Bloodgate - A Stunning New
Theory On The Death
Of Vince Foster
By Timothy J. Wheeler
Before they closed down his investigation, Miquel Rodriguez was planning to break the inner circle of the Clintons one by one before the grand jury. It was his suspicion that Foster was being lobbied intensely by the core group of Arkansans at the White House during the days before his death . . . --Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: The Secret Life of Bill Clinton.
The crucial question in the Vincent Foster case, as the Wall Street Journal observed almost immediately, is not murder versus suicide, but WHY Foster died. What issue could be so important? Why was Foster getting a full-court press from the Arkansas inner circle -- Webster Hubbell, Bruce Lindsey, Patsy Thomasson, Marsha Scott, Bill Clinton himself -- at the White House just before he died?
In August, 1998, five years after his death, information began to come to light that gives us a completely new and I believe correct answer to that vexing question, why? The story is known in broad outline if not in every last detail. It is richly documented from criminal investigations, news stories and eyewitness accounts. It is an Arkansas story of plain motive and ordinary human dimension. Unlike hard-to-believe spy stories, it "fits," and Foster is known to have been involved -- for years. None of this information was known to the Fiske or Starr investigations. One tantalizing clue emerged just days ago, in a deposition by Linda Tripp.
Here are two recent pieces of the puzzle. Note the reference to "tainted blood" in both.
From a column by Maggie Gallagher in the New York Post, September 25, 1998:
Once upon a time -- in fact a day or two after Vince Foster died -- a man called the White House Counsel's Office. "This was not a line that kooks typically rang us up on," my source told me. Lunatics call the main office number. This guy called one of Vince's assistants directly.
The man said he had some information that might be important. Something had upset Vince Foster greatly just days before he died. Some thing about "TAINTED BLOOD" THAT BOTH VINCE FOSTER AND PRESIDENT CLINTON KNEW ABOUT...
"I'm only telling you this now because Vince Foster was very distressed about this only days before his death," the mysterious caller... said.
From a deposition by Linda Tripp, January 13, 1999, under cross examination by White House attorney Paul Gaffney:
GAFFNEY: Now the bit about the screen flashing up encrypted...
TRIPP: The word encrypted, if I used it at all, did not have to do with FBI files. It had to do with another issue on [Vincent Foster's secretary] Deb Gorham's machine... What I had told Lucianne Goldberg at the time was that it had been alarming to me that WHEN I TRIED TO ENTER DATA FROM A CALLER THAT I WAS WORKING WITH ON A TAINTED BLOOD ISSUE, that every time I entered a word that had to do with this particular issue, it would flash up either the word encrypted or password required or something to indicate the file was locked.
Foster had troubles, any of which could have been a motive for either murder or suicide. Whitewater, Travelgate, Waco, marital strains, the apparent break-up of his relationship with Hillary Rodham Clinton, and one that bears close examination, his failure to prepare a blind trust for the Clintons' assets. The trust should have been done by the inauguration, six months earlier, yet he was still working on it when he died on July 20th. Its lateness suggests that he was having trouble hiding suspicious assets and ran a growing risk of being exposed, along with the Clintons.
With all this, you'd hardly think that his real worry would be something entirely different, "some thing about tainted blood that [both he] and Clinton knew about." But that was the message from the contemporaneous, well-connected caller. "Vince Foster was very distressed about this only days before his death." The pertinent computer files were locked, with a password needed for entry. Deb Gorham almost surely knows what was in the files, which might cast much light on these matters. However, she hasn't been questioned about them and the computer was soon moved out of the secure White House counsel's office in the West Wing. The files are lost.
Making Money on Blood from Prison Inmates
The tainted blood came from Cummins Correctional Unit, a huge, grim prison farm east of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Cummins was second only to the lucrative highway department as a cash cow for Arkansas politicians. If nothing else, the inmates could always be used for free labor -- as if the slaves had never been freed in this corner of the Old South.
In the early 1980s, "Friends of Bill" devised an easy-money scheme to harvest inmate blood plasma at Cummins. The high risks of prison blood had long been recognized, and were certainly known to Dr. Francis "Bud" Henderson, the founder of Health Management Associates (HMA), which got an exclusive, Clinton-approved contract for the operation. But the profit potential was enormous and the bleeds were safe from public view, behind the prison walls. HMA already had an exclusive contract to provide ordinary health care within the prison, approved by Clinton in his first term as governor. The expansion into plasma harvesting got going when he was reelected in 1982. In the meantime, HMA's medical care had been so sloppy that its medical license was pulled. Yet it was awarded a new license and a broader contract when Bill Clinton got back into office. In fact, HMA's license was voided three times for medical violations before it went out of business in 1987. Each time Bill Clinton conspicuously rode to the rescue. A new program under different owners got his approval and the scheme continued until 1994. Arkansas was the last state to terminate its prison plasma program.
Plasma is the protein-rich liquid component of blood. It is used to make such blood products as gamma globulin and Factor VIII, a clotting agent needed by hemophiliacs. Unlike whole blood, which can be drawn only once every eight weeks, plasma can be drawn twice a week. In a process called plasmapheresis, the donor's blood is pumped into a centrifuge where the solids and red blood cells are separated out. The plasma is retained while the blood solids and enough saline solution to replace it are injected back into the donor. Obviously this is a sophisticated medical procedure, but HMA largely turned it over to the untrained inmates themselves to do. Donor screening was minimal, conditions were unsanitary, dirty needles were reused, and records were falsified. In the process, the donor pool was cross-contaminated, and the high risk of prison blood turned into near certainty of contamination with hepatitis, syphilis and other diseases.
Inmates were paid $5 per unit, sometimes $7, in prison scrip. From the beginning, the defenders of HMA held up this pittance, along with minor revenues to buy medical equipment for the prison system, as the humanitarian reason for the plasma program. This is laughable, given the program's production of 4,000 to 8,000 units per week -- at an admitted $50 a unit, and sometimes more (up to $100 in peak markets). That is $200,000 to $400,000 a week, $10 million to $20 million a year -- from one prison.
If those high bleed numbers sound fishy, go to the head of the class. Why would inmates give so much plasma? Plasmapheresis is not fun. Yet the program was so popular that inmates would stand in line for hours to do it. They did so knowing that they might get sick from it. There was even a market in "rights to bleed" -- pay the inmate trusty and you could donate (regardless of health). All this to get stuck with needles for a few bucks in scrip? Of course not. The inducement was drugs -- specifically a painkiller called Percodan (a patented combination of aspirin and codeine). Codeine is an opium derivative related to heroin. In a word, HMA was trading narcotics for plasma. The pills, called "yellow boys" by the inmates, became the coin of the realm in Cummins, valuable for buying goods or protection or sex. HMA used Percodan to bleed not twice but sometimes four times a week. This led to an FDA charge of "overbleeding" at one point.
The market for under-the-table plasma was brisk because AIDS already stalked the international blood market. Nobody wanted to buy from old sources in Africa and the Caribbean. Nobody wanted prison blood either, but it was a reliable source and it could be prettied up with names out of the phone book. For unscrupulous operators, this was a bonanza. In fact, HMA expanded operations into prisons in other states where the practice hadn't been banned, by one account buying 10,000 units a week from Angola in Louisiana, a prison of as dark repute as Cummins.
From these large revenues minor sums on the order of $50,000 a year trickled back to the prison, the inmates got their pocket money. The rest presumably went to HMA, state politicians and Good Ol' Boys, along the usual lines of "doing bidness" in Arkansas. Bud Henderson, on camera, admitted to making $500,000 a year. Other payouts are so far speculative, but the more one knows Arkansas, the more one is certain that Bill Clinton got a cut in cash or favors or both. His agent in these dealings (as in all such business) was Vincent W. Foster.
The Link to Vincent Foster
Foster's role is not speculation. When HMA's unsanitary practices led inmate injuries and deaths, a $12,000,000 lawsuit was filed against the company. Foster approached Michael Galster, a prosthetist working in the prison as an HMA subcontractor, with a scheme to take the heat off of HMA. Galster refused. Foster threatened that if he didn't cooperate, he'd never get another STATE contract (a private lawyer could not make such a threat but an agent of Clinton could). Galster refused again and quit HMA on the spot.
Galster had nothing to do with the plasma program, but noticed at the time that something was wrong. Though some of his patients were obviously jaundiced from hepatitis or otherwise ill, they would have band-aids on their arm, and told him that it was from plasma donations. Galster assumed that there must be some way to clean up the blood before it went on the market. He learned his error only much later, in 1995, and was aghast to realize the implications. What he saw was a story tracing contaminated blood to Arkansas -- blood that had contributed to a tragic epidemic of AIDS and often deadly hepatitis C in Canada. Few Americans have even heard of this disaster, but it has been front-page news in Canada for years. By initial reports, there were 1,200 cases of AIDS and about 28,000 cases of hep C (which has a fatality rate of about 20%-25%). By better estimates, as many as 80,000 were infected and thousands have died -- a terrible toll in a small population.
But that is not the end of it. Similar blood-borne plagues have struck Japan, Italy, France, Spain, Israel, England, Germany, Ireland and other countries in Africa and the third world, and, yes, the United States. The casualty count is not known, but is many times that of Canada. In this country, the hemophiliac population (at high risk due to repeated doses of Factor VIII) was virtually 100% infected with one or both of the diseases, with genocidal effect.
News of the blood disaster was crackling in Canada in May and June of 1993. Word must have reached Foster and troubled him greatly. Foster had a conscience. It is one thing to do "bidness" with bid rigging or cattle futures or the like, quite another to sicken and kill thousands with a failed Good Ol' Boy scheme. The theory at this point suggest that Foster had it out with Clinton and the other Arkansans, and wanted to go at least partly public with the blood problem to try to make reparations. The others saw him as ready to break, ready to violate the Code of Silence, and tried desperately to talk him out of it.
Marsha Scott clammed up after her mysterious closed-door meeting with Foster the day before he died, but let on this much, as described by Evans-Pritchard: "She did recall that Foster was a little chilly, failing to get up from his desk to greet her... Reflecting on it afterwards she concluded that he had 'painted himself into a box with no windows,' but at the same time 'she got the sense that he had come to some sort of decision and was, if anything, relaxed as a result.'
That evening Clinton phoned him to invite him to a movie at the White House with just a few Arkansas friends. Foster declined and there are those who think this was interpreted to be his break with the Arkansas circle. The rest we know, but consider one more detail. It might be very hard to hide large profits from tainted blood sales in the Clintons' blind trust.
None of this story would have come to light save for the one man who was in a position to see part of it and put two and two together -- Michael Galster. Knowing the ways of Arkansas only too well, and knowing many of the principals personally -- including the Clintons, if only slightly -- he didn't dare try to write an expose. Instead, he decided to write the story in the form of a novel, using the pen name "Michael Sullivan," after discussing the dangers with his family (who were unanimous that he should go ahead with it). The novel is titled BLOOD TRAIL, and a white-knuckle thriller it is. It is, if I may say so, exciting reading, but it also contains the blueprint for a crime so well hidden and so large that no one had ever suspected it was a crime. The Blood Trail leads to the White House....End
Timothy J. Wheeler is a freelance writer based in the midwest.
Published Monday January 18, 1999 at Ether Zone Online by permission. (<http://etherzone.com All rights reserved.
Published in the Jan. 18, 1999 issue of The Washington Weekly. Copyright © 1999 The Washington Weekly ( Reposting permitted with this message intact.