The Cloud Over Lightning Strike

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

Francis, meanwhile has voiced his own complaints about the aftermath of Operation Lightning Strike, accusing the U.S. Attorney's office of not wanting to pursue prosecutable cases against higher-ups at NASA.

He mentions "some of the other high-profile people down at [JSC], for instance, that haven't been charged. Let's say, for example, [astronaut] David Wolf. There are also a lot of questions about Carolyn Huntoon that need to be answered. Questions regarding her management of Life Sciences. Questions of conflict of interest ... and other possible improprieties that I'm not at liberty to discuss." (Earlier this year Channel 11 raised questions about the propriety of Huntoon's friendship with the owner of a Clear Lake company called TransTech, which won a contract to conduct translations for joint U.S./Russian space projects. And last week NASA released a 1992 letter from Huntoon to Beggs suggesting that she knew more about the proposal to acquire funding for the lithotripter than had previously been acknowledged. Huntoon did not respond to a request for an interview with the Press.)

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Gaynelle Griffin Jones, when contacted by the Press about Francis' complaint, would say only that she believed Francis had been misquoted. However, shortly after her interview with this paper, it was reported that Jones has asked FBI Director Louis Freeh to explore methods of keeping former agents from talking to the media. Jones' request has Francis steamed.

"She's done everything in her power to find some way to shut me up," he charges. "I take it as a personal affront anytime someone tries to abridge my First Amendment rights to say what the hell I want to."

David Proctor considers Francis' outrage just another droll irony in his ordeal, given that he believes he was gagged for so long by threats from the federal government.

"If anything good come out of this," says Proctor, "is that people should know what the government does to other people. Not that I'm on a mission from God, but it's my duty to let other people know about this, so they can really know what our government is like. We live in a Nazi state. Maybe change starts with me."

Regardless of the outcome of his trial, Proctor believes he already has been made to pay the price of other people's blind ambition and secret agendas.

"At first, I thought I was nuts," he says. "This sort of thing doesn't happen to a guy from West Texas."

Proctor still works at NASA, but, while awaiting disposition of his case, he has been transferred from JSC's Life Sciences Division to its Plant Engineering Division, where he handles paperwork for what is basically the complex's maintenance operation.

"I'm relaxed now," he says. "But in terms of my NASA career, I no longer have a NASA career. I hope to clear myself, but NASA management has a long memory."

Meanwhile, former FBI agent Hal Francis, who says he left the agency this spring seeking another new challenge, is preparing to cash in on his last one. He recently signed a contract with a reputable publishing house to write a book about Operation Lightning Strike.

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