by Douglas Valentine
September 10, 2015
The corrupt connections
between U.S. intelligence and
go back more than seven decades
as American spies and drug
routinely crossed paths and
- with the interests of average
never high on the agenda,
as author Douglas Valentine
The outlawing of narcotic drugs at the start of the Twentieth
Century, the turning of the matter from public health to social
control, coincided with the belief that the U.S. government had an
obligation to American industrialists to create markets in every
nation in the world, whether those nations liked it or not.
Civic institutions, like public education, were required to sanctify
this policy, while "security" bureaucracies were established to
ensure the citizenry conformed to the state ideology.
Secret services, both public and
private, were likewise established to promote the expansion of
private American economic interests overseas.
It takes a book to explain the economic foundations of the war on
drugs, and the reasons behind the regulation of the medical,
pharmaceutical and drug manufacturers industries.
Suffice it to say that by 1943, the
nations of the "free world" were relying on America for their opium
derivatives, under the guardianship of Harry Anslinger, the
Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).
Narcotic drugs are a strategic resource, and when Anslinger learned
that Peru had built a cocaine factory, he and the Board of Economic
Warfare confiscated its product before it could be sold to Germany
In another instance, Anslinger and his
counterpart at the State Department prevented a drug manufacturer in
Argentina from selling drugs to Germany.
At the same time, Anslinger permitted,
"an American company to ship drugs
to Southeast Asia despite receiving intelligence reports that
French authorities were permitting opiate smuggling into China
and collaborating with Japanese drug traffickers," according to
Douglas Clark Kinder and William O. Walker III in their article,
'Stable Force In a Storm: Harry J. Anslinger and United States
Narcotic Policy, 1930-1962.'
Federal drug law enforcement's
relationship with the espionage establishment matured with the
creation of CIA's predecessor organization, the Office of Strategic
Prior to the Second World War, the
Federal Bureau of Narcotics was the government agency most adept
at conducting covert operations at home and abroad.
As a result, OSS chief William
Donovan asked Anslinger to provide seasoned FBN agents to help
organize the OSS and train its agents to work undercover, avoid
security forces in hostile nations, manage agent networks, and
engage in sabotage and subversion.
The relationship expanded during the war, when FBN executives and
agents worked with OSS scientists in domestic "truth drug"
experiments involving marijuana.
The "extralegal" nature of the
relationship continued after the war:
when the CIA decided to test LSD on
unsuspecting American citizens, FBN agents were chosen to
operate the safe-houses where the experiments were conducted.
The relationship was formalized overseas in 1951, when Agent
Charlie Siragusa opened an office in Rome and began to develop
the FBN's foreign operations.
In the 1950s, FBN agents posted overseas
spent half their time doing "favors" for
CIA, such as investigating diversions of strategic
materials behind the Iron Curtain. A handful of FBN agents were
actually recruited into the CIA while maintaining their FBN
credentials as cover.
Officially, FBN agents set limits.
Siragusa, for example, claimed to object
when the CIA asked him to mount a "controlled delivery" into the
U.S. as a way of identifying the American members of a smuggling
ring with Communist affiliations.
As Siragusa said,
"The FBN could never knowingly allow
two pounds of heroin to be delivered into the United States and
be pushed to Mafia customers in the New York City area, even if
in the long run we could seize a bigger haul."
[For citations to this and other
quotations/interviews, as well as documents, please refer to the
author's books, The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of
America's War on Drugs (Verso 2004) and The Strength of the
Pack: The Personalities, Politics, and Espionage Intrigues that
Shaped the DEA (TrineDay 2009). See also
And in 1960, when the CIA asked him to
recruit assassins from his stable of underworld contacts, Siragusa
again claimed to have refused. But drug traffickers, including most
prominently Santo Trafficante Jr, were soon participating in CIA
attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro.
As the dominant partner in the relationship, the CIA exploited its
affinity with the FBN.
"Like the CIA," FBN Agent Robert
DeFauw explained, "narcotic agents mount covert operations. We
pose as members of the narcotics trade. The big difference is
that we were in foreign countries legally, and through our
police and intelligence sources, we could check out just about
anyone or anything. Not only that, we were operational. So the
CIA jumped in our stirrups."
Jumping in the FBN's stirrups afforded
the CIA deniability, which in turn affords it impunity.
To ensure that the CIA's criminal
activities are not revealed, narcotic agents are organized
militarily within an inviolable chain of command. Highly
indoctrinated, they blindly obey based on a "need to know."
This institutionalized ignorance
sustains the illusion of righteousness, in the name of national
security, upon which their motivation depends.
As FBN Agent Martin Pera explained,
"Most FBN agents were corrupted by
the lure of the underworld. They thought they could check their
morality at the door - go out and lie, cheat, and steal - then
come back and retrieve it. But you can't.
In fact, if you're successful
because you can lie, cheat, and steal, those things become tools
you use in the bureaucracy."
from the Top
Institutionalized corruption began at headquarters, where FBN
executives provided cover for CIA assets engaged in drug
In 1966, Agent John Evans was
assigned as an assistant to enforcement chief John Enright.
"And that's when I got to see
what the CIA was doing," Evans said.
"I saw a report on the
Kuomintang saying they were the biggest drug dealers in the
world, and that the CIA was underwriting them. Air America
was transporting tons of Kuomintang opium," Evans bristled.
"I took the report to Enright.
'Leave it here. Forget about
"Other things came to my
attention," Evans added, "that proved that the CIA
contributed to drug use in America. We were in constant
conflict with the CIA because it was hiding its budget in
ours, and because CIA people were smuggling drugs into the
We weren't allowed to tell, and
that fostered corruption in the Bureau."
Heroin smuggled by "CIA people" into the
U.S. was channeled by Mafia distributors primarily to
Local narcotic agents then targeted
disenfranchised blacks as an easy way of preserving the white ruling
"We didn't need a search warrant,"
explains New Orleans narcotics officer Clarence Giarusso.
"It allowed us to meet our quota.
And it was ongoing. If I find dope on a black man, I can put him
in jail for a few days. He's got no money for a lawyer and the
courts are ready to convict. There's no expectation on the
jury's part that we have to make a case.
"So rather than go cold turkey, the addict becomes an informant,
which means I can make more cases in the neighborhood, which is
all we're interested in. We don't care about Carlos Marcello or
City cops have no interest in who
brings dope in. That's the job of the federal agents."
The Establishment's race and class
privileges have always been equated with national security, and FBN
executives dutifully preserved the social order.
Not until 1968, when Civil Rights
reforms were imposed upon government bureaucracies, were black FBN
agents allowed to become supervisors and manage white agents.
The war on drugs is largely a projection of two things: the racism
that has defined America since its inception and the government
policy of allowing political allies to traffic in narcotics. These
unstated but official policies reinforce the belief among CIA and
drug law enforcement officials that the Bill of Rights is an
obstacle to national security.
Blanket immunity from prosecution for turning these policies into
practice engenders a belief among bureaucrats that they are above
the law, which fosters corruption in other forms.
FBN agents, for example, routinely
"created a crime" by breaking and entering, planting evidence, using
illegal wiretaps, and falsifying reports. They tampered with heroin,
transferred it to informants for sale, and even murdered other
agents who threatened to expose them.
All of this was secretly known at the highest level of government,
and in 1965 the Treasury Department launched a corruption
investigation of the FBN.
Headed by Andrew Tartaglino, the
investigation ended in 1968 with the resignation of 32 agents and
the indictment of five. That same year the FBN was reconstructed in
the Department of Justice as the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous
But, as Tartaglino said dejectedly,
"The job was only half done."
Richard Nixon was elected president based on a vow to restore "law
and order" to America. To prove that it intended to keep that
promise, the White House in 1969 launched Operation Intercept along
the Mexican border.
This massive "stop and search" operation
so badly damaged relations with Mexico, however, that National
Henry Kissinger formed the
Ad Hoc Committee on Narcotics (the Heroin Committee), to
coordinate drug policy and prevent further diplomatic disasters.
The Heroin Committee was composed of cabinet members represented by
their deputies. James Ludlum represented CIA Director Richard
A member of the CIA's
Counter-Intelligence staff, Ludlum had been the CIA's liaison
officer to the FBN since 1962.
"When Kissinger set up the Heroin
Committee," Ludlum recalled, "the CIA certainly didn't take it
seriously, because drug control wasn't part of their mission."
Indeed, as John Evans noted above
and as the government was aware, the CIA for years had sanctioned
the heroin traffic from the Golden Triangle region of Burma,
Thailand and Laos into South Vietnam as a way of rewarding top
foreign officials for advancing U.S. policies.
This reality presented the Nixon White
House with a dilemma, given that addiction among U.S. troops in
Vietnam was soaring and that massive amounts of Southeast Asian
heroin were being smuggled into the U.S. for use by middle-class
white kids on the verge of revolution.
Nixon's response was to make drug law enforcement part of the CIA's
Although reluctant to betray the CIA's
clients in South Vietnam, Helms told Ludlum:
"We're going to break their rice
This betrayal occurred incrementally.
Fred Dick, the BNDD agent
assigned to Saigon, passed the names of the complicit military
officers and politicians to the White House.
But, as Dick recalled,
"Ambassador [Ellsworth] Bunker
called a meeting in Saigon at which CIA Station Chief Ted
Shackley appeared and explained that there was 'a delicate
balance.' What he said, in effect, was that no one was willing
to do anything."
Legendary CIA officer
Meanwhile, to protect its global network
of drug trafficking assets, the CIA began infiltrating the BNDD and
commandeering its internal security, intelligence, and foreign
This massive reorganization required the
placement of CIA officers in influential positions in every federal
agency concerned with drug law enforcement.
CIA Officer Paul Van Marx, for example, was assigned as the
U.S. Ambassador to France's assistant on narcotics.
From this vantage point, Van Marx
ensured that BNDD conspiracy cases against European traffickers did
not compromise CIA operations and assets. Van Marx also vetted
potential BNDD assets to make sure they were not enemy spies.
The FBN never had more than 16 agents stationed overseas, but Nixon
dramatically increased funding for the BNDD and hundreds of agents
were posted abroad. The success of these overseas agents soon came
to depend on CIA intelligence, as BNDD Director John Ingersoll
BNDD agents immediately felt the impact of the CIA's involvement in
drug law enforcement operations within the United States.
Operation Eagle was the flashpoint.
Launched in 1970, Eagle targeted anti-Castro Cubans smuggling
cocaine from Latin America to the Trafficante organization in
Florida. Of the dozens of traffickers arrested in June, many were
found to be members of Operation 40, a CIA terror organization
active in the U.S., the Caribbean, Central and South America, and
The revelation that CIA drug smuggling assets were operating within
the U.S. led to the assignment of CIA officers as counterparts to
mid-level BNDD enforcement officials, including Latin American
division chief Jerry Strickler.
Like Van Marks in France, these CIA
officers served to protect CIA assets from exposure, while
facilitating their recruitment as informants for the BNDD.
Many Cuban exiles arrested in Operation Eagle were indeed hired by
the BNDD and sent throughout Latin America. They got "fantastic
intelligence," Strickler noted.
But many were secretly serving the CIA
and playing a double game.
By 1970, BNDD Director Ingersoll's inspections staff had gathered
enough evidence to warrant the investigation of dozens of corrupt
FBN agents who had risen to management positions in the BNDD.
But Ingersoll could not investigate his
top managers while simultaneously investigating drug traffickers. So
he asked CIA Director Helms for help building a
"counter-intelligence" capacity within the BNDD.
The result was Operation Twofold, in which 19 CIA officers were
infiltrated into the BNDD, ostensibly to spy on corrupt BNDD
According to the BNDD's Chief Inspector
"A corporation engaged in law
enforcement hired three CIA officers posing as private
businessmen to do the contact and interview work."
CIA recruiter Jerry Soul, a
former Operation 40 case officer, primarily selected officers whose
careers had stalled due to the gradual reduction of forces in
Those hired were put through the BNDD's
training course and assigned to spy on a particular regional
director. No records were kept and some participants have never been
Charles Gutensohn was a typical Twofold "torpedo."
Prior to his recruitment into the BNDD,
Gutensohn had spent two years at the CIA's base in Pakse, a major
heroin transit point between Laos and South Vietnam.
"Fuller said that when we
communicated, I was to be known as Leo Adams for Los Angeles,"
Gutensohn said. "He was to be Walter DeCarlo, for Washington,
Gutensohn's cover, however, was blown
before he got to Los Angeles.
"Someone at headquarters was talking
and everyone knew," he recalled. "About a month after I arrived,
one of the agents said to me, 'I hear that Pat Fuller signed
Twofold, which existed at least until
1974, was deemed by the Rockefeller Commission to have,
"violated the 1947 Act which
prohibits the CIA's participation in law enforcement
It also, as shall be discussed later,
served as a cover for clandestine CIA operations.
The Nixon White House blamed the BNDD's failure to stop
international drug trafficking on its underdeveloped intelligence
capabilities, a situation that opened the door to further CIA
In late 1970, CIA Director Helms arranged for his recently retired
chief of continuing intelligence, E. Drexel Godfrey, to
review BNDD intelligence procedures.
Among other things, Godfrey recommended
that the BNDD create regional intelligence units (RIUs) and an
office of strategic intelligence (SI0). The RIUs were up and running
by 1971 with CIA officers often assigned as analysts, prompting BNDD
agents to view the RIUs with suspicion, as repositories for Twofold
The SIO was harder to implement, given its arcane function as a tool
to help top managers formulate plans and strategies "in the
As SIO Director John Warner
"We needed to understand the
political climate in Thailand in order to address the problem.
We needed to know what kind of protection the Thai police were
affording traffickers. We were looking for an intelligence
office that could deal with those sorts of issues, on the
Organizing the SIO fell to CIA officers
Adrian Swain and Tom Tripodi, both of whom were
recruited into the BNDD.
In April 1971 they accompanied Ingersoll
to Saigon, where Station Chief Shackley briefed them. Through his
CIA contacts, Swain obtained maps of drug-smuggling routes in
Upon their return to the U.S., Swain and Tripodi expressed
frustration that the CIA had access to people capable of providing
the BNDD with intelligence, but these people "were involved in
narcotics trafficking and the CIA did not want to identify them."
Seeking a way to circumvent the CIA, they recommended the creation
"special operations or strategic
operations staff" that would function as the BNDD's own CIA
"using a backdoor approach to gather intelligence in support of
Those operations would rely on,
"longer range, deep penetration,
clandestine assets, who remain undercover, do not appear during
the course of any trial and are recruited and directed by the
Special Operations agents on a covert basis."
The White House approved the plan and in
May 1971, Kissinger presented a $120 million drug control
proposal, of which $50 million was earmarked for special operations.
Three weeks later Nixon declared "war on
drugs," at which point Congress responded with funding for the SIO
and authorization for the extra-legal operations Swain and Tripodi
SIO Director Warner was given a seat on the U.S. Intelligence Board
so the SIO could obtain raw intelligence from the CIA.
But, in return, the SIO was compelled to
adopt CIA security procedures. A CIA officer established the SIO's
file room and computer system; safes and steel doors were installed;
and witting agents had to obtain CIA clearances.
Active-duty CIA officers were assigned to the SIO as desk officers
for Europe and the Middle East, the Far East, and Latin America.
Tripodi was assigned as chief of operations.
Tripodi had spent the previous six years
in the CIA's Security Research Services, where his duties included
the penetration of peace groups, as well as setting up firms to
conduct black bag jobs. Notably, White House "Plumber" E. Howard
Hunt inherited Tripodi's Special Operations unit, which included
several of the Watergate burglars.
Tripodi liaised with the CIA on matters of mutual interest and the
covert collection of narcotics intelligence outside of routine BNDD
As part of his operational plan,
code-named Medusa, Tripodi proposed that SIO agents hire foreign
nationals to blow up contrabandista planes while they were refueling
at clandestine air strips.
Another proposal called for ambushing
traffickers in America, and taking their drugs and money.
The creation of the SIO coincided with the assignment of CIA officer
Lucien Conein to the BNDD.
As a member of the OSS, Conein had
parachuted into France to form resistance cells that included
Corsican gangsters. As a CIA officer, Conein in 1954 was assigned to
Vietnam to organize anti-communist forces, and in 1963 achieved
infamy as the intermediary between the Kennedy White House and the
cabal of generals that murdered President Diem.
Historian Alfred McCoy has alleged that, in 1965, Conein
arranged a truce between the CIA and drug trafficking Corsicans in
The truce, according to McCoy, allowed
the Corsicans to traffic, as long as they served as contact men for
the CIA. The truce also endowed the Corsicans with "free passage" at
a time when Marseilles' heroin labs were turning from Turkish to
Southeast Asian morphine base.
Conein denied McCoy's allegation and insisted that his meeting with
the Corsicans was solely to resolve a problem caused by Daniel
Ellsberg's "peccadilloes with the mistress of a Corsican."
It is impossible to know who is telling the truth. What is known is
that in July 1971, on Howard Hunt's recommendation, the White House
hired Conein as an expert on Corsican drug traffickers in Southeast
Conein was assigned as a consultant to
the SIO's Far East Asia desk. His activities will be discussed in
greater detail below.
In September 1971, the Heroin Committee was reorganized as the
Cabinet Committee for International Narcotics Control (CCINC) under
Secretary of State William Rogers.
CCINC's mandate was to,
"set policies which relate
international considerations to domestic considerations."
By 1975, its budget amounted to $875
million, and the war on drugs had become a most profitable industry.
Concurrently, the CIA formed a unilateral drug unit in its
operations division under Seymour Bolten. Known as the
Special Assistant to the Director for the Coordination of Narcotics,
Bolten directed CIA division and station chiefs in unilateral drug
In doing this, Bolten worked closely
with Ted Shackley, who in 1972 was appointed head of the
CIA's Western Hemisphere Division. Bolten and Shackley had worked
together in post-war Germany, as well as in anti-Castro Cubans
operations in the early 1960s.
Their collaboration would grease federal
drug law enforcement's skid into oblivion.
"Bolten screwed us," BNDD's Latin
American division chief Jerry Strickler said emphatically. "And
so did Shackley."
Bolten "screwed" the BNDD, and the
American judicial system, by setting up a "parallel mechanism" based
on a computerized register of international drug traffickers and a
CIA-staffed communications crew that intercepted calls from drug
traffickers inside the U.S. to their accomplices around the world.
The International Narcotics
Information Network (INIS) was modeled on a computerized
management information system Shackley had used to terrorize the
underground resistance in South Vietnam.
Bolten's staff also "re-tooled" dozens of CIA officers and slipped
them into the BNDD. Several went to Lou Conein at the SIO for
clandestine, highly illegal operations.
Factions within the CIA and military were opposed to Bolten's
parallel mechanism, but CIA Executive Director William Colby
supported Bolten's plan to preempt the BNDD and use its agents and
informants for unilateral CIA purposes. The White House also
supported the plan for political purposes related to Watergate.
Top BNDD officials who resisted were
expunged; those who cooperated were rewarded.
Narcotics Covert Intelligence Network
In September 1972, DCI Helms (then immersed in Watergate intrigues)
told BNDD Director Ingersoll that the CIA had prepared files on
specific drug traffickers in Miami, the Florida Keys, and the
Helms said the CIA would provide
Ingersoll with assets to pursue the traffickers and develop
information on targets of opportunity. The CIA would also provide
operational, technical, and financial support.
The result was the Bureau of Narcotics Covert Intelligence Network (BUNCIN)
whose methodology reflected Tripodi's Medusa Plan and included,
"provocations, inducement to
desertion, creating confusion and apprehension."
Some BUNCIN intelligence activities were
"senior foreign government
officials" and were "blamed on other government agencies or even
on the intelligence services of other nations."
Other BUNCIN activities were directed
against American civic and political groups.
BNDD officials managed BUNCIN's legal activities, while Conein at
the SIO managed its political and CIA aspects.
According to Conein's administrative
deputy, Rich Kobakoff,
"BUNCIN was an experiment in how to
finesse the law. The end product was intelligence, not seizures
CIA officers Robert Medell and William
Logay were selected to manage BUNCIN.
A Bay of Pigs veteran born in Cuba, Medell was initially assigned to
the Twofold program. Medell was BUNCIN's "covert" agent and
recruited its principal agents. All of his assets had previously
worked for the CIA, and all believed they were working for it again.
Medell started running agents in March 1973 with the stated goal of
penetrating the Trafficante organization. To this end the BNDD's
Enforcement Chief, Andy Tartaglino, introduced Medell to Sal Caneba,
a retired Mafioso who had been in business with Trafficante in the
Caneba in one day identified the head of
the Cuban side of the Trafficante family, as well as its
But the CIA refused to allow the BNDD to pursue the investigation,
because it had employed Trafficante in its assassination attempts
against Fidel Castro, and because Trafficante's Operation 40
associates were performing similar functions for the CIA around the
Medell's Principal Agent was Bay of Pigs veteran Guillermo
Tabraue, whom the CIA paid $1,400 a week. While receiving this
princely sum, Tabraue participated in the "Alvarez-Cruz" drug
Medell also recruited agents from Manuel Artime's anti-Castro Cuban
Former CIA officer and White House
"Plumber" Howard Hunt, notably, had been Artime's case
officer for years, and many members of Artime's organization had
worked for Ted Shackley while Shackley was the CIA's station chief
Bill Logay was the "overt" agent assigned to the BUNCIN office in
Miami. Logay had been Shackley's bodyguard in Saigon in 1969. From
1970-1971, Logay had served as a special police liaison and drug
coordinator in Saigon's Precinct 5.
Logay was also asked to join Twofold,
but claims to have refused.
Medell's and Logay's reports were hand delivered to BNDD
headquarters via the Defense Department's classified courier
service. The Defense Department was in charge of emergency planning
and provided BUNCIN agents with special communications equipment.
The CIA supplied BUNCIN's assets with forged IDs that enabled them
to work for foreign governments, including Panama, Venezuela and
Like Twofold, BUNCIN had two agendas. One, according to Chief
Inspector Fuller, "was told" and had a narcotics mission.
The other provided cover for the
Plumbers. Orders for the domestic political facet emanated from the
White House and passed through Conein to "Plumber" Gordon Liddy and
his "Operation Gemstone" squad of exile Cuban terrorists from the
Enforcement chief Tartaglino was unhappy with the arrangement and
gave Agent Ralph Frias the job of screening anti-Castro Cubans sent
by the White House to the BNDD. Frias was assigned to International
Affairs chief George Belk. When Nixon's White House chief of staff
"Bob" Haldeman sent over
three Cubans, Frias interviewed them and realized they were
"plants." Those three were not hired, but, Frias lamented, many
others were successfully infiltrated inside the BNDD and other
Under BUNCIN cover, CIA anti-Castro assets reportedly kidnapped and
assassinated people in Colombia and Mexico. BUNCIN's White House
sponsors also sent CIA anti-Castro Cuban assets to gather dirt on
Democratic politicians in Key West.
With BUNCIN, federal drug law
enforcement sank to new lows of political repression and corruption.
The Nixon White House introduced the "operations by committee"
management method to ensure control over its illegal drug
as agencies involved in drug law
enforcement pooled resources, the BNDD's mission was diluted and
And, as the preeminent agency in the federal government, the CIA not
only separated itself from the BNDD as part of Bolten's parallel
mechanism, it rode off into the sunset on the BNDD's horse.
For example, at their introductory
meeting in Mexico City in 1972, Ted Shackley told Latin
American division chief Strickler to hand over all BNDD files,
informant lists, and cable traffic.
According to Strickler,
"Bad things happened."
The worst abuse was that the CIA allowed
drug shipments into the U.S. without telling the BNDD.
"Individual stations allowed this,"
SIO Director John Warner confirmed.
In so far as evidence acquired by CIA
electronic surveillance is inadmissible in court, the CIA was able
to protect its controlled deliveries into the U.S. merely by
Numerous investigations had to be
terminated as a result. Likewise, dozens of prosecutions were
dismissed on national security grounds due to the participation of
CIA assets operating around the world.
Strickler knew which CIA people were guilty of sabotaging cases in
Latin America and wanted to indict them. And so, at Bolten's
insistence, Strickler was reassigned. Meanwhile, CIA assets from
Bolten's unilateral drug unit were kidnapping and assassinating
traffickers as part of Operation Twofold.
BNDD Director Ingersoll confirmed the existence of this covert facet
of Twofold. Its purpose, he said, was to put people in deep cover in
the U.S. to develop intelligence on drug trafficking, particularly
from South America. The regional directors weren't aware of it.
Ingersoll said he got approval from Attorney General John Mitchell
and passed the operation on to John Bartels, the first administrator
of the DEA. He said the unit did not operate inside the U.S., which
is why he thought it was legal.
Ingersoll added that he was surprised that no one from the
Rockefeller Commission asked him about it.
Joseph DiGennaro's entry into the covert facet of Operation Twofold
began when a family friend, who knew CIA officer Jim Ludlum,
suggested that he apply for a job with the BNDD.
Then working as a stockbroker in New
York, DiGennaro met Fuller in August 1971 in Washington. Fuller gave
DiGennaro the code name Novo Yardley, based on his posting in New
York, and as a play on the name of the famous codebreaker.
After DiGennaro obtained the required clearances, he was told that
he and several other recruits were being "spun-off" from Twofold
into the CIA's "operational" unit.
The background check took 14 months,
during which time he received intensive combat and trade-craft
In October 1972 he was sent to New York City and assigned to an
enforcement group as a cover. His paychecks came from BNDD funds,
but the program was reimbursed by the CIA through the Bureau of
Mines. The program was authorized by the "appropriate" Congressional
DiGennaro's unit was managed by the CIA's Special Operations
Division in conjunction with the military, which provided assets
within foreign military services to keep ex-filtration routes (air
corridors and roads) open.
The military cleared air space when
captured suspects were brought into the U.S. DiGennaro spent most of
his time in South America, but the unit operated worldwide. The CIA
unit numbered about 40 men, including experts in printing, forgery,
maritime operations, and telecommunications.
DiGennaro would check with Fuller and take sick time or annual leave
to go on missions. There were lots of missions.
As his BNDD group supervisor in New York
"Joey was never in the office."
The job was tracking down, kidnapping,
and, if they resisted, killing drug traffickers. Kidnapped targets
were incapacitated by drugs and dumped in the U.S.
As DEA Agent Gerry Carey
"We'd get a call that there was 'a
present' waiting for us on the corner of 116th Street and Sixth
Avenue. We'd go there and find some guy, who'd been indicted in
the Eastern District of New York, handcuffed to a telephone
We'd take him to a safe house for
questioning and, if possible, turn him into an informer.
Sometimes we'd have him in custody for months. But what did he
If you're a Corsican drug dealer in
Argentina, and men with police credentials arrest you, how do you
know it's a CIA operation?
DiGennaro's last operation in 1977
involved the recovery of a satellite that had fallen into a drug
dealer's hands. Such was the extent of the CIA's "parallel
With the formation of the Drug Enforcement Administration in July
1973, BUNCIN was renamed the DEA Clandestine Operations Network
(DEACON 1). A number of additional DEACONs were developed through
Special Field Intelligence Programs (SFIP).
As an extension of BUNCIN, DEACON 1
developed intelligence on,
traffickers in Costa Rica, Ohio
and New Jersey
politicians in Florida
terrorists and gun runners
the sale of boats and
helicopters to Cuba
the Trafficante organization
Under DEA chief John Bartels,
administrative control fell under Enforcement Chief George Belk and
his Special Projects assistant Philip Smith.
Through Belk and Smith, the Office of
Special Projects had become a major facet of Bolten's parallel
mechanism. It housed the DEA's air wing (staffed largely by CIA
officers), conducted "research programs" with the CIA, provided
technical aids and documentation to agents, and handled fugitive
As part of DEACON 1, Smith sent covert agent Bob Medell,
"to Caracas or Bogota to develop a
network of agents."
As Smith noted in a memorandum,
reimbursement for Medell,
"is being made in backchannel
fashion to CIA under payments to other agencies and is not
counted as a position against us."
Thoroughly suborned by Bolten and the
CIA, DEA Administrator Bartels established a priority on foreign
clandestine narcotics collection. And when Belk proposed a special
operations group in intelligence, Bartels immediately approved it.
In March 1974, Belk assigned the group to Lou Conein.
As chief of the Intelligence Group/Operations (IGO), Conein
administered the DEA Special Operations Group (DEASOG), SFIP and
National Intelligence Officers (NIO) programs.
The chain of command, however, was
"unclear" and while Medell reported administratively to Smith,
Conein managed operations through a separate chain of command
reaching to William Colby, who had risen to the rank of CIA Director
concurrent with the formation of the DEA.
Conein had worked for Colby for many years in Vietnam, for through
Colby he hired a "dirty dozen" CIA officers to staff DEASOG.
As NIOs (not regular gun-toting DEA
agents), the DEASOG officers did not buy narcotics or appear in
court, but instead used standard CIA operating procedures to recruit
assets and set up agent networks for the long-range collection of
intelligence on trafficking groups. They had no connection to the
DEA and were housed in a safe house outside headquarters in downtown
The first DEASOG recruits were CIA officers Elias P. Chavez and
Both had paramilitary and drug control
experience in Laos. Colby's personnel assistant Jack Mathews had
been Chavez's case officer at the Long Thien base, where General
Vang Pao ran his secret drug-smuggling army under Ted Shackley's
auspices from 1966-1968.
A group of eight CIA officers followed:
Wesley Dyckman, a Chinese
linguist with service in Vietnam, was assigned to San
Louis J. Davis, a veteran of
Vietnam and Laos, was assigned to the Chicago Regional
Christopher Thompson from the
CIA's Phoenix Program in Vietnam went to San Antonio
Hugh E. Murray, veteran of Pakse
and Bolivia (where he participated in the capture of Che
Guevara), was sent to Tucson
Thomas D. McPhaul had worked
with Conein in Vietnam, and was sent to Dallas.
Thomas L. Briggs, a veteran of
Laos and a friend of Shackley's, went to Mexico.
Vernon J. Goertz, a Shackley
friend who had participated in the Allende coup, went to
David A. Scherman, a Conein
friend and former manager of the CIA's interrogation center
in Da Nang, was sent to sunny San Diego.
Gary Mattocks, who ran CIA
counter-terror teams in Vietnam's Delta, and interrogator Robert
Simon were the eleventh and twelfth members.
Terry Baldwin, Barry Carew and Joseph
Lagattuta joined later.
According to Davis, Conein created DEASOG specifically to do Phoenix
program-style jobs overseas: the type where a paramilitary officer
breaks into a trafficker's house, takes his drugs, and slits his
The NIOs were to operate overseas where
they would target traffickers the police couldn't reach, like a
prime minister's son or the police chief in Acapulco if he was the
local drug boss. If they couldn't assassinate the target, they would
bomb his labs or use psychological warfare to make him look like he
was a DEA informant, so his own people would kill him.
The DEASOG people,
"would be breaking the law," Davis
observed, "but they didn't have arrest powers overseas anyway."
Conein envisioned 50 NIOs operating
worldwide by 1977.
But a slew of Watergate-related scandals
forced the DEA to curtail its NIO program and reorganize its covert
operations staff and functions in ways that have corrupted federal
drug law enforcement beyond repair.
The first scandal focused on DEACON 3, which targeted the
Aviles-Perez organization in Mexico. Eli Chavez, Nick Zapata and
Barry Carew were the NIOs assigned.
A veteran CIA officer who spoke Spanish, Carew had served as a
special police adviser in Saigon before joining the BNDD.
Carew was assigned as Conein's Latin
American desk officer and managed Chavez and Zapata (aka "the
Mexican Assassin") in Mexico. According to Chavez, a White House
Task Force under Howard Hunt had started the DEACON 3 case.
The Task force provided photographs of
the Aviles Perez compound in Mexico, from whence truckloads of
marijuana were shipped to the U.S.
Funds were allotted in February 1974, at which point Chavez and
Zapata traveled to Mexico City as representatives of the North
American Alarm and Fire Systems Company. In Mazatlán, they met with
Carew, who stayed at a fancy hotel and played tennis every day,
while Chavez and Zapata, whom Conein referred to as
"pepper-bellies," fumed in a flea-bag motel.
An informant arranged for Chavez, posing as a buyer, to meet Perez.
A deal was struck, but DEA chief John Bartels made the mistake of
instructing Chavez to brief the DEA's regional director in Mexico
City before making "the buy."
At this meeting, the DEACON 3 agents presented their operational
plan. But when the subject of "neutralizing" Perez came up, analyst
Joan Banister took this to mean assassination. Bannister reported
her suspicions to DEA headquarters, where the anti-CIA faction
leaked her report to Washington Post columnist Jack Anderson.
Anderson's allegation that the DEA was providing cover for a CIA
assassination unit included revelations that the Senate had
investigated IGO chief Conein for shopping around for assassination
devices, like exploding ashtrays and telephones.
Conein managed to keep his job, but the
trail led to his comrade from the OSS, Mitch Werbell.
A deniable asset Conein used for parallel operations, Werbell had
tried to sell several thousand silenced machine pistols to DEACON 1
target Robert Vesco, then living in Costa Rica surrounded by drug
trafficking Cuban exiles in the Trafficante organization.
Trafficante was also, at the time,
living in Costa Rica as a guest of President Figueres whose son had
purchased weapons from Werbell and used them to arm a death squad he
formed with DEACON 1 asset Carlos Rumbault, a notorious
anti-Castro Cuban terrorist and fugitive drug smuggler.
Meanwhile, in February 1974, DEA Agent Anthony Triponi, a
former Green Beret and member of Operation Twofold, was admitted to
St. Luke's Hospital in New York "suffering from hypertension."
DEA inspectors found Triponi in the
psychiatric ward, distraught because he had broken his "cover" and
now his "special code" would have to be changed. Thinking he was
insane, the DEA inspectors called former chief inspector Patrick
Fuller in California, just to be sure.
As it turned out, everything Triponi had
said about Twofold was true!
The incredulous DEA inspectors called
the CIA and were stunned when they were told:
"If you release the story, we will
By 1975, Congress and the Justice
Department were investigating the DEA's relations with the CIA. In
the process they stumbled on, among other things, plots to
assassinate Torrijos and Noriega in Panama, as well as Tripodi's
In a draft report, one DEA inspector described Medusa as follows:
"Topics considered as options
included psychological terror tactics, substitution of placebos
to discredit traffickers, use of incendiaries to destroy
conversion laboratories, and disinformation to cause internal
warfare between drug trafficking organizations; other methods
under consideration involved blackmail, use of
psychopharmacological techniques, bribery and even terminal
Despite the flurry of investigations, Nixon's successor, Gerald
Ford, reconfirmed the CIA's narcotic intelligence collection
arrangement with DEA, and the CIA continued to have its way.
Much of its success is attributed to
Seymour Bolten, whose staff handled,
"all requests for files from the
Church Committee," which concluded that allegations of drug
smuggling by CIA assets and proprietaries "lacked substance."
The Rockefeller Commission likewise gave
the CIA a clean bill of health, falsely stating that the Twofold
inspections project was terminated in 1973. The Commission
completely covered-up the existence of the operation unit hidden
within the inspections program.
Ford did task the Justice Department to investigate "allegations of
fraud, irregularity, and misconduct" in the DEA.
The so-called DeFeo investigation lasted
through July 1975, and included allegations that DEA officials had
discussed killing Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega. In March 1976,
Deputy Attorney General Richard
Thornburgh announced there were no findings to warrant criminal
In 1976, Congresswoman Bella Abzug submitted questions to new
Director of Central Intelligence George H.W. Bush, about the
CIA's central role in international drug trafficking. Bush's
response was to cite a 1954 agreement with the Justice Department
gave the CIA the right to block prosecution or keep its crimes
secret in the name of national security.
In its report, the Abzug Committee said:
"It was ironic that the CIA should
be given responsibility of narcotic intelligence, particularly
since they are supporting the prime movers."
The Mansfield Amendment of 1976 sought
to curtail the DEA's extra-legal activities abroad by prohibiting
agents from kidnapping or conducting unilateral actions without the
consent of the host government.
The CIA, of course, was exempt and
continued to sabotage DEA cases against its movers, while further
tightening its stranglehold on the DEA's enforcement and
In 1977, the DEA's Assistant Administrator for Enforcement sent a
memo, co-signed by the six enforcement division chiefs, to DEA chief
Peter Bensinger. As the memo stated,
"All were unanimous in their belief
that present CIA programs were likely to cause serious future
problems for DEA, both foreign and domestic."
They specifically cited controlled
deliveries enabled by CIA electronic surveillance and the fact that
"will not respond positively to any
They complained that,
"Many of the subjects who appear in
these CIA- promoted or controlled surveillances regularly travel
to the United States in furtherance of their trafficking
The "de facto immunity" from prosecution
enabled the CIA assets to "operate much more openly and
But then DEA chief Peter Bensinger suffered the CIA at the
expense of America's citizens and the DEA's integrity. Under
Bensinger the DEA created its CENTAC program to target drug
trafficking organization worldwide through the early 1980s.
But the CIA subverted the CENTAC: as its
director Dennis Dayle famously said,
"The major targets of my
investigations almost invariably turned out to be working for
DEACON 1 inherited BUNCIN's anti-Castro Cuban assets from Brigade
2506, which the CIA organized to invade Cuba in 1960.
Controlled by Nixon's secret political
police, these CIA assets, operating under DEA cover, had parallel
assignments involving "extremist groups and terrorism, and
information of a political nature."
Noriega and Moises Torrijos in Panama were targets, as
was fugitive financier and Nixon campaign contributor Robert
Vesco in Costa Rica, who was suspected of being a middle man in
drug and money-laundering operations of value to the CIA.
DEACON 1's problems began when overt agent Bill Logay charged
that covert agent Bob Medell's anti-Castro Cuban assets had
penetrated the DEA on behalf of the Trafficante organization.
DEACON 1 secretary Cecelia Plicet
fanned the flames by claiming that Conein and Medell were using
Principal Agent Tabraue to circumvent the DEA.
In what amounted to an endless succession of controlled deliveries,
Tabraue was financing loads of cocaine and using DEACON 1's Cuban
assets to smuggle them into the U.S. Plicet said that Medell and
Conein worked for "the other side" and wanted the DEA to fail.
These accusations prompted an
investigation, after which Logay was reassigned to inspections and
Medell was reassigned and replaced by Gary Mattocks, an NIO member
of the Dirty Dozen.
According to Mattocks, Shackley helped Colby set up DEASOG and
brought in "his" people, including Tom Clines, whom Shackley
placed in charge of the CIA's Caribbean operations.
Clines, like Shackley and Bolten, knew
all the exile Cuban terrorists and traffickers on the DEASOG
payroll. CIA officer Vernon Goertz worked for Clines in Caracas as
part of the CIA's parallel mechanism under DEASOG cover.
As cover for his DEACON 1 activities, Mattocks set up a front
company designed to improve relations between Cuban and American
Meanwhile, through the CIA, he recruited
members of the Artime organization including Watergate burglars
Rolando Martinez and Bernard Barker, as well as Che
Guevara's murderer, Felix Rodriguez.
These anti-Castro terrorists were
allegedly part of an Operation 40 assassination squad that Shackley
and Clines employed for private as well as professional purposes.
In late 1974, DEACON 1 crashed and burned when interrogator Robert
Simon's daughter was murdered in a drive-by shooting by crazed
anti-Castro Cubans. Simon at the time was managing the CIA's drug
data base and had linked the exile Cuban drug traffickers with "a
foreign terrorist organization."
As Mattocks explained,
"It got bad after the Brigaders
found out Simon was after them."
None of the CIA's terrorists, however,
were ever arrested.
Instead, Conein issued a directive
prohibiting DEACON 1 assets from reporting on domestic political
affairs or terrorist activities and the tragedy was swept under the
carpet for reasons of national security.
DEACON 1 unceremoniously ended in 1975 after Agent Fred Dick
was assigned to head the DEA's Caribbean Basin Group.
In that capacity Dick visited the DEACON
1 safe house and found, in his words,
"a clandestine CIA unit using
miscreants from Bay of Pigs, guys who were blowing up planes."
Dick hit the ceiling and in August 1975
DEACON I was terminated.
No new DEACONs were initiated and the others quietly ran their
course. Undeterred, the CIA redeployed its anti-Castro Cuban
miscreant assets, some of whom established the terror organization
CORU in 1977. Others would go to work for Marine Lt. Col. Oliver
North, a key National Security Council aide under President
Ronald Reagan in the Iran-Contra drug and terror network.
Conein's IGO was disbanded in 1976 after a grand jury sought DEACON
I intelligence regarding several drug busts. But CIA acquired
intelligence cannot be used in prosecutions, and the CIA refused to
identify its assets in court, with the result that 27 prosecutions
were dismissed on national security grounds.
Gary Mattocks was thereafter unwelcomed in the DEA. But his patron
Ted Shackley had become DCI George Bush's assistant deputy director
for operations and Shackley kindly rehired Mattocks into the CIA and
assigned him to the CIA's narcotics unit in Peru.
At the time, Santiago Ocampo was purchasing cocaine in Peru
and his partner Matta Ballesteros was flying it to the usual
Cuban miscreants in Miami.
One of the receivers, Francisco
Chanes, an erstwhile DEACON asset, owned two seafood companies
that would soon allegedly come to serve as fronts in Oliver North's
Contra supply network, receiving and distributing tons of Contra
Mattocks himself soon joined the Contra support operation as Eden
Pastrora's case officer. In that capacity Mattocks was present in
1984 when CIA officers handed pilot Barry Seal a camera and
told him to take photographs of Sandinista official Federico
Vaughn loading bags of cocaine onto Seal's plane.
A DEA "special employee," Seal was
running drugs for Jorge Ochoa Vasquez and purportedly using
Nicaragua as a transit point for his deliveries.
North asked DEA officials to instruct Seal, who was returning to
Ochoa with $1.5 million, to deliver the cash to the Contras,
according to a 1988 House Judiciary subcommittee report. When the
DEA officials refused, North leaked a blurry photo, purportedly of
Vaughn, to the right-wing Washington Times in a ploy to discredit
Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government.
So, for the Reagan administration's political purposes, North blew
the DEA's biggest case at the time, and the DEA did nothing about
it, even though DEA Administrator Jack Lawn said in testimony before
the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Crime that leaking the photo
"severely jeopardized the lives" of agents.
The circle was squared in 1989 when the CIA instructed Gary Mattocks
to testify as a defense witness at the trial of DEACON 1 Principal
Agent Gabriel Tabraue.
Although Tabraue had earned $75 million
from drug trafficking, while working as a CIA and DEA asset, the
judge declared a mistrial based on Mattocks's testimony. Tabraue was
released. Some people inferred that President
George H.W. Bush had
personally ordered Mattocks to dynamite the case.
The CIA's use of the DEA to employ terrorists would continue apace.
For example, in 1981, DEA Agent Dick
Salmi recruited Roberto Cabrillo, a drug smuggling member of
CORU, an organization of murderous Cuban exiles formed by drug
smuggler Frank Castro and Luis Posada while George
Bush was DCI.
The DEA arrested Castro in 1981, but the CIA engineered his release
and hired him to establish a Contra training camp in the Florida
Posada reportedly managed resupply and
drug shipments for the Contras in El Salvador, in cahoots with Felix
Rodriguez. Charged in Venezuela with blowing up a Cuban airliner and
killing 73 people in 1976, Posada was shielded from extradition by
George W. Bush in the mid-2000s.
Having been politically castrated by the CIA, DEA officials merely
warned its CORU assets to stop bombing people in the U.S. It could
maim and kill people anywhere else, just not here in the sacred
By then, Salmi noted, the Justice
Department had a special "grey-mail section" to fix cases involving
CIA terrorists and drug dealers.
DCI William Webster formed the CIA's Counter-Narcotics Center
Staffed by over 100 agents, it
ostensibly became the springboard for the covert penetration of, and
paramilitary operations against, top traffickers protected by
high-tech security firms, lawyers and well-armed private armies.
The CNC brought together, under CIA control, every federal agency
involved in the drug wars. Former CIA officer and erstwhile Twofold
member, Terry Burke, then serving as the DEA's Deputy for
Operations, was allowed to send one liaison officer to the CNC.
The CNC quickly showed its true colors. In the late 1990, Customs
agents in Miami seized a ton of pure cocaine from Venezuela.
To their surprise, a Venezuelan
undercover agent said the CIA had approved the delivery. DEA
Administrator Robert Bonner ordered an investigation and
discovered that the CIA had, in fact, shipped the load from its
warehouse in Venezuela.
The "controlled deliveries" were managed by CIA officer Mark
McFarlin, a veteran of Reagan's terror campaign in El Salvador.
Bonner wanted to indict McFarlin, but was prevented from doing so
because Venezuela was in the process of fighting off a rebellion led
by leftist Hugo Chavez.
This same scenario has been playing out
in Afghanistan for the last 15 years, largely through the DEA's
Special Operations Division (SOD), which provides cover for CIA
The ultimate and inevitable result of American imperialism, the SOD
job is not simply to "create a crime," as freewheeling FBN agents
did in the old days, but to "recreate a crime" so it is
prosecutable, despite whatever extra-legal methods were employed to
obtain the evidence before it is passed along to law enforcement
agencies so they can make arrests without revealing what prompted
"The unit of the DEA that
distributes the information is called the Special Operations
Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit,
including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the
Department of Homeland Security.
It was created in 1994 to combat
Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen
employees to several hundred."
The utilization of information from the
SOD, which operates out of a secret location in Virginia,
"cannot be revealed or discussed in
any investigative function," according to an internal document
cited by Reuters, which added that agents are specifically
"to omit the SOD's involvement from
investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors
and courtroom testimony."
Agents are told to use "parallel
construction" to build their cases without reference to SOD's tips
which may come from sensitive "intelligence intercepts, wiretaps,
informants and a massive database of telephone records," Reuters
Citing a former federal agent, Reuters reported that SOD operators
would tell law enforcement officials in the U.S. to be at a certain
place at a certain time and to look for a certain vehicle which
would then be stopped and searched on some pretext. "After an arrest
was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with
the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said,"
An anonymous senior DEA official told Reuters that this "parallel
construction" approach is "decades old, a bedrock concept" for law
enforcement. The SOD's approach follows Twofold techniques and
Bolten's parallel mechanism from the early 1970s.
To put it simply, lying to frame defendants, which has always been
unstated policy, is now official policy: no longer considered
corruption, it is how your government manages the judicial system on
behalf of the rich political elite.
As outlined in this article, the process tracks back to Nixon, the
formation of the BNDD, and the creation of a secret political police
force out of the White House.
As Agent Bowman Taylor
"I used to think we were fighting
the drug business, but after they formed the BNDD, I realized we
were feeding it."
The corruption was first "collateral" -
as a function of national security performed by the CIA in secret -
but has now become "integral," the essence of empire run amok...