An old can of worms and CIA lies
Earlier this week, Ronald Kessler opened an old can of worms for the FBI. In the course of his research he discovered that several FBI reports about the death of Vincent Foster have gone missing from the National Archives. The reports in question allegedly deal with then First Lady Hillary Clinton’s role in driving Vincent Foster to suicide. The information from these reports, like other information relating to the Whitewater investigations, never made it into the Starr Report. This raises similar concerns to whether or not the FBI’s information about Filegate and the First Lady’s involvement made it into the public record as well. While it’s easy to see the missing information as focusing solely on Hillary Clinton, there’s no reason to believe those are the only files which have disappeared. Declassified CIA documents reveal other players and a cover-up that included lying to Congress about Vincent Foster, Barry Seal, Iran-Contra and the Inslaw case.
If there’s a good guy in this particular story, it’s former Representative James Leach. During the Saturday Night Massacre of the Nixon administration, Leach resigned in protest. After being elected to Congress, he took part in the Congressional October Surprise investigations which were undermined and misled by CIA. When Whitewater arose, he was a key player in the investigation. As a Chairman of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee he was dedicated to the questions of banking ethics that arose in the Whitewater scandal. He was particularly concerned with questions of the Agency’s involvement in affairs related to the Whitewater investigation, including allegations of banking irregularities in Arkansas. These issues touched on Iran-Contra, money laundering centering around Mena Arkansas, Oliver North, Barry Seal, the CIA and the death of Vincent Foster. At the center of it all was a company called Inslaw and a software program known as PROMIS.
Leach wanted to get to the bottom of it and either verify or disprove the claims that were being made. In addition to the allegations about money being laundered, there were accusations that modified versions of PROMIS were being used to monitor bank accounts and aid in the money laundering process. These allegations came from a number of sources, but the most unique was Chalmer Charles Hayes, known as Chuck Hayes to his friends. Online, however, he had a different nickname – the Angel of Death. He earned this nickname from a series of news stories posted in the early days of the internet by financial expert J. Orlin Grabbe. Before being in contact with Grabbe, Hayes was a source for the journalist Danny Casolaro who died under suspicious circumstances. Hayes claimed to be a CIA operative and technical expert who was used for special hacking jobs by the CIA and the NSA.
The Fifth Column
Hayes claimed that in response to Danny’s death, malfeasance by the NSA and corruption in U.S. politics he and a small group of other hackers formed what became known as the Fifth Column. The Fifth Column allegedly began raiding financial accounts for corrupt politicians and business figures. While this remains uncorroborated, Hayes was able to convince others that there may have been truth to what he was saying. His testimony before Congress was sealed, but through Grabbe, Hayes continued to make statements about the involvement of the theft and modification of PROMIS software, NSA hacking, Systematics (later known as Alltel) and its owner Jackson Stephens. According to Hayes and Grabbe, the Systematics contracts were overseen by Vince Foster and Hillary Rodham Clinton of the Rose Law Firm. Hayes also claimed to have evidence of a transfer of $286,000 to Vince Foster’s family days before the man’s death.
Some of the claims seemed outlandish. Recent revelations have cast the accusations of government hacking and financial tracking in a different light, however. The claim that “Mike Wallace was paid $150,000 by the DNC to do the CBS 60-Minutes hatchet job on those questioning the official story of Foster’s death” seems less impossible in the new light of some of the DNC emails. Other details, however, have been confirmed by declassified documents. In one of his articles, Grabbe claimed that James Leach had written a letter to the Director of the NSA asking questions about the issue. CIA documents confirm that this letter was sent to both the NSA and the CIA, using the exact wording provided by Grabbe.
While there had been unease around the death of Vincent Foster since it happened, it wasn’t until a senior editor at Forbes magazine, James R. Norman, tried to publish an article entitled “Fostergate” that the conspiracy theories and cover-up spun into high gear. When Norman wrote the White House Press Secretary providing them with an opportunity to comment, the White House was initially silent. According to Grabbe, “the White House did not respond until April 25, 1995. However, on April 20, 1995, a copy of this letter was leaked by White House counsel to Mark H. Tuohey III, an assistant to Kenneth Starr, a prosecutor leading an ‘independent’; investigation of events related to Whitewater.” When the White House did respond, they unilaterally objected to the article and that if Forbes did publish it, the White House insisted that first “the Editor of Forbes have a pre- publication meeting with Jane Sherburne of the White House Counsel’s Office and the personal representative of the President and First Lady, David E. Kendall of Williams & Connolly.” The article was subsequently spiked.
According to the article, Vince Foster had been under investigation for espionage. He had allegedly maintained nearly $2,750,000.00 in a secret Swiss account at the Banca Della Svizzera Italiana, an account which was subsequently drained by the Fifth Column. The hackers had supposedly found Foster’s Swiss accounts while probing Mossad files in Israeli networks. Some of these claims have been confirmed by multiple sources. Vince Foster’s connection to the NSA and covert funds allegedly goes back to his time at Rose Law Firm when he, Hillary Clinton and Webster Hubbell represented Jackson Stephens and Systematics. Like Vince Foster, Webster Hubbell went on to work for the Clinton Administration. Among other things, he was responsible for vetting appointees including CIA Director Jim Woolsey. As a result of the Whitewater scandal, he was ultimately forced to resign.
Foster, according to Norman, had become “a silent, behind-the-scenes overseer on behalf of the NSA for a small Little Rock, Arkansas bank data processing company. Its name was Systematics Inc.” Foster’s links to covert arms and drug transfers along with the covert movements of money had been discovered by Bob Bickel, an undercover Customs Investigator. Many of Bickel’s papers and communications with Danny Casolaro have been recovered and will be explored in future articles. It’s also known that Foster was in possession of several NSA files at the time, which appeared to deal with the emergency and continuity of government plans. The modern versions of these plans had been initiated by Oliver North.
The article, which was eventually published by Media Bypass, implies that Foster committed suicide or was killed because of the espionage investigation and the ties to covert arms and narcotics transfers.
The Iran-Contra/Barry Seal Connection
Included in those covert arms and narcotics transfers were the Iran-Contra dealings and drug smuggling by Barry Seal, much of which was coordinated from Mena, Arkansas. Information on the Barry Seal case has remained sketchy for years. Both the DEA and CIA are reluctant to release any materials on the matter, and the released DEA file on Barry Seal leaves out a great deal of information – particularly about his high level cartel connections and his cooperation with the DEA. The fact that he was an informant for the DEA has been confirmed publicly by his former DEA handler, Ernst Jacobsen. Jacobsen, along with other DEA officials, had discussed the DEA’s relationship with Barry Seal in Congressional testimony in 1988. However the DEA has not released any paperwork confirming this relationship.
Following the testimony, neither Agency would comment on the subject. When James Leach eventually demanded a briefing and answers to questions about Barry Seal’s relationship with CIA and DEA, the Agency lied and denied that any existed. Declassified CIA documents reveal that not only was there a relationship, it went to the heart of the Iran-Contra affair.
Following a drug conviction, Barry Seal approached the DEA with an offer to cooperate. He would be willing to use his connections and resources to gather information about the heads of several cartels (including Pablo Escobar) as well as government officials. The DEA ultimately agreed, and Barry Seal became an informant. In the ensuing case, Barry Seal traded for a C-123K cargo plane, which was then upgraded and repaired by a large Pentagon team.
According to testimony from Ernst Jacobsen, the plane was then fitted with hidden surveillance cameras by officials from CIA. The Agency has not publicly confirmed this and when briefing Representative James Leach about the matter they denied having any relationship with Barry Seal or of knowing of any government relationship with Barry Seal. However, a CIA document from 1988 shows that the Agency had admitted to staffers from the Subcommittee on Crime of the House Judiciary Committee that they had installed the cameras and were aware that Barry Seal was a DEA informant.
The camera was installed by none other than Dewey Clarridge and a person who documents suggest was a CIA officer from the Office of Technical Service installed the camera. Dewey Clarridge was a senior operations officer for the Agency, and was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. After his indictment, he was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush for his part in the extralegal affair. Oliver North was also briefed on the affair, and is suspected of being the White House aide who leaked the story. CIA had previously wanted to leak the story, but was convinced by the DEA to hold off. Not long after, the story leaked and ended the DEA’s most significant investigation into the cocaine cartels, one capable of completely dismantling their leadership and supply lines.
It was at this briefing Oliver North not only suggested releasing the information to the public, but ending the operation and redirecting the remaining resources to the Contras.
The Israeli Connection
Several sources of information outline the Israeli connection and hint at some of what Vince Foster may have been involved in. One of the earliest sources comes from then Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Robert Gates. In an Employee Bulletin that was marked “ALL PORTIONS CLASSIFIED SECRET,” he acknowledges that the Israelis were responsible for moving money for the Agency in the Iran-Contra affair.
The fact that the stolen PROMIS software was involved in this was confirmed by former Israeli agent Ari Ben-Menashe.
While Ari Ben-Menashe’s credibility has been called into question by some, his statements are confirmed by Rafi Eitan himself and memorialized by Gordon Thomas in both his book and affidavit.
An FBI counterintelligence investigation into Robert Maxwell confirms that he sold software to the United States’ weapons labs at Sandia and Los Alamos. The Israeli spymaster who chose to use Robert Maxwell, Rafi Eitan, was also responsible for the theft of nuclear material from Apollo, Pennsylvania. As extensively documented by Roger Mattson, this was not only essential to jump starting Israel’s nuclear weapons program but was covered up by high ranking CIA officials. Rafi Eitan was also the handler for Jonathan Pollard, which the “Fostergate” article by James Norman theorized was connected to the sale of modified PROMIS software to Sandia and Los Alamos. According to the article, Pollard could have used the software to obtain targeting data for nuclear missiles before Israel had its own satellite capabilities.
Plausible Deniability, Please
The Agency had already been obstructionist in their handling of these issues with the public and members of Congress, but their briefings to Representative James Leach on the matter show they actively sought to cover-up the issue and subvert the Congressional inquiry on Whitewater and the questions from James Leach on a number of issues. A memo sent out to department and division heads just two days before James Leach’s briefing date provides some insight into the Agency’s view of the inquiry. The introductory paragraph explains that they had tried to prevent the inquiry, but that the commission “will not back off.”
The memo ends with language that seems designed to provoke plausible deniability. The action requested is not for the results of a search to be sent, but rather for confirmation that no information exists and that no investigation had been made.
CIA Lies to Congress
When it came time to brief Representative James Leach and by extension the House Banking Committee , the representative from NSA was almost entirely silent except for providing some background on day to day NSA operations. The CIA officer was sent to deliver information that the Agency knew to be false, despite being familiar with the questions in advance.
Every one of those answers, with the possible exception of the one to the IRS question, was a lie. As shown above, the Agency installed the cameras in Barry Seal’s plane and was aware of his status as a DEA informant. Despite the fact that the Agency had seemingly asked for plausible deniability about Barry Seal, their notes reveal that when preparing to answer the question they were, in fact, aware of CIA’s involvement in installing the cameras.
There is no question that the Agency was aware of the fact the plane flown by Barry Seal in the sting operation was the same one that was shot down. It was, in fact, public knowledge at the time and had already been confirmed by Congress in 1988, seven years before the briefing.
There is no reason to believe that the Agency told the truth in its other answers about Vincent Foster or Inslaw and the PROMIS software. Many of their answers, and even some of the questions, remain classified. The answers that have been declassified and the internal discussions about the matter give the distinct impression that the sole purpose of the briefing was the make sure it was the last briefing. Nevertheless, after two years of perseverance James Leach was able to force the CIA to disclose some of their activities around Mena – just not all of them. In the end, all they would confess to was some classified “joint-training operation with another federal agency” and contracting for “routine aviation-related services.”
Whatever lie they told to Representative Leach about PROMIS, however, remains classified.
Declassified documents, however, have begun to tell the real story. You can read some of them below.