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Wednesday, September 10, 2008
by Daniel Hopsicker

EU Officials: Investigate CIA Plane Used
in Renditions Caught with 4 Tons of Cocaine 

How did 100 drug planes escape U.S. scrutiny?


The CIA Drug Plane Scandal grew exponentially last week when European Union officials broke an official 40-year-long silence on the previously-taboo subject of the CIA’s worldwide involvement in drug trafficking.

Last week Mexico City newspaper El Universal reported that The European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation has begun an investigation one of the planes, the cocaine-laden Gulfstream II business jet (N987SA), for suspected use in CIA "rendition" flights in which prisoners are covertly transferred to a third country or US-run detention centers.

The plane crash-landed after running out of fuel in the jungle near the small town of  Tixkokob, 40 miles outside the Yucatan capital of Merida on September 24th of last year.

The downed aircraft’s ties had already been conclusively demonstrated months ago in investigative reporting by this reporter, as well as by Bill Conroy of NarcoNews, who first broke news of the Gulfstream II jet's longstanding use by the CIA and the DEA in operations in Colombia.


How Did Fleet of 100 Drug planes Escape U.S. Scrutiny?

Both planes, earlier stories in our current investigation revealed, were connected to American covert intelligence and Homeland Security Agencies, as well as to senior Republican Party officials, including several figures closely associated with the successful Presidential campaigns of President George W. Bush.

We dubbed the affair the “One Hundred Drug Plane Scandal” after an announcement by the Mexican Attorney General stating that as many as 100 American aircraft were purchased by Mexican Drug Lords using the same funding mechanism, supposedly discovered only after the two American-registered drug planes were caught in Mexico’s Yucatan carrying a cumulative 10 tons of cocaine.

 While the Gulfstream busted last year has now been definitively linked to CIA renditions, the DC9 airliner  busted 18 months earlier flew painted with a bogus but official-looking Seal designed to impersonate aircraft from the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security.

 This was done without any protest from the U.S. Coast Guard, also part of the Dept of Homeland Security, although their major air facility for the Caribbean Basin was located a scant hundred yards away.


Mum's the word from Bush Administration

Neither of the federal agencies with apparent jurisdiction—the DEA and FAA—has so far offered answers about how two American-registered jets with extremely politically well-connected owners, could have wound up carrying so much Colombian coke.  But then, no mainstream American journalists have bothered to ask.

Mexican journalists have not been that timid:

“A plane supposedly once used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to transport prisoners to Guantanamo ended up in the hands of Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexican newspapers have reported.”

The Gulfstream jet (N987SA) conducted clandestine flights for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States, and subsequently for drug trafficker Joaquin El Chapo Guzman.”

The reason the story has not been picked up in the mainstream American press becomes painfully obvious in the story’s first paragraphs, quoted above.

“How had a CIA plane somehow “ended up” flying for the Sinaloa Cartel?” The question has no easy answer.


More U.S. "Blowback?"

The origins of Mexico's dominant Sinaloa Cartel, an agricultural state which has  spawned Mexico's most notorious gangsters,  are here in the U.S. 

Opium poppies were cultivated there with U.S. government encouragement during WWII, and became a major source of the morphine used to treat wounded soldiers, and became a springboard for criminal gangs which several decades later began smuggling South American cocaine to the U.S.   These immensely wealthy crime families now dominate several of Mexico's feuding cartels

The question of how a CIA plane ended up flying for the Sinaloa Cartel is reminiscent, as well, of the one raised in 1999, after our discovery, before the 2000 Presidential election, that the favorite airplane of Texas Governor George W. Bush once belonged to belong to Barry Seal, a life-long CIA pilot and the biggest cocaine smuggler of the go-go ‘80’s.

The Associated Press reported that it had all just been a coincidence.
 

Securing the evidence locker: Easier said than done.

Other parallels between Barry Seal’s CIA-connected drug trafficking career and current events are even harder to miss. 

For example, among the more curious facts in the current case (which abounds with them) is that initial reports by Mexican officials stated the captured Gulfstream was carrying 3.8 tons of cocaine.

Was this just another example of the difficulties inherent in securing the evidence locker? Because, in the most recent stories, the 3.8 tons of cocaine has now been diminished—perhaps through an accounting error?—to a more modest 3.3 tons.

Something very similar happened after Barry Seal’s first major bust. He was busted on an island off the coast of Honduras in November of 1979, with what newspapers reported to be—not 3 tons, or 5 tons of cocaine—but a ‘mere’ 40 kilos.

Clearly some things have changed. But not everything... By the time Seal was arraigned on trafficking charges in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, newspapers there reported he had been busted with just 17 kilos.

Some Honduran General may have smiled when he read the newspapers figure of 17 kilos, while patting a suitcase in which he’d packed the other 23.


Agency still using 20-year old playbook

The importance of European officials “weighing in” on the scandal may prove crucial to penetrating the current “cover-up in progress” attempting to shield the Americans involved in the scandal.

As we reported in previous stories, the owners of the Gulfstream business jet have interlocking relationships with the owners of the second American-registered aircraft involved in the scandal, the DC9 airliner caught carrying an astonishing 5.5 tons of cocaine on the Yucatan Peninsula in Cuidad del Carmen on April 10, 2006.

These hidden connections may prove crucial to any successful demands for prosecution of the Americans who owned the planes, who have so far been protected from official scrutiny by unnamed DEA sources quoted in interviews in the mainstream press making unchallenged assertions that the American plane's owners are innocent of any wrongdoing.

Clearly, that is not the case.

Moreover our investigation uncovered evidence linking the past and current owners of both busted American planes to a continuing criminal enterprise engaged—not just in drug trafficking—but in massive financial fraud which has cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.


"Round up the usual suspects"

The owners of both planes also owned all three companies involved in a massive $300 million financial scandal called STOCKGATE, which was engineered by shadowy Saudi arms merchant and alleged CIA “fixer” Adnan Khashoggi, currently a fugitive from justice in the case.

The men involved include Stephan Adams and Michael Farkas, who owned two of three companies used in the hugely successful fraud, which stole over $300 million from unwary stockholders.

Miami attorney Michael Farkas was the founder of Skyway Aircraft, which owned the DC9.  Farkas is also the American representative of an Israeli political party representing settlers on the West Bank, Manhigut Yehudit.

Stephen Adams, a secretive Midwestern media baron and Republican fund-raiser who owned the Gulfstream in 1999 and 2000, when he was also personally buying over $1 million in billboard advertising  in support of George W. Bush’s 2000 Presidential campaign.

Together with Farkas, Adams owned Holiday RV Superstores, Inc., one of the companies involved in STOCKGATE. (Farkas controlled a second all by himself.)

And Adnan Khashoggi, who controlled the third corporation used in the scheme, Genesis Intermedia, and the mastermind of the financial fraud, is . Adjectives applied before Khashoggi’s name, even in the mainstream press, usually include “Saudi billionaire,” “arms merchant” and “CIA fixer.” 


A $300 Million heist with next to no news coverage

In an irony we will not dwell on here, Genesis Intermedia was incorporated by the longtime lawyer for Barry Seal’s drug trafficking organization.

 A lawsuit filed by this individual kept our book “Barry & the boys,” from reaching bookstores for more than five years.

 Ramy El-Batrawi, one of Khashoggi’s lieutenants, ran Genesis Intermedia. El-Batrawi  owned a charter airline which testimony during the Iran Contra Scandal revealed was a CIA subsidiary. His planes flew TOW missiles to Iran for Oliver North, supposedly to provide funds for the contras, although most of the money was never recovered or accounted for.  

El-Batrawi also owned the sister ship to the busted DC9(N120NE).

In Khashoggi et al’s most recant caper, the looting led to the biggest brokerage failure in American history. 

In a case providing a clear example of what has come to be called “Wall Street Socialism,” American taxpayers were left to pick up much of the bill, while nominally Republican figures with pig snouts snuffling through the public trough occasionally come up for air to rail against infringements on free enterprise.  

Not surprisingly, considering the shameful state of American journalism, the massive fraud received surprisingly little press coverage. But, one has to wonder:

Would a $300 million bank heist receive a similar cold shoulder?


An unfair advantage


Officials in Central and South American countries were used to seeing both planes flying in and out on missions which they assumed were for the American Government

The Gulfstream was well-known in Colombia for flying for the CIA and DEA. The  DC9 airliner from SkyWay was painted to impersonate a plane from U.S. Homeland Security.

It may even, when and if the truth finally comes out, be shown to have been one. 

Thus, both of the busted American planes had a major advantage for drug trafficking not available to the ordinary slob on the street.

The question is: Why should anyone care? The answer is simple...

Every time the DEA, or the U.S. Coast Guard trumpets their latest multi-ton interdiction of cocaine (like one recently of a ship they busted with 12 tons of cocaine) the bust is of interest and concern to no one but other drug traffickers.

They haven't taken 12 tons of cocaine off the street. They've just created an additional marketing opportunity for somebody else's 12 tons of cocaine.

Who might that somebody else be?

Imagination runs riot.