Amid the mainstream U.S. media’s current self-righteous frenzy against “fake news,” it’s worth recalling how the big newspapers destroyed Gary Webb, an honest journalist who exposed some hard truths about the Reagan administration’s collaboration with Nicaraguan Contra cocaine traffickers.
Webb’s reward for reviving that important scandal in 1996 – and getting the CIA’s inspector general to issue what amounted to an institutional confession in 1998 – was to have The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lobby for, essentially, his banishment from journalism.
The major media pile-on was so intense and so effective that Webb lost his job at the San Jose Mercury-News and could never find regular work in his profession again. Betrayed by his journalistic colleagues, his money gone, his family broken and his life seemingly hopeless, Webb committed suicide on Dec. 9, 2004.
Even then, the Los Angeles Times wrote up his obituary as if the paper were telling the life story of an organized-crime boss, not a heroic journalist. The Times obit was then republished by The Washington Post.
In other words, on one of the most significant scandals of the Reagan era, major newspapers, which now want to serve as the arbiters of truth for the Internet, demonstrated how disdainful they actually are toward truth when it puts the U.S. government in a harsh light.
Indeed, if it had been up to the big newspapers, this important chapter of modern history would never have been known. A decade earlier, in 1985, Brian Barger and I first exposed the Contra-cocaine connection for The Associated Press – and we watched as the big papers turned their backs on the scandal then, too.
The main point that Webb added to the story was how some of the Contra cocaine fed into the production of crack-cocaine that had such a devastating effect on America’s black communities in particular. Webb’s disclosure of the crack connection infuriated many African-Americans and the big papers acted as if it was their civic duty to calm down those inner-city folks by assuring them that the U.S. government would never do such a thing.
So, instead of doing their jobs as journalists, the major newspapers acted as the last line of defense against the people learning the truth.
A Solid Record
Yet, what’s remarkable now about the Contra-cocaine scandal is that – despite the cover-up efforts of the big papers – the truth is out there, available in official government documents, including the CIA’s inspector general’s report.
Collectively, the information also represents a damning indictment of The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times and demonstrates why they are unfit to lecture anyone about what’s real and what’s “fake.”
For instance, in 2013, at the National Archives annex in College Park, Maryland, I discovered a declassified “secret” U.S. law enforcement report that detailed how top Contra leader Adolfo Calero was casually associating with Norwin Meneses, described in the records as “a well-reputed drug dealer.” Meneses was near the center of Webb’s 1996 articles for the San Jose Mercury-News.
The report was typical of the evidence that the Reagan administration — and the big newspapers — chose to ignore. It recounted information from Dennis Ainsworth, a blue-blood Republican from San Francisco who volunteered to help the Contra cause in 1984-85. That put him in position to witness the strange goings-on of Contra leaders hobnobbing with drug traffickers and negotiating arms deals with White House emissaries.
Ainsworth also was a source of mine in fall 1985 when I was investigating the mysterious channels of funding for the Contras after Congress shut off CIA support in 1984 amid widespread reports of Contra atrocities inflicted on Nicaraguan civilians, including rapes, executions and torture.
Ainsworth’s first-hand knowledge of the Contra dealings dovetailed with information that I already had, such as the central role of National Security Council aide Oliver North in aiding the Contras and his use of “courier” Rob Owen as an off-the-books White House intermediary to the Contras. I later developed confirmation of some other details that Ainsworth described, such as his overhearing Owen and Calero working together on an arms deal as Ainsworth drove them through the streets of San Francisco.
As for Ainsworth’s knowledge about the Contra-cocaine connection, he said he sponsored a June 1984 cocktail party at which Calero spoke to about 60 people. Meneses, a notorious drug kingpin in the Nicaraguan community, showed up uninvited and clearly had a personal relationship with Calero, who was then the political leader of the Contra’s chief fighting force, the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Democratic Force (or FDN).
“At the end of the cocktail party, Meneses and Calero went off together,” Ainsworth told U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello, according to a “secret” Jan. 6, 1987 cable submitted by Russoniello to an FBI investigation code-named “Front Door,” a probe into the Reagan administration’s corruption.
After Calero’s speech, Ainsworth said Meneses accompanied Calero and about 20 people to dinner and picked up the entire tab, according to a more detailed debriefing of Ainsworth by the FBI.
Concerned about this relationship, Ainsworth said he was told by Renato Pena, an FDN leader in the San Francisco area, that “the FDN is involved in drug smuggling with the aid of Norwin Meneses who also buys arms for Enrique Bermudez, a leader of the FDN.” Bermudez was then the top Contra military commander.
Pena, who himself was convicted on federal drug charges in 1984, gave a similar account to the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to a 1998 report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Bromwich, “When debriefed by the DEA in the early 1980s, Pena said that the CIA was allowing the Contras to fly drugs into the United States, sell them, and keep the proceeds.
“Pena stated that he was present on many occasions when Meneses telephoned Bermudez in Honduras. Meneses told Pena of Bermudez’s requests for such things as gun silencers (which Pena said Meneses obtained in Los Angeles), cross bows, and other military equipment for the Contras. Pena believed that Meneses would sometimes transport certain of these items himself to Central America, and other times would have contacts in Los Angeles and Miami send cargo to Honduras, where the authorities were cooperating with the Contras. Pena believed Meneses had contact with Bermudez from about 1981 or 1982 through the mid-1980s.”
Bromwich’s report then added, “Pena said he was one of the couriers Meneses used to deliver drug money to a Colombian known as ‘Carlos’ in Los Angeles and return to San Francisco with cocaine. Pena made six to eight trips, with anywhere from $600,000 to nearly $1 million, and brought back six to eight kilos of cocaine each time. Pena said Meneses was moving hundreds of kilos a week. ‘Carlos’ once told Pena, ‘We’re helping your cause with this drug thing we are helping your organization a lot.”
Ainsworth also said he tried to alert Oliver North in 1985 about the troubling connections between the Contra movement and cocaine traffickers but that North turned a deaf ear.
“In the spring some friends of mine and I went back to the White House staff but we were put off by Ollie North and others on the staff who really don’t want to know all what’s going on,” Ainsworth told Russoniello.
When I first spoke with Ainsworth in September 1985 at a coffee shop in San Francisco, he asked for confidentiality, which I granted. However, since the documents released by the National Archives include him describing his conversations with me, that confidentiality no longer applies. Ainsworth also spoke with Webb for his 1996 San Jose Mercury-News series under the pseudonym “David Morrison.”
Though I found Ainsworth to be generally reliable, some of his depictions of our conversations contained mild exaggerations or confusion over details, such as his claim that I called him from Costa Rica in January 1986 and told him that the Contra-cocaine story that I had been working on with my AP colleague Brian Barger “never hit the papers because it was suppressed by the Associated Press due to political pressure primarily from the CIA.”
In reality, Barger and I returned from Costa Rica in fall 1985, wrote our story about the Contras’ involvement in cocaine smuggling, and pushed it onto the AP wire in December though in a reduced form because of resistance from some senior AP news executives who were supportive of President Reagan’s foreign policies. The CIA, the White House and other agencies of the Reagan administration did seek to discredit our story, but they did not prevent its publication.
An Overriding Hostility
The Reagan administration’s neglect of Ainsworth’s insights reflected the overriding hostility toward any information even from a Republican activist like Ainsworth that put the Contras in a negative light. In early 1987, when Ainsworth spoke with U.S. Attorney Russoniello and the FBI, the Reagan administration was in full damage-control mode, trying to tamp down the Iran-Contra disclosures about Oliver North diverting profits from secret arms sales to Iran to the Contra war.
Fears that the Iran-Contra scandal could lead to Reagan’s impeachment made it even less likely that the Justice Department would pursue an investigation into drug ties implicating the Contra leadership. Ainsworth’s information was simply passed on to Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh whose inquiry was already overwhelmed by the task of sorting out the convoluted Iran transactions.
Publicly, the Reagan team continued dumping on the Contra-cocaine allegations and playing the find-any-possible-reason-to-reject-a-witness game. The major news media went along, leading to much mainstream ridicule of a 1989 investigative report by Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, who uncovered more drug connections implicating the Contras and the Reagan administration.
Only occasionally, such as when the George H.W. Bush administration needed witnesses to convict Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega did the Contra-cocaine evidence pop onto Official Washington’s radar.
During Noriega’s drug-trafficking trial in 1991, U.S. prosecutors called as a witness Colombian Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder, who, along with implicating Noriega, testified that the cartel had given $10 million to the Contras, an allegation first unearthed by Sen. Kerry. “The Kerry hearings didn’t get the attention they deserved at the time,” a Washington Post editorial on Nov. 27, 1991, acknowledged. “The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention.”
But the Post offered its readers no explanation for why Kerry’s hearings had been largely ignored, with the Post itself a leading culprit in this journalistic misfeasance. Nor did the Post and the other leading newspapers use the opening created by the Noriega trial to do anything to rectify their past neglect.
Everything quickly returned to the status quo in which the desired perception of the noble Contras trumped the clear reality of their criminal activities. Instead of recognizing the skewed moral compass of the Reagan administration, Congress was soon falling over itself to attach Reagan’s name to as many public buildings and facilities as possible, including Washington’s National Airport.
Meanwhile, those of us in journalism who had exposed the national security crimes of the 1980s saw our careers mostly sink or go sideways. We were regarded as “pariahs” in our profession.
As for me, shortly after the Iran-Contra scandal broke wide open in fall 1986, I accepted a job at Newsweek, one of the many mainstream news outlets that had long ignored Contra-connected scandals and briefly thought it needed to bolster its coverage. But I soon discovered that senior editors remained hostile toward the Iran-Contra story and related spinoff scandals, including the Contra-cocaine mess.
After losing battle after battle with my Newsweek editors, I departed the magazine in June 1990 to write a book (called Fooling America) about the decline of the Washington press corps and the parallel rise of a new generation of government propagandists.
I was also hired by PBS Frontline to investigate whether there had been a prequel to the Iran-Contra scandal, whether those arms-for-hostage deals in the mid-1980s had been preceded by contacts between Reagan’s 1980 campaign staff and Iran, which was then holding 52 Americans hostage and essentially destroying Jimmy Carter’s reelection hopes. [For more on that topic, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and America’s Stolen Narrative.]
Finding New Ways
In 1995, frustrated by the growing triviality of American journalism, and acting on the advice of and with the assistance of my oldest son Sam, I turned to a new medium and launched the Internet’s first investigative news magazine, known as Consortiumnews.com. The Web site became a way for me to put out well-reported stories that my former mainstream colleagues ignored or mocked.
So, when Gary Webb called me in 1996 to talk about his upcoming series reviving the Contra-cocaine story, I explained some of this tortured history and urged him to make sure that his editors were firmly behind him. He sounded perplexed at my advice and assured me that he had the solid support of his editors.
When Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series finally appeared in late August 1996, it initially drew little attention. The major national news outlets applied their usual studied indifference to a topic that they had already judged unworthy of serious attention.
But Webb’s story proved hard to ignore. First, unlike the work that Barger and I did for AP in the mid-1980s, Webb’s series wasn’t just a story about drug traffickers in Central America and their protectors in Washington. It was about the on-the-ground consequences, inside the United States, of that drug trafficking, how the lives of Americans were blighted and destroyed as the collateral damage of a U.S. foreign policy initiative.
In other words, there were real-life American victims, and they were concentrated in African-American communities. That meant the ever-sensitive issue of race had been injected into the controversy. Anger from black communities spread quickly to the Congressional Black Caucus, which started demanding answers.
Secondly, the San Jose Mercury-News, which was the local newspaper for Silicon Valley, had posted documents and audio on its state-of-the-art Internet site. That way, readers could examine much of the documentary support for the series.
It also meant that the traditional “gatekeeper” role of the major newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, was under assault. If a regional paper like the Mercury-News could finance a major journalistic investigation like this one, and circumvent the judgments of the editorial boards at the Big Three, then there might be a tectonic shift in the power relations of the U.S. news media. There could be a breakdown of the established order.
This combination of factors led to the next phase of the Contra-cocaine battle: the “get-Gary-Webb” counterattack. Soon, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Los Angeles Times were lining up like some tag-team wrestlers taking turns pummeling Webb and his story.
On Oct. 4, 1996, The Washington Post published a front-page article knocking down Webb’s series, although acknowledging that some Contra operatives did help the cocaine cartels. The Post’s approach fit with the Big Media’s cognitive dissonance on the topic: first, the Post called the Contra-cocaine allegations old news, “even CIA personnel testified to Congress they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers,” the Post said, and second, the Post minimized the importance of the one Contra smuggling channel that Webb had highlighted in his series, saying it had not “played a major role in the emergence of crack.”
To add to the smug hoo-hah treatment that was enveloping Webb and his story, the Post published a sidebar story dismissing African-Americans as prone to “conspiracy fears.”
Next, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times weighed in with lengthy articles castigating Webb and “Dark Alliance.” The big newspapers made much of the CIA’s internal reviews in 1987 and 1988, almost a decade earlier, that supposedly had cleared the spy agency of any role in Contra-cocaine smuggling.
But the first ominous sign for the CIA’s cover-up emerged on Oct. 24, 1996, when CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz conceded before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the first CIA probe had lasted only 12 days, and the second only three days. He promised a more thorough review.
But Webb had already crossed over from being treated as a serious journalist to becoming a target of ridicule. Influential Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz mocked Webb for saying in a book proposal that he would explore the possibility that the Contra war was primarily a business to its participants. “Oliver Stone, check your voice mail,” Kurtz smirked.
Yet, Webb’s suspicion was no conspiracy theory. Indeed, Oliver North’s chief Contra emissary, Rob Owen, had made the same point in a March 17, 1986 message about the Contra leadership. “Few of the so-called leaders of the movement . . . really care about the boys in the field,” Owen wrote. “THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Emphasis in original.]
Ainsworth and other pro-Contra activists were reaching the same conclusion, that the Contra leadership was skimming money from the supply lines and padding their personal wealth with proceeds from the drug trade.
According to a Jan. 21, 1987 interview report by the FBI, Ainsworth said he had “made inquiries in the local San Francisco Nicaraguan community and wondered among his acquaintances what Adolfo Calero and the other people in the FDN movement were doing and the word that he received back is that they were probably engaged in cocaine smuggling.”
In other words, Webb was right about the suspicion that the Contra movement had become less a cause than a business to many of its participants. Even Oliver North’s emissary reported on that reality. But truthfulness had ceased to be relevant in the media’s hazing of Gary Webb.
In another double standard, while Webb was held to the strictest standards of journalism, it was entirely all right for Kurtz, the supposed arbiter of journalistic integrity who was a longtime fixture on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” to make judgments based on ignorance. Kurtz would face no repercussions for mocking a fellow journalist who was factually correct.
The Big Three’s assault, combined with their disparaging tone, had a predictable effect on the executives of the Mercury-News. As it turned out, Webb’s confidence in his editors had been misplaced. By early 1997, executive editor Jerry Ceppos, who had his own corporate career to worry about, was in retreat.
On May 11, 1997, Ceppos published a front-page column saying the series “fell short of my standards.” He criticized the stories because they “strongly implied CIA knowledge” of Contra connections to U.S. drug dealers who were manufacturing crack cocaine. “We did not have enough proof that top CIA officials knew of the relationship,” Ceppos wrote.
Ceppos was wrong about the proof, of course. At AP, before we published our first Contra-cocaine article in 1985, Barger and I had known that the CIA and Reagan’s White House were aware of the Contra-cocaine problem at senior levels. One of our sources was on Reagan’s National Security Council staff.
However, Ceppos recognized that he and his newspaper were facing a credibility crisis brought on by the harsh consensus delivered by the Big Three, a judgment that had quickly solidified into conventional wisdom throughout the major news media and inside Knight-Ridder, Inc., which owned the Mercury-News. The only career-saving move — career-saving for Ceppos even if career-destroying for Webb — was to jettison Webb and the Contra-cocaine investigative project.
The big newspapers and the Contras’ defenders celebrated Ceppos’s retreat as vindication of their own dismissal of the Contra-cocaine stories. In particular, Kurtz seemed proud that his demeaning of Webb now had the endorsement of Webb’s editor.
Ceppos next pulled the plug on the Mercury-News’ continuing Contra-cocaine investigation and reassigned Webb to a small office in Cupertino, California, far from his family. Webb resigned from the paper in disgrace. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Hung Out to Dry.”]
For undercutting Webb and other Mercury-News reporters working on the Contra-cocaine project — some of whom were facing personal danger in Central America — Ceppos was lauded by the American Journalism Review and received the 1997 national Ethics in Journalism Award by the Society of Professional Journalists.
While Ceppos won raves, Webb watched his career collapse and his marriage break up. Still, Gary Webb had set in motion internal government investigations that would bring to the surface long-hidden facts about how the Reagan administration had conducted the Contra war.
The CIA published the first part of Inspector General Hitz’s findings on Jan. 29, 1998. Though the CIA’s press release for the report criticized Webb and defended the CIA, Hitz’s Volume One admitted that not only were many of Webb’s allegations true but that he actually understated the seriousness of the Contra-drug crimes and the CIA’s knowledge of them.
Hitz conceded that cocaine smugglers played a significant early role in the Contra movement and that the CIA intervened to block an image-threatening 1984 federal investigation into a San Francisco-based drug ring with suspected ties to the Contras, the so-called “Frogman Case.”
After Volume One was released, I called Webb (whom I had spent some time with since his series was published). I chided him for indeed getting the story “wrong.” He had understated how serious the problem of Contra-cocaine trafficking had been, I said.
It was a form of gallows humor for the two of us, since nothing had changed in the way the major newspapers treated the Contra-cocaine issue. They focused only on the press release that continued to attack Webb, while ignoring the incriminating information that could be found in the full report. All I could do was highlight those admissions at Consortiumnews.com, which sadly had a much, much smaller readership than the Big Three.
The major U.S. news media also looked the other way on other startling disclosures.
On May 7, 1998, for instance, Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, introduced into the Congressional Record a Feb. 11, 1982 letter of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department. The letter, which had been requested by CIA Director William Casey, freed the CIA from legal requirements that it must report drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan mujahedeen.
In other words, early in those two covert wars, the CIA leadership wanted to make sure that its geopolitical objectives would not be complicated by a legal requirement to turn in its client forces for drug trafficking.
The next break in the long-running Contra-cocaine cover-up was a report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Bromwich. Given the hostile climate surrounding Webb’s series, Bromwich’s report also opened with criticism of Webb. But, like the CIA’s Volume One, the contents revealed new details about serious government wrongdoing.
According to evidence cited by Bromwich, the Reagan administration knew almost from the outset of the Contra war that cocaine traffickers permeated the paramilitary operation. The administration also did next to nothing to expose or stop the crimes.
Bromwich’s report revealed example after example of leads not followed, corroborated witnesses disparaged, official law-enforcement investigations sabotaged, and even the CIA facilitating the work of drug traffickers.
The report showed that the Contras and their supporters ran several parallel drug-smuggling operations, not just the one at the center of Webb’s series. The report also found that the CIA shared little of its information about Contra drugs with law-enforcement agencies and on three occasions disrupted cocaine-trafficking investigations that threatened the Contras.
As well as depicting a more widespread Contra-drug operation than Webb (or Barger and I) had understood, the Justice Department report provided some important corroboration about Nicaraguan drug smuggler Norwin Meneses, a key figure in Gary Webb’s series and Adolfo Calero’s friend as described by Dennis Ainsworth.
Bromwich cited U.S. government informants who supplied detailed information about Meneses’s drug operation and his financial assistance to the Contras. For instance, Renato Pena, the money-and-drug courier for Meneses, said that in the early 1980s the CIA allowed the Contras to fly drugs into the United States, sell them, and keep the proceeds. Pena, the FDN’s northern California representative, said the drug trafficking was forced on the Contras by the inadequate levels of U.S. government assistance.
The Justice Department report also disclosed repeated examples of the CIA and U.S. embassies in Central America discouraging DEA investigations, including one into Contra-cocaine shipments moving through the international airport in El Salvador. Bromwich said secrecy trumped all.
“We have no doubt that the CIA and the U.S. Embassy were not anxious for the DEA to pursue its investigation at the airport,” he wrote.
Bromwich also described the curious case of how a DEA pilot helped a CIA asset escape from Costa Rican authorities in 1989 after the man, American farmer John Hull, had been charged in connection with Contra-cocaine trafficking. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “John Hull’s Great Escape.”]
Hull’s ranch in northern Costa Rica had been the site of Contra camps for attacking Nicaragua from the south. For years, Contra-connected witnesses also said Hull’s property was used for the transshipment of cocaine en route to the United States, but those accounts were brushed aside by the Reagan administration and disparaged in major U.S. newspapers.
Yet, according to Bromwich’s report, the DEA took the accounts seriously enough to prepare a research report on the evidence in November 1986. One informant described Colombian cocaine off-loaded at an airstrip on Hull’s ranch.
The drugs were then concealed in a shipment of frozen shrimp and transported to the United States. The alleged Costa Rican shipper was Frigorificos de Puntarenas, a firm controlled by Cuban-American Luis Rodriguez. Like Hull, however, Frigorificos had friends in high places. In 1985-86, the State Department had selected the shrimp company to handle $261,937 in non-lethal assistance earmarked for the Contras.
Hull also remained a man with powerful protectors. Even after Costa Rican authorities brought drug charges against him, influential Americans, including Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, demanded that Hull be let out of jail pending trial. Then, in July 1989 with the help of a DEA pilot — and possibly a DEA agent as well — Hull managed to fly out of Costa Rica to Haiti and then to the United States.
Despite these startling new disclosures, the big newspapers still showed no inclination to read beyond the criticism of Webb in the press release.
By fall 1998, Washington was obsessed with President Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, which made it easier to ignore even more stunning Contra-cocaine disclosures in the CIA’s Volume Two, published on Oct. 8, 1998.
In the report, CIA Inspector General Hitz identified more than 50 Contras and Contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s.
According to Volume Two, the CIA knew the criminal nature of its Contra clients from the start of the war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. The earliest Contra force, called the Nicaraguan Revolutionary Democratic Alliance (ADREN) or the 15th of September Legion, had chosen “to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their cadre,” according to a June 1981 draft of a CIA field report.
According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981. ADREN’s leaders included Enrique Bermudez and other early Contras who would later direct the major Contra army, the CIA-organized FDN which was based in Honduras, along Nicaragua’s northern border.
Throughout the war, Bermudez remained the top Contra military commander. The CIA later corroborated the allegations about ADREN’s cocaine trafficking, but insisted that Bermudez had opposed the drug shipments to the United States that went ahead nonetheless.
The truth about Bermudez’s supposed objections to drug trafficking, however, was less clear. According to Hitz’s Volume One, Bermudez enlisted Norwin Meneses the Nicaraguan cocaine smuggler, the friend of Adolfo Calero, and a key figure in Webb’s series to raise money and buy supplies for the Contras.
Volume One had quoted another Nicaraguan trafficker, Danilo Blandon, a Meneses associate (and another lead character in Webb’s series), as telling Hitz’s investigators that he (Blandon) and Meneses flew to Honduras to meet with Bermudez in 1982. At the time, Meneses’s criminal activities were well-known in the Nicaraguan exile community, but Bermudez told the cocaine smugglers that “the ends justify the means” in raising money for the Contras.
After the Bermudez meeting, Meneses and Blandon were briefly arrested by Honduran police who confiscated $100,000 that the police suspected was to be a payment for a drug transaction. The Contras intervened, gained freedom for the two traffickers and got them their money back by saying the cash, which indeed was for a cocaine purchase in Bolivia, belonged to the Contras.
There were other indications of Bermudez’s drug-smuggling complicity. In February 1988, another Nicaraguan exile linked to the drug trade accused Bermudez of participation in narcotics trafficking, according to Hitz’s report. After the Contra war ended, Bermudez returned to Managua, Nicaragua, where he was shot to death on Feb. 16, 1991. The murder has never been solved.
The Southern Front
Along the Southern Front, the Contras’ military operations in Costa Rica on Nicaragua’s southern border, the CIA’s drug evidence centered on the forces of Eden Pastora, another top Contra commander. But Hitz discovered that the U.S. government may have made the drug situation worse, not better.
Hitz revealed that the CIA put an admitted drug operative, known by his CIA pseudonym “Ivan Gomez,” in a supervisory position over Pastora. Hitz reported that the CIA discovered Gomez’s drug history in 1987 when Gomez failed a security review on drug-trafficking questions.
In internal CIA interviews, Gomez admitted that in March or April 1982, he helped family members who were engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering. In one case, Gomez said he assisted his brother and brother-in-law transporting cash from New York City to Miami. He admitted he “knew this act was illegal.”
Later, Gomez expanded on his admission, describing how his family members had fallen $2 million into debt and had gone to Miami to run a money-laundering center for drug traffickers.
Gomez said “his brother had many visitors whom [Gomez] assumed to be in the drug trafficking business.” Gomez’s brother was arrested on drug charges in June 1982. Three months later, in September 1982, Gomez started his CIA assignment in Costa Rica.
Years later, convicted drug trafficker Carlos Cabezas alleged that in the early 1980s, Ivan Gomez was the CIA agent in Costa Rica who was overseeing drug-money donations to the Contras. Gomez “was to make sure the money was given to the right people [the Contras] and nobody was taking . . . profit they weren’t supposed to,” Cabezas stated publicly.
But the CIA sought to discredit Cabezas at the time because he had trouble identifying Gomez’s picture and put Gomez at one meeting in early 1982 before Gomez started his CIA assignment. While the CIA was able to fend off Cabezas’s allegations by pointing to these minor discrepancies, Hitz’s report revealed that the CIA was nevertheless aware of Gomez’s direct role in drug-money laundering, a fact the agency hid from Sen. Kerry in his investigation during the late 1980s.
There was also more to know about Gomez. In November 1985, the FBI learned from an informant that Gomez’s two brothers had been large-scale cocaine importers, with one brother arranging shipments from Bolivia’s infamous drug kingpin Roberto Suarez.
Suarez already was known as a financier of right-wing causes. In 1980, with the support of Argentina’s hard-line anticommunist military regime, Suarez bankrolled a coup in Bolivia that ousted the elected left-of-center government. The violent putsch became known as the Cocaine Coup because it made Bolivia the region’s first narco-state.
By protecting cocaine shipments headed north, Bolivia’s government helped transform Colombia’s Medellin cartel from a struggling local operation into a giant corporate-style business for delivering vast quantities of cocaine to the U.S. market.
Flush with cash in the early 1980s, Suarez invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including the Contra forces in Central America, according to U.S. Senate testimony by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.
In 1987, Sanchez-Reisse said the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, other Argentine intelligence officers, veterans of the Bolivian coup, trained the Contras in the early 1980s, even before the CIA arrived to first assist with the training and later take over the Contra operation from the Argentines.
Inspector General Hitz added another piece to the mystery of the Bolivian-Contra connection. One Contra fund-raiser, Jose Orlando Bolanos, boasted that the Argentine government was supporting his Contra activities, according to a May 1982 cable to CIA headquarters. Bolanos made the statement during a meeting with undercover DEA agents in Florida. He even offered to introduce them to his Bolivian cocaine supplier.
Despite all this suspicious drug activity centered around Ivan Gomez and the Contras, the CIA insisted that it did not unmask Gomez until 1987, when he failed a security check and confessed his role in his family’s drug business.
The CIA official who interviewed Gomez concluded that “Gomez directly participated in illegal drug transactions, concealed participation in illegal drug transactions, and concealed information about involvement in illegal drug activity,” Hitz wrote.
But senior CIA officials still protected Gomez. They refused to refer the Gomez case to the Justice Department, citing the 1982 agreement that spared the CIA from a legal obligation to report narcotics crimes by people collaborating with the CIA who were not formal agency employees. Gomez was an independent contractor who worked for the CIA but was not officially on staff. The CIA eased Gomez out of the agency in February 1988, without alerting law enforcement or the congressional oversight committees.
When questioned about the case nearly a decade later, one senior CIA official who had supported the gentle treatment of Gomez had second thoughts. “It is a striking commentary on me and everyone that this guy’s involvement in narcotics didn’t weigh more heavily on me or the system,” the official told Hitz’s investigators.
Drug Path to the White House
A Medellin drug connection arose in another section of Hitz’s report, when he revealed evidence suggesting that some Contra trafficking may have been sanctioned by Reagan’s National Security Council. The protagonist for this part of the Contra-cocaine mystery was Moises Nunez, a Cuban-American who worked for Oliver North’s NSC Contra-support operation and for two drug-connected seafood importers, Ocean Hunter in Miami and Frigorificos De Puntarenas in Costa Rica.
Frigorificos De Puntarenas was created in the early 1980s as a cover for drug-money laundering, according to sworn testimony by two of the firm’s principals, Carlos Soto and Medellin cartel accountant Ramon Milian Rodriguez. (It was also the company implicated by a DEA informant in moving cocaine from John Hull’s ranch to the United States.)
Drug allegations were swirling around Moises Nunez by the mid-1980s. Indeed, his operation was one of the targets of my and Barger’s AP investigation in 1985. Finally reacting to the suspicions, the CIA questioned Nunez about his alleged cocaine trafficking on March 25, 1987. He responded by pointing the finger at his NSC superiors.
“Nunez revealed that since 1985, he had engaged in a clandestine relationship with the National Security Council,” Hitz reported, adding: “Nunez refused to elaborate on the nature of these actions, but indicated it was difficult to answer questions relating to his involvement in narcotics trafficking because of the specific tasks he had performed at the direction of the NSC. Nunez refused to identify the NSC officials with whom he had been involved.”
After this first round of questioning, CIA headquarters authorized an additional session, but then senior CIA officials reversed the decision. There would be no further efforts at “debriefing Nunez.”
Hitz noted that “the cable [from headquarters] offered no explanation for the decision” to stop the Nunez interrogation. But the CIA’s Central American Task Force chief Alan Fiers Jr. said the Nunez-NSC drug lead was not pursued “because of the NSC connection and the possibility that this could be somehow connected to the Private Benefactor program [the Contra money handled by the NSC’s Oliver North] a decision was made not to pursue this matter.”
Joseph Fernandez, who had been the CIA’s station chief in Costa Rica, confirmed to congressional Iran-Contra investigators that Nunez “was involved in a very sensitive operation” for North’s “Enterprise.” The exact nature of that NSC-authorized activity has never been divulged.
At the time of the Nunez-NSC drug admissions and his truncated interrogation, the CIA’s acting director was Robert Gates, who nearly two decades later became President George W. Bush’s second secretary of defense, a position he retained under President Barack Obama.
The CIA also worked directly with other drug-connected Cuban-Americans on the Contra project, Hitz found. One of Nunez’s Cuban-American associates, Felipe Vidal, had a criminal record as a narcotics trafficker in the 1970s. But the CIA still hired him to serve as a logistics coordinator for the Contras, Hitz reported.
The CIA also learned that Vidal’s drug connections were not only in the past. A December 1984 cable to CIA headquarters revealed Vidal’s ties to Rene Corvo, another Cuban-American suspected of drug trafficking. Corvo was working with Cuban anticommunist Frank Castro, who was viewed as a Medellin cartel representative within the Contra movement.
There were other narcotics links to Vidal. In January 1986, the DEA in Miami seized 414 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipment of yucca that was going from a Contra operative in Costa Rica to Ocean Hunter, the company where Vidal (and Moises Nunez) worked. Despite the evidence, Vidal remained a CIA employee as he collaborated with Frank Castro’s assistant, Rene Corvo, in raising money for the Contras, according to a CIA memo in June 1986.
By fall 1986, Sen. Kerry had heard enough rumors about Vidal to demand information about him as part of his congressional inquiry into Contra drugs. But the CIA withheld the derogatory information in its files. On Oct. 15, 1986, Kerry received a briefing from the CIA’s Alan Fiers, who didn’t mention Vidal’s drug arrests and conviction in the 1970s.
But Vidal was not yet in the clear. In 1987, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami began investigating Vidal, Ocean Hunter, and other Contra-connected entities. This prosecutorial attention worried the CIA. The CIA’s Latin American division felt it was time for a security review of Vidal. But on Aug. 5, 1987, the CIA’s security office blocked the review for fear that the Vidal drug information “could be exposed during any future litigation.”
As expected, the U.S. Attorney’s Office did request documents about “Contra-related activities” by Vidal, Ocean Hunter, and 16 other entities. The CIA advised the prosecutor that “no information had been found regarding Ocean Hunter,” a statement that was clearly false. The CIA continued Vidal’s employment as an adviser to the Contra movement until 1990, virtually the end of the Contra war.
Hitz also revealed that drugs tainted the highest levels of the Honduran-based FDN, the largest Contra army. Hitz found that Juan Rivas, a Contra commander who rose to be chief of staff, admitted that he had been a cocaine trafficker in Colombia before the war.
The CIA asked Rivas, known as El Quiche, about his background after the DEA began suspecting that Rivas might be an escaped convict from a Colombian prison. In interviews with CIA officers, Rivas acknowledged that he had been arrested and convicted of packaging and transporting cocaine for the drug trade in Barranquilla, Colombia. After several months in prison, Rivas said, he escaped and moved to Central America, where he joined the Contras.
Defending Rivas, CIA officials insisted that there was no evidence that Rivas engaged in trafficking while with the Contras. But one CIA cable noted that he lived an expensive lifestyle, even keeping a $100,000 Thoroughbred horse at the Contra camp. Contra military commander Bermudez later attributed Rivas’s wealth to his ex-girlfriend’s rich family. But a CIA cable in March 1989 added that “some in the FDN may have suspected at the time that the father-in-law was engaged in drug trafficking.”
Still, the CIA moved quickly to protect Rivas from exposure and possible extradition to Colombia. In February 1989, CIA headquarters asked that the DEA take no action “in view of the serious political damage to the U.S. Government that could occur should the information about Rivas become public.”
Rivas was eased out of the Contra leadership with an explanation of poor health. With U.S. government help, he was allowed to resettle in Miami. Colombia was not informed about his fugitive status.
Another senior FDN official implicated in the drug trade was its chief spokesman in Honduras, Arnoldo Jose “Frank” Arana. The drug allegations against Arana dated back to 1983 when a federal narcotics task force put him under criminal investigation because of plans “to smuggle 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States from South America.” On Jan. 23, 1986, the FBI reported that Arana and his brothers were involved in a drug-smuggling enterprise, although Arana was not charged.
Arana sought to clear up another set of drug suspicions in 1989 by visiting the DEA in Honduras with a business associate, Jose Perez. Arana’s association with Perez, however, only raised new alarms. If “Arana is mixed up with the Perez brothers, he is probably dirty,” the DEA said.
Through their ownership of an air services company called SETCO, the Perez brothers were associated with Juan Matta-Ballesteros, a major cocaine kingpin connected to the 1985 torture-murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, according to reports by the DEA and U.S. Customs. Hitz reported that someone at the CIA scribbled a note on a DEA cable about Arana stating: “Arnold Arana . . . still active and working, we [CIA] may have a problem.”
Despite its drug ties to Matta-Ballesteros, SETCO emerged as the principal company for ferrying supplies to the Contras in Honduras. During congressional Iran-Contra hearings, FDN political leader Adolfo Calero testified that SETCO was paid from bank accounts controlled by Oliver North. SETCO also received $185,924 from the State Department for delivering supplies to the Contras in 1986. Furthermore, Hitz found that other air transport companies used by the Contras were implicated in the cocaine trade as well.
Even FDN leaders suspected that they were shipping supplies to Central America aboard planes that might be returning with drugs. Mario Calero, Adolfo Calero’s brother and the chief of Contra logistics, grew so uneasy about one air freight company that he notified U.S. law enforcement that the FDN only chartered the planes for the flights south, not the return flights north.
Hitz found that some drug pilots simply rotated from one sector of the Contra operation to another. Donaldo Frixone, who had a drug record in the Dominican Republic, was hired by the CIA to fly Contra missions from 1983 to 1985. In September 1986, however, Frixone was implicated in smuggling 19,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States. In late 1986 or early 1987, he went to work for Vortex, another U.S.-paid Contra supply company linked to the drug trade.
By the time that Hitz’s Volume Two was published in fall 1998, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the Contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking. But Hitz made clear that the Contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, Congress, and even the CIA’s own analytical division.
Besides tracing the evidence of Contra-drug trafficking through the decade-long Contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of the Contra-drug problem but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.
According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. . . . [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the Contra program.” One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”
Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the Contras hid evidence of Contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analysts.
Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of Contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and to major news organizations, serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his “Dark Alliance” series in 1996.
Although Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it went almost unnoticed by the big American newspapers.
On Oct. 10, 1998, two days after Hitz’s Volume Two was posted on the CIA’s Web site, the New York Times published a brief article that continued to deride Webb but acknowledged the Contra-drug problem may have been worse than earlier understood. Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a story that simply missed the point of the CIA’s confession. Though having assigned 17 journalists to tear down Webb’s reporting, the Los Angeles Times chose not to publish a story on the release of Hitz’s Volume Two.
In 2000, the House Intelligence Committee grudgingly acknowledged that the stories about Reagan’s CIA protecting Contra drug traffickers were true. The committee released a report citing classified testimony from CIA Inspector General Britt Snider (Hitz’s successor) admitting that the spy agency had turned a blind eye to evidence of Contra-drug smuggling and generally treated drug smuggling through Central America as a low priority.
“In the end the objective of unseating the Sandinistas appears to have taken precedence over dealing properly with potentially serious allegations against those with whom the agency was working,” Snider said, adding that the CIA did not treat the drug allegations in “a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner.”
The House committee, then controlled by Republicans, still downplayed the significance of the Contra-cocaine scandal, but the panel acknowledged, deep inside its report, that in some cases, “CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so. In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual.”
Like the release of Hitz’s report in 1998, the admissions by Snider and the House committee drew virtually no media attention in 2000, except for a few articles on the Internet, including one at Consortiumnews.com.
Because of this journalistic misconduct by the Big Three newspapers, choosing to conceal their own neglect of the Contra-cocaine scandal and to protect the Reagan administration’s image, Webb’s reputation was never rehabilitated.
After his original “Dark Alliance” series was published in 1996, I joined Webb in a few speaking appearances on the West Coast, including one packed book talk at the Midnight Special bookstore in Santa Monica, California. For a time, Webb was treated as a celebrity on the American Left, but that gradually faded.
In our interactions during these joint appearances, I found Webb to be a regular guy who seemed to be holding up fairly well under the terrible pressure. He had landed an investigative job with a California state legislative committee. He also felt some measure of vindication when CIA Inspector General Hitz’s reports came out.
But Webb never could overcome the pain caused by his betrayal at the hands of his journalistic colleagues, his peers. In the years that followed, Webb was unable to find decent-paying work in his profession, the conventional wisdom remained that he had somehow been exposed as a journalistic fraud. His state job ended; his marriage fell apart; he struggled to pay bills; and he was faced with a forced move out of a house near Sacramento, California, and in with his mother.
On Dec. 9, 2004, the 49-year-old Webb typed out suicide notes to his ex-wife and his three children; laid out a certificate for his cremation; and taped a note on the door telling movers, who were coming the next morning, to instead call 911. Webb then took out his father’s pistol and shot himself in the head. The first shot was not lethal, so he fired once more.
Even with Webb’s death, the big newspapers that had played key roles in his destruction couldn’t bring themselves to show Webb any mercy. After Webb’s body was found, I received a call from a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who knew that I was one of Webb’s few journalistic colleagues who had defended him and his work.
I told the reporter that American history owed a great debt to Gary Webb because he had forced out important facts about Reagan-era crimes. But I added that the Los Angeles Times would be hard-pressed to write an honest obituary because the newspaper had ignored Hitz’s final report, which had largely vindicated Webb.
To my disappointment but not my surprise, I was correct. The Los Angeles Times ran a mean-spirited obituary that made no mention of either my defense of Webb, nor the CIA’s admissions in 1998. The obituary was republished in other newspapers, including the Washington Post.
In effect, Webb’s suicide enabled senior editors at the Big Three newspapers to breathe a little easier, one of the few people who understood the ugly story of the Reagan administration’s cover-up of the Contra-cocaine scandal and the U.S. media’s complicity was now silenced.
To this day, none of the journalists or media critics who participated in the destruction of Gary Webb has paid a price. None has faced the sort of humiliation that Webb had to endure. None had to experience that special pain of standing up for what is best in the profession of journalism, taking on a difficult story that seeks to hold powerful people accountable for serious crimes, and then being vilified by your own colleagues, the people that you expected to understand and appreciate what you had done.
On the contrary, many were rewarded with professional advancement and lucrative careers. For instance, for years, Howard Kurtz got to host the CNN program, “Reliable Sources,” which lectured journalists on professional standards. He was described in the program’s bio as “the nation’s premier media critic.” (His show later moved to Fox News, renamed “MediaBuzz.”)
But the Webb tragedy and the Contra-cocaine case remain relevant today because they underscore how the mainstream press cannot be trusted with decisions about what news is true and what is false. If such a Ministry of Truth had existed in the late 1990s, the dark chapter of the Reagan administration’s dealings with Nicaraguan drug traffickers would still be just a vague and easily dismissed rumor.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
The father of the Cuban Revolution remains unbeaten by his foes even in death. We look over the most dramatic assassination plots on El Comandante – from character-assassinations by way of LSD, to Italian mobsters, tuberculosis wetsuit, and exploding cigar.
“If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal,” Castro is famously quoted as saying. Cuba’s ex-intelligence chief Fabian Escalante – the person tasked with guarding Fidel’s life – puts the number of attempts at 638. The man also claimed to Reuters in a 2010 interview that the John F. Kennedy assassination could well have been an attempt to expedite the process of removing Castro from power: the American president, some said, was not doing enough. Of course, by the time of Kennedy’s 1963 shooting death in Dallas, Texas, there had already been numerous attempts on Castro’s life – intended to bolster Kennedy’s own reputation back home as a strong president, with his administration exerting great pressure on the CIA to take care of it. It is fitting then to start at the beginning.
1) Getting the Mafia to do it
When a sizable cache of classified CIA documents, amicably called ‘Family Jewels,’ was finally released in 2007, Cuban communists felt a sense of vindication, finally gaining the ability to publicly accuse the United States government of what they claimed was already common knowledge.
In the summer of 1960, the CIA recruited former FBI agent Robert Maheu. He became the go-between from the agency to two prominent Italian gangsters on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List – Santo Trafficante of the Miami Syndicate, and Salvatore Giancana – Al Capone’s successor in Chicago. They were gotten hold of by way of Las Vegas mobster Johnny Roselli. A payment of $150,000 was on the table. According to the declassified documents, Giancana suggested using poisoned pills – six of them. But despite gaining access to officials inside the Cuban government, the plan had been unsuccessful, and was later scrapped in the run-up to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. It is said the agency was able to retrieve all the poison pills.
The closest the Americans got to killing Castro was with a poisoned chocolate milkshake, Escalante claimed to Reuters. According to the 2007 documents, another batch of poison was delivered through the Mafia in 1963 in a bottle of Bayer aspirin pills. An opposition group, it was believed, had a good chance. But the plot failed when a disguised waiter did not manage to lace Castro’s milkshake in the cafeteria of the then-Hilton Hotel (now Havana Libre), as the pill got stuck in the freezer – where it was hidden – and broke apart when the assassin attempted to dislodge it from the wall.
2) Contaminating an entire broadcast studio with LSD with the intention of eroding public trust
This was not just about spiking drinks or cigars. The CIA went all-out. After a failed attempt to embarrass El Comandante by having his beard fall out due to boots spiked with chemicals, the agency had opted for a box of cigars spiked with LSD. The plan was to have Castro burst into laughter during a televised interview, thus subjecting him to ridicule in the public eye. But it was not just cigars. The CIA planned to lace the entire studio. This plot was not implemented, but was high in the running for ways to spark a national uprising against Castro.
3) Tuberculosis-laced scuba gear that followed the exploding sea shell
Fidel Castro © Alberto Korda
The CIA had back-paddled on another of its ingenious plans to kill Castro, leading to the poisoned scuba gear idea. The agency knew the revolutionary was an avid diver. The plan had been to attract El Comandante with a sea shell practically impossible to miss, having been painted in colors bright enough to attract him. Castro would swim closer to inspect it, whereupon a lethal amount of explosives would detonate. But the idea was aborted due to impracticality, the declassified documents claimed. So the spies went the more practical way: lacing Castro’s scuba gear with tuberculosis to trigger a deadly skin disease. The man who was supposed to give Castro the suit had opted to give him an ordinary one, it turned out.
4) Evolution of the poison cigar – the exploding cigar
According to a Saturday Evening Post report on November 4, 1967, a CIA agent had approached a New York cop with the idea of handing Castro an exploding cigar during a UN meeting. That was reportedly after the plan to poison the cigar had been abandoned. This was despite the poison having already been injected into the cigar, with the CIA dismissing the person tasked with carrying the plan out in the final stages.
However, the exploding-cigar plan also failed due to the double agent changing his mind at the last instant.
5) Femme fatale
One of Castro’s many lovers – CIA informant Marita Lorenz, was also tasked with poisoning Castro in a daring operation involving a secret unit tasked with the assassination – Operation 40. According to the FBI, Lorenz had become a “contract agent” for the CIA, and willingly accepted the task of assassinating him following a miscarriage or an abortion – a story she told in 1959. Castro’s reaction to her not having the child had reportedly enraged her so much, she had eagerly taken up the task. And so she met with CIA double agent Frank Sturgis in 1960, who had handed her a bottle of poison pills.
Lorenz was to drop one into her lover’s drink, containing enough poison to kill him within 30 seconds. But as with the countless other attempts, it did not succeed because Lorenz herself could not go through with it. The mission was wrought with pitfalls. According to Ann Louise Bardoch’s ‘Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana,’ Lorenz recalled that “They said, ‘we want you to take him out.’” But, “I knew the minute I saw the outline of Havana I couldn’t do it.”
Even then, she had made the mistake of stashing the pills in her pot of cold cream, in fear of being discovered by customs. The substance had stuck to the pills, and Lorenz couldn’t unmix the two. As she attempted to flush the pills down the toilet, Castro –who had got wind of the plot – walked in with a cigar. He removed his handgun from the holster, and handed it to Lorenz with the words: “Did you come to kill me?” According to Lorenz, he handed her the gun and puffed on his cigar with his eyes closed.
“He made himself vulnerable because he knew I couldn’t do it. He still loved me and I still loved him.”
She feared the CIA would kill her for being with Castro after the foiled assassination attempt. Upon her return to Miami, Lorenz never again met with Castro. Later, however, she had a daughter with another Latin American military leader, Venezuela’s Marcos Perez Jimenez.
According to Escalante, it was the Cuban revolutionary’s vigilance and the efforts of his security apparatus that kept him alive all those years. Numerous books have been written on the matter.
It is now an undisputed fact that the Western democratic values and the so-called “freedom of speech” that have been heralded for a long time as the principal achievements of the Western world are nothing but empty slogans. This is evidenced by the latest resolution of the European Parliament on countering Russia’s media influence dubbed the “EU strategic communications with a view to counteracting propaganda.” This document was initiated by a Polish member of the European Parliament, Anna Fotyga who claims that Russia has been providing financial support to opposition political parties and organizations in the EU, thereby undermining the unity of its states.
It is noteworthy that the authors behind this document are speaking about the necessity of media pluralism and freedom of information, while introducing a form of censorship against all Russian media sources.
At the same time those behind this curious paper advocate the revocation of Article 55 of Chapter IX of the UN Charter, which demands a universal respect and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for everyone, regardless of their race, sex, language or religion, including the rights to freedom of expression.
It’s curious that delusional witch hunts and the suppression of alternative media sources have recently become one of the principal attributes of European politics. This is clearly shown by the report that has been presented by Dr Andrew Foxall, the Director of the Russia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society, that advocates the notion that activists, journalists, and politicians should point out the pro-Russian connections of individuals and parties across the political spectrum and challenge the credibility of these entities via political debates, while personal and organizational connections of left- and right-wing politicians and parties and their Russian counterparts should be mapped across Europe.
It’s curious that Dr Marcus Papadopoulos, the editor in chief of Politics First has been outraged by the above mentioned report, calling it manifestation of a modern form of McCarthyism. Papadopoulos is convinced that this is nothing but a slap in the face of freedom of speech and a rather stupid attempt to try to silence those who disagree with with the UK government.
It’s curious that UK politicians are convinced they can call “idiots” anybody who disagrees with their position.
Moreover, the “Foxall’s proclamation” was released on the eve of the discussion of the EU strategic communications with a view to counteracting propaganda in the EU parliament and has become a sort of foundation for this document.
This means that Operation Mockingbird which was launched by the CIA in the 1950s hasn’t been discontinued and is now being implemented in the EU. If you take a look at the rapidly growing funding of the European corporate media sources, it becomes obvious that America’s loyal puppets have been busy producing disinformation on a massive scale. Every day we witness new articles being published that have nothing in common with reality, yet no amount of evidence can force those corporate media sources to confess that they’ve been deliberately lying.
Just take a look at the role Western media played in the Ukrainian crisis, where Russia’s position is just being ignored by every single Western journal and newspaper. Yet, the fact that Russia hasn’t been preparing any sort of occupation of Ukraine has been proven by France’s military intelligence, General Christophe Gomart in the speech he delivered in front of the French National Assembly. Yet, his report was just ignored.
It must be clearly understood that a web of deception is always being created by the CIA in those regions and in those periods when specific Washington’s actions may become the cause of serious criticism and may lead to the manifestation of one’s independence from the United States. For this purpose, the White House annually allocates billions of dollars to the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, the CIA and countless NGOs to spread disinformation. However, such steps are not causing alarm among European politicians, that are subjecting their people to vassal dependency on Washington and its position.
Back in 2011 the Guardian reported:
The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.
A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an “online persona management service” that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world. The multiple persona contract is thought to have been awarded as part of a programme called Operation Earnest Voice (OEV), which was first developed in Iraq as a psychological warfare weapon against the online presence of al-Qaida supporters and others ranged against coalition forces. Since then, OEV is reported to have expanded into a $200m programme and is thought to have been used against jihadists across Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Today we can witness the direct result of this program on most European forums, where those dissatisfied with their elected officials are being subjected to harassment and trolling. Yes, the delusional notion about the so-called “Russian propaganda” is the talk of the day in the EU, while Washington’s aggressive disinformation campaign is being silently ignored, as if nothing of interest was happening in this domain.
Hawks pass HR5732
Late in the day Tuesday November 15, Congress convened in special session. With normal rules suspended, they passed House Resolution 5732 the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act”. The resolution calls for intensifying already harsh sanctions on Syria, assessing implementation of No Fly Zone in Syria and escalating efforts to press criminal charges against Syrian officials. HR5732 claims to promote a negotiated settlement in Syria but, as analyzed by Friends Committee for National Legislation, imposes preconditions which would actually make that more difficult.
There was 40 minutes of “debate” with six representatives (Royce, Engel, Ros-Lehtinen, Kildee, Smith, and Curbelo) speaking in favor of the resolution. There were few other Congressional representatives present in Congress. The House Foreign Affairs Committee stated that the resolution was passed “unanimously” without mentioning the special conditions.
The “Non Controversial” Resolution that could lead to World War III
According to wikipedia “Suspension of the rules is a procedure generally used to quickly pass non-controversial bills in the United States House of Representatives …. such as naming Post Offices…” In this case, the resolution calls for evaluating and developing plans for a “No Fly Zone” which is an act of war. This is obviously controversial and it seems clear the resolution should have been debated and discussed under normal rules with a normal amount of Congressional presence and debate.
The motivation for bypassing normal rules and rushing the bill through without debate was articulated by the bill’s author and ranking Democrat Eliot Engel: “We cannot delay action on Syria any further…. if we don’t get this legislation across the finish line in the next few weeks, we are back to square one.” The current urgency may be related to the election results since Trump has spoken out against “regime change” foreign policy. As much as they are critical of Obama for not doing more, Congressional neoconservatives are concerned about the prospect of a President who might move toward peace and away from war.
The Caesar Fraud
HR5732 is titled the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act”. Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce (R-Ca) explained that the resolution is named after “the brave Syrian defector known to the world as Caesar, who testified to us the shocking scale of torture being carried out within the prisons of Syria.”
In reality, the Caesar story was a grand deception involving the CIA with funding from Qatar to sabotage the 2014 Geneva negotiations. The 55,000 photos which were said to show 11,000 torture victims have never been publicly revealed. Only a tiny number of photos have been publicized. However, in 2015 Human Rights Watch was granted access to view the entire set. They revealed that almost one half the photos show the opposite of what was claimed: instead of victims tortured by the Syrian government, they actually show dead Syrian soldiers and civilian victims of car bombs and other terror attacks! The “Caesar” story, replete with masked ‘defector’, was one of the early propaganda hoaxes regarding Syria.
False Claims that the US has been doing nothing
One of the big lies regarding Syria is that the US has been inactive. Royce says:
The administration has decided not to decide. And that itself, unfortunately, has set a course where here we sit and watch and the violence only worsens. Mr. Speaker, America has been sitting back and watching these atrocities for far too long. Vital U.S. national security interests are at stake.
The ranking Democrat Eliot Engel said:
Four years ago I thought we should have aided the Free Syrian Army. They came to us in Washington and begged us for help… they were simply looking for weaponry. I really believe if we had given it to them, the situation in Syria would have been different today.
This is nonsense. The US was actively coordinating, training and supplying armed opposition groups beginning in late 2011. When the Qadaffi government was toppled in Fall 2011, the CIA oversaw the theft of the Libyan armories and shipment of weapons to Syrian armed opposition as documented in the Defense Intelligence Agency report of October 2012.
These weapons transfers were secret. For the public record it was acknowledged that the US was supplying communications equipment to the armed opposition while Saudi Arabia and Qatar were supplying weaponry. This is one reason that Saudi purchases of weapons skyrocketed during this time period; they were buying weapons to replace those being shipped to the armed opposition in Syria. It was very profitable for US arms manufacturers.
Huge weapons transfers to the armed opposition in Syria have continued to the present. This past Spring, Janes Defense reported the details of a U.S. delivery of 2.2 million pounds of ammunition, rocket launchers and other weaponry to the armed opposition.
Claims that the US has been inactive are baseless. In reality the US has done everything short of a direct attack on Syria. And the US military is starting to cross that barrier. On September 17 the US air coalition did a direct attack on the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor, killing 80 Syrian soldiers and enabling ISIS to launch an attack on the position. Claims that it was a “mistake” are highly dubious.
The claims by Congressional hawks that the US has been ‘inactive’ in the Syrian conflict are part of the false narrative suggesting the US must “do something” which leads to a No Fly Zone and full scale war. Ironically, these calls for war are masked as “humanitarian”. And never do the proponents bring up the case of Libya where the US and NATO “did something”: destroyed the government and left chaos.
Congress as a Fact-Free House of Propaganda
With only a handful of representatives present and no debate, the six Congress members engaged in unrestrained propaganda and misinformation. The leading Democrat, Eliot Engel, said “We’re going into the New Year 2017, Assad still clings to power, at the expense of killing millions of his citizens.” That number is way off anyone’s charts.
Rep Kildee said “The world has witnessed this terrible tragedy unfold before our eyes. Nearly half a million Syrians killed. Not soldiers – men, women, children killed.”
The official text of the resolution says,
It is the sense of Congress that–
(1) Bashar al-Assad’s murderous actions against the people of Syria have caused the deaths of more than 400,000 civilians…
The above accusations – from “millions of citizens” to “half a million” to “400,000 civilians” – are all preposterous lies.
Credible estimates of casualties in the Syrian conflict range from 300,000 to 420,000. The opposition supporting Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates the documented 2011-2016 death toll as follows:
killed pro Syrian forces – 108,000
killed anti government forces – 105,000
killed civilians – 89,000
In contrast with Congressional and media claims, civilians comprise a minority of the total death count and the largest casualty group is those fighting in defense of the the Syrian state. These facts are ignored and never mentioned because they point to the reality versus the propaganda narrative which allows the USA and allies to continue funding terrorism and a war of aggression against Syria.
The Congressional speakers were in full self-righteous mode as they accused the Syrian government of “committing crimes against humanity and war crimes against civilians including murder, torture and rape. No one has been spared from this targeting, even children.” A naive listener would never know that the Syrian government is primarily fighting the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda including thousands of foreigners supplied and paid by foreign governments.
The Congressional speakers go on to accuse the Syrian military of “targeting” hospitals, schools and markets. A critical listener might ask why they would do that instead of targeting the Al Qaeda terrorists and their allies who launch dozens and sometimes hundreds of hell cannon missiles into government held Aleppo every day.
The Congressional propaganda fest would not be complete without mention of the “White Helmets.” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said:
We (previously) heard the testimony of Raed Saleh of the Syrian White Helmets. These are the doctors, nurses and volunteers who actually, when the bombs come, run towards the areas that have been hit in order to try to get the injured civilians medical treatment… They have lost over 600 doctors and nurses.
This is more Congressional nonsense. There are no nurses or doctors associated with the White Helmets. The organization was created by the USA and UK and heavily promoted by a “shady PR firm.” The White Helmets operate solely in areas controlled by Nusra and associated terrorist groups. They do some rescue work in the conflict zone but their main role is in the information war manipulating public opinion. The White Helmets actively promote US/NATO intervention through a No Fly Zone. Recently the White Helmets has become a major source of claims of innocent civilian victims in east Aleppo. Given the clear history of the White Helmets, these claims should be treated with skepticism. What exactly is the evidence? The same skepticism needs to be applied to video and other reports from the Aleppo Media Center. AMC is a creation of the Syrian Expatriates Organization whose address on K Street, Washington DC indicates it is a US marketing operation.
What is really going on?
The campaign to overthrow the Syrian government is failing and there is possibility of a victory for the Syrian government and allies. The previous flood of international jihadi recruits has dried up. The Syrian Army and allies are gaining ground militarily and negotiating settlements or re-locations with “rebels” who previously terrorized Homs, Darraya (outer Damascus) and elsewhere. In Aleppo the Syrian army and allies are tightening the noose around the armed opposition in east Aleppo.
This has caused alarm among neoconservative lawmakers devoted to Israel, Saudi Arabia and U.S. empire. They are desperate to prevent the Syrian government from finally eliminating the terrorist groups which the West and allies have promoted for the past 5+ years.
“Pro Israel” groups have been major campaigners for passage of HR5732. The name of Simon Wiesenthal is even invoked in the resolution. With crocodile tears fully flowing, Rabbi Lee Bycel wrote “Where is the Conscience of the World?” as he questioned why the “humanitarian” HR5732 was not passed earlier.
Israeli interests are one of the primary forces sustaining and promoting the conflict. Syria is officially at war with Israel which continues to occupy the Syrian Golan Heights; Syria has been a key ally of the Lebanese resistance; and Syria has maintained its alliance with Iran. In 2010 Secretary of State Clinton urged Syria to break relations with Hezbollah, reduce relations with Iran and come to settlement with Israel. The Syrian refusal to comply with these Washington demands was instrumental in solidifying Washington’s hostility.
Congressional proponents of HR5732 make clear the international dimension of the conflict. Royce explains “It is Russia, it is Hezbollah, that are the primary movers of death and destruction… it is the IRGC fighters from Iran.” Engel echoes the same message: “Yes, we want to go after Assad’s partners in violence… along with Iranian and Hezbollah forces”.
These statements are in contrast with the analysis of some writers who believe Israel is not deeply opposed to the Damascus government. For example, Phyllis Bennis recently wrote that belief in an “arc of resistance” has been “long debunked” and that “the Syrian regime …. often plays a useful role for US and Israeli interests.”
It’s remarkable that this faulty analysis continues to be propounded. In words and deeds Israel has made its position on Syria crystal clear. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren explained in an interview:
We always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran … the greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc.
What Will Happen Now?
If the Syrian government and allies continue to advance in Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, outer Damascus and the south, the situation will come to a head. The enemies of Syria – predominately the USA, Gulf Countries, NATO and Israel – will come to a decision point. Do they intervene directly or do they allow their regime project to collapse?
HR5732 is an effort to prepare for direct intervention and aggression.
One thing is clear from the experience of Libya: Neoconservatives do not care if they leave a country in chaos. The main objective is to destabilize and overthrow a government which is too independent. If the USA and allies cannot dominate the country, then at least they can destroy the contrary authority and leave chaos.
What is at stake in Syria is whether the USA and allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc. are able to destroy the last secular and independent Arab country in the region and whether the US goal of being the sole superpower in the world prevails.
The rushed passing of HR5732 without debate is indicative that:
* “regime change” proponents have not given up their war on Syria
* they seek to escalate US aggression.
* the US Congress is a venue where blatant lies are said with impunity and where violent actions are advanced behind a cynical and amoral veneer of “humanitarianism” and crocodile tears.
Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and member of Syria Solidarity Movement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0
If there is one hopeful sign in the Presidency of Donald Trump, it is his pledge to ‘drain the swamp’ as it relates to those special insider interests who run the show and those outsider interests who own the show.
It is a hugely ambitious task and hardly achievable in four short years but there is a branch of the Federal government where the President-elect (PE) would find immediate results and bring the satisfaction that American foreign policy would no longer be dependent on globalization or spreading unwinnable wars on wasteful adventurism overseas. If the PE is, in fact, favorable towards a non-interventionist role, the opportunity for a thorough housecleaning and a reshape of the State Department is Now. According to current reports, the struggle is underway within the transition team for the soul of the State Department and ultimately the Trump Administration.
As HRC continued her crazed war talk about Syria and defended NATO encroachment on Russian borders while uttering unprovoked attacks on Russian President Vladimir Putin, there was every reason to believe that minutes after concluding her inaugural address, HRC would have walked off the stage and signed the order initiating a No-Fly Zone over Syria, right then and there. And bingo-bango-bongo, Putin would have responded. I knew it as sure as I know my own name. At some point it became clear, as Green Party candidate Jill Stein said so precisely, HRC would be more dangerous than Donald Trump.
Even as he talked about modernizing the US military, Trump’s campaign rhetoric about disentangling from foreign entanglements, making NATO nations pay their fair share and dialogue with Putin rather than the usual “Blame it on the Russians” bombast, struck a chord; there was reason for hope. Unlike Bernie Sanders who has proven to be just another Democrat, Trump dared to question whether there were any ‘moderate’ rebels (aka terrorists) in Syria, the mythical existence of which justified the Obama administration’s lust to overthrow the Assad government. Trump’s positions, limited elucidation though there was, were always far more reasonable than HRC’s inflammatory saber rattling and aggressive militarism that stirred justified fears of WW III. If anyone bothered to listen, Trump was voicing foreign policy concerns that not one Democrat in Congress has dared to articulate in the last eight years.
While I am in the ‘wait and see’ category of pragmatists regarding the PE, I agree with Robert Parry’s point that Trump has the opportunity to be a truly great president IF, and it’s a big IF, he uses his inner grit and a street savvy to break the globalist/neoliberal/neocon stranglehold (with its links to shadow government) on foreign policy at the State Department, a concept that President Barack Obama never understood or even aspired to. The PE appointment for Secretary of State which is currently an intense subject of debate within the transition will indicate which direction the PE will take US foreign policy.
In the early days after the election Trump communication advisor Jason Miller offered reassurance with the following:
“There will be non-traditional names, a number of people who have had wide-ranging success in a number of different fields; wide-ranging success in business … People will be excited when they see the type of leaders the President-elect brings into this administration.”
One not so non-traditional and not so exciting appointment is that of Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the Select Committee on Benghazi, as Director of the CIA. Pompeo, who graduated first in his class at West Point and then Harvard Law School and was a backer of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl) during the primaries, would hardly qualify as anything more than the ‘same old’ school of CIA Directors that have dominated the agency for decades under the Republicrats. Pompeo, known as a rabid political ideologue, is not expected to break with the past and can be expected to continue the agency’s widespread unconstitutional violations with an unabashed torture program as if that ever revealed reliable ‘actionable intelligence’ or curtailed dedicated terrorists. So what message does that appointment send?
During their interview, it would be interesting to know if there was discussion that PE Trump’s opposition to the Iran nuclear treaty has been largely based on non-inclusive trade concerns. If, in fact, the PE’s view of foreign policy includes trade as a legitimate tool for negotiations, the House of Representatives recent party-line vote in rejection (a plum for Israel) of the sale of Boeing and Airbus commercial jets to Iran would be considered a diplomatic setback (under a Trump Administration).
Yet to be determined is whether Trump will roll over and appoint his good friend Rudy Giuliani who has no diplomatic experience whatsoever to qualify him and will inevitably be utterly lost in the State Department’s bureaucracy and political snake pit – or will the President-elect allow himself to be pressured to accept former Bush UN Ambassador, the wacky conniving John Bolton who will owe his allegiance to the professional warmongering neocons. Sen. Rand Paul (R-SC) who frequently shows some good Libertarian common sense on foreign policy issues, has announced his intention to block either nomination.
While former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney who has been recently added to the list for Secretary of State would add a certain gravitas, he is another not non-traditional name with little first hand, on the ground knowledge of today’s foreign policy complexities. More importantly, does Romney know how to clean house?
As soon as the votes were counted, certain neo-cons jumped Clinton’s sinking ship without so much as a fond adieu and, being shy, retiring types, sought to elbow their way onto the Trump Ship of State. More recently, Eliot Cohen’s attempts at a tryst soured as he expressed displeasure after having ‘made the case that young conservatives should volunteer to serve” now concluded he ‘was wrong’.
Other neo-con names floating as transition team members have been the especially slimy, Richard Perle known appropriately as the Prince of Darkness, foreign policy analyst Michael Ledeen who supports the use violence to spread democracy and noted Islamaphobe Frank Gaffney, who denied he was on the transition team and had ever been contacted.
If the PE and his closest aides are naïve enough to believe that a conciliatory gesture will engender cooperation from the foreign policy establishment, they are woefully misguided. If Trump fails to rein in the neocons and war hawk neolibs (including assistant secretaries, deputy assistant secretaries and lower level staff) with dispatch, they will quickly discover that if you get into the swamp with alligators, you had better be prepared to wrestle alligators.
At the same time, the reality is that the estimated hundreds of embedded neocons and neolibs at State have the potential, as they clean out their desks, to pilfer (an ultra serious legal violation) the last decade worth of top secret and confidential memos, notes and reports, contacts and network names and other vital information necessary for the transition of foreign policy to the Trump administration. It would not be surprising for a situation to develop similar to some months ago when fifty plus State mid level careerists ‘leaked’ an internal memo criticizing President Obama’s policy on Syria without any apparent repercussions. If the Trump Administration takes foreign policy in a new, improved direction, how will the new President deal with being subtly, or not so subtly, undermined by his own staff? There is no reason to believe that the most virulent elements of the US foreign policy establishment closely tied to Israel will ‘go quietly into that good night.’
Less than a week after the election, PE had his first phone conversation with Putin and they reportedly talked extensively about Syria and promised a face-to-face in the near future. Moscow reported that Putin told Trump he was ready for “dialogue of partnership based on principles of equality, mutual response and non-interference in the internal affairs of each other.” The Trump transition team statement said that the PE told Putin ‘he is very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the people of Russia” which is considerably more encouraging than what HRC would have told Putin if she had been elected.
In a Wall Street Journal interview three days after the election, Trump suggested a shift from Obama’s foreign policy objectives regarding support for the Syrian opposition and its insistence on ousting Syrian president Bashar al Assad. “We’re backing rebels against Syria and we have no idea who these people are.”
Not unexpectedly, Trump named retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (2012-2014), as his National Security Adviser succeeding Obama NSA Susan Rice. Flynn resigned or was pushed out of the DIA because of a public difference of opinion regarding the Obama Syria strategy which was to support those mythical ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels to oust Assad rather than focus on the destruction of ISIS. Flynn is being portrayed by the NY Times and others as ‘hotheaded’ and irresponsible with ‘poor judgment’ as well as an “alarming pick” for NSA.
In an interview with Fareed Zakaria in 2015 which was replayed on CNN since his appointment, Flynn spoke about threats from ISIS: “We are not winning, we are participating. We need to do more to defeat this problem than just go kill a couple more radical Islamists.” Flynn took the discussion beyond a military solution citing the need for an “economic transformation beyond building schools” while creating “other aspects of energy to achieve that economic transformation” and the use of “water as a means to increase the economic health of the region.”
Zakaria debunked Flynn’s thoughts with “that would require a huge transformation of the whole region” and would be “incredibly costly, laborious and generational. I think the Obama Administration would say it’s not worth the effort; not the kind of existential threat to the US that would warrant that massive expenditure of time, money and resources.” As if the US war-related $20 trillion deficit is peanuts.
Currently, Flynn is being criticized for comments referring to radical Islamists as ‘a political ideology hiding behind the notion of it being a religion” which brings to mind a discussion re the true tenets of Islam that I had with a Florida Imam. His comparison was that as certain fundamental Christians have distorted Christianity to suit their political agenda; so too have certain Moslems used their religion to justify their ideology. The fact that Flynn sees that distinction is encouraging.
Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31
November 22 marks the 53rd anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. If history is any guide, it’s likely some mainstream outlet will commemorate that dark day with reassurances that the Warren Commission was right that Lee Harvey Oswald did it alone, and that most doubters, who have been in the majority since the mid-1960s, are randy conspiracy theorists. That is the essential message by one of the experts likely to be cited this year, attorney Howard Willens.
One of the few still-living Warren Commission staffers, Willens followed up his 2013 book, History Will Prove Us Right, with a spirited defense of the Commission in the summer, 2016 issue of the journal, The American Scholar, which he co-wrote with another Commission staffer, attorney Richard Mosk. The piece, “The Truth About Dallas,” is a celebration of the work and conclusions of the original investigation.
But Willens’s and Mosk’s defense of the work of the Warren Commission they served on is more notable for what they omit from the official record than what they include. “What the critics often forget or ignore,” they write, “is that since 1964, several government agencies have also looked at aspects of our work,” (p. 59) as if the Church Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) had reviewed and applauded the Commission’s work.
Indeed, they did look at it. But rather than plaudits, they issued stinging rebukes, principally for the Commission’s having been rolled by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and to a lesser extent, by the CIA and the Secret Service.
“It must be said that the FBI generally exhausted its resources in confirming its case against Oswald as the lone assassin,” the HSCA concluded, “a case that Director J. Edgar Hoover, at least, seemed determined to make within 24 hours of the of the assassination.”
In essence, the experienced investigators concluded that Hoover had divined the solution to the crime before starting the inquiry, and then his agents confirmed the boss’s epiphany. The intimidated Warren Commission went right along.
And with good reason, only part of which Willens and Mosk tell. They admit that the “FBI had originally opposed the creation of the Warren Commission” and that Hoover “ordered investigations of commission staff members.” But they don’t tell that Hoover deployed one of his favorite dirty tricks to deal not only with support staffers, such as Willens and Mosk, but also with the commissioners themselves.
“[D]erogatory information pertaining to both Commission members and staff was brought to Mr. Hoover’s attention,” the Church Committee reported. (emphasis added)
Willens and Mosk also forgot to mention that Hoover had a personal spy on the Warren Commission, then Rep. Gerald Ford, who tattled on Commissioners who were (justifiably) skeptical of the Bureau’s work.
“Ford indicated he would keep me thoroughly advised as to the activities of the Commission,” FBI Agent Cartha DeLoach wrote in a once secret memo. “He stated this would have to be done on a confidential basis, however he thought it should be done.”
At the bottom of the memo, Hoover scrawled, “Well handled.” The success of Hoover’s machinations was obvious to subsequent government investigators. (Ford, of course, later became President upon the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974.)
The HSCA’s chief counsel, Notre Dame Law Professor Robert Blakey, a criminal investigator and prosecutor with vastly better credentials than either Willens or Mosk, was impressed with neither the Commission’s vigor nor its independence.
“What was significant,” Blakey determined, “was the ability of the FBI to intimidate the Commission, in light of the Bureau’s predisposition on the questions of Oswald’s guilt and whether there had been a conspiracy. At a January 27  Commission meeting, there was another dialogue [among Warren Commissioners]:
“John McCloy: ‘… the time is almost overdue for us to have a better perspective of the FBI investigation than we now have … We are so dependent on them for our facts … .’
“Commission counsel J. Lee Rankin: ‘Part of our difficulty in regard to it is that they have no problem. They have decided that no one else is involved … .’
“Senator Richard Russell: ‘They have tried the case and reached a verdict on every aspect.’
“Senator Hale Boggs: ‘You have put your finger on it.’ (Closed Warren Commission meeting.)” [Blakey & Billings, Fatal Hour– The Assassination of President. See also: North, Act of Treason]
Testifying before the HSCA, the Warren Commission’s chief counsel J. Lee Rankin shamefully admitted, “Who could protest against what Mr. Hoover did back in those days?” Apparently not President Lyndon Johnson’s blue-ribbon commissioners.
The HSCA’s Blakey also reported that “When asked if he was satisfied with the (Commission’s) investigation that led to the (no conspiracy) conclusion, Judge Burt Griffin (a Commission staff member) said he was not.” [Blakey & Billings, Ibid.]
And author Gus Russo reported that Judge Griffin also admitted, “We spent virtually no time investigating the possibility of conspiracy. I wish we had.” [Russo, Live by the Sword]
Thus, despite their clear misgivings, the Commissioners bowed to the imperious FBI chief rather than conduct a thorough investigation. Notably, the Commission never once employed a rudimentary investigative tool. “The Commission,” the HSCA reported, “failed to utilize the instruments of immunity from prosecution and prosecution for perjury with respect to witnesses whose veracity it doubted.” [US Cong. House of Reps. Report of Comm. on Assassinations, 1979]
This policy had serious repercussions when the Commission confronted two key issues: published claims that Lee Harvey Oswald had been an FBI informant, and the possibility that Jack Ruby was mobbed up.
“The Commission did not investigate Hoover or the FBI, and managed to avoid the appearance of doing so,” the HSCA determined. “It ended up doing what the members had agreed they would not do: Rely mainly on the FBI’s denial of the allegations (that Oswald had been a Bureau informant).”
Hoover merely sent the Commission his signed affidavit declaring that Oswald was not an informant and also “sent over 10 additional affidavits from each FBI agent who had had contact with Oswald.” And with that, case closed.
Regarding Jack Ruby, the FBI had his phone records, yet failed to spot Ruby’s obvious, and atypical, pattern of calls to known Mafiosi in the weeks leading up to the assassination. After performing the simple, obvious task of actually analyzing those calls, the HSCA determined that, if not a sworn member of La Cosa Nostra, Ruby had ongoing, close links to numerous Mafiosi.
Thus the HSCA roundly rejected the Warren Commission’s conclusion that, “the evidence does not establish a significant link between Ruby and organized crime.”
The list of Warren Commission shortcomings that the HSCA assembled is not short. A brief summary of them runs some 47 pages in the Bantam Books version of the report (p. 289–336), which outlines what required much of the 500 pages of HSCA volume XI to cover (available on-line).
“The evidence indicates that facts which may have been relevant to, and would have substantially affected, the Warren Commission’s investigation were not provided by the agencies (FBI and the CIA). Hence, the Warren Commission’s findings may have been formulated without all of the relevant information.”
The Church Committee said that the problem was that “the Commission was perceived as an adversary by both Hoover and senior FBI officials.” “Such a relationship,” the Committee dryly observed, “was not conductive to the cooperation necessary for a thorough and exhaustive investigation.”
But the FBI did more than just withhold evidence from the Commission. Although they admit that the FBI destroyed a note Oswald wrote to Agent Hosty, and withheld that information from the Commission, Willens and Mosk don’t mention that Agent Hosty reported that his own personnel file, and other FBI files, had been falsified. [Hosty, Jr. Assignment: Oswald]
Nor that author Curt Gentry learned from assistant FBI director William Sullivan that there were other JFK documents at the Bureau that had been destroyed. [Gentry, J. Edgar Hoover– The Man and His Secrets]
Perhaps one of the reasons the public has remained mistrustful of the government’s conclusions, and the mainstream media reassurances, is the sort of selective presentation of evidence by ax grinders like Willens and Mosk who get heralded by our “responsible” media.
Gary Aguilar is one of the few physicians outside the government ever allowed to see the still-restricted JFK autopsy photos and X-rays. He has published and lectured on the topic of the JFK assassination for many years.
Amid claims of silent coup and counter-coup, this year’s “October Surprise” has yet to fully play out. Neither – with lasts weekend’s reopening of the ‘Servergate’ saga that has so dogged HRC – will it be concluded by the November 8th polling day. As this can only be viewed as to be by design – prepare for an explosive finale.
In its current iteration ‘Weinergate’ concerns 650,000 ‘additional’ emails kept on a phone and laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner – former US Congressman and estranged husband of Huma Abedin – HRC’s top aide. These emails are widely presumed to be the legacy of when Weiner had shared access with his then wife to the documents. It is speculated she kept them as ‘Life Insurance’ and he backed them up (presumably for the same reason.)
The reason I’m writing this in vague terminology is the truth is – no one knows. The devices were surrendered on an ‘unrelated matter’ – that matter being the alleged paedophilia of Weiner (notice that the Orwellian M$M have sanitised this activity as ‘sexting’ – but if you send photos of your manhood to an under age girl – that’s paedophilia.)
As I understand it, when FBI Director Comey wrote his letter of intent to reinvestigate last Friday – he can’t of legally even seen the content. The FBI didn’t obtain a warrant until Sunday to begin cross referencing between the two cases. His leaked letter has been described as “long on innuendo but short on fact.” So how can he be sure that the current crop of emails are pertinent and will shed new light? Despite the Democrat cat-call for elucidation – Comey has been silent since.
It appears that the FBI is investigating Pandora’s Box – the lid is on at the moment – but of all the worldly ills that may come out to haunt Hillary when the lid is finally lifted – are racketeering and ‘pay-to-play’ by the Clinton Foundation; political cronyism; corruption; vote rigging by the DNC; perjury and possible felony by Huma Abedin and other aides (for not turning over all devices related to the original investigation.) This would all be on the mild end of a spectrum running all the way up to the treasonous acceptance of donations from terrorist backing foreign powers (KSA and Qatar) ; high level espionage (by Huma Abedin)  and being a member of an international paedophile ring.
The new paedophilia allegation against Hillary and Bill surfaced yesterday (03/11/16). It comes from Steve Pieczenik – who in his videos claims to be the face of the counter-coup. He only came on my radar yesterday morning but his credentials are real and impressive – his resume could be summed up as “consummate White House insider” going back to the Ford regime. Apart from being a veteran of the State Department, with expertise in foreign policy, international crisis management and intelligence (high ranking CIA.) He also is credited as a founding father of modern psychological warfare (psyops.) If you are conspiratorially minded (like me) – you could also consider him a perfect candidate for a Deep State actor. In one of his videos he even admits he was involved in the “continuity of the Republic” (Continuity of Government) process under Nixon and Reagan. Now he is the new and friendly face of the Deep State.
His claim is that Hill and Bill often travelled (six times together and twenty-six times for Bill alone) on the ‘Lolita Express’ to the US Virgin Isles – a plane belonging to Clinton Foundation donor, multi-billionaire and convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.  During these flights and on Epsteins island…
I can’t find words to sanitise some of the most reprehensible crimes known to man – so I’ll let you fill in the blanks.
Manufactured or not – I very much doubt this to be a baseless claim – as it has much wider implications than even the current election. Pieczenik seems to confirm earlier leaks from the NYPD Special Victims Unit (SVU) ongoing investigation into Weiner. Sources from within the SVU claim that his laptop contained “evidence of an international child smuggling and child sex ring.”  Their probe now extends into the alleged endemic deviance of a ‘Washington Paedophile Ring’ – the possible repercussions of which could be international and dire enough to bring down “the entire federal government.” This would be a very bold claim indeed for an insider to make were it not credible – or at least backable.
My guess is that the very nature and magnitude of the crime is meant to force HRC to think twice about taking up residence in the Oval Office should she be elected. But she is too power crazed, criminally insane and possibly even demented to take notice. Because she always has – she thinks she can still walk on water – though to me it seems that she is no longer waving – but drowning.
(I seem to remember that should she succumb to illness in the first few months of office – First Lady Bill could reign by proxy – but lets not go there!)
In the meanwhile – in the absence of anything concrete and factual to go on – rumour is running wild. Everyone knows that the Russian Hack Plot is BS – the rantings of the deranged finally losing the plot. Yet for the Mockingbird M$M – it serves as a weak smokescreen to cover the enormity of the allegations being made and the substantive content of the various earlier data dumps on Wikileaks.
Julian Assange himself has felt the need to deny that Russia is the source (In an upcoming interview with John Pilger to be broadcast by RT on Saturday – excerpts of which are already available.) 
In a previous video Assange somewhat awkwardly seems to confirm Seth Rich as a probable source for the earlier DNC hack related to this case (the Clinton Campaign manager John Podesta emails.)  Rich was Director of Voter Expansion Data for the DNC – so he would have had all the relevant security keys and was at least well placed to collate the data prior to the leak. He was scheduled to talk to the FBI over the leaks. He was on the street near his home – talking to his girlfriend on the phone when he was shot in the back several times – in a robbery-gone-wrong where nothing was taken. Draw your own conclusion – but can we possibly add conspiracy to murder to the crimes in Pandora’s Box?.
What seems more credible than ‘the Russians did it’ – and as Pieczenik contends – is that elements within the Washington intelligence community do not want HRC as POTUS. Those elements are ‘pissed’ about HRC’s as yet unpunished criminal inability to correctly handle State secrets – content to leave them “on the internet version of a park bench.” That this is the source of the current leaks surfacing through Wikileaks was also attested to by former UK ambassador Craig Murray – whom – although he is a friend of Assange – I would consider a trusted source without a dog in the presidential race. 
Among the theories circulating is that the Department of Justice (DoJ) under Lorretta Lynch is so compromised that investigations cannot proceed through proper channels – hence the resort to data dumps. This would seem to be borne out by Lynch’s extra-judicial meeting with Bill the night before Comey initially dropped the investigation. 
Not only is Lynch seen as compromised or co-opted (as part of the Clinton coup according to Pieczenik); but so is Comey. Either by his own ineptness or possible corruption – he now finds himself pressured by a grass roots rebellion from within his own ranks – of those sick of the Clinton’s decades long history of criminality. “The FBI is Trumpland” as the Guardian put it.  Add to that the NYPD SVU investigators have claimed to uncover evidence so vile that they have threatened the FBI that they will go public if he does not follow through with the original investigation. “People are going to jail.” And Comey and Lynch may be joining them.
Another strand to this was the impropriety reported in the Wall Street Journal a few days before Comey wrote his letter to Congress – the $500,000 ‘campaign contribution’ made by long time Clinton ally and leading Democrat Terry McCauliffe – to the wife of the very FBI official (Deputy Director Andrew McCabe) who oversaw the original email investigation. So to political cronyism – can we add attempted cover up into Pandora’s box? 
If I wanted to get really conspiratorial – I could add that the FBI themselves have told us that a literal “Shadow Government” (the 7th Floor Committee including John Kerry) oversaw which of Hillary’s emails we got to see back in February.  Could they have sanitised the original emails or be sitting on evidence? Could this “Shadow Government” yet be attempting to manipulate the election for their own gain? Who knows – but probably.
If you did want to control – or at least influence the electorate – would there be a better way to do it than have an open-ended multi-faceted investigation involving one or both candidates – that you could close down or otherwise direct and manipulate at will – like the directed energy of a shaped charge you could ignite and control the blast radius? Just speculating – of course that is delusional – and anyway, it wouldn’t happen in the Land of the Free – would it?
So are we watching a re-envisioned 1776 in the form of a bloodless silent coup – a 21st century American rebellion by the honest and decent folk of the Intelligence Community to re-establish the Republic?
Or are we watching the chainstoking and death throes of an Empire as it passes into history?
Time will tell but I’m not fully bought into either of those just yet. Whatever dirt they have on HRC and the Establishment faction that constitute her backers – I feel sure that is fully accredited. If and when it’s let out of the box – I very much doubt that Hillary’s Hope will be left within. She could be a double first. The first female POTUS – and also the first POTUS to be impeached on their first day in office.
The battle lines of American power politics are drawn – the Establishment v the Intelligence Community – the deep state divisions are moving into place – but the real war is yet to come.
“This will continue as a revolution, hopefully civil, hopefully without violence.” Steve Pieczenik
It’s hard to see how this will play out – and harder still to see how anyone could hope to ‘keep a lid’ on it and control the collateral damage. The potential for internecine destruction is assured if things were to get out of hand – I haven’t even mentioned the dodgy Diebold voting machines or even Trump himself. He is unlikely to come up smelling of roses – not given that he is also a friend of Jeffrey Epstein – and they are both under the shadow of the upcoming ignominy of a shared rape trial (due in court in December.) A recent appearance by the plaintiff ‘Jane Doe’ – in which she was to reveal her identity was cancelled amid death threats to her.
[What chance to have both candidates potentially hamstrung by their connection to a Tier 1 sex offender (Epstein) and to ongoing rape allegations?]
Should he win the popular vote his Presidency will be blighted by the smear that the vote was tainted and ‘Democracy overturned’ by these unprecedented and ‘illegal’ events. Or put more simplistically – “the Russians hacked the election.” The Establishment backing Hillary has already cried foul and has threatened to instigate the Hatch Act prosecution of Comey (I think that boys goose is cooked however this goes down!) 
Divide and rule comes to mind – the potential for civil war is real and should not be understated. That may be the design yet somehow I doubt it. Whoever wins the coming power struggle will want to control the damage and preserve the fabric of the State. Even though this could potentially be “bigger than Watergate” the Mockingbird M$M will do their best to make sure as little of this as possible comes to light. The thinning veneer of ‘real democracy’ as practised in the ‘exceptional and indispensable’ nation must be maintained. At any cost.
In all of this though, you can be assured – that the will of the American people is but a minor consideration.
  Huma Abedin had given a sworn deposition to Judicial Watch http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press- releases/clinton-email-update-judicial-watch-releases-former-clinton-deputy-chief-staff-huma- abedin-deposition-testimony/
 “Foreign govt donors: all the money is in” https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/7452
 The gist of the currently unfounded accusations that Huma Abedin may be a Saudi spy is that though she was born in the US; she only spent two years there before returning in 1996. Only two years after that she received Top Level security clearance and became Clinton’s aide. It was the Clinton’s who set her up with Weiner – a not so nice Jewish boy (as it turns out) as ‘cover.’ The rest of her family have salafist Muslim Brotherhood connections – ergo she must be a KSA spy. The main sources of this are Roger Stone (Trump campaign manager;) and Steve Pieczenik. I’m writing this still wondering if Pieczenik is yanking my chain – or acting for those who would want to pull the election? Or with his deep connection to the intelligence community – does he know something we don’t?
There are disturbing signs that a digital 9/11 terror attack is being readied for election day in the US to ensure that Donald Trump does not win.
Such an attack – involving widespread internet and power outage – would have nothing to do with Russia or any other foreign state. It would be furnished by agencies of the US Deep State in a classic “false flag” covert manner. But the resulting chaos and “assault on American democracy” will be conveniently blamed on Russia.
That presents a double benefit. Russia would be further demonized as a foreign aggressor “justifying” even harsher counter measures by America and its European allies against Moscow.
Secondly, a digital attack on America’s presidential election day this week, would allow the Washington establishment to pronounce the result invalidated due to “Russian cyber subversion”. That option stands to be invoked if the ballot results showed Republican candidate Donald Trump as the imminent victor.
Democrat rival Hillary Clinton is the clear choice for the White House among the Washington establishment. She has the backing of Wall Street finance capital, the corporate media, the military-industrial complex and the Deep State agencies of the Pentagon and CIA. The fix has been in for months to get her elected by the powers-that-be owing to her well-groomed obedience to American imperialist interests.
The billionaire property magnate Trump is too much of a maverick to be entrusted with the White House, as far as the American ruling elite are concerned. The trouble is, however, that despite the massive campaign to discredit Trump his poll support remains stubbornly close to Clinton’s.
The latter has been tainted with too many scandals involving allegations of sleazy dealings with Wall Street, so-called pay-for-play favors while she was former Secretary of State, and her penchant for inciting overseas wars for regime change using jihadist terrorist foot-soldiers.
As one headline from McClatchy News only days ago put it: “Majority of voters think Clinton acted illegally, new poll finds”.
Trump is right. The US presidential election is “rigged”. Despite handwringing condemnations by pundits, it seems obvious that the system is heavily stacked against any candidate who does not conform with the interests of the establishment. The massive media-orchestrated campaign against Trump is testimony to that.
But such is popular disgust with Clinton, her sleaze-ball husband Bill and the Washington establishment that her victory is far from certain. Indeed in the last week before voting this Tuesday various polls are showing a neck-and-neck race with even some indicators putting the Republican narrowly ahead.
Over the weekend, the Washington Post, which has been one of the main media outlets panning Trump on a daily basis, reported this: “The electoral map is definitely moving in Trump’s direction”.
This is where a possible Deep State contingency plan is being readied to scupper a shock win by Trump.
In recent days, American media are reporting a virtual state of emergency by the US government and its security agencies to thwart what they claim are Russian efforts to incite “election day cyber mayhem”.
In one “exclusive” report by the NBC network on November 3, it was claimed that: “The US government believes hackers from Russia or elsewhere may try to undermine next week’s presidential election and is mounting an unprecedented effort to counter their cyber meddling.”
On November 4, the Washington Post reported: “Intelligence officials warn of Russian mischief in election and beyond.”
Apparently, the emergency security response is being coordinated by the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, the National Security Agency and other elements of the Defense Department, according to NBC.
These claims of Russian state hackers interfering in the US political system are not new. Last month, the Obama administration officially accused Moscow of this alleged malfeasance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has lambasted American claims that his country is seeking to disrupt the presidential elections as “hysterical nonsense”, aimed at distracting the electorate from far more deep-rooted internal problems.
The Obama administration and its state security agencies have not provided one iota of evidence to support their allegations against Russia. Nevertheless the repeated charges have a tendency to stick.
The Clinton campaign has for months been accusing Trump of being a “pro-Russian stooge”. Her campaign has also claimed that Russian hackers have colluded with the whistleblower organization Wikileaks to release thousands of private emails damaging Clinton with the intention of swaying the election in favor of Trump.
Wikileaks’ director Julian Assange and the Russian government have both rejected any suggestion that they are somehow collaborating, or that they are working to get Trump elected.
But on the eve of the election, the US authorities are recklessly pushing hysteria that Russia is trying to subvert American democracy. Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014 is quoted as saying: “The Russians are in an offensive mode and the US is working on strategies to respond to that, and at the highest levels.”
NBC cites a senior Obama administration official as saying that the Russians “want to sow as much confusion as possible and undermine our process”.
Ominously, the news outlet adds that “steps are being taken to prepare for worst-case scenarios, including a cyber-attack that shuts down part of the power grid or the internet.”
Nearly two weeks ago, on October 21-22, the US was hit with a widespread internet outage. The actors behind the “distributed denial of service” were not identified, but the disruption was nationwide and it temporarily disabled many popular consumer services. One former official at the US Department of Homeland Security described the event as having “all the signs of what would be considered a drill”. Could that cyber-attack have been the work of US Deep State agencies as a dress rehearsal for an even bigger outage planned for November 8 – election day?
The Washington establishment wants Clinton over Trump. She’s the marionette of choice for their strategic interests, including a more hostile foreign policy towards Russia in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere.
But Trump might just snatch an election day victory from the jaws of defeat.
In which case, the shadowy forces that really rule America will trigger a “digital 9/11”. It’s not difficult to imagine the chaos and mayhem from internet blackout, power, transport, banking and communications paralysis – even for just a temporary period of a few hours.
Months of fingering Russia as a destabilizing foreign enemy intent on interfering in US democracy to get “Comrade Trump” into the White House would then serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. In that event, the US authorities could plausibly move to declare the election of Donald J Trump null and void.
In fact the scenario could be contrived to a far more serious level than merely suspending the election result. The US authorities could easily feign that a state of emergency is necessary in order to “defend national security”.
That contingency catapults beyond “rigged politics”. It is a green light for a coup d’état by the Deep State forces who found that they could not win through the “normal” rigging methods.
The following is the Foreword to FFF’s newest ebook CIA & JFK: The Secret Assassination Files by Jefferson Morley, which is being released today at Amazon.com
I learned about Jefferson Morley in 2008, when I read a series of articles he had written about an ongoing Freedom of Information lawsuit that he had filed against the Central Intelligence Agency. The lawsuit sought the release of files relating to a CIA agent named George Joannides. The CIA steadfastly resisted (and today continues to resist) the disclosure of these documents.
In the months leading up to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Joannides had secretly served as a CIA conduit for an anti-Castro group known as the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil, or the DRE, which was being secretly funded by the CIA. Immediately after the assassination, Joannides secretly authorized the group to initiate a publicity campaign advertising Lee Harvey Oswald’s connections to Communism, Cuba, and the Soviet Union. Thus, as Morley would later point out, the CIA authorized and funded the very first conspiracy theory in the Kennedy assassination.
For some reason, the CIA kept its relationship to the DRE secret from the Warren Commission, the official federal agency that was charged with investigating the Kennedy assassination. Later, in the 1970s, when the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations was reinvestigating the assassination, the CIA called Joannides out of retirement to serve as the CIA’s liaison with the committee, once again keeping his relationship with the DRE secret from investigators.
In the 1990s, in response to the public outcry over official secrecy in the Kennedy assassination generated by Oliver Stone’s movie JFK — a movie that posited that the U.S. national-security state orchestrated the assassination of President Kennedy and framed Oswald for the crime — Congress called the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) into existence. Its mission was to ensure that federal agencies, including the CIA, release all records relating to the Kennedy assassination.
Once again, the CIA kept Joannides’s role with the DRE secret.
A 2009 article in the New York Times entitled “C.I.A. Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery,” quoted U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim, who had chaired the ARRB in the 1990s: “I think we were probably misled by the agency. If we had known of his [Joannides’] role in Miami in 1963, we would have pressed for all the records.”
Later, a November 25, 2013, Boston Globe article entitled “Troves of Files on JFK Assassination Remain Secret” by John Bender, quoted Tunheim: “It really was an example of treachery. If [the CIA] fooled us on that, they may have fooled us on other things.”
Robert Blakey, the staff director for the House Select Committee in the 1970s, declared, “If I’d have known his role in 1963, I would have put Joannides under oath — he would have been a witness, not a facilitator.
It was Jefferson Morley, a former reporter for the Washington Post, who detailed the CIA’s Joannides secret in an article entitled “Revelation 19.63,” which appeared in the April 12, 2001, issue of the Miami New Times. It was Morley who doggedly spent years in litigation in the attempt to force the CIA to release its Joannides files to the American people.
I was so intrigued by the Joannides story and so impressed by Morley’s integrity and perseverance that I wrote a series of articles on the subject, which were posted on the website of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Morley and I later became friends.
When he approached me about a year ago to explore the possibility of publishing CIA & JFK: The Last Assassination Secrets, I was excited. Upon reading the manuscript, I didn’t hesitate.
The Future of Freedom Foundation has published four books relating to the Kennedy assassination: The Kennedy Autopsy by Jacob Hornberger; JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment by Douglas P. Horne, who served on the staff of the ARRB; Regime Change: The Kennedy Assassination by Jacob Hornberger, and The CIA, Terrorism, and the Cold War: The Evil of the National Security State by Jacob Hornberger.
All four books have met with resounding sales success, collectively selling more than 10,000 copies. In fact, a year-and-a-half after publication, the first two books are still on Amazon’s list of its top 100 best-selling ebooks in 20th-century American history. The third — Regime Change — is ranked #98 in Amazon’s top 100 best-selling “short reads” in History. The fourth and most recent is ranked #14 in Amazon’s top 100 best-selling ebooks on Political Freedom and #14 on Amazon’s top 100 best-selling “short reads” in Politics and Social Sciences.
Thus, Morley’s new book fits perfectly within this particular genre, and I am confident that readers will find it as valuable and enjoyable as our other books, if not more so.
Those who are looking for conspiracy theories in Morley’s book will be disappointed. This book doesn’t posit any conspiracy theories. What it does do is detail deception and deceit on the part of the CIA relating to certain fascinating aspects of the Kennedy assassination, especially the Joannides saga. As one reads through the book, however, the inevitable one-word question will arise within the mind of the reader: Why? Why the longstanding and continued deceit, deception, and secrecy on the part of the CIA relating to the Kennedy assassination?
Morley runs JFKfacts.org, which I consider to be the best website relating to the JFK assassination. Filled with fascinating articles and vibrant, even-handed debates and discussions, I visit it practically every day. Its popularity attests to the widespread and deep interest that people still have in the Kennedy assassination.
While the ARRB secured the release of tens of thousands of secret official records relating to the Kennedy assassination during the 1990s, for some reason the law provided for a period of 25 years for all JFK-assassination-related records to be released. That period of time expires in October 2017, and the National Archives, which holds the still-secret records in its possession, has already begun preparing the thousands of pages, many of which are CIA documents, for release at that time.
However, there is one caveat: Notwithstanding the lapse of more than 50 years since the Kennedy assassination, the law empowers the president to delay release of records on a finding of “national security.”
Will the CIA plead “national security” and seek an extension of time for release of its JFK-assassination-related records? Morley is leading the way to bring the matter to the attention of the public, in the hope that the same type of public outcry in the 1990s against continued CIA secrecy in the Kennedy assassination will prevent the continued suppression of the records set to be released by the National Archives in 2017.
Hopefully, CIA & JFK: The Secret Assassination Files will contribute to the fight against continued CIA secrecy in the Kennedy assassination. The Future of Freedom Foundation is pleased and honored to be part of its publication.
Reprieve | October 30, 2016
Personnel on military bases in the UK have been involved in choosing targets for a secret US drone campaign which has killed hundreds of civilians in violation of international law, documents obtained by human rights charity Reprieve indicate.
Job adverts and CVs identified from publicly-available sources show that the US Air Force has employed a “MQ-9 REAPER [drone] ISR Mission Intelligence Coordinator” at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire; while a Private Military Contractor (PMC) has advertised for an “All Source Analyst – Targeting” to work at the same base.
RAF Molesworth is leased to the US, but the UK Government has refused to answer questions on whether it plays a role in the covert drone campaign – which carries out missile strikes outside of warzones with minimal accountability.
British Ministers have said that “the US does not operate RPAS [drones] from the UK,” but have refused to answer questions on whether bases in the UK play a role in choosing targets and drawing up the US ‘kill list.’
A third job advert from contractor Leidos for someone to provide “FMV [full motion video] intelligence analysis in support of USAFRICOM… and Special Operations Command Africa,” also at Molesworth, indicates that the base may be involved in supporting illegal covert drone strikes in countries such as Somalia, where neither the US nor the UK is publicly at war. Along with the CIA, US Special Operations Command is the main player in the drone programme.
Concerns have been raised over the legality of the US covert drone programme, its lack of transparency, and reports that it has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. The UN has warned that it may violate international law, and British ministers have refused to be drawn on their view of its legality. President Obama has to date refused even to formally acknowledge that the CIA is carrying out drone strikes, because of the programme’s covert status. A 2014 study by Reprieve found that covert drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan had killed as many as 1,147 unknown people in failed attempts to kill 41 named individuals.
The revelations come on top of documents published recently by The Intercept on the role played by Menwith Hill – another UK/US intelligence base – in identifying targets in Yemen, one of the main theatres in which the covert drone programme operates. One document states that targets at Yemeni internet cafes are “tasked by several target offices at NSA and GCHQ.” The document’s header shows it was copied to the UK, meaning that the British Government must have already been aware of the role its intelligence and bases were playing.
Commenting, Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve said:
“These documents are the strongest evidence yet that the US may be conducting its illegal, secret drone war from bases on British soil. Simply to say that drones are not flown from the UK is missing the point, if it is personnel on British soil that are at the top of the so-called ‘kill chain’ and British agencies who are feeding targets into those lists.
“The US drone programme, conducted in the shadows, has killed hundreds of civilians without any accountability. The British Government has questions to answer over its own involvement in this secret war and how much responsibility it bears for those deaths.”
A review of Brad Schreiber’s Revolution’s End
America is a Haunted House.
– Peter Levenda, author of Sinister Forces
There is probably no other historical era more misunderstood by Americans than the 1960s and 1970s. From the political assassinations of major political figures and political assassinations of ordinary civil rights and antiwar activists to the emergence of government secret intelligence programs designed to monitor and ultimately crush dissent in the United States, most Americans remain vaguely, if at all, aware of how this hidden history impacts our lives today. And this lack of awareness has unfortunately allowed for these same forces to deal some crushing blows to our “democracy.”
The American public learned of the FBI’s Cointelpro and the CIA’s Operation CHAOS and MKUltra through the Senate Hearings on government intelligence abuses led by Senator Frank Church in 1975 as well as through the work of independent journalists after the break-in of FBI offices in Media Pennsylvania in 1971.1 These government and journalistic investigations brought to light an array of systematic abuses of government authority against Americans, partially illuminating the covert and ruthless attacks against the movements of the era.
The Johnson administration’s failure to deliver on its promises of genuine and meaningful civil rights reforms led to a series of urban riots beginning in Harlem in 1964 and were followed by those in Watts, Detroit and Newark as well as in a host of other cities across the country. These riots terrified the establishment and prompted the government to create programs designed to federalize local police departments rather than address the underlying social problems that gave way to the riots in the first place.2 Through the Law Enforcement Assistance Act of 1965 and the subsequent Omnibus Safe Streets Crime bill signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) was created as a mechanism to launch an unprecedented “War on Crime.”3 The purpose of the LEAA was ostensibly “violence prevention. ” The LEAA funded the creation and training of SWAT teams in Los Angeles in order to destroy the Black Panther Party and other perceived political threats. The LEAA funded “anti-violence” research in prisons and hospitals and worked alongside the CIA’s MK ULTRA program engaging in such delightful activities as drug experimentation, surgical, and chemical lobotomies on prisoners and psychiatric patients. LEAA funds also went into the school system and developed testing of young black children to “predict” whether or not these children would become violent in the future.4 (For more information of how the LEAA funded projects in schools that led to the psychiatric drugging of Black and poor children, please see the work of psychiatrist Peter Breggin).
The other widely misunderstood factor in the development of America’s police state is the relationship between the deepening of America’s involvement in a genocidal enterprise called the Vietnam War and the growth and over-determination of the American National Security State on political life in the US. While it is a fact that the United States lost the Vietnam war, the lessons learned by the military/intelligence establishment were employed in future counter-insurgency campaigns in El Salvador and Iraq and in the United States as well.5
This is where Brad Schreiber’s Revolution’s End: The Patty Hearst Kidnapping, Mind Control, and the Secret History of Donald DeFreeze and the SLA comes in. Revolution’s End is a careful examination of the relationships among various government intelligence, police and prison agencies that colluded to create a synthetic terror group called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Their assassination of Oakland School Superintendent Marcus Foster and subsequent kidnapping of heiress and closet revolutionary Patricia Campbell Hearst dominated the news cycle for years. While other researchers of the shadow state have examined the SLA and the Patty Hearst trial in depth such as Paul Krassner and Mae Brussell, Schreiber’s exposure of government involvement in the creation of the SLA is nothing short of explosive.
Schreiber was handed a folder full of documents from Dick Russell, the legendary journalist and author of The Man Who Knew Too Much. These documents came from private investigators working on Patricia Hearst’s defense team including the private detective and former Las Vegas police officer Lake Headley who was hired by Dr. L.S. Wolfe, father of slain SLA member Willie Wolfe. Schreiber utilizes the contents of that file to great effect. They include startling facts such as Patti Hearst’s pre-SLA relationship with Donald Defreeze (the petty thief, turned LAPD informant, turned provocateur and fake revolutionary). Using a college friend’s student ID, Hearst was allowed to visit Defreeze in prison at the Vacaville Psychiatric Unit as a part of a project called the Black Cultural Association (BCA). BCA was ostensibly a rehabilitative project but in effect it was a behavior modification program run by Colston Westbrook, a former CIA officer who worked with Pacific Architects and Engineers, a known CIA front company that was responsible for building the prison interrogation centers (PICS) in Vietnam as part of the CIA’s deplorable Phoenix program. The Phoenix program was a covert CIA coordinated program of counter-insurgency/counter-subversion against the South Vietnam’s civilian population.6 And here lies one of Schreiber major achievements, exposing a direct link between the Vietnam pacification program as Phoenix was euphemistically coined, and America’s pacification program at home.
The BCA received many visits from a prison rights group largely associated with another shady “revolutionary” movement of the era The Venceremos Organization, a Maoist group based out of Stanford and at the time led by English Professor H. Bruce Franklin. Venceremos had originally had a Chicano leadership but this leadership was displaced in the wake of the split of the Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU). BARU included H. Bruce Franklin and Bob Avakian. Having formed the organization after the destruction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Franklin and Avakian split over disagreements about the role of armed struggle in the United States. Venceremos, was, along with the August 7th Guerrilla movement, the bases from which the SLA drew its white cadre. In the last few years before the dissolution of Venceremos, many of its members became involved with the United Prisoners Union (UPU) created by Popeye Jackson.7 It is within these circles that Patti Hearst becomes connected with Vacaville and Defreeze. During the visits to Vacaville, Patty Hearst was able to carry on a sexual relationship with Defreeze with the blessing of Westbrook. As Schreiber tells it, as Defreeze starts to become more unhinged as his treatments continue at the hands of the Vacaville prison authorities, he gradually changes his identity to that of Cinque, the Black revolutionary. He speaks of violence and kidnapping to Hearst. She becomes understandably unnerved and breaks off the relationship with Defreeze. Here according to Schreiber begins the plotting of revenge against Hearst. Importantly, Schreiber points out that Vacaville as a psychiatric hospital was a way station for inmates going on to serve their sentences in other facilities. The vast majority of them were passing through receiving their “treatment” and then moving on. Defreeze, in contrast, stayed at Vacaville for well over a year which was highly unusual. Defreeze’s situation even caught the attention of “thorn in the side of the CIA” Congressman Leo Ryan who investigated Defreeze’s case and the prison authorities use of mind control experiments.
Defreeze, a failed criminal, who couldn’t find consistent work to take care of his children and who had been handled by the forces of the state for a number of years was sent on a mission at the behest of Colston Westbrook, to assassinate the first Black superintendent of a public school district in the United States, Dr. Marcus Foster.
Schreiber points out that the political targeting of Marcus Foster was beyond bizarre. Foster’s assassination has never been fully explained. SLA members Russ Little and Joe Remiro were convicted of the crime but Schreiber reveals that it was Nancy Ling Perry and Patricia Soltysik along with Cinque (Defreeze) that actually riddled Foster’s body with nine cyanide tipped bullets. Schreiber speculates that the reason that Foster was targeted by Westbrook was that public schools were coming under attack for doing too well a job at educating Black and other minority children. After his election in 1966, Governor Reagan’s California launched a crusade against political activism in schools regarding them (along with the California prisons) as a breeding ground for radicalism.8
Schreiber casts Donald Defreeze in a rather compassionate light. A failed criminal, Defreeze like thousands of others, was recruited by the LAPD to become an informant and provocateur. This is the story of thousands of others who are pressured with time in prison for noncooperation. Or if they were in prison, they often were threatened with chemical or physical psychosurgery or indefinite solitary confinement. Yes, many did it for the money but as Schreiber points out Defreeze hardly earned a living from what was paid to him by the LAPD’s Criminal Conspiracy Section (CCS).
The one revelation that nearly made me fall out of my chair as I was reading it was the revelation that according to Schreiber’s research, the SLA was created within the California Department of Corrections (CDC) as an interracial prison gang that would spy on the other gangs and provide intelligence to the leadership of the CDC. There were chapters of the prison SLA at San Quentin, Vacaville, and Soledad. Inmate Robert Hyde, a long term prisoner, was pressured to become the head of the prison SLA and he was told to inform on any legal action inmates were planning against the CDC regarding abuses against prisoners. Hyde decided that becoming an informant inside the prison was a death wish so he refused. Eventually Hyde appeals to the FBI for help. At a certain point, Hyde was informed that there was to be an SLA formed outside of the prison to infiltrate dissident groups. Schreiber then discusses the effect of the assassination of George Jackson and the effect that it had on the climate inside the California prison system.
Schreiber provides many other fascinating insights into the formation and eventual destruction of the SLA. He points out that most of the left viewed the SLA with great suspicion, accusing the SLA of having been created by the CIA. So their mission to infiltrate the left was largely a failure. However, in the Bay Area, there were many in the urban poor communities that helped hide them from the police. Schreiber highlights how the SLA was able to artfully manipulate the media into broadcasting their communiques including the demand that William Randolph Hearst fund the People in Need (PIN) program. Hearst spent millions to fund this food distribution program that led to chaotic scenes of distribution workers tossing palettes of food off of truck beds to angry and hungry people.
On the fateful night of May 17th 1974 in a house in South Central Los Angeles, located, as Schreiber points out, a mere 3 miles from the epicenter of the Watts Riots, six SLA members lost their lives. Nancy Ling Perry, Camille Hall, and Patricia Soltysik died from gunshots wounds. Angela Atwood and Willie Wolfe died from smoke inhalation. Defreeze reportedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Schreiber goes into the serious inconsistencies of the official reports of the SLA deaths. His research shows that, in fact, the SLA members were not given a chance to come out alive. Nancy Ling Perry, it would later be shown, was shot in the back presumably as she was trying to turn herself in. He also found evidence that incendiary/explosive devices were thrown into the house by the LAPD. Given the secret origins of the SLA and Defreeze’s relationship with the LAPD and the CDC, it is very plausible that the LAPD had decided ahead of time that there would be no peaceful resolution to the standoff.
Lastly, Schreiber makes a critical point that the live television broadcast of the police shootout and bombing of the South Central Los Angeles SLA hideout was the introduction of the LAPD SWAT team to America’s night time television viewing audience. The live broadcasting of the LAPD destruction of the SLA could be seen as a terrifying prelude to our current War on Terror.
Revolution’s End is a remarkable book. However, it would have been even better if Schreiber had included some of the documents he cites. More thorough footnoting would have improved it as well. However, footnoting would have made it a less readable book. I hope that Schreiber (if he hasn’t already) made copies of the documents he possesses and donates them to a local university or library. The information age has inundated the public with information/disinformation overload. And due to increasing government restrictions with regard to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), documents like these are becoming more difficult to get your hands on and they are just too precious for any one person to keep to themselves.
Revolution’s End is a highly readable book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in unearthing the secret history of government repression in America. Schreiber had to decide where to go in-depth. His focus on the background of Defreeze and Westbrook are laudable choices as is his focus on the assassination of Dr. Marcus Foster. There are many threads of research that can and should be followed up on including Congressman Leo Ryan and his research into the mind control experiments in prisons, and the post SLA creation New World Liberation Front (NWLF) which according to Schreiber was credited with many more domestic bombings than the Weather Underground. One wonders what shadowy origins the NWLF had. Schreiber’s book is a great contribution to the study of the government repression and the shadow state. Importantly, it has the capacity to inspire people, especially young people, to learn about this history in depth and allow this history to inform their analysis of what is happening today.
- United States Senate. Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, United States Senate, (94th Congress, Second Session, Report No. 94-755) Government Printing office; April 23, 1976.
- Horne, Gerald. 1997. The Fire this Time: The Watts Riots and the 1960s. De Capo Press.
- Thompson, Heather Ann. Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. New York: Pantheon Book. p. 18-21.
- Breggin, P. R. and Breggin, G. R. (1994). The War Against Children: How the Drugs, Programs, and Theories of the Psychiatric Establishment Are Threatening America’s Children with a Medical ‘Cure’ for Violence. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
- Valentine, Douglas. 2016. The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World. New York, NY: Clarity Press.
- Valentine, Douglas. 2000. The Phoenix Program. iUniverse: Lincoln, NE.
- For a fascinating inside look at the rise and fall of Venceremos at Stanford, see Max Crawford’s The Bad Communist, a thinly veiled “fictional” account of Crawford’s time with Venceremos at Stanford. It includes detailed of the gruesome murder of Black Panther Fred Bennett supposedly at the hands of James Carr at the Venceremos training compound in the Santa Cruz Mountains. After the book was published in 1979, Crawford exiled himself to Paris for a while to escape the heat generated after he published his book.
- Rosenfeld, Seth. 2012. Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals and Reagan’s Rise to Power. New York: NY, Farrar, Giroux, and Strauss.
Kara Z. Dellacioppa is chair of the sociology department at California State University, Dominguez Hills. She is the author of This Bridge Called Zapatismo: Building Alternative Political Cultures in Mexico City, Los Angeles, and Beyond (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009) and co-editor of Cultural Political and Resistance in the 21st Century: Community-Based Social Movements and Global Change in the Americas (Palgrave, 2011).
Washington is making “extremely weird” mistakes in Syria and Iraq, Russian defense analyst Konstantin Sivkov, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, told Radio Sputnik, adding that what some describe as errors are in fact “planned” steps aimed at helping US-backed radical forces.
Sivkov mentioned “accidental” airstrikes, as well as Washington’s inability to separate so-called moderate groups from al-Nusra Front as prime cases in point.
“All of these mistakes are extremely weird since they work for the benefit of those forces whom [Washington] backs. Any claims that they are fighting against al-Nusra Front are a myth. They are not really tackling [Daesh] as well. This is an instrument of [America’s] geopolitics. This is why [the US] is not particularly addressing the issue of destroying [these groups] but rather taking them under control to use for other tasks,” he explained.
The defense analyst pointed out that the Pentagon has helped the militants to move from Mosul to Syria at a time when Iraqi security forces, US-led coalition and Kurdish fighters are trying to push terrorists out of the second largest city in the country that has served as Daesh’s stronghold since June 2014. “This is why all of these ‘mistakes’ are, let’s say, planned,” he noted.
In Sivkov’s opinion, the US military and intelligence communities are behind this strategy.
“The US military does not have comprehensive intelligence on Syria. They mainly receive information [on the embattled country] from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This is how separation of duties works there. It is the CIA that is occasionally making these so-called mistakes. I think one should not blame solely the Pentagon. It is much rather a matter of a concerted stance of America’s political, military and intelligence leadership.”
Sivkov further commented on the Pentagon’s apparent decision to launch an operation to free Raqqa in the coming weeks. Earlier, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter suggested that the US had enough resources for two major overlapping anti-Daesh operations, but the Russian defense analyst pointed to another possible explanation.
“At the moment all field personnel is located near Mosul as part of an operation to free the city. This is why Americans do not have enough resources to secure a lasting blockade of Raqqa. What they need is a pretext to justify additional deployment of foreign occupational forces, including those from Turkey, the United States and other countries that have sent their ground troops to Syria without authorization from the Syrian government.”
Initially, Washington intended to focus its efforts on helping Baghdad retake Mosul, with Raqqa taking a back seat. However, since the US’ “minions,” as Sivkov put it, referring to Al-Nusra Front and similar organizations, have increasingly struggled on the Syrian battlefield, the US “needs to take perhaps a large part of Syria under control and deploy its forces to the area.”