Is a secret group of people manipulating world events? And if so, why?

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He was onto something. He knew it.

Of course, he couldn’t be sure exactly what he was onto. But soon, he’d have the full story.

It was 9 August 1991. Danny Casolaro had just checked into the Sheraton Hotel in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Danny, 44, was an investigative journalist. He’d reported some big stories.

Drug smuggling into the USA from China, Fidel Castro’s secret agents, Russian submarines in the seas off Florida…

Now, he was in Martinsburg to meet a source. Someone who could shed some light on a story he’d been digging into recently.

That evening, Danny had a drink in the hotel bar.

There, he got chatting to another guest.

Coincidentally, the man had checked into the room right next to Danny’s.

The two men talked about their lives, their jobs…

Men at a bar

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Danny told the man he was a journalist. And that an important source was due to meet him there in the hotel bar at any moment.

But the source didn’t show up.

Danny left the man to make a call. Came back just minutes later.

‘The source has blown me off,’ he said, agitated, leaving the other guest in the bar.

It was the last time Danny was seen alive.

The following morning, the hotel’s staff found him dead in the bath

He’d apparently slashed his wrists.

And left a note.

To those who I love the most, it read. Please forgive me for the worst possible thing I could have done…

With no signs of forced entry, the coroner ruled suicide.

But Danny’s family disputed the ruling.

For starters, Danny hated blood.

All his life, he’d been terrified of giving blood for tests and having injections.

So surely, he’d never choose to kill himself by slashing his wrists.

Why would he have killed himself anyway?

He was successful. He had a wife, a teenage son.

What’s more, none of Danny’s case notes were found in his room.

They’d disappeared…

And Danny had been getting phone calls in the middle of the night. On some, he’d just hear breathing. On others, voices would threaten him, tell him to back off.

It seemed Danny Casolaro thought he knew he was in danger.

‘If anything happens to me, don’t believe it was an accident,’ he’d warned his brother shortly before he’d died.

Danny Casolaro’s friends, family and colleagues believed he’d been murdered because of the story he’d been investigating.

And colleagues confirmed he’d been looking into a scoop involving the Inslaw computer software company.

Inslaw had filed a suit against the US Justice Department, claiming it had stolen a programme from them called PROMIS – Prosecutor’s Management Information System.

Stolen software?

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It was a type of software designed to help organise law-enforcement paperwork for US Courts.

But the Justice Department had allegedly started selling it to foreign agencies.

The Israeli intelligence service, Interpol, the Viet Cong, even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

But why?

Danny Casolaro thought he knew.

A government employee had come forward and told him.

He said the software had been tampered with by government agents, a back door put into it.

A tool allegedly allowing the US to spy on any of the agencies it sold the software to.

Illegally.

And the software had allegedly been distributed on behalf of the government.

Back in 1981, it was rumoured the same person distributing the software had paid $40 million to authorities in Iran not to release a number of US hostages before the end of that year’s presidential election.

A supposed tactic to make US president Jimmy Carter unpopular at home and to stop him being re-elected.

To get Ronald Reagan into the White House.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan (Photo: Rex Features)

Soon after Danny’s government source made these allegations, the man was arrested on drugs charges he claimed were fake.

Eventually, Inslaw was awarded $6.8 million by the US courts for loss of profits following the theft of PROMIS.

The case was over.

But Danny was convinced it was a small part of something much bigger.

There were powerful people working together to manipulate world events.

He codenamed the network Octopus, on account of its many arms.

But what did Octopus want? What was it using PROMIS for?

And what else was it involved in?

Danny believed he was close to finding out.

But perhaps his source that night was a trap.

Unless, of course, he had killed himself.

As soon as he’d been stood up, he knew Octopus was onto him. That they’d get him.

He’d beaten them to it.

And made sure his suicide appeared staged, to ensure his case was investigated.

Yet there’s been nothing but brick walls.

The members of Octopus have never been exposed. Nor their aims.

Just the way they’d want it.

Conveniently put in jail?

Corridor of Prison with Cells

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The man rumoured to have been distributing PROMIS on behalf of the US government Brian was never prosecuted for its theft, but many believed he was responsible. In 1996, he was convicted of federal bank fraud, conspiracy and lying to auditors. Was Octopus getting him out of the way?