The Cloud Over Lightning Strike

Did the U.S. government spend $2 million just to nail little guys like David Proctor?

Jackson became John Clifford's entree into the NASA business world. In fact, Francis claims Jackson pretty much took over the lithotripter project and signed a personal services contract with Clifford on April Fools' Day of 1992. "Both Jackson and his wife insisted they be paid in cash with no [Form] 1099," says Francis. "They stated on tape their intent was to avoid paying any taxes on that money. That generally lends itself to further investigation."

The next week, Francis says, Jackson began taking John Clifford to meet the right people -- such as P.J. Weitz, the acting director at JSC, who Francis says was polite but basically uninterested in anything he had to say. The two men also paid a call on a project manager at Krug Life Sciences, who Francis says also was cordial but noncommittal. But on their way out of the building Clifford and Jackson bumped into Jim Verlander, who Francis claims took an immediate interest in the lithotripter project. The following day, according to Francis, Verlander signed on to the John Clifford team, but only in a limited role.

"He was very noncommitted about being able to assist us in anything other than an advisory capacity," says Francis. "In other words, 'I'll tell you what you need to know and where you need to go, but I'm not physically going to do anything that would constitute a conflict of interest.' And we told him that was fine. No money exchanged hands." But, says Francis, he agreed to pay Verlander $5,000 a month.

A couple of days later, as Francis was driving back to Texas from Atlanta, where he had shown Jackson STD's "headquarters," he received a page on his beeper from Verlander and, he says, pulled into a motel across from a Denny's in Opalicka, Alabama, hooked up his recording equipment, and returned the call.

"Verlander says, 'Listen, I've been talking to some people over at NASA and there's a guy I want to bring on the payroll but it's going to cost you some money," according to Francis. "I asked him how much money, and he said $3,000."

However, Francis says Verlander would not identify the recipient. "He says, 'You're just going to have to trust me on this. But in the meantime let's just call him the mole.' Not until the end would he give the guy up. I mean, if I'm ever in another undercover operation, I want Jim Verlander on my team, because he just refused to give the guy up even when I came down on him with both feet."

David Proctor confirms that in April 1992 he was contacted by his friend, Jim Verlander, about a moonlighting opportunity with a man named John Clifford who wanted to submit an "unsolicited proposal" to NASA. (The space agency basically has two methods of procurement: solicited proposals on which NASA produces a statement of work and takes bids; and unsolicited proposals which can be submitted by anybody -- from anywhere and at anytime -- and are evaluated within NASA. Sometimes unsolicited proposals are funded by the agency.)

Proctor says -- and Francis confirms -- that he had no direct dealings with John Clifford, other than one brief, passing encounter. But he says he was told by Verlander that Clifford had acquired technology from the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency that was capable of ultrasonic imaging at one-millimeter resolution.

"I didn't question that," Proctor says. "The reason I didn't question that is because I'd been working in advanced technologies with Sandia Labs and some others. At that time our national laboratories had a lot of technology that was developed during the Cold War, and all of a sudden the Cold War was over. To keep their doors open, they were looking to export this technology to the private sector and other government agencies.

"So, Clifford essentially gave Jim a set of specifications [the lithotripter] and asked him to write a proposal. Jim actually penned the proposal. And what I did was act as sort of a technical consultant."

And in that role Proctor says his first piece of advice to Clifford, via Verlander, was that NASA did not need a lithotripter and that they should market the device as a soft-tissue imaging system.

"I told them to get away from the lithotripter because that was kind of stupid," he says. "So what Jim did was take those specifications that [Clifford] had given, wrote the proposal in a format that was acceptable to NASA, asked me to 'red-line' it, which means to review it and make sure the language is correct, and he then handed that proposal over to John Clifford. For that, Jim came over to my house one night with $3,000 in cash. I had never asked for money. Jim brought over the $3,000. And, hey, if a guy wants to pay me $3,000, that's fine."

Proctor also acknowledges that he did his red-lining on a $10,000 computer Verlander provided him, one he requested because he would not do what he considered innocent after-hours work on NASA equipment, much less NASA time.

"I just did not have the equipment or horsepower of a computer at home to do that," says Proctor. "And I told Jim I would not use the computers at NASA. Jim went back to Clifford. And Clifford basically said to write down what we needed. Jim came back and I told him I needed Macintosh Quadra 700 with a laser printer and large screen monitor. My agreement at the time was that it was a loan."

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