William H. La Roche has revealed to the Washington Weekly details of the Central American end of the drug smuggling operation.
"I want the CIA agents that I had contact with to know just how afraid I am of them and how fed up I am with their Murder, Assassination, and Blackmail Inc. that they have been running down here all these years, while at the same time feeding all of their blatant lies to the American public about how law abiding they are. Many times they insinuated to me that I was sticking my nose into the wrong places and that I could get killed--they said by the Communists--for doing it."
It all started in 1984 when Congress cut off funding for the Nicaraguan resistance. CIA station chief in Costa Rica, Joe Fernandez, sent a confidential message to the FDN (Nicaraguan Democratic Force), where Mr. La Roche worked at the time, authorizing them to seek "alternative funds". They were told that they would have no interference from authorities if they tried to enter the U.S. by air or sea.
Cocaine was obtained from Colombia and moved to Panama where it was protected by Panamanian defense forces. Next, drugs were moved through Costa Rica, where the shipments were personally guarded by the Minister of Public Security. The final destination was U.S. territory. "The flights had no trouble getting into U.S. territory because it was handled by the FBI and CIA from start to finish," Mr. La Roche said.
The major traffic point was Mena, Arkansas, where the weapons production and training of Contras took place, and where shipment of guns and trained Contras originated. Planes returning from Central America would be carrying cocaine. According to Richard Brenneke, the distribution within the United States was handled by the Mafia.
Richard Brenneke was one of the pilots working for the CIA who flew guns south and drugs north. In sworn testimony to Congressman Bill Alexander, Brenneke said that he was carrying "4 to 600 pounds of cocaine" on each flight. Asked by Congressman Alexander whether the CIA was in the business of bringing drugs into the United States, Brenneke said "Yes, sir. That's exactly what I'm saying."
The drug smuggling was also witnessed by CIA contractor Terry Reed, who in 1987 discovered a 10 feet by 20 feet by 5 feet container full of cocaine in his warehouse in Guadalajara, Mexico. It was being shipped by the CIA to the United States. He removed a small amount of the cocaine. "I seized that as evidence that the cocaine was being shipped through the Contra supply network," Reed told the Washington Weekly. "That cocaine was ultimately turned over to the people that I was asking to investigate."
But those people were part of the CIA operation and already knew.
Along the way, people involved in the operation took their cuts of the proceeds. According to Terry Reed, one such profiteer was Bill Clinton, the governor of Arkansas. Clinton acquiesced in the Iran Contra support and drug smuggling at Mena, Arkansas, and in return took a 10% cut on the money that was laundered through his newly created Arkansas Development Finance Authority.
The activities at Mena have been the subject of several investigations, most notably by IRS agent Bill Duncan and State Police Investigator Russell Welch. But their investigations have been stonewalled and blocked from the highest levels, including by two U.S. Senators from Arkansas. Senator Pryor's (D-AR) press secretary did not follow up with a comment when asked by the Washington Weekly to comment on the allegations made by Duncan and Welch.
The U.S. Senate Kerry Committee in 1986-89 found evidence of close ties between several government agencies and the Contra supply network that was used for drug smuggling.
Both Bill Clinton and Oliver North have denied that they were involved in the drug smuggling. They have not denied that it took place, however. North writes in his 1991 book Under Fire: "When the CIA believed that two associates of Eden Pastora, the colorful but erratic southern front commander, had ties to the drug trade, word was put out to have nothing more to do with them."
And Bill Clinton, responding to a question last year about the gun running and drug smuggling at Mena, said: "they didn't tell me anything about it, they didn't say anything to me about it... We had nothing, zero, to do with it".
[Printed in the July 10, 1995 issue of the Washington Weekly]