The Strange Case of Sam Gahne

Regional/ Kansas City:

© Jack Cashill - 1999


Had Kansas Citian Sam Gahne come to my office five years ago and told what me he told me last month, I never would have believed him.

Even today, after five years of wide ranging Justice Department abuses, I would prefer not to believe him. I would prefer to find the elements of untruth within his story and regain at least some of my faith in justice/Justice. Indeed, I would challenge his adversaries to help me do just that. But I don't think they will. With all of his tapes and documents and relentless sincerity, Gahne makes one very compelling witness.

Up in smoke Sam Gahne's story begins on February 26, 1993, barely a month into the Clinton era. On that fateful day, a bomb exploded in New York City's World Trade Center, killling six and injuring hundreds. Although Gahne had no way of knowing it, that bomb would forever alter his destiny.

At the time, Sam was happily employed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) here in Kansas City. A Ph.D. chemist, Gahne did presentations on chemical research for the COE and by all accounts was doing a respectable job.

Shortly after the bombing, Sam received a call from a man named Bill Clark who dangled a vague but promising government position in front of him. A few weeks later a Bob Howard called and invited Sam to Washington to interview for the position. Intrigued, Sam took the bait and flew to Washington on April 25. This was just a week after the unholy siege on Waco had revealed a Justice Department more keen on spin than truth.

On April 26, at the Sheraton Premiere Hotel in suburban Virginia, Bob Howard and two other gentlemen made their pitch. Their offer took Sam's breath away. They wanted Sam to, well, spy on the country of his birth, Iran. They weren't kidding. Howard identified himself as a CIA agent. The CIA had been running advertisements for highly skilled people with "backgrounds in Middle Eastern Languages." After the lethal bombing in New York, the CIA had a legitimate need to smoke out any Iranian connection and needed new recruits to help them. With his high-tech credentials and high-security clearances, Gahne had to be among their top draft choices.

But Sam Gahne turned them down. Though a loyal citizen of the United States, Sam liked his life in Kansas City and lacked the stomach for the high wire work Howard had in mind. No big deal. Howard paid Sam his traveling expenses, and Gahne returned without further ado to the COE.

The plot thickens

A few months earlier, Sam Gahne had become involved with a local woman we'll call Cassandra. From the beginning of their relationship, Cassandra showed an unusual interest in Gahne and his work, and the recently separated Gahne was no doubt charmed by her attentions. With a good job and an even better relationship, Sam's stars seemed to be in near perfect alignment.

In reality, they were anything but.

On June 4, without obvious cause or warning, Sam Gahne was summoned to the office of James W. Garman, an Employment Relations Specialist with the Corps of Engineers. Garman produced a resignation document, citing unspecified "deficiencies in conduct and performance," and asked Gahne to sign. Shocked and baffled, Sam refused. No matter. The COE was firing him anyhow. On the spot. The office was swept for bugs, federal marshals were posted, and Sam was put out on the street.

Curiously, on that same day, a call came in to Gahne's office. A co-worker took the message. It was from CIA agent Bob Howard. Gahne had not heard from him since the April interview six weeks prior. Did he wonder whether Gahne would now be open to new career possibilities? Sam doesn't think so. He believes Howard just wanted to get his point across--don't jack with the CIA.

At the time, Sam was more concerned with his lost job than his with his would-be career as spy. Through the appropriate channels, he protested the violation of every personnel rule known to God and Uncle Sam. Perhaps too loudly.

Already in the first circle of his own personal hell, Sam was about ready to plumb its depths. Incredibly, out of seeming nowhere, Cassandra charged that Sam had burgled her apartment and tried to kidnap her. Sam was arrested and imprisoned. Bail was set at $50,000. To post bond and hire a lawyer, Gahne was forced to cash in his 501 K. But Cassandra wasn't through. She now charged the just released Gahne with stalking her. The judge doubled the bail. Stubbornly, Sam chose to stay in jail rather than to post even more bond. He didn't have any more money anyhow.

The smoking gun

For eight months Sam Gahne languished in first the Clay and then the Platte County jail awaiting trial. It is only when his case came to trial that he discovered the one fact that clarified everything, the veritable "smoking gun." This revelation came in the form of message on Cassandra's answering machine dated June 3, 1993, the day before Sam's termination:

"Hi, this is Jim Garman with the Corps of Engineers. I am one of the people you spoke to this morning. If you are home, please pick up. If you are not, please return my call at . . . . Thank you."

At the moment, a mind-blown Sam Gahne could have been forgiven had he uttered the words made immortal by the badly stung D.C. mayor Marion Barry:

"The bitch set me up."

Justifiably paranaoid, Sam Gahne now suspected Cassandra of being somehow in cahoots with the FBI. Like other political enemies in the brave new world of Clintionian justice--Billy Dale of Travelgate comes to mind, so too does Terry Reed of Mena fame--Gahne was learning that the best way to shut up a potential troublemaker was to lock him up.

But the jury didn't cooperate. On November 24, 1994, they acquitted Gahne of these bogus charges within 45 minutes--about as long as it took to acquit Billy Dale--and set this broke and dispirited man free.

For the last four years, like the seemingly deranged soul in Invasion of The Body Snatchers , Sam Gahne has been trying to warn the world that things are not as they seem. Sam has taken his quest for justice to the wonderland of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. En route, however, he has learned that EEOC is less about equal opportunity than it is about political clout, and Iranian-Americans have about as much of that now as emigres from other popular countries like, say, Serbia or pre-apartheid South Africa. Justice is supposed be blind, but public opinion doesn't pretend to be: the continued bad behavior of Iran does little to advance Sam's cause.

But Sam may have learned an even more critical civics lesson during these hellish last four years, and it's this: in the acronym-rich power games of American government, EEOC is no match for FBI or CIA.

© Jack Cashill - 1999

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