(en)CAQ #59: Covert Briefs

The Anarchives (tao@lglobal.com)
Thu, 5 Dec 1996 01:42:53 +0000 (GMT)

Date: Tue, 3 Dec 96 19:35:02 CST
From: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil>
Subject: CAQ #59: Covert Briefs

/** covertaction: 57.0 **/
** Topic: #59 Covert Briefs **
** Written 10:30 AM Dec 3, 1996 by caq in cdp:covertaction **
By Terry Allen


Russia may not have long experience with the
niceties of Western-style democracy, but some
of its leaders are catching on fast. In
September, after the US launched a missile
attack on Iraq supposedly to protect the
Kurds, but in good part to protect a CIA
operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein
Russian strongman Aleksandr Lebed was
impressed: "This is the essence of democracy.
You send in the planes and drop the bombs.
Then you gather the journalists and tell them
to applaud. We need to study that."

In late October, while the CIA was vigorously
denying complicity with narcotraffickers here
at home, drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey
traveled to Peru and met with Vladimiro
Montesinos, the head of that country's
National Intelligence Service (SIN, in its
ironic Spanish initials). Montesinos has links
to both the CIA and international drug
traffickers, as well as a history of human
rights abuses. McCaffrey went not to bury
Montesinos but, according the Peruvian press,
to praise him as an "outstanding and
knowledgeable strategist." It was the first
time in six years that Montesinos, the second
most powerful man in Peru after President
Fujimori, was seen in public. He had been
forced into a shadow role because of a
particularly unsavory past: While in the army
during the 1970s, he was caught spying and
passing state secrets to the US and was
convicted of desertion. After being released
from prison, he became the lawyer-of-choice
for Peru's drug kingpins, and used his army
and political connections to work his way back
to the back rooms of power.

It is widely assumed that he maintains a
relationship with both the CIA and drug
traffickers. Human Rights Watch/Americas and
the Washington Office on Latin America also
charge him with human rights abuses: "A death
squad composed of members of the SIN and
military agents and organized under
Montesinos' direction has been responsible for
some of the most serious rights violations
attributed to the armed forces under
Fujimori's administration, including
disappearances, torture and illegal

McCaffrey's public endorsement of Montesinos
came at a crucial time: New allegations
against Peru's "Rasputin" were prompting
demands for a public inquiry. On trial for
cocaine trafficking, drug lord Demetrio Ch vez
Pe$aherrera testified in August that he paid
Montesinos $50,000 a month during 1991 for
unhampered use of a clandestine airstrip to
export drugs to Colombia. Ch vez also said
Montesinos had communicated with him by radio
at his remote hideout, had warned him when
counternarcotics operations were scheduled for
the Huallaga valley, and once attended a
payoff in person. "I saw him; his group
arrived in two black cars," Ch vez said. "I
saw how they gave him the money."

The drug lord said that he left Peru for
Colombia soon after Montesinos demanded that
he double the monthly bribe to $100,000. When
Ch vez was finally arrested, it was not for
trafficking, but for collaborating with
terrorists. This charge pushed his case into
the secretive military justice system, which
was able to hold him in isolation, thus
spurring complaints that the military was
trying to shut him up.

When he finally appeared at the trial, Ch vez
dropped the bombshell kickback charges against
Montesinos. A week later, in a barely coherent
statement, Ch vez recanted, saying he had been
"confused." His lawyer, Pablo Castro,
suspected that the retraction and the quick
deterioration in his client's mental and
physical health were the result of
mistreatment by SIN.

The Ch vez affair is the latest in a series of
drug-related incidents that have embarrassed
the Peruvian government but done nothing to
dampen US enthusiasm and support. In one
incident, more than 380 pounds of coca paste
were found in a former presidential plane.
Soon after, more than 200 pounds were found
on-board two navy ships, one in the Canadian
port of Vancouver.

Officially, the police are in charge of
antidrug operations. In fact, it is the
military that plays the key role, blending
counterinsurgency and counternarcotics in a
potent cocktail of corruption. Up to 300
military personnel have been investigated or
charged in connection with drugs since 1990.
Regional commanders overseeing clandestine
airstrips allegedly got a $10,000 kickback per
shipment of drugs loaded by soldiers under
their command onto Colombia-bound planes. The
airstrip from which Ch vez's drug cargoes were
flown to Colombia was only a few kilometers
from a counterinsurgency base in the upper
Huallaga Valley.

In this case of military involvement in
narcotrafficking, as in many others, the
runway leads to Montesinos.According to
Ricardo Soberon, a narcotics expert at the
Andean Commission of Jurists, "He controls the
military establishment for Fujimori."

McCaffrey's visit to bestow Washington's seal
of approval on Fujimori and Montesinos was
preceded by US praise for Peru's human rights
record and by a personal letter to Fujimori
from Pres. Clinton, praising Peru's admirable
progress in the war on drugs. While the two
top Peruvians basked in McCaffrey and
Clinton's warm approval, some Peruvian
officials suggest that US leniency reflects
the fact that Montesinos may still be on the
US payroll.

Meanwhile, CIA Director John Deutch continues
to deny US complicity in narcotrafficking.

That same confusion of the role of the police
with that of the military, and of
counterinsurgency with counter-
narcotic strategies, has pervaded US policy in
Colombia,where some 20,000 civilians have been
killed since 1986. According to Amnesty
International (AI) and the military's own
paper trail, US aid allocated for
counternarcotics has been diverted to fund
counter-insurgency and used by units
implicated in human rights abuses.

On August 18, 1991, for example, members of
the XIII Brigade, tasked with
counterinsurgency, burst into the home of
political activist Antonio Palacios Urrea,
murdered him and three of his children, and
tortured other family members. US military
documents, leaked to AI via journalist Frank
Smyth, confirm that counternarcotics funding
was going to this unit. US Defense Department
(DoD) documents confirmed that all but one of
the brigades that AI implicated in gross
human rights violations turned out to have
received US aid. The paper trail also shows
that the Clinton administration knew of the
violations and repeatedly told Congress and
the public that it was not funding and arming
units implicated in atrocities.

The administration insists that US aid funds
anti-drug not counterinsurgency efforts, but
US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) documents
reveal that attempts to separate the two
operations are farcical. Col Warren D. Hall
staff judge advocate to Gen. Barry McCaffrey
(then SOUTHCOM commander and now Clinton's
drug czar) admitted as much in an internal
memo: "It is unrealistic to expect the
military to limit use of the equipment to
operations against narcotraffickers. ... The
light infantry skills US special operations
forces teach during counterdrug deployments
... can be used by the Colombian armed forces
in their counterinsurgency as well." Hall also
admitted that US-supplied equipment "may be
used in counter- insurgency operations during
which human rights violations might occur."

SOUTHCOM worried about being "vulnerable to
criticism because of the similarities inherent
in counter- drug [CD] and counter- insurgency
[CI] efforts in Colombia." But since
"disengaging from the CD effort in Colombia is
not a viable option," a DoD memo noted, "...
USSOUTHCOM must adhere to policies that
minimize the possibility of US culpability for
human rights violations" as opposed to
minimizing the violations themselves.

In 1996, Congress banned aid to any military
unit about which there is credible evidence of
human rights violations. Since DoD admits that
those violations will likely continue, and
since confusion between CI and CD roles is
unavoidable, we can look forward to an
immediate cessation of aid to Colombia. Or


It is probably true, as conservatives charge,
that more reporters are Democrats than
Republicans; it is also largely irrelevant.
And the usual jump that US media have a
liberal agenda is just plain silly. First,
the current Democratic party is so far from
liberalism that it makes Richard Nixon look
pink around the edges. But more importantly,
the political perspective of individual
reporters is a relatively unimportant factor
in the final shakedown of what events are
covered and how. In the same way that choices
about what kind of cars Ford produces are made
in the board room, rather than on the factory
floor, decisions about what goes on the air
and into print are made by publishers and
editors, not by lowly hacks or even lofty

A case in point: During much of the
stupifyingly dull campaign, one juicy story
was an open secret among reporters. From 1968
to 1970,Bob Dole had an affair with Meredith
Roberts while he was married to his first
wife. Time and the Washington Post knew about
it and concluded, at the highest levels,that
the adultery was not newsworthy. The Dole
campaign, which had been frenetically drum
beating the senator's integrity to the point
of universal migraine, was in a cold sweat
lest the news break. Dole's communications
director, John Buckley, paid a little visit to
Time's Managing Editor Walter Isaacson to
argue against publishing the story; meanwhile
Dole press secretary Nelson Warfield and
adviser Mari Will sat down with top Post
editors to request they sit on the story.
After Elizabeth Dole called Post publisher
Donald E. Graham to plead her husband's case,
Graham said that he had merely notified the
paper's executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr.,
of the call. Even after the National Enquirer
broke the story, the Post and Time held it
until after the election.

Downie later explained that the scandal had
not met his longtime standard for
newsworthiness. "The fact that it was 28 years
ago ... played a role, and also it did not
involve in any way his use of public office,"
he said. Andrew Rosenthal, Washington editor
of the New York Times, joined the corporate
chorus: "This was a story about an alleged
affair that happened 30 years ago. Big deal."

He has a point, but neither Downie's
"standards" nor Rosenthal's dismissal ruled
during the 1992 election when the media
emphasized Clinton's 1969 use of marijuana,
his avoidance of the draft, and his 1969
student visit to Moscow.

The point is not that the corporate media
favored one candidate over the other both
were acceptable to big business but that the
politics of reporters pales before the power
of management.n

CAQ (CovertAction Quarterly) has won numerous
awards for investigative journalism. In 1996, it won 4
of "Project Censored" top 25 awards for investigative
reporting. CAQ is read around the world by
investigative reporters, activists, scholars,
intelligence buffs, news junkies,
and anyone who wants to know the news and
analysis behind the soundbites and headlines.
Recommended by Noam Chomsky;
targeted by the CIA.

Each article in the 64-page magazine, which is in its
19th year of publication, is extensively footnoted and
accompanied by photographs and graphics.

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** End of text from cdp:covertaction **

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