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Alfred McCoy: The Politics of Heroin


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#1 John Simkin

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 12:00 PM

(1) In 1972, Cord Meyer, a senior official in the CIA became aware of your manuscript and made efforts to have the book withheld from publication. Could you tell us more about this story?

(2) According to the Frank Church report (Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities) published in 1976, the CIA arranged for books critical of the agency to receive bad reviews in the media. Did this happen to The Politics of Heroin?

(3) On 12th December, 1986, Daniel Sheehan submitted to the court an affidavit detailing the involvement of a small group of CIA operatives that included Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Secord (they were called the Secret Team) in the drug trade. For example Sheehan said:

Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines financed a highly intensified phase of the Phoenix project, in 1974 and 1975, by causing an intense flow of Vang Pao opium money to be secretly brought into Vietnam for this purpose. This Vang Pao opium money was administered for Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines by a US Navy official based in Saigon's US office of Naval Operations by the name of Richard Armitage. However, because Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Armitage knew that their secret anti-communist extermination program was going to be shut down in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand in the very near future, they, in 1973, began a highly secret non-CIA authorized program. Thus, from late 1973 until April of 1975, Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Armitage disbursed, from the secret, Laotian-based, Vang Pao opium fund, vastly more money than was required to finance even the highly intensified Phoenix Project in Vietnam. The money in excess of that used in Vietnam was secretly smuggled out of Vietnam in large suitcases, by Richard Secord and Thomas Clines and carried into Australia, where it was deposited in a secret, personal bank account (privately accessible to Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Secord). During this same period of time between 1973 and 1975, Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines caused thousands of tons of US weapons, ammunition, and explosives to be secretly taken from Vietnam and stored at a secret "cache" hidden inside Thailand.

The "liaison officer" to Shackley and Clines and the Phoenix Project in Vietnam, during this 1973 to 1975 period, from the "40 Committee" in the Nixon White House was one Eric Von Arbod, an Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs. Von Arbod shared his information about the Phoenix Project directly with his supervisor Henry Kissinger.

Saigon fell to the Vietnamese in April of 1975. The Vietnam War was over. Immediately upon the conclusion of the evacuation of U.S. personnel from Vietnam, Richard Armitage was dispatched, by Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines, from Vietnam to Tehran, Iran. In Iran, Armitage, the "bursar" for the Vang Pao opium money for Shackley and Clines' planned "Secret Team" covert operations program, between May and August of 1975, set up a secret "financial conduit" inside Iran, into which secret Vang Pao drug funds could be deposited from Southeast Asia. The purpose of this conduit was to serve as the vehicle for secret funding by Shackley's "Secret Team," of a private, non-CIA authorized "Black" operations inside Iran, disposed to seek out, identify, and assassinate socialist and communist sympathizers, who were viewed by Shackley and his "Secret Team" members to be "potential terrorists" against the Shah of Iran`s government in Iran. In late 1975 and early 1976, Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines retained Edwin Wilson to travel to Tehran, Iran to head up the "Secret Team" covert "anti-terrorist" assassination program in Iran. This was not a U.S. government authorized operation. This was a private operations supervised, directed and participated in by Shackley, Clines, Secord and Armitage in their purely private capacities.

At the end of 1975, Richard Armitage took the post of a "Special Consultant" to the U.S. Department of Defense regarding American military personnel Missing In Action (MIAs) in Southeast Asia. In this capacity, Armitage was posted in the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. There Armitage had top responsibility for locating and retrieving American MIA's in Southeast Asia. He worked at the Embassy with an associate, one Jerry O. Daniels. From 1975 to 1977, Armitage held this post in Thailand. However, he did not perform the duties of this office. Instead, Armitage continued to function as the "bursar" for Theodore Shackley's "Secret Team," seeing to it that secret Vang Pao opium funds were conducted from Laos, through Armitage in Thailand to both Tehran and the secret Shackley bank account in Australia at the Nugen-Hand Bank. The monies conducted by Armitage to Tehran were to fund Edwin Wilson's secret anti-terrorist "seek and destroy" operation on behalf of Theodore Shackely. Armitage also devoted a portion of his time between 1975 and 1977, in Bangkok, facilitating the escape from Laos, Cambodia and Thailand and the relocation elsewhere in the world, of numbers of the secret Meo tribesmen group which had carried out the covert political assassination program for Theodore Shackley in Southeast Asia between 1966 and 1975. Assisting Richard Armitage in this operation was Jerry O. Daniels. Indeed, Jerry O. Daniels was a "bag-man" for Richard Armitage, assisting Armitage by physically transporting out of Thailand millions of dollars of Vang Pao's secret opium money to finance the relocation of Theodore Shackley's Meo tribesmen and to supply funds to Theodore Shackley's "Secret Team" operations. At the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Richard Armitage also supervised the removal of arms, ammunition and explosives from the secret Shackley/Clines cache of munitions hidden inside Thailand between 1973 and 1975, for use by Shackley's "Secret Team". Assisting Armitage in this latter operations was one Daniel Arnold, the CIA Chief of Station in Thailand, who joined Shackley's "Secret Team" in his purely private capacity.

One of the officers in the U.S. Embassy in Thailand, one Abranowitz came to know of Armitage's involvement in the secret handling of Vang Pao opium funds and caused to be initiated an internal State Department heroin smuggling investigations directed against Richard Armitage. Armitage was the target of Embassy personnel complaints to the effect that he was utterly failing to perform his duties on behalf of American MIAs, and he reluctantly resigned as the D.O.D. Special Consultant on MIA's at the end of 1977.

From 1977 until 1979, Armitage remained in Bangkok opening and operating a business named The Far East Trading Company. This company had offices only in Bangkok and in Washington, D.C. This company was, in fact, from 1977 to 1979, merely a "front" for Armitage's secret operations conducting Vang Pao opium money out of Southeast Asia to Tehran and the Nugen-Hand Bank in Australia to fund the ultra right-wing, private anti-communist "anti-terrorist" assassination program and "unconventional warfare" operation of Theodore Shackley's and Thomas Cline's "Secret Team". During this period, between 1975 and 1979, in Bangkok, Richard Armitage lived in the home of Hynnie Aderholdt, the former Air Wing Commander of Shackley`s "Special Operations Group" in Laos, who, between 1966 and 1968, had served as the immediate superior to Richard Secord, the Deputy Air Wing Commander of MAG SOG. Secord, in 1975, was transferred from Vietnam to Tehran, Iran.

In 1976, Richard Secord moved to Tehran, Iran and became the Deputy Assistant Secretary of defense in Iran, in charge of the Middle Eastern Division of the Defense Security Assistance Administration. In this capacity, Secord functioned as the chief operations officer for the U.S. Defense Department in the Middle East in charge of foreign military sales of U.S. aircraft, weapons and military equipment to Middle Eastern nations allied to the U.S. Secord's immediate superior was Eric Van Marbad, the former 40 Committee liaison officer to Theodore Shackley's Phoenix program in Vietnam from 1973 to 1975.


It later emerged that the two main sources for this story was Carl Jenkins, a senior official in the CIA and Gene Wheaton, a man who had worked for the CIA on a freelance basis. During your research, did you discover if Carl Jenkins was involved in the drug trade?

In an interview given in 2005, Wheaton claimed that Jenkins was involved in training this CIA team of assassins. He also added that Jenkins turned this team against JFK. During your research, did you discover any information on this CIA assassination team?

(4) In your book, The Politics of Heroin, you look at the possible involvement of Ted Shackley in the drug trade. What do you make of this passage from Ted Shackley’s autobiography, Spymaster: My Life in the CIA, that was published earlier this year?

By 1966 the dimensions of the opium problem in Southeast Asia were widely known. The files that I read before going to Vientiane, my discussions with officers who had served there, and a review of the open-source literature all brought the issue home to me. In brief, Laos was not going to be at all like Florida. In Miami the dragon was outside the wall, and my task had been to keep him there. In Laos, on the other hand, he was already inside the perimeter, and I was going to have coexist with him without being seared by his breath.

I can already hear the howls of outrage: "Coexist with narcotics traffickers! Just as we always thought! He should have been wiping them out."

Well, only rogue elephants charge at everything in their path, and the CIA was never such an animal. The critics' point of view is a respectable one, perhaps even reasonable, if you leave out of consideration the fact that the CIA takes its orders from higher authority and that nowhere in these orders at the time under discussion now a generation ago-was there any mention of narcotics. The mission that had been handed me was to fight a war in northern Laos against the Pathet Lao and the NVA and to interdict, along the Laotian part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the flow of military manpower and materiel from North Vietnam to the battlefields of South Vietnam. My plate was full.

In addition to this, the cultivation of poppy and the medicinal use of opium formed part of the economic and social fabric of the area I would be working in. The CIA inspector general, reporting in September 1972 on the drug situation in Southeast Asia, said that when the United States arrived in the region, "Opium was as much a part of the agricultural infrastructure of this area as was rice, one suitable for the hills, the other for the valleys."'

This generalization was as true for Laos as it was for the rest of Southeast Asia, but it tends to obscure the fact that this common agricultural infrastructure supported and was supported by a multiethnic society. Among the Laotian hill tribes alone there were the Hmong, the Yao, the Lao Thung, and the Lu, just to identify a few, and the Hmong were further subdivided into the Red Hmong, the Striped Hmong, and the Black Hmong. These tribes and subtribes all shared a common culture in which the cultivation and use of opium played a part, but each had put its own individual twist on it. Subjecting all these groupings to a standard set of mores is a job I would not wish on any social engineer.

I did have to ensure that the guerrilla units we were supporting were not trading or using opium and to minimize the prospects that Air America or Continental Air Services aircraft were being used for opium-smuggling tasks while under contract to us...

The fantasy that the CIA was smuggling opium for its own profit has been examined and dismissed as the nonsense it is by a select committee of the United States Senate.


#2 Alfred W. McCoy

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 07:38 PM

(1) In 1972, Cord Meyer, a senior official in the CIA became aware of your manuscript and made efforts to have the book withheld from publication. Could you tell us more about this story?


This entire story of the CIA's attempted suppression of the book was documented in an article that I did for the "New York Review of Books" in late 1972 and recounted, in brief, in a biography of Cord Meyer, Jr. by Merle Miller in "The New York Sunday Times Magazine." In brief, Meyer, then head of covert operations for the CIA, somehow learned of the book's contents while it was in press at Harper & Row in New York. He called on the company's publisher, a friend from New York social circles, to persuade him to suppress the book. Though the publisher refused that request, the company did agree, over my strenuous objections, to grant the Agency prior review, a dangerous transgression of constitutional protections. The US media reacted in rage and the Agency back off, producing a weak 14 page critique of the ms. and the book was published unaltered.



(2) According to the Frank Church report (Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities) published in 1976, the CIA arranged for books critical of the agency to receive bad reviews in the media. Did this happen to The Politics of Heroin?


This did not happen to the book. While I was in Laos doing the research, CIA mercenaries made an assassination attempt on my research team. Even though I was a lowly graduate student at Yale University, I had an FBI phone tap, an IRS audit, an investigation of my federal fellowship by the US Department of Education, and, I believe, pressure my university to dismiss me from the graduate program. Once the book was published, the Agency threatened my sources in Laos to repudiate information they had given me. In sum, the Agency tugged at every thread in the threadbare life of an American graduate student. After the book was published and I finished my Ph.D., I found no academic employment in the US and migrated to Australia where I taught for 12 years.


(3) On 12th December, 1986, Daniel Sheehan submitted to the court an affidavit detailing the involvement of a small group of CIA operatives that included Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Secord (they were called the Secret Team) in the drug trade.


Since the courts have ruled, this is not a subject that I wish to comment on.

#3 Mark Stapleton

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 05:40 PM


(1) In 1972, Cord Meyer, a senior official in the CIA became aware of your manuscript and made efforts to have the book withheld from publication. Could you tell us more about this story?


This entire story of the CIA's attempted suppression of the book was documented in an article that I did for the "New York Review of Books" in late 1972 and recounted, in brief, in a biography of Cord Meyer, Jr. by Merle Miller in "The New York Sunday Times Magazine." In brief, Meyer, then head of covert operations for the CIA, somehow learned of the book's contents while it was in press at Harper & Row in New York. He called on the company's publisher, a friend from New York social circles, to persuade him to suppress the book. Though the publisher refused that request, the company did agree, over my strenuous objections, to grant the Agency prior review, a dangerous transgression of constitutional protections. The US media reacted in rage and the Agency back off, producing a weak 14 page critique of the ms. and the book was published unaltered.



(2) According to the Frank Church report (Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities) published in 1976, the CIA arranged for books critical of the agency to receive bad reviews in the media. Did this happen to The Politics of Heroin?


This did not happen to the book. While I was in Laos doing the research, CIA mercenaries made an assassination attempt on my research team. Even though I was a lowly graduate student at Yale University, I had an FBI phone tap, an IRS audit, an investigation of my federal fellowship by the US Department of Education, and, I believe, pressure my university to dismiss me from the graduate program. Once the book was published, the Agency threatened my sources in Laos to repudiate information they had given me. In sum, the Agency tugged at every thread in the threadbare life of an American graduate student. After the book was published and I finished my Ph.D., I found no academic employment in the US and migrated to Australia where I taught for 12 years.


(3) On 12th December, 1986, Daniel Sheehan submitted to the court an affidavit detailing the involvement of a small group of CIA operatives that included Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Secord (they were called the Secret Team) in the drug trade.


Since the courts have ruled, this is not a subject that I wish to comment on.


Alfred,

I'm currently reading Michael Collins Piper's "Final Judgement" and the author mentions your book(s) on the history of the global drug trade. It's a fascinating subject and I will be purchasing your aforementioned book and reading it after I've read Final Judgement.

Regarding heroin, it's always amazed me that a drug can be so reviled, yet is still used in British hospitals today (as diamorphine). It is widely regarded as the most effective painkiller known to science with a multitude of clinical uses, but its power has been used instead to help create a global criminal empire. The machinery of prohibition drains vast resources from many nations which, in light of the legality of other dangerous drugs, seems quite pointless and irrational. I suspect this is by design.

I congratulate you on showing such courage and I look forward to reading your book. Just the fact that the CIA went to such lengths to suppress it is recommendation enough for me.

#4 Scott Deitche

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 02:35 AM

Alfred,

Nick Furci was always a low level guy in the Trafficante organization- he doesn't figure into many of the family's major operations in either Tampa or pre-Castro Cuba.

Any background on why his son Frank became the conduit for the SE Asia heroin pipeline for Trafficante? Was it a simple case of being in the right place at the right time?


Thanks,
Scott

#5 Sid Walker

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Posted 23 April 2006 - 12:48 AM

I'd be very interested in Alfred McCoy's reaction to The clash of the icons by Douglas Valentine, which discusses the apparently irreconcilable narratives of Alfred McCoy and Daniel Ellsberg over events in Vietnam in which the latter was a key participant (before he became famous for releasing the 'Pentagon Papers').

A key question rasied by Valentine is whether "McCoy himself (was) led in a wide circle around the CIA's [/b]unilateral drug smuggling operation? (emphasis added)

It would be fascinating to have Professor McCoy's repsonse.

#6 John Simkin

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Posted 26 May 2006 - 12:14 PM

(1) How did you come to write The Politics of Heroin; CIA Complicity In The Global Drug Trade?

(2) How did the CIA become involved in heroin trafficking in Southeast Asia?

#7 Alfred W. McCoy

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Posted 26 May 2006 - 02:01 PM

(1) How did you come to write The Politics of Heroin; CIA Complicity In The Global Drug Trade?


In 1971 I was a graduate student doing Southeast Asian History at Yale University. An editor at Harper & Row, Elisabeth Jakab, read some articles in a volume I had edited about Laos, which made some general references to the opium trade in Laos.

She decided this would be a great idea for a book and asked me to do a background book on the heroin plague that was sweeping the forces then fighting in South Vietnam. We later learned that about one third of the United States combat forces in Vietnam, conservatively estimated, were heroin addicts.

I went to Paris and interviewed retired general Maurice Belleux, the former head of the French equivalent of the CIA, an organization called SDECE [Service de Documentation Exterieure et du Contre-Espionage]. In an amazing interview he told me that French military intelligence had financed all their covert operations from the control of the Indochina drug trade. [The French protected opium trafficking in Laos and northern Vietnam during the colonial war that raged from 1946 to the French defeat in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu.]

The French paratroopers fighting with hill tribes collected the opium and French aircraft would fly the opium down to Saigon and the Sino-Vietnamese mafia that was the instrument of French intelligence would then distribute the opium. The central bank accounts, the sharing of the profits, was all controlled by French military intelligence.

He concluded the interview by telling me that it was his information that the CIA had taken over the French assets and were pursuing something of the same policy.

So I went to Southeast Asia to follow up on that lead and that's what took me into doing this whole book. It was basically pulling a thread and keep tucking at it and a veil masking the reality began to unravel.




(2) How did the CIA become involved in heroin trafficking in Southeast Asia?


During the 40 years of the cold war, from the late 1940's to this year, the CIA pursued a policy that I call radical pragmatism. Their mission was to stop communism and in pursuit of that mission they would ally with anyone and do anything to fight communism.

Since the 1920's the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations, and the United States have prohibited opium and cocaine products from legal sale. These products had already emerged as vast global commodities with very substantial production zones and large markets, large demand for those commodities both in the third world and the first.

The historic Asia opium zone stretches across 5,000 miles of Asian mainland from Turkey to Laos along the southern borders of the Soviet Union and the southern border of communist China. It just so happened that one of the key war zones in the cold war happened to lay astride the Asian opium zone.

During the long years of the cold war the CIA mounted major covert guerilla operations along the Soviet-Chinese border. The CIA recruited as allies people we now call drug lords for their operation against communist China in northeastern Burma in 1950, then from 1965 to 1975 (during the Vietnam war) their operation in northern Laos and throughout the decade of the 1980's, the Afghan operation against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Powerful, upland political figures control the societies and economies in these regions and part of that panoply of power is the opium trade. The CIA extended the mantle of their alliance to these drug lords and in every case the drug lords used it to expand a small local trade in opium into a major source of supply for the world markets and the United States.

While they were allied with the United States these drug lords were absolutely immune to any kind of investigation. If you're involved in any kind of illicit commodity trade, organized crime activity like drug trafficking, there is only one requisite for success, immunity, and the CIA gave them that. As long as they were allied with the CIA, the local police and then the DEA stayed away from the drug lords.

Finally, if there were any allegations about the involvement of their allies in the drug trade, the CIA would use their good offices to quash those allegations.

This meant that these drug lords, connected with the CIA, and protected by the CIA, were able to release periodic heroin surges, and [in Latin America] periodic cocaine surges. You can trace very precisely during the 40 years of the cold war, the upsurge in narcotics supply in the United States with covert operations.



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