Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Northwest Bomb Plot 'Oddities'
Thought the following comment on the December 25, 2009, flight from the Netherlands to the USA interesting and probably closer to the truth than what we hear on the mainstream news media:
The NCTC, which has responsibility if any visas are to be pulled over terrorism concerns, then reviewed the information and found it was "insufficient to determine whether his visa should be revoked," Kelly said.
What visa? The accused didn't even have a passport!
Total farce. As more evidence emerges, evidence that this paper is too lazy, or otherwise, to report suggests that this was a false-flag operation.
In a day and age when to hold a job we have to get urine tests, show two forms of ID, and/or thumbprint, to do the simplest things, go through security to enter all manner of buildings, we're suppose to believe someone with no passport, or visa, or luggage, can board an international flight, change planes without help?
Evidence has come forth that this idiot is well connected, his father is a retired bank president, that went to authorities concerned about his son's activities, that a "sharply dressed man" helped the accused to get on the plane pass security, and that another man was calmly filming him the entire flight. This smacks of an intelligence operation all the way, not theirs, ours.
This poor stooge was most likely thinking he was part of an exercise, a total patsy, MK-Ultra style.
And before any of you go off ridiculing me as a conspiracy nut, you better be prepared to tell us that we don't spend 40% of our military budget on black-ops operations, that our government hasn't committed crimes against us in the past, that the Gulf of Tokin wasn't staged, the there were experiments performed on American citizens unbeknown to them, that the USS Liberty wasn't attack by Israel and Lyndon Johnson didn't order that the ship be sunk, that there isn't enough evidence now to conclude that we were totally lied to about events of 9/1*1.
The lies aren't working anymore, too many people know. Wonderful thing, the Internet. One doesn't have to rely on corporate owned media anymore to get the truth.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
"After many thousands of Americans died in WW II fighting Nazism, our government’s intelligence agencies (incl. the military intelligence groups) in cooperation with the Illuminati and its people in the Vatican, smuggled 10,000 of the worst Nazi-fascist war criminals into this country. This is on public record now. Part of this was under Operation Paperclip.
"The Rothschilds and Nelson Rockefeller forced the Jewish Zionist leadership in Israel to keep silent about the Nazis who were smuggled into the U.S. after W.W. II. In return for Israel’s silence and the Mossad’s silence about the thousands of high level satanic Nazis who were brought into the U.S., the nation of Israel was allowed. They made a deal, according to high level insiders.
"The South American countries, especially Argentina, ruled by the Perons, was connected to both the Illuminati in Germany and the Illuminati in the states. Many Germans went to Argentina, and they simply continued doing what they had done in the past. Satanism working under the veil of Nazism was very strong in Argentina where many of the German Illuminati leaders moved after the war.
"Another place that the Germans loved to move to was Oregon, especially Portland, OR. The head of Hitler’s intelligence was the brilliant Reinhard Gehlen who worked for the CIA after the war. He is Illuminati. His brother was Doe Winters who lived in Pullach after the war.
"Mengele, (the Dr. Black of Monarch Programming, who was an Illuminati Grand Master himself) would occasionally visit Doe Winter’s Pullach residence. To renovate the image of Nazi criminals, they became Anti-communist crusaders. A group of fascists from Asia and Europe were taken by U.S. Intelligence and moulded into the WACL (World Anti-Communist League). And we of the sheppel (sheep) were given more Hegalian dialectics. Those of us who still care about humanity’s freedom, and that human spirit not to be broken by the elite’s total mind control, have got to get beyond labels, and the media’s propaganda, and the false fronts.
"Some programmers are hard-core military men who see any type of "discipline" or "training" as good if the end product produces better obeying soldiers. These hard-core military men have lost any proper boundaries on what is O.K. for training. This explains why the whole apparatus to create mind-controlled slaves is turning out new slaves at an alarming rate. The small number of victims who are painstakingly saved by de-programming and therapy is slight compared to the number of new slaves being created. Over two million Americans have been programmed by trauma-based mind control since 1947, & the CIA admitted its Mind Control publicly in 1970, and yet the existence of the mind-control is still secret to the general public."
"Coming to grips with these U.S./CIA activities in broad numbers and figuring out how many people have been killed in the jungles of Laos or the hills of Nicaragua is very difficult. But, adding them up as best we can, we come up with a figure of six million people killed-and this is a minimum figure. Included are: one million killed in the Korean War, two million killed in the Vietnam War, 800,000 killed in Indonesia, one million in Cambodia, 20,000 killed in Angola ... and 22,000 killed in Nicaragua. These people would not have died if U.S. tax dollars had not been spent by the CIA to inflame tensions, finance covert political and military activities and destabilize societies.
"The six million people the CIA has helped to kill are people of the Mitumba Mountains of the Congo, the jungles of Southeast Asia, and the hills of northern Nicaragua. They are people without ICBMs or armies or navies, incapable of doing physical damage to the United States, the 22,000 killed in Nicaragua, for example, are not Russians; they are not Cuban soldiers or advisors; they are not even mostly Sandinistas. A majority are rag-poor peasants, including large numbers of women and children.
"Communists? Hardly, since the dead Nicaraguans are predominantly Roman Catholics. Enemies of the United States? That description doesn't fit either, because the thousands of witnesses who have lived in Nicaraguan villages with the people since 1979 testify that the Nicaraguans are the warmest people on the face of the earth, that they love people from the United States, and they simply cannot understand why our leaders would want to spend $1 billion on a contra force designed to murder people and wreck the country."
Secret Third World Wars by John Stockwell
"For the better part of a decade, a Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of LA and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerilla army run by the CIA. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America. It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history—the union of a US-backed army attempting to overthrow a socialist government and the Uzi-toting “gangstas” of Los Angeles."
P. 297 Gary Webb. Mass Media Cover-up Leading Journalists Expose Major Cover-ups by Media Corporations (read more)
CIA Fake War on Drugs
"And what happened to me was that I met and fell in love with a woman who was a contract CIA agent, a career agent. Now, I come from a CIA family and they had tried to recruit me, so this was not unexpected to me, but I began to see that she was protecting drug shipments and that the Agency was actively involved in dealing drugs......we teach now with From The Wilderness is that it wasn't just CIA dealing some drugs to fund covert operations. It is that drug money is an inherent part of the American economy. It has always been so, as it was with the British in the 1600s when they introduced opium into China to fund the triangular trade with the British East India Company. ...... The CIA has dealt drugs for all 50 years of its existence--50 plus years, even before it was the CIA. And the point is that with 250 billion dollars a year in illegal drug money moved, laundered through the American economy, that money benefits Wall Street. That's the point of having the prohibitive drug trade, which the CIA effectively manages for the benefit of Wall Street."
Mike Ruppert (Wall Street, CIA and the Global Drug Trade)
CIA Money Laundered through Wall Street
"But one guy I talked to was a guy named Rex Nutting, who was the bureau chief of CBS Market Watch--he is the head guy for CBS for the stock market. And we're sitting back in the room--I'm waiting for Huffington to get free--and I'm talking to this guy about the fact that Richard Grasso, the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, last July went to Colombia and cold-called on the FARC guerrillas and asked them to invest their drug money in Wall Street. And Rex Nutting says: "Well, of course they always go where the money is. It's obvious." The drug money is always going through Wall Street. Wall Street smells money and doesn't care where the money comes from; they'll go for the drug money.
"And we jokingly laughed that the National Security Act that created the CIA in '47 was written by a guy called Clark Clifford, who was a Wall Street banker and lawyer. He's the guy that brought us BCCI. The job of writing the outline for CIA, the design for the Agency, was given to Clark Clifford by John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles--both law partners in the Wall Street law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell. In '69 after Nixon came in, the Chairman of SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] was William Casey--the same guy who was Ronald Reagan's Director of Central Intelligence. And the current Vice President in charge of enforcement for the New York Stock Exchange, Dave Dougherty, is a retired CIA General Counsel. The CIA is Wall Street, and vice versa. When you understand that, and that money is the primary objective, everything else just falls into place."
Mike Ruppert (Wall Street, CIA and the Global Drug Trade)
CIA and Ollie North
"We brought the story into the CIA. And I reported that the CIA had assisted North's operation, despite their denials; that North was using National Security Agency highly-sensitive secret cryptology equipment and had been passing it out like candy to all the people who were working with him - they all had these KL-43's as they were called which could send these secret messages back and forth, and so we'd broken that barrier. We'd broken into the CIA.
"Choice "A" was to tell the truth, to say that the President had violated a variety of laws, committed felonies, and violated our constitutional safeguards about the way we carry out wars in our country, and impeach him. Option A.
"Then there was Option "B" - to tell the truth and have congress sort of say well, it's okay with us, which creates a dangerous precedent for the future, that is, that now President's would say well hey, look at the Reagan example, you know, if he can wage war privately, why can't I? So that was Option "B."
"And then there was Option "C" - to pretend it didn't happen, or to pretend that, say, some Lieutenant Colonel had done it all. So Washington, I guess understandably, settled on Option "C."
 Fooling America. A talk by Robert Parry
MORE CIA QUOTES
Thursday, December 10, 2009
This 1996 article is very interesting and am posting it since Sonoma has drug and gang problems (i.e. Gang behavior spawns three incidents):
The CIA, Contras, Gangs, and Crack
by William Blum
Volume 1, Number 11
Written by William Blum, a Washington, DC based writer on foreign policy and intelligence matters. Author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.
In August 1996, the San Jose Mercury News initiated an extended series of articles linking the CIA's "contra" army to the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles.1 Based on a year-long investigation, reporter Gary Webb wrote that during the 1980s the CIA helped finance its covert war against Nicaragua's leftist government through sales of cut-rate cocaine to South Central L.A. drug dealer, Ricky Ross. The series unleashed a storm of protest, spearheaded by black radio stations and the congressional Black Caucus, with demands for official inquiries. The Mercury News' Web page, with supporting documents and updates, received hundreds of thousands of "hits" a day.
While much of the CIA-contra-drug story had been revealed years ago in the press and in congressional hearings, the Mercury News series added a crucial missing link: It followed the cocaine trail to Ross and black L.A. gangs who became street-level distributors of crack, a cheap and powerful form of cocaine. The CIA's drug network, wrote Webb, "opened the first pipeline between Colombia's cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the 'crack' capital of the world." Black gangs used their profits to buy automatic weapons, sometimes from one of the CIA-linked drug dealers.
CIA Director John Deutch declared that he found "no connection whatsoever" between the CIA and cocaine traffickers. And major media--the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post--have run long pieces refuting the Mercury News series. They deny that Bay Area-based Nicaraguan drug dealers, Juan Norwin Meneses and Oscar Danilo Blandon, worked for the CIA or contributed "millions in drug profits" to the contras, as Webb contended. They also note that neither Ross nor the gangs were the first or sole distributors of crack in L.A. Webb, however, did not claim this. He wrote that the huge influx of cocaine happened to come at just the time that street-level drug dealers were figuring out how to make cocaine affordable by changing it into crack.
Many in the media have also postulated that any drug-trafficking contras involved were "rogue" elements, not supported by the CIA. But these denials overlook much of the Mercury News' evidence of CIA complicity. For example:
1. CIA-supplied contra planes and pilots carried cocaine from Central America to U.S. airports and military bases. In 1985, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Celerino Castillo reported to his superiors that cocaine was being stored at the CIA's contra-supply warehouse at Ilopango Air Force Base in El Salvador for shipment to the U.S.2 The DEA did nothing, and Castillo was gradually forced out of the agency.
2. When Danilo Blandón was finally arrested in 1986, he admitted to drug crimes that would have sent others away for life. The Justice Department, however, freed Blandón after only 28 months behind bars and then hired him as a full-time DEA informant, paying him more than $166,000. When Blandón testified in a 1996 trial against Ricky Ross, the Justice Department blocked any inquiry about Blandón's connection to the CIA.
3. Although Norwin Meneses is listed in DEA computers as a major international drug smuggler implicated in 45 separate federal investigations since 1974, he lived conspicuously in California until 1989 and was never arrested in the U.S.
4. Senate investigators and agents from four organizations all complained that their contra-drug investigations "were hampered," Webb wrote, "by the CIA or unnamed 'national security' interests." In the 1984 "Frogman Case," for instance, the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco returned $36,800 seized from a Nicaraguan drug dealer after two contra leaders sent letters to the court arguing that the cash was intended for the contras. Federal prosecutors ordered the letter and other case evidence sealed for "national security" reasons. When Senate investigators later asked the Justice Department to explain this unusual turn of events, they ran into a wall of secrecy.
History of CIA Involvement in Drug Trafficking
"In my 30year history in the Drug Enforcement Administration and related agencies, the major targets of my investigations almost invariably turned out to be working for the CIA." -- Dennis Dayle, former chief of an elite DEA enforcement unit.3
The foregoing discussion should not be regarded as any kind of historical aberration inasmuch as the CIA has had a long and virtually continuous involvement with drug trafficking since the end of World War II.
1947 to 1951, France
CIA arms, money, and disinformation enabled Corsican criminal syndicates in Marseille to wrest control of labor unions from the Communist Party. The Corsicans gained political influence and control over the docks--ideal conditions for cementing a long-term partnership with mafia drug distributors, which turned Marseille into the postwar heroin capital of the Western world. Marseille's first heroin laboratories were opened in 1951, only months after the Corsicans took over the waterfront.4
Early 1950s, Southeast Asia
The Nationalist Chinese army, organized by the CIA to wage war against Communist China, became the opium baron of The Golden Triangle (parts of Burma, Thailand, and Laos), the world's largest source of opium and heroin. Air America, the CIA's principal proprietary airline, flew the drugs all over Southeast Asia.5
1950s to early 1970s, Indochina
During U.S. military involvement in Laos and other parts of Indochina, Air America flew opium and heroin throughout the area. Many GI's in Vietnam became addicts. A laboratory built at CIA headquarters in northern Laos was used to refine heroin. After a decade of American military intervention, Southeast Asia had become the source of 70 percent of the world's illicit opium and the major supplier of raw materials for America's booming heroin market.6
1973 to 1980, Australia
The Nugan Hand Bank of Sydney was a CIA bank in all but name. Among its officers were a network of U.S. generals, admirals, and CIA men--including former CIA Director William Colby, who was also one of its lawyers. With branches in Saudi Arabia, Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, and the U.S., Nugan Hand Bank financed drug trafficking, money laundering, and international arms dealing. In 1980, amidst several mysterious deaths, the bank collapsed, $50 million in debt.7
1970s and 1980s, Panama
For more than a decade, Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega was a highly paid CIA asset and collaborator, despite knowledge by U.S. drug authorities as early as 1971 that the general was heavily involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. Noriega facilitated "guns-for-drugs" flights for the contras, providing protection and pilots, safe havens for drug cartel officials, and discreet banking facilities. U.S. officials, including then-CIA Director William Webster and several DEA officers, sent Noriega letters of praise for efforts to thwart drug trafficking (albeit only against competitors of his Medellín cartel patrons). The U.S. government only turned against Noriega, invading Panama in December 1989 and kidnapping the general, once they discovered he was providing intelligence and services to the Cubans and Sandinistas. Ironically, drug trafficking through Panama increased after the U.S. invasion.8
1980s, Central America
The San Jose Mercury News series documents just one thread of the interwoven operations linking the CIA, the contras, and the cocaine cartels. Obsessed with overthrowing the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, Reagan administration officials tolerated drug trafficking as long as the traffickers gave support to the contras. In 1989, the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations (the Kerry committee) concluded a three-year investigation by stating: "There was substantial evidence of drug smuggling through the war zones on the part of individual contras, contra suppliers, contra pilots, mercenaries who worked with the contras, and contra supporters throughout the region. . . . U.S. officials involved in Central America failed to address the drug issue for fear of jeopardizing the war efforts against Nicaragua. . . . In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring, or immediately thereafter. . . . Senior U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the contras' funding problems."9
In Costa Rica, which served as the "Southern Front" for the contras (Honduras being the Northern Front), there were several CIA-contra networks involved in drug trafficking. In addition to those servicing the Meneses-Blandon operation (detailed by the Mercury News) and Noriega's operation, there was CIA operative John Hull, whose farms along Costa Rica's border with Nicaragua were the main staging area for the contras. Hull and other CIA-connected contra supporters and pilots teamed up with George Morales, a major Miami-based Colombian drug trafficker who later admitted to giving $3 million in cash and several planes to contra leaders.10 In 1989, after the Costa Rica government indicted Hull for drug trafficking, a DEA-hired plane clandestinely and illegally flew the CIA operative to Miami, via Haiti. The U.S. repeatedly thwarted Costa Rican efforts to extradite Hull to Costa Rica to stand trial.11
Another Costa Rican-based drug ring involved a group of Cuban Americans whom the CIA had hired as military trainers for the contras. Many had long been involved with the CIA and drug trafficking. They used contra planes and a Costa Rican-based shrimp company, which laundered money for the CIA, to channel cocaine to the U.S.12
Costa Rica was not the only route. Guatemala, whose military intelligence service--closely associated with the CIA--harbored many drug traffickers, according to the DEA, was another way station along the cocaine highway.13 Additionally, the Medellín cartel's Miami accountant, Ramon Milian Rodriguez, testified that he funneled nearly $10 million to Nicaraguan contras through long-time CIA operative Felix Rodriguez, who was based at Ilopango Air Force Base in El Salvador.14
The contras provided both protection and infrastructure (planes, pilots, airstrips, warehouses, front companies, and banks) to these CIA-linked drug networks. At least four transport companies under investigation for drug trafficking received U.S. government contracts to carry nonlethal supplies to the contras.15 Southern Air Transport, "formerly" CIA-owned and later under Pentagon contract, was involved in the drug running as well.16 Cocaine-laden planes flew to Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and other locations, including several military bases. Designated as "Contra Craft," these shipments were not to be inspected. When some authority wasn't apprised and made an arrest, powerful strings were pulled to result in dropping the case, acquittal, reduced sentence, or deportation.17
Mid-1980s to early 1990s, Haiti
While working to keep key Haitian military and political leaders in power, the CIA turned a blind eye to their clients' drug trafficking. In 1986, the Agency added some more names to its payroll by creating a new Haitian organization, the National Intelligence Service (SIN). SIN's mandate included countering the cocaine trade, though SIN officers themselves engaged in trafficking, a trade aided and abetted by some Haitian military and political leaders.18
1980s to early 1990s, Afghanistan
CIA-supported Moujahedeen rebels engaged heavily in drug trafficking while fighting the Soviet-supported government, which had plans to reform Afghan society. The Agency's principal client was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the leading drug lords and the biggest heroin refiner, who was also the largest recipient of CIA military support. CIA-supplied trucks and mules that had carried arms into Afghanistan were used to transport opium to laboratories along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The output provided up to one-half of the heroin used annually in the United States and three-quarters of that used in Western Europe. U.S. officials admitted in 1990 that they had failed to investigate or take action against the drug operation because of a desire not to offend their Pakistani and Afghan allies.19 In 1993, an official of the DEA dubbed Afghanistan the new Colombia of the drug world.20
1 Gary Webb, "Dark Alliance" series, San Jose Mercury News. Beginning August 18, 1996.
2 Celerino Castillo, Powder Burns: Cocaine, Contras and the Drug War (Mosaic Press, 1994). Los Angeles Times lengthy series of articles, October 20, 21, 22, 1996. Roberto Suro and Walter Pincus, "The CIA and Crack: Evidence is Lacking of Alleged Plot" (Washington Post, October 4, 1996). Howard Kurtz, "Running with the CIA Story" (Washington Post, October 2, 1996). Douglas Farah and Walter Pincus "CIA, Contras and Drugs: Questions on Links Linger" (Washington Post, October 31, 1996). Tim Golden,"Though Evidence is Thin, Tale of CIA and Drugs Has a Life of Its Own" (New York Times, October 21, 1996).
3 Peter Dale Scott & Jonathan Marshall, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991) pp. x-xi.
4 Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (New York City, New York: Harper & Row, 1972, chapter 2).
5 Christopher Robbins, Air America (New York City, New York: Avon Books, 1985) chapter 9. McCoy, Politics of Heroin.
6 McCoy, Politics of Heroin, chapter 9.
7 Robbins, Air America, p. 128 and chapter 9. Jonathan Kwitny, The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money and the CIA (New York City, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1987). William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995) p. 420, note 33.
8 Scott & Marshall, Cocaine Politics; John Dinges, Our Man in Panama (NY, New York: Random House, 1991); Murray Waas, "Cocaine and the White House Connection", Los Angeles Weekly, Sept. 30-Oct. 6 and Oct. 7-13, 1988; National Security Archive Documentation Packet: The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations (Washington, DC).
9 "Kerry Report": Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy, a Report of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations, 1989, pp. 2, 36, 41.
10 Martha Honey, Hostile Acts: U.S. Policy in Costa Rica in the 1980s (Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 1994).
11 Martha Honey and David Myers, "U.S. Probing Drug Agent's Activities in Costa Rica," San Francisco Chronicle, August 14, 1991.
12 Honey, Hostile Acts.
13 Frank Smyth, "In Guatemala, The DEA Fights the CIA", New Republic, June 5, 1995; Blum, Killing Hope, p. 239.
14 Martha Honey, "Drug Figure Says Cartel Gave Drugs to Contras" Washington Post, June 30, 1987.
15 Kerry report, Drugs.
16 Scott & Marshall, Cocaine Politics, pp. 17-18.
17 Scott & Marshall, Cocaine Politics; Waas, "Cocaine and the White House"; NSA, The Contras.
18 New York Times, Nov. 14, 1993; The Nation, Oct. 3, 1994, p. 346.
19 Blum, Killing Hope, p. 351; Tim Weiner, Blank Check: The Pentagon's Black Budget (New York City, New York: Warner Books, 1990) pp. 151-2.
20 Los Angeles Times, Aug. 22, 1993
Lorraine Adams, "North Didn't Relay Drug Tips", The Washington Post, Oct. 22, 1994, p. 1.
William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995).
Celerino Castillo with David Harmon, Powder Burns: Cocaine, Contras and the Drug War (Mosaic Press, 1994).
John Dinges, Our Man in Panama (New York City, NY: Random House, 1991).
Martha Honey, Hostile Acts: U.S. Policy in Costa Rica in the 1980s (Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 1994).
Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy, December 1988.
Jonathan Kwitny, The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money and the CIA (New York City, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1987).
Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1972).
Clarence Lusane, Pipe Dream Blues: Racism and the War on Drugs (Boston: South End Press, 1991).
National Security Archive, Documentation Packet: The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations (Washington, D.C. October 1996).
Christopher Robbins, Air America (New York City, New York: Avon Books, 1985).
Peter Dale Scott & Jonathan Marshall, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America (Berkeley, California: University of CA Press, 1991).
Murray Waas, "Cocaine and the White House Connection", Los Angeles Weekly, Sept. 30-Oct. 6 and Oct. 7-13, 1988.
Tim Weiner, Blank Check: The Pentagon's Black Budget (New York City, New York: Warner Books, 1990).
--- end ---
Aug 22, 1996
Cocaine pipeline financed rebels
Evidence points to CIA knowing of high-volume drug network
by Gary Webb
San Jose Mercury News
For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to an arm of the contra guerrillas of Nicaragua run by the Central Intelligence Agency, the San Jose Mercury News has found.
This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia's cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the "crack" capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America - and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.'s gangs to buy weapons.
It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union of a U.S.-backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the "gangstas" of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles.
The army's financiers - who met with CIA agents before and during the time they were selling the drugs in L.A. - delivered cut-rate cocaine to the gangs through a young South-Central crack dealer named Ricky Donnell Ross.
Unaware of his suppliers' military and political connections, "Freeway Rick" turned the cocaine powder into crack and wholesaled it to gangs across the country.
Drug cash for the contras
Court records show the cash was then used to buy equipment for a guerrilla army named the Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense (Nicaraguan Democratic Force) or FDN, the largest of several anti-communist groups commonly called the contras.
While the FDN's war is barely a memory today, black America is still dealing with its poisonous side effects. Urban neighborhoods are grappling with legions of homeless crack addicts. Thousands of young black men are serving long prison sentences for selling cocaine - a drug that was virtually unobtainable in black neighborhoods before members of the CIA's army brought it into South-Central in the 1980s at bargain-basement prices.
And the L.A. gangs, which used their enormous cocaine profits to arm themselves and spread crack across the country, are still thriving.
"There is a saying that the ends justify the means," former FDN leader and drug dealer Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes testified during a recent cocaine-trafficking trial in San Diego. "And that's what Mr. Bermudez (the CIA agent who commanded the FDN) told us in Honduras, OK? So we started raising money for the contra revolution."
Recently declassified reports, federal court testimony, undercover tapes, court records here and abroad and hundreds of hours of interviews over the past 12 months leave no doubt that Blandon was no ordinary drug dealer.
Shortly before Blandon - who had been the drug ring's Southern California distributor - took the stand in San Diego as a witness for the U.S. Department of Justice, federal prosecutors obtained a court order preventing defense lawyers from delving into his ties to the CIA.
Blandon, one of the FDN's founders in California, "will admit that he was a large-scale dealer in cocaine, and there is no additional benefit to any defendant to inquire as to the Central Intelligence Agency," Assistant U.S. Attorney L.J. O'Neale argued in his motion shortly before Ross' trial on cocaine-trafficking charges in March.
The 5,000-man FDN, records show, was created in mid-1981 when the CIA combined several existing groups of anti-communist exiles into a unified force it hoped would topple the new socialist government of Nicaragua.
Waged a losing war
From 1982 to 1988, the FDN - run by both American and Nicaraguan CIA agents - waged a losing war against Nicaragua's Sandinista government, the Cuban-supported socialists who'd overthrown U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.
Blandon, who began working for the FDN's drug operation in late 1981, testified that the drug ring sold almost a ton of cocaine in the United States that year - $54 million worth at prevailing wholesale prices. It was not clear how much of the money found its way back to the CIA's army, but Blandon testified that "whatever we were running in L.A., the profit was going for the contra revolution."
At the time of that testimony, Blandon was a full-time informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, a job the U.S. Department of Justice got him after releasing him from prison in 1994.
Though Blandon admitted to crimes that have sent others away for life, the Justice Department turned him loose on unsupervised probation after only 28 months behind bars and has paid him more than $166,000 since, court records show.
"He has been extraordinarily helpful," federal prosecutor O'Neale told Blandon's judge in a plea for the trafficker's release in 1994. Though O'Neale once described Blandon to a grand jury as "the biggest Nicaraguan cocaine dealer in the United States," the prosecutor would not discuss him with the Mercury News.
Blandon's boss in the FDN's cocaine operation, Juan Norwin Meneses Cantarero, has never spent a day in a U.S. prison, even though the federal government has been aware of his cocaine dealings since at least 1974, records show.
Meneses - who ran the drug ring from his homes in the Bay Area - is listed in the DEA's computers as a major international drug smuggler and was implicated in 45 separate federal investigations. Yet he and his cocaine-dealing relatives lived quite openly in the Bay Area for years, buying homes, bars, restaurants, car lots and factories.
"I even drove my own cars, registered in my name," Meneses said during a recent interview in Nicaragua.
Meneses' organization was "the target of unsuccessful investigative attempts for many years," O'Neale acknowledged in a 1994 affidavit. But records and interviews revealed that a number of those probes were stymied not by the elusive Meneses but by agencies of the U.S. government.
CIA hampered probes
Agents from four organizations - the DEA, U.S. Customs, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement - have complained that investigations were hampered by the CIA or unnamed "national-security" interests.
One 1988 investigation by a U.S. Senate subcommittee ran into a wall of official secrecy at the Justice Department.
In that case, congressional records show, Senate investigators were trying to determine why the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, Joseph Russoniello, had given $36,000 back to a Nicaraguan cocaine dealer arrested by the FBI.
The money was returned, court records show, after two contra leaders sent letters to the court swearing that the drug dealer had been given the cash to buy weapons for guerrillas.
After Nicaraguan police arrested Meneses on cocaine charges in Managua in 1991, his judge expressed astonishment that the infamous smuggler went unmolested by American drug agents during his years in the United States.
His seeming invulnerability amazed American authorities as well.
A Customs agent who investigated Meneses in 1980 before transferring elsewhere said he was reassigned to San Francisco seven years later "and I was sitting in some meetings and here's Meneses' name again. And I can remember thinking, `Holy cow, is this guy still around?' "
Blandon led an equally charmed life. For at least five years he brokered massive amounts of cocaine to the black gangs of Los Angeles without being arrested. But his luck changed overnight.
On Oct. 27, 1986, agents from the FBI, the IRS, local police and the Los Angeles County sheriff fanned out across Southern California and raided more than a dozen locations connected to Blandon's cocaine operation. Blandon and his wife, along with numerous Nicaraguan associates, were arrested on drug and weapons charges.
The search-warrant affidavit reveals that local drug agents knew plenty about Blandon's involvement with cocaine and the CIA's army nearly 10 years ago.
"Danilo Blandon is in charge of a sophisticated cocaine smuggling and distribution organization operating in Southern California," L.A. County sheriff's Sgt. Tom Gordon said in the 1986 affidavit. "The monies gained from the sales of cocaine are transported to Florida and laundered through Orlando Murillo, who is a high-ranking officer of a chain of banks in Florida named Government Securities Corporation. From this bank the monies are filtered to the contra rebels to buy arms in the war in Nicaragua."
Raids a spectacular failure
Despite their intimate knowledge of Blandon's operations, the police raids were a spectacular failure. Every location had been cleaned of anything remotely incriminating. No one was ever prosecuted.
Ron Spear, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block, said Blandon somehow knew that he was under police surveillance.
FBI records show that soon after the raids, Blandon's defense attorney, Bradley Brunon, called the sheriff's department to suggest that his client's troubles stemmed from a most unlikely source: a recent congressional vote authorizing $100 million in military aid to the contras.
According to a December 1986 FBI teletype, Brunon told the officers that the "CIA winked at this sort of thing. . . . (Brunon) indicated that now that U.S. Congress had voted funds for the Nicaraguan contra movement, U.S. government now appears to be turning against organizations like this."
That FBI report, part of the files of former Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, was made public only last year, when it was released by the National Archives at the San Jose Mercury News' request.
Blandon has also implied that his cocaine sales were, for a time, CIA-approved. He told a San Francisco federal grand jury in 1994 that once the FDN began receiving American taxpayer dollars, the CIA no longer needed his kind of help.
None of the government agencies known to have been involved with Meneses and Blandon would provide the Mercury News with any information about them, despite Freedom of Information Act requests.
Blandon's lawyer, Brunon, said in an interview that his client never told him directly that he was selling cocaine for the CIA, but the prominent Los Angeles defense attorney drew his own conclusions from the "atmosphere of CIA and clandestine activities" that surrounded Blandon and his Nicaraguan friends.
"Was he involved with the CIA? Probably. Was he involved with drugs? Most definitely," Brunon said. "Were those two things involved with each other? They've never said that, obviously. They've never admitted that. But I don't know where these guys get these big aircraft."
That very topic arose during the sensational 1992 cocaine-trafficking trial of Meneses after he was arrested in Nicaragua in connection with a staggering 750-kilo shipment of cocaine. His chief accuser was his friend Enrique Miranda, a relative and former Nicaraguan military intelligence officer who had been Meneses' emissary to the cocaine cartel of Bogota, Colombia. Miranda pleaded guilty to drug charges and agreed to cooperate in exchange for a seven-year sentence.
In a long, handwritten statement he read to Meneses' jury, Miranda revealed the deepest secrets of the Meneses drug ring, earning his old boss a 30-year prison sentence in the process.
"He (Norwin) and his brother Luis Enrique had financed the contra revolution with the benefits of the cocaine they sold," Miranda wrote. "This operation, as Norwin told me, was executed with the collaboration of high-ranking Salvadoran military personnel. They met with officials of the Salvadoran air force, who flew (planes) to Colombia and then left for the U.S., bound for an Air Force base in Texas, as he told me."
Meneses - who has close personal and business ties to a Salvadoran air-force commander and former CIA agent named Marcos Aguado - declined to discuss Miranda's statements during an interview at a prison outside Managua in January. He is scheduled to be paroled this summer, after nearly five years in custody.
U.S. General Accounting Office records confirm that El Salvador's air force was supplying the CIA's Nicaraguan guerrillas with aircraft and flight support services throughout the mid-1980s.
The same day the Mercury News requested official permission to interview Miranda, he disappeared.
While out on a routine weekend furlough, Miranda failed to return to the Nicaraguan jail where he'd been living since 1992. Though his jailers, who described him as a model prisoner, claimed Miranda had escaped, they didn't call the police until a Mercury News correspondent showed up and discovered he was gone.
He has not been seen in nearly a year.
--- end ---
THE MIGHTY WURLITZER PLAYS ON
by Gary Webb
Chapter 14 from In the Buzzsaw edited by Kristina Borjesson
Webb was an investigative reporter for nineteen years focusing on government and private sector corruption and winning more than thirty journalism awards. He was one of six reporters at the San Jose Mercury News to win a 1990 Pulitzer Prize for general news reporting for a series of stories on Northern California's 1989 earthquake. He also received the 1997 Media Hero Award from the 2nd Annual Media & Democracy Congress, and in 1996 was named Journalist of the Year by the Bay Area Society of Professional Journalists. In 1994, Webb won the H. L. Mencken Award given by the Free Press Association for a series in the San Jose Mercury News on abuses in the state of California's drug asset forfeiture program. And in 1980, Webb won an Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Award for a series that he coauthored at the Kentucky Post on organized crime in the coal industry. Prior to 1988, Webb worked as a statehouse correspondent for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and was a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News where the "Dark Alliance" series broke in 1996. Months later, Webb was effectively forced out of his job after the San Jose Mercury News retracted their support for his story. He is now a consultant to the California State Legislature's Joint Audit Committee.
If we had met five years ago, you wouldn't have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me. I'd been working at daily papers for seventeen years at that point, doing no-holds barred investigative reporting for the bulk of that time. As far as I could tell, the beneficial powers the press theoretically exercised in our society weren't theoretical in the least. They worked.
I wrote stories that accused people and institutions of illegal and unethical activities. The papers I worked for printed them, often unflinchingly, and many times gleefully. After these stories appeared, matters would improve. Crooked politicians got voted from office or were forcibly removed. Corrupt firms were exposed and fined. Sweetheart deals were rescinded, grand juries were impaneled, indictments came down, grafters were bundled off to the big house. Taxpayers saved money. The public interest was served.
It all happened exactly as my journalism-school professors had promised. And my expectations were pretty high. I went to journalism school while Watergate was unfolding, a time when people as distantly connected to newspapering as college professors were puffing out their chests and singing hymns to investigative reporting.
Bottom line: If there was ever a true believer, I was one. My first editor mockingly called me "Woodstein," after a pair of Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story. More than once I was accused of neglecting my daily reporting duties because I was off "running around with your trench coat flapping in the breeze." But in the end, all the sub rosa trench coat-flapping paid off. The newspaper published a seventeen-part series on organized crime in the American coal industry and won its first national journalism award in half a century. From then on, my editors at that and subsequent newspapers allowed me to work almost exclusively as an investigative reporter.
I had a grand total of one story spiked during my entire reporting career. That's it. One. (And in retrospect it wasn't a very important story either.) Moreover, I had a complete freedom to pick my own shots, a freedom my editors wholeheartedly encouraged since it relieved them of the burden of coming up with story ideas. I wrote my stories the way I wanted to write them, without anyone looking over my shoulder or steering me in a certain direction. After the lawyers and editors went over them and satisfied themselves that we had enough facts behind us to stay out of trouble, they printed them, usually on the front page of the Sunday edition, when we had our widest readership.
In seventeen years of doing this, nothing bad had happened to me. I was never fired or threatened with dismissal if I kept looking under rocks. I didn't get any death threats that worried me. I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests.
So how could I possibly agree with people like Noam Chomsky and Ben Bagdikian, who were claiming the system didn't work, that it was steered by powerful special interests and corporations, and existed to protect the power elite? Hell, the system worked just fine, as far as I could tell. It encouraged enterprise. It rewarded muckraking.
And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job. It turned out to have nothing to do with it. The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything important enough to suppress.
In 1996, I wrote a series of stories, entitled Dark Alliance, that began this way:
For the better part of a decade, a Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods Street Gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found.
This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia's cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the "crack" capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America -- and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.'s gangs to buy
It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union of a U.S. backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting "gangstas" of Compton and South Central Los Angeles.
The three-day series was, at its heart, a short historical account of the rise and fall of a drug ring and its impact on black Los Angeles. It attempted to explain how shadowy intelligence agencies, shady drugs and arms dealers, a political scandal, and a long-simmering Latin American civil war had crossed paths in South Central Los Angeles, leaving behind a legacy of crack use. Most important, it challenged the widely held belief that crack use began in African American neighborhoods not for any tangible reason but mainly because of the kind of people who lived in them. Nobody was forcing them to smoke crack, the argument went, so they only have themselves to blame. They should just say no.
That argument never seemed to make much sense to me because drugs don't just appear magically on street corners in black neighborhoods. Even the most rabid hustler in the ghetto can't sell what he doesn't have. If anyone was responsible for the drug problems in a specific area, I thought, it was the people who were bringing the drugs in.
And so Dark Alliance was about them -- the three cocaine traffickers who supplied the South Central market with literally tons of pure cocaine from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. What made the series so controversial is that two of the traffickers I named were intimately involved with a Nicaraguan paramilitary group known as the Contras, a collection of ex-military men, Cuban exiles, and mercenaries that the CIA was using to destabilize the socialist government of Nicaragua. The series documented direct contact between the drug traffickers who were bringing the cocaine into South Central and the two Nicaraguan CIA agents who were administering the Contra project in Central America. The evidence included sworn testimony from one of the traffickers -- now a valued government informant -- that one of the CIA agents huddled in the kitchen of a house in San Francisco with one of the traffickers and had interviewed the photographer, who confirmed its authenticity. Pretty convincing stuff, we thought.
Over the course of three days, Dark Alliance advanced five main arguments: First, that the CIA-created Contras had been selling cocaine to finance their activities. This was something the CIA and the major media had dismissed or denied since the mid-1980s, when a few reporters first began writing about Contra drug dealing. Second, that the Contras had sold cocaine in the ghettos of Los Angeles and that their main customer was L.A.'s biggest crack dealer. Third, that elements of the U.S. government knew about this drug ring's activities at the time and did little if anything to stop it. Fourth, that because of the time period and the areas in which it operated, this drug ring played a critical role in fueling and supplying the first mass crack cocaine market in the United States. And fifth, that the profits earned from this crack market allowed the Los Angeles-based Crips and bloods to expand into other cities and spread crack use to other black urban areas, turning a bad local problem into a bad national problem. This led to panicky federal drug laws that were locking up thousands of small-time, black crack dealers for years but never denting the crack trade.
It wasn't so much a conspiracy that I had outlined as it was a chain-reaction--bad ideas compounded by stupid political decisions and rotten historical timing.
Obviously this wasn't the kind of story that a reporter digs up in an afternoon. A Nicaraguan journalist and I had been working on it exclusively for more than a year before it was published. And despite the topic of the story, it had been tedious work. Spanish-language undercover tapes, court records, and newspaper articles were laboriously translated. Interviews had to be arranged in foreign prisons. Documents had to be pried from unwilling federal agencies, or specially declassified by the National Archives. Ex-drug dealers and ex-cops had to be tracked down and persuaded to talk on the record. Chronologies were pieced together from heavily censored government documents and old newspaper stories found scattered in archives from Managua to Miami.
In December 1995, I wrote a lengthy memo to my editors, advising them of what my Nicaraguan colleague and I had found, what I thought the stories would say, and what still needed to be done to wrap them up. It also helped my editor explain our findings to her bosses, who had not yet signed off on the story, and most of whom had no idea I'd been working on it.
**Two months ago, in an unheard-of response to a Congressional vote, black prison inmates across the country staged simultaneous revolts to protest Congress' refusal to make sentences for crack cocaine the same as for powder cocaine. Both before and after the prison riots, some black leaders were openly suggesting that crack was part of a broad government conspiracy that has imprisoned or killed an entire generation of young black men.
Imagine if they were right. What if the US government was, in fact, involved in dumping cocaine into California -- selling it to black gangs in South Central Los Angeles, for instance -- sparking the most destructive drug epidemic in American history?
That's what this series is about.
With the help of recently declassified documents, FBI reports, DEA undercover tapes, secret grand jury transcripts and archival records from both here and abroad, as well as interviews with some of the key participants, we will show how a CIA-linked drug and stolen car network -- based in, of all places, the Peninsula -- provided weapons and tons of high-grade, dirt cheap cocaine to the very person who spread crack through LA and from there into the hinterlands.
A bizarre -- almost fatherly -- bond between an elusive CIA operative and an illiterate but brilliant car thief from LA's ghettos touched off a social phenomenon -- crack and gang-power -- that changed our lives in ways that are still to be felt. That day these two men met was literally ground zero for California's crack explosion, and the myriad of calamities that have flowed from it (AIDS, homelessness, etc.)
This is also the story of how an ill-planned and oftentimes irrational foreign policy adventure -- the CIA's "secret" was in Nicaragua from 1980 to 1986 -- boomeranged back to the streets of America, in the long run doing far more damage to us than to our supposed "enemies" in Central America.
For, as this series will show, the dumping of cocaine on LA's street gangs was the "back-end" of a covert effort to arm and equip the CIA's ragtag army of anti-Communist "Contra" guerrillas. While this has long been solid -- if largely ignored -- evidence of a CIA-Contra-cocaine connection, no one has ever asked the question: "Where did all the cocaine go once it got here?"
Now we know.
Moreover, we have compelling evidence that the kingpins of this Bay Area cocaine ring -- men connected to the assassinated Nicaraguan dictated dictator Anastasio Somoza and his murderous National Guard -- enjoyed a unique relationship with the U.S. government that has continued to this day.
*In a meeting to discuss the memo, I recounted to my editors the sorry history of how the Contra-cocaine story had been ridiculed and marginalized by the Washington press corps in the 1980s, and that we could expect similar reactions to this series. If they didn't want to pursue this, now was the time to pull back, before I flew down to Central America and started poking around finding drug dealers to interview. But if we did, we needed to go full-bore on it, and devote the time and space to tell it right. My editors agreed. My story memo made the rounds of the other editors' offices and, as far as I know, no one objected. I was sent to Nicaragua to do additional reporting, and the design team at Mercury Center -- the newspaper's online edition -- began mapping out a Web page.
At the end of my memo, I'd suggested to my editors that we use the Internet to help us demonstrate the story's soundness and credibility which, based on past stories critical of the CIA, was sure to come under attack by both the government and the press.
**I have proposed to Bob Ryan [director of Mercury Center] that we do a special Merc Center/World Wide Web version of this series. The technology is extant to allow readers to download the series' supporting documentation through links to the actual text. For example, when we are quoting grand jury testimony, a click of the mouse would allow the reader to see and/or download the actual grand jury transcript.
Since this whole subject has such a high unbelievability factor built into it, providing our backup documentation to our readers -- and the rest of the world over the Internet -- would allow them to judge the evidence for themselves. It will also make it all the more difficult to dismiss our findings as the fantasies of a few drug dealers.
To my knowledge, this has never been attempted before. It would be a great way to showcase Merc Center and, at the same time use computer technology to set new standards for investigative reporting.
* The editors jumped at the idea. From our perch as the newspaper of Silicon Valley, we could see the future the World Wide Web offered. Newspapers were scrambling to figure out a way to make the transition to cyberspace. The Mercury's editors were among the first to do it right, and were looking for new barriers to break. A special Internet version of Dark Alliance was created as a high-profile way of advertising the Mercury's Web presence and bringing visitors into the site. Plus, the newspaper could boast (and later did) that it had published the first interactive online expose in the history of American journalism.
I remember being almost giddy as I sat with Merc Center's editors and graphics designers, picking through the pile of once-classified information we were going to unleash on the world. We had photos, undercover tape recordings, and federal grand jury testimony. In addition, we had interviews with guerrilla leaders, tape-recorded Supreme Court files, Congressional records, and long-secret documents unearthed during the Iran-Contra investigation. For the first time, any reader with a computer and a sound card could see what we'd found -- could actually read it for themselves -- and listen in while the story's participants plotted, scheme, and confessed. And they could do it from anywhere in the world, even if they had no idea where San Jose, California, was.
After four months of writing, rewriting, editing, and reediting, my editors pronounced themselves satisfied and signed off. The first installment of Dark Alliance appeared simultaneously on the streets and on the Web on August 18, 1996.
The initial public reaction was dead silence. No one jumped up to deny any of it. Nor did the news media rush to share our discoveries with others. The stories just sat there, as if no one seemed to know what to make of them.
Admittedly, Dark Alliance was an unusual story to have appeared in a mainstream daily newspaper, not just for what it said, but for what it was. It wasn't a news story per se; nearly everything I wrote about had happened a dozen years earlier. Because my editors and I had sometimes vehemently disagreed about the scope and nature of the stories during the writing and editing process, the result was a series of compromises, an odd mixture of history lesson, news feature, analysis, and expose. It was not an uplifting story; it was a sickening one. The bad guys had triumphed and fled the scene unscathed, as often happens in life. And there was very little anyone could do about it now, ten years after the fact.
So, I wasn't really surprised that my journalistic colleagues weren't pounding down the follow-up trail. Hell, I thought it was a strange story myself.
Had it been published even a year of two earlier, it likely would have vanished without a trace at that point. Customarily, if the rest of the nation's editors decide to ignore a particular story, it quickly withers and dies, like a light-starved plant. With the exception of newspapers in Seattle, some small cities in Northern California, and Albuquerque, Dark Alliance got the silent treatment big time. No one would touch it.
But no one had counted on the enormous popularity of the Web site. Almost from the moment the series appeared, the Web page was deluged with visitors from all over the world. Students in Denmark were standing in line at their college's computer waiting to read it. E-mails came in from Croatia, Japan, Colombia, Harlem, and Kansas City, dozens of them, day after day. One day we had more than 1.3 million hits. (The site eventually won several awards from computer journalism magazines.)
Once Dark Alliance became the talk of the Internet (in large part because of the technical wizardry and sharp graphics of the Web page), talk radio adopted the story and ran with it. For the next two months, I did more than one hundred radio interviews, in which I was asked to sum up what the three-day long series said in its many thousands of words. Well, I would reply, it said a lot of things. Take your pick. Usually, the questions focused on the CIA's role, and whether I was suggesting a giant CIA conspiracy. We didn't know the CIA's exact role yet, I would say, but we have documents and court testimony showing CIA agents were meeting with these drug traffickers to discuss drug sales and weapons trafficking. And so, figure it out. Did the CIA know or not? The response would come back --So you're saying that the CIA "targeted" black neighborhoods for crack sales? Where's your evidence of that? And it would go on and one.
There were other distractions as well. Film agents and book agents began calling. One afternoon Paramount Studios whisked me down to have lunch with two of the studio's biggest producers, the men who brought Tom Clancy's CIA novels to the screen, to talk about "film possibilities" for the still-unfolding story. This was about the time I realized the wind speed of the shit storm I had kicked up.
The rumbles the series was causing from black communities was unnerving a lot of people. College students were holding protest rallies in Washington, D.C., to demand an official investigation. Residents of South Central marched on city hall and held candlelight vigils. The Los Angeles City Council soon joined the chorus, as did both of California's U.S. senators, the Oakland city council, the major of Denver, the Congressional Black Caucus, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, and at least a half dozen congressional members, mostly African American women whose districts included crack-ridden inner cities. Black civil rights activists were arrested outside the CIA after sealing off the agency's entrance with yellow crime scene tape. The story was developing a political momentum all of its own, and it was happening despite a virtual news blackout from the major media.
Some Washington journalists were alarmed. Where is the rebuttal? "Why hasn't the media risen in revolt against this story?" CNN's Reliable Sources, Kalb expressed frustration that the story was continuing to get out despite the best efforts of the press to ignore it. "It isn't a story that simply got lost" Kalb complained, during the show, "It, in fact, has resonated and echoed and echoed and the question is, Where is the media knocking it down?"
It was an interesting comment because it foretold the way the mainstream press finally did respond to Dark Alliance. A revolt by the biggest newspapers in the country, something columnist Alexander Cockburn would later describe in his book White Out as "one of the most venomous and factually insane assaults...in living memory."
I remember arguing with a producer at a CNN news show shortly before I was to go on the air that I didn't want him asking me to explain "my allegations" because these stories weren't my allegations. I was a journalist reporting events that had actually occurred. You could document them, and we had.
"Well, you got to understand my position," he mumbled. "The trafficking, CNN's position is that these events may not have happened." I snapped, "What the fuck is that? When did we give the CIA the power to define reality?"
After nearly a month of silence, the CIA responded. It admitted nothing. It was confident that its agents weren't dealing drugs. But to dispel all the rumors and unkind suggestions my series had raised, the agency would have its inspector general take a look into the matter.
The black community greeted this pronouncement with unconcealed contempt. "You think you can come down here and tell us that you're going to investigate yourselves, and expect us to believe something is actually going to happen?" one woman yelled at CIA director John Dutch, who appeared in Compote, California, in November 1996 to personally promise the city a thorough investigation. "How stupid do you think we are?"
The conservative press and right-wing political organizations were equally hostile to the idea of a CIA crack investigation, but for different reasons. It meant the story was gaining legitimacy, and might lead to places that supporters of the Reagan and Bush administrations would rather not see it go. John Dutch was blasted on the front page of the Washington Times (which had also helped finance the Contras, hosting fundraisers and speaking engagements for Contra leaders while supporting their cause editorially) as a dangerous liberal who was undermining morale at the CIA by even suggesting there might be truth to the stories.
Ultimately, it was public pressure that forced the national newspapers into the fray. Protests were held outside the building by media watchdogs and citizens groups, who wondered how the Times could continue to ignore a story that had such an impact on the city's black neighborhoods. In Washington, black media outlets were ridiculing the Post for its silence, considering the importance the story held for most of Washington's citizens.
When the newspapers of record spoke, they spoke in unison. Between October and November, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times published lengthy stories about the CIA drug issue, but spent precious little time exploring the CIA's activities. Instead, my reporting and I became the focus of their scrutiny. After looking into the issue for several weeks, the official conclusion reached by all three papers: Much ado about nothing. No story here. Nothing worth pursuing. The series was "flawed," they contended. How?
Well, there was no evidence the CIA knew anything about it, according to unnamed CIA officials the newspapers spoke to. The drug traffickers we identified as Contras didn't have "official" positions with the organization and didn't really give them all that much drug money. This was according to another CIA agent, Adolfo Calero, the former head of the Contras, and the man whose picture we had just published on the Internet, huddled in a kitchen with one of the Contra drug traffickers. Calero's apparent involvement with the drug operation was never mentioned by any of the papers; his decades-long relationship with the CIA was never mentioned either.
Additionally, it was argued, this quasi-Contra drug ring was small potatoes. One of the Contra traffickers had only sold five tons of cocaine during his entire career, the Washington Post sniffed, badly misquoting a DEA report we'd posted on the Web site. According to the Post's analysis, written by a former CIA informant, Walter Pincus, who was then covering the CIA for the Post, this drug ring couldn't have made a difference in the crack market because five tons wasn't nearly enough to go around. Eventually, those assertions would be refuted by internal records released by both the CIA and the Justice Department, but at the time they were classified.
"I'm disappointed in the 'what's the big deal' tone running through the Post's critique," Mercury News editor Jerry Ceppos complained to the Post in a letter it refused to publish. "If the CIA knew about these illegal activities being conducted by its associates, federal law and basic morality required that it notify domestic authorities. It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of story that a newspaper should shine a light on." Ceppos posted a memo on the newsroom bulletin board, stating that the Mercury News would continue "to strongly support the conclusions the series drew and will until someone proves them wrong." It was remarkable, Ceppos wrote, that the four Post reporters assigned to debunk the series "could not find a single significant factual error."
Privately, though, my editors were getting nervous. Never before had the three biggest papers devoted such energy to kicking the hell out of a story by another newspaper. It simply wasn't done, and it worried them. They began a series of maneuvers designed to deflect or at least stem the criticism from the national media. Five thousand reprints of the series were burned because the CIA logo was used as an illustration. My follow-up stories were required to contain a boilerplate disclaimer that said we were not accusing the CIA of direct knowledge, even though the facts strongly suggested CIA complicity. But those stunts merely fueled the controversy, making it appear as if we were backing away from the story without admitting it.
Ironically, the evidence we were continuing to gather was making the story even stronger. Long-missing police records surfaced. Cops who had tried to investigate the Contra drug ring and were rebuffed came forward. We tracked down one of the Contras who personally delivered drug money to CIA agents, and he identified them by name, on the record. He also confirmed that the amounts he'd carried to Miami and Costa Rica were in the millions. More records were declassified from the Iran-Contra files, showing that contemporaneous knowledge of this drug operation reached to the top levels of the CIA's covert operations division, as well as into the DEA and the FBI.
But the attacks from the other newspapers had taken the wind out of my editors' sails. Despite the advances we were making on the story, the criticism continued. We were being "irresponsible" by printing stories suggesting CIA complicity without any admissions or printing stories suggesting CIA complicity without any admissions of "a smoking gun." The series was now described frequently as "discredited," even though nothing had surfaced showing that any of the facts were incorrect. At my editor's request, I wrote another series following up on the first three parts: a package of four stories to run over two days. They never began to edit them.
Instead, I found myself involved in hours-long conversations with editors that bordered on the surreal.
"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 others before them?"
"There might have been a lot of things, Jon, but we're only supposed to deal in what we know," I replied. "The crack dealers I interviewed said they were the first. Cops in South Central said they were the first. and that they controlled the entire market. They wrote it in reports that we have. I haven't found anything saying otherwise, not one single name, and neither did the New York Times, the Washington Post or the L.A. Times. So what's the issue here?"
"But how can we say for sure they were the first?" Krim persisted. "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. "I only considered people with names and faces. I didn't take phantom drug dealers into account."
A few months later, the Mercury News officially backed away from Dark Alliance, publishing a long column by Jerry Ceppos apologizing for "shortcomings" in the series. While insisting that the paper stood behind its "core findings," we didn't have proof that top CIA officials knew about this, and we didn't have proof that millions of dollars flowed from this drug ring, Ceppos declared, even though we did and weren't printing it. There were gray areas that should have been fleshed out more. Some of the language used could have led to misimpressions. And we "oversimplified" that outbreak of crack in South Central. The New York Times hailed Ceppos for setting a brave new standard for dealing with "egregious errors" and splashed his apology on their front page, the first time the series had ever been mentioned there.
I quit the Mercury News not too long after that.
When the CIA and Justice Department finished their internal investigations two years later, the classified documents that were released showed just how badly I had fucked up. The CIA's knowledge and involvement had been far greater than I'd ever imagined. The drug ring was even bigger than I had portrayed. The involvement between the CIA agents running the Contras and the drug traffickers was closer than I had written. And agents and officials of the DEA had protected the traffickers from arrest, something I'd not been allowed to print. The CIA also admitted having direct involvement with about four dozen other drug traffickers or their companies, and that this too had been known and effectively condoned by the CIA's top brass.
In fact, at the start of the Contra war, the CIA and Justice Department had worked out an unusual agreement that permitted the CIA not to have to report allegations of drug trafficking by its agents to the Justice Department. It was a curious loophole in the law, to say the least.
Despite those rather stunning admissions, the internal investigations were portrayed in the press as having uncovered no evidence of CIA involvement in drug trafficking and no evidence of a conspiracy to send crack to black neighborhoods, which was hardly surprising since I had never said there was. What I had written -- that individual CIA agents working within the Contras were deeply involved with this drug ring -- was either ignored or excised from the CIA's final reports. For instance, the agency's decade-long employment of two Contra commanders --Colonel Enrique Bermudez and Adolfo Calero--was never mentioned in the declassified CIA reports, leaving the false impression that they had no CIA connection. This was a critical omission, since Bermudez and Calero were identified in my series as the CIA agents who had directly involved with the Contra Drug pipeline. Even though their relationship with the agency was a matter of public record, none of the press reports I saw celebrating the CIA's self-absolution bothered to address this gaping hole in the official story. The CIA had investigated itself and cleared itself, and the press was happy to let things stay that way. No independent investigation was done.
The funny thing was, despite all the furor, the facts of the story never changed, except to become more damning. But the perception of them did, and in this case, that is really all that mattered. Once a story became "discredited," the rest of the media shied away from it. Dark Alliance was consigned to the dustbin of history, viewed as an Internet conspiracy theory that had been thoroughly disproved by more responsible news organizations.
Why did it occur? Primarily because the series presented dangerous ideas. It suggested that crimes of state had been committed. If the story was true, it meant the federal government bore some responsibility, however indirect, for the flood of crack that coursed through black neighborhoods in the 1980s. And that is something no government can ever admit to, particularly one that is busily promoting a multibillion-dollar-a-year War on Drugs.
But what of the press? Why did our free and independent media participate with the government's disinformation campaign? It had probably as many reasons as the CIA. The Contra-drug story was something the top papers had dismissed as sheer fantasy only a few years earlier. They had not only been wrong, they had been terribly wrong, and their attitude had actively impeded efforts by citizens groups, journalists, and congressional investigators to bring the issue to national attention, at a time when its disclosure may have done some good. Many of the same reporters who declined to write about Contra drug trafficking in the 1980s -- or wrote dismissively about it -- were trotted out once again to do damage control.
Second, the San Jose Mercury News was not a member of the club that sets the national news agenda, the elite group of big newspapers that decides the important issues of the day, such as big newspapers that decides the important issues of the day, such as which stories get reported and which get ignored. Small regional newspapers aren't invited. But the Merc had broken the rules and used the Internet to get in by the back door, leaving the big papers momentarily superfluous and embarrassed, and it forced them to readdress an issue they'd much rather have forgotten. By turning on the Mercury News, the big boys were reminding the rest of the flock who really runs the newspaper business, Internet or no Internet, and the extends to which they will go to protect that power, even if it meant rearranging reality to suit them.
Finally, as I discovered while researching the book I eventually wrote about this story, the national news organizations have had a long, disappointing history of playing footsie with the CIA, printing unsubstantiated agency leaks, giving agents journalistic cover, and downplaying or attacking stories and ideas damaging to the agency. I can only speculate as to why this occurs, but I am not naive enough to believe it is mere coincidence.
The scary thing about this collusion between the press and the powerful is that it works so well. In this case, the government's denials and promises to pursue the truth didn't work. The public didn't accept them, for obvious reasons, and the clamor for an independent investigation continued to grow. But after the government's supposed watchdogs weighed in, public opinion became divided and confused, the movement to force congressional hearings lost steam and, once enough people came to believe the stories were false or exaggerated, the issue could safely be put back at the bottom of the dead-story pile, hopefully never to rise again.
Do we have a free press today? Sure we do. It's free to report all the sex scandals it wants, all the stock market news we can handle, every new health fad that comes down the pike, and every celebrity marriage or divorce that happens. But when it comes to the real down and dirty stuff -- stories like Tailwind, the October Surprise, the El Mozote massacre, corporate corruption, or CIA involvement in drug trafficking -- that's where we begin to see the limits of our freedoms. In today's media environment, sadly, such stories are not even open for discussion.
Back in 1938, when fascism was sweeping Europe, legendary investigative reporter George Seldes observed (in his book, The Lords of the Press) that "it is possible to fool all the people all the time -- when government and press cooperate." Unfortunately, we have reached that point.
©1995 - 2004
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Gary Webb (1955-2004)
On December 10, 2004, Gary Webb was found dead from two gunshot wounds to the head and Sacramento County coroner Robert Lyons determined that it was suicide.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Is something rotten in Denmark trip?
Letter to the Press Democrat Editor:
EDITOR: Obviously Sonoma County has lots of extra money if it can afford to spend $22,500 sending seven people to Copenhagen. Have fun with the taxpayers money while in Denmark.
From Shakespear's play, Hamlet
He waxes desperate with imagination.
Let's follow. 'Tis not fit thus to obey him.
Have after. To what issue will this come?
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Heaven will direct it.
Nay, let's follow him.
To put it bluntly, not only is global warming a sham, so is this United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen which runs Dec. 13 to 18.
The event is expected to draw 30,000 people from 192 nations including President Obama and seven locals from Sonoma County.
The Sonoma Seven are being sent so they can “tout the county's environmental programs, participate in educational panels and have a voice in the debate”.
1. Supervisor Valerie Brown
2. Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority
3. Tom Brilliant, Consultant, videographer and educator
4. Paul Kelley, Board of Supervisors president & president of the California Association of Water
5. Jake Mackenzie, Rohnert Park councilman & member of the Water Agency's advisory committee
6. Tim Anderson, Water Agency's governmental affairs director
7. Robert Wilkinson, UC Santa Barbara Professor & expert on environmental policies.
The cost? $22,500
Is this a waste of money?
Yes. Considering current budget cuts, increased rates and employee furloughs at the water agency and in the county, why do six people from the Water Agency and one from the county's Transportation Authority need to make the trip at all?
Enquring minds want to know!
Sonoma County sending 7 people to climate conference in Denmark
Sonoma County: Red, black, green
Monday, November 30, 2009
We are praying for the Lord to comfort all the family and friends touched by this tragedy...
Sonoma family of 4 dies in crash; father was Marin executive
Posted: 11/29/2009 03:10:36 PM PST
Johnathan Maloney, shown in a 1990s handout photo from Panamax. Friends and former Marin County colleagues on Sunday mourned the death of Johnathan Maloney, his wife and two young children, killed Saturday night in a multicar crash east of Novato.
The minivan in which the Maloney family was riding was struck by an oncoming Mini Cooper at the intersection of Highway 37 and Lakeville Highway, about two miles east of the Marin County line. Maloney, 45, his wife, Susan Maloney, 42, and their children Aiden, 8, and Grace, 5, died in the impact, said Officer Jon Sloat of the California Highway Patrol.
The man who was driving the Mini Cooper, Steven Culbertson, 19, of Lakeport (Lake County), was listed in critical condition Sunday night, said Vanessa Begier, a spokeswoman for Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that Culbertson had died.
Johnathan Maloney had worked at Panamax in San Rafael, a high-tech manufacturer, for many years and more recently with Novato-based SolarCraft, a solar energy company.
"I knew him for about 20 years and he was my best friend, a wonderful father and a very generous man," said attorney and neighbor Bob Smith, who also works for SolarCraft. "You are lucky if you ever have a friend like John. Now we don't have him anymore. I don't know what else to say."
Henry Moody, a Ross resident who founded Panamax, learned of the fatal crash at about 5 a.m. Sunday.
"We had a great relationship," Moody said. "John was an exceptional person - very bright. He was well-liked in that he never made an enemy with anybody.
"The mind cannot assimilate something like this. It's a tragedy, especially because of the children. We cry a lot for kids who haven't had a chance to have a life."
The Maloneys' minivan was heading east on Highway 37 as the family returned from a vacation in Hawaii on their way home to a neighborhood just north of downtown Sonoma. As the minivan crossed through the four-way stop at about 9:20 p.m., a Mini Cooper driven by Culbertson hit a car that was stopped for a red light on southbound Lakeville Highway and slammed into the minivan, the CHP said.
The minivan was rendered nearly unrecognizable by the collision.
The Mini Cooper also struck a sedan waiting at the light and three people in that vehicle were hospitalized in Novato with injuries, according to the highway patrol.
"He clipped two vehicles and broadsided the family of four," CHP Sgt. Trent Cross said. "Right now there is no evidence of drugs or alcohol. That could change later, but right now, there is no evidence."
After the impact, the minivan pushed into a 2002 Mitsubishi Galant that was also traveling east on Highway 37, the CHP reported. Novato resident Carrie Rodriguez, 52, of Novato, and her passengers Liberty Rosario, 47, of Fairfield, and Adelaida Nicholas, 53, of Novato, were taken to local hospitals and treated for minor injuries before being released, according to the CHP.
Two medical helicopters and the Sonoma County coroner were called to the site. Culbertson was flown by helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
Traffic in the area came to a standstill and was backed up for hours just east of the Marin-Sonoma county border near Black Point. Fire crews from Novato, Lakeville, Wilmar and Petaluma were called to the crash.
Johnathan Maloney started at Panamax in the late 1980s, Smith said. Eventually he became co-owner with Smith, Moody and Bill Pollock. Moody said the group sold the company to Nortek, and it is now based in Petaluma with Pollock as its president.
After Maloney left Panamax, he went back to school at Dominican University to work on a master's in humanities and focused on creative writing. He already had at a journalism degree from the University of Georgia.
"He worked on his writing skills and wrote a children's book, which was part of his dream," Moody said. "He loved the arts."
Last spring he joined Solarcraft as vice president for sales and marketing, Smith said. He worked at both the Bel Marin Keys headquarters as well as the Petaluma office.
Maloney had a daughter, Molly, from a previous marriage. Molly Maloney was a sports standout at Tamalpais High and now attends the University of Wisconsin. The family had flown in from Hawaii in order to have a Thanksgiving dinner with Molly on Saturday, Smith said.
The Saturday night crash had the highest death toll since the 2007 crash on Highway 101 in Santa Rosa that killed five members of a Windsor family.
Contact Brent Ainsworth via e-mail at email@example.com
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PHOTOS FROM FACEBOOK
Susan Maloney with children Aiden and Grace
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December 1, 2009 UPDATE
Thieves raid empty home of family killed in crash
Tue 12/1/09 2 PM
By David Bolling
Sonoma Police Officers Rocky Seffens and Mike Baraz stand guard over the Maloney home while crime scene investigators process evidence inside. Robbi Pengely/Index-Tribune
Compounding the tragedy that took the lives of four Sonoma family members in a Saturday night auto accident, thieves broke into their empty home Monday night, ransacked the contents taking numerous items of value, and drove off with family's remaining car, a two-seat, 2006 Nissan 350Z sports car.
"It is incomprehensible that someone would capitalize on this tragedy," said a tearful Nancy Pollock, who with her husband, Bill, was a close family friend of John and Susan Maloney, and their children Aiden and Grace. The Pollocks were present at the house Tuesday morning as crime scene investigators from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department processed the scene.
"It shakes your faith in mankind," said Nancy's husband, Bill Pollock, president of Panamax Corporation, the Petaluma company where John and Susan met. John Maloney, with fellow Sonoman Bob Smith, had been co-owners of Panamax until Maloney decided to sell his interest in order take a break form work and write a book while spending more time with his family. The Maloneys were returning to Sonoma Saturday after a Thanksgiving vacation in Hawaii when their mini-van was struck by a speeding teenage driver who ran the red light at Lakeville Road and Highway 37. The driver, 19-year-old Steven Culbertson of Lakeport, died Sunday.
The family was returning home to spend time with 19-year-old Molly Maloney, John's daughter from a previous marriage, before she returned to college in Wisconsin.
Staring into the open garage that had been ransacked the night before, Nancy Pollock said through anguished tears, John and Nancy "are in a safe place now. But to do this to Molly ... they ransacked the whole house, they threw things all over ... even went in the little kids ... they went in Aiden and Grace's rooms. Sonoma police Chief Bret Sackett said the break-in happened sometime between midnight and 7 a.m. this morning (Tuesday). He said the thieves appeared to have entered through a side garage door and that sheriff's detectives and CSI personnel were carefully processing the house all Tuesday afternoon. Sackett said a complete list of what was taken had not been compiled but that it included electronics and other valuable items, including the 350Z sports car, which was silver in color, with the license plate, 5XOH067.
Meanwhile, a memorial service has been planned for Friday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. in Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center. Space will be somewhat limited.
Additionally, a benefit fund to aid Molly Maloney's continuing education is being established and fund details will be released as soon as they are available.
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CHP probes whether driver was drinking before fatal crash
By LORI A. CARTER,
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 6:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 6:48 p.m.
The inquiry into Saturday night’s violent car crash that killed a Sonoma family of four broadened Tuesday into whether the teen driver of a speeding Mini Cooper had been drinking before causing, and dying in, the crash.
19-year-old in crash liked to race cars Mini Cooper driver had DUI as a 17-year-old 5 killed in Lakeville Highway crash CHP investigators Tuesday afternoon interviewed a witness who has come forward with information that could shed light on the activities of the driver, Steven Culbertson, 19, in the hours leading up to the collision.
The information raises questions about liability if someone served the underage man alcohol prior to the crash.
In interviews Tuesday with The Press Democrat and later with the CHP, Michael Loffredo of Petaluma said his family saw Culbertson sitting at the bar of Traxx, a Petaluma bar and restaurant, as they were having dinner between 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday. He said he saw a white Mini in the parking lot.
Whether alcohol was involved in Saturday night’s crash remained unknown, pending results of Culbertson’s toxicology test ordered by the CHP.
The CHP confirmed Tuesday that Culbertson had been arrested for drunken driving in a 2007 Lake County crash when he was 17. His driver’s license was suspended for a year, the standard punishment after such an arrest.
Culbertson had no other driving infractions, according to the CHP.
Investigators said Culbertson caused the crash when his Mini, traveling at an estimated 70-90 mph on southbound Lakeville Highway, slammed broadside into the family’s eastbound van at Highway 37.
Susan Maloney, 42, her husband, John, 45, and their children Grace, 5, and Aiden, 8, died on impact in the 9:20 p.m. crash, the CHP said.
Culbertson of Lakeport died Sunday at a Santa Rosa hospital.
Loffredo, an art instructor at the Santa Rosa Junior College campus in Petaluma, told The Press Democrat that he and his sister remarked on the white Mini with Lakeport markings as they went into the restaurant. He said they saw a tall, dark-haired young man sitting at the bar and he had a mixed-drink style glass in his hand.
“I thought, ‘That’s a kid...He’s drinking. It must be a busboy or dishwasher, but they’re giving him a drink.’ He was noticeably young,” Loffredo said.
The information, if proved true, could result in criminal charges or administrative sanctions if the underage Culbertson was served alcohol in violation of state law, CHP spokesman Officer Jon Sloat said.
Results of Culbertson’s toxicology tests could be available in two to three weeks.
“We need to backtrack 24 hours leading up to the collision,” Sloat said. “If he was somewhere drinking underage, that opens up a whole other can of worms for whoever was serving him.”
The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which issues licenses and investigates related violations, is also involved, CHP Sgt. Robert Mota said.
Traxx owner Chris Cheney said Tuesday evening he hadn’t been contacted by investigators. He said he didn’t know if Culbertson had been at his establishment, but that his employees use standard age-checking procedures before they serve alcohol to young-looking patrons.
Typically, bars, wineries and other licensed alcohol purveyors are not responsible for what intoxicated patrons do once they walk out the door.
The exception is when someone serves an obviously intoxicated minor, said Santa Rosa attorney Pat Emery, who has handled numerous civil lawsuits involving alcohol-related crashes.
Loffredo said after dinner he drove southeast on Lakeville Street toward the marina and he realized the Mini was behind him, driving fast.
“As we left, he must have been right behind us,” he said. “That car blew by us in the lane and cut off two cars coming off the freeway. That was the beginning of a death ride.
“He was doing at least 70,” he said. “I told my dad, ‘That SOB just went through the red light.’ It was suicidal. Nobody in their right mind would do that.”
Loffredo said the Mini split between two vehicles exiting Highway 101 at Lakeville, causing those drivers to honk their horns. The Mini continued east, he said.
“I looked at the clock and it was 9:08,” he said. “Then they showed his picture on the news and I went ‘bingo.’”
That time frame matches the crash that occurred about 10 minutes later at Lakeville Highway and Highway 37, approximately 12 miles away.
The CHP said that as Culbertson approached the intersection on Lakeville, he came upon a Honda CRV stopped for the light. The Mini clipped the back of that vehicle and then flew into the intersection against the light.
It appears he didn’t try to slow down before running the red light and into the intersection at 37, Sloat said. There were no skid marks at the scene.
“It didn’t look like he was trying to brake,” Sloat said.
The Maloney family was returning to their Sonoma home from the airport after flying in from Maui, where they had spent Thanksgiving.
Whether Culbertons still had control of the car wasn’t known, but at that speed he wouldn’t have been able to stop from running the light, Sloat said.
“He was going fast enough, he was going into that intersection in control or out of control,” he said.
Meanwhile, autopsies on the bodies of the Maloney family were scheduled for Tuesday, according to the Sonoma County Coroner’s Office. Culbertson’s autopsy was scheduled to follow.
A family friend said Monday that Culbertson had a passion for racing cars. The friend said Culbertson and his father frequently travelled to race tracks in the state to race a BMW and an Acura.
On his Facebook page, Culbertson listed his occupation as “pro driver/mechanic.”
Efforts to reach Culbertson’s family since the crash have been unsuccessful. Sloat said officers intend to interview his family, but wanted to give them time.
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Fairport native, family killed in crash in California
Mitch Pritchard – Staff writer
ROCnow.com Local News – December 1, 2009 - 5:00am
Molly Maloney, 19, left, was supposed to visit with her father, Johnathan, center, and his family Monday.
Molly Maloney was looking forward to a belated Thanksgiving with her father and his family Monday, but instead the 19-year-old was grieving for her loved ones.
Fairport High School graduate Johnathan Maloney, 45; his wife, Susan, 42; their son, Aiden, 8; and their daughter, Grace, 5, were killed in Novato, Calif., late Saturday night after a driver ran a red light and smashed into their minivan.
The family, which lived in Sonoma, was on its way home from the San Francisco International Airport after a weekend trip to Maui. The crash occurred 10 miles from their home.
Molly Maloney, who is a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, was with her mother, Tina Maloney, at her home in Sausalito, Calif., when the crash happened.
Mr. Maloney, a 1982 Fairport graduate, moved to California 25 years ago after graduating from the University of Georgia.
Mr. Maloney was an executive at SolarCraft, a solar energy company. According to Molly Maloney, he had just returned to work after taking two years off to write a book for young adults based on the bedtime stories he had told his children.
“It was his dream to live in California, so after college he just packed up his car and drove out here,” Molly Maloney said by phone Monday. “He always wanted to write this book, so he took the time off to do it.”
Molly Maloney said the book is finished, but Mr. Maloney was in the process of getting it published.
“I knew him for about 20 years and he was my best friend, a wonderful father and a very generous man,” attorney and neighbor Bob Smith, who also works for SolarCraft, told the Marin Independent Journal. “You are lucky if you ever have a friend like John. Now we don’t have him anymore.”
Mr. Maloney started at Panamax, a company that designs and manufactures electronics, in San Rafael in the late 1980s, Smith said. Eventually he became co-owner with Smith, Henry Moody and Bill Pollock. Moody said the group sold the company.
After Mr. Maloney left Panamax, he went back to school at Dominican University to work on a master’s degree in humanities and focused on creative writing. Last spring he joined SolarCraft as vice president for sales and marketing, Smith told the Journal.
Steven Culbertson, 19, who was driving the Mini Cooper that crashed into Maloney’s van, died Monday at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital from injuries sustained in the crash.
Culbertson’s car first clipped a car that was stopped for the light at the intersection of Highway 37 and Lakeville Highway and then smashed into the minivan near Novato, about 30 miles north of San Francisco, the California Highway Patrol said.
He was the sole occupant of the car.
The three people in vehicle at the light were hospitalized.
Apart from Molly Maloney, Mr. Maloney is survived by brother Jim Maloney and his wife, Debi, of Honeoye Falls; sister Cathleen Phipps and her husband, Will, of Fairport; and mother Caroline Maloney of Fairport.
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COMMENTS from Lake County Record-Bee - some knew Culbertson
COMMENTS from Press Democrat - witness saw Culbertson drinking & driving reckless before accident
COMMENTS from Press Democrat - Maloney house robbed
COMMENTS from Press Democrat - DUI at 17
COMMENTS from Press Democrat - first report/info on Culbertson family
COMMENTS from Press Democrat - couple caught & arrested
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December 3, 2009 UPDATE
Police nab pair in Maloney home burglary
Sononma Index Tribune
A San Mateo County couple, 26-year-old Michael Vincent Guiterrez and 29-year-old Amber Marie True, were arrested Tuesday afternoon after San Mateo County Sheriff's deputies caught True with a credit card belonging to Susan Maloney.
The empty Maloney home was burglarized Monday night following the Saturday accident that killed four members of the family. Maloney, her husband John, and their children Aiden and Grace, were killed Saturday evening by a speeding 19-year-old who ran a red light at Highway 37 and Lakeville Road and hit the Maloney minivan broadside at a speed estimated at 70 to 90 miles per hour. The driver, Steven Culbertson of Lakeport, died on Sunday.
Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett reported Wednesday morning that the San Mateo arrests began with a traffic stop at a San Mateo convenience store where local deputies saw True acting suspiciously and discovered she was driving on a suspended license. They then discovered she had in her possession a credit card belonging to Susan Maloney and jewelry that appeared inconsistent "with her type," said Sackett.
Sonoma County Sheriff's Department detectives, who had earlier posted alerts and stop notices on all the Maloneys' missing credit cards, traveled to San Mateo Tuesday afternoon and went to True's residence where they found the Maloneys' stolen Nissan 350Z sports car parked in the driveway.
They staked out the house and sometime after 5 p.m., Giuterrez came out, got into the Nissan and started to drive away. Having a suspect in a known stolen car gave waiting deputies immediate cause to make an arrest and they took Giuterrez into custody.
They then served a search warrant on the home and, according to Sackett, found more jewelry, financial records, credit cards, electronic devices and other of the Maloneys' personal belongings. Sackett said a full inventory had not been completed but it appears likely that all of the Maloneys' stolen property has been recovered.
Giuterrez and True were transported back to Sonoma County and booked into the county jail on charges of burglary and vehicle theft. Bail was set at $500,000 apiece.
The following are comments from the Sonoma IT readers. In no way do they represent the view of www.sonomanews.com.
Whardy39@comcast.net wrote on Dec 2, 2009 11:48 AM:
" Great news!!!! Throw the book
at them. "
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote on Dec 2, 2009 2:01 PM:
" I am so glad they caught them.they deserve to rot..I am a little relieved that is was not people from our community i was losing faith in our town "
email@example.com wrote on Dec 2, 2009 3:06 PM:
" in my eyes the driver who killed this poor family got exactly what he deserved, really how many chances do you liberals want to give these repeat offenders? the two that stole and did the unbelievable should get that absolute top penalty for this unholy act. one of them has many ties to sonoma, and never give up hope for sonoma, its a town that is a family to most. "
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote on Dec 2, 2009 3:16 PM:
" being liberal has nothing to do with anything. thankfully they caught these horrible people "
email@example.com wrote on Dec 2, 2009 4:24 PM:
" bryjag. Pretty low of you to use a serious tragedy like this to take a political swipe. In fact in the most conservative states such as Georgia the DUI laws are much less stringent than Cal. If it's true that he was served drinks at Traxx in Petaluma they'll be held liable. Wouldn't happen in the South or any 'non liberal' states. Get a clue. "
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote on Dec 2, 2009 4:51 PM:
" the worst thing we can can do is even acknowledge someone like bryjag1965 wrote something about this terrible situation. just let him/her be with their opinion and move on. it is obvious they don't have a clue about what they are writing about and they are trying to make more out of something than it already is.
i think it is awesme that these idiots were caught and hopefully they spend the maximum time possible in jail so that our law enforcement resources don't have to spend any more time or effort on them.
to the family and friends of the Maloney's please know that everyone's thoughts and prayers are with you.
to the family and friends of the driver who caused all this, our thoughts and prayers are with you too. you have a grieving process and a loved one gone as well, so there is definitely some healing you have left to do and negative remarks about your lost family member are not necessarily what you should be paying attention to.
Sonoma is strong. It is amazing to see how many people were angered and ready to do something knowing this happened in our small town. Pretty cool to see how we can all agree on something and want to act on it positively. "
email@example.com wrote on Dec 2, 2009 6:36 PM:
" This is such a tragedy to have happen to Sonoma residents who were sooo close to home. Both families have had losses that we can't begin to understand. Many lives were needlessly lost in this accident...but that doesn't make it easier to accept...There but by the grace of God go I...any one of us could have been hit...As for those who knowingly went into the home of the victims...they should be punished to the very limit. How tragic that they would tread in the deceased families home...I am glad I am not on their jury as I would throw the book at them...There is absolutely no excuse for what they did and I am so glad they have been caught. "
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote on Dec 3, 2009 5:45 AM:
" I don't think there is a severe enough punishment that fits this crime.
Thankfully, this family and their friends will have more peace now. "
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KTVU News VIDEO and article
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December 4, 2009 UPDATE
Driver seen in bar before fatal crash
By David Bolling and Emily Charrier-Botts
STEVEN CULBERTSON Photo courtesy of the DMV
Steven Culbertson, the 19-year-old Lakeport man whose white, 2009 Mini Cooper raced through a red light Nov. 28, and killed four members of Sonoma's Maloney family, may have been the same man spotted by a witness drinking heavily in a Petaluma bar not long before the accident.
Culbertson also died following the accident. According to Michael Loffredo, 53, a Petaluma resident and art instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College, he saw someone identical to Culbertson at Traxx, a Petaluma bar and restaurant, Saturday night. And on his way into the facility with his girlfriend, sister and parents, Loffredo told the Index-Tribune he stopped to admire a white Mini Cooper in the parking lot.
"My sister pointed it out because she was thinking about buying one," he said. "It was a very fancy one, with fancy rims." Lofreddo said he could plainly see a license plate badge saying "Mini of Lakeport." The time was between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Loffredo said his party was seated at a table in the dining room with a view straight into the bar. "After a while," he said, "there were only two guys at the bar, one older guy and this kid who was really tossing them back. I thought, 'Wow, they're getting the busboy hammered.'"
Loffredo said the man resembled a young Ashton Kutcher, the actor. At one point, said Loffredo, he went to the bathroom and ran into the young man, meeting face-to-face. "I looked at him like, 'Hey kid, I know you're underage and I know you're hammered.'"
Loffredo said the young man made a short laugh and went into the women's bathroom. Loffredo said he subsequently left the restaurant, located on Lakeville Street near East Washington, and was driving his parents back to their hotel when he stopped at a red light close to the Highway 101 interchange. He said he saw in his mirror a car racing up behind him. When the car got to the light, said Loffredo, the driver "gunned it, he blew through the red light," and drove right between two cars exiting onto Lakeville Highway from 101.
"My sister said, 'that's the guy from Traxx,' and I told everybody in the car, 'That guy wants to die. This isn't going to end well.'"
At 9:20 p.m., Culbertson's car, a white Mini Cooper, clipped one car, roared through a red light at Lakeville Road and Highway 37, and drove broadside into the Maloneys' Nissan Quest, killing John Maloney, his wife Susan Maloney, and their two children Aiden, 8, and Grace, 5.
Culbertson died Sunday, after being taken off life support.
The California Highway Patrol reported that Culbertson was driving at between 70 and 90 miles an hour when he hit the Maloney minivan.
Authorities are still piecing together Culbertson's activities prior to the crash, and they have interviewed Loffredo about his sighting of the person alleged to be Culbertson at Traxx.
Police are still awaiting the results of a toxicology test to determine if Culbertson was in fact intoxicated at the time of the crash, but he did have a history of drinking and driving.
According to DMV records, he had his license suspended July 14, 2007, for driving with "excessive blood alcohol content." As is typical for first time juvenile offenders, his license was suspended for a year and, as a condition for his license to be reinstated, he was required to carry costly liability insurance, known as SR22 insurance, as a high risk driver through 2011. Culbertson was 17 at the time of the DUI and the details of that incident were not made public.
"All we have on him is a juvenile record, which is not public record," said Richard Hinchcliff, chief deputy district attorney for Lake County.
Culbertson's DUI was his only brush with the law in Lake County. Terri Menshek, spokeswoman for the Sonoma County District Attorney's office, said Culbertson had no criminal record in Sonoma County.
CHP Officer Jon Sloat said his department is working to determine exactly what Culbertson was doing during the 24 hours prior to the crash. Law enforcement contacted Culbertson's family in Lakeport for additional information, but as of Wednesday had not interviewed the family, Sloat said. Attempts by the Index-Tribune to reach Steven Culbertson's father, who is also named Steven Culbertson, were unsuccessful.
The Culbertson family shared a love of racing cars. According to the younger Steven Culbertson's Facebook page, he enjoyed racing a BMW and shared aspirations to become a race car driver or mechanic. He attended Clear Lake High School for several years before transferring to the alternative school, Natural High School, where he graduated in 2008.
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North Bay News
Family killed in Highway 37 crash remembered
Updated at 01:08 PM
SONOMA, CA (KGO) -- Preparations are underway for a memorial service this afternoon for a Sonoma family of four killed in a traffic accident last weekend. John and Susan Maloney and their two young children were killed when a speeding car ran a red light and slammed into their vehicle on Highway 37.
A separate memorial service was held this morning at the school that both their son Aiden and daughter Grace attended.
The city of Sonoma is already grieving the loss of the young Maloney family of four. Today emotions are heightened even more in this small North Bay community, with both a family memorial set for 2 p.m. this afternoon and an earlier memorial held at the children's school.
John and Susan Maloney and their two children Aiden and Grace were all killed last Saturday by a high-speed driver who crashed into their car on Highway 37.
Second-grader Aiden and his sister Grace, a kindergartner, both attended Prestwood Elementary School in Sonoma.
On Friday morning, the school held a memorial for them and about 500 people attended. Students, parents and staff observed a moment of silence and released balloons and four doves for the four Maloney family members who died when driving home from the airport after a trip to Hawaii.
In such a tight-knit community, the loss of the children and their parents is being felt by all at Prestwood Elementary School.
"They do have moments when it just kind of hits them, so we do have children that break down during the day. We do have extra counselors and support for that. We have teachers that break down during the day. But we go on, we have ways to back each other up and take care of things and we go on and we try to keep things as normal as possible," said Prestwood Elementary School Principal Linda Tiesenthal.
To help support the children who were in the same grade levels as the Maloney children, each student in kindergarten and second grade was given a blanket by a group called Project Linus.
Later this evening, parents and children are invited to take part in a memorial walk from Prestwood to Sonoma Plaza at 5 p.m.
This afternoon's private memorial is for family and close friends only.
(Copyright ©2009 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)
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ABC News Videos
Lake County News
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December 6, 2009 UPDATE
Man's organs donated by family after fatal collisionBy Staff reports
Updated: 12/04/2009 09:54:16 PM PST
Lake County Record-Bee
LAKE COUNTY According to a press release from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, the Culbertson family has authorized Golden State Donor Services and Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital to release the following statement on their behalf:
"19-year-old Steven Culbertson's organ donation provided the gift of life to others waiting for a life-saving transplant."
Culbertson died Sunday after crashing into and killing a family of four about 9:20 p.m. Saturday at Lakeville Highway and Highway 37 in Sonoma County, officials stated.
Medics took Culbertson off life support Sunday at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Officer Jon Sloat of California Highway Patrol said.
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"Touche Jerry. You may have educated words and strong opinions but I still very much think you are a stubborn a s s h o l e who needs to go away. Do you even know every corner of the story? Steven had very bad health problems. He had horrible seizures very often and took medication for them. He passed out numerous times during school. How do you know he didn't have one right before the crash, and was blacked out and had no idea what was going on? Don't jump to conclusions. You aren't God... you don't know EVERYTHING even though you may think you do."
Reply by Cathy:
"horrible seizures"? Really? Did the DMV know?
From the 2009 Calif Driver Handbook:
"If you have a medical condition or a disability, DMV may require you to take a driving test and/or present a statement from your physician regarding your condition."
Source: Page 2 of California Driver Handbook 2009
"Physicians and surgeons are required to report patients at least 14 years of age and older who are diagnosed as having lapses of consciousness, dementia (mental disorders) conditions, or related disorders.(Health & Safety Code §103900)"
Source: Page 61 of California Driver Handbook 2009
Also check out Calif DMV website regarding 'Lapses of Consciousness Disorders':
Drunk or sober, with such a severe medical condition, should this 19 year-old been behind the wheel of any vehicle in the first place???
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BMW FORUM: Was Steven Culbertson a forum member (MINI driver kills four)
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December 17, 2009 UPDATE
No alcohol found in teen who crashed into Sonoma family of four
BY JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 5:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 5:01 p.m.
The 19-year-old driver involved in a crash at Lakeville Road and Highway 37 that killed four members of a Sonoma family nearly three weeks ago didn't have any alcohol in his system, California Highway Patrol officials announced Thursday afternoon.
Steven Culbertson of Petaluma reportedly sped through a red light at the intersection and crashed into several cars, including a Nissan Quest carrying the Maloney family.
Susan Maloney, 42, her husband, John, 45, and their children, Grace, 5, and Aiden, 8, were killed. Culbertson died later at a hospital.
CHP investigators also said they found no evidence that Culbertson had been at a Petaluma bar before the crash.
“We all expected he'd come back under the influence of alcohol,” CHP Officer John Sloat said. “Now we're scratching our heads wondering why he'd be driving like that sober.”
CHP officers had interviewed Michael Loffredo of Petaluma, who reported that on the evening of the crash he had seen Culbertson sitting at the bar of Traxx, a Petaluma bar and restaurant. Loffredo said he also noticed a white Mini Cooper, the make and color of Culbertson's car, in the parking lot.
Even if Culbertson was at the bar, it would have been legal, according to investigators with Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“The bar in question, Traxx, is licensed as a bar and restaurant, which would have allowed Culbertson to be inside the bar,” the report said.
Examiners found some prescription drugs in Culbertson's system which were likely given to Culbertson at the hospital after the crash, CHP Officer John Sloat said. Further toxicology tests are being done to determine if that's the case, Sloat said.
Investigators will continue interviewing friends and family of to piece together Culbertson's state of mind leading up to the crash, Sloat said.
The CHP has reported that as Culbertson approached Highway 37 southbound on Lakeville, he came upon a Honda CRV stopped for a red light. The Mini, speeding at what witnesses estimated was 70 to 90 mph, clipped the back of that car and flew into the intersection against the light at about 9:20 p.m. Nov. 28, hitting the Maloney's vehicle.
Sloat said it appears Culbertson didn't try to slow before running the red light. No skid marks were at the scene.
The CHP confirmed that Culbertson had been arrested once before for drunken driving in a 2007 Lake County crash when he was 17. His driver's license was suspended for a year, the standard punishment after such an arrest.
Culbertson had no other driving infractions, the CHP said.
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