Lt. Col. USA, Ret., Author and Publisher.
The Case of the Sunset Limited

Incident at Gila Bend

It was only five months after the bombing of the Murrah Building when the next target on the category list was hit. On Monday, October 9th, 1995, the only "Mass Transportation--Land" target available in the United States was attacked.

The news broke first on television, monopolizing the airwaves on the news channels first, then spewing forth from the mouths of the talking heads of the main networks: Domestic terrorists, calling themselves "Sons of Gestapo," have derailed a passenger train near Hyder, Arizona. According to the news blurbs, sometime around 1:00 a.m. that morning the Amtrack "Sunset Limited" passenger train, enroute from Phoenix to San Diego, jumped the tracks in a remote mountain wilderness area northwest of Gila Bend, Arizona. This placed the location in Maricopa County, outside of Phoenix. Two investigative agencies would come into play: the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (under Sheriff Joe Arpaio) and the FBI (since the incident concerned interstate commerce).      

Three points were made by the news media: 1) the rails had been sabotaged by someone who knew what they were doing, as they had effectively disabled the electronic warning system by using some type of jumper cables to bypass the disconnected rail, 2) the area was extremely remote, almost inaccessible, and occurred on a downhill curve that S-turned onto a bridge over an arroyo, and 3) there was a note found at the scene that pointed directly toward what the media was labeling an anti-government or right wing extremist group. The note was signed "Sons of Gestapo--SOG."

The next morning I studied an aerial view of the scene depicted in an AP wire photo. Four passenger cars, still coupled together, were off the tracks laying on their side to one side of a small bridge, with two angled down into a dry wash. The caption explained that of the 268 people that were aboard one was killed and 100 injured. The article mentioned that deputies found a message at the scene that mentioned Waco, Ruby Ridge, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, and Firearms. It was from this single note that the media derived the idea that some extreme Right-Wing group was responsible. The article went on to mention that "An electronic database search of U.S. newspapers big and small found no mention of "Sons of Gestapo." [And] a search of about six months worth of Internet discussion groups and World Wide Web pages also found nothing."

After reading the rest of the article and watching the news network broadcasts for the remainder of the day, I could see that something was definitely wrong. From my experience investigating the Oklahoma City bombing, and digging into the various political groups that were suspect during that investigation, I felt that what was occurring was a continuation of an agenda. I also knew that the Maricopa County deputies would not have access to what we had discovered during our investigation of the Oklahoma City event, and that if the federal agencies followed the same course as they had in Oklahoma, and if they were directly controlled by the Justice Department in Washington, the Maricopa deputies would find themselves left out of the picture concerning what really might have happened and who should be put on the suspect list. I feared that if I was right in my analysis, and if the perpetrators were more than a pickup truck load of local radical bubbas, then the case might go much higher and eventually be covered up by the shadow powers in Washington.

I knew from 26 years experience as a law enforcement officer that there are hundreds of good, honest federal agents who try their best to do a sterling job in investigating criminal events. But I also knew that when certain crimes have a national or international perspective, and politics regarding higher agendas are involved, then the investigation is taken out of the hands of the local federal authorities. When this happens, they are controlled from a much higher levelCnormally in the Washington, D.C. arena. And because of my experience with the investigations of events that form the preceding chapters of this book, I knew that if a high level political agenda was being served in this case, the chance of a coverup was not out of the question.

I also found the note, signed by a group that neither I, nor any of my contacts, had never heard of, most intriguing. I felt that if I could read the full contents of the note, I might be able to determine if it was a legitimate claim or a false flag. If it was indeed a plant to lead the investigators and media astray, it would mean a great deal to the case in determining the proper direction for the investigation to proceed.

I also found it very suspect that the location of the derailment was in such a remote area. If a small group of saboteurs, bent only on derailing the train, were involved, then they would have picked a much more accessible place to vandalize the tracks. By picking such a remote place, the chance of discovery during a getaway was much greater than simply selecting a location only a mile or so from a highway--unless they did not arrive at the scene or leave by ground transportation. In that case, such a location made sense.

I then spread out aerial and ground maps of the area and began studying the terrain. Both my military and aviation backgrounds came into play as I dissected the terrain features surrounding the crash site and noted several things that made me believe that the job had been planned by professionals who knew exactly what they were doing.

First, the railroad tracks ran fairly straight from Phoenix, southwest to the northeast base of the Gila Bend Mountains. There, they made a gentle curve up through a mountain pass, then began a downgrade toward the bridge. Just before the bridge was a well-defined S-turn. It was here that the perpetrators had selected a rail and pulled 29 spikes, then installed the jumper to defeat the warning system.

Beyond the bridge to the west the tracks ran almost in a straight line to Yuma. The target point selected was in the most remote point along the route, at the end of an S-turn, at a bridge over a dry wash, where a derailment would cause the most damage. Beyond that, the surrounding terrain features told an additional story.

The aviation sectional map showed the bridge to cross a wash at the north end of a U-shaped valley. Mountains surrounded the site on the west, north and east. The most logical access route would be from the south, which was fairly flat and open. What I saw as a pilot was that if the perpetrators came in on the ground, they probably approached from the south, possibly from a mining road that ended at the dry Gila Bend River bed only six miles away. Though a dirt service road ran along the tracks, the distance they would have to travel would be a circuitous route approximately 38 miles in length to the nearest highway, Highway 8, which runs from Eloy (30 miles south of Phoenix) to Yuma. The question that needed to be answered at this point concerned physical evidence that was not mentioned by the media. Were there tracks of a vehicle, either four wheel or dirt bike, going to or from the scene of the crime? If not, and the saboteurs had not driven the rough dirt road at nighttime for 38 miles, then I found myself developing another prospective mode of ingress and egress from the scene.

By coupling my knowledge and background as a military officer with my experience as a police helicopter pilot, I began analyzing the map as if I were going to plan such an operation, taking in the terrain, time of night, weather, and obstacles. First, I would want to be inserted and extracted by air. Taking into account what appeared to be a professional job of picking the target site, I surmised that a team would have been formed and that they might have access to a helicopter. I knew I was reaching, but it seemed a theory worth exploring.

If a helicopter was used, then it would be a simple job to fly in from the south, land near the bridge, drop off a team, then leave the area until called back by radio. Then I'd return to the site pick up the team, then egress the area, all below the hill tops. This, however, meant that the pilot would have to fly in and out twice, which would draw attention from any hikers or campers in the area. If the team was well trained, however, the pilot could remain on the ground for the amount of time needed to pull the spikes, then leave with the team. Risky, but possible. The additional benefit to this particular section of desert is the fact that the mountains would block radar from Phoenix, and a helicopter could fly in low and undetected.

I had additional reasons to consider the air-insertion theory. I had heard of covert operations training that had been conducted for some time only 90 minutes flying time away at a highly secret base called Pinal County Airpark, known in the aviation industry as "Marana." This "airport" is a locked-down secure facility run by Evergreen Inc., reputed to be a "contractor" to government agencies, including the CIA. Rumors had run rampant during the Iran/Contra investigation that the airstrip had been one of several used for drug shipments into the U.S., but little documentation exists indicating this was followed up on during the Congressional investigation into the affair. I knew the facility, which was located near Highway 10 that runs from Phoenix to Tucson, had access to military-type helicopters, and that a great deal of strange "night training" had been reported by passersby. Exactly what went on there behind the front of being a desert aircraft storage facility for the various airlines, no one knew. But very reliable individuals had reported seeing both dark, unmarked helicopters, and skydivers dropping in mass into the nearby desert wearing black uniforms and black square "Paracommander"-style steerable parachutes.

Was some covert paramilitary agency training troops in night commando-style insertions? I couldn't help but wonder if there might be a connection between these strange activities and the nearby train derailment.

I had to know more. And I wanted to see a copy of the actual "Sons of Gestapo" note. On the afternoon of October 10th, I sent the following fax to Sheriff Arpaio.

 

FAX MESSAGE

 

To: Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa Co. AZ

From: MPO Craig Roberts, Tulsa PD, Air Support Unit

Ref: AMTRACK train sabotage case, Hyder, AZ

Date: 10-10-95

 

Sheriff Arpaio,

I am a Tulsa PD police officer who has worked with our local office of the FBI on the Oklahoma City bombing case. During that investigation, which is still ongoing, I have had occasion to discover many things that may be of interest to you and your investigators regarding your Amtrack case.

First, from the information I have heard on the news and read in the local newspapers, I would suggest you proceed with extreme caution regarding opinions on suspects or suspect groups. The below examination of facts, when evaluated together, paint a very suspicious set of circumstances:

1. Anyone who has been in the military and received training on ground combat operations in a guerrilla environment knows that the number one basic target for partisans, guerrillas, and terrorists who have limited resources are open, non-secured remote stretches of railroad tracks. Simply by removing key structural components, such as spikes, couplings and tie-bars, preferably over a bridge or on a bend near a ravine, an entire train can be derailed. This will tie up a section of rail line for an indefinite period of time. In Special Forces Warfare School at Fort Bragg, training manuals discuss teaching guerrillas to do just exactly what was described. Special emphasis is placed on the facts that it is easy to accomplish, and that the planners should pick a remote area to preclude discovery.

2. This attack could have been accomplished by very few people, maybe only one. Not seeing the scene I cannot comment, however, it definitely would not take a large "team" to do this.

3. Question: Were there any four-wheel drive vehicle tracks on the scene when the first outside elements arrived? If not, then whoever came in and performed the sabotage would probably have utilized a helicopter. If this is so, it is unlikely to be any local militia bunch. And if a helicopter was used, please contact me as I may be able to provide more information on where you might look for leads.

4. Question: Is this section of track normally on the Amtrack run for the Sunset Limited? If not, then someone would have had to know that it was a diverted run, and that the Amtrack train would take it.

5. Question: Did anything in the note reflect on this particular train? Or would the saboteurs have settled for any train? Look very hard at the intelligence gathering capabilities of the sabotage "team" concerning the timing of the train, relative to the remote location, the section of tracks, and the fact that a freight train passed unmolested 18 hours previous.

6. Examine the structure/grammar of the note carefully. The biggest flaw I see is that they call themselves "Sons of Gestapo." My experience is that only those who learned English as a second language have a habit of leaving out the word "the" in a sentence. This is most prevalent in the speech of Eastern Europeans, Middle-Easterners, and Russians. Instead of saying "I am going out to the car to get the book," such an individual would say "I am going to car to get book." These individuals correlate their own native language to ours by using their sentence structure and replacing the words for those in English. If they normally do not use the word "the," then it will be missing. If the writer of the note was someone who spoke English as a primary language, he or she would probably use such a name as "Sons of the Gestapo."

7. The problem here is that no one would choose such a hokey name. Not unless they were trying to shift attention to neo-nazis. Even the so-called "extreme right" would not choose such a stupid and incriminating name. Any amateur investigator can see that whoever did this purposefully attempted to leave "evidence" incriminating so-called militias and other paramilitary groups. Especially with the references to Waco and Ruby Ridge. We ran into the same thing with the OKC bombing, but McVeigh has very little, if any, "ties" to any militia. Still, the bomb was detonated on the anniversary of the Waco climax, which launched the media on a huge right-wing witch hunt.

8. During my investigation of militia groups I have never come across any called "Sons of Gestapo," nor anything remotely like it.

9. Ask yourself this question: "Who benefits?" This is the most important question of all. I think you will find that if anything, these types of attacks are totally against everything the militia groups believe in. In fact, if you can find any local members of such organizations, they will probably tell you that they would help guard railroad tracks, not destroy them. From my investigation I discovered that the vast majority of the paramilitary militia types are people who do not "hate" the government, nor are they anti-government. They simply fear the government and what has happened in Congress over the past two-three years. They especially fear attacks on their Second Amendment rights. But they do not fit a psychological profile of someone who would hurt innocent people.

10. RE: the Waco and Ruby Ridge "rallying cry" on the notes: Neither has anything to do with trains, Amtrack, or Arizona. Someone who wanted to "attack the government, FBI or BATF" would not do so by simply attacking some passenger train with no government connections. They would go after a government facility or personnel.

11. So back to "who benefits?" If the media plays this up, with stage direction from the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Klan Watch," supported by Morris Dees and the ADL, just like what happened on Day Three of the OKC bombing, then the thrust will be pressure to pass the stalled "Anti-Terrorist" bill. If you do not know what is contained in this bill, obtain a copy and read it carefully.

12. Examination of the chronological facts:

1. World Trade Center bombing occurs in NYC. Little national impact outside of the Northeast.

2. Oklahoma City bombing. Massive news coverage, nationwide manhunt, focus shifts from "Middle Easterners" to "Militia" under preplanned manipulation of certain left wing organizations in just over 24 hours. Anti-terrorism bill rejuvenated. Investigation stalls with capture of only McVeigh and Nichols (who obviously are not in this alone). Despite $2 million reward and hundreds of agents no other arrests are made and the search for "John Doe #2" ends.

3. Hyder train derailment. Note(s) left in feeble attempt to point fingers at "right wing extremists," or neo-nazis, or militia groups. Local law enforcement is not so quick to jump on the bait this time. Even the media is being more cautious.

4. What's next? Upon examination of the events, we have these targets that have been subject to terrorism:

 

A. World Trade Center: Downtown NYC, home of ABC, NBC, CBS. Lots of media coverage.

B. Government building in Oklahoma City--right in the heartland in "good ol' boy" patriotic America. More deaths of innocent civilians, lots of blood, more massive media coverage.

C. Largest mass-transportation vehicle in inventory, a train. Not only a train, it's Amtrack, and it was hit in Conservative Arizona--which also just happens to be an area reportedly  inhabited by numerous militia groups. It is also the state where McViegh visited Fortier (Kingman).

 

If you follow this pattern you find: The world's largest civilian corporate building, a middle-America Federal Building (with massive loss of lives), and a passenger train. Of the five basic (land-based) terrorist targets, only two remain: An airliner and a large gathering of people (the Black Sunday scenario). If these events are related, (and the same people are involved for whatever motive), it would follow that a civilian airliner or maybe a sports event would be a candidate for a future "domestic terrorism" target. If your investigators would like to visit with me to compare notes, I would be happy to share any ideas, theories, or information that might assist in your case. I think my five months of investigating the Oklahoma City bombing to date might provide a few items of interest that could relate to the Amtrack case.

I would be particularly interested in knowing if the possibility exists that a helicopter may have been used in this event. If so, I may be able to provide further leads.

     END OF MESSAGE.

 

Two days after sending the fax I received a phone call from one of the sheriff's detectives working the case. He told me that he had been given the fax and was going to pass it along to the lieutenant in charge of the Sheriff's investigation team. He also told me that "it's a mad house, and the FBI was pulling agents in from all over. All they have us doing is fetching coffee."

I asked if they were sharing information and he laughed. "They're the big FBI pros. We're just a bunch of hick deputies who don't know anything." I sympathized with him. I had been down this same road myself a few times when dealing with the feds. He promised to have the lieutenant call me.

My next step was to begin calling some of my contacts who have expertise in various fields that would be relevant to this case. The first and most important contact I made was with a federal officer who must remain anonymous to protect him from repercussions. For purposes of this story we will call him "Jack." Jack's expertise was in the area of government and civilian aviation operations, and he had contacts throughout the NTSB, FAA, and other agencies.

I called Jack and we spent over an hour discussing the case. Like me, he pulled out his aviation maps and studied the area. And like me, he was also a pilot with military and civilian experience in both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. We eventually arrived at four possibilities of what may have occurred if this was indeed a professional team-type insertion. First, a helicopter flew in, dropped the team, left, came back and pulled them out. Second, a helicopter flew in, waited on the ground while the job was done, then flew out with the team. Third, they jumped in, then were recovered by a helicopter either just after the mission was accomplished, or when the huge number of medical, news and emergency helicopters arrived after the derailment. In this scenario, it would be simple for a helicopter to show up as one of many, load up a few of the "victims," then leave the scene without anyone taking particular notice. The last scenario would involve a ground insertion and extraction by vehicle. Proof that this last possibility was the case would depend on what information came back from Maricopa County regarding vehicle tracks.

Jack decided that it would be pertinent to check the weather conditions the night of the incident. As he broke loose to do this, I began making notes and compiling a case file.

Meanwhile, the FBI, who had dubbed the case "Operation Splitrail," continued the investigation in Arizona. Within two days they were exploring the possibility that the note was a plant and that the saboteurs might not be a terrorist group after all, but possibility a disgruntled railroad employee. Such an individual might have a working knowledge of how to derail a train, and also disable the warning device--something so-called "militia types" would probably not even think of. Also at this time the governor of Arizona, Fife Symington, told the press that he had read one version of the note that was left at the scene and said that there were several versions, but most were "comparable in terms of content."

Acting special agent in charge of the Phoenix office for the FBI, Larry McCormick, said he believed the case was the bureau's second-biggest crime scene investigation after the Oklahoma City bombing, encompassing over a square mile of rugged desert. Assistant U.S. Attorney Janet Napolitano stated that "We are going to pursue every bit of evidence and every lead very thoroughly...until we find the person or persons who committed this crime." I remembered Janet Reno saying the same thing about the Oklahoma City case.

An "unnamed source" leaked to the AP that the case had been put under Assistant FBI Director Robert Bryant, who heads the bureau's national security division. According to the source, "Bryant's national security division has the case because it has the potential to become a terrorism case, but we have not reached any conclusions yet whether terrorism is the motive or not."

It appeared that the public, by way of the media, was being mentally prepared for the eventuality that the Amtrack derailment would become another case of "domestic terrorism."

When Jack called me back he was elated at what he had discovered. First, the weather on the night in question was this: A full moon, wind out of the south at 8 knots, and a clear sky. It would be an ideal night for air operations. Next, he was almost choking when he said "guess what else I dug up? I pulled some strings and had the Albuquerque Center run their radar tapes for that night and you won't believe what they found. We've got a target."

"What kind of target? You mean over the site?"

"More than that. We have a VFR target squawking 1200 that left Tri-City airfield in Albuquerque on a southwest course, climbed to 10,500 feet, then, when it was exactly due east of the Amtrack site, turn due west and flew a course line that took it one mile south of the site. But just before arriving over the site, it dropped to 8,500 feet. After crossing the target zone, it turned on a southwesterly course towards California at 8,500 feet. Albuquerque contacted the Los Angeles Center which tracked the aircraft to a landing at Montgomery Field in San Diego."

"What was the time frame?" I asked.

"It crossed the valley south of the bridge at 1940 hours."

7:40 p.m. on a full moon night, with the wind out of the south. The plane was one mile south of the bridge, which would compensate for wind drift. Things were beginning to fall in place.

"You know what we need to do now?" asked Jack. "We need to contact the DEA or Air Force guys down at Tucson or Yuma and have them run their radar tapes for that night from their Aerostat drug balloon radar units."

The DEA and Air Force have several tethered "blimp" type balloons staked out along the border with down-looking radar to watch for low flying drug flights. If a helicopter was involved in the pickup, which may have approached from the south as we speculated, then they might have it on tape.

"Can you get that information?" I asked.

"I'll get on it."

My next contact from Maricopa County came from a detective working the case. He had read my initial fax and called to explain that his people were taking an interest in the possibilities I mentioned. For starters, he said that they had conducted a search and had not located any ground vehicle tracks coming into the scene, other than those that they attributed to rescuers and the media. No tracks extended across the desert, and they were now exploring our suggestion of an air insertion being involved. It still seemed far fetched, but the idea of air assets being used was beginning to carry more weight as the investigation progressed. He asked if I would put my ideas together in a more detailed memo and fax it to them for consideration. That afternoon I sent the following memo:

 

MEMO

To: Det. Div. Maricopa Co. SO       

From: MPO Craig Roberts, Tulsa PD, (Air Support)

Re: Amtrack sabotage, Arizona

Subj: Aircraft ingress/egress possibilities

 

Considering the nature of the area/terrain at the derailment site, it would appear (from the aviation map) that entering by 4WD vehicle would be very unlikely for anything less than the most dedicated individuals. Without having first-hand knowledge of the site, I can only speculate on how saboteurs could have entered the area, sabotaged the tracks, then exited.

 

Air Assets

If there is a complete lack of tire tracks entering the area after a systematic circumferential search of the crime scene, accomplished at a distance far enough away to preclude contamination by rescuers, then it would appear that air assets might have been used. Two modes of insertion become apparent: helicopter and parachute.

1. The most likely insertion and extraction mode would be by helicopter. The same aircraft could fly in at low level, after dark, from the south, and by following the canyon indicated on the aviation sectional map, fly north from Painted Rock Dam until intersecting the railroad tracks or trestle. It would be a simple matter to drop a few people off, exit the area, then return later to pick them up.

A. A second method of egress would be for such individuals to hide nearby, watch the train derailment, then enter the scene when rescuers arrived. They could then blend in to the mass of traffic and be extracted with victims or rescuers.

2. The second most likely method of ingress would be by parachute--probably HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) method. Please do not rule this out, as there is some basis for this observation:

A. Radar track records show a target (aircraft) "squawking" 1200 (Visual Flight Rules--VFR) on its radar transponder at 1940 hrs (7:40 p.m.) on the night of the derailment, flying east to west at an altitude of approximately 8500 feet. This radar track was recorded by FAA air traffic control assets. This target passed 1 mile south of the wreck site--which put it over the relatively flat open area of the canyon north of the horseshoe bend of the Gila River wash. It would be a simple matter to drop HALO sky divers to this DZ (ground level at site approximately 2100 feet MSL), wherein they could hide their chutes and walk north to the trestle site. They could then be extracted later by one of the above described means.

 

Items to Note:

1. Organized training for HALO night drops by paramilitary teams have reportedly been conducted in the desert for the past two years in a semi-remote location 1.5 hour's flying time from the wreck site. According to sources, these drops have occurred on an almost nightly basis near an airport located approximately 108 nautical miles east-south-east from the wreck site. The individuals are parachutists who jump from twin-engine cargo airplanes. They jump at dusk or after dark utilizing square steerable parachutes that are black in color. According to some of your local sources and newspaper reporters, some of these individuals have been encountered by hikers in the mountains northeast of Phoenix conducting "military exercises."

2. This same organization also has access to numerous helicopters of various sizes and configurations.

 

Synopsis

There may be no connection between the above organization and the Amtrack incident, however if ground infiltration and egress is ruled out, and air assets are considered a possibility, then the above information may be of value.

 

Additional Lead

There is a DEA "Aerostat" tethered radar balloon located near Yuma that has the capability of "look down" observation for low- level aircraft. Your office can request a check of the radar photo records to see if any high or low level aircraft (such as helicopters flying at low level) are depicted in the area in a 24-hour time frame prior to the incident. A request would probably be best served if the time frame was narrowed to approximately the time of darkness to the time of the derailment. Of particular interest would be the radar track to determine point of origination and/or termination of flight. If the flight was picked up near a closed former military auxiliary strip, such as Luke 11 which is just south of the site, further investigation of radar records would be required to determine where a target arriving at that location would have originated.

If anyone from your office would like to visit further on this, I can be contacted at my office number.

 The next day Jack called. I could tell the satisfaction in his voice as he said "Bingo!"

"What do you have?" I asked.

"I talked to a master sergeant at Yuma. He said his people would be more than happy to help out with the Aerostat radar search. Seems they get bored and this would give them something interesting to do. Said he'd get back to me as soon as he could."

"Great! If they come up with a low target going into the site from the south, say at 80 or so knots, then I have my helicopter. So with your high level target that came out of Albuquerque..."

"Dumbo."

"What?"

"That's what we'll call the airplane. I love code words."

"Yeah, well, all we need now is 'hummingbird' and we'll have this thing nailed. The biggest question, though, is who are these guys?"

"Maybe Yuma can tell us that if we can follow a radar target back to its base."

"Check."

The next call from Maricopa County was from the lieutenant in charge of the investigation for the Sheriff's Department (Jack codenamed him "Ringmaster"). I gave him a brief oral resume of my background, a short rundown on my experiences investigating the Oklahoma City bombing, and cut to his case.

"So, how's the FBI treating you guys, Lieutenant?"

"Let me put it this way. They are chasing ghosts out here and pissing a lot of people off, and as far as they're concerned, we're just baggage. The Sheriff told me that we have a homicide involved that is our jurisdiction, and that we are going to work this thing until we either make a bust or run out of leads. It doesn't matter what the feds do, we're going to work this case our way, with or without them."

I was always gratified to find other law enforcement officers at the local level who searched for the truth no matter what politics were involved at the national level. We chatted for a few moments then I broke a question I was dying to ask.

"Any chance on seeing a copy of the Sons of Gestapo note?"

"Sure. We've got a copy and I can fax it to you. It doesn't really say much of anything, though."

"No matter. I just want to eyeball it and see if anything stands out that might be of interest."

"Sure. No problem. Here it comes..."

Five minutes later I was reading a copy of the only piece of physical evidence found at the scene (verbatim from original version, including errors):

 

Indictment of the ATF and the FBI

Before dawn the women awoke to say their morning prayers. The women slept upstairs. They lit their kerosene lamps because the electricity had been turned off by the FBI. After observing lights in all the upstairs windows, the FBI ordered the teargas bombardment. Afterwards only two upstairs windows were lit. The location of each was recorded. Over the next few hours, ventilation holes were poked into the walls. These holes made the fire burn very much faster. Otherwise the fire department would have had time to put out the fire before the women and children died in the flames. At noon the light from the two kerosene lamps was obscured by bright sunlight. Everyone had forgotten about them except the man who carried their locations written on a scrap of paper in his pocket. He ordered the tank drivers where to crash through. Guess under which two windows. He ordered them to raise their guns. As they backed out, the guns were lowered. The video tape shows clearly the floor being raised by the tank a foot and a half. Guess what happened to the kerosene lamps in the rooms above the tanks. A minute afterwards black smoke started to pour out of the windows where the lamps had burned. This is the normal time needed for a kerosene fire to build up.

Who is policing the ATF, FBI, state troopers, county sheriffs and local police? What federal law enforcement agency investigates each and every choke hold killing committed by a police officer? each and every beating of a drunk whether or not a passerby videotapes it? each and every shooting of a police officer's wife who knows too much about drug kickbacks? each and every killing at Ruby Ridge? The Gestapo accounts to no one. This is not Nazi Germany. All these people had rights. It is time for an independent Federal agency to police the law enforcement agencies and other government employees.

   ___________________

     Sons of the Gestapo

_________

   SOG

 

To me, the note seemed to contradict itself in several areas. I especially noted that there was no explanation of the reason behind the derailment. I also noted that in the last paragraph the writer condemns Nazi Germany and Gestapo tactics, then signs the note: "Sons of the Gestapo." I also saw for the first time that there was the word "the."

But what I saw that really raised my eyebrows were the letters "SOG."

Maybe it was nothing. But as an old Southeast Asia hand, I remember that one of the terms used by Phoenix Program assassins working under MACV-SOG (Military Advisory Command, Studies and Observations Group) was a twisted bar-room version of the last acronym. "Yeah," a drunk trooper would mention. "I'm SOG...a son of the Gestapo."

Was this some type of message being sent to others who would know the meaning? Or was it just a coincidence? Without an arrest or more clues, we would never know.

I typed up a memo regarding my analysis of the SOG note and faxed it to the lieutenant:

 

Maricopa Co. S.O.

Homicide Division

REF: Amtrack case

 

Lt. ["Ringmaster"]

Good to talk to you yesterday. I have a large packet of information on the topics we discussed that I will drop in the mail in the morning.

I received the SOG note and have been giving it some study. Considering my research into the various political groups and the mentalities of the various factions we discussed, I have a few observations that may prove useful in your investigation.

1. Was this note given to you by the FBI, and did you have a chance to see the actual original note to make sure they are identical?

2. Is it possible that someone could take the original note, retype it in a computer, and issue the retyped version to you or the media?

I ask these two questions because I wonder why, since they are computer generated notes, the FBI confiscated the suspect's typewriters? Were there other notes sent to the railroad that we do not know about? Also, I can't help but wonder why all the press releases referenced "Sons of Gestapo" on Day One, and the note that we have here says "Sons of the Gestapo." Note the word "the" added.

3. I can't help but note the acronym "SOG" with a line over it, not under it. Is there some significance to this?

4. Regarding the note itself, it appears to be a feeble attempt to hook this thing up with the right wing extremist groups, especially the militias (without specifically naming them). This might be because by the time the wreck occurred, the militias had already fought their public relations battle in the media and Washington to the point where anyone behind this was hesitant to point a direct finger at them for fear of raising the public's eyebrows.

5. It could be that there is absolutely no connection to any right wing political or paramilitary group. The reason is that there is no one on the conservative side that wants bigger government--and especially a super-watchdog or superior federal law enforcement bureau or administration as the note demands.

6. I also find suspect the fact that the writer(s) state "The Gestapo Accounts to no one. This is not Nazi Germany" then goes on to call themselves "Sons of the Gestapo." What in the world is that supposed to mean? I think it's all smoke and mirrors. It appears to me that the whole thing is an attempted diversion away from the real perpetrators.

7. Whoever did the derailment was very dedicated to doing it in that particular spot, as there are so many more accessable locations that would serve the purpose--except for the bridge over the dry wash. Still, they would have to have a topographical map, a railroad map, or an aerial map to see that the tracks made those turns and hit the bridge at that point. The S-turn and bridge area are not visible from any road and would not be known by the average person.

Let's examine the last paragraph and try to get inside this guy's head:

"Who is policing the ATF, FBI, state troopers, county sheriffs and local police?"

This statement is basically "who watches the watchers, and who guards the guardians?" It lumps federal and local law enforcement together in the same boat--which the militias and right wingers do not do. They simply suspect the federal guys, and sometimes distrust the local sheriffs if they feel they are corrupt politicians.

"What federal law enforcement agency investigates each and every choke hold killing committed by a police officer?"

No one on the right wing wants a federal bureau to interfere in local affairs. They do not trust the FBI, nor the federal courts, to be oversight committees.

"each [sic] and every beating of a drunk whether or not a passerby videotapes it?"

Note the non-capitalized "each." Also, this statement obviously refers to the Rodney King affair.

"each and every shooting of a police officer's wife who knows too much about drug kickbacks?"

This might refer to the Arkansas State Trooper's wife who "committed suicide" because she knew too much about the drug smuggling in Arkansas during the Clinton governorship. But now we have a guy who damns and accuses law enforcement, then wants to stick up for us?

"each and every killing at Ruby Ridge?"

This reference, plus the first "Waco" paragraph, are definite finger pointing to groups on the Right (or anyone who questions government).

"The Gestapo accounts to no one. This is not Nazi Germany. All these people had rights. It is time for an independent federal agency to police the law enforcement agencies and other government employees."

Again, no one on the Right would have suggested such a thing. They would have demanded "states rights" and "10th Amendment restrictions on 'federal gestapo agencies.'" They definitely would not have demanded a new or superior federal agency to do be an oversight or watch dog outfit.

A last thought: The heading is "Indictment of the ATF and the FBI." What does the railroad, or Amtrack, have to do with the ATF or FBI, or Waco or Ruby Ridge?

This was what I would call a "publicity hit." It was done for media effect, not for revenge or to make a political statement. That's why I can't help but wonder Cui Bono--Who Benefits? I keep coming up with the anti-terrorist bill in Congress.

I would suggest that you do not make the same mistake that the Dallas Homicide Bureau made in November, 1963. I would work this case as a local homicide case and keep the investigation separate from the FBI. The FBI in '63 was more concerned with political damage control than they were with catching the bad guys.

Let me know if there's anything else I can do between now and January when I come out to pick up our new helicopter. Jack will be flying in as well and we can go over what we have at that time. 

 Cartoon from The Tulsa World showing media bias regarding alleged "militia" connection to the derailment.Sign on "Hitler" says "Sons of the Gestapo Militia. This is an obvious takeoff from the note left at the scene. (Photo credit: Tulsa World/Simpson)

The investigation dragged on through December with little headway. By then the FBI had raided a suspect's house in California and confiscated his typewriter and some large railroad tools. He allegedly fit the profile of "disgruntled railroad employee." Eventually they let him go and returned to Arizona.

On the same day the California suspect's house was searched I received a fax from a contact that contained an extract the FBI Behavioral Science Unit's psychological report on the "Actor" responsible for the derailment. According to my source, the unit analyzed the "Sons of the Gestapo" note and discounted the "right wing" theory. They then began concentrating on the disgruntled employee theory, which accounted for the raid on the California house. They also had been working on the "local yokel" theory, and that such a person or persons may have intended to "loot the train."

My source wrote: "Another possibility (which brings us back to the Right Winger) may be an attempt to embarrass the FBI so as to allude to their incompetence by not solving this case or possibly suggest the FBI (Feds in general) need to be strengthened to 'prevent' such occurrences in the future--back to "Anti-Terrorist Bill." Cui Bono?

The FBI analysis of the note mentioned that the "possible actor had a working blue collar knowledge, not just familiarity with railroads. Had specific knowledge of the area of the derailment, had a lot of anger directed against the railroad," then went on to ask: "Disgruntled employee/former employee? Local resident affected by the rail road? Railroad customer?"

The end paragraph of the analysis is most telling. In it the writer states that "[It] Appears the note that was left may have been left to distract the investigators away from the actor, as the actor feels that the crime scene would point to him quickly."

In the interim, Jack and I had been eagerly waiting for a response from the Aerostat radar unit in Arizona. Finally, Jack called and reached the master sergeant whom he had first made contact with and was so eager to help.

"Sorry," he said. "We can't help you out."

"What? Why?" asked Jack.

"The plug's been pulled."

"What does that mean?"

The sergeant sounded very uncomfortable when he replied "We really wanted to check this out, but all I can say is the balloons were down that night."

"Why?" asked Jack.

"Maintenance."

"All of them?" asked Jack, incredulously.

"Yes, sir." The sergeant sounded very nervous.

"Why?"

"All I can tell you is that they were ordered down for maintenance. It came from above my pay grade."

That ended it. There would be no cooperation from DEA or the Air Force. We couldn't help but wonder who "above the sergeant's pay grade" had ordered the only radar assets available in the region "down for maintenance." We reasoned the order had to come from Washington. But why would Washington be concerned with routine maintenance, and why all the balloons? It was obvious to us that the balloons had been up and they were ordered not to release the radar information, or someone did not want any "look down" capabilities available that night. No right wing bunch of Gestapo/militia types had the capabilities of pulling that off. It was obvious that this investigation was, like Oklahoma City, being steered away from the truth.

Jack and I decided to get together and compare notes. Both he and I were scheduled to be in Phoenix in January and planned on meeting with some of the Maricopa County investigators. We saw little more that we could do to help out, other than make them aware of the possibilities of where this investigation could go and why we felt there was a higher agenda involved. Beyond that it would be in their hands.

 

To protect those involved in the investigation who met with us in Phoenix, I can only provide the reader with this: the meeting lasted almost three hours, wherein we went over maps, reports, and the various plausible scenarios regarding the aerial aspects of the case. The Maricopa County element was very receptive, though somewhat skeptical about the possibility of shady commandos parachuting in to sabotage the tracks. We war-gamed each scenario, but kept arriving back to the same elements that we could not ignore: the radar track of the unidentified airplane, the time frame it occurred, the fact that all of the radar balloons were mysteriously down that night with an inadequate explanation from the military, the lack of ingress and egress tracks to the site overland, and the evident non-existence of any group before or since who called themselves "Sons of the Gestapo."

There was one other odd element. One of the Maricopa sources advised us that they were chasing down a "rumor" that two campers had reported seeing men in parachutes dropping into the vicinity that night!

At the same time our unofficial meeting occurred, the FBI was busy in the local communities that bordered the wilderness area. According to the Arizona Republic, residents of the vicinity "complained that the FBI is harassing them. But Callahan [FBI] said a majority of those questioned have willingly cooperated. 'I understand that there are some desert rats out there who naturally don't like authority...But we have to follow up.'" Interestingly, the FBI asked the local residents questions about knowledge of any local militia unit. One local replied, "Buddy, you can't get three people out here to get together on what kind of pickup to drive, and you think we're going to form a militia?"

The article mentioned "Of new interest to authorities is the note's reference to an unnamed police officer's wife who was shot because she knew 'too much' about drug-related activities...Officials have failed to connect the reference to an actual law enforcement incident." I couldn't help but wonder if this "incident" was that concerning an Arkansas police officer who was "suicided" on June 12, 1994 in Arkansas. On that date, the body of an Arkansas officer, Bill Shelton, was found dead on his girl friend's grave with a bullet behind his right ear. His girlfriend, Kathy Ferguson, was the former wife of an Arkansas state trooper who was being sued along with President Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. Ferguson had been killed exactly a month earlier, on May 12th, and her death was being investigated as a suicide. Cause of death was a gunshot wound to the right temple. According to The Economist, Ferguson had been collaborating with Ms. Jones and "may have been aware of details" of other activities at the time. Whether these "other activities" included Iran/Contra drug running through Mena was not mentioned. But if the motives behind her death did involve knowledge of cocaine smuggling, it would correlate with the mention in the Gestapo note about a police officer's "wife" being shot for knowing too much about drug activities.

When we left the meeting with our Maricopa contacts, one asked "what do you think we could do next? We're about out of leads."

"If there's more to this than a couple of renegade malcontents deciding to derail a train then leaving a note as a false trail, then I'd say it would be interesting to just fire a shot down range and see who sticks their head up."

"How's that?"

"You might consider leaking the word that your agency was interested in a possible connection between the activities at Marana and what happened at Hyder. You might even mention that you are following up on the idea that someone may have used air assets to attack the railroad--that you've heard rumors of helicopters and guys in parachutes, and that you plan to get together with the Pinal County folks and see about paying a visit to Marana. Then just sit back and see what happens. If you are told to stay away from Marana, or are obstructed from looking in this direction, then that should tell you something."

Whether or not this "bait" was leaked I do not know. But within a week after our visit to Phoenix, the investigation seemed to trickle to a halt and no further mention was made in the media about the event.

The last contact we had with the Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies came in the form of a telephone call from one of our contacts soon after the meeting. "You know the five types of terrorist targets you listed?"

"Yes."

"Well," he said in a very concerned tone, "We've got the Super Bowl coming up in a few days. That would sure fit your 'large gathering of people' scenario."

"Yes, it definitely would. I don't know if they, whoever 'they' are, would try something so close to the last event or not. If my theory holds water, these attacks--if they are related and part of someone's agenda--seem to be geographically spaced across the country. The World Trade Center bombing was in New York, then the Murrah Building was further west, then the Amtrack incident almost to the West Coast. I would suspect that the next incident, if there is one, would be either on the coast or in the northern Mid-West, or possibly back on the East Coast again. But it wouldn't hurt to lay on some extra security."

"We're planning on that."

"One last thing that has been bothering me that you should give some consideration to. If the perpetrators of these crimes have Middle-Eastern connections and are really professional terrorists, don't discount the possibility of a chemical or biological weapon being used. Saddam Hussein and Iran both have access to both. And if they can get them, so can Islamic terrorists. Also--and this sounds like something out of a Hollywood thriller--someone inside this country who wants to blame the Jihad-types might try the same thing. Watch the water and food supplies."

"I don't know how we'll do that, but I'll pass it along."

"One more thing to watch," I warned. "There's two types of targets left: besides a large gathering of people you have mass transportationCair. They just might try for an airliner next."

Six months later, on a major Iraqi holiday, TWA 800 fell from the sky in a massive fireball into the Atlantic ocean.-

Excerpted from The Medusa File: Crimes and Coverups of the US government.

< ABOUT CRAIG ROBERTS BOOKS BY CRAIG ROBERTS >