Tags: FBI | Covered | Huge | Crime | Lab | Blast

FBI Covered Up Huge Crime Lab Blast

Wednesday, 30 May 2001 12:00 AM

For more than four years the FBI stonewalled investigative journalists seeking information about a May 5, 1987, incident at the crime lab in the FBI’s Hoover Building headquarters in Washington.

The reporters – the renowned journalistic sleuth J.D. Cash and co-author Roger Charles – tell the shocking story in this August's Soldier of Fortune magazine. They explain that their interest was provoked by a reliable source who told them that the FBI building was "seriously damaged when some explosives they had in there went off."

"They’ve kept it under wraps for years," the source went on. "Passed it off as a chemical fire in a closet."

The source added that what he called "those cowboys" had stored all sorts of high-performance "stuff" illegally in the crime lab. As the pair would later learn, that "stuff" included high-powered Soviet rocket fuses, rocket-propelled grenades, 5.5 pounds of TNT and 22 pounds of plastic explosive.

"Our interest was piqued, as similar assertions had been made concerning the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, including the possibility that federal law enforcement housed in the OKC federal complex might have been storing explosives in their lockers the morning" of the blast, Cash and Charles wrote.

A quick check of reports on the 1987 blast revealed only a single mention, a Washington Post story on May 6 that explained: "Fire broke out near an explosives laboratory at FBI headquarters early yesterday, forcing the evacuation of dozens of nightshift workers, authorities said. No injuries were reported."

Believing that if explosives had been stored in the Murrah Federal Building they could account for the severity of the blast that many experts say could not have been caused solely by McVeigh’s so-called truck bomb, the journalists decided to check out the tip about the 1987 FBI incident.

A call to the FBI public information officer revealed nothing. The bureau spokesman couldn’t recall anything about explosions, or even the fire reported in the Post. When asked if an interview could be arranged with anyone working at the Hoover Building the night of the explosion, the spokesman said, "No, all those people have been transferred or retired."

After numerous attempts to get information via the Freedom of Information Act had proved fruitless, the pair went to court. Four years after they made their first attempt, a hearing was scheduled before a federal judge, and the bureau was told to get ready for a court appearance.

"Suddenly a two-inch file appeared in our mailbox," they wrote. It was a 197-page report that told the whole incredible story the FBI had tried so hard to suppress.

"A quick perusal of the bulky file made it clear that a series of explosions had racked the federal complex in the early morning hours of 5 May, 1987. Most of the damage had occurred in room 3930, evidence storage room of the Explosive Unit Laboratory Division, which stored evidence in high profile major cases," the reporters wrote.

The cat was out of the bag, and it was a huge, snarling feline that scratched and clawed away the FBI’s reputation for truthfulness. The explosion had been devastating. And the extent of the cover-up in the aftermath of the explosion was exposed in graphic detail, with none of the facts omitted. After years of stonewalling, the bureau had come clean.

The entire explosives unit "was nothing but a charred and pitted shell," the report showed. "Evidence cabinets had been blown over, and some had been penetrated by shrapnel. A pair of large holes in the walls provided chilling proof that one Soviet-made RPG had ignited."

One FBI report listed a small but deadly arsenal of explosives stored in Room 3930:

The storage of these items was a clear violation of the federal procedures dealing with the storage of such items. The report took note of the damage inflicted and the evidence it provided as to what caused it.

"Anyone outside of the government would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of federal law if they operated in this manner," he said, adding that it is illegal to keep detonators and explosives together. "You never keep them in the same room. The FBI was in violation of all ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] rules and regulations concerning storage of explosives," he charged.

Unanswered is whether or not similar violations occurred at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and if they had, did they contribute to the carnage set off by McVeigh’s truck bomb.

Given the proven tendency for federal agencies to cover up such embarrassing lapses in procedure, the question may never be answered.

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Formore than four years the FBI stonewalled investigative journalists seeking information about a May 5, 1987, incident at the crime lab in the FBI's Hoover Building headquarters in Washington. The reporters - the renowned journalistic sleuth J.D. Cash and co-author Roger...
Wednesday, 30 May 2001 12:00 AM
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