A federal investigator said Saturday that "we aren't close" to arresting a suspect in the Oct. 11 Santa Ana bomb blast that killed Arab rights leader Alex Odeh.
His comments came a day after an FBI spokesman said the agency believes that the Jewish Defense League was responsible for the Odeh bombing and two bomb blasts on the East Coast.
The investigator spoke on the condition that he not be identified.
Irv Rubin, head of the 7,000-member JDL, on Friday denied any role in Odeh's murder and challenged the FBI to arrest a suspect in the case or, he said, he will sue the bureau for "slandering" his organization.
"What they (the FBI) did is really a sick . . . thing to do," Rubin said Saturday, adding that the FBI's statement on Friday leaves Jewish people vulnerable to violence from "Arab terrorist groups."
"If one Jew is killed, I hold the FBI responsible," Rubin said.
Didn't Cry Over It
Rubin said the FBI had not questioned him or any other defense league members about the bombing, although he reiterated that Odeh's death "was not something we cried over."
"Mr. Odeh was anything but apolitical," he said. "Mr. Odeh was 100% pro-PLO," referring to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Odeh, West Coast regional director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, was killed as he entered the group's office on the second floor of a three-story building in Santa Ana.
On Friday, FBI spokesman Lane Bonner said: "We are attributing the three bombings to the JDL. There are similarities in all three bombings, but we can't comment on details because they're all still under investigation."
In a subsequent telephone interview on Saturday, Bonner said that the Odeh incident and two other bombings--one on Aug. 15 in Paterson, N.J., and a second on Sept. 6, on Long Island, N.Y.--are being classified as terrorist incidents "attributable to the JDL" by the FBI's Terrorist Research and Analytical Center.
Publish Annual List
The FBI's Research and Analytical Center uses "various criteria" in classifying a bombing as being a terrorist activity, Bonner said. He declined to elaborate on what criteria is used except to say, "We don't do it on a whim."
Bonner said the agency since 1981 has published an annual report on terrorism that lists bombing incidents attributable to organizations it believes responsible even if no arrests have been made. In most such cases, however, someone purporting to be from the named organization has claimed responsibility.
A copy of the 1984 report--"FBI Analysis of Terrorist Incidents and Terrorist Related Activities in the United States"--was obtained by The Times. It lists only one incident in which a Jewish organization is identified as being suspected of terrorism. In that case, according to the report, a group called Jewish Direct Action, in an anonymous telephone call, claimed responsibility for a Feb. 23, 1984, bombing of a Soviet residential complex in the Bronx, N.Y. Three bombs were detonated at the complex and one car was destroyed but there were no injuries or arrests.
In the Odeh bombing, no group has claimed any responsibility.
The report lists no terrorist bombing incidents in 1984 connected to the JDL.
Bonner said Saturday that the FBI had not intended to release a statement on Friday publicly blaming the JDL for the bomb blast that killed Odeh. He said he had mentioned the bureau's suspicions about the JDL to a New York Times reporter, who contacted Rubin for a comment. Rubin then called other news organizations to protest the FBI's claim. When reached for comment, Bonner repeated his remarks about the JDL.
Bonner declined again Saturday to discuss any details of the alleged links between the Odeh bombing and the two East Coast incidents. One occurred at the Paterson, N.J., home of accused former Nazi SS officer Tscherim Soobzokov, 61. Soobzokov was fatally injured by a bomb blast when he opened the front door of his home. No one claimed responsibility for the bombing.
In the Long Island incident, former Latvian policeman and accused Nazi war criminal Elmars Sprogis, 70, escaped injury when a bomb blast shattered the front door of his home. A passer-by was seriously injured. An FBI spokesman said the "door did appear to have been booby-trapped."
Investigators said the bomb that killed Odeh was also rigged to go off when the door was opened.
After the Long Island bombing, two telephone calls were placed to the Long Island newspaper Newsday. An apparently recorded male voice said, "Listen carefully. Jewish Defense League. Nazi War Criminal. Bomb. Never Again."
However, the JDL denied responsibility for the Long Island bombing, as it did for the other bomb blasts.