By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Meanwhile, Barnes was busy in Arizona. He told David Taylor that his Republican contacts were about to provide him with bugging equipment, a prepaid ticket to Dallas, and a hotel room near Perot's office. As a result, Taylor, with a cameraman in tow, planned to fly from Washington to Phoenix on Tuesday, August 4. There he would rendezvous with Barnes and follow him to Texas, planning to film him for his BBC documentary.
Barnes now admits that he drove to Phoenix (an hour from his home in Prescott), before Taylor arrived in Arizona, and picked up a box containing surveillance equipment at an electronics store on Bethany Home Boulevard. He then proceeded to Phoenix's airport, Sky Harbor, and placed the box in a rented locker.
However, when Taylor arrived, Barnes lied, telling him instead that his Republican contacts had given him the number of a locker at Sky Harbor. With Taylor watching (and filming clandestinely when in public places), Barnes opened the locker and retrieved the box. Taylor later videotaped the surveillance equipment (he thought it unusual that "there was a diagram inside the box of how to put all the equipment together, with a little line on the bottom that said 'Batteries Not Provided'"). That same evening, Taylor also filmed Barnes picking up a first-class ticket from the Continental Airlines desk.
Earlier that same day, in Dallas, James Siano kept the appointment with Chief Rathburn that Perot had made. Rathburn asked two of the department's top officers--Captain Rudy Diaz, executive assistant chief, and Captain Eddie Walt, commander of special investigations and intelligence--to join him.
Siano told them Perot had vetoed the idea of going to the FBI, since "George Bush would know about it in 15 minutes." He said that the Bush re-election committee was trying to tap Perot's phones to get incriminating information in case he decided to run again for president. After urging the police to undertake an investigation, Siano said that Perot had authorized him to offer financial and technical assistance if the investigation proved too costly or complex.
Very quickly, however, the three police officials agreed that the case was beyond their jurisdiction, and they declined to pursue it.
"It was a given that we would incur Perot's wrath for saying no," says Walt. The same day the police said no, Perot sent Siano to the FBI. There Siano met with his former colleagues at the Dallas office. Buck Revell listened as Siano again made his presentation. The difference between the FBI starting the investigation or not was the involvement of David Taylor.
"Taylor's work and confidence in Barnes put it over the top for us," says Revell. "It would have been very unlikely that we would have gone ahead with Barnes alone." Late on the afternoon of August 4, he gave the go-ahead for an undercover agent, using the alias George Allen, to be present when Siano met Taylor and Barnes. Perot would stay informed of developments through Siano.
On August 5, Barnes and Taylor flew into Dallas on a Continental flight from Phoenix. Upon arriving, Barnes tried to check into the Sheraton Park Central, but his reservation had been moved to the nearby Marriott, across from Perot's office. The hotel had been prepaid, and Barnes did not receive a bill.
That night at 8 o'clock, Siano, FBI agent Allen, and Barnes and Taylor met in a room rented by the FBI at the Sheraton. Siano introduced Allen as a telephone engineer hired by Perot to assess the bugging equipment Barnes had brought from Phoenix.
Barnes announced that he had a meeting set with Jim Oberwetter for the next day, and that he would offer Oberwetter a chance to buy nonexistent audio tapes (Barnes actually just intended to show up at his office and try to talk his way into a meeting). To bolster Barnes' credibility with Oberwetter, Perot had decided to cooperate with an FBI request that he tape several innocuous telephone conversations with some business colleagues. These would be supplied to Oberwetter as "proof" that Barnes had successfully installed telephone taps on Perot's phone lines.
For Taylor this was an unexpected opportunity. He wanted to film any Barnes and Oberwetter meeting. "I remember the FBI finally said that Oberwetter would have to come outside into the plaza, and that was great for me," recalls Taylor, "since I could not go into the building because there was an expectation of privacy inside." The FBI raised no objection to Taylor's filming the undercover sting.
At 6 a.m. on Thursday, August 6, Perot taped several short conversations with associates. Perot then had Siano take the tapes to the FBI. George Allen, the FBI agent, then brought them to the Sheraton, where he met with Taylor and Barnes.
Although he had time to play the recordings for them, the bureau later claimed there was no time to wire Barnes for his meeting with Oberwetter. As a result, it would have to rely on only Scott Barnes' recollection of what was said. Nor had the bureau, at this stage of the investigation, finished a complete background check on Barnes (on whom it has a large file), identified the two men who met Barnes in Mexico, found the source of the money for his airfare or hotel, or located the source of the surveillance equipment he had picked up in Phoenix.