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“Ollie’s Contra-band”

by Celerino Castillo

March 8, 2003

posted at DrugWar.com
March 21, 2003


Celerino Castillo
photo- Preston Peet

For several years, I fought in the trenches of the front lines of the Reagan-Bush’s drug war. I was trying to stamp out what I had considered American’s greatest foreign threat. While our government shouted, “Just Say No”, entire Central and South American nations fell into what was known as “Cocaine Democracies”.

The man that brought us this epidemic is none other than former Lt. Col. Oliver North. Recently, I read an advertisement in the Monitor where an invitation was extended to Oliver North to speak at the annual meeting of the McAllen/Hidalgo County Salvation Army. The fundraiser is to be held on April 5, 2003 at the McAllen High School.

Oliver L. North, a Marine lieutenant colonel, was assigned to the National Security Council staff beginning in 1981 until he was fired on November 25, 1986. He was the White House official most directly involved in secretly aiding the Contras by selling arms to Iran. It was best known as; “the Iran-for-Hostages” weapons deal. The allegation was that he diverted Iran arms sales proceeds to the Contras' accounts. However, it was later determined that the diversion was not to the Contras but from the Contras to our governments' agents own Swiss bank accounts. It was also clear that North’s job at the NSC was to implement two of the President’s (Reagan) most important policy goals: the sustenance of the Contras despite the Boland prohibition on U.S. aid, and the release of American hostages being held by pro-Iranian terrorists in Beirut. It was clear that North worked tirelessly in pursuit of these goals.

During the Contra operation, Vice-President George H. Bush designated North and CIA Director William Casey, to coordinate the re-supply operation out of Ilopango airport in El Salvador. This he did, using assets already in place around General Richard Secord’s airlift operation at Ilopango. Former CIA agent Felix Rodriguez, and Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles ran the operations out of hangars 4 and 5. In October 1976, after an explosion sent a Cuban jetliner plummeting into the sea off Barbados, it was revealed that the mastermind behind the bombing was no other then Luis Posada. In late 2000, Luis Posada was arrested in a plot to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro.

At the height of the Contra war, I was stationed in El Salvador for 5 years as the only DEA agent. It was there that I came face to face with the contradictions of my assignments. I started to record intelligence on how known drug traffickers, with multiple DEA files, utilized hangars 4 and 5 to transport monies and drugs. The Contra supply operations utilized the most readily available capabilities: drug-smugglers, who had the planes and pilots to conduct clandestine flights from South and Central America to all parts of the United States. “Guns down, drugs back,” was the formula.

North had additional protection from Felix Rodriguez who ran hangar 4. By that time, Rodriguez had built an apparatus outside the CIA, for the purpose of not having to answer to Congress. I repeatedly warned the U.S. Embassy and DEA Headquarters that my intelligence revealed that the drug profits were being utilized to support the Reagan-Bush backed right-wing “Contras” in Nicaragua and surrounding countries. I was warned several times by DEA and the State Department to shut down my Contra investigations. I ignored the repeated threats and continued to file DEA 6s (Field of Investigative Report) and telex/cables to Washington D.C. My reports not only named the traffickers, but their destination, tail numbers, cargo, and times and dates of each flight. Some Contra files were reported on DEA case file # TG-87-0003, General Files #’s GFTG-86-9999, Air Intelligence at El Salvador, and GFTG-86-9145 (El Salvador). A senior DEA agent (Sandy Gonzales) in Costa Rica advised me to check out Hangers 4 & 5 because he had received intelligence that a large shipment of cocaine had been stored in said hangers.

The July 9, 1984 entry in North’s diary obligingly published by Senator John Kerry, states, in Ollie’s own hand, “wanted aircraft to go to Bolivia to pick up paste, want aircraft to pick up 1,500 kilos.” The July 12, 1985 entry reads, “$14 million to finance [arms] Supermarket came from drugs”. August 9, 1985: “Honduran DC-9 which is being used for runs out of New Orleans is probably being used for drug runs into U.S.” All told, Ollie referred to CIA drug dealing in more than 250 entries.

Oliver North’s defense has always been that he allegedly turned all of the drug information over to the DEA. On Saturday, October 22, 1994, The Washington Post reported that, “North Didn’t Relay Drug Tip: DEA Says It Finds No Evidence Reagan Aide Talked to Agency”. As late as 1991, the Washington D.C. DEA office opened a general drug case file (GFGD-91-9139) on Oliver North, “smuggling weapons to the Philippines with known drug traffickers.”

Oliver North was indicted in March 1988 on Iran-Contra charges.

During North’s testimony, he revealed the following:

· North had difficulty on cross-examination explaining why he destroyed some NSC records, as he claimed, to protect the lives of individuals involved in the Iran and Contra operations, but had taken with him from the White House more than a dozen notebooks containing 2,000 pages of names and details on operations, including some highly classified information.

· North claimed no awareness of a $200,000 investment account that Secord’s business partner, Albert Hakim, set up for North in Switzerland. He did admit that he sent his wife Betsy to Philadelphia in March 1986 to meet with Willard I. Zucker, the Secord-Hakim Enterprise’s financial manager. North said he assumed that in the event of his death, something would be done “that was proper and honorable and nothing wrong in any way,” denying that the investment account was a bribery attempt by Hakim. Hakim pleaded guilty in November 1989 to attempting to supplement the salary of North, based partly on the establishment of the $200,000 investment account.

On May 06, 1989, North was found guilty on three counts which included: (1) aiding and abetting obstruction of Congress, (2) shredding and altering official documents, and (3) accepting an illegal gratuity from General Richard V. Secord. Judge Gesell sentenced North on July 05, 1989 to two years probation, $150,000. in fines and 1,200 hours community service. He told North that a jail sentence would “only harden your misconceptions” about public service and how he had tarnished it.

North’s convictions were vacated on July 20, 1990, after the appeals court found that witnesses in his trial might have been impermissibly affected by his immunized congressional testimony. Despite the dismissal of North’s convictions, the prosecution of the case showed that even individuals entrenched in national security matters can be held accountable for crimes committed in the course of their official duties. It was not classified information, after all, that caused North to prevail on appeal. It was Congress’s political decision to grant immunity to North, despite the danger it posed to prosecution.

For decades, the American leadership has fought hard to bring to justice what it calls the tyrants that spread terror around the globe. It has called upon nations to set up a permanent institution similar to the Nuremberg Tribunal, to free the world from the Saddam Husseins and Slobodan Milosevics. In Rome, Italy 120 countries voted to create the first International Criminal Court, that in theory will supersede legal jurisdiction over some American citizens.

The US bailed out from the vote, along with China, Iraq, Libya, and three other countries. Analysts say Washington realized that the possibility of its servicemen - like Lt. Col. Oliver North, widely-believed to have masterminded the so-called Iran-Contra scandal - could also be prosecuted for war crimes. “If it was proven that Oliver North knew about the atrocities that were committed by the Contras, yes, he could also have been held accountable before the ICC, had it existed at the time,” says William Pace, head of the Coalition for an International Criminal Court.

In July of 1989, Costa Rica officially declared that Oliver L. North and other Americans were barred from the country because they were part of “an organization made up of Panamanians, Colombians, Costa Ricans, and citizens of other nationalities who dedicated themselves to international cocaine trafficking…”

In conclusion, I asked the McAllen/Hidalgo County Salvation Army to have better judgment in selecting their speaker. We all know that this is a free county and you can invite anyone you wish and pay him/her thousand of dollars to speak to your organization. However, there are better-qualified individuals who have done so much for the unprivileged. Take for example Rigoberta Menchu, a recipient of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize. As I stated before, if our citizens want to pay $50.00 or $100.00 per plate to support a great cause, then it’s their God given right. However, let’s not ignore the fact that if they bring an individual like Oliver North, they will also be supporting the atrocities, the direct results of which were our 9-11. Let us not forget the thousands of innocent lives that were murdered in Central and South America by our own trained Death Squads. We may forgive, but we will NEVER forget.

In 1974, Oliver L. North had to be hospitalized in Bethesda Naval Hospital after he was found running around naked, waving a .45 caliber pistol and babbling incoherently.

On January 24, 1993, The Monitor ran one of its most intense investigating reporting on Oliver North’s alleged drug trafficking operation. For the full story go to www.drugwar.com and www.copvcia.com.

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves”
Matthew 7:15

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Celerino “Cele” Castillo, 3rd is a former DEA agent and author of the book: Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras, & The Drug War. He can been reach at powderburns@prodigy.net or contact him at 956-345-5779.

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