A comment by Soj just reminded me of a conspiracy theory that many believe to be true. And remember, just because it is a conspiracy theory does not mean you need to wear a tinfoil hat. For years people who claimed the CIA and DoD had conducted biological experiments on human test subjects and on cities were called conspiracy kooks. Later the CIA and the military admitted to such tests.
Danny Casolaro worked as a freelance journalist before he was found dead in a Martinsburg, W.Va. motel room.
His death has been the subject of numerous books, a play, countless newspaper and magazine articles and thousands of web pages. Unless you’ve ever had an interest in conspiracy theories, you’ve probably never heard of him.
I personally believe he was on to something big and was murdered.
Casolaro tied many of the darker aspects of the 1980s and 1990s together. Call it government as criminal enterprise (I can’t remember who coined the term first). But Casolaro traced many different “tentacles” back to a group of high leading federal and business leaders. He called it “The Octopus.”
Here’s some background information onThe Octopus for those not familiar with it.
Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro
by Kenn Thomas and Jim Keith
Review by Jon Roland
Danny Casolaro called it “the Octopus”. A vast, interlocking network of criminal conspiracy that reaches into every branch and agency of the U.S. government, many other national governments, and every sector of our societies.
An investigative reporter seeking the truth, Danny told his friends he was meeting an informant to “bring back the head of the Octopus” when his body was found in a hotel in Martinsburg, West Virginia, on August 10, 1991. Much of the evidence he had gathered was missing. The death was ruled a “suicide”, but the evidence supports murder. He never had the chance to write the book he was working on. This is an attempt to finish the book Danny started, based on his surviving notes and further investigation.
Critics will say that this book contains much material that is unconfirmed. The authors admit this, but much of the information is of a character that does not lend itself to confirmation, unless we some day kill the Octopus and dissect its tentacles. Nevertheless, the pieces do fit together to create a coherent picture, albeit an incomplete one. Much work remains to be done to bring the full truth to light. This book can provide a foundation for further investigation.
Casolaro’s investigation began with his inquiry into the case of Inslaw, from whom the U.S. Justice Department stole a software package called PROMIS and sold it to governments and financial institutions around the world, after modifying it to provide a back door by which they would track the movement of money and other assets everywhere.
In investigations it is an old rule that you “follow the money”, but in this case we can track the spread of the PROMIS package to follow the people who are following the money, and in so doing, exhibit the links in the network of criminal influence around the world and back to their origins, the way a physician might use an angiogram to reveal the blood flows in a human body.
Along the way the authors touch on virtually every kind of criminal enterprise and official corruption and abuse. They tie it all together in what is, if nothing else, the most complete and complex conspiracy theory yet developed, and one that is perhaps the best supported by available evidence. If even a part of this is true, it demands the attention of every responsible person. There is no escaping this monster. Either we kill it or it will kill us.
Much of this material will be familiar to investigators, reformers, and conspiracy buffs. But Thomas and Keith have found some new material and put the pieces together in some new ways that make sense. Time will tell how much of it is true. But the evidence, if not all valid, certainly needs to be explained.
As conspiracies goes, Casolaro’s death fits in with all of the big ones: Area 51, BCCI, the savings and loan scandal, the 1980 “October Surprise” with the Iranian hostages, and the Cabazon Indian reservation.
So it’s just the conspiracy fringe that believes this, right? Well, not really. Since it was a journalist, a number of legitimate news organizations looked into his death and came to the conclusion that he was on to something and he was murdered. The Village Voice even named who they concluded committed the killing, a shady mercenary type who was never charged so I won’t name here (no reason to get BooMan Tribune sued in the first month).
The Columbia Journalism Review published this story on his death:
THE OCTOPUS FILE
by Phil Linsalata
Linsalata is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Joseph Daniel Casolaro’s family and friends buried him on August 16. Less than a week later, feeling a little like a vulture, I joined a handful of reporters at Nightline’s Washington headquarters to pick over the notes and files left behind by the forty-four-year- old Washington free-lancer known to his friends as Danny.
His brother Anthony, a doctor in suburban Washington, had gathered the materials and given them to Nightline after staff members there offered to keep the documents safe. Dr. Casolaro also agreed to allow some of the reporters who had been working the same ground as Danny to go through the files.
As he spoke with each reporter, the doctor encourage continued investigation. he raised the possibility that his brother had been murdered in his hotel room in Martinsburg, West Virginia, challenging the statement by Dr. James Frost, West Virginia deputy chief medical examiner, that the physical evidence held “nothing inconsistent with suicide.” Somehow, authorities had failed to notify family members until almost two days after the death. In the meantime, a preliminary ruling of suicide had been issued, clearing the way for a thorough cleanup of the scene and the embalming of the body, which would make a later autopsy more difficult.
One hope was that a review of Casolaro’s papers might shed light on the question of murder or suicide. What was Danny doing in Martinsburg? Who was the source living near there who, Danny claimed, would bring him a breakthrough? If he intended to commit suicide, why had he driven hours from his suburban Washington home? Where were the files he carried with him, the ones he’d been seen with on the last afternoon of his life? And where was the research and hard evidence for Casolaro’s book-in-progress? If he had gathered such evidence, it wasn’t readily apparent in the material.
The files did include different versions of his book proposal, including one promise to deliver, “by the end of this year, the most explosive investigative story of the 20th Century.” His working title was The Octopus, and he described its tentacles in the proposal: “This story is about a handful of people who have been able to successfully exploit the secret empires of espionage networks, big oil, and organized crime. This octopus spans the globe . . . to control governmental institutions in the United States and abroad.” Carnacki’s note: Sounds like the neoconservatives?
The book project, financed out of pocket, was Casolaro’s attempt to trace a single thread through a patchwork of scandals. He endeavored to document appearances by the same handful of individuals in a series of seemingly disparate stories, ranging in subject matter from arms trading to illegal covert operations by American intelligence figures to the financial support for those operations mustered through various banks. These include such scandals and alleged scandals as the “October Surprise,” in which, the unproven theory goes, the Reagan-for-president team made a deal to trade arms, via Israel, to Iran, if Iran would hold its America embassy hostages long enough to insure Jimmy Carter’s defeat; the Iran-contra affair, in which the Reagan administration has admitted trading arms to Iran in an effort to bargain for subsequent hostages; and the burgeoning mess surrounding the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), a bank Casolaro saw as one of the financial conduits that make other scandals possible.
Any one of those stories, of course, is a challenge for America’s best journalists. Casolaro wanted to tackle them all. So the reporters poring over his files in Nightline’s third-floor office were hoping that the boxes might yield clues that would illuminate one of the many sensational stories intersected not to the found.
There no tapes interviews or disks. In the back of two worn notebooks were pages of sources and their phone numbers. Casolaro was disorganized — he admitted that himself — but, as many of his sources agreed, he was unparalleled in drawing them out.
Casolaro’s body was found in the bathtub of his room at the Sheraton Inn in Martinsburg. His wrists were slit. Also in the room was a brief suicide note — “God will let me in,” it concluded — a half-empty wine bottle, some beer bottles, and some shards of what might have been a drinking glass. And there was a single-edge razor blade, the kind used for scraping paint.
The cause of Casolaro’s death may be forever reserved for so many conspiracy theories. But the path he followed to Martinsburg can be traced past some strange and fascinating people.
In the middle of Casolaro’s reporting universe stood William and Nancy Hamilton, owners of the Inslaw computer software company. The Hamiltons, who now live outside of Washington, D.C. are St. Louis native, a fact that would attract my paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. They are a suburban couple who have made a family tradition of bringing their children every four years to watch each president swear his oath of office. These days they are a study in disillusionment.
Their story begins in the 1970s at the Institute for Law and Social Research, a nonprofit company Hamilton ran that pioneered computerized case-managment systems for criminal-justice agencies. When the grants that fueled the institute dried up in 1981, Hamilton converted it into a for-profit corporation called Inslaw in order to develop his own copyrighted software. His reputation quickly grew, and when the U.S. Justice Department decided it needed to overhaul and computerize its entire case-managment system, Inslaw was a logical choice to develop the software. In March 1982, Hamilton won a Justice contract which he valued at more than $ 10 million, and immediately began to gear up for the job.
Within a year, disputes erupted between the two parties over what Hamilton say as new demands. The Justice Department threatened to hold back payments to Inslaw and pressured the company to turn over the copyrighted software, but even Justice’s own lawyers said the department was going too far. In the end, Hamilton agreed to turn over the software for a trial run, and Justice agreed to either pay him for it or promptly give it back. But it did neither, and Inslaw was pushed into bankruptcy court.
During the dispute, in April 1983, Hamilton got a phone call from a corporate executive voicing an aggressive buyout offer. Hamilton refused. When he researched the company that had made the offer — Hamilton, Inc. — he found that it was controlled in large part by a former Californian named Earl W. Brian, a political crony of Edwin Meese and Ronald Reagan.
Brian has an interesting background. He heads Infotechnology, a parent company that extends over an empire that at various times has included United Press International, Financial News Network, and The Learning Channel. A physician and decorated Vietnam veteran, Brian was once the youngest-ever director of the California Health and Welfare Agency, under Governor Reagan. There he cut back the department’s services and weathered a string of controversies.
Before he left the department, Brian awarded a substantial research contract to the University of Southern California. According to The Sacramento Bee, his replacement at the state agency arrived to find more than 1,000 state computer tapes missing. They showed up at USC. And, after an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate, Earl Brian joined the faculty there.
Brian’s name broke into the news again in Washington in 1984 as part of the investigation of Edwin Meese by independent counsel Jacob Stein. Meese was cited for failing to disclose his financial interest in Biotech Capital Corporation, another company controlled by Brian.
The Inslaw bankruptcy case slowly snaked through the courts. In January 1988, U.S. bankruptcy judge George F. Bason, Jr., ruled that the Justice Department had never intended to live up to its agreement to return or pay for the software and that, in fact, justice “stole” it by “trickery, fraud, and deceit.” (Bason, one of the few bankruptcy judges not to be reappointed, now believes he became a casualty of the case. In 1990 he testified before the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the Inslaw affair and related matters, that he has “no doubt . . . that the Justice Department itself did manipulate the [appointment] process.”)
Judge Bason ordered the Justice Department to pay Inslaw $ 8 million. The department appealed, only to lose again in district court in 1989. The government persisted, arguing anew before the court of appeals, which in may 1991 threw out the five-year-old case on purely procedural grounds, ruling that the dispute should never have gone before a bankruptcy judge in the first place. (That ruling came one day before a deadline at which the Justice Department would have been forced to release copies of all its software to the Hamilton, as part of Inslaw’s efforts to discover whether its stolen software was being used in various branches of the Justice Department). In October the Hamiltons asked the Supreme Court to hear the case.
Back in early 1990, the Hamiltons were actively looking for interested journalists who could keep their story alive. First, they found Casolaro; later, my editors assigned me to Inslaw. Casolaro dropped in frequently at the offices in the northwest quarter of Washington, D.C., and I met Danny there in December of 1990.
Taken by the David and Goliath story, Casolaro wanted to know why the Justice Department would bother to steal software from Inslaw and try to force the small corporation into bankruptcy. He came to believe the Hamilton’s early theory: friends of Meese in the Justice Department fabricated disputes in the execution of the $ 10 million contract and pirated the potentially lucrative software so that it could be shifted to Meese associates.
But what really intrigued Casolaro — and my editors at the Post-Dispatch — was an entirely new set of accusations. These came from impossible to establish. The source was Michael Riconosciuto, and he claimed advanced skills in arms technology, covert currency transfers, electronic surveillance, and computer science — including software design. These skills, he claimed, made him a favorite among intelligence operatives in need of assistance.
Riconosciuto declared that someone in the Justice Department had stolen Inslaw’s software, called Promis, and given it to American intelligence operatives for resale in the international intellegence market. He later said he had been hired to alter the software prior to these sales.
Promis was designed to manage and track complicated cases through the manifold layers of criminal-law bureaucracy — from investigation to arrest to grand jury, trial, and, in the event of a guilty verdict, prison and parole. It could deliver myriad details at the push of a button. Slightly altered, it could easily become a powerful tool for monitoring intelligence cases, dissidents, and even citizens at large. As such, William Hamilton reasons, it would be of value to any number of regimes.
In recent months, the Hamiltons have charged that Promis had been illegally distributed to military and intelligence agencies in Iraq, Libya, South Korea, Singapore, Israel, Canada and other nations. This is a scenario that would never have occurred to the Hamiltons until Riconosciuto laid it out in the spring of 1990.
Early on, Riconosciuto told Casolaro that the software had been traded for cash, with some of the money going to reward American intelligence figures for services redered, and the balance going into slush funds for future operations outside the purview of Congress. Casolaro asked his newfound source what deeds had been done to warrant such payment.
“I told Danny that one of the services rendered was orchestration of the 1980 release of the American hostage in Iran,” Riconosciuto told me.
In the early part of 1991, the news pack pursuing this October Surprise theory was still relatively small. Frontline’s Robert Parry was at work on the first of his reports, The Election Held Hostage, which would run in April. Former National Security Council staff member Gary Sick’s now-famous op-ed piece in days later that month. And Casolaro had been hard at work, logging “more than 100 hours” on the phone with Riconosciuto in late 1990 and early 1991, according to Riconosciuto.
Riconosciuto went public in March, saying he believes the Hamiltons deserved justice. Late that month he delivered a sworn affidavit in the Inslaw litigation, claiming that a former Justice Department official had threatened him with criminal prosecution if he continued to talk about the Inslaw case. He also copy of Inslaw’s software for distribution to intelligence agencies in Canada.
Less than a week after news of the Riconosciuto affidavit broke, he was arrested by federal agents near Tacoma an drug charges. He immediately claimed that he had been “set up” in relation for speaking out on Inslaw and that he had proof — a recording of the former Justice Department official making the threats referred to in the affidavit. Carnacki’s note: Doesn’t that sound familiar? Casolaro flew to Washington state in hot pursuit.
He returned doubting that the tape existed. Still, he said, the trip was not a complete waste. He had brought back some of Riconosciuto’s files, a batch of documents and correspondence relating to another bizarre story, one in which Riconosciuto’s role was much more clearly documented. It involved the Cabazon Indians, a sovereign tribe of fewer than fifty residents on a reservation in the desert of southern California. There, Riconosciuto had worked with a group of people loosely allied under a joint business venture with the tribe. The business deal was simple: money for the tribe in return for use of the reservation as a research base, testing ground, and marketing facility for weapons ranging from fuel-air explosives to night-vision goggles. Visitors to the reservation, according to Riconosciuto, included mercenaries, intelligence operatives of all stripes, and some of the same characters who later went on to orchestrate the Inslaw affair.
Soon, Casolaro came to see the reservation as part of an interconnected series of events — an octopus.
As Casolaro searched for Riconosciuto’s missing tape near Tacoma, I chased another source to another setting. Lexington, Kentucky, was the temporary home of Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli intelligence officer who had moved there after his acquittal in New York on arms trading charges in December. The federal government had accused Ben-Menashe of conspiring to sell three transport planes to an undercover federal agent. He spent a year in prison awaiting trial, but when he finally came to trial the jury acquitted him, after he brandishes a diplomatic passport as evidence that his activities had been sanctioned by Israel and documents showing that the planes in question actually belonged to the Israeli government.
After his year in prison, Ben-Menashe was ready to talk. An Iranian Jew of Iraqi parentage who attended an American school in Tehran and moved to Israel at age fourteen, he is convinced that he would be arrested if he returns there to see his child or former wife, since he had given away government secrets. During his stint in Lexington, he often stayed up all night talking to reporters calling from time zones on the opposite side of the world. Profoundly cynical, he describes himself as a man who personally brokered billions of dollars in weapons to Iran in support of an Israeli plan to foster protracted hostility in the Iran-Iraq war.
His story dovetails with Riconosciuto’s: both say the software was sold to foreign intelligence agencies; both say it was traded via the same back-door channels used for weapons sales in the Iran-contra affair (channels that they claim opened with the October Surprise deal in 1980); both say Earl Brian played a role.
And, like Riconosciuto, Ben-Menashe eventually entered part of his story into the record of the Inslaw case, and reporters began to pick up on it. Brian’s denials were adamant. He had never met Riconosciuto, he said, and had no idea who Ben-Menashe was. While the Hamiltons claimed that a Brian-controlled company had tried to acquire Inslaw in 1983, he insisted he had never heard of Inslaw or Promis software until much later, when he read of the case in the media.
But Ben-Menashe stands by his claim that in 1989, as special consultant for intelligence affairs in the Israeli prime minister’s office, he was told by a Chilean arms manufacturer that the Chilean had “brokered a deal” between Brian and “a representative of Iraqi military intelligence” for the used of Promis.
Two years before, in 1987, according to Ben-Menashed’s affidavit, he was present when Brian told a gathering at Israeli intelligence headquarters in TelAviv that the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Department of Justice were all using versions of Promis. Brian had given the software to Israel for use by its intelligence forces.
Having stirred the pot, Ben-Menashe left for Australia this spring when his visa expired. By that time Nightline, The New York Times, and a fair number of other outfits had joined the renewed exploration of the October Surprise theory. As the affair took on a higher profile, President Bush took note. “Stop repeating rumors over and over again . . . it’s sickening,” he snapped in May.
By degrees, meanwhile, news reports have been coming up these puzzles — the alleged sale of Inslaw’s stolen software, various illegal arms transfers, and the October Surprise. But I found that publishing my stories on these topics came at a price — reliance on sources Casolaro once described as “trained in the fine art of deception.”
Despite the frustrations that came with dependence on the undependable, Casolaro struggled to stay abreast. While news teams with expense accounts traveled abroad, he endlessly worked the telephone, sometimes picking up tantalizing leads. He always seemed to find something new to buoy him up and spur him up.
David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation and one of the reporters interested in the Casolaro case, says he is sometimes frustrated by a phenomenon in which sources repeat each other’s information. “Intelligence people call it blowback,” he says.
Janis Winogradsky, a Los Angeles-based producer for Australia’s Nine Network, also finds the problem of deceptive sources “maddening.” In October she completed a piece based on claims by Riconosciuto that he was hired to alter the Inslaw software, installing a “back door” so that the sellers could be passed to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization and the American intelligence figures who who passed it to them could have access to their computer files.
“On one hand you have people like the Hamiltons,” she says. “They are the salt of the earth — normal, centered, family-oriented people who find themselves in the middle of quite an incredible web. And you can place confidence in their attorney [former attorney general Elliot Richardson, who has tremendous credibility. I also found Judge Bason very sincere.
“Then you have the people on the fringe, people like Michael Riconoscuito and Ari Ben-Ben-Menashe,” she says. “They seem to have an extraordinary ability to very quickly internalize a piece of information. Whatever they hear, whatever they see, then becomes firsthand knowledge. So whatever they say, they express with the same amount of conviction.”
As she burrowed into the Inslaw affair, Winogradsky experienced moments of doubt. “On the plane to Washington I turned to my reporter and wondered if I’d missed the whole point on this story,” she says. “The network had spent a ton of money. I was left with this horrible fear: What if my editors looked at this as a $ 40,000 romp?”
Ultimately, she concluded that her story was worth the effort. “We don’t have a smoking gun. I do not have a document saying Australia has the stolen software,” she says. “But I to have a tremendous amount of circumstantial evidence.
“So we can put out the allegations on both sides and say, Look, there may be something here . . .”
Riconosciuto’s claims of “back door access” that allowed the CIA to tap into all of the Promis software turned out to be true. But he also claimed that Wackenhut — the largest private army in the world and major Bush supporters — played a major role in assisting the Contras in the 1980s. Now the Freepers like to cite Casolaro and several of the many figures surrounding his case as part of Clinton’s “hit list.”
The reality is every conspiracy tied to him points back to their beloved President Reagan and the Bush family.
As noted above, most of Casolaro’s notes disappeared after his death.
But not mentioned on the story above is that on one of the pages found were the words “CIA,” “alien,” “shadow government” and “Zapata.”
OK, Casolaro went off the deep end, right? Well, maybe not. Wackenhut, which had ties to the CIA through Iran-Contra, also has the contract to provide security for Area 51 where Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunkworks and other military aircraft are tested.
But what of the term “alien?” Only the tinfoil hat wearers believe we may possess UFO technology, right? Well, that depends on who you believe. Nick Cook, the aviation editor of Jane’s Defense Weekly — not exactly a fringe publication — wrote a book, “The Hunt for Zero Point,” detailing his maddening search to determine the truth and eventually concluded that the possibility does exist.
Zapata may refer to Zapata Off-Shore Co., owned by George H.W. Bush. The shipping company provided two vessels for the Bay of Pigs invasion, the “Barbara” and the “Houston.”
But shadow government? Who knows what that could possibly mean?