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[Source: absoluciojona.org]

Series labels bona fide whistleblowers as “out of their mind” and “manipulators” when documented evidence confirms what they are saying

In late February, Netflix began airing a four-part docuseries directed by Zachary Treitz called American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders. It follows journalist Christian Hansen as he investigated the August 1991 highly-suspicious death of journalist Danny Casolaro in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Casolaro had been on the trail of a network of corrupt CIA operatives he labeled “The Octopus,” whom he concluded had used stolen computer software to carry out a wide array of criminal activities tied to the Iran-Contra “Enterprise” and other major political scandals of the 1980s.

The crimes included heroin and cocaine smuggling; the pilfering of gold; political spying on allies and private citizens, and unlawful weapons sales to right-wing extremists and political death squads throughout South and Central America, the Middle East and on the African Continent.

After traveling to West Virginia to interview a secret source in his investigation, Casolaro was found with both of his forearms deeply slashed a total of eight times, severing the tendons in both arms in the blood-filled bathtub of his room in the Sheraton hotel.

Such wounds made it impossible for Casolaro to have slit both of his forearms, since such severing of the tendons in either arm first would have rendered that arm useless.

Hansen explains that, around 2013, he became obsessed with the Casolaro case and abandoned his job as a photographer with The New York Times to pursue the same leads that Casolaro had been pursuing, and to investigate the circumstances of Casolaro’s death.

Christian Hansen, journalist featured in American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders. [Source: the-sun.com]

Over the course of a ten-year journey, Hansen met key figures within Casolaro’s orbit and others who knew him intimately. These people included:

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Bill and Nancy Hamilton [Source: bodycount.info]

A) Bill Hamilton, a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee who founded a computer software company in the early 1970s named the Institute for Law and Social Research (INSLAW) that promised to enable law enforcement agencies to collect money and track criminals. That software, known as Prosecution Management Information System (PROMIS), was stolen by agents of The Octopus within the Reagan/Bush Justice Department after INSLAW was driven into bankruptcy by the Reagan/Bush Administration Justice Department management. This revolutionary computer software was then clandestinely sold to foreign countries and used to carry out criminal covert operations financed through money laundering through CIA-run banks, including the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI); the Bahamas-based Castle Bank and the Australian Nugan-Hand Bank.

Michael Riconosciuto [Source: uk.style.yahoo.com]

B) Michael Riconosciuto: a science and computer prodigy whose father Marshall Riconosciuto worked with Wackenhut, a well-documented CIA intelligence front “security” company. Michael modified the PROMIS software for the CIA to be covertly deployed on the Cabazon Indian Reservation in Indio, California as a means of processing illegal weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras (counter-revolutionaries) in violation of the Boland Amendments passed by Congress to prohibit the Reagan/Bush administration CIA from providing weapons to the Contras. Michael was later “set up” on phony drug charges and sentenced to a quarter century behind bars because he knew too much about the CIA’s grossly criminal covert operations.

Robert Booth Nichols. [Source: ethicalboardroom.com]

C) Robert Booth Nichols: A CIA covert operations specialist who was the coordinator of one of the principal tentacles of The Octopus who had become a secret “confidential source” for Casolaro in Casolaro’s investigation, and is the principal suspect behind Casolaro’s murder.

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Dr. John P. Nichols [Source:chicagohostpodcast.com]

D) John Philip Nichols, another CIA covert operations specialist who worked for the CIA in Brazil and Chile and was operating on the Cabazon Indian reservation where the PROMIS software was modified by Michael Riconosciuto. When a member of the Cabezon tribal council, Fred Alvarez, began probing into Nichols’ suspicious “business dealings,” Alvarez and two of his associates were brutally murdered by CIA covert assassin Phillip Arthur Thompson who also murdered Michael Riconosciuto’s business partner, Paul Morasca.

On camera, Hansen also interviewed:

A) Danny Casolaro’s brother Anthony Casolaro, a Virginia based doctor who in the 2000s served as a consulting physician for the White House medical unit;

B) Cheri Seymour, a California based journalist who wrote, The Last Circle: Danny Casolaro’s Investigation Into the Octopus and the PROMIS Software Scandal (Walterville, OR: Trine Day, 2010);


C) Ann Klenk, a close friend of Danny Casolaro who was a senior producer for MSNBC’s political show Hardball starring Chris Matthews.

Following the CIA’s Playbook to a T

During the first three episodes of the docuseries, the viewer is led to believe that Hansen is sceptical of the official designation of Casolaro’s death as a suicide, and thinks that The Octopus was actually engaged in the very criminal activities of which Danny Casolaro was preparing to publicly charge these men.

However, three-quarters of the way through the fourth and final episode of the NETFLIX series, Hansen suddenly veers away from this obvious conclusion and announces to viewers that Hansen is certain of only one thing: that only one person was in Danny’s hotel room when he was killed—Danny himself—and that Hansen had come to conclude that the people who believe in “The Octopus Conspiracy” are “out of their mind” and had “manipulated” Casolaro into wasting his life.

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According to Christopher Hanson and Zachary Treitz, The Octopus is a figment of conspiracy theorists’ minds. [Source: netflix.com]

The “turning point” for Hanson regarding the credibility of Bill Hamilton and Michael Riconosciuto was when one of Bill Hamilton’s “highly placed intelligence sources,” one “Norma Giacinto,” who reportedly told Hamilton that his PROMIS software had been deployed to program U.S. nuclear submarines, said that this extraordinarily highly-classified information had been conveyed to her on paper napkins in a public bowling alley.

The clear implication on Hansen’s part was that, since Giacinto was so clearly a non-credible “source,” so must be Hamilton and, therefore, Riconsciuto as well.

After being confronted about Giacinto, Hansen reported that Hamilton stopped returning his phone calls and retracted some things he had earlier said.

Hansen then went on to expressly depict Michael Riconsciuto as being “paranoid” and a “web spinner” who “spins stories” that may be only partially true—if at all.

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Michael Riconosciuto after his release from 26 years in prison. [Source: aol.com]

Hansen asserts to his viewers that “all these people are insane—this is so fucking sad.”

While Hansen is careful not to denigrate Casolaro himself, he suggests that he was “being manipulated” by Hamlton, Riconosciuto and Robert Booth Nichols, who was exposed as a con man in 2008 when he was implicated in a ponzi scheme run by his business partner and was then suddenly reported as having died (though many believe that he faked his death and is still alive, somewhere in hiding).

Hansen characterized Casolaro as “a golden boy with a vivacious personality” but asserted that he had developed an “obsession with the phantom Octopus” which, Hansen implies, caused him to self-destruct, marking him as a figure out of a Greek Tragedy, rather than as a hero who should inspire investigative journalists today.

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Danny Casolaro with his son Trey whom he was raising as a single dad. [Source: gq.com]

According to Hansen, when Danny realized that he had been “drawn down a rabbit hole,” it appears that he killed himself. The theory presented is that Casolaro had driven himself deeply into debt because he could never find a publisher for the “tell-all book” that he was planning to write and that this failure was because there was simply not enough substantiated proof on which to base his conclusions that there was, in fact, an “Octopus” in operation.

Such a conclusion on the part of Hanson is outrageous because Hanson knew for a fact that William Hamilton’s PROMIS software had been stolen and was being used to establish a) money laundering networks by the CIA that financed criminal covert operations, and b) authoritarian surveillance networks including by foreign governments that had been sold the software illegally to enable The Octopus to spy on them and all of their financial transactions.

Prior to his death, Casolaro was planning to fly to Australia to try to uncover new information about the Nugan-Hand Bank, a CIA money laundering front run by veterans of the secret war in Laos who were involved in large-scale drug smuggling.[1]

Casolaro was scheduled to meet with members of the Australian Royal and Costigan Commissions, which were investigating drug-related corruption in Australia, including that involving Nugan-Hand, and uncovered damning evidence that Casolaro would have obtained.[2]

Danny Casolaro had amassed a detailed file on the Nugan Hand Bank which is not mentioned in American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders. [Source: wikispooks.com]
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Edwin P. Wilson [Source: washingtonpost.com]

After his visit to Australia, Danny was planning to meet with CIA operative Edwin P. Wilson at his cell in Allenwood Penitentiary in Pennsylvania where he was held after being convicted for illegal arms smuggling to Libya that had been financed with a $22 million line of credit provided by the Nugan-Hand Bank. (Wilson and Nugan-Hand Bank founder Michael Hand were involved in smuggling arms to CIA backed rebels in Angola).

[Source: goodreads.com]

Casolaro additionally planned to visit Laos and Burma to further uncover the CIA’s support for the drug traffic out of the Golden Triangle, taking forward the story told in Alfred W. McCoy’s landmark 1972 book The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia.[3]

At the time of his murder, as was confirmed by his best friend Ben Mason, Casolaro had in his briefcase copies of two checks—one for $1 million and another for $4 million—from the Kuwaiti Royal Family to Iran/Contra criminal arms dealers Adnan Khashoggi and Manucher Ghorbanifar, that had been drawn on the Monte Carlo branch of BCCI, for the purchase of TOW missiles by Hezbollah.

Those two checks were transferred by one Robert Sensi, who worked directly for CIA Director William Casey. The profits from this sale were to be used to purchase arms to be illegally sent to the Nicaraguan Contras in flagrant violation of the 1984 Boland Amendment.[4]

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Copy of $1 million check for purchase of TOW missiles that was in Casolaro’s possession. [Source: thesixtheye.org]

Casolaro had amassed further proof of a CIA backed coup in Australia targeting Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who had opposed the U.S. war in Vietnam and was trying to remove a secret U.S. spy base in Australia at Pine Gap that was being used to unlawfully spy on civilian Australians and to smuggle heroin and cocaine through Australia.

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Gough Whitlam, who was overthrown in a CIA backed coup that Casolaro knew a lot about. [Source: mintpressnews.com]
Theodore Shackley [Source: alchetron.com]

Casolaro, additionally, had evidence of CIA involvement in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in December 1988 undertaken to keep secret a CIA drug smuggling network run by Theodore Shackley out of Lebanon.

In sum, Hanson and Treitz’ claim that Casolaro had concluded that he had been in effect, “manipulated” by William Hamilton, Michael Riconosciuto and Robert Booth Nichols into “chasing a phantom” and had come to conclude that all of his research efforts were for naught, is transparently false.

As far as Casolaro having committed suicide, this theory is dispositively contradicted by the fact that both of Casolaro’s forearms were slashed so badly deeply, multiple times, that the tendons in both of his arms were severed, making it anatomically impossible for him to hold a razor to slit his second forearm.

Moreover, there were conspicuous bruises on Casolaro’s arm and head that were never accounted for and signs that an assailant had tried to asphyxiate him by placing a plastic bag over his head. Three of Casolaro’s fingernails were missing, and a housekeeper saw two bloody towels in his room, indicating that blood had been cleaned up by someone else.[5]

Casolaro crime scene
[Source: shtplan.com]

A still-confidential source asserts that Casolaro had Ethyl Alcohol, Absolute, in his system that had been injected into his spine to “deaden the nerves below his head.” An unnamed Sheraton Hotel maid told the Martinsburg police that she saw a man leaving Casolaro’s room the morning of his death whom she was certain was NOT Danny Casolaro.

Down to the very sports clothes the maid said that that man was wearing, that man closely resembled Major Joseph Cuellar, a CIA and Special Forces operative who worked at Business Risks International, a private security company functioning as a CIA front. Cuellar was seen, there in Martinsburg, with Casolaro the weekend of his murder.

Major Joseph Cuellar [Source: thecinemaholic.com]

Rather than trying to definitively solve Casolaro’s murder, the ultimate aim of American Conspiracy is to characterize principled whistleblowers like Hamilton and Riconosciuto and researchers who are still on the trail of “The Octopus” as “paranoid conspiracy theorists.”

In 1967, the CIA issued a secret memo to its army of media “assets” entitled “Countering Criticism of the Warren Report,” which recommended slandering as “conspiracy theorists” anyone who challenged the Warren Report’s false conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of John F. Kennedy.

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[Source: reddit.com]

Whether intentionally or not, Treitz’s and Hansen’s documentary follows the CIA’s memo to a “t” so much so that it is titled American Conspiracy.

Instead of generating outrage at the criminals who committed unlawful acts under the guise of “national security,” Treitz and Hansen try and make the audience feel sorry for Hamilton and Riconcsciuto for believing in “conspiracies”—even though they were victims themselves of the criminals Casolaro was beginning to expose so cannot actually be paranoid.

Hamilton is made out to be particularly duplicitous because of questions posed by Hansen about one of Hamilton’s sources when most of his sources have been proven reliable and his overall claims were authenticated in a federal court ruling where the Judge, George F. Bason Jr., stated explicitly that Hamlton had been defrauded in a massive criminal scheme involving “trickery, fraud, and deceit.”[6]

Elliot Richardson, Richard M. Nixon’s former attorney general, took on Hamilton’s case after reaching the conclusion that there was evidence of a “sinister conspiracy even greater than Watergate.”

Richardson’s comments show Treitz and Hansen to be recklessly irresponsible in coming to the false conclusion that Danny Casolaro had committed suicide—just because they were unable to uncover the evidence that is now available to prove that Danny Casolaro was 100% correct in his conclusions.

Deliberate Withholding of Evidence

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Peter Osborne [Source: thesixtheye.org]

Peter Osborne is a former science adviser to the Australian government who began following the trail of the Octopus so to speak when his encryption business venture, established with the Australian government and United Nations, was destroyed under the CIA’s Operation StillPoint because it operated outside CIA control.

Osborne told CovertAction Magazine (CAM) in an exclusive interview that “Christian Hansen and Zachary Treitz did not tell the truth to the public. They deliberately withheld exposing their knowledge of credible and independent evidence, claiming they have never seen any credible evidence that indicates that Danny Casolaro was murdered.”  

Osborne said that his website offering extensive documentation that backed up and expanded on what Casolaro had found came out more than two years before the film but was never mentioned—even though Hansen had sent him an email in July 2021 claiming that he was curious about what he had recently discovered.

Hansen had pleaded with him to have access to all of his thousands of recorded interviews with many key witnesses and his recovered official CIA documentary records confirming the technical teams that were involved in exploiting the modified PROMIS Software that was sold to the Australian Government and other foreign intelligence agencies.

Osborne told CAM that “in early 2022, Christian Hansen and Zachary Treitz were totally aware that I had already posted on my website my own credible and independent research investigations and legal evidence before they continued to release their fictional and misleading Netflix Series called an American Conspiracy.”

According to Osborne, the scene involving Ms. Giacinto was a set up. Ms. Giacinto was clearly told to state those lines; her husband had worked for the CIA, and Aetna, the company she worked for, was associated with the John Hopkins School of Medicine, which provided a cover for U.S. clandestine operations.

Osborne said that Treitz and Hansen “did not have the professional, technical qualification to understand the CIA’s need to modify the PROMIS software for tracking nuclear submarines and covert SWIFT banking using the CIA/NSA Echelon network.”  

Part of the film’s bias is its reliance for commentary on Ann Klenk who has a clear conflict of interest in that she worked for Dr. Earl Brian, a Reagan administration official whose company was involved in the PROMIS software theft (Klenk was a producer for the Jack Anderson show on the Financial News Network, which was owned by Brian).[7]

According to Ben Mason whom Osborne interviewed, when Danny died, Klenk went to his house and seized his documents, which she had no authority to do. Klenk kept hidden what was disclosed in those documents whose content would undercut the film’s thesis.

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Robert A. Altman [Source: en.wikipedia.org]

Besides the omissions about Klenk, Hansen omits the fact that in Martinsburg, BCCI attorney Robert A. Altman had reluctantly agreed to meet Casolaro who was threatening to give the checks from the Kuwaiti Royal family to purchase TOW missiles to a Senate investigation led by John Kerry (D-MA), along with two folders of documents exposing a Pentagon fraud involving Hughes Aircraft.

These facts undermine Hansen and Treitz’ claim that Caslaro’s investigation had reached a dead end and that Casolaro had no hard evidence upon which to base his book.

American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders effectively serves the agenda of the CIA in continuing the coverup of its massive crimes surrounding the theft of the PROMIS software and in trying to discourage further investigation of the crimes of The Octopus.

  • See CovertAction Magazine’s series examining Danny Casolaro and his remarkable investigation into CIA corruption:

See also Peter Osborne’s website that provides a tribute to Casolaro and extensive evidence about the “Octopus.”

  1. Updated information on the criminal activities of the Nugan-Hand Bank which Danny was investigating can be found in Peter Butt, Merchants of Menace: The True Story of the Nugan Hand Bank Scandal (Sydney: Blackwattle Press, 2015). This book confirms a lot of Danny’s original research. See also Jonathan Kwitny, The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money and the CIA (New York: W.W. Norton, 1987).

  2. The commissions found that the Nugan-Hand BanK laundered money for as many as 40 drug-trafficking syndicates, including a major one in Asia headed by Terrance J. Clark, and that it helped the Shah of Iran by facilitating the sale of a U.S. Navy spy ship to the Shah’s regime as it was in the grip of an Islamic revolution. They further uncovered telexes indicating dealings between Michael Hand and Henry Eugene Bartholomeusz, a Sydney shipping executive who was arrested and charged by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1974 with smuggling $4 million worth of heroin into the U.S. from Thailand as part of a huge CIA drug and arms trafficking network. See Peter Osborne’s podcast, “The CIA and Mafia’s Partnership with Nugan-Hand Bank” and several follow-ups, which detailed Nugan-Hand’s use of Australia as a base to bring drugs produced in the Golden Triangle into the U.S. Michael Riconosciuto found information linking Nugan-Hand’s operation to the use of PROMIS software modified at the Cabazon Indian Reservation. His business partner, Paul Morasca, was helping Michael Hand to move funds from the Nugan-Hand Bank that were to be used in covert operations by the CIA’s secret team. The CIA refused to cooperate with the Costigan and other Australian government commissions and, ultimately, had the Costigan Commission shut down.

  3. Alfred W. McCoy, with Cathleen Reed and Leonard P. Reed II, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (New York: Harper & Row, 1972).

  4. thesixtheye.org

  5. It is further significant that Danny’s documents and files were missing from his hotel room and car. If his research had not amounted to anything substantial, why would they be removed?

  6. After ruling in Hamilton’s favor, Bason Jr. was removed from the federal bench, though his ruling was affirmed in November 1989 by U.S. district Judge William B. Bryant Jr., who said that there was “convincing, perhaps compelling support for the findings set forth by the bankruptcy court.” It is curious why Hansen did not try to interview Ronald LeGrand, chief investigator of the Senate Judiciary Committee under Joseph Biden, who passed important insider information about INSLAW’s theft to Hamilton and pointed to the compromising of the Justice Department. Joe Biden, in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, forged a letter by LeGrand as part of the coverup and LeGrand, a graduate of Boston College and Boston College Law School, was soon forced out of his position as chief investigator of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and out of his next Congressional staff position in the U.S. House of Representatives. Author’s correspondence with Bill Hamilton, March 8, 2024.

  7. According to Peter Osborne, Klenk was rewarded for helping to cover up Danny Casolaro’s murder by being appointed as a press secretary for Bill Clinton, who has had a long CIA connection, during his presidential campaign. Osborne believes that Danny Casolaro never trusted Ann Klenk even though she purported to be his friend, and her behavior after his death confirms his judgment.


  1. Odd. I indeed WAS frustrated by the turn in the narrative when they started to acknowledge the possibility of Danny committing suicide, however, as the show went on I certainly did not felt they were making the case that they believed this to be true.

    I interpreted it as the filmmakers merely providing a narrative. They attempt to pass themselves off as objective researchers rather than “conspiracy theorists”. Listening to them in the numerous podcasts that they have taken part in after the show premiered, they very obviously believe Danny did not kill himself, and express other beliefs which they state they left out of the documentary as they believed it might affect their objectivity, such has Chris stating he doesn’t care what anyone says, the October Surprise happened.

    I think the author of this piece might have jumped the gun in his outrage and knee jerk reaction. The show, in fact, all but states that Joseph Cuellar murdered Danny, something everyone who as looked into this case knows, and provide previously unseen, valuable evidence such as the composite drawing of the man seen leaving Danny’s room the day he was found, which is almost an exact resemblance to Cuellar. They also provided the interview with Lynn Knowles who confirmed her previous statement that she had been death threatened by Cuellar who mentioned Danny and Anson Ng’s deaths.

    I’d advise reviewing the show with the idea in mind that they’re trying to provide a product for the general public to ease them into this world, not for the initiated like us who dwell in the dark corners of the information highway and take these things in stride.

    Cheryl Seymour seemed to approve of them and their documentary, and again, they do not express any incredulity, and again, personally, the show did not strike me as them attempting to make a case for Danny’s suicide, all to the contrary.

  2. Felix Abt recently wrote an article on the disturbing situation in Gaza and at the top of his article he included a picture. However show in the article linked below this picture was from the Gaza Israel conflict in 2009 not the present day conflict. Mr. Abt article does not permit reader comments so I am making my comment here instead.

    Also I am very critical of Israel myself, but having said that there is a lot of misinformation circulating on both sides as shown in the article linked below:

  3. The only part of this movie that resonated with me is when they were comparing the handwriting on Danny’s alleged suicide note with actual notes that Danny had written earlier in his life his handwriting matched almost perfectly with previous samples of his handwriting. So if Danny had not written the alleged suicide note, then somebody else did a masterful job of
    mirroring Danny’s handwriting.

  4. Wow, super cool article. I was disappointed with how the series ended. Yours would have been way better 😉

    Where do we go to follow more info on this conspiracy? Asking for a friend.

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