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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Thursday, February 3, 2011

FBI Lab Took Nearly Three Years To Analyze Terry Nichols Bomb Cache

The FBI Laboratory took 34 months to check for fingerprints on a cache of explosives hidden by Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, according to new documents released by the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act.

The cache of explosives was discovered in 2005 in connection with a threat that they would be used in an act of domestic terrorism and a claim that the fingerprints might point to an unindicted co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing.

The documents were obtained by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue.

On March 5, 2005, the FBI received information from an asset concerning explosives that had been hidden in Terry Nichols' home in Herington, Kansas, since the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, without being discovered by investigators (click here for more on how the tip came about).

The tip, which was received by the Kansas City FBI field office, indicated that the material was slated for use in an "impending act of domestic violence." The tip was specific about the type of explosives stored at the house and their location.

According to the report, Nichols told fellow prisoners that the material also bore the fingerprints of Roger Moore, an Arkansas gun dealer and friend of Timothy McVeigh whom investigators had previously discounted as a suspect. Moore's name is redacted from the document, but Nichols previously confirmed this detail in a letter.

Moore, who testified against McVeigh and Nichols, claimed that Nichols had robbed his home prior to the bombing. According to the FBI report, Nichols claimed Moore had provided explosives for use in the bombing. According to the report, Nichols also claimed to believe Moore was an FBI informant who had forewarned the FBI about the bombing.

Read the March 14, 2005 report about the tip

It took more than two weeks from the report being filed for the FBI to investigate whether live explosives were hidden on the site for use in a domestic terrorism attack. On April 2, 2005, agents from the Kansas City field office discovered that there was in fact a substantial cache of explosives still hidden in Nichols' former home, which had somehow been missed during the original investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Items found in the house included almost 70 Kinestik explosives (used in the design of the Oklahoma City bomb), hundreds of detonators of various types, detonator components and accessories, flares, bomb fuses, tear gas grenades, and books on improvised explosives and manufacturing poison.

April 8, 2005, inventory of Nichols house search

April 2005, photos of items retrieved in Nichols search

April 2005, sketch of former Nichols home

Nichols had claimed that Moore's fingerprints would be found on the explosives. It took almost three years for the FBI lab to report on whether it found any fingerprints.

In a report dated Feb. 21, 2008, the FBI Laboratory stated that it had not found useful prints on the explosives. However, it did find fingerprints that did not belong to Terry Nichols on one of the books. The name of the person to whom the fingerprints belonged has been redacted from the lab report.

Request to FBI Lab for fingerprint analysis, May 5, 2005

FBI Lab Receipt of Evidence, May 13, 2005

FBI Lab Receipt of Evidence, July 1, 2005

On April 24, 2008, the FBI Lab destroyed the explosives which Nichols had hoped would yield the fingerprints of Roger Moore. The FBI Lab confirmed the destruction of the evidence months later. Explosives are routinely disposed of after they are no longer required for evidentiary purposes.

FBI Lab Report on Disposition of Evidence, October 10, 2008

Jesse Trentadue sued the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act for documents related to the Oklahoma City bombing after his brother, Kenneth, was found dead in a federal prison cell soon after the bombing. Trentadue won a wrongful death suit against the Bureau of Prisons for covering up key details of his brother's death, which the Bureau claimed was a suicide.

Trentadue believes his brother was murdered in prison in a case of mistaken identity due to his resemblance to a suspected accomplice in the bombing, Richard Guthrie, who was also found dead in prison under similar circumstances in 1996.

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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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