Be patient, spread the word among friends, do your little bit. The system will self-destruct because it is funded on corruption and untruth.
"Nothing is as it appears to be."
-Robert Booth Nichols
It was evident that when the body of freelance writer Danny Casolaro was found in a bathtub full of bloody water on August 10, 1991, his wrists deeply slashed multiple times that it was already a highly unusual "suicide'. That he was in the final stages of wrapping up his investigation of an association of mobsters, government officials and rogue intelligence figures grown out of a dirty CIA "Old Boy network"that he had dubbed The Octopus and that his body was discovered in a Martinsburg, West Virginia hotel room where he had gone to pick up the final piece of evidence for his story made his death all the more suspicious. The fact that his briefcase and files (always present during his work) were missing, his body prematurely and illegally embalmed prior to the notification of his family and room 517 of the Martinsburg Sheraton professionally cleaned, making any sort of law enforcement forensic investigation prohibitive are not signs that would indicate a typical suicide. Casolaro, according to sources was not despondent but rather quite elated that his investigation was nearing completion when he had made the trip to "bring back the head of the octopus" where he was reportedly set to meet a key figure and to trade information that he had in his possession . There was a 'suicide' note found at the scene but it was short and cryptic, not what a professional writer would likely leave as his final words. There was however, another piece of paper that was found tucked inside of his discarded shoe that would prove to be far more compelling. The mystery surrounding Casolaro is still to this day unsolved and unfortunatley, largely forgotten, but through the dedicated work of others who were able to pick up the trail and to continue his research into this most important of matters there have been enough pieces of a very elaborate puzzle put together, and the picture is extremely disturbing.
One of the researchers, who has worked tirelessly over the years, at times under great risk to get the real story is author Cheri Seymour, a California based writer who picked up the baton and carried it further and continued to interview Casolaro's sources as well as to expand his scope. Her laboriously researched and now completed book entitled The Last Circle (published by Trine Day) was recently released and provides what is to date the most detailed and damning analysis of The Octopus. Seymour provides a fascinating account of events surrounding not only Casolaro's investigation but also takes a look at the trickery and deceit of figures within the Reagan Department of Justice and the theft of the Inslaw Corporation's highly sophisticated PROMIS software program. Described as a precursor to artificial intelligence and the highly technical computer systems of today the story of PROMIS would come to figure prominently in many of the most disturbing aspects of our current system of what is at least for the moment, a soft fascism where Big Brother style surveillance and control, financial chicanery of the highest order and the ominous contingency plans for government reactions to potential domestic unrest are ubiquitous yet they remain largely unnoticed by the average American citizen. Thanks to a cunning and relentless shadow government and a controlled media, most have no idea that they are inside of a rapidly closing trap. Seymour's book which is subtitled Danny Casolaro's Investigation into The Octopus and the PROMIS Software Scandal is a must read for those who truly have a serious understanding that something in this country has gone terribly wrong.
The Last Circle of the title refers to the bottom level of Dante's pits, the area that is populated by the real scum, those who were traitors to their country, friends and lords; at this point in late 2010 this pit must have a multi-year waiting list given the wanton and systemic criminality in our rotting Empire. For a subject as important as the Casolaro research, the PROMIS software story, The Octopus and the huge reverberations forward into our current and thoroughly corrupt high-tech militarized surveillance state there has been little written outside of dated magazine and newspaper articles and one book. While bits and pieces are scattered throughout many books based on larger subjects such as BCCI and Iran-Contra, Casolaro's Octupus has only prominently been featured in one book to my knowledge that even attempted to do it justice, Kenn Thomas and Jim Keith's The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro. While a draft internet version of The Last Circle which has been available on the internet for years and has provided invaluable material to serious researchers the completed version of The Last Circle is a must read, not only for the updated additional information but for the large appendix of well over 100 pages of of images and official documents including some of Danny Casolaro's own handwritten notes. It is such a detailed and meticulously researched book that it is truly impossible to even begin to do it justice in any sort of short review. I will however try to offer up a high-level overview of the incredible story presented by Cheri Seymour.
The Last Circle begins with the story of how Seymour who was at the time working as a reporter for the Mariposa Gazette came to realize that local law enforcement figures were involved in drug trafficking. The dark, snaking trail that is described runs through our hidden history and corrupted institutions like the roiling river Styx. Cheri Seymour picks up the trail with a bizarre accident during the Queen of England's 1983 visit to Yosemite National Park when a routine scouting of the Queen's motorcade route resulted in a head on collision between a local Sheriff's car and a car driven by members of the U.S. Secret Service. The accident resulted in the deaths of three Secret Service agents. The Mariposa County Sheriff's officer, Sergeant Roderick Sinclair was found to to have been under the influence of illegal drugs. Three years prior to the accident, Sinclair also had previously investigated the disappearance and presumed drowning of whistleblower deputy Ron Van Meter, a law officer who had been outraged at having discovered drug trafficking within the department. Cover-ups occurred as they typically do in such matters and Van Meter's death was attributed to a boating accident (he had borrowed the boat to arrest fellow deputies at Lake McClure), the body was not recovered at the time of the incident. Ten years after the "accident", his body was recovered, wrapped in a fish net and weighted down by several objects including a fire extinguisher.
Subsequent research revealed that Sinclair had connections and powerful ones at that. His father had been an aide to General Douglas MacArthur, the vaunted WW II leader of forces in the Pacific who became a hero to the more virulent elements of the far right after being dismissed by President Truman during the Korean War. Members of the general's staff, most prominently Charles Willoughby in the postwar period became integral in the Cold War and the "ends justify the means' ideology that would define the jihad against the Red Menace of Communism that served as blanket justification for immorality and lawlessness from which The Octopus would be birthed. With anti-Communism as a cover and with the postwar creation of the National Security State and the CIA it very quickly became possible for connected insiders to engage in great acts of criminality and atrocity in order to fund off the books operations and enrich themselves while expanding their dark reaches into the global narcotics and drug trade. The fight against Communism provided justification for alliances with former Nazi war criminals who were assisted in escaping justice by U.S. intelligence and then sent to the Eastern Bloc as well as Latin America to protect the ability of U.S. corporations and banking interests to ensure that countries would stay "business friendly' which translates into torture, coups, black ops and most importantly riches. But I am getting ahead of myself.
With growing evidence of the collaboration of local officials and the out of control drug trade that included burgeoning methamphetamine labs and a strange connection through a subsidiary of mega-corporation MCA (the Curry Company was the largest concessions company in Yosemite National Park, hit hard by drug distribution activities at the time); concerned residents of Mariposa County mobilized and attempted to use the legal system to address the very serious problems of illegality that existed. Local groups were formed and lawsuits filed, a letter was written to then President Ronald Reagan by the wife of attorney Ben Wagner who was to represent citizen's group D.I.G. (Decency in Government) in District Court. In one of the more eerie passages from this very disturbing book Ben Wagner received a response from a "Chuck" at the Reagan White House who scheduled a meeting with him, a secret meeting per White House request. Seymour writes that "However, the day after meeting with "Chuck", Wagner unplugged his phone and walked out on his law practice and his home in Jackson California, taking nothing with him except his clothes and has wife, never to be seen again". There are many similar stories of those who have gotten too close to the truth when investigating this intricate web of spooks, mobsters, corrupt government officials and their activities, some have simply disappeared, others have met with strange demises, suspicious accidents and "suicides', the pattern is a consistent one.
Seymour's investigation led her to a retired FBI agent named Ted Gunderson, a figure who seems to often appear in some of the most sordid and scandalous investigations in recent history who in turn led her to The Octopus. On the basis of earlier material that was provided by Gunderson on the drug trade to the since disappeared Wagner for use in the case against drug trafficking cops, Seymour called him and a meeting was set up at Gunderson's home in Manhattan Beach. After the meeting, Gunderson gave the author a series of newspaper clippings and documents, many of which dealt with Danny Casolaro and his investigation of The Octopus. There was also material on Inslaw and PROMIS, Iran-Contra activities, financial scandals including the Savings and Loan crisis and defense contractor the Wackenhut Corporation. The next day Seymour received a collect call from a man named Michael Riconosciuto and he had a tale to tell. Calling from jail in Tacoma, Washington Riconosciuto provided her with the names of people who were in charge of methamphetamine operations in Mariposa and Fresno Counties. When asked who was behind the ring he revealed something much larger and more sinister than would have been imaginable:
"It's the Company. Arms get shipped to the Contras, the Afghanistan rebels [Mujahaden], the Middle East. You know, to fight the Soviet influence. But the Contras and Mujahaden don't have the money to pay for the arms, so they pay with drugs, cocaine or heroin. The Company handles the drug end of it in the U.S. ""
The bombshell unleashed by Riconosciuto cut right to the heart of The Octopus, and his entanglements with it were numerous. He divulged that was incarcerated as a result of corrupt Justice Department figures seeking to discredit him for his affidavit provided to Inslaw's attorney Elliott Richardson for the purpose of providing the House Judiciary Committee that was investigating the theft and illegal modification of Inslaw's PROMIS software with pertinent. In the affidavit, Riconosciuto admitted that it was he who had modified the software to include a "back door" which would allow for remote users to access information on the host computer. The software, once modified was then sold by Reagan administration cronies to foreign governments where it was used for reasons of espionage. Prior to the affidavit, Riconosciuto had been contacted by a Peter Videnieks of the Justice Department threatening him if he were to cooperate with the Judiciary Committee probe that there would be consequences. Eight days after the affidavit was filed Riconosciuto was arrested for allegedly running a meth lab. Videnieks would himself come under scrutiny in a U.S. Customs Department Internal Affairs probe for potential perjury and other activities. He had also been at DOJ as a contract administrator during the time of the PROMIS theft and modifications and had alleged but never completely proven ties to dirty figures in the Reagan administration.
Riconosciuto stated that he had altered the software largely on the Cabazon Indian Reservation in Indio, California where the Wackenhut Corporation and the tribe had a joint-venture to use the sovereign lands for weapons testing, for sales to Latin America and other overseas destinations. It was a prefect situation, the reservation provided cover for variety of endeavors including the development and testing of arms including a fuel air explosive, biochemical warfare agents and other armaments that could be provided to third world regimes, primarily to right-wing governments in Latin America. It was an oversight free zone and a haven for spooks, paramilitary figures including Contra leaders such as Eden Pastora during Reagan's dirty wars south of the border during the 1980s. In his book The Crimes of a President , author Joel Bainerman described the reservation as a "CIA cutout" which would be consistent with the type of activities that were conducted there . Riconosciuto was a technical wizard, a child prodigy who at the tender age of 10 had wired his parents neighborhood with a private telephone system and who won numerous science fairs in his youth. A computer expert who at some point became attractive to intelligence figures and who later became a critical figure in the dark trades practiced by the shadowy operatives of the National Security State. Riconosciuto was also a major source for Danny Casolaro.
The story of the PROMIS software, an abbreviation for Prosecutors Management Information System is complicated and full of the sort of intrigue that would normally be found in a Robert Ludlum or Tom Clancy novel. Developed by Inslaw Corporation's Bill Hamilton, PROMIS was designed as a legal case management tool where cases could be tracked and with over half a million lines of computer code was an innovative and unprecedented piece of high-technology for its time. The program was capable of integrating numerous databases and was to have been sold by Inslaw to the U.S. Department of Justice to replace the antiquated system in use at the time. However, Inslaw's contract with the government was subverted by corrupt figures within the Reagan Justice Department who conspired with a Reagan and Edwin Meese crony named Earl Brian (long alleged to be associated with the October Surprise) who then used legal trickery to steal the PROMIS software and drive Inslaw into bankruptcy. The software, after being stolen was modified by Riconosciuto and then distributed by Brian and others to various foreign countries including Israel with the modification allowing intelligence figures to engage in espionage using the back-door feature. The flag waving, drug-running Reagan National Security Council aide Colonel Oliver North also saw much potential in using PROMIS for the surveillance of American citizens as a function of the infamous REX 84 program, a subsidiary of FEMA and the Continuity Of Government contingency plans that were solidified during the Reagan years. Recently, there were two critical articles that referenced the use of PROMIS and derivatives in regards to current day shadow government contingency plans for the tracking and rounding up of potential dissidents, these being Christopher Ketcham's The Last Roundup and Tim Shorrock's Exposing Bush's Historic Abuse of Power, both referenced in my own series on the abuse of the software by the shadow government entitled Main Core, PROMIS and the Shadow Government.
The use by extreme reactionaries to assist in the implementation of a fascist police state infrastructure, the spying on foreign countries including U.S. allies (which has just been confirmed once again as a matter of policy with the recent Wikileaks data dump and the mandate to collect biometric and credit card data on United Nations officials) and the use of surveillance for control and political blackmail were not the only functions of PROMIS. More darkly, the program could work very well in the laundering of money from illegal narcotic trafficking, the manipulation of financial markets and for the benefit of corrupt government officials in providing intel to organized crime figures. Another Casolaro source, Robert Booth Nichols, a suave dashing sort of a no-holds barred uber spook whose activities and work facilitated some of the most sinister elements of what author Peter Dale Scott refers to as the "Deep State" figures prominently in the saga. Nichols, a man who had connections between both legitimate government, shadowy intelligence figures and organized crime figures is a key figure in The Last Circle. Smooth enough to be retained for sensitive foreign intelligence affairs by the U.S. government and ruthless enough to hang a man upside down in front of a whirring airplane propeller as a method of persuasion, Nichols is like a character straight out of central casting, more on him in a little bit.