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To Protect and to Spin 

The ex–LAPD cop who became a 9/11 conspiracy king

Wednesday, Jun 12 2002
Illustration by Alison Elizabeth Taylor

AN L.A. COP MEETS A BEAUTIFUL AND MYSTERIOUS DAME. HE falls hard; she lets him. They move in together, but she takes him for a ride, disappearing evenings, gallivanting about. She has no obvious source of income. But she's deep in-the-know about mobsters and guns. One day there's a bullet hole in her '65 Ford Comet; 48 hours later she dumps him. He chases her to New Orleans, where she's hanging with Mafiosi and military men. The cop is shot at. Back in L.A. he is followed. It gets to him. He checks into a psychiatric hospital for a spell. But he starts to figure things out. It's 1978, and his ex, he believes, is somehow hooked up with U.S. intelligence and the mob in a plot involving Iran, where radical clerics are threatening the regime of the Washington-friendly shah. And someone is worried this cop knows too much. He's being tailed, his home is broken into. He tells his superiors at LAPD. They do nothing. Fearing for his life, he retires from the department.

The story's not over. Years later, he cracks the case. His girlfriend, he concludes, was with the CIA, and her mission was to work with organized-crime lieutenants assisting Kurdish counterrevolutionary forces in Iran in return for access to Mideast heroin. The old guns-for-drugs business. In 1981, he gets a newspaper to print his tale. But his ex-lover-the-spy denies all and says he's nutso -- which, of course, is what you would expect a wily CIA operative to say. So the CIA gets off. The ex-cop's career is in the toilet. He takes a job at a 7-Eleven and is busted on his first shift for selling alcohol to a kid. A setup, right? For a while, his parents have to support him. Then in 1996, when his old nemesis, the CIA, is accused of scheming with L.A. crack dealers, the ex-cop has another chance to take down the Company. He tells the world the CIA in the late 1970s attempted to recruit him to protect its drug racket in South-Central. But his claim draws little attention; again, the CIA skates. But this former cop doesn't quit. He starts a newsletter, opens a Web site ( -- get it?), and keeps pursuing the gang that wrecked his life. And then -- finally -- he unearths the CIA's most damaging secret, the ugliest truth imaginable about the Agency, information that could bring the CIA to its knees and topple an entire government. He's got the CIA by the short hairs. There's only one question: Can he get people to believe?

Is this the latest Mel Gibson vehicle? No, it's all true. Sort of. This is the self-proclaimed autobiography of Michael Ruppert, who was indeed a cop who got messed up over a relationship with a woman and who, 24 years later, has become a king of conspiracy theories, operating out of Sherman Oaks. He maintains that his research shows the CIA knew the 9/11 attacks were coming and that the U.S. government probably had a hand in executing the assaults. Why would the government do that? The short answer: so Washington, ever subservient to Big Oil, would have an excuse to bomb the hell out of the Taliban and make way for a regime in Kabul that would say yes-sir to U.S. oil transnationals eager to use Afghanistan for a pipeline from the oil and gas fields of Central Asia. He's been pushing this notion in speeches across the country, on radio, on his Web site (buy the video!) and in interviews with other Web sites. And he has found an audience. In February, he packed a theater in Sacramento. Recently, he spoke at a conference in Australia. He repeatedly has been on Pacifica radio, and KPFK, the Los Angeles Pacifica station, has used his 9/11 video as a premium when fund-raising.

Within the alternative 9/11 crowd, this once down-and-out cop reigns as the No. 1 conspiracy theorist, a man who preaches the real truth for the thousands prepared to believe the absolute worst about the government. I first took note of him several months ago, after I began receiving e-mails from people claiming Ruppert could show that the Bush administration had committed a most foul act: It had either been aware of the attacks and did nothing to stop them, or worse, it had helped orchestrate them. I wrote a column for two Web sites dismissing this and other 9/11 conspiracy theories. I expressed doubt that the Bush administration would kill or allow the murder of thousands of American citizens to achieve a political or economic aim. Having covered the national-security community for years, I didn't believe any government agency could execute a plot requiring the coordination of the FBI, the CIA, the INS, the FAA, the NTSB, the Pentagon and others. And -- no small matter -- there was no direct evidence that anything of such a diabolical nature had transpired. I questioned Ruppert's research and challenged one of his most significant pieces of evidence: the case of Delmart "Mike" Vreeland. An American who was jailed in Canada, Vreeland claims to be a U.S. naval-intelligence officer who tried to warn the authorities before the attacks.

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