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Profile: US Geological Survey (USGS)

US Geological Survey (USGS) was a participant or observer in the following events:

Charles Watts, an attorney sitting in a building near the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, feels and hears the explosion of the truck bomb that devastates the Murrah Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). A few seconds later, he hears what he believes might be a second explosion. In a later interview with the far-right Media Bypass magazine, Watts will say: “It was like two distinct happenings. We thought the [bankruptcy court] building we were in was the one being bombed, as I guess most people in downtown Oklahoma City did. The alarms immediately went off in the building. Never have I ever experienced anything like this. This was a huge, huge explosion.” Subsequent investigations show that Watts and fellow witnesses were incorrect in assuming they heard a second blast. Geological and explosives experts later determine that the “second explosion” was caused by the huge roar and shock wave of the upper floors of the Murrah Building smashing down upon themselves, “pancaking” one atop another. (Stickney 1996, pp. 26-27) The US Geological Survey in Oklahoma recorded two major events 11.9 seconds apart at the time of the bombing. Oklahoma chief geophysicist James Lawson later explains that the second “tremor” was the building collapsing, not a second bomb. (Stickney 1996, pp. 266) Reporter and author Brandon W. Stickney later writes: “When a car bomb is used on a building like the Murrah, the first wave of the explosion shatters windows and rips vertical supports away from the foundation as it creates an upward wave of motion. A shock wave penetrates to the interior, pressuring floor slabs, causing them to fall. The shock then creates pressure on the roof and sides of the building. A vacuum is created, causing a wind that can carry debris great distances. The explosion also forms a crater in the ground, creating an earthquake-like atmosphere, shaking the entire site.” (Stickney 1996, pp. 33)

The Bush administration imposes what reporter and author Charlie Savage will later call “unprecedented controls” on scientists working with the US Geological Survey (USGS), an agency that studies environmental issues such as global warming and endangered species. Now, USGS scientists must submit research papers and prepared speeches to White House officials for approval prior to dissemination. The rules also require the scientists to let the public affairs office know about “findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed.” USGS scientists say that the restrictions mean that government officials are monitoring and censoring their work. “The explanation was that this was intended to ensure the highest possible quality research,” says Jim Estes, a marine biologist who has worked for USGS since the 1970s. “But to me it feels like they’re doing this to keep us under their thumbs.” (Savage 2007, pp. 106-107)


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