Nearly twenty five years ago, Danny Casolaro was found dead in his hotel bathtub. His wrists had been cut and the tendons severed, a bag had been tied around his head, his arm was bruised, bloody bath water had been splashed against the wall and onto the floor, his drinking glass was broken and his briefcase missing. His death was ruled a suicide by the local police and the Department of Justice, despite the firm disagreement of his friends and family.
This article will not rehash the circumstances of his death or his investigation into the Inslaw affair and related matters. Instead, the focus will be on the false alibi of the primary suspect in Danny Casolaro’s death and what investigating FBI agents actually thought about Danny’s death, as revealed by a previously secret document from the Department of Justice.
On the day Mr. Casolaro died, August 10, 1991, Cuellar was in Washington, D.C., working on his “outprocessing” from Desert Storm, and his “in-processing” into the Southern Command. Several witnesses have verified that he was in Washington on August 10, 1991.
The Bua Report is dated March 1993. A memo from February 1994, however, tells an entirely different story:
Cuellar advised that three (3) to four (4) weeks prior to Casolaro’s death, he left for Panama and was advised of Casolaro’s death through a phone call to Lynn Knowles. Cuellar returned from Panama to attend Casolaro’s funeral.
These two versions of events are irreconcilable. Cuellar’s initial claim, and apparently verified alibi, was that he was in Washington D.C. on the day Danny died, a two hour drive from where he had died early in the morning. The later assertion that he had been in Panama for weeks is impossible to attribute to misremembering. To date, there is no evidence that the Department of Justice ever investigated the change in Cuellar’s alibi, nor was it publicly reported on. The documentation was only recently obtained as part of a Special Access Review with the National Archives.
A previously secret document from a BCCI/BNL task force that was obtained through the same Special Access Review also reveals that many FBI agents doubted the conclusion of suicide, that they met with resistance while investigating the matter and felt their careers were being put at risk.
However, despite my request for a complete and unredacted copy of the [Bua] report, I was only able to review the public version that was deleted of all 6(e) material, a great deal of which was provided in connection with matters and witnesses previously linked to the alleged BCCI connection (pages 39-60 of the redacted Bua report).
Some questions remain in my mind about the Casolaro death and his allegations. Before the Task Force was broken up, I asked each of the agents for his or her subjective, off-the-record view of the case. At least half of them thought the matter should be further pursued and questioned the conclusion of a suicide. I thought that level of doubt was especially significant, because even at that time (December 1992), it was clear that to express those views risked one’s own judgment being called into question. Last Fall, when the agents attempted to learn about the Casolaro case, they met with almost complete resistance from the Martinsburg police and prosecutor’s office. Recently, however, the FBI agent in Pittsburgh who covers the Martinsburg area has told a WMFO agent that the local officials simply felt besieged by outsiders, many of whom were criticizing the way that Casolaro ‘s death was being investigated. The Pittsburgh agent claims that Martinsburg handled the case properly (though he never did his own investigation) and has invited us to make a visit there.
The inquiry into Casolaro’s death by the BCCI Task Force began before my arrival, and I supported it thereafter. I believe from my own review of Casolaro’s notes that if he was murdered, venue for an ITAR investigation would properly lie in any of three districts – Los Angeles, Martinsburg, or Washington (and possibly E.D. Va.). Of course, for purposes of this investigation, the larger question is whether his death was connected in any way to the recent pronouncements he had made about finding a BCCI link, whether or not there was any factual basis for his theory. Assuming Casolaro did commit suicide, it would still be important to know if he had received threats related to his claim of having uncovered a BCCI connection.
I want to emphasize that I am not criticizing the Inslaw report prepared by Judge Bua. His focus was on Inslaw, and a key figure for him was John Nichols. In contrast, Robert Booth Nichols seems to have warranted little attention. For our purposes, however, it is Robert Booth Nichols who may be an important witness. Given the fact that Nichols threatened an FBI agent who was apparently not interviewed by Judge Bua, an agent who later told Congressional investigators he actually knew more than he was able to reveal to them, and given the fact that Casolaro ‘s death occurred shortly after Casolaro met with Nichols, received threats himself, and then claimed to have found a link to the BCCI investigation, and given the fact that there certainly are persons who figure into the 1980 hostage negotiations, Iran-contra, and BCCI, I feel we need to pursue the actions noted below.
- Review an unredacted copy of the pertinent parts of the report by Judge Bua, or at least ascertain any information available in the full version about BCCI or Robert Booth Nichols.
- Interview S/A Gates of the FBI.
- There have been allegations that a key source of Casolaro’s [Alan Standorf], an employee of the electronic surveillance station at Vint Hill Farm (Va.), was found murdered at National Airport shortly before Casolaro’s own death. An inquiry into this allegation was assigned by the WMFO but has remained pending for months. It needs to be completed in order to determine if there is any merit to the allegation.
- Interview James Starr, the GWU Professor of Law and Forensic Sciences who, according to Judge Bua, was “reported” to have reviewed the forensic investigation into Casolaro’s death (page 249).
- Interview Robert Booth Nichols.
- Visit Martinsburg and meet with local officials.
- Re-evaluation after #4 or #6, both in terms of the BCCI investigation and in terms of whether any basis exists for a separate federal ITAR case.
To date, none of the documents released indicate whether any of these steps were taken. 33,000 pages of documents related to Inslaw and the death of Danny Casolaro are still pending in the Special Access Review, along with repeated FOIA requests.
These new questions and contradictions further question the conclusion of suicide in the death of Danny Casolaro, and demonstrate the de facto coverup of the Department of Justice’s refusal to investigate contradictory alibis.