Vincent W. Foster and Tommy Burkett
by DCDave

From the beginning, to any objective, open-minded observer not overawed by authority, there seemed only two possibilities, it was either a murder staged to look like a suicide or a suicide staged to look like a murder. The immediately known facts in the case were that Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr. was found dead in Fort Marcy Park, Virginia, at about 6:00 pm, July 20, 1993. From initial press reports he was either lying near or draped over a Civil War cannon, he had been shot either in the mouth or the head, and a revolver was either in one of his hands or it was lying near him.

Nothing made sense at the time. Why would this highly successful lawyer at the pinnacle of his career, this poised and devoted family man with no history of depression or mental illness, take off from work in the middle of the day in the middle of the week to go shoot himself to death in an obscure corner of an obscure, unscenic, hard-to-find park, miles from his home or work, a park that no one knows of his ever having visited before?

As time has passed, in spite of the best efforts of the government and the press, the simple suicide explanation makes even less sense. There is not one single piece of evidence which has been presented that is not tainted or contradicted in some way. To give just a few examples, we are told by Special Prosecutor Robert Fiske that Foster's sister, Sheila Anthony, her husband, former Congressman Beryl Anthony, and his widow Lisa all testified as to Foster's depressed mental state and his talk of a need for a psychiatrist. But we learn from police reports released a year after the death that Lisa, her two sisters, and her daughter were present at Foster's house the night he died and in more than an hour of interviews by police no one could think of any reason why he might take his own life. Three days later a reporter for The Washington Times, trying to confirm reports of depression from an unidentified "source close to the family," was told by the brother-in-law, Anthony, "There's not a damn thing to it. That's a bunch of crap," and he angrily hung up the phone.

We are told that he took an antidepressant prescribed by his family doctor in Little Rock and filled in a pharmacy in Washington, but no records of the phone calls or of the filling of the prescription have been produced.

We are told in the final police report that a hand-written list of three psychiatrists was found in his wallet. A photocopy of what is purported to be the list, with the names blacked out, is among the documents belatedly released by the police. But in a long article on July 30, 1993, the Washington Post said that the list contained only two names, and they must have seen it because they reported the names. Previously the Post had reported that the list was found in Foster's office and the New Yorker had reported that it was found by Justice Department investigators. As with the famous torn-up non-suicide note missed by White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum when he emptied out Foster's briefcase and inventoried it, but later "found by a colleague," the public was not permitted to see even a photocopy of the actual note so that an independent evaluation of the handwriting could be made. (Later a photocopy of the "suicide" note leaked out and was published in The Wall Street Journal. Three respected handwriting experts, including the world's most respected authenticator of literary manuscripts, Professor Reginald Alton of Oxford University declared the work a mediocre forgery. Most recently, Kenneth Starr produced a handwriting expert who said it was authentic. As for the list of psychiatrists, a photocopy released by Senate investigators had the blackouts removed. All three names were there, but the first one, the one not mentioned in that July 30, 1993, article is written quite differently, apparently in a different hand. No authentication, to date, has been performed on this document.)

Perhaps the most intriguing of the curiosities and improbabilities of the Foster mystery lie in the area of overlap with the Tommy Burkett case. (Burkett, a twenty-one year old college student was found dead in his Herndon, Virginia, home on December 1, 1991. A revolver with the cylinder slightly ajar was lying atop his folded hands and a bullet hole was in his head. Police ruled suicide though they never even tested fresh blood spatter found in other rooms of the house. A second autopsy paid for by the parents found a broken jaw and other clear evidence of a beating not noted in the original autopsy.) This area encompasses the autopsy doctor, the press, and illicit drugs. Burkett and Foster had the same autopsy doctor, James C. Beyer, a man in his late 70s. Dr. Beyer told Burkett's father, and implied on the autopsy's gunshot wound chart, that he had taken the usual set of postmortem photographs, but later officially stated that he had taken only one. In the Foster case he told the attending policeman, as reported in the written release of the police, the X-rays showed no bullet fragments in the head, and he checked on the gunshot wound chart that he had taken X-rays. Yet his final official position is that he took no X-rays because the X-ray machine was broken.

The press, most notably The Washington Post, has been an essential component of the cover-up in both cases. The only difference, in the case of The Post, is that it has been an active participant in the cover-up in the Foster case and a passive participant in the Burkett case. Taking the latter first, though a Post reporter has long promised an extensive story, and has interviewed the parents at length, to date they have printed absolutely nothing, while NBC thought the story significant enough to declare it nationally one of their "Unsolved Mysteries" (originally aired November 11, 1994).

A full accounting of The Post's sins in the Foster case is practically worthy of a book, but two articles stand out as particularly influential, and reprehensible, "The Muse in the News," by David Von Drehle on August 1, 1993, and "Vincent Foster, Out of His Element" by Walter Pincus on August 5, 1993. Von Drehle, along with Michael Isikoff the Post's principal "reporter" and "investigator" of the Foster case, wh reported nothing he was not handed by the government, told the world less than two weeks after the death that his mind had already been made up by his having read "Richard Cory" by Edwin Arlington Robinson (Von Drehle, the English major from the University of Denver, called him "Edward"), a popular and banal poem about a man who seemed to have everything yet inexplicably killed himself. Pincus, who covers the CIA for The Post (or vice versa), revealed that he had been having private social meetings with Foster, using the excuse that Pincus' wife was from Little Rock. During those meetings he picked up ever-so-vague hints that Foster was troubled. The article is pure gossamer, but it accomplished its purpose. It was the first instance in which anyone stated for attribution that he had noticed that he had noticed that Foster might have been at least wrought up, and Pincus' wife was given a high level job in the U.S. Information Agency that very same month.

Concerning the drug business, it is simply a truism in this country that homicide and illicit drugs go together like strawberries and whipped cream. The most obvious motive for Tommy Burkett's murder was to prevent him from telling what he had learned while doing anti-drug work for law enforcement authorities. His parents learned after his death that he had been entrapped into doing drug informing for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). As for a possible motive in Foster's death, the 1994 introduction to the paperback version of Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld's book about money laundering and corruption in government, banks, and other businesses, says it all:

"Evil Money was first published in the summer of 1992. My objective was to call attention to the threat illegal money, especially drug money, presents to the democratic institutions and free markets. Since Bill Clinton was inaugurated as president in 1993, the threat to the United States seems to have worsened. It is worse because the new president's financial, political, and personal ethics, as well as his associations, reflect all the alarming trends described in Evil Money. It appears that in the group around the president willful blindness was common, and evil money bought political power."

David Martin, December 31, 1995

A shortened version of this article was first published in The Bulldog, an occasional newsletter of Parents against Corruption and Cover-up, the organization founded by the Burkett parents, in early 1995. The full article, essentially as reprinted here, is in my book, The New Moral Order, the Poems and Essays of David Martin, published in late 1995. It has held up well even though we have since had a new independent counsel's report and two books on the Foster case, Christopher Ruddy's The Strange Death of Vincent Foster and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's The Secret Life of Bill Clinton. Only my longer article, "America's Dreyfus Affair, the Case of the Death of Vincent Foster"  does a more thorough job of exposing the role of the mainstream press in the Foster death cover-up.

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