'Blatant evidence of the Foster coverup'
Caught: A Falling Starr
[Published by Electric America with the personal permission of the author]
To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve,
A summer's day; and with the setting sun
Dropp'd from the zenith like a falling star.
-- Paradise Lost, bk. 1, l. 679by Hugh Sprunt
I defended Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr in The New York Times, shortly after his appointment in August 1994 by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, from accusations of partisan political bias, writing that, as a prosecutor Mr. Starr should not be held to the standard of impartiality applicable to judges.
No, I argued, Mr. Starr is functioning as the people's lawyer and we should properly expect him to be a zealous advocate on our behalf, just as the President and all other potential targets of the Whitewater investigation are entitled to expect their own attorneys to defend them to the ethical utmost. What, I asked readers of the Times, poses a greater risk to the nation, a successful cover-up (as Watergate very nearly was) or an overzealous prosecutor who must first convince a grand jury to indict and then persuade a judge neither to dismiss his case outright nor to bar a trial on the merits by ruling in favor of the defendant's motion for summary judgment?
In the months following his appointment, first my expectations and ultimately my hopes that Mr. Starr would, in fact, be a zealous advocate for the people vanished utterly. Ironically my concern, expressed in the Times in August 1994, about the dangers of a successful cover-up came to fall on the Starr Office of Independent Counsel ("Starr" or "OIC"). I have never insisted that Mr. Foster was murdered (though that would not surprise me). It is my firm belief, however he came to grief, that it didn't happen at Fort Marcy Park and that the body was interfered with prior to, or in connection with, its discovery and autopsy. I also believe that there is more than ample evidence of an official cover-up of these events.
A thorough analysis of portions of Starr's report (inter alia, the section dealing with the handwriting analysis of the so-called "torn note" commissioned by Starr) must wait until more of the source documents and reports cited by Starr have been made public. That having been said, it is nonetheless my contention that Starr's report on the death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster, unsealed by the three-judge panel on October 10, validates my fears of prosecutorial cover-up.
This analysis provides a modest guided tour of Starr's Foster report and the underlying government investigative documents, in an attempt to prove my contention. Those who wish to explore the issues I raised about the Foster death prior to the release of the Starr report should read the long report on the Foster death that I provided the OIC. You, the reader of this article, will be my judge. As you pause now to slip into your black judicial robes, I ask that you hark back to that familiar statue of "Blind Justice." You know the one, the blindfolded lady, holding the scales that enable her to weigh the evidence intelligently and impartially.
The first thing that struck me about Starr's report was its relative "anonymity." Notwithstanding its numerous failings, when former regulatory counsel Fiske's report on the Foster death was made public on June 30, 1994, it featured Robert Fiske's name prominently on its cover as well as those of Deputy Counsel Roderick Lankler, and Associate Counsels Stein and Stich.
In contrast, the portion of the Starr written by the OIC report bears neither the name nor signature of any Starr attorney or staff member on its cover or anywhere else, unless you count one reference to "Independent Counsel Starr" in the court order unsealing the report (signed by a deputy court clerk) and one pro forma appearance of Starr's name in a paragraph referring to his appointment on August 5, 1994.
In sharp contrast, Starr, having been twice rebuffed by the three-judge panel in connection with the court's decision to order a 20-page evidential filing from Foster grand jury witness Patrick Knowlton's attorney, John Clarke, made a part of Starr's report, did not hesitate on that occasion to make his bosses aware that he was putting his personal reputation and credibility on the line when he filed his motion "for reconsideration of the court's order of September 26, 1997."
More will be said below about the court order forcing Starr to make Knowlton's 20-page evidential filing legally as much a part of the OIC's Foster report as if it had been written by Ken Starr himself. It should be noted here, however, that many of the analyses and documents cited in the Starr report are still secret, whereas every government document cited by Knowlton's attorney, John Clarke, in the 20-page evidential filing is, with a little digging, publicly-available. It would be a mistake to examine the Starr report on a "stand-alone" basis just because it (as might be expected of all but the most slipshod effort) is internally consistent. No, the pre-existing official record (including government source documents) must be used to place the Starr report in the context it deserves.
In reaching the same conclusion as the four prior publicly-available federal government reports on the Foster death (that Mr. Foster was clinically depressed and committed suicide where his body was found in Fort Marcy Park, Virginia, with the gun found in his hand by the US Park Police) Starr, in my opinion, employed at least four less than respectable, techniques:
1) "Incomplete Report." If the conclusions to be reported in Starr's report did not comport with evidence gathered by the government itself in the course of its investigation into the death, the numerous material discrepancies involved simply went unmentioned if Starr was at all uncertain of his ability, as he almost always was, to devise an innocuous reconciliation that would bear more than casual scrutiny;
2) "Unfair Report." Witnesses were "re-interviewed" again and again by FBI agents assigned to Starr until virtually all of them (excepting Knowlton) eventually wilting to one degree or another under repeated questioning and expressing at least a modicum of doubt about the correctness of information they had provided to the FBI, or to other government investigators, in prior interviews or when under oath before a grand jury. At that point, a notation was made that the witness had recanted his prior statements or testimony, and the Starr investigators' notebooks were closed;
3) "Over-Imaginative Report." Use of experts to uncover new, and astonishing, forensic and other evidence, the existence of which had somehow been "missed" or even formally denied by previous government experts, including items of evidence that were never detected by the FBI Laboratory and others. Sometimes, this new evidence has no chain-of-custody, such as the oven mitt allegedly seen in Foster's Honda the night of the death, but not delivered (by a White House official and subordinate of Mr. Foster's) to Starr for testing until ten months after the death.
4) "Compromised Report." The same FBI agents used by Starr were also employed in many cases by his predecessor Robert Fiske. Thus the same agents were ordered by one prosecutor to reevaluate the work they had for a previous prosecutor.
Finally, stepping back from the official record, there have been press reports from two investigative journalists whose sources indicate that the first lead prosecutor (a Democrat) hired by Starr to examine the Foster death as well as his assistant both resigned from Starr's staff after several months when it became clear to them that the OIC leadership was refusing to permit them to develop the case in a normal fashion and were actively blocking their attempts to have this bizarre interference stopped.
Perhaps they, and others, will come forward on the record now that the Starr report is public.
In short, it appears to me that Starr's report on the Foster death is a "phony gun-deck job" -- that is, a long-delayed and highly-manipulated document designed to create the false impression that duties assigned have been faithfully executed.
Had TV District Attorney Burger placed the Starr report in evidence, Perry Mason would have had a field day with it! A more important question: What would Vince Foster think of his epitaph, provided courtesy of Ken Starr?
THE KNOWLTON EVIDENTIAL FILING
Although Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's report was made public on October 10, as of this writing not a single major media outlet has yet covered the most newsworthy aspect of this event: a 20-page insert filed by federal grand jury witness Patrick Knowlton which attacks the Starr investigation and its predecessors as across-the-board cover-ups.
In October 1996, long before the release of the Starr Report, Knowlton filed a civil suit listing over two dozen named and unnamed parties inside and outside of government whom he alleges undertook a concerted intimidation campaign against him in an effort to influence his grand jury testimony about who and what he had witnessed in Fort Marcy Park just 70 minutes before Foster's body was found. A scheduling conference was held with the judge on December 12, and oral arguments on the government's request that the court either dismiss the case or rule in the government's favor without a trial took place on January 20, 1998.
The harassment was witnessed by several people who recorded their observations real-time. The intimidation efforts commenced the day Knowlton received his federal grand jury subpoena in October 1995. The existence of his subpoena was known only to the Starr OIC and the FBI. The harassment continued during the several days immediately prior to his testimony. Knowlton begged the OIC and Starr's FBI agents for help but the civil suit recounts that, in response, an FBI agent appeared at Knowlton's home and joined in himself.
Knowlton's car had been attacked with a tire iron on May 10, 1994 by a person later identified as having FBI connections on the night before his second FBI interview, at which interview a concerted effort was made to get him to change his prior Park Police and FBI witness statements (Knowlton refused and claims the FBI altered his statements anyway). One blatant omission form the portion of the Starr report written by the OIC is any mention of Knowlton's allegations of harassment (not even a denial).
Starr's "bosses," a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, evaluated Knowlton's 20-page filing and additional documentary evidence supporting it and then ordered the 20-page filing attached to the OIC's report over the repeated objections of Kenneth Starr. There was no legal requirement that the judges order the attachment made. Indeed, as Starr pointed out to the court himself, there was much law on the OIC's side. The 20-page evidential filing is now legally as much a part of the report as the material written by the anonymous authors at the Starr OIC. I believe that a black-letter reading of the statute favors Mr. Starr's position that the filing with the court should not have been sanctioned by the court and, in any event, that the material should have excluded from the Starr report in toto:
1) The witness proffering the 20-page filing was not entitled to even submit it for the court's consideration because he did not meet the requisite statutory definition -- Starr had chosen not to name him by name in the OIC's portion of the report -- and thus the witness did not qualify as someone entitled to offer comment;
2) The paragraphs in the OIC portion of the report that referred to this witness were on their face innocuous -- they did not malign the witness in any way and thus provided no basis for including even any narrowly-focused comments he might want to make about Starr's report.
3) The contents of the 20-page filing were a broad indictment of the Starr OIC and the FBI agents who worked for Mr. Starr and Mr. Fiske in connection with each of their Foster death investigations and therefore were not the sort of comment contemplated by the statute (to protect a named party from being maligned or from otherwise unfair treatment in the report).
Nonetheless, the three-judge panel unanimously ordered the 20-page filing made a part of Starr's report. They did, first by deciding that Knowlton should be deemed "named" even though he was not actually named in the report and then, after evaluating the contents of the 20-page filing itself, ordering it to be included in its entirety, despite knowing that the next business day Starr would be filing a motion opposing inclusion.
Although the court had broad discretion under the law to deny the inclusion, some guidance is provided in applicable case law [e.g., In re North, 10 F.3rd 831, 835 (DC Cir. 1993)]: such comments should be made a part of an Independent Counsel's report when necessary "[t]o assure that the report is full and complete and to afford [the "interested party"] a measure of fairness." This guidance should be kept in mind when the procedural and substantive motions filed by the witness and by the OIC are analyzed since it appears that the judges unanimously decided that Starr's report would be incomplete and unfair without the attachment.
After the court agreed to grant Knowlton access to the paragraphs of the OIC report about him even though those paragraphs merely referred to the witness by pseudonym, the OIC received Knowlton's motion for inclusion, along with the text of his proposed 20-page evidential insert, on September 24. Starr responded immediately by notifying the court on the 25th that the OIC intended to formally oppose Knowlton's motion and would do so within two business days.
Notwithstanding its knowledge that the Starr motion opposing the inclusion of the 20-page comment would be filed the following business days, the court decided that Starr's motion was not were waiting for and ordered, on September 26, that Knowlton's entire 20-page insert made a part of Starr's Report. The court's pre-emptive strike really got Starr's attention.
The next business day, Starr filed a 9-page "Motion of the Independent Counsel for Reconsideration." Although neither the printed name nor the signature of anyone at the OIC appears on Starr's report on the Foster death, Ken Starr signed the "Motion for Reconsideration" personally, putting his full personal credibility as Independent Counsel (and as a former US Solicitor General and former Judge in the same appellate court) on the line. The court's response: Motion for Reconsideration denied, Mr. Starr.
Starr's 9-page motion makes arguments against including the 20-page insert that range from the appropriate, to the facile, to the ridiculous. He takes his bosses, the three-judge panel, to task for ruling against him (on the 26th) without waiting to read his motion in opposition. Had I been in Starr's shoes, I would have been miffed by this apparent lack of professional courtesy if nothing else; time was not of the essence so there was no need I can envision for the court to have acted so peremptorily in this matter. Unless. . .
Was the court "sending a message" to Mr. Starr (and perhaps to others in government and to the media) that the court, had strong reservations about the completeness of Starr's Report and how fairly this witness had been treated by both Counsels Fiske and Starr (not to mention the FBI agents assigned to each of them)?
At the objective minimum, the court chose to interpret the Independent Counsel statute extremely broadly in reaching its decision to order the 20-page insert made a part of the Starr report. Why did it bother to do so, especially on behalf of a witness who seemed, on the face of the report at least, not to have been treated at all unfairly?
The three-judge panel does not have the power to assign a "passing" or a "failing" grade to an Independent Counsel's report or otherwise to officially comment directly on its quality. Although divining judicial motivation is a difficult task, until the judges see fit to publicly state their reasons, I believe everyone is entitled to take a look at the record (including the judicial guidance in case law) and form his or her own conclusion.
Federal grand jury witness Patrick Knowlton ought to be a "poster boy" for the ACLU and other civil rights organizations but, in these morbid, and politically partisan, times he is not. He should be, and not only because the illegal techniques used by the government to intimidate him prior to his grand jury testimony are well-documented illegal tactics used to intimidate and harass other inconvenient witnesses, such as those reporting federal civil rights violations to prosecutors in the 1960's. Make no mistake: the intimidation of grand jury witnesses strikes at the heart of our judicial system.
GET YOUR AMAZING NEW EVIDENCE RIGHT HERE!
What A Drag . . .
Perhaps the most succinct example of the methodology employed by Starr is illustrated by a determination made Starr's new expert in physical evidence and crime scene reconstruction (page 51). Starr hired forensic scientist Henry Lee to determine if he could discover any new evidence in connection with the Foster death. Lee delivered. Starr (page 51), quoting from Dr. Lee's still-secret report, tells us the following about Foster's dress slacks: "[n]o dragging-type soil patterns or damage which could have resulted from dragging-type action were observed on these pants." Lee made the same general observation about the long-sleeved dress shirt that the coatless Foster was wearing.
Starr builds on Lee's still-secret report: "Examination of Mr. Foster's clothes by Dr. Lee revealed no evidence of a struggle or dragging." This is an important conclusion since it would normally tend to rebut claims made by some that Foster was transported, unconscious or dead, to Fort Marcy Park or, at least, that this transport must necessarily have involved dragging Foster across the park or up the slope on which his body was found. Although this conclusion of the renowned Dr. Lee seems to buttress Starr's conclusions, it actually deals a fundamental blow to Dr. Lee's perceived expertise (or credibility) and therefore necessarily calls into question the validity of various other items of new evidence uncovered by Dr. Lee.
According to Starr, Dr. Lee conducted a thorough professional analysis of Foster's dress slacks and stated that Foster's slacks showed no evidence that the body was dragged. Presumably, Starr wants us to believe that, had there been evidence of dragging, Dr. Lee's forensic skills would have both detected the evidence of that dragging and that he would have told Starr about it. Someone apparently failed to back-check this overly creative "conclusion" against the official record because the government's own record makes it clear that Foster's body was dragged -- twice.
Here is what the Park Police investigator in charge at the body site said under oath in 1994 about what happened when he and the Medical Examiner rolled over Foster's supine body at Fort Marcy Park so that the Park Police could take Polaroid and 35 mm photos of the back side:
You know, we rolled the body and I took Polaroids of the body rolled -- and it's not funny, the reason I remember it [taking the Polaroids of the back of the body] is because I pulled his arm up, rolling him, OBVIOUSLY MOVING THE BODY [emphasis added]. I didn't care what position he was in, one arm was pulled up, and HE BEGAN SLIDING DOWN THE HILL [emphasis added]. So [the Medical Examiner] stood at his feet while I rolled him over to keep him from sliding all the way down the darn embankment [Foster's feet being thirteen feet up-slope from the bottom of the 45 degree embankment]. I pulled one arm up. So when I rolled him, one arm was up, I forget which arm, and I pulled him, he slid down a little bit. So I PULLED HIM BACK UP, SO HE IS ACTUALLY HIGHER UP ON THE HILL NOW [emphasis added]. It looked like he was crawling up the hill and it looked funny, wasn't funny. It's kind of one of those things, but I didn't take pictures because it was funny [meaning he did take Polaroids -- to document Foster's back side]. I KNOW I TOOK POLAROIDS OF THAT [the back side -- emphasis added]. I am not sure how many I took, BUT I DON'T RECALL SEEING THOSE POLAROIDS AGAIN. I mean I had them in the office that night, I did reports, and I don't know what happened.
Another Park Police investigator who observed the body being rolled reported the sliding to the FBI: "She specifically remembers also that [the investigator above] assisted the Medical Examiner in rolling the decedent's body to the body's left and then to the right so the Medical Examiner could examine the rear of the body. In this regard, she recalls the body starting to slide down the hill, requiring both [the investigator above] and the Medical Examiner to stop the slide." "Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive?" Lee appears to have been too clever by half.
Make No Bones About It
Dr. Lee also discovered a "bone chip" in the debris gathered from Mr. Foster's clothing years after the death that those at the scene and, later, two government laboratories, missed. You see, the official account involves a 1" by 1.25" chunk of skull that was blown out of the center rear of Foster's head three inches below the crown. Prior to the Starr report, it had been an official embarrassment that this sizable skull fragment(s) was never found on the ground up-slope (downrange) from Foster's head -- where it would normally have been expected to have fallen after he shot himself point blank in the mouth with a .38 Colt Revolver firing a high-velocity unjacketed lead slug.
In light of Lee's conclusions about "dragging," perhaps one is entitled to ask how he found a skull fragment that those on site that night, and later the Park Police evidence technicians and the FBI Lab all missed.
To boot, Lee found the bone fragment among debris gathered from Foster's clothing (all of which was, of course, up-range of the back of his head). Somehow, in vacuuming Foster's clothes for the hairs and fibers of various types detailed in its reports, the FBI managed to "miss" the highly-sought bone material found many months later by Dr. Lee. Perhaps Starr considers this "serendipity." I am inclined to think otherwise.
La Vie En Rose?
Dr. Lee also reported that Foster's glasses (found on the ground 19 feet up-range of his head -- the Fiske report said the glasses "bounced down the hill" despite the thick vegetation officially surrounding the body) were clearly on his face when the fatal shot was fired. This is a potentially important point since it otherwise would be possible that Foster's glasses might have departed the body as it was being carried -- the location of the glasses corresponds to a change in slope from a modest down-slope to the 45 degree up-slope on which his body was found, a likely spot for the glasses to fall to the ground.
There is one lab photo of the glasses in the record taken by the Park Police that appears to show a broken stem, but there is no information in the record describing how this damage occurred, nor does Lee mention the existence of the broken stem, at least in the Lee Report material quoted by Starr. There is no indication in the record that the Park Police broke off them stem by stepping on the glasses in the park, so the question arises: how and when was the stem broken?
It seems clear that the alleged "bouncing" down the hill did not break the stem off because, according to the FBI Lab, the "bouncing" alleged by Mr. Fiske did not dislodge a single grain of unburnt ball-shaped smokeless gunpowder later found on the glasses (gunpowder officially said to be of the type found in the two Remington-Peters .38 revolver cartridges -- one was not fired -- in the official death gun).
Before the Starr report, the only evidence the glasses were on or near Foster's face when a shot was fired was a report by the FBI Lab which examined the glasses carefully enough to recover one grain of gunpowder from the glasses. Starr (page 57) reports that Dr. Lee was able to see bloodstains that the FBI Lab (and the Park Police) somehow failed to notice: "[b]loodstains were found on both sides of the lenses of Mr. Foster's eyeglasses."
The these bloodstains were as large as one millimeter in diameter, Lee reported (a one millimeter drop of blood is easily visible to the naked eye, especially on a glass surface). According to the FBI Lab Report, "No blood was identified on Q3 [The FBI designation for the pair of glasses in question] . . ." Starr does not report if the Lee report he cites bothers to explain this rather blatant discrepancy.
"We've Got The Oven Mitt -- You Must Acquit?"
Dr. Lee detected traces of lead on the inside of Foster's left pocket and the presence of lead and antimony (presumably from ammunition, but other sources, such as a car battery, are possible) inside an "oven mitt" from Foster's kitchen said to have been seen in the glove compartment of Foster's Honda at Fort Marcy Park
The inference is made by Starr that Foster used this oven mitt from his kitchen to temporarily "house" the .38 caliber revolver (the official death weapon) in the Honda glove compartment when he left home for the White House on the morning of July 20, 1993. Upon reaching the park, the reasoning goes, he removed the revolver from the oven mitt, put the revolver in his left front pants pocket (his two key rings were officially in his right front pants pocket) and walked to the official death site on the western slope of the northern end of the western earth berm at Fort Marcy.
Buttressing this conclusion, Lee also reported finding a portion of a "sunflower seed husk" in Foster's left pocket along with "fibers and other materials." Furthermore, "these materials were also found inside the oven mitt located in the glove compartment of Mr. Foster's vehicle. . ." Presumably, the husk and other material found in the left front pants pocket were deposited there from contact with the .38 revolver which had, in turn, picked them up from the inside of the oven mitt where the gun had been stored in the glove compartment of the Honda at the White House during the day on the 20th.
Starr seems to have forgotten his account that Park Police Investigator Cheryl Braun had turned all of Foster'' pants pockets inside out at he morgue when (we are told) she and Investigator Rolla retrieved two sets of key rings from Foster's right front pants pocket at the morgue: Investigator Braun thoroughly searched the pants pockets by pulling the pockets inside out, and she found two sets of keys (page 74)." One might be forgiven for thinking that turning the left hand side front pants pocket inside out would tend to have caused the sunflower seed husk and the rest of the material later said to have come from the oven mitt to fall out, making it impossible for Dr. Lee to find them years later in that same pocket.
Also, note (as discussed above) that Lee reported finding a bone chip among the debris vacuumed and brushed from Foster's clothing. This implies that when the FBI gathered everything that could be brushed from or vacuumed from Foster's clothing for analysis purposes, not only did the FBI miss the bone chip, but the FBI also failed to brush or vacuum Foster's suit pants. Otherwise, Lee would have found the sunflower seed husk in the vacuumed debris from the clothing (just as he did the allege bone chip), not in Foster's left front pants pocket as he claims.
But, what about the claimed presence of the oven mitt itself in the glove compartment of Foster's Honda at Fort Marcy Park? Though an oven mitt somewhat similar to a "glove" finding an oven mitt in a car's "glove compartment" is by no means a common experience. There is a photo of the oven mitt in the glove compartment (not taken in the park that night, but later on) in the official record that shows it on top of everything else in the glove compartment and extending nearly the full width of the glove compartment.
Nonetheless, the existence of this oven mitt is not mentioned in any of the thousands of pages of official documents, testimony, depositions, and reports on the Foster death available prior to the Starr report.
These would include the evidence control sheets that carefully inventory the evidence such as the specific numbers and types of coins in the car, the presence of a large Fender guitar pick, the brand names on the empty cigarette packages in the car, etc.) that the Park Police thought worthy of attention. If Starr's conclusions regarding the oven mitt are legitimate, it is potentially a significant (and long sought) link between Foster and the black Colt. 38 revolver Foster allegedly used to kill himself.
In 1995 and 1996, Starr (pages 52-54) tells us that the Park Police Investigators (who had heretofore never mentioned the existence of the oven mitt) confirmed that it was indeed present in the Honda glove box on July 20, 1993, at the park. Problems? First, there are pre-existing under-oath statements from the investigators that call the presence of the oven mitt at the park into question: the investigators were deposed in 1994 regarding what they saw in the Honda's glove compartment that night.
An oven mitt apparently was in the glove compartment, based on a July 21 photo taken at the Park Police vehicle impound lot, so this unlikely item would have been impossible to miss seeing on July 20 at Fort Marcy. In the very poor quality photocopy available to the public, the object in the glove compartment appears to be a barbecue or oven mitt, possibly left in the car after the kids' beach picnic the weekend before the death. According to the widow's first FBI interview: ". . .the cigarette pack, beer cans, and corkscrew belonged to Lisa Foster's son. . . Foster's sons had gone to the beach the weekend preceding July 20, 1993. . ."
Starr's footnote 56 covers the photos taken on July 21 at the Park Police impound lot at Anacostia Station, but the Park Police documents from the impound lot do not mention the oven mitt photo or even that the glove compartment was photographed. The front seat area of the Honda was photographed at Fort Marcy Park on the evening of July 20, but Starr does not refer to these photos as showing the oven mitt. According 1994 depositions of the two lead Park Police investigators at Fort Marcy Park on July 20, 1993:
Q: What do [did] you find in the car?
A: I went through the car. I found normal stuff in the car, sunglasses, photos, registration. . .
Q: What else did you see in the car?
A: As I was saying earlier, the jacket with the wallet and credentials. There was [sic] pictures in the glovebox, and sunglasses, a couple of cigarette boxes. . .
According to the second investigator who searched the car at the same time:
Q: What did you do, what would you describe what your search of the car was . . . [sic]?
A: I went through the car looking -- again looking for anything that could lead me to believe that it was other than a suicide or it was a suicide, anything that could help confirm one way or the other. . .
Q: What about on [sic] the glove compartment?
A: Nothing out of the ordinary. I think the registration was in the glove compartment [confirming the other investigator's deposition above]. I took that for the time being [that is, the registration was logged into evidence; the alleged oven mitt did not merit this treatment].
There is an evidence control sheet that does inventory at least some of the items found in the glove box, but only six "miscellaneous papers" are mentioned: there is no mention of an oven mitt in any of the evidence control sheets.
I submit, given the depositions above of the only two people who searched the car that night, that one would clearly expect to have heard about an oven mitt in the glove compartment in their depositions and also to have expected said oven mitt to have been logged into evidence. Didn't happen.
Finally, Starr states that Foster's widow and elder son identified the oven mitt on April 7, 1995, to his investigators as being one normally found in the kitchen of the Foster rental home in Georgetown. This is entirely possible, but an anonymous Foster investigator has pointed out that although the widow granted an extensive series of interviews that summer to a writer for The New Yorker (published as "Life After Vince," a long article in the September 11, 1995, issue), The New Yorker article never mentions the existence of the oven mitt, even though the article covers gun and gun-related evidence in detail that had not surfaced publicly until that time.
For what it's worth, the same article does mention other "new" information from the widow's April 7, 1995, OIC interview, however.
Perhaps the oven mitt was present in the Honda glove compartment the night of the death, as Starr claims.
What is absolutely certain is that Starr indicates that the oven mitt was not turned over to the OIC until about ten months after the death, ten months during which the oven mitt was in the possession and control of one of Foster's subordinates at the White House Office of Legal Counsel. Bottom line: no chain of custody exists for the oven mitt even if it was in the Honda at the park that night and its use in evidence is questionable at best.
Dr. Lee Sees Red -- AgainThen there are the "reddish brown, blood-like stains" that Dr. Lee sees on several leaves of the vegetation near the spot where the body was found. Dr. Lee spotted these blood-like stains at least two years after the death when he examined the few surviving Polaroids of the body and the area immediately around it. No one else, not the Park Police and not the FBI, remarked on the presence of these stains, said by Dr. Lee to be apparent on the Polaroids.
Furthermore, what about witness accounts from the scene the night of the death? It is not as if no one was looking for stains like those Lee has found in the Polaroids taken at the park that night. Searching for such spatter or splatter from the wound is a standard criminal investigative technique in cases of gunshot death.
In a death caused by a point blank shot to the head basic forensic science says that one expects to see blood spatter or splatter on the ground and on anything else near the wound, provided the decedent was shot at the location where the body was discovered. This is especially true for exit wounds if the heart pumps high-pressure arterial blood though this opening, typically a much larger opening than the related entrance wound.
The various officials in the park were acutely aware of this point as well. Nonetheless, not a single one of the nineteen individuals who viewed Mr. Foster's body in the park ever mentioned seeing blood spatter on leaves near Mr. Foster or, if they did, there is no mention of this in the voluminous reports that have been made public.
Some of those at the body site that night affirmatively reported there was no such blood spatter present; for example, the Medical Examiner ("did not recall seeing blood on the decedent's shirt or face and no blood was recalled on the vegetation around the body") and the lead Park Police investigator at the body site ("There was no blood spatter on the plants or trees surrounding decedent's head" -- per a report written the night of the death).
The same investigator also commented about the quality of the surviving Polaroids under oath: "The color of a Polaroid is not exact. Like, the plants that are green do not look exactly green. The color was not exact on the Polaroids. . . again, the blood was not very visible on the ground in the Polaroid photos." How, now, Dr. Lee?
TO A 100% DEGREE OF MEDICAL CERTAINTY
On the assumption that Dr. Lee deserves a rest, let's turn to another of Starr's after-the-fact, experts. Starr (page 3) quotes Doctor Alan Berman, the Executive Director of the American Association of Suicidology: "[i]n my opinion, and to a 100% degree of medical certainty, the death of Vincent Foster was a suicide. No plausible evidence has been presented to support any other conclusion." I would hope that anyone who had read my 380 page report on the Foster death or this article would regard at least the second sentence as laughable, but lets focus on Dr. Berman's "To a 100% medical certainty."
First of all, there is no evidence that Dr. Berman ever interviewed Mr. Foster or even had any indirect contact with him while he was alive. That fact alone makes this layman wonder at Dr. Berman's exalted level of confidence, not to mention his apparent ability to probe with certainty the subtleties of a particular human psyche many months, if not years, after that person's death. Also, for what it's worth, Dr. Berman is not a Medical Doctor (MD).
For some days after the death, the evidence in the record indicates that nobody who knew him thought Foster was clinically depressed. However, around 5-7 days after the death (depending on how high the putative observer fell in the White House Communications food chain, perhaps), we suddenly begin seeing great dollops of data regarding Foster's obvious clinical depression from those who had seen him in the weeks prior to this death.
The prior official reports also cite evidence that Foster was depressed. When those citations are run down in the official record, grave doubts about Fiske's and other analyses appear. Although this article concentrates on "new" aspects revealed in Starr's report, all five official reports have major "citation" problems of this sort.
For example, according to the Fiske Report, Foster's weight loss was "obvious to many" when medical records and the own man's widow are specific that Foster lost no weight, and indeed gained weight, in the six months before his death. Fiske reported that the family doctor prescribed an "anti-depressant," but the doctor himself -- a long time family friend -- told the FBI that he did not think Foster was significantly depressed and that said prescription was to help Foster sleep (the alleged dosage corroborates the doctor's statement). The handwritten FBI interview notes with the widow state that Foster was "fighting" taking a "prescription" for sleeping pills for this same insomnia, while the typed version of the report states in the equivalent place that Foster was "fighting depression." The list also includes some strange data in connection with the psychiatrist Foster is said to have called the Friday before his death. This material is covered, along with other matters not in this article, in my 380-page report on the Foster death.
On the "suicidal depression" issue, the Berman analysis is the primary new information reported by Starr. Let us look at some of the statements in the record that were collected immediately after the death that apparently did not give Dr. Berman professional pause before he rendered his opinion, to a "100% medical certainty," that Foster killed himself and, to boot, that Foster was suffering from "an evident clinical depression."
First, I should note in defense of Dr. Berman that he may have examined only documents provided to him by the Starr OIC. The Starr report (page 98) stated that Dr. Berman was retained "to review and analyze state-of-mind evidence gathered by the OIC in the course of its investigation [emphasis added]. All of it, including that gathered by the prior four investigations, or just evidence gathered in Starr OIC 1995 and 1996 "re-interviews" and then winnowed by the OIC?
That is, Dr. Berman apparently did not review the entire official record regarding Foster's mental state, let alone gather his data independently. We will see below why Dr. Berman could have been handed a stacked deck.
Data-Diving With Dr. Berman?In a combined Park Police and FBI interview conducted two days after the death, we learn what one of the three secretaries serving Vince Foster and Bernie Nussbaum had to say about Foster's mental state the day of his death: "There was nothing unusual about his emotional state. In fact, over the last several weeks she did not notice any changes, either physically or emotionally. She noticed no weight loss. . . I asked if she would be surprised if I found out he was seeing a psychiatrist. She said yes. She was not aware of any depression problems." [The record makes it clear that Foster had not seen a psychiatrist.]
Here is what Foster's own secretary told the Park Police and the FBI, also on the 22nd: "She stated that she did not note any unusual behavior by Mr. Foster on [July 20]." The third secretary in the office had this to say, also on the 22nd: "Mr. Foster's demeanor seemed normal to her. . ." This was the lady Foster is said to have asked to bring him lunch from the White House mess on the day of his death: A medium-rare cheeseburger with French fries, a Coke, and some M&M's. Mr. Foster ate all his lunch quietly at the couch in his office while reading a newspaper, except for some of the M&M's that he offered the staff when he strolled out of the office for the last time around 1:00 PM.
For reasons unknown, Foster saw fit to remove all the onions from his cheeseburger -- a fact that struck the secretary at the time. There are later statements in some of the official reports to the effect that Mr. Foster did not like onions and therefore would have removed them from his cheeseburger on this, the last day last day of his life. This explanation is not entirely credible since, in six months on the job (and having eaten frequently at his desk, according to the record) one wonders why, if he hated onions so, Mr. Foster had not learned to ask the White House mess to omit them on the cheeseburgers that he often ordered (You know the standard phrase: "Hold the onions!").
According to the Park Police and FBI interviews of the office staff, the only person who remarked that Mr. Foster exhibited any unusual behavior was a junior staff assistant. In the words at the very end of his interview report, when Mr. Foster left, he was "in his own world, focused, confused." Curiously, though these words seem to be support for the conclusion that Foster was at the least temporarily pre-occupied, the initial FBI interview of this staff member, the only staffer in the office whom the Park Police indicate noticed anything unusual about Foster has never been made public (even though the initial FBI interviews of the three secretaries were).
The "New Pravda" Appears
The first family member to indicate Foster was depressed did not do so until an interview on the same day that the so-called Foster "torn suicide note" was made public, July 27th. The 27th was also the day that the White House "spin" on Foster's death was fundamentally altered. Foster's death went from being 'a bolt from the blue -- no one had any inkling he was having problems' -- to a recounting of his troubles during a press briefing that afternoon at the White House. Dee Dee Myers told the assembled press that "Vince was having a rough time."
Here is the exchange that immediately followed:
Q: Wait a minute that is the first time you have said that from this platform.
A: No it's not. . . that's not true Brit [Hume; ABC News]
Q: Yes, it is true, Dee Dee.
A: No, it's not.
Q: It is true Dee Dee. Your tone has completely changed.
A: OK. I apologize. I am sorry. It is not. Okay. [Brit Hume, to his credit, caused Dee Dee to recant and admit her "misstatement."]
Foster's widow was not seen again by the Park Police until July 29, after the new "spin" that Foster was depressed was in place. That "interview" lasted only 50 minutes, ending at a convenient 5 PM. According to the Park Police interview report, the widow "specifically cit[ed] [Foster's] not being able to sleep well" saying Foster took personally the "criticism of the President in the news media. . . and even the stress of the family move to Washington."
The widow's Park Police interview was essentially a prepared oral statement arranged by Foster family lawyer, James Hamilton, not a dialogue with the investigators. According to the deposition of the senior Park Police officer at this interview: "I don't think we ever asked her a direct question . . ."
The "Old Pravda" -- The Night Of The Death
What did the Park Police learn when they spoke to the Foster family and many of their close friends in the administration the night of the death when the family was first notified? Two Park Police investigators spent some 70 minutes in the Foster home. They did not get the cooperation they would have liked (the female investigator was physically shoved aside by Webster Hubbell at one point when she was asking questions), but their depositions provide much information regarding the perspective of Foster's family and friends immediately after they first learned of the death.
Based on the pronounced White House flip-flop a week or so later, these folks should have been expected to be commiserating, speaking of the vast array of symptoms of clinical depression they had all observed in Foster.
This is emphatically not what the two investigators discovered in their 70 minutes asking questions at the Foster home the night of the death. Bear in mind that the dozen or so friends and family who were present (many of them attorneys) knew the investigators were not simply making idle social chit chat but were conducting a formal Federal investigation into the death of a high-ranking official. According to the two investigators (they are under oath here):
"One of the last things I got from Mrs. Foster -- I asked her was he -- did you see this coming, was there any signs [sic] of this. . . .everyone said no, no, no, no, he was fine. This is out of the blue. . . [Foster's sister] was talking with us. . . I spoke with her, [the other Park Police Investigator] spoke with her. She was very cordial. I remember asking her, did you see any of this coming, and she stated, no. Nobody would say anything about depression or that they noticed some signs, they were worried [the investigator is giving this deposition months later when he knows that the family and friends have completely changed the "no sign of depression" line they gave him and his partner at the Foster home the night of the death]."
Q: Did anyone at the notification [the death notification at the Foster home that night] mention depression or anti-depressant medication that Foster might have been taking?
A: I mentioned depression, did you see this coming, were there any signs, has he been taking any medication? No. All negative answers.
The sister who told the Park Police that she had not noticed any signs that Foster was depressed had been appointed to a high position in the Justice Department months earlier and would eventually be the leader of a future chorus chanting "clinical depression" and describing specific events that led them to believe that Foster could have been suicidal.
More Puzzle Pieces For Dr. Berman
The depositions above tell you what everyone was saying the night of the death, despite the transformation of the official administration line roughly a week later. The public was then informed that Foster was indeed taking an "antidepressant" drug -- and in fact took his first (and only) dose the night of the 19th. The doctor told the FBI that he did not think Foster was significantly depressed and that he prescribed the drug in question by telephone (Desyrel; generic name, Trazodone) only to help Foster sleep better. He knew that it would help Foster sleep better immediately, he said, whereas ten days to two weeks would be required for it to have an anti-depressive effect.
Corroborating the doctor's statement to the FBI, the alleged prescription consisted of 30 50 milligram tablets, enough for 30 days if the daily dosage was one 50 mg tablet (the smallest manufactured), apparently to be taken after the evening meal or at bedtime since this is when Foster is alleged to have taken his first and only tablet.
Medical references indicate that the initial daily dosage of Trazodone, prescribed for an adult being treated for anti-depression, not insomnia, is 150 mg (200 mg a day for a 6' 4.5" 200 pound male like Foster?), ramping up to 300 mg or more if there is no evident anti-depressive effect after two weeks or so. The medical references also confirm the doctor's statement to the Fiske's FBI agents that ten days to two weeks (at 150-200 mg per day; three or four 50 mg tablets) is needed for the drug to begin to have an anti-depressive effect.
Had the doctor been prescribing Trazodone for the treatment of depression (which he specifically told Fiske's FBI he was not), surely he would have prescribed more than a seven- to ten-day supply of a drug that he clearly knew would require ten days to two weeks to begin to have an anti-depressive effect. Thus, even if Foster was prescribed Trazodone on July 19 and took his first and only tablet that night, it seems clear he was being treated at that time for insomnia, not depression.
The Park Police investigation included a blood test for drugs. It came up completely negative, even for anti-depressive drugs. It was not until a re-test of the blood some months later by the FBI that we were told traces of Trazodone and other drugs (including Valium) were found (even though it can be seen on the face of the drug test report done in the course of the Park Police investigation that Valium and its metabolites were tested for and found absent).
In a surprising introduction of evidence heretofore not mentioned in any of the prior official reports (or in interview report by Fiske's FBI of Dr. Watkins or anywhere else), Starr quotes an extract from the notes that Dr. Watkins is said to have typed up on July 21, 1993, recording the contents of his telephone conversation with Foster on Monday July 19, that buttress the claim that Watkins (despite his denial to Fiske's FBI interviewer) did indeed prescribe Trazodone for its anti-depressive effect.
Starr reports [Pages 109-110] Watkins typed notes contained the following words: "[Foster] was concerned about the criticism that they were getting and the long hours he was working at the White Houses. He did feel that he had some mild depression [Watkins told Fiske's FBI interviewer that he, Watkins, did not think Foster was significantly depressed]. I started him on Desyrel [Trazodone], 50 mg [milligrams]. He was to start with one at bedtime and move up to three . . . . [The ellipsis is Starr's]"
This appears to corroborate (though tardily) the official claim that Foster was prescribed the Trazodone at least in part for its anti-depressive effect, but does not explain why Watkins prescribed far too few tablets to begin to treat Foster for anti-depression (ten days to two weeks at 3X50 mg a day needed, but only 30 50 mg tablets were prescribed. But one wonders why official reports prior to the Starr report failed to mention Watkins typed notes from July 21.
The FBI interview of the owner of the prescribing pharmacy as part of the Fiske investigation contradicts Starr (and Watkins' notes) re the alleged depression: According to the pharmacy, Foster was indeed to take 1-3 50 mg tablets of Trazodone (consistent with Watkins' notes that Foster was to "start with one at bedtime and move up to three. . .") but in the words of the FBI interview of the owner of the pharmacy, the prescription indicated "one to three tablets or 50 to 150 milligrams was prescribed to be taken prior to bedtime."
Since the entire daily dosage (whether 50, 100, or 150 milligrams) was to be administered at bedtime, rather than taking a 100 or 150 milligram total daily dosage evenly-spaced throughout the day, it is clear that, even if Foster needed to build up to two or three tablets a day, Watkins was prescribing the Trazodone to help Foster sleep, not as an anti-depressive medication (medical reference manuals call for even spacing of the daily dosage in the latter case).
The day of Foster's death, it so happened (a coincidence Hubbell later told the FBI) that Foster's other big sister and her daughter had flown in from Little Rock. Foster had promised lunch at the White House and a tour the next day. He never saw his sister or his niece in Washington -- he died same the day they arrived in Washington to visit him.
The week before his death, Foster had called a Denver attorney-friend and obtained his agreement to hold himself in readiness for a trip to Washington to see Foster (some say to hire a lawyer for himself regarding the Travel Office Matter, but some say to hire private counsel for the President and First Lady; July procedural developments in Congress undercut the former hypothesis).
Two days before his death, Foster called the Denver attorney he knew well and they arranged to meet in Washington . . . the day after Foster died. Unless the suicide decision was spontaneous (Foster was not exactly known for his spontaneity), why did he leave his sister, his niece, and his attorney friend in the lurch like that? Foster was not exactly known for his churlish treatment of his friends and relatives either . . .
A letter from Foster to his recently-widowed mother was mailed from the White House the day he died. Assuming he knew Tuesday morning that he was going to kill himself Tuesday afternoon, Foster would have known that his mother would not receive his letter until two or three days after his death (by which time she would certainly have heard about it), yet there are no words of love, farewell, or suicide in the letter, just mundane administrative detail about the transfer of family oil leases.
A fellow attorney at the White House Office of Legal Counsel had something to say about Foster's mood in her FBI interview. In the words of the FBI report: "She last saw Foster in the [Tuesday morning, the 20th] Rose Garden ceremony celebrating Louis Freeh's appointment as Director of the FBI. Her observation of him at that time was that perhaps his mood had lifted a little in the last couple of days of his life and she bases that on some joking around that had occurred during the previous Friday staff meeting.
She also saw him on Monday, July, 19, 1993 for just a few minutes and he did not seem distracted and handled the exchange normally." Nine days after the death in an interview with the Park Police, she confirmed that Foster's spirits had improved.
The widow had this to say about the last time she saw her husband alive, at about 8:30 AM the day of his death as he and his two eldest children left the house together for work: "[his] mood seemed better than it had been 'in a while.'"
Perhaps his spirits had improved because he had recently made the decision to kill himself, but what about the arrangements to meet with his sister and his attorney friend the next day, what about the letter to his mother who had lost her husband in 1991 with nary a hint of love, appreciation, or goodbye?
Based on the information from the official record above, were I a high-powered psychologist or a psychiatrist specializing in "suicidology," would I be tempted to say that I was sure "to a 100% medical certainty" that Foster did not kill himself? Tempting, but I hope I would not be so certain of my professional expertise! Especially since the record is replete with statements by Foster's friends that he was contemplating resigning his White House job.
As a layman, I might think that Foster had been under some stress (a far cry from clinical depression) and that his mood had lifted somewhat once he had made the difficult decision to resign (trying because of his long relationship with the Clintons -- he referred to the First Lady as his "client" while he worked in the White House). A layman might think resignation, not suicide, had been on Foster's mind. A layman might also be forgiven for thinking that there might be some unusual aspects to severing the kind of new White House relationship that Foster had experienced (if not enjoyed).
Given the family history of keeping his sisters apprised of actions that might affect them, the timing of his Arkansas sister's Washington arrival might be explained in this way as well (Foster's other sister, the point-woman for much of the evidence for Foster's depression, was already in Washington -- she was President Clinton's Assistant Attorney General for Legislative affairs). I think this is a reasonable scenario, actually based on the government own investigative record. I won't tell you that I am 100% certain, though. "100% certainty" is hard for me to come by -- be it medical, or otherwise.STARR EXPLAINS MISSING POLAROIDS TWO WAYS Refer back to the lengthy investigator's under-oath statement above about Foster's body sliding down the slope when it was rolled to expose the back side. Did you notice that the investigator also stated with some alacrity that he was certain that he had taken Polaroids of the back side of the body, but that those photos somehow vanished. The long quotation clearly indicates that he has no doubt that he took those photos ["I know I took Polaroids of that"].
Every one of the 35 mm body site photos taken by an experienced evidence technician were officially spoilt because they were somehow exposed or developed improperly, goof-proof camera or not. Many of the Polaroids taken by the investigators and other officers at the scene somehow went missing as well. This was a major problem for the official investigations since there is, in particular, no small amount controversy about the existence of the official exit wound, as we will see.
Covering Your Back
How does Starr address the missing "back side" Polaroids? Here is what he has to say: "[The same investigator quoted under oath about the sliding body above] initially suggested [emphasis added] in a Senate deposition that he had taken photographs of the backside of Mr. Foster's body . . ."
Come now, Mr. Starr, the investigator's exact words under oath are above. Do you think you enhance your own credibility when you report that the investigator merely "suggested" in his deposition that he had taken these photos? Starr continues:
"After reviewing the Polaroids, [the investigator] stated that he intended to take such Polaroids, but he believes that [another investigator] took the [emphasis added] Polaroid camera back to the parking lot before . . . the body was turned."
To support his statement and to rebut the investigator's 1994 words under oath provided above, Starr cites a re-interview of the investigator almost three years after the death. As to Starr's reference to "the" Polaroid camera at the body site, we know from this same investigator under oath that there were at least two Polaroid cameras used to take pictures at the body site that night. The investigator who swore to Senate attorneys that he had taken Polaroids of the "back side" has shown a willingness to be accommodating in the past when interviewed by the OIC.
One of the bizarre aspects of the death involves why both the person to discover the body [called "C5" by Starr and the "Confidential Witness" by Starr's predecessor, Fiske] and the first official to locate the body were adamant and repetitive under oath that they never saw the black .38 Colt revolver that was officially in Foster's hand the whole time. [The only released photo of the gun in Foster's hand shows it quite clearly].
When the investigator was apparently asked to "help out" on the "gun visibility" issue during his FBI, he came up with a novel statement that appears nowhere else in the official record -- the gun was very hard to see because, well, when Foster shot himself, after the slug exited the back of his head, it severed the branch of a bush, and the severed branch fell across the torso of the body, obscuring the gun still, the recoil notwithstanding, held in his hand.
This written statement was apparently "too much help" even for the FBI agents conducting the interview. Although this bizarre statement is buried in the publicly-available record, it was never included in the typed FBI interview report.
To Take No Polaroids Before Their Time
The first officer to arrive at the body with a camera told the FBI that he had taken Polaroids at the scene. He was not sure how many, but he thought he took seven or eight. He handed over the photos he took to either his sergeant at the scene or to one of the investigators, he said. Starr (page 73) states that the five Polaroids contemporaneously labeled at the scene as having been personally taken by the sergeant were really the Polaroids taken by the first officer to take photos. The sergeant himself did not take any.
If the first photos taken of the body at the site did vanish for reasons as yet unknown that is clearly a suspicious happening, especially in such a high-profile and politically charged case where one would expect public officials and bureaucrats to fully "CYA" (did the missing "First Polaroids" depict the unaltered body site, in contrast to what the later "enhanced reality" photos showed?). To support his point, Starr (page 74) cites January 12, 1995, interviews with the sergeant and with another investigator who "recalled" the sergeant taking Polaroids. Per the sergeant's 1995 interview, he "said he only carried the Polaroid camera" and did not take any Polaroids. Strangely, the Park Police reports regarding what the sergeant did are not public (not even his own report). If the FBI originally interviewed the sergeant in 1994, that interview has not been made public, though dozens of such interviews are public.
Starr does not cite the original FBI interview of the Park Police investigator whom he says (per the 1995 interview) originally "recalled" that the sergeant took Polaroids. Both the original typed FBI interview report and the underlying handwritten notes taken by the FBI agent are consistent in what they report the investigator recounted and make it obvious why Starr did not cite her original 1994 interview.
It must be remembered that the question regarding missing Polaroids could not have surfaced among the public until after the production of thousands of pages of underlying government records of the Foster death investigations by the US Senate in January 1995 revealed the investigator's angst over his missing "back side" photos.
Here is what the investigator who observed the sergeant's actions originally told the FBI in 1994 (and which Starr does not report): "Upon arriving at the death scene, she specifically observed [the sergeant] in the process of completing Polaroid photography of the body [emphasis added] and to the best of her recollection believes that contemporaneous with [the sergeant] finishing his Polaroid photography, [another investigator] commenced taking a series of Polaroid photographs."
This investigator was the one charged with "taking notes of the death scene," she told the FBI, but after the "missing Polaroids" issue was revealed to the public by Senate Hearings Volumes released in very early January 1995, Starr conducted re-interviews to "correct" the information contained in the original 1994 interview of this inconvenient investigator.
STARR'S MANTRA: RE-INTERVIEW,
Officially, the gun was found cupped under Foster's right hand, caught on his thumb. The "Confidential Witness" who discovered the body was adamant under oath that the palms were up and neither held a gun. The first official to locate the body in response to the 911 call, was clear and repetitive under oath that he never saw a gun; it was there, this police officer supposed, but the vegetation made it hard to see. He didn't check and never saw the gun.
There are those who say no gun was seen early on because it simply was not present and that the gun first reported to be present was in fact a "placeholder" gun (perhaps semi-automatic pistol temporarily "donated" by one of the many federal officers on-scene) placed in Foster's hand until a suitably anonymous "drop gun," like the official old black Colt revolver, could be found and put in Foster's hand. Clearly, the six paramedics who observed the body shortly after 6:15 PM (officially, a suicide by gunshot and quickly reported as such that night) would wonder where the gun was had there been no gun of any kind present for them to see. A paramedic, who viewed the body from a distance of 2-3 feet a few minutes after the first Park Police officer located it, was quite clear that he did see a gun. However, he originally told the FBI, it most certainly was not the official black Colt. .38 revolver. The first time he was ever interviewed, here is what he said about the gun (in words taken down by the FBI): "100% sure automatic weapon (was in Army, looks at magazines, knows the diff between an automatic and a revolver. Appeared like a .45 automatic."
This witness is describing a semi-automatic pistol (a magazine-fed handgun), not a revolver with its rotating cartridge cylinder. The two look vastly different. The paramedic drew pictures of each type of weapon for the FBI to emphasize his point and to confirm that he understood the difference between a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol.
This same paramedic was later re-interviewed multiple times and apparently was induced to express some doubt about the nature of the gun he saw, doubt that was obviously non-existent during his first interview (above) and in his Senate deposition ("What I saw is what I saw. . . I know what I saw").
Here is what Starr reports this witness said when re-interviewed in 1996: "My memory is, I saw a semi-automatic, but I must have been mistaken." Notice the wording: he continues to recount what he "remembers," presumably because he wants to tell the truth. What happened to make him think (three years later) that he remembered something he "mistakenly" did not see.
THE GUN THAT SHOT BACK
Per Starr (pages 80-81), "[Foster's widow] recalled that, after they moved to Washington in 1993, some guns were kept in a bedroom closet. She recalled what she described as a silver-colored gun (she also referred to it as a 'cowboy gun'), which had been packed in Little Rock and unpacked in Washington. She also recalled a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. She said she found one gun in its usual location on July 20, 1993, the .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. She did not find the other gun on or after July 20, 1993."
When interviewed by the Park Police nine days after the death, the widow was presented with a photo of the official death weapon (the gun was out for testing), but in the words of the report, "she could not identify it." The handwritten notes of her interview make it clear why she could not identify the weapon as family-owned: it was not the gun she expected to see. She had expected to be shown a "silver six gun" with a "large barrel."
In her first FBI interview on May 9, 1994, the widow examined the gun that the FBI told her had been found with her husband. In the words of the FBI interview report she "stated that she believed it may be a gun which she formerly saw in her residence in Little Rock, Arkansas." In addition, she "believes that she may have seen the handgun which she examined previously during the interview at her residence in Washington."
She also recalled, "that as she was packing her belongings in Little Rock in preparation for coming to Washington, DC, she found a handgun inside a travel trunk which had been packed by Foster prior to his departure for Washington. Specifically, as [she] was packing in Little Rock, she came across a silver-colored gun [emphasis added], which she then packed in with her other property."
Continuing the May 9, 1994, interview: the widow "was aware of the location of one gun inside her residence in Washington and she found that gun still in its usual location on the night of July 20, 1993. The gun which she found on that date [the .45 semi-automatic above] was not the silver gun which she had earlier found in the trunk in Little Rock."
The widow "believes that the gun found at Fort Marcy Park may be the silver gun which she brought up with her other belongings when she permanently moved to Washington." Seems like a pretty good ID of this "silver gun" as the death weapon doesn't it?
Starr's report (pages 81-82) goes on to state that "in November 1995, when viewing the gun recovered from Mr. Foster's hand, that it was [no "may be" for Starr] the gun she unpacked in Washington but had not subsequently found, although she said she remembered the front of the gun looking lighter in color when she saw it during the move to Washington."
Why was the widow sure that the gun in the photo shown to her nine days after the death by the Park Police was not the missing family-owned silver gun? After all, it was the same gun she later was shown by the FBI, right? She had expected to be shown the silver six gun with a large barrel (the "cowboy gun") which she remembered bringing to Washington because she had not found the silver-colored gun in its customary place when she checked the night of the death.
She discovers that the silver-colored gun is missing from her home just after she is told her husband shot himself. One can see precisely why the widow thought the official death weapon would have to be the silver-colored gun she brought up from Little rock, the "cowboy gun," the "silver six gun" with a "large barrel."
There is also an excellent reason why she could not identify the gun in the photo she was shown nine days after the death: the official death gun is entirely black. It has no other color on it, certainly no "silver color."
There is no doubt about the color of the gun since the contemporaneous official record is replete with references to the "black" or "dark-colored" Army Colt .38 Special Revolver officially removed from Foster's right hand at Fort Marcy Park and there are color photos of it as well.
In an effort to report "a 100% degree of handgun certainty," I relate that, when interviewed on the record February 5, 1997 (for a Wall Street Journal article that was never published), by my friend attorney Allan J. Favish, the lead investigator at the body site and the evidence technician who removed the official death gun from Foster's hand stood by their July 1993 reports. The investigator said, "the gun was black." The evidence technician said, when asked if the gun could be described as gray or silver said, "No. I took the gun out of his hand. It looked black."
Since the official death gun was black (actually a "blued" gun, that is, a Navy blue color -- a blue-black -- as confirmed by the Colt Manufacturing Company records for the as-manufactured guns with the two serial numbers found on the official death gun), how should one make sense of the widow's May 9, 1994, interview with the FBI and Fiske's investigators?
She is presented with the entirely black official death gun and examines it. She then says that the gun she has just examined may well be the silver-colored gun that she remembers from Little Rock and that she brought to Washington with her. She holds a black gun in her hand and opines that it may be the silver colored gun she brought up from Little Rock? Does the widow typically confuse the colors "silver" and "black?" It is hard to conceive of a situation in which someone would have any trouble distinguishing the two.
Was the widow, through no fault of her own, in such a situation on May 9, 1994?
When the two Park Police officers were interviewed on the record earlier this year, they were shown copies of the widow's May 9, 1994, FBI interview for the first time. Both were asked if they could shed any light on the apparent contradiction: either the widow could not distinguish silver from black or the gun she was shown in her May 9, 1994, interview was silver (not the official death gun it was represented to her to be in the interview).
Obviously quite puzzled, neither officer could offer any explanation for this strange state of affairs, the investigator saying, "Ask the FBI. . . Ask Fiske. . ."
The evidence technician confirmed that the leaked color photo showing a black gun in Foster's right hand was indeed a photo of the gun he remembered from the investigation (This photo of the black gun was shown on national television and printed in TIME Magazine; it was leaked as proof that the Park Police indeed had some photos of the body site -- despite press reports in early 1994 stating that the all the photos had been spoilt).
In the words of independent Foster investigator, attorney Allan J. Favish, "Mr. Fiske's use of Mrs. Foster's statement was clearly deceptive. If she was shown a silver-colored gun at the May 9, 1994, interview, then obviously she failed to give a valid identification of the official black death gun.
Likewise, if she was shown the official black death gun at this interview and identified it as being silver-colored then, equally obviously, she failed to give a valid identification of the official black death gun. Mr. Fiske failed to mention his report was based on Mrs. Foster's being shown a gun she believed was silver-colored -- a description incompatible with the official black death gun depicted in the official photos, testimony, and reports." It is interesting to note that no one at the interview with the widow, not the FBI agents, not the representative of regulatory counsel Fiske, and not the Foster family lawyer, saw fit to question what transpired in their presence. One wonders how these gentlemen would have reacted that day if they had been confronted with a married bachelor that day.
For what it is worth, when I was interviewed at length by two OIC investigators in March 1996 at Starr's offices in Washington, the interviewing agents tried an approach with me that may have been an earlier variant of the "front of the gun looking lighter in color" approach with me. The reason for the confusion (between black and silver), they coyly told me was that the gun was actually gray. You see, virtually all the original "blued" finish had worn off leaving the gray base metal exposed.
The photo of the gun in Foster's hand had been leaked in March 1994 and showed an all-black gun and the Park Police reports are replete with references to the bun being "black" or "dark-colored" with no mention of "silver" or "light-colored. Furthermore, omitting such a distinctive condition (the original blued finish being almost entirely worn off) in all descriptions of the gun would have been as silly as describing Gorbachev's head without mentioning its distinctive strawberry mark.
I looked at them like they were crazy and we moved on to other matters (such as whether I had covertly observed them setting up a witness the prior December -- I had not, not being in Washington at the time). The "bluing wore off" idea floated in my interview to reconcile the gun color issue was later abandoned by the OIC and did not appear in Starr's report.
As can be seen from the quotes above, Mr. Starr does not tell us in the text of his report that the official death gun is black (though in a footnote he does cite 1995 and 1996 witness descriptions of the gun, describing it as black or dark, as "consistent with" the gun officially found in Foster's hand at the park). We are merely told that Mrs. Foster "seemed to remember the front of the gun looking lighter in color when she saw it during the move to Washington."
This is apparently an attempt by Starr to have his readers believe that the two guns are one and the same: the (all silver) gun Mrs. Foster brought with her to Washington and the (all black) gun found at the body site. Anyone who has seen the "gun-in-hand" photo from the park (black gun) will have no difficulty understanding why Starr did not publish this photo, captioned: "the silver-colored family gun Mr. Foster used to kill himself."
Starr also tells us (page 79) that "there are discrepancies in the descriptions of the color and kind of gun seen in Mr. Foster's hand." However, in this context (what does the official death gun rally look like?), we care less than about these discrepancies for a very good reason: the investigators possess the actual gun itself so we need not rely on witnesses at the site for the description of the actual gun that was taken into custody. That is not to say that contemporary witness descriptions of the gun they saw (or did not see) in Foster's hand are not useful for another purpose: whether on site witness accounts of the nature of the gun (if any) in Foster's hand changed from the time the body was discovered to the time the paramedics arrived on the scene, to the time the Polaroids of the gun in Foster's hand were taken and, if so, whether some gun-switching took place.
The relevant question is why the widow "identified" the (presumably) black gun she was shown in her FBI interview as the silver six gun she had brought up from Little Rock. Did she think the gun she was shown was the silver six gun she brought up from Little Rock because that gun (which vanished from its customary location in her Georgetown home before she looked for it the night of the death) was in fact shown to her?
[There are a number of other attempts in the Starr Report to link the official death gun to the Foster family, but they ring just as false if one is familiar with the contents of the underlying investigative record on the gun gathered by the government -- see the long report I wrote on the Foster death.]
For whatever reason, the "no bluing made the gun look gray -- kind of a dull silver. . ." explanation tried on me died at the OIC long before Starr's report came out. The fact that disparate (desperate?) gambits were "tried out" in feeble attempts to transform an all-silver revolver the widow remembered her husband owning into an all-black one that "she could not identify" is itself a strong indicator that officials knew they had a fundamental evidential problem and were struggling futilely to make the problem go away.
Evidentiary "discrepancies" like this one fill the 20-page insert the three judge panel ordered made a part of the Starr Report on the Foster death, along with the well-documented details of Knowlton's harassment. Presumably, this sort of evidence was a material consideration in the court's decision to mandate that Knowlton's evidential insert be made a part of the Starr Report. Presumably, also, evidence like this is one reason Starr resisted the insert so strongly and so repeatedly.
A final comment about the "silver gun" the widow remembered from Arkansas, said she brought to Washington, and did not find in its customary place in her home the night of Foster's death: Since the "silver gun" is clearly not the all-black official death gun, when was the "silver gun" removed from the Foster home, and by whom? What was the reason? Was the silver gun supposed to make its way to the park, to be placed in Foster's hand before the body was discovered earlier than planned?
If the Confidential Witness had not happened to see the body on the backside of an earthen berm in the far northwest corner of the park at about 5:45 PM, one might have expected the body to remain undiscovered until well after sunset. Why? The park is closed at sunset (a gate is moved across the exit from the George Washington Memorial Parkway) by the Park Police. Before they do so, a drive-by is done in the parking lot to shoo out any late visitors.
At that point on the night of the death, the beat officer would have found Foster's Honda sitting by itself in the parking lot. The doors were unlocked and Foster's suit jacket and tie were on the passenger front seat. After calling out ("The Park is closed") and getting no response, the officer would probably have walked over to the car to check it out (someone could be sleeping in the back seat, whatever), seen it was unlocked, opened the door, and found Foster's White House ID under the jacket and Foster's wallet with various photo IDs in the inside pocket of the jacket. The White House ID alone, would have triggered a major flap and a search of the park that would likely have located the body within an hour or two after sunset.
This specific scenario is somewhat farfetched, but it would have allowed several more hours for the silver gun to have made its way to Foster's hand (and for Foster's Honda to actually arrive in the parking lot -- see below). It would also have allowed several hours that evening (using Foster's White House keys -- see below) to search and to empty his office of any critical documents. Alternatively, given the official death gun in Foster's hand was particularly unsuitable to be the official death weapon (and the failure of the silver gun to arrive on time at the park?), the silver gun could have been removed from the Foster home the evening of the death for possible eventual use (as it may have been at the widow's FBI interview).
After the Park Police investigators had arrived (in the company of a senior White House official, assuring someone from the White House would arrive with the Park Police) to make the death notification, they were followed immediately by other White House officials, family, and friends.
The widow searched for the silver gun, didn't find it, and thus logically assumed it must be the official death gun. So sure was she, that when presented with the photo of the all-black official death gun, she told the Park Police she could not identify it and why: it was not the silver six gun with the large barrel ("the cowboy gun") she expected to see. This, too, is speculative, but the Park Police shift commander noted that night that the first questions asked, when two senior White House officials called him separately right after the shift commander had notified the Secret Service of the death, had to do with the gun: "First [emphasis added] he asked whose gun, then, have you checked registration."
Calls from both White House officials came quickly and at almost the same time and both "asked about weapon." A man is found dead of a gun shot and the police receive two calls back to back from his close friends. . . asking for a description of the death weapon and to whom it is registered? Seems like an odd set of questions to be asked first . . . twice. Read on!
FOSTER'S PERIPATETIC KEY RINGS
The lead Park Police investigator at the body site gloved up and probed all of Foster's pants pockets at the park. Among other things, he said he was searching for a piece of paper (suicide note). Officially, while doing his search of the pants pockets, two separate key rings in Foster's right front pants pocket were missed.
One key ring held Foster's four White House keys. The other held an unknown number of Foster's personal keys (this key ring was retrieved by the White House before it could be inventoried). Starr (page 75) incorrectly refers to this search as a merely a "pat down," but elsewhere he does indicate correctly that the investigator "felt into Mr. Foster's pants pockets at the scene."
After realizing that the keys (or at least the Honda ignition key) were not on Foster's body or in the car in the lot said to be Mr. Foster's Honda, the two Park Police investigators did not do the reasonable thing and initially search around the body for them (remember the eyeglasses had been found 19 feet from Foster's face), but apparently spontaneously drove to the morgue to "retrieve" the keys, officially finding them where they fully expected to, in Foster's right front pants pocket. These temporarily missing keys have produced some controversy, especially since it is clear that two White House officials did visit the morgue that night to confirm what had already been confirmed to both officials -- that the deceased was indeed Mr. Foster.
It is equally clear that if Mr. Foster's White House office was to be searched that night, his White House keys, including a high security key and the keys to his other locking files, would have been useful. It is also clear that, hypothetically speaking, Mr. Foster's car key would have been useful to anyone who had to drive Foster's car to the park very late that afternoon if, for some reason, Mr. Foster himself could not do so. There is some evidence (in the official record and elsewhere) that the White House officials visited the morgue before or about the same time the Park Police investigators did (and therefore they conceivably could have dropped off the keys for the investigators to retrieve, either from the body or at an actual rendezvous).
However, Starr tells us (page 74) that the two White House officials viewed the body "near 10:30 PM," long after the Park Police officers had retrieved the keys (the investigators having been "at the morgue at 9:12 PM" according to the same hospital log even though the evidence control sheets show both key rings were logged in to evidence at 8:45 PM). Unlike the investigators, however, the two White House officials were not allowed to go into the morgue where the body was, or so Starr tells us.
Although the official record on this point is somewhat murky, Starr's statement that the two White House officials, Bill Kennedy (who reported to Foster in the Counsel's Office) and Craig Livingstone (of "Filegate" fame and head of White House Personnel Security who reported to Kennedy) viewed the body "near 10:30 PM" based on the hospital log is questionable.
To understand why, one only has to refer to information supplied to government investigators by Kennedy and by the White House itself -- information that Starr does not attempt to reconcile or even mention.
Officially, the investigators left the hospital immediately after the retrieval of the keys at 9:12 PM and drove to the Foster home to make the death notification to the Foster family. While en route, they received a call from their supervisor that Kennedy and Livingstone were on the way to the hospital to view the body. According to the investigator's Senate deposition: "We called the security guards at the hospital, told them they [Kennedy and Livingstone] would be coming and it would be all right to see the body."
This call presumably took place around 9:30 PM at the latest since it was before the two investigators received another call on their mobile phone from their shift supervisor diverting the investigators to pick up David Watkins, a senior White House staffer, at his home and take him to the Foster home in Georgetown for the death notification. Even with the diversions, they arrived at the Foster home at 10:00 PM.
This does not agree with Kennedy's account in his Senate deposition. Kennedy said that he and Livingstone were physically present at the hospital "at least [emphasis added] a couple of hours" and "most of that time was spent waiting [emphasis added] to view Mr. Foster's body." According to the police account above, Kennedy and Livingstone should not have had to wait at all since the Hospital had been given the OK from the Park Police and had been primed for their arrival.
If Kennedy and Livingstone were at the hospital even the minimum two hours sworn to by Kennedy and, as he also says, left very shortly after viewing the body at Starr's "10:30 PM," they must have arrived at the hospital at not later than 8:30 PM and some forty-five minutes before the investigators arrived to retrieve the keys at 9:12 PM.
A hospital employee on duty that evening and with knowledge of these comings and goings could not remember the specific clock times that Kennedy and Livingstone arrived or that the Park Police investigators arrived, but this employee (in an unofficial and informal interview long ago with a friend of mine, Hugh Turley) was clear on one point: "The White House people came first."
The investigators' own depositions are not consistent regarding when they went to the hospital. One investigator's Senate deposition (before the question was pointedly raised again much later in his deposition) states: "As it turned out, [the other investigator] and myself went to the morgue in Fairfax Hospital, after we made a death notification, to recheck him. At that point [the other investigator] located the keys in his pocket."
Of course, the only death notification these two investigators made that night was the one at the Foster home (arriving at 10:00 PM and staying 70 minutes, requiring the retrieval of the two missing key rings to be no earlier than 11:30 PM or so).
Does anything else in the record tend to corroborate this analysis? Per a White House "chronology" covering the time around Foster's death, Kennedy and Livingstone arrived at the Foster home between 10:00 and 11:00 PM. Livingstone's deposition confirms this, but is more specific, saying they arrived at the Foster home between 10:30 and 11:00 PM.
We have a relatively firm time from Mr. Starr -- based on the hospital log -- that the two were at the Hospital until 10:30 PM (or shortly thereafter) viewing the body. According to Kennedy, after viewing the body, he spoke by phone with McLarty, Nussbaum, and Hubbell before leaving the hospital.
Then he and Livingstone left the hospital, leaving one of their two cars behind (they differ as to which one), drove the 20-25 minutes to Kennedy's home in the "Beverly Hills" section of Alexandria, waited a while for Mrs. Kennedy to get dressed and for Kennedy himself to change clothes, and only then drove to the Foster home in Georgetown (a drive of about 30minutes at that time of night). Even with the light traffic at that time of night, they obviously could not have arrived until well after 11:00 PM if the time Starr says they viewed the body (10:30 PM) is correct.
FOSTER'S BODY AT THE MORGUE
-- STARR VERSUS LIVINGSTONE
Finally, Starr says that Kennedy and Livingstone were only allowed to view the body through a glass window. Assuming standard procedure for an unattended death with a police-requested autopsy was followed, the clothed body would not have been removed from the body bag at the morgue nor touched prior to the autopsy.
Therefore, for Starr's account to be true, someone would still have had to go into the morgue proper before Kennedy and Livingstone viewed the body, presumably slide the body in its body bag out of the standard wall unit, put it on a gurney or some similar device, roll it near the window, and unzip the bag before Kennedy and Livingstone could see the deceased's face from the other side of the glass. This is not the way one of the two Park Police investigators described the process in his 1994 Senate deposition.
After explaining the more than ample reasons why there was no reason for Kennedy and Livingstone to visit the body to confirm it was Foster, the investigator continues: "Many times you view a body, you are in a separate room and view it through the glass. This time, I don't think that happened. They were in the morgue in the hospital, they were let in, the room attendant unzipped the body bag, they looked at it, he zipped it back up."
The investigator did not elaborate why "I don't think that happened" in Kennedy's and Livingstone's case even though Starr tells us in his Foster report that the body was viewed only through a glass window. Assuming standard procedure was followed, we know that the investigator was correct that the body was in the body bag when viewed because the body was not removed from the body bag until the next morning at the autopsy (Starr, page 29).
Indeed, according to the Starr report "a large amount of blood was in the body bag" and "At the autopsy, clothing was removed from Mr. Foster's body and placed on a table in the autopsy room."
The autopsy doctor, confirming the Starr report (and the autopsy report itself which states the body was clothed and lists the items of clothing), had been clear when under oath that the body arrived at the autopsy clothed. In response to a direct question asking whether Foster's body was clothed when it arrived in the autopsy suite (still in the body bag, remember, per Starr):
A: The body was clothed.
Q: Did you remove the clothing in the course of the autopsy?
A: That's right.
Q: Did you examine each piece of clothing as you removed it?
A: I looked at it and then gave it over to the police for their examination.
Q: Was there any conversation with [one of four Park Police personnel present] in the process of providing him the clothing?
A: Usual standard procedure. They take the clothing.
However, Craig Livingstone, in an on-the-record interview in March 1998, stated that when he and Kennedy viewed Foster's body at the hospital morgue that night, he is certain the body was covered only by a thin sheet, drawn up to six inches below the neck.
According to Livingstone, it was clear to him that the body was nude under the sheet: He could see no indication of either body bag or the dress shirt, suit pants, shoes, and undergarments Foster was wearing when his body was bagged at Fort Marcy Park. No blood was evident on the visible portion of the upper torso above the sheet, according to Mr. Livingstone.
If Livinstone's memory of this unusually graphic moment in his life is indeed correct, who prepared the body for viewing at the morgue that night by taking it from the body bag, removing the clothing and (apparently) cleaning away the blood on the face and neck? Equally important, after Kennedy and Livingstone viewed the body, who put the clothing back on and reinserted the body into the body bag for delivery to the autopsy the next morning? If these maneuvers occurred, they were completely contrary to the procedures for a death under police investigation and involving an autopsy.
FOR WHOM THE PAGER BEEPS
Starr (page 72) makes one surprising and very specific statement about the White House pager that was officially found clipped to Foster's waist: "White House records of pager messages do not indicate messages sent to or from Mr. Foster on July 20."
Whether or not White House records "indicate" that Foster was paged or not, what does the Park Police investigation reveal about whether Mr. Foster was paged or not that afternoon? The Park Police investigation began the night of the death and lasted about two weeks, so information was relatively fresh in people's minds then. The pager is of interest since there was some controversy whether it was a model that could store messages even though it was turned off (officially, the pager was found in the "off" position).
This question has never been definitively answered in the voluminous public record, even though the individual pager's serial number was recorded and the pager itself was returned to the White House. The pager belonged to the White House Communications Agency and had been signed out by Foster, perhaps on the day of his death.
Why he wanted to be certain people could page him while he was on the way to kill himself is a question I leave to others.
Obviously, no one could be certain what (if any) messages the pager had stored in it until it could be examined. Perhaps that explains why it was returned to the White House so very quickly. The evidence control and chain of custody paperwork indicate that the pager, along with Foster's personal effects, were picked up at 7:35 PM the next night, a little over 24 hours after the death.
However, the investigator who logged the pager and the personal effects into the evidence locker the night of the death stated under oath that the Secret Service "already had the beeper" before the personal effects were picked up at 7:35 PM on July 21.
Whatever their failures (and there are many), the Park Police and FBI investigations were conducted in the immediate aftermath of the death and, generally speaking, before "re-interviews" could be used to "coordinate" people's stories. That is, if the Park Police did not discern any "problems" with what witnesses told them, chances are that the information received would have been recorded correctly.
For example, this article details a number of "problems" associated with the Park Police records that were generated concerning events at Fort Marcy Park near the time of the death. Those "problems" were "Park Police Problems."
If high officials of other entities, such as the White House, had similar "problems" concerning what happened at, say, the White House around the time of the death, it is natural to assume that the Park Police would have been less informed and less knowledgeable about such problems and therefore less able to prevent them from surfacing in its own records.
With that in mind, what does the Park Police case file have to say about whether Foster was paged the afternoon of his death according to interviews conducted two days later?
"Mr. Nussbaum [Foster's boss] tried to page him at approximately 1830 hours [6:30 PM on July 20]." "Mrs. Pond [Nussbaum's assistant] said she left work at approximately 1845-1850 hours on Tuesday [6:45-6:50 PM on July 20]; but, before she left[,] at around 1820 or so, Maggie Williams (Mrs. Clinton's Chief of Staff) called for Vincent. She paged Vincent and left the White House number for him to call." Starr may be literally correct when he states "White House records of pager messages do not indicate messages sent to or from Mr. Foster on July 20," but I think it is clear that both Foster's boss and the First Lady's Chief of Staff tried to reach Foster at about the time the Park Police first located the body.
THE MEDICAL EXAMINER'S REPORT
That Pesky Official Record. . . Again! The "Report of Investigation by Medical Examiner" I located in the National Archives last July 19, four days after Starr filed his report with the three-judge panel, states that Foster died from a "perforating gun shot wound mouth-head." However, a four-letter word that originally was typed in after "mouth-" has been largely obliterated and the word "head" added following the largely obliterated word. The narrative summary on the next page of the report is inconsistent with the as-altered first page, referring to a "self-inflicted gunshot wound mouth to neck," not "mouth to head." [An exact copy of this document, as found in the National Archives, appears at the end of this analysis.]
This discrepancy is all the more important since a paramedic at the scene who viewed Foster's body from a distance of 2-3 feet stated under oath that there was a bullet wound on Foster's neck just under the right jaw-line. He was not certain of the caliber slug involved, but estimated it to be a .22 caliber round. He also did not believe there was an exit wound despite being told of the autopsy results specifying a large exit wound in the upper rear center of the skull. Starr's predecessor, Robert Fiske, said that the paramedic simply did not see what he testified he saw.
For what it's worth, the Medical Examiner estimated that Foster had been shot with a "low velocity weapon" and stated he had seen more damage done by a .25 caliber weapon. His estimate was not biased by knowing that the official death gun was a Colt .38 Special firing high-velocity ammunition since he never saw it -- the gun had been removed from the body site prior to his arrival.
The change to the report is a potentially important alteration and an important inconsistency within the Medical Examiner's report: most gunshot suicides do not shoot themselves in the neck, if for no other reason than the possibility of surviving for years as a quadriplegic.
There is no question that an improper "alteration" of a medical record has taken place, not a "correction," since a correction would involve drawing a single line through the error, correcting the error nearby, and initialing it (or performing some similar procedure that leaves a record of who made the change and what the change was).
It appears that Starr did not realize that this inconvenient and partially-altered report was buried in the National Archives when he submitted his report on July 15, since the following appears in his report (page 27) referring to the Medical Examiner's report: "The report states that the cause of death was 'perforating gunshot wound mouth-head' [no mention of the alteration]. . . [The death certificate -- same doctor] states that . . . the manner of death was . . . 'self-inflicted gunshot wound mouth to head.'"
The Medical Examiner's report above, has the identical phrase, although it seems that Starr's quote has changed "neck" to "head" even though the OIC references both pages of the Medical Examiner's report (including the page that says "mouth to neck" in the copy at the National Archives). Since I didn't find this document until July 19, 1997, I was unable to let Starr know about its presence there until after his report had been handed in to the three-judge panel.
The official version of the exit wound, as described in the autopsy report which indicated the slug exited the upper rear center of the skull and blew out an irregularly-shaped 1-inch by 1.25-inch chunk of the skull, became even more dubious with the release, under the Freedom of Information Act, in late March 1998, to Reed Irvine of Accuracy In Media, of a heavily (and apparently improperly) redacted copy of a three-page FBI telex message.
The telex was sent to the acting Director of the FBI from the FBI's Washington Metropolitan field office at 9:46 PM EDT on July 22, 1993 (Director Sessions having been fired on July 19) confirming the content of telephone conversations with the Director's office on July 21 that the gunshot Foster had officially suffered had "no exit wound."
The telex referred to "preliminary results," apparently of the autopsy. The autopsy results were "preliminary" on July 22 only in that the results of the blood toxicology work were not yet known and the first two pages of the report had not been typed. The remaining five pages that comprise the report, completed by hand by the autopsy doctor with each page hand-signed and dated July 21, were officially complete as of the end of the physical autopsy on the morning of the 21st and, like the two typed pages are replete with references to and descriptions of the exit wound.
A copy of relevant unredacted extracts from this three page telex is included at the end of this analysis as well as a copy of the diagram of the quite sizable official exit wound that existed according to the autopsy report It should be noted that the autopsy report (the leading two typed pages with the five pages filled in on July 21) was not completed (or at least not signed by the autopsy doctor) until July 28. No "provisional report" was prepared according to page one of the autopsy report, so there was no other report (whatever it said) to which the FBI telex could have been referring in the telex.
Time, If Not The Tide, Waits For Mr. Starr
Starr (page 27) continues to rely on Park Police reports that the Medical Examiner arrived at Fort Marcy Park at 7:40 PM, even though the doctor told the FBI he arrived at 6:45 PM. Starr ignored the handwritten notes of a park police investigator taken in the park that night and Dr. Haut's own Medical Examiner's report dated the day of the death.
The investigator's notes are a real-time listing of events, including an inventory of Foster's personal effects as they were removed from the body. The inventory could not have been done before the personal affects were removed from Foster's body because, for example, there is a notation of the words engraved inside Foster's wedding band.
Immediately after the personal effects removed from the body were listed, the investigator wrote "1943 [7:43 PM] Dr. Haut [the ME] ffx co. [Fairfax County Hospital] take to ffx co hosp[ital] to be pronounced [the ME pronounces the body dead at the scene, but a doctor at the hospital also "pronounces" someone dead, and this happened with Foster's body as well]." The notes continue: "2003 [8:03 PM] ffx co Fire & Rescue Engine One (McLean) ffx co Fire & Rescue Truck One."
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue returned to Fort Marcy Park to transport the body a little after 8:00 PM. According to the computerized time logs, Truck One ["T01P"] arrived at the parking lot at 8:02:25 PM, a decent match to the 7:43 PM time noted by the investigator as the earliest time the unit was summoned (the drive from the station to the park takes about 15 minutes, perhaps somewhat less at night). The fire truck was followed shortly by the ambulance ["A01" reaching the park at 8:16:27 PM] that would transport the body. The ambulance arrived at Fairfax County Hospital at 8:30:55 PM, consistent with its departure time from the park (another drive of about fifteen minutes). The fire truck was dispatched because Foster's body was some 775 feet over fairly rough terrain from the parking lot and the truck crew was needed to help roll the body over the ground on a gurney to the parking lot.
Further corroborating the time in the investigator's notes re the arrival of the fire truck, the dispatch log of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department notes that a call was received at 19:45:13 (7:45 PM and 13 seconds) that resulted in the dispatch of the fire truck that arrived in the Fort Marcy Parking lot at the 8:02:25 PM referred to above.
What do the investigator's contemporaneous handwritten notes and the rescue vehicles' time logs mean? They mean that 7:40 PM or so is not the time the Medical Examiner arrived in the park, it is instead the time (7:43 PM) that he turned to the police on scene and said, in effect, "I'm done with the body, you can call to have it transported to the morgue at Fairfax County Hospital." Whoever wrote the Starr report again failed to check the official record (or decided to simply brazen it out).
To put this in context, the report of Starr's predecessor, Robert Fiske stated that the Medical Examiner arrived at the park at 7:40 PM and that the body was bagged (some 250 yards from the parking lot) at "approximately 8:45." Allowing several minutes to bag the body and move it the 250 yards or so to the parking lot (where a toe tag was placed on the body) and considering the fifteen minutes the logs show it took to reach the hospital from the time the ambulance left the park, it's clear that both Mr. Starr and Mr. Fiske fooled with the actual time-line for events that night.
They pushed back the actual times of a number of events, apparently in an effort to explain the huge interval between the time the Park Police actually learned that Foster worked at the White House (no later than about 6:30 or so) and the time the White House officially says it first learned of the death (8:30 PM).
Is there any other contemporaneous record that would explain the Medical Examiner's statement to the FBI regarding his arrival time ("recalls arriving at the death scene at approximately 6:45 pm") and buttress the times in the investigator's handwritten notes described above? Starr tells us that the doctor "did not contemporaneously record the time of his arrival."
That's true, depending on how close to the event you think "contemporaneously" implied. It is clear, however, that the doctor typed up his formal report that night (at least Dr. Haut hand-signed the report and dated it July 20), though Starr (page 27) refers only to the date it was stamped received by the Northern Virginia Medical Examiner's Office (July 30, 1993).
The report is very revealing since it states that the time the doctor was notified he was needed at the park was "6:45 pm," jibing quite nicely with the 6:45 time in the FBI report (erroneously reported therein, apparently, as his arrival time at the park).
To top it off, the Medical Examiner's report states that the doctor first viewed the body at "7:15 pm." Allowing a reasonable 30 minutes or so to examine the body gets us to the time the investigator noted, 7:43 PM, as the time that the doctor gave permission to call for an ambulance to transport the body. [An exact copy of this document, as found in the National Archives and referred to above, appears at the end of this analysis.]
Finally, per his FBI interview, "Haut left the scene approximately 30 minutes after his arrival," meshing quite nicely with when he says he arrived on scene (7:15 PM) and the time the investigator recorded that he was finished examining the body (7:43 PM).
SOME FOREST WITH YOUR TREES
Perhaps one reason why the government denies allegations that there was a cover-up involving the death of Vince Foster has to do, in part, with what a poorly executed cover-up attempt it was. Embarrassing. . .as well as illegal. But the lousy job on the cover-up does make it easier to find evidence in the official record that a cover-up existed.
Perhaps it is necessary to state the obvious. Mr. Starr and his predecessors were charged with determining, among other things, whether there was a cover-up in connection with the Foster death. Now, if for the sake of argument, we ask ourselves who would have a key role in that cover-up, might we consider the possibility that the police on scene could have been involved? Hypothetically-speaking, this seems like a good possibility.
So, what did Starr and his predecessors do? They relied heavily on police reports to confirm that there was no cover-up involving the police even though detailed contemporaneous records are available from equally reliable sources that simply scream cover-up when compared to the Park Police reports. Perhaps this utter lash-up helps explain the common phrase "close enough for government work."
STARR ON THE AUTOPSY
There are many discrepancies having to do with the autopsy that were known prior to Starr's report. However, he introduces a new misleading statement. Referring to the publicly-available report written by the senior of four Park Police to attend the 10 AM autopsy on July 21, Starr (page 28) quotes from it: "After briefing [the autopsy doctor] with the available information surrounding the crime scene and the victim he started the autopsy on the victim."
This leaves the reader with the impression that the four Park Police officials were present at the beginning of the autopsy just as they were supposed to have been. Not so. Starr does not quote these lines from the Park Police Report: "Prior to our arrival, the victim's tongue had been removed as well as parts of the soft tissue from the pallet [sic.]"
This is a potentially important omission since the work done before the arrival of the Park Police was central to an autopsy of a man who was said to have pressed a gun against his soft palate and pulled the trigger. Does Livingstone's statement in the March 1998 interview that Foster had been taken from the body bag and his clothing removed prior to the viewing of the body by him and Kennedy have any relevance to the time the autopsy actually commenced?
The Starr quote also gives the impression, without saying so directly, that some or all of the four Park Police officials had been present at the body site the night before. None of the Park Police officers at the autopsy had been present at the body site the night before. Why not?
The Investigators who would normally attend the autopsy had confirmed with the autopsy doctor that morning that the autopsy would not take place until the July 22 and had gone home to get some sleep after a long day and a long night.
The date of the autopsy was later moved up from July 22 to July 21, apparently due to the desires of the White House. This prevented anyone who had viewed the body and its injuries at the park from also seeing the body at the autopsy (a useful cross-check for all those involved in the investigation and thus a standard police procedure).
A Salient Omission
Starr (pages 31 and 32) also quoted selectively from the Park Police report in describing what the doctor told the Park Police: "There was no evidence of bullet fragments in the head." This is misleading. The entire quote from the Park Police Report: "[The doctor] stated that X-rays indicated that there was no evidence of bullet fragments in the head."
The part about the x-rays is significant since the doctor later stated under oath that he took no x-rays (even though he had indicated within the autopsy report that he did take x-rays). The fatal bullet has never been located, in the brain, at the park, or anywhere else, despite multiple searches at the park (one lasting seven weeks) and the autopsy doctor having dissected the entire fresh brain using one-eighth inch slices. Starr (page 76) states that it was not known "until near the end of the autopsy that the [x-ray] machine did not expose the film."
Skepticism aside for a moment, assuming this event happened as Starr reports, the four Park Police personnel present when the autopsy doctor and his assistant discovered that the x-ray machine was not working could hardly have failed to learn at the same time that the x-ray machine was not working. We are asked to believe, however, that the senior Park Police officer present wrote in his report that the autopsy doctor "stated that X-rays indicated there was no evidence of bullet fragments in the head"?
THE FOSTER HONDA --
"EVIDENTLY" STARR HAS A PROBLEM
When Did Foster's Honda Arrive At Fort Marcy Park?
Starr's gives the reader the impression that Foster's gray 1989 four-door Honda Accord LX sedan arrived at the park prior to 4:30 PM on July 20, perhaps as early as 3:00 PM, or perhaps even earlier. However, numerous witness accounts ignored by Starr consistently indicate that the vehicle Starr refers to as Foster's Honda was actually not Foster's.
The parking lot at Fort Marcy is a quite small one with only about 20 spaces, all of which are located on the left side as one drives into the lot. The presence or absence of a given car in this lot would be hard to miss, especially if there were only two or three cars therein.
This is an important point since all the official reports indicate that Foster drove himself to Fort Marcy park in his gray four-door1989 Honda Accord LX sedan before committing suicide in the extreme northwest corner of the earthen-walled fort. The consensus in the record indicates a time of death roughly halfway between 1:10 PM when Foster left the White House and 5:45 PM, the time his body was officially discovered.
If Foster's Honda did not arrive at Fort Marcy Park until well after Foster was dead, the theory of the death advanced in all the official reports is obviously in error, to say the least.
Starr Caught In The Act
Starr (pages 20-21) makes much of a witness [C1, a CIA employee] who saw a "dark metallic gray, Japanese sedan occupied by a single, white male" take the Fort Marcy Park exit from the George Washington Memorial Parkway between 2:45 and 3:05 PM on the day of Foster's death, suppressing the most salient fact: that C1 himself, when interviewed by the FBI, made it clear that the car he had seen could not have been Foster's 1989 four-door metallic gray Honda Accord LX sedan with Arkansas plates.
According to the FBI, "[C1] once again reiterated the fact that the license plate he observed had the name of the state located in the lower right hand corner of the plate, further stating that since the Arkansas plate has, in bold letters, the name of the state at the top of the plate, he would have clearly remembered the identification of the state. . . [The car he saw was] definitely not [the one in the] photo of car [he was] exhibited. The license plate [was] definitely not the same." Thus, Starr to the contrary, there is no evidence that Mr. Foster's Honda entered Fort Marcy around 3:00 PM. Why did Starr use this much space in his report to describe a car that could not possibly have been Foster's unless he was desperate to put forward any witness whose account might place Foster's Honda at the park that afternoon before the body was first discovered around 5:45 PM?
Who Will Rid Me Of This Inconvenient Witness?
Starr next reports the statement (pages 21-22) of a witness regarding a car he had seen in the Fort Marcy Parking lot from 4:30 to 4:35 PM: "[C2; Patrick Knowlton] saw one unoccupied car, which he described as a "rust brown colored car with Arkansas plates" [Knowlton had reported "a brown foreign car with Arkansas plates" when he called the US Park Police shortly after the death].
Without more, someone reading Starr's report could be forgiven for thinking that Knowlton's description corresponds fairly well to Foster's 1989 Honda since Foster's Honda, after all, did have an Arkansas license plate.
Curiously, Starr chose not to report that Mr. Knowlton was emphatic in all his FBI interviews (and when under oath before the Whitewater grand jury) that the vehicle he saw could not have been Mr. Foster's Honda because, although the vehicle he saw was a Honda Accord with Arkansas plates, it was not at all similar in color to Foster's 1989 Honda Accord ["Asturias Gray," a pure medium gray according to Honda's records] and was roughly five years older than Mr. Foster's 1989 model.
When he was shown photos of Foster's car by the FBI, Knowlton repeated that the car in the photo was not the car he had seen in Fort Marcy park. Mr. Knowlton was even asked whether the car in question was an LX model, as Foster's Honda was, and he replied that the Honda he saw had not been an LX model.
When escorted to the FBI paint lab, Knowlton picked out two color panels (same color) as the color of the Honda he had seen in the parking lot about 75 minutes before Foster's body was discovered. The dull brown color in question was only offered by Honda in 1983 and 1984, thereby independently corroborating Knowlton's prior estimate of the vehicle's age.
Mr. Knowlton also described several other aspects of this vehicle that did not correspond to the Foster Honda that was "officially" in the parking lot. Thus, it appears that Foster's Honda was not at Fort Marcy by 4:30 PM, though an innocent reader of Starr's report would reach the opposite impression.
Mr. Knowlton was severely harassed for telling the truth, lodged a civil suit against the government agents involved, and was able to convince Starr's bosses to make his 20-page filing legally as much a part of the Starr Report as if the OIC had written it (See above).
Damn Civilian Witnesses!
Starr next reports (page 22) a small portion of the information provided by a couple [C3 & C4; "the couple"] who pulled into the Fort Marcy Parking lot at about 5:00 PM and remained sitting in their white four-door 1992 Nissan with Maryland plates until about 5:30-5:45 PM when they left the lot and walked southeast into the woods. Curiously, Starr chose not report the descriptions they provided of the only other car that was in the parking lot when they arrived (which was still there when C3 and C4 left the parking lot and walked into the woods).
The reason for Starr's omission? Officially, Foster's car was the only other vehicle parked in the lot at the time and both these witnesses describe a car that, while not corresponding to Foster's 1989 gray Honda, corresponds quite well with the description provided by Knowlton of the vehicle he had seen from 4:30 to 4:35 PM.
The couple told the FBI that "the only vehicle in the parking area was a relatively old (mid-1980's) Honda, possibly a Honda Accord." The FBI interview notes of the couple stated that the vehicle in question was a "tannish/dark color." The car was also described by the Bureau in the couple's interview reports as "a small station wagon or hatchback model, brownish in color" and also as a "brown car."
Thus, it appears that Mr. Foster's gray Honda had not been observed at Fort Marcy by about 5:30 PM. Starr also fails to tell us that this couple reported the presence of two men in and around the "brown car" to the FBI -- one man was in the driver's seat and the other had put the hood up. Since Starr would have us believe that this brown car was Mr. Foster's vehicle, why did he think the presence of the two men in and around Foster's car about 20-30 minutes before his body was found not worth mentioning? Perhaps Starr agrees with his predecessor about this couple: Robert Fiske reported "Neither individual. . . observed anything unusual" (Fiske Report, page 35).
In a bizarre tour de force, the Park Police interview of the couple on the afternoon of the death provides no description whatsoever of the vehicle in question, except to gratuitously describe it as the "deceased's vehicle"! Perhaps it is no coincidence that C4, when shown her Park Police interview report for the first time, told the FBI that the Park Police report had not accurately reflected what she had told the Park Police about the cars in the parking lot. . . This amazing direct evidence that prior official reports had been altered was completely ignored by Starr.
Although, based on the evidence presented here that Foster's gray Honda was not present in the parking lot before the couple left the lot for their walk in the woods, the Starr report, in footnote 199, implies they told the investigators they did see Mr. Foster's Honda: "According to the reports of their interviews at the scene on July 20, 1993, C3 and C4 did not see anyone in or touching Mr. Foster's car [emphasis added]." Starr is citing the July 20, 1993, Park Police interview report -- the same interview that C4 later told the FBI did not accurately reflect what she had reported to the Park Police!
The "Confidential Witness"
Starr next describes a highly selective portion of what another witness [C5, termed the "Confidential Witness" in the Fiske Report since he made a formal request, which was respected in the record, unlike what happened to the other civilian witnesses. During the Park Police investigation, he was known simply as "the man in the white van"] reported seeing that afternoon in Fort Marcy Park when he arrived around 5:40 PM.
This is the man who officially first discovered Foster's body in the far northwest corner of Fort Marcy, some 750 feet from the parking lot, at about 5:45 PM. This "confidential witness" was not interviewed by the Park Police since he did not come forward until some eight months after the Park Police investigation had ended.
Starr also omits C5's description of the vehicle in the parking lot that afternoon -- the car that was officially Foster's Honda but, apparently, was not. This witness "described this vehicle as a compact Japanese made sedan, color possibly light blue or tan. . ." in his first FBI interview.
In his second interview, C5 described the vehicle "as light tan or light brown Japanese vehicle which could have been a Nissan, Toyota, or possibly a Honda." When shown photographs of the Foster's Honda, this witness told the FBI that he could not identify it. He later described the vehicle he had seen under oath as a "light brown or cream colored Japanese made car," next as "brown [not "light brown"] or cream colored. . ."
This witness came forward publicly to radio host G. Gordon Liddy in March 1994. He described the vehicle in the parking lot that was officially Foster's gray Honda to Liddy as "a light brown or cream colored Japanese-made car." He told Liddy that he had decided to come forward because he had heard of a story in the March 14, 1994, in the New York Daily News which stated that the two Park Service workers, to whom the witness had reported the body just before 6 PM on July 20, 1993, were now denying that the confidential witness ever existed.
There being no phone at Fort Marcy, the witness had driven almost three miles northwest on the George Washington Memorial Parkway to the Turkey Run maintenance facility and asked two workers he found there to call 911. They did so at 5:59:59 PM, but did not obtain the witness's name or the license plate number of his white construction van.
This witness told Liddy that the newspaper article had said that the two workers "were now stating that they had snuck off down to the park to have a drink, found the body, and made up the story about [me]. I became very, very concerned about my personal safety. If someone could make two career employees fabricate a story like that, then that same person that could have that power. . . would be looking for me."
Liddy then asked him, "You were ready to commit suicide just yet, were you?" and he answered, "No sir." Liddy's FBI interview states that the witness had "a strongly expressed fear for his life." Thus, based on the description provided by witness C5, it appears that Foster's gray Honda had not arrived in the park as of about 5:50 PM or so, even though the body had been discovered by that time.
The "Mercedes" Of Witnesses
Starr next mentions a witness [C6, the last civilian witness cited by Starr] whose blue Mercedes had broken down on the George Washington Memorial Parkway and coasted to a stop on the exit ramp to Fort Marcy, but Starr does not tell us anything about the vehicle, officially said to have been Foster's gray Honda, which she saw in the parking lot at about 6:00 PM when she walked up to the lot looking unsuccessfully for a pay phone so that she could call a tow truck.
This witness was interviewed by the Park Police and reported that the vehicle in question was (the total description) "a lighter gray or silver," according to the handwritten notes of her Park Police interview on August 5, 1993. This information on the car does not appear, however, in any of the publicly-available typed Park Police reports on the death, but her FBI typed interview report essentially duplicates the vehicle's description from the handwritten Park Police interview: "light gray or silver in color."
Thus, this witness appears, based on at least some of the underlying investigative record, to have been the first witness to report the presence of a car in the Fort Marcy parking lot that could have been Foster's medium gray Honda. Why didn't Starr mention this description, the first that appears to back of his claims that Foster's car was in the parking lot at Fort Marcy? Perhaps because the description recorded by the Park Police is bogus and not substantiated by what the driver of the broken-down Mercedes actually told the FBI.
Two journalists working independently (the latter at my direct suggestion), interviewed C6 separately. She described the vehicle in question to them in the following way: "tannish brown" (to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard) and "light tan or brown" (to the other reporter) "Are you sure?" Evans-Pritchard asked, immediately after receiving her unhesitating description of the vehicle. "Oh, yes, quite sure," she told him.
Evans-Pritchard reports that he has had access to C6's handwritten FBI interview notes (the record upon which the typed FD-302 interview reports are based). Evans-Pritchard wrote, "The color is not even mentioned. It is obvious that the FBI inserted the words 'light grey' ['gray'] later." It would be interesting to see this handwritten FBI interview report to confirm this account; it is not in the original public record and not among the 389 pages of handwritten FBI interview notes freed up by a successful FOIA lawsuit in March 1996.
Damn Paramedic Witnesses!
It's now 10-15 minutes after Foster's body has been discovered and it appears there is little or no evidence that Foster's 1989 gray Honda is present in the parking lot and quite a lot of consistent evidence (even given the natural variations in descriptions generally provided by witnesses) that a brown car some five years older has been present in the lot since at least 4:30 PM.
The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department responded to the 6:00 PM 911 call with two units, Engine 1 and Medic 1, which arrived in the parking lot at 6:09:58 and 6:10:16 respectively, based on computerized time logs. The first Park Police unit to respond arrived in the lot very soon afterwards at 6:11:50 PM.
The contemporary "Narrative Report" keyed in by the lead paramedic describing what he saw as his emergency units pulled into the parking (ignored by Starr) lot would presumably be a good source of information about the civilian vehicles then in the lot (all the more so if it turns out that there is valid evidence that Park Police reports were altered at some point in the Foster death investigations, as suggested by C4's statement to the FBI mentioned above). So, what does the lead paramedic's report tell us?
"As we entered the park (Fort Marcy) we passed a light blue Mercedes w[ith]/its hazards on [emergency flashers]. No occupant in view [C6's Mercedes]. Went further up into the park and saw two other veh[icles]. Brwn [Brown] Honda AR Tags. And a white Nissan w[ith]/MD [Maryland] tags. No other people in the area. We split our crews one went on the north trail and the other on the south trail [searching for the body]."
The description of C6's Mercedes is accurate, including as to its position and the fact that its emergency flashers were on. The description of the "white Nissan with Maryland tags" is completely accurate as well (the car that C3 and C4 rode in to the park a bit after 5:00 PM; they were not present when the emergency units arrived because they left the parking lot using the "southern" trail shortly after 5:30 PM and were out of sight of the parking lot to the southeast. The search team that searched down the "southern" trail promptly found C3 and C4.
Witnesses can mistake and misremember vehicle colors. However, given the volume and consistency of the witness descriptions through the arrival of the first emergency units, it seems quite likely, at the least, that Foster's gray Honda had not put in an appearance by about 6:15 PM, some 30 minutes after his body had been found. Remember that, according to the manufacturer's records, Foster's car was a medium pure gray with no brown mixed in (that is, not "taupe" or a similar color).
The Park Police Report A Different Car
It is only after the arrival of the Park Police at Fort Marcy that we start to see traces of a gray Honda. The transition from the dull brown 1983-84 vehicle to Foster's 1989 grey car is ignored by Starr. The "beat cop" was the second US Park Police Officer to arrive at Fort Marcy Park (the first officer to arrive in the parking lot -- about two minutes behind the paramedics and who was the first official to locate the body -- did not make any written report).
The beat cop's report, dated July 20, 1993, states: "A gray/brown Nissan 4dr with Arkansas Registration RCN504 was parked in the 4th space from the front of the parking lot." This was the location that prior witnesses had reported being occupied by the "brown car." The plate on the Foster Honda was indeed RCN-504. Unlike those of many officers, the beat cop's handwritten notes are not produced in the official record.
The Park Police handwritten notes indicating that C6 had seen a "lighter gray or silver" car in the lot at 6:00 PM were not made until August 5, so the beat cop's report is the first mention of a vehicle in the parking lot with any gray to it. The report written by the lead Park Police investigator at the body site who reached the park about 6:35 PM reports the presence of "a 1989 gray Honda Accord, 4 door, with Arkansas license plates RCN-504." The report by the Park Police Evidence Technician who photographed the car refers to "the 4dr, grey, Honda Accord bearing Arkansas tags RCN 504." The transitional "gray/brown" reported by the beat cop has vanished. The next Park Police Report in their case file jacket was written by the investigator who interviewed both the witnesses that Starr later referred to as C3 and C4 in 1997. This report was written sometime after about 6:45 PM.
Amazingly, the vehicle that had been consistently brown and apparently now is gray (and right there in the lot before the eyes of the investigator, C3, and C4 -- the only civilian vehicle in the small parking lot except their own white Nissan) is described only as "the deceased's vehicle" and there is no indication whatsoever in the report that C3 and C4 were asked the obvious question: "See that [brown or gray -- take your pick] car parked over there? Is that the same car you saw in the lot before you went off into the woods?"
It is also clear from the record that the couple was first interviewed by another Park Police officer (officially the third officer to reach the park) while they were still in the woods. When interviewed by the FBI, this officer (who did not file a report) remembered little of what the couple told her even though she remembers asking them about the cars in the lot. The officer's FBI interview describes the vehicle in question in the parking lot: "[The officer] cannot recall the color or make of the vehicle, but does remember it had Arkansas tags on it." She did remember the white color of the couple's Nissan, however.
Curiously, a third Park Police investigator, who spent two and a half hours on scene later wrote a typed report that provides chapter and verse on the disabled Mercedes several hundred feet away from the parking lot (description, license plate number, name of the owner from DMV records, name of the tow truck driver, his company and phone number, the time the call to tow the Mercedes came in, ad nauseam) but not a word about any vehicle in the parking lot.
The real-time handwritten notes of the designated Park Police note-taker at Fort Marcy Park have a description of Foster's Honda (1993 four door Honda Accord sedan, LX Model, license AR RCN-504) that gives exactly the same incorrect color as the beat cop's report ("gray/brown").
The six paramedics and firefighters who had responded to the 911 call all left from the body after confirming the victim was dead and spent several minutes in the parking lot before departing Fort Marcy prior to the arrival of the Park Police investigators at about 6:35 PM. The record is clear that the Park Police recorded their names and other ID data.
Presumably these six professionals could have provided relevant information to the Park Police about the condition of the body, the site where it was found, what they saw in the parking lot, and so forth. All six had, of course, arrived in the parking lot one or two minutes before the first Park Police officer arrived. What did these emergency personnel have to say when the Park Police interviewed them in the course of the 17-day Park Police death investigation? Nothing -- the Park Police interviewed none of them, not about the body, the parking lot, nor anything else!.
How Now, Brown Car?
Since the information above makes it apparent that there was a brown car in the parking lot for an extended period of time that clearly was not Mr. Foster's gray Honda, is there anything in the record that indicates what happened to this brown vehicle and anything indicating when Mr. Foster's gray Honda did appear (assuming C6's statements to the Park Police and to the FBI about a light gray car being in the lot at about 6:00 PM can be ignored for the reasons given above)?
One of the two paramedics who reached the body immediately after the first police officer was pretty specific about a car he saw in the parking lot at Fort Marcy at about 6:15 PM, a car that never existed as far as the official reports are concerned. Here is the paramedic's exchange with a Senate investigator (the paramedic is under oath):
Q: Do you remember seeing an unoccupied car with the engine running in the parking lot?
A: Yes. It was speculation between all of us that it was the car in the lot running.
"It was the car in the lot running"? What's the "it" refer to? The car is right in front of them, why bother to speculate whether its engine is running? Was the speculation instead that "it" (this car) was somehow related to the victim? Why else would the paramedics speculate about a car in the parking lot?
Was this the brown car with the AR license plate, fired up and ready to leave the lot, but prevented from doing so because the two paramedic vehicles and the Park Police car were rolling up the long driveway into the parking lot? What would link the brown car to the (supposed) suicide victim they had just seen dead in the park -- the presence of an Arkansas license plate, perhaps?
More than one FBI interview of the Fairfax County emergency workers has them clustered around a car in the lot (officially Foster's) speculating that it belong to the dead guy ("Several jokes were made regarding the Clinton Administration and it was further alluded to that the victim was someone who had not gotten a job in the Administration. The vehicle with Arkansas plates was described to be a business kind of car [meaning?]."
Remember that in-charge paramedic's Narrative Report recorded the presence of two vehicles in the lot as his units rolled up the driveway into Fort Marcy's parking lot, including a Brown Honda with Arkansas tags. Was this that vehicle? The initial FBI interview of the paramedic above who saw the car with the engine running also has the following statement: "Upon arriving at Fort Marcy Park, [this paramedic] noticed an unoccupied brown [emphasis] car with the engine running in the parking lot. He noted that the car was not parked in a space." He also did not recall whether this car was still in the lot when the paramedics departed the parking lot at 6:37 PM to return to the station.
This paramedic is not the only person to notice this vehicle. According to another Fairfax County emergency worker with the first group who entered the park that night (bear in mind the Park Police made a decision to interview none of these individuals): "Upon entering Fort Marcy Park, [this female emergency worker] recalls seeing one car in the parking area with its hazard lights on. [She] remembers that the engine was running, noting that the car was unoccupied."
The FBI indicates that the car she saw with its engine running was not the car with the Arkansas license plate (officially, Foster's Honda), but there was only one other car clearly in the lot at the time and it did not have Arkansas plates: the white Nissan with Maryland plates (C3's and C4's car). Even the first US Park Police officer to locate the body indicated there were more than two civilian vehicles (officially only Foster's gray Honda and the white Nissan were present) in the parking lot when he arrived.
Still another paramedic referred (in his FBI interview) to: "Car (red?) with hazard lights in park. . . Red [?] car gone when he left [the park]." "Red" is not that far from a "rusty brown" -- one of the color descriptions of the brown car seen by so many in the lot.
Some analysts, based on a crude map in the record, have thought it possible that this emergency worker who mentioned a "car (red?)" could have been referring to the blue Mercedes (its hazard lights were flashing) that was a couple of hundred yards away from the parking lot, down on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, but the red-blue color difference aside, it is clear from the official records that the emergency workers had left the park at about 6:37 PM ("Available on Radio" call made -- unit ready for next call) arriving back at the fire station at about 6:45 PM ("Available in Quarters").
The Mercedes was still in its original location until sometime after 7:00 PM when it was towed. It is apparent that the Mercedes was not "gone when he left the park" and therefore he could not have been referring to the Mercedes.
Thus, it seems clear that there was indeed a mid-eighties brown car with Arkansas plates in the Fort Marcy Parking lot for an extended period that afternoon. It appears to have departed the parking lot at about 6:25 PM or so. This car is ignored in the official reports. It was also not Mr. Foster's gray 1989 Honda Accord.
It is less clear when the gray Foster Honda arrived in the parking lot because there appears to be an intention in the record to make everyone believe that the gray Honda was in the parking lot sometime from mid-afternoon onward.
Better Late Than Never -- Foster Honda Actually Appears At Fort Marcy?
Perhaps the most telling evidence about the arrival of the gray Honda is the contemporary notes of the Park Police shift commander who appeared in the parking lot at about 6:25 PM. He made a short note about an unusual vehicle in the parking lot: "Engine warm on vehicle," thereby presumably implying that the vehicle in question had had its engine running very recently. He does not indicate that the engine "was running" so his note apparently does not refer to the brown car in the lot a few minutes earlier, not in a parking space, with its engine running.
The shift commander's notes reveal nothing else about the vehicle with the warm engine, in itself a surprising omission. When he was interviewed by the FBI in 1994 as a part of the investigation conducted by regulatory counsel Robert Fiske, the questions about this vehicle were apparently cryptic, perhaps because the combined Park Police/FBI investigation immediately after the death had concluded that Foster committed suicide in the park with no evidence of foul play. Fiske's FBI agents were reviewing conclusions previously reached by the team of FBI agents who had worked with the Park Police.
According to the FBI interview, the Park Police shift commander's only comments about the vehicle with the warm engine (no other descriptors, etc.) were "Engine warm on vehicle. Who checked possibly [he names the two lead Park Police Investigators who arrived in the parking lot at about 6:40 PM, after the emergency workers had left the park] probably just checked hood."
The two investigators presumably did not notice a warm engine on the brown car that had left the parking lot before the emergency workers did (and thus before the investigators arrived in the park), so the best evidence in the record, taken as a whole, may well indicate that Foster's car did not arrive (at the earliest) prior to about 6:25 PM, perhaps overlapping the brown car in the lot for a minute or so.
Any overlap would have allowed the driver of the departing brown car -- the one who had the car's engine running, ready to leave the lot when the emergency workers drove up the long driveway to the lot and kept him from leaving -- to give a lift to the person who drove the gray Honda to the park.
If you believe this long series of witness observations makes it reasonable for Starr (and Fiske) to have actively investigated (rather than ignore) whether a brown car, not Foster's gray Honda, was present in the parking lot for much of the afternoon before departing sometime after 6:00 PM, you also have to ask yourself who drove this car to the lot, who drove it out, and what activities did the driver undertake while in the park.
Mr. Starr's report reflects poorly on him and the others who prepared it.
I provided the Starr OIC a copy of my long report on the death in July 1995 and was told in person and over the phone by three different Star investigators to keep my subsequent analyses flowing to the OIC. I did so. Two of the investigators (and I have no reason to doubt them) told me that my report had been disseminated among the team investigating the Foster death and that all of them had a personal copy to read. A reporter friend of mine saw some of these copies of my report and told me, "Hugh, they must be reading it. I see yellow highlighter all over the pages."
I sent my Foster analyses, reports, and articles to the OIC for two, partially conflicting reasons. First, I thought it proper to give the OIC the "benefit of the doubt" regarding its Foster investigation long after I had a pretty good idea what was going on. In short, as best I could, I wanted to hold Starr's "feet to the fire" in the hopes that the OIC would eventually realize it could not get away with producing another fiasco like the Fiske Report. I did not succeed.
The second reason I sent what I did to the OIC was to keep anyone at the OIC (should what I believe to be the truth about this investigation become widely known) from being able to plead ignorance by claiming important items buried in the thousands of pages of the official record were simply missed.
There is an unholy effort underway that spans the political spectrum in this country and involves almost all politicians, and nearly all those in the print and electronic media, who write and speak about the Foster death to ensure that the problems with the Starr Report I detail in this article remain unknown.
For the same two reasons that applied to the Starr OIC, I did the best I could to make my analyses known to these politicians and media folks, including printing some 250 copies of my long report on the Foster death at my own expense and transmitting them to various politicians and media types. My report is available from a number of copy shops as well as the worldwide web. I make not a dime from it. I have also made nearly 200 gratis radio and television appearances and written sixteen articles describing the major problems with the five public official reports on the Foster death.
I believe evidence of cover-up is blatant and easily detectable by anyone who cares to examine the underlying public investigative record. We should be concerned about the cover-up I believe is evident in the official reports for two reasons.
First -- where and why did Vince Foster die and are there implications for the political way of life in this country? Second, such a poor job was done with the Foster cover-up -- those in power must realize that if they can get away with this one, they can get away with pretty much anything they chose to slip by an apathetic public. They would be right, too.
As the bumper-sticker says "I love my country, but fear my government." Or to be more specific: I fear the actions of some rogue elements within my government, even if they are merely some bad apples who have not yet spoiled the rest of the barrel.
As for myself, as I have said in print and on national television, I object that these government reports on the Foster death were done, however indirectly, in my name. We may yet prove ourselves to be a nation of sheep. Even if that sorry result comes to pass, sheep still deserve to be watched over by sheep dogs, not wolves.
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About The Author
Hugh Sprunt is a CPA and Attorney in Farmers Branch, Texas. Investigating the Foster case has been an avocation of his since the July 20, 1993, death. His ~380-page report on the death is available for the cost of copying and shipping only from print shops (Try 301-937-6500).
He serves on the legal team of Foster federal grand jury witness Patrick Knowlton (Attorney-of-Record, John H. Clarke, Washington DC, 202-332-3030). Mr. Sprunt has also been a guest on some 200 radio and television programs concerning the Foster death, including appearances on CBN, A&E, MSNBC, C-SPAN, and NET.
His work has been utilized by the authors of two books on the Foster death published in late 1997, Chris Ruddy's The Strange Death of Vincent Foster and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's The Secret Life of Bill Clinton. Mr. Sprunt was interviewed at length in 1996 by the Starr OIC in Washington. His Foster work also put him on the cover of The New York Times Magazine earlier this year.
[Unlike the 380-page "Citizen's Independent Report" on the Foster death, this article was written and published for a popular audience and therefore does not include citations to the underlying government investigative record of the Foster death. These citations are available upon request.
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