CIA “Manages” Drug Trade, Mexican Official Says

By ALEX NEWMAN | THE NEW AMERICAN | JULY 29, 2012

The Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement in drug trafficking is back in the media spotlight after a spokesman for the violence-plagued Mexican state of Chihuahua became the latest high-profile individual to accuse the CIA, which has been linked to narcotics trafficking for decades, of ongoing efforts to “manage the drug trade.” The infamous American spy agency refused to comment.

In a recent interview, Chihuahua state spokesman Guillermo Terrazas Villanueva told Al Jazeera that the CIA and other international “security” outfits “don’t fight drug traffickers.” Instead, Villanueva argued, they try to control and manage the illegal drug market for their own benefit.

“It’s like pest control companies, they only control,” Villanueva told the Qatar-based media outlet last month at his office in Juarez. “If you finish off the pests, you are out of a job. If they finish the drug business, they finish their jobs.”

Another Mexican official, apparently a mid-level officer with Mexico’s equivalent of the U.S. Department of “Homeland Security,” echoed those remarks, saying he knew that the allegations against the CIA were correct based on talks with American agents in Mexico. “It’s true, they want to control it,” the official told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity.

Credibility issues with employees of the notoriously corrupt Mexican government aside, the latest accusations were hardly earth shattering — the American espionage agency has been implicated in drug trafficking from Afghanistan to Vietnam to Latin America and everywhere in between. Similar allegations of drug running have been made against the CIA for decades by former agents, American officials, lawmakers, investigators, and even drug traffickers themselves.

Some of the most prominent officials to level charges of CIA drug trafficking include the former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Robert Bonner. During an interview with CBS, Bonner accused the American “intelligence” outfit of unlawfully importing a ton of cocaine into the U.S. in collaboration with the Venezuelan government.

Even the New York Times eventually covered part of the scandal in a piece entitled “Anti-Drug Unit of C.I.A. Sent Ton of Cocaine to U.S. in 1990.” And the agency’s Inspector General, Frederick Hitz, was eventually forced to concede to a congressional committee that the CIA has indeed worked with drug traffickers and obtained a waiver from the Department of Justice in the 1980s allowing it to conceal its contractors’ illicit dealings.

An explosive investigation by reporter Gary Webb dubbed the “Dark Alliance” also uncovered a vast CIA machine to ship illegal drugs into the U.S. to fund clandestine and unconstitutional activities abroad, including the financing of armed groups. Webb eventually died under highly suspicious circumstances — two gunshots to the head, officially ruled a “suicide.”

Responding to Webb’s discoveries, top officials and even lawmakers eventually acknowledged that the CIA almost certainly had a role in illegal drug trafficking. “There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, or on the payroll of, the CIA were involved in drug trafficking,” explained U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) after the Dark Alliance series.

Top-level Mexican officials have suggested complicity by U.S. officials in drug trafficking as well — even recently. “It is impossible to pass tons of drugs or cocaine to U.S. without some grade of complicity of some American authorities,” observed Mexican President Felipe Calderon in a 2009 interview with the BBC.

Last year, an explosive report in the Washington Times, citing a CIA source, speculated that the agency may be deliberately helping certain Mexican cartels to beat out others for geopolitical purposes. According to the sources, the intelligence outfit might have also played a key role in the now-infamous Fast and Furious scandal, which saw the federal government providing thousands of high-powered weapons to Mexican cartels.

Shortly before that, The New American reported on federal court filings by a top Sinaloa Cartel operative that shed even more insight on the U.S. government’s role in drug trafficking. The accused “logistical coordinator” for the cartel, Jesus Vicente “El Vicentillo” Zambada-Niebla, claimed that he had an agreement with top American officials: In exchange for information on rival cartels, the deal supposedly gave him and his associates immunity to import multi-ton quantities of drugs across the border.

“Indeed, United States government agents aided the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel,” the court filing states. Zambada-Niebla is currently being held in federal prison, but he argues that he is innocent because he had approval from — and collaborated with — U.S. agencies in his illegal drug-trafficking operations.

Another expert who spoke with Al Jazeera, a university professor, also indicated that the American federal government was deeply involved in the drug trafficking business. He said the drug war was an “illusion” aimed at justifying control of populations and intervention in Latin America. As evidence, he pointed to the fact that one of the top drug kingpins in the world — billionaire “El Chapo” of the Sinaloa cartel — operates openly and with impunity.

Numerous drug bosses and American officials have made similar claims, alleging that the U.S. government in essence controls at least some of the cartels. According to former DEA operative and whistleblower Celerino Castillo, American federal authorities have even been training members of the brutal Los Zetas cartel in Texas.

CIA and DEA insider Phil Jordan, meanwhile, publicly claimed last year that the Obama administration was selling military-grade weaponry to the deadly organization through a front company in Mexico. And with the Fast and Furious scandal, it emerged that the Obama administration was using tax money to arm Mexican cartels, then exploiting the ensuing violence to attack the Second Amendment.

The President and his Department of Justice have been engaged in a cover-up since whistleblowers first exposed the scheme more than a year ago, leading Congress to hold disgraced Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. Another congressional investigation being obstructed by the Justice Department surrounds DEA drug-money laundering operations revealed in an explosive New York Times article late last year.

“While the quality of the involvement of the CIA and other security agencies may be debatable, it is impossible to excise the blame from America,” noted an analysis about the latest allegations published by Catholic Online. “If the CIA is part of the problem, then it will only be one more sign of the corruption and evil that pervades American and Mexican politics and holds hostage millions of innocents.”

Some 50,000 people have died just in recent years as part of Mexico’s U.S. government-backed “war on drugs,” and anger south of the border continues to build. But even as Latin American leaders openly debate legalization and threaten to defect from the controversial “war,” the Obama administration has promised to continue showering taxpayer money on regimes that expand the battle.

Meanwhile, as the bloodshed continues to spiral out of control, the U.S. border remains virtually wide open on purpose, according to experts. And despite tens of billions spent on the endless “war,” numerous analyses indicate that the flow of illegal drugs into America is actually growing — not to mention consumption. By contrast, Portugal, which legalized all drugs about a decade ago, has seen declining rates of addiction, drug abuse, and crime.

In the United States, pressure is still growing on both sides of the aisle to reform or end the unconstitutional federal drug war once and for all, with polls showing rapidly declining support among voters. Over a dozen states have already nullified some unconstitutional federal statutes on marijuana as well. How long the “war” will go on, however, may depend on the federal government’s ability to continue borrowing funds to wage it.

FBI Techniques Revealed: “Agents can Bend and suspend the Law”

RUSSIA TODAY | APRIL 6, 2012

While the FBI insists they are acting to defend the US from potential terrorist attacks, a former informant says it treats an entire religious group as suspicious. He told RT about some of the bureau’s ethically murky practices.

RT:Back in 2006 you became Farouk al-Aziz, a French-Syrian in search of his Islamic roots. Tell us how did that happen?

CM: I was successful as an informant from 2003 to early 2006 working on money-for-hire operations, bank robberies, infiltrating white supremacist groups. And one day as I was speaking to my handler, her name was Tracy Hanlon. I said I am interested in infiltrating mosques. And she said “Oh my Gosh! That would be amazing. You would be gold!” They needed a specific kind of man, who can adapt and blend into the Muslim community to learn the language, learn the religion and use the religion and the culture against the Muslim community.

The FBI supplied me with sophisticated surveillance devices. They were called key fobs. It is like a car remote control. I had maybe five or six of them. They are always charged and I left them around the mosques where I would frequently pray. I had one in my pocket the entire time, always on and I had other key fobs just laying around in certain places where the they wanted me to target – the Imams’ offices, certain board members’ offices, certain worshippers’ cars, in their homes. So those devices were pretty much used on daily basis.

RT:Did you use any information that you acquired to create other informants?

CM: Yes. That was part of my role on Operation Flex. For example, in my conversations, or in their private conversations, certain things would come up. Like if a Muslim man was married and he had a girlfriend, a mistress, the FBI would use that information to blackmail that individual to become an informant. Or someone, perhaps, had a different sexual orientation. Or a certain youth had recreational drug use or desire to use certain narcotics. The FBI would use this information to blackmail them to become an informant.

RT: At that time did you think that what you were doing was wrong?

CM: Yes, I did. But I had been paid a lot of money at that time and I was assured by my handlers that the information that I was gathering and the method that I was using to gather it was far more important than the violation of anyone’s rights. So I continued. My handler Kevin Armstrong had serious concerns about the method which I was tasked to use to gather information, but he was overruled by the operational leader Paul Allen to keep me using entrapment types of methods to gather information.

RT:Some believe that entrapment is a necessary evil and it is a part of a price to be paid for national security. Do you agree with that?

CM: No, I don’t agree. In retrospect, especially, because again I used those tactics on a daily basis for over a year. And the reason why I disagree is because entrapment methods never stop. It always grows. There are no boundaries for it. If I can seek out an individual and get them coerced in some way to do something they normally would not do, that behavior from the informant only grows into more violation, more severe violations of the civil rights of Americans. So I think entrapment alone must be stopped.

RT:How widespread was entrapment among law enforcement agencies in the US?

CM: I worked with several federal agencies and several local police departments as an informant. And on each and every operation and case I worked on, a large degree of entrapment is the principal method. That is not justice. And I believe the FBI must rethink their policies and procedures. I believe that entrapment creates enemies.

RT:Does the US entrap people abroad too?

CM: Abroad? Yes. Operation Flex began in the United States, but it expanded beyond the borders of America. There were people in Afghanistan and a certain few in Iraq, a few in Yemen, who were entrapped. But that entrapment method was used to blackmail them to become informants not lead to arrests. It was to blackmail them. Usually when federal authorities, the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives], FBI want you, they would arrange some type of operation where they lure you in an entrapment manner where you may be innocent of this particular crime but they will use that arrest to pressure you to plead guilty on other arrests.

RT:Are other minority communities in America targeted as intensively as Muslims?

CM: No, I think the Muslims today are what the African-Americans were in 1950s, 60s and 70s. The order of today where the FBI needs an enemy, they found it in Islam. And I think unfortunately, a religious war, yes, but they would never say that because they can’t. It’s a violation of one’s constitutional rights, but that’s exactly what it is, the war on terror is a war on Islam.

The FBI has completed a six month-long review of materials and methods used to train counterterrorism agents.

­‘Yes’ to suspending law, ‘no’ to handshakes with Asians

­“Under certain circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others,” one FBI PowerPoint presentation bluntly stated. The circumstances under which the FBI could get the carte blanche to violate one of the pillars of American society were not stated.

The files also contain samples of offensive stereotypes in training documents. One of the documents, titled “Establishing Relations” instructs trainees: “Never attempt to shake hands with an Asian. Never stare at an Asian. Never try to speak to an Arab female prior to approaching the Arab male first.”

Another document, called “Control and Temper” contrasted the supposedly stoic Western mind to that of the “Arab world.” In the Arab world, “outburst and loss of control [is] expected,” the document states. In another bullet point, these outbursts are also called “Jekyll & Hyde temper tantrums.”

Of the 160,000 pages and slides used by the FBI, 876 pages and 392 presentations were deemed inappropriate and offensive. However, the FBI did not publish its results and did it take any disciplinary measures against those responsible for the shoddy material. Nor did it order the agents exposed to the material to be retrained.

­Senator leaks files to the web

­The shocking instructions have been made public with the help of Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee overseeing the FBI. He shared a letter he sent to FBI Director Robert Mueller with the Danger Room blog on Wired.com. The letter gave just a taste of the kind of information FBI agents were exposed to.

Senator Durbin was astonished by the publications.

I cannot imagine that was actually said,” Durbin stated. “It creates a license for activity that could on its face be illegal, and certainly inconsistent with our values.”

He also chided the FBI for failing to take appropriate measures to mitigate the effects of using such obnoxious material.

“If the FBI does not identify agents who received inaccurate information and take steps to retrain them, there is a real risk that agents will be operating on false assumptions about Arab Americans and American Muslims,” he wrote to FBI chief Mueller. “This could harm counterterrorism efforts by leading FBI agents to target individuals based on their religion or ethnicity, rather than suspicion of wrongdoing.”

The recent revelations are not the first in the series of shocking FBI agent-training instructions. Last year a leak to the web featured a chart, supposedly used by the FBI for training, that taught agents that the more “devout” a Muslim was, the more likely he was to be “violent.” In another instance, an FBI lecturer was featured in a video repeatedly telling the audience that America should be focusing its effort on fighting Islam and not individual militant groups, which he compared to the teeth of a shark, the shark being the Islamic world. He also compared the religion to the Death Star in Star Wars, saying the effort had to be directed at finding Islam’s weak spot.

D.E.A. Launders Mexican Profits of Drug Cartels

by Ginger Thompson
NYTimes.com
December 5, 2011

Undercover American narcotics agents have laundered or smuggled millions of dollars in drug proceeds as part of Washington’s expanding role in Mexico’s fight against drug cartels, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials.

The agents, primarily with the Drug Enforcement Administration, have handled shipments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal cash across borders, those officials said, to identify how criminal organizations move their money, where they keep their assets and, most important, who their leaders are.

They said agents had deposited the drug proceeds in accounts designated by traffickers, or in shell accounts set up by agents.

The officials said that while the D.E.A. conducted such operations in other countries, it began doing so in Mexico only in the past few years. The high-risk activities raise delicate questions about the agency’s effectiveness in bringing down drug kingpins, underscore diplomatic concerns about Mexican sovereignty, and blur the line between surveillance and facilitating crime. As it launders drug money, the agency often allows cartels to continue their operations over months or even years before making seizures or arrests.

Agency officials declined to publicly discuss details of their work, citing concerns about compromising their investigations. But Michael S. Vigil, a former senior agency official who is currently working for a private contracting company called Mission Essential Personnel, said, “We tried to make sure there was always close supervision of these operations so that we were accomplishing our objectives, and agents weren’t laundering money for the sake of laundering money.”

Another former agency official, who asked not to be identified speaking publicly about delicate operations, said, “My rule was that if we are going to launder money, we better show results. Otherwise, the D.E.A. could wind up being the largest money launderer in the business, and that money results in violence and deaths.”

Those are precisely the kinds of concerns members of Congress have raised about a gun-smuggling operation known as Fast and Furious, in which agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed people suspected of being low-level smugglers to buy and transport guns across the border in the hope that they would lead to higher-level operatives working for Mexican cartels. After the agency lost track of hundreds of weapons, some later turned up in Mexico; two were found on the United States side of the border where an American Border Patrol agent had been shot to death.

Former D.E.A. officials rejected comparisons between letting guns and money walk away. Money, they said, poses far less of a threat to public safety. And unlike guns, it can lead more directly to the top ranks of criminal organizations.

“These are not the people whose faces are known on the street,” said Robert Mazur, a former D.E.A. agent and the author of a book about his years as an undercover agent inside the Medellín cartel in Colombia. “They are super-insulated. And the only way to get to them is to follow their money.”

Another former drug agency official offered this explanation for the laundering operations: “Building up the evidence to connect the cash to drugs, and connect the first cash pickup to a cartel’s command and control, is a very time consuming process. These people aren’t running a drugstore in downtown L.A. that we can go and lock the doors and place a seizure sticker on the window. These are sophisticated, international operations that practice very tight security. And as far as the Mexican cartels go, they operate in a corrupt country, from cities that the cops can’t even go into.”

The laundering operations that the United States conducts elsewhere — about 50 so-called Attorney General Exempt Operations are under way around the world — had been forbidden in Mexico after American customs agents conducted a cross-border sting without notifying Mexican authorities in 1998, which was how most American undercover work was conducted there up to that point.

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D.E.A Commandos Attack Cartels that Cut Into Its Profits

Charlie Savage
New York Times
October 8, 2011

Late on a moonless night last March, a plane smuggling nearly half a ton of cocaine touched down at a remote airstrip in Honduras. A heavily armed ground crew was waiting for it — as were Honduran security forces. After a 20-minute firefight, a Honduran officer was wounded and two drug traffickers lay dead.

Several news outlets briefly reported the episode, mentioning that a Honduran official said the United States Drug Enforcement Administration had provided support. But none of the reports included a striking detail: that support consisted of an elite detachment of military-trained D.E.A. special agents who joined in the shootout, according to a person familiar with the episode.

The D.E.A. now has five commando-style squads it has been quietly deploying for the past several years to Western Hemisphere nations — including Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize — that are battling drug cartels, according to documents and interviews with law enforcement officials.

The program — called FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team — was created during the George W. Bush administration to investigate Taliban-linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan. Beginning in 2008 and continuing under President Obama, it has expanded far beyond the war zone.

“You have got to have special skills and equipment to be able to operate effectively and safely in environments like this,” said Michael A. Braun, a former head of operations for the drug agency who helped design the program. “The D.E.A. is working shoulder-to-shoulder in harm’s way with host-nation counterparts.”

The evolution of the program into a global enforcement arm reflects the United States’ growing reach in combating drug cartels and how policy makers increasingly are blurring the line between law enforcement and military activities, fusing elements of the “war on drugs” with the “war on terrorism.”

Bruce Bagley, a University of Miami professor who specializes in Latin America and counternarcotics, said the commando program carries potential benefits: the American teams could help arrest kingpins, seize stockpiles, disrupt smuggling routes and professionalize security forces in small countries through which traffickers pass drugs headed to the United States.

But there are also potential dangers.

“It could lead to a nationalist backlash in the countries involved,” he said. “If an American is killed, the administration and the D.E.A. could get mired in Congressional oversight hearings. Taking out kingpins could fragment the organization and lead to more violence. And it won’t permanently stop trafficking unless a country also has capable institutions, which often don’t exist in Central America.”

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The fast and furious plot to occupy Iran

by Pepe Escobar
Al Jazeera
October 20, 2011

No one ever lost money betting on the dull predictability of the US government. Just as Occupy Wall Street is firing imaginations all across the spectrum – piercing the noxious revolving door between government and casino capitalism – Washington brought us all down to earth, sensationally advertising an Iranian cum Mexican cartel terror plot straight out of The Fast and the Furious movie franchise. The potential victim: Adel al-Jubeir, the ambassador in the US of that lovely counter-revolutionary Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

FBI Director Robert Muller and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

FBI Director Robert Mueller insisted the Iran-masterminded terror plot “reads like the pages of a Hollywood script”. It does. And quite a sloppy script at that. Fast and Furious duo Paul Walker/Vin Diesel wouldn’t be caught dead near it.

The good guys in this Washington production are the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In the words of Attorney General Eric Holder, they uncovered “a deadly plot directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign Ambassador on US soil with explosives.”

Holder added that the bombing of the Saudi embassy in Washington was also part of the plan. Subsequent spinning amplified that to planned bombings of the Israeli embassy in Washington, as well as the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires.

The Justice Department has peddled quite a murky story – Operation Red Coalition (no, you can’t make that stuff up) – centred on one Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old holding both Iranian and US passports and an Iran-based co-conspirator, Gholam Shakuri, an alleged member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s (IRGC) Quds Force.

Arbabsiar allegedly had a series of encounters in Mexico with a DEA mole posing as a Mexican drug cartel heavy weight. The Iranian-American seems to have been convinced that the mole was a member of the hardcore Zetas Mexican cartel, and reportedly bragged he was being “directed by high-ranking members of the Iranian government”, including a cousin who was “a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform.”

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