("Quid coniuratio est?")
WHO THE HELL IS ELLIS MCKENZIE?
They traveled fast and furious on horseback through the high plains wilderness, trying to lose those who were tracking them. From the top of the bluff, hiding behind a group of boulders, they stared in amazement as the dust from the hooves of their pursuers' horses told the story. They were hot on Butch and Sundance's trail.
"Who are those guys?!" one of them exclaimed, more than questioned.
But it really didn't matter who these pursuers were. The undeniable fact was simple: they were. You may call them what you want. You may name them what you will. It doesn't really matter because it's only a name.
As a spy, a covert operative, a talent, an asset or a deep cover operative, your name is your cover. This alias is the thin layer of Kevlar that protects you from the enemy. In my career I have used over twenty aliases in order to conceal my true identity. This applies, not only in the world of espionage, but also in the dark world of crime.
One of the most renowned drug pilots of the 1980's was a man named Barry Seal. Even Barry used an alias when he dealt with his friends in South America. But, unfortunately for Seal, a/k/a Ellis McKenzie, the thin Kevlar cover of an alias was not enough to prevent his assassination in 1986. Barry Seal, a/k/a Ellis McKenzie, was shot to death outside of a federal half-way house in Baton Rouge. It was not until 1988 that I would hear his name again.
The tasking came in to go to La Ceiba, Honduras, and debrief a drug informant. As I looked at the tasking, my heart jumped. The name of the informant I was to debrief was Ellis McKenzie. Could it be that Barry Seal was still alive?
Looking at the remainder of the mission dossier, I realized that this man, Ellis McKenzie, was not Barry Seal. McKenzie was, however, a member of the Seal smuggling organization. Seal had commissioned McKenzie to assemble a small fleet of boats, capable of smuggling drugs to various destinations. It was this man that provided Barry Seal with an alias. The dossier explained McKenzie's relationship with U.S. Customs, among other governmental agencies. To avoid prosecution after Seal was compromised by the DEA, several members of the Seal organization aligned themselves with various law enforcement agencies.
McKenzie was recruited into the informant side of the drug smuggling operation by Seal's ex-brother-in-law, William Bottoms. This Bottoms/McKenzie alliance provided a useful tool for continued drug smuggling. Bottoms and McKenzie assured their contacts in Colombia that shipments would remain safe, while assuring their various U.S. law enforcement contacts that they (Bottoms/McKenzie) had and would provide information that would devastate the drug smuggling trade. McKenzie and Bottoms continued smuggling cocaine and heroin into the United States under the protection of U.S. Customs agents. In return, the traffickers would sacrifice shipments and competing drug smugglers in order to appease their government contacts. It was with this data, fresh on hand, that I, as Gene Duncan, a US Army Intel Officer attached to the Defense Intelligence Agency, met with Ellis McKenzie to receive his information.
McKenzie explained that the information he had concerned shipments from Colombia to Mexico. That is why he was referred to U.S. Intelligence instead of his normal contacts in U.S. Customs or the DEA. McKenzie got right to the point. He explained that members of the Honduran Air Force were "in bed" with cartel leaders. Drug shipments were being flown from Colombia, over-flying Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador and into Mexico. He stated that Colonel Castro Cabus, the Commander of the Honduran Air Forces in La Ceiba, and Captain Santiago Perdomo, the Director of Civil Aeronautics in Tegucigalpa, were on the cartel's payroll. McKenzie claimed that Cabus and Perdomo controlled the air space over Honduras and allowed drug over-flights rather than putting fighters in the air when these over-flights were reported by radar operators.
I thanked Mr. McKenzie for his information and departed. I immediately had reason to suspect the information provided by McKenzie. Honduras air space had been controlled by a series of radar sites and electronic monitoring facilities since 1983. On the Caribbean coast of Honduras is a site which was called "Red Hawk." This site sits on top of a 4,052 foot mountain. Two additional sites are strategically placed in La Mesa and an inland site, named "Carrot Top," on top of a 6,522 foot peak. Additional communications facilities are located on Tiger Island, on the Pacific side of Honduras, and Swan Island on the Caribbean side. Most of these sites are controlled and operated by U.S. military personnel. One site is controlled by the CIA. Although I did not know Captain Perdomo, I did know Colonel Cabus and did not doubt his integrity. There was definitely a need to investigate and try to determine what this drug smuggler, turned informant, was up to.
I called Washington and advised them that I would need some time to look into this accusation. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) authorized my time and the investigation began. It should be noted that in the early '80's the US government removed all DEA agents from Honduras. They were not placed back in Honduras until the end of the decade. Most intelligence gathered in the country was provided by drug traffickers turned confidential informants, who were first and foremost -- drug traffickers. Or, in the alternative, by CIA operatives who were in Honduras in support of the Nicaraguan Revolutionary Forces (Contras).
I was only five days into the investigation when all the pieces of the puzzle were in place and I had a clear picture. Our (DIA) primary concern was the accusation that Colonel Castro Cabus, the air field commander in La Ceiba, was involved in any illegal activity. Our concern lay in the fact that Cabus would most likely become the next Commanding General of the Honduras Air Force.
I quickly found that the cartels had no problem over-flying Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, but over-flights of Honduras provided a problem. The cartel's efforts to buy Colonel Cabus had failed. Bottoms and McKenzie saw an opening which, if successful, would provide an invaluable service to the cartels. They would, through their association with U.S. law enforcement agencies, concoct a story which discredited the good Colonel and Captain, in effect neutralize them, thinking that their replacements may be more amiable toward a relationship with the cartels, especially in light of the recent misfortune of their predecessors. McKenzie also implicated a number of Honduran businessmen involved in drug activities. Those names were: Arturo Alverado Wood, Abraham Dip, Alan Hyde, and Albert Jackson. But I will save the allegations against these men for another report.
I reported my findings to Washington and returned to Canada where I had been working on another intelligence gathering mission. The information, in turn, was passed on to U.S Customs.
END OF REPORT
Gene Duncan, Major
Defense Intelligence Agency
cc: Honduras Air Force General Castro Cabus Department of Defense Tegucigalpa, Honduras Santiago Perdomo c/o Department of Defense Tegucigalpa, Honduras Abraham Dip, La Ceiba, Honduras Arturo Wood, Islena Airlines, Tegucigalpa, Honduras Alan Hyde, c/o Hyde Shipping, Roatan, Honduras Albert Jackson, Fantasy Island, Roatan, Honduras
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