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FLASHBACK: Attorney Says Unedited Versions of Oklahoma City Bombing Surveillance Tapes Are ‘Somewhere’

EDITOR’S NOTE: The article below was originally published Sept. 30, 2009. I share it again today with only minor modifications. I share it again today with only minor modifications and the addition of some new graphics as I continue my six years of coverage on this earthshaking event that changed the lives of so many in Oklahoma, the state where I was born and raised.

“Someday, somewhere, somebody is going to have the guts to release that stuff,” said David P. Schippers, speaking to me by phone from his office in downtown Chicago Tuesday afternoon.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

The “stuff” to which Schippers was referring is surveillance-camera footage recorded in downtown Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19, 1995, prior to the truck-bomb explosion that killed 168 people at 9:02 a.m. Central.  It’s the same footage the FBI failed to release along with post-blast footage in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue and highlighted in a NewsOK.com article published Sunday.

Who is David P. Schippers?

If you recognize his name, chances are it’s because of the notoriety he received while serving as chief investigative counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee during the Clinton Impeachment Hearings and as manager of the proceedings that followed in the U.S. Senate.  Likewise, it could be that you know him as the author of the book, “SELLOUT: The Inside Story of President Clinton’s Impeachment.”

Click on image to order book.

Click on image to order book.

I was introduced to the 70-something Chicago-based attorney by Jayna Davis, author of the book, The Third Terrorist, which chronicled her decade-long investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing and became a New York Times Best Seller.  Some 30 years his junior, Davis considers Schippers a close personal friend and something of a father figure.  Moreover, she trusts and respects him — so much so, in fact, that she had him write the foreword for her book.

Barely 24 hours after publishing a series of three copyrighted posts containing never-before-published information about Davis’ investigation of the bombing, I had the opportunity to interview Schipper for almost an hour.  And he did not disappoint.

Implicating Presidents

I began the interview by asking Schippers why no one had pursued Hussain Al-Hussaini, the Iraqi native Davis identified in her book as the third terrorist who, along with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, carried out the attack?

“My honest opinion is that the original shot was made by (President Bill) Clinton in 1995,” he explained.  “Remember, it was 1995, and he had lost the congress — both houses of Congress — and people were saying he would never get reelected, and his numbers were way the hell down.

“If he had had another attack against the United States, he would have had to act, and he didn’t do a damn thing on the first Twin Towers bombing,” he continued.  “Clinton said, ‘Let’s not overreact,’ and, at that time, we had the Department of Justice with (Janet) Reno in there who was completely politicized, and I think (Clinton) just decided we’re not going to do it.”

Schippers continued, “riding” a bipartisan train of thought.

“Now, why didn’t the (President George W.) Bush people do it?” he asked rhetorically.  “That’s the one that really bothered me.  We deliberately waited until Reno and that gang got out of the administration and then Bush came in.”

Unfortunately, no one ever bit on the information Schippers said a president could have used as a legitimate reason to invade Iraq, and he blames it on a pact between the Bushes and Clintons — something akin to the mutually-assured destruction mindset that prevailed during the Cold War between Russia and the United States.

“I’m convinced that both sides know that if they blow the other up, they’re both going to get it,” he said.

He didn’t stop there.

“Now, why aren’t these people (in the Obama Administration) doing anything about it?” he asked.  “Because they’re not doing a (expletive) thing about anything!”

‘The Unedited Versions are Somewhere’

Asked whether he thinks anyone still has copies of the pre-explosion surveillance-camera videotapes, he said, “The answer is ‘yes.’”

“I maintain that those tapes were edited, and there’s no question about it,” he said, referring to the tapes the FBI released to Trentadue.  “They were edited.  That means the unedited versions are somewhere, and that’s the key.  I think the FBI still has all of those tapes, and I don’t think we’re ever going to see ‘em.”

Why?  He explained without prompting.

“I’ve lost all faith in the Department of Justice,” he said.  “I’ve lost all faith in anything in Washington.”

Proof in a Wanted Poster?

Hussain al-Hussaini (left) is shown after being arrested in Quincy, Mass., in March 2011.

Hussain al-Hussaini (left) is shown after being arrested for fighting with a fellow homeless man in Quincy, Mass., in March 2011.

Amidst a pause, Schippers turned the table on the interviewer and asked how many times I had seen sketches of suspects on wanted posters.  I told him I had seen them often.

Then he asked, “Have you ever seen a profile?”  I said I had not, and he continued.

“Do you know why the drawing of the guy was a profile?  Because they took it off the tape,” he explained.  “That’s where it came from.  You never see a profile.  It’s always a front view.”

Except in this case.

Schippers said he talked to the people in Oklahoma City who gave the FBI information and that there is no question in his mind — and in Jayna’s mind — that the side view of Hussain Al-Hussaini bears a more-than-striking resemblance to the profile sketch of John Doe 2.

It’s likely, according to Davis’ law enforcement sources who she cannot name in order to protect them, the sketch was taken from the missing surveillance tape footage.

“Why would you edit tapes unless there was something on there that’s gonna blow you sky high?” he asked, his voice animated over the phone line.  “What’s on there, on those tapes that they showed, that they gave this guy?  It was either Hussain Al-Hussaini — he was the passenger — or just a Ryder truck with unidentified people in it.

“But that picture with the side view of him was so obvious that it was taken from the passenger side and that was him sitting in the front seat.”

The One Thing He Wanted to Share

Asked what one thing he would share with the world about the matter of the missing pre-attack surveillance-camera footage from downtown OKC, Schippers pulled no punches.

“It would be that there is absolutely no question that those tapes existed and, if those tapes ever came forward, they would show conclusively that there was an Iraqi connection to the bombing and that there was an Iraqi sitting in the passenger seat of that truck as it pulled up to the Murrah building and that there was an Iraqi who jumped out with McVeigh and ran like hell.

“There’s a reason they’re not releasing it,” he continued.  “There were two cameras in one place.  They released (footage from) one that shows a hazy picture of a Ryder truck going by.  The other one would have been in such a position as to show everything about it — who’s in the front seat, the whole works.  And that’s the one that hasn’t surfaced.”

While his high-profile work on Capitol Hill was important, Schippers said he would “without question” prefer to be remembered for his work with Davis rather than his involvement with the impeachment of a president.

“I’d take Jayna anytime.”

Be sure to read Flashback: Best-Selling Author, Investigative Journalist Breaks Silence About OKC Bombing Videotapes, and other articles in my coverage of the little-publicized Oklahoma City Bombing Trial going on NOW in federal court in Salt Lake City. Also, please check out my second nonfiction book, The Clapper Memo, which Schippers endorsed asperhaps the most thorough investigative reporting I have encountered in years.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.

FLASHBACK: Best-Selling Author, Investigative Journalist Breaks Silence About OKC Bombing Videotapes

EDITOR’S NOTE: The article below was originally published as a three-part series Sept. 28-30, 2009. I share it again today, in one piece, with only minor modifications and the addition of some new graphics as I continue my six years of coverage on this earthshaking event that changed the lives of so many in Oklahoma, the state where I was born and raised.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

In an editor’s note Sept. 27, 2009, I informed my readers I had attempted to contact Jayna Davis for her take on a breaking news story related to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19, 1995. This morning, I became the first journalist in four years to speak with Davis about the investigation of the bombing, a subject with which she became all too familiar during a decade-long investigation.

At the time of the bombing, Davis was an award-winning investigative reporter for NBC affiliate KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City. Unlike other journalists, who’ve attributed the horrific attack fully to so-called “domestic terrorists” Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, Davis turned up details which pointed a share of the blame to a man of Middle East origin; hence, the title of the book she went on to write, The Third Terrorist, which made it to The New York Times Best Sellers list with the help of then-upstart conservative talk show host Glenn Beck.

Click on image to learn more.

Click on image to learn more.

Because I had spoken with Davis by phone years earlier on an unrelated matter, she responded favorably to my request for her reaction to the content of a NewsOK.com article published Sept. 27, 2009, under the headline, Attorney: Oklahoma City bombing tapes appear edited.

After explaining how and why she was so woefully disappointed with the content of the story, Davis forwarded to me a three-page summary of more than 700 pages of investigatory findings related to the surveillance camera footage.  I share those findings below in three parts:

PART ONE: Regency Towers Surveillance Tape

By Jayna Davis, author of The Third Terrorist

Why did the FBI not disclose the images viewed by a second lobby camera mounted in the entryway of Regency Tower Apartment complex? According to ADT Security officials who installed the system and Regency Tower employees who monitored the security cameras, the master recording from the building’s fourteen cameras would have captured images recorded by an additional ground floor camera. That camera was aimed in an eastward direction toward the intersection of 5th and Harvey Streets, where the Murrah Building once stood. What did it capture the day of the bombing? Curiously, government prosecutors limited its disclosure of photographs in court to the lobby camera pointed westward, away from the federal building. That videotape only produced a blurry image of a Ryder truck.

FBI documents establish that the Regency Tower security cameras were simultaneously recorded by a Vicon VCR 401 time lapse 4-head double density video recorder, Robot MV 16 multi-vision plus processor. So what does that technical jargon mean? Plenty. The Regency Tower security recording system simultaneously memorialized the events captured by both lobby cameras, not just one. But for some unknown reason, the image of the passing Ryder truck originating from only one camera was presented in the Denver courtroom during McVeigh’s federal trial.

So what events, vehicles, and passersby did the second lobby camera, which was pointed in the general vicinity of the federal complex, memorialize during the early morning of April 19? The FBI has not answered that question, but one can safely conclude the images from the eastward pointing camera were captured on the Regency Tower recorder.

Eyewitness testimony captured in a Secret Service timeline speaks volumes.

In this exhibit from the OKC Bombing trial taking place in Salt Lake City in 2015, eyewitness testimony captured in a Secret Service timeline speaks volumes.

PART TWO: Surveillance videotape in FBI custody that may memorialize the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing

I have compiled a comprehensive dossier of court records and evidence which lays a firm foundation for the belief that the public has yet to see all the surveillance tapes in the government files which relate to the Oklahoma bombing.

In 2001, federal authorities reluctantly conceded in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by an Oklahoma journalist that the Department of Justice maintains custody of twenty-two surveillance videotapes. They were recorded between April 15 and April 19, 1995.   The FBI confiscated those twenty-two tapes from security cameras near the doomed Murrah Building.  So who and what do those tapes reveal?

The Justice Department steadfastly maintains that only one surveillance videotape, recorded by a camera positioned in the lobby of the nearby Regency Tower Apartment complex, captured the events of April 19.  The blurry, black and white photographic image of a large Ryder truck heading east on 5th Street on its deadly trek to the federal complex was unveiled during Timothy McVeigh’s federal trial.

Is the Regency Tower’s videotape the only recording which memorialized the morning of the bombing?  The judge who presided over the FOIA case in Oklahoma federal court says no.

After reviewing a confidential index of the surveillance videotapes in federal custody, U.S. District Judge Wayne Alley ruled on July 10, 2001 “the FBI’s list of responsive material from its Oklahoma City Field Office includes numerous other tapes dated April 19, 1995, from several sources.”

In short, Judge Alley plainly stated in the court record that the FBI possesses numerous tapes which were recorded on the day of the bombing – tapes the public has never seen.   The judge stopped short of stating what those tapes show and the location of the cameras that recorded the images of that fateful day.   However, I have uncovered a trail of evidentiary clues which raises many disturbing questions.

Journal Record Building surveillance tape

Where is the videotape which purportedly captured a vehicle that resembled McVeigh’s Mercury Marquis when it was parked directly north of the Murrah Building in the Journal Record parking lot moments before 9:02 am?  On April 27, 1995, Oklahoma City FBI Special Agent Jon Hersley testified in open court to having viewed  photographs originating from a security camera positioned on the Journal Record Building.

What happened to that tape?  Agent Hersley said under oath that the surveillance photographs likely showed McVeigh’s Mercury Marquis.  I have an FBI 302 which establishes the tape that might have captured the bomber’s getaway car was taken into federal custody within hours of the blast.  The exterior security camera positioned on the Journal Record Building was trained on the alleyway through which McVeigh reportedly fled in his Mercury Marquis shortly before the explosion. However, that tape has not surfaced.  My research indicates the defense teams never received a copy.  Why?

Why?  That’s a question you’re likely to be asking yourself after reading parts two and three of this series and after reading Davis’ book, The Third Terrorist.

[Editor’s Note: A “302” is an FBI document containing an actual recitation of a witness interview or an agent’s record of an interview or other investigative matter.]

Two Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building surveillance cameras are shown circled in red.

In this exhibit from the OKC Bombing trial taking place in Salt Lake City in 2015, two Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building surveillance cameras are shown circled in red.

Part Three: Murrah Building Videotape

There remains one additional videotape which could have potentially captured Timothy McVeigh and John Doe 2 as they parked the explosives-laden Ryder truck.  This security camera was positioned on the northeast side of the Murrah Building and had tape been rolling, it would have provided an instant replay of the crime and all those involved.

In the fall of 2000, I scoured through thousands of photographs taken by journalists, bystanders, first responders, and the bombing memorial archives searching for the earliest images of the bombed out building. I found one photograph that clearly showed the camera mounted above the first floor of the Murrah complex on the northeast side of the building.   The lens was trained directly on the area where McVeigh parked the bomb truck.

In a sworn affidavit, an Oklahoma City police officer who commanded the search and rescue canine unit stated that he witnessed the FBI removing the surveillance cameras from the exterior of the Murrah Building. Those cameras were stripped by one o’clock in the afternoon on April 19, just four hours after the blast.

So here’s the $64,000 question:  Was there tape rolling in the record deck of the Murrah Building surveillance system on the day of the bombing, and did that particular tape survive the blast?  I can provide only a partial answer.  I know for a fact that the recording device for the Murrah Building video surveillance system was located in the basement of the federal courthouse. The courthouse was positioned south of the Murrah Building and was shielded from the tremendous impact of the explosion.   So if there was videotape in the recorder, it would have remained intact.

I spoke to employees of the General Services Administration who led me to believe that federal budget cutbacks rendered the cost of record tapes prohibitive, so there would not have been a videocassette rolling on April 19.   However, that excuse does not hold up to scrutiny.   Prior to the bombing, the federal government purchased a state of the art security system for the Murrah Building and installed an extra surveillance camera on the ground floor outside the GSA office due to a “known security risk to employees.”

So why could Uncle Sam not afford the nominal expenditure for a video library of tapes that would document events in and around the federal complex on a twenty-four hour cycle? I never received a satisfactory answer to that question.

Surveillance tapes permanently sealed

In late 2001, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, who presided over the bombing trials, ruled in favor of the Justice Department request to seal all twenty-two tapes recovered from downtown businesses surrounding the Murrah Building.   To this day, the content of those recordings remains unknown.

The federal judge in the FOIA lawsuit implored Judge Matsch to lift the “shroud of secrecy” and release the tapes.  But I guess now, that will never happen.

(Note: Ask Marin about the amicus brief filed by CBS News in 2001 urging the unsealing of the surveillance tapes.  I did not receive a copy of the brief.  It obviously did not impact Judge Richard Matsch’s decision to keep the tapes under seal.)

Jesse Trentadue FOIA lawsuit for surveillance tapes

The surveillance tapes released in response to attorney Jesse Trentadue’s lawsuit do not address the above-referenced recordings of the events leading up to detonation of the Murrah Building bomb, as the clock ticked closer to 9:02 am April 19, 1995.

Copyright © 2009-2015 Bob McCarty.  All rights reserved.  Reprint permission required.

FYI:  Federal Judge Clark Waddoups is expected to rule on Jesse Trentadue’s FOIA lawsuit soon.

SEE ALSO: FLASHBACK: Attorney Says Unedited Versions of Oklahoma City Bombing Surveillance Tapes Are ‘Somewhere.’

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.

News Media Fails to Provide Thorough Coverage of Latest Oklahoma City Bombing Trial in Salt Lake City Federal Court

Two days ago, I shared news about the courtroom portion of a little-publicized Oklahoma City Bombing Trial coming to an end in federal court in Salt Lake City. Then I waited for members of the news media in Oklahoma City and around the world to share news about the trial. For the most part, I heard crickets.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

While I never expected members of the national media to devote much time and attention to the case, I remained hopeful that so-called “journalists” in the state where I earned my journalism degree would see the news value of the trial. Sadly, they’ve underwhelmed me.

While reporters at NewsOK.com, the online home of the state’s largest print newspaper (The Oklahoman), have covered the trial, the coverage has lacked enthusiasm. Proof can be found in the fact that five months have passed since the last trial-related report in which the name of the plaintiff, Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue, was mentioned appeared on the site under the headline, FBI agent to testify in Oklahoma City videos case.

Conversely, yours truly has published several articles since that date, the date I shared news under the headline, Documents Raise Serious Questions As New Oklahoma City Bombing Trial Takes Place in Federal Court in Utah, and included a chilling one-hour video of Trentadue explaining his quest:

• On Nov. 7, I shared news about Federal Judge Clark Waddoups threatening FBI officials with contempt of court for failing to comply with his order and provide a required report.

• On Dec. 3, I shared news about Judge Waddoups being asked by Trentadue to appoint a special master to investigate allegations of FBI witness tampering.

• On Dec. 16, I shared news about the arrest of an FBI agent who allegedly beat up his girlfriend. The story was relevant inasmuch as the agent involved was the same one I had mentioned in the Dec. 3 report as having allegedly told a key witness to take a vacation.

On the FBI website, the Oklahoma City bombing is described as "the worst act of homegrown terrorism in the nation’s history." Click on image above to read why this narrative appears to be false.

On the FBI website, the Oklahoma City bombing is described as “the worst act of homegrown terrorism in the nation’s history.” Click on image above to read why this narrative appears to be false.

• On Dec. 30, I asked a question — Does ‘Domestic Terrorism’ Label Apply to OKC Bombing? — after learning Trentadue had obtained evidence that led him to say, “My thoughts are that the CIA could only have been involved if there was some foreign connection,” after I asked him to explain the involvement of the intelligence agency tasked with the collection of national intelligence outside the United States.

Of course, NewsOK.com isn’t the only Oklahoma City news outlet failing to keep Oklahomans informed. Local television stations have, for the most part, dropped the ball as well.

For instance, News9.com hasn’t broadcast a story in which the name of the plaintiff, Trentadue, was mentioned since July 30, 2014. Likewise, KFOR-TV hasn’t mentioned Trentadue in a story of their own since July 31, 2014, though they did share a Salt Lake City station’s story Nov. 13. Following suit, KOKH-Fox 25 has aired only two pieces during the past year — one on Aug. 17 and the other Aug. 22.

The only television station in the state capitol city appearing to have made a slight effort to report about the trial was KOCO-TV. During 2014, the station aired five no-byline pieces — July 30*, Aug. 1, Aug. 26, Oct. 28 and Nov. 11*. Sadly, two of them — each marked by an asterisk (*) — spanned only four paragraphs.

Worth noting: I did not dive into the radio scene, because there are simply too few radio journalists anymore to make such a look worthwhile.

As The X-Files characters “Mulder” and “Scully” said so often, “The truth is out there.” Now, I think Trentadue is on the verge of finding it. Judge Waddoups is expected to issue a ruling in the case by the end of the year, so stay tuned!

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.