▲ Robert Parry wrote for the Associated Press. In 1995 he established the Consortium for Independent Journalism. The organization’s website, Consortiumnews, is financed by contributions from readers. Mr. Parry won the George Polk Award for national reporting in 1984. The following year he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
About the Author
In the 1980s, investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the stories now known as the Iran-contra affair. Those stories included the first article about Oliver North’s secret White House network. Parry also co-authored the first story about Nicaraguan contra-cocaine trafficking.
While working for The Associated Press, Newsweek and PBS Frontline, Parry has reported from such international hot spots as Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iran, Israel and Haiti. His journalism awards include the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984. He also taught at New York University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Parry edited the investigative publication, iF Magazine.
Robert Parry died on January 27, 2018.
Podcast: Moonie Paper Going Down? May 5, 2010
by PETER B. COLLINS
Journalist Robert Parry of Consortiumnews.com has filed a Special Report on financial problems at Moon’s Washington Times which has been a reliable propaganda organ for the GOP for more than 20 years. John Gorenfeld also joins the conversation, author of Bad Moon Rising: How Rev. Moon Created The Washington Times, Seduced the Religious Right, and Built an American Kingdom. Moon has poured more than $3 billion into this rag, and reportedly much of that money was laundered from drug profits; Parry and Gorenfeld note that the mainstream media and Democrats have accepted the Moonie paper and its biased reporting with little criticism, and that it has been bypassed by Fox News and others as the megaphone for GOP talking points.
The Original ‘Dark Side of Rev. Moon’ Series
Dark Side of Rev. Moon: Hooking Bush
July 28, 1997
Despite his virulent anti-Americanism, Rev. Sun Myung Moon still relies on friends in Washington to help him expand his political-and-media power base. Moon’s latest reach into South America had the helping hand of former U.S. President George Bush. But the Moon-Bush alliance dates back years and could reach into the future, as Bush lines up conservative backing for the expected White House bid of his eldest son.
One Mother’s Tale: Rev. Moon and a College Freshman July 28, 1997
Rev. Moon may devote much energy wooing power-brokers, but his theocratic movement continues to waylay unsuspecting young people – and wreak havoc on their families.
Dark Side of Rev. Moon: Buying the Right August 11, 1997
Rev. Sun Myung Moon calls America “Satan’s harvest” and vows to subjugate its people under a Korea-based theocracy. Normally, this anti-Americanism would not sit well. But Moon has spread around billions of dollars from mysterious sources to Washington conservatives. The money has helped key allies, such as Jerry Falwell and Oliver North. It’s the real Asian money scandal – and the Washington media is missing it.
Dark Side of Rev. Moon: Legend & Lies August 25, 1997
Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times is demanding that other media play up hearings on how Asians bought influence with Democrats. In its outraged stance, the Times calls itself “America’s Newspaper.” But it conceals its own role as a secret purveyor of Asian money and its control by the Korean-based Unification Church. Left off the masthead are its publisher, Dong Moon Joo, and its founder, Moon himself.
Dark Side of Rev. Moon: Generation Next September 8, 1997
In 1982, Rev. Sun Myung Moon went to jail for tax fraud. Yet, new testimony suggests that Moon’s organization did not change its ways. Questionable practices continue, with church money supporting a decadent lifestyle for Moon’s family and with bags of cash arriving from overseas for laundering through church-connected firms, such as the Manhattan Center.
Dark Side of Rev. Moon: Drug Allies October 13, 1997
Washington is obsessed with interpretations of arcane fund-raising laws. But a more serious question – the political influence-buying of Rev. Sun Myung Moon – remains unasked. The issue is particularly important because of Moon’s free-spending ways and his past alliances with anti-communist crime figures connected to the Japanese yakuza of Ryoichi Sasakawa and the U.S. drug mob of Santo Trafficante Jr.
Dark Side of Rev. Moon: Moon’s Billions & Washington’s Blind Eye December 22, 1997
Newly released Justice Department files show how the Reagan-Bush administrations cited the Constitution to protect Rev. Sun Myung Moon from investigation as a foreign agent – while using his organization to spy on American critics of Reagan policies. Moon apparently earned his political protection the old-fashioned way: he bought it with lots of money.
Rev. Sun Myung Moon received his status as a U.S. “lawful permanent resident” nearly 25 years ago, during President Nixon’s administration, according to a Justice Department document recently released under a Freedom of Information Act request.
In a letter dated April 7, 1975, James F. Greene, then deputy commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, listed the date when Moon obtained his “green card” as April 30, 1973. But it was unclear from the released document whether Moon received any preferential treatment from the Nixon administration.
By 1973, Moon already was a controversial figure. The South Korean theocrat was under public criticism for brainwashing impressionable young Americans who were recruited into Moon’s Unification Church. Moon also was raising INS concerns by bringing hundreds of foreign followers to the United States on tourist visas and then assigning them to mobile fund-raising teams.
But Moon was making himself useful to the Nixon administration by organizing support for the Vietnam War and later for Nixon’s defense against the Watergate scandal. Moon’s pro-Nixon activities led to a face-to-face White House meeting between the South Korean and the besieged U.S. president on Feb. 1, 1974.
Though the Justice Department released no documents about how Moon gained his resident alien status, Nixon did have a history of assisting political patrons with immigration problems. According to Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot, Nixon received a $100,000 bribe from Romanian industrialist Nicolae Malaxa, a Nazi collaborator who moved to the United States in 1946. Nixon battled to gain preferential treatment for Malaxa so he could stay in the United States, which Malaxa did until his death in 1972. Hersh reported that the Central Intelligence Agency had a copy of the $100,000 check made out to Nixon.
According to a 1978 congressional investigative report on the “Koreagate” influence-buying scandal, “Moon had laid the foundation for political work in this country prior to 1973 [though] his followers became more openly involved in political activities in that and subsequent years.” The report added that Moon’s organization used his followers’ travels to smuggle large sums of money into the United States in apparent violation of federal currency laws.
That flow of money helped transform Moon into possibly the U.S. conservative movement’s most important source of financial support. Since the early 1970s, Moon has poured billions of dollars into conservative causes, including an estimated $100 million a year to subsidize the daily Washington Times newspaper. Moon’s organization also funnelled money to many conservative political figures, including Rev. Jerry Falwell and former President George Bush. [See The Consortium series last year.]
According to other Justice Department records released under FOIA requests, Moon’s legal alien status has protected him and his movement from government investigations into their sources of money and other legal questions.
Though eligible for citizenship in 1978, Moon never became a U.S. citizen. Then, about two years ago, frustrated by the apparent decline in his church’s membership, Moon began denouncing the United States as “Satanic” and reviling Americans as individualistic. In 1996, Moon moved his base of operation to Uruguay.
Nevertheless, Moon has not renounced his “green card,” according to U.S. officials familiar with his case.
Rev. Moon’s Uruguayan Money-Laundry August 19, 1998
Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a major right-wing benefactor, is facing allegations in Uruguay that his bank is a money-laundering center, accepting major deposits of smuggled cash. Moon’s Washington Times was President Reagan’s favorite paper.
Rev. Moon’s Dark Shadow October 1, 1998
Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s ex-daughter-in-law, Nansook Hong, has given first-person evidence of the Unification Church’s practice of violating U.S. currency laws. In a new book, she exposes Moon’s money-laundering and reveals the hypocrisy at the core of this right-wing powerhouse.
Sidebar: Moon has bank troubles in Uruguay October 1, 1998
Rev. Moon’s Bank Scam
The right-wing theocrat ‘craters’ a bank. November 6, 1998
Rev. Moon, North Korea & the Bushes October 11, 2000
New documents reveal that U.S. intelligence tracked secret payments from Rev. Sun Myung Moon to North Korean leaders, a development that could embarrass the Bush family. By Robert Parry.
Rev. Moon, the Bushes & Donald Rumsfeld January 3, 2001.
Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld criticizes President Clinton for not blocking North Korea’s missile program, but Rev. Sun Myung Moon – a Bush family benefactor – allegedly was giving the communist leaders hard currency they needed. By Robert Parry.
The Bush-Kim-Moon Triangle of Money March 10, 2001
At odds over North Korea, George W. Bush and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung have one thing in common: behind the scenes, both have benefited from Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s largesse.
Mysterious Republican Money September 7, 2004
House Speaker Dennis Hastert implied, without evidence, that liberal funder George Soros funnels drug money into the U.S. political process. But Republican administrations have looked the other way when facing evidence that conservative benefactor Sun Myung Moon has ties to overseas drug lords and has engaged in a long-running conspiracy to launder money.
Kerry Attacker Protected Rev. Moon October 15, 2004
The producer of an anti-John Kerry video, which will be aired on stations across the United States before the Nov. 2 election, also attacked federal investigators who were cracking down on Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s mysterious money flows in the 1980s. A book by Carlton Sherwood helped silence Moon’s critics and enabled the South Korean theocrat to continue funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into the U.S. political process.
The Moon-Bush Cash Conduit June 14, 2006
South Korean theocrat Sun Myung Moon has long boasted of his ability to “hook” politicians by putting money into their pockets and into their political machines. But Moon’s most important catch may have come from the millions of dollars sunk into the powerful Bush family – and the subsequent lack of U.S. interest in evidence of Moon’s criminal activities.
The GOP’s $3 Billion Propaganda Organ December 27, 2006
When history tries to make sense of what happened to American politics in this era, it should take into account the extraordinary story of how a right-wing Korean cult leader, Sun Myung Moon, bought influence with the U.S. political class by pouring billions of dollars into conservative causes, including a daily newspaper, the Washington Times.
A Special Report.
Moon/Bush ‘Ongoing Crime Enterprise’ February 17, 2007
Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his business/political/media/religious organization have avoided prosecution for a shark poaching scam despite evidence of Moon’s direct involvement.
Jerry Falwell’s Deal with the Devil May 16, 2007
American leaders across the political spectrum are eulogizing the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, albeit with some criticism of his tendency to lash out at his adversaries. But lost in this desire not to speak ill of the dead is the troubling story of Falwell’s secret financial dealings with South Korean cult leader Sun Myung Moon and how Moon’s mysterious money bailed out Falwell’s Liberty University.
The Right’s America-Hating Preacher May 2, 2008
America’s Right is having a field day blasting Barack Obama’s ex-pastor Jeremiah Wright as anti-American. But many of the same conservatives look the other way when their benefactor, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, denounces the United States.
A Special Report.
Washington Times, Bushes Hail Rev. Moon October 2, 2009
The Bush Family joined in a Washington Times celebration of South Korean theocrat Sun Myung Moon, reports Robert Parry.
How Rev. Moon’s ‘Snakes’ Infested US May 1, 2010
As Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times sinks, snakes are coming out of the woodwork (really), writes Robert Parry.
Lost History – Contras, Cocaine, the Press and ‘Project Truth’
by Robert Parry 1999
Introduction: A Search for Lost History 3
PART ONE: THE 1980s – THE MISSING LINK
Chapter 1: ‘Project Truth’ 31
Chapter 2: ‘Perception Management’ 56
Chapter 3: Containment 79
Chapter 4: A Breakthrough, of Sorts 109
Chapter 5: ‘Good for the Country’ 127
Chapter 6: Tale of Two Scandals 145
Chapter 7: Cuban Connection 159
Chapter 8: Contra-Coke 178
Chapter 9: Crumbling Cover-up 193
Chapter 10: Justice Denied 207
Chapter 11: CIA Confession 224
PART TWO: BEFORE, AFTER & DURING
Chapter 12: How Others See It 248
Chapter 13: Lying First 265
Chapter 14: The CIA Analysts 272
Chapter 15: Sins of the Father 279
“…it has never yet been discovered, how to make man unknow his knowledge, or unthink his thoughts.”
– Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791
The CIA’s defensive line on contra-drug trafficking began to give way the month after Gary Webb resigned from the San Jose Mercury News. The first volume of the CIA inspector general’s report was published on Jan. 29, 1998, and poked the first holes. But the national press corps, having already convinced itself of the investigative outcome and the craziness of the contra-cocaine suspicions, didn’t notice.
The CIA also camouflaged the admissions behind a press release and an executive summary that stressed the positive and ignored the negative. In those summaries, CIA inspector general Frederick Hitz reasserted the CIA’s contention that key figures from the Los Angeles crack ring did not have direct ties to the CIA and that their donations to the contra cause were relatively small. The summaries also denied that the CIA took any steps to protect contra-connected drug traffickers, Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses, key figures in Webb’s series.
Drawing from those summaries, most major newspapers wrote fairly brief accounts of the CIA’s report and led the stories with the agency’s superficial claims of innocence. Only by reading deep into the 149-page report, entitled “The California Story,” would journalists have found the real story, the CIA’s grudging admission that not only were many of Webb’s allegations true but actually understated the scandal. If the reporters had read the entire text of Volume One, they would have discovered that the CIA was acknowledging that cocaine smugglers played a significant early role in the Nicaraguan contra movement. The CIA also admitted that it intervened to block an image-threatening 1984 federal inquiry into a cocaine ring with suspected links to the contras.
The CIA conceded, too, that it received intelligence from a law-enforcement agency in 1982 that a U.S. religious group was collaborating with the contras in a guns-for-drugs operation. But the CIA turned a blind eye toward the allegations, claiming that to do otherwise would have violated the civil liberties of the religious group whose identity remained secret.
Toward the end of the Volume One, the CIA included a detailed account of its interviews with Blandon, Meneses and other figures in that drug gang. Blandon gave a surprising description of private meetings that he and Meneses had with contra military chief Enrique Bermudez.
Prior to the Sandinista revolution in 1979, Meneses had been notorious in Nicaragua as a drug kingpin. But Bermudez still welcomed Meneses and Blandon when they stopped in Honduras in 1982. The two drug smugglers were en route to Bolivia where they planned to arrange a shipment of cocaine to the United States.
During the stopover, Bermudez asked for their help “in raising funds and obtaining equipment” as well as procuring arms, the CIA report stated. As Webb reported in his “Dark Alliance” series, Blandon recalled that Bermudez advised the two drug dealers that when it came to raising money for the contras, “the ends justify the means.”
In the CIA interview, Blandon said he was not sure exactly what Bermudez and the other contras knew about Meneses’s cocaine operations. Nevertheless, Blandon added new details about how the contras helped him and Meneses continue on to Bolivia to complete the cocaine transaction.
After the meeting with Bermudez, contras escorted Blandon and Meneses to the airport in Tegucigalpa. The traffickers were carrying $100,000 in drug proceeds for their Bolivian drug deal, Blandon said. At the airport, however, Honduran authorities detained Blandon and confiscated his $100,000 on the correct suspicion that the money was illicit. The drug traffickers were in a serious fix.
But the contra escorts intervened to save the day. They told the Hondurans that Blandon and Meneses were contras – and demanded that the $100,000 be returned. The Hondurans complied and the drug dealers went ahead with their trip.
In his CIA interview, Blandon did try to minimize the sums of Meneses’s drug money that went into the contra coffers. He estimated the amounts in the tens of thousands of dollars, not millions. But he acknowledged that Meneses also was active in other contra support operations in California, serving as the contras’ “personnel recruiter.”
In a separate interview with the CIA, Meneses confirmed his recruiting role and added that he also served on an FDN fundraising committee. But, like Blandon, Meneses played down the significance of drug trafficking as a contra-funding source. Meneses talked to the CIA officials at the prison in Nicaragua where he was incarcerated in November 1991 when Nicaraguan police arrested him on new charges of narcotics trafficking.
While at the prison, the CIA heard more damaging accounts from other members of the Meneses-Blandon drug ring. These other witnesses insisted that the drug smuggling was far more widespread inside the contra movement than Meneses and Blandon were letting on.
One Meneses lieutenant, Enrique Miranda, declared that Meneses had told him that Salvadoran military aircraft transported arms from the United States to the contras and then returned with drugs to an airfield near Fort Worth, Texas. Miranda said he witnessed one such shipment to the Fort Worth area, where maintenance workers handed the drugs to Meneses’s people who then drove the contraband off in vans. Miranda recalled Meneses saying that he did not stop selling drugs for the contras until 1985.
The CIA received more corroboration about Meneses’s contra-cocaine work from Renato Pena Cabrera, another convicted drug trafficker associated with Meneses. Pena claimed that he participated in contra-related activities in San Francisco from 1982-84 while serving simultaneously as Meneses’s drug wholesaler in Los Angeles. “Pena says that a Colombian associate of Meneses’s told Pena in ‘general’ terms that portions of the proceeds from the sale of the cocaine Pena brought to San Francisco were going to the contras,” the CIA report stated.
Bermudez could not be questioned, because he was shot to death on Feb. 16, 1991, after the war ended and he returned to Managua. The murder was never solved.
The CIA report disclosed another case in which the U.S. intelligence agency discouraged a deeper probe into a contra-connected drug operation: the so-called Frogman Case. In that case, swimmers in wet suits were caught on Jan. 17, 1983, bringing 430 pounds of cocaine ashore near San Francisco. Eventually, 50 individuals, including many Nicaraguans, were arrested.
The case became a potential embarrassment to the CIA when a contra political operative in Costa Rica, named Francisco Aviles Saenz, wrote to the federal court in San Francisco and argued that $36,800 seized in the case belonged to the contras. Aviles wanted the money back.
The new CIA report indicated that CIA officials in Central America fretted about a follow-up plan by Frogman Case lawyers to depose Aviles and other Nicaraguans in Costa Rica. A July 30, 1984, cable from the CIA’s Latin American Division expressed “concern that this kind of uncoordinated activity (i.e., the AUSA [assistant U.S. attorney] and FBI visit and depositions) could have serious implications for anti-Sandinista activities in Costa Rica and elsewhere.”
The CIA’s lawyers then contacted the Justice Department and arranged for the Costa Rican depositions to be canceled. “There are sufficient factual details which would cause certain damage to our image and program in Central America,” CIA assistant general counsel Lee S. Strickland wrote on Aug. 22, 1984. Without further ado, the $36,800 was returned to the contras.
The CIA clearly feared that the Frogman Case could expose a deeper contra-cocaine connection. On Aug. 24, 1984, CIA headquarters explained to the Latin American Division that “in essence the United States Attorney could never disprove the defendant’s allegation that his was (a contra support group) or (CIA) money. … We can only guess at what other testimony may have been forthcoming. As matter now stands, (CIA) equities are fully protected, but (CIA’s Office of General Counsel) will continue to monitor the prosecution closely so that any further disclosures or allegations by defendant or his confidants can be deflected.” [note 75: Parentheses were from the CIA report.]
But inside the CIA, General Counsel Stanley Sporkin still expressed concern about the case. In a weekly report to senior CIA officials, dated Oct. 26, 1984, Sporkin noted that “this matter raises obvious questions concerning the people we are supporting in Central America and we are continuing our inquiry into this matter internally in conjunction with all concerned components.”
Six days later, however, Ernest Mayerfeld, counsel to the Directorate of Operations, challenged Sporkin’s analysis. In a memo, Mayerfeld stated that he had contacted the CIA lawyer on the case and was assured “that he can avoid, with the excellent cooperation of the San Francisco prosecutor, any public disclosure of our involvement. I do not think this is a big flap and ought not to be made into one.”
The story about the returned contra money surfaced in the San Francisco Examiner on March 16, 1986, as the Reagan administration was in the midst of a furious political battle to convince Congress to restore CIA funding for the contra war. The last thing the White House wanted was more evidence of contra-connected drug trafficking.
Within days of the newspaper story, San Francisco U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello stepped forward as point man for the counterattack, much as Mayerfeld had hoped. In a tough letter to the newspaper, Russoniello insisted that the return of the money was simply a budgetary decision and “had nothing to do with any claim that the funds came from the contras or belonged to the contras. … No ‘higher ups’ were involved, as Congresswoman [Barbara] Boxer wrongfully surmises.”
Volume One made clear that Russoniello’s protest did not square with the documentary record. Volume One also revealed that not only was the top contra military commander, Bermudez, in close contact with a notorious drug lord but that the drug lord recruited other drug smugglers to work under the contra umbrella. Volume One demonstrated further that the contra connections gave the traffickers special protection from the U.S. government.
Another startling disclosure in the CIA report appeared in an Oct. 22, 1982, cable written by the office at the CIA’s Directorate of Operations which receives information from U.S. law enforcement agencies. “There are indications of links between (a U.S. religious organization) and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups,” the cable read. “These links involve an exchange in (the United States) of narcotics for arms.” The cable added that the participants were planning a meeting in Costa Rica for such a deal.
Initially, when the cable arrived, senior CIA officials were interested and concerned. On Oct. 27, CIA headquarters asked for more information. The law enforcement agency expanded on its report by telling the CIA that representatives of the FDN and another contra force, the UDN, would be meeting with several unidentified U.S. citizens.
But then, the CIA reversed itself, deciding that it wanted no more information, on the grounds that U.S. citizens were involved. “In light of the apparent participation of U.S. persons throughout, agree you should not pursue the matter further,” CIA headquarters wrote on Nov. 3, 1982.
Two weeks later, CIA headquarters mentioned the meeting again, however. CIA officials thought it might be necessary to knock down the allegations of a guns-for-drugs deal as “misinformation.” The CIA’s Latin American Division responded on Nov. 18, 1982, reporting that several contra officials had gone to San Francisco for meetings with supporters, presumably as part of the same guns-for-drugs scheme.
But no additional information about the scheme was found in CIA files. The CIA inspector general conducted one follow-up interview, with Pena. The drug trafficker stated that the U.S. religious organization was “an FDN political ally that provided only humanitarian aid to Nicaraguan refugees and logistical support for contra-related rallies, such as printing services and portable stages.” The name of the religious organization and other identifying details were withheld in the publicly released version of the CIA report.
Though the identity of the religious group remained secret, suspicions naturally fell on the U.S.-based political organizations affiliated with Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. For years, Moon’s organization has emphatically denied ties to drug traffickers. But it has worked closely in the past with groups and individuals connected to organized crime and the drug trade.
Moon’s Korea-based church got its first boost as an international organization when Kim Jong-Pil, the founder of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, brokered a relationship between Moon and one of Japan’s leading rightist financiers, Ryoichi Sasakawa. Sasakawa had been jailed after World War II as a war criminal, but was freed, along with Yoshio Kodama, by U.S. military intelligence officials eager to enlist their help in combatting leftist political forces in Japan.
Kodama and Sasakawa obliged by dispatching right-wing goon squads to break up anti-U.S. demonstrations. They also allegedly grew rich from their association with the yakuza, a powerful organized crime syndicate that profited off drug smuggling, gambling and prostitution in both Japan and Korea. Behind the scenes, Kodama and Sasakawa became powerbrokers in Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
In the early 1960s, Kim Jong-Pil’s intelligence contacts with these right-wing leaders proved invaluable to Moon, who had made only a few converts in Japan. After Kim Jong-Pil opened the door to Kodama and Sasakawa in late 1962, 50 leaders of an ultranationalist Japanese Buddhist sect converted en masse to the Unification Church giving it a strong base in Japan that remains to this day.
According to David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro in their authoritative book, Yakuza, “Sasakawa became an adviser to Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Japanese branch of the Unification Church” and collaborated with Moon in building far-right anticommunist organizations in Asia, including the Asian People’s Anti-Communist League.
The church’s sudden growth spurt did not escape the notice of U.S. intelligence officers in the field. One CIA report, dated Feb. 26, 1963, stated that “Kim Jong-Pil organized the Unification Church while he was director of the ROK [Republic of Korea] Central Intelligence Agency, and has been using the church, which had a membership of 27,000 as a political tool.” Though Moon’s church had existed since the mid-1950s, the report appeared correct in noting Kim Jong-Pil’s key role in transforming the church from a minor Korean sect into a potent international organization supported by wealthy Japanese financiers.
In 1966, the Asian People’s Anti-Communist League expanded into the World Anti-Communist League, an international alliance that pulled together traditional conservatives with former Nazis, overt racialists and Latin American “death squad” operatives. In an interview, retired U.S. Army Gen. John K. Singlaub, a former WACL president, said “the Japanese [WACL] chapter was taken over almost entirely by Moonies.”
Through WACL and other political relationships, Moon built bridges to right-wing forces in South America during the 1970s. As DEA agent Michael Levine noted in his book Deep Cover, the DEA arrested Jose Roberto Gasser in May 1980 for allegedly smuggling 854 pounds of cocaine base. To Levine’s amazement, Gasser, the son of a Bolivian WACL leader, “was almost immediately released” for what Levine suspected were geopolitical reasons. Gasser’s father was a leading figure in the coup to overthrow Bolivia’s left-of-center government. The putsch on July 17, 1980, became known as the Cocaine Coup because it gave the drug lords free rein of the country and allowed protected shipments of coca base to Colombia.
Among the first well-wishers arriving in La Paz to congratulate the new government was Moon’s top lieutenant, Bo Hi Pak. The Moon organization was so proud of its new contacts that it published a photo of Pak meeting with Gen. Luis Garcia Meza, the new ruler. After the visit to the mountainous capital of Bolivia, Pak declared, “I have erected a throne for Father Moon in the world’s highest city.”
According to later Bolivian government and newspaper reports, a Moon representative invested about $4 million in preparations for the coup. CAUSA, one of Moon’s anti-communist organizations, listed as members nearly all the leading Bolivian coup-makers.
Shortly after the putsch, the neo-fascist shock troops, recruited by fugitive Nazi Klaus Barbie, moved into the business of transporting cocaine for the drug lords. “The paramilitary units, conceived by Barbie as a new type of SS, sold themselves to the cocaine barons,” wrote German investigative reporter Kai Hermann. “The attraction of fast money in the cocaine trade was stronger than the idea of a national socialist revolution in Latin America.”76
76 For details, see an English translation of Hermann’s work published in Covert Action Information Bulletin, Winter 1986. LINK
As the drug lords consolidated their power in Bolivia, the Moon organization expanded its presence, too. Hermann reported that by early 1981, Thomas Ward, a leader of CAUSA, had arrived on the scene. Lt. Alfred Mario Mingolla, an Argentine intelligence officer dispatched to help the coup-makers, identified Ward as his paymaster, with Mingolla’s $1,500 monthly salary allegedly coming from a CAUSA-connected office.
Moon’s organization continued to flaunt its new-found influence in Bolivia. On May 31, 1981, Moon representatives sponsored a CAUSA reception at the Sheraton Hotel’s Hall of Freedom in La Paz. Bo Hi Pak and Gen. Garcia Meza led a prayer for President Reagan’s recovery from an assassination attempt.
“God has chosen the Bolivian people in the heart of South America as the ones to conquer communism,” Bo Hi Pak declared in his speech. According to a later Bolivian intelligence report, the Moon organization sought to recruit an “armed church” of Bolivians, with about 7,000 Bolivians receiving some paramilitary training.
But by late 1981, the obvious cocaine taint was straining official U.S.-Bolivian relations. “The Moon sect disappeared overnight from Bolivia as clandestinely as they had arrived,” Hermann reported. Only Ward and a couple of others stayed on with the Bolivian information agency as it worked on a transition back to civilian rule, Hermann wrote.
During the early 1980s, Moon’s organization demonstrated unprecedented financial strength. In 1982, Moon launched The Washington Times, a right-wing daily that cost Moon an estimated $100 million a year in losses. In 1983, Moon established an important financial base in Uruguay with the purchase of the country’s third largest bank, the Banco de Credito, which soon became the center of allegations about money-laundering.77
77 For details, see iF Magazine, Sept.-Oct. 1998.
Moon’s CAUSA also continued to organize pro-contra rallies in the United States and to coordinate contra activities with right-wing forces in Honduras and other Central American countries. Through the 1980s, Moon’s Washington Times aggressively defended the contra operations and raised money for the contras after Congress cut off funding. In 1984, the Times also published the first reports about Sandinista drug suspicions, a story that helped the contra cause in Congress while killing a major DEA investigation of the Medellin cartel.
On May 7, 1998, another disclosure from the U.S. government’s investigations of contra-cocaine trafficking shook the CIA’s weakening defense lines. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., introduced into the Congressional Record a 1982 letter that she had received unceremoniously in the mail. The letter revealed that CIA director Casey secretly engineered an exemption sparing the CIA from a legal requirement to report on drug smuggling by agency assets.
The exemption was granted by Attorney General William French Smith on Feb. 11, 1982, only three months after President Reagan authorized covert CIA support for the Nicaraguan contra army. The exemption was an important clue to the contra-cocaine mystery. The letter suggested that the CIA’s tolerance of illicit drug smuggling by its clients during the 1980s was official policy anticipated from the outset, not just an unintended consequence followed by an ad hoc cover-up.
Before the letter’s release, the documentary evidence only supported the allegation that Reagan’s CIA concealed drug trafficking by the contras and other intelligence assets in Latin America. The letter established that Casey foresaw the legal dilemma that the CIA would encounter with federal laws requiring it to report illicit narcotics smuggling by foreign CIA agents.
The narcotics exemption was especially noteworthy in contrast to the laundry list of crimes which the CIA was required to disclose. Under Justice Department regulations, “reportable offenses” included assault, homicide, kidnapping, Neutrality Act violations, communication of classified data, illegal immigration, bribery, obstruction of justice, possession of explosives, election contributions, possession of firearms, illegal wiretapping, visa violations and perjury.
Yet, despite reporting requirements for many less serious offenses, Casey fought a bureaucratic battle in early 1982 to exempt the CIA from, as Smith wrote, “the need to add narcotics violations to the list of reportable non-employee crimes.” In his letter, Smith noted that the law provides that “when requested by the Attorney General, it shall be the duty of any agency or instrumentality of the Federal Government to furnish assistance to him for carrying out his functions under” the Controlled Substances Act. But Smith agreed that “in view of the fine cooperation the Drug Enforcement Administration has received from CIA, no formal requirement regarding the reporting of narcotics violations has been included in these procedures.”
On March 2, 1982, Casey thanked Smith for the exemption. “I am pleased that these procedures, which I believe strike the proper balance between enforcement of the law and protection of intelligence sources and methods, will now be forwarded to other agencies covered by them for signing by the heads of the agencies,” Casey wrote.78
78 At the time of Smith’s letter, Kenneth Starr was a senior counselor in the attorney general’s office, but it was not clear whether Starr had any input into the exemption. Starr’s office did not respond to my written questions about his knowledge of the drug waiver.
In the years that followed, “protection of intelligence sources and methods” apparently became the catch-all excuse for the CIA’s tolerance of South American cocaine smugglers using the contra war as cover.
Substantial evidence has surfaced revealing that many drug smugglers scurried under the contra umbrella in the early 1980s. They presumably understood that the Reagan administration would be loath to expose its pet covert action to negative publicity and possibly even to criminal prosecution.
According to the accumulated evidence, Bolivia’s Cocaine Coup government of 1980-82 was only the first in line filling the contra-drug pipeline. Other contra-connected drug operations soon followed, including the Medellin cartel, the Panamanian government, the Honduran military, the Honduran-Mexican smuggling ring of Ramon Matta Ballesteros, and the Miami-based anti-Castro Cubans with their connections to Mafia operations throughout the United States. While it is impossible to estimate precise volumes of cocaine, clearly these operations represented a large portion of the illicit drug industry, far bigger than the Meneses-Blandon drug conduit that Webb had examined.
For her part, Rep. Waters stated that the Casey-Smith arrangement “allowed some of the biggest drug lords in the world to operate without fear that the CIA would be required to report their activities to the DEA and other law enforcement agencies. … These damning memorandums … are further evidence of a shocking official policy that allowed the drug cartels to operate through the CIA-led contra covert operations in Central America.” The waiver also was evidence of premeditation.
The big media, finally and minimally, acknowledged the collapsing CIA defense in mid-summer 1998. After 12 years of dumping on the contra-cocaine allegations, The New York Times pulled what was called during Watergate a “modified limited hang out,” offering partial affirmation that the long-denigrated charges were true and would be supported by the long-awaited Volume Two.
On July 17, the Times reported that CIA inspector general Hitz had discovered that the CIA knew that about 50 Nicaraguan contras and their backers were implicated in cocaine smuggling. Then, without seriously examining the proof, the CIA kept working with about two dozen of the suspected smugglers in the 1980s, the Times wrote.
The article ran under a headline: “CIA Says It Used Nicaraguan Rebels Accused of Drug Tie.” The one-column story was stuck in the lower left-hand corner of the front page –the most obscure spot on the page. Citing unnamed government sources, it stated that “the new report [by Hitz] criticizes agency officials’ actions at the time for the inconsistent and sometimes sloppy manner in which they investigated – or chose not to investigate – the allegations, which were never substantiated by the agency.”
Though a reversal for the Times, the newspaper of record still let the CIA put its spin on the drug scandal. The Times quoted one U.S. intelligence official as saying, “the fundamental finding of the report is that there is no information that the CIA or CIA employees ever conspired with any contra organizations or individuals involved with the contras for the purposes of drug trafficking.” The article also continued the attacks on Gary Webb.
According to what I was hearing from sources at the time, however, Volume Two was far more damning than presented in the Times story. Even the CIA’s supposed innocence was very narrowly worded, I was told. The sources reported that Hitz’s investigative document contained evidence that authorization for some cocaine trafficking tracked directly into President Reagan’s National Security Council.
But in a larger sense, it was now clear, Hitz’s Volume Two would confirm what had been alleged for more than a decade – that the contra operation was riddled with drug trafficking and that the smugglers were protected by the Reagan administration for geopolitical reasons. Viewed in that context, the Times story looked more like a P.R. inoculation – an attempt by the CIA to get out in front of the disclosures and neutralize any explosive impact – rather than a hard-hitting exposé of a serious crime of state.
Given the seriousness of the crimes, the Times’ editorial writers also might have been expected to clamor for follow-ups and full disclosure of the evidence in Volume Two. Instead, there were no editorials, no follow-ups. Not surprisingly, there also was no self-criticism about how the Times had gotten the story so wrong for so long. The Times made no admission of journalistic errors.
Rep. Waters was one of the few public figures who demanded Volume Two’s prompt release and immediate public hearings. “There is no conceivable reason to keep this report classified,” Waters said. “It is tantamount to protecting drug dealers. … I cannot understand why a CIA report, which details the illegal efforts of Reagan-Bush administration officials to protect the involvement of top-level contras in drug trafficking, should continue to be protected.”
Robert Parry, Investigative Reporter in Washington, Dies at 68
1. FBI Report (San Francisco office) on the UC / FFWPU, September 1975
2. Napa Sentinel, March-April 3, 1992 by Harry V. Martin and David Caul
“The Moonies – What Rev. Moon teaches the young”
3. Chicago Tribune, Monday, March 27, 1978 by James Coates
“The Moonies: Government Files Trace Church from Sex Cult to Korean CIA”
4. New York Times Magazine, May 30, 1976 by Berkeley Rice “The pull of Sun Moon”
5. The Moon Organization Academic Network, Fall 1991 by Daniel Junas
1. Shadows on Rev. Moon’s beams. Politics and religion interwoven.
Chicago Tribune – Sunday, November 10, 1974
2. Howling at the Moon – Chicago Reader Weekly Friday, November 22, 1974
3. Messiah Moon on the Run
4. The Unification Church: Christian Church or Political Movement? by Wi Jo Kang (1976)
5. American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush – by Kevin Phillips (2004)
6. Missing Pieces of the Story of Sun Myung Moon by Frederick Clarkson (2012)