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Essay: The Emperor is Butt Naked

The Emperor is Butt Naked
by Michael Levine

To the Reader:  This article was first published in 1997, four years prior to 9/11.  Imagine what a difference it might have made if mainstream media had really played its “watchdog” role and forced Congress to demand the best from our first line of defense,  instead of their looking the other way at the kind of ineptitude exposed here…and only here.

Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I think he’s from the CIA

At this moment the next big and terrible secret that our CIA and some of their shills in congress and the media are scrambling to keep under wraps is that for the past eight years, they have been protecting and covering up for yet another world class drug trafficker while he and his family amassed a colossal fortune by flooding American cities with drugs.   Ex- President of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, linked to a half billion dollars in suspected drug money is now in hiding,[1] only I’m betting that my own government sources are right when they say that he is in daily contact with his CIA handlers.

Can any of the drug or intelligence experts in the media possibly believe that the President of Mexico, a man viewed as a hero by both the Bush and Clinton administrations for persuading his skeptical countrymen to enter a free trade agreement with the U.S. (NAFTA) could have methodically hidden a half billion dollars in drug money in more than ninety international banks, over an eight year period of time,  without the CIA and our policy makers knowing about  it?

Anyone who witnessed the Federal drug trafficking trial of Mexican Army Colonel, Jorge Carranza, et.al. in San Diego during March, 1988 already knows the answer.  Not only was the CIA and other top level, U.S. government officials aware of Salinas de Gortari’s drug trafficking activities, but they did all they could—in violation of U.S. drug and secrecy laws— to cover up for him and protect him from U.S. law enforcement authorities.

Between September, 1987 and January 1988,  as I described in minute detail in my book Deep Cover, (Delacorte, Mar. 90), I was part of a team of deep cover agents posing as a Mafia family that was promised—on hidden video—a Mexico that would be wide-open for drug traffickers under President Salinas.  The men making that promise were Pablo Giron a member of the then President Elect’s protective detail and Colonel Jorge Carranza, a Mexican Army staff officer and grandson of ex-President of Mexico Venustiano Carranza.  We were ecstatic, a few years earlier Mexican government officials had aided and abetted the torture murderers of an undercover DEA agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, to escape U.S. law enforcement.   Now it was our turn to hit them back hard.  We had just penetrated to the rotting wormy interior of that “Bandido government” as U.S. Commissioner of Customs van Raab called them, and would soon expose them to the world.

Almost immediately I was told by frantic DEA and Customs upper management personnel,  that the CIA was closely monitoring our  team’s every move; that our case had suddenly become the Agency’s “top priority.”  A short while later the operation was sabotaged by top-level suits in Customs, DEA, Department of State and the Justice Department.

In rapid order “mysterious” events started to happen.  Upper management of DEA refused to fund the operation,  ordering that we arrest only those officials we had met and video-taped.  We were stopped cold from setting up undercover meetings with upper echelon Mexican government officials that had been promised us by Giron and Carranza.   An undercover tape-recorded phone that would have captured the voice of a Mexican high command officer whom Carranza was working for was thwarted by the actions of upper management of both DEA and Customs (as described in minute detail in the book).    While undercover agents posing as mafiosi were still meeting with de Gortari’s people in San Diego, making arrangements for the safe transit of 15 tons of cocaine through Mexico into the U.S. with Mexican military protection,  Attorney General Edwin Meese, in violation of U.S. Federal law,  telephoned the then Attorney General of Mexico to warn him about our sting operation.[2] When Meese’s warning came too late to save Carranza and his gang from arrest in San Diego,  U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Max Piliod and DEA’s, then, chief of operations in Mexico,   Ed Heath,  both publicly  sided with the Mexican government’s claim that they were “imposters,” with no connection to the de Gortari government, all of which turned out to be untrue.

During the trial it was learned that only six months before Colonel Carranza sold our “Mafia family” long term Mexican military protection for continued, massive shipments of cocaine into the U.S., under the Salinas de Gortari government,  he had been at a high level,  classified meeting at a restaurant with a Mexican Army general linked to the murderers of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, and Heath himself.    The purpose of this meeting, allegedly, was to discuss U.S. and Mexican cooperation in the war on drugs.  Heath, on the witness stand,  claimed that he had been “snookered” by the Mexican government, a truth that never saw the light of media day. He was never asked how he could possibly have had such a meeting with anyone but bonafide, top level members of the Mexican government.  Ambassador Piliod made no comment, because no one in the media asked him for any, and he was never called as a witness.

The evidence used to document the book, which included video and audio tapes and hundreds of pages of government reports,  was the same evidence used during the Federal trial to convict Giron,  Carranza and four others of Conspiracy to smuggle fifteen tons of cocaine into the U.S. with the aid of the Mexican military.

During the time these events were happening, I could only guess at who in the Mexican government was being protected and why.  Had I known then that President Salinas de Gortari was salting away a half-billion dollars in drug money in ninety foreign banks, (that we know of)  he might have ended up standing trial with his underlings—in spite of those in our government protecting him.  Of course the history of the NAFTA agreement might have ended differently, but then again I was a law enforcement officer, not a spy or a politician–what did I know?

Once again, DEA had done its job too well; we had threatened another of the world’s biggest providers of heroin and cocaine to Americans, who also happened to be protected by CIA and special interests among our elected leaders. Only this guy happened to be the President of Mexico.

And now—unless the mad, behind-the-scenes scrambling by CIA media specialists to keep this information out of the hands of the few remaining independent journalists is successful—America is about to learn that President Salinas de Gortari,was a CIA asset protected from DEA’s Operation Trifecta;[3] that the CIA and some of our elected protectors, as they have been for more than three decades,  were duped into protecting real enemies of America in return for which they received absolutely nothing.

For the last three decades it has been well known by everyone involved in top level international drug trafficking—both cops and criminals—  that any Third World politician who wants to sell drugs to Americans with impunity, and at the same time get away with murdering his opposition only has to  put himself on the CIA’s payroll as an “asset.” and do the secret bidding of American politicians. . . when it’s convenient for them.  In most cases all they have to do is fake it.   Manuel Noriega gave lip service to the CIA and U.S. politicians for two decades in return for which he was protected and paid a salary by the CIA while giving real service to the Medellin Cartel.  The Contras did it.  La Corporación , the drug cartel that overthrew the Bolivian government on July 17, 1980 did it and they are still supplying Americans with more than fifty percent of the crack and cocaine we consume.[4] And now we’ve added the President of Mexico to that long and growing list.

Let’s face it, our leaders and spys are known throughout the world of international crime and drugs as easy marks.  If the drunken, bumbling, Rolex-wearing, Jaguar-driving Aldrich Ames could sell all the Agency’s top secrets to the KGB, for fourteen years, right under the noses of highly acclaimed (by Congress)  suits like, Judge William Webster,  Robert Gates and James Woolsey, with all the finesse of a Jersey City garage sale, imagine what a whole gang of really sharp, world class drug dealers has been doing to them.

It’s been the classic pattern U.S. law enforcement has been forced to observe helplessly and in “patriotic” silence since the Vietnam war when the CIA protected every major heroin dealing faction in Southeast Asia.    DEA and FBI agents who target the top drug dealers in the world find themselves targeted and silenced by their own government.  They don’t have National Security, fawning politicians and shills in the media to hide behind.  Unfortunately, as I write this, the CIA and some of the most inept leaders and policy makers in U.S.history still do.  As ex Director of Central Intelligence William Colby himself explained:   “a misplaced sense of patriotism”  has always kept the media from asking the hard questions.

Conservative estimates of the CIA’s total budget over the past thirty years go well over a trillion dollars, (this year’s budget, alone,  is estimated to be $28 billion).  It’s no longer a secret that the Agency not only failed completely in its, four decade attempt at outsmarting the Russians  but was instead used by the KGB to con our elected leaders into spending an estimated two trillions of unnecessary dollars on defense.  And all the while, going unnoticed by the media,  the world’s top drug dealers conned them and their political protectors into subverting our hundred billion dollar war on drugs and doing more damage to Americans, by any measure,  than all of our conventional wars combined.   Talk about adding insult to injury.  With trillion dollar “protectors” like these guys, who needs enemies?

Perhaps when this latest revelation is finally made public,  at least some of the people who pull the strings in the media will finally realize what federal law enforce­ment has known for decades;  that the real secret the CIA and their shills are at this moment fighting desperately to keep from the American people,  is not that they are badguys or super criminals involved in sinister worldwide conspiracies as many would like to think—an image the CIA itself tries to encourage— but instead are exactly what the facts revealed by the Aldrich Ames case exposed them to be: an unregulated, old-boys’ society of highly educated, comically inept buffoons and that the congressional oversight committee is exactly what CIA agents secretly call them—”the oversight.”

In the meantime,  history and the media’s “patriotic silence”  continues to repeat itself.   In 1976 Senator Frank Church found the CIA to be engaged in all kinds of criminal activity and totally unresponsive to the congress.  He said that, not only had the CIA been “counterproductive,” but that they had “brought shame on our nation.”  He called them “a runaway rogue elephant.”   In 1986 Senator John Kerry, a Democrat,  said that “Our covert agencies have converted themselves to channels for drugs”; that he wasn’t sure if we had the most inept spy agencies in the world or the most criminal.  Senator Alfonse D’amato, a Republican,  said that it was “mind-boggling,” that “while we tax Americans billions to fight drugs,  we’re in bed with [the biggest drug dealers in the world].”  The Pike Committee began its January 1986 report with the line: “If this Committee’s  recent experience is any test, intelligence agencies that are to be controlled by Congressional lawmaking are, today, beyond  the lawmaker’s scrutiny.”

Yet, with all that verbiage no serving CIA agent has ever been charged with any criminal activity other than lying to congress;  no meaningful action has ever been taken to turn the Agency’s four and-a-half decade, three trillion dollar streak of ineptitude and corruption,  except to periodically change the name of its director,  which,  as anyone who’s ever served in law enforcement knows, is as effective as changing the label on a bottle of cheap whiskey.

And now as we  swing into an election year and widely respected journalists write respectful articles about  the “new” CIA’s expanded, multi-billion dollar role in the war on drugs under a new and “highly regarded” director,  and what our “new” drug policy should be,   I,  once again, feel like the kid of the fable standing at the edge of the crowd screaming: “Hey, stop the parade!  The emperor is butt naked!”


[1].  AP & US World News Release 12/13/95

[2]Deep Cover, Michael Levine, Delacorte, March, 1990.  Also- Desperados, by Elaine Shannon.

[3].  UPI news release, “Mexico Fails to Extradite Ruiz Massieu, 12/22/95

[4]The Big White Lie, Levine and Kavanau (Thunder’s Mouth Press, October, 1993.

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