“When even one American — who has done nothing wrong — is
    forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all Americans
    are in peril.”
    — Harry S. Truman

It is fitting that any discussion of participant Terry Reed and
author John Cummings’ book open with a quote by the “man from
Independence, Missouri.” It was, after all, President Truman who created
the Central Intelligence Agency during the second World War. And it is
the CIA that Reed alleges has made his life a living hell since he tried
to extract himself from its illegal, covert domestic operations,
centered in the state of Arkansas. Is it not then high irony that the
late president was quoted so shamelessly by both President George Bush
and candidate Bill Clinton during the 1992 election?

Occasionally, a book transcends the reviewing process. Such books
demand of the reader that they be judged not on literary style,
editorial convention, or dramatic content. Of these rare books we may
legitimately ask only one question: are the events they describe true?
Reed and Cummings’ detailed and documented effort is such a book
(Compromised: Clinton, Bush, and the CIA; 546 pages, index,
documentation; published by SPI books, N.Y., 212-780-9805).

Reed’s introduction into the intelligence community came through the
U.S. Air Force, as have so many. The Vietnam War was winding down.
Following his discharge, Reed used the GI Bill to obtain flight
training. His multi-engine pilot’s license opened the door to civilian
employment as a machine tool salesman. And in 1979 a man calling himself
John Cathey opened another door, a back door to the world of “black”
intelligence operations, “civilian assets,” and industrial espionage.
Reed stepped through that door.

Years later, Reed would learn that the man holding open the door was
not John Cathey, but Oliver North. The names, however, do not stop with
Mr. North. They read like a “Who’s Who” of today’s headlines. Buddy
Young, Skeeter and Seth Ward, Larry Nichols, Bob Nash, Dan Lasater, Webb
Hubbell, Steve Clark, Barry Seal, Bill Clinton. And yes, George Bush.

All these people figure prominently in Reed’s deeply disturbing
account of a well-intentioned operation gone horribly wrong. If Mr. Reed
is telling us the truth about what he saw and did during the mid-1980s
in Arkansas, and later in Mexico, then there is only one subject that
matters to Americans who care about the future of their country during
this fall’s [1994] congressional elections.

Here are just a few nuggets from the motherlode that Reed has swung
his pick axe into: Project Donation, a CIA-financed insurance-fraud
scheme to obtain stolen “untraceable” aircraft; Southern Air Transport,
a CIA front company illegally operating in Florida; money-laundering on
a scale massive enough to alert the Federal Reserve; BCCI, the
international bank of choice for the KGB, CIA, and Israeli Mossad;
Arkansas-sanctioned money-laundering through Stephens Investment, the
Arkansas Development Finance Authority, and state pension funds, where
hundreds of millions in drug profits “disappeared,” with a 10 percent
“commission” paid to the
Arkansas political elite; and finally, Nicaraguan Contra pilots flying
training missions at the Mena, Ark., airport, under the noses of the
Arkansas state police and federal FBI agents.

What Reed alleges, in a nutshell, is that the CIA, at its highest
levels — including Director William Casey and with the full knowledge
and cooperation of Vice President and, later, President George Bush —
used its massive covert resources to traffic in cocaine with the drug
cartels and transport the “product” into this country. The resulting
profits were “laundered” through Arkansas State agencies, with the full
knowledge and participation of state elected officials. Furthermore,
Governor Bill Clinton and friends received a 10 percent “commission” in
exchange for their cooperation. The balance of the funds were used to
manufacture illegal weapons to arm and fund the Nicaraguan Contras.

Those of us who supported President Bush during his second election
will be given pause by remembering the way he “held back” during the
debates and in the campaign. He seemed a man who did not want to be
re-elected. The explanation is in this book.

As shocking as these revelations are, they are not the worst of the
story. The implications and legacy of such a policy are monstrous.
Thousands of U.S. citizens have died during the last 10
years, directly or indirectly, over their involvement with cocaine.
Scores of law-enforcement officers have been killed in undercover drug
operations, and in apprehending drug-dealers and
fugitives. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent in enforcement
efforts. Families have been devastated, hospitals have been overrun,
seizure laws have been enacted, private property
ownership is under attack, property crimes have left millions of
Americans feeling violated in their own homes, and the cost to insurance
companies and their ratepayers stretches into the
hundreds of millions of dollars. Welfare roles have been filled with
crack babies and cities with dysfunctional young men, whose lives have
been ruined before they began. Every American has been affected. The
implications from such allegations are so monstrous as to make serious
consideration of Reed’s claims nearly impossible.

And yet, some of us know enough of the pristine secret world that
Reed came from, to recognize that he knows things. Yes, Reed knows
things. He knows how an aircraft, making use of a half-
million dollar black box and with the right callsign and transmitting on
the right radio frequency can “disappear” from the civilian air traffic
control system, and temporarily become invisible to Defense Department
satellites protecting the North American continent, while it slips
undetected across U.S. borders. He knows serial numbers of aircraft that
were stolen, yet found to be flying Contra training missions in Mena,
Ark. He knows about risky flying maneuvers that merge two aircraft into
a single blip on a domestic air traffic controller’s screen. And he
knows about bales of money and cocaine being dropped out of low-flying
aircraft, and falling into the fields of Arkansas’ political elite.

Reed knows enough that when the government finally brought charges
against him in U.S. District Court, his detailed subpoena request listed
enough secret documents and intelligence “assets” that the government
preferred to let him go free, rather than produce the evidence they had
said would convict him. The accompanying documents are reproduced in the
book. The trial judge was so outraged at the government’s conduct that
he ordered a “not guilty” verdict, not a dismissal, be entered into the
record. Reed knows things.

For years I have questioned the judgment of good friends who insisted
that the U.S. government was somehow involved in cocaine trafficking.
Surely the proposition was nonsense! Yes, we spent immense sums of
money, with little visible effect, fighting the “war on drugs.” Yes, the
cocaine cartels had at their disposal sufficient money to buy either
cooperation — or death. Of course it was possible — even likely — that
some low-level government officials were “dirty.” But I knew that the
intelligence services were not selling drugs. … But then Reed emerges,
battered and bleeding, from the back door.

Is it possible that Reed is lying? Of course it is! But if so, then
why has this book not spawned the most massive libel suit in living
memory? What is far more important is that it is also possible that Reed
is telling us the truth. If that is so, then what?

We opened this review with a quote from Harry Truman. The reason is
that Mr. Reed and Cummings open with a letter from Mr. Truman,
commenting upon a Look Magazine story about the CIA. It is dated June
10, 1964. It reads: “Dear Mr. Arthur — Thank you for the copy of LOOK
with the article on the Central Intelligence Agency. It is, I regret to
say, not true to the facts in many respects. The CIA was set up by me
for the sole purpose of getting all the available information to the
President. It was not intended to operate as an international agency
engaged in strange activities. Sincerely yours, Harry Truman.”

There is ample evidence in the daily news that our “secrets” are
secret mainly from the American people. John Walker for years disclosed
to our enemies the very codes that thousands of dedicated intelligence
professionals used to transmit “secret” information. Aldrich Ames
completely and without conscience turned over information to the
Russians that resulted in the death, disappearance, or imprisonment of
at least a dozen “human assets.” And George Fenue, a KGB operative whom
Reed describes, knew more about fellow CIA operatives than did Reed.

Government secrecy is nothing new to mankind. Aristotle warned us
when he said, “Let men be on their guard against those who flatter and
mislead the multitude; their actions prove what sort of men they are. Of
the tyrant, spies and informers are the principal instruments. War is
his favorite occupation, for the sake of engrossing the attention of the
people, and making himself
necessary to them as their leader.”

[Updates on Reed’s dropped civil suit can be found on The Washington Weekly under the “Mena”
tab. This review first appeared in the July 28, 1994 issue of
Conservative Consensus.]

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