by J. Orlin Grabbe
The two men headed to the Hilton Hotel in Sherman Oaks, California in the late Spring of 1986 were on their way to meet representatives of the mujahadeen, the Afghan fighters resisting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
One of the two, Ted Gunderson, had had a distinguished career in the FBI, serving as some sort of supervisor over Special Agents in the early 60s, as head of the Dallas field office from 1973-75, and as head of the Los Angeles field office from 1977-1979. He retired to become an investigator for, among others, well-known attorney F. Lee Bailey. And all along the way, Gunderson, whether or not actually a CIA contract agent, had been around to provide services to various CIA and National Security Council operations, as he was doing now.
In more recent years Gunderson was to become controversial for his investigations into child prostitution rings, after he became convinced of the innocence of an Army medical doctor named Jeffrey McDonald, who had been convicted of the murder of his wife and three young children in the 1970s. This has led to various attempts by the patrons and operators of the child prostitution industry to smear Gunderson’s reputation.
Michael Riconosciuto was there to discuss assisting the mujahadeen with MANPADs—Man Portable Air Defense Systems. Stinger missiles were one possibility. If the U.S. would permit their export, Riconosciuto could modify the Stinger’s electronics, so the guided missile would still be effective against Soviet aircraft, but would not be a threat to U.S. or NATO forces.
But Riconosciuto had another idea. Through his connections with the Chinese industrial and military group Norinco, he could obtain the basic components for the unassembled Chinese 107 MM rocket system. These could be reconfigured into a man-portable, shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft guided missile sytem, and produced in Pakistan at a facility called the Pakistan Ordinance Works. The mujahadeen would then have a lethal weapon against Soviet helicopter, observation, and transport aircraft.
Riconosciuto was more than just an expert on missile electronics; he was also an expert on electronic computers and associated subjects such as cryptology (see my “Michael Riconosciuto on Encryption”).
Riconosciuto was a prodigy who had grown up in the spook community. The Riconosciuto family had once run Hercules, California, as a company town. In the early days (1861) a company called California Powder Works had been established in Santa Cruz, CA. It later purchased land on San Pablo Bay, and in 1881 started producing dynamite, locating buildings in gullies and ravines for safety purposes. A particularly potent type of black powder was named “Hercules Powder”, which gave the name to the town of Hercules, formally incorporated in 1900. In World War I, Hercules became the largest producer of TNT in the U.S. Hercules, however, had gotten out of the explosives business by 1940 when an anhydrous ammonia plant was constructed. In 1959 Hercules began a new manufacturing facility to produce methanol, formaldehyde, and urea formaldehyde. In 1966 the plant was sold to Valley Nitrogen Producers. Labor problems led to a plant closure in 1977. In 1979 the plant and site was purchased by a group of investors calling themselves Hercules Properties, Ltd.
However, Michael and his father Marshall Riconosciuto, a friend of Richard Nixon, continued to run the Hercules Research Corporation. In the early 1980s Michael also served as the Director of Research for a joint venture between the Wackenhut Corporation of Coral Gables, Florida, and the Cabazon Band of Indians in Indio, California. Riconosciuto’s talents were much in demand. He had created the a-neutronic bomb (or “Electro-Hydrodynamic Gaseous Fuel Device”), which sank the ground level of the Nevada test site by 30 feet when a prototype was tested. Samuel Cohen, the inventor of the neutron bomb, said of Riconosciuto: “I’ve spoken to Michael Riconosciuto (the inventor of the a-neutronic bomb) and he’s an extraordinarily bright guy. I also have a hunch, which I can’t prove, that they both (Riconosciuto and Lavos, his partner) indirectly work for the CIA.”
Riconosciuto’s bomb made suitcase nukes obsolete, because it achieved near-atomic explosive yields, but could be more easily minaturized. You could have a suitcase a-neutronic bomb, or a briefcase a-neutronic bomb, or simply a lady’s purse a-neutronic bomb. Or just pull out your wallet for identification and —. The Meridian Arms Corporation, as well as the Universities of California and Chicago owned a piece of the technology.
But there was more than explosives in the portfolios of the CIA agents who surrounded Riconosciuto like moths around a candle. Both Robert Booth Nichols, the shady head of Meridian Arms Corporation (with both CIA and organized crime conections), and Dr. John Phillip Nichols, the manager of the Cabazon reservation, were involved in bio-warfare work—the first in trying to sell bio-warfare products to the army through Wackenhut, the second in giving tribal permission for research to take place at Cabazon. According to Riconosciuto, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was in charge of the classified contracts for biological warfare research. Riconosciuto would later testify under oath that Stormont Laboratories was involved in the DARPA-Wackenhut-Cabazon project. Jonathan Littman, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle would relate: “Cabazons and Wackenhut appeared to be acting as middlemen between the Pentagon’s DARPA and Stormont Laboratories, a small facility in Woodland near Sacramento.”
The Race Weapon
Riconosciuto would make additional claims about Bio-Rad corporation, a medical supplier which had gradually taken over Hercules, California. They were also, Riconosciuto would say, covertly engaged in bio-warfare research—producing some of the deadliest toxins known to man. The focus of Bio-Rad’s research was said to be bio-active elements that could be tailored to attack those with certain types of DNA. Weapons could thus be produced that were specifically designed to wipe out specific races or genetic classes of human beings. (Alternatively, particular DNA types could be immunized against a deadly biological agent; the agent could then be released, and everyone else would die.)
A couple of years later, Meridian International Logistics, the parent company of Meridian Arms, was to farm similar research out to the Japanese. This included (according to minutes of a corporate meeting dated Aug. 26, 1988) methods for “induction and activation of cytotoxic T-lymphocytes”. Associated with Meridian’s Robert Booth Nichols in a Middle Eastern operation called FIDCO, a company that ran arms into and heroin out of Lebanon’s Beqaa (Bekaa) Valley, was Harold Okimoto, a high-ranking member of the Yakuza. Okimoto had longed worked under Frank Carlucci (who served as Secretary of Defense and Deputy Director of the CIA before becoming Chairman of The Carlyle Group). Okimoto owned food concessions in casinos around the world—Las Vega, Reno, Macao, and the Middle East. (Free drinks and anthrax while you play blackjack, anyone?)
Meeting Riconosciuto and Gunderson at the hotel were two representatives of the mujahadeen, waiting to discuss their armament needs. One of the two was named “Ralph Olberg.” The other one was called Tim Osman (or Ossman).
“Ralph Olberg” was an American businesman who was leading the procurement of American weapons and technology on behalf of the Afghan rebels. He worked through the Afghan desk at the U.S. State Department, as well as through Senator Hubert Humphrey’s office. Olberg looked after the Afghanis through a curious front called MSH—Management Sciences for Health.
The other man, dressed in Docker’s clothing, was not a native Afghan any more than Olberg was. He was a 27-year-old Saudi. Tim Osman (Ossman) has recently become better known as Osama Bin Ladin. “Tim Osman” was the name assigned to him by the CIA for his tour of the U.S. and U.S. military bases, in search of political support and armaments.
Gunderson and Riconosciuto were not on an altruistic mission. They had some conditions for their help. And they had some bad news to deliver. The mujahadeen needed to be willing to test new weapons in the field and to return a research report, complete with photos.
The bad news was that some factions of the CIA didn’t feel that Oldberg and Osman’s group were the real representatives of the Afghans. Upon hearing this both Tim and Ralph were indignant. They wanted to mount a full-court press. Round up other members of their group and do a congressional and White House lobbying effort in Washington, D.C.
“Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess my name.”
—The Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil
Did the lobbying effort take place? I don’t know. There is some evidence that Tim Osman and Ralph Oldberg visited the White House. There is certainty that Tim Osman toured some U.S. military bases, even receiving special demonstrations of the latest equipment. Why hasn’t this been reported in the major media?
One week after giving an affidavit to Inslaw regarding the PROMIS software in 1991, Riconosciuto was arrested on trumped-up drug charges. The Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case attempted to cover up Riconosciuto’s intelligence background by claiming to the jury he was “delusional.” A TV station came and pointed a camera out at the desert at Cabazon and said, “Riconosciuto says he modified the PROMIS software here.” Of course Riconosciuto didn’t modify the software out between the cacti and yucca. Sand isn’t good for computers. He did the modifications in offices in nearby Indio, California. The AUSA told reporters Riconosciuto had been diagnosed with a mental condition, the implication being “he’s making all this stuff up”. Yes, there had been a mental evaluation of Riconosciuto. I have a copy of the report. The diagnosis? Here it is: NO MENTAL DISORDER. The Department of Justice consistently and maliciously lied to the jury, just as had been threatened by Justice Department official Peter Viednicks if Riconosciuto cooperated with the congressional investigation of PROMIS.
If the war against Osama Bin Ladin (Tim Osman) is not a total fraud, then what is Michael Riconosciuto doing in prison? Why doesn’t he have an office next to Colin Powell so he can give realistic advice on Bin Ladin’s thinking? And where is Ralph Olberg?
Thirty-four days before the East African embassy bombings of August 7, 1998, Riconosciuto notified the FBI in Miami that the bombings were going to take place. Two days prior to the bombings he requested of BOP (Bureau of Prisons) officials at the Federal Corrections Institution (FCI) in Coleman, FL., that he be allowed to call ECOMOG security headquarters to warn African officials. The BOP denied the request. Riconosciuto was mystified at being ignored by the relevant government authorities. I’m not mystified. I suspect the reason Riconosciuto was ignored was that the relevant parties, including especially the Miami FBI office, knew all along the bombings would take place. And they wanted them to happen.
The same is true with respect to the recent plane bombings of the WTC. It wasn’t an intelligence “failure”. The terrorist acts were deliberately allowed to happen. The actors may have been foreign. But the stage directors appear to have been all along here in the U.S. Cui bono?
Isn’t it time to let Michael Riconosciuto out of prison, and wipe the slate clean of the trumped up drug charges, and let him be a national security advisor—at least with respect to the government’s pursuit of Osama Bin Ladin? Isn’t it time to quit pretending Osama Bin Ladin came out of nowhere?
This is not an academic argument. Sources say three dozen MANPADs have been imported into Quebec, Canada, from Colombia (where they arrived from Eastern Europe). The missile shipments followed the “northern” drug route—from Colombia into Canada. The missiles involved are Russian Strellas and Iglas. These will serve just fine to take down commercial airline flights. Just like TWA 800. Which group of terrorists has the missiles? Meanwhile, how many biological warfare agents are in the hands of organized crime? Maybe you should ask Riconosciuto about all this.