Albion Monitor /News

Oklahoma Bombing Conspiracy Theories Debunked

by Bill Johnson

Mystery of second seismograph reading solved

OKLAHOMA CITY (AR) -- The question of a second seismograph reading showing another blast occurrence 10 seconds after the Murrah federal building was blown up has been solved, the head of the Oklahoma Geological Survey said August 4th.

"We feel very comfortable in saying that second shock was from the same occurrence that caused the first, which had traveled through a different and more dense layer of the earth," Dr. Charles Mankin said in an exclusive interview with The American Reporter news service.

Mankin said he and his colleagues had constructed a velocity model of the ground structure in the Oklahoma City area. That model showed that the first shock, traveling through what is called the Garber Sandstone, reached the seismograph 10 seconds before the same occurrence reached the seismograph by traveling through the Hennessey Shale, Mankin said.

That second blip on the seismograph -- exactly the same 10-second duration and form of the first -- has created one of the many conspiracy theories surrounding the bombing. Many conspiracy advocates have claimed there was a second blast, with the explosives inside the Murrah building, and said the seismograph readings proved it.

Mankin said he and his staff had been greatly puzzled about the fact the second occurrence produced an identical reading as the first. For two separate explosions to produce the exact same reading would really be stretching coincidence, he said.

"But while we have solved one puzzle, we have another," Mankin said. "We can account for five of the 10 seconds, but we can't account for the other five seconds" of the blast reading on the seismograph.

"I have talked with explosive experts who are familiar with ammonium nitrate explosions, and at the most we can account for only a five-second blast," Mankin said.

He said that took in the time from when the bomb went off in a truck until the final part of the blast.

"We can come up with five seconds, six seconds to be charitable, but we still have another four or five seconds of energy," Mankin said.

He said studies were being made now to determine whether the swinging of the building's support columns may have caused the additional seconds of energy.

Conspiracy theories sped to the true believers by fax, telephone and talk radio

It's been four months since the most deadly terrorist attack in the continental United States ripped the front off the Murrah building, and the people who revel in conspiracy theories have blamed it on everyone from President Clinton to Middle East extremists.

One person close to the investigation says, in fact, the bombing is gaining the same type of conspiracy following as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Some of these theories, sped around the nation to the true believers by fax, telephone and talk radio, insist there is proof for each particular scenario. But that proof generally is some arcane obfuscation that only those who subscribe to that particular theory can appreciate.

Several things are true, and are believed by just about everyone. The Oklahoma City Murrah federal building was bombed the morning of April 19. The blast left 168 people dead, including 19 children.

But from here, the theories about who did the bombing take off in wildly divergent fashion. But -- not surprising in this day of government mistrust -- most circle back to pin the "blame" on the feds.

One major theory, in which few put any belief, argues that President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno planned the bombing as part of a massive anti-gun campaign. Even the National Rifle Association, which in ads characterized federal agents as jack-booted thugs, hasn't latched onto this publicly.

Second blast could not have been barometric bomb

Even Timothy McVeigh's arrest was the subject of a conspiracy theory. That particular one held that McVeigh had been in jail for some time -- two weeks was the time most often mentioned -- and was just a scapegoat used by those who were really behind the bombing.

The State Department of Public Safety has dismissed this, noting the time and date the arresting trooper put on the ticket. Local authorities also had their records of the jailing. Shirley Bellmon, wife of former Gov. Henry Bellmon, is particularly tuned in to events occurring in northern Oklahoma near her home, and was one of the first sources to confirm that someone had been arrested on I-35 shortly after the bombing.

One major question remains, however, over whether there was a John Doe No. 2. The FBI finally tracked down the person they thought was this suspect, but he turned out to be an Army enlisted man that an investigation showed had no connection with the bombing.

McVeigh's attorney, Stephen Jones, has charged the FBI is stuck with the John Doe No. 2 theory because to abandon it would damage their case against McVeigh.

The seismograph record had been one of the most persistent theories of all. The seismographs at the University of Oklahoma and the Omniplex clearly showed the two distinct events, one several minutes after 9 a.m. April 19 and the other some 10 seconds later.

Although Mankin has just said he found the basis for the double reading, he earlier had ruled out another pet theory of the conspiracy advocates. He said at that time the second seismograph reading could not possibly be from a so-called barometric bomb, a bomb that first releases a chemical cloud and then blows up that cloud with a second explosion. The timing is all wrong, Mankin said.

The second blast from a barometric bomb occurs only milliseconds after the first, Mankin said then. He said a second blast 10 seconds later would not have the desired effect because the chemical would have dispersed too much.

"Ten seconds is a long time," Mankin said.

One theory is that military Special Forces were responsible

Another theory was advanced by Galen Winsor, who said he has 43 years of experience in the nuclear industry building weapons. Winsor insists the blast was caused by a neutron bomb, not a 48,000-pound fertilizer and diesel fuel bomb as maintained by federal investigators. Winsor also is a proponent of the theory that President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno had advance notice of the bombing.

Other backers of a government conspiracy claim to have a signed affidavit from a former federal official stating he was involved in the bombing. This official is now in hiding and afraid for his life, these theorists claim. While they provide a murky trail of people who allegedly have seen this affidavit, they do not present it for study.

Another conspiracy theory that takes off from that one argues that a small group of military Special Force members were secreted into the area, bombed the building and then died in a planned plane crash as they were returning to their base in either Alabama or Georgia. While there was a military plane crash at approximately this time in the Southeast, there is no evidence that Special Forces personnel were aboard.

Some of these conspiracy publications and broadcasts seem to suggest, without ever coming out and saying so, that Gov. Frank Keating may, in some shadowy way, be a part of any government coverup. The only apparent basis for such thoughts is the fact that Keating is a former FBI agent and, as a top official in the U.S. Treasury, was in charged of such agencies as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Secret Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration. All had offices in the federal building.

Keating lost several friends and former workmates in the bombing.

Local TV station hypes misleading "before and after" photos

Then there is the two-photo conspiracy that takes off from alleged government involvement. According to this theory, hyped by one Oklahoma City television station, the FBI had taken a photograph of the Murrah building shortly before the bombing and -- no surprise to conspiracy theorists -- from the same angle as another photo taken minutes later of the blasted building. These two photos were circulating freely among rescue workers, this theory contends.

It's true there were two photos, taken from just about the same spot, a "before and after" of the building, and they were circulated at the bomb site. Unfortunately for the theorists, however, the "before" picture was taken a long time before the day of the bombing and was an industrial-type photo.

Sgt. Melvin Sumter of the Oklahoma County sheriff's office is the photographer who took the second picture, and also the man who put the two pictures together. He told The American Reporter news service he had his camera set up when a second bomb scare occurred and was waiting to photograph any second explosion. Since there was no second explosion, he said, he took the picture from where he was. After processing the film, Sumter said he took all the photos to the FBI command post.

"When I was in there, I saw a picture on the wall of the federal building that had been taken from about the same place I had taken mine," Sumter said. "I thought it would be nice to put the two photos together as a sort of keepsake."

Sumter said he asked to borrow the earlier photo and explained what he wanted it for. He said the FBI let him take it and copy it.

"I put the two of them together and put a notation on top of the second photo," Sumter said. He said that notation was the timing of the bombing, 9:02 a.m. April 19. The TV station apparently thought the timing referred to both pictures, he said.

"My name was on the photo, but they never contacted me," Sumter said. He said after the station broadcast their story, he called and offered to tell them the truth about the two photos.

"They have never called me," Sumter said.

Sumter said a close look at the photos shows they could not have been taken the same day.

"In the first one, a tree by the building is bare," he said. "In my photo, that same tree is in full leaf."

Sumter said he gave away hundreds of the combined photos, many of them to the rescue workers at the bomb site.

Sumter also called erroneous a statement by some conspiracy advocates that there could not have been a VIN (vehicle identification number) on the axle the FBI said came from the bomb truck. The FBI said it used this VIN to track the truck back to Kansas and to McVeigh.

"When a vehicle goes down the assembly line, someone puts that VIN on the dashboard," Sumter said. "On down the line, someone hammers the same VIN onto parts of the vehicle." He said vehicle manufacturers don't reveal every place they put the VIN "so the chop shops won't know. But they probably know anyway."

It was Sumter who found the axle the morning of the blast.

One of the latest stories making the rounds of the conspiracy networks is that a bank surveillance tape that is supposed to have shown the Ryder rental truck just before the blast shows, instead, a UPS delivery truck. This allegation was first made on Radio Free America, a shortwave station, which admitted that the "clock" on the surveillance camera might have been off.

"There is a photo floating around that purports to have been taken at that time that shows a UPS truck," Dan Vogel, FBI spokesman, told The American Reporter news service. "I certainly wouldn't put any credence in it."

Vogel said he did not know where the photo came from, but said it's possible its source was the same TV station that came up with the pair of building photos.

Bill Johnson is a reporter for The American Reporter.

Albion Monitor August 19, 1995 (

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