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DEA agent
Cellerino Castillo's
findings of
Contra drug running

Celerino "Cele" Castillo III
Author: "POWDERBURNS" Cocaine, Contras & The Drug War
2709 N. 28 1/2 St., McAllen,Texas 78501
Tele/Fax: 956-631-3818
Pager: 956-318-4913
April 27, 1998

For several years, I fought in the trenches of the front lines of Reagan's "Drug War", trying to stamp out what I considered American's greatest foreign threat. But, when I was posted, in Central and South America from 1984 through 1990, I knew we were playing the "Drug War Follies." While our government shouted "Just Say No !", entire Central and South American nations fell into what are now known as, "Cocaine democracies."

While with the DEA, I was able to keep journals of my assignments in Central and South America. These journals include names, case file numbers and DEA NADDIS (DEA Master Computer) information to back up my allegations. I have pictures and original passports of the victims that were murdered by CIA assets. These atrocities were done with the approval of the agencies.

We, ordinary Americans, cannot trust the C.I.A. Inspector General to conduct a full investigation into the CIA or the DEA. Let me tell you why. When President Clinton (June, 1996) ordered The Intelligence Oversight Board to conduct an investigation into allegations that US Agents were involved in atrocities in Guatemala, it failed to investigate several DEA and CIA operations in which U.S. agents knew before hand that individuals (some Americans) were going to be murdered.

I became so frustrated that I forced myself to respond to the I.O.B report citing case file numbers, dates, and names of people who were murdered. In one case (DEA file # TG-86-0005) several Colombians and Mexicans were raped, tortured and murdered by CIA and DEA assets, with the approval of the CIA. Among those victims identified was Jose Ramon Parra-Iniguez, Mexican passport A-GUC-043 and his two daughters Maria Leticia Olivier-Dominguez, Mexican passport A-GM-8381. Also included among the dead were several Colombian nationals: Adolfo Leon Morales-Arcilia "a.k.a." Adolfo Morales-Orestes, Carlos Alberto Ramirez, and Jiro Gilardo-Ocampo. Both a DEA and a CIA agent were present, when these individuals were being interrogated (tortured). The main target of that case was a Guatemalan Congressman, (Carlos Ramiro Garcia de Paz) who took delivery of 2,404 kilos of cocaine in Guatemala just before the interrogation. This case directly implicated the Guatemalan Government in drug trafficking (The Guatemalan Congressman still has his US visa and continues to travel at his pleasure into the US). To add salt to the wound, in 1989 these murders were investigated by the U.S Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility. DEA S/I Tony Recevuto determined that the Guatemalan Military Intelligence, G-2 (the worst human rights violators in the Western Hemisphere) was responsible for these murders. Yet, the U.S. government continued to order U.S. agents to work hand-in-hand with the Guatemalan Military. This information was never turned over to the I.O.B. investigation. (See attached response)

I have obtained a letter, dated May 28, 1996, from the DEA administrator, to U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D), Texas. In this letter, the administrator flatly lies, stating that DEA agents "have never engaged in any joint narcotics programs with the Guatemalan Military".

I was there. I was the leading Agent in Guatemala. 99.9% of DEA operations were conducted with the Guatemalan military. In 1990, the DEA invited a Guatemalan military G-2 officer, Cpt. Fuentez, to attend a DEA narcotic school, which is against DEA policy. I know this for a fact because I worked with this officer for several years and was in Guatemala when he was getting ready to travel to the States.

Facts of my investigation on CIA-Contras drug trafficking in El Salvador:

The key to understanding the "crack cocaine" epidemic, which exploded on our streets in 1984, lies in understanding the effect of congressional oversight on covert operations. In this case the Boland amendment(s) of the era, while intending to restrict covert operations as intended by the will of the People, only served to encourage C.I.A., the military and elements of the national intelligence community to completely bypass the Congress and the Constitution in an eager and often used covert policy of funding prohibited operations with drug money.

As my friend and colleague Michael Ruppert has pointed out through his own experience in the 1970s, CIA has often bypassed congressional intent by resorting to the drug trade (Vietnam, Laos, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc).

When the Boland Amendment(s) cut the Contras off from a continued U.S. government subsidy, George Bush, his national security adviser Don Gregg, and Ollie North, turned to certain foreign governments, and to private contributions, to replace government dollars. Criminal sources of contributions were not excluded. By the end of 1981, through a series of Executive Orders and National Security Decision Directives, many of which have been declassified, Vice President Bush was placed in charge of all Reagan administration intelligence operations. All of the covert operations carried out by officers of the CIA, the Pentagon, and every other federal agency, along with a rogue army of former intelligence operatives and foreign agents, were commanded by George Bush. Gary Webb (San Jose Mercury News) acknowledged, that he simply had not traced the command structure over the Contras up into the White House, although he had gotten some indications that the operation was not just CIA.

On Dec. 01, 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed a secret order authorizing the CIA to spend $19.9 million for covert military aid to the recently formed Contras--- hardly enough money to launch a serious military operation against the Cuban and Soviet-backed Sandinista regime.

In August 1982, George Bush hired Donald P. Gregg as his principal adviser for national security affairs. In late 1984, Gregg introduced Oliver North to Felix Rodriguez, (a retired CIA agent) who had already been working in Central America for over a year under Bush's direction. Gregg personally introduced Rodriguez to Bush on Jan. 22, 1985. Two days after his January 1985 meeting, Rodriguez went to El Salvador and made arrangements to set up his base of operations at Ilopango air base. On Nov. 01, 1984, the FBI arrested Rodriguez's partner, Gerard Latchinian and convicted him of smuggling $10.3 million in cocaine into the U.S.

On Jan. 18, 1985, Rodriguez allegedly met with money-launderer Ramon Milan-Rodriguez, who had moved $1.5 billion for the Medellin cartel. Milan testified before a Senate Investigation on the Contras' drug smuggling, that before this 1985 meeting, he had granted Felix Rodriguez's request and given $10 million from the cocaine for the Contras.

On September 10, 1985, North wrote in his Notebook:

"Introduced by Wally Grasheim/Litton, Calero/Bermudez visit to Ilopango to estab. log support./maint. (...)"

In October of 1985, Upon my arrival in Guatemala, I was forewarned by Guatemala DEA, County Attaché, Robert J. Stia, that the DEA had received intelligence that the Contras out of Salvador, were involved in drug trafficking. For the first time, I had come face to face with the contradictions of my assignment. The reason that I had been forewarned was because I would be the Lead Agent in El Salvador.

DEA Guatemalan informant, Ramiro Guerra (STG-81-0013) was in place in Guatemala and El Salvador on "Contra" intelligence. At the time (early 80's), he was a DEA fugitive on "Rico" (Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations) and "CCE" (Continuing Criminal Enterprise) charges out of San Francisco. In 1986, he became an official advisor for the DEA trained El Salvador Narcotics Task Force. In 1989, all federal charges were dropped because of his cooperation with the DEA in Central America. Guerra is still a DEA informant in Guatemala.

December 1985, CNN reporter Brian Barger broke the story of the Contra's involved in drug trafficking.

                Notes from my Journals & Intelligence Gathering

January 13, 1986, I wrote a report on El Salvador under DEA file (GFTG-86-9145).

January 16, 1986---HK-1217W--Carlos Siva and Tulio Pedras Contra pilots.

January 23, 1986, GFTG-86-9999, Air

Intelligence in "El Salvador" TG-86-0003, Samana and Raul.

In 1986, I placed an informant (Mario Murga) at the Ilopango airport in El Salvador. He was initiated and wrote the flight plans for most Contra pilots. After their names were submitted into NADDIS, it was revealed that most pilots had already been document in DEA files as traffickers. (See DEA memo by me date 2-14-89.)

Feb. 05, 1986, I had seized $800,000.00 in cash, 35 kilos of cocaine, and an airplane at Ilopango. DEA # TG-86-0001; Gaitan-Gaitan, Leonel

March 24, 1986, I wrote a DEA report on the Contra operation. (GFTG-86-4003, Frigorificos de Puntarenas, S.A), US registration aircraft N-68435 (Cessna 402).

April 17, 86, I wrote a Contra report on Arturo Renick; Johnny Ramirez (Costa Rica). Air craft TI-AQU & BE-60.. GFTG-86-9999; Air Intelligence.

April 25,26 1986--I met with CIA Felix Vargas in El Salvador (GFTG-86-9145).

April of 1986, The Consul General of the U.S Embassy in El Salvador (Robert J. Chavez), warned me that CIA agent George Witters was requesting a U.S visa for a Nicaraguan drug trafficker and Contra pilot by the name of Carlos Alberto Amador. (mentioned in 6 DEA files)

May 14, 1986, I spoke to Jack O'Conner DEA HQS Re: Matta-Ballesteros. (NOTE: Juan Ramon Matta-Ballesteros was perhaps the single largest drug trafficker in the region. Operating from Honduras he owned several companies which were openly sponsored and subsidized by C.I.A.)

May 26, 1986, Mario Rodolfo Martinez-Murga became an official DEA informant (STG-86-0006). Before that, he had been a sub-source for Ramiro Guerra and Robert Chavez. Under Chavez, Murga's intelligence resulted in the seizure of several hundred kilos of cocaine, (from Ilopango to Florida) making Murga a reliable source of information.

May 27, 1986, I Met U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alberto Adame in El Salvador. Has knowledge of the Contra Operation at Ilopango. He was in El Salvador from 1984 thru 1987.

On June 06, 1986, I send a DEA report/telex cable to Washington DEA in regards to Contra pilots, Carlos Amador and Carlos Armando Llamos (Honorary Ambassador from El Salvador to Panama) (N-308P). Llamos had delivered 4 1/2 million dollars to Panama from Ilopango for the Contras. Information was gathered by informant Mario Murga. Leon Portilla-TIANO = Navojo 31 & YS-265-American Pilot: Francisco Viaud. Roberto Gutierrez (N-82161) Mexican (X-AB)

June 10, 1998, I spoke to CIA agent Manny Brand Re: Sofi Amoury (Cuban Contra operator and Guatemalan Galvis-Pena in Guatemala.

June 16, 1986-GFTG-86-9999, Air Intel (DEA-6) El Salvador


Early part of 1986, I received a telex/cable from DEA Costa Rica. SA Sandy Gonzales requested for me to investigate hangers 4 and 5 at Ilopango. DEA Costa Rica had received reliable intelligence that the Contras were flying cocaine into the hangars. Both hangers were owned and operated by the CIA and the National Security Agency. Operators of those two hangars were, Lt. Col. Oliver North and CIA contract agent, Felix Rodriguez, "a.k.a." Max Gomez. (See attached letter by Bryan Blaney (O.I.C.), dated March 28, 1991).

June 18, 1986, Salvadoran Contra pilot, Francisco "Chico" Guirrola-Beeche (DEA NADDIS # 1585334 and 1744448) had been documented as a drug trafficker. On this date, at 7:30a.m, he departed Ilopango to the Bahamas to air drop monies. On his return trip (June 21) Guirrola arrived with his passengers Alejandro Urbizu & Patricia Bernal. In 1988 Urbizu was arrested in the US in a Cocaine conspiracy case. In 1985 Guirrola was arrested in South Texas (Kleberg County) with 5 and 1/2 million dollars cash, which he had picked up in Los Angeles, California. (U.S. Customs in Dallas/ Ft. Worth had case on him.)

June 18, 1986, DEA 6 on Air Intelligence, GFTG- 86-9999; El Salvador.

June 27 & 28, 1986, US Lt. Col. Albert Adame spoke with US Ambassador Edwin Corr re: Narcotics.

In a July 26, 1986 report to the Congress, on contra-related narcotics allegation, The State Department described the Frogman CASE as follows, "This case gets it's nickname from swimmers who brought cocaine ashore in San Francisco on a Colombian vessel." It focused on a major Colombian cocaine smuggler, ALVARO CARVAJAL-MINOTA, who supplied a number of west coast smugglers. It was further alleged that Nicaraguan Contra, Horacio Pererita, was subsequently convicted on drug charges in Costa Rica and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Two other members of the organization were identified as Nicaraguans Carlos Cabezas & Julio Zavala. They were among the jailed West Coast traffickers and convicted of receiving drugs from Carvajal. They claimed long after their convictions, that they had delivered sums of monies to Contra resistance groups in Costa Rica.

July 28, 1986, I Met with CIA agents Don Richardson, Janice Elmore and Lt. Col. Adame in El Salvador.

July 29, 1986, I Met with Don Richardson and Robert Chavez at the US Embassy in El Salvador.

August 03,1986, Ramiro Guerra, Lt. Col. A. Adame, Dr. Hector Regalado (Dr. Death, who claimed to have shot Archbishop Romero) and myself went out on patrol in El Salvador.

In Aug. 1986, The Kerry Committee requested information on the Contra pilots from the DEA. The Department Of Justice flatly refused to give up any information.

Aug. 15, 1986, I spoke to CIA (Chief of Station) Jack McCavett and Don Richardson; El Salvador; Re: Fernando Canelas Sanez from Florida.

Aug. 18, 1986, I received $45,000.00 in cash from CIA Chief of Station (CIA), Jack McKavett for the purchase of vehicles for the DEA El Salvador Narcotic Task Force.

Aug. 28, 1986, I had a meeting with El Salvador US Ambassador, Edwin Corr, in regards to Wally Grasheim, Pete's Place and Carlos Amador (3:00 p.m.)

Oscar Alvarado-Lara "a.k.a." El Negro Alvarado (CIA asset and Contra pilot) was mentioned in 3 DEA files. On June 11, 1986, Alvarado transported 27 illegal Cubans to El Salvador Ilopango, where they were then smuggled into Guatemala. On Sept. 28, 1987, Alvarado picked up CIA officer Randy Capister in Puerto Barrios Guatemala after a joint DEA, CIA and Guatemala Military (G-2) operation. Several Mexicans and Colombians were murdered and raped. This was supported by the CIA. DEA File TG-86-0005.

1986, DEA El Salvador, initiated a file on Walter L. Grasheim (TG-87-0003). He is mentioned in several DEA, FBI and U.S Customs files. This DEA file is at The National Archives in The Iran-Contra file in Washington D.C (bulky # 2316). Also see attached Top Secret/Declassified Record of Interview on Mr. Grasheim, by the Office of Independent Counsel, dated Jan. 03, 1991.

Sept. 01, 1986, at approximately 5:00pm, I received a phone call in Guatemala from (C.I) Ramiro Guerra, Re: Raid at Wally's house in El Salvador Wally's plane (N-246-J).

On September 01, 1986, Walter Grasheim (a civilian) residence in El Salvador was searched by the DEA Task Force. Found at the residence was an arsenal of US military munitions, (allegedly for a Contra military shipment). Found were cases of C-4 explosives, grenades, ammunition, sniper rifles, M-16's, helicopter helmets and knives. Also found were files of payment to Salvadoran Military Officials (trips to New York City). Found at his residence were radios and license plates belonging to the US Embassy. We also found an M16 weapon belonging to the US Mil-Group Commander, Col. Steel. Prior to the search, I went to every department of the U.S. Embassy and asked if this individual worked in any way shape or form with the embassy. Every head of the departments denied that he worked for them. A pound of marijuana and marijuana plants growing in the back yard, were also found.

Sept. 02, 1986, I departed Guatemala on Taca Airlines @ 7:30a.m to El Salvador.

Sept. 26, 1986, Meeting with Col. Steel Re: Mr. Grasheim (Col. Steel admitted that he had given an M-16 to Grasheim) and CIA George W. Also talked to Don Richardson (CIA) re: Ramiro Guerra. Talked to Col. Adame Re: CIA George.

October 03, 1986, Spoke to DEA Panama re: Mr. Grasheim. Was advised to be careful.

October 15, 1986, Asst. Atty. Gen. Mark Richard testified before the Kerry Committee, that he had attended a meeting with 20 to 25 officials and that the DEA did not want to provide any of the information the committee had requested on the Contra involvement in drug trafficking.

October 21, 1986, I send a Telex/cable to Washington D.C on the Contras.

October 22, 1986 talked to El Salvador Re: Grasheim.

October 23, 1986, HK-1960P Honduras. 1,000 kilos of cocaine. DEA- 6 was written on this case.

October 29, 1986 Talked to DEA HQS (John Martch) re Contras & Grasheim.

October 30, 1986, Talked to Salvadoran Gen. Blandon re: to Mr. Grasheim.

Nov. 07, 1986, Talked to John Martch 202-786-4356 and Azzam-633-1049; Home: 301-262-1007. (Contras).

Nov. 13, 1986, I Met with Ambassador Corr @2:00pm re: Mr. Grasheim. (He stated, "let the chips fall where they may." Met w/ Lt. Col. Adame.

November 14, 1986, Met with Salvadoran Col. Villa Marona re: Mr. Grasheim. He advised that the U.S Embassy had approved for Grasheim to work at Ilopango.

On January 20, 1987, Joel Brinkley (special to the New York Times) reported. "Contra Arms Crew said To Smuggle Drugs" The 3rd secret had surfaced. Brinkley wrote: "Fed. Drug investigators uncovered evidence last fall that the American flight crews which covertly carried arms to the Nicaraguan rebels were smuggling cocaine and other drugs on their return trips back to the US. Administration Officials said today that when the crew members, based in El Salvador, learned that DEA agents were investigating their activities, one of them warned that they had White House protection. The Times then quoted an anonymous US official who said the crew member's warnings which came after DEA searched his San Salvador house for drugs, caused 'quite a stir' at Ilopango."

Feb. 09, 1987, I had meeting with Lt. Col. Adame and Elmore re: major argument with DEA HQS I.A. Lourdez Border. They had just arrived in Guatemala for a two-day fact finding tour of El Salvador.

Feb.10, 1987, I met with U.S. Ambassador Corr (Salvador) re DEA HQS Intel. Analyst Lourdez Border and Doug (last name unknown) - both were rookies. In two days in El Salvador, they determined that there was no contra involvement in drug trafficking.

February 27. 1987, I spoke to Mike Alston, DEA Miami, RE: Contra pilots John Hall; Bruce Jones' airstrip in Costa Rica, Colombian Luis Rodriguez; Mr. Shrimp-Ocean Hunter Costa Rica > to Miami. Contra Operation from Central American to U.S.

March 03, 1987, met with Janis Elmore (CIA) from 9:00pm till 12:00

March 30, 1987, I invited U.S. Customs Agent Richard Rivera to El Salvador in an attempt to trace ammunitions and weapons found in Mr.Grasheim's residence. It's alleged that The Pentagon put a stop on his trace. (They were never able to trace the items).

April 01, 1987, Bob Stia, Walter (pilot) Morales and myself flew to El Salvador. Met with two CIA agents who advised us that we could no longer utilize Murga because he was now working with them).

April 07,08,09, 1987, I met with John Martch in Guatemala Re: Contras and OPR.

Sept. 27, 1987, Central American CIA agent, Randy Capister, the Guatemala military (G-2) and myself, seized over 2,404 kilos of cocaine from a Guatemalan Congressman, Carlos Ramiro Garcia de Paz and the Medellin cartel (biggest cocaine seizure in Central America and top five ever). However, several individuals were murdered and raped on said operation. CIA agent and myself saw the individuals being interrogated. The Congressman was never arrested or charged.

October 22, 1987, I received a call from DEA HQS Everett Johnson, not to close Contra files because some committee was requesting file. If you have an open file, you do not have access to the files under Freedom of Information Act.

Aug. 30, 1988, Received intelligence from (Guido Del Prado) at the U.S. Embassy, El Salvador re: Carlos Armando Llemus-Herrera (Contra pilot).

Oct. 27, 1988, Received letter from "Bill," Regional Security Officer at the Embassy in El Salvador re: Corruption on US ambassador Corr and del Prado.

Dec. 03, 1988, DEA seized 356 kilos of cocaine in Tiquisate, Guatemala (DEA # TG-89-0002; Hector Sanchez). Several Colombians were murdered on said operation and condoned by the DEA and CIA. I have pictures of individuals that were murdered in said case. The target was on Gregorio Valdez (CIA asset) of The Guatemala Piper Co. At that time, all air operations for the CIA and DEA flew out of Piper.

Aug. 24, 1989, Because of my information, the U.S. Embassy canceled Guatemalan Military, Lt. Col. Hugo Francisco Moran-Carranza, (Head of Interpol and Corruption) U.S. visa. He was documented as a drug trafficker and as a corrupt Guatemalan Official. He was on his way to a U.S. War College for one year, invited by the CIA.

Feb. 21, 1990, I send a telex-cable to DEA HQS Re: Moran's plan to assassinate me.

Between Aug. 1989 and March 06, 1990, Col. Moran had initiated the plan to assassinate me in El Salvador and blame it on the guerrillas. On March 06, 1990, I traveled to Houston to deliver an undercover audio tape on my assassination. The Houston DEA S.A Mark Murtha (DEA File M3-90-0053) had an informant into Lt. Col. Moran.

Feb. 24, 1990, I moved my family back home because DEA could not make a decision.

March 15, 1990, After 6 months knowing about the assassination plan, DEA transferred me out to San Diego, California for 6months.

April 05, 1990, an illegal search was conducted at my residence in Guatemala by Guatemala DEA agents Tuffy Von Briensen, Larry Hollifield and Guatemalan Foreign Service National, Marco Gonzales in Guatemala (No search warrant). DEA HQS agreed that it had been an illegal search requested by OPR S/I Tony Recevuto. (OPR file PR-TG-90-0068) On Sept. 16, 1991, a questionnaire was faxed to me in regards to the illegal search. (see attached)

April 11, 1991, in an undercover capacity, Carlos Cabezas's wife sold me 5 kilos of cocaine in San Francisco. (DEA # R3-91-0036; Milagro Rodriguez)

On April 16, 1991, I met with Carlos Cabezas at the DEA Office in San Francisco. He stated to me that Zavala and himself were informants for the FBI in San Francisco at the time his wife delivered the cocaine. Alvaro Carbajal had supplied the 5 kilos of cocaine. (There is an undercover audio tape available as evidence) Mr. Cabezas gave me his undercover business card. It was identified as "The California Company" at 3519-Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110 REAL ESTATE & INVESTMENTS Carlos A. Cabezas, Sales Associate Pager: 371-7108 Fax: (415) 647-0918; Res: (415 991-3104; Bus: (415) 647-8014.

May 10, 1990, DEA HQS OPR S/I Tony Recevuto returned to Guatemala and requested the U.S. Ambassador, to please grant Lt. Col. Hugo Moran-Carranza a US Visa, so that he could testify before the BCCI investigation in Miami. The ambassador could not understand why anyone, for any reason would request a US Visa for an individual who had planned the assassination of a US drug agent.

May 27, 1990, I was ordered to return back to Guatemala to pack my household goods. The threat was still very real for me. On June 01, 1990, I departed Guatemala for the last time. On June 05, 1990, another American was killed by the Guatemalan Military.

Before the Kerry Committee

The CIA acknowledged drugs in a statement by Central American Task Force Chief Alan Fiers who testified: "with respect to (drug trafficking) by the Resistance Forces...It is not a couple of people. It is a lot of people."

The DEA has always stated that my reports were unfounded, but they later recanted. DEA Assistant Administrator, David Westrate stated of the Nicaraguan War: "It is true that people on both sides of the equation (in the Nicaraguan War) were drug traffickers, and a couple of them were pretty significant."

In a Sept. 20-26, 1989, series of debriefings and in subsequent debriefing on Feb. 13, 1990, by DEA agents in Los Angeles, Lawrence Victor Harrison, an American-born electronics specialist who had worked in Mexico and had been involved with the leading figures in the Mexican drug cartel, was interviewed. He testified that he had been present when two of the partners of Matta-Ballesteros and Rafael Caro-Quintero, met with American pilots working out of Ilopango air base in El Salvador, providing arms to the Contras. The purpose of the meeting was to work out drug deals.

Several days earlier, on Feb. 09, 1990, Harrison had told DEA interrogators that Nicaraguan Contras were being trained at a ranch in Vera Cruz, owned by Rafael Caro Quintero. It was at Quintero's Guadalajara ranch that DEA Agent Kiki Camarena, and his pilot were interrogated, tortured and buried alive.

January 23, 1991, letter to Mr. William M. Baker, Asst. Director of Criminal Investigative Division, FBI; from Lawrence E. Walsh and Mike Foster, requesting several FBI files on Walter L. Grasheim. (see attached)

January 30, 1991, letter to DEA Ronald Caffrey, Deputy Asst. Administrator for Operations at DEA from Craig A. Guillen, Associate Counsel of the Office of Independent Counsel; requesting Walter L. Grasheim reports. (see attached)

In 1991, a DEA General File was opened on an Oliver North in Washington D.C. (GFGD-91-9139) "smuggling weapons into the Philippines with known drug traffickers."

In 1991, before I departed the DEA, I met with FBI agent Mike Foster, investigator for The Office of Independent Counsel on Iran-Contra, where I gave him detailed information of the Contras' involvement in drugs. 

October, 1994, The Washington Post reported that former Government Officials, including the DEA, CIA, State Department, US Customs and White House officials were quoted as saying that Lt. Col. Oliver North did not advise them of his knowledge that the Contras were involved in drug trafficking.

In 1997, I joined DEA SA Richard Horn in a federal class action suit against the CIA. The suit is against the CIA and other federal agencies for spying on several DEA agents and other unnamed DEA employees and their families. United States District Court for The District of Columbia; Richard Horn vs. Warren Christopher, Civil Action No. 1:96CV02120 (HHG) January 30, 1994.


This is a list of DEA case file and names of individuals that may help support my allegations.

GFTG-86-9145, GFTG-87-9145 El Salvador

GFTG-86-9999, GFTG-87-9999, Air Intelligence

TG-87-0003, Walter L. Grasheim (Salvador case)

TG-86-0001, Leonel Guitan-Guitan

DEA Informants STG-86-0006 and STG-81-0013

US Ambassador Edwin Corr

Janis Elmore (CIA 1986 through 1989). I reported to her when in El Salvador.

Don Richardson ( CIA & Political Officer in El Salvador 1986,87). I reported to him in El Salvador.

Felix Vargas (CIA El Salvador 1986, 87)

Col. James Steel ( Mil-Group Commander El Salvador).

U.S. Lt. Col. Alberto Adame (Under Steel)

Lupita Vega (the only Salvadoran which was cleared for "Top Secret") worked in the Milgroup in El Salvador.

Felix Rodriguez (CIA at Ilopango hanger 4 & 5)

Jack McCavett (CIA Chief of Station in El Salvador).

CIA George Witter in El Salvador. He asked for US visa on drug trafficker Carlos Alberto Amador.

CIA Randy Capister (covert operation in Central America 1985 t090). Involved in several atrocities.

CIA Manuel Brand (retired Cuban-American) Guatemala

State Department (De Luoie) El Salvador.

State Department RSO Bill Rouche El Salvador

State Dept. Official Del Prado (El Salvador)

DEA John Martsh (DEA HQS)

DEA Jack O'Conner (DEA HQS)

DEA HQS Agents AZZAM & Frank Torello (retired) involved in Contra ops in Europe.

Salvadoran General Bustillo (retired in Florida)

US Custom Richard Rivera and Philip Newton

DEA Sandy Gonzales (Costa Rica)

Lincoln Benedicto-Honduras US Embassy-Consul General April 30, 1986. Re: Matta-Ballesteros

Some people have asked, "Why I am doing this? I reply, "That a long time ago I took an oath to protect The Constitution of the United States and its citizens". In reality, it has cost me so much to become a complete human being, that I've lost my family. In 1995, I made a pilgrimage to the Vietnam Wall, where I renounced my Bronze Star in protest of the atrocities my government had committed in Central America. I have now become a veteran of my third, and perhaps most dangerous war --- a war against the criminals within my own Government. Heads have to roll for those who are responsible and still employed by the government. They will be the first targets in an effective drug strategy. If not, we will continue to have groups of individuals who will be beyond any investigation, who will manipulate the press, judges and members of our Congress, and still be known in our government as those who are above the law.


How the Contras Invaded the United States
by Dennis Bernstein and Robert Knight (c) 1996

Part One: Wars go better with coke

Wanda Palacio watched the Hercules cargo plane roll to a stop on the tarmac of Baranquilla International Airport, located in the Andean foothills just off the azure Atlantic waters of Colombia's northern coast. According to Palacio, the aircraft bore the markings of Southern Air Transport, a private airline once associated with retired Vietnam-era Air Force General Richard Secord, who would later purchase a security fence for the home of contra point man Lt. Col. Oliver North.

Palacio was in Baranquilla that day to arrange a cocaine deal with her host, Jorge Luis Ochoa, at the time Colombia's most ambitious druglord. As she watched two men in green uniforms remove two green military trunks out of the plane and onto a truck, her host explained his operation: "Ochoa told me that the plane was a CIA plane and that he was exchanging guns for drugs." The crew, he said, were CIA agents, and "these shipments came each Thursday from the CIA, landing at dusk. Sometimes they brought guns, sometimes they took U.S. products such as washing machines, gourmet food, fancy furniture or other items for the traffickers which they could not get in Colombia. Each time, Ochoa said, they took back drugs."

In her 1986 sworn testimony before Senator John Kerry's Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics and International Terrorism, Palacio acknowledged she could not confirm the operation was being conducted by the CIA. But, she added, "Obviously, what I saw raised many questions about the source of the U.S. weapons which I know Ochoa has obtained."

That was not the only time such an exchange was witnessed by the Puerto Rican-born Palacio, a former airline employee whose two-year cocaine trafficking spanned career spanned her relationship with an upper-class Colombian whose social circle included "people deeply involved in the drug trade." Concerned for the safety of her daughter, she eventually volunteered to work with the FBI because, she said, "I was angry about what drugs were doing to the people I knew and to the United States government itself."

As an FBI operative, Palacio would later realize the extent of the damage done to the United States government by the guns-for-drugs exchanges that permeated the hemisphere during the early- to mid-1980s. "To my great regret," she testified, "the Bureau has told me that some of the people I identified as being involved in drug smuggling are present or past agents of the Central Intelligence Agency."

And according to Palacio's deposition, it was not only the CIA that was involved with drug smugglers. Palacio stated to Sen. Kerry that she spoke to the FBI about many individuals within the U.S. government that were involved in illegal drug operations. "We have extensively discussed drug-related corruption in the United States including a regional director of U.S. customs, a federal judge, air traffic controllers in the FAA, a regional director of immigration, and other government officials."

Wanda Palacio is only one of scores of people to come forward with first-hand evidence of officially sanctioned transfers of drugs for covert policy objectives, and Baranquilla is but one of many transshipment points in the hemisphere whose operations would be mirrored by the unloading of drugs from secret flights into private and military airfields for delivery into the streets and suburbs of America.

DEA agent blows the whistle on scontra-drug operation in El Salvador

Celerino Castillo III is a 15-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Agency who observed first-hand such an operation at Ilopango airport where drugs were smuggled in a military facility under the direct control of the CIA and Lt. Col. Oliver North during his heady days at the National Security Council.

Castillo saw the light ten years ago, on January 14, 1986, the day he met then-Vice President George Bush at a Guatemalan embassy reception. The lead DEA agent in Central America tried to tell Bush that "something funny" was going on at Ilopango. "But he just shook my hand, smiled and walked away from me," Castillo recently recalled. Later that same day, he says, Bush met with Oliver North and contra leader Adolfo Calero.

Castillo went on to gather evidence that was documented in a Feb. 14, 1989 memo to his Guatemala-based DEA supervisor. He detailed how known traffickers with multiple DEA files used Hangars Four and Five for drug smuggling and obtained U.S. visas, despite their background. According to Castillo, "the CIA owned one hangar, and the National Security Council ran the other."

"There is no doubt that they were running large quantities of cocaine into the U.S. to support the contras," Castillo said in a 1994 interview with the authors. "We saw the cocaine and we saw boxes full of money. We're talking about very large quantities of cocaine and millions of dollars." According to Castillo, "my reports contain not only the names of traffickers, but their destinations, flight paths, tail numbers, and the date and time of each flight."

Further evidence of the contra-cocaine connection supporting Castillo's accounts was obtained by the authors nearly ten years ago, in the form of an internal document of the since-disbanded Select House Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control. In a syndicated Newsday article on March 31, 1987, we revealed the contents of the eight-page June 25, 1986 memorandum which stated clearly that "a number of individuals who supported the contras and who participated in contra activity in Texas, Louisiana, California and Florida, as well as in Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, have suggested that cocaine is being smuggled in the U.S. through the same infrastructure which is procuring, storing and transporting weapons, explosives, ammunition and military equipment for the contras from the United States."

Send Money, Guns and Cocaine

Drugs, weapons and money-laundering have always been tools of the trade for U.S. clandestine operations abroad. But never in United States history has the importation of cocaine risen so dramatically as it did during the Reagan administration's clandestine war against the government of Nicaragua, spearheaded by the "contras," a group of right-wing expatriate rebels pieced together by the CIA.

The window of opportunity for the CIA-brokered contra-drug alliance came in 1984, when Congress passed the Boland Amendment to the War Powers Act. This watershed legislation cut off direct intelligence and financial aid to the contras. But the Reagan administration continued the clandestine war (which began with a 1981 Executive Order) through the auspices of the National Security Council which, by a legal technicality, was not considered an "intelligence" agency. Enter the Colonel, Oliver North, who directed NSC operations from the basement of the Executive Office Building.

Under North's stewardship, the $30 million in aid cut off by legal means was made up through covert means, namely, the sale of weapons to Iran and the exchange of CIA allies' drug profits for clandestine sanctions which allowed cocaine to be imported and sold up north, often in the very same planes which flew weapons south to the contras.

The combination of contras and drug dealers was a marriage made in heaven, former Narcotics Committee counsel Jack Blum recalled last week during Congressional hearings. "There were facilities that were needed for running the war, clandestine air strips, cowboy pilots who would fly junker airplanes, people who would make arrangements for the clandestine movement of money.

"Every one of those facilities was a perfect facility for someone in the drug business. So there were people who were connected very directly to the CIA who had those facilities, and allowed them to be used, and indeed, personally profited from their use."

Blum's dramatic charges are supported by a former high-level supervisory CIA officer. Alan Fiers, the former chief of the CIA Central American Task Force, stated in a sworn deposition to the Congressional Iran-Contra committees that "we knew everybody around [Southern Front contra leader Eden] Pastora was involved in cocaine... His staff and friends ... were drug smugglers or involved in drug smuggling."

According to Miami-based John Mattes, a former federal public defender and Iran-Contra investigator for John Kerry, "what we investigated, which is on the record as part of the Kerry Committee Report, is evidence that narcotics traffickers associated with the contra leaders were allowed to smuggle over a ton of cocaine into the United States. Those same contra leaders admitted under oath their association and affiliation with the CIA.

The North Connection

During his recent testimony, Blum also raised the issue of Oliver North's notebooks kept contemporaneously with his contra resupply effort. Even after North's lawyers were allowed to expurgate the notebooks, many of the pages made available to investigators still contain numerous references to contra drug trafficking. For instance, on July 9, 1984, North wrote that he "went and talked to [contra leader Frederico] Vaughn, [who] wanted to go to Bolivia to pick up paste, wanted aircraft to pick up 1500 kilos." In another notebook entry on July 12, 1985, North writes, "$14 million to finance [arms] came from drugs."

In a December 1986 interview with the authors, Jesus Garcia, a Miami-based North network operative said, "it is common knowledge here in Miami that this whole contra operation was paid for with cocaine... I actually saw the cocaine and the weapons together under one roof, weapons that I [later] helped ship to Costa Rica. "

A Sept. 26, 1984 Miami police intelligence report stated that money supporting the illegal contra training effort in Florida "comes from narcotics transactions." This memorandum, written at a time when Attorney General Janet Reno was the chief state prosecutor in Florida, has every page stamped "record furnished to George Kosinsky, FBI."

On March 16, 1987, U.S. Customs seized a plane from a narcotics trafficker who was involved with the contras. On that plane they discovered the address book of Robert Owen, Oliver North's eyes and ears in Central America. Owen, a former aide to Dan Quayle, met with Costa Rican-based CIA asset John Hull and Oliver North on many occasions.

In March of 1989, Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias barred Oliver North, John Poindexter, Major Gen. Richard Secord, former U.S. Ambassador Louis Tambs, and former CIA Costa Rican Station Chief Jose Hernandez from entry into Costa Rica.

Arias was acting on recommendations by a Costa Rican congressional commission investigating drug trafficking. The Costa Rican investigation was triggered by "the quantity and frequency of the shipment of drugs that passed through" land and secret airstrips controlled by "southern front" CIA point man John Hull. Hull worked extensively with North in setting up the "Contra 7" front in Costa Rica.

In his notebooks, North talked about "the necessity of giving Mr. Hull protection." According to the Costa Rican investigation, and bolstered by other North entries and Blum's testimony, more than a half dozen drug pilots were provided by General Manuel Noriega based on requests from North. According to the Costa Rican congressional commission, "these requests for contra help were initiated by Col. North to Gen. Noriega. They opened a gate so their henchmen could utilize Costa Rica for trafficking in arms and drugs." Hull would be later indicted by the Costa Rican Attorney General on drug trafficking charges and ultimately smuggled out to the country by a U.S. DEA agent.

Echoes of an Error

Testifying in the same room where the Kerry Hearings were held nearly a decade ago, Blum echoed Wanda Palacio's observation about the way law enforcement and other officials looked the other way when the CIA-backed contras were involved in drug operations.

"What is true is the policymakers absolutely closed their eyes to the criminal behavior of our allies and supporters in that war. The policymakers ignored their drug dealing, their stealing, and their human rights violations," said Blum. "The policymakers, and I stress policymakers, allowed them to compensate themselves for helping us in that war, by remaining silent in the face of their impropriety, and by quietly undercutting law enforcement and human rights agencies that might have caused them difficulty."

During the heyday of the CIA-contra-cocaine connection, between the passage and repeal of the Boland Amendment, in 1986, every market indicator of the cocaine glut in America went off-scale. As Wanda Palacio astutely observed in 1987, "Three years ago [before Boland], the price of cocaine was $50,000 per kilo. Today it is $20,000 and sometimes you can get it for $15,000 to $18,000. The market for the cocaine isn't smaller -- so the lower price is a result of having supply increase even more than demand has."

Something happened during the contra period in the Americas, and the evidence of a clandestine program which countenanced the import of drugs to further political agendas is overwhelming, officially, anecdotally and statistically. Today the CIA is rightfully being called on to answer the excellent questions raised by the recent "Dark Alliance" investigative series in the San Jose Mercury News.

But we would be foolish to believe the agency was alone in its operations, or that the consequences of a decade of covert drug-enabling policy began or ends in the crack-infested neighborhoods of Los Angeles. An entire generation of Americans has been destabilized, major elements of our government have been diverted from ethical and legal behavior, and it will likely take the United States longer to recover from the crack connection than for Nicaragua to recover from the contra war. We have, in effect, overthrown our own highest ideals.

 In Part Two we will detail how covert officers and public officials continue to conspire in cover-up tactics to keep the American public in the dark about the full extent of "dark" operations.

                  EDITOR'S NOTE

Robert Knight was a founding producer, along with Dennis Bernstein, of the Contragate/Undercurrents investigative news program. Knight's awards include The George R. Polk Award for Radio Reporting for his investigative work on Undercurrents. Dennis Bernstein is the host-producer of a daily public radio news magazine in the San Francisco area. Knight and Bernstein won The Jesse Meriton White Award for International Reporting and the National Federation of Community Broadcasting award for the reporting on the Iran-Contra affair. Articles by the authors have appeared in Newsday, The San Francisco Examiner, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Village Voice, Utne Reader, Essence, Spin Magazine, and many other publications.

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