Feb 21, 1988

Drug war losing out to national security | By Jerry Meldon | published in the Boston Globe Feb 21 1988


Noriega case shows US obsession with Nicaragua

 A forgotten invasion, a forgotten dictator | Opinions News | Al Jazeera

Antonio Noriega: illegal activities long tolerated

President Reagan's "war" on drugs - spearheaded by George Bush - is a failure, like those of his three predecessors. A major cause, in this administration more than any other in memory, is that fighting international narcotics trafficking has taken a back seat to "national security" interests.

The Reagan administration has consistently assigned top priority to its vendetta with Nicaragua's Sandinista regime. Because of this, Washington has squandered substantial leverage in drug traffic control. This is particularly true of our relations with Panama and Colombia, as recent events have made clear. On Feb. 4, federal grand juries in Tampa and Miami indicted Panama's ruling strongman, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, on charges of narcotics and racketeering in collusion with Colombia's cocaine cartel. However, as long ago as 1972, the US Bureau of Narcotics contemplated assassinating Noriega, then in charge of intelligence. Noriega survived because he was a CIA and Pentagon asset.

In the week before Washington moved on Noriega, unidentified gunmen kidnapped the Colombian attorney general, Carlos Mauro Hoyos. near Colombia's cocaine stronghold of Medellin. Hoyos is now believed dead.

In October, gunmen assassinated the 1986 presidential nominee of Colombia's Patriotic Union party, Jaime Pardo Leal. Both assaults are believed to have been ordered by the world's most powerful drug traffickers, the Medellin cocaine cartel.

In November, Medellin drug godfather Jorge Luis Ochoa Vasquez was collared by Colombian authorities. One month later, a Judge ordered Ochoa released - despite a request from Washington that he be extradited here to face narcotics charges.

Alleged link to Sandinistas

Preoccupied for seven years with battling the Sandinistas, the Reagan administration has repeatedly blown opportunities to nail the likes of Jorge Ochoa. Instead, the White House has tried to reap political gain by linking the Sandinistas to the Colombian cocaine pushers.

National security priorities have also dictated tolerance for Noriega. As described in the final report of Congress' Iran-contra committee, Noriega offered Lt. Col. Oliver North - a strong supporter of the general - assassination teams and other services In the anti-Sandinista cause.

However, Noriega also had the audacity to block at least one shipment of sup-piles to the Nicaraguan contras, and he , promoted the Contadora peace plan vehemently opposed by the White House. And so Noriega began to outlive his usefulness.

The first sign of White House disenchantment came in December 1985, when Adm. John Poindexter, then national security adviser, flew to Panama City. The admiral was reportedly upset with Noriega's promotion of the Contadora peace plan, as well as his drug profiteering, money laundering and chumminess with Fidel Castro.

Ever since Pondwater returned from Panama, Washington has pressured Noriega to step down. Stories have been leaked of Noriega's corruption, as well as his complicity in the deaths of Panamanian ruler Gen. Omar Torrijos, who died in a 1981 plane crash, and opposition leader Hugo Spadafora. whose beheaded corpse was found In a US mailbag in Costa Rica in 1985.

Many of the same accusations were repeated last June by Col. Roberto Diaz Herrera of the Panamanian Defense Forces just after Noriega dismissed him. Diaz Herrera's charges triggered anti-Noriega demonstrations In Panama that continue sporadically to this day.

Although Noriega's accusers may not be totally reliable - some are convicted traffickers - Noriega, would be hard-pressed to explain the fortune he has accumulated on an officer's modest salary.

Colombian judges fearful

But the US charges against Noriega may come to naught. Even If there were an extradition treaty with the U.S., Noriega would be the one to decide whether to enforce it.

A coup d’état is also unlikely, since the entire PDF barely escaped the same indictments. (It was reported on Friday that the U.S. had offered to drop its charges if Noriega would step down. At this stage it is improbable that he would oblige Washington.) Nor is it likely that a Colombian judge will extradite Gustavo DeJesus Gaviria-Rivero and Pablo Escobar-Gaviria, two kingpins of the Medellin cartel, who also were named In the Florida Indictments.

Colombian judges have been living in fear at least since November 1985, when members of the leftist M-19 guerrilla movement attacked the Palace of Justice in Bogota. After the armed forces stormed the palace, 11 supreme court Justices were found dead.

Although the guerrillas and drug traffickers have cooperated with one another at times, their relations have more frequently been adversarial. The Palace of Justice massacre is not generally believed to have been ordered by the traffickers. However, most other assassinations of enforcement officials - including another attorney general and dozens of lower-level judges - have been blamed on the cocaine cartel.

Fearing for their lives, supreme court justices last summer revoked Colombia's extradition treaty with the United States.

DEA investigation thwarted

Rather than provide the Colombians with whatever is necessary to combat the drug traffickers, the Reagan administration has been stingy with aid and put the Colombian caldron to its own political use. In one sorry incident in 1984, the Medellin drug kingpins were indirectly tipped off by the White House about an active Drug Enforcement Administration investigation.

In June 1984, DEA informant Barry Seal is reported to have met in Colombia with Jorge Ochoa, who five weeks ago walked away from a Bogota prison. Seal later told the DEA that he and Ochoa had made plans to ship cocaine to the United States via Nicaragua. To prove it, Seal produced a blurry black and white photo. He claimed it showed cartel boss Pablo Escobar (Noriega's co-indictee) loading cocaine onto a plane, together with an aide to the Sandinista minister of the interior.

President Reagan, in a nationally televised speech In March 1986, pointed to the same photo and said: "I know that every American parent concerned about the drug problem will be outraged to learn that top Nicaraguan government officials are deeply involved in drug trafficking." (In fact, the DEA has consistently maintained it has no proof that Nicaraguan officials have engaged in drug trafficking.) In July 1984, however, the White House leaked its Information on the Sandinista drug connection to the Washington Times. The leak blew the DEA investigation.

Seal was murdered by the cartel In February 1986. And a DEA agent, cited In the Nation magazine last September, said: ". . .whoever ended up with the photo felt that what they were doing with the contras was more Important than our work."

As Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has said:

"If we had a real 'war on drugs,' [the Colombians] would by now - after all these years of talk - have more of an infrastructure, more of a police force, more military cooperative programs ... so that the government would not be as paralyzed by fear as it is."

Indeed, the murder of dozens of Colombian Judges makes it easy to understand why other judges drag their feet on ordering extraditions. It is easy to understand those who say that the only solution is to decriminalize the sale of cocaine - and that Washington's litmus test for generalissimos should weed out those who profit from the white powder.

Feb 4, 1988

CARLUCCI FOR THE DEFENSE | By Jerry Meldon | published in the Boston Phoenix February 4, 1988 Vol 17 Iss 4


Looking for much needed Pentagon reform under the leadership of Frank Carlucci? It may be more a case of the fox guarding the henhouse.

In his oft celebrated farewell address, 27 years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us that “in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence ... by the military industrial complex.... The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power,” Eisenhower continued, “exists and will persist.”

Persist it has, and never so perniciously as in the Reagan era. And no one personifies the military, industrial, and intelligence ‘complex more than Reagan’ s new Defense secretary, 57-year-old Frank C, Carlucci Jr. Given his record as assistant secretary of Defense, president of a mysterious Sears Roebuck affiliate involved in the arms trade, and deputy director. of the Central Intelligence Agency, Carlucci qualifies as the, last person one would imagine confronting the Pentagon’s, or the CIA’s, pressing issues: the procedures for awarding weapons contracts, long plagued by cozy relationships between military brass and lobbyists; decisions that favor overpriced and underperforming weapons; the revolving door between government and defense industry offices; rogue and corrupt elements in covert operations and foreign military sales programs, both well represented in the cast of the Iran contra drama.

Frank Carlucci cannot be expected to address these problems for the simple reason that over the past decade he has been one of the bureaucrats most responsible for their persistence.

Thirty-two years ago Carlucci left Harvard Business School after his first year in a two-year MBA program. After a bounce around the salesman circuit, he joined the Foreign Service. His diplomatic career — invariably at hot spot embassies — culminated in 1975 when he was named Ambassador to Portugal. His assignment to Lisbon came on the heels of a coup that ended 50 years of fascist dictatorship. Then secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Carlucci’s: boss, had little use for the leftist military officers who took charge. Some observers credit Carlucci with keeping the ship of US Portuguese relations afloat during difficult times. Others accuse him of carrying out Kissinger’s orders to undermine the young officers. In any event, the leftists were soon voted out of office to be replaced by moderates.

In late 1977 Carlucci was named deputy CIA director under Admiral Stansfield Turner. Spook watchers, who had long suspected Carlucci of having ties to the agency, felt vindicated. Admiral Turner recently told the Phoenix that Carlucci developed an excellent working relationship with CIA career professionals in his time at the agency.

When the Reagan team took over in 1981, .Carlucci slid easily into a Republican administration. He had the strong backing of two Republican stalwarts, Donald Rumsfeld and Caspar Weinberger. Twelve years earlier, during the Nixon administration, Carlucci had interrupted his diplomatic career to take charge of community action programs at the federal Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). The OEO was in the hands of Rumsfeld, Carlucci’s wrestling teammate at Princeton and a powerful Illinois businessman and politician who became Nixon’s and Gerald Ford’s Defense secretary, as well as Ford’s White House chief of staff. More recently, ‘Rumsfeld flirted briefly with the 1988 Republican presidential nomination.

Carlucci’s association with Weinberger began when the latter was running the Office. of Management and Budget. Nixon appointed Carlucci the office’s associate director in July 1971. Two years later Carlucci rode Weinberger’s coattails to become undersecretary of Health, Education and Welfare.

When Ronald Reagan appointed Weinberger secretary of Defense, Weinberger insisted that Carlucci be his top deputy. The current, unprecedented military spending binge began shortly thereafter. In the words of one undersecretary of Defense, cited by the Boston Globe, when the Reagan administration came to Washington, it discovered defense contractors “sitting out on the Pentagon steps with their money bags open — and we filled them.”

One of the more controversial decisions made by Carlucci and Weinberger was to overturn a Pentagon decision and award Lockheed — earlier the beneficiary of a quarter billion-dollar bankruptcy bailout — a $9.5 billion contract to build C5B supertransports. The plane was designed to supplant Lockheed’s C5A, legendary for its $2 billion cost overrun, $1.5 billion in wing repairs, and Pentagon harassment of the analyst who exposed the boondoggle.

Army and Air Force officials were hardly thrilled with the newer version. They found the C5B expensive to maintain, difficult to maneuver, and prone to breakdown. In late August 1981 the Pentagon declared McDonnell-Douglas and its C17 winners of the supertransport contract. Five months and one high pressure ‘lobbying campaign later, Carlucci and Weinberger overturned the Pentagon’s earlier decision and handed the contract over to Lockheed. A later General Accounting Office investigation found that Carlucci had tolerated the collusion of Lockheed lobbyists and, Pentagon officials on this contract.

Carlucci and Weinberger were merely borrowing a chapter from Donald Rumsfeld’s book. While serving as Ford’s Defense secretary, Rumsfeld similarly bailed out another ailing defense contractor, Chrysler. Chrysler was then competing for the M1 tank contract. Army experts had concluded early on that General Motors offered a better prototype at lower cost. Chrysler's version was driven by an untested turbine engine whose 2000degree exhaust made it impossible for infantrymen to stand behind it. Ten years later, in field trials, the tank would manage only 50 miles between breakdowns. However, back in November 1976 Rumsfeld decided to award the contract to Chrysler. The bonanza, an eventual $20 billion in sales, helped Lee Iacocca turn Chrysler around.

And according to Richard Mendel, author of The Defense Game, it sent the Army “on its way to getting a weapon suited more for a paved interstate than a battlefield.”

Such horror stories stir up more smiles than bile these days. But there may be a more sinister set of skeletons in Frank Carlucci’s closet. For reasons yet unspoken, Carlucci, on several occasions, intervened in behalf of the shadowy network of Pentagon and CIA officials exposed by the Iran contra scandal.

Several of Ollie North’s minions have been connected with former CIA agent Edwin Wilson, now serving 52 years for crimes including the shipping of ex plosives to Libya. A lingering question in the Wilson case is the matter of who the principals were in Egyptian American Transport Service, Inc. (EATSCO). EATSCO was established sometime around 1979 by Wilson’s former CIA superior, Thomas Clines, with a half million-dollar loan from Wilson. Clines knew the Pentagon was about to award a gold mine in shipping contracts in connection with the Carter administration’s promise of $4 billion in arms to Egypt.

Sure enough, EATSCO was awarded $71 million in shipping contracts. The man who authorized them was Erich Von Marbod, deputy director of the Defense Securities Assistance Agency (DSAA). What has made this so interesting to law enforcement officials is Wilson’s claim that, including himself, Thomas Clines had four hidden partners. According to Wilson, one was Erich Von Marbod and the other two were CIA Deputy Director for Clandestine Operations Theodore Shackley (Cline’s boss) and Air Force Major General Richard Secord, who by now needs no introduction. Shackley, Secord, and Von Marbod all deny Wilson's allegation. However, all left the government under clouds of suspicion. To make matters worse, EATSCO was charged with bilking the Pentagon out of $8 million. Clines repaid $3 million and paid a $10,000 fine.

Of course, this did not stop Oliver North from turning to Secord — as well as Clines and Shackley — in the Iran contra operations. By then Secord’s reputation had been more or less restored. The man who salvaged it was Frank Carlucci.

In early 1982 Secord was suspended from his post as deputy assistant secretary of Defense — in charge of arms sales in the Middle East — pending Justice Department investigation of his connections to Wilson, Clines, and EATSCO. As. reported by Jonathan Kwitny in the Wall Street Journal, Carlucci, number two man at the Pentagon, offered Justice officials a deal. Secord would take a lie detector test. If he passed, he would be re-instated. When Justice balked, Carlucci asked for more evidence. When none came, Carlucci reinstated Secord.

In sticking up for Secord, Carlucci may have been repaying the feisty general for his then secret. role in the Iran contra drama. Prior to his suspension, Secord, along with Ollie North, had done the Reagan administration’s legwork in promoting an $8.5 billion sale of AWACS surveillance aircraft to Saudi Arabia. It has since been revealed that the Saudis promised to funnel millions to the contras. The AWACS sale was narrowly approved by Congress in the face of stiff opposition from supporters of Israel. North was awarded a presidential medal for promoting the sale to congressmen; Secord, it appears, was allowed to keep his job.

If that were all, Carlucci might deserve the benefit of the doubt. But there’s more. Following the Secord lie detector incident, Carlucci left the Pentagon, in 1982. His next stop: a new subsidiary of Sears Roebuck known during its short life as Sears World Trade (SWT). Carlucci’s hiring as its president might have had something to do with the fact that his old friend, former secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, is a member of the Sears Roebuck board.

One of SWT’s consulting arms advised clients on how to win Pentagon weapons contracts. Among its consultants, according to an article by Globe reporter Fred Kaplan, was General James Allen. Allen had recently retired as commander-in-chief of the Military Airlift Command (MAC), which was at the center of the supertransport program. Still more interesting was another SWT employee, whom Carlucci’s executive assistant once described as one of the three most influential people in her boss’s life, besides his wife and Donald Rumsfeld. That was none other than Erich Von Marbod, the Pentagon official who had awarded EATSCO $71 million in shipping contracts. Carlucci hired Von Marbod as a $200,00 a year SWT consultant. According to SWT’s former chairman, Roderick Hills, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, “Erich Von Marbod was at least chief of staff for Frank. Erich read all his mail, answered all questions, went to all meetings.”

In October 1986, $60 million in the red, SWT began to fold, and Frank Carlucci began to look for a new job. Two months later President Reagan appointed him national security adviser. How well he cleaned house after Ollie  North and Admiral John Poindexter remains to be seen. However, he does appear to have remained loyal to North's shadow network. Just as Carlucci began occupying the National Security Office — according to a Globe article by Ben Bradlee Jr. — H. Ross Perot, the Texas multi-millionaire and hostage savior, was requesting federal assistance in his investigation of allegations that Richard Armitage had been involved in “narcotics trafficking and weapons smuggling dating to the early 1970s in Vietnam.” As a Navy officer, Armitage had served in Vietnam under Erich Von Marbod. Now, as the Defense Department's assistant secretary for international security affairs, Armitage is in veritable charge of foreign military sales. When Richard Secord officially retired from the Pentagon in 1983, Armitage reportedly persuaded him to stay on as a consultant to the Joint Special Operations Command, a key element in the “counterterrorist’ establishment that spawned the Iran contra affair. In the spring of 1986, according to a report in the Miami Herald, Armitage was placed in charge of Iranian arms shipments. Shortly after Bradlee’s Globe story on Armitage’s alleged narcotics connections appeared, Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta reported that national security adviser Frank Carlucci had requested Perot to drop his investigation of Armitage.

Carlucci is now at the pinnacle of his career. One item on his agenda as secretary of Defense will be the Foreign Military Sales program — a Pentagon trough at which many of Carlucci’s friends have fed. According to the Chicago weekly In These Times, $600 million is currently unaccounted for in the Foreign Military Sales balance sheet. It will be interesting to see whether Carlucci orders an accounting. Don't hold your breath.