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Sunday, February 20, 2011
New OKBOMB Documents Show Threats To Nichols' Family After FBI Reopened Investigation in 2005The family of convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols was threatened after the FBI began looking into new investigative leads in 1995, according to new documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents also detail the FBI's sparring with U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who sought to interview Nichols as part of a probe into additional, unindicted conspirators in the bombing, as well as summarizing Nichols' comments during the interview, including a claim that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was connected to Middle Eastern terrorists. However, Nichols did not provide specifics to support that allegation, according to the documents.
The documents were obtained by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue.
June 17, 2005 memorandum
The interview with Nichols was conducted with Nichols separated from his visitors by a bulletproof window. The window had holes drilled in it for conversation and an intercom system was also available.
The congressman's request to make an audio recording of the interview was refused. Rohrabacher asked to bring a reporter from MSNBC to witness the interview, which was also refused.
June 23 memorandum
June 24 memorandum
Rohrabacher's interview request coincided with a renewed investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing, due to the discovery of unexploded ordinance at Nichols' former home in Herington, Kansas (story).
The tip about the explosives was first reported by Gregory Scarpa Jr., a mobster who shared a prison block with Nichols. It was confirmed on subsequent investigation. Nichols subsequently confirmed the information to the FBI.
Nichols had expressed concerns about putting his family in danger by discussing the Oklahoma City bombing and the role of alleged additional conspirators.
Just days after the FBI began making inquiries about the new information from Nichols, the FBI in Newark received a phone call, the details of which have been redacted from the documents but which appears to pertain to a "threat to Nichols' family."
The next day, the FBI sent an urgent message to all field offices where Nichols' family members notifying them of information which has also been redacted from the documents.
With an active investigation underway, the FBI was concerned about the impending Rohrabacher interview, but the primary concern seemed to be the prospect that Nichols might identify "John Doe #2," an early suspect in the OKC bombing whom the FBI sought initially but later dismissed as a dead end.
The FBI's Domestic Terrorism Operations Unit "expressed concern regarding John Doe #2's name surfacing during the Congressman's interview." The FBI then re-interviewed Nichols, before Rohrabacher's visit, pressing him for information "specifically pertaining to John Doe #2."
According to the documents, if Nichols did not provide that specific information, the FBI said it would no longer interview him. It's not clear why the agents would be so specifically focused on John Doe #2, when it had previously ruled out the relevance of the suspect and when other possible co-conspirators who did not match the John Doe #2 description had been specifically named by Nichols.
Meanwhile, a grand jury investigation -- about which all information has been redacted -- was being conducted in the same time frame. An unidentified individual testified before the grand jury on June 6, 2006, with an unspecified connection to the case.
The FBI repeatedly canceled dates scheduled for Rohrabacher's visit with Nichols and denied Rohrabacher's repeated requests to make an audio recording of the interview. Meanwhile, the FBI tried to get Rohrabacher to reveal his questions in advance.
June 28 memorandum
During the actual interview, which finally took place June 27, 2005, the FBI observed the interview through a closed-circuit camera in another room. The interview was recorded on video, but without audio. An FBI agent was placed in the room to take notes of the interview, the only record permitted.
Nichols objected to the FBI's presence in the room. Rohrabacher asked the agent to leave, but the special agent in charge on the scene told him the FBI would terminate the interview if the agent was not permitted to remain. The agent eventually returned to the interview, which resumed:
Nichols advised Congressman Rohrabacher that he had no direct or "first-hand" knowledge of "foreign invoivement" in the Oklahoma City bombing. Nichols stated that Timothy McVeigh mentioned "Middle Eastern" people (no further information), and their connection to terrorism (no further information) several times. According to Nichols, McVeigh mentioned this in reference to serving in the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Storm and not in connection to the Oklahoma City bombing. Nichols believed there was an "Arab" connection to the Oklahoma City bombing, but could not articulate the reasons for his belief. Nichols advised McVeigh "talked to Muslims"
Nichols told Rohrabacher he did not meet World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef in the Philippines during a visit when both men were in the country in late 1994, but that he had met him subsequently in prison. Both men are housed at the Supermax facility in Florence, Colo.
Nichols claimed that McVeigh had mentioned "Andy the German" prior to the bombing, a reference to Andreas Strassmeier, a German neo-Nazi who has long been suspected of links to the case and has been mentioned as a possible "John Doe #2." When asked directly about John Doe #2, however, Nichols said he didn't know who that was. Nchols told Rohrabacher he knew of at least two other people involved in the bombing, but only identified one.
Nichols passed notes to Rohrabacher during the interview. The FBI tied to get the documents away from Rohrabacher after the interview, but the congressman declined and told the special agent in charge he would send copies after his staff had reviewed them.
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.
Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.
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ISIS: THE STATE
Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger co-author the forthcoming book, "ISIS: The State of Terror," from Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. The book, which will debut in early 2015, will examine the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, its potential fall, how it is transforming the nature of extremist movements, and how we should evaluate the threat it presents. Jessica Stern is a Harvard lecturer on terrorism and the author of the seminal text Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. J.M. Berger is author of the definitive book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy, and editor of Intelwire.com.