But it was Casey's visit to the Bohemian Grove in 1980 that drew the attention of investigators from both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. In the summer of 1980, Casey was hosted at the Grove's Parsonage camp by Darrell Trent, an economic and domestic policy advisor for the Reagan campaign. In 1992, more than ten years after the fact, Senate and House investigators were interested in establishing Casey's daily whereabouts during the summer and fall of 1980, including the exact days of Casey's 1980 visit to the Grove. It was a difficult task because Casey was deceased and his passport and some of his calendar pages from that period were missing. The Senate's investigation was limited, but the House of Representatives dug deeper.
The House October Surprise Task Force was investigating allegations that representatives of the 1980 Ronald Reagan presidential campaign made a deal with Iranians to delay the release of Americans held hostage in Iran until after the November 1980 presidential elections so that Reagan's opponent, then President Jimmy Carter, wouldn't gain a popularity boost before election day. The "October Surprise" allegations included a date specific allegation that William Casey met with an Iranian cleric in Madrid, Spain.
Among the conclusions of the 1993 House October Surprise Task Force report that rejected the October Surprise allegations was that the Madrid meeting could not have happened because William Casey had an alibi. They said he was at the Bohemian Grove on one of the days the meeting was alleged to have occured. In attacking those who raised suspicions of an October Surprise, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde in the February 3, 1993 Congressional Record and Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton in the January 24, 1993 New York Times both used identical language: "Credible witnesses and corroborating documents showed Mr. Casey to be in California..."
However, journalist Robert Parry who investigated the October Surprise allegations for the Public Broadcasting System's Frontline television program has written two books that criticize the Congressional investigation. Parry takes specific issue with the "Bohemian Grove alibi" incorporated in the report of the House task force. Parry's texts make clear that the Bohemian Club cooperated with the Congressional investigation. Access was obtained to club records including bar tabs. Club members were interviewed by FBI agents. Parry also makes it clear that a Parsonage camp member shared contemporaneous diary entries that helped Parry establish which dates Casey attended the Grove encampment.
"The October Surprise X-Files: The Hidden Origins of the Reagan-Bush Era" by Robert Parry, The Media Consortium, Arlington, VA, 1996.
Robert Parry worked as an investigative reporter for the Associated Press from 1980 to 1987 and his reporting included breaking stories about the activities of Oliver North, the covert war in Nicaragua, and the Iran-Contra scandal. From 1987 to 1990, Parry was a correspondent for Newsweek magazine. In 1990 he was approached by the Public Broadcasting System's Frontline documentary television show to do an investigation of allegations regarding an "October Surprise."
Several sources at that time, some of questionable credibility, were suggesting that a deal had been cut between the Reagan presidential campaign and certain Iranians to insure that American hostages being held in Iran would not be released prior to the November 1980 U.S. Presidential election. Then-President Carter had been unable to obtain release of 52 hostages seized by Iranian militants at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. It was alleged that the Reagan campaign was interested in avoiding a pre-election October surprise release of the hostages that might help boost Carter's popularity and help him win reelection. (Eventually, the hostages were released on the day of Reagan's inauguration.)
Parry's book "Trick or Treason" is an account of the investigation he undertook for Frontline that eventually resulted in two broadcasts. Starting in August, 1990, the story took Parry into a sort of nether world of arms merchants, federal prisoners, former intelligence agents and government officials. With producer Robert Ross, he traveled extensively in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East to tape interviews. Published in 1993, "Trick or Treason" includes Parry's observations and analysis of the Congressional October Surprise investigations.
Parry's second book on the subject, "The October Surprise X-Files," was published in 1996 and is based on documents from the files of the House October Surprise Task Force. Late in 1994, Parry obtained permission to review the files which were being stored in boxes in an unused ladies room at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.. Several times Parry revisited the files and photocopied significant material. He approached several publications about writing a story on the new material, but was rebuffed. Parry writes "No editor, it seemed, wanted to jeopardize his or her reputation by challenging the powerful taboo that the October Surprise story had become. Even left-of-center publications recoiled at the idea." Parry notes, "The documents clearly challenged the findings of the House task force which had collected them."
Although only a part of the overall investigation, the "Bohemian Grove alibi" drew considerable attention from both Parry and the October Surprise Task Force. The item under examination was a claim by Jamshid Hashemi, an Iranian businessman who was one of the main sources of the October Surprise allegations, that Ronald Reagan's campaign manager William Casey met with an Iranian cleric at a hotel in Madrid, Spain on July 27 and 28, 1980.
But by the time that Congress undertook to investigate the October Surprise allegations, William Casey had long since passed away. Congressional investigators were unable to locate his passport for the period in question, and some relevant pages from his desk calendar were also missing. Investigators needed to determine which weekend Casey had been at the Bohemian Grove encampment, which lasts more than two weeks each summer. If Casey had been at the Grove July 26 and 27 of 1980, it would debunk an important element of the October Surprise allegations. But if Casey had been at the Grove the first weekend in August, it wouldn't prove the allegation, but the question would remain open. Investigators obtained records from the Bohemian Grove encampment, and Parsonage camp members were interviewed.
The House Task Force put Casey at the Grove the weekend of July 26 and 27, and the task force Chairman Lee Hamilton cited that alibi in his op-ed piece in the Sunday, January 24, 1993 New York Times titled "Case Closed." Hamilton wrote, "The task force did not locate Mr Casey's 1980 passport, and one of the three Casey 1980 calendars the task force did obtain - a looseleaf version - was missing a few crucial pages. But the absence of these materials did not prevent us from determining the whereabouts of Mr. Casey and others on dates when meetings were claimed to have occured. Credible witnesses and corroborating documents showed Mr. Casey to be in California..." (Taking an opposite view on the op-ed page, former Carter administration official Gary Sick wrote, "...the report says Mr. Casey could not have attended a Madrid meeting the weekend of July 26-27 because he was at the Bohemian Grove outside San Francisco. Yet the committee's own evidence places him at the Grove the following weekend, from Aug. 1 to Aug. 3.")
Robert Parry, while preparing the Frontline documentaries (which were broadcast before the Congressional investigations were undertaken), had already reached the conclusion that Casey had been at the Grove the first weekend in August. Parry devotes around seven pages in "Trick or Treason" to a close examination of the alibi put forth by the House task force, and his criticism is biting: "So the new question was, how could a staff of experienced lawyers and investigators accept this...There seemed to be only two plausible answers; either the House investigators were very stupid or they were very biased. But nobody could be that dumb. So the only possible conclusion was that the House task force was willing to twist any evidence to disprove the October Surprise allegations. Evidence that fit that bias, no matter how flimsy or contradicted, was accepted; any that went the other way, no matter how strong, was thrown out."
In "Trick or Treason," Parry notes the evidence that establishes that Casey attended the Grove encampment the first weekend in August, 1980. He also discusses the House task force's contrary conclusion that Casey was at the Grove the weekend of July 26 and 27, and Parry analyzes the material the task force used to support its conclusion.
Casey's host, Darrell Trent, recalled travelling with his guest from Los Angeles to the Bohemian Grove. It could be be established from notes taken by Reagan campaign official Richard Allen that Casey and Trent were both at a campaign strategy meeting in Los Angeles on Friday, August 1, then receipts from the Grove show Casey and Trent were both present at the Grove later that day when they both purchased a commemorative book about the Grove's annual play. So while there were documentary records that supported concluding that Casey and Trent travelled to the Grove the first weekend in August, such was not the case for the last weekend in July.
Parry writes that records from the Grove indicated Trent was present at the Grove on Thursday July 24 and Friday July 25 when he bought drinks and shot skeet. Casey's personal calendars indicated he had meetings scheduled at Republican headquarters in Virginia that Friday and on Saturday in New York, and Casey had purchased a Washington to New York plane ticket on Friday the 25th. The documentary evidence indicated that Casey and Trent were not together the weekend of July 26 and 27.
Also, a Frontline producer had interviewed two Parsonage camp members who only attended the Grove the last weekend of July that year, and they had no recollection of Casey being at the Grove. A group photo made that weekend at Parsonage did not include Casey, although it did show Trent. In addition, there was a Parsonage camp member who kept a contemporaneous diary of activities at the Grove, and noted in a Sunday, August 3rd entry that Casey had been a guest that weekend.
However, the House task force cited a hand written notation of Casey's Long Island phone number on a sheet of phone call notes made by Richard Allen on August 2, 1980. Parry writes that Allen didn't recall talking to Casey and there were no notes of any conversation with Casey on the sheet, whereas other phone calls listed by Allen on the sheet had times and notes of what was said. Parry writes that while Allen's notes might indicate that a call was made to Casey, there was nothing to indicate that Casey answered it. But the House task force claimed that just the presence of Casey's phone number on Allen's phone call sheet was solid evidence that Casey was not at the Grove the first weekend of August, 1980.
Also, the House task force interviewed a Parsonage camp member who was at the Grove in 1980 only on the last weekend in July, and he recalled seeing Casey at the Grove. Parry points out that this recollection - which was cited as proof by the House task force - could well have been from 1981, not 1980. Then, in "The October Surprise X-Files," Parry describes gaining access to the files of the House task force where he found the report by the FBI agent who interviewed the camp member. The FBI agent's report states the member "was unsure what year it was when he was with Casey...1979, 80, or 81."
Since reporting on the October Surprise controversy for Frontline, Parry has started an investigative publication called "The Consortium" which is published both online and in newsletter form. He seems to believe a possibility exists that more will be learned regarding the story of the October Surprise allegations. In the January 19, 1998 issue of The Consortium Parry writes, "A more moderate Iranian leadership is now in place in Teheran and reportedly willing to give the Clinton administration the fullest accounting to date of Iran's secret diplomacy with the Republicans. That information includes details about the GOP's alleged sabotage of President Carter's Iran hostage negotiations in 1980 to help insure Reagan's election, according to several sources."
A transcription of a 1993 speech by Parry titled "Fooling America" is online and toward the end of it Parry mentions the House task force's treatment of Casey's Bohemian Grove alibi.