EDITOR’S NOTE: First of two parts on U.S. Attorney General William Barr and his secret life with the CIA leading up to his first time in the position under President George H. W. Bush, with Part Two coming soon. Stay tuned.
To tell the complete story of William Barr’s intrigues requires a book. This two-part story merely reveals a few monumental examples.
Barr is the spawn of the last Cold Warriors, an infinitely powerful group of affluent white men who dominated the U.S. intelligence apparatus for four decades. He was assigned to the China Desk, a rookie working for America’s greatest spooks who were busy running numerous “black” Southeast Asian operations.
The China Desk’s biggest job in the early 1970s was the Vietnam War’s “Phoenix” program, an effort to murder South Vietnamese who ran afoul of the U.S.-installed regime. Another was the CIA-run Golden Triangle narco-trafficking enterprise that helped create a generation of American junkies comprised of soldiers who succumbed to white powder’s sublime calling.
The men who recruited Barr were among the last of the World War II intelligence operatives, an enduring band of hyper-patriotic blue bloods recruited from Ivy League schools in the desperate days of the war. He learned his trade when the U.S. policy makers still kept steel fists inside their velvet gloves. It was “our country right or wrong” time.
Barr was new blood, a full-time Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst recruited by Langley out of high school, starting in 1971. Barr’s career goal was to lead the CIA. By 1979 Barr was a golden boy during George Herbert Walker Bush’s political rise from CIA director to vice president to president on Jan. 20, 1989.
He was again invited into the inner circle during Bush’s vice presidency under President Ronald Reagan. Barr rose from assistant attorney general to chief legal counsel to attorney general (1991) while Bush 41 was in office.
Barr’s refined manner and illustrative resume mask his sinister career, one almost totally ignored by mainstream coverage during his recent nomination process to reappointment as Donald Trump’s U.S. Attorney General.
Although Barr’s legally questionable machinations have been amply exposed, denied, vilified and hidden in dark places since being documented by whistleblowers and former colleagues, he passed muster as an honest, forthright and admirable lawyer.
Issues raised by his clandestine activity are not about Barr’s legal ability, but rather the ruthless way he used his authority. During his reign as Bush 41’s hatchet man in the Justice Department, Barr practiced law by sleight of hand, distorting truth as energetically as anyone in modern history.
When the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the aging spymasters needed new enemies. In 1979, the National Security Agency and the CIA discovered another Communist boogieman emerging in Nicaragua.
Coincidentally, rabid Muslim extremists overthrew the U.S.-supported Shah of Iran and took American hostages as a reprisal for enabling him.
Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s newly elected president, was an unabashed ultra-left socialist often accused by the U.S. of being a Communist proxy. He had kicked the despotic but U.S.-friendly ruling Somoza junta out of Nicaragua. The family had been in power since 1936.
Ortega’s next sin was implementation of a series of radical economic and land reforms that smacked of Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution. The CIA underwrote a counter-force called “Contras,” presented as brave, democratic patriots led by the benevolent former ruling class in Nicaragua. In reality, they were brazen thugs secretly financing their so-called civil war selling cocaine that mysteriously turned into crack feeding the frenzy for the drug in America.
Much was made of the Contra’s patriotic fervor and desire for freedom. Much less is mentioned about the Contra’s desire to exploit ordinary Nicaraguans the way the ruling class always had. Barr was one of the primary architects and defenders of the Contra’s ultimately failed campaign.
By 1981, Nicaragua was just one clandestine CIA battlefield. Another was Iran, where Islamic fundamentalists led by Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Peacock Throne in 1979 and seized power in a bloody coup. On Nov. 4th, Revolutionary Guards kidnapped 52 American diplomats and citizens, keeping them hostage for 444 days.
After an embarrassing rescue attempt failed, President Jimmy Carter turned off Iran’s tap to world trade with killing embargoes. The American hostages became the lynchpin of Iran’s effort to find relief from the American stranglehold.
Public opinion about Carter’s leadership soured, costing him his office after one term. The day war hawk Ronald Reagan was sworn in to replace him in 1981, Iran released the hostages.
Soon after Reagan took office, the National Security Council reported that diabolical Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was suddenly a serious danger to the world oil supply. Before the Peacock Throne was abolished, the U.S.- armed Iranians had always kept Hussein’s powerful army in military checkmate.
Now, without U.S. arms, Iran did not have enough weapons to survive Hussein’s ambitions to rule the Middle East. Soon afterward, Reagan secretly expressed alarm that if Iran fell, Iraq would be the only Arab military power in the region.
In September 1980, Iran was attacked by Iraq, precipitating a bloody eight-year war. The U.S., strongly influenced by Israel, had never liked Hussein’s client-state relationship with the Soviet Union and decided to secretly supply the Iranians with weapons. Congress made clear that no money was to be used to arm Iran.
Senior CIA policy makers, including Barr, devised a plan to go around Congress. The plan was for Israel to ship weapons to Iran, for the United States to resupply Israel and for Israel to pay the United States. How that worked for the Contras using cocaine instead of money has never been revealed.
The official justification for ignoring Congress – once the plotters were caught – was that selling arms to Iran would free seven American hostages being held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, a paramilitary group with Iranian ties. The problem was the American hostages taken in Lebanon were seized a year after the plan was put into operation.
Many witnesses claimed the entire plan was dependent on Nicaraguan cocaine provided to the CIA by Contra leadership, as corrupt a group of plotters that ever connived with the U.S. Never addressed was why the CIA wanted cocaine and where the cocaine it allegedly obtained went. Barr, now the AG, helped make sure of that.
Pilots who flew the drugs testified at a Senate hearing chaired by Senator John Kerry (Dem-MA) in 1988 that they flew guns and ammo to the Contras and flew out big hemp bags filled with wrapped packages of a white powder using planes operated by a CIA-owned air transport company called Southern Air Transport. None could say positively it was cocaine.
Many of the witnesses admitted also being involved in CIA-sponsored drug smuggling in Burma, Laos and South Vietnam. They bolstered their claims by testifying in secret that men in “moon suits” reportedly unloaded the planes in Florida. Their testimony was debunked, repudiated and blocked from further plumbing by Barr and his powerful overlords.
The Kerry Committee examined drug trafficking in the Caribbean islands, and Central and South America. The longest chapter in the final report was on narcotics trafficking by Nicaraguan Contras. It revealed that Contra drug links included payments of $806,000 to known cocaine dealers by the U.S. State Department using funds authorized by Congress for humanitarian assistance to the Contras.
U.S. Marine Lieutenant Oliver North, an anomaly even in the colorful Marine Corps, took credit for the effort. Officially a military aide to the National Security Council during the Reagan administration, his job was to arrange the secret sale of weapons to Iran and to divert the proceeds to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
North was later convicted of lying to Congress and sentenced in 1989 to a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines and 1,200 hours of community service. His conviction was overturned on appeal two years later. Barr was instrumental in saving North from a felony conviction.
In another instances of criminal malfeasance handled by Barr, the traffickers being paid with diverted humanitarian funds were already indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on unrelated drug charges. In others cases the traffickers were under active investigation by a host of federal agencies.
Ultimately Kerry’s committee:
- Did not find that Contra leaders were personally involved in drug trafficking.
- Did find “substantial evidence” of drug smuggling by individual Contras, Contra suppliers, Contra pilots, mercenaries who worked with the Contras, and Contra supporters.
And then what? Read what happens when the rubber hits the road and meet a couple of real soldiers-of-fortune who thought adrenaline was an aphrodisiac.