A federal judge has ordered the FBI to do a more thorough search for records about possible links between the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and a gang of white supremacist bank robbers.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball rejected the FBI’s argument that all it had to do was a cursory computer database check. Salt Lake City lawyer Jesse Trentadue had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for FBI documents related to any links between a purported informant, the Aryan Republican Army bank robbers and the federal building bombing that killed 168 people.
The FBI’s computer check turned up nothing — not a report on an FBI interview of Trentadue or a memo Trentadue specifically asked for, which the FBI released earlier.
In a decision dated Thursday, Kimball ordered the FBI to hand over those records — without deletions — to Trentadue by June 15 and do a manual search of its files for more records Trentadue is seeking. The judge also rejected the FBI’s argument that releasing the files would invade the privacy of government officials.
‘Knowing what really happened’
“It’s a victory for everyone in this country,” Trentadue said in a telephone interview Monday. “This takes a big step forward for knowing what really happened in Oklahoma City.”
Trentadue is pursuing a theory his brother Kenneth was murdered in a federal prison’s isolation cell in August 1995. Local and federal investigations ruled Kenneth Trentadue’s death a suicide, although bruises and other marks on the battered body raised questions among some officials.
Trentadue believes federal authorities mistook his brother, a convicted bank robber, for a member of the Aryan Republican Army bank robbery gang. Members of the racist gang robbed nearly two dozen banks, mostly in the Midwest, before the FBI arrested them in 1996.
The first memo Trentadue asked for was a Jan. 4, 1996, message from then-FBI Director Louis Freeh’s office to field offices including the one in Oklahoma City. The memo mentions similarities between evidence in the Aryan Republican Army bank robberies, which often used real or fake bombs, and the Oklahoma City bombing.
The publicly released copy of that memo has several names and other details blacked out. Trentadue believes the unredacted memo, which Kimball ordered to be released, would reveal the names of informants within the radical racist groups involved.
The second document Trentadue sought is the FBI’s record of an interview that Trentadue says he gave an agent and two Justice Department officials on Aug. 12, 1996, which discussed the lawyer’s dead brother and the bank robbery gang, including one member who resembled Kenneth.
Seeking to make connections
Trentadue also asked for all FBI documents about any connection between a purported informant and eight named individuals from the Oklahoma City bombing and bank robbery cases or a white supremacist compound in Oklahoma known as Elohim City. Members of the Aryan Republican Army and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh had visited the compound.
Trentadue’s court victory is the latest in a series of recent revelations about the Oklahoma City bombing, which occurred 10 years ago last month.
In early April, FBI agents acting on a tip found explosives hidden in the crawl space of the house where convicted conspirator Terry Nichols lived just before the bombing.
Nichols, who is serving multiple life sentences on state and federal charges, then wrote a letter to the grandmother of two bombing victims about those explosives. Nichols claimed a man never charged in the attack had provided the explosives to him and McVeigh.
The man, Arkansas gun collector Roger Moore, was questioned extensively by the FBI but has steadfastly maintained he had nothing to do with the bombing. Prosecutors at the trials of McVeigh and Nichols said the proceeds from an armed robbery of Moore’s home in 1994 helped finance the Oklahoma City bombing.