The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro By Kenn Thomas

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Writer Danny Casolaro was on the trail of the Octopus when he was found dead in a West Virginia hotel in 1991, becoming part of the most extraordinary political tale of the ’90s. The slashes in his wrists were too deep to be self-inflicted. The accordion file with his recent research was missing. He had told his family to be gravely suspicious if an accident befell him. Casolaro had been suicided.

Today, Casolaro’s “Octopus” – a transnational power bloc pursuing its own interests through subversion and overthrow of governments, dirty money and extra-electoral manipulation – has risen again. The players Casolaro identified in his research, including Iran-Contra spooks, Middle Eastern weapons merchants, double-dealing politicos, and terrorists, have reappeared.

The story begins with October Surprise, a trading-with-the-enemy scheme that set the stage for America’s quagmire in the Middle East. The tentacles of The Octopus attach themselves to the Inslaw affair, the theft of super-surveillance software used to spy on criminals and police alike. The grisly saga continues with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, both believed to be evading capture through the use of Inslaw’s PROMIS software.

What survived of Casolaro’s research fell into the hands of two writers, Kenn Thomas and Jim Keith. In 1996 the hardcover edition of The Octopus was released. In 1999, co-author Keith died, like Casolaro, under mysterious circumstances. This revised and updated edition, which continues Casolaro’s (and Keith’s) research with new chapters on Octopus involvements with the events of 9/11, may be the most comprehensive investigation into the tangle of international conspiracy.

“This book is the key for uncovering probably the greatest threat to freedom for the 21st Century.”
— Vince LoDato

“Compelling and believable… an immediate conspiracy classic.”
— John Strausbaugh, New York Press The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro

Regardless of whether you think Danny Casolaro died by his own hand or at the hands of others, the authors here manage to thread the eye of this conspiracy with enough loose ends to weave a phantasmagorical and surreal tapestry. Some of this is fact but much of it is definitely folklore. Within this slim volume you will find a conspiracy for every type of true believer: Dulce, New Mexico, and UFOs (p. 43), Pine Gap and the CIA manipulation of Australian elections (p. 44), alien autopsy (id), JFK assassination and Guy Bannister (retrieving a crashed UFO no less!!) (p. 45) , Operation Paperclip (p. 73), United fruit company, anti-communist ops in Albania after WWII, the CIA-sponsored coup in Guatemala. (pp. 72-73), BCCI (p. 2, 69, …), Italian Masonry and P2 (pp. 79-80), and naturally MK Ultra (p. 78) - no U.S. conspiracy book is complete without a mention of that dark rabbit hole. You will find everything from Canadian Mounties (pp. 144-45) to alleged connections with Princess Diana’s death! (Chapter 21) Plus the political dynasty that refuses to go away, those supreme villains of American political life, the Clintons! The authors cannot help but give a nod to Vince Foster and Whitewater. (see Chapter 20) Is drug smuggling via the Mena, Arkansas, airport somehow connected to the Octopus and Area 51? (see pp. 133, 137 fn. 8) Supposedly Michael Riconosciuto “told Mark Swaney, the head of a University of Arkansas student group responsible for a petition drive to investigate Mena, that he had been involved in developing chemical and biological weapons . . . on Cabazon tribal lands”. (p. 133) Riconosciuto is a character willing to blab to anyone and everyone - so why wasn’t he assassinated too? This appears a major inconsistency to my way of thinking. Bodies are piling up all around this guy, so in-the-know about this all-encompassing global network. I mean if having a mere “[a]quaintance with Riconosciuto may have been among the motives for . . . murder” (p. 145), then how is Riconosciuto still kicking? It starts to seem a little absurd to claim that Danny Casolaro - some two-bit wannabe - was murdered, yet some covert ops connected jailbird singing for anyone and everyone who cares to listen remains alive throughout the alleged scandal. These tall tales by now have been widely disseminated, heavily investigated, and run through the congressional mill and multiple ‘FBI guys’ to use the parlance of Die Hard. Even Inslaw’s Bill and Nancy Hamilton admit that at the time they were working with Casolaro, the ongoing investigations in the “House Judiciary committee [and] the permanent subcommittee on investigations” constituted “an extensive public record . . .” (p. 165) So what’s the big secret? Nancy Hamilton indicates that only “a week before he died . . . [Casolaro] finally got the final evidence on Inslaw . . .” This is the persistent myth of this case, the missing key piece of evidence that would reveal why anyone would bother to not only kill Casolaro but go to the trouble of making it look like a suicide. The authors make a big deal about the missing file Casolaro had with him just prior to his death. “The amount of attention and detail Casolaro brought to all this parahistory remains lost in the accordion file that disappeared at his death.” (p. 142) Yet some accounts appear to dispute the notion that Casolaro had any files with him at the time of his death, and the notes quoted here from Casolaro’s known files appear fairly tame and inconclusive, at least to me. Nevertheless the authors are not afraid to connect the dots to nearly every conspiracy connected event or figure in the 20th century and moving into the 21st. In a way I found this reassuring. I mean at least someone is steering this ship of fools, right? But where are they steering us? And who is doing the steering? You can pretty much add anyone you want to ‘the Octopus’ as certain sentences make clear- “Although not specifically named as a member of the Octopus by Casolaro, there is much to suggest that George H. W. Bush was part of the management of the Bay of Pigs invasion.” (p. 76) From here we can make the leap to the opium trade via the founder of the Skull & Bones secret society “in the 1800s”. These tentacles run deep. Richard Nixon is obviously “an Octopus puppet who may have had special knowledge regarding JFK’s death”. (p. 79) On the other hand, Ronald Reagan, though not called a ‘puppet’, is not a “favored son of the octopus” either. (p. 87) By the end I was hoping they had like a chart of historical or even still-living figures with different possible categories: Octopus - Puppet of Octopus - Non-Octopus - Anti-Octopus etc. As with all conspiracy tales or apocalyptic beliefs, there is a certain impenetrable and quite deadly logic at play here. I have read in another academic screed that the number of such conspiracy theories in circulation has been decreasing from the 1890s through 2010, but still this book feels timely, despite it being penned nearly 20 years ago. What with that Ozark show finale, the Hunter Biden laptop story, and ‘Russia, Russia, Russia!’ as a nonstop refrain for so many years, this is just how the world works, isn’t it? Is the show Ozark really about the Clintons I wonder?! I suppose there is a feeling in society (if you will allow me a certain poetical latitude) as if the world is becoming more rather than less corrupt. It certainly feels that way once you’ve entered the ‘Dark Wood’ of conspiracy theory and modern folklore. Casolaro got lost in the ‘Dark Wood’ and never found his way back home. This is how the folktale is told and it is of course quite bloody. This is a ghost story in a lot of ways, though the authors approach it like investigative journalism. There is a lot of hearsay, but this isn’t a court of law. If people stuck to what they could prove in court, there would be no books like this and no conspiracy theory. I was happy that this book had an index, it definitely lends ease of use. Nonetheless the footnotes could use some work. On page 79 footnote 34 leads to “Matrix III” as the source to support the following hyperbolic statement: “In 1976 it was revealed that Richard Helms had lied to the Warren Commission when he said that the CIA had not made contact with Lee Harvey Oswald (Freedom of Information Act documents showed otherwise), but George Bush used Agency pressure through a call to Associated Press to prevent the story from surfacing.” I realized later they mean a book and not the third in the Matrix movie trilogy. One wonders what else is cited incorrectly or misleadingly. A little additional research online casts doubt on the accuracy of the description as well - according to a FAIR website account, Helms only lied that the Agency never contemplated contacting Oswald, when it had discussed the idea. If the FAIR webpage is accurate, then the CIA never contacted Oswald, it only considered it. According to the same FAIR webpage, Bush only found out about the story after it was already published too, though the Agency did call to request the story be corrected and supposedly used an embedded Agency asset to suggest it not be published. Do the authors imagine other government bureaucrats, private pressure campaigns or PR firms work much differently? Who is really naive here? I’m sure Hilary Clinton has had her people making a few phone calls about the Russia business. [ see FAIR website story about the incident available at: ]
From here one might question some of the other information in this book. This is as such books operate, a lot of suggestive inferences drawn using circumstantial or even incomplete evidence. I have read some convincing debunking of Mark Lane (the famed JFK conspiracy theorist) - the authors here are not afraid to cite Lane as a reputable source, but supposedly Mr. Lane took Soviet cash to support his research. I admit after awhile the anti-Americanism on display becomes a little tiresome for me. It is clear that open societies are more vulnerable to disinformation, yet few conspiracy theorists will consider this even as a possibility. Another way to say this is that there are few conspiracy theorists in totalitarian societies, at least none allowed to be published. Still this book is entertaining. Things really get interesting when the discussion turns to Watergate, which it is suggested among a number of possibilities may have been a “setup” designed to stop “the Mafia-funded politician Richard Nixon” who according to Casolaro “was becoming impossible so far as the Octopus was concerned”. When Casolaro uses the Octopus here he means it synonymously with the CIA (pp. 81-82), but it seems like the definition can be fluid. To those unused to conspiracy lore a lot of this may seem either shocking or ludicrous, and I suspect that most people who would pick up this book are either experienced researchers or hard-core believers. Those familiar may know that Casolaro is not the only writer to have suggested Watergate as a “setup” of Nixon by the CIA. Is there any way out of this labyrinth of saturnalian twists and turns? Not for Casolaro sadly enough. Dear readers of this historical tome may, as I do, enjoy this as folklore, a campfire tale to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. The truth of that feeling is very human, and within this ‘Dark Wood’ of re-enchantment, beyond the realm of facts or dispute… The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro Unfortunately badly written and organized and full of easily noticed errors, this book discusses the death of independent journalist Danny Casolaro in 1991, who theoretically was writing a book about the Octopus, an all encompassing conspiracy theory that linked together every hinky CIA or government hijink from the Kennedy Assassination to the Gulf War. Although it appeared that Casolaro might have been partially on to something about various subjects, Occam's razor definitely seems to apply here in my opinion. Casolaro's death doesn't seem particularly suspicious, although perhaps he wanted it to seem so. We're left with bizarre, incredible theories, conspiracies, and a tangled web of unrelated things that were woven together by circumstance. Not recommended. If someone could untangle the narrative and write something coherent about the whole thing, it would be an interesting book. The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro This just in..... Paul Wilcher died from Covid-19. The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro