FBI Bomb School, and Other Atrocities
by Judi Bari
October 19, 1994
For the past ten months, I've been spending a lot of time down in the city sitting across the table from Oakland cops and FBI agents, questioning them under oath in depositions to gather testimony for our false arrest lawsuit against them. This has been, to say the least, an interesting experience. These guys are professional liars, who have raised selective memory loss to an art form. There is also a draconian set of rules about what we're allowed to ask and how we're allowed to ask it. Nonetheless, between the police photos and written reports, the FBI files, and the sworn testimony of these cops and FBI agents, we have managed to gather quite a bit of information to begin to piece together what really happened when I was bombed on May 24, 1990.
Of course the most dramatic of the information we have uncovered, and the one that has caused so much stir in the pages of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, is the FBI Bomb School. Four weeks before I was car-bombed, according to both the testimony and the written files, the FBI sponsored a Bomb Investigators' training course at the College of the Redwoods in Eureka, in the heart of the redwood region, on the eve of Redwood Summer. During this week-long course, which was open to law enforcement only, the FBI actually blew up cars with pipe bombs to practice responding. The place where they blew up these cars was (where else?) at a Louisiana- Pacific logging site north of Eureka
The teacher at Bomb School was Special Agent Frank Doyle, the FBI Terrorist Squad bomb expert who showed up at the scene when I was bombed in Oakland, and directed the collection of evidence. It was Frank Doyle who concocted the lie that the bomb was on the back seat floorboard, where we would have seen it. Among the students at Bomb School were several of the responding Oakland Police officers and FBI agents who collected the evidence under Frank Doyle's supervision at the Oakland bomb scene. The FBI claims that they have lost the roster of students in the class, even though the FBI Bomb School memo that we received from them refers to this roster and says it is attached.
But even without this roster, from the documents that we have, I have been able to place at least four 1990 Bomb School participants as being among the first responding to the Oakland bombing. They are, Special Agent (SA) Frank Doyle, Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Patrick Webb, SA John F. Holford, and Oakland Police Sgt. Myron Hanson. In addition, SA Stockton Buck, who played a key role at the Oakland bombing scene, has testified that he attended Bomb School in Eureka, where they blew up cars with Frank Doyle, but he doesn't recall if it was 1990 or one of the years before. Stockton Buck also testified that he found the assignment of collecting evidence at the Oakland bomb scene pleasant, because it was a nice day and they had pavement under their feet. Which makes me think he may have been contrasting it to the dust and mud of the L-P clearcut where they had blown up the cars in Bomb School.
Of course the FBI claims that Bomb School is merely routine police training, and this is all just a bizarre coincidence. But the more we have learned about Bomb School, the more bizarre the coincidence has become. Oakland Police Sgt. Hanson has testified that they were told at Bomb School that it is unusual for a car-bomber to place the bomb inside the passenger compartment of his victim's car, because of the supposed difficulty of breaking into a locked car. Instead, he said, they were told that bombers normally place their bombs under the car frame or in the engine compartment. However, Hanson also testified that "several" of the cars that were blown up in Bomb School (and, according to the FBI memo, there were only three cars in all) did indeed have the bomb placed in the passenger compartment. In other words, at the 1990 Bomb School, they created virtually the same crime scene that was about to happen in Oakland, and practiced responding to it. Further, they were told that this scenario was unlikely to represent a case where the person in the car was the target of the bombing. In fact, Sgt. Hanson testified that one of the reasons he says he believed the bomb in my car belonged to me was that it was in the passenger compartment.
So even if you can swallow that this was all coincidental, it definitely had the effect of prejudicing the respondents to the Oakland bombing. When we asked Sgt. Hanson how he could have thought the bomb in my car was in the back seat, considering that the hole was blown in the front seat, Hanson replied that he deferred to Frank Doyle because Doyle was his instructor in Bomb School. "If he was my instructor," said Sgt. Hanson, "I don't think I'd sit there and tell him that much."
According to Frank Doyle's testimony, Bomb School was held once a year in Eureka for nine or ten years, then canceled a year or two after 1990, when the funding was cut. It is not clear, however, whether the field day, where the cars were actually blown up, was included in the course each year.
So make what you will out of Bomb School. I'm drawing no conclusions at this point. But Bomb School is certainly not all we have gotten out of the depositions. And, although the other information may be less dramatic, it may also be more helpful in proving our point in our false arrest lawsuit.
Our lawsuit charges that the police and FBI knew from the outset that Darryl and I were innocent, and that we were in fact victims of a brutal assassination attempt. Yet they arrested us for the bombing, and conducted their slanderous campaign against us in the press, as part of a plan to discredit Earth First! and disrupt Redwood Summer. The courts have ruled in our favor three times now on these issues. They have upheld our right to make all these charges, including the one about the underlying motive to discredit Earth First! due to the strength of the evidence we have uncovered so far.
Normally, a car-bombing in Oakland would fall under the jurisdiction of the ATF, not the FBI. So it was uncanny how fast the FBI arrived on the scene when the bomb went off in my car. The bomb exploded at 1155 am. According to his written log, Oakland Police Sgt. Sitterud, one of the first responding officers, got there at 1220. Sitterud has testified that, by the time he got there, some FBI agents were already on the scene and more were arriving, until soon there were 12 to 15 FBI agents there. In addition, Oakland Police Sgt. Paniagua, who was assigned to the hospital where Darryl and I were taken, stated that there were 4 or 5 FBI agents there as well.
At the scene, a discussion was held between the Oakland Police, the FBI, and the lone ATF agent who had shown up, to decide who would take the case. The discussion, according to Oakland Lt. Sims, was over whether Earth First! was listed on the FBI's official list of domestic terrorist groups. If EF! was not a terrorist group, or if Darryl and I were not the bombers, the case should have gone to ATF. These days, the FBI claims that they did not and do not consider EF! a terrorist group, and that they had never even heard of Darryl and me before the bombing. Yet the Oakland Police have testified that the FBI briefed them on me, Darryl, and EF! as soon as they arrived on the scene, before they even looked at the car. "They said that these were the type of individuals who would be involved in transporting explosives," testified Sgt. Sitterud. "They said that these people, in fact, qualified as terrorists." Ten minutes after he arrived on the scene, based on the information he got from the FBI, Sgt. Sitterud made an entry in his police log describing Darryl and me as "apparent radical activists with recent arrest for illegal demonstration on Golden Gate Bridge," and as "Earth First leaders suspected of Santa Cruz power pole sabotage, linked with federal case of attempted destruction of nuclear power plant lines in Arizona."
Meanwhile, SA Frank Doyle, 20-year veteran bomb expert with the (aptly named) FBI Terrorist Squad, had taken over examining my car and directing the collection of evidence. The damage was obvious. A hole was blown in the driver's seat Oakland Police Lt. Sims testified that he could see right through it to the street below and the car frame was buckled directly under it. The back seat, in contrast, was virtually unscathed. When they unbolted the front seat and removed it from the car, there was a 2'x4' blast hole in the floor, with the metal curled back from an obvious epicenter under the driver's seat (see police photos). Any honest observer would have concluded that the bomb had been hidden under my seat and this was a case of attempted murder.
Oakland Police Photo shows bomb hole centered under
(Click on photo for larger view)
But Special Agent Doyle had other ideas. In defiance of all the evidence, he claimed that the bomb was located in clear view on the back seat floorboard. He also speculated that I had loaded my guitar directly on top of the bomb, further proving that I must have known the bomb was there. The fact that the guitar case, although damaged, had survived essentially intact and had no blast residue on it or bomb parts embedded in it did not seem to detract from Doyle's theory.
Intact back seat of bombed car. OPD photo
Much to do was also made of the statements Darryl and I made immediately after the blast. I told the paramedics that a bomb had exploded inside the car, and Darryl allegedly said that someone had thrown a bomb at us. Lt. Sims testified that this implied guilty knowledge, since I was critically injured but still knew it was a bomb, as opposed to a traffic accident. Of course, every other witness also knew it was a bomb, and I had felt it rip through my body. But I was considered guilty because I was right about it being a bomb. Darryl, on the other hand, was considered guilty because he was wrong about the bomb being thrown. When we pointed out the inconsistency of this to Sims, he disagreed. I was guilty because I knew it was a bomb, he said, and Darryl was guilty because he "lied about the bomb being thrown."
In addition to the cops and agents at the scene, we have also deposed SSA David R. Williams, the FBI bomb expert who analyzed the bomb at the lab in Washington DC. David R. Williams is one of the FBI's six top bomb experts in the country, and was the bomb expert whose testimony convicted the World Trade Center bombers. His testimony in our case confirms what we thought about the bomb scene, that there was nothing tricky or ambiguous about it. The bomb was located exactly where it looked like it was, hidden under the car seat, and meant to kill.
SSA Williams was impressed that I had survived the bomb, which he described as "an inferno mixture." But he would have been equally impressed if I had made it. Williams considered the bomb complex, but well-designed and assembled with good craftsmanship. The bomb itself was an 11"x 2" pipe wrapped with finishing nails for shrapnel effect. The triggering device consisted of a wind-up pocket watch with the minute-hand broken off, with a screw drilled into the clock face connected to a wire, so that when the hour hand moved around and made contact with the screw it would complete a circuit. But the clock itself did not trigger the bomb. It was merely a delay mechanism to allow the bomber to safely get out of the way. The real trigger was a motion device, consisting of a half-inch diameter ball bearing, which had to roll to connect two looped wires and complete a circuit. In other words, the bomb was triggered by the motion of my car.
The presence of the ball bearing, according to Williams, meant that the bomb was a booby trap device. SA Frank Doyle and the other bomb technicians at the scene certainly knew this, because they found the ball bearing and one of the looped wires among the bomb debris. But you sure never heard anything about the motion device in any of the press accounts that were leaked out by police sources back then. It is also interesting to note that, on my original arrest warrant, I was first charged with violating code section 12355(b), which is possession of a booby trap device. This was crossed out, and in its place is written code 123032, possession of an explosive device. The Oakland Police have testified that this was a clerical error.
Besides the clock and motion device, the bomb also contained a light switch as an overall safety mechanism. So in order for the bomb to explode. the light switch had to be turned to ON, the clock had to be wound and tick down until it made contact with the screw, and the ball bearing had to roll and connect the wires. The assumption behind the arrest of Darryl and me is that we were knowingly transporting this bomb when it accidentally exploded. But SSA Williams disagrees. "I believe that it functioned as designed," he told us. "I believe the ball bearing made the circuitry complete."
SSA Williams was eventually brought out to Oakland to look at the car and determine the placement of the bomb inside it, to see if it was visible on the back seat floorboard as Frank Doyle said it was, or whether the bomb was hidden under my seat. Williams testified that this was easy to do, because the impact points were clearly visible where the end caps had blown off the pipe and hit the car frame. That was all he needed to see, Williams said. "That told me exactly where the bomb was." After deposing Williams, we went and looked at the actual car, and sure enough, he was right. The end cap impact points were indeed clearly visible, especially in the driver's door. There was a round impression in the metal, and the door was pushed outwards and buckled around it, essentially punching a hole in the door frame. The back seat area, however, contained no such impact points, and the back door was hardly even damaged by the bomb. We wondered why SA Frank Doyle, who is also a bomb expert, didn't notice this. But Doyle replied, "I really don't see what the significance of flying end caps is."
FBI bomb expert David R. Williams holds a replica
in Judi Bari's bombed car. OPD photo
However, based on the end cap impact points, SSA Williams determined that the bomb was indeed completely hidden under my car seat, and placed directly over the epicenter of the hole in the floor. He also noted, by making a mock-up of the bomb and placing it in an intact same-model Subaru, that the bomb fit snugly in the space under the seat, as if it had been custom made, and did not slide around. He also noted that the bomb had been further hidden by being covered with a blue towel. He said they found pieces of burned towel covered with the bomb debris embedded in the car seat, and embedded in my jeans.
Of course, these were pretty crucial findings, since Darryl and I were still being accused of knowingly transporting the bomb. But SSA Williams who had come all the way out to Oakland from Washington DC to make these comparisons, wrote no reports of their exonerating results. When we asked him why, he replied, "It wasn't important to document that."
Still, the evidence of a hidden booby trap bomb was pretty overwhelming, even at the scene. Yet every witness we have interviewed so far has said that Frank Doyle told them the bomb was on the back seat floorboard. And everyone of them, having also been told that we were terrorists, ignored the evidence right in front of them and went along with Doyle's lie. It was almost as if they suffered from mass hypnosis. Because each witness that we interview says they remember a relatively small hole in the back seat floorboard. And when we show them the photos of the large hole under the driver's seat, they say they don't remember it looking like that, and the hole must have been made by the jaws of life, or it must have grown while the car was being towed. If it's not mass hypnosis, there's only one other explanation. And that is that, to this day, the police and FBI are still conspiring in a lie.
It took four or five hours for the FBI and police to finish picking up and bagging all the bomb pieces and other evidence at the scene. But I was placed under arrest while still in surgery at the hospital, only three hours after the bomb went off.
Later on that evening, the FBI held a briefing meeting for the Oakland Police. There were 20 to 30 people there, about half from the FBI and half OPD, many of whom had been at the crime scene that afternoon. SSA John Reikes, supervisor of the FBI Terrorist Squad, addressed the meeting. According to the Oakland cops we deposed, Reikes told the meeting that Earth First! was, in fact, a terrorist group, and that we were under investigation by the Terrorist Squad. He mentioned tree spiking, Arizona power lines, and threats to nuclear power plants. He also said that Darryl and I in particular were suspects in the Santa Cruz power line downing that had happened four weeks earlier. And, he said, just two weeks ago, a pipe bomb had detonated at the Cloverdale, L-P mill where, as Lt. Sims put it, "Ms. Bari had been involved in some labor movement."
Of course, Darryl and I are not really linked to any of these incidents, and EF! is not a terrorist group, We were on a concert tour to promote Redwood Summer, a nonviolent protest movement that managed to stay nonviolent even in the face of this level of state terrorism. But the FBI was on a roll, and if anybody had any doubts that we were the bombers, they kept it to themselves.
SA Frank Doyle also addressed the briefing meeting and described, in Sgt. Sitterud's words, "the known components of the bomb, including the fact that the bomb had been on the floor behind the driver's seat." And, towards the end of the meeting, SA Sena, also of the FBI Terrorist Squad, delivered the coup de grace. He claimed he had a secret informant, who was a woman close to the leadership of Earth First! And, he claimed, this informant had recently told him that "the heavies from up north" were coming to Santa Cruz for some kind of "action." The world "action" was not defined, but the Oakland Police have testified that they presumed it was something illegal because of the secretive manner in which it was discussed. And of course, Darryl and I were on our way to Santa Cruz for an action. But the action was a concert, not a bombing.
In the moments after the bomb went off, Darryl and I had both told the cops at the scene about the death threats we had been receiving. And, although copies of these death threats were among the papers the FBI and Oakland Police confiscated from my car, the death threats were not discussed at the briefing meeting. Lt. Sims told us the papers seized form my car were just viewed as "a group of papers," and were not read individually. He also said the death threats were not relevant because they didn't mention bombs, and because we offered "no specifics about who made them." Sgt. Sitterud went even further. He said he thought the death threats were all phony, "just a seeming publicity ploy, insincerely made."
By the end of the briefing meeting, there was no question that we would be charged with transporting the bomb. Soon Darryl was placed under arrest as well as me, and representatives of the District Attorney's office were called in to help the Oakland Police write the affidavit for a search warrant. Oakland Sgt. Chenault, who signed the affidavit, has testified that he sat at the computer and typed while SA Frank Doyle stood there and dictated to him what to say. "Your affiant viewed the white Subaru along with agents from the FBI," wrote Chenault and Doyle, using a masterful grammatical construction that gave both of them deniability. "Your affiant was advised by these FBI Agents that the bomb was on the floor board behind the driver's seat when it detonated."
The search warrant also quotes SA Frank Doyle as saying that "a separate bag of nails was discovered in the vehicle that are identical to the nails taped to the explosive device." This turned out to be another blatant tie.
When we questioned Doyle about it, he did not remember seeing a bag of nails at the scene. The only bag of nails listed in the evidence seized at the scene was a bag of roofing nails, which were certainly not identical to the finishing nails used in the bomb. These roofing nails are also listed in the FBI lab report documenting the evidence turned over to them in Washington DC. But a phantom bag of assorted nails also seems to briefly appear in the evidence listings, raising even more questions about the FBI's behavior. Evidence Box 3, as signed for by Oakland evidence technician Gribi, is listed as containing clothing and personal items seized from my car. But after it is turned over to the San Francisco FBI office and "secured," Box 3 is re-listed as clothing and personal items and "A Yeager and Kirk Hardware bag containing an assortment of nails." Yet, when it is again turned over to the FBI lab in Washington DC, this bag of nails disappears again, and is not listed on the lab's inventory. And SSA Williams, who received the evidence from the San Francisco office at the Washington DC lab, has testified that no bag of assorted nails was turned in.
Sgt. Chenault also wrote in the search warrant affidavit, based on what he was told by Terrorist Squad Supervisor SSA Reikes, SA Sena, and SA Doyle, that "Affiant believes that Bari and Cherney are members of a violent terrorist group involved in the manufacture and placing of explosive devices. Affiant also believes that Bari and Cherney were transporting an explosive device in their vehicle when the device exploded."
OPD Lt. Sims makes false statements to the media after the bombing.
In making the decision to arrest Darryl and me for the bombing, we have charged in our lawsuit that the FBI and Oakland Police ignored the physical evidence and relied on their (false) assessment of us as terrorists. Sgt. Sitterud has testified that he came to the conclusion that we were terrorists during the briefing meeting, "as more and more information came up." This information meant to him "that it looked likely that they were transporting the bomb. That it was their bomb that blew up." And, when we asked Lt. Sims if the background information from the briefing meeting influenced his decision to arrest Darryl and me, he replied, "Well, this wasn't a carload of nuns that were carrying the bomb."
So all in all, this case is shaping up, and it looks like it will be pretty interesting if it ever gets to trial. We're not even finished with the depositions though, and the next court hearing isn't scheduled until March 1995. And even then, we must still go through more preliminary motions before we get to the real hearing. Furthermore, no matter how right we are, this case can still be thrown out of court if we can't meet all their ridiculous rules and standards. The Black Panthers, who certainly had plenty of evidence, filed a civil suit against the FBI for COINTELPRO in the 1970s, and it was thrown out of court after 13 years. So for all you detractors out there who say I'm doing this for the money, think again. I have no expectations of justice from the same government that arrested me for the bombing. I'd be satisfied with a little truth.
This article appeared on the front page of the October 19, 1994 edition of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, a Mendocino County weekly newspaper. Note that errors in transcribing this article were found and corrected on June 22, 2001.
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