- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.comhttp://etherzone.com)
All rights reserved.
- Published in the Jan. 18, 1999 issue
of The Washington Weekly. Copyright © 1999 The Washington Weekly (http://www.federal.com).
Reposting permitted with this message intact.