Friday, August 23, 2013

Mid-August News Updates: Michael Hastings; Cattle Mutilations

Not every event is important enough to warrant its own post, so from time to time I'll collect several items and save them up for a recap post. This is by no means every story currently worth watching, but a selection of some news items where I can see that there's a "story behind the story" that isn't being told.

Various updates to the Michael Hastings death:
  • The story he was working on at the time of his death has been confirmed to have been on CIA director John Brennan. Cue the "ooo-oo-ooo" music.  Per this Wikileaks email from 2010, Brennan was responsible for the crack down on journalists who the Obama administration didn't feel were being team players.  Brennan is a life-long CIA man with the standard spooky background story, including a Jesuit education.  Don't worry, this isn't an anti-Catholic rant, you'll have to go to Jordan Maxwell's site for that.  Certain Catholic sects have been disproportionately represented in the government in the past, however, specifically the Knights of Malta.  Former CIA bigshots and conspiratorial personalities like James Jesus Angleton, "Wild" Bill Donavan, the Dulles brothers, the Buckley brothers, William Casey, J. Peter Grace, Alexander Haig, and roughly two dozen more spooky personages have been members of this relatively small group.  I don't have confirmation that Brennan is a member, but statistically it is more likely that he is than he isn't.  Historically, KoM members have been ultra-conservative regardless of what party affiliation they may have, which is in keeping with what we've seen out of Brennan.
  • Hastings was exceptionally paranoid during his final few days. As mentioned previously, he sent warnings to his employers that the FBI would be paying them a visit to ask about him, but his fears were more specific than that.  Quoting from the article: "His [Hastings'] behavior grew increasingly erratic. Helicopters often circle over the hills, but Hastings believed there were more of them around whenever he was at home, keeping an eye on him. He came to believe his Mercedes was being tampered with. One night in June, he came to [his friend] Thigpen's apartment after midnight and urgently asked to borrow her Volvo. He said he was afraid to drive his own car.[emphasis mine]"  It's difficult to be more specific than that.  Again, echoes of Princess Di's belief that Phillip and Charles would attempt to kill her by tampering with her car.
  • As you've probably seen shouted at you from dozens of headlines, Hastings had drugs in his system at the time of the crash.  This has caused many people to immediately cry, "See! No conspiracy here! Another dead junkie!" But if you actually read the police report, the truth is much different than what the headlines would have you believe.  The autopsy report states that there were traces of methamphetamine and marijuana (which he had a prescription for) in his blood, BUT it was "unlikely to have an intoxicative effect at the time of the accident."  So, no, drugs actually aren't the reason he crashed, but the media is working overtime to paint him as a habitual drug user who died while intoxicated.  Per the police report, the entirety of the case for Hastings being a current drug user is based on the statements (not made under oath) of an as-yet-unnamed male.  This person hasn't made a public appearance yet, despite the flurry of attention the case got immediately after the death.  I shouldn't have to remind anyone that "scruples," "morals," and "professionalism" are words rarely used in conjunction with the LAPD, and perhaps I'll dedicate a future post to the long history of corruption in the department.
  • There's this.  For lack of a better term, this is some straight-up bullshit, y'all. If my dog had died, I'd be considerably more upset than Jordan, who sounds like she's there to read local traffic reports or high school football scores.  Keep in mind this is a woman who previously had said she would do anything to "bring down the people who did this to her husband," and now she's referring to the death of her spouse as "unlucky."  Weird.  If any of you can figure this out, please let me know because I'm dumbfounded.


In other news:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Area 51, Oswald, and the U-2

The CIA has admitted that Area 51 is real.

The CIA has responded to a FOIA request and acknowledged the existence and location of Area 51 in the deserts of Nevada, and stated that the base was used to test the famed U-2 spy plane. 

The revelation is the latest in a line of alleged "big stories" that only confirm what most intelligent researchers already knew.  Much like Snowden's alleged big news that the NSA does exactly what conspiracy researchers have been telling the world that it does for years, now the CIA admits that the "secret" base that's appeared in countless movies, cartoons, and other popular media is actually real.  A few media outlets tried to flog the story for all it was worth and make it sound like something important had happened, but, like the NSA snooping, the conspiracy/paranormal/UFO community just shrugged their shoulders at the non-story.  NBC even dug up Bob Lazar for a comment, who summed it up nicely with, "Tell us something we don't know." You'll remember that Bob Lazar claimed to have worked at Area 51/Groom Lake/Dreamland/S4 in the 80s reverse engineering downed alien craft. 

Many mysteries still abound about Area 51, however.  The first one that popped in to my mind was the curiousness of it being the CIA who finally spilled the beans.  Everyone knows that the US Air Force runs Area 51, not the CIA:

In fact, the only actual piece of hard news in the entire story is the connection between Area 51 and the U-2. 

Francis Gary Powers' flight and crash in the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960 is a pivotal moment in world history that is given little attention these days.  It was the spark that heated up the Cold War after sidelining a proposed summit between Eisenhower and Khrushchev; a summit that was to have likely included a limited nuclear test ban treaty and paved the way for future accords.  After Powers' crash -- on May Day of all days -- the summit would never materialize and hostilities would continue for decades more. 

Even less well known are some of the bizarre particulars of that event.  Several, including Powers himself, believed that there was more to the story.  This is the point where the U-2 and the Kennedy assassination, two of the most important events of the 20th century, intersect.

Lee Harvey Oswald arrived in Moscow on October 16, 1959 on a one-week visa and immediately informed his tourist liaison -- in his his self-taught, but reportedly exceptional Russian -- that he wanted to defect.  The story of how Oswald actually got to stay in Russia is an odd and involved tale I'll save for another time, but he was allowed to remain in the USSR until 1962.  One important aspect of Oswald's pseudo-defection was the fact that he told both US and Soviet officials that his status as a former Marine had made him privy to certain sensitive information he wished to share with his communist brethren. 

Oswald never rose above the rank of Private, First Class in his three-year stint in the Marines.  What sensitive information could a PFC with reported disciplinary problems have that would have been of use to the Soviets?  A lot, truth be told.  Oswald was trained as a radar operator at the Naval Air Facility in Atsugi, Japan.  Coincidentally, Atsugi was the home base of Area 51's pride and joy, the U-2 spy plane.  As a radar technician -- and, reportedly, a good one -- Oswald would have likely been involved with tracking the U-2 test flights in Atsugi and therefore would have known how to track the U-2 on radar.  The likelihood that Oswald contributed to the downing of the U-2 was strong enough that Powers mentioned it in his autobiography. 

For some theorists, this is more than just a coincidence.  There is a good deal of evidence that Oswald was working with US intelligence while in the Soviet Union, thus putting a different spin on the entire incident.  If Oswald was a double-agent, it would mean the U-2 was intentionally downed in order to sabotage any hopes of reaching a peaceful solution to the Cold War.  Was this the first major act of the "Military-Industrial Complex" that Eisenhower would warn us against just a few months later?  The U-2 was a major setback for peace, but a huge boon to the military and military contractors...much like the windfall they'd receive when LBJ escalated the Vietnam conflict just days after Kennedy's death. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Oswald's August 9, 1963 arrest and the beginning of the end

Fifty years ago today:
On August 9, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for fighting in New Orleans.  His arrest occurred during a time when Oswald was handing out pro-Castro leaflets on Canal Street.  The man Oswald got into the altercation with was Carlos Bringuier, a strongly anti-Castro Cuban exile and head of the New Orleans chapter of the Directorio Revoionario Estudiantil -- the DRE -- an exile group with well-known ties to the CIA's JM/WAVE program.  Unconfirmed reports state that Oswald goaded Bringuier into hitting him as a publicity stunt.  Indeed, the entire incident is either a woefully misguided attempt to garner pro-Castro sympathies in a city with a large population of angry Cuban exiles or a carefully crafted psyop.   Either way, it was the first major step down a path that would culminate in Dallas in late November.
Before looking at the arrest in the larger context of the Kennedy assassination, let us first take a look at some of the bizarre, conspiratorial breezes blowing through the French Quarter on that day:
  1. Per Bringuier's Warren Commission testimony, he and Oswald had met before.  Allegedly, Oswald first sought out Bringuier on August 5, offering to train Cuban exiles for a proposed raid on Cuba.  Oswald reportedly leveraged his status as a former Marine to entice Bringuier to consider the deal, and the next day provided him with a Marine training manual as a sign of good faith.  This claim explains why Bringuier was incensed enough to punch Oswald in public and in full view of reporters: he thought Oswald was on his side and felt betrayed.  Other evidence that Oswald wasn't a dyed in the red wool Communist includes the fact that he gave a strongly anti-Communist speech at Jesuit seminary in Mobile, AL on July 27.
  2. Oswald was distributing leaflets stamped as "FPCC" -- the Fair Play for Cuba Committe, of which Oswald was the only member.  Much more important than the name was the address however: 544 Camp Street.  544 Camp housed the offices of the violently anti-Communist former FBI agent Guy Bannister and the Cuban Revolutionary Council, an exile paramilitary group reportedly founded by CIA man E. Howard Hunt.  Oswald had no known connection to the building on Camp -- he didn't lease any space or work there -- but he is frequently spotted in the area.  Reports that Oswald was working with or at least acquainted with Bannister are numerous, and it is likely that whatever game he was playing -- if it was a game -- was being handled out of the Camp St. office.  It defies logic that Oswald, if sincerely a Castro supporter, would have used an address unconnected to himself that coincidentally was the nexus of anti-Castro activities in the city.
  3. Oswald made a curious request at the New Orleans police station: he requested to speak to an FBI agent.  Only charged with "disturbing the peace" and free to go after paying his twenty-five dollar bond, Oswald choose not to leave but to remain at the station until an agent arrived.  Things get stranger still from here.  Agent John Quigley reportedly interviewed Oswald on August 10th for over an hour and made a seven page report which was later turned over to the CIA, who added it to their existing files on Oswald. After the interview, Oswald didn't go straight home but went to the offices of the local paper to request more coverage of his work with the FPCC.
Another interesting item of note regarding August 9th includes the bizarre coincidence that future Jim Garrison suspect David Ferrie was leading an anti-Castro demonstration a few blocks away from Oswald's one-man-show. 

Self Portrait in Red: Oswald as local celebrity

Oswald had not drawn very much attention to himself in New Orleans since his arrival in April, but all that would change after his arrest.  As a staunch pro-Cuban Communist in the midst of the largest Cuban community outside of Miami, Oswald became infamous overnight and he did everything possible to capitalize on his new found notoriety.  He passed out pro-Castro leaflets on August 14 and 16, with the later incident caught on film by local TV station WDSU.  Their radio station (also WDSU) contacted Oswald on the morning of August 17 for an interview (8/17 broadcast) and later two debates (8/19 and 8/21 broadcasts).   The August 21st debate would later be released as an album (shown above) after the Kennedy assassination.  The album was released by the Information Council of the Americas (INCA), a stridently right-wing anti-Communist group with intelligence ties.

Oswald's publicity binge ended as quickly as it began, as he is not seen in New Orleans again until September 17th.  Witness state that during this time Oswald, accompanied by Clay Shaw and David Ferrie, unsuccessfully attempted to become a registered voter in the small town of Clinton, LA.  There is speculation that Oswald was at one of the many training camps for Cuban exiles in Louisiana at the time, although his library records show that he was still checking out books regularly in New Orleans. 

On September 13, Dallas newspapers began reporting that President Kennedy will make a stop in the city during his November visit to Texas.  It is still "unofficial" at this point.  Oswald -- or someone identifying themselves as Oswald -- is very busy in the period between his 8/21 disappearance and his 9/17 return to New Orleans.  It is important to note that many of the Oswald/Shaw/Ferrie connections that were key to Garrison's case occur during this timeframe, although this person identifies himself as "Leon."  Additionally, someone signed into a guestbook in Wisconsin as "Lee Harvey Oswald" on 9/16 -- President Kennedy was scheduled to make a visit to Wisconsin the following week.

Oswald reappears in New Orleans on September 17 at the Mexican consulate applying for a tourist visa to visit Mexico.  After a brief visit from his wife, Oswald departs for Mexico via bus on 9/24 and, upon arrival, Oswald applies for a Cuban visa and spends several days bouncing between the Soviet and Cuban embassies.  Well, according to the Warren Commission, that is:

This heavy-set, balding man is "Lee Harvey Oswald," the man who reportedly caused a scene at several embassies in his attempt to get a Cuban visa.  No need to go into detail here: only an idiot would think this is Lee Harvey Oswald.  Someone more closely matching Oswald's description and using his name appeared in Austin and Dallas during the time the man shown above was in Mexico. 

On October 2nd, Oswald officially returns to Dallas.


Oswald's determination to make himself known as a Communist during this period leads us to two possible conclusions.  The first: Oswald was sincerely a Communist and his conviction about his beliefs lead him to become a vocal advocate for Cuba and the Soviet Union.  There is a good deal of evidence that Oswald's Communism was simply an act, however, none more convincing that the fact that his Communist rhetoric disappeared when he arrived in Dallas and he become close to the strongly-anti-Communist White Russian community.

The second possible conclusion is that Oswald was involved with the intelligence community in some way, and was actively trying to make himself a known Communist for very specific, but to date unknown, purposes.  Many theorists have a tendency to view all of Oswald's past in the light of the Kennedy assassination, but I don't believe that the two are necessarily connected.  My personal belief was that Oswald was attempting to paint himself as a Communist in order to gain entry into Cuba where he would function as a spy for US intelligence. Whether or not this is entirely true, I'm not certain, but I do believe that at least that's what Oswald thought he was doing.  Again, I return to Oswald's choice of the word "patsy" after his arrest.  A patsy isn't necessarily an innocent man.  It is entirely possible that Oswald was aware of a plot to kill Kennedy or, alternately, realized that the mission he believed he was working on was being used as a cover for that plot. 

In the fifty years since the assassination there has been a tendency in conspiracy literature to turn Oswald into something of a martyr or an innocent scapegoat.  His final days in New Orleans expose the lie in that belief, however.  Oswald was clearly a man who was up to something during this time and it is also evident that it involved others.  What that was we will never know.  To quote Joe Pesci as David Ferrie in JFK:
"It's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside of an enigma."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Oklahoma City Revisited: Book & Film reviews

One of my main areas of interest is researching "overlooked" conspiracies.  These are often events that were hot topics for a short while but were later overshadowed by other events.  Most of the conspiracies of the eighties and nineties fall into this category, having been eclipsed by 9/11. 

There is still a lot of information to uncover about many of these.  In particular, the Iran/Contra scandal, Waco, and the tragedy of Columbine have aspects that haven't been fully explored yet.  Furthermore, many events of the Clinton administration need to have an objective analysis; one removed from the political gamesmanship and the (very real) "vast, right wing conspiracy."  Several of these will be subjects of future posts.

I have been recently been revisiting the Oklahoma City bombing conspiracies and delving into the small amount of existing scholarship on the topic.  There are two excellent books on OKC, both written shortly after the event took place: Jon Rappoport's Oklahoma City Bombing: The Suppressed Truth and the legendary Jim Keith's OKBOMB!: Conspiracy and Cover-up.  The latter uses the former as a source frequently, so most of my comments will be based on Keith's more thorough analysis.  Rappoport's book is still quite useful, though, especially for the immediacy of his prose, but it is often repetitive and meandering.  It is a work based in the world of emotion, whereas Keith provides the reader with hard, verifiable facts.

A broad-stroke summary of the OKC conspiracies can be found in several places on the Internet, so here is a run down of the two most tantalizing points addressed in the books not found elsewhere:
  1. The "partially-employed"/unemployed McVeigh and Nichols both had large amounts of cash coming in from sources unknown.  Nichols had $45,000 in cash (New York Times, June 16, 1995) and news reports vary on the exact amount, but McVeigh was reportedly carrying anywhere between $1,500 and $2,000 in cash at the time of his arrest.  Who exactly was funding the pair is an important thread of the investigation that was quickly glossed over in the official version, which claims that McVeigh and Nichols were suspected of a bank robbery in Arkansas, about which specifics were never given.  According to sources who spoke to the media, money was coming in from somewhere for the pair as far in advance as a year or two before the bombing; a curious fact given that neither was gainfully employed for most of that time.  This aspect of the case has resonances with many other conspiracies, where the alleged perpetrators seem to have a ready supply of cash despite having a low-paying job or being unemployed.  To tie this to another "overlooked" conspiracy, John Lennon's assassin Mark David Chapman was a lowly hospital security guard, but somehow found the funding to amass an expensive art collection and travel the world extensively, including a trip to NYC prior to the assassination seen by some as a "trial run."  More on that topic in a future post.
  2. McVeigh and Nichols had some interesting inconsistencies in their military careers.  McVeigh was an exemplary solider, promoted ahead of the rest of his platoon, and seemed to be heading towards a prestigious position in the Special Forces.  He allegedly failed the psychological tests -- given after he was mid-way through the training, rather than before as is standard procedure -- and reportedly quit the military shortly thereafter in despair.  This incident could be interpreted as "sheep dipping," the term used by intelligence agencies to establish plausible deniability for an agent.  As in, "McVeigh failed out of the Special Forces...see, it says so right here...he's not working for us," when in reality he would be.  This is part and parcel with the old adage "there's no such thing as an 'ex'-CIA agent," keeping in mind that military intelligence would likely work the same way.  McVeigh allegedly stated to several individuals, including his sister, that he was working in Special Forces.  For his part, Terry Nichols had a much less distinguished military career.  Nichols received a hardship discharge -- the same type Lee Harvey Oswald received shortly before heading to the Soviet Union.
The remainder of points raised in the books have been seen elsewhere, although Keith's book especially goes into these issues in greater detail than is the standard.  It would be pointless to review the multiple theories regarding what actually brought the Murrah building down; conspiracists disagree on practically every point except the fact than an ANFO bomb would have been incapable of doing so. 

The recent conspiracy cinema film A Noble Lie neatly summarizes those more familiar aspects of the case, and is a concise summary of the many theories surrounding OKC.  Summary is the name of the game here, as you're likely to have seen these same arguments made more convincingly in other films.  It is therefore a "greatest hits" of OKC conspiracy theories and as such will appeal much more to newcomers than to seasoned researchers.

Revisiting these two books and A Noble Lie illuminated a point that I had been considering for some time now: it is very rare that time improves the quality of information regarding a conspiratorial event.  Eighteen years separates the event and A Noble Lie, and in those eighteen years, no new information was uncovered that wasn't already known in 1995 and 1996 when Rappoport and Keith were writing their respective works.  A quick survey of the Internet and various conspiracy message boards confirms that most researchers have abandoned the topic -- or the trail has simply gone cold. 

The fact that nothing new has emerged regarding OKC confirms two things for me:
  1. It is valuable to continue reviewing source material made immediately after the event.  Whether this is something like a late-sixties book on the JFK assassination or a film like Cover-up in Oklahoma (95-96), old information is just as important -- if not more so -- than whatever the latest and greatest theory may be.
  2. There are still avenues left to explore in so-called "settled" topics.  Most conspiracy researchers agree on the general outlines of the OKC conspiracies, but until definitive proof is found there is still work to be done.
So going forward, I will attempt to put a spotlight on some of these forgotten conspiracy theories in an effort to hopefully generate some new interest in them.  At a minimum, I will at least present you with my findings as I continue to survey the existing information.