Seattle Post-Intelligencer; by Daniel DeMay
February 1, 2018
Standing outside FBI Headquarters, cold case team members today declared that the man they have long suspected of being D.B. Cooper was cleared, decades ago, because he was a black ops pilot for the CIA and is actively being hidden by the U.S. Government.
The 40-member team, led by former FBI agents and organized by documentarians Thomas J. and Dawna Colbert, made the stunning accusation after revealing a former Army code-breaker has found hidden messages in five taunting letters sent by a “Cooper” writer in the days following the 1971 hijacking.
What’s more, several people who know Colbert’s suspect, a 74-year-old San Diego veteran named Robert W. Rackstraw Sr., have noted his apparent connections to the spy agency and to top-secret operations around the world, Colbert said.
“The new [Cooper letter] decryptions include a dare to agents, directives to apparent partners, and a startling claim that is followed by Rackstraw’s own initials: If captured, he expects a get-out-of-jail card” from the CIA, Colbert said in a news release.
The latest code-cracking follows earlier findings announced by the team in the only typed letter — recently released through a court action — that pointed to Rackstraw as well.
In a brief phone call last year, Rackstraw only told the PI to verify Colbert’s claims; he didn’t issue a denial or comment further on Colbert’s investigation.
The case is the only unsolved case of air piracy in U.S. history. It began Nov. 24, 1971, when a man calling himself Dan Cooper bought a one-way ticket from Portland to Seattle on Northwest Orient Airlines. Aboard the Boeing 727, he handed a note to the flight attendant saying he had a bomb and that he wanted $200,000 and four parachutes, as well as a refueling truck when the plane reached Seattle.
Once there, he exchanged the passengers for the money and ordered the pilots to take off again with a flight plan for Mexico. Somewhere over southwest Washington state, the man lowered the rear stair door of the 727 and jumped out. He was never seen again.
The only verified evidence ever found was a small cache of $20 bills discovered along the Columbia River in 1980. They carried serial numbers that matched some of the money given to Cooper.
In 2016, the FBI announced it would stop actively investigating the case, but would take action on any physical evidence of the either the parachute or the money.
Colbert’s renowned team, now at the end of its seventh year of following the trail, produced evidence last August from a dig site within Cooper’s suspected jump area that they believe was part of Cooper’s parachute. They handed the materials over to the FBI, along with the dig site itself and the identities of two alleged escape partners, still alive. But to date, the FBI hasn’t responded about any of the evidence publicly, let alone visit the site or approach the elderly suspects.
Late last year, the investigators obtained through the courts a December 11, 1971, typed letter sent by a Cooper author that Colbert said supports allegations of a possible FBI cover-up. The note also included random letters and numbers at the bottom.
Colbert’s code-breaker, Rick Sherwood, was able to decode that encryption, and he found they pointed to the three Army units Rackstraw was connected to during his 1969-70 military service in Vietnam. The hidden message was meant to serve as a signal to his veteran co-conspirators that he was alive and well after the jump, Colbert said.
Now Sherwood has cracked codes in the other four earlier Cooper letters that not only support Rackstraw as a suspect, but also as a CIA operative, Colbert’s team reported.
The letters “SWS” appear in one letter, short for “Special Warfare School,” where he learned to code, Colbert said. Another note, in which Cooper claimed to be CIA openly, also had the letters “RWR” at the end — believed to be the initials of Robert W. Rackstraw.
According to court and police reports, eyewitness interviews and other evidence compiled by the cold case team, Rackstraw first conducted “off-the-books” CIA ground missions in Vietnam in 1969-70 and piloting work in Laos in 1972. Then he took on covert assignments through the 1970s and into the 1980s, allegedly linked to the Iran-Contra Affair.
Colbert said Pentagon records he obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests detailed skill sets Rackstraw received from Green Berets in 1968, including 400 hours of Special Forces classes, HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) commando-style parachuting, deception, psychological operations (PSYOPS) and other training.
One of Rackstraw’s former Vietnam commanders, LTC Ken Overturf (ret.), recalled him regularly hanging around at the First Cavalry’s officers club with a CIA man. Overturf said he witnessed the two leaving one day in a stolen Jeep, loaded with weapons and ammunition, according to Colbert’s latest release.
Rackstraw also repeatedly told people he was a Green Beret and had won numerous medals, according to a 1970 newspaper article Colbert dug up. He wasn’t ever part of Special Forces and some of the medals mentioned were found to be fake, said the organizer.
Rackstraw was considered in the late 1970s by the FBI as a possible suspect for the Cooper hijacking and was chased half-way around the globe. But in February of 1979, he was suddenly dismissed as a candidate — Colbert believes this was when the Bureau agreed to quash the Rackstraw hijacking investigation.
After his first claim last November of an organized FBI cover-up, the agency didn’t respond to the accusation or make any statements about Colbert’s case.
FYI: See the documented evidence of the stonewalling in the 11/19/17 press release at the first entry entitled, “The Smoking Gun.”