Where's Bill Casey?
In 1991-92, the October Surprise investigation was like a
worldwide Where's Waldo game, trying to locate Bill Casey on
crucial days in 1980. Two national magazines and a House task
force claimed success, thus disproving that Casey sabotaged the
Iran hostage talks. The game was over; Casey and the
Republicans were innocent.
But from an obscure storage room on Capitol Hill comes a
photograph showing that the Where's Bill game was fixed, that
his face is not among the Bohemian Grove members who supplied
the vital alibi, a troubling chapter about faked history from
the October Surprise X-Files.
By Robert Parry
- October Surprise X-Files (Part 6): Where's Bill
WASHINGTON -- "We found a photograph from the Bohemian Grove for
the last weekend of July," the congressional investigator
boasted to me over the phone. I was stunned.
"You found a photograph from the Bohemian Grove?" I stammered.
The announcement might not have sounded that unusual. But for
the few reporters who were investigating the October Surprise
controversy, the statement that the House task force had located
a photograph from the Bohemian Grove for the last weekend of
July 1980 was big news. It was exactly the kind of hard
evidence that we had been seeking to show whether William Casey
was at that exclusive men's retreat in northern California or at
a secret meeting with Iranian emissaries in Spain.
>From the investigator's confident tone, it sounded as if the
House task force finally had the smoking-gun evidence to
disprove the allegation that Casey, as Ronald Reagan's campaign
director in 1980, had disrupted President Carter's Iranian
hostage negotiations, a dirty trick that bordered on treason and
might have cinched a historic GOP victory.
As the October Surprise story belatedly heated up, in 1991-92,
investigators had tried to fix Casey's whereabouts on a handful
of days when several witnesses placed the Republican campaign
chief at meetings in Madrid and Paris. Two of those mystery
days were July 27 and 28, 1980, a Sunday and a Monday, when
Iranian CIA agent Jamshid Hashemi testified that he was with
Casey in Madrid at a two-day meeting with radical Iranian mullah
But nailing down the whereabouts of Casey, a wily old World War
II spymaster, had proved difficult. Documents and news clips
did show that going into that late July weekend in 1980 Casey
was in Arlington, Va., at the Republican campaign headquarters.
He disappeared from public view on Saturday, July 26; was
missing Sunday and Monday morning; and then turned up late on
Monday afternoon, July 28, at a World War II historical
conference in London.
But where had Casey been from Saturday until Monday afternoon?
Could he have gone to Madrid for a two-day meeting before flying
A Debunking Hysteria
At a pivotal moment in the October Surprise investigation (in
November 1991), two national magazines, Newsweek and The New
Republic, published matching cover stories declaring that
records at the historical conference revealed that Casey arrived
in London Sunday evening, July 27, and attended the next
morning's session, July 28. That proved, the magazines declared
in unison, that a two-day meeting in Madrid was impossible. The
October Surprise story was declared a "myth."
The impact of those two magazine stories cannot be overstated.
They convinced most of the Washington news media and many
members of Congress that the longstanding suspicions of Casey's
skulduggery were false. A kind of debunking hysteria followed,
with other publications joining in a stampede that trampled any
careful examination of the October Surprise facts.
But Newsweek and The New Republic were wrong; they had
completely misread the London evidence. When more thorough
interviews were done with Americans who had attended the London
conference with Casey, it became clear that Casey was not there
on either Sunday night or Monday morning. He arrived late
Monday afternoon, as a notation on the attendance sheet
corroborated. It said Casey "came at 4 p.m."
Typically, however, neither magazine corrected the major
journalistic error that they had committed. The new information
also received almost no mention in the rest of the national
media. So millions of Americans were left believing that the
two magazines had established a correct alibi for Bill Caseyand
that the October Surprise story had been disproved.
Though inclined to join in the debunking, the House task force,
which started work in 1992, was forced to recognize the glaring
mistake by the two magazines. But instead of blowing the
whistle, the congressional investigators simply began a quiet
search for a new alibi to slip into the place of the old.
By fall 1992, the task force had settled on a new location for
Casey's late July weekend whereabouts. The task force put him
in the Parsonage cottage at the Bohemian Grove encampment in
According to this new alibi, Casey flew from Los Angeles to San
Francisco on Friday, July 25, with Republican operative Darrell
Trent. Casey then drove with Trent to the Bohemian Grove,
arriving sometime late Friday evening. Casey stayed at the
Grove until Sunday morning, July 27. He then went to San
Francisco, boarded a British Airways flight, flew all night, and
landed about lunchtime the next day, Monday, July 28, in London.
That itinerary left no time for a side trip to Spain, so Jamshid
Hashemi's allegations of a secret two-day meeting in Madrid
could be declared false a second time. The October Surprise
charges were again dismissed as a "myth."
But there were problems, too, with this Bohemian Grove alibi. I
and other reporters at Public Broadcasting System's FRONTLINE
program had already investigated this possibility for Casey's
whereabouts and found it to be untrue. We discovered clear
documentary evidence that Casey actually attended the Grove on
the following weekend, Aug. 1-3, not the last weekend of July.
Evidence in the Way
Indeed, the House task force's own evidence countered the
Bohemian Grove alibi. According to Grove records obtained by
the House investigators, Casey's host, Darrell Trent, was
already at the Grove on Friday, July 25, while Casey was still
in Washington. So they could not have traveled together from
Further, the task force found a plane ticket for a flight that
Casey did take that day. But it was not to the West Coast. It
was a ticket for the Washington-to-New York shuttle. A Casey
calendar entry then showed a meeting on Saturday morning, July
26, with a right-to-life activist who said she met Casey at his
home in Roslyn Harbor, N.Y.
Other records supported FRONTLINE's interpretation that Casey
had attended the Grove the following weekend. Republican
campaign records revealed that on Aug. 1, Casey did travel to
Los Angeles, where he hooked up with Darrell Trent. Also on
Aug. 1, Grove financial records documented Casey and Trent
making purchases at the Grove. In addition, there was a diary
entry from Matthew McGowan, one of the Grove members at the
Parsonage cottage. He wrote on Aug. 3 that "we had Bill Casey,
Gov. Reagan's campaign mgr., as our guest this last weekend."
Still, regardless of these facts, the House task force insisted
on the Bohemian Grove alibi. The congressional investigators
showed a similar bias in handling the alibi for Casey on the
other crucial date, Oct. 19, 1980. That's when witnesses
claimed they saw the campaign director in Paris at another round
of meetings with Karrubi, an assertion supported by four French
intelligence officials, including the French spy chief Alexandre
deMarenches who described the meetings to his biographer.
To overcome the Paris evidence, the task force relied on the
decade-old memory of Casey's nephew, Larry Casey, who claimed he
remembered his late father placing a telephone call to Bill
Casey who was at the Republican headquarters in Arlington.
Though Larry Casey had no corroboration for that memory, the
task force accepted it as "credible."
But again, FRONTLINE reporters had been down that road -- and
found it to be a dead end. I had interviewed Larry Casey on
videotape in 1991, a year before his House testimony. In that
interview, Larry Casey offered a completely different alibi,
insisting that he vividly remembered his parents having dinner
with Bill Casey at the Jockey Club in Washington on Oct. 19,
"It was very clear in my mind even though it was 11 years ago,"
Larry Casey said.
But then I showed Larry Casey the sign-in sheets for the GOP
headquarters. The entries recorded Larry Casey's parents
picking up Bill Casey for the dinner on Oct. 15, four days
earlier. Larry Casey acknowledged his error, and indeed an
American Express receipt later confirmed Oct. 15 as the date of
the Jockey Club dinner.
In 1992, however, Larry Casey testified before the House task
force and offered the phone call alibi, which he had not
mentioned in the FRONTLINE interview. Though I notified the
House task force about this discrepancy, the task force was
undeterred. It still used the phone call alibi to debunk the
The Bohemian Grove Photo
This pattern of accepting silly alibis for Bill Casey had
convinced me that the House investigation was little more than a
whitewash. Clearing the late Bill Casey and Ronald Reagan's
campaign pleased Republicans who wanted to protect the
legitimacy of the 12-year Reagan-Bush reign. But the Democrats,
too, seemed eager to go along, frightened of a head-on fight
with the Republicans.
But my confidence was shaken by the House investigator on the
phone and his photograph. A formal group photo of the Bohemian
Grove members and guests at the Parsonage cottage on the last
weekend of July 1980 would be the clincher. It would prove,
finally, that Jamshid Hashemi was a liar and that the Madrid
allegation was a myth.
"You found a photograph of Bill Casey at the Bohemian Grove?" I
choked. A lightheadedness swept over my mind as I tried to
reconcile how the seeming ironclad evidence against the Bohemian
Grove alibi could have been so wrong.
But I sensed an uncertainty, maybe even embarrassment, at the
other end of the line.
"Well," the investigator answered hesitantly, "Bill Casey's not
in the photograph. Everyone else is. Darrell Trent, his host,
is there. But Bill Casey's not in the picture."
"Bill Casey's not there?" I exclaimed in amazement.
"No, Bill Casey's not in the picture."
Still, in its published report, the task force ditched the
photograph and other documents putting Casey at the Grove only
on the first weekend of August 1980. The task force relied
instead on one piece of paper, a notation written by Republican
foreign policy adviser Richard Allen. On a note page dated Aug.
2, Allen had scribbled down Casey's Long Island home phone
That act of writing down the number proved, the task force
sleuths concluded, that Casey was at home that day -- and thus
not at the Grove. That, in turn, meant that Casey must have
attended the Grove the last weekend of July. The task force
embraced this strange argument even though Allen testified that
"I can't tell you whether or not I got through" on Casey's
number when he dialed it Aug. 2.
In other words, the seasoned House investigators decided that
writing down a person's home phone number proved the person was
at home, even if the phone went unanswered. Armed with such
"logic," the task force completed its debunking of the October
On the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, the task force
chairman, Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., cited the solid Casey
alibis as a key reason why the task force report "should put the
controversy to rest once and for all." (Jan. 24, 1993)
Hamilton's article was aptly entitled "Case Closed."
And so it stayed, until I learned that senior Iranian officials
had informed intermediaries close to President Clinton in
1993-94 that the House task force had gotten the story all
wrong. These Iranians asserted that they indeed had
collaborated with Casey and other Republicans in 1980. But the
Clinton administration, at its highest levels, chose not to
reopen the "closed" investigation. President Clinton apparently
felt the old fight was too risky and might detract from his
high-priority domestic agenda.
It was then that I tracked down the House task force records in
a barren storage room off the House Rayburn parking garage. In
the boxes were documents, some "secret" and even "top secret,"
that contradicted many of the task force's conclusions. I
dubbed these records, the October Surprise X-Files. (See the
first five issues of The Consortium for more details.)
In one of the dozens of boxes, I found a color photograph of the
16 men who spent that pivotal last weekend of July 1980 in the
Parsonage cottage at the Bohemian Grove. They were posed in a
formal setting, with some older gentlemen seated in front and
the other members and guests standing in elevated rows behind
them. I looked at one man after another, searching for the
tall, stooped, large-headed figure of Bill Casey. He was no
where to be seen.
(c) Copyright 1996 -- PLEASE DO NOT RE-POST
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