The plea-bargains that lawyers for Rick and Rosalie Ames arranged with the Justice Department on April 28, 1994 for their spying for the Soviets, coupled with the White House's most fulsome endorsement of the just deceased Richard Nixon's alleged contributions to American security, seemed to have solved both the CIA's and President Clinton's most pressing needs, ones traced back to the culmination of the Iran-Contra scandal. They both were most concerned about details regarding Operation Tree, the assassination of Sweden's Olof Palme in Stockholm on February 28, 1986, coming out - what Ames's spying had helped prevent becoming a nuclear showdown with Moscow (Operation Armageddon), and what the unsolved murder of leading suspect in the shooting, Viktor Gunnarsson, in North Carolina the previous December made most threatening. Rick's spying had to be downsized, and disposed of as quickly as possible.
No sooner had Clinton given a most generous assessment of Tricky Dick's accomplishments in the international arena in his eulogy at the Yorba Linda, California burial than the Agency allowed the Ameses in Washington to continue to spin their own tale about the spying in court - one which stressed their apparent delusions, cynicism, and expediency in what they had done. In the process, Clinton gave his due to the mentor who had gotten him out of the jams he had brought with him from Arkansas, and which had only festered in the White House, while the CIA was preparing the way for avoiding its own demise.
Ames had been given this unprecedented liberty with the press long before the hearing, so that he could spread deceptions which would most work in the Agency's favor. Believing that he would never tell why he had actually done what he did - fear that the double agent Operation Courtship setting up the Soviets to take the fall could well lead to Moscow winning the Cold War or at least achieve a deadly draw if it was allowed to proceed - and overseeing what he was saying so that he could be reined in if he tried, he discussed his spying in just the ways his reluctant mole hunters wanted. It was as if the operation had never moved beyond trying to catch Soviet spies stealing secrets from America, while CIA's in the USSR were suffering the same outcomes - the old spying game which employed many, and cost great sums but never really accomplished much of anything.
It is hard to imagine a more brazen plea for clemency than what Ames addressed to the court before the judge handed down his sentence of life in prison without a chance for parole, as The Washington Post reported on April 29, 1994: "These spy wars are a sideshow, which have no real impact on our significant security interests over the years." In explaining that his spying had not really affected the course of the Cold War for either side, concluding that the process should be scrapped, he declined to say what his efforts had accomplished in the case of individual spies. About his performance, James Adams added in Sellout: "As was the case throughout his interrogation, Ames showed no remorse for his actions and seemed remarkably relaxed about his role as one of the most successful mass murderers in history." (p. 237)
Instead of Ames's cool demeanor being explained in terms of the growing need of reforming the intelligence community, especially CIA's role, as Adams attempted, it was because he knew that the Agency would not be so foolhardy as to attempt to throw the book at him. If it had, he would have explained before a full, jury trial what CIA was attempting with double agents Sergei Motorin, Valeri Martynov, Boris Yushin, and others at Moscow's expense after the Stockholm shooting - making it look as if the assassin was working for the Soviets, Moscow had been taken completely by surprise by the shooting, the Red Banner Fleet, especially its nuclear and killer submarines, was hurriedly taking to sea to protect the USSR against a feared NATO first strike, and the like.
As it was, Assistant U. S. Attorney Mark J. Hulkower treated the court to the benefits - living in a half-million dollar house, having vast sums of money stashed away somewhere, and a driving a fancy Jaguar - that Rick had enjoyed while his counterparts working for Washington had generally received the ultimate punishment from the KGB, execution by firing squad. "These are crimes which caused people to die, as surely as if the defendant pulled the trigger." (Ibid.) Hulkower, however, never explained why Washington was not prepared to pull the switch on Ames.
The court was spared from learning that Motorin had picked up mere trifles in return - a favorable insurance adjustment for an auto accident while entertaining a hooker, temporary possession of a wedding ring for one of his lovers, small sums every time he visited his handler, and increasingly
larger amounts in an escrow account when he went back to the USSR. Yuzhin received similar sums, along with a gold cigarette lighter which almost got him executed when the KGB discovered that it also contained a miniature camera which had helped imprison Norwegian spy in NATO, Arne Treholt, for stealing secrets. (David Wise, Nightmover, pp. 260-1) Dimitri Polyakov, who Woolsey compared with the famous Oleg Gordievsky, got started with the FBI for only $600.
The purpose of mentioning these disparities is to show that the Agency was apparently providing good results for the money - what Woolsey took immediate advantage of before anyone had time to discover otherwise. Since the KGB was willing to pay Ames all kinds of money for CIA secrets, it must have been doing a fabulous job, an operation which could only have been disclosed to Moscow by a most clever, cynical agent. It was only later that we learned that the Soviets kept paying Ames for helping prevent the USSR, and most probably the rest of the world, from needlessly being destroyed. If the American public had learned this, the Agency would have been finished.
Given CIA failure to keep the Bureau informed of all kinds of counterintelligence cases, especially Ames's espionage, it was hardly surprising that the Senate Intelligence Committee drafted an act to give the FBI overall responsibility in such cases in future. On the day before Nixon died, Woolsey and Committee Chairman Senator Dennis DeConcini got into a shouting match over the suggested change, the DCI exclaiming: "What you want to do, Senator, is go back to J. Edgar Hoover wanting to control CIA!" (Quoted from Mark Riebling, Wedge, p. 448.)
After Woolsey and DeConcini took their dispute to the airwaves, and the DCI and FBI Director Louis Freeh were scheduled to have a showdown on the issue before DeConcini's committee, Clinton signed a last-minute executive order - thanks to input by intermediary NSA Tony Lake - settling the issue, and quite possibly saving the Agency. A Bureau man would be put in charge of the CIA's new Counterintelligence Center (CIC), and other procedures and bodies were established to prevent future Ames cases. After a comestic show of peace and reconciliation by the Directors before the committee, DeConcini's proposal died.
Little did I realize that I had now come into the picture by writing a most angry letter to the President about his eulogy for Nixon. While I had fled America in 1989, as I indicated in my confession articles about being an exile, and a target of its secret state, I did not realize that I was recreating the pattern which led to Washington attorney Paul Wilcher's murder. He had become completely involved in the problems of his client, Gunther Karl Russbacker, allegedly one of the pilots who helped ferry Vice President Bush's people to Paris in 1980 to arrange the 'October Surprise'. Ultimately, Wilcher became involved in the 1991 alleged suicide of whistleblower Danny Casolaro, who was threatening to expose all sorts of Reagan covert operations aka the 'Octopus' cabal, and wrote to Congressman Lee Hamilton of the Joint Task Force investigating the 'October Surprise' allegation on May 22, 1992.
By May 1993, Wilcher had gotten up more dirt on the cabal, and had written a 100-page letter to Attorney General Janet Reno about it, complaining that Reagan administraion appointees in the Department were preventing its investigation. Attorney Linda Thompson added this information to the charges: "Recent revelations about the Clintons' bank dealings in Arkansas tie directly to the gun and drug running out of Mena, Arkansas, by way of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority." On June 11th, Wilcher was interviewed by JD officials, and ten days later, he was found dead, sitting on the toilet in his apartment, apparently the victim of ricin poisoning.
When the police mounted no murder inquiry into his death, merely allowing the CIA and FBI strip his apartment of any possible damaging information, Garby Leon, a Harvard Ph.D., and an official of Columbia Pictures, apparently looking into a possible film on the subject, wrote three weeks later to Reno, complaining of the inaction, and concluding thus: "Anyone inspired to follow Casolaro or Wilcher's path now has a strong added reason to fear doing so." Still, no official action was taken on Wilcher's apparent murder, thanks to added input, it seems, by Clinton appointees, especially Reno's deputy, Clinton crony Webster Hubbell.
I was unaware of any of this when I wrote to Clinton on April 30, 1994 - just after the most pressing problems for him and CIA had apparently been resolved. At Nixon's burial, Clinton had been inclined to speak of the former President as a great statesman, struck down needlessly by his mean-spirited enemies, but George Stephanopoulous, as he explained in All too Human, talked hin out of it: "He tinkered with Clinton's eulogy at Richard Nixon's funeral to make sure it wouldn't upset liberals." The speech was still too generous about Nixon's temporary, foreign accomplishments for conservatives, as William Bundy explained in A Tangled Web for both Presidents' benefit.
You can imagine Clinton's reaction when I wrote thus about his just deceased mentor:
Dear President Clinton,
I have postponed writing you for a week in the vain hope that events would ultimately prove one unnecessary, but they have just compounded my anger and dismay. I am referring to the support the United States provided, and the testaments you gave to former President Richard M. Nixon upon his death. Mr Nixon was undoubtedly one of the worst Presidents the country ever had, and it is simply disgusting for you to try to make out that he was one of the best. That is just what Howard Hunt's Plumbers' Unit and all the people who tried to cover up the Watergate break-in wanted from you. It is a slap in the face to all the people who worked so hard and with such difficulty to establish what a felon Nixon was, and to see that he was removed from office.
I do not say this as an original Nixon hater, but as one who after years of serious study has concluded that Tricky Dick was even worse than we thought. Rather than be taken in by his adoption of the Charles Colson gambit to achieve his rehabilitation, we should be looking into the real causes of Watergate, and why did Nixon do so many felonious acts to try to cover it up, what President Ford, despite his promises to the contrary, pardoned. "The Bay of Pig thing" that Nixon was willing to pay a million dollars in hush money to Howard Hunt was a reference to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, what people like Hunt, Richard Helms of the CIA, J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI, Alexander Haig of the DOD, politicians Nixon and John Connally had organized with various Maifa hitmen to rectify the original invasion. It was only because of Connally's wounding that the plan to blame Castro for the President's assassination did not go ahead, leading to a most ad hoc solution to the crime. Without Connally's wounding, we would have had a resumption of the Cuban Missile Crisis, resulting quite probably in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
In sum, rather than spend good taxpayer money to try to polish up this most terrible President, you should have the Attorney General look into his earlier crimes, or appoint a new commission to determine what really happened to JFK and the country in Dallas. If you want further massive evidence on these matters, I would be happy to oblige.
Trowbridge H. Ford, Ph.D.
Of course, this letter put me on a collision course with Washington's covert government - what I made even more imminent by replying angrily to a letter I received in July from Ms. Jennifer Caplan of Milledgeville, Georgia, trying to get me to state that the forged FBI memo regarding Jack Ruby having worked with Nixon when he was on the House Un-American Activities Committee back in the late 1940s was genuine. (For more this, see my articles about being a teacher, and an exile in the Archives.) She had written the previous July, but it was only forwarded to me by my publisher, Barry Rose, a year later. In my reply to Ms. Caplan, I made it crystal clear that the memo was a crude forgery which was being circulated just to discredit me - what Nixon, Helms, Haig, and their subordinates clearly sought.
Not one easily deterred, I wrote to Director Freeh the same day, outlining again for him the role the CIA's Helms, the Bureau, the Mafia, Haig, Ruby, Nixon, and others played in the Dallas assassination. On July 30, 1994, I took the dangerous step of writing to Attorney General Reno about what I had written to the Director - calling for an investigation of those conspirators still living, Helms, Haig, and Hunt - and complaining about not having received any confirmation of receipt of my request. Four weeks later, I wrote again to Reno, supplying an outline of the book I proposed to write about the Dallas conspiracy, and complaining that my criticisms about government performance, especially the Justice Department's Philip Heymann, in this matter only resulted in actions to hurt me - the Bureau opening an investigation of me, disinformation agents, like Jim Marrs and Jim DiEugenio, spreading disinformation to destroy my credibility, etc. I concluded that the government was really part of the problem rather than its solution, and that I would act accordingly in future.
On September 14, 1994, the JD's Mary C. Spearing, Chief of the General Litigation and Legal Advice Section, finally replied about all my correspondence. "The Attorney General's Office referred your letter to the Criminal Division for response." She particularly noted my hope "...that the Attorney General would 'expose and punish those guilty of treason in this most barbarous process.' " As for my conspiracy theory about the Dallas assassination, she stated that ones similar to mine had been adequately addressed by the Report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and that I should consult its results for answers to my queries.
Of course, I was completely dissatisfied with Ms. Spearing's response, and wrote accordingly a week later, including yet another outline of the proposed book. The outline, I said, completely rejected the HSCA Report. I called her attention to the report that Representative Henry Gonzalez had asked me to write in anticipation of HSCA's creation, and noted that its expansion - what appeared in Tom Valentine's National Exchange in April, May, and June 1978 - had not even been mentioned in the Report's bibliography, copies of which I would be happy to supply her. "It is simply contemptible for you to lump all conspiracy theories together," I concluded, "and to act as if the Congressional publication dealt with mine."
I never heard anything more from the Department of Justice, at least in the way I anticipated. Ms. Spearing never wrote back, and there was never any response from its Criminal Division to me. Shortly thereafter, though, when I went to the States in December, as I have already indicated in my confessions article as an exile, Portuguese Immigration officials tried to force my leaving the country, thanks, I believe, to prodding by the Bureau's Legal Attaché at the American Embassy in Lisbon, and when this failed, American officials, under the leadership of the new ambassador to Portugal, Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, started seeking my demise by my unknowingly ingesting small amounts of ricin - what would make it seem as if I had died from an accident, or from natural causes.
The Smith Bagleys were close friends of the Clintons who had contributed much and worked hard for their success. They had almost as much at stake with the President's continued occupation of the Whie House as the Clintons. Elizabeth had been nominated for the post after I had made my complaints about Nixon et al. to Clinton crystal clear, and she had been confirmed in the summer by the Senate for the position, just in time to go after me.
While the White House was finally, it seems, getting rid of me - the biggest critic of the CIA - it still had the talkative Ames to deal with, and the problems surrounding the murder of Viktor Gunnarson, the prime suspect in the Stockholm shooting, were waiting in the wings if it ever hoped to convict former Salisbury policeman L. C. Underwood of the crime, as we shall see.