(en) CAQ #60: Covert Briefs

Rich Winkel (rich@pencil)
Tue, 25 Mar 97 23:38:30 CST

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THE REAL DOPE The adminstration dubbed it a serious "blip" in the overall scheme. When Mexico's drug czar, Jes#s Gutirrez Rebello, visited the White House, he was roundly embraced by high-level officials of the Justice and Treasury Departments and made privy to top secret US information on the drug war. His US counterpart, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, effused over him as a man of "tremendous integrity. ... We are not unaware of the progress they have made at enormous personal sacrifice." Three weeks later, after guarding the information for a week, Mexico admitted that Gutirrez was in jail, charged with being on the take from Mexico's drug cartels.

The timing was terrible. The US decision was due on whether to decertify Mexico and trigger withdrawal of US aid and loans from multinational lending agencies such as the IMF. Washington, meanwhile, continued to support the reeling Mexican economy and the fiction that Mexico was merrily recovering and repaying the US bailout. In fact, Mexico simply borrowed from Peter (Europe) to pay Paul (the US) while the economy remained in the toilet. When the piled-up contradictions finally toppled, the chief casualty was the farce of the drug war as a serious policy rather than simply an expedient tool for disciplining uncooperative Third World countries. Even the Washington Post took note with the headline: "US-Mexico Trade May Outweigh Anti-Drug Concerns."

HOW DO YOU SAY "NEAT IDEA" IN HEBREW? Israel reportedly flooded Egypt with tons of cheap Lebanese hashish so that Egypt's soldiers would be too stoned to shoot straight. A report in the Sunday Times (London) quotes Israeli officers who admitted participating in the program that began as a way of undermining Egypt's military buildup to the 1967 Six Day War and continued for 20 years, because it was clearly a neat idea. Codenamed Operation Lahav ("blade" in Hebrew), the operation was started by Israel to control one of the biggest sources of hashish in the world, the traditional smuggling routes out of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, 20 miles from the Israeli border. According to the Sunday Times,"IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) officers soon realized they were missing a golden opportunity: they could run the drug shipments themselves, flooding Egypt with cut-price narcotics and weakening the Egyptian army. The proposal is said to have been passed up the military chain of command and given official sanction."

A former IDF colonel who was in charge of shipments in the early 1970s, had "no regrets. It allowed us to control and practically avoid drug smuggling into Israel, and increase the use of drugs within the Egyptian army. Sometimes they [the units in charge of the smuggling] said they had too much so I authorized them to dump the drugs in the sea west of Tel Aviv." He was one of the eight Israeli officers who independently confirmed a carefully staged two-decade-long program and detailed both land and sea routes over which the smuggled cargoes were escorted by Israeli military ships or trucks.

At the Egyptian border, IDF officers instructed Egyptian drug dealers to sell the hashish to the hundreds of thousands of Egyptian soldiers posted between Sinai and Cairo. In December, the Egyptian military admitted that during the late 1960s and early 1970s, drug consumption in the ranks rose by 50%, with almost two out of three soldiers regularly toking hash.

Operation Lahav, financed with secret funds, had the added benefit of being lucrative: The drug profits were channeled into a secret IDF fund to pay for other covert operations.

Egyptian military officials were outraged and blamed Israel for planting the "stupid fiction."

"The Israelis are propagating lies and treachery and this is part of a psychological campaign aiming at casting doubt over the combat capacity of the Egyptian army," said Gen. Mohammed Fawzi, who was Egypt's war minister between 1968 and 1971.

Israel also denied the Sunday Times story, calling it "false and malicious" and blaming rogue elements: "Officers of the IDF do not engage in drug traffic," it said. Those who have admitted their part, however, deny they acted independ- ently or for personal gain."What I have done was authorized by my superiors," said one.


"Telephone systems are routinely used by the worst and most violent criminals to commit the worst and most violent crimes." from the FBI website.

IF THE HAIR SHIRT FITS Explaining why his Christian Broadcasting Network was going to begin producing soap operas and game shows, Pat Robertson admitted: "Frankly, only a masochist would want to watch religious shows all day long."

ONE MAN'S RIGHT, ANOTHER WOMAN'S POLITICAL ACTIVITY After education reporter Sandy Nelson became involved in a fight against a local anti-gay housing initiative,the Takoma, Washington News Tribune transferred her to a copy editing job. Management claimed it was protecting the paper's credibility by prohibiting employees from participation in political activism. Nelson sued, arguing that a reporter need not check her conscience, constitutional rights, and obligations of good citizenship at the door.

This February, after a six-year legal struggle, the Washington state Supreme Court disagreed and found that newspapers can indeed require their reporters to remain politically neutral because the papers' credibility is at stake. "Editorial integrity and credibility are core objectives of editorial control and thus merit protection," Justice Richard Sanders wrote for the majority. "The notion of reasonable newsroom ethical codes is strongly reaffirmed," crowed News Tribune attorney Cameron DeVore. Dave Zeeck, the paper's executive editor chimed in, "Some degree of community involvement is good. But there's a difference to me between political activity and belonging to the PTA."

These defenders of credibility and objectivity might want to have a little chat with the journalists and media executives for whom political activity is a bit more refined. Instead, acting as friends of the poor and oppressed, they court the powerful and maintain their neutrality by tossing money at candidates, going on junkets paid for by tobacco companies, and attending pajama parties in the Lincoln bedroom.

Among the 938 overnight guests at the Clinton White House were two network executives, a network founder, a newspaper president, a magazine editor, and a prominent commentator. Richard Kaplan, executive producer for special projects at ABC, stayed at the White House with his wife in the summer of 1993. Kaplan was then executive producer of ABC's "World News Tonight." Calling Clinton a longtime "friend," Kaplan said there was no conflict of interest because his friendship had no impact on his work. Nor did the close ties and overnight visits create an appearance problem because it was never made public until now.(Although by that logic, now it does, because it has been are you with me?)

Ted Turner, CNN founder and now vice chair of Time Warner, was another for whom friendship had an on-off switch. After it was revealed that he and his wife Jane Fonda slept in the Lincoln bedroom, CNN president Tom Johnson rushed to Turner's defense. "He does not let friendships influence editorial content at CNN."

Leslie Moonves, president of CBS Entertainment, has stayed at the White House, contributed the maximum $1,000 to the Clinton-Gore campaign, and gave $5,000 to the Democratic National Committee. Giving cash, it seems, as opposed to time or energy, is not political activism but a protected liberty. "He has the right to give political contributions as much as any American," said CBS spokesperson Gil Schwartz. "Mr. Moonves is a friend of the president. He has participated in some of the Renaissance Weekends and played golf with the president. The invitation was extended as a friend to a friend and was accepted in that spirit."

Another overnight White House guest was author and PBS NewsHour commentator Doris Kearns Goodwin. "I don't feel it makes me unable to criticize when I need to," she said. "I wasn't up there as a journalist. I was up there as a historian."

Could Nelson have argued this two-hat solution? Could she have claimed that she supported fair housing out of friendship, not political belief? It probably wouldn't have made much difference: Nelson was found guilty of crossing inviolable lines between news gathering and news making, between community activity and political activism. The executives just crossed palms.

TRICKLE DOWN ENVIRONMENTALISM When "Jim Bob" Moffet, CEO of Freeport-McMoRan a mining company charged with massive pollution (see. p. 43) was asked about the 120,000 tons of toxic waste dumped into the major river in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, he replied: "The environmental impact of our mine is the equivalent of me pissing in the Arafura Sea."

BAD NEWS FOR WHOM? "If vaporized plutonium oxide has fallen over Chile, it would be bad news for the US space program." the Christian Science Monitor referring to the Russian space probe that crashed to earth (See p. 6). ---END---

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