OKC

Andreas Strassmeir Responds to TV Miniseries Depicting Him as OKC Terrorist

Andreas Carl Strassmeir is a Hebrew-speaking, ex-military German who lived in a Nazi-infested religious compound during the 1990s, had dealings with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and is rumored to have been involved in that attack—with some researchers going as far as to suggest that he was an agent provocateur.

Andy StrassmeirThe real-life version of Showtime’s “Andy the German” character. Photo: WIKIPEDIA

If those details sound like they belong in a Hollywood drama, now they are. Showtime released a series earlier this year that directly implicates Strassmeir in the OKC bombing, which remains the deadliest domestic terrorism attack in American history.

But Strassmeir says the show’s depiction of him and other Elohim City residents is a complete fabrication. In an exclusive interview with Headline USA, Strassmeir clapped back against those who have accused him of helping McVeigh, and discussed whether he’ll sue Showtime over what he considers to be defamation of character.

He also offered his own theory for what really happened on April 19, 1995.

Showtime Drama

The show, Waco: The Aftermath, casts as its protagonist the real-life former ATF informant Carol Howe, who helped the federal government spy on Strassmeir and other residents of the religious compound, Elohim City.

In the show, McVeigh travels to Elohim City and plots the OKC attack with “Andy the German,” as the show calls him, referring to Strassmeir only by his nickname.

The informant, Howe, sneaks into Andy the German’s trailer in dramatic fashion, finding apparent bomb-making materials and schematics.

After narrowly escaping Elohim City—fleeing from guard dogs and several pistol potshots from Andy the German—Howe and her agent handler have a meeting with a top FBI official and warn him about the impending bombing.

However, the FBI ignores her information, allowing McVeigh to carry out his dastardly deed and murder at least 168 people, including 19 toddlers, ostensibly as revenge for the Waco massacre exactly two years prior.

The show has received mixed reviews thus far, with Strassmeir giving perhaps the most negative feedback.

“It’s bullshit,” he said.

Strassmeir’s Response

For starters, McVeigh never visited Elohim City, according to Strassmeir, who spoke to Headline USA from his home in Berlin.

Strassmeir and McVeigh have each admitted to meeting each other once at a Tulsa, Oklahoma gun show more than a year before the bombing, with the German trading his knife for McVeigh’s military fatigues. But Strassmeir said he never saw McVeigh again—other than on the news in the wake of the bombing.

Strassmeir also disputed the characterization of Elohim City as a haven for white supremacists. He said people from all walks of life inhabited the property, which was founded by a Canadian immigrant and former Mennonite.

“I’m actually a very staunch Zionist, to be honest. I spent a lot of time in Israel, I have friends over there,” he said, adding that he’d discuss politics and philosophy with the Neo-Nazis who did inhabit Elohim City, such as Dennis Mahon, the former leader of the “White Aryan Resistance.”

Strassmeir, who was never a suspect in the FBI’s investigation of the bombing, said he knew Howe was a federal informant from the moment she stepped inside Elohim City. He tried to warn Elohim City’s spiritual leader, Robert Millar, but said Millar’s religious beliefs dictated that all of Christ’s children were welcome at his property.

“I was 99-percent she was an informant when she was there. She was such a dishonest person, and I caught her lying all the time. I said, ‘We shouldn’t allow her to be here.’ And they had a little meeting with the elders,” he said.

“But Millar said, ‘We’re not doing anything illegal here, so what harm is it for her to be here?’ I said, ‘I hope you don’t regret this situation.’ And I guess I was right.”

As for the show’s depiction of Elohim City residents throwing Howe in a pit, chasing her with dogs and shooting at her—Strassmeir called it “complete bollocks.” Indeed, Howe has never publicly accused Strassmeir of shooting at her, and the German said Millar “hated dogs.”

But why was Howe and the ATF spying on Elohim City in the first place?

Strassmeir told Headline USA he thinks the ATF was looking for revenge after its botched raid on another religious compound in Waco in 1993, which ultimately resulted in four dead ATF agents and 82 murdered civilians, including 25 children and two pregnant women.

Strassmeir said he thought that Howe and the ATF were targeting him in particular, because he was staying in the U.S. illegally. This would have given law enforcement the excuse it needed to raid Elohim City, he said.

Andy StrassmeirA clipping of a 1997 Soldier of Fortune article about Andy Strassmeir.

In fact, the ATF had indeed been planning to raid Elohim City in February 1995.

But when the FBI learned of the ATF’s plans, the bureau stepped in and quashed the raid before it happened. Former FBI spokesman Bob Ricks later explained that the bureau interfered with the ATF’s plans because it didn’t want another Waco debacle.

Strassmeir agrees with Ricks.

“I think the FBI did not want the ATF to raid the place because the scenario would be Ruby Ridge and Waco—some agency, you know, attacks, gets their ass kicked and to then the FBI has to step in and solve the situation,” he said.

“They’re simply tired of that shit. Because in the end, it’s the FBI with egg all over their face at Waco, even though the ATF got them in that situation.”

In any event, the Oklahoma City bombing happened about two months after the ATF aborted its planned raid.

Carol Howe’s Warning

After the bombing, Howe was reactivated as an informant and sent back into Elohim City as part of the government’s investigation.

Somewhere along the line, she ran afoul with the ATF. Howe was arrested in 1997 for allegedly making bomb threats and having an explosive device at her home.

It was from Howe’s trial that many of her damning allegations about Elohim City’s connections to the OKC bombing came to light.

Carol HoweCarol Howe, the former Tulsa, Okla. debutante, walks into the Tulsa Federal Courthouse Monday, July 28, 1997, for the start of her trial for bomb threats and conspiracy. She is a former ATF informant, who claimed she told federal officials of a bombing conspiracy before the Oklahoma City bombing. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)

Howe’s allegations were corroborated by her former ATF handler, Angela Finley-Graham. The ATF agent testified that Howe had indeed warned the federal government that people from Elohim City had plans to attack federal buildings in early 1995.

“Ms. Howe told you about Mr. Strassmeir’s threats to blow up federal buildings, didn’t she?” said Howe’s attorney, Clark Brewster.

ATF agent Finley-Graham responded: “Yes.”

“And was this before the Oklahoma City bombing?” Brewster asked.

Again, agent Finley-Graham said, “Yes,” in response.

A jury exonerated Howe of all charges. The former informer went into hiding soon thereafter, and has been living under an assumed name ever since.

Strassmeir and Lyons maintain to this day that Howe is a serial liar who fabricated her claims for attention. Strassmeir said he fed Howe disinformation on purpose so he could prove she was an informant when she spread his fabrications.

“She’s making stuff up to give her handlers something, so she could stay employed as a snitch,” he said. “So what’s the most likely thing she’ll tell them? She’ll talk about assassinating federal agents, blowing up buildings—I mean, that’s the oldest trick in the book.”

Former FBI spokesman Ricks has also called Howe “crazy,” and says that all who were involved in the OKC bombing were brought to justice.

Neo-Nazi Bank Robbers

Along with the Howe trial, another major OKC-related case broke in 1996, when the FBI arrested several members of the Neo-Nazi bank robbing Aryan Republican Army—some who had lived at Elohim City.

Coupled with the fact that McVeigh had made a mystery phone call to the religious compound two weeks before his attack, and even mainstream outlets such as The Washington Post were struck by the series of coincidences.

“The robbers’ other hole-in-the-wall hideout was Elohim City, a heavily armed Christian Identity community in Oklahoma near the Arkansas border,” the Post reported in February 1997.

“One of the enduring mysteries of the Oklahoma City bombing investigation is why, two weeks before the blast, Tim McVeigh placed a 1-minute 46-second phone call to Elohim City. Whom was he calling?”

The Post never followed up on that question, concluding that “there is no proof that McVeigh knew the Aryan robbers.”

By then, Strassmeir had left the country and was back in Germany.

Strassmeir’s lawyer, Kirk Lyons, told Headline USA that he arranged for the German’s exodus to protect his rights.

Kirk LyonsAndy Strassmeir’s attorney, Kirk Lyons. Photo: KEN SILVA

“We were not opposed to Andy talking to the FBI, but we worried that they might find some pretext for making him a material witness. We had experienced that in Waco,” said Lyons, who represented some of the Waco victims—as reported by Headline USA on the 30th anniversary of the FBI’s massacre.

“Material witnesses have fewer rights than criminals, and they can be put in jail until the trial. To avoid that, we decided it was time for Andy to leave.”

As for the Aryan Republican Army members who were living at Elohim City—including Kevin McCarthy, Scott Stedeford and Michael Brescia—Strassmeir said he didn’t know they were bank robbers until he was back in Germany.

Suing Showtime?

So will Strassmeir and Elohim City residents sue Showtime for defamation?

Strassmeir said he’s considering doing so, but thinks it would be a daunting task trying to take on a major American company from his home in Germany.

“I’m a freelance book author who barely survives. I don’t have the money to sue a production company. They’re prepared for that. They have their lawyers on standby,” he said, criticizing Showtime for being coy by not mentioning his full name.

“They might think they’re safe because they don’t mention my name, which I don’t think makes a difference because everyone knows Andy the German is my person. You Google that, and in one minute you know that’s the name they gave me.”

Lyons also said he’s consulting with Elohim City residents about the matter. He said the show is excellent in portraying government injustice in Waco. However, the series jumps the shark by delving into OKC conspiracy theories, Lyons said.

“The show counters a lot of federal mythology about the Branch Davidian assault and standoff, but then the show delves off into the bizarre by creating a Morris Dees white supremacy fantasy land out of Elohim City and its people, including ‘Andy the German,’” he said, referring to Dees, the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Definitely defamatory. If someone wants to sue Hollywood, call me.”

Showtime did not respond to a media inquiry from Headline USA about the show and Strassmeir’s defamation claims.

Many researchers continue to harbor suspicions about Elohim City as it relates to OKC.

Retired FBI agent Danny Coulson heightened those suspicions in 2021, when he revealed on a podcast that McVeigh had indeed visited Elohim City.

“One of the theories was that [Strassmeir] may have been the instigation for McVeigh to blow up the Murrah building—to raise the consciousness level of Neo-Nazis. And he was at Elohim City, we know that McVeigh was there when he was there, and we know he was there with a woman named Carolyn Howe,” said Coulson, who initially helped lead the FBI’s investigation and has since called for it to be reopened.

Responding to Coulson’s claim, Strassmeir said it’s “amazing that this guy was a senior FBI agent.

“He has nothing more to contribute than reciting the most ridiculous conspiracy theories?” the German added. “This is all it is—nothing factual!”

Alternative Theories

While scoffing at the notion that Elohim City helped McVeigh with the bombing, Strassmeir and Lyons have their own theories as to what really happened on April 19, 1995.

Both accept that there was a “John Doe 2”—a mystery accomplice seen with McVeigh by at least 27 witnesses on the morning of the attack—who remains at large. Headline USA recently participated in an interview with one of those witnesses who saw John Doe 2.

John Doe 2An FBI composite of John Doe 1 and John Doe 2, the latter subject who remains at large. PHOTO: FBI composite sketch

Lyons said he thinks there may have been a Middle Eastern connection to the attack. This theory is explained in more detail in a 2006 report from former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Strassmeir, for his part, said he thinks the bombing may have been a botched ATF sting operation.

“My most likely scenario—which matches all the circumstantial evidence—is that McVeigh was supposed to drive the Ryder van under the building in the garage, but it didn’t fit. And so he parked outside while the ATF was waiting inside to arrest him,” he said.

“They were waiting in the garage, but they [McVeigh and John Doe 2] didn’t come to the garage.”

This article was originally featured at Headline USA and is republished with permission.

The FBI’s Failure to Comply with FOIA: Reform Necessary After Lawsuits Detail Pattern of Deception

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as a federal agency, is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires the release of certain records upon request from the public. FOIA compels the release of these records unless the information falls under one of nine exemptions, including national security, personal privacy, and law enforcement investigations.

The FBI has been widely criticized for its frequent invocation of the national security exemption to withhold information from the public. In some cases, the FBI has withheld documents from release without providing any reason, but instead by simply excluding relevant records when responding to a FOIA request.

“National Security” — Deceiving the Public, Courts, and Judges

A good example of the FBI misusing the national security exemption can be found in its responses to FOIA requests concerning federal law enforcement’s use of cell-site simulators, also known as “Stingrays,” which are used to track the location of cell phones. In almost all requests—some leading to lawsuits—the DOJ has hidden behind the national security exemption, almost always refusing to release any information about the Stingray device. In a rare exception, in response to one lawsuit the FBI would hand over just two documents (out of an estimated 25,000) on the device. [1]

The agency’s evasive response to Stingray FOIA requests is mirrored in the lawsuits relating to the use of the Stingray device, through which it has been revealed that the FBI has engaged in practices designed to conceal from the public, courts, and even federal judges information about the device. For example, the FBI requires state and local law enforcement agencies to sign strict nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) before purchasing the device. According to the ACLU, “these agreements not only prevented cops from revealing their purchase or use of the technology to the public, but it even forced them hide it from judges and defense attorneys in court proceedings.”[2] The FBI’s response to Stingray FOIAs and their actions in criminal court cases highlight their tendency to use the national security exemption as an excuse to withhold information, while also demonstrating their unwillingness to fully cooperate with authorities even when doing so would be in their interest. For example, this approach has led to prosecutors actually dropping charges against suspects rather than forcing the FBI to have to answer a judge’s questions about the use of Stingrays. This covertness further illustrated by the fact that the FBI instructs local police departments on how to use Stingrays, and in doing so trains them to conceal from the public, the courts, and anyone else all information concerning the devices.

When the ACLU filed a FOIA request with the FBI for “any nondisclosure agreements entered into since 2018 to keep state and local law enforcement’s purchase and use of cell site simulators secret” as well as “information about other conditions imposed on local police when they purchase and use the technology,” the FBI opted for a “Glomar response,” meaning they refused to confirm or deny the existence of any relevant records.[3] To justify the “Glomar response,” the FBI claimed, without explanation, that acknowledging whether it has any NDAs about cell site simulators “would disclose the existence or non-existence of non-public law enforcement techniques, procedures, and/or guidelines.”[4] However, whether or not the FBI has continued to impose NDAs and other conditions on local and state police isn’t a secret law enforcement technique or procedure—its basic information about whether the FBI is continuing to hide things behind an unwarranted veil of secrecy.

These actions raise serious questions about the FBI’s commitment to transparency and accountability. Meanwhile, there are other factors relating to the Stingray cases that raise similar concerns about integrity. For example, federal law enforcement agencies have been documented instructing police departments and other law enforcement agencies to lie about the use of a Stingray device on applications for warrants. Specifically, law enforcement is told to falsely attribute Stingray-obtained information to a nonexistent “confidential informant” in the warrant.[5] In this particular instance, federal authorities cross the line beyond merely hiding information to actively suggesting agencies commit what is probably a felony (lying to a judge on a warrant application).

The FBI’s approach to criminal cases relating to Stingray devices and its response to FOIA lawsuits concerning them paint a picture of deception that is difficult to imagine if it weren’t so well documented. Addressing this behavior, one court ruled that “such an extensive prohibition on disclosure of information to the court…prevents the court from exercising its fundamental duties under the Constitution.”[6]

One can only wonder if this inarguably corrupt and unconstitutional posture extends beyond FOIA and the judicial branch and towards the very legislators responsible for funding the agency. If the extensive history of the FBI’s disrespect for the rule of law is any indicator, such a question probably requires no answer. It will eventually be up to the legislators responsible for federal funding and oversight to consider these important questions when examining the FBI’s track record of abuse.

A History of Excluding Relevant Documents in FOIA Requests

The FBI has a long history of failing to comply with FOIA requests, which in many cases has resulted in lawsuits from large organizations. It is important to consider that most FOIA requestors are individuals—not large organizations—and thus do not have the legal or financial means to undertake a lawsuit to force the Bureau to comply. Even then, a successful legal challenge and subsequent ruling from a federal judge still may not lead to the FBI complying with the request.

Compounding matters, the FBI has a history of excluding relevant records when producing FOIA releases. One example is the TWA-800 investigation. The FBI has on their website a large cache of standardized FOIA document releases, including a batch of FOIA documents from their TWA-800 investigation totaling about 700 pages. However, noticeably absent from those 700 pages are any FBI 302 reports from the plethora of witnesses who observed the TWA-800 accident.

They were known to exist based on the numerous newspaper articles citing witnesses who observed the accident firsthand and were subsequently interviewed. Independent researcher and veteran pilot Ray Lahr had to file an additional FOIA request to obtain the relevant TWA-800 witness accounts, and as a result, in 2005 the FBI turned over more than 500 pages of documents. Many more additional files not included in the official TWA-800 release were obtained by Lahr through his FOIA lawsuit against the National Transportation Safety Board and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), whose own records contained the very same FBI documents that had been inexplicably excluded from the official release on their website.

One can discern from Lahr’s extended legal battle that documents clearly relevant to a general FOIA request regarding TWA-800 were withheld from release by the FBI, and it was only after the additional FOIA request and subsequent lawsuit that relevant documents got produced. Consider: how many of the FBI’s other official FOIA releases, hosted on their website and reproduced to individual FOIA requestors, are missing hundreds of pages of clearly-relevant documents that might only be obtained through a lawsuit?

How many such cases exist where a potential lawsuit is not undertaken due to lack of financial or legal resources to fight that battle? In most cases, such an endeavor would be akin to a David versus Goliath, with the federal agency having incalculable financial and legal resources at their disposal and an intrepid journalist possessing comparatively meager resources to challenge them.

Enter Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue, who does possess the means, the legal skill, and the wherewithal to wage such a battle and has done so for over a decade concerning his own FOIA requests to the FBI which predictably produced, like so many before him, an FBI response leaving much to be desired. It is through examining Trentadue’s lawsuit that the FBI’s record of withholding and excluding relevant materials is laid bare, and the facts are damning.

Trentadue’s FOIA Request

Trentadue’s FOIA request was a straightforward one: on October 12, 2008, Trentadue submitted a FOIA requesting that the FBI produce all of the surveillance tapes acquired during their Oklahoma City Bombing investigation. Numerous newspaper accounts, television news broadcasts, FBI, and Secret Service documents confirm the existence of the surveillance tapes. A 1999 FOIA lawsuit by journalist David Hoffman revealed that the FBI at one time possessed 23 surveillance tapes, one stored under lock and key at FBI headquarters.

Predictably, the FBI produced for Trentadue an inadequate and incomplete collection of surveillance video that did not match the records in the FBI’s own archives of what videotape they had obtained during their investigation. As a result, Trentadue was forced to file a lawsuit to obtain the rest of the material.

Examining Trentadue’s case, we can learn a great deal about the FBI’s filing system and the fulfillment process the agency is supposed to follow. The specifics concerning these filing systems and the actions taken by the FBI are documented in detail in a “Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” that Trentadue filed with the court in his lawsuit, and upon which this article is largely sourced. Details from that document show that the FBI acted in bad faith to what should have been a simple request.

FOIA Request, to Lawsuit, to Trial

On May 5, 2011, Judge Clark Waddoups of the United States District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division issued an order to the FBI to conduct additional searches for videotapes and related records, based on information Trentadue provided to the court which demonstrated inadequacy in the FBI’s initial search.[7] Per the court order, if the FBI did not conduct those searches, the Bureau was to explain why such searches would not be reasonably calculated to locate the videotapes and documents requested. The FBI did not conduct the additional searches as directed[8], and neither did the FBI submit a credible explanation as to why. As a result, the court ordered that the case should proceed to trial.[9]

At trial, the FBI would have to show that it performed a search that was “reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents” and essentially prove that it made a good faith effort in its conduct, including not limiting its search to only one record system if others exist that are likely to turn up the requested information. Subsequently, the FBI would then be required by law to release to Trentadue all records that fell within the scope of his request. Given the policy of openness embodied in FOIA, the FBI was required to liberally construe what materials fell within the scope of Trentadue’s request, and to err on the side of inclusion and disclosure rather than exclusion and non-disclosure.[10]

Records from the trial show that the FBI failed to fulfill the court’s request, only searching a limited number of databases while narrowly interpreting Trentadue’s FOIA to improperly exclude relevant documents. This limited interpretation caused numerous responsive documents and/or videotapes to be excluded from turned over material. Trentadue was able to independently obtain, from journalist and former McVeigh defense team investigator Roger Charles, a large cache of documents that he later introduced as exhibits at trial. These exhibits constituted damning evidence in the form of multiple, highly relevant documents pertaining to surveillance tapes that should have been turned over to Trentadue, but were not.

Additionally, through testimony elicited from the FBI’s employees at trial, Trentadue was able to show that the Bureau did not search databases and/or sources that were reasonably likely to contain responsive records. In fact, the FBI confined its search to very limited sources, with testimony further revealing that they deliberately chose not to search several official record keeping systems likely to contain relevant materials. This happened primarily because the FBI chose an unqualified and untrained person to perform the FOIA search.

The FBI’s Strategy: Tactical Ignorance

The FBI’s Records Information Dissemination Section (RIDS) staff are responsible for responding to the agency’s FOIA requests.[11] They are prepared and personally supervised until they are specially certified to respond to FOIA requests, which requires between three and a half to four years of training.[12] As part of the certification process, RIDS personnel must pass several examinations demonstrating their proficiency. FBI Chief of RIDS, David Hardy, testified that such training is required to ensure that the FBI fulfills its “FOIA obligations to citizens.”[13]

However, uniquely in this case RIDS staff did not conduct the search for records responsive to Trentadue’s request. Instead, the search was assigned to one person, Linda Vernon, who works out of the FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office. Vernon’s job title is “Forensic Accountant” and she testified under oath that searches of records for FOIA was not a regular part of her job responsibilities.[14] Likewise, Vernon also has no FOIA training or certification.[15] It is noteworthy that Vernon is untrained and unqualified to conduct such a search, and was provided with no guidance about how to interpret the scope of Trentadue’s request or whether materials located by her search fell within the scope of the request. As a result, Ms. Vernon located at least one videotape and numerous documents that were clearly within the scope of the FOIA request, but these were deliberately withheld because Ms. Vernon did not understand her duties under FOIA. This should raise serious questions about why the Bureau chose to have an untrained and unqualified person be the arbiter who decides which records were to be produced, and should cause serious skepticism concerning the FBI’s dedication to fulfilling its obligations under FOIA.

RIDS’ selection of Ms. Vernon to conduct the FOIA search is significant because when RIDS receives a FOIA request it is triaged for sensitive or potentially problematic cases, cases that “have a high likelihood of going to litigation.”[16] “These kinds of requests are “flag[ged],”[17] and brought to Hardy’s attention.[18] As a result of this triage process, Trentadue’s FOIA request was flagged as a potential problem and immediately brought before Hardy.[19] Consequently, tasking the untrained and unqualified Ms. Vernon to respond to Trentadue’s FOIA request does not appear to have been a coincidence.

In court filings, Trentadue characterized the FBI’s use of Linda Vernon as being part of a strategy by the “FBI to create a situation of ‘willful ignorance’ with respect to the foreseeable results of Ms. Vernon’s search for the videotapes and records.”[20] Trentadue suggested that “the FBI had, in other words, created a situation of tactical ignorance whereby Ms. Vernon could reasonably be expected to fail in terms of locating and/or producing videotapes and documents responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA request. On the other hand, under this manufactured cloud of ignorance, the FBI could represent to the court that a proper search had been conducted.”[21]

Prior to Trentadue’s FOIA request, Ms. Vernon had served as the FBI’s “Discovery Coordinator” at the McVeigh and Nichols trials.[22] Her job responsibilities included assembling the prosecution’s evidence and providing it to defense counsel.[23] It was reasonable to expect, therefore, that in conducting a search for records responsive to Trentadue’s FOIA request Ms. Vernon would confine her search to the material that had been provided to the McVeigh and Nichols defense counsel, and not look beyond that very narrow set of FBI records, which is exactly how Vernon conducted her search. When asked why she did not search the FBI’s official filing systems and instead relied on an unofficial personal database, Ms. Vernon testified that “I’m lazy and it was the easier one for me to use.”[24] This response speaks to the FBI’s lack of commitment to fulfilling its requirements under FOIA.

Inside the FBI’s Filing System

To understand how the FBI failed to perform even the most basic types of searches to fulfill Trentadue’s FOIA request, it is necessary to describe the FBI’s filing system. The FBI’s Central Records System (CRS) contains the universe of records that the Bureau has acquired over the course of its day-to-day law enforcement responsibilities.[25] It is the FBI’s “primary records” system.[26]

The FBI’s Automated Case Support (ACS) system contains various tools for conducting electronic searches for records contained in the CRS.[27] ACS is specifically designed and maintained to identify and locate FBI records.[28] ACS consists of three components: the Investigative Case Management system (ICM), the Electronic Case File (ECF), and the Universal Index (UNI).[29]

ICM is used to open and close cases. It is a case management tool for the agents and personnel working on an investigation[30], and contains information on the items logged in as evidence. Meanwhile, ECF contains uploaded versions of the documents contained in the Central Record System.[31] The ECF contains all FBI generated documents except for “restricted documents” which, for various but unknown reasons, are not uploaded.[32] The ECF is not limited or otherwise confined to one case, such as OKBOMB, but contains all of the FBI’s non-restricted investigative records.[33] The documents or records that have been uploaded to ECF are text searchable.[34] Meanwhile, restricted documents or records not uploaded into the ECF database are identified on an index and are located and retrieved by a manual search.[35]

Because the FBI documents and records contained in ECF are text searchable, it is possible to search for and locate misplaced or misfiled records.[36] In the case of Trentadue’s request, RIDS Chief David Hardy falsely testified that misfiled or misplaced records could not be located. He testified that “it is always a possibility that responsive documents might have been misfiled and thus could be located somewhere other than in the OKBOMB file, though it would be impossible to know where.”[37] Meanwhile, a basic text search of ECF could and would identify potentially responsive records if they had been misfiled. It is noteworthy that RIDS staff and/or Ms. Vernon did no text-based search of the ECF database for documents responsive to Trentadue’s FOIA request.[38] The failure to search ECF, and Hardy’s testimony concerning the Bureau’s inability to locate a misfiled record, are just one example of the FBI’s efforts to mislead the court, and a specific example of RIDS Chief Hardy lying under oath.

Regarding restricted records not uploaded into the ECF, they can be retrieved by a manual search of the ECF indices. It is notable that RIDS and/or Ms. Vernon did no manual search of the ECF indices for records responsive to Trentadue’s FOIA request.[39] This is another specific example of the FBI failing to perform an adequate search for responsive records. It is perhaps not surprising, however, given that the FBI first failed to perform a search of the standard ECF, UNI, and ICM systems.

The FBI told the court that RIDS did no search of the ECF database via ACS because the Oklahoma City Bombing occurred in April of 1995, whereas the ACS system did not come online until October of 1995.[40] In stating this, the FBI was suggesting that the ECF would therefore contain no records related to OKBOMB. However, Ms. Monica Mitchell, who was Linda Vernon’s contact person within RIDS, testified that FBI records after 1978 are currently in the ACS system.[41] In addition, RIDs Chief Hardy testified that all of the OKBOMB records had been “uploaded into ACS.”[42]

Therefore, the FBI’s excuse for not searching ECF using ACS is not a credible one. Indeed, this records system should have been one of the first databases searched by the FBI to fulfill Trentadue’s FOIA request, and it should also have been searched when the court directed the Bureau to go back and examine all databases where it would be reasonable to conclude there would be responsive records.

RIDs did perform a search of one of the other databases that is part of ACS, the Universal Index or UNI.[43] Like the ECF database, UNI came online in October 1995; one of the records found in UNI (but not turned over to Trentadue) related to the  FBI having taken possession of a videotape from a surveillance camera at the Regency Tower Apartments on October 26, 1995 which would have been after the ECF came online.[44]

This search shows that the FBI was fully aware that the ACS system would likely have responsive records in ECF, but they failed to search it. Meanwhile, it also shows that the FBI narrowly interpreted Trentadue’s FOIA request and thereby improperly excluded the October 26, 1995 302 report found by Vernon and not turned over.

It’s noteworthy that RIDS’ policy is to use the Universal Index or UNI for all of its FOIA searches, rather than the ECF.[45] The UNI, however, is obviously a less accurate search tool than the ECF for locating and retrieving records. Unlike the ECF database, records or documents are not uploaded into the UNI, and so text-based searches cannot be conducted. Instead, the UNI is searched by entering key terms such as a subject’s name, event, or organization, etc.[46] However, the FBI agent who prepares a report or investigative document is the one who enters this information, and he or she has the discretionary authority of how that document is described in the UNI for future search and retrieval.[47] If the appropriate terms are not entered by the agent, such as “Murrah Federal Building,” “Regency Tower Apartment Building,” “Southwest Bell Building,” “YMCA Building,” or “video” or “camera,” then the document or record cannot be retrieved using the UNI.

It is impossible to know how effective a search of the UNI would have been using the aforementioned terms, because the one search conducted by RIDS personnel of the UNI was done using the generic term “OKBOMB.”[48] Following this, records were examined by Linda Vernon from the OKC Field Office, who as previously mentioned acted as an arbiter to determine which records to turn over to RIDS for processing before being sent to Trentadue. Unsurprisingly, Vernon withheld a number of responsive records due to inadequate training and improperly interpreting Trentadue’s FOIA request. These withheld responsive records, to follow, were introduced as exhibits at trial and are provided for the reader to examine to see just how egregious the FBI’s exclusion of records was in this case.

Key Responsive Records Culled and Improperly Excluded

Two excellent examples of Vernon (and by extension, RIDS, RIDS Chief Hardy, and the FBI) excluding relevant records from Trentadue’s FOIA request were introduced as exhibits at the trial, Exhibit 35 and Exhibit 37.[49] These exhibits were both FBI 302 reports concerning the FBI’s acquisition of videotapes of the bombing.

Exhibit 35 is an FBI 302 reporting that the FBI took possession of a videotape from one of the Regency Tower Apartment Building’s surveillance cameras that had been “blown off the wall” by the explosion and that this tape might contain a “photograph of the persons responsible for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building.” Exhibit 37 is an October 26, 1995 302 reporting that a surveillance tape had been recovered from a security camera on the Regency Tower Apartment Building. Both of these records fell squarely within Trentadue’s FOIA request letter but were withheld by Ms. Vernon and not sent to RIDs for processing and release.[50]  Ms. Vernon freely admitted in court that she found and withheld this highly-relevent document, excerpt from testimony follows:

THE COURT: Let me make sure I’m clear on this. Is this a document that you found during your search or not? That is Exhibit, Plaintiff’s Exhibit 35?

THE WITNESS: One second, your Honor. When I did my searches, yes, I found it. I did not include it.

THE COURT: Did you – and you didn’t send it to the– Ms.Mitchell?

THE WITNESS: No, sir, I did not.

THE COURT: You made a decision yourself not to forward this document?

THE WITNESS: Because I read his description and he asked for when it was provided to evidence.

THE COURT: A little while ago, you testified that you always erred in the side of including documents if there was any doubt. What was it that led you to believe that this document should not be sent and let someone who understood the Freedom of Information Act make the decision?

THE WITNESS: Just the way it was worded, sir. It showed that it was just mainly Mr. Payne gave it [the videotape] to Mr. Hippard. It doesn’t really say that it— I mean in Mr. Legleiter’s 302, I’m assuming it had more information that is why I picked it at that point.

THE COURT: But this document seems very much on point as to the request that was made, does it not?

THE WITNESS: And he got the videos for this document, yes, sir.

THE COURT: But you made the decision, on your own, without consulting with anyone else, to exclude this document, is that correct?

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir, the way I read it in 2008.

This testimony is highly notable for several reasons. First, Vernon is mistaken here: Trentadue did not receive the Regency towers videotape referenced in the 302 report which was likewise withheld from him. Additionally, the other tapes that he did receive from the FBI appeared to be edited to remove footage of the truck bomb being delivered to the Murrah Building. Secondly, if the evidence in the case were limited to just this testimony by Ms. Vernon in response to Exhibit 35, Trentadue would prevail because it shows that 1) the FBI did not do a search reasonably calculated to locate all responsive records 2) because a responsive record was found but deliberately withheld from Trentadue and 3) because through a lack of training Ms. Vernon had unlawfully construed the scope of Plaintiff’s FOIA request to narrowly cover only those records showing videotapes being logged into evidence. However, the evidence of the FBI’s failure to fulfill its FOIA obligations is far greater than just Vernon’s response to Exhibit 35; the same can be said for Exhibit 37, withheld on the same grounds, in addition to many others. For example, Trentadue introduced Exhibit 62[51] at trial which reports that on the afternoon of April 19, 1995, an FBI agent acquired a surveillance tape from the “Security Officer of the Oklahoma City Public Library.” In his FOIA request, Trentadue asked specifically for any video recordings taken by cameras mounted on the Public Library, as well as documents proving the FBI had possession of these videotapes. However, Exhibit 62 was also withheld. Trentadue should have been given this document, but Ms. Vernon “culled” it from those documents that she forwarded to RIDS.

Ms. Vernon also found but kept from RIDS Exhibit 69, which reports that the FBI had examined video footage from an ATM machine at the Regency Apartments in which the Ryder truck driven by Timothy McVeigh could be seen. In addition to videotapes taken from surveillance cameras on specific buildings, Trentadue’s FOIA request asked for “tapes showing McVeigh and another person, delivering the bomb to the Murrah Building on April 19, 1995.” This ATM tape clearly came within the scope of Trentadue’s FOIA request since it captured the bomb being transported to the Murrah Building. The FBI is in possession of this videotape, but it was not among those turned over to Trentadue. It, too, was excluded.[53]

Ms. Vernon likewise found during her search Exhibit 36 and Exhibit 60[54], which describes tapes from the Journal Record Building and Southwest Bell Building “testing positive” for images or sounds of the explosion or “main subjects” in the bombing investigation. It is important to note that this document delineates at least two of the videos the FBI had in their possession as being of “evidentiary value” because it shows the bombing and/or the perpetrators. However, this document, like all the rest, was improperly excluded and not turned over to Trentadue.[55]

Trentadue also introduced as evidence Exhibits 55, 56, 57, 58, 65, and 66 which are Bureau records reporting an alleged attempt by a Los Angeles-based FBI agent in the fall of 1995 to sell to Dateline NBC video footage showing McVeigh and another suspect exiting the Ryder truck and the bomb exploding for “$880,000.00 [the equivalent of almost $2 million in 2023 dollars] to be paid in a manner so as not to create a paper trail.” This attempted sale resulted in an FBI Office of Professional Responsibility investigation, and can be read about here.[56] These exhibits, all FBI memos about the videotapes and their attempted sale, were likewise “culled” and excluded by Linda Vernon and not turned over to Trentadue despite clearly falling within the scope of his request.[57]

FBI Lies Concerning I-Drive/S-Drive Contents, Inability to Search

At one time, the OKBOMB file was a “restricted file.”[58]  “Restricted” means that someone within the Bureau’s chain of command would have to review a report or other investigative document before it could be placed into the official case file.[59] Once a document is approved, it is uploaded into the official case file where it would be turned over to defense counsel in a criminal case or subject to production in response to a FOIA request.[60] Conversely, if a document is not approved for uploading into the official file, then it will not be produced in response to a FOIA request.[61]

While a document is under review for uploading into the official case file, it remains in the I-Drive, and during the OKBOMB investigation, there was an I-Drive in the Oklahoma City FBI Field Office.[62] The I-Drive was a “shared drive,” meaning that a supervisor could access and review an agent’s work, including making changes or modifications to a document before it was uploaded into the official file.[63] Documents not approved for uploading into the official case file remained in the I-Drive.[64]

The Oklahoma City Field Office’s I-Drive was eventually deprecated and replaced by the S-Drive[65], which is currently in use at that location.[66] The S-Drive serves the same purpose as the I-Drive[67] and functions exactly like the I-Drive.[68] More importantly, as part of the replacement process, documents not placed into the official case file and remaining on the I-Drive in the Oklahoma City Field Office were moved to the S-Drive.[69]

The FBI was ordered by the court to conduct a search of both the I-Drive and S-Drive located in its Oklahoma City Field Office. If no search was conducted, then the FBI had to explain to the court why such a search would not be reasonably calculated to locate the requested videotapes and other materials. The FBI conducted no search of the I-Drive or S-Drive in the Oklahoma City Field Office for documents or records responsive to Trentadue’s request.[70] In an attempt to explain why, RIDs Chief David Hardy said that RIDS had never done an I-Drive search.[71] Mr. Hardy also stated that to conduct such searches would be so burdensome that he could not even provide the court with a “reasonable estimate of the time necessary” to do such a search.[72] Both statements, however, are lies and it’s worth noting in conjunction with Hardy’s lying to the judge in the Trentadue case that this is a pattern. In another case, “the court found the Government, and Mr. Hardy specifically, to have provided false and misleading information to the court.”[73] Incredibly, when the deception was revealed, in that case, Mr. Hardy’s counsel argued that it “had the authority to mislead the court.”[74]

Regarding Hardy’s deceptions concerning the supposedly never before searched I-Drive and S-Drive, Trentadue elicited testimony that showed RIDS had in fact searched both the I-Drive and S-Drive in the FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office for responsive records in other FOIA requests.[75] Such searches can and have been done. Furthermore, under cross examination, Mr. Hardy admitted that in another FOIA matter he had signed a sworn declaration stating that “[A] search of the I and S Drives at the Oklahoma City Field Office” had produced no responsive records.[76] Mr. Hardy also stated under oath that a search of the S-Drive at the Oklahoma City Field Office would be “fruitless” because the S-Drive did not exist at the time of the OKBOMB investigation. However, as with Hardy’s claim that RIDS had never searched the I-Drive or S-Drive before, that statement was also false: It is undisputed that when the I-Drive system at the Oklahoma City Field Office was replaced by the S-Drive system, all documents or records remaining on the I-Drive were moved to the S-Drive.[77]

RIDS Chief David Hardy misled the court in Trentadue’s FOIA case when he falsely asserted that the FBI could not search the I-Drive/S-Drive system, and likewise lied when he said such a search had never been conducted before even though his office had performed searches of this system to fulfill previous FOIA requests. Therefore, Hardy’s statements concerning the FBI’s inability to determine a “reasonable estimate of the time necessary” to perform a search should be viewed with considerable skepticism. The overall pattern of behavior displayed by the FBI and David Hardy regarding the I-Drive and S-Drive—much like the FBI’s posture throughout this entire lawsuit, and others before it—was one of deception, obfuscation, and lies.

To summarize, the FBI failed to search any of its official record keeping systems within ACS: not ECF, UNI, or ICM. The FBI failed to perform any search of the indices of the restricted files. Finally, the FBI also failed to perform a search of the I-Drive/S-Drive systems and then lied to the court about why this was not undertaken, even though it had been done in the past.

Ultimately, what the FBI did in response to Trentadue’s FOIA request was have an untrained and incompetent person perform a search of an unofficial database for records. That employee, Linda Vernon, then improperly excluded from the results of her search nearly a dozen documents that were plainly responsive to Trentadue’s FOIA request. Meanwhile, the FBI’s agents and employees lied to the courts when providing excuses as to why they failed to perform certain searches.

What becomes clear after analyzing this pattern of deception and lies is that the FBI cannot be trusted to fulfill their duties under FOIA and routinely refuses to comply with court-ordered searches, then lies when advising why they did not do so. Due to the severity of the situation, and a total lack of accountability, the only reasonable solution is comprehensive FOIA reform and increased oversight.

Reasonable Reform

Congress needs to undertake a major overhaul of FOIA. Under the FOIA law currently on the books, for example, the citizen or requestor may be given an award of attorneys’ fees if they win their FOIA case. However, it must once more be stressed that most people don’t have the financial resources to wage a FOIA lawsuit, much less await reimbursement for the costly fees involved. Meanwhile, few, if any, lawyers will take a FOIA case on contingency; whereas government agencies have unlimited legal resources to commit to any case. This leaves most requestors unable to pursue their case even if they know with certainty they have a legitimate FOIA complaint that could likely result in a legal victory.

In order to remedy the present situation with respect to the FBI’s resistance to the FOIA process (and presumably, other agencies, though the FBI is historically one of the worst offenders), the law should be changed to be more aligned with transparency and fairness, in the spirit with which the law was originally created. To that end, some changes that would constitute much-needed reform include:

  • If the citizen or requestor has to bring a lawsuit against an agency in order to obtain their requested documents and prevails, FOIA law should provide that they shall be awarded their reasonable attorneys’ fees or the sum of $100,000.00 (whichever sum is greater). This provision would encourage attorneys to take FOIA cases on a contingency basis.
  • It should be codified in law that there is a presumption in favor of disclosure, and that it is the FBI’s (or other agencies’) burden to overcome that presumption. There should also be a provision in the FOIA law whereby after the passage of so many years (i.e., 25-years) the disclosure presumption becomes irrebuttable in the absence of extraordinary circumstances justifying non-disclosure, with the agency having the burden to prove the existence of those extraordinary circumstances by clear and convincing evidence.
  • Responses to FOIA requests should require that the FBI or other agencies respond within 30-days of a request advising the requestor of both the number of potentially responsive records located, and an assertion of the exemptions from disclosure that may apply to those documents. Penalty for a failure to comply would be that any future exemptions the agency may later claim will be waived. It’s notable that under current law, agencies are given 20 business days to respond to a request; a deadline they almost always, without consequence, fail to meet. This change would increase the amount of time to respond to a request by a reasonable amount while also establishing consequences for failure to abide by the law.
  • For large requests, documents should be released in 500-page increments as they are processed, rather than having the requestor wait years and sometimes a decade or more to receive the resulting documents all at once. It is reasonable to allow for a request to be fulfilled in increments, as the pages are processed.
  • FOIA should require an agency to perform a text search of all its databases for responsive documents rather than an agency ad-hoc, without consistency, choosing to narrow the scope of requests to a specific and sometimes limited set of databases. Allowance must be given to a FOIA requestor who is ignorant of particular databases and unable to tailor their request to include them explicitly. As it is now, a request submitted to the FBI might fail to cause a records search of one or more databases unless specifically requested, and even in that instance (as shown with the Trentadue lawsuit) the FBI has failed to perform the requested searches of the specified databases.
  • Federal courts should be permitted to look behind an agency’s claim of a national security exemption, with an objective arbiter such as a specially appointed federal magistrate or judge serving as an impartial buffer between the federal agency and the requestor to determine if the national security exemption is legitimate.
  • All agencies withholding documents from release under FOIA must always, in all cases, provide both the court and the requestor with a Vaughn index stating the basis for withholding each document, and the court must conduct an independent albeit ex parte review of the documents in order to confirm if the claimed exemptions are applicable. Review by the court is important because any “reasonably segregable portion of a record” shall be provided to any person requesting such record after deletion of the portions which are otherwise exempt. In other words, the agency must redact the exempt material from the document and disclose the remainder, which they rarely do, and mandatory review by the court should alleviate this problem. Under current law, a Vaughn index is only created when ordered by the court.
  • In addition to an award of attorney’s fees, there should be a formal monetary sanction imposed upon an agency that wrongfully withholds documents that gets imposed upon the agency’s annual funding allocations. This would make compliance with FOIA by federal agencies a metric that will help determine funding levels.
  • Agencies must be required to designate individual(s) in their organization whose job is to handle FOIA requests and provide those individuals with specialized training on how and where to search, and these individuals must be certified to understand and comply with the requirements of FOIA law.
  • If a requestor has to sue to obtain records, he or she should be entitled to a jury trial instead of having the suit tried before the court.
  • When an agency withholds documents under a claim of exemption from disclosure, the requestor should be allowed to immediately bring a lawsuit in federal court to obtain those documents rather than having to exhaust their administrative remedies by going through the agency’s internal appeals process, which can take years and rarely results in reversing the agency’s decision to withhold.

Conclusion

These reforms would constitute a broad suite of changes that would compel federal agencies to comply with the law, operate with transparency and fairness, and provide an incentive for agencies to maintain compliance with FOIA law. As it stands now, agencies are free from any sort of accountability with respect to noncompliance with FOIA law and face no consequences—fiscal or otherwise—even when it is shown through successive, successful lawsuits that agencies did improperly withhold documents or responded to FOIA requestors in bad faith.

Almost two hundred years ago, President James Madison observed the obvious:

“A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”[78]

One hundred years later, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis echoed Madison’s sentiment when he wrote:

“Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be in peril if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; and invites every man to become a law unto himself…”[79]

It would do us well to heed the words of President Madison and Justice Brandeis because “[t]he basic purpose of FOIA is to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed.”[80]

End Notes

  1. Trevor Timm. “As Secretive “Stingray” Surveillance Tool Becomes More Pervasive, Questions Over Its Illegality Increase.” Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), February 12, 2013. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/02/secretive-stingray-surveillance-tool-becomes-more-pervasive-questions-over-its; see also Ryan Gallagher. “FBI Documents Shine Light on Clandestine Cellphone Tracking Tool.” Slate, January 10, 2023. https://slate.com/technology/2013/01/stingray-imsi-catcher-fbi-documents-shine-light-on-controversial-cellphone-tracking-tool.html.
  2. Adeline Lee and Laura Moraff. “Surreal Stingray Secrecy: Uncovering the FBI’s Surveillance Tech Secrecy Agreements.” ACLU, December 15, 2021. https://www.aclu.org/news/privacy-technology/surreal-stingray-secrecy-uncovering-the-fbis-surveillance-tech-secrecy-agreements
  3. Lee and Moraff, Surreal Stingray Secrecy
  4. Lee and Moraff, Surreal Stingray Secrecy
  5. Mike Masnick. “New Emails Show That Feds Instructed Police To Lie About Using Stingray Mobile Phone Snooping.” Techdirt, June 20, 2014. https://techdirt.com/2014/06/20/new-emails-show-that-feds-instructed-police-to-lie-about-using-stingray-mobile-phone-snooping/
  6. Lee and Moraff, Surreal Stingray Secrecy
  7. Trentadue vs. FBI, Plaintiff’s Exhibit 9.
  8. Trentadue vs. FBI, Trial Transcript, pp. 137, 144 and 154.
  9. Trentadue vs. FBI, Document 125.
  10. NLRB v. Robbins Tire & Rubber, Co., 437 U.S. 214 , 221(1978); The Nation Magazine v. United States Customs Service, 71 F.3d 885, 890 (D.C. Cir.1995); Medoff v. United States Central Intelligence Agency, 464 F. Supp. 158 (D. N.J. 1978).
  11. Transcript, p. 11.
  12. Transcript, pp. 534-535 and 550-551.
  13. Transcript, pp. 549-550.
  14. Transcript, pp. 151 and 167.
  15. Transcript, p. 550.
  16. Transcript, pp. 435-436.
  17. Transcript, p. 437.
  18. Transcript, p. 459.
  19. Transcript, p. 459.
  20. Trentadue vs. FBI, Plaintiff’s Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law p. 16
  21. Proposed Findings, p. 16.
  22. Transcript, pp. 149-150.
  23. Transcript, pp. 156-157.
  24. Transcript, p. 158.
  25. Transcript, p. 13.
  26. Transcript, p. 13.
  27. Transcript, p. 13.
  28. Transcript, pp. 434-435.
  29. Transcript, p. 14.
  30. Transcript, pp. 58.
  31. Transcript, pp. 59-61.
  32. Transcript, pp. 59-60.
  33. Transcript, pp. 59-60,62-63, 92-94 and 138-139.
  34. Transcript, pp. 59-60,62-63, 92-94 and 138-139.
  35. Transcript, pp. 60-61.
  36. Transcript, pp. 62-63, 92-94 and 138-139.
  37. Transcript, p. 479.
  38. Transcript, p. 62-63.
  39. Transcript, p. 62-63.
  40. Transcript, pp. 127-128.
  41. Transcript, p. 61.
  42. Transcript, p. 531.
  43. Transcript, p. 14.
  44. Transcript, pp. 200-201; and 681-683. The FBI having taken possession of the videotape in October was confirmed by Jannie Coverdale, a resident of the Regency Tower Apartments. See transcript pp. 491-492. See also 10/28/95 newspaper report on the Regency surveillance tape, written just two days after the 302 report was filed and cites law enforcement sources: “Videotape Shows Shadowy Passenger in Bomb Truck.” Associated Press, October 28, 1995. Print.
  45. Transcript, p. 15.
  46. Transcript, p. 15.
  47. Transcript, p. 82.
  48. Transcript, pp. 19, 83 and 442.
  49. Plaintiff’s Exhibit 35 & Exhibit 37. These documents were provided to Trentadue by investigative journalist and former McVeigh Defense team investigator Roger Charles, who was able to show just how many documents Vernon excluded from FOIA.
  50. Transcript, pp. 197-199.
  51. Plaintiff’s Exhibit 62.
  52. Transcript, pp. 211-212.
  53. Transcript, p. 568.
  54. Transcript, pp. 204-206.
  55. Transcript, pp. 206-207 and 225
  56. Richard Booth. Surveillance Recordings Show Oklahoma City Bombing. Substack, Nov. 24, 2022. https://richardbooth.substack.com/p/surveillance-recordings-show-okc
  57. Transcript, pp. 206-207 and 225.
  58. Plaintiff’s Exhibit 44; Transcript pp. 373-375.
  59. Plaintiff’s Exhibit 44; Transcript, p.375.
  60. Transcript, p. 376.
  61. Transcript, p. 376.
  62. Transcript, pp. 378, and 403-404.
  63. Transcript, pp. 414-415.
  64. Transcript, p. 378-379.
  65. Transcript, p. 404.
  66. Transcript, p. 407.
  67. Transcript, pp. 380 and 404.
  68. Transcript, p. 416.
  69. Transcript, p. 405.
  70. Transcript, p. 530.
  71. Transcript, p. 478-479.
  72. Transcript, pp. 529-530.
  73. Plaintiff’s Exhibit 9.
  74. Plaintiff’s Exhibit 9.
  75. Transcript, pp. 412-414.
  76. Transcript, pp. 523-524.
  77. Transcript, p. 405.
  78. James Madison, Letter to W.T. Barry (Aug. 4, 1822).
  79. Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 485 (1928).
  80. NLRB v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Co., 437 U.S. 214, 242 (1978).

Ex-Nazi with OKC Bombing Connection To Receive Taxpayer Funded Sex-Change in Prison

Your tax dollars are funding the sex change of an ex neo-Nazi tied to the OKC bombing.

Last month, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) disclosed in court records that it’s searching for someone to conduct a sex change on a biological male inmate residing in a women’s correctional facility in Texas.

The recipient of this sex change isn’t your typical gender dysphoric inmate, such as they are. The prisoner, Peter Kevin Langan, who now goes by the first name Donna, is the former leader of the domestic terrorist group Aryan Republican Army (ARA), a gang of neo-Nazi bank robbers with ties to the Oklahoma City bombing.

The ARA’s connections to the OKC bombing are no secret, despite the FBI’s long-held assertion that Oklahoma City bombing Timothy McVeigh acted alone when he detonated a truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah building on April 19, 1995—killing at least 168 people, including 19 children. Mainstream outlets such as The Washington Post reported on these links contemporaneously—while attempting to downplay them at the same time—and the Associated Press followed up years later with more revelations.

What remains less publicized is the fact that Langan himself has implicated his former ARA colleagues—who are walking free today—as being involved in the bombing.

Given his ostensible goal is to crack down on white supremacist extremism, one might think that Attorney General Merrick Garland would be interested in neo-Nazis culpable for the deadliest domestic terrorist attack in U.S. history. However, cutting off Langan’s genitals is apparently more pressing for the U.S. government than acting on his information and the dozens of other sources that link the ARA to OKC.

Perhaps Garland—who helped prosecute McVeigh—has reason to continue to ignore the ARA-OKC links. Doing otherwise could threaten to expose the fact that many of the same Aryan robbers allegedly involved in the bombing were made FBI informants to help convict Langan. Moreover, Langan himself was a one-time informant for the Secret Service.

Langan and the ARA

Langan’s early years were tragic, as documented by criminology professor Mark Hamm in his 2001 book about the ARA, In Bad Company: America’s Terrorist Underground.

His father a CIA agent, Langan grew up in Saigon, Vietnam in the 1960s. He lived a privileged life akin to the son of a diplomat, but following his father’s death, struggled to fit in upon returning to the states—turning to drugs and crime in his teenage years.

A 16-year Langan was sent to prison in Miami in 1974 for a bevy of crimes, including armed robbery. He was raped during his incarceration. Fast forward to October 1992, when Langan and his neo-Nazi friend, Richard Lee Guthrie, robbed a Pizza Hut in Georgia. At the time, Guthrie was also wanted by the Secret Service for plotting to kill President George H.W. Bush and incoming President Bill Clinton.

Law enforcement authorities caught Langan for the Pizza Hut robbery in August 1993, but the Secret Service intervened and made him an offer: help them track down Guthrie in exchange for having the robbery charges dropped.

It was an offer Langan couldn’t refuse—except he did. When the Secret Service let Langan loose to find Guthrie, he went rogue and disappeared with the man he was supposed to help apprehend.

Langan and Guthrie went on to declare war on the U.S. government and formed the ARA with the goal of robbing banks to fund the Aryan Nations and other neo-Nazi extremist groups. To that end, the ARA was one of the most prolific gangs of the twentieth century, robbing at least twenty-two banks in the mid-90s before its members were apprehended in 1996.

The arrests of Langan, Guthrie, and other ARA members came as the FBI was still conducting a massive manhunt for “John Doe 2,” prompted by dozens of witnesses who reported seeing McVeigh with another person on the morning of April 19, 1995.

Around that time, it was revealed that the ARA and McVeigh had a common nexus point: a notorious white supremacist compound in eastern Oklahoma called Elohim City, which McVeigh had made a phone call to earlier in April 1995—around the same time as three ARA members were residing there.

The link was so obvious that national outlets such as The Washington Post questioned it when covering Langan’s trial.

“One of the enduring mysteries of the Oklahoma City bombing investigation is why, two weeks before the blast, Tim McVeigh placed a 1-minute 46-second phone call to Elohim City. Whom was he calling?” the Post asked in February 1997.

However, the Post failed to pursue that enduring question, concluding that “[ARA members Scott Stedeford and Kevin McCarthy] were hanging out at Elohim City then, but there is no proof that McVeigh knew the Aryan robbers.”

Despite the Post and other outlets dismissing the ARA-McVeigh-Elohim City connection as a bizarre coincidence, FBI documents showed that McVeigh’s infamous phone call was allegedly for an Elohim City resident named Andreas Strassmeir. A German national with numerous ties to intelligence agencies, Strassmeier has been a figure at the center of OKC bombing conspiracies for decades, and for good reason: not only was he seen with McVeigh on multiple occasions in the run-up to April 19, 1995, but former ATF informant Carol Howe told her handler before the attack that Strassmeir was planning to bomb federal buildings.

And who was Strassmeir rooming with while residing at Elohim City? None other than the same ARA members mentioned in the Post article, Stedeford and McCarthy, as well as Michael Brescia, according to the aforementioned FBI records—notes from an interview agents conducted with McCarthy.

In that same interview, McCarthy apparently satisfied the FBI with an alibi for him and Stedeford, telling federal agents that the two had left Elohim City for Pittsburg, Kansas three days before the bombing to stay at a safehouse owned by Langan and Guthrie.

Not so, according to Langan.

“McCarthy was not with me on April 19, 1995, in Pittsburg, Kansas,” Langan said in a 2010 sworn declaration to the court. “Nor was he, to my knowledge, anywhere that day other than in the state of Oklahoma.”

Langan also said in the sworn statement that Guthrie told him about McCarthy and Stedeford’s involvement in the OKC bombing. When Langan confronted McCarthy about this allegation in December 1995, McCarthy allegedly admitted to having “liabilities” concerning the attack.

“I remember thinking, ‘liabilities’ is a big word. But sometimes McCarthy talked like that. I asked him to be more specific concerning who, what and when, but he declined to give me any details,” Langan said. “McCarthy stated that he was only telling me this because he wanted me to know that he might need help in going underground if the Oklahoma City bombing connection became a problem for him. I realized, too, that it might be a problem for me due to our association and past travels.”

Langan attempted to provide evidence about the ARA’s connections to the OKC bombing to federal courts, but was shut down at every turn.

During his trial for his role in the ARA bank robberies, Langan subpoenaed ARA associate Mark Thomas to testify about McCarthy’s connections to the OKC bombing.

“Thomas was prepared to take the stand and reveal that McCarthy had assisted McVeigh,” Hamm wrote in In Bad Company. “A week before Thomas was scheduled to testify, however, he was indicted in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, thus cancelling his appearance at the Langan trial. With that, Kevin McCarthy became a protected government asset, and the FBI abandoned the entire McVeigh-ARA connection.”

Langan was convicted of five bank robbery-related charges in 1997, and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. His cohorts received lighter sentences: 30 years for Stedeford, five years for McCarthy (as part of a plea deal where he testified against Langan), and 57 months for Brescia.

Guthrie, for his part—the person who Langan says told him about the other ARA members’ connections to OKC—was found hanging dead in his prison cell in July 1996.

All that didn’t stop Langan from trying to reveal the ARA-OKC connections about six years later, this time in the state trial of Terry Nichols, who helped McVeigh construct the Ryder Truck bomb but wasn’t in Oklahoma on the day of the attack.

Prosecutors objected to Nichols using Langan as a defense witness to testify about the ARA-OKC connections. At a hearing over the matter, FBI agent John Hersley testified that it was impossible for McCarthy to be involved in the bombing because he was in Iowa on April 19, 1995.

In doing so, Hersley contradicted McCarthy’s own alibi that he was with Langan in Kansas. Nevertheless, the judge accepted the FBI agent’s testimony and rejected Langan from testifying for Nichols.

Langan tried once more to introduce evidence about the ARA’s connections to the OKC bombing in his aforementioned sworn court statement in a lawsuit by Utah attorney Jesse Trentadue, who had been suing the FBI for records about the bombing. But Trentadue’s case, too, was dismissed in 2010.

Since then, Langan has transitioned from trying to reveal information about the OKC bombing to championing transgender rights.

Langan’s Later Life

After struggling with his gender identity for decades, Langan fully embraced his feminine side in prison.

He was transferred to Federal Medical Center Carswell in March 2016, and The Intercept even wrote a sympathetic piece on the former neo-Nazi in 2018, when a lawsuit by the Alliance Defending Freedom threatened to send him back to a male facility.

“Donna Langan is very worried. Langan is a transgender woman in an American prison,” The Intercept wrote, failing to detail Langan’s neo-Nazi past or connections to the OKC bombing. “Today, however, a Christian legal advocacy group with a growing national profile, called Alliance Defending Freedom, is working to undo the regulations and policies that helped Langan move to Carswell.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom discontinued its lawsuit in November 2019, and Langan would soon mount his own offensive. In September 2021, he sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), claiming that the BOP was “violating the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment by not providing gender confirmation surgery.”

Unlike his robbery trial or attempts to introduce evidence about the OKC bombing, it looks like Langan is going to win this case. The BOP told a federal court in June that it was working to procure gender reassignment surgery for Langan, and last month the bureau said it has put out a request for bids to find a surgeon to perform the task. Bids were due October 10.

“In light of the steps defendants have taken towards providing surgeries to plaintiff, the parties believe there is a possibility that all claims in this case might be resolved without the need for further litigation,” the parties said in a September 14 joint status report. “Plaintiffs concur that the actions of the government appear to show that the surgery is on track, and will not be postponed excessively, or artificially delayed.”

By the time the parties’ next status report is due in December, Langan’s transformation might be complete.

And what of the OKC bombing? Will Langan ever publicly tell his side of that story? Will it matter?

In Bad Company author Hamm probably best summarized the reason why U.S. government will continue to ignore Langan’s information. “The real problem for the government…was the embarrassing fact that the Secret Service had sprung him from jail back in 1993,” Hamm concluded. “After that, of course, he went on to form the Aryan Republican Army.”

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

Conclusion

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?

MR. HERSLEY: Two.

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
Committee.

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.

Podcasts

scotthortonshow logosq

coi banner sq2@0.5x

liberty weekly thumbnail

Don't Tread on Anyone Logo

313x0w (1)

Pin It on Pinterest