When that information finally came out in court in recent weeks and clinched the conviction of ex-Klansman Thomas Blanton Jr. Tuesday, state prosecutors who first broke open the long-dormant case in the 1970s were outraged.
“That is the most stunning revelation of this thing,” said former Alabama Assistant Attorney General John Yung, who in 1977 helped send ex-Klansman Robert “Dynamite Bob” Chambliss to prison for the bombing. “I think it’s shocking that someone sat on that evidence all those years.”
Among the FBI evidence that had remained secret since the mid-1960s: secret tape recordings of Blanton talking about planning “the bomb” and the testimony of Mitchell Burns, a former Klansman and paid FBI informant who recorded other conversations.
“What excuse can the FBI have for allowing Mr. Blanton to go free for 24 years with this smoking-gun evidence hidden in its files?” former Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley wrote in a commentary Thursday in The New York Times. Baxley reopened the church bombing probe in the 1970s and convicted Chambliss.
FBI spokesman Craig Dahle said there was no easy answer for the agency’s failure to hand over everything it had years earlier. But he denied the FBI deliberately delayed justice.
“It is wrong to assert there was any effort to block anything,” Dahle said