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Anti-Drug Unit of C.I.A. Sent a Ton of Cocaine to U.S. in 1990
Source: New York Times, November 20, 1993

A Central Intelligence Agency anti-drug program in Venezuela shipped a ton of nearly pure cocaine to the United States in 1990, Government officials said today. No criminal charges have been brought in the matter, which the officials said appeared to have been a serious accident rather than an intentional conspiracy. But officials say the cocaine wound up being sold on the streets in the United States.

One C.I.A. officer has resigned, a second has been disciplined and a Federal grand jury in Miami is investigating. The agency, made aware of a "60 Minutes" investigation of the matter scheduled for broadcast on Sunday, issued a statement today calling the affair "a most regrettable incident" involving "instances of poor judgment and management on the part of several C.I.A. officers."

The case involves the same program under which the agency created a Haitian intelligence service whose officers became involved in drug trafficking and acts of political terror. Its exposure comes amid growing Congressional skepticism about the role of the C.I.A. in the war on drugs.

In the mid-1980's, under orders from President Ronald Reagan, the agency began to set up anti-drug programs in the major cocaine-producing and trafficking capitals of Central and South America. In Venezuela it worked with the country's National Guard, a paramilitary force that controls the highways and borders. Government officials said that the joint C.I.A.-Venezuelan force was headed by Gen. Ramon Guillen Davila, and that the ranking C.I.A. officer was Mark McFarlin, who had worked with anti-guerrilla forces in El Salvador in the 1980's. The mission was to infiltrate the Colombian gangs that ship cocaine to the United States.

In December 1989, officials of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency said, Mr. McFarlin and the C.I.A. chief of station in Venezuela, Jim Campbell, met with the drug agency's attache in Venezuela, Annabelle Grimm, to discuss a proposal to allow hundreds of pounds of cocaine to be shipped to the United States through Venezuela in an operation intended to win the confidence of the Colombian traffickers. Unlike so-called "controlled shipments" that take place in criminal investigations, shipments that end with arrests and the confiscation of the drugs, these were to be "uncontrolled shipments," officials of the drug agency said. The cocaine would enter the United States without being seized, so as to allay all suspicion. The idea was to gather as much intelligence as possible on members of the drug gangs.

Drug Agency Balked
The drug agency refused to take part in the operation and said it should be called off. In a transcript of the "60 Minutes" broadcast supplied to The New York Times, Ms. Grimm said Mr. McFarlin of the C.I.A. and General Guillen had gone ahead anyway. "I really take great exception to the fact that 1,000 kilos came in, funded by U.S. taxpayer money," Ms. Grimm said, according to the transcript. "I found that particularly appalling."

D.E.A. officers and other Government officials gave this account of the cocaine shipments and subsequent investigations into their origins: The C.I.A.-Venezuelan force accumulated more than 3,000 pounds of cocaine delivered to its undercover agents by Colombian traffickers and stored the cocaine in a truck at the intelligence agency's counter-narcotics center in Caracas. Most of the cocaine was flown to the United States in a series of shipments during 1990.

DrugCocaine Seizureed at Miami Airport
In late 1990, United States Customs Service officials seized a shipment of nearly 1,000 pounds at Miami's international airport and discovered that it had been shipped by members of the Venezuelan National Guard. Investigators from the drug agency interviewed a Venezuelan undercover agent working with the C.I.A.'s counter-narcotics center, who told them that the shipments had been approved by the United States Government.

The investigators from the drug agency, unaware that the intelligence agency had any role in the affair, first set about trying to eliminate their own personnel as suspects. They found that a female drug enforcement officer in Caracas had a close relationship with Mr. McFarlin. Using information she had obtained from him, the drug agency then focused its attention on the C.I.A. officer and his colleague, General Guillen. In June 1991 the United States Attorney in Miami sent a memorandum to the Justice Department proposing the indictment of the general. "The fly in the ointment is that the dope was delivered to the United States," a senior Drug Enforcement Agency official said in an interview today. "If you're part of a drug shipment and you have knowledge that it is going to the U.S., whether or not you ever entered the U.S., you're culpable."

That month, Melvin Levitsky, then the chief State Department official overseeing international narcotics matters, met with officers of the Justice Department, the C.I.A. and the D.E.A. and explained that if the Justice Department brought an indictment against General Guillen, the United States might have to cut off assistance to Venezuela, causing major diplomatic problems.

General Is Granted Immunity
The general was not indicted. In exchange for his cooperation, he was granted immunity from having his own words used against him. But the general apparently said nothing implicating the Central Intelligence Agency. But in 1992 the intelligence agency's own inspector general completed a report on the affair and submitted it to the Senate Intelligence Committee. That report remains secret, although aspects of the affair have been widely reported in Venezuelan newspapers. Former agency officers familiar with the report say it found no indication that anyone from the C.I.A. had profited from the affair. Mr. McFarlin has resigned from the agency, and a second officer was disciplined. No criminal charges are pending, although General Guillen has been subpoenaed to appear before a Federal grand jury in Miami, the C.I.A. said in a statement today.

The investigation crippled the agency's counter-narcotics center in Venezuela, but similar centers continue to operate in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and other cocaine-trafficking countries, Government officials said. Such programs fall under the banner of "liaison relationships" with foreign intelligence agencies, and rarely if ever does the C.I.A. willingly report on these relationships to Congress. In an interview last week, Representative Dan Glickman, the Kansas Democrat who heads the House Intelligence Committee, said the subject of C.I.A. anti-drug activities needed closer scrutiny by the agency's Congressional overseers.