[Following is dated material, from the CN archives]
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Ward Larkin:  Noriega & the USA -- 24 05:58 
The following appeared in  the  Fall,  1991 issue of Convergence,
published by 
The Christic Institute
1324 North Capitol Street NW
Washington, DC  20002
Voice:  (202) 797-8106
Headline -- Noriega:  our man in Panama
U.S. Administration turned blind eye to Noriega's drug deals
Cocaine  Politics:   Drugs,  Armies  and  the  C.I.A.  in Central
America is the title of  a  new study published by the University
of California Press.  Prof Peter Dale Scott of the University  of
California,  Berkeley  and  Jonathan Marshall economics editor of
the San Francisco Chronicle,  use  official  documents as well as
interviews with Government  officials,  journalists,  mercenaries
and  drug  traffickers  to  show that the current response to the
drug  crisis   in   this   country   overlooks  Washington's  own
contribution  to  the  problem.   During  the  war  against   the
Nicaraguan  Sandinistas,  significant elements within the contras
trafficked extensively in  cocaine  supplying  much  of the North
American market while the CIA.,  National  Security  Council  and
Justice  Deparmnent  ignored  the  evidence.   In  the  following
excerpt  Scott  and  Marshall  trace  the  history  of the United
States'  relationship  with  former  Panamanian  dictator  Manuel
Noriega.  For information on how  to  purchase this book from the
Christic Institute please send email to
Regional influences,  both  political  and  criminal,  fueled the
explosive growth of drug  trafficking  through  Honduras  in  the
early 1980s.  In 1980 and 1981, for example, the head of military
intelligence  in  Panama, Col. Manuel Noriega, teamed up with his
counterpart at the head of  the  Honduran G-2, Colonel Tortes, to
smuggle first arms (on behalf of Marxist rebels in  El  Salvador)
and then drugs.
Noriega's malign influence spread to Costa Rica as well.  A Costa
Rican  legislative  commission  concluded  in  1989  that Noriega
helped install in that country at least seven pilots who ran guns
to the contras and drugs to North America.  "More serious still,"
it added, "is  the  obvious  infiltration  of international gangs
into Costa Rica that  made  use  of  the  [contra]  organization.
These requests for contra help were initiated by Colonel [Oliver]
North  to  General Noriega.  They opened a gate so their henchmen
utilized the  national  territory  for  trafficking  in  arms and
As that finding suggests, Noriega's  reach  extended  far  beyond
Central  America  to  Washington.   Indeed, his relationship with
U.S. intelligence helps  account  both  for  his own longstanding
immunity from American law enforcement and  for  his  ability  to
promote corrupt elements of the contra support movement.
Noriega  was  first  recruited  as  an  agent by the U.S. Defense
Intelligence Agency in 1959,  while  still a young military cadet
studying in Peru.  He went on the C.I.A.'s payroll in 1967.   The
next  year,  a  military  coup  assisted by the U.S. Army's 47Oth
Military Intelligence Group gave  Noriega his opportunity to take
charge of Panama's own G-2.  His new job  made  him  a  priceless
source  for  the  Americas  services,  which  used  Panama  as  a
listening post for much of Latin America.
Before   long,   however,  Washington  discovered  its  protege's
criminal bent.  As early as May  1971 the Bureau of Narcotics and
Dangerous Drugs (B.N.D.D.) heard serious allegations of Noriega's
involvement in trafficking.  A former chief of staff to Gen. Omar
Torrijos,  Panama's  military  ruler,  settled  in  Miami   after
botching  a  coup  attempt.  He revealed to U.S. authorities that
Noriega  had  "overall  operational  control"  of  the officially
sanctioned narcotics trade  in  Panama.   The  B.N.D.D.  actually
amassed  enough  evidence  to  indict  him  in  a major marijuana
smuggling case, only to run  up against practical objections from
the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami:  No one in those days  could
imagine invading Panama to bring a senior officer to justice.
Intent  on  negotiating  a  new Panama Canal treaty, however, the
State Department put other foreign policy objectives ahead of law
enforcement and persuaded B.N.D.D. to back off.  A long honeymoon
began and Panama's  economy  boomed  under  the  stimulus of drug
dollars attracted to its modern and secretive banking sector.
By 1976, Noriega was fully forgiven.  C.I.A. Director George Bush
arranged to pay Noriega $110,00 a year for his services, put  the
Panamanian up as a house guest of his deputy C.I.A. director, and
helped to prevent an embarrassing prosecution of several American
soldiers  who  had  delivered highly classified U.S. intelligence
secrets to Noriega's men.
Noriega earned his pay.   He  supplied  pilots who helped smuggle
weapons to the contra leader Eden  Pastora.   In  July  1984,  he
contributed  $100,000  to contra leaders based in Costa Rica.  In
March 1985, Noriega  helped  Oliver  North  plan  and carry out a
major sabotage raid in Managua, using the services of  a  British
mercenary.   In 1985, responding to pleas from Casey, he promised
to help train contra units and  let  them use Panama as a transit
point.  In September 1986, North met Noriega in London;  the  two
discussed  further  sabotage against Nicaraguan economic targets,
including an  oil  refinery,  an  airport,  and  the electric and
telephone systems.  North's diary indicated that Noriega  offered
the  aid  of  skilled (probably Israeli) commandos, including one
who "killed head  of  PLO  in  Brt  [Beirut]."   The two men also
considered setting up a school for commandos  that  could  "train
experts"  in  such  matters  as  "booby  traps,"  "night ops" and
Noriega also allowed  members  of  North's  enterprise  to set up
Panamanian corporate fronts to disguise the financing  of  contra
supplies.   As  noted  in  Chapter 1, one such front, Amalgamated
Commercial Enterprises,  used  the  services  of  the drug-linked
Banco de  Iberoamerica.   A  related  dummy  company,  which  did
business  with  the  same  bank,  purchased  arms  for the contra
through Manzer al-Kassar, the  Syrian  arms  and drug broker, who
also dealt  with  leaders  of  the  Medellin  cartel.   Noriega's
personal lawyer and business representative in Geneva also set up
a  front to establish an airfield in Costa Rica for supplying the
_Helped obstruct investigation_
Evidence  gathered  by  Costa  Rican  authorities  suggests  that
Noriega's intelligence operatives also helped the C.I.A. and  its
allies   in  the  Costa  Rican  security  services  obstruct  the
investigation of  an  assassination  attempt  against  Pastora by
peddling disinformation about the main suspect's background.  The
bombing of Pastora's press conference at  La  Penca  on  May  30,
1984, which killed several journalists and an aide to Pastora but
missed  the  rebel  leader  himself  was  most  likely planned by
hardliners in the contra movement  close to the C.I.A., according
to an official Costa Rican probe.  The Noriega connection to  the
La  Penca  coverup  is  significant  since,  according  to  Floyd
Carlton,  his  former  friend  and  drug partner, "there are some
officers who are connected to  the intelligence services of Costa
Rica which to a  certain  extent  are  the  creation  of  General
Noriega.   They  have  been trained in Panama... and these people
keep a certain... loyalty to General Noriega."
None of these allegations apparently made any impression on  Vice
President George Bush, coordinator of the Reagan administration's
War on Drugs.  Bush claimed during the 1988 presidential campaign
to  have known little or nothing of Noriega's narcotics dealings.
Perhaps he was kept in the dark by his top drug aide, Adm. Daniel
Murphy,  who  declared  in  September  1988,  "I  never  saw  any
intelligence suggesting  'General  Noriega's  involvement  in the
drug trade.  In fact, we always held up Panama as  the  model  in
terms of cooperation with the United States in the war on drugs."
_Never turned over files_
The political intrigues  that  first attracted the Administration
to Noriega and ultimately repelled it will take years to  uncover
fully.   The  C.I.A.  never  turned  over its files on Noriega to
Federal  prosecutors.   The  National  Security  Council  ordered
agencies to refuse  congressional  requests  for information that
would illuminate the policy debates.   However,  it  seems  clear
that  official  approval  of  Noriega's indictment and subsequent
military capture had as  much  to  do  with  politics as with law
enforcement.  After June 1986 media revelations about Noriega, an
interagency  meeting  of  senior  Administration  policy   makers
decided to "put Noriega on the shelf until Nicaragua was settled.
After  Noriega's  indictment  in early 1988, one State Department
official commented:  "We  don't  know  anything  today about Tony
Noriega that we didn't  know  a  year  ago.   What's  changed  is
politics  and  Panama,  not  Tony  Noriega."  And as the New York
Times observed (almost four years to the day after it branded him
Central  America's  leading  criminal),  Noriega's  alleged  drug
dealing was relatively small scale by Latin American standards...
American officials strongly suspect highranking military officers
in Honduras, Guatemala and  El  Salvador  of similar, and in some
cases even greater involvement in drug dealing --  yet  have  not
taken harsh action against them."
Perhaps the most striking evidence of a political double standard
was the silence of the Bush Administration on the composition  of
the  post  invasion  regime.   The  U.S.  installed  president of
Panama, Guillermo Endara, had  been  a  director and secretary of
Banco Interoceanico, targeted by the F.B.I. and D.E.A. and  named
by  Floyd  Carlton as a major front for laundering Colombian drug
money.  The bank  reportedly  served  both  the Cali and Medellin
cartels.  Endara's business partner Carlos Eleta, who  reportedly
laundered C.I.A. finds into Endara's presidential campaign in the
spring of 1989, was arrested in April of that year in Georgia for
allegedly  conspiring  to  import more than half a ton of cocaine
into the  United  States  each  month.   Prosecutors  dropped the
indictment following the invasion, citing lack of evidence.
Washington  issued no public protest when Endara appointed to the
key  posts  of  attorney  general,  treasury  minister  and chief
justice of the supreme court  three  former  directors  of  First
Interamericas  Bank, an institution controlled by the Cali cartel
and used to  wash  its  drug  money.  Panamanian authorities took
over the bank in 1985 and liquidated  its  assets  --  an  action
hailed by U.S. authorities as the government's first major action
against  a money -- laundering operation.  Noriega's move against
the bank may have  been  less  then altruistic, however; a lawyer
for the Cali interest complained that Noriega made a practice  of
turning in rivals of the Medellin cartel.
-- Ward Larkin