Latest government report on Wellstone 'accident' finds its scapegoats, many questions remain

By: Jackson Thoreau - 12/30/03


I'm for the little fellers, not the Rockefellers. - Sen. Paul Wellstone


Shortly before he died in a mysterious airplane crash 11 days prior to the 2002 elections, Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone met with Vice President Dick Cheney, probably the Bush administration's most evil public face. 

Cheney was rounding up Senate support for the October 2002 vote on giving the administration carte blanche to invade Iraq, with or without blessing from the United Nations. Cheney strong-armed opposing politicians like the most vindictive of mafioso leaders, and opponents usually gave in. 

But not Wellstone. Whatever you thought of his progressive brand of politics, he wasn't a wimp. And that's what made him more than dangerous in the eyes of people like Cheney. 

At a meeting full of war veterans in Willmar, Minn., days before his death, Wellstone told attendees that Cheney told him, "If you vote against the war in Iraq, the Bush administration will do whatever is necessary to get you. There will be severe ramifications for you and the state of Minnesota." 

Wellstone cast his vote for his conscience and against the Iraq measure, the lone Democrat involved in a tough 2002 election campaign to do so. And a few weeks later on Oct. 25, as he appeared to be winning his re-election bid, Wellstone, his wife, Sheila, his daughter, Marcia Markuson, three campaign staffers, and two pilots died in a plane crash in Minnesota. 

Talk about "severe ramifications." 

My first hunch upon hearing about the tragedy was that the Beech King Air A-100 was tampered with by right wingers, possibly the CIA, either directly or through electromagnetic rays or some psychic mind games. 

And nothing I have heard or read since then has made me drift from that hunch. 
I'm not alone. The Duluth News Tribune featured a column by Jim Fetzer, a University of Minnesota-Duluth philosophy professor and author, in November 2003. Fetzer wrote that an FBI "recovery team" headed out to investigate the Wellstone plane crash BEFORE the plane went down. "I calculate that this team would have had to have left the Twin Cities at about the same time the Wellstone plane was taking off," Fetzer wrote. 

That apparent prior knowledge was similar to Dallas police putting out an all-points bulletin for accused John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald at 12:43 p.m. in 1963 for shooting a police officer. The problem was the officer was not shot until 23 minutes later. 

Fetzer also noted that Wellstone's plane was "exceptional, the pilots well-qualified, and the weather posed no significant problems." He wrote that "we have to consider other, less palatable, alternatives, such as small bombs, gas canisters or electromagnetic pulse, radio frequency or High Energy Radio Frequency weapons designed to overwhelm electrical circuitry with an intense electromagnetic field. An abrupt cessation of communication between the plane and the tower took place at about 10:18 a.m., the same time an odd cell phone phenomenon occurred with a driver in the immediate vicinity. This suggests to me the most likely explanation is that one of our new electromagnetic weapons was employed." 

Michael Ruppert, publisher of From the Wilderness, wrote that the day after the crash he received a message from a former CIA operative who was familiar with those kinds of assassinations. The message read, "As I said earlier, having played ball [and still playing in some respects] with this current crop of reinvigorated old white men, these clowns are nobody to screw around with. There will be a few more strategic accidents. You can be certain of that." 

Ruppert also interviewed two Democratic Congress representatives who said they believed Wellstone was murdered. One said, "I don't think there's anyone on the Hill who doesn't suspect it. It's too convenient, too coincidental, too damned obvious. My guess is that some of the less courageous members of the party are thinking about becoming Republicans right now." 

Even National Transportation Safety Board officials found aspects of Wellstone's accident puzzling. An article in the Duluth News Tribune a few days after the tragedy said that "for some still unexplained reason - [the plane] turned off course and crashed." It quoted Carol Carmody, the NTSB's acting chair and reportedly a former CIA employee, as saying, "We find the whole turn curious." 

NTSB blames pilots 

But in November 2003, the NTSB blamed the two pilots of Wellstone's plane, Richard Conry and Michael Guess, for the crash. The pilots flew too high and too fast when they began a left turn toward the runway, then let it slow to dangerous levels, the NTSB said. 

The NTSB also accused Conry and Guess of not even monitoring the instruments. "One of them should have been monitoring the instruments," said Bill Bramble, a human performance investigator for the NTSB. 

Still, NTSB board member Richard Healing called the conclusion "speculative," pointing out that the report did not say how the pilots missed the red flags or why they failed to make adjustments. 

"We don't know why," Healing said. "It's quite speculative." 

The conclusion was especially disturbing considering the NTSB's own simulations, which included flying a plane at abnormally slow speeds and being unable to bring it down. That by itself should have forced consideration of other possible causes. 

The NTSB said that Conry made mistakes on previous flights that were covered by his co-pilots and was convicted of mail fraud related to a home-building business in 1990. But Wellstone had used Aviation Charter since 1992 and had flown numerous other times with Conry, with whom he was reportedly comfortable. Conry passed a proficiency test just two days before the tragedy, and some attorneys said regulations did not require revocation of a pilot's license because of a criminal conviction unless it involved drugs or alcohol. 

While the NTSB said some fellow pilots questioned the skill levels of Conry and Guess, Conry had more than 5,000 hours of flying time, according to his management company, Aviation Charter Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn.. 

Family members of Wellstone reached a $25 million settlement in mid-2003 with Aviation Charter. 

Several pilots said the NTSB was just looking for scapegoats. "It is hard to believe that two experienced pilots would fail to monitor airspeed," one said. 

As in the case of JFK, the scapegoats who took the blame were conveniently dead. 

And many questions remained. 

Electromagnetic pulse device suspected 

More people than Fetzer and I believe that Wellstone's plane could have been hit with an electromagnetic pulse [EMP] device that caused the aircraft to suddenly turn off course. 

Electromagnetic pulses from military craft may have been responsible for several civilian airline disasters in the late 1990s, according to an article in The London Observer. In particular, Swissair 111 in 1998 and TWA 800 in 1996 both took the same route over Long Island, experienced trouble in the same region, suffered catastrophic electrical malfunctions, and were flying at a time when military exercises involving submarines and U.S. Navy P3 fighter planes were being conducted. 

Experts have even testified before Congress about concerns that terrorists may use EMPs, which they said were capable of short-circuiting computers, satellites, radios, radar, and traffic lights. An EMP shockwave can be produced by a device small enough to fit in a briefcase, they said. Stanley Jakubiak, senior civilian official for nuclear command, control, communications, and EMP policy for the Defense Department, admitted in 1999 Congressional testimony that the feds have studied EMPs for years. 

U.S. Marine Corp Major M. CaJohn went farther than that in a 1988 report, writing that officials had sought remedies for the effects of EMPs at least since the early 1960s. The Air Force built an EMP testing facility called TRESTLE in 1980 at Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico. The Navy also erected an EMP testing facility called EMPRESS I at Point Patience on the Patuxent River in Maryland. Other agencies have their own EMP facilities. 

Fetzer also reports on other instances and reports, including nuclear tests by Soviets and Americans in the 1960s resulting in gigantic releases of electromagnetic energy. There is also this 1998 U.S. Department of Justice document describing these devices:

First developed in the 19th century, EMPs now are relatively easy to obtain. Anyone can acquire an EMP generator through the Internet, such as at

Theoretically, a person a few miles from the runway could bombard the aircraft with an intense electromagnetic pulse, which could cause an electrical failure, instantly knock out radio communication, disrupt normal engine ignition, and cause loss of steering control. The steering control surfaces on these airplanes are controlled by individual electrical actuators that are mechanically linked to the rudder, ailerons, and flaps. 

This type of sabotage would leave no physical evidence on the aircraft, although it's possible that people at the airport or in the general vicinity might have noticed electrical anomalies like radio noises, a crashed computer, telephone disruption, and so on. 

A Texas software engineer wrote me that EMPs damage systems by generating an electrical pulse in the system wiring. Therefore, a component would not have to be directly exposed to an EMP to be damaged. An aircraft struck by an EMP pulse would not likely die, unless the plane was hit by an extremely powerful EMP pulse. 

"More likely, an EMP strike would disable delicate electronic systems, leaving electrical systems intact," the engineer wrote. "After being struck by an EMP, the aircraft would likely function more or less normally, but without any control systems, instruments, or radios. This would account for the assertion that the Wellstone plane's engines were still running when the plane hit the ground." 

Another electrical engineer wrote, "You don't need anything as elaborate as an EMP generator. Standard issue radio transmitters can screw up a landing." 

Lawrence Judd, an Illinois attorney, wrote the NTSB to ask whether it has or will investigate the possibility that EMF weapons were used to bring down the planes of Senators Wellstone and Carnahan. Robert Benzon wrote him back, thusly, "The NTSB is unaware of any mobile EM force or EM pulse weapon system capable of disabling an aircraft at the ground-to-air ranges that existed in either of the accidents you mention in your email." 

But Fetzer noted that what the NTSB may or may not be "aware of" depends on its state of actual or feigned ignorance. "In this day and age, there is no excuse for any such lack of knowledge about increasingly familiar weapons," Fetzer wrote me in an email. "It reminds me of the Warren Report's conclusion that there was ‘no credible evidence’ of conspiracy in the death of JFK. It all depends on what you are willing to consider ‘credible.’ Today, such a statement would be considered laughable - similarly that of the NTSB." 

Weird cell phone interference reported 

John Ongaro, a Minnesota lobbyist, wrote to Fetzer about his experience the day Wellstone died. Ongaro said he was driving to the same funeral that Wellstone and his party were flying to in Eveleth, Minn. While traveling north on Hwy. 53 near the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport in the same area as Wellstone's plane, he received a call on his cell phone at precisely the same time Wellstone's King Air veered off course. 

"This call was in a league of its own," Ongaro said. "When I answered it, what I heard sounded like a cross between a roar and a loud humming noise. The noise seemed to be oscillating, and I could not make out any words being spoken. Instead, just this loud, grotesque, sometimes screeching and humming noise." 

What he heard may very well have been electronic interference from an EMP or microwave weapon. 

One writer to talk show host Jeff Rense suggested a scenario involving "black op specialists" in a van or truck full of radio/instrument landing jamming equipment. "As Wellstone's plane approaches the airport, the VOR/ILS jamming equipment is activated, and a 'decoy' VOR signal is sent to the plane, thus tricking the plane's instruments [and the pilot] into believing the airport is somewhere several degrees off the true course to the runway," S.H. wrote. "The pilot follows that signal straight into the ground. The non-descript van, full of covert electronic jamming equipment, casually leaves the area, looking just like any other TV repair truck or moving van." 

Witnesses hear an explosion, see a flash of light 

One witness of Wellstone's crash, Megen Williams, who lived near the Eveleth airport, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that she heard "a diving noise and then an explosion" as she prepared for work as a nurse in her home near the crash site. At first, she thought it was blasting at a nearby iron ore mine, and she didn't call authorities. 

Another local resident, Rodney Allen, said the plane flew right over his house. "It was so close the windows were shaking," Allen said. He added that the craft was "crabbing to the right," then less than a minute later, he felt an impact and heard what he thought sounded like a loud rifle shot. St. Paul Pioneer Press, Oct. 26, 2002 

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board said the plane was last seen on air traffic control radar at 10:21 a.m., flying at an elevation of 1,800 feet. Radar tapes indicate Wellstone's plane had descended to about 400 feet and was traveling at only 85 knots near the end of its flight. 

Another person saw a blond-haired man on CNN saying he observed a flash of light at the rear of the plane. 

Don Sipola, a former president of the Eveleth Virginia Municipal Airport Commission, said "something" caused Wellstone's plan to veer off course at low altittude. "This was a real steep bank, not a nice, gentle don't-spill-the-coffee descent," Siploa said. "This is more like a space shuttle coming down. This was not a controlled descent into the ground." 

The pilots of Wellstone's plane radioed that they were two miles out, clicked up the runway lights, and had the airstrip in sight, said Traci Chacich, the airport's office manager. That was the last that airport employees heard from them. 

Weather not that bad 

Some officials and media reports blamed bad weather, but witnesses said conditions were not that bad at the time of Wellstone's accident. It was cloudy with a little ice, but there was little wind. Other pilots landed without problem during that same time and said the conditions were not bad. Airport visibility was about 3 miles at the time the plane went down, which was adequate. 

Another pilot who landed a slightly larger twin-engine plane at the same airport that same day a couple of hours before Wellstone's plane crashed, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he experienced no significant problems. There was very light ice, "but nothing to be alarmed about," pilot Ray Juntunen said. "It shouldn't have been a problem." 

According to the NTSB, Wellstone's pilots received warnings of icing at 9,000 to 11,000 feet and were allowed to descend to 4,000 feet. Juntunen said he was able to see the airport from five miles out, and another pilot landed 30 minutes later and said the clouds were a little lower, but still not bad. 

Frank Hilldrup, lead investigator for the NTSB, said the landing gear of Wellstone's plane appeared to be down. 

The King Air had a reputation as one of the safest turboprops around, many manufacturers and pilot said. Some 50 accidents involving King Air A100s had occurred between 1975 and 2002, according to the FAA. Five were fatal, but three of those weren't the plane's fault. 

Wellstone was target of apparent assassination in 2000 

Wellstone was the target of an apparent assassination plot before. In 2000, as he visited Colombia to survey conditions there, a bomb was found along his route from the airport. He was also sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate by a helicopter above him while watching the Colombian police demonstrate its fumigation of coca plants. Officials called the incident an accident. 

Wellstone was a vocal opponent of military aid to the Colombian government. While there, he visited human rights activists who said the government did not protect civilians. Wellstone told reporters he thought his Colombian hosts created the bomb story to dissuade him from traveling to certain areas of the country. "I don't know whether I was targeted, but I certainly know that the human rights activists are targeted," Wellstone said. 

Among the weird events since Wellstone's death was that his successor in the U.S. Senate, Republican Norm Coleman, was named chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. As Fetzer said, that's a practically unheard of position for a freshman senator with no previous experience. Could that be why Congress has not opened a formal investigation into Wellstone's death? 

For my part, I'm not a big conspiracy nut who worries about this kind of thing all the time - just an average one like Oliver Stone who knows there's something sinister and weird going on in our world. I have done extensive research into the JFK assassination in Dallas. The right wing of the CIA was heavily involved in that, from Oswald's CIA connections to the Dallas mayor at that time being the brother of the former CIA deputy director who lost his job after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and blamed that on JFK. The Dallas mayor may even have approved the change in the parade route on that fateful day so it would go right by the grassy knoll and building where Oswald and probably other snipers were, where JFK met his death. 

I have interviewed numerous people who reported weird things that occurred during that time, such as key witnesses dying in strange ways like mysterious plane crashes and being run over by trains in the middle of the night. I have written numerous stories on this and covered it in my book on Dallas history - and have received my share of threatening phone calls, mail opened, and the like to know I was stepping on some powerful toes. 

There were also numerous JFK murder witnesses committing suicide in the months after that tragedy. The CIA has done extensive mind control work for decades - I know at least one psychic personally who started working for the CIA in the 1980s - and could possibly convince someone through such mind games to commit suicide. Could they psychically work on making a plane crash? Who knows? Anything is possible. 

Similarities with Carnahan, Kennedy crashes 

What about Democratic Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, who was killed during a close Senate race when his small plane crashed right before the 2000 election? What about John F. Kennedy Jr., who had intelligence, political ambitions, charisma, and the name, dying in a 1999 plane crash? 

In both of those cases, the planes were already descending towards their landing and then suddenly wandered off their approach paths and crashed, similar to Wellstone's craft. In all three cases, radio contact appears to have been cut off while the planes were still in the air, possibly indicating electrical failures on board. 

In Kennedy's case, at least one witness saw a flash in the sky and heard an explosion before the plane went down, as in Wellstone's situation. Kennedy's plane was also left unguarded at Teeterborough Airport in New Jersey, and almost anyone could have placed something inside it. 

The list of high-profile Democratic politicians killed in plane crashes goes on - Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in 1996, Rep. Mickey Leland of Texas in 1989, Rep. Jerry Litton of Missouri in 1976 [who was also involved in a hard-fought election at the time], House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana and Rep. Nick Begich of Alaska in 1972. High-profile Republicans have died in crashes, including Sen. John Heinz of Pennsylvania and Sen. John Tower of Texas in 1991, but not as many as Democrats. 

In fact, of 22 air crashes involving state and federal officials, including one ambassador and one cabinet official, From the Wilderness found that 14 - 64 percent - were Democrats and eight - 36 percent - were Republicans. 

Add to that Raytheon Co., one of the biggest U.S. military contractors and manufacturer of the plane that crashed with Wellstone in it, being a huge donor to Republicans, and the mind continues to wonder. U.S. House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, for instance, received $48,201 alone from Raytheon in 1997-98. The Republican National Committee received at least $170,000 from Raytheon since 1999. Raytheon donates to Democrats, too, but more than twice as much money goes to Republicans. 

Raytheon has all kinds of CIA connections, as does Bush, whose father, remember, was once director of the CIA. One of the more intriguing discoveries that emerged from the NTSB's own investigation of this case was that Raytheon not only not only manufactured EM force and EM pulse weapons, but also manufactured the King Air A100. No other entity would have been better positioned to have taken it down. See for more details. 

Bush, for his part, issued some strange comments immediately after Wellstone's crash, even for him. He called Wellstone - who was an articulate, energetic, intelligent political science professor for 21 years before he was a senator - a "plain-spoken fellow." He said he wanted to issue his "condolences for the loss of the Senate." Did he mean the Democrats' sudden loss of the Senate, which occurred the day Wellstone died? Did he know something more than he let on? 

Bush once called Wellstone a 'chicken shit' 

There was no love lost between the Bush clan and Wellstone. In 1990, as Wellstone challenged the Persian Gulf War preparations, Bush Sr. even referred to Wellstone as a "chicken shit." When Wellstone first met Bush Jr. in 2001, the latter disrespectfully called him "Pablo." 

As The Nation said in May 2002, getting rid of Wellstone was a passion for Bush, Karl Rove, and Cheney. "There are people in the White House who wake up in the morning thinking about how they will defeat Paul Wellstone," a senior Republican aide told The Nation. "This one is political and personal for them." 

No senator had a more consistent record of voting against Bush administration proposals in 2001. Wellstone voted against the Homeland Security Act and many of Bush's judicial nominees. He pushed for stronger environmental programs, for genuine measures to counter corporate fraud, and for investigations into Sept. 11 and $350 million that was missing from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

Freepers' comments I read about this tragedy were mostly tasteful - on the surface - though some jokes and conspiratorial posts were published on their right-wing site. Right after the news of the crash, some posted comments like "prayers for control of the Senate." Several comments were removed by the moderator. One that was not said, "You do realize that as we sit here praying for one of our biggest political enemies' safety, President Bush will be blamed by the Democrats [including the rabid leftists at DU and other brain-sucking sites] for the crash." 

Another joked, "Maybe it was shot down by a right wing militia. We've got to ban handguns." And another said, "Ted Kennedy may have been on [the plane]." Then there was this ramble: "Politically speaking, would this be good or bad news for the GOP if he's dead? I could see him winning now like Carnahan in 2000 so that Gov. Jesse could appoint his successor. I'm thinking this is probably not good news." 

And this comment: "Any bets on how quickly the Democrats will have his wife take his place on the ballot?" Hello? Sen. Wellstone's wife died in the tragedy, remember? Another post predicted that "[Republican Senate candidate in Minnesota] Coleman's campaign is dead." And then there was this message: "I pray that Wellstone and all of his aides survive, and live to see themselves defeated handily on Nov 5th...unless this is yet another of Tom 'Caligula' Daschle's election schemes." Someone else added, "Carnahan II? Ventura is the governor, not a D...this time." 

Such conservatives' glee at the demise of probably the most powerful real progressive in the country was entirely evident in such comments. Many contained themselves, but we know what they're really thinking, don't we? 

And a few days after Wellstone's death, right wingers were selling and displaying on their vehicles insensitive bumper stickers with messages like, "He's dead, get over it." How's that for "compassionate conservatism?"

More good stories 

There are many good stories on the Wellstone crash out there. Those include: 


Jackson Thoreau, a contributing writer for Liberal Slant, is co-author of "We Will Not Get Over It: Restoring a Legitimate White House". The 110,000-word electronic book can be downloaded at or at Thoreau also co-authored a book on Dallas history from the perspective of African-Americans, civil rights advocates, and others. 
His articles can also be found at:  
Thoreau can be emailed at: or