Monday, May 28, 2007

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CIA, Cocaine, and the Contras
A Bibliography

Last updated: May 29, 2007
Copyright 2007, Licensed under Creative Commons License 3.0
Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras & the Drug War
by Celerino, III Castillo (Author), Dave Harmon (Author)

There were a number of semi-suppressed stories during the Iran-contra scandal concerning the link between the contras and cocaine. Celerino Castillo knows about it first-hand. An all-American true believer, Castillo fought in Vietnam from 1971-1972, where he saw the effects of drugs on U.S. troops. By 1975 he was a Texas cop, later a detective working drug cases. In 1980 he joined the Drug Enforcement Administration and worked the streets of New York. Then it was off to Peru in 1984-1985, and Guatemala from 1985-1990. While stationed in Guatemala, Castillo was the DEA agent in charge of anti- drug operations in El Salvador from 1985-1987. This is when he discovered that Oliver North's contras were running cocaine from the Ilopango airport.

He did his best to bust them, but they were protected by the CIA. "By the end of 1988," he writes, "I realized how hopelessly tangled DEA, the CIA, and every other U.S. entity in Central America had become with the criminals. The connections boggled my mind" (page 208). His life was in danger, and he got out in a hurry in 1990. DEA, meanwhile, was increasing the pressure with an internal investigation of Castillo. His career was over and he resigned. Lawrence Walsh's office extensively debriefed Castillo, but when Walsh released his massive report in 1993, the narcotics connection was nowhere to be found. End of story -- until this book was published.
ISBN 0-88962-578-6 ( )

Related account of Castillo's work:

The Chip Tatum Chronicles: Testimony of Government Drug Running
By D.G. "Chip" Tatum

I'm afraid I find this account credible. I doubt I would have found it credible if I hadn't already read all the Mena-Contra-Cocaine material I've been reading lately. It paints a particularly damning portrait of Oliver North. There are a couple of parallels with P's account as it involves North, though. In both, North clearly knew of drugs being smuggled back into the US, but did not inform his subordinates up-front. North didn't admit to the drugs until confronted. In both cases, North responded to the confrontation with a lie that excused his own and the subordinates' role. In P's case, the lie was that the drugs were all Clinton's fault, and Clinton had the whole CIA over a barrel. In Tatum's case, North's lie was that the cocaine was "evidence" to be used to prove in court that the Sandinistas were dealing in cocaine.

Again, Dan Lasater is named by an independent source as being the man in Mena who handed the cocaine off to US drug lords and laundered the money.
Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press
by Alexander Cockburn (Author), Jeffrey St. Clair (Author)
Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'
by Robert Parry (Author)
A fairly long discussion by Parry on this subject:
Gary Webb R.I.P.

The Crimes of Mena: The Suppressed Article
By Sally Denton and Roger Morris
This is the article which had been scheduled to appear in the Washington Post. After having cleared the legal department for all possible questions of inaccurate statements, the article was scheduled for publication when just as the presses were set to roll, Washington Post Managing Editor Bob Kaiser (Like George Bush, a member of the infamous "Skull & Bones Fraternity), killed the article without explanation.
The Train Deaths: Don Henry and Kevin Ives
This is the most coherent narrative I've come across to explain and describe exactly what happened in the murder of these two high school boys, why, and who is responsible. Jean Duffey and Russell Welch appear to be the only two major officials in the whole controversy who have displayed consistent, courageous integrity. I take comfort that they've kept their lives. I'm appalled that their careers have been devastated.


A Witness List for House Hearings on Volume II of the CIA's Inspector General's Report on CIA Drug Trafficking
An exhaustive list of names with thumbnail sketches of the prominent characters in CIA drug dealings.

Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America
by Peter Dale Scott, Jonathan Marshall
Table of Contents:

Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion
by Gary Webb (Author)
Portions as published in the San Jose Mercury News:

Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb (Paperback)
by Nick Schou (Author), Charles Bowden (Preface)
Excerpt: (,schou,74552,10.html )
"Dark Alliance" was the first major news expose to be published simultaneously in print and on the Internet. Ignored by the mainstream media at first, the story nonetheless spread like wildfire through cyberspace and talk radio. It sparked angry protests around the country by African-Americans who had long suspected the government had allowed drugs into their communities. Their anger was fueled by the fact that "Dark Alliance" didn't just show that the contras had supplied a major crack dealer with cocaine, or that the cash had been used to fund the CIA's army in Central America—but also strongly implied that this activity had been critical to the nationwide explosion of crack cocaine that had taken place in America during the 1980s.

It was an explosive charge, although a careful reading of the story showed that Webb had never actually stated that the CIA had intentionally started the crack epidemic. In fact, Webb never believed the CIA had conspired to addict anybody to drugs. Rather, he believed that the agency had known that the contras were dealing cocaine, and hadn't lifted a finger to stop them. He was right, and the controversy over "Dark Alliance"—which many consider to be the biggest media scandal of the 1990s—would ultimately force the CIA to admit it had lied for years about what it knew and when it knew it.
Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America
by Peter Dale Scott, Jonathan Marshall
Excerpt here:
Prologue to Boy Clinton
By R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
Regnery Publishing Inc.
Washington D.C.

But during this, his most recent flight, what Brown, a seasoned narcotics investigator, was to learn troubled him deeply. Seal was bringing drugs and money back in the duffel bags. Consequently, as soon as Brown returned to Little Rock he approached Clinton and asked, "Do you know what they're bringing back on those planes?" Clinton froze. "They're bringing back coke," Brown told him. In fact "they" were trafficking in cocaine, money, and arms, Clinton's response was blase. He told Brown not to worry, adding "That's Lasater's deal. That's Lasater's deal."(2) At the time Dan Lasater, an Arkansas "bond daddy" known for his wide-open parties, was a major Clinton supporter. Clinton's occasional attendance at Lasater's parties had presented his bodyguard, Brown, with problems; in addition to young girls, the parties also included plenty of cocaine.

Comment: This seems astonishing to me. If anyone was responsible for the massive, CIA-approved drug-running going on at Mena, it was Lasater. During the Contra re-supply operations, he was running business dealings that would rank well up in the Fortune 500. But his drug convictions were for giving away cocaine, and you have to scour the internet to find his name associated with the trafficking. How did such massive dealing leave such a tiny footprint of documentation? Well, it's actually pretty clear: there were vigorous efforts at both Federal and State levels to quash any and all investigations.


Information Sources for Allegations Regarding Mena and
Other CIA-related Narcotics Trafficking Covert Operations
An exhaustive bibliography of mostly non-internet references

Denial and Deception: An Insider's View of the CIA from Iran-Contra to 9/11 (Nation Books)
by Melissa Boyle Mahle
This book has gotten mostly lukewarm reviews, and discusses little of the Contra affair.

The Conspirators: Secrets of an Iran-Contra Insider
by Al Martin
The material here looks mostly like cheap sensationalism.
When George Bush, Bill Casey and Oliver North initiated their plan of State-sanctioned fraud and drug smuggling, they envisioned using 500 men to raise $35 billion.

When Iran Contra finally fell apart, they had ended up using 5,000 operatives and making $350 billion.

....After Al Martin retired as a Lt. Commander from the US Naval Reserves, his life went into the fast lane as a black ops specialist in the Office of Naval Intelligence. His first assignment was in Peru, where he was tapped for a CIA-sanctioned operation, smuggling American Express cards into Argentina in 1979. After that, he met US Government-sponsored con man Lawrence Richard Hamil, a Department of Defense shadow player, who taught him the ropes of profitable covert operations. In 1984, Martin began marketing Hamil's "deals" through his Florida based Southeast Resources, Inc.

At a meeting with General Richard V. Secord and Hamil, Martin was briefed about Iran Contra operations and allowed to view voluminous CIA white papers concerning "Operation Black Eagle," the code-name for the Bush-Casey-North program involving US Government-sanctioned narcotics trafficking, illicit weapons deals and wholesale fraud.

Three interesting leads from that seem to be currently unavailable:
Report of investigation : allegations of connections between CIA and the Contras in cocaine trafficking to the United States (SuDoc PREX 3.2:C 76/V.1-) (Unknown Binding)
by U.S. Postal Service (Author)
Overview, report of investigation concerning allegations of connections between CIA and the Contras in cocaine trafficking to the United States (SuDoc PREX 3.2:2001042000)
by U.S. Postal Service (Author)
The CIA-contra-crack cocaine controversy a review of the Justice Department's investigations and prosecutions (SuDoc J 1.2:99006533)
by U.S. Dept of Justice (Author)

Reagan Versus the Sandinistas: The Undeclared War on Nicaragua (Hardcover)
by Thomas W. Walker (Editor)

Paul Beres

Meanwhile, in Latin America, the CIA's proxy Contra army of "freedom fighters" was also supplementing its income. Smugglers working for the Colombian Medellin cartel would land on Contra air-strips for refuelling and either fly on to North America themselves or offload their cargoes to other smugglers on the North American run. In return for this service the Contras were able to fund their campaign to liberate Nicaragua from the Sandanisters.

The CIA often used the same cocaine smugglers to, in turn, fly military supplies back to the Contras from North America. The cost of these supplies and their transportation was partly paid for by the CIA and partly paid for by the Contra's services to the Medellin cartel. In some instances no exchange of money was necessary; weapons and cocaine were the only means of exchange. Like the commanders of the KMT, many of the Contras leaders became drug traffickers in their own right.

When the US Congress cut all aid to the Contras in 1984, the CIA began to operate landing strips of its own through John Hull who turned his Costa Rica ranch into a miniature airport. Support from other agencies was also forthcoming. Under National Security Council's Colonel Oliver North, two ex CIA operatives who served together in Laos, retired General Richard Secord and Thomas Clines, raised the necessary funds to buy more airplanes by illegally selling arms to Iran.

The CIA was now actively involved in smuggling cocaine. Before a Capital Hill hearing, Gary Bretzner, a former pilot working for the Colombian drug smuggler George Morales, gave testimony of John Hull's complicity.

"In July 1984 Betzner flew into Hull's ranch in a Cessna 402-B loaded with a cargo of weapons for the Contra southern front. Betzner was met at the airstrip by Hull and they watched the cargo of weapons being unloaded, and cocaine, packed in 17 duffel bags, and five or six two-foot square boxes being loaded into the now empty Cessna. With his cargo of cocaine, Betzner flew the Cessna north and landed at a field in Lakeland, Florida, without any search.".

The contribution which these efforts made in increasing the supply of Colombian cocaine to the US deserves special mention. In 1980 the amount of cocaine reaching the US doubled and by 1985 regular cocaine users already outnumbered heroin addicts by more than ten to one.

By 1986 cheap crack, cocaine converted from a powder to a granular base for smoking, had found its way into US schools, costing as little as $10 a tab. Not surprisingly cocaine use and profits now dwarf those of heroin.

Although North America and Europe are the premium export markets for cocaine and heroin, new markets have been cultivated closer to home in the developing world. Pakistan, for instance, had a virtually non-existent heroin addiction problem before the Afghanistan conflict, but now has one of the largest and fastest growing population of addicts in the world, while in Thailand heroin addition is more widely spread throughout society than ever before.

This brief history is by no means the full story, or even the end of the story. Despite this, the recurring trend of the drug trade becoming an 'end in itself' rather than a 'means to an end,' is clearly evident. This is more than just a recurring trend, however; it is a spiral with devastating consequences.

Successive US Presidents have declared war on drugs, but have failed to acknowledge the CIA's part in batting for the opposition. On the contrary, they have increased the CIA's powers; the very same powers that have enabled CIA operatives to become so deeply immersed in the politics of drugs.


Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America by Peter Dale Scottand and Jonathan Marshall, University of California Press 1991.

The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade by Alfred W McCoy, Lawrence Hill Books 1991.

Reagan Versus the Sandinistas: The Undeclared War in Nicaragua, edited by Thomas W. Walker, Westview Press, Boulder and London 1987.

Turning The Tide: US Intervention in Central America and the struggle for Peace by Noam Chomsky, published by Pluto Press 1985.

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