. Risner. 3 May, 1995. #174A-OC-56120 D-1461. Brown described the brown pickup as a long-bed Chevy, 1974-75, brown paint and dark tinted windows. Motorist Scott Gregory saw the brown pickup too. Gregory testified at the Nichols State trial where he said that he saw McVeigh being arrested along I35 north. Gregory said that he saw a brown pickup truck driven by a man in a baseball cap backed up near McVeigh’s Mercury Marquis. He testified “I thought that was so odd. I thought, ‘what an idiot. Why are you stopping to talk to that police officer when he’s obviously in a high stress situation?'”12“Testimony at Nichols Trial Suggests Other Bombing Suspects.” Associated Press, 9 May 2004.

When McVeigh was pulled over, law enforcement wasn’t yet looking for a brown pickup truck, but they soon would be. It was about an hour later, around 11:15 AM, that the OK County Sheriff’s Department issued an APB for a brown truck in connection with the bombing. The APB was based on Manuel Acosta’s sighting in downtown Oklahoma City. Was the brown pickup truck that pulled over with McVeigh the same truck described in the APB? Trooper Hanger’s dashcam footage might yield clues that would allow that question to be answered. Indeed, the license plate is a key detail that needs to be clarified given the news reports from April 28 and 29 that say that the brown pickup on surveillance camera footage fleeing downtown Oklahoma City had Timothy McVeigh’s LZC646 license plate attached. Without Hanger’s dashcam footage it’s impossible to know if the two trucks are one and the same. Additionally, the truck reportedly seen by Acosta, Domin, and Hohmann was reported as “almost new” while the truck that pulled over ahead of McVeigh was described as 1974-75. Unfortunately, the FBI has not produced any copies of the footage that their agents cited with such finality to newspaper reporters on April 28 and 29 so we’re left only to speculate what it might actually show.

Sophisticated Enhancement Techniques

Further complicating the FBI’s story about the brown pickup is an unusual report issued in May of 1995 that twists the facts considerably. Published by the Houston Chronicle, May 12, 1995, the report cites an anonymous  law enforcement (read: FBI) source who says that “sophisticated enhancement techniques” were applied to Trooper Hanger’s dashcam footage to reveal the license plate on the brown pickup. The unnamed law enforcement source told Dan Thomasson and Peter Copeland of the Chronicle that the footage showed the
license plate belonged to Arizona fugitive Stephen Colbern.13Dan Thomasson and Peter Copeland. “Third Suspect Identified in Oklahoma Bombing.” Houston Chronicle. 12 May, 1995.

Colbern was arrested in Oatman, Arizona on the Friday the Chronicle story ran. However, the piece says that “sources said Thursday night that Colbern was identified through his brown pickup”—with the source relaying this information to the newspaper the day before an arrest was made. The report further alleged that Colbern’s truck “contained traces of ammonium nitrate,” but how that was determined the day before he was taken into custody is a good question. It’s also worth questioning why law enforcement was distributing information about an alleged accomplice to the press before he was charged with any crime. Colbern issued strong denials concerning everything in the Chronicle’s report, asserting that the FBI was desperately trying to frame him. Colbern’s father, Robert Colbern, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and a dentist for the state Department of Corrections, was equally skeptical. On the afternoon of Colbern’s arrest, his father told reporters gathered at his home “I don’t believe it. It appears to me that someone’s looking for a patsy.”14May 13th 1995 press conference at Colbern home w/ AP & NBC, ABC, CBS coverage Later press accounts would detail interviews with Colbern’s neighbors, who noted “the brown pickup truck next door hasn’t been moved for six years” and that “it has been broke down. It hasn’t moved, it has been sitting there.”15“Fugitive Captured in Arizona.” Saturday Oklahoman. 13 May 1995. See also “Agents Arrest Third Man in OKC Bombing.” Associated Press. 13 May, 1995 Following these reports, TV news coverage became far more equivocal about the FBI’s so-called “sophisticated video enhancement,” saying instead that “FBI agents say Colbern may have been the man driving a brown pickup that was traveling in tandem with” McVeigh.16NBC affiliate KDLT Channel 5 news, Mitchell/Sioux Falls, South Dakota. May 13, 1995 broadcast. 2 minute segment on Colbern arrest, w/ background on Colbern and excerpt from Colbern father’s press conference.

Similarly, news reports about Colbern issued between May 12 and 14 transformed rather quickly: The first reports on May 12th say that Colbern “matches the description of John Doe #2” with an Upland Police Department press release issued the same day saying that Colbern was “also known as John Doe No. 2.” The press released was withdrawn at the request of the U.S. Marshall’s Service a day later17Ronald Ostrow and Tom Gorman. “Biochemist Held in Federal Building Blast Investigation.” Los Angeles Times, 13 May, 1995. The Times piece covers the Upland Police Department press release and U.S. Marshall’s request to rescind the ID as John Doe #2. Meanwhile the Houston Chronicle 12 May 1995 story & “The Third Man” Time Magazine, 12 May 1995 both identify the Colbern as the elusive suspect. and by May 14, news reports would begin saying that Colbern “bears little resemblance to John Doe 2” and that “in Washington, sources familiar with the investigation downplayed Colbern’s possible link.”18Tony Perry and James Rainey, Biochemist Is Held on U.S. Weapons Charges. LA Times, 14 May 1995 and George Lardner Jr and Serge Kovaleski, Biochemist Arrested in Bomb Case.” Washington Post, 13 May 1995. So much for the apparent certainty of the previous days’ reporting.

Making these reports all the more baffling is a May 3rd FBI document—dated more than a week before Colbern’s arrest—which plainly declares that “COLBERN has been eliminated as a suspect.” 19FBI Insert #174A-OC-56120 E-4153, by SA Thomas P. Ravenelle, San Francisco Field Office. 3 May, 1995. The Insert notes “In view of the fact that COLBERN has been eliminated as a suspect in this matter, San Francisco will conduct no further investigation concerning lead #10,220.” Also highly noteworthy is the insert says that “the Oklahoma Command Post has directed all offices to hold unsub #2 leads in abeyance” — a stunning fact that indicates the FBI stopped looking for John Doe #2 at the direction of the OKBOMB task force command post in Oklahoma City, less than two weeks after the bombing. This suggests that the investigation must have identified John Doe #2 very early on and it must have been a person that FBI did not want publicly identified It is unclear why, after being eliminated as a suspect, FBI sources would be pumping reporters with details seemingly designed to incriminate Colbern through the press, both identifying him as John Doe 2 and suggesting the FBI had videotape evidence he was McVeigh’s accomplice. It is similarly unclear why it was reported nationally that he was arrested in connection with the bombing when the reality is he was arrested for failure to appear in court for a minor firearms violation for which he had been a fugitive long before the bombing occurred.

Supporting Colbern’s denial is the May 3rd FBI report and the fact that at the hearing held the day after Colbern’s arrest the subject of the bombing wasn’t even mentioned! Unusually, future Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, then the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona appeared at Colbern’s hearing. It is notable (and highly irregular) for a U.S. Attorney to make an appearance, on a weekend, at an arraignment for a simple failure to appear & firearms violation charge.20Roger G. Charles, interviews with w/ author. Charles is a journalist who has been investigating the case since 1996 and has published numerous reports on the case, conducted countless interviews, and served as an associate producer and researcher for ABC News 20/20 and CBS News 60 Minutes II. Charles pointed out the irregularity of Napolitano appearing at the arraignment, and also noted that the May 3rd FBI Insert cleared Colbern as a suspect 10 days before his arrest. See also: “Probe Nets 2nd Man in Oatman.” The Arizona Republic, 14 May 1995 which says “Napolitano, who appeared in court with Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Hannis, refused to answer questions about whether the FBI was in investigating a link between Colbern and the bombing in Oklahoma City” and “authorities say Colbern owns the brown pickup that was caught on an Oklahoma trooper’s video camera when McVeigh, the prime suspect in the April 19 bombing, was stopped” Napolitano’s presence at the arraignment illustrates that there was something very unusual about Colbern’s arrest that wasn’t limited to the nearly slanderous reporting.

The Department of Justice never did press any charges against Colbern in relation to the bombing. Today, Colbern remains a footnote of the case, barely remembered for having been arrested in May 1995 when he was convicted in the eyes of the public through the press via anonymous FBI sources. However, the damage to Colbern’s life and to the official narrative remains, as do legitimate unresolved questions: if Colbern was “cleared as a suspect” on May 3, why was he later arrested and declared a bombing suspect by FBI agents? If the FBI had really “enhanced” the video from the Hanger dashcam footage, how come we’ve never seen it? If the footage did identify Colbern’s truck, why wasn’t it introduced at the trials or otherwise touted as evidence? The Nichols defense certainly would have put a high premium on evidence like this, e.g. incriminating to someone
other than Nichols, and presumably evidence of this nature would have to have been included in discovery—but it wasn’t.

Anonymous FBI sources first claimed that the fleeing brown pickup had Timothy McVeigh’s license plate, only to say several weeks later that the plate on the truck traveling with McVeigh was Steven Colbern’s. These conflicting anonymously sourced “identifications” have only served to obfuscate the real truth of the matter. In retrospect, it seems like FBI agents cited in the various wire service reports were stretching the truth, or even lying. But, to what end? Why would agents make such absolute claims—to include declaring they have
videotape evidence—if they didn’t have the goods? The videotape evidence (both from downtown OKC and the Hanger dashcam) that could clear the matter up once and for all have never seen the light of day, and remain citations buried beneath bold declarative headlines. Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue tried to contact the May 12, 1995 Houston Chronicle story’s reporters in an attempt to clarify crucial details concerning their source for the Colbern allegations. Trentadue’s attempt to reach the reporters was unfruitful; his calls and messages
left unreturned.21Jesse Trentadue, interviews w/ author. Trentadue has been involved in a very complicated and long-running lawsuit against the FBI over the FBI’s failure to comply with FOIA law relating to the OKBOMB case. Trentadue’s brother, Kenney Trentadue, was murdered in federal custody after being brutally beaten and interrogated during the OKBOMB investigation. See: James Ridgeway. “In Search of John Doe #2.” Mother Jones, July 2007 for details on the Trentadue saga. Colbern, for his part, was readily available to set the record straight and responded to questions about what remains today a confusing and poorly documented episode in the largest investigation in the FBI’s history.22Steven Colbern discussions w/ author. I reached out to Colbern to ask him about his arrest, his treatment in the press, and what the FBI had to say about him in the press. Colbern compared the statements in the press about him to libel and slander. When I showed Colbern the document that says he was “cleared as a suspect” and noted it was ten days before his arrest, he expressed anger and suggested that it shows the FBI knowingly spread deliberate lies about him. Colbern told me that the FBI was trying to frame him and make him into John Doe #2, and denied that it was possible his truck could have been captured on video. In Colbern’s opinion, there is no videotape at all and the FBI is explicitly lying about that tape. After an analysis of the known facts about the so-called video evidence, I tend to agree with Steven Colbern. The bigger question then becomes: why was the FBI issuing lies to newspaper reporters about videotape footage of a brown truck? This remains a burning question.

Feds Impound Stolen Vehicle

Editor’s note: Almost the entirety of the following account concerning the stolen vehicle comes from Jim Crogan’s 2004 LA Weekly piece “Secrets of Timothy McVeigh.” Some additional details come from the 2001 “Final Report on the Oklahoma City Bombing” published by the Oklahoma Bombing Investigative

As it turns out, the sought-after brown pickup truck may well have been recovered by the FBI just one week after the bombing and immediately before the April 29 news reports concerning the truck. On April 27, 1995, Oklahoma City Police recovered a stolen vehicle at the Woodscape Apartments, located about five miles from the Murrah building. Oklahoma City police noted that the stolen vehicle had been “spray-painted yellow” and “its GMC emblem was replaced with a Chevy Silverado emblem.” Oklahoma City police officer Sean Shropshire noted the truck’s original color (brown) and general description matched that of the truck described in the 4/19 APB and an FBI teletype about a “Brown Chevy pickup involved in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.” Based on this, the OKCPD notified the FBI of the discovery.

OKCPD was instructed by FBI to lift fingerprint evidence from the vehicle. Oklahoma City police spokesman, Captain Jeffrey Becker, stated that three sets of prints were pulled from the brown truck and the police turned over the prints, and the truck, to the FBI. Becker went on to say at a press conference that “We never knew where it was stolen or heard anything back [from the FBI] about a suspect.”

On April 28, 1995 FBI Special Agent Jim Ellis and an officer from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation interviewed the owner of the vehicle. The FBI told the owner they were only able to identify the truck as his because one of his bank-deposit slips was found under the front seat. Without that, they wouldn’t have been able to easily identify it: the thieves had obliterated the vehicle identification numbers on the vehicle, repainted it, and even made cosmetic changes to disguise the truck. In addition to the cosmetic modifications, the thieves even repaired the four-by-four drive that was broken when the truck was stolen. All of these bizarre changes, even repairs, suggest that this was no ordinary stolen vehicle case. A letter to the owner from the Oklahoma City FBI field office, dated July 11, 1995, detailed the extensive modifications, stating that “the vehicle also had been painted and subjected to cosmetic changes which made it appear to be a Chevrolet.”

FBI Special Agent Jim Ellis told the owner that “‘We have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is, we found your truck. The bad news is, it was used in the Murrah bombing.’”23Jim Crogan. “Secrets of Timothy McVeigh.” LA Weekly, 26 Mar. 2004. Agent Ellis also interviewed other residents at the Woodscape Apartments, asking about the truck. He told one of the residents ‘Remember that APB the day of the bombing, with two Middle Eastern–looking men in it? Well, this is the truck.”

Jim Crogan of LA Weekly wrote a story about the truck in March of 2004, where most of the details in this account are sourced from. In that piece, Crogan cites a spokesman for the FBI who issued strong denials about what Special Agent Ellis had told the owner and residents at the Woodscape apartments. When asked about SA Ellis’ reported statements, FBI spokesman Gary Johnson said “I don’t know what he said. But if he said the truck was involved in the bombing, he was wrong. The Bureau is convinced everyone involved has been prosecuted.” Asked how the Bureau knew that the truck and its occupants were not involved in the bombing, as SA Ellis had originally said, Johnson replied, “It simply wasn’t consistent with our investigation.”

Gary Johnson attempted to characterize the situation with the stolen truck as just a routine matter, simply “impounded by the FBI, examined by forensics, and returned to its owner.” But this makes little sense, as the FBI is not in the business of investigating auto thefts that don’t cross state lines, therefore, the FBI would have no reason to impound a vehicle or have it examined by forensics. That wouldn’t occur unless the truck was linked to an active FBI investigation. If we’re to go by SA Jim Ellis’ original statements, it was linked to the OKBOMB
investigation, and furthermore, the FBI had reason to believe that the truck had been used in the bombing.

Spokesman Johnson also confirmed that fingerprints were found—but said none were matched to a suspect. His intention appears to have been to suggest that the FBI had tried to identify a suspect in an auto-theft investigation it had no jurisdiction to manage. John Vincent, a retired FBI agent who worked on the OKC bombing investigation countered the FBI in Jim Crogan’s LA Weekly piece, saying that “It sounds like Johnson is saying the truck didn’t match up with the scenario of the bombing they put together, so the Bureau threw it out. I believe they should have followed up on all their leads.”

The author believes it is highly likely that the FBI did follow up on all their leads, and in the case of John Doe #2, and the brown truck, those leads led down paths that the FBI did not want to acknowledge. John Vincent summarized it perfectly when he said that the brown truck simply didn’t match up with the scenario of the bombing that the FBI had put together. So, too, did FBI spokesman Gary Johnson when he stated that all of the evidence concerning the brown truck “wasn’t consistent” with the official narrative. It seems like a great deal of evidence wasn’t consistent with the official narrative: Not the video surveillance evidence, not the fingerprint evidence, nor what every witness told the FBI they saw: Timothy McVeigh with other individuals on the morning of the bombing.

Another interesting thing occurred right after the FBI recovered the stolen brown truck: it was reported on May 8th, 1995, that the FBI had recovered Timothy McVeigh’s Arizona license plate, LZC-646. However, “officials declined to elaborate on how the plate was recovered.”24Lee Hancock & David Jackson. “Recovered License Plate Providing Clues in Blast.” Dallas Morning News, 8 May 1995. Recall that news reports from April 27, 28, and 29 stated that McVeigh’s LZC-646 license plate had been captured on videotape, affixed to a truck fleeing the scene of the bombing. The news reports actually say that the truck was “involved in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.” Was McVeigh’s LZC-646 Arizona license plate recovered from the brown truck picked up by the OKC police and turned over to the FBI on April 28? Was McVeigh’s license plate on that truck, and was that the reason SA Ellis was able to say with assurance that the truck had been used in the bombing? Ultimately, we are left only to speculate about all of this.

Terry Nichols adds an entirely new dimension to the story concerning license plates, providing details that make the story even more convoluted than it already is. On February 16, 2007, Terry Nichols produced and signed a 17-page affidavit containing material facts concerning the bombing. On page 15 of that affidavit, Nichols writes that “Thursday, April 20th, 1995 I went to the Herington, Kansas storage shed where McVeigh kept some of his things. In that shed, I found the rear license plate from the yellow Mercury.” Nichols goes on to say that on Friday, April 21, he threw the license plate into a river in Kansas.

Based on these revelations, the immediate questions that come to mind are (1) how did the FBI come into possession of the license plate as reported on May 8, 1995? (2) if the license plate was in Terry Nichols’ storage shed on April 19, why did the FBI tell reporters that it was captured on tape on another vehicle? Assuming Nichols is telling the truth (he has no discernable reason to lie about the plate) it only makes the previous reports concerning the license plate that much more incredible, and leaves us with a complicated and patently untrue narrative concerning the license plate that was unfortunately spread throughout national news media by the FBI for reasons that today are still impossible to grasp.

What can be said with any level of certainty is that the FBI linked a brown truck to the bombing, as reported by multiple witnesses and in FBI teletypes and a police APB. Like John Doe #2, only contradictory explanations have been offered concerning the brown truck and like the suspect, the truck has slipped into obscurity becoming just another mysterious footnote buried within the investigatory record. There are several possible distinct conclusions that can be reached concerning the brown truck, none of them satisfying: it was a vehicle used by still-unknown conspirators. It was a vehicle used as a diversion, in press accounts, by the FBI for reasons still unexplained. It was, in a sense, a plot device which at one point was a part of the official narrative, described in certain terms in national news reports. Or, perhaps the truck was just a figment of the imagination, just one more lie sold to a gullible public by equally gullible reporters. We may never know.

Who Helped McVeigh Blow Up Oklahoma City?

“How do 5 or 6 people see something and describe generally the same thing if it doesn’t exist?”

— Dan Vogel, FBI Special Agent, Oklahoma City Field Office

“If only one person had seen that, or two or three…but twenty-four? Twenty-four people say, yes I saw him [McVeigh] with somebody else? That’s pretty powerful.”

— Danny Coulson, former Deputy Assistant Director FBI, founder of FBI Hostage Rescue Team and Special Agent-in-Charge of the Dallas FBI Field Office in April 1995.

“My conclusion, after having interviewed these witnesses is that they did indeed see [John Doe #2]. And that in each of these sightings, he was with a man that they were clearly able to identify as Tim McVeigh”

— Jean Boylan, FBI Task Force Sketch Artist

By most contemporary accounts, the April 19th, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing was carried out by two disgruntled far-right extremists: Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. McVeigh was taken into custody by the FBI within days of the deadly attack, which killed 168 people and injured many more. Terry Nichols turned himself in to the police in Herington, Kansas, after hearing his name on the radio.

Terry Nichols’ brother, James Nichols, was briefly considered a suspect, and McVeigh army buddy Michael Fortier was an accomplice who later served as the prosecution’s star witness. The criminal conspiracy that resulted in the bombing of the Murrah federal building has largely been limited to the people named herein. However, at the time of the bombing, several additional suspects were sought by the FBI. Hundreds of press accounts document the FBI’s unsuccessful pursuit to identify, locate, and arrest the other suspects.

Perhaps the most well-known other suspect is a man dubbed “John Doe #2” by the FBI. Details about this suspect and the nationwide manhunt for him were plentiful in press reports after the bombing. Although only a small amount of information on this suspect emerged at the McVeigh and Nichols trials, there is a great deal more evidence about the suspect among the FBI 302 reports, teletypes, and memoranda generated during the FBI investigation.

The details concerning “John Doe #2” first emerged a day after the bombing, memorialized in a press conference where on-scene commander Weldon Kennedy distributed sketches. As the days went by, more details about the suspect would emerge in press reports, and Attorney General Janet Reno would announce upon Timothy McVeigh’s arrest that “John Doe #2” was still “at-large” and “considered armed, and extremely dangerous.”

Long after the McVeigh and Nichols trials, the suspect would remain an elusive figure: he was never captured, and the FBI even declared that the man simply did not exist. Though FBI documents from 2005 show that a decade after claiming the man nonexistent, the FBI was still very much “concerned” about the man’s identity.1FBI memorandum, FBI Denver Squad 12 to Director FBI, June 24, 2005. Obtained via FOIA by attorney Jesse Trentadue. The name of the agent who wrote the memo is redacted. Page 11 the agent writes that “DTOU expressed concern regarding John Doe #2’s name surfacing” — DTOU is the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Operations Unit. Another document obtained via FOIA is an email from an FBI official that says “we share CTD’s concern regarding the John Doe #2 information.” The email sender’s name is redacted and the email is dated May 27, 2005. Both the memo and the email were generated at a time when Terry Nichols was being interviewed by Denver FBI agents in preparation for an upcoming interview with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Convicted bomber Terry Nichols expressed fear for his family’s life when he told the FBI in 2005 that he knew the man’s identity but would not reveal it out of fear for his family’s safety.2Ibid., 11. The June 24, 2005 memo says “Nichols declined to identify John Doe #2. Nichols advised John Doe #2’s name had not been mentioned during the investigation and, as a result, he feared for his and his family’s well being should it become public.” Who is this suspect? A man who has aroused fear and concern on the parts of the FBI and bomber Terry Nichols, his identity remains shrouded in mystery even 25 years later.

Mainstream media accounts relating to the bombing issued today make no mention of “John Doe #2,” or if they do, it is almost always erroneously reported that the man does not exist. However, this is incorrect, and the assertion is primarily based on a “mistaken identity” theory put forward by the FBI to “do away with” the suspect in the summer of 1995.3David Jackson and Lee Hancock, “Investigators Identify, Clear John Doe №2,” Dallas Morning News, June 15, 1995. Notes: this report is a good example of the FBI’s “misidentification” theory which would be used to explain away John Doe 2 in the days after June 15, 1995. The account says that “Oklahoma City bombing investigators now believe an innocent bystander at a truck rental agency is the so-called John Doe №2.” The report inaccurately says that “Todd Bunting, a soldier from Fort Riley, Kan. — resembles the sketch” — newspapers published Bunting’s photo with the story and there is no resemblance to the sketch. Confusing matters, this report quotes an official who said “We’re still looking for a second man.” Later reports will claim outright that Bunting was John Doe 2 and that all of the witnesses had at once been extremely accurate in their recollections of John Doe 1 (sketch looks identical to McVeigh), but fully inaccurate and wrong concerning John Doe 2. To understand the John Doe #2 story and subsequent “mistaken identity” explanation, we must examine the suspect’s origin and then scrutinize the circumstances by which he was declared a suspect.

John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 were labels used to describe the two unknown suspects in the Oklahoma City bombing, with sketches of both suspects distributed to media the day after the attack. The sketches of the suspects were produced as a direct result of simple police work. Oklahoma County Sheriff Sgt. Melvin Sumter recorded the crime scene when he came upon the remains of the Ryder truck’s rear axle.4Andrew Gumbel and Roger Charles, Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed — and Why It Still Matters (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 83; Melvin Sumter VHS recording 4/19/95 provided to author. The truck’s VIN is visible on tape, with Sumter zooming-in and lingering on the VIN before he brought the axle to the attention of Jim Norman, an FBI agent at the crime scene. The FBI used the VIN, or vehicle identification number, to trace the Ryder truck to a rental agency. The truck was rented from Elliott’s Body Shop, located in Junction City, Kansas, where the FBI learned that two men picked up the truck on Monday, April 17th, 1995.

FBI agents descended upon the rental agency and interviewed employees and witnesses from the shop into the morning hours of April 20th. The employees/witnesses at the shop on April 17th include mechanic Fernando Ramos, receptionist Vicki Beemer, owner Eldon Elliott, and mechanic Tom Kessinger.5Ibid., 105–106. Ramos told the FBI that the two men had arrived at the body shop in a Jeep Grand Cherokee.6FBI Insert 174A-OC-56120 SubE-1507, April 23, 1995. SA Ronald Koziol, SA Jose Jiminez and Sgt. Robert Story (JCPD) Shop owner Eldon Elliott went over the paperwork with the two suspects and performed the vehicle inspection.7Jo Thomas, “Truck Was Rented by Oklahoma Bomb Suspect, Witnesses Say,” The New York Times, February 19, 1997. Elliott is certain that there were two men. He testified that “another person was standing there. I glanced at him. I walked between the two of them,” adding that the second man was wearing a “white hat with blue lightning bolts on the side.”8Ibid. Vickie Beemer and Tom Kessinger sat in the office, observing both suspects for about ten minutes when they were in the shop. Beemer said that John Doe #2 crossed behind John Doe #1 to retrieve an ashtray, suggesting he was a smoker.9Andrew Gumbel and Roger Charles, Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed — and Why It Still Matters (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 105. Two witnesses, Rosemary Zinn and Danny Wilkerson will recount how McVeigh purchased cigarettes from them, though McVeigh wasn’t a smoker.10U.S. District Court, Colorado. U.S. v. Terry Lynn Nichols, Criminal Action №96-CR-68, December 3, 1997, testimony of Rosemary Zinn; Jo Thomas, “Bomb Trial Focus on John Doe №2,” The New York Times, December 10, 1997; Andrew Gumbel, “McVeigh Did Not Act Alone in Oklahoma Bombing,” The Independent, May 12, 2001. It appears that John Doe #2 was a smoker: this is a seemingly minor detail, yet it’s one that strongly suggests the man was with McVeigh on April 17th and April 19th when numerous witnesses spotted him and incidentally, both days that McVeigh bought cigarettes.

The truck was rented from Elliott’s under a false name: Bob Kling. Therefore, no immediate identification could be made based on the paperwork. The FBI had a sketch artist, Ray Rozycki, produce two sketches based on what the witnesses had seen that Monday. The FBI produced sketches of the two suspects on Tuesday, April 20th, 1995, during a press conference that aired on C-SPAN and all major news networks.

Before getting into the details of what the witnesses in Kansas and Oklahoma City saw, we must examine what the FBI later claimed: John Doe #2 did not exist. On June 15th, 1995, the FBI inexplicably declared that John Doe #2 did not exist and was the result of witness misidentification and confabulation. The FBI said that two other men, Army Private Todd Bunting and Sgt. Michael Hertig, who had rented a truck on Tuesday, April 18th, were confused by the witnesses for a single man (McVeigh) who had rented the bomb truck on Monday.

However, the FBI’s misidentification theory has a fatal flaw that renders it impossible. That flaw is that owner Eldon Elliott was not at work on Tuesday, April 18th, when Todd Bunting and Michael Hertig entered the shop.11“Retired Kansan Repeats Story of Second Man,” Daily Oklahoman, April 6, 2004; “Nichols’ Lawyers Hint at a Wider Conspiracy,” Associated Press, April 6, 2004. Therefore, Elliott has no memory of the other two men. If he has no memory of the other two men, he cannot confuse them with anyone. Additionally, all of the witnesses’ recollections were stunningly accurate: the man they described, represented in the John Doe #1 sketch, is a dead ringer for McVeigh. Meanwhile, the John Doe #2 sketch looks absolutely nothing like Todd Bunting, the Army private the witnesses supposedly remembered when they provided their descriptions.

Why, exactly, the FBI created this bogus story to try to “explain away” John Doe #2 is not fully understood or is perhaps the subject for another essay. At any rate, based on Eldon Elliott’s testimony, we can be certain that two men picked up the bomb truck. Elliott was so sure of this fact that he testified under oath at the 2004 Nichols state trial that the FBI had tried to persuade him and convince him that he was incorrect. However, Elliott noted that he couldn’t have been confused because he never did see the other two men who had rented a truck on the 18th, and besides, he clearly remembers two suspects.12Ibid.

With the FBI’s bogus misidentification theory out of the way, we will move on to what the witnesses said they saw regarding these two suspects. As the reader will see, there were far more witnesses to the second suspect — John Doe #2 — than just the Elliott’s Body Shop employees. In fact, every witness in Oklahoma City on April 19th saw McVeigh with another man in the Ryder truck; meanwhile, Terry Nichols was in Kansas. So, who was this other man?

The following is a transcript of SA Weldon Kennedy’s comments from the Thursday, April 20th, 1995 morning press conference. The description of the suspects provided by SA Kennedy is based on interviews with Elliott’s Body Shop employees Eldon Elliott, Vickie Beemer, and Tom Kessinger.

“Investigators have identified a vehicle that was used in connection with yesterday’s attack on the Federal Building here in Oklahoma City. Further investigation has determined that two white males were associated with this vehicle. As a result, arrest warrants will be sought for these two males. I must point out that that their exact identities are not presently known. Thus the arrest warrants that I am discussing will be for two men, each identified only as ‘John Doe.’

The first man is of medium build, he is further described as approximately 5’10 to 5’11, weighing approximately 180 to 185 pounds with a light brown crew-cut, and he is right handed.

The second man is also of medium build. He is further described as 5 feet 9 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing approximately 175 to 180 pounds, with brown hair and a tattoo visible on his left arm, below his t-shirt sleeve. He is possibly a smoker.

Composite sketches of these two men have been prepared; copies are on the way for everyone. Both of these men should be described as armed and extremely dangerous. Anyone with information about these men should provide it immediately to the nearest FBI office.”13FBI U.S. Department of Justice, Statement by FBI Special Agent In Charge Weldon L. Kennedy, April 20, 1995. Note: this press release contains a transcript of Kennedy’s remarks during the corresponding press conference the morning of April 20.

Within days, John Doe #1 would be identified as Timothy McVeigh. John Doe #2, however, was never identified.

The description of John Doe #2 given by Weldon Kennedy during the April 20th press conference matches very closely the description(s) given by other eyewitnesses who observed this man in the company of Timothy McVeigh in the days and even weeks leading up to the April 19th, 1995, bombing.

In the form of a chronology, an outline of some key witness accounts follows:

April 15th, 1995 (Saturday) | Herington, Kansas
Santa Fe Trail Diner | U.S. Highway 56
Approximately 7:15–7:30 AM

Barbara Whittenberg and her husband Robert were the proprietors of the Santa Fe Trail Diner and Santa Fe Motel in Herington, Kansas. The diner was situated right off Highway 56, near Junction City, Kansas. Whittenberg worked at the diner where she was in charge of the kitchen and the dining area.

On Saturday, April 15th, Whittenberg opened the diner around 7:00 AM. It was a typical Saturday save for the fact that her opening waitress had called to say she would be late to work. The absence of her opening waitress left Whittenberg alone to handle seating, serving, and cooking until fully staffed.

Within about fifteen minutes of opening, Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and John Doe #2 came into the restaurant for coffee. There was a light-colored sedan with an Arizona license plate and a Ryder truck in the parking lot when the group arrived. Whittenberg’s son said that the vehicle with the Arizona plate was a Thunderbird.14U.S. District Court, Oklahoma County. Grand Jury No. CJ-95–7278, September 15, 1997, testimony of Barbara Whittenberg. Notes: Whittenberg details same story that has been covered in numerous media accounts. Has additional details re: death threats, pinpoints actual date of sighting 4/15 contrary to NY Times account. Says vehicle in lot was a Thunderbird w/ Arizona plates.

When serving the group coffee, Whittenberg engaged the group in small talk. Noting the Ryder truck in the parking lot, Whittenberg asked if someone was moving and where to. John Doe #2 spoke up, saying, “Oklahoma.”15Ibid. Whittenberg replied that she had relatives in a town south of Oklahoma City. According to Whittenberg, the remark immediately stopped the conversation dead in its tracks — “McVeigh looked at him, and you could feel buckets of ice being poured over our conversation. I got out of it.”16MGA Films, “Terror From Within: The Untold Story of the Oklahoma City Bombing.” 2002. Video, 1:04:25; Notes: Whittenberg’s account is given in this documentary; the quote comes from the video. The video pins the date as April 15th, the same given in Whittenberg’s Grand Jury testimony.

Whittenberg remembers the encounter vividly not only because she had opened the cafe short-staffed that morning, but also because she recognized Nichols and McVeigh as occasional customers. However, the third man with the group, Whittenberg testified, she did not recognize. She would later tell investigators and testify to a grand jury that this man had olive skin and looked possibly Hawaiian. Whittenberg testified that the man with McVeigh and Nichols had a “thick neck” and looked “like a bodybuilder.” These details are notable in that nearly a dozen witnesses have used identical language to describe this individual. For example, witnesses Bill Maloney and Joe Davidson described the man they saw in November 1994, with McVeigh and Nichols, as “like a bodybuilder” and said that he had a “thick neck.” Post office employee Debbie Nakanashi testified that the man she saw with McVeigh was muscular, “like a bodybuilder.” Maloney, Nakanashi, and Whittenberg all noted the man’s muscular build and used almost identical language to describe him. When shown the FBI sketch of the man encountered by Bill Maloney and Joe Davidson, Whittenberg told a CNN reporter, “This is the closest picture I’ve seen yet.”17“FBI Seeks Man With McVeigh,” Spokane Spokesman-Review, March 10, 1997. Did Bill Maloney, Joe Davidson, Debbie Nakanashi, and Barbara Whittenberg all see the same individual?

Whittenberg’s account was reported on in major newspapers, wire service reports, and magazines, and she would recount what she had seen in at least one documentary film. Whittenberg’s account appeared in the New York Times in the fall of 1995, the Washington Post in April of 1996, in a May 1996 issue of The New American magazine, the June 4th edition of McCurtain Gazette, and the June 23rd, 1996 edition of the Kansas City Star.18Jo Thomas, “Sightings of John Doe №2: In Blast Case, Mystery №1,” The New York Times, December 3, 1995; Lois Romano, “A Year After Oklahoma City Bombing, Many Mysteries Remain,” The Washington Post, April 19, 1996; J.D. Cash, and Jeff Holladay, “2 Ryder Trucks Were Used in Oklahoma City Bombing,” McCurtain Daily Gazette [Idabel, OK], June 4, 1996; Judy Thomas, “The Picture of Hope and Persistence: Grandparents of Bombing Victims Seek John Doe 2,” Kansas City Star, June 23, 1996. The Associated Press would issue a syndicated report throughout all national newspapers on March 9th, 1997, and the same month Whittenberg’s account would feature prominently in a TIME magazine article.19“Report: FBI Looking For Man Seen With Bombing Suspects,” Associated Press, March 9, 1997; “Who Is Robert Jacques?,” TIME Magazine, March 17, 1997.

Whittenberg’s media exposure was at an apex in 1997. That is when the death threats started. She received a threatening letter, which she turned over to the FBI.20U.S. District Court, Oklahoma County. Grand Jury No. CJ-95–7278, September 15, 1997, testimony of Barbara Whittenberg. Notes: Whittenberg describes a threatening letter that was hand delivered to her mailbox (not sent through the post office) and how she subsequently moved and got a P.O. Box. Whittenberg would later testify in 1997 before the grand jury impaneled to investigate the bombing that she began receiving death threats telling her to keep her mouth shut. She told a Daily Oklahoman newspaper reporter about these threats, saying that “I’ve started to regret I ever said a thing,” adding, “I don’t do telephone interviews anymore. I used to not be that way. I’m sorry.”21“Some Witnesses Leery of Bombing Grand Jury,” Daily Oklahoman, August 10, 1997. Alludes to the death threats Whittenberg has received, quoted.

The Ryder truck that Whittenberg saw in the parking lot caused considerable confusion for both newspapers and the FBI: many papers (including the New York Times) inaccurately reported the date of Whittenberg’s encounter as April 18th, the day after the bomb truck was rented. The FBI discounted Whittenberg because she had seen the Ryder truck, thinking she must be mistaken or lying. After all, McVeigh did not rent the large 20-foot bomb truck until April 17th. However, Whittenberg’s account matches up with that of other witnesses in Kansas. Nearly a dozen witnesses saw McVeigh with a Ryder truck between April 11th and April 16th, for an entire week before renting the more massive truck from Elliott’s. Witnesses from the Dreamland Motel all told the FBI that they distinctly remember McVeigh parking a Ryder truck in the lot on Easter Sunday: April 16th.22U.S. District Court, Colorado. U.S. v. Terry Lynn Nichols. Criminal Action №96-CR-68, December 2, 1997, testimony of Lea McGown; U.S. District Court, Colorado. U.S. v. Timothy James McVeigh. Criminal Action №96-CR-68, May 8, 1997, testimony of Eric McGown; U.S. District Court, Colorado. U.S. v. Timothy James McVeigh. Criminal Action №96-CR-68, May 22, 1997, testimony of Herta King; SA Mark Bouton, FBI 302 interview w/ Eric McGown, April 24, 1995, file #174A-OC-56120 D-2609; Lois Romano, “A Year After Oklahoma City Bombing, Many Mysteries Remain,” The Washington Post, April 19, 1996; Maurice Possley, “Teen Eyewitness Links McVeigh to Ryder Truck,” The Chicago Tribune, May 9, 1997; Steven Wilmsen, “One Oops for the Prosecution,” Denver Post, May 11, 1997; Howard Pankratz,“The Defense Has A Plan,” Denver Post, May 22, 1997; Notes: Half a dozen witnesses at the Dreamland Motel vividly recount McVeigh parking a Ryder truck at the motel on Easter. Easter witnesses include motel manager Lea McGown, her son Eric (who saw it after Easter brunch, and later while cleaning the pool), David and Herta King, Connie and Donald Hood, and Renda Truong. David King noted specific details about both trucks, saying the first truck was “older” and “faded yellow” while the new truck spotted after April 17 was “newer, more aerodynamic looking” and much larger. Speculation is the smaller truck was found to be not large enough to house the 7,000 pound bomb. These witnesses universally described the first truck as smaller and having a washed-out “faded” look. Some of these witnesses said that the truck did not have the “Ryder” logo on it. This smaller moving truck was spotted parked at Geary Lake by at least three witnesses on four consecutive days: April 11th through 14th.23U.S. District Court, Oklahoma County. Grand Jury No. CJ-95–7278, September 15 1997, testimony of James Sargent; U.S. District Court, Colorado. U.S. v. Terry Lynn Nichols, Criminal Action №96-CR-68, December 4, 1997, testimony of James Sargent; Steve Wilmsen, “One Oops For Prosecution,” Denver Post, May 11, 1997; Howard Pankratz, “The Defense Has a Plan,” Denver Post, May 22, 1997; J.D. Cash, and Jeff Holladay, “2 Ryder Trucks Were Used in Oklahoma City Bombing,” McCurtain Daily Gazette [Idabel, OK], June 4, 1996; U.S. District Court, Oklahoma County. Grand Jury No. CJ-95–7278, September 15, 1997, testimony of Georgia Rucker; U.S. District Court, Colorado. U.S. v. Terry Lynn Nichols. Criminal Action №96-CR-68, December 4, 1997, testimony of Georgia Rucker; Sandy Shore, “Nichols’ Witnesses Dispute Timeline on Building of Bomb,” Associated Press, December 5, 1997; Jo Thomas, “Bomb Lawyer Seeks to Show Big Conspiracy,” The New York Times, December 5, 1997; Andrew Gumbel and Roger Charles, Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed — and Why It Still Matters (New York: HarperCollins, 2012) pp. 200–201. Following that, the truck was parked at the Dreamland Motel. At some point following Easter Sunday, this truck disappeared. It is assumed that the bombing conspirators either got rid of that truck because it was too small to house the 7,000-pound bomb or used for some other unspecified purpose.

In her grand jury testimony, Whittenberg expressed some level of frustration that she was not taken more seriously by the FBI. She said that the FBI told her they were not interested in her account because she saw the Ryder truck and McVeigh had not rented a truck until the 17th. Whittenberg said that she did not care one way or another, because she knew what she had seen, and she knew she was telling the truth.

April 18th, 1995 (Tuesday) | Oklahoma City
Center City Post Office | 5th Street
~9:00–10:00 AM

Debbie Nakanashi, Raymond Michael Klish, and Karen Reece were employees at the Post Office across the street from the Murrah Building. According to these witnesses’ interviews, on the morning of the 18th, Timothy McVeigh and John Doe # 2 visited the Post Office. The two men spoke briefly with Debbie Nakanashi, asking her where they might get federal job applications. McVeigh did not speak during the encounter, with John Doe #2 doing all of the talking.24U.S. District Court, Oklahoma County, Grand Jury No. CJ-95–7278, September 9, 1997, testimony of Deborah Inez Nakanashi; Brian Ford, “Grand Jury Listens to Witnesses,” Tulsa World, July 20, 1997.

Regarding John Doe #2, Nakanashi told ABC News that “he walked with a military bearing. He had dark skin, olive skin. It was obvious to me this other man was the one that was in control of the situation; he was the boss.”25Erin Hayes, “Were There Others? Witnesses Claim McVeigh Had an Accomplice, FBI Denies.” ABC News, May 30, 2001. In an interview with investigators, Klish stated that John Doe #2 — the man who did the talking — was “about 5’10” with dark hair that was combed straight back, stocky build, approximately 200 pounds.”26Marty Reed and Wilma Sparks. Private investigators’ interview of Mike Raymond Klish, June 18, 1996. Klish estimated the man was probably late 30s. The other man, Klish said, never spoke a word and was 6′, slim, with a military-type haircut.

Nakanashi was interviewed by SA Daniel Risner and SA Michael Behrends of the FBI on April 22nd, 1995, when her memory was fresh. She was also interviewed by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and then frequently by the FBI in the months following the bombing, meeting multiple times and providing a description of the man she saw to an FBI sketch artist. Nakanashi says of her interviews, “I met always with two men, always a different set of men, four, five, six times. I picked McVeigh out of a photo lineup, but I did admit I had seen him on television. Then they asked about John Doe #2, the guy I spoke with. I told them the guy they had a composite sketch of was not my guy at all.”27“Some Witnesses Leery of Bombing Grand Jury,” Daily Oklahoman, August 10, 1997. Nakanashi said that the extant sketch of John Doe #2 was not quite the man she saw — he looked different than the drawing. FBI sketch artist Jean Boylan interviewed Debbie Nakanashi for six hours to put together a sketch of the man she, Klish, and Reece had seen. Boylan said that “Debbie was such a good witness. I really believed her.”28Sandy M. Fernandez. “Drawn to Trouble.” Elle Magazine, Dec. 2001. pp. 126–133. Boylan then worked with Elliott’s Body shop employee Tom Kessinger to put together a more accurate sketch of the man he’d seen with John Doe #1 at Elliott’s Body Shop. That sketch — a side profile of John Doe #2 with a hat on — was released to the media and depicted almost precisely the man Nakanashi described to Boylan. When FBI official Weldon Kennedy held a press conference clutching the sketch, Nakanashi recognized the rendering instantly: “My John Doe №2 was the second sketch with the side view with the high cheekbones — that is my guy, the guy I saw.”29“Some Witnesses Leery of Bombing Grand Jury,” Daily Oklahoman, August 10, 1997.

Nakanashi appeared on “Good Morning America” in 2001. On the segment, Jean Boylan’s John Doe 2 profile sketch was shown. Nakanashi commented, “There’s a guy out there that looks exactly like that [JD2 sketch] that helped blow up the Murrah Building, and nobody’s looking for him, and nobody seems to care if he gets found and is prosecuted or not. And that really bothers me.”30“Catch All Terrorists,” WND, June 11, 2001; Good Morning America, June 2001.

April 18th, 1995 (Tuesday) | Oklahoma City
Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
Approximately 4:45 PM

Guy Rubsamen, a security guard, working outside the Social Security office at the Murrah Federal Building, saw something highly unusual the afternoon before the bombing. In retrospect, it appears to have been a “dry-run” of the bombing carried out by the bombing conspirators.

Rubsamen reported that on the afternoon before the bombing, around 4:45 PM, he observed three individuals pull up in a yellow Ryder truck. They parked the truck “dead center” in front of the Murrah Building, shut off the engine, and then exited the vehicle in a hurry. Rubsamen described the encounter to McCurtain Gazette reporter J.D. Cash and Rocky Mountain News reporter Kevin Flynn: “There was either two or three men, one jumped out the driver’s side, and one or two out the passenger side. The first thing that struck me was how quickly they jumped out. Those guys were in a hurry.”31SA Thomas Wall, FBI 302 interview w/ Guy Gerald Rubsamen, May 22, 1995, file #174A-OC-56120 D-5389; SA Lee A. Zechter, FBI 302 interview w/ Guy Gerald Rubsamen, August 25, 1995, file #174A-OC-56120 D-9804; J.D. Cash and Jeff Holladay, “Did Conspirators Try ‘Dry Run’ on Eve of OKC Bombing?” McCurtain Gazette [Idabel, OK], Sept. 1, 1996; Kevin Flynn, “Guard Saw 2nd Truck At Building, Story Mirrors Bombing Trial Witness’ Account of Blast Day,” Rocky Mountain News [Denver, CO], May 24, 1997.

After about fifteen minutes had passed and no one had entered the building with a delivery, Rubsamen went back out front to check and saw that the Ryder truck was gone. Rubsamen recalled after the bombing that the yellow moving truck appeared like a Ryder rental truck because it was yellow. However, the Ryder logo was weathered and faded or painted over. Was this truck, with its faded Ryder logo, the second Ryder truck that other witnesses observed April 10th through 16th? It sure sounds like it, described by Rubsamen in the same terms as the truck spotted at Geary Lake and the Dreamland Motel.

Did Guy Rubsamen observe a dry-run for the bombing? Who were the three men he saw?

April 19th, 1995 (Wednesday) | Kingman, Kansas
Approximately 1:30–2:30 AM

Richard Sinnett was assistant manager at a Save-A-Trip convenience store in Kingman, Kansas, on the day of the bombing and would have an encounter in the early morning hours of April 19th that serves as one of the most compelling accounts that others were involved in the bombing that day.

A little after midnight, between 1:30 and 2:30 AM, on April 19th, 1995, Sinnett observed a three-car convoy of a Ryder truck, four-door sedan, and brown truck in the parking lot of the Save-A-Trip.32U.S. District Court, Oklahoma County, Grand Jury No. CJ-95–7278, September 11, 1997, testimony of Richard Sinnett; Richard Sinnett interview w/ J.D. Cash for MGA films, March 11, 1999; Paul Queary, “Kansan Says He Saw Them, Ryder Truck,” Topeka Capital-Journal, September 12, 1997; Brian Ford, “McVeigh Placed at Kansas Store,” Tulsa World, September 12, 1997; “Witness Tells of Seeing McVeigh In Truck,” Rocky Mountain News, September 12, 1997; “Mystery of John Doe №2 Pervades Conspiracy Investigation,” Dallas Morning News, September 14, 1997; The Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building April 19, 1995, (The Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, 2001), 161–162. Sinnett’s encounter began when a man started pumping gas into the Ryder truck, causing the fuel-control console behind the counter in the store to emit a tone indicating a customer has engaged the gas pump.

When Sinnett looked up and out into the lot, he saw a man with his back to him pumping gas into the Ryder truck and, at that time, observed that the Ryder truck was pulling a trailer with a huge fuel tank mounted on it. Sinnett paid close attention to the Ryder truck because the trailer attached to it had a very large cylindrical or barrel-shaped fuel tank mounted on it that looked, unlike anything he had ever seen before. Sinnett said that the tank mounted on the trailer had to have been about 6 feet wide and was so large it would have “barely fit into the back of the Ryder truck so it would have easily held over a thousand gallons of liquid.” Sinnett said he could see a clear colored liquid sloshing around in the large fuel tank as the convoy left the parking lot.

Sinnett would recount this encounter in great detail to the OKC grand jury investigating the bombing. He would testify that a man he referred to as John Doe #2 pumped gas into the Ryder truck while the truck driver entered the Save-A-Trip and asked where the restroom was.

Sinnett directed the Ryder truck’s driver to the rear of the store and would describe him as being about 6 feet tall with light-colored hair and a military-looking haircut. While the driver was using the restroom, John Doe #2 finished pumping gas and entered the store where he picked out a sandwich from the deli counter. Sinnett heated the sandwich for John Doe #2 in the microwave, and just as the sandwich had finished being heated, the Ryder truck’s driver came out of the restroom and approached the counter. John Doe #2 then paid for the sandwich, and the man who had used the restroom paid for the gas.33Ibid.

Sinnett said that the man who pumped the gas and picked out a sandwich, paying in cash, had features that matched some details of the sketches and descriptions of John Doe #2 later provided by others. The man was about 5’7 or 5’8, muscular “like a football player,” about 180 lbs, with dark hair parted on one side and brushed back.34Ibid. After the sketch of John Doe #2 was aired in the media on April 20th, Sinnett says he recognized it immediately as depicting the man he had seen that night. He told the Associated Press that “the eyes were perfect. I recognized him right away.”35“Witness Tells of Seeing McVeigh In Truck,” Rocky Mountain News, September 12, 1997.

After both men exited the Save-A-Trip together, Sinnett watched as the two spoke animatedly to one another just outside the door before getting into the Ryder truck. Sinnett was left with the impression that the two were arguing with one another, testifying that the taller of the two men was waving his arms around and “kind of getting in the face of” the man he referred to as John Doe #2. Following this, the pair got into the Ryder truck with John Doe #2 entering via the passenger side. As the Ryder truck began to exit the parking lot, Sinnett observed a four-door sedan and brown pickup truck pull up alongside, and behind, the Ryder truck and watched as all three vehicles pulled out onto highway 54 together.

The convoy took Sinnett by surprise — he was unaware that the brown pickup and four-door sedan had been in the lot until that moment. Sinnett testified that “the car and the truck [pulling up alongside the Ryder] was just almost immediate, one after the other, and that caught me by surprise because I didn’t even know they were back behind the building.”36Transcript of Richard Sinnett interview w/ J.D. Cash for MGA films, March 11, 1999. Sinnett did not get a good look inside the sedan or brown truck and could not account for how many people might have been in either vehicle.

The Save-A-Trip in Kingman, Kansas, is located just 35 miles west of Wichita, about a half hour’s drive on the highway. It’s 175 miles north of Oklahoma City, about three hours away. This puts the convenience store at a location where the convoy could reach Oklahoma City between 4 and 6 AM, depending on how fast the convoy was traveling and how many stops they would make. Sinnett would relate that “they had plenty of time to get down there” in an interview with the Daily Oklahoman.

April 19th, 1995 (Wednesday) | Oklahoma City
YMCA Building | 125 NW 5th Street
8:02 AM

Morris John Kuper, an employee of the nearby Kerr-McGee Oil Company, saw Timothy McVeigh and John Doe #2 walking away from the 5th street YMCA building on the morning of the bombing. Kuper observed both men running towards and getting into a yellow Mercury Marquis parked in the Kerr-McGee company’s parking lot. Kuper recalls the time because he was late for work and looked at his watch right after seeing the two men, at 8:02 AM.37SA James A. Beck, FBI 302 interview w/ Morris John Kuper, October 24, 1995, file #174A-OC-56120 D-10935; SA James A. Beck, FBI 302 interview w/ Morris John Kuper, November 1, 1995, file #174A-OC-56120 D-11356; Jo Thomas, “Bomb Trial Focus on John Doe №2,” The New York Times, December 10, 1997; David Neiwert, “The Mystery of John Doe №2.” Salon.com, June 9, 2001. This was almost exactly one hour before the bombing.

Kuper called the FBI on April 21st to report what he had seen. He also suggested that FBI agents check the nearby security cameras at the Public Library and Southwestern Bell buildings, which they did. The FBI seized the surveillance camera footage from the SWB building and all other surveillance camera footage in the area.

When Kuper testified at the Nichols trial, prosecutors tried to challenge Kuper’s credibility, telling the jurors that he never contacted the FBI.38U.S. District Court, Colorado. U.S. v. Terry Lynn Nichols. Criminal Action №96-CR-68, December 5, 1997, testimony of Morris Kuper. However, in 2001, the FBI released thousands of documents found to have been withheld from the Defense team. Among those documents was an FBI lead sheet showing that Morris Kuper had, indeed, contacted the FBI just two days after the bombing, relating to them what he saw that morning: Timothy McVeigh and John Doe #2.39Jo Thomas, “Document Erases Doubts About a McVeigh Witness,” The New York Times, May 27, 2001

April 19th, 1995 (Wednesday) | Oklahoma City
Intersection of Main and Robinson St.
8:30 AM

At the time of the bombing, Kyle Hunt was a Vice President at Bank of Oklahoma, responsible for credit & collections and managing the bank’s sale of real estate properties. Hunt and his wife were both respected members of the community and active in 4-H activities. With these facts in mind, one must consider Hunt’s account to be credible and worthy of careful consideration.

On the morning of the bombing, Hunt was on his way to the BOK building on Kerr Ave to meet with his attorney, a meeting scheduled for 8:30 AM. He was running late, and Hunt said he had just exited Interstate 40 into downtown Oklahoma City when he had an unusual encounter that would remain etched into his memory forever. As Hunt was driving through downtown, about four blocks from the Murrah Building, he encountered Timothy McVeigh and three other individuals.40SA David Argo & SA D.J. Dunlap, FBI 302 interview w/ Kyle Hunt, April 27, 1995, File #174A-OC-56120 D-452; U.S. District Court, Oklahoma County, Grand Jury No. CJ-95–7278, July 14, 1997, testimony of Kyle Hunt; Paul Queary, “Banker Testifies Before Grand Jury Probe of Conspiracy Allegations,” The Topeka Capital-Journal, July 15, 1997.

Hunt reported that as he was driving east on Main St. he approached a stoplight where already stopped ahead in the lane adjacent to his, there was a Ryder truck followed close behind by a four-door sedan driven by Timothy McVeigh. Hunt said that it was 8:30 AM when this encounter happened, as he’d been checking his watch because he was late for his scheduled meeting.

As Hunt pulled ahead, slowly passed the sedan, and came to a stop at the light next to the Ryder truck, he got a good look at the sedan’s driver. Hunt reported that the sedan was driven by a man with angular features and a short military-style haircut and that there were two other men inside, one in the passenger seat and one in the back seat.41Ibid. One of the men in the sedan had long dark hair.

Hunt would recall the driver’s face vividly because the two made eye contact as Hunt passed the Mercury. Hunt said, “as I pulled closer, the driver of the sedan [McVeigh] warned me off. I got an icy-cold, go-to-hell look from the young man that I now know to be Timothy McVeigh.”42J.D. Cash and Jeff Holladay, “Startling New Evidence: At Least 4 People Directly Involved in Bombing,” McCurtain Gazette, January 23, 1996. Hunt is positive; the driver was McVeigh, later saying “it was unnerving” and the look that the driver gave him “fixed the features of his face in my mind.”

Hunt saw McVeigh on television just two days later when McVeigh was marched out of the Noble County courthouse in Perry, Oklahoma. Hunt testified that at that time, he immediately recognized McVeigh’s face as the driver who had chillingly glared at him in traffic.

A day or two afterward Hunt was being visited at his home by a police officer friend, and Hunt recounted to him what he’d seen. The friend advised him to contact authorities about the encounter, and the FBI would interview Hunt three times regarding what he saw. Hunt also recounted what he saw to grand jury petitioner Glenn Willburn in a tape-recorded interview. He would also testify before the grand jury was impaneled to investigate the bombing. Hunt’s accounting of this story has never wavered, and to this day, remains compelling and credible.

Who were the other men with Timothy McVeigh? If McVeigh was driving the Mercury, who was driving the Ryder truck? By Hunt’s account, this puts four men in the convoy — incidentally the same number of people observed by Richard Sinnett hours earlier when the convoy had stopped at Sinnett’s Save-A-Trip in Kingman, Kansas.

April 19th, 1995 (Wednesday) | Oklahoma City
5th Street, Eastbound
9:00–9:02 AM

Rodney Johnson was a driver for Rolling Inn Catering in Oklahoma City at the time of the bombing. On the morning of the bombing, Johnson traveled eastbound on 5th Street, making his way to Cox Tomato in the Bricktown area of downtown Oklahoma City. This morning commute took Johnson past the Murrah building, usually between 8 and 9 AM. It has been established that Johnson probably passed the Murrah building around 9:00 AM — his truck had just passed the Murrah Building when it was impacted by debris at 9:02 when the bomb exploded.

Just thirty to sixty seconds before Johnson felt the bomb go off, he observed two men on foot hurrying away from the Murrah building. The pair ran into 5th Street and in front of the catering truck. Johnson had to brake his vehicle and let the men pass in front of him, and in doing so, got a good look at both suspects.43SA John Hippard, FBI 302 interview of Rodney Johnson, Apr 26, 1995, file #174A-OC-56120 D-3253; U.S. Secret Service Timeline, May ’95. pg 73. Johnson contacted the FBI on the night of the bombing about what he had seen and was interviewed by the FBI on April 21st by SA John Hippard.

Johnson described the taller man who ran in front of his catering truck as approximately 6′ to 6’1″, late 20s to early 30s, short sandy blonde hair, crew cut, wearing a white t-shirt. When shown a composite sketch of John Doe #1 by the FBI, Johnson said it highly resembled the man he saw. On April 22nd, when Johnson saw McVeigh’s arrest on television, he called FBI Special Agent John Hippard and told him that McVeigh was the man he saw.44Ibid.

The man Johnson saw with McVeigh the morning of the bombing was described to the FBI as being “stocky, about 5’8”, with black hair, wearing blue jeans and a dark-colored jacket.” Johnson did not get as good a look at the second man as he did McVeigh, who passed closer to Johnson’s truck than the second man who followed. Johnson would later tell reporters about what he saw:

“I saw two individuals, Timothy McVeigh and John Doe #2, cross Fifth Street just minutes before the blast. I remember the Ryder truck, parked against the building. I was making a move from the first lane [of 5th Street] to the next left lane when I noticed two individuals, one of them, Timothy McVeigh, and one of them John Doe #2.”45Rodney Johnson’s comments from a press conference were excerpted in several documentary films. See A Noble Lie (2012), and Terror From Within (2001)

Johnson is adamant that he saw Timothy McVeigh with another man. In television news footage broadcast after the bombing, Johnson said “I know for a fact Timothy McVeigh was with another individual on the morning of April 19th right before the bombing.”[46]

The witness accounts presented here are just a fraction of the many witnesses who observed Timothy McVeigh in Kansas and downtown Oklahoma City. There are many more, and it wasn’t easy to select which accounts I would present here. Ultimately, what the witness statements do is confirm that there was at least one other accomplice with McVeigh. The accounts of the Elliott’s Body Shop employees uniformly describe an accomplice. The corroborating testimony from witnesses Barbara Whittenberg, Debbie Nakanashi, Guy Rubsamen, Richard Sinnett, Morris Kuper, Kyle Hunt, and Rodney Johnson also support this second suspect’s existence. The critical thing to remember about these witness accounts is that they are not outliers or otherwise aberrations. In large part, all of the witness accounts are corroborative; these people all saw just about the same thing.

Consider this: not a single witness who saw Tim McVeigh at the crime scene was called to testify at his trial. Imagine how powerful it would have been for the prosecutors if they could have put someone on the witness stand who would point to Timothy McVeigh and say, “it’s him. I saw him. I’m sure of it.” Why didn’t prosecutors go for the kill? There is a straightforward reason that none of these witnesses ever testified at trial: every single one of them would have also said, “he had another guy with him. Another man was sitting next to him in the truck.” This other man, John Doe #2, could not be easily accounted for by the prosecution. In fact, he wasn’t explained at all.

Later, the FBI’s first on-scene commander of the Oklahoma City bombing investigation wrote a book. In his book, Weldon Kennedy wrote this: “this was going to be a case largely built from forensic evidence since there were no eyewitnesses.” No eyewitnesses. I will leave it up to the reader to determine why Kennedy wrote that in his book, and whether Kennedy was telling the truth when he wrote it.

This article was originally featured at Richard Booth’s website and is republished with permission.

DNA Evidence of Second Bomber at Oklahoma City?

A DNA profile forgotten about for twenty years is it the final piece of evidence to put to rest remaining questions about the Oklahoma City bombing. Fox 25 first told you about the existence of the unknown DNA profile last December, but in the months that have followed there has been no identification of the profile, but there have been more people coming forward to say the attempt to cover up the truth about the unknown sample dates back more than two decades.


Officially it was Timothy McVeigh, aided by Terry Nichols, who detonated a massive truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. However, until recently no one knew the state of Oklahoma was sitting on potentially key evidence in the form of a unique DNA profile collected from a never identified leg found after the attack.

“They claimed now that it had been so embalmed and so involved with the embalming that there was no way to retrieve any of the DNA or any physical information from it,” former Oklahoma City Master Sergeant Don Browning recalled.

Browning was one of the first responders to the bombing and as head of the canine unite he helped recover the final victims from the rubble. In 1995, when it was announced there was an unmatched leg found and there was no way to retrieve DNA from it, Browning asked his supervisor to help solve the mystery. “I’d be glad to go back out there and search that again with the dog in hopes of recovering additional remains,” Browning recalled asking, “He [the supervisor] became pretty upset with me and told me ‘No you will not.'”

Browning never thought much of the leg again until he learned the official story he had been told was a lie and there was a DNA profile pulled from the leg. That DNA profile is a unique genetic fingerprint that didn’t match any known victims. It only added to questions Browning had from a day he can never forget.

Read the entire article at Oklahoma City Fox 25.

The Lies Behind the Oklahoma City Bombing

Despite the seemingly simple conclusion behind the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, the investigation was exceedingly complicated. To this day, it is still the FBI’s most massive investigation, comprised of millions of pages of evidence. Careful analysis of this paper trail shows that the official narrative of the FBI and ATF is in fact a half-truth that ignores findings supported by the records. The FBI and ATF’s positions are frequently backed up with misleading statements, and in some instances, total fabrications.

In an honest investigation, there would be no reason to concoct and disseminate lies. If we believe that the FBI and ATF investigations were fair and legitimate, then we would expect to not find so many blatant examples of dishonesty. Yet, they exist: one after another, often repeated, and affirmed as truth. Some lies are small, others large. But what they have in common is a systemic problem that speaks to the very integrity of the agencies tasked with investigating this crime. The FBI is not a person suffering from a disorder that causes delusions. If an FBI or ATF official is formulating a lie, or propagating an extant lie, there is an objective.

All too often, it appears at the aim of these agencies is to conceal an inconvenient truth, to hide something that may otherwise invalidate the official narrative or camouflage something to heinous for the public to accept. Federal agencies’ overall deceptive pattern points to shared complicity or guilt, which should be of great concern.

In this essay we’ll examine some of the lies and wrongdoing that officials at the FBI and ATF have engaged in regarding their investigation(s) of the Oklahoma City bombing. I have uncovered half a dozen examples throughout investigating this case. Initially, I did not go out of my way looking for deception. It was something I continually discovered naturally. In some cases, the lies may be related to one another and will provide insight and clarity about what happened on the morning of April 19, 1995.

There Were No Eyewitnesses

I came upon the first example while reading On Scene Commander by Weldon Kennedy. Kennedy was the FBI’s first on-scene commander of the Oklahoma City bombing investigation and could be found hosting press conferences to discuss developments in the early days after the attack. In his memoir, Kennedy wrote that “this was going to be a case largely built from forensic evidence since there were no eyewitnesses.”1Kennedy, Weldon L. On-Scene Commander: From Street Agent to Deputy Director of the FBI. Potomac Books, 2007, pp. 224. (Kindle Edition)

Full stop: no eyewitnesses? This assertion is a blatant lie and should be a clue to the discerning reader that whatever the eyewitnesses saw must be important. It is surprising that Kennedy would write this, given the vast number of mainstream media reports that included eyewitness accounts2Thomas, Jo. “Sightings of John Doe No. 2: In Blast Case, Mystery No. 1.” The New York Times, 3 Dec. 1995., along with the FBI’s 302 reports that detailed eyewitness interviews. Even Kennedy himself, during his April 20, 1995 press conference, described a second suspect who was spotted alongside Timothy McVeigh: “The second man is also of medium build. He is further described as 5 feet 9 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing approximately 175 to 180 pounds, with brown hair and a tattoo visible on his left arm, below his t-shirt sleeve. He is possibly a smoker.”3Statement by FBI Special Agent in Charge Weldon L. Kennedy. Press Release: U.S. Department of Justice, FBI. 20 Apr. 1995. Three eyewitnesses from Elliott’s Body Shop provided this description of a man who, alongside McVeigh, picked up the bomb-truck on April 17. This same suspect would be spotted with McVeigh at the crime scene on April 19.

The FBI uncovered about two dozen key eyewitnesses over the course of their investigation. These individuals observed Timothy McVeigh and the Ryder truck as it approached the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on the morning of the bombing, most of them between 8:30 AM and 9:02 AM when the bomb went off. Following the explosion, FBI agent Danny Coulson was in charge of the crime scene, occupying a position of authority similar to Weldon Kennedy as an on-scene commander. In 2007, Coulson spoke candidly to the BBC about the voluminous eyewitnesses that came forward: “We know there were 24 people that were interviewed by the FBI that said they saw Mr. McVeigh on April 19 with someone else.”4“Call to Reopen Oklahoma Bomb Case.” BBC Two, 2 Mar. 2007 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/6275147.stm>; The Conspiracy Files: Oklahoma City, BBC. 4 Mar. 2007. Coulson’s statement is corroborated by the FBI’s 302 reports which contain the descriptions these witnesses provided agents.

For example, catering truck driver Rodney Johnson spoke to the FBI on the night of the bombing and for several days after. Johnson described how he had to slam on his truck’s brakes to avoid hitting two men running across the street as they exited the Ryder truck.5FBI 302 report. SA John Hippard. Interview w/ Rodney Johnson. 21 Apr 1995, File #174A-OC-56120 D-3253 He got a good look at both John Doe #1 and John Doe #2, and his description of the suspects matches the one given by Weldon Kennedy during his April 20 press conference. Rodney Johnson’s catering truck co-worker, Billie Hood, also saw the fleeing pair and was interviewed by the FBI.6FBI 302 report. SA John Hippard. Interview w/ Billie J. Hood. 27 Apr. 1995. FILE #174A-OC-56120 D-3428 Following McVeigh’s arrest, Johnson was re-interviewed and confirmed McVeigh was one of the two men he saw.

According to Weldon Kennedy, both Rodney Johnson and Billie Hood are the product of fever dreams “since there were no eyewitnesses.”

Another witness, Mike Moroz was interviewed by the FBI numerous times in the week after the bombing. Moroz was a mechanic working at Johnny’s Tire, an automotive repair shop located a few blocks from the Murrah Building. On the morning of the bombing, Timothy McVeigh pulled the bomb-truck into Johnny’s Tire at about 8:30am to ask for directions.7Oklahoma County Grand Jury #CJ-95-7278, testimony of Mike Moroz, September 15th, 1997; FBI 302 report. SA John Elvig. Interview w/ Mike Moroz. 21 April 1995, file #174A-OC-56120 D-68; “Man Who Says McVeigh Wasn’t Alone Testifies Before Grand Jury.” Rocky Mountain News, 16 Sept. 1997; Clay, Nolan. “Nichols’ jurors hear of McVeigh sightings.” The Daily Oklahoman, 14 May, 2004. He was looking for a one-way street downtown, a route leading to the Murrah Building. Moroz recounted the interaction to the FBI, explaining that he had spoken to McVeigh face-to-face. His co-workers, Allen Gorrell and Byron Marshall, were also interviewed and confirmed that McVeigh had stopped for directions.8FBI 302 report. SA John Elvig. Interview w/ Allen Gorrell, 24 April 1995, File #174A-OC-56120 SubD-70 and FBI 302 report. SA John Elvig and OSBI SA Terry Wade. Interview w/ Byron Marshall, 24 April 1995, File #174A-OC-56120 SubD-760

Moroz also said that McVeigh had a passenger in the Ryder truck with him. Moroz’s account was so significant that the FBI brought him downtown to their command center, where he selected Timothy McVeigh out of a live line-up the weekend following the arrest.9Trammell, Robby and Nolan Clay. “FBI Downplays Man’s Account Of Truck Driver.” The Oklahoman, 16 Aug. 1995. Print. See also: Oklahoma County Grand Jury #CJ-95-7278, testimony of Mike Moroz, September 15th, 1997. Mike Moroz would have been a damning trial witness for the prosecution, able to put Timothy McVeigh in downtown Oklahoma City and finger his destination as the Murrah Building. Rodney Johnson, too, would have been an incredible asset. He could have placed McVeigh with the Ryder truck at the Murrah Building prior to the explosion. Unfortunately, their testimonies were forsaken in favor of forensic evidence because authorities preferred to pretend they didn’t exist.

Contrary to Weldon Kennedy’s assertion, the FBI attested to these witnesses in a preliminary hearing on April 27, 1995. During his testimony, FBI agent Jon Hersley referred to the observations of both Johnson and Moroz as central to the ongoing investigation.10U.S. vs. Timothy McVeigh, № M-95–98-H (Western District of Oklahoma.) Preliminary Hearing, 27 Apr. 1995. Testimony of Jon Hersley. p 76 and p 93 However, by the time of the McVeigh and Nichols trials—and Weldon Kennedy’s book—these witnesses would disappear from the narrative, rendered nonexistent. Why? Was it because all of these eyewitnesses saw another man in the Ryder truck with McVeigh?

Rodney Johnson, Billie Hood, Mike Moroz, Alan Gorrell, and Byron Marshall are only five of the more than two dozen eyewitnesses who saw Timothy McVeigh in downtown Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19. All of these individuals—described by Danny Coulson and denied by Weldon Kennedy—have something in common: each one confirmed that they saw McVeigh with a second person. This common denominator suggests that the impetus for Kennedy’s lie about “no eyewitnesses” was a concentrated effort to avoid explaining who the man spotted with McVeigh was.

Why did the FBI want to obscure this other suspect, going so far as to lie about witnesses? What does this tell us about who this person might be? One informed and reasonable speculation is that this other suspect was an informant connected either to the FBI or other federal authorities. If this were true, the FBI would have a reason to conceal his existence.

FBI documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) give credence to this theory. Generated during the FBI’s interviews with Terry Nichols in 2005, these documents say that Nichols was scheduled to be interviewed by then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who was chairing a subcommittee tasked with writing a report on terrorism.

In a memo dated June 24, 2005, the FBI writes that, “DTOU [Domestic Terrorism Operations Unit] expressed concern regarding John Doe #2’s name surfacing during the congressman’s interview.”11Memo from FBI Denver Squad 12 to Director FBI, re Terry Lynn Nichols. June 24th, 2005. pp 11 The DTOU is the FBI unit responsible for running informants and sting operations in terrorism cases. If John Doe #2 doesn’t exist, why would the FBI’s DTOU be worried? In a separate email, the FBI’s counterterrorism (CTD) division writes that they “share DTOU’s concern about the John Doe #2 information.”12FBI email from [REDACTED] FBI Denver to [REDACTED] FBI CTD re: Congressman Rohrabacher’s interview of Terry Nichols, 27 May 2005 Why so much caution over a person that the FBI insists isn’t real?

The only scenario that makes sense is that the second suspect pegged by eyewitnesses, John Doe #2, was a federal informant. You can imagine the concern that would follow after FBI investigators discovered that the second person they were seeking was, in fact, part of their ongoing operations. This constitutes a strong motive to cover-up and obscure John Doe #2 at all costs to avoid embarrassment. Ask any retired agent, and they’ll tell you candidly that the biggest sin one can be guilty of at the FBI is embarrassing the bureau. It is only within the context of this unwritten rule that the behavior and statements of the FBI begin to make sense.

Bob Ricks Says: Nothing To See Here

Weldon Kennedy isn’t the only FBI official who has misled the public. Bob Ricks, former Special Agent in charge of the Oklahoma City FBI field office, made some curious statements to the Daily Oklahoman newspaper in October 1995. Ricks had just retired from the FBI, and the same week he left the bureau he granted an interview where he made claims we now know to be entirely false. The piece was headlined “Ricks Blames Curbs for Intelligence Gaps,”13Randy Ellis, and Diana Baldwin. “Ricks Blames Curbs for Intelligence Gaps.” The Oklahoman, 1 Oct. 1995. and has the former agent informing us that the FBI had no active counterintelligence investigations at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing. Why would Bob Ricks lie about that?

Ricks claimed that meddlesome oversight by Congress had hamstrung the FBI and rendered them incapable of gathering intelligence due to excessive red tape. He cited the FBI’s investigation of communist front groups in the 1970s, saying that “following the congressional hearings there, that pretty much took us out of the intelligence business (in the mid-1980s).” In response to criticism, Ricks claims that “we buried our head in the sand.”

His interview’s overall theme was to suggest that the FBI was unprepared for the Oklahoma City bombing because they could not—or would not—carry out intelligence-gathering operations targeting radicals. This is not true. The FBI possessed a vast network of intelligence-gathering tools at their disposal in 1995. They had confidential informants (Cis) and undercover agents (UCAs) infiltrating radical groups.14R.M. Schneiderman. “I Was an Undercover White Supremacist.” Newsweek, Nov. 2011, p. 38. They had pen-register and trap-and-trace mechanisms on the phones of specific targets that recorded inbound and outbound phone numbers.15The State of Oklahoma vs. Terry Nichols, № F-2004-68 (District Court of Pittsburg County), Terry Nichols Motion to Dismiss Based on State’s Failure to Comply w. Brady vs. Maryland, April 12 2004. They had cooperating witnesses in ongoing investigations. All of these tools allowed the FBI to infiltrate and monitor the rightwing, while available evidence indicates they actively used these methods.

In the years leading up to the Oklahoma City bombing, the FBI instituted a “Major Case Domestic Security/Terrorism Group 1 Undercover Operation” called PATCON that targeted militias and other right-wing radicals.16Schneiderman 38-48. A “Group 1 Major Case Undercover Operation” is a big deal at the bureau. It requires continual funding authorizations (based on operational performance), in-place undercover operatives, and is signed-off on by an undercover review committee. The operation’s name, PATCON, was FBI shorthand for “Patriot Conspiracy.”

At the time of Ricks’ comments to the Oklahoman, PATCON was a tightly held secret at the FBI. It would be over a decade before the operation was exposed, and its full scope is still shrouded in mystery. What can be said, based on documents released via FOIA, is that the FBI operation had infiltrated three right-wing groups located across the country with several undercover informants. They had even established their own phony “front groups” whose purpose was to network with targets. One front, a group dubbed the “Veterans Aryan Movement” (or VAM), had an agent posing as an armored car robber with connections to racist groups.17Ibid.

The FBI’s undercover agents and informants, connect to the various PATCON front groups, reported detailed intelligence on their targets, which included people and radical organizations with ideologies similar to Timothy McVeigh’s. One example is an investigation into the black-market sale of Stinger missiles and stolen military-grade night-vision goggles, items that were available for sale to mercenary groups throughout the country in the early 1990s.18Berger, J.M. “PATCON Revealed: An Exclusive Look Inside The FBI’s Secret War With the Militia Movement” Intelwire. Oct. 8, 2007; Berger, J.M. “Patriot Games: How the FBI spent a decade hunting white supremacists and missed Timothy McVeigh” Foreign Policy. April 18, 2012 Another example includes undercover PATCON agents targeting the Texas Reserve Militia/Texas Light Infantry Brigade, a group based in Texas with links to white supremacist figures like Louis Beam. During the same period, undercover PATCON agents targeted the American Pistol and Rifle Association, run by John L. Grady. Another figure targeted by PATCON was Tom Posey, who ran an outfit called Civilian Material Assistance (CMA), an American paramilitary group that in the 1980s had connections to shadowy Iran-Contra figures.  All of these examples show that through the branches of the PATCON operation, the FBI had a vast intelligence-gathering apparatus–the exact opposite of what Ricks said in October 1995.19Ibid.

Of course, at the time of Ricks’ comments, the operation was a guarded secret. It’s clear in retrospect that he was lying; the FBI not only had active intelligence-gathering operations, but one that was tailor-made for inciting and entrapping people like Timothy McVeigh. What was Bob Ricks’ intention when he went to the newspaper and covered up the existence of PATCON? His last act of service to the bureau, rendered unto them the same week Ricks retired, was to tell the press preemptively that something like PATCON didn’t exist.

In effect, Ricks was claiming ‘Nothing to see here, we’re not doing anything that could conceivably be connected to McVeigh.’ Now knowing that this was a lie, we must ask what Ricks was protecting when he volunteered to falsely answer a question he hadn’t yet been asked. If this deliberate deception is any indicator—remember, no matter how clumsy, every obfuscation serves a purpose—there is reason to suspect a connection between PATCON and the Oklahoma City bombing. That theory is corroborated by one of the operation’s undercover assets.

The week of the bombing, John Matthews was sitting at home with his father watching television coverage. Matthews had worked for the FBI as an undercover PATCON agent and had his story told in Newsweek, headlined “I Was an Undercover White Supremacist.” The original article contained a passage about Timothy McVeigh. Newsweek editors cut this, and many other sensitive details, from the published piece for reasons that are still unclear. The original, unedited article states that when Matthews saw McVeigh’s face on television, he recognized him.20R.M. Schneiderman. “I Was an Undercover White Supremacist.” Newsweek, Nov. 2011, Unedited Original Draft, obtained from the writer via researcher Roger Charles.

Years before the bombing, when John Matthews had infiltrated the Texas Reserve Militia, he had attended one of their many weekend paramilitary training exercises. Matthews says that it was there, at a ranch in San Saba, Texas, that he met a tall, skinny ex-soldier with a buzzcut named Tim.21Ibid. The veteran was accompanied by a buck-toothed man with a German accent named “Andy.”22Ibid. Note: the black-haired man with a German accent named “Andy” is widely believed to have been German national Andreas Strassmeir. Strassmeir was indeed socializing with the Texas Reserve Militia/Texas Light Infantry around the time Matthews says he saw him at the San Saba ranch with McVeigh and he was later kicked out of the group after some members strongly felt that he was an undercover informant or provocateur. Strassmeir’s story is a long one, for details concerning his time with the TLI/TRM see also the following sources: J.D. Cash. “FBI Says Strassmeir Was Government Operative.” McCurtain Gazette, 14 Jul. 1996; J.D. Cash and Roger Charles. “FBI Document Links Former Green Beret To McVeigh, Bombing.” McCurtain Gazette, 31 Aug. 2005.

Regarding McVeigh, Matthews said “he [Tim] was a nobody. Just another ex-soldier, but I remember his face. He was at one of the meetings, where a bunch of [stolen] ammunition was brought in from Fort Hood.”23Ibid. Matthews informed his FBI handler, Don Jarrett, that he had seen McVeigh at the ranch training with the Texas Reserve Militia. Jarrett told him, “Don’t worry, we got it covered.”24Ibid. Yet McVeigh’s crossed path with PATCON was never released and was even scrubbed from the Newsweek report. Was this indeed “covered,” as Jarrett had promised, or was it covered-up?

Was Ricks’ lie about intelligence operations related to Weldon Kennedy’s lie about having no eyewitnesses? Recall that all of the witnesses saw a still-unidentified man with McVeigh. Was John Doe #2 an FBI informant or asset? Is this what the FBI is hiding when it denies they were carrying out intelligence-gathering operations? How closely related are lies from the two agents charged with supervising the investigation of the bombing?

Fabricating Evidence

Weldon Kennedy’s assertion that the FBI would have to build its prosecution on forensic evidence due to the non-existence of witnesses amounted, in effect, to two different misdeeds. The first, of course, was saying there were no witnesses. The second is what Kennedy left out of his statement; not only would the FBI rely on forensic evidence, but it would also use fabricated evidence to bolster its case.

FBI forensic scientist Dr. Frederic Whitehurst first raised concerns about unscientific practices occurring at the FBI crime lab, after which an extensive investigation discovered fabricated evidence used in the Oklahoma City bombing case.25Kelly, John and Phillip Wearne. Tainting Evidence: Behind the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab. Free Press, 1998. Notes: The Wearne book documents the Whitehurst story in great detail.   From 1986 to 1998, Whitehurst served as one of the crime lab’s supervisory special agents, where he was widely considered the leading authority on explosives and explosive residue. Possessing a Ph. D. in chemistry from Duke University and a J. D. from Georgetown University, Dr. Whitehurst was the highest qualified analyst in the crime lab at the time, with qualifications often surpassing his superiors. For example, the Chemistry & Toxicology Unit’s chief, Roger Martz, did not have a degree.26Peter Israel, Stephen Jones. Others Unknown: Timothy Mcveigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing Conspiracy. PublicAffairs, 1998, 2001. Kindle Edition. pp 278-280. Notes: The Jones book summarizes the Whitehurst/FBI crime lab scandal very well. Details concerning Whitehurst’s peers lack of degrees and qualifications were noted in this book.  Likewise, the head of the crime lab’s Explosives Unit, David Williams, had a degree in zoology and made his bones not in academia, but through serving time in the bomb squad.27Ibid. Whereas Dr. Whitehurst was a scientist first and foremost. The crux of the doctor’s complaints was that his crime lab peers and supervisors were dedicated less to science than they were securing successful prosecutions—even if that meant violating the standards of any respectable scientist.

Dr. Whitehurst began observing and documenting practices at the crime lab that constituted notable examples of misconduct. As a whistleblower, he was treated severely. He was first fired by the FBI, who ultimately settled in court, paying him $1.2 million and an undisclosed sum for damages. In addition, the Justice Department’s Inspector General investigated the crime lab and produced a damning report. The IG examined several high-profile FBI cases—including the Oklahoma City bombing—and concluded that the crime lab’s investigation contained “serious flaws,” used “unscientific” practices, and had made “unjustified” conclusions which “lacked scientific foundation.”28Ibid, 281. Notes: The Inspector General’s report on FBI crime lab is quoted verbatim in the Jones book. See the full report here: USDOJ/OIG Special Report: The FBI Laboratory: An Investigation into Laboratory Practices and Alleged Misconduct in Explosives-Related and Other Cases (April 1997) <https://oig.justice.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/special/9704a/index.htm>

The FBI had assigned to the Oklahoma City bombing case the same crime lab investigators who had worked on the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. Explosives Unit chief David Williams headed up the lab’s investigation, and he chose Steven Burmeister as his lead forensic examiner. The IG stated that Burmeister had fraudulently altered his reports at the direction of his supervisor, Williams. In one report, concerning Timothy McVeigh’s pocketknife, Burmeister initially wrote that “the presence of PETN [explosives] could not be confirmed.” He later altered the report to say “traces of PETN were located on specimen.”29Ibid, 330. A qualified uncertainty was turned into a forensic certainty, resulting in a report containing false information that was used as evidence at the trial. Just as Dr. Whitehurst had documented, the FBI fabricated evidence for prosecutors—not an anomaly in their behavior, but a pattern. The IG report confirmed that among the cases it examined, the errors “were all tilted in such a way as to incriminate the defendants.”30Ibid, 281-282.

The IG concluded that David Williams ought to be reassigned to another unit because he “lacks objectivity, judgment, and scientific knowledge.” This was one of several reassignments and changes recommended in the IG report, all necessary to reform the crime lab’s practices. As a result of Dr. Whitehurst’s whistleblowing and the subsequent investigation, the FBI was forced to adopt forty different reforms to ensure forensic reliability. The IG report impeached not only the credibility of the FBI crime lab, but the entire bureau. Even with the imposition of reforms, with that credibility gone, how are we expected to trust the FBI’s work in other areas of the investigation? How far did the corruption extend?

It is appalling that such a thing could happen in the highest-level investigation ever carried out by the United States’ premier law enforcement agency. Questions of integrity aside, fabricating evidence also displays an immense arrogance. The FBI was willing to risk a successful prosecution of Timothy McVeigh, when fabricating evidence wasn’t necessary to win a conviction; the extent of the available evidence, even without eyewitnesses, would have been enough to easily secure a conviction. So why do it?

The answer appears to be either ‘because we can,’ or worse, ‘because that’s how we do things.’ The evidence supporting the latter conclusion is plentiful, since criminal activity by the feds goes beyond Oklahoma City. One needs only to look at other high-profile FBI cases. For example, in the espionage case against defense contractor Christopher Boyce and his childhood friend Daulton Lee, the FBI claimed it had recovered Lee’s fingerprints from the secure “black vault” at TRW Inc.31Boyce, Christopher. American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman (40th Anniversary Edition). Glass Spider Publishing, 2018. Kindle Edition. pp 98-99. The black vault was where Boyce made copies of sensitive documents that Lee then hand-delivered to the KGB in Mexico City. One problem: Daulton Lee had never in his life been on TRW Inc. property, much less made his way to the highly secure black vault.32Ibid, 100. This inconvenient fact did not stop the FBI as they apparently fabricated Daulton Lee’s fingerprints to use as a “trump card” in case the evidence against him wasn’t enough to convict. Like McVeigh, there was enough legitimate evidence against both Boyce and Lee to make any fabrication unnecessary, to say nothing of egregious. But ‘that’s how we do things.’

Destroying Evidence

Acting on a tip, in 2005 the FBI raided the former Kansas residence of convicted bomber Terry Nichols, where they seized a cache of explosives. Nichols told the FBI in interviews that among the carefully wrapped and preserved explosives they would find the fingerprints of an unindicted co-conspirator in the bombing. Unfortunately, we’ll never know whether this was true. The FBI—grudgingly acting on Nichols’ tip—destroyed most of the evidence.

Only after enduring pressure from congressional staffers and at least one congressman did the FBI act, taking over two years to produce a report on the results of the raid. The report, dated February 21, 2008, noted that a fingerprint—named redacted—was lifted from a book found among the explosive cache. The inventory—seventy kinestik binary explosives, detonators, fuses, and flares—was destroyed, along with any fingerprint evidence.33FBI Lab Took Nearly Three Years to Analyze Terry Nichols Bomb Cache. Intelwire. 3 Feb. 2011 <http://news.intelwire.com/2011/02/fbi-lab-took-nearly-three-years-to.html>

In his 2005 interviews with the bureau, Terry Nichols said that the fingerprints of Roger Moore and other bombing conspirators would be found among items in the explosives cache. Despite this indication, the FBI crime lab made no identification in their reports. However, in a December 2012 interview on The Scott Horton Show, investigator Roger Charles suggested that the FBI did recover prints from the stashed explosives. Charles explained that a highly placed FBI official told Deputy Bureau Chief of the Associated Press John Solomon that four sets of fingerprints were discovered: Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, Roger Moore, and Richard Lee Guthrie.34Interview with Roger G. Charles. The Scott Horton Show, 4 Dec. 2012.

Mcveigh Sketch2Guthrie, who died in prison in 1996, was a leading figure in the Aryan Republican Army (ARA), a neo-Nazi bank robbery gang, and has long been suspected of possible involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing plot. Likewise, in reports produced by McCurtain Gazette reporter J. D. Cash and Indiana criminology professor Mark Hamm, they suggest that McVeigh might have been involved in one or more of the ARA bank robberies. One of the stick ups was carried out on September 21, 1994 in Overland Park, Kansas. According to Cash, “witnesses provided a sketch of him [one of the robbers], you look at it, and there’s no question it’s McVeigh.”35Interview with J.D. Cash. The Scott Horton Show, 22 Jul. 2005. Mark Hamm agrees, telling Cash, “I believe that sketch of the other subject is Timothy McVeigh and not [Peter] Langan. It’s almost a perfect likeness of McVeigh.”36J.D. Cash and Roger Chales. “Sketch could link McVeigh with Aryan Nations’ plot.” McCurtain Daily Gazette, 6 Dec. 2003

Another ARA bank robbery that Timothy McVeigh may have participated in occurred at the Third Federal Savings and Loan in Middleburg Heights, Ohio on December 9th, 1994. On December 5th, members of the ARA checked into a motel near Kent, Ohio. FBI investigators, suspecting that McVeigh was linked to the robbery, analyzed video footage from the crime in an attempt at identification. Reportedly, the FBI crime lab’s comparison of McVeigh and he bank surveillance video was inconclusive. Unfortunately, we can no longer examine the video because it was destroyed by the FBI in 1999, despite evidentiary rules to the contrary.

The FBI also destroyed blasting caps wrapped in Christmas paper recovered from the gang’s safehouse in Ohio. According to the ARA’s co-founder, Peter Langan, those blasting caps were obtained from Timothy McVeigh.37J.D. Cash. “National Media Barred from Interviewing Inmates About OKC Bombing.” McCurtain Gazette, 1 May 2003; Affidavit Peter Langan, 9 Apr. 2007. Can we trust the FBI’s word that Langan is lying, and that neither the caps nor the surveillance video was connected to McVeigh? The FBI’s bureaucratic culture is to collect and preserve every last scrap of paper or conceivable bit of evidence. If something is destroyed, it is to serve a purpose.

The FBI also managed to destroy crucial audio dispatch tape recordings and transcripts that had been obtained during the investigation. In a November 1995 interview, Assistant Chief of the Oklahoma City Fire Department Jon Hansen said that the fire department had received a call from the FBI on the Friday before the bombing. The FBI warned them that there might be an imminent terrorist attack, and to maintain heightened security levels. When asked if the fire department had kept a recording the call, Hansen said that “all the transmission tapes have been erased. We made a boo-boo.”38J.D. Cash and Jeff Holladay. “Bombing Trial Judges Absence on Day of Blast ‘an Amazing Coincidence.” McCurtain Gazette, 1 Dec. 1995. A boo-boo? Really?

During his trial, McVeigh’s defense team requested that the FBI provide all transcripts and transmissions related to Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, and two weeks prior. The FBI glibly responded to this request by informing them that these tapes and transcripts were “accidentally destroyed.”39Painting, Wendy S. Aberration in the Heartland of the Real: The Secret Lives of Timothy McVeigh (Kindle Location 1150). Trine Day. Kindle Edition. Was this another “boo-boo?” Or was this destruction of key evidence intentional? The reader can make an informed decision.

McVeigh’s defense team also made a request for transcripts of the Oklahoma City Police Department dispatch tapes, which would have included the APB that police issued on April 19 for a brown truck connected to the bombing. The FBI responded that these too had been “accidentally destroyed.”40Ibid. Once again, we find a convenient “accident” that invariably strengthens the FBI’s narrative of the bombing.

Any lawyer will tell you that your case is only as good as the evidence it’s based on. The evidence in a criminal case must be carefully preserved with a documented chain of custody; nothing should be destroyed or otherwise mishandled. It appears, however, to have been commonplace in the Oklahoma City investigation. The handful of examples highlighted above show a pattern of behavior that, when combined with the conclusions of the IG report on the FBI crime lab, indicates that the destruction and fabrication of evidence was part of an overall effort to conceal specific facts in order to slant the case in favor of the prosecution. We must ask: what is being concealed by this pattern, and what common denominators exist in each instance where evidence was mishandled, destroyed, or fabricated?

ATF: ‘We Weren’t There’

On the morning of April 19, 1995, several ordinary Oklahomans had disturbing encounters with ATF agents the Murrah Building blast site during the subsequent rescue operations. These individuals include rescue volunteers and emergency first responders who were triaging the wounded while working with ambulance and rescue personnel. Several of these people testified before a grand jury impaneled to investigating the bombing what ATF agents had told them that morning.

Prior to testifying, these witness accounts were published in the McCurtain Gazette newspaper by award-winning journalist J. D. Cash. Three of their statements were broadcast on Oklahoma City television station KFOR-TV on September 12, 1995. The first two witnesses interviewed by KFOR’s Brad Edwards were Bruce Shaw and his supervisor, Tony Brasier. Shaw’s wife had worked at the Murrah Building, and upon hearing about the bombing, Shaw and Brasier immediately left work to assist in rescue efforts. Arriving at the blast site, Shaw spotted an ATF agent among those gathered, and he approached to inquire about rescue efforts. Shaw explained that his wife worked in the federal credit union located in the building. The couple knew many of the ATF personnel who worked at the Murrah Buidling, and Shaw informed the unfamiliar agent, “I’ve got to find some of the local ATF agents to help me find her…They know me.”

Bruce Shaw recounted that the ATF agent he spoke to attempted to reach someone on a two-way radio but couldn’t get a response. “He said they were in debriefing, that none of the agents had been in there. They’d been tipped by their pagers not to come in to work that day. Plain as day out of his mouth. Those were the words he said.”41J.D. Cash and Jeff Holladay. “Did ATF Expect Bomb Blast Earlier, Let Down Its Guard?” McCurtain Daily Gazette. 16 May 1996; Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee. The Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, 2001. pp 270-272 Shaw’s supervisor, Tony Brasier, had been standing next to his subordinate and the agent when this discussion occurred. Brasier affirmed on-camera to KFOR that the agent had indeed said that the ATF had been “tipped off by the pagers not to come in to work that day.”

A third witness, Katherine Mallette, was interviewed by the television station on the September 12 broadcast. Mallette was an emergency medical technician with the Emergency Medical Service Authority (EMSA) and participated in rescue efforts the morning of April 19. She stated that as she was prepping an ambulance to transport victims to area hospitals, two ATF agents walked by, and she overheard their discussion. One agent said to the other, “Is this why we got the page not to come in today?” Mallette attested to this disturbing exchange on-camera for KFOR, and later provided the Oklahoma Bombing Investigative Committee a signed affidavit attesting to what she had seen. 42The Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, 2001. pp 270-272

A second rescue worker, Tiffany Bible, was a paramedic with the EMSA who participated in rescue efforts that morning. Bible’s first impression was that there was some sort of natural gas explosion, and when she approached an ATF agent on-site, she asked how a gas explosion could have caused so much damage.

The agent told her that it was not a gas explosion, but a truck-bomb. This exchange occurred only five minutes after the blast. Knowing that the ATF was housed in the Murrah Building, Bible expressed her concern for the agent’s co-workers. He responded that, “No, we weren’t in there today.”43Ibid, p 342. Like the other witnesses, Bible testified to this encounter in an affidavit submitted to the grand jury impaneled to investigate the bombing.

Why was the ATF not at work on the morning of April 19, 1995? The rescue workers’ accounts—aired on television and reported in newspapers—caused the ATF to panic and issue statements later proven to be lies. The ATF agents’ admissions that they were not in the building, combined with the agency’s later explicit denials, may contribute to understanding a fundamental truth about the bombing. The ATF’s lies and contradictions can, like the FBI’s, be interpreted in a wider context.

Panic, Lies

To counter what the ATF said were “widespread rumors” that agents had evacuated the Murrah Building before the blast, the agency acted in a typical bureaucratic fashion: they issued a press release.44J.D. Cash and Jeff Holladay. “ATF’s Explanation Disputed.” McCurtain Sunday Gazette, 30 Jul. 1995. In the May 23, 1995 press release, ATF Special Agent-in-Charge of the Dallas regional office Lester Martz claimed that Oklahoma City ATF agent Alex McCauley and DEA agent David Schickendanz were trapped in the building’s elevator when the truck-bomb exploded. According to Martz, McCauley and Schickendanz were both victims and heroes, carrying out a fantastical escape to help others who laid dying around them.45Ibid. Martz asserted that the elevator dropped in a free-fall from the eighth floor to the third, where the two men remained trapped. In this account, McCauley and Schickendanz escaped from the elevator’s smoking rubble only after forcing the doors open. This story is, by all measures, entirely fictional.

In the aftermath of the bombing, General Services Administration (GSA) and Midwestern Elevator Company inspectors investigated the blast site and the building’s elevators. The Midwestern technicians “found that five of the six elevators were stopped between floors with their doors blown inward, which caused the safety mechanisms to freeze them in place.”46Ibid. Duane James, one of the elevator maintenance technicians, was quoted saying, “Once that occurs, the doors cannot be opened—period.” James said that the elevators have safety switches that prevent excessive speed, and that he determined none of the safety switches had been tripped.47The Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, pp 272.

In their final report, the Oklahoma Bombing Investigative Committee wrote that, “GSA inspectors and Midwestern technicians have stated in interviews and in sworn affidavits and/or testimony that there was no evidence of (1) free-falling elevators, (2) persons in any of the elevators who then forced their way out, or (3) failure of the safety mechanisms built into the system.”48Ibid. In other words, Lester Martz’s heroic account of federal agents was an impossible lie. Technician Duane James put it this way: “If you fell six floors and it was a free fall, it’d be like jumping out a six-story building. I’d ask them how long they were in the hospital and how lucky they were to survive.”49Ibid.

After the May 23 press release featuring this cock-and-bull story, the ATF issued several other stories to account for their agents’ whereabouts. The narrative kept changing; this indicates both incompetence and dishonesty, a hasty and ill-formed plan to conceal the truth. For example, on the day of the bombing the ATF’s public affairs spokesperson in Washington D.C. claimed that the agency had 20 agents on duty. When it became apparent this was false, ATF agent Luke Franey volunteered to bombing victim Glenn Wilburn that the agents were “out on assignment,” while “some didn’t come in because they were out of town.”50J.D. Cash and Jeff Holladay. “More Evidence Suggests Prior Knowledge of OKC Bombing.” McCurtain Sunday Gazette. 12 May 1996. In December 1995, ATF Dallas chief Lester Martz said that the missing agents were involved in an all-night “surveillance operation.”51Ibid. With all of these varying and stories to account for the lack of ATF agents in the Murrah Building that day, it is difficult to know where the lies end and the truth begins.

The ATF also issued contradictory statements about their level of situational awareness on April 19, 1995. When asked whether the agency was aware of the date’s significance—it was the two-year anniversary of the Waco massacre—agent Luke Franey flatly denied that the ATF was the least bit concerned. He told Glenn Wilburn that “No, there was no alert or any concern on our part about the significance of that day.”52Ibid. Meanwhile, ATF Director John Magaw told CNN he had been “very concerned about that day and issued memos to all of our field offices,” telling them that “they were put on alert.”53Ibid. These conflicting explanations demonstrate that ATF officials had not coordinated their responses.

The ATF’s many denials and lies about their whereabouts on April 19 share a common theme: to hide the fact that they knew something and were not at work that day. The contradictions indicate that something about their absence is important enough to conceal no matter how outrageous the cover story. What was it? Is it related to the FBI’s deceptions?

The Road to Oklahoma City

The ATF is not the only federal agency whose high-level officials concocted fictional stories about the event of April 19, 1995. There is a similar case that could possibly be related to the ATF agents’ whereabouts during the bombing.

The Special Agent-in-Charge of the Dallas FBI office, and later in charge of the crime scene in Oklahoma, was Danny Coulson. Coulson was a veteran of the FBI with a long history in dealing with terrorism. Over a decade before the bombing, he was attached to the FBI Hostage Rescue Team (which he founded) when they took down Robert J. Matthews of The Order. Coulson managed and successfully negotiated the siege on the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord radical group on April 19, 1985. His whole career, Coulson had presided over events whose history was inextricably linked to the ideology of Timothy McVeigh—he was, in fact, the perfect person to lead the Oklahoma City bombing investigation. However, for reasons not yet clear, he was not selected for that job.

In Coulson’s memoir, No Heroes, he recounted the morning of April 19, 1995. He was at home in Texas when he received a page from John O’Neil at the FBI headquarters’ anti-terrorism center.54Coulson, Danny. No Heroes: Inside the FBI’s Secret Counter-Terror Force. Simon and Schuster, 1999. O’Neil broke the news to him: the Alfred P. Murrah Building had been bombed. Coulson writes that O’Neil asked him to catch the next flight to Oklahoma City. What played out next is worthy of a Hollywood film. Coulson claims that there were no flights out of Texas due to inclement weather, so he fetched his badge and gun and hit the road. Coulson sped off to Oklahoma City, driving through a furious rainstorm, his wiper-blades swiveling on the windshield as lightning strikes peppered Texas’ pastures and fields in his rear-view mirror. The FBI’s top anti-terrorism agent was on his way.

Coulson’s biographical account cannot be verified, since John O’Neil died in the 9/11 attacks. However, cracks have emerged over the years that raise serious questions about Coulson’s recollection of events. Firstly, in an interview with C-SPAN’s BookTV in 1999 to promote his memoir, Coulson said that he was home eating breakfast when he “heard on the television” about the bombing in Oklahoma City.55C-Span BookTV appearance, Danny Coulson, Inside the FBI’s Secret Counter-Terror Force (1999). < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuRyfZLy8ew> Since his presentation was about his book, you would have expected Coulson to describe events the same, yet the story differed ever so slightly. Then, years later, journalist J. D. Cash obtained Danny Coulson’s hotel receipt for April 19, 1995. The receipt shows that Coulson checked into an Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City twenty minutes after midnight on the 19th.56J.D. Cash. “Receipt Shows Head of FBI Anti-Terrorism Task Force in OKC Hours Before Blast.” McCurtain Daily Gazette, 21 Jan. 2002; “FBI Document Raises Questions About Prior Knowledge in OKC bombing.” News Radio 1000 AM KTOK in OKC, 17 Jan 2002; He was in Oklahoma City nine hours before the Murrah Building was bombed.

During J. D. Cash’s research into Coulson’s movements that week, he attempted to obtain both Coulson’s and FBI official Larry Potts’ travel records from the FBI. The effort was fruitless; the bureau claims some of those travel records are “missing”—in the same manner that inconvenient evidence seems to disappear. However, Cash wrote that Coulson’s trip to Oklahoma City fits within a framework of “evidence revealing weeks of planning by an elite corps of drug and counterterrorism experts who were closely monitoring members of various far-right groups.”57Ibid. What were these “weeks of planning” related to?

Cash concluded that Coulson was working on a project that included other counterterrorism agents “monitoring” right-wing groups. What we can infer is that whatever Coulson was involved with, it was sensitive enough that he decided to create an alternative explanation about how he arrived at Oklahoma City. Coulson could have written in his book that he happened to arrive in the city the night before and left it at that. Why did he choose to lie? The likeliest reason for a cover-up would be because his reason for being in Oklahoma City was directly linked to the bombing. If that were accurate, Coulson’s motivation begins to make sense.

To make the situation even more confounding, Coulson billed his April 19 travel costs to the FBI’s MC-111 on May 16, 1995. MC-111, short for Major Case 111, is also known as VAAPCON.58Ibid. Like PATCON, VAAPCON was an FBI clandestine operation. While PATCON targeted militias and radical right-wing terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, VAAPCON targeted individuals and groups that advocated violence against abortion clinics. A report published by The Washington Post in 1996 described VAAPCON as consisting of nothing more than a thin folder of papers, with few leads, no arrests, and nothing that would conceivably put an agent of Coulson’s standing far away from his field office. At best VAAPCON might garner a few conference calls, but certainly not a flight to Oklahoma City of all places. Headlined “Abortion Clinic Violence Probe Was Over Before It Started,” the Post essentially declares VAAPCON dead in the water.59Charles W. Hall and Robert O’Harrow Jr. “Abortion Clinic Violence Probe Was Over At The Start.” Washington Post, 26 Jan. 1996.

It was this same Washington Post article that revealed the existence of VAAPCON to the public. Meaning, Coulson would have no reason to conceal such an operation in his memoir, published three years after the article. If Coulson was in Oklahoma City due to his participation in VAAPCON, he could have written that without garnering a second glance. But he didn’t do that. While Coulson might have billed his time to VAAPCON—a dead operation—on May 16, we can interpret this as an effort to conceal his actual activities at the time.

What if the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was a failure of intelligence, a sting operation gone terribly wrong that literally blew up in the FBI’s face? If this scenario is correct, it can be assumed that such a thing could never be acknowledged through travel records, much less after-action reports. The sting operation would have to remain a secret. It’s with that mind that we think back to Bob Ricks’ denial to the press in October 1995 about the existence of any intelligence operations being performed by the bureau. This theory would also explain the missing travel records of Coulson and Potts, along with Coulson erroneously billing his time to the then-defunct VAAPCON. It would give reason for Coulson to be Oklahoma City nine hours prior to the bomb’s detonation, and to lie about it in his memoir. In this scenario, if the FBI had an informant or asset within the operation—John Doe #2—that would explain the agency’s continual, adamant denial about the existence of a second suspect. It would also corroborate the FBI Domestic Terrorism Operations Unit’s “worry” and “concern” about John Doe #2’s identity being divulged to congressional investigators in 2005.

While this theory exists in the realm of speculation and conjecture, what can be said with certainty is that this scenario is the only one that makes sense given the totality of evidence. What’s more, if this were the case, it would not be the first time an FBI intelligence-gathering operation was tied into plot through informants.

Real Explosives, Real Victims

Roger Charles was a co-author of the 2012 book Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed and Why It Still Matters. In the book and a 2007 BBC production, Charles lays out the evidence indicating that authorities had informants close the criminal conspiracy behind the bombing.60Andrew Gumbel and Roger Charles. Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed and Why It Still Matters. HarperCollins, 2012; The Conspiracy Files: Oklahoma City, BBC. 4 Mar. 2007. If he is correct, it wouldn’t be the first time. Just two years before Oklahoma City, an almost identical situation played out in the first attack on the World Trade Center:

  • Terrorists loaded a rental truck with an ANFO bomb.
  • A building full of civilians was the target.
  • The FBI had an informant inside the operation.
  • The FBI failed to stop the bombing, with their focus being in favor of continued intelligence gathering.

The FBI has denied it had any advance warning of the bombing, or that it was involved in a sting operation in Oklahoma City. Bureau flunky Jon Hersley unconvincingly proclaimed that, “We don’t play games with people’s lives like that.”61The Conspiracy Files: Oklahoma City, BBC. 4 Mar. 2007. The denials, however, don’t line up with the facts.

The FBI informant involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Emad Salem, recorded his conversations with his agency handlers. The recordings show that the FBI was more interested in intelligence-gathering—of the sort Bob Ricks claims the FBI wasn’t doing—than stopping the plot in its tracks.62Ralph Blumenthal. “Tapes Depict Proposal to Thwart Bomb Used in Trade Center Blast.” New York Times, 28 Oct. 1993. Salem suggested replacing the lives explosives that were eventually used in the bomb with harmless materials. Instead of taking his route, Salem’s handlers wanted him to wear a microphone and continue to gather vital intelligence. Salem balked at wearing a wire—while also asking the FBI to pay him more money. The feds lost Salem as an informant, while the World Trade Center bomb plot continued and matured after Ramzi Yousef came on-board with his bomb-making expertise. The end result was six people dead and 1,000 injured when the bombers attacked the towers.

The FBI’s failure to know when and where the World Trade Center attack would take place was a direct result of their inability to handle Emad Salem properly. In this example, we have the FBI close enough to a bomb plot that they had a chance to capture the conspirators early on but bungling it by not handling their informant with more finesse.

In his denial that any similar operation occurred in Oklahoma City, Agent Hersley said, “If we had any information beforehand from any informants about a potential bombing of a federal building, I can assure you that we would have taken immediate action.” That wasn’t the case, however, in 1993. The opposite is true, in fact. Given the past record of the FBI, can we trust Hersley? Was he lying–alongside Weldon Kennedy, Bob Ricks, and Danny Coulson–to protect secrets?

Throughout the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, federal agents targeted former neo-Nazi Johnny Bangerter, who was the center of the same sort of groups targeted by the FBI’s PATCON operation. Bangerter was present at the siege of Ruby Ridge and knew Randy Weaver personally. He said that in retrospect, the most striking thing about being approached by informants and undercover agents was that they always used “real explosives. Real machine guns. It was always real stuff. Very dangerous.”63Interview with author via phone, Johnny Bangerter. August 2020 Bangerter made clear that not only did these federal agents play with people’s lives, but they did so using a kind of playbook: always with a truck-bomb, always with real explosives, and always with provocateurs advocating for violence in the most overt manner. With some sadness in his voice, Bangerter added that “there were real victims, too.”

When the FBI says that “we don’t play games with people’s lives like that,” or insists that the bombing could not possibly have been “a sting gone wrong,” we’re meant to take their word for it. But the question is, can we? When the facts are examined, we find ourselves in a situation where the FBI has no credibility. They lie, they fabricate and destroy evidence. They are akin to the boy who cried wolf: it is reasonable to be skeptical of their denials based on their past behavior. Having witnessed the same sort of conduct, and being fed the same kind of lies, we can reach conclusions on what the truth might be.

It is a truth that resembles a failed sting operation, an informant the FBI says doesn’t exist, but that twenty-four people saw, and a mountain of other evidence. Whereas Jon Hersley’s “truth” that the FBI wouldn’t do this is equivalent to the “truth” that there are no eyewitnesses. Or the “truth” that the FBI had no intelligence-gathering operations. Or the “truth” that the ATF showed up for work on April 19, 1995. Or the “truth” that ATF agents karate-chopped their way out of wrecked elevators to save lives. Or the “truth” that Danny Coulson drove through a rainstorm to reach Oklahoma City after the bomb blast.

It’s all the truth because the FBI says so. And we can trust the FBI, can’t we?

Richard Booth is an independent citizen journalist and member of the Constitution First Amendment Press Association (CFAPA). A student of the OKC bombing case since 1995, Richard began researching the Oklahoma City bombing in earnest in 2012 and is currently writing a book about the case. Richard has appeared on podcasts to discuss his interest, highlighting areas that warrant additional research, and expressing the need for more students to actively research this case. In April 2020, Richard donated his archive of research materials—thousands of news reports, articles, magazine pieces, FBI documents, ATF documents, court records and trial transcripts to The Libertarian Institute. You can find this archive here.  


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