Thursday, December 2, 2010

Watergate: Part Six

Security guard Frank Wills found a lock taped open. He removed the tape and went about his business. When he found the door retaped, he knew there was a problem and called the police. James McCord, one of the burglars, was intensely loyal to the C.I.A., and many think it was he who left a door taped at the Watergate. Either he understood the struggle between Nixon and the agency over drugs or someone instructed him to expose the Watergate burglary. Carl Shoffler, policeman who made the arrest, was close to someone in the C.I.A., voluntarily was doing another shift nearby while skipping his own birthday party. Later, two other men E. Howard Hunt, former C.I.A., and G. Gordon Liddy, former F.B.I., were indicted along with them. Liddy did have certain’special clearances from the C.I.A..” These two men, shared a White House office with a decrambled line to Langley. Kathleen Chenow, who shared the office with them left for a London vacation the next day.

Nixon angered the C.I.A. when he demanded that they play a significant role in the cover-up. He had John Dean call in General Vernon Walters, deputy director of the C.I.A., to induce the C.I.A. to seek to shut down some avenues of investigation. Dean told the general that the F.B.I. theorized that the C.I.A. was behind the bugging and said some of the prisoners might implicate the agency. Some of them were working for a C.I.A. front, the Mullen Company. Dean and Walters met twice more, with Dean trying to get the C.I.A. to provide untraceable money for the Cubans. Eventually, Hunt, who had done black ops at least since the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, was found with $200,000 hush money, but he had not given any to the Cubans. There is a C.I.A. memorandum expressing concern that Hunt was in Dallas the day John F. Kennedy was murdered. Hunt, like Nixon, had several stories about where he was that day.

Vernon Walters, on behalf of Nixon, asked Director Helms ask the C.I.A. to oprovide funds for the cover-up and to warn the F.B.I. that the break-in was a matter of national security. Director Richard Helms reported that he refused. In fact the agency asked the F.B.I. to back off looking at a Mexican source of money for the burgulars, saying it could endanger C.I.A. operations there. According to Walters, Helms told him to suggest to Gray that the investigation not go beyond the five burglars. Helms later denied this, but Walters is not known for dissembling.

Then the agency gave the F.B.I. a green light to go ahead with its investigations. Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman was sure that the president thought that the break-in was somehow tied to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He raised the matter with Helms: “The President asked me to tell you this entire affair may be connected to the Bay of Pigs, and if it opens up, the Bay of Pigs may be blown." . . . “The Bay of Pigs had nothing to do with this. I have no concern about the Bay of Pigs.”

Acting F.B.I. Director L. Patrick Gray called Helms to ask about the agency’s involvement, and Helms responded, "there is no C.I.A. involvement." Yet Helms asked Gray not to inverview two unnamed individuals, and Gray told his agents to proceed gingerly with regard to the C.I.A.. He also told the agents nmot to interview the Mexican lawyer who moved some of the hush money to the White House.

How all of this connected to the death of John F. Kennedy is unclear. H.R. Haldeman was certain there was a close tie and he thought that that Nixon meant this when he said the whole problem went back to the Bay of Pigs. Nixon kept bringing up the Bay of Pigs in connection with Watergate and mentioned it in relation to E. Howard Hunt.

The C.I.A. had many reasons to dislike Nixon and damage him. At that time, the C.I.A. was infuriated because Richard Nixon demanded all of its intelligence about its drug operations. Nixon was running what became the DEA by remote control, and for some reason wanted to use the drug agency as the nuceeus of his own intelligence agency. Ten days after the Watergate burglars were arrested, Barry Seal and some others were seized at Shreveport Regional Airport. They had a plane full of explosives ready to go to Cubans in Mexico. This temporarily shut down the major Drugs/Weapons connection with Mexico. James Miller, Seal's co-pilot, said they were completely surprised because they thought they were protected. Miller also said that Seal had been working with Carols Gambino in these transactions

The bust at Shreveport was engineered by the Customs Service, whose head, Myles Ambrose, a Nixon friend and appointee, had criminal connections particularly the Carlos Marcello family. Ambrose somehow made a deal with Tip O'Neill to facilitate the creation of the DEA. He first headed the Drug Enforcement Office, and that became the DEA. From the beginning, some C.I.A. agents were planted in the new agency. One of them was Cesario Diosdado, who had been involved in the Bay of Pigs and had worked both sides in Miami/Cuba matters. Mafioso Sam Giancana said one of the JFK shooters had been a Customs agent, and this led some to believe this was Diosdado. At any rate, Diosdado played a big role in the Shreveport action. The new DEA was known for thugish tactics, specializing in brutality, no-knock entries, and pointless beating of in innocent individuals. Nixon wanted it to become a new domestic intelligence operation. According to Brigadier General Russell S. Bowen, there were at least 100 C.I.A. people hidden in the DEA and they were used as a “White House goon squad....” After the Watergate break-in, legendary agent Lucien Conein, “Black Luigi,” moved over to the DEA and was to head its Special Operations Group, which was said to be a hit squad. Chuck Coleson later admitted that the DEA/Special Operations Group was involved in assassinations and kidnapping. Colson told Senator Lowell Weicker to look into the death of Lucien Sarti, an Italian drug trafficker in Mexico, to understand what the Special Operations Group does. This involved eliminating the Fench Connection in Mexico, which might have aided communists, with a drug operation run by Cubans tied to the C.I.A.. Many murders followed and the DEA succeeded in eliminating the Marseilles dealers and replacing them with what is roughly called the Cali Cartel. Conein once foolishly boasted of his membership in the Corsican Brotherhood, a large drug ring. He ran secret operations there from 1973 to 1984, laying the groundwork for the great increase in the drug trade in the US in the 1980s. In a sense, the drug trade in the United States was being nationalized. The justification was that some leftists were involved in the trade in Latin Ameerica, and that meant that some of the proceeds might go to Communists. That had to be prevented.

The DEA seized far fewer drugs than the Customs Bureau had and Colonel Thomas Fox, former head of counterintelligence for the DIA, noted that they did not seem to have very much information about the narcotics trade. Soon Senator Henry Jackson opened an investigation of the DEA. He found one former C.I.A. agent, now DEA, setting up a gambling haven on the Island of Abaco and other agents hanging around with Robert Vesco. Barry Seal, who was then with the C.I.A. but’sheep dipped” in DEA kept a file on Vesco, but his widow says it somehow disappeared. Some were involved with Vesco in manufacturing a machine pistol. Of course it was Nixon who got Vesco sprung from a Swiss jail, and Vesco who then hired Donald Nixon. When Frank Peroff said Vesco was moving heroin, Peroff was imprisoned. Vesco continued at his businesses.

It seems that the planes first just brought “weed” into the US. Cocaine might have been aboard, but it would be dropped off in the Bahamas, or other foreign location aqnd for the benefit of US drug dealers.

The drug running became such a large operation that Gerry Patrick Hemming and Barry Seal ran a school for smugglers in Texas. They also taught pilots how to carry out rescue operations. For the most part, they were teaching men to fly heavy twin engine planes.

When Jimmy Carter and Admiral Stanfield Turner began firing C.I.A. agents who were thought to be reckless, these people found the drug trade a good way to make a living. C.I.A. people caught moving drugs might be charged, but the cases rarely went anywhere. Their defense was that they were involved in some deep, dark intelligence missions. It was during the Carter years, that pilots like Seal began bringing in heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Prior to US involvement in Afghanistan, the country only produced opium for a few limited markets. When the US became involved, the Pakistani ISI began encouraging peasants to grow opium, and tribal leaders began opening heroin laboratories.

The Carter Administration set up a Council on Drug Abuse and tried to deal with the influx of drugs, but the C.I.A., despite Admiral Turner, stonewalled the administration and would not share information with the council.

Customs people, later DEA, were post likely involved in moving money through Mexico for Richard Nixon. Leland Briggs, then a special agent in Mexico City, once saw Myles Ambrose, Assistant Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, and John Caulfield fly into Mexico City. Caulfield, a former New York policeman, was Nixon's bagman and money launderer. This was when an untraceable $50 million was flowing from Mexico to Nixon's campaign. What else could they have been arranging? Later, George H.W. Bush arranged for $700,000 to pay off some of the Watergate people. The money passed through some Bush Texas friends, but many investigators think it ultimately came through the Mexican Connection which was temporarily shut down by the Seal arrest. In 1974, the case against Seal and the other six fell apart.

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