A U.S. District Court judge in Salt Lake City, Utah, has ordered the Oklahoma City FBI office to turn over unredacted copies of all documents currently at issue in a Freedom of Information lawsuit involving additional evidence and the names of additional conspirators in the Oklahoma City bombing case.
According to the judge, the materials would be reviewed in his chambers and then returned to the FBI.
The order could also include evidence in the possession of the FBI that might shed light on the mysterious death of an inmate, Kenny Trentadue, who was being held at the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Contacted about whether the agency would comply with the order or appeal it, FBI Special Agent Gary Johnson made a startling announcement. After declining to comment on the civil matters involved in the Trentadue suit, Johnson said the FBI was currently investigating the April 19, 1995, bombing.
In the past, Johnson has told the media that the FBI was standing by its original investigation. “It was the most experienced and thorough in our history,” he said.
The $85 million effort yielded only two federal convictions, Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh. Mike Fortier provided testimony against McVeigh and Nichols in return for a reduced sentence.
Asked how many FBI agents were involved in the renewed effort, Johnson simply commented: “We don’t ever disclose that type of information.”
Exactly when this investigation was opened and why remains unclear.
In 2000, the head of the original OKBOMB investigation, Danny Defenbaugh, told an interviewer for a documentary film on the subject: “The FBI will never reopen the case, under any circumstances. Even if McVeigh calls and gives us names,” Defenbaugh stated, “we will never reopen it.”
A civil suit filed by a Utah attorney may have flushed out new evidence of a wider conspiracy in the bombing, forcing the agency to move forward with a new investigation.
The brother of a murdered inmate, Jesse Trentadue, sued the Oklahoma City FBI office after attempting to obtain documents concerning the death of his younger brother Kenny.
At the time of his death, Trentadue was being held in solitary confinement in the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center, pending a hearing on his parole status. The government has since claimed Trentadue killed himself.
Jesse Trentadue, an attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah, claims he has found evidence that his brother was tortured and killed because federal agents suspected him of involvement in the bombing conspiracy in Oklahoma City. Trentadue received the information from a person close to McVeigh, who was waiting execution at the time.
Additional evidence to support this claim could be available soon.
In an order dated Aug. 16, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball directed the parties to appear before him on Oct. 12 to present additional arguments on whether the FBI is entitled to continue withholding evidence it may have of a wider conspiracy in the matter – and much more.
Kimball also ordered the FBI to bring to court all unredacted copies of the documents involved in the litigation for him to review in his chambers.
Trentadue’s litigation thus far has uncovered links between McVeigh and several subjects that frequented Elohim City, a paramilitary training camp in eastern Oklahoma.
For a decade since the bombing, senior FBI agents and lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice have argued that they never had any evidence that persons at Elohim City could be involved with McVeigh or the Oklahoma bombing.
But several weeks ago, a court order from Kimball forced the release of approximately 100 pages of documents by the Oklahoma City FBI office, and some do indeed appear to implicate others in the bombing.
However, the FBI has blacked out almost every name in those documents, along with whole sentences of other information regarding an undercover operation the FBI and others were involved in.
In the documents, the FBI also notes the agency was monitoring McVeigh and Elohim City with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC is a tax-exempt civil rights group that was co-founded by Alabama attorney Morris Dees.
Dees confirmed participation in a covert operation at Elohim City, but refused to elaborate during an interview with this newspaper almost two years ago.
During the course of this litigation, Justice Department lawyers have also argued that the individuals working for the SPLC and the FBI were promised anonymity in return for their undercover work, thus their names were blacked out to protect their identities.
Trentadue has told the court that the public’s interest in learning who killed 168 persons and injured 500 more in Oklahoma City in 1995 far outweighs the FBI’s interest in protecting the names of its informants – especially those employed by a private organization.
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