Preston Peet: How to Be a Successful Drug Dealer
How the People Seldom Catch Intelligence-
(or... How to Be a Successful Drug Dealer)
By Preston Peet * - Editor drugwar.com
“For me, one could write about lies from morning till night, but this is the one most worth writing about, because the domestic consequences are so horrible; it’s contributed to police brutality, police corruption, militarizations of police forces, and now, as we speak, it contributes to the pretext for another Viet Nam War.”
- Peter Dale Scott, July 24, 2000
On May 11, 2000, the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence made public their “Report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Alleged Involvement in Crack Cocaine Trafficking in the Los Angeles Area.” The investigation by the HPSCI focused solely on the “implications” of facts reported in investigative reporter Gary Webb’s 3-part expose in the San Jose Mercury News, August, 18, 19, and 20, 1996, titled “Dark Alliance,” in which it was alleged that a core group of Nicaraguan Contra supporters formed an alliance with black dealers in South Central Los Angeles to sell cocaine to the Bloods and Crips street gangs, who turned it into crack, then the drug-profits were funneled back to Contra coffers by the Contra supporters. Approved for release in February, 2000, the HPSCI report states the Committee “found no evidence” to support allegations that CIA agents or assets associated in any way with the Nicaraguan Contra movement were involved in the supply or sale of drugs in the Los Angeles area. Utilizing a not-so-subtle strategy of semantics and misdirection, the HPSCI report seeks to shore up the justifiably crumbling trust in government experienced by the American public. But the report is still a lie.
One would have to intentionally not look to miss the copious amounts of evidence of CIA sanctioned and protected drug-trafficking, even in LA, that exists today in the public record, and the HPSCI succeeds admirably, disregarding sworn testimony, government reports, and ignores what agents on the ground at the scene have to say.
A Viet Nam 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.”
After participating in the historic CIA-Drugs Symposium in Eugene, Oregon, June 11, 2000, 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.”
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.” In other words, the government kept the money, and known drug-trafficker Guirola got off with his airplane. 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.” 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, 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. There’s no sign of Guirola within the entire 44 page HPSCI report.
Prof. Peter Dale Scott also wrote a response to the HPSCI report, in which he wrote “this latest deception cannot be written off as an academic or historical matter. The CIA’s practice of recruiting drug-financed armies is an on-going matter.”
Scott, a Professor Emeritus at Berkeley campus, University of California, prolific author, and a former Canadian diplomat from 1957 to 1961, has spent years studying and reporting on drug-trafficking connections of the CIA and other US government agencies. Knowing that the HPSCI report is full of lies and misrepresentations, Scott is at a loss as to how this report could have been authorized for release by the Committee, and voiced serious concerns about the staff of the HPSCI. “Well, they were headed by this guy who just committed suicide, (Chief of Staff John Millis), who not only was ex-CIA, he’d actually been working with Gulbuddin Hekmatyer in Afghanistan, (as part of CIA covert operations assisting in the fight against the Soviets in the late 70s and early 80s, while Hekmatyar moved tons of opium and smack). He may not have known about the Contra-drug connections, but he certainly knew about some CIA-drugs ties. I don’t think it was an accident that they picked someone from that area to sit over the staff either. I mean, this was one of the most sensitive political threats that the CIA had ever faced.” John Millis, a 19-year veteran of the CIA, was found dead of “suicide” in a dingy hotel room in Vienna, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC, June 3, 2000, less than a month after the release of the HPSCI report.
The CIA released it’s own report in two parts, the Hitz Report, Vol. 1 in January, 1998, and Vol. 2, in October, 1998, (within hours of the vote by Congress to hold impeachment hearings over Clinton’s lying about a blow job), which examined the allegations of CIA protecting and facilitating, and participating directly in drug trafficking. There were numerous examples contained therein, particularly in Vol. 2, of just how much the CIA really knew about the drug trafficking of its “assets,” and admitted to knowing. But by the time the report was released to the public, the major news outlets, “the regular villains,” as Scott calls them, had already denigrated the story for 2 years, attacking and vilifying Webb, instead of investigating the facts themselves.
“The Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, all insisted that the Contra-cocaine was minor, and could not be blamed for the crack epidemic. As the [Hitz/CIA, and DoJ] government investigations unfolded, however, it became clear that nearly every major cocaine smuggling network used the Contras in some way, and that the Contras were connected- directly or indirectly- with possibly the bulk of cocaine that flooded the United States in the 1980s,” wrote one journalist who has covered this story extensively, from the very start.
“This has been the case since the beginning. The strategy of how to refute Webb is to claim that he said something that in fact he didn’t say. The Committee didn’t invent this kind of deflection away from the truth, they just followed in the footsteps of the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and they in turn may have been following in the footsteps of the CIA to begin with, but I don’t know,” said Scott. “The Committee was originally created to exert Congressional checks and restraints on the intelligence community, in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution. For some time it has operated instead as a rubber-stamp, deflecting public concern rather than representing it.”
Saturday, October 10th, 1998, anyone
watching CNN that morning might have
caught a brief mention of the release of the Hitz Report, Vol. 2. CNN reported that the CIA acknowledged it knew of at least 58 companies and individuals involved in bringing cocaine into the US, and selling cocaine to US citizens, to help fund the Contra war in Nicaragua, while they were working for the CIA in some capacity.
March 16, 1998, Fred Hitz, then-Inspector General of the CIA, had already told US Representatives at the sole Congressional hearing on the first half of this report, Hitz Vol. 1, that the CIA had worked with both companies, and different individuals that it knew were involved in the drug trade. I.G. Hitz went on to say that the CIA knew that drugs were coming into the US along the same supply routes used for the Contras, and that the Agency did not attempt to report these traffickers in an expeditious manner, nor did the CIA sever it's relationship with those Contra supporters who were also alleged traffickers.
One of the most important things Hitz testified to was that William Casey, Director of the CIA under President Ronald Reagan, and William F. Smith, US Attorney General at that time, in March 1982 signed a “Memorandum Of Understanding,” in which it was made clear that the CIA had no obligation to report the allegations of trafficking involving “non-employees.” Casey sent a private message to A.G. Smith on March 2, 1982, in which he stated that he had signed the “procedures,” saying that he believed the new regulations struck a “...proper balance between enforcement of the law and protection of intelligence sources and methods....” This was in response to a letter from Smith to Casey on Feb. 11, 1982 regarding the new Executive Order of President Reagan’s that had recently been implemented, (E.O. 12333), issued in 1981, which required the reporting of drug crimes by US employees.
With the MOU in place, the CIA, in cooperation with the Department of Justice, changed the CIA's regulations in 1982, redefining the term “employee” to mean only full-time career CIA officials. The result of this was that suddenly there were thousands of people, contract agents, employees of the CIA, who were no longer called employees. Now they were people who were, “employed by, assigned to, or acting for an agency within the intelligence community.” Non-employees, if you will.
According to a memo sent to Mark M. Richard, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General/Criminal Division, of the USA, on the subject of CIA reporting of Drug Offenses, dated February 8, 1985, this meant, as per the 1982 MOU, that the CIA really was under no obligation to report alleged drug violations by these “non-employees.”
It is pure disinformation for the HPSCI to print, “CIA reporting to DoJ of information on Contra involvement in narcotics trafficking was inconsistent but in compliance with then-current policies and regulations. There is no evidence however that CIA officers in the field or at headquarters ever concealed narcotics trafficking information or allegations involving the Contras.”
“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.’” 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, 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.
“I mean, this is different than the MOU, which said the CIA was under no obligation to volunteer information to the DoJ,” said Scott. “It never said the CIA was allowed to withhold information from the DoJ. In the case of SETCO, they were asked for the information, and the CIA replied falsely that there was none. The Hitz people tried to find out how this could have happened, and one person said I just didn’t know about SETCO, but that is impossible. If people like me knew about SETCO, how could they not? Because the SETCO thing was a big thing.” Matta’s SETCO airline was one of four companies that, although known by the US Government to be engaged in drug-trafficking, in 1986 were still awarded contracts by the US State Department with the Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Organization, (NHAO). These companies were flying weapons and supplies in to the Contras, then drugs back to the US, on the same aircraft, with the knowledge of CIA officials. Matta was protected from prosecution until his usefulness to the Contra efforts came to an end. Then he was arrested, tried and convicted in 1989, the same year Manuel Noriega was removed from office in Panama by US troops, and arrested for trafficking.
The Contra-CIA drug trafficking was no anomaly, but rather normal operating procedure for US Intelligence, particularly the CIA, and for the US government, while they actively perpetuate the War on Some Drugs.
Rep. Maxine Waters, (D-CA), in a speech in the House of Representatives on March 18, 1997, outlined various reports of CIA drug trafficking complicity. Noting a New York Times article dated November 20, 1993, she stated that “the CIA anti-drug program in Venezuela shipped a ton of nearly pure cocaine into the USA in 1990. The CIA acknowledged that the drugs were sold on the streets of the USA....Not one CIA official has ever been indicted or prosecuted for this abuse of authority.” Rep. Waters continued, calling it a “cockamamie scheme.” She described how the CIA had approached the DEA, who has the authority over operations of this nature, and asked for their permission to go through with the operation, but the DEA said “No.” The CIA did it anyway, explaining later to investigators that this was the only way to get in good with the traffickers, so as to set them up for a bigger bust the next time.
In late 1990, CIA Agent Mark McFarlin and
Gen. Ramon Guillen Davila of the Venezuelan National Guard,
sent an 800 pound shipment of cocaine to Florida, where it
was intercepted by US Customs at Miami International
Airport, which lead to the eventual indictment of Guillen in
1996 in Miami, FL, for trafficking 22 tons of cocaine into
the city of Miami. Gen. Guillen was the former chief
Venezuelan anti-drug cop.
“Speaking from his safe haven in Caracas, Guillen insisted that this was a joint CIA-Venezuelan operation aimed at the Cali cartel. Given that Guillen was a long time CIA employee, and that the drugs were stored in a Venezuelan warehouse owned by the CIA, the joint part of Guillen’s statement is almost certainly true, although the ‘aimed at’ part is almost certainly false.”
“That is the case that has gone closest to the heart of the CIA, because the CIA actually admitted to the introduction of a ton [of cocaine onto US streets]. The man was indicted for 22 tons, and [some people said] that his defense was that the CIA approved all of it,” Scott said, recalling the audacity of the case. For the very same Nov. 20, 1993 NYTimes article mentioned in Rep. Waters’ speech, “the spin the CIA gave the Times was that it was trying to sting Haiti's National Intelligence Service (SIN) - which the CIA itself had created.”
Which brings us to the case of Col. Michael Francois, one of the Haitian coup leaders who overthrew democratically-elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991, helping rule Haiti until 1994. Rep. Waters mentioned, in her impassioned speech on March 18, a Los Angeles Times article, dated March 8, 1997, that reported, “Lt. Col. Michel Francois, one of the CIA's reported Haitian agents, a former Army officer and a key leader in the military regime that ran Haiti between 1991 and 1994, was indicted in Miami with smuggling 33 tons of cocaine into the USA.”
“New York Times, November 14, 1993: ‘1980's CIA Unit in Haiti Tied to Drug Trade - Political Terrorism committed against Aristide supporters: The Central Intelligence Agency created an intelligence service in Haiti in the mid-1980's to fight the cocaine trade, but the unit evolved into an instrument of political terror whose officers sometimes engaged in drug trafficking, American and Haitian officials say. Senior members of the CIA unit committed acts of political terror against Aristide supporters, including interrogations and torture, and in 1992 threatened to kill the local chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. According to one American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, ‘it was an organization that distributed drugs in Haiti and never produced drug intelligence.’ How shocking to the innocents at CIA, who certainly had expected Haiti's policemen to be above venality. That is, the SIN dealers, led by Brig. Gen. Raoul Cedras and Michel Francois, who overthrew the legally elected populist Jean-Bertrand Aristide in September of 1991, were armed and trained by Bush's CIA. In fact, Bush's CIA Director, Casey's assistant Robert Gates, was actually stupid enough to call Cedras one of the most promising ‘Haitian leaders to emerge since the Duvalier family dictatorship was overthrown in 1986.’”
“When the DEA's
Tony Greco tried to stop a massive cocaine shipment in May,
1991, four months before the coup, his family received death
threats on their private number from ‘the boss of the man
arrested.’ The only people in Haiti who had that number were
the coup leaders, army commander Raoul Cedras and his
Port-au-Prince police chief Michel Francois, ‘the boss of the man arrested.’ A 1993 U.S. GAO [Government Accounting Office] report insisted that Cedras and Francois were running one of the largest cocaine export rings in the world.”
In January 2000, US Customs found 5 cocaine hauls welded deep within the steel hulls of “Haitian” freighters on the Miami River in Florida. (There have since been many more shipments intercepted.) The mainstream press reported that the drugs had “passed through” Haiti from Colombia. What the mainstream press did not focus on was that the 5 freighters were registered in Honduras, where coincidentally lives Haitian expatriate Michel Francois. Francois, a graduate of the infamous US Army’s School of the Americas, has an extradition request out for him from the DEA. During the subsequent investigation of this freighter smuggling by the DEA, two Haitians were arrested in Miami, suspected of masterminding the freighter operation. One, Emmanuelle Thibaud, had been allowed to emigrate to Miami in 1996, 2 years after Aristide returned to power. When US police searched his Florida home Jan. 29, 2000, “they found documents linking him to Michel Francois.” The Los Angeles Times quoted an FBI investigator, Hardrick Crawford, saying “it is not a big leap to assume that Francois is still directing the trafficking from Honduras.” Although the US requested extradition of Francois in 1997, the Honduran Supreme Court ruled against it. So the CIA-molded and nurtured Francois continues to surface in these international drug investigations.
Explaining why they feel the US government recertified Haiti again this year as a cooperative partner in the War on Some Drugs, even with the abundance of evidence to the contrary pointing to Haitian officials’ continued involvement in the drug trade, (2000), Haiti Progress, the leftist Haitian weekly based in NYC, wrote, “Because they need the ‘drug war’ to camouflage their real war, which is a war against any people which rejects U.S. hegemony, neoliberal doctrine, and imperialism....Like Frankenstein with his monster, the U.S. often has to chase after the very criminals it creates. Just as in the case of Cuba and Nicaragua, the thugs trained and equipped by the Pentagon and CIA go on to form vicious mafias, involved in drug trafficking, assassinations, and money laundering.”
A case involving the CIA stepping in and crushing an investigation into drug trafficking by CIA assets and favored clients took place in Philadelphia from 1995 to 1996, and continues in the official harassment of the investigating officer in charge. John “Sparky” McLaughlin is a narcotics officer in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Bureau of Narcotics Investigations and Drug Control, Office of the Attorney General, (OAG/BNI). On October 20, 1995, McLaughlin and two other officers approached a suspiciously acting Daniel Croussett. While questioning Croussett, the officers found documents in his car marked Trifuno ‘96, which Croussett told McLaughlin’s team belonged “to a political party back in the DR, and they are running Jose Francisco Pena-Gomez for President in May.” This political party was the Dominican Revolutionary Party, (PRD). McLaughlin, in a supplemental report filed January 29, 1996, wrote that Trifuno ‘96 was basically a set of instructions on how to “organize the estimated 1.2 million Dominicans who currently reside outside the Dominican Republic to overthrow the present regime in the elections May, 1996.” Soon it was obvious that McLaughlin’s team had uncovered an enormous drug-trafficking operation, run by a group associated with the PRD, the Dominican Federation, who were supporters of the man most favored to win the Dominican Presidency in 1996, and more ominously, most favored by the US government, and the Clinton Administration. An informant for McLaughlin had told him that if Pena was elected, he was going to make sure that the price of heroin for Dominican supporters fell dramatically.
On October 26, 1995, former CIA operations officer and State Department Field Observer, Wilson Prichett, hired as a security analyst by the BNI, wrote a memo to McLaughlin’s boss, BNI supervisor John Sunderhauf, stating he felt it time to bring in the CIA as they may already have had a covert interest in the PRD. By December 7, 1995, the CIA was called in to give assistance, and to advise the local officers in this case that had potential international ramifications. On Jan. 27, 1996, Sunderhauf, received a memo from CIA Chief of Station in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Larry Leightley.
“‘It is important to note that Pena-Gomez and the PRD in 1995 are considered mainstream in the political spectrum,’ Leightley wrote. ‘Pena-Gomez currently leads in the polls and has a better than even chance of being elected the next President of the Dominican Republic in May, 1996 elections. He and his PRD ideology pose no specific problems for U.S. foreign policy and, in fact, Pena-Gomez was widely seen as the ‘U.S. Embassy’s candidate’ in the 1994 elections given the embassy’s strong role in pressuring for free and fair elections and Pena’s role as opposition challenger.’ Leightley went on to say that on Dec. 11, 1995, Undersecretary of State Alex Watson had a lengthy meeting with Pena-Gomez, whom Leightley stated ‘is a well-respected political leader in the Caribbean.’”
By this time, McLaughlin’s team had hooked up with DEA investigators in Worcester, Massachusetts, who informed them that the PRD headquarters in Worcester was the main hub of the Dominican narcotics trafficking for all of New England. McLaughlin was able to get an informant wearing a wire inside some meetings of the PRD, who taped instructions being given by PRD officials on how to raise money by narcotics trafficking for the Pena-Gomez candidacy. Then the CIA turned ugly and wanted the name of McLaughlin’s informant, and all memos they had written to the BNI on the matter.
McLaughlin and his team refused to turn the name over, fearing for the informant’s life. On March 27, 1996, CIA Agent Dave Lawrence arrived for a meeting with McLaughlin, and Sunderhauf at BNI headquarters. According to court documents filed in McLaughlin’s civil suit against the CIA, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, the United States Attorney in Philadelphia, and the State Department, “CIA Agent Lawrence stated that he wanted the memo that he gave this agency on Jan. 31, 1996, and that BNI shouldn’t have received it in the first place. CIA agent Lawrence went on to state that he wanted the identification of the C/I and what province he came from in the Dominican Republic, CIA agent Lawrence was adamant about getting this information and he was agitated when BNI personnel refused his request.” As this was potentially a very damaging case for the US government, which seemed to be protecting a known group of traffickers, if the informant disappeared, there’d be no more potential problem for the US government.
Within 2 weeks of refusing to turn over the name of his informant to the CIA, all of McLaughlin’s pending cases were dismissed by the Philadelphia DA, declared un-prosecutable, stories were leaked to the press alleging investigations into McLaughlin’s team for corruption, and superiors ordered McLaughlin’s team not to comment on charges publicly to the press, putting McLaughlin under a gag order. McLaughlin’s team broke up, and McLaughlin’s civil suit against his employers and the CIA is still pending at the time of writing, (July/August, 2000).
“We have uncovered more than sufficient evidence that conclusively shows that the US State Department was overtly, there wasn’t anything secret about it, overtly supporting the PRD, and that the PRD, which had as part of its structure a gang that was dedicated to selling drugs in the United States,” said former US Congressman Don Bailey, who is representing McLaughlin in his suit. Bailey said that he suspects the government got the name of the informant anyway, as he cannot find the informant now.
A source close to the case confirms that photographs were taken of Al Gore attending a fund-raising event at Coogan’s Pub in Washington Heights in September, 1996. The fund-raiser was held by Dominicans associated with the PRD, some of whom, such as PRD officers Simon A. Diaz, and Pablo Espinal even having DEA NADDIS jackets, and several had “convictions for sales of pounds of cocaine, weapons violations and the laundering of millions of dollars in drug money.” Why was the Secret Service allowing Vice-President Gore to meet with known traffickers, and accept campaign contributions from the same known drug traffickers?
Joe Occhipinti, a senior INS agent in NYC with 22 years service and one of the most decorated federal officers in history with 78 commendations and awards to his credit, began investigating Dominican drug connections in 1989. Occhipinti developed evidence, while solving the murder of a NYC cop by Dominican drug lords, that one of the Dominican drug lords was “buying up Spanish grocery stores, called bodegas in Washington Heights to facilitate his drug trafficking and money laundering activities.” Occhipinti launched what began to turn into the very successful, multi-agency task-force Operation Bodega, netting 40 arrests, and the seizure of more than $1 Million cash from drug proceeds. In one memorable raid, officers found $136,000 “wrapped and ready” to be shipped to Sea Crest trading, a suspected CIA front company. Then Occhipinti found himself set up, arrested, tried, and convicted for violating the rights of some members of the Dominican Federation he’d busted during the operation. Sentenced to 36 months in prison in 1991, Occhipinti was pardoned by the out-going President Bush in 1993.
Another investigator who tied Sea Crest trading to the CIA was former NYPD detective Benjamin Jackobson, who began investigating the company for food-coupon fraud in 1994. “According to Justice Department documents obtained by Congressman James Trafficant (D-OH), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) believes that Sea Crest is behind much of the money laundering in New York’s Washington Heights area of Manhattan, but that attempts to prosecute the company ‘have been hampered and legislatively fought by certain interest groups and not a single case has been initiated.’ Jacobson’s inquiry led him to conclude that one of those ‘interest groups’ was the CIA, which, the investigator believes, was using Sea Crest as a front for covert operations, including weapons shipments to mujahideen groups in Afghanistan.”
“All I can say is,” said
Occhipinti, “I find it very unusual that dozens of viable
federal and state investigations into the Dominican
Federation, and the activities of Sea Crest Trading company
were prematurely terminated...I am not optimistic that this
stuff is ever going to really break. They will just simply
attempt to discredit the people bringing forward the
evidence, and to try to selectively prosecute some to
intimidate the rest.”
“My investigation confirmed that Sea Crest, as well as the Dominican Federation, are being politically protected by high ranking public officials who have received illegal political contributions which were drug proceeds. In addition, the operatives in Sea Crest were former CIA-Cuban operatives who were involved in the `Bay of Pigs'. This is one of the reasons why the intelligence community has consistently protected and insulated Sea Crest and the Dominican Federation from criminal prosecution,” testified one NYPD Internal Affairs officer, William Acosta, in sworn testimony entered into the
Congressional Record by Rep. James Trafficant. “I have evidence which can corroborate the drug cartel conspiracy against Mr. Occhipinti.”
It should also cause no undue concern among American citizens that the winner of the Dominican Presidential race on May 18, 2000, was Hipolito Mejia, vice-presidential running mate of the infamous Pena-Gomez in 1990, and who was the vice-president of his party, the PRD, for years before winning the race. The inauguration will take place August 16, 2000. Not to mention that Clinton Administration insider and former Chairman of the Democratic National Party, Charles Manatt, accepted the US Ambassadorship to poverty-stricken Dominican Republic, presenting his credentials on December 9, 1999 to the Dominican government.
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. 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.”
The CIA-created FDN were the best-trained, best-equipped Contra faction, based in Honduras, and lead by former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Samoza’s National Guardsman, Enrique Bermudez. Pena was selling drugs in San Fransisco for Norwin Meneses, one of the main figures in Webb’s story, another Nicaraguan who was in turn sending much of that money to the Contras. “It was during October, 1982, that FDN leaders met with Meneses in L.A. and San Fransisco in an effort to set up local Contra support groups in those cities.” Pena was arrested along with Jairo Meneses, Norwin’s nephew. Pena copped a guilty plea to one count of possession with intent to sell, in March, 1985, getting a 2-year sentence in exchange for informing on Jairo.
Dennis Ainsworth, an American Contra supporter in San Fransisco, told the FBI in 1987 that he was told by Pena that “the FDN is involved in drug smuggling with the aid of Norwin Meneses.” Ainsworth also told the FBI that the FDN “had become more involved in selling arms and cocaine for personal gain than in a military effort to overthrow the current Nicaraguan Sandinista government,” and went so far as to tell them that he’d been contacted in 1985 by a US Customs Agent, who told him that “national security interests kept him from making good narcotics cases.” When Jairo Meneses reached court for sentencing in 1985, in exchange for a 3-year sentence he testified against his uncle, claiming to be a book keeper for Norwin, but nothing happened. Norwin Meneses continued to operate freely.
Webb’s attention was initially directed towards Danilo Blandon Reyes, partner of Norwin Meneses, and who turned out to be the supplier for “Freeway” Ricky Ross, described by many as being instrumental in the spread of crack throughout South Central Los Angeles and beyond, beginning in late 1981. By 1983, Ross “was buying over 100 kilos of cocaine a week, and selling as much as $3 million worth of crack a day.” Pena, during this same time, between 1982-1984, according to information in the CIA’s Hitz Report, Vol. 2, made 6 to 8 trips, “for Meneses’ drug-trafficking organization. Each time, he says he carried anywhere from $600,000 to $1,000,000 to Los Angeles and returned to San Fransisco with 6 to 8 kilos of cocaine” Webb speculates that, “Even with the inflated cocaine prices of the early 1980s, the amount of money Pena was taking to LA was far more than was needed to pay for 6 to 8 kilos of cocaine. It seems like that the excess- $300,000 to $500,000 per trip--was the Contra’s cut of the drug proceeds.”
Whether Pena’s appeal will eventually reach a court is not yet known. Most likely someone in Washington, DC, perhaps even former CIA officer and current Chairman of the HPSCI, Rep. Porter Goss himself, (R-FL), is going to pick up the phone and call the Special Assistant US Attorney listed in the court filings, Robert Yeargin, tell him to drop the case, and allow Pena to remain in the US. The CIA and the US government do not want anyone bringing Hitz Vol. 2 into a court room, and giving it the public hearing that former CIA Director John Deutch promised.
The evidence of the CIA working with traffickers is irrefutable. Many Congressional inquiries and committees have gathered together massive amounts of evidence pointing to CIA drug connections, such as Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass) Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics and Terrorism, which released a report in December, 1988, exploring many of the Contra/CIA-drug allegations. As Jack Blum, former Chief Counsel to the Kerry Committee testified to in Senate hearings October 23, 1996, (before Arlen Specter's subcommittee, who is the inventor of the infamous “magic-bullet theory” for the Warren Commission’s investigation of the Kennedy assassination), “If you ask: In the process of fighting a war against the Sandinistas, did people connected with the US government open channels which allowed drug traffickers to move drugs into the United States, did they know the drug traffickers were doing it, and did they protect them from law enforcement? The answer to all those questions is “YES.” The Kerry Report’s main conclusions go directly opposite that of the latest HPSCI report: “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 received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers.”
Webb’s article’s resulted in a Department of Justice investigation as well, lead by DoJ Inspector General Michael Bromwich. The DoJ found that indeed that CIA did intervene to stop an investigation into Julio Zavala, a suspect in the “Frogman” case in San Fransisco, in which swimmers in wetsuits were bringing cocaine to shore from Colombian freighters. When police arrested Zavala, they seized $36,000. The CIA got wind of depositions being planned, and stepped in. “It is clear that the CIA believed that it had an interest in preventing the depositions, partly because it was concerned about an allegation that its funds were being diverted into the drug trade. The CIA discussed the matter with the U.S. Attorney's Office, the depositions were canceled, and the money was returned.”
Since the release of the HPSCI report in May, there has been a noticeable silence emanating from the office of Rep. Maxine Waters, who after the release of Hitz Vol. 1, had called for open hearings, and who at the time of this writing, had still not authorized her staff to make any statements on the subject. Rep. Waters told the HPSCI in 1998 it was a shame that after all the evidence of CIA assets being involved in drug trafficking gathered by Senate officials in the 80s, that the CIA either absolutely knew, or turned its head, “at the same time we are spending million of dollars talking about a war on drugs? Give me a break, Mr. Chairman, and Members, We can do better than this.” There has yet to be a public hearing on Hitz Vol. 2. The HPSCI has released a report that blatantly lies to the American people, who have watched their rights and liberties chipped away a bit at a time in the name of the War on Some Drugs, while certain unscrupulous individuals within the CIA and other branches of US Government, as well as the private sector, have made themselves rich off the war. The investigations into the CIA-Contra-Cocaine connections serve only to focus attention upon one small part of the whole picture, while the HPSCI report narrows the field even further, by insisting on refuting, poorly one might add, Webb’s reporting yet again. “These guys have long ago become convinced that they can control what people believe and think entirely through power and that facts are irrelevant,” said former Assistant Secretary of Housing, and Federal Housing Commissioner under Bush, Catherine Austin Fitts.
The HPSCI only mentions the most prolific drug smuggler in US history, who used the Contra-supply operations to broaden his own smuggling operation, , in passing, relegating Barry Seal to a mere footnote. Mena, Arkansas, Seal’s base of operations during the same time then-Arkansas Gov. Clinton’s good friend Dan Lasatar was linked by the FBI to a massive cocaine trafficking ring, isn’t mentioned once. White House NSC members Oliver North, Admiral John Poindexter, and General Richard Secord, were all barred for life from entering Costa Rico due to their Contra drug trafficking connections by the Costa Rican government in 1989, but you won’t read that in the HPSCI report.
Then there are the drug-financed armies, such as the Kosovo Liberation Army, (KLA), which in 1996 was being called a terrorist organization by the US State Department, while the European Interpol was compiling a report on their domination of the European heroin trade. US forces handed a country to the KLA/Albanian drug cartels, and just over one year later the US is facing a sharp increase in heroin seizures, and addiction figures. Back in the 60s and 70s it was the Hmong guerrilla army fighting a “secret” war completely run by the CIA in Laos. Senator Frank Church’s Committee hearings on CIA assassinations and covert operations in 1975, “accepted the results of the Agency’s own internal investigation, which found, not surprisingly, that none of its operatives had ever been in any way involved in the drug trade. Although the CIA’s report had expressed concern about opium dealing by its Southeast Asian allies, Congress did not question the Agency about is allegiances with leading drug lords-the key aspect, in my view, of CIA complicity in narcotics trafficking,” wrote Alfred McCoy, author of the seminal “Politics of Heroin,” in 1972. Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it? Brit Snider, current IG of the CIA, testified before the HPSCI in closed door session, May 5, 1999. “While we found no evidence that any CIA employees involved in the Contra program had participated in drug-related activities or had conspired with other in such activities, we found that the Agency did not deal with Contra-related drug trafficking allegations and information in a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner. In the end, the objective of unseating the Sandinistas appears to have taken precedence over dealing properly with potentially serious allegations against those whom the Agency was working.” Yet, somehow the HPSCI felt justified in releasing this utter sham of a report to the American people, assuring us that it “found no evidence to support allegations,” that CIA connected individuals were selling drugs in the Los Angeles area.
For US politicians to continue hollering for stronger law enforcement tactics, tougher sentencing guidelines, and vote to give the Colombian military $1.3 billion dollars, so it can turn around and buy 68 Blackhawk helicopters from US arms merchants, to assist Colombia in its War on Some Drugs, then the lies have a personal effect on our lives. This is not a harmless little white lie, this is costing thousands of undue, horrible deaths each year, this sham of a War. For US politicians to continue to vote for increased Drug War funding, when the evidence is irrefutable that US intelligence agencies, federal law enforcement agencies, and even some Government officials in elected office, have actively worked to protect, and cover-up for the real major drug lords, the analogies to Viet Nam are not so far off the mark.
“When I came to America in 1961, the US was just beginning a program where they were sending advisors [to Viet Nam], insisting that they would never be anything more, and [they had] a defoliation program, an extensive defoliation program, which is what we are doing now in Colombia, only I think we now have even more advisors in Colombia, and we’ve graduated to biowarfare in Colombia, which is something we are treaty bound not to do. Yet we are doing it. The deeper in we get, the harder it will be to get out. So there may be still a chance to get out of this mess, or to change it to a political solution, but it is dangerously like Viet Nam.”
Colombia is perfect illustration of the hypocrisy of the War on some Drugs, when we consider the case of Col. James Hiett, former head of the US anti-drug efforts in Colombia. Col. Hiett covered up for his wife Laurie, who in 1998 came under investigation by the US Army for smuggling cocaine and heroin through the US Embassy postal service in Bogata. Laurie gave thousands of dollars of drug profits to her husband to launder for her quietly. Not only did the US military put her under investigation, they told Col. Hiett they did so, giving him time to cover his tracks. The Army performed a perfunctory investigation of the Colonel, cleared him of any wrong doing, then recommended he get probation. Laurie was sentenced to 5 years in May, 1999, in Brooklyn NY, and Col. Hiett was sentenced to 5 months, July 15, 2000. Hernan Aquila, the mule that Laurie hired to pick up the drugs in NYC and deliver them to the dealers, got a longer sentence than the two Hietts put together, 5 and a half years. He is Colombian, they are white Americans. He was a mule, Col. Hiett was in charge of all US anti-drug efforts in Colombia, and his wife was one of the masterminds of the operation.
“In the Colombian drug war, denial goes far beyond the domesticated: Col. Hiett turned a blind eye not only to his wife's drug profiteering but to the paramilitaries, to the well-documented collusion of Colombian officers in those death squads and to the massive corruption of the whole drug-fighting enterprise. [Col.] Hiett's sentencing revealed not an overprotective husband, but a military policy in which blindness is the operative strategy -- a habit of mind so entrenched that neither Col. Hiett nor the Clinton administration nor the U.S. Congress can renounce it, even as the prison door is swinging shut,” wrote one aghast reporter.
Former US Ambassador to Paraguay and El Salvador Robert White said, “Cocaine is now Colombia’s leading export,” laughing at “the idea that an operation of that magnitude can take place without the cooperation of the business, banking, transportation executives, and the government, civil as well as military.”
Will the American people continue to accept the lies and cover-ups? Will the people allow Congress to continue refusing to address the officially sanctioned and CIA-assisted global trafficking, insisting that it cannot find any evidence that it exists, meanwhile voting ever more cash to support the War ? Every American should feel personally insulted that regardless of the facts, their elected Representatives choose to yet again foist another lie upon them, but they shouldn’t feel surprised. This entire War on Some Drugs is predicated upon the existence of the black market, so to ensure the existence of that black market, the intelligence agencies such as the CIA actively promote and protect the power and wealth of the cartels, and themselves, by creating endless enemies.
Perhaps the suitable way to stop their lies and cover-ups would be to sentence these men and women to 10 years of addiction in the streets of America under current prohibition policies, to suffer the consequences of their actions, and give them a taste of their own medicine.
© Preston Peet, reused with permission of the author.
* Preston Peet is a
freelance writer and the editor/creator of New York based
http://www.drugwar.com/. This article was originally
published in disinformation publishing's “You Are Being Lied
To”. See… http://www.drugwar.com/pYABLTexcerpts.shtm
for more information on the