Security Tapes Shoot Blanks : Oklahoma City Bombing Revisited

Screen grab from security video after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 shows people moving through nearby building. Photo from the FBI via The Oklahoman / AP.

Gaps in security tapes:
Revisiting the Oklahoma City Bombing

By Sherman DeBrosse / The Rag Blog / October 1, 2009

The Associated Press reported on September 28 that attorney Jesse Trentadue had obtained through the Freedom of Information Act security camera tapes of the vicinity around the Alfred E. Murrah Federal Building at the time of the terrible bombing in 1995.

Trentadue failed to obtain some CIA documents he sought. The tapes came from the security system of neighboring buildings as the FBI never claimed it had tapes from the Murrah Building itself. Trentedue found that the tapes had blank points just before the time of the explosion, and he thought the blanks could mean the tapes were edited.

Trentadue pursued the case because he believes his brother Kenneth was murdered by guards in prison because some believed he was John Doe #2, Timothy Mc Veigh’s accomplice. However, Kenney was never officially a target in the bombing investigation. Jesse Trentadue thought the FBI linked his brother to the bombing because he had a tattoo on his left arm.

Prisoner Kenneth Trentadue was found dead in his federal prison cell in Oklahoma City in August, 1995. He had been pulled over on June 10, 1995, and was held for a parole violation. The body was covered with bruises and blood. The Bureau of Prisons and the FBI prevented Medical Examiner Fred Jordan from conducting a complete examination and pressured him to drop the matter. Trentadue’s death was ruled a suicide.

In 1997, Oklahoma Republican Senator Don Nichols said prison guards told him they were ordered not to talk about the death of Kenney Trentadue. In the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Orin Hatch said it looked like Kenny was murdered. The Bureau of Prisons awarded the family $1,100,000 because its handling of the matter inflicted pain on them.

On April 19, 1995, the Alfred E. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. The generally accepted account of the Oklahoma City bombing is that one man, with some assistance from an accomplice pulled it off. It was such a horrible event –costing 168 lives — that none of us at the time could bear to think that there could have been something wrong with the official account.

Timothy McVeigh was quickly apprehended and labeled the main bomber. There was a brief search for the second man who was seen with McVeigh just before the explosion –John Doe #2. While still claiming to search for him, the head of the investigations ordered other agents to cease looking for him.

McVeigh’s Army buddy Terry Nichols, who was far away in Herington, Kansas at the time was arrested as an accomplice. Nichols admitted to helping to construct a bomb on April 18.

The prosecution’s supporting testimony came from Michael Fortier and his wife Lori after months of badgering and intimidation. The testimony was also compromised by the effects of drug use on their memories. Lori Fortier rehearsed her testimony with the FBI for four days before she went on the stand. She was granted immunity for her testimony, and Michael was to serve less than 11 years for not warning authorities about a crime he knew was about to be committed.

Some of the witnesses described a man who did not look like McVeigh renting the Ryder truck. McVeigh’s fingerprints did not turn up on the truck or the counter of the body shop where he allegedly rented it. Some of the workers say that two men came in to rent the truck, and that one of looked a lot like Tod Bunting, who was with McVeigh at Fort Riley.

Bunting later said he rented a truck at the same place a day later, but this was never pursued. Some experts think Bunting looked a lot like the John Doe- 2 composite. Some who believe there were two trucks, aside from the one Bunting said he rented, note that a second truck was rented a week before McVeigh allegedly rented one.

Stephen Jones, attorney for Timothy McVeigh and a former Nixon aide, was certain that McVeigh exaggerated his own role in the bombing to protect others. The bomber repeatedly said he alone should suffer so that the “revolution” could go on. Sixteen times the prosecution told the court it was not withholding any evidence from the defense. Then three weeks before the execution, it turned over some additional material.

Jones was ultimately able to prove that the FBI withheld hundreds of pages of documents from the defense. Eventually the bureau admitted to withholding over 4,000 pages. The Associated Press reported that 75% of the files used in the McVeigh trial were at least partially sealed. Jones filed a Petition of Mandamus to get access to some of those files, but the Appeals Court denied him on grounds of national security.

Jones suspected that McVeigh got some assistance from white supremacists and thought it possible that Nichols could have had a tie to Islamic extremists in the Philippines. A number of witnesses saw McVeigh with men who looked like they came from the Middle East. Jayna Davis, a former KFOR-TV reporter has amassed much evidence along these lines. Davis and her partner turned up the fact that McVeigh associated with a number of men from the Middle East. It cannot be established if John Doe #2 existed or if he was from the Middle East.

Some experts thought it would take from four to eight men to pull off the Oklahoma City bombing. Immediately after the event, police circulated composites of two men seen together 15 minutes before the blast. The people who saw more than one suspect were never called before the grand jury.

Craig Roberts wrote that a federal law enforcement official told him that the bombing was about the records of Mountain Aviation, which had operated at the Mena, Arkansas, Airport, and allegedly moved drugs. He has a fireman witness to support the report that records were removed from the building the next day. He had another law enforcement source that claimed money for the operation was provided by a Mexican national with previous CIA ties, who might have been working then for the Columbian drug cartel. He, like this writer, found all of the pieces of the story difficult to fit together.

Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City after 1995 bombing.

How much help?

McVeigh said he alone mixed all that fertilizer. And fuel oil. It is hard to believe one man could have done that. Charles Farley testified to seeing four men with McVeigh near Geary State Lake the day before the explosion. The accounts of the explosion raise a question about whether there was a second bomb in the building, and explosives experts, including Brigadier Benton Partin, are on record that the fertilizer bomb was not powerful enough to do the damage attributed to it.

It could not have been the only source of damage. It would have been impossible to destroy a large concrete pillar deep in the building. The general thought that demolition charges on some pillars would be necessary. The general is a self-described Christian who hates Communism. For four years, he was chairman of the Republican Party of Fairfax County, Virginia. The FBI interviewed him but ignored his carefully framed comments.

Dr. Roger Raubach, a physical chemist who worked at Stanford, agreed with Partin and said he didn’t care if there were a semi-trailer with 20 tons of ammonium nitrate, “it wouldn’t do the damage we saw there.” Testimony of people who were inside the building when the explosions occurred includes recollections that seem to support the general’s view.

Films of the explosion showed two smoke plumes, one outside the building and one inside. Allegedly two tons of ammonium nitrate was used in the McVeigh bomb, but the smell of ammonia was not present at the scene. The truck was 30 or 40 feet away from the building. Witnesses testified to a tremendous flash and feeling great amounts of static electricity, all characteristics of nuclear and sub nuclear blasts. The Feds demolished the building on May 23. Mc Veigh had military training and would have known that ANFO was not effective in destroying steel and concrete.

Terrance Yeakey, an Oklahoma Police Sergeant, was the first officer to get to the Murrah Building at the time of the explosion. He was certain he saw a flash within and that windows were blown out. He called his former wife to say, “it’s not what they are saying it was.” He also overheard ATF agents reveal something else that convinced him the official view of the explosion was very wrong.

Three days before he was to receive the department’s Medal of Valor in 1996 Yeakey’s body was found in a field, half a mile from his car. His arms and wrists were slit as well as both jugular veins. There was a downward gunshot wound in the head. When the car door was opened, blood ran out. The death was declared a suicide. No autopsy was done, and the car was not dusted for prints. There was no investigation. But the Medical Examiner did note that there were no “stellate” wounds, meaning a silencer prevented the head from being marked by escaping gas. The mortician found multiple rope burns. Yeakey’s notes on the bombing were never found.

The media reported that two unexplained bombs were removed from the building. There is also a FEMA memo on this subject. CNN reporter Suzanne Sealy told viewers that one bomb was found on the east side of the building and that the FBI sent people a few blocks away.

Yeakey’s former wife revealed that the sergeant shared a safe deposit box with Dr. Charles Chumley, with whom he worked during the rescue effort. After that they conferred several times about what had happened. Chumley and Yeakey had refused to turn in false reports as requested by federal officers. Chumley, a pilot, went down in a crash in August.

Far right white extremists

There is a dispute about the security tapes at the Murrah building. The FBI says the tapes show nothing, but a Secret Service memo claims the tapes could have shown accomplices. The “Major,” one of the men at the enclave, contacted McVeigh at Fort Bragg before he left the army. McVeigh was being recruited to gather intelligence on right-wing groups like the Klan and the Aryan Nation. McVeigh was deeply disappointed at the time that he had not been taken into Special Forces.

David Paul Hammer, a death row inmate, has a manuscript allegedly containing things McVeigh told him. The FBI tried to interview him before he was executed, but the interviews did not take place due to disagreements about who could be present. It claims that McVeigh and Nichols were helped by people connected to Elohim City, a Christian enclave in northeastern Oklahoma where Strassmeir was in charge of security. Mc Veigh and Nichols drove from Fayette, Arkansas to Elohim City, on October 12, 1993.

The enclave was run by a Reverend Robert Millar, 71, a Christian Identity minister. His church believes that white Anglo-Saxons are the chosen people and the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Three of the men there had ties to the military. Two of those men, Richard Guthrie and Pete Langan, and McVeigh, robbed banks to raise money for the community and to arm it. (The FBI probably thought Guthrie and Kenney Trentadue were the same person.)

Apparently the men McVeigh met at Elohim City went only by code names. One of them was “the major” who contacted him at Fort Bragg. McVeigh called Strassmeir “Andy the Kraut.” Elohim City constituted 1,000 acres and was home to racists, Neo-Nazis, right-wingers, and just plain criminals.

Danny Coulson, director of the FBI’s Anti-Terrorism Task Force checked into an Oklahoma City hotel on April 19, hours before the attack. Attorney General Janet Reno in 1994 established VAAPCON, an operation to learn if right-wing Christian groups and militias were capable of violence, and Coulson was part of that operation. However, the FBI said it had no prior knowledge the Murrah Building would be attacked. There is an Embassy Hotel receipt, but Coulson wrote four years later that he and his wife were house-hunting in Fort Worth that day.

Transcripts on a December 8, 1997, “in chambers” conference among Judge Richard P. Matsch, Nichols’ attorneys and Justice Department lawyers reveals that the judge never read the file on what ATF informant Carol Howe told her FBI handler, Angela Finley. She said that the Elohim City (City of God in Hebrew) community was plotting against the U.S. government. She described its inhabitants as racists.

Two days after the attack she talked to Finley about their plans to blow something up and mentioned Dennis Mahon, a member of White Aryan Resistance, as her source, and added that he talked about Andreas Strassmeir having made three trips to scout out the Murrah Building. She had also travelled with Reverend Millar. Howe was reinterviewed and confirmed Finley’s written report.

Howe was arrested for making a bomb threat when the prosecutors learned that Stephen Jones, Nichols’ attorney, was going to call her as a witness. She was acquitted; Judge Matsch issued a ruling that prevented the defense from using her file.

Agent Peter Rickel admitted in open court that Millar had been a paid informant since 1994. When he spilled the beans, a senior agent bolted the room for some reason. This means there were three informants within the compound, including Howe and Strassmeir.

Not long after the bombing, the FBI arrested the “Midwestern Bank Robbers,” men associated with the bank robberies — in all 22 heists. They were part of the Aryan Republican Army. Its headquarters was a safe house in eastern Kansas, and Elohim City was one of many outposts.

Richard Wayne Snell, a neo-Nazi leader, was executed on the day the Murrah Building was attacked in 1995. He had been involved in an earlier plot to attack the building and told guards that Murrah would be attacked on the day of his execution. There were people at Elohim City who were sympathetic to Snell and knew about his prediction.

There are several leads that could point to the involvement of Islamic forces, particularly the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, with the bombing of the Murrah Building. Should this be revealed, it would be clear that people we helped in Afghanistan repaid our support with this terrible deed. That is reason enough to ignore these leads

Just as the far right militant organizations are filled with government informers, it is likely that there are also informers within the Islamic groups. Gene Wheaton, a former CIA agent, noted: “Every major Middle-Eastern terrorist organization is under surveillance and control of the intelligence agencies in the U.S. None of these guys move around as freely as they’d like you to think.” Exploring the involvement of the white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and Islamicists would eventually turn up information that federal agents knew about the planned attack and somehow failed to prevent it.

It should be noted that federal moles are not informed of one another’s presence. So they do not compare notes. It is possible that Hussain al-Hussaini of Oklahoma City was a federal mole and even now sees the tragedy simply as a sting gone wrong and something to keep quiet about so that other informants and operations can be protected.

In the last analysis, these people probably had very little grasp of the big picture. People above them must digest their reports and make intelligent decisions. What they were thinking, we will never know. We do know that days before the explosion William Colby told a friend that the right wing militias must be discredited.

He wrote: “I watched as the Anti-War Movement rendered it impossible for this country to conduct or win the Vietnam War. I tell you, dear friend, that this Militia and Patriot movement in which, as an attorney, you have become one of the centerpieces, is far more significant and far more dangerous for America than the Anti-War movement ever was, if it is not intelligently dealt with. And I really mean this.” He must have realized that the bumbling and bloody assault at Waco strengthened the militias and their allies.

“Two days after the event, FBI director Louis Freeh told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “Most of the militia organizations around the country are not, in our view, threatening or dangerous.” Go figure!

On July 16, 2005, the McCurtain Daily Gazette reported that the Elohim City Christian fundamentalists were involved in the bombing. Mike German, a 17 year FBI man who led the investigation, resigned when he learned that the Bush Justice Department would not follow this lead.

Sketch of John Doe #2.

Nichols and Al Qaeda

The travels of Nichols have received too little attention. Usually accompanied by his second wife, Nichols travelled to the Philippines about 16 times. FBI 302 reports and investigators hired by Jones learned that Nichols met with Abu Sayyaf people, Philippine Muslim extremists, in late1993 or early 1994. Nichols is known to have made telephone calls to Cebu city when his wife was not there. The Nichols lived in Cebu City for a time in 1993. Also present were Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, and Wali Khan Amin Shah.

In 1996, Edwin Angeles, military strategist for Abu Sayyaf, surrendered to the Philippine government and said that the Oklahoma City bombing was discussed at that meeting. He was subsequently killed. According to his widow, Elmina — his third Muslim wife –Nichols was a deep penetration agent for the Philippine government. She said the meeting took place every day for a week in a warehouse in 1994 and that there were two Americans present, Terry the Farmer and another unnamed person. They discussed blowing up buildings. The dying woman said the money came from Yousef. She claimed to have heard Edwin discussing the role of Yousef as a representative of the Iraqis with a Philippine soldier.

In March 2008, Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher became interested in the tie between Terry Nichols and Ramsay Yousef and complained that the Bush administration has obstructed his efforts. Richard Clarke, former NSC counterterrorism director, has said the feds have not been able to disprove the Yousef-Nichols connection. Both Yousef and Nichols are now in federal prisons.

In late 1994, Nichols’ first wife discovered that he had $20,000 in stash and precious metals worth at least $60,000. Like McVeigh, Nichols came out of the army with a deep hatred of the U.S. government. McVeigh wanted to become an arms dealer but he told people his trips to the Philippines were to bring back little paper butterflies to sell in the U.S.

Cary Gagan, a government informant, attended a meeting at the Western Motel in Los Vegas on May, 1994 also attended by five people from the Middle East, two Columbians, and Terry Nichols. At the time he was moving drugs from Mexico to Denver for two Arabs, Omar and Ahmed, who were at the meeting.

The men took some cocaine and then moved to the Players Club, an apartment complex in Henderson, where they discussed drug dealing. They also discussed blowing up a federal building in Denver with a truck painted to look like a mail truck. On January 14, 1995, Gagan picked up the truck in Golden. It had about thirty duffel bags with ammonium nitrate. He took the truck to the location he was given and informed the FBI where it was and asked for instructions. The FBI did not recontact him, and he went home via bus.

At a March 17, 1995, meeting with his employers in Greenwood Colorado, he saw architectural drawings of the Alfred Murrah Building. There was a new figure at the meeting, whom Gagan suspected was an agent. He warned the FBI about what he learned and the bureau seemed disinterested. On March 27 and 28 he called the US Marshal’s office in Denver, but his calls were not returned. Then he sent a short letter to Tina Rowe, the head of that office. After the bombing, Rowe told KFOR-TV (Oklahoma City) that the letter had not been received.

The feds said Gagan had a history of mental illness, even though he had a letter of immunity on Justice Department letterhead. The effort to discredit him was led by Lawrence Myers, a journalist with likely ties to the government. He had previously succeeded in discrediting a federal grand juror who was viewed as a problem and played a major role in the conviction of a former CIA agent for allegedly looking for someone to shoot his son.

Jesse Trentadue thought McVeigh’s contact was Andreas Strassmeir, a former German intelligence officer who is thought to have worked for the CIA and German intelligence. In 1992, he was arrested for driving without a license, but all sorts of pressure was brought to bear to get the charges dropped. He appears to have infiltrated a number of right-wing militias.

Terry Nichols said McVeigh had been promised protection in a safe house. Strassmeir, from his home in Berlin, said he met McVeigh once and he denied any connections with intelligence operations. FBI teletypes verify that Timothy had connections with Strassmeir and Elohim City, where the German carried out military training for white supremacists.

McVeigh failed a psychological examination to get into Special Forces, but many thought he was the ideal soldier and was leadership material. After he left the Army, something seemed to have happened to him, he was cold and emotionally spent. Yet he was considered a good guard.

While visiting a friend in Michigan, he said something strange. McVeigh said the Army implanted a miniature subcutaneous transmitter on him to keep track of him. He said it hurt him when he sat down. It is known that the military had been experimenting with telemeterics from at least 1968. Dr. Carl Sanders, who has developed military biochips, claims they were used in the first Iraq War. Caspan Advanced Technology Center was working on artificial intelligence and was engaged in microscopic electronic engineering.

The sad fact is that the military has a history of using soldiers for experiments of this sort. After his arrest, McVeigh presented himself, according to an Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General, as “a polite young man who gave polite, cooperative answers to every question. It was like the dutiful soldier,” Gibson said. “Emotions don’t come into play, right and wrong don’t come into play. What happens next doesn’t come into play… his mood was so level, it was unnatural. I looked at him and realized I felt no repulsion or fear. It was like there was an absence of feeling. He exuded nothing.”

In a February 9, 2007, affidavit, Nichols said McVeigh was “apparently” being directed by Nichols and claimed in 2007 that McVeigh was being controlled by Larry Potts, a ranking FBI official. Nichols said Potts manipulated McVeigh to change the bomb target. Documents to support his claims have been sealed. Nichols said he wrote, offering to help John Ashcroft, but received no reply. Nichols also claims that the bomb used was very different and much more sophisticated than the device he and McVeigh built.

The claim that McVeigh was somehow connected to the government might have some merit. It is known that McVeigh claimed that he had done some special black missions for the Army, and there is much evidence that people like him are often recruited for intelligence work as soon as they leave the military. Before leaving Fort Bragg, McVeigh said a Major contacted him about doing intelligence work for the government by infiltrating right-wing militias.

There may be a parallel to the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. It is now clear that the FBI was using an Egyptian double agent to teach followers of the Blind Shaik’s men how to make bombs. The agency actually provided the materials. When its agent warned that arrests should be made immediately, the FBI hesitated, wanting to gather more information. Perhaps Oklahoma City is another example of bad timing — a sting gone terribly wrong.”

[Sherman DeBrosse is the pseudonym for a retired history teacher. Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go here.]

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