For more than a year, Danny Casolaro, a Washington, D.C.-based freelance journalist, had been sorting through a web of intrigue — the S&L debacle, BCCI, Iran-contra, the contra-connected Wackenhut Corp., the Wackenhut-connected Inslaw case, and the Inslaw-connected “October Surprise.” The “Octopus,” as Casolaro called it, began with the U.S. Justice Department which, according to a federal bankruptcy court for Washington D.C., “stole” computer software (called Promis) from Inslaw Corp., a private firm, ‘by trickery, fraud, and deceit.”
During the week of August 5, Casolaro told a number of friends that he had just come back from meeting with a source, and that he now knew everything about Inslaw and Promis. He also told them that he was going back to West Virginia to meet a source who was to help him nail down the last piece of evidence in his investigation.
On Saturday, August 10, Casolaro was found dead in Room 517 of the Martinsburg, W.Va., Sheraton. His body was found with twelve incisions in his arms in a bathtub of bloody water. Though police have ruled Casolaro’s death a suicide, Casolaro’s family and many familiar with the case find suicide implausible. Unexplained questions include:
Death threats. In the weeks before his death Casolaro had spoken frequently about threats on his life. In fact, just before he left for Martinsburg he told his brother, “If anything happens to me, don’t believe it’s an accident.” For reasons unknown, Casolaro’s family wasn’t notified of his death until two days after his body was discovered. And by that time, his body had already been embalmed illegally. Additionally, the hotel almost immediately brought in an industrial cleaning company to sanitize the room, thereby greatly diminishing any opportunity for an independent forensic investigation.
The day before he died, Casolaro met with a source at the same hotel. But the stack of documents given to him by the source, as well as his tape deck and a briefcase containing a draft copy of his book, which he always carried with him, have never been found. Also unexplained, is a half-empty bottle of red wine and a broken wine glass that police found next to the bathtub, and an empty can of beer found inside the tub. No alcohol was found in Casolaro’s bloodstream.
‘The key thing about the death of Casolaro,” says former Attorney General Elliot Richardson, who is representing Inslaw, “is that although others were seeking to delineate … the ‘octopus,’ he was the only one who told people who have no reason to misrepresent what he said that he had hard evidence, and was on the point of getting conclusive evidence. … The idea that he committed suicide with a razor blade under these circumstances seems highly implausible.”
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: DARK LO
SOURCE: VILLAGE AGE VOICE, 36 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003, DATE: 10/15/91
TITLE: ‘The Last Days of Danny Casolaro”
AUTHORS: James Ridgeway and Doug Vaughan
SOURCE: THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN, 520 Hampshire St., San Francisco, CA 94110-1417, DATE: 8/28/91
TITLE: “Dead Men Tell No Tales”
AUTHOR: Vince Bielski
SOURCE: IN THESE TIMES, 2040 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60647, DATE: September 4-10, 1991
TITLE: “Murder in the Martinsburg Sheraton?”
AUTHOR: Joel Bleifuss
COMMENTS: Reporter Joel Bleifuss, who also investigated the related Inslaw software theft issue, said “While the death of Journalist Danny Casolaro was given some initial notice by the mass media, that media ignored the context in which his mysterious death — murder — occurred. Casolaro was investigating what are possibly interconnected scandals — the October Surprise, the Inslaw case, the ‘private’ security firm Wackenhut, BCCI, organized crime and the Pentagon’s procurement process — none of which has been seriously examined by the national media.” Bleifuss added that fuller coverage of Casolaro’s death, would help focus public attention on the various scandals he was investigating. ‘That the mass media did not take this apparent murder more seriously is one more indication that this nation’s press corps has abandoned its role as the public watchdog,” Bleifuss concluded.
Journalist Vince Bielski charged that while “A number of mainstream outlets carried the news of Danny Casolaro’s death, no outlet did a serious investigation. The story was forgotten, as is the case with many controversial stories.” Bielski adds that the “public needs to know that reporters have been killed because of their work. This may or may not have been the case with Casolaro, but the public certainly deserved more information to help people make up their own minds.”