Okla. Bomber May Be Linked to Racist Gang

A federal judge has ordered the FBI to find and turn over unedited documents in the Oklahoma City bombing case. A Salt Lake City lawyer wants those papers because he says they could shed light on the death of his brother in a federal prison — and because they could link bomber Timothy McVeigh to a white supremacist gang of bank robbers.

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A federal judge has ordered the FBI to do a better job searching its files for information on the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. A Salt Lake City lawyer wants any information that could link that bombing to a gang of bank robbers. Jesse Trentadue is investigating his brother's death at a federal prison four months after the Murrah Building was destroyed in Oklahoma City. Trentadue believes his brother's death is connected to allegations that informants tipped off the FBI that there was a plot to blow up a federal building. NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

WADE GOODWYN reporting:

US District Judge Dale Kimball ordered the FBI yesterday to conduct a thorough search of its files and databases for any information connecting Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to the members of the Aryan National Army. The group was a gang of white supremacist bank robbers, and the FBI initially believed its members might have been part of McVeigh's plot to blow up the Murrah Building. The FBI eventually rejected that theory, but others have not, including lawyer Jesse Trentadue.

Mr. JESSE TRENTADUE (Attorney): I'm trying to find out what--I know what happened. I'm just trying to prove the fact that my brother was murdered by the FBI because they believed he was Richard Lee Guthrie, who was a member of the Midwest bank robbery gang and an accomplice of Timothy McVeigh.

GOODWYN: Jesse Trentadue's brother Kenneth died in the custody of law enforcement officials in an isolation cell in a Oklahoma City federal prison, his body battered and his throat slit. Jesse Trentadue eventually gathered enough evidence to sue the FBI for wrongful death and won more than a million dollars in federal court.

In the process of his investigation, he obtained a copy of an internal FBI memo from then Director Louis Freeh. The memo examines the similarities between the Oklahoma City bombing and the methods of the Aryan bank robbers in the mid-'90s. The heavily redacted memo also indicates the possible presence of an informant that was passing information about Timothy McVeigh to federal law enforcement. Trentadue believes the FBI through informants may have known in advance that there was a plot to blow up a federal building somewhere in the United States. Trentadue went to court to force the FBI to turn over un-redacted copies of its reports.

Mr. TRENTADUE: The first one I asked for them. They came back and said they didn't exist. The FBI did not know, however, that I had redacted copies of these memos. Then their response was they were not genuine. Then I had an affidavit from an retired FBI agent out of the Washington bureau who said they were genuine, OK. And then the FBI came back and said they couldn't find them.

GOODWYN: The FBI had argued in court that the Freedom of Information Act required only a cursory check of its records, and since that check had turned up nothing, the bureau had no further obligation to look. The judge rejected those arguments. The FBI declined to comment yesterday and the Department of Justice did not return phone calls. The FBI has until June 15th to conduct a manual search of its records and turn over without deletions what it finds to the court and Jesse Trentadue.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News.

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