And the journalists might not be alone. FBI informants might also be found on the White House staff, in the offices of U.S. congressmen, in the courts and among the clergy.
The allegations stem from Trentadue’s ongoing legal battle with the FBI and the Department of Justice over the August 1995 death of his brother Kenneth Trentadue, who died under mysterious circumstances in Oklahoma City’s transfer center for federal inmates.
Jesse Trentadue has long scoffed at federal authorities’ explanation that his younger brother killed himself. According to Jesse Trentaude, Kenneth died as the result of an interrogation prompted by his resemblance to an early suspect in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Then-Chief Medical Examiner Fred Jordan, following a contentious investigation, determined the death a suicide but later claimed he had been pressured by the FBI and state prosecutors to make that ruling.
In Trentadue’s latest attempt to gather information on the bombing and its possible connection to his brother’s death, he filed a federal lawsuit Oct. 18 demanding the DOJ and the FBI surrender unredacted manuals that reveal the existence of a government program for recruiting and training informants.
Trentadue said he has proof that the manuals exist as well as government documentation on an ABC News executive identified by an FBI informant number. His lawsuit states: “FBI defendants’ disturbing practice of using private citizens as spies in the media, on defense teams, in religious organizations as well as state and federal government is designed to and does result in the circumvention of the protections guaranteed to American citizens by the Bill of Rights and the Separation of Powers Doctrine.”
Trentadue said he does not want the names of the informants.
“I know I’ll never get that,” he said. “But we’re entitled to know who they’re targeting to become informants.”
An informant at ABC?
Trentadue said he first became aware that some journalists were working for the FBI when he filed a Freedom of Information Act request for surveillance videotapes of the Murrah bombing. During his exchange with the bureau, the government released some documents referring to a tip from an informant identified as NY 29000- SI-DT. The informant had contacted Supervisory Special Agent Thomas E. Nicoletti the evening of April 19, 1995, with information about who might have carried out the attack.
“Late morning, on April 20, NY 29000-SI-DT met with ASAC (Assistant Special Agent in Charge) Andrew, SSA Thomas Lang, and SSA Nicoletti,” read the document, which was stamped “secret.” It went on to state the informant “is a senior official employed by ABC News for over 15 years.
When questioned on April 20, 1995, NY 29000-SI-DT would not reveal the identity of his source; but advised that this information was also being provided to FBI HQ or WMFO (Washington Metropolitan Field Office) by someone connected to ABC News.”
Responding to Trentadue’s FOIA request filed this past March, the FBI provided documents indicating that the SI on the informant’s identity number stood for “Sensitive Informant” and DT for “Domestic Terrorism.”
In April, the bureau acknowledged receipt of Trentadue’s request for records related to “FBI Recruitment/ Management of Confidential Sources Within the Media.”
Trentadue made separate requests for records pertaining to the bureau’s recruitment of confidential sources on the staff of U.S. senators and representatives, the clergy, staffers for state and federal judges, and those on criminal prosecution defense teams.
In April, the FBI and DOJ denied Trentadue’s request for records related to the informant, saying it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of such records.
However, the FBI did release 205 pages of a “Corporate Policy Directive,” the “Confidential Human Source Validation Standards Manual.” Most of the manual was redacted; the FBI cited an exemption under FOIA pertaining to “documents classified as involving national security.”
“It’s unconstitutional as hell,” Trentadue said. “But I couldn’t believe they admitted it. Maybe they’re just that arrogant.”
An FBI spokesman declined comment on the latest lawsuit in light of the bureau’s policy not to remark on pending litigation.