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Music Video Codes By VideoCodeZone


"Oh, he was making millions, 'cos he had his own source of, uh, avenue for his own, uh, heroin.... They fly down to Pakse, then they fly over to Da Nang, and then the number two guy to President Thieu would receive it."

His name was Vang Pao, a charismatic, passionate and committed man. A patriot without a country.

Vang Pao, however, did more than just lead his people in war. According to observers he and his officers dominated the trade in the Meo farmers' cash crop. In 1968, one visitor got a first-hand look at this trade in the village called Long Pot.

I was given the guest bed in the village, in fact the district headman's house, and I ended up sharing it with a guy in military uniform who I later found out was an officer of the Vang Pao army and one morning I was awoken very early by this great confusion of people and noise at the bottom of the bed, just, literally people brushing against my feet with the packets of black sticky substance in bamboo tubes and wrapped up in leaves and bits and things and the military officer who was there was weighing it out and paying off a considerable amount of money to these people and this went on for most of the morning and it went on for several mornings he brought up a great deal of this substance which I then started to think about and asked and had it confirmed that this was in fact raw opium.

War photographer John Everingham has lived in Southeast Asia for over twenty years. He was one of the very few outsiders who dared to look for and photograph the secret army for himself.

John Everingham:
They all wore American supplied uniforms and the villagers very innocently and very openly told me, "oh they took it to Long Chien," and I asked them how they took it and they said, "oh well they took it on the helicopters as everything else that went to and from Long Chien went by helicopter and so did the opium."

And whose helicopters were they?

John Everingham:
Well they were the Air America helicopters which were on contract to the CIA.

We did not go down to the embassy and be privy to their secret briefings or anything else. We flew the airplanes. If they put something on the airplanes and told you not to look at it you didn't look at it, because you'd no longer be employed.

I know as a fact soon after the army was formed the military officers soon got control of the opium trade. It helped not only them make a lot of money and become good loyal officers to the CIA but it helped the villagers. The villagers needed their opium carried out and carried over the land in a war situation that was much more dangerous and more difficult, and the officers were obviously paying a good price 'cos the villagers were very eager to sell to the military people.

June 14, 2005
A slap for helping the Hmong
By Richard S Ehrlich

BANGKOK - American Ed Szendrey claims a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-backed Laotian general helped finance his trip into communist Laos, which ended in expulsion last week because Szendrey bought illegal satellite telephones for Hmong rebels, set up a "communications network", and aided their movement.

Szendrey, a former US Navy veteran who served in the Gulf of Tonkin at the start of the Vietnam War, said he negotiated the "surrender" of 173 minority ethnic Hmong on June 4, and hoped to arrange future deals for thousands of other Hmong who are led by armed fighters. "We have never supported a military solution," Szendrey, 62, said in an interview.

Laotian officials expelled Szendrey and his wife, Georgie, on June 6 after interrogating the activist couple who live in Chico, California. Before arriving in Laos on June 3, Szendrey met US State Department "Laos desk" officials in Washington along with Vang Pao, a notorious, former CIA-backed Laotian general.

Szendrey said he went with Vang Pao to the State Department to explain the Hmong's plight and to ask for help in getting their story to the United Nations.

Vang Pao was named "a despotic warlord" in Alfred McCoy's respected book The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia for allegedly smuggling opium on the CIA's Air America and operating a heroin factory in Long Tieng, Laos, during the late 1960s and early 1970s - while commanding the CIA's so-called Secret Army against Laotian and Vietnamese communists in Laos during the Vietnam War.

Much of Vang Pao's heroin was probably "for [American] GI addicts in Vietnam," McCoy wrote.

After years of massive aerial bombardment of tiny, landlocked Laos, the US lost the war in Vietnam in 1975 , and communist Pathet Lao forces seized power. Many of Vang Pao's CIA-trained Hmong mercenaries, however, fled into the hills, where they dwindled due to injuries, malnutrition, disease and neglect.

Laos currently suffers occasional deadly bombings of its markets, buses, bridges, government outposts and other soft targets, which it blames on right-wing "bad elements" and "exiled Lao reactionaries" in the US, France, Australia, Thailand and elsewhere.

Concerned about the alleged "persecution" of Hmong who refuse to surrender, Szendrey created a fact-finding commission that includes a website, and he has visited Laos several times. He also boosts that Vang Pao, who is based in California, is the Hmong's best leader.

"As the one who was involved with the US government, was involved with the development of the CIA army, was the person who was the go-between, he [Vang Pao] is looked up to by the majority of the Hmong community," Szendrey said. "He is the individual that should be the one that can represent them, and communicate for them, to the world."

Vang Pao helped finance Szendrey's ill-fated trip this month.

"I know that he has helped raise money; for instance, when we take a trip like this, the funding becomes available, and we understand it comes from a variety of Hmong," Szendrey said. "It's good. My only hesitancy is that when I say that, we have [people reacting]: 'Oh, this is a Vang Pao thing.' No, we do not work for General Vang Pao."

"We do have people who are followers of his, and organizations who are followers of his, who have financially supported us," Szendrey added.

Laotian security officials expelled the Szendreys after they deceptively entered the country on tourist visas. "We were not there on vacation," Szendrey said. "They charged us with having interfered with their rural village relocation program. That was the offence they deported us on."

Szendrey said he met 173 unarmed Hmong women, children and elderly men on June 4 on a country road, to ensure their "surrender" would be peaceful. No Hmong fighters surrendered at the site in the Xaysomboun Special Zone, which is off-limits to foreigners.

Future "surrenders" could include up to 17,000 Hmong who are hiding in about 20 scattered clusters, each led by two or three armed leaders, Szendrey said. But those 50 or 60 leaders will probably never surrender, he added. "They probably have already been tried and convicted," in absentia, by the Laotian government for treason, armed rebellion and related crimes, and would likely face imprisonment or execution.

Laotian officials detained the Szendreys on June 4 and interrogated them after the Hmong gathering. The security forces were especially angry about Szendry's earlier role in providing illegal satellite phones to Hmong fugitives.

"Over the last four years, we have established a communications network in which they do have [satellite] telephones up in the jungle," Szendrey said. "We helped with the purchase" of the satellite phones. "We don't know physically how those actually got to them," he said. "I think the total we got in was four or five" satellite phones.

"On Saturday night, when they [Laotian interrogators] started zeroing in, that's the questions they wanted to know. How these people got the phones. They wanted to know how our communications, how our satellite phones, got to them, and how we had our communications system going."

The interrogation ended in havoc. "I kind of almost made a mistake that was turned [around]. I said, 'Yeah, we encouraged getting the phones in there'... and they were turning that into a serious confession," Szendrey said. "I said, 'We did not smuggle the phones in, we have no personal knowledge of actually how they got from the borders to these people'."

Szendrey did not tell his interrogators that he paid for the satellite phones. "No, no, we 'encouraged' getting the phones in there," he told Laotian officials. "It finally ended when I demanded to see the [American] Embassy, and refused to sign the paper."

The unsigned confession, written by Laotian authorities, listed Szendrey's support for the Hmong, and described "our contacts with them, that they had satellite phones and how they were used, what were the goals of our organization, things like this".

The Szendreys entered Laos on June 3, went north to meet the Hmong the next day and were seized by security forces several hours later. The Szendreys were expelled to Thailand on June 6 and flew home from Bangkok on Friday.

Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California. He has reported news from Asia since 1978 and is co-author of Hello My Big Big Honey!, a non-fiction book of investigative journalism. He received a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

(Copyright 2005 Richard S Ehrlich.)


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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guns, drugs and the cia

video: realplayer g2

(5:02) An accountant for the Medellin drug cartel explains how he was asked by the CIA to provide funding to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
start the video
Original Air Date: May 17, 1988
Produced and Written by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn
Directed by Leslie Cockburn

Tonight, on FRONTLINE: An investigation of the CIA and its role in international drug dealing.

The history of the CIA runs parallel to criminal and drug operations throughout the world, but it's coincidental.

Is the CIA using drug money to finance covert operations?

Narcotics proceeds were used to shore up the Contra effort.

Something's wrong, something is really wrong out there.

Tonight, "Guns, Drugs and the CIA."

Good evening.

Two of the most persistent offensives of the Reagan presidency have been the war against communism in Central America and the war on drugs here at home.

But investigations of America's secret war in Nicaragua have revealed mounting evidence that the Central Intelligence Agency has been fighting the Contra war with the help of international drug traffickers.

It is not a new story.

Tonight's FRONTLINE investigation traces the CIA's involvement with drug lords back to the agency's birth following World War II. It is a long history that asks this question: "In the war on drugs, which side is the CIA on?"

Our program was produced by Leslie and Andrew Cockburn. It is called Guns, Drugs, and the CIA and is reported by Leslie Cockburn.

Ronald Reagan:
Illegal drugs are one thing that no community in America can, should, or needs to tolerate. America's already started to take that message to heart. That's why I believe the tide of battle has turned and we're beginning to win the crusade for a drug-free America.

U.S. Senator John Kerry:
The subcommittee on narcotics, terrorism, international operations will come to order. From what we have learned these past months, our declaration on war against drugs seems to have produced a war of words and not action. Our drugs seem to have produced a war of words and not action. Our borders are inundated with more narcotics than in anytime ever before. It seems as though stopping drug trafficking in the United States has been a secondary U.S. foreign policy objective, sacrificed repeatedly for other political and institutional goals such as changing the government of Nicaragua, supporting the government of Panama, using drug-running organizations as intelligence assets, and protecting military and intelligence sources from possible compromise through involvement in drug trafficking.

If we start with the premise that drug trafficking is morally reprehensible, our government agencies are not supposed to do anything like that, but they live in a practical world.


John Kerry:
Would you raise your right hand please.

Ramon Milian Rodriguez saw that world as the chief accountant of the Colombian cocaine cartel responsible for managing eleven billion dollars in drug profits. Now serving a forty-three year sentence for money laundering, he has been a key witness for a senate investigation probing links between drugs and the CIA.

Say for instance, the drug group was involved in a war with a terrorist group, a communist terrorist group, well, it would behove the CIA to give that drug group as much help and advice as possible so they could win their little war.

The history of the CIA runs parallel to criminal and drug operations throughout the world, but it's coincidental.

Victor Marchetti came to know the world of covert operations as a long time CIA officer. He is the highest ranking agency official ever to go public about what he learned.

VICTOR MARCHETTI, Central Intelligence Agency
It goes all the way back to the predecessor organization OSS and its involvement with the Italian mafia, the Cosa Nostra in Sicily and Southern Italy. Later on when they were fighting communists in France and--that they got in tight with the Corsican brotherhood. The Corsican brotherhood of course were big dope dealers. As things changed in the world the CIA got involved with the Kuomintang types in Burma who were drug runners because they were resisting the drift towards communism there. The same thing happened in Southeast Asia, later in Latin America. Some of the very people who are the best sources of information, who are capable of accomplishing things and the like happen to be the criminal element.

WILLIAM COLBY, Former Director, CIA
CIA has had a solid rule against being involved in drug trafficking. That's not to say that some of the people who CIA has used or been in touch with over the years may well have themselves been involved in drug traffic, but not the CIA.

If the CIA is going to, if their job is to maintain the safety of our country and freedom by manipulating foreign powers to do what this country wants, and if the guy who's holding the power at that particular moment happens to be a drug lord, then you have to get involved with the drug lord.

As a result, we kept getting involved with these kinds of people, not for drug purposes and not for personal gain but to achieve a higher ideological goal.

In a refugee camp in Northeast Thailand, there live the remnants of one such involvement. They are the Hmong or Meo Tribe. While American troops were fighting in Vietnam, these people were the foot soldiers of a secret CIA army. They fought in undeclared war in Northern Laos, across the border from North Vietnam.

They're hill people, they're little guys. Like most hill people they're pretty fierce. In Laos we were the guerrillas. The war in Laos was a textbook example of what can be done in unconventional warfare.

General Richard Secord is one of the many veterans of the CIA secret war in Laos. Because Laos was officially neutral, American troops could not be used. The CIA relied on massive air power and a tribal army to fight the local communists and the North Vietnamese.

On the ground in Northern Laos, a handful of CIA officers directed as many as eighty-five thousand soldiers drawn from the mountain tribes. But American officials did more than just send their allies into battle.

RON RICKENBACH, Former Official, U.S. Agency for International Development
Early on, I think that we all believed that what we were doing was in the best interests of America, that we were in fact perhaps involved in some not so desirable aspects of the drug traffic, however we believed strongly in the beginning that we were there for a just cause.

Ron Rickenbach served in Laos as an official for the U.S. Agency for International Development from 1962 to 1969. He was on the front lines.

These people were willing to take up arms. We needed to stop the Red threat and people believed that in that vein we made, you know, certain compromises or certain trade-offs for a larger good. Growing opium was a natural agricultural enterprise for these people and they had been doing it for many years before the Americans ever got there. When we got there they continued to do so.

When they would move from one place to another they would carry their little bags of opium, they smoked it in pipes. And opium could be bought in the streets of any village.

FRED PLATT, Former Pilot, Laos
When a farmer raised a crop of opium, what he got for his year's worth of work was the equivalent of thirty-five to forty U.S. dollars. That amount of opium, were it refined into morphine base, then into morphine, then into heroin and appeared on the streets of New York, that thirty-five dollar crop of opium would be worth fifty, sixty, a hundred thousand dollars in 1969 dollars--maybe a million dollars today.

The war isolated the Meo tribespeople in their remote villages. CIA-owned Air America planes became their only life line to the outside world. While Meo children came to believe that rice fell from the sky, Meo farmer witnesses could count on Air America to move their cash crop.

It was then the presence of these air support services in and out of the areas in question where the product, where the opium was grown that greatly facilitated an increase in production and an ease of transhipment from the point of agriculture to the point of processing. So, when I say the Americans greased the wheels, essentially what I'm saying is we did not create opium production. We did not create a situation where drug trafficking was happening. But because of the nature of our presence, this very intense American means that was made available to the situation it accelerated in proportion dramatically.

The possibility that Air America flew drugs is still hotly disputed by many former senior officers.

You can question any number of people who were there, who actually were there, not people who claim that they had some knowledge of rumors, you can question any number of people and I venture to say they will all support what I'm saying, and that is that there was no commercial trade in opium going on.

I was on the airstrip, that was my job, to move in and about and to go from place to place and my people were in charge of dispatching aircraft. I was in the areas where opium was transshipped, I personally was a witness to opium being placed on aircraft, American aircraft. I witnessed it being taken off smaller aircraft that were coming in from outlying sites.

NEIL HANSEN, Former Pilot, Air America
Yes I've seen the sticky bricks come on board and no one was challenging their right to carry it. It was their own property.

Neil Hansen is a former senior Air America pilot, now serving a sentence for smuggling cocaine.

We were some sort of a freebie airline in some respects there, whoever the customer or the local representative put on the airplane we flew.

Primarily it was transported on our smaller aircraft, the Helios, the Porters and the things like that would visit the little outlying villages. They would send their opium to market.

From the villages, the planes carried their cargo over the mountains to Long Chien, CIA headquarters for the war. It was a secret city. Unmarked on any map and carefully hidden from outsiders, Long Chien became one of the busiest airports in the world, with hundreds of landings and takeoffs a day.

ED DEARBORN, Former Pilot, Air America
At the height of the war when there were thousands of people in there, there were villages all over, there were landing pads up on what we called Skyline drive which was the ridge on the north side of Long Chien. T-28s were going in and out of there, C-130s were going in and out of there. It was an amazing place, just amazing.

Ed Dearborn is a veteran of Long Chien and Air America. A key figure in the covert air operation.

From a sleepy little valley and village you know, surrounded by the mountains and the karst, this great war machine actually was working up there.

It was the heart and pulse of Laos at that time, more commonly referred to as the CIA's secret base you now, heh heh heh.

To lead their Meo army, the CIA selected Vang Pao, a former lieutenant in the French colonial army in Laos. The agency made very effort to boost his reputation.


His name was Vang Pao, a charismatic, passionate and committed man. A patriot without a country.

Vang Pao, however, did more than just lead his people in war. According to observers he and his officers dominated the trade in the Meo farmers' cash crop. In 1968, one visitor got a first-hand look at this trade in the village called Long Pot.

I was given the guest bed in the village, in fact the district headman's house, and I ended up sharing it with a guy in military uniform who I later found out was an officer of the Vang Pao army and one morning I was awoken very early by this great confusion of people and noise at the bottom of the bed, just, literally people brushing against my feet with the packets of black sticky substance in bamboo tubes and wrapped up in leaves and bits and things and the military officer who was there was weighing it out and paying off a considerable amount of money to these people and this went on for most of the morning and it went on for several mornings he brought up a great deal of this substance which I then started to think about and asked and had it confirmed that this was in fact raw opium.

War photographer John Everingham has lived in Southeast Asia for over twenty years. He was one of the very few outsiders who dared to look for and photograph the secret army for himself.

John Everingham:
They all wore American supplied uniforms and the villagers very innocently and very openly told me, "oh they took it to Long Chien," and I asked them how they took it and they said, "oh well they took it on the helicopters as everything else that went to and from Long Chien went by helicopter and so did the opium."

And whose helicopters were they?

John Everingham:
Well they were the Air America helicopters which were on contract to the CIA.

We did not go down to the embassy and be privy to their secret briefings or anything else. We flew the airplanes. If they put something on the airplanes and told you not to look at it you didn't look at it, because you'd no longer be employed.

I know as a fact soon after the army was formed the military officers soon got control of the opium trade. It helped not only them make a lot of money and become good loyal officers to the CIA but it helped the villagers. The villagers needed their opium carried out and carried over the land in a war situation that was much more dangerous and more difficult, and the officers were obviously paying a good price 'cos the villagers were very eager to sell to the military people.

That's hogwash. No way and as far as the agency ever, ever advocating that is do you think I would be in an organization where I've devoted my life to my country--involved in a operation like that without blowing the whistle?--absolutely not.


For veterans like General Aderholt and General Secord the war in Laos is now commemorated at nostalgic reunions. Last fall they gathered at a Florida air base to talk over old times and current business.

While Vang Pao does not attend such functions, he is well remembered by his old comrades.

Was the agency responsible for people's salaries, were they paying Vang Pao?

Harry Aderholt:
Of course, they were a hundred percent responsible, because Vang Pao was responding to agency requirements, even though they may have come from the highest levels of the U.S. government, yes, of course.

He was in the chain of command.

Harry Aderholt:

Did you work with Vang Pao?

Richard Secord:
Sure, all the time.

What was your relationship?

Richard Secord:
I was his supplier of air, therefore he stayed in close contact with me.

Were you in charge of supplying Air America planes?

Richard Secord:
For the tactical air operations, yes.

The movement of Air America planes say witnesses were influenced by Vang Pao's business requirements.

Ron Rickenbach:
Vang Pao wanted control of the aircraft-- sure, he would do the work that needed to be done but it would give that much more freedom and that much more flexibility to use these aircraft to go out and pick up the opium that needed to be picked up at this site or that site and to bring it back to Long Chien, and there was quite a hassle and Vang Pao won. Not only did he get control of the aircraft, but there was also a question of the operational control of the airplanes that were leaving Long Chien to go south, even into Thailand, and there was an embarrassing situation where the Americans knew that this could be exposed and it would be a very compromising situation. The way they got around that was to concede, to create for Vang Pao his own local airline, and Xieng Kouang airlines came into reality as a direct result of this compromise that was worked out, and they brought in a C-47 from the states and they painted it up nice and put Xieng Kouang airlines on it and they gave it to Vang Pao, and that aircraft was largely used for the transshipment of opium from Long Chien to sites further south.

Air Opium?

Ron Rickenbach:
Air opium.

Harry Aderholt:
Those airlines didn't really belong to General Vang Pao.

They belonged to the agency.

Harry Aderholt:
They belonged to the agency. They were maintained by the United States government in the form of Air America or Continental, so they didn't really own anything. It wasn't something he could take away with him, it was something that we controlled every iota of that operation, lock, stock and barrel.

You know what the nickname for that airline was?

Richard Secord:

Opium Air.

Richard Secord:
I've never heard that before.

Back in the old days the men who flew for Air America and drank in the Purple Porpoise Bar in Vientiane were less discreet.

Most of them are long gone and far away from Laos now but one legendary CIA officer still lives across the Mekong River close to his old mountain battleground.

The man that was in charge of that local operation was a man by the name of Tony Poe, and he was notorious. He had been involved with the agency from the OSS days he was a World War II combat veteran and he had been with the agency from its inception and he was the prototype operations officer. They made a movie about him when they made Apocalypses Now. He was the caricature of Marlon Brando.

Until now, Tony Poe has never talked publicly about the Laos operation. He saw it from beginning to end. one of Vang Pao's early case officers, Poe claims he was transferred from Long Chien because unlike his successors, he refused to tolerate the Meo leader's corruption.

TONY POE, Former CIA Officer
You don't let him run loose without a chain on him. You gotta control him just like any kind of an animal or a baby. You have to control him. Hey! He's the only guy that had a pair of shoes when I first met him--what are you talking about, why does he need Mercedes Benz, apartments and hotels and homes where he never had them in his life before. Why are you going to give it to him?

Plus he was making money on the side with his business?

Tony Poe:
Oh, he was making millions, 'cos he had his own source of, uh, avenue for his own, uh, heroin.

What did he do with the money?

Tony Poe:
What do you mean? U.S. bank accounts, Switzerland, wherever.

Didn't they know, when Vang Pao said 'I want some aircraft', didn't they know what he wanted that for?

Tony Poe:
I'm sure we all knew it, but we tried to monitor it, because we controlled most of the pilots you see. We're giving him freedom of navigation into Thailand, into the bases, and we don't want him to get involved in moving, you know, this illicit traffic--O.K., silver bars and gold, O.K., but not heroin. What they would do is, they weren't going into Thailand, they were flying it in a big wet wing airplane that could fly for thirteen hours, a DC-3, and all the wings were filled with gas. They fly down to Pakse, then they fly over to Da Nang, and then the number two guy to President Thieu would receive it.

Nguyen Van Thieu was president of South Vietnam from 1967 to 1975. Reports at the time accused president Thieu of financing his election through the heroin trade. Like Vang Pao, he always denied it, remaining America's honored and indispensable ally.

Tony Poe:
They were all in a contractual relationship:Some of this goes to me, some of this goes to thee. And you know just the bookkeeping--we deliver you on a certain day; they had coded messages and di-di-di. That means so and so as this much comes back and goes into our Swiss bank account. Oh they had a wonderful relationship and every, maybe, six months they'd all come together, have a party somewhere and talk about their business:is it good or bad. It is like a mafia, yeah, a big organized mafia.

By the end of 1970, there were thirty thousand Americans in Vietnam addicted to heroin. GI's were dying from overdoses at the rate of two a day.

When the drug traffic became a real problem to the American troops in Vietnam, then the CIA was asked by President to get involved in the program to limit that traffic and stop it.

But in 1972, a U.S. intelligence agent in Southeast Asia sent a secret field report to customs. It suggested a serious conflict of interest: quote--"It was ironic that the CIA should be given the responsibility of narcotics intelligence, particularly since they were supporting the prime movers. Even though the CIA was, in fact, facilitating the movement of opiates to the U.S., they steadfastly hid behind the shield of secrecy and said that all was done in the interest of national security." End quote.

I doubt that they had any strong deep understanding of what they were allowing to happen by turning their head the other way and letting Vang Pao ship his dope out which was made into heroin which was going to our troops, which was corrupting people throughout Southeast Asia and back here, the effect it had on crime, I doubt that any one of them really thought in those terms at the time.

While the heroin trade was flourishing by 1970, the war in Laos was going badly. As the communists steadily advanced, the civilian population faced a choice between evacuation to refugee camps or being bombed by the U.S. Air Force. These operations only added to the huge cost of feeding, training and supplying the secret army. For a war that did not officially exist, the CIA was spending heavily.

Harry Aderholt:
The money was always there. We had a program--In fact, that's the reason the agency supply system was so much better than the military supply system.


Harry Aderholt:
Cash. They didn't have to go through a procurement system, a bureaucracy, that made everything cost three times as much.

Fred Platt:
On two different occasions I brought bags up that I knew was payroll. Wish I'd have crashed on those times, and been able to stick that somewhere in the jungle and go get it, 'cos it was unaccounted funds.

How much money would be in a bag?

Fred Platt:
Well I--you know, a bag would probably have a couple of hundred thousand dollars in it, depending on where you were going with it and who it was going to.

I was sitting up there in the Director's--on the Director's staff, and that's where it all came together.

The CIA Director's senior staff prepared the agency's official budget.

Victor Marchetti:
For Laos, I think it was around thirty million, perhaps forty million, but it was very small.

Was that enough to run this war?

Victor Marchetti:
Well, I don't think so. I would think the war was costing quite a big, probably--if all the costs were pulled together, I would imagine it would probably cost as much as the entire agency's budget.

How was the war in Laos financed?

Richard Secord:
U.S. appropriated funds.

Through which agency?

Richard Secord:
I think through the CIA and through the Defense Department both.

A secret Pentagon report put the Defense Department contribution to the war in Laos at a hundred and forty-six million dollars in 1970. But the report also showed that the CIA was spending up to sixty million dollars more than they were getting from Congress.

Victor Marchetti:
Well, there may have been other funds generated by Vang Pao himself through his dope operations. After all I mean they were poppy growers and opium smugglers, so I imagine there was money being earned that way that was Vang Pao's contribution to the war.

Is it conceivable that the CIA would fight a war with dope money?

Victor Marchetti:
Well, yes, in the sense that they would not sell dope to earn money to support an operation. But they would look the other way if the people they were supporting were financing themselves by selling dope.

Harry Aderholt:
General Vang Pao was financed by U.S. government funds.

How much was he getting?

Harry Aderholt:
I don't know what General Vang Pao was getting, but the Meo program, I'm sure, ran several hundred million dollars. At the end, to fight a war like we were fighting, and to have an airline...I don't know what the funding was, but I'm sure the Congressional Committees have access to those records.

As a former chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Narcotics, Joe Nellis did indeed have access to the records.

Joe Nellis:
Vang Pao had a heavy hand in the production of heroin in that area.

How much of the money that was going to pay these thousands and thousands of tribesmen to fight for us, for the CIA. Where was that money coming from?

Joe Nellis:
From the trade.

From the opium trade?

Joe Nellis:
Yes surely.

How would that work?

Joe Nellis:
Well, money would be paid for the transportation, and the safe arrival of the merchandise to its proper destination, and that money would be paid to the carrier, the person transporting the merchandise and that money would be used to pay off the farmers. But as I told you, they got so little of it that there was an enormous amount left over, and it was that money was used to feed to the peasants in order to get them to continue not only fighting for us but also continuing to give us very important intelligence about the movement of the North Vietnamese.

Richard Secord:
We wouldn't have permitted it, it would have been too dangerous.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Richard Secord:
Because the American system wouldn't put up with it.

Joe Nellis:
I have never revealed any classified information that I obtained when I was with the committee and I'm not going to start now, but I do know that that was verified.

That it was known here?

Joe Nellis:

Well, without getting into classified information, was that at a high level or a low level?

Joe Nellis:
Well, I can't discuss the level. Let's put it this way; you're familiar with the Iran-Contra business.


Joe Nellis:
That was known at a very high level, it was known at all sorts of levels really--it's amazing that they could keep it secret as long as they did, and I guess that was the situation with Air America. People in CIA certainly knew it, and at that time Dick Helms I think was the head of the office, and I'm sure he must have reported it to Nixon.

Former CIA Director Richard Helms told us: "I knew nothing of this. It certainly was not policy."

It's patently impossible. There are thousands of people involved in the intelligence community in the United States who read the reports, who are intimately familiar with details of field activities, and no such operation could ever be kept secret from the authorities in Washington, and would never be tolerated, never, not for a minute.

How many people knew what was going on?

Joe Nellis:
Oh I don't think it was very many at all--


Joe Nellis:
--A handful--


Joe Nellis:
--A handful, maybe a hundred.

I personally did not complain, not at the time. I certainly complained after the fact, but that came as a result of my own awakening as to the rather horrible implications of what we were doing and I left working for the government rather abortively because I just could not tolerate myself-what was going on.

His disgust was not only at the drug trade, but at the human cost of a war in which the recruits were as young as eight years old.

These people were absolutely decimated. The war itself took its own toll. Thousands and thousands of these people were either maimed or killed or died of disease or malnutrition secondary to the effects of the war. Many were bombed, many were blown away by conflict and combat. What was left after the war was the exodus to the south or to the west.

These people have had their whole life destroyed for helping out in our war. For helping out in our war.

By 1981, six years after leaving Laos, the CIA was fighting another secret war, this time in Central America. The secret army were the Contras, fighting to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua. Once again, they were trained and equipped by the CIA. It was time for the old hands to go to work again.

Richard Secord:
It's an irregular war in Central American, and there aren't a lot of people who have experience in irregular warfare, paramilitary warfare, so it would be natural to see people who are experienced in this kind of operation utilized again.

It's the old boy network as somebody called it one time. The call goes out and who's got the experience? It's the same war, different place and different names. We're not speaking Laotian, we're speaking Spanish now, but it's the same darn war, I don't care what anybody says.

Eugene Hasenfus was just one of a number of veterans from Laos who answered the call in Central America. When his plane was shot down over Nicaragua in October 1986, an Air America handbook turned up in the wreckage. Hasenfus had operated out of the Illopango Airbase in El Salvador, headquarters for the White House Contra resupply network. His commander there had been a veteran of another old CIA network. Felix Rodriguez, a Cuban American, had been sent down from Miami.

The feeling that I see now in the Nicaraguan freedom fighters, I know their experience, because I was left inside once, and I wanted to help them as much as I could.

Like Rodriguez, the Miami Cubans of Brigade 2506 are still ready to support the anti-communist cause, thirty years after their failed invasion of Cuba. They were willing recruits for the CIA's war against Nicaragua. The Brigade supplied soldiers in the field, commanders and fundraisers for the Contra cause.

The Brigade had been created and trained by the CIA for the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. After their defeat the CIA continued to maintain and use this skilled force of covert operators, wherever they were needed. Their numbers grew into the thousands. They had their own navy, as well as other assets provided by the CIA, including businesses and banks.

Manuel Artime:
I was in charge...

Manuel Artime was the agency's favorite Cuban, handpicked to command both the Bay of Pigs and the covert operations that followed. In 1972, he recruited and arranged CIA training for a brilliant young accountant called Ramon Milian Rodriguez.

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
He ran covert operations out of Miami for the CIA.

So Artime had a whole group of people who were his people?

Milian Rodriguez:
Oh yes, Artime ran a very large operation, it was very large. It was very active, all over Central and South America.

Manuel Artime:
A lot of Cubans go to work with the Central Intelligence Agency in foreign operations.

Milian Rodriguez:
He was in charge of, among other things, the Watergate burglars and things like that.

Did you launder any money for the Watergate guys?

Milian Rodriguez:
I made payments for the Watergate burglars, yes. I start out in life in one scandal and I've ended it in another, it seems. After Watergate, the group that Manuel Artime was running in Miami was disbanded. The fact that the burglars were Cuban really hurt in Miami, so you had a situation where people were laid off. They were just given the assets. For instance, if you were running a print shop, you kept the print shop. If you had a boat, as there were many boats for surveillance and intelligence, you just kept the boat. That was really the starting off point where you got some well trained people into the drug business.

Many, many Cubans worked for a time in that time. Some of them have become very successful good American citizens. Others have become gangsters.

But with a secret Contra was to fight, the agency was more interested in covert skills than good citizenship, particularly when it came to raising money. Ramon Milian Rodriguez was ideally placed. With access to the limitless resources of the Medellin cocaine cartel, he had no problem raising cash.


John Kerry:
You've been a supporter living in the Cuban community, passionately anti-communist and anti-Castro. You've also been a supporter of the Contras. Is that accurate?

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
Yes sir.

John Kerry:
Are you aware whether or not narcotics proceeds at some time may or may not have supported Contra efforts?

Milian Rodriguez:
Yes sir. Narcotics proceeds were used to shore up the Contra effort.

John Kerry:
Did you personally play a role in some of the transfer of that money?

Milian Rodriguez:
Yes I did.

In 1984, when Congress cut off Contra funding, the White House turned to other sources for support. According to documents, Ramon Milian Rodriguez had been laundering foreign payments for the CIA up through 1982, at the same time as he was laundering cash for the cocaine cartel. He says the CIA turned to him again.

To have people like me in place that can be used, is marvelous for them. The agency, and quite rightly so, has things that they have to do which they can never admit to an oversight committee, all right, and the only way they can fund these things is through drug money or through illicit money that they can get their hands on in some way.


John Kerry (in hearings):
Was any of the money traceable to drugs or to drug related transactions?

Milian Rodriguez:
The money that we--you're taIking about the money that we provided?

John Kerry:
That's right.

Milian Rodriguez:
No sir.

John Kerry:
And why was that?

Milian Rodriguez:
Because we're experts at what we do.


Who is Ramon Milian Rodriguez?

Jose Blandon:
He worked for the Cartel.

So he was laundering money for the cartel?

Jose Blandon:

And he worked with Noriega?

Jose Blandon:

Until last year, Jose Blandon was General Manuel Noriega's head of political intelligence in Panama. He was a key U.S. government witness for the grand jury that indicted Noriega for drug trafficking.

General Noriega was more than ready to support the Reagan administration in the Contra war after Congress cut off funding.

How important was Noriega to the White House in the Contra resupply effort?

Jose Blandon:
He play a key role in the supply of arms to the Contras.

So when various administration officials like Oliver North met with General Noriega, did they know that he was involved in narcotics trafficking?

Jose Blandon:
I think that the United States had information that Noriega is involved in drugs since at least eight years.

Eight years?

Jose Blandon:
Yes, so they knew about that.

Were they just looking the other way on his drug trafficking?

Jose Blandon:
The problem is that for the white House, I mean for the administration, the Reagan administration, Nicaragua was so important. The focus of all the foreign policy of the United States in Central America was Nicaragua and the fight against the communists, so for them drugs was something in second place.

Drugs took second place?

Jose Blandon:

Noriega's Contra support earned him powerful friends in Washington, including the CIA Director William Casey. Noriega was on his payroll at a reported two hundred thousand dollars a year.

Jose Blandon:
That was a very special relationship.

What kind of special relationship?

Jose Blandon:
Well, Noriega talked with Casey and they had at least, that I know, more than three meetings. And he always received the support of Casey.

What kind of support from Casey?

Jose Blandon:
All kinds of support. Political support. So when somebody tried to investigate anything, Casey stopped it, look this is a very important person in this war

So Casey would actually stop investigations of Noriega?

Jose Blandon:
Yes, he was a man that helped Noriega very much.

According to Blandon, Noriega was not the only drug trafficker to reap the rewards of Contra support. The cocaine cartel also saw the advantages of backing U.S. policy.

Jose Blandon:
That's the reason why the Cartel of Medellin decided in 1983 to cooperate with the Contras.

So you're saying that in 1983 the Cartel started supporting the Contras?

Jose Blandon:

And the reason was because they knew that they could therefore get protection?

Jose Blandon:

How did they help them out? Was it arms, plus cash, or was it jut arms? How did that work?

Jose Blandon:
They work in different ways. First, they established the network to supply arms, and also they pay in cash.


General Paul Gorman:
If one wants to organize an armed resistance or an armed undertaking for any purpose; the easy place to get the money, the easy places to get the guns are in the drug world.

General Paul Gorman was the commander of the U.S. southern command, based in Panama, from 1982 to 1985.

The most ready source of money, big money, easy money, fast money, sure money, cash money is the narcotics racket.

General Gorman was asked whether the Contras could have relied on drug cash.


John Kerry:
Based on your knowledge of how it works and what you understood from your experience down there, it wouldn't surprise you?

Paul Gorman:
Not at all, particularly if they'd been on somebody's payroll and had their funds cut off. It would be the natural recourse of those people.

How much money was actually contributed by you or through you for the Contras, total?

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
It was a little under ten million dollars.

I presume it wasn't all sent in one suitcase.

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
Oh no no. It was delivered on a per need basis. You know, they'd say we need so much at such a location and we'd take care of the logistics of it.

Milian Rodriguez says he used a series of Cuban controlled front companies in Miami and Costa Rica to funnel the ten million dollars to the Contra cause. These fronts ranged from banks to obscure fish companies located in out of the way Miami shopping centers or in provincial port towns in Costa Rica. The route for the drug cash was carefully disguised.


John Kerry:
Are you familiar with the name of a company called Frigirificos de Puntarenas.

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
Yes sir, I am.

John Kerry:
What is that company?

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
Well it's a shrimp processing warehouse, but more importantly, was one of the fronts that we used.

John Kerry:
Did you set it up? What role did you play in it?

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
I was the key person in setting up the interlocking chain of companies around Frigorificos de Puntarenas.

John Kerry:
Were payments or arrangements made by which the Contras could receive money through Frigorificos?

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
Yes sir.

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
If you add up what it cost to run the Contra operation and you get to a bottom line figure, and you deduct from that the known sources, you're going to have a tremendous deficit and I think the question has to be where...you know, how was the deficit taken care of?

There was a deficit?

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:

they realized that.

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
And we took care of it.


Congressman Les Aspin:
I've been spending some time looking at the numbers here of the amount of aid that the Contras were getting at various time and I come to the conclusion that we're missing something, that there's got to be another source of funding for the Contras other than those which this committee has so far identified.

Last summer, the Iran Contra committees were aware that there had been an unacknowledged source of money from somewhere.

Congressman Aspin:
I think there's got to be some other source of funds that we, we meaning this committee has not yet uncovered.

Admiral Poindexter:
Well I don't think I can help you there, I don't know of anything else.

The war cost so much every day.

Richard Secord:

They were getting a certain amount, thanks to you, through Switzerland.

Richard Secord:
Any many others, yes.

And many others. But the war cost more than that.

Richard Secord:

Do you have any idea how much more it cost?

Richard Secord:
Well I think, uh--Director Casey asked me that, a similar question in the spring of '86 I think it was an I told him that I thought that the Contra effort would need a minimum of ten million dollars over the next three months over and above the monies that we could apply in order to hang in there through the summer months til the Congress would act. There was some expectation in the White House I guess, and in State, that the Congress would act much sooner than they acted. Things were going downhill rapidly.


Senator D'Amato:
Did the people who received this money, were they aware of the fact that this was drug money, the proceeds came from drug money?

Ramon Milian Rodriguez
I--let's put it like this, Senator D'Amato, the Contra peasant in the field did not but the men who made the contact with me did. At that time I was under indictment, I mean I was red hot.

His arrest was well publicized. The five million dollars seized with him brought Vice President Bush to Miami to pose with what the money launderer termed his petty cash.

Did Ramon Milian Rodriguez have any friends who were working in the Contra resupply network?

Jose Blandon:

Who would that have been?

Jose Blandon:
Felix Rodriguez.

Felix Rodriguez?

Jose Blandon:

A veteran of the Artime organization and the CIA, Felix Rodriguez was a key member of the White House resupply network. The Senate was told by the money launderer that it was Felix Rodriguez who solicited the drug cash.

You have a fellow that's a tremendous patriot, like Felix Rodriguez, who has sacrificed his personal needs for the cause of fighting communism and all of a sudden he finds himself in a position where his troops are going to run out of money. They won't have money for bullets, for food, for medicine. I think in the case of Felix it might have been something done out of desperation, they had to get money and they were willing to get it from any source to continue their war.

Richard Secord:
When they go on the offense they burn up a lot of ammunition, weapons, they need a lot of air resupply, radios, uniforms, boots, food, and all this stuff. You know, the cost just goes up.

Well there were allegations that Felix Rodriguez was desperately trying to make up that deficit.

Richard Secord:
If he was it certainly didn't come to our attention.

So you have no knowledge of it?

Richard Secord:
No, not at all.

Well the allegations are that he tried to make up the deficit by soliciting money from drug traffickers.

Richard Secord:
Well I thought you were circling back to that but certainly we didn't hear anything like that at the time. As I said Felix is no friend of mine but I'd be astonished if he were involved with drug traffickers, I really would.

When General Noriega told you that Felix Rodriguez was friendly with Ramon Milian Rodriguez, were you surprised to hear that Felix Rodriguez would be involved with a drug traffickers?

Jose Blandon:
Surprised? Why?

According to Blandon, while Felix Rodriguez was supplying the Contras from Illopango, he was receiving arms shipments with the help of this man: Mike Harare, a former Israeli intelligence agent and a key aide to General Noriega. Harare, says Blandon, was also in business for the cocaine cartel, using the same network to ship arms and drugs, all with the sanction of the CIA.

Did he get involved with narcotics trafficking in the course of helping to supply the Contras with weapons?

Jose Blandon:
Yes, that was part of the business.

So he was moving cocaine --

Jose Blandon:

--From Colombia to the United States?

Jose Blandon:
No. They moved the cocaine from Colombia to Panama, to the airstrips in Costa Rica or Honduras to the United States.

At the same time as he was gathering up arms for the Contras?

Jose Blandon:

Where were the arms coming from?

Jose Blandon:
From Yugoslavia, and from the East bloc, the communist countries

From 1983 to 1985, says Blandon, this network, supported by Israeli and U.S. intelligence was a major source of arms for the Contras.

Harare, the Israeli, who was working with Noriega, was working with Felix Rodriguez?

Jose Blandon:

And Harare at the same time was involved with drug trafficking?

Jose Blandon:

Who was Felix Rodriguez working for, or with, when he approached you?

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
Well the only government mention he made was Vice President Bush.

And what was his relationship with Bush as you understood it?

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
He was reporting directly to Bush. I was led to believe he was reporting regularly to the Vice President.

Richard Secord:
He was in touch with the VP's office on a number of occasions. I really don't know, I've never understood that relationship.

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
The request for the contribution made a lot more sense because Felix was reporting to George Bush. If Felix had come to me and said I'm reporting to anyone else, let's say, you know, Oliver North, I might have been more skeptical, I didn't know who Oliver North was and I didn't know his background. But you know, if you have a...let's say we'll call him an ex-CIA operative, even though it's not true you know, he's a current operative...

Who is?

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
Felix. You know, everyone says he's ex-CIA--

This is Felix Rodriguez--

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
--Yeah, there's nothing ex about him. But if you have a CIA, what you consider to be a CIA man coming to you saying 'I want to fight this war, we're out of funds, can you help us out. I'm reporting directly to Bush on it', I mean it's very real, very believable, here you have a CIA guy reporting to his old boss.

This February 1985 memo from General Paul Gorman confirms that Bush and the Cuban had known each other for years, and that Rodriguez' primary responsibility was Nicaragua and the Contra FDN forces.

Rodriguez quote "is operating as a private citizen, but his acquaintanceship with the Vice President is real enough, going back to the latter's days as Director of Central Intelligence. Rodriguez' primary commitment to the region is in Nicaragua, where he wants to assist the FDN."


Iran Contra investigator:
Did you say anything to Vice President Bush about your activities on behalf of this resupply operation?

Felix Rodriguez:
No sir, not to him or anyone on his staff.

But when Hasenfus was shot down, the first call that Rodriguez made from Central America was to a staffer of Vice President Bush. Questions about that call forced the Bush office to put out a summary, listing seventeen meetings with Rodriguez, including three with Bush himself. Nevertheless the Vice President has insisted that these contacts with Rodriguez concerned only El Salvador, not the Contras.

Ramon Milian Rodriguez:
He wasn't selling drugs. We were, you know, he was just raising money, tainted money granted, but for a very good cause.

Felix Rodriguez claims he met with the cartel's money launderer only once, and never solicited cash.


John Kerry:
We permitted narcotics we were complicitous as a country in narcotics traffic at the same time as we're spending countless dollars in this country to try to get rid of this problem. It's mind boggling.

Is the war on drugs a big priority in this country, really?

Joe Nellis:
Oh no, no, it's largely a joke. There is no war on drugs. No president who's ever announced one has ever fought one, and no President who's ever announced one has ever given the soldiers the ammunition with which to fight one.

Senator D'Amato:
The intelligence agencies of this country by God should be involved in this battle instead of working with the scum of the earth, which they've been doing. They should be involved in this battle as a crusade for the survival of this country and this hemisphere.

John Kerry:
I don't know if we've got the worst intelligence system in the world, I don't know if we've got the best and they knew it all and just overlooked it. But no matter how you look at it, something's wrong. Something is really wrong out there.

Now, you can deny U.S. government involvement in drugs all you wanted, but the patterns are there and the players are there popping up again and, you know, eventually somebody's going to realize what the truth is.

This summer, both Ramon Milian Rodriguez and Felix Rodriguez are expected to testify publicly in front of Senator Kerry's committee about the drug cartel's alleged 10 million dollar contribution to the Contras.

Vice President Bush declined to be interviewed for this program or to reply to FRONTLINE's written questions about his relationship with Felix Rodriguez.

Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff. Good night.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
Quote 0 0

June 9, 2005

The Charmed Life of a Mass Murderer

Posada Carriles and Bush's Anti-Terror Hoax


President George W. Bush has emphasized that if one of the myriad of U.S. police agencies even suspect someone of planning, abetting or carrying out a terrorist act, he will, at a minimum, get tossed into a dark hole. Indeed, Bush has thrown the Magna Carta into the garbage heap when it comes to Muslims suspected of pernicious thoughts toward the United States.

But if suspected terrorists turn their rage toward the detested Fidel Castro, these rules don't apply.

Indeed, those who try to bomb Cuban targets, or those related to Cuba, receive special treatment. This double-standard casts a shadow over the president's commitment to fight terrorism.

For example, TV footage showed Homeland Security cops arresting Posada in mid May. But the arresting officers didn't even handcuff the Western Hemisphere's most notorious terrorist. (Remember how Bush's pal Ken "Kenny Boy" Lay ­ ENRON's CEO ­ got handcuffed?) Justice Department spokespeople said they plan to charge the foremost terrorist in the western hemisphere with "illegal entry into the United States."

The FBI has reams of files on Posada, affectionately called "Bambi" by his terrorist friends. Former FBI Special Agent Carter Cornick told New York Times reporter Tim Weiner that Posada was "up to his eyeballs" in the October 1976 destruction of a Cuban commercial airliner over Barbados. All 73 passengers and crew members died. Recently published FBI and CIA documents not only confirm Cornick's statement, but also reveal that U.S. agencies had knowledge of the plot and did not inform Cuban authorities or try to stop the bombing.

Posada denied involvement at the time, but police nabbed two of the plotters who had disembarked in Barbados. They fingered Posada as the man who hired them to place the bomb on the plane. His name became ubiquitous in the files of agencies that monitored terrorists. Nevertheless, several weeks after Posada announced his presence on U.S. soil, Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, still claimed he had no information that Posada had even entered the country.

Posada himself promoted his high international profile. So that the world knew of his exploits, he boasted to New York Times reporters Anne Bardach and Larry Rohter in 1998 that he had organized a sabotage campaign of Cuban tourist spots. In 1997, one of Posada's agents in Cuba detonated a bomb at a Cuban hotel that killed an Italian tourist. Posada replied that "it was a freak accident, but I sleep like a baby." A hardened terrorist can't afford to be sentimental!

In 1999, Panamanian police discovered that the 71-year-old Posada, between visits to his proctologist, conspired with three other anti-Castro geezers to assassinate Cuba's leader in Panama. Castro was to give a public speech there.

This quartet of seniors, Guillermo Novo, Pedro Remon, Gaspar Jimenez and
Posada, planned to blow up the platform from which Castro would speak. After Panamanian police arrested them, they denied any involvement. "What proof do they have?" sneered Posada et. al. ­ a mere set of their fingerprints on the explosives found in their rented car.

This March, Posada entered the U.S. surreptitiously. He left Panama less than a year after out-going Panamanian President Mireyea Moscoso pardoned him and his accomplices.

Moscoso also apparently contravened Panamanian law by issuing the pardons before the appeals process had ended. The Panamanian press mused about the "coincidence" between the issuing of pardons and the simultaneous $4 million deposited in her Swiss bank account.

After pardoning the geezers, Moscoso phoned U.S. Ambassador Simon Ferro, saying she had complied with Washington's request to release the men.

On May 20, 2004, the four caught a waiting airplane that took them to Honduras. There, Posada, the veritable padrino of Latin American terrorism, disembarked while the other three continued to Miami so their arrival could coincide with President Bush's campaign stop. They entered the United States without problems, despite their terrorist rap sheets.

Did Homeland Security personnel read Bush's November 26, 2001 declaration? "If anybody harbors a terrorist, they're a terrorist." Did Bush send a note to anti-terrorist agencies explaining that they should make exceptions for "zealous patriots" who wanted to assassinate Castro ­ and anyone else who happened to be near him when the bomb went off?

Indeed, all four pardoned Castro-haters had for decades tried to assassinate and commit sabotage against Cuban and other officials and properties in New York, Mexico and the Caribbean.

A Washington D.C. jury had convicted Guillermo Novo first of conspiring to assassinate former Chilean Chancellor Orlando Letelier. When an appeals court reversed that conviction on procedural grounds, a second jury in 1982 found Novo guilty of perjury for lying to a grand jury about his knowledge of the assassination plot. In September 1976, five Cubans working with Chilean secret police agents on orders from Generalissimo Augusto Pinochet had car-bombed Letelier on Washington's Embassy Row.

Ronni Moffitt, Letelier's young colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, also died in the bombing. The FBI also knew that Posada had knowledge of the plot to kill Letelier.

Born Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles in Cienfuegos, Cuba in 1928, this Cuban expatriate served on dictator Fulgencio Batista's repressive forces until the January 1959 revolutionary takeover. Posada then swore vengeance.

The CIA recruited him for its 1961 invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. But the Agency placed Posada in an anti-Castro version of the Waffen SS, a squad that would "mop up" after the invaders had prevailed. Following the April fiasco, the CIA sent Posada for "training" at Fort Benning, Georgia, to learn about spying, using explosives and other lethal devices. In 1971, working out of Venezuela, he partnered with Antonio Veciana, founder of Alpha 66, another anti-Castro terrorist group, to plan an elaborate plot to assassinate Castro.

In a 1996 interview, Veciana told me how he and Posada had recruited two Venezuelan hit men, disguised them as a TV news crew and sent them to Santiago, Chile, before Castro arrived on a visit. Meanwhile, the assassins "blended in" with the press corps. CIA technicians had outfitted their news camera with a gun. Fortunately for Fidel, the assassins chickened out. Posada, enraged over such cowardice, recruited other assassins to use the same lethal camera on Castro when he stopped in Caracas for a press conference on his return to Cuba. Those whackers also had second thoughts and the plot failed again.

Perhaps Posada's frustration over the failed 1971 hits abated after the "success" of his 1976 Barbados air sabotage. After Venezuelan authorities charged him with responsibility for the airline bombing, they tossed him into prison while appeal after appeal took place ­ until August 1985. Then, someone who knew and admired Posada ­ perhaps Jorge Mas Canosa, leader of the Cuban American Nation Foundation in Miami, who is listed with a $50 note next to his name in Lt. Col. Oliver North's notebooks, published by the Iran-Contra Congressional subcommittees --­ bribed prison authorities to help Posada "escape."

Following his "escape," North then engaged this fugitive to re-supply the CIA-backed Contras from El Salvador. When the United States stopped funding the Contra War, with the 1990 electoral defeat of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, Posada returned to the bombing business. This time, he selected bombing hotels in Cuba, a strategic target that would impair Castro's foreign exchange source by making the island a dangerous spot for European tourists. Posada told Times reporters Bardach and Rohter that the money came from wealthy Cubans in Miami.

Given Posada's own boasting and from the available evidence in published documents, the Justice Department had to either try him for terrorist acts or deport him to Venezuela, which has requested his extradition. He plotted the 1976 airliner bombing from Caracas and escaped from prison there. He also apparently committed murder and torture there as well. Despite this overwhelming documentation, however, the Justice Department rejected Venezuela's May 2005 extradition request to try Posada for this crime on the grounds that the request lacked sufficient detail.

One wonders: Did Posada announce his illegal presence in the United States with the idea that U.S. government complicity in aiding and abetting his past acts of terrorism would protect him? U.S. authorities didn't inform Cuba or try to stop the 1976 air-bombing plot, and in 1971, as Veciana stated, the CIA made the gun that Posada's agents placed inside the camera to assassinate Castro. And Ollie North has knowledge of Posada's covert activities for U.S. intelligence as well.

Given Washington's decade long history of terrorism aimed at Cuba, Bush might ask his staff to re-word the doctrinaire anti-terrorist statements they write for his press conferences.

After the foul 9/11 deeds, a few wise counselors had recommended that Bush leave the anti-terrorist campaign to police and judicial agencies. But Bush insisted on war. By employing the military to this task and in the process justifying the erosion of human rights as necessary to fighting terrorism, the world has come to think of the U.S. government as hypocritical ­ at best.

Posada, an old U.S. terrorist chicken, has come home to roost in Bush's nest. He has also exposed Bush's anti-terrorist policies as a hoax.

Saul Landau teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He wrote Assassination on Embassy Row, an account of the Letelier-Moffitt murders, (with John Dinges). A version of this article appeared in Foreign Policy In Focus.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Homeland security allows terrorist drug dealer Posada to stay in the U.S.

June 17, 2005

Argentina Strikes Down Impunity for Government Sponsored Terrorists; Will the US Do the Same?

Who Helped Posada Enter the U.S.?


Very important news came from Buenos Aires earlier this week: The Supreme Court of Argentina has declared un-Constitutional certain laws granting impunity to those involved in crimes --30 000 desaparecidos-- during the last military regime. This dramatic ruling opens the possibility for justice to be done in hundreds or thousands of cases still unresolved.

It comes ten days after an International Conference Against Terrorism for Justice and Truth was held in Havana with 681 participants from 67 countries that asked, among others things, for such steps to be taken. The Argentina decision hopefully may contribute to a process that should not be limited to that country. At the Havana Conference the international connections of Operation Condor were document, as was the role of such groups as CORU and the CIA in government sponsored terrorism and massive violations of human rights.

Ironically a number of the most notorious individuals involved in those criminal actions are now freely walking the streets of Miami, such as Orlando Bosch--regardless of now declassified official papers showing his connection with the assassination in Washington DC of Letelier and Ronnie Moffit.

On the other hand, Luis Posada Carriles is waiting for admission to join the club of welcomed terrorists. He has been in the US since March, a fugitive from Venezuelan justice for twenty years, his trial for masterminding the midair destruction of a civilian airplane and the killing of 73 innocents still pending. Instead of extraditing him to Venezuela, as required according to a number of antiterrorists Conventions, the Bush administration is handling his case as a matter of possible violations of immigration laws.

Adding insult to injury, it is assumed that Posada just entered the US by land from Mexico, just as thousands of poor Latinos attempt ever day,-alone and without any help. Does anybody really believe that? Or is this rather an effort to cover up a case of human smuggling-- in this case of a notorious, self proclaimed terrorist--into US territory?

At the recent El Paso hearing, Posada was accompanied by, among others, Santiago Alvarez, a pretty well known anti-Cuba fanatic himself. Mr. Alvarez has been supporting Posada, quite openly, at least since Mr. Posada was arrested in Panama in 2000. Alvarez sent a plane to pick up Posada, when he was pardoned by the Panamanian President. It was Mr. Alvarez who announced, in March 2005, that Posada was in Miami. Since that moment Alvarez has been acting as his spokesman and he was the one that organized and chaired the press conference with Posada last May.

Since April, Cuba has been denouncing the fact that Posada entered US territory by sea from Islas Mujeres, Mexico, on board of the Santrina a boat owned by Mr. Alvarez. We base our accusation on what was published in a series of investigative reports by a local Mexican newspaper indicating that the Santrina entered that Mexican resort island by mid march to take Posada to Miami. The newspaper has quoted several witnesses and official records of what happened there just a few days before Mr. Alvarez announced that Posada was in Miami.

The Department of Homeland Security should be invited to answer some questions. How did Posada enter the US territory? Who helped him? What do they intend to do, if anything, to investigate such serious violation of the laws?

I believe that impunity must also be fought in the United States.

Ricardo Alarcon Quesada is Cuba's Vice President and President of its National Assembly.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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IMAGE: S.S. Santrinahttp://www.narconews.com/Issue38/article1354.html

June 22, 2005 | Issue #38

How Authentic Journalists Caught an International Terrorist in Mexico


The Daily Por Esto! Found Posada Carriles on Isla Mujeres but George W. Bush Is Trying to Set Him Free in Miami


By Al Giordano
Special to The Narco News Bulletin


June 21, 2005

“He who protects a terrorist is a terrorist”        

-George W. Bush


Mérida, Yucatán, June 2005: On Mexico’s Caribbean island of Isla Mujeres, on March 14, Authentic Journalist Yolanda Gutiérrez Sagrero and photojournalist Mario Alonzo pulled the first threads on a curtain that now disintegrates in tatters. Sunlight now shines upon the darkest recesses and hypocrisies of George W. Bush’s so-called “War on Terrorism,” and thus, Bush’s terror war is in doubt as never before.


Gutiérrez, Alonzo, and their colleagues at Mexico’s daily Por Esto! tugged on the threads and found América’s most-wanted fugitive behind that curtain: Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban-born, Miami-fed, CIA-paid, confessed architect of the 1976 terrorist passenger jet bombing that killed 73 civilians, including the teenage members of Cuba’s Olympic fencing team.


Known as “the Latin American Osama bin Laden,” Posada Carriles, 77, has publicly confessed, as well, to bombings of civilian targets in tourist hotels, and additional terrorist acts. His trail of violence under a cloak of official protection goes back decades. A recent book even places him at Dealey Plaza, in Dallas, in 1963, at the hour when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated there. Whether or not he also helped kill JFK, Posada Carriles, with 40 years of collaboration with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is not somebody that the U.S. government wants talking too much, or too honestly, or too loudly about what he’s seen and done, and with whom, and on whose authority (dad’s, Mr. President?) to the press. Read it and weep, citizens of the United States: A terrorist named Luis Posada Carriles is blackmailing your president, George W. Bush, today in order to win “political asylum.” And, so far, the cowardly Bush doesn’t have the courage to stop him.


Ever since his pardon and release from Panamanian prison in the final hours of the presidency of Mireya Moscoso in August of last year, this terrorist successfully eluded an international manhunt. He is wanted by the government of Venezuela (the country where he is a naturalized Cuban-born citizen) to face trial for the 1976 passenger jet bombing. He was free as an ocean pirate until the boat that took him to the United States washed up against the sandbars of Isla Mujeres, which, unfortunately for Posada Carriles (but fortunately for everyone else) is an isle where the flag of the Authentic Journalism renaissance waves higher than his own Jolly Roger.


The latest chapter in this saga of an international terrorist and those who protect him began with the March 14th report of what seemed to be a routine story about a shrimp boat adrift off of Isla Mujeres – poetically, it is also the island campus of the first Narco News School of Authentic Journalism – by Isla bureau chief Yolanda Gutiérrez…

A Terrorist Trawler Adrift

Another day on the job, another seemingly routine story to be reported: Early on the morning of March 14, journalist Yolanda Gutiérrez learned that a 90-foot shrimp boat was stranded near a sand bar off the shores of the island. She leaped into action. After all, the journalist Gutiérrez has steadfastly defended the nearby endangered coral reefs from environmental destruction, and the locals were worried that this boat adrift might do them more harm.


Isla Mujeres fishermen save the S.S. Santrina run ashore on a sandbar on March 14, 2005
Photo: D.R. 2005 Mario Alonzo, Por Esto!
Her report, a local news story that would soon blow into an international scandal, in the March 15th issue of Por Esto!, began:

“ISLA MUJERES, March 14: A shrimp boat from the United States with five crew members aboard was stranded for various hours while it attempted to enter the navigation canal and drifted to close to shore, although sources of the Port Captain’s office said that it did not affect any coral reef zones.        

“The boat named ‘Santrina,’ approximately 90 feet long and five or six meters wide, with license number 604553 went adrift at about 7:45 a.m. when it attempted to arrive in the Isla Mujeres port from the North.


“The crew and its captain, José Pujol, had left from the Bahamas and came to the island to stock up on food, water and fuel, in order to continue its route, which is unknown because the captain refused to speak with reporters…”


Cuban-American crew members of the S.S. Santrina, United States license #604553, and sporting the American flag, try to pull their boat to safety.
Photo: D.R. 2005 Mario Alonzo, Por Esto!
According to the report, the S.S. Santrina had “tried to make a shortcut around the buoys” that set the path that most boaters obey when navigating shallow ports. This kind of running of red lights of the sea is particularly bad form if, say, you are harboring a fugitive, or, worse, a wanted international terrorist: the crew’s own sloppiness (“to live outside the law you must be honest,” chicos!) and disregard for the maritime traffic signs has now led to an intercontinental uproar that strikes at the cornerstone of Washington’s fake war on terrorism.


There’s more to Yolanda’s report:

“Personnel from the Port Captain’s office coordinated the rescue efforts with the help of the S.S. 3 de Diciembre, a boat belonging to Javier Ayala Rejon, and two speedboats belonging to the tourist boat co-op of Isla Mujeres…        

“The S.S. Santrina finally escaped from the sand bank at 12:30 p.m., near the concrete docks, where the crew immediately presented itself to the Mexican Marines who conducted a routine inspection with drug-sniffing canines…


“…the officials of the National Marine Park conducted an inspection of the area where the boat had been adrift to confirm that there had been no damage to the marine ecosystem… International Sanitary inspectors, immigration, and customs agents also inspected the boat…”


And there it stood: solid daily journalism on what seemed to be a small story but one important to the island’s residents who care deeply about the preservation of the local coral reefs.


Five Men Arrived, and Six Launched Out: According to local fishermen and witnesses, the S.S. Santrina left for Miami with an extra passenger on board.
Photo: D.R. 2005 Mario Alonzo, Por Esto!
In the following day’s newspaper, March 16, Gutiérrez filed a follow-up story: “The S.S. Santrina Continues Its Voyage Toward Miami.”


Authentic Photojournalist Mario Alonzo snapped pictures of the skipper and crew, and his latest models were none too happy about it, refusing to talk to the press.


Little did anybody know – until those photos received scrutiny across the Caribbean – that the remodeled shrimp boat was carrying a monster onto U.S. shores.

Two Weeks Later, a Terrorist Appears in Miami

On March 29, Channel 41 TV of Miami (a controversial Spanish-language station that, in 2004, conducted interviews with armed paramilitaries who said they were plotting violent overthrows of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments), a broadcaster that counts with the nephew of former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista as one of its program hosts, announced that Posada Carriles was in South Florida and would seek political asylum in the United States.


Luis Posada Carriles
Photo: D.R. 2005 Por Esto!
Oligarch’s Daily, er, the Miami Herald reported the basics of Luis Posada Carriles’ criminal record (see Luis Gómez’s more detailed chronology, “The Bloody Face of Bambi,” at this link):

“If Posada is indeed in Miami, his visit mirrors his shadowy career as a CIA-trained spy, an explosives expert, escape artist, security advisor to presidents across the Caribbean and—some say—terrorist…        

Born in 1928 in the south-central port of Cienfuegos, Posada quickly soured on Castro’s revolution and joined Brigade 2506 before its disastrous landing at the Bay of Pigs.


“His ship never hit shore, and he went on to be a CIA operative in Miami, specially trained in the science of explosives.


“But by 1967 he was working with the Venezuelan police, tracking down pro-Castro guerrillas. And until 1976, when he and Miami pediatrician Orlando Bosch were arrested in Caracas for the midair bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, he had been just another anti-Castro militant.


“Venezuela’s cumbersome legal system never convicted either man for the airplane bombing. Bosch eventually won his freedom, but Posada escaped from prison, while awaiting a prosecutor’s appeal, in August 1985.


“One year later he turned up in El Salvador, secretly working for U.S. National Security Council member Lt. Col. Oliver North and managing part of the supply operations for contra guerrillas fighting the Marxist-led Sandinista government in Nicaragua….


“In 1997, a dozen or so bombs went off in tourist spots around Havana for the first time in decades, killing one tourist and wounding half a dozen others. A young Salvadoran, Raul Ernesto Cruz Leon, was arrested in Havana.


“Herald reports linked Posada to the bombings and said Cuban exiles in South Florida had provided $15,000 in funding. The next year, the New York Times quoted Posada as saying he was responsible for the bombings and that leaders of the Cuban American National Foundation had ‘’supported’’ his efforts to topple Castro. Posada later said he lied to the newspaper, and denied a role in the bombings.


“Posada then melted back into shadows until November 2000, when he and Miami exiles Pedro Remón, Gaspar Jiménez and Guillermo Novo were arrested in Panama for allegedly plotting to assassinate Castro during a summit there.


“They were convicted only on charges of endangering public safety and sentenced to up to eight years, but Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso pardoned them in late 2004. The three Miami men came home, but Posada went into hiding…”


Soon after the report that the terrorist had come ashore in Florida, Miami attorney Eduardo Soto, representing Posada Carriles, announced that his client was “asking for political asylum” in the United States. He claimed, curiously, that Posada Carriles had entered the U.S. over land from Mexico to Texas, “like thousands of people do each day.”


S.S. Santrina captain José Hilario Pujol with the boat’s reputed owner, Santiago Álvarez, being questioned in the office of the Port Captain of Isla Mujeres.
Photo: D.R. 2005 Mario Alonzo, Por Esto!
Meanwhile, across the Caribbean, between Miami and Isla Mujeres, on the Island of Cuba, somebody was reading – and looking at the photographs that accompanied – Por Esto!’s March 15 and 16 reports about the shrimp boat that went adrift and then headed for Miami.


There, in the photos, on the S.S. Santrina, were Santiago Álvarez Fernández-Magriña, owner of the S.S. Santrina, and ship captain José Pujol, a.k.a. ‘Pepín’… considered to be terrorist accomplices of Posada Carriles by Cuban Intelligence.

Por Esto! in Hand, Fidel Takes to the Airwaves

“What is the United States doing giving asylum to someone who exploded a civilian airliner?” boomed Comandante Fidel Castro, waving a copy of the March 16 issue of Por Esto! in the air.


“Look!” he lectured the international journalists present: “Look at what a newspaper can do! This is Authentic Journalism!”


“This is Authentic Journalism!” On April 15, Fidel Castro informs the international press that photographs and reports in the Mexican daily Por Esto! reveal the maritime path of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles toward the United States.
Photo: D.R. 2005 Por Esto!
Por Esto! correspondent Jorge Gómez Barato, in Havana, watched, listened, and took notes, as Castro’s press conference was aired on live television. Castro congratulated the Yucatán daily “for service to humanity through the reporting of useful information in the war against terrorism.” Citing the “exhaustive and valuable work” of the newspaper, Fidel turned his attention to the “suspicious crew” found in the photos of the S.S. Santrina and lashed out at the Mexican government for having “protected international terrorists.”


The Associated Press later quoted Mexican immigration officials, who were among the authorities that revised the papers of the crew of the S.S. Santrina back on March 14, as claiming that “all of them were U.S. citizens” and that “the five crew members identified themselves as employees of the Caribbean Dive and Research Foundation, an organization dedicated to oceanic investigation with its headquarters in Miami. The boat was also reported as property of this company.” Mexican immigration confirmed that the boat, when it left Isla Mujeres, did indeed head toward Miami.


By April 18, the daily Por Esto! had learned more details:

  • Captain Jose Hilario Pujol’s United States Passport #301981339 lists his date and place of birth as October 21, 1929 in Cuba: Smuggling an illegal alien such as Posada Carriles into the U.S. could result in revocation of his citizenship.
    Photo: D.R. 2005 Por Esto!
    That the S.S. Santrina, en route from the Bahamas to Miami, had to veer off course in order to go to Isla Mujeres: an island that would not normally be along that route;

  • That the boat’s owner, Santiago Alvarez Fernández Magriña was the same person who, last August 26, sent two executive airplanes to the Panama City airport to retrieve Posada Carriles and his accomplices after their pardon for an assassination attempt during the 2000 presidential summit in that country;

  • That, last August, the U.S. citizens in that assassination plot were brought in one plane to Florida, while the other plane brought Posada Carriles to the San Pedro Sula Airport in Honduras, where he was received by alleged anti-Cuban terrorist Rafael Hernández Nodarse;

  • That, to enter Honduras, Posadas Carriles used a United States passport with the name of Melvin C. Thompson;

  • That Posada Carriles remained various months in Honduras, also traveling in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Belize, from where he entered Mexico through the border city of Chetumal, south of Cancún;

  • That the identity of another “crew member” that Por Esto! had photographed on the S.S. Santrina was that of Miguel Alvarez, another accused terrorist sought by the Cuban government.

At his next press conference, Cuban leader Fidel Castro noted, again, the work of Por Esto!, “a newspaper that has shined a lot of light, has continued investigating, and has revealed very interesting details.”


By the morning of April 20, at his six a.m. press conference, Castro began reading the Por Esto! reports aloud on national television. Complaining about “the total silence” by the governments of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala regarding Posada Carriles’ stays in those countries, Castro said: “What we do have are new reports about what happened in Isla Mujeres. Por Esto! has kept on investigating and reports new facts….”

Fidel Goes to J-School

Por Esto! publisher Mario Menéndez (standing in the center) converses with students and professors of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, Mérida, Yucatán, 2003. Standing with him are his wife, Por Esto!’s director of international relations Alicia Figueroa, and Al Giordano. Seated left to right: Andrea Daugirdas Hawes, Ugo Vallauri and Sunny Angulo.
Photo: D.R. 2003 Jeremy Bigwood
Meanwhile, the rabidly anti-Castro TV station in Miami, Channel 41, called Por Esto! publisher Mario Menéndez Rodríguez and interviewed him. The telephone interview was broadcast live. The interviewers were uninterested in the facts of the Posada Carriles case. All they wanted to know from don Mario was: “Is it true that you are a friend of Fidel Castro’s?” Menéndez explained that, in 1963, he had published the first interview by a foreign reporter with Cuba’s president after the revolution of December 31, 1958, and that Cuba had given him exile for eight years (after the Mexican government blew up his newspaper offices with a bomb, took away his passport, and expelled him from his own country). For the gusanos of Miami, the facts about an international terrorist, or the innocents he had murdered, held no import. All they wanted to know was whether don Mario was a friend of Fidel’s. Menéndez, after almost an hour on the air, told them they were supporting a terrorist, betraying their own people, that they should be ashamed of themselves, and hung up abruptly.


Watching that televised phone interview, in Havana, was Fidel Castro, who the next morning again convened the press. He said:

“The fact that the editor of Por Esto! has lived here (in Cuba) is not a problem, because nobody can say that (the Posada Carriles news story) is an invention of Castro or anyone else. The monster, Posada Carriles, is there, among them. He is one of them. He was brought from Isla Mujeres to Miami and this has become a nightmare for Washington. The whole world knows that the man is there! They don’t know what to do with him, but they have the monster with them. Meanwhile, Por Esto! continues doing its own thing: It continues investigating.”

Photo: D.R. 2003 Jeremy Bigwood
Speaking about the journalist Menéndez’s long trajectory (known to Narco News readers as this newspaper’s victorious co-defendant in the landmark Internet press freedom case in the New York Supreme Court in 2001), Fidel joked: “(Menéndez) was very radical in his youth. I had to moderate him. But he has behaved since then.”


In a reference to Menéndez’s role as a professor of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, Castro added: “Now he even teaches Authentic Journalism to North American journalists!”

Terrorist Spottings: Civil Society Steps Forward

Meanwhile, fishermen and citizens of Isla Mujeres (where Por Esto! is the dominant daily newspaper) began to step forward as to what they had witnessed: “Five Men Arrived and Six Launched Out” was the headline in the newspaper’s April 24 edition. “Six persons could be seen on the boat” as the S.S. Santrina left Isla Mujeres on March 15, reported Yolanda Gutiérrez, based on interviews with eyewitnesses “who for obvious reasons asked not to be named.”


“One of the crew members noticed that (the people on) a small boat that was entering the Macax lagoon were observing them and, immediately, one of the people who could be seen on the S.S. Santrina ran to take cover inside the boat, although at the moment nobody suspected what was really happening,” reported Gutiérrez. (True to the week’s script, Fidel Castro read her article on national TV the next morning.)


In a May 17 “exclusive interview” with the Miami Herald, Posada Carriles repeated his attorney’s claim that he had entered the United States, over land, from Mexico to Texas, and spun an elaborate account of his supposed Greyhound bus trip to Florida from there.


And yet, contradicting the veracity of his own claims, Posada also told the Herald:

“Posada said that sometime earlier this year, a friend drove him across the border into Belize and then into the Cancún area of Mexico.        

“That was around the same time that the Santrina was docked at Isla Mujeres. Posada declined to say whether he met Alvarez there.”


“Posada declined to say whether he met Alvarez there,” according to the Miami Herald: Crew members of the S.S. Santrina, reportedly owned by Santiago Alvarez of Miami, in Isla Mujeres while terrorist Luis Posada Carriles admits to being nearby.
Photo: D.R. 2005 Mario Alonzo, Por Esto!
After all, a lot is at stake for Santiago Alvarez if authorities conclude that he and the other crew members were found to have smuggled an illegal alien into the United States. Their own legal presence on U.S. soil, as Cuban-born naturalized American citizens, could become jeopardized, not to mention additional burdens under law for immigrant smugglers. Cuba’s Vice President Ricardo Alarcon seems particularly focused on Alvarez’s well-financed activities. The debate over how Posada entered the United States, thus, falls heaviest on Alvarez’s future.


That might explain the bizarre story offered by Posada Carriles and his attorneys that he somehow entered the U.S. through Texas and not via the easier route from Yucatán to Florida. Yet, it simply does not make sense that someone with Posada Carriles’ economic means and with generous support from the wealthy Miami ex-Cuban mafia would enter Mexico from Belize and travel, at age 77, the arduous 90-hour exodus via land from Cancún to Miami, at the precise moment when his buddies were docked in nearby Isla Mujeres.


Meanwhile, other citizens came forward – in Chetumal, in Cancun and in Isla Mujeres – to bear witness to the presence of the international terrorist Posada Carriles in their locales.


“I saw Luis Posada Carriles,” the former mayor of Isla Mujeres Fidel Villanueva told Por Esto! on May 19. “We all saw him. In reality, don Luis was there. I tied my boat at the Isla Mujeres port and he was there. On a Saturday, we saw him there, watching the boats, but we didn’t know who he was.”


School of Authentic Journalism Class of 2003 on Narco News’ Isla Mujeres Campus.
Photo: D.R. 2003 Jeremy Bigwood
As the 50 students and professors of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism who spent a week on Isla Mujeres in 2003 know, the island is a very small town: 500 yards at its widest, and just two roads across the three-mile-long isle, that’s all. Once a tourist or outsider is there for more than a day, people take note of the newcomer. And if the visitor has a disfigured face (from a bullet wound) and dresses dapperly enough in white linen to have earned the nickname “Bambi,” like Posadas, well, before too long a big white guy like him, with a sharp Cuban accent, attracts attention in a sleepy Mayan fishing village.


“I saw him just as many people in the Isla Mujeres port saw him,” continued former Mayor Villanueva.


On May 26, the daily El Sol of Zacatecas, Mexico, published an interview with the Secretary of the Navy in Mexico, Marco Antonio Peyrot, who confirmed that Posada Carriles entered the United States on the remodeled shrimp boat, the S.S. Santrina, that launched from Isla Mujeres. “This is the Mexican Navy!” proclaimed Fidel Castro, in Havana, at his May 27 press conference. “The Secretary of the Navy in Mexico!”


By protecting his smugglers with an incredible tale that he entered the U.S. through Texas, Posada Carriles’ claim has led to his own immigration hearings being held in El Paso. But, lo’ and behold, his attorneys have filed for a change of venue to Miami, where a federal judiciary, historically supportive of the ex-Cuban “exile community” in South Florida, would be more likely to protect him. (There’s an analysis of the legal questions surrounding Posada’s plea for asylum by Arthur Shaw, published at Vheadline.) And… this just in! A judge has ruled that Posada Carriles will have to press his case not on the home court of Miami, but in Texas.


Meanwhile, along Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, and up and down this hemisphere, an Authentic Journalism “swarm” of the type that just eleven days ago shook Bolivia, is digging deeper into the facts…

The Scent of the Narco

D.R. 2005 Nuez
The coastline of Mexico’s state of Quintana Roo, from Chetumal to Cancún, as this newspaper has widely reported for five years, is a major thoroughfare for cocaine smuggling from Colombia to the United States. These are the facts that, after all, were reviewed and vindicated by the Drug War on Trial case in the New York Supreme Court, where Narco News, Por Esto! publisher Mario Menéndez, your correspondent, and the facts we reported withstood the heaviest scrutiny placed on any drug trafficking story in the early years of this young century.


As Por Esto! and its journalists dug deeper into the path of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles along that same coastline into the United States – the same path as the cocaine, after all – the newspaper began to find an ugly confluence between the maritime smuggling of illegal immigrants from Cuba into Mexico (with the protection of the U.S. and Mexican governments) and the historic maritime smuggling of the drug cocaine (with the protection of the U.S. and Mexican governments) in the same waters.


Renan Castro explains the routes of narco-trafficking in the Caribbean to students and professors of the 2003 Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, at the daily Por Esto! offices in Cancun. Visible left to right: Charlie Hardy, Alex Contreras, Zabeth Flores, Andrea Arenas, Ava Salazar, and Ashley Kennedy.
Photo: D.R. 2003 Jeremy Bigwood
The little thread about a shrimp boat adrift offshore of a tiny island, first pulled by journalist Yolanda Gutiérrez, now pulls at the part of the curtain where the Miami mafia and narco-trafficking meet. After all, as Luis Gómez documents in today’s Narco News, Posada Carriles “worked to procure weapons… on the orders of the mind behind it all: Oliver North” in the 1980s. That was when the US government trafficked in cocaine to fund arms for anti-communist paramilitaries in Nicaragua. Could it be that Posada and company are up to their old tricks again?


Invited to give a presentation at the World Summit Against Terrorism and for Truth and Justice in Havana, Cuba, early this month, Por Esto!’s Quintana Roo editor (and professor of the School of Authentic Journalism) Renán Castro explained that the Posada Carriles story is “the tip of the iceberg of a dangerous operation for all the nations in the region, and specifically for the Republic of Cuba and for my country, Mexico.”


Authentic Journalist Renán Castro addresses the World Summit Against Terrorism and for Justice and Truth in Havana, Cuba, June 2005.
Photo: D.R. 2005 Por Esto!
The Mexican Authentic Journalist Renán Castro continued:

“The dangerous international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles was protected in Guatemala, Belize and Mexico by narco-traffickers that belong to the Central American cartel headed by capo Otto Herrera García, who is associated with Mexican criminal organizations led by Ismael Zambada (a.k.a. El Mayo) and Joaquin “Chapo” Guzmán, all of them associated with the Cuban-American mafia located in Cancún. They directed all the logistics so that (Posada Carriles) could remain for more than a week inside Mexican territory without being detected officially by Mexican authorities.        

“In Cancún, in the state of Quintana Roo, Posada Carriles was supported by a known trafficker of illegal Cuban immigrants named Juan Carlos Riberol (a.k.a. El Profe), who for more than seven years has led a powerful criminal network linked to a group of Cuban-American drug traffickers known as Los Marielitos, who maintain a close relationship with the Cuban-American Foundation with its headquarters in Miami…


“We believe the reports of the courageous Colombian journalist Hernando Calvo Ospina who in his presentation here mentioned that the Cuban-American Foundation has, since the 1980s, maintained connections with Colombian narco-traffickers to finance subversive acts against the revolutionary government of Cuba…


“The most serious element in all of this is the participation of the Cuban-American Foundation in all these operations that are being constructed to allow for 55 to 100 illegal Cuban immigrants to arrive in Quintana Roo each week, who are then taken to the United States and, when they don’t have family members in Miami, Florida, who can pay the costs of their transport, they are used to smuggle drugs onto U.S. territory.”


“There are things that nobody dares say, and what you have just said here are the words of the valiant,” responds Fidel Castro, to Renan Castro’s presentation about the links between drug trafficking and Posada Carriles’ voyage to the United States.
Photo: D.R. 2005 Por Esto!
Fidel Castro, at the same conference, rose after Renán’s presentation, looked straight at the Mexican Authentic Journalist, and said:

“There are things that nobody dares say, and what you have just said here are the words of the valiant. They use those boats for drugs. You have denounced something that has not been mentioned until now, that the boat is also dedicated to drug trafficking. That’s serious. But the most serious thing is what they did in violation of United States laws, smuggling terrorists, something that is severely punished in the United States…”
Authentic Journalists: Pull This Thread

Writing from Florida in this month’s Clamor magazine, Narco News School of Authentic Journalism professor Andrew Stelzer writes about his fulltime job as a radio reporter:

“It’s a grind, and often I feel as if I’m not doing what I should be — going deeper into stories, uncovering hidden secrets buried inside the machinery of government and corporations, and holding the powerful accountable for wrongs against society.”

Stelzer speaks of the difficulty for journalists like his colleague and ours, the late Gary Webb, who dug so deeply into the cocaine-trafficking scandals in which Posada Carriles was involved in the 1980s that his newspaper editor, Jerry Ceppos, betrayed the search for the truth and cast Gary out as an industry pariah.


Andrew Stelzer, at the 2004 session of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Photo: D.R. 2004 Jeremy Bigwood
And yet this story about a news story that explodes wider and with greater force each day – on the trail of an international terrorist and those who, in Bushspeak, “protect terrorists” – began precisely with the kind of “grind” work that journalist Stelzer finds, at times, frustrating (and don’t we all).


But, as in the case of Authentic Journalist Yolanda Gutiérrez rising early on the morning of March 14 on Isla Mujeres to report one of those seemingly routine stories, only to end up tugging on a thread that now unravels the gigantic, previously impenetrable, falsehood of Washington’s “wars” against terrorism and drugs, this kind of daily journalism work can be, and is, immensely important.


What Gutiérrez, and photojournalist Mario Alonzo, and Renán Castro, and the rest of the Por Esto! team have that Gary Webb did not have at the San Jose Mercury News in the 1990s is the knowledge and faith that they count with a publisher that will back them to the ultimate consequences as long as they report the truth, and, now, an international network of Authentic Journalists to spread the story far and wide across borders and languages.


Gary Webb – Presente
Photo: D.R. 2003 Jeremy Bigwood
Authentic Journalism has become the people’s Intelligence Agency. Horizontal in form, without interests or lies to protect, this international network is now faster, and more accurate, than the spook agencies of any government on earth. Instead of hoarding information to manipulate it, the Authentic Journalists of this hemisphere and the world conduct our work in the sunlight of a better-informed public. Heads of State are coming to count on the information speeding across these screens as more accurate sources of authentic intelligence than official sources.


And so it is no longer a surprise when someone like Hugo Chávez reads Narco News aloud on his national radio show, or when Fidel Castro reads aloud from Por Esto! on national television. Nor is it any surprise when these developments get translated and exported across the globe, basking the isolated journalists in the sunlight of public protection.


Authentic Journalists of the world: Yolanda Gutiérrez pulled a thread three months ago. She and her Por Esto! colleagues were and are backed by everyone at her newspaper and in our Authentic Journalism renaissance. The informational curtain that had kept the truth about a state-sponsored international terrorist from public view is shredded and coming apart wider each day. There are a thousand frays already. Grab one of those strings, right now, and start pulling. The Posada Carriles case can topple an Empire that is no more formidable than a shrimp boat adrift in a sea of terrorism and narco-trafficking. Pull this string. Yank hard, and do it for justice. Avenge the lies. Do it for Gary Webb.


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DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Posada Carriles may well choke on Bush's pickle
By Bill Conroy,
Posted on Fri Jun 24th, 2005 at 09:38:23 PM EST
Accused anti-Castro terrorist Luis Posada Carriles will have to sit in a jail cell in El Paso, Texas, a bit longer. His bail hearing before U.S. immigration judge Lee Abbott has been postponed until July 25, according to news reports.

Strangely, the major mainstream media outlets have been slow to pick up on the news.

If you recall, Posada Carriles was arrested in Miami in mid-May after allegedly entering the United States illegally via the Texas/Mexico border. He then claims to have taken a bus from Texas to Miami.

Well that tall tale may be coming back to haunt the long-time CIA operative who is accused of blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976, snuffing out the lives of some 73 innocent people. Of course, that is just the tip of the ice pick in terms of the crimes Posada Carriles stands accused of in the eyes of the world. Venezuela, in particular, wants justice served up to Posada Carriles and is seeking his extradition in connection with the airline bombing.

The 77-year-old Posada Carriles is a native of Cuba but later also became a citizen of Venezuela, where the airline-bombing plot was allegedly masterminded. Now, he is seeking to wrap himself in the U.S. flag in a bid for political asylum – part of a desperate attempt to protect himself from the fate his past deeds have thrust upon his future.

But it’s tough to beat fate when you’re playing against the house.        

Posada-Carriles made a critical mistake in his return to the shores of the U.S. of A. Most folks inclined to look a horse in the mouth won’t buy his claim about entering the states through Texas. It is almost certain he was delivered to the shores of Miami with the assistance of his benefactor, Santiago Alvarez, and a misguided shrimp boat captain who, prior to reaching U.S. soil, washed nearly ashore with his crew in public view off the coast of Mexico.

If only Posada-Carriles would have stuck with the Miami version of the story, instead of the tall Texas tale, he might be sitting in the catbird seat today, facing an immigration hearing in Miami. Instead, he’s now a jailbird in El Paso with the paw of the mighty U.S. government planted squarely on his soul.

How can this be? How is it that the U.S. government, which created this Frankenstein Posada-Carriles, is now seeking to cage the monster?

Remember, pride is the devil’s fatal flaw. The Bush Administration has made it known to the world that it has a zero-tolerance policy on terrorism: You’re either with us or with the terrorists, right?

The arrogance of such a philistine foreign-policy stance, though, is certain to become a bitter pill to swallow when you find a terrorist caught up in your own system. That is precisely what has happened to the Bush Administration in the Posada-Carriles case.

The White House is now confronted with a terrorist who has played for their team: Posada-Carriles -- and they don’t want too many of his dirty little secrets getting out in the sunshine, particularly in a Venezuelan court of all places.

But the Bush Administration, despite its deftness at making buzzards appear to be eagles, has been caught in a game of pickle. If they run toward the base called “asylum,” the world media currently focused on Posada-Carriles will surely tag them out. If they run toward the base called “extradition,” they can’t get around Venezuela’s claim on their CIA operative.

So what to do?

First, back to that pride thing. The whole reason the White House finds itself in this pickle is because Posada Carriles jumped off base to begin with by shooting off his big mouth. After all of the cloak-and-dagger tactics that were employed to assure his safe passage to Miami, Posada Carriles decided to jump on a soapbox to brag about his adventure by granting an interview to the media.

In other words, Posada Carriles put the spotlight on himself, in an act of egotistical stupidity, forcing the Bush Administration to swoop in and pick him up -- via U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) -- before he did even more damage to the Administration’s already putrid world image.

But the big question is why did they move Posada Carriles to El Paso, Texas?

If the Bush Administration really wanted him to be granted asylum, wouldn’t they have left him plead his immigration case in Miami, where he has the backing of the anti-Castro Cuban community and political machine? Instead, they arrested him the day after he granted an “exclusive” interview to the Miami Herald, flew him to the former Homestead Air Force Base in South Florida and then sent him directly to jail in El Paso.

Narco News decided to ask a number of high-ranking law-enforcement officials who have experience with immigration and intelligence-agency matters about this strategy. They agreed to share their views, if we would agree to keep their names confidential.

Following is their take on what is now happening to Posada-Carriles and why the recent postponement of his bond hearing comes as no surprise:

Source 1: A former high-ranking DEA official

“If he was a CIA operative, and he was, I don’t think the CIA wanted him in custody,” the source says. “But he had the audacity to grant an interview with the Miami Herald, and he was arrested the day after that interview. … He did a stupid thing and rubbed it in the government’s face by coming into the U.S. illegally and then having the balls to grant an interview to the press in the middle of Miami.”

The source adds that if the immigration judge in El Paso was really under political pressure to grant Posada Carriles asylum, then he would have granted his motion to have the case moved to Miami, “but he didn’t.”

“They’re going to keep him in custody where the government can keep an eye on him,” the former DEA official says. “How many Cubans are incarcerated already (in the United States)? They can hold him indefinitely, until he dies, maybe due to bad prison food.”

Source 2: Another former high-ranking DEA official

"They put him in El Paso to bury him. They picked him up because they had no choice (after he went public) and they put him in El Paso, a small community that doesn't get much media attention."

He adds that the government "would have been content to let him wile away in the Cuban community, but now they have a political hot potato on their hands." The source adds that the Bush Administration is faced with the hypocrisy of its own stand on the war on terror.

"So they will prolong the situation and keep him around for years pretending it is being litigated. He is not in good health from what I understand, so it will get tied up in the courts for the few years he has left, and he will die in prison."

The source adds that after a time, he will be put under "house arrest." What that means, the source explains, is that Posada Carriles will be put in a minimum-security prison or other confinement where he will be under guard 24/7. The former DEA official adds that he knows of people who are in this situation right now and have been under “house arrest” for three years or more.

"Their (the U.S. government's) hands are tied. They've taken this strong stand on terror, and now they have Posada Carriles."

The source then slammed the mainstream press, saying that it's just amazing how they let the Bush Administration get a free pass on scandals like these.

"They talk about state control of the media in Iraq. The same thing exists here (in the U.S.). If the New York Times or the Washington Post would publish something too negative, the White House would cut them off, so they don't pursue these things."

Source 3: A private consultant who does work for the intelligence community

"They will get Posada Carriles in prison." the source opines.

"He will die of syphilis. That would be the easiest excuse. He's never had it before, but they will give it to him. (The disease) takes 25 years (to kill you) if not treated. In his case, they'll condense his syphilis.”

Source 4: A high-ranking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official

This source agrees that Posada Carriles was sent to El Paso to be deep-sixed until the flurry of media coverage dies down. However, he departs with the others in predicting Posada Carriles’ ultimate fate. He says what will matter is whether the government (the Agency) thinks Posada Carriles is still "useful."

If not, well the DHS official does concede the government is capable of anything, including causing an inconvenient exit from this life for Posada. But he says that is a very extreme outcome. It's more likely, the DHS official says, that Posada Carriles will just rot in prison.

But, if deemed useful, then he will be held in El Paso until the media sunshine on his case is eclipsed by other news.

"Why take Posada out, because he still might have information that is useful, or he might still be useful?” the source explains. “If he is alive, then he can be useful. I think (after the press dies down) they will load a van with 100 illegal aliens, put him in, and take him back to Mexico and drop him off.

“... Who's going to know if the Agency shows up with a document that looks legitimate to transfer him to a different prison, and then he disappears?"

As far as the media picking up on Posada Carriles’ "disappearance" down the road, this source says: "The media will not get hold of it. It will happen after everything has died down. If someone in the media does try to get at it, they'll tie the reporter up in knots and back him off the story. And no one will care."

On the record

One former law enforcement source was willing to speak openly about his analysis of the situation. Lok Lau is a former CIA operative and FBI agent who worked a deep undercover assignment spying on China in the late 1980s.

Here’s his take on Posada Carriles:

“I think he used the media as leverage to try to get asylum, and he was betting on the fact that he wouldn’t be arrested,” Lau says. “I think they arrested him because people in the (U.S.) government got scared. If you were a top dog at the CIA station in Florida, would you want to take a chance on Posada Carriles and risk that your career might be ruined, or would it be easier to arrest him and shut him up? Most of these guys in the government are only concerned about themselves and their careers, so why would they stick their necks out (for Posada Carriles)?”

Lau adds that Posada Carriles was “playing a high risk game trying to get something over on the government.”

“He lost in a game of power politics,” Lau says. “People in the government are running scared now. The war is going badly, the polls look bad for the President and the Congress, so no one wants to be left holding the bag when the shit hits the fan.

“This guy has a lot of baggage. If you put together a list of his dirty deeds, it would be thicker than the Holy Bible.”

As far as what might happen to Posada Carriles in jail, Lau concedes there is a “possibility they will knock him off.” However, he says a much more realistic outcome is that he doesn’t survive the prison experience due to a type of benign neglect.

“I’ve been in jail as an undercover agent,” he explains. “The criminal element and gang activity is so bad that if they want to get rid of him, all they have to do is make it convenient for him to die by not doing enough to protect him.”

So there you have it. Posada Carriles has come to “America” wrapped in the flag seeking asylum. And he may well soon find himself buried in America, wrapped in a flag, in the shelter of a coffin.

Sometimes, fate is the ultimate form of justice.


The Bloody Face of “Bambi”


A Brief Dossier on Luis Posada Carriles


By Luis A. Gómez
Special to The Narco News Bulletin


June 21, 2005


Photo: Por Esto!
This man’s name is Luis Faustino Clemente Posada Carriles, better known among the CIA (for whom he worked) and intelligence circles as “Bambi.” He stands nearly six feet three inches tall, and has green eyes and a sweet look about him. Born on February 15, 1928 in Cienfuegos, Cuba, his hair has left behind its black color for an charming, grandfatherly white. He is a chemist by trade, and has used at least a dozen false names for a variety of “missions.”


This robust man, who has both Venezuelan and Cuban nationality, speaks slowly. This man, who U.S. immigration agents arrested on May 17 and now keep guarded in an El Paso, Texas prison, is the murderer of 73 people who died October 6, 1976, in a mid-flight attack on a Cubana de Aviación passenger airplane, as Authentic Journalist Alicia Herrera documented so well in her book Pusimos la bomba… ¿y qué? (“We Planted the Bomb, So What?”). But Luis Posada Carriles is responsible for more terrorist attacks in the last few decades… for many more…


For example, Posada has always been connected to dozens of anti-Castro terrorist groups, training them and supporting their actions from various countries throughout North and South America. Come on, the guy was an agent in former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista’s secret police before the 1959 Cuban Revolution. And according to the Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde, which published a succinct biography of this terrorist, there is evidence he may have even been involved in John F. Kennedy’s assassination.


Let’s just take a look at some important dates:


A young Luis Posada, in an undated photograph.
Photo: Wikipedia.org: Fair Use Doctrine
April 17, 1961: The day of the failed Bay of Pigs landing in Cuba. Dozens of mercenaries and anti-Castro Cubans hope to carry out an invasion of the island and create a “guerrilla war” against Fidel Castro’s government. They fail, infamously, and despite funding from Miami-based Cuban businessmen and the United States government. Among the participating groups is “Brigade 2506,” led by Félix Rodíguez. Rodríguez, another Cuban CIA, agent is famous for having been in Bolivia just after “Che” Guevara’s capture and cutting off the revolutionary’s hands after his execution. Posada Carriles, a member of Brigade 2506, does not participate in the landing, though he does in its organization and in logistical support from the United States. The reason? “Bambi” was recruited by the CIA, and also worked for the FBI, as he admitted to the New York Times in July 1998.


1961 to 1967: Posada, aside from raising suspicions of his involvement in the Kennedy assassination, receives military training in explosives and other skills at Fort Benning (later home to the School of the Americas), where he graduated with the rank of lieutenant. He, in turn, goes on to train anti-Castro mercenaries and dedicates himself to various terrorist operations while the CIA provides him a salary. Cuban exile leader Jorge Mas Canosa occasionally finances his activities, as declassified FBI documents have now shown. He operates during these years out of other Latin American counties, such as Mexico and Guatemala.


1967 to 1975: The CIA taps him to work with the General Directorship of the Venezuelan Police, and then later with that county’s intelligence service, the DISIP. From Caracas, until 1975, he works in the service of several intelligence agencies, always as a high-ranking DISIP official. He also has time to help organize torture sessions of Venezuelan guerrillas during this period. At this point in his career, according to the declassified CIA documents, Posada Carriles seems to have begun worrying his bosses with his extreme propensity for violence. From then on, his “actions” are no longer openly linked to the CIA and U.S. government (though this is merely because there are still not enough documents available to prove it).


1976: The key year in Luis Posada Carriles’ terrorist career.

  • October 6: A plane from the Cuban airline Cubana de Aviación explodes in mid-air, just off the coast of Barbados. Seventy-three people die, among them several Latin American students and a Cuban sports club. Luis Posada Carriles and his partner in the Committee of United Counterrevolutionary Organizations (CORU in its Spanish initials), Orlando Bosch, according to multiple documents, had planned the attack. For this reason, Bosch and Posada are both imprisoned in Venezuela that same year, Posada escaping in 1985. Bosch is today based in Miami (the senior George Bush having pardoned him and granted him amnesty from pending terrorism charges in the United States, these resulting from the bombing of a Polish ship in 1972).

  • But earlier, in May of that year, in Bonao, Posada was present in the Dominican Republic, putting together a plan “to overthrow the Castro regime” in the company of Orlando Bosch and other anti-Castro Cubans. Among the actions they agreed on was that year’s September 21st assassination of Chilean dissident and former defense minister Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C. Posada, according to statements from Augusto Pinochet’s former intelligence chief Manuel Contreras, was the one who led the meeting and planned the assassination.

This made-in-the-USA jewel of international terrorism then spends nearly nine years in the shadows, in reality living like a king (protected by Venezuelan police and intelligence officials)... until the night of August 18, 1985, when, draped in a black leather jacket, he walks out the door of the prison where he was staying in Caracas. He has new tasks to carry out for the United States government.


1985: After his “graceful flight” from Venezuela, via Aruba and Costa Rica, Luis Posada Carriles arrives in El Salvador, just in time for the climax of the counterinsurgency war in that country, and just as the Regan administration’s most brutal monstrosity, the Nicaraguan “contra” war, is really beginning to take off. There his old comrade in arms, Félix Rodríguez, awaits him. As the U.S. Congress had prohibited further funding for the contras, a terrorist group fighting against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, Posada and Rodríguez had to work extra to obtain guns… under the orders of the mind behind all of this: Oliver North. Yes, Posada Carriles, operating from the Salvadoran Ilopango military base, formed part of the group that gave rise to the famous Iran-Contra case.


With the Irangate scandal heating up, in October 1986 Posada begins working on a variety of projects that will take him through the next fourteen years. He works with the Salvadoran police to capture and torture members of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), and does similar work in Guatemala. He allies himself with the Cuban-American National Foundation, presided over at that time by its founder Jorge Mas Canosa, to create the foundation’s “security commission.” This commission was a terrorist group that has continued to carry out violent attacks, including a failed assassination attempt against Fidel Castro in Cartagena, Colombia, in 1994. That same year, the dangerous agent dedicated himself to the task of publishing a book entitled El camino del guerrero (“The Path of the Warrior”), in which he declares himself “active” once again. (As a CIA agent? As a terrorist? Or as both?)


2000: Posada enters Panama on November 5 with a false passport. On the 17th of that month he is arrested together with three of his accomplices (one of them their Panamanian chauffeur) before trying to assassinate Fidel Castro, for at least the fourth time since 1959. “Bambi” goes back to jail in Panama for another three years and a few months… until then-president Mireya Moscoso pardons him on August 26, 2004, the day before she leaves office.


Posada and his henchmen were sent to the United States by plane, courtesy of Moscoso, but “Bambi” got off in Honduras and took a long tour of Central America and Mexico, by land, sea, and plane, until he finally arrived in Miami… where he was arrested on May 17, as we said earlier (see Al Giordano’s report of today for more details.) This señor, with his angelic face, is without a doubt the most soulless terrorist of our times: he has killed and tortured in Venezuela, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Argentina, Portugal, and in the United States. But for the moment, Washington is only pressing hypocritical charges of “illegal entry” into U.S. territory.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Notice how they didnt even cuff his hands!  Posada and his partners now live in the USA

click this link for the full series of 62 photos:

Fri Jun 24,11:50 AM ET

A US immigration judge has postponed a bail hearing for Luis Posada Carriles, a hardline opponent of Cuban leader Fidel Castro seen here in May 2003. US authorities accuse Posada Carriles of illegally entering the United States through Mexico in March.(AFP/File)

Tue Jun 21, 9:34 AM ET

Luis Posada Carriles is escorted by U.S. law enforcement officers to a golf cart to be driven to a helicopter at Miami's Krome detention center after being arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Miami, May 17, 2005. A U.S. judge has refused to move the request for asylum case of Cuban exile and Castro foe Luis Posada Carriles to a federal court in Florida from Texas. (Reuters - Handout)

Mon Jun 20, 6:16 PM ET

Cuban-American Luis Posada Carriles gets out of car at a courthouse in Panama City, in this photo taken March 15, 2004. A U.S. judge has refused to move the request for asylum case of Cuban exile and Castro foe Luis Posada Carriles to a federal court in Florida from Texas. Posada, who is wanted in Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, is being detained in El Paso, but asked to move his immigration case to Miami because his lawyer is based there. Photo by Alberto Lowe/Reuters


Fri Jun 10, 3:49 PM ET

Newly declassified US documents show that a terror suspect and former CIA asset in US custody, Luis Posada Carriles, said in 1976: 'We are going to hit a Cuban airplane' prior to the bombing of a Cubana flight off Barbados October 6 of the same year.(AFP/File/Teresita Chavarria)


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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This is a great article about the drugwar...from 1997. includes interview with former head of El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) Phil Jordan. Amado Carillo Fuentes was killed while undergoing plastic surgery to alter his appearance shortly after this article was written, July 4, 1997. His brother Vicente clawed his way to absolute power, overcoming all obstacles and defying the predictions of experts both in Mexico and the U.S. He now rules the Juarez Cartel to this day.

The Juarez Cartel remains the last major cartel to have suffered no major losses.

GQ magazine
April 1997

The Killer Across the River
By Charles Bowden

He may be the richest man who has ever walked the earth. He is a business
genius and a murdering sociopath. His income more than $10 billion per year
results from controlling the distribution of most of the cocaine that comes
into our country. He lives two miles from our southern border. His name is
Amado Carrillo Fuentes, and his story demonstrates that everything we've
been told about progress in the war on drugs is a lie.

Rocio Aguero Miranda went for a ride at about the same time the tiger broke
free. Juarez, check-by-jowl across the Rio Grande from El Paso, baked under
the sun, twisted in the withering winds and lost belief in rain. At 4:30
a.m. on July 20, 1996, two travel-all-type vehicles pulled up to a fine
house in one of the city's nicer districts. Fifteen men armed with AK-47s
got out. To the neighbors awake at that hour, they looked exactly like
federal police, right down to the black ski masks they sported. The large
dogs protecting the grounds backed off as the men entered. The maid fled
into the bathroom with Rocio's 8-week-old baby, and when the officers took
Rocio, 36 years old, she was wearing a bra and panties. Blood was found on
walls of her home. The maid's account was confused, and then, after a day or
so, she disappeared from the newspaper articles. The authorities said the
armed men were not really police but imposters. Next came something as
persistent as drought in the Mexican north: a vast silence. It was as if the
kidnapping had never occurred and an 8-week-old baby had not been left
wailing. No one in the media said who was suspected of this act.

Just about the same time, a tiger suddenly stalked the streets of the city.
Garrets has no public zoo, so officially the tiger's appearance was a
mystery. The beast was captured and supposedly sent to the state zoological
garden in the capital, Chihuahua. Across the river in the United States, in
El Paso, Garrets's sister city of 700,000, neither event received much
notice in the newspapers. Garrets, brooding on the border with around 2
Million souls, is the kind of place that does not exist for North Americans.
Nor does the man generally credited with offering Rocio Aguero Miranda a
ride and owning the tiger who broke free. His name is Amado Carrillo
Fuentes, and until very recently mention of him almost never occurred in the
newspapers of either city or on their radio or television. His primary
residence is in Garrets. In September 1995, when Ross Perot finished a
narcotics briefing at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intelligence
center buried in the bowels of El Paso's Fort Bliss, an agent took Perot to
the installation's parking lot and pointed toward Carrillo's house, a few
miles away, hunkered near the Rio Grande. Perot said in disbelief, " You
mean he's right there and we can't do anything?" No one is certain what
Carrillo looks like or how old he is or how well educated. Only four
photographs exist, and they are
nearly a decade old at best. What we know is that he heads a business that
earns a profit of $200 million a week, a number that spins out to more than
$10 billion a year. He does not advertise his business: he makes no stock
offerings, floats no junk bonds, seeks no government subsidies. He is
publicity shy. He has never experienced a strike or a boycott. He has been
the cause of hundreds of murders in Garrets in the past two to three years
but, of course, that is his carnage in only one city.

Like any transnational businessman, he mocks the boundaries of
nation-states. He controls the cocaine coming into Mexico, and this makes up
50 to 80 percent of the cocaine coming into the United States. He is a huge
part of Mexico's drug industry, an economic activity that, at minimum, earns
that country $30 billion a year in profits, a sum more than quadruple the
revenues from its largest export, oil, and a sum sufficient to service the
entire $160 billion government and private foreign debt.
Carrillo thrives because of the consent of the Mexican government. He gives
the police and the highest government officials an estimated $500 million to
$800 million a year for protection. And he thrives with the knowledge and
tolerance of the United States government, though officially Washington
wants him on a drug-trafficking charges in Dallas and Miami. In Mexico he is
known as El Senor de los Cielos, " the Lord of the Skies," perhaps because
he is the silent owner of the largest charter-jet service in Latin America
and because he moves his coke from Columbia in ten-to fifteen-ton lots in
727s, which land at Mexican airports and are unloaded by the federal police.
In the United States, you have never heard of him until February, when his
profile was suddenly raised: It turns out that Carrillo had in his employ
the Mexican government's drug czar, General
Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo. As a result, after decades of massive Mexican
participation in drug trafficking, the Clinton administration and our
newspapers of record suddenly acknowledged that there was a problem. And
they gave that problem a name: Amado Carrillo Fuentes. But Carrillo is only
the current manifestation of a major, long-term problem called Mexico.

Here is the gist of the problem: We can't stop drugs from entering the
United States, because our border with Mexico is the most heavily crossed
one on earth and, at 1,995 miles in length, unpoliceable. We can't stop
Mexicans from illegally entering the United States, because that nation is
poor , overpopulated and growing, and if the poor do not come north, Mexico
implodes. We can't force the Mexican government to seriously crack down on
the drug trade, because the country is dependent on drug money for its
survival.. And we can't stop money laundering or the transfer of billions of
narco-dollars back and forth across the border because of the North American
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and because of the sheer velocity of modern
capital flows. And we can't discuss any of these matters, because for years
both parties have made it an act of faith that the war on drugs, the 1986
Immigration Reform Bill, NAFTA and a steel wall here and there on the border
are taking care of the problem. And you cannot believe what I have just
written, because, well, you haven't read it before. We're left with a very
strange world where a man we'd never heard of makes more than General Motors
and where a man we cannot officially find lives in plain view of our largest
drug-intelligence center.

I first encountered Carrillo's name at the drunken wedding of a
narcotraficante in May 1993. The groom had a warm smile, and I became the
court historian of his fiesta. I was leaning against a wall, drinking a
Tecate on the second or third day of a five day bender, when a Mexican
friend whispered three words: Amado Carrillo Fuentes," and then added,
"never repeat this name out loud." The groom had just come from a meeting
with Carrillo in Mexico City. I recall clearly that when the man mentioned
his name the parrots in a nearby cage screamed. Carrillo is a kind of
management genius. Just about the time Ross Perot stood in the parking lot
at Fort Bliss and stared in disbelief toward Carrillo’s mansion across the
river in Garrets, El Senor appeared in one of that city's most favored and
public venues for a meeting with the local head of the Mexican federal
police. When Carrillo arrived for his social belt with the authorities, he
naturally came with his customary bodyguards: twelve federal police. The
public appearance was simply to show he was still in charge. To survive in
the drug world, one must make a public appearance from time to time, a
reality understood by monarchs everywhere.
His story is not simply a tale of Mexican corruption. He is also a creation
of the United States. What I mean is simple: We tolerate the drug world
because a serious attack on it would destroy the economy of Mexico and the
stability of its government, and by this tolerance we make an Amado Carrillo
Fuentes inevitable. His real, singular achievement is that he is far better
at his job than we could have imagined in our worst nightmares. According to
U.S. intelligence and to the man who was in charge of Mexico's
drug-enforcement effort for a year and a half under president Carlos Salinas
Gortari, Carrillo has organized the
various gangs and cartels of Mexico into a business federation, much as the
five families in New York once found that peace was good for business. He is
the managerial talent who was inevitable, and now he has arrived.
Periodically, the U.S. government leans on the Mexican government and the
Mexicans offer us a prize, such as the deportation of Juan Garcia Abrego,
the head of the Gulf cartel, in early 1996. But such arrests do not change
the drug world; they merely create an opening in top management. So for the
moment, Amado Carrillo Fuentes flourishes, and he is probably one of the
richest men who has ever walked on this earth. Amado Carrillo is our guy,
and we don't know what to make of him. Rocio Aguero
Miranda can answer that question. No doubt the tiger can also. Now it is our

I carry a coded number I am to use to reach the agent. He will get back to
me that is the way it must be done. He is a DEA agent, and we rendezvous in
a saloon. He heads instinctively for a chair under a purring television. Our
talk must always be drowned out. He sits with his back to the wall you can
never be too careful. His eyes never cease scanning the room you must never
feel safe. He puts a leather pouch on the table in front of him the gun must
always be within reach. He speaks softly and when he says something he
considers confidential, he unconsciously speaks out of the corner of his
mouth. He has been with Carrillo in the past. And that is why I am talking
with him. Despite the $15 billion we throw at the war on drugs each
year, despite the massive police presence we have created to battle drugs,
we have very little information from people who have spent time with Amado
Carrillo. He lives barricaded behind family members, and he kills anyone who
arouses his suspicion. We drink light beers as we talk blood, and I brush my
fingers against the dark wood of the tabletop as the agent's purrs next to
me. There are things he and I both know, details our government has
collected. Carrillo sometimes disappears into coke and freebasing. When he
parties, he'll rent a floor or two at a hotel and invite a crowd, and nobody
leaves until he does and he may roar for five or six days straight. He likes
to fuck American beauty queens and is no doubt grateful that we
have fifty states.

ALL this the agent and I skip over lightly, like the notes of a familiar
piano composition. Amado (the name means "loved one") was born in !950, 1954
or 1955 to a dirt poor farmer in Sinaloa. He was one of eight or nine
children, according to his mother. He was formed in and by a geographic
triangle where the states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Durango meet, an area
American narcs call Jurassic Park. His uncle, Ernesto Rafael Fonseca
Carrillo, known as Don Neto, was A key figure in the drug cartel based in
Culiacan and Guadalajara. In the '70s, Don Neto sent his nephew to tend a
marijuana field in Zacatecas. The young Amado was successful at agriculture,
so next his uncle sent him to Ojinaga, Chihuahua, a mere dot on the Texas
border, to work with a man called Pablo Acosta Villarreal. Acosta was a
charismatic wizard at dope smuggling, and for a short while in the '80s
Ojinaga became the major bridge between the coke laboratories of Columbia
and the noses of North Americans.

Carrillo thrived as Acostas lieutenant; he built a church in the community.
He and Acosta whiled away hours freebasing. He gave Acosta a gold Rolex
watch and a small gold ingot, which his boss wore around his neck. In April
1987, choppers took off from Fort Bliss, Texas, ferrying FBI agents and
Mexican federal police to Acostas hideout across the Rio Grande from Big
Bend National Park. The troop was led by Comandante Guillermo Calderoni, a
sophisticated man who spoke French and English and the most renowned
enforcer in the employ of the Mexican government. Pablo Acosta, wearing his
little gold ingot, was slaughtered, Amado Carrillo had earlier departed with
Acosta's Columbian connections etched in his head. American intelligence now
believes Carrillo paid the comandante $1 million to perform the operation.
The FBI took credit for wiping out Acosta, the American press headlined
another victory in the war on drugs, and the drug business continues to
thrive. And nobody paid much attention to this punk named Amado Carrillo.

Next he popped up in Torreon, Coahuila, working with the Herrera
organization, a family business based in Durango that provides heroin,
marijuana and cocaine and that had deep Columbian connections. The Herreras
had a lock on drugs in Chicago and Buffalo. The organization totaled more
than 3,000 members (at the time, a force greater than all of DEA), and
almost everyone in the outfit was kin. That was the point, in 1987, when the
agent talking to me in the bar entered Carrillo's life. He and his colleague
had been trailing Carrillo for two and a half weeks in Mexico. "We're after
Jaime Herrera," he says with a smirk. "This punk [Carrillo] didn't have
shit. Jaime had the Colombians. We asked ourselves, "who the fuck is this
fat fucker?" In part Carrillo turned out to be the owner of a one-story
house where he lived and which also functioned as a stash pad. One night
they were watching the house. Three women came out with kids, got in a car
and left. OK. that doesn't matter. Then three guys came out and got in a
truck. This does matter. Carrillo also came out and drove away by himself,
but, fuck him, he's nothing. They followed the men in the pickup. The U.S.
agents were accompanying Comandante Calderoni and his team of federales. The
truck was pulled over, and a federale walked up to the driver's side. He was
immediately killed by a blast from the driver's AK-47. Another federale
crept up undetected on the other side of the truck. He capped two of the
occupants with a .45 . The driver took off running. Calderoni's assistant
dropped the man with a .45 . When they rolled him over, they discovered he
was the local army commander, there for his payment. Then they all went for
Jaime Herrera, the custodian of Columbian connections in the Mexican drug
world, and busted him.

Carrillo once again escaped. In those few months of 1987, Carrillo managed
to make two great Rivals disappear, and he scampered off with their
Rolodexes to the Columbian cartels. The rest is arithmetic.
Carrillo, in his quiet, nondescript way, advanced through this world of
violence and deception. There were bumps in the road: one of his brothers is
said to have committed suicide in Sonora in 1989. The DEA notes this suicide
was accomplished with fifteen or so rounds from an AK-47 into his mouth. It
is said that at his wedding in the late '80s, Carrillo lost his temper and
slaughtered a relative. In 1989 he was arrested and briefly detained in
Guadalajara on a minor weapons charge and lost a million dollar mansion when
the government confiscated it. Sometime in the early '90s , Carrillo showed
up in Garrets, a city nominally under the command of Rafael Aguilar
Guajardo, a former Mexican official in internal security who had married
into a fine family, built a hotel and given it his wife's name. It was a
place where, it is said, he maintained a torture chamber for moments of
leisure. Aguilar owned the Shah of Iran's former estate
in Acapulco, plus $800 million more in gewgaws. He was murdered in Cancun in
April 1993, on a day when his bodyguard happened to skip work. The same
bodyguard subsequently showed up in Carrillo's employ, and the DEA assumes
Carrillo was behind the killing, for Garrets is now his.

In November 1993, while Carrillo and his wife and children dined in a fancy
Mexico city restaurant, gunmen entered and raked the place with
automatic-weapons fire. Carrillo and his family dove under the table, but
several of his people perished , including his number two man, who was
sitting next to him. The DEA believes he survived because none of the
killers knew what he looked like. As the gunmen fled the place, a cop tried
to stop the car. They ran him over. Carrillo stormed out of the restaurant
and pumped the downed officer full of rounds. No one has gotten close to him
since that date. Where earlier drug leaders Acostaa in Ojinaga; Caro
Quintero in Sonora, Sinaloa and Guadalajara; Aguilar in Garrets sought fame
and press clippings, Carrillo seeks the shadows. He no longer carries a gun.
He owns banks, television stations, newspapers, this and that. And though
the man is unrecognizable, he does have one signature flourish. When he
loses a load, he has everyone connected with that load killed to make sure
he gets the weak link, the snitch. I asked the DEA agent I'm drinking with
what one thing I should know about Amado Carrillo.
Everybody wants to be ruthless," he finally responds," but Carrillo has the
balls to be ruthless."

In October 1996, an odd thing happened. El Paso has a relatively low
homicide rate because it has been the local custom to take people into
Garrets, where their slaughter will attract little attention. But there were
signals that this decorum was coming to an end. There was an unseemly
contract on a DEA agent stationed inside the United States. Then an American
electronics and communications expert who was doing some consulting in
Garrets (and was also believed to be handling a few chores for the American
agencies) disappeared, along with his wife. Then, in late September, an El
Paso stash house with more than two tons
of coke was discovered by American authorities. It was Carrillo's, and the
coke was awaiting sale through his people in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Shortly After that, the odd thing happened, the bad moment at El Kumbala. El
Kumbala is a working-class bar in El Paso. In early October, some guys
drilled five guys in the chest there. A number of them from Alberquerque,
with alleged narcotics connections. What was striking about these
assassinations was that they could easily have been done out in the big
emptiness of the West Texas desert and no one would have been the wiser.
Someone wanted the act known, just as someone wanted the DEA to know that it
was no longer immune and just as someone wanted the American intelligence
world to know that its electronic snoops were no longer welcome. Someone
clearly no longer gave a fuck about making waves or drawing attention.

The man is trying to explain something simple to me: why the government of
the United States ignores the fact that Mexico is collapsing, that
narco-dollars are propping up its staggering economy, why illegal
immigration will grow, and why no major party or official in the United
States will talk about it. His voice is even, his words exact. He says, "
We're like a deer paralyzed in the headlights. Mexico is our biggest
foreign-policy problem, but no one has a solution to it. It begins with a
political problem: The last three presidents of the United States have sold
us on the proposition that Mexico is a developed, stable country and the way
we should relate to it is by opening our borders and developing trade. Now
they find it difficult to come back and describe the reality. The reality of
the moment is, serious questions as to whether democracy even exists in
Mexico; the question of corruption going to the very top of the government;
that we have a next-door neighbor whose principal export is narcotics. Once
you accept the problem, you wind up saying that you can't do anything about
it. You can't solve it."

His name is Jack A. Blum, and he is one of the uncelebrated people who make
Congress hum and hearings happen. He worked with the Senate Judiciary
Committee 1965 to 1972, and with William Fulbright at the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee from 1972 to 1976, and then returned for another bout at
Foreign Relations from 1987 to 1989; he ran the committee's hearings on
drug-law enforcement and foreign policy, which meant Manuel Noriega, the
Contra War and the flood of dope coursing through each. Since then he has
had a private Washington law practice specializing in ferreting out money
laundering and has been a consultant on laundering for various clients,
including the government of Columbia. For him Amado Carrillo Fuentes is the
current name on a long-term condition. Blum is a harsh critic of U.S. policy
and a passionate defender of U.S. policy makers: " What do you do? What is
the solution? Every time you want to criticize someone in the government for
not acting, the question is, OK, smart guy, what would you do?"
Mexico's drug economy is untouchable because it runs $30 billion a year
("conservatively," Blum notes) into a cash-short nation. Intervening in
Mexican politics by demanding action against the drug cartels blows up in
our faces and fuels Mexican nationalism. Money laundering cannot really be
contained because the same avenues used by criminal organizations are used
and protected by U.S. corporations for tax evasion.
He rolls on and on, ticking off forgotten efforts, as when during Richard
Nixon's administration the border was shut for sixteen days and all hell
broke loose because of the economic losses; and the spraying program of the
'80s, when CIA reports allegedly revealed that the Mexican government's drug
eradication program was using U.S. helicopters to spray fertilizer instead
of herbicide on fields of marijuana, which kept getting greener and bigger.
" We are married to Mexico," he finally explains. "You can't sever a head
from a body." His account of the seeming hopelessness is like a tonic for my
system. One of the experiences of trying to explain the drug economy is that
everyone you talk to acts as if you are crazy or, in Blum's words, " from
Mars." He remembers drinking with DEA agents in Florida when he was
investigating Noriega and marveling that they could still risk their lives
in a cause that was "hopeless."
"All the options are bad," he states flatly. "Everything you want to do
doesn't work. How do you live in a world like that?" His words are familiar
to me. And his question how do you live in a world like that? feels like a
slap in the face. Since, that is precisely the world we do live in.

Two poor boys were walking along the sewage canal in Garrets on July
30,1996, when they saw a barrel floating in the filth. They thought, We can
fish that barrel out and sell it for a few dollars. So they fished it out.
When they pried off the lid, a leg floated up. The police arrived and poked
the fifty gallons of acid with poles. Rocio Aguero Miranda was finally
identified by her surgeon from the registration numbers on her breast
implants. A day later, the physician had second thoughts and recanted his
identification. She was a successful woman who had allegedly done some drug
deals and taken a professional car thief and killer as a lover. In the fall
of 1995, Rocio leased nice quarters for nightclub, a place she named "Top
Capos", "Top Bosses." The children of the rich came to the club to buy
drugs, and on the weekend Rocio had major entertainers up from Mexico City
at a reported $20,000 to $30,000 a night. Things began to go bad on May 3,
1996, when her two key employees, one the father of her unborn child, were
kidnapped. Their bodies turned up a day later, tortured, bound hand and foot
and bleeding from the anus. She closed the club, went off, had the baby and
returned. Then she was kidnapped on July 20, only to reappear on July 30 in
fifty gallons of acid. In the spring of 1996, the DEA had shared the names
of some of its informants with Mexican Authorities. the list had evidently
made it to Carrillo. No one in the DEA officially places Rocio's name on
this list or officially denies that it was there. For months executions
clogged the streets of Garrets, and by August somewhere between forty and
sixty people had been dispatched. Sometimes the bodies would be found bound
with gray tape, the heads wrapped in bandages or gauze, with paper stuffed
in their mouths. Sometimes a cheap wall tapestry of, say, a tiger would be
draped over the face. Styles change. For a while a few years ago, Carrillo
was having the bodies of informants tied up with yellow ribbon and a bow.
There is an attitude that what happens over there does not concern people
over here. I travel a lot, and you can go to any small town anywhere in the
United States and find drugs. Our banking system slops over with
inexplicable money $50 million to $70 million a month in El Paso, $3 billion
a year in Dallas, and so forth. It is an article of faith that the United
States is immune to Mexican corruption. It is not our thing. Every day of
the year, there is enough cocaine stored in northern Mexico to supply a line
for every man, woman and child on earth. It all comes here. We are 5 percent
of the planet's population and consume 50%
of the planets illicit drugs. I remember standing in El Paso and looking
across the river at Carrillo's house with a DEA agent who said to himself as
much as to me, " He's sitting over there laughing at us." On another day,
I'm standing with a big official in the DEA and looking out at Mexico from
El Paso. Garrets's international airport lurks in the dust smudge of the
horizon. I say, " You know, Carrillo has a compound at the airport, and he's
landing full-body jets full of coke. The federales have a compound there
also and help unload the planes." The man stares ahead and says without
looking at me: You think I don't know that?"
I've become a bit petulant about secret agents nodding yes, then shrugging
about matters of state. I'm losing my tolerance for talk of drug lords, as
if these men were some kind of new gentry. I'm sick of official government
analysis of the state of the Mexican economy and of our own that never
mention drug money. Imagine a business in the United States that generates
tens of billions of dollars a year in profits. Now imagine that this
business has no hand in our banks, owns no one in Congress, influences no
policies. Imagine it simply operates largely out of sight and never touches
your life or mine and never exercises any
power except in its own dank corners of the world. Oh yes, one more thing
you must master. Every time some awkward moment occurs a particular horrific
killing or embarrassment in the banking community occasioned by the brother
of the president of a neighboring country or a foreign official who seems
swell but turns out to be deep into the drug world you must sigh and say,"
Well, yes, there are exceptions, but look at the big picture." We can do it.
We've been doing it for a long time.



DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
Quote 0 0

Phil Jorden knows the big picture. Phil Jorden gave thirty years to DEA,
rose from the streets to a top position in the bureaucracy: head of the El
Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC). the DEA's 350-agent bunker, gathering dope
secrets from around the world. He made his early bones in the '70s, doing
raids with Comandante Calderoni in Mexico. He has watched the gangs mutate
into cartels and the cartels fuse into the machine they call the Federation,
which is largely dominated by Amado Carrillo Fuentes.
On January 20, 1995, Jorden's brother Bruno, 27 years old, was murdered
during a carjacking in the parking lot of an El Paso K-Mart about two miles
from the barrio home where he and Phil had been raised. this was the first
carjacking death in the history of El Paso. Two days later, Jorden
officially took over command of EPIC. To this day, Jorden tortures himself
over whether Amado Carrillo orchestrated his brother's death. He is a large
man, a former college basketball star, who seems invisible. He is a quick
study who likes to appear befuddled. He is the man you never notice until he
slaps the cuffs on you. And he is a man with his brother's blood pooled
around his life. In January 1996, he retired, and he now runs a
private-security venture in Dallas. But he cannot leave the drug world any
more than he can he can escape the crack of the nine-millimeter cutting down
his brother in the K-MART parking lot. I have talked long with Phil Jordan.
I have wandered the tomb of EPIC, peered down at the room full of computer
churning endlessly through the intelligence files of the DEA, the CIA, the
FBI, the IRS and the Department of Defense and the narcotics reports of
twenty nations. I've heard Jordan tell of briefing Attorney General Janet
Reno, Senator Phil Gramm, Ross Perot and other visiting firemen. I've looked
out with him at Amado Carrillo Fuentes's house and practically heard his
teeth grind I've sat late at night with his aged father while the old man
explained how he would gladly go to prison for it, listened to this flat
statement of the hunger of vengeance as we sat in the family home not far
from thee Rio Grande and a few miles from where Amado Carrillo likely sat
and talked at that very moment. I have seen Phil Jordan enter rooms and
dominate them with a natural air of authority and the confidence of a star
athlete. But I have not seen any movement on the murder of his brother or
any ability to force the U.S. government to act. I have heard him snap at me
when I asked him why the DEA does not say what it knows about Carrillo,
about his brothers murder, about the war on drugs " They've told us not to
talk." By "they" he means the executive branch of the United States
And I have to wonder: If a man of such force and a man with a brother's
blood splattered across his conscience can not act, who will and who can? So
I know this man who knows more than I do, and I know this man who said in
court that his brother's murder killed his whole family, and I know this man
who leaned over his brother's open casket and said before his family, "
Bruno, I promise I'll get whoever
did this to you." And I know that just across the muddy river a man is
making at least $10 billion a year, and no one and nothing stops him. And I
have sat in the house of Phil Jordan"s parents in the barrio by the river in
El Paso and listened helplessly as his mother wept. And I know that when
Bill Cosby's son was murdered in January, a local television crew descended
on Phil Jordan's parents who also had lost a son in an apparently
meaningless death.
And I know that making death meaningless is a way to make us all feel safe.
It takes time for him to open the door, what with the lock, the chain, the
dead bolts, all securing his entryway. Finally, the door swings open to the
night, and he appears, shirtless, a generous beer gut spilling over his
belt, and waves us inside. A red sign with a circle and a slash is fastened
to the door of the downstairs bathroom: NO FIREARMS PERMITTED IN THIS
ESTABLISHMENT. Evidently, even in exile, Eduardo Valle has kept a sense of
humor. He is finishing a bottle of Jack Daniel's, smoking Camel filters and,
a traditionalist at heart,
using a Zippo lighter. He looks to be around 50, has a grizzled three-day
beard, a black shock of hair and the trademark glasses that when he was a
boy earned him the nickname El Buho, "the owl."

Eduardo Valle, El Buho, is a survivor of the night of October 2, 1968. That
evening 10,000 students gathered in a square in Mexico city to hear speeches
in favor of democracy and human rights. The Mexican
army opened fire and killed at least 325 of them. Ten days later, the
Olympic games opened, and Mexico City and the world acted as if nothing had
happened. El Buho was a leader of the protest and got out of
prison two and a half years later. In the early '90s, after a career in
journalism, he was made the special advisor to two successive Mexican
attorneys general, a post from which he commanded an elite counter-narcotics
force and read all the secret reports on drugs and the capos created by his
government and ours. In 1994 he fled Mexico with documents that spell out
the ties between the government of President Carlos Salinas and the drug
capos and the cartels in Mexico. At that time as Salinas' six-year term was
ending, the American government was trying to peddle Salinas as its
candidate to head the World Trade Organization, the Vatican of global free
trade. Imagine the U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey fleeing the country and
proclaiming that our president was in cahoots with drug cartels and you get
the feel of El Buho's situation.

El Buho is the living body through which the violence of Carrillo, the
corruption of the Salinas presidency and the impotence of U.S. policy have
coursed. He is the man who has seen the connection between the drug world
and the official world and lived to tell the tale. El Buho and Carlos
Salinas go back a long way. They met in 1966, when both were studying
economics in Mexico City. Salinas was the scion of a wealthy and powerful
family; his father was a member of the president's cabinet in the '60s. Back
in their students
days, Salinas was marginal in El Buho's circle, a small, intense man plowing
through Mao Tse-tung, the architects of the budding European Community and
the theorists of American free trade. To El Buho, Salinas was a man " with
a dark face."
When Salinas became president in 1988,El Buho met with him as a leader of
the journalists' union. This was all very normal. Mexico is a nation of 100
million ruled by a small and incestuous set of the educated and the rich and
the powerful. In 1992, when Salinas was four years into his term, he had to
placate the United States if he was to ensure the success of NAFTA, and
drugs were always an official flash point in dealing with the gringos. So
he placed El Buho, A dissident known to be independent of the government, in
the Mexican justice department and put in charge of fighting drug
traffickers but warned him, El Buho recalls, that he wanted " no

Much like the DEA, El Buho largely ignored Amado Carrillo at first. He
focused on other men who he believed were more important. El Buho targeted
the Gulf cartel, then headed by Juan Garcia Abrego, a man who had amassed
$15 billion moving cocaine from Columbia to the United States through the
northeast sector of Mexico, the home ground of the Salinas family. At that
time, Carrillo was a blip on El Buho's radar screen. El Buho's second
research he kept to himself: the investigation of La familia Salinas.
In the matter of Juan Garcia Abrego, who was on the FBI's Most Wanted List,
President Salinas thwarted all of Buho's efforts to capture him. The bribe
offers from drug traffickers came to El Buho quickly $2 million to release
an Abrego brother-in-law from prison, then $400,000 " for a little, little,
little man. For a nothing." Documents crossed El Buho's desk showing that
Abrego was often in the United States, that the FBI and the DEA knew when he
was there and where, and that they did nothing. "You think your government
didn't know? " El Buho asks. I am not surprised. DEA agents had told me of
staking out Abrego in Chicago and other places and then doing nothing.
Abrego had been wanted on U.S. warrents since 1989. But then agents have
also told me that Carrillo comes and goes in the United States. Once, I told
them I had stood in front of a house in the United States while Carrillo
was staying there. They didn't ask for the address. They simply said,
"Doesn't sound surprising." El Buho arrested a bunch of Abrego's smaller
capos, but what he really relished was his research into the Salinas family.
He found the president's chief of staff and the man's beautiful lover
functioning as the Salinas administration's connection to the Colombian
cartels. he discovered the president's brother hobnobbing with Abrego. He
saw a Salinas cabinet studded with men known to have narcotics links going
back to the previous presidency of Miguel de la Madrid. (In 1982 the Mexican
economy collapsed, and it was widely believed in Mexico that de la Madrid
cut a deal with the narcotrafficantes to bail the nation out. Carlos Salinas
was de la Madrid's fair-haired boy, and in the eyes of many Mexicans he took
over real control of the country beginning in 1985. " De la Madrid," El Buho
says," took the drug money for his country Salinas took the drug money for

We have been talking for hours now, shifting to beer and then wine. El Buho
is on a roll. "A week or ten days before I crossed the border in June of
1994," he explains, "the press adviser to Salinas tells me to come to Los
Pinos. I go, and he asks, 'Buho, what's happening with your life?" "I say,
'I have my notes."
The adviser replied by handing him a book, Chronicles of the Dead. El Buho
said," Thank you." He under-
stood the warning: They are going to kill you. "I began to move fast then,
rapidly, rapidly, rapidly," he remembers. "I drove during the day and made
it to the border in eleven hours."
Now El Buho lives by his wits a column he faxes to a Mexican newspaper and a
book he publishes in Spanish that is stuffed with revelations of government
corruption and which sold 65,000 copies in Mexico, a very big sale.
Meanwhile, Amado Carrillo, El Buho, notes, has not been wasting time. El
Senor de los Cielos has expanded his reach beyond Colombia, into Peru,
Bolivia and Equador. He has recently begun to handle Golden Triangle heroin
from Asia. And for the last few years, the man with free access to Mexico's
international airports has been trying to reduce the combat of the drug
world. Just before he left Mexico, El Buho learned that Carrillo had hosted
a meeting of all the major capos. It took place in Puerto Morales, Oaxaca,
in June 1994. A second meeting took place near Cuernavaca that November. His
policy proposal was simple: Carrillo would import the drugs and wholesale
them to anyone who wanted to move them into the United States. To hell with
this fighting and killing over territory, to this old-fashioned vertical
structure with soldiers, chiefs, branch offices and the like. Amigos, we're
going to downsize, get lean and mean, be flexible. Carrillo would retain his
retail here, his routes there, but he was shifting into a higher sphere. It
was a reasonable plan.

I have seen organizational charts of this new beast of commerce, which the
US agencies call the federation, and I have had them explained to me, at
length, by DEA analysts. I have gone over the endless nuances
of this structure how it is not like G.M. or the Pentagon, how it is more
fluid and how it almost always wins. It is like Mexico itself, an apparent
shambles it does not die and, despite our disbelief keeps going.

Even as an outcast, a man on the run from a date with his own violent death,
El Buho is not tough enough to be cynical. The rebel of '68 who did two and
half still casts off flickers of hope in the room full of cigarette smoke.
El Buho survived the night the Mexican Government machined gunned hundreds
of students in a public square in Mexico City, and then he disappeared into
the secret jails of the rulers.
His mother used all her family connections and found him two weeks later
stumbling down a staircase "like a mole," she later recalled. El Buho had
been beaten almost to death. Naturally, his glasses had perished in the
experience, so he blindly staggered toward his Mother guided by a voice, and
she looked into a face she could hardly recognize and believe he was her son
only when she heard his voice. I keep this moment in my mind when I listen
to El Buho, because deep within his hustle and his loud talk and a sense of
drama, there is this man who saw the naked face of power and survived and
who carries that memory with him always as a bleeding wound.

"The shit" El Buho suddenly roars, "is not only in Mexico; the shit is in
the US too. We need respect for the US we need, both of us, for the shit to
be the light. "If you don't clean the shit you eat the shit".

Later, as I prepared to leave, El Buho says, Almost by way of apology, "It's
a dirty world. I'm sorry." I have lived in two worlds for several years. One
world goes like this: In 1993 the Economist calls Carlos Salinas "one of the
great men of the twentieth century" Time Magazine had him as one of the five
finalist for "man of the year" in 1992. Henry Kissinger, in 1993, wrote that
Salinas "quelled corruption and brought into office and extraordinary group
of young, highly trained technocrats. I know of no government anywhere that
is more competent"

The other world I live in goes like this: In the election for the President
of Mexico in 1994, the one anointed by American observers, and celebrated by
the American government as the cleanest ever, the one that elected Ernest
Zedillo a man hailed by President Clinton as a reformer, (all Mexican
Presidents are reformers to American Presidents), there was a new twist in
campaign financing. Beginning in 1993, and allegedly at the direction of
President Carlos Salinas, fifty secret bank accounts were set up around
Mexico. Accounts were slush funds for the candidates of the ruling party.
The fifty secret bank accounts were nourished by drug cartels in Columbia
and Mexico, and when the election falderal ended in late August, 1994, as
much as three-quarters of a billion had cascaded through the slush fund. In
early 1996, Alvaro Cepeda Neri, a Mexican lawyer and civil rights advocate,
published an account of the buying of the election. In May of that year, he
was severely beaten and hospitalized.

I have a photograph of the first world, the official world. It's of
President Clinton at the El Paso airport. During the tail end of his recent
presidential campaign. He was in the city for 17 and 1/2 minutes. He
expressed his friendship for the Mexican people. And he did tackle drugs. He
said we have to marshal our forces against the enemy: the tobacco interests.
The other world I have lived in goes like this: I'm am in a rooms with
government analysts, and they say I cannot mention their names. They foist
an analysis on me so that the drug world will have the look of order and
reason. They sketch this beast in Mexico called the Federation. A thing
pouring at least $30 Billion dollars of profit into Mexico. ($10 Billion
more than the U.S. gave in 1995 to bail out the collapsing Mexican economy).
They say it is invincible, but they do not say where all the money goes. I
sit with one analyst who has spent nearly two decades devouring everything
thing there is to know about the Mexican drug war. For an hour or two, he
talks on a global scale, for all that cash being used to buy up industries,
of shopping for cheap steel mills in the fire sale atmosphere of Eastern
Europe, of the penetration and purchase of legitimate corporations in
Mexico. He mentions one Mexican financier who bought a big chunk of the Del
Monte corporation and was negotiating for the rest when he disappeared in
1994. He is widely believed by U.S. intelligence to have been a front for
drug money. I doubt that anyone will ever conclusively prove this, because
under the new ways of global capitalism it is hard to determine who exactly
owns any particular thing. So the man simply shrugs after all his years of
research, "It's too late." We have a major international economic force
whose public face is a crack addict we believe must be busted or
exterminated to ensure our safety. We never see
the billions of dollars, the huge international banking system, the silent
collusion of nations, the utter dependence of Mexico, or a barrel
containing a woman floating in a sewage canal. We flounder with rhetoric
about a war on drugs and present pie charts and analysis about some
federation of thugs even as we willfully ignore the scale, the nature and
the vitality of the thing we are confronting. And this is true whether we
think we should legalize drugs or toughen prison sentences, whether we use
the stuff and love it or know nothing about the stuff and dread it.

Imagine it is night and we have poor jobs and little money and we are
walking down a lonely city street with garbage strewn about the sidewalk and
suddenly out of nowhere a huge fleet of limousines races past, the long
stretch bodies gleaming, the windows tinted and the occupants obscured. The
tires slash through puddles and splash us. And then they are gone, and
instantly we forget it ever happened. Later, we feel our
wet clothing and think there must have been a light shower we did not
notice. That is the walk we all now make each evening. When you finish this
story, everything you have read will cease to exist. Then the vast silence
will return again and sucker each and every one of us.

In the gray light of morning, I do not believe in the existence of a Amado
Carrillo Fuentes. I stand on a porch near the border in El Paso and listen
to the traffic hum of the two cities. The air is a brown paste of pollution,
and until I take that first sip of coffee, Carrillo has no reality for me.
This happens every dawn.

In December six tons of coke was found in a warehouse in Tucson within a
mile of my home. The newspapers played the story for two days and then
dropped it, never identifying where the coke
had come from. I checked with the DEA, and they said it had come from
Juarez. A few weeks after
this load was lost, the executions began in Juarez. During the time this
fist full of murders took place,
Amado Carrillo's name never came up. On any given day, I'd check with
friends and be told matter of
factly that Carrillo was in Juarez or not in Juarez. And yet he could not be
found. Sometimes I pretend to live inside Carrillo's mind. He is in a trap.
He cannot retire with his billions; he is too notorious. But if he stays in
the life, he will eventually be slaughtered. He cannot ratchet back the
volume of his business because if he tries to do this, he will be replaced.
He cannot stop buying the Mexican government he
needs its assistance to run his business but this very act makes him a
threat to the ruling elite, an inevitable target. So he must continue
moving, killing and gathering power. He is intelligent, ruthless and
exacting in his plans. These traits cannot save him. So I think of him and
wander through his mind. He is much like the
U.S. government, the agents of the DEA he shares an understanding with Phil
Jordan. He can know everything but still not control the outcome.

Amado Carrillo came into my life not as a subject, a man to be researched
and written about, but as violence. I still remember the wide smile and the
quick happy eyes of the groom at the wedding where the parrots screamed. In
April 1995, the groom at that wedding was slaughtered in front of this
family. In a
resort on a Sonoran coast. I remember standing there several days later and
looking at his blood on the pavement. Then, in September 1995, a DEA told
me that the groom was believed to have been murdered on the order of Amado
Carrillo for losing a load.

Carrillo has taken up residence in my mind, and I need to comfort myself
with the knowledge that
he is human, a man, and not as El Senor De los Cielos.

I am drunk in the midnight hour when I arrive at what is said to be the
private club of Amado Carrillo
in Juarez. Inside glows an exact copy of a section of Michelangelo's mural
in the Sistine Chapel, the
detail where God reaches out to an all but comatose Adam and gives him a hit
of the new drug, life.
The outside of the club is marble, the doors are brass, and the gatekeepers
loom before me as the
standard human refrigerators. The club has been opened since December 1995 a
bevy of rich, light
skinned women and powerful, light skinned men attending that inaugural was
celebrated in a full
page of color coverage in the Juarez morning paper. But there was no mention
of the man who spent the
night at a table, front and center, snorting coke and being his wonderful
self Amado Carrillo Fuentes. In fact, the newspapers never mentioned who
really owned the place.

So I wield down to this finer district, where Carrillo's club gleams,
literally as bold as brass. I'm a bit testy about the air of mystery
cloaking the man. Where is he? What does he look like? What's he up to?
Across the river in El Paso is a big bank, and, according to the DEA, he
owns it. No one mentions this. He owns factories in this city. No one
mentions this either. I'm stuffed with the lore of my government's research.
There are hundreds of pages of files on Carrillo, but they still leave him a
ghostly presence. Cops like
tactical information license plates, business fronts and the like and don't
concern themselves much with the intellect or personality pulsing behind
these artifacts. Well, Carrillo's sitting in his club right now, and I aim
to pay a visit.

I know he's in there, twenty feet away, his face a blank, nostrils twitching
from the coke the man no one knows, the man no one can find. Inside the
club, he exists. Outside, on the street where I now stand, he is name never
mentioned, an invisible ten billion dollar man.

But as usual, I fucked up. The doorman says the club is closed. I pointed
out there are loud and merry voices coming from within. The doorman says
yes, but this is a special club, a very refined place,
and I failed to measure up to the dress code. My shirt he explains has
pockets, and this is a violation of the standards.

Charles Bowden is the author of "Blood Orchid: an unnatural history of
America", which was recently
awarded the Lannan Literary Award, which came with a big check.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
Quote 0 0


Stories by Gary Webb
Mercury News Staff Writer

For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found. This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia's cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the crack capital of the world.

Go to our story:


Version                 UnShocked





DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
Quote 0 0
Welcome to Mercury Center

The Stories
Dark Alliance
Frames: [ Enable | Disable ]

Dealer's sentencing postponed.
More TV and radio appearances by Gary Webb.
Last updated: Sept. 16, 1996
Continuing coverage

Day One
Backers of CIA-led Nicaraguan rebels brought cocaine to poor L.A. neighborhoods in early '80s to help finance war -- and a plague was born.
Published: Aug. 18, 1996

Day Two
How a smuggler, a bureaucrat and a driven ghetto teen-ager created the cocaine pipeline, and how crack was "born" in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1974.
Published: Aug. 19, 1996

Day Three
The impact of the crack epidemic on the black community and why justice hasn't been for all.
Published: Aug. 20, 1996

Go to: Home | Dark Alliance:

Dark Alliance

The stories

Who's who
The Pipeline
Web links
Contact us
About this CD-ROM


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
Quote 0 0


Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” Returns to the Internet


After an Arduous Journey, the Historic Document About U.S.-Sponsored Narco-Trafficking Finds a New Home


By Dan Feder
Special to The Narco News Bulletin


June 23, 2005


Click here to go straight to the restored Dark Alliance website.

For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found.

This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the crack capital of the world.

– From the introduction to the original Dark Alliance website, August, 1996

The Dark Alliance logo. Jerry Ceppos called it “too suggestive.”
The investigative journalism series that started it all – that changed (or at least, at long last, confirmed) the way all of us think about the war on drugs, the CIA, and U.S. policy toward Latin America – has had a troubled life on the Internet.


In August 1996, Gary Webb began publishing the results of a yearlong investigation that traced the money fueling the horrific U.S.-backed “contra” war against Nicaragua to the profits from Los Angeles’ 1980s crack epidemic. The CIA led its contra army to spend the entire decade terrorizing the Nicaraguan people and their Sandinista government, happily allowing the contras to flood Los Angeles and other North American cities with cocaine to fund their efforts. Gary provided extensively documented evidence that while poor communities in L.A. paid the price of the crack explosion – from rampant addiction in their neighborhoods to oppressive law enforcement and jailing with Reagan’s stepped-up “war on drugs” – the United States government protected the men moving a great deal of the drugs coming into the city. Local dealers faced life sentences while the bigtime narcos from Washington to Managua went free.


What came next is well known. Gary’s story, and the website he and the San Jose Mercury News created to showcase and expand upon it, were initially the talk of the global village. Politicians cited the article in both Sacramento and Washington. The CIA launched an internal investigation. Millions of people were visiting the website.


But then the backlash came. The L.A. Times, embarrassed at having missed a major story on its own turf, and the New York Times, happy to follow its colleagues’ lead in squashing a story that didn’t fit with its own narrative, wielded their mercenary pens against him. Rather than follow up on his exhaustive research, the attack dogs on both coasts pulled his work apart and attacked him for things he hadn’t even said. Although the CIA’s internal investigation would later confirm many of Gary’s own claims, the paper retracted the story and marginalized Gary to the point where he was forced to quit.


Gary Webb – Presente
Photo: D.R. 2003 Jeremy Bigwood
San Jose Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos’ cowardly retreat from Dark Alliance included deleting the website, and destroying thousands of undistributed CDROM versions of the site. It was the Internet’s first book burning. Among Ceppos’ lame excuses for the latter was that the now-famous Dark Alliance logo (above; how much more straightforward could a logo for a story about the CIA and crack be?) was “too suggestive.” (Inherent in that statement is that Ceppos’ could not find sufficient fault with Webb’s story itself to censor the website.) And so, for a long time, the most talked-about investigative news story of the 1990s was largely inaccessible to world beyond the small daily’s reach.


Even when copies of the text from the published stories were posted on websites and sent out to mailing lists, it was not the same. The Dark Alliance website was truly groundbreaking, one of the first innovations in using the Internet to not just replicate but expand what journalism could be. Rather than remaining static, the articles lived on the website, surrounded by images, sound files, reader discussion forums that Gary participated in, and an entire library of background information supporting Webb’s powerful case against the C.I.A. Millions of readers flocked to these pages, a nearly unheard-of response in those early days of the World Wide Web.


Until the end of his life, Gary was immensely proud of this website and its role in expanding the idea of what Internet journalism could be. In 2002, having gotten his hands on one of the few remaining copies of the CD, he triumphantly resurrected it. At that time, Gary wrote:

“This site, which won a CNET “Best of the Web” award in 1996, was constructed from a CDROM made by the San Jose Mercury News to promote its Internet presence. Thousands of CDs were made, then quietly incinerated. The reason: the website’s logo—a crack smoker superimposed over the CIA seal—had been criticized as “too suggestive.” Fortunately a few CDs were saved from the flames. Despite the passage of time, this webpage remains a brilliant testament to the power of Internet journalism.”

Gary Webb, a hero of authentic journalism, an inspiration to truth-seekers around the world, a friend to all of us at Narco News, but now an unemployable outcast in the world of commercial newspapers, took his own life on December 10, 2004. His resurrected website died with him: the company hosting it was bought out and the files lost.


…Almost. Today, Narco News, with support from The Fund for Authentic Journalism, is pleased to announce that the Dark Alliance website has a new, and this time permanent, home at Narco News. Gary’s family found that old, storied, (“priceless to us,” as his ex-wife, Susan Bell, described it to me) CDROM among his possessions. Nine years ago, the Mercury News had placed some kind of archaic copy protection on the CD (of the kind that nobody uses anymore because such obsolete cyber-padlocks are so frequently picked), and by the time Gary’s son Ian sent us a copy this historic work was available for public viewing again.


The expanded version that Gary posted in 2002 is gone. But the original pages, still bearing the logo of the newspaper that gave birth to and then disowned them, are all there. A few elements from the CDROM have been cleaned up to make the pages easier to navigate, but the content you will see is essentially unchanged from what those millions of first-time readers saw when they logged on nearly a decade ago. As with Gary’s original “director’s cut” version of it, this project is being carried out for educational and historic purposes, and, happily, is in no way connected to, nor sponsored by, the San Jose Mercury News.


Narco News will unveil the Dark Alliance website in its new home by publishing these stories in installments, the way they were originally published back in 1996, over the coming week.


Today we present Part I

Dark Alliance: Day One

Published on August 18, 1996, these first two reports of the Dark Alliance series introduced readers around the world to the players and relationships of the whole tangled affair. Webb identifies the alliance at the root of his story as “the union of a U.S-backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting ‘gangstas’ of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles.”


Here we meet Ricky Ross, L.A.’s top dope dealer in the early eighties, and the men from the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN, the 5,000-man, CIA-commanded group that led the contra war against the Sandinista government) he bought his cocaine from. We see the evidence of the help they received from the air force of El Salvador (a country receiving support from the U.S. for its own massive, bloody war against an internal popular uprising.)


We also learn about the “wall of secrecy” that allowed the Nicaraguan traffickers to operate with impunity. Attempts by U.S. law enforcement to bring down the Nicaraguan traffickers repeatedly fizzled out, leaving many agents convinced that the CIA was blocking their efforts. A DEA agent working in El Salvador documents cocaine flights leaving that country only to have his reports ignored and in internal investigation launched against him.


Read the reports:

America’s ‘crack’ plague has roots in Nicaragua war        

Testimony links U.S. to drugs-guns trade

Dark Alliance: Day Two

In the reports filed for the August 19 edition of the San Jose Mercury News, Gary Webb looks back to the origins of crack cocaine use in Los Angeles. Just as the invention of crack was bringing cocaine out of the parlors and clubs of the elite and into poor urban neighborhoods, a young Ricky Ross used his connections to the Crips organization in L.A. on the one hand, and to Nicaraguan suppliers with unbelievably low-priced cocaine on the other to become the king of the crack business. A former L.A. narcotics officer tells Webb of Ross that “…there’s no telling how many tens of thousands of people he touched. He’s responsible for a major cancer that still hasn’t stopped spreading.” Through Ross, the Contras and their North American allies were able to pour tons of cocaine into the streets of L.A. to fund their war.


Read the reports:

Shadowy origins of ‘crack’ epidemic        

Drug agent thought she was onto something big


Drug expert: ‘Crack’ born in San Francisco Bay Area in ‘74

Dark Alliance: Day Three

In his third set of reports, Webb tackles the racial aspects of his story, asking why the black community has been so disproportionately hit by the crack epidemic. He writes:

Nothing epitomizes the drug war’s uneven impact on black Americans more clearly than the intertwined lives of Ricky Donnell Ross, a high school dropout, and his suave cocaine supplier, Danilo Blandon, who has a master’s degree in marketing and was one of the top civilian leaders in California of an anti-communist guerrilla army formed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

While Ross sits in prison, Blandon leads a comfortable, U.S.-subsidized life back in Nicaragua as a member of the new business class there. Blandon’s white or well-connected, contra-allied associates in both Central and North America also remain free. Webb ties this in to the widely noted disparity in sentencing between whites and blacks in U.S. courts and the general trends that have caused African Americans to bear the brunt of the war on drugs in the U.S. The Dark Alliance story had a particularly strong impact in California’s black community, in large part because of Webb’s ability to lay out such connections between oppressive U.S. foreign policy in the 1980s and the contemporary problems that community faced.


Read the reports:

War on drugs has unequal impact on black Americans        

Flawed sentencing the main reason for race disparity


San Francisco Bay Area man tangled in drug web


Day Three also marks the unveiling (and unleashing) of the full Dark Alliance website, complete with the additional documentation, multimedia exhibits, reader forums, and links that made it so ahead of its time.


Dark Alliance Website


Watch a short video of Gary Webb, included on the unreleased Dark Alliance CDROM (Quicktime format).

Gary Webb in Narco News
Gary Webb Speaks on Narco News, October 23, 2000        

Narco News Solidarity Letter from Gary Webb, March 16,2001


Crack, Cigarettes, and the arrival of Gary by George Sanchez, March 3, 2003


Gary Webb Joins Narco News as Guest Editor by Al Giordano, March 3, 2003


Gary Webb, ¡Presente! by Luis Gómez, December 12, 2004


Gary Webb: Do What He Did by Al Giordano, December 15, 2004


Gary Webb Drew Blood by Bill Conroy, December 17, 2004


An Anonymous Eulogy for Gary… and Truth December 17, 2004


Gary Webb: In his own words, a Video by Narco News and GNN


The Life and Times of Gary Webb by George Sanchez, January 25, 2005


Saint Gary Webb by Charlie Hardy, February 10, 2005

Article by Robert Parry

Read more in Gary Webb’s 1999 book Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras and the Crack Cocaine Explosion from Seven Stories Press.


Enter the NarcoSphere for comments on this article


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Narco News is funded by your contributions to The Fund for Authentic Journalism.         Please make journalism like this possible by going to The Fund's web site         and making a contribution today.

- The Fund for Authentic Journalism


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
Quote 0 0
July 10, 2005

El Salvador La Prensa Grafica
Interview of U. S. Terrorist
Felix Rodriguez
June 28, 2005

“When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new evil.”
                                                Thomas Jefferson

On June 28, 2005, I received an email from a much-respected Latin American journalist. An attachment to the email was a La Prensa Grafica interview on a Cuban exile; Felix Rodriguez dated June 28, 2004. The name of Alfredo Hernandez was identified as the reporter who had conducting the interview for the Salvadoran Prensa-Grafica newspaper. In said interview, Felix made some serious allegation against my character. I immediately called the reporter. Hernandez confirmed that he had conducted the interview approximately a year prior to June 28. I asked him why this interview was now being re-released. He advised that he had no idea. I requested a rebuttal to the story to set the record straight. He stated that he would advise his supervisors and get back to me. As you guess it, I never received the call. I then proceeded to contact another reporter, Mr. Guillermo De Leon at La Prensa Grafica in Los Angeles, California. I made the same request to Mr. Deleon and he emailed me advising me that he had email my request to the newsroom in San Salvador. Once again, I never received the call. Therefore, I find no choice, but to respond to the allegations in this article. It boggles my mind why someone would go out of his or her way to make the Felix interview available at this time. My only conclusion, would be, that the U. S. government had instructed, since the U. S. government controls all aspects of that country, the newspaper to republish the interview in an attempt to assist another home grown terrorist, Luis Posada Carilles. Just recently, El Comandante Fidel Castro had pressured the United States, and succeeded, in the capture of Posada in the United States. The U. S. government was now utilizing Felix, as a puppet, to conduct character assassination on El Comandante Castro, in the evils of communism.

The interview was mostly on Felix’s assignment in El Salvador during the 80s. Felix initiated his interview by bragging about his capture of Ms. Nidia Diaz in El Salvador. How do you capture someone on the ground, when you are flying a helicopter? He proceeded to make some more accusations on Commandante Fidel Castro, and his government of possession of a well-built spy network in El Salvador. Of course, he gave no proof on his allegations.

Felix identified himself as an ex-CIA agent. Let’s get it straight; Felix was never a full-blooded CIA official. He was hired as contract labor into the CIA. In other words, Felix was a Cuban exile, who became a snitch “soplon” for the CIA in the early 60s, especially on June 1970. “Operation Eagle”, was a federal strike force in 10 major cities around the country derailed one of the biggest hard-drug networks of all time. The organization was responsible for distributing 30 % of all heroin sales and up to 80 % of all cocaine into the United States. Approximately 70% of those arrested had once belonged to the Bay of Pigs invasion force. Guess who the “soplon” was? In his book he claimed to have no green card, or being a citizen of this country. Because of his “back at the rear” involvement in the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he was commission into the United States Army for a few months and then quit to become a full time terrorist for the CIA. In his book, “Shadow Warrior”, (page 116) he claimed that he was commission into the military in March of 1963 for “basic training”. “I finished basic training in early October, and on October 9, 1963, I received an honorable discharge from the U. S. Army” (Page 118). What a joke! And the math is not right. I have never heard of basic training being 8 months long, but I could be wrong. Then, he has the audacity of taking a picture with a U. S. military uniform. Let me make this very clear, Felix is not and has never been a veteran of the U.S. military. A veteran is an individual who went through basic and his advance training. Some of us were drafted for two years, but after my active service in Vietnam, I continued to serve my country in the Texas National Guard and Army Reserve (a total of 6 years). AND THEN, continued to serve my country for 12 more years as a DEA agent, 6 of those years in Central and South America.

Felix then makes an accusation that the FMLN had received M-16s, from the Soviet Union, through Cuba. These weapons were supposedly U. S. military weapons that were abandoned in Vietnam. Our U. S. intelligence has always been that the FMLN used AK-47; especially their snipe rifle “Dragunov” which shoots a 7.62X54R round.

On January 5, 1990, DEA General File: GFTG-90-4015, in an undercover capacity, I negotiated with elements assigned to a Salvadoran military Col. Hernandez, for the purchase of several sniper rifles “Dragunovs” that had been seized from the FMLN. I was playing a member of one of the Colombian drug cartel. Of course, it was a “dog and pony” show for the United States to show that El Salvador could clean its own house. After flashing the Colonel’s elements $25,000.00, the Colonel and his people were arrested prior to the delivering of the weapons.

Felix claimed to have arrived in 1985 to helping the Salvadoran Air force with small helicopters. After flying, a small helicopter, he claims to have captured Ms. Nidia Diaz. First, what Felix does not say, is that he brags to everyone about having Ms. Diaz’s framed bra hanging in his living room in Miami. It’s amazing me that cowards like Felix have to show off war trophies to make themselves feel like a real men. Muy Macho Felix! Second and most significant, if you have recently read an American newspaper, you’ve read of the famous, “Salvador Option”. For those of you in Latin American, who haven’t heard of it, let me try to explain to you in very simple writing. It is a blue print of what the United States military used in Vietnam under the “Phoenix Program”, the implementation of the Death Squads “escuadrones del la muerte”. It is an embarrassment that El Salvador is known all over the globe, as the “Salvador Option”. And, let me tell you that I don’t exaggerate when I make the claim, “all over the world”. Just recently on May 1, 2005, New York Times reporter Peter Maass reports that former United States Army Col. James Steele is running the death squads commandos “Salvadoran Option” in Iraq. Yes, the same Colonel who was the Mil-Group commander in El Salvador that ran the death squads.

Now, Felix cries about how Ms. Diaz was traded for El Salvador President Duarte’s daughter and added that Ms. Diaz was seen in a demonstration in Cuba when “the plane was shot down in Nicaragua”. Oh, now it’s “the plane”. The fact of the matter is that the plane belonged to Felix, which he; himself had routed it out to Nicaragua. A well-documented drug trafficker, Barry Seal, also owned this same plane. Felix continues to make his allegations about how Cuba was involved with the FMLN. So what! When there is a struggle, some people did not have an option, and even if they did, it’s a choice. However, please do not tell me that you, Felix, was attempting to stop communism for our safety. Felix has never fought for anything that represented freedom. All he ever did was line his pockets with Contra money.

Felix claims that Ms. Nidia Diaz was carrying seven backpacks loaded with documents that had connections with communist countries. Come on Felix, what would you know about intelligence. You didn’t even go into advanced training in the military. You probably placed the documents in ALL the backpacks. No one in their right mind would put all their eggs in one basket. That is what persons like Felix do “exaggerate”.

        The question is then asked, “When does the Ilopango Base begin to be used in the Iran Contra Operation?”

Felix answers, “Oliver North asked me to help situate the planes and to maintain them, and of course I believe that this was of interest to the Salvadoran government to provide this assistance, since all the equipment that was coming in for the guerrillas come from Cuba by way of Nicaragua.”

In August 1982, then Vice-President Bush hired Donald Gregg as his principal advisor on National Security Affairs. On March 17, 1983, Felix met Gregg, officially and secretly, at the White House. Gregg then recommended Felix’s plan to National Security advisor Robert McFarlane. It was a plan for El Salvador where military attacks would be conducted on a target area of Central American nations including Nicaragua. Yes, it was the “Phoenix Program”. On October 13, 1986, The New York Times, quoted Vice-President Bush: “To the best of my knowledge, this man, Felix Rodriguez, is not working for the United States government.” Felix had now become the “bastard child that no one wanted”. Felix later becomes the “go-for” for Lt. Col. Oliver L. North. The question was about Iran-Contra, but “El Cobarde” continues to trash Cuba about the weapons that the guerrillas use in El Salvador.

        “Did you bring Posada Carriles to El Salvador?”

Felix’s answer: “I helped him enter and he was keeping the safe houses for the pilots of the operation, they were paid, they were provided with food. But Colonel
North never knew that he was working on the operation.” Come on Felix, you don’t expect us to believe that North did not know. Ilopango was North’s “baby”.

Just recently El Salvador, announced that they would not extradited Luis Posada to El Salvador for entering their country illegally.

Under oath: Senator John Kerry: “is it appropriate for a Felix Rodriguez to help a man indicted in a terrorist bombing to escape from prison, and then appropriate for him to take him to become involved in supply operation, which we are supporting?”


Most significant, the question is, “why is there not an arrest warrant for Felix for illegally transporting a terrorist into El Salvador?”

        “But the operation came to be investigated for possible drug trafficking?”

Felix’s answer: “Never, there were ill-intentioned persons who tried to connect the Contras with the drug trafficking. In fact, a DEA agent was kicked out, Celerino Castillo, who stated that he, was trying to investigate that in Ilopango drugs were being transported. He was so stupid that he said that he asked the ambassador in El Salvador not to issue visas to the pilots that I had there because they were involved in narcotics trafficking and this explains the total lack of knowledge he had, because they were all American citizens.”

        First and foremost, I was never kicked out of El Salvador, however I have been kicked out of better places. Second, FACTS:

• On Nov. 1, 1984, the FBI arrested Felix’s partner, Gerard Latchinian for smuggling $10.3 million in cocaine into the U.S. The dope was intended to finance the overthrow and murder of the President of Honduras.
• Felix was paid $10 million of drug money by Mr. Ramon Milian-Rodriguez. The co-founder of the Medellin cartel, Carlos Lehder, under oath, confirmed the payment to the Contras.

On June 4, 1986 U. S. Consulate General, Robert Chavez at the U. S. Embassy in El Salvador contacted me and stated to me that the CIA was attempting to obtain a U.S. visa for a documented narcotics trafficker. The individual was Carlos Alberto Amador, a Nicaraguan Contra pilot. He was mentioned in (6) six DEA files. Mr. Chavez gave a copy of the Visa application to me.
On June 18, 1996, Francisco “Chico” Guirola-Beeche had departed Ilopango to the Bahamas with a large shipment of cocaine. Guirola is documented in 11 DEA files and was arrested in 1985 in South Texas with 5 ½ million dollars in cash. He was also a Contra pilot.

Oscar “El Negro” Alvarado-Lara, another Contra pilot is mentioned in three DEA files. On June 11, 1986, Alvarado transported twenty-seven (27) Cubans to El Salvador Ilopango. Members of his smuggling organization were identified as Jose Nelson Branda-Cedeno (Panamanian) and Antonio Ernest Aguilar-Sarmiento. The aircraft used was identified as TG-REN.

You see, I could go on and on but I won’t. There are several dozen pilots; all documented in law enforcement files as traffickers and all worked for Felix. If you notice dates and descriptions on my response, it’s because Castillo, who is so stupid, kept dates, times, names, and most important pictures.

The operation was to prevent the spread of communism.

“It was strictly for that. For political reasons, in the US Congress they tried to involve the Contras with drug trafficking, it was never proved, in fact, Senator John Kerry from Massachusetts, who led the effort, had to apologize. They tried to damage the Ronald Reagan administration and later on that of George Bush Sr.”

As Kerry’s final report summarized: “It is clear that individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking. It is also clear that the supply network of the contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug trafficking.”

Jack Blum, investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, under oath on Feb. 11, 1987: “The Contras moved drugs not by the pound, not by the bags, but by the tons, by the cargo planeloads.”

This goes to show that Felix, “El Cobarde” is also a liar. Kerry’s comment does not look like an apology to me. The Iran-Contra was the downfall on Bush Sr. A few weeks before his re-election efforts; it came back and bit him in the ass, where he lost.

Are there still connections between ex-guerrillas and Cuba?

Are those recording used as a weapon of loyalty?

Felix talks about what Cuba has on intelligence training. Felix should have gotten intelligence-training gathering from the Cubans, because number one, he does not have the security clearness to talk about intelligence.

What Felix don’t know, or should I say, didn’t know, is that “Sandrita”, his girl friend, in El Salvador was my source of information and she sure does have so nice pictures. How about that stupid Castillo?

And how about La Prensa Grafica; “Anos Escribiendo La Verdad”? I don’t think so! You need to find a backbone and stand up for the rights del pueblo de El Salvador by telling then the truth of what happen to their country not too long ago. La Prensa Grafica should practice what Jose Maria Vargas Vila once said, “La verda solo es digno de decirle aquel que no tiene miedo de morir por Ella”.

Todo Por La Patria!

Celerino “Xele” Castillo, 3rd
X Agente Del DEA
El Salvador 1985-1991

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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20.Dec.2004 01:00

drug war

AUDIO FILE: Gary Webb In Eugene Oregon, January 6, 1999

Upon hearing about the recent death of investigative reporter Gary Webb, I searched my video tape archives and found a presentation he made in Eugene Oregon in January of 1999.
Gary's career in writing goes back to his high school days in Indianapolis, where he wrote for the school paper. Here he found his life's work, and he details the event which brought him to this decision. An amusing anecdote, yet Webb weaves a philosophy from this and shoots it like an arrow into his present expose of CIA complicity in the crack epidemic detailed in his book, Dark Alliance
Webb states right off, "I do not believe, and I've never believed that the crack explosion was a conscious CIA conspiracy, or anybody's conspiracy to decimate black America. I've never believed that south Central Los Angelus was targeted by the U.S. government to become the crack capital of the world. But that isn't to say that the CIA, the US government's hands are clean in this matter. Actually, far from it. After spending three years of my life looking in to this, I am more convinced than ever that the US governments responsibility for the drug problems in south central Los Angelus and other inner cities is greater than I wrote in the newspaper.
"But I think it's important to differentiate between malign intent and gross negligence. And that's an important distinction, because its what makes premeditated murder from manslaughter. That said, it doesn't change the fact that you've got a body on the floor. And that's what I want to talk about tonight, is the body."
Webb discusses "how the collapse of a brutal pro American dictatorship in Latin America combined with a decision by corrupt CIA agents to raise money for a resistance movement by any means necessary led to the formation of the nations first major crack market in south central Los Angelus, which led to the arming and the empowering of L.A. street gangs, which led to the spread of crack to black neighborhoods across the country, and the passage of racially discriminatory sentencing laws that are locking up thousands of young black men today behind bars for most of their adult lives. But it's not so much a conspiracy as a chain reaction. And that's what my whole book is about."
From here Webb goes on the explain in great detail the links in this chain. Webb was a meticulous researcher. His presentation style is direct and down to earth. I find it hard to believe that he would end his own life, that death offered the only viable option for him at that point in his life. His death, like so many who contest government activities, is suspicious, to say the least. Concerning this, I can only wait for further developments.

This 1999 event was video taped by Janet Marcley-Hayes, the widow of the late great Ace Hayes.
Ace is best known for conducting the "Secret Government Seminars", where he handed out large amounts of information in various subjects having to do with secret government activities. This sort of information has been marginalized and called "conspiracy theory," yet over the years, much of what he spoke about has subsequently been proven to be factual. Ace was a "conspiracy realist," and one of his favorite topics was CIA involvement in the drug trade, the story broke by Gary Webb.
Janet is cable casting these seminars through the facilities of Portland Community Media under the title American Revolutionary Television

Gary Webb's remarks are about 39 minutes
Gary Webb

The remarks were followed by about 23 mintues of questions and answers. The George Bush being referred to in the Q & A segment is George Bush senior.
Gary Webb Q & A

        homepage:         homepage: http://www.PhilosopherSeed.org

JULY 17 - 23, 1998
The Coke Machine
The Story behind the Contra-crack cocaine story
by Gary Webb

WHEN I CAME to work in the sprawling newsroom of the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the early 1980s, I was assigned to share a computer terminal with a tall middle-aged reporter with a long, virtually unpronounceable Polish name. To save time, people called him Tom A.

To me, arriving from a small daily in Kentucky, Tom A. was the epitome of the hard-boiled big-city newspaperman. The city officials he wrote about and the editors who mangled his copy were "fuckinjerks." A question prompting an affirmative response would elicit "fuckin-a-tweetie" instead of "yes." And when his phone rang he would say, "It's the Big One," before picking up the receiver. No matter how many times I heard that, I always laughed. The Big One was the reporter's holy grail--the tip that led you from the daily morass of press conferences and cop calls on to the trail of the Biggest Story You'd Ever Write, the one that would turn the rest of your career into an anticlimax. I never knew if it was cynicism or optimism that made him say it, but deep inside, I thought he was jinxing himself.

The Big One, I believed, would be like a bullet with your name on it. You'd never hear it coming. And almost a decade later, long after Tom A., the Plain Dealer, and I had parted company, that's precisely how it happened.

I didn't even take the call.

It manifested itself as a pink "While You Were Out" message slip left on my desk in July 1995, bearing an unusual and unfamiliar name: Coral Marie Talavera Baca. There was no message, just a number, somewhere in the East Bay.

I called, but there was no answer, so I put the message aside. If I have time, I told myself, I'll try again later. Several days later an identical message slip appeared. Its twin was still sitting on a pile of papers at the edge of my desk. This time Coral Marie Talavera Baca was home.

"I saw the story you did a couple weeks ago," she began. "The one about the drug seizure laws. I thought you did a good job."

"Thanks a lot," I said, and I meant it. She was the first reader who'd called about that story, a front-page piece in the San Jose Mercury News about a convicted cocaine trafficker who, without any formal legal training, had beaten the U.S. Justice Department in court three straight times and was on the verge of flushing the government's multibillion-dollar asset forfeiture program right down the toilet.

"You didn't just give the government's side of it," she continued.

I asked what I could do for her.

"My boyfriend is in a situation like that," she said, "and I thought it might make a good follow-up story for you. What the government has done to him is unbelievable."

"Your boyfriend?"

"He's in prison right now on cocaine trafficking charges. He's been in jail for three years."

"How much more time has he got?"

"Well, that's just it," she said. "He's never been brought to trial. He's done three years already, and he's never been convicted of anything."

"He must have waived his speedy trial rights," I said.

"No, none of them have," she said. "There are about five or six guys who were indicted with him, and most of them are still waiting to be tried, too. They want to go to trial because they think it's a bullshit case. Rafael keeps writing letters to the judge and the prosecutor, saying, you know, try me or let me go."

"Rafael's your boyfriend?"

"Yes. Rafael Cornejo."

"He's Colombian?"

"No, Nicaraguan. But he's lived in the Bay Area since he was like 2 or something."

It's interesting, I thought, but not the kind of story likely to excite my editors. Some drug dealers don't like being in jail? Oh. I knew what I would hear if I pitched Coral's story to my editors: We've done that already. And that was what I told her.

She was not dissuaded.

"There's something about Rafael's case that I don't think you would have ever done before," she persisted. "One of the government's witnesses is a guy who used to work with the CIA selling drugs. Tons of it."

"What now?" I wasn't sure I'd heard correctly.

"The CIA. He used to work for them or something. He's a Nicaraguan, too. Rafael knows him; he can tell you. He told me the guy had admitted bringing four tons of cocaine into the country."

I put down my pen. She'd sounded so rational. Where did this CIA stuff come from? In 18 years of investigative reporting, I had ended up doubting the credibility of every person who ever called me with a tip about the CIA. I flashed on Eddie Johnson, a conspiracy theorist who would come bopping into the Kentucky Post's newsroom every so often with amazing tales of intrigue and corruption. Interviewing Eddie was one of the rites of passage at the Post. Someone would invariably send him over to the newest reporter on the staff to see how long it took the rookie to figure out he was spinning his wheels.

Suddenly I remembered who I was talking to--a cocaine dealer's moll.

That explained it.

"Oh, the CIA. Well, you're right. I've never done any stories about the CIA. I don't run across them too often here in Sacramento. See, I mostly cover state government."

"You probably think I'm crazy, right?"

"No, no," I assured her. "You know, could be true, who's to say? When it comes to the CIA, stranger things have happened."

There was a short silence, and I could hear her exhale sharply.

"How dare you treat me like I'm an idiot," she said evenly. "You don't even know me. I work for a law firm. I've copied every single piece of paper that's been filed in Rafael's case, and I can document everything I'm telling you. You can ask Rafael, and he can tell you himself...He's got a court date in San Francisco coming up in a couple weeks. Why don't I meet you at the courthouse? That way you can sit in on the hearing, and if you're interested we could get lunch or something and talk."

That cinched it. Now the worst that could happen was lunch in San Francisco in mid-July, away from the phones and the editors. And, who knows, there was an off chance she was telling the truth.

FLIPPING ON MY computer, I logged into the Dialog database, which contains full-text electronic versions of millions of newspaper and magazine stories, property records, legal filings, you name it. OK. Let's see if Rafael Cornejo even exists.

A message flashed on the screen: "Your search has retrieved 11 documents. Display?" So far so good.

I called up the most recent one, a newspaper story that had appeared a year before in the San Francisco Chronicle. My eyes widened. "4 Indicted in Prison Breakout Plot--Pleasanton Inmates Planned to Leave in Copter, Prosecutors Say."

I quickly scanned the story. Son of a bitch. Four inmates were indicted yesterday in connection with a bold plan to escape from the federal lockup in Pleasanton using plastic explosives and a helicopter that would have taken them to a cargo ship at sea. The group also considered killing a guard if their keepers tried to thwart the escape, prosecutors contend. Rafael Cornejo, 39, of Lafayette, an alleged cocaine kingpin with reputed ties to Nicaraguan drug traffickers and Panamanian money launderers, was among those indicted for conspiracy to escape.

That's some boyfriend she's got there, I mused. The newspaper stories make him sound like Al Capone. And he wants to sit down and have a chat?

When I pushed open the doors to the vast courtroom in the San Francisco federal courthouse a few weeks later, I found a scene from Miami Vice.

To my left, a dark-suited army of federal agents and prosecutors huddled around a long, polished wooden table, looking grim and talking in low voices. On the right, an array of long-haired, expensively attired defense attorneys were whispering to a group of long-haired, angry-looking Hispanics--their clients. The judge had not yet arrived.

I had no idea what Coral Baca looked like, so I scanned the faces in the courtroom, trying to pick out a woman who could be a drug kingpin's girlfriend. She found me first.

"You must be Gary," said a voice behind me.

I turned, and for an instant all I saw was cleavage and jewelry. She looked to be in her mid-20s. Dark hair. Bright red lipstick. Long legs. Short skirt. Dressed to accentuate her positive attributes. I could barely speak.

"You're Coral?"

She tossed her hair and smiled. "Pleased to meet you." She stuck out a hand with a giant diamond on it, and I shook it weakly.

We sat down in the row of seats behind the prosecutors' table, and I glanced at her again. That boyfriend of hers must be going nuts.

She pointed out Cornejo, a short, handsome Latino with a strong jaw and long, wavy hair parted in the middle.

"Can we go out in the hall and talk for a minute?" I asked her.

We sat on a bench just outside the door. I told her I needed to get case numbers so I could ask for the court files. And, by the way, did she bring those documents she'd mentioned?

She reached into her briefcase and brought out a stack an inch thick. "I've got three bankers' boxes full back at home, and you're welcome to see all of it, but this is the stuff I was telling you about concerning the witness."

I flipped through the documents. Most of them were federal law enforcement reports, DEA-6s and FBI 302s, every page bearing big black letters that said, "MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED--PROPERTY OF U.S. GOVERNMENT." At the bottom of the stack was a transcript of some sort. I pulled it out.

"Grand Jury for the Northern District of California, Grand Jury Number 93-5, Grand Jury Inv. No. 9301035. Reporter's Transcript of Proceedings. Testimony of Oscar Danilo Blandón. February 3, 1994."

I whistled. "Federal grand jury transcripts? I'm impressed. Where'd you get these?"

"The government turned them over under discovery. Dave Hall did. I heard he really got reamed out by the DEA when they found out about all the stuff he gave us."

I SKIMMED THE 39-page transcript. Whatever else this Blandón fellow may have been, he was pretty much the way Coral had described him. A big-time trafficker who'd dealt dope for many years, he started out dealing for the Contras, a right-wing Nicaraguan guerrilla army, in Los Angeles. He'd used drug money to buy trucks and supplies. At some point after Ronald Reagan got into power, the CIA had decided his services as a fundraiser were no longer required, and he stayed in the drug business for himself.

What made the story so compelling was that he was appearing before the grand jury as a U.S. government witness. He wasn't under investigation. He wasn't trying to beat a rap. He was there as a witness for the prosecution, which meant that the U.S. Justice Department was vouching for him.

But who was the grand jury investigating? Every time the testimony led in that direction, words--mostly names--were blacked out.

"Who is this family they keep asking him about?"

"Rafael says it's Meneses. Norwin Meneses and his nephews. Have you heard of them?"


"Norwin is one of the biggest traffickers on the West Coast. When Rafael got arrested, that's who the FBI and the IRS wanted to talk to him about. Rafael has known (Norwin and his nephews) for years. Since the '70s, I think. The government is apparently using Blandón to get to Meneses."

Inside, I heard the bailiff calling the court to order, and we returned to the courtroom. During the hearing, I kept trying to recall where I had heard about this Contra-cocaine business before. Had I read it in a book? Seen it on television? Like most Americans, I knew the Contras had been a creation of the CIA, the darlings of the Reagan Right, made up largely of the vanquished followers of deposed Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza and his brutal army, the National Guard. But drug trafficking? Surely, I thought, if there had been some concrete evidence, it would have stuck in my mind. Maybe I was confusing it with something else. During a break, I went to the restroom and bumped into Assistant U.S. Attorney Hall. I introduced myself as a reporter. Hall eyed me cautiously.

"Why would the Mercury News be interested in this case?" he asked. "You should have been here two years ago. This is old stuff now."

"I'm not really doing a story on this case. I'm looking into one of the witnesses. A man named Blandón. Am I pronouncing the name correctly?"

Hall appeared surprised. "What about him?"

"About his selling cocaine for the Contras." Hall leaned back slightly, folded his arms and gave me a quizzical smile. "Who have you been talking to?"

"Actually, I've been reading. And I was curious to know what you made of his testimony about selling drugs for the Contras in L.A. Did you believe him?"

"Well, yeah, but I don't know how you could absolutely confirm it. I mean, I don't know what to tell you," he said with a slight laugh. "The CIA won't tell me anything."

I jotted down his remark. "Oh, you've asked them?"

"Yeah, but I never heard anything back. Not that I expected to. But that's all ancient history. You're really doing a story about that?"

"I don't know if I'm doing a story at all," I said. "At this point, I'm just trying to see if there is one. Do you know where Blandón is these days?"

"Not a clue."

That couldn't be true, I thought. How could he not know? He was one of the witnesses against Rafael Cornejo. "From what I heard," I told him, "he's a pretty significant witness in your case here. He hasn't disappeared, has he? He is going to testify?"

Hall's friendly demeanor changed. "We're not at all certain about that."

WHEN I GOT back to Sacramento, I called my editor at the main office in San Jose, Dawn Garcia, and filled her in on the day's events. Dawn was a former investigative reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, and had been the Mercury's state editor for several years.

"So, what do you think?" she asked, editorese for, "Is there a story here and how long will it take to get it?"

"I don't know. I'd like to spend a little time looking into it at least. Hell, if his testimony is true, it could be a pretty good story. The Contras were selling coke in L.A.? I've never heard that one before."

She mulled it over for a moment before agreeing. "It's not like there's a lot going on in Sacramento right now," she said. That was true enough. The sun-baked state capital was entering its summertime siesta, when triple-digit temperatures sent solons adjourning happily to mountain or seashore locales. With any luck, I was about to join them.

"I need to go down to San Diego for a couple days," I said. "Blandón testified that he was arrested down there in '92 for conspiracy, so there's probably a court file somewhere. He may be living down there, for all I know. Probably the quickest way to find out if what he was saying is true is to find him."

Dawn OK'd the trip, and a few days later I was in balmy San Diego, squinting at microfiche in the clerk's office of the U.S. District Court.

I found Blandón's case file within a few minutes.

He and six others, including his wife Chepita Blandón, had been secretly indicted May 5, 1992, for conspiring to distribute cocaine. He'd been buying wholesale quantities from suppliers and reselling it to other wholesalers. Way up on the food chain. According to the indictment, he'd been a trafficker for 10 years, had clients nationwide and had bragged on tape of selling other L.A. dealers between two and four tons of cocaine.

He was such a big-timer that the judge had ordered him and his wife held in jail without bail because they posed "a threat to the health and moral fiber of the community."

The file contained a transcript of a detention hearing, held to determine if the couple should be released on bail. Blandón's prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney L.J. O'Neale, brought out his best ammo to persuade the judge to keep the couple locked up until trial. "Mr. Blandón's family was closely associated with the Somoza government that was overthrown in 1979," O'Neale said. "He is a large-scale cocaine trafficker and has been for a long time," O'Neale argued. Given the amount of cocaine he'd sold, O'Neale said, Blandón's minimum mandatory punishment was "off the charts"--life plus a $4 million fine--giving him plenty of incentive to flee the country.

Blandón's lawyer, Brad Brunon, confirmed the couple's close ties to Somoza and produced a photo of them at a wedding reception with El Presidente and his spouse. That just showed what fine families they were from, he said. The accusations in Nicaragua against Blandón, Brunon argued, were "politically motivated because of Mr. Blandón's activities with the Contras in the early 1980s."

Damn, here it is again. His own lawyer says he was working for the Contras.

From the docket sheet, I could see that the case had never gone to trial. Everyone had pleaded out, starting with Blandón. Five months after his arrest, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and the charges against his wife were dropped. After that, his fugitive co-defendants were quickly arrested and pleaded guilty. But they all received extremely short sentences. One was even put on unsupervised probation.

I didn't get it. If O'Neale had such a rock-solid case against a major drug-trafficking ring, why were they let off so easily? People did more time for burglary. Even Blandón, the ringleader, only got 48 months, and from the docket sheet it appeared that was later cut almost in half.

As I read on, I realized that Blandón was already back on the streets--totally unsupervised. No probation. No parole. Free as a bird. He'd walked out of jail Sept. 19, 1994, on the arm of an INS agent, Robert Tellez. He'd done 28 months for 10 years of cocaine trafficking.

The last page of the file told me why.

It was a motion filed by U.S. Attorney O'Neale, asking the court to unseal Blandón's plea agreement and a couple of internal Justice Department memorandums. "During the course of this case, defendant Oscar Danilo Blandón cooperated with and rendered substantial assistance to the United States," O'Neale wrote. At the government's request, his jail sentence had been secretly cut twice. O'Neale then persuaded the judge to let Blandón out of jail completely, telling the court he was needed as a full-time paid informant for the U.S. Department of Justice. Since he'd be undercover, O'Neale wrote, he couldn't very well have probation agents checking up on him. He was released on unsupervised probation. I walked back to my hotel convinced that I was on the right track. Now there were two separate sources saying--in court--that Blandón was involved with the Contras and had been selling large amounts of cocaine in Los Angeles. And when the government finally had a chance to put him away forever, it had opened up the cell doors and let him walk. I needed to find Blandón. I had a million questions only he could answer.

BACK IN SACRAMENTO, I did some checking on the targets of the 1994 grand jury investigation--the Meneses family--and again Coral's description proved accurate, perhaps even understated. At the California State Library's government publications section, I scoured the indices that catalog congressional hearings by topic and witness name. Meneses wasn't listed, but there had been a series of hearings back in 1987 and 1988, I saw, dealing with the issue of the Contras and cocaine: a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

For the next six days I sat with rolls of dimes at a microfiche printer in the quiet wood-paneled recesses of the library, reading and copying many of the 1,100 pages of transcripts and exhibits of the Kerry Committee hearings, growing more astounded each day. The committee's investigators had uncovered direct links between drug dealers and the Contras. They'd gotten into BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) years before anyone knew what that banking scandal even was. They'd found evidence of Manuel Noriega's involvement with drugs--four years before the invasion. Many of the Kerry Committee witnesses, I noted, later became U.S. Justice Department witnesses against Noriega.

Kerry and his staff had taken videotaped depositions from Contra leaders who acknowledged receiving drug profits, with the apparent knowledge of the CIA. The drug dealers had admitted--under oath--giving money to the Contras, and had passed polygraph tests. The pilots had admitted flying weapons down and cocaine and marijuana back, landing in at least one instance at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. The exhibits included U.S. Customs reports, FBI reports, internal Justice Department memos. It almost knocked me off my chair.

It was all there in black and white. Blandón's testimony about selling cocaine for the Contras in L.A. wasn't some improbable fantasy. This could have actually happened.

I called Jack Blum, the Washington, D.C., attorney who'd headed the Kerry investigation, and he confirmed that Meneses had been an early target. But the Justice Department, he said, had stonewalled the committee's requests for information, and he had finally given up trying to obtain the records, moving on to other, more productive areas. "There was a lot of weird stuff going on out on the West Coast, but after our experiences with Justice...we mainly concentrated on the cocaine coming into the East."

"Why is it that I can barely remember this?" I asked. "I mean, I read the papers every day."

"It wasn't in the papers, for the most part. We laid it all out, and we were trashed," Blum said. "I've got to tell you, there's a real problem with the press in this town. We were totally hit by the leadership of the administration and much of the congressional leadership. They simply turned around and said, 'These people are crazy. Their witnesses are full of shit. They're a bunch of drug dealers, drug addicts; don't listen to them.' And they dumped all over us. It came from every direction and every corner. We were even dumped on by the Iran-Contra Committee. They wouldn't touch this issue with a 10-foot pole."

"There had to have been some reporters who followed this," I protested. "Maybe I'm naive, but this seems like a huge story to me."

Blum barked a laugh. "Well, it's nice to hear someone finally say that, even if it is 10 years later."

A FEW DAYS later I got a call from Coral. My one chance to hook up with Blandón had just fallen through. "He isn't going to be testifying at Rafael's trial after all," she told me. "Rafael's attorney won his motion to have the DEA and FBI release the uncensored files, and the U.S. attorney decided to drop him as a witness rather than do that. Can you believe it? He was one of the witnesses they used to get the indictment against Rafael, and now they're refusing to put him on the stand."

I hung up the phone in a funk.

But pretty soon the San Diego attorney who had been out of town when I was looking for Blandón returned my call. Juanita Brooks had represented Blandón's friend and co-defendant, a Mexican millionaire named Sergio Guerra. Another lawyer in her firm had defended Chepita Blandón. She knew quite a bit about the couple.

"You don't happen to know where he is these days, do you?"

"No, but I can tell you where he'll be in a couple of months. Here in San Diego. Entirely by coincidence, I have a case coming up where he's the chief prosecution witness against my client."

"You're kidding," I said. "What case is this?"

"It's a pretty big one. Have you ever heard of someone named Freeway Ricky Ross?"

Indeed I had. I'd run across him while researching the asset forfeiture series in 1993. "He's one of the biggest crack dealers in L.A.," I said.

"That's what they say," Brooks replied. "He and my client and a couple others were arrested in a DEA reverse sting last year, and Blandón is the confidential informant in the case."

"How did Blandón get involved with crack dealers?"

"I don't have a lot of details because the government has been very protective of him. They've refused to give us any discovery so far," Brooks said. "But from what I understand, Blandón used to be one of Ricky Ross' sources back in the 1980s, and I suppose he played off that friendship."

My mind was racing. Blandón, the Contra fundraiser, had sold cocaine to the biggest crack dealer in South Central L.A.? That was too much.

"Are you sure about this?"

"I wouldn't want you to quote me on it," she said, "but, yes, I'm pretty sure. You can always call Alan Fenster, Ross' attorney, and ask him. I'm sure he knows."

FENSTER WAS OUT, so I left a message on his voice mail, telling him I was working on a story about Oscar Danilo Blandón and wanted to interview him. When I got back from lunch, I found a message from Fenster waiting. It said: "Oscar who?"

My heart sank. I'd suspected it was a bum lead, but I'd been keeping my fingers crossed anyway. I should have known; that would have been too perfect. I called Fenster back to thank him for his time, and he asked what kind of a story I was working on. I told him--the Contras and cocaine.

"I'm curious," he said. "What made you think this Oscar person was involved in Ricky's case?"

I told him what Brooks had related, and he gasped.

"He's the informant? Are you serious? No wonder those bastards won't give me his name!" Fenster began swearing a blue streak.

"Forgive me," he said. "But if you only knew what kind of bullshit I've been going through to get that information from those sons of bitches, and then some reporter calls me up from San Jose and he knows all about him, it just makes me...."

"Your client didn't tell you his name?"

"He didn't know it! He only knew him as Danilo, and then he wasn't even sure that was his real name. You and Ricky need to talk. I'll have him call you." He hung up abruptly.

Ross called a few hours later. I asked him what he knew about Blandón. "A lot," he said. "He was almost like a godfather to me. He's the one who got me going."

"Was he your main source?"

"He was. Everybody I knew, I knew through him. So really, he could be considered as my only source. In a sense, he was."

"When was this?"

"Eighty-one or '82. Right when I was getting going."

Damn, I thought. That was right when Blandón said he started dealing drugs.

"Would you be willing to sit down and talk to me about this?" I asked.

"Hell, yeah. I'll tell you anything you want to know."

At the end of September 1995, I spent a week in San Diego, going through the files of the Ross case, interviewing defense attorneys and prosecutors, listening to undercover DEA tapes. I attended a discovery hearing and watched as Fenster and the other defense lawyers made another futile attempt to find out details about the government's informant, so they could begin preparing their defenses. Assistant U.S. Attorney O'Neale refused to provide a thing. They'd get what they were entitled to, he promised, 10 days before trial.

"See what I mean?" Fenster asked me on his way out. "It's like the trial in Alice in Wonderland."

I spent hours with Ross at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. He knew nothing of Blandón's past, I discovered. He had no idea who the Contras were or whose side they were on. To him, Danilo was just a nice guy with a lot of cheap dope.

"What would you say if I were to tell you that he was working for the Contras, selling cocaine to help them buy weapons and supplies?" I asked.

Ross goggled. "And they put me in jail? I'd say that was some fucked-up shit there. They say I sold dope all over, but man, I know he done sold 10 times more than me. Are you being straight with me?"

I told him I had documents to prove it. Ross just shook his head and looked away. "He's been working for the government the whole damn time," he muttered.

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Great book...The First Chapter of WHITEOUT


The CIA, Drugs and the Press


Read the Review

Webb's Big Story

Sunday, August 18, 1996, was not a major news day for most American newspapers. The big story of the hour was the preview of the Democratic convention in Chicago.

    About 2,500 miles west of Chicago lies Silicon Valley. Its big newspaper is the San Jose Mercury News, which has a solid reputation as a good regional paper. Like other Knight-Ridder properties, such as the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Detroit Free Press, it has a middle-of-the-road political cast slightly tilted to the Democratic side.

    As the citizens of Santa Clara County browsed through their newspaper that Sunday morning, many of them surely stopped at the first article of a three-part series, under the slightly sinister title "Dark Alliance," subtitled "The Story Behind the Crack Explosion." The words were superimposed on a murky picture of a black man smoking a crack pipe, said image overlaid on the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency. The first day's headline was "America's Crack Plague Has Roots in Nicaraguan War," just above the byline of the author of the series, a reporter in the Mercury News Sacramento bureau named Gary Webb.

    Within a couple of weeks, the story that Webb laid across August 18, 19 and 20 in the San Jose Mercury News would convulse black America and prompt the Central Intelligence Agency first to furious denials and then to one of the most ruthless campaigns of vilification of a journalist since the Agency went after Seymour Hersh in the mid 1970s. Within three weeks, both the Justice Department and the CIA bowed to fierce demands by California Senator Barbara Boxer and Los Angeles Representative Maxine Waters for thorough a investigation. By mid-November, a crowd of 1,500 locals in Waters's own district in South Central Los Angeles would be giving CIA director John Deutch one of the hardest evenings of his life. In terms of public unease about the secret activities of the US government, Webb's series was the most significant event since the Iran/Contra affair nearly blew Ronald Reagan out of the water.

    From the savage assaults on Webb by other members of his profession, those unfamiliar with the series might have assumed that Webb had made a series of wild and unsubstantiated charges, long on dramatic speculation and short on specific data or sourcing. In fact, Webb's series was succinct and narrowly focused.

    Webb stuck closely to a single story line: how a group of Nicaraguan exiles set up a cocaine ring in California, establishing ties with the black street gangs of South Central Los Angeles who manufactured crack out of shipments of powder cocaine. Webb then charted how much of the profits made by the Nicaraguan exiles had been funneled back to the Contra army -- created in the late 1970s by the Central Intelligence Agency, with the mission of sabotaging the Sandinista revolution that had evicted Anastasio Somoza and his corrupt clique in 1979.

    The very first paragraph of the series neatly summed up the theme. It was, as they say in the business, a strong lead, but a justified one. "For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the CIA." That San Francisco drug ring was headed by a Nicaraguan exile named Norwin Meneses Cantarero, who served "as the head of security and intelligence" for the leading organization in the Contra coalition, the FDN or Fuerza Democratico Nicaraguense. The FDN was headed by Enrique Bermudez and Adolfo Calero, who had been installed in those positions under the oversight of the CIA. Meneses came from a family intimately linked to the Somoza dictatorship. One brother had been chief of police in Managua. Two other brothers were generals in the force most loyal to Somoza, the National Guard. While his brothers were assisting Somoza in the political dictatorship that darkened Nicaragua for many decades, Norwin Meneses applied his energies mostly to straightforwardly criminal enterprises in the civil sector. He ran a car theft ring and was also one of the top drug traffickers in Nicaragua, where he was known as El Rey del Drogas (the king of drugs). Meneses worked with the approval of the Somoza clan, which duly received its rake-off.

    In 1977, Norwin Meneses felt it necessary to register his disquiet at a Nicaraguan customs probe into his smuggling of high-end North American cars from the US into Nicaragua. The Meneses gang murdered the chief of customs. Owing to Norwin's powerful family, the case was never prosecuted.

    The US Drug Enforcement Agency and other agencies had been keeping files on Meneses since at least 1974. Yet he was granted political refugee status in July 1979, when he and other members of Somoza's elite fled to the US. Meneses landed in San Francisco as part of what became known locally as the Nicaraguan "gold rush." Here he lost no time in rebuilding his criminal enterprises in stolen cars and drugs.

    Meneses's contact in Los Angeles was another Nicaraguan exile, Oscar Danilo Blandon. Blandon had left Managua in June 1979, a month before Meneses, on the eve of Somoza's downfall. The son of a Managua slumlord, Blandon had earned a master's degree in marketing from the University of Bogota in Colombia and had headed Somoza's agricultural export program. Agricultural exports were an important component of the country's mainly ranching- and coffee-based economy, with the Somoza family itself owning no less than a quarter of the nation's agricultural land.

    In his position as head of the export program, Blandon had developed close ties to the US Department of Commerce and the US State Department. He secured $27 million in USAID funding and was well known to the US military and the Central Intelligence Agency, both of which had a commanding presence in Somoza's Nicaragua. (Somoza had sent his officer corps for training in the US, and the CIA station chief was the most powerful foreigner in Managua.)

    Blandon's wife, Chepita, also came from a powerful clan, the Murillo family. One of her relatives was the mayor of Managua. Like many other Somoza supporters, both the Blandon and Murillo families lost most of their fortunes in the 1979 revolution and burned with the desire to evict the popular government headed by the Sandinista commanders.

    Blandon and his wife settled in Los Angeles, where he started a used-car business. He also began to involve himself in Nicaraguan emigre politics. Testifying on February 3, 1994 as a government witness before a federal grand jury investigating the Meneses family's drug ring in San Francisco, Blandon said he drove to San Francisco for several meetings with Norwin Meneses "to start the movement, the Contra revolution." Blandon had known the Meneses family in Nicaragua. In fact, Blandon said, his mother shared Meneses's last name of Cantarero, "so we are related." He said he and Meneses "met with the politics people," but couldn't find a way to raise big sums of cash.

    In the spring of 1981, Blandon got a phone call from an old friend and business associate from Managua named Donald Barrios. Barrios, then living in Miami, was moving in high-level Nicaraguan emigre circles. This group included General Gustavo Medina, once an important intelligence officer in Somoza's National Guard, a position in which he had long-standing ties to the CIA. Blandon later testified that Barrios "started telling me we had to raise some money and send it to Honduras." Barrios instructed Blandon to go to Los Angeles International Airport to meet Meneses. Blandon and Meneses then flew to Honduras and, in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, met with Enrique Bermudez, former National Guardsman and military commander of the FDN.

    In Somoza's final days, President Jimmy Carter had made a last-ditch effort to maintain a US-backed regime in Nicaragua even if Somoza should be forced to quit. The plan was to preserve the bloodthirsty National Guard as the custodian of US interests. When this plan failed and the Sandinistas swept to power, Carter ordered the initial organization of what later became known as the Contras, operating out of Honduras. The CIA mustered Argentinian officers fresh from their own death squad campaigns, and these men began to organize the exiled National Guardsmen into a military force.

    Bermudez was key to this CIA-organized operation from the start. He had been a colonel in the National Guard, had trained at the US National Defense College outside Washington, D.C., and had served from 1976 to July 1979 as Somoza's military attache in Washington. Furnished with $300,000 in CIA money, Bermudez took command of the fledgling Contra force in Honduras. In the summer of 1981, at the dawn of the Reagan administration, Bermudez held a press conference in Honduras. In language drafted by his CIA handlers, Bermudez announced the formation of the FDN and his own position as commander of its military wing. The CIA script later installed Adolfo Calero, formerly the Coca-Cola concessionaire in Managua, as the FDN's civilian head, operating mainly out of the United States, where he was under tight CIA supervision.

    Blandon and Meneses arrived to meet Bermudez at a moment of financial strain for the Contra army, then in formation. The CIA had provided seed money, but it wasn't until November 23, 1981 that Reagan approved National Security Directive 17, which provided a budget of $19.3 million for the Contras, via the CIA. The Contras, Bermudez said, needed money urgently, and, Blandon later testified to a US federal grand jury, it was at this meeting that the need for drug money to finance the Contras was proposed. "There's a saying," Blandon testified, "that `the ends justify the means.' And that's what Mr. Bermudez told us in Honduras."

    Bermudez was not repelled by the moral implications of drug smuggling. In fact, evidence gathered during congressional hearings in the mid-1980s suggests that Bermudez himself had previously had a hand in the drug trade. "Bermudez was the target of a government-sponsored drug sting operation," said Senator John Kerry, who chaired a committee that investigated charges of Contra cocaine smuggling. "He has been involved in drug running." Kerry charged that the CIA had protected Bermudez from arrest. "The law enforcement officials know that the sting was called back in the interest of protecting the Contras," Kerry concluded.

    Back in San Francisco, Meneses began educating Blandon, the graduate in marketing, on the finer points of cocaine wholesaling. Trained in accountancy, Blandon did some work on Meneses's books and rapidly became aware of the substantial scale of his cocaine operation. In 1981 alone, Blandon later testified, the Meneses ring moved 900 kilos of cocaine. At that time the wholesale price of a kilo of cocaine was $50,000. The cocaine was coming from Colombia via Mexico and Miami and then to the Bay Area, where it was stashed in about a dozen warehouses. Meneses was also keeping cocaine at the house of his mistress, Blanca Margarita Castano, who lived near the old Cow Palace in the Hunters Point area. Eventually Meneses's romantic complications prompted him to relocate his wife and young children to Los Angeles, with Mrs. Meneses ensconced in a silk-screening business under the eye of Blandon, who also set up a restaurant for Mrs. Meneses called Chickalina. Both the silk-screen shop and the restaurant became fronts for the drug business. As Blandon put it, "It was marketing, okay? Marketing."

    As a cocaine wholesaler in Los Angeles, Blandon got off to a slow start. He'd pick up a couple of kilos from Meneses, along with a list of local buyers, and he'd do the rounds in his white Toyota. But business remained static until he made a fateful contact with a young black fellow living in South Central named Rick Ross. Ross was born in Troup, Texas and as a young child moved to Los Angeles with his mother. He'd shown promise as a tennis player in high school and had set his sights on a college scholarship, when his coach found he could neither read nor write and dropped him. Ross went to Los Angeles Trade Technical College, was number three on the tennis team, and entered a course in bookbinding. To make some money he started selling stolen car parts, was arrested, and had to quit school.

    Ross first heard about cocaine, at the time a middle-class drug, from a college friend, and it wasn't long before he made a connection with a Nicaraguan dealer named Henry Corrales. Corrales gave Ross a good price, and he was able to make a decent profit in reselling to the Crips gang in South Central and Compton.

    As we shall see, the economics of cocaine became a bitter issue in the uproar over Webb's series. Was it true that the cocaine prices set by the Nicaraguans rendered the drug affordable to poor people for the first time? Arguably, this was the case -- and indeed there is more evidence to substantiate such a thesis than Webb was able to offer in his tightly edited series. Cheap cocaine began to appear in South Central Los Angeles in early 1982. Ross got it from Corrales, who worked for Meneses and Blandon, and it wasn't long before Ross went directly to Blandon.

    As Ross later told Webb, the prices offered by Blandon gave him command of the Los Angeles market. He was buying his cocaine supplies at sometimes $10,000 less per kilo than the going rate. "It was unreal," Ross remembered. "We were just wiping everyone out." His connections to the Bloods and Crips street gangs solved the distribution problems that had previously beleaguered Blandon. By 1983, Ross -- now known as "Freeway Ricky" -- was buying over a 100 kilos of cocaine a week and selling as much as $3 million worth of crack a day.

    Drugs weren't the only commodity Blandon was selling to Ross. The young entrepreneur was also receiving from the Nicaraguan a steady stream of weapons and surveillance equipment, including Uzi submachine guns, semi-automatic handguns, miniature videocameras, recording equipment, police scanners and Colt AR-15 assault rifles. Ross told Webb that Blandon even tried to sell his partner a grenade launcher.

    Blandon's source for this equipment was a man named Ronald J. Lister. Lister, who figures prominently in the story, was a former Laguna Beach police detective who at that time was running two security firms -- Mundy Security and Pyramid International Security Consultants. Blandon testified at Rick Ross's trial in March 1996 that Lister would attend meetings of Contra supporters in Southern California to demonstrate his arsenal. Lister had worked as an informant for the DEA and FBI, and boasted of his ties to the CIA during the 1980s, when the Reagan administration was waging war in Central America.

    Business was indeed booming. In 1981 Meneses had, according to Blandon's reading of his account books, been moving 900 kilos a year. Two years later the numbers had surged to around 5,000 kilos a year -- and the latter figure represents just the amount Blandon's LA operation was handling. Ross was a brilliant businessman. His greatest coup was to recognize the potential in recent technological innovations for the mass marketing of cocaine. Ross didn't invent the process whereby powder cocaine was converted into the "rocks" of crack that could be sold at affordable street prices; crack had first appeared in poor city neighborhoods on the West Coast in 1979. But Ross was the first to take full advantage. Crack could be bought for $4 to $5 a hit. It gave an intense, although brief, high, and was highly addictive. Consequently, as the furious black reaction to the Webb series tells us, crack engendered social disaster in neighborhoods such as South Central. Families were ravaged by addiction. Addicts stole and robbed to buy the next hit. Gangs fought bloody battles for control of turf. The plague elicited a savage response from the state. Prison sentences were a hundred times more severe for crack-related offenses than for powder cocaine.

    By 1985, Ross and his affiliates in the street gangs had begun exporting their crack operation to what the DEA reckoned to be at least a dozen other cities. Obviously, the sums accruing to Danilo Blandon in the drug trade were enormous, and he testified at Ross's trial that "whatever we were running in LA, the profit was going to the Contra revolution." Duane "Dewey" Clarridge, the CIA officer in charge of covert operations in Latin America, has denied, both in the press and in his memoir, allegations that the CIA would have sanctioned or turned a blind eye to Contra drug shipments for funding reasons. The CIA's Contra operation, said Clarridge, "was funded by the US government. There was enough money to fund the operation. We didn't need, and neither did the Contras need the money from anybody else."

    But from the beginning, Clarridge's plans for the Contras were much more ambitious than the initial scheme of the Reagan administration, which was to use them as part of an effort to seal off Nicaragua and try to stop it from aiding guerrilla struggles in neighboring countries. Clarridge wanted a covert war. In the summer of 1981, a week after becoming head of the CIA's Latin American operations, he took his recommendations to CIA chief William Casey: "My plan was simple. 1. Take the war to Nicaragua. 2. Start killing Cubans." This quickly evolved into a far-ranging program of assassinations, industrial sabotage and incursions into Nicaraguan territory from bases in Honduras and Costa Rica.

    The problem for Clarridge and for the CIA was that the US Congress tended to be dubious of such large plans, which were not politically popular. The initial appropriation was meager, amounting to only $19 million in 1982 for the CIA's covert operations against Nicaragua. In the spring of 1982 such covert costs soared when the Argentinians who had been supervising day-to-day military training for the fledgling Contra force in Honduras pulled out at the onset of the Falklands/Malvinas War. Later that year, Congress moved to restrict CIA aid for the Contras. At the last second Rep. Edward Boland of Massachusetts introduced an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill for fiscal 1983, prohibiting the CIA from spending any money "for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Nicaragua." The Agency was given only $21 million outside Boland's restrictions for activities related to the Contras.

    In December 1983 Congress capped Contra funding for fiscal 1984 at only $24 million, which was roughly a quarter of what the Reagan administration had claimed was necessary for a proper fighting force. The shortfall was what drove Robert McFarlane and Oliver North to hunt for alternative sources of funding -- for example, asking the Saudis for $1 million a month. Clarridge went on a similar mission to South Africa. North was in the process of setting up covert bank accounts in mid-1984.

    In April 1984, it emerged that the CIA had undertaken the mining of Nicaraguan harbors. The political uproar in the US resulted in the most restrictive of the Boland amendments, passed by Congress in October 1984. During fiscal 1985, the amendment read, "no funds available to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, or any other agency or entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities may be obligated or expended for the purpose or which have the effect of supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, group, organization, movement, or individual." The year 1985 also marked the peak of the Meneses-Blandon drug sales, at the time of the CIA's greatest need for money for its Contra army. The Boland amendment expired on October 17, 1986, and immediately the portion of the CIA budget allocated for the Contras rose to $100 million.

    During this stressful period of desperate Contra need for cash, when Reagan secretly decreed to National Security Adviser McFarlane that whatever Congress might stipulate, the Contras had to be kept together "body and soul," the drug operation run by Contra supporters Meneses and Blandon led a charmed life, without any disruption of its activities by law enforcement. Indeed, several law enforcement officers have complained publicly that actions targeted against Meneses were blocked by NSC officers in the Reagan administration and by the CIA.

    Only a few weeks after the Blandon-Meneses partnership was launched in the summer of 1981, a young DEA agent in San Francisco named Susan Smith began an investigation of Norwin Meneses. Smith had picked up rumors on the street that a group of Nicaraguan exiles headed by Meneses was selling cocaine in the Bay Area and sending money and weapons back to Central America. She checked the DEA files on Meneses and found a bulging record of the man's criminal activities, dating back to a 1978 FBI report charging that Norwin and his brother Ernest were "smuggling 20 kilos of cocaine at a time into the United States." One of the entry points for Meneses's cocaine was apparently New Orleans, where Smith came across records from the DEA's "Operation Alligator." This government sting had busted a large cocaine ring in New Orleans. One of the arrested men, Manuel Porro, told DEA agent Bill Cunningham that Meneses was the source of the cocaine. However, Meneses was never arrested.

    A few months later, Smith discovered, the San Francisco DEA office received a tip that Meneses was also the supplier for cocaine seized in a major bust in Tampa, Florida in February 1980. The cocaine had apparently been flown to Tampa from Meneses's ranch in Costa Rica, to be distributed by Meneses's relatives. Smith also learned that, beginning in early June 1981, Detective Joseph Lee of the Baldwin Park Police Department in Los Angeles had been investigating a Nicaraguan dealer named Julio Bermudez who was making two trips a month to San Francisco, where he would pick up 20 pounds of cocaine at a time from Meneses's warehouses.

    Smith mustered this information into an affidavit for a search warrant. dated November 16, 1981, and began trailing Meneses and his dealers. On one occasion, Smith followed Meneses's men to a house in Daly City, just south of San Francisco, which was owned by Carlos Cabezas, a Nicaraguan lawyer and accountant who had served as a pilot in Somoza's National Guard. Cabezas was a leading figure in the anti-Sandinista movement in California.

    Then Smith's superiors abruptly terminated her investigation and she was reassigned to cover drug dealing by motorcycle gangs in Oakland. Despite her huge file on Meneses, Smith told Webb, DEA managers evinced no interest. Smith quit the DEA in 1984, asking her superiors if they wanted her extensive files on the Meneses drug ring. They declined, and the files were shredded.

    What's more than a little curious about the DEA's lack of interest in Meneses in 1984 is that in February 1983 the FBI had scored one of the largest cocaine seizures in California history, in the so-called Frogman case. Members of the Meneses drug syndicate had been caught attempting to swim ashore at the San Francisco docks from a Colombian freighter, the Ciudad de Cuta, with 400 pounds of cocaine. According to the DEA, the drugs had a street value at that time of more than $100 million. Ultimately, thirty-five people were arrested in the Frogman case, including Julio Zavala and the man whose house Susan Smith had staked out, Carlos Cabezas. The Frogman trial was going on at the very moment the DEA was telling Susan Smith that information about Cabezas and Meneses held no interest for it.

    But then again, the Frogman case was not exactly your run-of-the-mill drug trial. On November 28, 1984, Cabezas testified in that trial that this cocaine-smuggling operation was a funding source for the Contras. Furthermore, he testified that the cocaine he brought into the US came from Norwin Meneses's ranch in Costa Rica. His testimony at the trial was limited, because the judge would not allow the defense to explore the CIA's role in any detail. In a subsequent interview recorded for a British TV documentary, Cabezas said that the CIA was aware of, and in fact had supervised, a crucial phase of his drug-trafficking operation. "It wasn't until the second trip that I had to go to Costa Rica," Cabezas said, "when I met this guy [Ivan Gomez] that's supposed to be the CIA agent. They told me who he was and the reason he was there, it was to make sure that the money was given to the right people and nobody was taking advantage of the situation and nobody was taking profits that they were not supposed to. And that was it. He was making sure that the money goes to the Contra revolution."

    Concerns that the drug money might have been diverted to the bank accounts of Contra leaders were not without foundation. Two of Cabezas' colleagues in this Costa Rica/San Francisco cocaine enterprise were Troilo and Ferdinand Sanchez, close relatives of Contra leader Aristides Sanchez. Sanchez was a member of the FDN's directorate. He and his relatives maintained an offshore bank account in the Dutch Antilles, which Oliver North's aide Robert Owen suspected was being refreshed with cash intended for the Contra effort. Owen wrote a memo to North that he believed that "the CIA is being had." North took no action. Clearly, Reagan's National Security staff knew well that drug money from the Meneses syndicate was supposed to go, with CIA approval, to the Contra war effort, and they were chagrined that the money might have been diverted from that mission.

    One of the other leaders of the Frogman operation was Julio Zavala, a brother-in-law of Cabezas. After his arrest, FBI agents seized $36,800 in cash from Zavala, which the government considered to be drug money and therefore subject to seizure. Zavala claimed that the money was cash meant to buy weapons for the Contras. His attorney, Judd Iverson, submitted letters to the court from two Contra leaders backing up Zavala's story. US District Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello, who had also been urged by the CIA to return the money, stipulated in a court filing on October 2, 1984 that the money would be given back. In 1987 this deal came to the attention of Jack Blum, investigator for Senator John Kerry's committee probing the stories of Contra drug running. Blum and Kerry called Russoniello to ask about the case. "We had a telephone conversation with Mr. Russoniello," Blum recalled during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on October 23, 1996, "and he shouted at us. He shouted at Senator John Kerry, who chaired the committee. He accused us of being subversives for wanting to get into it."

    So Zavala got his money back, though he did spend some time in prison. Norwin Meneses, the kingpin of the operation, was never indicted or arrested for his part in the Frogman case. Witnesses testified before Kerry's committee in 1988 that Meneses had been tipped off about the planned arrest "by his sources in US law enforcement." Another witness said he believed that Meneses was working "as an FBI informant" at the time of the arrest.

    In fact, the US government did not indict Norwin Meneses until 1989, after the end of the Contra war, and the indictment was for conspiracy to sell precisely 1 kilo of cocaine in 1984. By then Meneses, sensing his veil of protection might have worn thin, had left San Francisco for his ranch in Costa Rica. No attempt was made to secure Meneses's arrest or to persuade the Costa Rican government to extradite him. The indictment wasn't made public and was kept under seal in San Francisco at the request of the federal government. Interestingly enough, 1984 -- the year for which the US government chose to charge Meneses with dealing in cocaine -- was the very year in which he had been most conspicuous as a big figure in the Nicaraguan emigre movement supporting the Contras. During that year Meneses had been entertaining Contra leaders, hosting Contra fundraising dinners and having his photograph taken with Adolfo Calero.

    Webb uncovered evidence that even Contra supporters in San Francisco were uncomfortable about the source of Meneses's disbursements in the Contra cause. The Mercury News series included an interview with, Dennis Ainsworth, a former Cal State/Hayward economics professor who was a well-connected Reagan Republican and active in the Contra cause. In 1985 he was told by Renato Pena, an FDN leader in San Francisco, "that the FDN is involved in drug smuggling with the aid of Norwin Meneses who also buys arms for Enrique Bermudez, a leader of the FDN." Ainsworth finally told his friends in the Reagan administration about Meneses, and asked what they knew about the Nicaraguan. He was told that the DEA had a drug file on Meneses "two feet thick." Ainsworth gave a detailed interview to the FBI on February 27, 1987, a severely edited version of which had recently been declassified by the US National Archives. In this interview, Ainsworth not only backed the contention that Meneses was using drug profits to buy weapons for the Contras, but also gave details of how US Customs and DEA agents trying to investigate Meneses "felt threatened and intimidated by National Security interference in legitimate narcotics smuggling investigations."

    Norwin Meneses was finally arrested in 1990, when Nicaraguan authorities caught him trying to transport 750 kilos of cocaine. Reporters in Managua soon unearthed the sealed San Francisco indictment. The Nicaraguan police and the Nicaraguan judge presiding over Meneses's trial expressed outrage that the United States had known about the drug lord's activities for fifteen years, but had never arrested him. "We always felt there was an unanswered question," recalled Rene Vita, a former narcotics investigator, to the British TV documentary crew. "How was it that this man, who was known to be involved in drug-related activities, moved so freely around Central America, the US and Mexico?"

    Meneses had been turned in to the Nicaraguan police by his longtime associate Enrique Miranda, a former intelligence officer in Somoza's National Guard, who had been Meneses's link to the Bogota cocaine cartel in Colombia. Miranda testified that from 1981 through 1985 Meneses transported his cocaine out of Colombia through the services of Marcos Aguado, a Nicaraguan who had become a senior officer in the Salvadoran air force. Aguado was a contract pilot for the US "humanitarian aid" flights to the Contras, based at Ilopango airbase in San Salvador. The overseer for such operations at this airport was a career CIA officer, Felix Rodriguez. Miranda testified that Aguado flew Salvadoran air force planes to Colombia to pick up cocaine shipments and delivered them to US Air Force bases in Texas. On the basis of Miranda's testimony, Norwin Meneses was sentenced by the Nicaraguan court to thirty years in prison.

    Danilo Blandon enjoyed good fortune as far as any intrusion by law enforcement into his affairs was concerned. All the way through the first half of the 1980s, the prime wholesaler of cocaine to Los Angeles was not once raided or inconvenienced in any way by any authorities. The Boland amendment barring aid to the Contras was lifted on October 17, 1986. On October 27, 1986, warrants were issued by the FBI, IRS and Los Angeles County Sheriff's office for the arrest of Blandon and his wife. The arrest warrants from the LA Sheriff's office included an affidavit from Sergeant Tom Gordon, charging that "Danilo Blandon is in charge of a sophisticated cocaine smuggling and distribution organization operating in southern California. The moneys gained from the sales of cocaine are transported to Florida and laundered through Orlando Murillo who is a high-ranking officer of a chain of banks in Florida named Government Securities Corporation. From this bank the moneys are filtered to the Contra rebels to buy arms in the war in Nicaragua." Orlando Murillo was a cousin of Blandon's wife, Chepita. Police raided twelve warehouses suspected of being used by Blandon. No drugs were found. The police were convinced that Blandon had received a tip-off about the impending raids and had cleaned up.

    One of the targets in those early morning raids on October 27 was the Mission Viejo home of Ronald Lister, the former Laguna Beach police detective who had been the arms supplier to the Blandon ring. Lister opened the door wearing his bathrobe, and sheriff's deputies flooded in. Lister became belligerent and told the deputies they were "making a big mistake." He informed the police that he didn't deal drugs, but that he did do a lot of business in Latin America for the US government, and that his friends in the government weren't going to be happy about the deputies ransacking his house.

    Then Lister picked up the phone and said he was calling his friend "Scott Weekly of the CIA." The cops continued in the search, and though they found no cocaine, they did turn up an amazing cache of weapons, military manuals and training videotapes. Even though Lister escaped arrest, the police seized boxes of military material. Again, the police were convinced that someone had tipped Lister to the impending raid. These suspicions magnified when, less than a week later, all of the evidence carted from Lister's house mysteriously disappeared from the Sheriff's Department's property room.

(C) 1998 Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair All rights reserved. ISBN: 1-85984-897-4


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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FARC is considered a TERRORIST ORGANIZATION by the U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT (on its list of foreign terrorist organizations) and is alledgedly responsible for kidnappings and narcotics trafficking in order to bankroll their revolutionary activities .


NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso with a FARC Commmander

NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso with a FARC Commmander

NYSE Chief Meets Top Colombia Rebel Leader

Saturday, 26 June 1999

BOGOTA -- The head of the New York Stock Exchange held face-to-face talks Saturday with a leader of Colombia's main Marxist rebel group, government sources said.

They said NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso flew into a demilitarized region of Colombia's southern jungle and savanna for his talks with a member of the general secretariat of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

A government spokesman initially said Grasso had met Manuel Marulanda, a legendary figure known by the alias ``Sureshot'' and the FARC's maximum commander.

But the state-run news agency ANCOL later reported that Grasso had met Raul Reyes, one of Marulanda's top deputies and his chief negotiator in fledgling peace talks with the government.

The meeting was thought to be the first between a senior member of the FARC, which is radically opposed to capitalism, and a representative of one of the world's top financial markets.

ANCOL quoted Grasso as having stressed the importance of full-fledged negotiations between the government and FARC, which are due to get under way on July 7 and aimed at ending a conflict that has taken more than 35,000 lives over the last decade alone.

The news agency said Grasso had extended a personal invitation to leaders of the FARC, which is considered a ''terrorist'' organization by the State Department, to visit Wall Street as soon as possible.

"I invite members of the FARC to visit the New York Stock Exchange so that they can get to know the market personally," Grasso was quoted as saying.

"I truly hope that they can do this," he added.

The government has granted the FARC control of a Switzerland-sized area of south and southeast Colombia since last November as a confidence-building measure to enter into peace talks.

ANCOL said Grasso's talks with Reyes, which lasted 1-1/2 hours, took place inside the rebel-controlled zone in an area near the village of La Machacha, in southern Caqueta province.

The news agency also said Grasso, whose presence in Colombia was kept secret until Saturday, was slated to return to New York Sunday.

Local media said Grasso had asked to meet a representative of the FARC's high command to discuss foreign investment and the future role of U.S. businesses in Colombia.

The FARC and a smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), both took up arms against the state in the mid-1960s and have a long-running tradition of targeting U.S. interests in Colombia.

Both groups also use kidnapping to help bankroll their war effort.

©1999 Reuters Limited

NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso with a FARC Commmander

A Real World Example:

NYSE's Richard Grasso and the

Ultimate New Business "Cold Call"

Lest you think that my comment about the New York Stock Exchange is too strong, let's look at one event that occurred before our "war on drugs" went into high gear through Plan Colombia, banging heads over narco dollar market share in Latin America.

In late June 1999, numerous news services, including Associated Press, reported that Richard Grasso, Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange flew to Colombia to meet with a spokesperson for Raul Reyes of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), the supposed "narco terrorists" with whom we are now at war.

The purpose of the trip was "to bring a message of cooperation from U.S. financial services" and to discuss foreign investment and the future role of U.S. businesses in Colombia.

Some reading in between the lines said to me that Grasso's mission related to the continued circulation of cocaine capital through the US financial system. FARC, the Colombian rebels, were circulating their profits back into local development without the assistance of the American banking and investment system. Worse yet for the outlook for the US stock market's strength from $500 billion - $1 trillion in annual money laundering - FARC was calling for the decriminalization of cocaine.

To understand the threat of decriminalization of the drug trade, just go back to your Sam and Dave estimate and recalculate the numbers given what decriminalization does to drive BIG PERCENT back to SLIM PERCENT and what that means to Wall Street and Washington's cash flows. No narco dollars, no reinvestment into the stock markets, no campaign contributions.

It was only a few days after Grasso's trip that BBC News reported a General Accounting Office (GAO) report to Congress as saying: "Colombia's cocaine and heroin production is set to rise by as much as 50 percent as the U.S. backed drug war flounders, due largely to the growing strength of Marxist rebels"

I deduced from this incident that the liquidity of the NY Stock Exchange was sufficiently dependent on high margin cocaine profits (BIG PERCENT) that the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange was willing for Associated Press to acknowledge he is making "cold calls" in rebel controlled peace zones in Colombian villages. "Cold calls" is what we used to call new business visits we would pay to people we had not yet done business with when I was on Wall Street.

I presume Grasso's trip was not successful in turning the cash flow tide. Hence, Plan Colombia is proceeding apace to try to move narco deposits out of FARC's control and back to the control of our traditional allies and, even if that does not work, to move Citibank's market share and that of the other large US banks and financial institutions steadily up in Latin America.

Buy Banamex anyone?


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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> AOL Leader Meets Colombia Rebels
> > By JARED KOTLER Associated Press Writer
> > BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -
Leftist guerrillas continued
> a running dialogue on the workings of international > capitalism Friday - this time with the > chairman emeritus of America Online. > > In meeting that took observers by surprise, Jim Kimsey > met in the rebel-held southern village of Los Pozos with > Manuel Marulanda, the founder and chief of the powerful > Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, > Colombian officials said. > > It was the latest in a series of unusual contacts between > business leaders and rebels who maintain 1960s-era > socialist rhetoric. The sessions are part of a government > effort to boost fledgling peace talks by exposing the FARC > - which earn huge profits off the drug trade and kidnappings > - to the outside world. > > Marulanda said ``he is very much interested in achieving peace,'' > the AOL chief told reporters after the meeting, which was also > attended by Colombian government officials and Joseph E. > Robert, who runs a Virgina-based investment firm. > > ``He understands, I think, that foreign investment is critical > to the prosperity of this country and I think is willing to negotiate > and to discuss possible solutions that will move this country into > the 21st century,'' Kimsey added. > > The two even exhanged baseball caps. Marulanda gave Kimsey > one in rebel camouflage. Kimsey gave Marulanda one emblazoned > with the AOL logo. > > He said he would urge other American businessmen to visit > Colombia, but doubts sagging foreign investment will rebound > until there is peace. > > Although the peasant-based FARC is seen as isolated from the > modern world, it hasn't shied away from the kind of technology > Kimsey helped develop. > > >From deep in the jungle, the 15,000-member rebel group post > communiques on the Internet, sends e-mails to journalists, and > uses computers to record finances and intelligence about potential > kidnapping victims. > > Increased private networking with the guerrillas is occurring despite > a U.S. government boycott on such contacts. > > The State Department cut off diplomatic contacts with the FARC > last year after a rebel unit abducted and killed three American > pro-Indian activists in Colombia. > > No new meetings are likely until the guilty rebels are brought to > justice, State Department spokesman James Rubin said Friday > in Washington. > > Asked why he met this time with the FARC, Kimsey said he > considered it a ``wonderful opportunity'' to support the peace process. > > Last July, New York Stock Exchange chairman Richard Grasso > met with senior FARC leaders in Colombia. And last month, rebel > leaders accompanied by government peace delegates conducted > a 23-day European tour also designed to expand the FARC's horizons. > > The delegation toured Scandinavia, Spain, Italy and Switzerland, > meeting with unions and business leaders to explore ways Colombia's > rich-poor gap could be bridged short of implementing socialism. The > rebels' nearly 36-year insurgency feeds off grinding rural poverty

Richard Grasso walks between trading floors of the NYSE near the close of trading, Friday, July 19, 2002. (Photo: AP)


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The "president of capitalism" touts shareholder democracy to armed revolutionaries....]
Financial Times -
June 28 1999
By Adam Thomson in Bogotá

Richard Grasso, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, travelled to Colombia at the weekend to sell capitalism to the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), a leftwing group that has a tradition of targeting US interests in Colombia. Mr Grasso spent several hours with Raúl Reyes, a Farc commander, in a guerrilla-controlled area to the south of the country. From July 7, the area is to become the venue for the first concrete peace negotiations between the 15,000-strong Farc and the Colombian government. "The message that we took to Commander Reyes is that Colombia is a country of great opportunities, and that foreign capital will look for those opportunities if there is stability," said Mr Grasso. Despite the imminent negotiations, Colombia's 35-year armed conflict is intensifying, and the resulting instability is worrying investors. In recent weeks, Moody's and Standard & Poor's, the US rating agencies, have indicated that the conflict could lead to the country losing its investment-grade rating. Mr Grasso, who emphasised that he was representing the private sector and not the US government, described his conversation with Mr Reyes as "warm" and "open". They discussed the world economy, globalisation and how developing markets were increasing their ownership of capital. "We told him that they [the Farc] must understand that the private sector and capital markets are very hopeful that the conversations which start in July produce and positive and lasting peace," he said. Mr Grasso invited Mr Reyes and Andrés Pastrana, Colombia's president, to visit the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate peace. -------

Wall Street Journal - June 28, 1999 ------------------------------------------------------------------------
By Thomas T. Vogel Jr. and Mary Morrison
Staff Reporters of the Wall Street Journal

BOGOTA, Colombia -- The chairman of the New York Stock Exchange ventured into the jungles of southern Colombia to deliver a message of free markets to a leftist leader of the hemisphere's most powerful rebel group. Richard Grasso flew by helicopter Saturday to the tiny town of La Machaca in the middle of an isolated zone controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Two other Big Board officials, Colombia's economy minister and several other government officials accompanied Mr. Grasso. The stock-exchange executive spoke for 90 minutes with Commander Raul Reyes, one of FARC's highest-ranking leaders. "We talked about economics, capital markets and how peace translates into economic opportunity for Colombia," said Mr. Grasso in an interview. Mr. Grasso was invited to visit Colombia by President Andres Pastrana after a spate of mass kidnappings and violence forced the president to cancel a visit to the Big Board earlier this month. "When I called to cancel the trip, Mr. Grasso asked me if he could do anything to help," recalled Mr. Pastrana yesterday. "So I asked him to come down and talk to these people about what's happening in the rest of the world." During the visit, the stock-exchange executive and the guerrilla leader talked about "how the peace process of Colombia is perceived on Wall Street," said Economy Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo, who served as translator for the meeting. The two men talked about "how Colombia's economy could grow more quickly and foreign investments would increase with peace," added Mr. Restrepo. "I gave him a tutorial on what's happened in the U.S. in terms of this democratization of capitalism," said Mr. Grasso. "One of the messages I wanted to emphasize is how we have a nation with almost 200 million people who own shares," explained Mr. Grasso. "With indirect ownership, literally everybody in America is a stockholder." Mr. Grasso said his words were well received. "It was a very good meeting overall." He said Mr. Reyes appeared to be "interested in learning what alternative investments could be made in Colombia once peace is achieved." Mr. Grasso added that the rebel commander "was very concerned about the narrow focus, the narrow perception that Colombia is purely looked upon as a narco-traffic economy ... he was much more in tune than you would have expected." The Big Board chairman also invited Mr. Reyes to visit the stock exchange. "He seemed reasonably intrigued," said Mr. Grasso. President Pastrana is pushing for a peace agreement with Colombia's guerrilla groups after nearly 40 years of conflict. The president is also campaigning for more foreign investment in Colombia to help end the nation's worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Origins of FARC FARC, formed in the early 1960s by communist guerrillas, is Colombia's largest and oldest guerrilla group. It is on the State Department's list of international terrorist groups. The U.S. government has said that it broke off all contacts with the rebel band after FARC guerrillas murdered three Americans in Colombia earlier this year. The group earns tens of millions of dollars a year from kidnapping, extortion and protection of Colombia's illegal drug trade. Over the past year, the group has handed Colombia's military a stunning string of humiliating defeats. In recent years, the leftist group's leaders have indicated a greater openness to free-market ideals as long as social justice is guaranteed. This isn't the first visit by a U.S. citizen to FARC territory. Just three weeks ago, Congressman William Delahunt, a Democrat from Massachusetts, met with Mr. Reyes in a similar visit to the region. "We are very aggressive in trying to pursue international markets and opportunities," explained Mr. Grasso in the interview. "The entirety of the Latin American landscape is a very promising one for us." Mr. Pastrana, who has met with FARC leaders several times himself, insisted that Mr. Grasso was in no immediate danger during the trip. "This was the president of capitalism" in FARC territory, said Mr. Pastrana. "He knew that I wasn't going to put him in any danger.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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WHAT DID JOHN ROBERTS KNOW ABOUT THE ADAM COMMUTATION? Pakistani heroin smuggler served 5 years of 55 year sentence; freed by senior Bush and his Justice Department two days before Bill Clinton was sworn in. Pakistani heroin smuggler flown as quickly out of the country as the Bin Ladens and Saudis were a few days after 911.

Perhaps the strangest decision by the first Bush administration and its Justice Department, in which Roberts was a significant player as Deputy Solicitor General, was their January 18, 1993 decision to commute the tough sentence -- two days before Bush left office -- of convicted Pakistani heroin smuggler Aslam Adam. A resident of Karachi who had only been in the United States for less than a month, Adam was sentenced in 1985 to a 55 year Federal prison term after federal authorities caught him retrieving a package containing heroin sent from Pakistan to a Charlotte, North Carolina post office box. The package had been flagged by a US Customs Officer at JFK Airport in New York and a stakeout was laid in Charlotte to catch Adam when he picked up the package. It was reported at the time of Adam's commutation that he was involved in a CIA covert operation involving Pakistan. During 1985, the CIA, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan's ISI intelligence, was funding and training the Mujaheddin guerrillas fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. One of the guerrilla leaders was Osama Bin Laden. Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials, as well as Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, expressed bewilderment and surprise at Adam's pardon by Bush and the Justice Department. U.S. Judge Robert Potter (a tough sentencing judge nicknamed "Maximum Bob") said he didn't want Adam freed. In addition, upon Adam's pardon and quick release from Butner Federal Prison in North Carolina, he was taken by Federal agents to a waiting plane and flown to Pakistan. Prison warden K.M. Hawk was opposed to an earlier proposal to have Adam freed to serve his sentence in Pakistan. Bush never explained why he pardoned Adam. Bush White House officials directed inquiries to the Justice Department. Justice passed the buck back to the White House.

The comments by various parties involved in the Adam case:

"It's most unusual. There must have been some diplomatic aspect. I can't see President Bush making a cavalier move on the brink of leaving office in this fashion after what he's said about the war on drugs." -- Ken Andresen, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Adam.

"It's not good to be recommending clemency in cases of drug offenses." -- David Stephenson, Pardon Attorney of the US Justice Department.

"It may be that the Drug Enforcement Administration or the CIA wanted something from Pakistan -- and what they wanted will never see the light of day." - anonymous law enforcement official.

"I didn't know anything about it until I saw it in the paper." -- Judge Robert Potter.

"I don't know why the president commuted this man's sentence. Only the
president and his close advisers would know that." -- Thomas J. Ashcraft, US Attorney, Western District of North Carolina.

"I wish I had been as effective with President Bush as Mr. Adam." -- Pakistani ambassador to the United States Syeda Hussain.

"God bless Bush." -- Fatima Adam, Aslam Adam's mother.

"Drugs is the gravest threat facing our nation." -- President George H. W. Bush.

Source: "Freeing of drug smuggler baffles legal authorities," By John Monk, Gary L. Wright; Knight-Ridder Tribune News, The Houston Chronicle, March 28, 1993, p. A20.

Adam's name was the last on Bush's pardon/commutation list:

Aslam P. Adam



Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin, importation of heroin, and use of mail in committing felony, 18 U.S.C. § 2, and 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846, 952(a), 960(b)(1)(A), 963, and 843(b)

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Where is Luis Posada?
By Bill Weaver,
Posted on Tue Jul 19th, 2005 at 02:58:39 AM EST
Today we received mixed signals on the location of Luis Posada, the anti-Castro terrorist wanted in Venezuela for the bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455 in 1976. . .

Posada, last released from prison in Panama in 2004, is the Zelig of the Latin American world of spies and intrigue. He was involved with the Bay of Pigs attack, was a major player in Iran-Contra, an operative in the murderous Condor network that wiped out innumerable leftists in Latin America, worked with President Cerezo in Guatemala in attempting to keep the Guatemalan army at bay, and engaged in numerous attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. Indeed, his last stint in prison before coming to the United States was for plotting Castro’s murder during a 2000 visit to Panama; Posada was arrested with 40 tons of explosives.

But for the last few decades, wherever Posada goes the specter of the Bush dynasty follows. At the time of the Cubana bombing, on October 6, 1976, George H.W. Bush was Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and newly released records show that agency involvement with the bombing was greater than even suspected by many of the more cynical observers. It does not get any clearer than the CIA report of June 22, 1976, that stated, "a Cuban Exile extremist group, of which Orlando Bosch [a long-time partner of Posada] is a leader, plans to place a bomb on a Cubana Airline flight traveling between Panama and Havana." Bush senior was also Vice President of the United States when Posada “escaped” from a Venezuelan prison while being tried for the Cubana bombing. Posada resurfaced soon after his 1985 escape from Venezuela, as Ramon Medina, a chief player in the Iran-Contra affair,a grotesquerie hatched by the CIA and the Reagan-Bush Administration that helped fund itself by facilitating drug sales in the United States. In 1986, Bush family friend and lapdog, Elliot Abrams, lied stone-faced to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about U.S. involvement in the "contra" affair, making sure to protect Bush senior:

"Mr. Stokes asked whether denial of U.S. involvement included the Vice President. Mr. Abram’s said Mr. Gregg of the Vice President’s staff had introduced Mr. [Felix] Rodriguez to Salvadoran Air Force officials in 1984 to serve as an adviser on air/ground operations. Mr. Rodriguez’ actions since that time were on his own."

Abrams has resurfaced as a chief adviser in the Bush junior administration. And Bush senior, as President, released Posada’s comrade-in-arms, Orlando Bosch, from federal detention in 1990. Now with the weight of all this history on him, and no doubt tremendous familial pressure, Bush junior must decide what to do with a 77-year-old terrorist who is really the living embodiment of a failed United States policy of decades past. The federal government transported Posada to El Paso, Texas, where he is to have a bond hearing on July 25.

We are unable to go into any further detail, but credible information has it that Posada is no longer in El Paso. Additionally, two separate calls to the detention facility supposedly holding Posada yielded differing information concerning his upcoming bond hearing. During a call this morning, employees said that the bond hearing set for the 25th will be accomplished electronically, with neither Posada nor his attorney to be present. Later in the day, however, a second call to the detention center yielded the information that Posada was “most definitely” at that facility and that he would be present for the bond hearing next Monday.

Bill Conroy, well known to regular readers of Narco News and the Narcosphere, said that he checked with sources on the inside and could not confirm that Posada had been moved. But one of his sources said that “it would not be a big surprise if Posada were moved. They could move him on a whim, claiming he was under threat or for some national security pretense. [The government] want[s] to control [Posada] as much as [it] can without killing him.”

If the U.S. is moving Posada around, it is in an effort to play a shell game with its own past. It must be difficult to know what to do with someone whose life and experience span U.S.-sponsored murder, deceit and lies perpetrated upon people and democracies, and who is a Bush family member by ideology, temperament, and disgust for law, if not by birth. Samuel Beckett once said that, “Habit is the ballast that chains a dog to his vomit.” We will soon find out what chains George W. Bush to Luis Posada.



Posada Carriles deportation case turns into Bay of Pigs sparnfarkel
By Bill Conroy,
Posted on Mon Jul 25th, 2005 at 11:05:45 PM EST
Accused terrorist Luis Posada Carriles failed to make his case to be set free on bond today. Posada, as you recall, has been in federal custody for a couple months now pending a ruling on his request for asylum.

Of even greater interest, however, is the fact that the Associated Press reports that the federal immigration judge hearing Posada’s case “asked lawyers involved in the deportation case … to provide briefs on whether the Bay of Pigs invasion could be considered an act of terrorism.”

That’s right, U.S. prosecutors and Posada’s attorneys will now have to duke it out over whether the U.S. government engaged in an act of terrorism against the Cuban government in the early 1960s. And the irony is that it will be to the benefit of U.S. prosecutors to argue that it was terrorism, since it would seem to bolster the government’s case against granting Posada asylum.

A federal immigration judge on Monday ordered that the 77-year-old CIA asset remain in federal detention in El Paso, where he has been held since May after being taken into custody in Miami. He is charged with illegally entering the United States.

Posada claims he entered the “land of the free” through Mexico. Other facts seem to indicate he may well have landed in Florida via a trip on a covert shrimp boat. After granting an interview to a Miami newspaper announcing his whereabouts in the Cuban community in Miami, he was taken into custody by federal agents and shipped to El Paso.

From the AP story:

Judge William A. Abbott also denied bond for Luis Posada Carriles, 77, a former CIA operative accused of orchestrating the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner while in Caracas, Venezuela.

… Among the factors Abbott said he would consider in Posada's case was whether he had ever provided material support for acts of terror.

Recently declassified CIA documents show that the spy agency trained Posada in Guatemala in 1961 to participate in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, including explosives and weapons training. Posada, who rose to the rank of second lieutenant, was in the U.S. Army from March 1963 to March 1964 in Fort Benning, Ga.

Abbott said the sponsor of terrorist activity didn't matter, even if it were the U.S. government. He didn't elaborate, except to say he would ask the lawyers to provide briefs on the matter.

So is the judge in the case actually going to stand up to the Bush Administration and pry open Posada’s terrorist past before pronouncing judgment? If so, how long will it be before the judge is jammed up by U.S. “national security interests” — and Posada’s case transferred to a more friendly court?

Those cards have yet to be play out. But Posada’s attorney seems to be interested in this game of Texas Hold‘em as well, according to the AP report:

"I look forward to reading the government's response," said Matthew J. Archambeault, one of Posada's Florida-based attorneys.

After all, if Posada’s work for the CIA is deemed “terrorist activity,” by extension that means the CIA is a sponsor of terrorism

It does appear the strain of it all, and maybe the bad prison food, are starting to get to Posada.

More from the AP report:

Posada was mostly silent during Monday's hearing, occasionally conferring in Spanish with one of his lawyers. Appearing in court in a red jail uniform, with the outline of a bulletproof vest visible on his back, Posada's right temple and jaw were heavily bandaged from recent skin cancer surgery.

Of course, Posada’s attorneys are denying that their client participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion -- well, in lawyer talk anyway. His attorney, Archambeault, said Posada “did not actually participate in the failed invasion,” according to the AP report. But such wording leaves plenty of wiggle room for Posada to avoid perjury charges down the road, when it comes to light that he did play a role in the planning and coordination of the invasion.

Posada’s attorneys also are denying that their client had any role in another terrorist act, the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner. However, it seems even his longtime employer, the CIA, can’t back up Posada on that one.

From the AP report:

According to a declassified CIA document released last month, Posada said shortly before the deadly bombing that he and others would "hit a Cuban airplane." Venezuelan officials have said Posada was in Caracas when he allegedly planned the attack, which killed 73 people when the plane crashed off the coast of Barbados.

Finally, Posada has dropped his claim that he is a U.S. resident. His attorney says his client “didn’t want to burden the court with an issue he couldn’t win,” the AP reports.

So it sounds like Posada’s attorneys are zero for three at the plate by my count. The judge now wants to explore Posada’s ties to the Bay of Pigs invasion; even CIA documents point to the fact that Posada’s denials concerning the Cuban airline bombing don’t carry water; and now Posada is giving up on what had all along seemed a dubious claim to U.S. residency –- given the fact that he hadn’t lived in the United States (prior to his illegal entry) in decades.

So where’s the beef in his case? What does he deserve asylum from –- the justice due for his terrorist past?

Posada’s last hope is the political might of the anti-Castro Cuban community it seems, or at least that might explain why, as AP reports, that his “lawyer did say Posada would renew his request that the case be moved to Miami and elsewhere in Florida, where Posada has friends and relatives.”

But will Bush actually take the international political heat on this one to appease elements of the anti-Castro Cuban community in Miami? Not likely –- particularly because those votes can always be “fixed” in other ways.

And the Bush Administration is certainly not going to allow Posada, a Venezuelan citizen, to be turned over to the Venezuelan government –- which is seeking his extradition so that he can stand trial on charges that he masterminded the Cuban airliner bombing.

Posada avoided standing trial on the same charges 20 years ago by escaping from a prison in that South American country. If Posada is brought back for a return engagement, he would have the eyes of the world upon him –- and a stage for uncloaking a sordid tale of covert treachery stretching back some 45 years.

The Bush White House already has to be worried about what Posada might say in a U.S. courtroom. He is already threatening to testify at his next hearing in El Paso, slated for Aug. 29, the AP reports.

Posada even appears willing to open up on questions about terrorism.

From a separate report by Reuters:

Posada will "work with the government in good faith" to answer the terrorism question, said (Posada’s attorney) Archambeault. "Mr. Posada doesn't want the U.S. government to jump through hoops."

That will be a case of the fox asking the snake what he did with the chicken eggs.

Stay tuned. This game of Texas Hold‘em still has a few wild cards in play.

And in the mean time, can someone make sure Posada gets a cell without a window. Too much sunshine could be bad for his skin cancer.

Posada Hearing
                                Judge denies bond for accused terrorist Luis Posada Carriles

Monday, July 25, 2005 — Posada is a former CIA agent said to be trained for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Posada has been in the federal detention facility in El Paso since his arrest in Miami in May for allegedly entering into the U.S. illegally.

He is accused of being involved in a number of terrorists acts including the 1976 bombing of a cuban airliner.

73 people were killed.

Posada is wanted in Venezuela for that bombing.

His lawyers were wondering why the judge would consider the Bay of Pigs invasion as an act of terrorism when it was funded by the United States.

Posada is seeking political asylum.

The judge denied a change of venue last month so his trial will start August 29th.

His lawyers say they will still ask for a change of venue to Miami so Posada can be closure to friends and family.

They say he has skin cancer and a heart condition.


Posted on Mon, Jul. 25, 2005


Posada used fake I.D. in 2000 trip

Luis Posada Carriles was in Miami five years ago posing as a Salvadoran traveler, U.S. officials have learned.


Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles used a false Salvadoran passport to fly to South Florida in the spring of 2000 -- about six months before using the same passport to travel to Panama, where he was arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Posada's April 26, 2000 trip to Miami, revealed in documents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, may become a point of contention during deportation proceedings that resume today for Posada, who has been accused of acts of terrorism.

Use of a false passport to enter the country is a deportable offense in its own right.

Posada, who escaped from a Venezuelan jail in 1985 and was freed from Panama after receiving a pardon, was taken into U.S. custody on May 17 after sneaking into South Florida this year. But the records filed in his deportation case in El Paso, Texas, raise questions about just how often the former CIA operative has visited America.

A travel record included as federal evidence against Posada shows he arrived at Miami International Airport on a flight from Central America on April 26, 2000 carrying a Salvadoran passport in the name of Franco Rodriguez Mena.

Records submitted for the current immigration case show ''Rodriguez Mena'' traveled to Miami ostensibly to catch a connecting flight to another country. But the record does not show him leaving.

Moreover, a separate record, obtained by The Herald, shows Rodriguez Mena classified as a ''violator,'' suggesting that he might have slipped illegally out of a transit lounge at MIA.

Matthew Archambeault, a Posada lawyer, told The Herald late Sunday that Posada confirmed to him over the weekend that he indeed traveled to Miami on April 26, 2000 -- but only to catch a plane to Aruba, and that he never left the transit lounge.


So far, Posada has been accused only of being in the country illegally. But use of false documents is a federal offense that could result in a sentence of up to 25 years in prison if the false document was used for terrorism purposes. Attempting to enter the United States on a false passport also renders a traveler inadmissible and deportable.

U.S. government officials declined comment.

A motion filed by Posada's lawyers in immigration court last week questioned the relevance of citing the fake passport.

''Document fraud is not a particularly serious crime and would not be the type of crime that would make him ineligible for reception of a bond,'' the motion said.

In addition to the alleged misadventure in Panama, Posada has been accused of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people and has been linked to a series of 1997 bombings at Cuban hotels.

The revelation that he came to South Florida once before without being discovered adds new details about his movements just prior to the alleged Panama conspiracy.

It came just months before Posada's fateful trip to Panama, where he was arrested with three other Cuban exile militants -- all of whom live in South Florida.

The four -- Posada, Guillermo Novo, Gaspar Jimenez and Pedro Remon -- were released in August after then-Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso pardoned them. Posada traveled to Honduras where he went underground and then arrived in Miami in late March, still in hiding. Novo, Jimenez and Remon were flown to Opa-locka in a leased private jet soon after being released in Panama.

One of the three, Remon, told the Herald Friday that he did not know Posada had been in the United States before March of this year.

''He may have just gotten on a different plane or something,'' Remon said of Posada's Miami visit. ``I didn't know that he was in here 2000. I never talked to Luis Posada in North American territory.''

Novo and Jimenez could not be reached for comment.

Posada's lawyers, in a motion filed last week, objected to the inclusion of the Rodriguez Mena travel record in the government's evidence package. They said it was irrelevant to the case. But the motion did not question the accuracy of the travel record.


Posada's lawyers also objected to the inclusion of other Rodriguez Mena travel records which suggest that he might have flown to the United States on at least three other occasions -- in 1998, 1999 and once more in October 2000.

There are no corroborating immigration documents to support those trips, however.

The U.S. filing also includes investigative documents from El Salvador, where authorities issued an arrest warrant for Posada on grounds that he procured false documents in their country.

Posada once lived in Miami with a green card in the 1960s, but moved abroad. His lawyer plans to argue in the El Paso proceedings that he is still a resident, despite having been out of the country for decades.

Norma Morfa, a Miami spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees MIA passport control, said her agency could neither ``deny or confirm this information due to the case still being under investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.''

Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokeswoman, said her agency is ``precluded from commenting on pending litigation.''

Posted on Sat, Jul. 23, 2005


Man convicted in jetliner bombing wants extradition for Posada

Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT) - Breaking 29 years of silence, one of two men convicted in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people said in an exclusive interview that exile militant Luis Posada Carriles should be extradited to Venezuela to stand trial in the case.

But Freddy Lugo - who claims he was an innocent dupe in the bomb plot - denied that he made incriminating statements Venezuelan officials attribute to him in their application to have Posada sent to Caracas.

Posada, a former CIA operative who has been linked to a series of 1997 bombings at Cuban hotels, is in U.S. custody after sneaking into the country this year. He is seeking asylum in a case that largely hinges on the shadowy events of 1976 - the year that Lugo says changed his life forever.

Lugo told The Miami Herald that Posada should be returned to Venezuela because he had escaped from a Venezuelan jail before a case against him in the airliner bombing was resolved.

Posada escaped in 1985 - after an initial acquittal but while a prosecutor's appeal was pending. Two years later, a Caracas court acquitted Posada's associate, Cuban exile militant Orlando Bosch. But the court convicted Lugo and his friend Hernan Ricardo.

"He escaped from a Venezuelan jail," Lugo said during the hourlong interview. "He must come to finish serving his time here, like I did, being innocent."

In a June 10 statement as part of its extradition request, the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., cited Lugo as a key witness against Posada. The statement said the Venezuelan government had delivered to the United States evidence that includes "the testimony of Freddy Lugo confirming his participation in the blowing up of the plane and of urgent calls made by Lugo and Ricardo to Posada Carriles shortly after the disaster, seeking his help."

That testimony has not been released to the public. But Lugo said of it: "It's false."

Bernardo Alvarez, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States, said what matters legally in the case is Lugo's prior testimony.

"There are statements on the part of Freddy Lugo which are clear and consistent over the years," Alvarez said in an e-mail to The Herald Friday evening. "We do not know what Lugo said or why he said it to The Miami Herald, but we know what he told the authorities and this is consistent with the submitted evidence."

Posada told The Herald earlier this year that he didn't believe Lugo was involved in the bombing. "In my opinion, Hernan Ricardo may have been involved, although he always denied everything," he said. "Freddy Lugo was a fool."

Lugo still lives in Caracas, in a one-story whitewashed house in a working class neighborhood. It's surrounded by a 10-foot concrete wall. He says he makes his money driving a cab.

He lives with his sister, his son and his daughter-in-law and keeps a low profile.

During the interview at his home, Lugo immediately proclaimed his innocence. He also said that he did not know if Posada or the other men implicated in the attacks - Ricardo and Bosch - were guilty or innocent.

"I only know that I know nothing," Lugo said, speaking calmly while his family ate lunch in the kitchen. "I participated indirectly without knowing anything."

Alternately serious and jovial, often exhibiting subtle dark humor, Lugo portrayed himself as a scapegoat, an innocent bystander drawn into a plot that the other three may or may not have hatched without his knowledge.

"Journalists perhaps don't want to interview me because I don't have anything explosive to tell them," Lugo said, smiling.

Lugo and Ricardo were news photographers for the Caracas newspaper El Mundo at the time of the 1976 bombing. They were also part-time covert agents for DISIP, the Venezuelan state security agency.

One of the agency's top officials - before he retired and started his own private security agency - was Posada. Posada also owned a private security firm in Caracas that employed Ricardo - though just before the bombing, Posada reassigned him to serve as Bosch's chauffeur.

Lugo said that when he took a trip overseas with Ricardo in October 1976, he had no idea the plane was doomed. He said he went along because he wanted to buy camera equipment - and Ricardo had offered to pay for the plane tickets.

"What an expensive trip, right? It destroyed my life," he said.

Lugo and Ricardo left Caracas for Trinidad and Tobago, where they boarded the Cubana de Aviacion DC-8. They got off during a stopover in Barbados. Shortly after takeoff from Barbados, the plane exploded.

Lugo and Ricardo left Barbados in a hurry, Venezuelan court records say. Shortly after they reached Trinidad, they were arrested.

Along with Bosch and Posada, Lugo and Ricardo were tried in Venezuela and acquitted by a military court in 1980, but the case was then continued in a civilian court.

By 1987, Posada had escaped. Bosch was acquitted that year. Lugo and Ricardo were convicted and sentenced to 20 years - though in 1993 they were placed on supervised release.

Lugo said he had not had any contact with Ricardo since. Ricardo could not be reached for comment despite several attempts.

Posada's attorney in Caracas, Joaquin Chaffardet, and Posada both told The Herald they believe Ricardo is now out of Venezuela and working as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney said the agency does not confirm whether someone is an informant.

According to official Venezuelan documents, Lugo told authorities that immediately after he and Ricardo learned the plane had exploded, Ricardo was both distraught and incredulous.

The Venezuelan account says Ricardo called himself the world's deadliest terrorist - deadlier even than Venezuela's notorious Carlos "The Jackal."

Venezuelan investigators said Lugo quoted Ricardo as saying: "Damn, Lugo, I am desperate and I feel like crying because I had never killed anyone. ... `The Jackal' may have his record as a great terrorist, but I surpassed him. What's more, I surpassed even the Palestinians in terrorism and now I am the one who has the record, because I am the one who blew up that thing."

Lugo told The Herald that he never heard Ricardo make any such statement.

"All those things are false," he said, adding that statements attributed to him during the investigation were fabrications by detectives "to advance their careers."

Lugo revealed a hint of bitterness toward Posada, Ricardo and Bosch, insinuating that he had been deliberately sucked into a sinister plot against Fidel Castro.

He said that during his time in Venezuelan prisons, he distanced himself from Posada, Ricardo and Bosch because he felt that associating with the three men would have made him appear guilty.

"I didn't want to have any relations with those people because that would compromise me more," he said. "I didn't have anything to do with pro-Castro groups or anti-Castro groups or any of those things." Likewise, he said, the strong moral support and legal assistance that Posada, Bosch and Ricardo received from Cuban exiles while in prison did not extend to him.

Now, Lugo said, he just wants to live the rest of his life quietly.

"I wander around the streets of Caracas relaxed," he said. "I don't have any problems or fear. I feel innocent down to the last bone in my body."


© 2005, The Miami Herald.

Visit The Miami Herald Web edition on the World Wide Web at http://www.herald.com

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Question and Answer Session

Gary Webb: I've been instructed to repeat the question, so...

Voice From the Audience: You talked about George Bush pardoning people. Given George Bush's history with the CIA, do you know when he first knew about this, and what he knew?

Gary Webb: Well, I didn't at the time I wrote the book, I do now. The question was, when did George Bush first know about this? The CIA, in its latest report, said that they had prepared a detailed briefing for the vice president -- I think it was 1985? -- on all these allegations of contra drug trafficking and delivered it to him personally. So, it's hard for George to say he was out of the loop on this one.

I'll tell you another thing, one of the most amazing things I found in the National Archives was a report that had been written by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa -- I believe it was 1987. They had just busted a Colombian drug trafficker named Allen Rudd, and they were using him as a cooperating witness. Rudd agreed to go undercover and set up other drug traffickers, and they were debriefing him.

Now, let me set the stage for you. When you are being debriefed by the federal government for use as an informant, you're not going to go in there and tell them crazy-sounding stories, because they're not going to believe you, they're going to slap you in jail, right? What Rudd told them was, that he was involved in a meeting with Pablo Escobar, who was then the head of the Medellín cartel. They were working out arrangements to set up cocaine shipments into South Florida. He said Escobar started ranting and raving about that damned George Bush, and now he's got that South Florida Drug Task Force set up which has really been making things difficult, and the man's a traitor. And he used to deal with us, but now he wants to be president and thinks that he's double-crossing us. And Rudd said, well, what are you talking about? And Escobar said, we made a deal with that guy, that we were going to ship weapons to the contras, they were in there flying weapons down to Columbia, we were unloading weapons, we were getting them to the contras, and the deal was, we were supposed to get our stuff to the United States without any problems. And that was the deal that we made. And now he double-crossed us.

So the U.S. Attorney heard this, and he wrote this panicky memo to Washington saying, you know, this man has been very reliable so far, everything he's told us has checked out, and now he's saying that the Vice President of the United States is involved with drug traffickers. We might want to check this out. And it went all the way up -- the funny thing about government documents is, whenever it passes over somebody's desk, they have to initial it. And this thing was like a ladder, it went all the way up and all the way up, and it got up to the head of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, and he looked at it and said, looks like a job for Lawrence Walsh! And so he sent it over to Walsh, the Iran-contra prosecutor, and he said, here, you take it, you deal with this. And Walsh's office -- I interviewed Walsh, and he said, we didn't have the authority to deal with that. We were looking at Ollie North. So I said, did anybody investigate this? And the answer was, "no." And that thing sat in the National Archives for ten years, nobody ever looked at it.

Voice From the Audience: Is that in your book?

Gary Webb: Yeah.

Voice From the Audience: Thank you.

Audience Member #1: Well, first of all, I'd like to thank you for pursuing this story, you have a lot of guts to do it.

[Applause from the audience.]

Gary Webb: This is what reporters are supposed to do. This is what reporters are supposed to do. I don't think I was doing anything special.

Audience Member #1: Still, there's not too many guys like you that are doing it.

Gary Webb: That's true, they've all still got jobs.

[Laughter, scattered applause.]

Audience Member #1: I just had a couple of questions, the first one is, I followed the story on the web site, and I thought it was a really great story, it was really well done. And I noticed that the San Jose Mercury News seemed to support you for a while, and then all the sudden that support collapsed. So I was wondering what your relationship is with your editor there, and how that all played out, and when they all pulled out the rug from under you.

Gary Webb: Well, the support collapsed probably after the LA Times... The Washington [Post] came out first, the New York Times came out second, and the LA Times came out third, and they started getting nervous. There's a phenomenon in the media we all know, it's called "piling on," and they started seeing themselves getting piled on. They sent me back down to Central America two more times to do more reporting and I came back with stories that were even more outrageous than what they printed in the newspaper the first time. And they were faced with a situation of, now we're accusing Oliver North of being involved in drug trafficking. Now we're accusing the Justice Department of being part and parcel to this. Geez, if we get beat up over accusing a couple of CIA agents of being involved in this, what the hell is going to happen now? And they actually said, I had memos saying, you know, if we run these stories, there is going to be a firestorm of criticism.

So, I think they took the easy way out. The easy way out was not to go ahead and do the story. It was to back off the story. But they had a problem, because the story was true. And it isn't every day that you're confronted with how to take a dive on a true story.

They spent several months -- honestly, literally, because I was getting these drafts back and forth -- trying to figure out how to say, we don't support this story, even though it's true. And if you go back and you read the editor's column, you'll see that the great difficulty that he had trying to take a dive on this thing. And he ended up talking about "gray areas" that should have been explored a little more and "subtleties" that we should have not brushed over so lightly, without disclosing the fact that the series had originally been four parts and they cut it to three parts, because "nobody reads four part series' anymore." So, that was one reason.

The other reason was, you know, one of the things you learn very quickly when you get into journalism is that there's safety in numbers. Editors don't like being out there on a limb all by themselves. I remember very clearly going to press conferences, coming back, writing a story, sending it in, and my editor calling up and saying, well gee, this isn't what AP wrote. Or, the Chronicle just ran their story, and that's not what the Chronicle wrote. And I'd say, "Fine. Good." And they said, no, we've got to make it the same, we don't want to be different. We don't want our story to be different from everybody else's.

And so what they were seeing at the Mercury was, the Big Three newspapers were sitting on one side of the fence, and they were out there by themselves, and that just panicked the hell out of them. So, you have to understand newspaper mentality to understand it a little bit, but it's not too hard to understand cowardice, either. I think a lot of that was that they were just scared as hell to go ahead with the story.

Audience Member #1: Were they able to look you in the eye, and...

Gary Webb: No. They didn't, they just did this over the phone. I went to Sacramento.

Audience Member #1: When did you find out about it, and what did you...

Gary Webb: Oh, they called me up at home, two months after I turned in my last four stories, and said, we're going to write a column saying, you know, we're not going ahead with this. And that's when I jumped in the car and drove up there and said, what the hell's going on? And I got all these mealy-mouthed answers, you know, geez, gray areas, subtleties, one thing or another... But I said, tell me one thing that's wrong with the story, and nobody could ever point to anything. And today, to this day, nobody has ever said there was a factual error in that story.

[Inaudible question from the audience.]

Gary Webb: The question was, the editors are one thing, what about the readers? Um... who cares about the readers? Honestly. The reader's don't run the newspaper.

[Another inaudible question from the audience regarding letters to the editor and boycotts of the newspaper.]

Gary Webb: Well, a number of them did, and believe me, the newspaper office was flooded with calls and emails. And the newspaper, to their credit, printed a bunch of them, calling it the most cowardly thing they'd ever seen. But in the long run, the readers, you know, don't run the place. And that's the thing about newspaper markets these days. You folks really don't have any choice! What else are you going to read? And the editors know this.

When I started in this business, we had two newspapers in town where I worked in Cincinnati. And we were deathly afraid that if we sat on a story for 24 hours, the Cincinnati Inquirer was going to put it in the paper, and we were going to look like dopes. We were going to look like we were covering stuff up, we were going to look like we were protecting somebody. So we were putting stuff in the paper without thinking about it sometimes, but we got it in the paper. Now, we can sit on stuff for months, who's going to find out about it? And even if somebody found out about it, what are they going to do? That's the big danger that everybody has sort of missed. These one-newspaper towns, you've got no choice. You've got no choice. And television? Television's not going to do it. I mean, they're down filming animals at the zoo!

[Laughter and applause.]

Audience Member #2: I assume you have talked to John Cummings, the one that wrote Compromised, that book?

Gary Webb: I talked to Terry Reed, who was the principal author on that, yeah.

Audience Member #2: Well, that was a well-documented book, and I had just finished reading this when I happened to look down and see the headlines on the Sunday paper. And he stated that Oliver North told him personally that he was a CIA asset that manufactured weapons.

Gary Webb: Right.

Audience Member #2: When he discovered that they were importing cocaine, he got out of there. And they chased him with his family across country for two years trying to catch him. But he had said in that book that Oliver North told him that Vice President Bush told Oliver North to dirty Clinton's men with the drug money. Which I assumed was what Whitewater was all about, was finding the laundering and trying to find something on Clinton. Do you know anything about that?

Gary Webb: Yeah, let me sum up your question. Essentially, you're asking about the goings-on in Mena, Arkansas, because of the drug operations going on at this little air base in Arkansas while Clinton was governor down there. The fellow you referred to, Terry Reed, wrote a book called Compromised which talked about his role in this corporate operation in Mena which was initially designed to train contra pilots -- Reed was a pilot -- and it was also designed after the Boland Amendment went into effect to get weapons parts to the contras, because the CIA couldn't provide them anymore. And as Reed got into this weapons parts business, he discovered that the CIA was shipping cocaine back through these weapons crates that were coming back into the United States. And when he blew the whistle on it, he was sort of sent on this long odyssey of criminal charges being filed against him, etcetera etcetera etcetera. A lot of what Reed wrote is accurate as far as I can tell, and a lot of it was documented.

There is a House Banking Committee investigation that has been going on now for about three years, looking specifically at Mena, Arkansas, looking specifically at a drug trafficker named Barry Seal, who was one of the biggest cocaine and marijuana importers in the south side of the United States during the 1980s. Seal was also, coincidentally, working for the CIA, and was working for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

I don't know how many of you remember this, but one night Ronnie Reagan got on TV and held up a grainy picture, and said, here's proof that the Sandanistas are dealing drugs. Look, here's Pablo Escobar, and they're all loading cocaine into a plane, and this was taken in Nicaragua. This was the eve of a vote on the contra aid. That photograph was set up by Barry Seal. The plane that was used was Seal's plane, and it was the same plane that was shot down over Nicaragua a couple of years later that Eugene Hasenfus was in, that broke open the whole Iran-contra scandal.

The Banking Committee is supposed to be coming out with a report in the next couple of months looking at the relationship between Barry Seal, the U.S. government and Clinton's folks. Alex Cockburn has done a number of stories on this company called Park-On Meter down in Russellville, Arkansas, that's hooked up with Clinton's family, hooked up with Hillary's law firm, that sort of thing. To me, that's a story people ought to be looking at. I never thought Whitewater was much of a story, frankly. What I thought the story was about was Clinton's buddy Dan Lasater, the bond broker down there who was a convicted cocaine trafficker. Clinton pardoned him on his way to Washington. Lasater was a major drug trafficker, and Terry Reed's book claims Lasater was part and parcel with this whole thing.

Voice From the Audience: Cockburn's newsletter is called CounterPunch, and he's done a good job of defending you in it.

Gary Webb: Yeah, Cockburn has also written a book called Whiteout, which is a very interesting look at the history of CIA drug trafficking. Actually, I think it's selling pretty well itself. The New York Times hated it, of course, but what else is new?

Audience Member #2: Well I just wanted to mention that he states also -- I guess it was Terry Reed who was actually doing the work -- he said Bush was running the whole thing as vice president.

Gary Webb: I think that George Bush's role in this whole thing is one of the large unexplored areas of it.

Audience Member #2: Which is why I think Reagan put him in as vice president, because of his position with the CIA.

Gary Webb: Well, you know, that whole South Florida Drug Task Force was full of CIA operatives. Full of them. This was supposed to be our vanguard in the war against cocaine cartels, and if those Colombians are to be believed, this was the vehicle that we were using to ship arms and allow cocaine into the country, this Drug Task Force. Nobody's looked at that. But there are lots of clues that there's a lot to be dug out.

Audience Member #3: Thank you, Gary. I lost my feature columnist position at my college paper for writing a satire of Christianity some years ago, and...

Gary Webb: That'll do it, yeah. [Laughter from the audience.]

Audience Member #3: And I lost my job twice in the last five years because of my activism in the community, but I got a job [inaudible]. But my question is, I knew someone in the mid-'80s who said that he was in the Navy, and that he had information that the Navy was involved in delivering cocaine to this country. Another kind of bombshell, I'd like to have you comment on it, I saw a video some years ago that said the UFO research that's being done down in the southwest is being funded by drug money and cocaine dealings by the CIA, and that there are 25 top secret levels of government above the Top Secret category, and that there are some levels that even the president doesn't know about. So there's another topic for another book, I just wanted to have you comment...

Gary Webb: A number of topics for another book. [Laughter from the audience.] I don't know about the UFO research, but I do know you're right that we have very little idea how vast the intelligence community in this country is, or what they're up to. I think there's a great story brewing -- it's called the ECHELON program, and it involves the sharing of eavesdropped emails and cell phone communications, because it is illegal for them to do it in this country. So they've been going to New Zealand and Australia and Canada and having those governments eavesdrop on our conversations and tell us about it. I've read a couple of stories about it in the English press, and I read a couple of stories about it in the Canadian press, but I've seen precious little in the American press. But there's stuff on the Internet that circulates about that, if you're interested in the topic. I think it's called the ECHELON program.

Audience Member #4: I'm glad you brought up James Burke and his Connections, because there are a lot of connections here. One I didn't hear too much about, and I know you've done a lot of research on, was how computers and high tech was used by the Crips and Bloods early on. I lived in south LA prior to this, knew some of these people, and you're right, they had virtually no education. And to suddenly have an operation that's computer literate, riding out of Bakersfield, Fresno, on north and then east in a very quick period -- I'm still learning the computer, I'm probably as old as you are, or older -- so I'd like to hear something on that. The whole dislocation of south LA that occurred -- the Watts Festival, the whole empowerment of the black community was occurring beginning in the late '60s and into the early '70s and mid-'70s, and then collapses into a sea of flipping demographics, and suddenly by 1990 it is El Salvadoran-dominated. And that's another curious part of this equation as we talk about drugs.

Gary Webb: Well, that's quite a bevy of things there. As far as the sophistication of the Crips and the Bloods, the one thing that I probably should have mentioned was that when Danilo Blandón went down to South Central to start selling this dope, he had an M.B.A. in marketing. So he knew what he was doing. His job for the Somoza government was setting up wholesale markets for agricultural products. He'd received an M.B.A. thanks to us, actually -- we helped finance him, we helped send him to the University of Bogata to get his M.B.A. so he could go back to Nicaragua, and he actually came to the United States to sell dope to the gangs. So this was a very sophisticated operation.

One of the money launderers from this group was a macro-economist -- his uncle, Orlando Murillo, was on the Central Bank of Nicaragua. The weapons advisor they had was a guy who'd been a cop for fifteen years. They had another weapons advisor who had been a Navy SEAL. You don't get these kinds of people by putting ads in the paper. This is not a drug ring that just sort of falls together by chance. This is like an all-star game. Which is why I suspect more and more that this thing was set up by a higher authority than a couple of drug dealers.

Audience Member #5: Hi Gary, I just want to thank you for going against the traffic on this whole deal. I'm in the journalism school up at U. of O., and I'm interested in the story behind the story. I was hoping you could share some anecdotes about the kind of activity that you engaged in to get the story. For example, when you get off a plane in Nicaragua, what do you do? Where do you start? How do you talk to "Freeway" Ricky? How do you go against a government stonewall?

Gary Webb: The question is, how do you do a story like this, essentially. Well, thing I've always found is, if you go knock on somebody's door, they're a lot less apt to slam it in your face than if you call them up on the telephone. So, the reason I went down to Nicaragua was to go knock on doors. I didn't go down there and just step off a plane -- I found a fellow down in Nicaragua and we hired him as a stringer, a fellow named George Hidell who is a marvelous investigative reporter, he knew all sorts of government officials down there. And I speak no Spanish, which was another handicap. George speaks like four languages. So, you find people like that to help you out.

With these drug dealers, you know, it's amazing how willing they are to talk. I did a series while I was in Kentucky on organized crime in the coal industry. And it was about this mass of stock swindlers who had looted Wall Street back in the '60s and moved down to Kentucky in the '70s while the coal boom was going on, during the energy shortage. The lesson I learned in that thing -- I thought these guys would never talk to me, I figured they'd be crazy to talk to a reporter about the scams they were pulling. But they were happy to talk about it, they were flattered that you would come to them and say, hey, tell me about what you do. Tell me your greatest knock-off. Those guys would go on forever! So, you know, everybody, no matter what they do, they sort of have pride in their work... [Laughter from the audience.] And, you know, I found that when you appeared interested, they would be happy to tell you.

The people who lied to me, the people who slammed doors in my face, were the DEA and the FBI. The DEA called me down -- I wrote about this in the book -- they had a meeting, and they were telling me that if I wrote this story, I was going to help drug traffickers bring drugs into the country, and I was going to get DEA agents killed, and this, that and the other thing, all of which was utterly bullshit. So that's the thing -- just ask. There's really no secret to it.

Audience Member #6: I'd like to ask a couple of questions very quickly. The first one is, if you wouldn't mind being a reference librarian for a moment -- there was the Golden Triangle. I was just wondering if you've ever, in your curiosity about this, touched on that -- the drug rings and the heroin trade out of Southeast Asia. And the second one is about the fellow from the Houston Chronicle, I don't remember his name right off, but you know who I'm talking about, if you could just touch on that a little bit...

Gary Webb: Yes. The first question was about whether I ever touched on what was going on in the Golden Triangle. Fortunately, I didn't have to -- there's a great book called The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, by Alfred McCoy, which is sort of a classic in CIA drug trafficking lore. I don't think you can get any better than that. That's a great reference in the library, you can go check it out. McCoy was a professor at the University of Wisconsin who went to Laos during the time that the secret war in Laos was going on, and he wrote about how the CIA was flying heroin out on Air America. That's the thing that really surprised me about the reaction to my story was, it's not like I invented this stuff. There's a long, long history of CIA involvement in drug traffic which Cockburn gets into in Whiteout.

And the second question was about Pete Brewton -- there was a reporter in Houston for the Houston Post named Pete Brewton who did the series -- I think it was '91 or '92 -- on the strange connections between the S&L collapses, particularly in Texas, and CIA agents. And his theory was that a lot of these collapses were not mismanagement, they were intentional. These things were looted, with the idea that a lot of the money was siphoned off to fund covert operations overseas. And Brewton wrote this series, and it was funny, because after all hell broke loose on my story, I called him up, and he said, "Well, I was waiting for this to happen to you." And I said, "Why?" And he said, "I was exactly like you are. I'd been in this business for twenty years, I'd won all sorts of awards, I'd lectured in college journalism courses, and I wrote a series that had these three little letters C-I-A in it. And suddenly I was unreliable, and I couldn't be trusted, and Reed Irvine at Accuracy In Media was writing nasty things about me, and my editor had lost confidence in me, so I quit the business and went to law school."

Brewton wrote a book called The Mafia, CIA and George Bush. It's hard to find, but it's worth looking up if you can find it. It's all there, it's all documented. See, the difference between his story and my story was, we put ours out on the web, and it got out. Brewton's story is sort of confined to the printed page, and I think the Washington Journalism Review actually wrote a story about, how come nobody's writing about this, nobody's picking up this story. Nobody touched this story, it just sort of died. And the same thing would have happened with my series, had we not had this amazing web page. Thank God we did, or this thing would have just slipped underneath the waves, and nobody would have ever heard about it.

Audience Member #7: I'm glad you're here. I guess the CIA, there was something I read in the paper a couple of years ago, that said the CIA is actually murdering people, and they admitted it, they don't usually do that.

Gary Webb: It's a new burst of honesty from the new CIA.

Audience Member #7: They'll murder us with kindness. In the Chicago police force, there were about 10 officers who were kicked off the police force for doing drugs or selling drugs, and George Bush or something... I heard that he had a buddy who had a lot of money in drug testing equipment, so that's one reason everybody has to pee in a cup now... [Laughter from the audience.] The other thing I found, there was a meth lab close to here, and somebody who wasn't even involved with it, he was paralyzed... And as you know, we have the "Just Say No to Drugs" deal... What do you think we can do to stop us, the People, from being hypnotized once again from all these shenanigans, doing other people injury in terms of these kinds of messages, at the same time they're selling. Because all this money is being spent for all this...

Gary Webb: I guess the question is, what could you do to keep from being hypnotized by the media message, specifically on the Drug War? Is that what you're talking about?

Audience Member #7: Yeah, or all the funds... like, there's another thing here with the meth lab, they say we'll kind of turn people in...

Gary Webb: Oh yeah, the nation of informers.

Audience Member #7: Yeah.

Gary Webb: That's something I have to laugh about -- up until I think '75 or '76, probably even later than that, you could go to your doctor and get methamphetamine. I mean, there were housewives by the hundreds of thousands across the United States who were taking it every day to lose weight, and now all the sudden it was the worst thing on the face of the earth. That's one thing I got into in the book, was the sort of crack hysteria in 1986 that prompted all these crazy laws that are still on the books today, and the 100:1 sentencing ratio... I don't know how many of you saw, on PBS a couple of nights back, there was a great show on informants called "Snitch." [Murmurs of recognition from the audience.] Yeah, on Frontline. That was very heartening to see, because I don't think ten years ago that it would have stood a chance in hell of getting on the air.

What I'm seeing now is that a lot of people are finally waking up to the idea that this "drug war" has been a fraud since the get-go. My personal opinion is, I think the main purpose of this whole drug war was to sort of erode civil liberties, very slowly and very gradually, and sort of put us down into a police state. [Robust burst of applause from the audience.] And we're pretty close to that. I've got to hand it to them, they've done a good job. We have no Fourth Amendment left anymore, we're all peeing in cups, and we're all doing all sorts of things that our parents probably would have marched in the streets about.

The solution to that is to read something other than the daily newspaper, and turn off the TV news. I mean, I'm sorry, I hate to say that, but that's mind-rot. You've got to find alternative sources of information. [Robust applause.]

Voice From the Audience: How can you say that it was all a chain reaction, that it was not done deliberately, and on the other hand say it has at the same time deliberately eroded our rights?

Gary Webb: Well, the question was, how can I say on one hand it was a chain reaction, and on the other hand say the drug war was set up deliberately to erode our rights. I mean, you're talking about sort of macro versus micro. And I do not give the CIA that much credit, that they could plan these vast conspiracies down through the ages and have them work -- most of them don't.

What I'm saying is, you have police groups, you have police lobbying groups, you have prison guard groups -- they seize opportunities when they come along. The Drug War has given them a lot of opportunities to say, okay, now let's lengthen prison sentences. Why? Well, because if you keep people in jail longer, you need more prison guards. Let's build more prisons. Why? Well, people get jobs, prison guards get jobs. The police stay in business. We need to fund more of them. We need to give bigger budgets to the correctional facilities. This is all very conscious, but I don't think anybody sat in a room in 1974 and said, okay, by 1995, we're going to have X number of Americans locked up or under parole supervision. I don't think they mind -- you know, I think they like that. But I don't think it was a conscious effort. I think it was just one bad idea, after another bad idea, compounded with a stupid idea, compounded with a really stupid idea. And here we are. So I don't know if that answers your question or not...

Audience Member #8: To me, the Iran-contra story was one of the most interesting and totally frustrating things. And the more information, the more about it I heard -- we don't know anything about it, I mean, if you look for any official data, they deny everything. And to see Ollie North, the upstanding blue-eyed American, standing there lying through his teeth, and we knew it... [Inaudible comment, "before Congress and the President"?] What galls me is that these people who are guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors are now getting these enormous pensions, and we have to pay for these bums. It sickens me!

Gary Webb: Right.

Audience Member #8: And I actually have a question -- this is my question, by the way, I know you have a thousand other questions [laughter from the audience] -- but the one that stays with me, and has always bothered me, was the Christic Institute, and I thought it was fantastic. And they were hit with this enormous lawsuit, and they had to bail out. This needs to be ["rehired"?] because they knew what they were doing, they had all the right answers, and they were run out of office, so to say, in disgrace, because of this lawsuit.

Gary Webb: The question was about the Christic Institute, and about how the Iran-contra controversy is probably one of the worst scandals. I agree with you, I think the Iran-contra scandal was worse than Watergate, far worse than this nonsense we're doing now. But I'll tell you, I think the press played a very big part in downplaying that scandal. One of the people I interviewed for the book was a woman named Pam Naughton, who was one of the best prosecutors that the Iran-contra committee had. And I asked her, why -- you know, it was also the first scandal that was televised, and I remember watching them at night. I would go to work and I'd set the VCR, and I'd come home at night and I'd watch the hearings. Then I'd pick up the paper the next morning, and it was completely different! And I couldn't figure it out, and this has bothered me all these years.

So when I got Pam Naughton on the phone, I said, what the hell happened to the press corps in Washington during the Iran-contra scandal? And she said, well, I can tell you what I saw. She said, every day, we would come out at the start of this hearings, and we would lay out a stack of documents -- all the exhibits we were going to introduce -- stuff that she thought was extremely incriminating, front page story after front page story, and they'd sit them on a table. And she said, every day the press corps would come in, and they'd say hi, how're you doing, blah blah blah, and they'd go sit down in the front row and start talking about, you know, did you see the ball game last night, and what they saw on Johnny Carson. And she said one or two reporters would go up and get their stack of documents and go back and write about it, and everybody else sat in the front row, and they would sit and say, okay, what's our story today? And they would all agree what the story was, and they'd go back and write it. Most of them never even looked at the exhibits.

And that's why I say it was the press's fault, because there was so much stuff that came out of those hearings. That used to just drive me crazy, you would never see it in the newspaper. And I don't think it's a conspiracy -- if anything, it's a conspiracy of stupidity and laziness. I talked to Bob Parry about this -- when he was working for Newsweek covering Iran-contra, they weren't even letting him go to the hearings. He had to get transcripts messengered to him at his house secretly, so his editors wouldn't find out he was actually reading the transcripts, because he was writing stories that were so different from everybody else's.

Bob Parry tells a story of being at a dinner party with Bobby Inman from the CIA, the editor of Newsweek, and all the muckity-mucks -- this was his big introduction into Washington society. And they were sitting at the dinner table in the midst of the Iran-contra thing, talking about everything but Iran-contra. And Bob said he had the bad taste of bringing up the Iran-contra hearing and mentioning one particularly bad aspect of it. And he said, the editor of Newsweek looked at him and said, "You know, Bob, there are just some things that it's better the country just doesn't know about." And all these admirals and generals sitting around the table all nodded their heads in agreement, and they wanted to talk about something else.

That's the attitude. That's the attitude in Washington. And that's the attitude of the Washington press corps, and nowadays it's even worse than that, because now, if you play the game right, you get a TV show. Now you've got the McLaughlin Group. Now you get your mug on CNN. You know. And that's how they keep them in line. If you're a rabble rouser, and a shit-stirrer, they don't want your type on television. They want the pundits.

The other question was about the Christic Institute. They had it all figured out. The Christic Institute had this thing figured out. They filed suit in May of 1986, alleging that the Reagan administration, the CIA, this sort of parallel government was going on. Oliver North was involved in it, you had the Bay of Pigs Cubans that were involved in it down in Costa Rica, they had names, they had dates, and they got murdered. And the Reagan administration's line was, they're a bunch of left-wing liberal crazies, this was conspiracy theory. If you want to see what they really thought, go to Oliver North's diaries, which are public -- the National Security Archive has got them -- all he was writing about, after the Christic Institute's suit was filed, was how we've got to shut this thing down, how we have to discredit these witnesses, how we've got to get this guy set up, how we've got to get this guy out of the country... They knew that the Christic Institute was right, and they were deathly afraid that the American public was going to find out about it.

I am convinced that the judge who was hearing the case was part and parcel to the problem. He threw the case out of court and fined the Christic Institute, I think it was $1.3 million, for even bringing the lawsuit. It was deemed "frivolous litigation." And it finally bankrupted them. And they went away.

But that's the problem when you try to take on the government in its own arena, and the federal courts are definitely part of its own arena. They make the rules. And in cases like that, you don't stand a chance in hell, it won't happen.

Voice From the Audience: But if you cannot get the truth in the courts, if you cannot write it in the papers, then what do you do?

Gary Webb: You do it yourself. You do it yourself. You've got to start rebuilding an information system on your own. And that's what's going on. It's very small, but it's happening. People are talking to each other through newsgroups on the Internet. People are doing Internet newsletters.

Voice From the Audience: Do you have a website?

Emcee: Let's use the mike, let's use the mike.

Gary Webb: The question is, do I have a website. No, I don't, but I'm building one.

[Inaudible question from the audience.]

Gary Webb: Well, let's let these people who have been standing in line...

[Commotion, murmuring. Someone calls out, "Please use the mike."]

Audience Member #9: When you mentioned prisons a moment ago, I couldn't help but remember that it is America's fastest-growing industry, the "prison industry" -- which is a hell of a phrase unto itself. But it seems that the CIA had people aligned throughout Central America at one point, and El Salvador, with the contras, and in Honduras and Nicaragua, and in Panama, Manuel Noriega...

Gary Webb: Our "man in Panama," that's right.

Audience Member #9: Yeah. But something went wrong with him, and he got pinched in public. And I'm interested to know what you think about that.

Gary Webb: The question is about Manuel Noriega, who was our "man in Panama" for so many years. What happened to Noriega is that -- I don't think it had anything to do with the fact that he was a drug trafficker, because we knew that for years. What it had to do with was what is going to happen at the end of this year, which is when control of the Panama Canal goes over to the Panamanians. If you read the New York Times story that Seymour Hersh wrote back in June of 1986 that exposed Noriega publicly as a drug trafficker and money launderer, there were some very telling phrases in it. All unsourced, naturally, you know -- unattributed comments from high-ranking government officials -- but they talked about how they were nervous that Noriega had become unreliable. And with control of the Panama Canal reverting to the Panamanian government, they were very nervous at the idea of having somebody as "unstable" as Noriega running the country at that point. And I think that was a well-founded fear. You've got a major drug trafficker controlling a major maritime thoroughway. I can see the CIA being nervous about being cut out of the business. [Laughter from the audience.]

But I think that's what the whole thing with Noriega was about -- they wanted him out of there, because they wanted somebody that they could control a little more closely in power in Panama for when the canal gets reverted back to them.

Audience Member #9: Was there much of a profit difference between Nicaragua and Panama as far as the drugs went?

Gary Webb: Well, what Noriega had done was sort of create an international banking center for drug money. That was his part of it. Nicaragua was nothing ever than just a trans-shipment point. Central America was never anything more than a trans-shipment point. Columbia Peru and Bolivia were the producers, and the planes needed a place to refuel, and that's all that Central America ever was. The banking was all done in Panama.

Audience Member #10: You talk about how they sat on their stories, the newspapers? Why did they suddenly decide to pursue the stories?

Gary Webb: Which stories are these?

Audience Member #10: The stories about the crack dealing and the CIA. Why did they suddenly decide that, well, actually...

Gary Webb: The question was -- correct me if I'm wrong -- the question raised the fact that the other newspapers didn't do anything about this story for a while, and then after I wrote it they came after me. Is that what you're asking?

Audience Member #10: Well, yeah, and then eventually the CIA admitted it... and I mean, why are people asking, it sat for a long time, and then suddenly everyone was on it. What was the turning point that made them decide to pursue it?

Gary Webb: The turning point that made them decide to pursue the story was the fact that it had gotten out over the Internet, and people were calling them up saying, why don't you have the story in your newspaper? You know, I don't think the subject matter frightened the major media as much as the fact that a little newspaper in Northern California was able to set the national agenda for once. And people were marching in the streets, people were holding hearings in Washington, they were demanding Congressional hearings, you had John Deutch, the CIA director, go down on that surreal trip down to South Central to convince everyone that everything was okay... [Laughter from the audience.] And all of this was happening without the big media being involved in it at all. And the reason that happened was because we had an outlet -- we had the web. And the people at the Mercury News did a fantastic job on this website.

And so, news was marching on without them. There's a professor at the University of Wisconsin who's done a paper on the whole "Dark Alliance" thing, and her thesis is that this story was shut down more because of how it got out than for what it actually said. That it was an attempt by the major media to regain control of the Internet, and to suggest that unless they're the ones who are putting it out, it's unreliable. Which I think you see in a lot of stories. The mainstream press gladly promotes the idea that you can't believe anything you read on the Internet, it's all kooks, it's all conspiracy theorists... And there are, I mean, I admit, there are a lot of them out there, but it's not all false. But the idea that we're being taught is, unless it's got our name on it, you can't believe it. So they can retain control of the means of communication anyway.

Audience Member #11: You mentioned Iran-contra, which was private foreign policy in defiance of Congress, which means it was a high crime. From there, we get more drugs, we get erosion of civil liberties and the loss of the Fourth Amendment, which you mentioned. And we have to get that back, because without it, we're just commodities to one another. So what I'd like to ask you is, what are you working on now? And do you have your own journalistic chain of reaction? Are you going to be doing something that connects back to this?

Gary Webb: The question is what am I doing now -- believe it or not, I'm working for the government. [Laughter from the audience.] I work for the California legislature, and I do investigations of state agencies. I just wrote a piece for Esquire magazine which should be out in April on another fabulous DEA program that they're running. Actually, part of it's based here in Oregon, called Operation Pipeline. That story is coming out in April, and Esquire told me they want me to write more stuff for them, they want me to do some investigative reporting for them, so I'll be working for them. And I'm putting together another book proposal, and a couple of other things. I'm not going to work for newspapers any more, I learned my lesson.

Audience Member #12: A year ago the editor of your newspaper was here to speak, sponsored by the University of Oregon School of Journalism. Before I got up here, I took a casual look around -- I don't know all of the members of the journalism faculty, but I didn't recognize any. We did have a student here who got up and asked a question. That leads to this question: I'd like, if you don't mind, to ask if there is someone from the University of Oregon journalism faculty here, would they mind being acknowledged and raising their hand?

Gary Webb: All right, there's one back there.

Audience Member #12: There is one. Okay. [Applause from the audience.] I'm pleased to see it. There is that one person. My point is, I think much of what you've said this evening constitutes an indictment -- and a valid indictment -- of the university journalism programs in this country. [Applause.] Most Americans and I believe -- and I'm interested in your reaction -- that it reinforces that indictment when we see, to that person's credit, that she is the only faculty member from our school of journalism to hear you tonight.

Gary Webb: I think the general question was about the state of the journalism schools. The one thing journalism schools don't teach, by and large, is investigative reporting. They teach stenography very well. That's why I consider most of journalism today to be stenography. You go to a press conference, you write down the quotes accurately, you come back, you don't provide any context, you don't provide any perspective, because that gets into analysis, and heavens knows, we don't want any analysis in our newspapers.

But you report things accurately, you report things fairly, and even if it's a lie you put it in the newspaper, and that's considered journalism. I don't consider that journalism, I consider that stenography. And that is the way they teach journalism in school, that's the way I was taught. Unless you go to a very different journalism school from the kinds that most kids go to, that's what you're taught. Now, there are specialized journalism schools, there are master's programs like the Kiplinger Program at Ohio State, that's very good.

So, I'm not saying that all journalism schools are bad, but they don't teach you to be journalists. They discourage you from doing that, by and large. And I don't think it's the fault of the journalism professors, I just think that's the way things have been taught in this country for so long, that they just do it automatically. I'd be interested in hearing the professor's thoughts about it, but that's sort of the way I look at things. I spent way too many years in journalism school. I kind of got shed of those notions after I got out in the real world.

[End of transcript.]

© ParaScope, Inc. 1999


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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The works of Professor Alfred Mc Coy are historically important in understanding the history of covert operations and drugs

The Politics of Heroin:
CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade

More Bad News

You think this is all "ancient history"? Think again. The current glut of pure white heroin entering this country has its roots in our undercover support of the Afghan rebell fight against Soviet Russia.

See: Dealing With the Deamon

It's now nearly 90 years since the first international attempts were taken to control ilicit drugs in 1909 at Shanghai. Today the world is facing levels of heroin production unprecedented in recent history, ten times higher than the last "plague" of the 1970's. Heroin has now become a global commodity insinuating its way into much of the third world and the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe.

Dealing with the Demon is a three part series which examines how this came to be and what can be done about it. Each film interweaves contemporary human stories with crucial scenes from the history of the drug trade which has now grown to become the second largest industry in the world.

This series provides the hidden background which is essential to understanding the global nature of the drug trade and the ongoing debate about what to do about ilicit drugs in society.

Filmed in fifteen different countries (in Asia, United States, Australia and Europe) at considerable risk to the filmmakers, Dealing with the Deamon is a compeling view of one of the darkest aspects of recent history.

The story that is revealed, follows the simple but expedient formula that drugs (and other long term problems like Islamic terrorism) took a back seat when the priority was winning a war against the evil Soviet Empire. At its more complex level, the story of heroin in the Golden Crescent involves connections between the CIA, the ISI, Mujahideen, the collapsed BCCI bank and Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.

Interview with Alfred McCoy, professor of Southeast Asian History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; author of The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade
Part One
"The problem with America's failed chance at essentially reducing if not eliminating drugs as a problem was a contradiction between the needs of domestic policy and the national security state."

Part Two
"When the Americans moved into Indochina after the French departed in 1955, we picked up the same tribes, the Hmong, the same politics of narcotics, the politics of heroin, that the French had established. By the 1960s we were operating, particularly the CIA, in collusion with the major traffickers exporting from the mountains not only to meet the consumption needs of Southeast Asia itself, but in the first instance America's combat forces fighting in Vietnam and ultimately the world market."

Part Three
"Moving on to our fourth instance, one close to home, is the whole Iran-contra operation . . . All the personnel that are involved in that operation are Laos veterans. Ted Shackley, Thomas Clines, Oliver North, Richard Secord - they all served in Laos during [the] thirteen-year war. They are all part of that policy of integrating narcotics and being complicitous in the narcotics trade in the furtherance of covert action."

Part Four
Because of their mandate to stop communism or to run a secret army in Laos or to harass the Nicaragua government with the contra operation - because they've had a political covert action mandate - they have found it convenient to ally themselves with the very drug brokers the DEA is trying to put in jail. While you're working with the CIA you are untouchable. The CIA backs you up. There are instances of minor traffickers being arrested in the United States for importing drugs and the CIA will actually go to the local police and courts and get them off and out because oftentimes they threaten to talk, make trouble, so the CIA just gets them out.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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by Tom Crumpacker

"For now we see as through a glass, darkly."
--St. Paul, I Corinthians 13:12

Luis Posada Carriles as he looks today. Posada was charged in Venezuela in the 1976 Cuban jetliner bombing that killed 73 people. By delaying extradition it looks as if the Bush Administration is desperate to keep right-wing secrets.
Luis Posada's immigration case is now set for hearing before a Homeland Security judge in Texas on Aug. 29. On May 21 Secretary Rice indicated the Homeland case might go on for many months and his extradition would be determined on its completion. With motions and appeals and paid lawyers, this might mean years. A provision in the 1922 US-Venezuela extradition treaty says the custodial state can keep the alleged criminal until its own proceedings against him arising from crimes committed there are completed.

But surely a minor "crime" such as a traffic ticket or a failure to report to Homeland Security on entry is not what was contemplated. And even if Posada could somehow convince the Homeland judges of the validity of his spurious residency and asylum claims (that he is a US resident although he has lived abroad for 30 years; that he is entitled to asylum here although he has murdered scores of innocent people), he still should be extradited now to Venezuela because his migration status has nothing to do with extradition for trial for his alleged crime, murdering 73 innocent Cubana flight 455 passengers in 1976.

Why not just send Posada to the extradition judge and be done with it? What's the reason for keeping him here?

So why not just send him to the extradition judge and be done with it? What's the reason for keeping him here? Delay for delay's sake? Aggravate the Venezuelan government? Weaken the US claim to be the world leader in its "war against terrorism"? None of these seem very convincing as motives, even for this Administration. According to recently declassified CIA reports ( National Security Archives, Book 153, FBI report 11/2/76 ), in custody after his Oct. 6, 1976 bombing of the Cubana civilian airliner, flight 455, Posada threatened through his co-conspirator Morales Navarette that if forced to talk, the Venezuelan government "would go down the tube" and there would be "another Watergate."

Luis Posada Carriles as he looked in 1976

George Bush Senior, CIA Director at the time of the Cubana bombing, had previously appointed Ted Shackley as his Deputy Director for Special Operations. Since Bay of Pigs, Shackley had been in charge of the JM/Wave Miami CIA station which had been training anti-Castro extremists for possible invasion, then demolitions (Posada ran the school), biological warfare and murderous incursions into Cuba. In 1976 CIA had urged several violent US anti-Castro groups to join together under one umbrella organization called CORU. It was led by Orlando Bosch and took credit for the Letelier murders in Washington, DC in September.

Bush Senior has said he was not with the CIA before being appointed director by President Ford in early 1976. Joseph McBride in an article in The Nation of July 16, 1988 wrote: "A source with close connections to the intelligence community confirmed that Bush started working for the CIA in 1960 or 1961, using his oil business for clandestine activities." There's a memo from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to the State Department dated Nov. 28, 1963 concerning information developed by the Miami FBI office about groups in Miami seeking to blame the JFK murder on the Cuban government. It says the information was orally furnished on Nov. 23 to "George Bush of the CIA." Bush Senior was in Dallas then. As was another CIA operative, Chauncey Holt (now deceased), who identified Posada as being in Dealey Plaza at the time of the murder.

Other sources, among them CIA agent Marita Lorenz, placed Orlando Bosch and Guillermo Novo there. The question arises whether their presence there can be dismissed as coincidence. After all, Bosch, Posada's accomplice in the Cuban airline bombing, was pardoned by President Bush Senior in 1990 against the strong objection of his own Justice Department, which had implicated him in more than 70 terrorist crimes. And Guillermo Novo and Posada were just last year pardoned on another bombing charge and released by the US-friendly outgoing president of Panama. Yet another anti-Castro extremist, Felix Rodriguez, who killed Ernesto Guevara and worked with Posada in the Iran-Contra supply network, has long been a Bush Senior personal friend.

It's apparent that Posada could supply many of the missing pieces of the puzzles of the last 45 years.

The official versions of Watergate and JFK’s murder don't make a lot of sense when one considers motivations of the supposed actors. It's now clear that Nixon ordered the burglary of Democratic National Headquarters in 1972. But what was he looking for at such great risk? In his book on Watergate, Staff Chief H. R. Haldeman wrote that when Nixon was caught on tape talking about the risk that a Watergate probe could "blow the whole Bay of Pigs thing," he was actually referring to the JFK murder, not the invasion of Cuba. As Vice President in 1960 (a political protégé of Senator Prescott Bush), Nixon had supervised the preparation of the invasion. It seems odd he would confuse these events if they were unrelated. Moreover, what could be "blown" about the Bay of Pigs that was not already known?

And why did Lee Harvey Oswald kill JFK? The Warren Commission and the subsequent Congressional committees could not come up with a motive. In an effort at the time of the murder to blame the Cuban government, a photo of Oswald was spread across US newspapers showing him on a New Orleans street holding a "Fair Play for Cuba Committee" sign. But why were there no other members of the New Orleans committee? Why did Oswald give the address of the committee as 544 Camp St., which was the side entrance for the offices of Sergio Arcacha Smith and Guy Banister, both rabid anti-Castro extremists? Why were anti-Castro Cubans often seen there? Why did Oswald spend much of his time there? Why was Allen Dulles, the CIA Director who planned the Bay of Pigs and was subsequently fired by JFK, put on the Warren Commission? Why did CIA misinform the Commission on so many key evidentiary matters? The official answers to these questions seem to be "blowin' in the wind." It's like a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing.

In an oligarchy where the important decisions are made in secret by a power elite, where the mainstream media is used to manipulate rather than inform, it's often difficult for the public to distinguish actual from virtual reality.

In the fall of 1963, JFK was not relying much on CIA intelligence or opinions regarding Cuba. Negotiations (supposedly secret) were about to start between US and Cuba to possibly normalize relations. JFK's conditions were that Cuba distance itself from the Soviet Union and stop aiding revolutionary movements in Latin America, to which Castro seemed amenable.

A key part of Allen Dulles's Bay of Pigs plan was "Operation 40." They were 40 CIA agents, mostly gunmen, whose job was to kill the leading members of Cuba's government. Some, like Posada, had previously worked in enforcement for the Batista regime. Prior to the invasion they were waiting in Dominican Republic. Their boat took off for Cuba but turned around when informed the invasion was failing. They returned to the US, and, unbeknownst to JFK, Operation 40 continued on. For years and decades, with some changes in names and personnel.

Many of the original names kept appearing in connection with subsequent covert, violent CIA projects, such as Operation Mongoose, Operation Phoenix, the JFK murder, the regime changes in Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Watergate burglary, the bombing of Cubana flight 455, the Iran-Contra war, and Operation Condor which exterminated many South American progressives. Names like Luis Posada, Orlando Bosch, Felix Rodriguez, E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, Antonio Veciana, Guillermo Novo, Eugenio Martinez, Ricardo Morales, David Sanchez Morales, David Phillips, all members of the 40.

In an oligarchy where the important decisions are made in secret by a power elite, where the mainstream media is used to manipulate rather than inform, it's often difficult for the public to distinguish actual from virtual reality. It's apparent that Posada could supply many of the missing pieces of the puzzles of the last 45 years. He has friends in Miami and they have brought him here to resurface after 30 years. If he needed money or a place to hide comfortably, they could easily have provided him with such in another country. What we now know about his past is enough to say that he and his friends could be going public with his knowledge of CIA operations as a threat or extortion chip, perhaps to affect future US policy toward Cuba. This would explain why his legally required extradition is being delayed.

Tom Crumpacker, a retired lawyer and member of the Miami Coalition to End US Embargo of Cuba, writes from Austin, Texas. He may be reached at crump8@aol.com.

Copyright © 2005 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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From Robert Parry's Consortium website
Robert Parry is a retired Associated Press and Newsweek writer

Contra Crack Series

CIA's Anti-Drug Message for Kids
The CIA wants American families to know that it's fighting the war on drugs, but the real story isn't quite so simple or so pretty. By Martin A. Lee. March 4, 2001

CIA Admits Tolerating Contra-Cocaine Trafficking
House Intelligence Committee buries admissions in new contra-cocaine report. By Robert Parry. June 8, 2000

Hyde's Blind Eye: Contras & Cocaine
The chief House manager’s double standards on scandal. By Dennis Bernstein & Leslie Kean. December 14, 1999

Contra-Cocaine: Falling Between the 'Crack'
Congress has taken the Nicaraguan contra-cocaine scandal back behind closed doors, even though the CIA admitted serious wrongdoing in a public report. By Robert Parry. June 18, 1999

L.A.'s Other Coke Pipeline
The CIA’s contra-cocaine investigation reportedly stumbled upon a new drug pipeline into Los Angeles, with a CIA veteran of the contra war implicated. By Robert Parry. December 29, 1998

The Contras’ Narco-Terrorists
The Hitz report describes how some U.S.-trained veterans of the terror wars against Fidel Castro’s Cuba turned to drug trafficking in the 1970s and reappeared as contras supporters in the 1980s. October 15, 1998

Special Report: CIA’s Drug Confession
In a shocking new report, CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz confirms long-standing allegations that drug traffickers pervaded the Nicaraguan contra war. Hitz found evidence in the CIA’s own files connecting key contras and contra backers to major trafficking organizations, including the Medellin cartel. One thread of evidence even led into Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council where the contra war was overseen by Lt. Col. Oliver North. October 15, 1998

The NYT’s New Contra Lies
The New York Times, “the newspaper of record,” has altered the historical record, again, to protect the Nicaraguan contras and the paper’s own bad reporting. October 1, 1998

John Hull's Great Escape
CIA-linked farmer John Hull skipped Costa Rica to avoid a drug trial -- and got help in his escape from DEA operatives. August 2, 1998

Special Report: Contra-Cocaine -- Justice Denied
A new Justice Department report reveals that the Reagan-Bush administrations knew much more about Nicaraguan contra-drug trafficking. The CIA also blocked investigators who got too close. But the Justice report still denigrates witnesses, such as smuggler Jorge Morales, and keeps the cover-up alive. August 2, 1998

The NYT's Contra-Cocaine Dilemma
For a dozen years, The New York Times mocked allegations that the Nicaraguan contras were implicated in cocaine trafficking. Finally, the nation's 'newspaper of record' is admitting that there was something to the story after all. But the Times is still letting the CIA put its spin on the scandal -- and the Times still doesn't want to confess its own guilt. July 23, 1998

Reality Bites Back: Contra-Coke Proof
Incoming CIA Inspector General Britt Snider must decide how to release an explosive report confirming long-held suspicions that the Nicaraguan contra operation smuggled cocaine. The report implicates the CIA and casts a dark shadow over the war run by the late CIA director William Casey and White House aide Oliver North. July 9, 1998

Two New Contra-Coke Books
Two new books are throwing down the gauntlet -- again -- to the CIA on the issue of drug trafficking. July 9, 1998

Listen to Bob Parry & Gary Webb Discussing New Contra-Cocaine Report on "Democracy Now."
July 20, 1998

Contra-Coke: Evidence of Premeditation
A memo reveals how CIA Director William J. Casey engineered a legal change in 1982 that spared the spy agency from a legal requirement to report on drug smuggling by agents. The memo, released by Rep. Maxine Waters, is evidence that Casey anticipated cocaine trafficking by the Nicaraguan contras. June 1, 1998

Contra Cocaine: Bad to Worse
The CIA has issued part one of its long-awaited Nicaraguan contra cocaine report. While the spy agency hopes everyone will just read the executive summary, the fine print of the report shows that the drug trafficking was a severe problem. (2/16/98)

Contra-Crack Guide: Reading Between the Lines
The CIA and the Justice Department are clearing themselves of wrongdoing on alleged Nicaraguan contra-crack sales. Yet, while the verdicts are public, the actual evidence is still under wraps. And reporter Gary Webb has lost his job. (1/5/98)

Hung Out to Dry: 'Dark Alliance' Series Dies
Under pressure from the Big Media, San Jose Mercury News editors pulled reporter Gary Webb off the contra-drug story. But in a first-person account, Webb's co-author in Nicaragua warns about dangers to others who worked on the story. (6/30/97)

CIA, Contras & Cocaine: Big Media Rejoices
The nation's leading newspapers celebrated a column by a San Jose Mercury News editor, backing away from last year's series linking the Nicaraguan contras to the nation's 'crack' epidemic. But the evidence of contra drugs remains, as do questions about the big media's hostility toward the decade-old story. (6/2/97)

CIA & Cocaine: Agency Assets Cross the Line
The CIA faces a new drug-trafficking embarrassment with the Miami indictment of a Venezuelan general who worked with the CIA on narcotics issues. But the problem goes far deeper, all the way down to the spy agency's Cold War roots. (3/17/97)

Contra-Crack: Investigators vs. Brickwall
Maxine Waters tracks CIA-contra-crack suspicions. (2/3/97)

Contra-Crack: Contra Crack Controversy Continues
A new report backs the allegations and chastises the big papers. (1/6/97)

Contra-Crack: CIA, Drugs & National Press
When a West Coast paper published new evidence linking the CIA-managed Nicaraguan contra rebels to cocaine smuggling, the Washington press rallied to the spy agency's defense -- and pummeled the out-of-step journalists. (12/23/96)

Contra-Crack: The Kerry-Weld Cocaine War
While Sen. John Kerry led the fight to expose the contra-crack drug trade, Gov. Bill Weld stalled. (11/11/96)

Contra-Crack: Contra-Crack Story Assailed (Part 1)
The Washington Post rushes to the CIA's defense. (10-28-96)

Contra-Crack: Contra-Crack Story Assailed (Part 2)
The Washington Times' Pro-Contra beat goes on. (10-28-96)

Contra-Crack: Blacks Angered by Contra-Crack
A published report of CIA-backed crack cocaine dealing in black communities across America has touched a raw nerve among black leaders. (9-30-96)

October Surprise 'X-Files' Series

The Original Eight-Part Series

The Russian Report
What the KGB knew about the October Surprise mystery, but the American people didn't. (12-11-95)

The Ladies Room Secrets
How historic secrets about this political era were recovered from a remote Capitol Hill wash room. (12-21-95)

Bill Casey's Iranian
What FBI wiretaps captured about secret payments from BCCI and a Bush-connected lawyer to an Iranian "double-agent."(12-31-95)

Follow the Money
How some of the world's most secretive and powerful players joined forces to fix the pivotal 1980 election. (1-15-96)

Saddam's 'Green Light'
What a "top secret" report reveals about the origins of the bloody Iran-Iraq War. (1-31-96)

Where's Bill Casey
How the national news media and Congress "debunked" the October Surprise allegations by adopting bogus alibis for Bill Casey. (2-14-96)

Bush & a CIA Power Play
What CIA veterans and former CIA director George Bush did to regain The White House in the 1980s. (2-29-96)

Lies Spun into History
How absurd alibis became part of the October Surprise historical record. (3-14-96)

More Recent Updates

David Rockefeller & 'October Surprise' Case
Election 1980 was a turning point in American political history, but how the Republicans exploited Jimmy Carter's humiliation over the Iranian hostage crisis to ensure Ronald Reagan's victory is still little understood. Nor do the American people know the background roles in the "October Surprise" case played by David Rockefeller, the Shah of Iran's banker, and his many powerful friends. Adapted from Secrecy & Privilege. Posted April 15, 2005

Rockefeller Aide's Tie to 'October Surprise'
Some of the most intriguing documents found in the files of the House 'October Surprise' Task Force relate to the role of Joseph Verner Reed, one of Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman David Rockefeller's top aides. According to an FBI agent's notes, Reed tried to stonewall the investigation of alleged Republican interference in President Carter's 1980 Iran-hostage negotiations. The Reed documents were never released to the American people but were found by reporter Robert Parry in a Capitol Hill storage room. Part of our new Document Archive. Posted April 12, 2005.

Russian Report on 'October Surprise' Case
For the first time, we are posting the "confidential" Russian government report about the 1980 "October Surprise" case. The report -- a rare case of Moscow cooperating with the United States on an intelligence investigation -- asserts that Reagan-Bush campaign officials did secretly negotiate with Iranian leaders behind President Carter's back. Posted April 5, 2005

Arafat & the Original 'October Surprise'
Skeletons of an election controversy past -- the alleged Reagan-Bush "October Surprise" scheme of 1980 -- have surfaced, as a top aide to Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat describes a secret meeting between the PLO and a key Republican. The Arafat aide says the Republican sought the PLO's help in sabotaging President Carter's efforts to free 52 American hostages in Iran. November 2, 2004

Russia's Prime Minister & 'October Surprise'
Boris Yeltsin’s nominee for Russia’s new prime minister wrote a secret report in 1993, confirming the 1980 ‘October Surprise’ charges and implicating top Republicans in a hostage plot with Iran. Sergey Stepashin sent the explosive report to the U.S. Congress, but the extraordinary document was hidden. By Robert Parry. May 14, 1999

Earl Brian: Reagan's 'Scandal Man' Off to Jail
In the early 1990s, the word of Ronald Reagan's friend Earl Brian helped debunk two major scandals. But now, Brian's credibility has collapsed with his federal fraud conviction. (8/25/97)

October Surprise: Finally, Time for the Truth?
Seven years ago, Jamshid Hashemi, an Iranian businessman and CIA operative, broke his silence about the October Surprise controversy. Now, with more and more public figures corroborating parts of the story, Jamshid Hashemi is revealing new details about this ultimate dirty trick and the CIA. (5/5/97)

October Surprise: Time for Truth? (Part 2)
The enduring mystery of George Bush and alleged Paris meetings with Iranians in 1980: Did he go or did he stay? (5/19/97)

archive.gif (2361 bytes)

Imperial Bush
A closer look at the Bush record -- from the war in Iraq to the war on the environment

2004 Campaign
Will Americans take the exit ramp off the Bush presidency in November?

Behind Colin Powell's Legend
Colin Powell's sterling reputation in Washington hides his life-long role as water-carrier for conservative ideologues.

The 2000 Campaign
Recounting the controversial presidential campaign

Media Crisis
Is the national media a danger to democracy?

The Clinton Scandals
The story behind President Clinton's impeachment

Nazi Echo
Pinochet & Other Characters

The Dark Side of Rev. Moon
Rev. Sun Myung Moon and American politics

Contra Crack
Contra drug stories uncovered

Lost History
How the American historical record has been tainted by lies and cover-ups

The October Surprise "X-Files"
The 1980 October Surprise scandal exposed

From free trade to the Kosovo crisis

Other Investigative Stories



DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

L.A. DEA Agent Unraveled the CIA's Alleged Role in the Murder of Kiki Camarena

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras."—Senator John Kerry (1996)

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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