SECRETS OF THE L.A. RIOTS -- PART I
[Editor's note: Fred Celeni (pronounced suh-LAN-ee) worked as a
federal intelligence agent, he says, for the office of U.S.
Congressman John D. Dingell. Celeni was interviewed for public
access television in Los Angeles, and that interview was later
re-broadcast on Sherman Skolnick's television program,
"Broadsides," in Chicago. Following is my own abbreviated
transcript of Celeni's remarks. (Possible spelling errors exist
and are not noted.)]
FRED CELENI: ...and they asked for identification, and I gave
them a copy of John Dingell's letter introducing me as a member
of this investigative setup, of the Oversight Investigation
At that point, they made a telephone call, and two people
entered the room. One of them was known to me: Vincent Foster.
Vincent, in previous operations in Springfield, Illinois, had at
that time become known as "The Rabbi." There was a man with him;
he identified himself as Walter Husting. They told me that he
was a newspaper publisher. And the specifics stand out for two
reasons. I said, one, "Why would a newspaper publisher be in a
room where we're planning a covert intelligence activity?" And
the second thing that bothered me was that I knew I had seen this
guy someplace before.
We conversed for about an hour and some minutes. At that
point I was asked to give Ms. [Betsy] Wright a ride home. I
dropped her off. I'm not sure if that was her house or not, but
it was what we refer to as a "Cape Cod." It wasn't very large.
It wasn't what I expected her to live in, based on her being the
head of Clinton's campaign.
During that meeting, what came up was a plan that the
Oversight Investigation Subcommittee had put together in 1980.
And during that meeting we discussed that plan. And what that
plan basically purported to be was a system to handle
insurrection. Now if you read the title and the first few pages,
you had this feeling it was a report on how to stop insurrection
in a major American city. But as you got further into the plan,
it said, "Now that we have discussed how to cease and desist this
problem, =these= are the factors that could lead to this type of
a riot." What it really was, was 30 pages of blueprint on how to
start a riot: How you would be able to go in and rile up a
community; how you would be able to approach the youth; how you
would infiltrate schools.
Now what they wanted to do was bring forward the idea that
"America has to depend on the government." That they could paint
the Los Angeles police or the Chicago police as racists and
bigots, then everyone would look to the federal government to
come in and be their savior.
INTERVIEWER: When did you learn the true identity of this Walter
FRED CELENI: About a month-and-a-half later, I happened to see a
program on television. And they identified the man as being a
key aide on the Clinton staff. And I wasn't positive until I
actually saw him, the night before the election, on television in
Little Rock. That's when I realized it was the same individual.
INTERVIEWER: And who is that?
FRED CELENI: His name's James Carville.
INTERVIEWER: Betsy Wright did not use an alias.
FRED CELENI: No, she did not.
-+- The Al Gore Plan -+-
INTERVIEWER: Now let's fast-forward ahead, to April of 1992.
You're back in Los Angeles and operating this phony law firm, and
"Operation Lasso" was in full-swing. You then had the situation
with Rodney King: the trial of the officers involved in his
beating. You then already had orders to put this inciting into
FRED CELENI: No. It depended on what happened. If the verdict
had been "guilty," the set of orders on how we were to proceed
would have been totally different. If it had been "guilty," the
orders were, to go out into the white community and, with our
television show and our radio show -- we had a show called
"Investigative Reporter" -- we were to get negative comments;
anti-black comments. If they [the police officers] were =not=
convicted, then we were to do the opposite. That opposite plan
was, to use a modified version of the 1980 Oversight
INTERVIEWER: Written by Al Gore.
FRED CELENI: Authored by Al Gore and a couple other people. Al
Gore's name was at the top of it.
And what that plan was, was to go into the black community and
incite that community.
-+- The Rolling 90s -+-
So as the trial started to wind down to the end (about 10 days
before the verdict), it was obvious there was going to be a "not
So what we did was, we started going into the black community
and started contacting the black youth. We concentrated on 3
areas: what we called the Somoan Crip area (the poorer section
of Long Beach); the Rolling 30s, Rolling 60s, Rolling 90s Crips
(which is another black gang); and last, on something called "The
8-Tray Gangster Crips." And we ended up getting the best
response out of the 8-Tray Gangster Crips, of which Damian
Williams and [unclear] Park were the leaders. Damian Williams
was called "Football."
What we started doing was, going in there distributing cash,
crack cocaine, and weapons -- handguns.
When the verdict came down, we had nailed it down to 2 areas.
We cut out the Long Beach Somoans; the Somoan Crips were so
violent that we feared they would explode and it would turn into
something that we didn't want it to turn into. The object was
not to burn down Los Angeles; the object was to create a small
riot in a confined area... a small insurrection.
The Rolling 60s controls 60th street -- all those streets:
sixtieth, sixty-first, sixty-second, etc. The Rolling 90s
control 90th street and all those. The Rolling 30s control
thirtieth street, thirty-first, etc. And then, up in the
high-90s, is where the 8-Tray Gangsters meet.
The day the riot actually started, what happened was, early in
the morning, when they announced a verdict had been reached, we
went to the Los Angeles Police Department and we picked up a
4-door Chevrolet black-and-white unit. It had all the computers
and radios inside, but we were told not to use those; to stay off
the communication channels and to use a portable telephone. We
proceeded from there -- myself, and three black gentlemen: one
was named Anthony; one was named Charles; one was named Shabazz.
INTERVIEWER: Who was your contact at Van Nuys [LAPD precinct],
to get the police car?
FRED CELENI: His name was Nathan Arnold, Jr.
INTERVIEWER: You worked closely with Nathan Arnold for some time.
FRED CELENI: Yes. I worked with Nathan for approximately a year.
INTERVIEWER: He was very aware of the whole operation.
FRED CELENI: In fact so. Nathan is part of the elite
intelligence squad [of LAPD. See the book, *L.A. Secret Police*
by Mike Rothmiller -- ISBN: 0-671-79657-7 -- for further info.]
He's ostensibly assigned as a senior detective to the Van Nuys
narcotics squad. But, underneath it all, you have to understand
that, in the early to late 1980s the Los Angeles Police
Department operated their own CIA. It was called the Los Angeles
Police Department Intelligence Unit. They had to disband that
because of problems. So they surfaced this thing as what they
called a "Metropolitan Task Force."
INTERVIEWER: What was Nathan Arnold, Jr.'s, affiliation with
FRED CELENI: There were two other men in the "Lasso" operation
who were assigned by the LAPD. A man by the name of Robert
Vernon was the second-in-command, Los Angeles Police Department.
He's a Deputy Chief. Also brought in were Tom Lange and Mark
Fuhrman. And those three people came from three different units.
But they totally controlled "Lasso" and the area we were working
INTERVIEWER: And they also worked together on drug and sting
FRED CELENI: Correct. Intelligence operations. You have to
understand that some of them are from homicide -- the reason
being, drugs cross two areas: they either result in death, or
dealing in drugs. And those two areas combine.
Robert Vernon told me... (We had dinner one day at Hamburger
Hamlet in Van Nuys.) Vernon said to me, "I'm putting Tom Lange
into this mix, because Mark Fuhrman and Nathan Arnold are loose
cannons. They're very difficult to control. But Tom's a real,
sincere, nice guy. He can control these people."
INTERVIEWER: Back to the "Lasso" operation, on the day of the
riot, April 1992. You've just picked up the police car in Van
Nuys, and you have three young black... hoodlums, shall we call
FRED CELENI: No, these weren't hoodlums. These three men were
from the El Toro Marine Base, in southern California.
INTERVIEWER: I see. So they were assigned to "Operation Lasso."
And their names again?
FRED CELENI: One was named Anthony. One was named Charles. One
was named Shabazz.
INTERVIEWER: Now you are driving them in an LAPD car on the
afternoon of the verdict. And where do you go?
FRED CELENI: First we went to [unclear]; we were about a block
away, because we were waiting for Nathan Arnold to catch up to
INTERVIEWER: What was in the trunk of your car?
FRED CELENI: We had two automatic weapons, that are called
"Mach-10s." We had approximately two-dozen handguns which did
not contain serial numbers.
INTERVIEWER: And how much ammunition?
FRED CELENI: Oh, I would say probably one clip for each handgun
and one extra.
INTERVIEWER: Any bombs?
FRED CELENI: No. We did have a can of diesel fuel. But we did
not release that from the trunk.
INTERVIEWER: And crack cocaine?
FRED CELENI: Yes, we had quite a bit of crack cocaine. We had
approximately one kilo.
INTERVIEWER: And where did you go?
FRED CELENI: The decision was made to go to Florence and
Normandy, not to Long Beach. We proceeded to a gas station in
INTERVIEWER: You parked in the back and did what?
FRED CELENI: We unloaded the two boxes, out of the trunk, and
put them on the ground. And I drove out of the lot and parked
INTERVIEWER: And at this time you realized that you were being
filmed by a private individual with a video camera.
FRED CELENI: Correct.
INTERVIEWER: (We'll go into him a little later.)
Meanwhile, Shabazz, Anthony and Charles took the boxes of
weapons and crack cocaine to the front of the gas station and
began to dispense the contents, on the street corner. Do you
know of any other, similar operations, going on at that moment,
in order to incite the riots?
FRED CELENI: I had been told there were other operations.
INTERVIEWER: Later, you came back to pick up Charles, Anthony
and Shabazz. How much later?
FRED CELENI: A little over an hour later.
INTERVIEWER: Then where did you take them?
FRED CELENI: We drove a short distance and went to where the
riot had actually started. A woman had been attacked by police.
Her boy and she had been pushed down. They knocked over a fence.
And all of =our= machinations near the gas station (I came to
find out) were nowhere =near= as inciteful as what had happened
by that fence.
[...to be continued...]
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