Updated May 16, 2004








OKC Cover-Up Exploding

OKC Cover-Up Exploding

FBI Whistleblower Blasts FBI Perjury


By James P. Tucker Jr.


A government scientist lied about key physical evidence found at the Oklahoma City bombing, including some materials that were alleged to have been used to make the bomb, an FBI whistle blower testified in the murder trial of Terry Nichols. FBI forensic scientist Steve Burmeister lied twice, Frederic Whitehurst told jurors.

Burmeister, whom Whitehurst had trained, had testified in the federal trial of Timothy McVeigh and both the federal and state trials of Nichols that ammonium nitrate crystals found on bombing debris had been embedded by the force of the blast and that the crystals came from the kind of fertilizer believed used in the bombing.

Both statements were false, Whitehurst testified May 19. There was insufficient evidence to support either of Burmeister’s conclusions about the bomb that federal investigators claimed destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, he said.

“He is my student and I trust him like a brother,” Whitehurst said of Burmeister. “But he lied under oath.”

The case is expected to go to the jury soon.

Whitehurst began questioning Burmeister’s veracity after examining transcripts of his testimony at the federal trials of Nichols and Timothy McVeigh, who was executed in 2001. Burmeister testified substantially the same at the current state trial of Nichols.

Whitehurst exposed shoddy work at the FBI’s laboratory in Washington during the mid-1990s, which led to extensive changes.

The inspector general at the Justice Department investigated the lab for 18 months and accused the facility of flawed scientific work and inaccurate, pro-prosecution testimony in major cases, including the Oklahoma City bombing. The lab had no comment.

The Associated Press reported a year ago that Burmeister himself told the inspector general that shoddy work and contamination problems had tainted the bombing evidence, then recanted the allegation a few months before testifying in the McVeigh trial.

Whitehurst’s testimony concentrated on a shredded piece of plywood authorities believe came from the cargo container of the Ryder rental truck that delivered the ammonium-nitrate-and-fuel-oil bomb. The plywood, recovered two days after the bombing from a parking lot across the street from the federal building, is the only direct evidence of the explosion.

Burmeister began referring to the crystals as embedded after meeting with federal prosecutors, Whitehurst said.

“They were not embedded in that surface,” Whitehurst said. “They were simply adhering to the surface.”

Nichols, 49, could face the death penalty if convicted on 161 state counts of first-degree murder. He is already serving a life sentence on federal charges in the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers. The state charges cover the other 160 victims and one victim’s fetus.