WASHINGTON -- A federal judge has ordered the FBI to do a more thorough search for records about possible links between the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and a gang of white supremacist bank robbers.
US District Judge Dale Kimball rejected the FBI's argument that it must simply conduct a cursory computer database check. Salt Lake City lawyer Jesse Trentadue had filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain FBI documents related to any links among a purported informant, the Aryan Republican Army bank robbers, and the federal building bombing that killed 168 people.
The FBI's computer check turned up nothing -- not a report on an FBI interview with Trentadue or a memo Trentadue sought which the FBI released earlier.
In a decision dated Thursday, Kimball ordered the FBI to hand over those records -- without deletions -- to Trentadue by June 15 and do a manual search of its files for more records Trentadue is seeking. The judge also rejected the FBI's argument that releasing the files would invade the privacy of government officials.
''This takes a big step forward for knowing what really happened in Oklahoma City," Trentadue said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Trentadue is pursuing a theory that his brother Kenneth was murdered in a federal prison's isolation cell in August 1995. Local and federal investigations ruled Kenneth Trentadue's death a suicide, although bruises and other marks on the battered body raised questions among some officials.
Trentadue thinks federal authorities mistook his brother, a convicted bank robber, for a member of the Aryan Republican Army bank robbery gang. Members of the white supremacist gang robbed nearly two dozen banks, mostly in the Midwest, before the FBI arrested them in 1996.
The first memo Trentadue requested was a Jan. 4, 1996, message from the office of Louis Freeh, who was FBI director at the time, to field offices including the one in Oklahoma City. The memo mentions similarities between evidence in the Aryan Republican Army bank robberies, which often used real or fake bombs, and the Oklahoma City bombing.
The publicly released copy of that memo has several names and other details blacked out. Trentadue thinks the unredacted memo, which Kimball ordered to be released, would reveal the names of informants within the radical groups involved.
The second document Trentadue sought is the FBI's record of an interview that Trentadue says he gave an agent and two Justice Department officials on Aug. 12, 1996, which discussed the lawyer's dead brother and the bank robbery gang, including a member who resembled Kenneth.