Friday, December 10, 2010

Operation Watch Tower

Watch Tower was a C.I.A. operation that began in 1976, under the Nixon Administration. Drugs were moved from Columbia to Panama, and from there to the US and other destinations. It was named Watch Tower because it began as a series of electronic beacons and transmitters. With the towers up, radio beacons enabled US drug planes to fly below Columbian radar from Bogotá to Albrook Air Base in Panama. They could be used to create a safe corridor for planes that would not be bothered by Customs. The idea was to use the corridors to move guns south and cocaine north. C.I.A. agent Edwin Wilson fronted the operation and answered to Thomas Clines. Michael Harari of the Mossad was also playing a supportive role, and the people in the Panama based 570th Military Intelligence Group believed Harari’s authority came from the US Southern Command. While the Mossad carried a great deal of water for the US in Central America, Reagan’s C.I.A. thought it often withheld important intelligence in the Middle East.

Colonel Edward P. Cutolo , second in command and then commander of the 10th Special Forces (airborn)Group. He later became concerned that he could be hung out to dry if the operation were discovered and learned that George H.W. Bush, Bill Casey, and Donald Gregg were behind the mission. Gregg was a key figure on Bush’s staff, and Colonel Douglas Menarichik was an important Gregg functionary. Some believe Gregg was a member of the 40 Committee.

Cutolo feared something could happen to him and left behind a sword statement in April, 1980. He was murdered in 1980 and some claim the job was done by Mossad agent Colonel Michael Harari, who later became a security advisor to Manuel
. There was another affidavit signed by PFC William Tyree, who added that members of the Panama Defense Force under Major Manuel Noriega helped unload the drug planes. Tryee was uncomfortable with this mission, and his wife kept a diary describing it. This probably accounts for her murder, which was blamed on Bill. Tryee thought that some of the drug profits were used to establish FEMA.
The operation provided arms for right wing El Salvador guerillas who were seen as freedom fighters. However, large quantities of drugs were not immediately shipped for sale but were prepositioned so they could be sold later when more money was needed to finance counter-insurgency operations . The C.I.A. agents involved were concerned that Archbishop Oscar Romero had precise knowledge that the US was training them in five countries. Romero was murdered while saying mass on Monday of Holy Week, 1980. Cotulo’s affidavit said they were sure Romero had solid evidence about Watch Tower . The killing was orchestrated by Roberto D’ Aubuisson, who was trained by the Argentine Brigade 601 and the Israelis. On November 16, 1989, six progressive intellectuals were murdered in El Salvador. They were Jseuit priests; and the murderers also slaughtered their housekeeper and her young daughter. Twenty years later, in November 2009, the Spanish press published the order of the chief of staff of the Salvadoran Army calling for the murder of the six priests and any witnesses. He was so closely linked to the Pentagon that Americans must have known and approved of his action.

There developed a related program called Operation Orwell. It was designed to protect Watch Tower by keeping track of law enforcement figures, journalists, judges, dissidents and religious organizations --especially Roman Catholics and Latter Day Saints-- who might gather information about the C.I.A. drug trade. It was fully operational the US and Columbia in 1980. Both Robert Gates, an NSC official , and Robert Gates, a C.I.A. agent and private citizen, had knowledge of Orwell. According to Colonel Edward P. Cotulo, agents were keeping track of President Jimmy Carter and former President Gerald Ford. Tyree said that his friend Sergeant John Newby was involved in missions watching Senators Kennedy and Kerry, Tip O’Neill, and several governors. Local law enforcement personnel were also hired for surveillance work and two U.S. Roman Catholic cathedrals were placed under electronic surveillance. A team from Fort Bragg kept track of Jesse Helms. Cotulo had been told that Watch Tower was a sanctioned mission and that Stansfield Turner himself was covering for Harari’s long standing drug trading. Cotulo doubted all this and sought to prove that neither operation was official ly sanctioned. Harari is now in hiding because Norwegian prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant in connection with several m murders. . What is interesting about Watch Tower is that some of Cotulo’s military subordinates worked hard to get out the story of why he might have been killed.

Newby died in a parachuting accident. Colonel Robert Bayard , a critic of the programs, was murdered in Atlanta in 1977 where he went to meet Harari. Cutolo died in an automobile accident in Skullthorpe, England, in 1980 after meeting Harari. Colonel James Rowe was murdered on April 21, 1989 in the Philippines after Harari arrived there. Two other colonels died suspiciously and Congressman Larkin Smith, who tried to help the suspicious soldiers, died in a plane crash on August 13, 1989. Tyree was sent to prison.

Watchtower occurred while Jimmy Carter was president, but it is very unlikely that he had no idea it was going on. Carter was dismayed when the Sandanistas took over Nicaragua, but his actions, authorized 6 months after that revolution, were limited to funding to keep an opposition alive. Before the take-over, Carter funded the corrupt Somoza regime even while it was slaughtering civilians. The idea was to maintain stability and prevent a Cuban-style government from emerging. Later, in 1984, the Sandanistas won an internationally monitored election, but the Reagan administration acted as though it had not happened.

In the late seventies, the US was very concerned with the insurgency in El Salvador, but it had not reopened a C.I.A. station there until 1978. There is no indication Carter had any idea that C.I.A. activity there could have been tied to Watchtower. It is also likely that the old boys of the C.I.A. had not informed Admiral Stansfield Turner about what was going on. Turner had strict standards of propriety for what the agency should be doing, but he did worry that Carter was a bit of a “peacenik.” Turner eventually learned about Theodore Shackley’s rogue operations and effectively brought that man’s career to an end. Shackley retired and went into the arms running business with half a million dollars given him by former agent Edwin P. Wilson. Shackley’s association with Wilson was probably the strongest reason for blocking his promotion and ending his career.

Wilson became involved in illegal arms trading with Lybia and possibly even paid hits. Wilson had been fired in 1971 and finally went to prison in 1983. Wilson recruited many agents and techni C.I.A.ns from within the agency to help him move weapons and explosives to Lybia, and C.I.A. “quality control” measures proved ineffective in discovering the extent of his recruiting. Wilson Associated openly with Shackley and Clines.

Wilson used Frank Terpil to move C-4 to Lybia and to supply training camps where former Green Berets were instructing terrorists. These veterans thought they were working for the US government. Perhaps they were part of a deep scheme to learn about Lybian capabilities and Soviet activities in Lybia. Wilson’s defenders claim this is true and that he was reporting to Shackley. According to this theory, Shackley saw that the trainees were murdered in their home countries when they left the training camps. Terpil relocatred in Cuba after Wilson was arrested and has been known to sell equipment to the PLO. He has been accused of killing threeofficials of IBEX Corporation, which had done some work for Iran.


Anonymous said...

Um...By 1976, Nixon had already been out office for two years. Try again with your disinformation campaign.

Anonymous said...

ronald regan looked the other way while the cia sold cocaine to a drug dealer named freeway ricky ross who then turned it into crack and sold it

Anonymous said...

In \/ietnam the CIA ran drugs through the morgue unit.. Al Gore was the congression acountant to make sure they shipped the right ammount. And John Kerry used the money to fund a anti-war group.

Anonymous said...

In \/ietnam the CIA ran drugs through the morgue unit.. Al Gore was the congression acountant to make sure they shipped the right ammount. And John Kerry used the money to fund a anti-war group.

Andy Paris said...

Wow Awesome Stuff sherm....If you can, contact me at

Andres Pope said...

I found this article very well written & i found very interesting,plus investigated. I would not be surprised if things of this nature still went on today.

Anonymous said...

Great article Sherm.
My only question is, can you list your sources? I'd love to investigate them more.

Anonymous said...

What about providing some references?