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How Elliott Abrams Helped To Spring A CIA-Connected Coke Trafficker

When U.S. policymakers needed to spring a convicted CIA-connected drug trafficker from doing hard time in federal prison, who did they call?

Trump’s infamous appointed special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, according to a September 1986 National Security Council email, written by NSC staffer Oliver North.

In a U.S. House Committee hearing on Thursday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) scorched Abrams for his covering up of the infamous El Mozote massacre and lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra conspiracy in the 1980s.

Her interrogation drew rebuke from Max Boot, the apostate conservative, and a chorus of right-wing media commentators. Boot described Omar’s comments as a “disgraceful ad hominem attack.”

Actually, the impertinent congresswoman from Minneapolis could have gone much further about Abrams’ untrustworthy behavior. One of the most revealing stories comes from an impeccably right-wing source, Oliver North, former Republican senatorial candidate and Fox News talking head.

The year was 1986. Abrams served as assistant secretary of state for Latin America under President Reagan. He was a 39-year-old lawyer and foreign policy polemicist who qualified as neoconservative royalty. (His wife was the daughter of Norman Podhoretz, the perfervid editor of Commentary magazine.) Even then his perennial scowl managed to make him look furtive and self-righteous at the same time.

The Iran-Contra conspiracy was in full swing. The conspiracy, permissively labeled “a scandal,” was a Reagan White House plot to subvert the U.S. Congress’ powers of the purse. North was the coordinator of what can fairly be described as an unconstitutional covert operation, while Abrams played the role of bagman.

To bypass the so-called Boland Amendment, Abrams took payments from the Sultan of Brunei, a petroleum potentate from South Asia, and passed them to the leaders of Reagan’s counter-revolutionary army in Nicaragua. When questioned under oath, Abrams lied. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of deceiving Congress.

As part of the conspiracy, Abrams also put in a good word for a convicted drug trafficker, General Jose Bueso Rosa. He was a Honduran general who had helped the U.S. government with “sensitive operations” in Central America. As Murray Waas and I wrote in the Washington Post, North did “a favor for a felon.”

So did Abrams.

As an episode of CIA-sanctioned drug trafficking, the Bueso story was typical. Bueso, it turns out, had helped put together a CIA-trained military intelligence unit known as Battalion 316, which served as death squad for U.S. policymakers. A Honduran government investigation found that Battalion 316 had captured, tortured and executed some 200 suspected leftists.

Bueso had also trafficked multi-kiloton shipments of cocaine. As CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz documented in Volume 2 of his report on contra drug trafficking, the agency did business with more than 50 suspected drug traffickers in the 1980s.

(Lazy reporters sometimes say that the CIA was cleared of the allegation. They didn’t bother to read the Sections 800-1148 of Hitz’s report, which detailed how the agency took no action against four dozen suspected traffickers who aided Reagan’s—and Abrams’—anticommunist crusade.)

Investigating the story for the Post, I spoke on background with law enforcement officials familiar with Bueso’s case. A wiretap had picked up Bueso repeatedly talking about shipments of “flour” into central Florida, they said. Given Bueso’s connections, no one in the Reagan Justice Department cared to make a big deal of his cocaine shipments, no matter how hefty. They just wanted a conviction that would put him out of business. Bueso got a generous plea bargain. He would only have to serve five years.

Bueso, however, was led to believe his American friends would save him from serving any time all.

In his September 1986 email, later uncovered by Iran-Contra investigators, North worried Bueso might “break his longstanding silence.” He might disclose unpleasant truths about death squads and CIA drug trafficking.

So North “cabal[led] quietly” with Abrams, as well as top Pentagon, CIA and Justice Department officials. A presidential pardon was out of the question, but transfer to a comfortable “Club Fed” facility was arranged.

At a time when U.S. prosecutors meted out 10-year sentences to young black men for the possession of a few ounces of cocaine, Abrams was part of a gang that thought a multi-kiloton trafficker should be treated leniently. Such was his advocacy of “human rights.”

Bueso got out of prison early—for “good behavior.” Abrams went on to a long career in U.S. foreign policy. Hundreds of thousands of black men remained in jails for years, if not decades.

Rep. Omar could have asked an even tougher question of Abrams, namely, “Does Trump’s policy toward Latin America today involve protection of drug traffickers as Reagan’s policy did in the 1980s?”

She was certainly justified in questioning his veracity.

“I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful,” she said.

You can watch the Omar-Abrams exchange here.

Jefferson Morley is a writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent of the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has been a reporter and editor in Washington, D.C., since 1980. He spent 15 years as an editor and reporter at the Washington Post. He was a staff writer at Arms Control Today and Washington editor of Salon.  His latest book is The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster, James Jesus Angleton (St. Martins Press, 2017).

This article was produced by the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

IMAGE: Elliott Abrams, photography by Gage Skidmore.

Reagan Spokesman, U.S. Anti-Gun Activist James Brady Dies, 73

By Robert MacPherson

Washington (AFP) — Former White House spokesman James Brady, a tireless advocate for gun control after being severely wounded during a 1981 attempt on the life of his then-boss Ronald Reagan, has died at the age of 73.

In a statement to U.S. news media Monday that specified no date or place of death, Brady’s family said he passed away “after a series of health issues.”

“We are enormously proud of Jim’s remarkable accomplishments — before he was shot on that fateful day in 1981 while serving at the side of President Ronald Reagan and in the days, months, and years that followed,” they said.

Brady was among four people shot and wounded — including Reagan himself — when John Hinckley Jr. tried to kill the newly-inaugurated president on a rainy day outside the Washington Hilton hotel on March 30, 1981.

His serious head wound left him with partial paralysis and slurred speech. Unable to return to work, the Illinois native nevertheless retained the title of White House press secretary throughout the Reagan administration.

– Sought tougher gun laws –

With his wife Sarah, Brady took a front-and-center role in efforts to enact tougher handgun laws in the United States, notably through an advocacy group that came to be known as the Brady Campaign.

Success came in November 1993 when President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act, which required background checks for anyone buying firearms from a licensed retailer in the United States.

He remain committed to gun control throughout his life, saying on Capitol Hill in 2011: “I wouldn’t be here in this damn wheelchair if we had common-sense legislation.”

“Jim was the personification of courage and perseverance,” said Reagan’s widow Nancy Reagan in a statement.

“He and Sarah never gave up, and never stopped caring about the causes in which they believed.”

More than two million attempts by prohibited individuals to buy firearms have been foiled since the “Brady Bill” — which did not extend to gun sales between individuals — came into force, said Brady Campaign president Dan Gross.

“Jim never gave up fighting and never lost his trademark wit,” said Gross, whose own brother suffered a traumatic brain injury during a shooting at the Empire State Building in New York.

– ‘Saved many lives’ –

“In fact, there are few Americans in history who are as directly responsible for saving as many lives as Jim,” he said in a statement.

At the White House, where in 2000 the press briefing room was renamed in Brady’s honor, spokesman Josh Earnest told journalists he was “saddened” by the news.

“He was somebody who showed his patriotism and commitment to the country by being very outspoken on an issue that was important to him and that he felt very strongly about,” Earnest said.

“He leaves the kind of legacy that, I think, certainly this press secretary and all future press secretaries will aspire to live up to.”

For his attempt on Reagan’s life, Hinckley — who got his .22 pistol from a pawn shop in Texas, and claimed he was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster — was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Now 59, he resides at a Washington mental hospital, but has court permission to pay regular visits to his mother’s home in Virginia.

AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan

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