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Essay: Mainstream Media: The Drug War Shills

Mainstream Media: The Drug War Shills
by Michael Levine

(unedited draft of essay now published in
INTO THE BUZZSAW, Prometheus Press,
edited by Kristina Borjesson)

Everything you need to know about mainstream media’s vital role in perpetuating our nation’s three—decade, trillion dollar War on Drugs despite overwhelming evidence that it is a fraud  you can learn by watching a Three Card Monty Operation.

Three Card Monty is a blatant con game where the dealer lays three cards on a folding table,  shows you that one of them is the Queen of Spades, turns them over, shuffles them quickly.  You’re sure you know where the queen is and you saw a guy before you win easily a couple of times,  so you bet your money. If that dopey looking guy can win, so can you.   But, incredibly, you’ve guessed wrong. You lost.  You’ve been taken for a sucker.

The suckers in Three Card Monty cannot possibly win, it’s an obvious and well known con game,  yet, as you walk away, you see a whole line of other suckers, eyes gawking, jaws slack, hands deep in their pockets mesmerized by the show and ready to lay down their money as fast as the dealer can get to them.  Why?    Because they also saw the same dopey looking guy win too, only what they don’t know is that he’s a shill.

Shills are the conmen (and women) who entice suckers into the phony game by putting on a show intended to convince those watching that the game is honest, that if you keep playing you can actually win.  A good shill also helps cover-up the operation by distracting the police away from the illegal action.  In a court of law where three Card Monty dealers are considered crooks and thieves,  shills are considered their “co-conspirators.” They are liable to an equal penalty if indicted and found guilty after trial.   In the Drug War Monty game, mainstream media is nothing less than a shill.

Media’s success as a shill is unparalleled in the history of scams, con jobs and rip-offs and can best be measured by how effectively they continue to sell us a fraud so obvious and so impossible to win that it makes South Bronx Gold Mine certificates look like a conservative investment.

Here’s some of the true history that—thanks to excellent shilling—most of you are unaware of:

When President Nixon first declared war on drugs in 1971, there were less than a half million hard-core addicts in the entire nation,  most of whom were addicted to heroin with the problem being largely centered in inner city areas, the largest percentage of which were all found in the New York City metropolitan area.   Only two federal agencies were charged with any significant  enforcement of  the drug laws—the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and US Customs.  Two agencies that were greater enemies to each other than they would ever be to any drug cartel. The total drug war budget was less than $100 million.

Three decades later, despite the expenditure of $1 trillion in federal and state tax dollars,  the number of hard-core addicts is shortly expected to exceed 5 million.  Our nation has become the Wal-Mart  of the drug world with a wider variety and more drugs available at cheaper prices than ever before.  The problem now not only affects every town and hamlet on the map, it is difficult to find a family anywhere that is not somehow affected.   There are now fifty-five federal and military agencies involved in federal drug enforcement alone (not counting state and local agencies) and US military troops are now invading South and Central American nations under the banner of drug war.  The federal drug war budget alone (not counting state and municipal budgets)  is now well over $20 billion a year,  and my personal quest to find one individual anywhere in the world who could honestly testify that the trillion-dollar , US war on drugs had somehow saved him or her from the white menace has thus far been fruitless.

Do you need a cop to tell you that this is evidence of an overwhelming fraud?  If your stockbroker invested your money the way our elected leaders have done with our Drug War Monty dollars, you’d have jailed or shot him before 1972, yet the game continues.

Why?

Because mainstream media, as they did during  the Vietnam War,   shills us,  by means of an incessant flow of fill-in-the-blanks bullshit “victory” stories into believing that Drug War Monty is a real war that our leaders intend to win.  Media shills, which now includes Hollywood and “entertainment” television and the publishing industry, are continuously conning us into believing that,  if in a fit of sanity, we really tried to end the costly and deadly fraud, some unspeakable horror, like  Mexican and Colombian drug dealers led by the latest Media created “Pablo Escobar” invading across our (for ever) insufficiently protected borders to force-feed our kids heroin and cocaine.    We might even have to arm the Partnership for a Drug Free America with missiles and rockets.

Unless of course our kids “Just say No” as Nancy Reagan’s billion dollar media boondoggle campaign taught them.

And when mainstream media hasn’t directly shilled  us into supporting Drug War Monty, as they do to this day,  they have aided in its perpetuation with their censorship, by conscious omission,  of scandalous events that— had they been reported with the fervor the Washington Post showed during the Watergate era—would have brought the whole deadly and costly charade crumbling to the ground three decades ago.   I know this first hand because I took part in some of the most significant of those events either as a  federal agent, and/or court qualified expert witness, and/or a journalist.

Outrageous Acts:   My Personal Experiences

on Both Sides of The Drug-War-Monty Table

The Vietnam War

The undercover case that brought me into Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War was the most dangerous of my career, only the source of  that danger was not just the dealers.  It was the case that first brought me face-to-face with the fact that, like Vietnam War, the War on Drugs was never intended to be won and that it was a deadly fraud perpetrated against the people paying  for it.  It was also the first case that taught me that a runaway, corrupt federal bureaucracy could count on mainstream media to shill for it.  Ironically, it began on July 4, 1971.

At that time President Nixon had recently declared war on drugs.  Our political leaders had already begun pimping Americans through media megaphones into believing that our growing drug problem was the fault of evil foreigners and that—other than the Vietnam War—the drug problem was our number one national security concern.   I was a young agent with US Customs assigned to the Hard Narcotics Smuggling Unit in New York City. My 25 year old brother David at that point had been a heroin addict for 10 years and I was a TB (True Believer).

It was on that July 4th day that I arrested John Edward Davidson at JFK  International Airport in New York City with three kilos of 99 percent pure white heroin hidden in the false bottom of a Samsonite suitcase and the investigation known as US v Liang Sae Tiew et al began.[1]

By nightfall the investigation had brought my team deep inside a desolate swamp on the outskirts of Gainesville, Florida where a lone trailer was parked at the end of barely visible trail.  During the pre-dawn hours we raided the trailer and arrested the US based financier of the smuggling operation, Alan Trupkin,  and his heroin addicted gofer 22 year old John Clements (remember this name, we’ll see him later).  By the following day I had all the details I needed to destroy one of the biggest heroin import operations on the globe. But there was one major problem to contend with that neither I nor any of the senior officers to whom I reported could have, in our wildest dreams, imagined:  the CIA.

Two years earlier, Davidson, stationed with the army in Vietnam had taken R&R leave in Bangkok.  There he had connected with a Chinese heroin dealer, Liang Sae Tiew a/k/a Gary.  The prices were the cheapest in the world, the supplies unlimited.  After Davidson’s discharge,  all he had to do was smuggle the stuff into the US and he and his partners would be rich.  Seven trips and 21 kilos later  his luck ran out and I arrested him.

Now, to do my job in accordance with my training and the very philosophy of the entire war on drugs, I had to take the next step and go for the source.

One month later I arrived in Bangkok, posing as Davidson’s heroin dealing partner.  Within days I made contact with his heroin connections Gary and some called  “Mr. Geh.” (UC photo available).  At first my presence in Bangkok was kept secret from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the sworn enemies of US Customs. The war between the two agencies for budget and media had reached the level of fist fights, the arrests of each others’ informants and had, in fact, even come close to a shoot-out. But that’s another story.   My presence I Bangkok was also kept secret from the Thai police whose only competition for the most corrupt police force in recorded history, in my experience, was their Mexican counterparts,  and, the fact was, I was in their country illegally.  At the time undercover operations were illegal in most of the world. It was unthinkable that cops would be permitted to commit crimes to catch criminals.  I’d already been warned by my own bosses that  if the Thai police got wind of me being there to do a drug deal, undercover or otherwise, they would bust my ass and disappear me and my own country would disavow all knowledge.  In short, my butt was way out on a limb and I knew it, but I did not know the half of my problems.

After a week of hanging with the dopers, I had managed to convince that them that I was the capo di tutti fruti of the Mafia hooked into individual Mafiosi across the US, each looking for large quantities of drugs. I was The Main Man.  I told them that I needed a new supplier because my previous source, the French Connection, had been busted.

At the time the largest heroin seizure in history was in the neighborhood of 200 kilos, part of the original French Connection, I knew the case well, I’d played a small role in it.  The two Chinese heroin dealers were as aware of the American market as I was and assured me that these amounts were child’s play  compared to their operation. They had a “factory” in Chiang Mai run by Mr. Geh’s uncle that was churning out a couple of hundred kilos a week.  What didn’t go to the soldiers in Vietnam was going into the veins and brains of American kids. Like my own brother.

I cut a deal:  I would buy a kilo of Dragon Brand for $2500 cash and send it to my US Mafia customers as ‘samples.”  I’d then remain in Thailand awaiting their orders.  I gave Gary and Mr. Geh an estimate that I might need as much as 300 kilos as a first order. The dopers’ price for a 300 kilo load: $2000 a kilo or a very paltry $600,000.  That amount of heroin, at that time, could have met the entire US demand for about 2-3 weeks.  The cost to our nation in death, destruction and taxes was incalculable; the potential profits to the dopers breathtaking.

French Connection heroin was then selling wholesale, delivered in the US, at $20,000 a kilo. The purity of the Dragon Brand heroin I was buying in Asia was as good or better.  It was close to 100% pure, meaning that you could cut (dilute) the stuff up to fourteen times for the street.  The US street price per ounce was $2,000, meaning that a single kilo (40 ounces) of Asian heroin at $2,000 could theoretically gross $1,120,000.  Now just multiply that by 300 kilos and your original investment of $600,000 has now yielded more than $300 million.

At the moment I had everything I needed to destroy the operation but its location, but I knew how to remedy that.   I made one proviso:  I demanded to personally inspect their heroin producing facilities in Chiang Mai— “The Factory”—before finalizing the deal.   If they agreed, I would be one step away from destroying them.

Within days, the two dealers made contact with the factory’s owner, Mr. Geh’s uncle.  He agreed to go forward with the transaction and authorized me to inspect The Factory after I bought the first sample kilo.

Sitting in my room at the Siam Intercontinental that night, alone, I replayed the words of the heroin dealers on a mini—recorder. The implication of what I had just learned to our nation, to my own heroin-addicted brother, mixed with the bullshit exhortations of our political leaders, seemed to sink deep inside of me.  I felt as if I were playing some hero role in a John Wayne (now Tom Clancy) movie.   I was in position to do what our leaders and mainstream media had psyched me to do: strike at the heart of America’s greatest enemies.

I was on a mission from God.

I was a naïve idiot.

Bam! The adrenaline was pumping.  I was moving.  I made contact with my control officer, Customs Attaché Joe Jenkins.  At a pre-dawn meeting I brought him up to date.  He was as excited as I was but a lot more reserved. I could tell there was something he wasn’t telling me but  at the moment I had a pressing need.  I was almost broke. I needed cash to maintain my cover as a ‘big time” dope dealer, $2500 cash for the first kilo of heroin.  Hell, I didn’t even have enough money left to pay my hotel bill.  I was already receiving notes under my door from the management asking me to bring it up to date.

Jenkins instructed me to meet him later at a girlie bar on Sukamvit.   By that time he assured me, he’d have headquarters and—more important— embassy approvals  for the operation to proceed.  And—most important— he’d have money.

Late that night I met Jenkins again.  As three butt naked, Oriental doll women in 4” spike heels performed a somnambulistic, wriggle-writhe-squat over beer bottles, on the bar above us to a Rolling Stones album blasted on monstrous speakers, Jenkins shouted that he had neither approvals nor money.   From that point on, things got strange.  Very strange.

The suddenly nervous Jenkins, his eyes jerking at every movement in the shadows around us,  gave me Kafkaesque, bureaucratic reasons for the delays, saying he needed specific signatures from specific bureaucrats in Washington who were, for some reason or other, unavailable.   He fed me other bullshit that only a brain-numbed, government employee would find normal.

I went back to my room and began stalling both the hotel and the drug dealers. My people are being cautious; they are sending me a courier.  They take no chances.  Etc., etc., etc, ad nauseum.

At first the dopers thought that the caution of “my people” was admirable, but when more than a week had passed and the delays continued I found myself out of excuses and in serious danger.  For the first time in my life I heard myself utter the threat “I’m going to the press.” Jenkins looked at me and just rolled his eyes. He recognized an idiot when he saw one.

Some time before dawn, I was called into the embassy for a meeting with the first CIA  officer I’d ever knowingly met. He gave no name, I didn’t ask for one.  Joe had told me he was CIA, that was all I needed.  The guy was short, stocky, bald and wearing what I would come to know was a typical CIA uniform: a khaki leisure suit.  He looked at me with a mixture of bemusement and disdain that I would also learn was typical.

“You’re not going to Chiang Mai” he said. “We just lost a man up there. It’s dangerous.”

“But I’m an undercover,” I protested. “Already certified crazy.  I didn’t take this job to be safe.”

Like I said: a naive  idiot.

After not much discussion the spook looked at his watch and cut the conversation short.  “You served in the military, right? (He didn’t wait for my answer) Well, our country has other priorities [than the drug war].”   He was firm—I was not going to Chiang Mai and that was it.   CIA had made the decision for us—a harbinger of things to come.   My instructions were to buy the single kilo of heroin and set up the arrest whomever delivered it.  Then I was to leave the country ASAP.  Case closed.

This was years before the CIA would come to be known among DEA agents assigned overseas as The Criminal Inept Agency and later the Cocaine Import Agency.  Years before anyone with a government job questioned the judgment of the gang that can’t spy straight.  Years before I would state on my own radio show that the CIA seal at Langley, instead of reading  “…and the truth shall set you free”  ought to read “…and the truth shall piss you off.”[2]

I’d stumbled into a quick look at an ugly truth that would haunt me for the rest of my life, but at that moment I was not prepared to believe it. I had served three years in the military as an Air Force Sentry Dog Handler—combat trained military police.  I’d been an undercover federal agent for six years. I was a good soldier, trained to follow orders. I believed in the virtue and morality of my leaders.   Like the devoted husband who catches his beloved wife exchanging a torrid look with the pizza delivery boy, the truth was too emotionally charged for me to absorb.  It was much easier for me to accept that the CIA man knew more than I did and that it was in our national interest for me to simply follow orders.

And that’s what I did. I ordered the kilo of heroin and busted the two Chinese dealers on the spot.  Back in the US I received a Treasury Act Special Award for the first case of its kind, one agent traveling the globe to “destroy” a heroin operation.  Another “victory” for the US media shill factory.

For a while I was lost in my own press notices.

But I was no longer the same unquestioning young undercover agent. My cop instinct nagged at me,  told me something was wrong. Within a year I would learn that the Chiang Mai “factory” that I’d been prevented from destroying by CIA was the source of massive amounts of heroin being smuggled into the US in the bodies and body bags of GIs killed in Vietnam.[3] All I could do was pray that CIA knew what it was doing.   At that time I rather foolishly believed that they had the best interests of the American people at heart, but how competent were they?  And if they weren’t competent, who do you turn to blow the whistle? Congress?  The media?

I was a well trained, experienced undercover operative who, when in doubt, observes closely, documents what he sees but takes no action—one of the reasons, I believe, that I survived my career.    And in the early 1970s there were very few in a better position than I was to observe the development of Drug War Monty.

My unit, the Hard Narcotics Smuggling Squad, was a small, group of men (16-20)  charged with the investigation of all heroin and cocaine smuggling through the Port of New York, the home of the majority of our nation’s hard-core drug addicts. By necessity my unit became involved in the investigation of every major smuggling operation known to law enforcement.  We could not avoid witnessing CIA protection of major drug dealers.

In fact throughout the Vietnam War, while massive amounts of heroin emanating from the Golden Triangle Area were documented by us as flooding into the US, and tens of thousands of our fighting men were coming home addicted, not a single important heroin source in Southeast Asia was ever indicted by US law enforcement. This was no accident.  Case after case, like US v Liang Sae Tiew et.al., was killed by CIA and State Department intervention and there wasn’t a damned thing we could do about it.

It was also during those years that we became aware that CIA had gone well beyond simply protecting their drug dealing assets. Agency owned proprietary airlines like Air America were being used to ferry drugs throughout Southeast Asia allegedly in support of our “allies.” (With friends like these…)    CIA banking operations were used to launder drug money.  CIA was learning the drug business and learning it well.

Those of us on the inside who were aware of the these glaring inconsistencies between drug war policy as reported through mass mainstream media and its reality, were afraid to turn to either congress or to media for help.  It seemed impossible that anyone with any knowledge whatsoever of our growing drug problem would not have noticed the absence of enforcement in Southeast Asia.   It was just too big, too out in the open.   During those years I believe a good journalist would have had many frustrated, “inside sources” to quote from, yet no stories appeared.

It was also during those waning years of Vietnam that CIA protection of drug dealers spread to other areas under our watch.   As cocaine traffickers grew  in economic and political importance in South and Central America  so did their importance to CIA and other covert US agencies.

For example, in 1972, being fluent in Spanish I was assigned to assist in a major international drug case involving top Panamanian government officials whom were using diplomatic passports to smuggle large quantities of heroin and other drugs into the US.  The name Manuel Noriega surfaced as prominent in the investigation.  Surfacing right behind Noriega was the CIA to protect him from US law enforcement.

After President Nixon declared war on drugs in 1971 and all our political leaders began bleating about how drugs were our number one national security threat, Congress began to raise our taxes and the drug war budget on a regular basis that continues to this day.  Meanwhile, CIA and the Department of State were protecting more and more politically powerful drug traffickers around the world: the Mujihideen in Afghanistan, the Bolivian  cocaine cartels, the top levels of the Mexican government, top Panama-based money launderers, the Nicaraguan Contras, right wing Colombian drug dealers and politicians, and others.[4]

Under US law, protecting drug trafficking was and still is considered Conspiracy to Traffic in Drugs—a felony violation of federal and state laws. President George Bush Sr. Once said it: “All those who look the other way at drug trafficking are as guilty as the drug dealer.”  Ironically, not too many years earlier as head of CIA, Mr. Bush had authorized a salary for Manuel Noriega as a CIA asset, while the little dictator was listed in as many as forty DEA computer files as a drug dealer.  Seems only fitting that CIA named its headquarters after Mr. Bush.

In any case,  it was clear to us on the inside of international drug enforcement that Congress was either well aware of what was going on, or guilty of terminal ineptitude.  It was also clear to us that CIA protection of international narcotic traffickers depended heavily on the active collaboration of mainstream media as shills.

Media’s shill duties,  as I experienced them firsthand,  were twofold: first, keep silent about the gush of drugs that was allowed to continue unimpeded into the US;  second, to divert the public’s attention by shilling them into believing the drug war was legitimate by falsely presenting those few trickles law enforcement was permitted to stop as though they were major “victories” when in fact we were doing nothing more than getting rid of the inefficient competitors of CIA assets.

I began to notice the fill-in-the-blanks drug stories.  Every week a new “drug baron”, a new drug-corrupted government was (and continues to be) presented by media as a new “threat” to American kids.   Every case, many of which I took part in,  was headlined in the media as a “US Authorities Announce Major Blow Against (fill in the blank) Drug Cartel.”  Every country and national leader that CIA and State wanted to slander (i.e. Castro and Cuba, the Sandanistas and leftist guerrillas anywhere)— was headlined as “US Sources Say  (fill in the blanks) Poses New Narco-Trafficking Threat. ”  Foreign leaders and nations whose images CIA and State wanted to keep clean (i.e.  Manny Noriega for two decades and Mexico and every one of its Presidents since NAFTA) were headlined as,  “ (fill in the blanks) New Anti-drug Efforts Win Trust of US Officials.”[5]

The media continues to do their shill job well and Drug War Monty continues to grow massively as does our nation’s drug problems.

The “Cocaine Coup”.

On July 17, 1980, for the first time in history, drug traffickers actually took control of a nation. It was not just any nation, it was Bolivia, at the time the source of virtually 100 percent of the cocaine entering the United States.[6] The “Cocaine Coup” was the bloodiest in Bolivia’s history. It came at a time that the US demand for cocaine was skyrocketing to the point that, in order to satisfy it, suppliers had to consolidate raw materials and production and get rid of inefficient producers.   Its result was the creation of what came to be known as La Corporacion—The Corporation—in essence, the General Motors or OPEC of Cocaine.

Immediately after the coup production of cocaine increased massively until, in short order, it outstripped supply.  It was the true beginning of the cocaine and crack “plague” as the media and hack politicians never tire of calling it.   July 17, 1980 is truly a day that should live in equal infamy along with December 7th, 1941.  There are few events in history that have caused more and longer lasting damage to our nation.

What America was never told, in spite of mainstream media having the information and a prime, inside source who was ready to go public with the story,  was that the coup was carried out with the aid and participation of Central Intelligence.  The source would also testify and prove that, in order to carry out that coup,  the CIA, State and Justice departments had to combine forces to protect their drug dealing assets by destroying a DEA investigation—US v Roberto Suarez, et al.    How do I know?  I was that inside source.[7]

All the events I am referring to are detailed in my book The Big White Lie, a book that,  to date,  has been virtually ignored by mainstream media—with good reason, as I hope this chapter makes clear.[8] The documentation of the events portrayed was carried out in accordance with accepted techniques and practices of evidence gathering as taught in each of the four federal law enforcement training academies I attended.  I took precisely the same precautions I would have taken were I preparing a case for a jury, backing up every assertion with solid evidence in the form of reports and tape-recorded conversations.

The Big White Lie is, at present, out-of-print, but it is available in libraries.  I can only urge the reader, particularly those in law enforcement and the legal professions to read it and judge its evidentiary value for yourselves.

During the months after the Bolivian coup I watched the massive news coverage with astonishment.  Nothing even came close to the true and easily provable events.  All of it was accurate in that it frighteningly  portrayed the new Bolivian government as one comprised of expatriate Nazis like Klaus Barbie and drug dealers like Roberto Suarez and that the power and influence of the drug economy was much greater than all the US experts had imagined, but it left out the most important fact of all:  It was CIA directed and US taxpayer dollars that had put these guys in power.

As I detailed in the book, the failure of US media to cover what was arguably the most significant  event in drug war history was enough to push me over the edge.

I was no hero, believe me.  I was an undercover operative who knew well how to play the angles, not someone who took unreasonable chances.  But this was not that long after Woodward and Bernstein and the Washington Post’s concentrated, full-court- press attack on the Watergate affair that resulted in real indictments and prison sentences for crimes a lot less serious than what I was about to report.  The media still seemed to offer some hope.  I could not believe that the failure to accurately cover the Cocaine Revolution was intentional.   I would provide them with the missing pieces. I would be the Drug War’s  Deep Throat.

The smoking gun evidence of the CIA’s role in the Bolivian coup could be found in the Roberto Suarez case, a complicated, DEA covert operation that I had run only two months before the Coca Revolution.  Media shills had trumpeted it as the greatest undercover sting operation in history.   Its finale occurred when Bolivian cartel leaders, Roberto Gasser and Alfredo Gutierrez, were arrested outside a Miami bank after I had paid them $8 million dollars for the then-largest load of cocaine in history.  Some of the actual facts of the case were used in the screenplay for Al Pacino’s Scarface.

What America was never told before the publication of my book was that within weeks of their headlined arrests, both Gasser and Gutierrez were released from jail.   When I learned from my post in Argentina that these two men and their drug cartel were key players in the Cocaine Revolution and that the whole thing was CIA  inspired and supported,  I wrote anonymous letters to The New York TimesThe Washington Post and the Miami Herald.

In spite of the fact that the letters contained enough information to convince them that I was in fact “a highly placed source” and to furnish them with information and leads that would quickly and easily lead a true investigative journalist to the truth, nothing happened.  Ironically, the only journalists who were at all curious about the sudden disappearance of the case from mainstream media news and the DEA’s reluctance to even talk about it, were working for High Times. They wrote this about the Suarez case:

“The drug Enforcement Administration will confirm that the arrests were made but will go no further.  This is curious, because [the operation] may have been the all-time great sting operation….”

The other message mainstream media began to deliver with shill-like efficiency,  were the unquestioned bleatings of politicians, bureaucrats and media-anointed “experts” of how, as a result of the Cocaine Coup, it was more urgent than ever that more money be budgeted and more federal enforcement agencies and military branches  tasked to fight the war on drugs. President Carter even mandated CIA to get involved in fighting drugs.

When this last hit the news, I ran a little test at the embassy in Buenos Aires,  just so that I could say I did it.  I asked the CIA station chief to lend me a spy camera to cover an undercover operation I had going in Buenos Aires. “I’m back into the Bolivian cartel” I told him.    The top spook didn’t hesitate nor blink an eye when he said he didn’t have one single camera available. CIA was simply not going to help me in any way that might, no matter how remotely,  jeopardize their “assets.”  How, I wondered, could any

international, DEA agent who took his job and oath seriously,  be considered anything but a threat by CIA?  In my Secret Country Report for the year I put the “paradoxical” situation in as diplomatic terms as I could muster, pointing out that our policy makers, where the war on drugs was concerned, seemed to be at odds with each other.   Of course, as I expected, I received neither answer nor comment.

Then the “news” story hit that pushed me over the edge, the story that would change my life.  Larry Rohter and Steven Strasser of Newsweek had just authored a feature piece on the Bolivian Cocaine Coup that was, in my opinion, the hydrogen bomb of drug war scare stories.   Maybe the greatest Drug War Monty story of all time.  It detailed how drug money had not only funded the Bolivian cocaine coup but was now funding revolutions around the world.  How many of these revolutions, I wondered, were backed by CIA and American taxpayer dollars?  But then how, I wondered, could the journalists know the truth unless they had a Deep Throat to steer them straight?[9]

I flew into action without thinking.  I should have heeded the words of the CIA chief played by Cliff Robertson in Three Days of the Condor. — a warning that should be issued to all potential real-life government whistleblowers.  Near the end of the movie, after a CIA employee, played by Robert Redford,  had escaped two hours of Agency attempts to kill him to prevent him from blowing the whistle on some typically depraved CIA plot—although Hollywood CIA plots are always so much more clever than the real goofball variety— he is about to enter the front door of a major newspaper (think NY Times, Washington Post)).  There waiting for him is the head of the CIA played by Cliff Robertson who smiles shrewdly and utters the last line of the movie:   “What makes you think they’ll print the story?”

Fade to black.

But my mind was full of Woodwards and Bernsteins.    I sat down at my desk in the American embassy and wrote the kind of letter that I never  in life imagined myself writing.  After fully identifying myself I detailed, in three type-written pages written on official US embassy stationary, enough evidence of my charges to feed a wolf pack of investigative journalists along with my willingness to be a quotable source.   I addressed it directly to Strasser and Rohter care of Newsweek. And sent it registered mail return receipt requested.   Within a couple of weeks I received the receipt (which I still have) and waited anxiously to hear from them.  Two sleepless weeks later I was still sitting in my embassy office staring at the phone.  Three weeks later, it rang.

It was DEA’s Internal Security.  They were calling me to notify me that I was under investigation.   I had been falsely accused of everything from black-marketing and having sex with a married. female DEA agent during an undercover assignment to “playing loud rock music on my radio and disturbing other embassy personnel,”  an investigation that would wreak havoc with my entire life for the next four years.[10] My days as the whistle-blowing diplomat were cut short. I would end up a lot luckier than most high-level government whistle-blowers.  I would survive.    When push came to shove, I was a well trained undercover with the survival skills of a Bronx Roach.

DEA Headquarters

Back in the “Palace of Suits” I decided that to survive the ongoing and ever expanding onslaught from Internal Security, I would follow the sage advice of a veteran suit:  “A bureaucracy has a short memory. Keep your mouth shut and the suits will forget you even exist.”   And that’s exactly what did happen.  To survive, I became a Drug War Monty player.

On my first day back at DEA headquarters in DC, assigned to the Cocaine Desk,  I fielded a phone call from a wire service journalist.  The newsie wanted to know what percentage of drugs being smuggled into the US were intercepted at the borders.  During my negotiations with the Bolivian Cartel the top cocaine producers in the world at the time, I was told that they factored a less than one percent loss at the US borders.   Before I could answer,  one of the other desk officers overheard the conversation and said: “Tell him ten percent.  That’s the [official] number.”  I repeated the number and ten percent was the number published in the story.

It was that easy.  The same phony percentage was used over the next two decades without a single so-called journalist ever asking the logical questions: How can you possibly know that you are intercepting ten percent? and Who is doing the calculations?  It is interesting to note that the magic number has recently been drastically increased and it is Hollywood now helping out with the shill job.

I noticed what I recognized as a “rigged” scene in the recent hit movie Traffic.   (Its important to note that the movie was shot with both the cooperation and collaboration of the Drug War Monty suits). The “Drug Czar” played by Michael Douglas is visiting a US— Mexican border crossing.  He asks a real-life Customs officer (drafted for the movie role)  what percentage of drugs are intercepted at the border.  The answer, blasted in an unnaturally loud voice, is “forty-eight percent.”

Ten percent to forty-eight percent in twenty years, and there are more drugs on the streets than ever before??  An Academy Award winning movie?  If this isn’t shilling I don’t know what is.

But you’ve got to remember dealers and shills have no shame at all.   And, I suppose you could say that neither did I, because for the next five or so years, I took an active and conscious part in Drug War Monty.

Operation Hun and South Florida Task Force

I spent much of 1983 shuttling between an undercover assignment on “Operation Hun” and a temporary post as a supervisor in Vice President Bush’s south Florida Task Force.  Operation Hun, ironically,    was aimed at bringing down the same Bolivian  drug trafficking government that CIA had put into power three years earlier. As I detailed in The Big White Lie, the operation, which could have truly been one of the most successful in DEA’s history,  was still controlled by CIA and ultimately destroyed in order to hide the fact that protected CIA assets were the guys responsible for producing and distributing almost all the world’s cocaine at the time.  I can only urge everyone with an interest to read it as if it were one of my prosecution case reports.

When I wasn’t working undercover in Hun, I filled two consecutive assignments in Vice President Bush’s task force. My first was Watch Commander, which basically meant that, during my watch, I was to notify Washington of every drug seizure so that a press releases and Television appearances could be scheduled for Mr. Bush’s, first-in-history “Drug Czar,” Admiral Murphy.  My second task force assignment was as Supervisor of Miami Airport Operations.  I had about 14-16 DEA and Customs agents under my command. Our job was mostly to conduct follow-up investigations of customs drug smuggling arrests at the airport.   The trouble with both jobs and the whole South Florida Task force concept was that it was all an expensive Drug War Monty  publicity stunt. A massive shill job.

Vice President Bush and his Drug Czar, through the ever reliable media, would shill the public into believing that drug seizures in South Florida had doubled.  On any Sunday morning you couldn’t avoid seeing Drug Czar, Admiral Murphy— the “Little Admiral” as we used to call him— on two, three and four popular news shows, waving the drug war victory flags.   The media driven shilling of the public during this period was relentless.  Check it out for yourself. It’s easy to research on the Internet.  There was only one trouble with the claims of drug war victory:  they were pure Drug War Monty—bogus and easily disproved.

The same drug seizures that DEA,  Coast Guard and Customs were normally making in the South Florida area prior to existence of the task force,  were now being turned over to the task force and trumpeted as “victories” when in reality there were no more seizures than before.

What was even more fraudulent, if this was possible, was that the seizures were now being double counted for congressional budget hearings.  Customs would seize 1000 pounds of marijuana and turn it over to the task force.  Both the task force and customs would count the seizures on their yearly statistics for Congress.  The media points all went to the VP’s task force.  The bill, as always,  to the US taxpayer. And thanks to media shilling, everyone but the American taxpayer was aware of the fraud and the perpetrators were made to look like heroes.

Did the media know the truth and hide it?

I personally tipped off at least a dozen “journalists” who called for information and know of other agents who did the same.  It would not have taken much investigation to verify what we were saying—no more than a couple of phone calls to the agencies involved—yet nothing ever surfaced.  Shills don’t tell marks anything, do they?

Afghan and Contra Wars

While a barrage of media headlines continued to shill America’s attention toward Vice President Bush’s South Florida Task Force as a valiant and effective drug war effort—the sucker card—  the real action that was consciously omitted from news coverage was that some of the biggest drug dealers in the world were funneling  drugs directly into the veins and brains of America’s children with the protection of CIA and the State Department. Namely, the Nicaraguan Contras and the Mujihideen rebels in Afghanistan.

For the entire duration of the Contra war, we in DEA had documented the Contras—those “heroes” as Ollie North called them— as putting at least as much cocaine on American streets as the Medellin Cartel.  We had also documented the Mujihideen as vying for first place as America’s source of Heroin.   Yet, not a single case of any significance was allowed to go forward to prosecution against either entity.   All were effectively blocked by CIA and State.

The media’s shilling and misdirection was both relentless and effective. As an example, Ollie North was voted in a media poll as one of the “ten most admired” in the nation in spite of the fact that his efforts to protect major drug dealers and killers like Honduran army general Bueso-Rosa  from prosecution had been well documented by Congress.  Astoundingly, North, a CIA station chief and a US ambassador had been banned from entering Costa Rica for running drugs through that democratic nation into the US, (among other crimes), by that country’s Nobel prize winning President, Oscar Arias,  yet the news barely surfaced in the US.   Now compare this to Monica Lewinsky coverage.[11]

Even drug-dealing Contra supporters in other countries were being protected. In one glaring case, an associate of mine was sent into Honduras to open a DEA office in Tegucigalpa.  Within months he had documented that as much as fifty tons of cocaine had been sent into the US by Honduran military people who were supporting the Contras. Enough cocaine to fill a third of the US demand.  What was the DEA response?  They closed the office. [12] The tip-offs—both anonymous and straight out —to journalists continued to fly from sources within DEA and other agencies, yet not one significant truthful story ever surfaced.

Back in the Big Apple—the Drug War Media Capital

In 1984 I received a hardship transfer back to New York.  My daughter living there now had a drug problem.  By this time my brother David, a 19 year heroin addict had committed suicide in Miami, leaving a note that said: “I can’t stand the drugs any more.”  I was going to do whatever it took to save my little girl.

In New York City I was assigned as the supervisor of an active squad that was constantly being called out to stage raids for television news, CBS, ABC, etc. all the big players.  On a slow news day the SAC would get a call:  You guys got anything going down we can put on the eleven o’clock news?   We could always come up with something.  What was good for their ratings was good for our budget.

During those years if you linked every doper the media shilled as a member of either the Medellin or Cali Cartels, hand in hand, the chain would reach the moon.   The Cartels were so effectively painted as  devils that even the normally level headed Mayor Ed Koch called for the bombing of Colombia.  Ironically that is exactly what we’re doing now.

I played the game, led the bogus raids,  gave the newsies whatever they needed to sell papers or raise ratings. As an insider I learned the secret of the drug war generals’ control over the media shills.

Drug stories sold newspapers, got media ratings and made great screen stories for Hollywood and television—as they still do.  To get “access” to a police agency, that is to get the “inside story” and “credibility” the media executives, producers and editors have to play the game.  They can’t broadcast or write an unfriendly story  and expect an open door the next day.  You don’t make a tell-all movie and expect to film it with US government cooperation, do you?

The bottom line is money.  No one in mainstream media’s taken an oath to protect anything but their jobs—not a criticism, just a fact. Fourth estate might as well be fifth, sixth or seventh estate, it’s all bullshit.    For the money, mainstream media could (and can) be counted upon to shill the Drug War Monty game as if their collective bank accounts depended on it.  But this was only part of the media economic story.  It would get worse.  Much worse.

There were a few of us who, in sudden fits of madness or naiveté, did risk our lives and careers to blow the whistle.  More often than not we’d find ourselves telling some incredulous Columbia School of Journalism-trained newsie that the current “news” release issued by (fill-in-the-blank) Drug War Monty agency talking about the “new political hope” in Mexico and/or Colombia and/or (fill-in-blank) who was going to “clean up”  government drug corruption, was just a repeat of the same bullshit story that ‘s been printed every couple of months since the beginning of  time. And if they didn’t believe us, all they had to do was check their own archives.

We’d tell them that our first-hand experience on the front lines had taught us that, as long as Americans bought hundreds of billions in illegal drugs, there could be no new hope and that to ignore this history and to print or broadcast that bullshit  was no different than shilling for Three Card Monty.

The typical newsie answer would be a blank stare.   Blank because they didn’t have the slightest idea what we were talking about, nor the curiosity to research it.  Blank, because while they’ve been trained in sound bites, ellipses and correct language, they haven’t the slightest notion of the history or inner workings of  Drug War Monty.  They don’t even know that Conspiracy is the federal law responsible for the majority of humans in cages.   Their editors tell them that whatever “credentialed government spokespeople” say (usually some public affairs officer)  is the story. They are assigned to be reporters, not investigative journalists.

Meanwhile these encounters leave you, the potential whistleblower, with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you wish you’d kept your damned mouth shut.

But back then, except for those few fleeting moments of sheer madness, I no longer had the slightest desire to play the Robert Redford role in my own movie. I had a daughter on drugs, a mortgage and a debt-financed life.  The only thing between myself and ruination was my job. I had learned the Three Days of the Condor lesson well:  they most definitely would not print the story.

Then, in 1987, I was once again pushed over the edge.  There would be no turning back.

Operation Trifecta—Deep Cover

By 1987, as the DEA suit had predicted, I’d kept my mouth shut and my “sins” had been forgotten.  DEA Headquarters was now asking me to play a lead role in a deep cover sting operation that would become The New York Times best-selling book, Deep Cover.

Posing as a Puerto Rican-Sicilian Mafia chief, myself and a small cadre of  DEA and Customs undercover agents managed to penetrate to the top of the drug world in three countries: Bolivia, Panama and Mexico.  DEA called it “Operation Trifecta.” Customs name for it was “Operation Saber.”   Our fictitious little “Mafia” managed to make a 15 ton cocaine purchase and smuggling deal with the Bolivian drug cartel known as La Corporacion, the same group that the CIA helped in its takeover of Bolivia, the same  group responsible for most of the cocaine base being processed in Colombia to this day.

Hidden video cameras rolled as I negotiated the price and quantity of the drugs with top representatives of the cartel.  The deal done, I sent undercover pilots into the jungles of Bolivia to verify that the cocaine was on the ground and ready for delivery.  Then I arranged with top Mexican government officials for military protection of the drug shipments as they transited through Mexico into the United States.  Among those with whom I negotiated directly were Colonel Jaime Carranza, grandson of Mexico’s former President, Venustiano Carranza, and Pablo Giron, a bodyguard of Mexico’s President-elect at the time, Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

To verify that the Mexican government was keeping its part of the deal, “Mafia” representatives (undercover officers) were dispatched to Mexico to observe military units preparing our landing field.  As part of the deal, my first drug payment—five million dollars in cash— would be made to Remberto Rodriguez, chief money launderer for the Bolivian and Colombian Cartels.  His operation, as the Cartel leaders told me,  was protected by—  then, CIA asset— Manuel Noriega. I personally went to Rodriguez’s headquarters in Panama City where we made arrangements for the first transfer of the down payment of $5 million cash and shook hands on the deal.

During this harrowing assignment our undercover team gathered hard evidence in the form of secretly recorded video and audio—tapes, first hand observations and secret government intelligence reports that clearly indicated that members of the military and staff of incoming President of Mexico Carlos Salinas  de Gortari were planning to open the Mexican border for drug smuggling once he took office as President and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was passed.  Hard evidence that that they had already begun to put their plan into action.

We had also stumbled onto evidence indicating that the corrupt Mexican officials we were negotiating with were also directly involved in training CIA-supported Contras.  We uncovered uninvestigated, personal links between US government officials (including at least one DEA officer) and corrupt Mexican government officials, some of whom may have been involved in the torture/murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena and/or its cover-up.

And we had proof that the US paramilitary operation in the Andean Region (then Operation Snowcap, now Plan Colombia and/or  The Andean Initiative) was a premeditated fraud on the American people, never intended to have any effect on the supply of drugs from its inception.

As I detailed in Deep Cover, once top officials in our government became aware of what we had uncovered, the CIA became involved.[1]We had gone too far and had to be stopped.    The top drug dealers, the Panama based money-laundering operation, and the high-ranking corrupt Mexican government officials that we had snared were effectively protected from prosecution.  Operations Trifecta and Saber were destroyed.

Once again I can only urge the reader of this chapter to read the book and judge it for its factual value keeping in mind that the information in it was never intended to be a book.

In the book, I detail how all the revelations listed above were first presented to DEA’s Internal Affairs in one lengthy memorandum that I named the “Memo Bomb.”  I was hoping—naively—that it would end up in the hands of someone in government with a conscience, some bureaucrat or politician who took his/her oath to defend the Constitution seriously.   When I learned that it was going to be covered up I didn’t even consider turning to media.  I began writing Deep Cover, which was published three months after I retired.

The book made The New York Times bestseller list despite being virtually ignored by mainstream media and Congress.  What little media coverage it did receive portrayed me as a disgruntled whistleblower.  Why?  Because that is what “credentialed government spokespeople” said I was.

DEA and Justice Department officials refused to comment on any of the specifics.  Not one single mainstream media journalist undertook to do what my publisher’s (Delacorte Press) attorneys had done: conduct a libel reading, or a detailed examination of how I had documented my facts.  I was a man whose words in courts across the land were credible enough to convict and sentence thousands to tens of thousands of years in prisons.  My book screamed in a loud clear voice that the drug war was a premeditated fraud, yet no one in media was interested in investigating the story.

In 1991, Bill Mayors’ “Project Censored” called Deep Cover one of America’s ten most censored stories.  During the taping of a show with Mr. Moyers he commented to me that he’d heard that Deep Cover was The best read and least talked about book between the [Washington DC] beltways.    I had already heard the same thing from my own sources inside DEA and other agencies.

I pointed out to Mr. Moyers that what I found both frightening and depressing about the whole affair was that, despite the fact that a team of US undercover agents had uncovered hard evidence of massive Mexican government drug corruption and involvement in the torture/murder of a DEA agent, our Congress had granted them “cooperating nation”  status in the drug war, meaning that they would be rewarded with US taxpayer dollars for their betrayal.   I also told Moyers that I was deeply disturbed that despite the book’s well-documented revelations showing that Operation Snowcap was a premeditated fraud, Congress was expanding the militarized South American drug war without even making a single inquiry.

All Mr. Moyers could do was shake his head the way a streetwise cop does when he watches the suckers line up to play Three Card Monty.

And as the Plan Colombia war body count continues
to mount, including the shooting down of an aircraft
belonging to religious missionaries
.

Could this have happened if mainstream media had pursued the facts and leads revealed in Deep Cover with the aggressive persistence shown during the Watergate and Monica Lewinsky affairs?  I think not. Instead they averted their collective gazes and continued the barrage of fill-in-the-blanks Drug War Monty stories.  And the suckers watched the show and continued to pay.

Ten Years of Journalism

After my retirement and the publication of Deep Cover, I wrote Fight Back, How To Take Back Your Neighborhood, Schools and Families From the DRUG DEALERS, [13] followed by The Big White Lie (co-written with Laura Kavanau-Levine). Whatever I thought I knew about Drug War Monty and how to fight it was now in book form, but I still had a lot to learn, only now from the opposite angle.

Beginning with my retirement from DEA on 1/1/90 up to this moment, I have been active as a free-lance print journalist, media consultant and on-air drug and crime expert, as well as an Expert Witness on all matters related to drug trafficking and the use of deadly force in federal and state courts.  Since 1997, I have been the host of The Expert Witness Radio Show, which airs on WBAI, 99.5 FM in New York City and KPFK, 90.7 FM in Los Angeles.  The show features interviews with front-line participants in major Drug War Monty events and other crime and espionage stories that mainstream media have either misrepresented or consciously ignored.

The screaming need for the show was best illustrated during a three- hour interview of four veteran federal agents called  “100 Years Experience.”[1] It was a roundtable discussion with Ralph McGeehee (25 years with CIA), Dennis Dayle  (27 years with DEA), Wesley Swearingen (25 years with FBI) and me (25 years with DEA, Customs, IRS Intelligence and BATF).    All of us had taken part in some of the highest profile events in law enforcement, military and espionage history.  All of us easily agreed that not a single one of these events—from the Vietnam War and Cointelpro to the entire War on Drugs—had been reported honestly by mainstream media.   (CD Now available under title FIRST WARNING, from web site).

Dennis Dayle, a principal subject in James Mills’ best selling book, Underground Empire, stated that the CIA had interfered with and/or destroyed every major international drug dealing investigation he had ever conducted.  You remember seeing that anywhere in the news?

Now, as a journalist,  I want to give you details on some of the most important events that I experienced first-hand and the media shilling that went on as they unfolded.[1][14]

Drug War Invasion of Panama.[15]

As I’ve already said, it was as early as 1971, when I was serving in the US Customs Hard Narcotics Smuggling Unit, that I became personally aware that both US Customs and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs knew very well that Manuel Noriega was heavily involved in drug trafficking to the United States, and that he was protected from prosecution by the gang that can’t spy straight.

This wacky little drug dealer, like countless other criminals doing damage to America,  was on the CIA payroll.   He’d even had lunch with George Bush.   Ollie North had been assigned to “clean up his image.”     The protection had been going on for so long and was so well known that no one in the CIA had bothered to tell DEA agent Danny Moritz and federal prosecutor Richard Gregorie that the dude was off limits.[16]

So the same CIA that didn’t know that the Berlin Wall was coming down until the bricks were hitting them in the head, didn’t learn that their two-decade, drug dealing asset Manny “Pineapple Face” Noriega was getting indicted until it was too late.  Now there was a problem, a problem that only media shills could handle.[1]

On the evening of December 20, 1989, I watched with a mixture of horror and wonder as Noriega’s fortress of a home was blown to smithereens along with Chorillo, Panama City’s entire inner city area.  It was the opening shot of America’s first full scale drug war invasion.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands (depending on whom you believe) of Panamanians died.  Women, children, tiny babies.  Burned, shot, mutilated by our finest and most advanced weaponry.  It was a great opportunity to try out our stealth bombers and fighter planes.  I could not help but be reminded of the Nazi bombing of Guernica, Spain.

I guess the stuff really works.

Twenty-six American soldiers also died, many of them shot by friendly fire. All this awesome firepower and death to arrest a man whose drug dealing the CIA had been protecting for almost two decades.  How, I wondered, were the drug war generals and the CIA gonna hide the truth behind this grotesque atrocity?

Media shills to the rescue.

Within months, the media coverage had omitted and obliterated and/or minimized and/or  trivialized Manuel Noriega’s true history and reputation with the CIA and DEA and turned the event into a major drug war “victory.”  So effective was the media shilling that instead of being indicted as a co-conspirator, George Bush Sr. enjoyed a massive surge in his popularity ratings.  Lee Atwater, the Chairman of the Republican Party called the monstrous atrocity a “political jackpot.”

The damage this did to those in law enforcement with a conscience was incalculable. Whatever faith we ever had in media fulfilling its alleged Fourth Estate role was gone.

The “political jackpot”  comment was the final straw for me. I had just retired and felt (again, albeit foolishly) relatively safe from retribution, so I began firing off a barrage of articles to every media outlet I could think of.  It was really a futile attempt from the beginning and I knew it, but I had to try and keep trying.  It was only through alternative media and the then-nascent Internet that the truth surfaced, but who paid any attention to that?  And as long as alternative media had no affect on the polls, it would have no affect on American politicians.

I am close to many men and women who have spent their lives in law enforcement.  All of them, when sitting in comfortable little living rooms after having a couple of drinks, will lower their voices and admit that if any cop had done what those involved with the Noriega cover-up and the subsequent phony invasion had done, they’d have been buried under a federal jail. They’ll say the words that no shill journalist would ever print, that anyone who was responsible for that invasion ought to be tried as a war criminal.   It was the realization that our silence was the ugliest part of history repeating itself that kept me at my computer trying to out the true Noriega story.  But the wall of media shills was impenetrable.

It was after my son, Keith Richard Levine, a New York City police sergeant, was killed by crack addicts on 12/28/91 that The New York Times published one of my Noriega pieces.[17] [1]  I was never sure whether it was my son’s very public murder that changed their attitude or the upcoming Clinton-Bush election, but I was grateful, even hopeful.   My Bush-Noriega article—an Op-ed piece— was a tiny drop in a media tidal wave going the other way, but it made an important point. There was some hope in media.   It was not monolithic. While it was, by and large, controlled by easily frightened and manipulated little people of little courage, there were editors, producers and journalists out there who were still willing to risk taking a moral stand against the criminal and/or criminally inept exercise of power.

I was also learning another hard lesson: to force real congressional action against corruption and/or criminal ineptitude at the highest levels of government, one article or one television special is far from enough to combat the ocean of media shills.  What’s needed is a Watergate/Lewinsky-like wave of investigative journalism.  A sprinkling won’t work.  A sprinkling will only be used to shill us into thinking we really have a free, aggressive media.

Rise in Police Drug War Violence After Panama

It was after the mass murder of women and children in Panama that, as a journalist, I began to notice a distinct increase in the militarization of the drug war in the US.  A very clear acceptance by our elected “protectors” and the public of an increase in the use of deadly force in the drug war that continues to this day affecting all aspects of police-community relations.

This too could never have happened without mainstream media, television and Hollywood shilling us with bullshit- based, Drug War Monty  movies like Clear and Present Danger, television drug war specials and so-called “reality” based programs like Cops, and the incessant flow of fill-in-the-blanks drug stories with headlines like “New Threat in Drug Supply Discovered in (fill in nation of your choice)”  “New Link in Opium Trail Discovered in (fill in)”   “The Hunt for (fill in) New Leader of the (fill in) Cartel”  “Government Sources Alarmed by Increase in Flow of (fill in) ”  “Government Sources Allege Drug Corruption in  (fill in some nation CIA wants to initiate some, usually dangerous, foolish and very expensive action)”  “Startling Rise in Drug Use Predicted by (fill in the name of agency that wants a budget increase).” [18]

As an Expert Witness

Since my retirement, I’ve worked as an expert witness for attorneys defending people from the excesses of a Drug War Monty game gone wild.   I’ve been directly involved in a continuous flow of atrocities perpetrated on innocent citizens that, thanks to the reliable practice of censorship via omission by mainstream media shills, never get mainstream media exposure.

From my point of view, the use of the word “atrocities” is no hyperbole.  As a front-line participant, I’ve watched the drug war evolve from where, in 1973, DEA agents who raided a premises in Collinsville, Indiana in honest error were prosecuted for that error in federal court, to where the killing of innocent Americans in their own homes is now not only condoned under the drug war banner, but actively covered up by drug war generals with the acquiescence of media shills.

Here’s an example.  Donald Carlson, a Fortune 500 Company executive in San Diego who couldn’t distinguish cocaine from garden mulch, was gunned down in his own home, in 1992, by a federal-state, multi-agency, Drug Enforcement Task Force SWAT team that had conducted a military style invasion using machine guns and grenades.  They were acting on allegations made by a criminal informant who claimed that Mr. Carlson was concealing in his house five thousand pounds of cocaine and four Colombian hit men who had sworn never to be taken alive.

The very gringo Mr. Carlson, despite the drug agents’ best efforts to stop his clock, miraculously survived three gunshot wounds.  He decided to sue the government.   I was hired by his attorneys to examine the government’s reports related to the investigation and to provide an expert opinion—a job I had been trained to do as a DEA Inspector of Operations.

After reviewing more than 5,000 pages of government reports, transcripts of interviews, and statements, I came to the conclusion that the government agents had based their Probable Cause for the search warrant on the uncorroborated words of a street level criminal informant whom the telephone company did not trust enough to furnish with a telephone.  I concluded, citing specific examples from the governments own reports and statements,  that the agents and prosecutors were not only criminally negligent, but that they had knowingly violated all Mr. Carlson’s  constitutional rights against unlawful search of his home and that they then compounded this crime by perjuring themselves in an effort to cover up their misdeeds.  My recommendation was, as it would have been had I been doing the job for the Justice Department, that the evidence be put before a federal grand jury with an eye toward a federal indictment of the agents and prosecutors.

Instead of giving US citizens, in the form of a grand jury, the opportunity to review what had actually happened and make their own choice as to whether the agents and prosecutors deserved to be prosecuted themselves,  the United States Attorney, Allan Bersin, a recent Clinton appointee, called a press conference for the drug war shills.  He proclaimed that “the system failed,  but [that] the agents [and prosecutors] had done their job.”  This proclamation was the “news”  broadcast as far and wide as mainstream media could reach.

System failed?  What the hell does that mean?  Only drug war shills would accept a statement like this on face value, not real journalists.

The bottom line of the whole adventure came soon after I turned in my report.  The government settled for $2.7 million in damages to Mr. Carlson and all government reports were classified.

Classified? How in hell can the suits get away with classifying the events leading up to the shooting of an American citizen in his own home?  I kept waiting for some Woodward or Bernstein to even ask the question.  Never happened.  The media shills did their by then customary penguin walk, one following the other off the end of a rock their gazes rigidly pointed away from the truth.

Once again I tried to tell the story through any mainstream media outlet that would listen.   60 Minutes, which in my opinion is one of the few remaining hopes in mainstream media, was the only entity interested.  The Carlson debacle was run as part of a special called  “Informants”  during the summer of 1993. Unfortunately, the cover-up was omitted.

Here again, I re-learned the lesson that, as much of a media powerhouse as 60 Minutes is, a single story does not a change in government policy make.   As devastating as the “Informant” piece should have been to Drug War Monty, it was only another drop against the mighty torrent of mainstream media shilling.

The big question that the Fourth Estate should have been asking was:  if our drug warriors and prosecutors could get away with acting so criminally in the case of a Fortune 500 executive, what can the average citizen expect?

Ezekiel Hernandez is the answer.  In 1997, the 18 year-old recent high school graduate was gunned down by a Marine sniper on “anti-drug” patrol while herding his family’s goats in his own backyard.  The young man probably never knew what hit him, since the shot was fired from more than a distance of 250 yards.  I couldn’t help wondering whether or not they were trying out a new weapon.

No one in young Hernandez’s MacAllen, Texas community was aware that those odd moving bushes out on the range were marine snipers in cammo outfits assigned to patrol the Texas-Mexican border–in direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

As a radio journalist who also happens to be a court-qualified expert in the use of deadly force, I began my own investigation of the case, which, in my opinion, was at best a clear-cut case of negligent homicide and/or manslaughter.    At worst, it was an execution.

While mainstream media continued to shill the death of young Ezekiel as an unfortunate but justifiable error, I tried to get a government spokesman to come on my show and explain the government’s position on the young man’s murder to a court-qualified expert.   No one was willing.

I watched the media—television, newspapers, and magazines—closely.  No government spokesman would field questions on the matter.  Only self-serving, vague and misleading statements were released.   Why should the drug war generals explain the murder of an American citizen that occurred during an alleged anti-drug action, as long as mainstream media willingly shilled for them?

In this case, like the Carlson case, no government official admitted any wrongdoing. Why should they? The settlement with the Hernandez family was $1.7 million—significantly less than the very white and still living Mr. Carlson’s $2.7 million— but then again, why should that fact interest a shill? [19]

Drug War Monty Billions Paid Directly to the Shills:

A new level of the Drug War Monty con game began when President Clinton and Republican Majority leader Newt Gingrich raised each other’s hands in victory to announce a new billion dollar, “Say-No-To-Drugs” style ad campaign.  The money would be paid directly into the coffers of every Hollywood and mainstream media entity on Wall Street’s big board.  The first  $sixty-million would go to Disney Studios.  All the full-page “anti-drug” ads you see in The New York Times (for instance) are paid for from this taxpayer- funded pot.

I received a tip from an inside person in the upper ranks of government who finds me cheaper to talk to than a psychiatrist and a lot more reliable than anyone in mainstream media. “Fraud” this person said.  “Go get ‘em, Mike.” [1]

So I flew into Expert Witness investigative action. I mean, Get real!   Do you think some mainstream media journalist is going to investigate the source of his/her company’s millions?  Particularly at a time when advertising income is on the decline?

My investigation, buttressed by research that I had done for my book Fight Back, revealed that neither the Partnership for A Drug Free America, nor anyone else for that matter, had done any research into the effectiveness of this kind of advertising.  In fact, according to psychological studies conducted by neuro-linguistic experts, there was a growing body of evidence indicating that the ads weren’t just ineffective, they actually increased drug use by suggestion.  They actually put the idea of using drugs into the minds of kids to whom the idea had never occurred.

A lone article in Brand Week, the highly respected Madison Avenue trade magazine, pointed out that the full amount of taxpayer dollars that the Partnership for a Drug Free America was about to give away was $2 billion, making them the biggest advertisers on Madison Avenue.  The article called the giveaway “very suspect.”     My own DEA source pointed out that $2 billion would have been enough to buy up every coca leaf produced in South America that year.  It could have replaced all law enforcement and military operations in effectiveness.

If you put Three Card Monty dealers and shills in the can for ripping off hundreds of dollars from innocent suckers, what do you think these guys deserve?

CIA Drug Smuggling —The Venezuelan National Guard Case

What would be the appropriate action of a truly independent, mainstream media if say, the Central Intelligence Agency was caught red-handed actually smuggling as much cocaine into the US  as the Medellin Cartel, in direct violation of federal law and with no political excuse?

Well, precisely that did happen.

Sometime in 1990,  US customs intercepted a ton of cocaine being smuggled through Miami International Airport.  An investigation by Customs and DEA quickly revealed that the smugglers were the Venezuelan National Guard headed by General Guillen a CIA “asset” who claimed that he had been operating under CIA orders and protection.   A fact that was soon, albeit very reluctantly, admitted by CIA.   Once again, as in the Noriega case, it seemed that the gang that can’t spy straight had failed to notify DEA and Customs of what they were up to.  That would turn out not to be the case. If CIA is good at anything it is the complete control of American media.  So secure are they in their ability to manipulate media that they even brag about in their own in-house memos.

CIA pimps and shills by far outnumber and outclass the Drug War Monty variety, but in this case both con games—CIA Monty and Drug War Monty—were at grave risk.

The CIA Public Information Office, referred to by CIA insiders as “The Mighty Wurlitzer,” flew into action.   Result:  The story appeared nowhere in media for the next three years.

Example:  The New York Times actually had the story almost immediately in 1990 and did not print it until 1993.  It finally became news that was “fit to print” when the Times learned that 60 Minutes also had the story and was actually going to run it.[1]   The Times ran the story on Saturday, one day before the 60 Minutes piece aired.  There were, however, serious differences between the Times report and the one aired by 60 Minutes.

The Times piece said:

No criminal charges have been brought in the matter, which the  officials said appeared to have been a serious accident rather than an intentional conspiracy. (Emphasis mine) But officials say the  cocaine wound up being sold on the streets in the United States.”

The highlight of the 60 Minutes piece is when Federal Judge Robert Bonner tells Mike Wallace:

“There is no other way to put it, Mike,  [what the CIA did]             is drug smuggling. It’s illegal…”  (emphasis mine).

Judge Bonner further revealed that his assertion came as a result of a secret joint investigation conducted by DEA and CIA’s internal affairs divisions.  As if that weren’t enough, Annabella Grimm, the DEA agent Country attaché in Venezuela when the incident occurred was interviewed on camera.  She too said that the CIA had simply smuggled drugs in violation of lots of US laws.

You don’t have to be a police detective to note that there are some serious differences in the two reports, or to suspect media shilling in the first degree.  The Expert Witness once again flew into action.  I did what I thought a real journalist should do—investigate the story.

Accompanied by my life’s partner, wife and co-writer, Laura Kavanau, I flew out to the coast to meet with Annabella Grimm, an ex colleague of mine whose work and forthrightness I had always admired.  After speaking with Annabella we spoke with another DEA officer who was directly involved with the incident.

The sum total of my investigation was that the CIA had not only been smuggling a lot more cocaine—around 27 tons–than the one ton they were caught with, but had been warned by DEA not to do it, that what they were proposing as an “intelligence gathering operation” was not only a “whacko idea,” but it was a felony violation of US law punishable by up to life in prison.

The identities of at least two, top level CIA personnel who had chosen to ignore DEA’s warning and had gone ahead with the massive smuggling operation had been turned over to the DEA for indictment but instead of focusing on these criminals, the investigation had turned on Ms Grimm and others.

As I investigated the incident I noticed that James Woolsey, the then head of CIA, was appearing on every mainstream media television and radio “news” show that would have him, (including NPR Radio) broadcasting the claim that no criminal act had taken place and that the event had all been a “snafu….a joint investigation between CIA and DEA that had gone awry.”

Woolsey’s public statement directly contradicted that of federal judge Bonner.  The overwhelming evidence, my DEA sources assured me, showed that Woolsey, an attorney, was lying and that mainstream media was shilling for him.  Any real journalist could have done what I was doing, but none—other than 60 Minutes—dared.  Was there ever a news story more important than one that should have read something like: “CIA BETRAYS NATION – CAUGHT RED-HANDED SMUGGLING MORE DRUGS ONTO US STREETS THAN THE MEDELLIN CARTEL”  or “ DRUG WAR A $TRILLION FRAUD”?

The facts behind the case seem to be proof positive that the whole War on Drugs has been the longest running, deadliest con game in the history of American mis-government. In The Venezuelan National Guard Case, there were top level credentialed government spokespeople ready to speak openly, to tell a devastating truth about the worst kind of treason possible being committed by CIA against its own people,  yet no mainstream media entity, other than 60 Minutes, deemed this news fit to pursue with the same in-depth zeal devoted to investigating the shape of President Clinton’s penis.

Censorship by omission?  Drug War Monty shilling?   I would say so.

Unfortunately for America, my Expert Witness Radio Show was among the very few places that this important truth could be heard. I should mention that when I called the Miami US Attorney’s office in charge of prosecuting General Guillen et al, I was told that “national security” interests prevented them from providing me with a case status, or any statement whatsoever for that matter.[1]

A fitting postscript for this event and the whole Drug War Monty game for that matter:  I was recently made aware that John Clements, the 20 year-old addict “gofer” featured in the Bangkok heroin investigation referred to at the beginning of this chapter, is about to be released from federal prison after having served most of his 35-year prison sentence.  Young Mr. Clements was convicted of “conspiracy” to traffic in heroin for driving a drug dealer (Alan Trupkin) to one single meeting to pick up drugs.  Of course, the rest of the story is that the media, while ignoring the massive flow of heroin coming into the US at the hands of CIA assets, had shilled the case to the point where there was no way the kid was going to get anything but the max.  Unfortunately I was as guilty as they were.

I can only hope this helps make up for it.

Black Tuesday – the Shilling Continues

The events of September 11th occurred after I’d completed this chapter make this short addendum vital.  If what I wrote before has convinced you that mainstream media has spent the last three decades shilling the American taxpayer into believing in the efficacy of a war on drugs when every bit of this so-called war was as fraudulent as a game of Three Card Monty then here’s what you should be asking  yourself about what happened on September 11th:   Did mainstream media  also shill for an inept and bumbling FBI and CIA in a successful campaign at convincing Americans that our homeland defense was in the most capable hands possible, when in fact the Boy Scouts of America might have done a better job?  And, did this shilling play a role in making us vulnerable to the events of Black Tuesday?

Hard to believe, right?  Well, the fact is that—and you can read it for  yourself in federal court records, or obtain the actual recorded conversation from my web site —seven months before the first attempt at blowing up the World Trade Center in 1993, the FBI had a paid informant who had already infiltrated the bombers and had told the FBI of their plans to blow up the twin towers. Without notifying the NYPD or anyone else, an FBI supervisor “fired” Salem who was making $500 a week for his work.  After the bomb went off, the FBI hired Salem back and paid him $1.5 million to help them track down the bombers.

But that’s not all the FBI missed.  When they finally did catch the actual bomber, Ramzi Yousef (a man trained with CIA funds during the Russia-Afghanistan war), the FBI found information on his personal computer about plans to use hijacked American jetliners as fuel laden missiles.  The FBI ignored this information too.

If at this point you are scratching your head and asking yourself why you hadn’t heard this story, you can thank mainstream media “coverage” which for the most part gave the FBI “credit” for “solving” the case.  Media then went on to convince us that the FBI “solved” the Unibomber case as well, when in fact the only way the madman was caught was when his own brother turned him.

Had the media done a professional job of investigating and reporting the CIA and FBI’s amateurish failures, perhaps our elected protectors would have been moved to begin working feverishly on revamping a human intelligence system that appears to be competing with the Three Stooges for our enemies’ respect.


[1] Undercover by Donald Goddard, Random House/Times Books, March, 1988.

[2] The Expert Witness Radio Show, WBAI, New York City and KPFK, Los Angeles, or http://www.expertwitnessradio.com

2 US v Herman Jackson et al

[4] See Deep Cover, by Michael Levine, Delacorte, 1990.

[5] A typical example “Mexico’s New Anti-drug Team Wins the Trust of U.S.Officials” was taken from the New York times headlines, 7/18/01

[6] Testimony of Felix Milian-Rodgriguez, convicted Medellin Cartel Money Launderer, in Executive Session before Kerry committee, June, 1986.

[7] The Big White Lie, by Michael Levine and Laura kavanau, Thunder’s Mouth Press, October, 1993 & Deep Cover, by Michael Levine, Delacorte, 1990.

[8] The Big White Lie, by Michael Levine & Laura Kavanau, Thunder’s Mouth Press, October, 1993.

[9] The Big White Lie, by Michael Levine and Laura kavanau, Thunder’s Mouth Press, October, 1993

[10] The Big White Lie, by Michael Levine & Laura Kavanau, Thunder’s Mouth Press, October, 1993,  p.103-104.

[11] “I Volunteer to Kidnap Ollie North” by Michael Levine,  Journal of Law & Social Justice, Penn State University (and others), available for viewing at http://www.expertwitnessradio.com

[12] Politics of Cocaine, by Peter Dale-Scott and Jonathan Marshall,.

[13] Fight Back, by Michael Levine, Dell Publishing, March, 1991.

[14] For ease of research, all  articles, books and radio interviews  referred to, are available  at http://www.expertwitnessradio.com

[15] www.expertwitnessradio.com.  See, particularly,  interview with author David Harris , Shoot The Moon, and DEA supervising officer, Ken Kennedy , a participant in the  arrest and prosecution of Manual Noriega.

[16] Ibid.

[17] “The Drug War, Let’s Fight it at Home” New York Times, February 16, 1992, Op-ed pg. By Michael Levine.

[18] www.expertwitnessradio.com. See numerous interviews with front-line participants under “Drug War Media Mess.”

[19] Ezekial Hernandez Show, broadcast 8/97 on The Expert Witness Radio Show, WBAI, New York City and KPFK, Los Angeles, available on audio at www.expertwitnessradio.com

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