by Kenn Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org) - June. 07, 2001
Editor's Note: Kenn Thomas publishes Steamshovel Press, the conspiracy theory magazine. Four issue subscription: $23; single issue: $6, from POB 23715, St. Louis, MO 63121. The Octopus: The Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro (Feral House, 1995), written with the late Jim Keith, is also available. A revised and updated edition is scheduled for 2002 publication.
Because circumstances have shrouded Danny Casolaro's death in mystery, the single aspect of his research that led to it may never be known for certain. Hotel workers in Martinsburg, West Virginia found the writer dead in August 1991 in what looked like a faked suicide.
The "head's up" warning flashed among students of the conspiracy culture when they learned that files he had on him were missing and the details of his investigative work slowly emerged from friends, family and fellow investigators. Casolaro previously had previously had warned these same people not to believe any reports that might have fallen victim to an "accident." The fishy circumstances of his death and the probable motivations of his possible killers remain obvious.
Danny Casolaro sought to document and expose sea of covert operatives, super-surveillance software and transnational spies. He called the monster he saw swimming in that sea "the Octopus." It consisted of a group of US intelligence veterans that had banded together to manipulate world events for the sake of consolidating and extending its power.
Of course it involved the Kennedy assassination, but that was just one of many coups and assassinations pulled off by the Octopus since the end of World War II. The group had come together over a covert operation to invade Albania that was betrayed by famed British turncoat Kim Philby. The Octopus had overthrown Jacob Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. It had targeted operations against Fidel Castro culminating in the Bay of Pigs. It also had tentacles in the political upheavals in Angola, Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Chile, Iran and Iraq.
Casolaro had as his main concern Octopus involvement with putting Ronald Reagan in power--the infamous October Surprise--and the role that played in introducing the PROMIS software into police systems around the world.
Casolaro's catalogue of membership in the Octopus included such notorious spooks as John Singlaub and the late CIA director William Colby. As heads of the Phoenix assassination program in Vietnam they had implemented an early version of the PROMIS tracking software to keep tabs on the Viet Cong. Other Octopus tentacles included characters like E. Howard Hunt and Bernard Baker, who later emerged as Watergate burglars.
Casolaro focused on one person in the periphery of the Octopus as it had developed in the early 1980s, a man named Earl Brian, crony to Reagan's attorney general Ed Meese. Brian had been given PROMIS to sell illegally as a reward for paying off Ayatollah Khomeini to hold on to American hostages until the Carter presidential re-election campaign clearly was doomed. According to Casolaro, Meese used the US Justice department to steal PROMIS from its developers, the Inslaw group, which had its connections to the Phoenix program and also had developed the software at least in part on public money. Two congressional committees eventually agreed, however, that Inslaw was the legal private owner of PROMIS when the US Justice department shanghaied it and Earl Brian profiteered by selling it to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Interpol, the Mossad and other international police agencies as well as to the military. One application of the modified PROMIS included the ability to track Soviet submarines in previously untraceable marine trenches near Iceland.
If coded correctly, PROMIS could interface with other databases without reprogramming, giving ability to ostensibly track criminals-but also, potentially, political dissidents--through the computer systems of various police agencies. Casolaro's informant, Michael Riconosciuto added to this the claim that he had personally reprogrammed PROMIS with a backdoor, so it could spy on the methods of the police agencies that were using it for tracking. This gave it added appeal as a covert tool. The US could spy on the very agencies it was selling the software to illegally.
Earl Brian's role in the PROMIS theft was spelled out explicitly by Inslaw lawyer Elliot Richardson, another Watergate figure in The New York Times in 1992. Richardson was the attorney general who actually stood up to Richard Nixon's corruption during the Saturday Night massacre. Brian sued over the New York Times article and lost. Richardson had written the article to encourage investigation of the case, but Brian used the opportunity to start a nuisance libel suit. On November 29, 1995, the New York Court of Appeals dismissed Brian's claim and declared that Richardson's assertions came under free speech protections.
Although never prosecuted over the PROMIS allegations, Brian survived only one more year after the libel suit before other past shady deals began to catch up with him. In October 1996 a California jury convicted him of Federal bank fraud, conspiracy and lying to auditors. Prosecutors charged that Brian had drafted documents to conceal losses of the Financial News Network and United Press International, for whom he served as chief executive, in order to obtain $70 million in bank loans for his other concern, a biotyechnology firm called Infotechnology.
Interestingly, the pattern of financial impropriety in the case was identical to one that happened on assassination day, November 22, 1963. Someone named Tony DeAngelis misrepresented his holdings of thousands of tons of salad oil with faked American Express warehouse receipts in order to get bank loans. The fraud's exposure was the top news story in the New York Times editions that came out before the assassination on that date. Many people profiteered from the short-selling spree on the markets consequent to that and news of JFK's murder, including American Express magnate Warren Buffet and a transnational entity called Bunge Corporation, known in the financial literature of the time. as The Octopus. In a classic work on the JFK assassination, Were We Controlled?, pseudonymous author Lincoln Lawrence argues that DeAngelis, Jack Ruby, and Lee Harvey Oswald were all mind-controlled in their actions on that day. I produced an edition of this book, with an expanded introduction and photographs, as the book NASA, Nazis & JFK: The Torbitt Document and the JFK Assassination (Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 1997). Add to that the fact that Earl Brian at one time a brain surgeon, and the other Watergate-Inslaw connection, E. Howard Hunt, had a phone relationship with Casolaro, has also been connect to mind control operations, and the Casolaro story takes some extremely interesting speculative turns.
Casolaro's informant Michael Riconosciuto claimed that he had made his modifications to PROMIS on the tribal lands of the Cabazon Indians in Indio, California as part of a joint project the tribal administrators had with a private security firm known as Wackenhut.
Wackenhut provides security services to the notorious secret airbase Area 51. After Danny Casolaro turned up dead and his current research file missing, other notes found at his apartment later clearly indicates his interest in the famed Nevada super-spook facility. The history of the base, of course, is now well-known: it had been around since before it was used to develop the U2 spy plane in the late 1950s and early 1960s, later the SR71 Blackbird and later still, the mysterious Aurora super-plane. As Casolaro made his notes about it, however, it had not yet become the subject of popular lore that it is today. Nevertheless, Casolaro devoted pages of notes to Area 51.
One theory had it that Casolaro's death had less do with the Octopus than it did with manufacturing fraud at Hughes Aircraft, a company that has a long history of exclusive and secret deals with the US government for aerospace technologies, many almost certainly involving Area 51. Casolaro had brushed up against this corruption in his pursuit of his Octopus spook group. A contact he made the day before he died, Bill Turner, gave him documentation of the fraud at Hughes. Turner noted that Casolaro added these papers to the ever-present accordion file of current research. After they found Casolaro's body, Turner got himself arrested on a bank robbery charge in order to remove himself from any further involvement.
The joint venture between the Cabazon Indian tribe and Area 51's Wackenhut did exist, at least between 1981 and 1983, and Michael Riconosciuto certainly was involved with it at least in some capacity. A report from a task force of the sheriff's office of Riverside County, California placed Riconosciuto at a weapons demonstration with Earl Brian ("of the CIA") put on by the Cabazons and Wackenhut.
Riconosciuto also claimed that he had a tape documenting threats made against him by another Justice Department official, but he had thrown it in a marsh near Puget Sound the night he was arrested on trumped up methamphetamine charges. Casolaro spent many days searching the Puget Sound bog to no avail, looking for the tape that ostensibly could verify the claims of "Danger Man," Casolaro's nickname for Riconosciuto.
The Puget Sound location was significant because of its proximity to a famous early UFO event, the 1947 Maury Island incident. That event--six flying saucers seen by harbor seamen that left behind slag debris-had been witnessed, or hoaxed, by the business partner of Riconosciuto's father, a man named Fred Lee Crisman. In the 1960s, Crisman was subpoenaed by New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison as part of his investigation of the Kennedy assassination. Some researchers claimed that Crisman was one of the "railyard tramps" arrested near Dealy Plaza on November 22, 1963; others note that he possibly gave refuge on his Oregon ranch to a member of the Minutemen, an early militia group investigated by the Warren Commission.
Little suggests that Casolaro knew of the Crisman connection, or of the significance it might hold for what he already knew about Area 51 and the other secret airbase that held his attention, Australia's Pine Gap.
Pine Gap is the top secret American underground base located near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of the land down under, officially known as the Joint Defense Space Research Facility. It was built in 1968 officially to share program data with the Australians.
Renowned intelligence defector Victor Marchetti, who served in the CIA director's office from 1966 to 1969, now acknowledges that he co-authored the secret agreement between the agency and the Australian Department of Defense on the establishment of the Pine Gap station. Officially, it monitors spy satellites and intercepts and decodes broadcast communications between foreign powers unfriendly to the US. One of Pine Gap's important functions is to monitor geostationary satellites for wide ranging information on enemy telemetry, radar emissions and telecommunications.
Opposition from the Australians to the base grew as its nature as an espionage facility outside of Australian control became clear. In his book Crimes of Patriots (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 1987), author Jonathan Kwitny demonstrates that covert manipulation led to the early end (in Australia of the administration of Labor Party prime minister Gough Whitlam because of his opposition to Pine Gap. Casolaro noted with aggravation Kwitny's inability to see the tentacles of the Octopus in the affair. "It didn't take many people to design the apparatus that would insure the renewal of the lease for the Pine Gap installation near Alice Springs, Australia," Casolaro wrote.
"After all, how could a democracy spit up a Prime Minister that could sack the security of the Western Alliance?"
Indeed, Whitlam was rousted after his public complaints about intelligence agency deceptions over the tragic US policy in East Timor, and the CIA's funding of Australia's right-wing Country Party [AKA National Party], as well as his opposition to Pine Gap. Whitlam was not driven from office by an election, but was removed [this event is known as "The Dismissal"], on a technicality--just as George Bush, Jr. "won" the 2000 election in the US on a court-imposed technicality--by a governor-general he had appointed, one who had strong ties to the CIA [and represented the British Commonwealth].
No doubt the paranoia about this destabilization of the Australian government by the US fueled rumors about the underground Pine Gap base involving alien/government collaborations, rumors that Danny Casolaro knew about that were very similar to what he was hearing about Area 51. Certainly the base's potential for surveillance also triggered his interest as well. PROMIS had been used in tracking Soviet submarines; might it also be used to track Soviet satellites? One report told of a Moscow summit conference in 1972 during which an early Pine Gap satellite picked up limousine radio-telephone conversations between Soviet missile designers, Andrei Gromyko and Leonid Brezhnev that revealed a missile secretly being kept from SALT negotiations.
Back on the Area 51 front, Casolaro was hearing rumors that Michael Riconosciuto had worked for Lear Aircraft in Reno, Nevada. This connected him to Bill Lear, creator of the Lear jet, who is often claimed by UFO buffs as having done research on anti-gravity for the government as well as John Lear, a former CIA pilot who also hit the UFO circuit with tales of saucers and aliens in cahoots with the US government. It is now becoming distant history, but back in 1989, a man named Bob Lazar went public with his claims that he had back-engineered alien spacecraft at Area 51. Lear and Lazar lectured widely on the UFO circuit in the late 1980s and early 1990s, along with other UFO lecture celebrities like Bill English and William Cooper. Cooper's classic, Behold A Pale Horse (Flagstaff AZ: Light Technology Publications, 1991), shared the title of the first draft proposal of Casolaro's manuscript that eventually became The Octopus.
After Casolaro's death, Michael Riconosciuto made claims that Casolaro had learned nothing more than what one of two intelligence factions wanted him to know in order to embarrass the other faction. One faction was called Aquarius and had a leadership sub-group called MJ-12, the name, of course, of the supposed secret group founded by Harry Truman in the wake of the Roswell flying saucer crash. Riconosciuto even told one writer that he had witnessed the autopsy of an alien body. This was long before the famous [Ray Santilli] alien autopsy film began to circulate. Some have suggested that the tales of extraterrestrials that surround areas like Area 51 and Pine Gap serve as disinformation to deflect attention away from serious issues such as gun-running and black project weapons development. Casolaro's own view, and the extent of his knowledge and interest in this tributary from the Octopus research, and whatever he learned that might have brought the truth closer to the surface of the murky waters in which he swam, may have died with him.