(FORTUNE Magazine) – When Forbes ace investigative reporter James R. Norman wrote a cover story entitled "Oil! Guns! Greed!" last January, editor James W. Michaels took pains to inform readers that Norman was "not the paranoid sort." Perhaps Michaels is having second thoughts. The article, described as a tale of "bank fraud, oil trading, and bombs," prompted Norman to follow a tangled skein of connections to a second, much broader, story. This one raised questions about the death of White House deputy counsel Vincent W. Foster and alleged a conspiracy involving espionage, foreign bank accounts, and CIA hackers.

Forbes had planned to publish the piece, in which Norman detailed unattributed charges that Foster had been under Central Intelligence Agency surveillance for selling U.S. secrets to Israel and secreting the proceeds in a Swiss bank, in May. When the story arrived, Michaels--as any mainstream editor might--killed it. In a prepared statement, Forbes said Michaels had decided that "many of the story's sources were not credible."

But Norman, who had spent ten years at Business Week before he joined Forbes five years ago, couldn't let go. He eventually published the piece, entitled "Fostergate," in the August issue of Media Bypass, a magazine whose subtitle is "The Uncensored National News." Shortly thereafter Norman sent Michaels a memo urging him to reconsider publishing the Foster story in Forbes.

But the memo--which quickly found its way onto the Internet--made another allegation that Norman attributed to anonymous CIA sources: that Caspar Weinberger, a former Defense Secretary and now Forbes' chairman, was one of "scores" of government officials who had stashed millions in Swiss accounts. Norman claimed that the booty had been wiped out by a renegade band of CIA computer hackers. The embarrassing memo was particularly ill timed. Malcolm S. "Steve" Forbes Jr., the magazine's 48-year-old editor-in-chief, is readying a campaign to run for President on the GOP ticket.

Only hours after receiving the memo, Norman says, Michaels gave him a choice: to take indefinite unpaid leave or accept a severance package. Norman resigned, and has thus cast his lot with a cadre of conspiracists who believe that Foster was snuffed to cover up an immense scandal. All of which leaves several tantalizing questions. Was Vince Foster an Israeli spy? It seems unlikely. And what about Cap's secret stash? Forbes spokesman Raymond F. Healey Jr. says that Weinberger has no comment.

--Linda Grant