This story appeared in The Inquirer on March 16, 1986.

One of the more intriguing mysteries left unsolved by the MOVE commission — and one that may have national implications — is why a special agent of the Philadelphia office of the FBI gave the Philadelphia Police bomb squad 30 1 1/4-pound blocks of C-4, that most lethal of military plastic explosives, in January 1985.

That was four months before the fateful siege, bombing and fire — a time when the police were paying only cursory attention, if any, to MOVE and not, according to testimony and public statements, preparing for a confrontation on Osage Avenue.

In its report, the commission made clear that it could not obtain a complete and credible account of the C-4 delivery. In its findings and conclusions, the commission said:

“Delivery of this amount of C-4 to any local police force without restrictions as to its use is inappropriate.

“Neither agency kept any records of the transaction. The FBI agent told the commission that he ‘never had to keep any kind of records or anything’ regarding C-4. Nor did the bomb squad keep any record of delivery, inventory or use of the C-4, or any other explosives under their control.

“Subsequent to May 13, 1985, at least one FBI agent deliberately withheld from his own superiors information concerning the unauthorized cache of the C- 4. (This agent later said he was ‘in fear of losing my job’ because of the delivery of the C-4)

“As a result, officials of the FBI unwittingly furnished the commission with inaccurate and untruthful accounts of that agency’s involvement in the events related to May 13, 1985. Because of the absence of record keeping by the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department, all the facts of C-4′s use on May 13th may never be known.”

Perhaps, the commission is right that all the facts of C-4′s use that day may never be known, but final judgment will have to be withheld until District Attorney Ronald D. Castille decides whether to convene a grand jury and a federal investigation is completed. The criminal section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is known to be looking into the agent’s dealings with the bomb squad.

C-4 was used in the bomb. And its use, according to James R. Phelan, an explosives expert retained by the commission, greatly increased the probability that the bomb would trigger a fire in the barricaded rowhouse.

But, whether the C-4 was from the stockpile delivered by the FBI agent in January is not clear. Wayne G. Davis, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia office, has said that when the FBI retrieved the C-4 from the Police Academy some time after the confrontation, 6 pounds were missing. Police sources have told The Inquirer that the missing 6 pounds was not used on May 13, as it had been used in two prior bomb-squad operations.

Be that as it may, it seems out of character for the FBI to have an agent so lacking in common sense that he would give a police bomb squad a quantity of a highly regulated explosive far beyond any foreseeable need. In fact, the only conceivable legitimate need a police department would have for C-4 would be a small amount for use in training police dogs to sniff it out.

Thirty 1 1/4-pound blocks of C-4 definitely is not a small amount. So, why did the agent do it?

According to Davis, who informed the commission shortly after taking charge of the Philadelphia office, it was “because of a diagnosed need by this agent rather than as a result of a specific request by the Philadelphia Police Department.”

Another FBI source has said that the agent was seeking to ingratiate himself with the police. That may be so but it doesn’t wash well.

Why nearly 38 pounds of C-4?

Why in January 1985?

Was this the only time an FBI agent furnished a police department with such a large amount of C-4?

Did the Philadelphia bomb squad have another cache of C-4?

Are the police sources who say the FBI C-4 was not used in the bomb telling the truth? If not, why? And finally, why has the public not been informed by Mayor Goode, or the FBI or other responsible officials?

As far as the public record is concerned, there already has been too much dissembling about the C-4.

A question whether it was used in making the bomb came up immediately after the confrontation ended. Police Commissioner Gregore J. Sambor said on May 14 and Lt. Frank Powell, head of the bomb squad, said on May 15 that no C-4 had been used. They said it consisted solely of two pounds of Tovex TR-2, a less potent explosive used in mining and quarrying.

At that time, Powell said in an interview with The Inquirer, “We don’t have any C-4. I would like to have it. And the only place we can purchase it is in Canada, and it is extremely expensive.”

But three months later, in August, apparently as the result of investigation by police and fire officials, it was established that C-4 had been used, and Managing Director James S. White issued a public statement saying it was done “by the individual officer who made the device without the knowledge of his superior or the police commissioner.”

And that’s as far as the commission got, except for Phelan’s testimony,

because, as Chairman William H. Brown 3d said in a speech in January to the University of Pennsylvania Law Alumni Society:

“Once the use of C-4 was disclosed, to a man, the officers of the bomb squad took sanctuary in the Fifth Amendment and refused to cooperate in any way with the commission.”

Why was that? What’s so sensitive about the C-4?

The mystery remains and it’s like Lady Macbeth’s damned spot.