Revealing the truth about OKC
Geoff Metcalf interviews bombing investigator Charles Key

Editor's note: Charles Key, a former Oklahoma legislator, is in charge of likely the most comprehensive independent investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing tragedy ever undertaken. As chairman of the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, Key is putting the finishing touches on the panel's final report -- a 500-page document that includes revelations and eyewitness testimony that have not been reported anywhere else. Much of the data starkly contradict the official government explanation of the bombing.

By Geoff Metcalf

Question: When do you expect to release the final report of the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee?

Answer: All the recent developments and just the enormity of the case have caused us to get bogged down. We're working on it as you and I speak and are hoping that it goes to press this week.

Q: This has been a work in progress for some time, but just recently we had four FBI agents on "60 Minutes II" say they are not surprised that evidence was ignored. Notwithstanding the protestation of Attorney General Ashcroft and others, it looks like there are still things continuing to unfold after all this time.

A: Yes, they are. There is so much more to this case, and I hope -- I sure hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist -- but I hope this isn't some form of damage control. There are big issues with the Oklahoma City bombing, particularly with the FBI and the Justice Department, how they handled this case and how they have been operating for quite some time even in relation to many other well-known cases and not so well-known cases. They are what need to be investigated.

Q: I've been meaning to ask you something for some time. I remember when we first spoke. I think it was shortly after Brig. Gen. Ben Partin joined me on the air and presented an overwhelmingly compelling case that the Ryder truck bomb just could not have done the job that was done. This has become kind of an avocation for you. What sucked you in to devote so much energy on this?

A: It's not something that you can really foresee. I couldn't foresee that I would still be involved in this six years later, that it would have taken me down this path and I would have experienced all the things I have experienced. But that's the way it is. The bottom line is, I care about the truth, and as idealistic as that sounds, that's as simple as it is.

Q: I remember when it happened, we had people who went down to Oklahoma City and watched things unfold. There were a number of things that were just really hinky. First you have Ben Partin's analysis. Then there are the contemporaneous reports that were coming out from witnesses that day. Did any of that stuff ever make it into court in the Tim McVeigh trial?

A: There is a little bit of witness testimony that got into either Tim McVeigh's or Terry Nichols' trial. As a matter of fact, just recently the New York Times was the first to report about one of these "lead sheets," one of the documents from these recent FBI files called a "lead sheet." That person's testimony was heard in the Nichols trial. As the story goes, an attempt was made to discredit him. He's one of the many witnesses that are as credible as anybody you would ever want to find, and his testimony was ignored. That's very common in this case.

Q: One of these FBI agents said one of the things that got him cooking was some of the stuff he worked on. He was personally involved in collecting evidence, and the evidence just sort of went away.

A: I hope that guy is real honest and sincere about this. I know there are good people in the FBI like there are anywhere else. On the other hand, we have experienced situations where an FBI agent looks at a witness right in the eyes after he tells his story and says he's going to report the information a different way.

An agent and this witness had an exchange three times, and the witness comes back and says, "No. That's not what I said." He tells his story again, and the agent says, "Well, I'm going to report it this way." The witness says, "No. That's not the way it happened." The third time, the agent says, "Well, I'm just going to write it down that way anyway." That's the kind of things we're dealing with, not just in the Oklahoma City bombing case but with the FBI and the Justice Department. And it has to be fixed. It hasn't been addressed, and it's a mechanism that is in place that goes beyond whatever administration happens to take over every four years. It's a problem with the institution. My information is the FBI hasn't even been audited in almost 50 years.

Q: I've heard the same allegation. Do you think Tim McVeigh is going to roll a seven on June 11?

A: No, I don't. If anybody deserves to get the death penalty, it's someone who participates in the murder of 168 people. On the other hand, if the system doesn't work the way it's supposed to work for even the worst of criminals, then it's no good for the rest of us. It has to work the same and, in this case, they have violated their own rules, regulations and laws. It's an outrage.

Q: Beyond the long litany of apparent discrepancies between what the government is contending and the facts that have developed and are included in your forthcoming book, what was the biggest surprise to you?

A: I've been asked that a lot of times, and it's really a tough one because it is hard to put your finger on just one thing. I just have to innumerate two or three things. One of the things I have always been interested in from when I was in the legislature is juries, grand juries, courtroom procedures and things like that.

As I have seen in this case and over time, juries have been attacked, and eyewitnesses have been attacked. And now you hear, "Well, you can't depend on eye witnesses' testimony." You know, that's really not true. Sure there are studies that say eyewitnesses sometimes can't be depended upon.

Q: That's why you talk to a whole bunch of eyewitnesses to get a consensus.

A: Right. But what some are trying to do is say, "Therefore, no eyewitness testimony is trustworthy or valid." And that doesn't add up. If we ever do away with eyewitness testimony, we might as well throw the whole system out, the baby with the bathwater. That really disturbs me.

Here's what a lot of people don't know: In a preliminary hearing in El Reno, Okla., just about a week after the bombing -- and that's after they had taken Tim McVeigh into custody -- they held what is called the probable cause hearing, in which the government laid out it's case on why they should hold over and charge Timothy McVeigh with the charges they ultimately charged him with. About 95 percent of their case was based on eyewitness testimony -- eyewitnesses who saw not just McVeigh but somebody else with him. That's what their case was based upon. Then what happened within the year or so, they start saying, "There are not any John Does. Those eye witnesses can't be depended upon." What does that say about their case if that's really true? And it's not, of course. Eyewitnesses can be trusted. It's the fact they wanted to make the John Does go away.

Q: Arguably, because one of them may have been an FBI agent!

A: That's exactly the reason. That's exactly the reason. The truth will convict the guilty parties. Period. Case closed!

Q: Before we get into a lot of the specifics that continue to raise eyebrows, let me just throw some names at you and get you to comment -- Congressman Istook and Lana Tree.

A: Interesting story about how they came to the bomb site. Congressman Istook apparently mistook a deputy reserve sheriff who had a hat on that looked like a highway patrolmen -- one of those "Smokey" hats -- and made some comments to him. He then realized he was talking maybe to the wrong person and quickly walked away.

Q: What was it he said?

A: He made the comment that they had knowledge about this for quite some time, that it was a radical Islamic terrorist organization that was going to strike here in Oklahoma City.

Q: It has been a point of discussion that none of the ATF office workers happened to be in the office that day. That kind of suggests something beyond coincidence.

A: Yes. There were two that were there. They were ATF employees, compliance officers, and they actually officed in the DEA office. They didn't office in the regular ATF office because they weren't field agents. We know those two people were there. There are three others that are in question. One of those was Alex McCauley of the famous five-story falling elevator story, which has been debunked, not only by private elevator technicians, but even GSA federal government technicians say it didn't happen.

Q: Also weren't the kids of the ATF agents who normally would have been in the day care center in the building not there that day?

A: That's what we've heard, and we've heard from pretty good sources, but we haven't been able to tie it down with affidavits and other real hard information.

Q: Wait a minute! It's been six years, for crying out loud. How hard can something like that be to corroborate?

A: We've had to say there is a cut-off point. We've been trying to say that and do that for months now on this case, but we could work on this for another one or two years easily. There is so much material here, so much information and people to go talk to and information to track down. It's a huge case, and a lot of people just don't want to talk. A lot of people don't want to go on the record, and they're hard to track down. It takes so much time, and you have to make a living while you do something like this.

Q: They count on that. I have always thought it was a little beyond weird that the government would try to sell that a Ryder truck with a fertilizer bomb did what happened when contrasted with what Gen. Partin showed me. And not just me, every member of Congress at that time got a copy of Ben Partin's report. What is your reaction to Gen. Partin?

A: I think Gen. Partin is a very honorable man. He is an expert's expert, as he was described to me way back in the beginning. I still believe that today. He has the credentials and experience that outshine everybody else out there. We have five other experts that we have gone to. They have real good credentials and background also, and they are in this report we are releasing. We've got some very, very solid documentation from experts and other proof that that ammonium nitrate bomb could not have done the damage by itself.

Q: What is the official government line on the necessity for raising the building as quickly as they did. Basically, they were destroying evidence.

A: They don't really have to give an official line about a lot of things, and they don't. In this case, the only explanation that we and the people have heard along the way is that they had to take that building down to "allow the emotional healing to begin." So, what do we have now down here in Oklahoma City? We've got a beautiful memorial that people come and see every day from all over the place. And you've got signs, almost like flashing neon signs -- not literally of course -- saying, "This Way to the Bomb Site." That kind of flies in the face of the need for tearing down that building so quickly and trying to bring "emotional healing."

Q: Rather, they keep picking at the scab with all the signs directing people to where the tragedy occurred.

A: Yeah. It's a beautiful site, but you should never destroy a crime scene like that. There are a lot of big problems with that. For example, the FBI claimed the crater -- which is an important piece of evidence, especially in determining how big a bomb was used -- was 32 feet wide in diameter.

Q: What was the real deal?

A: The reality is it was between 16 and 18 feet in diameter. We've proved that and clearly show that in our report. When they had this FEMA-sponsored group of American Society of Civil Engineers come in and do their report, they wouldn't let them get any closer than 200 feet. And they fed them information, including the 32-foot crater. They said then it was 28 to 32 feet. They fed them the information to produce this report. They didn't let them come on and do a hands-on inspection.

Q: What ever happened to all the contemporaneous videotape that KFOR and others collected the day of the tragedy. I can still remember hearing someone muttering, "There's still another bomb inside."

A: That's a big, big issue. In fact, there is a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that is engaged in Oklahoma City right now in federal court, and has been for about a year, trying to get tapes to be released.

Q: What do the FBI and Justice Department say and do?

A: They don't give any substantive reasons why they shouldn't release them. That's the main reason it's gone on for 12 months and now is set to go to trial in June, unless the judge all of a sudden decides to give the government a summary judgment as they continue to ask for. There have been at least 22 tapes that have been identified. They have not yet had to specify what tapes they have in their possession, but we know what a lot of those are and where they come from. One of them is from the Alfred P. Murrah Building, right at the front of it.

Q: I remember hearing some of the reports the day after the event, and I distinctly remember one guy screaming, "There's still another bomb inside."

A: We've got all kinds of documentation on other bombs in the building and even some being taken out. There is one aspect of this probably a lot of people have heard. There was an expert, a terrorism expert that was brought into a television studio miles away from the bomb site to sit down and talk at the news desk with two anchors about how they were really glad they had just pulled this one bomb out of there and that they were dismantling it as they spoke. He said that by dismantling it, it was going to help them discover who these people were that did it and help them find them and catch them.

Q: Charles, in the wake of stuff like that, how in the world can they still claim, despite the abundance of data refuting it, that that one truck bomb did all the damage?

A: I think part of the reason for that and for how they get away with this kind of thing is it was such a climactic thing that happened. It was a traumatic experience, and they did all of this right at the height of the emotional trauma. Plus, when you talk about scientific-type issues like the crater, the bomb, the ammonium nitrate bomb -- I mean, how many of us would really know whether or not an ammonium nitrate bomb could do something like that?

Q: That's why you turn to experts like Ben Partin who do know. His detailed statistical data analysis is compelling. It makes it very clear how that building was brought down.

A: Yeah, and when you look at a handful of others like that, it becomes even more compelling. These are people who have worked for NASA, people who have had all kinds of experience and background working with ammonium nitrate bombs, for example, in mining applications. You know there are also examples of other terrorist acts where ammonium nitrate bombs have been used, like in Bogata, Colombia. Then you've got the Kobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, the World Trade Center -- all good examples to look at and make comparisons.

Q: WorldNetDaily is reporting that your forthcoming report contains "information never reported in any other forum." Like what?

A: We talked to an individual about his experience at the site as a rescue worker assisting some other law enforcement agents taking TOW missiles out of the building in crates and also other boxes full of what he believes were explosives like C-4 and similar types of things immediately after the bombing. He said he was directed to take them up to some government vans, and they were whisked away to some unknown location.

Q: Is this stuff that was allegedly squirreled away in the ATF office?

A: It wasn't actually in the office. It was down in one of the lowest level rooms of what people called the basement but wasn't really a basement because it was a split-level from north to south. Some people considered that first floor a basement. There was a room that is believed to be an ATF room in which they stored a lot of things. They actually had two rooms back there. They were directed to take this arsenal out of there and take them up to some vans. They were not to remember things that they saw and did. This person talks about a couple of ATF agents who were standing there talking as these individuals carried this stuff out in groups of two. They made comments about when they got paged and what actually took place and what rumor or story was circulating about who did this and about how it happened. They used some terminology like "renegade agent." There are a number of other interesting bits of information that nobody has ever heard of.

Q: Hurry up and finish it so I can read it, will you?

A: OK. Believe me -- we're working day and night. I apologize to everyone out there who has been waiting for it, but it is a monumental task. I don't have a big crew of people. It's been me a lot of times, and I've got one or two other people to help me along the way.

Q: The Operation Dipole Mite that the ATF was conducting in 1994 -- it was funded by the National Security Agency. One of their own special agents, Harry Everheart, was confirmed to have called the Treasury Department within 20 minutes after the bombing and reported that it was an ANFO truck bomb. What do you think about the fact the ATF was conducting it's own explosions with ANFO and C-4 vehicle bombs less than 12 months before the building went off? Do you think that's a coincidence?

A: No, I don't. As a matter of fact, I've got information that was given to me by a government official -- whom I won't name at this time -- who told me that his information was that the genesis of the Oklahoma City bombing ... You wanted some new information. This is not in the report because I cannot source this. It's just something somebody I trust very much told me. The genesis of the Oklahoma City bombing began right after Waco as a public relations stunt so that they would redeem themselves and look good because of the way Waco turned out and because they were so concerned about almost being axed from the federal tree.

Q: Whoops! If this was supposed to be their do-over ...

A: Here are some other facts that we know. Carol Howe, the ATF informant in eastern Oklahoma, provided lots of information to the ATF office in Tulsa -- enough so that they were preparing to do a raid on certain individuals that were residents of the Elohim City community. I don't know that all of the people in that community were violent or part of the Oklahoma City bombing, but some certainly were, in my opinion. And we don't know how many of those were informants and agents for the government. But some of them were saying we need to take our war against the government to a higher level and blow up government buildings, assassinate politicians and start mass shootings.

Q: Is this just street talk, or is there any kind of paper trail on this stuff?

A: These were all in government documents. I'm sitting here looking at them as we talk. They began to put together a raid. Then the ATF found out about five weeks before the bombing that the FBI had an informant involved. A highway patrolman said, "You know that the FBI has their own informant in there, don't you?" Well of course they didn't know that. The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing.

They immediately had a series of meetings with the head of the ATF in Tulsa, with the U.S. attorney in Tulsa, who said they had to have a meeting with the head of the FBI in Oklahoma City, Bob Ricks, from Waco fame. Then we find out later, because of trial documents, that that raid was called off, probably by the FBI -- the bigger kid on the block. The FBI probably told the ATF to back off, we have our own thing going on here. Furthermore, we know because of this case that there was a heightened alert, that the FBI had put the fire department, the Oklahoma County Bomb Squad and other law enforcement on alert. Apparently, they thought they could pull this off right in Oklahoma City and stop it.

Q: Have you been harassed, followed, suffered break-ins, anything like that?

A: Some of those things, yes. I don't know if I've been followed. I'm not sure I'm sharp enough to pick up those folks that do that kind of thing for a living. My harassments came publicly, because I knew instinctively that if I was going to get involved in this I needed to become very public with my involvement. Therefore, I got attacked publicly, and it was very intense. I think only people that were out here in Oklahoma City that were really paying attention can really understand and relate just how serious the attacks were.

Q: How serious were they?

A: At one point, the attorney general of the state, Drew Edmunson, tried to charge me and two other people with violations of a law that were totally erroneous, and they knew that. It was all for publicity, and it was right in the middle of our petition gathering 45-day period. It was all for show and to try to slow us down.

Q: What about Gov. Frank Keating?

A: Frank Keating was very critical. He is a very slick guy, sharp-tongued, likes to have it both ways. He likes to say there cannot be any way that there is any truth to any of these things about the Oklahoma City bombing, but in the same breath he'll say, "But I don't really know everything about the bombing, so maybe there is something."

Q: What about this ubiquitous Strassmeir character? There were entire Web pages devoted to this guy at one point.

A: There is no question in my mind that Strassmeir either worked for our government or with the knowledge of some of the intelligence or law-enforcement agencies of our government. No question in my mind. And if you read Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's book, and I suggest people get it through WorldNetDaily. It's probably the best book out there on the Oklahoma City bombing. Pritchard has Strassmeir do everything except come flat out and admit that it was a sting operation that went wrong and that he clearly was an inside player.

Q: Where is Strassmeir now?

A: The information is that he is still over in Germany living with his parents. His father was a cabinet member in Helmut Kohl's administration, something similar to a secretary of state, as I understand it. His background in the German military is pretty impressive also.

Q: The contract on a Ryder truck like the one allegedly used in the bombing states it's rated maximum weight is 3,800 pounds. The size of the ANFO bomb kept going up and up as time passed to 4,000 pounds to the latest claims of 7,000 pounds. The truck couldn't have handled it.

A: This book that has come out about McVeigh's alleged confessions and statements and revelations is very questionable in my opinion.

Q: What is the reaction to the mysterious geometric growth of the size of the bomb over time?

A: The story that McVeigh allegedly tells is about the bomb being 7,000 pounds, that he forced Terry Nichols to help him build it out at Geary Lake. Whether it's 4,000 or 7,000, the government has claimed it was a 4,380-pound bomb. Most people don't understand the ammonium nitrate, the diesel fuel, methane fumes, but experts will tell you you've got a potentially very, very serious problem with all those fumes in close quarters like that. So when you really consider that aspect of it, not to mention driving all of those many many miles to Oklahoma City and that bomb maintaining its integrity -- which is another thing experts question -- how could this really be pulled off?

Q: The fuse stories are kinda hinky, too.

A: Yes. McVeigh allegedly claims he had two fuses, a two and a half minute and a five minute fuse, and that he sets the five minute fuse off and about two and half minutes later he sets the other one. Come on. You're driving through downtown, and what happens if you get stuck at a light, or you get stuck by traffic or something like that? The whole story is pretty ridiculous when you think it through and turn to experts and ask their opinions of all this.

Q: Bottom line is that dog don't hunt?

A: Doesn't hunt.