The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro
Copyright (C) 1996
"In the middle of the journey of life, I found myself in a dark wood, having lost the straight path."
-- Quote from Dante's Inferno -- written in Danny Casolaro's notebook.
Rounded edges of the Octopus tentacles arose briefly from under the relatively calm waters of a new administration's first year in office. Danny Casolaro was two years gone and the key players in the investigation he began ostensibly had left power after the 1993 election. Casolaro's work was left unfinished, however, and his metaphorical sea monster still swam in the sea of current events.
Columnist William Safire reported [column reprinted below] that Bill Clinton and George Bush struck a secret deal after Clinton's election that the former president would withhold criticism of the new administration for one year in exchange for Clinton's soft-pedaling of the Iran-contra investigations. A month before the end of that deal, a month before the former Arkansas governor's first anniversary as president, the Clinton administration re-opened the Inslaw investigation. In December 1993, the FBI began again to interview Casolaro's close associates and friends with an eye toward resolving the question of his death--was it a suicide or murder?
Under the new administration, the FBI was not satisfied with the determination of Judge Bua's report. It was still concerned with "Danny's state of mind at the time of his death", Casolaro girlfriend Wendy Weaver told the San Francisco Chronicle. "They said they were going to interview all these people and then bring
the findings back to their experts to determine if he was suicidal... I told them I thought it was murder." Press reports were silent as to why the case was being reopened at this time, indeed few papers other than the Chronicle reported upon it at all. Only the dim political purpose of the coming end to Bush's year of silence even suggested an answer. Did the new administration take interest in this high profle case, touching as it does on the intelligence backgrounds of prominent Republican personalities, as protection against Clinton-bashing from the Bush camp? Or was there more to it?
The review of the case had been ordered by Associate Attorney General Webster "Webb" Hubbell, then the third-ranking official at the Justice Department (seen by some as the Department's de facto head), a Clinton family friend. In noting that Hubbell had been assigned to review the Inslaw case, long-time Washington watcher Sarah McClendon also noted that Casolaro had maintained that additional details about the Inslaw relationship with the Justice Department could be had from employees in the office of Senator Robert Byrd. According to McLendon, Casolaro had scheduled an interview with these employees for the Friday preceding his death. Senator Byrd's chief of staff was the wife of Peter Videnicks, contracting officer at the Justice Department during the Inslaw period.
McClendon quoted Bill Turner [CCCU note: Was she referring to the same FBI agent who was mentioned in a book by Robert Merritt and Douglas Caddy as having been involved in Cointelpro in the 60's and 70's, or is this another Bill Turner?] as saying that Casolaro told him that he planned to meet with two members of Robert Byrd's staff. McClendon also noted the Hamiltons' complaints that Hubbell and FBI investigator Scott Erskine had plans to release a report without having talked to important Casolaro associates or investigating curious incidents, including a threat against Casolaro made by a friend of Videnieks, Joseph Cuellar, who apparently was also trailing the writer.
Hubbell himself had already been connected to the Inslaw case through the confessions of Danger Man. In April 1992 Michael Riconosciuto told Village Voice's Frank Snepp of the link between guns-and-drugs operations at an airstrip in Mena, Arkansas--a story that already loomed as a major Clinton-era scandal because of Clinton's failure to investigate the situation as governor--and Park-On-Meter (POM), a parking meter manufacturer in Russellville, Arkansas, that figured prominently in making Webb Hubbell one of the early victims of another Clinton debacle, the Whitewater affair. Riconosciuto claimed to have worked with
Terry Reed, the Mena pilot whose revelations first brought the Oliver North-styled smuggling operation to national attention.
Riconosciuto also told Mark Swaney, the head of a University of Arkansas student group responsible for a petition drive to investigate Mena, that he had been involved in developing chemical and biological weapons in a project connected to POM -- apparently never explicit that this was also connected to the work he did on Cabazon tribal lands -- and that the company also manufactured external fuel tanks for C-130 transport planes.
|The CIA, Drugs...|
Stormont Labs acknowledged only discussions with Wackenhut regarding biological weapons and Wackenhut denied working with POM. POM president, Seth "Skeeter" Ward II, also Webster Hubbell's brother-in-law, admitted that the company had some Pentagon contracts, but only for "re-entry nose cones for the nuclear warheads on the MX missile and nozzes for rocket engines", not chemical or biological weapons delivery systems, although he confessed to not knowing what kind of aircraft parts POM made for one of its contracts with McDonnell Douglas.
Ward also denied another central charge made by Danger Man: that POM received the first industrial development loan made by the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA), a controversial state authority co-written by Webster Hubbell in 1985. Bill Clinton appointed every member of the ADFA's governing board and was required to approve its every bond issue, apparently with no other legislative means of guaranteeing that the money would be spent as intended.
The ADFA primarily served two masters: the Stephens, Inc., investment bank that received 78 percent of ADFA's underwriting fees and sales of housing and industrial bonds (Clinton had appointed two Stephens associates to the ADFA board); and Clinton crony Dan Lasater, whose Lasater and Company firm underwrote $664 million in municipal bond issues after the creation of the ADFA. Lasater was a party animal renown for cocaine soirees at his Arkansas mansion, who claimed to have paid off drug debts of the President's brother Roger. Even after a police investigation of Lasater in 1985 for drugs, Clinton approved a $30.2 million bond issue to overhaul the state police radio system. In 1986 Lasater was sentenced to 30 months in prison for the distribution of cocaine (Roger Clinton was an unindicted co-conspirator) and was pardoned for it by Clinton. He remains connected to the White House through the person of White House official Patsy Thomasson, manager of Lasater and Company while Lasater was in jail.
In this murky financial atmosphere, and despite Ward's denials, it is probable that the ADFA did issue one of its first bond issues to POM--with Clinton's required approval. For critics who complained about Clinton's passivity in investigating the Mena airstrip, a less passive reason for his inaction emerged, with a tentacle pointing tothe Inslaw affair.
Mena did not provide the only evidence that the Octopus swam in Whitewater currents, however. It's tentacles also stretched toward the most infamous developing scandal of the Clinton era: the Vince Foster death.
POM's admitted jobs for the Pentagon and the funny finances of the ADFA remained obscure for the most part in the media as Webster Hubbell's representation of POM became the official reason for his resignation from Clinton's Justice Department, one month after his re-opening of the Inslaw investigation. The Rose Law Firm declared that Hubbell had failed to provide documentation for expenses he had charged to the firm and that POM lost $1 million in litigation expenses when Hubbell unsuccessfully pursued a patent infringement case he took on a contingency basis for his brother-in-law "Skeeter" Ward. "Unfortunately, because of public speculation about me and my former law firm," Hubbell said in his resignation letter, "I will have to spend a significant amount of time on an internal matter with my former partners."
In addition to bringing POM out of the Washington spotlight, the resignation shielded Hubbell from other accusations regarding the Whitewater Development Corporation real estate investments. Specifically, Hubbell served on the Resolution Trust Corporation during its takeover of the Madison Savings and Loan, owned by
Whitewater partner James McDougal and previously represented by Hubbell. Hubbell failed to inform the RTC of the potential conflict. Unofficially, Hubbell was the second victim of Whitewater, following White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum's forced resignation for questionable meetings with federal regulators looking into the Whitewater Development Corporation real estate investments.
Nussbaum had been responsible for removing Whitewater files and a diary from the office of White House aide Vincent Foster less than three hours after Foster's death from a gunshot wound. He was accompanied on that visit by Patsy Thomasson.
Foster's last weekend had been spent in the company of Webster Hubbell, his wife and another couple, White House counsel Michael Cardozo and his wife. Hubbell joined the group in Maryland after leaving the meeting that informed William Sessions of his dismissal as FBI Director. After returning from a Hawaiian
vacation, Bill Clinton spent that weekend in Arkansas dining with David Edwards, a former Stephens Inc. employee and conduit for $23 million from the king of Saudi Arabia for the Middle Eastern studies program at the University of Arkansas. Clinton had one last twenty minute conversation with Foster the Monday night before his death. Oddly, one of Foster's last phone conversations on the morning of his death was with Brantley Buck, the Rose Law Firm partner assigned to investigate Webster Hubbell and POM.
In 1995, new suspicions arose concerning the use of PROMIS in the world banking system. One post on the internet charged (or, rather, sarcastically reported the "false" charge) that Systematics, a subsidiary of Alltech Corporation comprised of Systematics Financial Services Inc., Systematics Information Services Inc. of Little Rock, Arkansas, and Systematics Telecommunications Services Inc. of Dallas, Pennsylvania, had
modified the PROMIS software for sale to private banks, with the attendant back doors to allow the NSA to spy on banking operations. The post went on to charge that Webster Hubbell had "helped work out strategies to use Systematics software to spy on commercial and central banks." The anonymous source encouraged
Internet readers to verify the charge (or, "the utter falsehood of these malicious lies"), and attached a long list of bank and financial service addresses, executive names and capsule histories of their conversion to Systematics software, replete with citations in American Banker.
The Systematics information and Vince Foster's last weekend with Webster Hubbell and Michael Cordoza came together to float the last odd rumors about the PROMIS program. Instead of the recreational affair it was described as during the Congressional Whitewater hearings, the source of this new speculation suggested that the Clinton cronies met to plot damage control over a burgeoning scandal involving PROMIS.
Nearly $3 billion had been emptied out of Swiss bank accounts belonging to dozens of high-powered political types--both Democrats and Republicans--by a CIA faction known during this period as "the Fifth Column", but obvious Octopus clones.
The Fifth Columnists served as expert hackers, collecting routine foreign intelligence data presumably through the PROMIS back door, when they encountered Vince Foster's name in the Mossad system. From there, they tracked Foster's bank trail to the Banca Della Svizzera Italiana, a small Italian border bank, where the Israelis deposited $2.73 million. The rumors only speculated about what Foster gave the Israelis: high level
intelligence information; encryption codes; data on black operations subcontractors--he was dead before it could be figured out. Whatever it was, the Fifth Column tipped its hand to Foster that he was under investigation by removing the money, although according to the story his was not the only account raided. Making another in apparently regular one-day trips to Geneva, Foster discovered the missing money, and later perhaps someone mentioned to him that he was under investigation for espionage, and thereafter he became "suicidal."
THE DEAD (PROMIS/Octopus related)
Fred Alvarez, his girlfriend and friend
Ian Spiro, His wife, and three daughters
Alan Michael May
Sherman Skolnick, a long-time chairman of Chicago's Citizen's Committee to Clean Up the Courts, charged that nearly forty witnesses in the Inslaw case had been murdered and complained that a federal judge appointed to review the case failed to show concern over the safety of other witnesses.
The body of Alfred [Fred] Alvarez, shot in the head with a .38 caliber bullet, burned in the desert heat for a day. It sat in a wooden chair behind Alvarez's house in a yard on Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage, located in Riverside County. Police discovered the body along with those of two others, friends of Alvarez. Six months later, police broke open a door to a condo on Kearny street and discovered the dead body of [alleged Gambino Family money launderer] Paul Morasca, hog-tied by a telephone cord strangled slowly as his legs uncurled. Three days later, Mary Quick, a 63 year old school-teacher and head of the Women's Auxiliary of American Legion Post 509 in Fresno, was killed by a shot to the head as she approached the Legion Hall. Investigators came to believe that all three murders were connected.
On September 10, 1993, the Houston Chronicle reprinted an article by William Safire titled
"No wonder Bush is quiet about Clinton."
The New York Times; Section A; Page 25; Column 5
September 9, 1993, Thursday, Late Edition - Final
George Bush privately assured Bill Clinton that he would not criticize the new President during the first year of his term. I cannot attribute that to any source, but trust me. And Mr. Bush has kept his word.
In what may be an unspoken quid pro quo, the Clinton Administration has moved to quash any revelations about Bush's Iraqgate scandal.
You remember Iraqgate: the White House corruption of Agriculture's loan guarantee program to slip foreign aid billions through an Italian bank to Saddam Hussein, which he used to finance his secret nuclear buildup. The Bush Justice Department sought to contain the scandal by pretending the Italian bank knew
nothing of its Atlanta office's huge Iraqi dealings -- despite suppressed C.I.A. evidence to the contrary.
During the '92 campaign, Al Gore accurately charged that "the C.I.A. reported to Secretary of State James Baker ... that Iraq was clandestinely procuring nuclear weapons" while State was urging more loan guarantees to appease the dictator. Candidate Clinton, asked if he would favor a special Iraqgate prosecutor
under a new Independent Counsel Act, replied unequivocally: "Yes."
That was then. Last week, in Atlanta Federal court, Clinton Justice arranged for the local Banca Lavoro manager to cop a plea on three minor charges of what had been a 347-count indictment, thereby blocking full disclosure of Rome's corrupt involvement -- with guilty knowledge of U.S. officials -- in a public trial.
John Hogan, Attorney General Janet Reno's longtime assistant in Miami, is the prosecutor who insists that the bank in Rome was innocent, over the plea bargainer's continued disputation. Federal Judge Marvin Shoob, the Sirica in this case, rejects Mr. Hogan's contention as "absurd ... never-never land." He sees a
"wider-ranging sophisticated conspiracy that involved B.N.L.- Rome ... and the Governments of the U.S., England, Italy and Iraq."
But Ms. Reno's man, who joined Justice on June 7, has conducted what she falsely calls "a thorough independent investigation," resulting in "no reason to change our opinion."
Thus Clinton appointees at Justice have closed ranks with prosecutors and fixers desperate not to be brought before a grand jury by a truly independent counsel. Bush Justice appointed the lawyer for Saddam's main arms purchaser as U.S. Attorney in Atlanta; Clinton Justice is appointing a lawyer from King &
Spalding, B.N.L.'s law firm, who previously worked on the case as a prosecutor to be U.S. Attorney there now.
Reno is unconcerned at how her assertion of B.N.L.-Rome's innocence bolsters the Italian bank's claim against the U.S. for $380 million of the loans to Saddam that James Baker persuaded Agriculture's Clayton Yeutter to guarantee. If the Criminal Division holds that Rome was victimized, shouldn't the U.S. pay up? "Apples and oranges," Hogan tells me; that's the Civil Division's job.
Hogan is familiar with Italian suits, having once been accused of receiving stolen clothing in a Miami "hot suit" case; he earned a straight-arrow reputation by resigning as prosecutor despite his innocence.
But now he uses "ongoing investigation" to duck questions, despite St. Janet's claim of his work having already been "thorough"; it is patently not "independent."
Did Hogan take testimony under oath from ex-Attorney General Dick Thornburgh about a White House meeting with Italian Ambassador Rinaldo Petrignani, directed by Rome to "raise the case to a political level"? Or ask the Criminal Division why an update on the B.N.L. investigation was prepared for the A.G. just
three days before that meeting?
Did he convene a grand jury to examine the Oct. 26, 1989, memo to Secretary Baker, with attached talking points and Baker notations, showing how commodity credits were abused for Saddam's backdoor financing?
Is it not a blatant conflict of interest for him to close out the Atlanta case while purporting to investigate the Atlanta prosecutors on whose work he depended?
Reno's man sayeth not. No wonder we hear not a peep of criticism about Clinton from Bush; the former President and his men are being well protected. Congress should pass the Independent Counsel Act and demand it be used in this case.