Any reader who gets his news from the usual "mainstream" sources would have likely learned for the first time from reading Mr. Cohen's review that:
1. there are witnesses among the emergency workers who found the body who say that they saw a wound in Foster's neck;
2. that one of them said the gun that he saw was "very different looking" from the 1913-vintage black Colt .38 revolver that is the official death gun;
3. that several witnesses saw a briefcase in the car thought to be Foster's at the park, though the police claim it never left his office;
4. that the keys to Foster's Honda were not found by police officers who searched Foster's person and his car at the park but later turned up when a second search of Foster's pants pockets was made a few hours later at the morgue, and that Craig Livingstone of the White House also visited the morgue that night;
5. that the witness, Patrick Knowlton, claims to have arrived at the park a little more than an hour before Foster's body was discovered where he encountered a "sinister-looking man who was hovering around the parking lot," that he insists that the Honda with Arkansas plates that he saw was brown and not Foster's silver-gray Honda, and that he claims later to have been harassed by people following him and staring at him when he refused to change his story.
Just from reading Cohen's well-laundered version of these charges one has to have his suspicions aroused, perhaps aroused enough even to thwart Cohen's obvious purpose and to read Ruddy's book. If he does so, he will find that things are much, much worse than Cohen has led us to believe. Not only will he discover that there are many other anomalies in the Foster case, but also that Cohen has not in any way done justice to the ones that he mentions. He will find, for instance, that there is solid evidence to support the claims of the emergency workers that there was a neck wound. The only doctor to view the body in Fort Marcy Park, Northern Virginia Medical Examiner, Donald Haut, described a wound "mouth to neck" in his contemporaneous report and in another place on his report the words had apparently been altered to read "HEAD" instead of "NECK." In addition, a photo leaked out from the Starr investigation that Ruddy claims to have seen clearly showed a neck wound.
He would find that the emergency worker was very definite that the gun he saw was an automatic and not a revolver, so definite that he drew a picture of it. One has to be willfully ignorant of the actual practice of our FBI not to believe that their pressure tactics were responsible for that story ultimately being changed.
One would also find that the police officers who claim to have missed the keys in the pocket were searching for whatever they might find, including something as small as a suicide note. Mr. Cohen might claim to believe that it is no big thing that they would overlook not one but two whole sets of keys in the pants pockets, but the average National Review reader surely cannot be so credulous.
And from reading Mr. Cohen's account, one would not know that the witness Knowlton is so serious about his charges of harassment and intimidation that he has filed suit against the FBI, and that the three-judge panel that appointed Kenneth Starr takes his charges so seriously that they appended his lawyer's 20-page letter to the Starr report--a letter that makes mincemeat of Starr's suicide conclusions--when they were not legally required to do so.
Ultimately, for Cohen, as for defenders of the government in the TWA 800 tragedy, it ultimately comes down to the unreliable citizen witness versus the infallible voice of authority. The voice in which Cohen places greatest confidence is that of the autopsy doctor, James C. Beyer. Here, too, what he withholds from the reader is of great significance. He does not tell us about the X-rays that Beyer checked that he had taken, but later said he either didn't take because the machine wasn't working or took but did not get readable results, and he does not tell us about the police officer who wrote that Dr. Beyer said the X-rays showed no bullet fragments in the head. He doesn't tell us that the X-ray machine was installed new in June of 1993 and didn't have its first service call until October, two months after Foster's death. He also doesn't tell us about Dr. Beyer's previous incompetent or frankly fraudulent autopsies, particularly in the "highly sensitive death" (to use Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's expression from his book, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton) of Virginia college student-DEA informant Tommy Burkett in December of 1991.
Finally, when half truths are not enough for his purposes Cohen falls back upon plain untruths. In his Dec. 22 rejoinder to Ruddy, attempting to debunk the theory that the keys were planted in the pants pocket at the morgue, he writes of the body being "removed, naked, from the park." But in the "Body Diagram" page of the autopsy one sees in Dr. Beyer's handwriting: "Body-clothed shirt/T-shirt/pants/Belt/undershorts/shoes/socks. No personal effects." And, in his original review, describing Fort Marcy, Cohen calls it "a park that is routinely filled with lovers, joggers, picnickers, cruisers, and men who wish to relieve themselves. Park rangers drive through quite frequently." "One wonders," he says, "didn't the killers worry that they might be seen?"
That description of the obscure, wooded, little-visited Civil War relic squeezed between two busy roads, is made up out of whole cloth. The body could have easily been driven to the distant perimeter of the park along a hidden old road no longer in use and carried through the woods to the spot where it was found without the rare Tuesday afternoon visitor to the main part of the park ever being the wiser. It is quite simply one of the best places in the Washington area to dump a body-- preferably in the daytime when people are at work and no car lights would give away your presence--and it has the added advantage of being under the jurisdiction of the federal government. There is no excuse for Professor Cohen to misrepresent the scene of the site where Vince Foster's body was found as he has done here.
Usually, when we read of some tenured professor earning his handsome salary in a major university teaching only one or two courses a year, our reaction is outrage at the waste of money. In this instance, for the sake of the students, let us hope that Professor Cohen teaches no more than that.
December 22, 1997
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