Failure
of the Public Trust



[Go to part 2] [Go to part 3] [Go to part 4] [Go to part 5] [Go to part 6]

America's Dreyfus Affair
Part 1

The Case of the Death of Vince Foster

by David Martin (all rights reserved)


In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.
--Abraham Lincoln

But the Dreyfus Affair...is not fixed in space and time. The combat of the individual against society, truth against deception, is specific neither to France nor to the end of the nineteenth century.
--Jean-Denis Bredin [1]

With the study of history in America's schools and universities being replaced with "social studies", "multiculturalism", and other pseudo-scientific and "sensitive" approaches to the study of the human condition, one of the time-honored features of the traditional history course is also likely to go out the window, and it will be a pity. That is the challenging "compare and contrast" essay question that we never had enough time to do full justice to on final exams. A well- crafted "c&c" allowed us to show what we did or didn't know about at least two historical events and, at the same time, forced us to think and to put things into perspective. Our only regret is that our professors seemed to leave almost all such analysis to callow students, engaging in much too little of it in their all-too-linear lectures.

To demonstrate the strength of the "compare and contrast" method in elucidating history, I propose herewith to apply it to the Dreyfus Affair, which began with the arrest of Captain Alfred Dreyfus in France on suspicion of treason in October of 1894, and the Vincent Foster case, which began with the discovery of the deputy White House counsel's body almost a hundred years later, on July 20, 1993. As the Dreyfus Affair disrupted France, the Foster death, and its handling by the authorities, has shown signs that it will haunt the U.S. government into the next century.

Perhaps too much has been made of the relationship between the official framing of Captain Dreyfus and French anti-Semitism. By regarding it so, we are able to distance ourselves from it, treating it as just one more example of the irrational behavior that mindless bigotry can engender or, alternatively, we are tempted to dismiss it as an episode which has been kept alive in history by the same powerful and influential people who keep reminding us of our collective guilt for allowing the Holocaust.

In either case we would be greatly in error. It is indeed true that Dreyfus was a relatively low-level, anonymous officer in the French army, and mistakes and miscarriages in the imperfect world of jurisprudence, especially military jurisprudence, happen all the time. But the way in which the case unfolded--and unraveled--did in fact almost tear France apart, actively polarizing virtually the entire society in ways seldom experienced in any country except on occasion during the prosecution of an unpopular war. It may have started as a relatively small case, but it grew into a gigantic affair, "one of the great commotions of history," [2] for the same reason that the Foster case has the potential to do the same. The French government, and virtually the entire French ruling establishment, including the press, put its prestige on the line in defense of a blatant injustice, an eventually provable lie.

The fact that Dreyfus was Jewish was no more than incidental to the original suspicion. An act of treason had demonstrably taken place. Pressure mounted quickly to find the guilty party. German espionage success had been a major contributing factor in the humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. The country was already beset with a general paranoia. The stab-in-the-back explanation for military defeat after World War I was not original with the Germans. Now, a document divulging military secrets was discovered en route to the traditional enemy. Dreyfus was in a position, or at least almost so, to have been the sender, and he seemed just the right type of quiet, unsociable, stiff, cold, generally disliked person to be capable of the dastardly deed. That he was of an ethnic group generally suspected of being insufficiently loyal to Mother France was just one more factor persuading the military accusers of Dreyfus' guilt, and some of his key accusers were indeed openly and fiercely anti-Semitic. We can best relate to the situation, however, by recognizing that Jews in France at the time were among the demons du jour, along with Germans, foreigners in general, and Freemasons, much like our current ruling establishment has its militia members, far-right Christian extremists, and even angry white males.

Convinced though they were of his guilt, they were not convinced they could convict him in an open court with the evidence in hand. But too much political capital had already been invested, partly on the basis of strategic leaks to a sympathetic press who puffed the story up, for an innocent verdict to be permitted. A trial was held in secret before five military judges, and a unanimous verdict of guilty was duly rendered upon the basis of a dossier assembled, and to a degree, manufactured, by the prosecution. The defense was, quite illegally, never permitted to see--in fact, was at the time unaware of--the essential evidence against the accused. The death penalty for political crimes having been abolished in 1848, Dreyfus was condemned to life imprisonment on Devil's Island off the coast of South America. Newspapers across the political spectrum all hailed the swift guilty verdict.

Further nailing down the case, the false story that Dreyfus had actually confessed was soon published, and reprinted, in various organs sympathetic to the government. That, the unanimous verdict of the military panel, the opinion of the newspapers, and the natural tendency of the populace to accept the word of authority, was enough to satisfy almost the entire country, at least initially.

For the next three years, the case stayed largely out of the public eye, though a few individuals, uneasy about the closed trial and the excessive zeal with which it had to be sold to the public, began probing into the matter, discovering some of the weakness of the case against Dreyfus and uncovering evidence that pointed to another officer by the name of Major Ferdinand Walsin- Esterhazy, a bon vivant of dubious character who was unmistakably a gentile.

Ironically, in his memoirs published in 1930, German Military Attache Maximilian von Schwarzkoppen revealed that the traitorous major's first overture was made on July 20, 1894, ninety-nine years to the day before the Foster death. Other parallels to the case are striking. One of the largest is the similarity of the national mood. As it neared the end of the century, France was having trouble coping with what was perceived as the decline of traditional values. The following quote refers to the election of 1893:

Above all, one ought to note the troubling lassitude of the voters--out of ten and a half million who were registered, fewer than seven and a half million votes were cast. Do the abstentions indicate that the regime was perceived as a system of impotence and corruption by a segment of the population? [3]

And a contemporary observer, Jacques Chastenet, wrote, "The French malaise is above all moral." [4]

Foster More Serious

At the same stage in the developments, the Foster death would seem to be relatively more important and the official findings at least as dubious. Foster, though little known to the public, was the second ranking person in the White House legal office and a long-time associate of the First Lady, Hillary Clinton. He is also often described as a life-long close friend of Bill Clinton because he was born and raised in Clinton's home town of Hope, Arkansas. This is not quite accurate because Bill moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, when he was five years old, and they did not stay in touch.

According to the official record, Foster was last seen leaving his office at about 1:00 pm on a Tuesday before his body was found at around 6:00 pm by an unlikely anonymous passerby in a hidden corner of a small, preserved Civil War relic known as Fort Marcy Park across the Potomac River in Virginia, a place a few miles from his Georgetown home that Foster, a newcomer to Washington, was never known to have visited. A revolver was reportedly in his hand (though the passerby would eventually surface with the claim that he got a clear look at the hands, and the palms were up and nothing was in them.).

From the beginning the newspapers and the government described the death as an "apparent suicide" though there seemed to be little about even the circumstances known at the time for suicide to be at all apparent. The only thing the authorities really had was the gun in the hand, but it's not that hard for murderers to put a gun in the hand of their victim, and the untraceable 1913 vintage revolver, made up of parts of two guns, found in Foster's hand bore all the earmarks of the typical planted weapon. Furthermore, since the recoil of a powerful weapon such as the .38 caliber on the scene almost always causes the gun to fly out of the hand of one who fatally shoots himself, the fact that the gun was still in the hand is, in itself, a suspicious circumstance.

The haste of the snap judgement alone also should have been enough to generate suspicion. Initially, there was no hint of a motive for the "suicide". Foster was described as the White House's "Rock of Gibraltar". Friends and colleagues in Arkansas expressed astonishment that such a solid, stable, even-tempered and responsible person would take such a drastic and ultimately irresponsible action. Both President Bill Clinton and his spokesperson, Dee Dee Myers, told us that Foster's suicide was just one of life's mysteries for which there could never be an answer, and Clinton, in a eulogy to Foster asked us to "remember him for how he lived, not for how he died." In so doing he was at the same time telling us that, yes, the death was by Foster's own hand and that it is the sort of ignoble deed that is best not dwelt upon. Some White House reporters privately expressed a concern over the President's apparent readiness to accept the verdict of suicide of a close friend and associate instead of placing the full powers of his office behind a thorough investigation, but none of the reporters' doubts found their way into print. That the Park Police instead of the FBI were permitted to handle the case also raised some eyebrows, but not in public.

In slow and awkward stages the story of the mysterious, motiveless suicide began to change. The first attempt at changing the story amounted to something of a false start. The little-read Washington Times of Saturday, July 24, four days after Foster's death, carried an inside article about depression in which Ms. Myers was quoted as saying of Foster, "His family says with certainty that he'd never been treated (for depression)." But on the front page was a story based upon information from an anonymous "source close to the Foster family" who said that Foster was, indeed, experiencing emotional problems and had turned to other family members for psychiatric recommendations. Among the family members mentioned to the reporter was brother-in-law, former Arkansas Congressman Beryl Anthony. The reporter had telephoned Anthony and asked him about the allegation and Anthony had responded, "That's a bunch of crap. There's not a damn thing to it," and angrily hung up the phone. (I wrote a short letter to the Washington Times on July 26 wondering aloud who this anonymous source might be and what he might be up to and concluding that from all we were being told about Foster, in the existing moral climate, he seemed a better candidate for murder than for suicide. The letter was not printed. It was the first of several that I have written to the Washington Times on the Foster case. None have been printed.)

The next significant contribution to the theory that Foster was experiencing psychological problems came four days later in the Washington Post Wednesday, July 28, on page A8. The first sentence bears quoting in its entirety:

White House officials searching the office of Vincent Foster, Jr. last week found a note indicating the 48 year- old deputy White House counsel may have considered psychiatric help shortly before he died July 20 in what investigators have concluded was a suicide, federal officials said yesterday.

The full quote is important because two days later, as part of a much longer article on the ongoing investigation, the Post said that the note had been found by the Park Police in Foster's automobile at Fort Marcy Park, which was eventually in the report released by the Park Police almost a year later. (The July 30 Post article said, however, that the list contained the names of two psychiatrists, both of whom were named and one of whom was interviewed. Neither had been contacted by Foster. The problem here is that when the police report was released, three names were on the list and the names were blacked out as though to protect their confidentiality. The blackouts were missing in a version of the police report released some time later, and the first name on the list, the one not named in the Post article, looked as though it had been written in a different hand.)

It is also interesting to observe that mention of the list of psychiatrists does not turn up in police records until July 27, though the police had all evidence from the car in hand the night of the 20th.

The observation that investigators had concluded the death was a suicide is also not correct, at least not in any official sense. That conclusion was officially made by the Park Police on August 10.

For the eventual official story that Vincent Foster committed suicide because of clinical depression, July 29, 1993, was a banner news day. The Washington Post headlined its scoop this way, "Note Supports Idea that Foster Committed Suicide". What followed was the revelation that another note, this one written on yellow legal paper and torn into 27 pieces, had been found in Foster's briefcase, a briefcase which had been searched on July 22 and had "all" its contents removed by Chief White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum in the presence of witnesses. The discovery had been made by attorney Stephen Neuwirth of the White House Counsel's Office on July 26, but the investigative authorities had not been told about it for around thirty hours, or, at least, so we were told in the story. A seemingly critical news story line was begun, which has continued to the present, over the possibly "unwarranted delay" in reporting the discovery of the note, but the actual text of the note was not released, allowing the suspense to build for another twelve days while, in the meantime, the headline characterization of the mystery note imprinted itself on the consciousness of the public.

For its part, the New York Times on July 29 had a major story which began this way:

In contrast to White House assertions that there had been no signs of trouble, Vincent W. Foster, Jr., the longtime friend of President Clinton who apparently committed suicide last week, had displayed signs of depression in the final month of his life according to Federal officials and people close to Mr. Foster.

A "close associate" had told of Foster's depression having been so bad that on one recent weekend he had spent the whole time in bed with the blinds drawn. The article also contained the first mention of the prescription of an anti-depressant by an Arkansas doctor, and a "person close to the family" told us that he had just begun to take it.

If the anonymous "Federal officials" and "people close to the family" were employed by the White House, they apparently had not yet let their official spokesperson in on everything. Here is an excerpt from Dee Dee Myers' press briefing on the same day:

Q: You asked the family what, Dee Dee?

A: Whether he had been taking any medication. And I didn't confirm it. And they made some point and I, you know--

__________

Q: And what can you tell us about the anti-depressant medication?

A: Nothing.

Q: Had he taken any of it?

A: I don't know.

Q: Do you know what it was?

A: No. I don't even know--The only thing I know about that is what I read in the New York Times. I don't have it confirmed from another source.

Jumping ahead in our chronology quite a bit, it should be noted that neither Foster's widow Lisa nor anyone else on the record has ever confirmed the "lost weekend" that Foster spent at home in bed with the blinds drawn as related to the New York Times by unattributed sources. The authenticity of the note was also later called into very serious question, about which we will have much more to say later, but for the moment, America's two leading newspapers had succeeded in establishing in the public mind the rationale for Foster's suicide. He was "depressed".

Media Similarities and Differences

Even in the early stages of the scandal the similarities in the use made of the major media by the respective governments can be seen. The use of anonymous sources which propagate the government line in the Foster case is of a piece with the early leaks whipping up animosity toward Dreyfus and the ill-founded French reports after the trial that he had confessed. On the other hand, if the Foster case has not, and perhaps never will, escalate into the sort of national blow up that the Dreyfus Affair did, it will likely be because of the differences, not the similarities, in the press. Here's how it was then in France:

Each time the Dreyfusards brought forward new evidence which they were certain this time must force a retrial, it was quashed, suppressed, thrown out or matched by new fabrications by the Army, supported by the Government, by all the bien-pensants or right-thinking communicants of the Church, and by the screams and thunders of four- fifths of the press. It was the press which created the Affair and made truce impossible.

Variegated, virulent, turbulent, literary, inventive, personal, conscienceless, and often vicious, the daily newspapers of Paris were the liveliest and most important element in public life. The dailies numbered between twenty-five and thirty-five at a given time. They represented every conceivable shade of opinion....

Newspapers could be founded overnight by anyone with energy, financial support and a set of opinions to plead. Writing talent was hardly a special requirement, because everyone in the politico-literary world of Paris could write--and did, instantly, speedily, voluminously. Columns of opinion, criticism, controversy poured out like water. [5]

When it comes to having access to news and information, we residents of this country reputedly by, of, and for the people can only feel extremely deprived by comparison. Whether one gets his news from newspapers, magazines, or the television, all he encounters is a drab uniformity, especially when it comes to questions of serious misdeeds by the government. Particularly perceptive people may have an inkling that something just doesn't smell right, but they are given very little help by the increasingly lock-step press in determining what it is that's wrong. In the case of the Foster death, as we have seen, from the very beginning the smell was particularly pungent, but anyone looking for reporting and analysis to satisfy his curiosity found... nothing, absolutely nothing. Rather than four fifths of the press being on the side of the government, in the Foster case, initially, exactly 100 percent lined up behind the Foster suicide verdict, even, as we have seen, before anything like an official finding was announced. But, come to think of it, that's how it was, initially, with the Dreyfus verdict.

Most of the nations's columnists, editorial writers, and other opinion molders rendered their support for the government position by simply ignoring the Foster death. The apparent intended impression to be created was that the evidence for suicide was so persuasive that the matter was unworthy of their comment, but they left open the opposite interpretation of their silence, that is, that there was no way that they could marshal the evidence to make a persuasive case for the government. At any rate, by their silence they tacitly gave consent to the government's words and actions.

Actually, William Safire, token conservative columnist at the New York Times, but somewhat tainted by his former employment as speech writer for the disgraced Richard Nixon, did write a few early articles giving voice to his skepticism about the rush to the suicide conclusion, but he did not persist. Similarly, the conservative Wall Street Journal expressed some misgivings editorially and predicted that the Clinton administration would bear a stain that would not go away by allowing the Park Police to do only a cursory investigation of the Foster death rather than having a full-scale, open FBI investigation. They also picked up on the little noted Washington Times article in which Foster's brother-in-law refuted the allegations of the anonymous source that Foster was seeking psychiatric help, concluding that certainly something seemed to be amiss. But, even though ensuing revelations made the government position ever less tenable, the Journal, like Safire, lacked staying power on the issue and eventually fell into the habit of referring to the “Foster suicide”, which, as the routine practice of all the other news organs, was the most powerful reifier of the government's “suicide-from-depression” position.

Returning to the Foster case chronology, on August 10 the Park Police and the Justice Department held a news conference at which they announced their official finding of suicide in the case. The fact that they were most unforthcoming with substantive answers to questions at the lightly-covered conference and did not at the same time release their report on their investigation was given little attention by the press because the Justice Department, instead, used the occasion to release the text of the by-now celebrated note. Again, of the major national newspapers, only the Wall Street Journal expressed any semblance of an objection to the stated requirement that, if they wanted to see the police report, they would have to go through the drawn out, cumbersome, and ultimately uncertain procedure of submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Their rivals devoted their attention mainly to analyzing and commenting upon the newly-revealed contents of the note, treating it, for lack of anything better, as a suicide note.

With the note taking center stage, it is important that we take a critical look at its contents as well as the circumstances surrounding its reported discovery and unveiling. As observed before, it was hand-written on a sheet of yellow legal paper which had been torn, actually, into 28 pieces (intentionally mutilated to make handwriting analysis difficult?) with one piece, where initials and date might be expected, strangely missing. The act of tearing had produced no fingerprints on the document. The briefcase in which it supposedly turned up, as noted earlier, had been previously inventoried, after which it had been left "empty" on the floor of the office. Foster had been known for his gentlemanly nature and the grace and clarity of his writing in his legal briefs, but here is what the nation was told he penned and then curiously tore up and saved in his briefcase:

I made mistakes from ignorance, inexperience and overwork
I did not knowingly violate any law or standard of conduct
No one in The White House, to my knowledge, violated any law or standard of conduct, including any action in the travel office. There was no intent to benefit any individual or specific group
The FBI lied in their report to the AG
The press is covering up the illegal benefits they received from the travel staff
The GOP has lied and misrepresented its knowledge and role and covered up a prior investigation
The Ushers Office plotted to have excessive costs incurred, taking advantage of Kaki and HRC
The public will never believe the innocence of the Clintons and their loyal staff
The WSJ editors lie without consequence
I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here ruining people is considered sport

To call this collection of random jottings sophomoric and peevish and wholly out of character for a man of Foster's caliber is to understate the case. From its text alone, the reassembled note virtually screamed "fake". One could easily interpret it as a construction whose deceptive purpose was to persuade the public that Foster did, indeed, commit suicide, but not over anything very serious. What personal "mistakes" could the man have been talking about anyway, and what "lies" by his antagonists? He didn't say. Furthermore, if his performance, and that of his cohorts, was as blameless as he goes on to say it was, what was the problem? What was ultimately so serious that he should feel compelled to abandon his family, his loved ones, and his responsibilities by taking his own life?

A detached, objective press would have to be wondering aloud if this could really be the writing, or the thinking, or the actions of the man Vincent Foster was known to be? Yet, with virtual unanimity, they ignored all the textual problems and bizarre circumstances surrounding the note's discovery and seized upon the squalidly self-pitying last item, trumpeting it as the note's main message. Here, obviously, was a poor, weak wretch about to slink off to the Washington area's most out-of-the-way place and end it all with suicide.

One reporter at the press conference did ask Chief Robert Langston of the Park Police if the note had been authenticated. The chief responded that a "handwriting expert" had reviewed it and told them that it had been written by Foster, and so did the widow, Lisa (who claimed no particular expertise in recognizing forgeries, we might add). He did not say who the expert was nor what means of authentication he had used, and there was no follow-up question. The gathered scribes should have been made a bit uneasy by the fact that no photocopies of the note were released, "at the very strong urging of the family of Vince Foster", according to Deputy Attorney General Philip B. Heyman. No explanation was given for the odd family plea, and one can think of no innocent reason for it.

The truly unsatisfactory, and unsatisfying nature of this historic news conference is well summed up with this concluding exchange between Justice Department spokesman, Carl Stern, and Sarah McClendon of the tiny, obscure McClendon News Service:

MR. STERN: Sarah, if you put in a Freedom of Information Act request, we'll make sure that it's handled.

Q: (off mike)-- Freedom of Information Act--(off mike). I want to know what--

MR. STERN: Okay, Sarah.

Q:-- (off mike)--of things we should know now. Are you going to give it to us or are you not?

MR. STERN: Sarah, I don't think we have that available at this--at this point.

Q: Well, why don't you?

MR. STERN: You want some special servicing? Is that it? You're not content to wait and do it the normal way, through a Freedom of Information Act request?

Q: No. Hell, no. I'm not--

MR. STERN: Okay.

Q: --going to wait on that.

MR. STERN: Thank you very much.

END

Thus were the reporters, and the nation, left hanging. A commitment had been made eventually to tell all about the police investigation when the first FOIA request was finally answered, but not just now. The secret case against Dreyfus for treason had been matched by the secret-for-now case against Foster for self-murder.

Defending the Government

Unwilling to share with the public the facts behind their case against Dreyfus, the government and its defenders made their argument principally over the motivation of the protagonists. From this standpoint alone, they would appear to have been on firmer ground than either their opponents at the time or those who have used a similar defense of the government in the Foster matter. What rationale could have possibly been strong enough for France's generally apolitical Army to fabricate an elaborate case against one of its own? Who could possibly let himself believe such a thing, that the honorable men entrusted with the defense of the nation against their immediate, and very threatening enemies, the Germans, could be capable of such an outrage? Had not the Minister of War, General Auguste Mercier, assured the military editor of the influential newspaper Figaro that, from the beginning they had "proofs that cried aloud the treason of Dreyfus" and that his "guilt was absolutely certain"? [6]

Mercier's parliamentary aide, General Riu, put it this way, "Today one must be either for Mercier or for Dreyfus; I am for Mercier." "If Dreyfus is acquitted, Mercier goes," said the royalist-leaning l'Autorite, and a military colleague demonstrated his grasp of what was at stake by noting that, if in a retrial "Captain Dreyfus is acquitted, it is General Mercier who becomes the traitor." L'Autorite raised the stakes one step higher by observing that, since Mercier was a member of the government, "If Dreyfus is not guilty then the Government is." [7]

At least in the early stages of the Foster matter, no one making the case for the government had the stature of the distinguished, upright warrior , Mercier, around whom it could be personified. Certainly, the virtually-anonymous Chief Langston of the Park Police did not qualify, and from his indifferent performance during his one moment on center stage it was clear that he was not bucking for the job. Neither were the possible fabricators of evidence as apparently free of motive or as impeccable of reputation as were General Mercier and his staff. It was known that Foster's office had not been immediately sealed off as requested by the Park Police and that the police were, in fact, not even allowed into the White House until a day's delay. When they did arrive, they were not permitted to examine the possible evidence within Foster's office directly. Rather, they were required simply to take down the information that was provided them by the White House legal office staff, or more precisely, by Chief White House Counsel Nussbaum as he went through Foster's papers. This was the appointee of a president already wracked with scandal barely into the first year of his office. Foster, though a government employee, was said to have been assigned the task of putting the financial property of the Clintons into a blind trust (and who knows what else?). In that capacity he would have known more about the Clinton family finances than any man alive, and his death had rendered him safely beyond any future subpoena.

Those people who eventually materialized to suggest skulduggery in the Dreyfus Affair also were more vulnerable to having their motives impugned, at least in the popular imagination, than are the Foster case critics. Since the original Dreyfusard, the journalist Bernard Lazare, was himself Jewish as were many others who in due time rose to his defense, it was easy to believe that they were just sticking up for a co-religionist regardless of the man's likely guilt. But the insinuations went much deeper. There was already profound suspicion in France of the growing power and influence of the new money represented by Jewish finance capital, and anti-Semitism had not yet had itself discredited by the excesses of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. Though the three thousand copies of Lazare's pamphlet on the case were largely ignored by the influential people to whom he had it distributed, eventually, through sheer force of argument and the inherent and growing strength of his case, he began to pick up allies. As he did, a powerful counter reaction was generated.

In due time, all new evidence dug up by those favoring a new trial for Dreyfus was laid by the Nationalists in the lap of a sinister conspiracy called the "Syndicate". The Syndicate was not only said to include Jewish bankers, politicians, and journalists but also such enemies of traditional France as Freemasons, Socialists, and foreigners in general, particularly Germans. The great majority of the French populace found it easy to believe, and they were helped along in that direction by the lion's share of the press, that the entire purpose of questioning the Dreyfus verdict was to embarrass and undermine the state, and that those who were doing it were just the sort of people that one would normally suspect of such a thing.

One could hardly deny that Jews like Lazare were leaders of the Dreyfus cause, and that it took money, of which Jews had a large and growing sum, to publicize it. Had Dreyfus not been Jewish and with a strong, well-off family behind him, had he been just an average French captain with the same personality in the same situation, one might seriously question whether anyone with any real clout would have taken up his cause in the first place. The eventual exoneration of Dreyfus, to take a novel approach, might be seen as a sign of the first tiny glimmering of Jewish media power in the West, but they were as yet too weak to have pulled it off without truth, and certain key, brave adherents to truth on their side.

Defenders of the government in the Foster case have hardly been above attacking the motives of the skeptics, either. Unwilling as they are to examine publicly the particulars of the matter, belittling the critics and attacking their motives is all that is left to them. An interesting contrast with the Dreyfus Affair here is the near reversal of roles. To be sure, those raising questions are being accused of wanting to bring down the government, but in this instance they are precisely those nationalist, traditionalist, Christian conservative, anti- internationalist types who so staunchly defended the government in the Dreyfus Affair. The defenders of the government, on the other hand, are the "liberals", "progressives", "internationalists", and in another irony, they are backed up in the media, at least in such outstanding examples as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the weekly magazine, the New Yorker, by the same sort of finance capital that was said by their opponents to be behind the Dreyfusard "Syndicate."

The Role of the Intellectuals

The Dreyfus Affair is also duly famous for the role played in working for justice for the falsely convicted man by France's famous intellectual class. Most notable of them all was France's preeminent writer, Emile Zola, who, at the height of the uproar, wrote a letter to the influential newspaper, l'Aurore, given the title J'Accuse by editor (and future Premier) Georges Clemenceau, which accepted the challenge of the Nationalists who said that proclaiming Dreyfus' innocence was to imply the government's guilt. Indeed they were guilty, said Zola eloquently, and he called the roll of the guilty parties, detailing their crimes. The evidence would admit no other conclusion. For his trouble he was tried and sentenced to a year in prison for libel.

Watching the performance of America's intellectuals in the Foster case, one could easily become disappointed and even disillusioned. People who make their living with their wits, with their critical faculties, seem to have abdicated all responsibility to bring them to bear here. More even than the general public, who polls show have a healthy skepticism about the official line on the Foster death, they appear eager simply to believe what they are told, what it is most comfortable to believe. But there is precedent for this greater credulousness of the intellectuals, so there is no real reason for disillusionment. No group of Americans swallowed more uncritically the gigantic lies of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union than did our leftist intellectuals, continuing to believe in the "workers' paradise" even at the height of the Stalin purges, the show trials, and the Great Terror. Nothing seems to paralyze their discerning powers so much as the pronouncements of those who demonstrate good intentions toward society's less fortunate. A Democratic President, just like a brutal but distant communist dictator, is simply given a great deal more slack by these people than anyone perceived as being "conservative".

America's high-brow, general interest magazines, identifiable by the fact that they publish a poem or two here or there, have all had articles making small of any and all allegations of scandal related to the Clinton White House, reserving their most scornful tone for the suggestion that Vincent Foster might not have committed suicide. These magazines include Harper's, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, and the New Yorker. Perhaps fittingly, the most intellectually snobbish and the one which publishes the most poetry, the New Yorker, has been the most active in espousing the government's case, weighing in with an article on Foster's suicidal "depression" even before the August 10, 1993, official suicide “verdict” was rendered and again with an article in September 11, 1995, based upon an exclusive interview with the reclusive widow, Lisa. Both articles are emotional, impressionistic, and superficial, whose scarce supply of hard facts does as much to undermine as to support the official suicide verdict, at least for one who reads carefully and can look past the loaded language. No major magazine has attempted anything resembling its own, independent analysis of the Foster death case.

If the government protagonists in the Foster case have lacked their General Mercier, so too have the critics lacked their Emile Zola. Actually, it is a commentary on the state of letters in modern America that no one would really expect a prominent writer to adopt a high profile challenging the government in a case such as this. In the first place, one would be hard pressed to think of any current literary figure with anything like the stature, the eloquence, the moral authority of a Zola. America's literary community likes to think that it is above such mundane matters as politics, and its contempt for the everyday concerns of the average person is generally reciprocated by the latter.

But one prominent literary figure did offer his opinion on the case in a national magazine. Using the occasion of the shot-gun suicide of drug-ridden rock performer Kurt Cobain, on April 18, 1993, Newsweek had William Styron, most noted as the author of the fictionalized memoirs of the leader of a 19th century Virginia slave rebellion, The Confessions of Nat Turner, reflect for its readers on Vince Foster's presumed depression. Styron's qualification for the assignment was that he claimed some expertise on depression, having suffered from it himself and having written a book on his experience. His authority for Foster's case were the questionable newspaper accounts already mentioned and an anonymous "close friend" of Foster's--much like the New York and Washington Times anonymous sources-- who noted that Foster was "clearly depressed". He would not identify the anonymous close friend when called on the phone and later queried by mail. One can't help but wonder if the source was the same one who told Sidney Blumenthal for his August 9, 1993, New Yorker article that Foster had lost 15 pounds (a "fact" which Styron duly repeats). Later, official records revealed that Foster had weighed 194 pounds during a December 1992 physical exam in Little Rock and at the autopsy his corpse weighed 197 pounds (more on this later).

In sum, Styron's performance for Newsweek was truly a sad one, and would have been very disappointing to anyone still harboring the notion that our "serious" writers are serious seekers after truth.

Enter Christopher Ruddy

Perhaps the weight of Mr. Styron's dubious authority was felt necessary by mid-April of 1994 because, earlier in the year the Foster case had produced its potential Bernard Lazare in the person of New York Post reporter, Christopher Ruddy. Ruddy, the 29-year-old Irish Catholic son of a New York policeman, on January 27 produced his first shower of new information as a part of what would become a veritable flood in the months and years ahead (Lazare, by the way, was barely 30 years old when Alfred Dreyfus' older brother, Mathieu, induced him to take up the cause). Here, remarkably, it would appear, was the first American reporter who didn't rely primarily upon the government for his information on the case. Rather, he was able to interview actual witnesses to the body discovery scene, two of whom among the emergency workers were willing to be quoted upon what they had seen. And their accounts much more seriously than before called into question the official suicide story.

What they said they saw was a body lying perfectly straight with the arms against the body and a revolver still in the hand. One of the workers who helped put the corpse in a body bag said he didn't recall seeing any blood or an exit wound. The scene, in sum, was altogether different from what these experienced emergency workers would have expected from a man having blown out his brains with a .38 caliber revolver. It also conflicted with the experience of the New York homicide experts with whom Ruddy consulted, according to his report.

This was news which could not be ignored, though it was by the major news networks and the New York Times. The Washington Times played it straight with a front page article on the Ruddy revelations the next day along with a chronology of the main developments in the case. The Washington Post remained silent until the next day, January 29, 1994, which was a Saturday, and buried the article away at the very bottom of page 2 of their Metro or local news section. Because of its importance the story is presented here in its entirety, complete with heading and the commentary that I wrote on it at the time, that is, without the benefit of the considerable hindsight that we have acquired as new evidence has surfaced. To get the impression that the Post intended to convey, and probably did to those who depend on it and other mainstream sources for all their news, the reader should make a serious effort to skip over my commentary--the part in italics--the first time through. After having read it with the commentary, one might consider reading it one more time a la Post reader after having completed reading this entire paper to get a more thorough appreciation of its conscious deceitfulness.

Doubts on Clinton Aide's Death Silenced

It is not the doubts which have been silenced. They have been magnified. The witnesses have been temporarily muzzled, but they did get their stories out, which is a great credit to their courage and integrity. One should be able to say as much for the Post.

Two Fairfax County emergency workers who have questioned whether the death of White House aide Vincent Foster Jr. was a suicide have been asked by county officials not to discuss their suspicions publicly, a fire department spokesman said yesterday.

The suspicions, the doubts, the questions of the witnesses are not at issue here. What they report they saw is what is at issue.

Paramedic George Gonzalez and emergency worker Kory (sic, it's Cory) Ashford, who were among the first people to see the body of the deputy chief counsel at Fort Marcy Park last July, have told county officials that the scene seemed unusually tidy for a suicide to have taken place there.

Gonzalez and Ashford said they thought it strange that Foster, who died from a gunshot wound to the head, had little blood on his clothing and was still holding a .38- caliber pistol in his right hand.

Gonzalez and Ashford said that in similar cases they had seen, the force of the gunshot had caused the person to drop the weapon, a county source said.

In the case of Gonzalez we are fortunate to have both an expert witness and an eyewitness together in one person. Gonzalez, the New York Post reported, has had 13 years experience as a rescue worker and has seen the results of numerous hand-gun suicides. But the New York Post did not rely solely on his experience. They also talked to numerous homicide experts in New York City who agreed that the scene was highly unusual for a suicide.

The fact that Foster was stretched out neatly on his back also made the emergency workers wonder about the circumstances of his death, the county sources said.

Also with his arms straight by his side. How did he get into that position after he had blown his brains out with the gun in the mouth? Why was there no blood or tissue on the gun, as is common in these cases?

Several forensic experts, however, said yesterday that the lack of blood on Foster and the position of his body were consistent with federal authorities' ruling that the death was a suicide, even though such deaths often are more gruesome.

Notice the strategic "however." The New York Post also talked to experts. This article suggests a false conflict, the amateur witness versus the "experts." Though by great happenstance the condition of the body may be "consistent with" the official declaration, it is statistically a great deal more consistent with murder staged to look like suicide, which New York officials say is a relatively common occurrence.

"There's a lot of variability, depending on the gun and the type of ammunition used," said Michael Baden, director of forensic science for the New York State Police.

But we know that this was a .38 revolver, and we know the ammunition that was used. The "variability" observation is irrelevant. Thirty-eights of this type make a big, bloody mess.

"The bullet wound in the mouth does not necessarily cause blood to come out of the mouth."

Blood out of the mouth is not in question here. The mouth is the only place anyone saw blood, oozing from the corner. If he died on the spot there should have been a big pool of blood around the body. There was none.

Gonzalez and Ashford have consistently described the scene of Foster's death as tidy, but only recently indicated their suspicions that his death might not have been a suicide.

But only this week have their observations, or anything like them, appeared in print anywhere, and they are highly significant. If Washington Post reporters had heard of such descriptions, as they imply, they are guilty of journalistic malpractice, or worse, for not reporting them.

After reports of their concerns appeared in the New York Post, the workers scheduled a news conference yesterday to respond to a barrage of media questions.

But Sgt. Blount, a spokesman for the county's Fire and Rescue Department, said yesterday that Fairfax officials ruled out a “statement and question” session because of the possibility that inquiries into Foster's death could become a part of a federal investigation into President Clinton's ties to a failed Arkansas savings and loan. Foster, who had been treated for depression before his death, handled some of the Clintons' affairs in Arkansas, including their investment in the defunct Whitewater Development Corp.

The mention of treatment for depression is entirely gratuitous, thrown in to reinforce the judgment of suicide. Four days after the death, on July 24, 1993, the Washington Times quoted White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers as follows: "His family says with certainty that he'd never been treated (for depression)." Foster's immediate family, to date, has never publicly confirmed such treatment nor has any doctor. No record was ever produced to confirm the Post's earlier assertion that he had a prescription for an anti-depressant filled. The Post's assertion that he took that anti-depressant the night before he died is contradicted by what little has been released from the autopsy report, which said that no drugs were found in his system.*

Special Counsel Robert B. Fiske Jr., who is investigating the Clintons' ties to Whitewater and the Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, has said he will examine the Foster suicide to determine whether there are any ties to his work on Whitewater Development. But Fiske has given no indication that he believes the official finding of suicide should be reviewed.

He has given no indication that it should not be, either. And is it not prejudicial and nonsensical for the Post to write that Fiske probably won't look into "the Foster suicide" because "he has given no indication that he believes the official finding of suicide should be reviewed"? Should they not say "the Foster death" in this instance?

U.S. Park Police officials said yesterday that there is "no doubt" that Foster committed suicide.

Maj. Robert Hines, the Park Police spokesman, said no ballistic test was performed on the antique 1913 revolver found in Foster's hand because a bullet was never found.

But Hines said an examination performed by federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found that residue in the bullet chamber during a test firing was identical to the residue in Foster's hand, indicating that Foster had fired the gun.

Surely they must know that it indicates no such thing. Gunpowder residue is gunpowder residue. It is not unique to a particular gun or particular ammunition except in exceptional cases such as a black powder muzzle loader. Even if the hand and the gun residue could be positively linked, so what? A corpse offers little resistance to the firing of a gun in the hand or to smudging with residue swabbed out of a gun barrel.

The conclusion was further supported by the autopsy, which found gun residue in Foster's palm.

If Foster fired the gun, how did residue get on his palm? Wouldn't it be on the back of his hand, if anywhere at all?

The Park Police report on Foster was due to be released, but sources said it is being delayed because of concerns that Fiske will want to review it.

Until the Washington Times reported on December 20, 1993, that among the things secretly removed from Foster's office the night he died were files related to Whitewater Development Corporation, the White House was effectively resisting the call for a special prosecutor. Why has the police report, including the autopsy, been kept secret all these months?

*A good deal of evidence related to Foster's "depression" did come to light after January 29, 1994, but the case for it remains as weak, if not weaker, than ever. The family doctor in Little Rock was interviewed by members of Fiske's team and he claims to have talked with Foster by phone and to have prescribed an anti-depressant by calling it in to the Morgan Pharmacy in Georgetown, which supposedly delivered it to his home the day before he died. However, it is indeed curious that Foster was able to make connection directly with the doctor, talking to no one else in the office. No mention is made in the official record, which was released in two large volumes after Senate hearings in the summer of 1994 (more about those later), of billing records, copies of the prescription, or, most importantly, of long-distance telephone records of the call by Foster to Little Rock or the call from the doctor to Georgetown. Furthermore, the level of the dosage is much too low for the treatment of clinical depression (50 milligram tablets of trazadone). At that level of dosage it is no more than an anti-insomnia medicine. So whatever one is to believe about the medication, the Post is wrong to state categorically that Foster "had been treated for depression."

There is more reason to doubt whether any consumption of medication ever took place. Fiske, in his report, says confidently that, "Lisa Foster saw Foster take one tablet during that evening." We learn from the Senate hearing documents, however, that when lead investigator Sgt. John Rolla of the Park Police asked Lisa at her home the night of the death if Foster had been taking any medication, she responded "no". He also concluded in his written report on that evening that none of the family members present could think of any reason why Foster would have taken his own life. Those family members included, in addition to the widow, his daughter and both of his sisters.

The FBI lab, working for Fiske, also claims to have detected the traces of trazadone in Foster's blood which the original toxicologist missed, though one of his specific tests was for anti-depressants. The probity of the FBI lab, however, in 1996 came under fire from one of its own chemists, Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, who accused them of misreading evidence to benefit the prosecution in a number of cases, most notably in the prosecution of those accused of the World Trade Center bombing in New York City. In the Foster case, as well, the truthfulness of the FBI has been called into serious question. In the Fiske Report the claim is made that an FBI team visited the site where Foster's body was discovered and excavated to a depth of 18 inches in search of bone fragments or any other residue beneath where Foster's head had lain. Reporter Ruddy talked to an archaeologist from the Smithsonian Institution who was present and he says no such digging was done. I also talked with a regular visitor to the park who is quite familiar with the site. He was there only a few days after the date of the claimed excavation and saw "no signs of digging."

Government Salesmen

The essential sales role of the Washington Post for the government's conclusions could have hardly been more evident than it was at this crucial juncture in the Foster case. The Post had gone to great lengths to create the impression that Ruddy's revelations really amounted to not very much. One would be hard pressed to imagine how it would have reported on the revelations any differently had its editors and reporters been employed directly by the White House.

Before continuing with the chronological narrative, a couple of other Post contributions to the government's suicide case should be mentioned. On Sunday, August 1, 1993, twelve days after Foster's body was discovered and nine days before the announcement of the first official conclusion of suicide, the Post's lead reporter on the Foster death, David Von Drehle, wrote a rare column on the subject. The column must have been several days in gestation because, in it, Von Drehle reverted to the original non-explanation for the "suicide", that it was just one of those things that we can never understand. His means of doing so was to disinter a familiar old poem by the early 20th-century writer, Edward Arlington Robinson, entitled Richard Cory about a rich, slender, handsome and widely-envied fellow who seemed to have everything, yet "one calm summer night, went home and put a bullet in his head."

Concluded Von Drehle, "Thousands of lines of newspaper type have been spent on Vincent Foster's tragic death. I don't think any of us put it any clearer."

We stress that the author, Robinson, offers absolutely no explanation for the fictional Richard Cory's drastic deed, though he does provide some verisimilitude by having his character kill himself at home at night, not in the middle of a work day in a hidden corner of an obscure park distant from home and work. More even than Cory's death itself, Foster's death in Von Drehle's exposition fits the definition of what we may call the "Richard Cory Effect", that is, a mysterious happening for which there is no plausible explanation. If we only think about it a little, we can see that this would-be press investigator of Foster's death didn't get nearly as much mileage out of the Richard Cory Effect as he might have. He could, in due time, also have invoked it to explain a number of other obvious anomalies in the case for Foster's suicide:

The only explanation that holds good for every one of them, and a like number of anomalies which developed, as we shall see, as the case progressed, would seem to be reporter Von Drehle's Richard Cory Effect, that is, once again, "a mysterious happening for which there is no plausible explanation."

Another Post reporter stepped out of character into the columnist's role four days later, on August 5. This time it was Walter Pincus from the regular CIA beat who produced an article entitled "Vincent Foster: Out of His Element". The title strongly conveys the column's flavor, which is actually pretty much all it had. Hard facts were noticeably absent. The article is particularly significant because it was the first instance of anyone publicly saying that he noticed any behavior in Foster that one might describe as, at most, agitated. He does not go so far as to use the word "depressed". Pincus claims to have had breakfast with Foster several times since his arrival from Washington, having gotten to know him since both of their wives were from Little Rock. He begins his article on the premise that, of course, Foster took his own life:

Like others, I have been haunted by the question of why Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster Jr. would drive out to Fort Marcy Park in Virginia, walk to a lonely spot, put a gun to his head and shoot himself.

He doesn't take long to get to his purely speculative answer to his question, though he doesn't label it as such. We pick up with the article's second paragraph:

Foster was not a veteran of Clinton's past political battles or his statehouse service. If his name ever appeared in public print in Little Rock, it was for legal cases won or honors received. In Washington, he was clearly a man out of his element.

He arrived in January without a thick hide for the rough and tumble that one develops by participating in a national political campaign or even in a state legislative session.

There it is. But he was, after all, the Rose Law Firm's head litigator making $295,000 a year in low-rent Little Rock. People with thin skins don't last very long in that rough-and- tumble business, much less rise to the top, but Foster, we are to believe, had an extraordinarily thin one. And how did this handicap eventually prove to be fatal?

When the (Wall Street) Journal took aim at him in a lead editorial titled "Who is Vince Foster?" he suddenly and surprisingly found himself considered a questionable man of mystery in Washington, a "crony" whose very reluctance at immediately handing out a picture of himself to an editorial page implied he had something to hide.

His composure sometimes broke when he would discuss what he considered wild assertions in one paper that would be denied but then picked up blindly by others. He would have been amazed and extremely disturbed by the rumors that have accompanied his own suicide and found their way into print.

What, specifically, is Mr. Pincus talking about? There were no wild assertions in the Wall Street Journal's editorial, and nobody picked up on their charges, which were actually quite mild. And as of July 20, 1993, press treatment of the Clinton White House in general was extremely forbearing, especially in light of the corruption we have since discovered, much of which Foster must have known about. And yet, Foster's "composure broke" when he spoke of it. One would have liked a little more elaboration. Did he cry? Did he curse? Did he rend his garments? How, exactly, did his broken composure manifest itself? This is material testimony that virtually cries out for cross-examination.

Pincus's theme of Foster as fragile victim of the merciless press was picked up on by Sidney Blumenthal in his August 9 New Yorker article:

Foster sought perspective through a number of conversations with Walter Pincus, a reporter for the Washington Post, whose wife is from Little Rock. "He couldn't understand why the press was the way it was," Pincus said. "It was a sense that people would print something that was wrong, and that other people would repeat it. I'd say, 'You can't let the press get your goat; you have to go on. This is how the game is played.' He'd say, 'Fine.' "

We return to the Pincus narrative for his conclusion:

Near midnight that Tuesday at the Foster home in Georgetown, I sat in the garden with a few of his Arkansas friends for half an hour. They had stories about his remarkable life in Little Rock. We then all talked -- with hindsight--about how he had taken on everyone else's problems in Washington. Each of us recalled how we had seen the little ways the pressures on him had shown through. But none saw any sign that he would take his own life because of them and so--much too late--each voiced his own guilt about having failed Vince when he most needed help.

What he is telling us is that he was at the Foster home the night of the death talking with the White House crowd ("Arkansas friends"). In so doing, he inadvertently reveals his cozy relationship with the people that the public expects him to report upon objectively. He also could not have failed to know that the police had come and spent more than an hour questioning the family. Yet his newspaper had reported on July 30 that the police had been turned away, and it left the country with that false impression for almost a year. And if he and the Arkansas crowd were so perceptive in noticing "the little ways the pressures on him had shown through," why would the police conclude from their family interviews that night that no one present could think of any reason why he would take his own life? Perhaps the best question to be asked is if this man and his newspaper have given you sufficient reason to believe that they would tell you the truth in this matter.

The Search for a Mercier

As noted in the Washington Post spin article on the shocking revelations by the emergency workers, an “independent counsel” had been appointed by the Clinton Justice Department earlier in the month to look into the scandal involving Clinton business partner Jim McDougal, his failed savings and loan and the Whitewater Development Corporation, jointly owned by McDougal, his wife at the time, Susan, and the Clintons. No announcement had yet been made as to whether the counsel's duties would involve reexamining the Foster death.

There really was no reason for suspense. Until the ostensibly conservative, Clinton-opposing Washington Times revealed in a front page article on December 20, 1993, that among the items removed from the Foster office the night he died were Whitewater documents, the White House and its Justice Department had been successfully resisting calls for an independent counsel. The stated source for the new scuttlebutt was anonymous Park Police investigators, but, in reality, there was no way for them to have known for sure what was or wasn't removed from the office because they were never given free access to it. On the other hand, as we have seen, there were a host of other highly suspicious things associated with the Foster death that these anonymous Park Police leakers had to have known about but did not share with the Times, or if they did, the Times chose not to print it. Even on things missing from the office they might have been more enlightening. We know from subsequent official documents that they inquired, as they should have, about an appointments calendar and a personal log of telephone calls. As we noted earlier, neither, apparently, ever turned up. Is it not, then, safe to assume that this material evidence of far more importance than any Whitewater documents was among the things illegally removed from the office?

It would appear that the decision had been made in the White House that a Mercier-like figure was needed to put his personal stamp upon the suicide-from-depression story, and who would be better for that than an "independent counsel"? His primary attention would be devoted to the safer and much more difficult to understand "Whitewater Affair." That would be the magician's hand that would receive the main notice of the press. A connection had to be made to the Foster death, however, so the counsel's true principal duty could be justified. So the Whitewater leak was made to the Washington Times, and the appointment of putative- Republican New York lawyer, Robert B. Fiske, Jr., followed closely in its wake.

It can't be said that Fiske was a well-known public figure with great moral authority. It is perhaps the greatest indictment of the United States as it approaches the 21st century that it is very difficult, indeed, to think of anyone who might fit that description. But, at least, the press was able to make much of the fact that Fiske was a member of the principal opposition party to the president. Little noted was the fact that he had also been a defense counsel for former Democratic Secretary of Defense, Clark Clifford, in the case involving the fraudulent takeover of First American Bank in Washington, DC, by the Pakistan- based Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI). BCCI was the much under-publicized largest criminal conspiracy in history involving the theft of billions of dollars of depositors' money around the world and massive laundering of illegal drug money, among other things. According to the definitive book on BCCI, False Profits, by Peter Truell and Larry Gurwin, the man most responsible for getting BCCI involved in the United States was Jackson Stephens of the brokerage firm of Jackson Stephens Associates of Little Rock, Arkansas. To close the circle, according to a Wall Street Journal report in the wake of Foster's death, Stephens was the largest single client of Little Rock's Rose Law Firm, and the man who had been in charge of the Stephens account before he left for his government job was none other than the Rose firm's top attorney, Vincent W. Foster, Jr.

Shortly after Chris Ruddy's first Foster story appeared, Fiske announced that former New York City prosecutor, Roderick C. Lankler, would focus exclusively on the Foster case. Soon after that, leaks helpful to the government's original case began to trickle out of the Fiske shop. Thus began a persistent pattern which, in effect, allowed the government to have its cake and eat it, too. Those who wanted to hear more from witnesses or, at least, to get a look at the evidence which the police had used to conclude suicide, were put off by being told that nothing could be let out because it might interfere with Fiske's ongoing investigation. On the other hand, the press didn't stop referring routinely to Foster's "suicide", as though the fact that the case had been reopened made no difference. On top of that, Fiske, with his leaks could actually reinforce the suicide verdict well in advance of officially rendering one which he would then have to defend. Eventually, enough time might be bought that they could start dismissing the whole matter as "old news".

Let us illustrate the usefulness of the strategic Fiske leak. In one of his follow-up stories in the New York Post reporter Ruddy made a mistake and invested too much confidence in the veracity of one of his sources within the Park Police who had originally established his credibility by confirming what the emergency workers had said about the tidy body discovery scene. According to the source, the police had not even taken the most basic crime scene photographs, and this is how Ruddy reported it. Very quickly ABC Television News made public a single leaked photograph which showed a hand grasping a revolver backwards with the thumb on the trigger. The hand with its long, slender fingers looks like Foster's as does the pin-striped pants almost under which the barrel of the gun rests. Behind the hand is a bed of brown leaves. The photo was quickly reproduced in Newsweek and other publications.

There was a "gotcha" quality to the ABC and Newsweek reports. Ruddy has been shown up as an irresponsible rumormonger in contrast to the official authorities who had been performing their duties properly all along while under fire from partisan political snipers. No one ever asked how reporter Jim Wooten was chosen to get this one leaked photograph or why he was satisfied with just the one photograph, if, indeed, that was all he was given. He also reported that the photo contradicted the reports by Ruddy that there was little blood in evidence. The viewer had to take the reporter's word for it, however, because blood in any quantity was far from obvious in what was flashed up on the screen, nor could any be clearly seen in the Newsweek reproduction. If the doubts were to be laid to rest, the full collection of crime scene photographs, if they existed, was called for.

At any rate, the release of the photograph seemed to have given the government a small victory over the pesky Ruddy, but it might have done more harm than good to the government's case over the long haul, as did the stories leaked out in March to the New York Daily News and in early April to the Wall Street Journal that Fiske had already reached the conclusion that Foster committed suicide, though he didn't render a report until the last day in June.

In the FBI report of the interview of Foster's widow, done pursuant to the Fiske inquiry, the following statement appears: "LISA FOSTER believes that the gun found at Fort Marcy Park may be the silver gun which she brought up with her other belongings when she permanently moved to Washington." Later in the same report we find this: "SHARON BOWMAN (one of Foster's two sisters) told LISA FOSTER that FOSTER's father kept a gun by his bed while he was still living, and LISA FOSTER believes that that gun may be the same revolver she was shown by the interviewing agents." (emphasis added) Drawing upon the implications of these statements and similar statements by Lisa in an August 1995 issue of the New Yorker, James Stewart, the author of Blood Sport, goes a bit farther than the Fiske Report and strongly implies that this silver gun was the gun that Foster used to kill himself (Fiske only weakly implies it for the careless reader.) But there was that one released crime-scene photo. The gun was clearly thoroughly black, not silver.

Ruddy would also later claim that based upon his interviews with witnesses, the body was not at the site where the police claimed it was. This is not something he would be likely to fabricate because what it means is that all of the Park Police witnesses who said publicly that the body was at a different site would have to be consciously in on a major coverup and obstruction of justice. (Rescue workers who, on the record, describe a site consistent with Ruddy's location would have to be somewhat complicit themselves, too, because they have certainly not publicly attacked the Park Police on this matter.) And what plausible motive could they have to misidentify the site of the body? To maintain that they nevertheless did so obviously makes Ruddy's task of selling his story more difficult. Might he have been intentionally misinformed by his sources so that he would end up looking bad? Well, once again, there's the photograph of the hand with the gun. The body is obviously resting on a bed of brown leaves. At the site where the police tell us the body was found the ground is barren and the leaves that fell there the previous autumn had long since been washed to the bottom of the steeply sloping berm by late July. The background at the Ruddy site matches the photograph exactly while the official site looks nothing like it.

When Fiske's report was released on June 30, 1994, it was accompanied by a number of FBI lab reports which have dates of May and June. Mention was made of an expedition out to the park in early April to look for skull fragments or any other organic residue from Foster having shot himself there. The discoveries, as we shall see, don't clearly and obviously support the conclusion of suicide. In large measure they greatly undermine it. We also later discover that Fiske's FBI people made none of their key interviews until May. But the leaks of March and April tell us that Fiske had already reached a suicide conclusion. Indeed, it seems he had, regardless of what the evidence showed.

Fiske Weighs in and Falls Down

Fiske's report is most noteworthy for the startling contrast between its merit, or, rather, its lack of merit and the unanimous acclaim with which it was received by the American news media. This striking unanimity, which included the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times, was possible because Christopher Ruddy had been dismissed from his reporter's job at the New York Post and had not yet been hired by the small, suburban Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Fiske summarized his conclusions as follows:

On the afternoon of July 20, 1993, in Fort Marcy Park, Fairfax County, Virginia, Vincent W. Foster, Jr. committed suicide by firing a bullet from a .38 caliber revolver into his mouth. As discussed below, the evidence overwhelmingly supports this conclusion, and there is no evidence to the contrary. This conclusion is endorsed by all participants in the investigation, including each member of the Pathologist Panel. [8]

Those who would question Fiske's conclusions were said to be indulging in "conspiracy theories" or "talk show fantasies" according to the Washington Post's "news" story, and in its editorial it declared that the report should "satisfy all but the most cynical partisans." Thus did the Post, speaking for the American press in general, foreclose honest debate. Anyone who might not be satisfied with the 58 double-spaced pages of report, accompanied by 91 pages of the resumes of the pathologists, was labeled in advance not just a cynical partisan, but one of the most cynical partisans. Yet, I am writing these words exactly two years and four months after Fiske pronounced his conclusion, and the case of the death of Vincent Foster is still open and ongoing in the federal government's Office of the Independent Counsel. Fiske's conclusions, as it turned out, were not all that definite and final. It's enough to make one wonder if all those reporters who so praised the Fiske Report had actually bothered to read it.

There were three obvious reasons why Fiske's report should not have been immediately embraced as the final word on Foster's death. First, he separated his investigation into two parts. The second part was to be addressed to the actions of the White House staff in the hours and days after the death. Did those actions constitute obstruction of justice, and if so, for what purpose? The report that Fiske released did not deal with that question. Second, apart from the FBI lab reports already mentioned and the autopsy report, Fiske gave us very little supporting documentation for his conclusions. The Park Police report was still held back. Fiske talked of conducting 125 interviews, but there were no transcripts of the interviews. What is at least as bad, in contrast to the Whitewater part of his investigation, he had not convened a grand jury to hear the Foster witnesses and none of the testimony had been made under oath. The absence of the threat of a perjury charge seriously weakened the credibility of the testimony. Fiske also told us what a number of Polaroid photographs of the crime scene showed, but the one leaked to ABC remains the only one that the public has been permitted to see. And, in a confessed Park Police “blunder” that should have raised eyebrows, he admitted to the kernel of truth in Chris Ruddy's charge about the crime scene photographs. The 35 mm photos taken by the Park Police crime scene photographer were said to have been spoiled from under- exposure. In light of such a curious development, a critical reader had to wonder if the evidence we weren't shown really did support Fiske's conclusions.

Which brings us to the third reason for skepticism. The new evidence that was revealed by Fiske undermined more than it supported the verdict of suicide. In fact, the appendices to Fiske's 58-pager contained some startling new revelations which somehow managed to escape the notice of every single reporter and every single news agency in the United States.

The blood pattern evidence showed quite clearly that Foster's head had been in different positions post mortem from the almost straight, upright position in which it was found. There was a smudge stain on the right cheek matching a stain on the right shoulder of his shirt which the FBI lab technicians said strongly suggested that, at some point, the cheek had rested upon the shoulder. There were also two narrow tracks of blood, one from the right nostril to above the right ear, in the temple area, and another from the right corner of the mouth to just below the right ear. With Foster's body lying head-high on a slope, blood would have had to flow uphill to make those tracks. In fact, Fiske says the steepness of the slope explains why no pool of blood was seen above or beside the massive exit wound in the back of the head. All the blood had flowed down the body in the back. Fiske's pathologists could conclude, only, that someone must have moved the head before the photographs were taken. From the blood evidence, alone, it appears they would have had to move the head at least twice, but no was identified as the tamperer with the potential crime scene.

Foster's glasses were said to have been found 13 feet below his feet at the bottom of the hill, and, according to the FBI lab, they had traces of gunpowder on them. Fiske said they "bounced down the hill." But the force of the blast initially would have carried them in the opposite direction. They would have had to change directions and make their way over rough terrain and through heavy foliage to get where they were found. Gravity might do the trick on a round ball, or a liquid, but not eyeglasses, of all things.

Carpet type fibers of various colors were discovered on Foster's jacket, tie, shirt, undershorts, pants, belt, socks, shoes, and two of the papers on which the clothes had been placed to dry. Blond to light brown hairs, not from Foster, were found on his undershirt, pants, belt, socks, and shoes. Officially, no attempt was made to match either the hairs or the fibers with known people or places, which makes one wonder why they bothered to look for these things in the first place. Was this one of those trails chosen not to go down for fear of where it might lead?

Most of the 200 yards-plus route that Foster would have had to walk from the parking lot to the body site is either dirt or grass. Yet there was no dirt nor were there grass stains on his shoes. The site where they said the body was found is barren ground, but there was no dirt on his clothes, either. There were flecks of mica, which Fiske makes much of, but casual inspection when a direct sun is shining reveals that all of the vegetation in the park, including the dried leaves, is covered with tiny, sparkling bits of mica.

The Fiske Report has a number of other weaknesses, most of which, as could be expected in such a brief effort, could be categorized as sins of omission. For instance, the work of the Park Police was not reviewed. Most fundamentally, we were not told why the Park Police so readily concluded suicide nor what steps, if any, they might have taken to rule out homicide. We have to read between the lines to figure out that the police did very little. The police had clearly made no effort to check Foster's clothing for things like carpet fibers. They had not discovered any bone, scalp, or other human tissue on the ground beneath Foster's head or an FBI expedition would not have been sent out looking for it nine months later. They reported nothing about any check on Foster's car for fingerprints or the area around his body for footprints. We are told that the FBI lab found one fingerprint on the revolver found in Foster's hand, but it wasn't his. The impression left is that the Park Police did not check the gun for prints and the FBI made no effort to determine who was responsible for the print that was found. We are not even told if the police made any systematic effort to determine what Foster's scheduled plans were for the remainder of the day. In fact, what Fiske has to say about the work of the Park Police is so brief that we might as well repeat it here.

In the weeks following Foster's death, the Park Police conducted a number of interviews with family members, White House staff, and others; reviewed documents obtained from the White House and from Foster's personal belongings; and took other investigative steps including fingerprint analyses and an unsuccessful search in Fort Marcy Park for the bullet fired from the gun. The Park Police concluded that Foster's death was a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the mouth. [9]

Those who were expecting that Fiske's work would represent something of a critique of what the Park Police did had to have been disappointed.

One other glaring inconsistency bears mentioning. It is one that could hardly have been overlooked by any conscientious reporter, but no one in the press said a thing about it. Fiske, in a footnote, tells us that the autopsy doctor took no X-rays because his X-ray machine was broken. This is unfortunate for anyone wanting to resolve conflicts because Dr. James Beyer's autopsy diagram showing a 1" by 1.25" exit wound differs from what emergency worker Cory Ashford had to say. He said there was no exit wound at all, or at least there was none that he saw. When we turn to the last page of the autopsy report, the gunshot wound chart, we see that Dr. Beyer has checked that he did take X-rays.

After Fiske

With the Fiske Report providing cover, a collection of documents totaling some 100 pages was quietly released shortly afterward by the Park Police. It did not include all of the paperwork accompanying the original police inquiry, and numerous parts of the documents were inexplicably "redacted" or blacked out, but in the absence of anything better, this would have to serve as the long- awaited "Police Report." At any rate, not just the new anomalies it revealed, but news of the release itself, was blacked out by the American press.

Of the new anomalies, two stand out. We learn for the first time, from the very sketchy, one-page report of primary investigator, Sgt. John Rolla, that the police were not turned away from the Foster home the night of his death and that he and Sgt. Cheryl Braun were able to interview not just the widow Lisa but also Foster's daughter and both of his sisters, and some White House staff members. We also get to see Rolla's conclusion that no one present could think of any reason why Foster would have taken his own life. Second, we get to read the report of Detective James G. Morrissette who was one of four Park Policemen to attend Dr. James Beyer's autopsy of Foster. In his report Morrissette notes that Dr. Beyer said that the X-rays showed no bullet fragments in the head, which comes pretty close to confirming completely that Dr. Beyer did indeed take X-rays, as he had checked on the Gunshot Wound Chart, though they are now missing and said by Fiske never to have been taken.

Considering all the things that were redacted, one can't help wondering how these latest tantalizing tidbits got out but, as we have noted, they didn't get out very far, the press having ignored completely the release of the police documents.

A Senate Endorsement

On July 29, 1994, a month after the release of the Fiske Report, the United States Senate showed that it, too, could enjoy the indulgence of having its cake and eating it, too. It would like to show that it was taking heed of the public concern over the smell of cover-up surrounding the Foster death, but an actual, full-scale Senate investigation could only cause problems. If it were to produce a report that concluded that there was, indeed, a cover-up, it would have fostered a major national crisis. Covering up a murder is serious business. On the other hand, if it were to conclude that it was, indeed, suicide, the Senate would have to lay out its evidence in writing, and we have already seen a little of how Fiske's partial effort could be so easily picked apart. What was done was to let the Senate Banking and Urban Affairs Committee hold a half day of show-and-tell featuring some of the players in the Park Police/Fiske investigations (Remember, Foster's death had been tied to the Whitewater Development Corporation which was, in turn, connected to Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan. Hence, the Banking Committee had jurisdiction.) The opening statements of the chairman and the members would make it clear that they were not there to question whether or not Foster committed suicide. As a group they had no quibble with Fiske's firm conclusions. What they were there for, in fact, was to lend their authority to the official suicide line, but in the unlikely event it were to blow up in their face, they could always say truthfully that they never really investigated it.

Though the committee made it quite clear that they were not doing their own investigation of Foster's death, that has not stopped media defenders of the government line from referring to the numerous "investigations" that have all come to the conclusion of suicide. In reality, to date, there has not been even one death investigation worthy of the name. As we have seen, just as the Senate did nothing to second guess Fiske, Fiske did very little to second guess the Park Police. He never told us what the Park Police did to rule out murder. His strongest evidence of suicide came from the findings of the original autopsy doctor which conflicted with what other witnesses saw. He could have resolved the conflict by exhuming the body and having another autopsy performed, but he did not. In short, Fiske invested the utmost confidence in the efforts of the Park Police, but what he tells us of those efforts comes to a scant six and one half lines of type, and when the FBI lab came up with new avenues of inquiry for him, he failed to go down them.

So, the "Senate investigation" actually rests upon the "Fiske investigation" which, in turn, rests upon the "Park Police investigation." So, what might we say of the Park Police investigation? The daily press briefing of White House spokesperson, Dee Dee Myers for July 22, 1993, is very revealing in that regard. Recall that this is less than two full days after the discovery of the body:

Q: Can you tell us if a search has been conducted in Vince's office and if anything was found...?

A: ...the Park Service Police were in this morning. They've interviewed a number of staff members about Vince's last day, and will be sort of, I think, finishing up with their look at it today here in terms of Vince's office. They're simply trying to confirm their preliminary notion that it was, in fact, a suicide.

--------

Q: Has a note been found to the best of your knowledge?

A: To the best of my knowledge no note has been found. That's sort of what they're looking for just to confirm their observation that this was, in fact, a suicide.

Q: Is the President getting any routine briefing on this from them? One would think that he would be, you know, wanting to monitor this very closely in terms of whether there was anything here that happened that could have in any way contributed.

A: Well, just to be clear, what they're really looking for is just anything that would confirm that it was a suicide, such as a note. I think the President is certainly being kept abreast of what's happening, although there hasn't been a lot of movement today. The Park Service has talked to a number of people, but simply to determine his schedule on Tuesday.

--------

Q: What specifically did the Park Police do besides interviewing people who talked to Vince on Tuesday?

A: That's all they had done as of half an hour ago.

Q: Did they check through his office at all?

A: As of a little while ago, I don't believe that they had, but I think they expected to go in and look for signs of a note or some other evidence that he might have taken his own life.

Q: How does the President's attorney-client relationship protected (sic) when they do that phase of the investigation?

A: Again, the Park Police are simply trying to establish that this was, in fact, a suicide. It is a fairly limited investigation.

Q: I mean, do they go through computer files or does someone else--

A: I think they may go through --they may take a look to see if there's a note, something that is specifically a suicide note. I don't think they have any intentions of evaluating the contents of the other documents.

-----

Q: So, what you're essentially saying is that the only thing being looked into is whether or not there was like a suicide note, something that would confirm this. Not whether or not there was some other reason unknown by anybody at the White House now that might be evident in papers or computers or any other--

A: Yes. At this point the Park Service is just looking into--again to establish--to confirm what they believe was a suicide.

-----

Q: Is there any inquiry beyond the Park Police to try to determine why he died, as opposed to just whether it was a suicide or not?

A: No, not at this time. And I'm not sure any investigation could ever determine why. These things are mysteries.

Q: Dee Dee, you mentioned that he had lunch alone and just had a sandwich at his desk. Is there any way of checking the phone log during that period of time when he was alone to see who might have called him and perhaps might have called him away?

A: At this point, I don't know that there's any move afoot to do that. Again, the Park Service Police's role in this is the cause of death.

Q: Did he have an assistant, a secretary anywhere?

A: Yes.

Q: Who?

A: I'm not sure what her name is.

Q: Could you get it?

A: Sure.

-----

Q: Considering Mr. Foster's position and his status, isn't it reasonable to assume that law enforcement agencies are at least going to make some attempt to determine a motive here? For example, if you don't do that, you'll leave open wild possibilities, such as that he may have been being blackmailed or anything like that--just to rule those things out? Don't you think it's reasonable that a law enforcement agency will attempt to establish a motive?

A: My only point is that at this point, the Park Service Police is the only agency that's investigating, and that the objective of their search is simply to determine that it was a suicide. There's no other federal agencies that are investigating at this point, but--

Q: But that means there will be no attempt--are you saying that the Park Service was making no attempt--

A: I don't think that's within their purview. I mean, this is--

Q: They're clearly the investigating agency, aren't they?

A: I don't think that they haven't been here (sic), but they would again contact the Justice Department if they wanted to come here for some reason. I don't believe that they are involved.

Q: Let's assume that the Park Service Police determine to its satisfaction that, in fact, this was, as everyone thinks, a suicide. From the White House perspective, does this simply end there in terms of further examining what the circumstances might have been, or whether this was related to work or whatever? Does that--

A: I think it's been our position that it's impossible to know what--

-----

Q: But it does leave that question open, and all I can say to you is, this is a question that is going to be asked, and is going to be asked again and again. And from what you are saying, I take it, no one is trying to answer it.

A: All I've said and what I'll say again is, at this point, there are no other investigations.

Q: How about his phone logs?

A: At this point, there are no other investigations.

Q: Have his phone calls been checked?

A: At this point there are no other investigations.

Q: But that would be included in the Park Service's look at the office, et cetera, wouldn't it?

A: I don't know what the details of their investigation are. They don't necessarily have to tell us what--

-----

Q: But is there any desire to learn? I guess that's the bottom line here.

A: At this point, all I can tell you is there are no other--the Park Service is doing its thing. There are no other investigations.

Q: Nobody has any questions that this might have been foul play?

A: I don't think there's any evidence to suggest foul play. Obviously, the Park Service is going to finish up its investigation to determine exactly that. I think they will give a final--their final cause of death when they finish this investigation. I don't think there's any evidence--at this point there's no evidence to suggest anything other than suicide.

Q: You're convinced there was a reason, aren't you? A reason you don't know?

A: Oh, of course. There's always a reason I would think.

Q: There is a tendency, though, for the various agencies which could take an interest in this not to want to upset anybody at the White House. And they may in fact stay out--if they are in any way encouraged. So all I'm asking in a mild way is wouldn't it be worth the effort to have someone with a practiced eye to go over phone logs, correspondence and recent contacts, looking for anything that might have contributed?

A: All I can is what I've already said. I don't know where this is going to go.

Q: Has the family asked that this kind of investigation not be undertaken?

A: No, no.

Q: Dee Dee, it seemed from yours and other peoples comments yesterday in terms of this is a mystery, it's ultimately unknowable that you've already decided that further investigations are not necessary?

A: No, I think yesterday's comments were dedicated to the larger spiritual questions: people ask you, do you know why, and I think everybody--there's nobody in the White House that pretends to know why or would presume to know why.

Q: What I'm asking is--

A: You're asking the same question that's been asked 20 times. I don't have any more to say about it.

And she didn't. This was the end of questions related to Foster's death that day, though the press briefing went on for many more minutes.

What is clear from this briefing, taking Ms. Myers at her word, is that no death investigation worthy of the name ever took place and responsibility for that fact rests clearly, not with the Park Police, but with the White House. The only purpose the police were expected to serve was to lend their authority to the "suicide" conclusion that had already been reached by some mystical means.

Ms. Myers' performance, with her repeated insistence that no actual death investigation was taking place, looks as though it had been scripted by the office legal staff. They knew that in the case of a suspected assassination of a ranking member of the White House staff such as Foster, the law (18 U.S.C. Section 1751) required that the FBI be the principal investigator. Director William Sessions had been fired for what seemed like trivial reasons on the day before the death, and President Clinton had appointed his man, the as-yet-unconfirmed Louis Freeh, on the day of the death to replace him, so the FBI was not permitted to do the investigation. To admit that the Park Police were doing the death investigation in its place would be to admit to clear violation of federal law. Furthermore, if the Park Police was conducting a real death investigation, what the White House was doing, keeping the police away from Foster's office for more than a day and continuing to deny them free access to his office and the potential evidence it contained, was obstruction of justice on its face, a felony which long predates 18 U.S.C. 1751. The White House was in a box. No real investigation could be permitted, or admitted to, for legal reasons, but only a real investigation could clear the administration of suspicion.

Even a generally credulous White House press corps couldn't seem to believe its own ears at what it was being told. Even they knew that light might be shed on the “unknowable mystery” of Foster's death by his phone log and appointments calendar, and, in a White House attorneys' document dated May 15, 1996 prepared pursuant to Congressional testimony we have the following statement with respect to the observations of White House lawyer Stephen Neuwirth on July 22, 1993: "He recalls a request that they (the Park Police) review what was on VF computer and that they asked for phone logs and calendars." [10] Later, copies of phone messages are shown in the Senate documents, but there is no record of Foster's personal phone log and desk calendar ever having turned up.

The record will also show that the newspapers of the next day, and the days following, failed to convey to their readers the brusque and dismissive nature of Ms. Myers' responses. Either the reporters present did not faithfully report what they were being told, or their editors, who usually act as though the world revolves around the White House, did not deem their reports newsworthy.

It is also truly remarkable that with all efforts mobilized only toward finding a suicide note on the 22nd, the famous torn-up note was somehow missed. We now have available an FBI report which describes how, in the presence of representatives from the FBI, the Justice Department, the Park Police, and the White House, Bernard Nussbaum systematically took out all the contents of Foster's briefcase and after stacking the contents in three piles on Foster's desk, declared the briefcase empty. He then placed the empty briefcase on the floor against the back wall (Notice that Ms. Myers was not quite accurate when she characterized the Foster office search as an all-Park-Police affair.).

Finally, we see quite clearly from Ms. Myers' responses that as of July 22nd, the suicide-from-obvious-depression theory had not yet been formulated.

Returning to the brief Senate hearing/Fiske-Report endorsement, we did learn for the first time some of the remarkable things that went on at the Foster house on the fateful night of his death. We learned from Detective Cheryl Braun that Assistant Attorney General Webster Hubbell physically and forcefully intervened as she tried to question Foster's sister, Sheila Anthony, who happened to be Hubbell's Justice Department subordinate. And we learned from Braun's partner, lead investigator Sgt. John Rolla, that President Bill Clinton himself arrived at the house about an hour after the police did and, by his presence, essentially shut down their inquiries for the night.

The next day the Washington Post treated these revelations as basically old news although it was exactly one year to the day after the Post had reported that the police were "turned away" from the Foster home that night, and it had not corrected the story since.

Robert Fiske had held no news conference when he released his report, and he was not, upon this occasion, summoned before the Senate to defend it, nor was Roderick Lankler, the man responsible for the Foster- death phase of his investigation. Instead we were treated to two FBI agents who worked with Fiske, one of the four consulting pathologists who contributed three and one half pages of derivative and speculative analysis in Fiske's report to go along with their 91 pages of resumes, and Dr. James Beyer, the autopsy doctor. All were questioned most gently, even deferentially, by the assembled Senators. One could not help wishing for the presence of someone who would assume the mantle of a tough, cross- examining counsel who would defend the dead and defenseless Vincent Foster against the charge of self- murder. The closest anyone came was freshman Republican Senator Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina in his questioning of Dr. Beyer, who was testifying under oath:

Q: Dr. Beyer, your autopsy report indicates you took X- rays of Mr. Foster.

A: I had anticipated taking them and I so stated on one of my reports.

Q: Your autopsy report says you took X-rays of Mr. Foster. Did you?

A: No sir.

Q: Why did you say you did if you didn't?

A: As I indicated, I had made out that report prior to actually performing the autopsy. We'd been having difficulty with our equipment. We'd been having difficulty getting readable X-rays. Therefore one was not taken. (emphasis added)

----omitted exchange over rationale for writing in advance that X-rays would be taken when the machine was known to be malfunctioning----

Q: Is it your standard procedure to make out an autopsy report before you do the autopsy?

A: I don't complete the autopsy report. I complete papers that I'm going to use.

Q: The papers are the autopsy report, aren't they?

A: To me the autopsy report is the first and second page which include my findings.

Q: But you make this out before you do the autopsy?

A: This particular form I did, yes. (emphasis added)

"That report," "papers," and "this particular form" all refer, ostensibly, to a very useful, pre-printed, one-page form called a "Gunshot Wound Chart." The form that Dr. Beyer would apparently want us to believe he filled out in advance is reproduced as it appeared in the Fiske Report at the end of this paper. You will notice that it includes such things as the direction of the bullet through the body, the size of the wounds, the location of the wounds, and the location of any powder burns. Dr. Beyer has even noted that there were powder burns on Foster's soft palate which is located in the back of the mouth.

It's a close call as to which is worse, to falsely claim that you did not take X-rays or to employ the guesswork necessary to fill out such a form prior to actually conducting an autopsy. Senator Faircloth was absolutely right: With this page, no less than with the others, the completed papers are the autopsy.

Relevant to his performance in this case is the fact that the elderly former military doctor's competence, if not his probity, has come under great question for two separate cases involving the deaths of 21-year-old men in Fairfax County, Virginia. In the first, that of Timothy Easley of Centreville in 1989, Beyer in his autopsy neglected to note the obvious defense wound in the victim's right hand, and the police concluded that Easley had stabbed himself to death in the heart. Easley's family continued to pursue the case and eventually his girlfriend was charged with his murder, confessed, and was convicted.

The second death, that of Tommy Burkett of Chantilly Highlands in 1991, has political corruption overtones that rival those of the Foster death. His parents discovered after his death that Tommy had been induced--if not entrapped--to work as a paid informant for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. He had been previously beaten up and further threatened by a fellow student at Marymount University, the same student who was mysteriously in possession of Tommy's wallet after his death. Neighbors saw other people driving Tommy's car around the time of his death, and some heard several gunshots in the Burkett home. The parents have also confirmed that Tommy made two 911 telephone pleas for assistance shortly before he died. The police, as in the Foster case, concluded suicide before even viewing the body. They never bothered to remove the bullet from the wall behind Tommy's head nor did they test the blood found on walls in the house outside the bedroom in which Tommy was found. Here, too, Dr. Beyer concluded that Tommy, like Foster, died of a gunshot wound to the mouth and through the head.

When the parents had the body exhumed for a second autopsy, they discovered that Tommy had a broken jaw, a mangled ear, and numerous contusions, all indicating that he had been beaten to death. None of these injuries were mentioned in Dr. Beyer's autopsy report. Might he have completed the written part before actually examining the body?

After Tommy's case, which has never once been mentioned in the Washington Post although he lived in suburban Washington, was featured on NBC's "Unsolved Mysteries" in November of 1994 the FBI began its own investigation. Their representative told the parents repeatedly that they were not attempting to determine cause of death but only whether or not Tommy's civil rights had been violated. However, early this year they announced that they had prepared a 1,800-page report which concludes that the Fairfax County Police were right from the beginning and it was a simple case of suicide. They did not speculate publicly about a motive. In fact, they didn't do anything publicly. The public--which includes the parents and the press-- has not been permitted to see their voluminous report.

One may only speculate that if this report were to be forced out into the open, Dr. Beyer's credibility could well be destroyed once and for all. As long as all the local media, with the exception of the limited-circulation Chantilly Times, however, continues to black the story out-- taking their cue from the Washington Post-- and the Congress remains inert, the report will never be made public. In the meantime the parents continue to plead with the Congress for public hearings and have founded an organization called Parents against Corruption and Coverup. They publish a periodic newsletter about their son's and similar cases, and they have begun collecting commemorative sewn squares from close relatives of dozens of other questionable "suicide" or "accident" cases around the country for a "coverup quilt", which they plan to display in our nation's capital.

General Mercier Number Two

If Robert Fiske was wary about defending his report or about proceeding with the White House phase of his Foster investigation, he needn't have worried because shortly after the Senate hearings a three-judge panel had ushered him back into the private sector. Earlier in the year the expired law providing for ostensibly truly independent prosecutors, that is, for those not appointed by the Attorney General, had been renewed by the Congress. The expectation was that the three judges upon whom the law vests the appointment power would simply give Fiske the new label and let him continue his work. For whatever reason, it was not to be. Kenneth Starr, the Solicitor General in the administration of George Bush, was chosen for the new Independent Counsel's job, which superseded that of Mr. Fiske.

If his real purpose was to keep the lid on the Foster case, Starr was even better suited than Fiske. A cry rose up from the Democrats akin to Br'er Rabbit's protestation against being thrown into the briar patch. One of the three federal judges was said to be especially close to arch- conservative, Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, and Starr himself, having served in such a high- level political position, was characterized as simply too partisan, though many newspapers not noted for their Republican leanings spoke of his fine reputation and his integrity. Starr, unlike Fiske, did not shrink from public appearances and on such occasions was not reticent about flaunting his devotion to his Christian faith and using such pious expressions as "civic virtue."

Like France's General Mercier, he was also known as a man of high ambition, which was attested to by his having risen to prominence at a relatively early age. His economic ambition, as well as his energy, seemed to match his political ambition, because, upon leaving public service, he quickly garnered a number of large corporate clients which he continued to represent while serving as the new Independent Counsel. In due time his ambition and his reputation for integrity, and whether they could coexist, would be put to the test.

Initial indications he would pass the test were not good, but before we explore that question we turn our attention to new developments which would enormously complicate the task of anyone bent upon making the suicide story stick.

Document Hound

Unreported to the public was the fact that the Senate Banking Committee had done more than one brief public hearing on the Foster death. In addition, members of the committee staff had conducted their own interviews of various people involved in the case and they compiled the results of their work, along with the Fiske Report and its supporting interviews, and the police documents, minus some of the redactions into two large volumes totaling 2,726 pages. From this massive, and very disorganized and often repetitious, collection of information, they drew no conclusions of their own.

Here, now was a veritable gold mine of new evidence which one could use to see how well Fiske's conclusions stood up, but as with a gold mine, a good bit of digging was required to get at the more valuable nuggets. Since his conclusions had not been very well supported by the evidence that accompanied his report, one would not have expected that they would have done much better by the initially suppressed evidence. The expectations, as it turned out, were realized, in spades. Determined excavation by some new hands revealed a whole new collection of inconsistencies and anomalies in the government "suicide" case.

As luck would have it, the release of the volumes coincided with mushrooming growth in a new medium of communication that, as a freewheeling forum, bids fair to outdo the turn-of- the-century newspapers of Paris. I refer to the Internet. Understandably already under attack by the clearly threatened conventional press as a cesspool of hate and rumormongering and as a convenient form of communication for assorted terrorists, child pornographers, and sexual deviants, the Net is also quickly proving out as a rapid alternative disseminator and sifter of news. Defenders of the conventional media argue for the need for "gatekeepers" who, upholding what they claim are the high standards of our journalistic community as they have almost eugenically evolved, weed out the chaff of rumor and misinformation. As an interactive medium, however, the Internet permits each person to be not only his own reporter but also his own gatekeeper. Newspapers and magazines only present the illusion of a democratic forum with their letters section, as anyone who has ever tried to take issue with their reporting of, say, the Kennedy assassination knows only too well, and anyone who has read this essay up to this point knows that a lot of what gets weeded out is not chaff but is the purest of freedom-nourishing grain, instead. Radio talk show hosts can and do readily cut off people imparting unapproved information, and the ownership of radio stations like the ownership of newspapers is becoming concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer corporate conglomerates.

Nowhere has the Internet as a true democratic forum been better illustrated than in the treatment the new official Foster evidence has received at the hands of two Internet contributors with the e-mail addresses of HSprunt@aol.com and hughie2u@aol.com. The former stands for self-employed tax attorney and accountant Hugh Sprunt of Farmers Branch, Texas, and the latter for a Washington, DC area resident who prefers to remain anonymous. Each, in spite of the latter's anonymity, has established a credibility, nay, even a moral authority on the Foster death case that surpasses that of almost anyone in the conventional media because they freely defend their Internet postings on the subject against all critics, sometimes incorporating valid criticism into their arguments, and they don't pretend, like so many of the conventional media pundits, to be experts on everything. Credibility on the Net is at a greater premium than it is with the local monopoly newspaper or the evening network news because of the mind-boggling choices that the consumer of Internet news has. He simply hasn't the time to read the works of someone he does not trust implicitly. Unfounded rumors don't get spread far because every posting comes with an e-mail name, and anyone who gets a name for irresponsible, unsupportable rumor-spreading loses his credibility and doesn't get his postings read. This is the fairly efficient manner in which everyone, most democratically, gets to be his own gatekeeper on the Internet.

Trading on their Internet credibility and with no evident partisan political or economic motivation the two, with Sprunt as principal author, employed the two volumes of Senate-published evidence almost exclusively to pick apart the Fiske Report in what eventually became an imposing 300-page volume of their own entitled the Citizens Independent Report. So that our paper does not run to a like number of pages, we shall summarize only the most important discoveries:

Fiske states blandly in his report that Foster's car keys were discovered in his pants pocket. Talk about a half truth! What he doesn't say is that the “discovery” was made at the morgue of Fairfax County hospital and that not one but two sets of keys were found at the time. Police were unable to locate them in the park, though they searched the car and Foster's pants pockets. At the point they realized they had no car keys, the initial suicide assumption should have gone out the window, because Foster would have had no way to transport himself and his car there. At the very least, an extensive search of the park using metal detectors was in order. Instead, we are told that the presumption was quickly made that the keys must have been somehow missed (!) when the pants pockets were searched (The pants pockets were searched not just for keys, mind you, but for any evidence, no matter how small, such as a folded suicide note.). Coincidentally, Officer Rolla had received a call from the White House asking where the body was being taken so William Kennedy III from the counsel's office and security chief Craig Livingstone could go identify it. Even Rolla thought that a curious request since the photo ID they had discovered and the presence of Foster's automobile left no doubt of the identity of the corpse and, when necessary, immediate family members are the ones usually required for such chores. The record does not show at whose behest the White House pair performed their strange task. At any rate, they did gain access to the body at the morgue and investigators Rolla and Braun did subsequently go there and find the missing keys, though, in their statements, they amazingly differ on whether they went there before or after they went to Foster's house in Georgetown.

Embellishing the "depression" thesis, Fiske states that it was "obvious to many" that Foster "had lost weight. Numerous press accounts from those mysterious unattributed sources, a couple of which we have already mentioned, had given the weight loss as exactly 15 pounds. Sprunt made the discovery noted earlier, however, that Foster had had a physical examination upon leaving Little Rock in December of 1992, at which time he weighed 194 pounds and that the autopsy report showed Foster's weight to be 197 pounds. Considering that he was probably clothed at the time he was weighed for his physical exam and the body would have lost weight from blood loss and from evaporation on that hot July afternoon, his actual weight gain in Washington was probably enough that his sister, Sharon, flying up from Little Rock to visit with him on what turned out to be the day of his death, would have noticed it. This would have been consistent with the unanimous testimony of Foster's White House co-workers on the record and the earliest, spontaneous, official reaction to the death which the reader will recall, that Foster had seemed perfectly normal.

Speaking of two witnesses, a man and a woman, who had driven into the Fort Marcy parking lot shortly before the arrival of the police, Fiske in his report stated that "Neither individual heard a gunshot while in the park or saw anything unusual." However, the female witness said she noticed a man, possibly bare-chested, seated in a Honda which matched the description of Foster's car. The man was not Foster, whom he did not resemble and should have already been dead by that time. I'd say that this was unusual. The male witness described a middle- aged male jogger that he had seen running through the park. The Fiske Report says that everyone known to have been at the park that night was interviewed. This jogger is only one of several people who were at the park, according to Sprunt's researches, who were not interviewed. This witness statement misrepresentation by Fiske or by his FBI interviewers is part of a consistent pattern detailed in Sprunt's report.

Another consistent pattern is the omission of pertinent evidence. Five witnesses claim to have seen a briefcase in the Honda that the FBI concluded was Foster's in the Fort Marcy parking lot. However, no briefcase is in the inventory of things taken from Foster's car. Could this be the same briefcase that turned up back in Foster's office in which the curious note was eventually found?

Not only did all the 35-mm crime scene photographs fail to come out but all of the Polaroids taken by the first police officer disappeared and many of those taken by two other officers are nowhere to be found. Vital evidence like this doesn't just vanish into thin air. What did those Polaroids show? Someone had to have been responsible for their safekeeping..and for their disappearance. Fiske told us nothing of this.

Fiske also said nothing about Foster's mysterious financial liquidity problems. He had visited the White House credit union the day before his death and they had agreed to "work with him" on his overdrafts. He was living modestly in a rented townhouse and had been able to rent out his house in Little Rock. Prior to his White House employment he had been earning almost $300,000 a year. What could have been the reason for his financial pinch? The interviewers exhibited no curiosity, or at least none that was recorded.

Also, the day before he died Foster had a closed-door one to two hour meeting with Arkansas White House insider Marsha Scott. His secretary said that both the length of the meeting and the fact of the closed door were out of character for Foster. Ms. Scott, in another recurring pattern on the record, can't remember what they talked about.

Fairfax County emergency worker, Richard Arthur, in a deposition taken by the committee staff, clearly and distinctly remembered seeing an automatic pistol instead of a revolver in Foster's hand. He was so sure, and his listeners were so puzzled, that they had him draw a picture of the pistol, which does, indeed, look like an automatic instead of a .38 colt revolver.

The times given for events on the evening of July 20, 1996, by Fiske are all out of whack, and the purpose seems to be to lend credence to the implausible claim of the White House that they weren't made aware of the death until 8:30 pm. Hospital records show that the ambulance arrived at the hospital at 8:30 pm (less five seconds), yet Fiske says the body was not put in a bag in the park until 8:45 pm. Chief Medical Examiner for Fairfax County, Dr. Donald Haut, told the FBI that he arrived at the park at 6:45 and by the time he left at 7:15 he, like the emergency workers, knew of Foster's White House connection. Fiske has him arriving at 7:40 and leaving at 8:30. Even emergency workers who left as early as 6:37 knew that the body was that of a White House official. Most tellingly, the name and phone number of Lt. Walter appear in police inspector Rolla's note pad for the evening in a chronological sequence which would have placed the entry at around 6:40 pm. Lt. Danny Walter works at the White House for the Secret Service. Rolla claims to have had no contact with the Secret Service that evening, and if he called Lt. Walter at the time it appears that he did, it means that the White House would have learned of the death almost two hours before they claim.

As we said, we have given you only a small sample of the anomalies, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies that Sprunt and his collaborator have come up with in the official version of events. He has made the report available for the cost of printing to anyone who wants it and, at his own expense, has furnished copies to well over 200 government officials and opinion molders, but, to date, no mention of his efforts has appeared in the mainstream press nor have any newspaper stories come out based upon the fruits of his labors, except in London.

The View from Abroad

This last observation suggests another comparison we might make to the Dreyfus Affair. At a time when public opinion, led by the press, still overwhelmingly was on the side of Captain Dreyfus' accusers, newspapers in other major countries were beginning to doubt the collective sanity of France. The prosecution and conviction for libel of Zola brought them out. "In Brussels, Saint-Petersburg, Warsaw, London, and New York, the press was unanimous the day after the verdict in deploring the French madness." From The Times of London to Le Genevois of Switzerland, eloquent denunciations of this strange new French concept of justice poured forth, "But who read those newspapers in France, and who listened to those writers?" [11]

The full passage gets us a little ahead of ourselves in the Dreyfus case, but the following quote from William Shirer is too appropriate to this section to pass up:

"Where is France? What became of the French?" Clemenceau would soon lament. Where indeed, when, as the jailed Colonel Picquart now publicly swore, a man had been convicted of treason on evidence that had been forged, and presented illegally to boot; where an Esterhazy could be whitewashed by a military court and a Zola found guilty by a civilian one; where a colonel who had confessed to faking evidence against the Jewish captain and who had killed himself rather than face the consequences could be hailed as a martyr to truth. A foreigner, confused by such a topsy-turvy world, asked a young French journalist, Paul Brulat: "Where are the honest men in this country?" And the reply was: "They are frightened." [12]

We observed earlier that, because Christopher Ruddy was between jobs at the time, no newspapers had anything critical to say about the Fiske Report upon its release. Actually, the Sunday Telegraph of London had a scorching critique, pointing out many of the pre-Sprunt weaknesses that we have detailed. Their Washington- based reporter, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, has regularly kept England's readers apprised of scandals related to the U.S. federal government that can't penetrate the American wall of press silence. The Telegraph is available for sale in Americas's major cities and also has an Internet web site, but "Who reads it?" we might ask, and are they not frightened?

America's Almost-Picquart

Anyone wanting to capture the multifaceted and protracted drama of the Dreyfus Affair for stage or screen could do worse than to make his main character neither Captain Dreyfus nor Bernard Lazare nor Emile Zola, but Lieutenant Colonel Georges Picquart. In fact, the essential role that Picquart was to play in the Affair had already been prefigured on the stage by the title character in an 1882 play by the great Norwegian dramatist, Henrik Ibsen. The play is An Enemy of the People and the character is Dr. Thomas Stockmann. Stockmann, a medical doctor with a scientific bent, worked in a town whose economy was based on two industries, tourism derived from the region's natural mineral springs and a tannery. In an era in which the connection between microbes and disease was still not widely understood, he made the discovery that a number of mysterious deaths among the tourists had obviously (to him) resulted from pollution of the mineral springs by the tannery. The amazing power of the human mind to rationalize when objective truth and naked self-interest come into conflict furnish the wellspring, as it were, for the subsequent dramatic tension, leading up to the title label that is ultimately affixed upon the good doctor. Modern readers, or at least, moviegoers, will recognize that the role was reprised, and somewhat vulgarized by the Chief Brody character in Peter Benchley's Jaws (who, in the exciting climax, teamed up with a Captain-Ahab-like character pilfered from Herman Melville).

Lt. Col. Picquart had served as observer of the original Dreyfus trial for General Mercier's Ministry of War. He was a soldier through and through, embodying all the qualities of bravery and stubborn rectitude that can be most admirable in the breed. His superiors had consistently recognized him for his competence, his intelligence, and his devotion. He had never doubted Dreyfus' guilt, and, as a thoroughgoing Army man, he had no particular political or social affinity for the cosmopolitans and intellectuals who were beginning to take up the Dreyfus cause.

Some two years after the framing and conviction, Picquart found himself promoted to the top of the Army's Section of Statistics, as the office of counterespionage was euphemistically called. These were precisely the people who had framed Dreyfus. He quickly set about improving their legitimate operations and, as often before in his career, was recognized and appreciated for it. Then, in his new capacity, he made some unsettling discoveries. The treason for which the distantly-imprisoned Dreyfus had been convicted was continuing. A new communication to the Germans had been intercepted. Good detective work directed suspicion toward the well- connected Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. Picquart retrieved the original note (dubbed the bordereau, or "manifest" because it contained an itemized list of things) which had been attributed to Dreyfus and saw immediately that the handwriting matched precisely that of Esterhazy. Next, he requested to see the secret file which had been used to persuade the judges further of Dreyfus' guilt. He found, to his surprise, in light of his recent discovery that, even with its embellishments, the secret file added up to very little to incriminate Dreyfus. “He was certain of a judicial error. His conscience, the elevated idea of the Army he held, and reason as well--for inevitably the truth would eventually out--dictated his duty. He would never waver from it." [13] He took the matter directly to the Army's top man, General Raoul de Boisdeffre.

The general listened to him impassively, barely surprised. When the colonel referred to the secret file, de Boisdeffre seemed startled. "Why was it not burned as had been agreed?" That was the sole point on which he became moved. Picquart expected a reaction, orders, congratulations, the indignation of the chief of the General Staff upon discovering that an innocent man had been convicted. But de Boisdeffre said nothing. [14]

Returning to de Boisdeffre's office the next day hoping for decisive action, Picquart found, instead, that the question had been bucked down the chain of command, to Deputy Chief of Staff General Charles Arthur Gonse.

In a state of astonishment, since de Boisdeffre had never demanded such scrupulous respect for the hierarchy, Picquart went to see General Gonse, who was then on sick leave at Cormeilles-en-Parisis. He presented the matter during a long two-hour meeting with Gonse, who also listened without responding, with the exception of the comment, "So we must have been wrong?" Gonse gave Picquart a single recommendation. "Keep the two affairs separate." Picquart wondered how he could keep them separate. "I did not see how, in focusing on Esterhazy, we could not focus on the bordereau...and the bordereau, in a word, was the Dreyfus Affair." De Boisdeffre, however, confirmed Gonse's instructions. "Keep them separate." Plainly Picquart and his superiors did not see their duty in the same light. [15]

Picquart's devotion to duty as he saw it would lead to his being vilified by the nation's press as a paid agent of the hated Syndicate and as a disloyal Frenchman. First transferred to the colonies to get him out of the picture, and ideally killed in battle, he would eventually be court martialed and drummed out of the Army, spending more than a year in jail on trumped-up charges.

Miquel Rodriguez, an assistant U.S. attorney from Sacramento, California, joined the staff of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr in the early fall of 1994, that is, shortly after Starr set up shop. He was put in charge of the Foster death investigation. In contrast to the unsworn testimony taken by the Fiske team, Rodriguez convened a grand jury and began to make some progress taking sworn testimony. Press reports quickly began to undermine him, however. In January of 1995 the Associated Press reported that police witnesses had been angered over the tone and extensiveness of his questioning. They didn't take well to his repeated reminders of the penalty for perjury. On the very day that the grand jury hearings began Scripps-Howard reported that Starr had already concluded that Foster's death was a suicide and would soon close the case. "Informed sources" on Capitol Hill were saying the same thing.

At least superficial similarities in character between Rodriguez and Picquart could hardly be missed:

Rodriguez, who is in his mid-30s, has approximately seven years' experience as a prosecutor and had gained a reputation as a hard-nosed, diligent prosecutor, especially on civil rights cases, said an FBI agent in California familiar with his work.

"He's the perfect lawyer for a case like this," the agent said, suggesting that if any cover-up existed, Rodriguez's cross-examination skills would be well suited for ferreting out the truth.

The agent also described Rodriguez as a "guy with a conscience. He could never play Pontius Pilate." [16]

On April 6, 1995, Christopher Ruddy, and only Ruddy in the nations's media, reported that Rodriguez had resigned "because he believed the grand jury process was being thwarted by his superior," [17] according to one of Ruddy's "key sources" close to Starr's investigation.

At this point one finds it very tempting to conclude that someone who could play Pontius Pilate was exactly the sort of person who was required for the job, and Miquel Rodriguez and Kenneth Starr saw "civic virtue" in an entirely different light.

Rodriguez, though, apparently has no intention of becoming truly another Picquart nor even a Chief Brody. In today's America, people like that apparently can only be found in the movies. Had there been no Picquart, following his conscience and bravely doing his duty from the inside and then continuing to speak up for justice when he was no longer inside, regardless of the consequences for himself, there is a good chance that Dreyfus would have lived out the rest of his days in the torrid, oppressive isolation of Devil's Island, and the truth would never have come to light. Rodriguez didn't get himself thrown entirely out of the government. Instead, he went quietly back to his job in Sacramento and now refers all questions about the Foster case back to Kenneth Starr. He is getting on with his career, having had his brief brush with history. The man from the FBI apparently had him a little bit wrong.

The Forgery

Georges Picquart was not the only government man in France, however, who did the right thing. The conscientious work of three other key people was also crucial for the eventual victory of truth and justice and the exoneration of Dreyfus. Godefrey Cavaignac, the new Minister of War, was one of the staunchest defenders of the Army and opponents of the Dreyfusards in the Chamber of Deputies. In the ongoing contest over public opinion he had scored a coup by reading in the Chamber the contents of a letter from the Italian Military Attaché, Alessandro Panizzardi to the German, Maximilian von Schwarzkoppen, the addressee of the bordereau. The name of Dreyfus actually appeared in the letter along with the passage, "I will say that I never had any relations with the Jew."

Challenged publicly on the authenticity of his evidence by Picquart, to be completely certain that he was on sound footing, Cavaignac requested that the Section of Statistics carefully check all the documents once again. Picquart, himself, had long been dismissed from the leadership of that office, and the review task fell to Captain Louis Cuignet. Examining the original torn-and-reassembled Panizzardi letter by lamplight, he noticed that the color of the rules of paper on which the heading and the signature appeared did not match the faint lined rules of the body of the letter. The letter was an obvious forgery.

Captain Cuignet took his discovery directly to General Gaudérique Roget, Cavaignac's top assistant and the lamplight experiment was repeated. Roget was convinced. They brought in Cavaignac and he, too, saw the evidence of forgery clearly. "It was to the credit of those three men, all committed to the struggle against revision (as a new trial for Dreyfus was called), to have not for a moment thought of quashing their discovery. On that occasion there was no one to repeat General Gonse's words to Colonel Picquart: ‘If you do not say anything, no one will know.'" [18]

The Affair would drag on for several more years, but the corner had been turned. News of the forgery spread quickly. What had first seemed like a victory in the battle for public opinion had been turned into a crushing, eventually decisive defeat. Confronted with the evidence, under strong interrogation, the clumsy forger, Lt. Col. Hubert Henry, tried first to deny his handiwork, then finally, haltingly owned up. Within a few days he would take his own life by cutting his throat with a razor (Though some of the Dreyfusards would suspect that the Army had killed him to prevent his spilling the beans further, and the most confirmed opponents of the Dreyfusards would blame the death on Henry's Jewish doctor, neither had very good evidence.).

In the Foster case, the New York Daily News, using its leaked copy of the Park Police findings, had first disclosed on March 14, 1994, that the authentication of the torn-up note belatedly found in Foster's briefcase had been performed by Sgt. Larry Lockhart of the U.S. Capitol Police. No explanation would be given as to why he was chosen for the task, but the Senate documents would reveal that he had used only one document purportedly written by Foster for comparison purposes, which is a violation of the most basic standards of authentication because the "known" document might itself be a forgery and because several writing samples better allow the examiner to recognize patterns and tendencies and mutual consistency. It was later learned, further, that Sgt. Lockhart had no formal qualifications as a handwriting examiner. Robert Fiske sent the note, with the same known sample that Lockhart had used, along with several canceled checks bearing Foster's signature, to the FBI lab. Since the one thing that was missing from the questioned torn note was a signature, it is difficult to see what was added for comparison purposes by the checks. The Senate documents revealed a number of different writings from Foster that Fiske chose not to send to the FBI lab, and the latter made no effort to ferret out any on their own. Using only the scant evidence at hand, the FBI lab had, nevertheless, gone ahead and pronounced the note authentic, but with no accompanying explanation.

All the while a heroic effort had been made to keep any copies of the note out of the hands of the public, an effort that failed when on August 2, 1995, the Wall Street Journal under the heading "The Note that Won't Go Away," published a pirated copy on its editorial page. They said only that it had been floating around Capitol Hill. The editors of the Anglo-American newsletter, Strategic Investment, then made copies from the Wall Street Journal which they sent independently to three recognized handwriting experts along with a minimum of 12 documents each, which were attributed to Foster, for comparison. On October 25, 1995, they rented the ballroom of the historic Willard Hotel, across the street from the National Press Club, to announce their findings.

Professor Reginald Alton, thirty years a lecturer on handwriting, manuscript authentication, and forgery at Oxford University, perhaps the world's top authority on literary manuscripts, Ronald Rice of Boston, who wrote the course on handwriting examination for the American Board of Forensic Examiners, and retired police detective Vincent Scalice of New York, a certified member of that board who, like the other two has given expert handwriting testimony in numerous court cases, agreed that the note was not even a particularly good forgery. Each gave the reasons for his conclusions in considerable detail, both orally and in writing. Rice, in particular, with his blow-ups and pointer, gave the impression that he was making a courtroom presentation, at one point slipping up and addressing the audience as the "jury".

The next day, October 26, the Times had a major story about the findings of the handwriting experts, but it was the Times of London, along with the Telegraph and the Observer of that city. The New York Times and the Washington Post, the two newspapers which had given the biggest play to the discovery of the note in the first place, were now utterly silent, as were the TV and radio networks, the news magazines, and virtually every newspaper in our once free country, with the exception of the Washington Times. The Washington Times carried a small item on an inside page from the Reuters news service about the press conference and the findings, but it was strictly a one-time thing. Afterwards, they continued to write about the Foster case as though the handwriting experts had never told us that the primary piece of evidence suggesting suicide, which emanated from the White House, is a second-rate forgery, according to the best-qualified analysts and most thorough analysis so far available.

The Dreyfus Affair has been called, first and foremost, an affair of the press. The press pushed for the initial conviction and then became the battleground upon which the struggle to right the wrong was waged. No single act of the French press in the Dreyfus case, not even the publication of Zola's famous letter, however, quite compares in importance to the collective decision of the American media not to tell the American people of the independent discovery that the “ruining-people-for-sport”, torn-up but fingerprintless note "found" in Vincent Foster's briefcase was, in all likelihood, a White House- concocted forgery.

Perhaps we take our news organs too much for granted. Just as we expect the highway authorities to keep traffic flowing and the power companies to provide us with electricity, we expect those huge and powerful organizations which collect information to share with us the most important things they have learned. That they do their job properly is as important to the functioning of our republic as are the operations of those other agencies to the smooth working of the economy. Their importance to our political health was recognized by the Founding Fathers in the great legal protection they were given by the First Amendment. But what happens when they break faith with the American people, when they violate the trust with which they have been invested and do not report the news? Imagine how the political landscape would have changed had the newspapers and TV networks simply done their job and reported the news on October 25 and 26, 1995, and the days that followed (Admittedly, this would have been quite difficult considering the deep commitment they had already made to the government version of the truth.).

The Congress and the Independent Counsel, for starters, could hardly have continued to ignore the most suspicious aspects of the Foster case. Handwriting experts would have had to be called before public hearings to tell us why the note was or was not authentic. The conflict between Dr. Beyer and everyone else who saw the body would have to be resolved by exhumation of the body and a new autopsy performed under the strictest independent public scrutiny. Telephone records would have to be subpoenaed to determine if Foster really did order medication through his doctor in Arkansas and, concerning another inconsistency we have not previously discussed, whether Helen Dickey of the White House staff did really wait until after 10:00 pm on July 20, 1993, to call the Arkansas governor's mansion with news of Foster's death as she told the Congress, or before 8:00 pm as state troopers Roger Perry and Larry Patterson have said in sworn affidavits. Considering the gravity of the possible offense, it is hard to imagine that these inquiries would not have been part of an impeachment proceeding.

On the public relations front, had news of the forgery been properly reported, James Stewart could hardly have written his book, Blood Sport, the title of which is taken from that press-ballyhooed last line of the questionable note. Stewart pushes the suicide-from-depression argument by leaning heavily on the text of the note, as though we didn't know that the current best evidence available tells us that the note was written, with malice aforethought, by a party or parties other than Vincent Foster. Had the press done the most basic job we have every right to expect of them and not betrayed us instead, Stewart's book would have been a laughingstock, which he is no doubt astute enough to know. We can say the same thing for recent books by former FBI agent Gary Aldrich (less the astuteness acknowledgment), who also parrots the suicide-from-depression line using the note in his shoddy, semi-literate little work, Unlimited Access, as does conservative-defector David Brock in The Seduction of Hillary Clinton.

In fact, because news of the forgery finding was essentially not reported, things have been permitted to proceed exactly as though it did not happen. No one uttered a word about it in the presidential campaign. The nation's editorial writers, columnists, and TV pundits have been utterly silent on the matter. That they chose to ignore the findings rather than to take the alternative tack of questioning the validity of the experts' findings, in the final analysis, is but one more of the many factors which force the objective observer to conclude that this crucial note must be bogus.

Actually, at the risk of gilding the lily, there is one last pertinent factor that we feel we must share with the reader. On August 25, 1993, high-priced white collar crime legal specialist, James Hamilton of the Washington law firm of Swidler and Berlin who has been presented to the public as the "Foster family lawyer" but seems to have been picked for the job by the White House's Bernard Nussbaum, wrote the following letter which was delivered by hand to Janet Reno:

Re: Vince Foster Note

Dear Madam Attorney General:

As counsel for the family of Vince Foster and in particular Mrs. Lisa Foster, I am writing to renew the family's strongly-felt request that the original torn pieces of Vince's note be returned to her.

In the family's view, this was a very personal note. While it dealt with business matters, Vince obviously did not intend that the note be given or shown to anyone at work. As you know, he tore up the note, depositing the pieces at the bottom of an old briefcase he owned. He thus did not intend that the note be maintained as a part of White House files.

The family, of course, understood the need for the Park Police and the FBI to obtain and analyze the note. Now, however, the investigations into Vince's death are concluded and family members see no good reason why the note should not be returned to Mrs. Foster.

Vince did not leave any written communication to the family. The note is all there is that expresses his feelings during the last few days of his life. While his death always will remain inexplicable to the family, having the note in their possession will provide them great comfort. Please do not underestimate the depth of Mrs. Foster's feelings about this matter.

The family appreciates the manner in which the Department and you handled the note during the investigations and particularly thank you for your decision not to release a photograph of the actual note. That clearly was the correct decision for all concerned. So also would returning the note to the family be the correct decision. This would recognize the human and family concerns involved, and would in no way interfere with the investigation of Vince's death, which are over (sic).

Mrs. Foster and the rest of Vince's family very much appreciate your personal attention to this renewed request.

Sincerely,

James Hamilton

cc: Mrs. Lisa Foster

To her credit, Ms. Reno apparently ignored the original and the renewed request, and independent authentication of the suspect note eventually became possible.

A few more biographical notes on Mr. Hamilton are also in order. He served on the House Watergate Committee with Bernard Nussbaum and Hillary Clinton. He was a member of the White House transition team and participated in the selection of the Attorney General and Supreme Court nominees. He was author of a memo to the President counseling “stonewalling” over Whitewater and in a recently-released White House memo, he is referred to as a White House "surrogate" handling the Foster death case, and, indeed, on CBS's 60 Minutes, he defended the suicide ruling. In 1996, he was appointed to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Mr. James Hamilton, Esq. is clearly a great deal more than the Foster family attorney.

The Cloudy Crystal Ball

Almost five years would elapse between the conviction and banishment of Captain Alfred Dreyfus for treason and his release, on a pardon, from prison. It would take another seven years for him to clear his name completely and be reinstated into the Army.

On August 10, 1998, five years will have elapsed from the time of the initial official "suicide" ruling in the Foster case. As in the Dreyfus Affair, the drama has unfolded very slowly, but it has, up to now, in spite of the numerous parallels, unfolded quite differently, so we can expect its future course also to be different. Dreyfus received his pardon because the mood of the country had changed and, most importantly, the leadership had changed. The fact that the most recent, Republican- controlled Congress looked into the Foster matter even less than did their Democratic predecessors amply demonstrates that a change of government, even of the presidency, as long as the new president is either a Democrat or a Republican, will not be what makes the difference.

In contrast to the French government of a century ago, whose scandals came serially, the Clinton administration is mired, all at the same time, in almost too many scandals and apparent coverups to keep count of. It is possible that one of them could wound the administration or bring down the president and, in a sort of domino effect, weaken the forces of coverup sufficiently to permit a full and honest final reckoning. But one can't help thinking that at least some, if not most, of the scandals are little more than manufactured distractions which will work less like dominoes than like backfires, intentionally set to prevent the truly dangerous wildfire from sweeping over the house.

In spite of all that has transpired over the past three and a quarter years, the lack of real progress in the Foster case is what stands out. Originally, we were waiting for a determination by the Park Police. That lasted only fifteen days, but then we were told to wait for their report. Even before it came out, that wait was replaced by the wait for the Fiske Report. Now we have been told to wait for the upright, but partisan Republican, Kenneth Starr to render his verdict, and the wait has now gone on for two and a quarter years. With any kind of pressure from the press, the wait, itself, would be a major issue, but there has been none. In fact, over the entire unsatisfactory state of affairs, the press has voiced, when it has bothered to voice anything, virtually nothing but satisfaction.

Sometimes one wonders what wouldn't satisfy them, as long as it came from official government sources. The Clinton administration seems to be testing their limits. On Friday, November 1, 1996, the Navy, in grudging response to a Freedom of Information Act request, released a report on another high level violent death that was quickly ruled a suicide, that of Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jeremy Boorda on May 16. Among other numerous things, the names of all the people interviewed, the text of two notes found with his body, and the entire autopsy report were "redacted" or blacked out. Not one murmur of complaint was heard from anyone, either in the press or the Congress. The Washington Times in its article on the release didn't even bother to mention the redactions while concluding that the report contained “no surprises.” How would they know?

Back on the Foster case, all eyes, when they can remain open, are on Kenneth Starr. As often as his name is invoked by establishment figures when the Foster case is brought up, it is abundantly clear that he is expected to lay the matter to rest by ruling, in his role of conservative Republican who would certainly nail Clinton if he could, that it was, indeed, a suicide. Events keep popping up which make that increasingly difficult, such as the witness, Patrick Knowlton, who has testified that the FBI agents, who were working for Fiske at the time but have been retained by Starr, significantly changed his testimony about, among a number of things, the color and features of the car he saw in the Fort Marcy parking lot and his ability to recognize a menacing-looking man who eyed him as he sought a location to relieve himself. After his story was revealed by Evans-Pritchard, he claims to have been harassed and followed by more than twenty men on the streets of Washington. On November 12, Knowlton and his lawyer held a Washington press conference announcing his suit against the FBI for obstruction of justice and witness tampering. Only the Washington Times had a small, somewhat skeptical article about it the next day. The other news organs, including the TV networks which had cameras there, continuing the familiar pattern, blacked it out.

In spite of the difficulties, we can be sure that one of these days, probably under the cover of a major news distraction that he, himself, might create, Starr will duly render his suicide ruling. Newsweek reported in a December 2, 1996 article on Starr and his investigation, in fact, that the Foster death case is one of the things he has already been able to lay to rest, concluding, based upon the forensic evidence, that Fiske was right and it was, indeed, a simple suicide. (It is of some interest that Michael Isikoff was the co-author of that Newsweek article. He is also the reporter who, while working for the Washington Post, first erroneously (?)reported the discovery of the list of psychiatrists in Foster's office and co-authored the July 30, 1993, article which erroneously stated that the police had been turned away from the Foster house when they went to make the death notification and interview family members. More recently, he declined to write about the harassment of the witness, Patrick Knowlton, telling Knowlton's lawyer in person that, though he believed Knowlton, neither he nor any other mainstream journalist would write about it because it "raises more questions than it answers.") After Starr makes it all official, future historians will, doubtless, be able to write of him what Barbara Tuchman wrote of General Auguste Mercier: "All the strength, except truth, was on his side." [19]

It wasn't enough for Mercier. Will it be enough for Starr?

Go to Part 2: America's Dreyfus Affair Continues

Return to Home Page

Notes

1. Jean-Denis Bredin, The Affair, The Case of Alfred Dreyfus (New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1986), p. 542.
2. Barbara W. Tuchman, The Proud Tower, a Portrait of the World before the War, 1890-1914, (New York: The McMillan Company, 1962), p. 196.
3. Bredin, op. cit., p.39.
4. Ibid., p. 40.
5. Tuchman, op. cit., pp. 204-205.
6. Ibid., p. 204.
7. Ibid., all quotes in the paragraph.
8. Robert B. Fiske, Jr., "Report of the Independent Counsel, in re Vincent W. Foster, Jr." (Washington, D.C. June 30, 1994), p. 6.
9. Ibid., p. 40.
10. Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, Investigation of the White House Travel Office Firings and Related Matters (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, Sept. 26, 1996), p. 681.
11. Bredin, op. cit., p. 272.
12. William L. Shirer, The Collapse of the Third Republic, an Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1969), p. 63.
13. Bredin, op. cit., p. 162.
14. Ibid., p. 163.
15. Ibid.
16. Christopher Ruddy, The Pittsburgh Tribune Review, April 6, 1995. Reprinted in Ruddy's compilation, Vincent Foster: The Ruddy Investigation (Fair Oaks, CA: The Western Journalism Center, 1995), p. 87.
17. Ibid.
18. Bredin, op. cit., p. 324.
19. Tuchman, op.cit., p. 204.

Useful Sources of Hard-to-Get Information

[Note added March 14, 1999:

Part 1 of "America's Dreyfus Affair" was put on line by J. Orlin Grabbe, with my permission, before I myself was on line. The Internet, I have found, opens up the opportunity for acquiring knowlege almost unimaginably. Upon discovering the Internet I quickly realized how meager the following list is. I also realized, through new knowledge that I acquired, that my disclaimer at the end is not strong enough. Much of my newly-acquired knowledge is reflected in Parts 2 and 5 of Dreyfus, particularly about what I call the "fake right." No one should believe any one source implicitly. One must read as broadly as possible to get at the truth, and one should trust only ones own interpretation of the facts gathered. --DC Dave]

1. Vincent Foster: The Ruddy Investigation, can be obtained by calling 1-800-711-1968.

2. Hugh Sprunt's Citizen's Independent Report is available for the price of printing and mailing at (301) 937-6500, which is the number for the Bel Jean Print/Copy Shop in College Park, MD.

3. For information on the Tommy Burkett case, write Parents Against Corruption and Coverup, 13456 Muirkirk Lane, Herndon, VA 20171 or e-mail to tburkett@clark.net. They also have a web site at http://www.clark.net/pub/tburkett/pacc/PACC.html. Tel. (703) 435-3112.

4. Not mentioned in the paper is the fact that the conservative media-watchdog organization Accuracy in Media, has, since about the time Ruddy arrived upon the scene, been consistently critical of the government and the press in the Foster case. The organization's chairman, Reed Irvine, is particularly well-informed and persuasive. One might look up his and several other letters to the editor that rather miraculously appeared in the Wall Street Journal on April 11, 1995, to get a sample of his valuable work. You can also write for information directly to Accuracy in Media, 4455 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., #330, Washington, DC 20008. Tel. (202) 364-4401. Request in particular Irvine's recent “Farce and Fraud in Foster Findings”. He also did an excellent contemporaneous analysis of the Fiske Report among his numerous works.

5. The web site for the Sunday Telegraph of London is http://www.telegraph.co.uk

6. Patrick Knowlton has prepared a witness-tampering report available from his lawyer, John H. Clarke at 720 7th Street, N.W., Suite 304, Washington, DC 20001. Tel.(202) 332-3030.

7. Christopher Ruddy's articles appear regularly in a newsletter of the Western Journalism Center entitled Dispatches, P.O. Box 2450, Fair Oaks, CA 95628-2450 Tel. 1-800-WJC-5595.

8. Talk show host Brian Wilson has an informative book putting the Foster case in the larger context of Clinton scandals entitled The Little Black Book on Whitewater. 1-800-862-1731. He has a web page at http://www.myrmidon.w1.com

9. Videos on the Foster case and other scandals related to the Clinton administration can be obtained from Citizens for Honest Government, 611 Pennsylvania Ave. S.E., Suite 1996, Washington, D.C. 20003. Tel. 1-800-251-8089.

10. Strategic Investment, the sponsor of the handwriting experts, has also prepared a video on the Foster case. Write 108 N. Alfred Street, Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22314. Tel. (703) 836-8250.

11. My book, The New Moral Order, the Poems and Essays of David Martin has my letters to Washington Post reporter, David Von Drehle, and to writer, William Styron, about their writings on the Foster case, referred to in the current monograph. It also contains poetic commentary, at length, on the Foster case, POW/MIA abandonment and coverup, the Burkett case, the national abortion holocaust, corruption of the press, misinformation on the Oklahoma City bombing, wrongheadedness in pedagogy, the Kennedy assassination, and the national security state, among other things. It is available for $14.95 (which includes a $3.00 shipping and handling fee) from DCD Publishers, P.O. Box 222381, Chantilly, VA 20153.

12. The New Moral Order can also be obtained from The Free American, a monthly magazine. It's at US Highway 380, Box 2943, Bingham, New Mexico 87832. Tel. (505) 423-5250; Fax (505) 423-5258. E-mail freeamerican@etsc.net. The Free American also sells Unlimited Access, the book by former FBI agent, Gary Aldrich, which is referred to unfavorably in my paper and The Murder of Vince Foster by Michael Kellett, as well as a number of other books and videos generally not available through conventional sources.

13. The United Broadcasting Network (formerly the For the People Network) also sells a similar collection of books and videos, including Christopher Ruddy's work. They have an easy to remember toll-free number, 1-800-888-9999.

14. America West Catalog, P.O. Box 3300, Bozeman, Montana 59772. Tel. 1-800-729-4131 gives prompt mail-order service for it's books on various “conspiracies”. Ask for free catalog.

15. Prevailing Winds Research, P.O. Box 23511, Santa Barbara, CA 93121. Tel. (805) 899-3433 has an extraordinary collection of books, videos, tapes, and articles on various alleged conspiracies. Their perspective is as much from the political left as Accuracy in Media is from the right. In fact, they sell a monograph that roundly attacks AIM. I increasingly find the tiresome right versus left dichotomy to be a hindrance to perceiving the more serious dichotomy between right and wrong, freedom and tyranny.

16. The monthly newspaper, The Jubilee, also sells political books and videos. They are at P.O. Box 310, Midpines, CA 95345. Tel. (209) 742-NEWS. They have had some of the best reporting on the apparent coverup in the Oklahoma City bombing case.

17. The magazine, The New American, has an on line bookstore at http://www.jbs.org. Their address is simply The New American, Appleton, WI 54913-8040. Tel. (414)749-3783. They have also reported well on Oklahoma City.

Mention in this listing does not constitute an endorsement of everything the organization stands for nor does it bespeak a belief in everything contained in the materials sold (with the exception of The New Moral Order, of course.). There is some doubt, in fact, that some of the organizations or publications are what they purport to be, that is, genuine independent critics of governmental and journalistic corruption. One should beware “false fronts”. A responsible citizen can only read as broadly as possible and make up his own mind. One who confines himself to the “respectable mainstream” is not doing so. Anyone absorbing the lessons of this essay should realize that the American informational mainstream of the late 20th century is exceedingly narrow, and it is anything but respectable.

David Martin
November 27, 1996

[Go to part 2] [Go to part 3] [Go to part 4] [Go to part 5] [Go to part 6]

[To contact David Martin]

Home