The narrative President Bill Clinton and his underlings want to stand for time immemorial whenever the Oklahoma City Bombing is discussed goes something like this: “It was a domestic terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Timothy McVeigh is dead, Terry Nichols is locked up, and there’s nothing more to know. Case closed.” But is that narrative accurate?
On the FBI website, the Oklahoma City bombing is described as “the worst act of homegrown terrorism in the nation’s history.”
While Wikipedia, the FBI website and countless other online and offline sources adhere to that narrative, Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue wants to find answers he knows are 100 percent factual. Why? Because he thinks the answers will help him discover the truth about what happened to his brother, Kenneth, who died in federal custody Aug. 21, 1995, barely four months after the blast that left 168 people dead in downtown Oklahoma City.
In one of the earliest episodes in his epic Freedom of Information Act battle, Trentadue sent a FOIA request to the Central Intelligence Agency Dec. 19, 2006. In it, he requested “documents, information and/or records prepared and/or received by the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) Office of the Inspector General relating or referring to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Bulding on April 19, 1995.” He specified that his request included, but was not limited to, “any and all report(s) by the CIA Office of the Inspector General, directly or indirectly, concerning the CIA’s prior knowledge of the planned attack [sic] upon the Murrah Building and/or the report(s) of any and all investigations into the CIA’s role, involvement with or connection to the Murrah Building Bombing whether through employees, informants, operatives or other means.”
Why did Trentadue think the CIA might know something about the Oklahoma City Bombing? Because he had heard from sources he considered reliable that at least one German individual had been connected to the conspiracy to bomb the federal building in downtown Oklahoma City.
In response to the FOIA request he had sent to the CIA, Trentadue received a letter dated May 28, 2009, from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. For some reason, officials at the CIA FOIA Office had referred his request to the Air Force investigative agency.
Attached to the AFOSI letter was a copy of a once-secret, heavily-redacted message sent April 20, 1995, by officials at an AFOSI office in the United Kingdom and addressed to officials at a laundry list of government agencies, including the CIA.
The subject line of the message began with a redaction code, “B1” inside brackets, followed by the words, “INFORMATION IDENTIFYING POSSIBLE ACTIVE IRANIAN MILITANTS IN<OKLAHOMA>(U).” FYI: “B1″ was explained in the cover letter as a code used to indicate “the withholding of national security information concerning the national defense or foreign policy that has been properly classified in accordance with substantive and procedural requirements of a presidential executive order (currently Executive Order 13292 dates March 25, 2003).” Other codes appeared as well and might warrant discussion in some future article(s).
Below the subject line were the words, “WARNING: THIS IS AN INFORMATION REPORT, NOT FINALLY EVALUATED INTELLIGENCE (See Screenshot 1 of 2).”
The body of the message included large white spaces, also marked with redaction codes. The body of the message also included details about two Iranians (names redacted) described as approximately 45 and 39 years old, respectively (See Screenshot 2 of 2). Though it does not list whether the individuals were men or women, the descriptions of their height, weight and manner of dress lead me to believe they were men.
Wondering why the Air Force was involved in responding to the FOIA request Trentadue made to the CIA? According to Trentadue, the Air Force ran the spy satellite program for the CIA before the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) took over the program. Now, hold that thought for a few moments while I continue down the FOIA path.
Trentadue learned his FOIA request to the CIA had been denied when he received an undated letter received from the NGA. As was the case with AFOSI, the CIA FOIA Office had referred 26 documents to the little-known NGA for review.
Though Trentadue would lose his FOIA lawsuit against the CIA, he did learn more about the CIA’s denial of his FOIA request by reading three paragraphs of a document — a declaration signed Aug. 18, 2009, by Earl J. Chidester, NGA’s Analysis and Production Executive Committee Direct Support Officer — that became part of the court record in the case. Those paragraphs appear below:
4. (U) The purpose of this declaration is to explain the basis for NGA’s response to the CIA’s referral of documents determined to be possibly responsive to the Plaintiff’s FOIA request of December 19, 2006. In that request Plaintiff requested records and information the CIA had related or referring to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. During its records search in response to Plaintiff’s request, the CIA located in CIA’s files twenty-five classified documents that were originated by a predecessor organization of NGA that are responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA request. These documents are now the responsibility of NGA. On February 23, 2009, the CIA referred these documents to NGA to determine if any of these twenty-five documents could be released to the Plaintiff.
5. (U) As an NGA technical expert, I reviewed the referred documents to determine whether any of them are releasable. Based upon my review NGA has determined that all the referred documents have been properly classified pursuant to Exec. Orders 12951 and 12958 and, accordingly, should be withheld. None of the documents can be released, even in part, as no reasonably segregable, non-exempt portion of these documents exists.
6. (U) The 25 referred documents are imagery intelligence products derived from imagery collected by various national technical means satellites. The materials include briefing boards, anaglyphs, and IDEX II electronic light-table prints. Release of these materials would reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the national security as such release might reveal sources and methods used to acquire intelligence. This is because the nature of the technical output may reveal the technologies used, and the capacities of those technologies. Because these images are properly classified in their totality, it is not possible to segregate any portion of the images for release. Any portions that might possibly be segregated would convey no information as they would essentially be blank.
“My thoughts are that the CIA could only have been involved if there was some foreign connection,” Trentadue said after I asked him to explain the involvement of the intelligence agency tasked with the collection of national intelligence outside the United States.
At about the same time Trentadue filed his lawsuit against the CIA, he also filed one against the FBI. Unlike the CIA lawsuit, the FBI lawsuit continues to this day in a federal court in Salt Lake City with Trentadue appearing to have the upperhand. To learn more about it, click here.
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