I didn’t have a dog in this fight. I come from a country (Britain) where we still vote with a stubby bit of pencil and a ballot paper. Not my country, not my problem. Besides, a new era had dawned. Obama had been elected. If these cyber geeks were so good at stealing elections, why hadn’t they fixed it so that McCain won? As I would discover later, they intended to: but had backed away at the last minute when they realized that the scale of the Obama victory was going to be so great that manipulation would be impossible, without raising alarm bells.
Despite my skepticism, something about Connell’s plane crash intrigued me. I read the initial NTSB reports. I downloaded weather charts and emailed friends who had piloted light aircraft. I puzzled over flight vectors and avionics. I read up on other, notorious plane crashes, like the crash of Senator Paul Wellstone’s plane. On the way, I learned unsettling, new information– that light aircraft are relatively easy to bring down using electronic pulse weapons or sniper fire. Bush and Cheney sanctioned water-boarding and secret rendition. Were they also murdering innocent Americans, as one website claimed ? Of course, some people on the web also claimed 9/11 was a CIA plot. What was true? What was false?
These were questions I had faced before, albeit in a different context, with my first book, The Poet and The Murderer, which was published to critical acclaim in 2002 by Dutton. It told the seemingly unbelievable story of Mark Hofmann, a forger and master of mind control, who used self-hypnosis to channel the handwriting of numerous historical figures, from Abraham Lincoln to Emily Dickinson. His real target, though, was the Mormon Church and by creating forgeries that undermined the LSD’s central tenets, he hoped to destroy the faith he had grown up in but now despised. When the web of deceit he had built around himself began to unravel, he turned to murder. What that story taught me is that reality is sometimes stranger than fiction.
One video about the Connell case I found on YouTube seemed less outlandish than the rest. It showed a conservatively dressed, middle-aged attorney in Ohio talking about the theft of the Ohio 04 election. His manner and tone were factual and avuncular. So in early January 2009, I made the first of many phone calls to Cliff Arnebeck, an attorney who has spent years painstakingly putting together a dossier of evidence proving that the Ohio 04 election had been stolen.
By the end of that call, I had become convinced that there was a story worth pursuing. No American magazine would touch it at that time ( Maxim appeared on the scene much later and showed great courage in publishing the story). But I managed to persuade my editor at the London Sunday Times magazine to commission a feature. And in late January 2009, I flew to Columbus, Ohio, to meet with Cliff Arnebeck … (to be continued)