When the whirlwind of complex, overlapping covert operations that is labeled, perhaps misleadingly, ‘Iran-Contra’ was revealed, the revelations came in the aftermath of the doomed flight of Eugene Hasenfus in October of 1986. His plane—owned by the CIA proprietary airline Southern Air Transport, and previously owned by notorious, intelligence-linked drug smuggler Barry Seal—had been shot down over Nicaragua, leading to the discovery onboard of numerous arms, military gear, and documents tying the flight to American intelligence services. Hasenfus himself survived the crash, and after being captured, began to disclose aspects of the Contra support operations to the Sandinista government. Stateside, inquiries began to circulate: the Boland amendments, passed between 1982 and 1982, had blocked American government support for the Contras, and yet here was incontrovertible proof that exactly that was what was happening.
Yet while the Hasenfus shoot-down was the major catalyst for unveiling the operations, a spider-web of cracks had been slowly spreading for years. These cracks would allow a trickle of disclosures to pour through, which would later become a torrent (though ironically, major confirmation of many of these early allegations would come not through the official inquiry into Iran-Contra, but through the Kerry Commission’s investigation into narcotics and terrorism in the southern hemisphere). Case in point is the work of journalists Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey, who had experienced first hand the mysterious bombing assassination attempt on Contra leader—regarded as a ‘moderate’ by the more hardline Contra forces—Eden Pastora in 1984. In the aftermath, Avirgan and Honey launched an investigation into the bombing, which led them into the abyss of covert Contra support operations, the role of shadowy intelligence assets, and CIA-enabled drug trafficking.
Avirgan and Honey’s initial report, which sketched the outlines of the ‘Contra side’ of the Iran-Contra conspiracy, was published in October, 1985, almost exactly a year prior to Hasenfus’ ill-fated flight.
In May of 1986, still months prior to the crash, notorious Christic Institute attorney Daniel Sheehan, had linked up with Avirgan and Honey and filed a civil suit against figures in the US government concerning violations of the Neutrality Act through covert support for the Contras. Sheehan also was tapping into other streams of information that were beginning to trickle out—namely, a case that had been brewing for some time involving a Miami-based figure named Jesus Garcia. Garcia had been busted for possession of illegal firearms in December, 1985, and promptly revealed to Florida law enforcement a wild tale involving a paramilitary outfit called Civilian Materiel Assistance—later revealed to be a key component in the Contra support operations—having been contracted to assassinate the US ambassador to Costa Rica, Lewis Tambs, by representatives from Colombia’s Medellin cartel. Garica also supplied investigators with information on arms shipments to the Contras in Nicaragua. Sheehan was on the scene shortly after the arrest, garnering information from Garcia that was relevant to his case with Avirgan and Honey.
It wouldn’t be until a year later, in December 1986—months after the Hasenfus crash—that Jesus Garcia would get his airing in the press. “Contra Aid Network Disclosed” was the headline of a Chicago Tribune article devoted almost entirely to Garcia’s disclosures.
Unsurprisingly, Oliver North and his cronies in the Contra support operations put in motion a clandestine counter-intelligence apparatus that had been built up around the National Security Council (NSC) to disrupt this flow of information. And curiously enough, it appears that one of their targets was the man behind what former NSC member Dr. Norman Bailey described as “one of the best private intelligence services in the world”—Lyndon LaRouche.
In the mid-1980s, a sweeping investigation had been initiated into LaRouche’s extensive organizations, alleging that there was a systemic pattern of credit card fraud being perpetuated by the group. This led to a multi-agency raid—led primarily by the FBI and IRS—on October 5th, 1986, on the LaRouche headquarters in Leesburg, Virginia. LaRouche’s trial would begin properly in 1987, leading to his conviction a year later and subsequent imprisonment.
The trial against LaRouche was beset with repeated delays, as LaRouche’s lawyers—and the judge presiding over the trial—churned up documentation related to a pattern of government investigation and infiltration of the group. Among these documents were FBI files related to an infiltration, carried out by three assets, at the behest of the Bureau and the CIA. As the New York Times reported in 1988,
Excerpts from the files, surrendered to defense lawyers in the fraud and conspiracy trial of Mr. LaRouche, six of his aides and five of his political groups, showed that one of the three operatives refused to discuss his dealings related to Mr. LaRouche with low-level bureau officials. The operative, Sgt. Maj. Fred Lewis of the Army, said he had been instructed by ranking officials at the agencies not to do so, the files showed.
Another key document—one that also referred to this same Sgt. Major Fred Lewis—was a memo from Richard Secord to Oliver North. Secord was, of course, one of North’s primary partners in the ‘Enterprise’ (the code-name for the apparatus carrying out the arm sales to Iran in order to finance arms and training for the Contras), and the memo was, interestingly enough, from May 1986—the same month that Sheehan filed his civil suit. Per the New York Times: “General Secord indicated in the memo that Sergeant Lewis had collected evidence against Mr. LaRouche, the political extremist”. An Associated Press article from this same period gives a little more information: “A memo to North from retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard Secord, one of North’s main operatives in the private network to aid the Contras, said ‘our man here claims Lewis has collected information against LaRouche’.
Who was the ‘our man’ being referred by Secord? The answer to that question cuts right to the heart of North’s counterintelligence apparatus. But first, it is important to look who Lewis’ employers were. For it was not the FBI directly that employed Lewis: they had outsourced their infiltration efforts to two former US customs agents from Texas, Gary Howard and Ron Tucker.
Though the company didn’t exist by the time that they directed Lewis to infiltrate the LaRouche organization, Gary Howard and Ron Tucker were best known for their company Peregrine International, which set the template that they would continue even after it was shuttered. Peregrine was formed in 1981 with the goal of raising money for Vietnam war POWs—but as a write-up on the company in the Miami Herald states, the company’s mission quickly changed. “…two government officials Howard and Tucker knew from Customs introduced them to retired Army Special Forces Mjr. Richard Meadows, a highly decorated Vietnam war commando”. Meadows, who was recruited to head Peregine, had quite the pedigree. His history with the special forces dated back to 1953 and lasted until 1977; during the 1960s, he participated in a specialized exchange program with the British Special Air Services (SAS), the special forces branch of the British army. Meadows brought what he had learned back to the US and integrated them into the Ranger School at Fort Benning, where he had been placed as a commanding officer. Several years after he retired, Meadows remained active in the special forces circuit, even participating in Operation Eagle Claw—the attempt to rescue the American hostages in the embassy in Iran.
Under Meadow’s direction, Peregine became “a private arm of Army intelligence, training foreign military groups and developing anti-terrorism plans”. The model for Peregine was the British private military company Keenie-Meenie Services (KMS), itself founded in 1975 by veterans of the SAS. Interestingly, KMS also played a role in the Contra support operations, having been tapped to provide special forces training to the Contra forces of the FDN.
There were also links between Peregrine and the Contra-support networks. One nebulous connection comes through Peregrine’s attempts to launch a counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency training program for Honduran military commandos. But, as the Miami Herald article on Peregrine recounts, “money proved to be the stumbling block. Both Peregrine and Honduran officials figured it would come from US military aid. Instead, the CIA stepped in”. The subsequent Honduran training program was code-named Operation Quail Shooter, which saw soldiers from the 20th Special Forces Group (SFG) travel to the country under civilian cover. At the exact same time that Quail Shooter was being carried out, the US-backed paramilitary group, Civilian Materiel Assistance (CMA), was working alongside the Contras from inside Honduras. While it’s not clear what connection might have existed between Quail Shooter and Contra support, it is telling that not only did the CMA operate as a civilian group—at least two of the four founders of the CMA were active members of the 20th SFG. (The interrelations between the CMA, the 20th Special Forces Group and Quail Shooter are discussed further by Kantbot and myself in the Pseudoxia Iran-Contra episode)
Another connection arises through Major General John K. Singlaub, a veteran of the OSS’s China-Burma theater and Vietnam-era special forces:
Other documents confirm and elaborate Peregrine’s relationship with… retired Army Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub, Meadows’ former commander in Vietnam and an active conservative fundraiser and provisioner for Nicaragua’s US-backed Contra rebels…
[former Delta force commando and Peregrine employee Charles] Odorizzi wrote Singlaub, saying he was “personally appreciative… for all you have done for us”.
Asked last week what Singlaub… had done for Peregrine, Odorizzi, 50, now a defense reporter, replied “I don’t recall”.
Singlaub’s role in the Contra support networks was extensive. He was chairman of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL) and its US chapter, the US Council for World Freedom. WACL, in turn, had provided assistance to the Contras even prior to the activities of North’s Enterprise, and it had continued this support throughout the 1980s. There is an extensive record illustrating the ties between North and Singlaub, and between Singlaub and the CMA—and at least one CMA member, co-founder Tom Posey, did security work for the 1985 WACL conference. To make the ties even closer, the unofficial paymaster of the CMA, Memphis businessman and soldier of fortune Hubert J. Humphreys, was the “private sector adviser” to the National Defense Council Foundation (NDCF), formed by NSC staffer and close friend of Oliver North, F. Andrew Messing, to study and promote the doctrine of low-intensity conflict. Singlaub was on the board of the NDCF, and Manning was listed as a member of the advisory board of Singlaub’s US Council for World Freedom.
Singlaub, incidentally, had his own encounters with the LaRouche organization. In the late 1970s, Mitchell WerBell—another veteran of the OSS China-Burma theater—had become a security specialist for LaRouche’s National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC). Singlaub, by some accounts, was introduced to the group by WerBell; by Singlaub’s account, they approached him, began attending his lectures and offering him information.
“Initially I was convinced they were trying to build up credibility that they had a good intelligence network that I could rely on,” Singlaub said.
In 1979, he continued, the LaRouche supporters began telling him that the U.S. military deserved a “major break” and that Carter had done a disservice to the military.
“They said, ‘You military people are going to be the savior of the country…We want to work closely with you. We have intelligence that can help you,'” Singlaub recalled.
He said he grew suspicious of the LaRouche supporters’ goals and cut off relations with them.
After Peregrine closed up shop in the mid-1980s, Howard and Tucker began to devote their energies to sting operations. They had actually cut their teeth on stings during their Peregrine period, when they set up an operation against the British arms dealer Ian Smalley (who went by the colorful pseudonym ‘Doctor Doom’). Smalley, who had been moving weapons to Iran, was entrapped by Howard and Tucker with the promise of supplying “Iran and Iraq with $l billion worth of advanced American weaponry, including battle tanks”. The outcome was a boondoggle. Smalley advanced Howard and Tucker a significant amount of money for their proposition, $1.1 million of which was never recovered in the subsequently legal proceedings (which found the methods practiced by Howard and Tucker to be rather dubious). Howard and Tucker, for their part, denounced the Customs officials who had hired them to carry out the sting, charging that they had never been reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses.
In 1987, Howard and Tucker were involved in a bizarre sting operation carried out in conjunction with a West Texas sheriff’s department, which foiled the efforts of Portuguese arms merchant Victor Fonseca to move missile parts to Iran. Like the earlier case of Ian Smalley, the Fonseca sting was elaborate entrapment. Howard and Tucker and set up the deal with Fonseca, and brought it to Midland County, Texas, Sheriff Gary Painter—a close friend of the two—to execute the bust. US Customs, at this point wary of Howard and Tucker, deemed the operation “highly unusual and highly questionable”.
There is a possibility that the Fonseca sting could have been a mop-operation, tying up lose ends for the arms-for-hostage deals with Iran launched by North’s Enterprise. The deal with Fonseca had not originated with Howard and Tucker, but with yet another British arms dealer by the name of Michael Aspin, who had allegedly initiated contact with Howard and Tucker with a proposal to assist Fonseca in moving parts to Achmed Kashani, an Iranian intelligence officer and arms dealer based in Madrid. Kashani himself appeared briefly as having attended meetings with US officials during the course of the Enterprise’s operations. Aspin, who faced charges in Britain in connection with the affair, declared that he had been active in North’s efforts. The judge presiding over his case determined that Aspin’s admissions were fraudulent, but partially corroborating evidence emerged in the course of the inquiry into BCCI, the global shadow bank that had played a key role in Iran-Contra and a host of other scandals in the 1980s. To quote from US Senate report on the BCCI affair:
According to Die Welt, Iran’s ambassador to West Germany, Mohammad Djavad Salari, signed a letter authorizing the purchase of the anti-tank weapons worth $264 million, and North, then a member of the U.S. National Security Council, took part in one negotiating session on Nov. 20, 1984. The newspaper said the purchase authorization came after talks in a Hamburg hotel between Iranians and two British-based arms dealers, Michael J. Aspin, owner of the weapons dealership Delta Investments and Indian-born millionaire weapons dealer Ben Banerjee, chief of the British company BR and W. Industries. Both Banerjee and North denied the allegation.
Documents obtained by the Subcommittee, filed in a British criminal case later brought against Aspin for fraud in connection with the attempted sale of the American TOW missiles to Iran in 1984, and a second attempted sale in 1985, include a “pro-forma invoice,” dated November 21, 1985, for the supply and delivery of 1250 units of BCM 71A TOW MISSILES, manufactured in the USA, “all brand new in manufacturers original packing,” from B.R. & W. Industries, Ltd., signed by Ben Banerjee, U.S., denominated “lift trucks” for the purpose of bank and customs documentation, and handled by BCCI in London. The invoice was accompanied by telexes and letters on BCCI stationary of a nature and type ordinarily used by BCCI, showing BCCI providing counter guarantees and letters of credit for a transaction involving the “lift trucks” in November and December, 1985, involving the Iranian government and its bank, Bank Melli, and channeled through the Arabian Gate General Trading Co. of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
In staff interviews, BCCI Paris manager Chinoy confirmed that Banerjee banked with BCCI in London and was involved in “large dealings with Iran.”
During the Aspin trial, Leslie Aspin, Michael Aspin’s brother, testified that the TOW missile sale was a legitimate sale authorized by the United States government as part of a 1984 -1985 effort to ransom CIA agent William Buckley, with the weapons to be transferred from Portugal to Iran. In a sworn statement of May 1, 1987, Aspin attested that he and Oliver North opened three joint accounts in BCCI Paris into which North deposited $5 million on November 15, 1984, and listed the account numbers and signature cards of the three accounts, one of which was maintained for an entity called “Devon Island,” allegedly, under the signature of North and Bannerjee, and the other two accounts, which were numbered accounts, maintained under the signatures of Aspin, Bannerjee and Ghorbanifar.
The Subcommittee has confirmed the existence of accounts in London involving Banerjee and in Monte Carlo involving Ghorbanifar, but has not received access to BCCI’s accounts in Paris to determine whether or not the accounts referred to by Aspin existed. North has denied having maintained such an account. However, BCCI Paris manager Chinoy did learn of an account in the name “Devon Island” when he received a telephone call in 1988 from a London office of BCCI asking about it, and was advised by his assistant that the account existed but had not been used.
Both Banerjee and Aspin are dead. The Subcommittee is continuing to seek Banerjee and Aspin’s records from BCCI’s liquidators in hopes of determining whether the arms sales to Iran in which they were participated had the backing of or involvement of any U.S. official.
When Tucker, Howard, and Fred Lewis initiated their activities against the LaRouche organization, the introduction was brokered by F. Keith Adkinson, the pair’s attorney and the head of the Democrats for Reagan organization. This was the second scheme that Adkinson had enlisted the help of Tucker and Howard in; in another case, he had tapped them to try and raise money for bring exiled Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov to the US. There is a possibility that the Sakharov and LaRouche efforts were linked on some level: a relative of Sakharov named Elfrem Yankelevich reported that he had met with LaRouche at his home in Leesburg, Virginia, in hopes of raising money on behalf of Howard and Tucker. Likewise, “meetings to discuss the LaRouche and Sakharov cases in Adkinson’s offices”.
In the way that Howard presented the events, the plan to infiltrate the LaRouche organization came when Fred Lewis introduced him to the LaRouche organization’s “counter-intelligence director” Jeffrey Steinberg. The idea, he continues, was shopped to the FBI, who then were supposed to liaison with Howard, Tucker, and Lewis via Adkinson. This explanation seems dubious, conflicting with other reports that the FBI stood at the beginning of the operation, with Lewis operating as their agent. Also confusing is Howard’s insistence that LaRouche initiated contact with him to discuss raising money for a Sakharov rescue.
North’s Man in the FBI
What, then, of the “our man” with the goods on LaRouche referenced in the memo from Secord to North? Initial press reports on the affair suggested that this was assistant FBI director Oliver “Buck” Revell. This, however, does not seem to be the case—though if the Howard-Tucker-Lewis operation was FBI sanctioned, it would have begun with Revell. The reasons for this are multi-fold: Revell was incredibly close to and worked with Revell; there were allegations that LaRouche had hatched an assassination plot against Henry Kissinger, and this would have fallen under the purview of a NSC subgroup that Revell and North were involved with; and Revell had run an investigation into LaRouche in the early 1980s at the urging of Kissinger himself.
It is through Revell that we cut to the core of North’s apparatus dedicated to counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence. In 1984, North oversaw the creation of a special entity within the National Security Council called the Terrorist Incident Working Group (TIWG). The TIWG, in turn, spawned what Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall describe as “a secret intragency committee” called the Operations Sub-Group (OSG). It would later be revealed that discussions concerning Contra support and arm sales to Iran occurred within the TIWG, and the same is obviously true for the OSG. The membership of the OSG consisted of a coterie of North allies pulled from various agencies—Charles Allen (CIA), Robert Oakley (State Department), Noel Koch (Department of Defense), General John Moellering (Joint Chiefs of Staff), and Revell himself. Peter Dale Scott points out that of these individuals, Oakley was the odd-man out: he was close to George P. Schultz, who was backing the Bechtel pipeline in Iraq and thus was opposed to arm sales in Iran. Oakley resigned, but would be brought back after Frank Carlucci carried out an NSC “house-cleaning” in the aftermath of Iran-Contra.
While the goal of the OSG was to analyze emergent terrorist threats and prepare both preemptive and retaliatory strikes against them, North utilized the body to carry out disruptive counter-intelligence operation against information leaks in the Enterprise’s operations. The clearest example of this is the case of Jack Terrell, slated to have been the star witness in Daniel Sheehan’s lawsuit on behalf of Avirgan and Honey.
Terrell had been, by various accounts (including his own), an intelligence officer, working either for the CIA or the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Very early on, he had been implanted within Civilian Materiel Assistance, and had even joined up with a secretive unit buried within the CMA. Code-named ‘Pegasus’, this was a commando unit that appears to have been tied not only to the 20th Special Forces Group, but to a special forces veteran operating out of Alabama named Frank J. Camper. Yet soon Terrell would begin to link information about the CMA—and Pegasus—to the press. He also began to provide information on Contra-connected drug smuggling—claims that would later be verified—to John Kerry’s staff, and to representatives of Sheehan’s Christic Institute. The allegations he made concerning drug smuggling, located at the Costa Rican property of CIA-linked rancher John Hull, dovetailed precisely what Avirgan and Honey had dug up in their own investigation into the Pastora bombing.
Terrell also corroborated allegations of an assassination plot against Costa Rican ambassador Lewis Tambs, to be carried out by members of the CMA under contract from the Medellin cartel. The source of these allegations had been Jesus Garcia, a Dada County corrections officer recruited by CMA co-founder Tom Posey. The weight of the accusations being made by the combination of Avirgan, Honey, Garcia and Terrell prompted Miami Assistant D.A. Jeffrey Feldman to launch an investigations into the assassination plots and potential drug running—focusing on a network of Cuban exile narcotics traffickers, many of whom were veterans of the CIA’s old anti-Castro operations.
This was a dangerous set of circumstances for the Enterprise, and North and his colleagues were clearly beginning to move to get out in front of the brewing storm. The murmurs of assassination plots against US government officials fell under the auspices of the TIWG-OSG, and according to Revell in his subsequent deposition, the FBI’s memos on the impending investigations were made available to members of the NSC task force. But the access to information might have gone even further. The CMA’s Tom Posey, in his own deposition, recounted that Robert Owen (North’s primary liaison to the Contras and other components in the myriad of operations) informed him that they had access to FBI and Justice Department computer networks.
In early June 1986, shortly after the Sheehan lawsuit launched (and the LaRouche infiltration went into motion), North recorded Terrell’s name in his notebook and jotted down that the FBI was “looking at what can be done to expand surveillance on Avirgan and Honey”.
Towards the end of the month, Terrell appeared on a television show called West 57th and make comments concerning the connection between US-led Contra support operations and drug trafficking. Scott and Marshall, in their book Cocaine Politics, illustrate what came next:
…Richard Secord, who (unlike North) was a defendant in the Christic Institute lawsuit, was paying [former CIA officer] Glenn Robinette to interview Terrell, using funds from the Secord-Hakim Enterprise. On July 15th Robinette submitted a report on Terrell’s unpaid relationship to the Christic Institute. In it, he noted that Hull’s airstrips, according to Terrell, “were used for landing and transfer of military equipment but also drugs”.
Two days later, on July 17th, North drafted a memo to National Security Advisor John Poindexter concerning Terrell. It recounted a meeting, that same day, with Revell concerning Terrell’s status as a terrorist suspect. The whistleblower about the plot to assassinate Ambassador Tambs was now purported to have offered his services to the Sandinistas in a plot to assassinate President Reagan. Furthermore, the memo states, “The FBI now believes that Terrell may well be a paid asset of the Nicaraguan Intelligence Service (DGSE) or another hostile security service”. Revell requested a meeting with “the Project Democracy [code-name for the Enterprise] security who had been meeting with Terrell”; the officer was not named, but this was clearly a reference to Robinette. Finally, North memo concludes by stating that the “FBI has notified the Secret Service and is preparing a counterintelligence/counter-terrorism operation plan for review by OSG-TIWG tomorrow”.
FBI surveillance of Terrell was set up within the days following this flurry of memos, and was quickly expanded to encompass Terrell’s own contacts—namely, the International Center for Development Policy (ICDP), a left-leaning think tank in Washington DC, which had hired Terrell as an investigator. The FBI began to interview staff members concerning their “foreign contacts”. Interestingly, in November 1986—months after the FBI counter-intelligence operations was launched—the ICDP offices were burglarized. The burglars were never apprehended, though the only items taken were telling: documents, supplied by Terrell, from Southern Air Transport, “relating to covert flight of arms and ammunition to the Contras”. The break-ins were, according to the Sun Sentinel, “40th hit in the past three years against groups, many of them sponsored by churches, that oppose Reagan administration policies in Central America… This has been the pattern of the previous 39 break-ins, involving 25 organizations from New York to Los Angeles, and it calls to mind the Watergate ‘plumbers’ and the FBI ‘black bag jobs’ against antiwar and civil- rights activists in years gone by”.
The FBI’s Dan Major would later make the accusation that “North was trying to interfere with a Bureau investigation into allegations that the Contras were involved in running drugs”. Yet the FBI neglected to consider the string of break-ins as indicative of an “orchestrated campaign”—and they opted out of the investigation into the ICDP burglary in particular, stating that it was outside of their jurisdiction.
Even more ominious things were afoot in 1986. Take the case of Steven Carr, an American mercenary connected to the CMA with knowledge of the various assassination plots and the weapons-and-drugs smuggling taking place at Hull’s ranch in Costa Rica. Carr had been interviewed by the FBI and assistant DA Fieldman back in March along with another, and then again by investigators worked on behalf of John Kerry—but it becomes readily apparent that Hull, in concert with North, had moved to squash this leg of the investigation. As the Kerry Report notes,
In August North’s courier, Robert Owen, was asked by John Hull to transmit copies of falsified affidavits charging the Kerry staff with bribing witnesses to both the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami and to the Senate Ethics Committee. The U.S. Attorney then provided a copy of these affidavits to the Justice Department in Washington. Shortly thereafter, these false charges against Kerry staff appeared in press accounts, while the Committee investigation was still pending. Taken together, these facts raise the question of whether North, Owen, and Justice Department officials may have sought to discredit the Kerry investigation.
By the end of 1986, Carr—also a witness for Sheehan’s Christic Institute lawsuit—was dead of an alleged cocaine overdose. Peter Glibbery, another CMA-linked individual acting as a witness for Sheehan, the Miami DA’s office and Kerry’s investifation, then issued a retraction of his own statements concerning drugs and arms trafficking. The following year, Glibbery stated that he had been pressured to do so by Hull, who threatened him: “The CIA killed Steven Carr, and they can do the same to you”. In his testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics and Terrorism, Frank Camper offered similar information, stating that Carr had informed him that Hull had “taken a contract out on his life”.
The Enterprise Information Web
Was the infiltration of the LaRouche organization, taking place at the same time as all of these moves, part of the North-Revell domestic counterintelligence operation? It seems incredibly likely, given the timing, the Secord-North memo concerning Tucker, Howard and Lewis and the links that existed between Tucker and Howard and the Contra support networks. Additional evidence can be found in the fact that, just as Terrell, Avirgan, Honey, and the Christic Institute were lifting the veil on the Enterprise, the LaRouche organization likewise was beginning to publish information concerning US support for the Contras—and about the connection between the Contras and drug traffic. An article found in an April 1986 issue of Executive Intelligence Review describes a “fact-finding mission” to Guatemala led by LaRouche associate Webster Tarpley. “President Reagan”, Tarpley stated, “had made $100 million for the Contras in Nicaragua the be-all end-all in Central America”. He then added that the fighters were but a “gang of drug smugglers and terrorists”.
A month later, in May, EIR ran articles (see here and here) concerning the sale of weapons to Iran by Israel. While EIR didn’t link these weapon sales to American interests, the information contained within them would later to be revealed as the ‘Iran-side’ of the Enterprise’s operations. Israel would later be revealed to have helped facilitate the flow of weapons to Iran, and EIR accurately named one of the Iranian arms traffickers, Cyrus Hashemi, that played a role in these operations. They also accurately identified the types of missiles (TOWs) being sold to Iran.
This brings us to the identity of the “our man” referred to by Secord. While initial suspicions and sources fingered Revell as the anonymous figure, it was subsequently revealed to be an individual named John Cupp. Cupp had served in the Delta Force alongside Fred Lewis, and until 1985 had served in the “Low Intensity Conflict branch of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Agency”. This was a secretive unit within the Department of Defense, operating under the directive of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at Fort Bragg, that was set up “to coordinate United States counterterrorist activities”. To quote the New York Times,
The special operations units and the command structure above them [the Joint Special Operations Agency] have provided limited resources, both equipment and personnel, to the C.I.A. for its covert operations in Central America, according to an American official familiar with the operations. Under the terms of a secret 1983 memo to President Reagan from Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, the Pentagon pledged to provide a wide range of logistical support and manpower to assist C.I.A. covert operations in Central America, including support of Nicaraguan rebels. The Senate and House intelligence committees are investigating whether this Pentagon support allowed the C.I.A. to circumvent restrictions, including a $24 million ceiling, on support for the rebels this year.
Cupp himself was an active player in the Enterprise. A brief reference to him can be found in an appendix to the Walsh Report on Iran-Contra, identified as an associate of Richard Gadd, described as a “manager of the North/Secord supply network”. Previously, Gadd had acted as the liaison between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and JSOC—likely the origin of his friendship with Cupp. Gadd, however, retired in 1982 and went into the private sector, setting up a slew of companies to gobble up defense contracts: Eagle Aviation Services and Technology (EAST), Airmach, and Air National Management Corp (ANMC). The companies were all close to the intelligence and special operations circuits: ANMC “provided consulting services for Southern Air Transport”, while ANMC provided cover transportation for Delta Force.
EAST, meanwhile “received $657,804 for providing… air services” for Southern Air Transport during its Contra-support flights. By this point, Gadd had been recruited by Secord, and the pair set up an additional company, Amalgamated Commercial Enterprises (ACE), through which personnel and other expenses could be paid in connection with the supply fights. Intriguing, another player in ACE appears to have been one Steven Sandor Samos, a Panamanian and apparent offshore finance specialist with numerous ties to Miami-based drug trafficking networks (Samos and his connection to drug traffickers is discussed in James Ring Adams’ excellent The Big Fix: Inside the S&L Scandal).
Cupp was described as an “assistant” to Gadd, and was listed as the “security chief” at ANMC. It’s a deceptive designation; various depositions illustrate that Cupp was very hands-on in developing and managing the Contra-support networks. He organized, for example, a logistical apparatus that spanned Pennsylvania, Miami, and Latin America, and was a constant conduit of information concerning on-the-grounds activities to Gadd. Gadd, in turn, would pass this information to Secord. This is likely the channel through which the information concerning LaRouche from Lewis, working on behalf of Howard and Tucker (and Howard and Tucker presumably on behalf of the FBI, itself wired into North’s networks via Revell and the TIWG-OSG), passed upwards.
One newspaper article in the Detroit Free Press detailed that the LaRouche infilitration was not the only private intelligence scheme that brought Cupp and the trio of Lewis, Howard, and Tucker together. Midland county sheriff Gary Painter—who would feature prominently in the sting operation against Victor Fonseca discussed earlier—and Howard had gleamed information from an informant that private airstrip near Rancho del Pio in Mexico, roughly twenty miles south of the border, was involved in a “thriving trade in arms and drugs” bringing together Nicaraguans and Colombians. The proposition was that the airstrip’s operations would be infiltrated; details concerning this potential operation were passed up the chain on Cupp’s side and details appeared in the same memo from Secord to North about their LaRouche information.
The article states that, according to interviews with various participants, “Cupp seemed interested… particularly if Nicaraguan government, contra, or Libyan operatives were involved in the arms and drugs traffic”. This is an interesting statement, given that Cupp was at the time involved in a company alongside an associate of drug traffickers (Samos) that was a logistical node in a wider set of operations that were enabling Colombian cocaine to flow into the US by way of the Nicaraguan Contras. Even more curious is that the Enterprise appeared to have used a network of private airstrips that dotted West Texas, particularly in the vast, rugged region that separated the alleged Mexican airstrip and Midland, Texas, where Howard and Tucker set up shop.
Peter Brewton, in his book The Mafia, CIA, and George Bush, details how one of these airstrips, located in the border town of Lajitas, was utilized as a transit point in the flow of guns and drugs. His source for this information was Gene Wheaton, an associate of multiple participants in the Enterprise who had become an informant for Daniel Sheehan at the Christic Institute. Wheaton also informed Brewton that this airstrip was linked to another airstrip, located at the Iron Mountain Ranch just north of the small town of Marathon, Texas. Iron Mountain Ranch was owned by an oilman from Midland named William Blakemore II, a personal friend of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. To bring this full circle, Blakemore’s name appears deep in the mountain of court depositions generated by the investigation into Iran-Contra. He was the president of the Gulf and Caribbean Foundation, a Cayman Island-based entity that was used by the Enterprise in its money funneling network.
Was there a connection between the airstrip in Mexico and the two airstrips in West Texas? It is hard to say for sure, but there are some compelling elements to consider. The first is the general proximity of these locations. The second is the ownership of one of the airstrips by William Blackmore, who was not only linked to an Enterprise money conduit, but was from Midland, Texas—the same town in which Sheriff Gary Painter, Howard, Tucker, and Fred Lewis were all operating from. The third is Cupp’s interest in potential Contra drug traffic at the airstrip in Mexico, given his own complicity in Contra drug traffic at precisely the same time. Perhaps this, too, was indicative of the overlap between formal and informal networks dedicated to the management and containment of information, which was indeed becoming increasingly vital to the Enterprise at this late stage of ‘Iran-Contra’.