Accuracy in Media

Psychologist Alan Berman was one of three consultants hired by Kenneth Starr to help him convince the public that Vincent Foster committed suicide. Dr. Berman produced a 21-page report in which he said “In my opinion and to a hundred percent degree of medical certainty the death of Vincent Foster was a suicide. No plausible evidence has been presented to support any other conclusion.” We have discussed that conclusion with Dr. Berman in two taped phone conversations. They reveal that he had far too little knowledge of the eyewitness and forensic evidence in the Foster case to make such a statement. It is also clear, as Dr. James Janacek, a psychiatrist, indicated in his critique of Berman’s report (AIM Report 2001 No. 13) that Berman’s certainty that Foster committed suicide influenced his analysis of Foster’s mental state.

In a phone conversation on June 27, Berman reiterated what he had written in the report he submitted five years ago. Even though he was not at all familiar with AIM’s work on the Foster case he said, “There is no credible evidence that you have presented or that anybody else has presented that speaks for any other” (cause of death). Informed that there was a lot of evidence that it was a homicide, he requested that we send him what we had, promising to look at it and write a response.

AIM’s Case

We sent him a detailed report covering the following evidence of homicide that no one has been able to refute. (A) Three eyewitnesses have said Foster’s car was not in the Fort Marcy parking lot until after his death. (B) The .38 revolver found in his hand was not his gun and was not the gun that fired the shot that killed him. (C) The medical examiner who performed the autopsy, Dr. James C. Beyer, lied to hide the disappearance of x-rays of Foster’s head, falsely claiming that his x-ray machine was not working. (D) Service records show that there was nothing wrong with the machine. Dr. Beyer’s autopsy report showed that x-rays had been taken. He reported finding an exit wound about the size of a half dollar in the back of Foster’s head that Sgt. John Rolla, who palpitated the back of Foster’s head, could not find. Two doctors who had seen the back of Foster’s head before Beyer did, saw no head wound. Dr. Donald Haut described the wound as mouth-to-neck and said he had seen much more damage done by a .25 caliber bullet.

Our conclusion: The x-rays taken at the autopsy showed that there was no exit wound in the back of Foster’s head, only a soft spot as reported by Sgt. Rolla. This was caused by a bullet that fractured the skull but did not perforate it. The x-rays showed that Rolla was right, that there was a bullet, or fragments of it, still inside the skull. This meant that the exit wound had been created by Dr. Beyer poking a rod through the soft spot Rolla had found.

The bullet could not have been from the expended .38 HV (high velocity) casing found in the cylinder of the old black revolver found in Foster’s hand. A .38 HV round fired into the roof of Foster’s mouth would have created an unmistakable large entrance wound in the palate and would have blown a large hole in the skull. The bullet that killed Foster did neither. It was probably a .22 caliber fired under Foster’s right jaw where paramedic Richard Arthur said he saw a small-caliber gunshot wound. Evidence of trauma in that area is said to be visible in one of the crime scene photos that the OIC refuses to release, using the excuse that family members object. They don’t want to provide their critics with any evidence that helps expose the flaws in their investigation and their clumsy cover-up.

Berman’s Reaction

Dr. Berman had said he would respond in writing to the evidence AIM sent him, but he changed his mind after reading it. When he finally returned our calls on July 23, he didn’t even want to discuss the evidence. He said: “My main focus was on state-of-mind stuff….I can’t even take the time to go through and examine what you write about others and then go back to the data that I have. It just asks too much of me at this stage of the game.” Asked if he had any reason to question the eyewitness evidence about Foster’s car not being in the parking lot until after Foster’s death, he responded by asking the source of the estimate that Foster died at around 3:30 p.m

We explained to him that Dr. Beyer had estimated from the contents of Foster’s stomach that he had died two to three hours after eating lunch, i.e., between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. We used the midpoint between those times. It makes no difference because the eyewitness testimony shows that his car did not arrive at the parking lot until after 5:30 p.m.

Asked for his estimate of the time of Foster’s death, Berman said, “I don’t have the time to go back into that. I know it was before 5:00 or 5:30, but I don’t recall what time we had estimated….I think 5:15 was the was the time.” Whoever “we” may have been, they either did not know or did not pay any attention to the statements of two eyewitnesses who arrived in the parking lot at about that time. They had seen an older-model brown Honda in the space near the entrance where an hour later Foster’s light gray Honda was parked. The brown car, with one man sitting in it and another standing beside it with the hood up, was still there when they went into the woods at 5:30 p.m.

That was about 15 minutes before Dale Kyle, the man who found Foster’s body, arrived on the scene. He saw a car parked near the entrance, but he paid little attention to it, and it is not clear from his description whether or not it was the same brown, mid-eighties Honda with Arkansas tags that had been parked there since at least 4:25 p.m., according to another eyewitness, Patrick Knowlton.

It had Arkansas tags and had been there for over an hour in the custody of two men who have never contacted the police to tell what they had seen or explain what they were doing there. It was evidently being used as a stand-in for Foster’s Honda Accord whose arrival at Ft. Marcy was for some unknown reason seriously delayed. This is probably the same brown car that was in the process of leaving when a fire engine and ambulance arrived, bringing the rescue workers to search for Foster’s body. Two of the rescue workers reported that it was driverless, but its engine was running. It was gone when the rescue workers returned from their search for the body.

“I Can’t Respond To It”

Dr. Berman was asked if he disagreed with the evidence that Foster’s car was not in the parking lot at 5:30. Despite his request for our evidence and his promise to respond, he said, “I’m not going to comment on that. I’m disagreeing about what was written about the state-of-mind stuff.” Pressed for a response to the evidence he had requested, he said “You can go on, but I can’t respond to it.”

We take this as an admission that Dr. Berman cannot defend his claim that there is no plausible evidence to support the conclusion that Foster was murdered. Since he refused to discuss the evidence, we tried a different tack. We asked if he would give his professional opinion about the FBI agents pressuring Mrs. Foster until she said that the 80-year-old black gun found in Foster’s hand was the modern silver gun that she had brought to Washington from Little Rock. He was asked this question: “As a psychologist, what do you think of the FBI leaning on Mrs. Foster to say that silver is black? Is that good psychology?” This dialogue ensued.

BERMAN: You’re still asking me to comment on things that would require me to go back –
AIM: You’re a psychologist. How do you evaluate the FBI pressure on Mrs. Foster?
BERMAN: I am not going to say anything at this time. I am in a position to comment on my report and my report only. What the office did, what other data they had, what you’ve seen, what you haven’t seen, all of that is beyond the scope of what I can comment on. So all I know is that there’s a lot more data than you’ve had available to you.
AIM : What data? Forensic data?
BERMAN: No, no, a fair amount. I think there were some 60 to 100 C I can’t remember the number off hand – grand jury testimonies that you don’t have available to you.

This is what Maxwell Smart might have called “the old we know but we can’t tell you trick.” We encountered this ploy a few years ago when we tried to get Jim Clemente, one of Starr’s FBI agents, to answer some of the questions that we had sent to Starr that he had refused to answer. Clemente repeatedly said he had a good answer but it would involve revealing secret grand jury information.

There may be grand jury information in the Foster case that still has to be protected for valid reasons, but it is hard to imagine what it is. We have discovered one thing that the OIC wrapped in a grand-jury secrecy blanket for an illegitimate reason. This was the service record on the x-ray machine used by Dr. James C. Beyer, the medical examiner for Northern Virginia who performed Foster’s autopsy. We had sent Starr a letter when he began his Foster investigation telling him that AIM had learned from the company that installed and serviced the x-ray machine that the first service call was made over three months after Foster’s death. We advised him to check that out.

He took our advice, but he used a grand jury subpoena to obtain the records. They could and should have been obtained simply by requesting them. They could then have been released to the media to expose the falsity of Dr. Beyer’s claim that he took no x-rays of Foster’s head because his machine was not working. Starr should have used those records to put pressure on Dr. Beyer to tell what he did with the x-rays, why he did it and what they showed. There is no evidence that he did so. Robert Ray, Starr’s successor at the OIC, refused to give them to AIM under our FOIA suit even after the Foster investigation was closed. The judge ordered that they be turned over. There is probably a lot of other valuable information like these records that is being withheld to conceal other flaws in the OIC investigation rather than for any legitimate reason.

Berman Caught Off Base

AIM has refuted Dr. Berman’s claim that there is no evidence whatever that Foster was murdered, and he has admitted that he is unable to respond. In return, he has charged that the AIM Report that carried Dr. James Janacek’s critique of his report is full of inaccuracies. In our June 27 phone conversation, we asked him to describe at least one of these alleged errors. He cited one sentence. Referring to Berman, it said, AHe described Foster’s call to Dr. Larry Watkins, his physician in Little Rock, as ‘unprecedented,’ ‘insistent,’ and an “attempt to minimize while announcing his depression to someone other than Lisa, his wife.”

In making his complaint, Berman substituted “etc.” for the words in italics because they were clearly Berman’s words, and his complaint was that we had we had wrongly attributed words spoken by Dr. Watkins to him. His claim was, “Those are Dr. Watkins’ quotes, not mine. So, in truth when you say or imply that I’m calling them unprecedented that sends the reader in a totally wrong direction, and it’s incorrect.” We checked that with Dr. Watkins. He denied that he had told Berman that Foster’s call was “insistent” and “unprecedented,” saying he didn’t even know what it meant.

When we reported that to Berman, he accused Watkins of changing his story. “I’m not making this up,” he said. “I have no reason to create quotes, and what you need to know is just looking at my report you will see that it wasn’t my quote. So when you put it in your write-up as if I said it, you’re incorrect.” Berman did have a reason for embellishing, if not making up quotes. His report is full of exaggerations that give the impression Foster was clinically depressed and suppression of information that demonstrates that he was not. Under “Medical/Physical Health History,” he wrote, “Most notable is Watkins’ characterization of Foster’s insistent phone call of July 19th as ‘unprecedented.'”

The word “insistent” was not in quotes, but Berman’s statement, “Those are Dr. Watkins quotes,” implies that he was attributing both insistent and unprecedented to Watkins. Absent any explanation of why the call was unprecedented, the reader is led to infer that it was because it was so “insistent.” The sentence as a whole conveys an impression of crisis that is unwarranted. Perhaps Dr. Watkins acknowledged that it was the first time Foster had called him since he had moved to Washington six months earlier. To use Berman’s own words, for him to characterize such a call as “unprecedented” Asends the reader in a totally wrong direction, and it’s incorrect.”

What Berman Forgot

Here are some important facts that Dr. Berman forgot to mention that we cited in the part of the AIM Report that discussed the call to Dr. Watkins. We said Dr. Janacek had reported that Foster had told his sister, Sheila, that he called Dr. Watkins because he was feeling better and had decided not to call a psychiatrist as she had urged him to do. Dr. Watkins believed Foster was suffering from mild, situational depression and he had prescribed the anti-depressant drug trazadone only in a non-therapeutic dosage conducive to sleep. Foster had feared that the sleeping pills Dr. Watkins had prescribed previously were habit-forming. That could explain the switch to trazadone. Berman incorrectly implied that the dosage of one 50 mg. tablet per day that Dr. Watkins prescribed was to treat depression.

Dr. Berman’s memory seems to play tricks on him. It wipes out the evidence that indicates that Foster was not clinically depressed. He also seems to have trouble remembering the claim made in his report that Ato a hundred percent degree of medical certainty the death of Vincent Foster was a suicide. No plausible evidence has been presented to support any other conclusion.” In our July 23 phone conversation with him, we mentioned the abundance of evidence that contradicts his statement that all the evidence proves that Foster committed suicide. Berman became very agitated, asking, “Where do you have that I say that proves it? I say that’s part of the material that I reviewed. Where do you have that? Have you got that someplace?”

It is on page 15 of his report and the tape of our June 27 phone conversation has him saying, “Of course we know that he committed suicide forensically based on the evidence. There is no alternative explanation.”

DESTROYED X-RAYS

Many people probably think it is implausible that a Virginia state employee would destroy important evidence in the suspicious death of a high-level government official like Vincent Foster. But there is a well documented case of the destruction of an x-ray of a cabinet secretary in the Clinton administration because it showed what appeared to be small metal fragments inside his head that might have been fragments of a bullet.

That official was Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, who died after his plane crashed in Croatia on April 3, 1996, killing 34 others, mostly large donors to the Democratic National Committee who were on one of Brown’s trade missions. Brown’s body was flown to Dover Air Force Base where it was photographed by Navy Chief Petty Officer Kathleen Janoski.

Janoski believes she was the first to notice a perfectly round, beveled hole in the top of Brown’s head, and she called it to the attention of others. Army Lt. Col. David Hause, an expert on gunshot wounds, examined the hole and commented that it looked like a gunshot wound to him. He didn’t discuss it with Col. William Gormley, the senior pathologist at the Dover Air Force Base, who examined the body. Gormley claimed the hole in the head did not expose the brain and that there was no exit wound.

Gormley refused to perform an autopsy, a decision that an Air Force pathologist based at Dover, Lt. Col. Steven Cogswell, openly criticized in lectures he gave around the country on mistakes made by medical examiners. Cogswell also discussed the disappearance of a head x-ray that showed what is called a “lead snowstorm” if the metallic fragments are from a bullet.

Kathleen Janoski had also taken photos of Ron Brown’s x-rays when they were up on light boxes. She says those tiny metallic fragments were visible on her transparency. Jeanmarie Sentell, a Navy civilian criminal investigator assigned to the base, told her that Ron Brown’s head x-ray had been destroyed and that it would be replaced by one that would be less dense and eliminate what might be a “lead snowstorm.”

Janoski’s photograph was the only proof that there was such an x-ray. She said she was appalled that a Navy employee who was charged with investigating illegal activities would do nothing to stop or expose the destruction of what may have been evidence of a crime. Janoski said no replacement x-ray was taken. Lt. Col. Cogswell and Lt. Col. David Hause told NewsMax.com founder, Chris Ruddy, then of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that the head x-ray was missing and that only the photos taken by Kathleen Janoski remained.

A Radical Change

Janoski told AIM that Dover Air Force Base had previously been very meticulous in safe-guarding all evidence and keeping detailed records. She said the destruction of the x-ray of Brown’s head was unprecedented. The Ron Brown case was handled so differently from anything she had previously seen that she wondered where the orders were coming from. She thought it might have had something to do with a visit Cmdr. Edward Kilbane, the team leader, paid to the White House two days after the crash. He was promoted to captain soon after.

Janoski thought it possible that Brown might have survived the crash because his body appeared to be in pretty good shape, and the only injury the x-rays revealed besides the hole in his head was a fractured pelvis. Colonels Cogswell and Hause and Maj. Thomas Parsons all said that an autopsy should have been performed. Together with Kathleen Janoski, they all paid a price for talking to reporters about the Ron Brown case and voicing their belief that an autopsy should have been performed. Janosky was punished by being relieved of her duties in April 1998 and assigned to an office with nothing to do, the government’s standard way of dealing with whistleblowers. She retired the following January.

If an x-ray of a cabinet officer that shows what may be evidence of foul play can be destroyed at an Air Force base, who can say that a similar case of destruction of an important x-ray could not occur in the office of the medical examiner for Northern Virginia? The difference is that the disappearance of the x-ray of Ron Brown’s head has been attested to by those who saw it before it was destroyed and is proven by Kathleen Janoski’s photos.

In the case of Vincent Foster’s head x-rays, no one who saw them has come forward to tell what they showed or what happened to them. No major media organization has publicized the fact that the explanation given by the medical examiner to explain their absence has been proven to be a lie by documentary evidence recently made available under Accuracy in Media’s FOIA suit. No one has demanded that the OIC, which has been in possession of that document for years, explain why it made no use of it to pressure Dr. Beyer to tell the truth about what happened to the x-rays, what they showed and who was behind their disappearance.

The Indifference Of The Media

Don Stacey, a semi-retired Boston businessman, revived our interest in the Ron Brown case with an e-mail about his efforts to find out why there had been so little media coverage of the mysterious hole in Ron Brown’s head and what appeared to be a “lead snowstorm.” After Chris Ruddy reported this in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Don phoned Kathleen Janoski and satisfied himself that she was “entirely credible.” He set up a conference call with her and about 10 solid citizens in different parts of the country. Impressed, they asked Don to write a report that they could disseminate. He did so.

He then asked the owner/publisher of a large city newspaper why there was so much media coverage of the Lewinsky affair and so little about the hole in Ron Brown’s head. The publisher said that only four cities have competing newspapers, but he didn’t answer the Brown question. When Don met him again, he told him that he still didn’t understand the lack of coverage of the Brown story. This time, the answer was that no one believed the officers who had disclosed it.

He asked Kathleen Janoski what efforts the media had made to interview her. She had been called by only one reporter, who asked about her politics. When she learned that Janoski was a Democrat who had voted for Clinton and had worked in the Clinton White House for two years as a volunteer, she lost interest.

At a public meeting of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, Don asked why there was so little coverage of the Brown story. He got no answer from the panel. He asked the VP for news for one of the networks why they didn’t cover the story. He didn’t know, but he said he would ask his newsroom why they hadn’t sent him anything on it.

Here is a summary of Don Stacey’s chronology. Dec. 3, 1997 – The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Lt. Col. Steven Cogswell revealed that there was what appeared to be a bullet hole in the top of Ron Brown’s head and that no autopsy had been performed. Dec. 5 – Cogswell was put under a gag order. About the same time he was escorted to his home by military police who seized all his material on the Brown case. Dec. 9 – Lt. Col. David Hause confirmed Cogswell’s statements. All Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) personnel were subjected to the gag order. Jan. 9, 1998 – The Washington Post says a review panel of AFIP pathologists unanimously agreed that Brown had died of blunt-force trauma and that the hole was not a gunshot wound. Cogswell, Hause, and Maj. Thomas Parsons all dissented. Jan. 13 – Janoski reports that she had been informed that Brown’s head x-ray had been destroyed.

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or your own cards or letters to Bo Jones, the publisher of the Washington Post, Paul Gigot, the Wall Street Journal columnist who will succeed Bob Bartley as editor at the end of September, and Peter Slen, executive producer of C-SPAN’s Washington Journal.




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