Thursday, July 31, 2014

Phoenix Program: The CIA Terrorism Campaign in Vietnam

Thanks to the
New York Times and 60 Minutes, most people are now aware that former Senator and Presidential candidate Bob Kerrey once led a raid on the peasant village of Thanh Phong during his service in Vietnam, and murdered nearly two dozen villagers in cold blood. His team disemboweled women, children and infants and shot dead whole families.

What most people don't know, is that Kerrey was operating on orders from a CIA program known as Operation Phoenix, the program that oversaw some of the most horrific war crimes ever unleashed on Planet Earth.1

It was in 1964, under CIA station chief Peer DeSilva, that the Phoenix Program was initiated. DeSilva was a proponent of the belief of 'counter-terrorism', CIA doublespeak for the idea that terror was a legitimate tactic in unconventional warfare.2

Historian Douglas Valentine summarizes the concept of Operation Phoenix as follows:

"Central to Phoenix is the fact that it targeted civilians, not soldiers... Under Phoenix, due process was totally non-existent. South Vietnamese civilians whose names appeared on blacklists could be kidnapped, tortured, detained for two years without trial, or even murdered simply on the word of an anonymous informer. At its height, Phoenix managers imposed a quota of eighteen hundred neutralizations per month on the people running the program in the field, opening up the program to abuses by corrupt security officers, policemen, politicians, and racketeers, all of whom extorted innocent civilians as well as VCI [Viet Cong Infrastructure]. Legendary CIA officer Lucien Conein described Phoenix as, "A very good blackmail scheme for the central government: 'If you don't do what I want, you're VC.'”

Indeed, Phoenix was, among other things, an instrument of counter-terror - the psychological warfare tactic in which members of the VCI were brutally murdered along with their families or neighbors as a means of terrorizing the entire population into a state of submission. Such horrendous acts were, for propaganda purposes, often made to look as if they had been committed by the enemy.”3

This is the intellectual context under which Bob Kerrey massacred the hamlet of civilians, for which he was subsequently awarded the Bronze Star.

Peer DeSilva quickly expanded Phoenix to cover all 40 provinces in South Vietnam, each equipped with an Intelligence Coordinating Committee and its own prison. Torture techniques such as electric shock, beatings and rape were commonplace.4

The Central Intelligence Agency originally had trouble finding Americans who were willing to murder and mutilate, so the 'counter-terror' squads were composed of ex-convicts, VietCong defectors, and mercenaries.5 They then employed Special Forces, Navy SEALS and other highly trained Americans such as Bob Kerrey, who had essentially been indoctrinated by the military into killing machines, to oversee the program.

Former Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Herbert, who was involved in Operation Phoenix, described his experience in his autobiography Soldier: They wanted me to take charge of execution teams that wiped out entire families and tried to make it look as though the VC themselves had done the killing.”6

Former CIA agent Ralph McGee, speaking to PBS's Bill Moyers for the fantastic documentary 'The Secret Government', stated that:

"We were murdering these people, incinerating them... My efforts had resulted in the deaths of many people, and I just – for me it was a period when I guess I was – I considered myself nearly insane – I just couldn't reconcile what I had been and what I was at the time becoming."7

McGee was operating under Phoenix helping to set up the South Vietnam secret police, and has since become one of the most outspoken critics on the CIA. He recalls that the program cost billions of dollars, and CIA Director William Colby refused an investigative audit before a Congressional Committee.8

The Agency's website describes how the entire South Vietnamese population was mapped out with Census Grievance teams in conjunction with national data.9 They determined which villages were more likely to be friendly to the VietCong through interviews, and color coded maps based on that information, specifically noting that "These maps would often contain the names of family members who were VCI members or sympathetic to the communists."

I think it’s common knowledge what goes on at the interrogation center... It was common knowledge that when someone was picked up their lives were about at an end because the Americans most likely felt that, if they were to turn someone like that back into the countryside it would just be like multiplying NLF followers.” -Jeff Stein, Author and Former Military Intelligence, Vietnam Veteran10

The 1971 Congressional Inquiry revealed that the blacklists created by these maps and census data was not thoroughly vetted, as opposed to claims by Agency officials. One member of the Phoenix Program described to Congress that:

"It was my experience that the majority of people classified as VC were “captured” as a result of sweeping tactical operations. In effect, a huge dragnet was cast out in our area of operation (AR) and whatever looked good in the catch, regardless of evidence, was classified as VCI."11

Lieutenant Vincent Okamoto, Army Combat Officer and recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, testified on his experiences with using blacklists as a means of 'neutralizing' Viet Cong:

"The problem was, how do you find the people on the blacklist? It's not like you had their address and telephone number. The normal procedure would be to go into a village and just grab someone and say, 'Where's Nguyen so-and-so?' Half the time the people were so afraid they would say anything. Then a Phoenix team would take the informant, put a sandbag over his head, poke out two holes so he could see, put commo wire around his neck like a long leash, and walk him through the village and say, 'When we go by Nguyen's house scratch your head.' Then that night Phoenix would come back, knock on the door, and say, 'April Fool, motherfucker.' Whoever answered the door would get wasted. As far as they were concerned whoever answered was a Communist, including family members. Sometimes they'd come back to camp with ears to prove that they killed people."

Psychological warfare against civilians was an integral part of Phoenix. Soldiers would leave pamphlets on dead bodies, or on doors indicating that recipients were marked for death.

Attention Villagers: 1.Your village was bombed because you harbored Vietcong in your village. 2. Your village was bombed because you gave help to the Vietcong in your area. 3. Your village was bombed because you gave food to the Vietcong.” -USMC Leaflet12

Phoenix officer Bart Osbourne testified before Congress in 1971:

"I never knew in the course of all those operations any detainee to live through his interrogation. They all died. There was never any reasonable establishment of the fact that any one of those individuals was, in fact, cooperating with the VC, but they all died and the majority were either tortured to death or things like thrown out of helicopters. It became a sterile depersonalized murder program."13

Throwing victims out of a helicopter, for example, served a psychological warfare purpose as well, terrorizing those on the ground.

The intelligence that the CIA received was often flawed. Anyone in the South Vietnam infrastructure could report intelligence, and it was often not verified, which led to abuses such as South Vietnam politicians feeding intelligence to kill their political rivals.14

"We had no way of determining the background of these sources, nor their motivation for providing American units with information.
No American in the team spoke or understood Vietnamese well enough to independently debrief any “contact.” None of us were sufficiently sensitive to nor knowledgeable of the law, the culture, the customs, the history, etc.
Our paid sources could easily have been either provocateurs or opportunists with a score to settle. Every information report (IR) we wrote based on our sources’ information was classified as (1) unverifiable and (2) usually reliable source. As to the first, it speaks for itself; the second, in most cases was pure rationale for the existence of the program." - Michael J Uhr, First Lieutenant involved with Phoenix.15

Historian Marvin Gettleman described in his book Vietnam and America: A Documented History, how "Intelligence gathered during interrogation was often used to direct 'search and destroy' missions aimed at wiping out whole villages or groups of villages."16

All told, documents show that Phoenix led to the 'neutralizing' of over 80,000 people, about a third of them killed, between the years of 1968 and 1972.17

One Pentagon contract-study of Phoenix's operations found that only 3% of those 'neutralized' were full party members above the district level between 1970 and 1971, and that over half "...were not even party members."18

A Saigon government document lists the number of assassinated at over 40,000, nearly double that of other documents, highlighting potential disparity between record keeping and reality.19 The program supposedly ended in 1972, though it has been revealed that at least certain aspects continued until the fall of Saigon in 1975. Understanding that official documents don't cover the full scope of Phoenix, and the history of records destruction by the Agency, it is unlikely that the full extent of Phoenix will ever be known.

So what about the infamous My Lai massacre that resulted in the rape and mutilation of around 400 civilians? Historian Daniel Valentine argues it was most certainly a Phoenix operation. He cites a known 'blacklist' of names to be 'neutralized' in My Lai, multiple accounts of military personnel referring to the entire village as Viet Cong sympathizers, using the logic that only sympathizers could survive in the area, and a Vietnamese Colonel who said himself that My Lai was a Phoenix operation, among other evidence.20

Marvin Gettleman concurrs:

"By late 1967, before the Tet offensive, 70% of the villages in Quang Ngai province had already been destroyed.

In response to Tet, this slaughter was intensified literally with a vengeance. In mid-March on 1968, Quang Ngai province was the scene of what was to become the most notorious example: the massacre of villagers in My Lai 4. There the killing of hundreds of villagers, almost all unarmed women and children, and old men, so successfully swelled the body count that General Westmoreland sent a personal message of 'Congratulations to officers and men of Charlie Company for outstanding action' that 'dealt the enemy a heavy blow'.

When the carnage finally came to light, evidence poured in showing that this massacre was not an aberration but just an especially appalling instance of a systematic strategy." -Gettleman, page 41121


Project Phoenix would first come to the public in 1971 with a congressional inquiry. William Colby, CIA chief and director of the Phoenix program, testified that the agency didn't distinguish between VietCong members and civilians.22 Colby would later defend the program, citing it as 'the toughest opposition the Viet Cong faced'.23

Food for Thought:

  1. In what other wars has terrorism been used as a tactic?

  2. Is it possible that the multitude of abuses in Latin America in the decades that proceeded the Vietnam War were 'Phoenix' offshoots?

  3. Why has there been such little discussion about the 'Phoenix Program' both in the mainstream media and in academia after its revelations came to light?

1Counterpunch, Fragging Bob,” May 17, 2001, written by Historian Douglas Valentine
2Michael Otterman, “American Torture,” excerpt available here.
3From Douglas Valentine's Website.
4Alfred McCoy, “A Question of Torture,” excerpt available here.
5Ibid, Valentine
6Quoted in the book “Hero´s,” excerpt available here.
7Documentary available here.
8Ralph McGee, “CIA and Operation Phoenix in Vietnam,” February 19, 1996
10Douglas Valentine, “The Phoenix Program,” excerpt available here.
11Testimony to Congress by Michael J. Uhl, available here.
12Leaflet excerpt available here.
13Doug Valentine, “The Phoenix Program,” excerpt available here.
15Testimony to Congress by Michael J. Uhl, available here.
16Marvin Gettleman, “Vietnam and America,” excerpt available here.
17Wikipedia Article on the Phoenix Program
18Alfred McCoy, “A Question of Torture,” excerpt available here.
19“Fiscal Year 1975 Foreign Assistance Request,” excerpt available here.
20Doug Valentine, “The Phoenix Program,” excerpt available here.
21Gettleman, excerpt here.
22Congressional Testimony, “U.S: Assistance Programs in Vietnam,” excerpt available here.
23Interview with William Colby, 1981, available here.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Operation Mockingbird: The CIA and Propaganda

"About a third of the whole CIA budget went to media propaganda operations... We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars a year just for that.....close to a billion dollars are being spent every year by the United States on secret propaganda." Testimony of William Schapp to Congress1

In 1948, the United States began the Marshall Plan, an initiative to help the devastated Europe recover from the War. The CIA decided to siphon funds to create the Office of Policy Coordination, which would become the covert action branch of the Agency.2 It was under this program that Operation Mockingbird, a domestic propaganda campaign aimed at promoting the views of the CIA within the media, began. From the onset, Operation Mockingbird was one of the most sensitive of the CIA's operations, with recruitment of journalists and training of intelligence officers for propaganda purposes usually undertaken by Director Allen Dulles himself or his direct peers.3

It is a false belief that the CIA 'infiltrated' unwitting media institutions. The recruitment of journalists was frequently done with complicity from top management and ownership. Former CIA Director William Colby claimed during the Church Committee investigative hearings, "Lets go to the managements. They were witting." Among the organizations that would lend their help to the propaganda efforts was the New York Times, Newsweek, Associated Press, and the Miami Herald. Providing cover to CIA agents was a part of the New York Times policy, set by their late publisher, Arthur Hays Salzberger.4

The investigative committee of Frank Church, officially titled “Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities”, uncovered a lot of evidence concerning Operation Mockingbird and came to the conclusion that:

"The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets."5

Carl Bernstein, the reporter famous for his excellent investigation into the Watergate scandal, wrote that:

(Joseph) Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty-five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring-do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full-time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.”6

While a majority of Mockingbird operations were overseas, the goal was to have important, hard-hitting stories to be circulated in the American press. Relationships with major United States media institutions certainly helped with this goal. Bernstein lists The New York Times, CBS and Time inc. as the most productive relationships the agency cultivated. They also created front organizations overseas who publicly maintained an appearance of free press but privately were operated by the agency. An example of this is the Rome Daily American, which was 40% owned by the CIA for three decades.7 

Another strategy was developing relationships with major media owners who were known to harbor right-wing views, such as William Paley of CBS, and then passing on information of journalists, actors and screenwriters who harbored left-wing views. Information was also passed on to friendly congressmen such as Joseph McCarthy. These men and women would then be blacklisted from the industry. Lee J. Cobb was one such actor who was blacklisted, and recalled his experience:

When the facilities of the government of the United States are drawn on an individual it can be terrifying. The blacklist is just the opening gambit - being deprived of work. Your passport is confiscated. That's minor. But not being able to move without being tailed is something else. After a certain point it grows to implied as well as articulated threats, and people succumb. My wife did, and she was institutionalized. In 1953 the HCUA (House UnAmerican Activities Committee) did a deal with me. I was pretty much worn down. I had no money. I couldn't borrow. I had the expenses of taking care of the children. Why am I subjecting my loved ones to this? If it's worth dying for, and I am just as idealistic as the next fellow. But I decided it wasn't worth dying for, and if this gesture was the way of getting out of the penitentiary I'd do it. I had to be employable again.”8

The CIA went as far as to write scripts for Hollywood. One interesting example is the funding of the movie version of Animal Farm in 1954, a book written just less than a decade earlier by George Orwell which enjoyed large commercial success. The problem for the CIA was that Orwell was a socialist, and his book attacked both capitalism and communism. To avoid this conflict, the CIA changed the ending of the Hollywood version to portray capitalism in a more positive light.9

Domestic surveillance was also used on journalists who had published classified material. In one example, a physical surveillance post was set up at a Hilton Hotel in view of the office of Washington Post writer Michael Getler.10 The operation defied the CIA's charter, which specifically prohibits domestic spying. The operation was directed towards numerous members of the Washington press corp, and was signed off by John F. Kennedy himself, in coordination with CIA director John McCone.11

One CIA document states: “Get books published or distributed abroad without revealing any U.S. Influence, by covertly subsidizing foreign publicans or booksellers... Get books published for operational reasons, regardless of commercial viability”. The Church Committee concluded that over 1000 books were published under this directive.12

Some investigative journalists have claimed that Operation Mockingbird did not end in 1976 as the CIA claims. For example, in 1998, researcher Steve Kangas claimed that conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who ran 'Forum World Features', a foreign news organization, was a CIA asset and used the organization to disseminate propaganda for circulation in the United States.13 Kangas ended up dead with a bullet hole in his head, in the office of Richard Scaife. It was ruled a suicide, although there were discrepancies in the police report and the autopsy.14

The Church Committee's conclusion accurately reflects the problems associated with Operation Mockingbird:

In examining the CIA’s past and present use of the U.S. media, the Committee finds two reasons for concern. The first is the potential, inherent in covert media operations, for manipulating or incidentally misleading the American public. The second is the damage to the credibility and independence of a free press which may be caused by covert relationships with the U.S. journalists and media organizations.”15

While it is deplorable for citizens of countries to be subjected to a state-owned media, at least they can be aware of the biases and filter information accordingly. We have been taught the lie from birth that the U.S. press is free from government meddling. In a situation where the manipulation is completely covert, the American public has been left unaware of the propaganda they have been ingesting for decades.

Food for Thought:

  1. Why were the owners and management of large media institutions so willing to participate in a program that violated their journalistic integrity?
  2. Has the increasingly consolidated media industry made it easier for news to be manipulated to fit 'the agenda' discussed in the One Party State?
  3. Have MK-ULTRA entrapment or mind control techniques ever been used to target the press?

1Testimony available here.
2Sallie Pasani “The CIA and the Marshall Plan,” excerpt available here.
3Rolling Stone Magazine, The CIA and the Media,” October 20, 1977
6Rolling Stone Magazine, “The CIA and the Media,” October 20, 1977
9John Simkin, “Operation Mockingbird.”
10New York Times, Project Mockingbird: Spying on Reporters,” June 26, 2007
13Steve Kangas, “A Timeline of CIA Atrocities.”
14John Simkin, “Steve Kangas.”

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"Dark Alliance" and the Mainstream Media

I have plenty of ideas for documenting the history of mainstream media propaganda after Operation Mockingbird had supposedly ended, the thesis being a modern propaganda machine of both deliberate infiltration and market forces within the media, including the history of consolidation, loosening of propaganda laws and similar content, as well as stand-alone case studies. While researching the history of the Contras, Cocaine and the CIA, I realized that the reaction by the mainstream press to the revelations of Gary Webb's 'Dark Alliance' series is a great case study.

“Do we have a free press today? Sure we do. It's free to report all the sex scandals it wants, all the stock market news we can handle, every new health fad that comes down the pike, and every celebrity marriage or divorce that happens. But when it comes to the real down and dirty stuff -- stories like Tailwind, the October Surprise, the El Mozote massacre, corporate corruption, or CIA involvement in drug trafficking -- that's where we begin to see the limits of our freedoms. In today's media environment, sadly, such stories are not even open for discussion. Back in 1938, when fascism was sweeping Europe, legendary investigative reporter George Seldes observed (in his book, The Lords of the Press) that "it is possible to fool all the people all the time -- when government and press cooperate." Unfortunately, we have reached that point.” -Gary Webb

The 'Dark Alliance' series sent shock-waves through much of the nation. In areas such as urban California where crack and gang violence had taken serious tolls, the anger was very understandable If the CIA was indeed responsible for allowing massive amounts of cocaine to enter the United States for a secret and illegal war, then those responsible should be tried in court, and changes ought to be made to how agencies such as the CIA operate.

When 'Dark Alliance' was first published, the mainstream press took almost no notice.

“Had it been published even a year or two earlier, it likely would have vanished without a trace at that point. Customarily, if the rest of the nation's editors decide to ignore a particular story, it quickly withers and dies, like a light-starved plant. With the exception of newspapers in Seattle, some small cities in Northern California, and Albuquerque, Dark Alliance got the silent treatment big time. No one would touch it.”- Gary Webb

What was different about 1996, as opposed to a few years earlier, was the proliferation of the internet. Webb was able to have his story read by a wide international audience, and was able to host photos of the documents used as evidence, which traditional print media lacks the capacity to accomplish. In one day, Webb recalls, the website got 1.3 million hits (much larger than the distribution population). It had developed momentum all on its own, despite a mainstream blackout.

The first article to appear in the New York Times, three days after the first round of 'Dark Alliance' was published, was a small piece titled “Inquiries into report that Contra rebels sold Cocaine in the U.S.” and focused entirely on CIA director John M. Deutch's assurances. The article reads: “[He] insisted there was no evidence that the C.I.A. ever aided drug trafficking by the Contra rebels,” despite the existence of various reports and affidavits cited by Webb.

'Dark Alliance' was published in mid to late August and the only mentions of the story in institutions such as the Washington Post, New York Times, and LA Times would refer to Webb's evidence as 'allegations' and quote CIA officials denying any wrongdoing. In October, the story had gained enough momentum in the press, radio and through black members of congress that they had to address it, and they did so in what can only be described as a baseless smear campaign.

"Last month," Newsweek reported in November, "the Merc started getting trashed -- by its peers. In turn, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times poked holes in the story, exhaustively and mercilessly."

"Agency officials said they had no evidence of any such plot. Other news organizations were not able to confirm the plot. Still, the rumor mill continued to grind, seemingly unstoppable."- New York Times, November 16 1996

What exactly did these institutions do to discredit the Webb story? As indicated earlier, most of the discrediting had to do with taking CIA statements at face value. An excellent example is the the New York Times series lasting 3 days written by Tim Golden devoted to attacking the 'Dark Alliance' series. On October 20, in an article titled 'Pivotal Figures of Newspaper Series May Be Only Bit Players', Golden claims:

“Although he claimed to have supplied several thousand pounds of cocaine to one of the biggest crack dealers in Southern California, officials said the C.I.A. had no record of Mr. Blandon before he appeared as a central figure in the series in The Mercury News. There is no evidence that either man was a rebel official or had anything to do with the C.I.A. Nor is there proof that the relatively small amounts of cocaine they sometimes claimed to have brokered on behalf of the insurgents had a remotely significant role in the explosion of crack that began around the same time.”

These statements directly contradict a range of evidence provided by Webb. To start, there were affidavits for both Norwin Meneses and Oscar Blandon showing that the LAPD, FBI and DEA all knew that both men were leaders of large Cocaine distribution rings and were funneling profits back to the Contras.

Humorously, while the major newspapers were claiming Rick Ross was insignificant in 1996, in 1994 before the knowledge of the CIA and Contra connection, the Los Angeles Times wrote:

“If there was a criminal mastermind behind crack's decade-long reign, if there was one outlaw capitalist most responsible for flooding Los Angeles' streets with mass-marketed cocaine, his name was Freeway Rick."

The headline they used was “Deposed King of Crack : Now Free After 5 Years in Prison, This Master Marketer Was Key to the Drug's Spread in L.A.”

Asking no hard questions, and echoing the denials of the CIA was the modus operandi of the major newspapers. The media was much more comfortable discussing the scandals of OJ Simpson and Monica Lewinsky. When they did devote time to Webb, they would quote anonymous sources downplaying claims. For example, an October 21 1996 article in the Los Angeles Times quoted 'two men who knew Meneses' to justify the assertion that Meneses was not a major Contra supporter, while the Mercury relied on much stronger sources such as sworn court testimony. They would also devote paragraph after paragraph to minor details such as the inability to name specific CIA officials involved.

“What did they say was wrong?” I asked.
“They don’t say any of the facts are wrong,” Ceppos said. “They just don’t agree with our conclusions.”
“And their evidence is what?”
“A lot of unnamed sources, mainly. It’s really a strange piece. I’ll send you a fax of it, and we can talk in the morning.” - Exchange between Gary Webb and his editor

The media would begrudgingly admit basic facts and downplay key testimony. They would dismiss claims as conspiracy theories. A great example is a Newsweek editorial that dismissed current Secretary of State John Kerry, who had headed the Kerry Commission and found significant wrongdoing on the part of the CIA, as a 'randy conspiracy buff'.

The real kicker is what happened in 1998. For two years the major media dismissed the possibility of a serious connection between the Contras and the cocaine explosion. Then the CIA released the testimony of the Inspector General who had conducted an investigation.

What did the Inspector General reveal?

Identified more than 50 Contras and Contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade.

Detailed how Reagan/Bush administration had protected these drug operations

Published evidence that drug trafficking and money laundering tracked into Reagan’s National Security Council, implicating Oliver North.

The CIA knew from Day 1 that the Contras were involved in the drug trade.

The CIA placed an admitted drug money launderer in charge of the Southern Front Contras

The CIA withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, the Congress and even the CIA’s own analytic division.

Released a CIA cable from 1981 that discussed Contra members delivering drugs to Miami.

Essentially, validating the Mercury News story. The media did not print retractions of their previous articles, and they did not detail the findings of the Inspector Generals report. Although the report was a clear admission of guilt, they ignored the evidence entirely.

The Los Angeles Times never published a story discussing the report, and the New York Times and Washington Post continued to publish articles that derided the Webb story.

The Mercury News management caved into the pressure of the media establishment: Webb was transferred to a lesser department and told his investigative journalism days were over. His editors even printed an apology.

Is there evidence that this story is more than just market forces? A former CIA deputy director quoted by Carl Bernstein, former journalist who has done the most investigative research on Operation Mockingbird, said “It was widely known that Phil Graham [previous owner of the Washington Post] was someone you could get help from.” Not the strongest evidence, I will admit. But the case does show that the agenda is set from the management at the top, that the newspaper owners relationship with the political establishment has a drastic effect on coverage.

Phil's spouse, Katherine Graham, who owned the Post until she passed away in 2001, once said:

"We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows."

These are the type of people who own the mainstream media, and the reporting on the Dark Alliance story the kind of journalism they produce.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CIA: the C Stand for Cocaine

"For the better part of a decade, a Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods Street Gangs of Los Angeles and funnelled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found.
This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia's cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the "crack" capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America -- and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.'s gangs to buy automatic weapons.
It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union of a U.S. backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting "gangstas" of Compton and South Central Los Angeles."--Gary Webb From the introduction to the original Dark Alliance website, August, 1996

"In the name of supporting the contras... [officials] abandoned the responsibility our government has for protecting our citizens from all threats to their security and well-being." - The Kerry Commission

In 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published a front page story titled 'Dark Alliance'. The text was accompanied by an image of a man smoking crack, with the seal of the CIA superimposed upon it.

The article was written by Gary Webb, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist who had been investigating some shady business that became uncovered during the Iran/Contra hearings. He claimed to have found evidence that the CIA was behind the crack cocaine epidemic during the 1980's.

The story was universally criticized by the mainstream media. Well, first it was ignored, but uproar in urban California forced them to respond. As is thematic with conspiracy denial, the major newspapers began debunking claims that Gary Webb never made, ridiculed assertions that turned out to be true, and ignored new evidence when it came to light.

The backlash effectively ended Gary Webb's mainstream journalism career, though he would continue to write and give speeches, published a book and worked on a Government Oversight Committee in Los Angelos. In 2004, Gary Webb passed away, the cause of death was two bullets to the head. It was ruled a suicide.

Gary Webb wasn't the first journalist to tie cocaine to the covert Nicaraguan war. Nearly a decade before 'Dark Alliance' was published, in 1985 at the peak of the covert war the Associated Press ran an article titled “Contras Reportedly Trafficking in Cocaine to Help Fund War”

Nicaraguan rebels operating in northern Costa Rica have engaged in cocaine trafficking, in part to help finance their war against Nicaragua's leftist government, according to U.S. investigators and American volunteers who work with the rebels. The smuggling operations include refueling planes at clandestine airstrips and helping transport cocaine to other Costa Rican points for shipment to the United States, said U.S. law enforcement officials

I want to digress here and mention that just months before this article was written, Ronald Reagan took to the public airwaves and gave a big speech condemning the Sandanistas, the communist government of Nicaragua. He stated: “Now they're exporting drugs to poison our youth and linking up with the terrorists of Iran.”

When in reality it was the Contras, our allies, exporting drugs into our country and it was America who was covertly facilitating arm sales in Iran, at the same time we were publicly supplying arms to Iraq, at the height of the Iran-Iraq war!

With the Contra sellling of cocaine, just how deep did the complicity go? Lets start with a collection of the evidence:

The Kerry Commission report, John Kerry's investigation into the affairs of the covert war in Nicaragua, found that “The logic of having drug money pay for the pressing needs of the Contras appealed to a number of people who became involved in the covert war. Indeed, senior U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contra's funding problems.”

The Kerry Commission Report also states: “[The Head of the Costa Rican Airforce] said that Contra operations on the Southern Front were in fact funded by drug operations. He testified that weapons for the Contras came from Panama on small planes carrying mixed loads which included drugs. The pilots unloaded the weapons, refueled, and headed north toward the U.S. with drugs.”

The DEA had been tracking Norwin Meneses, a major player in cocaine trafficking in the United States, since 1976 according to official documents. Meneses spent much of the 1980's transporting cocaine from Columbia and Nicaragua into the United States uninterrupted. He lived in California until 1989 and was never arrested.

A DEA affadavit revealed that the Feds had come across a large scale cocaine trafficking ring run by Meneses in 1978 and did not act.

Fabio Ernest Carrasco, a Columbian pilot for a major drug cartel, testified in a US court in 1990 that during 1984 and 1985, the most intensive years of the covert war, he participated in multiple flights bringing weapons from the United States to the Contras, and then returned with drugs in the plane. He claims that his flights were uninterrupted and he operated with the belief that he was being protected by the CIA.

Oliver North met with the notorious Panama dictator and drug lord Manuel Noriega in an effort to secure support for expanding covert operations in Western Nicaragua.

DEA agent Celerino Castillo reported to his superiors multiple times that cocaine was being stored at the CIA's contra-supply warehouse at Ilopango Air Force Base in El Salvador for shipment to the U.S. No action was taken, and Castillo would end up being forced from the Agency.

Oscar Blandon, a major player, was sentenced to only 24 months for drug crimes that would put other criminals behind bars for life. He supplied Rick Ross with millions of dollars of Cocaine on a daily basis. He was the only foreign drug trafficker ever arrested to not be deported following conviction on drug trafficking. Instead he was hired by the DEA after his time served.

A 1992 document from the US Probation and Parole Department shows that Blandon had begun selling cocaine with the intention of funding the Contras, after legitimate means resulted in a lack of funds.

The Frogman Case: Key documents from the Justice Department and the CIA showed that the CIA blocked public disclosure of allegations that CIA money was being diverted to the drug trade. The Frogman Case was one of California's biggest drug busts in the early 80's, catching scuba divers with over 100 million worth in Cocaine. CIA efforts ensured that 38 thousand dollars seized was back to Contra leaders, and was not allowed as evidence in the trial.

Michael Ruppert, former LAPD Narcotics Detective, confronted CIA Director Deutch on live television claiming that he had personally witnessed CIA agents dealing drugs multiple times. The video linked is fun to watch.

An August 9, 1985 memo from Oliver North claims that an airplane used by the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN) was running supplies to the Contras in Honduras and was likely running drugs back. “Honduran DC-6 which is being used for runs out of New Orleans is probably being used for drug runs into U.S.”

Air Force General Richard Secord told Oliver North that “14 million to finance [the arms in the warehouse] came from drugs.”

DEA officials have testified that Oliver North suggested to the DEA “that $1.5 million in drug money carried aboard a plane piloted by DEA informant Barry Seal and generated in a sting of the Medellin and Sandinista officials, be provided to the Contras.”

Blandon and Meneses have both claimed to have been working for the CIA

A 1986 affidavit shows that the Feds knew Blandon was the head of a large scale cocaine ring.

In 1985, another Contra leader "told U.S. authorities that his group was being paid $50,000 by Colombian traffickers for help with a 100-kilo cocaine shipment and that the money would go 'for the cause' of fighting the Nicaraguan government." A 1985 National Intelligence Estimate revealed cocaine trafficking links to a top commander working under Contra leader Edén Pastora.

In 1998, two years after the story broke, the CIA admitted that the Contras were indeed involved with the drug trade, CIA official had relationships with these Contra members and that they failed to take action.

"As I said earlier, we have found no evidence in the course of this lengthy investigation of any conspiracy by CIA or its employees to bring drugs into the United States. However, during the Contra era, CIA worked with a variety of people to support the Contra program. These included CIA assets, pilots who ferried supplies to the Contras, as well as Contra officials and others. Let me be frank about what we are finding. There are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity or take action to resolve the allegations."-CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz

Piecing Together the Evidence

The Contras were organized and funded by the CIA. Ronald Reagan had authorized in 1981 "all support necessary" to maintain and expand both the Contras and other covert war efforts in Nicaragua. Leading policy makers were enthusiastic about the prospects of drug money as a means of working around funding restrictions.

Around the time of Reagan's authorization, the Contras began shipping massive amounts of cocaine into the United States. There is significant complicity from the CIA, if not outright direct involvement. The same planes that would bring weapons to the Contras returned to the States with drugs.

Once inside the United States, the cocaine would be delivered to a network of Contra supporters that distributed it across the country and funneled profits back to the covert war in Nicaragua.

Because of the massive quantities of Cocaine shipped into the United States with minimal interruptions, those with Contra connections were able to sell their drugs at cut-rate prices. Rick Ross was one of the dealers who connected with Oscar Blandon, and as a result he was able to build a massive cocaine and crack empire but undercutting any competitors. The cheapness and quantity of cocaine was the reason for the crack epidemic in Los Angeles. The connections with the Contras also allowed the Crips and Bloods, among other gangs, to purchase mass amounts of weaponry such as assault rifles, greatly contributing to the rise in gang violence.

Investigations into major players such as Blandon and Meneses were either interrupted and dismissed or never occurred in the first place. Meneses was never arrested, and Blandon was given a DEA job after serving 2 years, lending some credibility to their claims that they worked with the CIA.


The extent to which the CIA participated in drug running is unknown, but at the very least we can conclude that they approved of the activity and prevented any Federal barriers from interrupting the smooth flow of drugs, going beyond the mere complicity of turning a blind eye.

Drug running is consistent with the CIA's actions of maintaining their warped view of 'National Security' at any cost. The millions of lives ruined by drugs and gang violence is only an afterthought for these agencies, 'fallout', for the 'necessary' actions of funding the Contra terrorist organization.

Some food for thought: Is it a coincidence that 92% of heroin on the world market is exported from Afghanistan? Is it possible that drug smuggling is not an isolated incident but rather a common method of fundraising for black-budget projects?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Operation Gladio: The CIA, NATO and Terrorism

In Europe's new order, they are the spies who never quite came in from the cold, foot soldiers in an underground guerrilla network with one stated mission: To fight an enemy that most Europeans believe no longer exists.

Theirs is a tale of secret arms caches and exotic code names, of military stratagems and political intrigues.

At best, their tale is no more than a curious footnote to the cold war. The question is if, at worst, it could be the key to unsolved terrorism dating back two decades...

The focus of the inquiry is a clandestine operation code-named Gladio, created decades ago to arm and train resistance fighters in case the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded.

All this week, there have been disclosures of similar organizations in virtually all Western European countries, including those that do not belong to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” New York Times1

How far would the United States go to prevent the spread of communism in Western Europe? Especially considering the constant false information provided by Reinhard Gehlen and his Organization indicating that a Soviet invasion was imminent? The answer is Operation Gladio: The CIA and NATO campaign to create, arm and fund radical right wing 'stay behind' organizations that would fight communism to the death. When the Soviet invasion never happened, these organizations created networks with politicians and within the black market, and turned their goals towards preventing the rise of leftist political movements, often resorting to terrorism to create domestic tension, causing citizens to turn towards increasingly fascist governments to provide protection. Today, this process is known as the 'Strategy of Tension'.

* * * *


It was Judge Felice Casson who first dredged up the evidence for state sponsored terrorism, while browsing the archives of the Italian military secret service.2 In a BBC documentary on Operation Gladio, Casson described the operations as an effort...

To create tension within the country to promote conservative, reactionary social and political tendencies. While this strategy was being implemented, it was necessary to protect those behind it because evidence implicating them was being discovered. Witnesses withheld information to cover right-wing extremists.”3

Casson points to a 1972 car bombing in Peteano,that killed three paramilitary police and was blamed on leftists, after which 200 Communists were immediately arrested. He found that there were no police investigations of the scene, and the official report was a forgery4. In fact, it was perpetrated by a right-wing terrorist named Vincenzo Vinciguerra5, operating under Gladio orders, who later confessed to the crime. Vinciguerra's testimony reveals that it was easy to escape and remain hidden because everyone in the Italian security apparatus shared his anti-Communist convictions.6 His testimony further revealed “a secret organisation, a super-organisation with a network of communications, arms, and explosives, and men trained to use them.”7 Years later, in prison, he would claim “I say that every single outrage that followed from 1969 fitted into a single organised matrix.”8 Nearly 2,000 people would die from political murder or acts of terrorism over this period of time. 

When ex-Prime Minister Andreotti finally testified in 1990, he revealed that arms and equipment were provided by the CIA and placed in 139 underground caches across the country. General Giandelio Maletti, a former head of Italian counterintelligence, in March 2001 confirmed the CIA involvement. He stated that after the Piazza Fontana bombing in 1969, pieces of a bomb were planted in a leftist editors villa in order to blame the communists. He stated:

"The CIA, following the directives of its government, wanted to create an Italian nationalism capable of halting what it saw as a slide to the left, and, for this purpose, it may have made use of right-wing terrorism.”9

* * * *


Another Gladio hotspot was Turkey. During the Cold War, Turkey shared a third of the total borders with the Soviet bloc and maintained the largest standing army in Europe, and the second in NATO after the United States. In 1952, a stay-behind army was organized under the codename 'Counter-Guerrilla'.

On November 3 (1996), a truck crashed into a Mercedes Benz in Susurluk, ninety miles south of Istanbul, and killed three Turkish passengers: a fugitive heroin smuggler and hitman, a former high-ranking police officer, and a former "Miss Cinema." The lone survivor was a right-wing member of parliament. In the car's trunk, police found a forged passport, police identification papers, ammunition, silencers, and machine guns.

Abdullah Catli, the fugitive heroin smuggler, had escaped from a Swiss prison. The dead beauty queen, Gonca Uz, was his girlfriend.

The police officer was Huseyin Kocadag, head of a Turkish police academy and a former Istanbul deputy police chief who reportedly organized hit squads in the southeast that kill Kurdish guerrillas and their supporters.

The survivor, Sedat Bucak, a member of parliament from the conservative True Path Party, is reportedly in charge of 2,000 Kurdish mercenaries paid by the government to fight Kurdish guerrillas.

The car crash has created a sensation in Turkey and has led parliament to hold hearings on the ties linking the True Path Party, the police, and thugs like Abdullah Catli. Newspapers in Turkey are making connections between what they are calling the "state gang" and a secret paramilitary force that for decades has attacked the left...

The United States funded these stay-behind groups for decades. Even though there was no Soviet occupation, some of the groups did take up arms-- against left-wing dissidents in their own countries. Some descendants of these groups are still at it, especially in Turkey.

Abdullah Catli was one of those.

"The accident unveiled the dark liaisons within the state," former prime minister Bulent Ecevit told parliament in December. Now leader of a small opposition social-democratic party, Ecevit knows a lot about those liaisons. He first told me about them -- and the American connection -- back in 1990, when I interviewed him in his Ankara office.” - The Progressive10

Bulent Ecevit, five time Turkish prime minister, who is cited in the above quote, declared that the Taksim Square massacre was a Gladio operation, where half a million citizens had rallied. It was organized by trade unions, and the shooting lasted for 20 minutes while a thousand policemen in attendance did not intervene. About 40 people were killed, and though none of the perpetrators were caught, 500 demonstrators were detained. The massacre occurred during a broader wave of political violence.11


The U.S. State Department in its 1995 Human Rights report noted that:

Prominent credible human rights organizations, Kurdish leaders, and local Kurds asserted that the government acquiesces in, or even carries out, the murder of civilians... Human rights groups reported the widespread and credible belief that a Counter-Guerrilla group associated with the security forces had carried out at least some 'mystery killings'".12

American journalist Lucy Komisar, when asking U.S. officials about investigating the human rights reports, was told “That's classified.” The Turkish military would likewise block all investigations in their country.13

There is evidence of Gladio operatives extensively operating torture campaigns for political purposes. For example, Talhat Turhan, former Turkey General, survived torture at the hands of special forces. He was told “...I was now ‘in the hands of a Counter Guerrilla unit operating under the high command of the Army outside the constitution and the laws.’ They told me that they ‘considered me as their prisoner of war and that I was sentenced to death.”14

Much of the violence was directed at the Kurdish minority. In 1984 the Counter-Guerrillas were behind the brutal crackdown that would kill and torture thousands over the next 5 years. Among other operations, Counter-Guerrillas would dress up as PKK members (A Kurdish political party) and attacked villages, raping and executing people randomly.15 

The political violence in Turkey, with Gladio operatives responsible to at least a moderate extent, paved the way for the series of military coups that have occurred in the country. A 1996 New York Times article notes that:

evidence suggests that officially sanctioned criminality may have reached levels that few had imagined...

One of Turkey's most prominent pro-Kurdish politicians, Guven Ozata, said the car crash and its aftermath had convinced him that state-sponsored death squads were behind many of the estimated 3,500 unsolved killings that have been committed in the southeastern part of the country in the last decade. Most of the victims had been suspected of sympathizing with separatist Kurdish causes.

''These gangs have a direct link with mystery killings,'' Mr. Ozata said at a news conference. ''This is no longer a hypothesis or a guess. It is a reality acknowledged by Government officials.''

Several politicians and others who are calling for investigations into the Government's relationship with criminal gangs believe that the gangs used their official ties as cover for involvement in Turkey's lucrative heroin-smuggling trade. They suspect that senior officials were engaged in the trade or tolerated it as a way of repaying gangs that killed at their behest.” - New York Times16

The evidence of Gladio operations in Turkey reveal another important link: The collusion between paramilitary forces and drug traffickers. At the time (and to this day), Turkey served as a major hub in the smuggling of drugs into Western Europe, from the Southeast Asian 'Golden Triangle' and later the Middle East. It is likely that drugs served as a significant source of funding for these decentralized operations and was the catalyst for a bond between the state and the criminal underworld that ensured massive corruption in the country that exists to this day. After all, we know that the Gehlen Organization was involved in the black market in the area to raise extra funds for their intelligence operations. It seems that this practice spread throughout the web of 'stay-behind' armies financed and armed by the CIA and NATO. 


* * * *


One of the countries that suffered the most from the Cold War terrorism groups was Greece, the country with perhaps the most significant propensity for the rise of a natural leftist coalition. Former CIA agent and Gladio whistleblower Philip Agee claimed that:

The Greek-American CIA officer recruited several groups of Greek citizens for what the CIA called ‘a nucleus for rallying a citizen army against the threat of a leftist coup’ … Each of the several groups was trained and equipped to act as an autonomous guerrilla unit, capable of mobilizing and carrying on guerrilla warfare with minimal or no outside direction.”17

These groups were equipped with automatic weapons and small mountain mortars stashed in underground caches throughout the country.18

The group was involved with the 1967 coup, where leftists were widely reported to have large leads in the polls. As NATO orders were to prevent any type of leftist 'insurgency', the group took over the Greece Defense Ministry, rolled into Athens, took control of communications centers, Parliament, the Royal Palace, and arrested over 10,000 people, many of whom were tortured.19

* * * *


Although the CIA and NATO have steadfastly refused to acknowledge the existence of Gladio, giving them deniability from ever having to disclose documents related to the operation, the existence of these fascist and violent underground networks has been acknowledged by the governments of nearly every NATO country. Furthermore, official documents in German, Dutch, French and Italian confirming the network, its organization and practices have been declassified.20

Operation Gladio is not just some ancient history. Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti confirmed that the last coordination meeting he was aware of was held in 1990.21 It has to be noted that this was a period of time where terrorism was evolving, moving towards the widespread radical Islamic terror that bombards our television screens daily, just 3 years before the first World Trade Center bombing and two years after the creation of Al-Qaeda. At the same time the geopolitical strategies of the United States were moving away from Europe and towards the Middle East. Unfortunately, the available information on Operation Gladio raises more questions than it answers.

Food for Thought:

  1. Knowing that the last Gladio meeting was in 1990, can we say with any certainty that the program ever ended? 
  2. How many people involved with Gladio are still operating in the CIA and other agencies?

  3. Seeing that the 'Strategy of Tension' proved to be an effective tool, in what other instances has it been implemented?

  4. Is there currently a 'Gladio B' in operation in the Middle East, as former FBI agent Sybel Edmonds asserts?

  5. Are the criminal alliances that formed during Gladio in places such as Turkey still in effect today?

  6. How did the 'stay-behind' organizations affect domestic politics in ways other than terrorism?

  7. Is the ongoing assassination campaign in Iraq, discussed in the chapter 'The War on Terror is a Fraud', a part of an evolved Gladio campaign?

3Operation Gladio, a 1992 BBC production, watch it here.
4Historian Daniel Ganser, eminent Gladio researcher, in his book NATO's Secret Armies, page 3, available in PDF here. Ganser is the eminent authority on Operation Gladio and has done tremendous work in synthesizing the various evidence from nearly a dozen different languages into one source. This book is a must-read to gain a full understanding of Operation Gladio.
6Daniel Ganser, in a paper published in the Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, page 72, available in PDF here.
8Ganser's NATOs Secret Armies page 8.
9Ganser's Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations page 73.
10The Progressive, Turkey´s Terrorists: A CIA Legacy Lives On,” April 1, 1997
11Ganser´s Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, page 73
12Ganser's NATO's Secret Army, page 20
14Ganser´s Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, page 74
15Ganser's NATO's Secret Army, page 240
16New York Times, Scandal Links Turkish Aides to Death, Drugs and Terror”, December 10, 1996
17Len Scott, “Intelligence, Crisis and Security.” Excerpt available here.
18Ganser´s Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, page 77
20Dozens of these documents are hosted here.
21Ganser's NATO's Secret Army, page 1