Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Origins of Iran/Contra: From the Bay of Pigs to Lee Harvey, Osvaldo

In downtown Los Angeles, there is a place called the Civic Center Mall.  It is known as containing the largest concentration of government employees in the United States outside of Washington, D.C.  On a personal level, it is an area I spent a great deal of time hanging out with the LA branch of the #Occupy Wall Street movement in the fall of 2011.  But it is also an area where a plot to assassinate President Jimmy Carter was foiled on May 5, 1979 that may have influenced future events that put in motion the sinister forces that conspired to perpetrate one of the grossest violations of the U.S. Constitution known as the Iran/Contra scandal.
Civic Center Mall  Photo credit:

The Iran/Contra scandal was revealed on November 25, 1986 by Edwin Meese as a criminal enterprise where funds from the sales of US arms to Iran were diverted to the Contras fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.  There is the known scandal covered by the mainstream media that led to the histrionic hearings where Lt. Col. Oliver North displayed his crisp uniform and his not-so-crisp memory, the Tower Commission issued their report which like most government commissions uncovered minimal criminality and zero systemic accountability, and all outstanding indictments for six of the known perpetrators (former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Elliott Abrams, Robert C. McFarlane, Alan Fiers, Clair George and Duane Clarridge) were pardoned by lame-duck President George H. W. Bush as he was about to leave office.

But there are also the more clandestine elements not as widely publicized that illustrate just severely our democratic processes have been subverted.  Just to mention a few, there was the "readiness exercise" called Rex-84 in which Oliver North worked with FEMA to draw up plans to, among other things, detain hundreds of thousands of undocumented aliens, surveillance and detention of political dissidents, including US citizens, and identifying scenarios for suspending the US Constitution.  There was the CIA-Contra-crack scandal that I've written multiple blog entries on that Gary Webb lost his career and his life over.  There was the financial legerdemain perpetrated by these shadow networks through shady institutions like BCCI, another scandal I've written about previously.

Intersecting all of these elements were the "secret teams" of intelligence agents, military operatives and others working in the private world of covert operations detailed in the book The Iran Contra Connection by Jonathan Marshall, Jane Hunter and Peter Dale Scott.  These covert teams probably existed on an ad hoc basis throughout US history (General Smedley Butler's War is a Racket gives a good summary of how this happened prior to WWI.) but really became institutionalized in 1947 with the creation of the CIA and the NSC.  One of the first prime examples of this type of secret team was what Paul Helliwell did for Chaing Kai-Shek's Kuomintang Army (KMT) in Taiwan in the 1950s.  A career OSS/CIA officer, (who also helped Walt Disney set up an unconstitutional form of government on his Florida land purchase for what would ultimately become Disney World) Helliwell tried to prepare Chaing's KMT for a future mainland China invasion by setting up a clandestine arrangement for CIA fronted companies Civil Air Transport (CAT) and the Sea Supply Corporation to ship opium for the benefit of the KMT.  CIA involvement with the drug trade continued into the 1960s as focus shifted from a presumed offensive out of Taiwan to a defensive posture in Laos and Vietnam.  CAT was renamed Air America and was extremely important in maintaining covert, often illegal operations.  Helliwell was transferred to provide business cover for the CIA's Cuban operations in 1960.

Paul Helliwell
Paul Helliwell  Photo credit:

The foundation of the scandal on a personnel level, to some degree, traces back 55 years ago to April 1961.  This was the infamous Bay of Pigs debacle that the CIA coordinated where a group of Cuban counter-revolutionaries invaded Cuba with the goal of overthrowing Fidel Castro.  The invasion was a spectacular failure that became a sort of spawning ground for future scandals.  (President Nixon referred to it while trying to cover up Watergate as "the whole Bay of Pigs thing", which H.R. Haldeman believed was a code for the JFK assassination.)  According to page 32 of The Iran Contra Connection, Helliwell worked with Lucien Conein, Mitch WerBell and E. Howard Hunt to develop relationships with drug dealing Cuban veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion.  Lucien Conein was suspected to be involved in the JFK assassination, having worked with Ted Shackley and William Harvey (who was in charge of ZR/RIFLE, the top secret CIA operation to kill Castro, working directly with Mafia ambassador Johnny Roselli) at the JM/WAVE CIA station (where Helliwell was the CIA paymaster) in Miami in 1963.  Conein was the CIA's liaison with the Corsican gangsters of Saigon, according to page 64 of The Iran Contra Connection, and knew about but did not tell Washington of the large drug shipments the Corsicans were sending to Europe while giving the 1965 Saigon government a fixed percentage of the profits.  Mitch WerBell, an arms dealer who may have supplied silencers to the gunmen in Dallas that killed JFK, was indicted on drug smuggling charges in 1976.  While serving as a "personal security advisor" to Lyndon H. LaRouche in 1978, his former OSS colleague General John Singlaub reconnected with him at a right-wing meeting set up, according to page 66 of The Iran Contra Connection, for those who "didn't think the country was being run properly and were interested in doing something about it."  Singlaub later became head of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL) and one of the most pivotal members of the "secret team" that orchestrated key events in the Iran/Contra scandal, raising "tens of millions of dollars...for arms and ammunition" by his own admission.  According to page 21 of The Iran Contra Connection, Singlaub began to report to NSC staffer Oliver North and CIA director William Casey in 1984 on his fundraising activities for the Contras.

And then, there was E. Howard Hunt, CIA veteran of the successful 1954 Guatemala coup and the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs campaign.  I've detailed previously Hunt's involvement with the JFK assassination as revealed through Mark Lane's successful courtroom defense written about in Plausible Denial.  Hunt is also famous for his criminal involvement with the Watergate burglars, including Cuban exile Eugenio Martinez, an active member of Operation 40, a CIA counter-intelligence operation (which Hunt and fellow Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis were members of) originally designed to seize control of the Cuban government after the Bay of Pigs invasion.  Other members of Operation 40 include Rafael (Chi Chi) Quintero, Felix Rodriguez and Luis Posada.  What do these three have in common besides a connection with the CIA's Bay of Pigs campaign?  All three were active at the Ilopango Air Force Base in El Salvador that resupplied the Contras in Nicaragua and imported large quantities of cocaine into the US to support the Contras.  When Eugene Hasenfus, an Air America veteran, was captured by the Sandinistas after his plane was shot down on October 5, 1986, which blew the Iran/Contra scandal wide open, he told his captors that two Cuban-Americans based in El Salvador, "Max Gomez" and "Ramon Medina", coordinated the operation for the CIA and that they had the "blessing" of Vice President George H. W. Bush.  "Medina" was an alias for Luis Posada, who I've written multiple blog entries about, and "Gomez" was an alias for Felix Rodriguez, a longtime CIA operative who took part in the 1967 Bolivian operation that led to the capture of Che Guevara.  He interrogated Guevara before he ordered his execution.  He still possesses Guevara's Rolex watch that he took as a trophy.

Long before Hasenfus's plane was shot down, the US was involved with criminal activity on behalf of the Contras: Duane Clarridge, chief of the CIA Latin America division who was one of the six pardoned by Bush for Iran/Contra, (later one of the "principal forgers" of the Niger uranium documents used as justification for invading Iraq in 2003) was responsible for mining Nicaraguan harbors in 1984, an act for which the United States was convicted in the World Court at The Hague in 1986.   But how does Iran fit into this scandal?  The official story is that, to secure the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, members of the Reagan administration sold missiles to Iran starting in 1985 to secure their release.  How were members of the Reagan administration able to reach out to their sworn enemy, Iran, who called them the "Great Satan"?  I synopsized some of how this happened in the 2nd edition of American Judas through the efforts of one Machiavellian meddler named Michael Ledeen:

As a consultant working with NSC head Robert McFarlane, he was involved in the transfer of arms to Iran during the Iran/Contra scandal. Ledeen acted as a go-between for Oliver North in the early stages of the Iran/Contra scandal, working with Israeli spy David Kimche to gain the release of US hostages in Beirut through an Iranian arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar. Ghorbanifar then served as the medium between Oliver North and Iran in the Iran/Contra scandal.

Michael Ledeen  Photo credit:

Ledeen (named as a "conduit" for the Niger uranium forgery that was used as justification for invading Iraq in 2003) indicates that his association with Ghorbanifar (who in addition to being an Iranian arms dealer, was also an agent of "the intelligence services of Israel" during the 1970s) began at this time.  Yet the history of US arms shipments to Iran after the rise of the Ayatollah actually began much earlier.  The earliest confirmed shipment took place in 1981, with Israelis acting as the middlemen much as they did in the 1985-86 Iran/Contra period.  This took place shortly after Reagan took office in the aftermath of a scandal that George Polk Award-winning investigative journalist Robert Parry describes as a "prequel" to Iran/Contra:

On July 18, 1981, an Israeli-chartered plane was shot down after straying over the Soviet Union, offering the first glimpse of these secret arms transactions. In a PBS interview nearly a decade later, Nicholas Veliotes, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said he looked into the incident by talking to top administration officials.

“It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment,” Veliotes said.
In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election.

“It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

That "prequel" is known as the 1980 October Surprise.  It certainly wasn't the first October Surprise; the most infamous precedent would be during the 1968 electoral campaign when Richard Nixon ordered Anna Chennault, his liaison to the South Vietnam government, to persuade them to reject a cease-fire being brokered by President Johnson, an interference that violated the Logan Act.  While I've written about the 1980 scandal before, I think a synopsis would be helpful as to how it relates to key Iran/Contra characters.  On November 4, 1979, a group of Iranians stormed the US Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 60 American hostages.  The Reagan campaign, managed by William Casey, was worried that if President Carter was able to pull off an 'October Surprise' and negotiate the release of the hostages right before the election, it might give him the momentum to win re-election in 1980.  Casey enlisted his friend, former OSS officer John Shaheen, along with his Shaheen's business partner Cyrus Hashemi to initiate negotiations to delay the release of the hostages.

Casey had secret meetings with both men and, according to Peter Dale Scott's The Road to 9/11 page 324 endnote 87, "Hashemi had worked for the CIA beginning in 1975."  Hashemi then had a meeting in March 1980 with Donald Gregg, a CIA officer who at the time was a member of Carter's White House team, but who knew George H. W. Bush (who directed the CIA in 1976) and later worked in his office when he became Vice President.  This led to a meeting in July 1980 in Madrid where Casey, Hashemi and his brother Jamshid Hashemi met with Iranian mullah Mehdi Karrubi to ensure the Iranians would not release the hostages to Carter prior to the election.  This was followed up with a meeting in October 1980 in Paris where Casey finalized the deal with the Iranians.  This time, according to a 1993 Russian government report, he was joined by Robert Gates, an NSC staffer at the time, and George H. W. Bush.

These names already constitute the future initiates of Iran/Contra infamy.  Once Reagan won the election, he appointed his campaign manager William Casey to be the CIA director, where he was in his element coordinating with the "secret teams" involved in Iran/Contra.  Donald Gregg was part of Operation 40 with Felix Rodriguez and worked closely with him and Vice President Bush starting in 1983 to subvert the Boland Amendment and supply the Contras with arms, cash and supplies.  Robert Gates' involvement in Iran/Contra included staying informed of Contra support through Alan Fiers (who pled guilty for Iran/Contra, later pardoned by Bush) though he denied recalling details about as frequently as Oliver North.  According to page 108 of The Road to 9/11, John Shaheen and Cyrus Hashemi were involved in 1985 in an Israeli arms sale to Iran in Hamburg brokered by Michael Ledeen.

How does Ledeen figure into the October Surprise?  An early draft of the task force report investigating the October Surprise (a whitewash chaired by veteran scandal-sweeper Lee Hamilton) mentioned a September 16, 1980 meeting for the "Persian Gulf Project" that Ledeen attended as well as an "October Surprise Group" that had multiple meetings attended by Ledeen.  His partner Manucher Ghorbanifar also figures in by attending meetings in Washington and the Paris meeting in October 1980.  In fact, just prior to his death, Duane Clarridge revealed that Ghorbanifar set the date of the hostage release and that he had “big bets in Las Vegas—big, big—millions” tied to the timing of the deal.  This was corroborated by CIA specialist on Iran George Cave, who while denying Reagan officials plotted the October Surprise (Cave is reputed to have attended the Paris meeting and wrote a 2013 'fictional' novel October 1980 which Clarridge said, “The whole novel is really true.”) seconded that Ghorbanifar likely placed bets on the outcome.  According to Peter Dale Scott's The Road to 9/11 page 324 endnote 89, Ghorbanifar was also involved with the 1985 Hamburg deal along with Adnan Khashoggi, who may have attended the Paris meeting and was a financial intermediary in the delivery of American-made missiles from Israel to Iran, "and ex-CIA officer Miles Copeland."

Miles Copeland, Jr.jpg
Miles Copeland  Photo credit:

With Miles Copeland, we enter into an earlier chapter of the plot to delay the release of the hostages, a sort of "prequel to the prequel" of Iran/Contra.  Copeland (father of Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police) worked closely with Archibald and Kermit Roosevelt in arranging Operation Ajax, which deposed the democratically-elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, and replaced him with Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1953.  This was a pivotal event, along with the subsequent savagery by the Iranian secret police SAVAK, that led to the overthrow of the Shah and rise of the Ayatollah in 1979.  On April 20, 1980, Copeland published a "speculative" piece in the Washington Star on how he would free the hostages.  This was just two days after President Carter made a top secret decision to proceed with Operation Eagle Claw, a rescue attempt almost identical to what Copeland wrote about.  As investigative journalist and co-author of The Iran Contra Connection Jonathan Marshall said, "There is legitimate room for at least questioning as to whether it was some kind of leak that came out in the form of fiction to protect him from charges that he had sabotaged it."

Is there more direct testimony that the Reagan campaign sabotaged Carter's hostage rescue, at that time totaling 52 hostages, which resulted in the abortion of the mission at the first staging area, Desert One, with eight US servicemen killed in a helicopter crash?  According to Mansur Rafizadeh, a CIA "secret team" directed by William Casey sabotaged the mission.  Rafizadeh worked for both the CIA and SAVAK.  According to him, corroborated by historian Donald Freed and Reagan administration policy advisor Barbara Honegger, Casey was knowledgeable about Operation Eagle Claw before the fact as he was in communication with Richard Secord, the chief mission planner.  Secord was heavily involved in Iran/Contra, both in providing planes and supplies to the Contras and assisted the shipment of missiles to Iran.  On the Turkish border in the mother ship, awaiting the cue from chief planner Secord, was none other than Oliver North.  Working closely with him as a logistical planner for ground operations was Albert Hakim.  Yet 24 hours before the operation, when he was supposed to be obtaining trucks and other necessary vehicles, Hakim left Tehran and fled to Baghdad.  Hakim later became Secord's business partner in the Stanford Technology Trading Group International and was indicted for conspiracy in Iran/Contra, among other counts, along with Secord, North and former National Security Adviser John Poindexter.  The Pentagon review board found astonishing incompetence and negligence in the failure of Operation Eagle Claw and freelance journalist Cynthia Dwyer, who had not yet been taken as the 53rd hostage, told Reverend Moore that the CIA deliberately botched the operation.

While the scenario above may sound too terrible to be true for some, there is an historical precedent in which the CIA purposely designed an operation to fail.  According to David Talbot in his book The Devil's Chessboard, page 400, that is exactly what Allen Dulles did with the Bay of Pigs.

But, as usual, there was method to Dulles's seeming carelessness.  It is now clear that the CIA's Bay of Pigs expedition was not simply doomed to fail, it was meant to fail.  And its failure was designed to trigger the real action - an all-out, U.S. military invasion of the island.  Dulles plunged ahead with his hopeless, paramilitary mission - an expedition that he had staffed with "C-minus" officers and expendable Cuban "puppets" - because he was serenely confident that, in the heat of battle, Kennedy would be forced to send the Marines crashing ashore.  Dulles was banking on the young, untested commander in chief to cave in to pressure from the Washington war machine, just as other presidents had bent to the spymaster's will.

Not only did Dulles keep the news from JFK that the operation was doomed to fail, as the minutes of a November 15, 1960 task force meeting released in 2005 prove, he also kept the plots to assassinate Castro from him too.  President Kennedy did his best to stand up against this intimidation from Dulles, ultimately firing him for the Bay of Pigs, and also from Dulles's compatriot Lyman Lemnitzer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  It was Lemnitzer, along with Navy chief Arleigh Burke, who tried to coerce JFK into using the military as the Bay of Pigs operation was in the process of failing.  Lemnitzer continued to raise the prospect of invading Cuba with JFK afterward, most notoriously with his proposal of Operation Northwoods, which advocated false flag terror attacks in Washington D.C. and Miami to justify an invasion of Cuba.  President Kennedy rejected this and three months later reassigned Lemnitzer to become Commander of U.S. Forces in Europe.  Lemnitzer then became Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in January 1963, in charge of the infamous Operation Gladio, among other duties.  He certainly had the means and motivation to assassinate JFK.

I have this feeling man, 'cause you know, it's just a handful of people who run everything, you know … that's true, it's provable. It's not … I'm not a fucking conspiracy nut, it's provable. A handful, a very small elite, run and own these corporations, which include the mainstream media. I have this feeling that whoever is elected president, like Clinton was, no matter what you promise on the campaign trail – blah, blah, blah – when you win, you go into this smoke-filled room with the twelve industrialist capitalist scum-fucks who got you in there. And you're in this smoky room, and this little film screen comes down … and a big guy with a cigar goes, "Roll the film." And it's a shot of the Kennedy assassination from an angle you've never seen before … that looks suspiciously like it's from the grassy knoll. And then the screen goes up and the lights come up, and they go to the new president, "Any questions?" "Er, just what my agenda is." "First we bomb Baghdad." "You got it …"

While this classic Bill Hicks routine on "The Elite" was played for comedy, I do believe that it hits on a larger truth; both in terms of the JFK assassination and how the world really works.  This is the milieu that Peter Dale Scott describes as "deep politics": all those political practices and arrangements, deliberate or not, that are usually repressed in public discourse rather than acknowledged.  I think most people understand how this works in regard to the underworld; that there is an intersection between financial and political realms with organized crime.  But in his book The Road to 9/11, Scott spells out how this works in regard to the overworld: that realm of wealthy or privileged society that, although not formally authorized or institutionalized, is the scene of successful influence of government by private power.  A prime example of someone who has done this over the course of several decades without ever holding public office is David Rockefeller.  While there is no evidence that Rockefeller was involved in the JFK assassination, there have been a number of books, such as Thy Will Be Done The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil by Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett, Battling Wall Street: The Kennedy Presidency by Donald Gibson, and The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government by David Talbot, that detailed how among those who stood to benefit from the assassination of JFK, Rockefeller was one of the biggest.  I doubt there is any evidence that will surface; when you live in the overworld, your actions tend to stay in the shadows.

David Rockefeller Sr.  Photo credit:

Yet there was a period in 1979 when Rockefeller felt compelled to step out of the shadows to exert his overworld influence.  This was during the time that the Shah of Iran had been overthrown on February 11, 1979 but prior to the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979.  Rockefeller wanted President Carter to permit the Shah to enter the United States.  Carter, cognizant of Iranian history and popular animosity there over the CIA engineered coup, had no desire to do so.  Rockefeller found multiple ways to apply pressure to get his way.  Three of Rockefeller's men, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, current National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and influential lawyer/banker John McCloy (previously a member of the Warren Commission, always a member of the overworld since representing IG Farben and sharing a box with Hitler and Goering at the 1936 Olympics) supported this special project code-named Project Alpha, which included Rockefeller dipping into private funds to pay his and McCloy's employees for working on this project.  The lobbying effort was so intense that at one point when his chief of staff Hamilton Jordan told him opposing Kissinger was politically dangerous, Carter responded, "The hell with Henry Kissinger, I am President of this country!"

What was Rockefeller's motive for breaking with his usual low-profile behavior?  As the current chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank (McCloy had previously been chairman), he was aware that they were one of the companies most indebted to the Shah.  Iran was "the crown jewel of Chase's international banking portfolio."  Financial analyst and journalist Mark Hulbert, in his book Interlock, argued that Rockefeller and his coterie precipitated the hostage taking to give Chase legal cover to seize enough Iranian assets to erase billions in questionable loans that now threatened the bank's liquidity.  The new Iranian government wanted Chase to return Iranian assets.  But in a crisis situation, seizure of Iranian assets would be legal under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, powers that had been conveniently transferred, according to Peter Dale Scott's The Road to 9/11 page 86, to FEMA under reorganization engineered by Zbigniew Brzezinski on July 20, 1979.  Ten days after the hostages were taken, President Carter froze all Iranian assets in US banks on the advice of his Treasury Secretary, William Miller.  Naturally, Miller had ties with Chase Manhattan Bank.

Why did President Carter cave in to their demands?  There are a number of factors, but the political pressure on him certainly increased in the summer of 1979.  There was pressure from McCloy on his closest advisors.  There was pressure from Kissinger, indicating he would withdraw his support for SALT II unless there was a "more forthcoming attitude on our part regarding the Shah."  Perhaps the deciding factor arrived courtesy of three Rockefeller men advising the Shah: Joseph V. Reed, Robert Armao and Benjamin H. Kean.  They lobbied to have the Shah admitted to the US on the grounds of his poor health to get better treatment at an American hospital.  Carter reluctantly accepted this rationale with the pregnant question, "What are you guys going to advise me to do if they overrun our embassy and take our people hostage?"

But there is one other factor that is rarely mentioned.  That would be the incident I referred to at the beginning of this post, an assassination attempt against President Carter on May 5, 1979, foiled by the Secret Service ten minutes before he was to give a speech at the Civic Center Mall in Los Angeles.  The suspect arrested was an Ohio-born unemployed drifter with a history of mental illness who told the police that he spent the night before at the Alan Hotel with a man he knew as "Julio" who, along with two other Latino men, asked him to fire a starter pistol with blanks as a diversion so they could shoot President Carter from their hotel room.  This story was written about in Time and Newsweek when it happened and wikipedia has a synopsis of the details.  The drifter with the starter pistol was named Raymond Lee Harvey.  "Julio" turned out to be Osvaldo Espinoza Ortiz.  As James DiEugenio wrote recently, "No one as smart as Carter could have missed the significance of that."

After the hostages were taken, Rockefeller tried to slip back into the shadows, but there is evidence he was involved in the October Surprise.  On September 11, 1980, according to a campaign visitor log, Rockefeller and several of his aides signed in to see William Casey at his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.  That this visit concerned the October Surprise was corroborated by sworn testimony from CIA officer Charles Cogan, who was present when Rockefeller's aide Joseph Reed in 1981 told Casey something to the effect of "we did something about Carter's October Surprise."  In a less formal setting, Cogan said Reed's words were "We fucked Carter's October Surprise."  Besides Rockefeller and Reed, also attending the 9/11/80 meeting with Casey was Archibald Roosevelt, the former CIA officer who had collaborated with Miles Copeland both on Operation Ajax and a hostage-rescue plan that President Carter rejected in favor of the sabotaged Operation Eagle Claw.    The effort to undo Carter's efforts to free the hostages was something many who had worked for the CIA, out of loyalty to their former director George Bush, had a personal interest in.  Copeland referred to these interested parties as "the CIA within the CIA" who "had an understanding with the Iranians" that the hostages would not be returned before Reagan's election.  A key figure in that arrangement was Ted Shackley coordinating the Republican monitoring of hostage negotiations for Richard Allen of the Reagan-Bush campaign.

Theodore (Ted) Shackley
Ted Shackley  Photo credit:

No examination of the origins of Iran/Contra is complete without discussing Ted Shackley.  Perhaps more than any other individual, Shackley ties so many disparate strands of this dark web of conspiracy together.  In early 1962, Shackley was deputy chief of JM/WAVE in Miami, delivering supplies to mobster Johnny Roselli as part of the plan to assassinate Fidel Castro.  Later that year he became head of the station and gained control of Operation 40.  In 1966, he was placed in charge of the CIA's secret war in Laos and his "Secret Team" became involved in the drug trade by helping anti-communist General Vang Pao monopolize the heroin trade in Laos.  Shackley and his associate Thomas Clines even set up a Saigon meeting in 1968 between Pao and Mafia kingpin Santo Trafficante to establish a heroin-smuggling operation from Southeast Asia to the United States.  When he became Chief of Station in Vietnam in 1969, Shackley headed the Phoenix Program, which in a two year period murdered 28,978 civilians.  He stepped up his drug operation with the help of Clines, Richard Armitage (yeah, the same gossip who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to Bob Woodward) and Richard Secord by disbursing excess money from the Vang Pao opium fund from 1973 to 1975 into a secret account at Nugan Hand Bank in Sydney Australia.  When Saigon fell in April 1975, Armitage set up a secret "financial conduit" inside Iran so the "Secret Team" could access the drug funds for black operations against enemies of the Shah.

When George H. W. Bush became director of the CIA in 1976, he appointed Shackley to Deputy Director of Operations.  But when Carter was elected and he appointed Admiral Stansfield Turner to head the CIA, Turner fired Shackley when he found out about Nugan Hand and the activities of his "Secret Team."  Shackley's response was to privatize his operations in providing intelligence to business; the "CIA within the CIA" Copeland referenced.  This included joining Stanford Technology owned by Albert Hakim in October 1980 where they profited off the Iran-Iraq War.  In addition to his previously mentioned coordination of the October Surprise, it should probably come as no surprise that Shackley was involved in Iran/Contra.  According to The Iran Contra Connection page 177, in November 1984, Manucher Ghorbanifar made contact with Shackley in West Germany with a proposal to "work with the 'moderates' in Iran" and "suggested ransoming the hostages for cash as a first step."  In May 1985, Shackley revived this Ghorbanifar gambit when he had a meeting with his friend Michael Ledeen to discuss the hostage situation.  According to Shackley, Ledeen told him members of the U.S. government wanted to know in that connection if the Ghorbanifar connection was "still open."

All of this is really just scratching the surface.  Shackley's exploits were so numerous and notorious, a Hollywood movie directed by Robert DeNiro titled The Good Shepherd was loosely based on his career.  Perhaps the most memorable line from his character, played by Matt Damon, is when a mobster played by Joe Pesci asks ultimately what does the CIA have?  Damon chillingly replies, "The United States of America.  The rest of you are just visiting."

While so many of these events may seem like ancient history, when the conspirators go unpunished their deeds tend to be repeated.  Sometimes, as in the most recent revelation of the Panama Papers, not only do diabolical deeds get repeated, but the same dark actors crop up, such as Adnan Khashoggi from Iran/Contra.  Unless our citizens are willing to dredge up this darkness and expose it to the light of justice, we will continue to be just visitors in this country, pretending to be free.

1 comment:

Hugo Turner said...

Great Article Intersects niceley with my Iran/Contra Research