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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.

The Oklahoma City Bombing Archives: An Introduction & Recommended Reading List

When I began compiling material for what eventually became “The Oklahoma City Bombing Archives,” I was simply doing background research for a book. Over a period of several years I used commercial databases, libraries, and services that allowed me to scan newspaper and magazine reports, transcripts, and other sources for relevant material.

In addition to standard news media sources, the scope of this research archive expanded after contacting several researchers on this subject and asking for their advice and any materials that might be useful. A number of other researchers contributed additional documents and case material to round out the archive.

As I neared the end of the most intensive period of research, I realized that this archive had grown to include more than enough primary sources to provide any student, journalist, or researcher with an excellent starting point to help kickstart their project.

By my thinking, in the right hands this archive could conceivably contribute to someone writing a stellar non-fiction book, or at least a few articles. In addition, my hope was that this archive might also get people interested in this case when they otherwise might not give the subject any second thought.

With this goal in mind I began strongly considering an effort to bring this research material to the public on a website where anyone could access it, or search it. Thanks to support from fellow researchers and folks at the Libertarian Institute we now have this archive of material available for everyone.

There are so many things in the archive that, for a newcomer, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start, or even know what to look for. It’s with that in mind that we’ll go over some highlights from just the news reports found in this archive that a person might want to take a closer look at–some of the more interesting feature articles on the case. These are just some of the MSM pieces you’ll find here, in addition to the many FBI and ATF documents, court transcripts, and other records on the case.

Magazine & Newspaper Articles

 

This feature piece from Mother Jones magazine details the death of Kenneth Trentadue. While authorities claim the death was a suicide, and tried to cremate the body, Trentadue’s family prevented the cremation and had the body examined which showed clear signs of beating and torture. An Oklahoma medical examiner’s conclusions support this and mounting details emerged that appear to link Trentadue’s murder to the nationwide manhunt for one of Timothy McVeigh’s accomplices in the bombing, “John Doe #2.”

 

This feature piece from author and Washington Post contributing reporter Peter Carlson centers on Timothy McVeigh’s mysterious accomplice in the bombing, “John Doe #2.”

 

This report has quotes from a service station mechanic, Mike Moroz, who gave directions to Timothy McVeigh on the morning of April 19, 1995. Moroz said that McVeigh had a passenger in the Ryder truck with him, and he later pointed McVeigh out of a lineup for the FBI. You can read Moroz’s 302 report [here] and see video of Mike Moroz describing the encounter [here (video)]

 

A great piece from The New Yorker about Oklahoma investigative reporter J.D. Cash’s groundbreaking stories published by the McCurtain Gazette. Cash’s reporting would win him a prize in investigative reporting from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists and two Pulitzer nominations. This is one of the few mainstream media pieces to credit J.D. Cash’s reporting.

 

This stunning report goes into detail concerning the existence of surveillance camera footage depicting the Oklahoma City bombing. Though the FBI denies any footage exists, this report has details concerning an FBI internal investigation into one Los Angeles FBI agent’s attempt to sell the footage to Dateline: NBC for $1 million. This report, when examined in conjunction with October 1995 FBI documents [here], and [here], confirm the attempted sale.

News media accounts from October 1995 [here, here] confirm the existence of the tapes, showing two passengers in the Ryder truck, and a Secret Service timeline [here] describes what is shown on the footage. Finally, a fall 1995 KFOR-TV broadcast reported and did a recreation of what law enforcement sources said appears on the video [here].

A 1999 FOIA lawsuit revealed that the FBI possessed up to 22 different videos depicting the downtown OKC area [here]. Meanwhile, an internal FBI evidence log [here] states that at least two of those videos show the bombers and/or Ryder truck. Those two videos were taken from The Journal Record Building (designated #Q7) and from the Southwestern Bell building (designated #Q77).

 

This Newsweek cover story was about an FBI Major Case Undercover Operation dubbed “PATCON.” PATCON targeted white supremacist groups throughout the country in the 1990s, and one of it’s undercover informants, John Matthews, crossed paths with Timothy McVeigh during his time working PATCON. When this piece was published, Newsweek’s editors so heavily sanitized and edited the story that central details concerning Timothy McVeigh were excised from the final story. This is the original copy of this groundbreaking story—as submitted to Newsweek’s editor—before half of the story was gutted. For the redacted, final print edition — without the McVeigh details — click here.

 

This piece, by investigative reporters J.D. Cash and Roger Charles, details connections between the FBI, a group of white supremacist bank robbers, and Timothy McVeigh. J.D. Cash—and the FBI—began investigating links between the bank robbers and Timothy McVeigh early in the FBI’s investigation.

 

Washington Weekly contributor and author of The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror, David Hoffman, writes about the disturbing death of Oklahoma City police officer Terry Yeakey. Official reports suggest his death was a suicide, but the details don’t support that conclusion.

 

In this story, published a day after the bombing, federal judge Wayne Alley says that his office received a warning that some sort of attack might take place on April 19. The threat was so serious that Judge Alley didn’t show up for work that day. What did the feds know about what might happen on April 19? Other early reports detail unspecific ‘threats’ the feds received before the blast [here, here and here].

 

This is one of the very first news reports to describe a witness who observed a bomb squad truck and personnel in the vicinity of the Murrah building and courthouse in the hours before the bombing. Many of these witnesses’ accounts would later be detailed by the Oklahoma Bombing Investigative Committee’s 2001 Final Report, and would be interviewed by a 1997 grand jury empanelled to investigate the bombing. No sufficient explanation has been provided as to why a bomb squad and sniffer dogs would be where they were that morning.

In fact, it appears that the subject of bomb sniffer dogs seen at the courthouse and Murrah building appears to be a very sensitive subject. When U.S. Postal worker Debbie Nakanashi was set to testify before a Grand Jury investigating the bombing, she was told by U.S. Attorney Steve Mullins and Postal attorney John Hollingsworth that she was explicitly barred from speaking about bomb sniffer dogs when she testified before the grand jury (source: interview from transcript U.S. FAIR Justice Act HR4105 07/27/2000 pp 79).

 

This report details the recollections of Lynda Willoughby, proprietor of the private mailbox business where Timothy McVeigh received his mail. According to Willoughby, the man depicted in the “John Doe #2” sketch picked up McVeigh’s mail once, and that an unidentified Kingman resident picked up McVeigh’s mail 5-6 times. The piece raises the specter of additional accomplices, close enough to McVeigh to pick up his mail for him.

 

At the end of April 1995, news reports began to surface that said law enforcement sources had surveillance camera footage from Oklahoma City which showed Timothy McVeigh’s Arizona license plate affixed to a second vehicle, widely reported as having been a brown truck. This report says “The videotape from a security camera on a nearby apartment building shows both the Ryder truck believed to have carried the massive bomb and a second vehicle—not the Mercury—bearing the Arizona tag, a federal law enforcement official in Washington said Friday.Later, the FBI would claim John Doe #2 did not exist, no second vehicle was ever officially identified, and the video footage cited by law enforcement sources here would never surface.

 

This lengthy LA Times report contains many details, prominent among them the claim that the FBI had located a second vehicle involved in the bombing, and that “authorities think that three vehicles entered Oklahoma for the bombing.”

The report also describes what witness Gary Lewis saw, “two men inside a yellow Mercury Marquis speeding away from the Journal Record building” prior to the bombing. Lewis’ sighting was documented in FBI 302 reports [here, here] and was touted by FBI agent John Hersley in an April 29, 1995 preliminary hearing [here].

 

This report says that the FBI had a “videotape from a security camera which shows the Ryder truck and another vehicle (not the Mercury Marquis) bearing Timothy McVeigh’s Arizona license plate.

 

This report is interesting as it details a little-known fact that is a key piece of the investigation: a brown pickup truck. The report says that “authorities were trying to enhance the image of a brown pickup truck license plate captured on videotape by a camera in the car of the state trooper who arrested McVeigh.

An April 20, 1995 FBI teletype stated that “several leads are outstanding relative to a brown pickup” truck [here].

In addition, when McVeigh was pulled over by State Trooper Charlie Hangar, the brown pickup that pulled off to the side of the road in tandem with McVeigh was spotted by at least two witnesses—Kevin Brown [302 report here] saw it, and so did witness Scott Gregory who testified at the Nichols State trial.

As with all of the other videotape evidence in this case that shows possible suspects or vehicles, Hangar’s dashcam footage showing the brown pickup pull over has never been produced.

 

Virtually every article written by J.D. Cash is worth reading, but this one is included because it dovetails with the previous report concerning a brown pickup truck.

Cash interviewed witness Lea Mohr who just minutes before 9 A.M., circled the Murrah Building waiting for the Ryder truck to leave the handicapped parking spot.

Mohr, upset the handicapped parking space was taken by a non-handicap vehicle, took pictures of the Ryder truck with her disposable camera. According to Mohr, there was a brown pickup truck parked next to the Ryder truck.

Interestingly, a December 21, 1995 McVeigh Defense team memorandum titled ‘Motion To Require The Government To Produce Exculpatory Evidence’ (pp 16-17) says that the brown pickup truck in Mohr’s photographs had McVeigh’s license tag on it.

 

This report was explosive—a major turn in the case: a third arrest. However, it would also prove to be one of the most mystifying parts of the whole OKC bombing story. Announcing a third arrest in the OKBOMB case, The Houston Chronicle reported—exclusively–that an Arizona biochemist named Steven Colbern had been “identified” as a suspect in the bombing. The article goes on to say that “Colbern was identified through his brown pickup. It was captured, by chance, on video taken from the state trooper’s car that stopped Timothy McVeigh for speedingand that Colbern’s truck could be seen pulling over to the side of the road ahead of McVeigh’s vehicle on the dashcam footage.

The most interesting claim in this report is that “sophisticated enhancement techniques were used to improve the video until investigators could read the license plate number.” However, this story makes even less sense when you look at FBI documents from the time. A May 3rd, 1995 airtel from FBI SA Thomas Ravenelle–dated nine days before Colbern’s arrest—states that “COLBERN has been eliminated as a suspect in this matter” [FBI document].

If his license plate was recorded in connection with the bombing, how was he eliminated as a suspect? And if he was eliminated as a suspect, then why was he then arrested a week later? What the hell is going on here? To make matters more confusing, Colbern cooperated with authorities and signed two confusing official statements to the federal government which are, in some parts, nonsensical. In these statements, Colbern admits to having known gun dealer Roger Moore under the alias of “Bob Miller” and further to have spoken with his girlfriend (real name: Karen Anderson) on the telephone, with Colbern oddly saying that the girlfriend also went by “Bob.” Within his two statements Colbern said that he had never personally met Mr. McVeigh, but that he knew of him as “Tim Tuttle” and, curiously, Moore/Miller had told him that “[McVeigh] was a master of making fake license plates.”

Whatever the case may be, Mr. Colbern was eventually released without any charges in connection to the bombing, and where he fits in the puzzle remains a mystery to this day.

 

This news report is one of the first to reference the white separatist community Elohim City in connection to the OKC bombing. The report says that Timothy McVeigh visited the white separatist community and that “the FBI is close to arresting a group of major players” in the OKC bombing investigation.

A senior law enforcement official told Newsweek magazine that “this thing involves husbands and wives as well as children as young as 12.”

Two days later, the spiritual leader of Elohim City, Robert Millar, would hold a press conference denying any connection to McVeigh, and no arrests there would be made.

 

One day after it’s reported that the FBI is “close to making arrests” in the bombing—in a report alluding to Elohim City— Timothy McVeigh was publicly linked to Elohim City, with this report saying he called the compound on April 5.

 

This Newsweek piece says that Timothy McVeigh and another man were spotted prowling around federal buildings in Omaha, Nebraska and Phoenix, Arizona, something that was first reported in April. This subject would be touched on again 25 years after the case in an April 20, 2020 report [here] where the ATF’s sketches of the two men were first published.

Another interesting detail is reported in that “for the past year, the ATF and the Army Corps of Engineers have been blowing up car bombs at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico” as part of a project called DIPOLE MIGHT. Curiously, an ATF agent assigned to DIPOLE MIGHT happened to be in Oklahoma City on April 19 and it is reported that within minutes of the bombing, agents trained under DIPOLE MIGHT were at the crime scene. Yet, almost the entire ATF office was vacant that day. Where were these DIPOLE MIGHT agents positioned that morning to appear at the Murrah building within minutes?

 

This report details two separate encounters with still-unknown accomplices connected to McVeigh. The report says that Terry Nichols, Timothy McVeigh, and an unknown third man with long hair ate lunch together on April 18, 1995 at a Subway in Kansas. The report also details a delivery of Chinese food that was made to McVeigh’s room at the Dreamland Motel by deliveryman Jeff Davis. A sketch was made of the man Davis made the delivery to [here] and Davis insists the man wasn’t McVeigh.

 

This story is included for the sheer absurdity and shade of inter-agency rivalry. Thomas Constantine, the head of the DEA, says he “amazed” that the FBI hasn’t captured John Doe #2 yet — at May 5 this puts John Doe 2 at large for approximately two weeks.

 

This piece details the April 19, 1995 execution of white supremacist Richard Wayne Snell and talks about how Snell said that there would be a bombing or terrorist attack on the date of his execution.

Other reports would detail Snell’s seeming foreknowledge of the attacks and indicate that the FBI was investigating. (here).

 

On October 28, 1995, newspapers across the country reported that surveillance camera footage of the bombing shows two people in the Ryder truck that delivered the bomb. The description of what is on the tape was given by unidentified “law enforcement sources” and matches descriptions provided by witnesses at the scene. This headline is just one of many that ran in papers that week in October. Find more at the Libertarian Institute’s news archive here.

 

This report concerns Oklahoma City bombing documents that were unsealed in the first week of November 1995, which include details about two witnesses who saw Timothy McVeigh “with another person” leaving the scene of the crime.

 

This piece details a half dozen witnesses who spotted Timothy McVeigh with an accomplice both in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing, and in two rural Kansas towns in the days before the blast. The witnesses detailed in this report were interviewed by the FBI, and in some cases they also testified at trial and before a grand jury empanelled to investigate the bombing.

 

This radio broadcast features interviews with witnesses who spotted Timothy McVeigh with John Doe #2. This includes mechanic Mike Moroz, who was interviewed by the FBI several times and pointed McVeigh out of a lineup for the FBI, as well as café owner Barbara Whittenberg, among others.

These witnesses continued to be covered in the press with varying degrees of detail throughout McVeigh and Nichols’ trials where the majority of them were never called to testify as to what they had seen.

 

This piece is just one of many that detail possible connections between Timothy McVeigh and the white separatist community known as Elohim City. Notably, this article says that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s director, Morris Dees, said that McVeigh had visited Elohim City “several times.” The article also covers details concerning Richard Wayne Snell, who was executed on April 19, 1995, and states that Snell was visited in prison by Elohim City’s Robert Millar “every day, many hours a day” before his execution date and that Snell’s body is buried at Elohim City. This article is one of very few mainstream media pieces to mention German national Andreas Strassmeir, who served as chief of security at Elohim City and was the subject of an ATF undercover investigation, among other things.

 

In June of 1995, the FBI denied the existence of John Doe #2, asserting that the witnesses all must be wrong. The FBI put forward a theory saying that the witnesses from Elliott’s Body Shop—where the bomb truck was rented—were mistaken about the second suspect and confused him with an Army private who had visited the shop on April 18, the day after McVeigh did.

The problem with that theory, however, is that Eldon Elliott wasn’t at work on April 18 and he remembers seeing McVeigh with another person. This report reveals that federal prosecutors didn’t believe the FBI’s story about Bunting, and that John Doe #2 was still considered to be a suspect. Quoting prosecutor Joseph Hartzler, the piece cites a memo written to defense attorneys which says “the existence and identity of this John Doe II, whom we are confident is not Mr. Bunting, is the subject of a continuing investigation.”

 

British journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard interviewed German national Andreas Strassmeir, who in April of 1995 was serving as “chief of security” at the Elohim City white separatist compound. While Strassmeir denied knowing anything about the bombing, controversial comments he made to Evans-Pritchard seemed to indicate otherwise. Here, Strassmeir is quoted saying “the right-wing in the US is incredibly easy to penetrate if you know how to talk to them. Of course it’s easier for a foreigner with an accent; nobody would ever suspect a German of working for the federal government.” He also suggested that the bombing was some sort of sting operation, which had been penetrated by a government informant: “the ATF had an informant inside this operation. They had advance warning and they bungled it. What they should have done is make an arrest while the bomb was still being made instead of waiting till the last moment for a publicity stunt.” Asked if he thought the alleged informant would ever speak out, Strassmeir replied: “How can he? What happens if it was a sting operation from the very beginning? What happens if it comes out that the plant was a provocateur? What then? The relatives of the victims are going to go crazy, and he’s going to be held responsible for the murder of 168 people? Of course the informant can’t come forward. He’s scared stiff right now.”

This explosive report was followed-up on by J.D. Cash of the McCurtain Gazette, in a May 28, 1996 piece here.

The U.S. media was largely silent on the issue, though a piece did appear in the rural Tennessee newspaper The Tennessean, here.

 

This short piece details how prosecutors in Timothy McVeigh’s trial decided not to present any eyewitnesses who could place the defendant, Timothy McVeigh, at the scene of the crime.

The FBI had over two dozen witnesses who saw McVeigh in downtown Oklahoma City on the morning of the bombing. One of those witnesses, Mike Moroz, picked McVeigh out of a lineup of people at the FBI’s Oklahoma City command post in the days after the bombing. The most notable thing about these eyewitnesses is that every one of them saw McVeigh with another person. Were no witnesses called to testify because they would have testified that McVeigh wasn’t alone?

 

  • Kevin Flynn, and Lou Kilzer. ‘John Doe 2 Remains A Mystery.’ Rocky Mountain News, 3 Mar. 1997.

This piece details numerous John Doe #2 witnesses. Of note is witness Kyle Hunt, an Oklahoma City bank executive who passed a Ryder truck and a Mercury Marquis in traffic as he drove to a meeting in downtown Oklahoma City. Hunt “told the FBI he is certain the car’s driver was McVeigh and that there were two other men in the car.” At least one person had to have been in the truck, making a total of four people. Read Kyle Hunt’s FBI 302 report [here]. Hunt also testified before a grand jury empanelled to investigate the bombing in 1997.

 

A number of reports were published in early March 1997 which linked another suspect to the Oklahoma City bombing investigation. These reports center around a man who went by the name “Robert Jacquez.” Jacquez was spotted with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in the fall of 1994, seeking to buy property in the Missouri Ozarks. The man was talked to three witnesses, real estate broker Bill Maloney, his coworker Joe Davidson, and the real estate firm’s secretary. The FBI continued to investigate the man known as “Jacquez” for up to 5 years, never making an identification. Click here to view a sketch of the suspect from the FBI investigation.

Additional reports from March of 1997 on this suspect: CNN, AP, TIME.

 

This report concerns witness Rodney Johnson. Johnson drove a food delivery truck and on his route drove past the Murrah building every day around 9:00 AM. On the morning of the bombing, Johnson had to slam on the brakes as two pedestrians crossed the street in front of his vehicle, with Johnson getting a good look at both men. Johnson described what he saw to the FBI on the night of the bombing, and described the two men he saw before the FBI sketches were released. He later testified before the 1997 grand jury empanelled to investigate the bombing. Read Johnson’s 302 report here.

 

In mid-January 1998 a number of reports appeared which linked Timothy McVeigh with white supremacists Cheyne and Chevie Kehoe. The Kehoe brothers were on trial, and the manager of The Shadows Motel & RV Park said that McVeigh had visited Kehoe at the motel. Additionally, the motel manager said that on the morning of the bombing, Chevie Kehoe came into the office about 45 minutes before the blast and asked the manager to turn the TV on and put it on the news. When news of the bombing came on, according to the manager, Kehoe began celebrating, saying “it’s about time.” The manager said that “days before that, he had mentioned to me that there’s going to be something happening on the 19 and it’s going to wake people up.”

Many additional reports on Kehoe surfaced that week. Just a few of these reports can be found here, here, and here.

 

According to this Rocky Mountain News piece by Kevin Flynn, more than 43,000 “lead sheets” and documents were never turned over to the Nichols defense team during his federal trial.

Among these thousands of pages of documents are FBI reports concerning John Doe #2, other suspects, and other vehicles. These reports were written by the FBI during their investigation and should have been provided to the defense team but were withheld.

 

Just a week after it was first reported that thousands of pages of documents had been withheld from the McVeigh defense team, the Los Angeles Times reports that additional materials had been found that were not turned over.

Many of these documents relate to a suspect known as Robert Jacquez, and consist of 302 reports, lead sheets, and other documents generated during the investigation. Just three days prior to this piece, Fox News reported that many of the withheld documents “pertain to John Doe #2, a suspect who was never identified.”

 

This report is about a specific FBI document written in early May 1995. That document, written by San Francisco based FBI agent Thomas Ravenelle, says that “the Oklahoma command post has directed all offices to hold Unsub No 2 leads in abeyance.” That is to say, the command post has directed all offices to stop investigating John Doe #2 leads. Less than a month after the bombing, the FBI appears to have halted it’s search for the second suspect, long before announcing that the man “doesn’t’ exist.” Why did the FBI take this action? Is it because they did find out who John Doe #2 was, and like Andreas Strassmeir said, he was an informant? To view the document cited in this piece click here.

————–

There are many more news reports that feature key details concerning the bombing and it would be difficult to cover all of them here, though an effort has been made to highlight reports that have details that are exceptionally noteworthy.

In addition to these reports, it’s strongly recommended that people read all of the reports written by J.D. Cash, published by the McCurtain Gazette. You can find most of those stories at the Libertarian Institute’s archive here.

Richard Booth is an independent researcher who has spent over five years investigating the Oklahoma City bombing. His entire archive is now available exclusively at the Libertarian Institute.

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