Saturday, June 28, 2008

2003 Introduction to "The Seizing of the American Broadcasting Company"

Note: Andy Boehm, author of "The Seizing of the American Broadcasting Company," was the editor of Prevailing Winds, the now-defunct anti-fascist samizdat catalogue that ran my articles in the mid-'90s, and first published the subject of this essay by Jim DiEugenio, Andy's classic study of Cap Cities/ABC and its bonds to the CIA. Andy is also a close friend of mine. He was hit by a car while crossing the street in Santa Barbara a few years ago, and suffers chronic incapacitation and pain. He is no longer writing. Andy's contributions to legitimate journalism, all too rare in the Fox Age, were guttered by the accident, an immense loss to the Mae Brussell school of political research and the journalistic wasteland beyond. - AC

William Casey

At the time it appeared, Andy Boehm's article was the most thoughtful analysis of William Casey's maneuvering to take over ABC. In fact, it was the only article we were aware of to consider the serious questions that this leveraged buyout posed. At the time it occurred, it was the most blatant attempt yet at controlling the broadcast media by an intelligence officer who was also a friend, ally, and investor in corporate sponsored media; in this specific case, Cap Cities, the entity Casey used to orchestrate the buyout. Of course, Casey's 1985 maneuvering foreshadowed a creeping control by corporate-CIA friendly investors that later broke into a full gallop. Two present day examples would be the Fox Network controlled by rightwing GOP crony Rupert Murdoch, and the Clear Channel radio network whose Texas owners are friendly with President Bush and reportedly sponsored the pro-Iraq war demonstrations to blunt the effect of the huge anti-war demonstrations held last year. Perhaps if more reporters would have examined the Cap Cities/ABC buyout, the warning sounds of what was to come to pass in American media would have been clearer and louder.

Boehm's article was generally overlooked at the time. Although today, in light of the above, it has even more relevancy than when it was published. But the article has one serious shortcoming that necessitates this introduction. It does not spell out clearly enough why CIA Director Casey was so angry with ABC and so determined to get his friends and fellow investors at Cap Cities to move in on it. Boehm refers to this in a brief section of his essay as follows: " The CIA was ostensibly upset because on Sept. 19-20, 1984, ABC News had aired allegations that the agency had contracted for the murder of Ron Rewald, a Honolulu swindler who claimed that his scams were directed by the CIA, of which he claimed to be a secret agent." (Italics added)

The added emphasis in the sentence should pose an obvious question: If Rewald's story was so shaky and conditional, why was Casey so angry that he became the first CIA Director to move for control of a TV network in history? And why are the actual "scams" of Rewald not noted? We can think of two reasons for this. Rewald's trial had ended in his conviction on fraud charges and the judge had sealed much of the court record. So Boehm did not have that much to go on. Also, Casey's actions, and the growing hostility of the Establishment to independent journalism, might also have intimidated Boehm's publishers. Whatever the case, it is possible today to tell a more complete story about Ron Rewald, his role in the investment bank Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald, Dillingham and Wong, Casey's outrage and how it facilitated the Cap Cities takeover.

Ron Rewald was recruited to spy on the student radical movement in America in the 1960's. Some of his spying took place at the University of Wisconsin. In the 1970's as a result of the exposure of this illegal activity by the Church Committee in the Senate, Rewald revisited his CIA connection. They assured him he would not be exposed or held liable for his past acts. In fact, they offered him an even better assignment. Since he was moving to Hawaii, and he was already running a small investment firm of his own, they asked him to move the firm to Hawaii and later to expand it into an investment bank. There was one qualification. Although Rewald could still do his investment consulting, the major part of the bank's activities would be for CIA activities that needed to be sheltered from both public and Congressional oversight. Thinking these would be small activities that would not take up a large part of the firm's time or funds, Rewald agreed.

And for the first two years of Rewald's reenlistment with the CIA, this was approximately true. But in 1980, something happened that changed the assignment, altered Rewald's life, and ultimately provoked Casey to act as he did toward ABC. In January of that year, the dead body of Francis John Nugan was found in his Mercedes on the Great Western Highway in Lithgow, Australia. Thus began the unraveling of the Nugan Hand Bank. Years later, after five official reports and investigations it can logically be concluded that Nugan Hand was a proprietary of the Central Intelligence Agency. That it was on the brink of failure when Nugan either committed suicide or was murdered. The other partner, Jon Hand fled or was spirited out of the country. Nugan's death and Hand's flight blew the CIA cover off Nugan Hand and necessitated a displacement of its covert activities in the South Pacific to Hawaii and Bishop Baldwin. (For a good summary of the rise and fall of Nugan Hand see Jonathan Kwitny's 1987 volume The Crimes of Patriots.)

Now Bishop Baldwin expanded its operations greatly. Satellite offices opened up in more than a dozen cities worldwide. It now employed a staff of nearly 200 people. Rewald lived in a Hawaiian estate near Diamond Head valued at over a million dollars in 1980. Bishop Baldwin had a fleet of cars and a chauffeur to drive around Rewald and Bishop Baldwin's clients. The company which had four accounts at its incorporation in 1979, had 110 by 1983. And in such exotic places as Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands. Rewald was now meeting with people like the Sultan of Brunei and Vice-President George Bush, and arranging secret arms deals with Rajiv Gandhi of India. In fact, this last seems to have been the major CIA use of the company i.e. to spirit weapons and arms of all types into Pacific Rim countries. Bishop Baldwin also used businessmen to collect intelligence and to direct the flow of capital into American companies. It also was used as a cover for more sinister assignments like the assassinations of leftist leaders and sympathizers.

This all ended in July of 1983. At that time a local reporter who was mysteriously tipped off began to expose Bishop Baldwin as the shell company it was. The local report spread quickly enough to major media. The CIA went into a denial mode, cutting off all ties to Rewald and letting him take the fall for the collapsed company. Rewald attempted suicide in a Honolulu hotel but recovered. The CIA considered him dangerous and unstable so they hired an assassin, Scott Barnes, to liquidate him. They gave him the cover of a minister and placed him inside the prison Rewald was being held in on fraud charges. Barnes backed out of the assignment when he was questioned by local law enforcement authorities.

Having decided to cut ties to Rewald, the CIA began to cover up its clear and important ties to Bishop Baldwin. The three leaders of the cover up were Casey, CIA Counsel Stanley Sporkin, and former Chief of Litigation John Peyton. The court placed a ten million dollar bail bond on Rewald which he could not possibly raise in the wake of the scandal. In addition a gag order barred Rewald's attorney from repeating in public what he told them. Case records which are normally public records, were held from view.

The trial was a farce. Of the four prosecuting attorneys, two were from the CIA. One was Peyton who claimed it was an utter coincidence that he ended up in Hawaii on the Rewald case. The judge forced Rewald to drop his attorney of choice, Melvin Belli. He had to employ a young lawyer from the Public Defender's office who had not tried a case yet. Rewald was not allowed to be present when classified documents were being cleared for use during the trial. Jurors were not screened in the court but in judge's chambers. Rewald's lawyer was cited twice for contempt and tried to withdraw from the case when he saw the judge would not let him present a full defense of his client. The prosecution actually presented imposters in court so as not to have CIA personnel questioned about Rewald. Yet even after being convicted, Rewald testified as an expert witness at another CIA agent's trial who also used Bishop Baldwin as a cover. Richard C. Smith was acquitted.

What is relevant to our subject occurred in September of 1984 while Rewald was awaiting trial and after Barnes had pulled out of his assassination mission. ABC reporter Gary Shepard put together a two part report for the ABC nightly newscast hosted by Peter Jennings. It featured interviews with both Barnes and Rewald. And it told the story from their point of view. Barnes was allowed to reveal how the CIA had hired him to kill Rewald and Shepard related the fact that there was evidence to indicate Bishop Baldwin was a CIA front company. As Boehm relates in his article, Casey and the CIA began to attack ABC. But a week later, Jennings said on the air that ABC stood by its story. Then Casey began to shift his efforts into high gear with the result that Boehm describes. But Boehm does not relate that after Cap Cities completed its purchase of ABC in 1985, Jennings then went on the air and related again the CIA denial of its attempt to kill Rewald. He then stated that ABC had no reason to question the denial. (This information, as well as much of the above, can be gleaned in the Kwitny book, pgs 365-377, and in the book Disavow published in 1995 and authored by Rodney Stich and T. Conan Russell.)

The exposure of myriad illegal activities taken part in by Rewald and Bishop Baldwin--up to and including murder-form the backdrop for the Casey-Cap Cities buyout of ABC. It also helps explain who owns and controls the major media in this country and why. And through that fact it helps give an appropriate background to why ABC is prolonging a lie about the murder of President Kennedy forty years after the fact. And why that particular lie is also publicly shared by the Central Intelligence Agency.

--- Jim DiEugenio

1 comment:

b.f. said...

What's also interesting is that the father of one of the owners of The Nation, William vanden Heuvel, sat on the board of the International Rescue Committee next to Casey, before Casey's death in the 1980s. Following is another reference to what Casey was up to in the media world before he and his Capital Cities Communications business partners took over ABC in the pre-Disney/ABC era:

"In 1970, the deceased CIA Director Casey, himself, had attempted to purchase Newsday prior to the finalizing of Harry Guggenheim’s sale of the newspaper to the Times-Mirror Company. Casey was both one of the original investors and a director of the Capital Cities Communications media conglomerate and he visited Bill Moyers around this time and told Moyers that Capital Cities Communications could offer Guggenheim $20 million or $30 million more than Times-Mirror for Newsday. Although Guggenheim went ahead with the sale of Newsday to Los Angeles’ Times-Mirror, when Casey was CIA Director in the 1980s his Capital Cities Communications Company was able to gobble up an even more influential mass media institution than Newsday—a television broadcasting conglomerate named ABC [before the Disney media conglomerate subsequently purchased Capital Cities Communications/ABC during the 1990s].

"Prior to managing Reagan’s successful 1980 campaign for the presidency, Times-Mirror-Newsday’s friend Casey had worked in former U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers’ law firm of Rogers & Well. Among the law firm clients whom Casey had billed for his services during the five years before he moved into his CIA director’s office were the following: Saudi American Lines, international Crude Oil Refining Company, the Government of Indonesia and the Republic of Korea. As Reagan’s CIA director until he died, Casey continued to share ownership of over $3 million worth of stock in companies like Dome Petroleum, Kerr-McGee, Standard Oil of Indiana, Mobil-Superior Oil, DuPont, and Exxon, according to the book Reagan’s Ruling Class by Ronald Brownstein and Nina Easton."

(Downtown 3/6/91)