On March 30, retired FBI agent Lin Devecchio was indicted in Brooklyn for what prosecutor Michael Vecchione calls “one of the worst cases of law enforcement corruption in the history of this country.” Specifically, Devecchio has been accused of taking bribes from a mobster, the late Gregory Scarpa Sr., in return for inside information that led to four gangland-style murders in Brooklyn.
The man most responsible for Devecchio’s indictment is a Michigan-based forensic economist by the name of Stephen Dresch. A former college dean and state representative, Dresch has been very helpful to me in the Ron Brown investigation and in my Oklahoma City follow-up work. Although now dying of lung cancer, the extraordinary Mr. Dresch and his partner in crime-busting, private investigator Angela Clemente, all but willed the indictment through Congress and to fruition in a New York State court.
Although the Devecchio indictment got huge press in the New York area, the local media missed its larger ramifications. Reporter Peter Lance has not. In his 2004 book, “Cover Up: What the Government Is Still Hiding About the War on Terror,” Lance argued that the FBI’s troubled relationship with Scarpa and his son, Gregory Jr., caused it to shut down its inquiry into the destruction of TWA Flight 800 in July 1996. “This [indictment] could blow open the 9-11 investigation,” says Lance.
A former correspondent for ABC News and a five-time Emmy winner, Lance has detailed the exquisitely documented communications between Scarpa Jr., an FBI informant like his father, and his New York City jail mate, Ramzi Yousef. In fact, the Brooklyn prosecutors met with Lance in September and used “Cover Up” as the blueprint for their grand jury investigation.
In the summer of 1996, Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was being held for trial in New York for the notorious Bojinka plot, his plan to blow up a dozen American commercial airliners over the Pacific more or less simultaneously – a plan that he was scarily capable of executing. Over time, Yousef had grown to trust the younger Scarpa, his neighbor in the next cell.
Yousef used Junior’s connections to pass information to the outside world, little knowing that Scarpa was routing much of it through his own FBI handlers. Some of that information had to do with Yousef’s ongoing plans to destroy a 747. Yousef told Scarpa that if there were to be a terrorist attack on such a plane during his Bojinka trial, it would surely prejudice the jurors against him, and Yousef would ask for a mistrial on those very grounds.
As Lance makes clear, Youself was part of the larger al-Qaida network – its evil genius. His uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, with whom Yousef communicated from his jail cell, coordinated the 9-11 plot. And Yousef talked often to Scarpa about Osama bin Laden, also under the code name – as Scarpa heard it – of “Bojinga.”
Dresch has testified before the House Judiciary Committee and elsewhere that Scarpa Jr. passed along to the FBI detailed information from Yousef, including specific threats against U.S. airlines, the identity of countries through which terrorists were entering the United States, and instructions for smuggling explosives, specifically the use of shoe bombs.
A letter I received in the spring of 2005 from a self-reporting NSA employee identified the key language of communication as Baluchi, the native tongue of Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. That same source identified one Yousef transmission as follows: “What had to be done has been done, TWA 800 (last two words unintelligible).”]
What is undeniable is that the day after TWA Flight 800 blew up off the coast of Long Island, Yousef asked for a mistrial, citing the now prejudicial environment post-explosion. He was denied. By allowing him to communicate overseas, however, the Justice Department may well have unwittingly assisted Yousef in his effort to destroy that ill-fated plane.
That same year, 1996, Devecchio was coming under increasing heat for his relationship with the Scarpas, but the New York FBI office rallied to his defense. Lance has unearthed a revealing memo sent in April of that year by Jim Kallstrom, who now serves on the “advisory board” for Devecchio’s defense and who headed up the TWA Flight 800 investigation, to FBI Director Louis Freeh.
“There is insufficient evidence to take prosecutive action against SSA DelVecchio [sic],” writes Kallstrom. He adds that the failure to resolve the matter “continues to have a serious negative impact on the government’s prosecution of various LCN [La Cosa Nostra] figures in the EDNY and casts a cloud over the NYO [New York office].” Devecchio was allowed to retire from the FBI with full benefits. Had his alleged corruption been exposed, these cases would have been undone, and many of the convicted would have been freed. Exposure would also have unraveled the FBI’s efforts to track Yousef’s communications.
Although the FBI did not initiate the TWA Flight 800 cover-up – that surely came from the White House – the Devecchio problem may have induced its key agents to cooperate. After five weeks of dogged investigation, Kallstrom and the FBI abandoned all serious inquiry following an Aug. 22 meeting with Deputy Attorney General – and future 9-11 commisssioner – Jamie Gorelick.
The Justice Department cut Scarpa Jr. no slack for his help with Yousef and deep-sixed him in Colorado for 40 years, a severe sentence for a non-lethal RICO charge. There, he is kept all but incommunicado with the outside world. “It’s clear,” Lance told me last week, “that the feds covered up major al-Qaida activity in NYC in 1996 via Greg Jr. and buried him in the ADX Florence, in part, to cover up this Devecchio scandal.”
It should be noted that the FBI’s current chief counsel, Valerie Caproni, was the Clinton Justice official who oversaw Scarpa’s work with Yousef. To thicken the plot, it was also Caproni who illegally ordered the FBI to take the TWA Flight 800 investigation away from the National Transportation Safety Board and who arranged the prosecution of James and Elizabeth Sanders for James Sanders’ reporting on the TWA Flight 800 investigation. The absurdly compromised Caproni had any number of reasons for keeping Scarpa out of the light and the Devecchio case under wraps.
Although Dresch acknowledges that FBI agents like Devecchio inevitably rationalize their behavior as serving some larger purpose, he has grown increasing cynical about the self-perpetuating federal criminal-justice system.
“No matter how horrendous something you do is, if you’re a high-level operative it’ll be brushed aside and you’ll be promoted,” says Dresch. “What I hope, before this thing is over, is something of the outline of the broader story exposed … and I think it will be.”
About Mega Fix: In this stunning, surprisingly entertaining, 90-minute DVD video documentary, Emmy-award-winning filmmaker Jack Cashill traces the roots of Sept. 11 to the perfect storm of disinformation that surrounded the Clintons’ desperate drive for the White House in the years 1995-1996.
Cashill leads the viewer from Oklahoma City to Dubrovnik, where Ron Brown’s plane crashed, to the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia to the destruction of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island to the Olympic Park bombing.
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