USA - Article: The GOP's $3 Billion Propaganda Organ

Discussion in 'Drug Policy Reform & Narco Politics' started by ~lostgurl~, Dec 28, 2006.

  1. ~lostgurl~

    ~lostgurl~ Platinum Member & Advisor Donating Member

    Reputation Points:
    3,441
    Messages:
    3,888
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    from Australia
    The GOP's $3 Billion Propaganda Organ

    By Robert Parry (A Special Report)
    Consortium News & Truthout.org
    Wednesday 27 December 2006

    The American Right achieved its political dominance in Washington over the past quarter century with the help of more than $3 billion spent by Korean cult leader Sun Myung Moon on a daily propaganda organ, the Washington Times, according to a 21-year veteran of the newspaper.

    George Archibald, who describes himself "as the first reporter hired at the Washington Times outside the founding group" and author of a commemorative book on the Times' first two decades, has now joined a long line of disillusioned conservative writers who departed and warned the public about extremism within the newspaper.
    In an Internet essay on recent turmoil inside the Times, Archibald also confirmed claims by some former Moon insiders that the cult leader has continued to pour in $100 million a year or more to keep the newspaper afloat. Archibald put the price tag for the newspaper's first 24 years at "more than $3 billion of cash."
    At the newspaper's tenth anniversary, Moon announced that he had spent $1 billion on the Times - or $100 million a year - but newspaper officials and some Moon followers have since tried to low-ball Moon's subsidies in public comments by claiming they had declined to about $35 million a year.
    The figure from Archibald and other defectors from Moon's operation is about three times higher than the $35 million annual figure. The apparent goal of downplaying Moon's subsidy has been to quiet concerns that Moon was funneling vast sums of illicit money into the United States to influence the American political process in ways favorable to right-wing leaders - and possibly criminal cartels - around the world.

    Though best known as the founder of the Unification Church, Moon, now 86, has long worked with right-wing political forces linked to organized crime and international drug smuggling, including the Japanese yakuza gangs and South American cocaine traffickers.
    Moon insiders, including his former daughter-in-law Nansook Hong, also have described Moon's system for laundering cash into the United States and then funneling much of it into his businesses and influence-buying apparatus, led by the Washington Times.
    The Times, in turn, has targeted American politicians of the center and left with journalistic attacks - sometimes questioning their sanity, as happened with Democratic presidential nominees Michael Dukakis and Al Gore. Those themes then resonate through the broader right-wing echo chamber and into the mainstream media.
    Washington Times articles are routinely cited by C-SPAN, for instance, without explanations to viewers that the newspaper is financed by an ultra-right religious cult leader, a convicted tax fraud and a publicly identified money-launderer. Most American listeners just think they're getting straightforward news.
    The Times also has led attacks on investigators who threatened to expose crimes committed by Republican and right-wing operatives. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Times targeted Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, who recounted in his memoir Firewall the importance of the Times in protecting the Reagan-Bush administration's legal flanks.
    When journalistic and congressional investigations began uncovering evidence of drug trafficking by the Nicaraguan contra rebels, the Washington Times counter-attacked, too, although in that case the Moon organization may have had a direct interest in containing the probes that could have exposed its relationship with South American drug lords.

    Buying Influence
    Besides the estimated $3 billion-plus invested in the Washington Times, Moon has spread money around to influential right-wingers, often coming to their rescue when they are facing financial ruin as happened with Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell in the mid-1990s. [See below.]
    Moon also has paid lucrative speaking fees to political figures, such as former President George H.W. Bush who has appeared at Moon-organized functions in the United States, Asia and South America. At the launch of Moon's South American newspaper in 1996, Bush hailed Moon as "the man with the vision."
    Moon has key defenders, too, in the U.S. Congress, such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 2004, Moon was given space in the Senate's Dirksen building for a coronation of himself as "savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent." [See The Hill, June 22, 2004]
    Though primarily allied with the Republican Right, Moon has tossed money to some African-American ministers to gain favor with a key Democratic constituency.
    Moon's multi-billion-dollar political investments, in turn, have shielded him from sustained scrutiny since 1978 when he was identified by the congressional "Koreagate" investigation as part of a covert Korean influence-buying scheme. As a result of those findings about his finances, he was convicted in 1982 of tax fraud.
    Ironically, however, as Moon implemented the influence-buying blueprint exposed by the "Koreagate" probe - investing in U.S. media, politicians and academia - he became an untouchable. He founded the Washington Times in 1982 and quickly put it into the service of Republican power.
    President Ronald Reagan hailed Moon's publication as his "favorite newspaper"; it even helped raise money for the Nicaraguan contras; and President George H.W. Bush invited its editor Wesley Pruden to the White House in 1991 "just to tell you how valuable the Times has become in Washington, where we read it every day."
    Washington Times defenders argue that the newspaper is independent of Moon's religion and doesn't proselytize for his faith.
    But the argument misses the point because Moon's organization is only a religious entity on one level. More substantively, it is an international conglomerate with investments in fishing, restaurants, gun manufacturing, tourism, banks, real estate and media.
    Since its finances often operate on the shady side of the law, Moon's organization requires, most of all, political influence for protection.
    Similarly, Moon's operation is not really "conservative" in the normal sense of the word. While it has worked with everyone from right-of-center Republicans to neo-fascist organizations, it also has joined forces with the reclusive communist leaders of North Korea when that was to Moon's advantage. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Moon, North Korea & the Bushes."]

    Power Struggle
    Veteran Washington Times journalist Archibald as well as other Times employees who recently spoke to The Nation magazine have described a bitter internal struggle at the newspaper.
    Times president "Douglas" Dong Moon Joo is standing by Pruden and other right-wing editors who have run the Times for years, while other influential Moon operatives believe it's time to abandon the newspaper's hard-right positions.
    "A nasty succession battle is now heating up at the paper, punctuated by allegations of racism, sexism and unprofessional conduct, that have implications far beyond its fractious newsroom," wrote Max Blumenthal in The Nation.
    "According to several reliable inside sources, Preston Moon, the youngest son of Korean Unification Church leader and Times financier Sun Myung Moon, has initiated a search committee to find a replacement for editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden - a replacement who is not Pruden's handpicked successor, managing editor Francis Coombs.
    "Preston Moon wants to wrest control of the paper from Pruden and Coombs, according to a Times senior staffer, in order to shift the paper away from their brand of conservatism, which is characterized by extreme racial animus and connections to nativist and neo-Confederate organizations. A Harvard MBA, Preston Moon is said to be seeking to install an editorial regime with more widely palatable politics."
    Archibald's essay describes Pruden as "an unreconstructed Confederate from Little Rock, Arkansas, who still believes the South and slavery were right and Lincoln was wrong in saving the Union."
    Pruden's father, Wesley Pruden Sr., was a Baptist minister and chaplain to Little Rock's segregationist Capital Citizens Council, which spearheaded the opposition to President Dwight Eisenhower's order in 1957 to integrate the city's Central High School.
    In the 1990s, Pruden's Washington Times continued to tap into those old segregationist ties, such as "Justice" Jim Johnson, to get salacious allegations about President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. The mainstream press soon followed, setting the stage for the Republican congressional sweep in 1994 and Clinton's impeachment in 1998.
    In 2000, the Washington Times again was at the center of the assault on Al Gore's candidacy - highlighting apocryphal quotes by Gore and using them to depict him as either dishonest or delusional. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Al Gore vs. the Media."]
    By then, however, the Washington Times had the help of a rapidly expanding right-wing media as well as mainstream journalists from the New York Times and the Washington Post who had come to realize the career advantage of tilting their reporting to the right.
    Arguably one of the measures of the Washington Times' success was how the major U.S. news organizations increasingly seemed to march to the same drummer, even when not under direct pressure to do so.
    Over the past half dozen years, it has often been hard to distinguish between the fawning coverage of George W. Bush from the Washington Times and from the Washington Post. Both major Washington dailies bought into Bush's false claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction with almost no skepticism.
    Currently, the Washington Times seems inclined to continue serving as a leading defender of Republican power and thus of President Bush. Calling itself "America's Newspaper," the Moon-financed Times also has championed the cause of anti-immigration activists, another hot-button issue on the Right.
    But the Times and other right-wing news outlets risk a credibility crisis as more and more Americans turn away from the Bush presidency and are turned off by the right-wing rhetoric demonizing citizens who have objected to Bush's policies.
    Nevertheless, history will surely record that Moon's $3 billion-plus investment succeeded in buying a remarkable degree of Washington influence - and legal protection - for his dubious political/business/religious empire.
    The extraordinary rise of Sun Myung Moon also tells a cynical story about how "respectability" is just one more Washington commodity that can be purchased with enough money.
    Known for crowning himself at lavish ceremonies and ranting for hours in Korean about the proper use of sex organs, Sun Myung Moon may have the distinction of being the most unusual person ever to gain substantial influence in the U.S. capital. He has proved that in Washington, money talks.
    When Moon became a major benefactor of the American conservative movement starting in the latter half of the 1970s, it was a time when the conservatives desperately needed money to build what they called their counter-establishment.
    From a mysterious and seemingly bottomless slush fund, Moon ladled out cash to sponsor lavish conferences, to finance political interest groups and to publish the Washington Times.
    Despite his strange goals - including the need to replace democracy and individuality with his own personal theocratic rule over the most intimate details of every person's life - Moon lured into his circle some of the most prominent political figures of the modern era, including George H.W. Bush who grasped Moon's value as a deep pocket for the conservative movement and for the Bush family.
    Moon began building his political influence in Washington at a time when he was best known to Americans as the leader of the Unification Church, called the "Moonies." Moon was blamed by thousands of American parents for brain-washing their children and transforming them into automatons who gave up their previous lives to devote nearly every waking hour in the service of Rev. Moon.
    Gradually, however, Moon's money gained him access to the nation's ruling elite. The worst of the negative press coverage subsided. But few Americans, even those who took his money, knew much about his life and his true allegiances.

    Who Is Moon?
    Moon was born on Jan. 6, 1920, in a rural, northwestern corner of Korea, a rugged Asian peninsula then occupied by Japan, an occupation that would continue through the first 25 years of Moon's life. Allied forces liberated the peninsula from the Japanese in 1945 and then divided Korea into two sections, the south controlled by the United States and the north occupied by Soviet troops.
    In this post-war period, Moon, who had been raised within a Christian sect, moved to southern Korea and joined a mystical religious group called Israel Suo-won. The group preached the imminent arrival of a Korean Messiah and practiced a strange sexual ritual called "pikarume," in which ministers purified women through sexual intercourse, the so-called "blessing of the womb."
    As he developed his own theology, Moon returned to the North, to communist-ruled North Korea, where he soon ran into legal troubles. North Korean authorities arrested him twice, apparently on morals charges connected to his sexual rites with young women. Moon's supporters, however, have tried to portray Moon as the victim of communist repression, claiming that he was arrested not for sex charges but for espionage.
    Whatever the real story about his detention in North Korea, Moon's luck soon changed. On Oct. 14, 1950, with war raging on the Korean peninsula, United Nations troops overran the prison where Moon was held, freeing Moon and all the other inmates. According to Unification Church histories, Moon then trekked south, carrying on his back an injured prisoner named Pak Chung Hwa.
    For years, church officials even published a photograph purportedly showing Pak piggy-backing on Moon across a river. But much of that story appears to be propaganda. Several church sources have since admitted that the photo was a hoax, that Moon is not the man in the picture and the location is not where Moon was.
    Moon's southward journey ended in the South Korean port of Pusan, where he resumed his missionary work. He later moved to Seoul, South Korea's capital, where he founded his own church in May 1954. He called it T'ong-il Kyo, or Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. It became known as the Unification Church.
    At the center of Moon's theology was a new twist to the Old Testament story about the Fall of Man. Instead of biting into a forbidden apple, Eve copulated with Satan and then passed on the sin by having sex with Adam.
    Thousands of years later, God sent Jesus to restore man to his original purity, Moon taught. But Jesus failed because he was betrayed by the Jews and died before he could father any sinless children.
    Sex, therefore, remained at the center of Moon's theology, the need for a Messiah to purify the human race through the reversal of the contamination caused by Satan's seduction of Eve.
    Moon taught that the failure of Jesus to begin this purification process by fathering children forced God to send a second Messiah, who turned out to be Moon himself. Moon saw his task as starting this sexual purification process and thus establishing God's Kingdom on Earth.
    The ultimate goal would be a worldwide theocracy ruled by Moon and his followers cleansed of Satan's influence. Political power and religious authority went together, Moon lectured. "We cannot separate the political field from the religious," Moon said.
    But in South Korea, Moon found that government continued to be an obstacle to his religious plans. When he began to concentrate his religious recruitment on young idealistic college students, especially from an all-girls Christian school, Moon landed in legal hot water again.
    The South Korean government arrested Moon in 1955 for allegedly conducting more sexual "purification" rites, according to several U.S. intelligence reports which are now public. Moon was freed three months later because none of the young women would testify for fear of public humiliation, according to an undated FBI summary, released under a Freedom of Information Act request.
    "During the next two years in the national news media of South Korea, Rev. Moon was the butt of scandalist humor," the FBI report said.

    Six Marys
    Church officials repeatedly have denied the reports of Moon's sexual rituals. But the charges received new attention in 1993 with the Japanese publication of The Tragedy of the Six Marys - a book by the early Moon disciple, Pak Chung Hwa, whom Moon supposedly carried to South Korea.
    According to Pak's book, Moon taught that Jesus was intended to save mankind by having sex with six already-married women who would then have sex with other men who would pass on the purification to other women until, eventually, all mankind would have pure blood.
    Pak contended that Moon took on this personal duty as the second Messiah and began having sex with the "six Marys." But Pak alleged that Moon began to abuse the practice by turning the "six Marys" into a kind of rotating sex club.
    Pak wrote that Moon's first wife divorced him after catching him in a sex ritual. In all, Pak estimated that there were at least 60 "Marys," many of whom ended up destitute after Moon discarded them.
    According to the testimony of one "Mary," named Yu Shin Hee, she met Moon in the early 1950s and became a follower along with her husband. Devoted to the church, her husband abandoned her and her five children, whom she then put into an orphanage. She, in turn, agreed to become one of Moon's "six Marys."
    But Yu Shin Hee claimed that Moon tired of her after just one "blood exchange," a phrase referring to sexual intercourse. Still, she was required to have sex with other men. Seven years later, a broken woman with no money, she tried to return to her children, but they also rejected her.
    When Moon impregnated another one of the women, Moon sent her to Japan where she gave birth to a baby boy, according to Pak's account. Moon later admitted fathering the child, who died in a train crash at the age of 13. But Pak wrote that Moon refused to admit responsibility for other illegitimate children born to the women.
    "By forwarding this teaching, he violated mothers, their daughters, their sisters," Pak wrote. (After The Tragedy of the Six Marys was published, the Unification Church denounced the allegations as spurious. Under intense pressure, the aging Pak Chung Hwa agreed to recant. However, his book's accounts tracked closely with U.S. intelligence reports of the same period and interviews with former church leaders.)
    Moon's history of sexual liaisons out of wedlock also was corroborated by Nansook Hong, one of Moon's daughters-in-law who broke with the so-called True Family in 1995 over abuse she suffered at the hands of Moon's eldest son, Hyo Jin Moon, during their 14-year marriage.
    Nansook Hong reported in her 1998 book, In the Shadow of the Moons, that family members, including Moon himself, acknowledged that he had "providential" sex with women in his role as the Messiah. Nansook Hong said she learned about Moon's sexual affairs when her husband, Hyo Jin, began justifying his affairs as mandated by God, as his father claimed his affairs were.
    "I went directly to Mrs. Moon with Hyo Jin's claims," Nansook Hong wrote. "She was both furious and tearful. She had hoped that such pain would end with her, that it would not be passed on to the next generation, she told me.
    "No one knows the pain of a straying husband like True Mother, she assured me. I was stunned. We had all heard rumors for years about Sun Myung Moon's affairs and the children he sired out of wedlock, but here was True Mother, confirming the truth of these stories.
    "I told her that Hyo Jin said his sleeping around was 'providential' and inspired by God, just as Father's affairs were. 'No, Father is the Messiah, not Hyo Jin. What Father did was in God's plan.'" Later, in a discussion about the extramarital sex, Moon himself told Nansook Hong that "what happened in his past was 'providential,'" she wrote.
    As for the sexual purification rituals, Nansook Hong said the rumors had followed the church for decades, despite the official denials.
    "In the early days of the Unification Church, members met in a small house with two rooms," Nansook Hong wrote. "It was known as the House of the Three Doors. It was rumored that at the first door one was made to take off one's jacket, at the second door one's outer clothing, and at the third one's undergarments in preparation for sex."
    As for Chung Hwa Pak's Tragedy of the Six Marys, Nansook Hong said Moon succeeded in persuading his old associate to rejoin the church and then got him to disavow the memoirs. "I've always wondered what the price was of that retraction," Nansook Hong wrote.
    Madeleine Pretorious, a Unification Church member from South Africa, also had worked closely with Moon's temperamental son, Hyo Jin, and had learned from him that the long-denied accounts of Moon's sexual rites with female initiates were true.
    "When Hyo Jin found out about his father's 'purification' rituals, that took a lot out of wind out of his sails," Pretorious told me in an interview after she left the church in the mid-1990s.
    In late 1994, during conversations in Hyo Jin's suite at the New Yorker Hotel, "he confided a lot of things to me," Pretorious said. Hyo Jin also had discovered that the Reverend Moon fathered a child out of wedlock in the early 1970s. Moon arranged for the child to be raised by his longtime lieutenant Bo Hi Pak, Pretorious said.
    The boy - now a young man - had confronted Hyo Jin, seeking recognition as Hyo Jin's half-brother. Pretorious said she later corroborated the story with other church members.

    Intelligence Ties
    The alleged sexual rituals, which involved passing around women, would become a point of embarrassment later, but the practices apparently helped the Unification Church in recruiting men in the early days.
    By the late 1950s, Moon had managed to build a small cadre of loyal followers and was reaching out beyond Korea. By the early 1960s, the church also was pulling in better educated young men, including some with connections to South Korea's intelligence services.
    Kim Jong-Pil and three other young English-speaking army officers became closely associated with Moon's church during this transitional phase as the institution evolved from an obscure Korean sect into a powerful international organization.
    Beyond his association with Moon's sect, Kim Jong-Pil was a rising star in South Korea's intelligence community. In 1961, he founded the KCIA, which centralized Seoul's internal and external intelligence activities. Another one of the promising young KCIA officers was Colonel Bo Hi Pak, also a Moon disciple.
    With these KCIA officers, however, it was never clear whether the benefits of the religion were paramount or if they simply recognized the potential that an international church held as a cover for intelligence operations.
    In many countries, especially the United States, churches are granted broad protections against government interference. With missionaries traveling around the world and with church members attending international religious conferences, a church also provided an effective cover for spying, money-laundering or passing on messages to agents.
    In 1962, KCIA founder Kim Jong-Pil traveled to San Francisco where he met with Unification Church members. According to an account later published by a congressional investigation, Kim Jong-Pil promised discreet support for Moon's church.
    At the same time of his contacts with associates from the Unification Church, Kim Jong-Pil was in charge of another sensitive negotiation: talks to improve bilateral relations with Japan, Korea's historic enemy.
    Those talks put Kim Jong-Pil in touch with two other important figures in the Far East, Japanese rightists Yoshio Kodama and Ryoichi Sasakawa, who once hailed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as "the perfect fascist."
    Kodama and Sasakawa were jailed as fascist war criminals at the end of World War II, but a few years later, both Kodama and Sasakawa were freed by U.S. military intelligence officials.
    The U.S. government turned to Kodama and Sasakawa for help in combating communist labor unions and student strikes, much as the CIA protected German Nazi war criminals who supplied intelligence and performed other services in the intensifying Cold War battles with European communists.
    Kodama and Sasakawa obliged U.S. intelligence by dispatching right-wing goon squads to break up demonstrations, according to the authoritative book, Yakuza, by David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro.
    Kodama and Sasakawa also allegedly grew rich from their association with the yakuza, a shadowy organized crime syndicate that profited off drug smuggling, gambling and prostitution in Japan and Korea. Behind the scenes, Kodama and Sasakawa became power-brokers in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
    Kim Jong-Pil's contacts with these right-wing leaders proved invaluable to the Unification Church, which had made only a few converts in Japan by the early 1960s. Immediately after Kim Jong-Pil opened the door to Kodama and Sasakawa in late 1962, 50 leaders of an ultra-nationalist Japanese Buddhist sect converted en masse to the Unification Church, according to Kaplan and Dubro.
    "Sasakawa became an advisor to Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Japanese branch of the Unification Church" and collaborated with Moon in building far-right anti-communist organizations in Asia, Kaplan and Dubro wrote.
    The church's growth spurt did not escape the notice of U.S. intelligence officers in the field. One CIA report, dated Feb. 26, 1963, stated that "Kim Jong-Pil organized the Unification Church while he was director of the ROK [Republic of Korea] Central Intelligence Agency, and has been using the church, which had a membership of 27,000, as a political tool."
    Though Moon's church had existed since the mid-1950s, the report appeared correct in noting Kim Jong-Pil's key role in transforming the church from a minor Korean sect into a potent international organization.

    New Worlds
    With alliances in place in Tokyo and Seoul, the Unification Church next took aim at Washington.
    In 1964, Bo Hi Pak, who was emerging as one of Moon's most able lieutenants, moved to America and started the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation, a front that performed the dual purpose of helping Moon meet important Americans, while assisting the KCIA in its international operations.
    Bo Hi Pak named KCIA founder Kim Jong-Pil to be the foundation's "honorary chairman." The foundation also sponsored the KCIA's anti-communist propaganda outlets, such as Radio of Free Asia, according to the congressional report on the "Koreagate" scandal.
    Moon's church also was active in the Asian People's Anti-Communist League, a fiercely right-wing group founded by the governments of South Korea and Taiwan. In 1966, the group expanded into the World Anti-Communist League, an international alliance that brought together traditional conservatives with former Nazis, overt racialists and Latin American "death squad" operatives.
    Retired U.S. Army Gen. John K. Singlaub, a former WACL president, told me that "the Japanese [WACL] chapter was taken over almost entirely by Moonies."
    By the 1970s, the U.S. public was aware of Moon and his church, but much of the attention was negative. Parents complained that the church brainwashed their children and pressured them to cut off contacts with their families, while proclaiming Moon their "True Father."
    The totalitarian nature of Moon's church stood out in his staging of mass marriages, or "blessings," in which he would pair up husbands and wives who had never met. Moon also regulated the sexual behavior of even his married followers, a practice that replaced the more personal method of "blessing the womb" that allegedly had prevailed in the church's early days.
    In 1973, amid American reversals in Indochina, alarm began to spread within Seoul's right-wing dictatorship about the strength of the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea in case of aggression from the communist North. Those fears led the KCIA, long known for its gross human rights violations, to begin plotting how to bolster its friends in the United States and undermine its enemies.
    Lee Jai Hyon, the chief cultural and information attaché at the South Korean embassy in Washington, later testified before the U.S. Congress that he sat in on a series of meetings chaired by the KCIA's station chief, involving senior embassy officials.
    Lee Jai Hyon described six sessions over a five-week period in spring 1973 at which a conspiracy was outlined to "manipulate," "coerce," "threaten," "co-opt," "seduce," and "buy off" political and other leaders of the United States. Lee Jai Hyon said one of the South Koreans participating in the operation was Moon's top aide Bo Hi Pak.
    At the time, Moon was raising concerns among U.S. immigration authorities for bringing hundreds of foreign followers to the United States on tourist visas and then assigning them to mobile fund-raising teams.
    But Moon, who owned property outside New York City while maintaining a residence in South Korea, somehow managed to secure a "green card" from the Nixon administration on April 30, 1973. The permit making Moon a "lawful permanent resident" also granted him more legal rights than would be available to a foreign visitor.
    "The advantages of using the First Amendment were seen early," wrote Robert Boettcher, the former staff director of the House Subcommittee on International Relations, in his 1980 book, Gifts of Deceit. "Before Moon moved to the United States in 1971, he and his small band of followers realized the operation would have the most flexibility if it was called a church. Businesses, political activities, and tax-exempt status could be protected."
    As Moon stepped up his activities, however, the FBI soon began to suspect that Moon's activities had a political motive. The FBI summary of its evidence about Moon's church was marked by a number indicating that the Unification Church was under a counter-intelligence investigation in the 1970s.
    Although blacked-out portions obscured who was stating some of the conclusions - an individual source or the FBI - the report described the church as "an absolutely totalitarian organization" which was part of an international "conspiracy" that functioned by its own rules.
    "One of the central doctrines of the Moon religous aspects is what they call heavenly deception," the FBI report said. "It basically says that to take from Satan what rightfully belongs to God, you may do most anything. You may lie, cheat, steal or kill."

    Making Friends
    Despite the FBI's concerns, Moon began making friends in Washington the old-fashioned way: by spreading around lots of money. Moon also had his followers cozy up to government officials.
    According to the FBI summary, Moon designated "300 pretty girls" to lobby members of Congress. "They were trying to influence United States senators and congressmen on behalf of South Korea," the FBI document read.
    "Moon had laid the foundation for political work in this country prior to 1973 [though] his followers became more openly involved in political activities in that and subsequent years," a congressional investigative report on the "Koreagate" influence-buying scandal stated in 1978.
    The report added that Moon's organization used his followers' travels to smuggle large sums of money into the United States in apparent violation of federal currency laws.
    Moon organized rallies in support of the Vietnam War and in defense of President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Moon sponsored a National Prayer and Fast Committee, using the slogan: "forgive, love, unite." The public rallies earned Moon a face-to-face "thank you" from the embattled President on Feb. 1, 1974.

    Intercepted Message
    In late 1975, the CIA intercepted a secret South Korean document entitled "1976 Plan for Operations in the United States." In the name of "strengthening the execution of the U.S. security commitment to the ROK [South Korea]," it called for influencing U.S. public opinion by penetrating American media, government and academia.
    Thousands of dollars were earmarked for "special manipulation" of congressmen; their staffs were to be infiltrated with paid "collaborators"; an "intelligence network" was to be put into the White House; money was targeted for "manipulation" of officials at the Pentagon, State Department and CIA; some U.S. journalists were to be spied on, while others would be paid; a "black newspaper" would be started in New York; contacts with American scholars would be coordinated "with Psychological Warfare Bureau"; and "an organizational network of anti-communist fronts" would be created.
    Several months later, in summer 1976, Moon returned to the United States and delivered a flattering pro-U.S. speech at a red-white-and-blue flag-draped rally at the Washington Monument.
    "The United States of America, transcending race and nationality, is already a model of the unified world," Moon declared on Sept. 18, 1976. Calling America "the chosen nation of God," Moon said, "I not only respect America, but truly love this nation."
    While professing his love for America in public, Moon shared with his followers a very different sentiment in private. He despised American concepts of individuality and democracy, believing that he was destined to rule through a one-world theocracy that would eradicate all personal freedoms.
    "Here's a man [Moon] who says he wants to take over the world, where all religions will be abolished except Unificationism, all languages will be abolished except Korean, all governments will be abolished except his one-world theocracy," Steve Hassan, a former church leader, told me. "Yet he's wined and dined very powerful people and convinced them that he's benign."
    In 1976, Moon's search for growing influence in the United States seemed to be following the KCIA script.
    Moon started a small-circulation newspaper in New York City that featured a column by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. Moon promoted the anti-communist cause through front groups which held lavish conferences and paid speaking fees to academics, journalists and political leaders.
    In 1976, Moon, Bo Hi Pak and other church members deepened their investments in the U.S. capital, buying stock in the Washington-based Diplomat National Bank. Simultaneously, South Korean agent Tongsun Park was investing heavily in the same bank.
    But the South Korean scheme backfired in the late 1970s with the explosion of the "Koreagate" scandal. Rep.Donald Fraser, a Democrat from Minnesota, led a congressional probe which tracked Tongsun Park's influence-buying campaign and exposed the KCIA links to the Unification Church.
    The "Koreagate" investigation revealed a sophisticated intelligence project run out of Seoul that used the urbane Park as well as the mystical Moon to cultivate U.S. politicians as influential friends of South Korea - and conversely to undermine politicians who were viewed as enemies.
    Though it's clear the church did collaborate with the KCIA during the 1960s and 1970s, it's less clear whether Moon was using the KCIA or it was using him. Most likely, the relationship was symbiotic, each using the other to advance their overlapping but different interests.
    The alliance with the KCIA gave Moon political protection and business opportunities, while the KCIA got a cover for promoting South Korean interests inside the United States, the country responsible for South Korea's defense.
    The "Koreagate" investigation traced the church's chief sources of money to bank accounts in Japan, but could follow the cash no further. In the years since, the sources of Moon's money have remained cloaked in secrecy.
    In the mid-1990s when I inquired about the vast fortune that the Unification Church has poured into its American operations, the church's chief spokesman refused to divulge dollar amounts for any of Moon's activities.
    "Each year the church retains an independent accounting firm to do a national audit and produce an annual financial statement," wrote the church's legal representative Peter D. Ross. "While this statement is used in routine financial transactions by the church, [it] is not my policy to make it otherwise available."
    In 1978, Fraser got a taste of the negative side of Moon's propaganda clout as the South Korean religious leader's new U.S. conservative allies mounted a strong defense against the "Koreagate" allegations.
    In pro-Moon publications, Fraser and his staff were pilloried as leftists. Anti-Moon witnesses were assailed as unstable liars. Minor bookkeeping problems inside the investigation, such as Fraser's salary advances to some staff members, were seized upon to justify demands for an ethics probe of the congressman.
    One of those letters, dated June 30, 1978, was written by John T. "Terry" Dolan of the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC). Dolan's group was pioneering the strategy of "independent" TV attack ads against liberal Democrats. In turn, Moon's CAUSA International helped Dolan by contributing $500,000 to a Dolan group, known as the Conservative Alliance or CALL. [Washington Post, Sept. 17, 1984]
    With support from Dolan and other conservatives, Moon weathered the "Koreagate" political storm. Facing questions about his patriotism, Fraser lost a Senate bid in 1978 and left Congress.
    Though Moon had helped defeat his chief congressional critic, the evidence unearthed by Fraser became the foundation of a tax-fraud conviction of Moon in 1982 and his sentencing to two years in federal prison.

    A Media Empire
    Despite his felony conviction, Moon pressed ahead with his boldest bid for political influence. In 1982, Moon launched the Washington Times. The Times was just what the Reagan administration wanted, a reliable voice for its version of events that would push the message into the public debate.
    Though Moon would have to subsidize his publications with hundreds of millions of dollars from his seemingly bottomless pool of cash, the newspaper - over the next two decades - would change the parameters of how the U.S. press corps works and affect the course of U.S. presidential campaigns.
    Where all that money came from, however, would remain one of Washington's least examined secrets.
    Authors Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson wrote in their 1986 book, Inside the League, that Sun Myung Moon was one of five indispensable Asian leaders who made the World Anti-Communist League possible.
    The five were Taiwan's dictator Chiang Kai-shek, South Korea's dictator Park Chung Hee, yakuza gangsters Ryoichi Sasakawa and Yoshio Kodama, and Moon, "an evangelist who planned to take over the world through the doctrine of 'Heavenly Deception,'" the Andersons wrote.
    WACL became a well-financed worldwide organization after a secret meeting between Sasakawa and Moon, along with two Kodama representatives, on a lake in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. The purpose of the meeting was to create an anti-communist organization that "would further Moon's global crusade and lend the Japanese yakuza leaders a respectable new façade," the Andersons wrote.
    Mixing organized crime and political extremism, of course, has a long tradition throughout the world. Violent political movements often have blended with criminal operations as a way to arrange covert funding, move operatives or acquire weapons.
    Drug smuggling has proven to be a particularly effective way to fill the coffers of extremist movements, especially those that find ways to insinuate themselves within more legitimate operations of sympathetic governments or intelligence services.
    In the quarter century after World War II, remnants of fascist movements managed to do just that. Shattered by the major Allies - the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union - the surviving fascists got a new lease on political life with the start of the Cold War, helping both Western democracies and right-wing dictatorships battle international communism.
    Some Nazi leaders faced war-crimes tribunals after World War II, but others managed to make their escapes along "rat lines" to Spain or South America or they finagled intelligence relationships with the victorious powers, especially the United States.
    Argentina became a natural haven given the pre-war alliance that existed between the European fascists and prominent Argentine military leaders, such as Juan Peron. The fleeing Nazis also found like-minded right-wing politicians and military officers across Latin America who already used repression to keep down the indigenous populations and the legions of the poor.
    In the post-World War II years, some Nazi war criminals chose reclusive lives, but others, such as former SS officer Klaus Barbie, sold their intelligence skills to less-sophisticated security services in countries like Bolivia or Paraguay. Other Nazis on the lam trafficked in narcotics. Often the lines crossed between intelligence operations and criminal conspiracies.
    Auguste Ricord, a French war criminal who had collaborated with the Gestapo, set up shop in Paraguay and opened up the French Connection heroin channels to American Mafia drug kingpin Santo Trafficante Jr., who controlled much of the heroin traffic into the United States. Columns by Jack Anderson identified Ricord's accomplices as some of Paraguay's highest-ranking military officers.
    Another French Connection mobster, Christian David, relied on protection of Argentine authorities. While trafficking in heroin, David also "took on assignments for Argentina's terrorist organization, the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance," Henrik Kruger wrote in The Great Heroin Coup.
    During President Nixon's "war on drugs," U.S. authorities smashed the famous French Connection and won extraditions of Ricord and David in 1972 to face justice in the United States.
    By the time the French Connection was severed, however, powerful Mafia drug lords had forged strong ties to South America's military leaders. An infrastructure for the multi-billion-dollar drug trade, servicing the insatiable U.S. market, was in place.
    Trafficante-connected groups also recruited displaced anti-Castro Cubans, who had ended up in Miami, needed work, and possessed some useful intelligence skills gained from the CIA's training for the Bay of Pigs and other clandestine operations. Heroin from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia soon filled the void left by the broken French Connection and its mostly Middle Eastern heroin supply routes.

    Enter Rev. Moon
    During this time of transition, Sun Myung Moon brought his evangelical message to South America. His first visit to Argentina had occurred in 1965 when he blessed a square behind the presidential Pink House in Buenos Aires. But he returned a decade later to make more lasting friendships.
    Moon first sank down roots in Uruguay during the 12-year reign of right-wing military dictators who seized power in 1973. He also cultivated close relations with military dictators in Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, reportedly ingratiating himself with the juntas by helping the military regimes arrange arms purchases and by channeling money to allied right-wing organizations.
    "Relationships nurtured with right-wing Latin Americans in the [World Anti-Communist] League led to acceptance of the [Unification] Church's political and propaganda operations throughout Latin America," the Andersons wrote in Inside the League.
    "As an international money laundry, … the Church tapped into the capital flight havens of Latin America. Escaping the scrutiny of American and European investigators, the Church could now funnel money into banks in Honduras, Uruguay and Brazil, where official oversight was lax or nonexistent."
    In 1980, Moon made more friends in South America when a right-wing alliance of Bolivia military officers and drug dealers organized what became known as the Cocaine Coup. WACL associates, such as Alfred Candia, coordinated the arrival of some of the paramilitary operatives who assisted in the violent putsch.
    Right-wing Argentine intelligence officers mixed with a contingent of young European neo-fascists collaborating with Nazi war criminal Barbie in carrying out the bloody coup that overthrew the elected left-of-center government.
    The victory put into power a right-wing military dictatorship indebted to the drug lords. Bolivia became South America's first narco-state.
    One of the first well-wishers arriving in La Paz to congratulate the new government was Moon's top lieutenant, Bo Hi Pak. The Moon organization published a photo of Pak meeting with the new strongman, General Garcia Meza.
    After the visit to the mountainous capital, Pak declared, "I have erected a throne for Father Moon in the world's highest city."
    According to later Bolivian government and newspaper reports, a Moon representative invested about $4 million in preparations for the coup. Bolivia's WACL representatives also played key roles, and CAUSA, one of Moon's anti-communist organizations, listed as members nearly all the leading Bolivian coup-makers.
    Soon, Colonel Luis Arce-Gomez, a coup organizer and the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, went into partnership with big narco-traffickers, including Trafficante's Cuban-American smugglers. Nazi war criminal Barbie and his young neo-fascist followers found new work protecting Bolivia's major cocaine barons and transporting drugs to the border.
    "The paramilitary units - conceived by Barbie as a new type of SS - sold themselves to the cocaine barons," German journalist Kai Hermann wrote. "The attraction of fast money in the cocaine trade was stronger than the idea of a national socialist revolution in Latin America." [An English translation of Hermann's article was published in Covert Action Information Bulletin, Winter 1986]
    A month after the coup, General Garcia Meza participated in the Fourth Congress of the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation, an arm of the World Anti-Communist League. Also attending that Fourth Congress was WACL president Woo Jae Sung, a leading Moon disciple.
    As the drug lords consolidated their power in Bolivia, the Moon organization expanded its presence, too. Hermann reported that in early 1981, war criminal Barbie and Moon leader Thomas Ward were seen together in apparent prayer.
    On May 31, 1981, Moon representatives sponsored a CAUSA reception at the Sheraton Hotel's Hall of Freedom in La Paz. Moon's lieutenant Bo Hi Pak and Bolivian strongman Garcia Meza led a prayer for President Reagan's recovery from an assassination attempt.
    In his speech, Bo Hi Pak declared, "God had chosen the Bolivian people in the heart of South America as the ones to conquer communism." According to a later Bolivian intelligence report, the Moon organization sought to recruit an "armed church" of Bolivians, with about 7,000 Bolivians receiving some paramilitary training.
    But by late 1981, the cocaine taint of Bolivia's military junta was so deep and the corruption so staggering that U.S.-Bolivian relations were stretched to the breaking point.
    "The Moon sect disappeared overnight from Bolivia as clandestinely as they had arrived," Hermann reported.
    The Cocaine Coup leaders soon found themselves on the run, too. Interior Minister Arce-Gomez was eventually extradited to Miami and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking. Drug lord Roberto Suarez got a 15-year prison term. General Garcia Meza became a fugitive from a 30-year sentence imposed on him in Bolivia for abuse of power, corruption and murder. Barbie was returned to France to face a life sentence for war crimes. He died in 1992.
    But Moon's organization suffered few negative repercussions from the Cocaine Coup. By the early 1980s, flush with seemingly unlimited funds, Moon had moved on to promoting himself with the new Republican administration in Washington. An invited guest to the Reagan-Bush Inauguration, Moon made his organization useful to President Reagan, Vice President Bush and other leading Republicans.

    Domestic Spying
    An early concern of the Reagan administration was the possibility that a popular movement - similar to the anti-Vietnam War protests - would undermine the hard-line policies that the new U.S. government considered indispensable for stopping the spread of Soviet influence in Central America.
    Staunch anticommunists in the administration also suspected that some groups opposed to U.S. intervention in the region could be discredited for holding suspect political loyalties. Though Moon's organization itself had been exposed by the "Koreagate" investigation as a foreign intelligence operation, the administration still turned to it to help probe the loyalty of Americans.
    Starting in 1981, the FBI cooperated with one of Moon's front groups during a five-year nationwide investigation of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), a domestic organization critical of Reagan's policies in Central America.
    According to FBI documents obtained by Boston Globe reporter Ross Gelbspan, the FBI collected reports from Moon's Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP), which was spying on CISPES supporters. The reports came from CARP members at 10 university campuses around the United States and included commentaries on the purported political beliefs of Reagan's critics. [Boston Globe, April 20, 1988]
    One CARP report called a CISPES supporter "well-educated in Marxism" while other CARP reports attached "clippings culled from communist-inspired front groups." The Globe investigation reported that Frank Varelli, who worked for the FBI from 1981 to 1984 coordinating the CISPES probe, said an FBI agent paid members of the Moon organization at Southern Methodist University while the Moon activists were raiding and disrupting CISPES rallies.
    "Every week, an agent I worked with used to go to SMU to pay the Moonies," Varelli said in an interview. Because of the CARP harassment, CISPES closed its SMU chapter.
    While Moon's organization was helping to spy on American citizens, the case against Moon as a suspected intelligence agent for South Korea was petering out. It's still not clear why.
    "I don't think there was any doubt that the Moon newspaper took a virulently pro-South Korea position," Oliver "Buck" Revell, then a senior FBI official in the national security area, told me. "But whether there was something illegal about it..." His voice trailed off. As for the internal security investigation of Moon, Revell added only: "It led its full life."

    Mysterious Money
    Where Moon gets his cash has been a long-time mystery that few American conservatives have been eager to solve.
    "Some Moonie-watchers even believe that some of the business enterprises are actually covers for drug trafficking," wrote Scott and Jon Lee Anderson. "Others feel that, despite the disclosures of Koreagate, the Church has simply continued to do the Korean government's international bidding and is receiving official funds to do so."
    While Moon's representatives have refused to detail how they've sustained their far-flung activities - including many businesses that insiders say lose money - Moon's spokesmen have angrily denied recurring allegations about profiteering off illegal trafficking in weapons and drugs.
    In a typical response to a gun-running question by the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, Moon's representative Ricardo DeSena responded, "I deny categorically these accusations and also the barbarities that are said about drugs and brainwashing. Our movement responds to the harmony of the races, nations and religions and proclaims that the family is the school of love." [Clarin, July 7, 1996]
    Without doubt, however, Moon's organization has had a long record of association with organized crime figures, including ones implicated in the drug trade. Besides collaborating with Sasakawa and other leaders of the Japanese yakuza and the Cocaine Coup government of Bolivia, Moon's organization developed close ties with the Honduran military and the Nicaraguan contras who were permeated with drug smugglers.
    Moon's organization also used its political clout in Washington to intimidate or discredit government officials and journalists who tried to investigate those criminal activities. In the mid-1980s, for instance, when journalists and congressional investigators began probing the evidence of contra-connected drug trafficking, they came under attacks from Moon's Washington Times.
    An Associated Press story that I co-wrote with Brian Barger about a Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the contras was denigrated in an April 11, 1986, front-page Washington Times article with the headline: "Story on [contra] drug smuggling denounced as political ploy."
    When Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, conducted a Senate probe and uncovered additional evidence of contra drug trafficking, the Washington Times denounced him, too. The newspaper first published articles depicting Kerry's probe as a wasteful political witch hunt. "Kerry's anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain," announced the headline of one Times article on Aug. 13, 1986.
    But when Kerry exposed more contra wrongdoing, the Washington Times shifted tactics. In 1987 in front-page articles, it began accusing Kerry's staff of obstructing justice because their investigation was supposedly interfering with Reagan-Bush administration efforts to get at the truth.
    "Kerry staffers damaged FBI probe," said one Times article that opened with the assertion: "Congressional investigators for Sen. John Kerry severely damaged a federal drug investigation last summer by interfering with a witness while pursuing allegations of drug smuggling by the Nicaraguan resistance, federal law enforcement officials said." [Washington Times, Jan. 21, 1987]
    Despite the attacks, Kerry's contra-drug investigation eventually concluded that a number of contra units - both in Costa Rica and Honduras - were implicated in the cocaine trade.
    "It is clear that individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers," Kerry's investigation stated in a report issued April 13, 1989. "In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring or immediately thereafter."
    Kerry's investigation also found that Honduras had become an important way station for cocaine shipments heading north during the contra war.
    "Elements of the Honduran military were involved ... in the protection of drug traffickers from 1980 on," the report said. "These activities were reported to appropriate U.S. government officials throughout the period. Instead of moving decisively to close down the drug trafficking by stepping up the DEA presence in the country and using the foreign assistance the United States was extending to the Hondurans as a lever, the United States closed the DEA office in Tegucigalpa and appears to have ignored the issue." [Drug, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy - the Kerry Report - December 1988.]
    The Kerry investigation represented an indirect challenge to Vice President George H.W. Bush, who had been named by President Reagan to head the South Florida Task Force for interdicting the flow of drugs into the United States and was later put in charge of the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System.
    In short, Bush was the lead official in the U.S. government to cope with the drug trade, which he himself had dubbed a national security threat.
    If the American voters came to believe that Bush had compromised his anti-drug responsibilities to protect the image of the Nicaraguan contras and other rightists in Central America, that judgment could have threatened the political future of Bush and his politically ambitious family.
    By publicly challenging press and congressional investigations of this touchy subject, the Washington Times helped keep an unfavorable media spotlight from swinging in the direction of the Vice President.

    Drug Evidence
    The evidence shows that there was much more to the contra drug issue than either the Reagan-Bush administration or Moon's organization wanted the American people to know in the 1980s.
    The evidence - assembled over the years by investigators at the CIA, the Justice Department and other federal agencies - indicates that Bolivia's Cocaine Coup operatives were only the first in a line of clever drug smugglers that tried to squeeze under the protective umbrella of Reagan's favorite covert operation, the contra war. [For details, see Robert Parry, Lost History , or for a summary of the contra-drug evidence, see Consortiumnews.com's "Gary Webb's Death: American Tragedy." ]
    Other cocaine smugglers soon followed, cozying up to the contras and sharing some of the profits, as a way to minimize investigative interest by the Reagan-Bush law enforcement agencies.
    The contra-connected smugglers included the Medellin cartel, the Panamanian government of Manuel Noriega, the Honduran military, the Honduran-Mexican smuggling ring of Ramon Matta Ballesteros, and the Miami-based anti-Castro Cubans with their connections to Mafia operations throughout the United States.
    The drug traffickers' strategy also worked. In some cases, U.S. intelligence officials bent over backwards not to take timely notice of contra-connected drug trafficking out of fear that fuller investigations would embarrass the contras and their patrons in the Reagan-Bush administration.
    For instance, on Oct. 22, 1982, a cable written by the CIA's Directorate of Operations stated, "There are indications of links between [a U.S. religious organization] and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups. These links involve an exchange in [the United States] of narcotics for arms."
    The cable added that the participants were planning a meeting in Costa Rica for such a deal. When the cable arrived, senior CIA officials were concerned. On Oct. 27, CIA headquarters asked for more information from a U.S. law enforcement agency.
    The law enforcement agency expanded on its report by telling the CIA that representatives of the contra FDN and another contra force, the UDN, would be meeting with several unidentified U.S. citizens. But then, the CIA reversed itself, deciding that it wanted no more information on the grounds that U.S. citizens were involved.
    "In light of the apparent participation of U.S. persons throughout, agree you should not pursue the matter further," CIA headquarters wrote on Nov. 3, 1982. Two weeks later, after discouraging additional investigation, CIA headquarters suggested it might be necessary to knock down the allegations of a guns-for-drugs deal as "misinformation."
    The CIA's Latin American Division, however, responded on Nov. 18, 1982, that several contra officials had gone to San Francisco for the meetings with supporters, presumably as part of the same guns-for-drugs deal. But the CIA inspector general found no additional information about that deal in CIA files.
    Also, by keeping the names censored when the documents were released in 1998, the CIA prevented outside investigators from examining whether the "U.S. religious organization" had any affiliation with Moon's network of quasi-religious groups, which were assisting the contras at that time.

    Red Flags
    As Moon continued to expand his influence in American politics, some Republicans began to raise red flags.
    In 1983, the GOP's moderate Ripon Society charged that the New Right had entered "an alliance of expediency" with Moon's church. Ripon's chairman, Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, released a study which alleged that the College Republican National Committee "solicited and received" money from Moon's Unification Church in 1981. The study also accused Reed Irvine's Accuracy in Media of benefiting from low-cost or volunteer workers supplied by Moon.
    Leach said the Unification Church has "infiltrated the New Right and the party it wants to control, the Republican Party, and infiltrated the media as well." Leach's news conference was disrupted when then-college GOP leader Grover Norquist accused Leach of lying. (Norquist is now a prominent conservative leader in Washington with close ties to the highest levels of George W. Bush's administration.)
    Despite periodic fretting over Moon's influence, American conservatives continued to accept his deep-pocket assistance. When White House aide Oliver North was scratching for support for the Nicaraguan contras, for instance, the Washington Times established a contra fund-raising operation.
    By the mid-1980s, Moon's Unification Church had carved out a niche as an acceptable part of the American Right. In one speech to his followers, Moon boasted that "without knowing it, even President Reagan is being guided by Father [Moon]."
    Yet, Moon also made clear that his longer-range goal was destroying the U.S. Constitution and America's democratic form of government.
    "History will make the position of Reverend Moon clear, and his enemies, the American population and government will bow down to him," Moon said, speaking of himself in the third person. "That is Father's tactic, the natural subjugation of the American government and population."
    In September 1987, conservative columnist Andrew Ferguson cited some of Moon's anti-American sentiments as cause for concern, despite his appealing anticommunism.
    "There is little else in Unificationism that American conservatives will find compelling," except, of course, the money, Ferguson wrote in the American Spectator. "They're the best in town as far as putting their money with their mouth is," Ferguson quoted one Washington-based conservative as saying.
    Though Moon's money sources remained shrouded in secrecy, his cash undeniably gave the Right an edge over its political adversaries.
    After the Iran-Contra scandal exploded in fall 1986, the Washington Times and other Moon-related organizations rushed to the battlements to defend Reagan's White House and Oliver North.
    Ronald S. Godwin, who was a link between Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Moon's Washington Times, raised funds for North through a group called the Interamerican Partnership, which was a forerunner to North's own Freedom Alliance. [See Common Cause Magazine, Fall 1993]
    Another Moon-connected group, the American Freedom Coalition, went to bat for North. According to Andrew Leigh, who worked for a Moon front called Global Image Associates, AFC broadcast a pro-North video, "Ollie North: Fight for Freedom," more than 600 times on more than 100 TV stations.
    Leigh quoted one AFC official as saying that AFC received $5 million to $6 million from business interests associated with Moon. AFC also bragged that it helped put George H.W. Bush into the White House in 1988 by distributing 30 million pieces of political literature. [Washington Post, Oct. 15, 1989]
    When Vice President Bush was struggling in his 1988 presidential campaign against Democratic nominee, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, Moon's Washington Times came to the rescue again publishing a slanted story about Dukakis's mental health.
    Times reporter Gene Grabowski had interviewed a Dukakis relative and asked whether Dukakis had ever sought psychiatric help during a low period in his life. "It's possible, but I doubt it," the relative responded.
    Grabowski's editors, however, snipped out the phrase "but I doubt it" while keeping the phrase "it's possible" and then spotlighting the story under a headline, "Dukakis Kin Hints at Sessions."
    Dukakis's supposedly questionable mental health became an important theme for the Republicans. President Reagan personally underscored the message by referring to Dukakis as a "cripple," which forced more mainstream publications to reprise the suspicions about the suspected psychiatric treatment.
    The story spread doubts among the electorate about Dukakis's fitness for office. For his part, Grabowski, a former Associated Press reporter, resigned in protest of the distortion, but by then the damage to Dukakis was done.

    Weird Behavior
    But even as Moon consolidated his influence in Washington during the 12-year Reagan-Bush reign, Moon's weird behavior was splitting the church leadership and making some American conservatives nervous.
    In 1989, published reports disclosed that Moon had declared that one of his sons, Heung Jin Moon who died in a car crash in 1984, had come back to life in the body of a church member from Zimbabwe.
    The muscular African - known inside the church as the "black Heung Jin" - then compelled church leaders to stand before him and engage in humiliating self-criticisms, sometimes making them sing songs.
    During one of these rituals in December 1988, the Zimbabwean severely beat longtime Moon lieutenant Bo Hi Pak, who was then publisher of the Washington Times. Pak reportedly suffered brain damage and impaired speech from the assault, which church sources told me had been sanctioned by Moon after Pak had fallen out of favor. Afterwards, Pak was transferred back to Asia.
    Commenting on the beating of Pak, former Washington Times editor William P. Cheshire wrote, "Where the Moonies are concerned, it seems clear, we are dealing with something besides just an exotic cult. The Pak beating smacks strongly of Jonestown [the site of a mass murder-suicide by a religious cult].
    "And with Moon lavishing hundreds of millions of dollars a year on newspapers, magazines and political-action groups in this country and abroad, such occult and aggressive practices give rise to secular apprehensions. If the 'reincarnation' doesn't rock those conservative shops that have been taking money from Moon, not even fire-breathing dragons would disturb them." [San Diego Union-Tribune, April 9, 1989]
    But Moon's organization had proved itself too valuable to be cast aside, regardless of the strange behavior and the questionable sources of money. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Washington Times was the daily billboard where conservatives placed their messages to each other and to the outside world.
    In 1991, when conservative commentator Wesley Pruden was named the new editor of the Washington Times, President George H.W. Bush invited Pruden to a private White House lunch. The purpose, Bush explained, was "just to tell you how valuable the Times has become in Washington, where we read it every day." [Washington Times, May 17, 1992]
    Government documents showed that the Reagan-Bush team was shielding Moon's operation from investigations at the same time Moon's newspaper was doing the same for the administration.
    According to Justice Department documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, federal authorities were rebuffing hundreds of requests - many from common citizens - for examination of Moon's foreign ties and money sources.
    Typical of the responses was a May 18, 1989, letter from Assistant Attorney General Carol T. Crawford rejecting the possibility that Moon's organization be required to divulge its foreign-funded propaganda under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).
    "With respect to FARA, the Department is faced with First Amendment considerations involving the free exercise of religion," Crawford said. "As you know, the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom is not limited to the traditional, well-established religions."
    A 1992 PBS documentary about Moon's political empire and its free-spending habits started another flurry of citizen demands for an investigation, according to the Justice Department files.
    One letter from a private citizen to the Justice Department stated, "I write in consternation and disgust at the apparent support, or at least the sheltering, of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, a foreign agent ... who has subverted the American political system for the past 20 years.... Did Reagan and/or Bush receive financial support from Moon or his agents during any of their election campaigns in violation of federal law?"
    Another letter complained that "apparently Moon gave the Bush and Reagan campaigns millions of dollars in support and helped fund the [Nicaraguan] contras as well as sponsoring rallys [sic] in 50 states to support the Persian Gulf war. No wonder the Justice Department turns a blind eye?"
    "I feel it is necessary to find out who is financing the operation and why other countries are trying to direct the policies of the United States," wrote another citizen. "If even one-half of the allegations are true, Moon and his assistants belong in jail rather than being welcomed and supported at the highest level of Washington."
    As public demands mounted for Moon and his front groups to register as foreign agents, the Justice Department added a new argument to its reasons to say no. In an Aug. 19, 1992, letter, Assistant Attorney General Robert S. Mueller dismissed a suggestion that the Moon-backed American Freedom Council should register under FARA because Moon, a South Korean citizen, had obtained U.S. resident-alien status - or a "green card."
    Mueller, who is now FBI director, wrote that "in the absence of a foreign principal, there is no requirement for registration. … The Reverend Sun Myung Moon enjoys the status of permanent resident alien in the United States and therefore does not fall within FARA's definition of foreign principal. It follows that the Act is not applicable to the [American Freedom] Council because of its association with Reverend Moon."
    Ironically, Mueller, who went out of his way to find reasons not to investigate Moon, touts in his official FBI biography his background investigating and prosecuting "major financial fraud, terrorist and public corruption cases, as well as narcotics conspiracies and international money launderers."

    Hidden Money
    Some prominent figures on the American Right went to great lengths to conceal their financial connections to Moon, making sure his assistance passed through several hands before it got to their pockets.
    For instance, on Jan. 28, 1995, a beaming Rev. Jerry Falwell told his Old Time Gospel Hour congregation news that seemed heaven sent. The rotund televangelist hailed two Virginia businessmen as financial saviors of debt-ridden Liberty University, the fundamentalist Christian school that Falwell had made the crown jewel of his Religious Right empire.
    "They had to borrow money, hock their houses, hock everything," said Falwell. "Thank God for friends like Dan Reber and Jimmy Thomas." Falwell's congregation rose as one to applaud. The star of the moment was Daniel Reber, who was standing behind Falwell. Thomas was not present.
    Reber and Thomas earned Falwell's public gratitude by excusing the Lynchburg, Virginia, school of about one-half of its $73 million debt. In the late 1980s, that flood of red ink had forced Falwell to abandon his Moral Majority political organization and the debt nearly drowned Liberty University in bankruptcy.
    Reber and Thomas came to Falwell's rescue in the nick of time. Their non-profit Christian Heritage Foundation of Forest, Virginia, snapped up a big chunk of Liberty's debt for $2.5 million, a fraction of its face value. Thousands of small religious investors who had bought church construction bonds through a Texas company were the big losers.
    But Falwell was joyous. He told local reporters that the moment was "the greatest single day of financial advantage" in the school's history.
    Left unmentioned in the happy sermon was the identity of the bigger guardian angel who had appeared at the propitious moment to protect Falwell's financial interests. Falwell's secret benefactor was Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed South Korean messiah who is controversial with many fundamentalist Christians because of his strange Biblical interpretations and his alleged brainwashing of thousands of young Americans, often shattering their bonds with their biological families.
    Covertly, Moon had helped bail out Liberty University through one of his front groups which funneled $3.5 million to the Reber-Thomas Christian Heritage Foundation, the non-profit that had purchased the school's debt.
    I discovered this Moon-Falwell connection while looking for something else: how much Moon's Women's Federation for World Peace had paid former President George H.W. Bush for a series of speeches in Asia in 1995. I obtained the federation's Internal Revenue Service records but discovered that Bush's undisclosed speaking fee was buried in a line item of $13.6 million for conference expenses.
    There was, however, another listing for a $3.5 million "educational" grant to the Christian Heritage Foundation. A call to the Virginia corporate records office confirmed that the foundation was the one run by Reber and Thomas.
    In a subsequent interview, the Women Federation's vice president Susan Fefferman confirmed that the $3.5 million grant had gone to "Mr. Falwell's people" for the benefit of Liberty University. "It was Dan Reber," she said. But she could not recall much else about the grant, even though it was by far the largest single grant awarded by the federation that year.
    For details on the grant, Fefferman referred me to Keith Cooperrider, the federation's treasurer. Cooperrider was also the chief financial officer of Moon's Washington Times and a longtime Unification Church functionary.
    Cooperrider did not return calls seeking comment. Falwell and Reber also failed to respond to my calls, though Falwell later defended his acceptance of the money by saying it had no influence on his ministry.
    "If the American Atheists Society or Saddam Hussein himself ever sent an unrestricted gift to any of my ministries," Falwell said, "be assured I will operate on Billy Sunday's philosophy: The Devil's had it long enough, and quickly cash the check." [See "Moon-Related Funds Filter to Evangelicals," Christianity Today, posted on Web, Feb. 9, 1998]
    But the public record also reveals that Falwell solicited Moon's help in bailing out Liberty University. In a lawsuit filed in the Circuit Court of Bedford County - a community in southwestern Virginia - two of Reber's former business associates alleged that Reber and Falwell flew to South Korea on Jan. 9, 1994, on a seven-day "secret trip" to meet "with representatives of the Unification Church."
    The court document states that Reber and Falwell were accompanied to South Korea by Ronald S. Godwin, who had been executive director of Falwell's Moral Majority before signing on as vice president of Moon's Washington Times.
    According to Bedford County court records, Reber, Falwell and Godwin also had discussions at Liberty University in 1993 with Dong Moon Joo, one of Moon's right-hand men and president of the Washington Times.
    Though Reber was queried about the purposes of the Moon-connected meetings in the court papers, he settled the business dispute before responding to interrogatories or submitting to a deposition. He denied any legal wrongdoing.
    But Moon's secret financial ties to Falwell raised some sensitive political questions since the bail-out came at a time when Falwell was collaborating with other conservatives who were producing videos that accused President Bill Clinton of murder and cocaine trafficking.
    The videos - "Circle of Power" and "The Clinton Chronicles" - were produced by Pat Matrisciana and Larry Nichols and were distributed nationwide by Falwell's Liberty Alliance.
    Reaching hundreds of thousands of viewers, the videos helped stoke the fires of the "Clinton scandals," which kept the Clinton administration on the political defensive for much of its eight years and helped create the hostile environment that made the Clinton impeachment possible in 1998.
    Did the $3.5 million from Moon's front group give Falwell the means to become a national pitchman for the conspiracy videos? Did Moon help bankroll the scandal mongering as part of a design to cripple the Clinton Presidency and pave the way for an administration more to Moon's liking?
    Although the most serious allegations in the videos lacked any credible evidence, the Christian Right's Citizens for Honest Government continued to peddle the allegations of Clinton-connected cocaine smuggling through the Mena, Arkansas, airport in another video, "The Mena Cover-up."
    In a promotional letter, the group's president, Pat Matrisciana, declared that "with Bill Clinton in the White House, it is entirely possible - even probable - that U.S. government policy at the highest levels is being controlled by the narcotics kingpins in Colombia."
    The irony of the allegation, however, was that Falwell's financial angel - Sun Myung Moon - was the one with mysterious connections to South American drug lords dating back at least to his cozy relations with Bolivia's Cocaine Coup in the early 1980s.
    Moon, whose history also included close ties to the Asian yakuza crime organization and longstanding allegations of money laundering, had achieved extraordinary influence at the highest levels of the U.S. government by funneling billions of dollars into conservative and Republican causes.
    Still, the Mena accusations against Clinton were kept alive through the 1990s by right-wingers although a two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Banking Committee failed to turn up any incriminating evidence.
    "We haven't come up with anything to support these allegations concerning then-Governor Clinton," committee spokesman David Runkel told me. But the Republican-controlled committee held off on publishing a long-promised report that would have formally cleared Clinton.
    Falwell reached a conclusion, too, that the "Clinton Chronicles" may have been unfair, but he still refused to apologize to Clinton. On CNBC's "Rivera Live" on March 25, 1998, Falwell said, "If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't do it, and I'm sorry I did."
    But he immediately sought to push the blame back onto Clinton: "The fact is the President has over these last five years, there's just a continual cloud. And - I would think that he himself would want to get this behind him and deal with it forthrightly."

    Hating America
    By the mid-1990s, Sun Myung Moon represented a potential embarrassment to the American Right because Moon had grown harshly anti-American after his political ally, George H.W. Bush, was ousted from office.
    The conservatives were lucky that few American news outlets were interested in the increasingly bizarre utterances from the South Korean benefactor of U.S. conservative causes.
    In earlier years, though privately disdaining America's concept of individual liberty, Moon publicly stressed his love for the United States. On Sept. 18, 1976, for instance, Moon staged a red-white-and-blue flag-draped rally at the Washington Monument, declaring that "I not only respect America, but truly love this nation."
    Even years later, Unification Church recruiters would show that video to young Americans. One recruit, college freshman John Stacey, was impressed with the patriotic images after he was shown the video by the Moon front, Collegiate Association for Research of Principles (CARP).
    "American flags were everywhere," recalled Stacey, a thin young man from central New Jersey. "The first video they showed me was Reverend Moon praising America and praising Christianity." In 1992, Stacey considered himself a patriotic American and a faithful Christian.
    Stacey soon joined the Unification Church and rose to become a Pacific Northwest leader in CARP. "They liked to hang me up because I'm young and I'm American," Stacey told me. "It's a good image for the church. They try to create the all-American look."
    But Stacey gradually discovered a different reality. At a 1995 leadership conference at a church compound in Anchorage, Alaska, Stacey met face-to-face with Moon who was sitting on a throne-like chair while a group of American followers, many middle-aged converts from the 1970s, sat at his feet like children.
    "Reverend Moon looked at me straight in the eye and said, 'America is Satanic. America is so Satanic that even hamburgers should be considered evil, because they come from America,'" Stacey said. "Hamburgers! My father was a butcher, so that bothered me.... I started feeling that I was betraying my country."
    Moon's criticism of Jesus also unsettled Stacey. "In the church, it's very anti-Jesus," Stacey said. "Jesus failed miserably. He died a lonely death. Reverend Moon is the hero that comes and saves pathetic Jesus. Reverend Moon is better than God.... That's why I left the Moonies. Because it started to feel like idolatry. He's promoting idolatry."
    After years in the sunlight of acceptance from the Reagan-Bush administrations, Moon's entered years of eclipse as his influence faded during the Clinton administration and his animosity toward the United States grew.
    "America has become the kingdom of individualism, and its people are individualists," Moon preached in Tarrytown, N.Y., on March 5, 1995. "You must realize that America has become the kingdom of Satan."
    In a speech to his followers on Aug. 4, 1996, Moon vowed that the church's eventual dominance over the United States would be followed by the liquidation of American individualism and the establishment of Moon's theocratic rule.
    "Americans who continue to maintain their privacy and extreme individualism are foolish people," Moon declared. "The world will reject Americans who continue to be so foolish. Once you have this great power of love, which is big enough to swallow entire America, there may be some individuals who complain inside your stomach. However, they will be digested."
    During the same sermon, Moon decried assertive American women.
    "American women have the tendency to consider that women are in the subject position," he said. "However, woman's shape is like that of a receptacle. The concave shape is a receiving shape. Whereas, the convex shape symbolizes giving.... Since man contains the seed of life, he should plant it in the deepest place. Does woman contain the seed of life? Absolutely not. Then if you desire to receive the seed of life, you have to become an absolute object. In order to qualify as an absolute object, you need to demonstrate absolute faith, love and obedience to your subject. Absolute obedience means that you have to negate yourself 100 percent."
    Though Moon had downplayed his provocative sexual beliefs since coming to America, sometimes the old themes popped up. After Moon spoke in Minneapolis on Oct. 26, 1996, a reporter for the Unification News, an internal newsletter, commented that "what the audience heard was not the usual things that one would expect to hear from a minister. Reverend Moon's talk included a very frank discussion of the purpose, role and true value of the sexual organs." [See Unification News, December 1996]
    On May 1, 1997, Moon told a group of followers that "the country that represents Satan's harvest is America." Moon also declared that "Satan created this kind of Hell on Earth," the United States. He again denounced American women as having "inherited the line of prostitutes. … American women are even worse because they practice free sex just because they enjoy it."
    Lashing out at the United States again, Moon decried American tolerance of homosexuals, whom he likened to "dirty dung-eating dogs." For Americans who "truly love such dogs," Moon said, "they also become like dung-eating dogs and produce that quality of life." [Washington Post, Nov. 23-24, 1997]

    Bush to the Rescue
    In fall 1996, another of Sun Myung Moon's forays into the high-priced world of media and politics was in trouble. South American journalists were writing scathingly about his plan to open a regional newspaper that Moon hoped would give him the same influence in Latin America that the Washington Times had in the United States.
    As publication day ticked closer for Moon's Tiempos del Mundo, leading South American newspapers recounted unsavory chapters of Moon's history, including his links with South Korea's fearsome intelligence service and with violent anticommunist organizations that bordered on neo-fascist.
    Moon's disciples fumed about the critical stories and accused the Argentine news media of trying to sabotage Moon's plans for an inaugural gala in Buenos Aires on Nov. 23, 1996. "The local press was trying to undermine the event," complained the church's internal newsletter, Unification News.
    Given the controversy, Argentina's president, Carlos Menem, rejected Moon's invitation. But Moon had a trump card to play in his bid for South American respectability: the endorsement of an ex-President of the United States, George H.W. Bush.
    Agreeing to speak at the newspaper's launch, Bush flew aboard a private plane, arriving in Buenos Aires on Nov. 22. Bush stayed at Menem's official residence, the Olivos, though Bush's presence didn't change Menem's mind about attending the gala.
    Still, as the biggest VIP at the inaugural gala, Bush saved the day, Moon's followers gushed. "Mr. Bush's presence as keynote speaker gave the event invaluable prestige," wrote the Unification News. "Father [Moon] and Mother [Mrs. Moon] sat with several of the True Children [Moon's offspring] just a few feet from the podium" where Bush spoke before about 900 of Moon's guests at the Sheraton Hotel.
    "I want to salute Reverend Moon, who is the founder of the Washington Times and also of Tiempos del Mundo," Bush declared. "A lot of my friends in South America don't know about the Washington Times, but it is an independent voice. The editors of the Washington Times tell me that never once has the man with the vision interfered with the running of the paper, a paper that in my view brings sanity to Washington, D.C. I am convinced that Tiempos del Mundo is going to do the same thing" in Latin America.
    Bush's speech was so effusive that it surprised even Moon's followers. "Once again, heaven turned a disappointment into a victory," the Unification News exulted. "Everyone was delighted to hear his compliments. We knew he would give an appropriate and 'nice' speech, but praise in Father's presence was more than we expected.... It was vindication. We could just hear a sigh of relief from Heaven."
    While Bush's assertion about Moon's newspaper as a voice of "sanity" may be a matter of opinion, Bush's vouching for the Washington Times' editorial independence simply wasn't true.
    Almost since it opened in 1982, a string of senior editors and correspondents have resigned, citing the manipulation of the news by Moon and his subordinates. The first editor, James Whelan, resigned in 1984, confessing that "I have blood on my hands" for helping Moon's church achieve greater legitimacy.
    But Bush's boosterism was just what Moon needed in South America. "The day after," the Unification News observed, "the press did a 180-degree about-turn once they realized that the event had the support of a U.S. President." With Bush's help, Moon had gained another beachhead for his worldwide business-religious-political-media empire.
    After the event, Menem told reporters from La Nacion that Bush had claimed privately to be only a mercenary who did not really know Moon. "Bush told me he came and charged money to do it," Menem said. [La Nacion, Nov. 26, 1996].
    But Bush was not telling Menem the whole story. By fall 1996, Bush and Moon had been working in political tandem for at least a decade and a half. The ex-President also had been earning huge speaking fees as a front man for Moon for more than a year.
    In September 1995, Bush and his wife, Barbara, gave six speeches in Asia for the Women's Federation for World Peace, a group led by Moon's wife, Hak Ja Han Moon. In one speech on Sept. 14 to 50,000 Moon supporters in Tokyo, Bush insisted that "what really counts is faith, family and friends."
    Mrs. Moon followed the ex-President to the podium and announced that "it has to be Reverend Moon to save the United States, which is in decline because of the destruction of the family and moral decay."[Washington Post, Sept. 15, 1995]
    In summer 1996, Bush was lending his prestige to Moon again. Bush addressed the Moon-connected Family Federation for World Peace in Washington, an event that gained notoriety when comedian Bill Cosby tried to back out of his contract after learning of Moon's connection. Bush had no such qualms. [Washington Post, July 30, 1996]
    Throughout these public appearances for Moon, Bush's office refused to divulge how much Moon-affiliated organizations have paid the ex-President. But estimates of Bush's fee for the Buenos Aires appearance alone ran between $100,000 and $500,000. Sources close to the Unification Church have put the total Bush-Moon package in the millions, with one source telling me that Bush stood to make as much as $10 million total from Moon's organization.
    The senior George Bush may have had a political motive as well. By 1996, sources close to Bush were saying the ex-President was working hard to enlist well-to-do conservatives and their money behind the presidential candidacy of his son, George W. Bush. Moon was one of the deepest pockets in right-wing circles.

    Fishing for Influence
    In a sermon on Jan. 2, 1996, Moon was unusually blunt about how he expected the church's wealth to buy influence among the powerful in South America, just as it did in Washington.
    "Father has been practicing the philosophy of fishing here," Moon said, through an interpreter who spoke of Moon in the third person. "He [Moon] gave the bait to Uruguay and then the bigger fish of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay kept their mouths open, waiting for a bigger bait silently. The bigger the fish, the bigger the mouth. Therefore, Father is able to hook them more easily."
    As part of his business strategy, Moon explained that he would dot the continent with small airstrips and construct bases for submarines which could evade Coast Guard patrols. His airfield project would allow tourists to visit "hidden, untouched, small places" throughout South America, he said.
    "Therefore, they need small airplanes and small landing strips in the remote countryside," Moon said. "In the near future, we will have many small airports throughout the world." Moon wanted the submarines because "there are so many restrictions due to national boundaries worldwide. If you have a submarine, you don't have to be bound in that way."
    (As strange as Moon's submarine project might sound, a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Japan, dated Feb. 18, 1994, cited press reports that a Moon-connected Japanese company, Toen Shoji, had bought 40 Russian submarines. The subs were supposedly bound for North Korea where they were to be dismantled and melted down as scrap.)
    Moon also recognized the importance of media in protecting his curious operations, which sounded a lot like an invitation to drug traffickers.
    He boasted to his followers that with his vast array of political and media assets, he will dominate the new Information Age. "That is why Father has been combining and organizing scholars from all over the world, and also newspaper organizations - in order to make propaganda," Moon said.
    With his background and prominence, Moon and his organization would seem a natural attraction for U.S. government scrutiny. But Moon may have purchased insurance against any intrusive investigation by buying so many powerful American politicians that Washington's power centers can no more afford the scrutiny than he can.
    Even as he turned his back on the United States in the 1990s, Moon remembered to keep up some of his important friendships in the United States. In 1997, his Washington Times Foundation made a $1 million-plus donation to George H.W. Bush's presidential library in Texas. [Washington Post, Nov. 24, 1997]
    Despite his confidence about hooking fish, Moon's relocation to Uruguay didn't go entirely without a hitch. More evidence surfaced about Moon's alleged South American money laundry.
    In 1996, the Uruguayan bank employees union blew the whistle on one scheme in which some 4,200 female Japanese followers of Moon allegedly walked into the Moon-controlled Banco de Credito in Montevideo and deposited as much as $25,000 each.
    The money from the women went into the account of an anonymous association called Cami II, which was controlled by Moon's Unification Church. In one day, Cami II received $19 million and, by the time the parade of women ended, the total had swelled to about $80 million.
    It was not clear where the money originated, nor how many other times Moon's organization has used this tactic - sometimes known as "smurfing" - to transfer untraceable cash into Uruguay. Authorities did not push the money-laundering investigation, apparently out of deference to Moon's political influence and fear of disrupting Uruguay's banking industry.
    Still, Opus Dei, a powerful Roman Catholic group, and some investigative journalists kept up pressure for a fuller examination of financial irregularities at Moon's bank. Sometimes, the critics found their work a risky business.
    In January 1997, only two months after the money-laundering flap, Pablo Alfano, a reporter for El Observador who had been investigating Moon's operations, was kidnapped by two unidentified men. The men claimed not to belong to Moon's Unification Church, but threatened Alfano at gunpoint unless he revealed his sources on Moon's operations.
    One gunman shoved a revolver into Alfano's mouth and warned "this is no joke." After holding Alfano for 30 minutes, the gunmen returned the reporter to his house, with a warning that they knew his movements and those of his family. Despite the threats, the reporter said he refused to disclose his sources. But the message was clear: he should drop his investigation. [fn, FBIS, Jan. 30, 1997.]
    Other critics condemned Moon's heavy-handed tactics. "The first thing we ought to do is clarify to the people [of Uruguay] that Moon's sect is a type of modern pirate that came to the country to perform obscure money operations, such as money laundering," said Jorge Zabalza, who was a leader of the Movimiento de Participacion Popular, part of Montevideo's ruling left-of-center political coalition. "This sect is a kind of religious mob that is trying to get public support to pursue its business."
    Finally, in 1998, Uruguayan Central Bank president Ramon Diaz pushed the long-whispered allegations against Moon's bank into the parliamentary record. Diaz accused Banco de Credito of violating financial rules, operating at a constant loss, practicing dubious credit policies with insolvent customers and holding inadequate cash reserves.
    Diaz demanded that the bank add $30 million in capital within 48 hours or face government intervention. Within hours, panicked customers pulled $10 million in deposits out of the bank. Diaz's goal of forcing Moon to sell the bank seemed within reach. One senator claimed that Diaz hoped an Argentine investment group would step in and take over the bank.
    Moon proved, however, that his seemingly bottomless well of cash could fill the bank's vaults in a crisis. Before the 48-hour deadline, Moon transferred $30 million into the ailing bank and retained control. Banco de Credito continued to suffer chronic financial troubles. The bank again slipped into a deficit estimated at $120 million.
    On September 18, 1998, Uruguay's central bank intervened to seize control of the management of Moon's Banco de Credito. The action followed a warning a day earlier that the bank was violating the nation's liquidity rules by running massive debts and was in need of recapitalization. Instead, Moon-connected companies took out an additional $35 million in loans, leaving the bank effectively devoid of assets. Uruguay's bank controller put the bank's accumulated debt at $161 million.
    Moon's need to "crater" one of his principal financial institutions was not the sign of an up-and-up businessman who simply supported political projects because he had plenty of extra money and a strong sense of civic duty.

    First-Hand Evidence
    In Nansook Moon's 1998 memoirs, In the Shadow of the Moons, Moon's ex-daughter-in-law - writing under her maiden name Nansook Hong - alleged that Moon's organization had engaged in a long-running conspiracy to smuggle cash into the United States and to deceive U.S. Customs agents.
    "The Unification Church was a cash operation," Nansook Hong wrote. "I watched Japanese church leaders arrive at regular intervals at East Garden [the Moon compound north of New York City] with paper bags full of money, which the Reverend Moon would either pocket or distribute to the heads of various church-owned business enterprises at his breakfast table.
    "The Japanese had no trouble bringing the cash into the United States; they would tell customs agents that they were in America to gamble at Atlantic City. In addition, many businesses run by the church were cash operations, including several Japanese restaurants in New York City. I saw deliveries of cash from church headquarters that went directly into the wall safe in Mrs. Moon's closet."
    Mrs. Moon pressed her daughter-in-law into one cash-smuggling incident after a trip to Japan in 1992, Nansook Hong wrote.
    Mrs. Moon had received "stacks of money" and divvied it up among her entourage for the return trip through Seattle, Nansook Hong wrote. "I was given $20,000 in two packs of crisp new bills," she recalled. "I hid them beneath the tray in my makeup case.... I knew that smuggling was illegal, but I believed the followers of Sun Myung Moon answered to higher laws."
    U.S. currency laws require that cash amounts above $10,000 be declared at Customs when the money enters or leaves the country. It is also illegal to conspire with couriers to bring in lesser amounts when the total exceeds the $10,000 figure.
    In the Shadow of the Moons raised anew the question of whether Moon's money laundering - from mysterious sources in both Asia and South America - has made him a conduit for illicit foreign money influencing the U.S. government and American politics.
    Moon's spokesmen have denied that he launders drug money or moves money from other criminal enterprises. They attribute his wealth to donations and business profits, but have refused to open Moon's records for public inspection.
    Still, Nansook Hong's first-hand allegations and the alleged money-laundering in Uruguay might reasonably have prompted more questions in the United States about how Moon could continue lavishing billions of dollars on U.S. conservative publications and causes.
    But those follow-up questions were never asked. Moon apparently had hooked too many large-mouthed fish in both South and North America.


    Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.
    Author of
    Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq
    (1999) Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0612/S00361.htm
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2017
  2. ~lostgurl~

    ~lostgurl~ Platinum Member & Advisor Donating Member

    Reputation Points:
    3,441
    Messages:
    3,888
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    from Australia
    Gary Webb's Death: American Tragedy

    Gary Webb's Death: American Tragedy

    consortiumnews.com
    By Robert Parry
    December 9, 2006


    When Americans ask me what happened to the vaunted U.S. press corps over the past three decades – in the decline from its heyday of the Watergate scandal and the Pentagon Papers to its failure to challenge the Iraq WMD lies or to hold George W. Bush accountable – I often recall for them the story of Gary Webb.

    Two years ago, on the night of Dec. 9, 2004, investigative reporter Webb – his career shattered and his life in ruins – typed out four suicide notes for his family, laid out a certificate for his cremation, put a note on the door suggesting a call to 911, and removed his father’s handgun from a box.
    The 49-year-old Webb, a divorced father of three who was living alone in a rental house in Sacramento County, California, then raised the gun and shot himself in the head. The first shot was not lethal, so he fired once more.
    His body was found the next day after movers who were scheduled to clear out Webb’s rental house, arrived and followed the instructions from the note on the door.
    Though a personal tragedy, the story of Gary Webb’s suicide has a larger meaning for the American people who find themselves increasingly sheltered from the truth by government specialists at cover-ups and by a U.S. news media that has lost its way.
    Webb’s death had its roots in his fateful decision eight years earlier to write a three-part series for the San Jose Mercury News that challenged a potent conventional wisdom shared by the elite U.S. news organizations – that one of the most shocking scandals of the 1980s just couldn’t have been true.
    Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series, published in August 1996, revived the story of how the Reagan administration in the 1980s had tolerated and protected cocaine smuggling by its client army of Nicaraguan rebels known as the contras.
    Though substantial evidence of these crimes had surfaced in the mid-1980s (initially in an article that Brian Barger and I wrote for the Associated Press in December 1985 and later at hearings conducted by Sen. John Kerry), the major news outlets had bent to pressure from the Reagan administration and refused to take the disclosures seriously.
    Reflecting the dominant attitude toward Kerry and his work on the contra-cocaine scandal, Newsweek even dubbed the Massachusetts senator a “randy conspiracy buff.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Kerry’s Contra-Cocaine Chapter.”]
    Thus, the ugly reality of the contra-cocaine scandal was left in that netherworld of uncertainty, largely proven with documents and testimony but never accepted by Official Washington, including its premier news organizations, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post.
    But Webb’s series thrust the scandal back into prominence by connecting the contra-cocaine trafficking to the crack epidemic that had ravaged Los Angeles and other American cities in the 1980s. For that reason, African-American communities were up in arms as were their elected representatives.
    So, the “Dark Alliance” series offered a unique opportunity for the major news outlets to finally give the contra-cocaine scandal the attention it deserved.

    Media Resistance
    But that would have required some painful self-criticism among Washington journalists whose careers had advanced in part because they had avoided retaliation from aggressive Reagan supporters who had made an art of punishing out-of-step reporters for pursuing controversies like the contra-cocaine scandal.
    Also, by the mid-1990s, a powerful right-wing news media had taken shape and was in no mood to accept the notion that President Ronald Reagan’s beloved contras were little more than common criminals. That recognition would have cast a shadow over the Reagan Legacy, which the Right was busy elevating into mythic status.
    There was the turf issue, too. Since Webb’s stories coincided with the emergence of the Internet as an alternate source for news and the San Jose Mercury News was at the center of Silicon Valley, the big newspapers saw a threat to their historic dominance as the nation’s gatekeepers for what information should be taken seriously.
    Plus, the major media’s focus in the mid-1990s was on scandals swirling around Bill Clinton, such as some firings at the White House Travel Office and convoluted questions about his old Whitewater real-estate deal.
    In other words, there was little appetite to revisit scandals from the Reagan years and there was strong motive to disparage what Webb had written.
    It fell to Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s right-wing Washington Times to begin the counterattack. The Washington Times turned to some ex-CIA officials, who had participated in the contra war, to refute the drug charges.
    But – in a pattern that would repeat itself over the next decade – the Washington Post and other mainstream newspapers quickly lined up behind the right-wing press. On Oct. 4, 1996, the Washington Post published a front-page article knocking down Webb’s story.
    The Post’s approach was twofold: first, it presented the contra-cocaine allegations as old news – “even CIA personnel testified to Congress they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers,” the Post reported – and second, the Post minimized the importance of the one contra smuggling channel that Webb had highlighted – that it had not “played a major role in the emergence of crack.”
    A Post side-bar story dismissed African-Americans as prone to “conspiracy fears.”
    Soon, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times joined in the piling on against Gary Webb. The big newspapers made much of the CIA’s internal reviews in 1987 and 1988 that supposedly cleared the spy agency of a role in contra-cocaine smuggling.
    But the CIA’s decade-old cover-up began to weaken on Oct. 24, 1996, when CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz conceded before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the first CIA probe had lasted only 12 days, the second only three days. He promised a more thorough review.
    Nevertheless, Webb was becoming the target of outright media ridicule. Influential Post media critic Howard Kurtz mocked Webb for saying in a book proposal that he would explore the possibility that the contra war was primarily a business to its participants.
    “Oliver Stone, check your voice mail,” Kurtz chortled. [Washington Post, Oct. 28, 1996]
    Webb’s suspicion was not unfounded, however. Indeed, White House aide Oliver North’s emissary Rob Owen had made the same point a decade earlier, in a March 17, 1986, message about the contra leadership.
    “Few of the so-called leaders of the movement … really care about the boys in the field,” Owen wrote. “THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Capitalization in the original.]
    Kurtz and other big-name journalists may have been ignorant of key facts about the contra war, but that didn’t stop them from pillorying Gary Webb. The ridicule also had a predictable effect on the executives of the Mercury News. By early 1997, executive editor Jerry Ceppos was in retreat.
    On May 11, 1997, Ceppos published a front-page column saying the series “fell short of my standards.” He criticized the stories because they “strongly implied CIA knowledge” of contra connections to U.S. drug dealers who were manufacturing crack-cocaine. “We did not have proof that top CIA officials knew of the relationship,” Ceppos wrote.
    The big newspapers celebrated Ceppos’s retreat as vindication of their own dismissal of the contra-cocaine stories. Ceppos next pulled the plug on the Mercury News’ continuing contra-cocaine investigation and reassigned Webb to a small office in Cupertino, California, far from his family. Webb resigned the paper in disgrace.
    For undercutting Webb and other reporters working on the contra investigation, Ceppos was lauded by the American Journalism Review and was given the 1997 national “Ethics in Journalism Award” by the Society of Professional Journalists. While Ceppos won raves, Webb watched his career collapse and his marriage break up.

    The CIA Probe
    Still, Gary Webb had set in motion internal government investigations that would bring to the surface long-hidden facts about how the Reagan administration had conducted the contra war.
    The CIA’s defensive line against the contra-cocaine allegations began to break when the spy agency published Volume One of Inspector General Hitz’s findings on Jan. 29, 1998.
    Despite a largely exculpatory press release, Hitz’s Volume One admitted that not only were many of Webb’s allegations true but that he actually understated the seriousness of the contra-drug crimes and the CIA’s knowledge.
    Hitz acknowledged that cocaine smugglers played a significant early role in the Nicaraguan contra movement and that the CIA intervened to block an image-threatening 1984 federal investigation into a San Francisco-based drug ring with suspected ties to the contras, the so-called “Frogman Case.”
    On May 7, 1998, another disclosure from the government investigation shook the CIA’s weakening defenses.
    Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, introduced into the Congressional Record a Feb. 11, 1982, letter of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department.
    The letter, which had been sought by CIA Director William Casey, freed the CIA from legal requirements that it must report drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered both the Nicaraguan contras and Afghan rebels who were fighting a Soviet-supported regime in Afghanistan and were implicated in heroin trafficking.
    The next breach in the defensive wall was a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general Michael Bromwich. Given the hostile climate surrounding Webb’s series, Bromwich’s report opened with criticism of Webb. But, like the CIA’s Volume One, the contents revealed new details about government wrongdoing.
    According to evidence cited by Bromwich, the Reagan administration knew almost from the outset of the contra war that cocaine traffickers permeated the paramilitary operation. The administration also did next to nothing to expose or stop the crimes.
    Bromwich’s report revealed example after example of leads not followed, corroborated witnesses disparaged, official law-enforcement investigations sabotaged, and even the CIA facilitating the work of drug traffickers.
    The report showed that the contras and their supporters ran several parallel drug-smuggling operations, not just the one at the center of Webb’s series.
    The report also found that the CIA shared little of its information about contra drugs with law-enforcement agencies and on three occasions disrupted cocaine-trafficking investigations that threatened the contras.
    Though depicting a more widespread contra-drug operation than Webb had understood, the Justice report also provided some important corroboration about a Nicaraguan drug smuggler, Norwin Meneses, who was a key figure in Webb’s series.
    Bromwich cited U.S. government informants who supplied detailed information about Meneses’s operation and his financial assistance to the contras.
    For instance, Renato Pena, a money-and-drug courier for Meneses, said that in the early 1980s, the CIA allowed the contras to fly drugs into the United States, sell them and keep the proceeds.
    Pena, who was the northern California representative for the CIA-backed FDN contra army, said the drug trafficking was forced on the contras by the inadequate levels of U.S. government assistance.
    The Justice report also disclosed repeated examples of the CIA and U.S. embassies in Central America discouraging Drug Enforcement Administration investigations, including one into contra-cocaine shipments moving through the international airport in El Salvador.
    Inspector General Bromwich said secrecy trumped all. “We have no doubt that the CIA and the U.S. Embassy were not anxious for the DEA to pursue its investigation at the airport,” he wrote.
    Despite the remarkable admissions in the body of these reports, the big newspapers showed no inclination to read beyond the press releases and executive summaries.

    Cocaine Crimes & Monica
    By fall 1998, Official Washington was obsessed with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, which made it easier to ignore even more stunning contra-cocaine disclosures in the CIA’s Volume Two.
    In Volume Two, published Oct. 8, 1998, CIA Inspector General Hitz identified more than 50 contras and contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s.
    According to Volume Two, the CIA knew the criminal nature of its contra clients from the start of the war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.
    The earliest contra force, called ADREN or the 15th of September Legion, had chosen “to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their cadre,” according to a June 1981 draft CIA field report.
    ADREN also employed terrorist methods, including the bombing of Nicaraguan civilian planes and hijackings, to disrupt the Sandinista government, the CIA knew. Cocaine smuggling was also in the picture.
    According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981, the CIA cable reported.
    ADREN's leaders included Enrique Bermudez and other early contras who would later direct the major contra army, the CIA-organized FDN. Throughout the war, Bermudez remained the top contra military commander.
    The CIA later corroborated the allegations about ADREN’s cocaine trafficking, but insisted that Bermudez had opposed the drug shipments to the United States which went ahead nonetheless.
    The truth about Bermudez’s supposed objections to drug trafficking, however, was less clear. According to Volume One, Bermudez enlisted Norwin Meneses, a large-scale Nicaraguan cocaine smuggler, to raise money and buy supplies for the contras.
    Volume One had quoted a Meneses associate, another Nicaraguan trafficker named Danilo Blandon, who told Hitz’s investigators that he and Meneses flew to Honduras to meet with Bermudez in 1982.
    At the time, Meneses’s criminal activities were well known in the Nicaraguan exile community. But the FDN commander told the cocaine smugglers that “the ends justify the means” in raising money for the contras.
    After the Bermudez meeting, contra soldiers helped Meneses and Blandon get past Honduran police who briefly arrested them on drug-trafficking suspicions. After their release, Blandon and Meneses traveled on to Bolivia to complete a cocaine transaction.
    There were other indications of Bermudez’s drug-smuggling tolerance. In February 1988, another Nicaraguan exile linked to the drug trade accused Bermudez of narcotics trafficking, according to Hitz’s report.
    After the contra war ended, Bermudez returned to Managua, where he was shot to death on Feb. 16, 1991. The murder has never been solved.

    CIA Drug Asset
    Along the Southern Front, in Costa Rica, the drug evidence centered on the forces of Eden Pastora, another leading contra commander. But Hitz discovered that the U.S. government may have contributed to the problem.
    Hitz revealed that the CIA put an admitted drug operative – known by his CIA pseudonym “Ivan Gomez” – in a supervisory position over Pastora.
    Hitz reported that the CIA discovered Gomez’s drug history in 1987 when Gomez failed a security review on drug-trafficking questions.
    In internal CIA interviews, Gomez admitted that in March or April 1982, he helped family members who were engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering. In one case, Gomez said he assisted his brother and brother-in-law in transporting cash from New York City to Miami. He admitted that he “knew this act was illegal.”
    Later, Gomez expanded on his admission, describing how his family members had fallen $2 million into debt and had gone to Miami to run a money-laundering center for drug traffickers. Gomez said “his brother had many visitors whom [Gomez] assumed to be in the drug trafficking business.”
    Gomez’s brother was arrested on drug charges in June 1982. Three months later, in September 1982, Gomez started his CIA assignment in Costa Rica.
    Years later, convicted drug trafficker Carlos Cabezas charged that in the early 1980s, Ivan Gomez was the CIA agent in Costa Rica who was overseeing drug-money donations to the contras.
    Gomez “was to make sure the money was given to the right people [the contras] and nobody was taking ... profit they weren’t supposed to,” Cabezas stated publicly.
    But the CIA sought to discredit Cabezas at the time because he had trouble identifying Gomez’s picture and put Gomez at one meeting in early 1982 before Gomez started his CIA assignment.
    While the CIA was able to fend off Cabezas’s allegations by pointing to these discrepancies, Hitz’s report revealed that the CIA was nevertheless aware of Gomez’s direct role in drug-money laundering, a fact the agency hid from Sen. Kerry’s investigation in 1987.

    The Bolivian Connection
    There also was more about Gomez. In November 1985, the FBI learned from an informant that Gomez’s two brothers had been large-scale cocaine importers, with one brother arranging shipments from Bolivia’s infamous drug kingpin Roberto Suarez.
    Suarez already was known as a financier of right-wing causes. In 1980, with the support of Argentine’s hard-line anti-communist military regime, Suarez bankrolled a coup in Bolivia that ousted the elected left-of-center government.
    The violent putsch became known as the Cocaine Coup because it made Bolivia the region's first narco-state. Bolivia’s government-protected cocaine shipments helped transform the Medellin cartel from a struggling local operation into a giant corporate-style business for delivering cocaine to the U.S. market.
    Some of those profits allegedly found their way into contra coffers.
    Flush with cash in the early 1980s, Suarez invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including the contra forces in Central America, according to U.S. Senate testimony by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.
    In 1987, Sanchez-Reisse said the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, other Argentine intelligence officers – veterans of the Bolivian coup – trained the contras.
    CIA Inspector General Hitz added another piece to the mystery of the Bolivian-contra connection. One contra fund-raiser, Jose Orlando Bolanos, boasted that the Argentine government was supporting his anti-Sandinista activities, according to a May 1982 cable to CIA headquarters.
    Bolanos made the statement during a meeting with undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Florida. He even offered to introduce them to his Bolivian cocaine supplier.
    Despite all this suspicious drug activity around Ivan Gomez and the contras, the CIA insisted that it did not unmask Gomez until 1987, when he failed a security check and confessed his role in his family’s drug business.
    The CIA official who interviewed Gomez concluded that “Gomez directly participated in illegal drug transactions, concealed participation in illegal drug transactions, and concealed information about involvement in illegal drug activity," Hitz wrote.
    But senior CIA officials still protected Gomez. They refused to refer the Gomez case to the Justice Department, citing the 1982 DOJ-CIA agreement that spared the CIA from a legal obligation to report narcotics crimes by non-employees.
    Instead, the CIA eased Gomez, an independent contractor, out of the agency in February 1988, without alerting law enforcement or the congressional oversight committees.
    When questioned about the case nearly a decade later, one senior CIA official who had supported the gentle treatment of Gomez had second thoughts.
    “It is a striking commentary on me and everyone that this guy’s involvement in narcotics didn’t weigh more heavily on me or the system,” the official acknowledged.

    The White House Trail
    A Medellin drug connection arose in another section of Hitz’s report, when he revealed evidence suggesting that some contra trafficking may have been sanctioned by Reagan's National Security Council.
    The protagonist for this part of the contra-cocaine mystery was Moises Nunez, a Cuban-American who worked for North’s NSC operation and for two drug-connected seafood importers, Ocean Hunter in Miami and Frigorificos de Puntarenas in Costa Rica.
    Frigorificos de Puntarenas was created in the early 1980s as a cover for drug-money laundering, according to sworn testimony by two of the firm’s principals – Carlos Soto and Medellin cartel accountant Ramon Milian Rodriguez.
    Drug allegations were swirling around Moises Nunez by the mid-1980s. At the AP, his operation was one of the targets of our investigation.
    Finally reacting to these suspicions, the CIA questioned Nunez on March 25, 1987, about his alleged cocaine trafficking. He responded by pointing the finger at his NSC superiors.
    “Nunez revealed that since 1985, he had engaged in a clandestine relationship with the National Security Council,” Hitz reported.
    “Nunez refused to elaborate on the nature of these actions, but indicated it was difficult to answer questions relating to his involvement in narcotics trafficking because of the specific tasks he had performed at the direction of the NSC. Nunez refused to identify the NSC officials with whom he had been involved.”
    After this first round of questioning, CIA headquarters authorized an additional session, but then senior CIA officials reversed the decision. There would be no further efforts at “debriefing Nunez.”
    Hitz noted that “the cable [from headquarters] offered no explanation for the decision” to stop the Nunez interrogation.
    But the CIA’s Central American task force chief Alan Fiers said the Nunez-NSC drug lead was not pursued “because of the NSC connection and the possibility that this could be somehow connected to the Private Benefactor program [the contra money handled by North]. A decision was made not to pursue this matter.”
    Joseph Fernandez, who had been the CIA’s station chief in Costa Rica, later confirmed to congressional Iran-Contra investigators that Nunez “was involved in a very sensitive operation” for North’s “Enterprise.” The exact nature of that NSC-authorized activity has never been divulged.
    At the time of the Nunez-NSC drug admissions and his truncated interrogation, the CIA’s acting director was Robert M. Gates, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 6, 2006, to be President George W. Bush’s new Secretary of Defense.

    Miami Vice
    The CIA also worked directly with other drug-connected Cuban-Americans on the contra project, Hitz found.
    One of Nunez’s Cuban-American associates, Felipe Vidal, had a criminal record as a narcotics trafficker in the 1970s. But the CIA still hired him to serve as a logistics coordinator for the contras, Hitz reported.
    The CIA also learned that Vidal’s drug connections were not only in the past.
    A December 1984 cable to CIA headquarters revealed Vidal’s ties to Rene Corvo, another Cuban-American suspected of drug trafficking. Corvo was working with anti-communist Cuban, Frank Castro, who was viewed as a Medellin cartel representative within the contra movement.
    There were other narcotics links to Vidal. In January 1986, the DEA in Miami seized 414 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipment of yucca that was going from a contra operative in Costa Rica to Ocean Hunter, the company where Vidal worked.
    Despite the evidence, Vidal remained a CIA employee as he collaborated with Frank Castro’s assistant, Rene Corvo, in raising money for the contras, according to a CIA memo in June 1986.
    By fall 1986, Sen. Kerry had heard enough rumors about Vidal to demand information about him as part of a congressional inquiry into contra drugs. But the CIA withheld the derogatory information. On Oct. 15, 1986, Kerry received a briefing from Alan Fiers, who didn’t mention Vidal’s drug arrests and conviction in the 1970s.
    But Vidal was not yet in the clear. In 1987, the U.S. attorney in Miami began investigating Vidal, Ocean Hunter and other contra-connected entities.
    This prosecutorial attention worried the CIA. The CIA’s Latin American division felt it was time for a security review of Vidal. But on Aug. 5, 1987, the CIA’s security office blocked the review for fear that the Vidal drug information “could be exposed during any future litigation.”
    As expected, the U.S. Attorney did request documents about “contra-related activities” by Vidal, Ocean Hunter and 16 other entities. The CIA advised the prosecutor that “no information had been found regarding Ocean Hunter,” a statement that was clearly false.
    The CIA continued Vidal’s employment as an adviser to the contra movement until 1990, virtually the end of the contra war.

    Honduras Trafficking
    Hitz revealed that drugs also tainted the highest levels of the Honduran-based FDN, the largest contra army.
    Hitz found that Juan Rivas, a contra commander who rose to be chief of staff, admitted that he had been a cocaine trafficker in Colombia before the war. The CIA asked Rivas, known as El Quiche, about his background after the DEA began suspecting that Rivas might be an escaped convict from a Colombian prison.
    In interviews with CIA officers, Rivas acknowledged that he had been arrested and convicted of packaging and transporting cocaine for the drug trade in Barranquilla, Colombia. After several months in prison, Rivas said, he escaped and moved to Central America where he joined the contras.
    Defending Rivas, CIA officials insisted that there was no evidence that Rivas engaged in trafficking while with the contras. But one CIA cable noted that he lived an expensive lifestyle, even keeping a $100,000 thoroughbred horse at the contra camp.
    Contra military commander Bermudez later attributed Rivas’s wealth to his ex-girlfriend’s rich family. But a CIA cable in March 1989 added that “some in the FDN may have suspected at the time that the father-in-law was engaged in drug trafficking.”
    Still, the CIA moved quickly to protect Rivas from exposure and possible extradition to Colombia. In February 1989, CIA headquarters asked that DEA take no action “in view of the serious political damage to the U.S. Government that could occur should the information about Rivas become public.”
    Rivas was eased out of the contra leadership with an explanation of poor health. With U.S. government help, he was allowed to resettle in Miami. Colombia was not informed about his fugitive status.

    Drug Flights
    Another senior FDN official implicated in the drug trade was its chief spokesman in Honduras, Arnoldo Jose “Frank” Arana.
    The drug allegations against Arana dated back to 1983 when a federal narcotics task force put him under criminal investigation because of plans “to smuggle 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States from South America.”
    On Jan. 23, 1986, the FBI reported that Arana and his brothers were involved in a drug-smuggling enterprise, although Arana was not charged.
    Arana sought to clear up another set of drug suspicions in 1989 by visiting the DEA in Honduras with a business associate, Jose Perez. Arana’s association with Perez, however, only raised new alarms.
    If “Arana is mixed up with the Perez brothers, he is probably dirty,” the DEA responded.
    Through their ownership of an air services company called SETCO, the Perez brothers were associated with Juan Matta Ballesteros, a major cocaine kingpin connected to the murder of a DEA agent, according to reports by the DEA and U.S. Customs.
    Hitz reported that someone at the CIA scribbled a note on the DEA cable about Arana stating: “Arnold Arana ... still active and working, we [CIA] may have a problem.”
    Despite its drug ties to Matta Ballesteros, SETCO emerged as the principal company for ferrying supplies to the contras in Honduras.
    During congressional Iran-Contra hearings, FDN political leader Adolfo Calero testified that SETCO was paid from bank accounts controlled by Oliver North. SETCO also received $185,924 from the State Department for ferrying supplies to the contras in 1986.
    Hitz found other air transport companies used by the contras implicated in the cocaine trade. Even FDN leaders suspected that they were shipping supplies to Central America aboard planes that might be returning with drugs.
    Mario Calero, Adolfo Calero’s brother and the chief of contra logistics, grew so uneasy about one air-freight company that he notified U.S. law enforcement that the FDN only chartered the planes for the flights south, not the return flights north.
    Hitz found that some drug pilots simply rotated from one sector of the contra operation to another. Donaldo Frixone, who had a drug record in the Dominican Republic, was hired by the CIA to fly contra missions from 1983-85.
    In September 1986, however, Frixone was implicated in smuggling 19,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States. In late 1986 or early 1987, he went to work for Vortex, another U.S.-paid contra supply company linked to the drug trade.

    Fig Leaf
    By the time that Hitz’s Volume Two was published in fall 1998, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking.
    But Hitz made clear that the contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of contra crimes from the Justice Department, the Congress and even the CIA’s own analytical division.
    Besides tracing the evidence of contra-drug trafficking through the decade-long contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of the contra-drug problem but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.
    According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. … [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the contra program.”
    One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”
    Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the contras hid evidence of contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analysts.
    Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and the major news organizations – serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his series in 1996.
    Nevertheless, although Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it passed almost unnoticed by the big newspapers. [For more details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’]
    On Oct. 10, 1998, two days after Hitz’s report was posted at the CIA’s Internet site, the New York Times published a brief article that continued to deride Webb but acknowledged the contra-drug problem may have been worse than earlier understood.
    Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a similarly superficial article. The Los Angeles Times never published a story on the release of the CIA’s Volume Two.
    To this day, no editor or reporter who missed the contra-cocaine story has been punished for his or her negligence. Indeed, some of them are now top executives at their news organizations. On the other hand, Gary Webb’s career never recovered.
    Unable to find decent-paying work in a profession where his past awards included a Pulitzer Prize, Webb grew despondent. His marriage broke up. By December 2004, he found himself forced to move out of his rented house near Sacramento.
    Instead, Webb decided to end his life.

    One Last Chance
    Webb’s suicide offered the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times one more opportunity to set matters right, to revisit the CIA’s admissions in 1998 and to exact some accountability on the Reagan-era officials implicated in protecting the contra crimes.
    But all that followed Gary Webb’s death was more trashing of Gary Webb. The Los Angeles Times ran a graceless obituary that made no mention of the admissions in the CIA’s Volume Two and treated Webb like a low-life criminal, rather than a journalist who took on a tough story and paid a high price.
    The Times obituary was republished in other newspapers, including the Washington Post. No one reading this obit would understand the profound debt that American history owed to Gary Webb, who deserved the lion’s share of the credit for forcing the CIA to make its extraordinary admissions.
    Yet, the big media’s consistent mishandling of the contra-cocaine scandal in the 1980s and 1990s carried another warning that the nation missed: that the U.S. press corps was no longer capable of reporting complex crimes of state.
    That unaddressed danger returned with disastrous results in late 2002 and early 2003 when George W. Bush sold false stories about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction while the major newspapers acted as cheerleaders and accomplices.
    At the time of Webb’s death on Dec. 9, 2004, the full scope of the Iraq disaster was still not evident, nor was the major press corps ready to acknowledge that its cowardice in the 1980s and its fecklessness in the 1990s were the direct antecedents to its complicity in the illegal invasion of Iraq.
    Gary Webb had been a kind of canary in the mine shaft. His career destruction in the 1990s and his desperate act of suicide in 2004 were warnings about grave dangers that, if left ignored, would wreak even worse havoc on the United States and the world.
    But – on this second anniversary of Webb’s death – it should be remembered that his great gift to American history was that he, along with angry African-American citizens, forced the government to admit some of the worst crimes ever condoned by any White House: the protection of drug smuggling into the United States as part of a covert war against a country, Nicaragua, that represented no real threat to Americans.
    It is way past time for that reality – and that gift – to be acknowledged.

    http://www.consortiumnews.com/Print/2006/120906.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2017
  3. ~lostgurl~

    ~lostgurl~ Platinum Member & Advisor Donating Member

    Reputation Points:
    3,441
    Messages:
    3,888
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    from Australia
    Kerry's Contra-Cocaine Chapter

    Kerry's Contra-Cocaine Chapter

    consortiumnews.com
    By Robert Parry
    October 29, 2004 (Originally published at Salon.com)

    In December 1985, when Brian Barger and I wrote a groundbreaking story for the Associated Press about Nicaraguan Contra rebels smuggling cocaine into the United States, one U.S. senator put his political career on the line to follow up on our disturbing findings. His name was John Kerry.

    Yet, over the past year, even as Kerry's heroism as a young Navy officer in Vietnam has become a point of controversy, this act of political courage by a freshman senator has gone virtually unmentioned, even though -- or perhaps because -- it marked Kerry's first challenge to the Bush family.
    In early 1986, the 42-year-old Massachusetts Democrat stood almost alone in the U.S. Senate demanding answers about the emerging evidence that CIA-backed Contras were filling their coffers by collaborating with drug traffickers then flooding U.S. borders with cocaine from South America.
    Kerry assigned members of his personal Senate staff to pursue the allegations. He also persuaded the Republican majority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to request information from the Reagan-Bush administration about the alleged Contra drug traffickers.

    Challenging Reagan
    In taking on the inquiry, Kerry challenged President Ronald Reagan at the height of his power, at a time he was calling the Contras the "moral equals of the Founding Fathers." Kerry's questions represented a particular embarrassment to Vice President George H.W. Bush, whose responsibilities included overseeing U.S. drug-interdiction policies.
    Kerry took on the investigation though he didn't have much support within his own party. By 1986, congressional Democrats had little stomach left for challenging the Reagan-Bush Contra war. Not only had Reagan won a historic landslide in 1984, amassing a record 54 million votes, but his conservative allies were targeting individual Democrats viewed as critical of the Contras fighting to oust Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government. Most Washington journalists were backing off, too, for fear of getting labeled "Sandinista apologists" or worse.
    Kerry's probe infuriated Reagan's White House, which was pushing Congress to restore military funding for the Contras. Some in the administration also saw Kerry's investigation as a threat to the secrecy surrounding the Contra supply operation, which was being run illegally by White House aide Oliver North and members of Bush's vice presidential staff.
    Through most of 1986, Kerry's staff inquiry advanced against withering political fire. His investigators interviewed witnesses in Washington, contacted Contra sources in Miami and Costa Rica, and tried to make sense of sometimes convoluted stories of intrigue from the shadowy worlds of covert warfare and the drug trade.
    Kerry's chief Senate staff investigators were Ron Rosenblith, Jonathan Winer and Dick McCall. Rosenblith, a Massachusetts political strategist from Kerry's victorious 1984 campaign, braved both political and personal risks as he traveled to Central America for face-to-face meetings with witnesses. Winer, a lawyer also from Massachusetts, charted the inquiry's legal framework and mastered its complex details. McCall, an experienced congressional staffer, brought Capitol Hill savvy to the investigation.
    Behind it all was Kerry, who combined a prosecutor's sense for sniffing out criminality and a politician's instinct for pushing the limits. The Kerry whom I met during this period was a complex man who balanced a rebellious idealism with a determination not to burn his bridges to the political establishment.

    Battling Kerry
    The Reagan administration did everything it could to thwart Kerry's investigation, including attempting to discredit witnesses, stonewalling the Senate when it requested evidence and assigning the CIA to monitor Kerry's probe. But it couldn't stop Kerry and his investigators from discovering the explosive truth: that the Contra war was permeated with drug traffickers who gave the Contras money, weapons and equipment in exchange for help in smuggling cocaine into the United States. Even more damningly, Kerry found that U.S. government agencies knew about the Contra-drug connection, but turned a blind eye to the evidence in order to avoid undermining a top Reagan-Bush foreign policy initiative.
    The Reagan administration's tolerance and protection of this dark underbelly of the Contra war represented one of the most sordid scandals in the history of U.S. foreign policy. Yet when Kerry's bombshell findings were released in 1989, they were greeted by the mainstream press with disdain and disinterest. The New York Times, which had long denigrated the Contra-drug allegations, buried the story of Kerry's report on its inside pages, as did the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. For his tireless efforts, Kerry earned a reputation as a reckless investigator. Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch dubbed Kerry a "randy conspiracy buff."
    But almost a decade later, in 1998, Kerry's trailblazing investigation was vindicated by the CIA's own inspector general, who found that scores of Contra operatives were implicated in the cocaine trade and that U.S. agencies had looked the other way rather than reveal information that could have embarrassed the Reagan-Bush administration.
    Even after the CIA's admissions, the national press corps never fully corrected its earlier dismissive treatment. That would have meant the New York Times and other leading publications admitting they had bungled their coverage of one of the worst scandals of the Reagan-Bush era.
    The warm and fuzzy glow that surrounded Ronald Reagan after he left office also discouraged clarification of the historical record. Taking a clear-eyed look at crimes inside Reagan's Central American policies would have required a tough reassessment of the 40th president, which to this day the media has been unwilling to do. So this formative period of Kerry's political evolution has remained nearly unknown to the American electorate.

    Endangered Harlingen
    Two decades later, it's hard to recall the intensity of the administration's support for the Contras. They were hailed as courageous front-line fighters, like the Mujahedin in Afghanistan, defending the free world from the Soviet empire. Reagan famously warned that Nicaragua was only "two days' driving time from Harlingen, Texas."
    Yet, for years, Contra units had gone on bloody rampages through Nicaraguan border towns, raping women, torturing captives and executing civilian officials of the Sandinista government. In private, Reagan referred to the Contras as "vandals," according to Duane Clarridge, the CIA officer in charge of the operation, in his memoir, "A Spy for All Seasons." But in public, the Reagan administration attacked anyone who pointed out the Contras' corruption and brutality.
    The Contras also proved militarily inept, causing the CIA to intervene directly and engage in warlike acts, such as mining Nicaragua's harbors. In 1984, these controversies caused the Congress to forbid U.S. military assistance to the Contras -- the Boland Amendment -- forcing the rebels to search for new funding sources.
    Drug money became the easiest way to fill the depleted Contra coffers. The documentary evidence is now irrefutable that a number of Contra units both in Costa Rica and Honduras opened or deepened ties to Colombian cartels and other regional drug traffickers. The White House also scrambled to find other ways to keep the Contras afloat, turning to third countries, such as Saudi Arabia, and eventually to profits from clandestine arms sales to Iran.
    The secrets began to seep out in the mid-1980s. In June 1985, as a reporter for the Associated Press, I wrote the first story mentioning Oliver North's secret Contra supply operation. By that fall, my AP colleague Brian Barger and I stumbled onto evidence that some of the Contras were supplementing their income by helping traffickers transship cocaine through Central America. As we dug deeper, it became clear that the drug connection implicated nearly all the major Contra organizations.
    The AP published our story about the Contra-cocaine evidence on Dec. 20, 1985, describing Contra units "engaged in cocaine smuggling, using some of the profits to finance their war against Nicaragua's leftist government." The story provoked little coverage elsewhere in the U.S. national press corps. But it pricked the interest of a newly elected U.S. senator, John Kerry. A former prosecutor, Kerry also heard about Contra law violations from a Miami-based federal public defender named John Mattes, who had been assigned a case that touched on Contra gunrunning. Mattes' sister had worked for Kerry in Massachusetts.
    By spring 1986, Kerry had begun a limited investigation deploying some of his personal staff in Washington. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry managed to gain some cooperation from the panel's Republican leadership, partly because the "war on drugs" was then a major political issue. Besides looking into Contra drug trafficking, Kerry launched the first investigation into the allegations of weapons smuggling and misappropriation of U.S. government funds that were later exposed as part of North's illegal operation to supply the Contras.
    Kerry's staff soon took an interest in a federal probe in Miami headed by assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Feldman. Talking to some of the same Contra supporters whom we had interviewed for the AP's Contra-cocaine story, Feldman had pieced together the outlines of North's secret network.

    Warning to Ollie
    In a panicked memo dated April 7, 1986, one of North's Costa Rican-based private operatives, Robert Owen, warned North that prosecutor Feldman had shown Ambassador Lewis Tambs "a diagram with your name underneath and John [Hull]'s underneath mine, then a line connecting the various resistance groups in C.R. [Costa Rica]. Feldman stated they were looking at the 'big picture' and not only looking at possible violations of the Neutrality Act, but a possible unauthorized use of government funds." (For details, see my "Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press and 'Project Truth.'")
    John Hull was an American farmer with a ranch in Costa Rica near the Nicaraguan border. According to witnesses, Contras had used Hull's property for cocaine transshipments. (Hull was later accused of drug trafficking by Costa Rican authorities, but fled the country before facing trial. He returned to the United States.)
    On April 10, 1986, Barger and I reported on the AP wire that the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami was examining allegations of Contra gunrunning and drug trafficking. The AP story rattled nerves inside the Reagan administration. On an unrelated trip to Miami, Attorney General Edwin Meese pulled U.S. Attorney Leon Kellner aside and asked about the existence of this Contra probe.
    Back in Washington, other major news organizations began to sniff around the Contra-cocaine story but mostly went off in wrong directions. On May 6, 1986, the New York Times relied for a story on information from Meese's spokesman Patrick Korten, who claimed "various bits of information got referred to us. We ran them all down and didn't find anything. It comes to nothing."
    But that wasn't the truth. In Miami, Feldman and FBI agents were corroborating many of the allegations. On May 14, 1986, Feldman recommended to his superiors that the evidence of Contra crimes was strong enough to justify taking the case to a grand jury. U.S. Attorney Kellner agreed, scribbling on Feldman's memo, "I concur that we have sufficient evidence to ask for a grand jury investigation."
    But on May 20, less than a week later, Kellner reversed that recommendation. Without telling Feldman, Kellner rewrote the memo to state that "a grand jury investigation at this point would represent a fishing expedition with little prospect that it would bear fruit." Kellner signed Feldman's name to the mixed-metaphor memo and sent it to Washington on June 3.
    The revised "Feldman" memo was then circulated to congressional Republicans and leaked to conservative media, which used it to discredit Kerry's investigation. The right-wing Washington Times denounced the probe as a wasteful political "witch hunt" in a June 12, 1986, article. "Kerry's anti-Contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain," screamed the headline of a Washington Times article on Aug. 13, 1986.
    Back in Miami, Kellner reassigned Feldman to unrelated far-flung investigations, including one to Thailand.
    The altered memo was instrumental in steering Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., away from holding hearings, Kerry's later Contra-drug report, "Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy," stated. "Material provided to the Committee by the Justice Department and distributed to members following an Executive Session June 26, 1986, wrongly suggested that the allegations that had been made were false," the Kerry report said.
    Feldman later testified to the Senate that he was told in 1986 that representatives of the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI had met "to discuss how Senator Kerry's efforts to get Lugar to hold hearings on the case could be undermined."

    Kerry's Risks
    Mattes, the federal public defender in Miami, watched as the administration ratcheted up pressure on Kerry's investigation. "From a political point of view in May of '86, Kerry had every reason to shut down his staff investigation," Mattes said. "There was no upside for him doing it. We all felt under the gun to back off."
    The Kerry that Mattes witnessed at the time was the ex-prosecutor determined to get to the bottom of serious criminal allegations even if they implicated senior government officials. "As an investigator, he had a sense it was there," said Mattes, who is now an investigative reporter for Fox News in San Diego. "Kerry was a crusader. He was the consummate outsider, doing what you expect people to do. ... At no point did he flinch."
    Years later, in the National Archives, I discovered a document showing that the Central Intelligence Agency also was keeping tabs on Kerry's investigation. Alan Fiers Jr., who served as the CIA's Central American Task Force chief, told independent counsel Lawrence Walsh's Iran-Contra investigators that the AP and Feldman's investigations had attracted the hostility of the Reagan-Bush administration. Fiers said he "was also getting a dump on the Senator Kerry investigation about mercenary activity in Central America from the CIA's legislative affairs people who were monitoring it."
    Negative publicity about the Contras was particularly unwelcome to the Reagan-Bush administration throughout the spring and summer 1986 as the White House battled to restore U.S. government funding to the Contras. In the politically heated atmosphere, the administration sought to smear anti-Contra witnesses cooperating with Kerry's investigation.
    In a July 28 memo, initialed as read by President Reagan, North labeled onetime Contra mercenary Jack Terrell as a "terrorist threat" because of his "anti-Contra and anti-U.S. activities." North said Terrell had been cooperating "with various congressional staffs in preparing for hearings and inquiries regarding the role of U.S. government officials in illegally supporting the Nicaraguan resistance."
    In August 1986, FBI and Secret Service agents hauled Terrell in for two days of polygraph examinations on suspicion that Terrell intended to assassinate President Reagan, an allegation that proved baseless. But Terrell told me later that the investigation had chilled his readiness to testify about the Contras. "It burned me up," he said. "The pressure was always there."
    Beyond intimidating some witnesses, the Reagan administration systematically worked to frustrate Kerry's investigation. Years later, one of Kerry's investigators, Jack Blum, complained publicly that the Justice Department had actively obstructed the congressional probe. Blum said William Weld, who took over as assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division in September 1986, was an "absolute stonewall" blocking the Senate's access to evidence on Contra-cocaine smuggling. "Weld put a very serious block on any effort we made to get information," Blum told the Senate Intelligence Committee a decade after the events. "There were stalls. There were refusals to talk to us, refusals to turn over data."
    Weld, who later became Massachusetts governor and lost to Kerry in the 1996 Senate race, denied that he had obstructed Kerry's Contra probe. But it was clear that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was encountering delays in getting information that had been requested by Chairman Lugar, a Republican, and Rhode Island Sen. Claiborne Pell, the ranking Democrat. At Kerry's suggestion, they had sought files on more than two dozen people linked to the Contra operations and suspected of drug trafficking.
    Inside the Justice Department, senior career investigators grew concerned about the administration's failure to turn over the requested information. "I was concerned that we were not responding to what was obviously a legitimate congressional request," Mark Richard, one of Weld's top deputies, testified in a deposition. "We were not refusing to respond in giving explanations or justifications for it. We were seemingly just stonewalling what was a continuing barrage of requests for information. That concerned me no end."

    Cartel Witness
    On Sept. 26, 1986, Kerry tried to spur action by presenting Weld with an 11-page "proffer" statement from a 31-year-old FBI informant who had worked with the Medellin cartel and had become a witness on cartel activities. The woman, Wanda Palacio, had approached Kerry with an account about Colombian cocaine kingpin Jorge Ochoa bragging about payments he had made to the Nicaraguan Contras.
    As part of this Contra connection, Palacio said pilots for a CIA-connected airline, Southern Air Transport, were flying cocaine out of Barranquilla, Colombia. She said she had witnessed two such flights, one in 1983 and the other in October 1985, and quoted Ochoa saying the flights were part of an arrangement to exchange "drugs for guns."
    According to contemporaneous notes of this "proffer" meeting between Weld and Kerry, Weld chuckled that he was not surprised at allegations about corrupt dealings by "bum agents, former and current CIA agents." He promised to give serious consideration to Palacio's allegations.
    After Kerry left Weld's office, however, the Justice Department seemed to concentrate on poking holes in Palacio's account, not trying to corroborate it. Though Palacio had been considered credible in her earlier testimony to the FBI, she was judged to lack credibility when she made accusations about the Contras and the CIA.
    On Oct. 3, 1986, Weld's office told Kerry that it was rejecting Palacio as a witness on the grounds that there were some contradictions in her testimony. The discrepancies apparently related to such minor points as which month she had first talked with the FBI.
    Two days after Weld rejected Palacio's Contra-cocaine testimony, other secrets about the White House's covert Contra support operations suddenly crashed --literally -- into view.

    Plane Down
    On Oct. 5, a quiet Sunday morning, an aging C-123 cargo plane rumbled over the skies of Nicaragua preparing to drop AK-47 rifles and other equipment to Contra units in the jungle below. Since the Reagan administration had recently won congressional approval for renewed CIA military aid to the Contras, the flight was to be one of the last by Oliver North's ragtag air force.
    The plane, however, attracted the attention of a teenage Sandinista soldier armed with a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile. He aimed, pulled the trigger and watched as the Soviet-made missile made a direct hit on the aircraft. Inside, cargo handler Eugene Hasenfus, an American mercenary working with the Contras, was knocked to the floor, but managed to crawl to an open door, push himself through, and parachute to the ground, where he was captured by Sandinista forces. The pilot and other crew members died in the crash.
    As word spread about the plane crash, Barger -- who had left the AP and was working for a CBS News show -- persuaded me to join him on a trip to Nicaragua with the goal of getting an interview with Hasenfus, who turned out to be an unemployed Wisconsin construction worker and onetime CIA cargo handler. Hasenfus told a press conference in Managua that the Contra supply operation was run by CIA officers working with the office of Vice President George Bush. Administration officials, including Bush, denied any involvement with the downed plane.
    Our hopes for an interview with Hasenfus didn't work out, but Sandinista officials did let us examine the flight records and other documents they had recovered from the plane. As Barger talked with a senior Nicaraguan officer, I hastily copied down the entries from copilot Wallace "Buzz" Sawyer's flight logs. The logs listed hundreds of flights with the airports identified only by their four-letter international codes and the planes designated by tail numbers.
    Upon returning to Washington, I began deciphering Wallace's travels and matching the tail numbers with their registered owners. Though Wallace's flights included trips to Africa and landings at U.S. military bases in the West, most of his entries were for flights in Central and South America.
    Meanwhile, in Kerry's Senate office, witness Wanda Palacio was waiting for a meeting when she noticed Sawyer's photo flashing on a TV screen. Palacio began insisting that Sawyer was one of the pilots whom she had witnessed loading cocaine onto a Southern Air Transport plane in Barranquilla, Colombia, in early October 1985. Her identification of Sawyer struck some of Kerry's aides as a bit too convenient, causing them to have their own doubts about her credibility.
    Though I was unaware of Palacio's claims at the time, I pressed ahead with the AP story on Sawyer's travels. In the last paragraph of the article, I noted that Sawyer's logs revealed that he had piloted a Southern Air Transport plane on three flights to Barranquilla on Oct. 2, 4, and 6, 1985. The story ran on Oct. 17, 1986.
    Shortly after the article moved on the AP wires, I received a phone call from Rosenblith at Kerry's office. Sounding shocked, the Kerry investigator asked for more details about the last paragraph of the story, but he wouldn't say why he wanted to know. Only months later did I discover that the AP story on Sawyer's logs had provided unintentional corroboration for Palacio's Contra-drug allegations.
    Palacio also passed a polygraph exam on her statements. But Weld and the Justice Department still refused to accept her testimony as credible. (Even a decade later, when I asked the then-Massachusetts governor about Palacio, Weld likened her credibility to "a wagon load of diseased blankets.")

    Stonewall
    In fall 1986, Weld's criminal division continued to withhold Contra-drug information requested by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. According to Justice Department records, Lugar and Pell -- two of the Senate's most gentlemanly members -- wrote on Oct. 14 that they had been waiting more than two months for information that the Justice Department had promised "in an expeditious manner."
    "To date, no information has been received and the investigation of allegations by the committee, therefore, has not moved very far," Lugar and Pell wrote in a joint letter. "We're disappointed that the Department has not responded in a timely fashion and indeed has not provided any materials."
    On Nov. 25, 1986, the Iran-Contra scandal was officially born when Attorney General Edwin Meese announced that profits from secret U.S. arms sales to Iran had been diverted to help fund the Nicaraguan Contras.
    The Washington press corps scrambled to get a handle on the dramatic story of clandestine operations, but still resisted the allegations that the administration's zeal had spilled over into sanctioning or tolerating Contra-connected drug trafficking.
    Though John Kerry's early warnings about White House-aided Contra gunrunning had proved out, his accusations about Contra drug smuggling would continue to be rejected by much of the press corps as going too far.
    On Jan. 21, 1987, the conservative Washington Times attacked Kerry's Contra-drug investigation again; his alleged offense this time was obstructing justice because his probe was supposedly interfering with the Reagan administration's determination to get at the truth. "Kerry's staffers damaged FBI probe," the Times headline read.
    "Congressional investigators for Sen. John Kerry severely damaged a federal drug investigation last summer by interfering with a witness while pursuing allegations of drug smuggling by the Nicaraguan resistance, federal law enforcement officials said," according to the Times article.

    Negative Press
    The mainstream press continued to publish stories that denigrated Kerry's investigation. On Feb. 24, 1987, a New York Times article by reporter Keith Schneider quoted "law enforcement officials" saying that the Contra allegations "have come from a small group of convicted drug traffickers in South Florida who never mentioned Contras or the White House until the Iran-Contra affair broke in November."
    The drift of the article made Kerry out to be something of a dupe. His Contra-cocaine witnesses were depicted as simply convicts trying to get lighter prison sentences by embroidering false allegations onto the Iran-Contra scandal. But the information in the Times story was patently untrue. The AP Contra-cocaine story had run in December 1985, almost a year before the Iran-Contra story broke.
    When New York Times reporters conducted their own interview with Palacio, she immediately sensed their hostility. In her Senate deposition, Palacio described her experience at the Times office in Miami. She said Schneider and a "Cuban man" rudely questioned her story and bullied her about specific evidence for each of her statements. The Cuban man "was talking to me kind of nasty," Palacio recalled. "I got up and left, and this man got all pissed off, Keith Schneider."
    The parameters for a "responsible" Iran-Contra investigation were being set. On July 16, 1987, the New York Times published another story that seemed to discredit the Contra-drug charges. It reported that except for a few convicted drug smugglers from Miami, the Contra-cocaine "charges have not been verified by any other people and have been vigorously denied by several government agencies."
    Four days later, the Times added that "investigators, including reporters from major news outlets, have tried without success to find proof of ... allegations that military supplies may have been paid for with profits from drug smuggling." (The Times was inaccurate again. The original AP story had cited a CIA report describing the Contras buying a helicopter with drug money.)

    'Ask About the Cocaine'
    The joint Senate-House Iran-Contra committee averted its eyes from the Contra-cocaine allegations. The only time the issue was raised publicly was when a demonstrator interrupted one hearing by shouting, "Ask about the cocaine." Kerry was excluded from the investigation.
    On July 27, 1987, behind the scenes, committee staff investigator Robert A. Bermingham echoed the New York Times. "Hundreds of persons" had been questioned, he said, and vast numbers of government files reviewed, but no "corroboration of media-exploited allegations of U.S. government-condoned drug trafficking by Contra leaders or Contra organizations" was found. The report, however, listed no names of any interview subjects nor any details about the files examined.
    Bermingham's conclusions conflicted with closed-door Iran-Contra testimony from administration insiders. In a classified deposition to the congressional Iran-Contra committees, senior CIA officer Alan Fiers said, "with respect to [drug trafficking by] the Resistance Forces [the Contras] it is not a couple of people. It is a lot of people."
    Despite official denials and press hostility, Kerry and his investigators pressed ahead. In 1987, with the arrival of a Democratic majority in the Senate, Kerry also became chairman of the Senate subcommittee on terrorism, narcotics and international operations. He used that position to pry loose the facts proving that the official denials were wrong and that Contra units were involved in the drug trade.
    Kerry's report was issued two years later, on April 13, 1989. Its stunning conclusion: "On the basis of the evidence, it is clear that individuals who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the Contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers. In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring, or immediately thereafter."
    The report discovered that drug traffickers gave the Contras "cash, weapons, planes, pilots, air supply services and other materials." Moreover, the U.S. State Department had paid some drug traffickers as part of a program to fly non-lethal assistance to the Contras. Some payments occurred "after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges, in others while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies."
    Although Kerry's findings represented the first time a congressional report explicitly accused federal agencies of willful collaboration with drug traffickers, the major news organizations chose to bury the startling findings. Instead of front-page treatment, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times all wrote brief accounts and stuck them deep inside their papers. The New York Times article, only 850 words long, landed on Page 8. The Post placed its story on A20. The Los Angeles Times found space on Page 11.

    Mocking Kerry
    One of the best-read political reference books, the Almanac of American Politics, gave this account of Kerry's investigation in its 1992 edition: "In search of right-wing villains and complicit Americans, [Kerry] tried to link Nicaraguan Contras to the drug trade, without turning up much credible evidence."
    Thus, Kerry's reward for his strenuous and successful efforts to get to the bottom of a difficult case of high-level government corruption was to be largely ignored by the mainstream press and even have his reputation besmirched.
    But the Contra-cocaine story didn't entirely go away. In 1991, in the trial of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking, federal prosecutors called as a witness Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder, who testified that the Medellin cartel had given $10 million to the Contras, a claim that one of Kerry's witnesses had made years earlier. "The Kerry hearings didn't get the attention they deserved at the time," a Washington Post editorial on Nov. 27, 1991 acknowledged. "The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention."
    Kerry's vindication in the Contra drug case did not come until 1998, when inspectors general at the CIA and Justice Department reviewed their files in connection with allegations published by the San Jose Mercury News that the Contra-cocaine pipeline had contributed to the crack epidemic that ravaged inner-city neighborhoods in the 1980s. (Ironically, the major national newspapers only saw fit to put the Contra-cocaine story on their front pages in criticizing the Mercury News and its reporter Gary Webb for taking the allegations too far.)
    On Oct. 4, 1996, the Washington Post published a front-page story, with two more pages inside, that was critical of the Mercury News. But while accusing the Mercury News of exaggerating, the Post noted that Contra-connected drug smugglers had brought tons of cocaine into the United States. "Even CIA personnel testified to Congress they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers," the Post reported.
    A Post editorial on Oct. 9, 1996, reprised the newspaper's assessment that the Mercury News had overreached, but added that for "CIA-connected characters to have played even a trivial role in introducing Americans to crack would indicate an unconscionable breach by the CIA."
    In the months that followed, the major newspapers -- including the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times -- joined the Post in criticizing the Mercury News while downplaying their own inattention to the crimes that Kerry had illuminated a decade earlier. The Los Angeles Times actually used Kerry's report to dismiss the Mercury News series as old news because the Contra cocaine trafficking "has been well documented for years."

    CIA Confession
    While the major newspapers gloated when reporter Gary Webb was forced to resign from the Mercury News, the internal government investigations, which Webb's series had sparked, moved forward. The government's decade-long Contra cocaine cover-up began to crumble when CIA inspector general Frederick Hitz published the first of two volumes of his Contra cocaine investigation on Jan. 29, 1998, followed by a Justice Department report and Hitz's second volume in October 1998.
    The CIA inspector general and Justice Department reports confirmed that the Reagan administration knew from almost the outset of the Contra war that cocaine traffickers permeated the CIA-backed army but the administration did next to nothing to expose or stop these criminals. The reports revealed example after example of leads not followed, witnesses disparaged and official law-enforcement investigations sabotaged. The evidence indicated that Contra-connected smugglers included the Medellin cartel, the Panamanian government of Manuel Noriega, the Honduran military, the Honduran-Mexican smuggling ring of Ramon Matta Ballesteros, and Miami-based anti-Castro Cubans.
    Reviewing evidence that existed in the 1980s, CIA inspector general Hitz found that some Contra-connected drug traffickers worked directly for Reagan's National Security Council staff and the CIA. In 1987, Cuban-American Bay of Pigs veteran Moises Nunez told CIA investigators that "it was difficult to answer questions relating to his involvement in narcotics trafficking because of the specific tasks he had performed at the direction of the NSC."
    CIA task force chief Fiers said the Nunez-NSC drug lead was not pursued then "because of the NSC connection and the possibility that this could be somehow connected to the Private Benefactor program [Oliver North's fundraising]. A decision was made not to pursue this matter."
    Another Cuban-American who had attracted Kerry's interest was Felipe Vidal, who had a criminal record as a narcotics trafficker in the 1970s. But the CIA still hired him to serve as a logistics officer for the Contras and covered up for him when the agency learned that he was collaborating with known traffickers to raise money for the Contras, the Hitz report showed. Fiers had briefed Kerry about Vidal on Oct. 15, 1986, without mentioning Vidal's drug arrests and conviction in the 1970s.
    Hitz found that a chief reason for the CIA's protective handling of Contra-drug evidence was Langley's "one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government ... [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the Contra program."
    According to Hitz's report, one CIA field officer explained, "The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war."

    'Something So Dark'
    This pattern of obstruction occurred while Vice President Bush was in charge of stanching the flow of drugs to the United States. Kerry made himself a pest by demanding answers to troubling questions.
    "He wanted to get to the bottom of something so dark," former public defender Mattes told me. "Nobody could imagine it was so dark."
    In the end, investigations by government inspectors general corroborated Kerry's 1989 findings and vindicated his effort. But the muted conclusion of the Contra-cocaine controversy 12 years after Kerry began his investigation explains why this chapter is an overlooked -- though important -- episode in Kerry's Senate career. It's a classic case of why, in Washington, there's little honor in being right too soon. Yet it's also a story about a senator who had the personal honor to do the right thing.

    http://www.consortiumnews.com/2004/102904.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2017
    1. 5/5,
      great series of contributions on US government inviolvement i drugs and oppresion
      Jan 15, 2012