CHAPTER SEVEN: THE ARYAN REPUBLICAN ARMY
GLENN WILBURN AND J.D. Cash had amassed enough evidence to convince themselves, if not the FBI, that the bombing was carried out by a team of four to six men, with several others playing support roles in the background. Elohim City was either the headquarters, or at least an integral part of the conspiracy. But what was the organizational structure that tied it together? How was it financed?
Shortly after the bombing, The New York Times had reported that McVeigh and Nichols may have been linked to a spree of bank robberies in the Midwest. Most of the press forgot about this after the Justice Department performed one of its nimble pirouettes and issued a new story. J.D. Cash did not.
He discovered that Tim McVeigh's sister, Jennifer, had given a sworn statement to the FBI on May 2, 1995, admitting that her brother had asked her to exchange three $100 bills for clean money. She deposited the three bills at the Federal Credit Union in Lockport, New York, in December 1994.
"He had been involved in a bank robbery but did not provide further details. He advised me that he had not participated in the robbery itself, but was somehow involved in the planning or setting up of this robbery," she said in the affidavit. "I observed at that time that my brother had on his person an undetermined quantity of $100 bills, of which he provided me a small portion. It is my belief that the bank robbery had occurred within the recent past. My brother remarked that the money represented his share of the bank robbery proceeds."
So Cash paid close attention when a group of bank robbers were arrested in Ohio in early 1996, especially when it came to light that the band was a self-described commando cell of the Aryan Republican Army.
The ARA was modeled on the Aryan Resistance Movement, the military arm of a clandestine Nazi organization called Bruders Schweigen or simply, The Order.] In the early 1980s The Order was arguably the most dangerous terrorist group in the United States, robbing $3.8 million from a Brinks armored car, planting bombs, and killing, in an escalating guerrilla campaign against the Zionist Occupied Government.
The organization was finally broken by the FBI in 1984 when the leader, Robert Mathews, or "Carlos" as he strangely called himself, chose a fiery "martyrdom" rather than surrender to the FBI. He went up in flames on an island in the Puget Sound as 150 FBI agents watched in awe.
He left behind some very specific instructions on terrorist tactics.  "The first rule that must be strictly observed is that cells must be kept separate from other units and then must be broken down into even smaller units called teams. It is recommended that no unit comprise more than six members. This unit is then broken down into two- or three-man teams.
"Every member of the Bruders Schweigen is expected to obtain at least one, and preferably two, false identities. No member is to divulge his new identity to anyone, not even his team leader .... All sensitive communications must be made from a pay phone, and often from pay phone to pay phone. Every member should have at least one ten dollar roll of quarters with him at all times .... " The document concludes: "This is the strategy of an underground army."
The Aryan Republican Army was clearly an attempt to reconstitute The Order for round two of the terrorist war against the ZaO. "Our goal was to open the door to the overthrow of the United States government," admitted Kevin McCarthy, one of the bank robbers.
When the FBI busted two ARA safe houses in Ohio and Kansas in February 1996, they found a recruitment video called the "Armed Struggle Underground." A laconic "Commander Pedro," sitting in a command "bunker" with a ski mask covering his face, explains that the goal of the ARA is the overthrow of the U.S. government, the extermination of America's Jews, the deportation of all blacks, and the establishment of an "Aryan Republic" on the North American continent.
"Linger at your own peril," warns Pedro, with theatrical menace. "We have endeavored to keep collateral damage and civilian damage to a minimum. But, as in all wars, some innocents shall suffer. So be it."
The tape is an interesting exhibit of terrorist cross-pollination in the post-Communist era.
"We call ourselves the Aryan Republican Army because in some of our tactics, and some of our goals, we have modeled the organization after the successful and yet undefeated Irish Republican Army," says Commander Pedro.
"In solidarity with our Serbian brothers, we understand the meaning of ethnic cleansing," says Pedro, briefly digressing into the Balkans, but clearly it is the Provisional IRA that has captured the imagination of the group. This is not entirely surprising. The "Provos" are the premier terrorist professionals in Europe. And as we have seen, the Christian Identity sect regards the Celtic peoples as the purest survivors of the Aryan race. "The Irish, another tribe of the Aryan people, have fought off the Jewish-inspired elite of the English," says the Commander.
The tape starts with an IRA song, The Patriot Game, then moves on to a lively discourse on kneecapping. "We will deal with informers ruthlessly and permanently. For actively working with our enemies, you'll be terminated. If you just like to run your mouth, you'll be kneecapped," warns Commander Pedro, holding up an automatic pistol, and then the feared symbol of the IRA -- an electric drill. "Either one, I can assure you, are extremely painful."
Among the items seized from a storage locker belonging to the group was the Irish Republican Army handbook, a terrorist manual known in Ireland as the Green Book. "I gave them that," said Dennis Mahon, who considers himself something of an expert on the Irish cause. 
Needless to say, the IRA itself had no idea that it had become a role model for deranged Nazis in the United States. An organization with historic and emotional ties to the Left, it exists in a different ideological universe, though Irish nationalists did indeed flirt with Hitler, at least to the point of official Irish Republic neutrality during the Second World War. In any case, the Provos maintain a strict ban on transatlantic subversion. Any IRA guerrilla who violated this cardinal rule -- provoking the wrath of U.S. counterterrorist forces -- would probably be court-martialed by the IRA's own military command.
The Aryan Republican Army was equipped for terrorism. In the busts, the FBI captured a shoulder-fired rocket launcher, Semtex explosives, hand-grenade canisters, eleven pipe bombs, and an arsenal of M-14 rifles. It also found high-quality false J.D. badges and drivers licenses in the names of U.S. marshals and FBI agents, along with boxes of books and tapes that included Say It in Arabic, a guide to Interpol, a registry of U.S. government radio frequencies, The Scottish Chiefs, and Quotationsfrom Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. 
But this cell was not primarily a terrorist action squad. It appears to have been the fundraising arm of the Aryan revolution. Over a two year stretch, between January 1994 and December 1995, the group netted more than $250,000 in well-planned, pinprick robberies across the Midwest. Wearing Ronald Reagan and Count Dracula masks, they would burst into small town banks, seize the cash on hand -- anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000 -- and get out within 90 seconds, never pushing their luck by trying to get the big haul from the vault. As a decoy for the police, they would leave disarmed pipe bombs in Easter baskets and Christmas stockings.
They were a comical lot. Their special touch was leaving evidence that would track back to legitimate agents of the FBI. Sooner or later, they were bound to make a mistake. It happened when one of the group broke discipline and started freelancing on the side. By the time the FBI cracked the cell, the ARA had carried out a total of twenty-two bank robberies. It was a run that matched the brief career of Jesse James.
One of the commanders, Richard Guthrie, did not last long in police custody. The prison guards found him dangling from an air vent with a sheet around his neck on July 10, 1996. The other commander, Peter Langan, 38, was lucky to survive capture. His white van was shot to pieces by a combined "Safe Streets Task Force" of the FBI, U.S. Marshals, and local police, though he never fired a shot himself. Grazed in the head by a bullet, he managed to crawl out alive.
Langan was high school dropout from suburban Washington, and the son of a CIA agent. It soon emerged that he was the Commander Pedro of the ARA video, though a good deal less menacing without his ski mask. According to a hilarious article by Richard Leiby in The Washington Post, Langan had pink varnish on his toenails and a shaven crotch when he was captured by the FBI. Commander Pedro was a transvestite. He was known as "Donna" at the chapter of Crossdressers and Friends in Kansas City.
This ARA cell might have been no more than a colorful footnote in the history of criminal gangs, except for the fact that all four of the other indicted co-conspirators had close ties to Elohim City. One of them was Pastor Mark Thomas, head of the Posse Comitatus of Pennsylvania and East Coast leader of the Aryan Nations. A former "state chaplain" of the Ku Klux Klan, he had left the organization because it was, he told me, infested with "do-nothing bellyachers."
At his run-down farm in Pennsylvania, he published an intellectual newsletter called The Watchman. It offered a rich stew of Odinism, Jungian ancestral theory, and national-socialist anti-capitalism -- the doctrinal expression of the Aryan Republican Army.
The other three were his proteges, Kevin McCarthy, Scott Stedeford, and Michael Brescia, all former skinheads from Philadelphia who had played together in a speed-metal rock band called Cyanide. Mark Thomas had introduced them to Elohim City, where they had gone through terrorist boot camp under Andreas Strassmeir.
McCarthy and Stedeford used to stay with Strassmeir when they came through for R&R between robberies. In fact, they were with him at Elohim City immediately before the bombing in April 1995, according to McCarthy's statement to the FBI. 
Brescia's role seems to have been different. He did participate in the robbery of $9,845 from Bank One in Madison, Wisconsin, on August 30, 1995, waving a 9 mm pistol at customers, and planting a black-powder pipe bomb in the bank. But robbery was not his main function in the ARA. He was a permanent resident of Elohim City, betrothed to Esther Millar, the granddaughter of the patriarch. There, Brescia served as second-in-command of paramilitary operations, apprentice terrorist, and soulmate of Lieutenant Strassmeir.
It was the same Michael Brescia who had been named by Dennis Mahon as the "pretty-boy John Doe Two" when he inadvertently gave away the secrets of the bombing to J.D. Cash.
* * *
Glenn Wilburn had a mind like a steel trap. He rarely forgot a name, and this one kept spinning in his head during the early months of 1996. Who was Michael Brescia? Where did he come from?
Mahon's drunken confession had offered a tantalizing lead -- yet another one-but it seemed to be going nowhere until a contact in Herington, Kansas, advised him to get in touch with Connie Smith. She was the mother of Katina Lawson, the young woman who had frolicked on and off with Tim McVeigh before she became disgusted by his views.
Glenn called Mrs. Smith on the telephone. J.D. Cash was in the room listening. So was Richard Reyna, the chief investigator for the McVeigh defense team.
Eager to help, she told Glenn about a chance encounter at Cardie's Corner store in Herington, possibly in the summer of 1992. She had run into her daughter, who was hanging out with some new friends. Tim McVeigh was there, accompanied by a very good-looking man called Mike with thick dark hair and a clean-cut, preppie manner. Afterward Mrs. Smith told Katina how handsome this Mike fellow was. Yes, agreed Katina, but he was not as nice as he looked. He was an insufferable braggart, with an undisguised contempt for the peasantry of Kansas.
Connie Smith saw him again in the spring of 1995, around April, getting out of a car.
"Mike? Mike who?" asked Glenn.
"I don't remember. It was a funny name: Braysi or Bresci or something. Mike Bresci, I think."
"Yes, that's it, Mike Brescia. I couldn't remember when I spoke to the FBI."
"The FBI? What did you tell the FBI?"
"I told them he looked like John Doe number two .... But they weren't interested."
Glenn couldn't believe his ears. Somebody in Kansas had independently established the link between Tim McVeigh and Michael Brescia. It was imperative, said Glenn, to find a picture of Brescia and show it to the witnesses in Kansas.
J.D. Cash had discovered that Brescia came from Philadelphia. This was closely guarded information. Brescia pretended that he came from the West Coast, and claimed that his father was a Portland lawyer. 
Since I lived near Washington, D.C., two hours' drive from Philadelphia, Glenn Wilburn enlisted me in the hunt for a photograph.  It did not take long to find out that Michael Brescia's father was an irascible battalion chief for the Fire Department in the Andorra section of Philadelphia. His mother was head of the local civic association, a busybody who had led a campaign to stop construction of a synagogue in their leafy, affluent, very Catholic neighborhood.
They were a pushy family, climbing fast up the social ladder. As for Michael, he was affable, extremely bright, with boyish good looks and, though not tall, a tennis player's body. An Eagle Scout, he had gone on to study finance at La Salle University in Philadelphia. Somehow, blessed with every advantage in life, he turned into a skinhead.
At La Salle he started going to lectures with the sides of his head shaved, a Mohawk buzz over the crown, and a ponytail down the back. Then he tried to set up a white supremacist cell on campus. He stopped going to classes in June 1993. He mentioned something about a "bookkeeping" job in Oklahoma before he vanished. His fellow students had no idea that he had taken the plunge, signing up as a full-fledged warrior in the Aryan Republican Army. All they were left with was a picture of him in the La Salle yearbook holding a corner of the Delta Sigma Pi fraternity flag. It was Brescia in his respectable mode. Coat and tie. Preppie.
"That's him," said Connie Smith, at her home in the farm village of Ramona. 
"No question, that's Mike," agreed Katina, leaning over her mother's shoulder.
Katina explained that her housemate, Lindy Johnson, had a brief fling with Brescia after Tim McVeigh had introduced him into their circle in the summer of 1992.  "I never found out what he was doing in Kansas. But I remember Lindy saying that he came from Pennsylvania, and I saw the Pennsylvania tags on his car."
Katina had come forward to the FBI after she saw Tim McVeigh undergoing his courthouse "perp walk" in an orange jumpsuit two days after the bombing. The FBI asked if she recognized the sketch of John Doe Two. "I told them he had a tattoo on his arm and his name was 'Mike,' but I didn't know the rest of his name," she said. 
Connie said, "I kept telling them that suspect number two was that Mike guy, a nice looking guy, dark skinned; whenever I saw Tim McVeigh he was there .... But they made Katina and I feel ignorant, like we didn't know what we were saying .... When I tried to call in with more information, they wouldn't even talk to me.
"Later the FBI started asking weird questions about Katina. They were sending me a message, a very negative message. That's when I said: 'To heck with this, I'm not going to deal with them any more.' In the end I wouldn't even tell them where Katina was.
"We're not being told the truth here," she said. "It scares me to death as an American citizen. We've got to put a stop to this or we'll lose this country."
J.D. Cash drove up from Oklahoma in his dilapidated brown jeep, and we went to visit Tom Kessinger, the mechanic at Elliot's Body Shop who had provided the FBI with the original sketch of John Doe Two. I waited outside in the car. Kessinger refused to talk to journalists. He made an exception for Cash because Glenn and Kathy Wilburn had anointed him.
"I think this is the guy we're looking for," he said, excitedly, when J.D. showed him the photo of Brescia. "Where's he from?" "Italian," said J.D.
"So he tans easily ... a real lady-killer. This could be him, but I'll need to look at a color photo."
Months later, after a series of visits by the FBI, Kessinger would self-destruct as a witness. He changed his story abruptly, stating that he had confused John Doe Two with Private Todd Bunting. But the recantation was preposterous. It reflected more on the FBI's methods of coercion than it did on his veracity as a witness. In June of 1996 he was still adamant about his description of the man who had walked into Elliot's Body Shop with Tim McVeigh.
It is possible, I suppose, that Kessinger was spinning yarns, or that Katina Lawson and her mother were both mistaken, or that four women at Lady Godiva's strip club were confused when they said they saw Michael Brescia with Tim McVeigh on April 8, 1995. But there comes a point when accumulated witness testimony reaches critical mass.
At Elohim City, Joan Millar protested that Michael Brescia could not possibly be John Doe Two. "He was right here with us on April 17, helping to prepare the grave for [Richard] Wayne Snell. If he had gone up to Kansas at any time we would have known about it." 
Indeed she would. Brescia was part of the family. He was engaged to her daughter, Esther. As for April 19, the day of the bombing, he was supposedly in Little Rock, attending a clemency rally for Richard Snell. 
That August he drove to Wisconsin to participate in an ARA bank robbery. After his return, he moved out of the compound, ostensibly expelled for violating the 9:00 PM curfew. For three months Brescia stayed with George Eaton, a neighbor and also the publisher of a radical newsletter called The Patriot Report. It was long enough for Eaton to notice the tattoo on Brescia's upper left arm-a marking he shared in common with John Doe Two. It was a circle with four spokes, a neo-fascist symbol. 
"He was very difficult to get along with, very secretive," said Eaton. "He wouldn't get a job because he didn't want to use his social security number. Instead he sold military clothing for Civil War reenactments, through magazine ads. He was conducting a whole business, using our washer and dryer, and it got to be a problem. I had to ask him to leave in the end."
For a while he disappeared, much like the others. They had all scattered in different directions. The Ward brothers went to Georgia, then vanished. Peter Ward was later picked up for robbery in Oregon. Strassmeir went to a safe house in Knoxville, Tennessee, then hid out in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina, and finally made his way back to Germany by crossing the land border into Mexico. (You don't have to show a passport leaving the U.S. across the Rio Grande. All you need is a driver's license. Often they wave you through without looking.)
In the end, Brescia went back to Philadelphia, moved in with his parents, got a job as a bookkeeper at Intelligent Electronics, and enrolled for further classes at La Salle University. On January 30, 1997, he was indicted for his role in the Wisconsin bank robbery by the ARA, and accepted a plea agreement that prevented collateral revelations at trial.
The Justice Department continued to ridicule the notion that the Aryan Republican Army played any role in the Oklahoma bombing. But Glenn Wilburn believed that he had won the argument. He believed that his small circle of followers had solved the crime-the worst mass murder in the history of the United States-and the FBI had failed to do so.
Glenn would go to his grave certain that the bombing was a broad conspiracy involving several men, and that there was some degree of official prior knowledge. The best indications were that the plot was hatched at Elohim City in the fall of 1994 under the guidance of Dennis Mahon and Andreas Strassmeir, two men who are clearly enjoying the protection of the FBI. The attack itself was carried out by the Aryan Republican Army, probably involving more than one terrorist cell. McVeigh was undoubtedly part of the movement. Glenn did not know for sure why the Clinton administration had gone to such lengths to cover this up, but he concluded that the bombing was probably a sting operation that went disastrously wrong. He suspected that the stingers had been outstung at the last moment. But whatever happened, the Justice Department was so fatally enmeshed in the terrorist activities of the ARA that it could not allow the truth to come out. At the very least, the FBI would have to explain why it had ring-fenced a group of virulent Nazis and shielded them from investigation. With time, and with his lawsuit, he believed the truth would force its way into public consciousness.
Consumed by pancreatic cancer, Glenn soldiered on through the early months of 1997. By the end, his voice was gone. Kathy had to interpret his faint utterings as admirers came to pay their last respects. Even The Daily Oklahoman found itself paying homage to the man. For two years the dominant newspaper in the state of Oklahoma had been at war with the Wilburns. It had criticized Glenn and mocked his views, but it had never sent a reporter to sit down at that little kitchen table to hear what the leader of the dissident movement had to say.
Two weeks before his death, the call finally came. Glenn, always gracious, made his final heroic effort. Too ill to move, he insisted on being lifted into his wheelchair, his drooping limbs strapped with a sheet, and was taken out to say goodbye to Oklahoma. 
"Do you think that the stress of all you've been through the past two years contributed to your illness?" asked the reporter.
Yes, replied Glenn, the emotional trauma had probably suppressed his immune system.
"Knowing that, would you do it all over again?"
"Yes, because I have to look at myself in the mirror."
He died on July 15, 1997, aged 46, an ordinary American who showed great independence of mind. He had been angry with God, bitter at the injustice of the bombing, but he had made his peace. "Lord forgive me that I didn't become all that You wanted me to be," he prayed aloud, in his last conscious act with his wife.
He asked to be buried by Dr. Larry Jones, a family friend and founder of Feed the Children, who had come to see him every day in his agonies.
"What do you want me to tell them?" Jones had asked.
"Just tell them the truth, Larry," replied Glenn.
He did. At the funeral service, Dr. Jones gave a blistering oration. "I don't want us to become a nation, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn said of the Soviet Union, where the lie has become not just a moral category, but a pillar of the state. If I'm not mistaken, we're living in America, and this frustrates me, what is taking place. I am beginning to see that Americans are living under fear of their government."
"I really believe that after the Oklahoma City bombing, if our government had stood up and said: 'This is actually what happened. Something went wrong. And we apologize to Oklahoma City and to the nation. We're sorry for what happened. We want you to forgive us.' Had that happened, I don't think we would be here today burying Glenn Wilburn."
"You see, as Huxley said, 'You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.' And as Glenn Wilburn began to find out the truth, it did make him mad. And the load that he carried literally took him to the grave."
The funeral procession circled the haunting, empty site where the Murrah Building had once stood. Among the pallbearers were his greatest admirers: J.D. Cash, State Representative Charles Key, McVeigh defense investigator Richard Reyna, and crime scene witness Bruce Shaw.
For Kathy Wilburn it was a cruel two years. First her grandchildren, then her husband. But she is one of life's stoic souls, raised with the virtues of a different age.
"I will carry it forward," she told me, choking back the tears. "I was Glenn's voice when he couldn't speak any longer, and my mission now is to continue being his voice, for however long it takes, until we know the truth."
CHAPTER EIGHT: THE TABOO INVESTIGATION
VINCE FOSTER AND "THE MOST ETHICAL ADMINISTRATION IN THE HISTORY OF THE REPUBLIC"
-- Bill Clinton's promise to the American people, November 1992
ON JULY 15, 1997, Kenneth Starr issued a terse statement. "Based on investigation, analysis and review of the evidence by experts and experienced investigators and prosecutors, this Office concluded that Mr. Foster committed suicide by gunshot in Fort Marcy Park, VA, on July 20, 1993."
Critics were not allowed to evaluate his arguments or scrutinize his conclusion because the report has not, as I write, been released.
Most people are prepared to accept Starr's conclusion, but before making their judgment they should know that the lead prosecutor appointed to investigate the death came to a very different conclusion. When Starr was presented with the evidence by his own staff, he looked the other way.
Associate Independent Counsel Miquel Rodriguez was summoned to the Washington Office of the Independent Counsel in the fall of 1994 by Kenneth Starr, with the explicit task of reviewing the Foster death. He was not a conservative. He had no ideological investment in the matter. Indeed, when he arrived from California with his ponytail, his earring, and his leather jackets, there were comments among the hard-liners that Kenneth Starr had gone too far in his efforts to recruit Democrats, liberals, and ethnic minorities to his team.
For four months Rodriguez probed the case. He called witnesses before a grand jury to answer questions for the first time under penalty of perjury, and soon discovered serious indications of a cover-up by the FBI. By the early spring of 1995 he was starting to probe a hypothesis that the crime scene at Fort Marcy Park had been staged, that the gun had most likely been planted in Foster's hand, and that a crucial photograph of Foster's neck and head had been falsified.
But Rodriguez believed that the investigation was being sabotaged by prosecutors and FBI agents in his own office. He turned to Starr for support. Nothing was done to resolve the matter. In March 1995 Rodriguez resigned. The only serious investigation ever conducted into the death of Vincent Foster came to an abrupt end.
I do not wish speculate at length about the motives of Kenneth Starr. But one has to wonder about the seriousness of a man willing to abandon a half-completed investigation of the President and seek comfortable refuge as a dean at Pepperdine University in Malibu. The fact that he later reversed himself in panic, after a barrage of press criticism, illustrates the point with brutal clarity. But there is a more important point to understand about Kenneth Starr. He is by character a servant of power, not a prosecutor. One thing can be predicted with absolute certainty: He will never confront the U.S. Justice Department, the FBI, and the institutions of the permanent government in Washington. His whole career has been built on networking, by ingratiating himself. His natural loyalties lie with the politico-legal fraternity that covered up the Foster case in the first place.
While it appears that Kenneth Starr has given more emphasis to investigating Whitewater than to investigating the death of Vince Foster, in my opinion, Whitewater is not a matter of epochal importance. It is a fit subject for news reporting. It is something that the American people should be told about. It reflects badly on the President and the First Lady. But is it a grievous offense? Should it be allowed to paralyze the executive branch of the world's paramount power? If I were a member of the grand jury in Little Rock, I would be reluctant to indict Bill or Hillary Clinton on anything related to Whitewater, and I believe that a great number of people feel the same way.
The death of Vincent Foster is another matter. He was the highest ranking official of the executive branch to die in suspicious circumstances since President John F. Kennedy; he was handling the private business affairs of the First Family at the White House; and he was Hillary Clinton's closest friend, the one person in the world that she would entrust with the most sensitive problems. His death occurred in July 1993, under this administration. The subsequent conduct of the U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, the U.S. Justice Department, the Virginia medical authorities, as well as Independent Counsel Robert Fiske and all those who participated in his report indicated that the police and judicial apparatus of this country had been dangerously politicized. Every backstop mechanism had failed. If ever there was a need for a crusading prosecutor to cleanse the institutions of the republic, it was in the case of Vincent Foster.
"Pontius Pilate of the Potomac" -- is how Starr was described in a blistering denunciation by James Davidson, the editor of the newsletter Strategic Investment. "Starr will fade, but he will not be forgotten. Historians will certainly have something to say about him. When 'The Decline and Fall of the United States' is written, Starr will merit a chapter. He will be seen as a weak, temporizing man who lacked the force of character to confront a corrupt system."
* * *
The Foster case is taboo for American journalists. In private, many concede that the official story is unbelievable, but they will not broach it in print. I have been involved in some contentious matters during my career as a journalist, but I have never seen anything like the irrational fright when the subject of Vincent Foster is raised. It has nothing to do with party affiliation. If anything, Republican journalists are even more susceptible to the spell. Try uttering the words Fort Marcy Park at a gathering of Capitol Hill neo-conservatives and watch the reaction.
I do not entirely understand why this should be so. Unexplained deaths have been a source of fascination for thousands of years, across the globe. What is clear, however, is that the White House has been successful in casting the "Foster crazies" as villains interested in dredging up dirt for partisan advantage without any regard for the feelings of the Foster family. As with all good propaganda, there is an element of truth in this.
Foster left a widow and three children, now grown up. They have been through Purgatory and they linger there still, denied the closure that any normal family would expect. One inquiry after another has kept the controversy alive. It must be exceedingly painful for them.
That said, it is the White House itself that has been exploiting the Foster family, using them as a shield to deflect all legitimate questions about the death. Perhaps they are willing to be exploited in this way for reasons of parallel interest. If so, that is their privilege. But the larger issue needs to be confronted head on. The death of a top official has been covered up by the FBI and the judicial institutions of the U.S. government. It is facile gallantry to silence debate ever after by invoking the name of Lisa Foster.
Americans need to know that within hours of Vincent Foster's death, the White House had stepped in to orchestrate the response of the family. Vulnerable and confused, Lisa Foster surrendered herself totally to the political agenda of James Hamilton, the attorney for the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign. Let there be no confusion about the allegiances of this man. He is typically described as the Foster "family lawyer" but an internal White House memo describes him more accurately as a lawyer performing a "surrogate role" for the White House.  He was in fact hired by Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell to handle the fallout from the death. "I knew Jim and asked him to act as counsel," explained Hubbell. 
Hamilton was a member of the elite, very expensive K Street firm of Swidler & Berlin. He had never served as Foster's personal lawyer. As the House Travelgate Report makes clear, he was consulted by Vincent Foster shortly before his death as an outside attorney to represent the collective interests of the White House Counsel's Office in the Travelgate affair. He scarcely knew the family.
For the White House, however, he was an ideal "surrogate." He had befriended Hillary Clinton and Bernie Nussbaum, the pugnacious White House Counsel, while serving as Assistant Chief Counsel on the Senate Watergate committee from 1973 to 1974. He had worked on the Clinton transition team, talent scouting for top posts in the new administration, and had continued playing a highly irregular role afterward as leader of a group of private lawyers vetting nominees for the Supreme Court.
There is no question that he did an outstanding job as damage-control handler in the Foster case. For one thing, he did not let the Park Police get anywhere near the grieving family. "We did not interview any of the Foster children. Mr. Hamilton would not make them accessible to us," said Park Police Captain Charles Hume.  This is an astounding comment. Foster's children were grown adults, perfectly able to answer questions by the Park Police. Two of them, Laura and Vincent III, accompanied their father to work on the morning of his death. Their insights were critical to the investigation. By what authority can a private lawyer prevent the police from talking to relevant witnesses in the probe of a violent death?
Captain Hume then goes on to say that Lisa Foster had obviously been coached. "She had gone over [the story] with her lawyer [so] that she had it down pat .... I can remember Pete [Markland] having his notebook out and I think he started to question her, you know. We had a hard time to get started because Hamilton wanted to lay out the ground rules."
Layout the ground rules? It is clear that the U.S. Park Police were deferring to James Hamilton as if he were, indeed, a "surrogate" of the White House.
But there is another reason why Lisa Foster cannot be accorded the last say on all matters concerning her former husband. She must have known, at least intuitively, that Vince was engaged in activities that belied his image of gentlemanly rectitude. This is not to dispute that he was one of life's higher souls, a patron of the Little Rock orchestra, a connoisseur of good wines, a man who enjoyed Tuscany. But that means nothing at all. I have known such people all my life. It is a neutral indicator of moral character.
Foster could also display unusual generosity and consideration. Imagine the pressure he must have been under in November 1992, tying up his work as the star litigator for the Rose Law Firm and preparing for the move to Washington. Yet he found time to take a Swiss exchange student visiting his family to watch the Davis Cup tennis championship in Dallas. A Swiss player was in the final, a rare moment for the little Alpine nation. "Vincent Foster was the kindest person I ever knew. I really loved that man," said Luca Dalla Torre, two years later, speaking from his home in Berne.  That is a testimonial worth having, because it is genuine.
But there was a less saintly side to Vincent Foster. One of the things you learn in Arkansas -- assuming you move beyond the usual Friends of Bill, and other quasi-official voices of the party apparatus -- is that Foster was a man who moved in the shadows. He cultivated an image of propriety that served him well. But it was not entirely authentic, and the act can become a burden in the end. "The reputation you develop for intellectual and ethical integrity will be your greatest asset or your worst enemy," he said in the commencement address to the University of Arkansas Law School a month before his death. "Sometimes doing the right thing will be very unpopular."
His old friend from the Rose Law Firm, Associate White House Counsel William H. Kennedy III, told the FBI that Foster's death had nothing to do with Travelgate, Whitewater, or any of other scandals du jour in Washington. It was, he suspected, something he brought with him from Arkansas. Foster had been "fighting his demons" for a long time. 
I believe that.