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The Last Circle resurrects Octopus mystery

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The Last Circle, By Cheri Seymour (TrineDay LLC, Walterville, Oregon, 2010, 584 pages.)

Book Review by Dennis Moore October 1, 2010

(San Diego) Former investigative reporter Cheri Seymour, a San Diego County resident, has written a non-fiction thriller to end all thrillers.

The Last Circle is ripped from the headlines of one of our era’s most controversial murder scandals: the killing of investigative journalist Danny Casolaro, whose discoveries about a shadowy organization that he dubbed “The Octopus” reached into the Mafia, the Cali Drug Cartel, and even the U.S. Department of Justice.

Casolaro, a Washington D.C. journalist, began his probe with an investigation into the theft of a revolutionary new software program that was actually the forerunner of artificial intelligence. It was called PROMIS, or Prosecutor’s Management Information System, and it was contracted by the U.S. Department of Justice to upgrade the DOJ’s outdated case management system.

Casolaro worked closely with Bill Hamilton, owner and developer of the PROMIS software, to locate and identify the persons responsible for illegally modifying the software, installing a backdoor or Trojan Horse in the program, and selling it worldwide to foreign countries—thus allowing the U.S. government to secretly monitor intelligence operations in those countries. But Casolaro learned more than he bargained for.

The PROMIS software investigation led him into a labyrinth comprised of international spies, drug traffickers, money launderers, and unsolved murders dating as far back as 1981. He called this the “Octopus” because its tentacles reached into every facet of criminal enterprise, including the Mafia and the Cali Drug Cartel. In August 1991, Casolaro filled his briefcase with documents and headed out to Martinsburg, Virginia to “bring back the head of the Octopus,” according to his closest friends who said he was “ecstatic” about something he had recently uncovered. He never returned.

He was found dead at a Martinsburg hotel on August 10, 1991. The coroner ruled his death a suicide, but all his documents and briefcase were missing from the hotel room and never recovered. Three months after Casolaro’s death, Seymour jumped on the investigative trail he left behind, and 18 years later, his story and Seymour’s are revealed in this riveting book, The Last Circle.

One of the most provocative outcomes of this 18-year on-and-off investigation was the discovery that five days before his death, Casolaro had uncovered a connection between Mike Abbell, a former Director of International Affairs at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and the Cali Drug Cartel in Columbia. Seymour provided that information to a U.S. Customs Agent in 1993; he followed up on that lead, and in 1995 Mike Abbell was indicted for money laundering, drug conspiracy and racketeering for the Cali Cartel.

The indictment was published on the front page of the Washington Post, but the story behind the indictment is published in The Last Circle. That is what Seymour’s book is about, the story behind the story. Seymour recalled that on February 19th, 2000, the stalwart, soft-spoken Mountie of the RCMP, Sean McDade visited Seymour at her southern California home and explained that high-ranking Canadian officials may have unlawfully purchased the PROMIS software from officials in the Reagan-Bush administration.

RCMP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, had reportedly traced some banking transactions that supported this claim. If his investigation was successful, he said, “it could cause the entire U.S. Republican Party to be dismantled and more than one presidential administration would be exposed for their knowledge of the [PROMIS] software transaction.” The scope of Seymour’s book includes behind-the-scenes dynamics of a globe-trotting undercover intelligence operative named Robert Booth Nichols.

Nichols’ labyrinthine career encompassed the covert operations of a maze of politicians, NSC, CIA, and DOJ officials, organized crime figures, intelligence agents, arms sales, drug-trafficking, high-tech money laundering, and the death of Danny Casolaro. Seymour states in her book that Nichols was aptly described in magazine articles as “Clark Gable without the ears,” tall with probing brown eyes, his demeanor simultaneously controlled and dramatic with an international flavor.

He’d been the weapons technical advisor for Steven Seagal’s movie, “Under Seige,” and it became apparent why Seagal gave him a cameo appearance as a military colonel in the movie. At times reading like something out of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Supremacy, Seymour’s book is an investigative thriller that points fingers and name names all the way up to its conclusion with the 2009 arrest of a self-described Mafia “hit-man” contracted to kill a Cabazon tribal leader in 1981 who had opposed both development on tribal lands of the first Indian Casino in California and the terrible weapons of Wackenhut.

Through law enforcement investigators from agencies as far-ranging as the FBI, U.S. Customs, police and sheriff’s departments, and even the RCMP national security division, Seymour learned that the official head of the Octopus resided in the U.S. Department of Justice, supported by an out-of-control presidential administration. Its tentacles were comprised of a cabal of “Old Boy” cronies, true believers, who held that the end justified the means in their obsession to quell the expansion of communism in neighboring countries and throughout the world in the 1980s.

They gave corruption a new meaning as they stampeded through the Constitution and acted like cowboys toward the intelligence community, blazing new trails into drug cartels and organized crime while simultaneously growing new tentacles that reached into every facet of criminal enterprise.

The theft of high-tech software (PROMIS) for use in money-laundering and espionage, illegal drug and arms trafficking in Latin America, and exploitation of sovereign Indian nations were just a few of these enterprises.

Mind you, the high-tech software (PROMIS) was the linchpin to all the sordid acts and criminal behavior revealed in Seymour’s The Last Circle, including the murder of Danny Casolaro. The Last Circle refers to Dante’s Inferno. Seymour states that there was a last circle represented in Dante’s Inferno, but in retrospect it seems fitting. In 1306 A.D., Dante poeticized nine circles, the ninth being the last level before the final descent into Hell. “The last circle housed those souls who had been traitors to their country, their friends, and their lords.”

Because Seymour had provided a group of law enforcement men and women with the very same information that Casolaro had been working on in the last five days of his life–information that resulted in the subsequent indictment of a former career DOJ official connected to Robert Boot Nichols and the Cali Cartel– Seymour was provided with documents and reports of the best kept secret in Washington, D.C.

These law enforcement people had direct knowledge of FBI wiretaps of Robert Booth Nichols and his associates which had captured (on tape) members of the Gambino and Buffalino crime families, in collusion with the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney general, the highest law enforcement authority in the nation, arranging the shutdown and sealing of an FBI investigation of MCA Corporation in order to facilitate the largest corporate sale in U.S. history to the Japanese.

Seymour states in her book that she was told that there is no one in America who has the power to prosecute the Octopus criminals because the tentacles have become an integral, and accepted, culture within our society and indeed, within our economy. With that in mind, it became clear to Seymour that the only avenue left to expose the history of Octopus was through publishing this book, The Last Circle, because for decades major media, government committees, U.S. Representatives and Senators had ignored the legacy of war, corruption and greed left behind by the Octopus which she says still flourishes today.

This book even includes a reference to the famous “Zapruder” video tape of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, indicating the tentacles of the “Octopus,” and what those tentacles could have people believe. The author quotes Robert Booth Nichols in her book, stating; “Nothing is as it appears to be.”

The intrigue in this book further includes Seymour being targeted for assassination, due to her investigative reporting in affairs of Danny Casolaro and Robert Booth Nichols, among others. She was warned: “They’re going to kill you, if you don’t RUN!”

She did take a brief hiatus in San Diego with her mother after this threat was made. Obviously, she escaped this fate, for I actually sat next to her and talked with her a few weeks ago at a meeting of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild. She impressed me as someone who would go to great lengths to get at the truth. This is an exciting true-life thriller from end to end.

Read more about The Last Circle at Seymour’s website:

The Last Circle book can be purchased through Barnes & Noble bookstores, on the Internet, and directly from Trine Day Publishing, P.O. Box 577, Walterville, OR 97489 – Tel. 1-800-556-2012 – Website:


Written by nuganhand

January 23, 2011 at 1:07 am

The man who knew too much

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Time Magazine – August 26, 1991

Joseph Daniel Casolaro believed he was on to a big story. He also thought it might be a dangerous one. Just a few weeks ago, the free-lance writer told his family in Fairfax, Va., that someone might try to kill him and make it look like an accident. On Aug. 10 he was found dead in a hotel room in Martinsburg, W. Va., where he had gone to meet an unnamed source. There were slash marks around his wrists and a note near his body. It read in part, “I’m sorry, especially to my son.” The official verdict: suicide.

Last week West Virginia authorities were taking a second look. Relatives and friends are insisting that Casolaro, 44, might have been murdered in connection with a book he was writing. In recent months he had been looking into the eight-year legal battle between the Justice Department and Inslaw, Inc., a computer software company based in Washington. Inslaw executives charge that Reagan Administration officials pirated their software, designed for law-enforcement purposes, then sold it. Casolaro believed the Inslaw affair was just part of a much deeper tangle of intrigues that he called “the Octopus.” They included the Iran-contra arms deals and operations of the renegade bank B.C.C.I.

In addition to his claims of high-level conspiracy, Casolaro did research that put him on the trail of some dangerous characters. A key part of his investigations, for example, centered on gambling and attempted arms deals at the Cabezon Indian reservation near Indio, Calif. One figure in Casolaro’s proposed book would have been John Philip Nichols, a financial adviser to the Cabezons, who was sentenced to four years in prison in 1985 for attempting to hire a man to kill two people.

After a few hours of investigation into Casolaro’s death, local police took his body to a funeral parlor. The body was immediately embalmed — though police had not reached his family to get permission. That only heightened his family’s suspicions. “I don’t think Danny was depressed,” insists his brother Anthony, an Arlington, Va., physician, who says Casolaro was convinced that he had succeeded in tying the Inslaw case into “the Octopus.” “My sense was that he was very excited.”

But Casolaro may have had a motive for suicide. In recent months he had been badly in need of money and spoke of refinancing his house. Just before he died, his book proposal was rejected by Little, Brown, the New York City-based publisher that he considered his best hope for getting his work printed. Little, Brown publisher Roger Donald told the writer that his conspiracy notion was not sufficiently well supported by the evidence he advanced.

After Casolaro’s family raised questions, West Virginia authorities performed an autopsy, which found no signs on his body of a physical struggle. But because the body had been embalmed, pathologists may have had difficulty detecting any foreign substances in Casolaro’s blood. “We’re not ruling out foul play,” said Dr. James Frost, deputy medical examiner, “but I have no evidence of it at this time.” Former Attorney General Elliot Richardson, now an attorney for Inslaw, called last week for a federal probe of Casolaro’s death. Perhaps nothing less will put to rest the questions that surround it: Did Casolaro know too much about a shady operation? Or did he know too much about himself?

Written by nuganhand

July 13, 2009 at 11:09 am

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Stalking the Octopus

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Stalking the Octopus
by Stefene Russell

In 1991, when journalist Danny Casolaro was found floating in a blood-filled bathtub with a shoelace wrapped around his throat, the coroner ruled it a suicide. But people who knew Casolaro and knew why he was at the Sheraton Inn in Martinsburg, Va., where his body was found, never believed it was anything but murder.

Casolaro had traveled to Martinsburg to meet with one last source—the one, he said, who would help him cinch up the book he’d been working on for more than a year. He called itThe Octopus, the same term he used to describe the cabal of spies, spooks, crooks and politicians he’d uncovered in his research—a group whose ties he had traced to, among other things, Iran-Contra, the Bay of Pigs, the October Surprise and even Area 51. But whomever it was that Casolaro was to meet in Martinsburg on August 9 never showed up. And on August 10, when two housekeepers found Casolaro’s body in the tub, his fat accordion file of notes (which friends say he took with him everywhere) was conspicuously missing, along with his briefcase.

A few months after his brother’s death, Tony Casolaro collected what was left of Danny’s notes and clippings (the accordion file never resurfaced, and neither did the briefcase), turning them over to ABC News in hopes that the network would follow up on some of the leads his brother had uncovered. When ABC did nothing with the information, Tony took it to a friend at Investigative Reporters and Editors at the University of Missouri–Columbia’s journalism school. The files were placed in IRE’s archives. And that’s where conspiracy researcher Kenn Thomas stumbled on them in 1993.

As it turns out, Danny Casolaro was correct when he guessed that The Octopus would rescue him from obscurity—he just didn’t count on the subtitle of the book being Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro. Penned by Thomas and his late writing partner Jim Keith in 1996, The Octopus is one of the most popular and accessible titles in the conspiracy genre; when the first edition went out of print, it became a collector’s item and was priced for as much as $100 on Thomas and Keith used the thin remains of Casolaro’s research as a starting point (the 2004 second edition even includes an appendix listing the contents of Casolaro’s news clippings file) but also pulled on “affidavits filed by arms merchants and convicted felons; mainstream and non-mainstream political sources, including some that publish messages received from channeled aliens, others notorious for their far-right connections, lite-left leanings and radical chic pose; unattributed sources on the Internet; anonymous samizdat; participants in Casolaro’s investigation; peripheral players; researchers who knew Casolaro; and researchers whose work expanded on the Octopus thesis.” Rather than apologizing for this motley—and not always academic—tangle of sources, the pair simply directed their readers to the copious footnotes, encouraging them to “track these sources and make their own judgments concerning credibility.”

Welcome to the world of conspiracy research, where Christian Libertarians who see the Illuminati’s nefarious influence in everything from world politics to the design of gum wrappers fraternize with ’60s hedonists who never abandoned their mission to fight The Man; add to the mix former military and intelligence personnel, professors, journalists, New Agers, geeks, hipsters, whistle-blowers, snake-oil salesmen, housewives, physicists and, of course, genuine paranoid wing nuts. In the conspiracy world, the red state–blue state rift never occurred. “We may all be nuts,” Thomas told The New York Times in 1995, “but we’re not all the same nuts.” Thomas claims the left wing–right wing division is itself part of the conspiracy—as he told The Riverfront Times that same year, “the real division is the top and the bottom.”

Thomas was born and raised in St. Louis and at first seems an unlikely conspiracy researcher. When he’s not in a suit, he’s at least in a dress shirt, with a neatly trimmed beard and a sort of ease that could not coexist with true raging paranoia. He reminds you of those cool sociology professors you had in college who looked buttoned up from the outside but taught units on the Yippies, included Jack Kerouac and H.L. Mencken on the reading list and screened 200 Motels in class. Thomas, who works as an archivist for the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection at the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ Thomas Jefferson Library, has been a key figure in the conspiracy underground for years; his magazine, Steamshovel Press, has deeply influenced the underground conspiracy movement and also surfaced in mainstream popular culture, from The New Yorker to The X-Files toBaseball Prospectus, which opined that Major League Baseball boasted “enough fishy behavior to keep Kenn Thomas swarming for years.” Thomas even wonders out loud if he and fellow conspiracy newsletter publishers Greg Bishop, editor of the now-defunct Excluded Middle, and Jim Martin of Flatland were perhaps the inspiration for The X-Files‘ Lone Gunmen; in fact, he saw smatterings ofSteamshovel in Mel Gibson’s Conspiracy Theory, too.

“Everything in there, everything this cab driver guy spots, is right out of Steamshovel Press,” Thomas says. “There are two anthologies, basically back issues of Steamshovel. Brian Helgeland, the screenwriter, bought both of those books [Popular Alienation and Popular Paranoia] from Jim Martin at Flatland Press.” Thomas says he’s also seen material from the Steamshovel website show up on TV: “There was a show called Dark Skies on the SciFi channel that mixed in real historical figures with this whole alien story. I did some research one week on Dorothy Kilgallen; the next week, Dorothy Kilgallen was a character on the show. So I write a column about Carl Sagan—in the ’60s Sagan presented a paper to all these rocket scientists on aliens—and the next week, Carl Sagan was a character on the show. So they’re cribbing off the website.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. “I’ve been told many times that I need to go to Hollywood and exploit this,” Thomas laughs. “The thing about living in St. Louis is, for $200 you can go to any city in this country, and L.A.-centered stuff, New York–centered stuff—that’s part of the conspiracy. It’s part of the homogenizing of the world. I don’t want to be part of that. I want a bigger picture. And you have to work harder to live in L.A. I think I’ve stumbled upon the perfect place.”

That perfect place is somewhere up in North County, where Thomas bought a really lovely house—”the Everly Brothers’ family owned it, it’s this 100-year-old Victorian Folk house, and it’s got a huge yard”—but doesn’t want to go into more detail than that. Years ago, he took out a P.O. box and prefers to keep his address on the down-low. Though the first few issues of Steamshovel didn’t attract a lot of attention (the inaugural issue was a stapled-and-photocopied affair, containing a Q&A with Ram Dass [formerly Richard Alpert, who had worked alongside Timothy Leary in Harvard’s LSD experiments] that’d been orphaned after a local newspaper reneged on its agreement to publish it), Thomas says he continued to publish in order to get free review books from publishers, and when he switched to conspiracy topics, he immediately regretted printing his home address on the back cover. Weird people started showing up on his doorstep.

“One of them was an old guy who was just driving across the country and living out of his car,” Thomas says, shaking his head. “The other guy’s actually become a friend of mine and takes me out to the gun range, tries to teach me to shoot. He used to shoot with Burroughs—he went to school in Lawrence. That was another weird little coincidence. It was easy for him to track me down, but this other guy was from Texas …”

Ah, that’s the other thing: co incidences. And Burroughs. Thomas studied literature at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, where he befriended Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs (he spoke at the ceremony when Burroughs’ star was added to the Loop’s Walk of Fame). The second issue of Steamshovel was dedicated to the theories of Wilhelm Reich, the scientist who developed a kind of chi accumulator he called an orgone box. Thomas (who quips that Burroughs became his neighbor … after he died and was buried in Bellefontaine) says he’s noticed that “the grass is lighter around Burroughs’ grave, and I tried to make the case that this is because Burroughs sat in the orgone box every day of his life. He was a Reichian. He had more life energy.” (It could be true; junkies don’t often live to be octogenarians.) Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson, co-author of The Illuminatus! Trilogy, were also friends. So Thomas’ approach to conspiracy is a decidedly literary one; the third issue of Steamshovel featured poet Amiri Baraka, though even then it seems that conspiracy sneaked in somehow: Baraka talked about being the only member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New York; Lee Harvey Oswald was the only member in New Orleans. (Relating this fact makes Thomas roar with laughter.) Much later, Baraka would be jettisoned from his post as poet laureate of New Jersey after delivering an angry, conspiracy-heavy poem about what happened on 9/11.

“But that third issue, Mae Brussell died,” Thomas says. (Brussell was a Jewish housewife in California who put forth her own sort of Octopus theory based on a transcript of the Warren Commission hearings and thousands upon thousands of newspaper clippings.) “Also,” Thomas continues, “there was another magazine called Critique, which was a conspiracy magazine—but that guy joined a cult and changed the magazine to Sacred Fire, and the magazine was dedicated to the homilies of his guru. It was like breakin’ my heart, because I was putting out this free newsletter to hustle some books and I was into poetry, but it looked like the whole conspiracy world was falling apart—what the heck is going to happen? So I did a call for papers—’People who are interested in conspiracy, send me your stuff.’ And then, that must have been ’92, and to this day—I just came from the post office—to this day I get things like this …”

He pulls out a newsletter from The Worldwide Conspiracy of Einsteinian Relativity. The return address is San Quentin Prison. “I haven’t totally read it yet,” Thomas says. “He’s even sent me a photo of himself. Still, the people in prison, I want to say, ‘If you’re so damn smart, what are you doing in prison?'”

It’s actually been a light day at the post office. Lately, Thomas has been keeping a low profile; he has been planting lilies in his yard and swears that now that he has a house, “I just want to be landed gentry for a while.” He has two kids, a daughter in college and a son who’s just on the cusp of high school. It was during a trip to the airport to pick up his daughter that he realized that he didn’t miss his life during the ’90s and early noughts, especially after 9/11—where he regularly showed up on shows like Kevin Nealon’s The Conspiracy Zone or stepped off airplanes only to be greeted by a constellation of flashing camera bulbs. “I remember one time flying into London, and I was received like I was one of the Beatles,” he laughs. “There were flash cameras going off, guys with microphones saying, ‘Can you talk about this, Mr. Thomas …?’ I was blown away. But then there were other times when I used to do the Reich talk—it’s very difficult to talk about, he was a very complicated guy who used his own language and created his own technology, so the talk can sound a little academic. I remember one time going to a conference, doing a little workshop on Reich, where like only six people signed up.”

He doesn’t, he says, miss the rock-star life. He’d rather be planting hostas. After his distributor, Fine Print, went belly-up around 2000, Steamshovel—like many small presses—had a tough time getting distributed, and Thomas didn’t actually print Steamshovel Press No. 23; it’s a PDF. Everything was, rather logically, rolling to a nice, clean stop.

But somehow, this spring Thomas once again found himself getting ready to embark on another rock-star tour: the first stop being RetroCon, a UFO conference held at the Integratron, a stylized, flying-saucer–shaped building constructed in the Mojave Desert in the ’50s by a UFO contactee, George Van Tassell, who swore it channeled positive energy from the universe. Thomas delivered two lectures, one on a UFO sighting at Maury Island in Washington State and one on “Jack Kirby, Conspiracy Theorist.” (Kirby was the co-creator of a number of Marvel Comics heroes, including the X-Men, Captain America, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four.) Then it was off to the Beyond Knowledge Conference in Liverpool, where he delivered another Maury Island lecture and one on Reich. And this doesn’t even take into account a possible book tour in the fall, when Feral House, the publisher of The Octopus, releases Secret and Suppressed II, Thomas’ follow-up to Jim Keith’s 1993 book, which, among other things, introduced the term “men in black” to the mainstream—and contained the essay that eventually became The Octopus.

Now, before we proceed any further, it’s important to know that the term “conspiracy theorist” is considered pejorative by guys like Thomas. The term “conspiracy researcher” is OK; “parapolitical researcher” is infinitely better: “Politics, of course, is going out and voting for people,” Thomas says. “The ‘para-‘ is everything that goes on behind the scenes in that process.” And the popular perception of the conspiracy theorist “is a cartoon picture created by the media to keep people from taking these kinds of issues seriously,” Thomas says, with a touch of crankiness in his voice, relating the term to a phenomenon he calls “the laughter curtain.” Area 51 is the classic example: Disseminate enough dopey misinformation about little green men, and no one will pay attention to the trillions of dollars being funneled into the military-industrial complex via Area 51’s black budget.

Of course, a cursory look through any of Thomas’ dozen books, or an issue of Steamshovel, will clue you in to why the term irritates him so. As an archivist, his research is naturally both sweeping and impeccable. He’s filed thousands of Freedom of Information Act requests. (Tip: File multiple times for the same material, and one day you’ll get a clueless clerk—that’s how Thomas ended up with all of Wilhelm Reich’s prison correspondence.) He’s made multiple trips to the National Archives for material related to the JFK assassination, which is more difficult than it sounds. You have to know what document to request before the archives will hand it over to you, so doing research there requires a lot of preresearch. He’s a Jedi with LexisNexis and other research tools; he knows how to dig for information that other people don’t know how to dig for, and then he publishes it. Nothing sexier than that. No tinfoil hats, no special Google-fu, no channeling. Just enormous stacks of documents.

“You have to create a triangulation of research, the bulletin-board model of research where you take the bits of data that come in and every one of them has a bias, you have to find out where the bias is, pin it up on a bulletin board,” Thomas explains, sounding every bit the archivist. “When you find a certain kind of information clustered somewhere, you realize you’re onto something. That’s the whole metaphor of Steamshovel Press—your desk gets piled up with bits of information, and you need to create a metaphor for pushing it out of the way. It actually comes from a Dylan song: ‘takes a steam shovel to clear out my head.'”

In an attempt to correct the semantics a little, Thomas created the motto “All conspiracy. No theory,” which you’ll see at the top of his site,, and above the magazine’s logo. Though bypassing the theory part sometimes gets him in trouble (he’s pissed off some people by documenting, for instance, that it was indeed a plane that hit the Pentagon, not a missile, as some 9/11 conspiracists allege), his only-publish-what-you-can-document approach has earned him the respect of those who normally dismiss conspiracists, and he’s absolutely spooked out the true believers; Bob Girard of Arcturus Books said Steamshovel would “feed that dark feeling in the pit of your gut.” But Thomas’ good friend Greg Bishop says that’s not the point.

“It’s informed by history and creativity and radicalism and basic mistrust of people in power,” he says. “Kenn’s about eight or nine years older than me, but I also admire William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac and Leary and Ginsberg and all those people. I include a lot of UFO writers and paranormal writers and psychedelic researchers in my universe of what’s going on. Kenn does not quite as much, but we still have that same spirit of being suspicious of people that don’t have most of the population’s interest in mind.”

That lack of magnanimousness seems to especially extend to segments of the population that like to go poking around in the Octopus’ business. Casolaro was warned several times, sometimes by his sources, that the information he was compiling could be dangerous to his health. And Thomas’ friend and co-author Jim Keith, who wrote for Steamshovel, also died under mysterious circumstances; after suffering a knee injury at Burning Man in 1999, he was taken to Washoe Medical Center in Reno. Before being taken into surgery, Keith told his nephew, “I have the feeling that if they put me under, I am not coming back.” He was correct. Though the hospital ruled that Keith’s death resulted from a blood clot that moved from the site of the injury to his lung, Thomas theorizes that it possibly resulted from tissue contaminated with clostridium bacteria, incidentally one of the superbugs being bred in government laboratories for warfare purposes, which Keith had discussed in his last book, Biowarfare in America (anthrax is another popular germ in weapons labs). Two years later, Ron Bonds, publisher of IllumiNet Press, which had issued Biowarfare, died of clostridium poisoning after eating in a Mexican restaurant—right around the corner from the tissue bank that had been the source of clostridium-infected tendons that had resulted in the deaths of several people undergoing knee surgery. Of course, one is tempted to ask Thomas: Does he ever get nervous about these things?

“Well, you know, Jim Keith and I used to have this discussion: ‘How come they don’t come after us?’ It’s not a conversation I can have with Jim Keith anymore,” Thomas says. Though he’ll josh about black helicopters and aliens, this is not a subject he can approach with levity, not yet. “I have no proof, but Jim Keith, it’s a horrible burden to try and communicate what kind of guy he was, because he was funnier and more charming than I will ever be. In Casolaro’s case, he thought what would protect him would be to turn this into a fictional novel. It doesn’t matter—if you start doing a real investigation and start talking to people, they don’t care if you’re going to write a novel or a story forThe New York Times. They just know that you’re poking around where you don’t need to be. And that could’ve been what happened to Keith.”

And who are “they”? Thomas laughs. “‘They’ are different people at different times. This whole question of why haven’t they killed me—why did they let Abbie Hoffman go for so long? He’s part of the Octopus story. He was delivering his write-up of the Iran-Contra affair when he was forced off the road by a truck. So why don’t they just form an army and go out and shoot every dissident in the country?”—he’s again laughing now—”But they don’t. Sometimes they kill people, sometimes they have the laughter curtain. They make us look like crazy people. That’s the thing about great journalists—they know what not to ask! In some cases, it’s just to maintain access to power, sometimes just to stay alive.” And besides: “My mentor into the world of the weird was Timothy Leary. And Timothy Leary would never accept negative energy. Never. He was in prison, I remember seeing footage of him in 1970 where he was talking about ‘Whoa, how cool is this? I can slow down. I can just sit here and write and read and learn.’ He did that, and then he escaped! He went over the wall. For a while, he was in a cell right next to Charles Manson. He taught me that there’s nothing to be afraid of. There’s no reason to let it get you down. Soak it up. Fight back. And do dharma combat with it.”

Perhaps it’s naive to say this, but it seems that things have changed a bit since the early 1990s, when Danny Casolaro was intrepidly chasing the Octopus like a cross between Columbo and Jacques Cousteau. Whether it’s the transparency brought about by the Web or the brazenness of the current administration in consolidating power in the executive branch or even the conspiracy underground’s success in mainstreaming concepts like black helicopters and MIBs (men in black), it seems to have a slightly less opaque ink cloud to hide behind. Oddly enough, Thomas is finding this phenomenon a little irritating, at least as far as finishing the manuscript for Secret and Suppressed II goes. “We came up with the idea, believe it or not, of trying to—and this must’ve been in January—of trying to expose what a wacky church Barack Obama belonged to. That was obscure at that point!” Thomas laughs. Though the book’s being released to coincide with the 2008 elections, Adam Parfrey, Thomas’ editor at Feral House (which published both editions of The Octopus), says that’s why they’re concentrating on the bigger-picture stuff, like the larger implications of Diebold’s electronic voting machines—and the Freemasons. “We have definitely discussed investigating Freemasonic influence—there’s a lot of interest in that with The Da Vinci Code,” Parfrey says. “Though we’re trying not to have these bizarre intimations about the Vatican, but address Freemasonry as really a large issue in the military as well as the government—with actual, supportable evidence.”

And though the lilies behind Thomas’ house are no doubt flourishing (the Everly Brothers would be happy to know), his spring tour has him wondering how to knacker Steamshovel’s distribution problems; Nexus magazine, he notices, is still on the stands, so there must be some way to do it. “I consider myself a permanent fixture,” he says. “What I may do is stop the magazine at that and create a smaller, comic-book–sized zine, hold onto the name and put that at the top, so it’d beSteamshovel Press presents, say, Popular Alienation or Popular Paranoia and make it smaller and less expensive enough that it can come out more frequently.”

And why abandon the life of the landed gentry? Same reason he always has. “It’s just like when I first started Steamshovel—it was basically out of paranoia that because Mae Brussell had died and the other magazine that did conspiracy stuff had disappeared, I had to make sure it was there for me to consume,” he says. “But even more so, now that the country’s changing again … we have to stimulate and encourage a variety of points of view, eccentricities, the creative life.

“I try to get that across to the people who take this stuff too seriously,” he says. “It’s hard to do, because they’re locked into reality tunnels—that was Leary’s concept. You’re locked into these certain reality tunnels, and you can’t see the bigger picture and can’t sympathize enough with another tunnel to see that there’s something else.

Written by nuganhand

September 3, 2008 at 11:23 am

The Octopus optioned by film production company

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Three Feral House books have recently been optioned by film production companies: Lords of Chaos (about the criminal shenanigans of “black metal” musicians and fans), The Octopus (about the mysterious death of Danny Casolaro, a writer investigating a government conspiracy), and Sex and Rockets (the life story of Jet Propulsion Lab founder and occult adept Jack Parsons).

Written by nuganhand

September 3, 2008 at 11:08 am

Secret Government Program Linked To Local Murders?

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Part 31: Secret Government Program Linked To Local Murders?
Posted: Aug 1, 2008 01:21 AM

By Nathan Baca
News Channel 3

There are new developments in a year-long News Channel 3 investigation.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is looking into possible connections between a triple murder in 1981, and murders-suicide in 2005 that claimed 6 lives.

We have internal documents from the Cold Case Division of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department showing the depth of the investigation.

We will not reveal the investigators’ identity at this time since the documents show their lives may be in danger.

Now, we are learning the murders may be a cover up for one of the federal government’s most secret computer programs.

“PROMIS” is the name of one of the government’s most secret computer database programs.

Computer programmer Michael Riconosciuto wrote in an affadavit that major modifications to the program were made in Indio.

On July 1, 1981, Fred Alvarez, his girlfriend Patty Castro and friend Ralph Boger were shot to death on Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage. There was a house here that has since been bulldozed. Nobody was ever arrested for the shooting.

Family friends say Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Vice Chairman Fred Alvarez was going to blow the whistle on

documents from the early 1980’s showing a business partnership between defense contractor Wackenhut Services and Cabazon Manager John Phillip Nichols to form “Cabazon Arms.”

One of their alleged projects was the PROMIS computer program. Database and pattern recognition software was a new source of information and power in the early 1980s.

It starts when the program’s designers, Inslaw Corporation, accused the U.S. Justice Department of stealing the software for their own foreign policy purposes.

This programmer testified he altered the program to create what’s called “a back door” to allow government spying.

This happened while working on Cabazon Indian Sovereign land.

“The parties that were involved in the distribution of this software were involved in covert operations. They were involved in Nicaragua and Central America. And they were involved in operation in the Middle East,” said Riconosciuto in an 1993 interview.

A U.S. Justice Department memo from 1985 shows the PROMIS software was being sold to Middle Eastern arms dealers and wanted “no paperwork or customs inspections” to interfere.

Even TV show “Unsolved Mysteries” got on the case when the last journalist to investigate this spy scandal was found dead in his hotel room.

Danny Casolero’s wrists were slashed in 1991. It was ruled a suicide.

But his reporter notes disappeared, and the book on the conspiracy he was to title “Indio” was never finished.

Congressional hearings were held in 1992.

“The report involves the committee’s investigation into serious allegations that high level Department of Justice officials were involved in the criminal conspiracy to force Inslaw, a small company, out of business.” stated Rep. Jack Brooks at the opening of the hearings.

The hearings ended inconclusively.

The PROMIS software was allegedly altered on tribal land in Indio with the lack of federal oversight. Just like Microsoft Windows, the database program kept up with the times, upgraded several times over the years.

But PROMIS came back to haunt America in ways never imagined.

As Brit Hume reported in an October 2001 FOX News newscast, “A disturbing indication that Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent accused of spying for the Russians in what officials said at the time of his arrest was a ‘massive security breach’ ended up helping Osama bin Laden. Correspondent Carl Cameron reports Hanson sold the Russians an extremely sensitive piece of U.S. Technology. And they in turn sold it to Al Qaeda’s terrorist network.”

From an office in Indio, to foreign capitals all over the world; several murder investigations are connected to this spy scandal. Whether answers can still be found 27 years later remains in the hands of the Sheriff’s Cold Case squad.

The internal documents we’ve obtained and confidential interviews we’ve done reveal the Riverside County Sheriff’s Cold Case squad is investigating whether DA Investigator David McGowan was on this 27 year old murder case before his 2005 death. News Channel 3 is still looking into whether they’ve concluded that angle of their questioning.

The Cabazon Indian Tribe has still not responded to our questions about this cold case being reopened.

If you’ve missed any part of this 31-part exclusive investigation, more than a year in the making, click on the right hand side of the homepage on “Special Reports” and then the icon that says “Inside the DA’s Office and DHS Police.”

Written by nuganhand

September 2, 2008 at 6:27 am

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The Casolaro murder – tip of the Octopus

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* * * * * MORNING EDITION * * * * *

EDITOR: John DiNardo
Part 12, THE CASOLARO MURDER: Tip of the Octopus

The following excerpts are selected from a lengthy article
published in The VILLAGE VOICE (New York City) October 15, 1991.
The article glances upon many diverse and intriguing facets
of the story surrounding the murder of an intrepid reporter
named Danny Casolaro.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

by James Ridgeway and Doug Vaughan

At about 12:30 in the afternoon of Saturday, August 10, a maid
knocked on the door of room 517 at the Sheraton Martinsburg Inn,
just off Interstate 81 on the outskirts of this old mill town.
Nobody answered, so she used her passkey to open the door; though
it had both a security bolt and a chain lock on the inside,
neither one was attached. The bed didn’t appear slept in, though
it was turned down, and clothes had been laid out neatly at it’s
foot. Then the maid glanced into the bathroom. She saw a lot of
blood on the tile floor and screamed.

Another hotel maid came rushing in to help. When she peaked inside
the bathroom, she saw a man’s nude body lying in the blood-filled
tub. There was blood not only on the tile floor but spattered up
onto the wall above as well; she nearly fainted at the sight. One
of the maids called the desk on the room phone and, after sending
up a maintenance man, the desk immediately dialed 911.

Within five minutes, three Martinsburg city police officers were
threading their way past the horrified maids and maintenance man
clustered in the hallway and into Room 517. A team of paramedics
from the local fire department joined them a few minutes later.
Squeezing into the tiny bathroom, they found a white male in his
early forties with deep cuts on both wrists: three or four wounds
on the right and seven or eight on the left, made with a sharp,
bladed object.

There was no other trauma to the body that would indicate any sort
of struggle; there was a half-empty, corked bottle of red wine on
the floor by the tub and a broken hotel glass beside it. When they
lifted the body out, they found a single-edge razor blade — the
kind used to scrape windows or slice open packages — at the
bottom of the bloody water in the bath, along with an empty can
of Milwaukee beer, a paper hotel glass coaster, and two white
plastic garbage bags, the kind used in wastepaper baskets.

On the desk in the bedroom the cops found an empty Mead composition
notebook and a legal pad from which a single page had been removed.
The page lay near a plastic Bic pen, and in its ink there was a note:

To those who I love the most,
Please forgive me for the worst
possible thing I could have done.
Most of all I’m sorry to my son.
I know deep down inside that God
will let me in.

There were no other papers, folders, documents of any sort, nor
any briefcase in the room, only the man’s wallet, stuffed with
credit cards. According to the driver’s license, the man’s name
was J. Daniel Casolaro of Fairfax, Virginia.

Although his death was tentatively ruled a suicide, back in
Washington, D.C., his friends and family quickly protested that
decision, and reports in the media were soon suggesting that Danny
Casolaro had been murdered. For in this, the year of conspiracies,
Danny Casolaro happened to be one of a small army of freelance
journalists exploring the possibility that the powers of the
national security state had been used to manipulate domestic
politics. In particular, Casolaro was interested in what he called
the “Octopus,” a network of individuals and institutions that he
believed had secretly masterminded a whole series of scandals,
from the Iran-Contra affair and the S&L debacle to the BCCI
collapse and the 1980 October Surprise deal.

In the weeks before his death Casolaro had spoken frequently about
threats on his life, and just before he left for Martinsburg he
had told his brother, “If anything happens to me, don’t believe
it’s an accident.” Many of the friends and sources who spoke to
him in the last days of his life recalled that he seemed euphoric
and quite certain that he was on the brink of proving the existence
of his Octopus; he did not sound like a candidate for suicide to
them. More suspicious, before the family could be told of Casolaro’s
death or an autopsy performed, the body was embalmed by a local
funeral home; early press reports added that the hotel room had
been quickly cleaned, perhaps to obscure any trace of a crime. The
wildest story even suggested that the undertaker was an employee
of the C.I.A., hired to clean up after agency assassinations.

Even at Casolaro’s funeral, the family felt engulfed by mysteries.
As his mother, brothers, sisters and close friends watched from
beneath a canopy, a man in a tan raincoat and a beribboned black
soldier in Army dress uniform walked up to the casket. the soldier
laid a medal on the lid, saluted and both men quickly walked away.
No one recognized either man; Danny had never served in or covered
the military. The medal was buried with the coffin.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Subject: Part 13, THE CASOLARO MURDER: Tip of the Octopus

The following excerpts are selected from a lengthy article
published in The VILLAGE VOICE (New York City) October 15, 1991.
The article glances upon many diverse and intriguing facets
of the story surrounding the murder of an intrepid reporter
named Danny Casolaro.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
by James Ridgeway and Doug Vaughan

Riconosciuto told Hamilton that Ed Meese had taken PROMIS and
allegedly given it to one of his cronies, Earl W. Brian, who
served as Reagan’s Secretary of Health while he was Governor of
California, and later became head of United Press International.
According to Riconosciuto, Brian then sold PROMIS to police forces
— including secret police — around the world, from South Korea
to Israel to Iraq. The same qualities that made PROMIS ideal for
tracking criminals in the U.S. courts made it perfect for keeping
tabs on terrorists or, needless to say, political dissidents. As
Riconosciuto claimed to have adapted it, the software could then
operate as a kind of computer network bug — anything the security
apparatus that used PROMIS knew, the U.S. could know, simply by
linking up over the telephone.

Almost at once, Hamilton says, he told Casolaro about Riconosciuto.
Casolaro’s phone records indicate he spent many hours in
conversation with Riconosciuto, and Casolaro’s friends say that
for several months in late 1990, Casolaro talked of little else.

The 44-year-old Riconosciuto is — to put it mildly — a colorful
character, wilder than anything in “The Falcon and the Snowman”.
He was a gifted child: When he was just 10 years old, Michael
wired his parents’ neighborhood with a working private telephone
system that undercut Ma Bell; in the eighth grade, he won a science
fair with a model for a three-dimensional sonar system. By the
time he was a teenager, he had won so many science fairs with
exhibits of laser technology that he was invited to be a summer
research assistant at Stanford’s prestigious Cooper Vapor Laser
Laboratory. Dr. Arthur Schalow, a Nobel laureate, remembers him
even now. “You don’t forget a 16-year-old youngster who shows up
with his own argon laser,” he told Casolaro.

In 1973, Riconosciuto had been sentenced by a federal judge in
Seattle to two years in prison for the manufacture of psychedelic
drugs and jumping bail. At the time, his father testified that
Michael was engaged in “underwater research” and had discussed
“using electronic means to clean up pollutants in water.” The
narcotics agents who arrested the young Riconosciuto said they’d
had him under surveillance off and on since 1968.

Riconosciuto told Casolaro, as he had told numerous other reporters
before him, that after his release he had become research director
for a joint venture between Wackenhut, the Coral Gables [Florida]
private security outfit, and the Cabazon Indian band of Indio,
California, that was developing and manufacturing arms and other
military materiel — including night-vision goggles, machine guns,
and biological and chemical weapons — for export.

Riconosciuto claimed that he had invented the fuel-air explosive;
he also said that he had encountered a variety of famous people
who dropped by the Cabazon reservation from time to time. For
example, he claimed that he had met the Jackal, the famous
assassin; talked on the phone with Admiral Bobby Inman of the
C.I.A.; and even tape-recorded a secret meeting with William Casey
at a Washington, D.C. country club (according to Riconosciuto,
that tape was his insurance policy against getting bumped off by
the big boys in the spook world).

Riconosciuto went on to “reveal” that he was the man who had
“pulled the plug” on the Nugan Hand Bank, the Australian bank
with C.I.A. ties that collapsed in 1980; he also claimed to be an
effective lobbyist on Capitol Hill, responsible for swinging five
key votes to free up $100 million for the secret contra war against
the Sandinistas. Once, after lunch with then F.B.I. Director
William Webster, he had laid plans to launder spook money throuyh

This was all a bit much for the Hamiltons to take in, but the
computer company owners listened with fascination and deep
suspicion to his tales involving PROMIS. In an affidavit presented
in federal court, Riconosciuto told them that Casey — who had
been outside counsel to Wackenhut before joining the Reagan White
House — had hired him and Brian, as employees of Wackenhut, to
carry out the October Surprise deal. Riconosciuto described how a
Justice Department official had allegedly ordered him to modify
PROMIS for use by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Written by nuganhand

September 2, 2008 at 2:05 am

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Reporter Is Buried Amid Questions Over His Pursuit of Conspiracy Idea

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Reporter Is Buried Amid Questions Over His Pursuit of Conspiracy Idea
Published: August 17, 1991

A freelance writer who was found dead with his wrists slashed in a hotel room in Martinsburg, W.Va., a week ago was buried near here today amid uncertainty about the cause of death and evidence that he was working on an article about a major Government conspiracy.

The body of Joseph Daniel Casolaro, 44 years old of Fairfax City, Va., was discovered by West Virginia authorities on Saturday in what was tentatively ruled a suicide.

Mr. Casolaro’s family and friends said he had told them he was going to Martinsburg to meet a source for the story he had been working on for more than a year.

Family members and associates have said that despite the views of the local authorities and the findings of an autopsy, they strongly believed that Mr. Casolaro might have been slain because of what he had discovered. Mr. Casolaro had been investigating a case in which the owners of a computer software company, Inslaw, have accused the Justice Department of stealing programs the company had designed to track criminal cases worldwide. The department has denied the accusations and resisted all court challenges by Inslaw. ‘Don’t Believe It,’ He Said

The case has been in the courts for nearly a decade and Mr. Casolaro’s brother, Dr. Anthony Casolaro of Arlington, Va., has told reporters he believed his brother may have been close to uncovering a major conspiracy in connection with the Inslaw case. He said in an interview today that his brother had told him in the last two months that if he died in an accident, “don’t believe it.”

Dr. Casolaro said he was very skeptical that his brother committed suicide for several reasons, including the facts that his brother had recently received numerous death threats and that none of his notes on the case were found with his body.

Friends of the journalist said he was looking into a connection between the Inslaw matter and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, a loosely regulated international banking concern that Federal regulators say is at the center of a worldwide banking fraud. U.S. Inquiry Is Suggested

Elliot Richardson, a former United States Attorney General who now represents Inslaw in its suit against the Justice Department, said Mr. Casolaro’s death should be the subject of a Federal investigation led by someone “of unquestioned integrity and independence.”

Mr. Richardson said today, “The significant thing about Danny’s death is that he was just seeking confirmation of what he believed he already knew.” He said that if the informers Mr. Casolaro had already talked to were to be believed, it involved a conspiracy “far worse than Watergate,” one that involved B.C.C.I., drugs and the persistent but unproven allegations that in 1980 some members of Ronald Reagan’s Presidential campaign team worked to delay the release of American hostages in Iran to damage President Jimmy Carter’s re-election chances.

“These are not separate cases if these people are to be believed,” he said. As for himself, Mr. Richardson said he did not know whether to believe Mr. Casolaro’s far-reaching conspiracy theory, which the reporter dubbed “The Octopus.”

Mr. Casolaro, who was not widely known in the Washington journalism community, had published a novel and some short stories and for a time owned a small group of computer industry trade publications.

Cynthia Gaither, the West Virginia prosecutor investigating the death, said the authorities still believed that Mr. Casolaro committed suicide, although an investigation was continuing because of the concern expressed by friends and family. Note Found With Body

She said Mr. Casolaro was found in the hotel room bathtub with numerous cuts on his wrists. There were no signs of forced entry to the room or any kind of a struggle. A note was found in the room that the authorities have characterized as a suicide note, but they would not reveal its exact contents. His brother said the note was an apology and a plea for understanding, addressed in part to a 22-year-old son from a failed marriage and concluded with the hope that “God will let me in.”

Ms. Gaither said that the authorities had found “nothing inconsistent with the earlier finding that it was a suicide.” A finding of suicide was made by Dr. James Frost, West Virginia’s deputy medical examiner, but he said he could not rule out foul play.

Ms. Gaither said that investigators were continuing to interview everyone they believed Mr. Casolaro had met while in Martinsburg. She was also awaiting results of toxicological tests and the examination of other physical evidence like fingerprints.

A Congressional committee has been investigating the Inslaw matter.

Officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that there was as yet no Federal aspect to the Casolaro death that would warrant its entry into the case.

Dr. Casolaro said that in a July 22 letter to his agent his brother complained of his anxiety over a mortgage payment, but also expressed exultation over his progress in the investigation.

After talking about the payments, which he subsequently made, Mr. Casolaro said in the letter, “I feel the happiness that an Eskimo must feel when he comes across fresh bear tracks before any other sled.”

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September 2, 2008 at 1:57 am

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