of the U.S. Government took a surprisingly keen interest
in controversial Guyanese drug pilot Michael Brassington
during 2003 and 2004, when, according
to interviews with former Customs Agents, Brassington
was involved in—or the subject of—a
secretive Miami-based U.S. Government operation.
Brassington entered the U.S. a special team from
Miami was supposed to come up,” stated former Fort Lauderdale
Customs Agent James Sanders.
was supposed to be met by Customs Agents from “Operation
Blue Lightning is some kind of joint task force," Sanders
explained. "I found out later, from a chief inspector
on the team, that I wasn’t even supposed to inspect
interest in Brassington’s activities in 2003 and 2oo4 is
surprising... and suspicious, because before he was
indicted in 2008—barely two weeks after the Bush
Administration left office—he regularly flaunted U.S.
and international law with “seeming impunity.”
A CIA 'rogue operation' in US Customs?
while the intent of Operation Blue Lightning’s interest
in Brassington remains unclear, it is fair to ask: Was
Brassington’s “special handling” by Operation Blue Lightning
designed to impede criminal activity? Or
to facilitate it?
Blue Lightning clearly fits the description provided
by a top DEA official in Miami when he informed us why the
DEA had not mounted an investigation into the owners of
two planes caught carrying over 10 tons of cocaine in Mexico’s
the two American drug
planes belonged to a “rogue” operation in U.S. Customs,
explained the DEA official. So the
investigation properly belonged to the Office of Investigations
in the Dept of Homeland Security.
the existence of any federal investigation in the scandal
is merely a matter of speculation, we soon learned.
official in the Dept. of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s
office said the Department’s practice is to neither confirm
nor deny the existence of any internal investigation conducted
by the Inspector General’s office.
learned that the lead FAA investigator on the case was called
off and reassigned, under typically suspicious circumstances.
To this day
Brassington has never been charged with drug trafficking.
Customs Agent James Sanders learned the hard way, Brassington
was protected by top figures in the Dept of Homeland Security.
want to protect or cover something up, the government has
a neat trick they sometimes use:
"The red light saved my life."
goes on trial next month in Federal Court in Newark,
for putting the lives
of passengers in danger in a near-fatal crash of a luxury
jet at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey in February 2005.
crash was so spectacular that it led all three evening newscasts.
A Challenger luxury jet, which had come in from Vegas late
the night before, hurtled off the runway and across a six-lane
highway busy with morning rush hour traffic. More than 20
people were injured.
expressed amazement that nobody was killed.
crash sparked a federal criminal investigation which turned
up evidence of a pattern of illegal activity so egregious
that former Inspector General Mary Schiavo of the
U.S. Department of Transportation called Brassington’s charter
company “Loophole Airlines.”
responsible Federal agency, the FAA, even came under
rare criticism from another Federal agency, the NTSB.
According to the NTSB, neither the pilot nor the co-pilot
were rated to fly the flight they were flying.
flight attendant had no safety training. She was a
dancer at the Voodoo Lounge in Miami. When the plane caught
fire she didn't know how to open the doors.
of drivers and passengers in cars driving along the highway
next to Teterboro Airport are alive today—not because of
action to safeguard passengers by the FAA or the NTSB—but
because of the vagaries of traffic signals.
were saved from death because they happened to be stopped
at a red light.
"Animal House...with badges and guns"
for Miami, Operation Blue Lightning has a highly-checkered
past and a
particularly sordid pedigree, which was exposed in a series
of investigative articles in the Miami Herald during the
stint as head honcho was called a “Reign
of Terror” in
the Miami Herald.
paper called the Miami Customs District, then led by Jayson
Ahern, “Animal House with Badges and Guns.”
even though he'd been in the thick of it personally,
amid widespread allegations of internal corruption,
sexual antics, and serious security breakdowns which
dogged him for years, Jayson Ahern rose to
become (Acting) Customs and Border Protection Commissioner.
was a real Teflon Don.
were out of control and everyone knew they were out of control,
no question about it,'' the paper quoted a Customs investigator.
“That group had a lot of power, and Customs did everything
it could to make the case go away - merits of the complaint
be damned,'' the investigator said.
truth of the matter was not the concern, everyone in Customs
knew the truth. The concern was for saving face.”
really loved Jay Ahern. Proving the point:
although by all accounts the cocaine trade boomed
during the 1980’s, Ahern was among an elite group of Miami
inspectors lauded in news reports for achieving "success"
in the war on cocaine smugglers.
press. No convictions. Some people have all the luck.
like a bad penny resurfacing again and again, after 9/11
Ahern’s Contraband Enforcement Team was brought back and
rechristened "Operation Blue Lightning."
Jayson Ahern was
the man behind the firing of rookie Customs Agent Sanders,
after the "complaint" by solid citizen(!)
Nixon would be proud.
A DEA look-out... and friends
in high places
an exclusive interview in the upcoming “New
American DrugLords” documentary,
James Sanders, a former Customs Agent in Fort Lauderdale,
FL, told how he had been on duty, and in charge, late on
a Tuesday night at the International Airport in Fort Lauderdale,
when Brassington flew in.
Customs Agent Sanders was still examining his narcotics
record in the computer, Brassington began brandishing a
letter from a top official in the U.S. Dept of Homeland
Security which seemed clearly designed to smooth his re-entry
into the U.S.
was looking at Brassington’s narcotics record on the computer,”
says Sanders, still incredulous at the memory, “when he
handed me a letter from Washington!”
Sanders phoned Supervisor Norm Bright at Immigrations &
Customs Enforcement (ICE), whose name appeared in Brassington’s
file, and was told that he was to treat Brassington as a
“grave threat to national security.”
Brassington was flying in on a plane (N60S) suspected of being used for money laundering.
His passenger, Anthony Cirillo, was flagged in the computer for having been on suspicious flights.
Pilot Brassington himself had a “DEA look-out,” Sanders told us.
Mohamed Atta. Remember him?
This was a consequence of Brassington’s having
flown as co-pilot on a Lear jet (N351WB)
that was busted by DEA agents at Orlando
Executive Airport in July of 2000 carrying
43 lbs. of heroin.
The Learjet belonged to Wallace J. Hilliard,
owner of the Venice Florida flight school
where Mohamed Atta was then learning to fly.
being busted, the Learjet had flown, with Brassington as
co-pilot, on 39 weekly drug flights between
Florida and Venezuela.
despite these incriminating facts, two career Customs
officials with checkered histories in Miami, Thomas
Winkowski and just-retired Acting U.S. Customs Commissioner
Jayson Ahern, intervened on Brassington’s
behalf after he wrote a letter of complaint to Ahern, then
the third highest ranking official in U.S. Customs.
Customs Agent James Sander’s encounter with Guyanese drug
pilot Michael Brassington ended up costing him his
There at the inception
first newspaper mention of Operation Blue Lightning was
back in the spring of 1985, when United Press International
called it "an unprecedented assault that rousted
drug smugglers from island sanctuaries in the Bahamas
into a massive military trap that netted $100 million in
drugs, boats and planes."
a familiar figure from the government was on hand at the
inception of Operation Blue Lightning...
wish I could be with you to announce the spectacular results
said Vice President George Bush at
the news conference announcing the haul.
said the seizure of cocaine and marijuana ''that won't reach
our city streets to corrupt the minds of our citizens and
line the pockets of drug smugglers is a significant achievement.''
statements by Presidents named Bush concerning drug trafficking
cannot be taken at face value very often... Almost
two decades later Bush's son George W Bush will announce
the U.S. plans to get the world’s leading heroin trafficker
dead or alive.
name was Osama bin Laden. Anybody remember him?