Richard V. Secord was born in La Rue, Ohio in 1932. He was educated at West Point and graduated in 1955 with a degree and a commission in the United States Air Force. Secord served as an instructor pilot in single-engine jet basic pilot training from 1956 until 1959 at Laredo Air Force Base, Texas. He then did a similar job at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
In August 1961, he joined a special volunteer tactical organization in Florida. In March 1962 he was assigned as an adviser to the government in South Vietnam. Over the next few months Secord flew 200 combat missions. In January 1963 he served for six months as an advisor to the Iranian Air Force as an adviser on air-ground operations.
Secord served as chief of the Tactical Operations Division, 1st Air Commando Wing, until July 1965 when he entered the USAF Air Command & Staff College. After graduation in 1966, he returned to South Vietnam as an air operations officer in Saigon.
In August 1966, Secord transferred to Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. Later that year Ted Shackley was placed in charge of CIA secret war in Laos. He appointed Thomas G. Clines as his deputy. He also took Carl E. Jenkins, David Sanchez Morales, Rafael Quintero, Felix I. Rodriguez and Edwin Wilson with him to Laos. Shackley worked closely with Richard Secord, who directed tactical bombing raids against the Pathet Lao.
According to Joel Bainerman it was at this point that Shackley and his "Secret Team" became involved in the drug trade. They did this via General Vang Pao, the leader of the anti-communist forces in Laos. Vang Pao was a major figure in the opium trade in Laos. To help him Shackley used his CIA officials and assets to sabotage the competitors. Eventually Vang Pao had a monopoly over the heroin trade in Laos. In 1967 Shackley and Clines helped Vang Pao to obtain financial backing to form his own airline, Zieng Khouang Air Transport Company, to transport opium and heroin between Long Tieng and Vientiane.
According to Alfred W. McCoy (The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade) in 1968 Ted Shackley and Thomas G. Clines arranged a meeting in Saigon between Santo Trafficante and Vang Pao to establish a heroin-smuggling operation from Southeast Asia to the United States.
In September 1968, Secord was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, as assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, U.S. Air Force Special Operations Force, Tactical Air Command. He then took command of the 603rd Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field. He served as squadron commander until 1971 when he entered the Naval War College.
In June 1972, General Secord was assigned as a staff assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Washington, D.C. His duties included serving as desk officer for Laos, Thailand and Vietnam under the assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs.
According to Daniel Sheehan: “From late 1973 until April of 1975, Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Armitage disbursed, from the secret, Laotian-based, Vang Pao opium fund, vastly more money than was required to finance even the highly intensified Phoenix Project in Vietnam. The money in excess of that used in Vietnam was secretly smuggled out of Vietnam in large suitcases, by Richard Secord and Thomas Clines and carried into Australia, where it was deposited in a secret, personal bank account (privately accessible to Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Secord). During this same period of time between 1973 and 1975, Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines caused thousands of tons of US weapons, ammunition, and explosives to be secretly taken from Vietnam and stored at a secret "cache" hidden inside Thailand." This money, with the help of Raphael Quintero, found its way into the Nugan Hand Bank in Sydney. The bank was founded by Michael Hand, a CIA operative in Laos and Frank Nugan an Australian businessman.
In 1975 Richard Secord was transferred to Iran as chief of the Air Force's Military Advisory Assistance Group (MAAG). With Ted Shackley, Thomas G. Clines, Edwin Wilson and Albert Hakim, Secord established an arms sales company called Egyptian American Transport and Service Corporation (EATSCO). Later EATSCO was convicted of embezzling millions of dollars from the Pentagon.
In April 1980, Secord was promoted to the rank of major general and was in charge of rescue efforts for U.S. hostages held in Iran. The following year Secord was appointed as deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. Soon afterwards, with the help of Oliver North, coordinated the campaign to win congressional approval for $8.5 billion AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia.
Secord was suspended for three months in 1982 while he was being investigated by the FBI about his links to Edwin Wilson and EATSCO. He was reinstated by Frank Carlucci but took early retirement from the USAF in May 1983. Secord now established the Stanford Technology Trading Group International (STTGI). According to Lawrence E. Walsh, who carried out the official investigation into the scandal (Iran-Contra: The Final Report): "Using a complex web of secret Swiss bank accounts and shell corporations managed by Willard Zucker at Compagnie de Services Fiduciaires (CSF) in Geneva, they built a lucrative Enterprise from covert-operations business assigned to them by Lt. Col. Oliver L. North."
In October, 1985, Congress agreed to vote 27 million dollars in non-lethal aid for the Contras in Nicaragua. However, members of the Ronald Reagan administration, including George Bush, decided to use this money to provide weapons to the Contras and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
Gene Wheaton was recruited to use National Air to transport these weapons. He agreed but began to have second thoughts when he discovered that Richard Secord was involved in the operation and in May 1986 Wheaton told William Casey, director of the CIA, about what he knew about this illegal operation. Casey refused to take any action, claiming that the agency or the government were not involved in what later became known as Irangate.
Wheaton now took his story to Daniel Sheehan, a left-wing lawyer. Wheaton told him that Thomas G. Clines and Ted Shackley had been running a top-secret assassination unit since the early 1960s. According to Wheaton, it had begun with an assassination training program for Cuban exiles and the original target had been Fidel Castro.
Wheaton also contacted Newt Royce and Mike Acoca, two journalists based in Washington. The first article on this scandal appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on 27th July, 1986. As a result of this story, Congressman Dante Facell wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger, asking him if it "true that foreign money, kickback money on programs, was being used to fund foreign covert operations." Two months later, Weinberger denied that the government knew about this illegal operation.
John Singlaub agreed to divert press attention away from the activities of Richard Secord, George H. W. Bush, Oliver North, William Casey, Donald P. Gregg, Robert Owen, Felix Rodriguez, Rafael Quintero, Ted Shackley, Richard L. Armitage and Thomas G. Clines. He gave several interviews where he admitted raising money for the Contras. This included an article in Common Cause where he claimed he had raised "tens of million of dollars... for arms and ammunition".
This money was raised via the World Anti-Communist League. Most of this money came from the governments of Taiwan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. As the U.S. Neutrality Act bans a private American organization from supplying weapons to foreign groups, Singlaub established a secret overseas bank account to collect this money.
On 5th October, 1986, a Sandinista patrol in Nicaragua shot down a C-123K cargo plane that was supplying the Contras. That night Felix Rodriguez made a telephone call to the office of George H. W. Bush. He told Bush aide, Samuel Watson, that the C-123k aircraft had gone missing.
Eugene Hasenfus, an Air America veteran, survived the crash and told his captors that he thought the CIA was behind the operation. He also provided information that several Cuban-Americans running the operation in El Salvador. This resulted in journalists being able to identify Rafael Quintero, Luis Posada and Felix Rodriguez as the Cuban-Americans mentioned by Hasenfus.
In an article in the Washington Post (11th October, 1986), the newspaper reported that George Bush and Donald P. Gregg were linked to Felix Rodriguez. It gradually emerged that Richard Secord, John Singlaub, Richard L. Armitage, William Casey, Thomas G. Clines, Oliver North and Edwin Wilson were also involved in this conspiracy to provide arms to the Contras.
On 12th December, 1986, Daniel Sheehan submitted to the court an affidavit detailing the Irangate scandal. He also claimed that Thomas G. Clines and Ted Shackley were running a private assassination program that had evolved from projects they ran while working for the CIA. Others named as being part of this assassination team included Richard Secord, Rafael Quintero, Felix Rodriguez and Albert Hakim. It later emerged that Gene Wheaton and Carl E. Jenkins were the two main sources for this affidavit.
Six days after the publication of Sheehan's affidavit, William Casey underwent an operation for a "brain tumor". As a result of the operation, Casey lost the power of speech and died, literally without ever talking. On 9th February, Robert McFarlane, another person involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal, took an overdose of drugs.
In November, 1986, Ronald Reagan set-up a three man commission (President's Special Review Board). The three men were John Tower, Brent Scowcroft and Edmund Muskie. Richard L. Armitage was interviewed by the committee. He admitted that he had arranged a series of meetings between Menachem Meron, the director general of Israel's Ministry of Defence, with Richard Secord and Oliver North. However, he denied that he discussed the replenishment of Israeli TOW missiles with Meron.
Lawrence E. Walsh, who carried out the official investigation into the scandal (Iran-Contra: The Final Report) later pointed put: "Secord was indicted in March 1988 for conspiring with North, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter and Hakim to defraud the U.S. Government of money and services, and for theft of Government property. After the trials were severed and the main conspiracy counts dropped due to problems with classified information, the Grand Jury in April 1989 charged Secord with nine additional felonies as a result of his false testimony before Congress in 1987."
Walsh's report implicated Oliver North, John Poindexter, Casper Weinberger and several others but did not mention the role played by Bush. It also claimed that Ronald Reagan had no knowledge of what had been going on.
The House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran was also established by Congress. The most important figure on the committee was the senior Republican member, Richard Cheney. As a result George Bush was totally exonerated when the report was published on 18th November, 1987. The report did state that Reagan's administration exhibited "secrecy, deception and disdain for the law."
Lawrence E. Walsh, who carried out the official investigation into the scandal (Iran-Contra: The Final Report) later pointed put: "Secord was indicted in March 1988 for conspiring with North, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter and Hakim to defraud the U.S. Government of money and services, and for theft of Government property. After the trials were severed and the main conspiracy counts dropped due to problems with classified information."
The Grand Jury in April 1989 charged Secord with nine additional felonies as a result of his false testimony before Congress in 1987. Also indicted were Oliver North and John Poindexter. North, indicted on twelve counts, was found guilty by a jury of three minor counts. The convictions were vacated on appeal on the grounds that North's Fifth Amendment rights may have been violated by the indirect use of his testimony to Congress which had been given under a grant of immunity. Poindexter was also convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and altering and destroying documents pertinent to the investigation. His convictions were also overturned on appeal. Secord pled guilty to one felony count of false statements to Congress and on 24th January, 1990 he was sentenced to two years probation.
When George Bush became president he set about rewarding those who had helped him in the cover-up of the Iran-Contra Scandal. Bush appointed Richard L. Armitage as a negotiator and mediator in the Middle East. Donald Gregg was appointed as his ambassador to South Korea. Brent Scowcroft became his chief national security adviser and John Tower became Secretary of Defence. When the Senate refused to confirm Tower, Bush gave the job to Richard Cheney. Later, Casper Weinberger, Robert McFarlane, Duane R. Clarridge, Clair E. George, Elliott Abrams and Alan D. Fiers, Jr., who had all been charged with offences related to the Iran-Contra scandal, were pardoned by Bush.
From July 1995, General Secord has served in various positions with Computerized Thermal Imaging, Inc., including that of President and COO and Vice Chairman. He was elevated to Chairman of the Board and CEO on September 22, 2000.
Throughout the first months of 1968, undercover U.S. Air Force pilots flying recon missions and CIA ground watch teams reported that the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese were building a road toward Phou Pha Thi. Villages nearby were falling to the enemy. It was obvious what was under way. Shackley reported this to Washington and ordered Major Richard Secord, an Air Force officer assigned to the CIA and stationed at Udorn, to "stop the road."* Secord fought with the Air Force bureaucracy to schedule bombing raids against the road, but the daytime assaults did not halt the construction. Each night hundreds of roadworkers crawled out of shelters and mended the craters.
There was time to abandon the base and pull out the U.S. Air Force technicians there, as well as prevent V.P.'s men from taking a big hit. In late February, Shackley produced an unofficial estimate that noted that it was not possible to predict the state of security at Phou Pha Thi beyond March 10. He asked headquarters for guidance. The message came back: "You will hold the TSQ Site at whatever cost. It is of vital importance." Washington's decision-makers were willing to take the risk. Secord begged for Special Forces to be sent to Phou Pha Thi; his request was denied. The Air Force even dispatched five more technicians to the site, bringing the total number of Americans there to seventeen.
The goal of these two covert operators was to organize, direct, and fund an army of Hmong tribesmen (historically, opium poppy farmers) on bases in northern Laos to fight the Communist Pathet Lao insurgent forces. The leader of this secret army was general Vang Pao, who was also a major opium supplier. In 1960 a civil war broke out when General Phoumi Nosavan's right-wing government was overthrown by a group of army officers, together with former Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma and leftist leader Pathet Lao. Nosavan recruited Pao to take control over northeastern Laos with Shackley and Clines providing air support. In return for fighting the Communists, Shackley, Clines and Richard Secord helped Pao control Laos' opium trade by sabotaging competitors. Secord oversaw and authorized the transport of raw opium by Pao's tribesmen in paramilitary aircraft from the mountain opium fields to processing centers. Eventually, Vang Pao had a monopoly over the heroin trade in Laos (Inside
the Shadow Government).
Six air bases were built in Thailand and Long Tieng in northern Laos as well as landing strips for Air America planes throughout Hmong-controlled territory. In 1967 Shackley and Clines helped Vang Pao attain financial backing to form his own airline, Zieng Khouang Air Transport Co., to transport opium and heroin between Long Tieng and Vientiane. In 1968, Shackley and Clines arranged a meeting in Saigon between Mafia chief Santo Trafficante, Jr., and Vang Pao to establish a heroin-smuggling operation from Southeast Asia to the United States.
"Y" claimed that the $40 million from the $60 million Mexican CREEP fund from the Shah of Iran had been wired, in two parts, to separate accounts in Bank Leu in Zurich, Switzerland-one account controlled by Iran and the other by the Czechs-by Merrill Lynch, whose chairman and chief executive officer was Donald Regan, President Reagan's future White House chief of staff. Regan had gotten to know and like William Casey when Casey was head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), also during the Nixon Administration.98 The Czechoslovakian connection is confirmed by Richard Brenneke's records, which show that he had had numerous dealings with Czech arms manufacturers in the early 1980's, and by reports that Brenneke's friend Robert Benes, whom he said also attended the Paris meetings, was a double agent for France and the Czechs.
Probably not coincidentally, a subsidiary of Merrill Lynch, Merrill Lynch Futures, reportedly loaned between $400,000 and $500,000 to Dr. Cyrus Hashemi, one of the Iranian arms dealers who had reportedly attended the Paris meetings, shortly after Reagan and Bush gained office, to finance both the transport of arms to Iran and activities against anti Khomeini dissidents abroad. This amount is comparable to that reportedly loaned to now-imprisoned ex-CIA covert operative Edwin Wilson in 1979: $500,000. With the loan, Wilson and George Bush's longtime CIA associate Theodore Shackley became 49 percent partners in EATSCO, the Egyptian American Transport and Services Corporation, which reportedly received an exclusive contract from the Pentagon to ship U.S. arms to Cairo following the signing of the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel in 1979. According to Wilson, silent partners in EATSCO were indicted Iran/Contra co-conspirator, Richard Secord, "off the reservation" CIA operative Thomas Clines, and Erich von Marbod who was then Deputy Director of the Pentagon's Defense Security Assistance Agency which, in an obvious conflict of interest, had recommended approval of the EATSCO contract. The reported president of EATSCO was Hussein K. Salem, an Egyptian. In 1983, EATSCO's partners, including Secord, were indicted for overcharging the U.S. government $8 million-intriguingly the same amount that Secord and his Iranian-American partner Albert Hakim are charged with having illegally skimmed from the Reagan-Bush Administration's secret operation to ship U.S. arms to Iran. In 1982, State Department advisor Michael Ledeen intervened in the case, suggesting to Assistant U.S. Attorney E. Lawrence Barcella that any alleged "billing abuses" in the EATSCO matter may, as in the Iran/Contra scandal, have been used to fund covert operations. The implication of the above reports is that Cyrus Hashemi's $500,000 loan may have gone to start what we will call "IRANSCO" in 1981, just as Edwin Wilson's $500,000 loan went to start EATSCO in 1979, with the same $8 million figure ending up in contention in U.S. courts and involving almost the same cast of characters. When Richard Secord retired from the Pentagon in 1983 in the wake of the mini-scandal, which had developed over his involvement with EATSCO, he became partners with Iranian middleman Albert Hakim, to whom he had been introduced by none other than Wilson, in another military equipment trading company, Stanford Technology Trading Group. The cycle then repeated itself, with Iran instead of Egypt being the recipient of arms. According to Informant "Y," EATSCO was in fact a "shake down cruise" for the far larger IRANSCO operation that followed it. "They used EATSCO to get the `bugs' out of the system," he said. "The Egyptian operation was used as a model for future operations. The $500,000 in both instances was needed to get things going-as deposits for the shippers."
When asked how his account regarding the transfer of the $40 million to Bank Leu in Zurich, Switzerland, squared with Richard Brenneke's claim that it had been wired to Banque Lambert in Brussels, Belgium, "Y" said that the reports were "not necessarily inconsistent" because the money from the Mexican account had long since been moved to an account or accounts in Europe, perhaps at Banque Lambert. The funds, he contended, may have been wired from Banque Lambert to the two accounts at Bank Leu. Alternatively, he said, after eight years his memory of the French intelligence report may have been incorrect, and the funds may have originated in Bank Leu in Switzerland and been transferred to Banque Lambert, as Brenneke claimed. This latter account squares better with one given by the former U.S. chief of the Shah's secret police, Mansur Rafizadeh.
Secord was indicted in March 1988 for conspiring with North, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter and Hakim to defraud the U.S. Government of money and services, and for theft of Government property. After the trials were severed and the main conspiracy counts dropped due to problems with classified information, the Grand Jury in April 1989 charged Secord with nine additional felonies as a result of his false testimony before Congress in 1987.
Secord pleaded guilty on November 8, 1989, to the felony charge of lying to Congress about illegal gratuities he provided to North., Secord entered his plea five days before he was to be tried on 12 felony charges. As part of his plea, Secord promised to cooperate in the pending trials and ongoing investigation of Independent Counsel.
On October 5, 1986, a Sandinista patrol in Nicaragua shot down a C-123K cargo plane that was supplying the Contras. Eugene Hasenfus, the surviving crewman and an Air America veteran, told his Nicaraguan captors he thought the CIA was behind this operation, which was run out of an El Salvador air base by two Cuban-Americans. Reporters chased leads. One of the Cuban-Americans was Quintero, the other, ex-CIA man Felix Rodriguez, who, journalists discovered, was a close friend of Don Gregg, an old Agency hand now advising Vice President Bush. (Rodriguez had even met with Bush.) The White House declared that the U.S. government was not connected to this operation. Then in early November, a small Lebanese magazine disclosed the Iran initiative. For weeks, the White House put out conflicting accounts of the Iranian program. On November 25, Attorney General Edwin Meese III announced the startling news that profits from the Iran initiative had been diverted to the Contras. Reporters at the press conference were amazed.
Slowly facts emerged. North had directed his own unofficial covert unit, which had supplied weapons to the Contras, facilitated secret arms transfers to Iran, and planned for bigger and better things. It was an off the-shelf mini-CIA, run by Secord, Clines, and Hakim-all friends of Shackley. Rodriguez and Quintero, both past associates of Shackley, were in charge in Central America. Shackley had had an early contact with the middleman of the Iran deal. Reporters checked clip files and noticed that the whole crew was once connected to Ed Wilson. A secret clique appeared to be running the nation's most covert programs.