We were at Leo’s Burgers. Alex Raffio stuffed his face. His mouth looked like Pacman with an Italian moustache right before he bit down. “Oh I have secrets,” he said with his mouth half full. He chewed on his burger like he knew what it was really like to be hungry.

“Whatever, Alex.” I said. “You’re always saying you have secrets.”

“Don’t believe me?”

A. was there too. She had big green eyes, dark skin, long light brown hair. She could talk a gorilla into being a tightrope walker. She was good. And he was lusting after her. We both were. He didn’t know it but I had the upper hand. I rescued her one day from the university library. He was her tutor and rattling on about loyalists, the American Revolution. That sort of thing. Long-windedness was his norm. The man had lungs. A book summary critique for him in the CSU graduate program was a 45-page treatise. She looked off in the distance. His moustache bristled. His stubby hands articulated as if he had been a pamphleteer or a loyalist preacher. I sat at the table and sparked a conversation. There was a sigh of relief. Next thing I knew A. was staying over every night.

Raffio took another bite of his burger. 

“Alex. If you have secrets, then you’re going to have to share,” A. said. “You can’t just tease us. If you’re going to do that then don’t say anything at all.” She wore dark lipstick and ate fried zucchini like each one was a little Raffio wiener. Bad girl. She knew what she was doing with those lips.

Raffio was shorter than me. And that’s shorter than five-and-a-half feet. I looked over at him. “You look like a bald Yosemite Sam when you keep secrets,” I said. He really did seem that way. He was stalky. An Italian bulldog. He had that angry look, like any second he would explode with guns a blazin’.

He didn’t care what I said. It was all about A. She had him at a happy moment. He was eating. He was sitting next to her. He’d told me he wanted to get laid by her. I didn’t tell him I already had. Maybe he had too come to think of it.

Her voice softened. “Come on. Who are we going to tell?”

His eyes shifted. His jaw tightened as he chewed harder.

It was 1995. I was still in my twenties. A. was barely twenty-one. We didn’t fit the mold of CIA moles. Yet he was worried as hell. Paranoid. It was beyond the kind of paranoia that you and I probably know. He probably thought the zucchini was bugged.

People had to use secret knocks at his apartment door to even get him to acknowledge there was a knock. My classmate Tony said that when he brought Raffio school documents, he had to slide them under his door. He would yell from inside: “Just slide the goddam thing!”

He thought people were after him. And not just any people. CIA. The ex-military sort. The kind who had people assassinated sort. The kind who ripped out hearts in jungle wars sort, and who funded jihadists and had ties to the biggest secrets ever in the history of U.S. secrets.

Alex Raffio. Certifiable. A student of history. Afraid of his own shadow. Nuts, right?


It was sometime around the Leo’s Burger conversation that Alex had started talking about his life. Just bits. Pieces really. All of it mysterious.

He made whopping claims. The sort that you shrugged, disbelieved and went back to your video game. Sonic the Hedgehog was way more believable than anything that spilled out of the pacmania chompchomp of Alex Raffio.

“I co-authored a book. I was on the ‘Today Show.’ I was in Vietnam. I was paramilitary. Do you know what cluster fuck means? We were dropped way behind enemy lines. We weren’t supposed to be there. Laos. Cambodia. Recon. Intelligence. Drugs. Torture. Assassination. And then the cluster fuck went down.”

Abandonment? Heart of darkness? Colonel Kurtz? You mean that Martin Sheen shit? Apocalypse fucking Now?


That was a typical Alex Raffio conversation when he spoke of his estranged past. “I wrote a goddam book,” he bristled. I swear steam came out his ears. Raffio was off his rocker.

I should note that Alex Raffio wasn’t his real name. He claimed it had been changed. He really claimed people were after him. CIA. Mercenaries. Maybe even the Libyans. You name it. In fact, I didn’t change his name for this story. If it’s not his real name, then why worry? Right?


Alex Raffio doesn’t exist.

Raffio kept talking about a Vietnam cluster fuck. THE Vietnam cluster fuck. He said the words so much that I had to start laughing. And why not? Alex was a bumbling sort of guy. How could I picture him as special forces with HALO parachutists (not the video game), but the high altitude, low flying ODA team paramilitary forces who parachuted into enemy territory during Vietnam with the likes of Sgt. Major Billy Waugh.

Waugh once expected a few NVA while he was far behind enemy lines. But there were more. He had to play dead after being severely injured as 4,000 Chinese troops descended on his ass. He lived to tell the tale. Google him and pray he doesn’t slit your throat just for looking up information.

You might as well give him a CIA tattoo. Because that’s what Waugh did after he retired in 1972. OK, after a short stint with the U.S. Post Office (Post Office, really? Why? How?) In the mid-1970s he got dumped into the Libya mess. The Soviets were tied to Libya. The U.S. wanted to fuck it all up. Arms deals. Possible death deals. Surveillance. Mostly under Edwin P. Wilson.

Here’s where it gets sticky.

Wilson set up front companies under the guidance of the CIA. You know, fake puppet companies for covert operations in Libya? That kind. He called his companies Consultants International and raked in the millions. He had been with the CIA since retiring from the Marines in 1956. But in 1971, Wilson jumped ship to the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) to build his fake companies.

In fact, according to a page out of the “Toledo Blade” which you can google for yourself, our sticky-fingered spook, Wilson, was part of the Navy’s supersecret Task Force 157. And like I said, pocketing millions. What about the $70,000 for that Russian mine? He never bought it and lost the money. What about the $9-million socks that were ordered and paid for in full by the Iranians? He delivered 100,000 socks and kept the difference.

Sorry about that.

But there’s more bad news. Wilson sold $6 parts for $250. He made millions off the Libyans and Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was not happy about it at all. The Libyans did use Wilson’s funds to train the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine under the leadership of Ahmed Jibril. He’s an ex-Syrian Army officer and suspected of being behind the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. According to some, that’s a conspiracy theory. Either way, the BBC said in 2002, accusations against Jibril were dropped by courts after Syria joined the alliance to oust Iraq from Kuwait in 1991. Interesting coincidence. The BBC also said Jibril launched the first suicide attacks in Israel in the 1970s. Three men blew themselves up near Kiryat Shmona. Eighteen people died.

Thanks Wilson.

The truth started coming out before Leo’s Burgers. Before THAT conversation. I was sitting in a meeting I shouldn’t have been sitting in. A professor—an ex-Air Force intelligence officer who spoke and wrote fluent Chinese, was talking to another history professor. I was in the room. By the looks thrown around, we had all thought Raffio was full of shit.

“Raffio checks out. He did write a book,” the professor said.

Apparently, Raffio, along with Joseph C. Goulden, had co-written “The Death Merchant. The Rise and Fall of Edwin P. Wilson.”

In fact, Philip Taubman had written in a 1984 New York Times article titled, “Books of The Times; Intrigue at the C.I.A.” that Raffio had testified against another ex-CIA guy, Edwin P. Wilson. Notice, Taubman said “another CIA guy” indicating Raffio was CIA at one point.

As a result, the article states Raffio was presented with a new identity by the Justice Department.

Yes, that Raffio. The Leo’s Burgers Raffio. The Italian Pacman.

Wilson was convicted. He had taken millions in government monies and invested them in arms, explosives and military equipment that he had shipped to Libya.

How did they catch Wilson? He was tricked into flying to another country because, to no big surprise, he thought the Libyans were going to have him killed if he stayed in Libya.

No shit.

It’s unknown if Raffio was in on that. The rat that caught the mole.

And it doesn’t stop there. Wilson really had it coming when he tried to have Raffio, along with a host of others, killed while on trial for illegally selling arms to Libya. According to the New York Times, Wilson had plotted “unsuccessfully, to kill Federal prosecutors, his former associates and his former wife.” Wilson’s third conviction was for trying to kill Raffio and others.

So Raffio was right. He was paranoid for good reason. Wilson’s associates could still be lurking. Revenge killings weren’t unheard of in Libya or the good old U.S. of A.

You don’t have to go far to find other Raffio ties. The CIA cluster fuck in Libya actually trailed the Vietnam cluster fuck that took place behind enemy lines.

When Raffio spoke, he always spoke of Vietnam first. The look on his face made the Libyans look like child’s play. Cold War vs. the Vietnam War? You choose. Raffio was pompous and scared all at once. At least that was my interpretation. And why not be pompous? He lived to beat death at every corner. He kicked death in the nuts.

He said that U.S. paramilitary forces in Vietnam that fought the secret war all parachuted in together. He said they went into various countries.

One can only imagine the kind of people who could make up an American special forces unit in the geographical side and back alleys of Vietnam: smart, brave, cunning, genius, terrible. You know, the ones who crossed borders.

An Internet document from the Christic Institute in Malibu, Calif., links Raffio to Anthony Poshepny. Just a name right? Like Wilson, you’d have to read books upon books to really get who the kind of people were that Raffio had consorted with, and hid from.

Poshepny was special. He happened to be the man the “Apocalypse Now” character Colonel Kurtz may have been based on.

Poshepny, Raffio, Wilson, Waugh. All four names and just a few dozens of others turn up on a grid of secret U.S. war history of the 1960s and 1970s.

In this case, it was the CIA’s secret war in Laos.

Poshepny was born in 1924. He’d seen action on Iwo Jima where he was injured. In 1958 he helped try to overthrow the government of Indonesia. In 1959 he helped organized the escape of the Dalai Lama. During the Vietnam years, like the Marlon Brando character, he was the older guy, the CIA cowboy. The shitkicker of the jungle. As early as 1961, Poshepny worked alongside General Vang Pao. He even married the niece of a prominent Hmong leader.

In my brief exploration of Poshepny, his background becomes muddy, but then he gets back with the U.S. secret war, Wilson, and most likely, Raffio. This is the cluster fuck of the mid 1960s secret CIA drug trade in Laos and in the back-end war that explodes into the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

During these years the elder statesman of secret military operations was brutal to his enemies. One Internet source claims Poshepny later admitted to collecting enemy ears, dropping human heads from the air on enemies and sticking heads on spikes. He fought terror bloodily against North Vietnamese troops who sought to invade ethnic Hmong and Lao lands. He sought to empower villagers and tribesman as their leader, a god-like Kurtz if you will, who would rally a terrible jungle war of Medieval proportions.

And yes, he was terrible. According to Roger Warner in the book “Shooting at the Moon: The Story of America’s Clandestine War in Laos,” Poshepny said, “I used to collect ears … I had a big, green, reinforced cellophane bag as you walked up my steps … I still collected them, until … I saw this little Lao kid out there, he’s only about 12, and he had no ears. And I asked: ‘What the hell happened to this guy?’ Somebody said, ‘Tony, he heard you were paying for ears. His daddy cut his ears off…”’

After retiring in 1975, Poshepny lived in Thailand another fifteen years. He died in 2003.

Raffio took another gargantuan bite of his burger. He chewed. His eyes shifted around, landing on A. “Secrets huh?” he said.

She pouted.

“I was in the CIA.”

“You already told us that,” A. laughed.

“I had clearance. I could go anywhere.”

“What do you mean go anywhere?” I said.


“Like where?”

“Secret places.”

“Whatever, Alex,” A. said, goading him for more.

He looked at her like she should pay up if he accepted the challenge. “Area 51. I’ve been there,” he said.

A. and I laughed. We were hysterical.

He was pissed. He could tell we didn’t believe shit.

He ate a handful of fries. His lips were greasy. “You don’t have to believe me. But I was there.”

“Why were you there?” A. said.

“I was passing through, alright? Jesus!”

“Lighten up, Alex. What did you see?” I said.

“I saw this metal. I got to touch it. It was tougher than steel. But I could move it around in my hands like it was some kind of foil. It wasn’t from here.”

“Spaceships?” A. said.

He got a look on his face like we were fucking morons.

“Spaceships? Did you see spaceships?” A. said.

“I saw things.”

“Right, Alex,” I said.

“I believe you,” A. said.

He took his last bite and started shoving fries in his mouth. The room smelled like salt and grease. His eyes shifted and A. smiled.

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NICK BELARDES is illustrator of NYT Best-Selling Novel by Jonathan Evison West of Here (2011), author of Random Obsessions (2009), Lords (2005), and the first literary Twitter novel: Small Places (2010). An author, poet, and screenwriter for Hectic Films, Belardes turned TV/online journalist overnight after blogging his way to success. His articles and essays have appeared on the homepage of CNN.com and other news sites across America. You can find Nick on Facebook and Twitter.

145 responses to “The Secret CIA Life of Alex Raffio”

  1. Greg Olear says:

    Word is, when Clinton assumed the presidency, he asked Vernon Jordan to find out about UFOs and JFK. Answer came back: Clinton did not have sufficient clearance to find out.

    I was just reading about the metal from Roswell (although Gloria can fill us in on the deets, as she’s from there…Roswell, not Area 51). I just wrote an article about UFOs in Pine Bush, N.Y., for Hudson Valley Magazine, which I’ll post when it goes up next month. Weird, weird stuff.

    Nothing is more fun than rapping with a former CIA black ops, huh?

    • President without enough clearance? Sounds like a cover-up of a cover-up.

      I’m interested to see what you dug up. I always love what you write and enjoy our mutual fascination with history and the strange. I’ve been in conversations with someone recently about some UFO stuff. And Joseph Matheny of TNB has some wild tales to tell.

      Gloria has deets? I will hit her up.

      This piece will surely rattle something from the dark. I used Raffio’s name. I wonder if he’ll remember me and have a laugh or post on here and tell more of his tale. He was an interesting guy, and I wish I had talked to him in greater depth. Though he’s probably glad he didn’t, since I wrote this post 15 years later.

      • Gloria says:

        Indeed. I am from Roswell. And, growing up, the UFO stuff was local lore. Just something you sort of heard about. It wasn’t until I was leaving that it all became pop culture stuff.

        I don’t have many details. One time I saw a human shaped black thing with enormous black bat-like wings fly down and hover in front of my car. I had smoked an enormous amount of marijuana just prior. It may have been a bat.

        I’m not a reliable witness, I fear.

        • You could have at least knocked the damn thing out of the air with your Jedi doobie sword. Geez.

        • Gloria says:

          I would also like to clarify: Area 51 is in Nevada, not Roswell. Popular misconception.

        • I didn’t write that did I? Roswell is in New Mexico…

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Hey, what does it matter?

          After all, it was only a weather balloon anyway.

        • Gloria says:

          Sorry Nick, I was replying to a comment Greg made, which I misunderstood.

          Simon, growing up in Roswell, I can tell you: it was never presented to any of us as a weather balloon. The story of the spaceship crashing was just as commonplace as the dog food plant or the rattlesnakes. There is a dog food plant in town. Watch out for rattlesnakes when you’re traipsing around in the desert. A spaceship crashed here in the 50s. I was never taught not to think of it as anything other than real.

        • Simon: I feel like a weather balloon.

          Gloria: Your light saber is REAL. But what did they say about the crashed ships. What kind of details?

        • Simon Smithson says:

          No, Gloria.

          It was only a weather balloon.

          It was always only a weather balloon.

          And that’s what you’ll tell people from now on.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Damn it. I can’t get the Man-in-Black narrowed-eyes atmosphere right over the internet.

        • Greg Olear says:

          GH – I didn’t know Area 51 was in Nevada.

          I’ll trade you one: Woodstock wasn’t in Woodstock. It was at Bethel Woods, in Sullivan County. They borrowed the name because there was already an artist colony there and it had cultural cachet.

          But Simon’s right. It was a weather balloon. And the odd metal was tin foil.

        • For some reason I was reminded of this. There’s an overlook on Mt. Charleston built by the CCC many years ago. It overlooks the desert outside of Las Vegas where the Nevada Test Site was. People could go to this overlook and watch the atom bombs go off.

        • Oh and I should add. My dad’s ashes are scattered on the mountainside right below the overlook.

        • Gloria says:

          Simon – don’t you wish you had one of the pen-like flashy things that make people’s memories go away? Do you understand the number of ways this would improve our lives?

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Fuck yes I want a neuralyser!

      • Mary says:

        LOL I believe it. Look at Clinton. The dude has no discretion. He doesn’t have enough clearance to look in my bathroom cabinet.

      • Well, I DO have some weird stories, but here’s a weird synchronicity. A audio CD that I helped produce back in the ancient 90s.

        Put it into the Creative Commons a few years ago,after selling about a cajillion of the during the run up in interest in Roswell in the 90s and early aughts.

        A recording of the original radio announcement re: the recovery of the crashed “weather balloon” is on that CD as well. (Track 1) http://www.greylodge.org/occultreview/glor_015/media/UFO_Crash_at_Roswell/01_Track1.zip

        • I wish I could just play them. My iTunes is going to get all UFO infected soon as I open it!

        • This crazy comment system. First it didn’t post my comments then it posted them twice. *sheesh*

          Well, it’s just a zip file Nick. Download and unzip and there’s an MP3 inside. It’s a copy of a recording I got through the Library of Congress. The ABC News flash from the day of the crash where they say a flying saucer had crashed and been recovered in Roswell. Plus the Hoover docs below, on the actual FOIA Gov. server with Hoover pitching a fit about being left out of the saucer recoveries…all kinda weird. Wonderful fodder for fiction, if nothing else.

      • Let’s try this again.

        An audio CD I helped produce in the 90s: http://www.greylodge.org/occultreview/glor_015/roswell.htm

        After selling a cajillion of them in the Roswell fad of the 90s and early 00s, I put it into the public domain. On that CD, specifically track one, is the original radio announcement regarding the crashed and retrieved “balloon”. http://www.greylodge.org/occultreview/glor_015/media/UFO_Crash_at_Roswell/01_Track1.zip


        Please see this handwritten entry by none other than J. Edgar Hoover (not known if he was wearing an evening gown when he wrote this) ; page 45 of pdf#1 in the FBI UFO files.

        July 15th, 1947; responding to the urging of others for the FBI to stay out of the UFO business, Hoover writes the following:
        I would do it but before agreeing to it we must insist upon full access to discs recovered. For instance in the [unreadable] case the army grabbed it and would not let us have it for cursory examination

        Next, Hoovers memo is quoted and we see that the unreadable portion is the La. case. Please see the FBI pdf file; the first paragraph of p 38.


        Here is the definitive doc that shows clear knowledge by the FBI that the saucer in the La. case is “sixteen inches in diameter”.
        See p 4 of 79 of the FBI pdf #2:


        Not taking a side one way or the other, just sayin’.

    • Becky says:

      You guys are aware that we have a high-clearance member of the state dept. on TNB staff, right?

      Who knows what he knows?

      I mean, he wouldn’t tell you much, even if he did know, but he’s around.

      Probably just watching.

  2. Connie says:

    What an interesting guy. And really someone you would NOT want to piss off.
    I don’t think he was the only guy relocated to Bakersfield, remember the guy who burnt down “The Matchmaker” it was a bar, he was in the witness protection program IF I recall correctly.

  3. matildakay says:

    Wow! Crazy story! Did you ever find out his secrets from him? Makes you wonder what a guy like that who had done all sorts of secret things and seen all sorts of secret things was sitting in Leo’s Burger in Bakersfield, California. It does make you wonder…

    • Why was he there? We were in graduate school together. He was enrolled in the same program. We went to lunch together one day. Simple as that.

      By posting this long-winded piece I divulged plenty! You want more secrets? lol.

  4. Slade Ham says:

    This is the stuff Coast to Coast AM is made for. I’m glad I let myself get into reading this, Nick. What a fascinating guy. Seriously.

    • Thanks Slade. It really is a bizarre tale that could go on and on with its strange synchronicities and ties to secret U.S. history.

      Your treehouse story is still busting me up. You are THE DRAGON SLAYER!!!! Seriously. I was laughing out loud when I read it. I told the whole story during lunch yesterday.

      • Slade Ham says:

        Haha, thanks Nick. Perhaps one day someone will write a story about sharing a burger with me. “And then, just when I thought he was crazy and putting me on, he pulled out his sword! He’s really killed dragons.”


        Like JM below, I too thought this was fiction at first. Reading it again though, knowing how it ends, it is even better.

        • Ask D.R. He just walks in a door off a bus and I write about him. I enjoy writing about fellow TNBers. I can only imagine a burger with you would be filled with swashbuckling adventure!

        • Slade Ham says:

          I understand – I imagine Duke can be fascinating. I should try to make the next LA event. I really should.

        • Duke rocks. I’ve had him read at two of my events. You should come and read too the next time I throw one!

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Why, thank you, Nick. And you, too, Slade.

          I’ve been trying to come up with a good line in response to anyone who says I rock. Not that it’s said often, mind you, but once or twice it has been, and I’d love to say something better than, simply, “You rock, too.” Which you do, Nick. And you, too, Slade.

          Man, this is frustrating.

        • Slade Ham says:

          Yes, Nick. I should. I have no excuse not to actually.

          You “rocking” is TBD. We shall settle this in LA though, sooner than later I’m sure, and over that bottle of 12 year.

  5. Jeannie says:

    Nick, I have to say, you meet the most interesting people. I would’ve thought he was schizophrenic.

    • He was quite brilliant. He knew history like he was there. And he worked on campus in the multimedia lab. The question is. If his CIA stuff checked out, what about the UFO stuff? Crazy talk or…?

      • Jeannie says:

        I completely believe in UFO’s but not in the way of, “OMG, aliens” but as in, the military has smart people working for them. Between the bottomless pit of money the government throws at R&D and the ridiculously smart people they recruit there are ideas out there that most of us can’t comprehend.

        Think about it though, if 1 in 250 people are considered genius and on average there are 2,475,967 military personal on hand any given day, which means there are 9,903 certified geniuses working for the government right now. Take it one step further according to the 2005 census there were 24.5m veterans that’s 98,000 geniuses who at one time worked for the government.

        No one can tell me that out of all those brilliant people, not one of them thought how awesome it would be to make a Frisbee shaped aircraft.

        • Jeannie, that’s the funniest thing I read all day! You are like stat woman! And yeah, Frisbee aircraft have to be on the MENSA list of aircraft to design. I mean, why stop with the flying wing or hovering taco for that matter?

        • Jeannie says:

          I’m glad I can make you laugh! Stat woman? Is that any better than speed demon? I’m telling that last half hour was tough. When will MENSA release the much anticipated transporter?

        • Way better than speed demon. I’m thinking a transporter that adds tangerine scent to our DNA as we pass through… or cinnamon.

        • Jeannie says:

          cinnamon, it would have to be cinnamon. I’d rather be spicy then squeaky clean.

  6. J.M. Blaine says:

    Man at first I thought this was fiction, a new story from the most prolific guy on TNB who must not ever sleep and writes with both hands at the same time and then I thought, no, and I went back up and saw memoir in red and I was like, oh yeah, oh, OK then, and I recalled the man who wrote about the mothman, the question asking man ah, yes, and then when it was over I was hoping maybe you’d write us some more along these lines because everyone loves secrets and the secrets beneath the secrets, TNB secrets even like some of us are the same person, that sort of thing, olaf was my bass player he was.


    • But clues are secrets. Imagine if the Internet were around like it is today, but back in 1995. Raffio would have totally been paranoid and left the country (Maybe). He knew we didn’t have the NYT lying around to read. We couldn’t find Internet documents linking him to things. Things were quieter. The Internet takes clues and spawns more clues, more evidence and, as you hint at, more questions to the underlying secrets of everything.

      I’m guessing I could read a bunch of books and might be able to cross reference and figure out who Raffio is. But then, where would that lead me? To JMB? To Mickey Mouse? To JFK’s fashion designer turned murderer?

      If we’re lucky, maybe Raffio will comment on here. If he’s alive, he has to be googling himself to see what’s next. Oh, and what a next this post is.

      Olaf. I loved him like a father.

  7. chingpea says:

    Alex sounds paranoid, interesting, wicked insane. There had to be more secrets you and ‘A’ got out of him. I hope there’s a continuation to this submission. I’d love to read more about his adventures.

    Btw, “cluster fuck” << my new favorite phrase.

    • There’s a lot of research I can do related to this topic that I’m interested in. I might do some. I really don’t remember much more. Who knows. Maybe Raffio is still around and will enlighten us all.

      def: CLUSTER FUCK: A confusing or chaotic situation or event, often caused by a failure of communication, an excessive amount of people attempting to accomplish a given task, or a complex environment.

    • chingpea: By the way, because I know you like details and I am still exploring this topic. Edwin P. Wilson, some suggest, was betrayed and really did work for the CIA when he was busted. I read reports where he said he was busted because he knew too much. Also, he made MILLIONS on a salary of $32,000/year.

    • Interesting: Could Raffio have been in on something? What is this:


      Plaintiff, §
      versus § Criminal Case H-82-139
      (Ancillary Civil Action H- 97-831) §
      Defendant. §
      Opinion on Conviction

      1. Introduction.
      Twenty years ago, the government tried a former Central Intelligence
      officer for exporting explosives to Libya. His defense was simple. He said he was
      still working for the Company. The government refused to disclose records of his
      continued association with the agency. When he presented witnesses to his
      contacts after the end of his formal employment, the government convinced the
      judge to admit an affidavit from a principal CIA official to the effect that there
      were, with one minor exception, none—zero. There were, in fact, over 80
      contacts, including actions parallel to those in the charges.
      The government discussed among dozens of its officials and lawyers
      whether to correct the testimony. No correction was made—not after trial, not
      before sentencing, not on appeal, and not in this review. Confronted with its own
      internal memoranda, the government now says that, well, it might have misstated
      the truth, but that it was Wilson’s fault, it did not really matter, and it did not
      know what it was doing. Because the government knowingly used false evidence
      against him and suppressed favorable evidence, his conviction will be vacated.
      This opinion refers only to the part of the record that the government has
      reluctantly agreed may be made public. It does not attempt to recount even that
      limited range of data in its entirety; the governmental deceit mentioned here is
      illustrative—not exhaustive.

  8. Richard Cox says:

    This was a fascinating, surreal read. There is so much in the world we don’t know. On the other hand there is a lot we do know that isn’t as sexy as these unknowable secrets. What I personally suspect is the whole world is a game run by a computer nerd we’ll never meet. One day I will figure out how to reprogram the game from the inside so I can finally turn my Celebrity Freebie list into reality. That will be a happy day.

    • Richard: And don’t forget the TRON sequel is coming out. It’s probably all true just like you’re saying! Thanks for reading my post. There’s so much history out there to make sense of. It’s troubling to ponder. And surreal. Celebrity Freebie? Was this an old post of yours I need to read? Feel free to post the link here.

  9. Judy Prince says:

    Nick, your wonderfully novelesque interview reminded me that the Deep Shit is usually known by weird little guys without real names. Briefly, I “dated” (for lack of a knowable word) one such man whose friends were football players and wiretappers and who knew most folks in the Chicago underground, the new crop as well as the old. I met him on a job that was quasi-legal where all the employees had a prison record except me. My friend was a con (“confidence”) man, and a perfect example of how a con man operates.

    • Now that is something I want to read about. If you write anything about it, let me know. I will gobble up every word.

      You’re right. Deep Shit is the perfect phrase for it. A few folks commented on here that they wanted more secrets. What is so odd about this particular piece is that by Raffio saying anything at all he provided clues. Those clues weren’t even around on the Internet in 1995. But today? Look, here’s the NYT article archived from 1984 (an era when there was no Internet for public consumption). Look for yourself. There are so many clues in that article. I have a hunch that Raffio wrote himself out of the book, which I’d love to get a copy of. I’m guessing it’s books that have come out since then that tell a greater tale.

      And how did the screenwriters of Apocalypse Now in the 70s know of Poshepny without someone talking back then of cluster fuck?

      It’s all so strange and baffling.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Nick, I wonder, at times, if a writer ever really “finishes” such a work as you’re exploring. That is, the writer may get it writ and published and sold……but does she wake up at 4 am with “Damn! The guy’s friend was a mole! I need to put that in the book—”

        I’ll doubtless never write up the conman thing bcuz I’m a total chicken and don’t feel the least bit embarrassed about that fact. Once I was onto a story—a really good true story—but soon realised that Important People had done Very Bad Things, and I quit the story cold. No way do I wanna be like those guys that, as Mary says: “…just get hung out to dry then. Seems like a pretty simple cover — once you know so much, no one cares if you talk b/c you will sound like a nutjob.” Or worse.

        • You’re right. To do this article justice I would have had to read a mountain of books. But then, this article was lengthy enough. At the same time I may have had to leave out half of it because all of it is so controversial and hush hush. Probably would have been safer to write the one-liner: “Alex Raffio doesn’t exist” and left it at that.

          It’s OK to be a chicken. I didn’t tell anybody this story until now. And that was 15 years ago.

          There’s two or three other stories I would like to tell. They leave you guessing and have historical value. But I’m probably too chicken to tell. Will continue to consider them.

  10. Great story–great character! But seriously Nick. How do we know that you’re not CIA and this whole story is a cover up?!

    • Hahaha. You don’t. But I was born in 1968. And the clues on Raffio are sparse at best.

      Raffio is probably in his mid 60s by now. If you want to see an interesting web-like structure of secret history I found while writing this piece, just look at this odd social diagram found on the Internet that links Raffio to many people, Task Force 157 and more.

  11. Simon Smithson says:

    Fascinating stuff, Nick. Truly. If there’s one thing I love, it’s the untangling of a mystery – especially if it leads to yet more mysteries…

    One of my favourite UFO facts is that the investigation was titled (at one point) ‘Project Grudge’.

    It just sounds so… badass.

  12. Simone says:

    Very interresting Nick. Thanks for sharing.

    When you mentioned the Hmong, it rang a bell with me, but for entirely different reasons. I went to Thailand in December 2008, where two friends and I roamed the country for a month. We stayed at a place in Chiang Mai called the Hmong Hilltribe Lodge, which was just too beautiful for words.

    Here’s a link for you, if you’re ever in the area and would like to check it out:


    • That looks so beautiful. North of here, in the Fresno area of the Central Valley, there are many Hmong. They do have cultural programs from what I understand so that they can continue with their traditions and way of life. Though I’m sure they struggle with the affects of Americanization as all other Asian immigrants do. I would love to travel there!

      • Simone says:

        It is beautiful. We were only there for one night, but the experience of being there has stayed with me ever since.

        Americanization, huh. Interesting.

        I have a postcard from the area, an old Hmong woman carrying a basket of some sort. If you’d like I can send it to you?

  13. Mary says:

    Nick, this is SO interesting. I’ve known quite a few people who claim to have very interesting secrets who clearly have nothing very interesting to hide but try to generate interest in themselves by faking it. But when a person has experienced so much and is forbidden or unable to talk about it, it must become extremely frustrating… because the kind of stuff they actually saw and did is the same stuff crazy people claim to have done. Those guys just get hung out to dry then. Seems like a pretty simple cover — once you know so much, no one cares if you talk b/c you will sound like a nutjob.

    • I agree. There must be a great feeling of aloneness coupled with a constant sense of distrust in others for people in Raffio’s shoes. It’s hard enough for we civilians to trust people around us without living through what Raffio has gone through.

      I really do hope everything has worked out for him.

      I was hoping that by doing my research I would discover he had written a few books, come out and told his story, or just have written some great history.

      But it looks like having co-written a controversial book was the most he did in that realm.

  14. Matt says:

    Great, surreal post, Nick. Raffio sounds like quite the character.

    I have this mental image of Raffio incredulously saying “Bakersfield?” when finding out where his new identity will assign him the same way Pierce Brosnan’s disgraced spy says “Panama?” in the opening of Tailor of Panama.

    I’m going to out myself a bit, here–for my day job I work as a government contractor (no, not Blackwater), and I work along a lot of ex-military types (not to mention some current ones). What rings especially true about this is how so many of those sort, who performed clandestine work of some sort CANNOT seem to shut up about it.


    • You’re on to something there. The NYT article I linked to somewhere in these comments criticizes Raffio as a source, because of some of what you’re saying, and his willingness to take money.

      You raise a great question of whether secrets should stay secrets.

      • Matt says:

        It’s the reason why I have trouble buying into wide-ranging, X-Files-style government conspiracy theories: the people who work on these things are interested and excited by them, and like all the rest of us, want to share that excitement with other people. And let’s face it, the more people who get involved in any one project, the quicker it becomes chaotic and unmanageable. A clusterfuck, as it were.

        Now, smaller, limited conspiracies? Well, I’d say more, but your clearance just isn’t high enough.

  15. alicia d. says:

    What a great piece! However, I don’t think I will be able to get the image of the earless Laotian boy out of my head now 🙁

  16. Man, you gotta love a story where within the first couple sentences you find a description like this:

    “His mouth looked like Pacman with an Italian moustache…”

    Wonderful work, Nick.

  17. Kyle says:

    Those kinds of conversations are rather surreal, aren’t they. I was chatting with a neighbor once, and somehow we got onto the topic of how he escaped from being a POW in Vietnam. He said it was easy: he befriended his captors. After all, they were just teens and gullible (as he related). Then, after a couple of months, when they relaxed a bit, he slit their throat. WHAT YOU TALKIN’ BOUT WILLIS? I wasn’t ready for THAT part, and left feeling a bit queasy.

    • Kyle: I know what you’re talking about. I was talking to another vet who just started telling me about all these guys he killed with a knife. He was extremely overweight and having psychological problems. Poor guy.

      Then he pulls out this old photo of himself he kept in his wallet. He looked like some military dude you’d see in a Steven Seagal movie he was so cut.

      Life. It takes amazing turns for us all.

  18. Connie says:

    Nick & Jeanie,

    You guys ever hear of this thing called “SLEEP”? I walked in the door , kicked off my shoes and CRASHED!!

    I had a blast at the book premier and hope I didn’t bore y’all with my stories.

  19. Connie says:

    TZ Hernandez is a wonderful poet and story teller. Thank you for letting me tag along, I really enjoyed the experience .

  20. That’s weird. Left a comment up top as a reply to Nick and it vaporized. COVER-UP! COVER-UP!

  21. Yeah. I’ll be there week after next. So, a truncated version showed up later. Here’s the full post. Again. *sigh*

    An audio CD I helped produce in the 90s: http://www.greylodge.org/occultreview/glor_015/roswell.htm

    After selling a cajillion of them in the Roswell fad of the 90s and early 00s, I put it into the public domain. On that CD, specifically track one, is the original radio announcement regarding the crashed and retrieved “balloon”. http://www.greylodge.org/occultreview/glor_015/media/UFO_Crash_at_Roswell/01_Track1.zip


    Please see this handwritten entry by none other than J. Edgar Hoover (not known if he was wearing an evening gown when he wrote this) ; page 45 of pdf#1 in the FBI UFO files.

    July 15th, 1947; responding to the urging of others for the FBI to stay out of the UFO business, Hoover writes the following:
    I would do it but before agreeing to it we must insist upon full access to discs recovered. For instance in the [unreadable] case the army grabbed it and would not let us have it for cursory examination

    Next, Hoovers memo is quoted and we see that the unreadable portion is the La. case. Please see the FBI pdf file; the first paragraph of p 38.


    Here is the definitive doc that shows clear knowledge by the FBI that the saucer in the La. case is “sixteen inches in diameter”.
    See p 4 of 79 of the FBI pdf #2:


    Not taking a side one way or the other, just sayin’.

  22. Weather balloons. Tiny disks. Was Raffio a con man? Someone theorized earlier. All such a fun mystery!

  23. So, as soon as I complain, multiple posts show up? This site MUST have been infiltrated by “above top secret” black ops spooks.

    Yep, no question.

    It’s only a matter of time until the silent rotor black helicopters appear above our houses.

    • Want to hear something weird? Someone on Twitter said they are looking for Raffio. Why? I have no idea. Do I have contacts?

      I mean, there are ways to get on the trail of anyone.

      Do I want to help find Raffio? No.

      What does that prove?

      People are googling Raffio.


      You tell me.

  24. Maybe they were actually trying to Google “raffle” and typoed? 😉

  25. Hahahahah! That’s it. You cracked the code!

  26. Irene Zion says:

    Hooo, Nick,

    Another weird story, eh?
    Can always count on you for them!

  27. D.R. Haney says:

    “He chewed on his burger like he knew what it was really like to be hungry.”

    I certainly do, so I’m glad to know I have company. Not that I didn’t already.

    Your posts are acquiring more and more elements of intrigue, Nick, what with this and your last about Julie. (Does Julie live in Fiji, by the way? You mentioned a coup in that piece, and I know there was a coup in Fiji a few years ago, so…)

    • Yes, Julie lives in Fiji. And I probably am not allowed to talk about the coup stuff. I enjoy intrigue. I’m tied to bits and pieces. Enough for a TNB post here and there.

  28. Maura says:

    Oh wow , I am amazed .. actually not so amazed …every story gets more detailed and enshrouded in mystery at the same time . I loved it …….

  29. […] He’s talked to alleged CIA operatives. […]

  30. Sara says:

    Woooo-Eeeeee! Now THAT is a trip.

  31. Kim K says:

    interesting…for a minute there I had flashbacks of working graveyard at Kinko’s where the “King of Ireland” used to hide out from the CIA who had implanted a tracking device in his calf after he had been abducted by aliens…true story…I mean, the fact that he told me this…

    • There are kooky nutjobs everywhere, especially at places like Kinkos in the middle of the night I’m sure. People coming in to print up strange documents…

      Of course what makes Raffio’s testimony different are all the true connections and the fact that he really did write a book, and that there are so many historical documents tied to his story. Took years to believe him. And then there was the mysterious woman who contacted me after I published this piece, wanting to know his whereabouts… All very bizarre.

      Of course, his Area 51 talk had to be complete bullshit, right?? :/

  32. Kim K says:

    I am a firm believer that “truth is stranger than fiction.”

    I am afraid that if I had been in your shoes I might have been a little nervous yet somewhat excited as I became aware of some of the facts. What’s not to love about bizarre? 🙂

    As for Area 51, if David Duchovny wants to believe it, I’ll agree just for the hell of it…haha

  33. Kim K says:

    Normalcy is so overrated…right up there with sanity

  34. Nicole Biggs says:

    Love it Nick! Great writing.

  35. Kim K says:

    Hahaha…she is probably even more “normal” than her older brothers were at that age.

    Normalcy is so subjective anyway…

  36. John Black says:

    That was a good story. You end up in some interesting places, with interesting people (and you live to tell the tale!). Only known a couple people who had any kind of security clearance for secret projects, but being good Americans, I couldn’t get either of them to say mum. From what I can deduce, one of them worked on Star Wars (he actually worked on it for 4 more years following it’s “official” cancellation by Clinton), and the other one worked on various DOD funded construction projects…blah blah blah.

    On the topic of UFO’s, a few summers ago I was at Lake Ming as I watched a couple of somewhat lethargic foo fighters dance over the southern valley for about 20 minutes. Looked like they had to be in the upper atmosphere, far above the altitude of conventional aircraft. Towards the end, one of them appeared to project a giant undulating, amorphic plasma field for a minute or so….this blob looked big enough to house all of Kern County. It was around midnight, and I just keep looking away and looking back, thinking, someone else HAS to be seeing this right now. Watched TBC for the next few days, no mention of it.

    Lastly, my brother lives up by Shirley Meadows, and has a great view of the Lake Isabella valley from his balcony. He said that 4 and 5 summers ago, he and his dinner guests would regularly watch foo fighters come from the direction of Edwards, and perform a low altitude, high G airshow over the lake. I once asked him, “could humans survive the G forces you observed?”….he just looked at me as if to say “are you nuts?!?”.

  37. Viv L says:

    Hi Alex, you still around?

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