The Secret Life Of Bill Clinton
1997 Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
"I'M A DEAD MAN," whispered Jerry Parks, pale with shock, as he looked up at the television screen. It was a news bulletin on the local station in Little Rock. Vincent Foster, a childhood friend of the President, had been found dead in a park outside Washington. Apparent suicide.
He never explained to his son Gary what he meant by that remark, but for the next two months the beefy 6' 3" security executive was in a state of permanent fear. He would pack a pistol to fetch the mail. On the way to his offices at American Contract Services in Little Rock he would double back or take strange routes to "dry-clean" the cars that he thought were following him. At night he kept tearing anxiously at his eyebrows, and raiding the valium pills of his wife, Jane, who was battling multiple sclerosis. Once he muttered darkly that Bill Clinton's people were "cleaning house," and he was "next on the list."
Two months later, in September 1993, Jerry and Jane went on a Caribbean cruise. He seemed calmer. At one of the islands he went to take care of some business at a bank. She believed it was Grand Cayman. They returned to their home in the rural suburbs of Little Rock on September 25. The next day Jane was in one of her "down" periods, so Jerry went off on his own for the regular Sunday afternoon supper at El Chico Mexican Restaurant.
On the way back, at about 6:30 PM, a white Chevrolet Caprice pulled up beside him on the Chenal Parkway. Before Parks had time to reach for his .38 caliber "detective special" that he kept tucked between the seats, an assassin let off a volley of semi-automatic fire into his hulking 320 pound frame.
Parks skidded to a halt in the intersection of Highway 10. The stocky middle-aged killer jumped out and finished him off with a 9 mm handgun--two more shots into the chest at point blank range. Several witnesses watched with astonishment as the nonchalant gunman joined his accomplice in the waiting car and sped away.
It was another three months before news of the murder of Jerry Luther Parks reached me in Washington. The U.S. national media were largely unaware of the story, which surprised me because Parks had been in charge of security at the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign headquarters in Little Rock.
On my next trip to the state I decided to drop by at the archives of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to see if they had covered the death. There were two routine homicide stories by reporter Ward Pincus, mostly focusing on disputes that Parks had had with a former partner.
I contacted the writer, who had since moved to New York. To my surprise he turned out to be the son of Walter Pincus, the intelligence correspondent for The Washington Post and a friend of Vincent Foster. In fact, Walter Pincus had lunched with Foster at the Federal City Club on July 9, eleven days before the death. Afterward Pincus had written an "op-ed" piece in The Post saying that Foster was visibly cracking under the strain of Washington life.
It was a persuasive article, the suicide clincher. I remember reading it at the time and thinking: "Well, that's it, then, case closed."
What his son told me was astounding. When he spoke to Jane Parks the day after the death she said that her husband had been involved with Vince Foster and she seemed to think there was a political dimension to the murder. She was distraught, almost hysterical. Ward Pincus did not know what to make of it, so he consulted his editors at The Democrat-Gazette. Should he go out to visit the widow and try to find out what on earth she was talking about? No, they said, don't bother. Soon afterward, Jane Parks withdrew into her shell and refused to give any interviews to the press.
By asking around, I learned that her son Gary, then 23, might be willing to talk. He was half-underground, sleeping on the floor in different houses, afraid that he too could be the target of attack. Messages were passed back and forth through the informal network of civic opposition in Arkansas. He agreed to talk, given that I was a "foreigner," he said, and not part of the corrupt U.S. media cabal. It was a sentiment I encountered often in Arkansas.
We met for dinner at the Little Rock Hilton. His escort arrived first, "sweeping" the lobby, the bar, and even the bathrooms, before giving the all clear. It was like being back in El Salvador or Guatemala, where I had worked as a correspondent during la violencia of the early 1980s. I never imagined that I would witness such a spectacle in the United States.
A big strapping fellow like his father, Gary Parks was in constant pain from a wound he had suffered in the navy. A propeller had ripped through his right shoulder. He described his father as a harsh martinet, who once made him run miles in freezing cold weather, drenched and shirtless. But in the security business the name Jerry Parks was good metal. Bill Clinton had appointed him to the board of Arkansas Private Investigators. He was a player. He knew how to keep his mouth shut, too.
Wolfing down a huge piece of steak--he seemed to be half starved--Gary then said that his father had been collecting files on Bill Clinton. "Working on his infidelities," he said, grinning. "It had been going on for years. He had enough to impeach Bill Clinton on the spot."
At some point in 1988, when he was about 17, he had accompanied Jerry on four or five nocturnal missions. Armed with long range surveillance cameras, they would stake out the haunts of the Governor until the early hours of the morning. Quapaw Towers was one of them, he remembered. That was where Gennifer Flowers lived.
It was a contract job, Gary believed, but he did not know who was paying for the product. Some of the material was kept in two files, stored in the bottom drawer of the dresser in his parents' bedroom. He had sneaked in one day, terrified that his father might catch him, and flicked through the papers just long enough to see photos of women coming and going with Governor Clinton, and pages of notes in his father's handwriting. In one of the photos Clinton was with Captain Raymond "Buddy" Young of the State Police.
In late July 1993 the family house on Barrett Road was burgled in a sophisticated operation that involved cutting the telephone lines and disarming the electronic alarm system. The files were stolen. Gary suspected that this was somehow tied to his father's death two months later.
" I believe that Bill Clinton had my father killed to protect his political career," he told me that evening. "We're dealing with a secretive machine here in Arkansas that can shut anyone up in a moment."
It was a startling allegation. He was accusing the President of the United States of using a death squad to eliminate enemies. I knew at once that this was a news story that had to be pursued. It was an infinitely more serious issue than Whitewater, and Watergate, too, for that matter.
But why would a bimbo file cause such alarm? And how much did Gary Parks really know anyway? He had been away in the navy. His father had kept him in the dark.
It was imperative to interview his mother. It was she who knew the secrets.
At first Mrs. Parks would not talk to me, except to confirm in a general way that there were indeed files, that they had been stolen, and that Gary was telling the truth. The Little Rock Police had told her not to talk to the press until the case was solved, and she had agreed.
But by the spring of 1994 she was losing faith. The original detective, Tom James, had been pulled off the case. It was becoming apparent that the eyewitness accounts of the death were being ignored by the police. Witnesses had described two assassins: hefty men, with beer bellies and broad shoulders, greyish hair, in their late forties or early fifties. Yet the police kept saying that there was only one killer in the car.
Jane Parks went to visit a top official from the State Police whom she knew well from her church network. He told her outright that the murder was a conspiracy hatched in Hot Springs by five men who moved in the social circle of Buddy Young, the former chief of Governor Clinton's security detail and now the regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the south-central United States. She was given the names of the five men, and was told that they flipped coins to decide which two would carry out the execution. And finally, she was told that nothing was ever going to be done about it.