John Floyd Hull was born in Evansville, Indiana. According to Daniel Sheehan, Hull was a CIA contract operative in Costa Rica where he managed 8,000 acres of land along the Nicaraguan border. He has admitted that he received around $10,000 a month from the National Security Council. In return, he helped feed and supply the Contras attacking Nicaragua.
Peter Dale Scott believes that Robert Owen worked "as a cut-out contract between the National Security Council and the Contras." In 1983 Owen introduced John Hull to Oliver North. He also served as liaison to the network funding the Contras.
A Costa Rican security official saw Hull in the company of Amac Galil, the man who took part in the attempted assassination of rogue Contra leader Eden Pastora at a press conference in La Penca. Pastora survived but three journalists, including Linda Frazier, were killed.
It has been claimed that on 30th May, 1984, Hull met Robert Owen, CIA station chief Philip P. Holtz and several pilots met at a CIA safe house in San Jose, Costa Rica. According to the mercenary Jack Terrell, Hull continued to have meetings with Owen, Amac Galil and Felipe Vidal to discuss the need to kill Eden Pastora.
In October, 1985, two journalists, Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey, accused John Floyd Hull of being involved in the La Penca bombing. Hull responds by filing suit against Avirgan and Honey for "injuries, falsehood and defamation of character". During their trial, Avirgan and Honey provide documents and witnesses to support their comments on Hull. As a result the judge rejected Hull's lawsuit.
In a CBS documentary broadcast in April 1986, a former contra pilot identified Hull's ranch as a "major transshipment plant for military supplies and drugs". The following month Daniel Sheehan and the Christic Institute named John Hull, Ted Shackley, Thomas G. Clines, Richard V. Secord, John K. Singlaub, Robert W. Owen, Rafael Quintero, Albert Hakim, Adolfo Calero, Pablo Escobar, Jorge Ochoa and 18 others as major figures in a racketeering network involved in drug trafficking and arms smuggling.
Senator John Kerry and his Foreign Relations subcommittee on narcotics and terrorism now begins to investigate the activities of Hull. One source told the committee that Hull helped plan an assassination plot against Lewis Tambs, the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica. In 1987 Hull told PBS: "I'm not an assassin, but if I had my way, Senators like Kerry and Kennedy would be lined up against a wall and shot tomorrow at sunrise."
In June 1988, James L. King dismissed the Christic Institute lawsuit against Hull. However, the Costa Rican authorities arrest Hull on charges of drug trafficking and using the country for "hostile acts" against Nicaragua. Friends posted a $37,000 bail but Hull fled the country before the start of the trial.
Kerry's committee published a 1,200 page report, Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy (April 1989). The report included testimony that Hull's ranch was used for gun and drug smuggling operations. The following year Hull was indicted for murder in Costa Rica.
In May 1990, Carlos Lehder, a key figure in the Medellin cocaine cartel, told Diane Sawyer of ABC that John Hull was a major cocaine trafficker and claims that he had been smuggling 30 tons of cocaine a year into the United States. At the request of Costa Rican special prosecutor Jorge Chaverria, John Hull was added to Interpol's "most wanted" list of international fugitives.
John Floyd Hull was eventually discovered living in the remote town of Juigalpa in Nicaragua. Costa Rica asked the government in Nicaragua. However, before he could be arrested he escaped to the United States. In April, 1991, Costa Rica submitted a formal request to the U.S. State Department to extradite Hull. This request was blocked by President George H. W. Bush. Drug Trafficking by the US National Security Council
Wheaton claims that the "French Connection" to the U.S. "Irangate" includes then Senator Dan Quayle, President George Bush's choice for vice-president in 1988. According to Wheaton, a major source of Quayle's political power in Indiana, his home state, is a longtime associate of former CIA director William Casey, Beurt SerVaas. SerVaas, Wheaton says, was on the Executive Board of the Veterans of the O.S.S. (the predecessor organization to the CIA), which "runs the CIA from behind the scenes. " SerVaas's daughter, Joan, according to Wheaton, is married to an "off-the-books" French intelligence asset and Indiana resident, Bernard Marie. In 1982, Wheaton claims to have introduced Marie to Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials who then played a key role in the Reagan-Bush Administration's secret deliveries of U.S. arms to Iran in the 1980's.54 DIA was one of the military intelligence agencies that was uninterested in prosecuting Colonel Ralph Broman for his arms dealings with the Khomeini regime out of Paris in the early to mid 1980's.
Oliver North's courier in the Iran/Contra operation, Robert Owen, was introduced to another Indianan, John Hull, and to Contra commander Luis Rivas in Senator Dan Quayle's office on July 21, 1983, when Owen was Quayle's legislative aide. Senator Quayle reportedly stayed for the beginning of the meeting.55 That summer, Quayle authorized Owen to travel to Hull's ranch in Costa Rica at Hull's expense. The ranch was being used by the CIA as a military supply site for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, a relationship that continued throughout the period during which "profits" from the administration's secret arms sales to Iran were illegally diverted to the Contras. In November 1983, Robert Owen left the staff of Senator Dan Quayle and went to work for Oliver North's "Project Democracy," which oversaw secret U.S. arms shipments to both the Contras and to Iran.
Considering Senator Quayle's reported link to French intelligence through Beurt SerVaas and Bernard Marie, and his link to Oliver North's "Project Democracy" through their mutual aide Robert Owen, it is more than likely that Mr. Quayle had also been made aware of secret U.S. arms shipments to Iran in the first years of the Reagan-Bush Administration. If so, it is probable that he was also privy to the genesis of those early arms deliveries to the Khomeini regime in alleged pre-1980-election meetings among future CIA director William Casey, Iranian representatives, and French intelligence agents. According to Gene Wheaton, "SerVaas brought Quayle into the Casey network early in the game."
As North was trying to bridge the gap in contra aid until official funds were resumed, his activities were the subject of a second wave of media speculation and congressional inquiry. Newspaper and television accounts of North's involvement with contra resupply coincided with the House's June 1986 debate on contra aid. Earlier, Representative Ron Coleman introduced a Resolution of Inquiry directing the President to provide information and documents to the House about NSC staff contacts with private persons or foreign governments involved in contra resupply; any contra, involving contra military activities; and Robert Owen, Maj. Gen. Singlaub, and an American expatriate living in Costa Rica, John Hull.
Coleman's resolution prompted the chairmen of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees to request comments from the President. Poindexter replied on behalf of the President and knowingly repeated McFarlane's earlier lie that NSC staff "were in compliance with both the spirit and letter" of the Boland Amendments.
Not satisfied with Poindexter's response, members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence asked to meet with North. North met with 11 members of the Committee on August 6, 1986, assuring the group that he had not violated the spirit or the letter of the Boland Amendment. He also denied that he had raised funds for the contras, offered them military advice, or had contacts with Owen that were more than "casual." North's responses satisfied the Committee and effectively killed Coleman's resolution. After learning of North's false and misleading remarks to the Committee, Poindexter replied to North, "Well done."
While he endeavored to hide his activities from the Congress in the summer of 1986, North was becoming progressively more explicit in his discussions with other U.S. officials about what he was doing for the contras. His efforts to sell "his planes" to the CIA were only the beginning. On August 28, 1986, during a breakfast with the RIG at the offices of Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Richard Armitage, North ran through a list of his contra activities, including his cash payments to contra leaders and organizations, provisions of food, and money for air operations. North's question for the RIG was simple: Should he continue his efforts? Fiers told North yes.
The Enterprise was pushing ahead on an accelerated schedule of deliveries in August and September 1986. Crews were making more sorties into both northern and southern Nicaragua, some during daylight hours. San Jose station chief Fernandez, who was in direct contact with Quintero, ordered CIA personnel to relay drop zone and other information to contra forces on the Southern Front, as well as report news of deliveries.this"including dissolving Udall and covering its tracks.
On April 25, 1985, a group of Costa Rican rural guardsmen led by a Colonel Badilla walked into a remote contra training camp hidden in dense jungle three miles from the border and picked up five gringo trainers. The mercenaries, who had always enjoyed cordial relations with Costa Rican law enforcement, were surprised and shocked to be driven straight to La Reforma prison in San Jose and charged with violating Costa Rican neutrality and possession of explosives. They had not only trained contra fighters, but had themselves fought inside Nicaragua.
The two Americans, two Englishmen, and one Frenchman had considered themselves part of an operation sanctioned by the U.S. government and were angry that they should be sacrificed to satisfy political appearances. The night before, word had come over the Voice of America on the camp radio that Congress had once again turned down military aid to the contras.
Once they realized the seriousness of their predicament, that they faced a trial and a five-year mandatory sentence, the group split on whether they should start talking publicly about what they knew. Three of the mercenaries, a crusty former Florida highway patrolman named Robert Thompson, a Frenchman named Claude Chaffard, and an Englishman named John Davies, were resolved to sit tight and keep their mouths shut. After two months of rice and beans in their third-world jail, however, the remaining pair, Steven Carr, a middle-class twenty-six-year-old from Naples, Florida, and Peter Glibbery, a British army veteran, eventually decided that they had been betrayed and abandoned. They started talking to the local and international press.
It was an extraordinary story; so extraordinary indeed that no one paid any attention. At least one taped interview, recorded in July 1985 for a major American network, sat gathering dust on a shelf for months before anyone bothered to look at it. The fact that the U.S. embassy in Costa Rica routinely told inquiring journalists that the mercenaries' tale was pure make-believe did not help their credibility.
In summary, their story was that that they had been working for an American named John Hull, who owned or managed eight thousand acres along the Nicaraguan border and was one of the largest ranchers in Costa Rica. Hull, insisted Carr and Glibbery, had told them explicitly that he was the "FDN-CIA liaison in Costa Rica." Hull had also told them that he was receiving ten thousand dollars a month from the National Security Council to maintain and supply two contra camps. One of these, where the mercenaries had been arrested, was on Hull's land. The other lay just inside Nicaragua, near the Costa Rican border town of Los Chiles.
Glibbery talked about a tall, boyish visitor from Washington named Robert Owen who had gone with him and Hull to redirect a contra arms supply plane that had landed at the wrong airstrip. Glibbery had asked Owen who the plane's pilots were. "Salvadoran air force," was the casual reply. "Wow, what a jacked-up operation," the mercenary had thought at the time.
Carr recounted how he had been brought to Hull's ranch via Fort Lauderdale, in Florida, where he had joined a chartered aircraft loaded with six tons of weapons. The plane had flown to the Salvadoran air base of Ilopango, where U.S. military had watched as the cargo was unloaded by Salvadoran military personnel for transshipment to the southern contra front.
Hull was the "boss" of the war in that area, the mercenaries insisted. Not only was he directing military operations for the group taking over from Pastora, he was also, according to the mercenaries, paying the commanders. The money, they had been told, was coming from the National Security Council. They were less sure of the role of the mysterious Robert Owen, the visitor who had seemed so well briefed on the arms deliveries. "He seemed like a messenger from Washington," thought Glibbery.
All the time the two prisoners were recounting their bizarre tale to unreceptive audiences, they were under tremendous pressure both from their fellow mercenaries and from rancher Hull to change their story. Hull, they said, suggested that if they would agree to say they had been paid by local journalists, agents of the Nicaraguan government, the Cubans, and/or the KGB to spread such lies, they would get food parcels and legal help. A friend of Hull's, an Illinois rancher, delivered a sterner warning: Their lives were in danger. They talked too much. John Hull meanwhile told anyone who would listen that the mercenaries were either pathological liars or paid agents. Despite these threats and blandishments, Carr and Glibbery continued to tell their story with total consistency and in staggering detail to the press, the FBI, the U.S. Justice Department, and finally the U.S. Senate.
Alleged CIA links to those men were brought to the Bureau's attention when Jack Terrell, a disillusioned former mercenary, contacted the FBI in early 1986 and fleshed out Honey's allegations. Terrell claimed that despite the Boland Amendment, the Agency was still coordinating the contra war, using North, Owen ("who says he is CIA"), and a "CIA contract man," John Hull. He additionally claimed to have heard of a right-wing plot to kill Lewis Tambs, U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, and blame it on the Sandinistas. When pressed for proof, however, Terrell admitted that most, and perhaps all, of his information came from Martha Honey.
Terrell's credibility slipped even further when NSA wiretaps on the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington revealed him to be in regular touch with Sandinista intelligence. His contact was Manuel Martin Cordero Cuadra, who was posted under diplomatic cover in Washington. In fact, as Terrell later acknowledged, he was working with Cuadra to "attract the attention of Federal law enforcement agencies" to illegal contra resupply.
Terrell was taken under the wing of the Center for Development Policy, an IPS spin off and Rubin-funded group, where, as Terrell would say, "employees had direct access to Cuban and Nicaraguan officials." Terrell was even "given a list of 40 names and a brief biography of each that told of their role with the Contras," including data on Oliver North, to be "released to the press or anyone else who might have an interest in it."
But even if their motives were open to question, at least some of the information fed to the Bureau by Terrell and Honey checked out, and had to be run down further. Although the alleged plot against the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica proved to be nonexistent, reports of gun-running to that country seemed to be grounded in fact. So in March 1986, the agents flew to San Jose, Costa Rica with Jeffrey Feldman, an assistant U.S. attorney, and met with Ambassador Lewis Tambs at the American Embassy. Feldman took out a diagram showing John Hull's name, and on top of it Robert Owen's, and above that Oliver North's. Feldman hypothesized that North was pumping funds through Owen to Hull, who, in turn, was distributing them to various contra leaders. He believed that these individuals had somehow transported weapons from South Florida to Hull's property near the Nicaraguan border.
The ambassador turned white. The only thing he said was, "Get Fernandez in here." The FBI agents guessed, correctly, that Fernandez was the CIA station chief. Feldman went over the diagram again, saying that he and the FBI agents were looking at "the big picture," meaning not only possible violations of the Neutrality Act, but unauthorized use of Government funds.
The CIA man's reaction, as Feldman recalled, was to "rip the credibility of the various people who were making the allegations." Martha Honey and her husband, Tony Avirgan, were a couple of real left-wingers. Feldman started taking notes: "Honey and Avirgan are Sandinista agents or have ties to Sandinistas." It was alleged that the couple had visited North Vietnam in 1970 and fled the U.S. in 1973, when Avirgan allegedly came under suspicion for some antiwar bombings. After living in several Soviet bloc countries, the couple had settled in Costa Rica as stringers for international news agencies, specializing in critical coverage of the contra war. They spent Christmases in Nicaragua. By one report, Honey met almost weekly with Valentin P. Chekanov of the Soviet Embassy, whose KGB status was an open secret in San Jose. During the summer of 1985, Avirgan traveled with unusual frequency to Managua, and he stayed in the Sandinista power center for periods of twelve, six, and four days; he later said he was doing research. His wife, meanwhile, was interviewing former contra commander Eden Pastora and his top people, recently purged by CIA as suspected Sandinista agents. These were the kinds of people who were going after the rancher John Hull, who was not a criminal but a patriotic man.
Feldman asked if Hull worked for CIA.
Fernandez smiled. Hull had helped the Agency coordinate weapons deliveries to the contras prior to the Boland Amendment. Since then, however, he had not been "militarily involved." As a private citizen, Hull had been providing only medical and humanitarian assistance to guerrillas who retreated onto his land. As far as Fernandez knew, the money for that came from Hull's own deep pockets.
"Do you know if John Hull knows Oliver North?" Feldman pressed.
"Certainly," Fernandez said. "I can tell you for a fact that John Hull knows both Rob Owen and Oliver North." But Hull's role was only to coordinate "humanitarian" assistance, Fernandez repeated. Any reports to the contrary were "a hill of beans." Nevertheless, the meeting ended with Fernandez specifically requesting that the Bureau contact him if they planned to "take action against John Hull."
The FBI agents left the meeting feeling that the CIA station chief was bothered by their inquiries. When they saw Fernandez in the embassy after that, he wouldn't even say hello. Feldman decided not to speak in his hotel room, because he felt perhaps that he and the FBI agents were being watched or listened to by CIA. Embassy security officer James Nagel followed the agents wherever they went. After Currier and Kiszysnki interviewed some imprisoned mercenaries, who described weapons flights to Hull's ranch, Nagel warned them: "There are other agencies that have their operational requirements, and you should not interfere with the work of those agencies." The security officer paused, then added in a low voice: "John Hull is a friend of Ronald Reagan, if you know what I mean." The G-men concluded that because CIA was trying to protect Hull, it would not be possible to interview him, and they quit trying.
John Hull visited Washington in July 1983 to convince Congress that Contra leader Eden Pastora should not be supported, claiming he was being controlled by the Sandinistan government. Pastora and Hull both visited Quayle and his legislative assistant, Robert Owen. Owen arranged for other congressional aides to talk to the visitors too, such as Vaughn Forrest, an administrative assistant for Representative Bill McCollum (R-Florida), and also introduced Hull to Oliver North.
In November 1983 Owen began working for Gray and Co., a powerful Washington, D.C., public relations and lobbying firm known for its close ties to the Administration and U.S. intelligence bodies.
In April 1984 Contra leader Adolfo Calero, head of the Nicaraguan Democratic Front, the largest Contra group, asked Gray and Co. to represent the Contras. Owen was given the assignment and came up with plans to raise money in the U.S. through non-profit organizations and companies to purchase weapons for the Contras.
One of Owen's tasks was to garner information on the financial and military needs of the Contras and pass this on to North. He reported to North that more that $1 million a month would be needed to just to keep the level of resistance at its current level, and $1.5 million if it were to increase.
In July 1984 Owen procured South African arms for the Contras. In late October he returned to Central America, met with Calero and Hull, and made an arrangement whereby he would receive $2,500 a month plus expenses from Calero, and Hull would get $10,000 a month in return for his assistance on the southern front.
In summer or fall 1985 Owen served as a courier for North, delivering Swiss bank account numbers to representatives of the Taiwan government in Washington so they could make "Contra contributions." In February 1985 he went to Central America with a letter from North assuring Calero that he would soon receive $20 million. Owen knew what type of people he was dealing with and of some Contra leaders' ties to drug runners. Oliver North was also informed. On April 1st, 1985, Owen described to North Costa Rican rebel leader Jose Robelo's "potential involvement in drug running." Owen told North that another Contra leader, Sebastian Gonzalez, was "now involved in drug running out of Panama." North wrote during an August 9th, 1985, meeting with Owen that the "DC6 which is being used for runs out of New Orleans is probably being used for drug runs into U.S." On February, 10th, 1986, Owen informed North that another Contra plane, a DC-4, was armed at one time to run drugs, and part of the crew had criminal records. Nice group the Boys (the CIA) chose," Owen added.
Sheehan and Wheaton sat down in the kitchen of Hoven's house in early February of 1986. It was magic. To a wide-eyed Sheehan, Wheaton, posing as an experienced operator, tossed out wild stories of clandestine operations and dozens of names: Wilson, Secord, Clines, Hakim, Singlaub, Bush. A whole crew was running amok, supporting Contras, conducting covert activity elsewhere. Drugs were involved. Some of this gang had engaged in corrupt government business in Iran and Southeast Asia. Now the same old boys were running weapons to Latin America. Central to the whole shebang was a former CIA officer named Ted Shackley. Sheehan was captivated. He had struck the mother lode.
Sheehan spoke a few times with Carl Jenkins. At one session, Sheehan listened as Jenkins and Wheaton discussed what Wheaton was calling the "off-the-reservation gang"- Secord, Clines, Hakim, and Shackley - and the operations they ran in and out of government. According to Hoven, Wheaton and Jenkins wanted to see information about this crowd made public and saw Sheehan as the mechanism of disclosure.
Wheaton and Jenkins did not tell Sheehan that they hoped to settle a score with a band they believed had an unfair lock on the air-supply contracts they desired. But to Hoven it was clear that one faction of spooks was whacking another. Hoven was not sure who was on what side. He guessed that somebody somewhere - maybe even in the Agency itself - was upset with the freelancers and wanted to see them reined in. But if Jenkins or anyone else thought they could use Sheehan as a quiet transmitter of damaging information, they were as wrong as they could be.
Throughout the winter and spring, as Sheehan talked to Wheaton and Jenkins, he had something else on his mind: a two-year-old bombing in Nicaragua. On May 30, 1984, a bomb had exploded at a press conference in La Penca, Nicaragua, held by Eden Pastora, a maverick Contra leader who resisted cooperating with the CIA and the main Contra force. Several people were killed, but not Pastora. Afterward, Tony Avirgan, an American journalist who suffered shrapnel wounds at La Penca, and his wife, Martha Honey, set out to uncover who had plotted the attack. A year later, they produced a book that charged a small group of Americans and Cuban exiles-some with ties to the CIA and the Contras-with planning the murderous assault. One of the persons they fingered was John Hull, a Contra supporter with a spread in northern Costa Rica and a relationship with North and the CIA. Their report noted that some Contra supporters were moonlighting in the drug trade.
Hull sued the couple for libel in Costa Rica. He demanded $1 million. Avirgan and Honey, who lived in San Jose, received death threats. They considered retaliating by filing a lawsuit in the States against individuals in the secret Contra-support network. But they could find no lawyer to take such a difficult case. Eventually Sheehan was recommended to them. They checked him out. The reports were mixed. But he had one undeniable positive attribute: he would accept the case. The couple retained him.
Come late spring of 1986, Sheehan was mixing with spooks in the Washington area, and he was pondering how to craft a lawsuit for Avirgan and Honey. He collected information on the Contra operation. He drew closer to Wheaton, who had a new tale every time they met. Then Sheehan made a pilgrimage to meet the dark angel of the covert crowd: Ed Wilson.
The imprisoned rogue officer made Sheehan's head swim. The essence of Wilson's story, Sheehan claimed, was that the Agency in 1976 had created a highly secretive counter terrorist unit modeled on the PRUs of Vietnam and had run this entity apart from the main bureaucracy. The mission: conduct "wet operations" (spy talk for assassinations). After the election of Jimmy Carter, this group was erased from the books and hidden in private companies, and Shackley was the man in charge of the unit both in and out of government. The program was divided into different components. CIA man William Buckley supposedly had directed one out of Mexico with Quintero and Ricardo Chavez. Another unit was headed by a former Mossad officer. Felix Rodriguez was involved in yet one more in the Mideast. Sheehan took Wilson at his word. "Wilson went into such detail," Sheehan later maintained. "It's not something that's being made up."
At one point after Sheehan met with Wilson, it dawned on him: everything was connected. The La Penca bombing, the North-Contra network, the Wilson gang, all those CIA-trained Cuban exiles, the whole history of Agency dirty tricks, the operations against Castro, the war in Laos, the nasty spook side of the Vietnam War, clandestine Agency action in Iran. It was an ongoing conspiracy. It did not matter if these guys were in or out of government. It was a villainous government within a government, a plot that had existed for decades, a permanent criminal enterprise. Sheehan had a unified held theory of covert U.S. history. And Shackley was the evil Professor Moriarty, the man who pulled all the strings. The avenging Sheehan now was determined to take Shackley down.
Sheehan melded the La Penca bombing case to his Wheaton - influenced investigation of the old-boy network. Avirgan and Honey shared with him all the information they carefully had developed on the Contra support operation. Names and stories he threw at them - including Shackley's - were unfamiliar. They took it on faith that Sheehan knew what he was doing when he blended the results of their professional investigation with the grab-bag of information he had collected from Wheaton, Wilson, and others. "We saw John Hull as the center, and Sheehan saw it as Shackley," Honey recalled. "Shackley was the main ingredient. I don't know why Danny fixated on him. He told us he had lots of information on Shackley's involvement in La Penca. That was b.s. But what do we know, sitting in Costa Rica?" Sheehan was looking for a case he could play before a large audience. He repeatedly told Avirgan and Honey the public did not care about La Penca. But people would pay notice if the enemy was one grand conspiracy headed by a dastardly figure.
Sheehan applied the resources of his small Christic Institute to the case. Wheaton continued investigating the Wilson crowd and other covert sorts. He started telling Jenkins that he believed he was chasing a decades-old, top-secret assassination unit. Wheaton claimed it had begun with an assassination training program for Cuban exiles that Shackley had set up in the early 1960s. The target was Castro. The secret war against Cuba faded, but the "Shooter Team" continued. It expanded and was now called the Fish Farm, and Shackley remained its chief.
Sheehan knitted together all this spook gossip and misinformation with a few hard facts, and on May 29, 1986, he dropped the load. In a Miami federal court, Sheehan filed a lawsuit against thirty individuals, invoking the RICO antiracketeering law and accusing all of being part of a criminal conspiracy that trained, financed, and armed Cuban-American mercenaries in Nicaragua, smuggled drugs, violated the Neutrality Act by supporting the Contras, traded various weapons, and bombed the press conference at La Penca. Sheehan's plaintiffs were journalists Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey. The conspirators were far-flung: John Hull in Costa Rica; Cuban exiles based in Miami (including Quintero); drug lords Pablo Escobar and Jorge Ochoa in Colombia; arms dealers in Florida; Contra leader Adolfo Calero; an Alabama mercenary named Tom Posey; Robert Owen, a secret North aide; the unknown bomber at La Penca; and Singlaub, Hakim, Secord, Clines, and Shackley. Sheehan alleged that Shackley had peddled arms illegally, plotted to kill Pastora, and (with Secord, Clines, and Hakim) accepted money from drug sales for arms shipments. Sheehan demanded over $23 million in damages.
With this lawsuit, Sheehan believed, he could break up the Contra support operation and cast into the light shadowy characters who had been up to mischief for years. Sheehan and Wheaton had stumbled across some real players and some real operations. But they both possessed hyperactive imaginations, and whatever truth they did uncover they had twisted into a false, cosmic conspiracy.
The filing-drafted sloppily by Sheehan-surprised Shackley and his fellow defendants. Hoven and Jenkins were stunned. Neither expected Sheehan to produce such a storm. Sheehan clearly was in this for politics and ego. He was not about to be a quiet disseminator of information. "I had been left with the assumption," Hoven noted, "that I was set up to pass information to Sheehan. But they" - whoever they were - "mucked it up because Sheehan was not playing it close to the script."
For years, contra-connected witnesses had cited Hull's ranch as a cocaine transshipment point for drugs heading to the United States. According to Bromwich's report, the DEA even prepared a research report on the evidence in November 1986. In it, one informant described Colombian cocaine off-loaded at an airstrip on Hull's ranch. The drugs were then concealed in a shipment of frozen shrimp and transported to the United States. The alleged Costa Rican shipper was Frigorificos de Puntarenas, a firm controlled by Cuban-American Luis Rodriguez while employing central figures from the contra network, Moises Nunez and Felipe Vidal.
But Hull remained untouchable, even though five witnesses implicated him during Sen. John Kerry's investigation of contra drug trafficking. The drug suspicions just glanced off the pugnacious farmer, who had cultivated close relationships with the U.S. Embassy and conservative Costa Rican politicians.
In January 1989, however, Costa Rican authorities finally acted. They indicted Hull for drug trafficking, arms smuggling and other crimes. Hull was jailed, a move that outraged some U.S. congressmen. A letter, signed by senior Democrat Lee Hamilton and others, issued a veiled threat to cut off U.S. economic aid if Hull were not released.
Costa Rica complied, freeing Hull pending trial. But Hull didn't wait for his day in court. In July 1989, he hopped a plane, flew to Haiti and then to the United States.
Hull got another break when one of his conservative friends, Roberto Calderon, won the Costa Rican presidency. On Oct. 10, 1990, Calderon informed the U.S. embassy that he could not stop an extradition request for Hull's return, but signaled that he would prefer that the request be rejected. The embassy officials got the message. A cable noted that the new president was "clearly hoping that Hull will not be extradited." The Bush administration fulfilled Calderon's hope by rebuffing Costa Rican extradition requests, effectively killing the case against Hull.
On May 22 and 23, 1985. John Hull, a North American farmer with extensive land holdings in northern Costa Rica. brought us to trial in the First Penal Court of San Jose. Costa Rica. It was a most unusual and important trial: it pitted American citizens against each other, raised fundamental issues of the freedom of the press, and publicly revealed evidence of criminal activities and plots by, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. backed Nicaraguan contras operating out of Costa Rica.
John Hull charged us with Injuries. Falsehold and Defamation of Character because of what we had written about him in our report on the La Penca press conference bombing. In file suit John Hull demanded 25 million colones (almost $500,000) in damagcs, a published retraction of what we had written, and court costs which he estimated to be another 25 million colones. In addition, he asked that the court prevent us from leaving Costa Rica and place under embargo our car, house and other valuables.
John Hull had filed the suit in October 1985. just days after we had presented, at a San Jose press conference, our report on who was responsible for the May 30, 1984 bombing which killed three journalists and five guerrillas and wounded dozens of uthcrs including contra leader Eden Pastora. Tony was among the journalists injured and we had been asked to undertake an investigation and prepare a report for three U.S. based press organizations the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Newspaper Guild and the World Press Freedom Committee.
Libel cases involving the press are, in Costa Rica, heard before the Supreme Court composed of three judges. However Hull chose to sue us not as journalists, but as private individuals which meant that the case was heard before a single judge in a lower court. We believe this was a deliberate tactic since it is easier to apply pressure and influence a single judge rather than the Supreme Court. In the days before the trial Hull confidently boasted that he had the judge "in his pocket" and that it was predetermined he would win the case. In fact, the judge, Jorge Chacon Laurito, turned out to be scrupulously honest and even handed.
In addition, we believe that Hull chose to sue us as individuals in an effort to break us financially and discredit us as journalists. We were forced to personally bear the costs of our defense and would have been compelled to pay ourselves any damages had we lost the case. He attempted to belittle us professionally by implying that we had written the report and defamed him as individuals, not as journalists.
We, in turn, believed that the case should rightfully have been before the Supreme Court since we had written our report in our capacity as journalists. The report had been commissioned by three journalist organizations, had been presented to a press conference, and was subsequently published, in Spanish, as a book.
In our report we described many details of what we had learned about John Hull's activities as a CIA agent and liaison to the contras. In bringing the case against us, Hull denied four of the things we had said about him: 1) that he works for the CIA and receives money from the U.S. National Security Council; 2) that he was instrumental in integrating, as military trainers, a group of Miami Cubans into contra leader Eden Pastora's ranks; 3) that he was involved in the La Penca bombing and a subsequent plot to kill Pastora; and 4) that he had been under investigation in connection with drug trafficking operations. In our report we also stated that Hull was involved in a 1985 plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy and kill the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica and blame these actions on the Sandinistas, thereby providing a rationale for direct U.S. intervention against Nicaragua. But, curiously, Hull chose not to challenge us on this point.
Pastora's participation was doubtful up to the last minute. By executive order, he was legally banned from entering Costa Rica. But by court order he was legally required to show up at our trial. Less than a week before the trial began, this contradiction was resolved when Pastora quit the war and walked into Costa Rica seeking political asylum. He was thrown into jail while the Costa Rican government considered his application. He was still in jail when our trial took place, and Pastora's testimony was taken in a cell in the basement of the courthouse.
As the trial approached, Carr and Glibbery were prisoners in the La Reforma penitentiary outside San Jose. They and three other mercenaries and nine Nicaraguans had been there a year, following their arrest in a raid on a contra camp located on property controlled by John Hull. They had been turned down in their repeated attempts to get released on bail while awaiting trial on charges of illegal possession of explosives and carrying out hostile acts against a neighboring state. Glibbery and Carr had also agreed to testify on our behalf and we had delivered them subpoenas ordering that they do so.
Then, suddenly, a week before our trial began, a Costa Rican court changed its mind and granted all five mercenaries bail. Hull received the bail money through a CIA agent in Washington and confidently hoped the mercenaries would come to stay with him. He and his associates had been pressuring Carr and Glibbery not to appear as our witnesses in the trial.
However both Carr and Glibbery told us that they felt threatened by Hull and had no intention of staying with him. They chose instead to stay at our house in the days before the trial. Carr, who got out of jail a few days before Glibbery, called his uncle in the U.S. whom he told us had worked for the CIA. Carr said the uncle arranged for him to see a top CIA official in the U.S. Embassy. For several days, Carr said he had been at the Embassy meeting with this person and at least two other officials, Kirt Kotula and John Jones. They had arranged for him to speak with Hull by telephone from the Embassy. He said they were all urging him not to testify at our trial.
On Monday evening before the trial Carr walked out of our house to visit a friend living nearby. He never arrived there and we never saw him again.
Concerned for his safety, we reported his disappearance to the court. The court clerk said that she was later informed that Steven Carr could be reached through the U.S. Embassy. Hull's wife also told Glibbery that she knew of Carr's whereabouts.
The day of the trial, when Carr's name was read out, he was not in the courtroom and we did not know where he was, Instead we brought to the trial the duffel bag of clothing he had left behind and told the judge this was all that remained of our witness Steven Carr. We asked that the court to order Hull and the U.S. Embassy to clarify where he was and assure us he was all right.
We heard norhing of Carr until two weeks after the trial when he called us (collect) from jail in Naples, Florida. He apologized for having caused us worry and gave details of his disappearance from Costa Rica. He said that in this meetings with the U.S. Embassy officials they had told him "there's a 90% chance that Avirgan and Honey will lose the court case and that, whether they win or lose, you'll go back to jail if you testify."
Carr told us that the Embassy officials suggested that he jump bail and leave the country. He said, "`They told me to get the hell out of Dodge', and they helped me to do so." He said the Embassy provided him with a bus ticket to Panama and arranged for a border guard to get him across since he had no passport and was under court order not to leave the country. He said in Panama he was assisted by U.S. and Panamanian officials and given a plane ticket to Florida. The Embassy had promised he would not go to jail in the U.S. but, he told us, they broke this promise. As soon as he landed he was arrested and thrown in jail in Naples for a previous parole violation.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry's staff. He was considered an important witness particularly for the investigation into an arms shipment from Florida, via El Salvador to John Hull's property. Two weeks after his release he was found dead in a Los Angeles parking lot of an apparent cocaine overdose. While in jail he told friends and journalists that he was giving up his drug habit and also that he feared for his life. A number of mysterious circumstances surround his death. John Hull later told Peter Glibbery, "The CIA Killed Steven Carr" and threatened the same would happen to him if Glibbery did not change his story...
Throughout the trial and despite the barrage of evidence presented against him, Hull continued to say he was confident he would win. As soon as the verdict was announced, he said he would appeal. He did so to the Costa Rican Supreme Court. In October 1986 the Supreme Court rejected the appeal and upheld the decision of the lower court. That marked the end of John Hull's attempt to silence and discredit us through the Costa Rican legal system.
Although victorious, we continued to feel distressed that those responsible for the La Penca bombing and other illegal and terrorist plots were not being brought to justice. Therefore through the Christic Institute we initiated just a week after our libel trial, a suit in a Miami federal court. This suit charges John Hull and twenty-eight other defendants with criminal conspiracy, including the La Penca bombing, drug and arms trafficking, violations of the U.S. Neutrality Law and other crimes. Among those named in the suit are many people who have since emerged at key players in the Iran-contra scandal. These include Col. Oliver North's assistant Robert Owen, retired generals Richard Secord and John Singlaub, businessmen Rafael Quintero and Albert Hakim, Cuban American contra supporters and drug traffickers Felipe Vidal, René Corbo, Dagoberto Nunez and Francisco Chánez, Columbian drug traffickers Pablo Escobar and Jorge Ochoa, Hull's business partner Bruce Jones and the La Penca bomber Amac Galil. Through a combination of this court case and the current press and congressional investigations we hope that, at long last, those responsible for the La Penca bombing and other illegal contra-related actions will be brought to justice.
"The rebel army needed bases," Plumlee explains. "The gun suppliers - first the CIA and later the private people who turned the war into a business - had to strike deals with the drug people in order to share these strips. You can't stay sane and safe down there without being on good terms with the CAF - the Colombian Air Force. I've taxied right up with a load of guns, and on the other side of the field, they're loading up drugs at the same time."
The map note refers to Barry Seal and Luis Ochoa, the Colombian drug magnate, running cocaine into Santa Elena. The C-130 and DC-6B notations refer to the reason the field was improved and the airstrip lengthened at the direction of Secord and North. "Barry Seal had flown in the Fat Lady with weapons one time and got her stuck:' Plumlee says. "That decided 'em to lengthen the airstrip.'
Interestingly, during John Poindexter's current trial, in which he is charged with conspiracy to destroy documents, obstruct investigations, and lie to Congress, the prosecutor introduced a memo from Oliver North that seems to corroborate Plumlee's story about the stuck airplane. North had written to Poindexter that "one of the planes of the contra re supply operation got mired down in the mud at an airport in Costa Rica:'
Another reason Santa Elena was upgraded was that the other major staging area for the contras' southern front, the ranch owned by American citizen John Hull, 150 kilometers east-southeast of Santa Elena, wasn't big enough for the scale of the operation. Also, even though Hull worked closely with the CIA in helping to arm the contras, the use of an American's land in Costa Rica for an arms shipment point was politically unacceptable to the Costa Rican government.
Three extremely fast "stealth" boats were used to patrol the waters off Santa Elena and protect the secret airfield, Plumlee says, and the boats had a connection to San Diego. Karl Phaler, a San Diegan, had helped EI Salvador modify several Boston Whalers into fast patrol boats in 1980 and 1981. Plumlee says the Black Crewmen always called the Santa Elena patrol boats "Phaler boats:' In an interview, Phaler said he doesn't know how the boats he helped build for EI Salvador might have ended up off Costa Rica. "Maybe somebody else just used my design and the name stuck".
Phaler later established a boat company called Freedom Marine in San Diego and sold three radar deflecting
Kevlar boats to the contras for $140,000, according to testimony by Robert Owen before the Iran-contra committee. Contra leader Adolfo Colero had visited the boat company in San Diego in 1984 and taken a ride on one of the boats. In a 1987 San Diego Union story about the boat purchase, Karl Phaler gushed that "Oliver North said I was a great American. After a compliment like that; I would have done just about anything."
Phaler was told that the heavily armored boats, which were fitted with machine gun mounts, were to be used to transport food, military equipment, and medical supplies to the contras. But he never actually found out where the boats were delivered or how they were used.
Until May 1984, contra leader Eden Pastora was the major beneficiary of weapons shipments to Hull's ranch and Santa Elena. Costa Rica actually has three areas called Santa Elena; Plumlee says Oliver North and his courier, Robert Owen, assigned the code name "Point West" to the Santa Elena staging area on the northwest coast of Costa Rica. So Plumlee's notation refers to Oliver North, the location of Santa Elena, and the main reason for its existence.
On May 30 of 1984, at a jungle hideout, La Penca, just inside Nicaragua, a bomb exploded during a press conference called by Pastora. He was decrying the CIA's pressure on him to merge with the main faction of contras in Honduras. One American and several Costa Rican journalists were killed, but Pastora survived.
The bombing, which was never solved, became the basis of a lawsuit filed by the Christic Institute, a nonprofit public interest law firm based in Washington, D.C. The suit claimed that the bombing was part of a criminal conspiracy that also included illegal covert arms smuggling, violations of banking and currency laws, and political assassination.
Filed in federal court under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, the suit named 29 defendants (including Hull, Secord, Owen, Pablo Escobar, and several CIA officials) who allegedly had a direct or indirect hand in the La Penca bombing and in various secret wars all over the world.
The lawsuit was dismissed for lack of evidence last July and is currently on appeal. Before the bombing, Plumlee says that Pastora's guerilla commanders often complained about the shoddy gear they were receiving. They also complained about the escalating prices they had to pay for equipment. Plumlee began to share their frustration.
The guns weren't for sale when we were taking them to Guatemala and EI Salvador a few years earlier," he remarks. "But in Costa Rica in 1982, '83, and '84, suddenly the guns are being sold to Pastora. His commanders would say stuff like, 'Well, you really mucked up my budget this month. And some of the stuff was crap - boots with holes in 'em, old M-ls instead of M-16s, medical supplies that had their seals broken. It was a business, and we were bringing drugs back to pay for it. We were trading better weapons to the drug cartels in return for use of their airstrips. I thought this was a shitty way to fight for democracy".
Once the contra re supply effort was outlawed by Congress in 1984, Plumlee says, the airplanes themselves became rattletraps. Oliver North's job was to circumvent the congressional ban on government aid to the contras, and that was accomplished by commissioning Richard Secord to bring in private arms dealers and aircraft suppliers to do the work for profit. Plumlee says these outfits didn't take care of their airplanes nearly as well as the CIA did, and he ended up flying planes that sometimes had no airworthiness certificates on board.
Many of the planes had defective instruments, which was a serious problem when he had to deliver equipment during the rainy season. "Directional gyros were broken, so you couldn't tell if you were drifting off course; there were magnetic compasses with low fluid levels, so the compass would stick. Artificial horizons that were partially working, which is worse than not working at all. Hydraulic problems. See, this way, if a plane .... "