Guatemalan police death squad connect today’s organized
More information: Annie Bird (email@example.com) & GrahameRussell (firstname.lastname@example.org). http://www.rightsaction.org
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CRACKS IN THE WALL OF IMPUNITY & CORRUPTION:Arrests of Guatemalan police death squad connect today’s organizedcrime to 1980s death squads and the CIABy Annie Bird (email@example.com), August 2010This week arrest warrants were issued against at least 19 members ofan organized crime network that operated at the highest levels ofGuatemalan justice administration from 2004 to 2007, though some havebeen active in organized crime and death squads since the 1980s.
One figure apparently involved in this network worked for PresidentRonald Reagan aid Lt Col. Oliver North and former CIA agent LuisPosada Carriles. Amongst other political crimes, the network appearsto have been involved in the 2007 murders of PARLACEN congressmen.
The investigation by CICIG, the United Nations sponsored CommissionAgainst Impunity in Guatemala, has focused on extrajudicial executionswithin the prison system. Jails in Central America have played a keyrole in structuring and coordinating organized crime activities.Control of the prisons is critical in the struggle for dominancebetween organized crime networks.
Two of those wanted for arrest are Carlos Vielmann, named Minister ofGovernance in July 2004, and Edwin Sperinsen, named Director of theNational Civil Police in August 2004. The two resigned together inMarch 2007 amid accusations of running a death squad and they leftGuatemala in 2007. A third, Alejandro Giammettei, was Director of thePenitentiary System, and on Friday, August 6, 2010 sought asylum inthe Honduran embassy in Guatemala City.
The 2007 accusations, and this week’s arrests, were related to “socialcleansing,” extrajudicial executions, within the prison system.Though ‘social cleansing’ is sometimes looked upon favorably by somesectors of the public given the intolerable levels of violence, theinvestigations of CICIG demonstrate that this network killed gangmembers and criminals with the logic of protecting the higher levelsof organized crime, protecting perpetrators of kidnappings,extortions, drug trafficking, and other crimes.
Sperinsen and Vielmann worked closely together, and were alsoimplicated in a strategy of criminalizing protests and killingprotestors. Incidents for which they are considered responsibleinclude the August 31, 2004 Nueva Linda massacre, the January 11, 2005murder of Raul Castro Bocel (while protesting the Glamis Gold/Goldcorp Inc mine), the March 14, 2005 murder of Juan Lopez Velazquezduring a protest against the Central America Free Trade AgreementCAFTA, among others.
Between August 10 and 12, at least 9 have been arrested while at least10 arrest warrants are pending execution. Those arrested includeformer heads of the special police units to fight kidnapping,extortion, and an elite unit within the penitentiary system.
ARRESTED FOR PRISON MASSACRES BUT IMPLICATED IN MANY OTHER CRIMES
All of the arrests were related to two “Operations” undertaken by thenetwork, Operacion Gavilan (Operation Hawk), which tracked threeprisoners who had escaped from El Infiernito prison in October 2005and weeks later extra-judicially executed them, and Operacion PavoReal (Operation Peacock).
In Operacion Pavo Real, prison authorities supposedly re-took controlof El Pavon prison, in the course of which seven prisoners werekilled. Though the press reported that prisoners were killed in theconfrontation, it was demonstrated they were executed and that thedeath squad had compiled a list of targets to be executed during theoperation.
The operation was highly lauded, press reports claimed that a mafiahad controlled the prison for 10 years, and that prison installationsserved as the headquarters for criminal activities, that kidnapvictims were held in the prison, drugs were processed, etc.
Many of those now with arrest warrants participated directly in theoperation, including then Minister of Governance, Carlos Vielmann,then Director of Police Edwin Sperisen, Chief and Assistant Chief ofspecial investigations Javier Figueroa and Victor Soto, and Directorof the Penitentiary System Alejandro Giamattei.
CICIG investigators have stated that it is expected that the networkwill be implicated in at least eight more crimes that will come tolight over the course of the trial, including among others, drugtrafficking and kidnapping.
LINKS TO CENTRAL AMERICAN PARLIAMENTARIAN KILLINGS, EDUARDO D’AUBUISSON
On February 19, 2007 a caravan of six official cars traveled from SanSalvador to Guatemala City, escorted by police. Upon arriving inGuatemala City one of the cars, transporting Eduardo D’Aubuisson, JoseRamón González and William Rissiety Pichinte, all from the ARENAparty, left the caravan. They were stopped by a police car and takento a torture center outside of Guatemala City where they were torturedfor several hours before their bodies and their car were burned andabandoned on a farm near the border with El Salvador.
The police officers implicated were quickly identified via videosurveillance footage and GPS systems in police cars. Warrants for thearrest of nine officers were issued, and four were detained. The ElSalvadoran and Guatemalan governments requested the assistance of theFBI, but on February 26, 2007 just hours before a scheduled polygraphtests the four police officers were killed in a maximum securityprison.
Crowds of prison visitors reported that an armed contingent freelyentered the prison; some claims include witnessing then PoliceDirector Sperinsen with the squad. Approximately twenty minutes latershots were heard, and later gang members rioted. Minister ofGovernance Carlos Vielmann claimed the four police officers had beenkilled in a gang uprising, though later confronted with witnessreports officials claimed the armed men forced entry into the prison.
Eduardo D’Aubuisson was the son of the infamous Roberto D’Aubuisson,death squad leader and leader of the ultra right wing ARENA party.
On July 26, 2010 Guatemalan district attorneys indicted Manuel deJesús Castillo, a former Guatemalan congressman, and eight others inthe killing of three El Salvadoran PARLACEN congressmen and theirdriver in Guatemala in 2007. Former El Salvadoran PARLACEN memberRoberto Carlos Silva Pereira, thought to be involved in drugtrafficking, is pending deportation from the United States to facecharges.
Two motives for the killings have been advanced, that Silva soughtrevenge for his expulsion from ARENA for drug association or that theywere rivals in the drug business.
At least two of those sought for arrest demonstrate a clear connectionto the PARLACEN killings. In addition to Sperinsen himself, VictorSoto was part of Edwin Sperinsen’s elite Anti Kidnapping Command andparticipated in the September 2006 raid on El Pavon prison. In March2007 he was fired from his position of Director of the CriminalInvestigations as he was the direct superior of the four policeofficers arrested then killed in El Boqueron.
A truck that reportedly assisted in the transportation of the victimsto the torture center and farm where their bodies and car were burnedwas owned by Gulf cartel kingpin Jorge Arturo Paredes Cordova, alsoimplicated in the 2008 killing of Victor Rivera, a special advisor toMinister of Governance. “El Gordo” Paredes is currently serving a 31year sentence in the United States, convicted of cocaine traffickingafter being arrested in Honduras in May 2008. He reportedly hadinherited control of the Gulf cartel following the arrest of OttoHerrera.
VICTOR RIVERA- CIA ASSET WORKED WITH OLIVER NORTH & POSADA CARRILES
Victor Rivera had been a special advisor in the Ministry of Governanceon kidnapping investigations since at least 2000. According to formerDEA agent Celerino Castillo, Victor Rivera was originally fromVenezuela but came to El Salvador as a CIA asset to work with formerCIA agent Luis Posada Carriles and Ronald Regan aid Lt. Col. OliverNorth in the Ilopango Air Base “drug trafficking, kidnapping andtraining death squads” in the early 1980′s.
Rivera advised ‘security structures’ in El Salvador in the 1980s andearly 1990. After the peace accords he became an advisor to the ElSalvadoran Vice Minister of Security Hugo Barrera, with whom Rivera,under the pseudonym Zacarias, helped create the new National CivilPolice and the parallel, unofficial Police Analysis Unit that operatedout of the office of a business owned by Barrera.
In 1996, Rivera was forced to leave El Salvador when a warrant wasissued for his arrest in relation to his role in the police killing ofa medical student, Adriano Vilanova, according to some reports as apossible consequence of a romance between Vilanova and RobertoD’Aubuisson daughter. In 1997 Rivera began assisting in kidnappinginvestigations in Guatemala and since at least 2000 was formallycontracted as an advisor to the Guatemalan Ministry of Governance,there again forming a parallel police ‘investigation’ apparatus.
On April 7, 2008 Victor Rivera was fatally shot while driving, oneweek after his contract was not renewed in the Ministry of Governance.On July 26, 2010 it was announced that as a result of CICIGinvestigations, an arrest warrant was issued for his secretary andprincipal assistant, María del Rosario Melgar for helping coordinateRivera’s murder.
According to CICIG’s investigations Melgar is also implicated in theVielmann / Sperinsen network. Rivera was reportedly very close toVielmann.
There is also speculation that Rivera was involved in the PARLECENkillings; a video has emerged of the four officers in custody speakingwith Victor Ramirez in which one reportedly said to him, “Ok, I willgo (to prison), but I will take all of you with me.” Three days laterall four officers were dead.
It is not clear why “El Gordo” Paredes had Rivera killed. Accordingto CICIG’s Director, the two had a long standing relationship, and themurder order could have arisen from “the kidnapping of the son (ofParedes) that ended tragically, in which he could have blamed Riveraand waited years until he could take revenge, or it could be somejoint activity that came out badly and as you know with this class ofbusiness you pay with your life.”
ONE OF BISHOP GERARDI’S KILLERS DECAPITATED IN PRISON IN 2003, ANOTHERAPPARENTLY CONNECTED TO GULF CARTEL
Sperinsen and Vielmann’s positions in power began with Oscar Berger’spresidency in 2004. Though no one has implicated any connection, andthe events predate Vielmann, the decapitation of inmate ObdulioVillanueva on September 12, 2003 in Pavon prison demonstrates apattern similar to other cases that implicate Vielmann’s network.
Sergeant Obdulio Villanueva, together with Colonel Byron Lima Estradaand Capitan Byron Lima Oliva, father and son, were convicted of the1998 murder of Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi following the release of thereport of a Catholic Church sponsored truth commission he directed.
Obdulio Villanueva’s defense was that he was in prison the night ofthe murder, though investigators were able to establish thatVillanueva left prison at will and indeed had left the night of themurder. Villanueva had been serving a sentence for the killing of amilkman in a confusing incident while he served in the Estado MayorPresidencial, a presidential guard and intelligence agency.
In March 2010 a notebook taken from Villanueva’s accomplice, ByronLima Oliva, showed notes with contact information for top members ofthe Gulf Cartel.
WHO ARE VIELMANN, SPERISEN, GIAMATTEI AND SOTO?
Carlos Vielmann began his government career with high approval as thenPresident Oscar Berger’s special commissioner on corruption. One ofhis first actions was rescinding over valued contracts to supply foodto the prison system, coordinating new low priced contracts, aninteresting fact given that food suppliers have notoriously been thesuppliers of weapons to the crime networks that control CentralAmerican prisons. Vielmann quickly was named Minister of Governance.Vielmann currently lives in Spain.
Erwin Sperisen, reportedly of Swiss ancestry, currently lives inSwitzerland. Sperinsen’s father was Guatemala’s representative to theWorld Trade Organization. After briefly serving as advisor to theGuatemala City mayor, Sperinsen was named director of the NationalCivil Police in 2004 with no prior experience. He is reported to haveplaced 30 military officers in high ranking police positions. Duringhis term as Director of Police he was known to engage in ‘socialcleansing’ and reportedly discussed these actions in his televisedevangelical sermons.
Alejandro Giammattei is wanted for his participation in the OperationPavo Real while Director of the Penitentiary System. He was thePresidential Candidate in 2007 for the then incumbent GANA party. OnFriday, August 6, days before the arrest warrants were made public, hesought asylum in the Honduran Embassy on Friday claiming he hadreceived death threats over the past 45 day as a result of his vocalopposition to the administration of the current President AlvaroColom.
Yesterday the Honduran ambassador informed the press the asylumrequest had been denied and Giammattei was expected to leave theembassy by Friday.
Victor Hugo Soto was Director of the SIC, Special CriminalInvestigation unit, of the National Civil Police. He began his policecareer in the police death squad known as the “Archivo” in the 1980s,and went on to serve in a series of elite police units, including antikidnapping units. While head of SIC, in 2002, he was part of astrange incident in which police and military exchanged fire in ashoot out in Guatemala City during a kidnapping victim’s ransom drop.A witness claimed Soto pocketed the ransom. In 2004 he wasinvestigated for blocking investigation of corrupt officers. He isaccused in participation in the Operacion Pavo Real. He has beenclosely associated with Victor Rivera. Investigators failed in anattempt to capture Soto during a birthday party for the mayor of Ocos,San Marcos, a township infamous for the high level of drugtrafficking.
THE PAST IS CLOSE BEHIND
These stories go on and on; they are not over. Last week’s arrestshine a small but important light on the “clandestine structures ofpower” that operate in Guatemala with next to complete impunity.These arrests are small but important steps in cracking the wall ofcorruption and impunity. Stay tuned.
RIGHTS ACTION IS A NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATION, with tax charitablestatus in Canada and the USA, that funds and works to eliminatepoverty and the underlying causes of poverty, supportingcommunity-based development, environmental, disaster relief and humanrights projects and organizations in Guatemala and Honduras, as wellas in Chiapas [Mexico], El Salvador and Haiti. Rights Action educatesabout and is involved in other worked aimed at poverty eradication andcritically understanding the related north-south, global development,environmental and human rights issues.
Guatemala police chief, minister quit over murders
Mon, Mar 26 2007
GUATEMALA CITY, March 26 (Reuters) - Guatemalan President Oscar Berger accepted the resignation of the country's police chief and interior minister on Monday after eight murders raised fears that senior officials were linked to drug gangs.Three Salvadoran politicians and their driver were murdered on Feb. 19 in Guatemala. Days later, four police detectives who were arrested for the murders were shot in prison. Opposition politicians say the events show corrupt police are working with death squads in return for protection from drug gangs.A government investigation of the murders is underway.Interior Minister Carlos Vielmann and the national head of police, Erwin Sperisen, tendered their resignations earlier this month. On Monday, Berger said he reluctantly accepted their decision.Vielmann is likely to stay in the post for a few more days until Berger, whose government has been stained by the election-year crisis, finds a replacement."We don't have a candidate right now, but we are going to speed up the process to find one as soon as possible," Berger told reporters.Vielmann and Sperisen blame gang members inside the prison for the police detective's deaths, saying they used smuggled weapons and collaborated with guards to kill the policemen.Berger said drug-trafficking rings in Guatemala and El Salvador were behind the deaths of the Salvadoran politicians.The annual U.S. State Department human rights report released this month highlighted corruption in Guatemala's security forces, citing complaints of kidnappings, rapes and murders carried out by police in 2006.
Guatemalan Court finds Manuel Castillo Guilty of Murdering the Three Salvadoran Diputados
The subject of Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series, “Freeway” Ricky Ross was released from prison on September 29, 2009.
His site is here:
See the original Dark Alliance series here:
Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion
The full 887 page text is here---
The grand Jury Testimony of Danilo Blandon that sparked the Dark Alliance story is here:http://narconews.com/darkalliance/drugs/library/4.htmBlandon admits meeting the Contra leaders and Meneses at the same meeting about fund raising and "Let the ends justify the means"
Read the book here: (Please buy a copy and support the family of Gary Webb)
Amazon.com: Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack ...
In July 1995, San Jose Mercury-News reporter Gary Webb found the Big One-- the blockbuster story every journalist secretly dreams about--without even looking ...
http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Alliance-Contras-Cocaine-Explosion/dp/1888363932 (excerpt from the reviews section)
Documentary Featuring Ross and former law enforcement officials commenting on his case:
Watch the entire 2 hr film on youtube:
Read the wiki here:
American Drug War: The Last White Hope - Wikipedia, the free ...
American Drug War: The Last White Hope is a 2007 documentary by writer/ director Kevin Booth about the War on Drugs in the United States.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Drug_War:_The_Last_White_Hope - View by Ixquick Proxy - Highlight
See Ricky Ross On BET Channel’s “American Gangster “ series: (6/6/2009)
He was the entrepreneur of south Los Angeles. He was better than robin-hood. Los Angeles was the Wall Mart of cocaine. Crack went through the neighborhood like hurricane Katrina. What he sold on the streets cost a lot of young lives. Even the law enforcement got caught up into his money. But Freeway Ricky Ross was just a pawn in a big game involving the CIA and allegedly president Ronald Reagan. Freeway Ricky Ross was set up by his supplier and he was sentenced to life in prison for selling cocaine. But where did the drugs come from? How did they get into the United States? How are we supposed to trust the CIA to investigate themselves?
Watch American Gangster Freeway Ricky Ross Online
Read Gary Webb’s wiki here:
Webb was later vindicated when an investigation disclosed the following:
On January 29, 1998, Hitz published Volume One of his internal investigation. This was the first of two CIA reports that eventually substantiated many of Webb's claims about cocaine smugglers, the Nicaraguan contra movement, and their ability to freely operate without the threat of law enforcement.
On March 16, 1998, Hitz admitted that the CIA had maintained relationships with companies and individuals the CIA knew were involved in the drug business. Hitz told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that "there are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug-trafficking activity or take action to resolve the allegations." Senator John Kerry reached similar conclusions a decade earlier in 1987. (See:)
On May 7, 1998, Rep. Maxine Waters, revealed a memorandum of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department from 1982, which was entered into the Congressional Record. This letter had freed the CIA from legally reporting drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan rebels.
On July 23, 1998, the Justice Department released a report by its Inspector General, Michael R. Bromwich. The Bromwich report claimed that the Reagan-Bush administration was aware of cocaine traffickers in the Contra movement and did nothing to stop the criminal activity. The report also alleged a pattern of discarded leads and witnesses, sabotaged investigations, instances of the CIA working with drug traffickers, and the discouragement of DEA investigations into Contra-cocaine shipments. The CIA's refusal to share information about Contra drug trafficking with law-enforcement agencies was also documented. The Bromwich report corroborated Webb's investigation into Norwin Meneses, a Nicaraguan drug smuggler.
On October 8, 1998, CIA I.G. Hitz published Volume Two of his internal investigation. The report described how the Reagan-Bush administration had protected more than 50 Contras and other drug traffickers, and by so doing thwarted federal investigations into drug crimes. Hitz published evidence that drug trafficking and money laundering had made its way into Reagan's National Security Council where Oliver North oversaw the operations of the Contras. According to the report, the Contra war took precedence over law enforcement. To that end, the internal investigation revealed that the CIA routinely withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, Congress and even the analytical division of the CIA itself. Further, the report confirmed Webb's claims regarding the origins and the relationship of Contra fundraising and drug trafficking. The report also included information about CIA ties to other drug traffickers not discussed in the Webb series, including Moises Nunez and Ivan Gomez. More importantly, the internal CIA report documented a cover-up of evidence which had led to false intelligence assessments.
Cocaine Cowboys (2006)
Another good documentary:
watch it online here:
read the wiki here:
Cocaine Cowboys - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cocaine Cowboys is a 2006 documentary film directed by Billy Corben and produced by Alfred Spellman and Billy Corben through their Miami-based media ...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocaine_Cowboys - View by Ixquick Proxy - Highlight
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
If you had tried to write a story ten years ago arguing that the CIA was promoting or practicing torture, you'd be looked at as some kind of reconstructed Marxist or something like that. And now you can read about that every day in the major newspapers. -- Nick Schou
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Nick Schou, an editor at Orange County Weekly, reviews and analyzes the remarkable and tragic story of Gary Webb, an investigative reporter who wrote a shell-shocking, three-part series for the San Jose Mercury News in 1996 about the CIA's controversial connection to Nicaraguan Contras selling crack cocaine in the United States. The mainstream media attacked and vilified Gary Webb for this reporting. Webb left the Mercury News after the paperdistanced themselves from the story, and he was never able to find another job in journalism. He killed himself two years ago.
The saddest part is that Gary's story was eventually proved to be true, including admissions by the CIA that the agency did have ties and knowledge of a drug smuggling operation in the United States, but simply turned a blind eye to the drug trafficking operation.
We spoke to Nick Schou about his thorough and balanced treatment of Gary Webb's story, which is truly an American tragedy.
BuzzFlash: Your book, Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb is truly an American tragedy. You went back and looked at Webb's reporting on the CIA crack cocaine story, and you basically found that Gary Webb got the story right. Is that accurate?
Nick Schou: There were problems with the story, but those were pretty much confined to the lead paragraph. The only thing that was really misleading about the story is the way it was packaged by his editor. The San Jose Mercury News felt it had a hot ticket, a Pulitzer to get out of this story, only to abandon Gary after the story became controversial.
The misleading element was that it stated that the activities of this drug ring helped spark the crack cocaine epidemic. And Gary never believed that. The story didn't actually say that. After he left journalism, and when he finally wrote his book, he tried to clarify that he never actually believed that, and that the story had been over-hyped by his editors.
The important thing to remember is that the CIA denied any tie to this drug ring whatsoever, and that was used by the mainstream media when they attacked Gary in print. After Gary was driven out of journalism, the CIA released a report admitting that it had covered up its relationship with Contra drug traffickers for more than a decade. The L.A. Times, which had spent more time and energy than any other paper attacking Gary Webb, never even wrote a story about that. That should be a scandal, in and of itself.
BuzzFlash: So to clarify, the San Jose Mercury News, in their marketing of the story, said things that even Gary Webb didn't say. They said the Contras helped cause the crack explosion.
Nick Schou: They said that it helped spark it, which is kind of a vague statement, and it may or may not be true. It's something that's kind of impossible to prove either way. Determining the exact impact of any one drug ring, no matter how powerful and involved it was, is really complicated, especially in a disaster like the crack plague.
But there's no denying that what he had on his hands was a really important piece of history that had been covered up for a long time. He wasn't the first reporter to write about this issue, but he was the first reporter to actually track down where drugs were coming into this country as a result of the CIA's involvement in Central America, and where they ended up.
Webb found that one of the most notorious crack dealers in history, "Freeway" Ricky Ross, was being supplied by these very people. So that was a huge story. The CIA report later made clear that it was even worse than Webb could have possibly known. The CIA ended up admitting ties to dozens of trafficking organizations that were involved in Nicaragua.
BuzzFlash: One of the assertions Webb made, which other people took out of context, alluded to the fact that the CIA turned a blind eye to the trafficking of cocaine into the country. But Webb did not overtly say that the CIA was actually selling drugs in the streets of Los Angeles.
Nick Schou: Right. And many people believed that before he wrote his story, and used his story as further evidence of this notion. That made it all the easier for the mainstream media to attack Gary Webb.
The L.A. Times and The New York Times wrote huge stories trying to debunk this conspiracy theory, but they neglected to point out that Gary didn't believe that himself. After his career had already been pretty much ruined, Gary would go around giving readings of his book, and he would start every speech by saying exactly that -- that he believed what had happened here was a horrible accident of history, and that the CIA never deliberately tried to addict anybody to drugs.
BuzzFlash: Without a doubt, the CIA turned a blind eye to the problem and knew it was going on but didn't try to stop it.
Nick Schou: Well, Gary suspected as much, and there was strong circumstantial evidence that the CIA was well aware of the activities, but there was no way to know. That was another element of the hypocrisy and the criticism of his reporting -- that the story didn't contain any admissions from the CIA about what was happening. It is really naïve to think that those would be possible to get. But again, after he wrote his book, the CIA finally admitted that they had turned a blind eye to this.
BuzzFlash: As a side note, just like the crack epidemic in the late eighties and nineties, there's probably a similar story with the CIA turning a blind eye to what's going on in Afghanistan now with opium. The production rate of opium in Afghanistan has spiked since the fall of the Taliban. All kind of groups are selling opium, both our enemies and our allies to prop up the economy, their militias, and the remnants of the Taliban. These are open fields of poppy farms. It's not like it's hidden underground or anything. We know it's happening.
Nick Schou: The drug industry gets bigger every year. That is the biggest open secret out there. There's just a huge market for illicit drugs, and it's hard to find any country that isn't affected by it.
The way it works is basically that foreign policy has always trumped drug policy. That's the central hypocrisy in the whole war on drugs; it plays sort of a backstage role to foreign policy.
That's why, for years, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would be arresting drug dealers in the U.S. who were selling cocaine that was being brought into the country; but those investigations never went up the food chain all the way, because the people smuggling drugs into the country often were doing so with the cooperation of our allies, like Mexico or Columbia, which is another key ally in the war on drugs. It's much easier for the DEA to have a mandate year after year to bust people on the street, and go after petty drug distributors, leaving the actual traffickers at the top of the industry alone. It just keeps going on, year after year after year.
BuzzFlash: Why did the L.A. Times especially, and the Washington Post and The New York Times, react so strongly to Webb's three-part series? What was it about his coverage that so offended the mainstream media and prompt such retaliation against Webb?
Nick Schou: Well, there are a couple of different things. First of all, I think the mainstream media would have been all too happy just to completely ignore this kind of a story. But because this Dark Alliance series was one of the first big news exposés to be published on the Internet, they didn't have that choice. It became very high profile, and it took a couple of months of nightly news coverage before those three papers weighed in on it. But they didn't really have a choice.
The second part of it is that all three papers had pretty much ignored this story, going back to the 1980s when the reports about Contra drug trafficking first became public. And they had covered this. Their reporters had written about it, but those stories always ran in the back of the news. They never were front-page stories.
And Senator John Kerry, who investigated this, was viewed as a kind of a conspiracy nut for going after it. His reputation was almost completely ruined as a result of that. Reporters who tried to aggressively cover this, in many cases, saw their careers ruined over it as well. People like Bob Parry, who wrote the first story about the CIA knowledge of Contra drug trafficking, ended up losing his job at the Associated Press over this.
Specifically with the L.A. Times, not only had they ignored the story, like everyone else, but they had come late to the story of "Freeway" Ricky Ross. A few years before Gary's story came out, the L.A. Times had written a big profile of him, calling him the person most responsible for the crack epidemic in L.A. So when they read Dark Alliance, which revealed where "Freeway" Rick's drugs came from and showed Agency involvement in that organization, they were under a special pressure to try to develop the story, because they had been the ones who had already put "Freeway" Ricky Ross on the map.
I talked to the reporter who actually wrote that original story. He was working in Texas at the time, and he was brought back by the L.A. Times to L.A. to write another story about Ross, where he said that Ross was just one of many players. He was at a loss to explain the difference between those two stories on "Freeway" Rick. Needless to say, there isn't really a satisfactory explanation for what happened, other than that the Times was simply trying to rewrite history, now that they had been scooped.
BuzzFlash: I think the operative word about this is the word "conspiracy." If a journalist's story seems too crazy to be believed, it's very quickly discredited.
It's what I call the "Oh, come on," phenomenon. But there's no question that the CIA has a long history of making deals and alliances with unsavory characters, with people who are not Mother Teresa. To me, it's so interesting that there's only so far that you can go with a story.
Nick Schou: I think it was a lot easier to dismiss a story like this ten years ago than it would be now. Not only has the CIA admitted its long-standing ties to drug-trafficking organizations. That's all history now. But they've been implicated in so many other scandals since that came out that it's just hard to keep track.
If you had tried to write a story ten years ago arguing that the CIA was promoting or practicing torture, you'd be looked at as some kind of reconstructed Marxist or something like that. And now you can read about that every day in the major newspapers.
I don't know necessarily that the mainstream media has really learned any kind of valuable lesson over its criticism of Dark Alliance, because so much of that criticism relied on anonymous government officials issuing blanket denials. And those are the same kind of anonymous sources that told the media to run with the story of Saddam Hussein hoarding weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be complete nonsense, and which helped pave the way towards a disastrous war in Iraq.
BuzzFlash: How exactly did the San Jose Mercury News, which trumpeted Webb's story on the front page, eventually distance itself from Webb's story and more or less retract the series.
Nick Schou: First the paper defended Gary's work. But the thing is, Gary was already kind of a hotshot investigative reporter when he started working at the Mercury News. He already had nearly twenty years of experience behind him. And he was working out of a very tiny bureau in Sacramento, so he wasn't really well known or particularly well liked at the headquarters of the paper with all the other reporters. Very few people other than a few editors at the paper even knew about this story, which was part of the problem, because there were some personality conflicts that prevented really good editors from actually editing the story. And the managing editor of the paper stopped reading it halfway through, and didn't have any training as an investigative reporter.
In that atmosphere, once the mainstream media really starting attacking this story, the support for Gary's work really didn't last beyond that. And Gary felt that there was a lot more to the story. He had done a lot of reporting that was edited out, and he was very dissatisfied with that whole process.
But rather than let him continue to report the story, the paper decided to take him out of the mix, and decided to reinvestigate his work. They assigned another reporter to try to duplicate what he had done. And that reporter came back and said: Well, some of it's right, some of it's wrong.
This caused a huge firestorm of controversy. The San Jose Mercury News felt they had to tell their readers essentially, well, we didn't mean to imply that the CIA had deliberately done anything, which a lot of people believed.
Gary predicted accurately that that kind of a letter to readers would be viewed as a complete retraction of the story, even though that's not what it was. But he was right, that's exactly how it was perceived. He resigned a few months after the paper printed this sort of half retraction/half defense of his work. And he refused to go along with it. That's the main thing. He repeatedly went on the air and talked to reporters, including myself, saying that he felt he'd been betrayed, and that he had all this extra work that they wouldn't let him put in the paper. That pretty much sealed his fate at the Mercury News.
BuzzFlash: After leaving the Mercury News, what did he wind up doing with his life and the rest of his career?
Nick Schou: He never really worked in daily journalism again after that. He was able to get a job as an investigator for the State of California, up in Sacramento, where his family lived, but he went through some personal problems. He went through a divorce, and ultimately ended up not being very challenged in his government job.
He really was a born-and-bred investigative reporter, and that was always what he wanted to do. He tried to get back into journalism shortly before he committed suicide, and sent out fifty resumes to papers across the country, but wasn't hired. He ended up working for a small alternative weekly in Sacramento, but he wasn't able to pay his bills. His salary was a fraction of what it used to be. And he had child support payments. He ultimately had to sell his house and move in with his mother in order to settle his debts. He committed suicide, literally, the morning he was supposed to move in with his Mom, at age 49, which was, I think, too much for him to be able to take at that point. He had really sort of reached the end of his dwindling psychological resources.
BuzzFlash: Do you think Webb's story had a chilling effect on what few investigative reporters are even left?
Nick Schou: Yes. Investigative reporting is a tough business. The kind of investigative reporting that Gary really pursued, which is really the nuts and bolts, unglamorous kind of research involving documents and extensive hours and hours in libraries and other places, digging through records and so forth, is really something that most reporters don't bother with because it's simply not all that rewarding.
Most of the hotshot investigative reporters out there that we're all familiar with - people like Bob Woodward, and even to a certain extent, Seymour Hersh - pretty much rely on having very powerful connections who leak them information. Then they essentially just type up their interviews.
The system doesn't exactly reward the type of aggressive, very difficult reporting that Gary Webb used to do. I think that's a shame. And unfortunately, in general, the media is suffering a decline of public trust and a decline in leadership.
More and more people are turning to the television for news, if they pay any attention to news at all. But I think there's a real strong need for the type of journalism that Gary Webb stood for. Throughout his career, as I found in researching this book, he was always going after abuses of power and corruption, regardless of the politics. He really was non-partisan when it came to exposing abuses of power. I think that's exactly what the media should be doing.
BuzzFlash: Would you say there's an over-arching narrative or a conclusion that you've drawn from writing this book, Kill the Messenger?
Nick Schou: I think it's a cautionary tale for people who are considering careers in investigative reporting, and just for anyone who cares about a functioning, aggressive press in a democratic society.
One of the most intriguing perspectives I got on the book was from a French filmmaker, who is actually the only person who covered Gary Webb's suicide on screen -- the news media in the U.S. completely ignored this. This French filmmaker made a documentary about it.
He actually pointed out that, when the CIA report came out basically vindicating all of Gary Webb's work, the main reason, it seems, it had been ignored was that the Monica Lewinsky scandal had just broken out. He made the point to me, and I share his view, that in a democratic society, censorship of the press isn't so much a problem or a threat. It's just what he called media noise. That's the tendency of the media to just focus on relatively silly, unimportant stories to the exclusion of really important news.
I think that's the biggest threat and the biggest lesson of this book -- that media noise helped destroy Gary Webb's career. He wasn't so much censored by the government, but by his fellow reporters who had this sort of pack mentality, and didn't objectively do their jobs. They did their readers a disservice.
BuzzFlash: Thank you so much, Nick, for speaking with us.
Nick Schou: Thank you.
* * *
Interview conducted by Senior Editor, Scott Vogel.
Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb,by Nick Schou, a BuzzFlash premium.
"Gary Webb's Death: American Tragedy" (Robert Parry/Consortium News).
"Kill the Messenger: The Tragic Life of Gary Webb," (Doug Ireland/In These Times, posted on Alternet)
The Expert Witness Radio Show
Listen to past shows here!
Read Mike’s essays here
Bolivian President Uses Former DEA Agent’s Book to Send Message to the World
Posted by Bill Conroy - March 6, 2011 at 2:15 am
Evo Morales Challenging Media to Read Between the Lines of “The Big White Lie”Bolivian President Evo Morales earlier this week held up a book, titled “La Guerra Falsa,” for the world to see.The tome Morales displayed for the cameras on March 3 at a military ceremony in La Paz, Bolivia is the Spanish-language version of “The Big White Lie,” a book penned by former DEA undercover agent Mike Levine. The book exposes the CIA's corrupt involvement in the drug war, including its role in the "cocaine coup" in Bolivia in 1980.
Mike Levine now hosts the Expert Witness Radio Show on Pacifica Radio in NYC, a show that has given Narco News plenty of airtime.The U.S. mainstream media coverage meme now argues that when Morales kicked the DEA out of Bolivia in 2008, it opened the door to widespread narco-corruption, as evidenced by the recent arrest in Panama of Bolivia's former top counternarcotics cop, Rene Sanabria.Morales' critics contend Bolivia’s stability is in jeopardy because it has become a magnet for global narco-trafficking since the DEA’s departure. Consequently, the critics argue, Morales should let the U.S. counter-drug agency back onto Bolivian soil.Morales, though, is steadfast in his refusal to change course on that front, given the reasons for making that decision in the first place seem to remain valid concerns in his mind.“Morales [in 2008] accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of espionage and funding "criminal groups" trying to undermine his government,” states a 2008 AP story.A more recent Associated Press story, published this past Friday, states that the former commander of Bolvia's anti-narcotics police force, Sanabria, was detained in late February of this year in Panama, along with co-conspirator Marcelo Foronda, and both were subsequently deported to the United States. Sanabria, who at the time of his arrest was serving as an intelligence advisor to Morales' government, was the target of a DEA cocaine-trafficking sting that had been ongoing for some two years, a Wall Street Journal story reports.The undercover DEA operation was undertaken without the approval or knowledge of the Bolivian government, according to an unnamed official quoted in the AP article.“The official would not say whether the U.S. had information to suggest corruption in Morales' administration reached higher than Sanabria,” the AP reports.Seemingly implied by the statement above as one possible conspiracy theory is that Morales’ administration may be corrupt to its core, and Morales (the former head of the indigenous coca-growers union in Bolivia, where the coca leaf is considered sacred and chewing it an ancient tradition) is either a clueless dupe or himself involved deeply in narco-trafficking — despite Morales' professed policy of having zero tolerance for cocaine trafficking.Or could another possbile scenario be in play here, as Morales seems to be suggesting?
Could Sanabria's arrest instead be evidence of another "cocaine coup" in the making? Might that be the message Morales is sending by displaying Levine’s book for the world to see in the wake of the arrest of Bolivia's counternarcotics chief?
That conspiracy theory might sound outlandish to some. But then history isn't a subject everyone is equally comfortable embracing.From an essay written by Levine that discusses the "cocaine coup" in Bolivia:On July 17, 1980, for the first time in history, drug traffickers actually took control of a nation. It was not just any nation, it was Bolivia, at the time the source of virtually 100 percent of the cocaine entering the United States. The “Cocaine Coup” was the bloodiest in Bolivia’s history. It came at a time that the US demand for cocaine was skyrocketing to the point that, in order to satisfy it, suppliers had to consolidate raw materials and production and get rid of inefficient producers. Its result was the creation of what came to be known as La Corporacion — The Corporation — in essence, the General Motors or OPEC of Cocaine.Immediately after the coup production of cocaine increased massively until, in short order, it outstripped supply. It was the true beginning of the cocaine and crack “plague” as the media and hack politicians never tire of calling it. July 17, 1980 is truly a day that should live in equal infamy along with December 7th, 1941. There are few events in history that have caused more and longer lasting damage to our nation.What America was never told, in spite of mainstream media having the information and a prime, inside source who was ready to go public with the story, was that the coup was carried out with the aid and participation of Central Intelligence. The source would also testify and prove that, in order to carry out that coup, the CIA, State and Justice departments had to combine forces to protect their drug dealing assets by destroying a DEA investigation—US v Roberto Suarez, et al. How do I know? I was that inside source.Sanabria’s case is now pending in federal court in Miami, where earlier this week he pled not guilty to the charges against him, according to media reports.Whatever the course of Sanabria’s case, it seems clear that Bolivia is once again in the thick of drug-war intrigue in which the truth is always illusive and the “Big White Lie” often right in front of our faces.Stay tuned….
UPDATE, March 6; 5:10 pm Eastern
Former DEA Agent Confirms U.S. Spy Agency Backed Bolivia’s “Cocaine Coup”
Author Mike Levine, a former deep-cover DEA agent who served in Latin America, has just issued a statement in reaction to Bolivian President Evo Morales’ decision to display the Spanish version of “The Big White Lie” at a press event held earlier this week in Bolivia.
Levine’s “The Big White Lie” exposes the CIA’s alleged complicity in the drug trade, including its role in the 1980 “cocaine coup” in Bolivia. That narco-putsch replaced Bolivia’s leftist interim president, Lidia Gueller Tejada (the only woman to ever serve as president of Bolivia), with a ruling junta “comprised of expatriate Nazis like Klaus Barbie and drug dealers like Roberto Suarez and … it was CIA directed and US taxpayer dollars [put] these guys in power,” Levine writes in an essay.
Following are a few excerpts from Levine’s press statement, released within that last hour. The entire press release can be found at this link.
On 3/3/11, President Evo Morales vowing that DEA would not be permitted to enter Bolivia, cited the book, La Guerra Falsa (The Big White Lie) as proof of CIA’S use of the War on Drugs to manipulate his and other governments.
When Bolivian president Evo Morales held up the book "La Guerra Falsa" (The Big White Lie) by Michael Levine for the photo that would rocket around the world, claiming that it was proof of DEA and CIA protecting the biggest drug traffickers in the world and using the drug war to manipulate, control and even overthrow governments, he was wrong about one thing: "The Big White Lie" does not blame DEA; it lays the blame exclusively on CIA. [Emphasis added.]
… From author's Introduction of The Big White Lie:
"In these pages I will lead you through the deep cover odyssey that I lived for six years. You will hear the words I heard, witness what I and others did, and learn the real reasons behind our cocaine and crack epidemic — the ones your elected representatives hid from you in secret sessions behind closed doors and a misuse of the secrecy laws that must have had our founding fathers twisting in their graves.
"I will give you a fly-on-the-wall look at how the CIA perverts the American justice system by protecting drug dealers and murderers from prosecution; at how even federal judges and prosecutors alleged to have violated narcotic laws were protected from investigation; at how a beautiful South American woman called 'the Queen of Cocaine,' by Pablo Escobar, responsible for shipping more cocaine into the United States than any one person I had ever known, was able to seduce the CIA into destroying her competitors, protecting her from prosecution, and paying her a small fortune in taxpayer dollars for her 'services'; at how the only ruling government of Bolivia that ever wanted to help DEA defeat their drug barons was paid for its faith in our sincerity with torture and death at the hands of CIA-sponsored paramilitary terrorists under the command of fugitive Nazi war criminals. And finally, you will realize, as I did, the ultimate betrayal of America; how, without the CIA's protection and support the resultant crack/cocaine epidemic might never have occurred.
"Without further ado, enter the inner sanctum of the biggest, whitest, deadliest lie of them all: the war on drugs."
Again, to read Levine’s entire press release, go to this link.
Bolivian President Bans DEA from Bolivia, Citing Book 'La Guerra Falsa' (The Big White Lie) by Former DEA Agent Michael Levine
On 3/3/11, President Evo Morales vowing that DEA would not be permitted to enter Bolivia, cited the book, La Guerra Falsa (The Big White Lie) as proof of CIA’S use of the War on Drugs to manipulate his and other governments.
ENGLISH VERSION OF LA GUERRA FALSA
"The truth is that the only thing white about their lies is the thousands of tons of cocaine that have almost buried us because of their actions."
Stone Ridge, NY (PRWEB) March 6, 2011
When Bolivian president Evo Morales held up the book "La Guerra Falsa" (The Big White Lie) by Michael Levine for the photo that would rocket around the world, claiming that it was proof of DEA and CIA protecting the biggest drug traffickers in the world and using the drug war to manipulate, control and even overthrow governments, he was wrong about one thing: "The Big White Lie" does not blame DEA; it lays the blame exclusively on CIA.
For photo: *http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/03/AR2011030303976.html English paraphrase of speech: **http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/bill-conroy/2011/03/bolivian-president-uses-former-dea-agent-s-book-send-message-world ***Spanish language articles paraphrasing the actual statement made by Morales: http://informe21.com/politica/evo-morales-ningun-militar-extranjero-armado-ni-dea-volveran-bolivia & http://www.diariodominicano.com/n.php?id=73595&sec=internacional
The Big White Lie by Michael Levine and Laura Kavanau, published in 1993, is an insider's account of a deep cover sting operation (US v Roberto Suarez et al and Operation Hun - See "The Big White Lie, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1993) that was called the “greatest undercover sting operation in narcotics history” by Penthouse Magazine, (August 1992, by Jonathan Kandell). A covert operation that succeeded in penetrating to the top of the cocaine trafficking world at a time when the Bolivian Cartel run by Roberto Suarez was responsible for more than 90% of the cocaine in the world. (Testimony of Felix Milian Rodriguez, convicted Medellin Cartel money-launderer before US Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism and International Communications, 1-26-87).
Based on secretly tape-recorded conversations and video-tapes, The Big White Lie is a non-fiction, fly-on-the-wall look at how an undercover team of DEA agents posing as an American Mafia family—with the secret aid of the then Bolivian government— succeeded in uncovering what would soon become La Corporacion – the General Motors of cocaine; the prime source of America’s crack cocaine explosion, only to learn that the cartel leaders were CIA assets. Called a book that "reads like an edge of your seat thriller" by the NY Times (Treaster review 1/23/94) it is a blow-by-blow account of how the kind of CIA ineptitude, mismanagement and corruption that led to 9-11, turned the biggest victory of our War on Drugs into its biggest defeat. It is the true story behind the "Coca Revolution," the most violent revolution in that country's history.
From author's Introduction of The Big White Lie: "In these pages I will lead you through the deep cover odyssey that I lived for six years. You will hear the words I heard, witness what I and others did, and learn the real reasons behind our cocaine and crack epidemic — the ones your elected representatives hid from you in secret sessions behind closed doors and a misuse of the secrecy laws that must have had our founding fathers twisting in their graves.
All the assertions of this book as to CIA's role in protecting and aiding and abetting some of the world's biggest cocaine traffickers, in particular those in Bolivia, would later be corroborated by testimony of CIA Inspector General Fredrick Hitz before Congress, public statements made by top DEA officials, and the work of some of our countries best investigative journalists.
See: Consortium News http://www.consortiumnews.com/2007/121007.html Also see: "CIA are drug smugglers" Robert Bonner, DEA Administrator, - Federal Judge Bonner, head of DEA- You don't get better proof than this
See Frontline interview of Hitz: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/special/hitz.html Baltimore Chronicle Article: "In 1998, CIA’s Inspector General Frederick Hitz confirmed the earlier allegations of extensive cocaine trafficking by the Contras, including significant ties to Bolivia’s traffickers. Hitz also cited a partially redacted document referring to a “religious” group cooperating with the Contra-cocaine trade." http://baltimorechronicle.com/2010/121710Parry.shtml For history of CIA bungling and inability to handle and control criminal assets, see Crier Report:
For a Spanish language interview of Michael Levine about "La Guerra Falsa, see: http://tu.tv/videos/la-guerra-falsa
For additional information or author interviews contact
(these comments accompanied the Bonner video posted on youtube by mr. Levine. I reposted them here because they were interesting)
uploaded by michaellevine53 on Feb 18, 2011
From his non-fiction bestseller, THE BIG WHITE LIE now available in eBook format. Click below to purchase for only $2.99!Amazon Kindle: http://goo.gl/OKpxlB&N NOOK: http://goo.gl/OEOYyiBooks (for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch): http://goo.gl/fVM5iKobo (and other Adobe DRM eReaders): http://goo.gl/5T0ftCIA Drug Smuggling - The Real Body Bag Case.with Undercover DEA Agent Michael Levine (author of NY Times non-fiction bestseller DEEP COVER) being coopted by CIA in South East Asia. Also: DEA busts CIA smuggling ton of cocaine. Head of DEA Judge Robert Bonner Accuses CIA directly of being drug smugglers. You don't need more proof than this.Join our mailing list: http://michaellevine.fanbridge.com/http://www.michaellevinebooks.com
my friend. Judge Bonner is still alive, so am I and so are the other DEA agents who appeared in the original 60 minute piece as witnesses detailing the case. the CIA agent who "masterminded" the smuggling of as much as 27 tons of cocaine into the US,(worse than Pablo Escobar) was named, and at the time was the CIA station chief of Venezuela. no one was prosecuted The reason i Posted it here is that , thanks to the use of taxpayer funds to manipulate media, few are aware of this scandal.
michaellevine53 in reply to JP5466(Show the comment) 2 months ago 9
The whole investigation conducted by DEA, revealed that they were only caught for one ton, after they had gotten away with 26 tons over the previous year. Check out some of our radio shows. Bottom line is they smuggled more dope than the Medellin Cartel
michaellevine53 in reply to TheUnknownGrower 1 month ago
My first lesson in this came, as I documented in THE BIG WHITE, when CIA betrayed both the American people and the Bolivian government that trusted us, by supporting the drug traffickers in the takeover of Bolivia in the now infamous Cocaine Coup. It was the bloodiest revolution in that poor country;s history and the beginning of the crack/cocaine epidemic in ours.
michaellevine53 in reply to Katie Nelson 3 weeks ago
See the non-fiction best-sellers DEEP COVER and THE BIG WHITE LIE both soon to be republished as Ebooks for details...
michaellevine53 in reply to WakingMajority(Show the comment) 2 months ago
My friend, this video is only a short excerpt of an extensive investigation conducted by 6"60 minutes", which in turn was based on a joint secret investigation conducted by CIA and DEA internal security. Which resulted in Judge Bonner, the head of DEA making this statement... What more do you need?
I suggest you read THE BIG WHITE LIE
And DEEP COVER for even more detailed proof
michaellevine53 4 months ago
The video exposes nothing that is not already known. Be careful tagging CIA with doing actual clandestine drug smuggling w/o knowing how clandestine intelligence activities really work. Contact a genuine Counter Intelligence (CI) person who has the experience before believing these videos. Leutrell Mike Osborne, Sr.
Leutrell 4 months ago
I wrote about Noriega in "Deep Cover"-- A DEA and Customs undercover team was dealing with his people in Panama while he was still a CIA asset and protected by CIA. I don't think you will believe what happened unless you read the book and understand that every event was documented by secretly recorded audio and video. The book was a NY Times bestseller and Congress just pretended it didn't exist. Sadly, nothing has changed.
michaellevine53 6 months ago 1
Thats Oliver North right there
jrms999 in reply to michaellevine53(Show the comment) 7 months ago
My friend, unfortunately for all of us and the future of this nation, that is the least of it
michaellevine53 11 months ago 10
For me the take away message from your book is the CIA is allowed to torture DEA agents to death for "U.S. national security". America runs Mexico through a CIA back door and has been doing so for decades. That is what Philip Agee's work tells me. He said that the CIA operation in Mexico is MASSIVE. 3 Mexican Presidents were CIA agents. I bet you a dollar to a donut that all succeeding presidents were/are CIA too.
TheTalkWatcher 11 months ago
I had always thought that the reason why Trifecta even got off the ground was as a vendetta for KIKI. I cannot imagine that morale around DEA was too high after one of your guys is tortured to death on video tape. I have not read a 1 story about how the KIKI's murder affected the DEA. It was CIA agents that did the torturing too. Let's remember that the CIA had been recruiting from PRI for decades 3 Mexican Presidents were CIA agents. The USAG had to already know how high in MX GOV Narcos went.
You've got to remember that during operation Trifecta (the deep cover operation in the book), Carlos Salinas de Gortari's bodyguard, on hidden video, promised me a wide open border to traffic drugs from Mexico into the US, if we completed the 15 ton drug deal we were in the midst of...NAFTA was then on the table before Congress... Ergo a lot of powerful people in our government that wanted the operation to fail before the American people became aware of it..That IS the real story in Deep Cover
michaellevine53 11 months ago
I just want to say that you are a true hero. Whistle Blowers are people that I admire greatly. I turn people on to your books. I judge people by what I how I think they would do if put in the Stanley Miller Experiment. I think that most whistle blowers are people that would stop the doctor before giving that fatal dose of electricity. If only we could test our politicians this way there would be a lot less evil in this world.
3. Those compromising fotos gave CIA leverage and put 3 Mexican Presidents in the pocket of the USA. CIA allows Mexican Oligarchs to traffic they have all of the evidence they need to convict them in their pocket. CIA runs newspapers in Mexico. They can play that card when ever they want and ruin these guys. They have blackmail leverage.
I actually think there are many logical reasons to be in league with the narcos. One is the CIA is all about doing illegal shit in foreign countries. Criminals have the skill set they are looking for and make a useful plausibly deniable cutout to work from behind.
2. One of the most common methods for turning an individual is blackmail. Philip Agee tells us the we 3 Mexican Presidents were recruited. They were filmed in bed with honey traps. Drugs can be used in a similar manner.
Mike it is the right question the entity that gets the lion's share of the money is master and the other the servant. It tells us who calls the shots. I know you won't go there which is why you are vague about it.
The logical reason to be in bed with smugglers is WMD W-54 size nuclear weapons. The same reason ONI recruited Luciano and Lansky in the 40's. If you can sort the normal from the abnormal you can spot it easier Although, I hear that NMR scans can do some incredible stuff these days.
The problem with answering your question is that it's the wrong question. It should by what logical reason would CIA have to be in bed with drug traffickers? First, is called "the junkie tax." CIA assets and black operations not funded by congress become self-funded via "licenses" to smuggle to the US. Two: There is no oversight of the CIA whatsoever, thus any "enterprising" officer can cut himself in on his asset's drug profits. If he get's caught, as in the 60 Minute piece, he's promoted.
michaellevine53 11 months ago 2
Who gets the lions share of the money CIA or the Narcos?
The last post begs this question just how does the CIA/Narco relationship work? Who is the master and who is the servant? I notice in your broadcasts you go back and forth. I find it notable that the Tijuana Franchise was run by Sicilia Falcon an anti Castro Cuban and Zambada down in Sinaloa is also a from a similar background. They are connected to the Operation 40 crew. Where does the mafia end and CIA begin? and visa versa?
Where was congress? Great question. The book DEEP COVER was voted one of the most censored by the media books of the year, by BILL MOYERS "Project Censored." Off camera, Mr. Moyers told me it was "the best read and least talked about book between the beltways. (Wash. DC)." It was almost funny. Meaning Congress wanted badly to ignore the book and its charges... If we had a responsible Congress, there would be no CIA supported drug traffickers, and Mexico would not be in the fix its in now.
michaellevine53 11 months ago 3
For me the tragedy is the effects of putting Narco-Politicians into power. If anyone has ever seen the look of fear in someones eyes when you mention the name down here of an NP. The look of fear not wanting to talk about the man. Forcing people to live in fear that is wrong. There is a reign of terror going on south of our border.
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On Meese ratting you out I am wondering where was Congress? That should have led to someone stepping down. What are the chances of requiring psych-evals for Cabinet Members? Meese in my armchair psychologist opinion is a sociopath. These a-holes should come down here spend a day in TJ see the effect of mentioning a certain Narco-Politician's name. People are afraid to speak ill of the man. I see fear in their eyes even when safe here in San Diego. USA's gift to MX.
In DEEP COVER, when you come to the part where the attorney general EDWIN MEECE, blows the cover of our undercover operation with a telephone call to the AG of Mexico (one of our targets) , WHILE the team was undercover in Bolivia, Panama and Mexico. Underline that passage, because the special interests have not changed.. Remember the book was a NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, and the charge would be libelous as hell were it not true. Then ask yourself why mainstream media ignored the claim.
I am reading your book DEEP COVER right now. I will read BIG WHITE LIE next. I live in San Diego and cannot believe all this stuff went down here. Part of the media problem is they won't name the true leaders of the Cartels. Jorge Hank Rhon, who I think is the real leader of the Tijuana Cartel, is a prime example. It does not take an Elliot Ness or a Sherlock Holmes to see. The Arellanos are bad guys but they are not head of the organization. No one in media will call Hanks what he is.
By the way. google it and you'll see that this past May, Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia held the Spanish translation of THE BIG WHITE LIE (La Guerra Falsa) up for it to be photographed by the world's press, proclaiming that it was the reason he had banned DEA from Bolivia. The mistake he made was that the book blamed CIA, not DEA. it described how CIA protection of top Bolivian drug traffickers helped them literally take over the Bolivian government during the "Cocaine Coup", 8/17/81.
You seem pretty knowledgeable and more astute than most. If you get a hold of THE BIG WHITE LIE, which is about a buck or two on the internet, you'll see that the first time Crack cocaine was documented was from Sonia Atala, the woman Pablo Escobar called "The Queen of Cocaine." While undercover working with me in 1983, she spoke of "Pichicata" (smokeable cocaine base) and how it was wildly addictive to Bolivian street kids. My report to DEA predicted it hitting the streets of the US shortly.
There was a "crack epidemic" in Peru 15 years before GHW Bush the former DCI, did is Oval Office Speech declaring it a "scourge".
Part4 By the time you got on 60 Minutes that operation had to have been 20 years old. I picked up this Government Document, which I bet you have read, S1.2:C64 COCAINE 1980 "Proceedings of the Inter-American Seminar on Coca and Cocaine" ARTICLE "Further Experience with Syndromes Produced by Coca Paste Smoking" Pg. 76. The first "crack epidemic" according this this occurred in Lima, Peru 1974. CIA knew what the effects of crack then unleashed on African Americans.
Part3 I think that the reason it got play on 60 Minutes was the narcotics illiterate demo. Most Americans I am sorry to say are rubes and were probably watching Entertainment Tonight, dumbed down to the point where even understanding 60 Minutes is the equivalent of Advanced Calculus.
You say 27 tonnes? Even you are being kind here unless this is just the work of a single CIA cell and not their whole OP. The CIA's Cocaine trafficking conspiracy had to have started in the mid-70's.
Part 2 It could be that Wallace asked that question and it was cut out of the broadcast. The best way to get around the law would be for the POTUS to write pardons for those involved. What the ratings/demographic of 60Minutes was circa 1993? My guess would be WW2 Generation Seniors. This is the same generation that drug agents had to educate, what Pot smelled like with teach-ins at High Schools by burning hemp rope. The WW2 Gen. was clueless kids did them in front of them undetected.
The interviewer Wallace does not follow up on just WHO gave approval for those shipments. It has been a while since I took High School Civics and things might have changed in the intervening years. But, only two people theoretically could have given approval for the import of the coke. The A.General or the President. And, somebody had to give approval. AG might do it with a written Pardon from POTUS. But it would be my guess AG would leave it to POTUS. A Ton is a CAPITAL OFFENSE is it not?
The fact is that Bonner didn't take a bullet, he was just ignored. CIA director (then) Woolsey toured mainstream media making the false claim that the drug smuggling resulted from "a joint DEA CIA operation gone wrong." The fact is that DEA had no part in the operations which was, as the judge said,"CIA drug smuggling." 60 Minutes was the ONLY member of mainstream media to tell the truth.. The rest did their customary penguin walk. What a shame.
Bonner's quote is so mind blowing that I almost missed the whopper of lie he tells in this. His lie is one of omission. Bonner admits that "an appropriate law enforcement entity" has to approve shipment. That kind of phrasing is too Orwellian. Bonner is taking the hit for the P.O.T.U.S. Isn't that the unspoken implied truth here. We have Presidents who are involved in drug trafficking. The President is the highest law officer in the land. He can also give pardons to all involved.
I did my own investigation including interviews with DEA people involved, before I went public on my radio show - the Expert Witness Show in NYC. The investigation revealed that as much as 27 tons of cocaine were shipped into the US by CIA before they were finally caught by US Customs. The CIA chief who ran it was named by 60 Minutes. No one was either prosecuted or lost their jobs, except for the DEA people who blew the whistle. With "protectors" like this who needs enemies?
The Venezuelan National Guard Story Redux (radio interview)
A Gulfstream II jet that crash landed in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in late September bearing a load of nearly four tons of cocaine. This particular Gulfstream II (tail number N987SA), was used between 2003 and 2005 by the CIA for at least three trips between the U.S. east coast and Guantanamo Bay — home to the infamous “terrorist” prison camp — according to a number of press reports.
Tonight, we talk with Bill Conroy from Narco News, and Sandalio Gonzalez, veteran DEA agent, about this amazing story.
Top, the signature of Gregory D. Smith on Aero Group Jets’ 1998 annual report filing; and below, “Greg Smith” on the Gulfstream II’s September 16, 2007 bill of sale.
Bill Conroy’s Narco News article
Mysterious Jet Crash Is Rare Portal Into the “Dark Alliances” of the Drug War
Paper Trail for Cocaine-Filled Plane that Crashed in Yucatán Suggests Link to U.S. Law Enforcement Corruption in Colombia
By Bill ConroySpecial to The Narco News Bulletin
November 17, 2007
The Gulfstream II aircraft that crashed on the Yucatan Peninsula outside of Cancun in late September while laden with some four tons of cocaine has been the subject of considerable media and blogger attention in recent weeks.
The Gulfstream II with tail number N987SA, one month before it crashed in the Yucatán peninsula.Photo D.R. 2007 George N. Dean, Airliners.net
Some reports have alleged the errant plane was previously used between 2003 and 2005 by the CIA for several flights to the infamous U.S. “terrorist” prison camp in Guantamano Bay. The fact that the ownership of the aircraft apparently switched hands twice within weeks of the crash, helping to obscure its ownership, has only further fueled media and Internet speculation that the jet’s illegal payload was being transported as part of some larger U.S. government black operation.
All that might be true — or not.
But Narco News has uncovered at least one fact that is certain to deepen the mystery surrounding the crash of the jet whose tail number, N987SA, is now affixed in the lexicon of CIA folklore. That fact revolves around the name Greg Smith, who was identified in a McClatchy Washington Bureau report on the Gulfstream II’s crash as follows:
A bill of sale obtained by McClatchy Newspapers indicates that Florida pilot Clyde O’Connor bought the plane on Sept. 16 — eight days before it went down in the Yucatan jungle. Another Florida pilot, identified by his license number and signature as Greg Smith, also signed the document, but his relationship to O’Connor isn’t detailed.
But before we introduce you to the mysterious Mr. Smith, it is important in all of this to remember that a proposition is not automatically a corollary of a seemingly related fact.
Too many conspiracy theories rest on a proof built on the six-degrees-of-separation premise — that any person on the Earth can be connected to anyone else through a chain of no more than five people. That might be true, and can make for an interesting trail to follow, but it doesn’t prove the first person in the chain even knew the last person — let alone that all six individuals acted in a conspiracy.
As the late, great authentic journalism heavyweight Gary Webb, who did meticulously investigate and link CIA activities to illicit drug running, once said:
“I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. I believe in conspiracies.”
With that understanding in mind, it is important to review the timeline of the Gulfstream II’s demise in the Yucatan peninsula— as reported by other media.
The plane took off from Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport headed for Toluca, outside Mexico City, on Sept. 18. It crashed near Cancun, Mexico, on Sept. 24 after departing from Rio Negro, Colombia.
Mexican publication Por Esto!, whose work on the story has been exhaustive, with some 30 stories to date, and based on solid journalism, reported that the jet was headed to an airport in Cancun, but arrived shortly after a work-shift change at the airport. The security people on the new work shift did not authorize the Gulfstream II to land, so it flew to an airport in the Yucatán capital of Merida, which also would not authorize a landing.
The jet remained stranded in the air until it ran out of fuel and was forced to make an emergency landing in the hills by the nearby town of Tixkokob, Por Esto! reported.
Mexican authorities apprehended one of the pilots onboard the Gulfstream II a couple days later, about three miles from the crash site. Four days later, they apprehended a man alleged to be the copilot, though Por Esto! has questioned why none of the helicopters or other high-tech search equipment available were mobilized to find the two more quickly. Por Esto! also claimed that the amount of cocaine at the crash site appeared to be much more than the 3.7 metric tons authorities reported.
Also of importance to this story is the ownership trail of the jet itself. McClatchy reported that a Florida-based company called Donna Blue Aircraft, which is supposedly owned by two Brazilian men, acquired the Gulfstream II from a company connected to New York real estate developer William Achenbaum.
That deal was allegedly cut on August 30. Donna Blue then flipped the jet to a new owner, for a supposed payment of about $2 million, on September16.
That’s where the enigmatic Greg Smith comes into the picture, as one of the supposed co-signers on the bill of sale drafted by Donna Blue for the Gulfstream II. Media reports to date have followed the trail of his supposed partner in the deal, Clyde O’Connor, and even delved into the background of Achenbaum, but the trail on Smith seems to be cold.
Where could he be — and who is he anyway? Smith is not exactly a unique name, even in the insular world of the private-jet industry.
Well, it turns out that Narco News has run across the trail of at least one Greg Smith who has plenty of experience flying between southern Florida and Latin America — for the U.S. government.
The Vega Connection
Baruch Vega is a colorful Colombian who has worked as an asset for the FBI, DEA and CIA, among other agencies, over the years.
Vega was very involved with a series of U.S. law enforcement operations carried out by the DEA and FBI between 1997 and 2000. Those operations, Vega claims, involved brokering deals with Colombian narco-traffickers by offering them the bait of U.S.-government sanctioned plea deals in return for their surrender or cooperation.
The following is from a lawsuit filed recently in federal court by Vega, in which he alleges the government failed to pay him for his high-risk services, to the tune of some $28.5 million:
Once Mr. Vega introduced … American lawyers to the Colombian targets [the narco-traffickers], the lawyers would then get retained and then take over as legal representatives for the Colombian targets and further deal with a group of United States law enforcement agents and prosecutors, hand-picked to work out deals for the Colombian targets. A particular United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida became the coordinator of this “recruiting effort.”
So Vega is in a position to know the lay of the land in the Colombian narco-trafficking scene — which is the source of the four tons of cocaine found on the crashed Gulfstream II jet. After all, coca plants don’t grow well in Mexico.
According to Vega, between late 1997 and 2000, he traveled between South Florida and South America via a private jet for a total of some 25 to 30 “recruiting” trips— some with FBI agents on board, some with DEA agents on board, and some transporting Colombian narco-traffickers who were being brought back to the United States to negotiate deals.
Vega claims that the main pilot for all of those flights was none other than an individual named Greg Smith.
Here’s how Vega described the situation to Narco News in a recent interview.
Well originally… I met Greg Smith… we needed a pilot, a very trustful pilot, someone we could trust to bring in the [Colombian] drug traffickers to surrender. Then the members of the FBI recommended to get in contact with this guy [Smith] because he was very close to them. Ever since we flew only with him.
Everything was with him. … I never asked anything [about Smith’s background]. But he [Smith] brought a couple of pilots because we always have two pilots in the plane. He occasionally brought pilots from the US Customs.
I tell you one thing. We flew with Greg Smith easily 25 to 30 times. All [the] operations [were] between the end of 1997 to 2000.
When Vega was asked if federal agents were on board the jet during those trips, he responded:
“Oh yes, many times. If you read the flying manifest, there were… DEA agents in the plane and of course drug traffickers who were coming to surrender with attorneys.”
Vega adds that the FBI and DEA were each running their own separate operations at the time, so the FBI also was involved in some of the confidential source recruiting trips to South America as well, and he says the Bureau “even paid for the [leased] plane a few times.”
A judge’s ruling in another legal case that is related to Vega’s pending lawsuit, in fact, backs up his claims. It describes the CIA’s involvement in one flight in 1999 that departed from Panama for Florida that involved Vega, federal agents and an indicted, fugitive Colombian narco-trafficker:
Indeed, the appellant [a DEA supervisor] used the CIA to bring Mr. Cristancho to the chartered aircraft surreptitiously, without going through Panamanian airport security or customs. The appellant simply made no attempt to conceal the use of the chartered aircraft. And, an Assistant U.S. Attorney and various DEA agents from Group 9 were at the Fort Lauderdale airport to greet the plane.
And those same legal pleadings mention the name of the company from which Vega chartered the aircraft: Aero Group Jets.
On or about November 17, 1999, the appellant [a DEA supervisor] received an invoice from Aero Group Jets in the amount of $23,200 for the rental of the aircraft used to transport Mr. Cristancho.
Vega also confirmed that Smith’s company was called Aero Group Jets.
A check of the public records available through Florida’s Department of State lists the registered agent/officer of that now inactive company as Gregory D. Smith.
So it would seem that the real question now is whether the Greg Smith who allegedly signed the paperwork in the purchase of the crashed Gulfstream II jet, as reported by McClatchy, is the same Greg Smith who was recommended by the FBI, according to Vega, to pilot more than two dozen flights to Latin America between 1997 and 2000 as part of U.S.-sanctioned law enforcement operations.
One reporter known for his spook-related journalism claims to have already interviewed the right Mr. Smith, but, by his own admission, it was through a third party — which leaves open the possibility of all sorts of shenanigans, particularly if we are dealing with real CIA spooks.
Another reporter with a Florida weekly also claims to have interviewed the real Mr. Smith. However, as it turns out, when Narco News contacted that individual, he stressed that the reporter had gotten the wrong man.
“I was falsely written up … and they named my company,” says Greg Smith, who is with a company called Global Jet Solutions of Pembroke Pines, Fla. “There’s probably three or four Greg Smiths in aviation in South Florida. But it’s not my name on the bill of sale [for the Gulfstream II jet that crashed in Mexico on September 24].”
This Smith, who says his middle initial is “J,” adds that he has hired an attorney to explore legal action against the publication that he alleges wrongly identified him and his company.
This is the 1998 signature of Gregory D. Smith of Aero Group Jets. Baruch Vega claims a Greg Smith of Aero Group Jets was the pilot for a jet that flew as many as 30 flights between Florida and South America with DEA or FBI agents on board, and in some cases drug traffickers — who were being transported to the United States to broker deals with the U.S. government.
Narco News did obtain a copy of a 2007 document that contains the signature belonging to the Greg Smith of Global Jet Solutions. That signature does appear to be different than the signature of the Greg Smith contained on an annual report filed with the state of Florida in 1998 by Aero Group Jets — the firm Vega claims he leased a jet from during his many trips to South America between 1997 and 2000.
So it appears, at least for now, a cloud of mystery still conceals the whereabouts of the right Greg Smith — whom McClatchy reporters contend was a co-signer on the bill of sale for the ill-fated Gulfstream II Jet.
Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions, it is important to point out that every crashed plane has its own unique story — as does every drug deal gone bad. And most don’t all involve grand CIA conspiracies directly linked to the White House — though as Gary Webbs’ investigative reporting on the CIA/Contra/Crack connection showed, those “Dark Alliances” do surface from time to time.
But for the sake of argument, let’s explore some more mundane theories.
For example, the Gulfstream II jet’s crash landing in the Yucatan might simply be a drug-smuggling run gone bad, with no mystery beyond that reality.
Or it is possible that the jet that crashed outside of Cancun was under surveillance as part of a government operation known as a controlled delivery — in which government agents allow a load of drugs to make its way to the destination (under close scrutiny) with the goal of arresting those who take delivery of the narcotics in the United States. If that’s the case, the fact that the jet crashed after getting waived off of two airports tells us only that something went wrong, that the operation was not “greased” properly, in law enforcement lingo.
As for Vega, and several former federal law enforcement sources interviewed by Narco News, both the notion that the Gulfstream II was part of a U.S. government-sanctioned controlled delivery operation, or that it was part of some kind of CIA black op, are both viewed as being on the low side of probability.
However, at least one law enforcement source with experience working in Latin America did say: “I wouldn’t put anything past those guys [the CIA]. … They aren’t even supposed to be there [in Latin America] officially, so if anything did show up [related to their operations] they would deny it.”
Vega weighed in on the questions as follows:
… I believe more it could be a run [by narco-traffickers] because a controlled delivery is very easy. A controlled delivery would make the plane land … remember how close the Keys are to the Yucatan Peninsula or any airport in Miami. And if it’s a controlled delivery by your government, that plane could land anywhere basically. Or at least land in one place until they call the agents and come and clear the whole thing. That’s why I could say more it looks like a run for one of the traffickers.
… Again, that’s what I say [in terms of the allegation that it was a CIA black operation], that’s what doesn’t make sense because let’s assume the Agency is running that thing, they could land in Guantanamo, they could land anywhere in the Keys or in Florida and wait an hour or two until someone calls from somewhere, and then don’t worry. That’s it.
But there also are other possible explanations as to the Gulfstream’s possible connections to U.S. intelligence or law enforcement that fall more squarely into the chaos of human vice —such as greed and official corruption.
With that in mind, it might be worth reviewing some past cases where human virtue seems to have gotten twisted up a bit in pursuit of the drug war.
Money for nothing
At the top of the list is the case of the Bogota Connection, which was exposed by a Justice Department memo drafted in 2004.
Vega was very involved with some of the U.S. law enforcement operations referenced in the memo. Those particular operations played out between 1997 and 2000 and sought to snare narco-traffickers with Colombia’s infamous North Valley Cartel. Remember, Vega claims an individual named Greg Smith, during that same time period, was retained as a pilot to fly numerous missions — for both the DEA and FBI — that were, in essence, confidential-source recruiting trips.
In the course of that work, Vega alleges, corrupt U.S. agents in Colombia seriously compromised his role as a government asset and that a number of his informants within Colombia’s narco-trafficking underworld were assassinated as a result.
Justice Department attorney Thomas M. Kent wrote the memo in late 2004 in an effort to draw attention to alleged serious corruption within the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. In the memo, Kent alleges that DEA agents in Bogotá are on drug traffickers’ payrolls, complicit in the murders of informants who knew too much, and, most startlingly, directly involved in helping Colombia’s infamous rightwing paramilitary death squads to launder drug money.
The first of the major allegations in Kent’s memo centers on a DEA undercover operation launched in Colombia in 1997 called Cali-Man, which made use of Vega as an asset. The operation was overseen by David Tinsley, a DEA group supervisor in Miami.
As part of Cali-Man, Tinsley and the agents working under him uncovered evidence that DEA agents in Bogotá appeared to be assisting narco-traffickers in Colombia. In one case, Tinsley’s group, as part of a sting, obtained a classified document from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota via a narco-trafficker turned informant.
After Narco News exposed the Kent memo in a story published on Jan. 9, 2006, DEA reacted by describing the corruption allegations in that memo as “extremely serious.”
However, some nine days later, after Semana, a popular weekly magazine in Colombia, published a story about the Kent memo, DEA issued another public statement describing the corruption allegations as “unfounded.”
The U.S. mainstream media has been silent about the Kent memo, and the Bogotá Connection, since that time.
It is not to be ignored, in the case of the Gulfstream II jet crash in Mexico, that the flight allegedly left from Rio Negro, Colombia, just outside Medellín, where it managed to avoid that nation’s customs and law enforcement scrutiny while loaded up with at least 132 bags of cocaine that tipped the scales at four tons.
In any event, Vega says his work in Colombia for the DEA and FBI did produce results — despite the alleged treachery on the part of U.S. agents in Bogotá and elsewhere
“All in all, Mr. Vega convinced and successfully recruited about 114 Colombian targets to enter this plan/program, about 25 of which were fugitives at the time of negotiating the deals,” his lawsuit alleges. But, in the end, the U.S. government, he contends, failed to compensate him for his work and risks as promised.
(For more on Vega’s lawsuit, go to this link.)
But the allegations of U.S. law enforcement corruption that have surfaced in the Bogota Connection are not new in the history of the drug war, for those who care to follow that trail.
For example, in the early 1990s, according to court pleadings in a criminal case filed in New York, DEA agents transported a large quantity of heroin from Pakistan to New York City, via commercial airlines, allegedly for the purpose of setting up undercover stings.
However, the defendant in the litigation, Gaetano DiGirolamo, who is now serving a life prison sentence, claims he is not guilty of the charges brought against him in 1991; in fact, he claims that DEA agents framed him, seeking to use his case as a cover for their own illegal drug-smuggling activities.
Among the claims raised in a post-conviction petition filed by DiGirolamo was that he was convicted “based upon perjury of three DEA agents.”
“(The DEA agents) testified that they were involved in importing drugs for use in ‘stings’ against me and others when in truth and in fact they were doing so for their own personal, criminal enrichment,” DiGirolamo states the post-conviction petition.
The petition goes on to raise major doubts about the veracity of the DEA agents’ purported sting against DiGirolamo — such as the fact that the alleged heroin brought in from Pakistan was never tested to assure it was the same heroin used in the sting, nor was the heroin ever produced at trial.
In addition, despite claims by the DEA agents involved in transporting the heroin that their operation had been sanctioned by DEA headquarters in Washington, D.C., as well as the French and Pakistani governments, DiGirolamo’s attorney, law professor Steven B. Duke, says those approvals were never produced.
“Where are they?” Duke asks in a court filing. “Where are the applications for such approvals? Where is the evidence that any of these approvals were sought, much less obtained?”
The DEA agents, of course, contend Duke’s allegations are baseless.
Still, it is clear that federal agents did transport 20 kilos of heroin from Pakistan to New York via commercial airlines — a fact to keep in mind the next time you are flying the friendly skies.
The U.S. Customs Service sent Duke a letter on May 2, 2000, in reply to his queries about the incident. The response was prepared by Bonnie Tischler, then assistant commissioner for Customs’ Office of Investigations. (Customs is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.)
From Tischler’s letter to Duke:
Dear Mr. Duke,
Thank you for your March 3, 2000, letter regarding the importation of narcotics into the United States by law enforcement officers.
… The specific incident you cite involved the international controlled delivery of 20 kilograms of heroin at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport on Dec. 4, 1990. Our records indicate that while our agency provided assistance in facilitating that delivery through JFK, the entire operation was initiated and coordinated solely by the DEA. Therefore, I would refer any further questions you my have regarding this matter to DEA Headquarters, 600 Army Navy Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22202.
I appreciate your interest in the Customs Service. If we may be of any further assistance, please contact me …
In yet another case in the late 1990s involving the U.S. Customs Service, federal agents in South Texas were accused of letting an informant — a drug-running pilot — bring tons of cocaine into the country unchecked as part of an effort to snare an alleged drug kingpin.
“Well, it was like a 007 license. I didn’t know the government did that. It was hard to resist,” the smuggler, Rodney Matthews, told ABC News – Primetime in a 1998 interview.
Customs officials denied that Matthews was allowed to smuggle drugs into the country. However, Mark Conrad, who at the time headed U.S. Customs Internal Affairs in Houston, told Primetime a different story:
We got in bed with Rodney Matthews and the importation of a humongous amount of narcotics coming into the United States. … The reason is there’s a great deal of pressure on agents in the field to make cases, to make the big one. And the bigger, the better. … We hide things. We cover them up. We don’t — we’re not honest at times within our own organization, and we’re clearly not honest at times with the media. … It would never be officially condoned. You’ll never find any policy that approves of it, but it happens routinely in virtually every situation where you’re dealing with informants.
Welcome to the drug war. Will the real Mr. Smith please stand up?
The buzz about the DEA connections in the drug and money laundering case against José Nelson Urrego was first heard from outside the mainstream of the US press, in the alternative Narco News and then in the corporate but Spanish-language El Nuevo Herald, the sister paper to the Miami Herald.
Yes, Urrego is a convicted drug trafficker, who allegedly played a role in payoffs to former Colombian President Ernesto Samper, served time in a Colombian prison and was something of an electronic communications whiz for diverse smuggling operations. But what is apparent but something that the US government won't admit is that Urrego was also an undercover informant or agent --- in the year prior to his September 2007 arrest here he was allowed by a special permit to enter the United States seven times, which is something that ordinary convicted drug dealers are not allowed to do. According to the Narco News, Urrego was providing bugged satellite phones to Colombian drug lords, in particular those connected with the leftist FARC rebels, which were equipped to allow US authorities to listen to the conversations held on them.
Now Urrego has told El Nuevo Herald that he had left his criminal activity behind in 2002 and was working with US authorities when he acquired Chapare Island in the Perlas Archipelago, and that he had met in Panama City with the former DEA station chief here, Art Ventura, Vice President Samuel Lewis Navarro, former banker and the treasurer of former President Ernesto Pérez Balladares's winning 1994 campaign Mayor Alemán. Urrego says that at Ventura's suggestion he saw Lewis Navarro and Alemán at the latter's office, and later had a second meeting with Lewis Navarro on a yacht in Panama Bay. The subject, Urrego claims, was an offer to buy Isla Chapare for substantially less than what he thought it was worth.
However, Ventura denies that Lewis Navarro was present at Urrego's meeting at Alemán's office. Alemán says that he just briefly met Urrego, that Lewis Navarro was not present, and that he made an offer for the island that the Colombian rejected. Lewis Navarro, in the standard press relations fashion of the Torrijos administration, refused to talk to El Nuevo Herald --- apparently miscalculating that declining to talk to a mainstream medium would kill a story pertaining to his conduct as it would do in the Panamanian corporate media.
The story was published in Spanish in El Nuevo Herald, then in English in the Miami Herald, then picked up by La Prensa. In the wake of all that, Lewis Navarro issued a press statement categorically denying that he knew or had met with Urrego or has or had any interest in acquiring Isla Chapare. The vice president and foreign minister did not submit to any questions about the matter by reporters that the Torrijos administration does not control.
Also after the story was published, a new law went into effect that will allow the government to auction Isla Chapare and deposit the proceeds from the sale into a bank account, to be returned to Urrego in the event that he is not found guilty of the charges against him. Given the notorious land sale practices of the Torrijos administration, there would be a high chance of a manipulated process in which a politically connected individual would get the island at far less than market value.
So is the US government annoyed about Panama displacing one of its DEA informants? Outwardly, there is no comment being made, nor is there any admission that Urrego's association with Ventura or post-prison comings and goings into the United States imply any relationship between Urrego and US law enforcement. Privately, American authorities are rejecting what Urrego alleges as the desperate tactics of a criminal who has been caught and will tell any lie to beat the rap.
New Document Provides Further Evidence That Owner of Crashed Cocaine Jet Was a U.S. Government Operative
Signatures Link Florida Pilot Greg Smith to DEA/FBI/CIA Operations in Colombia
December 1, 2007
A Gulfstream II jet that crash landed in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in late September bearing a load of nearly four tons of cocaine has been linked so far by media and Internet reports to everything, it seems, but alien spaceships.
But Narco News has recently obtained a document that could help you, kind reader, better identify the UFOs (unexplained frequent obfuscations) that seem to hover over this case.
This particular Gulfstream II (tail number N987SA), was used between 2003 and 2005 by the CIA for at least three trips between the U.S. east coast and Guantanamo Bay — home to the infamous “terrorist” prison camp — according to a number of press reports. The suggestion that a “CIA plane” was flying a huge quantity of drugs toward the U.S. ensured that this incident would attract far more attention than the typical drug smuggling story.
Media speculation has also advanced theories that the jet’s cocaine payload was destined for the notorious and elusive Chapo Guzman’s Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization in Mexico, or that it might have been a deal backed by the Russian mafia, or Lebanese businessmen, or even a business venture tied to the Bush or Clinton camps. All of these theories are just that, ranging from the possible to the highly improbable.
And if not a run-of-the-mill drug run, Narco News has considered previously that the jet might have been part of U.S. law enforcement undercover operation or a trafficking run involving corrupt law enforcers, or even a CIA black operation.
The truth is, at this point, no one really knows — except those who engineered the ill-fated narco-transport. But there are clues, which, like breadcrumbs, can be followed in the trail toward the truth. In this case, those clues include the following:
So it seems Mr. Smith might be a key to unraveling the Gulfstream II cocaine mystery.
Is the Greg Smith whose name appears on the crashed cocaine jet’s bill of sale the same Greg Smith who flew with Vega in antidrug operations some 10 years ago? This was very much an open question in our last report on this story, but we may now have an answer.
Narco News’ efforts to contact both Smith and O’Connor have proven unsuccessful to date. But we did manage to track down Joao Malago, one of the owners of Donna Blue, the company that sold the jet to Smith and O’Connor. Malago, who is a Brazilian citizen with business interests in Florida, has some concerns about how his company has been portrayed in certain online new reports to date. He shared those concerns with Narco News via e-mail:
I had some problems when I sold this plane [N987SA] for this 2 guys. Greg Smith and O’Connor bought the plane and ask me to hold the bill of sale for 1 week until they get in Mexico where the plane will be delivery for a Charter Company there. I told him that all the papers will be at Scrow [an escrow] company with the delivery and bill of sale in they name.
This aircraft was delivery at September 16Th 5:00 PM in Fort Lauderdale and they flow the aircraft from there to TOLUCA Mexico.
After 2 weeks they did that flight with drugs. [From all media reports to date, neither O’Connor nor Smith were on the Gulfstream II when it crashed.] The authorities in USA call me and I show all the papers for than and I was never part of DEA/CIA or FBI. Some people told on internet that my company is a CIA cover office and that bring me a lot of problems. First this is not true and you can image if this people came to talk with me. I have family and I dont want any more problems there.
To help clear the air, Malago agreed to e-mail Narco News a copy of the bill of sale that lists Smith’s name. The emergence of this document, which has been discussed in other media reports but not make available to you, kind readers, creates an opportunity for a possibly important comparison.
The Smith who Vega claims served as his pilot in his work for the U.S. government is listed as an officer of a Ft. Lauderdale-based company called Aero Group Jets Inc. (Court records obtained by Narco News also support Vega’s contention that this company provided a jet to assist Vega’s work with the U.S. government between 1997 and 2000.)
In addition, a search of corporation records available online from the Florida Department of State indicates that this same Mr. Smith is listed as an officer for two additional companies with the same address as Aero Group Jets — which is 1995 W. Commercial Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale.
Those other companies are Aero Flight Services Inc. and Jet America Inc.
A search of the Florida Department of State’s records also reveals that O’Connor has an even longer record of entrepreneurship, with his name appearing on filings as an officer/director for half a dozen companies based in the Ft. Lauderdale area.
O’Connor and Smith’s companies — including Smith’s Aero Group Jets — are now inactive or no longer in business, according to state of Florida records.
However, the corporation records for Aero Group Jets do include Smith’s signature — from a 1998 annual report filing — which can be viewed at this link.
The bill of sale provided to Narco News by Donna Blue’s Malago also includes the signature of an individual named Smith. That bill of sale can be viewed at this link.
Top, the signature of Gregory D. Smith on Aero Group Jets’ 1998 annual report filing; and below, “Greg Smith” on the Gulstream II’s September 16, 2007 bill of sale.
In comparing the two signatures, there are some differences, such as one is signed as Gregory D. while the other is signed simply as Greg, with no middle initial.
However, there are some striking similarities as well, including the fact that some of the letters appear to be penned in precisely the same way.
Mike Levine, a former undercover DEA agent who now works as an expert witness in court cases (and also has his own radio show in New York City), had this to say after comparing the signatures:
I did much of this handwriting comparison work, without using an expert, but my opinion was accepted before grand juries as having a significant amount of work experience in comparing handwritings (IRS, BATF, Customs and DEA). I would say the samples you sent me are definitely the same handwriting.
So it does appear Vega’s Greg Smith and the Greg Smith linked to the crashed cocaine jet are, in fact, the same person.
Ultimately, though, it is you, kind reader, who has to make that judgment call.
Back to Bogotá
In all of this, we must remember that the cocaine that was onboard the Gulfstream II when it crashed came out of Colombia.
In prior stories, Narco News has reported that leaks of classified information from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, were allegedly discovered in 1999 during a DEA operation targeting Colombian narco-traffickers. That operation, codenamed “Cali-Man,” played out between 1997 and 2000, utilized Vega as an asset, and was overseen by Miami-based DEA Supervisor David Tinsley.
The U.S. Embassy leaks uncovered by Tinsley in 1999 are also referenced in an internal memo drafted in 2004 by a Justice Department attorney named Thomas M. Kent. That memo was leaked to Narco News last year.
The Kent memo also makes other serious allegations that revolve around DEA agents in Colombia assisting narco-traffickers and paramilitary forces — an alliance since dubbed the Bogota Connection.
In the wake of reporting the U.S. Embassy leaks, Tinsley found himself the target of an internal DEA investigation that resulted in his suspension and eventual dismissal from his job.
Tinsley sought to get his job back, claiming the charges against him were bogus. He brought a claim of wrongful termination before a Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) judge, who, in April 2004, ruled in his favor and ordered the DEA to reinstate him — with back pay, plus interest.
Vega worked as a cooperating source for Tinsley’s Cali-Man operation and likewise ran across the trail of the alleged U.S. law enforcement corruption in Colombia. He, too, was targeted by the government — at the same time Tinsley was being investigated.
The FBI charged Vega in 2000 with obstruction of justice, alleging that he used an illegal scheme of promising Colombian narco-traffickers lenient sentences in exchange for money and their cooperation with the U.S. government. Those charges were dropped, however, because prosecutors were later forced to concede that Vega’s so-called “corruption scheme” was actually a government-sanctioned cover story. In fact, Vega claims the FBI authorized the cover story.
But the government still found a way to stick it to Vega by hitting him with a misdemeanor tax charge. Vega says he served 52 days in jail after being convicted in 2004 of that taxing transgression. Ironically, one of the allegedly corrupt Colombian law enforcers who Vega claims was part of the Bogotá Connection, Col. Danilo Gonzalez of the Colombian National Police, was assassinated in Bogotá on the very day Vega was sentenced in the tax case.
Vega, in a recent lawsuit filed in federal court, claims the FBI and DEA both used him between 1997 and 2000 to help broker plea deals with Colombian narco-traffickers and that, in the end, the U.S. government stiffed him out of $28.5 million in promised payments for his work.
It was during that work for the FBI and DEA that Vega ran across Greg Smith, whom Vega claims was brought in by the FBI to pilot some 25 to 30 flights that involved couriering federal agents, Colombian narco-traffickers and lawyers back and forth between the United States and Latin America as part of the naroc-trafficker “recruiting” efforts.
Vega also says that the CIA was very involved in this effort, assisting with assuring the safe transport of the narco-traffickers to the airports in Latin America.
“We did have the full cooperation of the CIA…,” he told Narco News.
On at least one occasion, Vega adds, a CIA agent actually flew in the jet during one of the Latin American missions — though he stresses the agent simply needed to hitch a ride and was not directly involved with the operation.
The CIA even popped up during the course of Tinsley’s Cali-Man investigation in Colombia. A DEA report obtained by Narco News provides the following details concerning that incident:
[DEA Miami Division Special Agent] SA Vasquez … stated between June and December 1999, he received a complaint from unknown CIA personnel concerning GS Tinsley. According to SA Vasquez, the information he received was vague and pertained to GS Tinsley’s unexpected arrival in Panama [where the informant Vega often arranged meetings with high-level Colombian narco-traffickers as part of Cali-Man], and the fact that he [Tinsley] was somehow interfering with CIA operations. SA Vasquez was unable to recall the exact time frame of the incident.
In addition, one of the files leaked out of the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá to a narco-trafficker was a CIA file, according to Vega. The file provided to that narco-trafficker, Vega alleges, was a record of all the intelligence gathered by the CIA in Colombia on some 200 narco-traffickers.
So it appears the CIA’s fingerprints are all over the Bogotá Connection.
And now, given Mr. Smith’s possible link to the Gulfstream II jet — an aircraft reportedly linked to past CIA operations — Vega says he cannot rule out that Smith might be an asset of not only the FBI, but the CIA as well. He stresses, though, that it is only a “suspicion.”
However, Vega says that suspicion is fueled, in part, by the events that played out after he was released from his 52-day jail stint stemming from the tax case. Vega claims that prior to his arrest on the tax charge, as part of a lease-purchase deal, he put $250,000 down toward buying the jet that Smith had piloted in the narco-trafficker recruiting trips to Latin America.
Vega explains that in addition to the missions for the U.S. government, he also used the jet in traveling for his personal business as a fashion photographer.
Vega, who has a long history working as a CIA asset, explains that the fashion business was a perfect cover for his work.
“My operations used fashion as a cover and beauty as a weapon,” he says.
After getting out of jail, Vega says he attempted to recover the jet or the money he had advanced for the aircraft, but was paid a visit by the FBI who told him in no uncertain terms to “stay away from the plane.”
To this day, Vega alleges, he has not recovered the money nor does he know what happened to the jet.
It seems that in the world of spooks and covert jets, finding the truth is like finding the source of a light in a house of mirrors.
Several law enforcement sources familiar with CIA operations told Narco News that the Agency’s practice is to set up separate companies for each operation, so that if something goes wrong — a jet is lost, for example — there is no bleed over to other operations, which also are being carried out through a matrix of separate companies.
In addition, the sources say the CIA operates like a large management company and regularly contracts for services as needed, including pilots. And because of the nature of its clandestine work, the sources contend the CIA has to deal in the shadowy world of criminal organizations — because the Agency itself is considered an illegal operation in most of the foreign countries in which it has operations.
But it must be stressed that, at this point, it is not clear what role Smith really played in the ill-fated flight of the Gulfstream II.
If you, kind reader, believe the signatures are a match, which means we are dealing with one individual, then it appears that the Smith involved in the purchase of the crashed Gulfstream II has a history of piloting flights for sensitive government operations where the FBI, DEA and CIA intersect.
If, as one scenario might suggest, Smith is indeed a CIA operative — and that is only “speculation” at this point as Vega says — then he likely is only one reflection in an array of mirrors. It just so happens that in this particular case, one of those mirrors has been covered with four tons of coke.
Fri, Oct 12, 2007
Was Crashed Gulfstream II Drug Plane Owned By CIA?
Registered 'Owner' Appears To Be A Front
Quiz: what's the connection between the CIA... a dummy front company... and a cocaine-packed, Gulfstream II business jet that crashed in the Yucatan jungle several weeks ago?
The Associated Press reports the crashed plane's flight logs listed several visits to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; once from Oxford, CT, and once from Washington, DC.
Some news reports wonder what the aircraft, with tail number N987SA, was doing flying into highly restricted airspace. They also pondered whether there's a link to "rendition," as the feds call it: the transport of suspected terrorists to the island's US detention center.
Back south of the border, Mexican officials seized 132 bags of cocaine weighing 3.7 tons from the blue and white jet, which reportedly belongs to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. Some Mexicans reportedly revere Guzman, viewing him as a local Robin Hood, divvying up some of the drug cash to the poor.
"The cocaine was to be delivered to El Chapo," an official in the Mexican attorney general's office charges. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he admits, "We do know it was from Colombia."
The Mexican pilot and two other suspects are in custody, Mexican authorities say. Officials add that two of the suspects even tried bribing their way out of the hoosegow, offering to cut a deal giving them back the cocaine and freeing any crewmembers.
Meanwhile, the Mad Cow Morning News wonders if the jet might have been used by "The Boys" at Langley.
"When it comes to registering airplanes, it's the Wild West out there," an aviation executive in Venice, FL said.
"The FAA system for registering airplanes is little-changed from when it was started back in the good ol boy days of the 1930's. Each plane has a paper folder, for example, stuffed with all correspondence regarding airworthiness and ownership relating to that plane," the source notes.
"It's an antiquated system which some feel is kept deliberately in place to encourage a certain ambiguity when a plane is interdicted. When a change of registration is mailed in, the FAA places a plane's folder in what they call 'suspense.'"
And speaking of 'suspense'... curiosity over the aircraft's true identity and owners only deepened when reporters visited registered owner "Donna Blue Aircraft, Inc. " of Coconut Beach FL. They were greeted by an "empty office suite with a blank sign out front."
Adding to the strangeness at the offices on 4811 Lyons Technology Parkway #8 in Coconut Beach, were the six unmarked police cars parked directly out front. Butters Development, the industrial park's leasing agent, did not return calls, according to the report.
And the topper? Donna Blue's Internet page appears to be only a roughed-out mock-up, with no clear identifying details... save a dubious "testimonial" by a satisfied customer, named -- get this -- "John Doe." Listed phone number: 415-555-5555.
But, save your dime. You can be sure that it's not a real number.
Informant weighs in on U.S. law enforcement corruption in Colombia
Posted by Bill Conroy - March 18, 2006 at 11:53 pm
Baruch Vega claims he was used by multiple U.S. law enforcement agencies simultaneously in the late 1990s to infiltrate and flip key figures in Colombia’s North Valley Cartel narco-trafficking syndicate.
As a result, Vega contends that he has intimate knowledge of the alleged corruption outlined in the “Kent memo,” an internal Department of Justice document that was leaked to Narco News earlier this year and has prompted a barrage of media attention over the past few months.
Justice Department attorney Thomas M. Kent wrote the memo in late 2004 in an effort to draw attention to alleged serious corruption within the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. In the memo, Kent alleges that DEA agents in Bogotá assisted narco-traffickers, engaged in money laundering, and conspired to murder informants.
Vega told Narco News that between 1997 and 2000, the FBI and DEA each employed him as an informant in separate investigations focused on the North Valley Cartel leadership. At the same time, Vega claims, he also worked as a foreign counterintelligence source for the CIA.
During the course of those DEA and FBI investigations, Vega claims he discovered the operations were being compromised by corrupt players within both DEA and U.S. Customs — a federal law enforcement agency whose investigative arm has since become U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. ICE is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. Customs, too, was involved in targeting Colombian narco-traffickers during the same period that Vega was working with the FBI, DEA and CIA in Colombia. Vega claims that ICE did have access, at one point, to much of the information about the informants and cooperating sources within the North Valley organization that had been cultivated through the separate FBI and DEA investigations.
Vega alleges that agents in the DEA office in Bogotá as well as someone within U.S. Customs were leaking information about ongoing U.S. law enforcement investigations to key players in the Colombian National Police (CNP). Vega says those CNP officials were aligned with North Valley narco-traffickers. In the wake of the information being leaked, there was a bloodbath, Vega says, with numerous informants and cooperating sources being assassinated in the aftermath. Similar allegations are made in the Kent memo.
“I have had three contracts on my life …,” Vega told Narco News. “I am one of the few survivors in this whole ordeal. Almost all of the people in my group (cooperating sources and other informants) are now dead.”
Vega says the many pieces of this dark mystery make it appear very complicated to unravel.
“But, if they are lined up in the right way, it becomes easy to understand,” he adds. “It’s a matter of putting the right players in the right place.”
The way things lined up, according to Vega, involved what amounts to the perfect narco-trafficking organization, which he describes as the “Devil’s Cartel.”
This so-called Devil’s Cartel was an alliance of North Valley traffickers, many of them former Colombian National Police officials, along with active members of the Colombian National Police under the direction of a corrupt Colombian National Police colonel named Danilo Gonzalez.
Paramilitary forces under the leadership of Carlos Castaño, who headed the murderous United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (the AUC), provided the muscle and protection for this Devil’s Cartel and its operations, Vega contends.
The U.S. government indicted Castaño in 2002 on narco-trafficking charges. Two years later, Castaño disappeared, after a reported attempt on his life in Colombia. He is presumed dead, although his body was never found.
The intelligence arm of this Devil’s Cartel, Vega claims, was composed of corrupt U.S. federal agents with DEA and U.S. Customs.
The goal of the Devil’s Cartel alliance was to protect its narco-trafficking business, which grew out of the ashes of the Pablo Escobar narco-empire, and to neutralize rival drug traffickers. Among the chief organized rivals at the time was the Cali Cartel, which eventually was overshadowed by the North Valley cartel.
Meeting in Aruba
All of this may seem fantastic, and even suspect, as it is based on the word of an informant, but Vega’s allegations do mirror closely the corruption charges raised in the Kent memo. In addition, law enforcement sources tell Narco News that Vega was in a position to know a lot of things, which is precisely why so many U.S. agencies relied on him as an informant.
And Vega does contend he has evidence of the DEA and Customs corruption — evidence he says also is in the hands of the FBI. However, to date, Vega claims the U.S. government has failed to act on that evidence; a similar charge is made in the Kent memo.
Part of that evidence, Vega says, resulted from an April 2003 meeting he had with CNP Colonel Gonzalez in Aruba. That meeting was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to Vega.
At the time, Gonzalez was in the sights of the U.S. government for his corrupt activities and was willing to discuss cooperating with U.S. law enforcers. His meeting with Vega was an effort to test those waters.
Vega claims that during that meeting, Gonzalez laid out the entire backbone of the Devil’s Cartel, naming names, including the allegedly corrupt U.S. law enforcers with DEA and Customs who were assisting the narco-traffickers with a variety of tasks — such as leaking information about U.S. law enforcement operations that were targeting members of the North Valley cartel.
Vega says all of the information from that meeting with Gonzalez was turned over to the FBI. However, he suspects no action has been taken on the corruption charges against the DEA and Customs law enforcers because those same agents also helped to make cases against key narco-traffickers from narco-organizations who competed against the North Valley syndicate. Vega says some of those cases are still pending in the U.S. court system, such as the case in Miami against the Rodriguez-Orejuela brothers, alleged founders of the Cali Cartel.
Gonzalez eventually became the target of a U.S. indictment charging him with narco-trafficking, money laundering and murder. He was assassinated in Colombia while preparing to surrender to the U.S. government.
If the allegedly corrupt DEA and Customs law enforcers were now exposed, Vega contends, the cases they helped make against narco-traffickers could be threatened, because defense attorneys could claim testimony and evidence were tainted.
Vega played a key role in a DEA operation known as Cali-Man, which ran from 1997-2000 and was headed by DEA supervisor David Tinsley. As part of Cali-Man, Vega claims he recruited a cooperating source named Juan Nicolas Bergonzoli, who was a close associate of AUC leader Castaño. It was Bergonzoli who initially told Vega and his DEA handlers about the leaks out of the U.S. embassy in Bogotá, according to Vega.
Vega claims Tinsley wanted evidence of the leaks. So, Vega asserts, Bergonzoli in 1999 arranged to purchase information from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá through CNP Colonel Gonzalez. He says Gonzalez obtained the information through his DEA contacts at the embassy and turned it over to Bergonzoli, who in turn brought it to DEA’s Tinsley.
The file provided to Bergonzoli, Vega alleges, was a record of all the intelligence gathered by the CIA in Colombia on some 200 narco-traffickers.
“It was the original file,” Vega claims. “I think it was a record of all the investigations of the CIA over the (prior) six months.”
Vega says the file contained detailed information on the narco-traffickers, including phone numbers, addresses, family trees and photographs.
The Kent memo also alleges that corrupt DEA agents in Bogotá were leaking classified information to narco traffickers and asserts that a number of informants were murdered as a result of the leaks.
“… They made startling revelations concerning DEA agents in Bogotá,” Kent writes in the memo. “They alleged that they were assisted in their narcotics activities by the [Bogotá] agents. Specifically, they alleged that the agents provided them with information on investigations and other law enforcement activities in Colombia.”
Law enforcement sources who spoke with Narco News also confirmed that a U.S. Embassy file was leaked to Bergonzoli. However, those sources could not confirm that it was a CIA file.
Can we believe Vega? That is a question only time will answer, as more evidence in this dark tale surfaces.
Some may contend that his tale is a tall story concocted by the mind of an individual who makes his living through deception. After all, in the wake of carrying out his informant work for the U.S. government, that same government accused Vega of taking millions of dollars from narco-traffickers in exchange for promising to help them negotiate lighter prison sentences.
So who can trust what Vega says?
Then again, the Kent memo makes essentially the same allegations about corruption within the ranks of U.S. law enforcement that Vega is now bringing forward. The DEA agents, including Tinsley, who sought to expose that alleged corruption, also were accused of being corrupt – charges that have since been dismissed.
Vega, too, was never convicted of a high crime for his alleged “corruption scheme,” which it turns out was a U.S. government-sanctioned cover story. Rather, the government was only able to stick Vega with a nitpicking misdemeanor charge for failing to file his 1998 tax return on time.
So, in time, we may also find that Vega is not the corrupt deceiver the government would like us to believe, but that, in fact, he is simply telling us a truth that the U.S. government doesn’t want us to know.
Vega, for his part, sees it this way: “It’s all a wheel … eventually my side will be up.”
Stay tuned ….
Prior stories in this series:
Bogotá DEA Corruption Allegations Intersect with Covert FBI, CIA Activity in Colombia
New Documents Shed More Light on Alleged DEA Corruption in Colombia
Leaked Memo: Corrupt DEA Agents in Colombia Help Narcos and Paramilitaries
Wealthy Colombian businessman is a drug-trafficker, CIA operative alleges
Posted by Bill Conroy - March 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm
Another source, a past employee, also claims narco-entrepreneur is connected to rightwing paramilitary forces
Narco News won an historic legal battle in 2001 when the New York Supreme Court dismissed a libel suit filed against the online publication by a giant Mexican bank. In the process, the court also extended critical free-press protections for the first time to Internet news sites and reporters.
Narco News publisher Al Giordano, and his longtime ally, Mexican journalist Mario Menendez, publisher of the Mexican daily Por Esto!, stood as defendants in that litigation against the powerful lender Banco Nacional de Mexico S.A.(Banamex), led and controlled at the time by banker Roberto Hernandez Ramirez.
At the heart of the litigation was the following claim:
“Plaintiff [Banamex, since acquired by New York-based Citigroup] alleges that defendants [Giordano and Menendez] made accusations that Mr. Hernandez Ramirez is involved in criminal drug trafficking and specifically, the Colombian drug trade,” states the 2001 New York Supreme Court ruling.
And now, some nine years later, a similar set of allegations have been made against another powerful businessman, this one in Colombia, who also has threatened his accuser with a defamation lawsuit.
But in this case, the accuser is a long-time CIA operative who also was involved in extensive counter-narcotics work for the FBI and DEA during the 1980s, 1990s and into the early 2000s.
That individual is Baruch Vega — a seemingly mild mannered fashion photographer who played a key role a decade ago in helping to broker plea deals between notorious Colombian narco-traffickers and representatives of the U.S. Justice system. To this day, Vega remains a well-connected individual, both in Colombia and the United States — with a book about his adventures about to be published, he says.
The businessman who threatened him with a lawsuit early last year did so after Vega appeared on a popular Colombian radio program and fingered him as an alleged narco-trafficker.
In a letter sent last April to this businessman in response to the lawsuit threat, Vega asserts the following [translated from Spanish to English]:
The [DEA and FBI] information and reports made against you … continued to emerge, and you were accused of direct involvement with the North Valley Cartel especially closely linked to Wilmer Varela [a violent Colombian narco-trafficker found shot to death in a Venezuelan resort town in 2008] and protected by members of the Colombian Police in particular by Colonel Danilo Gonzalez [who was assassinated in Colombia in 2004].
Vega also claims in the letter — which was sent to the Department of Justice, the IRS, FBI and DEA — that the Colombian businessman’s brother, who runs a transportation company in Medellin, Colombia, twice put out a contract on his life. Vega alleges that this brother who ordered him killed was a member of the Medellin Cartel and in the early 1990s, along with a group of other narco-traffickers since dubbed the Dirty Dozen, “received amnesty because of their possible collaboration against [narco-trafficker] Pablo Escobar [who was gunned down in Colombia by law enforcers in 1993].”
“Also relevant is what occurs on January 24, 2003, when the FBI and the DEA notified me that they had discovered another plot to kill me,” Vega alleges in the letter. “That time I came out publicly in all the media, press, radio and television and denounced the Norte del Valle Cartel and its members as accomplices in this plot.”
Vega goes on to assert in the April 2009 letter that former Colombia National Police Col. Danilo Gonzalez decided to turn himself into U.S. authorities shortly after he became the target of a U.S. indictment charging him with narco-trafficking, money laundering and murder.
From Vega’s letter:
… Danilo Gonzalez, finding himself with no other options, decides to turn himself over to the U.S. government and asks me to help him do so. During the time he was negotiating his rendition to the U.S. government, Gonzalez holds [the businessman’s brother] fully responsible and implicates him on tape (in an audio recording) in drug trafficking operations, money laundering, corruption, obstruction of justice and murder….
Gonzalez was preparing to surrender himself to U.S. authorities in the spring of 2004 when he was assassinated at the bottom of a stairwell in his attorney’s office in Bogota, according to a January 2005 report in the St. Petersburg Times.
Vega’s letter continues:
… For its part, the U.S. government had over many year s put together reports implicating [the brother] and by extension, you [the businessman], as a front man for [the brother], through several of its judicial arms. I am fully aware of this, because I personally had access to this information during the time that I was part of these government agencies.
Vega first came to the attention of Narco News in early 2006, shortly after the “Kent Memo” surfaced. The memo alleges that U.S. federal agents in the U.S. Embassy in Bogota were on the payroll of drug traffickers, complicit in the murders of informants who knew too much, and assisting Colombia’s infamous rightwing paramilitary death squads in laundering money. Justice Department attorney Thomas M. Kent wrote the memo in late 2004 in an effort to draw attention to alleged serious corruption within the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia — exposed by Narco News in a series of investigative stories called the Bogota Connection.
Vega was very involved with some of the U.S. law enforcement operations referenced in the Kent memo. Those particular operations played out between 1997 and 2000 and sought to snare narco-traffickers with Colombia’s infamous North Valley Cartel.
Vega claims that corrupt U.S. agents that are part of the Bogota Connection seriously compromised his role as a government asset and that a number of his informants within Colombia’s narco-trafficking underworld were assassinated as a result.
Vega also contends that he has intimate knowledge of the alleged corruption outlined in the Kent memo.
Again, from Vega’s April 2009 letter to the Colombian businessman:
In late 1996 I was placed in a combined FBI and DEA group to resume previous activities looking for drug submissions and cooperation and in an operation whose purpose was to uncover possible corruption by Colombian judicial officials, with groups of drug dealers as well as possibly members of the U.S. government operating through the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.
… At that time … the FBI and the DEA both prepared reports where the names of [the businessman and his brother] began to turn up again as direct participants in narco-trafficking and money laundering operations….(continued)
The individual whom Vega sent the letter to last April is Juan Gonzalo Angel Restrepo, the current president and CEO of GlobalMedia, which operates Cable Noticias, a 24-hour cable TV news channel in Colombia. Angel also is the past owner of Cablepacifico SA, a major cable TV operator in Colombia that was acquired by Mexican telecom giant Telmex in 2007.
Juan Gonzalo Angel’s brother, also the subject of accusations in Vega’s letter, is Luis Guillermo Angel Restrepo (known as “Guillo&rdquo, who controls the Medellin-based transport company called Helicargo SA.
In an October 2008 story in the Colombian publication El Tiempo, Guillo claims that he has no economic interest in any of the businesses operated by his brother Juan Gonzalo. Guillo also states in the article that any allegations accusing him of participating in illegal activities (such as “Narcoparamilitarism") are untrue and defamatory. He adds that he has “certifications” from judicial authorities indicating that he has never been the subject of a criminal investigation on the national or international level.
Juan Gonzalo Angel also contends that accusations claiming he is involved in criminal activity are baseless and asserts specifically that Vega’s charges are simply not true.
“Baruch Vega made everything up,” Juan Gonzalo Angel told the Colombian news publication El Espectador in an interview published on July 25, 2009. “… Why didn’t they [Colombian officials] extradite me or charge me? Does it seem right to you that he [Vega] would make these accusations 20 years after the fact.”
Vega told Narco News that since Juan Gonzalo Angel threatened him with a defamation lawsuit last year, he has heard nothing from him, nor has he yet been served with any papers. Vega also contends that among the reasons Colombian authorities have not pursued the Angel brothers more vigorously is because they are wealthy businessmen who are friends of current Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
Vega’s claim concerning the Angel brothers and their close relationship to the president of Colombia may seem the stuff of conspiracy theories. Still, it’s not the first time that Uribe, who hails originally from Medellin, has been accused of having ties to the narco-trafficking business — a charge he has consistently denied. In fact, a controversial 1991 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency document declassified in 2004 revealed the following about Uribe, based on information from an anonymous source:
A Colombian politician and senator dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels. Uribe was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the U.S. His father was murdered in Colombia for his connection with the narcotraffickers. [Uribe claims left-wing FARC guerillas were responsible.] Uribe has worked for the Medellin cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviria. He has participated in Escobar’s political campaign to win the position of assistant parliamentarian to Jorge (Ortega). Uribe has been one of the politicians, from the Senate, who has attacked all forms of the extradition treaty.
Although the claims and counterclaims being bandied back and forth between Vega and Angel may not be sorted out short of a court showdown someday, it appears Vega is not alone in denouncing the business practices of Juan Gonzalo Angel.
Another who has stepped into that fray is Carlos Alberto Pinilla Ochoa, who provided security services to Juan Gonzalo Angel in the late 1990s, according to a recent story in Colombia’s El Espectador. Vega tells Narco News that Pinilla was actually the head of security for both Juan Gonzalo Angel and his brother Guillo and, as a result, has intimate knowledge of their business and personal doings.
Pinilla, according to El Espectator, was the target of an assassination attempt in August 2002 by “unknown assailants.”
Vega alleges that Pinilla — whom he says is also a former Colombian military officer — has been the target of multiple assassination plots since leaving the service of the Angel brothers. Vega also claims Pinilla is currently in hiding and seeking to cooperate with U.S. authorities in an effort to share what he purportedly knows about the Angel brothers and their operations.
Narco News could not confirm that claim independently, but then such matters are rarely discussed by the parties involved. However, Narco News was able to obtain pleadings filed by Pinilla with the Colombian judicial system that include some very serious allegations against the Angel brothers and their alleged associates.
Following is a sample of some of those allegations (translated from Spanish to English) from Pinilla’s Colombian legal pleadings:
From a June 14, 2009, complaint:
I [Pinilla] was to receive on loan a sum of money, without a cosigner, unsecured, with an extremely long repayment term and at zero interest. The brief drafted by the attorney [claiming to represent Juan Gonzalo Angel Restrepo, then, according to Pinilla, allegedly a shareholder in Telmex Hogar S.A.] said that when that I would receive the money from the person [Juan Gonzalo Angel Restrepo] who, in his capacity as president of Cablepacifico S.A. (today Telmex Hogar S.A.), ordered me killed, and by whose hand I am now a victim of displacement [exile] and they still want to take my life.
… On December 20, 2008, [the attorney], on a flight from Medellin, called to tell me that he was bringing the money and asked if I already had readied and authenticated the briefs he sent, so we could meet. My response was clear, I did not receive money on loan or any other way because I did not need it and much less from the person who had ordered my execution, I had not retracted [my statements] and that, on the contrary, I asserted that in the name of Cablepacífico SA crimes against humanity had been committed and that my dignity was not for sale and as far as the contracts in force with that same company I would collect them myself directly and by legal means if necessary.
From a July 4, 2009, petition:
Clearly, I also have made known to Telmex Hogar SA that I am one of the victims of the paramilitary barbarism that ruled in Cablepacífico SA and which today continues to keep an eye on me so that I remain silent.
… In reference to my accusations of violation of International Humanitarian Law by Cablepacífico S.A.: I accept responsibility for proving them before whichever body you deem appropriate.
From a July 6, 2009, filing:
I respectfully address myself to your office to offer documentary proof of records that I have in my possession in my capacity as a victim of Narcopara-entrepreneurs. I have established myself in a new office located at Telmex Hogar SA, which purchased the company shares of Cablepacífico SA. [in 2007]. I am requesting my contractual rights which have been denied me and are impossible for me to demand through administrative means, as my victimizers have at a distinct legal and security disadvantage, taking into account that I am one of the many people affected by violations of human rights by this company and the Metro Bloc of the AUC [a unit of the right-wing paramilitary death-squad organization known as the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia in English].
From a June 14, 2009 filing:
1. My complaint against Mr. Juan Gonzalo Angel Restrepo (aka, Plata Limpia [meaning Clean Silver]), Luis Guillermo Angel Restrepo (aka, Guillo) and Hugo Albeiro Quintero Restrepo(aka,El Patron de Bello), is not about threats but Attempted Aggravated Murder, Aggravated Murder, Forced Displacement, Expropriation, Narco-paramilitarism, and crimes against humanity and not specifically for threats.
2. My complaint with the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions is for Human Rights violations crimes, committed by these three people with the help of state security agencies and therefore the competence of a unit specializing in this area is important in supporting the activities of the Prosecutor 241 Sectional.
3. That if it is true that Dr. Fabio Humar, Prosecutor, Sectional 241, is advancing the investigation because of my complaint, and surely I will set up a time to testify to my claims, but only about my complaint as victim, not including the other victims like me who have had their human rights violated by these three gentlemen in financial complicity with companies like Cablepacífico SA, Telmex Hogar SA, Transportes Bellanita S.A.and Helicargo SA.
… 4. That to this day I have expressed concerns for my own and my family’s safety and I have not been offered protection by the Attorney, despite asking for this assistance, forcing me to remain displaced and vulnerable to another attack. [It is because of this] that my elaboration and the testimony of victims cannot be expressed freely.
… 6. Similarly, I ask that you tell me how I can get a lawyer to represent me during the trial, as those professionals that I have contacted, once they discover that these people are linked to Narcoparamilitarism and formerly to the PEPES[a paramilitary group, allegedly backed by the U.S. government, that was formed to hunt down Pablo Escobar], choose to withdraw or propose to charge me a fee that is out of my reach.
It is not clear if Colombian authorities are seriously investigating Pinilla’s claims, though one document on file with a government office there does confirm Pinilla’s complaints, at least in part, are winding through the back rooms of the bureaucracy:
From the Division of Registration and Control and Correspondence [again, translated from Spanish into English]:
I wish to inform you that your communication based on the Correspondence Group of this entity, No. 198115 2009, was forwarded to PUBLIC MINISTRY Delegate (PROCURADURIA DELEG MINISTERIO PUBLICO) No130344 by official letter dated July 09, 2009.
The final proceedings will be conducted in accordance with the terms established by the Act 734 of 2002 C.U.D.
The Attorney General's Office appreciates your participation and collaboration that makes a positive contribution to the fight against corruption.
Where’s the Money?
Whether these various, quite serious charges against the Angel brothers should be believed or not, kind readers, is up to you. The same can be said of the charges raised some nine years ago against Mexican banker Hernandez Ramirez.
But regardless, the New York Supreme Court’s ruling in the dismissed Narco News libel case merits mentioning again in the context of these new allegations against the Angel brothers in Colombia:
The nature of the articles printed on the [Narco News] website … constitute matters of public concern because the information disseminated relates to the drug trade and its affect on people living in this hemisphere.
And in places like Juarez, in this “hemisphere,” as a consequence of the relentless drug war, people are being murdered by the thousands. Regularly, in the media, the blame for that carnage is put at the feet of notorious criminal narco-cartoon-like characters, such as Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman or Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who seem to possess seemingly mythic powers.
To be sure, they are cunning men with a ruthless drive to survive and advance their power, but they are only men nonetheless. They, too, have to serve somebody.
In light of the allegations raised by individuals like Vega, Pinilla and the past claims (based on hardnosed investigative reporting) advanced by journalists like Giordano and Menendez, maybe its time to reconsider the conventional mainstream media meme on the drug war — and the cast of narco-cartoon characters set up as its sinister scapegoats, those shadowy figures who pack pearl-handled pistols and are able to drive around untouched in Mexico behind the tinted glass of armored SUVs made in America.
Maybe there’s another cast of bad guys behind the drug-trafficking menace who are not the usual suspects, but rather, due to society’s pretenses, are individuals deemed beyond suspicion — such as well-heeled bankers, chamber-of-commerce businessmen and career government servants).
One thing is certain, though: The dead of Juarez, and elsewhere along the front lines of the drug war, tell no tales. But their bones do provide a vivid reminder that all this carnage isn’t about some Mickey Mouse cartoon show.
“Colombia exports $100 billion or more in drugs each year and everyone that has been arrested accounts for only a very small amount of that retrieved [by the authorities],” Vega claims. “And they [the Colombian narco-traffickers now in control] have been working for 10 to 15 years making $100 billion a year, so where is all that money?”
Links to source documents
• Baruch Vega’s April 13, 2009, letter to Juan Gonzalo Angel Restrepo [in the original Spanish and translated into English]
• Carlos Alberto Pinilla Ochoa’s filings with the Colombian judicial system [in the original Spanish and translated into English]
Mystery man Baruch Vega helps to untangle more of the "Bogotá Connection"
Posted by Bill Conroy - February 15, 2007 at 11:12 pm
Baruch Vega is a colorful figure who has worked as an asset for the FBI, DEA and CIA in Colombia and elsewhere over the years.
Vega was very involved with several U.S. law enforcement operations in 1999 and 2000 that sought to snare narco-traffickers with Colombia’s infamous North Valley Cartel.
Vega claims that corrupt U.S. agents that are part of the Bogotá Connection seriously compromised his role as government asset and that a number of his informants within Colombia’s narco-trafficking underworld were assassinated as a result. (The Bogotá Connection was revealed in a series of government documents uncovered by Narco News over the past year, including an internal U.S. Justice Department document known as the Kent memo, which advances detailed allegations of a criminal conspiracy involving corrupt U.S. law enforcers who are operating in league with key Colombian narco-traffickers.)
Vega recently contacted Narco News to provide his assessment of some recent developments that he believes could be key in busting the Bogotá Connection, if the U.S. government chooses to aggressively pursue these opportunities.
Currently, two key North Valley Cartel traffickers who have full knowledge of the Bogotá Connection are in custody — one recently extradited to the United States and one set to be extradited in the near future. Vega claims both of these individuals cooperated with him during his work for the DEA in Colombia and might well see it to their benefit to cooperate again — if the right offer is made.
One of those individuals is Gabriel Puerta Parra, who was extradited to the United States in May 2006 and is now in U.S. custody. Puerta Parra (known as the Doctor) is a former member of Colombia’s intelligence agency, the DAS, and had close ties to the North Valley Cartel and the right-wing paramilitary groups that served as muscle for the narco-trafficking organization.
The other narco-trafficker who might be key to exposing the Bogotá Connection is Luise Hernando Gomez Bustamante, who was recently deported from Cuba to Colombia and is now awaiting extradition to the United States.
In the late 1990s, Gomez Bustamante, a top leader of Colombia’s North Valley Cartel narco-trafficking syndicate, became one of the targets of a DEA investigation called Operation Cali-Man, which made use of Vega as an asset and was overseen by a DEA supervisor in Miami named David Tinsley.
In mid January 2000, Gomez Bustamante attended a meeting in Panama to discuss possible cooperation with the DEA. According to a DEA report surfaced by Narco News, during the course of that meeting, Gomez Bustamante revealed that a high-level DEA agent in Bogotá was on the “payroll” of a corrupt Colombian National Police colonel named Danilo Gonzalez — who was eventually indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on narco-trafficking charges.
“In January 2000, in Panama, we met with Rasguño [Gomez Bustamante’s nickname) and he was very helpful,” Vega says. “He was the first one (among the North Valley Cartel) to express his willingness to cooperate. To try and shut his mouth will be hard because he is an important individual.”
Vega also told Narco News that he met with Col. Gonzalez in Aruba in the spring of 2003. That meeting was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to Vega.
At the time, Gonzalez, who was a key player in the Bogotá Connection, was in the sights of the U.S. government for his corrupt activities and was willing to discuss cooperating with U.S. law enforcers. His meeting with Vega was an effort to test those waters.
Vega claims that during that meeting, Gonzalez laid out the entire backbone of the Bogotá Connection, naming names, including the allegedly corrupt U.S. law enforcers with DEA and U.S. Customs who were assisting the narco-traffickers with a variety of tasks — such as leaking information about U.S. law enforcement operations in Colombia.
Vega says all of the information from that meeting with Gonzalez was turned over to the FBI.
Gonzalez eventually became the target of a U.S. indictment charging him with narco-trafficking, money laundering and murder. He was assassinated in Colombia in the spring of 2004 while preparing to surrender to the U.S. government.
Vega also informed Narco News that another major narco-trafficker has been key to building the cases against his former cartel allies, such as Puerta Parra and Gomez Bustamante. That individual is Victor Patino Fomeque, himself a former North Valley Cartel ring leader as well as a former member of the Colombian National Police. Patino Fomeque, who was extradited to the United States in 2002, has been cooperating with the U.S. government, according to Vega.
“Victor [began cooperating with U.S. officials] and that led to the indictments of the North Valley Cartel leadership [in 2004],” Vega claims. “And he is still cooperating, and with Rasguño [now in custody] that could be very big.”
Vega adds that Patino Fomeque, too, was a key part of the Bogotá Connection. In fact, Vega says Patino Fomeque was part of a group of several North Valley Cartel members who provided some $400,000 in 2000 to help fund a political campaign to elect a corrupt U.S. law enforcer to a local political office on the East Coast.
Vega says former CNP Col. Gonzalez, who helped to arrange the meeting in Colombia where the campaign money was exchanged, confirmed the details of the deal to him, on tape, during their meeting in 2003 in Aruba. Vega also claims that both Patino Fomeque and his former accountant have provided this information to U.S. authorities as part of their cooperation.
When Danilo [Gonzalez] told me about [the campaign contribution], he said they did not know it was a corruption in the U.S. to help with a campaign,” Vega says. “He said after all [they] did for us, we felt it was the least we could do for them.”
Vega predicts that the wheels are starting to come off the cart on the cover-up of the Bogotá Connection. He says too many people who know all the details, including narco-traffickers now in custody and honest DEA agents who will soon retire, have an incentive to start talking — out of a sense of integrity in the case of the honest agents, or, in the case of the narco-traffickers, as part of their defense to avoid long prison sentences.
Once those strings begin to be pulled, the corrupt U.S. law enforcers will begin to talk as well, to assure they do not become the last rat left on a sinking ship.
[If] "Rasguño" is extradited to the U.S., this would be the best thing, not for the war on drugs, but to uncover the biggest political and police corruption ever between corrupt Colombian authorities and members of the U.S. embassy in Bogotá…,” Vega says. "[Department of Justice] Attorney Thomas Kent would get a medal.”
Time will tell if Vega is right.
Bogotá isn't the only dark trail into the U.S. Justice System
Posted by Bill Conroy - January 9, 2006 at 2:44 pm
Department of Justice attorney Thomas M. Kent’s memorandum alleging widespread corruption in the Bogotá, Colombia, office of the Drug Enforcement Administration is only now seeing the light of day.
But the Bogotá DEA agents are not the first to have been accused of betraying informants or of participating in a narco-trafficking conspiracy. Similar tales of corruption involving overseas DEA agents have surfaced in the past.
One of those case centers on a convicted felon, a man named Gaetano DiGirolamo. According to DEA records, DiGirolamo is a “known associate of the Cotroni organized crime family based in Canada, and has an extensive narcotics background.”
And DiGirolamo has paid a price for his career choice. He spent much of the 1980s (1984-1990) in federal prison in Danbury, Conn.
So it should not be a big surprise to most people that he again found himself on the wrong end of the law in the early 1990s, shortly after his release from prison.
That run-in with the system — the DEA specifically — led to his indictment in 1991 and conviction in 1994 on drug conspiracy charges in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The conspiracy charges against DiGirolamo stemmed from a meeting he arranged between a DEA informant and another individual who eventually purchased heroin from the informant.
However, DiGirolamo claims he had nothing to do with the drug deal. Despite what people might assume about him, he contends that he is not guilty of the charges brought against him in 1991; in fact, he claims that DEA agents framed him, seeking to use his case as a cover for their own illegal drug-smuggling activities.
DiGirolamo appealed his conviction, only to lose again in 1995. At that point, Steven B. Duke, a professor of law at Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn., stepped in, and took on DiGirolamo’s case pro bono. In 1997, Duke filed a post-conviction petition with the federal court seeking to vacate DiGirolamo’s conviction.
Among the claims raised in the post-conviction petition were that DiGirolamo was convicted “based upon perjury of three DEA agents” and that his court-appointed lawyer provided inadequate legal representation.
“(The DEA agents) testified that they were involved in importing drugs for use in ‘stings’ against me and others when in truth and in fact they were doing so for their own personal, criminal enrichment,” states DiGirolamo in his post-conviction petition.
According to court pleadings, the DEA agents transported the heroin from Pakistan to New York City, via commercial airlines, allegedly for the purpose of setting up undercover stings.
In addition, despite claims by the DEA agents involved in transporting the heroin that their operation had been sanctioned by DEA headquarters in Washington, D.C., as well as the French and Pakistani governments, Duke says those approvals were never produced.
DiGirolamo and others were being targeted, according to the testimony of DEA agents, because they were believed to be distributors for a major heroin trafficking syndicate headed by a mysterious Pakistani figure named Jan. The 20 kilos of heroin imported from Pakistan by the DEA agents allegedly were acquired through undercover purchases from the Jan organization, legal filings in the DiGirolamo case state.
From the fall of 1991 to the summer of 1992, there were a total of nine other prosecutions that were related to the Jan syndicate sting. In each of those cases, the DEA agents tell the same story, according to court filings made by DiGirolamo’s defense team.
Despite this fact, the court filings claim, Jan and the drug syndicate being targeted by the DEA operation never figured out that repeated stings and arrests were occurring — even though the heroin involved in the nine prosecutions adds up to 50 kilos, 30 kilos more than was provided by the Jan organization.
“How could any organization think it had any of the 20 kilograms of heroin to sell after the first few arrests?” Duke states in a legal brief in the DiGirolamo case. “Moreover, Jan was an informant for the DEA.”
Duke was even able to track down a witness who claims to have purchased heroin from individuals fitting the description of the DEA agents in the DiGirolamo case. The witness, who is serving a life sentence on drug conspiracy charges in a federal prison in Pennsylvania, claims the drugs he and his partner acquired in those deals in Queens, N.Y. (some 40 ounces a week at $6,000 an ounce) were in turn sold on the streets of Philadelphia.
Duke made numerous requests of prosecutors in both Philadelphia and New York for various records that would help substantiate or disprove the claims being made by the witness, but “all those requests were ignored,” he claims.
In a letter to the judge in DiGirolamo’s case, Duke alleges that the DEA agents were, in reality, engaged in their own smuggling operation “for the purpose of selling the drugs and using ‘stings’ as a cover for their operation.”
The DEA agents characterized the claims raised by Duke as “untrue and absurd,” according to court records.
The judge in the case also dismissed Duke’s arguments, contending instead that DiGirolamo was convicted on overwhelming evidence that he conspired to possess heroin.
In addition, according to court records, the judge found there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that the DEA agents were illegally importing heroin for their own drug trafficking operation. And even if those allegations were true, the judge reasoned, it would simply make DiGirolamo a co-conspirator with the DEA agents.
“In December 1999, (the judge) dismissed the entire case in one of the most bizarre opinions I have ever seen,” Duke says. “... Essentially, (the judge) said it didn’t matter if the DEA agents were corrupt smugglers.”
Duke continued to pursue the DiGirolamo case, and in 2002 uncovered a possible connection between his case and allegations of corruption centered on U.S. Customs operations at JFK International Airport in New York City. Those Customs-related allegations were brought forth by Diane Kleiman, a former federal agent turned whistleblower. Kleiman claims that she was targeted for retaliation and finally fired after attempting to expose the allegedly corrupt practices at U.S. Customs’ JFK office.
Among the corruption Kleiman brought to light was the suspicious deaths of three narcotics agents at JFK.
Kleiman even managed to get U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D.-Conn., to look into her allegations that the three federal agents at JFK died under suspicious circumstances in the early 1990s. (One of those agents worked for DEA.)
The agents were assigned to a drug unit at the airport that, Kleiman alleges, was overseen at the time by Thomas Flood — who would later become Kleiman’s supervisor. In a letter Kleiman sent in July 2001 to the Office of Special Counsel (a government watchdog agency), she claims that two of the federal agents died of heroin overdoses and the third committed suicide — allegedly after all three had been implicated in stealing drugs from their unit.
Customs responded in writing in April 2003 to Sen. Lieberman’s official inquiry into the matter as follows:
In her letter, Ms. Kleiman raised issues regarding the deaths of former Customs Special Agents Thomas Sullivan and Thomas Calamia. Mr. Sullivan was arrested during June 1991 after it was determined he was involved in the theft of drugs from Customs’ custody. In February 1992, subsequent to his conviction in federal court, Mr. Sullivan took his own life.
Mr. Calamia died in September 1992 while he was a Customs employee. Mr. Calamia’s death was investigated by Nassau County Police Department and ruled a drug overdose. Customs employees were not involved in the discovery of Mr. Calamia’s body and were not implicated in Mr. Calamia’s death. A subsequent investigation conducted by the Office of Internal Affairs determined that Mr. Calamia was involved in the theft of drugs from Customs’ custody.
Special Agent Gary St. Hillaire was an employee of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Accordingly, BICE (the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the Department of Homeland Security) possesses no records regarding the allegations of misconduct on the part of Mr. St. Hillaire....
Kleiman claims that at a minimum, the drug-thefts and deaths are evidence that her corruption charges are not out of bounds when it comes to Customs’ operations at JFK.
Kleiman adds, “Three agents died, all within about a year of each other, and they were stealing drugs from their unit.”
The lives of informants, too, are often expendable in the dark corners of the drug war. A 2004 case filed in U.S. District Court in Georgia underscores that reality.
In the case, a former DEA informant accuses a cop turned author of violating his privacy because of details revealed about the informant’s life in the cop’s book, “Without a Badge: Undercover in the World’s Deadliest Criminal Organization.”
The informant, Paul Lir Alexander, helped the DEA run stings on Latin American narco-traffickers until he was caught double-crossing the feds by running his own narco-trafficking operation on the side. Alexander, according to the litigation, pled guilty in 1993 to conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, and has been in prison since that time.
The author, Gerald Speziale, is a former New York narcotics cop who wrote about undercover stings that he worked with the assistance of Alexander.
From the lawsuit:
Speziale explains how he was able to infiltrate powerful drug distribution cartels and dupe them into believing that he was a trustworthy member of the illegal drug importing network. In fact, Speziale and the others involved in the undercover investigation would arrange for the shipments to be seized, and then attempt to foist off blame on other members of the importation network. This casting of blame was critical to the success of the undercover activities because the people found to be responsible for drug seizures were no longer trusted and were liable to be killed by the Colombian drug lords running the cocaine cartels. In his book, Speziale describes how Alexander’s sophistication and familiarity with the customs of these drug lords and the distribution network were critical to the success of the government’s undertakings.
In the end, the court ruled that Speziale’s book did not violate Alexander’s privacy, and the case was dismissed. It appears the lives of the individuals who were set up to take the fall, to be killed, by the law enforcers’ sting operations also have been dismissed.
IS/WAS AMERICA A STEALTH FOURTH REICH RUN FROM WITHIN THE C.I.A.?
Hitler's Shadow Reaches toward Today
by Robert Parry
Published on ConsortiumNews.com on Friday, 17 December 2010
The U.S. government protected Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie in the years after World War II and later unleashed the infamous Butcher of Lyon on South America by aiding his escape from French war-crimes prosecutors, according to a new report issued by the National Archives.
The report, entitled “Hitler’s Shadow ,” concentrates on the decisions by the U.S. Army’s Counterintelligence Corps to use Barbie and other ex-Nazis for early Cold War operations, but other work by investigative journalists and government investigators has shown how Barbie’s continued allegiance to Nazi ideology contributed to the spread of right-wing extremism in Latin America.
With his skills as an intelligence operative and his expertise in state terror, Barbie helped shape the particularly vicious style of anti-communism that dominated South America for most of the Cold War. He also played a role in building a conduit for drug proceeds to fund right-wing paramilitary operations, including Ronald Reagan’s beloved Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
In 1980, Barbie used his perch in Bolivian intelligence to organize an alliance of military leaders and cocaine barons to overthrow Bolivia’s democratically elected leftist government in a bloody coup. Though fitting with Washington’s distrust of left-wing populist governments in South America, the so-called Cocaine Coup had other long-term consequences for the United States.
Bolivia's coup regime ensured a reliable flow of coca to Colombia’s Medellin cartel, which quickly grew into a sophisticated conglomerate for smuggling cocaine into the United States. Some of those drug profits then went to finance right-wing paramilitary operations, including the CIA-backed Contras, according to other U.S. government investigations.
Barbie reportedly collaborated, too, with representatives of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church as they worked with Bolivia’s Cocaine Coup regime to organize anti-communist operations in South America. By then, the region had become a center for Moon’s global money-laundering operations. In 1982, Moon began pouring hundreds of millions of his mysterious dollars into the right-wing Washington Times newspaper to influence U.S. politics.
Eventually, as Bolivia's corrupt Cocaine Coup government crumbled and Barbie’s identity became well known, French authorities finally secured Barbie’s return to France to face a war-crimes trial in 1983. (He died in 1991.)
The Butcher of Lyon's role in these South American anti-communist activities caused brief embarrassment for Moon’s church and some right-wing Americans. But the Nazi collaboration didn't draw much attention from the U.S. news media, which was already shying away from critical reporting on the Reagan administration’s unsavory alliances in Central and South America.
A Long Continuum
Indeed, the Right’s growing dominance of Washington opinion circles can be viewed as a continuum dating back to those days right after World War II, when U.S. priorities switched quickly from prosecuting Axis war criminals to seeking their help in crushing leftist political influence in Western Europe and Asia.
Suddenly, U.S. intelligence agencies were freeing Nazi and Japanese war criminals from prison and exploiting their talents to neutralize labor unions, student groups and other left-wing organizations.
Though the new National Archives report deals with ex-Nazis in Europe, a similar program was underway in Japan where war criminals such as right-wing yakuza gangsters Yoshio Kodama and Ryoichi Sasakawa were freed and allowed to become important political figures in Japan – and later internationally by supporting a global crusade against communism.
In the 1960s, Kodama and Sasakawa joined with Rev. Moon and two right-wing dictators, Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek and South Korea’s Park Chung Hee, to create that World Anti-Communist League (WACL), which also brought in right-wing leaders from Latin America and Europe, including ex-Nazis and neo-Nazis, according to authors Scott and Jon Lee Anderson in their landmark 1986 book, Inside the League.
So, with the Cocaine Coup in 1980, Barbie not only closed the circle, bringing together death-squad commanders, ex-Nazis, neo-Nazis and various sociopaths from around the globe, but he helped ensure that drug proceeds would be available to fund right-wing causes in the future.
“Hitler’s Shadow,” in effect, tells the first chapter of this right-wing restoration as U.S. intelligence agencies turned to former Nazi officials and SS officers to counter the perceived greater threat from the Soviet Union and Communist groups in Europe.
“Gestapo officers, who also held ranks in the SS, were in the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps’s automatic arrest category after the war,” the report said. “Later, CIC used former Gestapo officers to garner useful intelligence for the postwar period on everything from German right-wing movements to underground communist organizations. Intelligence officers often overlooked the significant role Gestapo officers played in the murder of Jews, POWs, and the political enemies of the Nazis.”
The report notes that “approximately 1,200 newly released files relate to the penetration of German Communist activities and specifically to ‘Project Happiness,’ the CIC’s codename for counterintelligence operations against the KPD,” the German Communist Party.
Though Barbie – known for personally torturing French partisans during the war – may be the best known ex-Gestapo officer recruited by the CIC, others had similar histories.
For instance, Anton Mahler was the chief interrogator of Hans Scholl, a leader of the White Rose, a Munich-based student organization that secretly passed out leaflets urging Adolf Hitler’s overthrow and decrying German apathy in the face of Hitler’s crimes. Hans and his sister Sophie Scholl were convicted of high treason and beheaded in February 1943.
Mahler also served in Einsatzgruppe B in occupied Belarus as the group slaughtered more than 45,000 people, most of them Jews, the report said. Nevertheless, CIC deployed Mahler as an informant starting in February 1949 and soon made him a full-time employee.
Regarding Barbie, the report builds on a 1983 investigation by a Justice Department investigator who confirmed suspicions that U.S. intelligence had worked with and protected this hunted war criminal who was accused of executing 4,000 people and shipping 7,000 Jews to concentration camps.
“In the spring of 1947 a CIC agent named Robert S. Taylor from CIC Region IV (Munich) recruited Klaus Barbie, the one-time Gestapo Chief of Lyon (1942–44),” the new report said. “Barbie helped run a counterintelligence net named ‘Büro Petersen’ which monitored French intelligence.
“In 1948 Barbie helped the CIC locate former Gestapo informants. In 1949–50, he penetrated German Communist Party (KPD) activities in CIC Region XII (Augsburg). ... He continued to work for the CIC in return for protection against French war crimes charges.”
Ratline to Bolivia
The story of Barbie’s escape to South America with the CIC’s collaboration was addressed in the 1983 report by Allan A. Ryan Jr., head of the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations. Ryan’s 218-page report said that in 1951, the CIC helped Barbie evade French authorities and flee over a “ratline” to Bolivia.
Ryan said that a half dozen CIC officers participated in the cover-up of Barbie’s identity and excused their actions by claiming that the French arrest of Barbie could jeopardize the security of other CIC operations. To get Barbie to Bolivia, the CIC officers used a ratline run by a Croatian priest, Father Krunoslav Draganovich, Ryan wrote.
Ryan said the Central Intelligence Agency later rebuffed suggestions that Barbie be reactivated in the 1960s, but Barbie – using the name Altmann – held an official position with a state-owned shipping company that allowed him move freely and even to travel to the United States. [For more on Ryan’s report, see Time magazine, Aug. 29, 1983]
More significantly, Barbie became a figure in Bolivian intelligence and used that perch to coordinate with other right-wing intelligence services around the continent that were engaged in Operation Condor, a program of assassinating suspected subversives and other dissidents.
In the 1970s, these intelligence agencies had teamed up to give their assassination squads regional and even global reach, including the murder of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and an American co-worker on the streets of Washington in 1976.
For the Cocaine Coup in 1980, Barbie recruited Argentina’s feared intelligence service along with young neo-Nazis from Europe. The World Anti-Communist League arranged support from Moon and other Asian rightists.
For years, Moon had been sinking down roots in South America, especially in Uruguay after right-wing military dictators seized power there in 1973. Moon also cultivated close ties with dictators in Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, reportedly ingratiating himself with the juntas by helping the regimes buy weapons and by channeling money to allied right-wing organizations.
“Relationships nurtured with right-wing Latin Americans in the [World Anti-Communist] League led to acceptance of the [Unification] Church’s political and propaganda operations throughout Latin America,” the Andersons wrote in Inside the League.
“As an international money laundry, ... the Church tapped into the capital flight havens of Latin America. Escaping the scrutiny of American and European investigators, the Church could now funnel money into banks in Honduras, Uruguay and Brazil, where official oversight was lax or nonexistent.”
Moon expanded his network of friends when Barbie helped pulled together a right-wing alliance of Bolivian military officers and drug dealers for the Cocaine Coup. WACL associates, such as Alfredo Candia, coordinated the arrival of some of the paramilitary operatives from Argentina and Europe who would help out in the violent putsch.
Barbie, then better known as Altmann, was in charge of drawing up plans for the coup and coordinating with Argentine intelligence. One of the first Argentine intelligence officers to arrive was Lt. Alfred Mario Mingolla.
"Before our departure, we received a dossier on” Barbie, Mingolla later told German investigative reporter Kai Hermann. "There it stated that he was of great use to Argentina because he played an important role in all of Latin America in the fight against communism. From the dossier, it was also clear that Altmann worked for the Americans."
The Cocaine Motive
As the coup took shape, Bolivian Col. Luis Arce-Gomez, the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, also brought onboard neo-fascist terrorists such as Italian Stefano della Chiaie who had been working with the Argentine death squads. [See Cocaine Politics by Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall]
Still a committed fascist, Barbie started a secret lodge, called Thule. During meetings, he lectured to his followers underneath swastikas by candlelight.
On June 17, 1980, in nearly public planning for the coup, six of Bolivia's biggest traffickers met with the military conspirators to hammer out a financial deal for future protection of the cocaine trade. A La Paz businessman said the coming putsch should be called the "Cocaine Coup," a name that would stick. [See Cocaine Politics]
Less than three weeks later, on July 6 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, U.S. undercover drug enforcement agent Michael Levine said he met with a Bolivian trafficker named Hugo Hurtado-Candia. Over drinks, Hurtado outlined plans for the "new government" in which his niece Sonia Atala, a major cocaine supplier, will "be in a very strong position." [See Levine’s Big White Lie]
On July 17, the Cocaine Coup began, spearheaded by Barbie and his neo-fascist goon squad which was dubbed the “Fiancés of Death.”
"The masked thugs were not Bolivians; they spoke Spanish with German, French and Italian accents," Levine wrote. "Their uniforms bore neither national identification nor any markings, although many of them wore Nazi swastika armbands and insignias."
The slaughter was fierce. When the putschists stormed the national labor headquarters, they wounded labor leader Marcelo Quiroga, who had led the effort to indict former military dictator Hugo Banzer on drug and corruption charges.
Quiroga "was dragged off to police headquarters to be the object of a game played by some of the torture experts imported from Argentina's dreaded Mechanic School of the Navy," Levine wrote.
"These experts applied their 'science' to Quiroga as a lesson to the Bolivians, who were a little backward in such matters. They kept Quiroga alive and suffering for hours. His castrated, tortured body was found days later in a place called 'The valley of the Moon' in southern La Paz."
To DEA agent Levine back in Buenos Aires, it was soon clear "that the primary goal of the revolution was the protection and control of Bolivia's cocaine industry. All major drug traffickers in prison were released, after which they joined the neo-Nazis in their rampage.
“Government buildings were invaded and trafficker files were either carried off or burned. Government employees were tortured and shot, the women tied and repeatedly raped by the paramilitaries and the freed traffickers.”
The fascists celebrated with swastikas and shouts of "Heil Hitler!" Hermann reported. Col. Arce-Gomez, a central-casting image of a bemedaled, pot-bellied Latin dictator, grabbed broad powers as Interior Minister. Gen. Luis Garcia Meza was installed as Bolivia's new president.
The victory put into power a right-wing military dictatorship indebted to the drug lords. Bolivia became South America’s first narco-state.
One of the first well-wishers arriving in La Paz to congratulate the new government was Moon’s top lieutenant (and former KCIA officer) Bo Hi Pak. The Moon organization published a photo of Pak meeting with the new strongman, General Garcia Meza.
After the visit to the mountainous capital, Pak declared, “I have erected a throne for Father Moon in the world’s highest city.”
According to later Bolivian government and newspaper reports, a Moon representative invested about $4 million in preparations for the coup. Bolivia’s WACL representatives also played key roles, and CAUSA, one of Moon’s anti-communist organizations, listed as members nearly all the leading Bolivian coup-makers.
Soon, Colonel Luis Arce-Gomez, a coup organizer and the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, went into partnership with big narco-traffickers, including Cuban-American smugglers based in Miami. Nazi war criminal Barbie and his young neo-fascist followers found new work protecting Bolivia’s major cocaine barons and transporting drugs to the Colombian border.
“The paramilitary units – conceived by Barbie as a new type of SS – sold themselves to the cocaine barons,” German journalist Hermann wrote. “The attraction of fast money in the cocaine trade was stronger than the idea of a national socialist revolution in Latin America.”
A month after the Cocaine Coup, General Garcia Meza participated in the Fourth Congress of the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation, an arm of the World Anti-Communist League. Also attending that Fourth Congress was WACL president Woo Jae Sung, a leading Moon disciple.
As the drug lords consolidated their power in Bolivia, the Moon organization expanded its presence, too. Hermann reported that in early 1981, war criminal Barbie and Moon leader Thomas Ward were seen together in apparent prayer.
On May 31, 1981, Moon representatives sponsored a CAUSA reception at the Sheraton Hotel’s Hall of Freedom in La Paz. Moon’s lieutenant Bo Hi Pak and Bolivian strongman Garcia Meza led a prayer for President Ronald Reagan’s recovery from an assassination attempt.
In his speech, Bo Hi Pak declared, “God had chosen the Bolivian people in the heart of South America as the ones to conquer communism.”
Flush with Cash
In the early 1980s, cocaine kingpin Suarez – his coffers now overflowing with cash – invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including the Contra forces in Central America, according to U.S. Senate testimony in 1987 by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.
Sanchez-Reisse testified that the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, Argentine intelligence officers — including Sanchez-Reisse and other veterans of the Cocaine Coup — trained the fledgling Contra forces.
But by late 1981, the cocaine taint of Bolivia’s military junta was so deep and the corruption so pervasive that U.S.-Bolivian relations were stretched to the breaking point. “The Moon sect disappeared overnight from Bolivia as clandestinely as they had arrived,” Hermann reported.
The Cocaine Coup leaders soon found themselves on the run, too. Interior Minister Arce-Gomez was extradited to Miami and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking. Drug lord Suarez got a 15-year prison term. General Garcia Meza became a fugitive from a 30-year sentence imposed on him in Bolivia for abuse of power, corruption and murder.
SS veteran Barbie was returned to France to face a life sentence for war crimes. He died in 1991 at the age of 77.
But Moon’s organization suffered few negative repercussions from its role in the Cocaine Coup. By the early 1980s, flush with seemingly unlimited funds, Moon had moved on to promoting himself as a key friend of the new Republican administration in Washington.
A guest at Reagan’s First Inauguration, Moon made his organization useful to the new President and to Vice President George H.W. Bush, who would later become a paid speaker for Moon's organization. Where Moon got his cash was not a mystery that American conservatives were eager to solve.
“Some Moonie-watchers even believe that some of the business enterprises are actually covers for drug trafficking,” wrote Scott and Jon Lee Anderson.
While Moon’s representatives have refused to detail how they’ve sustained their far-flung activities – including many businesses that insiders say lose money – Moon’s spokesmen have denied recurring allegations about profiteering off illegal trafficking in weapons and drugs.
In a typical response to a gun-running question by the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, Moon’s representative Ricardo DeSena responded, “I deny categorically these accusations and also the barbarities that are said about drugs and brainwashing.” [Clarin, July 7, 1996]
Nevertheless, Moon’s organization did its best to disrupt the work of U.S. investigative reporters and government investigators looking into the connections between the drug trade and right-wing paramilitary operations such as the Nicaraguan Contras.
In the mid-1980s, for instance, when journalists and congressional investigators began probing the evidence of Contra-connected drug trafficking, they came under attack from Moon’s Washington Times.
An Associated Press story that I co-wrote with Brian Barger about a Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the Contras was disparaged in an April 11, 1986, front-page Washington Times article with the headline: “Story on [contra] drug smuggling denounced as political ploy.”
When Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, uncovered additional evidence of Contra-drug trafficking, the Washington Times denounced him, too. The newspaper published articles depicting Kerry’s probe as a wasteful political witch hunt. “Kerry’s anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain,” declared the headline of one Times article on Aug. 13, 1986.
Despite the attacks, Kerry’s Contra-drug investigation eventually concluded that a number of Contra units were implicated in the cocaine trade.
“It is clear that individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking, 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 traffickers,” Kerry’s investigation stated in a report issued April 13, 1989.
Mysterious Contra Backer
In 1998, CIA’s Inspector General Frederick Hitz confirmed the earlier allegations of extensive cocaine trafficking by the Contras, including significant ties to Bolivia’s traffickers. Hitz also cited a partially redacted document referring to a “religious” group cooperating with the Contra-cocaine trade.
"There are indications of links between [a U.S. religious organization] and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups," read an Oct. 22, 1982, cable from the office of the CIA's Directorate of Operations. "These links involve an exchange in [the United States] of narcotics for arms."
The CIA quickly shut down any further reporting on this drug deal, citing the role of U.S. citizens. "In light of the apparent participation of U.S. persons throughout, agree you should not pursue the matter further," CIA headquarters wrote on Nov. 3, 1982.
During the Inspector General’s investigation, Hitz conducted a follow-up interview, with Contra-connected drug trafficker Renato Pena, who described the redacted U.S. religious organization as a Contra "political ally that provided only humanitarian aid to Nicaraguan refugees and logistical support for contra-related rallies, such as printing services and portable stages."
Moon's religious-political groups, some based in the United States, were extremely active supporting the Contras in the early 1980s, suggesting that Moon’s Washington Times might have had more than an ideological reason to attack investigators exploring Contra drug trafficking.
To this day, the Washington Times remains a reliably right-wing voice in the U.S. capital, although Moon, now 90, has ceded much of the day-to-day control of his organization to his wife and children.
Still, the CIA’s shielding of the name of that “religious organization” and similar protective behavior represent a continuation of a long-standing pattern in which U.S. intelligence has covered up for right-wing and neo-Nazi criminality, a dark history that began with the likes of Klaus Barbie and has extended “Hitler’s Shadow” to modern times.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
To comment at Consortiumblog, click here. (To make a blog comment about this or other ConsortiumNews stories, you can use your normal e-mail address and password. Ignore the prompt for a Google account.) To comment to us by e-mail, click here. To donate so we can continue reporting and publishing stories like the one you just read, click here.
Mr. Parry's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
2006 Mexico DC-9 drug bust
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The 2006 Mexico DC-9 drug bust is a known drug seizure where a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-15 airliner with the former tail number N900SA (c/n 45775) was involved in drug smuggling and was caught with 5.5 tons of cocaine onboard after landing in Mexico on April 10, 2006. On April 13, 2006, the aircraft was deregistered and sold to an unknown customer in Venezuela. In December 2006, Mexican Newspaper Reforma reported the previously seized aircraft was being operated by the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) under Daniel Cabeza de Vaca and based in Mexico City  as XC-LJZ.
Originally manufactured in 1966 for Trans World Airlines as N1061T, the aircraft has had a long career flying for various individuals and companies, including Tracinda Investment (N241TC), Kenny Rogers (N9KR), Southmark Corporation (N89SM), the Seattle Seahawks (N40SH), Aircraft 45775, Inc, and HW Aviation.
The DC-9 was traded to SkyWay Communications Holding by duPont Investment Fund 57289, Inc in exchange for 28,000,000 shares of stock. in December 2004, though photographs show the SkyWay logo to have been painted on the aircraft at least eight months before. The FAA records, however, show the aircraft as registered to Royal Sons LLC. SkyWay Communications had previously announced the purchase of another DC-9, tail number N120NE (c/n 45731), to act as an "airborne test environment for new SWYC products and services". It has been alleged by author Daniel Hopsicker that the companies involved are CIA front-companies.
The aircraft departed Simón Bolívar International Airport in Caracas, Venezuela on the afternoon of April 10, 2006. Approximately 1½ hours into the flight, it reportedly returned to the airport and refueled before resuming its flight to Toluca, Mexico. However, some time into the flight they made an emergency landing at the Ciudad del Carmen airport, claiming hydraulic problems with the landing gear. The flight crew told the ground crew to keep people away from the aircraft, claiming leaking oil could be hazardous and that a tire could explode.
The flight crew was identified as Marco Perez De Gracia, and Carmelo Vázquez Guerra, a Colombian National with Venezuelan passport.
The Mexican police approached the aircraft with drug-sniffing dogs and the ground crew attempted to keep them away, without success. The dogs identified the presence of drugs and the police entered the aircraft, they found 5.5 tons of cocaine packed into 128 identical black suitcases they arrested the pilot, Carmelo Vázquez Guerra, who later "vanished".
A Falcon business jet of Mexican registry (XB-IYK) was making a rendezvous with the DC-9 and its crew was also arrested. The pilot of the Falcon was loto Fernando Joaquín Poot Pérez, who was working as flight coordinator manager for la Comisión Nacional del Agua but was later released.
There are reports that say Mexican soldiers patrolling the airport observed a Falcon arriving several days before the DC-9's arrival and that two Mexican pilots were seen in the area throughout the next few days and reportedly attempted to pay for the DC-9 to make an emergency landing after the airport was closed.
The DEA lists the bust as one of Mexico's largest in recent history, using it as an example of international cooperation against drug trafficking and a part of "Operation All Inclusive".
After a few weeks, no one was interested in this case. But in July 2008, Mexican authorities had to recall some details of this case, as in Guinea Bissau airport landed a jet from Venezuela loaded with 515 kilos of cocaine and inside was none other than the pilot Carmelo Vázquez Guerra but this time he didn't disappear he was simply released as the judge, with the connivance of the Attorney General, decreed the freedom of all detainees for lack of evidence, three Latino-Americans and Guinean.
That didn't stop the pilot who continued in the drug trade and was arrested for a third time in Caracas Venezuela inside a car in which three men were traveling, the police found 70 panels of cocaine with a gross weight of 70 kilograms. Guerra Vasquez had an arrest warrant pending for the DC-9 drug bust
Plane with a past disappears after drug bust
By AARON SHAROCKMANPublished July 1, 2007
CLEARWATER - More than 150, 000 airplanes criss-cross the country each day, from jumbo jets to two-seat Cessnas to Air Force F-16s. They all are headed somewhere.
They each carry a past.
The story of a plane that spent two years in Clearwater includes stops with the Seattle Seahawks, Howard Dean and Kenny Rogers.
But it is the plane's last load of cargo - $100-million worth of cocaine - that drips with intrigue.
The rusted-out DC-9 wasn't fit to fly, but the aircraft broker from California called anyway.
A man identifying himself as Jorge Corrales said he needed a plane for a traveling soccer team. The plane's owner, Fred Geffon, needed the money.
Like dozens of others, Geffon had believed in Brent Kovar and his innovative wireless technology, Geffon would later tell lawyers. He bought the DC-9 to be a flying showcase of Kovar's work.
But now that business was crumbling, creditors were calling and the twin-engine DC-9 was one of the last things left.
Geffon sold the plane, painted white with blue trim and a gold seal that made it look presidential, for nearly $1-million.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials interviewed Geffon about the cocaine eventually found on board. He is not suspected and has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Kovar, who was not involved in the sale of the DC-9, was not interviewed by federal officials and also is not a suspect.
But their pasts are intertwined with the plane - a 40-year-old jet that has traversed countries and oceans.
The DC-9 was built in 1966 and originally made runs from New York to Miami for the now-defunct Trans World Airlines.
It is a "tank of an airplane, " said Jeff Wolfson, a Chicago area businessman who once owned the plane.
In the 1980s, the plane flew for billionaire Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp., majority owner of the MGM Mirage resort and casino chain. It also shuttled Kenny Rogers across the country on a music tour.
The NFL's Seahawks used it in the 1990s. And it was Howard Dean's presidential campaign plane in 2004.
Later that year, Wolfson sold the plane to Geffon for 2.5-million shares of stock in Kovar's company, SkyWay Communications Holding Corp.
For SkyWay, the DC-9 was to be a glorious demonstration of the company's innovation.
Kovar said he had developed a way to almost instantly transmit images, video and text to airplanes flying across the world.
He claimed his technology could have prevented the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
But business never took off.
"I lost too much money in the deal, " Geffon said.
That's when the call came from California.
The man known as Jorge Corrales wanted the plane, tail number N900SA.
Corrales, who could not be reached for comment, made six payments to Geffon totaling $1.047-million, court documents show.
A federal aviation inspector authorized one flight to a hangar so the plane could be repaired, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The destination: Caracas, Venezuela.
Federal aviation officials say it's cheaper to make plane repairs overseas. It also lined up with the story that an international soccer team would be using the plane.
On April 5, 2006, the DC-9 took off from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
The FAA, however, says it has no records about the flight, or which inspector authorized the departure.
Little is known about the DC-9's time in Caracas. What is known comes from Mexican authorities.
First, it was not repaired.
And at some point, maybe in Caracas or perhaps Columbia, the plane was loaded with 128 black suitcases marked private and packed with 5.5 tons of cocaine.
The plane headed north to Mexico on April 10, 2006. Soon thereafter, its engine started to fail.
A smaller jet, which accompanied the DC-9, flew ahead of the plane and landed at an airport in Ciudad del Carmen, 350 miles to the southwest of Cancun.
The men on the jet arranged for the DC-9 to make an emergency landing. They said the plane had a mechanical failure.
But when officials on the ground tried to board the DC-9, they were turned away. They were told there was an oil leak.
Eventually, the Mexican army seized the plane.
On board: suitcases full of cocaine, one of the larger seizures in the country's history.
Three of the four people on board the two planes were arrested. The DC-9's pilot escaped.
N900SA is poison these days.
Wolfson, the former owner, has 2.5-million shares of SkyWay stock to show for the sale.
Its value? $7, 500.
Kovar is in bankruptcy court. And Geffon, who would not say how much money he lost in the deal, spent weeks in news and internet reports linked to an international drug deal.
A conspiracy theorist who runs a popular Web site continues to link both Geffon and Kovar to the Mexico bust. The blogger calls the plane "Cocaine One" because of its presidential-looking paint job.
In Mexico, authorities fingered Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera as the man behind the drugs found on the DC-9.
Guzman's cartel smuggles multiton cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to the United States, according to the U.S. State Department.
Nicknamed "Shorty, " Guzman is one of Mexico's most wanted criminals. He remains on the loose.
And the DC-9?
Mike Horan, an attorney involved in the SkyWay bankruptcy case, heard the plane may be back in the United States, possibly in Miami.
Others say it's still in Mexico.
Or that it was seized by the U.S. government.
Geffon doesn't know. Neither does the FAA, which says the plane has not reappeared with a new tail number.
The plane could be in a scrap yard somewhere, said FAA spokesman Roland Herwig. It could have been sold for parts.
"It could be a restaurant for all we know, " he said.
Or, it could be flying again.
Aaron Sharockman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 892-2273.
The McDonnell Douglas DC-9 Series 15
- 3, 693-gallon fuel tank
- 104 feet long
- 89 feet wide
- Up to 90 seats; five in a row
- Maximum takeoff weight: 90, 700 pounds
Journalist Evan Wright discovers ties between drug cartels and CIA outsourcing of assassinations and intelligence to private contractors. When Wright interviewed a drug trafficker named Jon Roberts, he disclosed participation in a murder with a hitman who would later join the CIA and rise to the top level of the agency. Meyer Lansky’s stepson Richard Schwartz was killed on October 12, 1977, allegedly by the man who would eventually run the unit hunting for terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Ric Prado joined the CIA in 1982. By the time of the 9/11 attacks, he was the chief of counterterrorist operations with the rank of SIS-2. He would later leave the CIA to become a Vice-President at Blackwater from 2004 to 2008. The evidence against Ric Prado was so compelling that one investigator from the case described him as “technically, a serial killer.” Mike Fisten, a former Miami-Dade detective who served on the federal task force stated “The CIA fought us tooth and nail, and basically told us to go fuck ourselves.” Evan Wright interviewed more than a dozen law enforcement officials for this story. He was told “You can’t indict people like Prado. It doesn’t work that way.”
One law enforcement official emailed Wright: “Your target is bad news and dangerous. Be careful.”
Wright later contacted the official by phone regarding the email and was told “Forget this story. I dropped Prado’s name on a friend of mine from the CIA and he said, ‘Leave this one alone. You don’t want to fuck with this guy.’ ”
When the law enforcement official persisted and asked his contact at CIA what he thought, the reply was“You’re going to get whacked.” Prado is now COO at Total Intelligence Solutions, a private intelligence and security company.
The Terrifying Background of the Man Who Ran a CIA Assassination Unit
By Conor Friedersdorf (July27, 2012)
A federal investigation alleged Enrique Prado's involvement in seven murders, yet he was in charge when America outsourced covert killing to a private company.
It was one of the biggest secrets of the post-9/11 era: soon after the attacks, President Bush gave the CIA permission to create a top secret assassination unit to find and kill Al Qaeda operatives. The program was kept from Congress for seven years. And when Leon Panetta told legislators about it in 2009, he revealed that the CIA had hired the private security firm Blackwater to help run it. "The move was historic," says Evan Wright, the two-time National Magazine Award-winning journalist who wrote Generation Kill. "It seems to have marked the first time the U.S. government outsourced a covert assassination service to private enterprise." The quote is from his e-book How to Get Away With Murder in America, which goes on to note that "in the past, the CIA was subject to oversight, however tenuous, from the president and Congress," but that "President Bush's 2001 executive order severed this line by transferring to the CIA his unique authority to approve assassinations. By removing himself from the decision-making cycle, the president shielded himself -- and all elected authority -- from responsibility should a mission go wrong or be found illegal. When the CIA transferred the assassination unit to Blackwater, it continued the trend. CIA officers would no longer participate in the agency's most violent operations, or witness them. If it practiced any oversight at all, the CIA would rely on Blackwater's self-reporting about missions it conducted. Running operations through Blackwater gave the CIA the power to have people abducted, or killed, with no one in the government being exactly responsible." None of this is newinformation, though I imagine that many people reading this item are hearing about it for the first time. Isn't that bizarre? The bulk of Wright's e-book (full disclosure: I help edit the website of Byliner, publisher of the e-book) tells the story of Enrique Prado, a high-ranking CIA-officer-turned-Blackwater-employee who oversaw assassination units for both the CIA and the contractor. To whom was this awesome responsibility entrusted? According to Wright's investigation, a federal organized crime squad run out of the Miami-Dade Police Department produced an investigation allegedly tying Prado to seven murders carried out while he worked as a bodyguard for a narco crime boss. At the time, the CIA declared him unavailable for questioning; the investigation was shut down before he was arrested or tried. There's a lot more to the story -- Wright's e-book is almost 50 pages long -- but this bit is of particular note:
The reporting on Prado's activities at Blackwater produced no evidence that the firm's employees had ever killed anyone on behalf of the CIA. But I spoke to Blackwater employees who insisted that they had. Two Blackwater contractors told me that their firm began conducting assassinations in Afghanistan as early as 2008. They claimed to have participated in such operations -- one in a support role, the other as a "trigger puller." The contractors, to whom I spoke in 2009 and 2010, were both ex-Special Forces soldiers who were not particularly bothered by assassination work, although they did question the legality of Blackwater's involvement in it. According to the "trigger puller," he and a partner were selected for one such operation because they were Mexican Americans, whose darker skin enabled them to blend in as Afghan civilians. The first mission he described took place in 2008. He and his partner spent three weeks training outside Kabul, becoming accustomed to walking barefoot like Afghans while toting weapons underneath their jackets. Their mission centered on walking into a market and killing theoccupant of a pickup truck, whose identity a CIA case worker had provided to them. They succeeded in their mission, he told me, and moved on to another. This contractor's story didn't completely fit with other accounts about Prado's unit at Blackwater. The e-mail written by Prado and later obtained by the Times seemed to indicate that the unit wouldn't use Americans to carry out actual assassinations. Moreover, two CIA sources insisted that the contractors I spoke to were lying. As one put it, "These guys are security guards who want to look like Rambo." When I asked Ed O'Connell, a former Air Force colonel and RAND analyst with robust intelligence experience in Afghanistan, to evaluate these contractors' claims, he first told me they were almost certainly a "fantastical crock of shit." But a year later, in 2011, after a research trip in Afghanistan for his firm Alternative Strategies Institute, O'Connell had changed his assessment. He told me, "Your sources seem to have been correct. Private contractors are whacking people like crazy over in Afghanistan for the CIA."
So there you have it: A former Air Force lieutenant colonel, speaking on the record and using the present tense, said in 2011 that "private contractors are whacking people like crazy over in Afghanistan for the CIA." Says Wright:
While Blackwater's covert unit began as a Bush administration story, President Obama now owns it. In 2010, his administration intervened on behalf of the Blackwater executives indicted for weapons trafficking, filing motions to suppress evidence on the grounds that it could compromise national security. The administration then awarded Blackwater (which is now called Academi) a $250 million contract to perform unspecified services for the CIA. At the same time, Obama has publicly taken responsibility for some lethal operations -- the Navy SEALs' sniper attack on Somali pirates, the raid on bin Laden. His aides have also said that he reviews target lists for drone strikes. The president's actions give him the appearance of a man who wants the best of both worlds. He appears as a tough, resolute leader when he announces his role in killings that will likely be popular -- a pirate, a terrorist. But the apparatus for less accountable killings grinds on.
Needless to say, this ought to spark an investigation, but more than that, it should cause Americans to step back and reflect on how vulnerable we've made ourselves to bad actors in the post-9/11 era. We're giving C.I.A. agents and even private security contractors the sort of power no individual should wield. And apparently our screening apparatus turns out to be lacking.
The Daily Beast, Thursday, June 28, 2012, 1:57am (PDT)
By Evan Wright
In 2008, Jon Roberts, a convicted cocaine trafficker, made a startling claim to me: that more than three decades earlier he had participated in a murder with a man named Ricky Prado, who later entered the Central Intelligence Agency and became a top American spy. The murder to which Roberts referred was one of Miami's most infamous, that of Richard Schwartz, stepson of the legendary mobster Meyer Lansky. Schwartz was killed on the morning of October 12, 1977, behind a restaurant. He was exiting his car when a person unknown approached him and fired twice with a shotgun. The murder has never been solved.
Not long after Roberts told his tale, I found there was a CIA officer named Enrique "Ricky" Prado, who joined the agency in 1982 and eventually attained the rank of SIS-2, the equivalent of a two-star general. He served as a supervisor in the bin Laden unit, and by the time of the 9/11 attacks, he was a top official in the CIA's counterterrorist center. He later ran the "targeted assassination unit"—first at the agency and then at Blackwater, where he served as vice-president from 2004 to 2008. During much of his career in and out of the CIA, Prado worked closely with J. Cofer Black, now a top adviser to Mitt Romney.
It was impossible to believe that Roberts's allegations about Prado had merit until I found long- suppressed files from a 1991 federal RICO and murder investigation that targeted Prado for his alleged role as a criminal enforcer for San Pedro prior to joining the CIA. No charges were filed against Prado. A subpoena compelling him to testify before a federal grand jury was quashed. His rise in the CIA continued after the case disappeared. Officers who know him described him to me as a “good guy.”
But law enforcement officials from the 1991 investigation tell a different story. In interviews I conducted with more than a dozen, they offered a disturbing portrait of a case abandoned because of CIA intervention, political maneuvering, and corruption. Their evidence linked Prado not just to the Schwartz murder, but to several others. They also revealed Prado's continued association with San Pedro long after he joined the agency.
“It was a miscarriage of justice that Prado never faced charges,” says Mike Fisten, a former Miami- Dade detective who served on the federal task force. “The CIA fought us tooth and nail, and basically told us to go fuck ourselves.” Echoing other investigators, Fisten says that Prado beat the case because of his former boss Albert San Pedro's “power to corrupt the American justice system.”
Fisten adds, “Ricky and Albert are two sides of the same coin, gangster and CIA officer. Those two are always connected. You can't get one without the other.”
Ricky and Albert
Albert San Pedro, speaking unknowingly into an undercover cop's tape recorder, once shared the quality he valued most in men who worked for him: “The best man is the quiet man.” Prado is the consummate quiet man. He was born Enrique Alejandro Prado on May 3, 1950, in Santa Clara, Cuba. The Prados were on the losing side of the revolution in 1959, and soon afterwards they fled to Miami. Enrique Sr. opened a lawn-mower shop and later became a locksmith.
Ricky and Albert San Pedro met around 1966 at Miami Springs High School. They shared a passion for weight lifting. About this time, Albert also started his first business: For fifty dollars, he would kick anybody's ass. “If Albert couldn't take someone physically, he would use a baseball bat, a tire iron, whatever,” says "Teo," a friend of theirs. “He was like a mobster guy already. Ricky was always by his side. He was his lieutenant.”
While other kids rode the currents of free love sweeping the nation in the late 1960s, Albert and Ricky went in the opposite direction. They kept their hair short and pomaded it back in ducktails. They didn't smoke weed—though Albert would soon start selling it. Albert acquired a Chevy Chevelle SS muscle car. “When people saw that car coming,” says Teo, “they ran.”
After graduation, Ricky joined the military. A recruiter talked him into entering the Air Force special operations branch.
Albert still lived with his parents, but as profits from his nascent cocaine business rolled in, he reinvented his image from neighborhood bully to shot caller. Neighbors began referring to the twenty-four-year-old as the “Mayor of Hialeah.”
In 1973, Ricky was posted to Homestead Air Force base. In military terms, his special operations certification was like a Harvard MBA, but in the civilian job market, skills in knife fighting and improvised bomb making weren't much in demand. He gravitated back to Albert and began doing odd jobs for him—providing muscle, delivering packages. Albert found a way for Ricky and other toughs who worked for him to legally carry weapons: He founded the Transworld Detective Agency. The company's corporate filings listed Albert's house as its headquarters and Ricky as its “president of records.”
In 1980, Ricky began sending applications to federal agencies. He told his wife that the State Department had hired him. They moved to Seabrook, Maryland, and he put on a suit every morning, telling his wife he “worked in a lab doing medical work.” He was in fact a recruit in the CIA's paramilitary officer program, and would soon be on his way to fight the agency's covert war to arm the contras in Central America. Somehow, the agency either missed or ignored his long association with Albert, who by then had been identified by law enforcement as one of the ten biggest cocaine traffickers in South Florida.
On June 29, 1991, the RICO task force sent FBI Special Agent Fred Harden and Miami-Dade homicide sergeant Al Singleton to CIA headquarters to interview Prado. Prado was forty-one. His hairline was receding, but he was visibly muscle-bound even in a suit. He carried himself with almost exaggerated military precision.
When Harden asked Ricky about his relationship with Albert, he said they were “close friends” and admitted working for him as a bodyguard. He insisted he had no knowledge of Albert's cocaine trafficking and had never committed any violent acts for him. But when Singleton pitched him the idea of cooperating against Albert in exchange for immunity, Ricky's response floored the investigators. As noted in the federal report:
Prado advised that if he knew of any criminal activities on behalf of San Pedro, he would have to have protection. For example, if Prado witnessed San Pedro murder someone (and he is not implying that he did), Prado would definitely have to have protection for his family.
Believing they had secured his cooperation, Harden served Ricky with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury.
The task force prepared a thirty-four-page summary of twenty-nine acts with which to indict Ricky on RICO charges, but the U.S. Attorney's office soon backed down. The CIA also ceased cooperating. “People started telling me that we were pissing upstream,” says Fisten. “But my attitude was fuck the CIA. If they want to obstruct our RICO investigation, we had numerous murders to pursue against him.”
Most people connected with the investigation moved on, but Fisten remains committed to a simple, if quixotic, proposition: “Ricky and Albert are guilty of murder and need to go to prison for it.”
Evan Wright's new Byliner Original, How to Get Away with Murder in America is available for $2.99 as a Quick Read at a Kindle Single at Amazon, Apple's iBookstore, and a NOOK Snap at BN.com.http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/06/cia/
Top CIA Spy Accused of Being a Mafia Hitman
The cover for Evan Wright’s How to Get Away With Murder, available at Byliner. Illustration: Byliner
Enrique “Ricky” Prado’s resume reads like the ultimate CIA officer: veteran of the Central American wars, running the CIA’s operations in Korea, a top spy in America’s espionage programs against China, and deputy to counter-terrorist chief Cofer Black — and then a stint at Blackwater. But he’s also alleged to have started out a career as a hitman for a notorious Miami mobster, and kept working for the mob even after joining the CIA. Finally, he went on to serve as the head of the CIA’s secret assassination squad against Al-Qaida.
That’s according to journalist Evan Wright’s blockbuster story How to Get Away With Murder in America, distributed by Byliner. In it, Wright — who authored Generation Kill, the seminal story of the Iraq invasion — compiles lengthy, years-long investigations by state and federal police into a sector of Miami’s criminal underworld that ended nowhere, were sidelined by higher-ups, or cut short by light sentences. It tracks the history of Prado’s alleged Miami patron and notorious cocaine trafficker, Alberto San Pedro, and suspicions that Prado moved a secret death squad from the CIA to Blackwater.
“In protecting Prado, the CIA arguably allowed a new type of mole — an agent not of a foreign government but of American criminal interests — to penetrate command,” Wright writes.
In this sense, there are two stories that blur into each other: Prado the CIA officer, and Prado the alleged killer. The latter begins when Prado met his alleged future mob patron, Alberto San Pedro, as a high school student in Miami after their families had fled Cuba following the revolution. Prado would later join the Air Force, though he never saw service in Vietnam, and returned to Miami to work as a firefighter. But he kept moonlighting as a hitman for San Pedro, who had emerged into one of Miami’s most formidable cocaine traffickers, according to Wright.
San Pedro hosted parties for the city’s elite, lost a testicle in a drive-by shooting outside of his house, rebuilt his house into a fortress, tortured guard dogs for sport, and imported tens of millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine into the United States per year, Wright adds. His ties reportedly included an aide to former Florida Governor Bob Graham, numerous judges, lobbyists and a state prosecutor. His ties also included a friendship with former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, then a local TV reporter.
Prado, meanwhile, was dropping bodies, alleges Wright. Investigators from the Miami-Dade Police Department’s organized crime squad suspected him of participating in at least seven murders and one attempted murder. He attempted to join the CIA, but returned to Miami after not completing the background check (due to his apparent concern over his family ties). But was admitted after the Reagan administration opened up a covert offensive against leftist Central American militants, where he reportedly served training the Contras.
More startling, the Miami murders allegedly continued after Prado joined the CIA. One target included a cocaine distributor in Colorado who was killed by a car bomb. Investigators believed he was killed over concerns he would talk to the police.
Years later, in 1996, Prado was a senior manager inside the CIA’s Bin Laden Issue Station, before the Al-Qaida mastermind was a well-known name. Two years later, the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania elevated Prado to become the chief of operations inside the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, headed by then-chief Cofer Black, later an executive for the notorious merc firm Blackwater. “As the title implied, the job made Prado responsible for all the moving pieces at the CTC — supervising field offices on surveillance, rendition, or other missions, and making sure that logistics were in order, that personnel were in place,” according to Wright.
Prado was also reportedly put in charge of a “targeted assassination unit,” that was never put into operation. (The CIA shifted to drones.) But according to Wright, the CIA handed over its hit squad operation to Blackwater, now called Academi, as a way “to kill people with precision, without getting caught.” Prado is said to have negotiated the deal to transfer the unit, which Wright wrote “marked the first time the U.S. government outsourced a covert assassination service to private enterprise.” As to whether the unit was then put into operation, two Blackwater contractors tell Wright the unit began “whacking people like crazy” beginning in 2008. Prado also popped up two years ago in a report by Jeremy Scahill of The Nation, in which the now ex-CIA Prado was discovered to have built up a network of foreign shell companies to hide Blackwater operations, beginning in 2004. The Nation also revealed that Prado pitched an e-mail in 2007 to the DEA, explaining that Blackwater could “do everything from everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations,” carried out by foreign nationals, “so deniability is built in and should be a big plus.”
But it’s hard to say where Prado’s alleged criminal ties end. It’s possibly his ties dried up, or moved on. Even mobsters, like Alberto San Pedro, retire. Another theory has it that Prado wanted to break his ties to the Miami underworld — and San Pedro — all along, and sought out legitimate employment in the military, in firefighting and the CIA as an escape. But, the theory goes, he stayed in because he still owed a debt to his patrons.
The other question involves the CIA itself. It’s no secret the agency has associated with dubious types, but the agency is also “notoriously risk averse,” Wright writes. Yet the agency is also protective. And letting Prado on board wouldn’t be the agency’s first intelligence failure.
Robert Beckhusen is a writer based in Austin, Texas, where he covers Latin America for War Is Boring.
Read more by Robert Beckhusen
How to Get Away with Murder in America
In 2008, Jon Roberts, a convicted cocaine trafficker, made a startling claim to me: that more than three decades earlier he had participated in a murder with a man named Ricky Prado, who later entered the Central Intelligence Agency and became a top American spy. The murder to which Roberts referred was one of Miami’s most infamous, that of Richard Schwartz, stepson of the legendary mobster Meyer Lansky. Schwartz was killed on the morning of October 12, 1977, behind a restaurant near Miami Beach. He was exiting his car when a person unknown approached him and fired twice with a shotgun, at such close range that cotton wadding from the shells impregnated Schwartz’s flesh. The murder has never been solved.
Roberts claimed that Prado was the shooter, provided by a local Cuban drug kingpin named Alberto “Albert” San Pedro, for whom Prado worked as an enforcer and occasional hit man. Roberts confessed to planning the murder with two mafiosi, Gary Teriaca and Robert “Bobby” Erra. According to Roberts, the three of them waited near the scene of the shooting in his boat, in order to take Prado’s weapon and dispose of it in Biscayne Bay.
The politics of Roberts’s story made sense. Months earlier, Schwartz had fatally shot Teriaca’s younger brother in a dispute at the Forge restaurant, in Miami Beach. As Roberts explained it, the three of them participated in the murder to avenge the death of Teriaca’s brother. Prado entered the picture because his boss, San Pedro, was eager to prove his loyalty to the Mafia.
What made Roberts’s story unbelievable was his claim that four years after the shooting, Prado joined the CIA. In Miami, thugs often claim ties to the CIA. The agency recruited hundreds of Cuban immigrants for the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, and many of them later became drug traffickers. But Roberts’s story was different. He claimed Prado was a criminal first and then became a career CIA officer. This seemed doubtful until I discovered that there was a CIA officer named Enrique Prado (“Ricky” or “Ric” for short), whom federal agents had targeted in a 1991 RICO and murder investigation into his alleged career—before he entered the agency—as an enforcer for San Pedro.
The investigators had obtained evidence implicating Prado in the murder of Schwartz and several others, as well as in numerous acts of extortion and arson undertaken in support of San Pedro’s drug-trafficking enterprise. Prado was interviewed by federal investigators at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and served with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury.
But somehow the subpoena was quashed. No charges were ever filed against him. Within a few years, the CIA promoted Prado into the highest reaches of its Clandestine Services and made him a supervisor in the unit tasked with hunting Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s. At the time of the 9/11 attacks, he was the chief of counterterrorist operations. With the rank of SIS-2—the CIA equivalent of a two-star or major general—he was among a small circle of officers who helped implement the CIA-led invasion of Afghanistan and directed SEAL Team Six on missions there. Throughout his later years at the agency and then at Blackwater, the private military contracting firm where Prado held a senior position, he worked closely with J. Cofer Black, now a top adviser to Mitt Romney.
The story Roberts told, and the two halves of Prado’s life in the 1990s—murder suspect/stellar CIA officer—made no sense. When I initially searched for the case files of the investigation into Prado —conducted jointly by the FBI and the Miami-Dade Police Department—I discovered they’d disappeared from the MDPD’s records bureau. When I located them elsewhere through a tip from a federal investigator, they were far more extensive than I had expected. There were some three thousand pages, including interviews with eyewitnesses who placed Prado at numerous crimes. I eventually interviewed more than two dozen people involved with the investigation—cops, FBI agents, federal prosecutors, and witnesses—who provided a disturbing portrait of a case abandoned because of CIA intervention, political maneuvering, and possibly corruption. The evidence against Prado was so compelling that one investigator from the case described him as “technically, a serial killer.”
“It was a miscarriage of justice that Prado never faced charges,” says Mike Fisten, the lead homicide investigator on the case. “The CIA fought us tooth and nail, and basically told us to go fuck ourselves.”
Another investigator from the case, who is now a Florida law enforcement official, said, “You can’t indict people like Prado. It doesn’t work that way.”
Later he e-mailed me: “Your target is bad news and dangerous. Be careful.”
When I phoned him, he said, “Forget this story. I dropped Prado’s name on a friend of mine from the CIA and he said, ‘Leave this one alone. You don’t want to fuck with this guy.’ ”
“What do you think?” I asked him.
“You’re going to get whacked.”
No public official I’ve interviewed had ever made such a comment. Yet his warning is in keeping with the amazing story of Ricky Prado and his rise from the criminal underworld into the top echelons of the national-security establishment. It’s a story you’d expect to encounter in the twilight stages of a corrupt dictatorship, but this one takes place mostly in Miami. It centers on Prado’s long relationship with San Pedro, and on the cop who began pursuing them more than two decades ago and still hopes to put them in prison for murder. In protecting Prado, the CIA arguably allowed a new type of mole—an agent not of a foreign government but of American criminal interests—to penetrate its command.
Wash your Drug Money with banking protection - It's in the interests of National Security
Written by Administrator
Jun 17, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Antonio Maria Costa - Former Head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime"Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade and other illegal activities... There were signs that some banks were rescued that way." While Costa "declined to identify countries or banks that may have received any drugs money, he said the money is now a part of the official system and had been effectively laundered."
As the body count climbs across Mexico, the drugs continue flowing across the border by the ton.
Despite the evident disconnect--a "war" on drugs that increases the supply while lowering the price, in the best tradition of our reigning "free market" ideology--the American media regales the public with fairy tales of heroic "warriors" doing battle with murderous gangsters named "Joaquín," "Jorge" and "Amado."
The fact is, more likely than not, the real narcos taking the biggest cut from deep inside the reeking abattoir of the grisly trade have far less prosaic names like "Brett," "Ethan" or "Jason."
'The Only Liquid Investment Capital'
Earlier this month, The Observer reported that "The vast profits made from drug production and trafficking are overwhelmingly reaped in rich 'consuming' countries--principally across Europe and in the US--rather than war-torn 'producing' nations such as Colombia and Mexico, new research has revealed."
Journalist Ed Vulliamy informed us that the authors of that report provide compelling evidence that "financial regulators in the west are reluctant to go after western banks in pursuit of the massive amount of drug money being laundered through their systems."
Indeed, at the height of the global financial crisis Antonio Maria Costa, then the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime told The Observer "he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were 'the only liquid investment capital' available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result."
"In many instances," Costa said, "the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor."
"Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade and other illegal activities... There were signs that some banks were rescued that way." While Costa "declined to identify countries or banks that may have received any drugs money, he said the money is now a part of the official system and had been effectively laundered."
In other words, for dodgy bankers it was "accounts balanced" and an excuse to buy a new Armani suit or two, a case of 20-year-old single malt or that vacation home for the trophy wife, no questions asked.
In stark contrast to the impunity enjoyed by our capitalist overlords, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Treasury Department "slapped sanctions on two key operatives of the Sinaloa drug cartel" last Thursday.
The Journal informed us that "Kingpin Act sanctions were placed on Maria Alajandrina Salazar Hernandez and Jesus Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, the wife and son of Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán, the fugitive drug lord who heads the Sinaloa Cartel."
Also last week, the Associated Press reported that Sandra Ávila Beltrán, whom the media dubbed "La Reina del Pacífico" (The Queen of the Pacific), can be extradited to the United States "where she faces cocaine-related charges." Ávila was arrested in Mexico City in 2007 and awaits prosecution on money laundering charges.
A third-generation drug trafficker, Ávila is the niece of of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, onetime godfather of the Guadalajara Cartel now serving a 40-year prison term for the 1984 murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena. Camarena was kidnapped and tortured to death after he uncovered evidence linking the CIA and Oliver North's sordid "Enterprise" to drug trafficking Nicaraguan Contras during the Reagan administration.
And just this week, The Guardian reported that two relatives of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, "are awaiting extradition to the US over claims they had ties to the world's most wanted drug lord."
"Ana Maria Uribe Cifuentes and her mother, Dolly Cifuentes Villa, were arrested last year after a request from a US federal court for alleged ties to the head of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán."
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), "both women are alleged to belong to the Cifuentes Villa clan," which DEA claims "trafficked at least 30 tonnes of cocaine to the US between 2009 and 2011, and laundered the proceeds in several Latin American countries including Colombia."
Drug trafficking allegations have long swirled around the Uribe family. A 1991 Defense Intelligence Agency report published by The National Security Archive pointedly stated that during his tenure in the Colombian Senate, Uribe was a "close personal friend of Pablo Escobar" and was "dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín [drug] cartel at high government levels."
The document went on to assert that before becoming a key U.S. "partner in the drug war," and rewarded with some $3 billion under Plan Colombia to "fight drugs," Uribe "was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the United States" and "has worked for the Medellín cartel."
Although the U.S. government disavowed that report, for purely political reasons I might add, several members of Uribe's family, including the president's cousin, Mario Uribe Escobar, the former President of the Colombian Congress, was convicted and removed from office over his close ties to the far-right, drug trafficking paramilitary death squad, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC.
In announcing sanctions against the Guzmán clan, Adam Szubin, the director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement: "This action builds on Treasury's aggressive efforts, alongside its law enforcement partners, to target individuals who facilitate Chapo Guzmán's drug trafficking operations and to pursue the eventual dismantlement of his organization, which is culpable in untold violence."
While Chapo, Inc. earned honorable mention at No. 1153 on Forbes "World's Billionaires List," and may very well be responsible for the estimated 25% of illegal drugs trafficked into the United States as the DEA alleges, his place at No. 55 on Forbes list of "The World's Most Powerful People," sandwiched between PIMCO founder and "Bond King" Bill Gross and Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Director-General of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, speak volumes about the rather interesting juxtapositions (parapolitically speaking, that is!) between the worlds of finance, crime and covert operations.
Citing findings by two Colombian academics, Alejandro Gaviria and Daniel Mejía in their study, Anti-Drugs Policies In Colombia: Successes, Failures And Wrong Turns, Ed Vulliamy disclosed "that 2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced remains within the country, while a staggering 97.4% of profits are reaped by criminal syndicates, and laundered by banks, in first-world consuming countries."
Gaviria told The Observer, "Colombian society has suffered to almost no economic advantage from the drugs trade, while huge profits are made by criminal distribution networks in consuming countries, and recycled by banks which operate with nothing like the restrictions that Colombia's own banking system is subject to."
Co-author Daniel Mejía added: "The whole system operated by authorities in the consuming nations is based around going after the small guy, the weakest link in the chain, and never the big business or financial systems where the big money is."
Where, inquiring minds can't help but wonder, are Treasury's "aggressive efforts" when it comes to those simple, yet readily demonstrable facts?
But like drug cartels, banks and the "old boy" networks who run them have names. I'll give you a hint: they're not self-styled "Lords of the Heavens," though they just might think of themselves as proverbial "Masters of the Universe."
A case in point. Back in 2000 when Narco News publisher Al Giordano and Mario Menéndez, a reporter for the Mexican newspaper Por Esto! were sued in a New York court for libel by Banamex-Citigroup, Giordano wrote that "The true bosses of the illegal drug trade do not appear on the FBI 'Most Wanted' list."
No, Giordano averred, "The Chief Operating Officers of drug trafficking are not Mexicans, nor Colombians: they are US and European bankers, those who launder the illicit proceeds of drug trafficking. Institutions like Citibank of New York--as this report documents--are the true beneficiaries of the prohibition on drugs and its illegal profits."
While Chapo Guzmán's family are now targets of Treasury Department sanctions, what can we learn from recent reporting on Justice Department inaction when it came to prosecuting officers of America's fourth largest bank, Wachovia, bought by Wells Fargo & Co. in 2008 at the height of the capitalist financial meltdown?
Charlotte: The World's Narco Capital?
In landmark exposés of corporate greed, criminality and corruption, Bloomberg Markets Magazine and The Observer revealed in 2010 and 2011 respectively, that Wachovia was up to its eyeballs in laundering hot money for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels.
As I reported in 2010 on Wachovia's foray into money-laundering for Chapo Guzmán's Sinaloa Cartel (see: "All in the 'Family.' Global Drug Trade Fueled by Capitalist Elites," Antifascist Calling, July 20, 2010) then-CEO, G. Kennedy "Ken" Thompson, a former president of the Federal Reserve Board's Advisory Committee and Bush Ranger who raised some $200,000 for W's 2004 presidential campaign, was buying up competing banks faster than you can say "credit default swaps."
By the time Wells Fargo bought Wachovia at the fire-sale price of $12.8 billion, the bank and Thompson, who had "retired at the request of the board," were in deep trouble.
Prior to the takeover, Wachovia had embarked on a veritable shopping spree. After the firm's 2001 merger with First Union Bank, Wachovia merged with the Prudential Securities division of Prudential Financial, Inc., with Wachovia controlling the lion's share of that firm's $532.1 billion in assets. Following this coup, the bank then bought-out Metropolitan West Securities, adding a $50 billion portfolio of securities and loans to their Lending division. In 2004, Wachovia followed-up with the $14.3 billion acquisition of SouthTrust Corporation.
Apparently flush with cash and new market clout, Wachovia set it sights on acquiring California-based Golden West Financial. Golden West operated branches under the name World Savings Bank and was the nation's second largest savings and loan. At the time of the buy-out, Golden West had over $125 billion in assets. For Wachovia and Thompson, it was a deal too far.
A cash-crunch soon followed. Now exposed to risky loans, including toxic adjustable rate mortgages acquired as a result of the Golden West deal, which Thompson had described as Wachovia's "crown jewel," the firm's loan portfolios were hammered by heavy losses during the subprime mortgage meltdown.
While the bank had reported some $2.3 billion in earnings during the first quarter of 2007, by 2008 they were reporting heavy losses that topped $8.9 billion by the fourth quarter. It was panic time in Charlotte.
And where did some of that "liquid capital" come from which enabled Wachovia's reckless expansion?
"One customer that Wachovia took on in 2004 was Casa de Cambio Puebla SA," Bloomberg Markets reported. The Puebla, Mexico currency exchange was the brainchild of Pedro Alatorre Damy, a "businessman" who "had created front companies for cartels."
Alatorre, and 70 others connected to his network were arrested in 2007 by Mexican law enforcement officials. Authorities discovered that the accused money launderer and airline broker for the Sinaloa Cartel controlled 23 accounts at the Wachovia Bank branch in Miami and that it held some $11 million, subsequently frozen by U.S. regulators.
In 2008, a Miami federal grand jury indicted Alatorre, now awaiting trial in Mexico along with three other executives, charging them with drug trafficking and money laundering, accusing the company of using "shell firms to launder $720 million through U.S. banks." The Justice Department is currently seeking Alatorre's extradition from Mexico.
Despite the fact that Wachovia's Miami office had been designated by federal investigators a "high-intensity money laundering and related financial crime area," in a "high-intensity drug trafficking area," The Observer reported that even in the face of internal warnings from their own anti-money laundering investigators, Wachovia did nothing to stop the illicit flow of hot funds.
With America's housing bubble now fully-inflated, and warning signs that the speculative boom would soon go bust, one can only surmise that the need for liquidity at any price, had driven Wachovia to play dumb where shady, yet highly-profitable "arrangements" with Casa de Cambio Puebla SA were concerned.
Bleeding cash faster than you can say "mortgage backed securities," Wachovia was on the hook for their 2006 $26 billion buy-out of Golden West Financial at the peak of the bubble, a move that Bloomberg Businessweek reported generated "resistance from his own management team" but ignored by Thompson.
Why? "Because no one outside of Thompson and Golden West CEO Herb Sandler seemed to like the deal from the moment it was announced," a company insider told Businessweek.
(An alert reader pointed out when my piece appeared in 2010, that Herb Sandler, who sold Golden West at the top of the market saying he wanted to devote himself to "philanthropy," "now owns ProPublica, a Left gatekeeper that goes after easy targets like racist cops ... but which will not examine Sandler's wing of the power elite. Michael Barker wrote a great series on this outfit and its Establishment handlers called "Investigating the Investigators--A Critical Look at ProPublica.")
While the buy-out may have given Thompson "the beachhead in California he had long desired ... the ink was barely dry on the Golden West deal in late 2006 when the housing bubble in markets including California and Florida began to deflate."
Hammered by the housing bust, Wachovia's share price, which had risen to $70.51 per share when the Golden West deal was announced had slid to $5.71 per share by October 2008. In other words Wachovia, along with the rest of the world's economy was circling the proverbial drain.
In their Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the Justice Department, Wells Fargo agreed not to contest charges brought against Wachovia in the federal indictment.
Banking giant Wells was forced to admit: "On numerous occasions, monies were deposited into a CDC [Casa de Cambio] by a drug trafficking organization. Using false identities, the CDC then wired that money through its Wachovia correspondent bank accounts for the purchase of airplanes for drug trafficking organizations. On various dates between 2004 and 2007, at least four of those airplanes were seized by foreign law enforcement agencies cooperating with the United States and were found to contain large quantities of cocaine."
As Ed Vulliamy reported in The Observer, although investigators from DEA and the IRS uncovered evidence that Wachovia had laundered as much as $378.4 billion, "a sum equivalent to one-third of Mexico's gross national product--into dollar accounts from so-called casas de cambio (CDCs) in Mexico," and later paid federal authorities $110 million in forfeiture, including a $50 million fine "for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine," no criminal proceedings were ever brought against bank officers.
"The conclusion to the case," Vulliamy wrote, "was only the tip of an iceberg, demonstrating the role of the 'legal' banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars--the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world--around their global operations, now bailed out by the taxpayer."
While Chapo Guzmán and other leaders of Mexican drug trafficking organizations face federal charges that could land them in prison for the rest of their lives, contrast the kid gloves approach taken by the government when it comes to American narcos.
Despite serious federal money-laundering charges against Wachovia, "smartest guy in the room" Thompson was paid $15.6 million in total compensation by the board in 2007, fully a year after that fatal Golden West deal went south. Nor did subsequent losses, and an impending criminal indictment (against the bank, not its officers), stop Wachovia from showering Thompson with a severance package worth nearly $8 million.
Now that's juice!
Following extensive, years' long reporting in the trenches by MadCow Morning News investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker and Narco News' Bill Conroy into the origins of two aircraft seized in Mexico with some ten tons of cocaine on board, we learned that as many as 100 planes had been purchased with hot money laundered through Wachovia Bank.
And when "mainstream" journalists Michael Smith and Ed Vulliamy picked up the trail of breadcrumbs assiduously laid out by Hopsicker and Conroy (always without attribution, mind you), they did however, advance some previously unknown facts surrounding this sordid case.
"Just before sunset on April 10, 2006," Bloomberg's Michael Smith reported, "a DC-9 jet landed at the international airport in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, 500 miles east of Mexico City."
When Army troops grew suspicious after the crew tried to "shoo them away, saying there was a dangerous oil leak," they did what good law enforcement officials should do: they searched the plane.
On board, they found 128 identical black suitcases "packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100 million. The stash was supposed to have been delivered from Caracas to drug traffickers in Toluca, near Mexico City, Mexican prosecutors later found. Law enforcement officials also discovered something else."
"The smugglers," Smith wrote, "had bought the DC-9 with laundered funds they transferred through two of the biggest banks in the U.S.: Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America Corp."
But in breaking that story six years ago, (long before Bloomberg and The Observer joined the hunt), Hopsicker revealed that "One of the two owners of the DC-9 (tail number N900SA) busted at an airport in Ciudad del Carmen in the state of Campeche, Mexico last week freighted 5.5 tons of cocaine had been appointed in 2003 to the Business Advisory Council of the National Republican Congressional Committee by then-Congressional Majority Leader Tom Delay, The MadCow Morning News can exclusively report."
That plane, Hopsicker disclosed, was tricked-out by owner Brent Kovar to impersonate a jet flown by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. An official-looking seal read "Sky Way Aircraft, Protection of America's Skies," complete with the "image of a federal eagle clutching the familiar olive branch in its talons."
And when he searched FAA and corporate records, Hopsicker learned that "A close look at [shell company] Royal Sons reveals evidence indicating that the firm is part of a cluster of related air charter firms being used as dummy front companies to provide 'cover' for CIA flights."
"The companies involved," Hopsicker averred, "include Royal Sons, Express One International, Genesis Aviation and United Flite Inc."
"All four companies appear to be engaged in an interlocking and time-honored Agency scheme going back 50 years: using frequent cosmetic transfers of aircraft title to make positively identifying the ownership of any one plane at any given time as difficult as finding the pea under the shell in a game of three-card Monte."
Subsequent reporting by Hopsicker revealed that the second plane, a Gulfstream II business jet (N987SA) which crash landed on the Yucatán peninsula in 2007 with four tons of coke on board, was registered to a "Donna Blue Aircraft, Inc." (DBA, or "doing business as") and was previously employed as a "private charter" that did "terrorist" rendition flights for, who else, the CIA!
As Narco News journalist Bill Conroy revealed in 2008, "At the center of that controversy are allegations that the downed cocaine jet was part of a CIA-backed narco-trafficking operation."
According to Conroy, the "key to the ill-fated Gulfstream II cocaine shipment is a prolific Colombian narco-trafficker and U.S. government informant named Jose Nelson Urrego Cardenas--who was recently arrested by police in Panama. Urrego allegedly played a major role in organizing the cocaine shipment as part of [Immigration and Customs Enforcement's] Mayan Express operation."
"For those who might wonder why ICE would pursue an operation like the Mayan Express," Conroy wrote, "it pays to keep in mind that Charles E. Allen, under-secretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), also happens to be a veteran of the CIA and was a major player in the Iran/Contra scandal that played out during the Reagan administration."
"One facet of Iran/Contra, as you might recall, allegedly involved the use of CIA resources to run drugs in order to raise money to fund the purchase of arms for the Contra rebels who were seeking to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua."
"For ICE to be cleared to operate a high-profile overseas mission like the Mayan Express, which allegedly involved coordination with the CIA, it is very likely that Allen, DHS' chief intelligence guru, had to be clued into the operation--since ICE is part of DHS."
More recently, in keeping with the dirty history of the CIA's role in managing, not eliminating, the global drug trade, Narco News disclosed that the Agency had a "quid-pro-quo" arrangement with Chapo Guzmán's Sinaloa Corporation's "leadership and US government agencies seeking to obtain information on rival narco-trafficking organizations."
In fact, as Narco News revealed last April, the federal indictment against Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla claims "he served as the 'logistical coordinator' for the 'cartel,' helping to oversee an operation that imported into the U.S. 'multi-ton quantities of cocaine ... using various means, including but not limited to, Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, private aircraft ... buses, rail cars, tractor trailers, and automobiles'."
Indeed, one of the "private aircraft" used in Chapo Guzmán's drug importation schemes was none other than that ill-fated Gulfstream II (N987SA) which crash-landed in the Yucatán in 2007. Purchased with funds laundered through Wachovia Bank, the business jet was subsequently linked by Council of Europe investigators to CIA ghost flights.
Despite facts laid out in Zambada's federal indictment "the alleged deal," Conroy wrote, "assured protection for the Sinaloa Cartel's business operations while also undermining its competition--such as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization out of Juárez, Mexico, the murder capital of the world."
"The alleged deal," Conroy averred, "assured protection for the Sinaloa Cartel's business operations while also undermining its competition--such as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization out of Juárez, Mexico, the murder capital of the world."
"At the same time," Narco News reported, "the information provided by the Sinaloa Cartel to US agencies against its rivals assures a steady flow of drug busts and media victory headlines for US agencies and for the Mexican government."
Conroy pointed out, "That propaganda is necessary for hoodwinking their citizens into believing that progress is being made in the drug war and thereby assuring the continued funding of bloated drug-war budgets and support for failed policies that have cost the lives of some 50,000 Mexican citizens since late 2006 and ended any hope of a productive life for hundreds of thousands of US citizens--most wasting away in US prisons and not a small number the victims of street homicides linked to drug deals gone bad."
Call it business as usual in "God's country," that "shining city upon a hill."
Past as Prologue
If history is a guide to current practices, the CIA has long-relied on financing black Agency operations through dodgy banks and the bankers who run them.
Amongst the swindlers who have profited from cosy relations with the Agency, readers no doubt are reminded of Paul Helliwell's Castle Bank Bank & Trust; Michael Hand, Frank Nugan and Bernie Houghton's Nugan-Hand Bank; Agha Hasan Abedi's Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI); or more recently, as Antifascist Calling disclosed two years ago, convicted fraudster R. Allen Stanford's multibillion dollar Ponzi scheme disguised as a "full-service bank," Stanford International.
That all four banks collapsed in ignominy and scandal as investors were bilked out of billions of dollars in deposits amid charges that these financial black holes were little more than conduits for organized crime and intelligence operations, only underscores the inescapable fact that for secret state outfits like the CIA, crime pays.
Two years after the Wachovia scandal broke amid deafening media silence in the U.S., Daniel Mejía told The Observer: "Overall, there's great reluctance to go after the big money. They don't target those parts of the chain where there's a large value added. In Europe and America the money is dispersed--once it reaches the consuming country it goes into the system, in every city and state. They'd rather go after the petty economy, the small people and coca crops in Colombia, even though the economy is tiny."
"It's an extension of the way they operate at home," Mejía said. "Go after the lower classes, the weak link in the chain--the little guy, to show results. Again, transferring the cost of the drug war on to the poorest, but not the financial system and the big business that moves all this along."
Given the corrupt trajectory of the "War on Drugs," this should not surprise anyone. As Peter Dale Scott wrote in Deep Events and the CIA's Global Drug Connection: "The global drug connection is not just a lateral connection between CIA field operatives and their drug-trafficking contacts. It is more significantly a global financial complex of hot money uniting prominent business, financial and government as well as underworld figures."
According to Scott, this global criminal-elite nexus "maintains its own political influence by the systematic supply of illicit finances, favors and even sex to politicians around the world, including leaders of both parties in the United States. The result is a system that might be called indirect empire, one that, in its search for foreign markets and resources, is satisfied to subvert existing governance without imposing a progressive alternative."
Scott's analysis has certainly been borne out by honest law enforcement officials.
Martin Woods, a former senior detective with London's Metropolitan police anti-drugs squad joined Wachovia in 2005 as the bank's chief anti-money laundering investigator and paid a steep price for his diligence.
Hounded out of his position when he refused to stop filing suspicious activity reports to headquarters in Charlotte over dubious deposit practices by Wachovia branches in London and Miami, Woods told The Observer: "New York and London have become the world's two biggest laundries of criminal and drug money, and offshore tax havens. Not the Cayman Islands, not the Isle of Man or Jersey. The big laundering is right through the City of London and Wall Street."
"Meanwhile," Woods said, "the drug industry has two products: money and suffering. On one hand, you have massive profits and enrichment. On the other, you have massive suffering, misery and death. You cannot separate one from the other."
With hundreds of billions of dollars washing through the system each and every year, there aren't many incentives to collar the big boys. And you can take that to the bank...
Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, he is a Contributing Editor with Cyrano's Journal Today.
Off topic, but worth reading. deals with DEA corruption allowing drugs into the USA:
Airline Passengers At Risk from DEA Drug Sting Shipments
Smuggling Case at JFK Airport Reveals Pattern of Corruption, and Danger for Passengers
By Bill Conroy Chapter 13 of a Book Published by Narco NewsNotes by Ralph Mcgehee:https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/alt.politics.org.cia/vlpzzHE82D8[1-25]http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/CIA/Deadly_Deceits.htmlOff topic, but deals with media bias:Robert Parry describes what it was like to be a member of the Media Establishment in Washington DC working for Newsweek and AP. He describes his editor's reaction while at the dinner table with Dick Cheney and Brent Scowcroft during the Iran Contra hearings..... http://www.copi.com/articles/rparry_a.htmhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Parryhttp://www.consortiumnews.com/archive/crack.html
looks like more of the same with the new administration in Mexico....
PRI figure reported arrested with Mexican drug lord's cousin
August 10, 2012 | 2:26 pm
MEXICO CITY -- The Mexican press was having a field day Friday with reports from Spain that a cousin of one of the world's most powerful drug lords was arrested in Madrid along with a politician with the party of President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto.
The arrested politician, Rafael Celaya Valenzuela, was a mid-level figure in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the state of Sonora. Newspapers were quick to publish on their websites photographs that Celaya had posted on his Facebook page, showing him with Peña Nieto.
Peña Nieto's people were almost as quick to disavow any knowledge of Celaya's alleged criminal activities (link in Spanish). The candidate posed for "hundreds of thousands" of photographs during the campaign, the PRI said in a statement, and so the pictures with Celaya were meaningless.
Celaya had applied to become the PRI's Sonora candidate for the federal legislature in the July 1 vote, but the party rejected his bid, the statement added. Mexico's Reforma newspaper reported that the candidacy was rejected because Celaya had misspelled his name.
Celaya was arrested in Madrid along with a man identified by Spanish police as Jesus Gutierrez Guzman, cousin of Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, fugitive billionaire head of the vast Sinaloa cartel. Two other alleged members of the cartel were also captured.
The Spanish El Pais newspaper quoted authorities as saying the men were tasked with expanding the cartel's movement of cocaine into Europe through Spain (link in Spanish). The arrests came as part of an operation dubbed Dark Waters and conducted by the Spanish police and the American FBI, El Pais said.
Mexico memorial to drug war victims inspires debate
Alleged Mexico cartel figure 'Reina del Pacifico' sent to U.S.
Most-wanted Mexico drug trafficker is found everywhere
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Photos released by Spanish police Friday show four men arrested in Madrid, including the cousin of one of the world's most powerful drug lords and a politician with Mexico's soon-to-be-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. Credit: Spanish Police
Pics of new Mexican President with Sinaloa cartel lieutenant
Posted on August 10, 2012 by Daniel Hopsicker
He hasn’t even taken office yet, but Mexico’s new President Enrique Peña Nieto has already got some ‘splainin’ to do.
Mexico City newspapers today reported the discovery of pictures of the not-yet-inaugarated new President in which he appears chummy with a man arrested yesterday in Madrid and charged with importing 337 kilos of cocaine into Spain from South America.....
Spain Drug Bust Links Chapo Guzman, Mexico’s new President
Posted on August 12, 2012 by Daniel Hopsicker
Arrest of 4 Mexican Generals linked to downed CIA drug plane
Posted on August 9, 2012 by Daniel Hopsicker
The investigation and recent arrest of four prominent Generals in the Mexican Army on charges of protecting cocaine flights for Mexican drug cartels began with a series of seismic shifts in the drug trade that were set in motion more than five years ago by two American-registered planes from St Petersburg Florida —a DC9 airliner (N900SA) and a Gulfstream business jet(N987SA)—caught carrying almost 10 tens of cocaine on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
Fighting International Crime, Corruption and Drug Trafficking. In 1992 John Kerry chaired the landmark hearings that uncovered the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) scandal - the largest banking corruption scandal in modern times. He later led hearings which provided evidence that Haitian military officials were involved in drug trafficking to the United States. He also led hearings on corruption and drug trafficking by Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and introduced legislation requiring the Reagan administration to cut off foreign aid to Panama because of drug-related corruption within its government.
Uncovering Government Corruption. Shortly after coming to the Senate in 1985, John Kerry went on a fact-finding mission to Nicaragua and presented his findings to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Based in part on John Kerry's groundbreaking findings, the committee reached a consensus decision to investigate the Contra guerillas and their connection to drug trafficking in the United States. The resulting investigation uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal, a scheme that diverted profits from illegal arms sales to Iran to support the Contra guerilla fighters in Nicaragua.
First Posted: 06/21/09 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 02:25 PM ET
House Minority Leader John Boehner pushed on Thursday for a bipartisan panel of lawmakers to investigate the veracity of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim that the CIA lied to her about whether it was waterboarding detainees.
"Her allegation that the CIA lied to her and that they misled Congress ... is a very serious charge," said Boehner (R-Ohio). "The Speaker has had a full week to produce evidence to back up her allegations, and I'm frankly disappointed that she has not done so."
The Central Intelligence Agency would never lie to Congress about breaking the law, would it?
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) knows a little something about that. During the late 1980s, he led a two-and-a-half year investigation into the CIA, the Nicaraguan Contras and cocaine trafficking, and the senator was on the receiving end of CIA deception.
So, would the CIA ever lie?
"In the case of one person who was tried and convicted, they lied. He overtly lied and was prosecuted for it by the government of the United States," said Kerry just off the Senate floor. "He was the director of operations for the region."
The CIA's inspector general later opened a second investigation looking into the matter and also determined that the agency was aware of the Contra involvement in drug trafficking, did nothing to stop it and in fact interceded with the Drug Enforcement Administration to block investigations -- and then misled Congress about it.
Besides drug trafficking, the Contras were also funded by proceeds from illegal arms sales to Iran. The CIA lied to Congress about that too, numerous investigations found.
Alan Fiers Jr., head of the CIA's Central American Task Force, pleaded guilty to withholding information about the Contras from Congress. Duane "Dewey" Clarridge, chief of CIA Contra support operations, was indicted for lying to Congress but was pardoned before trial.
On December 24, 1992, just before leaving office, President Bush also pardoned Fiers, Caspar Weinberger, Clair George, Elliott Abrams and Robert McFarlane for their various roles in the scandal.
The Kerry report cites a 1986 meeting about Contra cocaine activity as one example of the CIA lying to Congress. The CIA cited classified documents to back up its false claim.
"On May 6, 1986, a bipartisan group of Committee staff met with representatives of the Justice Department, FBI, DEA, CIA and State Department to discuss the allegations that Senator Kerry had received information of Neutrality Act violations, gun running and drug trafficking in association with Contra organizations based on the Southern Front in Costa Rica," reads the report.
"At the same meeting, representatives of the CIA categorically denied that the Neutrality Act violations raised by the Committee staff had in fact taken place, citing classified documents which the CIA did not make available to the Committee. In fact, at the time, the FBI had already assembled substantial information confirming the Neutrality Act violations, including admissions by some of the persons involved indicating that crimes had taken place."
Kerry wanted to be clear that he wasn't indicting the entire CIA. "I have a lot of respect for the CIA and the people who work there," he stressed.
But the senior CIA officials who lied to Congress can't simply be viewed as a few bad apples. Rather, said Kerry, they're an example of what he dubbed "client-itis" - the tendency of government officials to confuse their immediate boss to be the person they work for.
"Maybe he thought he was acting in the best interests of the president," said Kerry of the convicted CIA official. "It was two decades ago, but it goes to the issue of client-itis. Do you work for a party or a president? Or do you work for the country?"
Rick Ross, CIA Linked Cocaine Dealer, Will Be Released
In the noise and confusion attending the extradition to the US on the same day last week of three women involved in cocaine trafficking from South America, questions raised by the family connection of one to the former President of Colombia went unanswered.
Did Alvaro Uribe okay the loading of 3.6 tons of cocaine at an airport he controlled in Rio Negro Colombia onto a “former” CIA Gulfstream (N987SA) jet from St. Petersburg Florida that crashed in the Yucatan in 2007?
Why did two successive U.S. Administrations lavish billions of dollars to stop drug trafficking on a President of Colombia who was himself involved in the drug trade?
While any further emphasis of the ties to the drug business of a global elite of the parasitic rich seems unnecessary at this late date, all three of the extradicted women belong to the families of legendary drug-trafficking dynasties.
Receiving the lion’s share of last week’s media attention was femme fatale Sandra Avila Beltran, known as the Queen of the Pacific, whose seductive persona has fascinated Mexico for much of the past decade.
Avila, who faces charges of money laundering and drug trafficking, belongs to the Beltran-Leyva family, which has been involved in drug trafficking for three generations.
She is the niece of the man known as the original "Godfather" of Mexico’s drug business, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, currently in prison in Mexico.
Avila's "claim to fame" is that she, and her significant other, Colombian Juan Diego Espinoza Ramirez, alias El Tigre, established ties between the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia’s dominant Cartel del Valle.
“She used her physical attributes to do business and gain allies,” says noted journalist Ricardo Ravelo. "Her character is violent and manipulative; she has a very active social life, loves parties, jewels and pleasures.''
By contrast, Dolly Cifuentes-Villa and her daughter Ana Maria Uribe Cifuentes flew in under the radar, almost unnoticed.
Yet, shockingly, both belong to the family of the former President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, and were actively involved in drug trafficking while Uribe was at the same time being paid $8 billion by the U.S.’s Plan Colombia to pursue a war against that country’s cocaine traffickers.
She is charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute narcotics between 2003 through 2009, as well as laundering drug money through shell companies and real estate in Colombia, Panama, and Mexico.
She was either married or the long-time mistress—accounts differ—of Jaime Uribe, Alvaro Uribe’s brother. Their daughter, Ana Maria, also a part of the family business, is Alvaro Uribe's niece.
Like Sandra Avila, Dolly Cifuentes' dynastic ties to drug trafficking go far beyond her marriage to the brother of former President Alvaro Uribe.
She is the sister of a clan of drug trafficking Cifuentes Villa brothers, led, until his 2007 assassination, by Francisco Cifuentes, known as “Don Pancho,” who cut the historic deal with Sandra Avila's assistance, to distribute Columbian cocaine into the U.S. through Mexico with Sinaloa Cartel honcho El Chapo Guzman.
That deal, cut shortly after Guzman’s “escape” from prison while Vicente Fox was president of Mexico, has led to Mexico’s current horrific drug war, as rival Mexican cartels scramble for their share of Colombia’s business.
If having close family members involved in drug trafficking was the first taint of corruption to besmirch the reputation of Alvaro Uribe, it might be possible to explain it by saying he is not responsible for the actions of others in his family.
If this were just the second time that charges of involvement in drug trafficking have been leveled against him, there might still be an innocent explanation, however implausible, that could be used.
But this is at least the the fourth time credible allegations of involvement in drug trafficking have been leveled against Uribe.
A declassified report made public in 1991 by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), directly linked then-senator Alvaro Uribe to Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel (as well as naming Saudi financier Adnan Khashoggi as a trafficker).
The report referred to Uribe as “a Colombian politician dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high levels,” claiming Uribe was “a close personal friend” of Escobar’s.
Then in 2007 another US intelligence report was leaked to the LA Times by a CIA official described as “unhappy that Uribe's government had not been held to account by the Bush administration.”
According to this report, Uribe tasked his defense minister, General Mario Montoya, with leading a controversial counterinsurgency push in the city of Medellin in 2002 which relied heavily on the support of a right-wing paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), which was itself involved in drug trafficking.
While Uribe’s rival cocaine barons in Colombia were being hunted, their coca sprayed, and their flights regularly interdicted, officials in both the US and Colombia turned a blind eye to Uribe-backed traffickers who the U.S. now says sent 500 tons of cocaine to the U.S.
According to a 2004 U.S. Government Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) indictment, the Norte del Valle cartel exported more than 1.2 million pounds – more than 500 tons – of cocaine worth in excess of $10 billion from Colombia to Mexico and ultimately to the United States for resale.
But the organization, according to a senior official of the National Police of Colombia who spoke to a Colombian journalist, was not pursued between August 2002 and August 2010, during Uribe’s two terms in office.
In the past three years, say Colombian police, the Cifuentes Villa brothers’ Norte del Valle cartel, with operations in five countries, has sent 30 tons of cocaine into the United States.
Dolly Cifuentes’s story, which US officials will no doubt dissuade her from telling, makes clear that the $8 billion in Plan Colombia money was criminally wasted.
It presents a potentially major embarrassment to the US Government, threatening the very premise behind America’s War on Drugs while raising the specter that the U.S. is engaged in selective prosecution, favoring some drug traffickers while prosecuting others.
The War on Drugs, whose $40 billion a year price tag is footed by US taxpayers, benefits just a small group of insiders who are able to command the official complicity of their governments in their drug trafficking endeavors.
This would all be a huge scandal, if we had a free press.
Madrid ran Cancun & the state of Quintano Roo from 1993-99 for the Juarez Cartel, with money laundered through Lehman Bros. Who's running the state–and the money laundering–today??
A former Mexican state governor pleaded guilty in a federal court in Manhattan on Thursday to conspiring to launder millions of dollars in narcotics bribe payments that he received from the Juárez drug gang, a prosecutor said.
The former official, Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid, 64, the governor of Quintana Roo from 1993 to 1999, was extradited to the United States in 2010 after serving a six-year sentence in Mexico for money laundering.
The money transfers were administered by a Lehman Brothers investment representative who pleaded guilty to money laundering in 2005. Judge Victor Marrero of United States District Court accepted Mr. Villanueva’s plea and set an October sentencing date.
"I kept waiting for [the government] to contact me," an attorney for Richmor, William F. Ryan, told the Post's Finn and Tate. "I kept thinking, isn't someone going to come up here and talk to me?" But no one ever did.
And while the CIA hasn't sought to stymie the suit, the spy agency's fingerprints are pretty hard to miss in the paper trail. Among the hundreds of pages of documents filed at the courthouse during the litigation process are "logs of air-to-ground phone calls made from the plane ... [showing] multiple calls to CIA headquarters, to the cell and home phones of a senior CIA official involved in the rendition program, and to a government contractor, DynCorp ... that worked for the CIA," the Post's report continues.
For several years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration put the distribution side of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel under a microscope. This series describes the detailed picture that emerged of how the cartel moves drugs into Southern California and across the United States. Times staff writer Richard Marosi reviewed hundreds of pages of records, including DEA investigative reports, probable-cause affidavits, and transcripts of court testimony and phone surveillance. Read the full Times series. »
Credits: Richard Marosi, Maloy Moore, Ben Welsh
August 20, 2012
A high-ranking Sinaloa narco-trafficking organization member’s claim that US officials have struck a deal with the leadership of the Mexican “cartel” appears to be corroborated in large part by the statements of a Mexican diplomat in email correspondence made public recently by the nonprofit media group WikiLeaks.
The Mexican diplomat’s assessment of the US and Mexican strategy in the war on drugs, as revealed by the email trail, paints a picture of a “simulated war” in which the Mexican and US governments are willing to show favor to a dominant narco-trafficking organization in order to minimize the violence and business disruption in the major drug plazas, or markets.
A similar quid-pro-quo arrangement is precisely what indicted narco-trafficker Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, who is slated to stand trial in Chicago this fall, alleges was agreed to by the US government and the leaders of the Sinaloa “Cartel” — the dominate narco-trafficking organization in Mexico. The US government, however, denies that any such arrangement exists.
Mexican soldiers arrested Zambada Niebla in late March 2009 after he met with DEA agents in a posh Mexico City hotel, a meeting arranged by a US government informant who also is a close confident of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia (Zambada Niebla’s father) and Chapo Guzman — both top leaders of the Sinaloa drug organization. The US informant, Mexican attorney Humberto Loya Castro, by the US government’s own admission in court pleadings in the Zambada Niebla criminal case, served as an intermediary between the Sinaloa Cartel leadership and US government agencies seeking to obtain information on rival narco-trafficking organizations.
According to Zambada Niebla, he and the rest of the Sinaloa leadership, through the US informant Loya Castro, negotiated an immunity deal with the US government in which they were guaranteed protection from prosecution in exchange for providing US law enforcers and intelligence agencies with information that could be used to compromise rival Mexican cartels and their operations.
“The United States government considered the arrangements with the Sinaloa Cartel an acceptable price to pay, because the principal objective was the destruction and dismantling of rival cartels by using the assistance of the Sinaloa Cartel — without regard for the fact that tons of illicit drugs continued to be smuggled into Chicago and other parts of the United States and consumption continued virtually unabated,” Zambada Niebla’s attorneys argue in pleadings in his case.
The emails, obtained and made public by WikiLeaks, involve correspondence between a Mexican diplomat codenamed MX1 and an Austin, Texas-based intelligence firm called Stratfor— which describes itself as a privately owned, “subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis.” Stratfor has been billed in some media reports as a “shadow CIA.”
In a Stratfor email dated April 19, 2010, MX1 lays out the Mexican government’s negotiating, or “signaling,” strategy with respect to the major narco-trafficking organizations as follows:
The Mexican strategy is not to negotiate directly.In any event, “negotiations” would take place as follows:Assuming a non-disputed plaza [— a major drug market, such as Ciudad Juarez]:• [If] they [a big narco-trafficking group] bring [in] some drugs, transport some drugs, [and] they are discrete, they don’t bother anyone, [then] no one gets hurt;• [And the] government turns the other way.• [If] they [the narco-traffickers] kill someone or do something violent, [then the] government responds by taking down [the] drug network or making arrests.(Now, assuming a disputed plaza• [A narco-trafficking] group comes [into a plaza], [then the] government waits to see how dominant cartel responds.• If [the] dominant cartel fights them [the new narco-trafficking group], [then the] government takes them down.• If [the] dominant cartel is allied [with the new group], no problem.• If [a new] group comes in and start[s] committing violence, they get taken down: first by the government letting the dominant cartel do their thing, then [by] punishing both cartels.
In any event, “negotiations” would take place as follows:
Assuming a non-disputed plaza [— a major drug market, such as Ciudad Juarez]:
• [If] they [a big narco-trafficking group] bring [in] some drugs, transport some drugs, [and] they are discrete, they don’t bother anyone, [then] no one gets hurt;
• [And the] government turns the other way.
• [If] they [the narco-traffickers] kill someone or do something violent, [then the] government responds by taking down [the] drug network or making arrests.
(Now, assuming a disputed plaza
• [A narco-trafficking] group comes [into a plaza], [then the] government waits to see how dominant cartel responds.
• If [the] dominant cartel fights them [the new narco-trafficking group], [then the] government takes them down.
• If [the] dominant cartel is allied [with the new group], no problem.
• If [a new] group comes in and start[s] committing violence, they get taken down: first by the government letting the dominant cartel do their thing, then [by] punishing both cartels.
MX1 then goes on to describe what he interprets as the US strategy in negotiating with the major narco-trafficking players in Ciudad Juarez — a major Mexican narco-trafficking “plaza” located across the border from El Paso, Texas:
… This is how “negotiations” take place with cartels, through signals. There are no meetings, etc….So, the MX [Mexican] strategy is not to negotiate. However, I think the US [recently] sent a signal that could be construed as follows:“To the VCF [the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes] and Sinaloa cartels: Thank you for providing our market with drugs over the years. We are now concerned about your perpetration of violence, and would like to see you stop that. In this regard, please know that Sinaloa is bigger and better than [the] VCF. Also note that CDJ [Juarez] is very important to us, as is the whole border. In this light, please talk amongst yourselves and lets all get back to business. Again, we recognize that Sinaloa is bigger and better, so either VCF gets in line or we will mess you up.”I don’t know what the US strategy is, but I can tell you that if the message was understood by Sinaloa and VCF as I described above, the Mexican government would not be opposed at all.In sum, I have a gut feeling that the US agencies tried to send a signal telling the cartels to negotiate themselves. They unilaterally declared a winner [the Sinaloa Cartel], and this is unprecedented, and deserves analysis. If there was no strategy behind this, and it was simply a leaked report, then I will be interested to see how it plays out in the coming months.
So, the MX [Mexican] strategy is not to negotiate. However, I think the US [recently] sent a signal that could be construed as follows:
“To the VCF [the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes] and Sinaloa cartels: Thank you for providing our market with drugs over the years. We are now concerned about your perpetration of violence, and would like to see you stop that. In this regard, please know that Sinaloa is bigger and better than [the] VCF. Also note that CDJ [Juarez] is very important to us, as is the whole border. In this light, please talk amongst yourselves and lets all get back to business. Again, we recognize that Sinaloa is bigger and better, so either VCF gets in line or we will mess you up.”
I don’t know what the US strategy is, but I can tell you that if the message was understood by Sinaloa and VCF as I described above, the Mexican government would not be opposed at all.
In sum, I have a gut feeling that the US agencies tried to send a signal telling the cartels to negotiate themselves. They unilaterally declared a winner [the Sinaloa Cartel], and this is unprecedented, and deserves analysis. If there was no strategy behind this, and it was simply a leaked report, then I will be interested to see how it plays out in the coming months.
In a separate Stratfor email dated April 15, 2010, MX1’s views on the US strategy with respect to the drug organizations in Juarez, essentially favoring the Sinaloa “Cartel,” is referenced yet again:
We believe that when the US made an announcement that was corroborated by several federal spokespersons simultaneously (that Sinaloa controlled CDJ [Juarez]), it was a message that the DEAwanted to send to Sinaloa. The message was that the US recognized Sinaloa’s dominance in the area [Juarez], although it was not absolute. It was meant to be read by the cartels as a sort of ultimatum: negotiate and put your house in order once and for all.One dissenting analyst thinks that the message is the opposite, telling Sinaloa to take what it had and to leave what remains of VCF. Regardless, the reports are saying that the US message to the cartels was to negotiate and stop the violence. It says that the US has never before pronounced that a cartel controls a particular plaza, so it is an unusual event.
One dissenting analyst thinks that the message is the opposite, telling Sinaloa to take what it had and to leave what remains of VCF. Regardless, the reports are saying that the US message to the cartels was to negotiate and stop the violence. It says that the US has never before pronounced that a cartel controls a particular plaza, so it is an unusual event.
And in yet a third Stratfor email, dated June 3, 2010, the Mexican diplomat MX1 confirms that a deal was cut between drug organizations in Tijuana, Mexico, just south of San Diego, Calif., with the direct intervention of US and Mexican law enforcers. MX1 then, once again, revisits the alleged quid-pro-quo strategy he believes the US government is seeking to advance in Juarez.
From the June 3, 2010, email:
There have been more developments. I found out that there is a group of US and Mexican LE [law enforcement] that discretely attempted, and succeeded, in brokering a deal in Tijuana. If you notice, Tijuana violence has nearly ceased. There are only minor skirmishes that do not appear to be tied to any major cartel.It was this same group of guys that presented their “signaling strategy” and attempted it for CDJ [Juarez].It is not so much a message for the Mexican government as it is for the Sinaloa cartel and VCF [the Juarez Cartel] themselves. Basically, the message they want to send out is that Sinaloa is winning and that the violence is unacceptable. They want the CARTELS to negotiate with EACH OTHER. The idea is that if they can do this, violence will drop and the governments will allow controlled drug trades. [Emphasis added.]Unfortunately, CDJ [Juarez] is not ripe for this kind of activity, as the major routes and methods for bulk shipping into the US have already been negotiated with US authorities. In this sense, the message that Sinaloa was winning was, in my view, intended to tell SEDENA [the Mexican military] to stop taking down large trucks full of dope as they made their way to the US. These large shipments were Sinaloa’s, and they are OK with the Americans. The argument is that most of the violence [in Juarez] remains related to the local market, and that SEDENA should focus on smaller gangs and fringe groups that try to cross smaller quantities….
It was this same group of guys that presented their “signaling strategy” and attempted it for CDJ [Juarez].
It is not so much a message for the Mexican government as it is for the Sinaloa cartel and VCF [the Juarez Cartel] themselves. Basically, the message they want to send out is that Sinaloa is winning and that the violence is unacceptable. They want the CARTELS to negotiate with EACH OTHER. The idea is that if they can do this, violence will drop and the governments will allow controlled drug trades. [Emphasis added.]
Unfortunately, CDJ [Juarez] is not ripe for this kind of activity, as the major routes and methods for bulk shipping into the US have already been negotiated with US authorities. In this sense, the message that Sinaloa was winning was, in my view, intended to tell SEDENA [the Mexican military] to stop taking down large trucks full of dope as they made their way to the US. These large shipments were Sinaloa’s, and they are OK with the Americans. The argument is that most of the violence [in Juarez] remains related to the local market, and that SEDENA should focus on smaller gangs and fringe groups that try to cross smaller quantities….
The description of MX1 in the Stratfor emails matches the publicly available information on Fernando de la Mora Salcedo, a Mexican foreign service officer who studied law at the University of New Mexico, served in the Mexican Consulate in El Paso, Texas, and is currently stationed as a consul in the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix. In one Stratfor email, with the subject line “Fwd: Another question for MX1,” a query from Stratfor analysts is directed to MX1, and his real name is revealed as Fernando de la Mora.
The emails between the MX1 and Stratfor obtained by WikiLeaks were drafted between 2008 and 2011. He is described in one of them, as revealed in a prior Narco News report, as “being molded to be the Mexican ‘tip of the spear’ in the US.”
Narco News has contacted the offices of de la Mora and Stratfor for comment on the email correspondence. To date, they have not responded.
Beyond the deal brokering strategy he outlines in the Stratfor emails, MX1, in a Stratfor email dated April 4, 2010, also makes clear that, at the highest levels of the Mexican government, there is a recognition that the door is wide open to direct US involvement in Mexico’s drug war.
From that email:
Finally, the important observation: We are effectively at the start of a paradigm shift regarding sovereignty and how we see cooperation with the US. When the General in charge of all military education said that Mexico could not do this alone and that US military and LE [law enforcement] assistance was needed, no one shot him down. He was told by the [Mexican] Minister of Defense to say what he did. Everyone in the high levels of government is starting to recognize that more US involvement is necessary. In the mid-levels, it sounds more like a crazed cry for help.
MX1 is not the only “source” providing intelligence to Stratfor’s analysts, according to the email correspondence obtained by WikiLeaks.
Other US and Mexican officials providing information to the private intelligence firm, according to the Stratfor email trail, include MX31 (A CISEN bureau chief; CISEN is Mexico’s equivalent to the CIA); MX301, a former Mexican cop; MX702, a senior Mexican intelligence officer; US706, a US journalist; US711, a US law enforcement agent with border liaison responsibilities; and US714, a US law enforcement officer with direct oversight of border investigations.
Unlike MX1, whose real identity is revealed in the Stratfor emails, information on the other sources’ identities was not available — at least not at this point in Narco News’ investigation.
However, Stratfor emails involving US714 did provide direct corroboration of MX1’s claim that the path has been cleared for direct US involvement in the drug war in Mexico.
In a Stratfor email dated Oct. 28, 2011, with the subject line, “Nuevo Laredo Firefight is Mex Op with US Help-US714,” the following is attributed to the US law enforcement officer overseeing border investigations:
Mx [Mexico] planned [the] ops [operation] with U.S. help.[The firefight was a] MX PLANNED ops with “some US DOD [Department of Defense] assets [personnel and equipment].”
[The firefight was a] MX PLANNED ops with “some US DOD [Department of Defense] assets [personnel and equipment].”
In another Stratfor email dated June 15, 2011, titled “Re: Insight-Mexico-US Special Forces in Mexico-US714,” the US law enforcement supervisor is identified as the source for the following information (which Narco News has confirmed previously via other sources]:
U.S. special operations forces are currently in Mexico. Small-scale joint ops [operations] with Mexico’s [special forces], but they are there.
The Mexican diplomat MX1 also confirmed the same information, according to a separate Stratfor email:
Information about US military involvement in Mexico is provided only as a need to know basis. The Americans have been adamant about this, and we agree even more. Therefore, I can confirm that there is Marine presence, but I don’t know if it is MFR [Marine Force Recon]. [Emphasis added.] …Furthermore, operational coordination and indeed joint exercises have been conducted, and there are more in the planning stages. We do indeed have US military presence in Mexico as part of the MI [Merida Initiative] coordination office (even though they are sometimes under official cover as DOS [Department of State], etc….) There are advisors and intelligence operatives that work on the tactical level with their Mexican counterparts….
…Furthermore, operational coordination and indeed joint exercises have been conducted, and there are more in the planning stages. We do indeed have US military presence in Mexico as part of the MI [Merida Initiative] coordination office (even though they are sometimes under official cover as DOS [Department of State], etc….) There are advisors and intelligence operatives that work on the tactical level with their Mexican counterparts….
Another remarkable claim also is attributed to Stratfor source US714 in an email dated April 1, 2011:
Regarding ICE [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement] screwing up informants: They [ICE] were handling big hit men from Juarez and letting them kill in the U.S.
Though Stratfor source US714’s revelation may seem too dark to be true, Narco News has already documented, via the multi-year House of Death investigative series, that ICE, with the approval of US prosecutors, allowed one of its informants to participate in multiple murders inside Mexico in order to make a drug case.
Narco News was provided access to the Stratfor emails through an investigative partnership organized by WikiLeaks that includes journalists, academics and human rights organizations.
Click here for more Narco News coverage of Mexicorelated article on STRATFOR
July 6, 2011 Filed under Americas, Featured
By Mario Andrade DeadlineLive.info July 6, 2011
Last Sunday, one of the original seven members of Los Zetas, Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar, aka El Mamito, was captured in Mexico. Rejón Aguilar was also known as Zeta 7. He helped the then Gulf Drug Cartel leader Osiel Cardenas recruit the original Mexican special forces soldiers trained at Fort Benning, Georgia to become the most dangerous criminal organization in Mexico.
In an edited interview with Mexican Federal Police (in Spanish and now posted at YouTube), Rejón Aguilar reveals some interesting information about the origins of Los Zetas, where they get their weapons, and where they buy their drug shipments.
Rejón Aguilar probably knows he’s going to be murdered in prison, so he appears to be speaking the truth, perhaps in order to reach a deal with Mexican authorities so they can provide him witness protection.
Los Zetas are the biggest obstacle for the Mexican narco-state. They are their biggest and most dangerous competitors. In the interview Rejón Aguilar reveals that Los Zetas do not trust the Colombians, so they purchase the drug shipments (mostly cocaine) from the Guatemalans. They know the Colombians are infiltrated by CIA and DEA, so they wait to buy the cocaine using the Guatemalans as decoys to avoid being traced.
Another interesting revelation made by Rejón Aguilar is that Los Zetas have operatives in the U.S. who have purchased (at least in the past) firearms and other weapons from different suppliers including from the ‘U.S. Government itself.’
Last March, the Mexican military raided a Zeta camp at Falcon Lake, where they seized several anti-aircraft shoulder missiles and other weapons.
The following is the (edited) interview transcript translated to English:
Interrogator: What is your name?
Rejón Aguilar: Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar, aka El Mamito o El Caballero.
Interrogator: What is your date of birth, where are you from and how old are you?
Rejón Aguilar: June 9th, 1976. I’m 35 years old, and I’m from Sabancuy, Campeche.
Interrogator: What do you do for a living?
Rejón Aguilar: Drug trafficking.
Interrogator: For which organization?
Rejón Aguilar: Los Zetas.
Interrogator: How did you join this organization, and when?
Rejón Aguilar: After I deserted from the army, in 1999, I went to Reynosa and I met (Arturo Guzman) Decena, aka. Zeta 1.
Interrogator: Who created Los Zetas?
Rejón Aguilar: It was Osiel (Cardenas), through Zeta 1.
Interrogator: When they were originally created, how many members were there?
Rejón Aguilar: At first we were seven. Then they brought seven more and added to the original fourteen members.
Interrogator: Were you one of the founders?
Rejón Aguilar: Yes.
Interrogator: Which (rank) number were you?
Rejón Aguilar: Zeta 7.
Interrogator: What happened after Osiel was captured?
Rejón Aguilar: When Osiel was captured, what happened later was that Jorge Costilla Sanchez took control of the organization.
Interrogator: What happened when Los Zetas separated from the Gulf Drug cartel?
Rejón Aguilar: They (the Gulf Cartel) began to do business with La Familia Michoacana, El Mayo Zambada (member of the Sinaloa Cartel, who’s son, Vicente Zambada is a DEA operative, according to court documents from his trial in Chicago), with el Chapo Guzman (leader of the Sinaloa Cartel), and people from Jalisco. They created their alliance, and when we broke away, they were already organized and began to kill our people. That’s when the organization was split in two: Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.
Interrogator: And this is when the separation began between Gulf and Zetas?
Rejón Aguilar: That’s when the separation began.
Interrogator: Are you basically at war with everyone?
Rejón Aguilar: They, the Gulf, created an alliance, and we’re at war with El Mayo, El Chapo, La Familia Michoana, and Jalisco. We’re at war with all of them.
Interrogator: And you know La Familia is from Michoacan, El Chango Mendez (leader of La Familia who was discovered to be distributing weapons purchased from the U.S. BATF) went to Aguascalientes to dialog with Los Zetas, was he asking you for protection?
Rejón Aguilar: He was trying to reach out to us.
Rejón Aguilar: To dialog because they killed all his people and he wanted our support.
Interrogator: Would that have been possible?
Rejón Aguilar: In my opinion, who ever betrays you once, can betray you again, so it wouldn’t have been a good idea. But I don’t know what the commanders would think about that.
Interrogator: And La Tuta (member of La Familia and founder of the Knights Templar)? Is there a relation between him and Los Zetas?
Rejón Aguilar: No. His organization is with the Gulf, so he’s our enemy.
Interrogator: That relationship between La Tuta, La Familia Michoacana and the Knights Templar with the Gulf makes them your enemies?
Rejón Aguilar: Yes, because they’re killing our people and we’re trying to stop them.
Interrogator: With respect to the relationship between Arturo Beltran (former partner of DEA Operative Edgar ‘Barbie’ Valdez who was betrayed and killed by the military) and La Familia, then Beltran falls, then el Chayo falls, later el Chango, what do you think happened in Michoacan?
Rejón Aguilar: Michoacan collapsed because in essence, they didn’t keep their word. There was never a deal reached with them. In fact, when Arturo went down, there was a cease-fire, but they (La Familia) broke it, and they went to war against Arturo and sought refuge with el Valencia.
Interrogator: So after that, everyone started to break away and work for themselves?
Rejón Aguilar: Yes. That’s when the war started. By that time, we were already working for ourselves.
Interrogator: How did you all begin to work independently?
Rejón Aguilar: Since we no longer had ties with anybody, we began to bring the material (the drugs) ourselves.
Interrogator: How do you obtain the drugs? Which Colombian cartel do you work with?
Rejón Aguilar: I do not know. That’s handled by different personnel. But it has always been brought through Guatemala because the Colombians are not trustworthy.
Interrogator: They bring it from somewhere else?
Rejón Aguilar: From Guatemala. It can be bought from Colombia, Panama, or Guatemala. We buy it from Guatemala.
Interrogator: And where do you get your weapons?
Rejón Aguilar: From the United States. All weapons come from the U.S.
Interrogator: How are they brought here?
Rejón Aguilar: Crossing the river. We used to bring them through the bridge, but it’s become harder to do that.
Interrogator: Who purchases the weapons?
Rejón Aguilar: They are bought in the U.S. The buyers (on the U.S. side of the border) have said in the past that sometimes they would acquire them from the U.S. Government itself.
Interrogator: And nowadays, who distribute them to you?
Rejón Aguilar: It’s more difficult for us to acquire weapons nowadays, but we find ways. But it’s easier for the Gulf Cartel to bring them across the border.
Rejón Aguilar: We don’t know why, but they bring them (accross the bridge) in the trunk of their cars without being checked (by Mexican Customs). One can only think that they must have reached a deal with the (Mexican) government.
Interrogator: How often are they smuggled?
Rejón Aguilar: Today it’s more difficult so it’s more sporadic, like every month, every 20 days, or every month and a half. It’s done when ever there’s an opportunity.
Interrogator: And the drugs?
Rejón Aguilar: The drugs are handled by a group of accountants. They handle that in private. It’s compartmentalized. Only they know how and when it’s smuggled to the United States. I suppose, with the way that things are right now, they probably smuggle the drug shipments every two or three months.
Interrogator: How are the drug shipments smuggled to the U.S.?
Rejón Aguilar: They bring it to the U.S. through Laredo, but that’s done by a compartmentalized group handled by the accountants. They are responsible for all that.
Interrogator: Let’s talk about San Luis Potosi, do you remember the attack on the U.S. ICE agents?
Rejón Aguilar: Yes. They (Los Zetas) were travelling in a caravan of bullet-proof vehicles. They mistook them for other people and cut them off.
Interrogator: What’s happening in Tamaulipas?
Rejón Aguilar: In Tamaulipas, there’s a war because of the separation of the cartels. But we’re on hold because there is too much government (troops) presence.
Interrogator: Tell me about the armored (monster) vehicles. How were they made? How many of these vehicles were under your command?
Rejón Aguilar: Three… five at one time.
Interrogator: And out of these five vehicles, what type were they?
Rejón Aguilar: They were armored trucks typically known as monsters.
Interrogator: Were you ever prepared for being captured?
Rejón Aguilar: One always knows that sooner or later, we will be captured.
Interrogator: Is there someone you would like to ask for forgiveness?
Rejón Aguilar: Like how?
Interrogator: Yes. Like for your actions, or for disappointing somebody, like your children or your family?
Rejón Aguilar: Yes. To my mother, because since all of this happened, I haven’t seen her for 17 years.
Interrogator: And knowing that you haven’t seen your mother and she’s still alive, how do you feel?
Rejón Aguilar: Well, it’s hard. It’s cruel but oh well…
(This information is an update to the Powderburns book)
-The person identified as “Willie Brasher” in the book Powderburns was later identified as Walter Lee Grasheim. Grasheim's true identity was unknown to castillo until he filed suit against the government years later. Grasheim was known to carry the credentials of CIA, DEA and FBI in addition to Salvadoran military. He openly flashed the identification to DEA employees in Panama and demanded to know if his (Contra arms network) pilots were in the database. The DEA employees in Panama ran Brasher/Grasheim's name through the computer instead and tossed him out of the office when he was found in 7 files as a drug trafficker. DEA employees warned Castillo “This guy is nuts, be careful, stay away from him”. The embassy, CIA, and US military all denied knowing or authorizing Brasher/Grasheim’s presence in the country. However, when his house was raided, drugs and weapons (stacked floor to ceiling) were found. Also found were ledgers indicating payoffs to the Salvadoran military and politicians. Grasheim’s vehicles had embassy plates on them and when Castillo turned on the radios, they all had embassy and US military frequencies programmed in. An M16 rifle registered to the USMILGROUP advisor James Steele was also confiscated in the raid. The US customs agent assigned by Castillo to trace the origin of the arms was transferred and the case squashed. Brasher/Grasheim later called Castillo to threaten him and DEMANDED the return of his weapons.http://www.romingerlegal.com/tenthcircuit/10th_circuit/99-6259.htm
-The CIA officer identified in the book as Randy Kapasar was a misspelling. The name is spelled “Capister”. When 60 minutes and West 57th television show reporters sought to interview him so that the story could be presented on television, he could not be located.
- DEA agents were sent to El Salvador to look into and investigate Castillo’s Contra drug allegations and instead admonished him for his spelling errors and asked him to use the word “alleged” when describing the Contra-drug program. Castillo responded by saying “Why do I have to use the word alleged when I am seeing this with my own eyes?”. One DEA official in Panama who originally tipped Castillo to the Contra drug operation was a man named Robert J Nieves. Nieves at first provided valuable intelligence to Castillo, but at some point became corrupted and helped North cover up the smuggling. In 1995 Journalist Gary Webb went to the San Diego DEA offices seeking information about Freeway Ricky Ross’ case for his newspaper series “Dark Alliance”. Craig Chretian was the cover up person selected by the USG to meet with Webb. Chretian denied all aspects of government involvement in the trafficking. When Webb successfully verified aspects of the story through other sources and spoke with Castillo (He found that Chretian was sent to El Salvador to squash Castillo’s reports years earlier) he returned to San Diego DEA headquarters to find Chretian gone—reassigned to Washington. He had been chosen to replace Nieves who retired within days of Webb's first visit. He later turned up in the employ of Oliver North’s firm, Guardian Technologies.
-In 2000, PBS Frontline did a series on the Contra drug allegations:
Rather than interview Castillo, the producer of the show chose to interview Nieves, who obliviously lies through the entire interview. When attempts were made to contact the writer Craig Delaval to ask why he interviewed the USG cover-up man instead of Castillo, he never bothered to reply.
(Craig Delaval is a freelance writer and filmmaker and was a production assistant for "Drug Wars." This article was edited by Lowell Bergman, series reporter for "Drug Wars.")
Interesting note: -When Mr. Castillo testifies as an expert witness for the defense, the prosecution ALWAYS declines to cross examine, which is hilarious. The reason being that they don’t want his sworn testimony about his background appearing under oath in transcript form. He would start off by stating that he caught U.S. intelligence and Ollie North running the dope trade during the 1980's and beyond. -He states that it is easy to find misconduct of some sort in nearly all cases. Often, this is enough to get the case dropped. -Known as the "Castillo Special Collection", original copies of Castillo's files and photos have been donated to San Diego State University's library for display. -Castillo's true history of Latin American politics is part of a class reader required for Education Majors(All future teachers) at SDSU - -One of the professors stated that in order to complete his teaching credential, a former member of the Reagan presidential administration had taken his course, which included Castillo's experiences in the drug war. The professor was apprehensive that the former official would complain about the material. Much to his surprise, he approached the professor after class and stated: "That's the way it really happened!." -If you purchase a copy of Castillo's videotape "Powderburns" you can see his former supervisor, now a college professor, attack the camera when journalists from the television show "West 57th" attempt to interview him. You can also see the former ambassador to Guatemala deny Castillo's allegations and call the G-2 (Guatemala's torturous secret police) "gentlemen"! (The video also contains excerpts from 60 minutes, where journalists find government memos backing much of Castillo's claims) Also included is a copy of an Iran-Contra documentary by the Australian Broadcast Channel (ABC). Ollie North's former partner General Singlaub turns on Ollie with some harsh words when he finds out what he has been up to. General Dick Secord makes an appearance and states flatly to the camera that the $10 million dollars frozen in off shore bank accounts since the Iran Contra Scandal are his and should be released "so that they can be disbursed as I see fit." Secord goes on to state on camera that "Iran-Contra was a CIA operation. That was the worst kept secret in Washington DC." Oliver North is featured, stating in front of congress that he did lie about Iran-Contra, next the tape cuts to his campaign speech in Virginia (during his senate campoaign), where he tells supporters "I never lied to congress". The tape later cuts to the chairman of the committee who went after North. He is shocked when shown the copy of North saying he “never lied to congress”. Great video.
August 19, 2012 in TOR Radio
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:27:09 — 84.0MB)
On this edition of Traces of Reality Radio, we spend the entire hour (plus) with decorated Vietnam War Veteran, former DEA agent, Iran-Contra whistleblower and patriot, Celerino “Cele” Castillo III. From a small bordertown in South Texas, to the urban landscape of New York City, to the jungles of South America, Cele Castillo saw it all in his 12 years in the DEA – perhaps too much. Witnessing first-hand the actions of criminals within our own government (CIA, DEA, ATF), propping up dictators in South America, supplying weapons and cash to drug cartels and trafficking narcotics north into the United States, Cele Castillo would not remain silent – becoming an instant target for our federal government.
Author of the book Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras and the Drug War, Cele’s made several appearances on major national radio and television programs and was featured in the 2007 Kevin Booth/Sacred Cow Productions documentary, American Drug War: The Last White Hope, airing on Showtime. Having just been released from federal prison on trumped up gun charges, Cele is back to retell his tale. “They think that by incarcerating me, they’d silenced me – but what they’ve done is created a monster.”
For those not familiar with Cele Castillo and his story – strap in! To those that have – pay close attention to this interview as Cele reveals new information about the current state of the drug war and the operations of modern-day cartels, along with BREAKING NEWS on his case and Operation Fast and Furious. This is one everyone needs to listen to and share with as much of the public as possible – remember… “It’s our move.”
Cele Castillo’s Website
Bill Conroy’s Narcosphere
High-Ranking Mexican Drug Cartel Member Makes Explosive Allegation: ‘Fast and Furious’ Is Not What You Think It Is
High Ranking Cartel Member Says Operation Fast And Furious Was Meant To Supply Guns To The Sinaloa Cartel
HSBC ‘allowed drug cartels to launder money’
August 18, 2012 in Blog
Last week’s article, the second half of “Lies, Damned Lies and Politics,” briefly mentioned a former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent whose unsung but extraordinary career underscores so much of the issues that Traces of Reality has examined in the past few weeks. His name is Celerino “Cele” Castillo, III. Castillo is author of a fascinating and engrossing 1994 book titled Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras & The Drug War, which documents his eye-opening experiences in and out of uniform.
Cele Castillo’s biographical writing follows him throughout his roles as a soldier in Vietnam, onwards to a stint with the police department of Edinburg, Texas, and culminating with his 12-year vocation within the DEA. Powderburns paints a self-portrait of a patriot, and the book’s title adequately encapsulates the blowback that is produced from each bullet fired in the War On Drugs (especially surrounding the cocaine trade). His life, his work, and his acumen need to be heard and understood by as many people as possible if America is ever to reassess its priorities with respect to the battle between liberty and tyranny. As a born-and-raised resident of the South Texas area, Castillo’s story is of particular importance to TOR’s immediate audience.
Born in Pharr, Texas, Celerino “Cele” Castillo, III was raised in an environment familiar to many of those in the bordertowns along the Rio Grande. The small town lifestyle, cultural roots, and close-knit family ties reflected upon in the beginning of Powderburns will remind any Laredoan of growing up in bilingual surroundings, proudly overcoming hardships that lower-middle income Texans face, and witnessing the drug trade’s influence in the region. Cele Castillo is a third-generation Latino from a patriotic family whose men took up arms to serve when they were called. Cele’s own father, Celerino Castillo, Jr. was a decorated veteran from World War II, and “Cele 3″ also answered the call when his draft notice arrived in the mail in 1970.
Cele persevered through Infantry Training and touched ground in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam in August of the following year. Trekking through the jungles of Vietnam in the early ’70s was a rough way to transition into manhood, compounded by the horror of war that so many veterans from that theater endured. As an Army Sergeant, Cele distinguished himself but found that he was fighting two distinct enemies on the battlefield: Viet Cong and drugs. The first death he saw in Vietnam wasn’t from an enemy attack, but rather from a heroin overdose.
Watching so many of his fellow troops sink into drug-induced stupors was discouraging and infuriating, and Cele found it difficult to “understand why these men preferred numbness to reality.” Certainly, however, making sense of the reality strewn about, carnage and all, was something that these young men struggled with day and night. In a few months, Cele’s sniper skills were redirected to special operations in Cambodia. By April of 1972, then-President Richard Nixon had begun drawing down troops in southeast Asia, and Cele was on his way back home, four months prior to his tour’s completion.
Back in Texas, Castillo enrolled into Pan American University, part of the University of Texas system, in Edinburg. There, Cele attended criminology courses with the intent to pursue a career in law enforcement. However, settling back into normal life at home proved challenging to a soldier worn and weary from the blood, bullets and bombs of Vietnam. Shortly after diving into academics, Cele began working with the Edinburg Police Department as a dispatcher, soon obtaining a position on the Force a mere six months later. By 1975, Cele was promoted to the Criminal Investigations Division as a detective sergeant, focusing mostly on crimes typical in a small city: burglary, traffic violations, and illicit drug activity. Then, Cele had met the woman who would later become his wife, Noelia Rodriguez. Things seemed to be falling into place wonderfully.
By New Year’s Eve on 1979, Castillo had been accepted for a position with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Now, Cele could utilize his skills to combat the other enemy he became acquainted with in Vietnam. Cele uprooted himself from McAllen and made a cross-counry move to the DEA’s New York City Division Office. With his background, personal and professional, Cele was enlisted as a member of the DEA’s “Group 6,” a drug interdiction squad that prided itself with being able to justify their budgets by arresting drug users and drug pushers in large volumes.
Then-President Ronald Reagan’s “War On Drugs” was in full-force, and drug busts multiplied year over year. This reminded Cele of America’s earlier Prohibition against alcohol, but “wreaking havoc in the narcotics world” provided him with the opportunity to fulfill his goal of cleaning up the streets. After several high-profile drug busts, Cele was well on his way to making a name for himself and ascending the ranks of the DEA.
Castillo’s work soon took him to yet another corner of the globe: South America. This time, his wife and his newborn daughter joined him in Lima, Peru, where Cele could “attack the source.” His operations as a part of the DEA’s Peru office would have him going deep undercover to eliminate the kingpins of South America’s “cocaine crescent.” With limited backup, Cele was able to acquire a small handful of trustworthy informants and execute some of the largest drug raids in his career. A joint raid conducted by the DEA, CIA, and Guardia Civil, Peru’s national guard, codenamed “Operation Condor,” was so immense that the publicity surrounding the bust surely blew his cover.
Taking no chances, Castillo was transferred from South America to Central America. Cele’s new theater of operations was Guatemala, where suspected corruption among the DEA and other federal agencies was eventually confirmed. Working covertly among some of the most depraved elements of the drug cartel networks yields its share of corruption and skulduggery, to be sure. In Guatemala, however, Cele began to witness first-hand the criminality that had possessed the upper echelons of the bureaucracy within each of the federal alphabet-soup agencies. Castillo’s diplomatic attache to Guatemala was the first individual to candidly admit the truth about the Contra resupply operation being run by Lt. Col. Oliver North of the National Security Council (NSC).
From there, the rabbit hole Cele stumbled into was an abyss. Events which had been inklings were now taking shape into illustrations. Informants continued to pass along intelligence, documentation was collected and corroborated, and dots were connected which implicated the highest levels of government within the United States and Guatemala. As Cele’s investigation proceeded, he assembled a list that “read like a flowchart of the Guatemalan power structure.” Add to this the paperwork he was provided detailing specific hangars at Ilopango island operated by the NSC and CIA from where planes loaded with cocaine or cash were departing. It also revealed the dates, times, flight numbers, tail numbers, destinations, and names and passport numbers for all pilots and copilots. This became the evidence Cele sought to extinguish this cocaine conspiracy.
In what soon erupted into the Iran-Contra scandal, allegations were made implicating top brass within the U.S. Air Force, NSC, CIA, FBI, DEA, White House Executive Office staff, and a slew of “advisors” and “consultants” in flagrantly violating their oaths of office, the Constitution, Boland Amendment, Arms Export Control Act, and common decency. The United States had pressured Iran into purchasing arms at double the cost, and the CIA had been using the cash to support the Nicaraguan Contra insurgency. In exchange, this rogue network under North’s direction received tons upon tons of cocaine, which was channeled back into the United States. Cash was skimmed from the top (and bottom) at each juncture in this web.
Of course, Reagan denied any knowledge, shielding himself with “plausible deniability.” Despite the mounting evidence confirming Cele’s findings, cables sent and reports filed with DEA superiors (and on up) were ignored entirely. The only replies provided ordered Castillo to cease his investigation and drop the subject. “It’s a White House operation,” he was told. When George H. W. Bush assumed the presidency following Reagan, all co-conspirators who hadn’t appealed were promptly pardoned. The fix was in, no doubt.
Essentially, Oliver North and the power-elite network operating at each level of this reprehensible ordeal became just another gang of drug kingpins that Cele had fought against during much of his adult life. This time, however, the government counterattacked; Castillo was reprimanded, demoted, disgraced, and finally diagnosed (with PTSD). His compiled evidence and his well-decorated service were rejected. Instead, Cele was put through the ringer by the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and the DEA’s Board of Professional Conduct. OPR pursued Castillo several times, with trumped up charges at every turn. Cele Castillo was one of too few officers inside the whole mess that sought to blow the whistle on the rogue elements within his own government, and he was punished as a result. Meanwhile, Oliver North and Co. not only escaped making the perp walk, but in numerous instances received promotions or heroic recognition.
Castillo’s perilous career has offered him the knowledge and understanding necessary to remain within the purview of nearly every powderkeg political issue affecting the borderland along the Rio Grande and thensome. His story, as elucidated in Powderburns, presents an extremely persuasive argument for proceedings against the (alleged, ahem) criminal enterprise involved in the Iran-Contra affair, too numerous to name here. In addition, Castillo’s experience within the DEA sheds light on the series of failures of the War on Drugs as told by a committed drug-warrior operating from the inside.
Every single lesson that America (read: the American government) should have learned from the Iran-Contra episode has been disturbingly repeated and amplified during the Obama adminsitration’s “Operation Fast and Furious” scandal. The Department of Justice (DOJ), headed by Attorney General Eric Holder, has been green-lighting so-called “gun-walking” operations conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Ostensibly to track these illegal weapons to the drug cartel sources, the Operation has instead just been stimulating the explosion of violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. History repeats as key officials within the federal government have exceeded their authority, and some familiar faces from Reagan’s days have returned.
Once again, the President waves a magic wand to exonerate the guilty liars posturing in expensive, empty suits which surround him. Seek and absorb the information that reality makes available in order to innoculate oneself from the onslaught of Official nonsense, now expected and commonplace among the political elite.
The Forward for Powderburns written by Retired DEA agent Mike Levine..... expertwitnessradio.org FOREWORD
By Michael Levine
Now that you've read this far I advise you to cancel any appointments you may have scheduled during the next several hours. You are not going to be able to put this book down. It will mesmerize you, enrage you and change your attitude toward the people in government whom we have entrusted with our safety and security. Most importantly it will give you information that has been kept from you; information you have a right to, because you have paid for it with your taxes, and, as many like me have done, with the blood and misery of your loved ones and friends. There are several important facts that you must keep in mind as you read. First, that the crimes and atrocities described so vividly in these in these pages, were committed by U.S. government officials using taxpayer dollars, or people under their protection, and that, for the most part, the victims of these crimes are the very people who paid those taxes: the American people. Second, that this first-hand account was written by Celerino "Cele" Castillo, a highly decorated veteran of two wars - Vietnam and the War on Drugs; a man who has often risked his life to fulfill his oath to protect the American people and uphold their laws, and that Celerino Castillo is a consummate professional investigator who documents every one of his claims - - often using electronic recording devices - - so that they serve as evidence in any court in the world. Third, that everything you are about to read was first turned over to the upper management of DEA (The Drug Enforcement Administration), the FBI and the State Department for these agencies to take appropriate action to stop
The Oliver North/Contra operations drug smuggling activities and that no action or investigation was ever undertaken. Fourth, that Cele Castillo persisted in pushing for an investigation spite of a warning from a U. S. Ambassador to back off the investigation because it was a White House Operation, and inspite of being place under a malicious Internal Affairs investigation--DEAs classic method of silencing its outspoken agents - - that would help destroy his marriage and career and almost cost him his life. Finally, that Cele turned over all his evidence to Special Prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh’s office - - then investigation Oliver North and the Contras - - and when it was clear that no investigative action would ever be taken pursuant to that evidence, and, in fact m that the Special Prosecutors final report failed to even mention the drug allegation, did Cele write this book. When I wrote Deep Cover and The Big White Lie detailing my own deep cover experiences in South America, people were astounded by the revelations. They found it impossible to believe that their own government could tax them hundreds of billions of dollars to fight drugs and at the same time support and protect the biggest drug dealers in the world as they poisoned our children. It was the most despicable kind of treason. I, like many millions of Americans, was affected personally; my son Keith Richard Levine, a 27 year old New York City police officer, was murdered by crack addicts when, while off - duty, he tried to stop and armed robbery they were committing to support their addiction; my brother David, a life-long drug addict, ended his misery at 34 years of age by suicide. Our nation, thanks in large part to these criminals now has a homicide rate exceeding 25,000 per year, much of it drug related, and, according to some economists, our economy is impacted by this drug plague by as much a trillion dollars a year. Is it conceivable that so many members of our legislative, judicial and law enforcement branches of government betrayed us? No it’s not conceivable, but all those who read this book will find it undeniable. In my books articles and media appearances I told of deep cover cases from Bangkok to Buenos Aires, that were destroyed by the covert agencies of my own government; cases that would have exposed people; who had been given a license to sell massive amounts of drugs to Americans in return for their support of Oliver North’s contras. I could easily prove that these investigations were
intentionally destroyed and that our cover was blown by our own government, but I only had circumstantial evidence linking the events to the Contras. Celerino Castillo, as you will see in these pages, had the smoking gun. At that time, had Cele come forward with his story, I believe the public’s reaction to our joint testimony would have forced our elected officials into taking the action against North and others, that they were so desperately afraid of taking. But at that time, Cele was just fighting for his family, his career and his life. Wherever I went, people asked, “If this is true, why aren't any other government agents saying what you are?” I was a lone voice. From the moment my first book was published i began receiving - - and still receive - - letters from both federal and local law enforcement officers, government informants and contract pilots for both DEA and CIA, with their own horror stories to tell indicating that our covert agencies and state Department were sabotaging the drug war, and that when honest officers tried to do something about it, their lives and jobs were threatened, yet none would go public with their stories. They were afraid. I pointed out to all who would listen that even our highest government officials are afraid to confront the criminals in government. During the years J Edgar Hoover ran the FBI, eight Presidents were aware that he was running a political police force, in violation of every law of the land, yet they kept their silence and did nothing to stop him. They were terrified of his secret files and the revelations they might contain. It took almost twenty years after his death before the truth finally surfaced. If one man could intimidate eight Presidents, can you imagine the kind of club the CIA has over the heads of our current crop of political leaders? How else can you explain the difference between their rhetoric and their actions, or lack thereof? Senator John Kerry, a Democrat, spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars investigating the drug running activities of Oliver North’s Nicaraguan Contra effort and came to the same conclusions that Cele and I did as DEA agents in the field. He said, “Our covert agencies have converted themselves to channels for drugs ... they have perverted our system of justice”. An outraged Senator Alphonse Damato, a Republican, found it mind boggling, that while we taxed Americans more than $ 100 billion
to fight drugs, we were in bed with the biggest drug dealers in the world. All the outrage and oratory not withstanding, none of the evidence that the led to those statements was ever presented to a grand jury of American citizens, and not one single indictment of a U.S. laws relating to narcotics trafficking was ever forthcoming. Nor was there ever any house - cleaning of the agencies involved. Many of these criminals in government are still, in fact, criminals in government, and as this book goes to press there is evidence that their crimes continue. It is also important for the reader to keep in mind, that to prove a government official guilty of violations of the Federal Drug Conspiracy laws, is a relatively easy task for a professional narcotics investigator. One would only have to prove that he or she knew of drug trafficking activity and failed to take appropriate action. In one case I was involved in, for example, A new York City police detective was convicted of violation of the Federal Conspiracy statutes and sentenced to 8 years in prison, for not taking appropriate action against dope-dealing friend of his. We could not even prove that he had profited from his crime. The DEA’s files are full of similar cases. The law is exactly as President Bush once said: All those who look the other way are as guilty as the drug dealer. The Kerry commission amassed impressive evidence that Oliver North and others had violated our drug trafficking laws; they reviewed North’s 543 pages of personal notes relating to drug trafficking activity, which - - even after North blacked out many incriminating statements - - included notations like, $14 million to finance came from drugs; they learned that North had attempted to get leniency for General Bueso-Rosa (convicted of an assassination paid for with 700 pounds of cocaine distributed in the U.S.); they found evidence, such as North’s cash purchase of a car from a $15.000 cash slush fund he kept in a closet, and his interest in a multi -million dollar Swiss bank account, indicating that North, with no other source of income than his military pay check, may have profited financially from drug trafficking activities, yet none of this evidence was ever fully investigated by professional narcotics investigators, nor presented to a grand jury of American citizens as it should have been, or as it would have been had North not been given the phony Teflon shield of National Security and the protection of a President.
The evidence - - and the above is only a small sampling of what is available - -is enough to enrage career narcotic enforcement officers who have sent so many to jail for so much less. And when you add the evidence so powerfully presented in this book, what is already known about North and his Contra operation, you will understand why Cele Castillo put his career and life at risk to try and break through that shield, and why he continues to risk himself to his day. In Senator Kerry’s final report he stated, Those U.S. officials who turned a blind eye to General Noriega, who intervened on behalf of General Bueso-Rosa and who adamantly opposed the investigations of foreign narcotics figures by honest, hardworking law enforcement officials, must also hear the responsibility for what is happening in the streets of the U.S. today. By the time you finish this book you will know that his accusation is aimed squarely at Oliver North, Presidents Reagan and Bush, and other high government officials, yet, and it bears repeating, none of the evidence provoking that statement was ever presented to a grand jury of American citizens. What else but fear can account for this failure on the part of our leaders to take appropriate action. A failure that local cops or DEA agents would have gotten them arrested and prosecuted, along with the people they were protecting. Jack Blum, special counsel for the Kerry commission, resigned his post, stating, I am sick to death of the truths I cannot tell. But Cele Castillo, as you will soon know, is not afraid and never has been. In these pages he will reveal to you some of the most devastating of those truths. I now welcome Cele Castillo, a true American hero, to the front lines of his third and perhaps most important war - a war against the criminals within his own government.