("Quid coniuratio est?")
THE PHONY WAR
An Interview with DEA Veteran Celerino Castillo
- So that's now the second time you got official testimony and
corroboration that Oliver North was running these activities,
first from Mr. Stia, and then from Ambassador Corr. Two different
- That's right. Then I went to Jack McCavett and Jack McCavett's
answer to me was the fact that they were being ordered to support
the Oliver North Contra operation, to go above and beyond to
support them; and also Col. Steele with the U.S. Military Group.
He, of course, was the liaison officer from the U.S. embassy into
the Salvadoran military.
- Mr. Stia, your immediate superior: did he have the option of
rejecting your reports, telling you to tear them up, or file
them, or rewrite them? Or did he have to sign off on them and
send them to Washington?
- One of the things a lot of people don't understand is the fact
that every time I wrote a report, or sent a cable off to
Washington, it had to be approved by my supervisor (who was Bob
Stia) and signed off by the ambassador of whatever country I
was sending the cable out to. So, everything was approved.
Whether DEA Washington did anything with it was a different
story. And we had a place up there they called the "Black Hole";
all these reports went in there, and they were never distributed
to the right people.
-+- Laundering the Profits -+-
- Can you remember the date of your first dispatch to Washington
that basically stated these facts?
- We go back to early 1986. The cable came in from Costa Rica in
April, so we continued to follow up on the request to conduct an
extensive investigation into Hangars 4 and 5, and cables started
coming and going.
Costa Rica was giving us the information that narcotics were
leaving from Aranchez airstrip in Costa Rica into Ilopango. Of
course, our informant at Ilopango was being told, by the pilots
when they were leaving, how much dope they were taking, how much
money they were flying into the Bahamas or Panama.
At one point, he saw $4.5 million cash taken from Ilopango into
Panama, to launder. These were incidents that were reported. We
have a time and date for one of the pilots, Chica Guirola,
departing El Salvador to the Bahamas where he was airdropping
monies on the Contras -- the profits of narcotrafficking.
- Do you get the impression that the narcotics ultimately came from
people like the Medellin cartel, or the Cali cartel, or people
- I had a CIA agent in El Salvador who actually came up and asked
me: How do you expect us to support the Contras when Congress cut
aid to the Contras? How are they going to support themselves?
Which means that we have to sleep with the cartels.
And basically, during the Kerry Committee [i.e., Senate Committee
on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and
International Operations] hearings we had a lot of informants, a
lot of individuals who flew for the Contras, who gave testimony;
but their credibility was not that good, because they were known
traffickers, and so forth. But there was a lot of testimony, a
lot of evidence to the fact that there was a lot of narcotics
- O.K. You've mentioned the Kerry Committee. I guess that's Sen.
Kerry of Massachusetts, the Senate Investigating Committee '85,
You tried to tell part of your story to them. Am I right? You
tried to inform them of what you knew?
- No, not the Kerry Committee. As a matter of fact, on Oct. 22, in
1987, I got a call from Washington requesting for me not to close
the files on the Contras because the Kerry Committee wanted
copies of my reports, and under the Freedom of Information Act,
if it's a closed case they cannot have access to it.
During the Kerry Committee, we had Mark Richards, who is an
assistant U.S. attorney... He was involved in a meeting with 25
individuals from the DEA and the Department of Justice who
refused to give this information to the Kerry Committee.
- This was the committee that investigated this "frogman"
- Yes. We had the "Frogman Case" going back to 1985. A couple of
Columbians and Nicaraguans were trafficking in large quantities
of cocaine into San Francisco. It was called the "Frogman Case"
because they were bringing ships into the San Francisco area, and
a couple of frogmen would go out there and take the coke.
As it turns out, on their own testimony, testifying before the
committee, they reported that the profits from those sales of
narcotics were going to the Contras. So, we start there. In
December of 1985, a CNN reporter broke the story on the Contras'
involvement in narcotics trafficking.
So, the investigation into it started; but at no time did the
Kerry Committee ever contact the agents down in El Salvador who
actually conducted the investigation. I sat there and I waited
for the phone to ring, and nobody ever called so that I could
testify before that committee to advise them that large
quantities of drugs were being trafficked by the Oliver North
- You later also tried to get in touch with the special prosecutor,
Lawrence Walsh, in order to look into this entire matter.
- That's correct. Right before I left the agency in 1991, I
secretly met with Mike Foster, the FBI agent assigned to the
Iran-Contra committee, Walsh's committee, with my attorney
present. He came, and he was just stunned when he saw copies of
my reports, cables, etc.
His thing was the fact that he had asked the DEA, that Walsh's
committee had asked and requested all this information from DEA,
and DEA denied the fact that there were such reports.
Basically, he was just stunned by what I showed him there. He
said, "You know, if we can prove that the Contras and Oliver
North were heavily involved in narcotics trafficking, it would be
like a grand-slam home run."
We left it that I would try to get this girl named Sandrita from
Salvador into the U.S. so that she could be debriefed by Walsh's
committee with regard to her personal knowledge of narcotics use
by some of the Contra pilots and some NSC individuals.
- Well, it looks like you attempted, at one point or another, to
bring your revelations, these charges, to the attention of the
State Department, the Special Prosecutor, the FBI, the CIA. Did
you ever talk to Customs?
- Yes, I sure did.
One of the things is that the DEA has not acknowledged the fact
that there are such reports. Yet, on the Kerry Committee and its
report, we have the DEA assistant administrator, Dave West, in
talking about the Nicaraguan war, saying that it is true that
people on both sides of the equation in the Nicaraguan war were
drug traffickers, and a couple of them were pretty significant.
Well if the DEA denies that, why is this man saying this?
We have the CIA chief of Latin American countries down there
stating, in the Kerry Report: We suspected drug trafficking by
the resistance forces. This is not a couple of people, it's a lot
So, we have contradictory statements from both the State
Department and the DEA, to the fact that the Contras were heavily
involved in narcotics trafficking.
- When you sent these reports into Washington, who in the DEA would
get those on his desk?
- Well, first of all, the chief of Latin American countries was
John Marsh, who now, I understand, is the third-ranking DEA
- He's moving up the ladder.
- He's moving up the ladder. He is the individual who is
responsible for the cover-up of the Contras involving narcotics
trafficking. He gave me a letter of "reprimand", I guess you
could say, when I refused to stop reporting on the Contras'
involvement in narcotics trafficking. He actually wanted me to
use the word "alleged". I explained to him: How can I use the
word "alleged" when I'm seeing all this that's happening in
Ilopango? We have reliable informants in there. And he went back,
and he stated the same thing, that it would mean the end of my
career in Latin America if I kept reporting this.
[...to be continued...]
I encourage distribution of "Conspiracy Nation."
If you would like "Conspiracy Nation" sent to your e-mail
address, send a message in the form "subscribe conspire My Name"
to email@example.com -- To cancel, send a message in the
form "unsubscribe conspire" to firstname.lastname@example.org
Aperi os tuum muto, et causis omnium filiorum qui pertranseunt.
Aperi os tuum, decerne quod justum est, et judica inopem et
pauperem. -- Liber Proverbiorum XXXI: 8-9
"Justice" = "Just us" = "History is written by the assassins."