Saturday, January 28, 2006

Robert Parry, "An OLD STORY MADE NEW"

* The Kerry-Weld Cocaine War

By Robert Parry

WASHINGTON -- The sudden uproar over a decade-old story -- cocaine smuggling linked to the CIA-backed Nicaraguan contra rebels -- could reverberate with special intensity in Massachusetts, where the controversy has the potential for affecting the outcome of a close Senate race.

That race pits John Kerry, the Democratic senator who led the investigation into contra drugs, against Republican William Weld, the chief of the Justice Department's criminal division when the contra-drug allegations were emerging as a national issue and when the Iran-contra scandal broke in the fall of 1986.

In new testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Oct. 23, one of Kerry's former investigators, Jack Blum, fingered Weld as the "absolute stonewall" who blocked the Senate's access to vital evidence linking the contras and cocaine. "Weld put a very serious block on any effort we made to get information," Blum told a crowded hearing room. "There were stalls. There were refusals to talk to us, refusals to turn over data."

Weld has denied those charges and insisted that he conscientiously pursued the allegations. In that position, the governor has been helped by the main Massachusetts papers, particularly The Boston Globe, which have largely accepted Weld's word. Indeed, instead of digging into Weld's official drug-war actions in late 1986 and during 1987, the Globe has gone on the offensive against Kerry -- for sleeping at the homes of friends during his divorce a decade ago.

Yet, an investigation by The Consortium has uncovered new evidence that buttresses Blum's charge that Weld stonewalled the contra-cocaine allegations. Information also emerged revealing a cozy relationship between Weld and top Globe reporters in Washington during the mid-1980s.

A review of Weld's Justice Department phone logs and calendars, from fall 1986 to spring 1987, revealed Weld scheduling squash matches with the Globe's Bob Healy and speaking to the Globe's Steve Kurkjian far more than to any other journalist, even those who regularly covered the Justice Department. Kurkjian wrote the recent investigative story slamming Kerry's acceptance of friends' hospitality during his divorce.

More importantly, however, during the current Senate campaign, the Globe has given scant coverage to Weld's record of downplaying -- and trying to discredit -- the flood of contra-cocaine allegations that inundated his office in late 1986 and early 1987.

When Weld assumed control of the criminal division in September 1986, requests for contra-cocaine evidence already were pending from Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respectively. In support of Kerry's probe, Lugar and Pell were requesting information on more than two dozen names of individuals connected to the contra operation and suspected of drug trafficking.

'Just Stonewalling'
One of Weld's top deputies, Mark Richard, expressed concern about the Justice Department's failure to respond to that request, as the Reagan administration sought to shield the contras from negative publicity. "In the September [1986] time frame, a new assistant attorney general [Weld] comes on board," Richard testified in a deposition. "I must confess I was concerned. I was concerned not so much that there were going to be hearings [about contra-connected drug trafficking].

"I was concerned that we were not responding to what was obviously a legitimate congressional request. We were not refusing to respond in giving explanations or justifications for it. We were seemingly just stonewalling what was a continuing barrage of requests for information. That concerned me to no end."

Richard said he raised his worries with Weld directly. "I impressed upon the new assistant attorney general that this, in my judgment, was an issue that had to be addressed. We had responsibility across section lines. ...To my knowledge, we just were not saying we're not going to give it. We're not saying we're going to give it. We're just not saying anything."

As part of the Reagan team, Weld continued to snub the Senate and its demands for action on the contra-drug issue. On Sept. 26, 1986, Kerry brought Weld an 11-page "proffer" statement from a female FBI informant who had told the senator that Colombian cocaine kingpin Jorge Ochoa had bragged about his payments to the contras. The informant, Wanda Palacio, also claimed to have witnessed the loading of cocaine onto CIA-connected planes twice in Barranquilla, Colombia.

Weld brushed aside the allegations, even though some of the woman's most important charges found powerful corroboration. Palacio had claimed, for instance, that one of the shipments was aboard a Southern Air Transport plane that landed in Barranquilla in early October 1985. When one of Oliver North's secret contra supply planes was then shot down over Nicaragua on Oct. 5, 1986, Palacio identified a photo of the co-pilot, Wallace Sawyer, as one of the cocaine smugglers in Barranquilla.

'Diseased Blankets'
As it turned out, Sawyer's flight logs, which were recovered from the Nicaraguan crash, showed that Sawyer had flown a Southern Air Transport plane into Barranquilla three times in early October 1985, just as Palacio had alleged. [For more details, see The Consortium, Oct. 28, 1996, or The Nation, Oct. 21, 1996] Nevertheless, Weld would continue to reject Palacio's testimony. When asked about the Palacio case recently, Weld described the woman's credibility as equal to "a wagon load of diseased blankets."

But as internal Justice records reveal, Palacio was only one of many witnesses turned away when they linked the contras, the CIA and cocaine. The documents also show that under Weld's leadership, the criminal division continued to withhold information requested by the Senate in fall 1986.

Those delays finally prompted an angry response from Lugar and Pell, two of the most mild-mannered members of the U.S. Senate. On Oct. 14, 1986, the two senators complained that they had been waiting more than two months for information that the Justice Department had promised "in an expeditious manner."

"To date, no information has been received and the investigation of allegations by the committee, therefore, has not moved very far," Lugar and Pell wrote. "This has led to concern about Justice's willingness to provide information, its responsiveness to our requests and its readiness to cooperate with our investigation. We're disappointed that the Department has not responded in a timely fashion and indeed has not provided any materials."

That bipartisan volley caught the Justice Department's attention, but Weld continued to drag his heels. Weld called two meetings which bogged down over peripheral issues, according to Weld's deputy, Richard. "I remember being frustrated because he [Weld] was spending so much time on one [fraud] case," Richard explained in a sworn deposition.

Though still not forthcoming with the Senate, Weld was getting nervous, the records reveal. On Oct. 16, 1986, he sent a memo to another assistant, Victoria Toensing, ordering her to "get me a copy of Sen. Kerry's stmt re DOJ not investigating Nicaragua." By Nov. 6, another memo indicated that Weld had opened a special "Nicaragua" file. He wrote in still another memo that "Nicaragua is front burner."

By Nov. 11, Weld was lamenting in writing to his staff that "delay looks awful." He wanted to know where court records from a major San Francisco contra-cocaine criminal case were. That was the so-called Frogman case which had caught Norwin Meneses, a Nicaraguan contra fund raiser, smuggling cocaine by sea into the Bay Area. The federal prosecutor had returned $36,020 seized in that case when one of the defendants submitted letters from contra leaders who insisted that the money was really their property.

Though the Frogman case records were among the files sought by Congress, a former Kerry investigator told The Consortium that Weld's office never delivered those records to the Senate.

Just Saying No
According to other internal Justice Department documents, Weld continued to just say no when it came to Senate requests for advancing the contra-cocaine inquiries. Later in November 1986, Weld personally edited a letter to Kerry denying federal protection to Wanda Palacio, the woman who claimed to have witnessed Medellin cartel cocaine shipments connected to the CIA and the contras. "The Department ... does not provide protection for an informant," the letter read. "It protects a person providing information who agrees to become a witness." But by rejecting Palacio as not credible, Weld had blocked her attempts to become a federal witness.

Into 1987, Weld and his criminal division continued the pattern of failing to follow leads from other potentially valuable CIA-cocaine witnesses, such as George Morales who alleged before the U.S. Senate that the Colombian cartel had given a ton of cocaine which the contras smuggled into the United States through Costa Rica.

But a blind eye toward contra cocaine allegations was apparently common inside the Reagan administration. In May 1987, the U.S. attorney for northern Indiana notified the Justice Department that an FBI agent in Illinois had decided that one convict "was not used in a drug prosecution in Springfield, Ill., because he allegedly told the agents that he had offloaded arms in Nicaragua." The teletype, found among Weld's records on file at the National Archives, did not explain why the Nicaraguan connection would exclude use of the witness in a drug case.

Meanwhile, in 1987 and again in 1988, the CIA insisted that it had conducted investigations into the allegations of contra drug smuggling and had found no evidence implicating the contras or the spy agency. Even today, those CIA reports are being cited by mainstream newspapers as they seek to refute new allegations by The San Jose Mercury News that contra cocaine trafficking fueled the crack epidemic that swept American cities in the 1980s.

But at the Oct. 24, 1996, hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA inspector general Frederick Hitz conceded that the first CIA probe had lasted only 12 days. The second probe took only three days before concluding that "all allegations implying that the CIA condoned, abetted or participated in narcotics trafficking are absolutely false," he said.

Hitz also acknowledged that in the past two months he has been unable to collect the large volume of relevant documents that would allow him even to begin a credible investigation. Hitz's admission directly undercut the reliability of the previous CIA probes, which the mainstream media had relied on heavily to attack the Mercury News story.

Friends in High Places
Weld's friendships with key Washington journalists also helped him fend off contra-cocaine damage to his reputation in the late 1980s. Not only was Weld pals with prominent Boston Globe writers, he had a close personal relationship with Newsweek bureau chief Evan Thomas and other influential members of the press corps from the Harvard alumni set.

That story of a pro-Weld press remains pretty much the same today. The Globe hits Kerry for alleged decade-old ethical lapses after his marriage break-up, while Weld escapes any serious scrutiny over whether he shirked his public duty to enforce criminal drug smuggling laws for political reasons.

Weld also has been one of the chief beneficiaries from the big-media attacks on the Mercury News contra-crack series. Over the past two weeks, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times joined The Washington Post in bashing that series, while continuing to accept the CIA's word about little or no contra drug trafficking. The new attacks, however, contained many of the same biases and factual shortcomings as did the Post articles. [See The Consortium, Oct. 28 for more details.]

Still, the public confusion over the validity of the contra-cocaine charges has limited the damage to Weld's strong Senate campaign. The result on Nov. 5, therefore, could be the removal of Kerry, the chief contra-drug investigator, and his replacement with the Reagan official who kept the stonewall in place.

(c) Copyright 1996 -- Please Do Not Re-Post

June 8, 2000
CIA Admits Tolerating Contra- Cocaine Trafficking in 1980s

By Robert Parry

In secret congressional testimony, senior CIA officials admitted that the spy agency turned a blind eye to evidence of cocaine trafficking by U.S.-backed Nicaraguan contra rebels in the 1980s and generally did not treat drug smuggling through Central America as a high priority during the Reagan administration.

“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,” CIA Inspector General Britt Snider said in classified testimony on May 25, 1999. He conceded that the CIA did not treat the drug allegations in “a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner.”

Still, Snider and other officials sought to minimize the seriousness of the CIA’s misconduct – a position echoed by a House Intelligence Committee report released in May and by press coverage it received. In particular, CIA officials insisted that CIA personnel did not order the contras to engage in drug trafficking and did not directly join in the smuggling.

But the CIA testimony to the House Intelligence Committee and the body of the House report confirmed long-standing allegations – dating back to the mid-1980s – that drug traffickers pervaded the contra operation and used it as a cover for smuggling substantial volumes of cocaine into the United States.

Deep in the report, the House committee noted 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.”

Former CIA officer Duane Clarridge, who oversaw covert CIA support for the contras in the early years of their war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government, said “counter-narcotics programs in Central America were not a priority of CIA personnel in the early 1980s,” according to the House report.

The House committee also reported new details about how a major Nicaraguan drug lord, Norwin Meneses, recruited one of his principal lieutenants, Oscar Danilo Blandon, with promises that much of their drug money would go to the contras. Meneses and Blandon were key figures in a controversial 1996 series in the San Jose Mercury News that alleged a “dark alliance” between the CIA and contra traffickers.

That series touched off renewed interest in contra-drug trafficking and its connection to the flood of cocaine that swept through U.S. cities in the 1980s, devastating many communities with addiction and violence. In reaction to the articles by reporter Gary Webb, U.S. government agencies and leading American newspapers rallied to the CIA’s defense.

Like those responses, the House Intelligence Committee report attacked Webb’s series. It highlighted exculpatory information about the CIA and buried admissions of wrongdoing deep in the text where only a careful reading would find them. The report’s seven “findings” – accepted by the majority Republicans as well as the minority Democrats – absolved the CIA of any serious offenses, sometimes using convoluted phrasing that obscured the facts.

For instance, one key finding stated that “the CIA as an institution did not approve of connections between contras and drug traffickers, and, indeed, contras were discouraged from involvement with traffickers.” The phrasing is tricky, however. The use of the phrase “as an institution” obscures the report’s clear evidence that many CIA officials ignored the contra-cocaine smuggling and continued doing business with suspected drug traffickers.

The finding’s second sentence said, “CIA officials, on occasion, notified law enforcement entities when they became aware of allegations concerning the identities or activities of drug traffickers.” Stressing that CIA officials “on occasion” alerted law enforcement about contra drug traffickers glossed over the reality that many CIA officials withheld evidence of illegal drug smuggling and undermined investigations of those crimes.

Normally in investigations, it is the wrongdoing that is noteworthy, not the fact that some did not participate in the wrongdoing.

A close reading of the House report reveals a different story from the “findings.” On page 38, for instance, the House committee observed that the second volume of the CIA’s inspector general’s study of the contra-drug controversy disclosed numerous instances of contra-drug operations and CIA knowledge of the problem.

“The first question is what CIA knew,” the House report said. “Volume II of the CIA IG report explains in detail the knowledge the CIA had that some contras had been, were alleged to be or were in fact involved or somehow associated with drug trafficking or drug traffickers. The reporting of possible connections between drug trafficking and the Southern Front contra organizations is particularly extensive.

“The second question is what the CIA reported to DOJ [Department of Justice]. The Committee was concerned about the CIA’s record in reporting and following up on allegations of drug activity during this period. … In many cases, it is clear the information was reported from the field, but it is less clear what happened to the information after it arrived at CIA headquarters.”

In other words, the internal government investigations found that CIA officers in Central America were informing CIA headquarters at Langley, Va., about the contra-drug problem, but the evidence went no farther. It was kept from law enforcement agencies, from Congress and from the American public. Beyond withholding the evidence, the Reagan administration mounted public relations attacks on members of Congress, journalists and witnesses who were exposing the crimes in the 1980s.

In a sense, those attacks continue to this day, with reporter Gary Webb excoriated for alleged overstatements in the Mercury News stories. As a result of those attacks, Webb was forced to resign from the Mercury News and leave daily journalism. No member of the Reagan administration has received any punishment or even public rebuke for concealing evidence of contra-cocaine trafficking. [For details on the CIA’s internal report, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

Besides confirming the CIA’s internal admissions about contra-drug trafficking and the CIA’s spotty record of taking action to stop it, the House committee included in its report the Reagan administration’s rationale for blacking out the contra-cocaine evidence in the 1980s.

“The committee interviewed several individuals who served in Latin America as [CIA] chiefs of station during the 1980s,” the report said. “They all personally deplored the use and trafficking of drugs, but indicated that in the 1980s the counter-narcotics mission did not have as high a priority as the missions of reporting on and fighting against communist insurrections and supporting struggling democratic movements.

“Indeed, most of those interviewed indicated that they were, effectively speaking, operating in a war zone and were totally engaged in keeping U.S. allies from being overwhelmed. In this environment, what reporting the CIA did do on narcotics was often based on one of two considerations: either a general understanding that the CIA should report on criminal activities so that law enforcement agencies could follow up on them, or, in case of the contras, an effort to monitor allegations of trafficking that, if true, could undermine the legitimacy of the contras cause.”

In other words, the CIA station chiefs admitted to the House committee that they gave the contras a walk on drug trafficking. “In case of the contras,” only monitoring was in order, as the CIA worried that disclosure of contra-drug smuggling would be a public relations problem that “could undermine the legitimacy of the contra cause.”

The House report followed this CIA admission with a jarring – and seemingly contradictory – conclusion. “The committee found no evidence of an attempt to ‘cover up’ such information,” the report said.

Yet, that “no cover-up” conclusion flew in the face of both the CIA inspector general’s report and the report by the Justice Department’s inspector general. Both detailed case after case in which CIA and senior Reagan administration officials intervened to frustrate investigations on contra-connected drug trafficking, either by blocking the work of investigators or by withholding timely evidence.

In one case, a CIA lawyer persuaded a federal prosecutor in San Francisco to forego a 1984 trip to Costa Rica because the CIA feared the investigation might expose a contra-cocaine tie-in. In others, Drug Enforcement Administration investigators in Central America complained about obstacles put in their path by CIA officers and U.S. embassy officials. [For more details, see Lost History.]

In classified testimony to the House committee, CIA Inspector General Snider acknowledged that the CIA’s handling of the contra-cocaine evidence was “mixed” and “inconsistent.” He said, “While we found no evidence that any CIA employees involved in the contra program had participated in drug-related activities or had conspired with others in such activities, we found that the agency did not deal with contra-related drug trafficking allegations and information in a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner.”

Even in this limited admission, Snider’s words conflicted with evidence published in the CIA inspector general’s report in October 1998. That report, prepared by Snider’s predecessor Frederick Hitz, showed that some CIA personnel working with the contras indeed were implicated in drug trafficking. The tricky word in Snider’s testimony was “employees,” that is, regular full-time CIA officers.

Both the CIA report and the House report acknowledged that a CIA “contractor” known by the pseudonym Ivan Gomez was involved in drug trafficking. In the early 1980s, the CIA sent Gomez to Costa Rica to oversee the contra operation. Later, Gomez admitted in a CIA polygraph that he participated in his brother’s drug business in Florida.

In separate testimony, Nicaraguan drug smuggler Carlos Cabezas fingered Gomez as the CIA’s man in Costa Rica who made sure that drug money went into the contra coffers.

Despite the seeming corroboration of Cabezas’s allegation about Ivan Gomez’s role in drug smuggling, the House committee split hairs again. It attacked Cabezas’s credibility and argued that the Gomez drug money could not be connected definitively to the contras. “No evidence suggests that the drug trafficking and money laundering operations in which Gomez claimed involvement were in any way related to CIA or the contra movement,” the House report said.

What the report leaves out is that one reason for this lack of proof was that the CIA prevented a thorough investigation of Ivan Gomez’s drug activities by withholding the polygraph admission from the Justice Department and the U.S. Congress in the late 1980s. In effect, the House committee now is rewarding the CIA for torpedoing those investigations.

In one surprise disclosure, the House committee uncovered new details about the involvement of Nicaraguan drug smuggler Oscar Danilo Blandon in trafficking intended to support the contras financially. Blandon, a central figure in the Mercury News series, said he was drawn into the drug business because he understood profits were going to the contra war.

In a deposition to the House committee, Blandon described a meeting with Nicaraguan drug kingpin Norwin Meneses at the Los Angeles airport in 1981. “It was during this encounter, according to Blandon, that Meneses encouraged Blandon to become involved with the drug business in order to assist the contras,” the House report stated.

“We spoke a lot of things about the contra revolution, about the movement, because then he took me to the drug business, speaking to me about the drug business that we had to raise money with drugs,” said Blandon. “And he explained to me, you don’t know, but I am going to teach you. And, you know, I am going to tell you how you will do it. You see, you keep some of the profit for you, and some of the profit we will help the contra revolution, you see. … Meneses was trying to convince me with the contra revolution to get me involved in drugs. Give a piece of the apple to the contras and a piece of the apple to him.”

Blandon accepted Meneses’s proposal and “assumed the money he had given Meneses was being sent by Meneses to the contra movement. However, Blandon stated that he had no firsthand knowledge that this was actually occurring,” the House report said.

Though Blandon claimed ignorance about the regular delivery of cocaine cash to the contras, other witnesses confirmed that substantial sums went from Meneses and other drug rings to the contras. A Justice Department investigation discovered several informants who corroborated the flow of money.

One confidential informant, identified in the Justice report only as “DEA CI-1,” said Meneses, Blandon and another cohort, Ivan Torres, contributed drug profits to the contras.

Renato Pena, a money-and-drug courier for Meneses, also described sharing drug profits with the contras, while acting as their northern California representative. Pena quoted a Colombian contact called “Carlos” as saying “We’re helping your cause with this drug thing. … We’re helping your organization a lot.”

The Justice report noted, too, that Meneses’s nephew, Jairo, told the DEA in the 1980s that he had asked Pena to help transport drug money to the contras and that his uncle, Norwin Meneses, dealt directly with contra military commander Enrique Bermudez.

The Justice report found that Julio Zavala and Carlos Cabezas ran a parallel contra-drug network. Cabezas said cocaine from Peru was packed into hollow reeds which were woven into tourist baskets and smuggled to the United States. After arriving in San Francisco, the baskets went to Zavala who arranged sale of the cocaine for contra operatives, Horacio Pereira and Troilo Sanchez. Cabezas estimated that he gave them between $1 million and $1.5 million between December 1981 and December 1982.

Another U.S. informant, designated “FBI Source 1,” backed up much of Cabezas’s story. Source 1 said Cabezas and Zavala were helping the contras with proceeds from two drug-trafficking operations, one smuggling Colombian cocaine and the other shipping cocaine through Honduras. Source 1 said the traffickers had to agree to give 50 percent of their profits to the contras.

The House report made no note of this corroborating evidence published in the DOJ report.

The broader contra-cocaine picture was ignored, too. The evidence now available from government investigations over the past 15 years makes clear that many major cocaine smuggling networks used the contra operation, either relying on direct contra assistance or exploiting the relationship to gain protection from U.S. law enforcement.

Sworn testimony before an investigation by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, in the late 1980s disclosed that the contra-drug link dated back to the origins of the movement in 1980. Then, Bolivian drug lord Roberto Suarez invested $30 million in several Argentine-run paramilitary operations, according to Argentine intelligence officer Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.

The Suarez money financed the so-called Cocaine Coup that ousted Bolivia’s elected government in 1980 and then was used by Argentine intelligence to start the contra war against Nicaragua’s leftist government. In 1981, President Reagan ordered the CIA to work with the Argentines in building up the contra army.

According to Volume Two of the CIA report, the spy agency learned about the contra-cocaine connection almost immediately, secretly reporting that contra operatives were smuggling cocaine into South Florida.

By the early 1980s, the Bolivian connection had drawn in the fledgling Colombian Medellin cartel. Top cartel figures picked up on the value of interlocking their operations with the contras. Miami-based anti-Castro Cubans played a key matchmaker role, especially by working with contras based in Costa Rica.

U.S. agencies secretly reported on the work of Frank Castro and other Cuban-American contra supporters who were seen as Medellin operatives. With the Reagan administration battling Congress to keep CIA money flowing to the contras, there were no high-profile crackdowns that might embarrass the contras and undermine public support for their war.

No evidence was deigned good enough to justify sullying the contras’ reputation. In 1986, for example, Reagan’s Justice Department rejected the eyewitness account of an FBI informant named Wanda Palacio. She testified that she saw Jorge Ochoa’s Colombian organization loading cocaine onto planes belonging to Southern Air Transport, a former CIA-owned airline that secretly was flying supplies to the contras. Despite documentary corroboration, her account was dismissed as not believable.

Another contra-cocaine connection ran through Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega, who was recruited by the Reagan administration to assist the contras despite Noriega’s drug-trafficking reputation. The CIA worked closely, too, with corrupt military officers in Honduras and El Salvador who were known to moonlight as cocaine traffickers and money-launderers.

In Honduras, the contra operation tied into the huge cocaine-smuggling network of Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros. His airline, SETCO, was hired by the Reagan administration to ferry supplies to the contras. U.S. government reports also disclosed that contra spokesman Frank Arana worked closely with lieutenants in the Matta Ballesteros network.

Though based in Honduras, the Matta Ballesteros network was regarded as a leading Mexican smuggling ring and was implicated in the torture-murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena.

The CIA knew, too, that the contra-cocaine taint had spread into President Reagan’s National Security Council and into the CIA through Cuban-American anti-communists who were working for two drug-connected seafood companies, Ocean Hunter of Miami and Frigorificos de Puntarenas in Costa Rica. One of these Cuban-Americans, Moises Nunez, worked directly for the NSC.

In 1987, the CIA asked Nunez about allegations tying him to the drug trade. “Nunez revealed that since 1985, he had engaged in a clandestine relationship with the National Security Council,” the CIA contra-drug report said. “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.”

The CIA had its own link to the Frigorificos/Ocean Hunter operation through Felipe Vidal, a Cuban-American with a criminal record as a narcotics trafficker. Despite that record, the CIA hired Vidal as a logistics coordinator for the contras, the CIA report said. When Sen. Kerry sought the CIA’s file on Vidal, the CIA withheld the data about Vidal’s drug arrest and kept him on the payroll until 1990.

These specific cases were not mentioned in the House report. They also have gone unreported in the major news media of the United States.

Now, with the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committees joining with their Republican counterparts, the official verdict on the sordid contra-drug history has been delivered – a near full acquittal of the Reagan administration and the CIA. The verdict is justified as long as no one reads what’s in the government's own reports.


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