On the pursuit of real information: Michael Best
Lars Schall (LS) : Lars Schall talked with Michael Best, the publisher of the new research web site „Glomar Disclosure“, about his current efforts to make important information publicly available.
Mike Best: I left high school when I was sixteen to begin a Computer Science Engineering program at LeTourneau University. I had fun programming and reverse engineering computer worms, but didn’t get into any of the advanced material before I moved back east after a relationship ended. I later realized I couldn’t be happy with the technical elements of computer programming and engineering, so I abandoned that field of study. I became extremely ill and ended all of my studies for an extended period of time, which is when I began studying military and intelligence history.
As I did so, I became convinced that our [the United States‘] counterintelligence system is broken. We tend to see counterintelligence simply as counterespionage and security, which leaves a lot out. As a result of those deficiencies, we have an overemphasis on mass-surveillance and we find ourselves outmatched in many ways against the Cheka’s descendents. I also became convinced that the only way to truly understand the (moral and functional) failings of our intelligence system was by understanding counterintelligence from the inside out. I taught myself as much as I could about intelligence analysis and collection and counterintelligence, but of course there’s only so much one can learn through self-education. To get a deeper understanding, I enrolled in American Military University and took the counterintelligence program, taught by current and former CIA, NSA, and military personnel. That gave me a much deeper understanding of the history of our counterintelligence programs and the more practical elements of counterintelligence operations and analysis.
Along the way, I’ve been collecting as many documents and as much primary source as I can. A few years ago, I lost pretty much all of my archive. Since then, I’ve regained copies of most of what I lost along with a great deal more. All told, my collection comes to somewhere between three and four terabytes though it’s been awhile since I checked what the actual total is across the several hard drives it’s stored on. I’ve lost all track of how many pages and hours of recordings it comes to, but just the collected State Department documents I have comes to about 3.5 million documents of varying lengths.
LS: What are you doing currently?
MB: I make my collection publicly and freely available through a set of special collections I had set up with the Internet Archive, and list the new uploads on my website That 1 Archive. I make a special point of retrieving documents from CIA’s CREST database, which can only be accessed from four public computers just outside of Washington D.C.) and uploading them so they can be accessed anywhere in the world. Soon I’ll be offering copies of the archive and file collections on USB for people who don’t want to use up their bandwidth or disk space and want to provide some financial support to help cover my expenses. Of course, all of the files will still be available to download for free – when I incorporated That 1 Archive, I made a point of making it so that neither the company nor I can profit off of the files without making them freely available.
LS: We became familiar with each other through our mutual friend Bill Hamilton. How did you get in touch with him?
MB: I think Bill first reached out to me after he found some of the documents I’d uploaded about Inslaw and PROMIS. In addition to some of the usual documents, I’d found some old studies about the efficacy and potential of PROMIS along with a few instances of its continued use. We began talking and exchanging information, and he eventually put me in touch with a few other people who were working on the case, including you. One of those individuals had photographed copies of Danny Casolaro’s research files, while I had copies of his research notes and began obtaining copies of DOJ notes and files on the Inslaw affair (all of which are now available online, except the materials not yet released to me by the Special Access Review). These files have revealed some very interesting facts, including ones that contradict the alibi of the primary person of interest in Danny Casolaro’s death. Some of the other files that Danny had, combined with other papers I was able to dig up, seem to undermine CIA’s basis for claiming that Richard Brenneke didn’t work with the Agency and that his October Surprise testimony was unreliable. There’s a lot more material that has yet to be processed, and additional releases coming so the story is far from over.
I recently launched a project with MuckRock called Iran-Contra, October Surprise and Reagan’s Wrongs, which will use FOIA requests to look into the wrongdoings of the Reagan administration and campaign, including the October Surprise, Debategate, MCA Records, the Inslaw and Wedtech scandals and the Iran-Contra scandal, which has been called Reagan’s unchecked abuse of Presidential power. There has been and will continue to be a lot of resistance to releasing these documents, so I’m asking people to visit the project page (linked above) and add their name to the letter of support petitioning the government to release all relevant files and waive their excessive duplication fees. I’ve exhausted my supplies covering the expenses for the 7,000 page FBI file on MCA Records, and the combined 50,000 page FBI files on Thomas Clines and Edwin Wilson, high level CIA officers who played major roles in Iran-Contra. Since then, the FBI has identified a 23,500 page file on Iran-Contra itself, which they want over $700 to make publicly available.
All the materials released through the project will be made freely available on both MuckRock and the Internet Archive.
LS: Why is the Iran-Contra scandal still relevant today?
MB: Until all the documents are released and until we’ve admitted and come to terms with what happened, and more importantly why, then we risk repeating the mistakes of the past by doing the things the wrong way or for the wrong reasons. We also aren’t being honest with ourselves. Covert and extra legal action has its place – necessity knows no law, but if there’s no accountability before or after the fact, then we risk slipping into either tyranny (I am the law) or anarchy (I am above the law). When extralegal actions are taken, there comes a time when those involved must justify themselves, in the classic sense of the word („to administer justice;“ late 14c., „to show (something) to be just or right,“ from Old French justifiier „submit to court proceedings“). Without a full accounting, there cannot be justice.
Some elements of Iran-Contra seem to have recently repeated themselves. Duane Clarridge, one of the senior CIA officers involved in Iran-Contra recently passed away. Before he did, he ran the Eclipse Group – a private intelligence firm that was involved in everything from intelligence gathering and propaganda to kidnapping and assassination, while being paid by the U.S. Government. There’s been very little coverage of this sort of thing, and the investigations into it have been tight-lipped.
LS: Is the so called „Safari Club“ part of your research? If so, please explain to our readers.
MB: There’s some overlap because the Safari Club, which was essentially an anti-Communist Cold War alliance, and was run by Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi arms dealer involved in a number of scandals. There are also some connections to the BCCI, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which was used by CIA, along with arms and narcotics traffickers and terrorists. It’s something I’ll be exploring more in the future, especially once I get the files I’ve requested on the BCCI.
LS: Thank you for what you’re doing, Mike, and good luck!