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