A shipment of Humvees and other military equipment was sent in error from the U.S. directly into Costa Rica, inadvertently exposing the existence of a secret operation there, according to government sources.

Although the supplies are now being held by customs agents and cannot be released until a fee has been paid and papers signed, the U.S. military cannot acknowledge the equipment because it does not have permission to be in Costa Rica.

Military sources told WorldNetDaily that incompetence caused the error, and that the supplies should have been flown in secretly to avoid exposing the operation. If the U.S. does not claim the equipment within 60 to 90 days, it will be sold at auction to the highest bidder.

The embarrassing situation is just one of a string of events that upset veteran military and intelligence sources who have spoken with WorldNetDaily on condition of anonymity.

“We lost the element of surprise. The whole world knows we’re there, so there’s no danger in telling the story,” one military source reassured WorldNetDaily.

“This is not a surprise to any of us who’ve been around for a while. The military is filled with, well, let’s just say a lower quality soldier than what we need. Mistakes like this are not unusual,” said the officer.

Operation Channel is the code name being used to refer to the once-secret operation taking place in Costa Rica. A multinational military force, headed by the U.S. Army, has been gathering soldiers and equipment in a remote area. Sources would not provide details of the plans, but indicated it is for logistical support if action is needed in Panama.

When the U.S. relinquished control of the Panama Canal on January 1, it lost a military presence there. This new secret base gives the U.S. a place to coordinate both sea and land forces for possible problems in the area if needed.

WorldNetDaily first became aware of a secret operation in Costa Rica when press reports told of the crash of a tourist plane on which former CIA director Stansfield Turner was a passenger on January 15.

Turner was nearly killed in the crash — his wife Karen died instantly along with Sigifred and Therese Richert, and Antonio Sanchez Diaz. The pilot, Cleto Miranda Luna, died of his injuries on February 2. There were 12 others who were injured on board the plane and one on the ground.

The plane was a Czechoslovakian-built Taxi Aereo Centroamericano LET 410. It was a small charter plane available for hire at the Tobias Bolanos airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. Employees at the airport and the airline said they had often done business with the CIA.

The CIA refused to confirm or deny press reports of the crash at the time. An intelligence source told WorldNetDaily that the CIA could not admit any knowledge of the crash because all the passengers were intelligence operatives who were in the country illegally.

“The (Costa Rican) law requires all intelligence people from all countries to register. The people on that plane had not done that, so they (CIA) couldn’t admit they even knew they were in the country,” explained an intelligence source.

Turner, who is also a retired admiral, was serving as a consultant for the Department of Defense, not for the CIA. His role was to help locate a suitable location for logistical support for Operation Channel.

The CIA reportedly is involved in Operation Channel only as a resource to the military for intelligence information.

“This is a military operation, not an intelligence operation. The problem is poorly trained troops, and an international force that can’t decide who is in charge,” said the intelligence source.

It is not legal for U.S. military to be present in Costa Rica, or to be a part of a multinational force, without an act of Congress. The U.S. can, however, participate in drug enforcement-related activities without special congressional action. The Drug Enforcement Agency was not aware of any such operation, but a military source told WorldNetDaily that the “DEA has agents present.”

Several possible locations for a secret military base allegedly were to be evaluated by Turner and his group. The pilot was specifically selected for his knowledge of the potential areas and was substituted at the last minute before the flight took off.

Previous monitoring sites in the area have been closed since 1995, which would enable Turner’s flight to perform low-level flights without detection.

The base for Operation Channel has since been located near Liberia, Costa Rica. The U.S. Embassy has been reported to be holding reservations at hotels in the area. Vegetation has been burned, bulldozers are at work clearing large areas, and fences have been erected.

“Anyone in the area can plainly see that there is a significant amount of military activity on the ground and in the air,” described one source. “This base is no secret.”

The facility also has some newly constructed buildings and other facilities to provide support for possible troops that may show up very suddenly if the need arises.

“It doesn’t look like they are pulling up stakes and getting out just because they blew their cover. My concern is that it didn’t have to be this way. I’m not questioning the operation, just the poor way it was implemented. They put national security, lives and taxpayer resources at risk because of stupidity,” said one military source.

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