MR. NORMAN: Yes, I authored the story "Fostergate" in Media Bypass. It was originally written for Forbes Magazine, where until 8/18/95 I was a senior editor. For reasons officially unknown to me, but, I believe, unrelated to legitimate editorial concerns, Forbes chose not to run the story despite its passing the usual rigorous fact-checking process at Forbes and libel review by Forbes' outside counsel. Forbes Editor James Michaels gave me permission to publish the story elsewhere so long as I did not identify myself as working for Forbes.
Subsequent to the killing of the story by Forbes, a senior publishing executive with the magazine confided to me privately that the reason the story died had something to do with Caspar Weinberger, former Secretary of Defense and now Forbes publisher emeritus.
MR. LEE: How did you get started on your investigation, and how long have you been working on it?
MR. NORMAN: I came to this story through a very round-about route. You could say it began more than two years ago with the failure of a Stamford-based refining and oil trading company called Arochem. While others in the media (and at Forbes) accepted the official line that it was merely the result of one rogue oil trader, who stiffed Chase Manhattan and a consortium of other banks for $200 million, I thought something was fishy. After a long investigation, it turned out the trader, Will Harris, was actually funneling money to another firm called Bay Oil, run by a family with long ties to the intelligence community, who were helping to finance arms sales to Iraq during the late 1980s. This story ran as the cover of Forbes Jan 31, 1995, titled "Oil, Guns, Greed!"
These sales involved cluster bombs manufactured with apparent U.S. assistance by Chilean weapons maker Carlos Cardoen. And among the unlikely things Cardoen was selling to Iraq was a pirated version of PROMIS software, for apparent use by Iraq's intelligence service or military. That got me curious about Inslaw, the small company which had done proprietary enhancements to that software--and then was stiffed by the government and nearly driven into liquidation.
In the process of investigating this story, I developed a particularly fruitful dialogue with a recently retired high-level CIA contractor who, bit by bit, revealed what was going on with Foster, PROMIS and Swiss bank accounts. Unwilling to rely solely on this one source, even though he has proven very reliably accurate, I attempted to corroborate his amazing revelations with other intelligence sources. Fortunately, this was accomplished through two separate "deep throat" pipelines into the upper echelon of the CIA and into another U.S. intelligence agency. These sources confirmed that Foster was indeed under investigation for espionage, had one or more Swiss accounts, and that his and other accounts were being raided by one or more individuals connected with a computer intelligence team called the Fifth Column. This effort apparently has never had official sanction, but nevertheless is a point of some pride within the intelligence community for its brazen effectiveness.
MR. LEE: There have been allegations that both the intelligence community and the Arkansas company Systematics, which Foster worked for, tried to block the publication of your article in Media Bypass. If true, can you elaborate?
MR. NORMAN: It is certainly true that Systematics (now Alltel Information Services) has tried diligently to suppress this story. Aside from the pressure brought on Forbes ( which gets about $1 million a year in advertising from parent Alltel Corp.), their libel attorney Charles O. Morgan has sent threatening letters all over the place trying to pre-empt other publications from running it or even discussing it on the radio. A serious consideration of these threats would show they are hollow. But the media is a business. Publishers shy away from lawsuits, even if they can be won.
Further, as the story began to seep out anyway, the government itself has had to show its own hand and even play its trump card -- national security. Paul Rodriguez, the editor of Washington-based Insight magazine, has told me he received a visit from a military intelligence guy from the Pentagon who told him bluntly to "Lay off this story. You don't know what you're dealing with."
Anthony Kimery, a fellow journalist who has corroborated much of this story from his own intelligence sources, was summarily fired as editor of a Thomson financial publication, apparently because he was asking too many questions about PROMIS (which a Thomson unit in Canada may have been involved in selling or modifying). Sarah McClendon had her newsletter dropped from an AT&T-controlled electronic news service because she pursued the Systematics connection. And, of course, I have now been fired from Forbes for, I believe, asking too many questions about Cap Weinberger's Swiss bank accounts and possibly even causing one of them to be raided for $2.3 million in illicit funds.
On top of that, even the investigators for Rep. James Leach's House Banking Committee seem to be aiding and abetting the coverup by tipping Morgan off as soon as they learned Media Bypass was going to publish the story, and then going out of their way to impugn and intimidate my sources, even trying to lure one of them into committing a felony by hacking into a bank database. I now have an exceedingly low regard for Mr. Leach and his staff.
MR. LEE: Your Media Bypass article ties together Inslaw, BCCI, Stephens, Systematics, Mena, the White House, and the death of Vince Foster. How widespread is this government conspiracy? How many members in Congress do you know or presume to be involved?
MR. NORMAN: When you talk of government "conspiracy," I don't know how deep the coverup goes, or whether it may be justified by some bona fide national security interest. Certainly, it appears to me that in regards to Vince Foster's death, suicide has been prescribed as an "authorized cover story" for national security reasons. This is a technical determination that essentially allows -- and requires -- affected individuals in the government to lie, if need be, to preserve some secret activity, and insulates them from prosecution for perjury.
The cover story regarding Systematics and Foster is also probably several layers deep. When one story is penetrated, there will be several fall-back stories, each designed to obscure what was really going on.
As for Congress, it is amazing and utterly disheartening to me that not a single member of either the House or Senate committees asked a single question targeted at Foster's possible involvement in intelligence matters. Nobody asked about why he had two inch-thick NSA binders stashed in Bernie Nussbaum's safe, as stated under oath in the private deposition of Foster's executive assistant Deborah Gorham. Nor were there even any follow-up questions to Gorham in that interview. This should have set off alarm bells. Nor were there any questions about his Swiss travel. And when Sen. Lauch Faircloth asked Gorham in public if she knew of Foster receiving any Systematics documents, she replied, after reading a quickly written note from her lawyer: "I can't recall." In a private interview with investigators for Kenneth Starr, she had stated that Foster got a Systematics document from Web Hubbell the day before he died, and it was missing from his office afterwards.
[From the August 21, 1995 issue of the Washington Weekly]