("Quid coniuratio est?")
Through the efforts of Terry Reed and John Cummings, their book Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA, has given readers an inside view of the inner workings of the Iran-Contra affair and the resulting Whitewater scandal.
By attempting to poke a hole through the heavily cloaked veil of government corruption, Reed and others like him have discovered that a mission of truth-seeking can be inherently dangerous if not fatal. Unfortunately, investigative reporter Danny Casolaro learned that lesson too late.
For over a year before his death, Casolaro was running down leads on an operation he termed the "Octopus." In a proposal he wrote for his upcoming book, Behold, A Pale Horse, he was prepared to expose an international cabal made up of "thugs and thieves who roam the earth with their weapons and their murders, trading dope and dirty money for the secrets of the temple."
According to Danny Casolaro's brother, Dr. Anthony Casolaro, the Octopus was not a secret organization but a group of individuals that participated in clandestine operations for profit.
"He didn't envision them as a group like the Mafia, but more as a network... They would overlap when their needs coincided," said Dr. Casolaro. "Using the analogy, BCCI would be one arm of it. The 'October Surprise,' Danny said, was literally just another arm. Inslaw is yet another arm."
Iran-Contra was yet another tentacle in Casolaro's Octopus.
Casolaro began to develop his theory while investigating the Inslaw scandal. Inslaw was the name of a small computer company owned by William and Nancy Hamilton who, in 1982, signed a $10 million contract with the Justice Department to install their PROMIS software into offices of forty-two U.S. Attorneys. Incurring heavy debt, Inslaw obtained a loan to complete the contract, but upon installation the Justice Department refused to pay, thus forcing them into bankruptcy.
At the same time, a close friend of then-Attorney General Edwin Meese, Earl Brian, had a controlling interest in a competing computer company called Hadron, Incorporated. Brian was linked to covert operations with the United States and Israeli intelligence communities and reportedly worked for the CIA.
Previously, Hadron's chairman had attempted to purchase the PROMIS software from Inslaw but they had refused to sell. After Inslaw sought refuge in Chapter 11, pressure from the IRS forced Inslaw into Chapter 7 liquidation which would open the door for Hadron to acquire the PROMIS software.
The Hamiltons and their attorney, former U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson, filed a civil suit claiming the Justice Department appropriated PROMIS to give the software to Earl Brian to raise money for covert actions and to turn it over to the National Security Agency for marketing to foreign intelligence services. The PROMIS software was designed to keep track of law enforcement cases, but could also be used to keep tabs on political dissidents.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Bason, who ruled in favor of Inslaw in the civil trial, awarded the Hamiltons $6.8 million and found, in September 1987, that Justice Department officials "took, converted and stole" PROMIS through "trickery, fraud and deceit."
Muscle within the Justice Department was allegedly flexed again, however, with Judge Bason's reappointment to the bankruptcy. Two years later, Judge Bason's ruling was appealed to the U.S. District Court where Judge William Bryant upheld the decision.
In May 1991, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. reversed the findings, claiming that bankruptcy courts lacked jurisdiction over the matter.
Motivated by media attention, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations conducted a Congressional investigation into the theft of the PROMIS software and into problems in Chapter 11 courts.
The Senate report stated its inquiry was hampered by Justice Department's lack of cooperation and that it had found employees "who desired to speak to the subcommittee but chose not to out of fear for their jobs." The Senate committee was therefore forced to conclude that there was no basis for the charges, and no action was taken against any employees of the Justice Department.
During Casolaro's investigation into Inslaw, he met CIA operative Michael Riconoscuito, who claimed that he had participated in a joint venture in weapons manufacturing, financed by the CIA, between Wackenhut Corporation, a security company run by former intelligence and military officials, and the Cabazon Indian Reservation in southern California.
He stated that he had been given the PROMIS software for modification by Earl Brian, and was now being framed with reportedly trumped-up amphetamine charges by the federal government.
Riconosciuto also claimed that, in connection with this work on the Cabazon Reservation, he had been involved with the development of chemical and biological weapons in a project connected with Park-O-Meter (POM), the parking meter company owned by Seth Ward.
He claimed these weapons were for the Contras, and were designed for the C-130 transport planes [which] were at the time carrying weapons and drugs in and out of Mena, Ark. He further stated that he had supervised high-tech equipment transfers and had developed computer software to help launder drug money emanating from the Mena operation.
He related that POM received the first loan granted under the state authority known as the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA) in the amount of $2.75 million. In a signed affidavit submitted into a federal court proceeding, Riconosciuto stated "that the Wackenhut-Cabazon joint venture was intended to support the needs of a number of foreign governments and forces, including forces and governments in Central America and the Middle East. The Contras in Nicaragua represented one of the most important priorities for the joint venture."
Riconosciuto asserted that all scandals overlap, and Casolaro, who gave Riconosciuto the title "Danger Man," was introduced to the underground world of "spooks." Amid investigating the related scandals, a pattern of mysterious deaths also began to emerge.
Alfred Alvarez and two of his friends were killed in July 1981. They were part of the Cabazon Indian Reservation, and opposed the takeover of the reservation by the Wackenhut Corporation.
While seeking evidence for Riconosciuto relating to the Inslaw case, private investigator Larry Guerrin was killed in Mason County, Washington, in February 1987.
On February 6, 1989, in the San Francisco Bay area, attorney David Meyer died from a gunshot wound. The next day he was to have appeared in District Court, defending clients who were reportedly tied in with CIA drug trafficking activities. An activist, Meyer sought to expose links between Iran-Contra, the Justice Department, the CIA, and others.
Attorney Dexter Jacobson was killed on August 14, 1990, just before he was to present evidence of rampant Chapter 11 judicial corruption to the FBI.
Attorney Gary Ray Pinnell was killed on February 11, 1991, just before he, too, was to present [evidence of] Chapter 11 corruption to the FBI.
On January 31, 1991, the body of Alan D. Standorf was found in the back seat of a car parked at the Washington National Airport. Standorf was a source of information to Casolaro and had been introduced to him by Riconosciuto. It is believed that Standorf, an electronic intelligence employee for the National Security Agency, was a key source for some of the information linking the Justice Department to the various scandals.
Attorney Dennis Eisman was shot to death twenty-four hours before he was to meet with Michael Riconosciuto. Eisman was building a defense for Riconosciuto against the charges filed by the Justice Department prosecutors as they sought to silence him.
On June 19, 1991, Alan Michael May was found dead in his San Francisco home. May had reportedly been involved with Michael Riconosciuto and the movement of $40 million in bribe money to the Iranians, in the operation known as the "October Surprise."
Casolaro began to receive death threats, but they did not deter him from his investigation, as he set off for Virginia where he was to meet an informant. Before leaving, however, he gave his brother, Dr. Anthony Casolaro, important instructions. "He told us... if there was an accident and he died, not to believe it."
On the morning of August 11, 1991, Danny Casolaro was found dead in the bathroom of his hotel room at the Sheraton Hotel in Martinsburg, West Virginia. His wrists had been slashed ten times; his briefcase and notes were missing. The authorities labeled the death a suicide, and before Casolaro's family had been contacted, the body was embalmed.
Following Casolaro's death, Hamilton's attorney, Elliot Richardson, called for a federal investigation. "It's hard to come up with any reason for this death, other than he was deliberately murdered because he was so close to uncovering sinister elements in what he called 'The Octopus'."
A congressional subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law, of the Committee on the Judiciary, held hearings on Inslaw and the related death of Danny Casolaro. The House Judiciary Committee received the same stonewall treatment from the Justice Department as had the earlier Senate committee. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh refused to appear before the committee and refused to let Congress review Justice Department files.
The final House report, released September 10, 1992, accused Justice Department officials of criminal misconduct and recommended the appointment of a special prosecutor. Attorney General William Barr refused to appoint a special prosecutor, but appointed Chicago attorneys Nicholas Bua [CN -- Our friend, Judge Nicholas J. "Call Me Nick" Bua; pronounced BOO-ahh], Charles Knight, and five Justice Department prosecutors, to investigate the Justice Department's misconduct.
He then impaneled a federal grand jury to conduct an investigation. After listening to a considerable amount of evidence, Bua dismissed the grand jury and quickly impaneled another one. A group named Citizens Committee to Clean Up the Courts charged that Bua and Knight were impeding the investigation and covering for the Justice Department. The group filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, naming Bua and Knight. While the investigation droned on, the pattern of mysterious deaths continued.
On November 1, 1992, the bodies of Gail Spiro and her three children were found in their Rancho Santa Fe, California, home. Death resulted from gunshot wounds to the head. Three days later, the body of Gail's husband, Ian Spiro, was found dead in the front seat of his Ford Explorer in the remote California desert. Authorities said the cause of death was cyanide poisoning, and then ruled Ian Spiro had murdered his wife and children and then taken his own life. Spiro reportedly had connections to the CIA, and had been involved in various operations. He was helping Michael Riconosciuto collect documents to present to a federal grand jury conducting hearings into Inslaw when he died.
Jose Aguilar, a tree trimmer who occasionally worked at the Spiro home, was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head on November 14, 1992.
Peter Sandvugen, who was helping Michael Riconosciuto defend himself against the Justice Department, was found dead on December 2, 1992. Sandvugen was reportedly part of a special CIA team during the '80s; the circumstance of his death raised questions, as the gun he always carried was found without the ammo clip.
In June 1993, Nicholas Bua [CN -- Bua is reportedly now under investigation himself by a grand jury in California] sent the report of his investigation to the Justice Department, exonerating Justice Department officials [and] stating that there was no truth to any of the charges regarding the Inslaw case. The Bua report stated facts absolutely contrary to the findings of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge, the U.S. District Court Judge, and the Congressional investigation.
Attorney for Inslaw, Elliot Richardson, issued a statement on June 18, 1993: "What I have seen of [the report] is remarkable both for its credulity in accepting at face value denials of complicity in wrongdoing against Inslaw, and for its failure to pursue leads making those denials implausible."
A month after the Bua report was released, the body of investigator and attorney Paul Wilcher was found under mysterious circumstances. Wilcher was seeking to expose Iran-Contra, the October Surprise, BCCI, and the Inslaw scandals. At the time of his death, he was investigating gun-running out of Mena, Ark. Shortly before his death, he wrote a 105-page letter to Attorney General Janet Reno describing evidence that he allegedly had concerning the aforementioned scandals. The first page of his letter stated in part: "The lives of key participants, other witnesses, and even myself, are now in grave danger as a result of my passing this information on to you. If you let this information fall into the hands of the wrong persons... some or all of those who know the truth... could well be silenced in the very near future."
Wilcher's body was found in his Washington, D.C. home on July 23, 1993. The coroner's report, made after the autopsy, could not find or didn't report the cause of death.
In December of 1993, the FBI began again to review the circumstances of Danny Casolaro's death, and a review of the Inslaw case was then ordered by then-Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell, then the third ranking official at the Justice Department. Press reports were silent as to why the case was being reopened, but Hubbell's connection to his father-in-law's company POM [Park-O-Meter] had already been reported in The Nation, The Village Voice, and to Mark Swaney, the head of a University of Arkansas student group responsible for a petition drive to investigate drug trafficking at Mena.
One month after reopening Inslaw, Hubbell was forced to resign his position at the Justice Department. POM's admitted jobs for the Pentagon and questionable finances at the ADFA remained obscure in mainstream media reports as Hubbell's representation of POM became the official reason for his resignation.
The Rose Law Firm declared that Hubbell had failed to provide documentation for expenses charged to the firm, and POM had lost $1 million in litigation fees. This was done when Hubbell pursued a patent infringement case which he took on a contingency basis for his brother-in-law, Skeeter Ward.
Critics have charged that then-Governor Bill Clinton passively resisted investigating the Mena operation and POM, but a less passive reason for his inaction emerged when the Octopus tentacle pointed toward the Inslaw affair.
An octopus is defined as a mollusk that has a soft body and eight tentacles around its mouth. These tentacles are joined by a web. On the underside of each tentacle lie two rows of powerful sucker disks. The octopus seizes and holds its prey with these disks, then sweeps it into the jaws of its mouth.
Upon examination, it seems that tentacles of Danny Casolaro's octopus were also joined by a web, and many unknowing victims have been swept into the jaws of its mouth.
I encourage distribution of "Conspiracy Nation."
Coming to you from Illinois -- "The Land of Skolnick"