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By David Guyatt


In April 1998, Celerino Castillo, a former top-level Drug Enforcement Agency operative, provided sensitive, first-hand testimony to the US Senate House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  He told the Senators of his direct personal knowledge of massive CIA complicity in the drug trade.

 Castillo, one of the top DEA agents operating in Southern and Central America from 1984 to 1990, would later become the DEA's "Lead Agent" in war-torn El Salvador.  Here, he came into daily contact with dozens of CIA "contract" employees and "assets" engaged in smuggling drugs from Columbia to the United States.  Compiling a large dossier of evidence of these illegal activities, Castillo was frustrated by his bosses in Washington who refused to act.  Castillo eventually decided he could not keep his silence on such a serious matter.  His explosive book, Powerburns, is exclusively available from Mike Ruppert's website,

 The CIA's involvement in the drug trade was to generate funds to pay for the Nicaraguan based Contras charged with toppling the leftist government of El Salvador.  This followed Congress' refusal in 1982 to support the CIA backed Contra forces.  Known as the "Boland amendment," after Senator Edward Boland - Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee - this piece of legislation pulled the plug on US financing for the war.  The move forced CIA Director, Bill Casey, to find other shady means of finance.  Responsibility for this was turned over to Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council.  The international network of free-wheeling money-hungry CIA operatives employed by Col. North would later be dubbed the "Enterprise."

 North's drug trafficking activities remained mostly unreported for years, until a series of explosive articles were published in the San Jose Mercury News during August 1996.  The newspaper, well regarded for its high standard of journalism, ran a three-day explosive series called The Dark Alliance.  This alleged the explosion of crack cocaine use in Los Angeles during the 1980's, was caused by Nicaraguan drug barons closely connected to the Contra forces.   More important was the implication that the CIA knowingly protected these individuals.  The series, written by ace-reporter, Gary Webb, following a yearlong intensive investigation, caused shock-waves throughout the nation.

 Denying the charges, the CIA set its own bevy of tame reporters against Webb and his newspaper.  Inside a year, Webb's shaken editor retracted the story and threw the reporter to the wolves, saying he had all along been worried by Webb's lack of "corroboration."  Conjuring up the bad days of Soviet media manipulation, Webb was sent to a small, back-woods office of the newspaper to be forgotten.  Contemptuous of his treatment he resigned and went to work for the US Congress.

 Over two years later, the CIA admitted the reporter had been accurate when it was forced to disclose it had a "secret" arrangement with the US Justice Department.  This agreement ensured that drug traffickers deemed to be "assets" or "contract employees" of the CIA would not be charged.  The agreement had it roots in 1954, when the Justice Department agreed that the CIA, were free to decide if any illegal activities of its agents were subject to prosecution.

 If the Contra drug scandal had been the only time the CIA had been deeply entangled in narcotics trafficking, the Agency might have escaped with censure, but it wasn't.  Even before the CIA was founded in 1947, its predecessor, the Office of Strategic Service (OSS) already had grimy hands.  This arose from a private agreement between Allen Dulles, later to become Director of the CIA, and a group of Nazi SS thugs seeking to escape war crimes trials at the end of WW11. SS General Karl Wolff held a series of secret meetings with Dulles, who was then Swiss "Station Chief" for the OSS.  The two men thrashed out an agreement - against the direct, written orders of President Roosevelt.  This gave the SS group freedom from prosecution in return for agreeing to secretly work for American intelligence against the Russians in the cold war.

 Since it was impossible for the OSS to fund this secret network, Dulles agreed the Nazi's would finance themselves from their vast stocks of Morphine,  plundered gold and a mass of counterfeit British bank-notes.  These were smuggled to Austria in the last days of the war and hidden.  They were later sold on the black market and the proceeds used to finance the black SS-OSS network.  The subterfuge was so successful that it would later become an irresistible method of underwriting "off-the-books" CIA black operations.

 By the time the Vietnam War was in full swing, the CIA and its Vietnamese underlings were busily peddling huge amounts of Heroin from the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia.  Historically, the French controlled the Opium trade in this part of the world.  After WW11 it was agreed that members of the underworld would manage Opium smuggling on behalf of 2eme Bureau of French Military Intelligence.  This was the top secret project known as Operation X, sanctioned at the highest levels.  Raw opium was cultivated by the Hmong hill tribes and then trucked to Saigon.  Here it was turned over to the Binh Xuyen bandits for distribution throughout the City.  At this point, members of the Corsican underworld took their share of the drugs, shipping them to Marseilles and then to America.  This smuggling route later became known as the "French Connection."  Captain Savani of 2eme supervised the entire arrangement.

 With the embarrassing defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the French began to withdraw her forces from Indochina.  This resulted in top CIA operative, Major General Edward Lansdale being sent to Saigon.  A year earlier, during a fact finding mission to the region, Lansdale had learned of the existence of Operation X.  There now ensued a power struggle between the remnants of 2eme, along with their Corsican gangsters and Lansdale's American team under the watchful eye of CIA director, Allen Dulles.  Open battles were fought in the streets and Lansdale, more than once came close to death.  However, the die had been cast.  The French were "out" and the Americans were "in," and the Opium trade began to rapidly grow.

 Years after the Vietnam War was over, the CIA remained the principal beneficiary of Heroin shipments from the Golden Triangle.  This fact emerged during the latter part the 1980's by Colonel Bo Gritz.  Possessing a truly remarkable daredevil record, Gritz is a legend in the Special Forces community.  Sylvester Stallone modelled himself on Gritz in the gutsy Hollywood smash hit "First Blood." 

 During 1989, Gritz along with two others travelled to the wild and remote region of Shanland, located in Northern Burma.  The Shan people live under the jurisdiction of warlord Khun Sa, whose 10,000 strong army run the Golden Triangle Opium business.  The warlord told Gritz during a meeting that the government of America bought his entire annual Opium production totalling 900 tonnes in 1989 alone.  Three years later, in 1992, production had leapt to 3,000 tonnes.

 Astonished at these revelations, Gritz arranged to return for a second meeting with Khun Sa five months later.  On this occasion, he videotaped the meeting with the wily warlord, who had agreed to name names.  Khun Sa revealed that the US government official he dealt with was Richard Armitage, the US Assistant Secretary of Defence.  Khun Sa said that Armitage, in turn, used the services of a "traffic manager," who he named on camera as Santos Trafficante - the notorious "Boss" of Florida's Mafia.

 A decade earlier and thousands of miles away another strongman was laying the groundwork that would, one day, elevate him to the presidential palace.  Amongst many other suspect attributes, Panama's Colonel Manuel Noriega, was on payroll and acknowledged as an "asset," of the CIA.  In 1975, he was closely involved in Operation Watch-Tower, a CIA run series of missions.  Watch-Tower was pure "black ops," dedicated to shipping massive quantities of Cocaine from Bogata, Columbia, to Panama and onward to the United States for distribution.  Directed by the CIA's ace field agents, Edwin Wilson and Frank Terpil, the operation was also supported by Israel's secretive foreign intelligence service, Mossad.

 Two Watch-Tower missions were commanded by Colonel Edward P. Cutolo, the commanding officer of 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.  In February and March 1976, Cutolo and his men secretly entered Columbia where they placed a series of three electronic aircraft beacons.  These were designed to enable CIA piloted aircraft to safely navigate from Bogata, to Panama.  Over a total of 51 days, 70 "high performance aircraft" flew along this route.  All were crammed full of cocaine.  Safely landing at Panama's Albrook Air Station, the aircraft discharged their loads into the care of then Colonel Manuel Noriega, the CIA's Edwin Wilson and Israeli Mossad operative, Michael Harari.

 Wilson later told Colonel Cutolo that Watch-Tower had to remain secret as otherwise it would "undermine present government interests."  He added, "there are similar operations being implemented elsewhere in the world" including the "Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia and Pakistan."  The profits from the sale of narcotics, Wilson continued to explain "was laundered through a series of banks" in Panama, Switzerland and the United States.  From there the funds usually found their way to those military forces fighting communism.

 Cutolo later grew suspicious and began to investigate the background of these missions.  Fearing for his life, he prepared and signed an affidavit intimately detailing the various missions he commanded.  Cutolo was later murdered.  Four other Special Forces senior officers, close friends of Cutolo, believed he had been killed because he was getting too close to those high-level government officials who authorised the Watch-Tower missions.  Cutolo had been told that the CIA's Bill Casey and Robert Gates, as well as Vice President George Bush were implicated in these matters.  All four officers commenced their own investigation.  One by one they all died under mysterious circumstances.

 Despite the end of the cold war and the global collapse of communism, the drug trade continues to grow and develop.  This casts considerable doubt on the rationale that the CIA got its hands dirty in order to fight the peril of communist.  In his book The Third Option, former CIA black operative Ted Shackley - one of those also "fingered" by the Golden Triangle warlord, Khun Sa, for his role in the narcotics business - argues that "low intensity" conflict will continue throughout the world for the foreseeable future. This, Shackley maintains, is because the military-industrial complex has a blueprint for survival that depends on warfare.  Narcotics, it seems, is part of this equation.

 Prof. Alfred W. McCoy

The standard textbook on the global narcotics traffic is Prof. Alfred McCoy's The Politics of Heroin - CIA Complicity in the Global Drugs Trade.  As an undergraduate at Yale University, McCoy set off in 1971, to Southeast Asia to investigate the global heroin trade.  He interviewed Hmong hill tribesmen in Laos, through to General Maurice Belleux, former Head of French Military Intelligence in Indochina, and numerous other intelligence operatives, too.  McCoy gathered irrefutable evidence that implicated the CIA in the narcotics trade.  He now speculates that the CIA and the American ruling class that control them, had no qualms about hooking untold numbers of American citizens on Heroin.  The addict population, mostly black, Hispanic and the poorer classes, daily "strung-out" on drugs meant they weren't involved in domestic US politics, or worse, rioting against the status quo.

 Laundering drug money

 The huge volume of cash generated by the drugs trade amounts to well over one trillion dollars a year.  Inevitably, this finds its way into the global banking system.  As often as not, both major and minor banks are keen to accommodate this business because of the generous commissions they can earn.  The most notorious of all was the London based Bank for Credit & Commerce International, which had exceptionally close links to the CIA.  During the 1980's, together with numerous respectable banks, the BCCI targeted Panama - a centre for laundering cocaine profits.  BCCI's Vice President, Alaudin Shaik told the Panama branch manager, Daniel Gonzalez "The Panama operation should do all it can to increase deposits."  This, Shaik, added, "would mean bringing in cash deposits from drugs."

 Col North and Iran-Contra drugs

The lead man in the covert Contra affair was former Marine Colonel, Oliver North.  Testimony provided to the US Senate showed North knew drug money was a major factor in the supply of weapons to the Contra forces.  Although most of his papers and diaries were shredded, North's notebook remained intact.  Investigators found a number of entries of interest.  One states "14M to finance came from drugs."  This refers to $14 million earmarked for financing weapons for the Contra's.  In another entry, North refers to a DC9 aircraft being used for weapons "runs" that is also "probably being used for drug runs into the US."

 Pan Am 103 a drugs pipeline?

The downing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, had numerous drug connections, according to many investigators.  The Pan Am flights out of Frankfurt were a regular pipeline for carrying drugs into America, using Samsonite suitcases.  The DEA has typified these as "sting" operations.  Others are not so sure.  This writer has learned from a confidential but informed source that a number of Samsonite suitcases were purchased from a shop in Wilmslow.  These were marked with discrete symbols assisting identification at a distance by baggage handlers at British, American and European airports.  The suitcases, bought by a senior member of a major London based criminal gang, were to carry drugs.  The gang had high level protection from British and American intelligence as well as certain senior police officers, it is alleged.  Although a prolonged investigation into these matters was undertaken by British authorities, it was later covered-up.


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