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Issue Number 35

"Six Degrees of Richard Ben-Veniste" 
December 20—world exclusive
by Daniel Hopsicker
copyright MadCowMorningNews
may not be reprinted without permission

At the same time Wally Hilliard's Venice flight school was training dozens of terrorists to fly—including both pilots crashing into the World Trade Center—the owner of Huffman Aviation in Venice Florida was also involved in a murky aviation transaction with a multi-millionaire Texas oil-man who played a prominent role in the Whitewater Scandal.

Truman Arnold, chief fund-raiser for the Democratic Party in 1995 when the scandal broke, was investigated for a variety of  dubious money-raising schemes ranging from renting out the White House's Lincoln Bedroom to selling tickets on Air Force One. He was also fingered for procuring cash (read hush money) for convicted Clinton friend Web Hubbell.

Arnold, who played golf with Clinton regularly, coordinated payments to Webster Hubbell from businesses controlled by old friends of President Clinton and campaign donors that included the Lippo Group, organizers of a multibillion-dollar development in China that received the endorsement of the Clinton administration.

Now Truman Arnold's name has surfaced in connection with the investigation into the Venice FL flight schools made infamous by the September 11 terrorist attack.

In a curious aircraft transaction discovered while probing the tangled business affairs of Wallace J. Hilliard, 70, of Naples, FL, Truman Arnold appears to have 'loaned' Hilliard—for only a dollar—a Beechcraft King  Air 200 worth over $2 million. 

Moreover, it wasn't until almost a year later that Hilliard finally got around to arranging financing to pay for the plane, according to documents obtained from the FAA by the MadCowMorningNews.

"Being connected means never having to say you're sorry." 

On December 10, 2000, Truman Arnold engaged in his act of munificence with Wally Hilliard, owner of two flight schools which beginning in 1999 induced hundreds of Arab men to leave their desert kingdoms and come to American shores to learn to fly... 

Wally Hilliard's newly-discovered association with a benefactor at the heart of the American political process raises anew questions about whether the appearance of Mohamed Atta and his terrorist buddies in Venice, FL. was—as the official story has it—just a matter of mere happenstance. 

Wallace Hilliard, it is clear, has ties extending well into the upper reaches of American political circles, ties which may hold the answers to questions about how sophisticated operators like Hilliard and Dekkers were taken in by foreign student pilots demonstrating none of 'the right stuff.' 

In another bizarre twist, Truman Arnold’s lawyer during the Whitewater Investigation turns out to have been Democratic power-broker Richard Ben-Veniste, just nominated to serve on the 9/11 probe. 

If Ben-Veniste client Truman Arnold's business dealings with terror flight school owner Wally Hilliard come under scrutiny in the 9/11 probe, the slick Washington lawyer may find himself involved in a major national scandal from two different sides.

If he does, for Ben-Veniste, it won't even be for the first time. He served as Majority Counsel to the Congressional Whitewater probe investigating the actions of Truman Arnold, and then went on to defend Arnold before Ken Starr’s Whitewater grand jury, an action for which he was roundly criticized.

"Six Degrees of Richard Ben-Veniste"

Published reports at the time tarred the Democratic superlawyer for alleged misbehavior during the Whitewater investigation, claiming Ben-Veniste, while he was the Democratic counsel to the Whitewater Committee, had blocked inquiries about Webster Hubbell's hiring by the Lippo Group, and then turned around and defended a man he had just been (supposedly) investigating.

Addressing his critics Ben-Veniste wrote, "Truman Arnold's name never came up during the Whitewater investigation... because of the entirely collateral nature of the inquiry about Hubbell and Lippo... and given Arnold's total lack of involvement in any aspect of the matters before the Whitewater Committee, no honest argument can be made that my representation of Arnold transgresses professional guidelines."

Richard Ben-Veniste has been a 'utility player' in major American scandals in roles that are often not clearly-defined. Now Ben-Veniste, about to serve on his third major national investigative panel (Watergate, Whitewater, and 9/11), may be about to face the same criticism all over again.

But Ben-Veniste once again turning up at the 'scene of the crime,' is by no means the oddest thing about Truman Arnold and Wallace Hilliard’s aviation transaction...

That distinction would have to go to the aircraft bill of sale which conveyed the plane from Arnold to Hilliard.

Although it is dated December 10,2000, the MadCowMorningNews has learned exclusively that it was not submitted to the FAA until almost a year later, on January 31,2002.

Bread crumbs along the paper trail

While the purpose of this arrangement is unclear, one possible reason, aviation sources indicate, is that had the plane come under law enforcement scrutiny during this time, the person coming under suspicion would have been—not Wally Hilliard, the man using the plane—but Truman Arnold, who was still the owner of record. 

This is no small benefit, considering that the December 10, 2000 transfer date for the twin-engine King Air came right after Hilliard had lost his bid to retain possession of a Lear jet he owned which the DEA confiscated on the runway at Orlando Executive Airport in July of 2000 with 45 pounds of Columbian heroin aboard.

When that happened, Mr. Hilliard's name was 'mud,' at least with certain federal authorities.

Nonetheless, Hilliard continued putting together a company, Florida Air Holdings, which planned to offer commuter air service, after briefly flying in the Spring of 2000, when it was touted by Florida political luminary Katherine Harris.

When it offered commuter service again, under the name Discover Air, it went out of business again after not one ticket was sold on its inaugural route. Notwithstanding this dismal record, another Florida political luminary, Gov. Jeb Bush, stepped forward to tour its facilities and praise its seemingly un-praiseworthy management.

Against this backdrop of inexplicable aviation activity by Hilliard in Florida the State Dept announced a change of policy in January, after President Bush's swearing-in, instructing the U.S. Ambassador to Columbia, Anne Hamilton (from DEA chief Asa Hutchinson's home of Fort Smith, Arkansas, just minutes by air from infamous Mena, home of the biggest narcotics trafficking operation in history during the 1980's) to urge Columbia to "stop its opium eradication activities in favor of eliminating coca." 

When he found out, Republican Dan Burton was livid, and brought the matter before his House Govt. Reform Committee.

"In 2000 we saw initial success with the heroin strategy," Burton stated in the hearing. "Our allies and the Colombian National Police eradicated 9,200 hectares of opium poppy plants in Colombia's high Andes Mountains. This put a serious dent into the supply of heroin coming into the United States."

"It was then that the State Department chose to stop opium eradication," Burton fumed, "to, as Ambassador Patterson put it, 'take advantage of a historic opportunity to eradicate coca.'"

During hearings, Burton said that "Eradication of opium with the new Black Hawks that we gave them last year was stopped -- stopped while the coca eradication in the south took a priority. And the only problem is Colombia's cocaine is now increasingly headed in another direction: to Europe. And the opium poppy used to make more deadly Colombian heroin is almost exclusively headed to the United States of American and our East Coast."

"It's a small world after all."

What makes this digression into the politics of heroin of especial interest are two related facts:

1.Richard Ben-Veniste represented notorious Contra-era drug smuggler and CIA pilot Barry Seal, covered (read the chapter here) in Barry & the ‘boys.'" And

2.The King Air 200 which passed from Truman Arnold into Wally Hilliard's hands was originally one of a number of special "mil-spec" planes produced in 1981 for use in the Contra adventure in Central America.

Barry Seal 'owned' one, which later became the favorite plane of then-Texas Governor George W. Bush. 

Now Wally Hilliard 'owns' another.

Also of note is the fact that Barry Seal  had attempted to plea bargain himself out of trouble through the simple expedient of offering to 'roll' on his own attorney, Richard Ben-Veniste.

This novel approach caused a nervous Ben-Veniste to write a letter to Seal (reprinted in Barry & the boys from Seal's own archive) in which he says, "I have mentioned several times that I would appreciate your returning my two briefcases of legal materials which you have been holding as soon as possible."

Some observers detected a whiff of blackmail.

When we originally learned of this maneuver while writing "Barry & 'the boys,'" we thought, how odd.

Offering to roll on your attorney is odd. But rolling on someone else, slightly higher up in your particular criminal organization, like your boss...

That happens all the time.

Years later, well after Seal's assassination, the Wall Street Journal called him "the ghost haunting the Whitewater probe."

Richard Ben-Veniste may one day be known as "the ghost haunting the 9/11 investigation."

Today the Truman Arnold Company tops the Arkansas Business list of that state's largest private companies, after unseating Jackson Stephens Inc. of Little Rock, long unchallenged as the state's largest private company.

Jackson Stephens was often referred to by drug smuggler Barry Seal of the Mena drug smuggling operation as the "Old Man" 

No doubt all of this is mere coincidence, without the slightest relevance to an understanding of what happened in America on September 11th, 2001.

According to the FBI, which should know, the 19 hijackers had no help from any outside organization while in this country.

They were a Lone Cadre. 

Nothing to see here, folks.

Move along.