Subject: CONTRAGATE - A REVIEW
LAWSUIT REVEALS DEPTH OF IRAN/CONTRA CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS
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[NY Transfer Editor's note: Former President Jimmy Carter has called for
a special prosecutor to investigate the Iran/hostage/arms/drugs/Contra
scandle. I thought it would be useful to post some historical background
information relevant to the issue. The following piece comes from The
Christic Institute, 1324 N. Capitol St., N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20002 (202)
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In a civil lawsuit filed last May in Miami Federal Court, the Christic
Institute, an interfaith law and public policy center in Washington, D.C.,
charged that the contra leadership and their private supporters bombed a
press conference in order to assassinate contra leader Eden Pastora, kill
U.S. journalists, and blame the attack on the Sandinista government of
The Institute represents U.S. journalists Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey.
Avirgan was seriously injured in the bombing. Honey, his wife, suffered
emotional distress and financial damages resulting from this terrorist act.
The principal issue in the case, however, is the covert operations of a
"Secret Team" of current and former intelligence community and military
personnel allied with anti- Communist extremists. According to the
Institute's sources, this "team" was reactivated by Lt. Col Oliver North to
train and equip the contras when the Congress passed the Boland Amendment
cutting off official U.S. aid to the contras.
Among the 29 defendants are the chief of the Nicaraguan Democratic Force
(F.D.N.), retired generals in the United States Army and Air Force, former
senior officials of the Central Intelligence Agency, two leading underworld
figures in the Colombian cocaine industry, and members of Cuban-American
Documents filed by the Christic Institute in Miami Federal court charge
that the contras, aided by the Secret Team:
* financed military operations with the profits of cocaine sales in the
United States. The cocaine-for-guns scheme used secret airstrips on a ranch
in northern Costa Rica owned by a United States businessman and CIA
opearative named John Hull. At the height of the operation, more than one
ton of cocaine was transported weekly from Colombia to Miami.
* hired a professional terrorist to eliminate contra leader Eden Pastora.
The assassin detonated a bomb during a press conference at Pastora's hideout
just across the Costa Rican border in La Penca, Nicaragua, in May 1984.
Pastora called the press conference to denounce CIA pressure on him to place
his forces under the control of Adolfo Calero's FDN force based in Honduras.
Pastora survived, but the explosion killed U.S. journalist, Linda Frazier,
and seven others. Frazier was a correspondent for Religious News Service.
Calero is a defendant in the lawsuit.
* planned to assassinate the United States Ambassador to Costa Rica, Lewis
Tambs, bomb the United States Embassies in Costa Rica and Honduras, and
blame the Sandinistas for the attack.
The Christic Institute's investigation, building on the investigation
carried out by Avirgan and Honey into the press conference bombing, is now
focussed on what Christic's General Counsel, Daniel Sheehan, calls the
Secret Team, an extremist circle of retired military men, intelligence
operatives, and right wing activists who organized the illegal shipments of
military supplies to the contras.
The Institute investigation traces members of the team back to the first
contra war against Cuba after Fidel Castro came to power. The team's
soldiers are Cuban-American terrorists who have fought a private war against
Communism for more than 25 years. The leadership of the team is composed of
a small group of retired military and intelligence officers who directed
assassination programs in Indochina and elsewhere.
Sara Nelson, Executive Director of the Institute, calls the group "a band
of fanatically anti-Communist former officials of the CIA and the military
who believe the way to solve political and economic disagreements is to
exterminate your opponents and their potential supporters."
Members of the Secret Team identified in the suit and in a lengthy
affidavit filed by Sheehan, include Theodore Shackley, a former high
official in the CIA's directorate of (covert) operations, and his deputy,
Thomas Clines. Others are retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard Secord,
formerly a deputy assistant secretary of defense in charge of military sales
to the Middle East; his associate Albert Hakim, a private arms broker; and
retired Army Maj. Gen. and CIA officer John K. Singlaub. Shackley, Clines,
Secord, and Singlaub are all named as defendants in the suit.
Singlaub and the other conspirators are specialists in unrestricted
warfare against Communists. As commander of the Special Operations Group
during the Vietnam War, Singlaub allegedly organized the murder of suspected
Communist sympathizers in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. By the war's end,
more than 100,000 civilians had been assassinated under his command and
another 60,000 by Operation Phoenix, a similar assassination program
conducted in Vietnam.
Now retired, Singlaub works for the private sector, coordinating the
purchase of military supplies for the contras. He is a former president of
the World Anti-Communism League, an extremist organization with close ties
to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
Other alumni of the assassination program in Southeast Asia were active in
the conspiracy to supply weapons and mercenary recruits for the covert war
against Nicaragua. Shackley was chief of the CIA's East Asia Division during
Operation Phoenix. Secord served under Singlaub in the Special Operations
Group. In May 1986, Secord accompanied Lt. Col. Oliver North and former
National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane on a secret mission to negotiate
with the Iranian leadership.
Using various business fronts, many now coming to light as a result of the
Iran/contra scandal, this network supplied arms, explosives, and aircraft to
their clients. According to Sara Nelson, "Their specialty is
counterrevolution and their trademark is the creation of mass assassination
programs aimed at civilian non-combatants -- teachers, village mayors,
health care workers, anyone suspected of being sympathetic to the
Based on their investigation, Christic attorneys allege that the Secret
Team's covert activities in Central America date back to the final stage of
the Sandinista revolution. When the Carter administration suspended military
aid to the crumbling government of Nicaragua President Anastasio Somoza, the
team arranged for the shipment of weapons and offered to create a
search-and-destroy apparatus to eliminate rebel leaders. After Somoza's
defeat in 1979, the team helped scattered elements of the dictator's
National Guard organize into contra units.
The conflict between the Secret Team's private war in Central America and
official policy ended when Ronald Reagan won the presidential race. After he
took office, Reagan formally authorized the CIA to assume control of the
team's private operation in Central America. In 1984, however, the press
discovered that the CIA was illegally mining Nicaraguan harbors and
distributing a training manual advising the contras to assassinate
civilians. Reacting to the scandals, Congress voted later that year to
prohibit further military aid to the contras, direct or indirect.
At this point, according to the lawsuit, the Administration decided to
evade the new law by "privatizing" the contra aid program, handing the
operation back to the Secret Team.
The team faced two immediate needs: military advisers to train the
guerillas and a source of money to replace the lost CIA funds. The
conspirators turned to defendant Tom Posey, founder of a mercenary
organization known as Civilian Military Assistance (later changed to
Civilian Material Assistance), to recruit Vietnam veterans willing to serve
in Central America as "soldiers of fortune," and decided to finance the
supply effort with cocaine sales in the United States. A public fundraising
campaign, headed by Singlaub, provided a plausible cover for the operation's
In their complaint and affidavit, the Christic Institute alleges the
cocaine supply pipeline was a complex operation involving leading Colombian
gangsters, U.S. businessmen, and Cuban-American terrorists. The cocaine was
supplied by Pablo Escobar and Jorge Ochoa, two of the biggest cocaine
dealers in Colombia and both defendants in the lawsuit. The shipments were
flown to a secret airstrip on an 8,000 acre ranch located in Costa Rica near
the Nicaraguan border. The ranch, owned by defendant John Hull, served as a
base from which the Secret Team planned to establish control over existing
contra forces in Costa Rica and a transshipment point for the cocaine moving
from Colombia to the U.S..
For the Christic Institute, the revelation of the Secret Team, its
connections to U.S. government personnel, and its long history of "dirty
wars" raises profound Constitutional questions at a historically important
moment. As explained by Daniel Sheehan, "This year we celebrate the 200th
anniversary of the Constitution. In the Constitution is the Bill of Rights.
In the Bill of Rights if the First Amendment. Among the guarantees in the
First Amendment is freedom of the press. The La Penca bombing is a direct
attack on the free press and as such a direct challenge to the Constitution."
"Furthermore," Sheehan adds, "when we look at who is responsible for the
La Penca bombing, we discover a network of people operating with secret
names, secret bank accounts, secret computer lines, and connected to
governmental agencies which thrive on secrecy -- a National Security State
operating outside the checks and balances of our Constitutional system and
with little respect for our democratic processes."
Sheehan points to the National Security Act of 1947 as the law which
formally legitimized covert activities and created the various national
security bureaucracies, such as the CIA and the National Security Council,
to carry out such a covert foreign policy. "The National Security State,"
says Sheehan, "is incompatible with the laws and values of the open and
democratic state created by the Constitution. This act has been on a
collision course with the Constitution since it was passed.
The La Penca bombing is one visible manifestation of this fundamental
conflict. In this fortieth anniversary of the National Security Act, we have
an opportunity to expose the threat to our democracy posed by the National
Security Act and to take corrective action to root out this cancer growing
inside our body politic. If we fail to act decisively this time, our
democracy will be in grave peril."
[NY Transfer Editor's note: Seems we are getting another chance here!]
Copies of the Sheehan affidavit are available for $10 through The Christic
Institute, 1324 N. Capitol St., N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20002 (202) 797-8106
From The N.Y. Transfer News Service 718-448-2358, 718-448-2683
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