When Earth First! activists Judi
Bari and Darryl Cherney first filed their civil rights lawsuit against
the FBI and Oakland Police Department in 1991, they were told a suit of
this kind would take ten years to come to trial. Now, mid-way through year
number seven, the case has gone through four name changes, two different
judges and an appellate court decision. It has survived repeated attempts
by the defendants to have the case thrown out, and unearthed thousands
of pages of FBI files and police documents. The result is documented proof
of a covert operation in 1990 against Earth First! that used the tactics
of the FBI's notorious Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO). The FBI
claims that COINTELPRO was discontinued in 1975, after a congressional
investigation found it involved massive violations of constitutional rights.
The bomb was hidden under the driver's seat and triggered by a motion device, clearly a politically motivated assassination attempt. Even so, the FBI appeared on the scene within 15 minutes of the blast and seized on the attack to attempt to portray Judi and Darryl as bombers and "neutralize" their EF! organizing. Aided by the Oakland Police and in contradiction to the physical evidence, the FBI declared that the activists had been knowingly transporting the bomb on the back seat floor board of the car, and that it had exploded accidentally. According to Oakland police testimony, the FBI told them at the scene that Judi and Darryl, two non-violent activists, were "the type of individuals who would be involved in transporting explosives; bombs."
The Oakland Police placed Judi under
arrest just three hours after the blast as she struggled for her life in
the hospital. Her back was broken and her pelvis shattered by the bomb
that left her permanently disabled and in constant pain until her death
March 2, 1997, of breast cancer. Darryl was arrested within twelve hours.
The two became the focus of an FBI smear campaign that resulted in nationwide
headlines declaring the activists guilty of transporting the bomb that
had been used to try to kill them. After seven weeks, the Alameda County
District Attorney declined to press charges; there was simply no evidence.
To this day, no legitimate investigation has ever been conducted and the
bombers remain at large.
LIE # 1: The search warrant states that the FBI claims that the bomb "was on the floor board behind the driver's seat when it detonated." This is disproved by the police's own crime scene photos, which clearly show the hole in the car's floorboard to be centered under the driver's seat, and the back seat still intact. Also, the FBI's own bomb expert from the lab in D.C., SSA David R. Williams, has confirmed that the bomb was hidden under the driver's seat, and that this would have been obvious from the damage to the car.
LIE # 2: The search warrant also quotes the FBI as saying that "a separate bag of nails was discovered in the vehicle that are identical to the nails taped to the explosive device." In fact, the nails taped to the bomb were finishing nails; while the nails found in two bags in the car were roofing nails and sinkers, quite different to the naked eye from the nails in the bomb.
LIE # 3: FBI lab bomb expert SSA Williams has also testified that the bomb was triggered by a motion device, consisting of a large ball bearing that had to roll to connect two contact points. The fact that the bomb was hidden under the car seat and triggered by the motion of the car certainly undermines FBI/OPD claims that a reasonable officer could have thought Judi and Darryl were anything but the intended targets of the bomb.
LIE # 4. In the warrant for a groundless
second search of Judi's home one month after the bombing, Oakland police
claim they were told by FBI lab expert SSA Williams that nails were found
in the house that matched nails in the bomb "in a batch of 200-1,000 nails."
SSA Williams has testified that he never said that, and in fact nails are
made in batches of millions, and cannot be matched on that scale.
Another FBI lie was uncovered when the defendants were forced to unredact previously blacked-out passages of internal FBI reports and communiqués made during the first hours after the bombing. Throughout the depositions, every FBI agent and OPD officer involved in this case denied under oath that there had been any investigation of Judi, Darryl or Earth First! prior to the bombing. Yet the passages ordered disclosed by the court show them characterizing Earth First! as suspected of terrorist activities, and stating that Darryl and Judi were already known to the FBI and were the "subjects of an FBI investigation in the terrorist field."
The evidence that raises the most serious questions about the extent of FBI involvement in the bombing case is the FBI's "THERMCON" file. The San Francisco FBI records of the THERMCON case, the FBI sting operation targeting Arizona Earth First! and EF! founder Dave Foreman, are key to the Oakland bombing case. Not only does it chronicle an active FBI undercover operation against EF! at the time of the bombing, THERMCON was a concerted and deliberate plot by the FBI to connect EF! with explosives in order to discredit the movement.
Most disturbing about the THERMCON
file is what isn't there. Where the documents from February through May
of 1990 should be, there is a page that reads simply, "Serials 141-159
were missing from the file when it was processed." The next document in
the file is dated June 1990, one month after the bombing.