US judge hears dispute tied to Oklahoma City blast

AP News
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Posted: May 11, 2011 3:21 AM
US judge hears dispute tied to Oklahoma City blast

A judge is being asked to decide whether the FBI has complied with federal freedom-of-information laws as part of a Utah attorney's inquiry into the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.

Jesse Trentadue sued the FBI and the CIA for release of videotapes and records from the fatal bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building under the Freedom of Information Act in 2008, two years after he first sought the information.

In papers filed in U.S. District Court, Trentadue contends the FBI's efforts to locate the information he wants have been inadequate, and he argues that the bureau has failed to meet the requirements of the law that directs the release of government records.

A hearing is set for Wednesday in Salt Lake City before U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups.

Department of Justice attorneys have argued that the case should be dismissed. They contend that the relevant tapes and records either do not exist, have already been provided, can't be located or are exempt from disclosure under FOIA.

In court filings, government attorneys say the bureau has met FOIA's requirements and even conducted a manual search last year through evidence from the bombing that is stored in an Oklahoma City warehouse.

"No additional responsive records were found," the government states in a January court filing.

Specifically, Trentadue is seeking surveillance tapes taken the morning of the bombing from exterior cameras on the Murrah building and dashboard camera video from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol's arrest of Timothy McVeigh, who was later convicted of and executed for the bombing.

Trentadue asserts that the videos exist and will expose that others were involved in the terrorist attack that left 168 people dead.

"FBI Defendants do no present the court with any proof that these tapes do not exist," Trentadue wrote in court papers.

Trentadue's inquiry into the 1995 attack was prompted by the death of his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, at the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center in August of that year. Trentadue claims his brother, a convicted bank robber, was mistaken for a bombing suspect and beaten during and interrogation by officers.

Officially, Kenneth Trentadue's death is considered a suicide, but his body had 41 wounds and bruises that his brother believes are the result of a beating. A judge awarded the Trentadue family $1.1 million in damages for extreme emotional distress in the government's handling of the death.

The CIA portion of Trentadue's case, which included requests for videotapes, records and information about the possible involvement of foreign nationals in the bombing, was dismissed by Waddoups in March 2010. The agency declined to provide the records, citing FOIA exemptions and national security concerns, but provided the judge with affidavits summarizing their contents.

In his ruling, the judge said the CIA had provided credible evidence of why the information met the exemptions. The case was the first public acknowledgement that the CIA played a role in the bombing investigation.