More Internet Links: Supplemental References For This Blog (updated 11/22/2014)

This page is a work in progress, with entries in no particular order, as yet. As I assemble more references, I’ll add and arrange categories as I feel most appropriate.

United Nations Office of Drug Control “World Drug Report” series (1997, 1999-2014) https://www.unodc.org/wdr2014/en/previous-reports.html

Carlos Enrique Lehder-Rivas

05/26-31/1996 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article by Bill Moushey on protected witnesses; this page is on Carlos Lehder, featuring critical comments by prosecuting attorney Robert Merkle about Lehder’s sentence reduction deal in the Noriega case http://www.fear.org/carlos1.html

entry on Lehder, from the site InmateAid: http://www.inmateaid.com/famous-inmates/lehder-carlos-cocaine-smuggler-testified-against-noriega

entry from the Gorilla Convict website, featuring an informative interview on the Federal government’s protected witness/informer program, WITSEC. Carlos Lehder gets a brief mention (the convict being interviewed claims that he was released in 2005.) Many other worthwhile details. http://www.gorillaconvict.com/2011/09/witsec/

07/12/2012 El Heraldo story on Carlos Lehder, claiming that he’s currently incarcerated in “a minimum security facility in Florida.” Also includes a brief interview with Lehder’s attorney for the last 10 years, Oscar Arroyave. Arroyave claims to be working on enabling Lehder’s release to Germany, and makes a few other observations. According to the article, Lehder has a room with a television, access to a telephone, shared access to the Internet in the library, and is able to receive family visits. The article features a recent photograph of Lehder, from a 2011 Christmas season visit with two of his daughters. This link is the Google Translator Spanish-English version- it’s imprecise and ungrammatical, but the gist can be understood. http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://revistas.elheraldo.co/latitud/carlos-lehder-25-anos-despues-73855&prev=search

Bureau of Prisons “Inmate Locator”; my personal sample of searches has yielded somewhat less than 100% success in obtaining results. Fwiw, I wasn’t able to obtain any results for any iteration of the name “Carlos Enrique Lehder-Rivas.” http://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/

Links related to the 1986 book The Underground Empire: Where Crime and Governments Embrace, by James Mills

Excerpts from The Underground Empire, quoted on the Serendipity website
http://www.serendipity.li/cia/tue/tue1.htm
http://www.serendipity.li/cia/tue/tue2.htm
http://www.serendipity.li/cia/tue/tue3.htm
http://www.serendipity.li/cia/tue/tue4.htm
http://www.serendipity.li/cia/tue/tue5.htm
http://www.serendipity.li/cia/tue/tue6.htm

L.A.Times article on controversy over the reliability of parts of Underground Empire http://articles.latimes.com/1986-10-02/news/mn-3890_1_underground-empire

Obituary for DEA agent Dennis Dayle, prominently featured source in The Underground Empire; from the Orlando Sentinel, 08/04/2009, by Linda Florea http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2009-08-04/news/obit_1_dayle-drug-cartels-underground-empire

Money Laundering and Illegal Drugs

New York Times article, 08/26/2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opinion/sunday/where-the-mob-keeps-its-money.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&

Fraud News America website story http://www.fraudnewsamerica.com/fraud-news-now/confessions-money-launderer-humberto-eco-closes-acfe-conference/

Links related to The Bluegrass Conspiracy, the 1990 book by Sally Denton (republished in a newer edition, 2001): references, background material, and related information available from on-line sources

a page of entries on official corruption, mostly in Kentucky. Unfortunately, much of the material is undated and not directly attributed, but at least some of it should provide leads for productive web searches. Some of it directly relates to material found in The Bluegrass Conspiracy http://www.marijuanalibrary.org/C&D.html

a fairly recent article revisiting the The Bluegrass Conspiracy, from the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, 09/11/2010 by Jack Brammer http://www.kentucky.com/2010/09/11/1429813/25-years-ago-former-narcotics.html

An excerpt from Strength of the Pack: The Personalities, Politics, and Intrigues That Shaped the DEA, 2010 by Douglas Valentine; part of Chapter 17, on Operation Buncin https://www.opendemocracy.net/douglas-valentine/history-of-buncin-us-bureau-of-narcotics-covert-intelligence-network

Excerpts from The Great Heroin Coup>/em>, 1980, by Henrik Kruger, along with an informative foreword by Peter Dale Scott: http://quixoticjoust.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-great-heroin-coup-foreword-and.html

Internet site featuring partial list of Bay of Pigs veterans connected to illegal drugs operations; with bibliographical citations, including page numbers http://www.pinknoiz.com/covert/bop.html

09/23/2004 article in the Miami New Times on Felix Rodriguez and the Kerry Committee http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2004-09-23/news/contra-campaign/full/

The Oliver North Iran-Contra Diary entry, featuring several remarkably candid allusions to drug trafficking activities in association with the Contra effort, from the National Security Archive http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB113/index.htm

Posted in U.S. War on Drugs History

Gary Webb Interview, Part 2

C:..I don’t know if you know, that Carlos Lehder is out of prison. [Important: there’s been abundant dispute about this. I’ll be discussing it in the “Notes In The Margin” for this post.]

W: Oh, I know he’s out of jail. I talked to his girlfriend.

C: (Laughs)

W: That’s sort of what established her as a credible source in my mind. Because she had letters from Lehder that were written to her boyfriend. And they were clearly not written in prison. So when I asked her, where is he these days, she said “The last time I saw him, he was in Ecuador.” So he’s been out of jail since ’95.

C: Right.

W: And if you recall, he was our prize in the War on Drugs. He was our Trophy Criminal.

C: Right. Life in prison. Life plus 99…

W: 135.

C: Life plus 135, for smuggling five tons of cocaine…

W: Right.

C: And then of course he dimed off what I would consider to be one of his warehouse foremen, Manual Noriega…

W: In return, they [the Federal government] let him out.

C: They sent him for an all-expense vacation to the special Correctional Facility, in Phoenix…[one of the WITSEC special jails-within-a-jail, for informers. ed.]

W: Well, when she was in Ecuador- she shpowed me pictures of him; I didn’t believe her be she showed me pictures of him. In front of his beachfront mansin, with DEA guards…he’s got bodyguards now…[disputed: Nick Schou claims in his book Kill The Messenger that it was later shown that the pictures were of Lehder’s brother. ed.]

C: (looks askance, clears throat)

W: We’re paying for them.

C: As (1970s-1980s veteran DEA field agent) Michael Levine says: “It’s your drug war, people.”

W: People would actually say “You’re making this up…”

C: I could never have believed this a couple of years ago. It’s like something that has to hit you in the face like a wet towel again and again and again until you finally say “By God, there’s a connection here! It’s really that bad! It’s really that corrupt!”

W: When I was reading this memo about George Bush and the Medellin Cartel, I kept slapping myself and saying “This is a document from the Justice Department written by a U.S. attorney to his boss.” And the guy was worried enough about what he was writing that he kept saying, “This guy Rudd is a very reliable informant. Everything he’s told us has turned out to be true. He’s in danger for telling us this, please take this seriously. So he laid out this whole plan, and they sent it to Washington, to the Criminal Division, to a guy named Stephen Trott, who’s an appellate Court Judge here in California- he’s on the Court of Appeals- sent a copy of this memo to (Iran-Contra Special Prosecutor) Lawrence Walsh, saying “We’re not gonna do anything with this, do you want it?” Apparently, Walsh decided they weren’t going to go after George Bush either, so they sort of filed it and forgot about it, and I found it like ten years later.

And to my knowledge, nothing was ever looked into- they just dropped this whole thing.

C: This is- you know, I’m sure folks are still- some people (in the listening audience) have their eyes rolled up into their heads, just blanking on what we just said.

W: Oh, I’ve got the document.

C: This is exactly what happens, you know…it’s astonishing. You know, Walsh- the Senate (Iran-Contra) Subcommittee, the one with (Senator Daniel) Inouye (D-Hi) on it, pretty much corraled his (Walsh’s) inquiry. (See: George Bush memoir, Robert Parry)

W: One of the people I interviewed for the book was — Naughton, who was one of the Iran-Contra prosecutors. And when I was going through the Iran-Contra depositions- you know, they deposed hundreds of witnesses, most of whom we’ve never seen because they weren’t on TV or wearing Ollie North’s uniform when they testified.

C: Yeah.

W: She (Iran-Contra investigator Naughton) kept asking about drugs. Asking these people “Do you know anything about drugs?” And I asked her, “Why were you- of all the depositions I read, you were the only one that was interested in it (the topic of Contra-drug connections.) And she said “Because I knew what was going on, number one; and number two, because I wanted to see if anyone would admit it.” And it turns out that they did admit it.

C: (Laughs) If you read depositions, and this legal stuff, this is what you find…?

W: And she said the Iran-Contra Committee had absolutely no desire or willpower- couldn’t even get close to the issue.

C: Michael Levine is very, very critical of John Kerry…[I had heard Levine strenuously objecting to the soft-pedaled summary conclusion of the Kerry Report, in very unsparing words.)

W: Well, Kerry’s committee did a good job.On the part of the Iran-Contra thing, Kerry’s committee was looking specifically at Contras and drugs, initially. And then because it was such a hot issue they said “We’ll look at Panam” and found out about Manuel Noriega, and they said “We’ll look into the Bahamas” and they found out about BCCI…

C: (Laughs) Right…

W: …and every time they’d turn, they’d find another horrible scandal. But considering the fact that they were operating under horrible conditions- the Justice Department refused to cooperate with them; they were spying on them; they were producing witnesses claiming Kerry’s investigators were trying to bribe people…there was a very good, very sophisticated discrediting job done on the whole committee, and then the press figured “Well, you can’t believe anything these people are saying” and then they never wrote about it.

C: This brings up and important principle of covert action- I believe I found this explanation of covert action in Carroll Quigley’s book Tragedy and Hope (perhaps a misattribution, but it’s axiomatic. ed.), where he says that modern intelligence operations, covert operations, are too widespread to conceal; and when they get too far out of hand, the way to ensure their success and make sure that they aren’t investigated is by throwing out a blizzard of disinformation; [the covert operators] don’t have a hope of stuffing the facts back in the box. All you can do is attack- folks like Gary Webb; or Robert Parry; or attack the various folks that have worked on stories like this over time [there’s quite an extensive list: Alfred McCoy; Sally Denton; Roger Morris; John Simpson, others] ; or try to spread stories, vicious rumors about bribery and so forth, illegal use of wiretaps and so forth.

A very substantive investigation was derailed, an investigation into the Kentucky governor’s administration, when it was found that there were some problems with the wiretaps, even though they [the FBI, and investigator Ralph Ross] were finding out incredible things about drugs, money laundering, transportation of cocaine…

W: The whole connection with (former Kentucky governor) John Y. Brown and Dan Lasater (of Little Rock, Ark., backer of Gov. Bill Clinton and figure in the Whitewater scandal; also, Bill’s brother Roger was Lasater’s chauffeur)

C: Exactly.

W: There’s a remarkable story.

C: Once again, there were people with connections to the Lexington (Ky. capital) Police Department, like Drew Thornton and Bradley Bryant…

W: I was a reporter in Kentucky in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I knew Sally Denton then, and she was turning in some amazing stories. Again, I was just saying this is too fantastic to believe…if you’re going to do something outrageous, the more outrageous the better, because then nobody will believe it.

C: Well, that’s what it comes to, when 8-10% of the world economy is off the books, and in the narcotices trade…whew, it’s practically in the realm of speculative fiction. But this is the world we live in. This is real, and these prisons are real…everybody needs to know that this isn’t just something that (author, creator of character James Bond, and former MI6 agent) Ian Fleming thought up…

W: Well, he didn’t have an imagination that great.

C:…that’s what it’s come to.

Now, Ronald Lister was not only involved with the weapons trade to the Contras, he also sold weapons to the gangs in L.A., right?….

Posted in U.S. War on Drugs History

Tip Of The Iceberg (a work in progress- latest entry 11/1/2014)

In order to have a more complete understanding of the validity and importance of Gary Webb’s reportage in the Dark Alliance series, it’s necessary to have a familiarity with the wider context for his findings.

It’s perhaps most important to gain an understanding of the history of the illegal cocaine trade- particularly in regard to the era that commenced in the 1970s, with the enormous increase in the amount of cocaine smuggled into the USA and made available on the illegal market.

Let’s start with some numbers: in the eight years from 1960 to 1967, the U.S. Customs seized a total of 198 lbs. of cocaine. Then:

1968: 98 lbs.

1969, 199 lbs.

1970, 227 lbs.

1971, 408 lbs.

1972, 619 lbs.

There’s clearly a trend there. That’s a 630% increase in the amount of cocaine confiscated, in 4 years.

Bear in mind, that’s the total of the amount seized, which is different from the estimated U.S. supply and consumption for those years. The annual demand in those years is a matter of conjecture. But even if Customs only managed to interdict 5% of the supply and 95% made it past them, the total US consumption of cocaine was only a little over 5 metric tons in 1972.

These are some DEA estimates from the 1980s:

1981 34-41 metric tons

1982 45-54 metric tons

1983 50-60 metric tons

1984 80 metric tons

1985 100 metric tons

As a ballpark figure, it’s not unreasonable to assume a 1000% increase from 1972 to 1982.

And from 1982 to 1985, the already enormous amount of supply- 50 metric tons, 50 million grams- was estimated to have doubled yet again, to 100 metric tons.

If we’re going to understand the significance of Gary Webb’s work, we need understand how the cocaine market managed that remarkable expansion in less than 20 years.

Evidently, cocaine held comparatively little importance as an item of commerce in the U.S. illegal drug market until the cusp of the 1960s-1970s. Cocaine had history, of course; it was known of and spoken about as a forbidden substance, by law enforcement, medical scholars, and illegal drug consumers (a population that was growing vastly, in the 1960s.) But in the 1960s, the actual availability of cocaine remained largely contained within a few special populations: wealthy hedonists; some parts of the entertainment industry, particularly the music business; and the organized crime underworld, particularly the portion connected with the heroin trade. But cocaine was yet to be widely available in the illegal drugs markets that expanded so rapidly in the USA in the 1960s; the market in smuggled contraband was driven largely by marijuana.

That situation changed rapidly in the 1970s, with the maturing of the diffuse and multitudinous distribution networks that served the burgeoning demand for illegal substances by Americans, particularly among the youth. The marijuana market had sprung up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, principally in California; soon afterward, pot became popular in colleges on the East Coast. Then it spread to college towns across America; by the late 1960s, it began to become a retail market in the high schools.

There’s a lot that remains to be said about the history of that phenomenon, but I don’t intend to examine it in detail here. It’s important as a factual backdrop, because the proliferation of informal wholesale and retail distribution networks and retail outlets for illegal marijuana also enabled the wide availability of other, more powerful illegal substances. Around 1970, it was estimated that 18 million Americans had tried marijuana. That was sufficient demand to establish the illegal drugs market and provide it with the prospect of becoming a permanent institution. From the standpoint of the criminal underground of professional suppliers, the best was yet to come.

This proved to be true, for the hard drugs industry as well as the suppliers of marijuana and psychedelic drugs. Unlike the case with most of the marijuana importers and psychedelic drugs manufacturers and dealers of that era, the hard drugs trade- mostly heroin, with a small side business in cocaine- had long been a monopoly of career criminals running organized crime syndicates. Inevitably, the expansion of a criminal underground for the pot market attracted their notice. The heroin market began to spread from a handful of large cities out into the rest of the country, piggybacking on some of the illegal outlets for marijuana. But only some of them; as a national phenomenon, the popularity of heroin remained low with American youth in the 1960s and 1970s. It had a bad reputation as a dangerous drug that lead to addiction, degredation, and lethal overdose. Moreover, heroin as associated with keeping bad company; the people who sold it tended to have a harder, scarier edge than the general run of marijuana merchants of the day.

Cocaine was different. Cocaine was new, exotic, and laden with status. It had originally made its first inroads as mass merchandise through the rock music industry and the Hollywood film industry, and its use was well-publicized. Cocaine had once held a reputation nearly as scary as that of heroin, and the rapid transformation of its image to that of a relatively benign substance, which occurred seemingly overnight, seems mysterious. It can be explained by a combination of several factors: first, cocaine had practically disappeared from the attention of law enforcement by the 1950s. It was so rare that it received little or no publicity- either positive or negative. Second, the worst effects of cocaine, the ones that led to its traditionally unpopular reputation, were nearly always due to its intravenous use. Third, at the outset, mass market cocaine was often of low quality.

The new resurgence of cocaine use was almost exclusively “intranasal”- sniffed. No needles, no scary intensity or heart-failure inducing overdoses. What users got from sniffing cocaine was more like the lift associated with the amphetamines of the day, only smoother and without the long duration of effect. The effect of snorting cocaine, particularly the heavily cut product that was most commonly available in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was often just powerful enough to encourage the user to increase the amount they used, chasing the desired effect…

Posted in U.S. War on Drugs History

Bulletin: Some Comments on Jeff Leen’s Washington Post Review of Kill The Messenger

Jeff Leen of the Washington Post posted a scoffing review of Gary Webb’s work and the film Kill The Messenger on October 17, 2014:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/gary-webb-was-no-journalism-hero-despite-what-kill-the-messenger-says/2014/10/17/026b7560-53c9-11e4-809b-8cc0a295c773_story.html?wp_login_redirect=0

Since then, the comment section appended to the article is still open, and it’s received over 600 posts, the vast majority of them defending Gary Webb and excoriating Jeff Leen for his opinions. I’m on the side of Webb’s defenders, of course, although I think that some of them should tone it down a bit. Flying off the handle just gets in the way.

I joined the conversation there some time ago, using my WaPo screen name, “Grendyl”. Since I have a fair bit of knowledge on this matter- no brag, just fact- I got involved in correcting some of the misconceptions and in debating some of those who persist in attacking Gary Webb. This led to some extended exchanges that I wasn’t able to pursue in the sort of detail required, due to the 2000 character post limit in Post comments. In particular, readers are directed to the reply threads featuring comments by myself, “Grendyl”, and “linerider”.

Among other observations, “linerider” has been attempting to impeach the credibility of two of the book sources I brought up: Cocaine Politics, 1991, by Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall; and The Underground Empire, by James Mills.

It’s going to be a little bit of a project to compose a thorough answer to “linerider”s charges, insinuations, and framings of the material found in those books. And that’s going to have to wait for a week or two, because I have much more material to post in the next few days. A lengthy unpacking of the objections that “linerider” has brought up in relation to those two books is not at the top of my agenda. I’m glad that the objections were brought up, though; I think they’re well worth addressing, and I hope to do that in a way that’s edifying, yet without unnecessary digressions or stem-winding.

I can at least begin with an introduction to this dispute: “linerider”‘s principal objection to the credibility of the book Cocaine Politics relies on this scholarly review, by Arthur Schmidt, Professor of Latin American History, found here: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=3016

“linerider” excerpted a portion of the review that included Schmidt’s observations faulting the socio-political gloss that he finds to comprise the analytical framework for the book, which leads him to take issue with some of the more pointedly dour conclusions of the authors.

Professor Schmidt does not take issue with the historical facts presented in Cocaine Politics by Scott and Marshall.

(more later)

Posted in U.S. War on Drugs History

Remembrance of Gary Webb

I spoke with Gary Webb only twice- once in a phone conversation to arrange a radio interview for my KDVS-FM public affairs show on the Drug War, and later for the hour-long interview. It was the only time we met in person.

When we first spoke, our conversation went on for about 45 minutes. He sounded relieved to hear from someone else who already shared some research background on the connections between parts of the U.S. government and the global trade in illegal drugs- the controversial topic that had led to such notoriety for his work, and himself. We had a good time exchanging notes.

Later, when we met in person, I found Gary to be likable, even-tempered, and good-humored. He was knowledgeable and professional, with not a trace of the grandstander about him. He didn’t pretend to know more than he did, or make exaggerated claims. He was easy to interview, and on reviewing my audio record of the interview, I think he was very patient with my occasional interruptions, which sometimes diverted into off-topic asides that sound a bit amateurish to me in retrospect. Gary went into the interview cold: I gave him no advance notice on the specific questions I would be asking. He responded unhesitatingly, with candor and obvious command of the facts.

This is the memory of Gary Webb that I keep most prominently in my mind: his response when I asked him about his current status [c.1998] in the halls of respectable professional news journalism, in which he had worked for 19 years before the Dark Alliance articles.

Gary replied, brightly, “oh, I’m a pariah!”

And he grinned at me. Ear to ear. All teeth. Dennis the Menace. It was the smile of a man who knew what he had and hadn’t done, and who regretted nothing. For all the loss of his professional fortunes, he put himself into the story for a brief moment, taking pride in his integrity.

I grinned back. I laughed out loud. I was happy for him. At the time of the interview, Gary seemed to have landed on his feet. He had received a settlement from the San Jose Mercury-News (terms and amount confidential, per legal agreement) upon his resignation a few moths before; he had found another job with the California State legislature investigating waste and fraud for the same pay than his old job, albeit in a contract position; he had a wife, three kids, a nice house (out in Folsom, if I recall correctly.) He sounded as if he was on the way to taking it to the next level.

At that point, he couldn’t have known. Neither of us could have known.

I, on the other hand, had considerably less going for me. (But that meant I had less to lose.) I was a rank amateur, running down every rabbit trail and red herring I sniffed up (albeit while trying to uphold a fairly rigorous standard of critical thinking). I recall showing him my box of files after the interview, with a jumble of entries on subjects like the Propaganda Due Lodge, the Yakuza, and the World Anti-Communist League- and just for a split second, he looked at me like I had a tinfoil hat on.

(Compared to Gary, I did have a tinfoil hat on. Part of me was still looking for the one true grand unified conspiracy, a ramble toward the edge that it took me some time to step back from. But that’s a different story; readers will need to be very patient if they want to hear the telling of it, because I have more important matters of verifiable fact on my mind.)

Gary had gotten boxes of documents, depositions, affidavits, testimony, trail transcripts, and other primary source evidence to make his case in Dark Alliance; I was a couple of years out of college at UCD with a BA in Cultural Anthropology, doing an ad hoc historiography research project based largely on my perusals of the stacks in research university libraries (LoC HV5801-5825, a set of shelves that’s sufficient to kick off anyone’s research project on this topic. Nobody is going to put the toothpaste back in that tube.) I found my researches of secondary sources to be fruitful: they’ll be providing the core of the historical material I’ll be presenting in this blog. There was never any doubt who the professional reporter was, when it came to research detail and investigative rigor.

One more scene that I like to remember from that day: Gary and a group of us, leaving the KDVS studio in the basement of Lower Freeborn Hall. Gary was trying to recall how to exit the building and get back to his motorcycle in the parking lot. Lower Freeborn is sort of a confusing place; one of the entrances from outside leads down a set of stairs to the campus bowling alley, and then up a side aisle to a set of double doors and the hallway leading to the radio station. So I directed him back through those double doors, making a joke about the bowling alley: “It’s a secret entrance, see, like that booth in the tailor shop in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.…”

Without missing a beat, Gary came right back with “…Get Smart.” Smiles and laughter all around. We shook hands, and he strode off toward the double doors.

That was the last time I saw him.

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Posted in U.S. War on Drugs History

Gary Webb Interview, Part 1: Notes In The Margin (updated 10/26/2014)

[updated 10/26/2014]

As I mentioned in the preface to the interview that I put on this site as the first post, I broached some topics that fell a bit outside the scope of the material covered in Gary Webb’s original Dark Alliance series.

One of those topics refers to the CIA/NSC/Contra-related drug smuggling allegations and evidence related to an operation that occurred far from Southern California- at an airport in Mena, Arkansas in the late 1980s. These allegations were brought to light through accounts made by local investigators of some of the mysterious events in the vicinity, and from the narrative offered by a man named Terry Reed, who claimed to be a participant in Contra training and arms resupply efforts at Mena that he eventually discovered were plainly linked to drug smuggling and money laundering operations and flights run in exchange for the transfers of arms and supplies to Central America.

This is a controversial story, and one that received even more condemnation and burial in the national press than Gary Webb’s series. The allegations, by Reed and the local investigators like Bill Duncan and Russell Welch, implicate then-Governor and former US President Bill Clinton as playing at least some role in collaborating with these efforts. The airport in Mena was also used by as a base by the Arkansas Air National Guard, and it’s hardly a logical stretch to imagine the Arkansas governor providing consent and cover for a clandestine Federal government effort to arm and supply the Contras in the Reagan era. But the actual narrative supplied by the witnesses and investigators is considerably more detailed than that, and it deserves a more thorough review than it’s gotten- especially by people who aren’t out to edit the facts to serve their own partisan political views and reinforce their favored preconceptions.

I’ll do the best I can to summarize, but it’s a long story and an ongoing project. I think the best way to begin is simply by providing a few book reference links and Internet resources:

“The Crimes of Mena”, July 1995, by Sally Denton and Roger Morris http://www.serendipity.li/cia/c_o_mena.html

Partners in Power: the Clintons and Their America, by Sally Denton and Roger Morris http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2206521.Partners_in_Power

A little background blurb on authors Sally Denton and Roger Morris, related to their collaboration on a later work, the 2002 book The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, which I also recommend highly: https://www.randomhouse.com/knopf/authors/dentonmorris/desktopnew.html

Roger Morris is a former member of the National Security Council who resigned after Richard Nixon ordered the bombing of Cambodia. His most recent available published work is a three-part series of articles entitled “The Rise and Rise of Robert Gates”, from 2007. http://www.brusselstribunal.org/Gates.htm

A brief Wiki bio and CV of Roger Morris is found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Morris_%28American_writer%29

Readers of part 1 of the interview may recall that Gary briefly mentioned knowing Sally Denton. Their acquaintance goes back to the era when she worked as a television reporter at WKYT in Kentucky, at the same time that Gary was at the nearby Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Her biography is here http://www.sallydenton.com/about/

Sally Denton’s first big story as a news reporter was a series of articles on- no kidding- a group of cocaine and arms smugglers who were strongly linked by a large compilation of evidence to US intelligence. She later turned her reportage into a book entitled The Bluegrass Conspiracy: an Inside Story of Power, Greed, Drugs, and Murder http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/171887.The_Bluegrass_Conspiracy [re-published 2001; originally published 1990]

More about the Bluegrass Conspiracy in a bit. Lots more. I promise.

Terry Reed, the person claiming the most inside information of Federal government-protected drug smuggling operations related to Contra resupply efforts at Mena Airport, is the narrator and co-author of the 1994 book Compromised: Clinton, Bush, and the CIA, co-written with investigative reporter John Cummings. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/342583.Compromised

Gary Webb’s expanded Dark Alliance book account contains several references To Terry Reed and Mena. So does the 1998 Whiteout, by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, a book that I’ve been re-reading lately, and highly recommend as a tightly written, fact-packed summary of Gary Webb’s work, along with further explorations of some of the directions where Webb’s research was pointing, including a good overview of material related to the events surrounding Mena.

One of the things that first intrigued me about Reed’s book Compromised was its co-author, John Cummings. I had become aware of Cummings’ reputation through some earlier researches; an investigative reporter since the early 1960s, as a reporter for Newsday, Cummings had specialized in researching the activities of Bay of Pigs veteran Cuban exiles to such shadowy activities as the assassination of JFK and the heroin trade. While at Newsday, Cummings was responsible with Les Payne for the co-production of the Pulitzer Prize winning researches that was eventually turned into a 1974 book entitled The Heroin Trail, which detailed the continuing role of right-wing Cuban exiles in the heroin trade in the early 1970s, as well as providing the a detailed journalistic account of the fabled “French Connection.” http://www.amazon.com/The-Heroin-Trail-Newsday/dp/B0032CX7FS

If Terry Reed were just some right-wing riff-raff, as he had been portrayed in various articles in large American media outlets like Time in 1992, I had to wonder what a guy with a reputation like John Cummings was doing helping him write a book.

[edit and update: 10/26/2014. mostly completed.]

As with Sally Denton’s “Bluegrass Conspiracy” reporting, I’ll be returning to Terry Reed’s saga at some point in the near future.

One last note on this 1st part of the Gary Webb interview: what’s up with that allegation by William Wahl Rudd about (then-VP) George H. W. Bush, anyway?

I don’t know. But several possibilities suggest themselves.

First, it’s entirely possible that Wahl Rudd’s allegations are false. Informants are well-known to confabulate or embellish. It’s also possible that the allegation is purposeful disinformation, intended to discredit the more incontrovertible evidence uncovered in various investigations that touched on CIA links to the cocaine trade- the Kerry Committee proceedings, the Walsh Iran-Contra probe, and Gary Webb’s later research for his reporting. Any or all of those investigations may have been the target of false information. Sensational allegations seeded into a much wider corpus of more verifiable and incriminating- but comparatively mundane- evidence often work quite well as bait. The most attention-getting findings are liable to attract the most notice from researchers and get the most attention when they’re published, and if they can later be shown up as false- or merely appear absurd on their face- the ensuing fiasco can obscure an entire body of more well-referenced and validated findings. Seeding disinformation like this is in fact a commonly employed tactic, a stock in trade for intelligence agencies who often use it advisedly and with great effectiveness the discredit the research of people who seek to scrutinize covert operations. If the allegations by Wahl Rudd are baseless, it’s possible that they may have been inserted at various points before Gary Webb obtained them. It may even be the case that they weren’t in the original document cache of Lawrence Walsh.

Personally, I find it extremely unlikely that George Bush ever met Pablo Escobar in person, although the transcript of the deposition given by the informant, Wahl Rudd, makes it sound as if that might have occurred. I think it’s entirely possible that Escobar and the other heads of the cartel had knowledge that a pipeline for a substantial amount of their product had links to the Contra resupply program; whether or not they ever were promised some sort of immunity or impunity is still a matter of speculation, I think. In any case, they should have known better. These aren’t the sort of promises that national governments as powerful as the US feel obliged to keep.

So we don’t know what Wahl Rudd’s allegations mean, taken in isolation at their face value. But that said, it was entirely within bounds for Gary Webb to report what he found. He reported them as he found them, and did not use them as a jumping off point for other conclusions or speculation about the possible role played by George H. W. Bush in the cocaine trafficking linked to the Contras and their American-supported resupply effort.

Posted in U.S. War on Drugs History

“Kill The Messenger” Gary Webb Film Review and Fact Check 10/17/2014

Short version review: fairly compelling narrative, dialogue ranging from incisive to witty to cliched and overwrought; acting uniformly high caliber; mostly well-paced, with a few brief lapses; conclusion unsatisfactory (not really the fault of the movie.)

Fidelity to the facts: Gets most of the important stuff right, particularly in the first two-thirds of the film; one factual gaffe that I take special exception to; several instances of artistic license in the interest of streamlining the film adaptation, such as combining characters, moving venues, and shifting the chronology of events.

For several reasons, this is a difficult review for me to write.

First: I have a hangup about movie treatments of actual historical events- especially those where I’m familiar with the story from print accounts. I’ve found film treatments on such topics to be variously engaging, boring, entertaining, tedious, gripping, contrived, wrenching, ludicrous, riveting, etc. But those are filmgoer reactions, and when it comes to films about real people and events, I can get nit-picky. Films simply condense too much, and they require a succinct narrative that wraps up in around 120 minutes or less (admittedly, Gandhi was 188 minutes, and perhaps the best of the genre, of those that I’ve watched.)

The upshot is that often events get condensed, chronologies shifted, historical personages are given undue weight or short shrift, or are even invented entirely. It’s typical for the main characters, particularly the lead, to summarize pivotal actions and events with fictional devices like soliloquy- speeches that illustrate their motivations and propel the story. Such artistic shorthand has been central to the craft of theater as long as the form has been around. As long as that’s understood that it isn’t history, latitude can be granted for the artistic merit and poetic truth to guide the narrative.

The problem is that there’s a common tendency in filmgoers to confuse non-fiction-based docudrama with non-fictional documentary fact and historical accuracy.

It’s also the case that some nit-pickers like myself will never be satisfied, because we’re sticklers for accurate factual detail. So people like me aren’t entirely satisfied with Gandhi, or Patton, or Lincoln, or any of the rest of them, no matter how many Oscars the films win. It’s my predilection to be a historical researcher and an investigative journalist. I’ve read several accounts of the Watergate scandal. I’ve never seen All The President’s Men. I’m just a hard sell on this sort of thing. I’m so hardcore that I’d rather read a stack of books than watch a documentary series, never mind getting my history from movies. I’m not usually that much of a snob. It’s a weird kind of snob to be. But I don’t apologize for it.

That said, Kill The Messenger does pretty well, as far as matters of basic accuracy related to the Drk Alliance story itself. What the film gets right: Gary Webb’s introduction to the story, through informer Coral Vaca; Webb’s obtaining the grand jury transcript indicating the strange status of Danilo Blandon, Nicaraguan cocaine wholesaler/FBI informant; Webb’s jailhouse interview with Freeway Rick Ross, imprisoned South L. A. cocaine dealer; Webb’s sitting in on a cocaine trial proceeding that turns out to indicate an unseemly government interest in what should and should not be revealed in open court; Webb’s flight to Nicaragua to meet with Blandon’s supplier Norwin Meneses, serving some not terribly hard time in a Nicaraguan prison as the cost of doing business; and Webb’s assembly of the factual picture into one blockbuster bombshell of a story.

Falsest note in the film: Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) estimating the the Meneses-Blandon-Ross pipeline dealt in “thousands of kilos a day-thousands of kilos a week) of cocaine. Even the lowest estimate that could be surmised from that quote- 1000 kilos/wk, or 52 metric tons per year- adds up to more than half of the entire national demand for cocaine in the mid-1980s. The actual figure was more like 100 kilos a week for 2-3 years running, which is not exactly chicken feed; it was around 5 tons per year. That was enough to make Ricky Ross the top supplier of cocaine in Southern California in the time when he was overseeing his operations, and that fact could have spoken for itself. (Webb obtained plenty of other leads to Contra-related and CIA-protected cocaine smuggling operations elsewhere in the country, but he didn’t include that material in the original Marcury-News Dark Alliance series. I’ll be adding some book and Internet resources that back up his finding on that. But he never claimed to have found one CIA-linked ring smuggling “thousands of kilos a day” or “thousands of kilos a week.” This is an important factual correction to the misinformation in the film.)

Other factually problematic scenes:

the scene of Gary Webb’s house being ransacked for his files by unknown government operatives, while Webb and his family look on in outrage- something like that did happen, but it was done to some of his file archive that was stored in an unoccupied office.

the nighttime scene of Gary Webb becomes aware of intruders apparently trying to tamper with his car or spy on his house, who flee when he chases them off and fires his pistol at them; something like this had happened to Gary earlier in his life, but it was before he had even moved to California and joined the San Jose Mercury-News.

the “disaffected CIA agent” in one of the scenes who shows up in Gary’s office is more accurately a composite character; the actual people the character represents seem to be a combination of a disillusioned Contra supporter and a couple of DEA field agents interviewed by Gary, Michael Levine and Celerino Castillo. Gary never did get a CIA person to talk to him, at least no one who identified themselves as such. (Is this surprising?)

The scene near the end of the film where Gary has been “sent to Coventry”, as the Brits would have it- exiled to a punishment post in Cupertino by his superiors at the Mercury News, and his motorcycle is stolen from a parking space at his motel- it didn’t happen that way.

Yes, Webb was exiled to Cupertino to do trivial local stories by the Mercury-News in the aftermath of the CIA-Beltway Establishment-Big Media backlash against his stories; he eventually resigned from the SJM-N at the beginning of 1998, receiving a separation fee of some unknown amount (he couldn’t talk about the details of the case, it was a sealed legal matter.) But it wasn’t until many years later that Webb’s motorcycle was stolen, just a few days before his life ended. The motorcycle was eventually found by local police not long after Gary’s death, and a suspect charged with the theft; nothing in my research indicates that this was part of an intentional plot to harass him and drive him over the edge.

That’s all for tonight on this review; I’ll have more to add in the near future. I’m not out to discourage anyone from seeing Kill The Messenger; in fact, I intend to see it again soon. The acting is compelling, and the basics of the story are on-point. But I think it’s important to do a thorough fact-check on a story that’s this controversial. I’ve touched on most of the departures from factual accuracy, but there are a few more things that I have to say on that. I also need to point out a few other places where the film story rings especially true for me. Back in a while.

A review and fact-check by another reviewer, on the “History vs. Hollywood” website http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/kill-the-messenger/

Posted in U.S. War on Drugs History

Gary Webb’s Dark Alliance Series: Internet Reference Links (updated 11/09/2014)

Dark Alliance website http://www.narconews.com/darkalliance/drugs/index.htm

Excerpt from the 1998 book Dark Alliance, by Gary Webb: Webb’s own account of how his former employer, the San Jose Mercury-News, responded to the attacks on the “Dark Alliance” stories published by that newspaper http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/Taking-a-Dive-on-Contra-Crack/

The ConsortiumNews.com ‘Contra-Crack’ Series http://www.consortiumnews.com/archive/crack.html

DemocracyNow.org Gary Webb interviews and story articles http://www.democracynow.org/topics/gary_webb

CIA Inspector General Report Overview, 01/29/1998 and Table of Contents https://www.cia.gov/library/reports/general-reports-1/cocaine

CIA Inspector General Report, 01/29/1998 Vol. 1: The California Story http://tinyurl.com/InspectorGeneralCIAreportVol1

CIA Inspector General Report, 10/08/1998 Vol. 2: The Contra Story http://tinyurl.com/InspectorGeneralCIAReportVol2

NarcoNews.com Gary Webb Articles, Interviews, and Stories http://tinyurl.com/NarcoNewsGaryWebbArticles

Counterpunch.org 2-Part ‘CounterAttack’ Series on Media Attack on ‘Dark Alliance’ Series, published 12/17/2004. Part 2 appears at the top of the linked page; scroll down to find Part 1. From Chapter 2 of the book Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press (1999, by Alexander Cockburn & Jeffrey St. Clair) http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/12/17/how-the-press-and-the-cia-killed-gary-webb-s-career/

Gary Webb, appearing with DEA agent Michael Levine on the Montel Williams Show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG8XNFPBPUs

Gary Webb, transcript of speech, City College of San Francisco, 02/12/1997 https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/12/10/18336493.php

Gary Webb, transcript of interview by Brian Covert, 02/13/1997 https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/12/10/18336492.php

Gary Webb, transcript of talk and Q&A session at United Methodist Church, Eugene, Oregon 01/16/1999 http://www.whale.to/b/webb10.html

Gary Webb’s contribution to Into The Buzzsaw (edited by Kristina Borjesson), Chapter 14: “The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On” http://www.whale.to/b/mighty__wurlitzer.html

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Gary Webb Radio Interview Part 1

[ Yes, this is a real interview with Gary Webb.This interview took place on KDVS-FM, 90.3mHz, Davis, California, either in December of 1997 or early 1998. Unfortunately, I neglected to label my cassette tape recording with the exact date. It’s possible that I can find the exact date at some future time. I may put up an audio file of the interview at some point. Upon reviewing it, I’m not entirely happy with my contribution as host; I think I interrupted him unnecessarily a few times, running my mouth too much. Readers may also notice that I don’t grant Gary a lot of time to summarize the story in the opening; he had been doing plenty of interviews that asked him the same basic questions, and I was interested in delving into the material in more depth. There are other interviews available on the Internet that may possible provide a more easily understandable outline summary of his work in the Dark Alliance series. This should be considered a rush transcript; I may make minor adjustments in order to help with the syntax, to make it more readable. The content will remain intact. This is part one of the interview; I’ll be publishing part 2 in the near future. Stay tuned. ed.]

Host: Just to review everything, Gary- could you tell everyone what you found out the first time around?

Webb: Well, that was a pretty good summary. What the series was about essentially was the men who started the first major crack market in the United States, in Los Angeles, and their connections with the Contras, and to the CIA, and as you said, other agencies we never really got a chance to identify because the series was deep-sixed after the first part of i. And actually, this is a story where I really didn’t start out looking for this, believe me- I mean, you couldn’t make this up, a story of how the CIA was involved in crack, they would have shown you the door immediately. This was the result of a series I had done for the [San Jose] Mercury-News back in ’93 on drug seizure laws, where the cops come in to take your property because they think you might be a drug dealer, and you have to prove that you’re not, or they get your money. It’s kind of a nifty game-

Host: -kind of a booming business-

Webb: -if you’re on the police side of the board-

Host: – getting to be multi-billion dollar- the domestic figure is creeping up into the multibillion dollar ranges, but the international figure is around maybe $30 million a year [c.1995. See The New War, by John Kerry.]

Webb: Well, if you have to start seizing the assets of Chase Manhattan Bank [since merged into JP Morgan Chase] and like that, that’s sort of frowned upon…

Host: [Aside] So that’s why we want people to write those sarcastic postcards to their elected representatives and the media organizations, because that’s who we want to be looking at.

So, to continue:

Webb: So, at any rate, I was interviewing the girlfriend of one of these cocaine dealers, and she told me I should look into her boyfriend’s case, because he had a problem with assets as well, and when I was researching his story, I found out that one of the witnesses against him at his trial was this rather mysterious Nicaraguan named Danilo Blandon, who had been an immigrant after the Sandinistas took over the government back in 1979…he came to the United States and then became a cocaine dealer for the Contras. And between 1982 and 1984-85 he became the biggest cocaine dealer in Los Angeles, dealing on an average of probably 100-150 kilos a week.

Host: Now, what- as I recall from the first set of stories you did, there was something about some terrific price break, a terrific advantage that he [Blandon] was giving to his new customers down there [in South Central L.A.]…

Webb: He was- he was really well-connected. His boss was this other Nicaraguan named Norwin Meneses, who had been dealing with the Colombian cartels since essentially before they were cartels, back when they were marijuana shippers. And so he had some long-standing ties with the Peruvians, and the Colombians, and hence he could get dope for next to nothing and pass the savings on to you [his customers]. And that is what he did in South Central [L.A.], sold it for very cheap, and his main customer for this Contra drug ring was a fellow named “Freeway” Rick Ross, who was, at the time they started out [in business together] a fairly minor dealer, bits and pieces of cocaine, he was selling $100 here, $100 there- and after a couple of years of his involvement with these Contras, he was going through $5 million bucks a week [in inventory]. At the heights of-

Host: There’s nothing that beats that [for business profit]. There’s nothing that beats- if you just do the math, as see what you’re getting cocaine for- at one point, Elaine Shannon [Time reporter, author od Desperadoes] mentioned that the price was dipping down to $8,000 a kilo, and $11,000 a kilo [Note: check references.] That’s $11 a gram, and $8 a gram, for something that you can retail for 6, 7,8, 10 times that price.

Webb: Yeah, and to show you, when they started dealing it, it was selling for $60,000 a kilo. And it was a rich man’s fix…

Host: It was acknowledged that when [kilo dealers] were getting the uncut cocaine, it was costing something in the neighborhood of $40, $50, $60 a gram, and people were still making money, doubling their money retailing it, and when you get down to [Blandon’s discount] price along with that surety [sic. assurance] of supply, so it isn’t just a kilo here and there-

Webb: Well, they were bringing it in by the freighter. They had a Colombian freighter line, the Gran Colombiana line, this is a part that I got into in the book that I didn’t get into in the series- this was a shipping company that was partially owned by the Ecuadorian and Colombian governments and they [the smugglers] were bringing it in literally by the freighter load, up and down the coast- the FBI watched these ships- they’d stop in Long Beach, they’d stop in San Francisco, they’d stop in Seattle- and they’d just bring in this stuff. And they’d off-load this stuff to frogmen, who would swim ashore-

Host: Tell me about the ‘Frogman case’-

Webb: Yeah, there was this very famous case in ’83, in San Francisco, when they busted these frogmen, and at the time it was the biggest bust in California. It was like 440 lbs. [check references] , which was for 1982 an enormous amount- well, it still is…

Host: Shortly (thereafter) eclipsed by multi-ton busts in Florida and California [like Sylmar], but nonetheless, right, a huge amount of money, (potentially) a multi-million-dollar load. Now, of course, one of the most astonishing things about the Frogman case was that these fellows [the smugglers] sued for the return of the money…?

Webb: What happened was-

Host: They got the money back? (superfluous interruption)

Webb: When the cops went into this one dealer’s apartment, they found this box [of cash] on his nightstand, and they said “Aha! This is drug money!” Which isn’t an unreasonable assumption, considering he had like kilos of dope [cocaine] around, and scales and mannitol [a popular substance to cut cocaine].{ha! more like probable cause. ed.} And about a year later, the judge gets a letter from these two fellows down in Costa Rica, saying “You know that money you took from those fellows, that wasn’t drug money, that was Contra money, and he was supposed to buy supplies for us, so could you please give us the money back?”- and usually when you get something [a request] like this, you say “Yeahh. Riiight”-

Host: -“tell it to the judge”, and that’s the end of it-

Webb: But by this time, as we know, alarm bells went off all over Langley (CIA headquarters), and the CIA General Counsel flew out to San Francisco and had what was later described as “a very opaque conversation” about how they [the CIA] would really like it if they [the court] would give the money back.

Host:<sarc>A very “plausibly deniable (circumstance)”- “patriotic effort” explanation- </sarc>

Webb: So, yeah, for the good of the country, make the problem go away, and nobody ever found out, and nobody ever found out why…now, as I wrote about later in the book, the two men were very worried, because they were CIA operatives, and they were dealing with the Contras and they were dealing with drug dealers, and the CIA cables that went back and forth were very revealing, because they talked about (Webb, paraphrasing) “what a disaster to our program this would be” if this got out, and how it was great that the Justice Department was so cooperative and had given his money back, and how “we really needed to keep an eye on this”, because, I think the phrase was that “this is a disaster in the making”, “an embarrassment”, you know…

Host: I think only later did it come out, from [ Kerry committee government investigator] Jack Blum, talking about it…

Webb: They still didn’t know. It just came out a few months ago in the CIA Inspector General’s Report that came out after I wrote my series, and they admitted that yes, there was CIA involvement in this case that they had denied for decades.

Host: Yeah.

Can you go into a little more detail about, first, the man Ronald Lister, and his arms outlet, and then continue into that second set of stories, that I’ve never heard nearly enough about…

Webb: Well, nobody ever did, because they [the SJ Mercury-News] never printed them…

Ronald Lister was a cop. He was a military police officer, he had a background in Political Science, he was debriefing prisoners of war during the Vietnam war, and they he became- I mean, this is a strange career choice if I ever saw one- the became a cocaine trafficker, and he was the right-hand man for this fellow Danilo Blandon when the Contras started dealing it. My belief is that he was the link between the Agency and the drug dealers.

Host: He was the ‘cut-out’ {the single pivot providing direct contact between two levels of a covert operation. ed.}

Webb: Right. He was the cut-out.

Host: To me, I start seeing the makings of a pattern when I see [recall] that a man named Richard Barile was a connection to the Medellin Cartel in the 1970s  He was a hairdresser in L.A. in the ’70s, but he also owned a gun shop, was a gun trader, a former Marine who trained counterinsurgency [methods] in the Philippines, who was working through a man named George Jung, it was George Jung who introduced (acted as wholesaler for Richard Barile.) {George Jung was Medellin Cartel founder Carlos Lehder’s former cellmate in Federal prison, and Lehder’s first and largest Stateside connection for years. ed.} Richard Barile bragged at the time that he was the man to see for cocaine in Los Angeles (in the 1970s), cocaine at that time was a premium item and it wasn’t easy to find uncut cocaine…also, in the book The Bluegrass Connection by Sally Denton, there was a man named Mike Kelly, who owned a gun shop around Fayette County (Kentucky) which I noted when I talked about it last week [on the same KDVS-FM radio program, an episode featuring material from The Bluegrass Connection. {Note that the Americans I just mentioned in this comment are not presently known, to my knowledge, have any connections with the drug operations mentioned in the Dark Alliance series. ed}

Webb: One of the things you learn when you’re writing about the CIA is, you learn pattern recognition…

Host: Hmm.

Webb: It’s not the same people [as those involved with Blandon, Meneses, Lister, and Ross] but again it’s the same type of these people with very interesting backgrounds and they’re suddenly doing something that they have no [civilian career] background in…

Host: They’re suddenly in the U-Haul business…or flying planes…

Webb: Or the drug business…

Host: Yeah, well, certainly, that’s what we’re talking about…

Webb: Well, he [Lister] was sort of the flip side of this drug business. The part that we wrote about in the San Jose Mercury-News series was the drug side of this operation {i.e., centering on Blandon and Meneses. ed.} The part that we were going to get into, that we didn’t get into, was the arms side of this peration. These guys were selling weapons to the Contras, they were down in El Salvador, they actually had a pistol factory down in El Salvador that had been set up after the Boland Amendment when the CIA got kicked out of the war [check date], they needed a steady supply of arms, so they set up a gun factory in this bus depot down in El Salvador, where you wouldn’t think anything about a bunch of guys leaning over a machine making metal items.

Host: This was very much like the story told by Terry Reed in the book Compromised-

Webb: Exactly.

Host: with a turnkey operation manufacturing untraceable weapons aprts, first in Arkansas, and later moved to Mexico.

Webb: That’s a good point, and as I pointed out in my book, that story and this story are very similar, in that they were both dealing with people who were known drug traffickers; in Reed’s case he was working through this guy Barry Seal, who was one of the biggest traffickers in the southern States-

Host: A legendary pilot- [Early in his career, the youngest pilot ever to fly for TWA Airlines;  later proven to be extensively involved for decades in smuggling both arms and drugs all over Latin America. ed.]

Webb: And, you know, [Reed] was sort of the cut-out to the CIA [between them and Seal. ed.]. And in this [Dark Alliance] case, you had Ronald Lister, who was down there [in El Salvador] with- what the police found when they raided Lister’s house in ’86, they didn’t find any drugs, because everybody knew the cops were coming. {It appears that Lister was tipped off. ed} But what they did find was some very bizarre paperwork: a proposal in Spanish, about a 15 or 20 page proposal, to the Defense Minister of El Salvador for [to provide] security services, counterinsurgency services, and I mean- the cops told me later, “This was weird enough, but the fact that we were on a drug raid and found this stuff made it even weirder. Suddenly we were dealing with [raiding] drug dealers who were dealing with heads of state.”

Host: Yeah. And with large quantities of automatic weapons. {Danilo Blandon at one time offered to sell the 59th Street Hoover Crips grenade launchers, in addition to the other inventory that they had purchased from Lister through Blandon. ed.} And in [former DEA field agent] Celerino Castillo’s book Powderburns, he talked about Walter Grasheim…{an American found to be dealing large quantities of arms in El Salvador, where Castillo was stationed. ed.}

Webb: Yeah, I interviewed him [Castillo] for this book. He was in Sacramento a while ago.

Host: Well, oh, good. I hope he comes back. I hope he’s doing well. Because it takes a lot of courage to review what you’ve done and what yo’re doing, and see the consequences and put two and ttow together, as to where it all might lead, in terms of state corruption [in the U.S.A. ed.]

(Aside, to audience) I recommend all these books [those mentioned thus far in the show], if you can find them. Powderburns is a good book.

(To Gary Webb:) I heard you say something that I found almost incredible- in an interview with Dennis Bernstein on KPFA (KPFA-FM, 94.1 Berkeley), something about photos of George Bush and Pablo Escobar, with Barry Seal…what in the world…? {Not an accurate framing of the story that Webb goes on to tell. But read on… ed.}

Webb: This was a thing I found in the National Archives. One of those things I got access to after the series- unfortunately, I didn’t have it before the series. The National Archives is in the process of declassifying Iran-Contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh’s Contra files. Millions of docs…they were just declassifying these files and I got a lot of information out of them. And one of them was a very weird set of memos from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Tampa [Florida] to the head of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington- talking about a debriefing they had done with a Colombian named Allen Wall Rudd [sp.? ed.]- a mid-level coke dealer who had gotten arrested in Florida and decided to become a government witness, and went into these extended debriefings about Pablo Escobar, whowas the head of the Medellin Cartel- and one of these briefings so alarmed the Justice Department that this U.S. Attorney sat down and wrote this
long memo that got kicked up the line, about a stement that Escobar made in one of his conversations he was having with this ‘Rudd’ [sp. ? ed.] fellow about transporting drugs into Florida. Rudd said that Escobar had become very agitated and starts bitching about George Bush, and said the man’s a traitor [sic], he used to work with us and now that he’s Vice President he’s got to be tough, and so he’s turning his back on his friends…

Host: Ahem.

Webb: …and this was very intriguing to this guy [the witness, Rudd. ed.]

Host: There’s a bell ringing in my head right now…

Webb: And this guy says “Well, what are  you talking about?” And Escobar says, “Well, we made a deal with him (then-Vice President George H. W. Bush) that we were going to ship weapons for the Contras, and they were going to give us free passage into Florida for our product.” And he said “We’ve got pictures of these planes, these American military planes would come down here with the weapons, leave the weapons, load up with cocaine, fly home, and we would take the weapons to the Contras.” They were another cut-out…

[Stay tuned for Part 2. Also in the works: a brief remembrance of meeting Gary Webb in person; a review and fact-check of the film Kill The Messenger, which I’ve just seen; as much supplemental material as I can manage to put up from my own investigations on the same subject. NOTE: be prepared for some minor format tinkering and customizing. I’m “bashing it out now, and tarting it up later”, as Nick Lowe would put it. ]

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