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The Curious Murder of CIA Contractor, William Bennett

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By Jeff Stein | April 15, 2009 5:35 PM | Permalink

The case of former CIA contractor William Bennett, slain while out on a walk with his wife in rural Loudoun County, Va., gets interestinger and interestinger.

Bennett, it turns out, was involved in the disastrously mistaken, May 1999 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by NATO warplanes.

That, and other curious facets of the case, has prompted the attention of influential national security bloggers Laura Rozen, who writes The Cable for Foreign, and Pat Lang, the former top Middle East analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Drawing on the reporting of the local Loudoun Independent’s John L. Geddie and Jim Plowman, Lang tidily summed up the story so far in his eclectic “Sic Semper Tyrannis” blog.

“He and his wife were having a morning walk for exercise on a well known path when they apparently were set upon by several assailants reportedly armed with clubs.  Bennett was beaten to death and his wife left nearby in such a condition that the attackers must have anticipated her death.  As is recounted in this story, the sheriff of Loudon County is inclined to think this is the handiwork of gang members, perhaps in some bizarre initiation ritual,” Lang wrote.   


 ”There are a lot of Central American immigrants in Virginia now and there have been incidents of violent criminality, usually among rival gang members.  Incidents against ‘gringos’ have been few.  To be fair, most Latino immigrants in Northern Virginia are hard working family people who contribute to the community.  To assume that immigrants are the killers seems a bit ‘hasty’ in the absence of evidence.”



Bennett’s widow Cynthia has recovered enough to begin talking with investigators, the Loudoun Indepedent reported last week. The FBI has also been called into the case.

Geddie said Wednesday investigators have confided to him that they have started to rule out an esoteric CIA connection to his death.

“That said,” he told me, “there are very few unsolved murders in Loudoun County.”

It was local NBC-4 reporter Matthew Stabley who revealed the Belgade factor:

Bennet was involved in a mistaken bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7, 1999, during the conflict with Kosovo, according to intelligence sources. . .Bennett was one of the officials who helped identify targets in Belgrade, according to a retired senior intelligence officer.


Geddie also confirmed Bennett’s employment with the CIA as a contractor.

 Rozen expanded on the Belgrade connection in her April 4 blog.

“In 1999, sources bring to our attention, Bennett was a retired Army lieutenant colonel working at the CIA on contract as a targeter during the 78-day NATO air war on Kosovo. He was one of the people, according to a former U.S. intelligence source, found responsible by the Agency for feeding the target into the system that resulted in the May 7, 1999 NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.”

“The former U.S. intelligence source,” Rozen added, “says Bennett was fired as a consequence of the CIA investigation into how the Chinese embassy was targeted.”

Lang brought up another fascinating angle:

“He is reported to have worked on the analytic problem of the reverse engineering of ‘Patriot’ missile technology by foreign companies.  The goal would have been for the country or company doing the reverse engineering to include that technology in missile systems or anti-missile defense system intended for export and sale on the international market.  He is reported to have had a good deal of success in this work.”

As it stands now, no matter what police say, or whoever is arrested, the Belgrade-CIA factor is not likely to go away soon, if ever.

In that way, the case is reminiscent of two other curious deaths of CIA officials, both in the Chesapeake Bay.

One was that of ex-CIA Director William E. Colby, who drew the wrath of many longtime agency operatives for giving up the agency’s “family jewels” – its secret covert action files, including coups d’etat and assassination plots – to congressional investigators in the mid-1970s.

Colby died in 1996 “from drowning and hypothermia after apparently collapsing from a heart attack or stroke and falling out of his canoe,” the Maryland state’s medical examiner said in news reports.

Even more improbable was the 1978 boating accident death of John Paisley, who had been the CIA’s liaison to the so-called White House Plumbers, the former CIA agents arrested in the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee, among other controversial roles.

The body of Paisley, whose widow was convinced foul play was involved, was never convincingly identified. Investigators ruled it a suicide, despite contradictory evidence. His yacht was found adrift with advanced radio equipment on board. No one was arrested in connection with his death.


It’s inevitable that the CIA connection of William Bennett will loom larger with every day that his murderer remains at large.

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    • iamoneofmany

      AMERICA We have a serial Killler One who is clearly held above the law

      The countless deaths of those who know to much is no Coincidence

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