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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Documents Tighten Net Around Additional OKBOMB Conspirators

By J.M. Berger

A warning about the impending Oklahoma City bombing may have been delivered three days in advance to a white supremacist tied to suspected additional conspirators in the terrorist attack.

Newly released documents reveal a detailed timeline of events that strengthens the case for additional conspirators in the bombing that killed 168 people on April 19, 1995 (timeline).

The new documents also corroborate key testimony from other sources regarding a wider conspiracy. The documents were obtained by Salt Lake City lawyer Jesse Trentadue through the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents were obtained by Salt Lake City lawyer Jesse Trentadue through the Freedom of Information Act (related story).

Mark Thomas, a former Christian Identity minister and Aryan Nations member, pleaded guilty in 1997 to conspiring with the Aryan Republican Army (ARA) bank robbery gang, which was led by white supremacists Richard Lee Guthrie and Peter Langan.

Thomas was staying in Elohim City, a white supremacist compound in rural Oklahoma, just days before the bombing, at the same time as other ARA associates with suspected links to the bombing and at the same time that Timothy McVeigh called the residence where some of the ARA members were staying.

ARA members and associates have long been eyed by journalists and investigators as possible accomplices in the bombing plot.

The ARA's activities were the main focus of the book In Bad Company: America's Terrorist Underground by Mark S. Hamm. The new documents corroborate key claims regarding the ARA's connection to the Oklahoma bombing which were put forth by Hamm. They also corroborate claims made by ARA member Peter Langan in an affidavit given to Trentadue.

As part of an ongoing FOIA lawsuit by Trentadue, the FBI previously stated it could not locate documents linking the ARA to the Oklahoma City bombing. However, the new releases do just that.

An FBI letterhead memorandum dated June 20, 1995, indicates that a female informant cooperating with the FBI and the Pennsylvania State Police implicated Thomas as having advance knowledge of the bombing.

The memorandum reported a conversation with the informant which took place on May 1, 1995. There is no explanation of why the conversation was being reported more than a month and a half after it took place.

The FBI redacted the subject line before releasing it to Trentadue. However, the memorandum is addressed to a case file dealing with the United States Nationalist Party, a white separatist organization.

Read the June 20, 1995 FBI memorandum

Thomas maintained a home in Macungie, which was used as a meeting place for recruiting and gatherings of white supremacist and militia-oriented extremists. A careful comparison of existing documents from Thomas' court case and other documents obtained by Trentadue and by INTELWIRE confirm that Thomas is the subject of the June 20 memo.

According to the informant, a La Salle University college student had gone to Macungie to "house-sit for [name redacted] while [redacted] and his family were in Elohim City, Oklahoma. [redacted name or names] returned to Philadelphia on the day of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City saying that 'They were warned three days in advance.'"

Mark Thomas and his family were in Elohim City as late as April 17 and traveled back to his farm, arriving some time on April 19, according to "In Bad Company," court records and an April 2007 affidavit given to Trentadue by ARA member Peter Langan.

The new documents corroborate several claims made by Langan in the affidavit.

Affidavit of Peter Langan

Langan said Guthrie (a wanted fugitive at the time) traveled to the Macungie farm in July 1995, just one month after the tip described in the FBI memorandum. According to Langan, two other members of the gang were already present at the farm -- Kevin McCarthy and Scott Stedeford.

This claim is confirmed by court records and some of the newly released documents.

Money raised by Guthrie and Langan was funneled to Thomas, for the purpose of financing domestic terrorism, according to testimony in Thomas' 1997 trial.

The FBI field office in Philadelphia may have suspended its investigation of Thomas around the same time that Guthrie, Stedeford and McCarthy arrived at the farm, according to a June 13, 1995 FBI airtel newly released to Trentadue.

The Philadelphia field office forwarded to headquarters a copy of a May 27, 1995, newspaper article linking Thomas to the bombing. The communication also included information about phone number searches conducted by the field office, apparently in connection with Thomas.

"Philadelphia will conduct no further action in regards to the attached subscriber information, unless directed to do so by" the OKBOMB Task Force, a special unit created specifically to lead the bombing investigation, according to the airtel.

Read the June 13, 1995, FBI airtel

Guthrie remained at large until he and Langan were arrested in January 1996.

Another document newly released to Trentadue says "information has been developed that [redacted name] and [redacted name] were at the home of [redacted name] Oklahoma when OKBOMB subject, Timothy McVeigh, placed a telephone call to [redacted name] residence.

Read the August 22, 1996 FBI teletype

In April 1995, McCarthy and Stedeford stayed at the Elohim City home of Andreas Strassmeir, a German national long associated with the militia movement, according to a June 17, 1996 FBI record previously obtained by Trentadue.

Read the June 17, 1996 FBI FD-302

Strassmeir is another figure suspected of playing a role in the bombing; he has never been charged and currently lives in Germany.

Timothy McVeigh made at least one phone call to Strassmeir prior to the bombing, which was discussed during the trial of Terry Nichols. A second call claimed in the June 17 FD-302 allegedly took place "several weeks" before the bombing.

The verified call was made April 5, according to court records. This corresponds to the period McCarthy and Stedeford were staying with Strassmeir, according to the Aug. 22, 1996 teletype.

According to Langan, Thomas was also present in Elohim City during this time frame.

The teletype states "[redacted] and [redacted] left [redacted] residence on 4/16/95, enroute to Pittsburgh [sic], Kansas where they joined [redacted] and Guthrie. [redacted] did not accompany (them) but rather returned directly to the Philadelphia division."

Based on a careful comparison of the Langan affidavit and court records to the newly released documents, the names in this redacted section likely read:

"[Stedeford] and [McCarthy] left [Strassmeir's] residence on 4/16/95, enroute to Pittsburgh [sic], Kansas where they joined [Langan] and Guthrie. [Thomas] did not accompany (them) but rather returned directly to the Philadelphia division."

The source for the April 16 date appears to be McCarthy, who turned states evidence no later than May 1996 (after being fingered by Guthrie) and became an FBI informant. McCarthy later testified against Thomas in exchange for a minimum sentence.

However, Stedeford and McCarthy did not actually arrive in Pittsburg, where the ARA kept a safe house, until April 20, 1995, according to Langan. Langan described them as "overdue" and said he speculated at the time that they (or other Elohim City residents) may have been involved in the Oklahoma City bombing.

According to Langan, Guthrie told Thomas in July 1995 that McCarthy was Timothy McVeigh's accomplice in the bombing.

"Your young Mr. Wizard took out the Murrah Building," Guthrie reportedly told Thomas, referring to McCarthy.

In 1997, Mark Thomas also became an informant and later that year pleaded guilty to conspiracy for his role in the bank robberies. He was released from prison in 2004.

Langan is currently serving a life sentence in federal prison.

UPDATE: Follow-up Filing Details New Claim Of Prior Warning

Timeline of events in this story

Reconstructed from FBI documents obtained by Jesse Trentadue and other sources as described above.

  • Early 1995: Aryan Nations minister and ARA accomplice Mark Thomas living in Elohim City, Oklahoma.

  • April 1, 1995 (approximate): ARA members Scott Stedeford and Kevin McCarthy arrive at the home of Andreas Strassmeir in Elohim City.

  • April 14-17, 1995 (approximate): Mark Thomas and his family leave Elohim City and head home to Macungie, Pa.

  • April 16-17, 1995 (approximate): Stedeford and McCarthy leave Strassmeir's home (this claim appears to originate with McCarthy).

  • April 19, 1995: The Oklahoma City bombing takes place. Around this time, Mark Thomas arrives back home in Macungie, Pa.

  • April 19, 1995: A college student who had been house-sitting for Thomas before his return tells an FBI informant that "they were warned three days in advance."

  • April 20, 1995: McCarthy and Stedeford arrive at the ARA's Kansas safe house, later than expected, where they meet ARA member Peter Langan.

  • May 1, 1995: The informant (above) reveals the claim about the warning to the FBI's Philadelphia field office and the Pennsylvania State Police.

  • June 13, 1995: The FBI's Philadelphia field office informs FBI headquarters that it intends to drop the investigation of Thomas unless instructed otherwise by the OKBOMB Task Force.

  • June 20, 1995: More than a month after the informant (above) disclosed the "three days in advance" warning to the FBI, the Philadelphia field office memorializes the conversation in a letterhead memorandum.

  • July 1995: Guthrie, McCarthy and Stedeford are all staying at Thomas' Macungie farm. During discussions at the farm, Guthrie discovers that McCarthy and Stedeford were connected to the Oklahoma City bombing (according to Guthrie).

  • Between August and December 1995: Guthrie tells Langan that "McCarthy and Stedeford were a danger to us because of their possible involvement in the Oklahoma City Bombing."

  • December 1995: McCarthy tells Langan "he and others unspecified did have legal 'liabilities' concerning the Oklahoma City Bombing."

  • January 1996: Langan and Guthrie arrested.

  • July 1996: Guthrie apparently commits suicide in prison.

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    INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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