The Chesapeake Bay is becoming to Washington, DC what the Jersey Pine Barrens were for the New York and Philly mobs — a place where people simply disappear. The latest victim of the “Chesapeake Triangle” is Philip Merrill, the publisher of the Annapolis-based Capital-Gazette Newspapers (publisher of the Annapolis Capital and Maryland Gazette) and the Washingtonian magazine. Last Sunday, Merrill’s sailboat, the Merrilly, was found drifting with the engine running off Breezy Point in Calvert County, Maryland. Although Merrill’s wallet was found on board, there was no sign of Merrill, an experienced sailor who, after an extensive search, was declared dead. A witness who found the drifting Merrilly said there was some blood found in the back of the boat.
Washington has experienced similar inexplicable losses in the Bay. On Sep. 26, 1978, retired CIA Deputy Director for Strategic Research John A. Paisley’s sailboat was found moored off Solomon’s Island, Maryland, south of where Merrill’s boat was found. Later, Paisley’s body was found in the nearby Patuxent River, his submerged body tied to diving weights. Although Paisley was shot through the head, police ruled it a suicide. Paisley was involved with the electronic intercept programs of both the CIA and NSA and may have had important information on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy that he was about to impart to the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
On April 28, 1996, former CIA Director William Colby, who was cooperating with John DeCamp, a Republican State Senator in Nebraska and a former CIA colleague in Vietnam, in investigating a national pedophile ring said to involve George H. W. Bush and reported in The Washington Times, went missing at his home at Rock Point on Cobb Island in Charles County, southwest of where Paisley’s boat was found. After Colby’s canoe was found adrift, his body was later discovered on the shoreline of the bay. Colby, a veteran of CIA missions in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, was said to have lost his footing and drowned.
Local police never ruled out foul play in either the Paisley or Colby cases.
Now we have Merrill disappearing under similar circumstances. Merrill outwardly was connected to many neo-conservative organizations. He served on the advisory council of Frank Gaffney’s ultra-neocon Center for Security Policy; the Defense Policy Board alongside such arch-neocons as Richard Perle, James Woolsey, and Ken Adelman; set up the neocon Center for Strategic Studies under his Defense Policy Board neocon colleague Eliot Cohen; and was appointed as the President of the U.S. Export-Import Bank by President George W. Bush and was sworn in by his friend Dick Cheney, who recommended him for the EX-IM Bank position. Merrill was also described in yesterday’s Washington Post editorial as someone who took on “diplomatic and intelligence missions for the government over the years.”
However, Merrill also was very much part of the traditional Washington foreign policy establishment, having served as Assistant Secretary General of NATO, a participant in Law of the Sea and disarmament conferences, philanthropist for the environmental Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the University of Maryland journalism college, and a trustee of the chic Aspen Institute. Merrill served intermittently as a Senior Intelligence Analyst for South Asia at the Department of State from 1961 to 1968.
WMR has learned from an informed source who knew Merrill for a number of years that while Merrill headed the EX-IM Bank from 2002 to 2005, the bank routed a significant amount of money to entities associated with the Russian-Ukrainian-Israeli mafia — the shadowy network that his been linked to fugitive Marc Rich, his one-time lawyer “Scooter” Libby, Jack Abramoff, Adam Kidan, and various Russian oligarchs who are now exiled in Israel to avoid extradition for their various crimes. The EX-IM Bank under Merrill’s tenure also financed U.S. reconstruction projects in Coalition Provisional Authority-occupied Iraq, programs that resulted in the loss of billions of U.S. taxpayers’ funds. Merrill had also supported using future Iraqi oil and natural gas revenues to finance Halliburton and Bechtel oil industry infrastructure projects in the occupied country. In May 2003, Merrill told a congressional committee that the locking of Iraqi revenues for future U.S. projects had “real merit.”
WMR is continuing to investigate the Merrill case.