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maynard Show full post »

ollie and drugs
"At the present time, there is no evidence that supports the allegations made against the CIA," Reno declared on Sept. 13.

And in a masterful preemptive denial, Deutch declared a week earlier, "I believe there is no substance to the allegations," though he ordered an "internal review" of the charges.

If Deutch and Reno were really serious, they might begin by consulting the evidence gathered by the Senate subcommittee on narcotics and international terrorism.

A Sept. 26, 1984, Miami police intelligence report noted that money supporting contras being illegally trained in Florida "comes from narcotics transactions." Every page of the report is stamped: "Record furnished to George Kosinsky, FBI." Is Mr. Kosinsky's number missing from Reno's rolodex?

And how about a quick review of the personal notebooks of Oliver North? On July 9, 1984, North wrote that he "went and talked to (contra leader Federico) Vaughn, (who) wanted aircraft to go to Bolivia to pick up paste, wanted aircraft to pick up 1,500 kilos." Kilos of what? Sugar?

"What the hell could North be talking about talking about?" said 25-year Drug Enforcement Agency veteran Michael Levine. "When I was serving in the DEA, if you gave me a page from someone in the government with notes like that, I would have been on his back investigating everything he did from the minute he woke up in the morning until he went to bed at night."

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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orange county weekly ongoing coverage
Vol. 10 No. 34 Apr. 29 - May 5, 2005

Dr. Death Revisited                 May 5 ,2005
In French TV documentary, ex-CIA official admits ties to CIA-cocaine scandal character


Ink-Stained Wretchedness       April 25, 2005

While he was still alive, the mainstream media savaged investigative reporter Gary Webb, whose 1996 San Jose Mercury News series “Dark Alliance” revealed CIA ties to inner-city cocaine sales. The Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Washington Post published massive front-page stories purporting to debunk Webb’s reporting, and his own newspaper cowardly backed off his stories. It wasn’t until after Webb committed suicide last December that his former employer published a belated editorial apologizing for the betrayal.

Dead End         Feb 25. 2005
Feds deny connection between CIA and ex-Laguna Beach cop and drug dealer. So why are his files secret?

"crack cop" april 2002
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has always denied that former Laguna Beach cop, international arms merchant and convicted drug dealer Ronald J. Lister ever worked for the CIA or other U.S. intelligence agencies. But the FBI also insists that revealing the details of Lister's various Iran-contra-era arms deals would compromise U.S. national security. ....

"crack cop" july 2001
FBI documents recently released to the OC Weekly show that a former top agency official met throughout that period with Ronald J. Lister, an ex-Laguna Beach cop who claimed to be the CIA's link between the South American cocaine trade, the Nicaraguan contras and LA's most notorious drug trafficker......

"secret agent men" oct. 1997
The balding guy in the bathrobe and slippers was pissed. Several police cars were parked outside his upscale Mission Viejo home. Their blue and red lights flashed in the early-morning light, a rare occurrence in neighborhoods like this one. And the cop cars outside seemed to bother the bald guy more than just about anything else. Never mind that an entire team of uniformed LA County Sheriff's deputies and narcotics agents had just filed through his front door. Never mind that they had a search warrant. What seemed to bother former Laguna Beach cop Ronald J. Lister, deputies later recalled, was what the neighbors would make of all those squad cars on the street.

"You're making a big mistake," Lister warned. He paced back and forth in his living room, claimed he was already aware that his house was being staked out by police, and promised that he had nothing to hide.

But when the detectives told Lister they were looking for drugs, his expression hardened. He told the detectives he did business in South America and claimed that his "friends in Washington" weren't going to be pleased with what the cops were doing in his house. The police continued to rifle through his belongings.

Suddenly, Lister did something no one expected: he grabbed his telephone and threatened to dial the Langley, Virginia, headquarters of the CIA. "I'm going to report you to Scott Weekly of the CIA," he declared.

"tracks in the snow" may 1997
David Scott Weekly was first profiled in these pages when Lister's notes were released last year. That story was based largely on interviews with Bo Gritz, Weekly's sometime partner in paramilitary operations, as well
as records from a 1987 Oklahoma City trial in which Weekly was convicted of smuggling C-4 explosives onto two civilian flights.

Weekly declined to be interviewed for that story and, when questioned by sheriff's investigators, acknowledged working with Lister but declined to answer direct questions about possible intelligence connections. He refused to say whether he had ever worked with the CIA, and then asserted he wouldn't admit such a relationship even if he had.

In fact, Weekly has in the past admitted to having exactly such a relationship. The comments surfaced in connection with the 1987 trial, but have not been made public until now.

Court records from that trial show that the explosives in question were used in a short-lived training operation for a handful of Afghan rebel leaders at a remote desert
airstrip near Sandy Valley, Nevada. Gritz said the prosecution was part of a White House effort to discredit him and Weekly after they returned from a secret POW mission to Burma with videotaped interviews asserting that top CIA officials were involved in the Iron Triangle heroin trade.

Additional new background material on Weekly
turns up in notes made by Mark Richard, a U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., based on conversations with Weekly's federal prosecutor. Richard submitted them to congressional investigators in 1987 as part of a deposition for the initial Iran-contra hearings. Those notes, obtained from the National Archives through a FOIA request, show that Weekly had ôpost[ed] on tape that he's tied into CIA and Hasenfus, and that Weekly ôsaid he reports to people reporting to [George] Bush.ö Richard's memo also reveals that Weekly had made a number of toll calls to the National Security Council.

Finally, Richard's notes say that Oklahoma
City prosecutors found evidence that Weekly
worked for Bo Gritz and ôTomö Lafrance in San Diego.

Weekly was convicted in Oklahoma City, but
after spending 14 months of a five-year prison sentence, he was granted a resentencing hearing based on evidence that Weekly's Nevada training mission had indeed been carried out with the knowledge of U.S. government officials. On July 15, 1988, his sentence was reduced to time already served, and he was released.

Located late last month at his San Diego home, Weekly refused an offer to be interviewed for this story and chased the reporter from his front door.


dec 1996


LA Weekly
October 04, 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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by Michael Levine
July, 1998

Gary Webb, just in case you've already forgotten him, was the journalist who, in a well researched, understated article entitled "The Dark Alliance," linked the CIA supported Contras to cocaine and weapons being sold to a California street gang and ended up literally being hounded out of journalism by every mainstream news peddling organization in the Yellow Pages. Even his
own employer The San Jose Mercury piled on for the kill.
And guess what? The CIA finally admitted, yesterday, in the New York Times no less, that they, in fact, did "work with" the Nicaraguan Contras while they had information that they were involved in cocaine trafficking to the United States. An action known to us court qualified experts and federal agents as Conspiracy to Import and Distribute Cocaine—a federal felony punishable by up to life in prison.
To illustrate how us regular walking around, non CIA types are treated when we violate this law, while I was serving as a DEA supervisor in New York City, I put two New York City police officers in a federal prison for Conspiracy to distribute Cocaine when they looked the other way at their friend's drug dealing. We could not prove they earned a nickel nor that they helped their friend in any way, they merely did not do their duty by reporting him. They were sentenced to 10 and 12 years respectively, and one of them, I was recently told, had committed suicide.
I have spent three decades as a court qualified expert and federal agent and am not aware of any class of American Citizen having special permission to violate the law that we have been taxed over $1 trillion in the past two decades to enforce; the law that every politician, bureaucrat and media pundit keeps telling us protects us against the most serious danger to American security in our history.
The interesting thing to me, about the Webb article is that the CIA is provably (and now admittedly) responsible for much larger scale drug trafficking than Webb alleged or even imagined in his report. In fact, according to a confidential DEA report entitled "Operation Hun, a Chronology" that I used as part of the proof to back up the undercover experiences detailed in my book The Big White Lie, (optioned for a movie by Robert Greenwald Productions) the CIA was actively blocking DEA from indicting many members of the ruling government of Bolivia, from, 1980-83—during a time period that these same people were responsible for producing more than 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States.
As CIA Inspector General Hitz himself stated before congress, it was during this time period that Nicraguan Contra supporters were buying large amounts of cocaine from these same CIA protected Bolivians.
Do you think Congress wants to see this proof?
The gang that can't spy straight, as they are known to my listeners and about whom President Lyndon Johnson once said, "When Rich folks don't trust their sons with the family money they send them on down to the CIA," certainly did a lot more damage to this nation than, for example, computer company owner Will Foster who was sentenced to 93 years in prison for possession of 70 marijuana plants for medicinal use.
Of course, true to their shifty, sleazy form, while admitting that they did aid and abet Contra drug trafficking, they are now refusing to release their own final investigative report which details the damning proof. The same report that CIA Inspector General Fredrick Hitz, during February, 1998, had promised congress and the American people was forthcoming "shortly", because,
as CIA Director George Tenet now claims, CIA does not have enough money in its budget to properly classify it.
You believe that then I know an old guy with a beard named Fidel, wandering the streets of South Miami with an Island about 90 miles off the coast for sale. He says the money is for his retirement.
How, you ask, do they get away with it?
Well for one thing, mainstream media, the so-called Fourth Estate, does all it can to help. During the Iran-contra hearings, when Senators Kerry and D'amato were making pronouncements before the Senate indicating that the CIA was involved with drug trafficking, Katherine Graham the owner of The Washington Post addressed a class of CIA recruits at CIA's Langley headquarters in Novemeber, 1988, by saying:
"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.."
Apparently CIA protection of drug trafficking was among those secrets Thus, it should have been no surprise to those CIA agent recruits when Washington Post reporter and drug expert Michael Itsikoff wrote that there was "no credible evidence" linking the CIA supported contras to cocaine
trafficking at the same time very credible evidence was being heard by Senator Kerry's committee indicating that the Contras may have been the top purveyors of drugs to Americans in our history.
Neither should it have been a surprise to anyone who heard her statement when mainstream media refused to print the news that Oliver North, US Ambassador to Costa Rica, Lewis Tambs and various top level CIA officers were banned from ever entering Costa Rica by Nobel Prize winning President Oscar Arias, for drug running. The drugs, by the way, all going to us.
Nor should it have been a surprise when Gary Webb was destroyed by mainstream media, for doing nothing more or less than telling the truth as he found it. And now, while CIA admits their felonies to the press but refuses to release the proof, and, Janet Reno, the head of the Obstruction of Justice Department has done the unprecedented by classifying her own department's investigation
into CIA drug trafficking, the partnership for a Drug Free America is spending $2 billion of our tax money on already-proven-fruitless anti-drug ads.
And where do you think the money goes?
Answer: to every major media corporation on the big board.
Gary Webb, my friend, you are owed a huge apology. But I doubt that you'll get it. Not in this lifetime.

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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Corruption in the war on drugs, from the inside out.
Michael Levine
Copyright, December, 1990

There is something in corruption which, like a jaundiced eye, transfers the color of itself to the object that it looks upon, and sees everything stained and impure. - Thomas Paine, The American Crisis (1776-83).
"It's like they want us to go bad, " said Al, using the not-so-euphemistic term DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) agents use to describe the taking of a bribe, the stealing of drugs and money, the selling of drugs or any of the other myriad of ways a law enforcement officer can cross the line from upholder of the law to violator of the law. He picked up a heavy barbell and continued speaking through a violent, chest-slamming, set of curls.
"They give the FBI an extra twenty-five thousand bucks a year... to work in this God damned city....and us nothing....and half those feebs come to work in car pools... And Lawn (Jack Lawn, ex-Administrator, DEA) doesn't say a fucking word....What does he care?...He retired and got himself a big paying job...Vice President... of the fucking Yankees. "
I paused in the middle of a set of push-ups to listen. The place was the New York, DEA office Gym, which I continued to use after my retirement. Street agents and cops will always be my favorite people; not the "suits"—the political appointees and administrative types who direct this whackier-every-day War on Drugs from behind desks. I had levelled some strong criticisms against them in my book, Deep Cover, accusing them of an incompetence that cost agents' lives; of running a fraudulent drug war; of being motivated by greed, self-aggrandizement and a quest for media exposure and lucrative second careers—of everything and anything, other than really winning. I doubted that they were happy that I was still using the gym. But I figured after retiring with three herniated discs, a bad knee and shattered ankle—momentos of my career—I had earned the right.
"Yeah," said another agent skipping rope. "He took care of himself pretty good, didn't he. And Stutman's no better. (Robert Stutman, retired head of DEA's New York office) Now that he cashed in on his DEA job and got named the CBS drug expert, he's saying the government oughtta spend less for law enforcement..."
"Christ," said Al in exasperation. "They're all whores. A fucking saint would go bad in this business."
The words jarred some old memories loose—and some not so old. I had known too many guys who had gone bad and every one of them was the last guy in the world anyone would have believed it of; and most of them had "gone over" during the past thirteen years. The past decade, in fact, has brought with it the worst epidemic of corruption in the history of law enforcement, making the years of prohibition look like a Boy Scout weenie roast—and almost all of it related to our war on drugs.
Within the ranks of DEA, alone, cases of "misconduct" have increased during the past several years at a whopping rate of 176 percent, 40 percent of which involved cases of bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice and the selling of drugs. The situation has become so critical according to the DEA brass that experts are being consulted to determine what the problem is and how to meet it.
A little more than a decade ago cases of corruption were rare. The idea among DEA agents, that one of us would go bad was almost inconceivable. Most of the people selected for the position of Special Agent were, and still are, products of a highly moral background, (as verified by lengthy and exhaustive reputation and background investigations); conservative men and women who seem to take the job out of the highest of ideals (as verified by intensive personal interviews before panels of agents and supervisors). If anything, events of recent years have made DEA more discriminating than ever about its candidates; only granting employment interviews to those who have graduated college with a cumulative B average or higher, and who have passed the Federal Entrance Examination in the top ten percentile.
If you add to that the continuous brainwashing we are subjected to, driving home the message that failure to inform on a fellow agent you know to have violated the law makes you as guilty as he and subject to the same penalties, the incongruously rough sentences narcotics officers convicted of corruption are given, and our intimate knowledge of the, particular, horrors awaiting us as inmates in the penal system—to be caught going bad, for a DEA agent, is a fate worse than death. I had known men, during those early drug war years, who, on learning that they were under investigation—even for seemingly minor violations of law like overstated voucher expenses— committed suicide.
So what is happening to cause DEA agents— once thought of as the least likely candidates for corruption imaginable—to suddenly go bad at a record pace? I think I know the answer; and it's not one the politicians and drug war bureaucrats want you to discern or spend much time thinking about.
A Strange Case and the Beginning of a Trend
On a warm spring day in 1977, I found myself in a Connecticut motel room, with an informer with the unlikely name of James Bond, on one of the strangest undercover assignments of my career—posing as a Mafia hood trying to buy information from DEA's secret files.
In 1977, for a DEA agent, the drug war was still a simple matter of good versus evil. I had been a federal law enforcement officer for twelve years in four federal agencies, (IRS, Intelligence Division; Alcohol, Tobacco And Firearms; Bureau of Customs, Hard Narcotics Smuggling Division and DEA beginning in 1973) during which time I had personally known only three men who had been arrested and accused of corruption; and only one of them was a DEA agent who was accused of stealing money. Most of us actually believed the rhetoric of the politicians; that the youth of our nation were being poisoned by the deadliest and most loathsome enemy Americans have ever had to face—the evil drug dealer. And that putting them in jail—by any means—was God's work. And with a brother who had just committed suicide after nineteen years of heroin addiction, I doubt that there was another agent or cop more fanatically dedicated to doing just that, than I was.
I could not have been more "off the wall."
There were of course some disquieting rumors that the CIA was involved in protecting drug dealers in the Far East for political reasons. There were even some who claimed the agency itself was involved in drug trafficking—but who the hell would believe that? A meticulously researched and documented book like The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia by Alfred McCoy, that should have had Americans screaming for investigations into the conduct of a drug war already dripping with evidence of high-level government deception and fraud and the senseless sacrifice of human life, was little known, poorly distributed and successfully ignored by the bureaucrats and politicians. No right-thinking DEA agent would ever read anything like it, anyway. To do so was damned near un-American. What kind of man—CIA agent or not— could protect a drug dealer and still call himself an American? The rumors were obviously part of some commie disinformation plot.
So in the Spring of 1977, I was the quintessential representative of a DEA still in its years of innocence; a fledgling agency not yet adept enough internationally to threaten special interests like the $40 billion debt the cocaine producing nations owed American bankers; or people with "special" relationships with the CIA, Pentagon or State Department—people like Manuel Noriega. We just didn't know what the score was. But times were changing, and changing quickly.
There was a light knock on the motel door. I raised my arms and signalled at the hidden cameras. In another room video and sound equipment began recording what would be the first case of its kind in DEA's history.
A short while later in the smoke filled motel room, a young, clean cut looking guy by the name of George Girard promised me that for $500 a name he could check out any name I gave him in the DEA computer system.
"You could tell me if the guy's an informer?" I asked.
"No sweat," said Girard who had quit DEA after seven years on the job to open a private detective agency.
I couldn't believe my ears. No DEA agent alive would sell the name of an informer—it was murder. Girard was out of DEA, so there was no way he could make good on the promise. I was sure he was just running a con job on me. He probably figured stealing money from the Mafia's no crime, so screw it! But still, before I gave him the name that had already been rigged into the DEA computer system as an informant, I had to be sure he knew that—if he did get me the information— he was killing a man, just as surely as if he were pulling a trigger.
"If this guy is a stool pigeon," I said, trying to rivet him with my eyes. "I'm going to kill him."
"I don't want to know that," said Girard quickly. "That's your business."
"The name's Lumieri," I said. "Richard Lumieri."
Days later I met with Girard in the motel and was stunned when he gave me, almost verbatim, the information that had been planted in the DEA computer system. Over the next several weeks I kept feeding the ex-DEA agent requests for information from DEA's files. He was unfailing in his ability to furnish me with everything I requested including the identities of other informers. To see how far he would go, I offered him cocaine as payment instead of money, and he accepted.
I kept dealing with Girard until we learned that his inside connection was an agent named Paul Lambert, one of the best thought of agents in DEA headquarters. The whole agency was shocked as Lambert was arrested at his desk and led out in handcuffs. The Administrator of DEA, Peter Bensinger, who had been kept in the dark throughout the investigation, was outraged. Nothing like it had ever happened before. Lambert, besides having a promising DEA career was known to be independently wealthy. The few hundred-dollars a name he received for running computer checks could not have meant anything to him. He hired—at no small cost— one of the best defense attorneys in the land, Charles Shaffer, who also defended John Dean of Watergate fame.
After a two month, well-publicized trial, Girard and Lambert were convicted and sentenced to ten and twelve years in prison, respectively. Their lives were destroyed.
But why? And, for what?
During the weeks of undercover with Girard I had tried to get some idea of what motivated him. The clearest answer I got was his description of the drug war as, "The whole thing was bullshit." I never knew Lambert; although those who did, said that his participation in the scheme made less sense than Girard's. For me the whole episode ended with the unanswered question—Why?
DEA, of course, revamped its security system and the suits breathed a sigh of relief. The case was an aberration, they said. It was not—they assured the media—part of a growing pattern of corruption.
They could not have been more wrong. And all of us on the inside could feel it—the times were changing.
The Strange Case of Sandy Bario
"The Case Of Agent Bario," was the title that Time magazine used in its January, 29, 1979, edition, reporting the strange life and even stranger death of DEA agent Sante Bario. The article synopsized how one of DEA's top undercover agents went bad, using his post as DEA's, Assistant Country Attache in Mexico City to smuggle drugs into the United States. "Sandy," as those of us who knew him well called him, was arrested by DEA's Internal Security Division after he had allegedly conspired with one of his informants in the smuggling and distribution of eleven pounds of cocaine stolen during a DEA raid in Mexico City.
On December 16, 1978, while sitting in his jail cell, Sandy took a bite of a peanut butter sandwich. He stood up and threw the rest in the toilet. Moments later, according to reports, he was found in convulsions. He slipped into a coma from which he would never recover. Preliminary tests made while he was still alive revealed strychnine in his blood. The warden told Sandy's wife that he had been poisoned. Subsequent tests, according to DEA, mysteriously, failed to reveal any traces of poison. The first tests were ruled "in error. " The final autopsy report indicated that Sante Bario had "choked to death" on his peanut butter sandwich. To this day there are many in DEA who secretly (and not so secretly) believe that Sandy was either killed by DEA's Internal Security, or the CIA because "he knew too much about secret U.S. government involvement in narcotics trafficking."
But who, in 1979 could believe that?
I was already stationed in Argentina when I heard about Sandy's arrest and death. The news was more than a shock to me. I had known him for many years. He was one of the best, most decorated undercover agents this government has ever had, laying his life on the line on a daily basis with the kind of courage that only comes from the deepest of conviction. Sandy was a legend among undercover agents. I doubt that his record of arrests and convictions for a deep cover penetration of the Mafia will ever be equalled.
Sandy and I had known each other for more than ten years. We had met as agents in the IRS Intelligence Division. "This country's biggest enemy is going to be drugs," he told me before transferring to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1965. His words—and then later learning of my brother's heroin addiction— were what convinced me to follow his path.
In 1975 we were working in the same DEA, international enforcement group when Sandy was transferred to Mexico. An Internal Security Division—at the time without much corruption to investigate—tried to hold up Sandy's transfer, investigating him for living with his girlfriend "out of wedlock." I don't think there are any words to convey the pain a man who daily lays his life on the line for his government suffers when that same government turns on him in such a shabby, cheap way.
Sandy—in righteous indignation and without any of the traditional fear agents have for standing up to the dreaded Internal Security Division— fought the investigation boldly and finally won a written apology from one of the suits. He was a man with nothing to fear or hide—a truly heroic figure. There is no way I will ever believe that the Sandy Bario who left for Mexico in 1975 was the same man who smuggled drugs and died in a Texas jail four years later. Something had to have happened that changed him; and it had to be something radical.
Within months of Sandy's death my education into the realities of our so-called War on Drugs would begin. It would leave me with an understanding of why Sandy and scores of men like him have gone bad and why countless more will follow, unless things are changed quickly and drastically.
The "Coca Revolution" (The Sellout of The Cocaine War)
Early in 1980, from my post in Buenos Aires, I began to put together a deep cover "sting" operation against a Bolivian named Roberto Suarez who was putting together a combine of all his country's major coca growers for mutual protection, economy of production and to eliminate competition. It was the birth of what, nine years later, DEA would call "the General Motors of cocaine." The deep cover operation—in spite of many behind-the-scenes moves on the part of DEA and other government agencies to sabotage it—was eventually accomplished. Attempts at destroying the investigation were so overt, frequent and outrageous—at times exposing us to life-threatening situations— that by the end of the operation the rallying cry of the undercover team had become, "Let's make this case in spite of DEA."
Our efforts; however, turned out to be in vain. After the arrests, seizures, indictments and the media ballyhoo giving the suits and politicians credit for "the greatest sting operation in history;" those of us who had accomplished the feat, then watched horrified and helpless as the CIA supported the same people we had arrested, indicted and identified as the biggest drug dealers in history, in their takeover of the Bolivian government in the now infamous July, 1980 "Cocaine Coup," one of the bloodiest revolutions in Bolivian history. Our government's greatest drug war victory had been turned into its greatest defeat; a fact that received no media coverage whatsoever.
I would later learn that the Suarez organization had convinced the CIA that the civilian government—some of whom had cooperated with us in the sting operation—were "leftists." Our secret government then made what they had been conned into believing was a choice between communism and drugs, for us. They helped in the destruction of the only Bolivian government officials having any anti-drug sentiments at all. And if any proof of the new military government's real aims were needed, their first act was to destroy all the drug trafficking files in Bolivia's Hall of Justice. Bolivian cocaine traficking would never again be truly threatened. The drug war had taken a back seat to politics, as it still does.
From that point on Bolivia began supplying cocaine base to the then fledgling Medellin Cartel in Colombia as though it were a legal export. At the same time the demand for cocaine in the United States began to boom. It was the beginning of a decade that gave us crack, crack babies and the worst crime and violence statistics of any nation in history; and it could not have been done without the help of our own government.
I, along with many of my brother DEA agents, watched the fraud from the sidelines with aching and frightened hearts. The times indeed were a changing.
The Roberto Suarez case also heralded in a decade during which the the drug economy's value as a political and economic tool rose sharply while, in contrast, the the value of the lives of American's in general and narcotics officers in particular, plummeted. Within the U.S., police and narcotic agents fought a bloody, urban drug war, while our politicians, CIA and Pentagon were in bed with the biggest drug dealers alive. Many DEA agents began to realize that they were sacrificial pawns in a fraudulent, no-win war like Vietnam; that their true purpose was to pile up meaningless arrest and drug seizure statistics—and at times, die in the streets—in order to convince voting and tax-paying Americans that there was a drug war; and that international narcotic enforcement was a "minefield" of Roberto Suarezes and Manuel Noriegas.
It seemed no small coincidence to me that, during the same time period the incidents of corruption in DEA began to spiral upward, involving criminal indictments against the least likely people imaginable. People like my friend DEA agent Darnell Garcia—a legendary martial arts expert and profound believer in Bushido, (The Way of the Warrior), as antithetical a system of beliefs to acts of corruption, as exists on this earth—who was arrested and charged with stealing and selling drugs, and money laundering. People like my friend Tom Traynor —a deeply religious father of five and highly decorated DEA agent who neither drank, smoked nor (and I'm not kidding) used profanity—who was arrested and charged with smuggling large quantities of cocaine from South America. And more just like them followed—too many more. To me it was mind boggling.
The increase in drug war corruption was not only limited to DEA, it was happening everywhere. Law enforcement officers, elected officials and even judges were being indicted for everything from accepting bribes to selling drugs. In one investigation that I supervised in the New York City Joint Task Force (US V Cesar Ramirez), I arrested two New York City detectives who had accepted bribes and helped a drug dealer in covering up the murder of his wife, and was then astounded to learn that some of the cocaine and money we had seized during the investigation had been stolen by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel Perlmutter—a Phi Beta Kapa graduate of Williams College and NYU Law School— the man charged with prosecuting the case. The scholarly prosecutor—married to another prosecutor—had been stealing the drugs and money to support his and a model girlfriend's cocaine habits.
To a DEA agent in the 1980s, the whole world had become corrupt. No one could be trusted—not even our own government. And if we needed proof of how little our lives were valued alongside our government's special interests in the drug war, the death of DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena was all the proof necessary.
The "Sacrifice" of Enrique Camarena
It was almost inevitable that the sacrifice of the life of DEA agent Enrique Camarena would occur in Mexico, one of the countries in this hemisphere most corrupted by the drug economy and most protected by our government's special political and economic interests. It was also a country that would play a heavy role in events that would mold the rest of my life; events during which I often thought of Sandy Bario and wondered what secrets he might have revealed about the hypocrisy and corruption of our drug war, had he lived—and how much he had been through before he had gone bad.
Some six years after Sandy's death, Kiki Camarena and his brother DEA agents assigned to Guadalajara Mexico, would write memorandums and cables to DEA headquarters in Washington and Mexico city, complaining of the anarchic conditions in Mexico and pleading for additional agents, more DEA, State and Justice Department support or—at the very least—getting diplomatic status for agents assigned there so that they might arm and protect themselves.
They were ignored.
Economic and political considerations were deemed more important than our drug problem. No one wanted to "upset" Mexican officialdom by bringing up the "D" word (drugs)—or worse yet: the "C" word (corruption). And the DEA suits —more politicians than law enforcement officers, and willing pawns of any special interest group—were more interested in maintaining the illusion of a "special" and "cordial" relationship between the U.S. and Mexican governments than the complaints of a couple of street agents. Camarena finally prophesied his own death when he said, "Does someone have to die before something is done?"
On February 7, l985, DEA agent Enrique Camarena, married and the father of three young boys—who, on his own, working around and in spite of obstacles placed in his path by DEA suits, the State Department and other special interest groups, managed to cause the biggest Mexican marijuana seizure in history—was kidnapped in broad daylight in front of the American Consul in Guadalajara by Mexican policemen working for drug traffickers. He was tortured to death over a twenty four hour period, while his murderers tape-recorded his cries.
Mexican government officials were so disdainful of our hypocritical drug war that they aided his killers in escaping from right under the noses of frustrated and powerless DEA agents. It would be a month before Camarena's body would be found and years before some—but not all—of those responsible for his death would be brought to justice. The whole affair, were it not for the rage of Kiki's brother street agents in keeping the investigation alive, would have been quickly swept under a rug.
The suits were in a rush to "normalize" U.S. relations with Mexico. There were items far more important than Kiki's murder—items like the Mexican debt, and trade and oil agreements, not to mention secret Mexican support of the Contras and other CIA programs. Instead of pressuring Mexico economically to aid in identifying those responsible for the murder, our Treasury Department was negotiating a new bail-out package of loans and the State Department was planning to increase Mexico's share of the narcotics aid budget. And among the supporters of this move was DEA Administrator, John Lawn. Hearings into the Camarena murder and the actions—or lack thereof—of our drug war "leaders," by the House Foreign Affairs Committee's task force on international narcotics control, would result in its chairman, Representative Larry Smith saying,
"I personally am convinced that the Justice Department is against the best interests of the United States in terms of stopping drugs...I just don't think the Justice Department is committed to pushing the Mexicans on a resolution to the Camarena case. What has a DEA agent who puts his life on the line got to look forward to? The United States Government is not going to back him up. I find that intolerable!"

So did we DEA agents, but what could we do? Where and how could we vent our rage and frustration?
In the years following Kiki's death, drug war corruption increased to levels unprecedented in our nation's history. Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention that during the same period of time evidence was revealed during the Iran-Contra hearings indicating that secret elements of our government were using the proceeds of drug sales to fund the Nicaraguan Contra movement and circumvent the wishes of our elected officials; and that evidence that might have convicted high level U.S. government officials of drug trafficking was withheld from senate investigators for "national security" reasons.
It was a time when "heros" like Colonel Oliver North and other U.S. officials were banned from Costa Rica for "drug and gun running activities" by that country's very credible, Nobel Prize winning president, Oscar Arias; a time when the DEA agent assigned to Honduras documented 50 tons of cocaine entering the U.S. at the hands of U.S. supported Contras and Honduran military, (half the estimated U.S. cocaine consumption), and was then immediately transferred out of Honduras to get him out of the hair of the Pentagon and CIA; a time when DEA agents like Everett Hatcher and local cops like New York City patrolman Chris Hoban would be gunned down trying to take grams and ounces of drugs off our streets, while our own government aided and abetted in the trafficking of tons.
It was a time when our President would tell us that "everyone who looks the other way" condoning drug trafficking was "just as guilty" as the drug traffickers. He would then order our troops to invade Panama at a cost of hundreds of innocent lives to arrest a drug dealer whose activities our government had condoned by looking the other way for almost two decades. It was a time when I would witness the intentional destruction of one of the biggest and most far-reaching drug cases in the history of the drug war (Operation Trifecta, the subject of Deep Cover ) because it threatened other U.S. interests deemed more important.
It was a time when we DEA agents would realize that, as Pogo said, after tracking full circle, "We have found the enemy and he is us."
A mighty thump brought me back to the present. Al was now pounding a heavy-bag suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the gym. "In a dirty card game," he grunted, jabbing at the bag, "only a fool plays it straight." He punctuated the sentence with a thumping right cross. He turned from the bag shaking his head in frustration. No amount of sweat would lighten the burden all narcotics officers carry. "How do they blame a guy for going bad, when the whole fucking government has gone bad?"
One of the defenses classically used by people arrested for selling drugs to an undercover agent, is claiming that the conduct of the government's agents was either criminal, immoral, or such that the defendant was enticed into doing something he ordinarily would never have done—entrapment. It seems to me that our government's conduct in its so-called war on drugs has become so criminal and immoral, that anyone arrested for going bad might have a valid entrapment defense.
What do you think?


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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I Volunteer to Kidnap Oliver North
Michael Levine
Undercover DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena was tortured to death slowly by professionals. Every known maximum-pain technique, from electric shocks to his testicles to white hot rods inserted in his rectum, was applied. A doctor stood by to keep him alive. The heart of the thirty-seven year old father of two boys refused to quit for more than twenty-four hours. His cries, along with the soft-spoken, calm voices of the men who were slowly and meticulously savaging his body, were tape-recorded.
Kiki, one of only three hundred of us in the world (DEA agents on foreign assignment), had been kidnapped in broad daylight from in front of the U.S. Consular office in Guadalajara, Mexico by Mexican cops working for drug traffickers and, apparently, high level Mexican government people whose identities we would never know. They would be protected by people in our own government to whom Kiki's life meant less than nothing.
When teams of DEA agents were sent to Mexico, first, to find the missing Kiki, then to hunt for his murderers, they were met by a the stone wall of a corrupt Mexican government that refused to cooperate. To the horror and disgust of many of us, our government backed down from the Mexicans; other interests, like NAFTA, banking agreements and the covert support of Ollie North's Contras, were more important than the life of an American undercover agent. DEA agents were ordered by the Justice Department, to keep our mouths shut about Mexico; an order that was backed up by threats from the office of Attorney General Edwin Meese himself. Instead of tightening restrictions on the Mexican debt, our Treasury Department moved to loosen them as if to reward them for their filthy deed. As an added insult Mexico was granted cooperating nation in the drug war status, giving them access to additional millions in American drug war funds and loans.
Somehow a CIA—unaware that their own chief of Soviet counter intelligence, Aldrich Ames, was selling all America's biggest secrets to the KGB for fourteen years with all the finesse of a Jersey City garage sale—was able to obtain the tape-recordings of Kiki's torture death. No one in media or government had the courage to publicly ask them explain how they were able to obtain the tapes, yet know nothing of the murder as it was happening; no one had the courage to ask them to explain the testimony of a reliable government informant, (during a California trial related to Camarena's murder), that Kiki's murderers believed they were protected by the CIA. Nor did our elected leaders have the courage to investigate numerous other reports linking the CIA directly to the murderers.
Our government's sellout of Kiki Camarena, of all DEA agents, of the war on drugs, was such that United States Congressman, Larry Smith, stated, on the floor of Congress:
"I personally am convinced that the Justice Department is against the best interests of the United States in terms of stopping drugs... What has a DEA agent who puts his life on the line got to look forward to? The U.S. Government is not going to back him up. I find that intolerable."
What does Oliver North have to do with this?
A lot of us, Kiki's fellow agents, believe that the Mexican government never would have dared take the action they did, had they not believed the US government to be as hypocritical and corrupt as they were and still are. And if there was ever a figure in our history that was the paradigm of that corruption it is the man President Reagan called "an American hero"; the same man Nancy Reagan later called a liar: Oliver North.
No one person in our government's history more embodied what Senator John Kerry referred to when he called the US protection of the drug smuggling Contras a "betrayal of the American people."
Few Americans, thanks to what one time CIA chief William Colby referred to as the news media's "misplaced sense of patriotism," are aware that the Nobel prize winning President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias—as a result of an in-depth investigation by the Costa Rican Congressional Commission on Narcotics that found "virtually all [Ollie North supported] Contra factions were involved in drug trafficking"—banned Oliver North, U.S. Ambassador Lewis Tambs, National Security Advisor Admiral John Poindexter, Presidential Advisor Richard Secord and C.I.A. station chief José Fernandez, by Executive order, from ever entering Costa Rica— for their roles in utilizing Costa Rican territory for cocaine trafficking.

In fact, when Costa Rica began its investigation into the drug trafficking allegations against North and naively thought that the U.S. would gladly lend a hand in efforts to fight drugs, they received a rude awakening about the realities of America's war on drugs as opposed to its "this-scourge-will-end" rhetoric.
After five witnesses testified before the U.S. Senate, confirming that John Hull—a C.I.A. operative and the lynch-pin of North's contra re supply operation—had been actively running drugs from Costa Rica to the U.S. "under the direction of the C.I.A.," Costa Rican authorities arrested him. Hull then quickly jumped bail and fled to the U.S.—according to my sources—with the help of DEA, putting the drug fighting agency in the schizoid business of both kidnapping accused drug dealers and helping them escape; although the Supreme Court has not legalized the latter . . . yet.
The then President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias was stunned when he received letters from nineteen U.S. Congressman—including Lee Hamilton of Indiana, the Democrat who headed the Iran-contra committee—warning him "to avoid situations . . . that could adversely affect our relations." Arias, who won the Nobel prize for ending the contra war, stated that he was shocked that "relations between [the United States] and my country could deteriorate because [the Costa Rican] legal system is fighting against drug trafficking."
In my twenty-five years experience with DEA which includes running some of their highest level international drug trafficking investigations, I have never seen an instance of comparable allegations where DEA did not set up a multi-agency task force size operation to conduct an in-depth conspiracy investigation. Yet in the case of Colonel North and the other American officials, no investigation whatsoever has been initiated by DEA or any other investigative agency.
The total "public" investigation into the drug allegations by the Senate was falsely summed up in the statement of a staffer, on the House select committee, Robert A. Bermingham who notified Chairman Hamilton on July 23, 1987, that after interviewing "hundreds" of people his investigation had not developed any corroboration of "media-exploited allegations that the U.S. government condoned drug trafficking by contra leaders . . . or that Contra leaders or organizations did in fact take part in such activity." Every government official accused of aiding and covering up for the contra drug connection, Colonel Ollie included, then hung his hat on this statement, claiming they had been "cleared."
The only trouble was that investigative journalists, Leslie and Andrew Cockburn—after interviewing many of the chief witnesses whose testimony implicated North and the contras in drug trafficking, including several whose testimony was later found credible enough to be used to convict Manuel Noriega—could find not one who had been interviewed by Bermingham or his staff. In fact, the two journalists seem to have caught Bermingham red-handed in what can only be described, at best, as a gross misrepresentation of fact, when he (Bermingham) quoted the chief counsel of a House Judiciary subcommittee, Hayden Gregory as dismissing the drug evidence and calling it "street talk." Gregory told the Cockburns that the "street talk" comment was taken out of context; that he had not even met Bermingham until July 22 (two days before Bermingham wrote the report) and that he had in fact told Bermingham that there were "serious allegations against almost every contra leader."
When President Bush said, "All those who look the other way are as guilty as the drug dealers," he was not only talking about a moral guilt, but a legal one as well. Thus, if any U.S. official knew of North and the contra's drug activities and did not take proper action, or covered up for it, he is "guilty" of a whole series of crimes that you to go to jail for; crimes that carry a minimum jail term; crimes like Aiding and Abetting, Conspiracy, Misprision of a Felony, Perjury, and about a dozen other violations of law related to misuse and malfeasance of public office. I'm not talking about some sort of shadow conspiracy here. As a veteran, criminal investigator I don't deal in speculation. I document facts and evidence and then work like hell to corroborate my claims so that I can send people to jail.
What I am talking about is "Probable Cause"—a legal principle that every junior agent and cop is taught before he hits the street. It mandates that an arrest and/or criminal indictment must occur when there exists evidence that would give any "reasonable person" grounds to believe, that anyone— U.S. government officials included—had violated or conspired to violate federal narcotic laws. Any U.S. government law enforcement officer or elected official who fails to take appropriate action when such Probable Cause exists, is in violation of his oath as well as federal law; and under that law it takes surprisingly little evidence for a Conspiracy conviction.
As an example, early in my career I arrested a man named John Clements, a twenty-two year old, baby-faced guitar player, who happened to be present at the transfer of three kilos of heroin—an amount that doesn't measure up to a tiny percentage of the many tons of cocaine, (as much as one half the U.S. cocaine consumption), that North and his Contras have been accused of pouring onto our streets. Clements was a silent observer in a trailer parked in the middle of a Gainesville, Florida swamp, while a smuggler—whom I had arrested hours earlier in New York City and "flipped" (convinced to work as an informer for me)— turned the heroin over to the financier of the operation. Poor John Clements, a friend of both men, a "gofer" as he would later be described, was just unlucky enough to be there.
The twenty-two year old guitar player couldn't claim "national security," when asked to explain his presence, nor could he implicate a President of the United States in his criminal activities as Colonel North did. John Clements wrote no self-incriminating computer notes that indicated his deep involvement in drug trafficking, as North did; he didn't have hundreds of pages of diary notes in his own handwriting also reflecting narcotics trafficking. John Clements did not shred incriminating documents and lie to congress as North did; nor was he responsible for millions in unaccounted for U.S. government funds as North was. Clements did not have enough cash hidden in a closet slush fund to pay $14,000 cash for a car, as North did while earning the salary of a Lieutenant Colonel. John Clements only had about $3 and change in his pocket.
Nor did John Clements campaign for the release from jail of a drug smuggling, murderer whose case was described by the Justice Department as the worst case of narco terrorism in our history, as North did. Poor young John wouldn't have dreamed of making deals with drug dealer Manny Noriega to aid in the support of the drug smuggling Contras, as North did. No, John Clements was certainly not in Ollie North's league, he couldn't have done a millionth of the damage North and his protectors have been accused of doing to the American people, even if he wanted to.
But John Clements did do something Ollie North never did and probably never will do—he went to jail. A jury of his peers in Gainseville Florida found more than enough evidence to convict him of Conspiracy to violate the federal drug laws. The judge sentenced him to thirty years in a Federal prison. Ollie North on the other hand was only charged with lying to a Congress so mistrusted and disrespected by the American people that he was virtually applauded for the crime.
Criminality in drug trafficking cases is lot easier than proving whether or not someone lied to Congress and is certainly a lot less "heroic." Statements like "I don't remember," "I didn't know," and "No one told me," or "I sought approval from my superiors for every one of my actions," are only accepted as valid defenses by Congressmen and Senators with difficulties balancing check books—not American jurors trying drug cases. And when you're found guilty you got to jail—you don't run for a seat on the Senate.
And why would I volunteer to kidnap Ollie? For three reasons: first, kidnapping is now legal; second, I have experience kidnapping; and third, it is the only way those tens of millions of Americans who have suffered the betrayal of their own government will ever see even a glimmer of justice.
Several years after Kiki's last tape-recorded cries were shoved well under a government rug, a maverick group of DEA agents decided to take the law into their own hands. Working without the knowledge or approval of most of the top DEA bosses, whom they mistrusted, the agents arranged to have Dr. Humberto Alvarez Machain, a Mexican citizen alleged to have participated in Kiki's murder, abducted at gun point in Guadalajara Mexico and brought to Los Angeles to stand trial.
On June 16, 1992, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Machain Decision that the actions of those agents was "legal." The ruling said in no uncertain terms that U.S. law enforcement authorities could literally and figuratively kidnap violators of American drug law in whatever country they found them and drag them physically and against their will to the U.S. to stand trial. Immediately thereafter the Ayatollahs declared that they too could rove the world and kidnap violators of Islamic law and drag them back to Iran to stand trial. Kidnapping, therefore, has now become an accepted tool of law enforcement throughout the world.
Resorting to all sorts of wild extremes to bring drug traffickers to justice is nothing new for the U.S. government. At various times during my career as a DEA agent I was assigned to some pretty unorthodox operations—nothing quite as radical as invading Panama and killing a thousand innocents to capture long-time CIA asset Manny Noriega—but I was once, (long before the Machain Decision), assigned to a group of undercover agents on a kidnapping mission. Posing as a soccer team, we landed in Argentina in a chartered jet during the wee hours of the morning, where the Argentine Federal Police had three international drug dealers—two of whom had never in their lives set foot in the United States—waiting for us trussed up in straight-jackets with horse feed-bags over their heads, each beaten to a pulpy, toothless mess. In those years we used to call it a "controlled expulsion." I think I like the honesty of kidnapping a little better.
By now you're probably saying, "Get real Levine you live in a nation whose politicians ripped their own people off for half a trillion dollars in a savings and loan scam, a nation whose Attorney General ordered the FBI to attack a house full of innocent babies, and this is the decade of Ruby Ridge, Waco and Whitewater-gate; your own people sent Kiki Camarena to Mexico to be murdered and then gave aid and comfort to those who murdered him—how can you expect justice?"
If you aren't saying these things you should be. And you'd be right. Under the current two-party, rip-off system of American politics with their complete control of main stream media, I expect Ollie North to have a bright future in politics, while hundreds of thousands of Americans like John rot in jail. Ollie North, after all, is the perfect candidate. But there is one faint glimmer of hope remaining, and it isn't in America.
Since the democratic and staunchly anti-drug Costa Rica is, thus far, the only nation with the courage to have publicly accused Oliver North, a US Ambassador and a CIA station chief of running drugs from their sovereignty to the United States, I find myself, duty-bound to make them, or any other nation that would have the courage to make similar charges, the following offer:
I Michael Levine, twenty-five year veteran undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, given the mandate of the Supreme Court's Machain Decision and in fulfillment of my oath to the U.S. government and its taxpayers to arrest and seize all those individuals who would smuggle or cause illegal drugs to be smuggled into the United States or who would aid and abet drug smugglers, do hereby volunteer my services to any sovereign, democratic nation who files legal Drug Trafficking charges against Colonel Oliver North and any of his cohorts; to do everything in my power including kidnapping him, seizing his paper shredder, reading him his constitutional rights and dragging his butt to wherever that sovereignty might be, (with or without horse feed-bag); to once-and-for-all stand trial for the horrific damages caused to my country, my fellow law enforcement officers, and to my family.

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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Former AUSA Robert Merkle admits that Medellin Cartel leader Carlos Lehder may be free. Lehder's wife Coral Baca admits he is "back in business selling drugs to the Russians for the CIA"

Part 1

Part 2

HOSTAGES: A Multi-Part FTW Special Investigation

Medellin Cartel Co-Founder Carlos Lehder A Free Man in Gov't. Charade? -- Wife of Drug Lord Speaks
(excerpts from the article)

Carlos Lehder remains the only cartel head to have ever been extradited to, then tried, convicted and sentenced to life plus 135 years in, the United States. Prosecutors agree that Panamanian strongman General Manuel Antonio Noriega - against whom Lehder testified in return for a reduced sentence of 55 "non-paroleable" years in 1989 - was merely one of Lehder's employees.

Other new material indicating that Lehder, after his 1987 arrest and extradition, provided information to the DEA that assisted in Escobar's downfall has been characterized by his prosecutor, former US Attorney Robert Merkle, as nearly worthless. "That's BS. We didn't need his help to get Escobar," says Merkle.

As disclosed in this first of a series of special reports, I have now amassed a sizeable body of documents, records, witness statements and even a tape recording of Lehder's alleged wife indicating that Carlos Lehder is a free man who has kept his money, who travels the world freely and who makes a mockery of any notion that he might be a federally protected witness - hiding to ensure his safety or the safety of his family. One telling clue to Lehder's apparent lack of fear is the fact that he is listed by name in 411 directory assistance in La Fayette, California, just outside San Francisco. My researcher, while looking for other information, came across the listing and sent it to me. I was able to confirm it as a listing for the Carlos Lehder - not a coincidence - through confidential sources who know Lehder's self-professed wife, Coral Marie Talavera Baca Lehder. And I have spoken to Coral by calling her at that number myself. Mrs. Lehder was, until June 22, a manager for the insurance giant AIG in San Francisco. [Subsequent segments of this special series will focus on investigations into allegations of money laundering by AIG with and through the Arkansas Development Financial Authority in 1987 - the same year Lehder was originally captured].


On various trips and a meeting where Fourmy videotaped an interview with me, he almost boasted about the fact that Baca was engaged to Carlos Lehder. He claimed to have been the one who "introduced" Baca to Webb by giving her Webb's office phone number. It bothered me. But I was broke, unemployed due to an injury, and unable to do anything but ask, "Doesn't that bother you a little?"

I met with Patrick maybe three times between then and the summer of 1998. At one time he told of having actually met Lehder whom he repeatedly said was out of prison. Other confidential sources, close to the Lehders, have told me that Fourmy actually visited "the house" and videotaped an interview with Carlos Lehder. I didn't see Patrick much after that. Contacted with written questions for this story by e-mail and fax at his Santa Barbara offices, Fourmy has not responded to my requests for comment. I have been unable to locate a working phone number for him.

--Retired LAPD Narcotics Detective Mike Ruppert

Maxine Waters -- From the web site of Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D), California:

"I also had numerous telephone conversations with Coral Talavera Baca, the girlfriend of Rafael Cornejo, who was a relative and part of Norwin Meneses' drug trafficking organization, as well as a long-time business partner of Danilo Blandon, another central figure in the "Dark Alliance" series. I received information from Ms. Baca and Mr. Cornejo who were connected to Carlos Lehder, a Colombian drug dealer and co-founder of the Medellin Cartel. It was through Lehder's private island that the Medellin Cartel moved massive amounts of cocaine to Miami and the United States. Ms Baca had visited Carlos Lehder's private island and have [sic] information regarding the connection between Mr. Lehder and Norwin Meneses." -- http://www.house.gov/waters/31698pr.htm. Contacted for comment, Waters' office had not responded at press time.

Pittsburgh-Post Gazette reporter Bill Moushey, who has perhaps spent more time tracking Lehder than any American journalist, wrote in 1996, " In it [a 1987 federal detention order] the U.S. government says Lehder and others were responsible for assassinating Colombia's Justice Minister in 1984; for the 1985 armed attack on Colombia's Supreme Court building that killed 11 justices and 84 other people; for assassinating two newspaper editors in Colombia and 26 other journalists; for shooting the Colombian ambassador to Hungary in 1987; and for a long list of murders of police officers, informants and other government officials."

Moushey's trail of Lehder grew cold in 1996. "Within weeks of sending that letter [of complaint regarding the government's alleged failure to honor terms of secret plea bargain] last fall [1995], Lehder was whisked away into the night, several protected witnesses at the Mesa Unit in Arizona say. No one has heard from him since." However he has since indicated that, as of late 1995, he believed Lehder to be in prison.

I have since talked nearly a dozen reporters, prosecutors and others connected to the case. At the same time that they protest that they have received Christmas cards, letters and even phone calls from Lehder indicating that he is still in prison they all - every one of them - have confessed their secret suspicions of a charade intended to fool them and hide a very dark secret. And all of them, without exception, agree that if Lehder is walking free it is time to find him and tell the American people about it.

The Units also housed one of the most sought after drug Kingpins in the world. Carlos Lehder Rivas, leader of the Medellin Cartel. Lehder admitted to ordering hundreds of killings, including a member of the Colombian Supreme Court, politicians, and reporters. His net worth is over $3 billion yet only $2 million in assets were ever seized. I reviewed Lehder's plea assessment, he was convicted and sentenced to life plus 135 years with no chance for parole. And then he joined the program by agreeing to testify against Manuel Noriega, who in effect worked for Lehder. Federal officials immediately cut Lehder's sentence to 55 years with eligibility for parole. [This eligibility is disputed by a member of Lehder's defense team who spoke on condition of anonymity]. Further sentence reductions made him eligible for deportation to Germany, his homeland. I have been told that Lehder is already in Germany.

"While in the Unit, Lehder developed new drug smuggling plans for after his release. He talked of a new frontier in the former republics of the Soviet Union. He and [convicted Gambino crime family Capo Sammy the Bull] Gravano talked of forming a partnership in a new cartel using money given to them by our government. They asked me to join them and I turned them down.'


"I mean it just knocked me for a loop. It scared me. And then the next day she was out by the pool. Patrick [Fourmy] was there. Joe Bosco was there. She came down and sat with us. She was quite open and she said that her company -- a company she owned that I later found out was Capital Investment Group -- was owned by five of the largest drug dealers in South America. She was very agitated at the government and she said that the government had contacted Carlos and told him to 'put that ***** on a leash.' That, said Castillo, was probably because of her openness in talking about the fact that Carlos was out of prison and her public appearances with Webb.

"I remember that I was introduced to her by Fourmy," says the retired DEA agent who has served in Peru and Central America. "She said, straight out, that she was engaged to Carlos Lehder. I couldn't believe it! What was she doing here? I asked her, 'What's Carlos doing now?' and she said, 'Oh, he's out of jail and selling drugs to the Russians for the CIA.'
--Retired DEA agent Celerino Castillo III's conversation with Coral Baca


Robert Merkle -- "I know that Lehder, right after he was arrested, tried to cut a deal directly with Bush and the FBI - which conversations I was excluded from. There's a lot of stuff that went on that was questionable.I've been speculating for years that Lehder was free but I figured he'd be in Germany or some tax haven with his money, which he still has. One of the major things that was a red flag in terms of indicating that he made a deal was that Lehder wasn't required to turn over his assets... If I'm a U.S. Attorney or an Attorney General and the only member of the Medellin Cartel to be prosecuted in the US, facing life plus 120 years in jail, wants a deal, the first thing he's going to talk to me about is money....."

"I've been speculating for years that Lehder was free. Why am I not surprised? If Lehder is out of jail I would be extremely disappointed. It would send some very bad signals. It's pretty tragic. There's a lot of kids in jail for the rest of their lives -- I'm talking kids -- and a lot of them are minorities for insignificant drug offenses compared to what he did," says Lehder prosecutor and former US Attorney Robert Merkle

Texas is a One-Party State

Far and away Celerino Castillo's allegations are the most outrageous. They demand a level of scrutiny beyond the denials or silence of the other parties involved.

Under Texas state law, unlike Maryland where tape recordings of phone conversations unauthorized by both parties proved the undoing of Monica Lewinsky and resulted in legal action against Linda Tripp, Texas is a state where only one party to any telephone conversation need grant permission before recording a call. As a result of a number of investigations connecting to the CIA in which he was then involved, Castillo had his telephone set up to automatically record all incoming calls. This proved fateful when he received a call from Coral in April of 1999. Castillo and Baca had been in touch infrequently since the June, 1998 fund raiser. Baca had been suggesting that she might be able to get Castillo work as an investigative consultant on a legal case connecting to the CIA in San Francisco and had even paid one phone bill for him in the preceding months as a partial expense payment for that case. Castillo's early retirement had resulted from his efforts to expose CIA involvement in Contra-connected drug trafficking during the eighties and has been documented in his 1994 book POWDERBURNS - Cocaine, Contras and the Drug War.

In June, 2001 I traveled to San Antonio Texas where I met Castillo and obtained a copy of one of his "Baca" tapes. He says there are others he is holding as "insurance against any challenges against me" and that the one he provided me has had certain sections of the conversation removed for the same reason. [Beginning in August 2001 I will place selected excerpts of this tape, converted to MP3 format, on the From The Wilderness web site at http://www.copvcia.com. -- See Investigation Notes at the end of this story.] Having spoken to her on the phone several times since January 2001 I instantly recognized the voice on the tape. It was definitely the Coral that I had met.

Following are excerpts from the forty-plus minute conversation: (CC designates Celerino Castillo. CB designates Coral Baca. Certain segments of the tape have been edited to protect innocent third parties and to save space.)

CB: WeÕre living in both places now. WeÕre in Florida now. We did have, we still have the house in Boca Chica. But weÕve also got one in Coconut Grove.

CC: Oh. Good.

CB: So it works out really, really nicely. IÕm here three days a week.

CC: Then youÕre flying back.

CB: ÉSo it works out really, really nicely actually. I thought it was going to be exhausting but itÕs not. ItÕs really kind of nice because when IÕm here I really have some time to myself, you know, running the business [AIG]. I shouldnÕt say that, running the office.

CC: Oops.

CB: TheyÕll turn that [laughs]. That is a great one.

CC: [Laughs] Ooh - running the business.

CB: IÕve got to be very careful what I say, you know. Yeah, but um, itÕs really nice. If you ever get down there youÕre more than welcome to come and visit and stay. I love Florida. It's really beautiful.


CB: You know because I hear things, like there are going to be hearings on this mess [The Gary Webb Dark Alliance series]. Let me tell you something. IÕll tell you something and IÕve heard it from people who have been informed by very reliable people in the government. No there wonÕt. No there wonÕt be any more hearings.

CC: But even if there were any hearingsÉ

CB: ItÕs just going to be a joke.


CB: I've read such ugly articles lately. We attended some benefit. And somebody wrote an article and they titled it Beauty and the Beast. Is thatÉ

CC: God Damn...

CB: Is that fucking cruel? I mean like he is like the nicest man, the most generous man I have ever met. And to call him a beast?

CC: What newspaper was that?

CB: Oh, who the hell knows. I don't even know. I get so upset that people keep these things from meÉ. How about all the money he gave me to start an orphanage in Mexico.


CB: He was out of jail before I went to Gary.

CC: Oh yeah, well I know that was in, we know, during the Panama thing.

CB: Well no. He was released in 95. In March of 95. I didnÕt go to Gary until June - or July - of 1996. [NOTE: This date is disputed by both Webb and me. It would have given him roughly six weeks to write the entire Dark Alliance series.]


CB: Do you know a DEA Agent named Rafael Salcedo or Armando Medina.

CC: Yeah, those names sound very familiar.

CB: Those guys used to moonlight for the CIA all the time.

CC: Yeah, thereÕs a lot of them. The last one I heard was Juan Perez who was a CubanÉ

CB: I know who he is, of courseÉ

CB: We just saw Robert Vesco.

CC: Who?

CB: Vesco, Robert.

CC: What about him?

CB: We just went and saw him when we were in Cuba.

CC: Is he under house arrest? Cause thatÕs what I heard.

CB: What a great man. A Sweetheart.

CC: [Laughing] HowÕs Fidel doing?É

[CB: We had gone down once maybe a year or so ago and I met him [Vesco] for the first time then. And then when we

went back this time I met him againÉI mean heÕs old and he walks with a cane. HeÕs just a sweetheart though.

ThatÕs what Fidel did for him. He took him in because the United States was ready to just nab him. I mean you know how the United States is. They kidnap people and they call it extradition.

CC: So, is Carlos still playing ball withÉ?

CB: He has nothing to do with the business.


CB: In fact weÕre having a birthday party this weekend. What are you doing this weekend? IÕm 29 - again. [Laughs] A little party. Just a hundred of our closest friends. It's going

to be really, really fun. I think Julio Iglesias. He's going to sing. He's like my all time favorite. He's in Florida anyway.


[Baca enters into a lengthy discussion regarding a suspect who had allegedly burglarized her e-mail accounts. Because these are criminal allegations and I have been unable to ascertain the validity of the charges I have omitted references to the named suspect.]

CB: Because of Carlos' situation the State Department called in the FBI to find out who was doing thisÉ And then he got into my e-mail account, my Coral Lehder e-mail account, and they were e-mailing Carlos from my e-mail accountÉ

CB: He got into our e-mail account and was reading all of my correspondence with, back and forth between Carlos and me.

CC: How did he do that?

CB: Well itÕs not too hard if youÕre close to somebody. ItÕs not too hard if you know what words are important É

CC: Oh my God. So, what did the FBIÉ Are they going to bring any charges?

CB: See, thereÕs another point of contention. My other half is very pissed off and me, no, IÕm not going to do that. He has to live with the fact that what he did [was] wrongÉ

CC: So the FBI came and theyÉ

CB: The State Department, once I found out that my e-mail was being broken into, I told Carlos. And Carlos said,

"You know what, it makes sense "Because I knew that some of my e-mails just werenÕt right." HeÕs like, "I knew somebody had looked at them." So he called in I guess, whoever he has to report to, itÕs a matter of his national security status, that his security might have been jeopardized. And the Feds got involved, you know, because they called in the Feds. - It was an ugly ordeal. Do you know that we had to go to a safe house, because they didnÕt know who it was? É

CB: There were never wedding invitations... I never sent out wedding invitations. What was sent out after was like notifications... You got the one that said, "Please extend her every courtesy as my wife..."

."I had several conversation with Coral," says Castillo. "There is no doubt in my mind that Lehder is out of prison. None whatsoever. I received an e-mail from Carlos personally, in the summer of 1998, that invited me to come to the wedding that fall. Carlos had taken her out of the country for personal reasons. I also received an e-mail from Coral under a separate account. The address was snowqueen@hotmail.com. I can't get to those e-mails now because my old computer is broken and I don't have the money to fix it. But she was clear on many occasions that Carlos was out. She talked about travelling all over with him. Why would they have invited me to the house, or to visit them in the Bahamas if it weren't true? What if I had said yes? They were going to pay for it but I didn't go. I didn't want to compromise myself.

"I think Coral is really against the government and the war on drugs. She has family in jail and she spoke to me I think because of the price I paid for what I did. I believe that she hates the CIA."

Asked about the possibility of an elaborate ruse by Baca, Castillo replied, "Look. You almost have to go to more trouble to justify the notion that he's in prison than you do to justify the position that he's out. What could Coral possibly have gained from all this effort to make certain people think so? They both hate the government and would love to make it look bad. She had a powerful position at AIG that would be jeopardized if she were exposed as making this up. Why would someone go to all this trouble to make people think she's his wife? It's not something you would put on a resumé. It has drawn attention to Lehder rather than steer it away. What does she gain by that? I know that some people insist he's still in jail but why won't the government just say so? Instead you have this big mystery that only deepens the legend. Who benefits from that? Who profits from the confusion? And the government would have found out about it. That's why I think the government went to Carlos and said to put a leash on her."

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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Investigative journalist Gary Webb speaks to a packed house on the CIA's connection to drug trafficking, and the failure of the media to expose the truth.

by Charles Overbeck
Matrix Editor


(excerpt/ intro)

On January 16, 1999, Webb spoke to a packed house at the First United Methodist Church in Eugene, Oregon. Approximately 300 people listened with rapt attention as Webb recounted his investigation of the CIA's connections to contra drug trafficking. Webb's presentation was followed by an intense question-and-answer session, during which he candidly answered questions about the "Dark Alliance" controversy, his departure from the San Jose Mercury News, and CIA/contra/crack secrets that still await revelation.

It was a fascinating exchange packed with detailed information on this developing case. Webb spoke eloquently, with the ease and confidence of an investigator who has spent many long hours researching his subject, and many more hours working to share this information with the public. ParaScope operatives were fortunate to be in attendance, and we've prepared the following roundup for those who haven't had an opportunity yet to hear Webb speak.

Links to .WAV-format sound clips are inserted below adjacent to their corresponding text. Click the 11-kHz version for optimal clarity; click the 5-kHz version if you're on a slow connection.

(excerpt of speech)
And the other thing that came out just recently, which nobody seems to know about, because it hasn't been reported -- the CIA Inspector General went before Congress in March and testified that yes, they knew about it. They found some documents that indicated that they knew about it, yeah. I was there, and this was funny to watch, because these Congressmen were up there, and they were ready to hear the absolution, right? "We had no evidence that this was going on..." And this guy sort of threw 'em a curve ball and admitted that it had happened.

One of the people said, well geez, what was the CIA's responsibility when they found out about this? What were you guys supposed to do? And the Inspector General sort of looked around nervously, cleared his throat and said, "Well... that's kind of an odd history there." And Norman Dix from Washington, bless his heart, didn't let it go at that. He said, "Explain what you mean by that?" And the Inspector General said, well, we were looking around and we found this document, and according to the document, we didn't have to report this to anybody. And they said, "How come?" And the IG said, we don't know exactly, but there was an agreement made in 1982 between Bill Casey -- a fine American, as we all know [laughter from the audience] -- and William French Smith, who was then the Attorney General of the United States. And they reached an agreement that said if there is drug trafficking involved by CIA agents, we don't have to tell the Justice Department. Honest to God. Honest to God. Actually, this is now a public record, this document. Maxine Waters just got copies of it, she's putting it on the Congressional Record. It is now on the CIA's web site, if you care to journey into that area. If you do, check out the CIA Web Site for Kids, it's great, I love it. [Laugher from the audience.] I kid you not, they've actually got a web page for kids.

The other thing about this agreement was, this wasn't just like a thirty-day agreement -- this thing stayed in effect from 1982 until 1995. So all these years, these agencies had a gentleman's agreement that if CIA assets or CIA agents were involved in drug trafficking, it did not need to be reported to the Justice Department.

So I think that eliminates any questions that drug trafficking by the contras was an accident, or was a matter of just a few rotten apples. I think what this said was that it was anticipated by the Justice Department, it was anticipated by the CIA, and steps were taken to ensure that there was a loophole in the law, so that if it ever became public knowledge, nobody would be prosecuted for it.

The other thing is, when George Bush pardoned -- remember those Christmas pardons that he handed out when he was on his way out the door a few years ago? The media focused on old Caspar Weinberger, got pardoned, it was terrible. Well, if you looked down the list of names at the other pardons he handed out, there was a guy named Clair George, there was a guy named Al Fiers, there was another guy named Joe Fernández. And these stories sort of brushed them off and said, well, they were CIA officials, we're not going to say much more about it. These were the CIA officials who were responsible for the contra war. These were the men who were running the contra operation. And the text of Bush's pardon not only pardons them for the crimes of Iran-contra, it pardons them for everything. So, now that we know about it, we can't even do anything about it. They all received presidential pardons.


Voice From the Audience: You talked about George Bush pardoning people. Given George Bush's history with the CIA, do you know when he first knew about this, and what he knew?

Gary Webb: Well, I didn't at the time I wrote the book, I do now. The question was, when did George Bush first know about this? The CIA, in its latest report, said that they had prepared a detailed briefing for the vice president -- I think it was 1985? -- on all these allegations of contra drug trafficking and delivered it to him personally. So, it's hard for George to say he was out of the loop on this one.

I'll tell you another thing, one of the most amazing things I found in the National Archives was a report that had been written by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa -- I believe it was 1987. They had just busted a Colombian drug trafficker named Allen Rudd, and they were using him as a cooperating witness. Rudd agreed to go undercover and set up other drug traffickers, and they were debriefing him.

Now, let me set the stage for you. When you are being debriefed by the federal government for use as an informant, you're not going to go in there and tell them crazy-sounding stories, because they're not going to believe you, they're going to slap you in jail, right? What Rudd told them was, that he was involved in a meeting with Pablo Escobar, who was then the head of the Medellín cartel. They were working out arrangements to set up cocaine shipments into South Florida. He said Escobar started ranting and raving about that damned George Bush, and now he's got that South Florida Drug Task Force set up which has really been making things difficult, and the man's a traitor. And he used to deal with us, but now he wants to be president and thinks that he's double-crossing us. And Rudd said, well, what are you talking about? And Escobar said, we made a deal with that guy, that we were going to ship weapons to the contras, they were in there flying weapons down to Columbia, we were unloading weapons, we were getting them to the contras, and the deal was, we were supposed to get our stuff to the United States without any problems. And that was the deal that we made. And now he double-crossed us.

So the U.S. Attorney heard this, and he wrote this panicky memo to Washington saying, you know, this man has been very reliable so far, everything he's told us has checked out, and now he's saying that the Vice President of the United States is involved with drug traffickers. We might want to check this out. And it went all the way up -- the funny thing about government documents is, whenever it passes over somebody's desk, they have to initial it. And this thing was like a ladder, it went all the way up and all the way up, and it got up to the head of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, and he looked at it and said, looks like a job for Lawrence Walsh! And so he sent it over to Walsh, the Iran-contra prosecutor, and he said, here, you take it, you deal with this. And Walsh's office -- I interviewed Walsh, and he said, we didn't have the authority to deal with that. We were looking at Ollie North. So I said, did anybody investigate this? And the answer was, "no." And that thing sat in the National Archives for ten years, nobody ever looked at it.

Voice From the Audience: Is that in your book?

Gary Webb: Yeah.

Voice From the Audience: Thank you.

Audience Member #1: Well, first of all, I'd like to thank you for pursuing this story, you have a lot of guts to do it.

[Applause from the audience.]


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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Reprinted from the New Federalist
Celerino "Cele" Castillo is a former Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Special Agent stationed in Central America during the 1980s. During his years in El Salvador and Guatemala, Castillo was an eye-witness to drug and arms trafficking operations supervised by the CIA on behalf of the FDN -- the Nicaraguan Contras. C-123 transports regularly flew into El Salvador's Ilopango Air Base; weapons from the U.S. were exchanged for vast quantities of cocaine, a cozy arrangement with profits for all.

TARPLEY: What did George Bush know, and when did he know it?

CASTILLO: Before my arrival in Guatemala, we had received intelligence that the Contras were heavily involved in narcotics trafficking. Basically, I was forewarned by the country attache' in Guatemala, Bob Stia, upon my arrival, that there was a covert operation being conducted by the White House, and run by Oliver North at Ilopango in El Salvador.

TARPLEY: So this was your official superior in the DEA?

CASTILLO: That's correct.

TARPLEY: And the first thing he did when you arrived in the country was to tell you: Look, this is now the scene of a covert operation with Oliver North, and they're running drugs.

CASTILLO: That's correct, and since we had obtained intelligence already about the Contras being heavily involved in narcotics trafficking, he advised me to stay away from it and not to get involved in the investigation, because that would mean that if I started reporting that information to Washington, I would be kicked out of El Salvador and Guatemala very quickly.

TARPLEY: Now, when you say the "Contras," does that mean “all” the Contras? Were there groups that were more into it, that were less into it? Was there Calero, were there others in that group?

CASTILLO: It was a universal thing. The DEA refused to accept that answer, but we had intelligence gathered from all parts of Central and South America in regard to the narcotics trafficking going on. We had cables from the country attache', Bobby Nieves in Costa Rica, advising us to look into Hangars 4 and 5 at Ilopango. And of course, Hangars 4 and 5 were bought and paid for by the U.S. government -- the CIA and the National Security Council.

TARPLEY: Ilopango Airport: What is that? Is that a large commercial airport?

CASTILLO: No. Ilopango Airport is the military airport with civilian small planes that arrive at Ilopango. And it's a military base, but most international pilots who fly small planes get to arrive at Ilopango.

TARPLEY: Tell us what the atmosphere was at Ilopango in the middle of this Contra dirty war, 1985, '86, '87.

CASTILLO: We had major narcotics trafficking going through Ilopango from Costa Rica, which is further south. We had obtained a lot of intelligence. We had an informant placed at Ilopango who actually did the flight plans for the Contra pilots, and everybody spoke freely about the loads that they carried, the monies that they took to the Bahamas and to Panama for laundering.

All this was reported to the U.S. Embassy, to the CIA, to Washington, DEA headquarters; and nobody wanted to do anything about it.

TARPLEY: Tell me just briefly: what kinds of planes were these, where were they coming from, where were they going?

CASTILLO: The cable that we received from Costa Rica in April of 1986 came in from the country attache', Bobby Nieves, like I stated before, and was for us to check Hangars 4 and 5, that they had very reliable information pertaining to the trafficking from around Central and South America into those two hangars.

It turned out that of those two hangars, one was run by the CIA, and the other one was run by Felix Rodriguez, who ran the Contra operation at Ilopango.

TARPLEY: These, then, were not jets that you would see at an American airfield, but these were smaller planes?

CASTILLO: Yes, smaller planes, like Caravans, Pipers, Cessnas. They were coming in without being inspected by the Customs officials, or anybody else.

As it turned out, the informant who did the flight plans actually gave us copies of all the flight plans of all these Contra pilots, and when we ran checks on the names of all these pilots, they were all documented in DEA files as narco-traffickers. Yet they were being hired by the CIA, Felix Rodriguez, and everybody else, who were trying to obtain U.S. visas for them to go to the U.S. -- even though they were documented traffickers.

TARPLEY: So, these planes would then fly north. Could they make it all the way to Miami?

CASTILLO: They would go to Miami, they would go to Texas. They were going to California; anywhere that they were able.

For example, a Contra pilot was arrested in late '85 in south Texas with five-and-a-half million dollars cash. It was Contra money. You know, you carry credentials from the President of El Salvador, from the Chief of Staffs in El Salvador, the Chief of the Air Force and so forth; they were all very well protected, and every single pilot talked about how they had permission to run narcotics, because they were working for the Oliver North Contra operation.

TARPLEY: Now, you've mentioned Felix Rodriguez, Max Gomez... Certainly, Felix Rodriguez has been with George Bush for a very, very long time, and what you can see in that book is, he's got a signed photograph from George Bush telling him what a great patriot he is. Would you agree with that judgement on Felix Rodriguez/Max Gomez?

CASTILLO: No, sir. If you go back to the Vietnam War, we have intelligence where the CIA and those individuals were heavily involved in trafficking heroin into the U.S. in bodybags and so forth.

So, Felix Rodriguez was documented, in our DEA files, as a trafficker. He was a retired CIA agent, and they brought all these people who were heavily involved. If you go back, most of these Bay of Pigs operatives were all documented traffickers, who all served time for narcotics trafficking, for gun-running. They were all criminals; yet, they were being hired by the Oliver North Contra operation to run the illegal narcotics trafficking out of Ilopango [Airport].

TARPLEY: Now, Felix Rodriguez has a DEA file.

CASTILLO: That's correct, sir. I myself documented him involved in trafficking with the Contras, and so forth.

TARPLEY: Does Oliver North have a DEA file?

CASTILLO: That's correct, sir. As a matter of fact, there's a 1991 file on Oliver North for smuggling weapons from the U.S. into the Philippines with known narcotics traffickers, and I'm talking about a 1991 case. I'm not going back to the Contra issue.

TARPLEY: This is “after” the television appearance, after the great 1987 celebrity parade?

CASTILLO: That's correct, sir. Absolutely.

TARPLEY: Can you make a Freedom of Information Act request, to get hold of Oliver North's DEA file?

CASTILLO: I tried that already, and they cited the privacy act. I asked for my own files, that I wrote on the Contras and different individuals, and these requests were denied.

TARPLEY: So, I can imagine that there would be a lot of voters around Virginia and elsewhere who would like to have a look at Oliver North's DEA file again, with an incident from 1991?

CASTILLO: That's correct. One of the questions I've always been asked is, Why can't the White House get that?

Somebody else has to answer that. I don't know. It's there. They just need to get that. That file is out of the Washington office here in Washington, D.C.

TARPLEY: That certainly makes you think twice.

Now, did you ever see Felix Rodriguez running around Ilopango?

CASTILLO: Yes, sir. I saw him running around Ilopango. I used to see him around the U.S. Embassy, having lunch with the ambassador and others. Col. Steele from the U.S. Military Group [was] down there. I saw him everywhere...

TARPLEY: Could you just give us an idea of what kinds of people were telling you about these activities, and what they were telling you?

CASTILLO: Well, go back to Ilopango. We had an informant who had worked there, at Ilopango, for many years. He had given reliable information to the Consulate General there, Robert Chavez, at the U.S. Embassy, and some cocaine had been seized before. So, this guy was very reliable. He had been reporting all this activity on the Contras.

We had another informant who was also placed to work at Ilopango, Salvador, and Guatemala, who was a documented informer going back to 1981, who gave us a lot of the intelligence that we had on this Contra operation.

TARPLEY: Let's now turn to what you did with the information that you got, and how you reported it. I understand from your book that one of the first people you tried to tell about this was the U.S. ambassador to Salvador, Edwin Corr.

CASTILLO: That's correct. Once we obtained a lot of the intelligence and we started writing reports, we went to the U.S. ambassador, we went to the CIA Chief of Station, Jack McCavett, in Salvador, and Col. Steele, who was a U.S. Military Group commander.

There was an individual, an American, who lived in El Salvador, who was a civilian, and as it turns out, he was working for the Oliver North Contra operation. And when we received all this information, we reported it. I personally reported it to my boss, first of all, Bob Stia, who kept forewarning me about my reporting on the Contras because it was going to come back and hurt us in Guatemala.

TARPLEY: Did he suggest it was going to be bad for your career?

CASTILLO: It was going to be bad for my career and his career, and he had a couple of years left to retire, and not to make any waves. I told him that if I actually found any evidence, that I would continue to report the allegations that the Contras were involved in trafficking.

I went to the U.S. ambassador, Edwin Corr. He told me right off that it was a White House covert operation run by Col. Oliver North, and for me to stay away from it... I think people do not know the real fact that he was heavily involved in narcotics trafficking - his organization was heavily involved in narcotics trafficking. And he had knowledge that these people were involved in narcotics trafficking.

TARPLEY: That knowledge would be sufficient for him to have been convicted?

CASTILLO: Absolutely. But nobody ever contacted me down in Central America. Now, why? Was there a conspiracy to protect him? Was there a conspiracy to protect the President of the United States, George Bush, or the Vice President at the time? Apparently there was.


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
former U.S. Agent names names and provides file numbers......


April 27, 1998

For several years, I fought in the trenches of the front lines of Reagan's "Drug War", trying to stamp out what I considered American's greatest foreign threat. But, when I was posted, in Central and South America from 1984 through 1990, I knew we were playing the "Drug War Follies." While our government shouted "Just Say No !", entire Central and South American nations fell into what are now known as, "Cocaine democracies."

While with the DEA, I was able to keep journals of my assignments in Central and South America. These journals include names, case file numbers and DEA NADDIS (DEA Master Computer) information to back up my allegations. I have pictures and original passports of the victims that were murdered by CIA assets. These atrocities were done with the approval of the agencies.

We, ordinary Americans, cannot trust the C.I.A. Inspector General to conduct a full investigation into the CIA or the DEA. Let me tell you why. When President Clinton (June, 1996) ordered The Intelligence Oversight Board to conduct an investigation into allegations that US Agents were involved in atrocities in Guatemala, it failed to investigate several DEA and CIA operations in which U.S. agents knew before hand that individuals (some Americans) were going to be murdered.

I became so frustrated that I forced myself to respond to the I.O.B report citing case file numbers, dates, and names of people who were murdered. In one case (DEA file # TG-86-0005) several Colombians and Mexicans were raped, tortured and murdered by CIA and DEA assets, with the approval of the CIA. Among those victims identified was Jose Ramon Parra-Iniguez, Mexican passport A-GUC-043 and his two daughters Maria Leticia Olivier-Dominguez, Mexican passport A-GM-8381. Also included among the dead were several Colombian nationals: Adolfo Leon Morales-Arcilia "a.k.a." Adolfo Morales-Orestes, Carlos Alberto Ramirez, and Jiro Gilardo-Ocampo. Both a DEA and a CIA agent were present, when these individuals were being interrogated (tortured). The main target of that case was a Guatemalan Congressman, (Carlos Ramiro Garcia de Paz) who took delivery of 2,404 kilos of cocaine in Guatemala just before the interrogation. This case directly implicated the Guatemalan Government in drug trafficking (The Guatemalan Congressman still has his US visa and continues to travel at his pleasure into the US). To add salt to the wound, in 1989 these murders were investigated by the U.S Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility. DEA S/I Tony Recevuto determined that the Guatemalan Military Intelligence, G-2 (the worst human rights violators in the Western Hemisphere) was responsible for these murders. Yet, the U.S. government continued to order U.S. agents to work hand-in-hand with the Guatemalan Military. This information was never turned over to the I.O.B. investigation. (See attached response)

I have obtained a letter, dated May 28, 1996, from the DEA administrator, to U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D), Texas. In this letter, the administrator flatly lies, stating that DEA agents "have never engaged in any joint narcotics programs with the Guatemalan Military".

I was there. I was the leading Agent in Guatemala. 99.9% of DEA operations were conducted with the Guatemalan military. In 1990, the DEA invited a Guatemalan military G-2 officer, Cpt. Fuentez, to attend a DEA narcotic school, which is against DEA policy. I know this for a fact because I worked with this officer for several years and was in Guatemala when he was getting ready to travel to the States.

Facts of my investigation on CIA-Contras drug trafficking in El Salvador:

The key to understanding the "crack cocaine" epidemic, which exploded on our streets in 1984, lies in understanding the effect of congressional oversight on covert operations. In this case the Boland amendment(s) of the era, while intending to restrict covert operations as intended by the will of the People, only served to encourage C.I.A., the military and elements of the national intelligence community to completely bypass the Congress and the Constitution in an eager and often used covert policy of funding prohibited operations with drug money.

As my friend and colleague Michael Ruppert has pointed out through his own experience in the 1970s, CIA has often bypassed congressional intent by resorting to the drug trade (Vietnam, Laos, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc).

When the Boland Amendment(s) cut the Contras off from a continued U.S. government subsidy, George Bush, his national security adviser Don Gregg, and Ollie North, turned to certain foreign governments, and to private contributions, to replace government dollars. Criminal sources of contributions were not excluded. By the end of 1981, through a series of Executive Orders and National Security Decision Directives, many of which have been declassified, Vice President Bush was placed in charge of all Reagan administration intelligence operations. All of the covert operations carried out by officers of the CIA, the Pentagon, and every other federal agency, along with a rogue army of former intelligence operatives and foreign agents, were commanded by George Bush. Gary Webb (San Jose Mercury News) acknowledged, that he simply had not traced the command structure over the Contras up into the White House, although he had gotten some indications that the operation was not just CIA.

On Dec. 01, 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed a secret order authorizing the CIA to spend $19.9 million for covert military aid to the recently formed Contras--- hardly enough money to launch a serious military operation against the Cuban and Soviet-backed Sandinista regime.

In August 1982, George Bush hired Donald P. Gregg as his principal adviser for national security affairs. In late 1984, Gregg introduced Oliver North to Felix Rodriguez, (a retired CIA agent) who had already been working in Central America for over a year under 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 U.S.

On Jan. 18, 1985, Rodriguez allegedly met with money-launderer Ramon Milan-Rodriguez, who had moved $1.5 billion for the Medellin cartel. Milan testified before a Senate Investigation on the Contras' drug smuggling, that before this 1985 meeting, he had granted Felix Rodriguez's request and given $10 million from the cocaine for the Contras.

On September 10, 1985, North wrote in his Notebook:

"Introduced by Wally Grasheim/Litton, Calero/Bermudez visit to Ilopango to estab. log support./maint. (...)"

In October of 1985, Upon my arrival in Guatemala, I was forewarned by Guatemala DEA, County Attache, Robert J. Stia, that the DEA had received intelligence that the Contras out of Salvador, were involved in drug trafficking. For the first time, I had come face to face with the contradictions of my assignment. The reason that I had been forewarned was because I would be the Lead Agent in El Salvador.

DEA Guatemalan informant, Ramiro Guerra (STG-81-0013) was in place in Guatemala and El Salvador on "Contra" intelligence. At the time (early 80's), he was a DEA fugitive on "Rico" (Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations) and "CCE" (Continuing Criminal Enterprise) charges out of San Francisco. In 1986, he became an official advisor for the DEA trained El Salvador Narcotics Task Force. In 1989, all federal charges were dropped because of his cooperation with the DEA in Central America. Guerra is still a DEA informant in Guatemala.

December 1985, CNN reporter Brian Barger broke the story of the Contra's involved in drug trafficking.

Notes from my Journals & Intelligence Gathering:

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

January 16, 1986---HK-1217W--Carlos Siva and Tulio Pedras Contra pilots.

January 23, 1986, GFTG-86-9999, Air Intelligence in "El Salvador" TG-86-0003, Samana and Raul.

In 1986, I placed an informant (Mario Murga) at the Ilopango airport in El Salvador. He was initiated and wrote the flight plans for most Contra pilots. After their names were submitted into NADDIS, it was revealed that most pilots had already been document in DEA files as traffickers. (See DEA memo by me date 2-14-89.)

Feb. 05, 1986, I had seized $800,000.00 in cash, 35 kilos of cocaine, and an airplane at Ilopango. DEA # TG-86-0001; Gaitan-Gaitan, Leonel

March 24, 1986, I wrote a DEA report on the Contra operation. (GFTG-86-4003, Frigorificos de Puntarenas, S.A), US registration aircraft N-68435 (Cessna 402).

April 17, 86, I wrote a Contra report on Arturo Renick; Johnny Ramirez (Costa Rica). Air craft TI-AQU & BE-60.. GFTG-86-9999; Air Intelligence.

April 25,26 1986--I met with CIA Felix Vargas in El Salvador (GFTG-86-9145).

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

May 14, 1986, I spoke to Jack O'Conner DEA HQS Re: Matta-Ballesteros. (NOTE: Juan Ramon Matta-Ballesteros was perhaps the single largest drug trafficker in the region. Operating from Honduras he owned several companies which were openly sponsored and subsidized by C.I.A.)

May 26, 1986, Mario Rodolfo Martinez-Murga became an official DEA informant (STG-86-0006). Before that, he had been a sub-source for Ramiro Guerra and Robert Chavez. Under Chavez, Murga's intelligence resulted in the seizure of several hundred kilos of cocaine, (from Ilopango to Florida) making Murga a reliable source of information.

May 27, 1986, I Met U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alberto Adame in El Salvador. Has knowledge of the Contra Operation at Ilopango. He was in El Salvador from 1984 thru 1987.

On June 06, 1986, I send a DEA report/telex cable to Washington DEA in regards to Contra pilots, Carlos Amador and Carlos Armando Llamos (Honorary Ambassador from El Salvador to Panama) (N-308P). Llamos had delivered 4 1/2 million dollars to Panama from Ilopango for the Contras. Information was gathered by informant Mario Murga. Leon Portilla-TIANO = Navojo 31 & YS-265-American Pilot: Francisco Viaud. Roberto Gutierrez (N-82161) Mexican (X-AB)

June 10, 1998, I spoke to CIA agent Manny Brand Re: Sofi Amoury (Cuban Contra operator and Guatemalan Galvis-Pena in Guatemala.

June 16, 1986-GFTG-86-9999, Air Intel (DEA-6) El Salvador

Early part of 1986, I received a telex/cable from DEA Costa Rica. SA Sandy Gonzales requested for me to investigate hangers 4 and 5 at Ilopango. DEA Costa Rica had received reliable intelligence that the Contras were flying cocaine into the hangars. Both hangers were owned and operated by the CIA and the National Security Agency. Operators of those two hangars were, Lt. Col. Oliver North and CIA contract agent, Felix Rodriguez, "a.k.a." Max Gomez. (See attached letter by Bryan Blaney (O.I.C.), dated March 28, 1991).

June 18, 1986, Salvadoran Contra pilot, Francisco "Chico" Guirrola-Beeche (DEA NADDIS # 1585334 and 1744448) had been documented as a drug trafficker. On this date, at 7:30a.m, he departed Ilopango to the Bahamas to air drop monies. On his return trip (June 21) Guirrola arrived with his passengers Alejandro Urbizu & Patricia Bernal. In 1988 Urbizu was arrested in the US in a Cocaine conspiracy case. In 1985 Guirrola was arrested in South Texas (Kleberg County) with 5 and 1/2 million dollars cash, which he had picked up in Los Angeles, California. (U.S. Customs in Dallas/ Ft. Worth had case on him.)

June 18, 1986, DEA 6 on Air Intelligence, GFTG- 86-9999; El Salvador.

June 27 & 28, 1986, US Lt. Col. Albert Adame spoke with US Ambassador Edwin Corr re: Narcotics.

In a July 26, 1986 report to the Congress, on contra-related narcotics allegation, The State Department described the Frogman CASE as follows, "This case gets it's nickname from swimmers who brought cocaine ashore in San Francisco on a Colombian vessel." It focused on a major Colombian cocaine smuggler, ALVARO CARVAJAL-MINOTA, who supplied a number of west coast smugglers. It was further alleged that Nicaraguan Contra, Horacio Pererita, was subsequently convicted on drug charges in Costa Rica and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Two other members of the organization were identified as Nicaraguans Carlos Cabezas & Julio Zavala. They were among the jailed West Coast traffickers and convicted of receiving drugs from Carvajal. They claimed long after their convictions, that they had delivered sums of monies to Contra resistance groups in Costa Rica.

July 28, 1986, I Met with CIA agents Don Richardson, Janice Elmore and Lt. Col. Adame in El Salvador.

July 29, 1986, I Met with Don Richardson and Robert Chavez at the US Embassy in El Salvador.

August 03,1986, Ramiro Guerra, Lt. Col. A. Adame, Dr. Hector Regalado (Dr. Death, who claimed to have shot Archbishop Romero) and myself went out on patrol in El Salvador.

In Aug. 1986, The Kerry Committee requested information on the Contra pilots from the DEA. The Department Of Justice flatly refused to give up any information.

Aug. 15, 1986, I spoke to CIA (Chief of Station) Jack McCavett and Don Richardson; El Salvador; Re: Fernando Canelas Sanez from Florida.

Aug. 18, 1986, I received $45,000.00 in cash from CIA Chief of Station (CIA), Jack McKavett for the purchase of vehicles for the DEA El Salvador Narcotic Task Force.

Aug. 28, 1986, I had a meeting with El Salvador US Ambassador, Edwin Corr, in regards to Wally Grasheim, Pete's Place and Carlos Amador (3:00 p.m.)

Oscar Alvarado-Lara "a.k.a." El Negro Alvarado (CIA asset and Contra pilot) was mentioned in 3 DEA files. On June 11, 1986, Alvarado transported 27 illegal Cubans to El Salvador Ilopango, where they were then smuggled into Guatemala. On Sept. 28, 1987, Alvarado picked up CIA officer Randy Capister in Puerto Barrios Guatemala after a joint DEA, CIA and Guatemala Military (G-2) operation. Several Mexicans and Colombians were murdered and raped. This was supported by the CIA. DEA File TG-86-0005.

1986, DEA El Salvador, initiated a file on Walter L. Grasheim (TG-87-0003). He is mentioned in several DEA, FBI and U.S Customs files. This DEA file is at The National Archives in The Iran-Contra file in Washington D.C (bulky # 2316). Also see attached Top Secret/Declassified Record of Interview on Mr. Grasheim, by the Office of Independent Counsel, dated Jan. 03, 1991.

Sept. 01, 1986, at approximately 5:00pm, I received a phone call in Guatemala from (C.I) Ramiro Guerra, Re: Raid at Wally's house in El Salvador Wally's plane (N-246-J).

On September 01, 1986, Walter Grasheim (a civilian) residence in El Salvador was searched by the DEA Task Force. Found at the residence was an arsenal of US military munitions, (allegedly for a Contra military shipment). Found were cases of C-4 explosives, grenades, ammunition, sniper rifles, M-16's, helicopter helmets and knives. Also found were files of payment to Salvadoran Military Officials (trips to New York City). Found at his residence were radios and license plates belonging to the US Embassy. We also found an M16 weapon belonging to the US Mil-Group Commander, Col. Steel. Prior to the search, I went to every department of the U.S. Embassy and asked if this individual worked in any way shape or form with the embassy. Every head of the departments denied that he worked for them. A pound of marijuana and marijuana plants growing in the back yard, were also found.

Sept. 02, 1986, I departed Guatemala on Taca Airlines @ 7:30a.m to El Salvador.

Sept. 26, 1986, Meeting with Col. Steel Re: Mr. Grasheim (Col. Steel admitted that he had given an M-16 to Grasheim) and CIA George W. Also talked to Don Richardson (CIA) re: Ramiro Guerra. Talked to Col. Adame Re: CIA George.

October 03, 1986, Spoke to DEA Panama re: Mr. Grasheim. Was advised to be careful.

October 15, 1986, Asst. Atty. Gen. Mark Richard testified before the Kerry Committee, that he had attended a meeting with 20 to 25 officials and that the DEA did not want to provide any of the information the committee had requested on the Contra involvement in drug trafficking.

October 21, 1986, I send a Telex/cable to Washington D.C on the Contras.

October 22, 1986 talked to El Salvador Re: Grasheim.

October 23, 1986, HK-1960P Honduras. 1,000 kilos of cocaine. DEA- 6 was written on this case.

October 29, 1986 Talked to DEA HQS (John Martch) re Contras & Grasheim.

October 30, 1986, Talked to Salvadoran Gen. Blandon re: to Mr. Grasheim.

Nov. 07, 1986, Talked to John Martch 202-786-4356 and Azzam-633-1049; Home: 301-262-1007. (Contras).

Nov. 13, 1986, I Met with Ambassador Corr @2:00pm re: Mr. Grasheim. (He stated, "let the chips fall where they may." Met w/ Lt. Col. Adame.

November 14, 1986, Met with Salvadoran Col. Villa Marona re: Mr. Grasheim. He advised that the U.S Embassy had approved for Grasheim to work at Ilopango.

On January 20, 1987, Joel Brinkley (special to the New York Times) reported. "Contra Arms Crew said To Smuggle Drugs" The 3rd secret had surfaced. Brinkley wrote: "Fed. Drug investigators uncovered evidence last fall that the American flight crews which covertly carried arms to the Nicaraguan rebels were smuggling cocaine and other drugs on their return trips back to the US. Administration Officials said today that when the crew members, based in El Salvador, learned that DEA agents were investigating their activities, one of them warned that they had White House protection. The Times then quoted an anonymous US official who said the crew member's warnings which came after DEA searched his San Salvador house for drugs, caused 'quite a stir' at Ilopango."

Feb. 09, 1987, I had meeting with Lt. Col. Adame and Elmore re: major argument with DEA HQS I.A. Lourdez Border. They had just arrived in Guatemala for a two-day fact finding tour of El Salvador.

Feb.10, 1987, I met with U.S. Ambassador Corr (Salvador) re DEA HQS Intel. Analyst Lourdez Border and Doug (last name unknown) - both were rookies. In two days in El Salvador, they determined that there was no contra involvement in drug trafficking.

February 27. 1987, I spoke to Mike Alston, DEA Miami, RE: Contra pilots John Hall; Bruce Jones' airstrip in Costa Rica, Colombian Luis Rodriguez; Mr. Shrimp-Ocean Hunter Costa Rica > to Miami. Contra Operation from Central American to U.S.

March 03, 1987, met with Janis Elmore (CIA) from 9:00pm till 12:00

March 30, 1987, I invited U.S. Customs Agent Richard Rivera to El Salvador in an attempt to trace ammunitions and weapons found in Mr.Grasheim's residence. It's alleged that The Pentagon put a stop on his trace. (They were never able to trace the items).

April 01, 1987, Bob Stia, Walter (pilot) Morales and myself flew to El Salvador. Met with two CIA agents who advised us that we could no longer utilize Murga because he was now working with them).

April 07,08,09, 1987, I met with John Martch in Guatemala Re: Contras and OPR.

Sept. 27, 1987, Central American CIA agent, Randy Capister, the Guatemala military (G-2) and myself, seized over 2,404 kilos of cocaine from a Guatemalan Congressman, Carlos Ramiro Garcia de Paz and the Medellin cartel (biggest cocaine seizure in Central America and top five ever). However, several individuals were murdered and raped on said operation. CIA agent and myself saw the individuals being interrogated. The Congressman was never arrested or charged.

October 22, 1987, I received a call from DEA HQS Everett Johnson, not to close Contra files because some committee was requesting file. If you have an open file, you do not have access to the files under Freedom of Information Act.

Aug. 30, 1988, Received intelligence from (Guido Del Prado) at the U.S. Embassy, El Salvador re: Carlos Armando Llemus-Herrera (Contra pilot).

Oct. 27, 1988, Received letter from "Bill," Regional Security Officer at the Embassy in El Salvador re: Corruption on US ambassador Corr and del Prado.

Dec. 03, 1988, DEA seized 356 kilos of cocaine in Tiquisate, Guatemala (DEA # TG-89-0002; Hector Sanchez). Several Colombians were murdered on said operation and condoned by the DEA and CIA. I have pictures of individuals that were murdered in said case. The target was on Gregorio Valdez (CIA asset) of The Guatemala Piper Co. At that time, all air operations for the CIA and DEA flew out of Piper.

Aug. 24, 1989, Because of my information, the U.S. Embassy canceled Guatemalan Military, Lt. Col. Hugo Francisco Moran-Carranza, (Head of Interpol and Corruption) U.S. visa. He was documented as a drug trafficker and as a corrupt Guatemalan Official. He was on his way to a U.S. War College for one year, invited by the CIA.

Feb. 21, 1990, I send a telex-cable to DEA HQS Re: Moran's plan to assassinate me.

Between Aug. 1989 and March 06, 1990, Col. Moran had initiated the plan to assassinate me in El Salvador and blame it on the guerrillas. On March 06, 1990, I traveled to Houston to deliver an undercover audio tape on my assassination. The Houston DEA S.A Mark Murtha (DEA File M3-90-0053) had an informant into Lt. Col. Moran.

Feb. 24, 1990, I moved my family back home because DEA could not make a decision.

March 15, 1990, After 6 months knowing about the assassination plan, DEA transferred me out to San Diego, California for 6months.

April 05, 1990, an illegal search was conducted at my residence in Guatemala by Guatemala DEA agents Tuffy Von Briensen, Larry Hollifield and Guatemalan Foreign Service National, Marco Gonzales in Guatemala (No search warrant). DEA HQS agreed that it had been an illegal search requested by OPR S/I Tony Recevuto. (OPR file PR-TG-90-0068) On Sept. 16, 1991, a questionnaire was faxed to me in regards to the illegal search. (see attached)

April 11, 1991, in an undercover capacity, Carlos Cabezas's wife sold me 5 kilos of cocaine in San Francisco. (DEA # R3-91-0036; Milagro Rodriguez)

On April 16, 1991, I met with Carlos Cabezas at the DEA Office in San Francisco. He stated to me that Zavala and himself were informants for the FBI in San Francisco at the time his wife delivered the cocaine. Alvaro Carbajal had supplied the 5 kilos of cocaine. (There is an undercover audio tape available as evidence) Mr. Cabezas gave me his undercover business card. It was identified as "The California Company" at 3519-Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110 REAL ESTATE & INVESTMENTS Carlos A. Cabezas, Sales Associate Pager: 371-7108 Fax: (415) 647-0918; Res: (415 991-3104; Bus: (415) 647-8014.

May 10, 1990, DEA HQS OPR S/I Tony Recevuto returned to Guatemala and requested the U.S. Ambassador, to please grant Lt. Col. Hugo Moran-Carranza a US Visa, so that he could testify before the BCCI investigation in Miami. The ambassador could not understand why anyone, for any reason would request a US Visa for an individual who had planned the assassination of a US drug agent.

May 27, 1990, I was ordered to return back to Guatemala to pack my household goods. The threat was still very real for me. On June 01, 1990, I departed Guatemala for the last time. On June 05, 1990, another American was killed by the Guatemalan Military. Before the Kerry Committee

The CIA acknowledged drugs in a statement by Central American Task Force Chief Alan Fiers who testified: "with respect to (drug trafficking) by the Resistance Forces...It is not a couple of people. It is a lot of people."

The DEA has always stated that my reports were unfounded, but they later recanted. DEA Assistant Administrator, David Westrate stated 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 significant."

In a Sept. 20-26, 1989, series of debriefings and in subsequent debriefing on Feb. 13, 1990, by DEA agents in Los Angeles, Lawrence Victor Harrison, an American-born electronics specialist who had worked in Mexico and had been involved with the leading figures in the Mexican drug cartel, was interviewed. He testified that he had been present when two of the partners of Matta-Ballesteros and Rafael Caro-Quintero, 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.

Several days earlier, on Feb. 09, 1990, Harrison had told DEA interrogators that Nicaraguan Contras were being trained at a ranch in Vera Cruz, owned by Rafael Caro Quintero. It was at Quintero's Guadalajara ranch that DEA Agent Kiki Camarena, and his pilot were interrogated, tortured and buried alive.

January 23, 1991, letter to Mr. William M. Baker, Asst. Director of Criminal Investigative Division, FBI; from Lawrence E. Walsh and Mike Foster, requesting several FBI files on Walter L. Grasheim. (see attached)

January 30, 1991, letter to DEA Ronald Caffrey, Deputy Asst. Administrator for Operations at DEA from Craig A. Guillen, Associate Counsel of the Office of Independent Counsel; requesting Walter L. Grasheim reports. (see attached)

In 1991, a DEA General File was opened on an Oliver North in Washington D.C. (GFGD-91-9139) "smuggling weapons into the Philippines with known drug traffickers."

In 1991, before I departed the DEA, I met with FBI agent Mike Foster, investigator for The Office of Independent Counsel on Iran-Contra, where I gave him detailed information of the Contras' involvement in drugs.

October, 1994, The Washington Post reported that former Government Officials, including the DEA, CIA, State Department, US Customs and White House officials were quoted as saying that Lt. Col. Oliver North did not advise them of his knowledge that the Contras were involved in drug trafficking.

In 1997, I joined DEA SA Richard Horn in a federal class action suit against the CIA. The suit is against the CIA and other federal agencies for spying on several DEA agents and other unnamed DEA employees and their families. United States District Court for The District of Columbia; Richard Horn vs. Warren Christopher, Civil Action No. 1:96CV02120 (HHG) January 30, 1994.

This is a list of DEA case file and names of individuals that may help support my allegations.

GFTG-86-9145, GFTG-87-9145 El Salvador
GFTG-86-9999, GFTG-87-9999, Air Intelligence
TG-87-0003, Walter L. Grasheim (Salvador case)
TG-86-0001, Leonel Guitan-Guitan
DEA Informants STG-86-0006 and STG-81-0013
US Ambassador Edwin Corr
Janis Elmore (CIA 1986 through 1989). I reported to her when in El Salvador.
Don Richardson ( CIA & Political Officer in El Salvador 1986,87). I reported to him in El Salvador.
Felix Vargas (CIA El Salvador 1986, 87)
Col. James Steel ( Mil-Group Commander El Salvador).
U.S. Lt. Col. Alberto Adame (Under Steel)
Lupita Vega (the only Salvadoran which was cleared for "Top Secret") worked in the Milgroup in El Salvador.
Felix Rodriguez (CIA at Ilopango hanger 4 & 5)
Jack McCavett (CIA Chief of Station in El Salvador).
CIA George Witter in El Salvador. He asked for US visa on drug trafficker Carlos Alberto Amador.
CIA Randy Capister (covert operation in Central America 1985 t090). Involved in several atrocities.
CIA Manuel Brand (retired Cuban-American) Guatemala
State Department (De Luoie) El Salvador
State Department RSO Bill Rouche El Salvador
State Dept. Official Del Prado (El Salvador)
DEA John Martsh (DEA HQS)
DEA Jack O'Conner (DEA HQS)
DEA HQS Agents AZZAM & Frank Torello (retired) involved in Contra ops in Europe
Salvadoran General Bustillo (retired in Florida)
US Custom Richard Rivera and Philip Newton
DEA Sandy Gonzales (Costa Rica)
Lincoln Benedicto-Honduras US Embassy-Consul General April 30, 1986. Re: Matta-Ballesteros
Some people have asked, "Why I am doing this? I reply, "That a long time ago I took an oath to protect The Constitution of the United States and its citizens". In reality, it has cost me so much to become a complete human being, that I've lost my family. In 1995, I made a pilgrimage to the Vietnam Wall, where I renounced my Bronze Star in protest of the atrocities my government had committed in Central America. I have now become a veteran of my third, and perhaps most dangerous war --- a war against the criminals within my own Government. Heads have to roll for those who are responsible and still employed by the government. They will be the first targets in an effective drug strategy. If not, we will continue to have groups of individuals who will be beyond any investigation, who will manipulate the press, judges and members of our Congress,
and still be known in our government as those who are above the law.

© COPYRIGHT 1998, 1999, 2000, CELERINO CASTILLO & MICHAEL C. RUPPERT. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PERMISSION TO REPRINT IN WHOLE OR IN PART IS EXPRESSLY GRANTED ONLY IF THE FOLLOWING APPEARS: "Permission to reprint from Celerino Castillo & Michael C. Ruppert, From The Wilderness @ http://www.copvica.com"


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

Ex-DEA Agent Outlines Agency Role in CIA crimes
One of the incidents Castillo says he witnessed was a cocaine seizure "in which the D-2, the CIA and the DEA worked together" in the Guatemalan towel of Puerto Barrios. Castillo said that during that operation, "the D-2 murdered and raped two Mexican females, tortured and murdered their father and several Colombians."


Celerino Castillo III, a former special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, says he was at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala talking with several members of the drug agency, the CIA and the State Department a week or so after the November 1989 torture and gang rape of Ursuline Sr. Dianna Ortiz by members of the Guatemalan military.
The representatives of U.S. government agencies, Castillo says, seemed amused by what had happened to Ortiz. Castillo said the men jokingly asked him "if Dianna Ortiz had been good at sex," and thought he might actually be the American whom Ortiz says participated in her rape and torture.
Castillo, who was stationed in Central America and worked frequently in Guatemala from 1985 to 1990, says he is not "Alejandro," the person named by Ortiz as her attacker. Ortiz, shown a photograph of Castillo, agrees that he's not. But Castillo, in his statement and recent interviews with the National Catholic Reporter, says he and other DEA agents have important information about the role the drug agency and the CIA played in crimes in Guatemala.
His statements about the joking embassy officials are included in a five-page July 22, 1996 response to the recent "Guatemala Review" released by the Presidential Intelligence Oversight Board, an investigative committee appointed by President Clinton to make an inquiry into the involvement of U.S. agencies in killings in Guatemala.
Furthermore, the revelations come on the heels of others concerning CIA involvement in Guatemala and the use of training manuals by the U.S. Army's School of the Americas. The manuals appear to condone false imprisonment, torture and summary executions. Graduates from the school have been implicated in human rights atrocities all over Latin America (NCR, April 26 and July 26).
Most of the probes into U.S. involvement in human rights abuses in Guatemala have concentrated on the role of the CIA and U.S. military trainers. Castillo's testimony suggests there is also a need to examine the role played by the DEA, the agency that commands the U.S. war on drugs worldwide.
File numbers, case names
"The level of CIA and DEA involvement in operations that included torture and murder in Guatemala is much higher than the [official] report indicates," Castillo wrote. "With U.S. antinarcotics funding still being funneled to the Guatemalan military, this situation continues." Castillo, who now works as a substitute school teacher in Texas, provided detailed descriptions with case file numbers and case names he says support his allegations.
Castillo was the central figure in an ABC-TV special on the 1990 murder in Guatemala of U.S. innkeeper Michael Devine and the killing of Efrain Bamaca, a guerrilla commander married to Jennifer Harbury, a Harvard educated U.S. lawyer. Contrary to claims from DEA Administrator Thomas Constantine that the agency "has never engaged in any joint narcotics programs with the Guatemalan military," Castillo says he personally "participated in several missions in which the Guatemalan military intelligence (D-2) killed civilians with the knowledge of DEA and CIA agents." Human rights monitors have linked the D-2, the Guatemalan military's intelligence unit formerly called the G-2, to severe human rights abuses.
In his statement, Castillo says he saw "no evidence that the (Intelligence Oversight Board) panel interviewed CIA or DEA agents that worked in Guatemala." If such interviews had occurred, he says he is "sure the panel would have come to very different conclusions." He urged the oversight board to subpoena agents of the DEA and the CIA for testimony. "We have been ordered not to tell the truth, but many of us would do so if required to give sworn testimony."
DEA public information officer Van Quarles confirmed on July 25 that the agency "did have an individual Celerino Castillo who was at one time employed by DEA." Quarles said Castillo's "allegations have been analyzed, but we haven't found anything to validate the charges that he has made."
Citing DEA general file number GFTG-88-9077, titled "Corrupt Official," dated June 9, 1988, Castillo broadens the intelligence profile on CIA contract employee and Guatemalan army Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez. A House Intelligence Committee report says Alpirez ordered the killings of Devine and Bamaca. Alpirez, Castillo said, had been reported to the DEA for dealing drugs while he was on the CIA's payroll. "Colonel Alpirez is also documented as a narcotics trafficker in DEA case file number TG-88-0009 ... submitted by me," Castillo wrote.
NCR provided the case file numbers cited by Castillo to an assistant of Quarles. In an Aug. 22 phone interview, Quarles refused to confirm or deny that the numbers are valid, saying the DEA "would not say anything having to do with any case or any case numbers."
ABC News "Prime Time Live" featured Castillo's version of Devine's death in a Dec. 27, 1995, broadcast produced by Emmy Award winner John Siceloff. In the segment, Bob Stia, a retired supervisor of Castillo, describes the agent as "very prone to exaggeration and he had a vivid imagination." The program contrasts those comments with the "excellent" and "outstanding' ratings Stia gave Castillo while both were still employed by the DEA.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, "Prime Time" obtained internal DEA documents that show that Stia "fought vehemently to shut down any investigation into the killings," according to the program transcript. "The documents show other senior DEA officials uncovered evidence corroborating several of Castillo's charges of torture and murder," the transcript states. According to the ABC program the files quote Stia as saying "the DEA mission in Guatemala had reached an understanding with the military." ABC reported that Stia wrote in the files, "I cannot force them to accept our morals and law as being better than theirs.... If I did, they would not work with me."
Human rights "relative"
The ABC transcript says Stia described human rights as "a relative thing" and drug-trafficking by the Guatemalan military as "confined to a few rogue officers."
The DEA continues to insist that Castillo's allegations are unfounded. But segment producer Siceloff, who reviewed all the files obtained by ABC, told NCR: "What Cele (Castillo) witnessed, reported, denounced or complained about, there is nothing in the historical records we found under FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] that contradicts his story. I am not talking about what he decides to theorize about, which may or not be true, but what he says he witnessed."
One of the incidents Castillo says he witnessed was a cocaine seizure "in which the D-2, the CIA and the DEA worked together" in the Guatemalan towel of Puerto Barrios. Castillo said that during that operation, "the D-2 murdered and raped two Mexican females, tortured and murdered their father and several Colombians." Castillo said he and a CIA agent witnessed the capture of the Mexican females. Castillo told NCR a D-2 agent nicknamed "El Raton," or the Rat, later told him the women were raped and killed.
Castillo said a DEA investigation, detailed in case file number TG-86-0005, concluded "the murders were committed by the D-2 with the knowledge of the CIA and the DEA."
In a telephone interview with NCR from McAllen, Texas, Castillo said DEA officials "can conduct character assassination against me, but they need to look in those files." He said he decided to release case file numbers after he saw the Intelligence Oversight Board report on abuses in Guatemala. "I was very upset. I decided to go ahead and respond."
Castillo, author of an expose on drugs and the contra war called Powderburns, said "the U.S. Embassy was never out of the loop of what was occurring in Guatemala." He said the attitude of higher-ups was, "This is the way things happen in Third World countries. Don't worry about it." Anna Gallagher, a lawyer who is representing Ortiz, said she believes Castillo is "a good source," although she said he does not appear to have extensive information about the Ortiz case.
Anne Manuel, deputy director for the Washington-based Human Rights Watch/Americas, said the Clinton administration should investigate Castillo's claims. "Any allegations from a former U.S. government agent about that kind of abuse, with detail, should certainly be investigated ... in a transparent way and the results should be made public," she said. "It would be very convenient to do it now that the administration has so many studies under way."
Coletta Youngers, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America, agreed. "In Bolivia, there have been allegations of direct DEA involvement in torture that the DEA has refused to acknowledge by investigating. We are now hearing the same sorts of allegations in Guatemala. That could point to a disturbing trend that merits oversight," Youngers said.
Youngers said the Reform and Oversight Committees of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate should hold hearings to initiate an investigation. Additionally, Youngers, who has followed U.S. narcotics and human rights policy in Latin America for 12 years, said the Clinton administration should "initiate an internal review of these widespread and credible allegations of the DEA's actions."
Sept. 6, 1996
National Catholic Reporter

DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

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


(Celerino Castillo III, one of the Drug Enforcement Agency's most prolific agents, who netted record busts in New York, Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador and San Francisco, was ordered not to investigate US-sponsored drug trafficking operations supervised by Oliver North. After twelve years of service, Castillo has retired from the agency, "amazed that the US government could get away with drug trafficking for so long." In his book Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras, and the Drug War [Mosaic Press, 1994], Castillo details the US role in drug and weapons smuggling, money laundering, torture, and murder, and includes Oliver North's drug use and dealing, and the training of death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala by the DEA.)

Sergeant Castillo was a doper's nightmare during his days in Vietnam. Constantly testing the reflexes and surveillance skills of his platoon, Castillo had no tolerance for soldiers stoned on heroin or OJ's (marijuana soaked with opium). Compassionate with users suffering emotional problems, Castillo took a hard line with those who compromised the safety of the unit, court-martialling anyone who failed to clean themselves up after two warnings.

With addicts dying around him regularly, Castillo vowed to make fighting narcotics his life's work once back in the states. He told the SHADOW: "Every week we would send another overdose victim home in a green bag. If the soldier was well liked, someone would pump a bullet in the soldier's body. The family would be told he died a hero's death. If the consensus was that the dead soldier had been an asshole, he would be sent home with nothing more than the needle pricks in his arm." Dope and undisciplined soldiers were problems Castillo left behind when he volunteered to join a secret sniper unit in neighboring Cambodia in 1971. The Vietcong used Cambodia as a staging ground for raids on South Vietnam since the US Congress had declared it off-limits to American soldiers. Castillo's twelve-man team would pick off commanding officers at VC bases with M-14 sniper rifles. "We never missed," Castillo recalled. "According to the Pentagon, we were never there."

These were the first of many US Government cover-ups Castillo was to be involved with in his twenty-one year career as a public servant.

Things were tamer back in Edinburgh, Texas, where Castillo served as a police officer while earning a criminal justice degree from Pan American University in 1975. "I drank in every detail of the lectures, paying particular attention to any mention of drug laws. They would be my weapons in the streets." Serving first as a dispatcher at the Edinburgh Police Department, he moved to the field, using his Vietnam surveillance and combat skills well, often surprising thieves and other miscreants during the commission of crimes.

Being fluent in Spanish enabled Castillo to intimately interact with people on his beat and he became a model community police officer. His network of informants grew quickly. Unlike the felons in later assignments with the DEA, most of Castillo's informants were locals, people with families fed up with the drug trade in their neighborhood. It was when working with federal agents that Castillo saw basic classroom policing get "thrown out the window."

Two senior DEA agents, Jesse Torrez and Chema Cavazos, took Castillo on as an apprentice of sorts, taking him along when he fed them busts too big for Edinburgh's small force to handle. When Castillo got wind of any smuggling over the border, his DEA mentors summoned the federales, the Mexican national police renowned for their violence.

Mexican interrogations involved hanging the suspected trafficker by a beam and pouring seltzer up his nose. Often a cattle prod, the chicara, named after the cicada, was used to extract names of customs officials and traffickers working both sides of the border. The Americans would stand by at a distance, listening for valuable intelligence.

During other co-ventures between the Edinburgh PD and the DEA, Castillo witnessed the DEA's disregard for the safety of informants. DEA agents would often barge in minutes after a transaction was made, giving the informant's identity away instantly. Castillo had always waited long enough to create an avenue of doubt in the mind of the suspect, a necessary courtesy insuring the relationship's continuity. Like all the DEA offices Castillo later worked in, the one in McAllen, Texas was cooperatively dysfunctional, with two sets of agents pitted against each other, divided primarily along racial lines. Animosity and suspicion among agents were constants in an organization where precision and coordination is a prerequisite to mutual survival.

After six years in Edinburgh, Castillo joined the DEA. His first assignment was New York City in 1980, a far cry from Vietnam's jungles and the relatively placid living of the Rio Grande Valley. Cocaine was making a healthy return to streetcorners and the city's surviving discos. Crack pipes were making their first gasps in the city as Ronald Reagan ushered in a new era of borrowed prosperity and conspicuous decadence.

Placed in the New York office's wiliest squad, the "Raiders," Castillo watched as dealers' doors were kicked in without warrants, illegal wiretaps were performed, and Miranda rights were forgotten. During a stint at Kennedy Airport, he saw agents rip off traffickers, regularly pocketing cash, jewelry and drugs. Not being one to snitch, the young agent held his tongue. "I had always done things by the book. Here they ripped out the pages and stomped on them," Castillo told the SHADOW. "Internal Affairs was always watching, but we were protected by the cluster of New Yorkers in DEA's Washington office known as the New York Mafia." These administrative agents insured that the New York office, the country's largest, was immune from "messy internal investigations." Contacted by the SHADOW, DEA spokesman John Hughes denied that such an organization existed, stating that such a thing would, "stick out like a sore thumb."

The DEA has never been a pioneer of affirmative action. Most agents do not speak Spanish, despite the Agency's constant interaction with Hispanics. On several occasions, Castillo's safety was jeopardized when Spanish-challenged agents failed to recognize the bust's signal word among the rolling Spanish chatter, leaving him to improvise with armed dealers anxious for their drugs or cash.

Spanish-speaking agents follow cases from the mouth of the informant to the prison cell, their superiors often performing only administrative tasks. Despite the paucity of their investigative work, DEA administrators would rush in with the swarm of blue windbreakers the day of the bust, eager to take credit for everything. Castillo told the SHADOW, "Every Hispanic agent I knew fell into the same trap and was assigned wiretap monitoring, translations, and surveillance. We worked long hours building cases against Dominicans and Puerto Ricans and would have to stand back while paper pushers took the credit."

Being a workaholic brought quick results in the Big Apple for Castillo. In his four years working the city, Castillo orchestrated some of the biggest busts the nation had ever seen. On November 4th, 1982, twenty pounds of heroin worth $20 million were hauled in, one of the largest busts in New York City history.

With every day spent on the streets, Castillo's hatred for drugs grew with increasing vehemence. Castillo witnessed addicts of every ilk, sometimes as young as fourteen, constantly throwing their lives into the toilet so drug dealers could get rich. It would be a hard slap of reality to later discover that the United States government was instrumental in saturating American streets with life destroying drugs.

By 1984, the US appetite for cocaine was peaking as fields in South America were converted to accommodate the coca leaf. Castillo, the only Spanish-speaking field agent in Peru, continued his efficient work, making numerous busts in his two years there.

Working the jungles, although frustrating for Castillo, was a welcome change from Manhattan's steel maze and reminiscent of Vietnam. Stymied by the DEA's advisory status in foreign countries, however, Castillo was unable to probe too deeply into Peru's narco underworld. The Peruvian military thought their American advisor would be satisfied torching small labs and shooting down traffickers' planes. Castillo demanded to bust the big labs, the factories run by the cartels. Peru's military however, conveniently kept the larger fields and refineries off-limits to American investigation. The military claimed that the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, the Maoist guerrillas whose reign of terror included cocaine smuggling and numerous murders of government officials and civilians) controlled the areas of major cocaine production.

The last thing Peru's government wanted was to have an American agent killed by Sendero, which would jeopardize future military aid. Castillo later learned their caution was merely a smokescreen used to protect Columbian cartel-controlled airstrips and refineries from American intervention. The military, like most Peruvian governmental agencies, was largely dominated by Colombia's cartels who were adept at greasing palms and instilling fear in the hearts of potential drug enforcement heroes.

The US took a more prominent role in the Peruvian military during Castillo's four years there, with programs like Operation Condor, which used the collective services of the DEA, CIA and the armies of Colombia and Peru to fight drug trafficking. With their help, Castillo was able to coordinate more and larger busts, including South America's biggest ever: four tons of raw coca paste, three airplanes, and a gargantuan cocaine refinery able to perform every phase of the leaf's metamorphosis into nose candy. As a result, US military aid to Peru was increased.

Despite his successes, Castillo remained mired in the DEA's bigoted bureaucracy. Castillo's station chief, Peter Rieff, a non-Spanish speaker, felt threatened by Castillo and transferred him to Guatemala without the promotion originally promised after one year's service. Rieff's reasoning was, "you just haven't paid your dues, Cele."

It was during Castillo's Peru junket that DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camerena was killed by CIA informants on March 6th, 1985 in Vista Hermosa, Mexico near Guadalajara. Left alone to work Mexico with some of the country's most notoriously dangerous traffickers, Camerena often complained about not receiving enough support in the field while working undercover. "Camerena warned the DEA brass things were getting dangerous in Guadalajara. The Agency ignored him," Castillo recalled to the SHADOW after listening to audio tapes of Camarena's torture and murder. "Both of the killers worked for the CIA and were double-dipping," (snitching for the CIA while using their protected status to deal dope on the side.) Only one of Camarena's killers were caught.

Castillo empathized with Camerena's plight. He could just as easily have been the one who dug too deeply for the cartel's convenience. Kidnapping and murdering family members of police and informants is common practice in the drug-dominated nations of Latin America. With his wife and two children following him on his long-term assignments, Castillo constantly worried that they would suffer a fate similar to El Salvador's President José Napoleon Duarte, who had to walk unarmed into a guerrilla compound in 1986 and beg for the release of his daughter in exchange for immunity for their imprisoned comrades.

During a later assignment, an informant provided Castillo with wiretapped conversations of a drug dealing Guatemalan colonel outlining an intricate plan to assassinate him. "Instead of talking about the bust the informant was setting up, Colonel Moran kept going on about how he was going to blame the rebels for my assassination. A hit squad was going to wait in the bushes and ambush me when I drove past on Highway 8 in El Salvador," Castillo told the SHADOW from his home state of Texas, where he is currently president of his local Parent Teachers Association.

Castillo had reported to his superiors that Moran was heavily involved in narcotics trafficking, frequently orchestrating cash drops to the Panama City branch of the scandal-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). After hearing the tapes outlining the assassination, DEA superiors ordered Castillo to drive down Highway 8 to El Salvador to investigate a mission of dubious importance. "I felt as if someone had painted a bullseye on the back of my head," Castillo recalled. "Tree branches were sniper rifles, I drove about ninety miles an hour most of the way."

DEA files outlining Colonel Moran's sporadic career as a DEA and CIA informant were provided to Castillo by agents sympathetic to his plight as an agency pariah. During later DEA attempts to silence Castillo, the Colonel was summoned to testify before the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility. Moran detailed allegations to enthralled inspectors that Castillo had shot several drug dealers in the back of the head during a bust in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala in 1986. The charges were false and Moran's plot to assassinate Castillo was never mentioned during the proceedings.

DEA informants include some of the world's most disreputable rouges who often use their informant status as carte blanche to deal dope on the side. Although DEA spokesman Hughes denied to the SHADOW that such "double dipping" is tolerated, he added: "You don't use the Pope to catch drug dealers."

Hughes also denied that the agency is reckless with their overseas agents, saying they "always have a recourse for back-up, usually with local police." Local police certainly didn't help Camerena, and Castillo laughed when the SHADOW told him Hughes' remarks.

The Guatemala City DEA office in the US Embassy compound covers four countries: El Salvador, Guatemala, Be-lize, and Honduras. In 1985, Castillo's beat, El Salvador and Guatemala, was one of the most volatile on the globe, racked by years of internal warfare, death squad violence, and narcotrafficking.

Like Peru, both governments were subservient to three related entities: the US Government, the cartels, and their militaries. The militaries operated on their own, violently rooting out sus-pected communists from their borders while trafficking drugs and weapons to support themselves. Both nations' mili-taries harbored death squads who rou-tinely kidnapped and tortured suspected subversives. It was with these elements that Castillo was forced to cooperate in forming anti-narcoterrorism units.

In training his elite drug squads, Castillo utilized the services of re-nowned death squad leaders. Dr. Hec-tor Antonio Regalado was hired as a firearms trainer for Castillo's El Salva-dor unit at the recommendation of Colonel James Steele, commander of the United States Military Group which oversaw American armed forces in Cen-tral America.

Trained at the US' School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, Regalado often bragged of his trigger-man role in the assassination of Arch-bishop Oscar Romero, a globally be-loved human rights activist, in March 1980. Regalado was also a torture ex-pert, frequently using his skills as a dentist to extract information from nota-ble "subversives." Much to Castillo's dis-gust, the death squads' most notorious human butchers and drug dealers be-came his students and colleagues. While Castillo's classes dealt primarily with surveillance, raid tactics and firearms training, others detailed explicit torture methods. Deemed "interview tech-niques," students were instructed how to use cattle prods and hoses and to sub-merge suspects' faces in buckets of water until nearly causing drowning.

Death squad drug busts made the Mexican federales seem tame by com-parison. Standard procedure involved Castillo doing the intelligence gathering for a bust, after which the military would swarm in, interrogating and tor-turing the traffickers to death before absconding with a portion of the drugs.

One such bust happened on Septem-ber 25, 1987, when Castillo's unit busted a cocaine ring run by Guatemalan Con-gressman Carlos Ramiro de Paz. 3000 kilos of cocaine, the largest bust in Central American history, were found. By the time the coke got to headquar-ters, however, six hundred kilos were missing. A soldier laughingly admitted to Castillo that the G2 (Guatemala's elite military unit) had pilfered it.

While the G2 let de Paz live, (G2 wiretappers later relished listening to him pleading with Medillin cartel leader Pablo Escobar to have mercy on him), everyone else was hacked to death with machetes. A Mexican drug courier's daughters were gang-raped before their execution.

Castillo reported these and other de-tails of Guatemalan and Salvadoran military corruption to his station chief, Bob Stia, who reluctantly signed the re-ports. All of Castillo's reports were for-warded to the US Embassy, where they went on to Washington. DEA Washing-ton refuses to open the Puerto Barrios file, in addition to most of Castillo's reports, citing privacy restrictions. Cas-tillo has, however, made his reports available to journalists and the public.

The Iran-Contra scandal blared across American television and newspapers, but drug activity was rarely mentioned. The American public accepted the Reagan Administration's version of Iran-Contra, which maintained that weapons were covertly sold to Iran in order to generate funds for Contra mercenary soldiers seeking to overthrow the Nica-raguan Sandanista government. The money used by US Marine Corps Lieu-tenant Colonel Oliver North and his entourage from weapons sales to Iran to fund the Contras was a "drop in the bucket," according to Castillo. He told the SHADOW, "To the best of my knowledge, most of the money to fund the contras came through narcotics trafficking."

During Castillo's first day briefing, DEA Station Chief Stia casually men-tioned an operation being conducted by North and the National Security Council in El Salvador's Ilopango airport. This operation was to dominate the rest of Castillo's life, ruining his career as an agent. Stia said North picked up where the CIA left off, in supplying the con-tras with the necessary trappings of in-surrection. US support of the contras was highly illegal, prohibited by the US congress' Boland Amendments.

While Castillo empathized with con-tra soldiers in the field, who were de-pendent upon the erratic stream of sup-plies by the US, he would not tolerate drug trafficking by anyone. Reports of the Contras dealing in narcotics had saturated the DEA Central American office. Stia always looked the other way, warning "don't interfere with their oper-ation," according to Castillo. Castillo told Stia that he would report any and all trafficking he witnessed. Castillo says this prompted a laugh from Stia, who assured him that excessively insightful investigations into the contra operation would prompt DEA brass to find an ex-cuse to pull him out of the country. It proved to be a prophetic statement.

Castillo had established an informant at Ilopango who was in charge of in-specting cargo and routing air traffic. Soon, Castillo had detailed information on "hundreds of flights carrying cash, drugs, and weapons through Ilopango. All of which was sanctioned by the US government." Unaware of Ilopango's protected status, Bobby Nieves, a DEA country attache from Costa Rica, wired Castillo in April of 1986, instructing him to in-vestigate hangars four and five at Ilo-pango, saying in his cable, "We believe the Contras are involved in narcotics traf-ficking."

Castillo was shocked to see that most of Ilopango's traffickers were protected by the National Security Council's secur-ity blanket. In the spring of 1986, the Central Intelligence Agency had re-quested a US visa for Carlos Alberto Amador to use on narcotics trafficking missions. Amador is documented in ele-ven DEA files for narcotics trafficking and was typical of Ilopango's pilots. Castillo asked US Embassy Consular General Robert Chavez to block the visa request. Chavez complied, but worried he would be later castigated by his superiors. "Everyone was afraid of what might happen to them if they sup-ported my allegations," Castillo told the SHADOW.

The El Salvador home of Walter Grasheim, known in Powderburns as William Brasher, was raided by Cas-tillo's anti-narco terrorism unit on September 1, 1986. Grasheim is a con-victed cocaine dealer and is documented in seven DEA files alleging drug traf-ficking. Grasheim's place was a bar-racks for Contra pilots stopping through El Salvador. Prostitute informants who frequented the disheveled ranch house told Castillo it was the site of many all-nighters where contra pilots and govern-ment officials including Oliver North, spent long hours "doing cocaine, having sex, and shooting rifles."

The Grasheim raid yielded "enough firepower to arm a platoon," according to Castillo. The arsenal included "cases of C-4 explosives, hand grenades, rifles, night vision equipment, helicopter hel-mets, US embassy license plates and files documenting payoffs to El Salva-doran military officials. An M-16 rifle belonging to US Military Group Com-mander Steele was also found."

Castillo called US Customs agent Richard Rivera, asking him to find the sources of the American weapons. Cus-toms called him off the case and the weapons disappeared into the prover-bial memory hole. US Customs did not return SHADOW phone calls seeking permission for Rivera to talk. Rivera, however, has since confirmed Castillo's account in eleven interviews with the mainstream press.

Castillo tried to get an American official to answer his inquiries as to how Grasheim, a civilian with no legitimate ties to the US government, had pro-cured brand-new American arms, US embassy radios, and license plates. Edwin Corr, then US Ambassador to El Salvador, denied any link between Gra-sheim and Iran-Contra, telling the SHADOW that such allegations were "absolutely false." Like most US officials contacted by the SHADOW, however, Corr effusively praised Castillo's dili-gence as an agent, but expressed bewil-derment as to why Castillo has under-taken his crusade.

Jack Blum, Special Prosecutor for Senator John Kerry's (D-Mass) Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations told the SHADOW: "There is no doubt in my mind that Oliver North knew about narcotics trafficking at Ilopango." The Committee interviewed dozens of pilots who openly detailed the "guns down, drugs up" operation. One such pilot, Michael Palmer, indicted for bringing 300,000 lbs. of marijuana into the US in the mid 1908's, frequently boasted to prosecutors that his activities were supported by the US government.

During Kerry's investigation, Castillo was ordered by the DEA's Freedom of Information Office to keep his reports on the Contras active, thereby rendering them inaccessible to the Committee and the press. Lacking Castillo's reports, the Committee still concluded in 1989 that: "There was substantial evidence of drug smuggling through the war zones on the part of individual Contras, contra pilots, mercenaries who worked with the Contras and the Contra supporters in the region."

Tim Ross, a twenty-one year veteran broadcaster for the BBC in Colombia, connected what he called "Ollie North's mob" to drug dealing in that country as well. Ross told the SHADOW that "In late '84, early '85, North brought five Afghani military advisers to Colombia on a speaking tour, three left, two stayed. The two that stayed were chemists who introduced heroin manufacturing to Colombia. He also brought in an Israeli agronomist who helped to cultivate opium poppies."

Ross said that when he started investigating too deeply for North's comfort, however, he was summoned to the US Embassy in Bogota and told, "You're going to lay off this story or you are going to die" by an "ex-marine, the type of guy who used to cut Vietcong throats with his thumbnail." Ross ran the story anyway, detailing Colombia's growing heroin epidemic, but North told his superiors that the story was nothing more than "fabrications, including trumped-up fake Mexican file footage."

Released after Powderburns and partially reprinted in the Washington Post and the Virginia Pilot, 534 pages of North's personal diaries mention drug trafficking. The July 9, 1984 entry states, "wanted aircraft to go to Bolivia to pick up paste, want aircraft to pick up 1,500 kilos." The July 12, 1985 entry reads, "$14 million to finance Supermarket came from drugs." The "Supermarket" was an Honduran weapons depot used by private arms merchants to supply the Contras. North is currently under investigation by the DEA for arms smuggling, according to DEA file number GF GD 91/93. North has denied any involvement with narcotics trafficking, stating in his autobiography Under Fire, "Very little in my life has angered me as much as the allegations that I or anyone else involved with the resistance had a drug connection."

North claims that when he heard of narcotics trafficking in Central America, he dutifully reported it to the DEA and CIA. DEA director Jack Lawn, DEA spokesman John Hughes and agent Castillo, who would have been assigned to investigate such information, denied that North ever supplied them with narcotics tips.

Oliver North has been no stranger to mayhem. After serving as a Marine combat officer in Vietnam, North had difficulties readjusting to American society. In 1974, according to Parade magazine (Nov 13, 1994), North spent an evening running through a suburban neighborhood naked, waving his .45 automatic pistol and screaming, "I'm no good!" North mentions his subsequent three week stay at Bethesda Naval Medical Center's psychiatric ward in his autobiography, but cites marital difficulties and depression over the failing war as causes for his stay there.

North has Castillo largely to blame for his recent loss in the 1994 Virginia senate race. Embarking on a fifty day journey through Virginia prior to the election, Castillo went on several radio and television talk shows and made public appearances throughout the state. Usually addressing die-hard Ollie fans, Castillo's town meetings invariably ended the same way: angry patriots deflated by their hero's involvement in narcotics. Despite millions of dollars in support from Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Freedom Alliance, Ollie still managed to lose the election.

George Bush visited Guatemala City in January of 1986 for the inauguration of newly-elected president Cerezo. Castillo later compiled evidence that Cerezo's brother and top aides were involved in drug trafficking, but was instructed by Stia not to "embarrass the Guatemalan government" by pursuing the case. During Cerezo's inauguration party at US Ambassador Piedra's home, Castillo voiced his suspicions about Ilopango's drug activity. "There's some funny things going on at Ilopango with the Contras," he told Bush. Bush merely grinned and kept ominously silent. Later that day, Bush met with Oliver North at the Embassy to discuss the Contra operation.

Castillo constantly threatened his superiors that if they stifled his reports on "Project Democracy", as the Contra resupply operation was called, it would "come back and bite them in the butt." A Sandanista surface-to-air-missile provided the fangs they so desperately feared. On October 5, 1986, a C-123 airplane left Ilopango laden with munitions for the Contras. The plane was shot down and Eugene Hasenfus, the lone survivor, admitted to television news cameras after a few days of captivity that "the CIA did most of the coordination for flights and oversaw all of our housing, transportation, also refueling and some flight plans."

According to North's autobiography, after the Hasenfus affair, then-CIA director Bill Casey ordered North to "shut it down and clean it up," regarding the Contra resupply operation. Casey conveniently died on the second day of the Iran-Contra hearings.

Throughout his investigations, Castillo was warned to ignore Ilopango and the Contras, yet he persisted. Stia's original warning to Castillo came true when representatives from the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) flew in from Washington to investigate Castillo and Stia for violations of DEA rules.

Despite their problems, Stia had always respected Castillo, recommending him for a bonus and promotion in 1987. Castillo repeated every detail of his investigations to the OPR agents, constantly amazed at how little interest was shown in the contra-cocaine connection. OPR had no interest in stopping the sordid dealings of Ollie North's mob, but were looking for anything to nail Castillo so he could be discredited and removed from the agency.

Finding a series of minor violations, including socializing with an informant, receiving and soliciting gifts, possession of an automatic weapon, and misappropriation of government property, Castillo was suspended for thirty five days, then transferred back to the States. The charges stemmed not from Castillo's lack of bureaucratic integrity, but from some paperwork snafus "routinely committed by every agent in the field." Other violations, such as the routine aerial spraying of food crops, rivers, and bodies with the deadly chemical Roundup, were never investigated.

Regarding Castillo's claims, DEA spokesman John Hughes told the SHADOW, "Most of what you have is not confirmable. He may have written the reports you mention; we just don't have them in this office." CIA spokesman David French told the San Francisco Bay Guardian that Castillo's allegations, "are not something we can comment on." Despite the death threats, Castillo receives on his answering machine each week, Hughes assured the SHADOW that, "No one at the DEA bears any ill will against Cele." Ironically, Hughes added, "This is a good story and it deserves to be told."


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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Excerpts from Celerino Castillo's book


"About this time, I {Castillo} recruited a Salvadoran who put the hard evidence I needed on the Contras at my fingertips. Hugo Martinez worked at Ilopango, writing flight plans for the private planes streaming in and out of the airport's civilian side. That included my flights in and out of the airport, and we talked frequently as my presence in El Salvador increased."10

"Suddenly, my reports contained not only the names of traffickers, but their destinations, flight paths, tail numbers, and the date and time of each flight. Hundreds of flights each week delivered cocaine to the buyers and returned with money headed for the great isthmus laundering machine in Panama. I could have started a weekly newsletter: Ilopango Doper. . . .

"The Contra planes flew out of hangars four and five, and Hugo could identify their planes by the black cross painted on their tail. The CIA owned one hangar, and the National Security Council ran the other."11

". . . Hugo had no trouble picking up incriminating information; many times pilots told him outright they were taking cocaine to the United States. The CIA had hired them, they boasted, and nobody could touch them. Hugo would quietly jot down their names after they left. Most of the time, Hugo simply poked his balding head into the planes as he made his rounds. When he spotted the tightly wrapped kilos, the pilot's name joined the others on his list. . . .

"When I ran Hugo's list of names through the computer, they all came back as narcotics traffickers in DEA's files. Little wonder the Contras used them, I thought. Nobody knew the terrain like drug pilots, and their dive-and-dump flying skills perfectly matched the job description for covert operations."12

"I wrote a string of reports on the Contras through the end of March {1986} with the stream of intelligence Hugo and Aparecio {another informant} generated."13

These reports seem to be part of what the CIA just couldn't find in its investigation. Perhaps an incident recounted in Castillo's book offers an explanation. Castillo had arranged a cocaine purchase from a new source (in order to arrest him). On meeting him, Castillo learned that he was a member of the Guatemalan Congress. After stalling, he took the case to Robert Stia, DEA attache to Guatemala:

". . . Stia called Larry Thompson, the third-ranking State Department official at the embassy, to ask how I should proceed {the top two officials were out of the country}. Stia returned with Thompson's instructions: Drop the pursuit. We were not there to embarrass the Guatemalan government, he said. We were there to help them."14

Ultimately Castillo spoke to the US Ambassador to El Salvador, Edwin Corr. He writes. "I'll never forget Corr's response. 'It's a White House operation, Cele. Stay away from it..'"15 According to Gary Webb in Dark Alliance, "'I certainly would not say that he did not go away with that impression,' Corr said elliptically, in a 1993 interview. He said he doubted using the words 'White House' in his conversation, however."16

Castillo persisted with his investigations and arrests. One raid uncovered a huge cache of weapons, radios, and even Jeeps at the house of William Brasher, a well-known smuggler. When Castillo arrived,

"The room was filled with enough firepower to arm a platoon. . . . A sniper rifle caught my eye first. It looked like a .50 caliber, with a scope big enough to peek into a window half way across town. U.S. military field radios sat atop cases of grenades and neatly packed C4 explosives. There was night vision equipment; M16s; helicopter helmets; Gerber combat knives; grenade launchers; compasses."17

"Aparecio ran a check on the license plates from Brasher's Jeeps. They came back registered to the U.S. Embassy.

"Corr. I thought back to our last conversation. It's a White House operation. I switched on one of the confiscated radios. It was tuned to the embassy frequency, and U.S. personnel chatted back and forth in English. Damn, I thought, they all looked me right in the eye and flat-out lied. . . ." (italics in original)

Determined to expose the operation, Castillo had scheduled a press conference. But then one of the Salvadoran lieutenants he was working with told him:

"'Col. Revelo just told me he received orders not to release the information to the press.'

"A long minute ticked away on the wall clock as I rocked in my chair. I felt I had been drilled in the chest with an icicle. Someone high in the chain of command had ordered Revelo, the chief of the national police, to cancel the press conference."18

Castillo again confronted Ambassador Corr:

"'Cele, it's a covert operation,' he said, holding his palms out."19 "'We were ordered to give them all the cooperation they needed,' Corr said, rising from his chair. The conversation was over."20 (italics in original)

Then US officials removed the evidence:

"Two days after the raid I returned to Guatemala City to write my report. As I copied down serial numbers, Aparecio called. 'Some people from the embassy just walked in and claimed the radios and license plates,' he said."21

Castillo had called in Richard Rivera, a US Customs agent in Mexico City, to trace the weapons and identify the seller. But the US government also quashed this inquiry:

"Before the weapons could be traced, Rivera called, distraught. Customs suddenly decided to switch jurisdiction for Central America from Mexico City to their Panama office. His bosses ordered Rivera to pack up his investigations from Central America, particularly anything related to the Iran-Contra Affair, and ship them to headquarters, marked 'Classified.' Rivera boxed his files and sent them to Washington. We never learned what, if anything, happened to the Brasher investigation."22

In his 1990 book Deep Cover former DEA agent Mike Levine describes a 1980 cocaine bust of almost 400 kilos, a record at the time, bought from the Roberto Suarez organization of Bolivia:

"That afternoon, in a Miami bank vault, I paid Alfredo 'Cutuche' Gutierrez and Jose Roberto Gasser, two of the biggest drug dealers in history, nine million dollars, after which they were both arrested. 'The biggest law-enforcement sting in history,' the media called it. . . .

"Jose Roberto Gasser--the son of Erwin Gasser, powerful Bolivian industrialist and right-winger--was almost immediately released from custody by the Miami U.S. Attorney's office, without the case being presented to a grand jury. I was beside myself; there was more than enough evidence to indict him.

"A short time later--precisely as my South American informants predicted--Miami federal judge Alcee Hastings reduced Alfredo Gutierrez's bail from three to one million dollars. Gutierrez was allowed to post his bail and walk out of jail. In spite of my furious phone calls from Argentina begging DEA headquarters and the Miami office to put him under surveillance, nothing was done. Within hours he was on a plane back to Bolivia. The biggest drug sting in history was left without any defendants. . . .

"My sting operation never could have happened without help from an antidrug faction within the Bolivian government--a faction that Suarez's organization had to obliterate. . . . Within weeks of the Miami arrests, with the financing of the Suarez organization and Erwin Gasser, and the support of our CIA, a bloody coup was begun. . . . It ended with the Bolivian government coming under the complete control of the Suarez organization. Bolivia soon became the principal supplier of cocaine base to the then fledgling Colombian cartels, thereby making themselves the main suppliers of cocaine to the United States. And it could not have been done without the tacit help of DEA and the active, covert help of the CIA." (A footnote adds, "A State Department diplomat in La Paz, Bolivia, said that it was the first time in history that an entire government had been bought by drug dealers."23 (italics in original)

In late 1987, as part of an investigation, a "CIA pilot" named Jake flew with a DEA informant to Bolivia to inspect a cocaine distribution center, ostensibly for a major US drug buyer. Levine interviewed him about what he had seen:

"'I still don't believe what I saw,' he told me excitedly. 'I saw so much that, for a while, I didn't think they were going to let me out of there. . . .'

"'What exactly did you see?'

"'All told, we saw seven landing fields.'

"'How much coke, would you estimate?'

"Jake was thoughtful, 'I would say about five thousand kilos at each, maybe more. . . . I've been flying these missions into Colombia for years; this is the mother lode. . . .

'The Bolivians had a military-industrial setup that was right out of a West Point textbook. It's unbelievable. . . . It is without a doubt,' he said, 'the General Motors of Cocaine.'

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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Amid Cheers, Terrorists Have Landed in the U.S.
By Julia E. Sweig and Peter Kornbluh
Los Angeles Times

Sunday 12 September 2004


Lost History: The CIA's Fugitive Terrorist
By Robert Parry

WASHINGTON -- On Feb. 7, 1992, at 9 a.m., in Room 426 of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, two FBI agents sat down with a fugitive terrorist. For 6 1/2 hours, the agents debriefed the man who spoke with a faint slurping sound, the result of a bullet that had struck his face and nearly sliced off his tongue.

The fugitive, then in his early 60s, labored through his story, including his usual denial that he had committed the mass murder of scores of civilians. But the agents were not interested in that long-ago act of terror. They wanted to know instead about the man's secret work for Ronald Reagan's White House.

In 1986, during a congressional ban on U.S. military assistance to the Nicaraguan contra rebels, the fugitive terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, had been recruited into Oliver North's secret gun-running operation. Though charged in Venezuela with allegedly blowing a civilian airliner out of the sky a decade earlier, the CIA-trained explosives expert was made the operation's logistics chief. He oversaw caches of munitions stored at El Salvador's Ilopango airport and paid North's crews with bags of cash delivered from Miami. In return for this contra help, Posada was rewarded with false government papers to conceal his identity.

Then, in October 1986, when one of North's supply planes was shot down and the operation was exposed, Posada's last job was to clear the safe houses of incriminating evidence. One federal drug enforcement officer, Celerino Castillo, later told the FBI that shortly after the houses had been cleaned out, Salvadoran drug agents raided them searching for evidence of contra narcotics smuggling.

After the FBI interview ended on Feb. 7, 1992, Posada walked out of the U.S. Embassy to freedom. The 31-page summary of his interview was stamped "secret" and filed away in the records of the Iran-contra investigation conducted by independent counsel Lawrence Walsh who brought no charges based on Posada's information. A partially censored version of Posada's debriefing was recently obtained by The Consortium from the National Archives.

In some ways, the 1992 FBI interview was just one more strange chapter in Posada's long career as a shadow soldier in the Cold War. But the bizarre situation, in which an accused international terrorist could freely enter and leave a U.S. embassy, also spoke volumes about Washington's ambivalence over criminal activities by former CIA operatives. Many of these warriors have enjoyed virtual licenses to kill or to commit other crimes with what some police agencies call "get-out-of-jail-free cards."

Like hundreds of other young Cubans, Posada enlisted in the CIA's Cold War adventures in 1960, after fleeing Castro's communist revolution. Posada received paramilitary training for the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, but his battalion stayed behind in reserve in Nicaragua, as Castro's forces overwhelmed the exile invasion force on the beach.

International Warfare
But Posada's war was only beginning. Back on the CIA payroll in the mid-1960s, he slipped arms into Cuba for possible future insurrections. He worked with anti-Castro extremist Orlando Bosch in sabotage attacks against Cuban targets, from ships to embassies. "There was a time when I thought this was the way to liberate Cuba," Posada told The Miami Herald. "Attack everything that served Fidel. Make him lose an embassy here, a consulate there."

When Castro didn't fall, however, the Cuban exiles volunteered as shock troops in the international war against communism. Some exiles, such as Felix Rodriguez, worked directly for the CIA in Southeast Asia. Others were farmed out to regimes across South America to oversee anti-leftist "dirty wars." Posada landed a job with Venezuela's intelligence service, DISIP.

By the mid-1970s, with Cuban exiles often in the background, violence was sweeping Latin America. In 1973, the Chilean military staged a bloody coup to oust the elected government of Marxist president Salvador Allende, who died in the fighting. In 1976, the Argentine army invented a new word, "disappeared," for the fate of suspected leftists who were swept off the streets by the thousands and never seen again.

In 1976, too, Bosch and other Cuban exiles were itching to hit again at Castro. Bosch chaired a secret meeting in the Dominican Republic to plot strategy. Bosch has claimed that Posada was there, although Posada has publicly denied participating. Afterwards, Cuban exiles dramatically stepped up their terror attacks against Castro and his friends.

Cuban exiles helped Chilean intelligence hunt down Allende's foreign minister, Orlando Letelier, who was considered a Castro ally. Letelier and an American co-worker were killed when assassins detonated a bomb taped to Letelier's car as it traveled down Embassy Row in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21, 1976. The murder occurred after the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay had alerted then-CIA director George Bush to a suspicious Chilean intelligence mission to the United States. But Bush and the CIA did nothing to thwart the attack.

Two weeks later, on Oct. 6, a Cubana airliner took off from Barbados. Nine minutes into the flight, a bomb exploded killing all 73 people on board, including the Cuban national fencing team. Police soon arrested two men who had gotten off the plane in Barbados. They were Posada's employees and had called Posada immediately after the plane crashed. One of the men confessed to the bombing. And when police searched Posada's residence, they found incriminating evidence, including Cubana flight schedules.

Working for North
Venezuelan authorities charged Posada and Bosch with masterminding the bombing. The two Cuban exiles denied the charges, and the case became a political tug-of-war with Venezuela uncomfortable prosecuting the pair but unwilling to set them free. Finally, in 1985, with the terror charges still pending, Posada bribed a guard and escaped from a Venezuelan jail.

Posada's first stop as a fugitive was the Caribbean island of Aruba, where he got help from another Cuban-CIA veteran Felix Rodriguez, who arranged for Posada to fly to El Salvador. There, Rodriguez already was overseeing a secret resupply operation for the CIA-trained contra rebels in their war against Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government. In 1984, Congress had cut off U.S. military assistance to the contras, but President Reagan had authorized one of his national security aides, Oliver North, to continue funnelling assistance to the rebels.

Felix Rodriguez had been placed in El Salvador by an old friend in the CIA, Donald Gregg, the national security adviser to then-Vice President George Bush. Rodriguez introduced Posada to Rafael "Chi Chi" Quintero, another Cuban who had close ties to both the CIA and to retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Secord who was directing the contra mission for North.

According to Posada, Quintero was the one who actually recruited him for the contra operation. Paid $3,000 a month, plus living expenses and given an ID in the name of "Ramon Medina," Posada arranged for safe houses and fuel for North's air crews. He also stored a top-secret U.S. encrypting device, known as a KL-43, at his house for secure communications to the CIA's Costa Rican station chief and to other U.S. officials covertly assisting the project.

In his FBI interview, Posada shed only a little new light on the old question of how much Bush knew about North's illegal activities. According to the FBI summary, "Posada ... recalls that Rodriguez was always calling Gregg. Posada knows this because he's the one who paid Rodriguez' phone bill. ...Posada assumes that Rodriguez told Gregg and other friends about the resupply project." But Posada didn't know for sure.

After the Iran-contra scandal broke in fall 1986, Bush denied that his office had any role in the secret contra resupply operation, although Gregg did admit that he placed Felix Rodriguez in El Salvador.

Gregg and Rodriguez, who worked together for the CIA in Vietnam, also acknowledged speaking frequently during this period, but insisted that they never talked about the contra operation. Gregg's claim of ignorance -- and Bush's insistence that he "out of the loop" -- were treated with great skepticism by Iran-contra investigators. But neither Bush nor Gregg budged from their stories.

Contra Exposure
By early October 1986, under intense White House pressure, Congress had nearly completed work on a plan to resume CIA support for the contras. But on the morning of Oct. 5, one of the last flights of North's little air force took off from Ilopango airport and sliced into southern Nicaragua to drop arms to the contras. There, a Sandinista soldier blasted the plane from the sky with a surface-to-air missile. One crew member, Eugene Hasenfus, parachuted to earth and was captured.

When the Hasenfus flight didn't return, Posada quickly sounded the alarm. "Posada's first act was to call [Felix] Rodriguez, who was in Miami," the FBI summary read. "Rodriguez told him that Radio Havana had already announced the downing of an aircraft. ...Posada then went to the resupply houses and told everyone what had happened."

Posada, the fugitive terrorist, also alerted Col. James Steele, the chief of the U.S. military group in El Salvador who rushed over to meet with Posada and to review a map showing the flight plan of the lost plane. Another Posada call went to Luis Rodriguez, another Cuban exile with close ties to the contras. (A year later, the federal government would indict Luis Rodriguez as a drug trafficker.)

Soon after the Hasenfus disaster, Rafael Quintero and Robert Dutton, another contra resupply figure, arrived in El Salvador. Dutton told Posada that the FBI had learned that he was managing the contra operation and agents wanted to interview him the next day. But the interview never happened. Attorney General Edwin Meese intervened and suspended the probe on national security grounds. The delay bought Posada and his associates precious time.

"Dutton and Quintero quickly left El Salvador," the FBI summary read. "Posada was left all alone to clean up the mess during the post-Hasenfus period. Posada had to move all the equipment out of the houses and close them down. Posada had to get all the U.S. personnel out of the country, dispose of their personal weapons, communication gear, terminate the leases and utilities. pay off all of the outstanding bills and all other loose ends."

Luckily for Posada, an earthquake hit El Salvador briefly diverting press attention. Seizing that opening, Posada slipped the American crew men out of the safe houses, took them to Ilopango and helped them depart in small numbers. With the help of the Salvadoran military, Posada then cleaned out the houses.

"During the course of cleaning up these houses, Posada collected papers, maps, house and fuel receipts, flight logs, photographs and other kind of miscellaneous items and put them in two boxes," the FBI summary states. "These boxes were stored at Ilopango and as far as Posada knows, they're still there."

Drug Suspicions
In a separate interview with the FBI, DEA officer Castillo said that after the Hasenfus shoot-down, Salvadoran drug agents planned to bust the safe houses over suspicions that North's pilots had doubled as narcotics traffickers. But Castillo added that the police arrived "too late and the houses had already been cleaned out."

Posada himself hid out in Zanadu, a Salvadoran beach town. But by interrogating Hasenfus, the Nicaraguans soon identified the mysterious "Ramon Medina" -- the contras' logistics chief -- as the fugitive terrorist, Luis Posada. The Cuban exile was once more a hunted man.

Still, Posada's friends continued to find him work. Salvadoran president Napoleon Duarte hired Posada as a special security adviser. Later, Posada moved to Guatemala where he worked for the state-owned phone company and gave informal security advice to Guatemala's president Vinicio Cerezo.

Then, on Feb. 26, 1990, two cars pulled up next to Posada's black Suzuki jeep as he was heading to work. Gunmen opened fire, riddling Posada's car with more than 40 bullets. One penetrated Posada's chest and grazed his heart. Another cut through his jaw and nearly severed his tongue. Posada fired back and pulled into a gas station before collapsing.

Cerezo's security men rushed Posada to a hospital where his life was saved, although his damaged tongue continued to slur his speech. After his recovery, Posada moved to Honduras and again went into hiding.

In 1992, Posada spoke with the FBI for 6 1/2 hours. Then, he left the U.S. embassy and slipped back into obscurity. The Cuban government occasionally demands that the United Nations seek his return to Cuba to stand trial on terrorism charges. But the United States has taken no steps to assist in Posada's apprehension.

As the Iran-contra probe ended in 1993, Posada's testimony also slid into thick government's files and was soon forgotten.

Copyright (c) 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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DEA Agent’s Whistleblower Case Exposes the “War on Drugs” as a “War of Pretense”
Agent’s Sealed Legal Case Dismissed on National Security Grounds; Details Leaked to Narco News

By Bill Conroy
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
September 7, 2004



Sources within the intelligence community, however, tell Narco News that the CIA’s motivations in the region are likely far more complex, and that Horn simply found himself in the path of the Agency’s buzz saw.

In the end, Huddle managed to get Horn run out of Burma through the machinations of the State Department, Leighton contends, but only after Horn discovered that the CIA had planted eavesdropping equipment in his private quarters in Burma.

Horn’s attorney claims the bug was planted by Brown or one of his cronies as part of an effort to set up Horn and to undermine DEA’s mission in Burma. The eavesdropping, in the end, failed to produce any dirt that could be used against Horn, but it was a clear violation of his civil rights, according to Leighton.

Sources within DEA contend Horn’s claims against the CIA and State Department are on target, adding that the Department of Justice went as far as to claim that no U.S. citizen is protected from eavesdropping by its government when overseas.

“Horn’s whole story is true,” contends one DEA source. “They spied on his home, and the Department of Justice defended the CIA’s actions.”

Horn’s attorney, in his letter to Sen. Shelby, contends that the CIA’s net is far wider than Burma, and that the Agency regularly spies on DEA agents overseas:

… My client has learned that many DEA agents have been the subject of electronic eavesdropping by the State Department and our U.S. intelligence agencies.

… There are, no doubt, countless times when DEA’s operation plans have been foiled by “the listeners,” without DEA even knowing what happened.

What really happened in the Horn case, though, is not supposed to come out, if the government has its way. From the start, Horn’s litigation was sealed and critical evidence that could have supported his claims censored by the court.


The narco-trade in the Golden Triangle region is controlled by warlords who are able to field large armies that are funded with the proceeds of their illicit trade, according to sources in the intelligence community. In some cases, Burma’s military junta has struck bargains with these powerful factions, such as the United Wa State Army, which has had a ceasefire in effect with the government of Burma since 1989.

The relationship between the powerful warlords who control the lucrative narco-trade in Burma and the corrupt military junta that controls the government is very complex and layered. Sources in the intelligence community say that relationship is similar to two parasites, each sucking the blood out of the other, in a symbiotic union. As a result, drug money often finds its way into government coffers and personal accounts through agreements of convenience between corrupt government officials and the narco-traffickers.

The intelligence game in the region, then, according to sources, involves penetrating both worlds, and using information gained to manipulate the politics and forces in the region. As a result, the CIA would have assets planted inside both the government and the major trafficking organizations – with some of those assets likely working both sides of that fence. The CIA officials handling these human assets have built their careers on the information obtained from this spying game, and in some cases may have become corruptly involved in the system itself, according to sources in the intelligence community.

If you want to cultivate assets in the drug trade to get information, then you have to let the drug trade continue, and that’s why you don’t want a noisy DEA agent getting in the way,” explains one source who does consulting work in the intelligence field. “The reason the opium economy will not stop is that the CIA does not see a value in stopping it when they want intelligence. … We don’t have a drug policy, we have a drug pretense.”

Lau explains that if the U.S. Government was really serious about eradicating the drug trade, “they would have done it. But they do not really want to.”

“Let’s say the DEA was successful in eradicating all drug trafficking,” Lau adds. “What would be left to prop up pro-U.S. regimes that rely on the drug trade? … The CIA can use the proceeds of the drug trade to pay for armies to support a friendly government.”

Lau also says a lot of careers in the intelligence community have been built around human assets who have been planted within the ranks of the narco-trafficking organizations. If you take down the drug trade, you take down the very assets that are helping to make careers – and at times, corrupt fortunes – within the intelligence community, Lau points out.

Given that backdrop, it doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination to conclude that the intelligence community has a lot of motivation to keep a lid on the Horn case. Because the DEA agent actually wanted to do his job and take down the narco-trafficking trade in Burma, he was in fact likely threatening the opposing mission of the State Department and CIA in the region. Their mission was to maintain the status quo so that the information pipeline could continue to prop up careers and U.S. interests in the region – which had nothing to do with eradication of the opium market.

“The CIA will do what it needs to do to suit its interests,” Zaid says. “If that means taking steps against another agency employee, they will 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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AUSA BOB MERKLE article about Lehder getting a deal



Carlos Lehder Rivas, b. 1950,
Drug Trafficker


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 28, 1999

[Photo: AP]
Twenty-five years ago, the son of a German father and Colombian mother had a simple idea.

From his jail cell in Danbury, Conn., where he was doing time for importing marijuana, Carlos Lehder Rivas saw massive cultural upheaval, crumbling social and moral constraints, and diminishing respect for the dignity of the individual.

To Lehder, it all added up to one thing: an opportunity to import and distribute cocaine to the American consumer on a massive scale.

A founding member of the infamous Medellin Cartel, Lehder knew America could not resist the exciting drug if it were affordable and readily available. Much as Henry Ford transformed the automobile industry through mass production, Lehder and his colleagues created a river of cocaine where only a trickle had gone before.

Lehder, who idolized Adolf Hitler, labeled his packaged kilos with swastikas and murdered anyone who got in his way. He commanded an armed garrison on a Bahamian island replete with hangars and a jet-capable runway. Twenty-four hours a day, his pilots injected cocaine by the ton into the United States. The cartel invested its immense profits in American goods and services or shipped them by Learjet to safe banking havens throughout Latin America and Europe.

In just a few years, the cartel succeeded in wreaking lasting injury to our society. Children dropped out of school. Men and women dropped out of jobs. Marriages were ruined. Morgues and emergency rooms swelled with the victims of drug-related street crime. Violence escalated everywhere. Businesses suffered from employee absenteeism, theft and incompetence.

Predictably, the reaction of our social institutions was overly broad and misdirected. Instead of taking a reasoned approach focused on shrinking the drug market, America declared "war" on Lehder and his ilk. We built prisons and toughened laws to the point of absurdity. Public fear and anger, fueled by political demagoguery, created a senseless national hunger for capital punishment.

The law enforcement ranks grew exponentially, with no discernible effect. A "bend the rules" mentality infected the police, eroding our civil liberties. Forfeiture laws were routinely abused, with personal property seized on the thinnest of allegations. Decisions previously vested in the presumed wisdom and experience of judges were now entrusted to inexperienced and ambitious prosectors.

Carlos Lehder was a destructive force, rendered effective by our own apathy and ignorance. We can thank him, his henchmen, his bankers, his lawyers, his financial advisers, and ultimately ourselves for higher taxes, threatened civil liberties, diminished national potential, an increasingly arrogant political class, and a deepening national cynicism.

Before his capture, Lehder sat on a throne in the jungle of Colombia and bragged of his attack on the cultural heart of this nation. His money, power and machine guns were only as strong as the American appetite for cocaine. That appetite flourished in a society slowly abandoning any sense of culture, history or tradition.

We were never really at war with Carlos Lehder. We were, and are still, at war with ourselves in those places where our national unity and strength begin.

* * *

Former U.S. Attorney Robert Merkle, now in private practice, prosecuted Lehder for drug trafficking in 1987-88. Lehder was convicted and sentenced to life plus 135 years in prison. He later struck a deal to testify in the drug trafficking trial of former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega. Lehder's whereabouts are a government secret.


Protected Witness

A Six-Part Series by Bill Moushey
(c) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 26-31, 1996

Note: The "Protected Witness" series is copyrighted and cannot be disseminated without permission from the publisher, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Posted June 15, 1996

Hunted down, then protected

Once, Carlos Lehder Rivas was atop the most wanted list; but there was someone else the U.S. wanted more

By Bill Moushey
Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Copyright, 1996 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For a while, Carlos Lehder Rivas was America's public enemy No. 1.

With business skills as strong as his taste for violence, Lehder had turned Colombia's chaotic cocaine trade into the Medellin Cartel, an efficient and murderous operation responsible for 80 percent of the cocaine that came into this country a decade ago.

So when Lehder was finally captured in a Colombian jungle in 1987 after almost four years in hiding, then-U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese hailed it as a major victory in the war on drugs. Lehder would be extradited, officials announced, and become the first foreign drug lord to face the full force of American justice.

Not mentioned in the burst of publicity surrounding the arrest was one curious fact: Lehder had already begun cutting a deal from his remote hideaway, a deal that would eventually land him in the federal witness protection program.

How could the man who ran the world's biggest drug operation, a man wanted for years by the American government, wind up as a federally protected witness?

Because the Justice Department desperately wanted Panamanian President Manuel Noriega, a smaller player in the drug trade but a bigger political fish.

In exchange for his testimony against Noriega in 1992, the U.S. government cut Lehder's sentence from life plus 135 years to 55 years. Lehder now claims he had an additional deal that would have further reduced his sentence and made him eligible for deportation and freedom. This deal, he complains, the government reneged on.

The Lehder case illustrates how far the federal government's use of the witness protection program has moved from its original intent of protecting innocent victims or informants who testify against major crime figures. Lehder was rewarded for turning in someone who was in effect an underling in his operation.

For his testimony, he got special treatment in prison, a drastically reduced sentence, and protection in this country for his family. And, only a small fraction of his $2.5 billion cocaine-built fortune was seized. The man originally in charge of Lehder's prosecution believes the deal between the government and Lehder was a travesty.

Robert Merkle contends that Noriega would have been convicted without Lehder.

"First of all, Lehder's testimony was entirely gratuitous and unnecessary for a conviction of Noriega. Secondly, they gave a deal to the guy who was directing the bad activities to convict someone who was following directions.

Merkle, U.S. attorney in Tampa at the time, is appalled by the Lehder case. "I never contemplated any kind of deal with Carlos Lehder," he said. "It never entered my head to even think about it."

But Merkle was overruled by his Justice Department bosses in Washington intent on putting away Noriega.

Protecting a menace
A look at Lehder's life raises the question about why the government would even consider a deal with him.

Born in the United States of a German father and Colombian mother, Lehder began his life of crime as a low-level drug dealer in Michigan. After doing time for a drug-related car theft, Lehder decided to seek his fortune in Colombia.

Barely eking out a living as a car dealer, Lehder decided to cash in on the burgeoning demand for cocaine in the United States in the early 1980s. Using an efficient, high-tech approach to cocaine smuggling that facilitated shipment of the drug in mass quantities, Lehder was soon a rising star. He found a remote landing strip at the southern tip of the Bahamas, Norman Cay, which he secured by bribing Bahamian officials and running off its inhabitants. Jets loaded with cocaine would travel to Norman Cay. The drugs would be reloaded onto smaller planes and dispatched to northern Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. These unexpected destinations made evasion easier because U.S. authorities were watching only the country's southern borders.

The smuggling operation was an overnight success. Court papers show the first load Lehder shipped in 1982 reaped a $1 million profit for two days of work.

Shortly thereafter, Lehder talked other drug lords into forming a cooperative that became a cartel based in the northwestern industrial city of Medellin.

At the peak of the cartel's power, every hour of every day a jet loaded with as much as 300 kilograms would roll into the Bahamian air strip.

Court papers say Lehder earned $250 to $300 million a year in the early 1980s. He owned 15 cars and trucks, three airplanes, a helicopter, 12 haciendas, an apartment building and nine other properties, including a huge Bavarian-style tourist complex in Colombia's Armenia City, as well as assets throughout the world.

By 1987, his net worth was estimated at more than $2.5 billion.

Violence was as crucial to the cartel's success as were Lehder's shrewd ideas for transporting cocaine. Although the United States charged Lehder with drug dealing and money laundering and not murder, acts of violence carried out on his behalf were documented in a federal detention order drawn up in 1987.

In it, the U.S. government says Lehder and others were responsible for assassinating Colombia's justice minister in 1984; for the 1985 armed attack on Colombia's Supreme Court building that killed 11 justices and 84 other people; for assassinating two newspaper editors in Colombia and 26 other journalists; for shooting the Colombian ambassador to Hungary in 1987; and for a long list of murders of police officers, informants and other government officials.

Lehder once threatened to kill one federal judge a week if he was caught, prompting U.S. officials to put narcotics agents, their families and other officials on worldwide alert after his arrest.

During his trial in 1988, U.S. marshals were parked outside the homes of prosecutors and other agents involved in the matter. But none of this dissuaded the government from making a deal.

Unjust deserts
Lehder had been named in drug-related racketeering indictments in Florida in 1984. But it took the United States three years to persuade the Colombian government to live up to an extradition treaty and turn Lehder over.

That happened in 1987. Lehder got special handling from the start. Instead of being held in Florida where he would be tried, Lehder was housed in a two-cell unit at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Ill., and given a telephone.

There he made contact with aides to Vice President George Bush, who had run the Central Intelligence Agency during the early years of the cartel. Over the next 18 months, senior officials from the FBI, CIA and other investigatory agencies interviewed Lehder.

Merkle, the man who prosecuted Lehder, knew none of this. Lehder's seven-month trial proceeded normally and ended in 1988 with a conviction on drug distribution and related crimes. He got life in prison plus 135 years. Merkle felt justice was served.

Only later would he find out that Lehder was scheduled to testify against Noriega for a reduced sentence.

In April 1992, Noriega became the first leader of a sovereign nation to be convicted in the United States. He and 17 associated were found guilty on two counts of racketeering, conspiracy to import cocaine and a variety of other related crimes.

In his testimony, Lehder admitted he had no direct contact with Noriega, but said the Medellin Cartel paid millions to the Panamanian president. But he was not an impressive witness. Much of his testimony, laced with rambling tirades about American imperialism, was so incoherent the judge considered ordering a psychiatric examination.

Merkle, who had prepared a Noriega indictment in Tampa, was mystified by the decision to deal with Lehder. He believes to this day that his case was "very strong" without Lehder.

Lehder, he says, "got a very large quid for a very small quo. He would have done the United States a lot more good if he had forked over millions and millions of dollars he made selling coke."

Lehder, for his part, is not satisfied. He contends he's the victim of a double cross. Last fall he wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler of Miami, the man who presided over the Noriega case. Lehder asked to recant his testimony because he said the government reneged on a deal that would have cut his sentence to 30 years. That sentence reduction would have made him eligible for extradition to Germany or Colombia. Hoeveler has yet to rule on Lehder's motion. Ernst D. Mueller, a former federal prosecutor who tried the Lehder case with Merkle, said Lehder has already got more than he deserved.

"He has gotten everything we promised, and then some. There were no other deals that I'm aware of," Mueller said.

Mueller said a case could be made that Lehder didn't hold up his end of the deal. While Lehder professed to have large amounts of information about corrupt governments throughout Central and South America and in the Caribbean, he has testified only in the Noriega matter.

When Mueller made that point to Lehder, the Colombian offered nothing more.

Three years later, Lehder wrote his letter of complaint to the judge.

Within weeks of sending that letter last fall, Lehder was whisked away into the night, several protected witnesses at the Mesa Unit in Arizona say. No one has heard from him since.

Court papers do not show any further sentence reductions. German and Colombian officials say they know nothing about his whereabouts and Justice Department officials refuse to acknowledge that Lehder is even in the witness program.

Carlos Lehder testing the product on Norman's Cay

Carlos Lehder (lower right) with Pablo Escobar and others pre-arrest

Norman's Cay

Party during Lehder's heyday

Drug plane crashed into the ocean off Norman's Cay

Carlos Lehder

Drug transport plane, crashed on Norman's Cay

Mugshot (side view) following extradition

Carlos Lehder following his extradition to the United States

Find Authors

NORMAN'S CAY: The True Story of Carlos Lehder, the Medellin Cartel, the CIA, and America's War On Drugs

One cannot find Americafs best-kept secret at Area 51; nor may it be seen at the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, or any other conventional source of covert operations. To confirm even the existence of this clandestine institution, one must dig very deeply indeed – both literally and figuratively speaking – within the netherworld between darkness and light, life and death. For, hidden deep within the very bowels of the earth, exists Americafs version of gthe Disappearedh – WITSEC, a witness protection program designed specifically to house federal prisoners.

The residents of WITSEC have been stripped, allegedly for their own safety, of nearly every right afforded all other prisoners. They rarely see daylight. They are held in the functional equivalent of solitary confinement, with no chance of ever being released into the general population. In truth, many have no chance of ever being released at all.

Even the highest echelons of the US Department of Corrections have no information available on WITSEC inmates. The identity of the participants is so secretive that, in fact, there is no formal record of their existence within the Bureau of Prisonsf database. These men are, for all intents and purposes, dead.

The most highly controversial, feared and protected participant in this draconian method of incarceration is none other than Carlos Lehder, a man who has been dubbed by the press as the gKing of Cocaineh. So highly protected is Lehder that even his former prosecutor, Robert Merkle, is unaware of his present status or location. Lehder has proven himself to be the most prolific witness the US has ever seen in its gWar Against Drugsh. He provided extensive testimony against Panamanian General Manuel Noriega, and even the threat of his testimony has caused countless defendants to accept a plea bargain rather than face trial.

Unfortunately for his handlers, Lehder is also a man of strong beliefs, a man who absolutely refuses to be censored. It is for that very reason that Lehder has lived under nearly complete government-imposed silence for over a decade. When it has fit the governmentfs agenda, Lehder has been allowed to speak albeit under strict scrutiny. The government controls the dissemination of his every word.

What most people donft know – and what is being kept secret at great cost – is the real reason behind the government-imposed silence of Carlos Lehder; namely, the extent of Lehderfs knowledge regarding the truth behind the CIA and Americafs War On Drugs.

As the first large-scale international narcotrafficker to utilize high technology, Lehderfs heyday was during the Reagan and Bush years. It was also during the period of time in which Bush was Director of the CIA, and the man behind the Iran/Contra scandal. At that time, the CIA was desperate for funds. Congress had refused to make appropriations for the CIAfs pet project, the advancement of the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. The CIA was thus compelled, if they were to continue this goal, to find some way to fund the project. It was thus in that shadowy world of Central American intrigue that the paths of Carlos Lehder and the CIA became inextricably intertwined.

Carlos had what the CIA needed – a vast underground transportation network, and protection of his shipments by none other than the likes of Fidel Castro and Pablo Escobar. It was the perfect setup. The CIA made him an offer he couldnft refuse, one that was later attributed to Lehder himself at his trial: gfly or dieh.

As a result of his knowledge Lehder could, if allowed to tell his tale, provoke immeasurable damage throughout our hemisphere. He not only knows the players but, more frightening for the government, he knows where the proverbial bodies are buried. From Noriega and Castro, to Oliver North and the Iran/Contra scandal, to the CIAfs complicity in Central and South American cocaine operations, just to name a few – he is, without any doubt, the real-life version of gThe Man Who Knew Too Muchh.

Carlos Lehder has been silenced because he is the only living proof of a chilling reality: the CIA, in its zeal to carry out a plan disapproved by Congress, was directly responsible for the influx of narcotics necessitating the War on Drugs. In true gangster fashion, the agency had made Lehder an offer he couldnft refuse: fly or die. Interestingly enough, these words would be attributed to Lehder, as having been spoken to DEA informant Barry Seal. Not surprisingly, the CIAfs double-cross had begun even before a deal had been struck.

In the end, the undisputed gKing of Cocaineg - an avowed Nazi - became one of the most important yet unknown links in the Iran/Contra operation. Lehder became the main source of transportation for the drugs and weapons which financed the operation. Not surprisingly, during this same period of time he also paid the CIA at least ten million dollars for protection from the DEA.

Lehderfs name is synonymous with Colombian cocaine trafficking, immense wealth, and extraordinary power. The infamous Medellin Cartel founder, described by the DEA as gthe most successful narcotrafficker in historyh, is known for many things, not the least of which is the dubious distinction of being the only international cartel founder ever convicted in the US. Yet, strangely enough, these are some of the less interesting aspects of the life of the undisputed gKing of Cocaineh - aspects which the CIA certainly knew prior to his recruitment.

Carlos Enrique Lehder-Rivas was born on September 7, 1949 in Armenia, Colombia. His family ties alone are enough to raise not only eyebrows, but suspicion. His father, Wilhelm Lehder, known as gGuillermoh, emigrated to Colombia from Germany in 1922. Carlosf mother, Helena Rivas, was a Nazi sympathizer whose familyfs Manizale jewelry business once designed and distributed jewel-laden swastikas.

Armenia, Colombia, located 100 miles west of Bogota, is well known for its lush coffee plantations and temperate climate; to many visitors, it brings to mind images of Juan Valdez. Lesser known is the area for its position as a neo-Nazi stronghold, and one-time home to such infamous Nazi criminals as the gButcher of Lyonh and Klaus Barbie. In the middle of it all, but lost to history, sat Wilhelm Lehder, the suspected German Intelligence agent.

During the 1940s, cablegrams regarding Wilhelm Lehderfs activities ran fast and furious between the Colombian Nacional Policia, the American Consulate in Cali, and the US State Department. One such cable, dated February 25, 1943, characterized the senior Lehder as a ga dangerous Nazih; and his hotel, Pension Alemana, as the front for a network of pro-fascist informants. It is clear that Wilhelm Lehderfs actions were, at the very least, curious. This same cable stated, gLehderfs friends consist of the local Nazis and Fascists who he frequently (almost every day) meets in a cafe near the principal hotel in Armenia. Conversations which have been overheard by informants indicate that Lehder and friends, which include also a group of pro-Nazi Colombians, advocate a totalitarian government for Colombia. They are also reported to be rabidly anti-Semetic [sic]. It is also reported that this group runs down the democracies, and is bitterly anti-American.h The cable went on to say that Lehderes hotel, considered to be the second-best in all of Armenia, catered specifically to known Axis supporters.

To say that Nazism was in young Carlosf blood is an understatement. That it has been largely ignored by the government and media is astonishing. In a rare interview during 1990 with Frontline, he was finally confronted with the statement gYou have been accused of being a Nazih. Lehder, ever the politician, responded coyly with, gIs that a crime? Not in Colombia.h Indeed.

Yet proofs of Lehderfs fascination with Nazism are abundant. After purchasing the Bahamian island Normanfs Cay as a haven for his trafficking operation, he hired a German security firm to provide security. Lured by the large amounts of money offered in return for their exclusive services, he soon had his own gmaster raceh security force of large blond men sporting German accents and automatic weapons. Those who were met by this bizarre miniature army included such credible witnesses as Norman Solomon, a businessman and member of the Bahamian parliament; and beloved news anchorman and avid yachtsman Walter Cronkite. Lehder, whose tastes ran to a fondness not only for Hitler but also revolutionist Che Guevara, had established his own Nazi state on Normanfs Cay, and his first order of business was to install himself as dictator.

In the beginning, Lehder himself did not partake of the cocaine he distributed, believing like most traffickers of that time that it was gpoisonh. However, he eventually gave into its lure, and not only became addicted but horribly so. His preferred method of administration was to smoke cocaine base. Combine that with the purity and unlimited quantity available to him as the worldes foremost narcotics trafficker, and youfve got the recipe for disaster. In smaller amounts, cocaine induces a sense of well-being and euphoria. However, large quantities over an extended period of time results in extreme paranoia and, in some cases, insanity.

In the wake of his addiction, Lehderfs behavior and beliefs became more and more outrageous. This previously polite and well-groomed man began to ignore his personal appearance and dress exclusively in military fatigues. He insisted on being surrounded at all times by his German bodyguards. He began to openly compare himself to Hitler, and began to refer to the Nazi leader as gAdolphh as though they were old friends. He memorized Mein Kampf, and would expound for hours on the Gospel of Adolph to
all within earshot.

Lehder had a captive audience for his tirades, since everyone on the island was in his employ, and in his crazed state the megalomania already present in his personality began to take over. He spent untold hours plotting a political career, aiming at the Colombian presidency. As his goals expanded, so did his fascination with Nazism; after all, Hitlerfs goal was to take over the world, and it was the same with Lehder. In his paranoia and dreams of grandeur he became even more determined to destroy the gimperialistich fabric of American life, and his previous running commentary on flooding the US with cocaine became an obsession. No longer was he doing it for the money, the prestige, or the power; he already had all those things and more. Domination was the one thing left for Carlos to achieve. After a time, even his inner circle began to fear this increasingly unpredictable and clearly unstable - and highly dangerous - man. Some even began plotting their escape.

Lehderfs right-hand man and most trusted pilot, Steven Yankovac, a disenfranchised Vietnam veteran and pilot, was the one member of his inner circle who was not afraid to speak his mind. When he confronted Lehder about his erratic and militaristic behavior and its destructive effect on the operation, Lehder angrily proclaimed, gI make the rules, and you live by them or you leave.g Yankovac chose the latter. Returning to the island shortly afterward to retrieve some personal belongings, he was met at the airstrip by Lehder and his bodyguards. Leaning close to Yankovac, Lehder placed his ever-present chrome automatic next to the terrified Yankovacfs ear and, never taking his eyes off his onetime prison buddy, then slowly pointed the pistol toward the ocean and fired. The last words Lehder ever spoke to his loyal friend and confidante was, gGet off this island and donet come back.h

Steven Yankovac was one of the lucky few who escaped Lehderes wrath. Others, like Barry Seal, were not so lucky. Lehderfs victims would eventually come to include the United States itself.


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

Amid Cheers, Terrorists Have Landed in the U.S.
By Julia E. Sweig and Peter Kornbluh
Los Angeles Times

Sunday 12 September 2004


Terrorist drug dealer sponsored by USA
still killing after all these years

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
Source: Business 2.0
Date: July 2002

The Technology Secrets of Cocaine Inc.
Colombian cartels have spent billions of dollars to build one of the world's most sophisticated IT infrastructures. It's helping them smuggle more dope than ever before.

By Paul Kaihla

On a rainy night eight years ago in the Colombian city of Cali, crack counter-narcotics troops swarmed over the first floor of a low-rise condominium complex in an upscale neighborhood. They found no drugs or guns. But what they did find sent shudders through law enforcement and intelligence circles around the world.

The building was owned by a front man for Cali cocaine cartel leader José Santacruz Londono. Inside was a computer center, manned in shifts around the clock by four to six technicians. The central feature of the facility was a $1.5 million IBM AS400 mainframe, the kind once used by banks, networked with half a dozen terminals and monitors. The next day, Colombia's attorney general secretly granted permission for U.S. agents to fly the mainframe immediately back to the United States, where it was subjected to an exhaustive analysis by experts from the Drug Enforcement Administration and various intelligence agencies. The so-called Santacruz computer was never returned to Colombian authorities, and the DEA's report about it is highly classified. But Business 2.0 has ferreted out many of its details. They make it clear why the U.S. government wants the Santacruz case kept quiet.

According to former and current DEA, military, and State Department officials, the cartel had assembled a database that contained both the office and residential telephone numbers of U.S. diplomats and agents based in Colombia, along with the entire call log for the phone company in Cali, which was leaked by employees of the utility. The mainframe was loaded with custom-written data-mining software. It cross-referenced the Cali phone exchange's traffic with the phone numbers of American personnel and Colombian intelligence and law enforcement officials. The computer was essentially conducting a perpetual internal mole-hunt of the cartel's organizational chart. "They could correlate phone numbers, personalities, locations -- any way you want to cut it," says the former director of a law enforcement agency. "Santacruz could see if any of his lieutenants were spilling the beans."

They were. A top Colombian narcotics security adviser says the system fingered at least a dozen informants -- and that they were swiftly assassinated by the cartel. A high-level DEA official would go only this far: "It is very reasonable to assume that people were killed as a result of this capability. Potential sources of information were compromised by the system."

The discovery of the Santacruz computer gave law enforcement officials a chilling glimpse into the cartels' rapidly evolving technological sophistication. But here's what is truly frightening: Since the discovery of the Santacruz system in 1994, the cartels' technological mastery has only grown. And it is enabling them to smuggle more dope than ever before.

The drug lords have deployed advanced communications encryption technologies that, law enforcement officials concede, are all but unbreakable. They use the Web to camouflage the movement of dirty money. They track the radar sweeps of drug surveillance planes to map out gaps in coverage. They even use a fleet of submarines, mini-subs, and semisubmersibles to ferry drugs -- sometimes, ingeniously, to larger ships hauling cargoes of hazardous waste, in which the insulated bales of cocaine are stashed. "Those ships never get a close inspection, no matter what country you're in," says John Hensley, former head of enforcement for the U.S. Customs Service. Most of the cartels' technology is American-made; many of the experts who run it are American-trained. High-tech has become the drug lords' most effective counter-weapon in the war on drugs -- and is a major reason that cocaine shipments to the United States from Colombia hit an estimated 450 tons last year, almost twice the level of 1998, according to the Colombian navy.

In a sense, the cartels are putting their own dark twist on the same productivity-enhancing strategies that other multinational businesses have seized on in the Internet age. Indeed, the $80 billion-a-year cocaine business poses some unique challenges: The supply chain is immense and global, competition is literally cutthroat, and regulatory pressure is intense. The traffickers have the advantages of unlimited funds and no scruples, and they've invested billions of dollars to create a technological infrastructure that would be the envy of any Fortune 500 company -- and of the law enforcement officials charged with going after the drug barons. "I spent this morning working on the budget," the head of DEA intelligence, Steve Casteel, said recently. "Do you think they have to worry about that? If they want it, they buy it." That's an especially troubling thought just now, as the Bush administration pressures Congress to expand the $1.3 billion anti-narcotics plan for Colombia and to allow the U.S. military to take a more forceful role in the savage fighting between Colombia's left-wing rebels, right-wing paramilitary units, and the drug-trafficker allies of both.

Archangel Henao is the man whom authorities credit with much of the drug runners' recent technological progress. According to Colombian and U.S. narcotics officials, Henao heads the North Valley Cartel, the largest and most feared criminal organization to emerge from the chaos that gripped Colombia's underworld after the old Medellín and Cali cartels were broken up in the 1990s by the country's military -- with extensive U.S. help. Officials say that Henao, a heavyset 47-year-old born with a withered left arm, controls Buenaventura, the principal port on a stretch of the Pacific coast that is the launching point for most of the cocaine and heroin smuggled into North America from Colombia. His North Valley Cartel foot soldiers are known for dismembering the bodies of their enemies with chain saws and dumping them into the Cauca River. The U.S. Treasury Department has banned Henao from doing business with U.S. companies because he is a "drug kingpin," and the DEA publicly calls him one of Colombia's biggest traffickers. He has never been convicted of a drug-related offense, although a DEA official says the agency is "trying to build an indictment" against him.

Henao's cartel is a champion of decentralization, outsourcing, and pooled risk, along with technological innovations to enhance the secrecy of it all. For instance, to scrub his profits, he and fellow money launderers use a private, password-protected website that daily updates an inventory of U.S. currency available from cartel distributors across North America, says a veteran Treasury Department investigator. Kind of like a business-to-business exchange, the site allows black-market money brokers to bid on the dirty dollars, which cartel financial chiefs want to convert to Colombian pesos to use for their operations at home. "A trafficker can bid on different rates -- 'I'll sell $1 million in cash in Miami,'" says the agent. "And he'll take the equivalent of $800,000 in pesos for it in Colombia." The investigator estimates the online bazaar's annual turnover at as much as $3 billion.

Henao and other cartel leaders recruit IT talent from many sources, intelligence officials say. The traffickers lure some specialists from legitimate local businesses, offering scads of cash. They also contract with Israeli, U.S., and other mercenaries who are former electronic warfare experts from military special ops units. Cartel leaders have sent members of their own families to top U.S. engineering and aeronautical schools; when the kids come home, some serve as trusted heads of technical operations. Most of the high-end gear the cartels deploy comes from household-name multinational companies, many of them American; typically, front companies purchase equipment from sales offices in Colombia or through a series of intermediaries operating in the United States.

The talent and tools are among the best that money can buy, and it shows. For instance, Henao's communications have become so advanced that they have never been intercepted, Colombian intelligence sources say. The last clear view inside the organization's technical operations was provided in 1998, when a small army of Colombian police arrested Henao's top IT consultant, Nelson Urrego. That bust soon led to the discovery of an elaborate communications network that allowed Urrego to coordinate fleets of North Valley Cartel planes and ships that were smuggling 10 to 15 tons of cocaine each month.

The network's command center was hidden in a Bogotá warehouse outfitted with a retractable German-made Rhode & Schwarz transmission antenna about 40 feet high, and 15 to 20 computers networked with servers and a small mainframe. The same kind of state-of-the-art setup existed in communications centers at Urrego's ranch in Medellín, at an island resort he owned, and at a hideout in Cali. Seized invoices and letters show that Urrego or his associates had recently bought roughly $100,000 worth of Motorola (MOT) gear: 12 base stations, 16 mobile stations installed in trucks and cars, 50 radio phones, and eight repeaters, which boost radio signals over long distances.

The range of Urrego's network extended across the Caribbean and the upper half of South America. He and his operatives used it to send text messages to laptops in dozens of planes and boats to inform their pilots when it was safe to go, and to receive confirmations of when loads were dropped and retrieved. According to one intelligence official who analyzed Urrego's network, it was transmitting 1,000 messages a day -- and not one of them was intercepted, even by U.S. spy planes.

When Urrego typed a message into his computer, it created a digital bit-stream that was then encrypted and fed through a converter that parceled the data out at high frequencies. Digital communications over a radio network can be put into a code much more easily than voice transmissions, and thus are far tougher to intercept and decipher. "There's going to be a delay in sending and receiving messages," says a surveillance expert who does code-breaking work for the DEA and CIA, "but it's going to be fairly friggin' secure."

The cartel's fleets still had to dodge surveillance aircraft like the dozen or so P3 Orions that U.S. Customs flies over Colombia. But by bribing officials and drawing on an elaborate counterintelligence database maintained by the cartels, Urrego learned the operations schedule of the planes. According to a former narcotics operative in the U.S. Army's Southern Command, cartel pilots routinely map the radar coverage of U.S. spy planes by putting FuzzBuster radar detectors in their drug plane cockpits and logging the hits. "They'd use every piece of data to build a picture, just like a jigsaw puzzle," the retired officer explains. "A piece of data could be 'One of our airplanes was flying on this azimuth at this altitude, and his FuzzBuster went off,' which means he was being painted by the radar. So they put that piece of data in the computer. Then another airplane was flying on that azimuth at that altitude, and his FuzzBuster did not go off. As they put that data together, they'd build a picture of the radar signature."

Law enforcement officials believe that much of Urrego's system has simply been reconstituted -- with upgrades based on the latest advances in communications and encryption gear.

A lanky man with deep bags under his eyes sits in a cinder-block office within a heavily fortified army base. He may have the most dangerous job in Colombia. He is a top special operations commander, and he probably knows more about the drug cartels' technological prowess than anyone on the outside. He rarely gives interviews, but late one Saturday night, he agrees to discuss one of his special areas of expertise: Archangel Henao.

Lately, the commander says, he has been studying how Henao's cartel uses technology for what amounts to corporate espionage and competitive advantage against business rivals. The North Valley Cartel has waged a war against other smuggling groups over a variety of issues, including control of the port of Buenaventura. The commander recites a litany of recent assassinations and bombings. In February 2001, for instance, North Valley Cartel operatives commandeered a Bell helicopter used by the government in coca fumigation programs and pressed it into service in an attempted assassination of a rival trafficker. The rival was in jail in Cali at the time, so the hit men flew over the prison and dropped a homemade bomb containing 440 pounds of TNT. The detonator failed, but had the bomb gone off, it would have killed more than 3,000 people, the commander estimates. Within a month of that attack, the intended victim's organization retaliated with a flurry of hits -- among them, a submachine-gun ambush of four North Valley Cartel figures in a Cali hospital cafeteria. (In February, Henao's brother-in-law, a top North Valley Cartel capo, was poisoned to death in a maximum-security prison.)

Many of the targets in the power struggle, the commander says, were located by signals intelligence -- things like pager and e-mail intercepts, transmitters planted on vehicles, or bugs hidden in homes and offices. "This is a technological war," he says.

Actually, it has been for a long time -- as the mysterious story of the Santacruz computer suggests. According to Carlos Alfonso Velásquez Romero, a now-retired colonel who commanded the elite unit that discovered the computer, one of the principal IT gurus behind the system was Jorge Salcedo Cabrera, a former army intelligence operative and electrical engineer who crossed over to the underworld. The Santacruz computer wasn't his first big technological splash. When the Colombian government launched the unit that Velásquez would later head, it established a toll-free tip line for information about Cali Cartel leaders. The traffickers tapped the line, with deadly consequences. "All of these anonymous callers were immediately identified, and they were killed," a former high-ranking DEA official says.

Henao's cartel built on this and other prior technology initiatives, in part by creating what amounts to a narco research and development program. One early fruit of that effort, intelligence officials say, was an advanced version of a cheap boat called a semisubmersible. Shaped like the Civil War-era Monitor, the small craft cruises below the waterline, except for a conning tower where one of its two-man crew pilots the boat. The vessel has underwater propulsion, radar, and short-band radio towers. And it's virtually invisible to even the most sophisticated spy gear. "You basically need a visual sighting to detect one, because you're not going to pick them up in a radar sweep," says Hensley, the former U.S. Customs enforcement chief. Semisubmersibles, however, are unstable, and narcotics officials think the cartels have lost several at sea -- one reason that the traffickers upgraded to submarines. According to the head of the Colombian navy, Adm. Mauricio Soto, the North Valley Cartel and other organizations have used real subs for years. Authorities believe that the Cali Cartel purchased a Soviet sub in the early '90s, and that its crew accidentally sank it off Colombia's Pacific coast during its first smuggling run, probably because they lacked the 10 skilled people needed to operate it.

More recently, the cartels have built their own subs, with help, Soto suspects, from Italian engineers who stayed in Colombia after overseeing the construction of the navy's own fleet of commando submarines two decades ago. Henao, for instance, is believed by military and intelligence officials to have a small fleet of mini-subs -- used for, among other things, hauling dope to those toxic waste freighters. So far, Colombian authorities have found only two drug subs, both of which were under construction. The most recent one, discovered 21 months ago outside Bogotá, was a 78-foot craft that cost an estimated $10 million. Intelligence sources say it belonged to Henao's North Valley Cartel. A Colombian official says Henao wanted a vessel that could carry several more tons than the Buenaventura mini-subs and travel as far as 2,000 miles -- say, to the coast of Mexico or Southern California.

Arrayed against this formidable technological arsenal is, well, not much. The commander of the narcotics agents in the Buenaventura area is a world-weary man who rarely ventures outside his military compound not far from town. He never goes into Buenaventura itself. Traffickers have put a price of 35 million pesos (about $17,000) on his head. "Life is cheap here," he mutters. He displays boxes and boxes of seized high-tech gear. Even personnel at the bottom of the cartel food chain have Israeli night-vision goggles, ICOM radio frequency scanners, and Magellan GPS handhelds.

The commander says an informant told him about mini-subs off Buenaventura months ago. But neither he nor his men have ever seen one. His outfit doesn't have the equipment to detect underwater craft.

Nor does the commander know many details about the Santacruz computer bust that first alerted officials to how technologically advanced his adversaries had become. He is unaware, for instance, of one of the biggest reasons U.S. officials want details of the system and the murders of U.S. intelligence sources it triggered kept top secret. Jorge Salcedo Cabrera, the main IT whiz who set up the Santacruz computer, eventually became an informant against cartel bosses. The DEA declined to comment on Salcedo. But according to several intelligence officials, he is now living in America at taxpayer expense, under the witness protection program


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 federal agent comments on SOF article on Felix Rodriguez and release of Posadas:



This is a response to John WEISMAN's, guest editorial on SOLDIER OF FORTUNE MAGAZINE, Dated: October 2004. The editorial was critical on Senator John Kerry 1988 investigation on Felix RODRIGUEZ’S drug trafficking organization.

On September 6, 2004, I emailed SOF with the request for a rebuttal on WEISMAN’S story. On September 7, & 8, I did receive some instructions in submitting my story but was forewarned that my story might not be published. SOF also strongly suggested that I should reflect on my accusations before making them. I was further warned that Mr. Robert BROWN, editor/publisher of the magazine was well aware of my emails and stated that he does not respond well to such accusations. I guess WIESMAN’S bias and misleading accusations did not have to be accountable to Mr. BROWN.

I would like to set the record straight, with facts, as to Felix RODRIGUEZ involvement in terrorism and drug trafficking. First and foremost, FELIX is in no way, shape, or form, an American PATRIOT. If any thing, he is considered, the bastard child of our intelligence community, along with his friend Luis POSADA Carriles. As you read the following, you will see for the first time ever, from a former drug agent’s point of view, how FELIX was involved in a continuing criminal enterprise and got away with it.

In WEISMAN’S story, he initiates his story by trashing Sen. John Kerry for doing his job (Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism and International Operations) in investigating FELIX. But most important, WEISMAN deliberately or not, ignored some significant facts narco-terrorist surrounding FELIX.

From 1985-1991, I was posted in Central America as one of a handful of DEA agents. After receiving drug intelligence from the FBI and the DEA, I was able to initiate several drug cases on members of FELIX’S organization. The illegal operations were conducted out of HANGER 4 at Ilopango Air Base in El Salvador, with the approval of FELIX’S boss, Lt. Col. Oliver NORTH. Some of the intelligence was filtered to Sen. John Kerry but most was not because they had remained as open cases. For example the Washington DC, DEA office initiated case file: GFGD-91-9139 on Oliver NORTH. NORTH was documented as smuggling weapons into the Philippines with known drug traffickers.

On the issue of Che, WEISMAN writes that FELIX was instrumental in the capture of Che Guevara, insinuating that FELIX was on the ground or was a major contributor to the capture. SOF went as far as printing a picture of FELIX standing next to Che. FELIX is wearing clean web gear and what looks like a clean shirt, as compare to Che. The capture was made by Bolivian troops; some members of the U. S. backed Second Ranger Battalion. A few months prior, FELIX and his other CIA companion (Dr. GONZALES) had allegedly tortured captured members of Che’s little army. After flying in after the capture of Che, FELIX proceeded to interrogated Che, and of course Che did not disclosed anything. FELIX allegedly stole Che’s Rolex watch. According to Fidel Castro, he had given a Rolex to every Cuban member of Che’s small army. Che allegedly had two Rolex watches with him. The other one belonged to a fallen member of Che’s army. FELIX then claims that orders, to assassinate Che, had come down from the Bolivians. After the assassination they amputated Che’s hands for proper identification for the CIA. (Que macho! How brave) WEISMAN claimed that the Bolivians refuse to transport Che to Panama for interrogation. When I read that part, I started to laugh. In my six years, in Latin America, I had never heard of a third world country tell the CIA what to do. By the way FELIX, there is no Statue of Limitation for MURDER.

On a final word on Che. Che was a unique individual, his incapability to step away from suffering, to step over the homeless or the sick, or to ignore the submission of native populations makes him more of a champion than a rebel; a champion of social justice rather than a rebel against the status quo. While his politics may be questioned, his dedication and passion cannot. Che lived and died for his beliefs in a way that few others have matched. Che is still alive, his message as relevant as ever. He remains his own “new man,” a vigilant warrior in the battle for what he saw as a better world.

        FELIX is a Cuban refugee who joined the CIA in 1960. FELIX’S family had to flee Castro’s 1959 revolution. FELIX became involved with the Bay of Pigs fiasco invasion of Cuba. Of course, FELIX was not on the grounds with the troops. In 1960, FELIX, Luis POSADA Carriles, (please keep this name in mind), Rafael “Chi Chi” QUINTERO and others were allegedly trained as assassins and drug-traffickers. At the CIA’s Miami Station, FELIX and company were trained under CIA Miami Station Chief Theodore G. SHACKLEY for Operation MONGOOSE. This operation was focusing on the assassination on Fidel Castro.
On June 1970, “OPERATION EAGLE”, a federal strike force in 10 major cities around the country derailed one of the biggest hard-drug networks of all time. The organization was responsible for distributing 30 percent of all heroin sales and up to 80 percent of all cocaine in the Unites States. Approximately 70% of those arrested had once belonged to the Bay of Pigs invasion force. According to the New York Times, a Cuban exiles terrorist network known as “Operation 40” orchestrated this drug trafficking organization. Some members of this operation were identified as FELIX, Luis POSADA, Chi Chi QUINTERO and others.

        FELIX then immediately followed SHACKLEY to Southeast Asia in 1970. SHACKLEY and CIA officer Donald GREGG (also please keep this name in mind) directed FELIX’S activities during the Indochina war. During that time, SHACKLEY and company directed the implementation of the Civilian Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) program, better known as OPERATION PHOENIX, a genocidal crime against humanity which killed tens of thousands of Vietnamese civilians because they were suspected of working for the Vietcong. On the other hand, WEISMAN states that FELIX pioneered, developed, and refined a revolutionary counterinsurgency technique... WEISMAN cut through the chase! It was known of Operation PHOENIX.

        SHACKLEY funded opium-growing MEO tribesmen in murder, and used the drug proceeds in turn to fund his hit squads. He formed the Military Assistance Group-Special Operations Group (MAG-SOG) political murder unit; Gen. John K. SINGLAUB was a commander of MAG-SOG. By 1971, the SHACKLEY’S group had killed approximately 100,000 civilians in Southeast Asia. DEA SA Michael Levine conducted undercover operations during that time in Southeast Asia. I myself was also in Vietnam during that time.

In August 1982, then Vice-President George BUSH hired Donald P. GREGG as his principal adviser on national security affairs. On March 17, 1983, FELIX met BUSH’S aide GREGG, officially and secretly, at the White House. GREGG then recommended FELIX’S plan to National Security Council adviser Robert McFARLANE. It was a plan for EL SALVADOR where military attacks would be conducted on a target area of Central American nations including NICARAGUA. The plan was written a year prior that grew out of two experiences: “—Anti Vietcong operations run under my direction in III Corps Vietnam from 1970-1972. And that these operations were based on…a small elite force…produced very favorable results.” It would be a version of the PHOENIX program.

The following are excerpts from the typed transcript of the GREGG’S hearings nomination for U.S. Ambassador to Korea.

GREGG: …he FELIX brought me in ’83 the plan, which I have already discussed with Senator Cranston…

Sen. Cranston: Let me quote again from the New York Times, George BUSH quoted October 13, ’86. BUSH said, “To the best of my knowledge, this man, FELIX RODRIGUEZ, is not working for the United States Government.”

On Nov. 1, 1984, the FBI arrested FELIX partner, Gerard LATCHINIAN. LATCHINIAN was convicted of smuggling $10.3 million in cocaine into the United States. The dope was intended to finance the overthrow and murder of the President of HONDURAS. A year previous to the arrest, FELIX had filed the annual registration with Florida’s secretary of state on behalf of LATCHINIAN and Rodriguez’s enterprise, GIRO AVIATION CORP.

John Kerry’s subcommittee, not only battered the REAGAN administration for its support of the so call anticommunist movement but was also instrumental in defeating BUSH Sr. relection. Approximately a week prior to the election, the IRAN-CONTRA investigation came back and bit BUSH in the ass. However, most important, FELIX’S misdeeds made a great contribution to the defeat.

On the allegation of the $10 MILLION of drug money that was offered to FELIX, for the support of the CONTRAS, I happened to agree with WEISMAN. Mr. Ramon MILIAN - Rodriguez, another Cuban exile, did fail a polygraph examination. However, what WEISMAN failed to mention was that during the drug trafficking trial of Manuel NORIEGA, several years later, the government’s star witnesses, former co-founder of the MEDELLIN cartel and transportation boss Carlos LEHDER, confirmed, under oath, that the cartel had given the CONTRAS $10 million, just as MILIAN had testified. LEHDER said he arranged for the donation himself. I guess that is why polygraph examinations are not admissible in court.

Of course, when everything fails, blame it on the Cubans. According to WEISMAN’S story, FELIX stated, “Senator, you should know there is a disinformation apparatus within the Soviet and Cuban intelligence services, it is in the best interests of the Soviet and the Cubans that the Nicaraguan Freedom Fighters do not prevail.” I have heard Oliver NORTH use the same excuse.

And, last but not least, on August 18, 1985, FELIX allegedly assisted Luis POSADA Carriles escaped from prison in Venezuela, where he was being held for his participating in the terrorist bombing of a Cuban airline. Seventy-two (72) civilians perished in that terrorist act. POSADA then used forged documents falsely identifying him as a Venezuela named “Ramon MEDINA.” POSADA then flew to El Salvador where he lived with FELIX for a few days and assisted FELIX on the Contra operations at hanger 4 at Ilopango.

Sen. Kerry: Do you recall the downing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 in which 72 people lost their lives as a result; do you remember that?

Gregg: Yes.

Sen. Kerry: A terrorist bomb. And a Cuban-American named Luis POSADA was arrested In Venezuela in connection with that. He then escaped in 1985 with assistance from FELIX…

Gregg: It is.

Sen. Kerry: Okay and he brought him to Central America to help the Contras under pseudonym of Ramon MEDINA, Correct.

Gregg: Now, I know that; yes.

Sen. Kerry…Is it appropriate for a Felix RODRIGUEZ to help a man indicted in a terrorist bombing to escape from prison, and then appropriate for him to take him to become involved in supply operation, which we are supporting?

Gregg: I cannot justify that sir…

Luis POSADA was a veteran CIA agent with a history of involvement with drug traffickers, mobster, and terrorists. In 2002, he was once again arrested in Panama in an endeavor to assassinate Fidel Castro. In August of this year, the former president of Panama, as she left office, pardons POSADA. POSADA ended up in Honduras with a fictitious U.S. passport. Never mind that there are still warrants for his arrest for escaping from Venezuela. Blowback is our government’s terminology of those trained by the US government who use their expertise later to embarrass our interest. FELIX and POSADA should take responsibility for why we had 9-11. The United States have been one of the worst human rights violator in the World. I don’t have to give you a history on our events.

“Top Secret” and later declassified, interview of Walter L. GRASHEIM (CIA operative): “GRASHEIM came up with the idea to prepare a military raid on an airport in Nicaragua, using Tamarindo as a staging base. GRASHEIM told General Gorman this and then right after, 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 NSC but he didn’t tell him any specifics…RODRIGUEZ did tell GRASHEIM that he talked to (then) Vice President George BUSH.”

Most of the above criminal activities to over throw the Nicaraguan government were prohibited under several Boland Amendments in the 1980s. I can continue on and on with documenting government documents, seizure, arrest of individuals, and testimonies of others that came out of FELIX”S narco-terrorist organizations. All my allegations are well documented in newspapers, books, and declassified government documents that I was able to obtain, before President George W. BUSH reclassified them as “Top Secret”. Furthermore, you will be able to find several reports from different government bipartisan investigations, especially a “REPORT OF INVESTIGATION” from The Office of Inspector General Investigations. It is subtitle as “Allegations of Connections Between CIA and The Contras In Cocaine Trafficking to the United States” (96-0143-IG) Volume I: The California Story dated: January 29, 1998.

Now, you may question as to why FELIX was never arrested for these allegations. The answer, is simple, he is well protected because as they say, “he knows where the bodies are buried.” However, the FBI, DEA and CIA files don’t lie. Case file numbers and footnotes are available upon request. Furthermore, FELIX knows that at the end of the day, if he had been arrested, there would have been a probability that he would had been pardon, as his friends were, when they had been arrested on the Iran-Contra investigation.
WEISMAN, you just opened a new can of worms, just a few months before the presidential election. I thank you in advance. And as for FELIX, you must feel “muy macho” in having a photograph of Che’s amputated hands hanging in your home.

Celerino “Cele” Castillo, 3rd
Vietnam Combative Veteran
Author of Powderburns, Cocaine, Contras & The Drug War


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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Posada escapes into Honduras on a fake U.S. Passport after being pardoned in Panama. Three known terrorists drug dealers allowed into the United States. nice job, Dept. of Homeland Security!!!!


Amid Cheers, Terrorists Have Landed in the U.S.
By Julia E. Sweig and Peter Kornbluh
Los Angeles Times

Sunday 12 September 2004

To curry favor with Cuban Americans, Bush turns a blind eye.
Washington - A little-noticed but chilling scene at Opa-locka Airport outside Miami last month demonstrates that the Bush administration's commitment to fighting international terrorism can be overtaken by presidential politics - even if that means admitting known terrorists onto U.S. soil.

That's what happened when outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso inexplicably pardoned four Cuban exiles convicted of "endangering public safety" for their role in an assassination plot against Fidel Castro during a 2000 international summit in Panama.

After their release, three of the four immediately flew via private jet to Miami, where they were greeted with a cheering fiesta organized by the hard-line anti-Castro community. Federal officials briefly interviewed the pardoned men - all holders of U.S. passports - and then let them go their way.

The fourth man, Luis Posada Carriles, was the most notorious member of this anti-Castro cell. He is an escapee from a prison in Venezuela, where he was incarcerated for blowing up an Air Cubana passenger plane in 1976, killing 73. He also admitted plotting six hotel bombings in Havana that killed one tourist and injured 11 others in 1997. Posada has gone into hiding in Honduras while seeking a Central American country that will harbor him, prompting Honduran President Ricardo Maduro to demand an explanation from the Bush administration on how a renowned terrorist could enter his country using a false U.S. passport.

The terrorist backgrounds of Posada's three comrades-in-arms are as well documented as their leader's. Guillermo Novo once fired a bazooka at the U.N. building; in February 1979, he was convicted and sentenced to 40 years for conspiracy in the 1976 assassination of former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his American colleague, Ronni Moffitt, in Washington. (His conviction was subsequently vacated on a legal technicality.) Gaspar Jimenez was convicted and imprisoned in Mexico in 1977 for murdering a Cuban consulate official; he was released by authorities in 1983. Pedro Remon received a 10-year sentence in 1986 for conspiring to kill Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations in 1980. These are violent men. Panamanian prosecutors said they had planned to detonate 33 pounds of explosives while Castro was speaking at a university in Panama. Had they not been intercepted by the authorities, the blast not only would have killed the Cuban president but quite possibly hundreds of others gathered to hear him speak during the inter-American summit.

For a small but powerful minority in the Cuban American community, the Posada gang are freedom fighters. But Sept. 11 taught the rest of us about the danger of political fanatics who seek to rationalize their violence. To uphold his oft-stated principle that no nation can be neutral in the war on terrorism, shouldn't President Bush have condemned Moscoso's decision to release these terrorists? To protect the sanctity of U.S. borders and the security of Americans, shouldn't the administration have taken all available steps to keep known terrorists out of the United States?

But Florida is crucial to Bush's reelection strategy. Currying favor with anti-Castro constituents in Miami appears to trump the president's anti-terrorism principles. So far, not a single White House, State Department or Homeland Security official has expressed outrage at Panama's decision to put terrorists back on the world's streets. The FBI appears to have no plans to lead a search for Posada so he can be returned to Venezuela, where he is a wanted fugitive. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has rounded up and expelled hundreds of foreigners on the mere suspicion of a terrorist link, has indicated no intention to detain and deport Novo, Jimenez and Remon.

In June, the White House seemed to have maxed out on pandering to hard-line Cuban exiles when it virtually eliminated family visits and remittances to Cuba as part of a new initiative to undermine Castro's rule. But that policy has upset anti-Castro moderates in both parties because it criminalizes efforts to build family ties across the Straits of Florida, something a family-values president should support. In response, Bush's decision to accept the repatriation of the Cuban exile terrorists seems calculated to shore up support in the Cuban American community.

"I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world," Bush recently said in an interview.

But the decision to allow members of the Posada gang into this country, and the televised spectacle of Miamians applauding their return, sends a different and dangerous message: In a swing state, some terrorists are not only acceptable but welcome.

Julia E. Sweig is senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "Inside the Cuban Revolution." Peter Kornbluh is the author of "Bay of Pigs Declassified."


DEA Chief Robert Bonner said CIA Smuggled Drugs

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

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

We live in a dirty and dangerous world ... There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows. -1988 speech by Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, CIA Headquarters
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This story was adapted from Robert Parry's forthcoming book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq. A 27-year veteran of Washington journalism, Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra scandal stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.


Mysterious Republican Money
By Robert Parry
September 7, 2004

If House Speaker Dennis Hastert were really concerned about drug profits being laundered into the U.S. political process, he would not be sliming billionaire financier George Soros with that suspicion. Hastert would be looking at a principal conservative funder: South Korean theocrat Sun Myung Moon.

While Hastert was unable to cite a shred of evidence that the liberal Soros is funneling illicit money, there is a substantial body of evidence that Moon has long commanded a criminal enterprise with close ties to Asian and South American drug lords. The evidence includes first-hand accounts of money laundering disclosed by Moon confidantes and even family members. Besides those more recent accounts, Moon was convicted of tax fraud based on evidence developed in the late 1970s about his money-laundering activities.

Despite the attacks from The Washington Times and pressure from the Reagan-Bush administration to back off, Kerry’s contra-drug investigation eventually concluded that a number of contra units – both in Costa Rica and Honduras – were implicated in the cocaine trade.

“It is clear that individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers,” Kerry’s investigation stated in a report issued April 13, 1989. “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.”

Kerry’s probe also found that Honduras had become an important way station for cocaine shipments heading north during the contra war. “Elements of the Honduran military were involved ... in the protection of drug traffickers from 1980 on,” the report said. “These activities were reported to appropriate U.S. government officials throughout the period. Instead of moving decisively to close down the drug trafficking by stepping up the DEA presence in the country and using the foreign assistance the United States was extending to the Hondurans as a lever, the United States closed the DEA office in Tegucigalpa and appears to have ignored the issue

In 1991, when conservative commentator Wesley Pruden was named the new editor of The Washington Times, President George H.W. Bush invited Pruden to a private White House lunch. The purpose, Bush explained, was “just to tell you how valuable the Times has become in Washington, where we read it every day.”

While the Moon organization was promoting the interests of the Reagan-Bush team, the administration was shielding Moon's operations from federal probes into its finances and possible intelligence role, U.S. government documents show. According to Justice Department documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, administration officials were rebuffing hundreds of requests – many from common U.S. citizens – for examination of Moon’s foreign ties and money sources.


South American Money

In the mid-1990s, more evidence surfaced about Moon’s alleged South American money laundry.

In 1996, the Uruguayan bank employees union blew the whistle on one scheme in which some 4,200 female Japanese followers of Moon allegedly walked into the Moon-controlled Banco de Credito in Montevideo and deposited as much as $25,000 each. By the time the parade of women ended, the total had swelled to about $80 million. Authorities did not push the money-laundering investigation, apparently out of deference to Moon’s political influence and fear of disrupting Uruguay’s secretive banking industry.


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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Bush's CIA DCI Nominee H. Porter Goss, Chairman of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) obstructed CIA-Drug investigation during his Tenure.

From the website of Congresswoman Maxine Waters:

Rep Waters Assails Select Committee on Intelligence for Holding a Closed Meeting on CIA Involvement in Drug Trafficking
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) assailed the Select Committee on Intelligence for holding a closed meeting to discuss allegations of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) involvement in drug trafficking activities.

“The Select Committee on Intelligence did not do a thorough job of investigating CIA involvement in Nicaraguan Contra drug trafficking,” said Rep. Waters. “The committee should hold public hearings and question individuals aware of the Contras' crimes.”

On Tuesday, February 15, 2000, the Select Committee on Intelligence held a business meeting, at which they discussed the committee's draft report on the allegations of CIA involvement in Nicaraguan Contra drug trafficking activities. The subject of the meeting was not announced in advance or open to the public. At the meeting, members of the committee voted to approve the committee's draft report but are not releasing it to the public at this time.

“I have been working on this issue for over three years, but I was neither invited to this meeting nor informed of it,” said Rep. Waters.

The Select Committee on Intelligence held only one public hearing on the alleged involvement of the CIA in Contra drug trafficking activities. This hearing, held on March 16, 1998, followed the publication of Volume I of the CIA Inspector General's Report of Investigation on the issue. Congresswoman Waters testified at this hearing. No public hearings have been held on the contents of Volume II of the CIA Inspector General's Report, which was released on October 8, 1998.

“The declassified version of Volume II of the CIA Inspector General’s Report confirms allegations of CIA knowledge of and support for drug trafficking in the United States by the Nicaraguan Contras. The Report provides extensive details of the evidence available to the CIA and the Reagan Administration regarding drug trafficking by the Contra rebels and their supporters. The Intelligence Committee should have thoroughly investigated this evidence and questioned those individuals who were aware of drug trafficking by the Contras,”said Rep. Waters.

On two separate occasions -- once on November 30, 1998, and again on April 9, 1999 --
Rep. Waters wrote to Congressman Porter Goss, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, requesting that additional public hearings be held to fully investigate the CIA's involvement in drug trafficking by the Contras. However, there were no additional public hearings, and only one hearing -- which was closed to the public -- was held by the committee during 1999. Rep. Waters requested permission to attend this hearing but was not allowed to do so.


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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May 14, 1999 CONTACT: Ruffin Brown
(202) 225-2201

Washington, D.C. - Representative Maxine Waters' drug trafficking amendment to "The Intelligence Authorization Bill," entitled "Prohibition on Drug Trafficking by Employees of the Intelligence Community," was passed today by the House of Representatives without opposition.



November 30, 1998 CONTACT: Michael Schmitz
(202) 225-2201

CIA Confirms It Allowed Contra Drug Trafficking
Rep. Waters Calls On Committee to Hold Hearings In 106th Congress
Washington, D.C. - Today Representative Maxine Waters (CA-35) called on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss to hold investigative hearings into dramatic new developments in the scandal involving the CIA's complicity with Contra drug traffickers.

The Report also described a secret 1982 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 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. Rep. Waters explained that the MOU provides documented proof of the conscious effort by the Attorney General and the Director of Central Intelligence to protect Contra drug trafficking in the name of their Contra war effort. It is shocking, inexcusable, and should be acted upon by Congress."

Extensive new evidence revealed

The declassified version of the Report released by the CIA Inspector General described how the CIA knew, at the highest level, that the Contra rebels intended to sell drugs in the United States to finance its war efforts. The Report details the voluminous evidence that the CIA and the Reagan Administration possessed regarding drug trafficking by CIA assets, contractors and individual supporters involved in the Contra movement.


Read Together - Reports Reveal Devastating Picture

A complete reading of the CIA's internal review, Volumes I and II, and the Department of Justice's own recently released report confirms U.S. government knowledge of and complicity with Contra drug trafficking to the United States.

1982 Memorandum of Understanding Shows Premeditation

As you are also aware, the Report describes the previously secret 1982 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 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. In my opinion, it provides documented evidence of the conscious effort by the Attorney General and the Director of Central Intelligence to protect their Contra warriors from being prosecuted for their widespread drug trafficking.

At the end of Volume II, the Inspector General of the CIA 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, "[t]his is grist for more work, if anyone wants to do it." We must rise to meet his challenge in the 106th Congress. I call on you, as Committee Chair, to ensure we meet this challenge when the 106th Congress convenes.


Maxine Waters
Member of Congress


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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October 7, 1998 CONTACT: Michael Schmitz
(202) 225-2201

Rep. Maxine Waters Calls on Congress to Release Classified Documents
Floor Statement on Intelligence Authorization Conference Report
Wednesday, October 7, 1998

“Mr. Chairman, I rise today to remind the Members of this body of the unfinished business we have regarding the dark, terrible, still classified secrets of our intelligence agencies. The list of misdeeds by our intelligence agencies is long and much of it still remains shrouded in secrecy, in many cases acting to protect criminals who have died and dictators who are no longer in power. We must end our senseless protection of these terrible acts. Congress has the power to do so and must not shirk its duty.”

“I have focused my energies on investigating the allegations of Contra-CIA drug dealing. But, there are many other sordid, terrible tales of U.S. intelligence activities that remain a secret to the American people. Some have been investigated, yet the reports remain classified. Others have yet to be investigated. The list includes the CIA’s involvement with the brutal Battalion 316 in Honduras, the overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala and Allende in Chile, the death squads in El Salvador, Duvalier’s drug dealing regime and the ton ton macout death squads of Haiti, and of course, the many illegal assassination attempts against Fidel Castro. We must release the information we have about these affairs, investigate the others that remain unexamined and bring those responsible to justice. We cannot exhort other nations to follow the rule of law without ensuring that we, likewise, follow the rule of law.”

“My investigation into the allegations of CIA-Contra drug dealing 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 let the dealing go on without taking any actions against it.”

“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.”
“Remarkably, the Committee’s findings went virtually unreported when they were released.”


“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.”.

“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.”


September 19, 1998
The CIA, The Contras & Crack Cocaine:

Investigating the Official Reports
Seeking The Truth
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.

12. "According to Source 1, Cabezas and Zavala were helping the Contras with drug money. Horacio Pereira and Fernando Sanchez also claimed that they were taking the money to help the Contras...In order to get cocaine from Sanchez and a man named 'Rayo,' Zavala and Cabezas had to agree to give 50 percent of their profits to the Contras."...Fernando Sanchez "functioned as the representative for all Contras in Guatemala (and) said that he had a direct CIA contact in Guatemala -- a man named Castelairo - and noted that his brother Aristides also had CIA links, some of whom Sanchez had met socially at Aristides' house in Miami." (ChIX, Pt1) The OIG reports that the source of this information, Source 1, "was a CIA asset prior to his work with the FBI."

13. "On August 25, 1982, Francisco Zavala advised Source 1 of his belief that Adolfo Calero and the individual for whom Zavala was working in New Orleans were in cocaine...Source 1 had previously reported on June 22, 1982 that "Adolfo Calero lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, and that he is definitely involved in cocaine traffic." (ChIX, Pt1)

14. "Aff. further reported that Wenig had placed Gordon in contact with an informant who said that Blandon was a Contra sympathizer and founder of the FDN and that "[t]he money and arms generated by this organization comes thru [sic] the sales of cocaine." This informant was said to have provided one hundred names of persons involved with the distribution of cocaine, all of whom were either Nicaraguan and/or sympathizers to the Contra movement." (ChII, ptE1)

15. "On Feb. 3, 1987, the Los Angeles FBI received information from an informant that Lister had told an unidentified neighbor over drinks that he worked for Oliver North and Secord and had sent arms shipments to the Contras." (ChV, Pt1).

Chaired by Sen. John Kerry:
Key findings of the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations 1989 investigation on "Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy":

Drug traffickers used the Contra war and their ties to the Contras as a cover for their criminal enterprises in Honduras and Costa Rica. Assistance from the drug lords was crucial to the Contras, and the traffickers in turn promoted and protected their operations by associating with the Contra movement.

Drug traffickers provided support to the Contras and used the supply network of the Contras. Contras knowingly received both financial and material assistance from the drug traffickers.

In each case, one or another U.S. Government agency had information regarding these matters either while they were occurring, or immediately thereafter.

Members of the Contra movement were involved in drug trafficking, including pilots who flew supplies for the Contras, mercenaries who worked for the Contras and Contra supporters throughout Central America.

Drug traffickers helped in the Contra supply operations through business relations with Contra groups.

Drug traffickers contributed cash, weapons, planes, pilots, air supply services and other materials to the Contras.

U.S. State Department funds, authorized by Congress for humanitarian assistance, was paid to drug traffickers. In some cases, these drug traffickers received the State Department funds, after having been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges, and in other cases, were the subject of pending investigations by those agencies.

The FDN Contra group moved Contra funds through a narcotics drug trafficking and money laundering operation.

Drug trafficking for the Contra movement was done by some because they were told that their actions were either on behalf of, or sanctioned by, the U.S. Government.

Epilogue: In Their Own Words
"Along with LASD deputies, DEA Special Agent Hector Berrellez (now retired) participated in the search of the residence of Roberto Aguilar. The supplementary report filed by the LASD covering this search stated that the deputies seized paperwork and photographs and listed the seized evidence as 'Misc. paperwork & utility bill; personal letter address to Roberto Aguilar, misc. photographs.' When we interviewed Berrellez, he said there was a safe at the house, which the occupants were told to open. Inside, Berrellez found a box containing photographs and ledgers typical of those that big drug dealers keep. Berrellez said the photographs were of men in military uniforms and military operations. He said he specifically remembered a photograph of a man in an aviator's flight suit standing before a war plane and holding an automatic weapon."(ChII, PtE2b, p41)

El Salvador

"The subsource was at a party of (Salvadoran air force) officers when the subject of General Bustillo's investigation came up. An officer had declared that the whole investigation was a ploy to throw the DEA off the trail while the Salvadoran Air Force and the CIA ran large shipments of cocaine through the air bases at La Union and San Miguel in El Salvador for the purpose of obtaining money for the Contras." (ChX, Pt3)

From Blandon's L.A. operation:

"Meneses told Blandon that he would give Blandon cocaine and teach Blandon how to sell it, and they would send the profits to the Contra revolution." (ChII, Pt1)

"(FBI agent) Aukland told the OIG that although LA CI-1 said he did not know how much Blandon had contributed to the FDN, he thought that Blandon had originally started dealing drugs so that he could support the Contras." (ChII, Pt1)

"Blandon told us that the initial profits he and Meneses made in drug trafficking went to the Contras." (ChIV, Pt2)

"A summary of one of (LA CI-1's) debriefings by the FBI stated that ARDE Contra leader Eden 'Pastora was seeking cocaine funds from Blandon to fund Contra operations.' " (ChIV, Pt2)

"Pastora came up in 1985 as he received cash from Danilo for the Contra causes of ARDE group in Costa Rica and L.A. They are purposely staying away from anyone who might be connected with the Agency, like Pastora. They would like me to tell them who they can't get because of a national security block. They are extremely afraid of a national security block." July 17, 1990 letter from Ronald Lister to Scott Weekly. (ChV, Pt2)

"Blandon continued to give some material support to the Contra cause. Blandon stated he gave Contra leader Eden Pastora $9000 intended for the Contras when Pastora came to Los Angeles in 1985 or 1986." (ChIV, Pt2)

"(Prosecutor Suzanne Bryant-Deason) also said the officers brought a box of documents to the meeting, apparently bank documents...She remembered being struck by the amounts of money reflected in the bank documents and references to the US Treasury. These were most likely...the records seized from Blandon's house which appeared to be Contra bank records." (ChII, Pt3)

"Among the documents seized from Blandon's house were bank statements that appeared to be related to Contra financial activities. As we describe in more detail in Chapter IV below, Blandon told us that the documents were sent to him from his sister, Leysla Balladares, who lived in San Francisco. He said the documents were copies of bank accounts maintained by Contra leaders, and these records indicated that the Contra leaders were stealing money donated to the Contras and that these records did not relate to him or his drug trafficking. He said his sister had sent him the documents because she thought he would be interested in them." (ChII, PtE1a, p39)

(Description of bank records referenced above)

"OIG reviewed the files seized by the LASD and copied by the FBI in the 1986 searches of Blandon's residences. Among the documents seized from Blandon's house were records that appeared to reflect deposits in seven bank accounts. The documents listed the check, endorser, location, amount, and balance. Some of these deposits were marked "U.S. Treasury/State" and totaled approximately $9,000,000,000. Other deposits were marked Cayman Islands and totaled about $883,000." (ChIV, Pt2, p154)

"Little Brother: These are the bank statements of the suppliers of the Contra. They have issued checks to different persons and companies, the same to the Cayman Islands..... Blessings, Leysla" (ChIV, Pt2, p154)

CIA Involvement

The Kerry Committee documented the extensive role of the CIA in creating, operating, maintaining and directing the Contra operations. The Kerry Committee also found significant evidence of CIA knowledge of the Contra drug operations. The OIG found evidence as well.

CIA knowledge of Contra drug operations

"When debriefed by the DEA in the early 1980s, Pena said that the CIA was allowing the Contras to fly drugs into the United States, sell them, and keep the proceeds." (ChIV, Pt2)

In 1987, Blandon associate Ivan Torres told a DEA informant that "the CIA wants to know about drug trafficking but only for their own purposes and not necessarily to assist law enforcement agencies...Torres also told DEA CI-1 that CIA representatives are aware of his drug-related activities and that they don't mind. He said they have gone so far as to encourage cocaine trafficking by members of the contras because they know that it is a good source of income. Some of this money has gone into numbered accounts in Europe and Panama, as does the money that goes to Managua from cocaine trafficking." (ChII, Pt4)

"(Ivan) Torres had told DEA CI-1 about receiving counter-intelligence training from the CIA, and had avowed that the CIA 'looks the other way and in essence allows them (contras) to engage in narcotics trafficking as long as it is done outside the United States." (ChII, Pt4)

"According to a memorandum from the CIA attorney, the CIA suggested that the depositions could cause damage to the CIA's image and program in Central America." (Ex.Sum. p18/19)

Direct involvement of CIA agents

"Cabezas also claimed to the OIG that the Contra cocaine enterprise operated with the knowledge of and under the supervision of the CIA. Cabezas claimed that this drug enterprise was run with the knowledge of a CIA agent named Ivan Gomez." (ChIX, Pt1)

According to a memo from the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco to the Justice Department, "Norwin has also dealt with Enrique Bermudez who was a colonel in the Somoza army and who is now an alleged leader of the Contra faction." (ChIII, Pt1)

"When asked why Aureliano would appoint Pena to another position when he was suspected of drug trafficking, Pena attributed this to the fact that Meneses was on such good terms with Bermudez, who Pena said was a 'CIA agent'...because Norwin Meneses kept in good contact with Bermudez, Pena "believes the CIA knows about all these things"...Pena stated his belief that the CIA decided to recruit Meneses so that drug sales could be used to support the Contras; Bermudez could not have recruited Meneses on his own, according to Pena, but would have had to 'follow orders." (ChIV, Pt2)

"Pena stated that he was present on many occasions when Meneses telephoned Bermudez in Honduras. Meneses told Pena of Bermudez's requests for such things as gun silencers (which Pena said Meneses obtained in Los Angeles), crossbows, and other military equipment for the Contras. Pena believe that Meneses would sometimes transport certain of these items himself to Central America, and other times would have contacts in Los Angeles and Miami send cargo to Honduras where the authorities were cooperating with the Contras. Pena believes Meneses had contact with Bermudez from about 1981 or 1982 through the mid-1980s." (ChIV, Pt2)

Meneses "told of collaborating with Enrique Bermudez in support of the Contras. Between 1982 and 1983-4, Meneses' job was to recruit people in California to join the Contras. Thereafter, he purchased supplies and raised money in small amounts from Nicaraguan nationals." (ChIV, p2)

"On August 25, 1982, Francisco Zavala advised Source 1 of his belief that Adolfo Calero and the individual for whom Zavala was working in New Orleans were in cocaine...Source 1 had previously reported on June 22, 1982 that "Adolfo Calero lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, and that he is definitely involved in cocaine traffic." (ChIX, Pt1)

"Cabezas alleged that between December 1981 and December 1982, he and Zavala smuggled cocaine from Costa Rica to the United States in baskets woven from cocaine-stuffed reeds, sold the cocaine in San Francisco, and returned the profits to the Contras. Cabezas also claimed that this "Contra Cocaine" enterprise operated under the supervision of the CIA." (Ex.Sum. p20)

Norwin Meneses and the CIA

"It became apparent to the FBI that Norwin Meneses was, and may still be, an informant of the DEA. It is also believed by the FBI, SF, that Norwin Meneses was, and may still be, an informant for the Central Intelligence Agency." FBI special agent Donald Hale, Jan. 1988, cable to FBI headquarters. (ChIII, Pt3)

"Meneses told DEA CI-1 in 1986 or 1987 that when the Contra revolution started, he met with some 'American agents' whom Meneses assumed were with the CIA, and showed them how to get in and out of Nicaragua." (ChIV, Pt2)

During an interview in 1985 by the DEA office of Professional Responsibility, an associate of Meneses "added that he had heard Meneses brag about having connections in the United States government, including the CIA and politicians in San Francisco." (ChIII, Pt2)

In a 1986 interview with the DEA, Informant SR3 said "Meneses boasted that he traveled in and out of Nicaragua freely, and that United States agents would assist him, which SR3 took as a reference to either the CIA or the FBI." (ChIII, Pt4, p2)

"On Oct. 3, 1987, an FBI informant told FBI Special Agent Donald Hale that Meneses was in San Francisco. This informant later advised Hale that Meneses was telling his associates that he was an informant for the CIA and that was why he had not been arrested for drug trafficking." (ChIII, Pt2)

"The (DEA) agent said he also suspected CIA involvement with Meneses because of his claimed ties to the Contras." (ChIII, Pt2)

"The San Francisco FBI had source information claiming that Meneses may have worked for the CIA." (ChII, Pt4)

A Jan. 29, 1987 cable from the DEA office in San Francisco "asked DEA headquarters to find out from DEA Costa Rica whether an indictment of Meneses by the San Francisco FBI 'will result in national security problems with other agencies.'" (ChII, Pt4)

"(FBI agent) Gibler said that he also heard rumors that Meneses was working with the CIA." (ChIV, Pt1)

In an early 1987 memo from the FBI to the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco, it was noted that an "informant also stated that Meneses had a reputation as a gun runner in Nicaragua and may have worked for the CIA." (ChIII, Pt1)

"[Enrique Miranda Jaime] repeated the claim that Meneses had sold cocaine for the Contras, stating also that it was done with the support of the CIA." (Ex.Sum. p17)

Danilo Blandon and the CIA

In a Feb 5, 1991 memo, INS agent Robert Tellez wrote of Blandon: "This major cocaine trafficker may have had a degree of influence from the CIA." The OIG noted that "Tellez had also told an Immigration Examiner that Blandon knew people who had contact with the CIA and the Contras." (ChII, Pt6)

"As you know, this is a narcotics investigation involving FBI, DEA and LASO units in Riverside and Whittier, California, respectively. It is a sensitive matter since it involves allegations of drug running in support of the CONTRA movement in Nicaragua and wholly unconfirmed allegations of CIA involvement." Memo from AUSA Crossan Anderson to IRS CID, Nov. 25, 1986.

"Unfortunately for the United States Attorney's Office, I have heard that the U.S. intelligence agencies have used their influence to prevent prosecution of the Blandon drug smuggling organization...Lister...understood that two or three times prior to this time, there had been an attempt to prosecute the Blandon smuggling organization and it had been quashed by U.S. intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department because it would have been embarrassing." Jan. 8, 1992 letter from Lynn Ball to Federal Judge Rudi Brewster, San Diego.

"Hector Berrellez, the DEA agent who participated in the search of Roberto Aguilar's house...had a vague recollections of some 'talk' - he was not sure from who but thought it was from (DEA agent) Schrettner - that the CIA may have monitored the LASD case through the DEA's intelligence center (EPIC)." (ChII, Pt2) (CIA is a participant in EPIC.)

"Hector Berrellez, the DEA agent who participated in the search of Roberto Aguilar's house, told us that the occupants of the house knew that the search warrant was coming and said that they were expecting the police. Berrellez said he did not question the occupants about how they knew, although he said he has a vague recollection of some 'talk' - he was not sure from whom but thought it was from Schrettner - that the CIA may have monitored the LASD case through the DEA's intelligence center (EPIC). (ChII, PtE2b, p41)

"According to LASD Sergent Huffman, after Blandon was arrested in connection with the search of his house on October 27, 1986, Blandon's attorney, Bradley Brunon, called Huffman and complained about the arrest of Blandon. Brunon allegedly said that he thought the 'CIA winked at this sort of thing,' referring to efforts by Blandon to raise funds for the Contras."(ChII, PtE3d2, p46)"

Ronald Lister and the CIA

"Blandon recalled hearing Lister say that he was involved with the CIA and that he knew someone high up in the CIA who was getting him some licenses so he could sell weapons to Iran." (ChV, Pt1)

"During the FBI's 1984 investigation of Lister, he claimed to have extensive CIA contacts and provided a number of names, including David Scott Weekly." (ChV, Pt1)

"Lister was thereafter debriefed on his historical knowledge of the Blandon organization by DEA SA Jones. In this debriefing, Lister claimed that he had a CIA connection and mentioned the names Scott Weekly and Bo Gritz." (ChV, Pt2)

"According to the ATF file, the U.S. Customs agent working with Scott Weekly told ATF that Weekly was acting at the direction of Customs when he was involved with the Contras." (ChV, Pt3)

"Lister told the OIG that he believed that Scott Weekly was associated with the Defense Intelligence Agency and that he had worked with Weekly on several projects, including a weapons demonstration in El Salvador." (ChV, Pt1)

"Lister was confronted with several letters written by his attorney, Lynn Ball, that included several references to Lister's contact with 'intelligence agencies.' Lister admitted having claimed CIA contacts on several occasions in order to get different law enforcement agents to back off." (ChV, Pt1)

"There may be other reasons why the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California has not been able to proceed on an indictment of defendants identified by Ronald Lister. These reasons may have more to do with so-called 'national security' and political decisions made by the Attorney General, the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies..." Jan. 6, 1992 federal court motion by written by defense attorney Lynn Ball on behalf of Ronald Lister.

"Deputy Sheriff Robert Juarez included the following in his supplementary report covering this search: 'I spoke with Mr. Lester [sic] who told me that he had dealings in South America & worked with the CIA and added that his friends in Washington weren't going to like what was going on. I told Mr. Lester that we were not interested in his business in South America. Mr. Lester replied that he would call Mr. Weekly of the CIA and report me." (ChII, PtE2a, p39)

"[Found] a 10-page handwritten document with names, phone numbers, a flowchart and a description of various meetings. This document also contained the phrase: 'In meantime I had regular meeting with DIA Sub contractor Scott Weekly. Scott had worked in El Salvador for us. Meeting concern my relationship w the Contra grp. in Cent. Am. At that time I asked him about scramblers syst. I might buy to sell.' It added: 'Said he could get one for me to sell if I had a customer. Want $10,000 for it. As he had to share cost w someone in DIA.'"(ChII, PtE2b, p40)

"In FBI files, however, we found a cable date November 17, 1986, from Aukland to FBI Headquarters, which reported: 'During the service of the 14 search warrants by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office ... it was noted that subject Lister commented that his 'CIA contact,' Mr. Weekly, would not appreciate this intrusion. Lister has allegedly been selling arms to South American countries or insurgents. In addition, documents obtained during the search indicated that Lister has been in contact with a Scott Weekly, 'DIA' (possible Defense Intelligence Agency)." (ChII, PtE2b, p40)

Arms trafficking by the Meneses/Blandon operation

In addition to dealing drugs for the Contra movement, the Meneses/Blandon operation smuggled arms to Central America and directed profits to the Contras.

"In 1982, a source told the FBI that Meneses was associating with known drug dealers and had a reputation as a hit man who had killed in Nicaragua. Another FBI source reported that Meneses was involved in the weapons business..."(ChIII, Pt1)

"Meneses described Lister as a close associate of Blandon who, in addition to cocaine trafficking, smuggled sophisticated weapons into Latin America and Asia." (ChII, Pt4)

Blandon told the OIG that "he had first met Lister when he came to an FDN meeting to show them some weapons. Eventually, Lister, Meneses and Blandon entered into an informal partnership for the purpose of selling arms abroad. Efforts to sell to the Contras were unsuccessful, however, because the Contras already had their own weapons suppliers. Meneses, Blandon and Lister than went to El Salvador to market weapons to the Salvadorans. According to Blandon, the plan was for Blandon and Meneses to get their share of the profits in weapons, which they would then give to the Contras." (ChI, Pt5)

"In September 1983, Lister's company Pyramid International Security Consultants, was listed as the subject of a (FBI) neutrality violation investigation involving the sale of weapons to El Salvador and the loan of money from Saudi Arabia to the Salvadoran government. Lister was also alleged to be attempting to sell arms to several other countries." (ChV, Pt1)

"According to Tim LaFrance, Pyramid Security was run by Richard Wilker, who claimed some CIA affiliation. LaFrance believed that Wilker once did have some contact with the CIA..." (ChV, Pt3)

FBI informant LA CI-1 "recalled that Meneses returned to Miami from El Salvador in 1982 and spoke of plans to sell night scope devices obtained from Ronald Lister to the Salvadoran government. Meneses planned to use the proceeds from the night scopes to aid the Contras." (ChI, Pt5)

"Lister told the OIG that between 1982 and 1984, he and an associate obtained 15-20 KG-9's and some handguns from Crasney's Gun Shop, a legitimate gun dealer, and sold them to Blandon. He claimed that he provided Blandon with weapons for the Contras...Blandon told Lister that he had sent the weapons to the Contras...He explained, "Anything I gave him was for the purpose of the Contras. What he did with it, I can't say." (ChV, Pt1)

"Lister's 1985 monthly calendar was also among the documents seized. It reflects appointment with the notation 'Contra' or 'D-Contra.' On Feb. 25, 1985, the notation '1 p.m. Scott DIA, ref/Contra group...Lister said the notation "SF Contras" on Mar. 7, 1985 was a reference to a meeting with Blandon in San Francisco on a drug transaction and the notation "LA Contras" on Sept. 18, 1985 referred to meeting Blandon in Los Angeles on that date." (ChV, Pt1)

The OIG concluded that a handwritten document found in Lister's house during a 1986 drug raid "may well reflect efforts by Lister to supply military equipment to one or more factions involved in the civil war that was raging in El Salvador during this period." (ChV, Pt1)

"On Dec. 22, 1986, the FBI interviewed Lister...when asked if he was involved in training of Contras, he requested that an unidentified representative from another agency be present before he would answer..." (ChV, Pt1)

"On Feb. 3, 1987, the Los Angeles FBI received information from an informant that Lister had told an unidentified neighbor over drinks that he worked for Oliver North and Secord and had sent arms shipments to the Contras." (ChV, Pt1)

"DEA CI-1 was also told...that up until two years before, Blandon and his organization had been supplying Contra leader Eden Pastora with weapons." (ChII, Pt4)

"The agent said he had the impression that Norwin was moving guns for the Contras." (ChIII, Pt2)

Missing Records

A number of important documents were discussed in the DOJ's Report that were either lost, misplaced or for some reason were not able to be found.

"On October 31, 1986 and Nov. 3, 1986, numerous documents were copied by agents of the FBI, DEA and IRS. A later investigative report stated that 1,112 pages were copied...in response to our repeated requests the FBI was unable to locate these documents...the DEA could not locate these documents."

"The Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office was unable to find an OCDETF case closing form" explaining why the Blandon investigation was shut down. (ChII, Pt5)

"When retrieved by the OIG, Blandon's Alien File was in disarray..." (ChII, Pt7)

"The OIG requested all files on Meneses from the DEA, the FBI, the State Department and the INS, including his INS alien file. These files only provide sketchy information, however, and do not show how Meneses entered the United States repeatedly. Moreover, despite our requests to the INS, DEA and the State Department for all files concerning Meneses' entries into the United States and their extensive efforts to find them, we are not confident that all such files have been identified or located because our knowledge of certain visits Meneses took to the United States are not reflected in the records we obtained." (ChIII, Pt4)

The Meneses-Blandon-Ross Cocaine Operation

All official Reports acknowledged that Meneses, Blandon and Ross were major drug dealers.

"In sum, we found significant evidence that Meneses was a large-scale drug trafficker who was pursued by federal authorities for many years." (Ex.Sum. p10)

"During Ross' testimony at a trial in 1991, he estimated that he sold roughly 2,000 to 3,000 kilograms (approximately two to three tons) over the seven-year period he dealt drugs." (Ex.Sum. p12)

"Blandon, by his own admission, became a significant drug dealer, receiving cocaine from Colombians, Mexicans, and Nicaraguans and selling large quantities to Rick Ross as well as others." (ChII, PtA, p30)

"Meneses imported cocaine from Colombia through Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica, and was one of the largest distributors of cocaine on the West Coast…. Blandon was said to be Meneses' largest competitor, although the two had previously been partners and still operated together when necessary." (ChII, PtC, p32)

"According to LA CI-1, among the members of Blandon's organization were his wife (Chepita), Orlando Murillo (who routinely laundered cocaine funds for Blandon), and Ronald Lister, a former Laguna Beach, California police officer who, in September 1985, allegedly drove with Blandon to deliver 100 kilos of cocaine to "major suppliers of LA 'rock houses'" in exchange for 2.6 million dollars." (ChII, PtC, p32)

"FBI Special Agent Don Hale … was investigating Meneses, in coordination with San Francisco Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Swenson. [H]e reported to (FBI Agent) Aukland that Meneses 'had been known as cocaine distributor for many years by FBI and DEA.'" (ChII, PtD, p34)

"According to the LASD Report .... Blandon was said to work with an ex-Laguna Beach Police Officer by the name of "Ronnie" [Ronald Lister], who was reported to have transported 100 kilos of cocaine to the "black market" in Los Angeles and millions of dollars to Miami for Blandon." (ChII, PtE, p35)

"Aff. stated G's informant had reported that the highest ranking member of the drug organization was Blandon, who had several businesses and residences that he used for the distribution and storage of cocaine. Ronald Lister, described as a close associate of Blandon, was said to operate a private investigation agency... and to store and transport cocaine for Blandon." (ChII, PtE1)

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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Floor Remarks of Rep. Maxine Waters
CIA Admits Ties to Contra Drug Dealers
July 17, 1998

"Today I renew my call on CIA Director George Tenant to immediately release the CIA Inspector General's classified report on the allegations of CIA involvement with Contra drug trafficking. I also call, once again, on Chairman Porter Goss of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to hold prompt public hearings on the findings of these reports.

March 16, 1998 CONTACT: Marcela Howell
(202) 225-2201

Testimony of Rep. Maxine Waters
Before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
On the CIA OIG Report of Investigation
"Allegations of Connections Between CIA and Contras in Cocaine Trafficking
to the US" "Volume I: The California Story"
March 16, 1998
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, I am here today to testify about the failure of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to conduct a serious and thorough investigation into the allegations of CIA involvement in cocaine trafficking to fund its Contra war activities. Unfortunately, my fear that the CIA would be unable to investigate itself has been confirmed with this report. The Inspector General's Report lacks credibility. It is fraught with contradictions and illogical conclusions.


December 18, 1997 CONTACT: Marcela Howell
(202) 225-2201


I, like others, had been told that the reports by the Inspector Generals of both the Justice Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) regarding the CIA's involvement in drug trafficking in South Central Los Angeles would be released today and that the public would have access to those reports.

Instead, we are faced with strategically placed leaks concerning the conclusions of the report by the Inspector General of the CIA and silence concerning the report by the Inspector General of the Justice Department


September 20, 1996 CONTACT: Leah Allen
(202) 225-2201

After weeks of intense pressure, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) announced that both the Central Intelligence Agency and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have announced plans to investigate allegations that C.I.A. operatives brought cocaine into South-Central Los Angeles in the early 1980s, as part of U.S. government efforts to fund the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.

"While I am pleased that we are beginning to receive some cooperation in calling for an in depth investigation into the origins of crack cocaine in our neighborhoods, and the possible involvement or knowledge on the part of the C.I.A., this is only the beginning," said Waters. "We have a lot of work to do, and the investigations will give us a place to start. Clearly, this is going to be a long-term process."

September 19, 1996 CONTACT: Leah Allen
(202) 225-2201

Rep. Waters issued the following statement:

"This afternoon, I met with C.I.A. Director John Deutch on the matter of allegations raised about the agency in a series of newspaper articles written by the San Jose Mercury News.

At that meeting, Director Deutch explained that he has been at the C.I.A. less than two years, and therefore he does not have any information about alleged C.I.A. involvement with drugs and the Contras rebels in Nicaragua., although he has no reason to believe the charges to be accurate.

However, he has ordered an investigation by the independent Inspector General of the C.I.A.


September 17, 1996 CONTACT: Leah Allen
(202) 225-2201


Press Conference on C.I.A./Contra/Crack Connection
Thank you all very much for coming this morning.

I am joined by my colleagues, Rep. Mel Watt, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Rep. Elijah Cummings.

We would like to bring you all up to date on developments relating to the charges and allegations raised by the San Jose Mercury News involving the C.I.A, the Nicaraguan Contras, and the introduction of crack cocaine into South-Central Los Angeles and other inner city areas.

September 13, 1996 CONTACT: Leah Allen
(202) 225-2201

Cites News Account Documenting C.I.A./Nicaraguan Contra Connection to Original Crack Trade in Los Angeles/U.S.
In a dramatic presentation before this year's Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) challenged her colleagues on that panel, as well as the House Republican Leadership, to investigate news stories linking the Nicaraguan Contras and the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) to the introduction of crack cocaine to South-Central Los Angeles in the early 1980s.

In a seminar hosted by Rep. Waters and co-hosted by Reps. Watt, Cummings, and Jackson, Jr., Waters roused a crown estimated to exceed 2,000, and vowed to fight until all the facts relating to the origins of the crack cocaine trade in South-Central Los Angeles and other inner city areas are revealed.


September 5, 1996 CONTACT: Bill Zavarello
(202) 225-2201

Cites News Account Documenting C.I.A./Nicaraguan Contra Connection to Original Crack Trade in Los Angeles/U.S.
In a dramatic statement before the House Banking Subcommittee on General Oversight and Investigations, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) challenged her colleagues on that panel, as well as the House Republican Leadership, to investigate news stories linking the Nicarguan Contras and the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) to the introduction of crack cocaine to South-Central Los Angeles in the early 1980s.


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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How the People Seldom Catch Intelligence-

(or How to Be a Successful Drug Dealer)

by Preston Peet

posted at DrugWar.com Sept. 9, 2002

(Originally Published in "You Are Being Lied To- the Disinformation Guide to Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes and Cultural Myths"- ed. Russ Kick, 2001)

An Eyewitness Strongly Disagrees, Says It's a Lie

A Vietnam veteran, and the DEA’s lead agent in El Salvador and Guatemala from 1985 to 1990, Celerino Castillo documented massive CIA sanctioned and protected drug-trafficking, and illegal Contra-supply operations at Illapango Airbase in El Salvador. Asked what he thought of the HPSCI report, Castillo said, “It is a flat-out lie. It is a massive cover-up....They completely lied, and I’m going to prove that they are lying with the case file numbers...I was there during the whole thing.”[2]

After participating in the historic CIA-Drugs Symposium in Eugene, Oregon, June 11, 2000,[3] Castillo decided to go back through his notes and journals, and his DEA-6’s, the bi-weekly reports he’d filled out at the time, to see just how many times his records didn’t match the “not guilty” verdict of the HPSCI report. “I’ve got them [CIA] personally involved in 18 counts of drugs trafficking....I’ve got them on 3 counts of murders of which they personally were aware, that were occurring, and...to make a long story short, I [also] came out with money laundering, 3 or 4 counts.”[4]

Among the cases Castillo describes in his scathing written response to the HPSCI report, full of DEA case file numbers and Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Information System (NADDIS) numbers, is that of drug-trafficker Fransisco Rodrigo Guirola Beeche, who has two DEA NADDIS jackets, and is documented in DEA, CIA, and Customs files. On February 6, 1985, Guirola flew out of Orange County, California, “in a private airplane with 3 Cuban-Americans. It made a stop in South Texas where US Customs seized $5.9 million in cash. It was alleged that it was drug money, but because of his ties to the Salvadoran death squads and the CIA he was released, and the airplane given back.”[5] In other words, the government kept the money, and known drug-trafficker Guirola got off with his airplane.

DEA agent Celerino Castillo with
General G.C. Walter Andrade of Peruvian
Anti-Drug police, 1984

In May of 1984, Guirola had gone with Major Roberto D’Abuisson, head of the death squads in El Salvador at that time, to a highly secret, sensitive, and as it turns out, successful meeting with former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, Vernon Walters. “Walters was sent to stop the assassination of [then] US Ambassador to El Salvador, Thomas Pickering.”[6] The CIA knew Guirola, and knew him well. Although the HPSCI report notes that John McCavitt, a senior CIA official in Guatemala and El Salvador at the time, “rejects forcefully” the idea that there was CIA involvement in trafficking in either country, and that he told the Committee that Illopango Airport in El Salvador hadn’t been used as a narcotics trans-shipment point by Contra leaders,[7] Castillo documented Guirola less than a year after the arrest in South Texas, flying drugs, cash, and weapons in and out of Illopango Airfield, out of hangers 4 and 5, which were run respectively by Oliver North/Gen. Richard Secord’s National Security Council (NSC) Contra-supply operation, and the CIA.[8] There’s no sign of Guirola within the entire 44 page HPSCI report.

“On April 29, 1989, the DoJ requested that the Agency provide information regarding Juan Matta Ballesteros and 6 codefendants for use in prosecution. DoJ also requested information regarding SETCO, described as ‘a Honduran corporation set up by Juan Matta Ballesteros.’ The May 2 CIA memo to DoJ containing the results of Agency traces on Matta, his codefendants, and SETCO stated that following an ‘extensive search of the files and indices of the directorate of Operations ...There are no records of a SETCO Air.’”[21] Matta, wanted by the DEA in connection with the brutal 30-hour torture and murder of one of their agents, Enrique Camarena, in Mexico in February 1985, and who Newsweek magazine described, May 15, 1985, as being responsible for up to a third of all cocaine entering the US,[22] was a very well known trafficker, so it is ludicrous to suggest that the CIA hasn’t covered-up evidence of drug trafficking by assets, even from their own investigators.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Has Its Doubts About US Government Drug-Ties Denials

Bringing one of the minor players in Gary Webb’s story back into the limelight, Wednesday, July 26, 2000, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the US, ruled that asylum-seeking Nicaraguan Renato Pena Cabrera, former cocaine dealer and Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense, (FDN), Contra faction spokesman in Northern California during the early 80s, should have a judge hear his story in court. Pena is fighting extradition from the US stemming from a 1985 conviction for cocaine trafficking. Pena alleges the drug dealing he was involved in had the express permission of the US Government, and that he was told by the prosecutor soon after his 1984 arrest that he would not face deportation, due to his assisting the Contra efforts. “Pena and his allies supporting the Contras became involved in selling cocaine in order to circumvent the congressional ban on non-humanitarian aid to the Contras. Pena states that he was told that leading Contra military commanders, with ties to the CIA, knew about the drug dealing,” the 3 judge panel wrote in its decision.[49]

Pena’s story seemed plausible to the judges, who decided that the charges were of such serious import they deserved to be heard and evaluated by a judge in court. It also means that they probably do not believe the HPSCI report. Perhaps they were remembering the entries in Oliver North’s notebooks, dated July 9, 1984, writing of a conversation with CIA agent Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, when North wrote, “Wanted aircraft to go to Bolivia to pick up paste,” and “Want aircraft to pick up 1,500 kilos.”[50]


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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