BETRAYAL, written by two former MCAS El Toro veterans, Robert O'Dowd, investigative reporter and disabled veteran, and Tim King, photo/journalist and war correspondent, is a nonfiction account at two Marine Corps bases of injuries and deaths from exposures to TCE and other toxic chemicals, murder, narcotrafficking and government cover-up.
BETRAYAL is the story of chronic illnesses—including male breast cancers—of the thousands of veterans and their families, once stationed at MCAS El Toro, CA, and Camp Lejeune, NC. Both Marine Corps bases are among the 130 military installations listed as EPA Superfunds, a group of the most environmentally hazardous sites in the U.S.
Like most of the military installations on the EPA Superfund list, El Toro Marines and dependents continue to be ignored by the U.S. government. No government agency is interested in the health effects of TCE exposure on this once premier Marine Corps jet fighter air station. Requests from veterans and dependents for occupational risk assessments by the Navy were denied. The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing was moved to Miramar with the closure of El Toro in July 1999. The Navy sold most of the former base to a real estate joint venture in 2005 and walked away with $640 million. Millions were spent on environmental remediation but not one dime for medical care monitoring of Marine veterans and their dependents. Marines with cancers and out of work are left to their own resources to file VA disability compensation claims
BETRAYAL reports on the Navy’s transfer of almost 1,000 acres of the former base to the FAA and the FBI. The FAA dropped out of the picture and passed ownership over to the FBI. There is no access to this acreage in the Southeast quadrant of the former base. The base’s ammunition bunkers (now empty) were housed in this area. Several contaminated sites are in this area, too. No maps or tallies were kept of the buried 55 gallon drums of TCE waste. The Navy has no interest in looking for the buried drums. One of the few areas on the base devoid of vegetation, concrete and asphalt, the area controlled by the FBI would be a logical place to quickly bury 55 gallons drums.
BETRAYAL reviews the recent legislation to provide health care benefits to Camp Lejeune veterans and their dependents. President Obama signed H.R. 1627, "Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 (Janey Ensminger Act)," into law in August 6, 2012. This legislation provides VA health care benefits for Lejeune veterans and their dependents with one of the 15 medical conditions identified by the government as linked to organic solvent exposure. To be eligible, Lejeune veterans and dependents had to serve at least 30 days on the base during the period 1957 to 1987. The VA will provide health benefits to dependents only as a payer of last resort.
BETRAYAL includes the legal argument to provide Camp Lejeune veterans full VA presumptive disability compensation and health benefits. Camp Lejeune veterans sick with cancers and unemployed must get into a ‘long line’ of claimants, file a VA disability and compensation claim even to be considered for compensation.
BETRAYAL provides the legal argument to provide full VA presumptive disability for Camp Lejeune veterans. To those who served honorably and were unknowingly exposed to TCE, PCE, benzene and other deadly contaminants and injured at Camp Lejeune, Congress needs to grant entitlement to VA presumptive disability compensation benefits. Don’t look to the Corps to lend a helping hand to its veterans. The Marine Corps denies any science linking injuries and deaths to the Lejeune’s contaminated well water.
BETRAYAL recounts the stories of El Toro and Lejeune veterans who have died without ‘connecting the dots’ between their cancers and military service. None of the veterans that served aboard these two Marine Corps installations were notified of their possible exposure to deadly contaminants when it was discovered. In fact, with the sole exception of Camp Lejeune, there is no requirement for the government to notify any veteran of their possible exposure to toxic chemicals. With 130 military installations on the National Priority List, It appears that the government prefers to keep it that way.
BETRAYAL tells the story of the death and suspected murder of Marine Colonel James E. Sabow whose death has been tied to use of El Toro assets during the 1980s and 1990s to import South American cocaine into the U.S and to export guns to the Contra Rebel faction of Nicaragua. Colonel Sabow was found dead in his quarters by his wife on January 22, 1991. The circumstances surrounding his death and the forensic evidence from the crime scene support murder by a government assassination team and cover-up, including a ‘doctored autopsy photograph’ submitted in an NCIS report to Congress. His family has waged a 21-year war to correct the record.
The motive of the murder was to prevent Colonel Sabow from ‘blowing the whistle’ on the use of CIA proprietary airlines to transport weapons from El Toro to Central and South America and cocaine into the U.S. The Defense Department denies murder, the use of the base for covert operations and the illegal transit of cocaine into the U.S. The forensic evidence supports homicide and a government cover-up that goes well beyond the confines of El Toro.
Robert Tosh Plumlee, a long time CIA contract pilot, provided testimony to the Defense Department Inspector General on flights of CIA unmarked C-130s into El Toro. Plumlee flew many of these flights into El Toro with huge quantities of cocaine. When Plumlee’s realized that the covert operation to supply weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras included the shipment of cocaine flights into the U.S., he left the program. Shot out while driving his truck, his house burned to the ground and beaten by thugs to keep his mouth shut, he went on T.V. and radio shows to tell his story.
Not surprisingly, the DOD Inspector General dismissed Plumlee’s testimony on the basis that there was no corroborating support from interviews of Pentagon officials. This is something like asking a teenager who is about to go out on a ‘hot date,’ if he finished his homework. You just know the answer. Deniability goes hand in glove with any covert operation.
The government cover-up continues to this day. A criminologist in 2011 found a ‘doctored autopsy’ in a Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) report to Congress in 2004 on the death of Colonel Sabow. Bryan Burnett, the San Diego scientist, compared the head photo in the NCIS report to blow up of a full body autopsy photo. The head photo in the NCIS report was not Colonel Sabow’s head, according to Burnett.
Why did the government alter the autopsy photo? The enlarged full body autopsy photo shows a tramline bruise, a tell tale sign of a violent blow to the head with a lead pipe, baseball bat or similar blunt object. The NCIS report does not show any tramline, a dead give-away of homicide.
The death certificate was signed by the Orange County Sheriff/Corner before the criminal investigation was completed by the NIS (predecessor agency to the NCIS). There’s no suicide note, no fingerprints on the shotgun, very little blood from the head wound on the patio, a Marine Colonel with 221 combat mission over Vietnam and ever reason in the world to live with a beautiful wife, two children, and looking forward to a career as a civilian airline pilot and independent medical experts who found homicide as the manner of death.
Data processing records on the maintenance of civilian aircraft were purged, the Marine with the skills to destroy these records transferred to a base in Florida, pulled from his car at night and shot in the back of the head. His murder remains a cold case today.
BETRAYAL reports on the destruction of environmental records and the denial of responsibility and the cover-up to hide the truth of environmental contamination from veterans, their dependents, civilian workers, and the public at MCAS El Toro, once the premier Marine Corps jet fighter base. These include no usage records on TCE and other organic solvents used on the base for decades; Marine Corps’ denial of ownership of the TCE plume spreading into Orange County for years until a lawsuit forced the government to accept responsibility; unexplained loss of the official government contract procurement file for the municipal water purchase with the Irvine Ranch Water District; loss of all of the original well construction drawings; over 40 years of water distribution engineering drawings missing; no records on the dates the base wells were abandoned but several engineering drawings showing the base wells part of the water distribution system after the early purchase of softened municipal water.
The softened water purchased in 1951 from the Metropolitan Water District for not enough to allow El Toro to abandon the base wells. Yet, the base pumping records inexplicitly cut off possibly purchased to reduce hardened well water. The wells may have been in production until TCE was found off base in 1985; the base entire set of water distribution drawings redrawn in 1986; discovery of a well screen opened in the contaminated SGU (shallow groundwater unit) and all remaining wells sealed in concrete without inspection for their well screen intervals; at least one El Toro Marine dead from Agent Orange exposure who never served in Vietnam; and a radiation contaminated hangar shuddered and sealed in 2012, over ten years after the Navy reported the hangar free of radiation.
BETRAYAL can be purchased from Amazon’s Kindle.