Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue filed a motion Monday asking a federal judge to determine whether he is entitled to limited discovery into the FBI’s “Sensitive Informant Program.”
In his motion, Trentadue described the program as one used by the bureau “to recruit and/or place informants on the staffs of members of the United States Congress and perhaps even federal judges, in the national media, within other federal agencies as well as the White House, on defense teams in high-profile federal and/or state criminal prosecutions, inside state and local law enforcement agencies, and even among the clergy of organized religions.”
Trentadue’s interest in the program stems from questions that have surfaced during his ongoing investigation into the death of Kenneth Trentadue, his brother who died in 1995 under suspicious circumstances while in custody at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City, months after the Oklahoma City Bombing.
With his latest legal maneuver, Trentadue hopes to convince Judge Clark Waddoups to compel the FBI to provide all documentation outlining what he describes in the motion as an “unlawful and unconstitutional domestic spying program.”
The maneuver comes almost four weeks after the FBI answered a federal court complaint Trentadue filed under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of the manual the FBI uses to recruit and place “sensitive informants.” Citing national security concerns as the basis for their response, FBI officials answered that complaint by saying they “can neither confirm nor deny the allegations [of the Complaint] regarding its confidential informant program.”
Shown below, Trentadue’s definition of a “sensitive informant” is, perhaps, the most interesting aspect of his motion:
“…the term ‘Sensitive Informant’ is defined as anyone acting, directly or indirectly and with or without any compensation, on behalf of the FBI as a member of, person associated with or otherwise a participant in or observer of the activity or activities of an entity, organization, group, governmental agency or unit, association of organizations or individuals, public official, member of Congress, judge, cleric and/or religious or political organization AND who does not disclose or reveal to such entity, organization, group, governmental agency or unit, association of organizations or individuals, public official, member of Congress, judge, cleric and/or religious or political organization his or her FBI affiliation.
“A Sensitive Informant is, in other words, some one who is acting, directly or indirectly, on behalf of the FBI as an undisclosed participant in or observer of the activity or activities of an entity, organization, group, governmental agency or unit, association of organizations or individuals, public official, member of Congress, judge, cleric and/or religious or political organization.
“The term ‘Sensitive Informant’ likewise includes what the FBI’s current terminology refers to as a ‘Confidential Human Source’ including any and all sub-categories of Confidential Human Sources such as, but not limited to, what the FBI refers to as a ‘Privileged Confidential Human Source,’ who is someone reporting confidential information to the FBI in violation of a privilege such as an attorney reporting his client’s confidential communications, a physician reporting upon his patient’s medical or mental condition, a cleric informing on a member of his or her church or other religious organization, etc.
In his motion, Trentadue requested the judge order FBI officials to answer 11 critical questions about the scope of their “Sensitive Informant Program” prior to a yet-to-be-scheduled hearing during which, according to Trentadue, FBI officials have said they will file a motion for summary judgment to prevent him access to the information he seeks.
Looking only for numbers of Sensitive Informants and not for specific names from the FBI, Trentadue’s questions target the time frame, “since January 1, 1995.” In short, he wants to know whether or not the agency has had Sensitive Informants inside a variety of government and non-governmental organizations.
Among the government organizations mentioned in his queries were the state and federal court systems, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, federal agencies other than the FBI, federal prosecutors’ offices, and law enforcement agencies at the municipal, county and state levels.
Among non-governmental agencies, he listed management positions inside news organizations, including but not limited to, the following: Associated Press, ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, NBC, NPR, PBS, Reuters or Scripps-Howard; Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and/or Washington Post; The Daily Beast, Mother Jones, The New American, Newsweek, TIME and/or U.S. News & World Report.
Curiously, he also asked whether the FBI has had a Sensitive Informant(s) who was a cleric or member of the clergy in any religious organization.
Though I doubt the FBI will answer Trentadue’s questions, I’m convinced the attorney will continue fighting until he learns the whole truth about his brother’s death and, perhaps, about the Oklahoma City Bombing, too.
To appreciate the full scope and breadth of Trentadue’s latest effort, I suggest you read the motion. It’s one of more than two-dozen posts I’ve published in my series, Untold Stories of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Included in the series are more than a dozen posts about Trentadue’s pursuit of the truth.
Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. His second book, The CLAPPER MEMO, is coming soon.