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Profile: Daniel Casolaro
Daniel Casolaro was a participant or observer in the following events:
Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believes to be related, makes several calls to Thomas Gates, an FBI agent. According to sworn testimony Gates will later provide to the House Judiciary Committee, there are several such calls over a four week period that ends when Casolaro is found dead (see August 10, 1991). Although Casolaro’s death will be ruled a suicide, Gates will say that the journalist sounds “upbeat” during the calls. The reason Casolaro contacts Gates is unclear, although Gates may have been investigating Robert Nichols, a source for Casolaro (see Before August 10, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believes to be related, calls Richard Stavin, a former Department of Justice Organized Crime Strike Force prosecutor, to discuss his research into the matter. In a sworn statement to the House Judiciary Committee, Stavin will later say: “He spoke to me about Inslaw. He spoke to me about a group he called the Octopus. I believe he mentioned Robert Nichols [an important source for Casolaro’s research], and possibly also John Phillip Nichols, in this conversation, and was extremely interested, intrigued, and frustrated in his inability to get a grasp on what he called the Octopus. He had indicated that he had met with—again I believe it was Robert Nichols on several occasions, that Robert Nichols was extremely talkative to a point, but when Mr. Casolaro would ask specific questions, he [Nichols] would become somewhat evasive.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believes to be related, is told to “back off” the story, according to his brother Anthony. In a statement made after Daniel is found dead (see August 10, 1991), Anthony Casolaro will say that on this date his brother tells him, “someone else told me I better back off the story.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Robert Nichols, a businessman who is of interest to the FBI, provides information to Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believes to be related. There is some dispute about the significance of this information. According to Inslaw owner William Hamilton and Michael Riconosciuto, another figure who becomes involved in the Inslaw affair, Nichols is Casolaro’s primary source of information in his investigation into the alleged theft of the PROMIS software. However, in a later telephone interview with investigators for the House Judiciary Committee, Nichols will say that he was acting as a sounding board for Casolaro, and providing direction and insight for his investigation into the Inslaw affair. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believes to be related, reportedly tells his family and friends that, if he were to be found dead, they should not believe he committed suicide. According to the House Judiciary Committee, Casolaro tells “several people” that he is receiving death threats “because he was getting close to concluding his investigation.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
The dead body of Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believed to be related, is found in a hotel room in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The body is found in the bathtub with both of its wrists slashed several times. There is no sign of forced entry into the hotel room nor of a struggle. A short suicide note is found. The police initially think the death is a suicide and the scene is not sealed and protected, which, according to the House Judiciary Committee, “potentially allow[s] for the contamination of the possible crime scene.” In addition, the room is reportedly cleaned before a thorough criminal investigation can be conducted. A brief preliminary investigation leads the police to confirm their initial suspicion of suicide. Casolaro’s work on a story about the alleged theft of an enhanced version of PROMIS software by the Justice Department from Inslaw had led him to believe that it was related to other scandals, such as those involving the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and Iran-Contra. Casolaro had told his family and friends that he was going to Martinsburg to meet a source who had important information, although the source’s identity is unknown. Following his death, all Casolaro’s notes and papers disappear. A stack of typed pages that usually sat on top of his desk at home vanish. In addition, notes Casolaro always kept with him disappear. His brother Anthony will later say that he finds the disappearance of all the papers surprising. “Somebody cleaned out his car and his room,” Anthony will say. “If my brother did that [killed himself], it seems as though [his papers] should have been found.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
The body of Daniel Casolaro, a journalist who had investigated the Inslaw affair and matters he believed to be related, is embalmed. This occurs before his family is notified and before a coroner’s investigation. The House Judiciary Committee will later comment that the embalming “may have limited the effectiveness of autopsies or toxicological examinations.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Thomas Gates, an FBI agent who had been contacted by recently deceased journalist Daniel Casolaro several times shortly before his death (see (July 13-August 10, 1991)), suspects that Casolaro has been murdered (see August 10, 1991). Gates communicates these suspicions to the local police in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where Casolaro died, and to the local FBI office. According to Gates, Casolaro sounded very “upbeat” and not like a person contemplating suicide in their conversations, even in the days before his death. In addition, Casolaro’s phone book, which had contained a number for Gates, has disappeared. What’s more, the local police tell Gates that the wounds on Casolaro’s wrists were “hacking” wounds, and Gates feels the amount of injury to the arms is not consistent with injuries inflicted by a suicide. Gates will also later share his suspicions with the House Judiciary Committee. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Former Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Lester Coleman submits a sworn affidavit to a court hearing the dispute between Inslaw and the Justice Department about the alleged theft of PROMIS software.
PROMIS Allegedly Provided to Middle Eastern Countries - Coleman says that in spring 1988 he worked with a DEA proprietary company in Nicosia, Cyprus. He found that the DEA was using the company to sell computer software called “PROMISE” or “PROMIS” to drug abuse control agencies in Cyprus, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Turkey. Coleman claims to have seen reels of computer tapes and computer hardware being unpacked at the Nicosia Police Force Narcotics Squad. The boxes allegedly bore the name and red logo of a Canadian corporation with the words “PROMISE” or “PROMIS” and “Ltd.” According to Coleman, the DEA’s objective in aiding the implementation of this system in these countries was to enhance the United States’ ability to access sensitive drug control law enforcement and intelligence files. Coleman adds that a DEA agent was responsible for both the propriety company, Eurame Trading Company, Ltd., and its initiative to sell “PROMIS(E)” computer systems to Middle Eastern countries.
Apparent Link to Case against Michael Riconosciuto - Coleman also says he believed the agent’s reassignment in 1990 to a DEA intelligence position in Washington State prior to the arrest of Michael Riconosciuto in March 1991 on drug charges was more than coincidental. Riconosciuto has also made a number of claims about PROMIS. According to Coleman, the agent was assigned to Riconosciuto’s home state to manufacture a case against him. Coleman says this was done to prevent Riconosciuto from becoming a credible witness concerning the US government’s covert sale of PROMIS to foreign governments.
Meeting with Danny Casolaro - Coleman also says he was contacted by the reporter Danny Casolaro on August 3, 1991. Casolaro apparently told him he had leads and hard information about (1) Justice Department groups operating overseas, (2) the sale of the “PROMIS(E)” software by the US government to foreign governments, (3) the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and (4) the Iran-Contra scandal.
Mentioned by House Committee in Report - These charges will be mentioned in the House Judiciary Committee’s final report on the Inslaw affair, but the committee will not endorse them. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Later Conviction for Perjury - Coleman will later admit fabricating a claim that a secret drug sting enabled terrorists to evade airport security in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Pleading guilty to five counts of perjury, he will say he lied for a variety of reasons: to obtain money, to evade pending federal charges that he filed a false passport application, to enhance his status as a consultant on international security and terrorism, and to get back at the United States Drug Enforcement Administration for firing him. [New York Times, 9/12/1997]
The death of Daniel Casolaro, a journalist who investigated the Inslaw affair and matters he believed to be related, is again ruled a suicide by local authorities in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Casolaro died there in August of the previous year (see August 10, 1991), and his death was initially ruled a suicide. However, the investigation was reopened following numerous inquiries by Casolaro’s brother and others into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. After expending over 1,000 man-hours investigating Casolaro’s death, the local authorities again rule it to be a suicide. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
The Justice Department issues a 187-page report clearing department officials of wrongdoing in the Inslaw affair, which concerned the alleged misappropriation of an enhanced version of PROMIS software. According to a department press release, “there is no credible evidence that department officials conspired to steal computer software developed by Inslaw, Inc. or that the company is entitled to additional government payments.” This concurs with a previous report by Nicolas Bua, a special counsel appointed by the department. The main points of the report are:
The use of PROMIS by the Executive Office of United States Attorneys and in US attorneys’ offices conforms with contractual agreements, and Inslaw is not entitled to additional compensation for the use of its PROMIS software;
No independent counsel should be appointed and the matter should be closed;
The investigative journalist Danny Casolaro, who died while investigating the Inslaw affair and other issues, committed suicide;
MIT professor Dr. Randall Davis was hired to compare the computer code in Inslaw’s PROMIS software with the code in the FBI’s FOIMS software, which Inslaw claimed was a pirated version of PROMIS. Davis concluded that there was no relation between FOIMS and PROMIS;
Two of the people who made allegations about the distribution of PROMIS outside the Justice Department, Michael Riconosciuto and Ari Ben-Menashe, are untrustworthy. The departmental press release calls them “primary sources relied on by Inslaw”;
None of the anonymous sources that had previously been reported to have made statements supportive of Inslaw came forward, despite assurances from Attorney General Janet Reno that they would be protected from reprisals. The press release says, “Individuals who were identified as sources denied making the statements attributed to them by Inslaw”;
The department did not obstruct the reappointment of bankruptcy Judge George Bason, who ruled in favour of Inslaw (see September 28, 1987, November 24, 1987, December 8, 1987, December 15, 1987, and January 12, 1988);
No documents related to the matter have been destroyed by the Justice Department command center;
There is no credible evidence that Inslaw’s PROMIS is being used elsewhere in the government (see 1982-1984, December 11, 1990, and May 2008), or has been improperly distributed to a foreign government or entity (see May 6, 1983, May 12, 1983, November 1990, and January 1991);
PROMIS was not stolen to raise money to reward people working for the release of American hostages in Iran, to penetrate foreign intelligence agencies, as part of a US-Israeli slush fund connected with the late British publisher Robert Maxwell, or in aid of a secret US intelligence agency concealed within the Office of Special Investigations Nazi-hunting unit. [US Department of Justice, 9/27/1994]
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