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maynard Show full post »

Felix talkin' smack..........


From miaminewtimes.com
Originally published by Miami New Times 2004-09-23
©2005 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.

Contra Campaign
John Kerry once took a shot at Miami's Felix Rodriguez for his part in the Iran-contra scandal. Now the Bush family friend is shooting back.
By Bob Norman

Getty Images
Telling the vets in D.C. that Kerry is a liar

The life of Felix I. Rodriguez provides a tour through the dark heart of America. From the Bay of Pigs fiasco to Vietnam to the El Salvador death squads to the Iran-contra scandal, the Cuban exile and self-described "CIA hero" was there. His most famous assassination mission came in 1967, when he led the Bolivian army group that captured and summarily executed leftist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. He's worked closely with right-wing terrorists, and some of his associates were involved in the Watergate break-in. Given his background, it's not surprising his name has surfaced in numerous JFK conspiracy theories as well.

Now retired in North Miami-Dade near Barry University, Rodriguez, who says his CIA career was always fueled by a hope to unseat Fidel Castro, also has special relationships with both of this year's presidential candidates. George W. Bush sends him a White House Christmas card each year. The president's father counts Rodriguez as an old friend; Bush Sr. worked with him during the mid-Eighties, when Rodriguez ran the operation to arm the Nicaraguan contras for the Reagan administration.

Democratic nominee John Kerry, though, isn't so cozy with Rodriguez. In 1986 the then-rookie senator formed a committee to investigate Iran-contra. The so-called Kerry Committee alleged that Rodriguez had helped steer $10 million from the notorious Medellín cocaine cartel to the contras. The committee concluded that trafficking was rampant in the rebels' effort.

Rodriguez ,who now leads Brigade 2506, the Bayh of Pigs veterans' group squared off with Kerry during a closed congressional hearing. He told the Massachusetts senator point-blank that the allegation was a damned lie and, for good measure, added that he had no respect for him.

That was some seventeen years ago, but Rodriguez's hatred for Kerry -- and his closeness to the Bush family -- has driven Rodriguez from the CIA shadows onto the open political stage. He's railed against Kerry on Cuban radio and in the October edition of Soldier of Fortune magazine. He also jumped at the chance to join the Vietnam Veterans for Truth, an anti-Kerry group that invited Rodriguez to speak at a nationally televised September 12 rally at the Capitol.

At the sparsely attended event, the storied spook began with some words on Vietnam, where he flew assassination and assault missions (and flights with CIA-backed Air America, which has been tied to the heroin trade). He portrayed his time there as if he were dropping food and medicine from his combat helicopter. "I never saw any atrocities that Senator Kerry claims we did in Vietnam," Rodriguez told the gathering in his thick accent. "We helped the Vietnamese people."

Then he turned his attention to Central America, referring to Kerry's accusation and noting that his nemesis ultimately backed off the allegation against him. "That was one more lie from Senator Kerry," he triumphantly said.

But who, really, is lying? Rodriguez maintains he saw no hint of drug trafficking while he was helping to run the contra operation in El Salvador and Honduras. "I never saw any indication of that at all -- it was all a great fabrication," he said during a telephone interview last week. "That all came from Senator Kerry's committee. It came from those people that didn't want to help the Nicaraguan resistance, people like Kerry, who wanted to hurt Vice President Bush, who was going to win the presidency."

It's a familiar -- and absolutely untenable -- refrain from the Reagan and Bush administrations that continues to this day: The narcotics ties to the contra operation were a politically motivated myth. Vice President Dick Cheney, who was then a congressman, played a key role in the disinformation campaign. He led the effort to squelch various Iran-contra investigations, especially when it came to drug allegations. And George W. Bush? Well, he seems to have no qualms about Iran-contra, since he has hired several of the scandal's central figures -- including Elliott Abrams, Otto Reich, and John Negroponte -- to serve under him.

Though it has been largely ignored, this historic battle between Kerry and the Bush family not only provides a revelatory subtext to this election but also indicates how much the two men running for president dislike each other.

History clearly favors Kerry's side -- and he may even have been right about that $10 million in cartel money. Rodriguez, at the time, was the government's key man in El Salvador, where he was conducting counterinsurgency missions against leftist rebels. But his main job was the contra operation. He claims to this day that he wasn't paid for his efforts, a contention about as shaky as H.W.'s famous excuse that he was "out of the loop" on the contra affair. Rodriguez also worked in Honduras, where the contras trained in the mountains, and at another shipping point in Costa Rica (which has been repeatedly tied to the drug trade).

The allegation against Rodriguez came from Medellín cartel accountant and convicted money launderer Ramon Milian-Rodriguez, who met with Felix Rodriguez in 1985 while he was out on bail on federal drug charges in Miami. Milian told the Kerry Committee that Rodriguez solicited the cash from the cartel and that it was later channeled to the contras. The cartel, he said, hoped the contribution would bring it "good will" from U.S. authorities. At the same time he was implicating the CIA operative, Milian was adamant that Felix Rodriguez had the American government's interest at heart and never kept a dime of the proceeds.

Rodriguez admits the meeting took place but insists it concerned only an offer from the money launderer to help set up the Nicaraguan government in a cocaine sting. In 1988 Milian failed a lie detector test on the subject, and Kerry retracted the allegation.

Rodriguez then had every right to gloat, but in 1991 the accusation resurfaced. Medellín cartel cofounder Carlos Lehder, while testifying for the U.S. government against deposed Panamanian President Manuel Noriega, admitted that his organization had indeed given $10 million to the contras. Lehder, then a federal witness working with U.S. prosecutors, had no known motive to lie.

In light of that information, I asked Rodriguez if he was absolutely sure the contra operation didn't receive the drug money. "I don't think it did," he said, losing his resolute tone. "They always say the same shit. Where did the money go to if they did? Every single penny that went into the contras was accounted for."

While it's open to debate just how meticulously the contras kept their ledgers, there have been other indications that Rodriguez's operation may have been involved in drug smuggling. In 1984 Rodriguez's business partner, international arms dealer Gerald Latchinian, was arrested in a conspiracy to smuggle $10 million in cocaine to finance a plot to assassinate Honduran President Roberto Suazo Cordova. (He was later convicted.) While Rodriguez was never tied to the crime, Latchinian argued that it was connected to the CIA.

Rodriguez's agency-trained compatriot, fellow Cuban exile Frank Castro, was deeply involved in both drug smuggling and the contra effort, according to the CIA. And in 1989 a drug pilot named Mike Tolliver alleged on a CBS news show that he ran guns to Honduras for the contras and that, while there, his plane was loaded with marijuana for a return flight to Homestead Air Force Base. He identified Rodriguez as his boss.

Perhaps the most damning allegation against Rodriguez comes from former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Celerino Castillo, a decorated Vietnam vet who was stationed in Central America during Iran-contra. While working for the DEA, Castillo says he became aware of drug trafficking at San Salvador's Ilopango air base, where Rodriguez was organizing the contra supply effort. The DEA agent has testified in Congress and recounted in his well-documented book, Powderburns, how the airport hangars controlled by Rodriguez and other government operatives were used by drug traffickers. "The only reason Felix wasn't arrested is because he knew where all the bodies were buried in the Iran-contra operation," says Castillo, who is now a substitute high school teacher living in Texas.

Castillo recounts that in 1986 he met then-Vice President Bush at an ambassador's party in Guatemala. "I told him there was something funny going on at Ilopango," he says. "And he just smiled and walked away."

While Bush Sr. avoided the truth about Iran-contra, Castillo has worked for years to expose it and, in so doing, has researched Rodriguez's life -- from Cuba to Vietnam to El Salvador. He's come to the conclusion that the Cuban exile is no hero. "He's always been a terrorist, just like Osama bin Laden and all the terrorists we've made in the past," he says.

Unflinching words, but Rodriguez has indeed been tied to known terrorists, most notably Luis Posada Carriles, a CIA-trained operative who worked closely with Rodriguez after his 1985 escape from a Venezuelan jail, where he served nine years for his role in the downing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 civilians. Rodriguez admits he worked with Carriles on the contra effort but says his friend wasn't convicted of anything. He proffers that Fidel Castro may have blown up the jetliner to "get rid of" Cuban military officials on board who were plotting against the dictator.

But that far-fetched theory doesn't explain the Havana hotel bombings that Carriles has acknowledged committing, or his recent incarceration in Panama for planning to blow up Castro at a political conference (his recent pardon made international news).

"I don't endorse or support bombings," Rodriguez says. "I believe it kills innocent people, and that is not the way to do it. That will backfire."

Rodriguez says he doesn't know why Castillo has made the allegations against him. He insists he watched every contra supply plane land, refuel, and take off from Ilopango and that there were never any drugs onboard. "What I understand from the guys I asked at DEA was that they fired [Castillo] for making all kinds of allegations about Ilopango," he says. "He was fired for incompetence. If any of his allegations had a grain of truth, the Iran-contra committee would have brought it up. They looked at everything with a toothbrush."

(Castillo actually retired from the DEA -- under pressure from higher-ups regarding his whistleblowing -- in 1992. He collects a pension from the agency.)

The Iran-contra Committee, which carried more weight than Kerry's subcommittee, was, in reality, famously unconcerned with the narcotics allegations. Independent counsel Lawrence Walsh, who conducted the criminal investigation, never even interviewed Castillo. Later, after reporter Gary Webb's well-researched 1996 "Dark Alliance" series in the San Jose Mercury News showed clear ties between the contras and the Los Angeles crack trade, a Justice Department investigation indeed found the "seed of truth" in Castillo's allegations but didn't bother to make a real case.

As for the media, they can only look back at the time with shame. The press -- led by the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times -- tried to discredit Webb. Though the papers dutifully reported many of the salient facts, they never conveyed the big picture and, in the end, let the perpetrators of one of the greatest scandals in American history go largely unpunished.

Other than Soldier of Fortune, only the conservative Website NewsMax.comhas brought up Iran-contra in the context of the presidential election. In a July article, the Website portrayed Rodriguez as a "wholly innocent freedom loving patriot" who was blindsided by the unscrupulous, CIA-hating senator.

It may be just the beginning. Rodriguez says he'll vigorously oppose Kerry until election day, continuing his work with the anti-Kerry veterans' group, which is ideologically aligned with the similarly named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and exposing the terrible injustice done to him by the Democratic nominee. "He will tell you one thing, then he will tell you another thing," Rodriguez says of Kerry. "He is a complete liar."

We all know that Rodriguez can fight with the best of them, but what about Kerry? His Florida campaign communications director, Matt Miller, didn't respond to the question. Former DEA man Castillo, who counts his vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 as one of the worst mistakes of his life, isn't sure. And he believes Bush II -- who has already led the country into a nightmarish war using false pretenses -- will cook scandals to make Iran-contra pale in comparison if elected to a second term.

"They say Kerry is a liar, that he lied about Felix Rodriguez, who is a hero and patriot," Castillo says. "Bush and Cheney know how to fight. Cheney says, öGo fuck yourself.' I am so upset because Kerry won't take the gloves off. It's like he's idling. If he doesn't fight now, will he ever fight for us?"


miaminewtimes.com | originally published: September 23, 2004


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
Quote 0 0
Written Statement of Celerino Castillo, 3rd (Former DEA Special Agent)

JULY 2000



(The CIA Inspector General Report of Investigation) VOLUME II : The Contra
Released October 8, 1998






Several years ago, as a patriot, I took an oath to protect the
Constitution of the United States and itís citizens. I fought for it in
Vietnam and as a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration. And
now, I find myself ready to fight for it once more. Sadly enough, it's a
battle against the criminals in my own government. It has cost me so much to
become a complete human being, that I realize by exposing these powerful
criminals, I have placed my life in danger. However, I strongly believe that
by placing my life on the line, I will make a difference in preserving my coun
try from these criminals. Some of the evidence that you are about to view
have never been exposed to the public. These atrocities were committed by my
government, from drug trafficking, to obstruction of Justice, to murder with
relative ease.

The following statement would have been my testimony before the
governmentís committees investigating the allegations of US government
involvement in drug trafficking. However, for apparent reasons, I was never
summoned to testify. My only stipulation was, that if I was to be
interviewed, I would be allowed to record the interview. Because of my
prior experience with the government, that would had been my only proof of
what I did or did not say.

You will view some, but not many, quotations that you have read in the
past. However, I hope that the viewer will focus on these quotations as part
of my foundation of evidence for the criminal cases. You will also view some
quotations that haven't been witnessed by many. This is essentially
important in building my cases against these criminals.

As a twenty year criminal investigator, specifically drug cases, I have
found overwhelming evidence that would convict, without reasonable doubt,
these criminals in my own government. Furthermore, you will view evidence
that has continuously been there, but because of agendas or simply because of
people protecting their career, it was never exposed. I will also prove,
emphatically and without equivocation, that high US Government officials
"Obstructed Justice". These individuals should be held accountable for their
actions for deceiving the American people, judges and members of Congress.

My first response would have been to Senator John Kerry's "Senate
Committee Report on Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy". At the time,
as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), I should
have had my, "God given right as a citizen and as a government agent to
testify before this committee." One of the reasons that the committee gave
for not interviewing me, was that the DEA had established, "That no evidence
was found that the Contras were involved in drug trafficking." As you begin
to view my evidence, you will sense the massive cover up by the DEA and
other government agencies because they 1
were terrified of the CIA. Most of the evidence will fall, with
confirmation, that IIopango Air Base in El Salvador was the "O'Hare Airport"
of drug trafficking. It still boggles my mind why a criminal investigator,
for these investigative committees, never bothered to travel to Guatemala or
El Salvador to interview US elements of the US Embassies. Some of these
agents had gathered the intelligence and evidence that implicated the US
Government in drug trafficking. The only reason I could gather would be that
the committees came to an understanding with the government about the "drug

"In 1995, Deutch, fired two CIA officials from the Office of Operation
for Guatemala."

NOTE: Chances are that they were hired back as "contract labor".

"If this information turns up wrong doing, we will bring these people to
justice and make them accountable." John Deutch, DCI - 11-15-96

OVERT ACT : An open, manifest act from which criminality may be
implied. An outward act done in pursuance and manifestation
of an intent or design. An open act, which must be manifestly

Selections from the Senate Committee Report on Drugs, Law Enforcement and
Foreign Policy chaired by Senator John. F. Kerry


[B] "We permitted narcotics, we were complicit, as a country, in narcotics
trafficking. At the same time, we are spending countless dollars in this
country to try to get rid of this problem. As law enforcement officials risk
their lives, how can you ask a DEA agent to go out there and risk his life,
when there is a whole other policy out there that is willing to overlook
narcotics. It's mind boggling."

Senator, John Kerry, 1988[/B]

SPRING OF 1986,...On the basis of this evidence, 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.

NOTE: I will prove that, not only did the CIA turned a "blind eye", but were
complicit in drugs and arms trafficking. Not to mention the
participation in assassinations by CIA assets. As you view the
evidence, you will find dates, times, places, and for the first time names
of CIA officials who participated in the approval of these murders.

"There is no question in my mind, "one or more agencies" of the US
government had information regarding the involvement either while it
was occurring, or immediately thereafter. Reports were
reaching the highest councils of our government. In the White
House and the Justice Department. There is no question about that, I can
document that."
John Kerry


In the wake of press accounts concerning links between the Contras and
drug traffickers beginning DECEMBER, 1985, with a story by the Associated
Press, both houses of Congress began to raise questions about the
drug-related allegations associated with the Contras. This caused a review
in the spring of 1986 of the allegations by the State Department, in
conjunction with the Justice Department and relevant US intelligence agencies.

Following the review, the State Department told the Congress in April,
1986 that it had at that time "evidence of a limited number of incidents in
which known drug traffickers tried to establish connections with Nicaraguan
resistance groups."

NOTE: John (Jack) McCavett was the CIA Chief of Station in Guatemala
and El Salvador during this time period (1980s).


Spring of 1986, ...At the time, the FBI had "significant information"
regarding the involvement of narcotics traffickers in Contra operations and
Neutrality Act violations.

NOTE: Costa Rica and El Salvador airbase "Ilopango" were the main targets
of these investigations.

Footnote: See extensive FBI investigative materials released in discovery in
US v Corbo and US v Calero, SD Florida, 1988, documenting
information the FBI had collected regarding these matters from
1984 - 1986. See Iran/Contra Deposition of FBI Agent Kevin
Currier, Appendix B, Vol. 8 pp. 205-206.

FBI 302's of SA Kisyznski, released in US v Corbo, SD Florida

...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.

In fact, as the FBI had previously learned from informants, that
Cuban-American supporters of the Contras had shipped weapons from south
Florida to Ilopango....Corbo, one of the principals in the shipment,
explicitly told the FBI that he had participated in shipping weapons to the
Contras in violation of US Neutrality laws.

NOTE: Did Jack McCavett know this? He states in his response to the House
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, that "The Contra effort at
Ilopango was closely supervised".

In August 1987, the CIA's Central American Task Force Chief became
the first US official to revise that assessment to suggest instead that the
links between Contras ...to narcotics trafficking was in fact far broader
than that acknowledged by the State Department in 1986.

Footnotes: Iran-Contra testimony of Central American Task Force Chief
August 5, 1987, 100-11, pp. 182-183.

"Drugs moved in and out--"Fiers on Ilopango", interview with
Iran Contra investigators, 1991"


1987, DEA Assistant Administrator David Westrate said of the Nicaraguan war:
"It is true that people on both sides of the equation (in the
Nicaraguan war) were drug traffickers, and a couple of them were pretty

Footnote: Subcommittee testimony of David Westrate, Part 4, July 12, 1988,
p. 144.

NOTE: DEA at that time, had assembled substantial information of drug
trafficking at Ilopango Air Base during Jack McCavett's watch.
However, when DEA asked where (SA Cele Castillo or SA Sandy
Gonzlaes) agent's reports were, they testified that there were no reports
to implicate the Contras in drug trafficking.

Example: Walter Grasheim, US citizen, was running a covert operation
at Ilopango since 1984. In May 3,1986 he was forced to land his aircraft
in Florida. He had with him two suitcases which contained suspected
cocaine. He alleged that he was transporting top secret documents in the
suitcases for the CIA. After the incident, he went back to his operation at

Jack McCavett was aware of the incident and permitted him to
continue his support for the Contras. Jack could have warned
everyone at the embassy about the Grasheim allegation.

(1) Overt Act "Obstruction of Justice" by both the DEA & CIA


...Gary Wayne Betzner, drug pilot who worked for convicted smuggler George
Morales, testified that twice in 1984 that he flew weapons for the Contras
from the US to northern Costa Rica and returned to the US with loads of

...Betzner testified that his first delivery of arms to the Contras was
in 1983, when he flew a DC-3 carrying grenades and mines to Ilopango in El
Salvador. His co-pilot on the trip was Ricahrd Healey, who had flown drugs
for Morales.

Footnote: Subcommittee testimony of Gary Betzner, Part 3, April 7, 1988, pp.
Address book seized by Customs, Port Charlotte, Florida, N2551,
March 16, 1987. 5
DC-4 seized by the DEA on March 16, 1987. DC-4 was registered to drug
traffickers. ...US Law enforcement personnel also found an address book
aboard the plane, containing among other references, the telephone numbers of
some Contra officials and the Virginia telephone number of Robert Owen,
Oliver North's courier.

NOTE: US Col. Oliver North (DEA file # GFGD-91-9139) was working out of
Ilopango during that time period. It is suspected that this DC-4 flew out
of Ilopango. Jack McCavett was still in El Salvador. Who was the
plane registered to.? Col. North was documented in DEA files going
back to the 1980s. Two years before running for US Senate,
he was documented, "smuggling weapons to the Philippines with
known drug traffickers."


...In October 1984, Colombian drug trafficker, George Morales,
transported a C-47 from Haiti to Ilopango Air Force Base in El Salvador.
Morales donated the aircraft to the Contras at Ilopango.


NOTE: Ilopango had been utilized by drug traffickers since 1984. Jack
McCavett was in Central America or on his way at that time. He should
have been briefed prior to his arrival. Where are his reports?

Footnote: Ibid., p. 15.

...Adolfo "Popo" Chamorro gave the Subcommittee a list of flights made by
that C-47 to ferry arms from Ilopango to Costa Rica and La Penca. Between
October 18, 1984 and February 12, 1986, some 156,000 pounds of material were
moved from Ilopango to air fields in Costa Rica.

NOTE: A clear violation of the Neutrality.

Footnote: Chamorro, ibid., pp. 11-12.
...In addition, Cesar told the Subcommittee that he told a CIA officer
about Morales and his offer to help the Contras.

Senator KERRY: Did you have occasion to say to someone in the CIA that you
were getting money from him and you were concerned he was a drug dealer? Did
you pass that information on to somebody?

Mr. Cesar: "Yes, I passed the information on about the --not the
relations--well, it was the relations and the airplanes; yes. And the CIA
people at the American military attachÈ's office that were (sic) based at
Ilopango also, and any person or any plane landed there, they had to go..."

...Morales continued to work with the Contras until January 1986. He was
then indicted for a second time in Florida and was arrested on June 12, 1986.

...In November 1988, the DEA gave Morales a lengthy polygraph examination on
his testimony before the Subcommittee and he was considered truthful.

Footnote: See correspondence from DEA Mr. Lawn to Senator Kerry, Jan.13,
1989. Evidences About My Investigation At Ilopango (Extracts from my
Note: Every DEA 6 report or cable that I submitted was approved by my Country
Attache, Robert J. Stia

November 08, 1985, Placed a Contra pilot-DEA Informant (Manundo) on a
flight to the US from Guatemala. This pilot had severely hurt his leg in an
airplane accident in a clandestine airstrip in Costa Rica. His brother,
Charlie Manundo also became a DEA informant. DEA Russell Reina was the case

FOOTNOTE: DEA case file TG-85-0014, Frank Carvajal-Florez

December 05, 1985, Libyans came to Guatemala in an attempt to assassinate
Jack McCavett. Information was provided by the DEA Airport detail. A
couple of days later, the Libyans were found murdered. Information about
the Libyans was given to CIA Officer, Manny Brand (Cuban-American). He
then gave the order to the Guatemalan G-2. A couple of days later, the
Libyans were found murdered. This was reported in the local newspaper.

NOTE: The information on the Libyans was given to FBI agent Sullivan
(Panama AttachÈ). Jack McCavett was stationed in Libya. 7
(1) Overt Act Murder

..."I said, I want you to tell, Abu Abbas, that I'm coming after him, and
when I get to him, I AM GOING TO KILL HIM!" Duane "Dewey" Clarridge
CIA Official 1957-1987

January 13, 1986, I wrote a DEA 6 report on El Salvador (GFTG-86-9145).

January 14, 1986, Met with V.P. George Bush re: Contras at Ilopango.

NOTE: Was forewarned of the Contras-Drug connection.

January 16, 1986: Report on aircraft Colombian aircraft -- HK-1217W--Contra
pilots Carlos Silva and Tulio Pedras.

January 28, 1986: Contra supporter Sofie Amuary, gave the names of Raul
Samana and Adela Herrera (Brigada 2506). Salomon Nassad (Armenia)

NOTE: DEA file TG-86-0003

Feb. 05, 1986, I seized $800,000 in cash, 35 kilos of cocaine, and an
airplane at Ilopango airport in El Salvador. Colombian M-19

Note: The above case was initiated by Jack McCavett's asset. The operation
was conducted by the CIA "goon squad". The squad members were made up of
several former Venezuelans Police Officers working as advisors for McCavett.
Leader of this group was Victor Rivera who was involved in several
murders for the CIA in El Salvador and Guatemala. This is a FACT that is
well documented in DEA files.

Footnote: DEA-6 Case file TG-86-0001, Giatan-Giatan, Leonel

Example: A Salvadoran Military Major was kidnapped in Guatemala by
Rivera and his crew. The Major was then tortured and assassinated by
Rivera. This was done with the approval of Jack McCavett and CIA agent
Manny Brand. I assisted the squad in the capture of the Major in Guatemala
City under the pretext that the Major was a fugitive. Who was the plane
registered to at Ilopango?

(2) Overt Act on Murder

April 17, 1986, wrote DEA 6's reports on Costa Rican Contra Pilots at

Footnote: El Salvador case file GFTG-86-9999, Air Intelligence

March 24, 1986, I wrote a DEA 6 report (GFTG-86-4003) on the Contra
operation in El Salvador. It was on Frigorificos de
Puntarenas, S.A. US registration on aircraft N-68435 (Cessna 402)
white/brown at Ilopango.

NOTE: DEA files GFTF-86-9999 (Air Intelligence) and GFTF-86-4003, IE4-C0,
Frigorificos de Puntarenas, SA. Who was the plane registered to?

March 25, 1986, HK-2281P (Tail Number) Juan Mata-Ballesteros

NOTE: Who is the plane registered to?

Early part of 1986, I received a cable from DEA SA Sandy Gonzales in
Costa Rica. He was requesting for me to investigate Hangers 4 and 5 at
Ilopango. He advised that they had received reliable information that the
Contras were flying cocaine into the hangers. Both hangers were owned and
operated by the CIA and the National Security Council. Operators of hanger
4 were US Lt. Col. Oliver North and former CIA agent Felix Rodriguez.

(See attached letter by Bryan Blaney (OIC) dated March 28, 1991)

FOOTNOTE: Southern Front Contras 447---In April 1986, a CIA cable to
Headquarters reported information from a March 18, 1986 DEA report regarding
Carlos Amador. According to the cable, the DEA report noted that Amador
had recently flown a Cessna 402 from Costa Rica to San Salvador where he had
access to Hanger 4 (Felix Rodriguez) at Ilopango air base. The cable also
indicated that a "DEA source stated that Amador was probably picking up
cocaine in San Salvador to fly to Grand Cayman and then to Florida." The
cable also reported that DEA request the San Salvador police investigate
Amador and anyone associated with Hangar 4. It linked Amador with Hangar
14 at Tobias Bolanos International Airport in San Jose. The hangar was
owned by Segio and Jorge Zarcovic. These two individuals reportedly under
DEA investigation in connection with a shipment of cocaine that was
seized in Miami.

NOTE: See DEA 6s from Costa Rica and El Salvador. 9
(4) Overt Act on drug trafficking

April 1986, The Consul General of the US Embassy in El Salvador (Robert J.
Chavez) forewarned me that CIA Officer George Witters was
requesting a US visa for a documented Nicaraguan drug trafficker
and Contra pilot by the name of Carlos Alberto Amador.
(mentioned in 6 DEA files)

NOTE: McCavett was questioned by me as to why the CIA was issuing a
US visa to a drug trafficker. Answer: "We just need to get
guy to the US."


April 17, 1986, I wrote a Contra report DEA 6 (GFTG-86-9999 Air
Intelligence) on the Contra operation on Arturo Renick and Johnny
Ramirez (both Costa Ricans) at Ilopango air field.
Tail numbers of aircraft: TI-AQU and BE-60

NOTE: Who do the planes belong to?

June 06, 1986, I send a DEA cable to DEA HQS re: Contra pilots, Carlos
Alberto Amador and Carlos Armando Llamos (Honorary Ambassador to
Panama). Llamos flew from Ilopango to Panama on an air plane tail
number N-308P. Llamos delivered 4 1/2 million dollars to Panama for
the Contras. Leon Portilla - TI-ANO; Navajo 31 and YS-265-an
American pilot: Francisco Vidal (sic). Roberto Gutierrez (N-82161;
Mexican (X-AB)

(1) OVERT ACT on Money Laundering

NOTE: Who do these planes belong to?

June 11, 1986, Oscar Alvarado-Lara (Guatemalan Contra Pilot) DEA NADDIS
number 1927543, transported 27 illegal Cubans to Ilopango, where they
were then smuggled into Guatemala. Lara is documented in several
DEA files and is a personal pilot for the CIA in Guatemala and El
Salvador. His aircraft is identified as TG-REN.

"Again this proves that the CIA participated in activities with documented
drug traffickers."

NOTE: Who does this plane belong to?

June 18, 1986, Francisco Rodrigo "Chico" Guirola-Beeche, Contra Pilot and
documented cocaine and weapons smuggler, departed Ilopango
with a large shipment of cocaine and money to the Bahamas.


June 21, 1986, On Chico's return flight he arrived with passengers Alejandro
De Urbizu and Patricia Bernal. In 1988, De Urbizu was
arrested in the US in a cocaine conspiracy case.

Note: In 1985, Guirola was arrested with 5 1/2 million dollars cash by US
Cutoms. It was suspected that the money came from drug traffickers
in Los Angeles for the Contras. He was released because of his support
for the CIA.

"Once more, Guirola went back to working at Ilopago as a document drug
trafficker with the approval of the CIA."


Aug. 15, 1986, I met with Jack McCavett and CIA Official, Don Richardson in
El Salvador re: drug trafficker Fernando Canelas Sanez.

Aug. 18, 1986, I received $45,000.00 in cash from CIA Chief of Station, Jack
McCavett. This was witnessed by DEA informant Ramiro
Guerra and US Lt. Col. Albert Adame. This money
turned over to them with a receipt.

NOTE: This information is in my Journals and I have the original
receipt of the $45,000.00.

Aug. 28, 1986, I had a meeting with El Salvador US Ambassador, Edwin Corr
re: Wally Grasheim (mentioned in several DEA and FBI files),
Pete's Place and Carlos Amador re: CIA US visa for Amador
(documented drug trafficker ). Visa requested by CIA agent George

Sept 28, 1987, Oscar Alvarado transported CIA Official Randy Capister from
Puerto Barrios, Guatemala to Guatemala City after a joint DEA, 11
CIA and Guatemala Military (G-2) operations. In this operation
several individuals were murdered by G-2 and witnessed by the DEA
(Castillo) and CIA Officer Capister.

NOTE: Reported in DEA file TG-86-0005. Guatemalan Congressman: Carlos
Ramiro Garcia de Paz. Who as of this date, has a US visa.

(3) Overt Act On Murder

Sept. 01, 1986, Walter Grashiemís residence in El Salvador was raided by a
DEA task force. US military munitions were
found. This
individual is mentioned in The Contra Story Vol.
II. He is
documented in several DEA, CIA, US Customs and
FBI files.

Footnote: January 20, 1987, Joel Brinkley, special to the New York Times,
"Contra Arms Crew said to Smuggle Drugs".

Note: In late 1984, Donald P. Gregg introduced Col. Oliver North to Felix
Rodriguez, (a retired CIA agent) who had already been working in Central
America for over a year under George Bush's direction. Gregg personally
introduced Rodriguez to Bush on Jan. 22, 1985. Two days after his January
1985 meeting, Rodriguez went to El Salvador and made arrangements to set
up his base of operations at Ilopango air base. On Nov. 01, 1984, the
FBI arrested Rodriguez's partner, Gerard latchinian and convicted him of
smuggling $10.3 million in cocaine into the US.

October 21, 1986, Sent a telex/cable to Washington DC on the Contras at

April 01, 1987, Bob Stia, Walter Morales and myself flew to Ilopango Airbase
and met with two CIA Officials who advised us that we could no
longer utilize Mario Murga because he was now working with them.

Note: Mario Murga was our DEA informant who initiated the flight plans for
the Contra pilots at Ilopango. CIA Officer George Witter stole Murga
from DEA so that there would be no more reporting on CIA assets.

"The CIA has jurisdiction above US federal agencies in foreign countries"

..."McCavett maintained good liaison relationships with the DEA..."
John McCavett interview by HPSCI
August 30, 1988, Received intelligence from the number three man (Guido Del
Prado)at the US embassy in El Salvador re: Carlos Armando
Llemus-Herrera (Contra pilot ).

NOTE: See DEA 6 on Carlos Armando Llemus-Herrera

December 03, 1988, Seized 356 kilos of cocaine in Guatemala DEA report
TG-89-0002, Hector Sanchez.

NOTE : This case was initiated on Gregorio Valdez, owner and operator of
Piper Co. in Guatemala. Personal pilot of Jack McCavett, and CIA
Officer Randy Capister. Mr. Valdez and Piper Co. are well
documented in DEA files in drug trafficking. For several years, this
company was contracted by the CIA and the DEA for support.
Thousands of dollars were paid to this company even after they had
been documented in DEA files. Several Contra pilots flew out of Piper.

"Once more it proves that the CIA & DEA were sleeping with the enemy"


Documented Drug-Traffickers (Contra Pilots) Flying Out of Ilopango

Col. Enriques Bermudez, the former Nicaraguan military attachÈ in
Washington, D.C., who had already been placed on the CIA payroll
to organize an anti-Sandinista force. Colonel Bermudez would serve
as the "Commander in Chief: of the FDN forces at Ilopango. He is well
documented in DEA, FBI and CIA files as
a suspected drug trafficker. This goes back to 1981. This was
never reported to Congress by the CIA.

Marcos Aguado, Chief pilot for the Meneses drug organization who operated
out of the FDN clandestine military base at Ilopango. Flew El Salvadoran
Air Force planes to Colombia to pick up cocaine and delivered them to a
US military base (Carswell Air Force base) in Texas. He was also a
personal pilot for Eden Pastora. He worked hand in hand
with another documented drug trafficker, Duran. Aguado was sent
Ilopango to destroy the Islander aircraft, circa July 1984. In
1986, he
was documented by DEA as a drug trafficker after an interview.
He still
flew out of Ilopago with the approval of CIA. 13

1987: A Congressional report identifies Aguado as an associate of Colombian
drug trafficker George Morales. Oliver North aide Rob Owen also identifies
Aguado as a Contra pilot operating out of Ilopango.

Footnote: Southern Front Contras-277- and 278--In October 1984, the CIA
got their first indication that Aguado was involved in drug

January 1986, CIA cable, Aguado associates were arrested with
600 kilos of cocaine in the US.


In April 1986, CIA cable: Adolfo Chamorro "plans to denounce
Aguado as being involved in drug trafficking activities.

Felix Rodriguez , In March 1986, according to a sworn statement of pilot
Michael Tolliver, under Felix Rodriguez's instructions, Tolliver flew a
DC-6 aircraft to a Contra base in Honduras, picked up 12 tons of
marijuana, and flew the dope to Homestead Air Force Base in Florida.
Rodriguez paid Tolliver $75,000. Tolliver said that on another
return trip to the US he carried cocaine for Rodriguez. In another
circuit of flights, Tolliver and his crew flew between Miami and El
Salvador's Ilopango airbase. Tolliver said the Rodriguez "instructed
me where to go and who to see." While making these flights, he "could
go by any route available without any interference from any agency. We
didn't need a stamp of approval from Customs or anybody." Rodriguez was
placed at Ilopango airbase by the National Security Council and the
CIA. Worked under Jack McCavett (U.S. vs George).

In a June 26, 1987 closed session of the Kerry's Subcommittee's,
Miliam Rodrigurez testified that in a meeting between Felix Rodriguez
and himself an agreement was made within themselves to furnish the
Contras with drug money. Felix accepted the offer and $10 million in
such assistance was subsequently provided the Contras through a system
of secret couriers.

Note: Jack McCavett should had known about this while at Ilopango.

Gregg's notes read: Felix knew him at Bay of Pigs, also close to
Tom Clines whom Felix used to know---split over Libya."

Rodriguez: " North involvement with a group of people
connected to terrorists like Libya's Mu'ammar Quadhafi."

Luis Posada Carriles, In 1985, Felix Rodriguez helped Posada get to Salvador
from a Venezuelan prison and brought him straight to Ilopango to
work with him. Posada had participated in blowing up a Cuban airline
which took the lives of 78 individuals. Rodriguez gave him the name
of Ramon Medina, gave him bogus papers and put him to work for the
Contra operation at Ilopango. The job description for this individual
was to be head of Logistics. Posada was a "gofor" for the Contra
pilots by accommodating safe-houses and paying them with cash
from banks in Florida and Panama.

Note: Lawrence Victor Harrison (DEA informant) testified that he had been
present when two of the partners of Felix Gallardo and Matta Ballesteros,
Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca, met with American pilots working
out of Ilopango air base in El Salvador, providing arms to the Contras.
The purpose of the meeting was to work out drug deals.


Where was Jack McCavett, if, "Ilopango was well supervised?î

FOOTNOTE: DEA 6 Report out of Los Angeles "Debriefing of Harrison"

Carlos Alberto Amador, A Nicaraguan pilot mentioned in six DEA files by
1987. He is alleged to have smuggled narcotics and weapons to Ilopango
from Costa Rica for the Contras. He was carrying credentials
signed by General Bustillo, Chief of the Air Force at Ilopango.
Individuals known to have flown with him are Carlos Viques, Jorge
Zarcovick, Nicola Ly Decker, and Maria Elens Ly Decker. Zorcovick
was arrest in the US for smuggling large quantities of cocaine.

Footnotes: SOUTHERN FRONT CONTRAS- 444-- A July 1985 CIA
cable..."Carlos Amador on June 8 that a 150 kilos shipment of
cocaine that had been seized near Barra Del Colorad, Costa Rica,
...was destined to the United States.

SFC- 445 and 446--CIA cable Aug. 1985...Carlos Amador was to
ferry two airplanes from Miami to Colombia, via San Salvador and
Belize... and used in a drug smuggling operation...

NOTE: CIA Agent George Witter attempted to give him a US visa by
orders of Jack McCavett, COS at El Salvador.


Francisco Rodrigo Guirola-Beeche, DEA NADDIS # 1585334 and 1744448. This
individual is documented in FBI, CIA and US Custom files. On February 6,
1985 Guirola departed Orange County, California in a private airplane with
3 Cuban Americans. It made a stop in South Texas where US Customs seized
5 1/2 million dollars in cash. It was alleged that it was drug money but
because of his ties with the Salvadoran death squads and the CIA he was
released and the airplane given back.

NOTE: In May 1984 Guirola accompanied Major Roberto D'Aubuisson, head of
the death squads in El Salvador, to a very sensitive meeting with former
CIA Deputy Director Vemon Walters in the US. Walters was sent to stop the
assassination of the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Thomas Pickering.
Guirola was documented by me at Ilopango from 1986 to 1989 while Jack
McCavitt was in El Salvador.


Walter Lee Grasheim (Wally), This individual is a US citizen who was, as
far as I was concerned, a mercenary operating a covert operation out of
Ilopango. He arrived at Ilopango in 1984. By his own admission he
claimed to be working for the CIA, US Army and other government agencies.
On Sept. 01, 1986, his residence in El Salvador was raided by a DEA Task
Force. Found were huge amounts of US military munitions that he had no
bussiness with, since he was a civilian. Also found was approximately a
pound of Marijuana and Marijuana plants growing in the back yard. He had
just violated Salvadoran Law for having these munitions. The Salvadoran
Constitution prohibits any foreign nationals or 16
national from having war munitions. The question remains, where did
he get these munitions from and who approved it? US Custom agent Richard
Rivera attempted to trace the munitions but was stopped short of finding
out. An arrest warrant was issued for his arrest by Lt. Franco of the
Salvadoran National Police. In late 1986, Grasheim threatened US
Ambassador Edwin Corr, claiming that, "If he went down, half of the
Mil-group would go down with him."


On December 13, 1990, FBI SA Michael S. Foster, interviewed Walter L.
Grasheim on behalf of the Office Of Independent Counsel on Iran-Contra.
Grasheim claims that he arrived in El Salvador in early 1984. Upon his
arrival, he met with Art McArney who was now employed by Bell Helicopter.
Grasheim claimed to be selling night vision equipment to the Salvadoran
Military. He was the Litton Corporationís representative in El Salvador. He
claimed to have several retired special operations officers working for him .
He further claimed that he was doing very well, not only financially, but in
assisting the Salvadoran Military.

Grasheim, claims that in 1985, he had had a conversation with US Colonel
Aaron Royer, who worked at Defense Security Assistance Agency (DSAA) at the
Pentagon. Royer wanted Grasheim to meet Oliver L. North but the meeting
never took place. Grasheim claims that Royer had a military items shipping
list from North. Royer didn't specifically say but Grasheim believed this
was military items destined for the CONTRAS. Royer had requested from
Grasheim to provide him with prices and availability of various military
items. Grasheim believed this was also related to the CONTRAS.

Also in 1985, or early 1986, Col. Steele told Grasheim that the Contras
had paid too much for their aircraft, meaning the caribou and the C-123s.

Grasheim then identifies Mario del Amigo, known as "Mr. Contra" in
Honduras. During that time period Grasheim and Mr. del Amigo would travel
back and forth to Honduras and El Salvador. Grasheim introduced del Amigo to
Rafael Bustillo, Jim Steele and others, "Who were involved with the Contras."
Grasheim claims that del Amigo sold arms to the Contras and overcharged
them. Del Amigo complained to Grasheim that Secord was selling arms to the
Contras and overcharging them as well.

Grasheim claims that Del Amigo used to meet with various people and
discuss the supply of the Contras at Grasheim's house before it was 17
raided. Grasheim believes that maybe one of the reasons why the raid took
place was because Secord's competition used it for meetings. Grasheim
believed Del Amigo was running the Contra re-supply operation in El Salvador.

Grasheim was in the US military from 1959 to 1961. Grasheim has never
had any other affiliation with the military other than this tour of duty and
he has never had any affiliation with the CIA.

NOTE: Keep the latter paragraph in mind for a later reference.

Grasheim, then gives up a former Marine by the name of Boykin. He was
part of the Mil Group in El Salvador. Boykin retired from the Marines and
went to work for the Contras. Boykin is on the cover of an old NEWSWEEK
magazine concerning the Contras. Grasheim is mentioned in a story in the
same magazine.

He also claims to have known Felix Rodriguez in El Salvador when
Rodriguez flew a C-12 from Panama to Ilopango. Grasheim also claim to have
known Luis Rodriguez, a close friend of Felix Rodriguez. Grasheim claims
that he had learned that the US Embassy was paying for Felix Rodriguez's car
and the fuel for the Contra Re-supply aircraft. He claims that the embassy
would send checks to Mexico where the fuel was provided to the re-supply

Grashiem acknowledge that his Salvadoran house was raided by DEA agent
Celerino Castillo and the local police. Grasheim admitted that he had
automatic weapons in the residence. He claims that the raid totally
destroyed his business and ruined his reputation. Grasheim states that about
a month and a half after the raid, he saw a "state Department guy" in New
Orleans. The guy told him, "We were asked to do that (the raid)." After the
raid he claims that the US embassy would not help him and that The Litton
Corporation took away Grasheim's orders for equipment. Grasheim then claims
that he went to the National Police and that he had been advised by the Chief
of Police (Regalado) that the raid was ordered by the US embassy.

Grasheim claims that in 1986, he was approached by a US Customs officer
who told him he was under investigation for impersonating an FBI agent. He
also claims that US Customs (Victor in Miami 1990) had seized his personal

Grasheim then gives up, Hilda Martinez , Secretary to Col. Steel in El
Salvador for "Improper Activity". He claims that she married a US Army
officer and moved to California. 18
Another person that Grasheim gives up is Lupita Vega, who was the log
secretary with the Mil Group in El Salvador. "A person who would know

NOTE: Ms Vega is alleged to have had Mr. Grashiem's child. The mother and
child now reside in El Paso, Texas. (phone number is available.)

Also in 1986, Grasheim claims that the US military asked him to get night
vision goggles to the Contras. Grasheim recalls the incident because he had
to make up the sets himself. A US military helicopter took the goggles to
the Contras in Honduras. Grasheim also claims that he met with Barbara
Studley and John Singlaub and they wanted him to sell night vision equipment
to the Contras. They were working with Mike Timpani, a retired US Army
helicopter pilot.

NOTE : Mike Timpani was the copilot and navigator of the suspicious
transportation of "Lady Ellen" from the US to Ilopango. It was a 25 year-o
ld UH-1B (rebuilt Helicopter) to be used for medevac on Contras
operations. See Soldier of Fortune Magazine June of 1987 issue.

Grasheim claims that he got an idea to prepare a military raid on an
airport in Nicaragua, using Tamarindo as a staging base. Grasheim told
General Gorman this and then immediately afterward, Rodriguez came to see
Grasheim without warning and asked to talk about the idea. Rodriguez told
Grasheim that he was talking to the White House and the NSC but he didn't
tell him any specifics. Rodrigues did tell Grasheim that he talked to Vice
President George Bush.

Finally, Grasheim admits that he knew Alan Fiers and stated he is another
one who was involved in the situation in El Salvador and was aware of Contra
re-supply activity.

NOTE: In his interview, Grasheim admits to a couple violations of the
Neutrality Act.



This "US citizen" that they are discussing is Walter L. Grasheim.

1035--..."Also, no information has been found to indicate that the U.S.
citizen's activities in El Salvador were related to the Contras in any

NOTE: (Count 1) Obstruction of Justice by Hitz. Apparently he did not check
with Iran-Contra on the Interview of Grasheim on 12-13-90 or did he?

1036---....The April 25, 1986 cable---as mentioned earlier--also made a
reference to the US citizen and the Contras. This cable provided an update
regarding, the arrest of American citizens suspected of being mercenaries in
Brazil. According to the cable, the detainees had been visited in prison by
the US citizen and another person, "both of whom are apparent friends of
several of the detained mercenaries. Regarding the US citizen, the cable
stated that: ...visiting US consul...who previously served in San Salvador,
told [CIA] in San Salvador as a military advisor to Contras operating on the
Honduran border with El Salvador...

NOTE: What the CIA failed to tell us, was who were the mercenaries?

On March 14, 1986, eight American mercenaries were arrested by Brazilian
Federal Police off the coast of Rio de Janeiro; their ship, The Nobistor, and
its cargo of weapons, ammunition and other military gear was seized. Their
mission was the attempted to overthrow of the west African country of Ghana.

After contacting the American Consulate in Rio, "State Department Guy"
Ken Sackett, told them, "I've got some close friends in immigration." We
will take care of everything and make sure you're all on the boat to go home.
There were identified as "The RIO 8": Steve Sosa, Julio Raul Rodriguez, John
Early, Tim Carmody, Fred Verduin, Sheldon Ainsworth, Steve Hedrick and Bob
Foti. Most of these individuals had seen action in various hotspots around
the world ---Vietnam, Rhodesia, South Africa, EL SALVADOR ( I wonder who gave
them approval ), Lebanon and other places. 20

Twenty-five days in jail and didn't hear a word from Sackett. Sackett
finally showed up and told them that, "They would be going home, that it was
just a visa problem and won't need lawyers." In July they were sentenced to 4
to 7 years for "Suspicious of contraband and of forming a group to create
that suspicion."

They were sent to Agua Santa prison where the warden advised them, "The
American Consul had # * @ % them." It was obvious that "some government
wanted them to vanish".

Based on the way they were treated from the "State Guy" and the obstacles
their families received from US government, most of the mercs theorized the
US government wanted them kept imprisoned and out of the way. If this turned
out to be a US government's covert operation, too many perplexing questions
might arise if the mercs were on the loose and free to talk.

The FBI, US Customs and other law enforcement agencies conducted an
investigation into the Ghana coup attempt . What do you think the final out
come was? Why did Vol. II, The Contra Story fail to explain the "Rio 8"
mercenaries? Because it was one covert operation on top of another. The
same mercenaries who, more then likely, conducted covert operation in El

FOOTNOTE: The San Jose Mercury News and Soldier of Fortune magazine
1987 issue.

1038---A March 26, 1987, cable to Headquarters reported that the US citizen
and another individual had been arrested by Dominican Republic authorities
upon landing an airplane in that country. The airplane contained various
types of military-related equipment.

NOTE: Where is the criminal investigations by our federal agencies in this

1047---CIA Records: Castillo's contact with CIA officials...although no
information has been found to indicate the process by which the vehicle were
purchased and given over to the Salvadorans, no information has been found to
indicate that the transaction involved Castillo or DEA in any manner... 21

NOTE: Count 2 "Obstruction of Justice" by Hitz. He seems to get into the
habit of misleading members of the committee.

He implies that there are no records to be found, to explain where the
money was spent. To start out with, he should have checked with the
Salvadoran National police and inquired about the vehicles that had been
purchased. Lt. Franco could had been one of the individuals to have been
interviewed about the vehicles. Did he check with DEA reports on the
vehicles that were purchased? NO! Did he check with the Mil-group in El
Salvador who purchased the vehicles? NO! It's obvious, that the CIA sent out
a "Boy Scout" to conduct a criminal investigation. But then again, maybe
they didn't want someone who would find out the truth.

As I stated before, I have the original receipt of who the money was
given to for the purchase of the vehicles.

1054---...The CIA officer says he has no knowledge of drug trafficking at

NOTE: Where in the world was this so called CIA Official. Did he not read
his own agency's report on drug trafficking during the early 1980's.

1063---...This officer (CIA) emphatically denies that he had any knowledge
of Contra trafficking activities at Ilopango or elsewhere...

NOTE: This individual is Randy Capister who should be under criminal
investigation for the murders of several Colombians and
Mexicans. DEA file TG-86-0005, Carlos Ramiro Garcia de Paz.
Also his association with drug traffickers is well established:
Gregorio Valdez and Oscar "El Negro" Alvarado.

1064---...he has no knowledge of any alleged Contra drug trafficking
activities being conducted from Ilopango or elsewhere...or that the US
citizen had no apparent links to the Contras...

NOTE: Let the record speak for it self. This CIA official should be
under investigation for making a false statement. I guess he forgot
the information on Mr. del Amigo and Oliver North's Notebook and
Grasheimís interview with OIC.

On February 28, 1998, I met with Walter L. Grasheim at his attorney's
office in McAllen, Texas. Grasheim had advised me that he was in the process
of filing a civil lawsuit against the U.S government. He was requesting if I
was willing to bestow upon him a deposition regarding my knowledge of him
while he was in El Salvador. I advised him that I did not have a problem
with telling the truth.

To make a very long story short, he admitted in the (depo) that he had
manufactured night vision equipment for the Contras. He also admitted that
he was on contract by the US Army to train the Salvadorans. Grasheim advised
me that his case would never go to trial because he had a video of CIA
Officials on search and destroy missions with the Salvadoran Military.
Grasheim preceded to show the video and we witnessed several American
individuals in military uniforms on patrol with Salvadoran military. One of
the Americans was Grasheim. Another American was seen in a class room
instructing the Salvadoran Military on operations. You could witness the
American cautioning (who ever was shooting the film) to stop filming.

FOOTNOTE: For a nice view of a Special Forces trooper, on the ground in El
Salvador, see the July 1992 issue of Soldier of Fortune magazine,
"Salvador's Unsung Heroes". These US soldiers were asking for credit
for a combat tour for 6 month work on covert operation in El
Salvador. As a former Vietnam combative veteran, I spent 5 years in
and out of Salvador not only fighting the drug traffickers but also
the corruption at the US embassy and the host government. The only
thing I asked for "was the truth." Please read this article because
it's a blue print of what the US government is ready to do
in Colombia. Also for a good laugh read SOF magazine
1983 issue, EDITORIAL by Richard M. Nixon, Perilous
El Salvador and Vietnam. All you have to do is change
name from El Salvador to Colombia for Congressional

Grasheim further admitted that his son and himself had smuggled night
vision equipment (batteries) to Europe during the Gulf War. He stated that
it had been approved by the U.S. Army.

In my opinion, Gresheim was attempting to blackmail the government. In
the end, I was also named in his lawsuit as a defendant. In the early part
of 2000, a federal court threw out the lawsuit.

Witness to the deposition was Grasheim's attorney: Honorable Tom Wilkins
of Wilkins & Slusher 800 Neuhaus Tower, PO Box 3609 McAllen, Texas 78502,
W. Lee Grasheim, Tony Cordova, Tim Wilkins and myself. 23

"From the very beginning, what the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) has not been able to understand, is that there are rules
laws that this country wants followed. If you undermine the
value of this country, in the name of defending it, what do you
have left? For several decades, the CIA has violated the laws
the United States of America and other countries. Laws that we
home, are abide to respect. They need to take seriously that
governmental institution will survive without the support of
citizens, not the congress, not the president, BUT THE
CITIZENS. Admiral Stansfield Turner
CIA Director 1977-1981

In conclusion, If I got a little personal on my response, It's because
the CIA has no remorse about lying to the American people. All I had ever
asked was for a chance to prove my allegations. At first, I thought I had
that chance. But the deck was "fixed". So I chose to put my life through
"controversy" in an attempt to find a solution in a very peaceful manner. I
now carry the burden of my dream to have had the opportunity to finish my
career as a drug agent. But now, as an educator, I promise myself that I
will desperately attempt to bring "Hope" to the America people. As the only
son of a very patriotic Mexican-America family, I was reared that beneath it
all, Americans are decent people with the sense of integrity and fair play.
When people read my writings on these atrocities, they are not only cheered
by individuals involved in the moment but also from individuals within my own
government. As an individual who gladly placed his life on the line for his
government, there is no greater conflict in me. How do I feel about what my
government has done and how does my government feel about me, for telling the
truth? These are the questions that my children have asked of me. A fair
and partial opportunity is all I had asked for, nothing that you yourself
would demand, if you were in my shoes. You see, America is not easy and that
is why we have these serious problems. I hope and pray to GOD, that we'll
have some conscientious people in solving these problems. These battles
remind us that if Congress will not lead a resistance to covert power, it may
respond to popular pressure. But before that happens, the press must give
the American people a much better picture of the extent to which
counter-terrorist campaigns have been misused against covert drug alliances
in Central and South America.

One of the first targets for an effective drug strategy should be
Washington D.C. itself, and specifically its own support for corruption and
drug-trafficking within OUR GOVERNMENT !

Celerino "Cele" Castillo, 3rd

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

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

How John Kerry Exposed the Contra-Cocaine Scandal
    By Robert Parry

    Monday 25 October 2004

Derided by the mainstream press and taking on Reagan at the height of his popularity, the freshman senator battled to reveal one of America's ugliest foreign policy secrets.

    In December 1985, when Brian Barger and I wrote a groundbreaking story for the Associated Press about Nicaraguan Contra rebels smuggling cocaine into the United States, one U.S. senator put his political career on the line to follow up on our disturbing findings. His name was John Kerry.

    Yet, over the past year, even as Kerry's heroism as a young Navy officer in Vietnam has become a point of controversy, this act of political courage by a freshman senator has gone virtually unmentioned, even though - or perhaps because - it marked Kerry's first challenge to the Bush family.

    In early 1986, the 42-year-old Massachusetts Democrat stood almost alone in the U.S. Senate demanding answers about the emerging evidence that CIA-backed Contras were filling their coffers by collaborating with drug traffickers then flooding U.S. borders with cocaine from South America.

    Kerry assigned members of his personal Senate staff to pursue the allegations. He also persuaded the Republican majority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to request information from the Reagan-Bush administration about the alleged Contra drug traffickers.

    In taking on the inquiry, Kerry challenged President Ronald Reagan at the height of his power, at a time he was calling the Contras the "moral equals of the Founding Fathers." Kerry's questions represented a particular embarrassment to Vice President George H.W. Bush, whose responsibilities included overseeing U.S. drug-interdiction policies.

    Kerry took on the investigation though he didn't have much support within his own party. By 1986, congressional Democrats had little stomach left for challenging the Reagan-Bush Contra war. Not only had Reagan won a historic landslide in 1984, amassing a record 54 million votes, but his conservative allies were targeting individual Democrats viewed as critical of the Contras fighting to oust Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government. Most Washington journalists were backing off, too, for fear of getting labeled "Sandinista apologists" or worse.

    Kerry's probe infuriated Reagan's White House, which was pushing Congress to restore military funding for the Contras. Some in the administration also saw Kerry's investigation as a threat to the secrecy surrounding the Contra supply operation, which was being run illegally by White House aide Oliver North and members of Bush's vice presidential staff.

    Through most of 1986, Kerry's staff inquiry advanced against withering political fire. His investigators interviewed witnesses in Washington, contacted Contra sources in Miami and Costa Rica, and tried to make sense of sometimes convoluted stories of intrigue from the shadowy worlds of covert warfare and the drug trade.

    Kerry's chief Senate staff investigators were Ron Rosenblith, Jonathan Winer and Dick McCall. Rosenblith, a Massachusetts political strategist from Kerry's victorious 1984 campaign, braved both political and personal risks as he traveled to Central America for face-to-face meetings with witnesses. Winer, a lawyer also from Massachusetts, charted the inquiry's legal framework and mastered its complex details. McCall, an experienced congressional staffer, brought Capitol Hill savvy to the investigation.

    Behind it all was Kerry, who combined a prosecutor's sense for sniffing out criminality and a politician's instinct for pushing the limits. The Kerry whom I met during this period was a complex man who balanced a rebellious idealism with a determination not to burn his bridges to the political establishment.

    The Reagan administration did everything it could to thwart Kerry's investigation, including attempting to discredit witnesses, stonewalling the Senate when it requested evidence and assigning the CIA to monitor Kerry's probe. But it couldn't stop Kerry and his investigators from discovering the explosive truth: that the Contra war was permeated with drug traffickers who gave the Contras money, weapons and equipment in exchange for help in smuggling cocaine into the United States. Even more damningly, Kerry found that U.S. government agencies knew about the Contra-drug connection, but turned a blind eye to the evidence in order to avoid undermining a top Reagan-Bush foreign policy initiative.

    The Reagan administration's tolerance and protection of this dark underbelly of the Contra war represented one of the most sordid scandals in the history of U.S. foreign policy. Yet when Kerry's bombshell findings were released in 1989, they were greeted by the mainstream press with disdain and disinterest. The New York Times, which had long denigrated the Contra-drug allegations, buried the story of Kerry's report on its inside pages, as did the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. For his tireless efforts, Kerry earned a reputation as a reckless investigator. Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch dubbed Kerry a "randy conspiracy buff."

    But almost a decade later, in 1998, Kerry's trailblazing investigation was vindicated by the CIA's own inspector general, who found that scores of Contra operatives were implicated in the cocaine trade and that U.S. agencies had looked the other way rather than reveal information that could have embarrassed the Reagan-Bush administration.

    Even after the CIA's admissions, the national press corps never fully corrected its earlier dismissive treatment. That would have meant the New York Times and other leading publications admitting they had bungled their coverage of one of the worst scandals of the Reagan-Bush era.

    The warm and fuzzy glow that surrounded Ronald Reagan after he left office also discouraged clarification of the historical record. Taking a clear-eyed look at crimes inside Reagan's Central American policies would have required a tough reassessment of the 40th president, which to this day the media has been unwilling to do. So this formative period of Kerry's political evolution has remained nearly unknown to the American electorate.

    Two decades later, it's hard to recall the intensity of the administration's support for the Contras. They were hailed as courageous front-line fighters, like the Mujahedin in Afghanistan, defending the free world from the Soviet empire. Reagan famously warned that Nicaragua was only "two days' driving time from Harlingen, Texas."

    Yet, for years, Contra units had gone on bloody rampages through Nicaraguan border towns, raping women, torturing captives and executing civilian officials of the Sandinista government. In private, Reagan referred to the Contras as "vandals," according to Duane Clarridge, the CIA officer in charge of the operation, in his memoir, "A Spy for All Seasons." But in public, the Reagan administration attacked anyone who pointed out the Contras' corruption and brutality.

    The Contras also proved militarily inept, causing the CIA to intervene directly and engage in warlike acts, such as mining Nicaragua's harbors. In 1984, these controversies caused the Congress to forbid U.S. military assistance to the Contras - the Boland Amendment - forcing the rebels to search for new funding sources.

    Drug money became the easiest way to fill the depleted Contra coffers. The documentary evidence is now irrefutable that a number of Contra units both in Costa Rica and Honduras opened or deepened ties to Colombian cartels and other regional drug traffickers. The White House also scrambled to find other ways to keep the Contras afloat, turning to third countries, such as Saudi Arabia, and eventually to profits from clandestine arms sales to Iran.

    The secrets began to seep out in the mid-1980s. In June 1985, as a reporter for the Associated Press, I wrote the first story mentioning Oliver North's secret Contra supply operation. By that fall, my AP colleague Brian Barger and I stumbled onto evidence that some of the Contras were supplementing their income by helping traffickers transship cocaine through Central America. As we dug deeper, it became clear that the drug connection implicated nearly all the major Contra organizations.

    The AP published our story about the Contra-cocaine evidence on Dec. 20, 1985, describing Contra units "engaged in cocaine smuggling, using some of the profits to finance their war against Nicaragua's leftist government." The story provoked little coverage elsewhere in the U.S. national press corps. But it pricked the interest of a newly elected U.S. senator, John Kerry. A former prosecutor, Kerry also heard about Contra law violations from a Miami-based federal public defender named John Mattes, who had been assigned a case that touched on Contra gunrunning. Mattes' sister had worked for Kerry in Massachusetts.

    By spring 1986, Kerry had begun a limited investigation deploying some of his personal staff in Washington. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry managed to gain some cooperation from the panel's Republican leadership, partly because the "war on drugs" was then a major political issue. Besides looking into Contra drug trafficking, Kerry launched the first investigation into the allegations of weapons smuggling and misappropriation of U.S. government funds that were later exposed as part of North's illegal operation to supply the Contras.

    Kerry's staff soon took an interest in a federal probe in Miami headed by assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Feldman. Talking to some of the same Contra supporters whom we had interviewed for the AP's Contra-cocaine story, Feldman had pieced together the outlines of North's secret network.

    In a panicked memo dated April 7, 1986, one of North's Costa Rican-based private operatives, Robert Owen, warned North that prosecutor Feldman had shown Ambassador Lewis Tambs "a diagram with your name underneath and John [Hull]'s underneath mine, then a line connecting the various resistance groups in C.R. [Costa Rica]. Feldman stated they were looking at the 'big picture' and not only looking at possible violations of the Neutrality Act, but a possible unauthorized use of government funds." (For details, see my "Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press and 'Project Truth.'")

    John Hull was an American farmer with a ranch in Costa Rica near the Nicaraguan border. According to witnesses, Contras had used Hull's property for cocaine transshipments. (Hull was later accused of drug trafficking by Costa Rican authorities, but fled the country before facing trial. He returned to the United States.)

    On April 10, 1986, Barger and I reported on the AP wire that the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami was examining allegations of Contra gunrunning and drug trafficking. The AP story rattled nerves inside the Reagan administration. On an unrelated trip to Miami, Attorney General Edwin Meese pulled U.S. Attorney Leon Kellner aside and asked about the existence of this Contra probe.

    Back in Washington, other major news organizations began to sniff around the Contra-cocaine story but mostly went off in wrong directions. On May 6, 1986, the New York Times relied for a story on information from Meese's spokesman Patrick Korten, who claimed "various bits of information got referred to us. We ran them all down and didn't find anything. It comes to nothing."

    But that wasn't the truth. In Miami, Feldman and FBI agents were corroborating many of the allegations. On May 14, 1986, Feldman recommended to his superiors that the evidence of Contra crimes was strong enough to justify taking the case to a grand jury. U.S. Attorney Kellner agreed, scribbling on Feldman's memo, "I concur that we have sufficient evidence to ask for a grand jury investigation."

    But on May 20, less than a week later, Kellner reversed that recommendation. Without telling Feldman, Kellner rewrote the memo to state that "a grand jury investigation at this point would represent a fishing expedition with little prospect that it would bear fruit." Kellner signed Feldman's name to the mixed-metaphor memo and sent it to Washington on June 3.

    The revised "Feldman" memo was then circulated to congressional Republicans and leaked to conservative media, which used it to discredit Kerry's investigation. The right-wing Washington Times denounced the probe as a wasteful political "witch hunt" in a June 12, 1986, article. "Kerry's anti-Contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain," screamed the headline of a Washington Times article on Aug. 13, 1986.

    Back in Miami, Kellner reassigned Feldman to unrelated far-flung investigations, including one to Thailand.

    The altered memo was instrumental in steering Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., away from holding hearings, Kerry's later Contra-drug report, "Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy," stated. "Material provided to the Committee by the Justice Department and distributed to members following an Executive Session June 26, 1986, wrongly suggested that the allegations that had been made were false," the Kerry report said.

    Feldman later testified to the Senate that he was told in 1986 that representatives of the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI had met "to discuss how Senator Kerry's efforts to get Lugar to hold hearings on the case could be undermined."

    Mattes, the federal public defender in Miami, watched as the administration ratcheted up pressure on Kerry's investigation. "From a political point of view in May of '86, Kerry had every reason to shut down his staff investigation," Mattes said. "There was no upside for him doing it. We all felt under the gun to back off."

    The Kerry that Mattes witnessed at the time was the ex-prosecutor determined to get to the bottom of serious criminal allegations even if they implicated senior government officials. "As an investigator, he had a sense it was there," said Mattes, who is now an investigative reporter for Fox News in San Diego. "Kerry was a crusader. He was the consummate outsider, doing what you expect people to do. ... At no point did he flinch."

    Years later, in the National Archives, I discovered a document showing that the Central Intelligence Agency also was keeping tabs on Kerry's investigation. Alan Fiers Jr., who served as the CIA's Central American Task Force chief, told independent counsel Lawrence Walsh's Iran-Contra investigators that the AP and Feldman's investigations had attracted the hostility of the Reagan-Bush administration. Fiers said he "was also getting a dump on the Senator Kerry investigation about mercenary activity in Central America from the CIA's legislative affairs people who were monitoring it."

    Negative publicity about the Contras was particularly unwelcome to the Reagan-Bush administration throughout the spring and summer 1986 as the White House battled to restore U.S. government funding to the Contras. In the politically heated atmosphere, the administration sought to smear anti-Contra witnesses cooperating with Kerry's investigation.

    In a July 28 memo, initialed as read by President Reagan, North labeled onetime Contra mercenary Jack Terrell as a "terrorist threat" because of his "anti-Contra and anti-U.S. activities." North said Terrell had been cooperating "with various congressional staffs in preparing for hearings and inquiries regarding the role of U.S. government officials in illegally supporting the Nicaraguan resistance."

    In August 1986, FBI and Secret Service agents hauled Terrell in for two days of polygraph examinations on suspicion that Terrell intended to assassinate President Reagan, an allegation that proved baseless. But Terrell told me later that the investigation had chilled his readiness to testify about the Contras. "It burned me up," he said. "The pressure was always there."

    Beyond intimidating some witnesses, the Reagan administration systematically worked to frustrate Kerry's investigation. Years later, one of Kerry's investigators, Jack Blum, complained publicly that the Justice Department had actively obstructed the congressional probe. Blum said William Weld, who took over as assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division in September 1986, was an "absolute stonewall" blocking the Senate's access to evidence on Contra-cocaine smuggling. "Weld put a very serious block on any effort we made to get information," Blum told the Senate Intelligence Committee a decade after the events. "There were stalls. There were refusals to talk to us, refusals to turn over data."

    Weld, who later became Massachusetts governor and lost to Kerry in the 1996 Senate race, denied that he had obstructed Kerry's Contra probe. But it was clear that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was encountering delays in getting information that had been requested by Chairman Lugar, a Republican, and Rhode Island Sen. Claiborne Pell, the ranking Democrat. At Kerry's suggestion, they had sought files on more than two dozen people linked to the Contra operations and suspected of drug trafficking.

    Inside the Justice Department, senior career investigators grew concerned about the administration's failure to turn over the requested information. "I was concerned that we were not responding to what was obviously a legitimate congressional request," Mark Richard, one of Weld's top deputies, testified in a deposition. "We were not refusing to respond in giving explanations or justifications for it. We were seemingly just stonewalling what was a continuing barrage of requests for information. That concerned me no end."

    On Sept. 26, 1986, Kerry tried to spur action by presenting Weld with an 11-page "proffer" statement from a 31-year-old FBI informant who had worked with the Medellin cartel and had become a witness on cartel activities. The woman, Wanda Palacio, had approached Kerry with an account about Colombian cocaine kingpin Jorge Ochoa bragging about payments he had made to the Nicaraguan Contras.

    As part of this Contra connection, Palacio said pilots for a CIA-connected airline, Southern Air Transport, were flying cocaine out of Barranquilla, Colombia. She said she had witnessed two such flights, one in 1983 and the other in October 1985, and quoted Ochoa saying the flights were part of an arrangement to exchange "drugs for guns."

    According to contemporaneous notes of this "proffer" meeting between Weld and Kerry, Weld chuckled that he was not surprised at allegations about corrupt dealings by "bum agents, former and current CIA agents." He promised to give serious consideration to Palacio's allegations.

    After Kerry left Weld's office, however, the Justice Department seemed to concentrate on poking holes in Palacio's account, not trying to corroborate it. Though Palacio had been considered credible in her earlier testimony to the FBI, she was judged to lack credibility when she made accusations about the Contras and the CIA.

    On Oct. 3, 1986, Weld's office told Kerry that it was rejecting Palacio as a witness on the grounds that there were some contradictions in her testimony. The discrepancies apparently related to such minor points as which month she had first talked with the FBI.

    Two days after Weld rejected Palacio's Contra-cocaine testimony, other secrets about the White House's covert Contra support operations suddenly crashed -literally - into view.

    On Oct. 5, a quiet Sunday morning, an aging C-123 cargo plane rumbled over the skies of Nicaragua preparing to drop AK-47 rifles and other equipment to Contra units in the jungle below. Since the Reagan administration had recently won congressional approval for renewed CIA military aid to the Contras, the flight was to be one of the last by Oliver North's ragtag air force.

    The plane, however, attracted the attention of a teenage Sandinista soldier armed with a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile. He aimed, pulled the trigger and watched as the Soviet-made missile made a direct hit on the aircraft. Inside, cargo handler Eugene Hasenfus, an American mercenary working with the Contras, was knocked to the floor, but managed to crawl to an open door, push himself through, and parachute to the ground, where he was captured by Sandinista forces. The pilot and other crew members died in the crash.

    As word spread about the plane crash, Barger - who had left the AP and was working for a CBS News show - persuaded me to join him on a trip to Nicaragua with the goal of getting an interview with Hasenfus, who turned out to be an unemployed Wisconsin construction worker and onetime CIA cargo handler. Hasenfus told a press conference in Managua that the Contra supply operation was run by CIA officers working with the office of Vice President George Bush. Administration officials, including Bush, denied any involvement with the downed plane.

    Our hopes for an interview with Hasenfus didn't work out, but Sandinista officials did let us examine the flight records and other documents they had recovered from the plane. As Barger talked with a senior Nicaraguan officer, I hastily copied down the entries from copilot Wallace "Buzz" Sawyer's flight logs. The logs listed hundreds of flights with the airports identified only by their four-letter international codes and the planes designated by tail numbers.

    Upon returning to Washington, I began deciphering Wallace's travels and matching the tail numbers with their registered owners. Though Wallace's flights included trips to Africa and landings at U.S. military bases in the West, most of his entries were for flights in Central and South America.

    Meanwhile, in Kerry's Senate office, witness Wanda Palacio was waiting for a meeting when she noticed Sawyer's photo flashing on a TV screen. Palacio began insisting that Sawyer was one of the pilots whom she had witnessed loading cocaine onto a Southern Air Transport plane in Barranquilla, Colombia, in early October 1985. Her identification of Sawyer struck some of Kerry's aides as a bit too convenient, causing them to have their own doubts about her credibility.

    Though I was unaware of Palacio's claims at the time, I pressed ahead with the AP story on Sawyer's travels. In the last paragraph of the article, I noted that Sawyer's logs revealed that he had piloted a Southern Air Transport plane on three flights to Barranquilla on Oct. 2, 4, and 6, 1985. The story ran on Oct. 17, 1986.

    Shortly after the article moved on the AP wires, I received a phone call from Rosenblith at Kerry's office. Sounding shocked, the Kerry investigator asked for more details about the last paragraph of the story, but he wouldn't say why he wanted to know. Only months later did I discover that the AP story on Sawyer's logs had provided unintentional corroboration for Palacio's Contra-drug allegations.

    Palacio also passed a polygraph exam on her statements. But Weld and the Justice Department still refused to accept her testimony as credible. (Even a decade later, when I asked the then-Massachusetts governor about Palacio, Weld likened her credibility to "a wagon load of diseased blankets.")

    In fall 1986, Weld's criminal division continued to withhold Contra-drug information requested by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. According to Justice Department records, Lugar and Pell - two of the Senate's most gentlemanly members - wrote on Oct. 14 that they had been waiting more than two months for information that the Justice Department had promised "in an expeditious manner."

    "To date, no information has been received and the investigation of allegations by the committee, therefore, has not moved very far," Lugar and Pell wrote in a joint letter. "We're disappointed that the Department has not responded in a timely fashion and indeed has not provided any materials."

    On Nov. 25, 1986, the Iran-Contra scandal was officially born when Attorney General Edwin Meese announced that profits from secret U.S. arms sales to Iran had been diverted to help fund the Nicaraguan Contras.

    The Washington press corps scrambled to get a handle on the dramatic story of clandestine operations, but still resisted the allegations that the administration's zeal had spilled over into sanctioning or tolerating Contra-connected drug trafficking.

    Though John Kerry's early warnings about White House-aided Contra gunrunning had proved out, his accusations about Contra drug smuggling would continue to be rejected by much of the press corps as going too far.

    On Jan. 21, 1987, the conservative Washington Times attacked Kerry's Contra-drug investigation again; his alleged offense this time was obstructing justice because his probe was supposedly interfering with the Reagan administration's determination to get at the truth. "Kerry's staffers damaged FBI probe," the Times headline read.

    "Congressional investigators for Sen. John Kerry severely damaged a federal drug investigation last summer by interfering with a witness while pursuing allegations of drug smuggling by the Nicaraguan resistance, federal law enforcement officials said," according to the Times article.

    The mainstream press continued to publish stories that denigrated Kerry's investigation. On Feb. 24, 1987, a New York Times article by reporter Keith Schneider quoted "law enforcement officials" saying that the Contra allegations "have come from a small group of convicted drug traffickers in South Florida who never mentioned Contras or the White House until the Iran-Contra affair broke in November."

    The drift of the article made Kerry out to be something of a dupe. His Contra-cocaine witnesses were depicted as simply convicts trying to get lighter prison sentences by embroidering false allegations onto the Iran-Contra scandal. But the information in the Times story was patently untrue. The AP Contra-cocaine story had run in December 1985, almost a year before the Iran-Contra story broke.

    When New York Times reporters conducted their own interview with Palacio, she immediately sensed their hostility. In her Senate deposition, Palacio described her experience at the Times office in Miami. She said Schneider and a "Cuban man" rudely questioned her story and bullied her about specific evidence for each of her statements. The Cuban man "was talking to me kind of nasty," Palacio recalled. "I got up and left, and this man got all pissed off, Keith Schneider."

    The parameters for a "responsible" Iran-Contra investigation were being set. On July 16, 1987, the New York Times published another story that seemed to discredit the Contra-drug charges. It reported that except for a few convicted drug smugglers from Miami, the Contra-cocaine "charges have not been verified by any other people and have been vigorously denied by several government agencies."

    Four days later, the Times added that "investigators, including reporters from major news outlets, have tried without success to find proof of ... allegations that military supplies may have been paid for with profits from drug smuggling." (The Times was inaccurate again. The original AP story had cited a CIA report describing the Contras buying a helicopter with drug money.)

    The joint Senate-House Iran-Contra committee averted its eyes from the Contra-cocaine allegations. The only time the issue was raised publicly was when a demonstrator interrupted one hearing by shouting, "Ask about the cocaine." Kerry was excluded from the investigation.

    On July 27, 1987, behind the scenes, committee staff investigator Robert A. Bermingham echoed the New York Times. "Hundreds of persons" had been questioned, he said, and vast numbers of government files reviewed, but no "corroboration of media-exploited allegations of U.S. government-condoned drug trafficking by Contra leaders or Contra organizations" was found. The report, however, listed no names of any interview subjects nor any details about the files examined.

    Bermingham's conclusions conflicted with closed-door Iran-Contra testimony from administration insiders. In a classified deposition to the congressional Iran-Contra committees, senior CIA officer Alan Fiers said, "with respect to [drug trafficking by] the Resistance Forces [the Contras] it is not a couple of people. It is a lot of people."

    Despite official denials and press hostility, Kerry and his investigators pressed ahead. In 1987, with the arrival of a Democratic majority in the Senate, Kerry also became chairman of the Senate subcommittee on terrorism, narcotics and international operations. He used that position to pry loose the facts proving that the official denials were wrong and that Contra units were involved in the drug trade.

    Kerry's report was issued two years later, on April 13, 1989. Its stunning conclusion: "On the basis of the evidence, 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. In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring, or immediately thereafter."

    The report discovered that drug traffickers gave the Contras "cash, weapons, planes, pilots, air supply services and other materials." Moreover, the U.S. State Department had paid some drug traffickers as part of a program to fly non-lethal assistance to the Contras. Some payments occurred "after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges, in others while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies."

    Although Kerry's findings represented the first time a congressional report explicitly accused federal agencies of willful collaboration with drug traffickers, the major news organizations chose to bury the startling findings. Instead of front-page treatment, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times all wrote brief accounts and stuck them deep inside their papers. The New York Times article, only 850 words long, landed on Page 8. The Post placed its story on A20. The Los Angeles Times found space on Page 11.

    One of the best-read political reference books, the Almanac of American Politics, gave this account of Kerry's investigation in its 1992 edition: "In search of right-wing villains and complicit Americans, [Kerry] tried to link Nicaraguan Contras to the drug trade, without turning up much credible evidence."

    Thus, Kerry's reward for his strenuous and successful efforts to get to the bottom of a difficult case of high-level government corruption was to be largely ignored by the mainstream press and even have his reputation besmirched.

    But the Contra-cocaine story didn't entirely go away. In 1991, in the trial of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking, federal prosecutors called as a witness Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder, who testified that the Medellin cartel had given $10 million to the Contras, a claim that one of Kerry's witnesses had made years earlier. "The Kerry hearings didn't get the attention they deserved at the time," a Washington Post editorial on Nov. 27, 1991 acknowledged. "The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention."

    Kerry's vindication in the Contra drug case did not come until 1998, when inspectors general at the CIA and Justice Department reviewed their files in connection with allegations published by the San Jose Mercury News that the Contra-cocaine pipeline had contributed to the crack epidemic that ravaged inner-city neighborhoods in the 1980s. (Ironically, the major national newspapers only saw fit to put the Contra-cocaine story on their front pages in criticizing the Mercury News and its reporter Gary Webb for taking the allegations too far.)

    On Oct. 4, 1996, the Washington Post published a front-page story, with two more pages inside, that was critical of the Mercury News. But while accusing the Mercury News of exaggerating, the Post noted that Contra-connected drug smugglers had brought tons of cocaine into the United States. "Even CIA personnel testified to Congress they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers," the Post reported.

    A Post editorial on Oct. 9, 1996, reprised the newspaper's assessment that the Mercury News had overreached, but added that for "CIA-connected characters to have played even a trivial role in introducing Americans to crack would indicate an unconscionable breach by the CIA."

    In the months that followed, the major newspapers - including the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times - joined the Post in criticizing the Mercury News while downplaying their own inattention to the crimes that Kerry had illuminated a decade earlier. The Los Angeles Times actually used Kerry's report to dismiss the Mercury News series as old news because the Contra cocaine trafficking "has been well documented for years."

    While the major newspapers gloated when reporter Gary Webb was forced to resign from the Mercury News, the internal government investigations, which Webb's series had sparked, moved forward. The government's decade-long Contra cocaine cover-up began to crumble when CIA inspector general Frederick Hitz published the first of two volumes of his Contra cocaine investigation on Jan. 29, 1998, followed by a Justice Department report and Hitz's second volume in October 1998.

    The CIA inspector general and Justice Department reports confirmed that the Reagan administration knew from almost the outset of the Contra war that cocaine traffickers permeated the CIA-backed army but the administration did next to nothing to expose or stop these criminals. The reports revealed example after example of leads not followed, witnesses disparaged and official law-enforcement investigations sabotaged. The evidence indicated that Contra-connected smugglers included the Medellin cartel, the Panamanian government of Manuel Noriega, the Honduran military, the Honduran-Mexican smuggling ring of Ramon Matta Ballesteros, and Miami-based anti-Castro Cubans.

    Reviewing evidence that existed in the 1980s, CIA inspector general Hitz found that some Contra-connected drug traffickers worked directly for Reagan's National Security Council staff and the CIA. In 1987, Cuban-American Bay of Pigs veteran Moises Nunez told CIA investigators that "it was difficult to answer questions relating to his involvement in narcotics trafficking because of the specific tasks he had performed at the direction of the NSC."

    CIA task force chief Fiers said the Nunez-NSC drug lead was not pursued then "because of the NSC connection and the possibility that this could be somehow connected to the Private Benefactor program [Oliver North's fundraising]. A decision was made not to pursue this matter."

    Another Cuban-American who had attracted Kerry's interest was Felipe Vidal, who had a criminal record as a narcotics trafficker in the 1970s. But the CIA still hired him to serve as a logistics officer for the Contras and covered up for him when the agency learned that he was collaborating with known traffickers to raise money for the Contras, the Hitz report showed. Fiers had briefed Kerry about Vidal on Oct. 15, 1986, without mentioning Vidal's drug arrests and conviction in the 1970s.

    Hitz found that a chief reason for the CIA's protective handling of Contra-drug evidence was Langley's "one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government ... [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the Contra program."

    According to Hitz's report, one CIA field officer explained, "The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war."

    This pattern of obstruction occurred while Vice President Bush was in charge of stanching the flow of drugs to the United States. Kerry made himself a pest by demanding answers to troubling questions.

    "He wanted to get to the bottom of something so dark," former public defender Mattes told me. "Nobody could imagine it was so dark."

    In the end, investigations by government inspectors general corroborated Kerry's 1989 findings and vindicated his effort. But the muted conclusion of the Contra-cocaine controversy 12 years after Kerry began his investigation explains why this chapter is an overlooked - though important - episode in Kerry's Senate career. It's a classic case of why, in Washington, there's little honor in being right too soon. Yet it's also a story about a senator who had the personal honor to do the right thing.



DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Legendary CIA Officer Anthony "Tony Poe" Poshepny, the man in charge of all covert operations in Laos and Cambodia during the vietnam war talks about the heroin trade and Air America--admitting that his assets smuggled opium, and gave money to the President of South Vietnam! POE was the inspiration for the character of "Colonel Kurtz" (Marlon Brando) in Apocolypse Now.
It is my understanding that the man named by Poe as being the largest heroin dealer, Vang Pao, is now a U.S. citizen!

(Excerpt) I recommend clicking the link to read the whole transcript, it is pretty damning.......


Article about Poe's death in asia times:
His memorial on Air America website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did he do with the money?

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

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

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

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

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


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 09:53:50 -0800 (PST)
From: judson witham
Subject: Fwd: Gary Webb, Dead at 49 - Linked CIA to Drug Sales
To: martindom@yahoo.com
CC: APFN@apfn.org, jeffandmary@ozarkopathy.org,
PeopleBeforeLawyers@yahoogroups.com, slmays007@aol.com

HUGE amounts of LOOTED MONEY also caused Don Bolles,  Brian Quig and Mark Lombardi amongst others to DIE.  Gary Webb another great Journalist SILENCED !
Judson Witham

APFN <APFN@apfn.org> wrote:
Date: Sun, 12 Dec 2004 22:46:48 -0700
From: APFN
To: APFN Yahoogroups
Subject: Gary Webb, Dead at 49 - Linked CIA to Drug Sales

Associated Press
Gary Webb, Dead at 49 - Linked CIA to Drug Sales
Mon Dec 13, 2004 00:47

Gary Webb, Reporter Who Linked CIA to Drug Sales, Dead at 49
The Associated Press
Published: Dec 12, 2004

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Gary Webb, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who wrote a controversial series of stories linking the CIA to crack cocaine trafficking in Los Angeles, has died at age 49.

Webb was found Friday morning at his home in Sacramento County, dead of an apparent suicide. Moving-company workers called authorities after discovering a note posted on his front door that read, "Please do not enter. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance."

Webb died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Sacramento County coroner's office.

Webb was part of the San Jose Mercury News reporting team that won a 1990 Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Webb's 1996 series in the Mercury News alleged that Nicaraguan drug traffickers had sold tons of crack cocaine in Los Angeles and funneled millions of dollars in profits to the CIA-supported Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980s.

The articles did not accuse the CIA of directly aiding drug dealers to raise money for the Contras, but implied that the agency was aware of the activity.

Major parts of Webb's reporting were later discredited by other newspaper investigations. An investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department found no evidence of a connection between the CIA and the drug traffickers.

In 1997, then-Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos backed away from the series, saying "we fell short at every step of our process." Webb was transferred to one of the paper's suburban bureaus.

"This is just harassment," Webb said after his demotion. "This isn't the first time that a reporter went after the CIA and lost his job over it."

After quitting the newspaper in December 1997, Webb continued to defend his reporting with his 1999 book "Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion."

Born in Corona, Calif., to a military family, Webb dropped out of journalism school and went to work for the Kentucky Post and the Cleveland Plain Dealer before landing at the Mercury News.

Webb worked in state government after leaving the paper, most prominently as a member of an audit committee investigating former Gov. Gray Davis' controversial award of a $95 million no-bid contract to Oracle Corp. in 2001.

Earlier this year, Webb was one of a group of employees fired from the Assembly Speaker's Office of Member Services for failing to show up for work. He continued writing occasionally for various publications.

"All he ever wanted to do was write," said Webb's ex-wife, Susan Bell.

Webb is survived by two sons and a daughter.

Gary Webb Speaks: "Dark Alliance" Author Talks on CIA, Contras & ...
Investigative journalist Gary Webb spoke to a packed house in Eugene,
Oregon at 7:30 pm on January 16, 1999. ParaScope presents ...


March 21, 2001
Silencing the Messenger Censoring NarcoNews
by Gary Webb

Not long after I wrote a series for the San Jose Mercury News about a drug ring that had flooded South Central Los Angeles with cheap cocaine at the beginning of the crack explosion there, a strange thing happened to me. I was silenced.

This, believe it or not, came as something of a surprise to me. For 17 years I had been writing newspaper stories about grafters, crooked bankers, corrupt politicians and killers -- and winning armloads of journalism awards for it. Some of my stories had convened grand juries and sent important people to well-deserved jail cells. Others ended up on 20/20, and later became a best-selling book (not written by me, unfortunately.) I started doing television news shows, speaking to college journalism classes and professional seminars. I had major papers bidding against each other to hire me.

So when I happened across information implicating an arm of the Central Intelligence Agency in the cocaine trade, I had no qualms about jumping onto it with both feet. What did I have to worry about? I was a newspaperman for a big city, take-no-prisoners newspaper. I had the First Amendment, a law firm, and a multi-million dollar corporation watching my back.

Besides, this story was a fucking outrage. Right-wing Latin American drug dealers were helping finance a CIA-run covert war in Nicaragua by selling tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods in LA, who were turning it into crack and spreading it through black neighborhoods nationwide. And all the available evidence pointed to the sickening conclusion that elements of the US government had known of it and had either tacitly encouraged it or, at a minimum, done absolutely nothing to stop it.

And that's when this strange thing happened. The national news media, instead of using its brute strength to force the truth from our government, decided that its time would be better spent investigating me and my reporting. They kicked me around pretty good, I have to admit. (At one point, I was even accused of making movie deals with a crack dealer I'd written about. The DEA raided my film agent's office looking for any scrap of paper to back up this lie and appeared disappointed when they came up emptyhanded.)

To this day, no one has ever been able to show me a single error of fact in anything I've written about this drug ring, which includes a 600-page book about the whole tragic mess. Indeed, most of what has come out since shows that my newspaper stories grossly underestimated the extent of our government's knowledge, an error to which I readily confess. But, in the end, the facts didn't really matter. What mattered was making the damned thing go away, shutting people up, and making anyone who demanded the truth appear to be a wacky conspiracy theorist. And it worked.

As a result, the CIA was allowed to investigate itself, release a heavily censored report admitting that it had worked with cocaine traffickers, and simultaneously declare itself innocent of any wrongdoing. And that's where our firebrand national news media has let the matter lie to this day.

Now it's NarcoNews' turn for the silence treatment. And, if I had to guess, I'd venture to say that it's probably more important to the folks selling us the Drug War to shut up Al Giordano than it is to silence mainstream reporters who, in my father's eloquent words, wouldn't say shit if they had a mouth full of it.

No one can lean on NarcoNews's editors, or their bosses, or its board of directors to reign Al in or, failing that, reassign him to the night copy desk. The only person they can lean on is Al, who doesn't take to being leaned on. And they can't shut down the Internet either. So two choices remain.

They can grit their teeth and suffer Al's reporting, day after aggravating day, as he exposes the ugly underside of this endless war on drugs - and actually makes things happen, like real journalists are supposed to do. Or they can try to make it impossible for him to do his job by harassing him with specious lawsuits, bedevil him with lawyers and depositions and interrogatories and subpoenas, and reduce him to penury. Why? To silence
him. To make him go away. To keep him from looking under rocks that reporters aren't supposed to look under.

Make no mistake. This court fight isn't about any particular story NarcoNews has done. It's about ALL of them, and all of the ones yet to come. And it's a battle over the continued independence of Internet journalism as well. The silencing of Al Giordano and NarcoNews isn't a theoretical possibility that might happen a couple years from now. It's already happening. Al and his volunteer lawyers are hip-deep in it right now. And they need our help.

Narco News and Al Giordano face an April 9th deadline to respond to the Banamex censorship lawsuit or they will be declared in default - guilty without a single fact being heard in a case where the facts prove them right.

A civil lawsuit is different than a criminal case: complex legal issues require trained lawyers to dig through the law books on procedural issues so far from the basic truths about photographs of cocaine trafficking on the coast of Mexico. The bank's lawyers at Akin Gump are paid astronomic fees to raise every small point of process and delay the day when the facts come to light in New York City court.

If this case goes to trial, that's when Narco News will triumph. And all of us will win with it as the real facts of the corruption of the international drug war come to light in the media center of New York.

The hard part comes right now, in navigating the maze of irrelevantprocess issues, as any reporter who has covered the courts has seen. Narco News will either be able to have skilled attorneys get them through this complicated phase or - I can see it coming - Al will have to take a long trip to the law library himself, abandon reporting for the coming weeks or months in order
to wage his own defense. Then you and I will not be able to read new reports on Narco News at this key moment when Plan Colombia explodes regionally and more Latin American voices are raised against the drug war, like the Mexican police chief yesterday, who, if not for Narco News, would never be heard by those of us who speak and read in English.

That is what is at stake: Whether a skilled reporter has to retire for months to become a pro se lawyer, or whether he can continue reporting the facts to us.

I was silenced but am not silenced any more. When, the other day, the film rights to my book Dark Alliance about US complicity in the cocaine trade were purchased for a television movie, I wrote Al to pledge part of those
proceeds to his defense. In the years to come, there is no question that Narco News will be proven right and will be helping the next generation of reporters fight efforts to censor them.

But wouldn't it be wonderful if this time the censors failed entirely to take Al and Narco News out of circulation, for a year, for months, even for a week? Wouldn't that be the best deterrent against bankers and lobbyists from waging these frivolous lawsuits against Free Speech on the Internet? I understand that Narco News needs only about $13,000 more to be able to have the most difficult stage of the lawsuit process - that which it faces immediately - handled with professional legal assistance, thus allowing Al to continue expending his energy and time in reporting to us the facts. One person of means could solve this problem with a check. Two dozen people giving $500 could do it. 130 people giving a hundred dollars... you can do the math: If half of Narco News' readers give one dollar each, Narco News will keep publishing.

The hard part is that it must be done now, today. Please join me in sending a check to:

Drug War on Trial
C/O Thomas Lesser, Esq.
Lesser, Newman, Souweine & Nasser
39 Main Street
Northampton, MA 01060

Al often says that Narco News never wanted to ask its readers for a cent, and I sense that it pains him to ask the readers who benefit from his reporting to support his defense in court. That's why I'm writing you.

This lawsuit is bigger than the fate of one Internet publication. It is larger than, but it will decide, free speech issues in cyberspace for years to come. What is at stake here is nothing less than whether the public knows the truth and the facts about the war on drugs in our hemisphere.

If we don't all act today, we will be in the dark again tomorrow.

For information about the lawsuit and its defense:


Secret Patriot Act II to give Hitler's Powers to Bush

"Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."
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Drug War: Covert Money, Power & Policy: Interdiction

The E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning & Control System

If you ask the DEA what percentage of smuggled drugs they intercept, they'll give you exactly the same answer they gave in 1928 or 1948, "about 10%", which is both a wild exaggeration and a cover story. A busy port receives over 100,000 containers a week. They can't even search 1%, let alone nail 10%. A DEA official in "candid" mode will admit they really intercept only 5%, still an absurd exaggeration, although the confiscation laws do enable the narks to make make money coming and going. They're just part of the system.

A wild peninsular coastline like Washington State-British Columbia is uncontrollable. NYT:1/31/95: "Canada has only a few Coast Guard cutters and Mountie patrol boats to watch 16,900 miles of [BC] coastline." The U.S. has almost 90,000 miles of coastline, 300 ports of entry.

As of early 1998, the U.S. had 7,000 agents patrolling the sexy 2,000-mile Mexican border, but only 300 covering the entire 5,500-mile Alaska-Canada-U.S. border. 99% of Canada's superb hydroponic pot gets through, making it a multi-billion dollar factor in the Canadian economy.

Otay Mesa, next to Tijuana, is the main commercial truck entrance from Mexico's maquilladora ("final touch") factories into the U.S. It is overwhelmed with traffic, 24/7. "Spend a couple of hours at Otay Mesa, and you'll notice a lot of guys on either side of the border just hanging around, chatting a lot of the time on their cell phones. They're spotters for trucks on drugs runs. They tip off the driver about what time to come, which lane to use, what to say, and the DEA can't tap into their calls because they all have encryption or scrambler devices." That is, they're coordinating the drug run with their very own customs agents, who make as much as $50,000 in untraceable street cash simply for waving a hot truck through. That's a year's wages for ten minutes work.

U.S. Customs mapped 500 airstrips within a hundred miles of either side of the Mexican border. Of nearly 7,000 suspicious flights detected by the Pentagon in 1990, 49 were caught. In 1996, The Christian Science Monitor informs us, "AWACS provided information that led to four cocaine interdictions worth $945 million - about 35 percent of all cocaine intercepted coming into the US." That is, about ¹ of 1% of all the cocaine coming into the U.S.

CSM:"'Interdiction, although it is often bad-mouthed, has to be one of the principal components of the fight against drugs,' says a retired military officer who now serves in the president's Office of National Drug Control Policy. 'The capstone is the AWACS with their special "look down" radar. Nothing gets by them when they are up.' As it turns out, the green blip - signifying a small airplane flying low over the ocean, southeast of Florida - was not trafficking in illegal drugs." That is, the celestial AWACS has no earthly way of distinguishing between the scores of small aircraft on its screen at any one time. That means that one scramble in 100 hits the mark.

Thanks to the political pressure, coke and pot seizures were up along the Mexican border in 1995. The Nogales Border patrol station seized a little more than a ton of coke in 95. But that's just a 1% tax to smugglers who can slip more than a hundred tons through Nogales each year. But Mexican streetfighters don't take that Gringo crap nohow. Phil Jordan, 1995 DEA director of the El Paso Intelligence Center, had his brother shot dead in an El Paso street by a Mexican hit squad. And they're not above hitting his kids, either. This gives Jordan's subordinates serious pause when offered a piece of the action by a Mexican hit team. "It's kind of like this," explains Robert Nieves, former DEA Chief of International Operations, "You're offered a bribe. If bribery doesn't work, you're offered violence. And that violence will be exacted against you or your family members." Plata o Plomo, Silver or Lead, as the famous phrase goes.

Jorge Hank Rhon and Customs Port Director Jerry B. Martin

Still, one still wonders why the border continues to be so porous, given the muscle the El Paso Intelligence Center, operating along with Army Joint Task Force 6 out of Biggs Army Airfield, can muster. Biggs employs some 300 people coordinating intelligence from all Pentagon, NSA, FBI, Treasury, DIA and CIA sources, and can mobilize military SWAT teams. Senior Customs Inspector John Carman provides part of the answer:ãMillionaire-Smuggler-Crime Figure Jorge Hank-Rhon and Customs Port Director Jerry B. Martin. Both associated with former District Director Allan J.Rappoport and John ãJackä Maryon, who were all under investigation, but Customs Internal Affairs, FBI, or the other Federal agencies investigating did nothing about these dangerous liaisons... I was Îorderedâ not to put Jorge Hank Rhonâs name into the Customs/Treasury look out system TECS (Treasury Enforcement Computer System) because of another Customs Supervisor named John ãJackä Maryon. Hank Rhon was later caught smuggling more currency at LAX international airport.ä http://www.customscorruption.com

The above-quoted DEA Chief of International Operations, Robert Nieves, before rising to that exalted position, ran the DEAâs Costa Rica office. He ran interference for the Contras and Manuel Noriega against the likes of reformist antidrug revolutionary Hugo Spadafora and reformist antidrug DEA agent Celerino Castillo. It was Nieves who protected Hank Rhonâs trading partner Norwin Meneses for the CIA, literally helping to run his huge Contra-cocaine supply operation, as Gary Webb has documented in such detail. Nieves then went on to head the DEAâs cocaine task force in DC - with zero strategic effect, needless to say. After his 1995 retirement, Nieves went to work for body armor manufacturer Guardian Technologies - owned by Oliver North and Contra-era Costa Rica CIA station chief Joe Fernandez, both barred from Costa Rica for dealing in multiton loads of cocaine. With leadership like that, the pipeline is open.

The rest of the answer to the open border question, aside from John Carman's computer-entry orders, is that their TECS, NADDIS and NIN (Narcotics Information Network) computer system is just another impotent eye in the sky. It don't tell them squat about the cucarachas. NADDIS can go after money-laundering "kingpins" all it wants. But it's the system - the bottom-up economics of street-dealing - that generates the "kingpin," not the other way around.

As Clinton deplaned in Mexico on 5/5/97, I heard reporters on all three major networks authoritatively declare that the Mexican drug problem was really "kingpin" Amado Carillo. That's just the fluff of the moment, the dehydrated, homogenized formula - just add air time and whip. The reportage on all three networks was virtually identical, word for word, as if these guys were reading press releases. Not one reporter mentioned the economics of Prohibition, although one did add some parenthetical mumbling about "corruption."

The DEA guesses that more than 500 tons of coke were successfully smuggled into the U.S. in 1996. Their guess, and they admit it's a guess, is probably a gross underestimation, given that total coke siezures, including all maritime seizures, were close to 80 tons. But even according to the DEA's own figures, so much coke gets through that confiscations, however heavy, simply function to protect the value of the successfully smuggled imports.

To quote the State Department's own end-of-year 1996 Enforcement Affairs report, "in FY 1996 the total USG budget for international drug control operations was approximately $1.6 billion. That equates to 16 metric tons of cocaine; the drug trade has lost that much in two shipments and scarcely felt the loss."

The General Accounting Office, in 1997, reported that all interdiction and seizure efforts made by the U.S. Government between 1988 and 1995 "made little impact on the availability of illegal drugs in the United States and on the amount needed to satisfy U.S. demand."

That is, drug enforcement throughout the U.S. simply has the practical effect of protecting, indeed creating, the artificially inflated street value of illegal drugs, thereby financing the smugglers. That's the fascist game. That's why Santos Trafficante, a genius at smuggling contraband, worked for the CIA. Trafficante, of course, was also a genius at keeping himself relatively unknown.

We are constantly told that the death of a "kingpin" is a strategic victory, but it's the system that generates the dealer, not the dealer the system. J. Edgar Hoover pioneered the well-publicized destruction of "kingpins," brilliantly throwing a blanket of PR over his ineffectiveness and corruption. Hoover used the same ghost writer as Harry Anslinger, former circus press agent Courtney Ryley Cooper, the man who invented the phrase "Reefer Madness." Cooper wrote flashy magazine stories dramatizing J. Edgar's fictitious personal encounters with "America's most wanted."

In 1939 Hoover decided that Lepke Buchalter was "the most dangerous man in America." This momentous decision was forced on J. Edgar when Lepke got himself indicted in 1937 for importing huge amounts of Japanese-KMT heroin from Tientsin. Although the FBI had nothing to do with the investigation or the indictment, it asked Lepke's partners, Lansky and Luciano, to hand him over to Hoover personally, in the presence of Walter Winchell, no less, in exchange for anonymity and protection. Lansky and Luciano wisely complied - it was good for business, and they were wise guys.

Trafficante, Marcello, Giancana, Rosselli, Lansky, Costello, Dalitz, Licavoli, Dragna, even the flamboyant Luciano never became FBI "Public Enemies" like John Dillinger or Pretty Boy Floyd, redneck pistoleros who never actually owned a Banana Republic. Of course, if Hoover's objective wasn't the suppression of organized crime but the suppression of political dissent, then he was, by his lights, acting correctly. Lansky, left, was a dedicated "anti-communist." Look how he helped Lepke "decommunize" the New York clothing industry. Look how Joe Adonis, right, helped clean the Reds out of Sicily, and Guatemala. Look what Trafficante did for Cuba. Hoover's FBI never went after the Syndicate or narcotics at all.

I remember seeing roving U.S. ambassador Lewis Tambs, in a PBS Frontline documentary on Medell’n "kingpin" Pablo Escobar, at pains to stress J. Edgar's old line. He said the drug business is "dealer-driven," and that if we'd only concentrate on these nasty people, we could ignore all that fussy structural stuff. Bullshit. Escobar's dead and Colombian coke is flying through the pipeline faster than ever. Cali "kingpins" are biting the dust too, but Colombian coke just keeps on flowing through La Pipa.

The State Department's end-of-year 1996 Narcotics Control Strategy Report also goes on and on, country by country, about the destruction of "kingpins," continually claiming completely imaginary strategic progress. It measures this progress not only by the death of this or that bad guy, literally counting bodies, but by its successful efforts to enhance "police-military cooperation" in-country with U.S. enforcement entities. "Progress," of course, justifies an ever-expanding budget. It also points to the real import of the Drug War - the enhancement of U.S. power "in-country."

On May 2, 1996, Attorney General Reno, flanked by a phalanx of heavies, treated us to her John Mitchell impersonation. She announced that the United States had smashed a major drug ring with "tentacles" extending into Colombia, Mexico and cities all across the U.S. The operation netted 130 arrests, $17 million in cash and 6 tons of cocaine. "The most sophisticated and the most well-coordinated effort that I've ever seen," beamed one DEA official, who surely must have known better. The bust was trumpeted, in a strangely homogenized way, all over the media as a tactical victory in the War. The fact that busts like this have been routine for the past 25 years, and that the Colombians replaced the coke and the street dealers within ten minutes, wasn't mentioned. All Reno actually did was reinforce the value of the mountain of coke that remained on the street, thus creating yet more incentive to produce more coke as rapidly as possible.

The Colombians distribute much of their coke through the Gangster Disciples, who are so powerful they can buy 300-kilo lots direct and manage the nationwide distribution themselves. That's not just a gang, that's a culture. The Disciples can use their army of wholesalers to front ambitious 12-year-olds a "sixty-pack" of ten-dollar crack vials. An outgoing hustler can sell-out in half an hour. The kid keeps a hundred, turns $500 over to the wholesaler, and gets another sixty-pack. The kid can make $1000 in a day, and the wholesaler many times that. The cops end up at war with the whole neighborhood.

"Gang violence has spread to every corner of America," intoned Janet Reno, as she announced the results of the July, 1996 survey of gang activity, which showed an estimated 650,000 gang members in 25,000 gangs nationwide. These figures demonstrate the need for yet more and better warfare aimed at the projects, insisted the AG.

Thanks to this logic, the Bloods, the Crips, the Vice Lords, the Cobra Stones and the Gangster Disciples have an ironclad monopoly on street dealing throughout the U.S. The power-hungry Disciples enforce their membership with savage rules of violence. You come to work on-time, and you come to work sober, or else. You don't screw up the brothers. These guys are more disciplined than the Mafia ever was. These serious pistoleros won't be dignified in the media as freedom fighters, of course, but they sure as hell are fighters, and many see themselves as freedom fighters. The Gangster Disciples call themselves "Brothers of the Struggle." Try taking the night away from them in downtown Chicago.

The Gangster Disciples, created in 1974 by an organizational genius named Larry "King" Hoover, from prison, now have 30,000 members in 35 states - and an annual income of at least $100 million. You better believe they know how to defend their turf. So what if King Hoover gets another 200 years added to his life sentence. How's that going to affect his Midwest pistoleros, or the cops on their payroll? If you were offered $10,000 for one night's work, or a bullet in the head, which would you take?

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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America's Debt to Journalist Gary Webb
By Robert Parry
December 13, 2004

In 1996, journalist Gary Webb wrote a series of articles that forced a long-overdue investigation of a very dark chapter of recent U.S. foreign policy – the Reagan-Bush administration’s protection of cocaine traffickers who operated under the cover of the Nicaraguan contra war in the 1980s.
For his brave reporting at the San Jose Mercury News, Webb paid a high price. He was attacked by journalistic colleagues at the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the American Journalism Review and even the Nation magazine. Under this media pressure, his editor Jerry Ceppos sold out the story and demoted Webb, causing him to quit the Mercury News. Even Webb’s marriage broke up.
On Friday, Dec. 10, Gary Webb, 49, died of an apparent suicide, a gunshot wound to the head.
Whatever the details of Webb’s death, American history owes him a huge debt. Though denigrated by much of the national news media, Webb’s contra-cocaine series prompted internal investigations by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department, probes that confirmed that scores of contra units and contra-connected individuals were implicated in the drug trade. The probes also showed that the Reagan-Bush administration frustrated investigations into those crimes for geopolitical reasons.
Failed Media
Unintentionally, Webb also exposed the cowardice and unprofessional behavior that had become the new trademarks of the major U.S. news media by the mid-1990s. The big news outlets were always hot on the trail of some titillating scandal – the O.J. Simpson case or the Monica Lewinsky scandal – but the major media could no longer grapple with serious crimes of state.
Even after the CIA’s inspector general issued his findings in 1998, the major newspapers could not muster the talent or the courage to explain those extraordinary government admissions to the American people. Nor did the big newspapers apologize for their unfair treatment of Gary Webb. Foreshadowing the media incompetence that would fail to challenge George W. Bush’s case for war with Iraq five years later, the major news organizations effectively hid the CIA’s confession from the American people.
The New York Times and the Washington Post never got much past the CIA’s “executive summary,” which tried to put the best spin on Inspector General Frederick Hitz’s findings. The Los Angeles Times never even wrote a story after the final volume of the CIA’s report was published, though Webb’s initial story had focused on contra-connected cocaine shipments to South-Central Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Times’ cover-up has now continued after Webb’s death. In a harsh obituary about Webb, the Times reporter, who called to interview me, ignored my comments about the debt the nation owed Webb and the importance of the CIA’s inspector general findings. Instead of using Webb’s death as an opportunity to finally get the story straight, the Times acted as if there never had been an official investigation confirming many of Webb’s allegations. [Los Angeles Times, Dec. 12, 2004.]
By maintaining the contra-cocaine cover-up – even after the CIA’s had admitted the facts – the big newspapers seemed to have understood that they could avoid any consequences for their egregious behavior in the 1990s or for their negligence toward the contra-cocaine issue when it first surfaced in the 1980s. After all, the conservative news media – the chief competitor to the mainstream press – isn’t going to demand a reexamination of the crimes of the Reagan-Bush years.
That means that only a few minor media outlets, like our own Consortiumnews.com, will go back over the facts now, just as only a few of us addressed the significance of the government admissions in the late 1990s. I compiled and explained the findings of the CIA/Justice investigations in my 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth.’
Contra-Cocaine Case
Lost History, which took its name from a series at this Web site, also describes how the contra-cocaine story first reached the public in a story that Brian Barger and I wrote for the Associated Press in December 1985. Though the big newspapers pooh-poohed our discovery, Sen. John Kerry followed up our story with his own groundbreaking investigation. For his efforts, Kerry also encountered media ridicule. Newsweek dubbed the Massachusetts senator a “randy conspiracy buff.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Kerry’s Contra-Cocaine Chapter.”]
So when Gary Webb revived the contra-cocaine issue in August 1996 with a 20,000-word three-part series entitled “Dark Alliance,” editors at major newspapers already had a powerful self-interest to slap down a story that they had disparaged for the past decade.
The challenge to their earlier judgments was doubly painful because the Mercury-News’ sophisticated Web site ensured that Webb’s series made a big splash on the Internet, which was just emerging as a threat to the traditional news media. Also, the African-American community was furious at the possibility that U.S. government policies had contributed to the crack-cocaine epidemic.
In other words, the mostly white, male editors at the major newspapers saw their preeminence in judging news challenged by an upstart regional newspaper, the Internet and common American citizens who also happened to be black. So, even as the CIA was prepared to conduct a relatively thorough and honest investigation, the major newspapers seemed more eager to protect their reputations and their turf.
Without doubt, Webb’s series had its limitations. It primarily tracked one West Coast network of contra-cocaine traffickers from the early-to-mid 1980s. Webb connected that cocaine to an early “crack” production network that supplied Los Angeles street gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, leading to Webb’s conclusion that contra cocaine fueled the early crack epidemic that devastated Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.
When black leaders began demanding a full investigation of these charges, the Washington media joined the political Establishment in circling the wagons. It fell to Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s right-wing Washington Times to begin the counterattack against Webb’s series. The Washington Times turned to some former CIA officials, who participated in the contra war, to refute the drug charges.
But – in a pattern that would repeat itself on other issues in the following years – the Washington Post and other mainstream newspapers quickly lined up behind the conservative news media. On Oct. 4, 1996, the Washington Post published a front-page article knocking down Webb’s story.
The Post’s approach was twofold: first, it presented the contra-cocaine allegations as old news – “even CIA personnel testified to Congress they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers,” the Post reported – and second, the Post minimized the importance of the one contra smuggling channel that Webb had highlighted – that it had not “played a major role in the emergence of crack.” A Post side-bar story dismissed African-Americans as prone to “conspiracy fears.”
Soon, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times joined in the piling on of Gary Webb. The big newspapers made much of the CIA’s internal reviews in 1987 and 1988 that supposedly cleared the spy agency of a role in contra-cocaine smuggling.
But the CIA's decade-old cover-up began to crack on Oct. 24, 1996, when CIA Inspector General Hitz conceded before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the first CIA probe had lasted only 12 days, the second only three days. He promised a more thorough review.
Mocking Webb
Meanwhile, however, Gary Webb became the target of outright media ridicule. Influential Post media critic Howard Kurtz mocked Webb for saying in a book proposal that he would explore the possibility that the contra war was primarily a business to its participants. “Oliver Stone, check your voice mail,” Kurtz chortled. [Washington Post, Oct. 28, 1996]
Webb’s suspicion was not unfounded, however. Indeed, White House aide Oliver North’s emissary Rob Owen had made the same point a decade earlier, in a March 17, 1986, message about the contra leadership. “Few of the so-called leaders of the movement … really care about the boys in the field,” Owen wrote. “THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Capitalization in the original.]
Nevertheless, the pillorying of Gary Webb was on, in earnest. The ridicule also had a predictable effect on the executives of the Mercury-News. By early 1997, executive editor Jerry Ceppos was in retreat.
On May 11, 1997, Ceppos published a front-page column saying the series “fell short of my standards.” He criticized the stories because they “strongly implied CIA knowledge” of contra connections to U.S. drug dealers who were manufacturing crack-cocaine. “We did not have proof that top CIA officials knew of the relationship.”
The big newspapers celebrated Ceppos’s retreat as vindication of their own dismissal of the contra-cocaine stories. Ceppos next pulled the plug on the Mercury-News’ continuing contra-cocaine investigation and reassigned Webb to a small office in Cupertino, California, far from his family. Webb resigned the paper in disgrace.
For undercutting Webb and the other reporters working on the contra investigation, Ceppos was lauded by the American Journalism Review and was given the 1997 national “Ethics in Journalism Award” by the Society of Professional Journalists. While Ceppos won raves, Webb watched his career collapse and his marriage break up.
Probes Advance
Still, Gary Webb had set in motion internal government investigations that would bring to the surface long-hidden facts about how the Reagan-Bush administration had conducted the contra war. The CIA’s defensive line against the contra-cocaine allegations began to break when the spy agency published Volume One of Hitz’s findings on Jan. 29, 1998.
Despite a largely exculpatory press release, Hitz’s Volume One admitted that not only were many of Webb’s allegations true but that he actually understated the seriousness of the contra-drug crimes and the CIA’s knowledge. Hitz acknowledged that cocaine smugglers played a significant early role in the Nicaraguan contra movement and that the CIA intervened to block an image-threatening 1984 federal investigation into a San Francisco-based drug ring with suspected ties to the contras. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’]
On May 7, 1998, another disclosure from the government investigation shook the CIA’s weakening defenses. Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, introduced into the Congressional Record a Feb. 11, 1982, letter of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department. The letter, which had been sought by CIA Director William Casey, freed the CIA from legal requirements that it must report drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered both the Nicaraguan contras and Afghan rebels who were fighting a Soviet-supported regime in Afghanistan.
Justice Report
Another crack in the defensive wall opened when the Justice Department released a report by its inspector general, Michael Bromwich. Given the hostile climate surrounding Webb’s series, Bromwich’s report opened with criticism of Webb. But, like the CIA’s Volume One, the contents revealed new details about government wrongdoing.
According to evidence cited by the report, the Reagan-Bush administration knew almost from the outset of the contra war that cocaine traffickers permeated the paramilitary operation. The administration also did next to nothing to expose or stop the criminal activities. The report revealed example after example of leads not followed, corroborated witnesses disparaged, official law-enforcement investigations sabotaged, and even the CIA facilitating the work of drug traffickers.
The Bromwich report showed that the contras and their supporters ran several parallel drug-smuggling operations, not just the one at the center of Webb’s series. The report also found that the CIA shared little of its information about contra drugs with law-enforcement agencies and on three occasions disrupted cocaine-trafficking investigations that threatened the contras.
Though depicting a more widespread contra-drug operation than Webb had understood, the Justice report also provided some important corroboration about a Nicaraguan drug smuggler, Norwin Meneses, who was a key figure in Webb’s series. Bromwich cited U.S. government informants who supplied detailed information about Meneses’s operation and his financial assistance to the contras.
For instance, Renato Pena, a money-and-drug courier for Meneses, said that in the early 1980s, the CIA allowed the contras to fly drugs into the United States, sell them and keep the proceeds. Pena, who also was the northern California representative for the CIA-backed FDN contra army, said the drug trafficking was forced on the contras by the inadequate levels of U.S. government assistance.
The Justice report also disclosed repeated examples of the CIA and U.S. embassies in Central America discouraging Drug Enforcement Administration investigations, including one into alleged contra-cocaine shipments moving through the airport in El Salvador. In an understated conclusion, Inspector General Bromwich wrote: “We have no doubt that the CIA and the U.S. Embassy were not anxious for the DEA to pursue its investigation at the airport.”
CIA's Volume Two
Despite the remarkable admissions in the body of these reports, the big newspapers showed no inclination to read beyond the press releases and executive summaries. By fall 1998, official Washington was obsessed with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, which made it easier to ignore even more stunning disclosures in the CIA's Volume Two..
In Volume Two, published Oct. 8, 1998, CIA Inspector General Hitz identified more than 50 contras and contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan-Bush administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations, which had threatened to expose the crimes in the mid-1980s. Hitz even published evidence that drug trafficking and money laundering tracked into Reagan’s National Security Council where Oliver North oversaw the contra operations.
Hitz revealed, too, that the CIA placed an admitted drug money launderer in charge of the Southern Front contras in Costa Rica. Also, according to Hitz’s evidence, the second-in-command of contra forces on the Northern Front in Honduras had escaped from a Colombian prison where he was serving time for drug trafficking
In Volume Two, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a tiny fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking. But Hitz made clear that the contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of contra crimes from the Justice Department, the Congress and even the CIA’s own analytical division.
Hitz found in CIA files evidence that the spy agency knew from the first days of the contra war that its new clients were involved in the cocaine trade. According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, one of the early contra groups, known as ADREN, had decided to use drug trafficking as a financing mechanism. Two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981, the CIA cable reported.
ADREN’s leaders included Enrique Bermudez, who emerged as the top contra military commander in the 1980s. Webb’s series had identified Bermudez as giving the green light to contra fundraising by drug trafficker Meneses. Hitz’s report added that that the CIA had another Nicaraguan witness who implicated Bermudez in the drug trade in 1988.
Besides tracing the evidence of contra-drug trafficking through the decade-long contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of the contra-drug problem but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government.
According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. … [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the contra program.” One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”
Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the contra war hid evidence of contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analytical division. Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and the major news organizations – serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his series in 1996.
Though Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it passed almost unnoticed by the big newspapers.
Two days after Hitz’s report was posted at the CIA’s Internet site, the New York Times did a brief article that continued to deride Webb’s work, while acknowledging that the contra-drug problem may indeed have been worse than earlier understood. Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a similarly superficial article. The Los Angeles Times never published a story on the release of the CIA’s Volume Two.
To this day, no editor or reporter who missed the contra-drug story has been punished for his or her negligence. Indeed, many of them are now top executives at their news organizations. On the other hand, Gary Webb’s career never recovered.
At Webb’s death, however, it should be noted that his great gift to American history was that he – along with angry African-American citizens – forced the government to admit some of the worst crimes ever condoned by any American administration: the protection of drug smuggling into the United States as part of a covert war against a country, Nicaragua, that represented no real threat to Americans.
The truth was ugly. Certainly the major news organizations would have come under criticism themselves if they had done their job and laid out this troubling story to the American people. Conservative defenders of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush would have been sure to howl in protest.
But the real tragedy of Webb’s historic gift – and of his life cut short – is that because of the major news media’s callowness and cowardice, this dark chapter of the Reagan-Bush era remains largely unknown to the American people.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His new book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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note....SOF editor Robert K. Brown exposed American lives to danger during the early 1980's by exposing Lt. Col. Bo Gritz' POW hunt mission WHILE GRITZ WAS IN COUNTRY! http://www.decentria.com/trimmer.html http://www.aiipowmia.com/ssc/gritz.html http://www.supremelaw.org/authors/gritz/index.htm and http://www.serendipity.li/cia/gritz1.htm Gritz was subsequently captured and attempts were made to prosecute him in the USA, upon his return when he began telling tales of meeting with Opium Lord Khun Sa in Burma. Khun Sa implicated senior U.S. intelligence officials in the dope trade, including Theodore Shackley and current deputy undersecretary of defense RICHARD ARMITAGE. Letter to Soldier of Fortune http://educate-yourself.org/tw/soldieroffortunemag02oct04.shtml Soldier of Fortune, Inc. Attn: Editor Robert K. Brown 5735 Arapahoe Ave., Suite A-5 Boulder, CO 80303 Dear Mr. Brown: My name is Matthew and I live in San Diego, California. I have been a long time reader of your magazine and I am also a recipient of some email exchanges between yourself and Mr. Celerino Castillo III. Apparently, Mr. Castillo, a retired federal agent, has responded to an anti-Kerry editorial (In your magazine) which attacked the presidential candidate for his Senate committee investigations of Contra involement in drug trafficking during the 1980's. http://www.thememoryhole.com/kerry/ The editorial in your magazine was then followed by another piece by CIA operative Felix Rodriguez which also attacked Kerry for his investigation of government links to the drug trade. http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2004-09-23/metro.html I just wanted to write and let you know that as a reader of your magazine, I was shocked to hear first hand Mr. Castillo's experiences in Central America. He is one of the few eyewitnesses to the real history of Central America in the 1980's willing to speak about his experiences. He is one of the few people in a position to know this information. First of all, let me explain that I actually met and spoke with Mr. Castillo on more than one occasion. He was in San Diego on the campus of San Diego State University in November of 2000 giving a lecture on the war on drugs. He later addressed the national conference of MECHA, a hispanic student organization, on the SDSU campus in April, 2001. He then returned in May, 2002 for a lecture on Intelligence failures entitled "BLOWBACK" All three lectures attracted hundreds of people and attendance was "standing room only". A professor of education at SDSU is organizing a special collection at the university library. The archive contains documents and photos of Castillo's law enforcement career. His material is required reading for Education Majors (All future teachers) who want to earn a teaching credential at SDSU, thanks to the same professor. I want to let you know that I found Mr. Castillo to be a very proud and patriotic man who did EVERYTHING that his country asked him to do, without question. He is modest and soft-spoken and truely a gentleman who loves his country. He is the son of a WWII veteran who was shot six times in the Phillipines by the Japanese and earned a silver star for his actions in the war. During the Vietnam war, Castillo's father approached him and said "Son, you gotta pay your dues, just like I did". Although Mr. Castillo did not have to go to Vietnam, he unquestioningly followed the wishes of his father and was drafted into the war. (Unlike our current president and all of the other priveleged people in our government) He spent his time involved in covert operations where he was a sniper assigned to kill North Vietnamese army officers. His experiences during the war lead him to become a police officer and later a federal agent. Some of the things he witnessed: -Rape, torture and murder with the knowledge or approval of U.S. Intelligence agencies. -Drug trafficking and money laundering by U.S. Intelligence agencies. -top government officials in the countries he was assigned to work in (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador) were documented drug traffickers in DEA files. -Pilots involved in the Contra movement were given U.S. Visas despite being listed as drug traffickers in government files. The same pilots bragged of using their credentials to move dope. -U.S. asset bragging that they had killed a Roman Catholic archbishop, Oscar Romero. Being forced to work with same. -Purchased confiscated arms from Salvadoran military while posing undercover as a member of a drug cartel. Told by supervisors not to embarass the Salvadoran government. -Oliver North involved in drugs -Escaped Terrorist Enrique Posada hired by Felix Rodriguez and working for the Contra operation. -Castillo raided the home of U.S. civilian Walter Grasheim in El Salvador after repeated denials of CIA, US Military and U.S. Embassy that he worked for them. The raid was in response to several informants information that planes entering illopango and part of the Contras operations were involved in massive drug trafficking. Found during the raid were U.S. diplomatic passports, Salvadoran military ID cards in Grasheim's alias (Wlliam Brasher), U.S. Embassy license plates on his vehicles, M-16 rifle registered to U.S. Milgroup leader Col James Steele, ledgers indicating payoffs to Salvadoran military and government officials. Also found were small amounts of drugs and brand new military supplies such as C-4, Rifles and night vision equipment stacked to the ceiling. Attempts to trace the explosives were allegedly blocked by the Pentagon, according to U.S. Customs agent Richard Rivera, whom Castillo called in to help investgate. (Rivera was an expert at identifying and tracing weapons) -Federal agents in Panama had previously warned Castillo that Grasheim had flashed the credentials of the CIA, FBI and DEA when he arrogantly entered their offices and demanded to know if his pilots at Illopango were listed in the DEA NADDIS database. The agents ran Grasheim's name instead and tossed him out of the office after finding HIS name listed in more than ten files. -Grasheim would later call Castillo to threaten him and demand that his weapons be RETURNED. When confronted with evidence found in the raid, the U.S. Embassy, Castillo's supervisors, the CIA and the U.S. Milgroup would admit that they were aware of Grasheim's presence and that they were under orders from Oliver North to cooperate with him. In his speeches at SDSU, Castillo would sadly tell the audience that the things that made him the most proud in life were his kids and his bronze star. He later said that he had left his bronze star at the Vietnam Memorial in protest of the things he had witnessed in Latin America. Mr. Castillo has paid a heavy personal price for his honesty. Not only did he sacrifice a promising career in law enforcement, he lost his wife and children to divorce as a result. I am writing to ask you to let Mr. Castillo have his say. He backs his statements with file numbers, documents and names of witnesses who also happen to be government employees. http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/hall/contra1.html http://www.drugwar.com/castillo.shtm This is a lot more than your anti-Kerry writer wrote in his piece. It is a lot more than Felix Rodriguez said in his article. In addition, several other retired federal agents have come foward with similar allegations, (see attachment) including Mike Levine, Mike Holm and Hector Berrellez. http://www.esquire.com/features/articles/2004/041217_mfe_webb_1.html Let me challenge you, Mr. Brown. Your magazine states that it is "pro-law enforcement". By your actions you are helping to cover up a major drug trafficking scandal. I am curious if you think it is okay for the government to traffic drugs if the cause is anti-communist. Your magazine glorifies military action and the men involved. You simply cannot face what paid for a lot of the covert operations around the world. The KLA in the Balkans, the Contras in Nicaragua, the Vietnam conflict, the Afghan warlords in present day. I will respect you if you come out and tell me what your motivation is for covering up for these people. Does the ends justify the means? Do you think it is okay to imprison people for what the government does with immunity? Do you think foreign policy should be dictated by drug traffic like it is in Afghanistan, Central America in the 80's and Asia during the 60's? If anyone has earned a right to speak, it is Mr. Castillo. He has suffered long enough for naively thinking that the U.S. government is a straight, honest government that always does the right thing. That is what the government does. It takes a young man, a true beleiver, and then chews him up. You owe it to the TRUE heros of the world like Mr. Castillo, who was chased through the mountains of Peru by indians angry that he cut down their coca crops.... Sincerely, Matthew D San Diego, California

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Retired U.S. Customs Agent John Carman outs former DEA agent Bobby Nieves as being an employee of Guardian Technologies (Oliver North's company) after his 1995 retirement from the DEA. Nieves ordered fellow DEA agent Celerino Castillo III to investigate CIA drug trafficking at Illopango airbase in El Salvador during the 1980's and now spends his time trying to discredit the CIA drug link. The producers of the PBS Frontline failed to mention this in their documentary. Attempts to contact the writer Craig delavel and Lowell Bergman through the PBS website have never been answered.


The above-quoted DEA Chief of International Operations, Robert Nieves, before rising to that exalted position, ran the DEA's Costa Rica office. He ran interference for the Contras and Manuel Noriega against the likes of reformist antidrug revolutionary Hugo Spadafora and reformist antidrug DEA agent Celerino Castillo. It was Nieves who protected Hank Rhonâs trading partner Norwin Meneses for the CIA, literally helping to run his huge Contra-cocaine supply operation, as Gary Webb has documented in such detail. Nieves then went on to head the DEAâs cocaine task force in DC - with zero strategic effect, needless to say. After his 1995 retirement, Nieves went to work for body armor manufacturer Guardian Technologies - owned by Oliver North and Contra-era Costa Rica CIA station chief Joe Fernandez, both barred from Costa Rica for dealing in multiton loads of cocaine. With leadership like that, the pipeline is open.

PBS Frontline Drug War Special (October, 2000)


Nieves was a special agent with the DEA from 1973 to 1995. He served as head of international operations and describes the inner workings of the global drug industry.

When you go overseas [as] a federal agent and learn about drugs that are coming into the U.S., [is it] a crime if you don't stop it or inform authorities?

Yeah. There are controlled deliveries. You can't be a participant in drugs hitting the street. You're duty-bound, you're obligated to take the proper enforcement actions when you learn about shipments of drugs. No question...Essentially it's our job to take the drugs off the street. That's what it's about.

You've been publicly accused of letting it happen.

I was publicly accused by conspiracy theorists whose opinions don't value much. The person who publicly accused me was Gary Webb, in a book called Dark Alliance. The guy's a fabricator. Publications like the New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post, have all said that his stories were fantasy. His own Knight-Ridder Publications retracted many of the things he reported, so I place no value on what Gary Webb says. He is a conspiracy theorist, his motivation was clearly to sell books. It's irrelevant what he says.

The suspicion is still there...

What you are referring to is the Iran-Contra affair. In my opinion, it's the second most investigated event in American history, the first being the J.F.K. assassination. Every stone has been turned. Every page has been written. Everybody who had any knowledge about it has been questioned ad nauseam. There is no story about Contra drug smuggling that hasn't been reported a thousand times by the Kerry commission, Tower Commission, the IG's...There is no story...

...The Inspector General of the CIA has said in a second volume of the report on Gary Webb that there were 51 known Contra-related people who were involved in drugs: 14 individuals who were directly related, working with the Contras; another 14 pilots who at one time or another had some drug connection; 23 of their support people, and 3 of the companies that were involved in supplying the Contras. If it wasn't a grand conspiracy, what was it?

First of all, I don't know that those numbers are accurate. I think they probably include uncorroborated reports. You have to understand Central America at that time was a haven for conspiracy theorists. The Christic Institute, people like Gary Webb, others down there looking to dig up some story for political advantage. No sexier story than to create the notion in people's minds that these people are drug traffickers.

I was given carte blanche to do my job. Never once did anybody say anything about anything I was doing that wasn¼t supportive. What the American people have lost sight of, and what the liberals [and conspiracy theorists] would want you to lose sight of...is the fact that the Contra conflict was about indigenous people...fighting for survival...against the Communist government. They're lost in all these conspiracy theories. You never hear about them. At their height there might have been 10,000 Contras. Let's say that the [I.G.'s] right, and there were mentions of about 100 people. That's 1%, or less than 1% of the Contra movement that was even whispered about being engaged in this...

... [In Costa Rica] you were privy to what was going on in the region related to drug trafficking. What was going on at that time?

Heavy Colombian trans-shipment of drugs by way of Costa Rica. And huge cases were made...We were busy making real cases and not chasing fantasy shipments that people were imagining were taking place there. Because there weren't...All of these reports were looked at, all of these issues were found to be uncorroborated and unsubstantiated. There was no organized Contra drug trafficking supply line through Costa Rica. It just wasn't there. It's a fantasy, it's a conspiracy...

Why do you think that particularly in the [American] black community they believed these stories?

Because I think certain black leaders have embraced the conspiracy theory as a way to gain some political advantage in the political mainstream. It's just that simple. Creating in the minds of constituents the fact that the government must be to blame for drug addiction in X, Y or Z location, seems to be a tool that some politicians like to use to gain some political advantage. It's only politics. That's all it is.

So you're sitting here today and saying this was all created for political advantage?

I think so. There's no question in my mind about it. That's all it is. It's smoke. You think something like this could be secret? Do you think if people misbehaved the way Gary Webb says they misbehaved that [it] would go unproven? It can't happen. It just can't happen.

...What the conspiracy theorist does is he takes a shred of proof. Bob Nieves was the DEA agent in Costa Rica. And at that time, Mr. X was an informant in that office. Therefore, it follows that he must have known all of these things. It's not so. I'm here to tell you it's not so.

So all these reports on CBS news [about] John [Hull], a farmer in Costa Rica, [who] was a CIA operator running drugs--

How do you know? Well, I don't know what John Hull was and wasn't. I do know this--if he misbehaved as much as they say he did, why isn't he in jail?

...People misbehave, you get the proof, [and] they go to jail. And the bottom line is [if] there is no proof . . . nobody goes to jail. So the conspiracy theory thrives on the notion that you can just keep digging up this dirt and adding all these angles and spins to a story because it has political value...By the way, I don't think black America is sold on this theory. I think that a certain vocal minority among the black community buys into this, but I don't think black America by any stretch of the imagination is sold on it.

But was it frustrating to you on the ground to see CIA, State, Defense Department concerns override your primary objectives?

They weren't overriding our primary--never, under no circumstances. Contrary to what Leslie Cockburn, [and] Gary Webb think, the embassy was being run in a way that allowed me to do an outstanding job down there. I think we increased seizures in Costa Rica by a remarkable amount. We gave more assistance to the Costa Rican government than any other time prior to that. We had put a program in place that allowed us to engage in some of the best investigative efforts that were done in that country. Now all of that gets put on the back burner in favor of these outlandish conspiracy theories that people want to put forth that this was some kind of a Dodge City where the Sheriff was wrong. And the fact of the matter is, it's not true. It just didn't happen that way, it's all fantasy.

Former DEA field agent Nieves denied the suggestion that CIA objectives overrode DEA drug enforcement during the Contra War.
"I was given carte blanche to do my job," Nieves said. "Never once did anybody ever say anything to me about anything I was doing that was nothing but supportive. There was no interference. There was no overriding priority, there was no competition, there was no anything except for support of the DEA's mission. And that's a fact."
But others say the CIA's loose grip on its contacts certainly didn't help the DEA's cause.
"I believe that elements working for the CIA were involved in bringing drugs into the country," said Hector Berrellez, DEA field agent.
"I know specifically that some of the CIA contract workers, meaning some of the pilots, in fact were bringing drugs into the U.S. and landing some of these drugs in government air bases. And I know so because I was told by some of these pilots that in fact they had done that."
While most D.E.A. veterans we interviewed dismiss allegations of any conscious CIA activity or involvement in drug trafficking, a number are suspicious, and a handful like Berrellez claim they had hard evidence of "CIA contract employees" being involved. With the exception of the Venezuela National Guard case we were unable to find any evidence that any CIA agent was ever considered a potential target of a grand jury investigating drug trafficking.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

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

Gary Webb

August 31, 1955 - December 10, 2004

Rest in peace.

The memorial service for Gary Webb will be held at The Doubletree Hotel in Sacramento on Saturday, December 18th at 2:00 p.m. The address is 2001 Point West Way. It will be in the Garden Terrace Room. Hotel phone number: 916-929-8855.

Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion
by Gary Webb

Gary Webb remembered
In their words ... and his own
SN&R Feature by Melinda Welsh and Bill Forman

A sad goodbye
SN&R Editor's note by Tom Walsh

Author Archives
(Gary Webb's recent stories for the SN&R)

Kill the Messenger
Gary Webb, 1955-2004
by Nick Schou

Cracked Report
Why did the San Jose Mercury News recant Gary Webb's story about CIA involvement in the War of Drugs?
(SN&R's 1997 Cover on Gary Webb by Nick Budnick)

R.I.P. Gary Webb -- Unembedded Reporter
(Jeff Cohen on the death of Gary Webb)

America's Debt to Journalist Gary Webb
(Robert Parry on the death of Gary Webb)

Snow Job
The Establishment's Papers Do Damage Control for the CIA
(Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's background on the history of Gary Webb and Dark Alliance)

Gary Webb Speaks
(Complete text of Gary Webb's 1999 talk in Eugene, Oregon)

Trashed by the CIA's Claque
Gary Webb: a Great Reporter
(Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair on the death of Gary Webb)

Is Anyone Apologizing to Gary Webb?
by Michael Levine

Gary Webb, 1955 - 2004
Esquire--and All of Journalism--Loses a Friend
(Introduction and Esquire stories)

In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to the Gary Webb Memorial Fund, c/o the address listed below.

If you would like to send condolences to the family:

Susan Bell
552 Fisher Circle
Folsom CA 95630

Gary Webb, 1955 - 2004

Investigative journalist Gary Webb was a friend of ours. And he was a damn fine reporter and writer. Gary was all you could ask for in a journalist: tough, unafraid, and honest as the day is long. He lived his life to be a check on the powerful, like any good investigative journalist worth his salt. Well, in 1996 he wrote a series of articles for the San Jose Mercury-News on the CIA and that agency's complicity in the cocaine trade in southern California in the 1980s. It wasn't flawless journalism, but it told a very important story, and in fact it prompted an investigation by the CIA's inspector general which subsequently confirmed the pillars of Webb's findings. But the funny thing is that Webb was driven from journalism because of that series. Rather than extending Webb's story by doing their own reporting, major newspapers instead turned on him and were more determined, it seemed, to attempt to undermine and discredit Webb's reporting. Indeed, the ombudsman for The Washington Post at the time, Geneva Overholser, wrote that her own paper and other major media had "shown more passion for sniffing out the flaws in the Mercury News's answer than for sniffing out a better answer themselves." In so doing, these newspapers relied on many official sources, which is odd considering the subject of Webb's stories. One can only guess as to their motivations.

In any event, Webb was abandoned by his own paper and could not find work in journalism after that. In September 1998, this magazine published the story of what happened to Gary Webb. Written by Charles Bowden and entitled "The Pariah," it is posted below. Esquire is also very proud to have published Webb's return to investigative journalism, a definitive and exclusive piece on a DEA-run program called "Operation Pipeline" which was a program of official racial profiling, and which involved law enforcement all over the country. Webb's piece, entitled "Driving While Black," was followed a year later by a New York Times story on Operation Pipeline in which the Times took credit for the scoop and did not mention that it was Gary Webb who had first broken the story.

Last week, Gary Webb took his own life. Words cannot express our sympathy to his family and to everyone who loved him. And words cannot express our sadness at the terrible loss, to journalism and to the world.

-Esquire Magazine


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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December 17, 2004

Kill the Messenger
Gary Webb, 1955-2004

by Nick Schou

A tangled Webb
Photo by Brad Wilson

There’s no evidence of foul play in the death last week of Gary Webb, but that hasn’t stopped the conspiracy mill from working 24-hour shifts. As a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, Webb uncovered the CIA’s role in the 1980s Los Angeles crack-cocaine epidemic. Internet postings figure Webb died at the hands of a CIA spook. In fact, it was the media that killed him.

Early reports say Webb perished of self-inflicted gunshot wounds at his Sacramento-area home on Friday. According to a Dec. 12 Los Angeles Times obituary, Webb had by that time lost his job and family thanks in part to controversy over his August 1996 Dark Alliance series. Webb’s meticulous reports ignited a firestorm of outrage in South-Central LA and a public-relations nightmare for the CIA. They turned Webb into a minor celebrity. Controversy followed. "Major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Washington Post, wrote reports discrediting elements of Webb’s reporting," the Times reported.

I first met Webb as debate over his work was cresting, in late 1996. He was in Santa Monica to speak at the now-closed Midnight Special Bookstore. Many in the audience seemed eager to hear Webb accuse the CIA of deliberately dealing dope in the inner city. But Webb began his speech by drawing the sorts of subtle distinctions he drew in his work. He insisted he didn’t believe the CIA would—let alone could—intentionally spark the crack-cocaine epidemic.

Some in the crowd booed him.

By then, Webb’s story had become a magnet—and potential source of credibility—for every conspiracy theorist claiming the CIA was involved in drugs, murder or mind control. Yet despite its ominous title, Dark Alliance wasn’t about a massive CIA plot. It was about the agency’s tie to exactly one major drug ring—which happened to include the most successful crack dealer in South-Central during the 1980s: Freeway Ricky Ross.

Well before Webb even knew of Ross, the Los Angeles Times had dubbed Ross—a flamboyant drug dealer now serving life in prison—the "king of crack." But then the Times fecklessly dropped Ross’ story. Webb simply revealed one feature of Ross’ peculiar luck: the CIA had helped protect his Nicaraguan cocaine smugglers from federal prosecution. The CIA’s interest was mercenary: the drug ring’s profits purchased weapons for the U.S.-backed war against the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.

Working with Ross’ Nicaraguan suppliers was a mysterious ex-Laguna Beach cop named Ronald Lister. When cops raided his Mission Viejo home for drugs in 1986, Lister darkly warned his interrogators he worked for the CIA, which wasn’t going to be happy about the raid. After Webb’s story, the CIA took a rare step. In a press release designed to aid Webb’s critics in the media, the agency categorically denied ever having employed Lister.

Because Lister was an ex-Orange County cop, I spent months looking into his possible connection to the CIA. That effort alone made it almost impossible to work on any other story—and made me understand what Webb was up against: haggling with slow-moving local, state and federal bureaucracies over records; interviewing reluctant co-conspirators; sizing up potential charlatans; deciding whether to meet with sources who promise big information in out-of-the-way places. There seemed no escape from the story—not at work, certainly, but even in my personal life, where friends and family expressed skepticism about "conspiracy theories" and fear that I had entered my own terminal dark alliance.

Webb’s story had already revealed that Lister’s Newport Beach security company worked in El Salvador during the civil war there, even meeting with leaders of that country’s notorious right-wing death squads. After my first article ran, Webb called and thanked me. He said it was refreshing to see another journalist take his story seriously and actually try to add to the reporting. The LA Times, for example, scooped by Webb on the source of Ross’ cocaine, now backpedaled desperately: having once crowned Ross a member of crack’s royal family, it suddenly demoted him to a mere street thug "dwarfed" by other crack dealers.

For the next several months, Webb and I spoke about once a week, up to an hour each time, sharing the thrill of chasing an important story the mainstream media seemed eager to dismiss.

In late 1996, I tracked down Tim La-france, who flew to El Salvador with Lister’s security firm. Lafrance claimed Lister was a CIA operative who helped funnel weapons to the U.S.-backed contras. I also discovered that the late Bill Nelson, a former second-in-command at the CIA, more recently an executive at Irvine-based multinational Fluor Corp., had helped Lister with his Central American "business" deals. I interviewed a pair of ex-spooks who admitted they knew Lister—and then nervously denied Lister had any relationship to the CIA. One of them, a Fairfax, Virginia-based security consultant and former CIA agent, advised me to ponder the fact that "some people" weren’t going to be happy about my reporting.

That was creepy. Creepier still was discovering from Webb the story of reporter Danny Casolero. In 1991, Casolero was investigating Iran-contra-era covert operations in California. Among his potential contacts were Lafrance and one of the ex-spooks with whom I’d spoken. Casolero never got to put his story to bed: he was discovered dead in the bathtub of a West Virginia hotel room in 1991. Noting several deep wounds in Casolero’s forearms, the coroner ruled it suicide. But then as now, widespread speculation of CIA hitmen followed. It was easier for some to believe a tale of assassination than to accept the more mundane possibility of a struggling freelance writer, doggedly pursuing the story of his life, now reaching the end of his dwindling financial and psychological resources.

As far as I know, Webb didn’t have an opinion on Casolero’s death. But he thought it noteworthy the covert operations Casolero had chased led to some of the same characters I had interviewed about Lister—a weird coincidence Webb would mention in his 1998 book, Dark Alliance. But Casolero’s wasn’t the only odd suicide involving Webb’s story. Back in the late 1980s, a federal prosecutor probing the Dark Alliance drug ring in Los Angeles had been found in his car, apparently after shooting himself. Shortly after leaving the San Jose Mercury News, Webb asked me to run up to LA to find and mail him the death certificate, just to make sure it described the agent’s gunshot wound as self-inflicted. It did.

During our many telephone conversations, I remember asking Webb whether he ever felt threatened. He just laughed. Webb’s partner, Georg Hodel, a Swiss reporter based in Nicaragua who helped report the original Dark Alliance series, had received death threats in Central America and had once been violently run off the road by an unmarked car.

But as Webb was all too aware by then, his real danger was losing his career and paycheck, if not his credibility.

In May 1997, Webb’s editors at the Mercury News stepped back from his stories, apologized for "errors" in them and reassigned him to a tiny bureau in Cupertino, California. Webb soon quit; went through a divorce; and wrote Dark Alliance, the 540-page book defending his original articles. A year later, there was exoneration: the CIA’s Inspector General reported the agency knew the Nicaraguan contras were trafficking cocaine and not only did nothing to stop the business, but also specifically directed agency employees not to report it.

I kept in touch with Webb and shared occasional updates on Lister from heavily censored, sporadically released FBI reports. He seemed excited to hear about my discoveries, but as they dwindled over time, so did the frequency of our contact. Although he had been pushed out of journalism by the mainstream media, the alternative media treated him like a king. Esquire magazine published a detailed story about his career. Hollywood seemed interested in a Dark Alliance film.

Webb worked for a few years as a researcher for the California Legislature. But this summer, he told me he had been laid off and he was once again looking for work as a reporter. He promised to pay a visit during a weekend motorcycle trip to LA for a series of job interviews. It rained that weekend; in any case, Webb never called.

When I found out a month later he had joined the Sacramento News & Review as a staff writer, I left him a congratulatory message. He didn’t return my call. I forgave him, imagining he was busy working on big stories. He was. Go to the News & Review website (newsreview.com) and read "The Killing Game," an October piece in which Webb examines the military’s new interest in computer killing games; it displays everything that made Webb one of the nation’s great investigative reporters—his toughness, accuracy, wit and grace. But he was also just trying to move on with his life, which had been ruined by a story that wouldn’t forget him.

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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December 18 / 19, 2004
From Kobe Bryant to Uncle Sam
Why They Hated Gary Webb
I read a piece about Kobe Bryant a couple of days ago. The way it described his fall made me think of Bryant as a parable of America in the Bush years, that maybe even W himself could understand. No longer the big guy leading the winning team to victory over Commie scum, but a street-corner lout, picking on victims quarter his size, trying always to buy his way out of trouble. Don't leave your sister alone with Uncle Sam! No one want to buy Uncle Sam's jerseys anymore, same way they don't buy Kobe Bryant's.
This business of Uncle Sam's true face brings me to Gary Webb and why they hated him. Few spectacles in journalism in the mid-1990s were more disgusting than the slagging of Gary Webb in the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. Squadrons of hacks, some of them with career-long ties to the CIA, sprayed thousands of words of vitriol over Webb and his paper, the San Jose Mercury News for besmirching the Agency's fine name by charging it with complicity in the importing of cocaine into the US.

There are certain things you aren't meant to say in public in America. The systematic state-sponsorship of torture by the US used to be a major no-no, but that went by the board this year (even though Seymour Hersh treated the CIA with undue kindness in Chain of Command: the Road to Abu Ghraib) . A prime no-no is to say that the US government has used assassination down the years as an instrument of national policy; also that the CIA's complicity with drug dealing criminal gangs stretches from the Afghanistan of today back to the year the Agency was founded in 1947. That last one is the line Webb stepped over.He paid for his presumption by undergoing one of the unfairest batterings in the history of the US press, as the chapter from Whiteout we ran on our site yesterday narrates.
Friday, December 10, Webb died in his Sacramento apartment by his own hand, or so it certainly seems. The notices of his passing in many newspapers were as nasty as ever. The Los Angeles Times took care to note that even after the Dark Alliance uproar Webb's career had been "troubled", offering as evidence the fact that " While working for another legislative committee in Sacramento, Webb wrote a report accusing the California Highway Patrol of unofficially condoning and even encouraging racial profiling in its drug interdiction program." The effrontery of the man! "Legislative officials released the report in 1999", the story piously continued, "but cautioned that it was based mainly on assumptions and anecdotes", no doubt meaning that Webb didn't have dozens of CHP officers stating under oath, on the record, that they were picking on blacks and Hispanics.
There were similar fountains of outrage in 1996 that the CIA hadn't been given enough space in Webb's series to solemnly swear that never a gram of cocaine had passed under its nose but that it had been seized and turned over to the DEA or US Customs.
In 1998 Jeffrey St Clair and I published our book, Whiteout, about the relationships between the CIA, drugs and the press since the Agency's founding. We also examined the Webb affair in detail. On a lesser scale, at lower volume it elicited the same sort of abuse Webb drew. It was a long book stuffed with well-documented facts, over which the critics lightly vaulted to charge us, as they did Webb, with "conspiracy-mongering" though, sometimes in the same sentence, of recycling "old news". Jeffrey and I came to the conclusion that what really affronted the critics, some of them nominally left-wing, was that our book portrayed Uncle Sam's true face. Not a "rogue" Agency but one always following the dictates of government, murdering, torturing, poisoning, drugging its own subjects, approving acts of monstrous cruelty, following methods devised and tested by Hitler's men, themselves transported to America after the Second World War.
One of the CIA's favored modes of self-protection is the "uncover-up".The Agency first denies with passion, then later concedes in muffled tones, the charges leveled against it. Such charges have included the Agency's recruitment of Nazi scientists and SS officers; experiments on unwitting American citizens; efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro; alliances with opium lords in Burma, Thailand and Laos; an assassination program in Vietnam; complicity in the toppling of Salvador Allende in Chile; the arming of opium traffickers and religious fanatics in Afghanistan; the training of murderous police in Guatemala and El Salvador; and involvement in drugs-and-arms shuttles between Latin America and the US.
True to form, after Webb's series raised a storm, particularly on black radio, the CIA issued categorical denials. Then came the solemn pledges of an intense and far-reaching investigation by the CIA's Inspector General, Fred Hitz. On December 18, 1997, stories in the Washington Post by Walter Pincus and in the New York Times by Tim Weiner appeared simultaneously, both saying the same thing: Inspector General Hitz had finished his investigation. He had found "no direct or indirect" links between the CIA and the cocaine traffickers. As both Pincus and Weiner admitted in their stories, neither of the two journalists had actually seen the report.

The actual report itself, so loudly heralded, received almost no examination. But those who took the time to examine the 149-page document the first of two volumes--found Inspector General Hitz making one damning admission after another including an account of a meeting between a pilot who was making drug/arms runs between San Francisco and Costa Rica with two Contra leaders who were also partners with the San Francisco-based Contra/drug smuggler Norwin Meneses. Present at this encounter in Costa Rica was a curly-haired man who said his name was Ivan Gomez, identified by one of the Contras as CIA's "man in Costa Rica." The pilot told Hitz that Gomez said he was there to "ensure that the profits from the cocaine went to the Contras and not into someone's pocket ." The second volume of CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz's investigation released in the fall of 1998 buttressed Webb's case even more tightly, as James Risen conceded in a story in the New York Times on October 120 of that year.
So why did the top-tier press savage Webb, and parrot the CIA's denials. It comes back to this matter of Uncle Sam's true face. Another New York Times reporter, Keith Schneider was asked by In These Times back in 1987 why he had devoted a three-part series in the New York Times to attacks on the Contra hearings chaired by Senator John Kerry. Schneider said such a story could "shatter the Republic. I think it is so damaging, the implications are so extraordinary, that for us to run the story, it had better be based on the most solid evidence we could amass." Kerry did uncover mountains of evidence. So did Webb. But neither of them got the only thing that would have satisfied Schneider, Pincus and all the other critics: a signed confession of CIA complicity by the DCI himself. Short of that, I'm afraid we're left with "innuendo", "conspiracy mongering" and "old stories". We're also left with the memory of some great work by a very fine journalist who deserved a lot better than he got from the profession he loved.
Footnote: a version of this column ran in the print edition of The Nation that went to press last Wednesday. In fact the oddest of all reviews of Whiteout was one in The Nation, a multi-page screed by a woman who I seem to remember was on some payroll of George Soros. She flayed us for giving aid and comfort to the war on drugs and not addressing the truly important question, Why do people take drugs. As I said at the time, to get high, stupid!

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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December 17, 2004

How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb's Career


[What follows is an extended excerpt from Chapter Two of our book Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press. AC / JSC]

The attack on Gary Webb and his series in the San Jose Mercury News remains one of the most venomous and factually inane assaults on a professional journalist's competence in living memory. In the mainstream press he found virtually no defenders, and those who dared stand up for him themselves became the object of virulent abuse and misrepresentation. L. J. O'Neale, the prosecutor for the Justice Department who was Danilo Blandón's patron and Rick Ross's prosecutor, initially formulated the polemical program against him. When one looks back on the assault in the calm of hindsight, what is astounding is the way Webb's foes in the press mechanically reiterated those attacks.

There was a disturbing racist thread underlying the attacks on Webb's series, and on those who took his findings seriously. It's clear, looking through the onslaughts on Webb in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, that the reaction in black communities to the series was extremely disturbing to elite opinion. This was an eruption of outrage, an insurgency not just of very poor people in South Central and kindred areas, but of almost all blacks and many whites as well. In the counterattacks, one gets the sense that a kind of pacification program was in progress. Karen De Young, an assistant editor at the Washington Post, evoked just such an impulse when Alicia Shepard of the American Journalism Review interviewed her. "I looked at [the Mercury News series] when it initially came out and decided it was something we needed to follow up on. When it became an issue in the black community and on talk shows, that seemed to be a different phenomenon." Remember too that the O. J. Simpson jury decision had also been deeply disturbing to white opinion. In that case, blacks had rallied around a man most whites believed to be a vicious killer, and there was a "white opinion riot" in response. Now blacks were mustering in support of a story charging that their profoundest suspicions of white malfeasance were true.

So in the counterattack there were constant, patronizing references to "black paranoia," decorously salted with the occasional concession that there was evidence from the past to support the notion that such paranoia might have some sound foundation.
Another factor lent a particular edge to the onslaughts. This was the first occasion on which the established press had to face the changing circumstances of the news business, in terms of registering mass opinion and allowing popular access. Webb's series coincided with the coming of age of the Internet. The Miami Herald, another Knight-Ridder paper in the same corporate family as the Mercury News, had been forced to change editorial course in the mid-1980s by the vociferous, highly conservative Cuban American presence in Miami. The Herald chose not to reprint Webb's series. However, this didn't prevent anyone in south Florida from finding the entire series on the Internet, along with all the supporting documents.

The word "pacification" is not inappropriate to describe the responses to Webb's story. Back in the 1980s, allegations about Contra drug running, also backed by documentary evidence, could be ignored with impunity. Given the Internet and black radio reaction, in the mid-1990s this was no longer possible, and the established organs of public opinion had to launch the fiercest of attacks on Webb and on his employer. This was a campaign of extermination: the aim was to destroy Webb and to force the Mercury News into backing away from the story's central premise. At the same time, these media manipulators attempted to minimize the impact of Webb' s story on the black community.

Another important point in the politics of this campaign is that Webb's fiercest assailants were not on the right. They were mainstream liberals, such as Walter Pincus and Richard Cohen of the Washington Post and David Corn of the Nation, There has always been a certain conservative suspicion of the CIA, even if conservatives outside the libertarian wing heartily applaud the Agency's imperial role. The CIA's most effective friends have always been the liberal center, on the editorial pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times and in the endorsement of a person like the Washington Post's president, Katharine Graham. In 1988 Graham had told CIA recruits, "We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows."
By mid-September of 1996 the energy waves created by Webb's series were approaching critical mass and beginning to become an unavoidable part of the national news agenda. For example, NBC Dateline, a prime-time news show, had shot interviews with Webb and Rick Ross and had sent a team down to Nicaragua, where they filmed an interview with Norwin Meneses and other figures in the saga. Webb tells of a conversation with one of the Dateline producers, who asked him, "Why hasn't this shit been on TV before?" "You tell me," Webb answered. "You're the TV man."
A couple of weeks after this exchange, the program was telling Webb that it didn't look as though they would be going forward with the story after all. In the intervening weeks, the counterattack had been launched, and throughout the networks the mood had abruptly shifted. On November 15, NBC's Andrea Mitchell (partner of Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, about as snugly ensconced a member of the Washington elite as you could hope to find) was saying on NBC News in Depth that Webb's story "was a conspiracy theory" that had been "spread by talk radio."
The storm clouds began to gather with the CNN-brokered exchange between Webb and Ron Kessler. Kessler had had his own dealings with the Agency. In 1992 he had published Inside the CIA, a highly anecdotal and relatively sympathetic book about the Agency, entirely devoid of the sharp critical edge that had characterized Kessler's The FBI. A couple of CIA memos written in 1991 and 1992 record the Agency's view of the experience of working with Kessler and other reporters.

The 1991 CIA note discusses Kessler's request for information and brags that a close relationship had been formed with Kessler, "which helped turn some 'intelligence failure' stories into 'intelligence success' stories." Of course this could have been merely self-serving fluff by an Agency officer, but it is certainly true that Kessler was far from hard on the Agency. That same CIA memo goes on to explain that the Agency maintains "relationships with reporters from every major wire service, newspaper, news weekly and TV network." The memo continues, "In many instances we have persuaded reporters to postpone, change, hold or even scrap stories that could have adversely affected national security interests or jeopardized sources or methods."
The next attack on Webb came from another long-time friend of the Agency, Arnaud de Borchgrave. De Borchgrave had worked for News- week as a columnist for many years and made no secret of the fact that he regarded many of his colleagues as KGB dupes. He himself boasted of intimate relations with French, British and US intelligence agencies and was violently right-wing in his views. In recent years he has written for the sprightly Washington Times, a conservative paper owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
The thrust of de Borchgrave's attack, which appeared in the Washington Times on September 24, 1996, was that Webb's basic thesis was wrong, because the Contras had been rolling in CIA money. Like almost all other critics, de Borchgrave made no effort to deal with the plentiful documents, such as federal grand jury transcripts, that Webb had secured and that were available on the Mercury News website. Indeed, some of the most experienced reporters in Washington displayed, amid their criticisms, a marked aversion to studying such source documents. De Borchgrave did remark that when all the investigations were done, the most that would emerge would be that a couple of CIA officers might have been lining their own pockets.
That same September 24, 1996, a more insidious assault came in the form of an interview of Webb by Christopher Matthews on the CNBC cable station. There are some ironies here. Matthews had once worked for Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. O'Neill had been sympathetic to the amendment against Contra funding offered by his Massachusetts colleague, Edward Boland. On the other hand, O'Neill had swiftly reacted to a firestorm of outrage about cocaine after the death of the Celtics' draftee Len Bias, a star basketball player at the University of Maryland. At that time, he rushed through the House some appalling "War on Drugs" legislation whose dire effects are still with us today.
Matthews left O'Neill's office with a carefully calculated career plan to market himself as a syndicated columnist and telepundit. Positioning himself as a right-of-center liberal, Matthews habitually eschewed fact for opinion, and is regarded by many op-ed editors as a self-serving blowhard with an exceptionally keen eye for the main chance. Clearly sensing where the wind was blowing, Matthews used his show to launch a fierce attack on Webb. First, he badgered the reporter for supposedly producing no evidence of "the direct involvement of American CIA officers." "Who said anything about American CIA agents?" Webb responded. "That's the most ethnocentric viewpoint I've ever seen in my life. The CIA used foreign nationals all the time. In this operation they were using Nicaraguan exiles."

Matthews had clearly prepped himself with de Borchgrave's article that morning. His next challenge to Webb was on whether or not the Contras needed drug money. Matthews's research assistants had prepared a timeline purporting to show that the Contras were flush with cash during the period when Webb's stories said they were desperate for money from any source.

But Webb, who had lived the chronology for eighteen months, stood his ground. He patiently expounded to Matthews's audience how Meneses and Blandón's drugs-for-guns operation was at its peak during the period when Congress had first restricted, then later totally cut off US funding to the Contra army based in Honduras. Webb told Matthews, "When the CIA funding was restored, all these guys got busted." After the interview, Webb says Matthews stormed off the set, berating his staff, "This is outrageous. I've been sabotaged."

The tempo now began to pick up. On October 1, Webb got a call in San Diego from Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post media reporter. "Kurtz called me," Webb remembers, "and after a few innocuous questions I thought that was that." It wasn't. Kurtz's critique came out on October 2 and became a paradigm for many of the assaults that followed. The method was simplicity itself: a series of straw men swiftly raised up, and as swiftly demolished. Kurtz opened by describing how blacks, liberal politicians and "some" journalists "have been trumpeting a Mercury News story that they say links the CIA to drug trafficking in the United States." Kurtz told how Webb's story had become "a hot topic," through the unreliable mediums of the Internet and black talk radio. "There's just one problem," Kurtz went on. "The series doesn't actually say the CIA knew about the drug trafficking." To buttress this claim, Kurtz then wrote that Webb had "admitted" as much in their brief chat with the statement, "We'd never pretended otherwise. This doesn't prove the CIA targeted black people. It doesn't say this was ordered by the CIA. Essentially, our trail stopped at the door of the CIA. They wouldn't return my phone calls."

What Webb had done in the series was show in great detail how a Contra funding crisis had engendered enormous sales of crack in South Central, how the wholesalers of that cocaine were protected from prosecution until the funding crisis ended, and how these same wholesalers were never locked away in prison, but were hired as informants by federal prosecutors. It could be argued that Webb's case is often circumstantial, but prosecutions on this same amount of circumstantial evidence have seen people put away on life sentences. Webb was telling the truth on another point as well: the CIA did not return his phone calls. And unlike Kurtz's colleagues at the Washington Post or New York Times reporter Tim Golden, who offered twenty-four off-the-record interviews in his attack, Webb refused to run quotes from officials without attribution. In fact, Webb did have a CIA source. "He told me," Webb remembers, "he knew who these guys were and he knew they were cocaine dealers. But he wouldn't go on the record so I didn't use his stuff in the story. I mean, one of the criticisms is we didn't include CIA comments in [the] story. And the reason we didn't is because they wouldn't return my phone calls and they denied my Freedom of Information Act requests."

But suppose the CIA had returned Webb's calls? What would a spokesperson have said, other than that Webb's allegations were outrageous and untrue? The CIA is a government entity pledged to secrecy about its activities. On scores of occasions, it has remained deceptive when under subpoena before a government committee. Why should the Agency be expected to answer frankly a bothersome question from a reporter? Yet it became a fetish for Webb's assailants to repeat, time after time, that the CIA denied his charges and that he had never given this denial as the Agency's point of view.

The CIA is not a kindergarten. The Agency has been responsible for many horrible deeds, including killings. Yet journalists kept treating it as though it was some above-board body, like the US Supreme Court. Many of the attackers assumed that Webb had been somehow derelict in not unearthing a signed order from William Casey mandating Agency officers to instruct Enrique Bermúdez to arrange with Norwin Meneses and Danilo Blandón to sell "x kilos of cocaine." This is an old tactic, known as "the hunt for the smoking gun." But of course, such a direct order would never be found by a journalist. Even when there is a clearly smoking gun, like the references to cocaine paste in Oliver North's notebooks, the gun rarely shows up in the news stories. North's notebooks were released to the public in the early 1990s. There for all to see was an entry on July 9, 1984, describing a conversation with CIA man Dewey Clarridge: "Wanted aircraft to go to Bolivia to pick up paste." Another entry on the same day stated, "Want aircraft to pick up 1,500 kilos."

"In Bolivia they have only one kind of paste," says former DEA agent Michael Levine, who spent more than a decade tracking down drug smugglers in Mexico, Southeast Asia and Bolivia. "That's cocaine paste. We have a guy working for the NSC talking to a CIA agent about a phone call to Adolfo Calero. In this phone call they discuss picking up cocaine paste from Bolivia and wanting an aircraft to pick up 1,500 kilos." None of Webb's attackers mentioned these diary entries.

A sort of manic literalism permeated the attacks modeled on Kurtz's chop job. For instance, critics repeatedly returned to Webb's implied accusation that the CIA had targeted blacks. As we have noted, Webb didn't actually say this, but merely described the sequence which had led to blacks being targeted by the wholesaler. However, we shall see that there have been many instances where the CIA, along with other government bodies, has targeted blacks quite explicitly in testing the toxicity of disease organisms, or the effects of radiation and mind-altering drugs. Yet Webb's critics never went anywhere near the well-established details of such targeting. Instead, they relied on talk about "black paranoia," which liberals kindly suggested could be traced to the black historical experience, and which conservatives more brusquely identified as "black irrationality."
Kurtz lost no time in going after Webb's journalistic ethics and denouncing the Mercury News for exploitative marketing of the series. As an arbiter of journalistic morals, Kurtz castigated Webb for referring to the Contras as "the CIA's army," suggesting that Webb used this phrase merely to implicate the Agency. This charge recurs endlessly in the onslaughts on Webb, and it is by far the silliest. One fact is agreed upon by everyone except a few berserk Maoists-turned-Reaganites, like Robert Leiken of Harvard. That fact is that the Contras were indeed the CIA's army, and that they had been recruited, trained and funded under the Agency's supervision. It's true that in the biggest raids of all the mining of the Nicaraguan harbors and the raids on the Nicaraguan oil refineries the Agency used its own men, not trusting its proxies. But for a decade the main Contra force was indeed the CIA's army, and followed its orders obediently.
In attacks on reporters who have overstepped the bounds of political good taste, the assailants will often make an effort to drive a wedge between the reporter and the institution for which the reporter works. For example, when Ray Bonner, working in Central America for the New York Times, sent a dispatch saying the unsayable that US personnel had been present at a torture session the Wall Street Journal and politicians in Washington attacked the Times as irresponsible for running such a report. The Times did not stand behind Bonner, and allowed his professional credentials to be successfully challenged.

The fissure between Webb and his paper opened when Kurtz elicited a statement from Jerry Ceppos, executive editor of the Mercury News, that he was "disturbed that so many people have leaped to the conclusion that the CIA was involved." This apologetic note from Ceppos was not lost on Webb's attackers, who successfully worked to widen the gap between reporter and editor.

Another time-hallowed technique in such demolition jobs is to charge that this is all "old news" as opposed to that other derided commodity, "ill-founded speculation." Kurtz used the "old news" ploy when he wrote, "The fact that Nicaraguan rebels were involved in drug trafficking has been known for a decade. " Kurtz should have felt some sense of shame in writing these lines, since his own paper had sedulously avoided acquainting its readers with this fact. Kurtz claimed, ludicrously, that "the Reagan Administration acknowledged as much in the 1980s, but subsequent investigations failed to prove that the CIA condoned or even knew about it." This odd sentence raised some intriguing questions. When had the Reagan administration "acknowledged as much"? And if the Reagan administration knew, how could the CIA have remained in ignorance? Recall that in the 1980s, the Reagan administration was referring to the Contras as the "moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers," and accusing the Sandinistas of being drug runners.

Kurtz also slashed at Webb personally, stating that he "appeared conscious of making the news." As illustration, Kurtz quoted a letter that Webb had written to Rick Ross in July 1996 about the timing of the series. Webb told Ross that it would probably be run around the time of his sentencing, in order to "generate as much public interest as possible." As Webb candidly told Ross, this was the way the news business worked. So indeed it does, at the Washington Post far more than at the Mercury News, as anyone following the Post's promotion of Bob Woodward's books will acknowledge. But Webb is somehow painted as guilty of self-inflation for telling Ross a journalistic fact of life.
On Friday, October 4, the Washington Post went to town on Webb and on the Mercury News, The onslaught carried no less than 5,000 words in five articles. The front page featured a lead article by Roberto Suro and Walter Pincus, headlined "CIA and Crack: Evidence Is Lacking of Contra-Tied Plot." Also on the front page was a piece by Michael Fletcher on black paranoia. The A section carried another piece on an inside page, a profile of Norwin Meneses by Douglas Farah. A brief sidebar by Walter Pincus was titled, "A Long History of Drug Allegations," compressing the entire history of the CIA's involvement with drug production in Southeast Asia a saga that Al McCoy took 634 pages to chart into 300 words. Finally, the front page of the Post's Style section that Friday morning contained an article by Donna Britt headlined, "Finding the Truest Truth." Britt's topic was how blacks tell stories to each other and screw things up in the process.

Connections between Walter Pincus and the intelligence sector are long-standing and well-known. From 1955 to 1957, he worked for US Army Counter-Intelligence in Washington, D.C. Pincus himself is a useful source about his first connections with the CIA. In 1968, when the stories about the CIA's penetration of the National Student Association had been broken by the radical magazine Ramparts, Pincus wrote a rather solemn expose of himself in the Washington Post. In a confessional style, he reported how the Agency had sponsored three trips for him, starting in 1960. He had gone to conferences in Vienna, Accra and New Delhi, acting as a CIA observer. It was clearly an apprenticeship in which as he well knew Pincus was being assessed as officer material. He evidently made a good impression, because the CIA asked him to do additional work. Pincus says he declined, though it would be hard to discern from his reporting that he was not, at the least, an Agency asset. The Washington Times describes Pincus as a person "who some in the Agency refer to as 'the CIA's house reporter.'"
Since Webb's narrative revolved around the central figures of Blandón and Meneses, Pincus and Suro understandably focused on the Nicaraguans, claiming that they were never important players in Contra circles. To buttress this view, the Post writers hauled out the somewhat dubious assertions of Adolfo Calero. As with other CIA denials, one enters a certain zone of unreality here. Journalists were using as a supposedly reliable source someone with a strong motivation to deny that his organization had anything to do with the cocaine trafficking of which it was accused. Pincus and Suro solemnly cited Calero as saying that when he met with Meneses and Blandón, "We had no crystal ball to know who they were or what they were doing." Calero's view was emphasized as reliable, whereas Blandón and Meneses were held to be exaggerating their status in the FDN.

Thus, we have Webb, based on Blandón's sworn testimony as a government witness before a federal grand jury, reporting that FDN leader Colonel Enrique Bermúdez had bestowed on Meneses the title of head of intelligence and security for the FDN in California. On the other hand, we have the self-interested denials to Pincus and Suro of a man who has been denounced to the FBI as "a pathological liar" by a former professor at California State University, Hayward, Dennis Ainsworth.

Just as Kurtz had done, Pincus and Suro homed in on the charge that Webb had behaved unethically. This time the charge was suggesting certain questions that Ross's lawyer, Alan Fenster, could ask Blandón. Webb' s retort has always been that it would be hard to imagine a better venue for reliable responses than a courtroom with the witness under oath.

But how did all the Washington Post writers come to focus in so knowledgeably on this particular courtroom scene?
Kurtz never mentions his name, and Pincus and Suro refer to him only in passing, but Assistant US District Attorney L. J. O'Neale was himself being questioned by Los Angeles Sheriff's Department investigators on November 19, 1996. The department's transcript of the interview shows O'Neale reveling in his top-secret security clearance with the CIA, and saying that "his personal feelings were that Mr. Webb had become an active part of Ricky Ross's defense team. He said that it was his personal opinion that Webb's involvement was on the verge of complicity." While he was speaking, O'Neale was searching for a document. As the investigators put it in their report, "In our presence he called Howard Kurtz, the author of the first Washington Post article, but nobody answered." Thereupon, also in their presence, he talked to Walter Pincus.

This hint of pre-existing relations between the Washington Post and the federal prosecutor suggests that O'Neale had rather more input into the Post's attacks on Webb than the passing mention of his name might suggest. And indeed, a comparison between O'Neale's court filings and the piece by Pincus and Suro shows that the Washington Post duo faithfully followed the line of O'Neale's attack. Once again, motive is important. O'Neale had every reason to try to subvert a reporter who had described in great detail how the US District Attorney had become the patron and handler of Danilo Blandón. Webb had described how O'Neale had saved Blandón from a life term in prison, found him a job as a government agent and used him as his chief witness in a series of trials. O'Neale had an enormous stake in discrediting Webb.
O'Neale's claim, reiterated by Pincus and Suro, is that Blandón mainly engaged in sending cocaine profits to the Contras in late 1981 and 1982, before hooking up with Rick Ross. Furthermore, the amount of cocaine sold by Blandón was a mere fraction of the national market for the drug, and thus could not have played a decisive role in sparking a crack plague in Los Angeles. In other words, according to the O'Neale line in the Post, Blandón had sold only a relatively insignificant amount of cocaine in 1981 and 1982 (later the magical figure $50,000 worth became holy writ among Webb's critics). His association with Ross had begun after Blandón had given up his charitable dispensations to the Contras, and thus was a purely criminal enterprise with no political ramifications. Therefore, even by implication, there could be no connection between the CIA and the rise of crack.
O'Neale had reversed the position he had taken in the days when he was prosecuting Blandón and calling him "the largest Nicaraguan cocaine dealer in the United States." Now he was claiming that Blandón's total sales of cocaine amounted to only 5 tons, and thus he could not be held accountable for the rise of crack. This specific argument was seized gratefully by Pincus and Suro. "Law enforcement estimates," Pincus and Suro wrote, "say Blandón handled a total of only about five tons of cocaine during a decade-long career."

Imagine if the Washington Post had been dealing with a claim by Mayor Marion Barry that during his mayoral terms "only" about 10,000 pounds of crack had been handled by traffickers in the blocks surrounding his office!
Webb was attacked for claiming, in the opening lines of his series, that "millions" had been funneled back to the Contras. In his statements to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department investigators, O'Neale said, " Blandón dealt with a total of 40 kilos of cocaine from January to December 1982. The profits of the sales were used to purchase weapons and equipment for the Contras." O'Neale was trying to narrow the window of "political" cocaine sales. However, during that time Blandón was selling cocaine worth over $2 million in only a fraction of the period that Webb identified as the time the cocaine profits were being remitted to Honduras.

The degree of enmity directed toward Webb can be gauged not only by O'Neale's diligent briefings of Webb's antagonists, but also by the raid on the office of Gary Webb's literary agent, Jody Hotchkiss of the Sterling Lord Agency, by agents of the Department of Justice and the DEA. The government men came brandishing subpoenas for copies of all correspondence between the Sterling Lord Agency, Rick Ross, Ross's lawyer Alan Fenster, and Webb. The DEA justified the search on the grounds that it wanted to see if Ross had any assets it could seize to pay his hefty fines. But Webb reckons "they were really looking for some sort of business deal between me and Ross. They wanted to discredit me as a reporter by saying he's making deals with drug dealers." The raid produced no evidence of any such deal, because there was none.

Cheek by jowl with Pincus and Suro on the Washington Post's front page that October 4 was Fletcher's essay on the sociology of black paranoia. Blacks, Fletcher claimed, cling to beliefs regardless of "the shortage of factual substantiation" and of "denials by government officials." Fletcher duly stated some pieties about the "bitter" history of American blacks. Then he bundled together some supposed conspiracies (that the government deliberately infected blacks with the AIDS virus, that Church's fried chicken and Snapple drinks had been laced with chemicals designed to sterilize black men) and implied that allegations about the CIA and cocaine trafficking were of the same order. It is true, Fletcher conceded, that blacks had reasons to be paranoid. "Many southern police departments," he wrote delicately, "were suspected of having ties to the Ku Klux Klan." He mentioned in passing the FBI snooping on Martin Luther King Jr. and the sting operation on Washington, D.C.'s Mayor Marion Barry. He also touched on the syphilis experiments conducted by the government on blacks in Tuskegee, Alabama. "The history of victimization of black people allows myths and, at times, outright paranoia to flourish." In other words, the black folk get it coming and going. Terrible things happen to them, and then they're patronized in the Washington Post for imagining that such terrible things might happen again. "Even if a major investigation is done," Fletcher concluded, "it is unlikely to quell the certainty among many African Americans that the government played a role in bringing the crack epidemic to black communities."

A few days later, a Post editorial followed through on this notion of black irrationality and the lack of substance in Webb's thesis. The writer observed that "The Mercury [had] borrowed heavily from a certain view of CIA rogue conduct that was widespread ten years ago." The "biggest shock," the editorial went on, "wasn't the story but the credibility the story seems to have generated when it reached some parts of the black community." This amazing sentence was an accurate rendition of what really bothered the Washington Post, which was not charges that the CIA had been complicit in drug running, but that black people might be suspicious of the government's intentions toward them. The Post's editorial said solemnly that "[i]f the CIA did associate with drug pushers its aim was not to infect Americans but to advance the CIA' s foreign project and purposes."
In the weeks that followed, Post columnists piled on the heat. Mary McGrory, the doyenne of liberal punditry, said that the Post had successfully "discredited" the Mercury News. Richard Cohen, always edgy on the topic of black America, denounced Rep. Maxine Waters for demanding an investigation after the Washington Post had concluded that Webb's charges were "baseless." "When it comes to sheer gullibility or is it mere political opportunism? Waters is in a class of her own."

One story in that October 4 onslaught in the Post differed markedly from its companion pieces. That was the profile of Meneses by Douglas Farah, which actually advanced Webb's story. Farah, the Post's man in Central America, filed a dispatch from Managua giving a detailed account of Meneses's career as a drug trafficker, going back to 1974. Farah described how Meneses had "worked for the Contras for five years, fundraising, training and sending people down to Honduras." He confirmed Meneses's encounter with Enrique Bermúdez and added a detail the gift of a crossbow by Meneses to the colonel. Then Farah produced a stunner, lurking in the twelfth paragraph of his story. Citing "knowledgeable sources," he reported that the DEA had hired Meneses in 1988 to try to set up Sandinista political and military leaders in drug stings. Farah named the DEA agent involved as Federico Villareal. The DEA did not dispute this version of events. In other words, Farah had Meneses performing a political mission for the US government, side by side with the story by his colleagues Pincus and Suro claiming Meneses had no such connections.

Shortly after the Post's offensives on October 2 and October 4, the Mercury News's editor, Jerry Ceppos, sent a detailed letter to the Post aggressively defending Webb and rebutting the criticisms. "The Post has every right to reach different conclusions from those of the Mercury News," Ceppos wrote. "But I'm disappointed in the 'what's the big deal' tone running through the Post's critique. If the CIA knew about illegal activities being conducted by its associates, federal law and basic morality required that it notify domestic authorities. It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of story that a newspaper should shine a light on."

The Post refused to print Ceppos's letter. Ceppos called Stephen Rosenfeld, the deputy editor of the editorial page, who suggested that Ceppos revise his letter and resubmit it. Ceppos promptly did this, and again the Post refused to print his response. Rosenfeld said Ceppos's letter was "misinformation." Ceppos later wrote in the Mercury News: "I was stunned when the Washington Post rejected my request to reply to its long critique of 'Dark Alliance.' The Post at first encouraged me, asking me to rewrite the article and then to agree to other changes. I did. Then, a few days ago, I received a one-paragraph fax saying that the Post is 'not able to publish' my response. Among other reasons, the Post said [that] other papers 'essentially' confirmed the Post's criticism of our series. I've insisted for years that newspapers don't practice 'groupthink.' I'm still sure that most don't. But the Post's argument certainly gives ammunition to the most virulent critics of American journalism. The Post also said I had backed down 'elsewhere' from positions I took in the piece I wrote for the Post. But I didn't. I shouted to anyone who would listen (and wrote that, in another letter to the Post). It was too late. On the day that the Post faxed me, the Los Angeles Times incorrectly had written that reporter Gary Webb, who wrote the 'Dark Alliance' series, and I had backed down on several key points. Fiction became fact. As if I had no tongue, and no typewriter, I suddenly had lost access to the newspaper that first bitterly criticized our series."

The Post's sordid procedures in savaging Webb were examined by its ombudsman, Geneva Overholzer, on November 10. Ultimately she found her own paper guilty of "misdirected zeal," but first she took the opportunity to stick a few more knives into poor Webb. "The San Jose series was seriously flawed. It was reported by a seemingly hot-headed fellow willing to have people leap to conclusions his reporting couldn't back up principally that the CIA was knowingly involved in the introduction of drugs into the United States." That said, Overholzer then turned her sights on the Post's editors, saying that the Post showed more energy for protecting the CIA than for protecting the people from government excesses. "Post editors and reporters knew there was strong evidence that the CIA at least chose to overlook Contra involvement in the drug trade. Yet when those revelations came out in the 1980s they had caused 'little stir,' as the Post delicately noted. Would that we had welcomed the surge of public interest as an occasion to return to a subject the Post and the public had given short shrift. Alas, dismissing someone else's story as old news comes more naturally."

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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December 17, 2004

How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb's Career

CounterAttack, Part Two, Excerpted from Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press.

Despite Ceppos's anger at the Washington Post, the unrelenting attacks from organizations that he held in great professional esteem were beginning to take their toll. It is also quite possible that he was feeling pressure from within the Knight-Ridder empire. To judge from the bleating tone of his pieces about the Webb series in the Mercury News the November 4 article, for example Ceppos may not have had quite the necessary backbone to hold up under pressure.

Ceppos assigned another Mercury News investigative reporter, Pete Carey, to review Webb's reporting against the charges of the media critics. On October 12 the Mercury News published Carey's findings, which backed up Webb's work and actually added new information, particularly regarding the 1986 search warrant against Blandón and his arms-dealing associate, Ronald Lister. But though Webb's reporting was vindicated, the assignment to Carey was an omen of the paper's increasing defensiveness.

Another omen was Ceppos's reaction to charges that Webb had a vested interest in the story because he had a book offer and film offers. The Los Angeles Times reported, inaccurately, that Webb had signed a deal. "This story really pissed off Ceppos," Webb recalls. "He said it made the paper look bad." Webb told Ceppos he didn't have any deals. Ceppos then told Webb, "I don't want you to sign any deals and if you sign any book deals or movie deals you can't work on this story for us anymore."

"That's kind of asking a lot," Webb says he answered. "This is what most reporters dream of."
"Well, you'll have to make up your mind," Ceppos said. "You can either do a book deal or you can work on it for us."
Webb went home to talk over the ultimatum with his wife, Sue, a respiratory therapist. She told him, "Screw them. Do the book. Do the movie and let the Mercury News worry about itself."
"I owe it to the paper," Webb answered. "They're being sniped at." So he called up Hotchkiss at Sterling Lord and told him, "Forget the books. Forget the movie deals. They want me to do more stories. Then I'll do the book."

Sue had better instincts about the Mercury News than her husband. Having told Webb to give up the deals and write the stories for the paper, Ceppos thus did his reporter out of book and movie advances, then failed to run the stories and finally tried to ruin his career.

The next assault was a double-barreled one from either side of the continent, on Sunday, October 17, in the New York Times, staff reporter Tim Golden was given an entire page on which to flail away at Webb. In the Los Angeles Times, an army of fourteen reporters and three editors put out a three-part series, intended to finish off Webb forever.

Golden's piece, entitled "The Tale of CIA and Drugs Has Life of Its Own," was remarkable, among other reasons, for the pullulating anonymity of its sources. Golden claimed to have interviewed "more than two dozen current and former rebels, CIA officers and narcotics agents." From these informants, Golden had concluded that there was "scant" proof to support the paper's contention that Nicaraguan rebel officials linked to the CIA played a central role in spreading crack through Los Angeles and other cities. One conspicuous common link between all the officials quoted by Golden as being critical of Webb is that they remained anonymous. Only Adolfo Calero permitted himself to be identified. Golden's editors at the New York Times allowed him to offer scores of blind quotes without any identification. The Mercury News never offered Webb that indulgence, nor did he request it.

In truth, Golden's story had no substance whatsoever. He got his final word on the story from that well-known Uncle Tom to the thumb-sucking crowd, Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a black professor from the Harvard University Medical School. Poussaint, who is always being wheeled out in these situations, ascribed the reaction of black America to the Mercury News story as another case of black paranoia. This tendresse for the CIA's reputation was nothing new for the New York Times. In 1987, its reporter Keith Schneider weighed in with a three-part series dismissing allegations of Contra drug trafficking. A month later Schneider explained to In These Times magazine why he took that approach. He said such a story could "shatter the Republic. I think it is so damaging, the implications are so extraordinary, that for us to run the story, it had better be based on the most solid evidence we could amass." In other words, it would have to be approved by the Agency.

Of all the attacks on Webb, the Los Angeles Times series was the most elaborate and the most disingenuous. For two months the dominant newspaper in Southern California had been derided for missing the big story on its own doorstep. The only way it could salvage its reputation was to claim that there'd been no big story to miss. This is the path it took. It would have been extraordinary if the Times had the decency to clap the Mercury News on the back and praise it for good work, particularly given the disposition of its editor-in-chief at the time, Shelby Coffee III. Coffee came to Los Angeles from the Washington Post, where he had been editor of the Style section. He was regarded there as a smooth courtier in the retinue of Katharine Graham and not in any way as a boat rocker. It would have gone against every instinct for Coffee to have endorsed a story so displeasing to liberal elites. "He is the dictionary definition of someone who wants to protect the status quo," said Dennis McDougal, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, in an interview with New Times, "He weighs whether or not an investigative piece will have repercussions among the ruling elites and if it will, the chances of seeing it in print in the LA Times decrease accordingly."
The mood of the group doing the series, under the leadership of Doyle McManus, could scarcely be described as one of objective dispassion. They referred to themselves as the "Get Gary Webb Team," as Peter Kornbluh reported in the Columbia Journalism Review, and bragged in the office about denying Webb his Pulitzer.

The most important task for the hit squad was to deal with its own backyard. They assigned Webb's old nemesis Jesse Katz the task of undermining Webb's assertion that the Blandón/Ross cocaine ring helped spark the crack epidemic in Los Angeles. Katz duly turned in an article claiming that "the explosion of cheap smokable cocaine in the 1980s was a uniquely egalitarian phenomenon, one that lent itself more to makeshift mom and pop operations than to the sinister hand of a government-sanctioned plot." Katz went on to minimize the role of Rick Ross: "How the crack epidemic reached that extreme, on some level, had nothing to do with Ricky Ross." Katz then asserted that gangs had little or nothing to do with the crack trade, stating flatly that crack sales did not "fill the coffers of the Bloods and the Crips." He also disputed the idea that crack use had spread across the country from Los Angeles.

This was a substantial turnaround from what the Los Angeles Times and Katz had previously reported, before the task of demolishing the Mercury News became paramount. The drumbeat of the newspaper during the mid- and late 1980s was that the Los Angeles Police Department had to crush the gangs. In a 1987 news story, the Times described the gangs as "the foot soldiers of the Colombian cartels." On August 4, 1989, another news story sympathetically relayed a Justice Department report: "Los Angeles street gangs now dominate the rock cocaine trade in Los Angeles and elsewhere, due in part to their steady recourse to murderous violence to enforce territorial dealing supremacy, to deter cheating and to punish rival gang members. The LAPD has identified 47 cities, from Seattle to Kansas City, to Baltimore, where Los Angeles street gang traffickers have appeared."

As for Ross, on December 20, 1994 the Los Angeles Times had published a 2,400-word investigative report by Katz entitled "Deposed King of Crack Now Freed After Five Years in Prison. This Master Marketer Was Key to the Drug's Spread in LA." Katz pulled out all the stops in his lead. "If there was an eye to the storm, if there was a criminal mastermind behind crack's decade-long reign, if there was an outlaw capitalist most responsible for flooding Los Angeles' streets with mass-marketed cocaine, his name was Freeway Rick." Katz reported that "Ross did more than anyone else to democratize it, boosting volume, slashing prices, and spreading disease on a scale never before conceived." Katz called Ross "South Central's first multi-millionaire crack lord" and said "his coast-to-coast conglomerate was selling more than $500,000 a day, a staggering turnover that put the drug within reach of anyone with a few dollars."

A day later, it was Doyle McManus who tried to undermine Webb's work on the Contra connection. One hopes that McManus felt some slight tinge of embarrassment at his newspaper's attack on Webb for unethical behavior in signing a book deal (which, as we have seen, Webb had not in fact done). McManus himself had reported on the Iran/Contra scandal, and simultaneously put out a book on the affair, co-written with Jane Mayer. McManus went the familiar route of larding his story with unattributed quotes from Contras, CIA men and associates of Blandón, all of them naturally enough protesting their innocence. "I wish we had been able to identify them by names of course," McManus piously told Alicia Shepard of the American Journalism Review. McManus, apparently in some sort of journalistic race to the bottom with his co-assailants Pincus and Golden, contended that Meneses gave the Contras only $20 to $30 at a time, and asserted that Meneses's and Blandón's total contribution was far less than $50,000. This conclusion is derived from McManus's unnamed informants, and has to be set against court testimony, under oath, from numerous named sources cited by Webb. No less an authority than assistant federal prosecutor L. J. O'Neale, who lowballed the dollar figures for reasons noted earlier, had still produced a number of more than $2 million in a single year.

McManus tried to establish a scenario in which Blandón and Meneses gave very little to the Contras, to whom they were not connected in any official capacity, and in which Meneses's cocaine never made it to Rick Ross to be transformed into crack. McManus claimed Ross's crack came from Colombian cocaine and had nothing to do with the Nicaraguans. In McManus's version, Blandón and Meneses were incompetent stooges. However, amid all this dogged effort to subvert Webb's chronology, McManus tripped himself up badly. He alleged that Blandón and Meneses had severed their relationship "entirely by 1983." A few paragraphs later, amid an anecdote designed to establish Meneses as head of a gang-that-couldn't-shoot-straight, McManus quoted at length a description of a scene at Meneses's house in San Francisco in November 1984. The unnamed source is identified as a member of the Blandón cocaine ring. He is describing the reaction of Meneses and Blandón to the news that Jairo Meneses, Meneses's cousin, and Renato Peña Cabrerra, official spokesman for the FDN's San Francisco group, had just been busted on cocaine charges. Although McManus had just said that Meneses and Blandón had split two years earlier, he now had them in the midst of a division of cash from a cocaine deal. "Danilo and Norwin had done some business deal. The deal is 40 to 50 kilos. The money was all divvied up. There was cash all over the place. Norwin had steaks on the grill. It was going to be a big party. The phone rings and Margarita shrieks, 'Jairo's been arrested!' Well, everybody cleared out in a heartbeat. They grabbed the money and ran. I don't think anyone turned off the steaks."

It's hard to imagine an anecdote that could more effectively rebut everything McManus had previously labored to establish.
McManus's other objective was to assert the moral purity of the CIA. To this end he interviewed Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA officer and staffer at the National Security Council at the time Oliver North was manfully toiling at Reagan's behest to keep the Contras afloat. Cannistraro told McManus that sometimes CIA station chiefs turn a blind eye to "misdeeds by the foreign collaborators they recruit." Cannistraro referred to this trait as "falling in love with your agent." Cannistraro adamantly insisted, however, that there's "no tendency to turn a blind eye to drug trafficking. It's too sensitive. It's not a fine line. It's not a shaded area where you can turn away from the rules." (In 1998 the CIA Inspector General finally admitted to Congress that in 1982 the Agency had received clearance from the Justice Department not to report drug trafficking by CIA assets.) What McManus failed to confide to his readers was that Cannistraro had a deep personal interest in denying any Agency tolerance for trafficking. He had supervised many of the CIA/Contra operations and was then transferred to the NSC, where he oversaw US aid to the Afghan mujahidin. As we shall see, the mujahidin were heavily engaged in the trafficking of opium and heroin. Perhaps the most piquant bit of effrontery in McManus's attack was his assertion that even if Meneses had been selling drugs in California and remitting the profits to the Contras, the CIA would have had to turn a blind eye, because the Agency was prohibited from domestic spying!

Even after his pummeling by the two big West and East Coast papers, Webb felt he still retained the support of his editors. "They urged me to continue digging on the story so that we could stick to the Washington Post," For the next two months, Webb continued his research. He flushed out more evidence of direct CIA knowledge of Meneses's operations in Costa Rica and El Salvador. He traced how the DEA made Meneses one of their informer/assets as early as 1985. And he secured more evidence on the controversial money angle, finding that as much as $5 million was channeled back to the Contras from the Blandón/Meneses ring in 1983 alone. Webb turned the stories in to his editor, Dawn Garcia, in January 1997, and the newspaper sat on them. "They didn't edit them," Webb recalls. "They told me that they had read them, but they never asked me for any supporting documentation. They never asked any questions about them."

Then Webb got a call from a friend, saying that a reporter had requested copies of all of Webb's clippings. The reporter seemed interested in digging into Webb's personal background. She particularly asked about an incident in which Webb had fired his .22 at a man who had been trying to steal his prized TR6 and who threatened Webb and his then-pregnant wife. (The man turned out to be a known local crook already convicted of manslaughter.) The reporter pursuing this story was Alicia Shepard of the American Journalism Review. Shepard had formerly worked as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. Her story was another smear on Webb's journalistic ethics, but this time the smears were coming from a source much closer to home. Shepard recounted how Sharon Rosenhause, managing editor of the San Francisco Examiner (a paper boasting Chris Matthews as its Washington, D.C. correspondent), had filed a petition with the Society of Professional Journalists to have Webb stripped of the Journalist of the Year Award that had just been bestowed on him. This had elicited a stinging letter from the director of the Society of Professional Journalists, emphasizing how Rosenhause had a private agenda, and how the society stood behind Webb.

Shepard got several Mercury News staffers to go on record with their criticism of Webb and his stories. Economics writer Scott Thrum, investigative editors Jonathan Krim and Chriss Schmitt, editorial page editor Rob Elder, and the most virulent critic of all, Phil Yost, who is the chief editorial writer for the Mercury News. The criticisms consisted mostly of hand-wringing by nervous colleagues who felt that Webb had compromised the newspaper's "hard-won credibility." Yost simply reiterated the charges made by other newspapers. It was a disgusting demonstration of backstabbing. And it showed clearly that the Mercury News was beginning to distance itself from Webb.

What accounts for the vicious edge to many of these attacks on Webb? One reason for the animosity of the California reporters can be traced back to one of Webb's earliest investigations for the Mercury News. His story revealed that a number of reporters were moonlighting for the very agencies they were supposed to be covering for example, how a TV reporter in Sacramento was being paid by the California Highway Patrol for coaching officers on how to deal with the press. He uncovered a curriculum for the TV reporter's class describing how the CHP should call up editors and complain about unfavorable stories. Webb also exposed reporters at the Sacramento Bee and United Press International, who had received state contracts from the California Lottery Commission. Webb says that after this story appeared, his colleagues regarded him as an outsider.

Another reason for ostracism by his colleagues could be what Webb describes as racist attitudes among the Mercury News staff toward the editor of his series, Dawn Garcia. "I don't think she has a lot of friends in that newsroom, because she came in and she was regarded as one of the Hispanic hires, a quota hire. That's unfair. She's a good newsperson. She took a job from someone that was widely liked in the newsroom."

With his stories sitting unpublished on his editor's desk, some time in early 1997 Webb got a call from Georg Hodel, who had done legwork for him in Nicaragua. Hodel said that he had located four other members of the Meneses/Blandón operation who were willing to talk to Webb. Webb called his editors and said he was going to Nicaragua. They told him they didn't want him to go until they figured out what to do with his stories. Worried that the drug dealers might disappear, Webb said he'd go anyway, on his own time and money.

Soon after he returned to Sacramento from Nicaragua, Webb got a call from Jerry Ceppos, who had spent much of the winter months being treated for prostate cancer. Ceppos told Webb that he was going to publish a letter in the Mercury News admitting that "mistakes had been made" in the "Dark Alliance" series. Ceppos originally wanted to run the apologia in the Easter Sunday edition. When Webb saw a draft of the column, he was outraged. "This is idiotic," Webb recalls telling Ceppos. "Half this stuff isn't even true. It's unconscionable to run this." Ceppos told Webb not to take it personally, that it was just a column and it didn't mean the paper was trying to hang him out to dry.

Webb insisted that he thought Ceppos's column was unethical for a number of reasons, including the fact that though it said there had been shortcomings in the series, it made no reference to the fact that six months of further research had substantiated and advanced most of Webb's original findings. Ceppos replied that they didn't "want to get into that kind of detail."

Ceppos's column ran on May 11. It was a retreat on every front, and a shameful day for American journalism. It accused Webb of leaving out contradictory information, of failing to emphasize that the multimillion-dollar figure was an estimate, and of not including the obligatory denials of the CIA. The series, Ceppos said, had oversimplified the origins of the crack epidemic. Ceppos also declared that the series had wrongly implied CIA knowledge of the Contra drug ring.

Predictably, Ceppos's appalling betrayal of his own reporter was greeted with exuberance by the New York Times, where Todd Purdum used it to legitimize the New York Times's original attack and to lash out at Webb as a paranoid. Purdum also alleged that Ceppos's column had been based on "an exhaustive review" written by a seven-member Mercury News team of reporters and editors. Both the "exhaustive review" and the team had never existed, according to Webb. Though Webb had submitted four stories totaling 14,000 words, Ceppos told Purdum that the reporter had only submitted "notes and ideas." Purdum also marshalled disobliging blind quotes from Webb's Mercury News colleagues.

The Ceppos column was also greeted with glee on the New York Times editorial page, where Ceppos got a patronizing clap on the back for his "courageous gesture." The editorial again affixed blame on Webb, saying that Ceppos's action "sets a high standard for cases in which journalists make egregious errors." Webb had made no such errors. Down at Langley, the CIA was quick to use Ceppos's letter to assert that the Agency had been absolved. "It's gratifying to see," said the Agency's Mark Mansfield, "that a large segment of the media, including the San Jose Mercury News, has taken an objective look at how this story was constructed and reported."

Nor did the Ceppos letter escape notice by Nicaragua's right wing, with perilous consequences for those who had worked on the story with Webb and who had been interviewed by him. The Nicaraguan press, chiefly La Prensa, which had been funded for years by the CIA, ran stories denouncing Webb and urging people to sue him, as well as Hodel and others associated with the story. The Nicaraguan papers alleged that the Mercury News would not mount a defense against such libel actions.

It wasn't long before Georg Hodel became the target of harassment and a possible murder attempt. In mid-June 1997, about a month after Ceppos disowned Webb, Hodel and an attorney for several of the men he and Webb had interviewed were run off the road in Nicaragua and threatened by a group of armed thugs. Hodel and the lawyer escaped and went to a police station to file a complaint. A few days later, a story appeared in one of Nicaragua's right-wing papers saying that Hodel and his companions had gotten drunk and driven off the road themselves.

Meanwhile, the Mercury News had told Webb that his follow-up stories were being killed and that he was being reassigned to the paper's Cupertino bureau, 150 miles from Sacramento. Webb filed a grievance against the paper.

The New York Times continued its vendetta. In perhaps the lowest of all the attacks, Iver Peterson, one of the newspaper's more undistinguished reporters, went back over Webb's investigative pieces before he embarked on the "Dark Alliance" series. Peterson charged that Webb had a history of playing loose with the facts and having "a penchant for self-promotion." He reached this conclusion after dredging up four libel suits, two of which had been dismissed and two of which had been settled. Webb says no major corrections were ever required. (The Times refused to print Webb's letter correcting the record, which is reproduced below.) Peterson also quoted from the targets of Webb's investigations, who, predictably, were not appreciative of the reporter. Back in his Ohio days as a reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Webb had exposed Ohio Supreme Court Judge Frank D. Celebrezze as being in receipt of political contributions from organizations tied to the mob. Celebrezze had sued. There was a settlement and no retraction. Peterson dutifully cited Celebrezze's eager comment that Webb "lied about me and whatever happens to him I think he deserves." It was as if some reporter had used Richard Nixon as a reliable source on the quality of reporting by the New York Times.

However, the coverup and counterattacks had not yet ended. There was the delicate matter of how to deal with the CIA's own internal probe. It's a neat trick to get great coverage for a report you haven't published and that no journalist has actually seen. You need accomplices. The CIA once again used its friends in the press to issue a self-serving news release on its internal investigation of charges that the Agency had connived in Contra drug smuggling into Los Angeles in the early 1980s.

In this particular piece of news management, the CIA outdid itself. In the past, it has relied on its journalistic allies to put the best face on probes that, albeit heavily censored, displayed the Agency in an unpleasing light. But in late December 1997, the CIA elicited friendly coverage, even though the report by the CIA's own Inspector General remained unpublished and under heavy security wraps.

It will be recalled that a month after Webb's story first appeared, the CIA's director John Deutch announced that the Agency's Inspector General, Frederick Hitz, was launching "the most comprehensive analysis ever done" of CIA activities in this sphere. The gambit of the internal probe was initially confined to the allegations made by Webb, but was then widened to take in any references to drug connections in the CIA's files. Also launched in the fall of 1996 was a Justice Department review of Webb's charges. Deutch initially pledged that the CIA report would be finished and released to the public by the end of December 1996. Sixteen months went by.

Then on December 18, 1997 came stories in the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News under headlines such as "CIA Clears Itself in Crack Investigation." CNN picked up the Mercury News's story immediately, telling viewers that the very paper that had made the initial charges against the CIA was now reporting that "an investigation" had absolved the Agency.

But where was the CIA report that had prompted the stories in the LA Times and Mercury News? Unavailable. Reason? It depended who one called. The stories in the LA Times and Mercury News about the mysterious report were filed on Wednesday, December 17 and appeared in print the next day. Then on Thursday, the Justice Department announced its view that public release of the CIA report would damage current criminal investigations. When called, the CIA's press department stated that the CIA now wanted to wait until mid-January, when the second part of the Inspector General's report was supposedly to be finished. Later that Thursday, the Justice Department stated that it would edit the CIA's and its own probes to purge them of any compromising material.

In other words, one was being asked to believe that after sixteen months the CIA and Justice Department had somehow, entirely by accident, contrived a news "event" that exonerated the CIA in major headlines, without providing any evidence to support such a conclusion. Imagine the fury that would have been unleashed if Webb had written a news story thus shorn of any documentary substantiation.

Friday, December 19 brought stories in the New York Times by Tim Weiner and in the Washington Post by Walter Pincus, who had started the press onslaught on Webb in the fall of 1996. Weiner's story ran under the headline, "CIA Says It Has Found No Link Between Itself and Crack Trade." Weiner quoted no named sources and relied entirely on our old friend, "a government official who would not allow his name to be used." Pincus quoted three anonymous officials who claimed that the CIA report shows "no direct or indirect link" between the CIA and cocaine traffickers.
Just how thorough was the CIA's much-touted probe of itself? All indications are that the investigation was far from fierce. The Inspector General had no subpoena power. The CIA's former chief officer in Central America, Dewey Clarridge, now retired and working for General Dynamics, told the Los Angeles Times that the CIA "sent me questions that were a bunch of bullshit." He refused to be interviewed by the CIA's investigators. Clarridge, it should be noted, was a central figure in CIA operations with the Contras, whom he conjured into being from an initial recruitment of Argentinian military torturers, and whose assassination schemes he boasts of having recommended. Other people interviewed by the CIA claim to have been bullied by the Agency's investigators whenever they showed signs of supporting Webb. And what about the author of the stories, Gary Webb? He was never interviewed.

With Webb, we get to the heart of the dust storm. On Saturday, December 13, the San Jose Mercury News announced that Gary Webb had resigned from the paper, after reaching a settlement on a grievance he had filed about his transfer from Sacramento to Cupertino. In the Washington Post and New York Times, Webb's departure from the Mercury News was flagged, with the implication that somehow it offered further evidence of the conclusiveness of the CIA's self-examination.

It looks as though the Agency took the opportunity of Webb's departure to leak a self-serving press release about its conduct. This item was eagerly seized upon by the papers who had been after Webb, and by the Mercury News, which had been terrorized into betraying a fine reporter.

Looking back at the series in mid-1997, Webb said he had nothing to apologize for. "If anything, we pussy-footed around some stuff we shouldn't have, like CIA involvement and their level of knowledge. I'm glad I did the series because this is a story that gutless papers on the East Coast have been ducking for ten years. And now they're forced to confront it. However they chose to confront it, they still have to say what the story's about."
Source Notes

The attack on Gary Webb by his colleagues in the national press was relentless. There are a lot of examples, but perhaps none more blatant than Iver Peterson's smear on Webb in the New York Times, nearly a year after Webb's story had appeared. The initial assault was led by four "star" reporters at the nation's biggest papers: Howard Kurtz and Walter Pincus at the Washington Post, Tim Golden at the New York Times and Doyle McManus (Lt. Colonel of a "Get Webb Team") at the Los Angeles Times. Once these heavyweights drew blood, the editorial pages from across the country came in for the kill. The behavior of the top editors at Webb's own paper, the San Jose Mercury News, was despicable and cowardly. Even the so-called progressive press took shots at Webb, most notably the Nation, whose David Corn sniped that Webb's reporting was flawed.

On the other hand, Webb had his defenders. The LA Weekly was quick to reveal the gaping holes in the Los Angeles Times's saturation bombing of the "Dark Alliance" series. Norman Soloman's article "Snow Job" for Extra!, the magazine of the media watchdog group FAIR, was a fine piece of work that was useful to us. Robert Parry and his colleagues at The Consortium wrote good press criticism and worked to advance the story. The Consortium also printed a harrowing account from Nicaragua by Webb's partner, Georg Hodel, showing the dangers of writing about these forbidden topics in a hostile landscape. Similarly, Peter Kornbluh, the investigator at the National Security Archives, wrote a fine piece for the Columbia Journalism Review. Alicia Shepard's story in the American Journalism Review is neither kind nor fair to Webb, but it does expose the biases and petty jealousies of his colleagues.

As an example of the obdurate and spiteful hostility of the New York Times toward Webb, we include here two letters to the Times correcting serious inaccuracies and exhibitions of bias in the paper's reporting. The first is a response by Webb to Peterson's attack noted above. The Times refused to print it. The second is another commentary, which speaks for itself, on Peterson's story. The Times likewise had refused to print this letter.

To the editor: Since the New York Times allegedly places such a high value on accuracy, I would like to point out some factual errors and omissions in your June 3 story about me and the "Dark Alliance" series I authored last year.

@XXSERIES = The statement that a state audit "cleared" Tandem Computers for its part in a $50 million computer debacle at the California Department of Motor Vehicles is incorrect. The audit, by California Auditor General Kurt Sjoberg, corroborated the findings of my investigation and the Tandem project was scrapped at considerable cost to the state's taxpayers. Moreover, two state officials who approved and oversaw this project and then went to work for Tandem paid large fees to settle conflict of interest charges lodged by the state Fair Political Practices Commission. These charges were filed as a result of my reporting, which won the California Journalism Award in 1994.

@XXSERIES = The statement that the Mercury News "never published a follow-up story" to the Tandem series is also false. Several follow-ups were published, including stories I wrote about the Auditor General's report and the fines paid by the former state officials.

@XXSERIES = (It might have been useful to note that the reporter who criticized my Tandem stories, Lee Gomes, was covering Tandem while its much-ballyhooed DMV project was collapsing, yet somehow managed to miss the story entirely.)

@XXSERIES = Since your reporter, Iver Peterson, did not question me about my Tandem stories, perhaps it's not surprising that these errors and omissions occurred.

@XXSERIES = Finally, I found it amusing that while Mr. Peterson spent many inches airing vague complaints from people I've investigated, he would neglect to mention that I have won more than 30 journalism awards, been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize half a dozen times, and sent a number of corrupt or incompetent government officials and businessmen to jail or early retirement by exposing their misdeeds.

@XXSERIES = Granted, this kind of reporting makes few friends and prompts libel suits, but being well-loved and lawsuit-free has never been part of a reporter's duties as I understand them.

@BODY TEXT AU = Gary Webb, June 3, 1997

To the editor: A Times reporter [Iver Peterson] has seen fit to lead a story (6/3) on the San Jose Mercury New's "Dark Alliance" series with the stunning news that a request was placed on the agenda of the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) to strip the series' author, Gary Webb, of his 1996 Journalist of the Year award. Gratified as I am, as president of the organization, to see that our monthly agenda is of such interest to a national newspaper, in the interests of ethical journalism, which SPJ is dedicated to furthering, please allow me to correct the misleading impression that you have knowingly fostered with that lead paragraph.
Putting an anecdote in the lead paragraph of a news story implies that it has some representative significance, and indeed your writer goes on to state that the agenda item "illustrates" how Webb's series "continues to echo among journalists."
Actually, it illustrates no such thing. One person, an editor at a competing newspaper, has been insisting for nearly a year that the award be withdrawn, and she reiterated her request after appearance of the Mercury News column clarifying (not retracting) its series. As a courtesy to that one person, the item was placed on our agenda. But as your writer was aware because he asked me that person was in no way representative. In fact, she is the only person who has expressed such a view to us, and she acknowledges that she has other reasons to be angry with the San Jose Mercury News.

When the board finally discussed the issue at the member's request, there was no sentiment for withdrawal of the award. The discussion was brief, mostly centered on the irresponsibility of the Times's story.

Your reporter's determination to prove a point with a misguided example is disturbing, but even more so is the fact that he knew in advance that it was misleading and even wrote that "Chances are remote that Webb will lose the award because of one request." The reporter knew that the person who brought our meeting to his attention had an interest in inflating the significance of her own request. In other words, his informant's interest illustrated his informant's interest. Period.

Indeed, if the SPJ chapter meeting had had the importance that the Times's article implied, shouldn't the paper have reported the results of the meeting after it was held?

If the suggestion of potential retraction of Gary Webb's SPJ award continues to echo among journalists, it echoes because those journalists have read it in the New York Times and perpetuated the misimpression by calling us to find out what happened at the meeting, hyped by the Times and its source.
I suggested that the Times'<W0>s energy in bludgeoning flaws in the Mercury News series and personally attacking its author be matched by an equal or greater determination to explore the far more important story of the degree of US government complicity in the Contras' dealing in drugs that have devastated so many American communities. That is the story that the major news media have downplayed for more than a decade, while newspapers such as yours devote unprecedented lineage to debunking, in the most personal terms, the efforts of a reporter at another newspaper.

Peter Y. Sussman, President, Northern California Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists June 6, 1997

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Mitchell, John, and Sam Fullwood III. "History Fuels Outrage over Crack Allegations." Los Angeles Times, Oct. 23, 1996.

Muller, Judy. "Crack and the CIA: Conspiracy or Myth?" ABC News Nightline, Nov. 15, 1996.

Nation, editorial. "CIA Crack and the Media." Nation, June 2, 1997.

Orrick, Phyllis, and Susan Rasky. "Unspun: Heard It Through the Grapevine." Dallas Observer, Sept. 25, 1996.
Osborne, Barbara. "Are You Sure You Want to Ruin Your Career?" Extra! April 1998.
Overholser, Geneva. "The CIA, Drugs and the Press." Washington Post, Nov. 18, 1996.
Page, Clarence. "Crack: CIA Is Not Alone as Drug Suspect." Phoenix Gazette, Sept. 24, 1996.
<%-8>--<%0>. "What Did the CIA Know and When Did It Know It?" Baltimore Sun, Nov. 16, 1996.
Parry, Robert. "Contras, Crack, The CIA." Nation, Oct. 21, 1996.
<%-8>--<%0>. "CIA, Drugs and the National Press." Consortium, Dec. 23, 1996.
Parry, Sam. "ContraCrack: Investigators v. Brick Wall." The Consortium, Feb. 3, 1997.
<%-8>--<%0> . "ContraCrack Controversy Continues." The Consortium, Jan. 6, 1997.
Parry, Sam, and Nat Parry. "'Conspiracism': Who's at Fault for the Distrust?" The Consortium, Jan. 20, 1997.
Peterson, Iver. "Repercussions from Flawed News Articles." New York Times, May 13, 1997.
Pincus, Walter. "How I Traveled Abroad on a CIA Subsidy." San Jose Mercury News, Feb. 16, 1967.
<%-8>--<%0>. "Internal Investigator Extends Probe of CIA-Contra Crack Cocaine Allegations." Washington Post, Oct. 12, 1996.
<%-8>--<%0>. "A Long History of Drug Allegations." Washington Post, Sept. 23, 1996.
<%-8>--<%0>. "Justice Opens Probe on CIA Drug Charges." Washington Post, Sept. 13, 1996.
<%-8>--<%0> . "CIA Finds No Link to Cocaine Sales." Washington Post, Dec. 18, 1997.
Purdum, Todd. "Exposé on Crack was Flawed, Paper Says." New York Times, May 13, 1997.
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Wickham, DeWayne. "Clinton Must Act on CIA/Crack Case." Tampa Tribune, Oct. 21, 1996.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

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

New Information Confirms Suicide - "Open and Shut"


Michael C. Ruppert

© Copyright 2004

Gary Webb’s first typewriter

Carmichael, California; Saturday December 18, 2004, (FTW) - The world has said its powerful, enduring and loving goodbye to Gary Webb.

Approximately 300 people came from as far away as New Jersey to this quiet Sacramento suburb to honor a man who - against all odds - made the corrupt and venal world of corporations, covert operations and search-and destroy economics blink, stagger and show its true vulnerabilities. Webb's August 1996 Dark Alliance series in the San Jose Mercury News, and his 1998 book of the same name sparked an international outrage that led to congressional hearings, massive disclosures of criminal activity by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Reagan-Bush (I) White House. They also gave brief, if fleeting, hope to the oppressed - from America's inner cities to villages and farms from Mexico to Colombia - that justice might not be the sole province of a parallel universe, untouched and unreachable from the world in which we "the abandoned ones" must live.

But even as his memorial service was a stirring tribute to a man who changed our world, Gary's passing was not without controversy and a just few more cheap shots for which his courageous surviving family has paid the inevitable price. That was the nature of Gary's life and - given his experience since 1996 - he would/should have expected this. To be fair, these follow-on blows are also an inevitable byproduct of all suicides for which the one pulling the trigger must bear some responsibility.

The Los Angeles Times' obituary, published just hours after Webb's body was discovered, drew universal outrage at the service, not only from Webb's family but also from about eight of his long-time former colleagues - professional journalists and writers all - who showed up to defy the way Gary's life had been distorted by corporate press in (as of last count) 73 obituaries published in the US and around the world. Most of Gary's obituaries were cut-and-paste jobs using material from the Times and Associated Press which explains the Times' rush to put their "stink" on Gary's passing as quickly as possible. The L.A. Times obituary was published shortly after midnight on Sunday December 12th.

Emmy Award-winning former CBS News producer Kristina Borjesson, herself a brutal victim of the mainstream media's "buzz saw", sat quietly in the crowded hall paying her respects. She had come all the way from New Jersey and as I was leaving to come home on the last cleared flight out of Sacramento's fog-shrouded airport, she missed her flight home and probably had to spend the night there. This is what friends do for each other.

The Times and the major press had to kill Gary Webb a second time just to make sure it stuck. He, like his incredible and professional journalism, was that hard to kill. Otherwise they might all have all been shamed for their relentless continuing extermination of anything resembling real investigative journalism.

As much as I know that Gary appreciated the many glowing tributes to his work, I also thought I heard him rage at some of the pseudo-journalism and malicious spin that followed his December 11th suicide because it came from people who should have been his friends and behaved like it.

But for those who were present, who spoke, and who sent messages to his family and to the world, it was clear that what Gary Webb accomplished in life was fully appreciated and will never be forgotten. Gary was remembered and honored as he should have been. This is what will endure long after the bitter tastes and painful memories have faded from the consciousness of all who knew him.

Gary Webb was a giant in a village of midgets.

Standing room only


Gary's suicide was accomplished with two gunshot wounds to the head. In death Gary proved to be as determined and single-minded as he had been in life.

Because of the rampant and ill-informed speculation that has been traversing the Internet it is a sad necessity to put this issue to rest right up front. What follows should be a warning and a lesson to all activists and progressives; to all those who dare label themselves as "journalists" without ever once following standard journalism protocols designed to ensure fairness and minimize unnecessary harm to the innocent and those already in pain.

After arriving in this quiet suburb of Sacramento California I drove to and photographed the outside of the house in which Gary died. The new owners were still moving in and they were extremely gracious. Then I drove to a nearby Doubletree Hotel and met Gary's family. I note that not one of the so-called journalists eager to cry murder -- especially radio demagogue and sensationalist fear monger Alex Jones (See Below) -- bothered to pick up the phone, send an email or make any attempt to contact the family or any agency for their observations, wishes or facts. Not the slightest concern was shown by any of them for an already devastated family. The wounded were kicked and exploited when they were already down. For this there can be no forgiveness and no pardon.

In other words, one of the most fundamental tenets of journalism - one that Gary himself would have honored and demanded - was completely ignored by people who demonstrated that they have no class, zero judgment and not the slightest thought for anything but their own self-serving needs.

Here are the facts:

Gary Webb fired two shots from a .38 caliber revolver into his own head. The entrance wounds for both shots were at or near the right ear. However, for the first shot Webb had the gun angled downward which produced a through-and-through wound blowing out his lower left jaw. This was obviously not a fatal wound. His second shot, angled upward, successfully reached the brain, killing him instantly.

As a former LAPD police officer and detective I have seen several suicides where multiple gunshots, especially from a relatively weak handgun like a .38, using inappropriate target ammunition, required multiple shots. In most cases the second and sometimes third shots were required because the victim made "hesitation" movements as they pulled the trigger, moving the gun barrel away from a fatal trajectory. There are many places on the human head to which a gunshot wound is not fatal (e.g. the lower and upper jaws, the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, the nose, etc.). Only a shot to the brain usually produces death but even that is not always guaranteed. I have seen attempted suicide and homicide victims survive after a .38 "ball" round had passed completely through and exited the opposite side of the skull.

Based upon an initial statement I received from an unidentified Coroner's spokesperson on the day of Gary's death, I and others had suspected a shotgun had been used because of indications of multiple wounds and the fact that one statement indicated that there was substantial disfigurement. At the time, my notes indicated that the Coroner's staff member had said there was only one gunshot. That led me to suspect a shotgun. (12 Gauge shotguns using 00 buckshot release between nine and twelve pellets, each causing a separate wound.). However, in an initial email to certain activists, authors and leaders who knew Gary, I was careful to use the qualifying word "suspect" because we didn't know for sure what kind of a weapon had been used and I said so. Given what Gary's brother and ex wife were to tell me later it's just possible that the Coroner's staffer made a mistake. Her phones were ringing off the hook. That happens sometimes and that's why reporters double check things. The fact that Gary had used a .38 was not disclosed until a December 14th Coroner's statement and a follow-up story from the Sacramento Bee were necessitated by the hysterical rumor mongering an unbridled publishing coming from the activist-progressive community.

Both Gary's ex-wife Susan and his brother Kurt viewed the body and they confirmed the location of the wounds to me when I met them.

In addition, Gary left multiple suicide notes to family members which were confirmed to be in his own hand by them. He laid his driver's license out on the bed next to where he shot himself so that paramedics would be able to identify him. He had carefully placed his baby shoes in his mother's (her name is Anita and she is a real human being) storage bin. He had recently changed his bank account to make his ex-wife Susan the beneficiary. He had made statements to her in the days before his death that if this way the way he had to live he didn't want to continue.

There had been no reported deaths threats against Webb and no physical violence directed against him in the days preceding his death. There had been no reported burglaries of his residence and Gary had mentioned no recent difficulties or threats of any kind to his family. Several members of his family had seen Gary in the last days preceding the suicide and nothing out of the ordinary had happened except for the fact that his motorcycle had been stolen. Many friends and colleagues were aware of what writing assignments Gary had been working on for a small local magazine and none of them had to do with the CIA or drug running or major government corruption even approaching the magnitude of the Dark Alliance stories. He had no pending book contract, no publisher and - in fact - couldn't even get a full time job as a reporter. He was not writing another book.

Thanks to the LA Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times and all major print publications in the country Gary Webb had become virtually unemployable in the world of big newspapers or book publishing. Still he was never able to let go of his desire to be recognized in that milieu and those of us who knew him were fully aware of that. Because of the trashing of his reputation and the absolutely unforgivable abandonment he has received from his Mercury News editor Jerry Ceppos, any new Gary Webb exposé in a major publication would have been discredited, discounted and ignored as soon as the major media saw his byline.

Veteran journalist and American expatriate Al Giordano described Gary's dwindling hopes and despair in detail in a brilliant essay titled "Do What Gary Webb Did". It is a painful read but well worth the effort for those who have doubts.

A note warning movers arriving at Gary's house on Saturday morning, asking them to not enter the house but call paramedics had been taped on the front door. Gary was well-familiar with police procedures from his years as an investigative street reporter. He protected the crime scene for them. He knew that a homicide (suicide) crime scene could not be initiated until after an official pronouncement of death. Police officers cannot pronounce death. Only paramedics or doctors can do that. That was the first step and he knew it. He was careful to leave his license next to where his body was found to expedite the identification process. He was thinking of the paramedics and the cops and making their job easier. He had been scheduled to vacate his house that day because - due to his chronic inability to get a job with a large newspaper - he was unable to keep up the payments. It had been sold and he was moving out.

Ironically his stolen motorcycle was recovered by the police just a few days after his death.

These are facts that cannot be faked unless one was to assume that Gary Webb was a willing conspirator in his own murder. The fact of Gary Webb's suicide is open and shut.


Gary’s son Eric reading a letter from Congresswoman Maxine Waters

FBI Agent Lok Lau

Gary was eulogized by his brother Kurt, his ex-wife Susan, his former sister-in-law Diana, his sons Ian and Eric, and his daughter, Christina. His grieving mother Anita and his uncle sat weeping in the audience, unable to speak from the podium.

Kurt recalled that Gary's first demonstrated passion for writing came when Gary was eight as he won an award for a school essay titled "What America means to me". Later, the two brothers came across an antiquated mimeograph machine. While Kurt quickly tired of the cumbersome process required to print a single sheet of printed text, Gary persisted - as was his nature - and rejoiced when he found that he could publish the written word. Gary's first typewriter sat nearby on a table next to the podium as his brother choked through tears. Writing was clearly Gary Webb's truest passion. Gary later wrote for his high school paper, becoming its music critic prompting his brother to observe, "Even though he had no musical talent, he certainly had an opinion."

Gary’s brother Kurt

Webb's brother then paused - as if reflecting on the harm caused by internet rumors - "Gary would never print anything unless he had checked it a couple of times over."

Before ending his eulogy, Kurt Webb left us a visual picture that will forever ring true with any serious journalist or author who has ever written about the CIA and drugs, or about government corruption.

"We would see him slaving into the dark night to pursue his stories and that is the way I will always remember him."

Ian, one of Gary's two sons read a letter expressing profound grief from California congresswoman Maxine Waters who had championed Webb's stories in 1996 and 1997. The remaining family members spoke briefly, struggling to find words to express their feelings through their tears. It was absolutely apparent to all who were in attendance that Gary was deeply loved and he left behind a wonderful, courageous and beautiful family.

I was the first to speak after the family. I had come bearing messages from Peter Dale Scott (The Iran-Contra Connection, Cocaine Politics, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK), Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, former Assistant HUD Secretary Catherine Austin Fitts, former DEA agent and Bronze Star recipient Celerino Castillo (Powderburns), Al Giordano (Narconews Bulletin) and former US Army Special Forces Master Sergeant and author Stan Goff (Hideous Dream and Full Spectrum Disorder).

After delivering these incredible messages I made some personal observations which hit the family hard and brought tears to all of us.

I have only disclosed it to a few close friends over the years, but in the week prior to the publication of the Dark Alliance series in 1996 I had been wrestling with suicide myself. I had been trying to tell the world about CIA drug dealing for seventeen fruitless years and no one would listen. At the time I was broke, homeless, divorced, hopeless and fully convinced that the great effort of my life had amounted to nothing. I had been labeled crazy by the press and I had known the weight of a corporate media determined to destroy my reputation. FTW and my book, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil, would never have existed had it not been for Gary Webb. The best achievements of my life came to me because Gary Webb opened the door for them.

Gary gave me back my purpose but ultimately he lost his. It was as if Gary Webb removed the gun from my mouth only to have it ultimately placed against his own head.

I concluded my remarks by asking the entire audience to join me in a Latin American salute for comrades fallen in battle. As I called an imaginary roll of heroes about to enter battle against the forces of oppression I called Gary Webb's name and 300 people in unison responded, "Presenté."

I was followed by many people who knew Gary: Journalist/author Lisa Pease; FBI Agent Lok Lau who quipped "The truth will not set you free. It will get you fired"; Faye Kennedy of the Sacramento area Black Caucus; former colleagues and professional journalists Tom Dressler and Kim Alexander who spoke for all of the real reporters present in praising Webb's skills, professionalism and dedication; a Hollywood screenwriter and many other people whose lives Gary had touched. The room was filled with awards from his lifetime of writing, truth-telling and ceaseless digging. There were more tears shed than I care to remember. There were laughs and there was, above all, the great unanswered question: Why?

Only Gary Webb knows that.

(Click link for full article)
Click Here

Mourners line up to sign the guest book        

Some of Gary’s many awards and memorabilia. “Crossing the Rubicon” was placed on the table by Gary’s ex wife Susan.

Click Here

Cele Castillo – Quoting Theodore Roosevelt

It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly -- who errs and comes short again and again because their efforts are not without error and shortcomings -- who knows the great devotion -- who spends himself in a worthy cause -- who at the best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph -- and who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know nether victory no defeat.

Peter Dale Scott

More than any of us, Gary Webb changed history, and our knowledge of history. For this he paid a terrible price. The authorities we live under took steps to make sure of that.

At this moment when thousands of Americans and Iraqis are dying for a lie, Gary was a victim of his pursuit of truth. It would have been far, far better if he had not died, but at least his was a cause worth dying for.

And as for those who maligned him and are still nervously maligning him: what, if anything, will history say of them?

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney

I had the honor to meet this true patriot. I invited him to come to DC and do investigations for me. I wish he had contacted me. I could use him now. He deserved so much more.

Catherine Austin Fitts

Gary, we gather in our hearts to say farewell and to tell you how grateful we are for your presence in our lives. Your courage and your talent helped us to face America's shadow. Like the Buddha who taught us that the lotus blossoms out of the mud, your work birthed a living network -- Mike Ruppert, Cele Castillo, Kelly O'Meara, Al Giordano, Preston Peet, Linda Minor, Alastair Thompson, Kyle Hence, Ian Inaba, Tom Flocco, Sam Smith and many more -- a new generation of leaders dedicated to coming clean and rising in the divine power of illumination you inspired.

Gary, my prayers are with you and your family. I carry in my heart the signature of your honor and I invoke the words of Chief Seattle who wisely reminded us that "the dead are not powerless." Gary, go in peace with our love, with our thanks, and with our praise.

Al Giordano

To be an authentic journalist in 2004 is to be at war…

Gary never wrote with mere ink or pixels. Gary opened up a vein every time he sat down to tell us a new truth and he signed his byline, always, in blood. If you think that his suicide did not send as powerful a message as the stories he investigated and penned in life, think again: Gary was The Last North American Career Journalist. He presided over a transitional era and his death marks the end of that era. Fellow and sister journalists: The canary has died in the coal mine. Run out of that mine now, and seek alternate routes to truth-telling. There is no longer room for us inside the corporate machine.

All over the world he is mourned today. The compañeros here in Chiapas came to me last night. “You knew him. He worked for you. Did he ever come here? Did he know about us?”

Stan Goff

“This is shocking. There will be a day when the witch hunters become the hunted. Until then, we have another comrade's memory to fight for.

Be warned, those of you who tear the pieces from our brothers and sisters. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. We will never retreat, and we will never surrender.”

As for me…

From Crossing the Rubicon – p 17

By May of 1999 what should have been hundreds of thousands of people in the street and a massive government scandal had dwindled to about a hundred or so apparatchiks who would wave the People’s Tribunal as evidence of their leadership. I laughed with pity as they returned to the beltway to ask for larger grants from their patrons, major foundations and other institutionally compromised entities. The people who ran the tribunals were ultimately beholden to the same powers that had created the problem in the first place. Experts with compromised wallets had staged a controlled burn of brief outrage, cooling rapidly to insouciance. The inconsistencies were soon forgotten.

There’s an old saying that in a ham and eggs breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. None of us who were convinced of the urgency of the CIA-drug story and who were heartbroken by its burial doubted that unless people found the courage to deal with the problem, something much worse — something as bad as 9/11 — was certain to happen.

As for myself I could talk for a long time about Gary Webb and the many, many lessons he taught me. But I will be brief today.
There would be no FTW with its 21,000 subscribers in 40 countries without Gary Webb. There would be no book Crossing the Rubicon without Gary Webb. Catherine Austin Fitts and I would never have met had it not been for Gary Webb. Dick Gregory would not have made me his white son on the radio had it not been for Gary Webb. I would never have confronted John Deutch at Locke High had it not been for Gary Webb.

I myself might have committed suicide in 1996 - broke, divorced and having given up all hope of making people listen -- had it not been for Gary Webb. His Dark Alliance stories broke just as – for the third time in my life I was struggling that great and most painful a human can face – To be, or not to be.
It seems that history, fate; whatever we know as God took the gun from my mouth and placed it to Gary’s head.
For some years now suicide has been neither an option nor a wish for me. It seems that I rediscovered my purpose as Gary Webb lost his.
There’s one thing else that Gary understood: It is that particularly painful place that a writer goes to when writing a book about the corruption that surrounds us – about the unwillingness of most people to either face it or accept responsibility for it. In order to write a book like Dark Alliance or Rubicon or Cocaine Politics or Powderburns an author must literally immerse himself in evil for months, sometimes years on end. He or she must wrestle with it, try to understand it, stifle his rage against it, and surrender – day in and day out – to the fact that it must be faced completely, thoroughly, and ruthlessly to be described. There is no “off” switch to get it out of one’s brain. The process changes a writer forever. I know personally that it can take an author into darkness so deep that only total commitment and a will to do some good and provide some useful knowledge for a troubled planet can see one through. I know that there were times when he found it very difficult to see the implications of what he was uncovering. I know that there were times when he wanted the revelations to stop.
Gary did that for all of us even though I don’t think he could see what it would cost him in the end.
In closing I would like to ask all of you to join me in a Latin American custom which celebrates a comrade fallen in battle…


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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just saw your post here
great stuff
God Bless
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Milton William Cooper
God Bless, Rest in Peace,
May you and your God and mine, guide our actions here.
Gave his life for what he believed in, God and Country, for real,
(not the current Penn Ave occupant's fakery).

William Cooper, the same,
Air Force / Navy Intelligence / Vietnam veteran
"Behold A Pale Horse" (1991)
His military service record included,
Exposed / exposes many agent provocateurs,
some still operating. 

Killed by "law enforcers" outside his home,

Don't believe me, google search for the details. 

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True Lies of a CIA Drug Runner
By Matt Coker, OC Weekly. Posted July 17, 2001.

Ken Bucchi says he was a drug-running spook. The CIA says he's an impostor. Someone's lying.        

The 1980s. The U.S. appetite for cocaine is insatiable. Everyone's snorting. Nancy Reagan's screaming, "Just say no!" The government decides to kick ass.

Uncle Sam goes straight to the source: Central America. South America. Any America that's not North America. We go down there. A familiar face smiles back. The CIA's been there for years. "What took you so long?"

The CIA had already hopped from one impoverished country to another. The CIA had already propped up one repressive regime after another. The CIA knows the drug trade. "Fight your silly Drug War," the CIA says. "Just don't fuck up our groundwork."

Their groundwork. They know the coke flow is immense. Immeasurable. Unstoppable. The CIA knows about the money. Fuck Woodward and Bernstein! Don't follow the money. It leads back to the CIA. You think Joe Sixpack funds these dictators? Hah!

There's enough lucre here to fund secret operations the world over. The Iranians need arms to fight the Iraqis. They helped put Ronnie Reagan in the White House. It's payback time.

Drugs are seized before they enter the U.S. Drugs are sold to buy arms. Arms are exchanged for hostages. Drug seizures are celebrated as major victories in the sham Drug War. Drug proceeds that fund black ops are better celebrated in private. In the Star Chamber. Clink your glasses. We win. They lose. They can die. Must die. God bless the Americas.

Ken Bucchi says he was a contract soldier in the CIA Drug War. He says the Agency recruited him out of Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. He says he endured rigorous training in a crater in the Nevada desert. He says his final exam was sinking drug boats in the Florida Keys. He says his graduation included bombing cocaine labs in Colombia.

Bucchi says he met with then-CIA director William Casey, who is now rotting in Hell. He says they developed Operation Pseudo Miranda. He says deals were made with the "coke lords," even Pablo Escobar. Bucchi says Operation Pseudo Miranda would stop half the cocaine coming into the U.S. How? By agreeing to allow the other half to arrive at its destination unimpeded. He says the big, protected cartels like Medellin turned the CIA on to smaller, competing drug operations. He says the CIA set about crushing the competition. All in the name of Operation Pseudo Miranda. All in the name of Nancy Reagan's sham Drug War. All in the name of America.

I was at another newspaper seven years ago. Ken Bucchi called. His New England accent was as thick as chowder. He'd just written a novel, CIA: Cocaine in America. A small "true crime" house published it. Would I interview him?

Interviewing an author is about as fun as a root canal with a rusty nail and no Vicodin. Reading an interview of an author is even worse. But how many guys claim to be spooks? It was worth at least a listen.

He walked into the conference room. Tan. Slim. Athletic. Handsome. Early 30s. Casually dressed, but nice stuff -- like you'd find in a nice men's shop. I listened.

I'll admit it now if I didn't admit to readers then: his tale was mighty convoluted. So was CIA: Cocaine in America. The lead character in Bucchi's fictional book was really Bucchi. Obviously. The lead character hobnobbed with dangerous drug lords. The lead character boned a fellow CIA soldier who turned out to be a total babe once you stripped her down. The CIA babe later died in his arms. The lead character may have had a secret meeting with then-Vice President George Bush.

May have? Well? Did you or didn't you? Don't know, Bucchi answered. The CIA often arranged meetings between contractors like Bucchi and impostors. He mildly apologized for the way some details were presented in CIA: Cocaine in America. "For storytelling purposes," he said, the publisher made him take a lot of literary license.

Sounded more like literary bullshit. Sounded like Ken Bucchi must be a nut. But something kept nagging at me. At the core of his story were fascinating details about an alleged CIA drug operation. Enough specifics to give Tom Clancy a boner the size and tensile strength of the Red October. How could someone make stuff like this up whole-cloth?

And details like these popped up again. Two years after our interview. The San Jose Mercury News. Reporter Gary Webb's groundbreaking "Dark Alliance" series chronicled the real-life CIA connection to crack cocaine sales on the streets of South-Central LA. But Webb has since been shit on. Heat came from other newspapers. The Los Angeles Times led the wolf pack. The Times didn't break the CIA-crack story, therefore it couldn't have happened. A Mercury News editor concurred. Webb's story was branded sloppy. He's now out of the biz.

Bucchi has since been shit on, too. But first we've gotta backtrack.

This much we know is true about Kenneth C. Bucchi: he did attend Murray State. Got a B.S. in criminology in 1984. Joined the Air Force a year later. His discharge papers say he was in aircraft maintenance. His discharge papers say he was a captain. That he was in for six years. That he received two Air Force commendation medals and an achievement medal. That he served in the Gulf War from 1990 to 1991. That he was discharged in '91.

He told me he left the service to become a private investigator. Two years later, he became a corporate investigator. Undercover. At the time we first met, he said he was living in California, spying on employees for a defense giant. Then he moved to Oregon to do the same thing at a paper plant.

His experiences led to his first nonfiction book, Inside Job: Deep Undercover as a Corporate Spy. It hit the bookstore shelves, and the TV yakfests started calling. Bucchi made the rounds. He also did radio: National Public Radio, Howard Stern, John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten). During the Stern interview, Bucchi's CIA past came up. He told the shock jock that part of his training involved trying to keep a straight face while asking girls if they were wearing underwear.

The publisher of Inside Job is Granite Bay-based Penmarin Books, a small outfit with a big jones for the CIA. Publisher Hal Lockwood asked Bucchi if he had any other experiences worthy of a book. Bucchi mentioned Operation Pseudo Miranda. Bucchi showed Lockwood CIA: Cocaine in America. Lockwood looked at real documents Bucchi said backed up his story. What's that they say about truth being stranger than fiction? Lockwood wanted Bucchi's real-life CIA exploits on the printed page. Lockwood wanted Operation Pseudo Miranda: A Veteran of the CIA Drug Wars Tells All. It came out last year.

Bucchi made the media rounds again. Reluctantly. He didn't mind voicing his opinions on the latest spy incident in the news -- and there have been a bunch, in case you haven't been paying attention. But talking about his own involvement in The Life bothered Bucchi.

Fox called this past January. They wanted Bucchi to talk about Pseudo Miranda on the Jan. 29 O'Reilly Factor. Blowhard host Bill O'Reilly hedged his bets on the air. "Now, once you put this in a book, they said you were a psycho," O'Reilly said. It had come out somehow, despite supposedly sealed military records, that the Air Force had tagged Bucchi as "delusional." Bucchi tried to offer O'Reilly his defense. "So you can prove it by these documents that you have," the host remarked. "And we've looked them over. But, you know, documents can be doctored." Fox had called the CIA and the State Department. No comment. A common response.

From the time I first interviewed Bucchi in 1994 through his O'Reilly Factor appearance, no government agency ever publicly commented on his story. When he appeared on Fox News with former FBI directors a short time before O'Reilly to discuss the Robert Hanssen spy case, no one questioned the veracity of Bucchi's Drug War games. The closest he had ever gotten to official reaction was a couple of phone calls. Anonymous. Always women. Always late at night.

"You're rubbing the Agency the wrong way."

April 20, 2001. CIA-contract employees are flying a U.S. plane in the skies above Peru. They're tracking small aircraft. They spot a single-engine Cessna. Must be a drug runner. They radio for a Peruvian fighter jet. The jet shoots the plane down. Holy shit! It wasn't a drug plane! It was a missionary plane! An American woman and her baby perish in the crash.

The same American public that couldn't give two shits about that region before suddenly wants answers. CNN wanted Ken Bucchi to provide them. He was in the Rolodex as a former CIA contractor. He was in the Rolodex as having fought in the Drug War. He was in the Rolodex as being media-savvy. He apparently wasn't in the Rolodex for being "delusional." That wasn't important right now. The public demanded to know how such a horrific incident could happen?

Bucchi was booked on the April 23 CNN afternoon newscast. He laid out the shady ways the government works in the southern hemisphere. Anchor Stephen Frazier was appalled. Bucchi reasoned with him. Pseudo Miranda may have let half the drugs in, but at least no missionary planes were shot down back in the day.

Bucchi did so well that he was held over for that evening's telecast of The Point With Greta van Susteren. Among the other three guests was Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), one of the nation's leading critics of the CIA. Bucchi said the CIA purposely distances itself from contractors like those who sicced the Peruvian Air Force on what was thought to be a drug plane. Meanwhile, the CIA takes the credit for stopping 60 percent of the drugs coming out of Peru.

"Does anybody in America today feel like 60 percent of the drugs came off their streets?" Bucchi asked. Waters found those words revelatory. Like they came from on high. "Ken, I want to thank you for being the clearest voice that I have ever heard coming out of the CIA or any related agency about what is going on in this Drug War," she said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Someone was not amused. CNN got a call from the CIA. The Agency said Ken Bucchi was an impostor. The Agency said Ken Bucchi never worked for the CIA. The Agency said Ken Bucchi never was a CIA contractor. Van Susteren went on the air April 25. "I have a secret agency of the government telling me one thing and a citizen telling me another. I've seen and heard falsehoods from both before. Both positions are aired on CNN." Bucchi says that after Van Susteren read the statement, he got a call from a guy he knew from a secret CIA base in Arkansas who offered to confirm their shared experiences with CNN. Bucchi says he told him not to bother because his life would be turned upside down.

April 26. CIA spokesman Bill Harlow released what was apparently an unprecedented statement ("Apparently" because Harlow did not return phone calls seeking clarification):

On April 23, 2001, CNN aired a program during which they interviewed an individual named Kenneth Bucchi, whom CNN described as a "former CIA narcotics agent." During the program, Bucchi alleged that the CIA "basically had a complicit operation, a quid pro quo, if you will, with the drug lords of Colombia and essentially, what we [the CIA] did is put the lion's share of the market in small cash in drug lords' hands....

CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said the following in response to this allegation:

"Bucchi never worked for or was affiliated with the CIA in any way; he was neither an employee nor a contractor at any time. Bucchi's account of an operation supposedly working with the drug lords of Colombia is complete and utter nonsense -- it is fiction."

Harlow added that while the CIA usually declines to say whether or not a person has ever worked for the Agency, "this one has just gone too far."

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz pounced on the story. "CNN's Very Secret Agent: CIA says man's story is phony." Kurtz played up Harlow's prime directive while introducing Bucchi's defense this way: "In a rambling interview ..." He quoted Bucchi saying he can't prove he worked for the CIA, that he can't prove he wasn't delusional. Then the coup de grace: Bucchi used an "expletive."

Fucking Kurtz! Lockwood, the publisher, was livid. How could the Washington Post -- the vaunted Washington Post -- put out such one-sided trash? How could they take the CIA response at face value while ignoring Bucchi's facts? Lockwood checked those facts. Fox News checked those facts. They were solid.

Bucchi says Kurtz snipped his quotes. Bucchi says Kurtz ignored his documents. Bucchi says the great Howard Kurtz -- who loves going on TV to blast TV for rushing to put people on the air without thorough background checks -- relied on just one source for his story: the most secretive spy agency in the world.

Those Bucchi facts? The Air Force branded him delusional for running around and talking about Pseudo Miranda. So Bucchi sought Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) documents to back up his claims. Turns out the DEA was in on the operation. Bucchi filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. But the DEA's initial response in November 1990 says the DEA has no records on a Kenneth C. Bucchi nor an Operation Pseudo Miranda. Then Bucchi showed up on the witness list for Manuel Noriega. The pock-marked Panamanian dictator was being tried in this country for drug trafficking. Bucchi filed another FOIA request in 1991. This time, the DEA responded with seven reasons it could not release information on Bucchi or Pseudo Miranda, including "national security."

More facts? Noriega's flamboyant lead attorney Frank Rubino was on Larry King Live around this time. The host asked about the connection between Pseudo Miranda, the Panamanian leader, the Bush administration CIA and some fellow named Ken Bucchi. "Oh, if we had about two hours, I'd love to sit down and tell you what the connection is, but obviously, this is something we've discussed with our client," Rubino said. "It's an area of great interest to us."

More: Carlos Lehder was the Colombian transport guru of the Medellin cartel. He's at a theater near you. In Blow, he's the basis for the fictional character who partnered with George Jung, the American coke dealer portrayed by Johnny Depp. Bucchi says he wrote to Lehder seeking confirmation of the CIA's quid pro quo drug operation. Bucchi produced a letter whose return address says it's from Lehder inside an Illinois prison. "The topics and Pseudo Miranda program are very much intelligence affairs of the United States anti-drug proyects [sic]. I, Carlos Lehder, as a foreigner, shall not and must not involve myself in any internal affairs of your great nation, just as I disaprove [sic] of foreigners doing so in my country."

That "delusional" tag? Bucchi says Carl Bernstein called his air base for an interview about Pseudo Miranda. Air Force brass caught wind of it. They're still picking the shit out of the fan. Bucchi was hauled before the Top Guns. He offered to dodge any sensitive questions from the legendary journalist who helped break Watergate. Command reasoned that would be interpreted as "he's hiding something." Plausible deniability was in order. Trash the source. Bucchi's a nutbar. Wrap him up in a mental condition. The government would have to pay Bucchi, then just 30 years old, a full medical retirement for life. But it was a small price to pay to keep his records forever sealed due to a medical condition.

Bucchi fought back. He could be the first person in history to try to prevent the military from doling out full retirement benefits. To Bucchi, it was a small price to keep from being forever labeled "delusional." His attorney, Major Miles D. Wichelns, got it in the official record that an Air Force psychiatrist refused to diagnose Bucchi as delusional. The same psychiatrist ordered the Office of Special Investigations to look into Bucchi's claims about Pseudo Miranda.

The top dogs would not be denied. They took the case to D.C., where (Bucchi claims) a military board was supposed to determine whether his constitutional rights had been violated. Instead, the board reinstated his classification as "delusional." Case closed. No appeal. And just to make sure, the government tied it up in a bow: national security.

Is Ken Bucchi a nutbar? He admits he has no hard evidence that he worked for the CIA. Apparently, the Agency does not give pay stubs to spooks. No one involved in Pseudo Miranda knew their colleagues' real names (Ken Bucchi was Anthony Vesbucci). Wouldn't the Air Force notice Captain Bucchi missing from his post? He explained he often worked at a base in San Antonio, Texas, for days at a time. He says that, from there, he would be ferried by Air Force planes to his CIA missions, which would last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. "If I had to do anything that would take longer, I'd be put on 'temporary duty.' Everything was done so above board, I didn't think anything of it." Don't ask, don't tell.

So finally you have the crux of this spy tale: the same secrecy that the CIA uses to protect itself from scrutiny makes Bucchi's claims no more outlandish than your average political assassination, toppled government or inner-city crack cocaine operation.

"If you look at [whistleblowers] who've been on Primetime Live, 60 Minutes, all these shows, the military always uses 'delusional' to describe the person," Bucchi says. "It's very effective. Once they label you delusional and a reporter hears that, the media backs away. That's why you never see stories on the CIA. If I was on that side, I would use the same thing. If those DEA documents came out, you'd see a million stories on the CIA."

Bucchi takes pride that his story elicited an unprecedented response from Spy Central. "The fact that the CIA violated its own policy of not responding to whether someone was a contract agent compels them to respond to all such inquiries in the future lest they be asked what difference the present question poses vs. mine. That is how badly they wanted to shut me up. That establishes more clearly than I ever could the gravity of their role in the Drug War," he said. "Has the CIA ever done anything on par with Operation Pseudo Miranda that was unethical, illegal or immoral? If so, show me where they admitted to it. Does the fact that they have never willingly admitted to any such operation mean they've never conducted one? Can anyone make up a CIA story and get Langley to comment on record about its falsehood? I've seen all kinds of people on TV claiming to have worked for the CIA and claiming that the CIA was involved in the Kennedy assassination, but not once have I heard the CIA defend themselves and call assassination theorists liars or quacks. Is that because claiming the CIA-killed-Kennedy story has not 'gone too far?' Boy, do they have a false sense of priorities."

He's come up with several reasons why his case so spooked the spooks. CNN is on in bars and lounges and hotel rooms the world over. Maxine Waters apparently went back to Washington and raised holy hell. Then there was the biggest threat of all, the message Bucchi was trying to get across to viewers. This is it: the CIA makes pacts with government leaders and drug lords to control who is in power-and who is not-in Central and South America. Whoever has the arms has the power. The CIA gets to decide who gets the arms under the guise of the Drug War. America would not have even known of a CIA role down there had it not been for the missionary plane mishap. "There are probably other Peruvian families who have been shot down over the years that we do not hear about," Bucchi said. "We don't do that within our own borders because Americans would be outraged over people being mistakenly shot down, so we fight our battles on other borders."

He pitched this opinion to CNN's van Susteren: "We could save a lot of money if the government just went to Colombia and asked, 'How much for all the cocaine?' It's not that farcical. The cost would be tremendous, but it would still be less than what we are spending now for the Drug War. But then we would not be able to justify giving weapons to governments. If we bought it all, the drug dealers would have the same amount of money as the people in power. The CIA doesn't want leftist guerrillas or Pablo Escobars having the same power as the people they help put in power."

He's unsure whether that message will ever get through. "The media is mostly to blame," he said. "They shouldn't put their tails between their legs so quickly. They dismissed me so easily, but they won't be able to dismiss those people who were shot down as easily. If the media just believed me for a second, it would be easier to understand what happened in Peru."

Now Bucchi's got a wife and a couple of kids. His 40th birthday is just around the corner. Life's not so bad. He gets 50 percent of his military pay for the rest of his life. "I should for the shit they put me through," he interjected. He would even have all his medical and dental bills paid were he not afraid to return to a military base to visit a clinic. If put under anesthesia, "I probably wouldn't leave alive," he figured. He'd surrender all the pay and benefits "the moment they admitted I'm not delusional and, subsequently, confessed the truth about Pseudo Miranda."

He's now a pencil-pushing government bureaucrat. Personnel officer for a community redevelopment agency. How does a guy jump from being a maintenance officer in the Air Force to a corporate investigator for a defense giant to a bureaucrat for a city's redevelopment agency? Contacts. Former military contacts. Former CIA contacts. Truth is stranger than fiction.

But don't worry: he doesn't plan on writing a book that casts his new agency as a shadowy government entity (even if it is). Instead, he's writing treatments and screenplays for Hollywood. The Rock writers Douglas Cook and David Weisberg got Universal Pictures to fork over the high six figures for their pitch for Dixie Cups, which is based on Bucchi's Operation Pseudo Miranda. Bucchi got a fee that will mushroom into big bucks if that picture becomes a go.

Meanwhile, he's working on his own movie scripts and says he has sold a couple of pilots to the networks. Should Hollywood come calling, will he give the city his notice? "Yeah," he said, "obviously, I'd leave in a heartbeat." But no more books or scripts about his life in The Life. "I don't buy all this New Age psychology about confronting your past. Some things are better left in the past. Repressed memory is a good safety mechanism the brain pulls."

The CIA shit on Ken Bucchi, on the notion of an Operation Pseudo Miranda. But Bucchi may get the last laugh. Millions of Americans could line up around blocks to see a fictionalized version of his alleged Agency exploits on the Silver Screen. Finally, someone will believe it really happened.


Let me be frank. 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.

REP. NORMAN DICKS, WA - Did any of these allegations involve trafficking in the United States?

HITZ - Yes

[Testimony before House Intelligence Committee, March 16, 1998]


CIA IGNORED CHARGES OF CONTRA DRUG DEALING (House of Representatives - October 13, 1998)

[Page: H10818] GPO's PDF

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Waters) is recognized for 5 minutes.


* Ms. WATERS. Mr. Speaker, well, the CIA has finally admitted it and the New York Times finally covered it. The Times ran the devastating story on Saturday, with the headline: CIA Said to Ignore Charges of Contra Drug Dealing in 80s.

* In a remarkable reversal by the New York Times, the paper reported that the CIA knew about Contra drug dealing and they covered it up. The CIA let it go on for years during the height of their campaign against the Sandinista government.

* Among other revelations in the article were that `the CIA's inspector general determined that the agency `did not inform Congress of all allegations or information it received indicating that contra-related organizations or individuals were involved in drug trafficking.'

* The Times article continued pointing out `[d]uring the time the ban on [Contra] funds was in effect, the CIA informed Congress only about drug charges against two other contra-related people. [T]he agency failed to tell other executive branch agencies, including the Justice Department, about drug allegations against 11 contra-related individuals or entities.'

* The article continues stating `[the Report] makes clear that the agency did little or nothing to investigate most of the drug allegations that it heard about the contra and their supporters. In all, the inspector general's report found that the CIA has received allegations of drug involvement by 58 contras or others linked to the contra program. These included 14 pilots and two others tied to the contra program's CIA -backed air transportation operations.

* The Times reported that `the report said that in at least six instances, the CIA knew about allegations regarding individuals or organizations but that knowledge did not deter it from continuing to employ them.'

* Several informed sources have told me that an appendix to this Report was removed at the instruction of the Department of Justice at the last minute. This appendix is reported to have information about a CIA officer, not agent or asset, but officer, based in the Los Angeles Station, who was in charge of Contra related activities. According to these sources, this individual was associated with running drugs to South Central Los Angeles, around 1988. Let me repeat that amazing omission. The recently released CIA Report Volume II contained an appendix, which was pulled by the Department of Justice, that reported a CIA officer in the LA Station was hooked into drug running in South Central Los Angeles.

* I have not seen this appendix. But the sources are very reliable and well-informed. The Department of Justice must release that appendix immediately. If the Department of Justice chooses to withhold this clearly vital information, the outrage will be servere and widespread.

* We have finally seen the CIA admit to have knowingly employed drug dealers associated with the Contra movement. I look forward to a comprehensive investigation into this matter by the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, now that the underlying charges have finally been admitted by the CIA

At the end of Volume II, the Inspector General of the CIA Frederick P. Hitz laid down a challenge for legislators and law enforcement officials to continue the investigation of the CIA's protection of Contra drug traffickers, stating simply, "This is grist for more work, if anyone wants to do it."

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

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

We have met the enemy and it is US (corporate media)

By Mark Drolette
Online Journal Contributing Writer

January 7, 2005—On December 18, I attended Gary Webb's memorial service in Sacramento, along with about 250 other people.

In 1996, Webb wrote a series of articles ("Dark Alliance") for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting that, in the 1980s, "a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to . . . street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to an arm of the contra guerrillas of Nicaragua run by the Central Intelligence Agency" and the "cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America . . ."

The "contra guerrillas," of course, were the Reagan administration CIA-nurtured darlings who sought to overthrow Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government.

The story, obviously, was huge. Too huge, as it turns out, for certain powerful sensibilities. The disinformation machine soon was cranked up full tilt, and shortly after the series' publication, the Big Three in American newspapers—the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post—shamefully dedicated time and column inches attacking the veracity of Webb's assertions instead of pursuing the story. His professional coup de grace was administered by his own editor, Jerry Ceppos, who journalistically ran for cover and left the Pulitzer-winning reporter twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.

Webb eventually left the paper and later wrote a book (Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras and the Crack Cocaine Explosion) expounding on his series, an effort that, naturally, received little mainstream media attention. On December 10, 2004, he was found dead in his home in Carmichael, a community just east of Sacramento.

The Sacramento County Coroner reported Webb committed suicide with a revolver. Though two shots were fired, there is scant doubt it was, in fact, a suicide. (Please see investigative reporter and author Michael C. Ruppert's comments for more details.)

I didn't know Gary Webb, but his story, for me, is a too-real reminder of the sometimes deadly nexus between the American corporate media and our government, and how the Fourth Estate has willingly become a third arm of the very institution it is charged with watching.

Webb did his job while embodying an honorable principle: telling the truth, simply because that's what journalists are supposed to do. Unremittingly, Gary Webb did himself, and real journalists everywhere, proud.

And for that, the powers that be did him in.

Webb's series, besides acting like fly paper for the Big Three's disgraceful, inimical tsk tsks, triggered a 1998 CIA inspector general two-part report ("Volume I: The California Story" and "Volume II: The Contra Story"); a hastily-convened March 1998 House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) hearing at which CIA Inspector General Frederick R. Hitz appeared after the release of Volume I's unclassified version (in January 1998); and a report from the HPSCI in May 2000.

If the suddenness with which Committee Chairman and (then) ex-CIA man Porter Goss (R-FL) called the March '98 hearing was in fact a guise to try to bury the whole seedy affair without further fanfare, it didn't work. First, Hitz skewered the credibility of his own Volume I (which had gone to contorted lengths to try to exonerate the CIA from, specifically, culpability in the crack epidemic, and, generally, connections to narcotics trafficking) by stating:

"Let me be frank. 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."

But the real bombshell, as recounted in the same article from which Hitz's above comments were culled, came when he testified "that under an agreement in 1982 between then-Attorney General William French Smith and the CIA, agency officers were not required to report allegations of drug trafficking involving non-employees, which was defined as meaning paid and non-paid 'assets [meaning agents], pilots who ferried supplies to the contras, as well as contra officials and others.'" (This agreement lasted until August 3, 1995, according to Volume II's "Introduction," paragraph 24.)

Well, how about them rotten apples? Not only had the CIA, in fact, knowingly worked with suspected drug dealers who were "supporting the contra program," but then it had sought, and received, "legal" cover from the U.S. Justice Department from having to report to it, or to Congress—or to anyone, for that matter—such information.

And from what paper was Hitz's confessional testimony gleaned? Lo(wly) and behold: the Washington Post (in a March 1998 piece by Walter Pincus, identified by Martha Honey in her 1998 In These Times article as "a leading critic of the Mercury News series.")

I looked but didn't see an apology to Gary Webb.

The unclassified version of Volume II was released on October 8, 1998. It's truly a fascinating work of spook double-speak as it madly tries to paint the agency with a "Who, us?" brush while at the same time being crammed with I'll-be-damneds. Two examples of the latter:

From "Introduction," paragraph 15: " . . . [Contra] officials agreed to use [Contra] operational facilities in Costa Rica and Nicaragua to facilitate transportation of narcotics . . . After undergoing flight training, the [Contra] pilots . . . would . . . fly narcotics shipments from South America to sites in Costa Rica and Nicaragua for later transport to the United States."

From Volume II's "Pilots, companies, . . .Pilots, companies, . . .," paragraph 1084: "On April 6, 1986, a Memorandum entitled 'Contra Involvement in Drug Trafficking' was prepared by CIA at the request of Vice President [H. W.] Bush. The Memorandum provided . . . information . . . regarding the alleged agreement between Southern Front Contra leader Eden Pastora's associates and Miami-based drug trafficker Jorge Morales. Morales reportedly had offered financial and aircraft support for the Contras in exchange for [Contra] pilots to 'transship' Colombian cocaine to the United States. CIA disseminated this memorandum only to the Vice President."

The follow-up sentence: "The . . . analyst who drafted the Memorandum says that there was no follow-up."

It's time now for yet another corporate media moment as Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn offer their view of how New York Times writer James Risen (whom they call "the Slut of Langley") covers Volume II's revelations on October 10, 1998:

"Probably out of embarrassment Risen postponed till his fourteenth paragraph the information from Hitz's explosive report that should rightly have been the lead to a story that should rightly have been on the front page: 'In September, 1982, as a small group of rebels was being formed from former soldiers in the National Guard of the deposed Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, a CIA informant reported that the leadership of the fledgling group had decided to smuggle drugs to the United States to support its operation.'"

"Thus does Risen put the lie to all past reports on this topic in the New York Times and his own previous story in the Los Angeles Times parroting CIA and Justice Department press releases to the effect that vigorous internal investigations had entirely exonerated the Agency."

I found no apology to Gary Webb from Risen, either.

In May 2000, the HPSCI, which is charged with overlooking—sorry, "overseeing"—CIA activities, released its own "report" (assumedly bedecked with a delicate whitewash-tinged motif).* The theme? Just think "CIA rubber stamp" and you get the general idea. Even so, some of the ink was unmistakably smudged.

David Corn, in a June 2000 piece for The Nation, writes: "The bulk of the report is directed at disputing the crack [epidemic] allegations. But toward the end there is understated recognition that scandalous CIA activity did happen: 'As described in Volume II of the CIA IG report, under various circumstances, the CIA made use of or maintained relationships with a number of individuals associated with the Contras or the Contra-supply effort about whom the CIA had knowledge of information or allegations indicating the individuals had been involved in drug trafficking.'"

Corn says later "the committee interviewed several senior CIA managers, and these people insisted they could only recall only one single report of contra-related drug-dealing. But with the CIA inspector general having determined there had been many such instances, it's plausible (make that, likely) that these CIA officials did not speak truthfully to the committee . . ."

Yep, there's nothing quite like interviewing the fox when the chickens go missing. It's the same journalistic "technique" employed by corporate media reporters when Webb's series debuted, about which Webb comments during his January 1999 talk to a Eugene, Oregon, gathering (as reported by ParaScope):

"But the Times and the Post all uncritically reported [the CIA's] claims that the CIA didn't know what was going on, and that it would never permit its hirelings to do anything like that, as unseemly as drug trafficking. You know, assassinations and bombings and that sort of thing, yeah, they'll admit to right up front, but drug dealing, no, no, they don't do that kind of stuff."

Normally, we would discuss here what HPSCI's Volume II hearing revealed. But we can't, since, according to FromtheWilderness.com, it was held in secret on May 25, 1999. I guess we, the peons—er, the people—are not on a "need-to-know" basis. After all, it's only, you know, our government we're talkin' about here.

A Justice Department "investigation" was thrown into the fix mix along the way, too (released in December 1997, followed by an "Epilogue" in July 1998), with a tired refrain: The CIA, even though it knew it was working with drug traffickers, still was responsible in no way shape or form for the crack explosion in L.A. or elsewhere because, yes, even though "It is clear that certain of the individuals discussed in [Webb's] articles . . . were significant drug traffickers who also supported, to some extent, the Contras . . ." and shipped cocaine into the U.S., well, all that coke must have ended up in, uh, we don't exactly know really but most likely Wyoming or Boise or somewhere or maybe, just maybe, it was even just thrown away but it most certainly did not end up as crack in Southern California (of all places!) oh my oh heavens oh of course not, no. (Quote is from the investigation's "Executive Summary, Introduction," paragraph 10.)

Of all the garbage thrown Webb's way, the most outrageous, by far, was that he'd claimed, insinuated, or even hinted that the CIA had conspired to get African-American neighborhoods hooked on crack.

Bull tripe. Here's Webb in Eugene:

"I do not believe—and I have never believed—that the crack cocaine explosion was a conscious CIA conspiracy, or anybody's conspiracy, to decimate black America. I've never believed that South Central Los Angeles was targeted by the U.S. government to become the crack capital of the world. But that isn't to say that the CIA's hands or the U.S. government's hands are clean in this matter. Actually, far from it. After spending three years of my life looking into this, I am more convinced than ever that the U.S. government's responsibility for the drug problems in South Central Los Angeles and other inner cities is greater than I ever wrote in the newspaper."

Webb had simply nailed the story and characteristically possessed the goods to prove it, as he recounts in the book Into the Buzzsaw (edited by Kristina Borjesson): "We had photos, undercover tape recordings, and federal grand jury testimony. In addition, we had interviews with guerrilla leaders, tape-recorded courtroom testimony, confidential FBI and DEA reports, Nicaraguan Supreme Court files, Congressional records, and long-secret documents unearthed during the Iran-Contra investigation."

What did his critics have? Not a damn thing, save for petty professional protectionism (partly) and pipelined propaganda (primarily), comprising a double-bladed guillotine dropped full-force onto a sterling journalistic career and, ultimately, one man's will to live.

At the service, as I listened to grieved and sometimes outraged witness from relatives, friends, and colleagues about a great American journalist shat upon by his own profession for the sin of doing his job, it finally crystallized for me: Those of us who look for the media to report the truth must do it ourselves.

A friend who has published a fine online journal for several years had sent me an email just a couple of days earlier in which she mentions those "who keep asking, 'Why haven't the 'mainstream' media picked up on [fill in the blank]?' or 'When is the 'mainstream' media going to pick up on [fill in the blank]?' I guess we're the chopped liver media, eh?"

Her point echoes my better-late-than-never epiphany at Webb's service: that the so-called mainstream media will never "pick up" on the stuff that really matters. The Woodward and Bernstein era is no longer, and likely saw its last day when Gary Webb lived his. No matter how much we badger the Big Three or smaller rags or TV networks or radio stations, they will never properly investigate and report on 9/11 or phony war justifications, or fixed elections, or poisonous depleted uranium blanketing Iraq or the fourteen permanent U.S. military bases being constructed there, or the Project for the New American Century, or White House-condoned torture, or the Social-Security-is-going-under scam, or government "regulatory" agencies that are just taxpayer-subsidized divisions of the industries they oversee, or the blackout on photos showing what war really does to humans with its spattered brains and char-broiled babies and dog-eaten corpses, or the media's own disingenuous "oh-my-isn't-this-horrible" editorials that only serve to cover their compromised asses while they go about their real business of selling the most advertising possible instead of doing what they should be doing: opening up with all journalistic barrels on the most vile, dangerous, brutal, unprincipled, narcissistic, insane administration in American history.

No, what we get instead is Scott Peterson or Martha Stewart or Virgin Mary cheese sandwiches or other such slop, and sloppily done, at that, a choice, then, between chopped liver media or corporate media, or, as how a frozen-haired, lacquered-smiled anchorman(nequin) would no doubt groaningly frame it, the choppies vs. the sloppies.

A few real journalists still exist (Seymour Hersh comes to mind). I'm sure there are also still some mainstream reporters who have what Webb possessed (in spades): integrity, and an obsessive need to ferret out the truth and then report it. But, as his terrible tale amply demonstrates, anything deemed too hot is going nowhere. At some level, when names are named, the story will be quashed.

American mainstream media as government watchdog is a dead hound. Done and gone. Don't even hold out false hope that somehow it will be revived; this time, Jim, Spock really is dead.

So, it's up to us—all of us—to "be the media." It's us, or nobody. But how do we do it?

Well, our most powerful tool, besides uncovering and speaking the truth, is, of course, the Internet. As so often happens, we're brought full circle here, for it was the Internet that helped fire interest in Webb's articles and, ultimately, lead to his demise.

The CIA-Contra-narcotics connection had actually been reported on, and investigated, years before. In the mid-1980s, Associated Press reporters Robert Parry and Brian Barger wrote articles about "Contra-cocaine evidence" that caught the attention of a freshman senator, John Kerry (D-MA), who launched a Senate investigation. (Click here for Parry's detailed summary of the pieces, and here for "Selections from the Senate Committee Report on Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy chaired by Senator John F. Kerry.")

Parry writes, "[The Kerry investigation's] stunning conclusion: 'On the basis of the evidence, 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. In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring, or immediately thereafter.'"

Parry again: "Instead of front-page treatment, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times all wrote brief accounts and stuck them deep inside their papers."

Pre-Internet, it was no sweat for the Big Three to bury a story. But "Dark Alliance" was different because, as Webb tells Borjesson, it was "the first interactive online exposé in the history of American journalism . . . Almost from the moment the series appeared, the Web page was deluged with visitors from all over the world . . . One day we had more than 1.3 million hits."

The Internet had changed the battlefield on which the established media had always fought. They and their government string-pullers needed new tactics to retain their power; hence, the direct frontal assaults on Webb and his credibility. For his destroyers, speaking the truth was never part of the plan.

The mantle of press as government watchdog is ours, and ours alone, to don. If you have a story to tell, tell it. Submit it to online publications, post it to open publishing sites, blog it, whatever; just get it out there on the 'Net.

Uncomfortable moment time: Although we have truth on our side, we must still widely distribute it, or our efforts are for naught. And to do that, nasty old money—lots of it—is needed.

We are woefully outnumbered in the simoleon department. We generated about 300 quadrillion dollars or so for the Democrats, that, in hindsight, because the election was fixed (as I see it), turned out to be a colossal waste of money. With rigged balloting firmly in place, spending mucho dinero (along with time and energy) to promote voting in this current system is like giving CPR to a dead man: It may help you feel like you're being responsible, but it's decidedly pointless. It also serves to perpetuate as a populace controlling mechanism the illusion that voting can actually effect real political change.

New approaches to successfully challenging and changing America's new system of government—fascism—are needed. To formulate, disseminate, and then activate our solutions, we must quickly build and expand our communications network.

So . . . let's pony up.

Donate early and often to the online media outlet(s) of your choice. Contribute content, too, and strongly encourage others to follow suit. If you're new to this, great! You're especially needed; more credible voices is one of the main things we're after. Use reliable sources, cite them, check them, and check them again. Provide links whenever possible.

Dig out stories, the very ones the corporate media won't touch. Consult true experts if need be to verify your information, line up your sources, and then report away.

Bear in mind this is not kids' stuff we're talking about. There will be real casualties; I attended the service of one the other day. But if you believe that the administration and attendant government underlings do not represent your interests, could not care less about your family's well-being, have no intentions of ever relinquishing power, and view the Constitution as only a yappy, nippy dog to be kicked off to the side as they pursue their pestilent agenda, and you can also no longer abide the corporate media's overt or covert complicity in all of this, then you are more than welcome to join us in the battle.

What happens if the government shuts down the Internet to silence us while our work is in progress? Well, that certainly would be a problem, but I doubt it will happen, and here's why: Those in charge are single-mindedly driven in their pursuit of power and money. They are addicts, which means no amount is ever enough and they always gotta have more.

The Internet is an integral part of the greedheads' moneymaking machine and they are constitutionally incapable of doing anything to deliberately stanch the flow of their drug of choice.

It is their Achilles heel, and we can take full advantage of it.

Lest this all sound a tad over-the-top-ish regarding the state of the state and its media minions, I shall leave you with words from a much wiser and vastly more experienced journalist than I:

"Do we have a free press today? Sure we do. It's free to report all the sex scandals it wants, all the stock market news we can handle, every new health fad that comes down the pike, and every celebrity marriage or divorce that happens. But when it comes to the real down and dirty stuff—stories like Tailwind, the October Surprise, the El Mozote massacre, corporate corruption, or CIA involvement in drug trafficking—that's where we begin to see the limits of our freedoms. In today's media environment, sadly, such stories are not even open for discussion."

"Back in 1938, when fascism was sweeping Europe, legendary investigative reporter George Seldes observed (in his book, The Lords of the Press) that 'it is possible to fool all the people all the time—when government and press cooperate.' Unfortunately, we have reached that point."

Those are Gary Webb's words, from Into the Buzzsaw.

Peace to you, Gary Webb. We're going to one day nail the bastards, and when we do, the first one's for you.

* Try as I might, I could not find a link to the actual HPSCI report (entitled "Report on the Central Intelligence Agency's Alleged Involvement in Crack Cocaine Trafficking in the Los Angeles Area" and dated May 11, 2000). Click here for the CIA's subsequent press release, though, in which it bizarrely crows exoneration while simultaneously listing proof of its complicity.

Copyright © 2005 Mark Drolette. All rights reserved.

Mark Drolette is a political satirist/commentator who lives in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at drolette@comcast.net.

Inspector: CIA Kept Ties With Alleged Traffickers

By Walter Pincus Washington Post Staff Writer

The CIA did not "expeditiously" cut off relations with alleged drug traffickers who supported contra Nicaraguan rebels in the 1980s, CIA Inspector General Frederick R. Hitz told the House intelligence committee yesterday.

Hitz for the first time said publicly that the CIA was aware of allegations that "dozens of people and a number of companies connected in some fashion to the contra program" were involved in drug trafficking.

"Let me be frank," Hitz added, "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."

Hitz said some of the alleged trafficking involved bringing drugs into the United States. But, he added, investigators "found no evidence . . . of any conspiracy by CIA or its employees to bring drugs into the United States."

The allegations about drug traffickers linked to the CIA and the U.S.-backed anti-Sandinista rebels, as well as the response to the charges by CIA case officers and top officials, will be detailed in a 600-page classified report scheduled to be sent to Congress later this month, Hitz said.

The inspector general also said that under an agreement in 1982 between then-Attorney General William French Smith and the CIA, agency officers were not required to report allegations of drug trafficking involving non-employees, which was defined as meaning paid and non-paid "assets [meaning agents], pilots who ferried supplies to the contras, as well as contra officials and others."

This agreement, which has not previously been revealed, came at a time when there were allegations that the CIA was using drug dealers in its controversial covert operation to bring down the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

According to Hitz, this policy was modified in 1986 when the agency was prohibited from paying U.S. dollars to any individual or company found to be involved in drug dealing.

Where the allegations "were flimsy," he said, agency officers continued operating with the individuals involved and investigations into whether they were dealing in drugs were not done "as expeditiously as they should have been."

Yesterday's hearing was called to review the inspector general's report, which was triggered by a series of articles published in the San Jose Mercury News in August 1996 that alleged a CIA connection to the introduction of crack cocaine into South Central Los Angeles by Nicaraguan drug dealers. Hitz has reported he found "no evidence" to indicate that past or present CIA employees, or agents acting for the agency were associated with the drug dealers mentioned in the newspaper's series.

Yesterday Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said Hitz's initial report "lacks credibility and its conclusions should be dismissed."

Hitz's disclosures led Rep. Norman D. Dicks (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the intelligence panel, to call for more committee hearings, including possible testimony from former Reagan White House aide Oliver L. North, who coordinated fund-raising for the contras.

Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

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

(December, 1997)


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Office of Inspector General
Investigations Staff
Allegations of Connections Between CIA
and The Contras in Cocaine Trafficking
to the United States

Volume I: The California Story

January 29, 1998

Note: This is an unclassified version of a Report of Investigation that included information that is classified for national security reasons pursuant to Executive Order 12958 and sensitive law enforcement information. To the fullest extent possible, the text of this unclassified version is the same as that included in the classified version. Where different language has been required for national security or law enforcement purposes, the revised language is as close as possible to the original text.


Central Intelligence Agency
Inspector General


Volume II: The Contra Story

October 8, 1998


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

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



The executive summary states:
"Our investigation found no evidence reflecting either Blandon or Meneses was in fact connected to the CIA." (Ex.Sum., pg11).

Yet Chapter two states:
"It is … believed by the FBI, SF, that Norwin Meneses was and still may be, an informant for the Central Intelligence Agency." (ChIII, Pt2).

The Department of Justice's Report tied the drug ring to the Contras and the CIA. In particular the Report confirmed that:

o Meneses, Blandon and other drug traffickers were part of the Contra movement and tied to Contra leaders;

o drug profits that were laundered by the Meneses-Blandon operation and sent to the Contras;

o Meneses, and Blandon were assets of the CIA; and

o the Meneses-Blandon operation trafficked arms to the Contras and others in Central America.

In short, the DOJ IG's conclusions which distanced the CIA and the Contras from the Meneses-Blandon drug trafficking network were disproved by the Report's own evidence.


September 19, 1998

The CIA, The Contras & Crack Cocaine:

Investigating the Official Reports

Seeking The Truth

Like many leaders in the African American community, I was stunned, but not surprised, when I read the Dark Alliance series in the San Jose Mercury News by Gary Webb two years ago. I had been to countless meetings throughout South Central Los Angeles during the 1980s and was consistently asked by my constituents "where are all the drugs coming from?" In inner cities and rural towns throughout the nation, we have witnessed the wreckage caused by the drug trade - the ruined lives and lost possibilities of so many who got caught up in selling drugs, went to prison, ended up addicted, dead, or walking zombies from drugs.

As I wrote in Gary Webb's book, when I read the series I asked myself whether it was possible for such a vast amount of drugs to be smuggled into any community under the noses of the police, sheriff's department, FBI, DEA, and other law enforcement agencies. My investigation has led me to an undeniable conclusion - that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies knew about drug trafficking in South Central Los Angeles and throughout the U.S. - and they let the dealing go on.

Robert Parry and Brian Barger first broke the shocking story of Contra involvement in drug trafficking in 1985, at the height of the Contra war against Nicaragua. As a result of this story's revelations, Senator John Kerry conducted a two year Senate probe into the allegations and published the sub-committee's devastating findings in an 1,166-page report in 1989. Among its many findings the Kerry Report found,

"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. In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring, or immediately thereafter."

Remarkably, the Committee's findings went virtually unreported when they were released.

Then in August 1996 Gary Webb published his explosive series in the San Jose Mercury News. It resulted in a firestorm of anger and outrage in the Black community and throughout the nation. Here was evidence that, while the nation was being told of a national "war on drugs" by the Reagan Administration, our anti-drug intelligence apparatus was actually aiding the drug lords in getting their deadly product into the U.S.

The resulting grassroots outrage put tremendous pressure on the CIA, the Department of Justice and Congress to investigate the matter and report the truth. The Inspectors General of the CIA and Department of Justice were forced to conduct investigations and publish reports on the allegations. The DOJ's Report and Volume I of the CIA's Report published brief executive summaries that concluded that the allegations made in the Mercury News could not be substantiated. However, both Reports, and in particular the DOJ Report, are filled with evidence that contradicts their own conclusions and confirms all of the basic allegations.

Quite unexpectedly, on April 30, 1998, I obtained a secret 1982 Memorandum of Understanding between the CIA and the Department of Justice, that allowed drug trafficking by CIA assets, agents, and contractors to go unreported to federal law enforcement agencies. I also received correspondence between then Attorney General William French Smith and the head of the CIA, William Casey, that spelled out their intent to protect drug traffickers on the CIA payroll from being reported to federal law enforcement.

Then on July 17, 1998 the New York Times ran this amazing front page CIA admission:

"CIA Says It Used Nicaraguan Rebels Accused of Drug Tie."

"[T]he Central Intelligence Agency continued to work with about two dozen Nicaraguan rebels and their supporters during the 1980s despite allegations that they were trafficking in drugs.... [T]he agency's decision to keep those paid agents, or to continue dealing with them in some less formal relationship, was made by top [CIA] officials at headquarters in Langley, Va.". (emphasis added)

This front page confirmation of CIA involvement with Contra drug traffickers came from a leak of the still classified CIA Volume II internal review, described by sources as full of devastating revelations of CIA involvement with known Contra drug traffickers.

The CIA had always vehemently denied any connection to drug traffickers and the massive global drug trade, despite over ten years of documented reports. But in a shocking reversal, the CIA finally admitted that it was CIA policy to keep Contra drug traffickers on the CIA payroll.

My investigation of these official reports highlights their damning admissions. You can find a complete set of excerpts from the Department of Justice Report, compiled by Gary Webb, with the assistance of my staff at the end of this Report.

The facts speak for themselves.

Maxine Waters

Member of Congress

A Smoking Gun Document

In February of 1982 the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William Casey, and Attorney General William French Smith entered into a secret Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that allowed CIA assets who were involved in drug smuggling to escape from legal reporting requirements to the federal law enforcement agencies.

This secret agreement detailed a long list of crimes which the CIA was required to disclose to federal law enforcement agencies including homicide, kidnapping, assault, bribery, possession of firearms, as well as illegal immigration, election contributions, and perjury. Amazingly, this MOU did not require the CIA to report drug trafficking or other drug law violations by CIA assets to the Department of Justice.

In other words, CIA assets who were smuggling narcotics, even into the United States, did not have to worry about being reported to the DEA or other federal law enforcement agencies.

The timing of the Memorandum of Understanding was as remarkable as its contents. Prior to 1982, an Executive Order existed which required that drug trafficking and related crimes by CIA assets and agents be reported. Then in late 1981, President Reagan authorized covert aid for the Contras by the CIA. Only two months later, the CIA and the Attorney General carved out an exemption for CIA assets and agents that were dealing drugs in a new Memorandum of Understanding.

The secret MOU was in effect for 13 years - from 1982 until 1995. This covered the entire Contra war in Nicaragua and the era of deep U.S. involvement in counterinsurgency activities in El Salvador and Central America.

The MOU was evidently very successful in protecting these drug traffickers and CIA assets. Based on statements in Michael Bromwich's recently released investigation, the CIA Station Chief for Central America, Alan Fiers, said he recalled of only one instance when the CIA passed Contra and narcotics-related information to the DEA.

The Kerry Committee was baffled by the lack of intelligence reporting of drug trafficking activity. Despite finding widespread trafficking through the war zones of northern Costa Rica, the Kerry Committee was unable to find a single case that was made on the basis of a tip or report by an official of a U.S. intelligence agency.

The reason is now clear. The CIA knew of their drug trafficking, but the MOU protected them from having to report it to law enforcement.

The 1982 MOU that exempted the reporting requirement for drug trafficking was no oversight or misstatement. A remarkable series of letters between the Attorney General and the Director of Central Intelligence show how conscious and deliberate this exemption was.

On February 11, 1982 Attorney General William French Smith wrote to Director of Central Intelligence William Casey that,

"I have been advised that a question arose regarding the need to add narcotics violations to the list of reportable non-employee crimes ... [N]o formal requirement regarding the reporting of narcotics violations has been included in these procedures."

On March 2, 1982 Casey responded happily,

"I am pleased that these procedures, which I believe strike the proper balance between enforcement of the law and protection of intelligence sources and methods..."

Simply stated, the Attorney General consciously exempted reporting requirements for narcotics violations by CIA agents, assets, and contractors. And the Director of Central Intelligence was pleased because intelligence sources and methods involved in narcotics trafficking could be protected from law enforcement.

The 1982 MOU agreement clearly violated the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949. It also raised the possibility that certain individuals who testified in front of Congressional investigating committees perjured themselves.

The facts detailed in the Department of Justice Report show the significance of the 1982 Memorandum of Understanding. Among others, drug kingpins and Contra members Norwin Meneses and Danilo Blandon, senior Contra political leader Adolfo Calero, and Contra military commander Enrique Bermudez were directly, and explicitly, protected from being reported to federal law enforcement authorities under this MOU because of their formal association with the CIA as assets, agents and/or contractors.

Many questions remain unanswered. However, one thing is clear - the CIA and the Attorney General successfully engineered legal protection for the drug trafficking activities of any of its agents or assets.

(click the link for full document)


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

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

This is the html version of the file http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/OSI-99-1

United States General Accounting Office
Report to the Ranking Minority Member,
Permanent Subcommittee on
Investigations, Committee on
Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate
October 1998
Raul Salinas, Citibank,
and Alleged Money

United States
General Accounting Office
Washington, D.C. 20548
Office of Special Investigations

October 30, 1998
The Honorable John Glenn
Ranking Minority Member
Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
Committee on Governmental Affairs
United States Senate

Dear Senator Glenn:
On February 28, 1998, you expressed concern about reports that Raul
Salinas de Gotari, brother of the former President of Mexico, Carlos
Salinas de Gotari, had allegedly been involved in laundering money out of
Mexico through a U.S. bank, Citibank, to accounts in Citibank affiliates in
Switzerland and the United Kingdom. At that time, you requested that we

how Raul Salinas was able to transfer between $90 million and
$100 million from Mexico into foreign accounts through Citibank and its

what functions and assistance Citibank performed for Mr. Salinas; and

if Citibank’s actions complied with applicable federal laws and
In later discussions with your office, we were also requested to provide a
comparison of Citibank’s practices during the Salinas transactions with its
testimony in a 1994 money laundering trial.
A summary of the resultant
1996 appeal,
which was also requested, appears in appendix I.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Justice, through the Office of the U.S.
Attorney, Southern District of New York, is conducting a criminal
investigation of the Salinas/Citibank transactions.
Because of the ongoing
investigation, the Department of Justice declined our request for an
interview. Citibank made available knowledgeable officials who provided
details about the Salinas transactions.


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

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


Celerino Castillo III was born in 1949 in South Texas. He came from a family of a long tradition, tracing his heritage back to the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. His father, a decorated disabled veteran of World War II, was his role model and hero. Because of his father's influence, throughout his life, Castillo strove to live the life of a hero, fighting for causes in the interest of the US and its citizens. In 1970, as the only son in the family, he served in the US Army and was sent to Vietnam where he was awarded The Bronze Star for bravery. While in Vietnam he repeatedly saw fellow soldiers lay low from heroin overdoses. This powerful experience convinced him to devote his life to combating the illegal drug trade and its devastating effects on Americans. In 1976, after returning to the US, Castillo earned a Criminal Justice degree (BS) from Pan American University, now University of Texas at Pan Am.

On New Years Eve, 1979, he joined the DEA as one of the few Latino agents. In 1980 he was assigned to New York City as the first Mexican-Americana agent. There he was a key figure in deep undercover investigation that led to the incarceration of drug traffickers connected to major organized crime families.

Cele's career history clearly shows his dedication to his work, his patriotism and his love of the United States, his tireless attempts to fight a true war on drugs and his unwillingness to compromise his beliefs despite pressure from his superiors. While his government shouted "Just Say No!" entire Central and South American nations fell into what are now known as cocaine democracies.

In August 1984, Castillo was assigned to Peru where he engaged in conducting search and destroy mission on clandestine air strips and cocaine laboratories. In the summer of 1985 he helped conduct "Operation Condor", the biggest seizure of a South American cocaine labs valued at 500 million dollars and involving the confiscation of four tons of coca paste.

In October of 1985, Castillo was assigned to Guatemala in Central America. At that time, two (2) agents covered 4 countries in that region. In El Salvador he trained anti-narco terrorist units, working alongside the infamous death-squad leader, torturer and dentist, Dr. Hector Antonio Regalado (the alleged murderer of Archbishop Oscar Romero.)

In Guatemala, Castillo was ordered to conduct his drug raids with the Guatemalan Military Intelligence (G-2), better known as "La Dos", despite the fact that the G-2 runs the death squads that have murdered thousands of people including Americans in that country. In the course of his investigations Castillo discovered that almost every top official in the Guatemalan government (under President Cerezo) was a documented drug trafficker.

Cele was next assigned to represent the DEA in El Salvador at the height of the Contra war. It was there that he began to record intelligence on how known drug traffickers, with multiple DEA files, used hangars four and five at Ilopango airfield to ferry cocaine north and weapons and money south. Hangars four and five were owned and operated by the CIA and the National Security Council. He found out that the traffickers were also being given US visas by the CIA, in spite of their well known activities. Castillo also documented and spoke out about CIA and National Security Agency abuses in a manner utterly consistent with his heritage and the reats of his life.

Then Cele discovered that the Contra flights were under the direct supervision of US Lt. Col. Oliver North (DEA case file GFGD-91-9139) and had the additional protection of Felix Rodriguez (a retired CIA agent) who ran hanger 4 at Ilopango. Castillo was repeatedly warned that the drug profits were being utilized to support the Reagan-Bush backed right-wing "Contras" in Nicaragua and surrounding countries and that he should stop his investigations. Nevertheless, he continued to file DEA 6 reports and telex/cables on these operations. Castillo's reports contain not only the names of traffickers, but their destination, tail numbers, cargo and the date and time of each flight. Some Contra files were reported on DEA case file # TG-87-0003, under the name of Walter "Wally" Grashiem. The other Contra files were reported on GFTG-86-9999, Air Intelligence (El Salvador) and GFTG-86-9145 El Salvador.

Castillo's detailed reports on the cocaine laden planes went unheeded by DEA officials in Washington. Castillo was warned by his boss, Bob Stia and the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, not to interfere with the covert operation because it was protected by the White House.

On September 01, 1986, Castillo's Salvadoran anti-drug unit raided a house in San Salvador and found a huge shipment of US-issued munitions and weapons. Records and equipment belonging to the US embassy were found at the residence. The residence belonged to a US Contra pilot by the name of Wally Grasheim. He was mentioned in DEA, FBI, and US Customs files. The raid was executed after every department in the US Embassy denied that Mr. Grashiem was in no way shape or form associated with them.

In April, 1987, one month before the Iran-Contra hearings, DEA Latin American foreign office chief, John Martch, traveled to Guatemala to investigate Castillo and warned him not to reveal his information about the Contra drug operations. At one point, the DEA ordered Castillo not to close some of the Contra files so that the records would not be unavailable to Senator John Kerry's committee under the Freedom of Information Act. In 1988, Senator John Kerry's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations finished its investigations, having never called Castillo to testify.

In September, 1987, Castillo, along with CIA agent, Randy Capister, and 100 elements from the Guatemala Military G-2, conducted a drug raid in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. In one of the largest drug busts ever, more than 2 1/2 tons of cocaine were seized. Just after the bust, the G-2 agents raped and murdered the two daughters of a Mexican trafficker and killed their father and others they apprehended in the raid. Their bodies were dismembered, stuffed into 55 gallon drums and disposed of by being dropped into the ocean. This was reported on DEA case file # TG-86-0005, Garcia de Paz, Carlos Ramiro (Guatemalan Congressman).

After denial of a US visa (drug trafficking) to Guatemalan Military Lt. Col. Hugo Moran Carranza, head of Interpol, Moran retaliated by ordering Castillo's assassination. The elaborate plot involved ambushing Castillo in El Salvador to divert suspicion from the Guatemalan Colonel. Luckily for Castillo, the plan was taped recorded by an informant and placed into evidence in a Houston DEA file M3-90-0053. Col. Moran was attempting to attend a War College in the US invited by the CIA. Despite the danger, the DEA continued to order Castillo to travel to El Salvador. Because Col. Moran was an asset of the CIA, he was never prosecuted in the US on the attempted capital murder of a US drug agent.

In 1990, Castillo was finally transferred out of Central America because of the assassination plot. He was assigned to the DEA San Francisco office, as the only latino agent generating excessive undercover work.

In 1991, Castillo secretly met with a representative of the Office of Independent Council of Iran Contra where he reported his intelligenceís gathering reference to CIA and NSC's cocaine-contra operations. Castillo's remarks never appeared in Walsh's final report but Castillo's interview notes were found at the National Archives.

In 1992 Castillo received an early retirement from the DEA due to stress and damaged nerves to his arms and hands. Since his retirement he has had numerous TV, radio and newspaper interviews in order to expose what he knows about the CIA and DEA collaboration with drug traffickers and murderers in Central America. His TV appearance include "Current Affair" (1994); a one hour documentary aired in 1994 by the Australian Broadcasting Company exposing Oliver North's drug trafficking activities; ABC's "Prime Time Live" on December 27, 1995 (on the US protection of criminal military officers in Guatemala) and Date-Line (NBC) June 13, 1997.

Foreign news stories aired on both Univision and the CBS-owned Telemundo in 1996 on Guatemala and El Salvador. In April 1997, Cele was interview for a special series on The Discovery Channel "Secret Warriors of the CIA". Castillo has also begun to lecture at universities all over the country and held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC In July, 1996 an Associated Press wire story quoted his comments about a recent US government report on Guatemala and the CIA (The Intelligence Oversight Board) an investigation ordered by President Clinton to ascertain if US agents were involved in atrocities in Central America.

In 1994, Castillo was able to co-author his book "Powderburns" Cocaine, Contras and the Drug War . Which included journal entries with case file numbers and other direct information from his investigation.

In September 23, 1996, Castillo joined Southern Christian Leadership Conference President , Joseph E. Lowery and Activist Dick Gregory with Joe Madison, at a press conference in Washington DC. Also jointing Castillo at the conference was Prof. John Newman, author of the books "Oswald and the CIA" and "JFK and Vietnam". The University of Maryland history professor has been helping to draft the Records Act legislation that would declassify all documents related to the CIA's possible involvement in cocaine trafficking.

Also in September 1996, Castillo joint DEA G/S Rick Horn in his Class Action Complaint against the CIA for violation of 4th Amend. rights.

In 1995, after the lessons he learned in Central America, Castillo made a pilgrimage to the Vietnam Wall where he renounced his Bronze Star pinned to his last combat boots that he wore in Vietnam, Peru, Guatemala and EL Salvador. Attached to the Bronze Star was a letter to President Clinton requesting that he take actions on the atrocities. He did this in protest of the atrocities his government had committed and the massive cover ups.

In March 1998, The US House of Representatives Permanent Select
Committee On Intelligence held a one hour hearing in regards to CIA/Contras involvement in drug trafficking.

During the hearing CIA Special Agent Nitz, of the CIA Inspector General Office, advised the committee that Mr. Celerino Castillo III refused to be interviewed by his office. What Mr. Nitz failed to advise the committee was the reason Castillo rejected the offer. Nitz strongly refused for Castillo to record the interview citing National Security. This would had been the only evidence Castillo would have to proof what statement he did or did not make. Castillo offered to testify before any committee as long that it was an open door hearing.

On March 12, 1998, Castillo received a certified letter from the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. This time it was from Norm Dicks, Ranking Democratic Member and CIA Porter J. Goss, Chairman of said committee. Again they requested for Castillo to be interview for the up coming hearings in late June. Castillo contacted Mr. Calvin R. Humphrey at 202-225-7690 and advised him that he would be available for the interview. He advised Castillo that he would get back to him at the end of May. On September 11, 1998, another letter arrived from the committee advising him that the time had come for him to be interview and that someone would contact him for the interview. On January 15, 1999, Castillo was finally interviewed by members of the committee.

Some people have asked Cele why he is coming foreword with his story. Castillo replies that a long time ago he took an oath to protect The Constitution of the United States and its citizens. He has thought about quitting but there was no time limit on that oath. In reality it has cost him so much to become a complete human being, that he lost his family and that there is a possibility that he might be incarcerated for telling the truth.

For all of his work, even a direct protest to the Vice President George Bush about CIA involvement in drug trafficking, Cele Castillo was ignored, nearly assassinated and then forced out of DEA into early and very lean retirement.

Celerino Castillo III has now become a veteran of his third and perhaps most dangerous war - the war against the criminals in his own government.

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

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

A day in the former life of a would-be senator

By Peter Kornbluh

May/June 1994 Issue

Before devoting himself to public service, Ollie North may have to slay the dragons of his past. He's expected to testify at the trial of Richard Secord and Albert Hakim later this year. Uncle Sam's lawsuit against the Iran-Contra bad guys maintains that North helped abscond with more than $16 million in diverted profits from the sale of arms to Iran, which Secord and Hakim dumped into Swiss bank accounts (only $3.8 million was actually diverted to the Contras; the feds want access to the $11-12 million still sitting there). As a public reminder of Ollie's skill at deceit, we present a typical morning during his tenure at the White House--an annotated page from his day-runner on Aug. 6, 1986:

8:00 AM:
At the National Security Council, Ollie gets a call from Israeli intelligence official "Adam," aka Amiram Nir. Subject: Iranian anger at the 600 percent markup on the U.S. missiles and parts they've purchased over the past year, anger that jeopardizes the arms-for-hostages deal--and hostage lives.
8:30 AM:
North appears before the House Select Committee on Intelligence to answer questions about his role in a Contra resupply operation. He lies convincingly: He has "not in any way, at any time violate[d] the principles or legal requirements of the Boland Amendment," which bans federal support for the Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries. Committee chairman Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., pronounces himself satisfied with North's "good faith." When North's superior, John Poindexter, is told of his successful deception of Congress, Poindexter e-mails Ollie: "Well done."
9:30-11:20 AM:
Having just testified that he has nothing to do with the resupply operations, North handles a Contra crisis when retired CIA agent Felix Rodriguez, aka Max, who is managing the Contra airdrops from El Salvador, takes a C-123 resupply plane from Miami without authorization. North calls James Steele, a U.S. Army official involved in the resupply operation in El Salvador; he also meets with Donald Gregg, Vice President Bush's national security adviser, and calls Alan Fiers, the CIA's Central American Task Force director, about the situation with Max.
11:40 AM:
North confers by phone with Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams about "acct. data"--a reference to one of the Swiss bank accounts. Abrams is en route to London to solicit the Sultan of Brunei for $10 million in secret Contra funds and needs more information about the account.
Ollie has a 15-minute meeting with Vice President George Bush, who has just returned from Jerusalem, where he was briefed by Nir on the status of the arms-for-hostages deals. North wants Bush to support further weapons transfers to Iran, even though the hostages have not been released as promised. (Five years later, on tour for his book "Under Fire," North tells Ted Koppel on "Nightline" that he has "no reason to believe" that Bush's claim to have been out-of-the-loop on the Iran arms initiative was untrue.)

Published on Monday, December 13, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
R.I.P. Gary Webb -- Unembedded Reporter
by Jeff Cohen

Gary Webb, a courageous investigative journalist who was the target of one of the most ferocious media attacks on any reporter in recent history, was found dead Friday after an apparent suicide.

In August 1996, Webb wrote one of the first pieces of journalism that reached a massive audience thanks to the Internet: an explosive 20,000 word, three-part series documenting links between cocaine traffickers, the crack epidemic of the 1980s and the CIA-organized right-wing Nicaraguan Contra army of that era. The series sparked major interest in the social justice and African-American communities, leading to street protests, constant discussion on black-oriented talk radio and demands by Congressional Black Caucus members for a federal investigation. But weeks later, Webb suffered a furious backlash at the hands of national media unaccustomed to seeing their role as gatekeepers diminished by the emerging medium known as the WorldWideWeb.

Webb's explosive San Jose Mercury News series documented that funders of the Contras included drug traffickers who played a role in the crack epidemic that hit Los Angeles and other cities. Webb's series focused heavily on Oscar Danilo Blandon, a cocaine importer and federal informant, who once testified in federal court that "whatever we were running in L.A., the profit was going to the Contra revolution." Blandon further testified that Colonel Enrique Bermudez, a CIA asset who led the Contra army against Nicaragua's leftwing Sandinista government, knew the funds were from drug running. (Bermudez was a colonel during the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua.)

Webb reported that U.S. law enforcement agents complained that the CIA had squelched drug probes of Blandon and his partner Norwin Meneses in the name of "national security." Blandon's drugs flowed into L.A. and elsewhere thanks to the legendary "Freeway" Ricky Donnell Ross, a supplier of crack to the Crips and Bloods gangs.

While Webb's series could be faulted for some overstatement in presenting its powerful new evidence (a controversial graphic on the Mercury News website superimposed a person smoking crack over the CIA seal), the fresh documentation mightily moved forward the CIA-Contra-cocaine story that national media had been trying to bury for years. Any exaggeration in the Mercury News presentation was dwarfed by a mendacious, triple-barreled attack on Webb that came from the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.

The Post and others criticized Webb for referring to the Contras of the so-called Nicaraguan Democratic Force as "the CIA's army" -- an absurd objection since by all accounts, including those of Contra leaders, the CIA set up the group, selected its leaders and paid their salaries, and directed its day-to-day battlefield strategies.

The Post devoted much ink to exposing what Webb readily acknowledged -- that while he could document Contra links to cocaine importing, he was not able to identify specific CIA officials who knew of the drug flow. The ferocity of the attack on Webb led the Post's ombudsman to note that the three national newspapers "showed more passion for sniffing out the flaws" in the Webb series than for probing the important issue Webb had raised: U.S. government relations with drug smuggling.

The L.A. Times' anti-Webb package was curious for its handling of Freeway Ricky Ross, the dealer Webb had authoritatively linked to Contra-funder Blandon. Two years before Webb's revelations, the Times had reported: "If there was a criminal mastermind behind crack's decade-long reign, if there was one outlaw capitalist most responsible for flooding Los Angeles' streets with mass-marketed cocaine, his name was Freeway Rick." In a profile of Ross headlined "Deposed King of Crack," the Times went on and on about "South-Central's first millionaire crack lord" and how Ross' "coast to coast conglomerate was selling more than $550,000 rocks a day, a staggering turnover that put the drug within reach of anyone with a few dollars."

But two months after Webb's series linked Ricky Ross to Contra cocaine, the L.A. Times told a totally different story, now seeking to minimize Ross's role in the crack epidemic: Ross was just one of many "interchangeable characters" -- "dwarfed" by other dealers.

The reporter who'd written the 1994 Ross profile was the one called on to write the front-page 1996 critique of Webb; media critic Norman Solomon noted that it "reads like a show-trial recantation."

The hyperbolic reaction against Webb's series can only be understood in the context of years of bias and animosity toward the Contra-cocaine story on the part of many national media. Bob Parry and Brian Barger first reported on Contra-cocaine smuggling for AP in 1985, at a time when President Reagan was hailing the Contras as "the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers." The story got little pickup.

In 1987 the House Narcotics Committee chaired by Charles Rangel probed Contra-drug allegations and found a need for further investigation. After the Washington Post distorted the facts with a headline "Hill Panel Finds No Evidence Linking Contras to Drug Smuggling," the paper refused to run Rangel's letter correcting the record.

That same year, Time magazine correspondent Laurence Zuckerman and a colleague found serious evidence of Contra links to cocaine trafficking, but their story was blocked from publication by top editors. A senior editor admitted privately to Zuckerman: "Time is institutionally behind the Contras. If this story were about the Sandinistas and drugs, you'd have no trouble getting it in the magazine." (The N.Y Times and Washington Post both endorsed aid to the Contra army, despite massive documentation from human rights monitors that they targeted civilians for violence and terror.)

In 1989, when Sen. John Kerry released a report condemning U.S. government complicity with Contra-connected drug traffickers, the Washington Post ran a brief report loaded with GOP criticisms of Kerry, while Newsweek dubbed Kerry a "randy conspiracy buff."

In this weekend's mainstream media reports on Gary Webb's death, it's no surprise that a key point has been overlooked -- that the CIA's internal investigation sparked by the Webb series and resulting furor contained startling admissions. CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz reported in October 1998 that the CIA indeed had knowledge of the allegations linking many Contras and Contra associates to cocaine trafficking, that Contra leaders were arranging drug connections from the beginning and that a CIA informant told the agency about the activity.

When Webb stumbled onto the Contra-cocaine story, he couldn't have imagined the fury with which big-foot reporters from national dailies would come at him -- a barrage that ultimately drove him out of mainstream journalism. But he fought back with courage and dignity, writing a book (Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion) with his side of the story and insisting that facts matter more than established power or ideology. He deserves to be remembered in the proud tradition of muckrakers like Ida Tarbell, George Seldes and I.F. Stone.

In this era of "embedded reporters," an unembedded journalist like Gary Webb will be sorely missed.

Jeff Cohen http://www.jeffcohen.org is the founder of the media watch group FAIR http://www.fair.org. For more background, see http://www.fair.org/issues-news/contra-crack.html and http://www.consortiumnews.com/2004/121304.html


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

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