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?….

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Posted in U.S. War on Drugs History
Justice For The Messenger

Gary Webb, American News Media, and the War on Drugs

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