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An interview with Sander Hicks


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#1 John Simkin

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 08:50 PM

Sander Hicks is an independent publisher, community organizer, and writer. He founded Soft Skull Press in 1992, and won awards for his work there. In 1999 by republishing Jim Hatfield's controversial Bush bio Fortunate Son. In 2002 he started Vox Pop/DKMC, New York City's only community-empowering bookstore, cafe, and media machine. As a publisher, Vox Pop publishes investigative non-fiction. He is the author of Big Wedding: 9/11, the Whistle-Blowers, and the Cover-Up (2005).

(1) Could you explain the reasons why you decided to become an investigative journalist and historian?

(2) Is there any real difference between the role of an investigative journalist and a historian?

(3) How do you decide about what to write about?

(4) Do you ever consider the possibility that your research will get you into trouble with those who have power and influence?

(5) You tend to write about controversial subjects. Do you think this has harmed your career in any way? Have you ever come under pressure to leave these subjects alone?

(6) The House Select Committee on Assassinations reported that the "committee believes, on the basis of the available evidence, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy". However, very few historians have been willing to explore this area of American history. Lawrence E. Walsh's Iran-Contra Report suggests that senior politicians were involved in and covered-up serious crimes. Yet very few historians have written about this case in any detail? Why do you think that historians and journalists appear to be so unwilling to investigate political conspiracies?

(7) What is your basic approach to writing about what I would call "secret history"?

(8) How do you decide what sources to believe?

(9) How do you manage to get hold of documents that prove that illegal behaviour has taken place?

#2 Sander Hicks

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Posted 22 May 2006 - 09:43 PM

[quote name='John Simkin' post='63171' date='May 22 2006, 08:50 PM'](1) Could you explain the reasons why you decided to become an investigative journalist and historian?[/quote]

In American culture, the majority of thinking people in media and government accept discredited official stories and non-answers to the most crucial questions of the day: who killed JFK, who did 9/11, who did Iran/Contra.


[quote name='John Simkin' post='63171' date='May 22 2006, 08:50 PM'](2) Is there any real difference between the role of an investigative journalist and a historian?[/quote]

Yes. Different audiences. One is media channels, the other is history itself, generations to come, and the present generation reading and teaching and learning.

[quote name='John Simkin' post='63171' date='May 22 2006, 08:50 PM'](3) How do you decide about what to write about?[/quote]

With 9/11, I was close to the subject first: CIA, Bush family (as a contrarian publisher), foreign policy research from a left perspective. Plus, I was recovering from the personal trauma of publishing against the Bushes, and having an author die as a result, and then 9/11 happened. It was like a page out of Fortunate Son. That book, our book on Bush, was the only Bush bio that had had the guts to talk about the history of the Bush/bin Laden family relationship.

[quote name='John Simkin' post='63171' date='May 22 2006, 08:50 PM'](4) Do you ever consider the possibility that your research will get you into trouble with those who have power and influence?[/quote]

All the time.

[quote name='John Simkin' post='63171' date='May 22 2006, 08:50 PM'](5) You tend to write about controversial subjects. Do you think this has harmed your career in any way? Have you ever come under pressure to leave these subjects alone?[/quote]

Yes.

[quote name='John Simkin' post='63171' date='May 22 2006, 08:50 PM'](6) The House Select Committee on Assassinations reported that the "committee believes, on the basis of the available evidence, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy". However, very few historians have been willing to explore this area of American history. Lawrence E. Walsh's Iran-Contra Report suggests that senior politicians were involved in and covered-up serious crimes. Yet very few historians have written about this case in any detail? Why do you think that historians and journalists appear to be so unwilling to investigate political conspiracies?[/quote]

In the case of Gary Webb, & Jim Hatfield, the experience of writing about taboo subjects, and then having their reputations tattered destroyed them psychologically. They took their lives soon after. One person that Hatfield always had in mind (and whose death he imitated by dying alone in a hotel room) was Danny Casolaro. Casolaro clearly was a fake suicide, and government investigators like the Manhattan DA are said to believe that. In a separate case, CIA researcher (and CIA veteran) Brad Ayers, is a writer who is about to conclude a lifetime of research into who killed the Kennedys. He has suffered subsequent harassment, and the experience has rendered him one very paranoid individual, living isolated in a log cabin in rural Wisconsin. I'm about the publish his book, so we'll see how it goes. I'm not at all sure what will happen. But the book is pretty big. In all of these cases, people sacrificed their own lives for a higher purpose: reporting on big questions, big crimes, when others have been scared off. I'm not sure what it is that makes us want to do this kind of work, and I have a wife and a one year old son now, both of whom I love very much. When I stop and think about it, I think part of the reason I really wanted to get married, in my mid-30's, was that I saw Jim Hatfield die, and I didn't want to become like that. I didn't want to let my personal demons get the better of me. I wanted pyschological health and a partner and a companion who could help me become a better person, not someone who would degenerate into isolation, ruin, and paranoia. Holley is that kind of partner.

[quote name='John Simkin' post='63171' date='May 22 2006, 08:50 PM'](7) What is your basic approach to writing about what I would call "secret history"?[/quote]

I don't do it if I can't contribute something new. I don't rely on book sources. I develop original sources, living people, human intelligence, or HUMINT, as they call it in the spy game.

[quote name='John Simkin' post='63171' date='May 22 2006, 08:50 PM'](8) How do you decide what sources to believe?[/quote]

Good question, because I tend to believe first, question later. It took me a couple years to get Vreeland right. (i.e. DelmartNaval intel/conman source in my book who seemed to have some sort of connection to the Bush Family paedophilia underworld.) I was too gullible at first. The whole sex/ paedophilia angle took some deep research to understand, and believe. At first, my editor at GNN, Anthony, was much more skeptical. But even with the sex angle, and even with his pathological talent for lying, Vreeland seemed more and more like he was a part of a snake-like, nest of vipers and their intermediaries, whores, boy-toys and double agents. The more I got to know him, the more contacts he turned out to have from the Clinton/Bush White Houses, or US Navy, or the US Embassy in Moscow, or CIA.

[quote name='John Simkin' post='63171' date='May 22 2006, 08:50 PM'](9) How do you manage to get hold of documents that prove that illegal behaviour has taken place?[/quote]

Sources tend to hold onto stuff, and be poised for revelation. Everyone wants to shock the world from its slumber.

#3 John Simkin

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Posted 01 June 2006 - 09:06 AM

(1) In the first chapter of "The Big Wedding: 9/11, the Whistle-Blowers and the Cover-Up" you look at the case of Jim Hatfield. Smear campaigns against journalists who attempt to expose the wrongdoings of powerful people seems to be fairly common. Even if the journalist is innocent of all charges, if the persecution is effective, it is likely to cause extreme depression and suicide. The Gary Webb case is evidence of how innocent people can end up killing themselves. Even if the journalist has been murdered, the behaviour during the previous few months will suggest that the person has committed suicide. Do you know if Jim received any physical threats from the Bush camp before his death? Was any mention made of the Barry Seal case? Another person who was murdered after he made it clear he intended to testify against George H. W. Bush.

(2) Hatfield died when the web was not as powerful as it is today. It is becoming easier for small publishers, backed up with popular websites, to compete with multinational media corporations. Is it easier now to get “The Big Wedding” out there than it was with “Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President”?

(3) Your second chapter concerns the Randy Glass story. You convinced me that Glass was telling the truth (the tapes of course was an important factor in this). However, most journalists would have refused to believe Glass. You make an important point when you say: “One of the principles that the FBI, CIA, et. Al. follow is that, if the informant has a criminal past, no one in the mainstream media will take the person seriously as a whistle-blower” (page 16). I have found this a constant problem when researching “secret history”. So many of those willing to talk about what they know about these events have criminal records. These characters have usually told a lot of lies in the past. How do you know they are telling the truth now?

(4) On pages 10 and 11 you include a section of the Kathleen Graham interview with Senator Graham of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He confirms that Randy Glass provided information to him about terrorist intentions to bring down the World Trade Center several months before it actually happened. Graham says he passed this information onto the FBI. It has been claimed by the FBI (the same thing happened with the JFK assassination) that they receive a large number of tip offs and that they are unable to follow them all up. Are you convinced by this argument?

#4 Sander Hicks

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 10:07 PM

[quote name='John Simkin' post='64144' date='Jun 1 2006, 09:06 AM'](1) In the first chapter of "The Big Wedding: 9/11, the Whistle-Blowers and the Cover-Up" you look at the case of Jim Hatfield. Smear campaigns against journalists who attempt to expose the wrongdoings of powerful people seems to be fairly common. Even if the journalist is innocent of all charges, if the persecution is effective, it is likely to cause extreme depression and suicide. The Gary Webb case is evidence of how innocent people can end up killing themselves. Even if the journalist has been murdered, the behaviour during the previous few months will suggest that the person has committed suicide. Do you know if Jim received any physical threats from the Bush camp before his death?[/quote]

Yes. In October of 1999, shortly after I signed Jim Hatfield, he made the mistake of calling up one of his sources inside the Bush campaign, Clay Johnson, and bragging that the book was coming back out, despite their threats, which had almost completely worked, with Jim's former publisher. But Clay Johnson stopped him cold by saying that Jim had better think of the safety of "Nancy" and "Haley." Mentioning Jim's wife and newborn daughter by name spooked him, and he sent his family into hiding, for a time.

Today, Jim is five years dead and Clay Johnson is Deputy Director at the Office of Management and Budget.

[quote name='John Simkin' post='64144' date='Jun 1 2006, 09:06 AM']Do you know if Jim received any physical threats from the Bush camp before his death? Was any mention made of the Barry Seal case?[/quote]

Jim was a "true crime" buff and actually had a deal with a different publisher for a true crime book. (Although that deal was killed when his public reputation was desicated by the Bush book experience.) He knew all about Mena, Arkansas, the Dixie Mafia, Clinton, etc. Hell, the guy was from Arkansas, born and raised in Bentonville, home of WalMart. He used to pitch me ideas for a tell-all biography of Sam Walton. He had the dirt on the inside story of Arkansas power. At the time, I didn't know all that much about Barry Seal or Mena, so I didn't press Jim about this, and we didn't talk directly about it. But I do know this: Jim's lawyer was a Fayetteville attorney, named Craig Jones, who was a former Rose Law Firm attorney. Jim used to say, "Yes, THAT Rose law firm." Where Hillary Clinton and Vince Foster had practiced. Jim made it clear that not all was kosher with the Vince Foster death, and that's a topic I was keen on, having just read Secret Life of Bill Clinton by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (great book on Foster, OK City, etc.).

[quote name='John Simkin' post='64144' date='Jun 1 2006, 09:06 AM']Another person who was murdered after he made it clear he intended to testify against George H. W. Bush.[/quote]

Well, a person who Jim definitely had in mind was Danny Casolaro. He knew the Casolaro death was not a suicide, and he knew that the topic Casolaro was digging into (Bush Family, financial dealings, black ops) was close to his own. In a lot of ways, Jim's choice of a hotel room for his overdose could be seen as a kind of homage to Casolaro.

[quote name='John Simkin' post='64144' date='Jun 1 2006, 09:06 AM']Hatfield died when the web was not as powerful as it is today. It is becoming easier for small publishers, backed up with popular websites, to compete with multinational media corporations. Is it easier now to get “The Big Wedding” out there than it was with “Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President”?[/quote]

It is? With all due respect to your important work, this statement seems a bit facile. It's not 1996 anymore. Blogs don't compare to the power of mega-capital. I'm not in favor of all small publishers, just certain ones. We need the mega-capital, we deserve it, the truth, the people, all deserve it. How do we get it.

At the moment, I've got 10,000 in print on Big Wedding, but only 3,000 have sold. I thought it was 3,300 but we just had heavy returns. Since getting back into the industry, despite my ribald reputation for guts, I couldn't get a distribution deal with Consortium, or PGW. I just got turned down for a loan at our current distributor, SCB. They don't have the cash to lend me $4,000, they say.

Fortunate Son was higher stakes. I had a great distributor, willing to lend me $66K in a good year. They charged 10% interest and I was glad to pay it. We printed 45,000 units the first time around. We had 30,000 advance sales. We got on 60 Minutes. And then boy did we get fucked. But in hindsight, it seemed easier. It seemed that mainstream public opinion was more admiring of someone taking a stand against the Bush campaign. I am feeling like this society has been traumatized, and is numbed, and doesn't know what to think, or feel anymore.

[quote name='John Simkin' post='64144' date='Jun 1 2006, 09:06 AM'](3) Your second chapter concerns the Randy Glass story. You convinced me that Glass was telling the truth (the tapes of course was an important factor in this). However, most journalists would have refused to believe Glass. You make an important point when you say: “One of the principles that the FBI, CIA, et. Al. follow is that, if the informant has a criminal past, no one in the mainstream media will take the person seriously as a whistle-blower” (page 16). I have found this a constant problem when researching “secret history”. So many of those willing to talk about what they know about these events have criminal records. These characters have usually told a lot of lies in the past. How do you know they are telling the truth now?[/quote]

Well, even con-men have a strong sense of truth and falsity. In the same way that a great actor has a deep sense of what is fake, and what is great acting. I remember when I got ripped off on the streets of NYC with the brick-in-the-VCR box trick. Know this one? This happened to me a long time ago, in college. A guy offers sells you a nice video camera or something, he tells you he just ripped it off out of some rich guy's car. Part of the hustle is that you are being asked to share in the guilt, you see? I handed over some cash, and as the guy took off, I started to open the box. I should have opened the box in front of the guy, because I had just bought a brick in a taped-up box. The next week, I confronted one of those con-men in the street. This guy looked at me angrily, really defensive, and said, "Hey, you can't cheat an honest man!" You see, their scam relies on our own greed, our own desire for a bargain through illicit means.

So, in the same way, let's really look at Glass's history. Let's examine the statement "these characters have usually told a lot of lies in the past." In Glass's case, he could swindle diamonds dealers out of diamonds, he could talk people into lucrative deals, relying on their own self-interest, and then he'd run with the merchandise, or just walk out cooly, having won over people's trust. Those are the kinds of crimes I know he did- ripping off already cagey diamonds brokers. It reminds me of something that Rabbi Michael Lerner says in "Left Hand of God." The criminals in prison who acted in their own self-interest often get asked why they don't abide by the rules of society, but the smart ones say, "I DID abide by the rules of society, I looked out for number one, I put myself first, I just did it in an especially overt way."

With Glass, I guess the answer is complicated. And I don't want to come off as naive. I'm self-critical about my attraction to these guys, they do seem vulnerable, in that they were close to power, and came out on the losing end. I know Glass "lied" when he ripped off diamonds brokers. But the most compelling thing I can say about his credibility is that, by mainstream standards of respectability, it's key how much the FBI trusted him. I think people like Agent Steve Burdelski realized that Glass was essentially a good guy, albeit one from a less privileged social background, and one who didn't want the 9 to 5 and the white picket fence. Glass could have been Burdelski, Burdelski could have been Glass. Who are the real criminals? These same FBI agents followed orders and sanitized Burdelski's criminal complaint of any mention of the Pakistani terrorists linked to 9/11. Who ordered that? Glass is the one trying to wave his arms and get people to realize what happened, how close they were to the 9/11 team, in his work on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, but no one will listen. That's criminal. I could give a shit about diamonds. I think most people are that way. Sure, they're pretty. But people care more about just what the fuck is the NY FBI doing with the Mafia, with the CIA, with these cover-ups. I could go on and on about this, but suffice to say, we just had a major scandal in the NY FBI. Lin DeVecchio, a mob squad supervisor it turns out was working for a major Mafia Don, really killing people who were going to rat, that kind of thing, and the bodies piled up. But the New York Times is steering clear of the story. The NY Post ironically is doing a bang-up job reporting DeVecchio's ties to not only to Godfather Greg Scarpa, but to Papa Bush's CIA and the burning of Edwin Wilson. Wow, it just doesn't get any higher, or blacker right? Did the Times pick up the Post's story? No. What does that mean? It means that the Post hit a nerve and a flag went up somewhere along the Times-CIA social/media/government network. Knowing that is more important than diamonds.

[quote name='John Simkin' post='64144' date='Jun 1 2006, 09:06 AM'](4) On pages 10 and 11 you include a section of the Kathleen Graham interview with Senator Graham of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He confirms that Randy Glass provided information to him about terrorist intentions to bring down the World Trade Center several months before it actually happened. Graham says he passed this information onto the FBI. It has been claimed by the FBI (the same thing happened with the JFK assassination) that they receive a large number of tip offs and that they are unable to follow them all up. Are you convinced by this argument?[/quote]

See above. We're at a point where the entire FBI needs to be shut down, and shaken out. Nation-wide. The moles for foreign power, for the interests of the international capital money power belong in jail. They need to be removed from office and put out in Iowa growing organic non-GMO wheat in a prison farm. It would be a healing experience, I'm sure.

It's gotten that bad. What do you know about Sibel Edmonds? This is a DC FBI Whistle-blower who reported, to the public, and to the 9/11 Commission, that the DC FBI HQ was so thoroughly penetrated by foreign moles sympathetic to foreign interests that people were openly recruiting her, offering money and deals, and suppressing certain information about certain terrorist operations. The 9/11 Commission heard from her, but censored her from their report. John Ashcroft put her under a gag order. What does that mean? What does it look like?



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