Danny Casolaro (June 16, 1947 – August 10, 1991) was an investigative reporter investigating Mena Airport, the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, Iran-Contra, the Inslaw case, and the BCCI scandal. Casolaro was nearing the end of his project and told friends he was about to publish something really big, a book that tied together the scandals surrounding the presidency of George H. W. Bush. He told his friends prior to his last investigative trip that he was going to “bring back the head of the Octopus”. He later told the same friends he was receiving death threats and if something happened to him it would be no accident. He was found dead in the bathtub of a hotel in Martinsberg, West Virginia, officially ruled a suicide, having slit his wrists 12 times so deep it cut the tendons. After his death, his research files and manuscript were taken from the room, as well.
Casalero uncovered evidence of payment for arms trafficking to Iran with checks written by Saudi Arabian billionaire Adnan Khashoggie and Iranian-based businessman Manucher Ghorbanifar drawn on the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). The shoot down of one of the planes by Nicaragua and the capture of Eugene Hasenfus blew the cover off of the Mena operation and it became known as the Iran-Contra affair.
Casolaro apparently stumbled over the existence of a vast network of government operatives and politicians all linked by the distribution of narcotics to raise money for anti-Communist guerillas in Central America. He was working on a book exposing the government-sanctioned drug running when he was found in a bathtub in Room 517, at the Sheraton Martinsburg Inn in Virginia, his wrists both deeply slashed in a manner that the pathologist declared did not appear to have been done by Danny himself. In particular, the deep cuts severed the tendons of the fingers, which would have made it impossible for Danny to slash his other wrist with the now useless hand.
Despite this, the official verdict was “suicide” (set up to appear as such by the goons who had apparently been sent by the Clintons, or a third party acting on their behalf, to kill him), although none of Danny’s friends and families believed that, especially those who had been direct witnesses to the many death threats he had received. When found, the large accordion file of the notes for his new book had disappeared from his hotel room, evidently stolen by his killers.
The sale of the PROMIS software was one of the other principal topics that Casolaro was investigating at the time of his death.
Peter Videnieks was the original US Justice Department Contracting Officer on INSLAW‘s PROMIS contract in 1982. Videnieks later worked in US Customs clearing export of the stolen PROMIS software. Videnieks was married to Barbara Videnieks, Chief of Staff to Senator Robert Byrd.
On June 12, 1991, Casolaro spoke by telephone with Peter Videnieks at Videnieks’ office then at the U.S. Customs Service but Videnieks declined to answer Casolaro’s questions about INSLAW and referred Casolaro to Charles Ruff, the Washington DC attorney whom the US Department of Justice was paying to represent Videnieks in the House Judiciary Committee’s investigation of the INSLAW case. Ruff along with Cheryl Mills later argued the defense for President Bill Clinton‘s impeachment trial in the Senate.
According to an affidavit signed by a friend of Casalaro on March 15, 1994, Casolaro had documents received from an NSA employee named Alan Standorf that were classified “top secret” and “SCI”. SCI, or Sensitive Compartmented Information, is a more restrictive classification than Top Secret. Sensitive Compartmented Information is data about sophisticated technical systems for collecting intelligence and information collected by those systems. By its nature SCI-type information could reveal the characteristics of the systems that collect the information, which makes these such systems vulnerable to countermeasures.
Casolaro had other documents related to BCCI and the sale of PROMIS:
- Casolaro had documents proving that the PROMIS software was modified by Michael Riconosciuto.
- Casolaro had copies of wire transfers of money from accounts held at the World Bank and BCCI and paid to Earl Brian at shell companies in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland.
- Casolaro had copies of checks drawn on BCCI accounts and paid to shell accounts held by Gen. Richard Secord and Earl Brian.
- Casolaro had copies of documents of arms, gold, and software shipments cleared for export by Peter Videnieks at U.S. Customs.
- Casolaro had a document that Casolaro alleged showed the involvement of Bobby Inman and Robert McFarlane in the sale of PROMIS to Israel.
- Casolaro had meetings in Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania with a number of individuals of Arabic origin, including Iman Mashhad.
- Casolaro had documents showing shipments to and from Pakistan by air that were approved by William Casey, and related documents with notes from Peter Videnieks.
- Casolaro had documents related to “First American Bankshares” [Financial General] showing monies paid to officials in US Department of Justice and Treasury.
On August 9, the last day of his life, Danny Casolaro said he had arranged a meeting with Peter Videnieks and another big player to trade them documents for further documents regarding the sale of the modified PROMIS software.
Casolaro picked up two packages of documents he had given to a friend for safekeeping. exchange was to take place at a meeting said to have been arranged by a covert intelligence operative of the U.S. Army Special Forces named Joseph Cuellar. Cuellar befriended Casolaro at a local pub claiming to be friends with Peter Videnieks and that his ex-wife worked in Sen. Byrds’ office with Mrs. Videnieks.
The next day after picking up two packages of documents for the meeting with Videniecks and the character, Danny Casolaro was found dead in his hotel room at the Sheraton. Several days later a friend of Casolaro’s, Lynn Knowles, who attended two meetings between Casolaro and Cuellar received a phone call from Cuellar who said in words or substance:
“What Danny Casolaro was investigating is a business. If you don’t want to end up like Danny or like the journalist [Anson Ng] who died a horrific death in Guatemala, you’ll stay out of this. Anyone who asks too many questions will end up dead.”