As I finished assembling this blog entry, just before titling and adding the music, I thought that it was about our ability to gaze out into the world, and wandered for a while on search engines thinking about hunter-gathers’ vision, forecasting a post-global existence, and reflecting on the fact that I approach the end of a lifetime writing to a world that has, for the most part, and hopefully, only just begun theirs.
Somewhere in this long pile of offerings is the idea that a purpose of journalism is so that we might make better decisions about our own small existence in a world that is driven for the most part by others with other values and interests than our own.
As you read this, you can ask yourself who is aiding and abetting whom and, as Heinlein warns us ina book he wrote in 1955 about the final exam for a high school course to teach what one should do to survive in an unfamiliar environment with unknown dangers and in the midst of political leadership not unlike the type you find where you live, watch out for the stobor.
If you are at all familiar with this remarkable woman, you are familiar with the roller-coaster ride she was taken on from there. If you are not, you can start here or go here or read her own online book Dunwalke.
I suspect that, even though she probably does not consider herself a journalist (though her kinship with data and her curiosity have been critical in telling investigative research stories), George Webb once encountered this graphic too and understands the tremendous importance that the graphic has in the history of government-watching.
The fascinating thing is how the same name pops up as both skeins of data-driven yarn get unraveled.
Equally of interest is that both queries have to do with tracking the transportation, or trafficking, of things.
“According to information architect and multimedia journalist Mirko Lorenz, data-driven journalism is primarily a workflow that consists of the following elements: digging deep into data by scraping, cleansing and structuring it, filtering by mining for specific information, visualizing and making a story. This process can be extended to provide information results that cater to individual interests and the broader public.
Data journalism trainer and writer Paul Bradshaw describes the process of data-driven journalism in a similar manner: data must be found, which may require specialized skills like MySQL or Python, then interrogated, for which understanding of jargon and statistics is necessary, and finally visualized and mashed with the aid of open source tools.
A more results driven definition comes from data reporter and web strategist Henk van Ess (2012). “Data-driven journalism enables reporters to tell untold stories, find new angles or complete stories via a workflow of finding, processing and presenting significant amounts of data (in any given form) with or without open source tools.” Van Ess claims that some of the data-driven workflow leads to products that “are not in orbit with the laws of good story telling” because the result emphazes on showing the problem, not explaining the problem. “A good data driven production has different layers. It allows you to find personalized details that are only important for you, by drilling down to relevant details but also enables you to zoom out to get the big picture”.
In 2013, Van Ess came with a shorter definition in  that doesn’t involve visualisation per se:
“Datajournalism is journalism based on data that has to be processed first with tools before a relevant story is possible.”
Based on the perspective of looking deeper into facts and drivers of events, there is a suggested change in media strategies: In this view the idea is to move “from attention to trust”. The creation of attention, which has been a pillar of media business models has lost its relevance because reports of new events are often faster distributed via new platforms such as Twitter than through traditional media channels. On the other hand, trust can be understood as a scarce resource.
David McCandless turns complex data sets, like worldwide military spending, media buzz, and Facebook status updates, into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut — and it may just change the way we see the world.
Data-centric journalism, once the domain of a few computer geeks hunched over in remote corners of the American newsroom, is coming to the forefront. With easier-to-use technology available, more data-savvy journalists are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in their niche. Heartened by social media buzz over such stories and prodded by competition hungry for unique content, news organizations are pouring money into recruiting talent and expanding their menu of stories derived from a mix of sophisticated number crunching, explanatory narratives and interactive graphics that weren’t possible in the old days of print.
“There’s more information now available through more people faster than ever before,” says Almar Latour, executive editor of The Wall Street Journal. “There is a lot more flexibility in displaying and telling stories.”
Data crunchers have been part of newsrooms since the 1980s, as “computer-assisted reporting” gained traction among editors looking to gain an edge. But the lack of computing power, dearth of talent who could handle data and heavy costs kept the endeavor in check….”
“… Finally, make sure to share what you’re learning with others. Very often the questions people will ask you show challenges and motivate you to search for the right answers that you hadn’t thought of, increasing your knowledge and encourage you to try different approaches.
What I want to say is: If you want to do data-driven journalism, go ahead and start. Good ways to start learning include online courses, books and tutorials.
If you live in Latin America, you can take advantage of projects like Chicas Poderosas (“Powerful Girls”), which promotes the development of data-driven journalism skills through workshops that connect journalists, developers, designers, animators and storytellers and get them to work together on storytelling projects.
I also recommend global initiatives like Hacks & Hackers, which hosts meetups in many countries in and outside Latin America.
You must also commit to never stop learning. Even after you have developed advanced skills and a deep understanding of the techniques, tools and methodologies of analysis and visualization, there will always be a bigger challenge ahead – bigger datasets, new software to test, new techniques to try and different approaches to generate participation from people for whom your story is important…..”
“… data journalism is the peanut butter to the jelly of open government data releases: Journalists are a crucial component of confirming that the data public officials describe has actually been released in a form and quality that can be consumed….. In the video below, I moderate a Google+ Hangout with several notable practitioners of DDJ. We covered a lot of ground in 53 minutes, discussing what data journalism is, how journalists are applying it, the importance of storytelling, considering ethics, the role of open source software, “showing your work,” and much more.
…. The stories data journalists can tell with these new tools and techniques reach the most aspirational heights available to the profession, revealing the hidden channels of money, power, and influence in society to the public and government, serving as a bulwark to democracy. That does not, however, make it a panacea. Just as data-driven policy can be corrupted by bad data, hidden biases, or mistaken analyses, journalists may also successfully clean and present data but fail to clearly tell a story to readers or wrap it in the necessary context. Skepticism and intellectual rigor becomes more important, not less, if journalists seek to apply a scientific mindset to their work.
Alex Howard writes about how shifts in technology are changing government and society. A former fellow at Harvard and Columbia, he is the founder of “E Pluribus Unum,” a blog focused on open government and technology.
A breathless 25-minute tour of the universe of free software that’s available to help import, summarize, manage, graph and map your data. From statistical analysis in R and Python to geospatial analysis in QGIS, PostGIS, and Spatialite, we’ve got the tools for you.
This session is good for: Journalists held back by a shoestring software budget.
What you need to know: no previous knowledge required.
Brian Conley is director of Small World News and has been involved in media literacy and media democracy work for more than ten years and has trained journalists and citizen media makers in a dozen countries. Brian designed the program and training for IndiaUnheard a national “community news service” comprised of Indian community activists from all over the country, and he led Small World News’ work assisting Pajhwok Afghan News to develop a video service, which expanded the capacity of their provincial journalists to produce quality multimedia journalism. He has designed an array of projects leveraging emerging technologies to develop community media in conflict areas and repressive states.
Carol Marin, a Veteran Investigative Journalist, taps into her audience’s deeply rooted interest in bad guys and catastrophic events. She is completely captivating as she recounts thrilling tales of organized crime and political corruption in “The Windy City” as well as the fear and chaos of the day she spent rushing toward the falling Twin Towers in New York City.
“Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.”
“Never tell me the odds!” ―C-3PO and Han Solo
Yogi Berra famously threw the fat lady off her stage in 1973 when he said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” With the rise of and reliance upon data-driven modeling of elections and sports we might just as well rephrase it as, “It’s over before it begins.” But we’d be wrong to do so.
Like most oddsmakers going into Super Bowl LI, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com, owned by ESPN, predicted the New England Patriots to win. Going into the half-time as the Falcons were up 28-3, the site gave the Patriots a less than 1 percent chance of winning. FiveThirtyEight tweeted: “That Patriots drive took another 5:07 off the clock and actually dropped their win probability from 1.1% to 0.5%.”
Of course we all know what happened next. In yet another brilliant statistical upset in a year of upsets, the Patriots defied all probability after the half. They scored 25 unanswered points, taking the Super Bowl into an historically uncharted overtime which they then proceeded to win—giving America, and the world at large, a clinic in determination, momentum, and the ability of human beings to surmount even the greatest of statistical odds.
It was a lesson in the value of risk taking and accomplishment; values that were once core elements in the American mythos but that increasingly have fallen out of favor in exchange for the perceived infallibility of data-driven models and analyses.
Since the mainstreaming of data punditry, exemplified by Nate Silver’s meteoric rise and FiveThirtyEight’s hallowed place in the culture, we’ve seen a cultural shift with regard to the use of statistics and data. Big Data, polling, and more specifically, Silver’s predictions, have become the equivalent of a mic-drop in any conversation about sports or politics.
Throughout the election cycle, on TV shows and social media feeds across the country, his pronouncements were treated as sacrosanct papal bulls. His data-driven analysis, whether accurate or not, provided gravitas for those seeking a more commanding way to eviscerate opponents in debate. “Silver gives Hilary a x percent chance to win the election” became the trump card in any conversation.
We’d moved to a point where we seemingly were willing to assign data modeling more value than the possible variances, irrationality and risk-taking inherent in human decision-making. This happened during the Super Bowl just as it happened during the election. In both cases, statistical models were held up as unassailable predictors.
Computer programming may not be the new literacy, but it is finding its way into many areas of modern society. In this submission, we look at data journalism, which is a discipline combining programming, data analysis and traditional journalism. In short, data journalism turns articles from a mix of text and images into something that is much closer to a computer program.
Most data journalists today use a wide range of tools that involve a number of manual steps. This makes the analysis error prone and hard to reproduce. In this video, we explore the idea of treating a data driven article as an executable program. We look how ideas from programming language research can be used to provide better tools for writing (or programming) such articles, but also to enable novel interactive experience for the reader.
The project also makes data journalism more accountable and reproducible. We let the reader verify how exactly are the visualizations generated, what are the data sources and how are they combined together.
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
Tomas is a computer scientist, book author and open-source developer. He wrote a popular book called “Real-World Functional Programming” and is a lead developer of several F# open-source libraries, but he also contributed to the design of the F# language as an intern and consultant at Microsoft Research. He is a partner at fsharpWorks (http://fsharpworks.com) where he provides trainings and consulting services. Tomas recently submitted his PhD thesis at the University of Cambridge focused on types for understanding context usage in programming languages, but his most recent work also includes two essays that attempt to understand programming through the perspective of philosophy of science.
“Before joining CIR in January of 2008 Rosenthal had done pretty much everything that could be done done in a newspaper: copy-boy, reporter, foreign correspondent, investigative reporting and executive editor. He did not have a ring side seat to the collapse of the newspaper business model, he was in the ring, taking some serious shots. At CIR he is in the forefront of creating a new model for high quality, unique journalism, within the crucial niche of investigative reporting. He believes that the new newsroom must be innovative, risk taking, and nimble. The journalists, the story tellers — and story telling is central — must exist in a symbiosis with the technology wizards. Together they can find the answer to sustainability, audience growth and impact at a time when the credibility of news is under assault. Trustworthy organizations will not only have financial value, they are crucial to democracy.”
Recorded April 2, 2011 at The Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, San Francisco, California.
TEDxPresidio – Robert Rosenthal – Investigative journalism in the 21st Century
The concept of citizen journalism (also known as “public“, “participatory“, “democratic“, “guerrilla“ or “street” journalism) is based upon public citizens “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information.” Similarly, Courtney C. Radsch defines citizen journalism “as an alternative and activist form of newsgathering and reporting that functions outside mainstream media institutions, often as a response to shortcomings in the professional journalistic field, that uses similar journalistic practices but is driven by different objectives and ideals and relies on alternative sources of legitimacy than traditional or mainstream journalism”.Jay Rosen proposes a simpler definition: “When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another.”
Citizen journalism is not to be confused with community journalism or civic journalism, both of which are practiced by professional journalists. Collaborative journalism is also a separate concept and is the practice of professional and non-professional journalists working together. Similarly, Social Journalism is a separate concept denoting a digital publication with a hybrid of professional and non-professional journalism. Citizen journalism is a specific form of both citizen media and user-generated content. By juxtaposing the term “citizen”, with its attendant qualities of civic-mindedness and social responsibility, with that of “journalism”, which refers to a particular profession, Courtney C. Radsch argues that this term best describes this particular form of online and digital journalism conducted by amateurs, because it underscores the link between the practice of journalism and its relation to the political and public sphere.
Citizen journalism, as a form of alternative media, presents a “radical challenge to the professionalized and institutionalized practices of the mainstream media”.
According to Terry Flew, there have been three elements critical to the rise of citizen journalism: open publishing, collaborative editing, and distributed content. Mark Glaser, a freelance journalist who frequently writes on new media issues, said in 2006:
The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others. For example, you might write about a city council meeting on your blog or in an online forum. Or you could fact-check a newspaper article from the mainstream media and point out factual errors or bias on your blog. Or you might snap a digital photo of a newsworthy event happening in your town and post it online. Or you might videotape a similar event and post it on a site such as YouTube.
The accessibility of online media has also enhanced the interest for journalism among youth and many websites, like ‘Far and Wide’ a publication focusing on travel and international culture, as well as WorldWeekly a news blog covering a range of topics from world politics to science, are founded and run by students.
In What is Participatory Journalism?, J. D. Lasica classifies media for citizen journalism into the following types:
1Audience participation (such as user comments attached to news stories, personal blogs, photographs or video footage captured from personal mobile cameras, or local news written by residents of a community)
5Other kinds of “thin media” (mailing lists, email newsletters)
6Personal broadcasting sites (video broadcast sites such as KenRadio)
The literature of citizen, alternative, and participatory journalism is most often situated in a democratic context and theorized as a response to corporate news media dominated by an economic logic. Some scholars have sought to extend the study of citizen journalism beyond the Western, developed world, including Sylvia Moretzsohn,Courtney C. Radsch, and Clemencia Rodríguez. Radsch, for example, wrote that “Throughout the Arab world, citizen journalists have emerged as the vanguard of new social movements dedicated to promoting human rights and democratic values.”
One criticism of the term “citizen journalism” to describe this concept is that the word “citizen” has a conterminous relation to the nation-state. The fact that many millions of people are considered stateless and often, are without citizenship (such as refugees or immigrants without papers) limits the concept to those recognised only by governments. Additionally, the global nature of many participatory media initiatives, such as the Independent Media Center, makes talking of journalism in relation to a particular nation-state largely redundant as its production and dissemination do not recognise national boundaries. Some additional names given to the concept based on this analysis are, “grassroots media,” “people’s media,” or “participatory media.”
Criticisms have been made against citizen journalism, especially from among professionals in the field. Citizen journalists are often portrayed as unreliable, biased and untrained – as opposed to professionals who have “recognition, paid work, unionized labour and behaviour that is often politically neutral and unaffiliated, at least in the claim if not in the actuality”. Citizen journalists gather material by being on the streets. Their tools can be narrowed down to a camera, social media and an instinct to start recording whenever something seems newsworthy or out of order. Much of their knowledge regarding the issues that are raised are obtained through their experience as a part of the community.
However, some major news reporting agencies, threatened by the speed with which news is reported and delivered by citizen journalism, have launched campaigns to bring in readers and financial support. For example, Bill Johnson, president of Embarcadero Media, which publishes several northern California newspapers, issued an online statement asking readers to subscribe to local newspapers in order to keep them financially solvent. Johnson put special emphasis on the critical role played by local newspapers, which, he argues, “reflect the values of the residents and businesses, challenge assumptions, and shine a light on our imperfections and aspirations.”
The idea that every citizen can engage in acts of journalism has a long history in the United States. The contemporary citizen journalist movement emerged after journalists began to question the predictability of their coverage of events such as the 1988 U.S. presidential election. Those journalists became part of the public, or civic, journalism movement, which sought to counter the erosion of trust in the news media and the widespread disillusionment with politics and civic affairs.
Initially, discussions of public journalism focused on promoting journalism that was “for the people” by changing the way professional reporters did their work. According to Leonard Witt, however, early public journalism efforts were “often part of ‘special projects’ that were expensive, time-consuming, and episodic. Too often these projects dealt with an issue and moved on. Professional journalists were driving the discussion. They would have the goal of doing a story on welfare-to-work (or the environment, or traffic problems, or the economy), and then they would recruit a cross-section of citizens and chronicle their points of view. Since not all reporters and editors bought into this form of public journalism, and some outright opposed it, reaching out to the people from the newsroom was never an easy task.” By 2003, in fact, the movement seemed to be petering out, with the Pew Center for Civic Journalism closing its doors.
With today’s technology the citizen journalist movement has found new life as the average person can capture news and distribute it globally. As Yochai Benkler has noted, “the capacity to make meaning – to encode and decode humanly meaningful statements – and the capacity to communicate one’s meaning around the world, are held by, or readily available to, at least many hundreds of millions of users around the globe.” Professor Mary-Rose Papandrea, a constitutional law professor at Boston College, notes in her article, Citizen Journalism and the Reporter’s Privilege, that:
[i]n many ways, the definition of “journalist” has now come full circle. When the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was adopted, “freedom of the press” referred quite literally to the freedom to publish using a printing press, rather than the freedom of organized entities engaged in the publishing business. The printers of 1775 did not exclusively publish newspapers; instead, in order to survive financially they dedicated most of their efforts printing materials for paying clients. The newspapers and pamphlets of the American Revolutionary era were predominantly partisan and became even more so through the turn of the century. They engaged in little news gathering and instead were predominantly vehicles for opinion.
The passage of the term “journalism” into common usage in the 1830s occurred at roughly the same time that newspapers, using high speed rotary steam presses, began mass circulation throughout the eastern United States. Using the printing press, newspapers could distribute exact copies to large numbers of readers at a low incremental cost. In addition, the rapidly increasing demand for advertising for brand-name products fueled the creation of publications subsidized, in large part, by advertising revenue. It was not until the late nineteenth century that the concept of the “press” metamorphized into a description of individuals and companies engaged in an often-competitive commercial media enterprise.
According to Jay Rosen, citizen journalists are “the people formerly known as the audience,” who “were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all. … The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable.”
Abraham Zapruder, who filmed the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy with a home-movie camera, is sometimes presented as an ancestor to citizen journalists. Egyptian citizen Wael Abbas was awarded several international reporting prizes for his blog Misr Digital (Digital Egypt) and a video he publicized of two policemen beating a bus driver helped lead to their conviction.
Public Journalism is now being explored via new media, such as the use of mobile telephones. Mobile telephones have the potential to transform reporting and places the power of reporting in the hands of the public. Mobile telephony provides low-cost options for people to set up news operations.
During 9/11 many eyewitness accounts of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center came from citizen journalists. Images and stories from citizen journalists close to the World Trade Center offered content that played a major role in the story.
In 2004, when the 9.1-magnitude underwater earthquake caused a hugetsunami in Banda Aceh Indonesia and across the Indian Ocean, a weblog-based virtual network of previously unrelated bloggers emerged that covered the news in real-time, and became a vital source for the traditional media for the first week after the tsunami. A large amount of news footage from many people who experienced the tsunami was widely broadcast,(subscription required) as well as a good deal of “on the scene” citizen reporting and blogger analysis that was subsequently picked up by the major media outlets worldwide. Subsequent to the citizen journalism coverage of the disaster and aftermath, researchers have suggested that citizen journalists may, in fact, play a critical role in the disaster warning system itself, potentially with higher reliability than the networks of tsunami warning equipment based on technology alone which then require interpretation by disinterested third parties.
The microblog Twitter played an important role during the 2009 Iranian election protests, after foreign journalists had effectively been “barred from reporting”. Twitter delayed scheduled maintenance during the protests that would have shut down coverage in Iran due to the role it played in public communication.
Citizen journalists also may be activists within the communities they write about. This has drawn some criticism from traditional media institutions such as The New York Times, which have accused proponents of public journalism of abandoning the traditional goal of objectivity. Many traditional journalists view citizen journalism with some skepticism, believing that only trained journalists can understand the exactitude and ethics involved in reporting news. See, e.g., Nicholas Lemann, Vincent Maher, and Tom Grubisich.
An academic paper by Vincent Maher, the head of the New Media Lab at Rhodes University, outlined several weaknesses in the claims made by citizen journalists, in terms of the “three deadly E’s”, referring to ethics, economics, and epistemology. The paper has been criticized in the press and blogosphere.
An analysis by language and linguistics professor, Patricia Bou-Franch, found that some citizen journalists resorted to abuse-sustaining discourses naturalizing violence against women. She found that these discourses were then challenged by others who questioned the gendered ideologies of male violence against women.
An article in 2005 by Tom Grubisich reviewed ten new citizen journalism sites and found many of them lacking in quality and content. Grubisich followed up a year later with, “Potemkin Village Redux.” He found that the best sites had improved editorially and were even nearing profitability, but only by not expensing editorial costs. Also according to the article, the sites with the weakest editorial content were able to expand aggressively because they had stronger financial resources.
Another article published on Pressthink examined Backfence, a citizen journalism site with three initial locations in the D.C. area, which reveals that the site has only attracted limited citizen contributions. The author concludes that, “in fact, clicking through Backfence’s pages feels like frontier land -– remote, often lonely, zoned for people but not home to any. The site recently launched for Arlington, Virginia. However, without more settlers, Backfence may wind up creating more ghost towns.”
David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and writer-producer of the popular television series, “The Wire,” criticized the concept of citizen journalism—claiming that unpaid bloggers who write as a hobby cannot replace trained, professional, seasoned journalists.
“I am offended to think that anyone, anywhere believes American institutions as insulated, self-preserving and self-justifying as police departments, school systems, legislatures and chief executives can be held to gathered facts by amateurs pursuing the task without compensation, training or for that matter, sufficient standing to make public officials even care to whom it is they are lying to.”
An editorial published by The Digital Journalist web magazine expressed a similar position, advocating to abolish the term “citizen journalist”, and replacing it with “citizen news gatherer”.
“Professional journalists cover fires, floods, crime, the legislature, and the White House every day. There is either a fire line or police line, or security, or the Secret Service who allow them to pass upon displaying credentials vetted by the departments or agencies concerned. A citizen journalist, an amateur, will always be on the outside of those lines.
Imagine the White House throwing open its gates to admit everybody with a camera phone to a presidential event.”
While the fact that citizen journalists can report in real time and are not subject to oversight opens them to criticism about the accuracy of their reporting, news stories presented by mainstream media also misreport facts occasionally that are reported correctly by citizen journalists. As low as 32% of the American population have a fair amount of trust in the media.
Edward Greenberg, a New York City litigator, notes higher vulnerability of unprofessional journalists in court compared to the professional ones:
“So-called shield laws, which protect reporters from revealing sources, vary from state to state. On occasion, the protection is dependent on whether the person [who] asserted the claim is in fact a journalist. There are many cases at both the state and federal levels where judges determine just who is/is not a journalist. Cases involving libel often hinge on whether the actor was or was not a member of the “press”.”
Dan Gillmor, former technology columnist with the San Jose Mercury News, is one of the foremost proponents of citizen journalism, and founded a nonprofit, the Center for Citizen Media, to help promote it. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation‘s French-language television network also has organized a weekly public affairs program called, “5 sur 5”, which has been organizing and promoting citizen-based journalism since 2001. On the program, viewers submit questions on a wide variety of topics, and they, accompanied by staff journalists, get to interview experts to obtain answers to their questions.
Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, was one of public journalism’s earliest proponents. From 1993 to 1997, he directed the Project on Public Life and the Press, funded by the Knight Foundation and housed at NYU. He also currently runs the PressThink weblog.
Professor Charles Nesson, William F. Weld Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, chairs the Advisory Board for Jamaican citizen journalism startup On the Ground News Reports.
One of the leading proponents for citizen journalism in Australia is Margo Kingston, author and former political journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald. Kingston launched one of the world’s first mainstream citizen journalism platforms, Webdiary, in 2000, well before the New York Times, Washington Post and The Guardian. Kingston resigned from Webdiary in 2005 but the site continues and has been preserved in Pandora, Australia’s National Web Archive. After a period of retirement, Kingston returned to citizen journalism in 2013 by co-publishing a new site No Fibs. It was on this site that Kingston published an exclusive story that the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, had inappropriately claimed expenses for promoting his book.
In March 2014, blogger and novelist James Wesley Rawles launched a web site that provides free press credentials for citizen journalists called the Constitution First Amendment Press Association (CFAPA). According to David Sheets of the Society for Professional Journalists, Rawles keeps no records on who gets these credentials.
Maurice Ali, a citizen journalist from Canada, founded one of the first international citizen journalist associations called the International Association of Independent Journalists Inc. (IAIJ) in 2003. The association through its President (Maurice Ali) have published studies and articles on citizen journalism, attended and spoken at UNESCO and United Nations events as advocates of citizen journalism worldwide.
A machine learning approach inspired by the human brain, Deep Learning is taking many industries by storm. Empowered by the latest generation of commodity computing, Deep Learning begins to derive significant value from Big Data. It has already radically improved the computer’s ability to recognize speech and identify objects in images, two fundamental hallmarks of human intelligence.
Industry giants such as Google, Facebook, and Baidu have acquired most of the dominant players in this space to improve their product offerings. At the same time, startup entrepreneurs are creating a new paradigm, Intelligence as a Service, by providing APIs that democratize access to Deep Learning algorithms. Join us on September 16, 2014 to learn more about this exciting new technology and be introduced to some of the new application domains, the business models, and the key players in this emerging field.
YARN is the architectural center of Hadoop that allows multiple data processing engines such as interactive SQL, real-time streaming, data science and batch processing to handle data stored in a single platform, unlocking an entirely new approach to analytics.
Political Networking (how social networking is changing politics forever)
Social networking is changing politics, that fact should be clear by now. A simple proof: Trump wouldn’t be in the White House without it.
But where is political networking taking us? That’s the BIG question. I’ve been doing lots of thinking about this (it’s going into my book). Here’s my shorthand for where our political system is headed. We have three political networks to choose from:
•did it without much organization or advertisement spending
•accomplished it despite vocal and strident opposition from the entire media establishment (from NY to Hollywood), all of academia, and most of Silicon Valley
Trump’s insurgency worked like open source insurgencies in the past (from the Iraq war to Egypt/Tunisia).
•An open source insurgency is a loose network (meshed) that is composed of many individuals and small groups working independently, but united by a single purpose (in this case: electing Trump).
•Open source insurgencies are much more innovative than their bureaucratic counterparts. They constantly coming up with and trying out new ideas. For example: the seventy to one hundred groups in the Iraqi insurgency rolled out new innovations (tactics to weapons) in days, while it took months for the US military to counter them.
•Trump accelerated and directed this insurgency by interacting with it. For example, he accelerate the innovation of the insurgency by paying attention to it (read Gustavo’s essay for more). Tweets and media mentions incentivised innovation and spread new ideas across the insurgency in minutes (not days/weeks). Trump also selected targets for the insurgency. In many, many instances, Trump directed the insurgency to silence individuals in the opposition through a torrent of online/offline abuse.
Trump’s currently trying to adapt this insurgency to govern. Where will it take us? Early results suggest that Trump’s insurgency is better suited for dismantling a large, bureaucratic government and international order than running it. It’s also the type of network that will erode the rule of law over time.
The second form of political social networking I’m seeing is found in the opposition to Trump’s presidency. Right now, it’s known as the #resistance The orthodoxy wasn’t planned, it:
•arose out of the ashes of the political parties and it is growing without any formal leadership
•is ALREADY firmly in control of nearly all public forums
•enforces opposition to Trump
The orthodoxy is an open source insurgency in reverse. It uses social networking to crack down on deviation and dissent.
•The orthodoxy is tightly interconnected network that uses social networking to exert pressure on people to accept the orthodox position (in this case: #resistance to Trump).
•Online orthodoxies grow through peer pressure and disconnecting deviants from the network. It doesn’t innovate. It rejects, cajoles, and pillories.
•This online orthodoxy is growing at an accelerated pace because Trump feeds the outrage that fuels it.
How will an orthodox network govern? It will eventually formalize compliance with the orthodoxy. Compliance, evidenced by a long social networking history, will qualify people for positions of authority and power. Any deviation will result in bans, loss of income, etc. until the target repents. This orthodoxy will work in parallel to the rule of law and likely exceed its coercive power over time.
This form of social networking doesn’t have an example in the US yet.
•The Movement 5 Star in Italy is a political party run as a social network. It is running number one in the polls, has mayor in Rome and Turin, and recently deposed the Prime Minister.
•The political representatives the M5S sends to Rome must vote the way the party tells them to vote. They aren’t independent.
•The M5S is a participatory political party. The people in the party debate the issues and vote on how their representatives should vote in Rome.
The participatory party is still young, but it combines the fluidity of the “insurgency” with the solidarity of “orthodoxy.”
•A participatory party could be run as a cell phone app. This would allow it to scale… to 70 plus million members is possible.
•Unlike current political parties, this party wouldn’t just vote every 2 years to elect candidates. It would operate continuously. Voting on all major issues.
•A participatory party could arise independently, growing virally, or it could coopt an existing political party from the inside out.
How would a participatory network govern? Unlike the other systems, it has the best chance of working within the confines of the current US Constitution. It also has the strength to tame political distortions caused by globalization without resorting to the extremes of either the orthodoxy or the insurgency.
My bet is on a participatory political system made possible by social networking. It’s the best chance for a better future. A system where we put social networking to work for us instead of against us.
Of course, the reality is probably something different: we’re prepping for a civil war.
It was an explanation by several advanced students of deep theologies of the depths and depravities of attempts to improve the human condition by radically modifying and tinkering with the human condition.
Such experiments and theories, the authors explain, are apparently as old as the ages and show up dominantly in the hidden depths. They are also present, though large hidden on purpose from our view, in today’s society and culture. Like most of Joseph Farrell’s books, this is not light reading. Some call this kind of stuff alternative history, but that’s a kind brushing aside of the importance of the deep research that has been done and which he brings to the surface. On the timeline of history, Farrell and his co-author go way way back in order to help you see the trends into the future. I highly commend the bookto your bookshelf so that you may peer into the past, but I am going to zero in on a phrase or term he used on page 136 and discussed for another six or seven pages as the vehicle to assist you in seeing more clearly what’s happening right now and what it’s implications are for the future. [See also http://www.lulu.com/shop/joseph-p-farrell-and-scott-d-de-hart/dialogues-1-transhumanism-in-dialogue/paperback/product-21238670.html ]
Farrell was brought to my attention because I regularly read the blog over at the Solari Project, Catherine Austin Fitts’ private enterprise that teaches people to see and track where the money goes. I got very interested in what Fitts had to say after I’d read her on the topic of 9/11 (she was saying “follow the money” before all the dust had settled in Manhattan), on the topic of narcodollars, and most notably her treatise on the politics of the recent past known as Dunwalke. As part of her development work, she once hired me to help her think through the possibilities of developing a board game, maybe a latter-day version of Monopoly in which people could see how bankers and others extracted financial value from a community and to teach them how to spend, act and shape their own home towns in an assertive and protective manner. I failed that assignment though she paid me the $500 fee anyway, and I turned that money into a life-changing trip down the backside of the Appalachian ridge where I discovered much. She however went on more deeply into Solari Circles, the “Coming Clean” campaign and has since worked with others (including Farrell) to to track covert budgets, an effort that gets updated under the term “Space-based Economy”.
The concept of a breakaway civilization is discussed on page 147 in Farrell’s “Transhumanism”, but we really need to step back at least one or two steps for the idea of a “breakaway civilization” comes into focus.
It’s the section of the book that runs from page 135 to 147 that will form the fuel of this blog entry.
The key phrase in particular?: The “GRIN technologies”. I was skimming when I encountered that and immediately went back to find the first reference: what are the GRIN technologies? The acronym stands for Genetic, Robotic, Information, and Nanotechnology.
Genetic technologies, the manipulation by humans of an organism’s genome, have exploded onto the scene in the fields of medicine, food, warfare, the development of laboratory chimera.
Robotics are transforming industry and warfare, aeronautics and space travel, health services including surgery, terrestrial and extra-terrestrial exploration and mining, and in the home environment.
… While the international transhumanist movement has existed for decades, it’s been growing like wildfire in the last 18 months. Media coverage of transhumanism has tripled in the last year according to the Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Transhumanism is featured in a number of recent blockbuster Hollywood movies, including Transcendence, Lucy, and Oscar-winning Her. And a younger generation—many in high school and college—appear to be embracing it….
If your brain can’t get its synapses around the convergence of these four concepts/technologies, then you surely can understand the concept of a “breakaway civilization” and the fact that some current corporations and governments will work very hard to inform, educate, train and harness financial and other energies and to prevent others from knowing about them and what the powers that be are doing and plan to do with them. That’s why you should be interested in what Fitts and Farrell have to say. The powers that be hasten to effect their escape, leaving the less-fortunate, the not-wealthy, the less informed, the “useless eaters”, to face a world that they have set on a course toward self-destruction.
In Neal Stephenson’s 2015 novel Seveneves, survivors of a worldwide holocaust are tasked with seeding new life on a dormant Earth. Rather than create specific breeds of animals to be hunters, scavengers, or prey, species like “canids” are developed with mutable epigenetic traits, with the intention that the animals would quickly transform into the necessary roles that would be required for an ecosystem to rapidly evolve. Additionally, a race of humans, “Moirans,” are created to survive in space, with the hope that this subspecies of human would be able to adapt to unforeseeable dangers and circumstances, via an epigenetic process called “going epi”.
Two important references noted by Farrell and de Hart in their book are Joel Garreau’s Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies — and What It Means to be Human, and Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.
Garreau notes that the GRIN technologies overlap and intermingle to create a “curve of change unlike anything we humans have ever seen and that each of them, taken individually, are transformative and “each hold the potential to change human nature itself.” Farrell and de Hart cite Kurzweil when they say that “taken together, or engineered or employed in various combinations, the transformation is even more sweeping”; it is alchemical.
The target, says Garreau, is the very essence of man’s nature. “The goal is to seamlessly merge mind and machine, engineering human evolution so as to directly project and amplify the power of our thoughts throughout the universe.”
“… the ultimate goal of transhumanism is nothing less than the scientific and technological reversal of the Tower of Babel Moment of History, of The Fall of Man, and the alchemical ascent back up the scala caeli, the ladder to heaven…. The implications of this are … breathtaking. At the head of the list is the alchemical fusion of man and mineral in the form of implanted computer chips to “enhance” the abilities of humans to interface directly with computers…. Any human being — a microcosm — will be capable of becoming a macrocosm, of literally stretching out to control [something millions of miles away.]. The next step is toward true computer-enhanced telepathy and interface…, to seamlessly merge mind and machine, engineering human evolutionso as to to directly project and amplify the power of thought throughout the universe.” [page 138, Farrell and de Hart]
It is, according to Kurzweil, tantamount to reverse-engineering the human brain. “Indeed, as he points out, the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, based in Munich, has already engineered a computer chip that allows human neurons to be grown on a computer chip, directly interfacing with it, [as well as] technologies that allow it to detect when specific neurons are fired [and] allow them to cause or prevent certain neurons from firing, in short, to modify human consciousness and behavior directly via computer implants.” [page 139, Farrell and de Hart]
In the transhumanist theory, the world-wide web will become a super-brain or super-consciousness long ago envisioned by Nicola Tesla. “[H]ow does one maintain one’s individuality and freedom in such a world, given the ability of these technologies to directly modify memory, behavior, and individual consciousness? [See BoyDownTheLane.com/metabolization.] And who will be the “system administrators” and “operators” in this brave new world? What is being engineered, in other words, is literally the technological version of the corporate person, where it is no longer a legal metaphor, but a technological reality, a single “distributed and interconnected brain…”. The referenced source is the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Commerce [where Penny Pritzker is the chief]. [The book notes the afore-mentioned Garreau book which in turn references Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance [http://www.wtec.org/ConvergingTechnologies/Report/NBIC_report.pdf ]as well as Gregory Stock’s Redesigning Humans and Metaman.]
The potential military applications are discussed by Farrell and de Hart, especially DARPA’s Continuous Assisted Performance component of their “super-soldier” program, on page 141 through 143. The mission brief of the Defense Sciences Office, described as the DARPA inside DARPA, a coordinating think tank not unlike those used by Nazi Germany, a “secret community of interaction between scientists secretly investigating radical concepts”, in some senses a “breakway civilization” itself, the enhanced isolated from the rest of us, is this: The elite engineered group of new humans will be able to think faster an more creatively, have near-photographic memories, read books with total recall and comprehension in minutes, repair their own bodies and maintain peak health, live longer, require less sleep, and communicate more quickly with greater clarity to allow coordinated action in shorter time periods.
Three scenarios are envisioned [page 145] in the long run:
The “Heaven” scenario, in which the emerging technologies portend a being and blissful future of longevity, of work as play, of sweeping extensions of human group consciousness not only globally but on a cosmic scale;
The “Hell” scenario, in which the same technologies lead humanity to a cart strophic end, due to accidental leaks of deadly viruses, or cataclysmic wars utilizing new weapons, or through simple inability of human society and humans to cope with the sweeping changes as old institutions break down under th technological weight, and crumble into anarchy;
The “Prevail” scenario is, as might be expected, a mixture of the previous twp, full of promise, to be sure, but also of reverses and setbacks, until ultimately, humanity makes choices regarding the technologies, and “muddles through”.
There is much much more in the book; I highly recommend your reading it and/or learning as much as possible as soon as possible about its topics.
For more on the concept of a Breakaway Civilization:
RoboticsTrends notes the top 50 companies in the world for 2016 based on based on their innovation, groundbreaking application, commercial success and potential, and represent many different levels and facets of the robotics ecosystem.
This international compilation spans 11 countries and in addition to the large conglomerates, 20% of the list is comprised of lesser-known startups.
I’ve left this in autoplay: there are two documentaries which follow totaling 80 minutes.
Here’s a map showing “the locations (by zipcode) of companies, universities, government laboratories, and organizations working in nanotechnology around the United States.”
Information technologies will not be covered in detail here; you could probably make your own list, starting with the NSA, including IBM, Apple, et al. If you need further help, here’s Fortune’s list for 2015.
What are the psychic, cognitive and spiritual energies for scientific development of transhumanism?
Who provided the venture capital? Other than business off-shoots created by the CIA, you’ll likely find billionaire transhumanists who are into eugenics, starting with the Rockefellers, and Bill Gates, the very rich fellow who climbed to the top of the information technology heap.
I don’t have a list of the definitive and unbleached histories of the Rockefellers and others of their era and ilk, but the reading list at the bottom of a llong excerpt from Eustace Mullins’ book “Murder by Injection” also notes Tarbell, Coleman, Sutton and others. Here is Chapter ten of that book: http://fr.bio.medecine.narkive.com/pfIwt9hY/murder-by-injection-the-rockefeller-syndicate
According to Wikipedia, transhumanism is sometimes abbreviated as H+ or h+.
You have heard of whistleblowers, but in the manner of mockingbirds, wurlitzers and cogntive infilitration, the movie “Kill The Messenger” is more akin to a soft, mellifluous piccolo. It purports to tell the story of Gary Webb, but it’s like those movies with the aging Hollywood star filmed through a lens coated with Vaseline.
Here’s a look at the film, the print story, the press coverage then and now.
“… The movie is, in its details, relatively discreet about laying blame but fairly definite in depicting a media culture now so entrenched in the establishment that it doesn’t even have to be coerced into serving the interests of the powerful…. The death of print and the death of journalism are two different phenomena, but they’re not unrelated; if you’re of the opinion that it’s all because of the Internet, well, “Kill The Messenger” has some perhaps disturbing news for you—about the news you are now getting, and the news you are now not getting.”
“… Webb’s story made the extraordinary claim that the Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the crack cocaine epidemic in America. What he lacked was the extraordinary proof. But at first, the claim was enough. Webb’s story became notable as the first major journalism cause celebre on the newly emerging Internet. The black community roiled in anger at the supposed CIA perfidy.
Then it all began to come apart. The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, in a rare show of unanimity, all wrote major pieces knocking the story down for its overblown claims and undernourished reporting…..”
“… I haven’t seen Kill the Messenger yet, but there’s no doubt that it sides with Webb. That seems to have unsettled David Carr, the media critic for The New York Times. Last week, in an anguished, deeply ambivalent assessment of Webb’s legacy, Carr admitted that the thrust of what Webb wrote about “really happened,” making passing reference to Kerry’s “little-noticed 1988 Senate subcommittee report.” Carr tentatively suggests that perhaps journalists should have better spent their energy reporting the larger story, rather than relentlessly fact-checking Webb. At the same time, though, he presented the campaign that ultimately drove Webb to his death as a “he-said-she-said-who-can-ultimately-say?” matter of interpretation, given ample space to Webb’s tormentors, like Tim Golden, who wielded the hatchet for The New York Times, and the odious Jerry Ceppos, the executive editor of the San Jose Mercury News who, faced with unrelenting pressure from the big boys in NY, LA and Washington, betrayed Webb.
Such is the state of media criticism that Carr could make notice of Kerry’s “little-noticed” Senate report without pointing out the obvious: it was “little-noticed” because newspapers, like his, little noticed it…..”
“… Webb provides a fascinating account of his “hours-long conversations with editors that bordered on the surreal” in an essay titled “The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On,” in which they relentlessly presented him with unprovable hypotheticals: “’How do we know for sure that these drug dealers were the first big ring to start selling crack in South Central?’ editor Jonathan Krim pressed me during one such confab…. ‘Isn’t it possible there might have been someone else and they never got caught and no one ever knew about them? In that case, your story would be wrong.’ I had to take a deep breath to keep from shouting. ‘If you’re asking me whether I accounted for people who might never have existed, the answer is no,’ I said.”
When ex-policeman turned bank anti-money laundering officer Martin Woods found out his workplace, one of the biggest banks in the United States, was helping Mexican druglords to launder billions of US dollars, his employers expected him to “shut up”.
But Woods, born in “strong-minded” Liverpool, England and driven to law enforcement after seeing the horrible effects of drugs, could not take that sitting down.
“What was the alternative? Do I turn my face away like everyone else did? Just live off the proceeds of drug trafficking, go to the ATM and take out money covered in blood?
“It was Edmund Burke who said, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’. I’m not going to let evil triumph,” he said at the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya, Malaysia.
The 51-year-old ended up whistleblowing to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2007.
His stand against corruption led to the US Justice Department charging the Wachovia bank with the largest Bank Secrecy Act violation in the country’s history and compelled it to pay US$160 million in 2010. The bank no longer exists in name, after being bought by financial services company Wells Fargo.
Woods, now the head of financial crime at Thomson Reuters, joined the police at age 17. He worked in drug enforcement and then anti-money laundering investigations for the London Metropolitan Police.
He left after nearly two decades with the force and worked in anti-money laundering units in several banks before his gig as the head of that department in Wachovia in 2005.
It wasn’t long before Woods found something fishy at Wachovia: suspicious transactions related to the Mexican cross-border currency exchange Casa de Cambios (CDC) as well as sequentially numbered, large-summed traveller’s checks with little to no identification details on them were flowing through Wachovia.
Woods issued a series of suspicious activity reports (SAR) to try and block the transactions. Instead, he explained, he was reprimanded by his bank.
And the more he sounded warning bells, the more the bank became hostile and began to “marginalise, isolate and intimidate him”.
In 2008, Wachovia issued a disciplinary proceeding against him over alleged professional misconduct, arguing that his actions exposed the bank to “regulatory jeopardy”.
“It changed me forever. It destabilises your belief system. You can’t believe that such intelligent, smart and nice people – goods dads, husbands, they go to church – are laundering money and helping drug dealers kill hundreds of thousands of people,” Woods said.
Woods struggled with illness and psychiatric treatment for over a year before filing a civil suit with the bank.
He then made the decision to attend a public event at Scotland Yard ,where he struck up a conversation with a DEA agent and told him what was happening in Wachovia.
“A couple of months later he called me up and asked if I could fly to Miami and present in front of their hearing what was going on at the bank,” he said.
The DEA began looking into Woods’ SARs and discovered that about US$13 billion in drug money was funneled through the Mexican CDC into Wachovia bank accounts and were linked to purchases of jets used to traffick drugs.
US Federal prosecutors filed charges against Wachovia in 2009 and Woods was finally vindicated.
But despite that, Woods claims he is still feeling the isolation from his experience at Wachovia. He has approached nearly 100 banks and government regulators for a job, and none would hire him.
“Basically, they did not want me to do what I did at Wachovia in their bank. What does that say about banks that they do not want to employ a guy that will call out your wrongdoings?
“It’s a sad indictment of an industry that at its core relies on trust. It’s bizarre really. Illogical and irrational,” he lamented.
Woods contends world leaders are not doing enough to protect whistleblowers like himself.
He says whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, who is now in exile in Russia, make incredible personal sacrifices and face vilification by governments for doing what they do.
The only thing people can do for whistleblowers, he said, is to pile public pressure on leaders and politicians to pardon them.
“Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” story documenting the explosion of cocaine coming from Latin America into South Central Los Angeles during the 1980s was originally published by the San Jose Mercury News in the summer of 1996 and then published in book form in 1998. The story and its supporting documentation was persuasive that the U.S. government and their allies in the Contras were involved in narcotics trafficking targeted at American children and communities.
All the usual suspects did their best to destroy Webb’s credibility and suppress his story. This included the Washington Post, which had pulled Sally Denton and Rodger Morris’ story on Mena at the last minute in 1995 — leaving it to run later in the summer in Penthouse Magazine. Luckily, Webb had arranged to have significant amounts of legal documentation substantiating his story posted on the San Jose Mercury News website. By the time that the News was pressured to take the story down, thousands of interested people all over the world had downloaded overwhelming evidence. Thanks to the Internet, the crack cocaine Humpty Dumpty could not be put back together again.
In response to citizen concern inspired by Webb’s story, then Director of the CIA, John Deutsch, agreed to attend a town hall meeting in South Central Los Angeles with local Congressional representatives in November 1996. Confronted by allegations in support of Webb’s story, Deutsch promised that the CIA Inspector General would investigate the “Dark Alliance” allegations.
This resulted in a two volume report published by the CIA in March and October of 1998 that included disclosure of one of the most important legal documents of the 1980s — a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the CIA dated February 11, 1982 in effect until August 1995. At the time it was created, William French Smith was the U.S. Attorney General and William Casey, former Wall Street law partner and Chairman of the SEC was Director of the CIA. Casey, like Douglas Dillon, had worked for Office of Strategic Services (OSS) founder Bill Donovan and was a former head of the Export-Import Bank. Casey was also a friend of George Schultz. Bechtel looked to the Export-Import Bank to provide the government guarantees that financed billions of big construction contracts worldwide. Casey recruited Stanley Sporkin, former head of SEC Enforcement, to serve as general counsel of the CIA. When Schultz joined the Reagan Administration as Secretary of State, such linkages helped to create some of the personal intimacy between money worlds and national security that make events such as those which occurred during the Iran Contra period possible.
No history of the 1980s is complete without an understanding of the lawyers and legal mechanisms used to legitimize drug dealing and money laundering under the protection of National Security law. Through the MOU, the DOJ relieved the CIA of any legal obligation to report information of drug trafficking and drug law violations with respect to CIA agents, assets, non-staff employees and contractors. Presumably, this included the corporate contractors who, by executive order, were now allowed to handle sensitive intelligence and national security outsourcing.
With the DOJ-CIA Memorandum of Understanding, in effect from 1982 until rescinded in August 1995, a crack cocaine epidemic ravaged the poorer communities of America and disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of poor people into prison who, now classified as felons, were safely off of the voting roles. Meantime, the U.S. financial system gorged on what had grown to an estimated $500 billion-$1 trillion a year of money laundering by the end of the 1990s. Not surprisingly, the rich got richer as corporate power and the concentration of investment capital skyrocketed on the rich margins of state sanctioned criminal enterprise.
Yale Law School trained Stanley Sporkin was appointed by Reagan in 1985-86 to serve as a judge in Federal District court, leaving the CIA with a legal license to team up with drug dealing allies and contractors. From the bench many years later, he helped engineer the destruction of my company Hamilton Securities while preaching to the District of Columbia bar about good government and ethics. He retired from the bench in 2000 to become a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, Enron’s bankruptcy counsel.
Gary Webb died in 2004, another casualty of an intelligence, enforcement and media effort that keeps global narcotics trafficking and the War on Drugs humming along by reducing to poverty and making life miserable for those who tell the truth. At the heart of this machinery are thousands of socially prestigious professionals like Sporkin who engineer the system within a labyrinth of law firms, courts and government depositories and contractors operating behind the closely guarded secrets of attorney client privilege and National Security law and the rich cash flows of the U.S. federal credit.
Former Bush Assistant Secretary for HUD Reveals “Ethnic Cleansing”
Connected to CIA Drug Dealing in Los Angeles
Government Spends Millions in Campaign to Silence Former Wall Street Banker, Cover Up Connections to Dark Alliance Stories & CIA Inspector General Report on Drug Trafficking
Catherine Austin Fitts
I was ten years old when the combined action of HUD housing investment and heroin trafficking destroyed my West Philadelphia neighborhood. The combined real estate and drug play destroyed the equity in our homes and businesses. Many of us left. Those who stayed were embroiled in the increasing stress of what happens as neighborhoods deteriorate into crime and decay. I decided that I would learn how money worked. I was too young to understand fully how the combination of HUD investment and drugs could move control and ownership from the many people who lived in a community to a few people who lived outside the community. — C.A.F.
* * * * *
I’m an investment banker. In the eighties I was a Managing Director and member of the Board of Directors at the Wall Street investment bank Dillon, Read & Co., Inc. I managed the firm’s large municipal and government clients. My projects included the financing of billions of dollars of improvements in New York City’s subway, bus and commuter rail systems. I also organized the financing for hundreds of millions in renovations to the infrastructures of New York and New Jersey. I regularly handled hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions.
I also helped to make tens of millions of dollars in profits for my firm and I raised tens of thousands of dollars for the George Bush Presidential campaign in 1988. Nicholas Brady, who became George Bush’s Treasury Secretary, had been my partner and boss at Dillon Read.
I was a Wall Street insider and a political insider – or so I thought. I was successful at Dillon Read because I created new investment models that helped ordinary people while making a profit. I thought “outside the box.” When Iran-Contra came and went I was oblivious. I had no idea about the drugs. It never entered my mind. Yet today I am convinced that the illegal drug trade, the enormous cheap capital it generates, and the CIA’s role as enforcer/protector for the profits of that trade is a dominant factor in the economy of this country. It is a factor, which is destroying the entire American culture and is utterly out of control. As an investor and banker and as a former Cabinet level appointee, I tell you this is true.
My evolution came slowly. In 1989 I was named Assistant Secretary of Housing-FHA Commissioner under Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp. I managed $300 billion of mortgage insurance, mortgages and properties of the Federal Housing Administration and, as Commissioner, I advised the Secretary on another $1 trillion of mortgage financing. I was fired by Jack Kemp in late 1990 because I would not go along with the questionable political practices, which seem to be built into HUD’s machinery a
nd purpose. But still I did not see the bigger picture.
In 1990, after leaving HUD, I started my own investment company, The Hamilton Securities Group, and I devised new and creative ways to save taxpayers billions of dollars. In 1993, Hamilton secured contracts with HUD through Secretary Henry Cisneros. Hamilton saved taxpayers billions of dollars by taking defaulted HUD housing mortgages, repackaging them and auctioning them on the private market. Hamilton began putting wealth back into inner city projects by hiring women living in HUD housing and teaching them how to use computers to build data bases on how money works in 63,000 neighborhoods throughout America. Hamilton started a data processing company with these women in a HUD project (Edgewood Terrace) in Washington. The women who lived there earned stock in the company. The company made money and proved the concept of what on-line access in communities could do to build jobs and businesses. We used the success of that effort to persuade HUD to fund computer learning centers in other housing projects. Hamilton was extremely successful. We made millions and we saved the government billions.
Fulfilling my childhood dream, Hamilton also created new software and money management tools, which were, for the first time ever, able to map down to the neighborhood, exactly how HUD and other federal money worked, who profited when loans defaulted, and how money came into or left a community. For example, we were often able to see where HUD was spending $100-250,000 per unit on apartment buildings when there was single family housing available within walking distance for $25-50,000.
Secretary Cisneros had been extremely supportive of our work. We had unrestricted access to rich quantities of government financial data that was supposedly public but hard to understand. We were translating that into useable information so that people in any community could see how the money flowed through their neighborhood. We helped HUD get increasing amounts of data up on its web site. An unforeseen side effect for the women at Edgewood, and for Hamilton, was that by seeing clearly how the clean money worked, we also began to see how the dirty money worked.
As an investor for more than twenty years, I believed that it was actually more profitable for people to own their own neighborhoods and businesses and to know exactly how the money worked. The MONEY MAPS we made were so simple to understand that they looked like comic books
As it turns out we mapped a great deal more than we knew.
In 1996, as reporter Gary Webb was busy writing a series of stories connecting CIA and the Contras to the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles, I was busy using the money maps in a way that would help people move people from government subsidies to home ownership and entrepreneurship.
I was also advocating that U.S. government investment in communities should be subject to the same public disclosure rules that private companies are obligated to follow under the Securities and Exchange Commission Rules. If you are a shareholder in a company, that company is using your money. The law requires that they use your money legally and that they do their best to protect your money and make you more. To earn money, and to do so in a fair, honest and competitive way, federal and state laws require companies to report performance and key transactions to you, the shareholder. Every citizen is a shareholder in the government. If governments worked like they require corporations to work, they would be required to report to you, in the sunshine, exactly how the money was working, in your neighborhood, and you could either approve – or disapprove of the fairness and effectiveness of that, based upon your understanding of your own needs. That is very threatening to those who have used agencies like HUD as a trough to pay off political cronies.
On August 1, 1996, I gave the keynote address at a Neighborhood Networks conference in Boston, Massachusetts to 500 owners, managers and tenants in private HUD housing. As part of the speech I showed a slide of one of our money maps of Los Angeles. As I put the slide up I made the following statement:
“One of the products that has been most successful for the first data servicing sites, Edgewood Technology Services, has been “geo-coding” databases and mapping. I wanted to show you this map; it’s up on the World Wide Web. This is a map of Los Angeles. Can anyone figure out where south central LA is from looking at where the HUD properties are on this map? This is the same thing as the Washington DC map I showed earlier. The little red dots are single family properties that were financed by (now) defaulted HUD-held mortgages. This map was geo-coded and designed and programmed by a woman who, four months before, had been on unemployment compensation and is a tenant in HUD housing”
If you compare this map with the fact that Freeway Ricky Ross – the crack cocaine kingpin described in Gary Webb’s DarkAlliance was known for buying up real estate along the Harbor Freeway and selling drugs throughout this exact area – the mathematical correlation is staggering. Every dot represents a HUD mortgage where the taxpayers lost money in a defaulted FHA loan and where somebody else bought the property for pennies on the dollar. Most of those loans defaulted as the crack cocaine epidemic ravaged Los Angeles. The taxpayers bear the costs of not only the defaulted mortgages, but also deterioration in property value, the crime, and ultimately the depopulation due to very expensive prison warehousing and welfare.
Exactly who bought and traded in properties throughout this area should be the subject of congressional hearings looking into corrupt HUD practices from the period and continuing to this day. I suspect that many of the same players connected to the Savings and Loan scandals, who have also been tied to Iran-Contra and CIA’s drugs will surface yet again.
Demographically it is also easy to see now that the racial composition of South Central has changed radically and that African-Americans have been geographically and politically fragmented as, I believe, an intended result. Their political power has been weakened.
Just days after showing this first map, I received a subpoena from the Office of the Inspector General of HUD asking for extensive data and records from Hamilton. Suddenly, the loan sales and Hamilton were under investigation. The HUD IGÕs actions were doubly surprising given their intimate involvement in and positive feedback about the loan sales program and because a HUD OIG audit team had just finished an audit of the loan sales program and had informed our project manager and HUD that our performance was excellent and there were no problems whatsoever.
At the same time, we got calls from a team of reporters from US News & World Report. They had been assured “at the highest levels” of the HUD Inspector GeneralÕs office that we were guilty of criminal action and that I and would soon be indicted. The recent favorable audit disappeared.
Investigators started doing interviews where they did more seed planting than information gathering.
The “investigators” at HUD started suggesting to reporters that bid rigging had occurred in the loan sales. This was just after members of the HUD IG audit team had actually sat in on one sale, and concluded that bid rigging was impossible. They had also concluded that there was no way that “rigging” could have taken place because in a sealed-bid auction, you cannot favor one bidder when all bidders have access to the same information. That audit report was suppressed while the IG investigators pushed the exact opposite notion to reporters.
On August 10, Bob Dole announced Jack Kemp as his running mate. Meantime, the Republican appropriations committee, chaired by Republican Congressman Jerry Lewis of San Bernardino, gave Susan Gaffney, the HUD IG a large appropriations increase for her program Operation Safe Home, which targeted black communities for visible media “wag-the-dog” roundups of drug offenders. At the same time, our model for computer learning and data processing by people who had a stake in the company that did the work was adopted by Unicorp. Unicorp is the Department of Justice private business that markets prison labor to federal agencies.
Suddenly, the black people who were apparently not smart enough to do database and software development near their children and parents were more than competent enough to do it in prison. The prison investment boom was taking off, fueled by new and longer mandated sentences. We at Hamilton felt like we were walking around with a big bullseye on our back because we wanted the communities of America to know what we knew, which was how to make maps that tracked the money flow in their own home towns.
I was not the only one dealing with Inspector General inquiries. The HUD officials working with me were also inundated with an investigation marked by leaks and dirty tactics. The former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily at HUD, Helen Dunlap, was one of the people targeted. She was from California and had previously run the California Housing Partnership. She had lots of experience in real estate and community development in Los Angeles. Gary Squier, the Housing Commissioner of LA, on loan from Los Angeles, who was not involved in mortgage sales with Hamilton, nonetheless found himself dealing with similar probes from the HUD OIG. He was later to be turned down for a position by the White House despite impeccable credentials. No one could figure out why.
Suddenly I was persona non grata to long time friends and business relations in and around the government. I believe the leak campaign was far more sophisticated than something the HUD Inspector General could or would do on her own. It appeared that major economic and political powers had ordered that Hamilton be destroyed. More importantly, they wanted the evidence of what we knew – the maps – destroyed. That is also why, to this day, we believe the Federal government has destroyed many, but not all, of our tools and databases.
We didn’t realize it at the time, but I am now convinced that in the summer of 1996, our software and mapping techniques uncovered evidence of ethnic cleansing on Los Angeles. Hamilton’s map revealed that one of the most significant effects of the crack cocaine epidemic was that black homeowners, faced with payments on unlivable and unsellable properties, simply defaulted and fled the city to get away from the shootings and the drugs. Those properties: industrial, residential and commercial were scooped up for pennies on the dollar. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to know who bought the properties and how much money has been made on them since?
Thanks to people like Gary Webb, Peter Dale Scott (Cocaine Politics), Alex Cockburn (Whiteout), Mike Ruppert, brave DEA Agents like Celerino Castillo – and now to the CIA’s own reports – we can prove that the CIA knew full well what it was doing.
ETHNIC CLEANSING IN LOS ANGELES
Ethnic cleansing is a bit trickier in South Central Los Angeles than it is in South Central Europe. It is essential in a “democracy” to have people do it in a way that makes it look like they’re “doing it” to themselves. You need a socially induced suicide.
So how do you get people to commit suicide? You make it very attractive for their children to make money doing something illegal. Then you arrest them for it in a very visible way (Remember the battering rams and armored cars?). You design stories to make people blame themselves for what has happened. This is how branding works. Pepsi = tastes good, Black people = cause illegal drugs and crime. Support all this by a national media owned by defense contractors and other corporate interests. That way the nightly news has lots of moneymaking incentives to cover HUD OIG sponsored drug raids in black communities rather than doing a story on CIA drug trafficking.
The most efficient ethnic cleansing is self-financed or, better yet, profitable. Drugs and alcohol are excellent tools toward this end, especially when they are combined with easy access to guns. Sell large amounts of addictive substances to a group of people in an area you want to take over, then use the cash flow to buy up their homes and commercial real estate for 10 cents on the dollar, without much competition, while you enjoy the full value of their cash flow. You can then afford the long holding period required to make the land profitable again after the cleansing period is over.
I believe that if the Federal government would make citizens’ data (and it is our data) available, instead of trying to suppress it, it would prove that taxpayers are losing money to fund ethnic cleansing while the people in South Central LA are losing their lives. And I believe that it was the effectiveness of our maps which threatened to expose the deeper financial agendas of the eighties. I believe our current model, the Solari Investment Model, (www.solarivillage.com) which I am still developing, may well tie Iran-Contra, The Savings and Loan Scandals and the HUD scandals of the late 1980s into one big economic package designed to benefit a very few. The way to start to do this is to look closely at all the government investment, credit and regulations in Los Angeles since 1980.
Our maps suggest to me and others that the crack cocaine epidemic, created by the CIA was, I believe, just as much a program of ethnic cleansing and land grabbing economic warfare as it was about a bunch of rebels in Central America who were not the equivalent of our Founding Fathers. But this kind of ethnic cleansing was hard to contain and it spread to other races and classes. It reached the rural and suburban neighborhoods of places like Iowa, Ohio and Tennessee. By the end of the 1980Õs it had reached all my friends and relatives who listen to Rush Limbaugh, voted for George Bush and donated money to Oliver North – not knowing that, according to CIA’s own reports, the networks he controlled were the key to the supply of drugs flowing to their kids and communities. As Michael Ventura once wrote, “We all live in the South Bronx now.” White families all across America were hurt by drugs and violence and their pocketbooks also got drained, even as the media reinforced the notion that drugs were a black problem.
MAP SHOWN BY C.A. FITTS AT BOSTON HUD Neighborhood Networks Conference – 8/1/96
MOST OF THESE HUD/FHA SINGLE FAMILY LOANS DEFAULTED BETWEEN 1982 AND 1990.
THE HARBOR FREEWAY, WHICH GAVE “Freeway” RICKY ROSS HIS NAME, IS THE VERTICAL LINE RUNNING STRAIGHT THROUGH THE CENTER OF THE MARKS COVERING SOUTH CENTRAL
After the 1996 election, Secretary Cisneros was asked to resign from HUD. The choice of Cisneros’ successor seemed strange and somehow connected to Hamilton’s predicament. The Afro-American mayor of Seattle was widely considered to be a shoe-in. After the White House floated his name, another investigation by the HUD OIG into possible misuse of HUD monies in Seattle caused him to be dropped. Two days later we were assured that an Afro-American woman from Los Angeles, Yvonne Braithwaite-Burke, was the President’s leading candidate. Then suddenly, she disappeared from the radar screen and Andrew Cuomo was announced with surprisingly strong bipartisan support for someone with such a partisan history.
Cuomo moved into the Secretary’s office at HUD from his then current position as Assistant Secretary for Community Development and Planning. Rumors started to float around the HUD networks about minorities and people sympathetic to minorities being moved out. Meantime, the new Secretary made it clear that his top priority was enforcement and it appeared that the Secretary and the OIG were going to compete for an ever-growing budget via media-worthy enforcement actions. So, then came the Urban Fraud Initiative and increased funding for Operation Safe Home, targeting tenants, real estate owners and managers in black communities. At the time, we made no connection between these actions and the promotion of prison privatization by Vice President Gore’s National Performance Review. New Federal sentencing guidelines helped increase black inmates to approximately 50% of a rapidly expanding prison population. All this at an extraordinary cost to taxpayers.
As the audits of Hamilton continued, forcing us to spend hundreds of thousands on legal fees, Secretary Cuomo and the Inspector General’s staff, who were later to withhold $2 million in payments, became obsessed with seizing our data and software. This was software we were planning on giving away via the web! The critical issue from October 1997 through the following March seemed to be – our knowledge! In October, great emphasis was placed on our returning all of our HUD databases, including those that were supposed to be publicly available, and certifying that we had done so. In the following months, the HUD OIG tried to seize all of our documents, including originals, with no basis in law. After demanding physical access to our computers, government employees made back-ups of our data which, whether intentionally or not, seriously damaged it.
And no one has yet officially accused us of any wrongdoing. We were, and are to this day, only being investigated. It is clear to us that the intent of this campaign was to drive the company into bankruptcy. The leak campaign against the company and me has since reached new heights of absurdity. As the HUD IG keeps assuring the media that that I am guilty of criminal violations they now have investigators focusing on my sex life! Worse still, HUD IG agents recently showed up at the home of my 72 year old uncle with a subpoena for records of a family owned farm house that doesn’t even have indoor plumbing, implying some kind of fraudulent transaction. Members of my family have reduced or cut off communications, fearing they could be targeted too.
After court battles and negotiation, in March of 1998 HUD insisted that all of our computers be scrubbed. We were not going to be allowed to transfer our own proprietary data and the Federal District Court Judge, Stanley Sporkin, appointed a Special Master as trustee to manage all our digital and paper records. Inexplicably, HUD was quite upset when they found we had taken our main server with us and not sold it, in spite of the government’s destruction of its files. The HUD investigator made it clear that we could not keep the server because – “We were not allowed to have any of the knowledge”. We could not explain this bizarre position and neither could they.
What I did not know until approximately a year later was that hearings were held on Volume I of the CIA Inspector General’s report on the Dark Alliance allegations on March 16 of 1998. At the same moment the government was trying to steal Hamilton’s data and knowledge.
We also did not notice in February when Vice President Al Gore announced that Secretary Cuomo was bestowing an empowerment zone and $300 million in tax credits on Maxine Water’s congressional district. That was just before the March 16th hearing where Maxine Waters performed brilliantly against CIA in a show that nobody watched. We were busy, at the time, moving our computers over to our law firm to protect the MONEY MAPS from a series of break-ins and other harassment around my home.
Our growing fear of being set up in an asset forfeiture case, after the Department of Justice threatened my assets personally, dominated our lives and does so to this day.
And so we did not notice when the damning Volume II of the CIA Inspector General’s report was released on October 8th, one hour after Henry Hyde’s Committee started the Impeachment inquiry. And we did not notice that Maxine Waters’ voice suddenly fell almost silent as Bill Clinton saved his presidency by blackmailing the Republicans with Volume II and its contents. I made efforts to communicate with Maxine Waters in November and December 1998 about possible connections between our case and CIA drug dealing but, aside from an initial contact, our calls were not returned.
To date we estimate that the HUD Inspector General investigation targeting my companies and me has cost the American taxpayer $35MM. To date we have not been successful in getting the Department of Justice or the HUD OIG to tell us what they are investigating or even who is in charge of the investigation. The investigation continues with no end in site. We have multiple lawsuits filed against HUD and are filing more. We continually hear Judge Stanley Sporkin, rule against us with statements that he disagrees with the law so we should take it up with Congress.
The company I founded, Hamilton, was liquidated a year ago to pay the bills of the ongoing campaign to discredit us. As a result of the persecution we have lost more than millions in equity value. I have sold my home, lost millions of dollars in unpaid HUD contracts, endured eighteen audits, burglaries, physical harassment and an unending smear campaign which has produced not a single complaint or indictment after almost three years. I believe this is because I have the pieces to help prove that what Gary Webb stumbled upon was ethnic cleansing – American style.
My bottom-line? For those of you pushing for testimony on Volume II, let’s try another tactic. Let’s push for a Congressional and GAO investigation on how all the federal investment, credit and regulation worked in Los Angeles from 1980 to 1994. Let’s look at how our government was used, from CIA to DEA to HUD, to destroy and loot our communities. The key is HUD. Let’s look at how the Section 8 owners, managers and tax partnership beneficiaries worked along side the drug traffickers. Let’s look for patterns of loan brokering, money laundering, cleansing and other relationships between real estate, land, prison growth and privatization and the kind of investors who control CIA and intelligence networks. Then let’s look how this ties in to campaign fundraising.
The present economic and political system is not workable and must change. New investment models in the information age will show us that integrity, honesty and win-win investment models, rooted in community and place based autonomy are actually more profitable than the liquidate and destroy models currently operating. Like the auto mechanic said to the car owner who needed repairs, “You can either pay some now – or pay a lot more later.” But we have to solve some problems first. Finding the will to do that is made easier for me as I recall the words of Bishop Alfred Owens of the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, “If we can face it. God can fix it.”
After a lifetime of study, from Wharton to the inner sancta of government, I believe there are solutions. All of them require, however, that we begin with an honest assessment of where we are and where we want to go.
“… I disagreed with Mike on the circumstances surrounding Gary Webb’s death. I had been in email contact with Webb shortly before his death and we were investigating the same company albeit for different reasons. I did not detect any deep depression with Webb. Mike concluded that Webb had, in fact, shot himself (twice at it turned out). I believed and still believe that Webb was murdered. Our late colleague John Judge also believed that Webb was murdered….”
“… Let me begin by stating that, except in the minds of a devoted few, there is little reasonable doubt that Michael Ruppert is, and always has been, a government agent. Everything about the man – from his family and employment history to his stand on numerous issues – points unwaveringly in that direction. His assigned mission for the last several years has been to unrelentingly push the lie of ‘Peak Oil,’ while occasionally taking a break from that to do such things as sabotage the 9-11 movement and run interference for the government after Gary Webb’s ‘suicide.’ .…”
Special Report: The corrupt connections between U.S. intelligence and drug enforcement go back more than seven decades as American spies and drug investigators routinely crossed paths and collaborated — with the interests of average citizens never high on the agenda, as author Douglas Valentine describes.
BY DOUGLAS VALENTINE
The outlawing of narcotic drugs at the start of the Twentieth Century, the turning of the matter from public health to social control, coincided with the belief that the U.S. government had an obligation to American industrialists to create markets in every nation in the world, whether those nations liked it or not.
Civic institutions, like public education, were required to sanctify this policy, while “security” bureaucracies were established to ensure the citizenry conformed to the state ideology. Secret services, both public and private, were likewise established to promote the expansion of private American economic interests overseas.
It takes a book to explain the economic foundations of the war on drugs, and the reasons behind the regulation of the medical, pharmaceutical and drug manufacturers industries. Suffice it to say that by 1943, the nations of the “free world” were relying on America for their opium derivatives, under the guardianship of Harry Anslinger, the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).
Narcotic drugs are a strategic resource, and when Anslinger learned that Peru had built a cocaine factory, he and the Board of Economic Warfare confiscated its product before it could be sold to Germany or Japan. In another instance, Anslinger and his counterpart at the State Department prevented a drug manufacturer in Argentina from selling drugs to Germany.
At the same time, Anslinger permitted “an American company to ship drugs to Southeast Asia despite receiving intelligence reports that French authorities were permitting opiate smuggling into China and collaborating with Japanese drug traffickers,” according to Douglas Clark Kinder and William O. Walker III in their article, “Stable Force In a Storm: Harry J. Anslinger and United States Narcotic Policy, 1930-1962.”
Federal drug law enforcement’s relationship with the espionage establishment matured with the creation of CIA’s predecessor organization, the Office of Strategic Services. Prior to the Second World War, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was the government agency most adept at conducting covert operations at home and abroad. As a result, OSS chief William Donovan asked Anslinger to provide seasoned FBN agents to help organize the OSS and train its agents to work undercover, avoid security forces in hostile nations, manage agent networks, and engage in sabotage and subversion.
The relationship expanded during the war, when FBN executives and agents worked with OSS scientists in domestic “truth drug” experiments involving marijuana. The “extralegal” nature of the relationship continued after the war: when the CIA decided to test LSD on unsuspecting American citizens, FBN agents were chosen to operate the safehouses where the experiments were conducted.
A Formal Relationship
The relationship was formalized overseas in 1951, when Agent Charlie Siragusa opened an office in Rome and began to develop the FBN’s foreign operations. In the 1950s, FBN agents posted overseas spent half their time doing “favors” for the CIA, such as investigating diversions of strategic materials behind the Iron Curtain. A handful of FBN agents were actually recruited into the CIA while maintaining their FBN credentials as cover.
Officially, FBN agents set limits. Siragusa, for example, claimed to object when the CIA asked him to mount a “controlled delivery” into the U.S. as a way of identifying the American members of a smuggling ring with Communist affiliations.
As Siragusa said, “The FBN could never knowingly allow two pounds of heroin to be delivered into the United States and be pushed to Mafia customers in the New York City area, even if in the long run we could seize a bigger haul.”
[For citations to this and other quotations/interviews, as well as documents, please refer to the author’s books, The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs (Verso 2004) and The Strength of the Pack: The Personalities, Politics, and Espionage Intrigues that Shaped the DEA (TrineDay 2009).
And in 1960, when the CIA asked him to recruit assassins from his stable of underworld contacts, Siragusa again claimed to have refused. But drug traffickers, including most prominently Santo Trafficante Jr, were soon participating in CIA attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro.
As the dominant partner in the relationship, the CIA exploited its affinity with the FBN. “Like the CIA,” FBN Agent Robert DeFauw explained, “narcotic agents mount covert operations. We pose as members of the narcotics trade. The big difference is that we were in foreign countries legally, and through our police and intelligence sources, we could check out just about anyone or anything. Not only that, we were operational. So the CIA jumped in our stirrups.”
Jumping in the FBN’s stirrups afforded the CIA deniability, which in turn affords it impunity. To ensure that the CIA’s criminal activities are not revealed, narcotic agents are organized militarily within an inviolable chain of command. Highly indoctrinated, they blindly obey based on a “need to know.” This institutionalized ignorance sustains the illusion of righteousness, in the name of national security, upon which their motivation depends.
As FBN Agent Martin Pera explained, “Most FBN agents were corrupted by the lure of the underworld. They thought they could check their morality at the door – go out and lie, cheat, and steal – then come back and retrieve it. But you can’t. In fact, if you’re successful because you can lie, cheat, and steal, those things become tools you use in the bureaucracy.”
Corruption from the Top
Institutionalized corruption began at headquarters, where FBN executives provided cover for CIA assets engaged in drug trafficking. In 1966, Agent John Evans was assigned as an assistant to enforcement chief John Enright.
“And that’s when I got to see what the CIA was doing,” Evans said. “I saw a report on the Kuomintang saying they were the biggest drug dealers in the world, and that the CIA was underwriting them. Air America was transporting tons of Kuomintang opium.” Evans bristled. “I took the report to Enright. He said, ‘Leave it here. Forget about it.’
“Other things came to my attention,” Evans added, “that proved that the CIA contributed to drug use in America. We were in constant conflict with the CIA because it was hiding its budget in ours, and because CIA people were smuggling drugs into the U.S. We weren’t allowed to tell, and that fostered corruption in the Bureau.”
Heroin smuggled by “CIA people” into the U.S. was channeled by Mafia distributors primarily to African-American communities. Local narcotic agents then targeted disenfranchised blacks as an easy way of preserving the white ruling class’ privileges.
“We didn’t need a search warrant,” explains New Orleans narcotics officer Clarence Giarusso. “It allowed us to meet our quota. And it was ongoing. If I find dope on a black man, I can put him in jail for a few days. He’s got no money for a lawyer and the courts are ready to convict. There’s no expectation on the jury’s part that we have to make a case.
“So rather than go cold turkey, the addict becomes an informant, which means I can make more cases in the neighborhood, which is all we’re interested in. We don’t care about Carlos Marcello or the Mafia. City cops have no interest in who brings dope in. That’s the job of the federal agents.”
The Establishment’s race and class privileges have always been equated with national security, and FBN executives dutifully preserved the social order. Not until 1968, when Civil Rights reforms were imposed upon government bureaucracies, were black FBN agents allowed to become supervisors and manage white agents.
The war on drugs is largely a projection of two things: the racism that has defined America since its inception and the government policy of allowing political allies to traffic in narcotics. These unstated but official policies reinforce the belief among CIA and drug law enforcement officials that the Bill of Rights is an obstacle to national security.
Blanket immunity from prosecution for turning these policies into practice engenders a belief among bureaucrats that they are above the law, which fosters corruption in other forms. FBN agents, for example, routinely “created a crime” by breaking and entering, planting evidence, using illegal wiretaps, and falsifying reports. They tampered with heroin, transferred it to informants for sale, and even murdered other agents who threatened to expose them.
All of this was secretly known at the highest level of government, and in 1965 the Treasury Department launched a corruption investigation of the FBN. Headed by Andrew Tartaglino, the investigation ended in 1968 with the resignation of 32 agents and the indictment of five. That same year the FBN was reconstructed in the Department of Justice as the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD).
But, as Tartaglino said dejectedly, “The job was only half done.”
Richard Nixon was elected president based on a vow to restore “law and order” to America. To prove that it intended to keep that promise, the White House in 1969 launched Operation Intercept along the Mexican border. This massive “stop and search” operation so badly damaged relations with Mexico, however, that National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger formed the Ad Hoc Committee on Narcotics (the Heroin Committee), to coordinate drug policy and prevent further diplomatic disasters.
The Heroin Committee was composed of cabinet members represented by their deputies. James Ludlum represented CIA Director Richard Helms. A member of the CIA’s Counter-Intelligence staff, Ludlum had been the CIA’s liaison officer to the FBN since 1962.
“When Kissinger set up the Heroin Committee,” Ludlum recalled, “the CIA certainly didn’t take it seriously, because drug control wasn’t part of their mission.”
Indeed, as John Evans noted above and as the government was aware, the CIA for years had sanctioned the heroin traffic from the Golden Triangle region of Burma, Thailand and Laos into South Vietnam as a way of rewarding top foreign officials for advancing U.S. policies. This reality presented the Nixon White House with a dilemma, given that addiction among U.S. troops in Vietnam was soaring and that massive amounts of Southeast Asian heroin were being smuggled into the U.S. for use by middle-class white kids on the verge of revolution.
Nixon’s response was to make drug law enforcement part of the CIA’s mission. Although reluctant to betray the CIA’s clients in South Vietnam, Helms told Ludlum: “We’re going to break their rice bowls.”
This betrayal occurred incrementally. Fred Dick, the BNDD agent assigned to Saigon, passed the names of the complicit military officers and politicians to the White House. But, as Dick recalled, “Ambassador [Ellsworth] Bunker called a meeting in Saigon at which CIA Station Chief Ted Shackley appeared and explained that there was ‘a delicate balance.’ What he said, in effect, was that no one was willing to do anything.”
Meanwhile, to protect its global network of drug trafficking assets, the CIA began infiltrating the BNDD and commandeering its internal security, intelligence, and foreign operations branches. This massive reorganization required the placement of CIA officers in influential positions in every federal agency concerned with drug law enforcement.
CIA Officer Paul Van Marx, for example, was assigned as the U.S. Ambassador to France’s assistant on narcotics. From this vantage point, Van Marx ensured that BNDD conspiracy cases against European traffickers did not compromise CIA operations and assets. Van Marx also vetted potential BNDD assets to make sure they were not enemy spies.
The FBN never had more than 16 agents stationed overseas, but Nixon dramatically increased funding for the BNDD and hundreds of agents were posted abroad. The success of these overseas agents soon came to depend on CIA intelligence, as BNDD Director John Ingersoll understood.
BNDD agents immediately felt the impact of the CIA’s involvement in drug law enforcement operations within the United States. Operation Eagle was the flashpoint. Launched in 1970, Eagle targeted anti-Castro Cubans smuggling cocaine from Latin America to the Trafficante organization in Florida. Of the dozens of traffickers arrested in June, many were found to be members of Operation 40, a CIA terror organization active in the U.S., the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Mexico.
The revelation that CIA drug smuggling assets were operating within the U.S. led to the assignment of CIA officers as counterparts to mid-level BNDD enforcement officials, including Latin American division chief Jerry Strickler. Like Van Marks in France, these CIA officers served to protect CIA assets from exposure, while facilitating their recruitment as informants for the BNDD.
Many Cuban exiles arrested in Operation Eagle were indeed hired by the BNDD and sent throughout Latin America. They got “fantastic intelligence,” Strickler noted. But many were secretly serving the CIA and playing a double game.
By 1970, BNDD Director Ingersoll’s inspections staff had gathered enough evidence to warrant the investigation of dozens of corrupt FBN agents who had risen to management positions in the BNDD. But Ingersoll could not investigate his top managers while simultaneously investigating drug traffickers. So he asked CIA Director Helms for help building a “counter-intelligence” capacity within the BNDD.
The result was Operation Twofold, in which 19 CIA officers were infiltrated into the BNDD, ostensibly to spy on corrupt BNDD officials. According to the BNDD’s Chief Inspector Patrick Fuller, “A corporation engaged in law enforcement hired three CIA officers posing as private businessmen to do the contact and interview work.”
CIA recruiter Jerry Soul, a former Operation 40 case officer, primarily selected officers whose careers had stalled due to the gradual reduction of forces in Southeast Asia. Those hired were put through the BNDD’s training course and assigned to spy on a particular regional director. No records were kept and some participants have never been identified.
Charles Gutensohn was a typical Twofold “torpedo.” Prior to his recruitment into the BNDD, Gutensohn had spent two years at the CIA’s base in Pakse, a major heroin transit point between Laos and South Vietnam. “Fuller said that when we communicated, I was to be known as Leo Adams for Los Angeles,” Gutensohn said. “He was to be Walter DeCarlo, for Washington, DC.”
Gutensohn’s cover, however, was blown before he got to Los Angeles. “Someone at headquarters was talking and everyone knew,” he recalled. “About a month after I arrived, one of the agents said to me, ‘I hear that Pat Fuller signed your credentials’.”
Twofold, which existed at least until 1974, was deemed by the Rockefeller Commission to have “violated the 1947 Act which prohibits the CIA’s participation in law enforcement activities.” It also, as shall be discussed later, served as a cover for clandestine CIA operations.
The Nixon White House blamed the BNDD’s failure to stop international drug trafficking on its underdeveloped intelligence capabilities, a situation that opened the door to further CIA infiltration.
In late 1970, CIA Director Helms arranged for his recently retired chief of continuing intelligence, E. Drexel Godfrey, to review BNDD intelligence procedures. Among other things, Godfrey recommended that the BNDD create regional intelligence units (RIUs) and an office of strategic intelligence (SI0). The RIUs were up and running by 1971 with CIA officers often assigned as analysts, prompting BNDD agents to view the RIUs with suspicion, as repositories for Twofold torpedoes.
The SIO was harder to implement, given its arcane function as a tool to help top managers formulate plans and strategies “in the political sphere.” As SIO Director John Warner explained, “We needed to understand the political climate in Thailand in order to address the problem. We needed to know what kind of protection the Thai police were affording traffickers. We were looking for an intelligence office that could deal with those sorts of issues, on the ground, overseas.”
Organizing the SIO fell to CIA officers Adrian Swain and Tom Tripodi, both of whom were recruited into the BNDD. In April 1971 they accompanied Ingersoll to Saigon, where Station Chief Shackley briefed them. Through his CIA contacts, Swain obtained maps of drug-smuggling routes in Southeast Asia.
Upon their return to the U.S., Swain and Tripodi expressed frustration that the CIA had access to people capable of providing the BNDD with intelligence, but these people “were involved in narcotics trafficking and the CIA did not want to identify them.”
Seeking a way to circumvent the CIA, they recommended the creation of a “special operations or strategic operations staff” that would function as the BNDD’s own CIA “using a backdoor approach to gather intelligence in support of operations.” Those operations would rely on “longer range, deep penetration, clandestine assets, who remain undercover, do not appear during the course of any trial and are recruited and directed by the Special Operations agents on a covert basis.”
The White House approved the plan and in May 1971, Kissinger presented a $120 million drug control proposal, of which $50 million was earmarked for special operations. Three weeks later Nixon declared “war on drugs,” at which point Congress responded with funding for the SIO and authorization for the extra-legal operations Swain and Tripodi envisioned.
SIO Director Warner was given a seat on the U.S. Intelligence Board so the SIO could obtain raw intelligence from the CIA. But, in return, the SIO was compelled to adopt CIA security procedures. A CIA officer established the SIO’s file room and computer system; safes and steel doors were installed; and witting agents had to obtain CIA clearances.
Active-duty CIA officers were assigned to the SIO as desk officers for Europe and the Middle East, the Far East, and Latin America. Tripodi was assigned as chief of operations. Tripodi had spent the previous six years in the CIA’s Security Research Services, where his duties included the penetration of peace groups, as well as setting up firms to conduct black bag jobs. Notably, White House “Plumber” E. Howard Hunt inherited Tripodi’s Special Operations unit, which included several of the Watergate burglars.
Tripodi liaised with the CIA on matters of mutual interest and the covert collection of narcotics intelligence outside of routine BNDD channels. As part of his operational plan, code-named Medusa, Tripodi proposed that SIO agents hire foreign nationals to blow up contrabandista planes while they were refueling at clandestine air strips. Another proposal called for ambushing traffickers in America, and taking their drugs and money.
Enter Lucien Conein
The creation of the SIO coincided with the assignment of CIA officer Lucien Conein to the BNDD. As a member of the OSS, Conein had parachuted into France to form resistance cells that included Corsican gangsters. As a CIA officer, Conein in 1954 was assigned to Vietnam to organize anti-communist forces, and in 1963 achieved infamy as the intermediary between the Kennedy White House and the cabal of generals that murdered President Diem.
Historian Alfred McCoy has alleged that, in 1965, Conein arranged a truce between the CIA and drug trafficking Corsicans in Saigon. The truce, according to McCoy, allowed the Corsicans to traffic, as long as they served as contact men for the CIA. The truce also endowed the Corsicans with “free passage” at a time when Marseilles’ heroin labs were turning from Turkish to Southeast Asian morphine base.
Conein denied McCoy’s allegation and insisted that his meeting with the Corsicans was solely to resolve a problem caused by Daniel Ellsberg’s “peccadilloes with the mistress of a Corsican.”
It is impossible to know who is telling the truth. What is known is that in July 1971, on Howard Hunt’s recommendation, the White House hired Conein as an expert on Corsican drug traffickers in Southeast Asia. Conein was assigned as a consultant to the SIO’s Far East Asia desk. His activities will be discussed in greater detail below.
The Parallel Mechanism
In September 1971, the Heroin Committee was reorganized as the Cabinet Committee for International Narcotics Control (CCINC) under Secretary of State William Rogers. CCINC’s mandate was to “set policies which relate international considerations to domestic considerations.” By 1975, its budget amounted to $875 million, and the war on drugs had become a most profitable industry.
Concurrently, the CIA formed a unilateral drug unit in its operations division under Seymour Bolten. Known as the Special Assistant to the Director for the Coordination of Narcotics, Bolten directed CIA division and station chiefs in unilateral drug control operations. In doing this, Bolten worked closely with Ted Shackley, who in 1972 was appointed head of the CIA’s Western Hemisphere Division. Bolten and Shackley had worked together in post-war Germany, as well as in anti-Castro Cubans operations in the early 1960s. Their collaboration would grease federal drug law enforcement’s skid into oblivion.
“Bolten screwed us,” BNDD’s Latin American division chief Jerry Strickler said emphatically. “And so did Shackley.”
Bolten “screwed” the BNDD, and the American judicial system, by setting up a “parallel mechanism” based on a computerized register of international drug traffickers and a CIA-staffed communications crew that intercepted calls from drug traffickers inside the U.S. to their accomplices around the world. The International Narcotics Information Network (INIS) was modeled on a computerized management information system Shackley had used to terrorize the underground resistance in South Vietnam.
Bolten’s staff also “re-tooled” dozens of CIA officers and slipped them into the BNDD. Several went to Lou Conein at the SIO for clandestine, highly illegal operations.
Factions within the CIA and military were opposed to Bolten’s parallel mechanism, but CIA Executive Director William Colby supported Bolten’s plan to preempt the BNDD and use its agents and informants for unilateral CIA purposes. The White House also supported the plan for political purposes related to Watergate. Top BNDD officials who resisted were expunged; those who cooperated were rewarded.
Bureau of Narcotics Covert Intelligence Network
In September 1972, DCI Helms (then immersed in Watergate intrigues) told BNDD Director Ingersoll that the CIA had prepared files on specific drug traffickers in Miami, the Florida Keys, and the Caribbean. Helms said the CIA would provide Ingersoll with assets to pursue the traffickers and develop information on targets of opportunity. The CIA would also provide operational, technical, and financial support.
The result was the Bureau of Narcotics Covert Intelligence Network (BUNCIN) whose methodology reflected Tripodi’s Medusa Plan and included “provocations, inducement to desertion, creating confusion and apprehension.”
Some BUNCIN intelligence activities were directed against “senior foreign government officials” and were “blamed on other government agencies or even on the intelligence services of other nations.” Other BUNCIN activities were directed against American civic and political groups.
BNDD officials managed BUNCIN’s legal activities, while Conein at the SIO managed its political and CIA aspects. According to Conein’s administrative deputy, Rich Kobakoff, “BUNCIN was an experiment in how to finesse the law. The end product was intelligence, not seizures or arrests.” CIA officers Robert Medell and William Logay were selected to manage BUNCIN.
A Bay of Pigs veteran born in Cuba, Medell was initially assigned to the Twofold program. Medell was BUNCIN’s “covert” agent and recruited its principal agents. All of his assets had previously worked for the CIA, and all believed they were working for it again.
Medell started running agents in March 1973 with the stated goal of penetrating the Trafficante organization. To this end the BNDD’s Enforcement Chief, Andy Tartaglino, introduced Medell to Sal Caneba, a retired Mafioso who had been in business with Trafficante in the 1950s. Caneba in one day identified the head of the Cuban side of the Trafficante family, as well as its organizational structure.
But the CIA refused to allow the BNDD to pursue the investigation, because it had employed Trafficante in its assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, and because Trafficante’s Operation 40 associates were performing similar functions for the CIA around the world.
Medell’s Principal Agent was Bay of Pigs veteran Guillermo Tabraue, whom the CIA paid $1,400 a week. While receiving this princely sum, Tabraue participated in the “Alvarez-Cruz” drug smuggling ring.
Medell also recruited agents from Manuel Artime’s anti-Castro Cuban organization. Former CIA officer and White House “Plumber” Howard Hunt, notably, had been Artime’s case officer for years, and many members of Artime’s organization had worked for Ted Shackley while Shackley was the CIA’s station chief in Miami.
Bill Logay was the “overt” agent assigned to the BUNCIN office in Miami. Logay had been Shackley’s bodyguard in Saigon in 1969. From 1970-1971, Logay had served as a special police liaison and drug coordinator in Saigon’s Precinct 5. Logay was also asked to join Twofold, but claims to have refused.
Medell’s and Logay’s reports were hand delivered to BNDD headquarters via the Defense Department’s classified courier service. The Defense Department was in charge of emergency planning and provided BUNCIN agents with special communications equipment. The CIA supplied BUNCIN’s assets with forged IDs that enabled them to work for foreign governments, including Panama, Venezuela and Costa Rica.
Like Twofold, BUNCIN had two agendas. One, according to Chief Inspector Fuller, “was told” and had a narcotics mission. The other provided cover for the Plumbers. Orders for the domestic political facet emanated from the White House and passed through Conein to “Plumber” Gordon Liddy and his “Operation Gemstone” squad of exile Cuban terrorists from the Artime organization.
Enforcement chief Tartaglino was unhappy with the arrangement and gave Agent Ralph Frias the job of screening anti-Castro Cubans sent by the White House to the BNDD. Frias was assigned to International Affairs chief George Belk. When Nixon’s White House chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman sent over three Cubans, Frias interviewed them and realized they were “plants.” Those three were not hired, but, Frias lamented, many others were successfully infiltrated inside the BNDD and other federal agencies.
Under BUNCIN cover, CIA anti-Castro assets reportedly kidnapped and assassinated people in Colombia and Mexico. BUNCIN’s White House sponsors also sent CIA anti-Castro Cuban assets to gather dirt on Democratic politicians in Key West. With BUNCIN, federal drug law enforcement sank to new lows of political repression and corruption.
The Nixon White House introduced the “operations by committee” management method to ensure control over its illegal drug operations. But as agencies involved in drug law enforcement pooled resources, the BNDD’s mission was diluted and diminished.
And, as the preeminent agency in the federal government, the CIA not only separated itself from the BNDD as part of Bolten’s parallel mechanism, it rode off into the sunset on the BNDD’s horse. For example, at their introductory meeting in Mexico City in 1972, Ted Shackley told Latin American division chief Strickler to hand over all BNDD files, informant lists, and cable traffic.
According to Strickler, “Bad things happened.” The worst abuse was that the CIA allowed drug shipments into the U.S. without telling the BNDD. “Individual stations allowed this,” SIO Director John Warner confirmed.
In so far as evidence acquired by CIA electronic surveillance is inadmissible in court, the CIA was able to protect its controlled deliveries into the U.S. merely by monitoring them. Numerous investigations had to be terminated as a result. Likewise, dozens of prosecutions were dismissed on national security grounds due to the participation of CIA assets operating around the world.
Strickler knew which CIA people were guilty of sabotaging cases in Latin America and wanted to indict them. And so, at Bolten’s insistence, Strickler was reassigned. Meanwhile, CIA assets from Bolten’s unilateral drug unit were kidnapping and assassinating traffickers as part of Operation Twofold.
BNDD Director Ingersoll confirmed the existence of this covert facet of Twofold. Its purpose, he said, was to put people in deep cover in the U.S. to develop intelligence on drug trafficking, particularly from South America. The regional directors weren’t aware of it. Ingersoll said he got approval from Attorney General John Mitchell and passed the operation on to John Bartels, the first administrator of the DEA. He said the unit did not operate inside the U.S., which is why he thought it was legal.
Ingersoll added that he was surprised that no one from the Rockefeller Commission asked him about it.
Joseph DiGennaro’s entry into the covert facet of Operation Twofold began when a family friend, who knew CIA officer Jim Ludlum, suggested that he apply for a job with the BNDD. Then working as a stockbroker in New York, DiGennaro met Fuller in August 1971 in Washington. Fuller gave DiGennaro the code name Novo Yardley, based on his posting in New York, and as a play on the name of the famous codebreaker.
After DiGennaro obtained the required clearances, he was told that he and several other recruits were being “spun-off” from Twofold into the CIA’s “operational” unit. The background check took 14 months, during which time he received intensive combat and trade-craft training.
In October 1972 he was sent to New York City and assigned to an enforcement group as a cover. His paychecks came from BNDD funds, but the program was reimbursed by the CIA through the Bureau of Mines. The program was authorized by the “appropriate” Congressional committee.
DiGennaro’s unit was managed by the CIA’s Special Operations Division in conjunction with the military, which provided assets within foreign military services to keep ex-filtration routes (air corridors and roads) open. The military cleared air space when captured suspects were brought into the U.S. DiGennaro spent most of his time in South America, but the unit operated worldwide. The CIA unit numbered about 40 men, including experts in printing, forgery, maritime operations, and telecommunications.
DiGennaro would check with Fuller and take sick time or annual leave to go on missions. There were lots of missions. As his BNDD group supervisor in New York said, “Joey was never in the office.”
The job was tracking down, kidnapping, and, if they resisted, killing drug traffickers. Kidnapped targets were incapacitated by drugs and dumped in the U.S. As DEA Agent Gerry Carey recalled, “We’d get a call that there was ‘a present’ waiting for us on the corner of 116th Street and Sixth Avenue. We’d go there and find some guy, who’d been indicted in the Eastern District of New York, handcuffed to a telephone pole. We’d take him to a safe house for questioning and, if possible, turn him into an informer. Sometimes we’d have him in custody for months. But what did he know?”
If you’re a Corsican drug dealer in Argentina, and men with police credentials arrest you, how do you know it’s a CIA operation? DiGennaro’s last operation in 1977 involved the recovery of a satellite that had fallen into a drug dealer’s hands. Such was the extent of the CIA’s “parallel mechanism.”
The Dirty Dozen
With the formation of the Drug Enforcement Administration in July 1973, BUNCIN was renamed the DEA Clandestine Operations Network (DEACON 1). A number of additional DEACONs were developed through Special Field Intelligence Programs (SFIP). As an extension of BUNCIN, DEACON 1 developed intelligence on traffickers in Costa Rica, Ohio and New Jersey; politicians in Florida; terrorists and gun runners; the sale of boats and helicopters to Cuba; and the Trafficante organization.
Under DEA chief John Bartels, administrative control fell under Enforcement Chief George Belk and his Special Projects assistant Philip Smith. Through Belk and Smith, the Office of Special Projects had become a major facet of Bolten’s parallel mechanism. It housed the DEA’s air wing (staffed largely by CIA officers), conducted “research programs” with the CIA, provided technical aids and documentation to agents, and handled fugitive searches.
As part of DEACON 1, Smith sent covert agent Bob Medell “to Caracas or Bogota to develop a network of agents.” As Smith noted in a memorandum, reimbursement for Medell “is being made in backchannel fashion to CIA under payments to other agencies and is not counted as a position against us.”
Thoroughly suborned by Bolten and the CIA, DEA Administrator Bartels established a priority on foreign clandestine narcotics collection. And when Belk proposed a special operations group in intelligence, Bartels immediately approved it. In March 1974, Belk assigned the group to Lou Conein.
As chief of the Intelligence Group/Operations (IGO), Conein administered the DEA Special Operations Group (DEASOG), SFIP and National Intelligence Officers (NIO) programs. The chain of command, however, was “unclear” and while Medell reported administratively to Smith, Conein managed operations through a separate chain of command reaching to William Colby, who had risen to the rank of CIA Director concurrent with the formation of the DEA.
Conein had worked for Colby for many years in Vietnam, for through Colby he hired a “dirty dozen” CIA officers to staff DEASOG. As NIOs (not regular gun-toting DEA agents), the DEASOG officers did not buy narcotics or appear in court, but instead used standard CIA operating procedures to recruit assets and set up agent networks for the long-range collection of intelligence on trafficking groups. They had no connection to the DEA and were housed in a safe house outside headquarters in downtown Washington, DC.
The first DEASOG recruits were CIA officers Elias P. Chavez and Nicholas Zapata. Both had paramilitary and drug control experience in Laos. Colby’s personnel assistant Jack Mathews had been Chavez’s case officer at the Long Thien base, where General Vang Pao ran his secret drug-smuggling army under Ted Shackley’s auspices from 1966-1968.
A group of eight CIA officers followed: Wesley Dyckman, a Chinese linguist with service in Vietnam, was assigned to San Francisco. Louis J. Davis, a veteran of Vietnam and Laos, was assigned to the Chicago Regional Intelligence Unit.
Christopher Thompson from the CIA’s Phoenix Program in Vietnam went to San Antonio. Hugh E. Murray, veteran of Pakse and Bolivia (where he participated in the capture of Che Guevara), was sent to Tucson. Thomas D. McPhaul had worked with Conein in Vietnam, and was sent to Dallas. Thomas L. Briggs, a veteran of Laos and a friend of Shackley’s, went to Mexico. Vernon J. Goertz, a Shackley friend who had participated in the Allende coup, went to Venezuela. David A. Scherman, a Conein friend and former manager of the CIA’s interrogation center in Da Nang, was sent to sunny San Diego.
Gary Mattocks, who ran CIA counter-terror teams in Vietnam’s Delta, and interrogator Robert Simon were the eleventh and twelfth members. Terry Baldwin, Barry Carew and Joseph Lagattuta joined later.
According to Davis, Conein created DEASOG specifically to do Phoenix program-style jobs overseas: the type where a paramilitary officer breaks into a trafficker’s house, takes his drugs, and slits his throat. The NIOs were to operate overseas where they would target traffickers the police couldn’t reach, like a prime minister’s son or the police chief in Acapulco if he was the local drug boss. If they couldn’t assassinate the target, they would bomb his labs or use psychological warfare to make him look like he was a DEA informant, so his own people would kill him.
The DEASOG people “would be breaking the law,” Davis observed, “but they didn’t have arrest powers overseas anyway.”
Conein envisioned 50 NIOs operating worldwide by 1977. But a slew of Watergate-related scandals forced the DEA to curtail its NIO program and reorganize its covert operations staff and functions in ways that have corrupted federal drug law enforcement beyond repair.
The first scandal focused on DEACON 3, which targeted the Aviles-Perez organization in Mexico. Eli Chavez, Nick Zapata and Barry Carew were the NIOs assigned.
A veteran CIA officer who spoke Spanish, Carew had served as a special police adviser in Saigon before joining the BNDD. Carew was assigned as Conein’s Latin American desk officer and managed Chavez and Zapata (aka “the Mexican Assassin”) in Mexico. According to Chavez, a White House Task Force under Howard Hunt had started the DEACON 3 case. The Task force provided photographs of the Aviles Perez compound in Mexico, from whence truckloads of marijuana were shipped to the U.S.
Funds were allotted in February 1974, at which point Chavez and Zapata traveled to Mexico City as representatives of the North American Alarm and Fire Systems Company. In Mazatlán, they met with Carew, who stayed at a fancy hotel and played tennis every day, while Chavez and Zapata, whom Conein referred to as “pepper-bellies,” fumed in a flea-bag motel.
An informant arranged for Chavez, posing as a buyer, to meet Perez. A deal was struck, but DEA chief John Bartels made the mistake of instructing Chavez to brief the DEA’s regional director in Mexico City before making “the buy.”
At this meeting, the DEACON 3 agents presented their operational plan. But when the subject of “neutralizing” Perez came up, analyst Joan Banister took this to mean assassination. Bannister reported her suspicions to DEA headquarters, where the anti-CIA faction leaked her report to Washington Post columnist Jack Anderson.
Anderson’s allegation that the DEA was providing cover for a CIA assassination unit included revelations that the Senate had investigated IGO chief Conein for shopping around for assassination devices, like exploding ashtrays and telephones. Conein managed to keep his job, but the trail led to his comrade from the OSS, Mitch Werbell.
A deniable asset Conein used for parallel operations, Werbell had tried to sell several thousand silenced machine pistols to DEACON 1 target Robert Vesco, then living in Costa Rica surrounded by drug trafficking Cuban exiles in the Trafficante organization. Trafficante was also, at the time, living in Costa Rica as a guest of President Figueres whose son had purchased weapons from Werbell and used them to arm a death squad he formed with DEACON 1 asset Carlos Rumbault, a notorious anti-Castro Cuban terrorist and fugitive drug smuggler.
Meanwhile, in February 1974, DEA Agent Anthony Triponi, a former Green Beret and member of Operation Twofold, was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital in New York “suffering from hypertension.” DEA inspectors found Triponi in the psychiatric ward, distraught because he had broken his “cover” and now his “special code” would have to be changed.
Thinking he was insane, the DEA inspectors called former chief inspector Patrick Fuller in California, just to be sure. As it turned out, everything Triponi had said about Twofold was true! The incredulous DEA inspectors called the CIA and were stunned when they were told: “If you release the story, we will destroy you.”
By 1975, Congress and the Justice Department were investigating the DEA’s relations with the CIA. In the process they stumbled on, among other things, plots to assassinate Torrijos and Noriega in Panama, as well as Tripodi’s Medusa Program.
In a draft report, one DEA inspector described Medusa as follows: “Topics considered as options included psychological terror tactics, substitution of placebos to discredit traffickers, use of incendiaries to destroy conversion laboratories, and disinformation to cause internal warfare between drug trafficking organizations; other methods under consideration involved blackmail, use of psychopharmacological techniques, bribery and even terminal sanctions.”
Despite the flurry of investigations, Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, reconfirmed the CIA’s narcotic intelligence collection arrangement with DEA, and the CIA continued to have its way. Much of its success is attributed to Seymour Bolten, whose staff handled “all requests for files from the Church Committee,” which concluded that allegations of drug smuggling by CIA assets and proprietaries “lacked substance.”
The Rockefeller Commission likewise gave the CIA a clean bill of health, falsely stating that the Twofold inspections project was terminated in 1973. The Commission completely covered-up the existence of the operation unit hidden within the inspections program.
Ford did task the Justice Department to investigate “allegations of fraud, irregularity, and misconduct” in the DEA. The so-called DeFeo investigation lasted through July 1975, and included allegations that DEA officials had discussed killing Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega. In March 1976, Deputy Attorney General Richard Thornburgh announced there were no findings to warrant criminal prosecutions.
In 1976, Congresswoman Bella Abzug submitted questions to new Director of Central Intelligence George H.W. Bush, about the CIA’s central role in international drug trafficking. Bush’s response was to cite a 1954 agreement with the Justice Department gave the CIA the right to block prosecution or keep its crimes secret in the name of national security.
In its report, the Abzug Committee said: “It was ironic that the CIA should be given responsibility of narcotic intelligence, particularly since they are supporting the prime movers.”
The Mansfield Amendment of 1976 sought to curtail the DEA’s extra-legal activities abroad by prohibiting agents from kidnapping or conducting unilateral actions without the consent of the host government. The CIA, of course, was exempt and continued to sabotage DEA cases against its movers, while further tightening its stranglehold on the DEA’s enforcement and intelligence capabilities.
In 1977, the DEA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement sent a memo, co-signed by the six enforcement division chiefs, to DEA chief Peter Bensinger. As the memo stated, “All were unanimous in their belief that present CIA programs were likely to cause serious future problems for DEA, both foreign and domestic.”
They specifically cited controlled deliveries enabled by CIA electronic surveillance and the fact that the CIA “will not respond positively to any discovery motion.” They complained that “Many of the subjects who appear in these CIA- promoted or controlled surveillances regularly travel to the United States in furtherance of their trafficking activities.” The “de facto immunity” from prosecution enabled the CIA assets to “operate much more openly and effectively.”
But then DEA chief Peter Bensinger suffered the CIA at the expense of America’s citizens and the DEA’s integrity. Under Bensinger the DEA created its CENTAC program to target drug trafficking organization worldwide through the early 1980s. But the CIA subverted the CENTAC: as its director Dennis Dayle famously said, “The major targets of my investigations almost invariably turned out to be working for the CIA.”
Murder and Mayhem
DEACON 1 inherited BUNCIN’s anti-Castro Cuban assets from Brigade 2506, which the CIA organized to invade Cuba in 1960. Controlled by Nixon’s secret political police, these CIA assets, operating under DEA cover, had parallel assignments involving “extremist groups and terrorism, and information of a political nature.”
Noriega and Moises Torrijos in Panama were targets, as was fugitive financier and Nixon campaign contributor Robert Vesco in Costa Rica, who was suspected of being a middle man in drug and money-laundering operations of value to the CIA.
DEACON 1’s problems began when overt agent Bill Logay charged that covert agent Bob Medell’s anti-Castro Cuban assets had penetrated the DEA on behalf of the Trafficante organization. DEACON 1 secretary Cecelia Plicet fanned the flames by claiming that Conein and Medell were using Principal Agent Tabraue to circumvent the DEA.
In what amounted to an endless succession of controlled deliveries, Tabraue was financing loads of cocaine and using DEACON 1’s Cuban assets to smuggle them into the U.S. Plicet said that Medell and Conein worked for “the other side” and wanted the DEA to fail. These accusations prompted an investigation, after which Logay was reassigned to inspections and Medell was reassigned and replaced by Gary Mattocks, an NIO member of the Dirty Dozen.
According to Mattocks, Shackley helped Colby set up DEASOG and brought in “his” people, including Tom Clines, whom Shackley placed in charge of the CIA’s Caribbean operations. Clines, like Shackley and Bolten, knew all the exile Cuban terrorists and traffickers on the DEASOG payroll. CIA officer Vernon Goertz worked for Clines in Caracas as part of the CIA’s parallel mechanism under DEASOG cover.
As cover for his DEACON 1 activities, Mattocks set up a front company designed to improve relations between Cuban and American businessmen. Meanwhile, through the CIA, he recruited members of the Artime organization including Watergate burglars Rolando Martinez and Bernard Barker, as well as Che Guevara’s murderer, Felix Rodriguez. These anti-Castro terrorists were allegedly part of an Operation 40 assassination squad that Shackley and Clines employed for private as well as professional purposes.
In late 1974, DEACON 1 crashed and burned when interrogator Robert Simon’s daughter was murdered in a drive-by shooting by crazed anti-Castro Cubans. Simon at the time was managing the CIA’s drug data base and had linked the exile Cuban drug traffickers with “a foreign terrorist organization.” As Mattocks explained, “It got bad after the Brigaders found out Simon was after them.”
None of the CIA’s terrorists, however, were ever arrested. Instead, Conein issued a directive prohibiting DEACON 1 assets from reporting on domestic political affairs or terrorist activities and the tragedy was swept under the carpet for reasons of national security.
DEACON 1 unceremoniously ended in 1975 after Agent Fred Dick was assigned to head the DEA’s Caribbean Basin Group. In that capacity Dick visited the DEACON 1 safe house and found, in his words, “a clandestine CIA unit using miscreants from Bay of Pigs, guys who were blowing up planes.” Dick hit the ceiling and in August 1975 DEACON I was terminated.
No new DEACONs were initiated and the others quietly ran their course. Undeterred, the CIA redeployed its anti-Castro Cuban miscreant assets, some of whom established the terror organization CORU in 1977. Others would go to work for Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, a key National Security Council aide under President Ronald Reagan in the Iran-Contra drug and terror network.
Conein’s IGO was disbanded in 1976 after a grand jury sought DEACON I intelligence regarding several drug busts. But CIA acquired intelligence cannot be used in prosecutions, and the CIA refused to identify its assets in court, with the result that 27 prosecutions were dismissed on national security grounds.
Gary Mattocks was thereafter unwelcomed in the DEA. But his patron Ted Shackley had become DCI George Bush’s assistant deputy director for operations and Shackley kindly rehired Mattocks into the CIA and assigned him to the CIA’s narcotics unit in Peru.
At the time, Santiago Ocampo was purchasing cocaine in Peru and his partner Matta Ballesteros was flying it to the usual Cuban miscreants in Miami. One of the receivers, Francisco Chanes, an erstwhile DEACON asset, owned two seafood companies that would soon allegedly come to serve as fronts in Oliver North’s Contra supply network, receiving and distributing tons of Contra cocaine.
Mattocks himself soon joined the Contra support operation as Eden Pastrora’s case officer. In that capacity Mattocks was present in 1984 when CIA officers handed pilot Barry Seal a camera and told him to take photographs of Sandinista official Federico Vaughn loading bags of cocaine onto Seal’s plane. A DEA “special employee,” Seal was running drugs for Jorge Ochoa Vasquez and purportedly using Nicaragua as a transit point for his deliveries.
North asked DEA officials to instruct Seal, who was returning to Ochoa with $1.5 million, to deliver the cash to the Contras, according to a 1988 House Judiciary subcommittee report. When the DEA officials refused, North leaked a blurry photo, purportedly of Vaughn, to the right-wing Washington Times in a ploy to discredit Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.
So, for the Reagan administration’s political purposes, North blew the DEA’s biggest case at the time, and the DEA did nothing about it, even though DEA Administrator Jack Lawn said in testimony before the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime that leaking the photo “severely jeopardized the lives” of agents.
The circle was squared in 1989 when the CIA instructed Gary Mattocks to testify as a defense witness at the trial of DEACON 1 Principal Agent Gabriel Tabraue. Although Tabraue had earned $75 million from drug trafficking, while working as a CIA and DEA asset, the judge declared a mistrial based on Mattocks’s testimony. Tabraue was released. Some people inferred that President George H.W. Bush had personally ordered Mattocks to dynamite the case.
The CIA’s use of the DEA to employ terrorists would continue apace. For example, in 1981, DEA Agent Dick Salmi recruited Roberto Cabrillo, a drug smuggling member of CORU, an organization of murderous Cuban exiles formed by drug smuggler Frank Castro and Luis Posada while George Bush was DCI.
The DEA arrested Castro in 1981, but the CIA engineered his release and hired him to establish a Contra training camp in the Florida Everglades. Posada reportedly managed resupply and drug shipments for the Contras in El Salvador, in cahoots with Felix Rodriguez. Charged in Venezuela with blowing up a Cuban airliner and killing 73 people in 1976, Posada was shielded from extradition by George W. Bush in the mid-2000s.
Having been politically castrated by the CIA, DEA officials merely warned its CORU assets to stop bombing people in the U.S. It could maim and kill people anywhere else, just not here in the sacred homeland. By then, Salmi noted, the Justice Department had a special “grey-mail section” to fix cases involving CIA terrorists and drug dealers.
DCI William Webster formed the CIA’s Counter-Narcotics Center in 1988. Staffed by over 100 agents, it ostensibly became the springboard for the covert penetration of, and paramilitary operations against, top traffickers protected by high-tech security firms, lawyers and well-armed private armies.
The CNC brought together, under CIA control, every federal agency involved in the drug wars. Former CIA officer and erstwhile Twofold member, Terry Burke, then serving as the DEA’s Deputy for Operations, was allowed to send one liaison officer to the CNC.
The CNC quickly showed its true colors. In the late 1990, Customs agents in Miami seized a ton of pure cocaine from Venezuela. To their surprise, a Venezuelan undercover agent said the CIA had approved the delivery. DEA Administrator Robert Bonner ordered an investigation and discovered that the CIA had, in fact, shipped the load from its warehouse in Venezuela.
The “controlled deliveries” were managed by CIA officer Mark McFarlin, a veteran of Reagan’s terror campaign in El Salvador. Bonner wanted to indict McFarlin, but was prevented from doing so because Venezuela was in the process of fighting off a rebellion led by leftist Hugo Chavez. This same scenario has been playing out in Afghanistan for the last 15 years, largely through the DEA’s Special Operations Division (SOD), which provides cover for CIA operations worldwide.
The ultimate and inevitable result of American imperialism, the SOD job is not simply to “create a crime,” as freewheeling FBN agents did in the old days, but to “recreate a crime” so it is prosecutable, despite whatever extra-legal methods were employed to obtain the evidence before it is passed along to law enforcement agencies so they can make arrests without revealing what prompted their suspicions.
Reuters reported in 2013, “The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.”
The utilization of information from the SOD, which operates out of a secret location in Virginia, “cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function,” according to an internal document cited by Reuters, which added that agents are specifically directed “to omit the SOD’s involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony.”
Agents are told to use “parallel construction” to build their cases without reference to SOD’s tips which may come from sensitive “intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records,” Reuters reported.
Citing a former federal agent, Reuters reported that SOD operators would tell law enforcement officials in the U.S. to be at a certain place at a certain time and to look for a certain vehicle which would then be stopped and searched on some pretext. “After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said,” Reuters reported.
An anonymous senior DEA official told Reuters that this “parallel construction” approach is “decades old, a bedrock concept” for law enforcement. The SOD’s approach follows Twofold techniques and Bolten’s parallel mechanism from the early 1970s.
To put it simply, lying to frame defendants, which has always been unstated policy, is now official policy: no longer considered corruption, it is how your government manages the judicial system on behalf of the rich political elite.
As outlined in this article, the process tracks back to Nixon, the formation of the BNDD, and the creation of a secret political police force out of the White House. As Agent Bowman Taylor caustically observed, “I used to think we were fighting the drug business, but after they formed the BNDD, I realized we were feeding it.”
The corruption was first “collateral” – as a function of national security performed by the CIA in secret – but has now become “integral,” the essence of empire run amok.
Douglas Valentine is author of The Phoenix Program, which is available through Amazon, as well as The Strength of the Wolf and the new book Strength of the Pack.
This section is about the now-old film “Killing The Messenger: The Deadly Cost of News”.
If no story is worth a life, then why is murder the number one cause of journalists’ deaths worldwide?
Murder is the leading cause of work related deaths for journalists as censorship increases worldwide. In addition to those who have been killed, dozens have been attacked, kidnapped, or forced into exile in connection with their coverage of crime and corruption.
Journalists reporting from Mexico, Russia and the conflict zones of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria tell their personal stories of kidnapping, intimidation, and beatings. They’ve experienced the loss of colleagues in the field and have been close to death themselves. Their stories are heartfelt, captivating, engaging and at moments – unbelievable.
The targeting of Journalists worldwide affects anyone who believes that information and accurate reporting play a part in healthy societies.