The manner in which FBI officials respond to a federal judge’s order will say a lot about the agency’s failures thusfar to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of surveillance video captured April 19, 1995, by more than 20 cameras operating in the vicinity of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
On May 11, Judge Clark Waddoups, presiding in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division, gave FBI officials until June 30 to complete several tasks related to Salt Lake City lawyer Jesse Trentadue’s quest for answers related to the Oklahoma City Bombing and the death of his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, who died under suspicious circumstances several months later while in custody at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City. Jesse Trentadue suspects the FBI will respond to the judge’s order in one of four ways:
1. FBI officials may say there are no tapes. “After almost four years, it is not credible that the FBI would suddenly say tapes do not exist,” he explained in an email message Monday. “I suspect that the FBI’s failure to do so before this time (stems from) the bureau’s inability to find someone willing to swear to that fact under oath.” Trentadue said he will “call bullshit” if the FBI takes this approach.
2. FBI officials may ask for more time. “Why do they need more time to respond to the Court’s simple order, especially when they only need to search three locations for the tapes, explain the I-Drive and S-Drives AND, most importantly, state under oath that they have not lied to or otherwise misled the court?” Trentadue asked, saying he doubts the FBI will follow this route. “The only reason for needing more than six weeks in which to respond to the court’s order would be that the FBI has so many secret hiding places for those tapes and other material the Bureau does not want to make public that they all could not be searched in just six weeks.”
3. FBI officials may say that the tapes exist but are protected from disclosure by either the ongoing law enforcement or national security privileges, which are the only two absolute privileges from disclosure under FOIA. “The Bureau has claimed for years that the bombing case is over and all participants have been caught and tried; hence, assertion of the law enforcement privilege means that the case has suddenly been reopened to look for other suspects,” he said. If the FBI cites national security as a reason for their stonewalling, that would be “huge,” mean there was some foreign involvement in the matter and, in turn, place the FBI in agreement with Jayna Davis, the award-winning investigative reporter and author of The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing, who I interviewed for a series of posts published in 2009. In the New York Times Best Seller, Davis cites seemingly irrefutable evidence and eyewitness testimony before concluding that individuals with ties to elements of Iraq’s Revolutionary Guard who had entered the U.S. under the guise of seeking asylum.
4. FBI officials may produce the tapes. “That would implicate too many high-ranking DOJ officials in what would be a national scandal,” he said, adding that the Oklahoma City Bombing appears to have been an earlier and far, far uglier version of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ “Operation: Fast and Furious,” an affair involving many of the same key players.
Trentadue added that it’s no coincidence FBI lawyers asked the judge to set the deadline for their response one day before the Fourth of July weekend (a.k.a., “the deadest of dead news weekends of the year”). They don’t want any publicity on this one.