The book that is the subject of this review is The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro, written by Kenn Thomas and Jim Keith, and revised and updated by Kenn Thomas in 2004. The subject matter dealt with is the various conspiracies and secret government dealings that journalist and writer Danny Casolaro was researching before is his untimely death in 1991, supposedly just as he was about to complete his own lines of investigation. A few of these topics Casolaro and the writers of The Octopus examined are worth mentioning to give the casual observer a general overview of what this book examines.
Obviously, the strange circumstances surrounding Danny Casolaro’s death are examined at length. Ostensibly ruled a suicide, there were enough odd events that point in the direction that Casolaro was murdered and made to look as if he committed suicide. Some of these aspects include the fact that Casolaro had communicated to friends and family that he was, in fact, generally happy in life and was excited at having tracked his research to its end. The police investigation after the death made mistakes and may have involved the involvement of higher government agencies than a simple local suicide would warrant. The body, furthermore, was embalmed without the family’s notification, making an autopsy more difficult later on. Years after the death, the FBI reopened the investigation to determine whether the death could be ruled a suicide or murder.
Much of Casolaro’s research focused on the near-legendary PROMIS (Prosecutor’s Management Information System) computer software program, created by a company called Inslaw. The software was to be sold to the government and used primarily by US attorneys tracking criminal cases between various offices. However, the government stopped paying Inslaw, forcing the company into bankruptcy and igniting a lengthy legal battle between Inslaw and the Department of Justice, which resulted in a judge ruling that the DOJ had stolen the PROMIS software. The decision was eventually overturned on appeal due to a technicality. The software, though, has been reported to be used, modified, enhanced, and sold to foreign governments with “back door” access, allowing the US government to track virtually any data that ends up in the system.
The authors also examine a number of events, based on Casolaro’s notes, that the members of the secret government have been involved in. Just a few of these worth mentioning include the failed Albanian operation at the beginning of the Cold War, the overthrow of Arbenz’ government in Guatemala in 1954, the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy Assassination, Watergate, and the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland, among others. It does not appear that Casolaro went too deeply into each of these areas, although much of his research does not survive, but he aimed to tie together all of these events as having been manipulated by the secret team he nicknamed “The Octopus.” The Octopus was identified as consisting of eight members, some widely known and others more obscure, who operated outside the boundaries of government oversight or accountability and funded by drug money.
One of the more intriguing aspects to the Octopus story, although it is not based on Casolaro’s direct research, involves the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 due to a car crash. Co-author Jim Keith researched much of the material for this section, and connects some of the dots between Dodi Al Fayed, Diana’s partner, and the major players of the Octopus cabal. Ironically enough, Keith himself died of strange circumstances shortly after publishing a story stating that Diana was pregnant at the time of her death, but before his next article naming the Muslim doctor who examined Diana.
The last event that the book examines is the alleged use of the PROMIS software by Osama bin Laden in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Bin Laden may have purchased the software from Russia and used it to avoid being captured after the attacks. Although it is a very short section, it points out the continuity of these conspiracies through various presidential administrations, from the original theft of PROMIS to the use of the software by the most wanted terrorist in the world. Some of the same players in the original drama have now returned to power in the Bush II administration, and the same questions remained unanswered by the same people.
In the end, the book is a good introduction to various conspiracies and some of the well-known and lesser-known participants in each of them. The two-hundred page review of Casolaro’s research and related events may seem to jump around from topic to topic at times, but the various tentacles of “The Octopus” would seem to make this inevitable. Although the book may not convince many skeptics, it provides many different avenues for further research for those with an open mind. The sheer number of topics mentioned leave the reader feeling as if they have just scratched the surface of the secret dealings of Casolaro’s and the authors’ Octopus.