Six-month FOIA suit opens unsolved hijack records, but Bureau seals key folder — involving team’s living target
1/31/17 PRESS RELEASE (Washington, D.C.): After a half-year of legal actions by a private investigative team led by former FBI agents, the Bureau and Department of Justice are now “under court order to [begin] processing responsive records” from the unsolved 1971 “NORJAK” hijacking case for public release.
Closed last year, the file is estimated to contain more than 71,000 archived pages. Monthly batches are soon to start posting for free viewing at the “cold case team” website, DBCooper.com (See “FBI FOIA”).
Assistant US Attorney Jeremy Simon, however, followed up the judge’s historic FOIA edict with an emailed caveat to the team’s lawyer, Mark S. Zaid: “It’s the FBI’s policy that, absent a privacy act waiver or proof of death, the FBI can [not] provide records pertaining to specific individuals ”that were once suspected.”
According to the cold-case organizer, Thomas J. Colbert, federal officials are “fully aware” the focus of the team’s six-year Cooper investigation is very much alive. He is a retired university teacher and department head named Robert W. Rackstraw Sr., 73 – a former Vietnam pilot, paratrooper, explosives expert, four-time felon, and a former FBI suspect that Colbert believes was wrongly cleared in 1978.
Emails show that Colbert and his wife, Dawna, collaborated and shared evidence with the FBI Seattle Division’s last Cooper case agent, Curtis Eng, since 2011. A message from Headquarters on 8/15/12 gave the couple confidence to proceed: “The FBI welcomes any further information you uncover.”
Trouble began in 2015 when the Colberts revealed their 40-member team of volunteer PIs had logged almost 100 pieces of new evidence, including DNA, on Rackstraw. Agent Eng abruptly canceled a planned 2016 meeting, refused to review any of the materials, and shipped off the closed Cooper file to Washington, D.C., to be archived. An FBI liaison shared with the Colberts that the Bureau had grown “concerned about prosecuting a circumstantial case” without direct evidence, like the parachute or ransom money.
Attorney Zaid has now filed a new motion to get access to Rackstraw’s personal file, arguing he doesn’t deserve to keep his privacy. The team documented countless times, years ago and in the near past, where he teased, denied, then flat-out admitted he’s the skyjacker. The most flagrant example involved a recently-closed Tustin, California, restaurant that catered to famous pilots and astronauts (above pic). Several there, including the retired owner, claim Rackstraw was a regular for decades – and answered to the name Cooper.
NOTE: Available: Evidence List, suit articles/video & award-winning investigative book at www.DBCooper.com
CONTACTS: Co-Author/E.P. Thomas J. Colbert, TJC Consulting (L.A., CA): 866-778-5669; info@TJCConsulting.biz
Senior Former FBI Team Member (of 12), Asst. Director Bill M. Baker (L.A., CA): Through Colbert
Former FBI Team Member, Polygrapher Ron Hilley (San Francisco, CA): Through Colbert
Team Attorney Mark Zaid (WA, D.C.; Handling Colbert’s FOIA): 202-454-2809; firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Dept. of Justice (WA, D.C.): 202-514-2000; FBI/Seattle: 206-262-2390; Special Agent Curtis Eng
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