Conspiracy theorists might wonder why Jesse Ventura took time Friday to talk with the Star Tribune for the first time since he left office in 2003.

Common folk might suggest it was simply to gin up publicity for his new book, "American Conspiracies." If you buy that obvious reasoning, you might also believe Sirhan Sirhan acted alone, that the CIA wasn't involved at Jonestown or that the 9/11 terrorist attack was just Osama bin Laden flexing his muscles.

As they say on the "X-Files" and Oliver Stone's "JFK," the truth is never that clear.

In his just-released book, Ventura again claims that a CIA operative worked in Minnesota government during his administration -- and that he assumes there is still such an agent assigned to St. Paul. He also wanted a reporter to know that, given his revelations, he would never commit suicide. So if anything suspicious happens, and the official report states that Ventura committed suicide, "You'll know, that's baloney."

This is Ventura's fifth book, but the first he has written "about something besides myself." Conveniently, it feeds off his current series on TruTV, "Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura," for which he said he'll film 10 new episodes this summer. In "American Conspiracies," he and co-author Dick Russell have rounded up the greatest hits of the conspiracy pantheon into a compendium that does not seem to break much new ground. It's more a reaffirmation of previous theories on the Kennedy assassinations, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., Jonestown, the 9/11 attacks and the financial collapse and bailout of 2008.

If there's a surprise, it's Ventura's argument that the CIA used double agents who let themselves get caught at the Watergate in order to take down President Richard Nixon.

"There is ample evidence Nixon was set up," he said.

Ventura repeated Friday that he and Stephen Bosacker, his chief of staff, were told there was a CIA operative working at the level of deputy commissioner in state government -- a claim that he first made in a 2008 memoir.

"I can't say who it is, or I would go to jail," Ventura said, noting that the original operative was replaced during his term.

In his book, Ventura writes he "has no idea what they're doing there."

Surfer man

Ventura has two book signings in the Twin Cities. On Sunday, he'll be at the Mall of America, and on Tuesday he visits Rosedale Center. Were it not for the book tour, he said, he would still be in Mexico, where he and his wife, Terry, live half the year. They spend June through October in their home on White Bear Lake.

His term as governor, from 1999 to 2003, made him understand the need for secrecy on occasion ("if people's lives are in danger"), but he argues that far too much information is suppressed under the guise of national security. This, of course, is red meat for those who mistrust authority.

A 2007 Zogby poll found that 63.6 percent of Americans believe Arab fundamentalists were responsible for 9/11, but 26.4 percent said "certain elements in the U.S. government knew the attacks were coming but consciously let them proceed for various political, military and economic reasons."

Pot should be legal

The only political activity he envisions is to campaign for legalization of marijuana in California. He said he's motivated by the carnage in Mexico caused by drug cartels.

Although he hinted at getting into the fray with Norm Coleman and Al Franken for a Senate seat in 2008, he says his top goal now is to become "the best surfer I can be." To get elected, he'd have to get a haircut, which is not in the cards.

The telltale sign will be if he shaves his head, he said. Even then, don't be fooled. "It's not for sure," he said, "but that's a step toward that direction."

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299