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Ron Brown's Loose Lips Seal His Fate

by J. Orlin Grabbe


1. The April 1996 issue of The American Spectator contained an article "Why Ron Brown Won't Go Down". Shortly thereafter, on April 3, both Commerce Secretary Brown and his plane went down while on a landing approach to an airport in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Thirty-four other passengers were on board.

2. Ron Brown--who at various times has been under investigation by the Commerce Department Inspector General, the FDIC, the Justice Dept., the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee--was only two weeks away from being indicted with respect to a bribe paid by Oklahoma company Dynamic Energy Resources. "I am too old to go to jail," Brown loudly proclaimed. "If I go down, I'll take everyone else down with me." Brown assumed the threat would force Democratic bigwigs to rally around him, to make sure that the charges he faced were buried in an appropriate fashion. But Brown miscalculated. His own words buried him instead.

3. Brown was flying in the same equipment that had ferried Hillary Clinton around Bosnia the week before. The aircraft had taken no intervening flights

4. The plane was a "T-43A" that had undergone further modification. ("T" stands for trainer. The ordinary T-43 is a military version of the Boeing 737 used to train navigators. It has two yokes--one for the pilot and one for the copilot--and has a number of navigator stations in the rear of the aircraft for the student navigators.)

5. Brown's plane was one of two planes in the fleet not equipped with a Black Box. It was, however, already wired for a Black Box, and the latter could have been purchased and put in place for the occasion for a mere $80,000 or so. (The wildly varying costs estimates-- in one case $6 million was cited--are speculative noise.) It is against Air Force regulations to transport government officials of diplomatic status or higher without a Black Box. Clearly, someone wasn't doing his job.

6. Landing visibility was good. This was reported by two pilots who landed immediately ahead of Brown's flight. One of these pilots has had more than 8000 hours flying experience. The statements by Lt. General Howell Estes--carried on CNN and elsewhere--about visibility problems and terrible conditions of wind, rain, and fog, are either simply erroneous or constitute sheer disinformation. ("The Pentagon finally told that old fart to shut up," one source says.) Similar statements such as those by Don Phillips in the Washington Post that "the plane was fighting . . . poor visibility when it slammed into a mountain" (A28, April 12, 1996) also seem to be part of a active disinformation campaign.

7. "If you are even a quarter mile off course, the tower begins screaming at you," says a pilot who has flown into that airport. To be off more than two miles is impossible without having generated a great deal of control tower radio traffic. What do the tapes show with respect to Brown's flight?

8. The control tower tape is missing. While very suspicious, this could simply represent an attempt by someone to secure crucial evidence. However, there is a backup cylinder which keeps a backup copy of all traffic for up to three months. This backup cylinder is also missing. "The missing backup cylinder shows that this was a professional job," says a source highly connected in the intelligence community.

9. The maintenance chief for navigation systems at the airport, Niko Junic, is said to have subsequently committed "suicide" at home, on the Saturday after Wednesday's crash of Brown's plane. Junic is said to have shot himself in the chest, an unusual choice of techniques. His medical records show him to be a very stable, reliable individual.

10. Brown's plane made its approach to the airport from Tusla in the northeast. But part of the plane ended up on the mountainside about 10 miles southeast of Dubrovnik, while another part ended up in the water roughly 18 miles away--about five miles northwest of Dubrovnik in the Adriatic. This indicates the plane came apart at fairly high altitude.

11. CIA trawlers have recovered part of the wreckage in the water. This, along with the wreckage on the hillside, not only shows unmistakable evidence of an explosive blast, but the type of detonator ("descending detonator") that set it off. The downing of the plane was no accident: it was a deliberate act of sabotage.

12. When President Clinton appeared on camera to announce the disappearance and death of Ron Brown, his nose and eyes showed unmistakable signs of recent significant cocaine usage. Did the President need a lot of lines to get courage to face the public? Or was this just one more example of the type of hubris that led to Brown's demise?

13. Like Brown himself, those responsible for his death have apparently miscalculated. Two of the most powerful organizations in the U.S. government have now decided that enough is enough, and they aren't going to let the cover-up of the Brown assassination continue.

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