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1998 - 2003© Copyright From The Wilderness Publications

 

THE POWs, CIA and DRUGS

UGLIER TRUTHS BEHIND THE SARIN GAS STORIES

by Michael C. Ruppert

Published 7-23-98

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 at www.copvcia.com."

Did 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 truths about U.S. foreign policy and covert operations. Those truths 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 used 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 came home?

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.

On Pages 318-323, Stevenson described a failed 1981 POW rescue mission involving the perennial "covert source" (and often hard to fathom) 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 were 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 war 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.

What's 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."

Several 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.

The turf battle may have put SOG back under nominal Pentagon control but it did not stop 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 into 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 into cyberspace.

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 story.

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 POW's?

As 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 remote mountain top, told me that when he flew in to make his drops 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 might 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 POWs 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 and Congress?

Did 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 to Stevenson.

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 last.

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 undercover 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 picture 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 every day."

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 wholeheartedly.]

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.

During the Contra years Oliver North contracted with a small British Security firm, KMS, run by a former SAS Major named David Walker, to carry out 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 United States."

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 things.

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 armed and financed every enemy from Adolph Hitler, to Ho Chi Minh, 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?

I think 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 capitalism 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.


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