SALT LAKE CITY – The FBI has not found videotapes from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that are being sought by a Utah lawyer and do not believe another records search is reasonable or will uncover the information, the agency has told a federal judge.
FBI officials are "unaware of the existence or likely location of additional tapes" that would fulfill the Freedom of Information Act request filed by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue, agency attorneys said in court papers filed last week.
Trentadue sued the FBI and the CIA in 2008 to get the videos and contended the FBI's efforts to locate the information have been inadequate. He is looking for 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. McVeigh was convicted of and executed for the bombing.
Trentadue asserts that the videos exist and will expose that others were involved in the domestic terrorist attack that killed 168 people.
But attorneys for the agency said the electronic databases have not turned up the records, nor have manual searches of FBI crime labs, evidence centers or a warehouse in Oklahoma City. A further search of a records cache totaling an estimated 450,000 documents — from just the first 14 days of the investigation — in the warehouse would be "unreasonably burdensome" and could take a single staff person more than 18 months to conduct, court papers said.
The conclusions were included in a court-ordered explanation of the FBI's response to the records request. U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups had ordered the agency to provide a detailed explanation of its records search last month.
The judge will consider the response in deciding whether the FBI complied with federal information laws in Trentadue's case. It was not clear when the judge might rule.
Trentadue said in an email to The Associated Press that the government's explanations don't provide any new information.
"In short, nothing but more of the same institutionalized dishonesty, deception and disrespect for the Constitution," Trentadue wrote.
Trentadue also said the explanation downplayed the purpose of various FBI electronic databases and that a declaration from an FBI official in charge of FOIA responses conflicted with former agents and officers who have provided information in the case.
"The key thing to me is they don't say (the tapes) don't exist," Trentadue said. "I think my job now will be to poke holes in the response and lay out what I think are inaccuracies or misleading statements."
Government attorneys contend they've more than met the requirements of federal law. They said Trentadue has used "shifting arguments, inaccurate assertions and exhibits of questionable value" to support allegations that the bureau has operated in bad faith.
Trentadue's inquiry into the bombing was prompted by the death of his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, at the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center in August of that year. He claimed that his brother, a convicted bank robber, was mistaken for a bombing suspect and beaten during an interrogation by officers.
His brother was a close physical match for a bombing suspect and that the evidence he's seeking from the FBI may prove that, Jesse Trentadue said.
Kenneth Trentadue's death was officially considered a suicide, but his body had 41 wounds and bruises that his brother believes were the result of a beating. A judge awarded his 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 also included requests for possible involvement of foreign nationals in the bombing, was dismissed by Waddoups in March 2010.
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