The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death, by Robert Parry

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The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Sat Apr 23, 2016 12:49 am

Part 1 of 2

The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death
by Robert Parry
December 9, 2011

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Journalist Gary Webb holding a copy of his Contra-cocaine article in the San Jose Mercury-News.

Every year since investigative journalist Gary Webb took his own life in 2004, I have marked the anniversary of that sad event by recalling the debt that American history owes to Webb for his brave reporting, which revived the Contra-cocaine scandal in 1996 and forced important admissions out of the Central Intelligence Agency two years later.

But Webb’s suicide on the evening of Dec. 9, 2004, was also a tragic end for one man whose livelihood and reputation were destroyed by a phalanx of major newspapers the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times serving as protectors of a corrupt power structure rather than as sources of honest information.

In reviewing the story again this year, I was struck by how Webb’s Contra-cocaine experience was, in many ways, a precursor to the subsequent tragedy of the Iraq War.

In the 1980s, the CIA’s analytical division was already showing signs of politicization, especially regarding President Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras and their war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government and the U.S. press corps was already bending to the propaganda pressures of a right-wing Republican administration.

Looking back at CIA cables from the early-to-mid-1980s, you can already see the bias dripping from the analytical reports. Any drug accusation against the leftist Sandinistas was accepted without skepticism and usually with strong exaggeration, while the opposite occurred with evidence of Contra cocaine smuggling; then there was endless quibbling and smearing of sources.

So, to put these reports in anything close to an accurate focus, you would need special lenses to correct for all the politicized distortions. Yet, the U.S. news media, which itself was under intense pressure not to appear “liberal,” worsened the Reagan administration’s fun-house reflection of reality and attacked any dissident journalist who wouldn’t go along.


Thus, Americans heard a lot about how the evil Sandinistas were trying to “poison” America’s youth with cocaine, although there was not a single interception of a drug shipment from Nicaragua during the Sandinista reign, except for one planeload of cocaine that the United States flew into and out of Nicaragua in a clumsy “sting” operation.

On the other hand, substantial evidence of Contra-related cocaine shipments out of Costa Rica and Honduras was kept from the American people with Reagan’s Justice Department and CIA intervening to head off investigations and thus prevent embarrassing disclosures. The chief role of the big newspapers in this upside-down world was to heap ridicule on anyone who told the truth.

During that time frame of the early-to-mid-1980s, the patterns were set for CIA analysts to advance their careers (by giving the president what he wanted) and mainstream journalists to protect theirs (by accepting propaganda). By 2002-2003, these patterns had become deeply engrained, leaving almost no one to protect the American people from a new round of falsehoods aimed at Iraq.

Though I was not in touch with Webb in the last months of his life in 2004, I have always wondered if he saw this connection between his own valiant efforts to correct the historical record about Contra-cocaine trafficking in 1996 and the victory of lies over truth regarding Iraq’s WMD in 2002-2003.

In the weeks before Webb’s suicide, there also was the intervening fact of George W. Bush’s reelection and with it, the dashed expectation that the CIA analysts and the mainstream journalists who played along with the Iraq-WMD fabrications might face some serious accountability. At the moment when Webb picked up his father’s pistol and put it to his head, there must have appeared little hope that anything would change.

Indeed, we are now seeing yet another replay of this systematic distortion of information, this time regarding Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program. Any tidbit of information against Iran is exaggerated, while exculpatory data is downplayed or ignored.

So, it may be timely again to recount what happened to Gary Webb and to reflect on the dangers of allowing this corrupt disinformation system to press ahead unchecked.


Dark Alliance

For me, the tragic story of Gary Webb began in 1996 when he was working on his “Dark Alliance” series for the San Jose Mercury News. He called me at my home in Arlington, Virginia, because, in 1985, I and my Associated Press colleague Brian Barger had been the first journalists to reveal the scandal of Reagan’s Nicaraguan Contras funding themselves in part by collaborating with drug traffickers.

Webb explained that he had come across evidence that one Contra-connected drug conduit had funneled cocaine into Los Angeles, where it helped fuel the early crack epidemic. Unlike our AP stories a decade earlier, which focused on the Contras helping to ship cocaine from Central America into the United States, Webb said his series would examine what happened to the Contra cocaine after it reached the streets of Los Angeles and other cities.

Besides asking about my recollections of the Contras and their cocaine smuggling, Webb wanted to know why the scandal never gained any real traction in the U.S. national news media. I explained that the ugly facts of the drug trafficking ran up against a determined U.S government campaign to protect the Contras’ image. In the face of that resistance, I said, the major publications, the likes of the New York Times and the Washington Post, had chosen to attack the revelations and those behind them rather than to dig up more evidence.

Webb sounded confused by my account, as if I were telling him something that was foreign to his personal experience, something that just didn’t compute. I had a sense of his unstated questions: Why would the prestige newspapers of American journalism behave that way? Why wouldn’t they jump all over a story that important and that sexy, about the CIA working with drug traffickers?

I took a deep breath, sensing that he had no idea of the personal danger he was about to confront. Well, he would have to learn that for himself, I thought. It surely wasn’t my place to warn a journalist away from a significant story just because it carried risks.

So, I simply asked Webb if he had the strong support of his editors. He assured me that he did. I said their backing would be crucial once his story was out. He sounded perplexed, again, as if he didn’t know what to make of my cautionary tone. I wished him the best of luck, thinking that he would need it.

The Safe Route

When I hung up, I wasn’t sure that the Mercury News would really press ahead with the story, considering how the big national news outlets had dismissed and ridiculed the notion that President Reagan’s beloved Contras had included a large number of drug traffickers.

It never seemed to matter how much evidence there was. It was much easier, and safer, career-wise, for Washington journalists to reject incriminating testimony against the Contras, especially when it came from other drug traffickers and from disgruntled Contras. Even U.S. law-enforcement officials who discovered evidence were disparaged as overzealous and congressional investigators were painted as partisan.

In 1985, as we were preparing our first AP story on this topic, Barger and I knew that the evidence of Contra-cocaine involvement was overwhelming. We had a broad range of sources both inside the Contra movement and within the U.S. government, people with no apparent ax to grind who had described the cocaine-smuggling problem.

One source was a field agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); another was a senior official on Reagan’s National Security Council (NSC) who told me that he had read a CIA report about how a Contra unit based in Costa Rica had used cocaine profits to buy a helicopter.

However, after our AP story was published in December 1985, we came under attack from the right-wing Washington Times. That was followed by dismissive stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post. The notion that the Contras, whom President Reagan had likened to America’s Founding Fathers, could be implicated in the drug trade was simply unthinkable.

Yet, it was always odd to me that many of the same newspapers had no problem accepting the fact that the CIA-backed Afghan mujahedeen were involved in the heroin trade, but bristled at the thought that the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras might be cut from the same cloth.


A key difference, which I learned both from personal experience and from documents that surfaced during the Iran-Contra scandal, was that Reagan had assigned a young group of ambitious intellectuals such as Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan to oversee the Contra war.

These neoconservatives worked with old-line anticommunists from the Cuban-American community, such as Otto Reich, and CIA propagandists, such as Walter Raymond Jr., to aggressively protect the Contras’ image. And the Contras were always on the edge between getting congressional funding or having it cut off.

So, that combination, the propaganda skills of Reagan’s Contra-support team and the fragile consensus for continuing Reagan’s pet Contra war, meant that any negative publicity about the Contras would be met with a fierce counterattack.

Going to Editors

The neoconservatives were also bright, well-schooled, and skilled in their manipulation of language and information, a process they privately called “perception management.” They proved adept, too, at ingratiating themselves with senior editors at major news outlets.

By the mid-1980s, these patterns had become well-worn in Washington. If a journalist dug up a story that put the Contras in a negative light, he or she could expect the Reagan administration’s propaganda team to make contact with a senior editor or bureau chief and lodge a complaint, apply some pressure, and often offer up some dirt about the offending journalist.

Also, many news executives in that time frame were sympathetic toward Reagan’s hard-line foreign policy, especially after the humiliations of the Vietnam War and the Iranian revolution. Supporting U.S. initiatives abroad, or at least not allowing your reporters to undercut those policies, was seen as patriotic.

At the New York Times, executive editor Abe Rosenthal was one of the news media’s most influential neoconservatives, declaring that he was determined to steer the newspaper back to “the center,” by which he meant to the right.

At AP, general manager Keith Fuller was known to be a strong Reagan supporter and his preferences were sometimes expressed forcefully to AP’s Washington bureau where I worked. At the Washington Post and Newsweek (where I went to work in 1987), there was also a strong sense that Reagan-era scandals should not reach the president, that it would not be “good for the country.”

In other words, on the issue of Contra drug trafficking, there was a confluence of interests between the Reagan administration, which was determined to protect the Contras’ public image, and senior news executives, who wanted to adopt a “patriotic” posture after convincing themselves that the country shouldn’t endure another wrenching battle over wrongdoing by a Republican president.

The popular image of courageous editors standing up for their reporters in the face of government pressure was not the reality, especially not where the Contras were concerned.

Reverse Rewards

So, instead of a process that outsiders might imagine, where journalists who dug out tough stories got rewarded, the actual system worked in the opposite way. The careerists in the news business quickly grasped that the smart play when it came to the Contras was either to be a booster or at least to pooh-pooh evidence of the Contras’ brutality or drug traffickers.

The same rules applied to congressional investigators. Anyone who pried into the dark corners of the Nicaraguan Contra war faced ridicule, as happened to Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts when he followed up the early AP stories with a courageous investigation that discovered more ties between cocaine traffickers and the Contras.

When his Contra-cocaine report was released in 1989, its findings were greeted with yawns and smirks. News articles were buried deep inside the major newspapers and the stories focused more on alleged flaws in his investigation than on his revelations.

For his hard work, Newsweek summed up the prevailing “conventional wisdom” on Kerry by calling him a “randy conspiracy buff.” Being associated with breaking the Contra-cocaine story was also regarded as a black mark on my own career.


To function in this upside-down world, where reality and perception often clashed and perception usually won, the big news outlets developed a kind of cognitive dissonance that could accept two contradictory positions.

On one level, the news outlets did accept the undeniable reality that some of the Contras and their backers, including the likes of Panamanian General Manuel Noriega, were implicated in the drug trade, but then simultaneously treated this reality as a conspiracy theory.

Squaring the Circle

The Square within the Circle [is one of] the most potent of all the magical figures. --The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

***

"As the sky with its stars and constellations is nothing separate from the All but includes the All, so is the 'firmament' of Man not separate from Man; and as the Universal Mind is not ruled by any external being, likewise the firmament in Man (his individual sphere of mind) is not subject to the rule of any creature, but is an independent and powerful whole." -- This fundamental truth of occultism is allegorically represented in the interlaced double triangles. He who has succeeded in bringing his individual mind in exact harmony with the Universal Mind has succeeded in reuniting the inner sphere with the outer one, from which he has only become separated by mistaking illusions for truths. He who has succeeded in carrying out practically the meaning of this symbol has become one with the father; he is virtually an adept, because he has succeeded in squaring the circle and circling the square. All of this proves that Paracelsus has brought the root of his occult ideas from the East. -- The Life of Philippus Theophrastus Bombast of Hohenheim Known by the Name of Paracelsus and the Substance of his Teachings, by Franz Hartmann, M.D.

***

Our scientific procedure is obviously the negation of the Absolute. That was an acute and happy remark of Goethe's: "He who devotes himself to nature attempts to find the squaring of the circle."-- The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston Stewart Chamberlain

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The geometrician does not know the square of the circle. -- De Monarchia of Dante Alighieri

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It is impossible to square the circle perfectly because of its arc. -- The Convivio, by Dante Alighieri

***

Arnesen proclaimed in a firm voice that all of the challenges in aquaculture would be mastered, including the biggest one of all: how to convert salmon to vegetarianism? The carnivorous predator fish need large amounts of animal protein. The feed concentrate dumped into the cages by the ton is made mainly of fishmeal and fish oil. It's a negative cycle: 4-6 kilograms of wild fish are killed and made into meal to produce one kilo of salmon flesh. More than half of the world's fish catch now goes to making feed concentrate for salmon and other animals. Farm-bred salmon consume more animal protein than they produce. How can that be sustainable? "We see the problem the same way the WWF does," conceded Petter Arnesen. "We're experimenting with increasing the share of vegetable protein in the feed, using soy, for example." The company was determined to achieve this, he said, as the fish reserves of the world's oceans were already "exhausted". The trouble is, when there is too little fish product in the feed the salmon raised on it no longer contain as much healthy omega 3 fatty acids. That's not the kind of salmon the retailers want. The poor Technical Director has the daunting task of circling the square -- luckily the WWF can lend him a hand: by simply designating the whole thing "sustainable". -- Panda Leaks: The Dark Side of the WWF, by Wilfried Huismann

***

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Squaring the Circle in the Creation of Sacred Space

This was how Bridges explained the geometries of the Great Tree to interested students back in 1991. As far as we know, he did not intend it as an explanation of the Hieroglyphic Monad. But if one visualizes this drawing of the Tree in three dimensions, one should see two spheres sharing the same axis, that axis ending at the center of a third sphere, at the center of a cross of four directions. One should see at least two cones.

If one locates where different Sephiroth are located and at the intersection of which curved or planar geometric boundaries, or puzzles over the “location” of different planets, you will indeed have a “Helping Hand” to go back through the geometries of the Hieroglyphic Monad, and proceed on the Theorem XVIII.

-- The Hieroglyphic Monad of John Dee. Theorems I-XVII: A Guide to the Outer Mysteriesm by Teresa Burns and J. Alan Moore

***

Although the CIA knew that the estimated 120,000 VC Self-Defense Forces (which Westmoreland described as "old men, old women and children") were the integral element of the insurgency, Carver, after being shown "evidence that I hadn't heard before," cut a deal on September 13. He sent a cable to Helms saying: "Circle now squared .... We have agreed set of figures Westmoreland endorsed." [14] In November National Security Adviser Walt Rostow showed President Johnson a chart indicating that enemy strength had dropped from 285,000 in late 1966 to 242,000 in late 1967. President Johnson got the success he wanted to show, and Vietnam got Tet.

-- The Phoenix Program, by Douglas Valentine


Only occasionally did a major news outlet seek to square this circle, such as during Noriega’s drug-trafficking trial in 1991 when U.S. prosecutors called as a witness Colombian Medelli­n cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder, who, along with implicating Noriega, testified that the cartel had given $10 million to the Contras, an allegation first unearthed by Sen. Kerry.

“The Kerry hearings didn’t get the attention they deserved at the time,” a Washington Post editorial on Nov. 27, 1991, acknowledged. “The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention.”

However, the Post offered its readers no explanation for why Kerry’s hearings had been largely ignored, with the Post itself a leading culprit in this journalistic misfeasance. Nor did the Post and the other leading newspapers use the opening created by the Noriega trial to do anything to rectify their past neglect.

And, everything quickly returned to the status quo in which the desired perception of the noble Contras trumped the clear reality of their criminal activities.

So, from 1991 until 1996, the Contra-cocaine scandal remained a disturbing story not just about the skewed moral compass of the Reagan administration but also about how the U.S. news media had lost its way.

The scandal was a dirty secret that was best kept out of public view and away from a thorough discussion. After all, the journalistic careerists who had played along with the U.S. government’s Contra defenders had advanced inside their media corporations. As good team players, they had moved up to be bureau chiefs and other news executives. They had no interest in revisiting one of the big stories that they had downplayed as a prerequisite for their success.

Pariahs

Meanwhile, those journalists who had exposed these national security crimes mostly saw their careers sink or at best slide sideways. We were regarded as “pariahs” in our profession. We were “conspiracy theorists,” even though our journalism had proven to be correct again and again.

The Post’s admission that the Contra-cocaine scandal “didn’t get the attention it deserved” didn’t lead to any soul-searching inside the U.S. news media, nor did it result in any rehabilitation of the careers of the reporters who had tried to put a spotlight on this especially vile secret.

As for me, after losing battle after battle with my Newsweek editors (who despised the Iran-Contra scandal that I had worked so hard to expose), I departed the magazine in June 1990 to write a book (called Fooling America) about the decline of the Washington press corps and the parallel rise of the new generation of government propagandists.


I was also hired by PBS Frontline to investigate whether there had been a prequel to the Iran-Contra scandal, whether those arms-for-hostage deals in the mid-1980s had been preceded by contacts between Reagan’s 1980 campaign staff and Iran, which was then holding 52 Americans hostage and essentially destroying Jimmy Carter’s reelection hopes. [For more on that topic, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Then, in 1995, frustrated by the pervasive triviality that had come to define American journalism, and acting on the advice of and with the assistance of my oldest son Sam, I turned to a new medium and launched the Internet’s first investigative news magazine, known as Consortiumnews.com. The Web site became a way for me to put out well-reported stories that my former mainstream colleagues seemed determined to ignore or mock.

So, when Gary Webb called me that day in 1996, I knew that he was charging into some dangerous journalistic terrain, though he thought he was simply pursuing a great story. After his call, it struck me that perhaps the only way for the Contra-cocaine story to ever get the attention that it deserved was for someone outside the Washington media culture to do the work.

When Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series finally appeared in late August 1996, it initially drew little attention. The major national news outlets applied their usual studied indifference to a topic that they had already judged unworthy of serious attention.

It was also clear that the media careerists who had climbed up their corporate ladders by accepting the conventional wisdom that the Contra-cocaine story was a conspiracy theory weren’t about to look back down and admit that they had contributed to a major journalistic failure to inform and protect the American public.

Hard to Ignore

But Webb’s story proved hard to ignore. First, unlike the work that Barger and I did for AP in the mid-1980s, Webb’s series wasn’t just a story about drug traffickers in Central America and their protectors in Washington. It was about the on-the-ground consequences, inside the United States, of that drug trafficking, how the lives of Americans were blighted and destroyed as the collateral damage of a U.S. foreign policy initiative.

In other words, there were real-life American victims, and they were concentrated in African-American communities. That meant the ever-sensitive issue of race had been injected into the controversy. Anger from black communities spread quickly to the Congressional Black Caucus, which started demanding answers.

Secondly, the San Jose Mercury News, which was the local newspaper for Silicon Valley, had posted documents and audio on its state-of-the-art Internet site. That way, readers could examine much of the documentary support for the series.

It also meant that the traditional “gatekeeper” role of the major newspapers, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, was under assault. If a regional paper like the Mercury News could finance a major journalistic investigation like this one, and circumvent the judgments of the editorial boards at the Big Three, then there might be a tectonic shift in the power relations of the U.S. news media. There could be a breakdown of the established order.

This combination of factors led to the next phase of the Contra-cocaine battle: the “get-Gary-Webb” counterattack. The first major shot against Webb and his “Dark Alliance” series did not come from the Big Three but from the rapidly expanding right-wing news media, which was in no mood to accept the notion that some of President Reagan’s beloved Contras were drug traffickers. That would have cast a shadow over the Reagan Legacy, which the Right was elevating to mythic status.

It fell to Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s right-wing Washington Times to begin the anti-Webb vendetta. Moon, a South Korean theocrat who fancied himself the new Messiah, had founded his newspaper in 1982 partly to protect Ronald Reagan’s political flanks and partly to ensure that he had powerful friends in high places. In the mid-1980s, the Washington Times went so far as to raise money to assist Reagan’s Contra “freedom fighters.”


Self-Interested Testimony

To refute Webb’s three-part series, the Washington Times turned to some ex-CIA officials, who had participated in the Contra war, and quoted them denying the story. Soon, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times were lining up behind the Washington Times to trash Webb and his story.

On Oct. 4, 1996, the Washington Post published a front-page article knocking down Webb’s series, although acknowledging that some Contra operatives did help the cocaine cartels.

The Post’s approach was twofold, fitting with the national media’s cognitive dissonance on the topic of Contra cocaine: first, the Post presented the Contra-cocaine allegations as old news, “even CIA personnel testified to Congress they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers,” the Post sniffed, and second, the Post minimized the importance of the one Contra smuggling channel that Webb had highlighted in his series, saying that it had not “played a major role in the emergence of crack.”

A Post sidebar story dismissed African-Americans as prone to “conspiracy fears.”


Next, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times weighed in with lengthy articles castigating Webb and “Dark Alliance.” The big newspapers made much of the CIA’s internal reviews in 1987 and 1988, almost a decade earlier, that supposedly had cleared the spy agency of any role in Contra-cocaine smuggling.

But the CIA’s cover-up began to weaken on Oct. 24, 1996, when CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz conceded before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the first CIA probe had lasted only 12 days, and the second only three days. He promised a more thorough review.

Mocking Webb

Webb, however, had already crossed over from being a serious journalist to a target of ridicule. Influential Post media critic Howard Kurtz mocked Webb for saying in a book proposal that he would explore the possibility that the Contra war was primarily a business to its participants. “Oliver Stone, check your voice mail,” Kurtz chortled.

However, Webb’s suspicion was no conspiracy theory. Indeed, White House aide Oliver North’s chief Contra emissary, Robert Owen, had made the same point in a March 17, 1986, message about the Contras leadership. “Few of the so-called leaders of the movement . . . really care about the boys in the field,” Owen wrote. “THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Emphasis in original.]

In other words, Webb was right and Kurtz was wrong, even Oliver North’s emissary had reported that many Contra leaders treated the conflict as “a business.” But accuracy had ceased to be relevant in the media’s hazing of Gary Webb.

In another double standard, while Webb was held to the strictest standards of journalism, it was entirely all right for Kurtz, the supposed arbiter of journalistic integrity who was also featured on CNN’s Reliable Sources, to make judgments based on ignorance. Kurtz would face no repercussions for mocking a fellow journalist who was factually correct.


The Big Three’s assault, combined with their disparaging tone, had a predictable effect on the executives of the Mercury News. As it turned out, Webb’s confidence in his editors had been misplaced. By early 1997, executive editor Jerry Ceppos, who had his own corporate career to worry about, was in retreat.

On May 11, 1997, Ceppos published a front-page column saying the series “fell short of my standards.” He criticized the stories because they “strongly implied CIA knowledge” of Contra connections to U.S. drug dealers who were manufacturing crack cocaine. “We did not have enough proof that top CIA officials knew of the relationship,” Ceppos wrote.

Ceppos was wrong about the proof, of course. At AP, before we published our first Contra-cocaine article in 1985, Barger and I had known that the CIA and Reagan’s White House were aware of the Contra-cocaine problem.

However, Ceppos had recognized that he and his newspaper were facing a credibility crisis brought on by the harsh consensus delivered by the Big Three, a judgment that had quickly solidified into conventional wisdom throughout the major news media and inside Knight-Ridder, Inc., which owned the Mercury News. The only career-saving move career-saving for Ceppos even if career-destroying for Webb was to jettison Webb and his journalism.

A ‘Vindication’

The big newspapers and the Contras’ defenders celebrated Ceppos’s retreat as vindication of their own dismissal of the Contra-cocaine stories. In particular, Kurtz seemed proud that his demeaning of Webb now had the endorsement of Webb’s editor.

Ceppos next pulled the plug on the Mercury News’ continuing Contra-cocaine investigation and reassigned Webb to a small office in Cupertino, California, far from his family. Webb resigned from the paper in disgrace.

For undercutting Webb and other Mercury News reporters working on the Contra-cocaine investigation, Ceppos was lauded by the American Journalism Review and was given the 1997 national Ethics in Journalism Award by the Society of Professional Journalists.

While Ceppos won raves, Webb watched his career collapse and his marriage break up.
Still, Gary Webb had set in motion internal government investigations that would bring to the surface long-hidden facts about how the Reagan administration had conducted the Contra war.

The CIA published the first part of Inspector General Hitz’s findings on Jan. 29, 1998. Though the CIA’s press release for the report criticized Webb and defended the CIA, Hitz’s Volume One admitted that not only were many of Webb’s allegations true but that he actually understated the seriousness of the Contra-drug crimes and the CIA’s knowledge of them.

Hitz conceded that cocaine smugglers played a significant early role in the Contra movement and that the CIA intervened to block an image-threatening 1984 federal investigation into a San Francisco-based drug ring with suspected ties to the Contras, the so-called “Frogman Case.”


After Volume One was released, I called Webb (whom I had met personally since his series was published). I chided him for indeed getting the story “wrong.” He had understated how serious the problem of Contra-cocaine trafficking had been.

It was a form of gallows humor for the two of us, since nothing had changed in the way the major newspapers treated the Contra-cocaine issue. They focused only on the press release that continued to attack Webb, while ignoring the incriminating information that could be found in the body of the report. All I could do was highlight those admissions at Consortiumnews.com, which sadly had a much, much smaller readership than the Big Three.
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Re: The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Sat Apr 23, 2016 1:51 am

Part 2 of 2

Looking the Other Way

The major U.S. news media also looked the other way on other startling disclosures.

On May 7, 1998, for instance, Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, introduced into the Congressional Record a Feb. 11, 1982, letter of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department. The letter, which had been requested by CIA Director William Casey, freed the CIA from legal requirements that it must report drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered both the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan mujahedeen.

In other words, early in those two covert wars, the CIA leadership wanted to make sure that its geopolitical objectives would not be complicated by a legal requirement to turn in its client forces for drug trafficking.

The next break in the long-running Contra-cocaine cover-up was a report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Bromwich.

Given the hostile climate surrounding Webb’s series, Bromwich’s report also opened with criticism of Webb. But, like the CIA’s Volume One, the contents revealed new details about government wrongdoing. According to evidence cited by Bromwich, the Reagan administration knew almost from the outset of the Contra war that cocaine traffickers permeated the paramilitary operation. The administration also did next to nothing to expose or stop the crimes.

Bromwich’s report revealed example after example of leads not followed, corroborated witnesses disparaged, official law-enforcement investigations sabotaged, and even the CIA facilitating the work of drug traffickers.

The report showed that the Contras and their supporters ran several parallel drug-smuggling operations, not just the one at the center of Webb’s series. The report also found that the CIA shared little of its information about Contra drugs with law-enforcement agencies and on three occasions disrupted cocaine-trafficking investigations that threatened the Contras.

As well as depicting a more widespread Contra-drug operation than Webb had understood, the Justice Department report provided some important corroboration about a Nicaraguan drug smuggler, Norwin Meneses, who was a key figure in Webb’s series.


Bromwich cited U.S. government informants who supplied detailed information about Meneses’s drug operation and his financial assistance to the Contras. For instance, Renato Pena, a money-and-drug courier for Meneses, said that in the early 1980s the CIA allowed the Contras to fly drugs into the United States, sell them, and keep the proceeds.

Pena, who was the northern California representative for the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN) Contra army, said the drug trafficking was forced on the Contras by the inadequate levels of U.S. government assistance.

DEA Troubles

The Justice Department report also disclosed repeated examples of the CIA and U.S. embassies in Central America discouraging DEA investigations, including one into Contra-cocaine shipments moving through the international airport in El Salvador.

Inspector General Bromwich said secrecy trumped all. “We have no doubt that the CIA and the U.S. Embassy were not anxious for the DEA to pursue its investigation at the airport,” he wrote.

Bromwich also described the curious case of how a DEA pilot helped a CIA asset escape from Costa Rican authorities in 1989 after the man, American farmer John Hull, had been charged in connection with Contra-cocaine trafficking.

Hull’s ranch in northern Costa Rica had been the site of Contra camps for attacking Nicaragua from the south. For years, Contra-connected witnesses also said Hull’s property was used for the transshipment of cocaine en route to the United States, but those accounts were brushed aside by the Reagan administration and disparaged in major U.S. newspapers.

Yet, according to Bromwich’s report, the DEA took the accounts seriously enough to prepare a research report on the evidence in November 1986. In it, one informant described Colombian cocaine off-loaded at an airstrip on Hull’s ranch. The drugs were then concealed in a shipment of frozen shrimp and transported to the United States.

The alleged Costa Rican shipper was Frigorificos de Puntarenas, a firm controlled by Cuban-American Luis Rodriguez. Like Hull, however, Frigorificos had friends in high places. In 1985-86, the State Department had selected the shrimp company to handle $261,937 in non-lethal assistance earmarked for the Contras.


Hull also remained a man with powerful protectors. Even after Costa Rican authorities brought drug charges against him, influential Americans, including Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, demanded that Hull be let out of jail pending trial. Then, in July 1989 with the help of a DEA pilot and possibly a DEA agent Hull managed to fly out of Costa Rica to Haiti and then to the United States. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “John Hull’s Great Escape.”]

Despite these new disclosures, the big newspapers still showed no inclination to read beyond the criticism of Webb in the press release and the executive summary.

Justice report finds no CIA link to crack cocaine trafficking
by CNN Correspondent Terry Frieden and The Associated Press
July 23, 1998

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A long-awaited Justice Department report released Thursday found no link between the Central Intelligence Agency and the trafficking of crack cocaine in the United States.

The exhaustive, 407-page report was prompted by a series of articles by the San Jose Mercury News in 1996. The articles alleged that a San Francisco-based drug ring sold crack cocaine in Los Angeles and funneled profits to CIA-trained Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the 1980's.

The Contras, with some U.S. government support, were attempting to oust the leftist government of Nicaragua at the time.

The Mercury News' drug-trafficking charges against Contra- connected figures prompted suspicion and anger among many black community leaders in Los Angles.

"After interviewing more than 200 people and reviewing more than 40,000 pages of documents, we did not substantiate the main allegations suggested by the San Jose Mercury News articles," said Inspector General Michael Bromwich.

Report: CIA did not hinder prosecutions

The newspaper series reported that Nicaraguan drug dealers Oscar Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses were also leaders of a Contra group directed by the CIA. It also alleged that the Nicaraguans, along with Los Angeles drug dealer Ricky Ross, received special treatment from federal drug investigators because of their CIA connections.

"While some drug traffickers supplying cocaine to Los Angeles drug dealers were Contra supporters, they were investigated and pursued by the Department of Justice," Bromwich concluded.

"These investigations were not always successful, but we did not find that they were obstructed because of claims that these individuals were connected to Contras or the CIA," he said.

The Inspector General's report also rejected the newspaper's suggestions that the Nicaraguans and Ross were the driving force behind the crack explosion in Los Angeles or in the Unites States as a whole.

'Groundless speculations'

The report was originally scheduled to be released in December, but was held up by Attorney General Janet Reno. The move raised accusations that she was trying to suppress the report's findings.

Bromwich called such charges "groundless speculations." He attributed the delay to Reno's fears of disclosing information about a current investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency involving Blandon as an informant.

In a written statement not mentioning Blandon by name, Reno said Thursday she ordered the delay to protect the integrity of "a very important -- though unrelated-- investigation."


Major Disclosures

By fall 1998, Washington was obsessed with President Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, which made it easier to ignore even more stunning Contra-cocaine disclosures in the CIA’s Volume Two, published on Oct. 8, 1998.

In the report, CIA Inspector General Hitz identified more than 50 Contras and Contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s.


According to Volume Two, the CIA knew the criminal nature of its Contra clients from the start of the war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. The earliest Contra force, called the Nicaraguan Revolutionary Democratic Alliance (ADREN) or the 15th of September Legion, had chosen “to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their cadre,” according to a June 1981 draft of a CIA field report.

According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981. ADREN’s leaders included Enrique Bermudez and other early Contras who would later direct the major Contra army, the CIA-organized FDN which was based in Honduras, along Nicaragua’s northern border.


Throughout the war, Bermudez remained the top Contra military commander. The CIA later corroborated the allegations about ADREN’s cocaine trafficking, but insisted that Bermudez had opposed the drug shipments to the United States that went ahead nonetheless.

The truth about Bermudez’s supposed objections to drug trafficking, however, was less clear. According to Hitz’s Volume One, Bermudez enlisted Norwin Meneses, a large-scale Nicaraguan cocaine smuggler and a key figure in Webb’s series, to raise money and buy supplies for the Contras.

Volume One had quoted a Meneses associate, another Nicaraguan trafficker named Danilo Blandon, who told Hitz’s investigators that he and Meneses flew to Honduras to meet with Bermudez in 1982. At the time, Meneses’s criminal activities were well-known in the Nicaraguan exile community. But Bermudez told the cocaine smugglers that “the ends justify the means” in raising money for the Contras.

After the Bermudez meeting, Contra soldiers helped Meneses and Blandon get past Honduran police who briefly arrested them on drug-trafficking suspicions. After their release, Blandon and Meneses traveled on to Bolivia to complete a cocaine transaction.

There were other indications of Bermudez’s drug-smuggling tolerance. In February 1988, another Nicaraguan exile linked to the drug trade accused Bermudez of participation in narcotics trafficking, according to Hitz’s report. After the Contra war ended, Bermudez returned to Managua, Nicaragua, where he was shot to death on Feb. 16, 1991. The murder has never been solved.

The Southern Front

Along the Southern Front, the Contras’ military operations in Costa Rica on Nicaragua’s southern border, the CIA’s drug evidence centered on the forces of Eden Pastora, another top Contra commander. But Hitz discovered that the U.S. government may have made the drug situation worse, not better.

Hitz revealed that the CIA put an admitted drug operative, known by his CIA pseudonym “Ivan Gomez”, in a supervisory position over Pastora. Hitz reported that the CIA discovered Gomez’s drug history in 1987 when Gomez failed a security review on drug-trafficking questions.

In internal CIA interviews, Gomez admitted that in March or April 1982, he helped family members who were engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering. In one case, Gomez said he assisted his brother and brother-in-law in transporting cash from New York City to Miami. He admitted that he “knew this act was illegal.”

Later, Gomez expanded on his admission, describing how his family members had fallen $2 million into debt and had gone to Miami to run a money-laundering center for drug traffickers. Gomez said “his brother had many visitors whom [Gomez] assumed to be in the drug trafficking business.” Gomez’s brother was arrested on drug charges in June 1982. Three months later, in September 1982, Gomez started his CIA assignment in Costa Rica.

Years later, convicted drug trafficker Carlos Cabezas alleged that in the early 1980s, Ivan Gomez was the CIA agent in Costa Rica who was overseeing drug-money donations to the Contras. Gomez “was to make sure the money was given to the right people [the Contras] and nobody was taking . . . profit they weren’t supposed to,” Cabezas stated publicly.


But the CIA sought to discredit Cabezas at the time because he had trouble identifying Gomez’s picture and put Gomez at one meeting in early 1982 before Gomez started his CIA assignment.

While the CIA was able to fend off Cabezas’s allegations by pointing to these discrepancies, Hitz’s report revealed that the CIA was nevertheless aware of Gomez’s direct role in drug-money laundering, a fact the agency hid from Sen. Kerry in his 1987 investigation.

Cocaine Coup

There was also more to know about Gomez. In November 1985, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) learned from an informant that Gomez’s two brothers had been large-scale cocaine importers, with one brother arranging shipments from Bolivia’s infamous drug kingpin Roberto Suarez.

Suarez already was known as a financier of right-wing causes. In 1980, with the support of Argentina’s hard-line anticommunist military regime, Suarez bankrolled a coup in Bolivia that ousted the elected left-of-center government. The violent putsch became known as the Cocaine Coup because it made Bolivia the region’s first narco-state.

By protecting cocaine shipments headed north, Bolivia’s government helped transform Colombia’s Medelli­n cartel from a struggling local operation into a giant corporate-style business for delivering cocaine to the U.S. market.

Flush with cash in the early 1980s, Suarez invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including the Contra forces in Central America, according to U.S. Senate testimony by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.

In 1987, Sanchez-Reisse said the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, other Argentine intelligence officers, veterans of the Bolivian coup, trained the Contras in the early 1980s, even before the CIA arrived to first assist with the training and later take over the Contra operation from the Argentines.


Inspector General Hitz added another piece to the mystery of the Bolivian-Contra connection. One Contra fund-raiser, Jose Orlando Bolanos, boasted that the Argentine government was supporting his Contra activities, according to a May 1982 cable to CIA headquarters. Bolanos made the statement during a meeting with undercover DEA agents in Florida. He even offered to introduce them to his Bolivian cocaine supplier.

Despite all this suspicious drug activity centered around Ivan Gomez and the Contras, the CIA insisted that it did not unmask Gomez until 1987, when he failed a security check and confessed his role in his family’s drug business. The CIA official who interviewed Gomez concluded that “Gomez directly participated in illegal drug transactions, concealed participation in illegal drug transactions, and concealed information about involvement in illegal drug activity,” Hitz wrote.

Protecting Gomez

But senior CIA officials still protected Gomez. They refused to refer the Gomez case to the Justice Department, citing the 1982 agreement that spared the CIA from a legal obligation to report narcotics crimes by people collaborating with the CIA who were not formal agency employees.

Gomez was an independent contractor who worked for the CIA but was not officially on staff. The CIA eased Gomez out of the agency in February 1988, without alerting law enforcement or the congressional oversight committees.

When questioned about the case nearly a decade later, one senior CIA official who had supported the gentle treatment of Gomez had second thoughts. “It is a striking commentary on me and everyone that this guy’s involvement in narcotics didn’t weigh more heavily on me or the system,” the official acknowledged to Hitz’s investigators.

A Medellin drug connection arose in another section of Hitz’s report, when he revealed evidence suggesting that some Contra trafficking may have been sanctioned by Reagan’s NSC. The protagonist for this part of the Contra-cocaine mystery was Moises Nunez, a Cuban-American who worked for Oliver North’s NSC Contra-support operation and for two drug-connected seafood importers, Ocean Hunter in Miami and Frigorificos De Puntarenas in Costa Rica.

Frigorificos De Puntarenas was created in the early 1980s as a cover for drug-money laundering, according to sworn testimony by two of the firm’s principals, Carlos Soto and Medelli­n cartel accountant Ramon Milian Rodriguez. (It was also the company implicated by a DEA informant in moving cocaine from John Hull’s ranch to the United States.)


Drug allegations were swirling around Moises Nunez by the mid-1980s. Indeed, his operation was one of the targets of my and Barger’s AP investigation in 1985. Finally reacting to these suspicions, the CIA questioned Nunez about his alleged cocaine trafficking on March 25, 1987. He responded by pointing the finger at his NSC superiors.

“Nunez revealed that since 1985, he had engaged in a clandestine relationship with the National Security Council,” Hitz reported, adding: “Nunez refused to elaborate on the nature of these actions, but indicated it was difficult to answer questions relating to his involvement in narcotics trafficking because of the specific tasks he had performed at the direction of the NSC. Nunez refused to identify the NSC officials with whom he had been involved.”

After this first round of questioning, CIA headquarters authorized an additional session, but then senior CIA officials reversed the decision. There would be no further efforts at “debriefing Nunez.”

Hitz noted that “the cable [from headquarters] offered no explanation for the decision” to stop the Nunez interrogation. But the CIA’s Central American Task Force chief Alan Fiers Jr. said the Nunez-NSC drug lead was not pursued “because of the NSC connection and the possibility that this could be somehow connected to the Private Benefactor program [the Contra money handled by North] a decision was made not to pursue this matter.”

Joseph Fernandez, who had been the CIA’s station chief in Costa Rica, confirmed to congressional Iran-Contra investigators that Nunez “was involved in a very sensitive operation” for North’s “Enterprise.” The exact nature of that NSC-authorized activity has never been divulged.

At the time of the Nunez-NSC drug admissions and his truncated interrogation, the CIA’s acting director was Robert Gates, who nearly two decades later became President George W. Bush’s second secretary of defense, a position he retained under President Barack Obama.

Drug Record

The CIA also worked directly with other drug-connected Cuban-Americans on the Contra project, Hitz found. One of Nunez’s Cuban-American associates, Felipe Vidal, had a criminal record as a narcotics trafficker in the 1970s. But the CIA still hired him to serve as a logistics coordinator for the Contras, Hitz reported.

The CIA also learned that Vidal’s drug connections were not only in the past. A December 1984 cable to CIA headquarters revealed Vidal’s ties to Rene Corvo, another Cuban-American suspected of drug trafficking. Corvo was working with Cuban anticommunist Frank Castro, who was viewed as a Medelli­n cartel representative within the Contra movement.

There were other narcotics links to Vidal. In January 1986, the DEA in Miami seized 414 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipment of yucca that was going from a Contra operative in Costa Rica to Ocean Hunter, the company where Vidal (and Moises Nunez) worked. Despite the evidence, Vidal remained a CIA employee as he collaborated with Frank Castro’s assistant, Rene Corvo, in raising money for the Contras, according to a CIA memo in June 1986.


By fall 1986, Sen. Kerry had heard enough rumors about Vidal to demand information about him as part of his congressional inquiry into Contra drugs. But the CIA withheld the derogatory information in its files. On Oct. 15, 1986, Kerry received a briefing from the CIA’s Alan Fiers Jr., who didn’t mention Vidal’s drug arrests and conviction in the 1970s.

But Vidal was not yet in the clear. In 1987, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami began investigating Vidal, Ocean Hunter, and other Contra-connected entities. This prosecutorial attention worried the CIA. The CIA’s Latin American division felt it was time for a security review of Vidal. But on Aug. 5, 1987, the CIA’s security office blocked the review for fear that the Vidal drug information “could be exposed during any future litigation.”

As expected, the U.S. Attorney’s Office did request documents about “Contra-related activities” by Vidal, Ocean Hunter, and 16 other entities. The CIA advised the prosecutor that “no information had been found regarding Ocean Hunter,” a statement that was clearly false. The CIA continued Vidal’s employment as an adviser to the Contra movement until 1990, virtually the end of the Contra war.

FDN Connections

Hitz also revealed that drugs tainted the highest levels of the Honduran-based FDN, the largest Contra army. Hitz found that Juan Rivas, a Contra commander who rose to be chief of staff, admitted that he had been a cocaine trafficker in Colombia before the war.

The CIA asked Rivas, known as El Quiche, about his background after the DEA began suspecting that Rivas might be an escaped convict from a Colombian prison. In interviews with CIA officers, Rivas acknowledged that he had been arrested and convicted of packaging and transporting cocaine for the drug trade in Barranquilla, Colombia. After several months in prison, Rivas said, he escaped and moved to Central America, where he joined the Contras.

Defending Rivas, CIA officials insisted that there was no evidence that Rivas engaged in trafficking while with the Contras. But one CIA cable noted that he lived an expensive lifestyle, even keeping a $100,000 Thoroughbred horse at the Contra camp. Contra military commander Bermudez later attributed Rivas’s wealth to his ex-girlfriend’s rich family. But a CIA cable in March 1989 added that “some in the FDN may have suspected at the time that the father-in-law was engaged in drug trafficking.”

Still, the CIA moved quickly to protect Rivas from exposure and possible extradition to Colombia. In February 1989, CIA headquarters asked that the DEA take no action “in view of the serious political damage to the U.S. Government that could occur should the information about Rivas become public.” Rivas was eased out of the Contra leadership with an explanation of poor health. With U.S. government help, he was allowed to resettle in Miami. Colombia was not informed about his fugitive status.

Another senior FDN official implicated in the drug trade was its chief spokesman in Honduras, Arnoldo Jose “Frank” Arana.

The drug allegations against Arana dated back to 1983 when a federal narcotics task force put him under criminal investigation because of plans “to smuggle 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States from South America.” On Jan. 23, 1986, the FBI reported that Arana and his brothers were involved in a drug-smuggling enterprise, although Arana was not charged.

Arana sought to clear up another set of drug suspicions in 1989 by visiting the DEA in Honduras with a business associate, Jose Perez. Arana’s association with Perez, however, only raised new alarms. If “Arana is mixed up with the Perez brothers, he is probably dirty,” the DEA said.

Drug Airlines

Through their ownership of an air services company called SETCO, the Perez brothers were associated with Juan Matta-Ballesteros, a major cocaine kingpin connected to the murder of a DEA agent, according to reports by the DEA and U.S. Customs. Hitz reported that someone at the CIA scribbled a note on a DEA cable about Arana stating: “Arnold Arana . . . still active and working, we [CIA] may have a problem.”

Despite its drug ties to Matta-Ballesteros, SETCO emerged as the principal company for ferrying supplies to the Contras in Honduras. During congressional Iran-Contra hearings, FDN political leader Adolfo Calero testified that SETCO was paid from bank accounts controlled by Oliver North. SETCO also received $185,924 from the State Department for ferrying supplies to the Contras in 1986. Furthermore, Hitz found that other air transport companies used by the Contras were implicated in the cocaine trade as well.


Even FDN leaders suspected that they were shipping supplies to Central America aboard planes that might be returning with drugs. Mario Calero, the chief of Contra logistics, grew so uneasy about one air freight company that he notified U.S. law enforcement that the FDN only chartered the planes for the flights south, not the return flights north.

Hitz found that some drug pilots simply rotated from one sector of the Contra operation to another. Donaldo Frixone, who had a drug record in the Dominican Republic, was hired by the CIA to fly Contra missions from 1983 to 1985. In September 1986, however, Frixone was implicated in smuggling 19,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States. In late 1986 or early 1987, he went to work for Vortex, another U.S.-paid Contra supply company linked to the drug trade.

By the time that Hitz’s Volume Two was published in fall 1998, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the Contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking. But Hitz made clear that the Contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, Congress, and even the CIA’s own analytical division.

Besides tracing the evidence of Contra-drug trafficking through the decade-long Contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of the Contra-drug problem but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.

According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. . . . [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the Contra program.” One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”

Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the Contras hid evidence of Contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analysts.

Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of Contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and to major news organizations, serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his “Dark Alliance” series in 1996.


CIA Admission

Although Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it went almost unnoticed by the big American newspapers.

On Oct. 10, 1998, two days after Hitz’s Volume Two was posted on the CIA’s Web site, the New York Times published a brief article that continued to deride Webb but acknowledged the Contra-drug problem may have been worse than earlier understood. Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a similarly superficial article. The Los Angeles Times never published a story on the release of Hitz’s Volume Two.

In 2000, the House Intelligence Committee grudgingly acknowledged that the stories about Reagan’s CIA protecting Contra drug traffickers were true. The committee released a report citing classified testimony from CIA Inspector General Britt Snider (Hitz’s successor) admitting that the spy agency had turned a blind eye to evidence of Contra-drug smuggling and generally treated drug smuggling through Central America as a low priority.

“In the end the objective of unseating the Sandinistas appears to have taken precedence over dealing properly with potentially serious allegations against those with whom the agency was working,” Snider said, adding that the CIA did not treat the drug allegations in “a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner.”

The House committee, then controlled by Republicans, still downplayed the significance of the Contra-cocaine scandal, but the panel acknowledged, deep inside its report, that in some cases, “CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so. In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual.”

Like the release of Hitz’s report in 1998, the admissions by Snider and the House committee drew virtually no media attention in 2000, except for a few articles on the Internet, including one at Consortiumnews.com.

Unrepentant Press

Because of this misuse of power by the Big Three newspapers, choosing to conceal their own journalistic failings regarding the Contra-cocaine scandal and to protect the Reagan administration’s image, Webb’s reputation was never rehabilitated.

After his original “Dark Alliance” series was published in 1996, Webb had been inundated with attractive book offers from major publishing houses, but once the vilification began, the interest evaporated. Webb’s agent contacted an independent publishing house, Seven Stories Press, which had a reputation for publishing books that had been censored, and it took on the project.

After Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion was published in 1998, I joined Webb in a few speaking appearances on the West Coast, including one packed book talk at the Midnight Special bookstore in Santa Monica, California. For a time, Webb was treated as a celebrity on the American Left, but that gradually faded.

In our interactions during these joint appearances, I found Webb to be a regular guy who seemed to be holding up fairly well under the terrible pressure. He had landed an investigative job with a California state legislative committee. He also felt some measure of vindication when CIA Inspector General Hitz’s reports came out.

However, Webb never could overcome the pain caused by his betrayal at the hands of his journalistic colleagues, his peers. In the years that followed, Webb was unable to find decent-paying work in his profession, the conventional wisdom remained that he had somehow been exposed as a journalistic fraud. His state job ended; his marriage fell apart; he struggled to pay bills; and he was faced with a move out of a modest rental house near Sacramento, California.


On Dec. 9, 2004, the 49-year-old Webb typed out suicide notes to his ex-wife and his three children; laid out a certificate for his cremation; and taped a note on the door telling movers, who were coming the next morning, to instead call 911. Webb then took out his father’s pistol and shot himself in the head. The first shot was not lethal, so he fired once more.

Even with Webb’s death, the big newspapers that had played key roles in his destruction couldn’t bring themselves to show Webb any mercy.
After Webb’s body was found, I received a call from a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who knew that I was one of Webb’s few journalistic colleagues who had defended him and his work.

I told the reporter that American history owed a great debt to Gary Webb because he had forced out important facts about Reagan-era crimes. But I added that the Los Angeles Times would be hard-pressed to write an honest obituary because the newspaper had not published a single word on the contents of Hitz’s final report, which had largely vindicated Webb.

To my disappointment but not my surprise, I was correct. The Los Angeles Times ran a mean-spirited obituary that made no mention of either my defense of Webb, nor the CIA’s admissions in 1998. The obituary was republished in other newspapers, including the Washington Post.

In effect, Webb’s suicide enabled senior editors at the Big Three newspapers to breathe a little easier, one of the few people who understood the ugly story of the Reagan administration’s cover-up of the Contra-cocaine scandal and the U.S. media’s complicity was now silenced.

To this day, none of the journalists or media critics who participated in the destruction of Gary Webb has paid a price for their actions. None has faced the sort of humiliation that Webb had to endure. None had to experience that special pain of standing up for what is best in the profession of journalism, taking on a difficult story that seeks to hold powerful people accountable for serious crimes, and then being vilified by your own colleagues, the people that you expected to understand and appreciate what you had done.

On the contrary, many were rewarded with professional advancement and lucrative careers. For instance, Howard Kurtz still hosts the CNN program, “Reliable Sources,” which lectures journalists on professional standards. He is described in the program’s bio as “the nation’s premier media critic.”

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
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Re: The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Sat Apr 23, 2016 9:33 am

New York Times Editor Abe Rosenthal Had A “Passionate Attachment” to Israel
by Richard H. Curtiss
July, 2006

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In his farewell address to his countrymen, George Washington cautioned against passionate attachments to foreign countries. If ever such a warning applied, it was to A.M. Rosenthal, the long-time chief editor of The New York Times, who died May 10 at the age of 84.

Rosenthal was a campus correspondent at the City College of New York (CCNY) when he was invited to join the Times staff after his predecessor joined the military in 1944, during World War II. He wisely seized the opportunity to join one of the world’s most prestigious newspapers. Although he never did complete his university studies, four years later CCNY granted him a degree anyway. He started out as a reporter on the Times city staff and later became the paper’s United Nations correspondent, a position he held for eight years. He made a point of creating clever headlines to make his work interesting and memorable.

Rosenthal asked the Times to make him a foreign correspondent, hoping to join the Paris bureau as deputy to the chief correspondent. Because the newspaper’s policy at the time was to have not more than one Jewish staff member in each bureau, another reporter got the posting.

After applying for the foreign staff several times, Rosenthal finally received his first foreign assignment in 1954. He was sent to New Delhi, where he remained for four years, traveling incessantly in the vast country in which he never lost an interest. He also visited Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Kashmir.

Rosenthal’s next assignment was to the Soviet satellite of Poland, which he eventually was forced to leave because of his persistent and embarrassing questions about the Warsaw government. After a brief time in Geneva he was assigned to Japan where, again, he wrote engagingly and interestingly about that unique and highly important country. He also covered the rest of Asia.

The Times then brought him back to New York, where he moved rapidly up the career ladder, eventually becoming the number two man at The New York Times—his ostensible boss being the prestigious James Reston. By that time Rosenthal was a master of cutthroat office politics, in which Reston was not really interested. Eventually Rosenthal took over the top position of managing editor.

Rosenthal made a vast number of imaginative changes that, in effect, modernized what was once known as “the good gray lady” of journalism. Some of these features helped build wide circulation, as did local editions in such suburbs as New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island and Westchester County.

Rosenthal was a master of cutthroat office politics.

For many years The Times was an unhappy and clique-driven newspaper, but its circulation grew even as many other daily newspapers faded or even folded. After inaugurating a special edition for Chicago, and expanding to the West Coast, the Times printed simultaneously in all these important markets. More than anyone else, Rosenthal deserves credit for the fact that the Times is a truly great newspaper which is still expanding.

Although brilliant and innovative, Rosenthal was given to fits of screaming, shouting, cursing and other outbursts that were incongruous with the Times’ public persona. He not only could be petty and vindictive, however, but generous and kind as well.

In 1971 he played a key role in the Times’ publication of the Pentagon Papers, a landmark in the history of journalism which subjected Rosenthal and his publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, to the risk of jail. Equally important, Rosenthal favored those he considered “stars” who were personally loyal to him rather than just to the newspaper.

As managing editor and subsequently executive editor, the posts he held from 1969 until 1986, Rosenthal reversed one of the Times’ final, unspoken limitations on Jews. Because the Times was reputed to be a Jewish-owned publication, there was an unwritten rule that no Jew could report on Israel, in order to avoid the charge of dual loyalties.

Ironically, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, publisher of The Times, did not support the creation of Israel, believing it would create problems for Jewish Americans. At the time of the U.N.’s 1947 partition of Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Sulzberger cancelled an advertisement submitted by the “American League for a Free Palestine” a U.S. alter ego and fund-raiser for the terrorist Irgun Zvi Leumi, led by future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

The action, prompted by Sulzberger’s personal convictions, brought him into confrontation with American Zionists and led to a costly boycott of The New York Times by department store advertisers. The boycott was referred to as the “frightening experience” by Times executives, who locked away all correspondence referring to it in a safe in the Times’ offices.

Under Rosenthal, the Times installed David Shipler as Jerusalem bureau chief, assuming, based on the reporter’s surname, that Shipler was Jewish. Learning only after the appointment that he in fact was not, Rosenthal waited several years, until the correspondent finished his assignment, before awarding the Jerusalem post to Thomas L. Friedman.

In his book The Other Side of the Coin, noted anti-Zionist author Alfred M. Lilienthal recalled that, in August 1982, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Friedman wrote a dispatch from Beirut reporting Israel’s “indiscriminate” bombing of Beirut. Friedman’s office telex machine soon produced a message from New York that Times editors had deleted the word “indiscriminate” as editorializing—although they praised Friedman for “good work under dangerous conditions.”

Friedman replied that he had purposely used the word after traveling around Beirut and concluding that the bombing that day was fundamentally different from what had happened on the previous 63 days. “What can I say?” Friedman telexed. “I am filled with profound sadness by what I have learned in the past afternoon about my newspaper.”

In a rage, Rosenthal ordered Friedman to return to New York immediately. Friedman expected to be fired. By the time he arrived for his lunch appointment, however, Rosenthal came in “looking unhappy, glowered at Friedman and then said: ”˜You are receiving a $5,000 raise.’ After Friedman described what had actually been taking place in Beirut, Rosenthal seemed relaxed and friendly. However, he warned, if you ever pull a stunt like that again, you are fired!”

Every foreign correspondent is familiar with the pressure to avoid unpleasant truths. To this day, Friedman often resorts to circumlocution to avoid censuring Israel—a precaution that undoubtedly has served him well in his present incumbency as a twice-weekly op-ed columnist.


According to Rosenthal’s obituary, his father changed his name from Shipiatsky, taking an uncle’s name, when he emigrated from Belarus to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where Abraham Michael Rosenthal was born. For a time the elder Rosenthal was a fur trapper, before moving to the New York City borough of The Bronx, where he worked as a housepainter. Rosenthal’s father suffered a grievous accident there and died three years later, when Abe was 12.

Four of his five sisters died at an early age, and Abe suffered from a bone disease, osteomyelitis, that initially crippled him. He was accepted at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he spent a year in a cast, thus losing a year of school. Eventually he was able to abandon his crutches and went on to study at what was then called the City College of New York.

At The Times his dearest friend and collaborator was Arthur Gelb, his deputy.

Rosenthal’s first wife was Ann Marie Burke, an Irish-American. The couple had two sons and a daughter before divorcing in 1986. One of their sons later became a New York Times editor, but only after his father had retired. In 1987 Rosenthal married Times colleague Shirley Lord.

Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. refused to waive the mandatory retirement age of 65 for Rosenthal, but did allow him to continue writing his twice-a-week column, “On My Mind.” (Some Times staffers derisively referred to it as “Out of My Mind.”) A few years later Sulzberger told Rosenthal that “It was time to go.” Rosenthal was caught totally by surprise and, in an interview with the rival Washington Post, said so. After cleaning out his desk, he then became a weekly columnist for The New York Daily News, a sensationalist tabloid in which Rosenthal could indulge his pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian prejudices. He wrote for the Post for six more years before going gracefully or ungracefully into the night.

Funeral services for A.M. Rosenthal were held at the Central Synagogue in Manhattan.

Richard H. Curtiss is executive editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, on Middle East Affairs.
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Re: The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Sun Apr 24, 2016 8:29 pm

The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga
by Robert Parry
October 9, 2014

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Special Report: If you ever wondered how the mainstream U.S. media changed from the hard-nosed Watergate press of the 1970s into the brown-nose MSM that swallowed the Iraq War lies, a key middle point was the Contra-cocaine scandal of the 1980s/1990s, the subject of a new movie, reports Robert Parry.

The movie, “Kill the Messenger,” is forcing the mainstream U.S. media to confront one of its most shameful episodes, the suppression of a major national security scandal implicating Ronald Reagan’s CIA in aiding and abetting cocaine trafficking by the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the 1980s and then the systematic destruction of journalist Gary Webb when he revived the scandal in the 1990s.

Hollywood’s treatment of this sordid affair will likely draw another defensive or dismissive response from some of the big news outlets that still don’t want to face up to their disgraceful behavior. The New York Times and other major newspapers mocked the Contra-cocaine scandal when Brian Barger and I first exposed it in 1985 for the Associated Press and then savaged Webb in 1996 when he traced some of the Contra-cocaine into the manufacture of crack which ravaged American cities.

Image
Jeremy Renner, portraying journalist Gary Webb, in a scene from the motion picture "Kill the Messenger." (Photo: Chuck Zlotnick Focus Features)

So, when you’re watching this movie or responding to questions from friends about whether they should believe its storyline, you might want to know what is or is not fact. What is remarkable about this tale is that so much of it now has been established by official government documents. In other words, you don’t have to believe me and my dozens of sources; you can turn to the admissions by the Central Intelligence Agency’s inspector general or to evidence in the National Archives.

For instance, last year at the National Archives annex in College Park, Maryland, I discovered a “secret” U.S. law enforcement report that detailed how top Contra leader Adolfo Calero was casually associating with Norwin Meneses, described as “a well-reputed drug dealer.”

Meneses was near the center of Webb’s 1996 articles for the San Jose Mercury-News, a series that came under fierce attack from U.S. government officials as well as major news organizations, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. The controversy cost Webb his career, left him nearly penniless and ultimately drove him to suicide on Dec. 9, 2004.

But the bitter irony of Webb’s demise, which is the subject of “Kill the Messenger” starring Jeremy Renner as Webb, is that Webb’s much-maligned “Dark Alliance” series eventually forced major admissions from the CIA, the Justice Department and other government agencies revealing an even-deeper relationship between President Reagan’s beloved Contras and drug cartels than Webb (or Barger and I) ever alleged.

Typical of the evidence that the Reagan administration chose to ignore was the document that I found at the National Archives, recounting information from Dennis Ainsworth, a blue-blood Republican from San Francisco who volunteered to help the Contra cause in 1984-85. That put him in position to witness the strange behind-the-scenes activities of Contra leaders hobnobbing with drug traffickers and negotiating arms deals with White House emissaries.

Ainsworth also was a source of mine in fall 1985 when I was investigating the mysterious sources of funding for the Contras after Congress shut off CIA support in 1984 amid widespread reports of Contra atrocities inflicted on Nicaraguan civilians, including rapes, executions and torture.

Ainsworth’s first-hand knowledge of the Contra dealings dovetailed with information that I already had, such as the central role of National Security Council aide Oliver North in aiding the Contras and his use of “courier” Rob Owen as an off-the-books White House intermediary to the Contras. I later developed confirmation of some other details that Ainsworth described, such as his overhearing Owen and Calero working together on an arms deal as Ainsworth drove them through the streets of San Francisco.

As for Ainsworth’s knowledge about the Contra-cocaine connection, he said he sponsored a June 1984 cocktail party at which Calero spoke to about 60 people. Meneses, a notorious drug kingpin in the Nicaraguan community, showed up uninvited and clearly had a personal relationship with Calero, who was then the political leader of the Contra’s chief fighting force, the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Democratic Force (or FDN).

“At the end of the cocktail party, Meneses and Calero went off together,” Ainsworth told U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello, according to a “secret” Jan. 6, 1987 cable submitted by Russoniello to an FBI investigation code-named “Front Door,” a probe into the Reagan administration’s corruption.

After Calero’s speech, Ainsworth said Meneses accompanied Calero and about 20 people to dinner and picked up the entire tab, according to a more detailed debriefing of Ainsworth by the FBI. Concerned about this relationship, Ainsworth said he was told by Renato Pena, an FDN leader in the San Francisco area, that “the FDN is involved in drug smuggling with the aid of Norwin Meneses who also buys arms for Enrique Bermudez, a leader of the FDN.” Bermudez was then the top Contra military commander.


Corroborating Account

Pena, who himself was convicted on federal drug charges in 1984, gave a similar account to the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to a 1998 report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Bromwich, “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.

“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), cross bows, and other military equipment for the Contras. Pena believed 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 believed Meneses had contact with Bermudez from about 1981 or 1982 through the mid-1980s.”

Bromwich’s report then added, “Pena said he was one of the couriers Meneses used to deliver drug money to a Colombian known as ‘Carlos’ in Los Angeles and return to San Francisco with cocaine. Pena made six to eight trips, with anywhere from $600,000 to nearly $1 million, and brought back six to eight kilos of cocaine each time. Pena said Meneses was moving hundreds of kilos a week. ‘Carlos’ once told Pena, ‘We’re helping your cause with this drug thing we are helping your organization a lot.”

Ainsworth also said he tried to alert Oliver North in 1985 about the troubling connections between the Contra movement and cocaine traffickers but that North turned a deaf ear. “In the spring some friends of mine and I went back to the White House staff but we were put off by Ollie North and others on the staff who really don’t want to know all what’s going on,” Ainsworth told Russoniello.


When I first spoke with Ainsworth in September 1985 at a coffee shop in San Francisco, he asked for confidentiality which I granted. However, since the documents released by the National Archives include him describing his conversations with me, that confidentiality no longer applies. Ainsworth also spoke with Webb for his 1996 San Jose Mercury-News series under the pseudonym “David Morrison.”

Though I found Ainsworth to be generally reliable, some of his depictions of our conversations contained mild exaggerations or confusion over details, such as his claim that I called him from Costa Rica in January 1986 and told him that the Contra-cocaine story that I had been working on with my AP colleague Brian Barger “never hit the papers because it was suppressed by the Associated Press due to political pressure primarily from the CIA.”

In reality, Barger and I returned from Costa Rica in fall 1985, wrote our story about the Contras’ involvement in cocaine smuggling, and pushed it onto the AP wire in December though in a reduced form because of resistance from some senior AP news executives who were supportive of President Reagan’s foreign policies. The CIA, the White House and other agencies of the Reagan administration did seek to discredit our story, but they did not prevent its publication.

An Overriding Hostility

The Reagan administration’s neglect of Ainsworth’s insights reflected the overriding hostility toward any information even from a Republican activist like Ainsworth that put the Contras in a negative light. In early 1987, when Ainsworth spoke with U.S. Attorney Russoniello and the FBI, the Reagan administration was in full damage-control mode, trying to tamp down the Iran-Contra disclosures about Oliver North diverting profits from secret arms sales to Iran to the Contra war.

Fears that the Iran-Contra scandal could lead to Reagan’s impeachment made it even less likely that the Justice Department would pursue an investigation into drug ties implicating the Contra leadership. Ainsworth’s information was simply passed on to Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh whose inquiry was already overwhelmed by the task of sorting out the convoluted Iran transactions.


Publicly, the Reagan team continued dumping on the Contra-cocaine allegations and playing the find-any-possible-reason-to-reject-a-witness game. The major news media went along, leading to much mainstream ridicule of a 1989 investigative report by Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, who uncovered more drug connections implicating the Contras and the Reagan administration.

Only occasionally, such as when the George H.W. Bush administration needed witnesses to convict Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega did the Contra-cocaine evidence pop onto Official Washington’s radar.

During Noriega’s drug-trafficking trial in 1991, U.S. prosecutors called as a witness Colombian Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder, who, along with implicating Noriega, testified that the cartel had given $10 million to the Contras, an allegation first unearthed by Sen. Kerry. “The Kerry hearings didn’t get the attention they deserved at the time,” a Washington Post editorial on Nov. 27, 1991, acknowledged. “The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention.”

But the Post offered its readers no explanation for why Kerry’s hearings had been largely ignored, with the Post itself a leading culprit in this journalistic misfeasance. Nor did the Post and the other leading newspapers use the opening created by the Noriega trial to do anything to rectify their past neglect.

Everything quickly returned to the status quo in which the desired perception of the noble Contras trumped the clear reality of their criminal activities. Instead of recognizing the skewed moral compass of the Reagan administration, Congress was soon falling over itself to attach Reagan’s name to as many public buildings and facilities as possible, including Washington’s National Airport.

Meanwhile, those of us in journalism who had exposed the national security crimes of the 1980s saw our careers mostly sink or go sideways. We were regarded as “pariahs” in our profession.

As for me, shortly after the Iran-Contra scandal broke wide open in fall 1986, I accepted a job at Newsweek, one of the many mainstream news outlets that had long ignored Contra-connected scandals and briefly thought it needed to bolster its coverage. But I soon discovered that senior editors remained hostile toward the Iran-Contra story and related spinoff scandals, including the Contra-cocaine mess.

After losing battle after battle with my Newsweek editors, I departed the magazine in June 1990 to write a book (called Fooling America) about the decline of the Washington press corps and the parallel rise of a new generation of government propagandists.


I was also hired by PBS Frontline to investigate whether there had been a prequel to the Iran-Contra scandal, whether those arms-for-hostage deals in the mid-1980s had been preceded by contacts between Reagan’s 1980 campaign staff and Iran, which was then holding 52 Americans hostage and essentially destroying Jimmy Carter’s reelection hopes. [For more on that topic, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Finding New Ways

In 1995, frustrated by the growing triviality of American journalism, and acting on the advice of and with the assistance of my oldest son Sam, I turned to a new medium and launched the Internet’s first investigative news magazine, known as Consortiumnews.com. The Web site became a way for me to put out well-reported stories that my former mainstream colleagues ignored or mocked.

So, when Gary Webb called me in 1996 to talk about the Contra-cocaine story, I explained some of this tortured history and urged him to make sure that his editors were firmly behind him. He sounded perplexed at my advice and assured me that he had the solid support of his editors.

When Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series finally appeared in late August 1996, it initially drew little attention. The major national news outlets applied their usual studied indifference to a topic that they had already judged unworthy of serious attention.

But Webb’s story proved hard to ignore. First, unlike the work that Barger and I did for AP in the mid-1980s, Webb’s series wasn’t just a story about drug traffickers in Central America and their protectors in Washington. It was about the on-the-ground consequences, inside the United States, of that drug trafficking, how the lives of Americans were blighted and destroyed as the collateral damage of a U.S. foreign policy initiative.

In other words, there were real-life American victims, and they were concentrated in African-American communities. That meant the ever-sensitive issue of race had been injected into the controversy. Anger from black communities spread quickly to the Congressional Black Caucus, which started demanding answers.


Secondly, the San Jose Mercury-News, which was the local newspaper for Silicon Valley, had posted documents and audio on its state-of-the-art Internet site. That way, readers could examine much of the documentary support for the series.

It also meant that the traditional “gatekeeper” role of the major newspapers, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, was under assault. If a regional paper like the Mercury-News could finance a major journalistic investigation like this one, and circumvent the judgments of the editorial boards at the Big Three, then there might be a tectonic shift in the power relations of the U.S. news media. There could be a breakdown of the established order.

This combination of factors led to the next phase of the Contra-cocaine battle: the “get-Gary-Webb” counterattack. Soon, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times were lining up like some tag-team wrestlers taking turns pummeling Webb and his story.

On Oct. 4, 1996, the Washington Post published a front-page article knocking down Webb’s series, although acknowledging that some Contra operatives did help the cocaine cartels. The Post’s approach fit with the Big Media’s cognitive dissonance on the topic: first, the Post called the Contra-cocaine allegations old news, “even CIA personnel testified to Congress they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers,” the Post said, and second, the Post minimized the importance of the one Contra smuggling channel that Webb had highlighted in his series, saying it had not “played a major role in the emergence of crack.”

To add to the smug hoo-hah treatment that was enveloping Webb and his story, the Post published a sidebar story dismissing African-Americans as prone to “conspiracy fears.”

Next, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times weighed in with lengthy articles castigating Webb and “Dark Alliance.” The big newspapers made much of the CIA’s internal reviews in 1987 and 1988, almost a decade earlier, that supposedly had cleared the spy agency of any role in Contra-cocaine smuggling.


But the first ominous sign for the CIA’s cover-up emerged on Oct. 24, 1996, when CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz conceded before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the first CIA probe had lasted only 12 days, and the second only three days. He promised a more thorough review.

Mocking Webb

But Webb had already crossed over from being treated as a serious journalist to becoming a target of ridicule. Influential Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz mocked Webb for saying in a book proposal that he would explore the possibility that the Contra war was primarily a business to its participants. “Oliver Stone, check your voice mail,” Kurtz smirked.

Yet, Webb’s suspicion was no conspiracy theory. Indeed, Oliver North’s chief Contra emissary, Rob Owen, had made the same point in a March 17, 1986 message about the Contra leadership. “Few of the so-called leaders of the movement . . . really care about the boys in the field,” Owen wrote. “THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Emphasis in original.]

Ainsworth and other pro-Contra activists were reaching the same conclusion, that the Contra leadership was skimming money from the supply lines and padding their personal wealth with proceeds from the drug trade. According to a Jan. 21, 1987 interview report by the FBI, Ainsworth said he had “made inquiries in the local San Francisco Nicaraguan community and wondered among his acquaintances what Adolfo Calero and the other people in the FDN movement were doing and the word that he received back is that they were probably engaged in cocaine smuggling.”

In other words, Webb was right about the suspicion that the Contra movement had become less a cause than a business to many of its participants. Even Oliver North’s emissary reported on that reality. But truthfulness had ceased to be relevant in the media’s hazing of Gary Webb.

In another double standard, while Webb was held to the strictest standards of journalism, it was entirely all right for Kurtz, the supposed arbiter of journalistic integrity who was a longtime fixture on CNN’s “Reliable Sources”, to make judgments based on ignorance. Kurtz would face no repercussions for mocking a fellow journalist who was factually correct.

The Big Three’s assault, combined with their disparaging tone, had a predictable effect on the executives of the Mercury-News. As it turned out, Webb’s confidence in his editors had been misplaced. By early 1997, executive editor Jerry Ceppos, who had his own corporate career to worry about, was in retreat.

On May 11, 1997, Ceppos published a front-page column saying the series “fell short of my standards.” He criticized the stories because they “strongly implied CIA knowledge” of Contra connections to U.S. drug dealers who were manufacturing crack cocaine. “We did not have enough proof that top CIA officials knew of the relationship,” Ceppos wrote.

Ceppos was wrong about the proof, of course. At AP, before we published our first Contra-cocaine article in 1985, Barger and I had known that the CIA and Reagan’s White House were aware of the Contra-cocaine problem at senior levels. One of our sources was on Reagan’s National Security Council staff.

However, Ceppos recognized that he and his newspaper were facing a credibility crisis brought on by the harsh consensus delivered by the Big Three, a judgment that had quickly solidified into conventional wisdom throughout the major news media and inside Knight-Ridder, Inc., which owned the Mercury-News. The only career-saving move career-saving for Ceppos even if career-destroying for Webb was to jettison Webb and the Contra-cocaine investigative project.

A ‘Vindication’

The big newspapers and the Contras’ defenders celebrated Ceppos’s retreat as vindication of their own dismissal of the Contra-cocaine stories. In particular, Kurtz seemed proud that his demeaning of Webb now had the endorsement of Webb’s editor. Ceppos next pulled the plug on the Mercury-News’ continuing Contra-cocaine investigation and reassigned Webb to a small office in Cupertino, California, far from his family. Webb resigned from the paper in disgrace. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Hung Out to Dry.”]

For undercutting Webb and other Mercury News reporters working on the Contra-cocaine project some of whom were facing personal danger in Central America Ceppos was lauded by the American Journalism Review and received the 1997 national Ethics in Journalism Award by the Society of Professional Journalists.

While Ceppos won raves, Webb watched his career collapse and his marriage break up. Still, Gary Webb had set in motion internal government investigations that would bring to the surface long-hidden facts about how the Reagan administration had conducted the Contra war.

The CIA published the first part of Inspector General Hitz’s findings on Jan. 29, 1998. Though the CIA’s press release for the report criticized Webb and defended the CIA, Hitz’s Volume One admitted that not only were many of Webb’s allegations true but that he actually understated the seriousness of the Contra-drug crimes and the CIA’s knowledge of them.

Hitz conceded that cocaine smugglers played a significant early role in the Contra movement and that the CIA intervened to block an image-threatening 1984 federal investigation into a San Franciscobased drug ring with suspected ties to the Contras, the so-called “Frogman Case.”

After Volume One was released, I called Webb (whom I had spent some time with since his series was published). I chided him for indeed getting the story “wrong.” He had understated how serious the problem of Contra-cocaine trafficking had been, I said.

It was a form of gallows humor for the two of us, since nothing had changed in the way the major newspapers treated the Contra-cocaine issue. They focused only on the press release that continued to attack Webb, while ignoring the incriminating information that could be found in the full report. All I could do was highlight those admissions at Consortiumnews.com, which sadly had a much, much smaller readership than the Big Three.

The major U.S. news media also looked the other way on other startling disclosures.

On May 7, 1998, for instance, Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, introduced into the Congressional Record a Feb. 11, 1982 letter of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department. The letter, which had been requested by CIA Director William Casey, freed the CIA from legal requirements that it must report drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan mujahedeen.

In other words, early in those two covert wars, the CIA leadership wanted to make sure that its geopolitical objectives would not be complicated by a legal requirement to turn in its client forces for drug trafficking.

Justice Denied

The next break in the long-running Contra-cocaine cover-up was a report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Bromwich. Given the hostile climate surrounding Webb’s series, Bromwich’s report also opened with criticism of Webb. But, like the CIA’s Volume One, the contents revealed new details about serious government wrongdoing.

According to evidence cited by Bromwich, the Reagan administration knew almost from the outset of the Contra war that cocaine traffickers permeated the paramilitary operation. The administration also did next to nothing to expose or stop the crimes. Bromwich’s report revealed example after example of leads not followed, corroborated witnesses disparaged, official law-enforcement investigations sabotaged, and even the CIA facilitating the work of drug traffickers.

The report showed that the Contras and their supporters ran several parallel drug-smuggling operations, not just the one at the center of Webb’s series. The report also found that the CIA shared little of its information about Contra drugs with law-enforcement agencies and on three occasions disrupted cocaine-trafficking investigations that threatened the Contras.

As well as depicting a more widespread Contra-drug operation than Webb (or Barger and I) had understood, the Justice Department report provided some important corroboration about Nicaraguan drug smuggler Norwin Meneses, a key figure in Gary Webb’s series and Adolfo Calero’s friend as described by Dennis Ainsworth.

Bromwich cited U.S. government informants who supplied detailed information about Meneses’s drug operation and his financial assistance to the Contras. For instance, Renato Pena, the money-and-drug courier for Meneses, said that in the early 1980s the CIA allowed the Contras to fly drugs into the United States, sell them, and keep the proceeds. Pena, the FDN’s northern California representative, said the drug trafficking was forced on the Contras by the inadequate levels of U.S. government assistance.

The Justice Department report also disclosed repeated examples of the CIA and U.S. embassies in Central America discouraging DEA investigations, including one into Contra-cocaine shipments moving through the international airport in El Salvador. Bromwich said secrecy trumped all. “We have no doubt that the CIA and the U.S. Embassy were not anxious for the DEA to pursue its investigation at the airport,” he wrote.

Bromwich also described the curious case of how a DEA pilot helped a CIA asset escape from Costa Rican authorities in 1989 after the man, American farmer John Hull, had been charged in connection with Contra-cocaine trafficking. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “John Hull’s Great Escape.”]

Hull’s ranch in northern Costa Rica had been the site of Contra camps for attacking Nicaragua from the south. For years, Contra-connected witnesses also said Hull’s property was used for the transshipment of cocaine en route to the United States, but those accounts were brushed aside by the Reagan administration and disparaged in major U.S. newspapers.

Yet, according to Bromwich’s report, the DEA took the accounts seriously enough to prepare a research report on the evidence in November 1986. One informant described Colombian cocaine off-loaded at an airstrip on Hull’s ranch.

The drugs were then concealed in a shipment of frozen shrimp and transported to the United States. The alleged Costa Rican shipper was Frigorificos de Puntarenas, a firm controlled by Cuban-American Luis Rodriguez. Like Hull, however, Frigorificos had friends in high places. In 1985-86, the State Department had selected the shrimp company to handle $261,937 in non-lethal assistance earmarked for the Contras.

Hull also remained a man with powerful protectors. Even after Costa Rican authorities brought drug charges against him, influential Americans, including Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, demanded that Hull be let out of jail pending trial. Then, in July 1989 with the help of a DEA pilot and possibly a DEA agent Hull managed to fly out of Costa Rica to Haiti and then to the United States.

Despite these startling new disclosures, the big newspapers still showed no inclination to read beyond the criticism of Webb in the press release.

Major Disclosures

By fall 1998, Washington was obsessed with President Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, which made it easier to ignore even more stunning Contra-cocaine disclosures in the CIA’s Volume Two, published on Oct. 8, 1998.

In the report, CIA Inspector General Hitz identified more than 50 Contras and Contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s.

According to Volume Two, the CIA knew the criminal nature of its Contra clients from the start of the war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. The earliest Contra force, called the Nicaraguan Revolutionary Democratic Alliance (ADREN) or the 15th of September Legion, had chosen “to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their cadre,” according to a June 1981 draft of a CIA field report.

According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981. ADREN’s leaders included Enrique Bermúdez and other early Contras who would later direct the major Contra army, the CIA-organized FDN which was based in Honduras, along Nicaragua’s northern border.

Throughout the war, Bermúdez remained the top Contra military commander. The CIA later corroborated the allegations about ADREN’s cocaine trafficking, but insisted that Bermúdez had opposed the drug shipments to the United States that went ahead nonetheless.

The truth about Bermudez’s supposed objections to drug trafficking, however, was less clear. According to Hitz’s Volume One, Bermudez enlisted Norwin Meneses the Nicaraguan cocaine smuggler, the friend of Adolfo Calero, and a key figure in Webb’s series to raise money and buy supplies for the Contras.

Volume One had quoted another Nicaraguan trafficker, Danilo Blandon, a Meneses associate (and another lead character in Webb’s series), as telling Hitz’s investigators that he (Blandon) and Meneses flew to Honduras to meet with Bermudez in 1982. At the time, Meneses’s criminal activities were well-known in the Nicaraguan exile community, but Bermudez told the cocaine smugglers that “the ends justify the means” in raising money for the Contras.

After the Bermudez meeting, Meneses and Blandon were briefly arrested by Honduran police who confiscated $100,000 that the police suspected was to be a payment for a drug transaction. The Contras intervened, gained freedom for the two traffickers and got them their money back by saying the cash, which indeed was for a cocaine purchase in Bolivia, belonged to the Contras.

There were other indications of Bermúdez’s drug-smuggling complicity. In February 1988, another Nicaraguan exile linked to the drug trade accused Bermúdez of participation in narcotics trafficking, according to Hitz’s report. After the Contra war ended, Bermudez returned to Managua, Nicaragua, where he was shot to death on Feb. 16, 1991. The murder has never been solved.

The Southern Front

Along the Southern Front, the Contras’ military operations in Costa Rica on Nicaragua’s southern border, the CIA’s drug evidence centered on the forces of Eden Pastora, another top Contra commander. But Hitz discovered that the U.S. government may have made the drug situation worse, not better.

Hitz revealed that the CIA put an admitted drug operative, known by his CIA pseudonym “Ivan Gomez”, in a supervisory position over Pastora. Hitz reported that the CIA discovered Gomez’s drug history in 1987 when Gomez failed a security review on drug-trafficking questions.

In internal CIA interviews, Gomez admitted that in March or April 1982, he helped family members who were engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering. In one case, Gomez said he assisted his brother and brother-in-law transporting cash from New York City to Miami. He admitted he “knew this act was illegal.”

Later, Gomez expanded on his admission, describing how his family members had fallen $2 million into debt and had gone to Miami to run a money-laundering center for drug traffickers. Gomez said “his brother had many visitors whom [Gomez] assumed to be in the drug trafficking business.” Gomez’s brother was arrested on drug charges in June 1982. Three months later, in September 1982, Gomez started his CIA assignment in Costa Rica.

Years later, convicted drug trafficker Carlos Cabezas alleged that in the early 1980s, Ivan Gomez was the CIA agent in Costa Rica who was overseeing drug-money donations to the Contras. Gomez “was to make sure the money was given to the right people [the Contras] and nobody was taking . . . profit they weren’t supposed to,” Cabezas stated publicly.

But the CIA sought to discredit Cabezas at the time because he had trouble identifying Gomez’s picture and put Gomez at one meeting in early 1982 before Gomez started his CIA assignment. While the CIA was able to fend off Cabezas’s allegations by pointing to these minor discrepancies, Hitz’s report revealed that the CIA was nevertheless aware of Gomez’s direct role in drug-money laundering, a fact the agency hid from Sen. Kerry in his investigation during the late 1980s.

There was also more to know about Gomez. In November 1985, the FBI learned from an informant that Gomez’s two brothers had been large-scale cocaine importers, with one brother arranging shipments from Bolivia’s infamous drug kingpin Roberto Suarez.

Suarez already was known as a financier of right-wing causes. In 1980, with the support of Argentina’s hard-line anticommunist military regime, Suarez bankrolled a coup in Bolivia that ousted the elected left-of-center government. The violent putsch became known as the Cocaine Coup because it made Bolivia the region’s first narco-state.

By protecting cocaine shipments headed north, Bolivia’s government helped transform Colombia’s Medellin cartel from a struggling local operation into a giant corporate-style business for delivering vast quantities of cocaine to the U.S. market.

Flush with cash in the early 1980s, Suarez invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including the Contra forces in Central America, according to U.S. Senate testimony by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.

In 1987, Sanchez-Reisse said the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, other Argentine intelligence officers, veterans of the Bolivian coup, trained the Contras in the early 1980s, even before the CIA arrived to first assist with the training and later take over the Contra operation from the Argentines.

Inspector General Hitz added another piece to the mystery of the Bolivian-Contra connection. One Contra fund-raiser, Jose Orlando Bolanos, boasted that the Argentine government was supporting his Contra activities, according to a May 1982 cable to CIA headquarters. Bolanos made the statement during a meeting with undercover DEA agents in Florida. He even offered to introduce them to his Bolivian cocaine supplier.

Despite all this suspicious drug activity centered around Ivan Gomez and the Contras, the CIA insisted that it did not unmask Gomez until 1987, when he failed a security check and confessed his role in his family’s drug business. The CIA official who interviewed Gomez concluded that “Gomez directly participated in illegal drug transactions, concealed participation in illegal drug transactions, and concealed information about involvement in illegal drug activity,” Hitz wrote.

But senior CIA officials still protected Gomez. They refused to refer the Gomez case to the Justice Department, citing the 1982 agreement that spared the CIA from a legal obligation to report narcotics crimes by people collaborating with the CIA who were not formal agency employees. Gomez was an independent contractor who worked for the CIA but was not officially on staff. The CIA eased Gomez out of the agency in February 1988, without alerting law enforcement or the congressional oversight committees.

When questioned about the case nearly a decade later, one senior CIA official who had supported the gentle treatment of Gomez had second thoughts. “It is a striking commentary on me and everyone that this guy’s involvement in narcotics didn’t weigh more heavily on me or the system,” the official told Hitz’s investigators.

Drug Path to the White House

A Medellin drug connection arose in another section of Hitz’s report, when he revealed evidence suggesting that some Contra trafficking may have been sanctioned by Reagan’s National Security Council. The protagonist for this part of the Contra-cocaine mystery was Moises Nunez, a Cuban-American who worked for Oliver North’s NSC Contra-support operation and for two drug-connected seafood importers, Ocean Hunter in Miami and Frigorificos De Puntarenas in Costa Rica.

Frigorificos De Puntarenas was created in the early 1980s as a cover for drug-money laundering, according to sworn testimony by two of the firm’s principals, Carlos Soto and Medellín cartel accountant Ramon Milian Rodriguez. (It was also the company implicated by a DEA informant in moving cocaine from John Hull’s ranch to the United States.)

Drug allegations were swirling around Moises Nunez by the mid-1980s. Indeed, his operation was one of the targets of my and Barger’s AP investigation in 1985. Finally reacting to the suspicions, the CIA questioned Nunez about his alleged cocaine trafficking on March 25, 1987. He responded by pointing the finger at his NSC superiors.

“Nunez revealed that since 1985, he had engaged in a clandestine relationship with the National Security Council,” Hitz reported, adding: “Nunez refused to elaborate on the nature of these actions, but indicated it was difficult to answer questions relating to his involvement in narcotics trafficking because of the specific tasks he had performed at the direction of the NSC. Nunez refused to identify the NSC officials with whom he had been involved.”

After this first round of questioning, CIA headquarters authorized an additional session, but then senior CIA officials reversed the decision. There would be no further efforts at “debriefing Nunez.”

Hitz noted that “the cable [from headquarters] offered no explanation for the decision” to stop the Nunez interrogation. But the CIA’s Central American Task Force chief Alan Fiers Jr. said the Nunez-NSC drug lead was not pursued “because of the NSC connection and the possibility that this could be somehow connected to the Private Benefactor program [the Contra money handled by the NSC’s Oliver North] a decision was made not to pursue this matter.”

Joseph Fernandez, who had been the CIA’s station chief in Costa Rica, confirmed to congressional Iran-Contra investigators that Nunez “was involved in a very sensitive operation” for North’s “Enterprise.” The exact nature of that NSC-authorized activity has never been divulged.

At the time of the Nunez-NSC drug admissions and his truncated interrogation, the CIA’s acting director was Robert Gates, who nearly two decades later became President George W. Bush’s second secretary of defense, a position he retained under President Barack Obama.

Drug Record

The CIA also worked directly with other drug-connected Cuban-Americans on the Contra project, Hitz found. One of Nunez’s Cuban-American associates, Felipe Vidal, had a criminal record as a narcotics trafficker in the 1970s. But the CIA still hired him to serve as a logistics coordinator for the Contras, Hitz reported.

The CIA also learned that Vidal’s drug connections were not only in the past. A December 1984 cable to CIA headquarters revealed Vidal’s ties to Rene Corvo, another Cuban-American suspected of drug trafficking. Corvo was working with Cuban anticommunist Frank Castro, who was viewed as a Medellín cartel representative within the Contra movement.

There were other narcotics links to Vidal. In January 1986, the DEA in Miami seized 414 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipment of yucca that was going from a Contra operative in Costa Rica to Ocean Hunter, the company where Vidal (and Moises Nunez) worked. Despite the evidence, Vidal remained a CIA employee as he collaborated with Frank Castro’s assistant, Rene Corvo, in raising money for the Contras, according to a CIA memo in June 1986.

By fall 1986, Sen. Kerry had heard enough rumors about Vidal to demand information about him as part of his congressional inquiry into Contra drugs. But the CIA withheld the derogatory information in its files. On Oct. 15, 1986, Kerry received a briefing from the CIA’s Alan Fiers, who didn’t mention Vidal’s drug arrests and conviction in the 1970s.

But Vidal was not yet in the clear. In 1987, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami began investigating Vidal, Ocean Hunter, and other Contra-connected entities. This prosecutorial attention worried the CIA. The CIA’s Latin American division felt it was time for a security review of Vidal. But on Aug. 5, 1987, the CIA’s security office blocked the review for fear that the Vidal drug information “could be exposed during any future litigation.”

As expected, the U.S. Attorney’s Office did request documents about “Contra-related activities” by Vidal, Ocean Hunter, and 16 other entities. The CIA advised the prosecutor that “no information had been found regarding Ocean Hunter,” a statement that was clearly false. The CIA continued Vidal’s employment as an adviser to the Contra movement until 1990, virtually the end of the Contra war.

Hitz also revealed that drugs tainted the highest levels of the Honduran-based FDN, the largest Contra army. Hitz found that Juan Rivas, a Contra commander who rose to be chief of staff, admitted that he had been a cocaine trafficker in Colombia before the war.

The CIA asked Rivas, known as El Quiche, about his background after the DEA began suspecting that Rivas might be an escaped convict from a Colombian prison. In interviews with CIA officers, Rivas acknowledged that he had been arrested and convicted of packaging and transporting cocaine for the drug trade in Barranquilla, Colombia. After several months in prison, Rivas said, he escaped and moved to Central America, where he joined the Contras.

Defending Rivas, CIA officials insisted that there was no evidence that Rivas engaged in trafficking while with the Contras. But one CIA cable noted that he lived an expensive lifestyle, even keeping a $100,000 Thoroughbred horse at the Contra camp. Contra military commander Bermúdez later attributed Rivas’s wealth to his ex-girlfriend’s rich family. But a CIA cable in March 1989 added that “some in the FDN may have suspected at the time that the father-in-law was engaged in drug trafficking.”

Still, the CIA moved quickly to protect Rivas from exposure and possible extradition to Colombia. In February 1989, CIA headquarters asked that the DEA take no action “in view of the serious political damage to the U.S. Government that could occur should the information about Rivas become public.” Rivas was eased out of the Contra leadership with an explanation of poor health. With U.S. government help, he was allowed to resettle in Miami. Colombia was not informed about his fugitive status.

Another senior FDN official implicated in the drug trade was its chief spokesman in Honduras, Arnoldo Jose “Frank” Arana. The drug allegations against Arana dated back to 1983 when a federal narcotics task force put him under criminal investigation because of plans “to smuggle 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States from South America.” On Jan. 23, 1986, the FBI reported that Arana and his brothers were involved in a drug-smuggling enterprise, although Arana was not charged.

Arana sought to clear up another set of drug suspicions in 1989 by visiting the DEA in Honduras with a business associate, Jose Perez. Arana’s association with Perez, however, only raised new alarms. If “Arana is mixed up with the Perez brothers, he is probably dirty,” the DEA said.

Drug Airlines

Through their ownership of an air services company called SETCO, the Perez brothers were associated with Juan Matta-Ballesteros, a major cocaine kingpin connected to the 1985 torture-murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, according to reports by the DEA and U.S. Customs. Hitz reported that someone at the CIA scribbled a note on a DEA cable about Arana stating: “Arnold Arana . . . still active and working, we [CIA] may have a problem.”

Despite its drug ties to Matta-Ballesteros, SETCO emerged as the principal company for ferrying supplies to the Contras in Honduras. During congressional Iran-Contra hearings, FDN political leader Adolfo Calero testified that SETCO was paid from bank accounts controlled by Oliver North. SETCO also received $185,924 from the State Department for delivering supplies to the Contras in 1986. Furthermore, Hitz found that other air transport companies used by the Contras were implicated in the cocaine trade as well.

Even FDN leaders suspected that they were shipping supplies to Central America aboard planes that might be returning with drugs. Mario Calero, Adolfo Calero’s brother and the chief of Contra logistics, grew so uneasy about one air freight company that he notified U.S. law enforcement that the FDN only chartered the planes for the flights south, not the return flights north.

Hitz found that some drug pilots simply rotated from one sector of the Contra operation to another. Donaldo Frixone, who had a drug record in the Dominican Republic, was hired by the CIA to fly Contra missions from 1983 to 1985. In September 1986, however, Frixone was implicated in smuggling 19,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States. In late 1986 or early 1987, he went to work for Vortex, another U.S.-paid Contra supply company linked to the drug trade.

By the time that Hitz’s Volume Two was published in fall 1998, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the Contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking. But Hitz made clear that the Contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, Congress, and even the CIA’s own analytical division.

Besides tracing the evidence of Contra-drug trafficking through the decade-long Contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of the Contra-drug problem but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.

According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. . . . [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the Contra program.” One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”

Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the Contras hid evidence of Contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analysts.

Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of Contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and to major news organizations, serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his “Dark Alliance” series in 1996.

CIA Admission

Although Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it went almost unnoticed by the big American newspapers.

On Oct. 10, 1998, two days after Hitz’s Volume Two was posted on the CIA’s Web site, the New York Times published a brief article that continued to deride Webb but acknowledged the Contra-drug problem may have been worse than earlier understood. Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a story that simply missed the point of the CIA’s confession. Though having assigned 17 journalists to tear down Webb’s reporting, the Los Angeles Times chose not to publish a story on the release of Hitz’s Volume Two.

In 2000, the House Intelligence Committee grudgingly acknowledged that the stories about Reagan’s CIA protecting Contra drug traffickers were true. The committee released a report citing classified testimony from CIA Inspector General Britt Snider (Hitz’s successor) admitting that the spy agency had turned a blind eye to evidence of Contra-drug smuggling and generally treated drug smuggling through Central America as a low priority.

“In the end the objective of unseating the Sandinistas appears to have taken precedence over dealing properly with potentially serious allegations against those with whom the agency was working,” Snider said, adding that the CIA did not treat the drug allegations in “a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner.”

The House committee, then controlled by Republicans, still downplayed the significance of the Contra-cocaine scandal, but the panel acknowledged, deep inside its report, that in some cases, “CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so. In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual.”

Like the release of Hitz’s report in 1998, the admissions by Snider and the House committee drew virtually no media attention in 2000, except for a few articles on the Internet, including one at Consortiumnews.com.

Because of this journalistic misconduct by the Big Three newspapers, choosing to conceal their own neglect of the Contra-cocaine scandal and to protect the Reagan administration’s image, Webb’s reputation was never rehabilitated.

After his original “Dark Alliance” series was published in 1996, I joined Webb in a few speaking appearances on the West Coast, including one packed book talk at the Midnight Special bookstore in Santa Monica, California. For a time, Webb was treated as a celebrity on the American Left, but that gradually faded.

In our interactions during these joint appearances, I found Webb to be a regular guy who seemed to be holding up fairly well under the terrible pressure. He had landed an investigative job with a California state legislative committee. He also felt some measure of vindication when CIA Inspector General Hitz’s reports came out.

But Webb never could overcome the pain caused by his betrayal at the hands of his journalistic colleagues, his peers. In the years that followed, Webb was unable to find decent-paying work in his profession, the conventional wisdom remained that he had somehow been exposed as a journalistic fraud. His state job ended; his marriage fell apart; he struggled to pay bills; and he was faced with a forced move out of a house near Sacramento, California, and in with his mother.

On Dec. 9, 2004, the 49-year-old Webb typed out suicide notes to his ex-wife and his three children; laid out a certificate for his cremation; and taped a note on the door telling movers, who were coming the next morning, to instead call 911. Webb then took out his father’s pistol and shot himself in the head. The first shot was not lethal, so he fired once more.

Even with Webb’s death, the big newspapers that had played key roles in his destruction couldn’t bring themselves to show Webb any mercy. After Webb’s body was found, I received a call from a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who knew that I was one of Webb’s few journalistic colleagues who had defended him and his work.

I told the reporter that American history owed a great debt to Gary Webb because he had forced out important facts about Reagan-era crimes. But I added that the Los Angeles Times would be hard-pressed to write an honest obituary because the newspaper had ignored Hitz’s final report, which had largely vindicated Webb.

To my disappointment but not my surprise, I was correct. The Los Angeles Times ran a mean-spirited obituary that made no mention of either my defense of Webb, nor the CIA’s admissions in 1998. The obituary was republished in other newspapers, including the Washington Post.

In effect, Webb’s suicide enabled senior editors at the Big Three newspapers to breathe a little easier, one of the few people who understood the ugly story of the Reagan administration’s cover-up of the Contra-cocaine scandal and the U.S. media’s complicity was now silenced.

To this day, none of the journalists or media critics who participated in the destruction of Gary Webb has paid a price. None has faced the sort of humiliation that Webb had to endure. None had to experience that special pain of standing up for what is best in the profession of journalism, taking on a difficult story that seeks to hold powerful people accountable for serious crimes, and then being vilified by your own colleagues, the people that you expected to understand and appreciate what you had done.

On the contrary, many were rewarded with professional advancement and lucrative careers. For instance, for years, Howard Kurtz got to host the CNN program, “Reliable Sources,” which lectured journalists on professional standards. He was described in the program’s bio as “the nation’s premier media critic.” (His show has since moved to Fox News, renamed “MediaBuzz.”)

The rehabilitation of Webb’s reputation and the correction of this dark chapter of American history now rest on how the public responds to the presentation of Webb’s story in the film, “Kill the Messenger.” It’s also unclear how the Big Media will react. Last Sunday, New York Times’ media writer David Carr continued some of the old quibbling about Webb’s series but did acknowledge the Contra-cocaine reality.

Carr’s movie review began with a straightforward recognition of the long-denied truth: “If someone told you today that there was strong evidence that the Central Intelligence Agency once turned a blind eye to accusations of drug dealing by operatives it worked with, it might ring some distant, skeptical bell. Did that really happen? That really happened.”

Yes, that really happened.

[To learn how you can hear a December 1996 joint appearance at which Robert Parry and Gary Webb discuss their reporting, click here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.
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Re: The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Thu Apr 28, 2016 6:41 am

Alexander Cockburn on the Death of Gary Webb, ‘a Very Fine Journalist Who Deserved Better Than He Got’
With a new film out about Webb, Kill the Messenger, we look back at Cockburn’s testament to the investigative reporter.

By Alexander Cockburn and Back Issues
October 14, 2014

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 Jeremy Renner as Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Gary Webb in Kill the Messenger (Chuck Zlotnick/Focus Features)

A new film, Kill the Messenger, tells the story of Gary Webb, who as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury-News in the mid-1990s wrote a widely read series on the CIA’s relationships with Los Angeles crack dealers and the Nicaraguan Contras. Webb’s investigation earned him the wrath of the US government and its mainstream media abetters, who sicced vengeful journalists on Webb’s trail—devoting far greater resources to poking holes in Webb’s story than they ever had or have since to investigating the actual thrust of his claims. As The Nation’s Greg Grandin writes, “Webb was open to attack because the Los Angeles Times alone assigned seventeen reporters to leverage the inherent mysteries of the national security state to cast doubt on Webb.” Hounded out of journalism and into a deep depression, Webb committed suicide in December 2004. The following month, Alexander Cockburn—co-author, with Jeffrey St. Clair, of Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press (1999), partially about Webb—published this column:


* * *

Few spectacles in journalism in the mid-1990s were more disgusting than the slagging of Gary Webb in the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. Squadrons of hacks, some of them with career-long ties to the CIA, sprayed thousands of words of vitriol over Webb and his paper, the San Jose Mercury News, for besmirching the agency’s fine name by charging it, in his 1996 “Dark Alliance” series, with complicity in the importing of cocaine into the United States.

There are certain things you aren’t supposed to mention in public in America. The systematic state-sponsorship of torture by the United States used to be a major no-no, but that went by the board this year (even though Seymour Hersh treated the CIA with undue kindness in The Road to Abu Ghraib). A prime no-no is that the US government has used assassination down the years as an instrument of national policy; also that the CIA’s complicity with drug-dealing criminal gangs stretches from the Afghanistan of today back to the year the agency was founded, in 1947. That last one is the line Webb stepped over. He paid for his presumption by undergoing one of the unfairest batterings in the history of the US press. His own paper turned on him.

Friday, December 10, Webb died in his Sacramento apartment from what seems to have been a self-inflicted gunshot blast to the head. The notices of his passing in many newspapers were as nasty as ever. The Los Angeles Times took care to note that even after the “Dark Alliance” uproar Webb’s career had been “troubled,” offering as evidence the following: “While working for another legislative committee in Sacramento, Webb wrote a report accusing the California Highway Patrol of unofficially condoning and even encouraging racial profiling in its drug interdiction program.” The effrontery of the man! “Legislative officials released the report in 1999,” the story piously continued, “but cautioned that it was based mainly on assumptions and anecdotes,” no doubt meaning that Webb didn’t have dozens of CHP officers stating under oath, on the record, that they were picking on blacks and Hispanics. There were similar fountains of outrage in 1996 that the CIA hadn’t been given enough space in Webb’s series to solemnly swear that never a gram of cocaine had passed under its nose but that it had been seized and turned over to the DEA or US Customs.

In 1998 Jeffrey St. Clair and I published Whiteout, a book about the relationships among the CIA, drugs and the press since the agency’s founding. We also examined the Webb affair in detail. On a lesser scale and at lower volume, Whiteout elicited the same sort of abuse Webb drew. It was a long book stuffed with well-documented facts, over which the critics vaulted to charge us, as they did Webb, with “conspiracy-mongering,” even as they accused us of recycling “old news.” (The oddest was a multipage screed in The Nation flaying us for giving aid and comfort to the war on drugs and not addressing the truly important question, Why do people take drugs? As I said at the time, To get high, stupid!)

One of the CIA’s favored modes of self-protection is the “uncover-up.” The agency first denies with passion, then later concedes, in muffled tones, the charges leveled against it. Such charges have included the agency’s recruitment of Nazi scientists and SS officers; experiments on unwitting American citizens; efforts to assassinate Castro; alliances with opium lords in Burma, Thailand and Laos; an assassination program in Vietnam; complicity in the toppling of Salvador Allende in Chile; the arming of opium traffickers and religious fanatics in Afghanistan; the training of murderous police and soldiers in Guatemala and El Salvador; and involvement in drugs-and-arms shuttles between Latin America and the United States.


True to form, after Webb’s series raised a storm, particularly in the black community, the CIA issued categorical denials. Then came the noisy pledges of an intense and far-reaching investigation by the CIA’s Inspector General, Fred Hitz. On December 19, 1997, stories in the Washington Post by Walter Pincus and the New York Times by Tim Weiner appeared simultaneously, both saying the same thing: Hitz had finished his investigation. He had found no link, “directly or indirectly,” between the CIA and the cocaine traffickers. As both Pincus and Weiner admitted in their stories, neither of the two journalists had seen the report itself.

The actual report, so loudly heralded, received almost no examination. But those who took the time to examine the 149-page document—the first of two volumes—found Hitz making one damning admission after another, including an account of a meeting between a pilot who was making drug/arms runs between San Francisco and Costa Rica with two contra leaders who were also partners with the San Francisco-based contra/drug smuggler Norwin Meneses. Present at this encounter in Costa Rica was a man who said his name was Ivan Gomez, identified by one of the contras as the CIA’s “man in Costa Rica.” The pilot told Hitz that Gomez said he was there “ensuring that the profits from the cocaine went to the Contras and not into someone’s pocket.” The second volume of Inspector General Hitz’s investigation, released in the fall of 1998, buttressed Webb’s case even more tightly, as James Risen conceded in a story in the New York Times on October 10 of that year.

So why did the top-tier press savage Webb and parrot the CIA’s denials? Another New York Times reporter, Keith Schneider, was asked by In These Times back in 1987 why he had devoted a three-part series in the Times to attacks on the Iran/contra hearings chaired by Senator John Kerry. Schneider said such a story could “shatter the Republic. I think it is so damaging, the implications are so extraordinary, that for us to run the story, it had better be based on the most solid evidence we could amass.” Kerry did uncover mountains of evidence. So did Webb. But neither of them got the only thing that would have satisfied Schneider, Pincus and all the other critics: a signed confession of CIA complicity by the Director of Central Intelligence himself. Short of that, I’m afraid we’re left with “innuendo,” “conspiracy-mongering” and “old news.” We’re also left with the memory of some great work by a very fine journalist who deserved a lot better than he got.

ALEXANDER COCKBURN Alexander Cockburn, The Nation's "Beat the Devil" columnist and one of America's best-known radical journalists, was born in Scotland and grew up in Ireland. He graduated from Oxford in 1963 with a degree in English literature and language. After two years as an editor at the Times Literary Supplement, he worked at the New Left Review and The New Statesman, and co-edited two Penguin volumes, on trade unions and on the student movement. A permanent resident of the United States since 1973, Cockburn wrote for many years for The Village Voice about the press and politics. Since then he has contributed to many publications including The New York Review of Books, Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly and the Wall Street Journal (where he had a regular column from 1980 to 1990), as well as alternative publications such as In These Times and the Anderson Valley Advertiser.
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Re: The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Sat Apr 30, 2016 5:02 am

Part 1 of 2

The [Dois Gene] Chip Tatum Chronicles: Testimony of Government Drug Running
by Chip Tatum
©1996 by D.G. "Chip" Tatum and Nancy J. Tatum

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Chip Tatum

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Chip Tatum's "License To Kill"?
THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON
D.G. Chip Tatum
Codename: Pegasus
You are hereby ordered into service of the United States Government.
It has been determined that [DELETE] has illegally obtained documents which are of vital concern to the security of the United States and selected allies of the United States. It has therefore been determined by Finding of the National Security Council, that these documents must be recovered.
Due to this determination, you are authorized to use whatever means necessary to recover said documents and insure that this criminal is brought to justice. You are authorized to exceed existing regulations and FTM's to accomplish this mission.
If loss of life occurs as a result of the performance of your duties, you shall be exempt and protected from prosecution.
George Bush


PEGASUS An American Spy Story Book Two

INTRODUCTION

I started government service in 1970 as a volunteer for military service during the Vietnam war. Having graduated Air Force Technical School, I became one of the Air Force's first elite combat controllers (CCT). I was subsequently sent to NKP, Thailand. While in Thailand, during a covert mission into Cambodia, our unit, code named Team Red Rock, was captured by North Vietnamese and held as prisoners for 92 days. During interrogations by both Soviet and Chinese officers, Team Red Rock remained silent through the beatings and torture that more often than not ended in death. Had it not been for a patrol of US Marines finding the encampment where we were held prisoner, all of the team would have died. But, fortunately for myself and my platoon sergeant, we were liberated by the recon patrol before we had been tortured to death. During the fire fight between US forces and our captors, I was wounded. Already weak from the torture and beatings inflicted during interrogations, I slipped into a coma. Three weeks later I awoke in an Air Force hospital at Clark Air Force Base, Philippines. Within a few days a man from Saigon arranged to "debrief " the mission. During the debriefing it was explained that the events which Team Red Rock were involved in had been classified by President Nixon for a period of twenty-five years. Due to the sensitive nature of the mission, the president required that I be "held close" for reasons of national security. It had been decided that the CIA would assume that responsibility. On June 6, 1971, William J. Colby, the man from Saigon assigned to debrief me, advised me that I was now under operational control of the CIA. My code name was Pegasus.

During the next eight years, I traveled five continents under the operational control of the DCI (Director of Central Intelligence). As I collected data concerning movement of POWS from Southeast Asia to Asia and on to Europe, and forwarded the data to my handler, William J. Colby, and his predecessor George Bush, I began to realize that our government was not going to act upon that data. At the end of my contract, I found myself compelled by a French resistance song to step aside for a greatly needed rest.

When you fall, my friend
Another friend will emerge
From the shadows
To take your place.


I resigned in 1978 and left the service of my country to live in a quiet town tucked in the mountains of Colorado. Only time could heal the wounds I had suffered through the years as Pegasus.

In 1980, following the failed rescue attempt in the Great Salt Desert of Iran, I was involuntarily reactivated and placed in the U.S. Army. I soon found myself and my family at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, the new home of a U.S. Army Special Operations unit, Task Force 160.

Having participated in numerous covert missions with the 160th, I was given an assignment to Ft. Stewart, Georgia. I was tasked with the mission of infiltrating a medical evacuation unit which was preparing to go to Honduras in support of military exercises.

In February of 1985, two flight crews from the 3/498th Medical Company, Fort Stewart, Georgia, arrived at Palmerola Air Base, Honduras. Each flight crew consisted of a pilot, copilot, medic, and the crew chief.

Upon arrival, our crew was ordered to report to the Hospital Commander for further assignment and billeting. The Hospital Commander, Colonel Zichek introduced our crews to the outgoing medevac crews from Fort Riley, Kansas, home of the "Big Red One".

Following orientation and check-rides with an instructor pilot familiar with the operating rules of the country, we assumed the medevac mission for Joint Task Force Bravo. Having flown extensively in Central America as a Special Operations pilot, I was well aware of the flight environment and the local operational restrictions. However, when I accepted the mission to infiltrate the 3/498th Medical Company and pose as a medevac pilot, as briefed by my handler, Oliver North, I was instructed to make no mention of previous involvement in the area.

On February 15, 1985, during a flight to La Cieba, Honduras I was instructed to contact the man assigned by Oliver North as my local handler, Major Felix Rodriguez. Upon arrival in La Cieba, I contacted Major Rodriguez. He picked the crew up and gave us lodging for the night at a CIA safe house. The house was surrounded by a ten foot perimeter wall of concrete and at the only entrance was an uzi wielding guard. Following dinner, the crew was sent to their quarters while Major Rodriguez and I planned our four month support calendar. I was scheduled to leave Honduras in June of 1985.

I was instructed that in addition to our normal MEDEVAC missions, my duties included a covert group of missions. The control word for these missions was Pegasus. All Pegasus missions took priority over normal medical evacuation missions. Major Rodriguez also instructed me as to my "chain of command." Missions could be ordered by any of the following:

• Oliver North - Assistant National Security Advisor to the White House

• Amiram Nir - Former Israeli Intelligence Officer (Mossad) and Advisor to Vice President Bush

• Felix Rodriguez - CIA

Normal aviation support provided by Pegasus missions included flights to the following areas:

Ilapongo, El Salvador : This was where Corporate Air Services, a CIA owned aviation company, was based.

Contra Camps, Honduras and Nicaragua : Various Nicaraguan rebel camps were located in the jungles and mountains along the Nicaraguan/Honduran border.

The following morning our air crew departed La Cieba for Palmerola Air Base. During the next week, our missions were equally mixed between Pegasus flights into Contra villages and medevac support of U.S. military and Contra casualties. One common denominator on all Pegasus missions was the movement of large white coolers in and out of the Contra camps. They were always sealed and marked as medical supplies.

On October 23rd, 1986, a C-123 cargo plane loaded with arms and ammunition was shot down over Nicaragua. The sole survivor of the crash was captured by the Nicaraguan military and taken to Managua for interrogation. During interrogation, Eugene Hasenfus would reveal to the Ortega led Nicaraguan government that the aircraft which was shot down was owned by the U.S. government and that he was on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Although the United States vehemently denied ownership of the aircraft and any knowledge of employing Mr. Hasenfus, subsequent investigations proved out Mr. Hasenfus' allegations to be true.

Dubbed the "Iran-Contra" affair by Attorney General Edwin Meese, President Reagan, denying any knowledge of U.S. involvement, called for a special investigation to "look" into these absurd allegations.

At a cost of over $40 million the investigation yielded only a few prosecutions for minor infractions. It is curious that neither the Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance To Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition subcommittee tasked with the congressional investigation of the Iran-Contra, nor the office of the Special Prosecutor assigned to investigate criminal wrong-doings which occurred during the Iran-Contra Affair, subpoenaed any active duty military personnel assigned to the border area of Nicaragua/Honduras. Had the service members been called to testify concerning the daily training/resupply, and support of the Contras, it would have been determined that the Boland Act, which prohibited any efforts of the United States or its military to support the Contra effort, was being violated. Testimony by military personnel would have also revealed that military aircraft and supplies were used to support the shipment of cocaine from manufacturing facilities co-located with CIA supported Contra camps. Why weren't we called to testify?

The following documents were filed with base operations at Palmerola Air Base, Honduras between February and May of 1985. This was a full two years prior to the world ever hearing the names Oliver North or Iran/Contra. The documents were filed and stored through the years by the Honduran Military. Recent attempts to locate the documents proved successful. I have compiled the military documents in chronological order which follows a week-by-week sequence of events involving political, military, and intelligence officials from various countries.

As you read the Chronicles, you will find:

• A. Flight Plans These are international flight plans filed in conjunction with the 1985 flights. Information includes the name of the crew members, destinations of the flight, and passenger names. Many flight plans will have remarks which were made by the pilots. These remarks were written on the reverse side of the flight plan.

• B. Mission Briefs Prior to each flight and at the completion of the flight, any irregularities or information affecting the mission would be briefed and included in the comments section of the mission brief.

26 February, 1985

Wally World, our intelligence compound at Palmerola Air Base, tasked us with a mission requiring us to fly two civilian pilots to one of the largest Contra villages on the Honduran side of the Nicaragua/Honduras border. The names of our passengers as noted in Section 19 of the Department of Defense flight plan filed with Base Operation prior to departure from Palmerola (MHCG) were Bill Cooper and Buzz Sawyer. We departed at 1630Z (Greenwich Means Time). During the flight, Mr. Cooper told us that they worked for Corporate Air Services, a CIA proprietary, based out of Ilapongo Air Base, El Salvador. They were meeting with Contra leaders to coordinate air drops of arms and ammunition to various Contra camps. We arrived at El Paraiso, Honduras without incident. The meeting between the pilots and Contra leaders lasted just over an hour. At the termination of the meeting we were given a white cooler marked "vaccine" and instructed to deliver the cooler to a US Air Force C-130 at La Mesa Airport. Upon arrival at La Mesa Airport in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the cooler was dropped by two of our crew members. It weighed in excess of 200 pounds. The seal broke on the cooler. I picked up some aviation tape commonly called "hundred mile an hour" tape to reseal the vaccine cooler. I gave the crew leave to get lunch ordered. I stayed to refuel the helicopter and reseal the cooler. Messrs. Cooper and Sawyer went to eat and wait for their flight to El Salvador. When I removed the torn tape from the cooler, I saw that the contents consisted of a number of bags of a white powdery substance. There was over one hundred bags of what appeared to be cocaine. I resealed the cooler and continued refueling the aircraft. About two hours following our arrival, the U.S. Air Force C-130 bound for Panama finally arrived to pick up the vaccine.

We returned to Palmerola Air Base. Upon our return, I called Washington switch via land line (telephone) and advised Mr. North regarding my discovery of the cocaine. He told me that it was one of the trophies of war. "The Sandinistas are manufacturing cocaine and selling it to fund the military." He further stated that "the cocaine was bound for the world courts as evidence." I was reminded of the white coolers I had been asked to deliver to Arkansas on several occasions the year prior.

I was a Special Operations pilot at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. In 1983 and 1984 we would routinely receive requests from a medevac unit at Ft. Campbell to deliver white coolers marked medical supplies to Little Rock Air Force Base, and, on two occasions, to an airport west of Little Rock, in Mena, Arkansas. Further investigation on my part clarified some outstanding questions I had. The medevac unit at Ft. Campbell, the 324th Medical Battalion was a supporting unit for Task Force 160, a Special Operations Unit under the control of the CIA. Flight crews of the 324th Medical Battalion rotated in and out of Honduras on four month tours.

During my flights to Arkansas I was met by a man introducing himself as Dr. Dan Lasater. Dr. Lasater was never alone. He was usually accompanied by a plain-clothes policeman who produced a badge and ID. His name was Raymond Young. I was introduced to him and found that his nickname was 'Buddy'. Mr. Young would later show up in Honduras, posing as a member of the Arkansas National Guard (see flight plan dated 16 March, 1985).

On one occasion in the fall of 1983, I was tasked with delivering two such coolers to Little Rock Airport. The coolers, marked "medical supplies," were to be delivered to Dr. Dan Lasater only. My instructions were to wait for Dr. Lasater, if he was not at the airport when we arrived.

Prior to take off, I helped our crew chief secure the cargo in the rear of the aircraft. I noticed that, although both coolers were identical in size, one cooler was significantly heavier than the other. I shook the lighter cooler, trying to guess its contents. But it was so tightly packed that nothing rattled. I recall thinking that it must have been organs or something, packed tightly in dry ice. So I opened the cooler to check its contents. After thoroughly examining the contents, my curiosity was satisfied and I closed and re-sealed the cooler with military green hundred-mile-an-hour tape. (They had originally been sealed with gray air conditioning duct tape.) I re-secured the cargo and we departed for Little Rock.

We arrived late in the night, about 10:30 pm. Dr. Lasater was not waiting for us, so we began our post-flight of the aircraft and flight planning for our next leg to Houston's Hobby Airport. About 12:15am a limousine, followed by a van, and unmarked law enforcement vehicle, arrived at the FBO. Dr. Lasater was the first out of the limo. I recognized him from a previous flight. He was followed by two others. Dr. Lasater introduced himself to me, apparently not realizing we had met before, and asked if we were the aircraft with the donor organs. I told him that we had the coolers and pointed at them in the rear of the aircraft. Doug, our crew chief, helped Lasater's limo driver with the coolers. The heavy cooler went into the limo and the light cooler was loaded into the van. Dr. Lasater introduced me to the two gentlemen with him. First, we were introduced to the Governor of Arkansas, Governor William J. Clinton, and then his security chief, Raymond "Buddy" Young. At this point, Mr. Young recognized me and stated so. I was then introduced to a third man standing at the limo. We were invited to stay the night and accepted. (After all, I thought, they may want to talk to me when they find the note I left in the lighter cooler.)

After returning to Ft. Campbell on Friday, I called Director Colby and told him of the delivery and my discovery. I told him that when I opened the cooler, which was ultimately taken by Governor Clinton, it contained several kilos of an off-white powdery substance and lots of money.

The coolers which were delivered to Arkansas were identical to the one I just discovered at La Mesa Airport in Honduras containing cocaine. I decided that I had best begin documenting our cargo for the flight crew's safety. I went to operations and noted the cocaine on the back of the flight plan.

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26 FEBRUARY, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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26 FEBRUARY, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

1 March, 1985

Two white coolers marked "medical supplies" were delivered to Dustoff (MEDEVAC) Operations. Major Rodriguez advised us to deliver the coolers to him in Tela, Honduras (LYA). I opened the coolers and checked the contents. They were both filled with about one hundred kilos of cocaine. We delivered the coolers as ordered to Major Rodriguez. He was waiting in front of an old DC-3. We then returned to base at Palmerola.

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1 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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1 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

2 March, 1985

I was advised by Major Rodriguez that "The Company" had arranged for an unusually high concentration of chlorine in the water supply of a tactical communications site called Skywatch. The CIA was unable to obtain the satellite operations frequencies from the military controlled site. (This was not unusual. The Department of Defense and the CIA have never developed a level of trust adequate to share secret information between agencies. I was one of several U.S. military officers recruited by "The Company" to "spy" on our military for the CIA. This small group of military officers report directly to the Director of the CIA. I reported to William Colby.) My mission was to obtain these frequencies while the doctor was tending to the ill soldiers. We flew a PA and our medic to the TAC site. While the PA and medic tended to the stomach cramped and diarrhea ridden American servicemen, I went into the communications van and copied the frequencies. When we returned to Palmerola, we experienced engine failure and were forced to auto-rotate from 8500 feet. The tailboom of the helicopter cracked when we crash landed.

Later in the afternoon, I gained access to a secure line. I called Washington Switch and passed the frequencies to Don Gregg as I was instructed. Mr. Gregg, Vice President George Bushs' National Security Advisor, asked me to pass them to Clair George. Before having my call transferred to Mr. George, I told Mr. Gregg of my discovery concerning the cocaine in the large, white coolers. I also told him about Major Rodriguez' explanation. Mr. Gregg confirmed that the coolers were bound for the world courts as evidence against the Sandinistas. I was then transferred to Langley and passed the frequencies to Mr. George. He thanked me and advised me that he would pass them to Dewey, who was Dewey Clairage of the CIA (see letter dated October 1993 from the Security Section of the Israeli Embassy). I terminated the call and went to Base Operations. I noted the info on the back of the flight plan. I put additional notes on the mission brief.

The supporting maintenance officer for the US Army Aviation Element at Palmerola Air Base advised me, during our post-crash investigation, that the aircraft had experienced serious mechanical problems in flight. During maintenance the turbine was fitted with the wrong main seals causing the combustion chamber to crack on the jet ending in engine failure. Additionally, the main rotor blades had been adjusted so that when entering auto-rotation, the main rotor pitch would be in a negative position. This meant that instead of being driven by the relative wind, and providing sufficient RPMs to land safely, the main rotor blades were set to slow to the point of stalling, thus causing no lift and a fatal crash. I discovered the negative pitch in time to compensate and land with minimal damage to the aircraft and crew. Someone didn't want us alive. 2

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2 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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2 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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2 MARCH, 1985 MISSION AFTER-ACTION REPORT

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2 MARCH, 1985 MISSION AFTER-ACTION REPORT

5 March, 1985

Major Rodriguez called and advised me that he and three others needed to spend two days visiting several local villages and some of the north Contracamps. I called Col. Zichek, the Hospital Commander, and received authorization to fly two days of recon missions mapping villages which were not on our maps. The following passengers arrived with Major Rodriguez.

General Gustavo Alverez -Honduran Army Chief of Staff (General Alverez usually flew under the name of Dr. Gus)

Honduran Colonel -the General's aide

Amiram Nir -CIA (Mossad)

We flew into all six villages listed, and picked up soldiers and took them to El Paraiso. We flew about seven sorties. Then we returned to base. Maintenance and weather hampered our efforts to fly the following day. Those missions would be flown on 7 March, 1985.

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5 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

7 March, 1985

Missions continued from several villages to Contra camps. Major Rodriguez was utilized as an interpreter to provide instructions. Two of the camps in Nicaragua were under fire by Sandinistas. Our intelligence indicated that there was no problem. We flew four sorties into the camps under heavy fire. At El Paraiso, we picked up four large white coolers. I asked Rodriguez, "Evidence?" He responded patting the cooler with his hands, "You catch on fast."

We dropped Rodriguez and the coolers off at San Lorenzo (SNL) and returned to base. I went to Operations and noted the cargo on the reverse side of the flight plan.

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7 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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7 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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7 MARCH, 1985 BRIEFING SHEET

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7 MARCH, 1985 BRIEFING SHEET

13 March, 1985

At 3 A.M. I was called by J2 (which is Joint Task Force Bravo intelligence arm) and the Mil Group (CIA) from the embassy in Tegucigalpa. There was an immediate need for medevac into Nicaragua. Soviet built Hind helicopters had attacked several Contra camps along the border. I was tasked to fly into Nicaragua and find the home base for the Hinds so that the Contras could counter-attack. We arrived at Ojo De Agua at 1720Z. Major Rodriguez advised us that Ocotal is the most probable base area for the Hinds. Flying low level with only the main rotors above the trees, we approached Ocotal. Before departing the area of the airfield, we were able to count eight Hind-D Soviet gunships. The aircraft alerted to our presence and launched.

We were able to evade them and complete our mission moving medical personnel and supplies from the damaged camps.

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13 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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13 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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13 MARCH, 1985 MISSION BRIEFING

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13 MARCH, 1985 MISSION BRIEFING

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13 MARCH, 1985 NOTES

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13 MARCH, 1985 NOTES

Transcription:

Tried to reach J-2 or installation for 3 furs. upon arrival at Oio De Agua - officials (one civilian clothed, Engligh speaking) asked us to divert from original flight RQ to an urgent recon of shelled area - no response frm J-2 need e cisted - we diverted - to area suspected as Ocotol, Nic. entered @ Danli thru valley to El Paraiso Landed north of good size town in soccer field - stayed about +5 min &c departed to north - up river valley Noc Rcd radar from C~ & NIC inbound lost on APR39 throughout terrain flight no further contact until climbed appx 750' agl. Suspect violation of boarder - debriefed by Col at Ojo de Agua - no one big enough in your chain - repeated no one should know where we had been. Col was not Honduran mil (different uniform) black e greying hair strong face. very intelligent & knowledgeable of contra activities, name uns - our aircraft did not have red chgs - gun shot by crowd - offender aprehended by flt crew. Adv North via Rodriguez

Note: El Porvinir & Ocotel are in Nicanam

15 March, 1985

I was called to a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa. Due to a patient with a head injury, I was unable to meet on time. Night flight was prohibited in country. It required a life-death situation. Mr. Hibbard, the pilot-in-charge (PIC) of the other medevac aircraft arrived late in the evening with the patient. The hospital at JTF-Bravo was unable to provide neuro-care. They arranged for a neuro-surgeon to fly into Tegucigalpa (TNT) that night. I replaced Mr. Hibbard's co-pilot and flew the night mission to the capital city. As we approached Tegucigalpa the lights to the city were turned off. This was an indicator to us that word of our night flight was not passed on to the Honduran military as expected. When we saw the blackout of Tegucigalpa, we dropped to night low-level flight and turned off all of our position lights. We continued toward the city at about 60 knots. Our low-level recon revealed that we were just south east of the airport. Having flown into the airport on many occasions, I was aware of the anti-aircraft artillery locations around the airport. One clear area was the main terminal. We repositioned over the city to the north of the air terminal, entered over the main terminal, then dropped to ground level, and flew about one foot above the runway to the U.S. military area. We shut down the aircraft as Honduran military jeeps arrived with 50 calibre machine guns pointing at us. The ambulance and a car from the U.S. Embassy were held back until General Alverez arrived to take the prisoners (us). When he arrived, he asked another officer how a helicopter could breech the perimeter of the airport and main military base. We were still sitting in the helicopter with our flight helmets on. When we were ordered out, I took off my helmet and saluted the general. I pointed to the child who had been hit by a U.S. military truck earlier in the day. An ambulance arrived and we transferred the patient.

The general released us and accompanied us to the embassy. When I arrived at the embassy, I was introduced to William Barr, Mike Harari, and Buddy Young. I had met Mr. Young one year prior in Little Rock, Arkansas. Mr. Barr represented himself as an emissary of Vice President Bush, who would be arriving in the future. This was an advance party designed to set up meetings for Vice President Bush. We joined the cocktail party and then accommodations were arranged at a local hotel. I was then asked to join Mr. Barr, Mr. Young, and Mr. Harari at a local German restaurant. I was picked up by the embassy car. Major Felix Rodriguez was in the car when I entered. We met the others for dinner and continued the meeting at the hotel. I was told that Mr. Young and Mr. Harari would fly back to Palmerola with me in the morning.

We departed the following morning with the passengers listed in Item 19 Remarks section of the Department of Defense Flight Plan dated 16 March, 1985.

The following conversation took place between Messrs. Harari and Young during the flight to Palmerola Air Base. The passengers were wearing headsets and speaking over the aircraft intercom system due to the high noise level in the helicopter. As the command pilot, I routinely monitor all conversations on our intercom. I did not advise our passengers that I was listening, or that I was recording the conversation.

Buddy: "Arkansas has the capability to manufacture anything in the area of weapons - and if we don't have it - we'll get it!"

Mike: "How about government controls?"

Buddy: "The Governor's on top of it, and if the feds get nosey - we hear about it and make a call. Then they're called off." He was looking around the countryside and continued, "Why the hell would anyone want to fight for a shit-hole like this?"

Mike: Shaking his head in awe, answered,"What we do has nothing to do with preserving a country's integrity - it's just business, and third world countries see their destiny as defeating borders and expanding. The more of this mentality we can produce - the greater our wealth. We train and we arm - that's our job. And, in return, we get a product far more valuable than the money for a gun. We're paid with product. And we credit top dollar for product."

Buddy: Still looked confused.

Mike: "Look - one gun and 3,000 rounds of ammo is $1,200. A kilo of product is about $1,000. We credit the Contras $1,500 for every kilo. That's top dollar for a kilo of cocaine. It's equivalent to the American K-Mart special - buy four, get one free. On our side - we spend $1,200 for a kilo and sell it for $12,000 to $15,000. Now, that's a profit center. And the market is much greater for the product than for weapons. It's just good business sense - understand?

Buddy: "Damn! So you guys promote wars and revolutions to provide weapons for drugs - we provide the non-numbered parts to change out and we all win. Damn that's good!"

Mike: "It's good when it works - but someone is, how do you say, has his hand in the coffer."

Buddy: Responding on the defensive,"Well, we get our ten percent right off the top and that's plenty. GOFUS can make it go a long way." Mike:"Who is GOFUS?"

Buddy: "Governor Clinton! That's our pet word for him. You know they call the President 'POTUS' for 'President of the United States'. Well, we call Clinton 'GOFUS' for 'Governor of the United States'. He thinks he is anyhow.

Mike: "That's your problem in America. You have no respect for your elected officials. They are more powerful than you think and have ears everywhere. You should heed my words and be loyal to your leaders. Especially when speaking to persons like me. Your remarks indicate a weakness - something our intelligence analysts look for."

Buddy: "Aw hell, Mike. Everybody knows the Clinton's want the White House and will do anything to get it. That's why I'm here instead of someone else. We know about the cocaine - hell! I've picked it up before with Lasater when he was worried about going on Little Rock Air Base to get it."

A new line of conversation ensued. Harari questioned Young about his knowledge of who the 'players' were. He went down a list. He started with 'The Boss - Clinton'. Here's a synopsis of the players according to Young.

Buddy: "Clinton - thinks he's in charge, but he'll only go as far as Casey allows. Me and my staff - we keep the lid on things you know - complaints about night flying - Arkansas people are private folks - they don't like a lot of commotion and Mena just isn't the right place for the operation. It keeps us busy at the shredder - if you know what I mean. Dan the Man (Lasater) - He does magic with the money - between him and Jack Stevens we don't have to worry a bit. Then we got Parks - if there's a problem - he's the man. We call him the Archer - that's the codename that Casey and Colby told us to assign to that position. Finnis oversee's our drop zone. Nash - he's just the boss' 'yes' man. Personally I think he's a mistake! Seal and his guys - I like his attitude "and leave the driving to us!" he said, quoting one of Seal's good ole boy sayings.

Mike: "You like Seal?"

Buddy: "Hell! He's the only one I trust - respect is the word."

Mike: "Do you see much of him?"

Buddy: "Hell, yea. We test drive Clinton's rides before we send 'em on, ya know? (He laughed, grinding his hips.) Say - how much coke do you recon you can make in a week?"

Mike: "One camp can produce 400 keys a week. The others are about half that. But that's just our operation here. We have other sources in various parts of the world. Why do you ask?"

Buddy: "What? Oh, the Governor wanted to know our capacity."

Mike: "Who else is on the team?"

Buddy: "Well, hell, I forgot who I told you about."

Mike ran down the list from memory.

Buddy: "Ok, there's the manufacturers - hell, these two.."

The tape stopped.

I didn't recognize the names. I ran out of paper on my kneeboard shortly after the tape stopped. Something like Johnson and Johnson. The flight continued and so did their discussions...about people mostly. We landed and I went to Operations and made a note on the back of the flight plan that I filed by phone.

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16 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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16 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

18 March, 1985

I was called at 0500 hours and told that there were three wounded soldiers at a Contra camp outside of Choloteca. We launched and picked up two observers in Choloteca as ordered. Mr. North and a Lt. Col. Ramon Navarro. I had met Lt. Col. Navarro on previous flights into contra camps, however, his uniform was not that of the U.S. or Honduran Military. We then proceeded to the Contra camp where our medic administered to the casualties. We loaded two of the casualties and were waiting for Specialist McDonald, our medic, to finish with the last patient. The last patient had a piece of what seemed to be wood sticking out of a bad wound to the upper left portion of his body. When we attempted to clean the area, we found a hole the size of a softball adjacent to the impaled object. McDonald began cleaning the area, causing a clear view of muscle hanging and the inside of the chest cavity. Mr. North fainted. I caught him and popped an ammonia capsule to bring him around. We then departed and delivered the casualties to San Lorenzo.

I would see Ramon Navarro on several occasions. The last time I saw Ramon was February 27th, 1991.

In 1990 the United States arrested General Manuel Noriega. General Noriega had been indicted by a federal grand jury under the drug conspiracy laws. Two of General Noriega's co-defendants were severed from the General and scheduled for trial in early 1991.

One of the government's key witnesses against the two co-defendants was Ramon Navarro. Navarro knew, from past experience, how valuable his testimony would be. After being subpoenaed, Navarro contacted Felix Rodriguez, one of his handlers from the Contra cocaine manufacturing facilities. Navarro told Rodriguez that he wanted $1 million - cash or he would not only testify about Noriega's involvement with drug manufacturing and trafficking, but he would also implicate Mr. Rodriguez, Mr. Oliver North, President George Bush and others.

Having been recruited into a covert operations intelligence unit in 1986, directed by William Colby and George Bush, I was tasked with the mission of delivering the money with its terms to Mr. Navarro. On February 26th, 1991, an Archer Team, consisting of three assassins and one tracker began surveillance of Mr. Navarro. A Saberliner was flown into Miami Airport with a satchel of money containing $1 million. My orders were to deliver the money to Mr. Navarro and advise him that he was to leave with me.

It had been arranged through Adolfo Calero, an ex-Contra leader now in the Chamarro government of Nicaragua for Mr. Navarro to relocate and live in Nicaragua. Mr. Bush felt that it would be too dangerous for Navarro to testify. I was ordered by Colby to give Navarro the money and take him to the Saberliner. I was further instructed that, if Navarro refused to relocate, he was to be terminated on the spot.

Two Archers were placed at Navarro's home the night of February 27th, 1991. I was stationed outside of Navarro's girlfriend's house with the Major (code name for an Archer team leader) and another Archer. Mr. Navarro exited his girlfriend's house at about 11:30 pm. I exited my vehicle and approached Ramon. When Navarro saw me approaching, he jumped in his car and sped off down the road. The red BMW was speeding through the streets of Miami at about 80 miles per hour with our two vehicles in pursuit. We notified the team at his home and they were prepared to apprehend him. Suddenly, Navarro lost control and crossed the median, crashing into a fence. Navarro was dead. We stopped and insured that he was dead, and then departed. I returned the satchel of money to the aircraft.

See flight plan and After Action Report on the following page.

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18 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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18 MARCH, 1985 AFTER ACTION REPORT

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18 MARCH, 1985 AFTER ACTION REPORT
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Re: The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Sat Apr 30, 2016 5:03 am

Part 2 of 2

22 March, 1985

I was asked to provide transportation for the following passengers back to Tegucigalpa.

General Gustavo Alverez -- Honduras

Felix Rodriguez -- CIA

Mike Harari --- Panama (Retired Mossad -- see letter from Israeli Embassy dated October 20th, 1993.)

Major Rodriguez advised me that I would need to modify aircraft #228 for a flight through Nicaragua to Costa Rica on the 24th. I 'roger-ed' and returned to Palmerola. Upon arriving I arranged for the modifications. The modification included four stinger missiles which were to be attached outside of the aircraft only if detection and acquisition were inevitable.

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22 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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22 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

24 March, 1985

Purpose:


To deliver passengers to El Ocotal, Costa Rica and to gather vital intel from moles at Ojo de Agua/El Tamborcita, Nicaragua. It was necessary for pax to meet with contacts at Ojo and brief prior to meeting in Costa Rica.

Intel:

It was determined by intelligence provided by Wally World, that both radar threat and airborne patrols of Soviet built Hind-D were in place. It was, therefore, determined that we would use a modified medevac UH-1. If detected in a low-level flight across Nicaragua, it was most likely that the Sandinistas would not shoot down a humanitarian aircraft. The modification to the UH-1 were gun mounts ready to be swung out of the aircraft with two stinger missiles mounted on each side. The mission was flown at a top altitude of twelve (12) feet above ground level (AGL).

Flown as Briefed.

Comments:

The first leg of the flight was eventful. Utilizing the terrain elevation of the Cordillera Range northeast of Managua as a shield against Nicaraguan radar, the mission was flown with minimal hits of the APR-39 (Radar Indicator). The following passengers and crew participated in the meeting at Ojo de Agua: Mr. Rodriguez, General Alverez, and Joe Fernandez. Mr. Harari showed minimal interest in the intel. Familiarization with the usage of the photo equipment followed the briefing. I refueled from a tactical ball dropped a day earlier. We carried two aux-fuel bladders in the hell holes of the chopper. The flight resumed to El Ocotal, Costa Rica with minimal hits on the APR-39. The meeting was held at a remote seaside retreat. A communications center was set up at the chopper utilizing a phone provided by Mr. Fernandez.

Attending the meeting were the following:

General Noriega - Panama

Mike Harari - Panama (retired Mossad)

Felix Rodriguez - U.S.

Joe Fernandez - U.S. (CIA)

General Gustavo Alverez - Honduras

William Barr - U.S.

Via Sat/Com link:

Oliver North - U.S. (National Security Council)

William Clinton - Governor of Arkansas

George Bush - U.S. Vice President

General Noriega and Mr. Barr greeted the aircraft when we arrived. The passengers adjourned to their meeting while I secured the aircraft. I was invited to join when I finished. Two Latin American soldiers set up the Sat/Com device and stood guard on the aircraft. I joined the meeting approximately thirty minutes later. When I arrived, the discussion was concerning the loss of over $100 million dollars worth of drugs and cash. The "Enterprise" was being drained. There were three Compaq Computers set up with operators, obviously working for Mr. Barr. There were approximately eight (8) administrative personnel correlating data provided by computer discs brought by the principles of the meeting. The discussions continued. It was obvious that the purpose of the meeting was to identify the source of the loss. The money flow was traced from Panama to several destinations in the U.S. Their Ohio source was ruled out early. Their Colorado source was also ruled out. That left Arkansas. It was discussed by the members that either Seal or Clinton were siphoning from the "Enterprise". At this point, my food was brought, so I moved to a separate table and ate. By the time I finished, Mr. Fernandez signaled me to join him. We went back to the aircraft and used the phone. He called Mr. North and told him that the loss was definitely occurring on the Arkansas drop. He said, "That means either Seal, Clinton or Noriega." (I thought it noteworthy that Mr. Fernandez added General Noriega to the suspect list.) He hung up. I started back, but Fernandez stopped me and told me to get Barr and Rodriguez. I summoned Barr and Rodriguez to the aircraft. About 15 minutes later, the phone activated and Barr answered. He listened, not speaking but nodding his head in agreement. When he spoke, he told the caller that it had been determined that the problem existed on the Arkansas connection. "I would propose that no one source would be bold enough to siphon out that much money, but it is more plausible that each are sihoning a portion causing a drastic loss." He then acknowledged something with a "Yes, sir," and told the caller he would see him and give an up-dated report in two days. At that point the phone was handed to me. I answered, "Tatum." Vice President Bush asked me to ensure that General Noriega and Mr. Harari boarded Seal's plane and departed prior to my departure. He also wanted the tail number of Seal's plane. I was told to tell no one that we spoke. He then instructed me to pass the tail number to North via land lines when I returned to base. I acknowledged and handed the phone back to Barr. Barr stated that he and Fernandez were staying in Costa Rica until the following day. They needed to visit the "ranch." He then terminated the call. Mr. Barr then made another call. He asked for Governor Clinton. He must have had a direct number because he didn't have to wait. He began immediately. He explained that a substantial amount of "Enterprise" monies had disappeared. He further explained to Governor Clinton that it was suspected to be in excess of $100 million dollars and that it was definitely disappearing along the Panama to Arkansas connection. He suggested that Governor Clinton investigate on that end, and that he and Mr. North would continue investigating on the Panama side and that it must be resolved or it could lead to problems. "Big problems," he reiterated. He then asked Clinton to put his best man on it and stated that this was priority one. Then he terminated the call.

We broke down the equipment. I dropped Noriega and Harari at the airport and waited for Seal to leave in a Lear jet tail number N13SN. Then I returned the other passengers to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

This is the content of the meeting and the mission. The following is the mission flight plan and passenger list.

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24 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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24 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

30 March, 1985

We arranged to remain over night (RON) in Tela, Honduras. We settled into the hotel and I excused myself for the night. I walked to the airfield (it was approximately 1 mile away) and flew the helicopter to La Cieba. I picked up the following passengers:

Name/Representing

Mr. North

CIA & Vice President Bush

Felix Rodriguez

CIA - acted as co-pilot

General Alverez

Honduras

Ami Nir

CIA (Mossad)

We flew into several villages on the Nicaragua/Honduras border to recon for a later mission. I recorded actual village locations for cargo drops by CH-47's scheduled later in April. Three of the villages were Rus Rus, Waspam and Santa Anna.

Mr. North was pleased with the operations. He stated that Vice President Bush appreciated the extra effort I was giving. General Alverez told Mr. North of my ability to sneak into his airfield under their radar. He asked North if I could instruct some of his security team and pilots for future use. North declined stating that I was a national secret, laughing. We landed at Santa Anna and met with Enrique Bermudez and other Contra leaders. We were then taken to a processing area of some sort. As we approached, there was a strong smell of jet fuel and acetone. There were several tactical bladders, used for carrying fuels, sitting around the area. Six large fuel pods were on the ground but had the tops torched off. Inside there was fuel and ground-up coca leaves.

Mr. North stated the following to the other passengers, "One more year of this and we'll all retire." He then made a remark concerning Barry Seal and Governor Clinton. "If we can keep those Arkansas hicks in line, that is," referring to the loss of monies as determined the week prior during their meeting in Costa Rica. I stood silently by the vat of leaves, listening to the conversation. General Alverez had gone with the Contra leader to discuss logistics. The other three - North, Rodriguez, and Ami Nir - continued through the wooden building, inspecting the cocaine. North continued, "...but he (Vice President Bush) is very concerned about those missing monies. I think he's going to have Jeb (Bush) arrange something out of Columbia," he told his comrades, not thinking twice of my presence. What Mr. North was referring to ended up being the assassination of Barry Seal by members of the Medellin Cartel in early 1986.

"How about 'Pineapple'?" Rodriguez asked. (Speaking of General Noriega.)

"Naw," North answered, "something's up there." Bush later insured Noriega was indicted and imprisoned for drug trafficking.

I recalled the mysterious army officers remarks in Ojo de Agua, "Tell no one. There's no one big enough in your chain of command." I just heard North tell Rodriguez that the Vice President, the Governor of Arkansas and the three of them are manufacturing cocaine. I flew them back to La Cieba and I continued back to Tela in time for drinks downtown with my crew and friends. We returned the following day to Palmerola. I went to Ops an put a few notes on the back of the flight plan.

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30 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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30 MARCH, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

30 MARCH, 1985 NOTES

???

6 April, 1985

Six coolers marked medical supplies were delivered to Dustoff Operations. We were tasked with dropping them off in Trijillo at the airstrip. We met a U.S. Air Force C-130 bound for Panama and passed the coolers of cocaine to them. I asked the pilot, "Who gets these?" He looked at his manifest and told me that a Dr. Harari would be called on arrival.

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6 APRIL, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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6 APRIL, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

USA MEDDAC AIR AMBULANCE MISSION REQ. FORM

??

FLIGHT WEATHER BRIEFING

??

9 April, 1985

We flew into a small village forty kilometers east north east of Ocotal in Nicaragua. Rodriguez was there with the Contra leader Enrique Bermudez when we arrived. We walked through the camp which was still being cleared and organized. Four fuel pods with their tops cut off were sitting outside a large military tent. Several tactical fuel balls were located next to the pods. Rodriguez told the air crew that this was a Sandinista base that was captured. I noted that all of the equipment, the GP large tent, the fuel pods, and the tactical fuel balls were U.S. made. And inside the tent were several women packaging the cocaine. When we left, we carried four 110 quart, white coolers marked medical supplies to San Lorenzo, dropped them off to a civilian C-123 and returned to base.

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9 APRIL, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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9 APRIL, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

10 April, 1985

We were tasked with flying six coolers marked "medical supplies" to San Lorenzo, Honduras. While we were flying on 9 April, Dr. Gus (General Gustavo Alverez), delivered six coolers to Dustoff operations. I opened all six coolers to check their contents. I only counted the packages of cocaine in one of the coolers. There were 110 packages. Major Hethcox, the Aviation Support Commander, sent his Administrative Officer, Lt. Willett, to Dustoff Operations to fly one leg of our flight as my co-pilot. I suspected Hethcox was curious why we were flying so much. We loaded the coolers marked "medical supplies" and headed for San Lorenzo (SLN). Upon arrival we hovered to a C-123 cargo aircraft that we had met the previous day. The C-123 was based out of El Salvador and was tasked with carrying the cargos from San Lorenzo back to El Salvador. I noticed something familiar as the C-123 pilot approached. It was Barry Seal, an old friend.

Barry was holding a jar of olives in his hand as he walked up to the chopper and greeted me. Barry had promised me weeks before in Panama, during a meeting with Harari, Noriega, and North, to see that I got some olives. I had visited the base liquor store (Class 6) at Howard Air Force Base, but it was out of olives, as was the commissary. I told him that I didn't expect "curb-service." He gave his cherub laugh and invited us to a caf‚ for a coka-cola. The crew joined us as he commandeered an Air Force truck for the short drive from the airstrip to the village.

Barry and I walked outside of the cafe so that we could talk privately. I asked Barry to level with me concerning the drugs and who was involved. I felt that Barry Seal was the only person I had met to date that I could get a straight answer out of. The following is what Barry Seal told me concerning the drugs in general and, more specifically, the destination of the drugs which we delivered to San Lorenzo on 9 and 10 April, 1985.

"The Contras needed weapons for their rebellion against the Sandinistas. When the CIA approached the Contras in the early 80's they promised total support in weapons, training, and money required to sustain the operations. This is what prompted the Nicaraguans to begin open recruiting against the Ortega-led Sandinista government. But, as time went on, the U.S. renigged on their promise to the rebels. Not only did the U.S. cut money needed for medical and food supplies for the Contra camps, but they also refused to provide the weaponry needed to stay alive. This left the Contras in a hell of a spot. William Casey met with Adolfo Colero and it was decided that the Contras would get the much needed money and weapons in exchange for cocaine. Casey put Ollie North over the project. North, at the CIAs promptings, recruited Seal to oversee delivery of the products, and a man named Ramon Navarro (Medellin Cartel) to train the Contras in the manufacturing process. Colero was the "point man" for the Contras. He dealt with Washington and others as needed. Contra leader Enrique Bermudez was tasked with getting the cocaine kitchens built and protected. Bermudez had solicited three other Contra commanders to assist in this project. Their names are Commander Fernando, Commander Franklin, and Commander Marlan. Ramon Navarro supplied the cocaine paste and raw coca leaves to the Contras. The U.S. provided the equipment. It was delivered to the camps by Chinook helicopters (CH-47) out of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky (159th Aviation Battalion). It was Barry's job to deliver the finished product and monies to destinations as dictated by Mr. North.

Barry gave me the names of his various drop points and told me to be very wary of North. "He'll give up his mamma if he has to!" was his comment concerning North's lack of honor. He also gave me the names of U.S. officials, politicians, and drug enforcement officials involved in the cocaine enterprise.

I asked him to be exact about the shipments so that I could better understand. He used the six coolers that we just delivered as his example. He said that these coolers and the coolers delivered the previous day would be taken to El Salvador. From El Salvador they would be taken to a site in Southern California. There it would be distributed in rock form called "crack." I made note of his comments and his "Boss Hog" list, as Barry called it, on the back of the flight plan concerning this specific flight. The notes were made on the evening of 10 April, 1985.


Ricky Ross has the distinction of introducing crack to the West Coast (Los Angeles). Ross was also the first person to cook up powdered cocaine into ‘rocks,’ he invented this process, calling it, ‘ready rock.’...

Ross would set up five cookhouses, where he turned the powder into crack. The houses had huge steel vats of cocaine bubbling atop restaurant-size gas ranges.

Ross was being supplied with 100 kilos of cocaine a week, which was rocked up and distributed to major gangs in his area.

-- "Crack King" (Freeway Ricky Ross), by Myra Panache


Louis "Joly" West, who died this month, served for many years as Director of NPI. The documentation from government records is voluminous that West was a pioneer for CIA in the development of and experimentation with LSD in the 1950's and 1960s. The first time I met him a group of doctors were joking about how he had "administered 10,000 micrograms of LSD to an enraged elephant for the CIA. The elephant died. I recall one doctor quipping, "I sure am glad it was a communist elephant!"

One last note before we move on: Joly West, is extremely well documented from CIA's own records as having been one of the principal researchers in CIA's MK-ULTRA program which used drugs and torture to produce mind-control assassins and other useful servants. I recall one telling discussion with NPI's sympathetic Dr. Sid Cohen who knew of my past struggles against CIA. He told me, "CIA pretty much knows everything we do at NPI. It was set up that way from the start." Cohen was qualified to speak on this subject. He had been a consultant for the State Department, the U.S. Army and the World Health Organization.

If that was the case, and if NPI housed some of the world's foremost experts on crack cocaine, it is impossible not to believe that CIA didn't know what UCLA, RAND and the governments of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia knew.

-- Blacks Were Targeted for CIA Cocaine: It Can Be Proven, by Michael C. Ruppert


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10 APRIL 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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Transcription:

Delivered 6 coolers of cocaine to SLN. Met Barry Seal in C-123. Ramon Navarro was with Seal. Asked Seal what was up with the cocaine being made in contra camps. - Said it was a CIA OPN. This shipment was going to Calif to make a drug called crack. Seal said that the CIA planned to get all the niggers in the U.S. hooked on it & then throw 'em in prison. Said the $'s for the crack goes to buy weapons for the contras. Asked him who is involved -- he said it goes all the way to the white house. Said I could talk to the boss -- he'd be here (in Honduras) in a couple days. Took notes on back of AA. Msn request for RMTC. Will include with this flight plan. Msn RQ dtd 6 April.

Thats all I had to take notes on. Missions getting out of hand. Major Hethcox is getting suspicious of the flights. Sent Willet to make sure we really went to SLN. Fat Boy gave me some Olives - man they were good! Told me to stay with it as long as I could. Said that he would let North know about the heat from Hethcox.

11 April, 1985

We delivered personnel and supplies to several Contra camps. Among the Contra soldiers that we carried was the Contra leader in charge of the North camps, Enrique Bermudez. We flew several sorties making for a very long flight day. I would only see Commander Bermudez on two more occasions. The last time I would see Enrique Bermudez alive would be in 1991 outside of a hotel in Managua.

Enrique served as a faithful Commander during the Nicaraguan Revolution on behalf of the Counter Revolutionaries against the Sandinista government led by Daniel Ortega. But, beyond his fighting ability, was his loyalty to Vice President Bush and CIA Director Bill Casey. It was Commander Three Eight Zero (Bermudez) who would insure the safety of the cocaine manufacturing facilities co-located in the Contra camps.

When the revolution ended, and there was a democratically elected president, Enrique Bermudez rightly expected a prominent position. However, President Chamarro, Nicaragua's new president, was not comfortable with Commander Three Eight Zero. She felt that he did not possess the political qualities she desired in her cabinet. In 1991 Bermudez pressured President Bush to convince Chamarro of his political value. Chamarro resisted Bush. Bermudez, desperate to position himself, decided to use his "ace in the hole." Bermudez told Bush that if he did not receive a prominent governmental position he would expose Bush, North and company of their cocaine trafficking enterprise in Honduras.

As Enrique Bermudez walked down the street in front of the Intercontinental Hotel in 1991, a shot rang out and a bullet entered the back of Commander Three Eight Zero's head. I departed the area of operation before he stopped twitching, knowing that the mission was complete. The message passed to the White House was quite simple, "The playing field is clear."

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11 APRIL, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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11 APRIL, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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11 APRIL, 1985 ACTION REPORT

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11 APRIL, 1985 ACTION REPORT

13 April, 1985

I scheduled an instrument training flight to La Mesa and then to Tela. Major Rodriguez needed another night flight into Waspam and Rus Rus. I carried eight passengers - all medical staff from the Joint Task Force hospital to Tela, a beautiful beach town on the Caribbean. While the others slept, I walked to the airfield and met Major Rodriguez. We flew to the two Contra camps and returned with eight coolers. We stored the coolers marked medical supplies in a broken down hangar on the airfield at Tela. The Major told me that a C-123 should be there in the morning to pick up the evidence. He also told me that 350 kilos of cocaine had been stolen from international drug dealers based out of Colombia. He further told me that it had been secured by the Contras in Costa Rica. He pointed to four of the coolers, proud of the theft and the fact that he had possession of the cocaine. An armed guard was posted outside the hangar. I felt numb. He must have thought me a complete idiot to believe the trophies of war story he kept trying to pass to me. But who could I tell? It even involved the Vice President! I just kept telling myself to keep good notes.

Upon returning, I was called to the JTFB Command Center. There I was met by the Commander of the Army Aviation Assets in Honduras. He told me he knew I was being directed by someone other than military officials and he demanded to know who directed my flights. I told him that his security clearance simply wasn't substantial enough for me to answer his question. He handed me a message that confirmed his suspicions. I have attached a copy of the message to the flight plan dated 13 April, 1985.

When I returned to Dustoff Operations, I called North and told him that the military authority was getting wise to the Pegasus flights. He said that he had a copy of the "twixt" and would handle it.

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13 APRIL, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

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13 APRIL, 1985 FLIGHT PLAN

13 APRIL TWIXT

????

19 April, 1985

I was called by Major Rodriguez and told to deliver the map I had made of the Waspam/Rus Rus area two weeks prior, to a CH-47 (Chinook) out of the 159th Aviation Battalion, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. The Chinook was scheduled to arrive in La Mesa at daybreak on the 20th, so I gathered my crew, gave excuses of a dental problem and no fuel available to top off at Palmarola. I was able to get the authority to fly by the J-3 Operations for Joint Task Force Bravo. We flew to La Mesa. Unfortunately, there was no fuel there either. When we arrived, the refueling point had shut down for the night. We went to the hotel. The following morning I met the aircraft to give them an orientation. I was on board as it was taxiing to a new parking and the refueling point. Suddenly the main rotors meshed. The top of the helicopter was torn from the aircraft, throwing all of us violently around the interior of the aircraft. I was drenched in hydraulic fluid. My back had been injured. I was able to get to a hangar and get washed. I returned to my hotel room for two days. I then reported to the hospital at JTF Bravo to find that I had sustained a compression fracture of the spine. I was flown back to Ft. Stewart, Georgia.

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19 APRIL, 1985 FLIGHT BRIEF

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19 APRIL, 1985 MISSION BRIEFING

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19 APRIL, 1985 MISSION BRIEFING

EPILOGUE

Six months later Bill Cooper and Buzz Sawyer were shot down in Nicaragua and killed. Their kicker - Eugene Hasenfus was captured by the Sandinistas. Three months after Cooper and Sawyer died, Barry Seal was killed outside a half-way house in Louisiana as predicted by Mr. North during our flight on 30 March, 1985.

In March of 1986, I was contacted by Lt. Col. Oliver North and involuntarily recruited into a Special Operations group codenamed Pegasus. I was told that I would be working directly for the President of the United States. I was paid $43,394.40 in April of 1986 and given a medical discharge. I reported to my new assignment in May of 1986.

During the next few years, I would be tasked by Mr. Bush with the neutralization of a Mossad agent in 1988, an army Chief of Staff in 1989, the President of a third world country in 1989, and the leader of a revolutionary force in Central America in 1991.

Ami Nir was killed in 1988.

General Gustavo Alverez was killed in 1989.

Enrique Bermudez, Contra leader and overseer of the cocaine kitchens, was killed in 1991.

In 1992 I was tasked to neutralize an American citizen. I refused. I decided that day to leave the Black Operations unit. When I told Mr. Colby of my decision, he told me that one can't just walk away. I explained to him that I understood the fate of those who walk away. For that reason, I began documenting my activities on film, on audio tapes, and with copies of documents, all of which I compiled through the years. I explained that the film and tapes were placed in strategic locations around the world to insure my safety.

I was true to my word. Over the year I remained silent concerning my knowledge of the illegal activities of my superiors. But two years after I "retired" from the Black Operations group, I was contacted by Messrs Colby, North and Rodriguez. I was warned to give up my documents "or else."

I now know that to turn over my documents would be terminal. My years of loyalty had been betrayed. With no alternative, I chose to publish a portion of the documents accumulated through the years. So in 1994 I began searching for the original flight plans which were in the possession of a ranking Honduran official.

All flight plans and briefing sheets contained in the Chronicles were supplied by the Honduran government official. In 1985, the official, aware of the implications of the documents, secured the flight plans and the briefing sheets for safe keeping. I began searching for the original documents in 1994. I was contacted in early 1995 by the Honduran official who claimed that he had possession of the documents. For reasons of security and fearing for his life, the official asked that I arrange a rendezvous with him in Honduras. April 25, 1995, we met secretly in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where he supplied certified copies of the originals. It was agreed that he would maintain possession of original documents until they were needed by authorities to seek prosecution of Messrs. Bush, Clinton, North, Rodriguez and others directly involved in the manufacturing and trafficking of cocaine.

While in Honduras, we were followed by a known US operative. Fortunately, I detected him early and we were able to out maneuver him so as not to compromise our meeting or the identity of the Honduran official. Upon our return to Miami, with documents in our possession, our car was broken into and my briefcase which, among other things, contained the keys to our car parked in Colorado Springs, was stolen. The documents, however, were not in the briefcase. They were held on my person, taped to my body. We were fortunate that my wife had her set of keys on her. Two weeks after returning to the United States, my wife and I were detained by the FBI. Our household goods were confiscated and rifled through by federal agents. They did not find the documents they were searching for. Subsequently, I was arrested and held without bail. The reason given by the FBI for no bail was that I had recently traveled outside of the country. I was, therefore, a flight risk. My wife, Nancy, was given the clothes on her back and the keys to her car by the FBI. She was told to leave and not return. It was interesting that the set of keys given to Nancy was the very set that had been stolen with my briefcase in Miami two weeks prior.

In February, 1996 two Secret Service agents visited me while I was being held in Tampa, Florida and warned me that I would be charged with treason and either be executed or spend the rest of my life in prison if I did not turn over the documents which I had prepared with others for our protection through the years. A week later, under very mysterious circumstances, treason became the primary crime for which I was being held by the US Marshals.

Tampa Tribune Newspaper Ray Locker (813-259-7915) is taking over from David Sommer Tampa Tnbune phone number 813-259-7600

May 4, 1996

COUNTY JAIL INMATE FACING MYSTERIOUS CHARGE OF TREASON

By David Sommer Tribune Staff Writer TAMPA - Dois Gene Tatum sits in the Hillsborough County Jail on a treason charge, but nobody seems to know why.

Tatum, 45, says he has a theory. While awaiting trial on fraud charges, he has been working on a book about being a prisoner of war in Vietnam, where he said he was sent on a secret, "one way mission" into Cambodia.

But the book makes no mention of later work as an agent in CIA Black operations," Tatum said in a telephone interview from Morgan Street jail. Maybe someone is trying to make sure things stay that way, he says.

Jail offlcials say Taturn is being held on the treason charge at the request of the U. S. Marshals' Service. Such a charge is highly unusual. They said Tatum is not being held on the federal fraud charges, although jury selection in that trial is scheduled to begin Monday before U. S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr.

Tatum and codefendant Nancy Jane Tatum identified in court records as his girlfriend with an alias of Nancy Fullilove, are accused of taking more than $82,000 in federal money while Dois Tatum operated a government-seized Hudson golf course.

Deputy U.S. Marshal David Jacobs, in charge of federal prisoners in Tampa, said his records show Tatum is in custody solely on the fraud case.

"There is nothing in his file whatsoever related to treason," Jacobs said.

Federal prosecutors know nothing of the charge, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Montilla.

"CIA guys are generally charged with other kinds of espionage," the prosecutor said. "My thought is it's a screw-up or some sort of macabre joke."


GLOSSARY OF NAMES

Gustavo Alverez (Codename Dr. Gus)

Former Chief of Staff of the Honduran Military. General Alverez met with Vice President George Bush during the Vice President's visit to Honduras in 1985. General Alverez was killed outside of Tegucigalpa, Honduras in 1989 on orders from President Bush via William J. Colby.

William Barr

Held himself out as an advisor to Vice President George Bush and later under the presidency of George Bush, became the U.S. Attorney General.

Enrique Bermudez

Leader of the CIA formed Nicaraguan Contra Revolutionaries, commonly called the "Contras." Bermudez was killed outside Managua, Nicaragua in 1991 on orders from Vice President Bush via William J. Colby.

George Bush

Director Central Intelligence Agency, Vice President of the United States and President of the United States.

Dewey Clairage

CIA based out of Langley, Va. Target in 1991 indictment.

Gov. William Clinton

Governor of Arkansas - While attending college in England, William Clinton was recruited by the CIA to gather information while visiting the Soviet Union. Later elected governor of the state of Arkansas and President of the United States.

Bill Cooper

Former Air America pilot recruited to fly for Corporate Air Services. Died in Contra re-supply missions for Corporate Air Services. Was shot down over Nicaragua in October 1986.

Joe Fernandez

CIA Station Chief of Costa Rica. Joe Fernandez is presently persona non grata in Costa Rica for suspected smuggling of cocaine. Currently business partner in Guardian Industries with Oliver North.

Clair George

Employee of CIA and oversaw the Central American Desk Retired in 1988 and subsequently indicted in 1991 on federal criminal charges.

Don Gregg

National Security Advisor to Vice President George Bush.

Mike Harari (Codename Cobra)

Ex- Head of the Mossad's Metsada and one of Noriega's most influential advisors.

Eugene Hasenfus

CIA contract agent and survivor of the C-123 crash in Nicaragua which killed Bill Cooper.

Dan Lasater

Little Rock based restaurant entrepreneur and principle of Premier Arkansas Bond Underwriting Company, Lasater and Company. One of few with directed access to the gubernatorial mansion of the Clinton's. Dan Lasater was convicted of trafficking cocaine in 1986 and subsequently sentenced to federal prison.

Lt. Col. R. Navarro

Real name, Ramon Navarro, posed as a Lt. Col. of a foreign military. He accompanied Lt. Col. North on one occasion and was present at several contra camps involved in the manufacturing of cocaine. Navarro was a nefarious drug trafficker with ties to the Medellin Drug Cartel. Navarro died in a mysterious auto accident in Miami, Florida in February of 1991, the evening prior to his scheduled testimony for the government against the co- defedants of Manuel Noriega. Had he not died, he would have been taken to Nicaragua prior to his scheduled testimony and subsequently terminated. This was on orders from President Bush and William Barr via William J. Colby.

Amiram Nir (Codename Pat Weber)

Former Israeli Intelligence Officer (Mossad) and Chief Advisor on Terrorism to Prime Minister Shimon Perez Killed in an airplane crash in Southern Mexico in 1988.

Manuel Noriega

Former Panamanian military leader and CIA operative. Indicted in the United States for conspiracy to traffic cocaine and subsequently kidnapped, tried and convicted. He is currently imprisoned at a federal prison in Miami in Florida.

Oliver North

Orchestrator of the Contra-affair which came to be known as the "Enterprise", working directly for Vice President George Bush. Mr. North is 'persona non grata' in Costa Rica for the suspected trafficking of cocaine.

Jerry Parks

Former police officer and security contractor to William J. Clinton. Accompanied Dan Lasater on several occasions assisting in the pick up of large white coolers marked "medical supplies" delivered by U.S. army helicopters. Jerry Parks was killed execution style in 1994.

Felix Rodriguez

CIA Operative reporting directly to Oliver North and Vice President George Bush. Barry Seal Central figure in CIA drug operations. Seal was killed execution style outside of a half-way house in 1986 on orders from Vice President Bush.

Jackson Stevens

CEO of Stevens and Company, one of the largest financial underwriting companies west of the Mississippi River.

Raymond "Buddy" Young

Former Arkansas State Police Captain and Chief of Security for Governor William J. Clinton. Buddy Young is currently the director of Region 6, of the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) based in Denton, Texas.

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CHIP TATUM

Chip Tatum started his military career in 1969 when he volunteered for service during the Vietnam war. Graduating at the top ten percent of his class, he became one of the Air Force's first elite Combat Controller's (CCT). He survived his tours in Vietnam and a stint as a POW in Cambodia with a Purple Heart, a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, an Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, an Air Medal, and a Vietnam Service Medal, to name a few. As his career advanced, he accepted an appointment as a Warrant Officer. Following his service in Vietnam, Chip was attached to the White House for "special" duty assignments. White House special duty assignments continued through 1986, at which time, Chip's talents filled a specific need of the White House which existed outside a militanly-restricted environment, so he was "recruited'' into an elite black ops unit codenarned "Pegasus." Chip continued to serve the White House through 1991, leaving only when tasked to target his talents toward U.S. officials. Serving five administrations, through a quarter of a century, Chip commanded, planned, and participated in eighteen covert and black operations around the world. His codename is Pegasus.

EXHIBITS

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Israeli Embassy Letter
Embassy of Israel
Washington, D.C.
October 20, 1993
Michael Maholy
United States Medical Center
1900 Sunshine Expressway
Springfield, Missouri 65807
Re: Operation "Whale Watch"
Dear Mr. Maholy:
In reference to your formal request concerning "Operation-Whale Watch" and through the National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency, I am unable to give you full details of this covert mission, although I can forward to you the names of known agents that we have record of relating thereto.
These agents include: C.I.A., Intelligence Officers Michael Maholy, Dewy Claridge, Steven Tucker, along with two National Security Council (NSC) officers, Lt. Col. Oliver North and Lt. Robert Hunt. For additional intelligence if the need arised, a Michael Harair "Mossad" (Retired) was available in a consulting capacity.
We are unable to provide further detailed information but you must understand this matter involves high security. We will not jeapardize any of our intelligence operatives within that country.
If you have any questions please call our International Affairs Security Office at 21 396 Dian-Ben-Row Street, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Yours truly,
Steven Goldburg
Security Officer
Assistant to the Ambassador
SAC/ft


Image
National Security Agency Letter
NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY
CENTRAL SECURITY SERVICE
PORT GEORGE G. MEADE, MARYLAND
October 25, 1993
Mr. Scott A. Beal
C.I.A. Station Chief
United States Embassy
Costa Rica 9H32
Re: OPERATION "WHALE WATCH"
Dear Mr. Beal:
In reviewing your letter for verification, dated June 16, 1985, and due to our highly classified and necessary confidential security measures, we at Central can only provide names of the agents who were assigned to monitor cable traffic and special detection devices, including the 7 star-hydro-phone systems that were placed in position.
These operatives are: Samuel Thompson, C.I.A., John Plumber, C.I.A., Scott Williams, C.I.A., Steven Crow, C.I.A., and Special Agent-in-Charge, Michael Maholy, C.I.A. In addition, a Lt. Col. Oliver North (USMC, NSC) and a Lt. Robert Hunt (USN, NSC), were available as back-up for added security if required.
These Agents were assigned to offshore petroleum drilling rig "Rowan Houston" during the dates you had stated. The platform was located in Balboa Harbour, Panama.
Due to the sensative nature of "Operation Whale Watch" I cannot authorize any further information on this Top-Secret mission, at this time. However, if you have any further questions, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,
Steven Bradshaw
Special Assistant-Security Div.
National Security Agency
SB/fp









"Presidential Secrets," an amazing video, is now available for $19.95 plus chipping and handling. Never before has a production assembled the quality of information presented on this amazing video. Ted L. Gunderson, Retired FBI Senior Special Agent-in-Charge of the L.A. Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Retired FAA Investigator Rodney Stich, and Ex-CIA Agent, Chip Tatum, tell all. If you had reservations about the misdeeds of our Top Officials...You'll have no doubts after viewing this amazing video. The undeniable Testimony is here...The Documents are here...and Your answer is here...in "Presidential Secrets."
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Re: The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Thu May 12, 2016 4:05 am

How the Washington Press Turned Bad
by Robert Parry
October 28, 2014

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.




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The Washington Post’s Watergate team, including from left to right, publisher Katharine Graham, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, Howard Simons, and executive editor Ben Bradlee.

Following the death last week of legendary Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee at age 93, there have been many warm remembrances of his tough-guy style as he sought “holy shit stories,” journalism that was worthy of the old-fashioned demand, “stop the presses.”

Many of the fond recollections surely are selective, but there was some truth to Bradlee’s “front page” approach to inspiring a staff to push the envelope in pursuit of difficult stories at least during the Watergate scandal when he backed Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the face of White House hostility. How different that was from Bradlee’s later years and the work of his successors at the Washington Post!

Coincidentally, upon hearing of Bradlee’s death on Oct. 21, I was reminded of this sad devolution of the U.S. news media from its Watergate/Pentagon Papers heyday of the 1970s to the “On Bended Knee” obsequiousness in covering Ronald Reagan just a decade later, a transformation that paved the way for the media’s servile groveling at the feet of George W. Bush last decade.

On the same day as Bradlee’s passing, I received an e-mail from a fellow journalist informing me that Bradlee’s longtime managing editor and later his successor as executive editor, Leonard Downie, was sending around a Washington Post article attacking the new movie, “Kill the Messenger.”

That article by Jeff Leen, the Post’s assistant managing editor for investigations, trashed the late journalist Gary Webb, whose career and life were destroyed because he dared revive one of the ugliest scandals of the Reagan era, the U.S. government’s tolerance of cocaine trafficking by Reagan’s beloved Nicaraguan Contra rebels.

“Kill the Messenger” offers a sympathetic portrayal of Webb’s ordeal and is critical of the major newspapers, including the Washington Post, for denouncing Webb in 1996 rather than taking the opportunity to revisit a major national security scandal that the Post, the New York Times and other major newspapers missed or downplayed in the mid-1980s after it was first reported by Brian Barger and me for the Associated Press.

Downie, who became the Post’s managing editor in 1984 and followed Bradlee as executive editor in 1991 and is now a journalism professor at Arizona State University passed Leen’s anti-Webb story around to other faculty members with a cover note, which read:

“Subject line: Gary Webb was no hero, say[s] WP investigations editor Jeff Leen

“I was at The Washington Post at the time that it investigated Gary Webb’s stories, and Jeff Leen is exactly right. However, he is too kind to a movie that presents a lie as fact.”

Since I knew Downie slightly during my years at the Associated Press he had once called me about my June 1985 article identifying National Security Council aide Oliver North as a key figure in the White House’s secret Contra-support operation I sent him an e-mail on Oct. 22 to express my dismay at his “harsh comment” and “to make sure that those are your words and that they accurately reflect your opinion.”

I asked, “Could you elaborate on exactly what you believe to be a lie?” I also noted that “As the movie was hitting the theaters, I put together an article about what the U.S. government’s files now reveal about this problem” and sent Downie a link to that story. I have heard nothing back. [For more on my assessment of Leen’s hit piece, see Consortiumnews.com’s “WPost’s Slimy Assault on Gary Webb.”]

Why Attack Webb?

One could assume that Leen and Downie are just MSM hacks who are covering their tracks, since they both missed the Contra-cocaine scandal as it was unfolding under their noses in the 1980s.

Leen was the Miami Herald’s specialist on drug trafficking and the Medellin cartel but somehow he couldn’t figure out that much of the Contra cocaine was arriving in Miami and the Medellin cartel was donating millions of dollars to the Contras. In 1991, during the drug-trafficking trial of Panama’s Manuel Noriega, Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder even testified, as a U.S. government witness, that he had chipped in $10 million to the Contras.

Downie was the Washington Post’s managing editor, responsible for keeping an eye on the Reagan administration’s secretive foreign policy but was regularly behind the curve on the biggest scandals of the 1980s: Ollie North’s operation, the Contra-cocaine scandal and the Iran-Contra Affair. After that litany of failures, he was promoted to be the Post’s executive editor, one of the top jobs in American journalism, where he was positioned to oversee the takedown of Gary Webb in 1996.

Though Downie’s note to other Arizona State University professors called the Contra-cocaine story or “Kill the Messenger” or both a “lie,” the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim recounted recently in an article about the big media’s assault on Webb that “The Post’s top editor at the time, Leonard Downie, told me that he doesn’t remember the incident well enough to comment on it.”

But there’s more here than just a couple of news executives who find it easier to pile on a journalist no longer around to defend himself than to admit their own professional failures. What Leen and Downie represent is an institutional failure of American journalism to protect the American people, choosing instead to protect the American power structure.

Remember that in the mid-1980s when Barger and I exposed the Contra-cocaine scandal, the smuggling was happening in real time. It wasn’t history. The various Contra pipelines were bringing cocaine into American cities where some was getting processed into crack. If action had been taken then, at least some of those shipments could have been stopped and some of the Contra traffickers prosecuted.

Yet, instead of the major news media joining in exposing these ongoing crimes, the New York Times and Washington Post chose to look the other way. In Leen’s article, he justifies this behavior under a supposed journalistic principle that “an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.” But any such standard must also be weighed against the threat to the American people and others from withholding a story.

If Leen’s principle means in reality that no level of proof would be sufficient to report that the Reagan administration was protecting Contra-cocaine traffickers, then the U.S. media was acquiescing to criminal activity that wreaked havoc on American cities, destroyed countless lives and overflowed U.S. prisons with low-level drug dealers while powerful people with political connections went untouched.

That assessment is essentially shared by Doug Farah, who was a Washington Post correspondent in Central America at the time of Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series in 1996. After reading Webb’s series in the San Jose Mercury News, Farah was eager to advance the Contra-cocaine story but encountered unrealistic demands for proof from his editors.

Farah told Ryan Grim: “If you’re talking about our intelligence community tolerating — if not promoting — drugs to pay for black ops, it’s rather an uncomfortable thing to do when you’re an establishment paper like the Post. … If you were going to be directly rubbing up against the government, they wanted it more solid than it could probably ever be done.”

In other words, “extraordinary proof” meant you’d never write a story on this touchy topic because no proof is 100 percent perfect, apparently not even when the CIA’s inspector general confesses, as he did in 1998, that much of what Webb, Barger and I had reported was true and that there was much, much more. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Sordid Contra Cocaine Scandal.”]

What Happened to the Press?

How this transformation of Washington journalism occurred from the more aggressive press corps of the 1970s into the patsy press corps of the 1980s and beyond is an important lost chapter of modern American history.

Much of this change emerged from the political wreckage that followed the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate scandal and the exposure of CIA abuses in the 1970s. The American power structure, particularly the Right, struck back, labeling the U.S. news media as “liberal” and questioning the patriotism of individual journalists and editors.

But it didn’t require much arm-twisting to get the mainstream news media to bend into line and fall on its knees. Many of the news executives that I worked under shared the view of the power structure that the Vietnam protests were disloyal, that the U.S. government needed to hit back against humiliations like the Iran-hostage crisis, and that the rebellious public needed to be brought back into line behind more traditional values.

At the Associated Press, its most senior executive, general manager Keith Fuller, gave a 1982 speech in Worcester, Massachusetts, hailing Reagan’s election in 1980 as a worthy repudiation of the excesses of the 1960s and a necessary corrective to the nation’s lost prestige of the 1970s. Fuller cited Reagan’s Inauguration and the simultaneous release of the 52 U.S. hostages in Iran on Jan. 20, 1981, as a national turning point in which Reagan had revived the American spirit.

“As we look back on the turbulent Sixties, we shudder with the memory of a time that seemed to tear at the very sinews of this country,” Fuller said, adding that Reagan’s election represented a nation “crying, ‘Enough.’

“We don’t believe that the union of Adam and Bruce is really the same as Adam and Eve in the eyes of Creation. We don’t believe that people should cash welfare checks and spend them on booze and narcotics. We don’t really believe that a simple prayer or a pledge of allegiance is against the national interest in the classroom.

“We’re sick of your social engineering. We’re fed up with your tolerance of crime, drugs and pornography. But most of all, we’re sick of your self-perpetuating, burdening bureaucracy weighing ever more heavily on our backs.”

Fuller’s sentiments were not uncommon in the executive suites of major news organizations, where Reagan’s reassertion of an aggressive U.S. foreign policy was especially welcomed. At the New York Times, executive editor Abe Rosenthal, an early neocon, vowed to steer his newspaper back “to the center,” by which he meant to the right.

There was also a social dimension to this journalistic retreat. For instance, the Washington Post’s longtime publisher Katharine Graham found the stresses of high-stakes adversarial journalism unpleasant. Plus, it was one thing to take on the socially inept Richard Nixon; it was quite another to challenge the socially adroit Ronald and Nancy Reagan, whom Mrs. Graham personally liked.

The Graham family embraced neoconservatism, too, favoring aggressive policies against Moscow and unquestioned support for Israel. Soon, the Washington Post and Newsweek editors were reflecting those family prejudices.

I encountered that reality when I moved from AP to Newsweek in 1987 and found executive editor Maynard Parker, in particular, hostile to journalism that put Reagan’s Cold War policies in a negative light. I had been involved in breaking much of the Iran-Contra scandal at the AP, but I was told at Newsweek that “we don’t want another Watergate.” The fear apparently was that the political stresses from another constitutional crisis around a Republican president might shatter the nation’s political cohesion.

The same was true of the Contra-cocaine story, which I was prevented from pursuing at Newsweek. Indeed, when Sen. John Kerry advanced the Contra-cocaine story with a Senate report issued in April 1989, Newsweek was uninterested and the Washington Post buried the story deep inside the paper. Later, Newsweek dismissed Kerry as a “randy conspiracy buff.” [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

Fitting a Pattern

In other words, the vicious destruction of Gary Webb following his revival of the Contra-cocaine scandal in 1996 when he examined the impact of one Contra-cocaine pipeline into the crack trade in Los Angeles was not out of the ordinary. It was part of the pattern of subservience to the national security apparatus, especially under Republicans and right-wingers but extending to Democratic hardliners, too.

This pattern of bias continued into last decade, even when the issue was whether the votes of Americans should be counted. After the 2000 election, when George W. Bush got five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the counting of votes in the key state of Florida, major news executives were more concerned about protecting the fragile “legitimacy” of Bush’s tainted victory than ensuring that the actual winner of the U.S. presidential election became president.

After the Supreme Court’s Republican majority made sure that Florida’s electoral votes and thus the presidency would go to Bush, some news executives, including the New York Times’ executive editor Howell Raines, bristled at proposals to do a media count of the disputed ballots, according to a New York Times executive who was present for these discussions.

The idea of this media count was to determine who the voters of Florida actually favored for president, but Raines only relented to the project if the results did not indicate that Bush should have lost, a concern that escalated after the 9/11 attacks, according to the account from the Times executive.

Raines’s concern became real when the news organizations completed their unofficial count of Florida’s disputed ballots in November 2001 and it turned out that Al Gore would have carried Florida if all legally cast votes were counted regardless of what standards were applied to the famous chads dimpled, hanging or punched-through.

Gore’s victory would have been assured by the so-called “over-votes” in which a voter both punched through a candidate’s name and wrote it in. Under Florida law, such “over-votes” are legal and they broke heavily in Gore’s favor. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “So Bush Did Steal the White House” or our book, Neck Deep.]

In other words, the wrong candidate had been awarded the presidency. However, this startling fact became an inconvenient truth that the mainstream U.S. news media decided to obscure. So, the major newspapers and TV networks hid their own scoop when the results were published on Nov. 12, 2001.

Instead of stating clearly that Florida’s legally cast votes favored Gore and that the wrong man was in the White House the mainstream media bent over backwards to concoct hypothetical situations in which Bush might still have won the presidency, such as if the recount were limited to only a few counties or if the legal “over-votes” were excluded.

The reality of Gore’s rightful victory was buried deep in the stories or relegated to data charts that accompanied the articles. Any casual reader would have come away from reading the New York Times or the Washington Post with the conclusion that Bush really had won Florida and thus was the legitimate president after all.

The Post’s headline read, “Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush.” The Times ran the headline: “Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote.” Some columnists, such as the Post’s media analyst Howard Kurtz, even launched preemptive strikes against anyone who would read the fine print and spot the hidden “lede” of Gore’s victory. Kurtz labeled such people “conspiracy theorists.” [Washington Post, Nov. 12, 2001]

An Irate Reporter

After reading these slanted “Bush Won” stories, I wrote an article for Consortiumnews.com noting that the obvious “lede” should have been that the recount revealed that Gore had won. I suggested that the news judgments of senior editors might have been influenced by a desire to appear patriotic only two months after 9/11. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Gore’s Victory.”]

My article had been up for only a couple of hours when I received an irate phone call from New York Times media writer Felicity Barringer, who accused me of impugning the journalistic integrity of executive editor Raines.

Though Raines and other executives may have thought that what they were doing was “good for the country,” they actually were betraying their most fundamental duty to the American people to give them the facts as fully and accurately as possible. By falsely portraying Bush as the real winner in Florida and thus in the Electoral College, these news executives infused Bush with false legitimacy that he then abused in leading the country to war in Iraq in 2003.

Again, in that run-up to the Iraq invasion, the major news media performed more as compliant propagandists than independent journalists, embracing Bush’s false WMD claims and joining in the jingoism that celebrated “the troops” and the initial American conquest of Iraq.

Despite the media’s embarrassment that later surrounded the bogus WMD stories and the disastrous Iraq War, mainstream news executives faced no accountability. Howell Raines lost his job in 2003 not because of his unethical handling of the Florida recount or the false Iraq War reporting, but because he trusted reporter Jayson Blair who fabricated sources in the Beltway Sniper Case.

How distorted the Times’ judgment had become was underscored by the fact that Raines’s successor, Bill Keller, had written a major article “The I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-a-Hawk Club” hailing “liberals” who joined him in supporting the Iraq invasion. In other words, you got fired if you trusted a dishonest reporter but got promoted if you trusted a dishonest president.

Similarly, at the Washington Post, editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt, who reported again and again that Iraq was hiding stockpiles of WMD as “flat-fact,” didn’t face the kind of journalistic disgrace that was meted out to Gary Webb. Instead, Hiatt is still holding down the same prestigious job, writing the same kind of imbalanced neocon editorials that guided the American people into the Iraq disaster, except now Hiatt is pointing the way to deeper confrontations in Syria, Iran, Ukraine and Russia.

So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that this thoroughly corrupted Washington press corps would lash out again at Gary Webb as his reputation has the belated chance for a posthumous rehabilitation.

But how far the vaunted Washington press corps has sunk is illustrated by the fact that it has been left to a Hollywood movie of all things to set the record straight.
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Re: The Warning in Gary Webb’s Death, by Robert Parry

Postby admin » Thu May 12, 2016 4:09 am

WPost’s Slimy Assault on Gary Webb
by Robert Parry
October 18, 2014

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Jeff Leen, the Washington Post’s assistant managing editor for investigations, begins his renewed attack on the late Gary Webb’s Contra-cocaine reporting with a falsehood.

Leen insists that there is a journalism dictum that “an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.” But Leen must know that it is not true. Many extraordinary claims, such as assertions in 2002-03 that Iraq was hiding arsenals of WMDs, were published as flat-fact without “extraordinary proof” or any real evidence at all, including by Leen’s colleagues at the Washington Post.

A different rule actually governs American journalism that journalists need “extraordinary proof” if a story puts the U.S. government or an “ally” in a negative light but pretty much anything goes when criticizing an “enemy.”

If, for instance, the Post wanted to accuse the Syrian government of killing civilians with Sarin gas or blame Russian-backed rebels for the shoot-down of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, any scraps of proof no matter how dubious would be good enough (as was the actual case in 2013 and 2014, respectively).

However, if new evidence undercut those suspicions and shifted the blame to people on “the U.S. side” say, the Syrian rebels and the Ukrainian government then the standards of proof suddenly skyrocket beyond reach. So what you get is not “responsible” journalism as Leen tries to suggest but hypocrisy and propaganda. One set of rules for the goose and another set for the gander.

The Contra-Cocaine Case

Or to go back to the Contra-cocaine scandal that Brian Barger and I first exposed for the Associated Press in 1985: If we were writing that the leftist Nicaraguan Sandinista government the then U.S. “enemy” was shipping cocaine to the United States, any flimsy claim would have sufficed. But the standard of proof ratcheted up when the subject of our story was cocaine smuggling by President Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras.

In other words, the real dictum is that there are two standards, double standards, something that a careerist like Leen knows in his gut but doesn’t want you to know. All the better to suggest that Gary Webb was guilty of violating some noble principle of journalism.

But Leen is wrong in another way because there was “extraordinary proof” establishing that the Contras were implicated in drug trafficking and that the Reagan administration was looking the other way.

When Barger and I wrote the first story about Contra-cocaine trafficking almost three decades ago, we already had “extraordinary proof,” including documents from Costa Rica, statements by Contras and Contra backers, and admissions from officials in the Drug Enforcement Administration and Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council staff.

However, Leen seems to dismiss our work as nothing but getting “tips” about Contra-cocaine trafficking as if Barger and I were like the hacks at the Washington Post and the New York Times who wait around for authorized handouts from the U.S. government.

Following the Money

Barger and I actually were looking for something different when we encountered the evidence on Contra-cocaine trafficking. We were trying to figure out how the Contras were sustaining themselves in the field after Congress cut off the CIA’s financing for their war.

We were, in the old-fashioned journalistic parlance, “following the money.” The problem was the money led, in part, to the reality that all the major Contra organizations were collaborating with drug traffickers.

Besides our work in the mid-1980s, Sen. John Kerry’s follow-on Contra-cocaine investigation added substantially more evidence. Yet Leen and his cohorts apparently felt no need to pursue the case any further or even give respectful attention to Kerry’s official findings.

Indeed, when Kerry’s report was issued in April 1989, the Washington Post ran a dismissive story by Michael Isikoff buried deep inside the paper. Newsweek dubbed Kerry “a randy conspiracy buff.” In Leen’s new article attacking Gary Webb — published on the front-page of the Washington Post’s Sunday Outlook section — Leen just says:

“After an exhaustive three-year investigation, the committee’s report concluded that CIA officials were aware of the smuggling activities of some of their charges who supported the contras, but it stopped short of implicating the agency directly in drug dealing. That seemed to be the final word on the matter.”

But why was it the “final word”? Why didn’t Leen and others who had missed the scandal as it was unfolding earlier in the decade at least try to build on Kerry’s findings. After all, these were now official U.S. government records. Wasn’t that “extraordinary” enough?

In this context, Leen paints himself as the true investigative journalist who knew the inside story of the Contra-cocaine tale from the beginning. He wrote: “As an investigative reporter covering the drug trade for the Miami Herald, I wrote about the explosion of cocaine in America in the 1980s and 1990s, and the role of Colombia’s Medellin Cartel in fueling it.

“Beginning in 1985, journalists started pursuing tips about the CIA’s role in the drug trade. Was the agency allowing cocaine to flow into the United States as a means to fund its secret war supporting the contra rebels in Nicaragua? Many journalists, including me, chased that story from different angles, but the extraordinary proof was always lacking.”

Again, what Leen says is not true. Leen makes no reference to the groundbreaking AP story in 1985 or other disclosures in the ensuing years. He just insists that “the extraordinary proof” was lacking — which it may have been for him given his lackluster abilities. He then calls the final report of Kerry’s investigation the “final word.”

But Leen doesn’t explain why he and his fellow mainstream journalists were so incurious about this major scandal that they would remain passive even in the wake of a Senate investigation. It’s also not true that Kerry’s report was the “final word” prior to Webb reviving the scandal in 1996.

Government Witnesses

In 1991, during the narcotics trafficking trial of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, the U.S. government itself presented witnesses who connected the Contras to the Medellin cartel.

Indeed, after testimony by Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder about his $10 million contribution to the Contras, the Washington Post wrote in a Nov. 27, 1991 editorial that “The Kerry hearings didn’t get the attention they deserved at the time” and that “The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention.”

But the Post offered its readers no explanation for why Kerry’s hearings had been largely ignored, with the Post itself a leading culprit in this journalistic misfeasance. Nor did the Post and the other leading newspapers use the opening created by the Noriega trial to do anything to rectify their past neglect.

In other words, it didn’t seem to matter how much “extraordinary proof” the Washington Post or Jeff Leen had. Nothing would be sufficient to report seriously on the Contra-cocaine scandal, not even when the U.S. government vouched for the evidence.

So, Leen is trying to fool you when he presents himself as a “responsible journalist” weighing the difficult evidentiary choices. He’s just the latest hack to go after Gary Webb, which has become urgent again for the mainstream media in the face of “Kill the Messenger,” a new movie about Webb’s ordeal.

What Leen won’t face up to is that the tag-team destruction of Gary Webb in 1996-97 by the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times represented one of the most shameful episodes in the history of American journalism.

The Big Papers tore down an honest journalist to cover up their own cowardly failure to investigate and expose a grave national security crime, the Reagan administration’s tolerance for and protection of drug trafficking into the United States by the CIA’s client Contra army.


This journalistic failure occurred even though the Associated Press far from a radical news outlet and a Senate investigation (not to mention the Noriega trial) had charted the way.

Leen’s Assault

Contrary to Leen’s column, “Kill the Messenger” is actually a fairly honest portrayal of what happened when Webb exposed the consequences of the Contra cocaine smuggling after the drugs reached the United States. One channel fed into an important Los Angeles supply chain that produced crack.

But Leen tells you that “The Hollywood version of [Webb’s] story, a truth-teller persecuted by the cowardly and craven mainstream media, is pure fiction.”

He then lauds the collaboration of the Big Three newspapers in destroying Webb and creating such enormous pressure on Webb’s newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, that the executive editor Jerry Ceppos threw his own reporter under the bus. To Leen, this disgraceful behavior represented the best of American journalism.

Leen wrote: “The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, in a rare show of unanimity, all wrote major pieces knocking the story down for its overblown claims and undernourished reporting.

“Gradually, the Mercury News backed away from Webb’s scoop. The paper transferred him to its Cupertino bureau and did an internal review of his facts and his methods. Jerry Ceppos, the Mercury News’s executive editor, wrote a piece concluding that the story did not meet the newspaper’s standards, a courageous stance, I thought.”

“Courageous”? What an astounding characterization of Ceppos’s act of career cowardice.

But Leen continues by explaining his role in the Webb takedown. After all, Leen was then the drug expert at the Miami Herald, which like the San Jose Mercury News was a Knight Ridder newspaper. Leen says his editors sought his opinion about Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series.

Though acknowledging that he was “envious” of Webb’s story when it appeared in 1996, Leen writes that he examined it and found it wanting, supposedly because of alleged overstatements. He proudly asserts that because of his critical analysis, the Miami Herald never published Webb’s series.

But Leen goes further. He falsely characterizes the U.S. government’s later admissions contained in inspector general reports by the CIA and Justice Department. If Leen had bothered to read the reports thoroughly, he would have realized that the reports actually establish that Webb and indeed Kerry, Barger and I grossly understated the seriousness of the Contra-cocaine problem which began at the start of the Contra movement in the early 1980s and lasted through the decade until the end of the war.

Leen apparently assumes that few Americans will take the trouble to study and understand what the reports said. That is why I published a lengthy account of the U.S. government’s admissions both after the reports were published in 1998 and as “Kill the Messenger” was hitting the theaters in October. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga.”]

Playing It Safe

Instead of diving into the reeds of the CIA and DOJ reports, Leen does what he and his mainstream colleagues have done for the past three decades, try to minimize the seriousness of the Reagan administration tolerating cocaine trafficking by its Contra clients and even obstructing official investigations that threatened to expose this crime of state.

Instead, to Leen, the only important issue is whether Gary Webb’s story was perfect. But no journalistic product is perfect. There are always more details that a reporter would like to have, not to mention compromises with editors over how a story is presented. And, on a complex story, there are always some nuances that could have been explained better. That is simply the reality of journalism, the so-called first draft of history.

But Leen pretends that it is the righteous thing to destroy a reporter who is not perfect in his execution of a difficult story and that Gary Webb thus deserved to be banished from his profession for life, a cruel punishment that impoverished Webb and ultimately drove him to suicide in 2004.

But if Leen is correct that a reporter who takes on a very tough story and doesn’t get every detail precisely correct should be ruined and disgraced what does he tell his Washington Post colleague Bob Woodward, whose heroic Watergate reporting included an error about whether a claim regarding who controlled the White House slush fund was made before a grand jury?

While Woodward and his colleague Carl Bernstein were right about the substance, they were wrong about its presentation to a grand jury. Does Leen really believe that Woodward and Bernstein should have been drummed out of journalism for that mistake? Instead, they were lionized as heroes of investigative journalism despite the error as they should have been.


Yet, when Webb exposed what was arguably an even worse crime of state the Reagan administration turning a blind eye to the importation of tons of cocaine into the United States Leen thinks any abuse of Webb is justified because his story wasn’t perfect.

Those two divergent judgments on how Woodward’s mistake was understandably excused and how Webb’s imperfections were never forgiven speak volumes about what has happened to the modern profession of journalism at least in the mainstream U.S. media. In reality, Leen’s insistence on perfection and “extraordinary proof” is just a dodge to rationalize letting well-connected criminals and their powerful accomplices off the hook.

In the old days, the journalistic goal was to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” but the new rule appears to be: “any standard of proof works when condemning the weak or the despised but you need unachievable ‘extraordinary proof’ if you’re writing about the strong and the politically popular.”


Who Is Unfit?

Leen adds a personal reflection on Webb as somehow not having the proper temperament to be an investigative reporter. Leen wrote:

“After Webb was transferred to Cupertino [in disgrace], I debated him at a conference of the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization in Phoenix in June 1997. He was preternaturally calm. While investigative journalists are usually bundles of insecurities and questions and skepticism, he brushed off any criticism and admitted no error. When asked how I felt about it all, I said I felt sorry for him. I still feel that way.”

It’s interesting and sadly typical that while Leen chastises Webb for not admitting error, Leen offers no self-criticism of himself for missing what even the CIA has now admitted, that the Contras were tied up in the cocaine trade. Doesn’t an institutional confession by the CIA’s inspector general constitute “extraordinary proof”?

Also, since the CIA’s inspector general’s report included substantial evidence of Contra-cocaine trafficking running through Miami, shouldn’t Leen offer some mea culpa about missing these serious crimes that were going on right under his nose in his city and on his beat? What sort of reporter is “preternaturally calm” about failing to do his job right and letting the public suffer as Leen did?

Perhaps all one needs to know about the sorry state of today’s mainstream journalism is that Jeff Leen is the Washington Post’s assistant managing editor for investigations and Gary Webb is no longer with us.

[To learn how you can hear a December 1996 joint appearance at which Robert Parry and Gary Webb discuss their reporting, click here.]
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