Long-awaited tapes show mayhem, but key portions of videotapes—just before bombing—are blank
By Pat Shannan
When the FBI released long-secret security tapes showing the chaos immediately after the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue was elated. His excitement subsided in one day, however, when he realized that the doctored finished product was not that for which he had been waiting for more than a decade.
This is only the latest chapter of a government coverup that began at 9:03 a.m. on April 19, 1995. Trentadue said he has received about 30 security tapes, including some images that were used as evidence at Timothy McVeigh’s trial. McVeigh was convicted on federal murder and conspiracy charges and executed in 2001, even though private investigations showed that the Murrah Building was blown up from the inside and no ammonium nitrate fuel oil, which McVeigh was alleged to have used, was found at the scene.
FBI agents did not report finding any security tapes from the Murrah Building itself. However, in 2005, Oklahoma County K-9 Deputy Don Browning told this reporter and others that he watched as the FBI dismantled security cameras and removed the tapes at the Murrah Building only an hour after the blasts. “The tapes are blank in the minutes before the blast and appear to have been edited,” Trentadue said. He retrieved the tapes through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that the FBI had been fighting for years.
“The real story is what’s missing,” he said. The tapes turned over by the FBI, came from security cameras various companies had mounted outside office buildings near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. They are blank at points before 9:02 a.m., during the crucial seconds prior to the explosions. “The more important thing they show is what they don’t show,” Trentadue said. “These cameras would have shown the various roads and approaches to the Murrah Building.
“Four cameras in four different locations going blank at basically the same time on the morning of April 19, 1995? There ain’t no such thing as a coincidence,” Trentadue said. He said government officials claim the security cameras did not record the minutes before the bombing because “they had run out of tape” or “the tape was being replaced.
“The interesting thing is they spring back on after 9:02,” he said. “The absence of footage from these crucial time intervals is evidence that there is something there that the FBI doesn’t want anybody to see.”
The soundless recordings show people rushing from nearby buildings after the bomb went off. Some show people fleeing through corridors cluttered with debris. None shows the actual explosion. Trentadue began his own inquiry into the bombing after his brother Kenneth died at the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center in August 1995, after being picked up on a parole violation. Kenneth was never a bombing suspect, but Jesse Trentadue alleges guards mistook his brother for one (perhaps John Doe #2) and beat him to death during an interrogation. The official cause of Kenneth Trentadue’s death is listed as suicide, but his body had 41 wounds and bruises, that could have come only from a beating.
A judge in 2001 awarded Kenneth Trentadue’s family $1.1 million for extreme emotional distress in the government’s handling of his death.
The FBI in the past refused to release the security camera recordings, leading Trentadue and others to contend the government was hiding the evidence that would prove that others were involved in the attack.
“It’s taken a lawsuit and years to get the tapes,” Trentadue said. Trentadue said he is seeking more tapes along with a variety of bombing-related documents from the FBI and the CIA. His FOIA request for 26 CIA documents was rejected in June. A letter from the National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency, which reviewed the documents, said their release “could cause grave damage to our national security.”