"Conspiracy theorists let imagination run riot over Whitewater scandal Murder, arson, burglary, drug trafficking . . . they're all part of he plot, if the Clintons' accusers in the press are to be believed" THE GUARDIAN March 24, 1994 By Martin Walker IN WASHINGTON Contract killings and big-time cocaine smuggling, unusual crashes of private planes in good weather, mysterious fires and burglaries, and attacks on journalists visiting Little Rock to steal their papers - the paranoid subculture of the Whitewater affair is reaching weird heights. After months of probing the sexual habits of Governor Bill Clinton in Arkansas, more months sorting through the entrails of Arkansas law firms and banks, the president's implacable foes in the conservative press have gone beyond questioning the suicide of the White House aide Vince Foster to suggest a Mafia-style pattern of murder and intimidation. The Murdoch-owned tabloid New York Post, which first questioned Foster's suicide, yesterday listed a series of misadventures under the headline; "Mysterious Attacks: Linked to Whitewater?" - Last September 26, Luther "Jerry" Parks was hit by 10 bullets as he left a Mexican restaurant in Little Rock. His company, American Contract Services, had provided the security for the Clinton campaign offices in Little Rock and for his transition headquarters. The previous week, the Parks home had been burgled, the telephone lines cut to breach a security system, and files on Governor Clinton stolen. - On March 1, Herschel Friday, an Arkansas lawyer who had been on the Clinton campaign finance committee, died when his small plane crashed on a dusk approach to a private airfield he had used often before. The runway was illuminated, flying conditions were by no means poor, and Friday was an experienced pilot. - On March 4, another private plane went down near Lawton, Oklahoma, killing an Arkansas dentist, Ronald Rogers, who was about to meet one of the reporters investigating Mr Clinton's Arkansas. (Accidental aircraft deaths average about 1,000 a year in the US.) - Journalists covering the Whitewater story have experienced some unusual difficulties. L. J. Davis, whose cover story on the Rose law firm and the Arkansas bond and financial networks dominates the current issue of The New Republic, was assaulted in his Little Rock hotel room and knocked unconscious. Some of his files were stolen. - The American Spectator, which launched the new phase of the Whitewater enquiry last year with its long account of Mr Clinton's sexual adventures by Arkansas state troopers who served as his bodyguards, has experienced three burglaries since its inquiry began. The offices in Arlington, Virginia, were broken into twice last year, and other premises in New York were burgled by intruders who seemed to be searching files, rather than stealing. - The Little Rock fire department dismisses as "routine" the fire which broke out just before midnight on January 24 on the 14th floor of the Worthen Bank headquarters in Little Rock. This partially destroyed the offices of the accounting firm Peat-Marwick, which performed the official audit of the Madison Savings & Loan bank, run by James McDougal, the Clintons' partner in the Whitewater development. Peat-Marwick spokesmen say no documents were destroyed in the fire, which took place immediately after the appointment of Robert Fiske as special prosecutor and after the conservative Washington Times first reported the shredding of documents at the Rose law firm. "Editors and reporters have to grapple with a flood of stories, charges and rumours of violence and even deaths in Arkansas," said The Wall Street Journal's editorial yesterday. "The state seems to be a congenitally violent place, and full of colourful characters with stories to tell, axes to grind and secrets of their own to protect." The atmosphere in Washington is extraordinary, with Republican congressmen gleefully forecasting Mr Clinton's resignation "by the end of June" over dinner tables, and even some Democrats indulging in black humour about how much they look forward to President Gore. "I'm troubled by the presumption of guilt against the White House," President Clinton acknowledged in an interview published yesterday in USA Today. "The presumption is that something is wrong and you have to prove it right." From the original piddling investment in Whitewater, the conspiracy theorists are wading into very dark waters, involving the Iran-contra scandal which almost toppled President Ronald Reagan. Speculation about supply operations for the Nicaraguan contras run from the Mena airfield in Arkansas, merges into hints of CIA money-laundering through the Arkansas bond markets. Hillary Clinton's Rose law firm is also facing scrutiny for its role in helping the discredited Bank of Credit and Commerce International acquire its US banking arm, First American. Rose was the law firm for the Arkansas financial group Stephens Inc, America's biggest investment firm outside of Wall Street, and its associated Worthen bank. Stephens Inc owned part of the holding company, Financial General, which controlled the First National Bank of Georgia. Stephens Inc and the Rose law firm helped BCCI to creep into the US banking market through its purchase of shares in Financial General. This in turn leads on to the murky world of bond-trading and whether the Nicaraguan contras were being financed by cocaine-smuggling. Governor Clinton was indeed the only Democrat to send his state National Guard to Honduras to train alongside the contras. In the 1980s, Mr Clinton's main campaign contributor was Daniel Lasater, who did $664 millions of Arkansas state bond business. Mr Lasater was later imprisoned for cocaine trafficking, and his business was then taken over by his chief assistant, Patsy Thomasson, who is now head of administration at the White House. She joined the former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum in his late-night search of the office of Vince Foster after his death last July but before the police were allowed in. All this smacks less of Godfather Clinton growling out orders for contract hits than of an American pathology, a fevered distrust of government and a readiness to believe absolutely anything, which takes us back to the archetypal conspiracy theory: that of the JFK assassination. There is even, on the small hillock where Foster shot himself last July, that essential ingredient of any good conspiracy, a grassy knoll. Just like the one in Dallas.