An FBI Hidden Hero
Chairman, Accuracy in Media
June 1, 2001
When Morris Kuper testified at the trial of Terry Nichols, Tim
McVeigh’s co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing, he said that
at 8:02 a.m. he had seen a man closely resembling McVeigh and a
swarthy, muscular man walking to a parking lot a block from the
Murrah Building. That was an hour before the Murrah Building was
blown up, killing 168 people.
Kuper, a computer expert with the Kerr-McGee Corporation, said he
looked at his watch because he was late for work. He said he saw the
two men enter the parking lot and get into an old, light-colored car
like the one McVeigh was driving when he was arrested. He called the
FBI two days later, telling them to get surveillance tapes from the
public library building and the Southwestern Bell building because
they might show something interesting that he had seen in the
parking lot. They took his name and number, but did not interview
him about what he had seen until four months later.
There were many other witnesses who had seen McVeigh with a man
fitting Kuper’s description before and after the bombing. The FBI
had circulated a sketch of him, calling him John Doe No. 2. They
later retracted this identification because the first of the many
witnesses who saw this man had been persuaded that he was mistaken.
The FBI has yet to say whether any of the 23 tapes that they took
from surveillance cameras on the Murrah Building and buildings
nearby showed McVeigh with such a man.
An important lawsuit, "David Hoffman vs. the Department of
Justice," is now before the federal court for the Western District
of Oklahoma. It is a Freedom of Information suit seeking release of
the surveillance tapes. The Freedom of Information Act was passed to
promote honesty and facilitate the exposure of cover-ups of
wrongdoing by government officials, objectives embraced by the Bush
administration. Since Attorney General John Ashcroft appears to have
bought the FBI claim that none of the material withheld by the FBI
has any significant bearing on the McVeigh and Nichols verdicts, why
is his department opposing release of the tapes?
It has even imposed a gag order to keep those familiar with the
sequestered material from discussing what it reveals. On May 29, "60
Minutes II" aired a segment featuring four former FBI agents, three
who had been forced out of the bureau and one who had retired. One,
Rick Ojeda, had won a commendation from Louis Freeh for his work on
the Oklahoma bombing case. Ojeda said that he had checked to see if
information that he had developed had been mentioned in the trials.
He asked other agents to find out if interview reports that he had
written had been turned over to the attorneys. They couldn’t find
Ojeda wrote to Senator Charles Grassley, a critic of the FBI,
saying he was aware of exculpatory information in the Oklahoma
bombing case that had been ignored. Asked by Dan Rather to describe
some of that information, Ojeda said a gag order prevented him from
doing so. He could only say, "I thought they were leads that should
have been followed up on." There was no one on the program who was
free to explain what was being concealed.
Those familiar with the evidence believe that some surveillance
tapes and many of the documents show that the John Doe that Morris
Kuper saw with McVeigh was a co-conspirator and probably a link to
Middle Eastern terrorists backing the plot. A former agent familiar
with the case says John Doe was dropped as a target because the FBI
wanted a quick solution. A Middle Eastern connection would have
complicated the case.
Dan Vogel, the retired agent on the program, said that the FBI
has a cultural problem, and if it doesn’t address it, it will
destroy itself. That problem is the tendency to control and
manipulate the evidence to obtain a desired result. Danny
Defenbaugh, who ran the bombing investigation and now runs the
Dallas field office, where all those missing Oklahoma documents were
sent, has been described as exemplifying the culture.
A few days before the cover-up was exposed, Defenbaugh said on TV
that whenever you hear criticism of the FBI, "you never hear about
the Oklahoma City bombing case." Having sat on the documents for
months, and with McVeigh’s execution imminent, he had no reason to
anticipate being ordered to turn them over.
Somewhere in the FBI family there must be a hero who threatened
to expose the obstruction of justice, implicating Louis Freeh and
forcing him to order Danny Defenbaugh to surrender his hoard.
Reed Irvine can be reached at email@example.com
AIM Main Page