THE POWs, CIA
UGLIER TRUTHS BEHIND
THE SARIN GAS STORIES
by Michael C. Ruppert
© COPYRIGHT 1998, 1999, 2000
Michael C. Ruppert. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Permission to reprint
or excerpt only if the following appears: "Reprinted
by permission, Michael C. Ruppert & From The Wilderness
the CIA order the use
of Sarin gas to kill American defectors in Southeast Asia?
The answer to that question opens a black hole of ugly
about U.S. foreign policy and covert operations. Those
all lead to a central reality, which is that covert and
paramilitary operations, as conducted by the U.S. Government,
do not exist without drug trafficking. Equally tragic is
the fact that drugs are a main reason why POWs didn't come
home. The irony on the tragedy is that drugs were also
to fund several sabotaged covert missions to rescue them.
The recent CNN reports on
Operation Tailwind (referenced in the last issue of From
The Wilderness), their retraction and the object
lessons made of CNN Producer April Oliver and Peter Arnett
point to much uglier and deeper truths about CIA covert
operations than the fact that CIA used nerve gas to kill
defectors and deserters in Southeast Asia. As From
The Wilderness will show, there is a high probability
that Sarin gas was used not only against defectors, but
also against unwilling prisoners of war whom the government
had decided would be a major embarrassment if they came
home alive. Testimony and evidence exists to show that Sarin
was in Laos at the time and that it was used at or near
known POW camps in Laos. If true, those facts would shed
a whole new light on the CNN stories.
Those stories, flawed in their
presentation, not only hinted at an ongoing feud between
elements of the Navy and CIA, but came dangerously close
to far more devastating truths about the CIA's involvement
in the abandonment and murder of US servicemen left behind
after Vietnam. Those truths undeniably lead back to the
drug trade, the Central Intelligence Agency and the covert
operatives who have destroyed American democracy.
How does one tie the convoluted
pieces together in a coherent manner? And, doing that, how
does one stomach wanton betrayal of loyal Americans and
values which are the foundation of any government's legitimacy?
A government derives its right to exist from its mandate
to protect its own people, especially those who risk life
to serve it. What legitimacy then, does a government have
which betrays and then sentences to death those who stood
in the font lines of its exercise of power?
First, let's address the issue
of whether or not CIA, MACV-SOG and elements in the Pentagon
wanted POW's dead or, at minimum, to ensure that they never
Many of the ugliest truths
about deliberate U.S. abandonment or ordered extermination
of POWs are extremely well documented in Monika Jensen-Stevenson's
1990 bestseller, Kiss The Boys Goodbye (Dutton).
Stevenson, a former Emmy award winning Producer for CBS
News' 60 Minutes, produced mountains of eyewitness
statements, documents, and even admissions from Ronald Reagan
and other White House officials as well as from intelligence
experts in the Pentagon and the National Security Council
showing that: the U.S. knowingly left POWs behind
in Southeast Asia in 1973; the U.S. government sabotaged
at least a half dozen rescue attempts with high probabilities
for success; and that, the U.S. government ordered covert
operatives to "liquidate" live POWs if sighted.
Pages 318-323, Stevenson
described a failed 1981 POW rescue mission involving the
perennial "covert source" (and often hard to
Scott Barnes who wrote a book about the mission entitled BOHICA (Bend
Over Here It Comes Again). After
passing polygraph and truth serum exams Barnes recounted
how he had been issued atropine (nerve gas antidote) injectors
as a prelude to entering areas in Laos where POW camps
known to exist. He also states that, once in the region,
he was ordered to "liquidate the merchandise."
"Merchandise" was the code word for POWs. (NOTE:
Atropine was issued to U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf
to counter anticipated Sarin attacks by Iraq).
If Barnes' statement was not
enough, his return from the mission was immediately followed
by the alleged violent suicide of Army chemical warfare
and Sarin gas expert General Bobby Robinson. Local police
doubted the suicide findings of the military.
more, Robinson was
known to have been involved in moving Sarin supplies into
the region at the time. Stevenson confirmed this. Sources
postulated a cover story to Stevenson that Robinson had
been planting Sarin gas to blame the Soviets for its use
and thus motivate Congress to increase chemical warfare
budgets. Such operations are not unusual in covert operations
and are hardly grounds for a suicide. As one source put
it to me. "It's much more likely that Robinson could
have exposed the use of his Sarin to kill Americans and
he had to be killed - especially if he found out what his
precious chemical agents were used for."
covert warfare veterans
have told me that they absolutely believe that Sarin was
used under CIA orders against U.S. personnel using deep
cover operatives planted in the "Studies and Observation
Group" which had reverted to Pentagon control after
a 1968 turf battle.
turf battle may have put
SOG back under nominal Pentagon control but it did not
members of the shadow government and CIA from infiltrating
to protect the deepest of dirty secrets. The OSS faction
in CIA has no trouble "sheep dipping" people
the Pentagon or any other U.S. Government agency.
Much of the CNN story fell
because the Pentagon found no records of Sarin use.
Experts like Special Forces Captain John McCarthy, who ran
covert ops for CIA while in Special Forces, were quick to
point out that the records would all be at Langley and not
at the DoD. A CNN electronic bulletin board with more than
2,500 angry responses from veterans pointing out flaws in
the retractions was suddenly removed on July 16.
The can of worms was getting
legs that wouldn't go away. It was starting to walk off
How big was the POW problem?
Informed sources place the number of American POW's not
returned, in spite of Henry Kissinger's outright lies to
the contrary, at near 2,500. Add to that the large number
of defectors and deserters remaining in the region and the
way these men sometimes became intermingled and we see the
first part of the reasons for betrayal. McCarthy told From
The Wilderness that in 1968 there were known to
be some 3,000 deserters living in the Saigon suburb of Cholon
alone. Estimates for the whole of Southeast Asia, including
Thailand and Laos rose as high as 8,000 according to other
sources. Numbers that high would again have brought the
legitimacy of the government, and the military into question.
With the signing of the Paris
Peace Accords Richard Nixon, in a secret agreement, promised
the Vietnamese government some $4 billion in aid to guarantee
the return of POW's left behind. This was after Kissinger's
announcement that there were no more POW's left in Asia.
With Watergate and the collapse of the Nixon Administration
the money was never exchanged and the POW's went from desperate
cause to a major potential embarrassment. So goes the cover
The best way to explain the
connection with drug trafficking is to show the correlation
in people and organizations between the two issues.
The names of some of those
who have been connected to CIA drug trafficking by a multitude
of sources are: Ted Shackley (CIA Station Chief in Laos
and later Saigon), Tom Clines (Shackley's deputy), Richard
Secord (Air Force/CIA liaison to Shackley after flying many
missions as a fighter pilot), General Heinie Aderholt (Chief
Air Operations strategist for CIA's undeclared war in Laos),
Richard Armitage (former Navy officer and covert operations
specialist charged with removing key materiel from Vietnam
in 1975), Erich von Marbod (Defense Department), John Singlaub,
William Casey, William Colby and Oliver North. Other key
figures who turn up throwing monkey wrenches into POW rescue
efforts who have not been connected to drugs but who turn
up in key positions during Iran-Contra or the Bush Administration
are Richard Allen (Reagan National Security Adviser who
helped write the Paris Peace Accords), Colin Powell (Joint
Chiefs Chairman and National Security Adviser to George
Bush) and Col. Richard Childress, a National Security Council
staffer under Ronald Reagan.
Key institutions connected
to CIA drug trafficking include the Nugan-Hand bank, Hawaii
investment firm BBRDW (Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald, Dilingham
and Wong) and last but not least, the CIA itself.
How do these connect to the
Station Chief in Laos Ted
Shackley ran the single largest covert operation in CIA's
history, a war financed almost in its entirety on the proceeds
of heroin. That war was fought almost exclusively by Hmong
tribesmen and a Laotian rebel Army under the command of
General Vang Pao, an opium warlord who derived his entire
budget from heroin. Legion are the stories of CIA's involvement
in drug trafficking to fund that war but one anecdote is
telling. Former Air America pilot Bucky Blair, who flew
supply missions to CIA's Site 85 in Laos, sitting on a
mountain top, told me that when he flew in to make his
he could "see the poppy fields stretching out for miles
in all directions." Site 85 was overrun in 1968 and
eleven live Americans were captured. Imagine what they
have told under the intense torture of Pathet Lao or North
Vietnamese interrogators and how that could have been used
as propaganda against an America already disintegrating
under the war? Imagine what they might have told other
they met as they were moved from camp to camp?
Imagine the damage that might
have been done in 1985-6 as some of the most intense rescue
efforts were being mounted and as stories of CIA drug trafficking
in Central America were starting to circulate in the press
Air America brief Blair
on the opium? "I was briefed one time and told that
we were moving small amounts of opium for legitimate pharmaceutical
uses," he answered. The world's supply of pharmaceutical
heroin is less than five percent of total world production.
Shackley's CIA pilots could have supplied the world for
a year in about a month. This does not take into account
the brave testimony of other Air America pilots like Tosh
Plumley and Bo Abbott who have spoken out directly about
Air America's direct transport of opium in vast quantities
over a period of years.
Shackley and his deputy Clines
turn up heavily again in Iran-Contra connected to Richard
Secord and Ollie North. A former CIA officer told me in
1995 that Ollie North was leasing office space for his 1995
Senate run from Shackley's company, Research Associates
International, in Rosslyn, Virginia.
Estimates of live POWs taken
in the undeclared (illegal) war in Laos from POW researchers,
families and military sources rise as high as 600 according
In the Reagan Administration,
Richard Armitage as an Assistant Secretary of Defense was
the Pentagon's highest-ranking official in charge of covert
warfare, arms shipments and POW affairs.
Colin Powell, in 1995, referred to Armitage as his white
son. Armitage was linked directly to CIA drug trafficking
by, among others, the POW's champion, Ross Perot.
John Singlaub, who was quoted
in the Sarin gas stories as saying he would have placed
a high priority on killing POW's and defectors because they
might have compromised military secrets, commanded MACV-SOG
during Vietnam and would have had knowledge of SOG operations
targeting Americans. He was also a major player in Iran-Contra,
dispersing weapons purchased with drug money and engaging
in fund raising activities intended to divert attention
away from the NSC and Oliver North. I am saving North for
The documentation for the
involvement of Richard Secord, in Iran-Contra is voluminous
and his role in CIA operations in Laos is equally clear
as documented by letters from POW family members requesting
that Secord be queried about Site 85. Drugs were central
to both wars.
General Heinie Aderholt is
a mixed bag. While undeniably involved in Laos and as a
low-profile operator in Iran-Contra, (connected to the illegal
take-over of Bob Fletcher's Florida toy company to establish
a front for arms shipments), Aderholt chose to oppose the
official line and fight for missing POW's. He confirmed
secret intelligence reports revealing the existence of live
and obtainable POWs in the region to families and the press.
Bill Colby and Bill Casey
need little clarification except to say the Bill Casey was
DCI when many of the most intense rescue efforts came into
being - and failed. And Colby, who ran the Phoenix Program
in Vietnam, was DCI from 1973-6 and on the Board of Directors
of the Nugan-Hand Bank.
The Nugan-Hand Bank and its
successor firm BBRDW were high rolling investment-banking
operations, both of which laundered covert drug profits
for CIA. Some of those monies were allocated to POW rescue
operations by military elements who refused to abandon their
comrades. It is also well documented, however, that millions
of dollars were collected by scam artists connected to these
firms from hopeful POW families and supporters for rescues,
which never took place. That money bought nice vacation
homes and went to other unworthy causes.
If we examine the rescue side
of the POW issue we come across men like retired Green Beret
Lt. Colonel Bo Gritz, Ross Perot and the ubiquitous Oliver
North. Gritz undertook two missions into Southeast Asia,
both of which were connected in one way or another to the
Army's highly secret Intelligence Support Activity (ISA).
In Bo's book, Called To Serve (Lazarus, 1991)
he talks about a period of time in 1979-80 when he was
at Hughes aircraft in Culver City as preparation for his
first mission. So, coincidentally, was Oliver North - a
fact which Bo neglected to mention. I think I know why.
A retired Hughes executive phoned me in 1997 and described
the office shared by Gritz and North as having a large
of a Bengal Tiger on the wall with the caption, "If
you can't sleep with the tigers, stay out of the den."
He also stated, "You could see them out jogging together
The ISA, which ran Gritz's
mission, was created by Army General Richard Stilwell. It
has been repeatedly linked to drug smuggling by sources
including the daughter of Col. Albert Carone who served
as Oliver North's bagman and bill-payer during the eighties.
Records left behind after Carone's death in 1990 and eyewitness
statements clearly indicate that Carone handled both drugs
and drug money for CIA, North and the NSC. Carone's personal
phone book contains the home addresses and telephone numbers
of William Casey, Gambino crime boss Pauly Castellano and
Stilwell. Further hard evidence, in the form of CIA and
DIA cable traffic linking to drugs, ISA and DIA operations
surfaces in Gary Webb's Dark Alliance (Seven
Stories, 1998). These cables and law enforcement records
tie Scott Weekly to the drug operations of Norwin Menses,
Danillo Blandon and Ricky Ross. Weekly, a firearms master,
is Gritz's self-described best friend and went on POW missions
to Southeast Asia with Gritz. Coincidentally again, Weekly
is an Annapolis classmate of Ollie North.
I have met Bo Gritz twice
through my close friend, Mrs. Francis Gary (Sue) Powers.
That Bo was, and remains, irrevocably committed to the cause
of the POWs cannot be disputed. That Bo brought back utterly
damning videotaped interviews with opium warlord Khun Sa
in which Khun Sa described the roles of Shackley, Armitage,
Clines, and the CIA in heroin trafficking also cannot be
disputed. That Bo was a leader in exposing CIA's long standing
proprietorship of the international drug trade also is beyond
question. But these revelations, taken as a whole, leave
wide open the likelihood that, with or without Gritz's knowledge,
his own efforts to rescue POWs, as sponsored by elements
of the Pentagon, were funded by drug profits. In 1980 the
official U.S. Government policy was that cocaine was less
harmful than marijuana.
[NOTE: I omit here, discussion
of Gritz's alleged white supremacist or racist views because
I have never heard him speak or seen him write such views.
I will say that if Bo believes in or advocates white supremacy
or racism in any form I disagree with him
Then there is Ross Perot.
No man in American history has been more closely linked
to the cause of the POW's and their families than the Texas
billionaire. In late 1986, after funding one rescue mission
and spending years as a thorn in the side of the Reagan
Administration as he battled national security roadblocks
and the outright deception which ultimately condemned the
POW's to death, Ross Perot backed six-foot, power weight
lifter Richard Armitage into a corner and confronted him
with not only the evidence of Armitage's lying about POW's
but his direct involvement in Vietnamese gambling and CIA
drug trafficking. After going to then Vice President George
Bush, and being summarily dismissed, Perot's efforts leaked
to the Boston Globe and TIME Magazine. Armitage then lost
his almost certain appointment as Secretary of defense under
President George Bush.
I have spoken to Perot twice
and I served as the L.A. County Press Spokesman for his
'92 campaign. While I, like many, was crushed by his conduct
in pulling out of the race, I have absolutely no doubt that
Ross Perot is absolutely unbending in his belief that illegal
drugs cannot be used to serve a good purpose - anywhere,
at any time.
That leaves us with Ollie.
the Contra years Oliver
North contracted with a small British Security firm, KMS,
run by a former SAS Major named David Walker, to carry
commando raids against the Sandinistas. AP, the Washington
Post and Congressional hearings all brought out the fact
that Walker's company conducted a few marginally successful
attacks and provided some air logistic support to the Contras.
What was not reported was that North, according to sources
I have found in the last three months, was using KMS to
train mercenaries for a POW rescue mission inside the Soviet
Union. That operation was funded with drugs and the payments
were made in London, at the St. George Hotel and through
channel island banks by Albert Carone. Sources in Britain
and former members of U.S. Army Special Forces described
to me how North's plan, which involved training of mercenaries
in Morocco and the Ivory Coast, neared success as, "his
people got close enough to touch" the skilled electronics
warfare officers who had been shipped to Russia for money
by Vietnam during the war. But, inexplicably, they never
came out. The British source added that North, if he
had succeeded, "would have become President of the
Sherlock Holmes cliche
says, "Once you have eliminated the impossible, the
improbable, no matter how unlikely, is the answer."
The POWs remain, as unrequited ghosts, an embarrassment
of astronomical dimension to the U.S. government. Any reporter
asking a POW who, what, where, when and how would inevitably
pull the covers on some of the U.S.'s dirtiest secrets.
But more than that the question needs to be asked, "Did
abandoning the POWs serve a purpose in U.S. foreign policy?" The
answer is yes.
In 1993 a former Green Beret
officer told me, at the point of tears, of how he had been
ordered in 1968-9 to rendezvous with Russian Spetnatz commandos
in the central highlands of Vietnam. There, under direct
orders from the CIA, he exchanged millions of dollars in
hard U.S. currency for Russian diamonds. This was at the
height of the Vietnam War. Russia's economy (its ability
to support North Vietnam) was on the brink of collapse.
The hard U.S. currency salvaged Russia's ability to buy
needed imports on world markets.
Bobby Garwood, the heroic
Marine who remains the only POW ever to return alive, told
debriefers at DIA of the amazement the North Vietnamese,
struggling with a stone age economy, had at his ability
to assemble a simple gasoline generator and the power of
a light bulb. He stayed alive because he could fix American
Ted Shackley, in his book
The Third Option lays out detailed blueprints
for the survival of the military-security-industrial state
by means of perpetuation of "low intensity" insurgent
wars in which it might be necessary to arm both sides of
a conflict to keep the military skills sharp and the war
machine going. The fact that major U.S. industrialists
and financed every enemy from Adolph Hitler, to Ho Chi
to Saddam Hussein is well documented and beyond the scope
of this article.
Covert operations in Southeast
Asia continued unabated after the fall of Saigon in Laos,
Cambodia and Thailand. They were all financed by heroin,
which remains the largest source of capital in the region.
Vietnam is now emerging in a world capitalist economy as
a consumer and provider of services. Is it coincidental
that Henry Kissinger's associate and later Secretary of
State Lawrence Eagleburger was on the first secret mission
to explore rapprochement with Vietnam? Is it a coincidence
that Col. Richard Childress, who stonewalled POW families
for so long, became a Southeast Asian investment consultant
in 1990? Is it a coincidence that President George Bush
dispatched Richard Armitage to the former Soviet Union as
a special economic adviser or that almost immediately after
his arrival there was an explosion of drug use in Russia?
that the POWs were
commodities who, as one CIA source put it to Stevenson,
were "Chosen by God to stay" as a form of plausibly
deniable economic assistance to enemies we needed to keep
in place until other pieces of a larger plan were complete.
That phase of the plan was complete in 1990 when Litton
Chairman Roy Ash's prediction of one world under state
would come into being. The Soviet Union was dead and Vietnam.was
on its way to becoming a trading partner. Ash made that
prediction in 1972.
So why kill them? If covert
operatives could get close enough to kill POWs then men
like Gritz or Jerry Daniels or Ross Perot could get close
enough to rescue them. Defectors, enjoying freedom of movement
could have surfaced at any time with POW stories as their
imagined ticket back home. And that would have upset The
Plan and revealed the U.S. government to be as morally bankrupt
as the Third Reich.