By Andrew Kreig, J.D., M.S.L., attorney and journalist. Director of JIP,
Member of the Editorial Board and Associate Editor at The Indicter Magazine.
In protecting President Trump, Attorney General William Barr is meeting the president’s demand for a loyal legal fixer in the radical right mold of the canny, connected and immoral Roy Cohn.
That is the not-so-hidden backstory of the radical gutting of American constitutional government now underway to expand and cover up Team Trump’s corruption.
The synergy between Barr’s ugly past as a CIA-trained strategist implicated in massive drug, arms and financial crime cover-ups decades ago makes his current alliance with Trump far more dangerous for United States democracy than Cohn’s long-ago relationships with the big-talking hotelier Trump of the early 1980s or even with Cohn’s own 1950s mentor, the red-baiting Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy.
Some see Barr as a conservative “institutionalist” committed to a “rule of law” at the Justice Department. Others increasingly regard him as the president’s puppet and defender against other law enforcers. We argue in this column that his track record shows a pattern of cynical manipulation of law and rhetoric to enhance the power of the already powerful.
Updates: Barr Defies Flynn Judge: Despite court order, prosecutors don’t release transcripts of Flynn, Russian ambassador, May 31, 2019.
CBS Delivers Softball “CBS This Morning” Interview of Barr, May 31, 2019.
First, our deep dive into this history introduces the cast of characters. The future president is shown at right (photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Altimeter Films) with Cohn, his one-time mentor, attorney and Manhattan nightlife companion before Cohn’s 1986 death from AIDS.
Fast forward to March, where Trump is shown below at left congratulating Barr at the White House upon Barr’s joining Team Trump as Attorney General.
Trump last week gave Barr unprecedented power to declassify, upon his own initiative, U.S. intelligence, as reported by the New York Times and elsewhere in such stories as Trump Gives Attorney General Sweeping Power in Review of 2016 Campaign Inquiry on May 24. “The directive gives Mr. Barr immense leverage,” the Times reported, “over the intelligence community and enormous power over what the public learns about the roots of the Russia investigation.”
Congruent with Barr’s view on near-unlimited powers for a president under what others might view as a fascist “unitary executive” theory of the Constitution, Trump’s delegation of power could be an attempt to mobilize the Justice Department against his political opponents.
Based on Trump’s Twitter rants, these opponents could include intelligence analysts and law enforcers who have raised suspicions about corruption in Trump Team’s foreign alliances and funding relationships.
Potentially lost in the blizzard of other news is the historical fact that such efforts by the Nixon administration prompted so much public outrage and legal liability as to form one of the building blocks for the impeachment momentum that drove Nixon from office in 1974 before the House could vote to impeach.
Our Justice Integrity Project was founded nearly a decade ago to expose instances of federal political prosecutions. So this looming Constitutional and human rights crisis sits squarely within our charter.
Barr’s Rise To Power, Again
With that background, our column today focuses on Barr’s disgraceful past as a fixer, cover-up artist and world-class hypocrite spouting high-minded rhetoric about “rule of law” while abusing his power in service of corrupt goals and masters. The Mueller Report and its revelations provide our news peg, underscoring the importance of this historical inquiry at this point, but are not themselves our focus today. The Justice Integrity Project publishes daily updates of such developments in our sections summarizing general news, Trump Watch and Deep State.
For this more in-depth column, we start by citing Trump’s repeated complaints about the Justice Department, as quoted in a documentary film, Where’s My Roy Cohn?, which has been described as a “thriller-like exposé,” released in January.
A year previous, on Jan. 4, 2018, the specific concept that Trump wanted a fixer in the mold of Roy Cohn to run the nominally independent U.S. Justice Department became prominent also with publication of a New York Times story by Michael S. Schmidt. It began:
“President Trump gave firm instructions in March to the White House’s top lawyer: stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election.
“Public pressure was building for Mr. Sessions, who had been a senior member of the Trump campaign, to step aside. But the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, carried out the president’s orders and lobbied Mr. Sessions to remain in charge of the inquiry, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.
“Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and the president erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him. Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother John F. Kennedy and Eric H. Holder Jr. had for Barack Obama.
“Mr. Trump then asked, ‘Where’s my Roy Cohn?’ He was referring to his former personal lawyer and fixer, who had been Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s top aide during the investigations into communist activity in the 1950s and died in 1986 [emphasis added].”
In the film clip, and as amplified in a Vanity Fair article, Where’s My Roy Cohn? Digs into One of the 20th Century’s Most Evil Men, Trump bemoaned (with his emphasis on the “my”), in effect, not being able to use the the Justice Department as a kind of personal legal team.
A weirdly evocative still photo from the documentary shows Cohn and Trump (at left below, both in headdress) during one of their gala evenings on the town together.
In the structure of the column unfolding below, we next touch briefly on the kind of criminal undertakings common for Trump and Cohn during the future president’s early years in business.
We then move to Barr’s concurrent rise as a loyal legal apparatchik for ultra-right-wing politicos during the 1980s.
Barr’s work most notably served the Bush family and its allies, who became heavily involved in organized crime during the Iran-Contra scandals of the 1980s, according to multiple sources. These included Republican operative and former Reagan-Bush aide Roger Stone, author of Jeb! and The Bush Crime Family (2016), a remarkably detailed account of the family’s corruption and deviance, as recounted by an insider notorious for his own dirty tricks.
Before undertaking that history, however, we must note at the outset the shocking failure of society’s watchdogs during recent years to refresh public recollection about Iran-Contra.
That’s especially harmful when so many of the malefactors are still prominent. These include Barr, the recent National Rifle Association President Oliver North and Presidential Special Envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams.
Barr, who was U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993 as he protected President George H.W. Bush from corruption investigations, had sought the Trump post with a unsolicited 19-page memo to the Justice Department last year arguing for expanded presidential immunities.
Not surprisingly, the embattled Trump then chose Barr to replace Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who had angered the president by failing to protect him from the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller into claims of 2016 Trump presidential campaign wrongdoing and cover up.
Barr went on at news conferences to spin his redacted version of Mueller’s 448-page report before anyone in Congress or the public could see it.
Trump’s designation of new powers for Barr is an invitation for Team Trump to cherry pick information to argue that Trump is the victim of “spying” and other unfair practices during the 2016 campaign. Scant rebuttal is possible because Team Trump controls much of the classified documentation and has vowed minimal cooperation with Congress or other oversight bodies.
The rest of the public can safely assume — based on past practices and the indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on May 23 on spy charges for releasing classified documents — that Team Trump will try to use Barr to thwart independent investigations of the classified materials at issue.
Trump’s desire to replicate his relationship with Cohn using a U.S. attorney general necessarily requires at least a brief summary of Cohn’s deeds and his shared experiences with Trump.
Cohn became prominent as a federal prosecutor in the early 1950s and then as Sen. McCarthy’s chief counsel from 1953-54 as the senator crusaded against supposed Communist and other leftist threats against major U.S. institutions, including the Army, State Department and Hollywood. The blustering McCarthy and his aide Cohn intimidated officials Washington by inflaming right-wing anger until the Senate censured McCarthy. He died soon afterward as a lonely, forlorn figure, according to his friend, the liberal Washington Merry-Go-Round columnist Jack Anderson.
As for Cohn, his legal brilliance, ruthless tactics and diverse alliances enabled him to work in private practice as a radical right political operative with FBI leaders, organized crime, the Catholic Church and big business.
Cohn, shown left in a file photo, was a member of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society. and represented three of New York City’s most powerful Mafia families, as shown above. This editor reported on the mob during this era and once interviewed Cohn regarding his representation of Carmine Galante, then head of the Bonanno Mafia Family.
Among other notable Cohn clients were media mogul Rupert Murdoch, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and GOP political operative Roger Stone, who became a close friend of both Cohn and Trump.
Cohn also represented Donald Trump and his father Fred Trump. Trump credited Cohn with teaching him to litigate fiercely and exhaust the resources of opponents, even including the federal government on occasion, by increasing pain for them in any way possible.
Good relations between the mob and a New York City builder and New Jersey casino operator like the younger Trump would have been absolutely vital in the era before federal racketeering prosecutions in the mid-1980s broke omerta, the Mafia’s code of silence, and the larger power of the mob.
Relevant also is that mob leaders had a number of relationships with both “legitimate” businesses and government officials in those days because of mutual goals, such as assassination or other regime change, smuggling and vice operations.
Cohn, who was ultra-right wing politically, was also a closeted but active homosexual, according to widespread reporting through the decades that illustrates his hypocrisy. Cohn had also been disbarred for fraud at the end of his career despite his legendary legal ability and high-level connections, including representation of seemingly eminent officials and institutions, including church leaders.
More generally, the late Air Force Col. Fletcher Prouty, the top Defense Department liaison to the CIA for covert operations, entitled his breakthrough 1973 memoir The Secret Team to show how what he called “The High Cabal” of U.S. and U.K. oligarchs deploy operatives widely and covertly to manage events and information flow.
Covert action, in the U.S. and worldwide in spy operations by major nations, might involve elimination of undesirable government leaders, money-laundering to enhance government operational budgets without the prying eyes of legislators, and prostitution rings to create more revenue for operatives and their underworld assets and to enhance blackmail potential that assists spy operations, among other goals.
Money-laundering is a key skill for all major crime operations because the money has to re-enter the financial system without triggering scrutiny. Condos and casinos are especially popular as conduits.
That helps explain much of the current investigative focus on Trump’s financial records as well as his mob connections regarded as relevant to Trump’s construction projects, casino gambling and colossal bankruptcies. Major biographies focused on such topics include Trump by Wayne Barrett (1992), TrumpNation by Timothy O’Brien (2005), The Truth About Trump by Michael D’Antonio (2015), and The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston (2016), fleshed out by innumerable investigative and tabloid reports.
Russian, Asian and European mobsters would replace the Italian-American hoodlums in Trump’s orbit during more recent decades, according to more current researchers who include David Corn and Michael Isikoff (Russian Roulette, 2018); Craig Unger (House of Trump, House of Putin, 2018); and Wayne Madsen (Trump’s Bananas Republic, 2018, and the daily Wayne Madsen Report). Madsen created a chart showing thousands of relationships between Team Trump (Trump, his family and such key campaign and administration figures as Paul Manafort and Wilbur Ross) with Eastern European or Asian entities.
Barr’s Rise To Power
While Trump’s career captured headlines, companies, condos and casinos in the 1980s, Barr was ascending the federal government’s ranks as a diligent bureaucrat within the U.S. Justice Department.
Barr’s father Donald Barr, a veteran of the World War II Office of Special Services, the precursor to the CIA, was an educator long associated with Columbia University as a professor and later as headmaster at two elite private schools for girls, Dalton and Hackley.
In 1973, the elder Barr hired the future notorious pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, right, to teach seventh-grade classes at Manhattan’s elite K-12 all-girls Dalton School even though Epstein lacked a college degree, according to a news report in April by syndicated columnist and author Wayne Madsen.
Madsen’s reporting came just after a Miami federal judge found that prosecutors, most notably then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, had violated the law in granting Epstein a sweetheart plea deal in 2006 without notifying Epstein’s many underage victims.
Ironically, the ruling puts younger Barr and his Justice Department under pressure to reopen the suppressed federal investigation of Epstein, a Trump friend shown at right, on charges that Epstein molested scores of teen girls in Palm Beach and Manhattan. Two young women, “Katie” and “Maria,” have alleged that Epstein and Trump raped them at ages 12 and 13, but the lawsuits have been withdrawn, purportedly after death threats.
At the core of the controversy is evidence that Acosta, now Trump’s Labor Secretary in charge of federal efforts to fight sex trafficking nationwide, bagged the federal-state Epstein case when he was a Bush U.S. attorney in Miami, thereby benefiting the wealthy Epstein and his powerful friends, who have included Prince Andrew of the United Kingdom’s royal family, Bill Clinton and Alan Dershowitz.
The elder Barr’s hiring of Epstein in 1973 to teach girls about the same age as his documented future victims could mean nothing aside from coincidence — or it could call for official scrutiny. But, as ever, one must wonder who scrutinizes the scrutinizers in a political environment when suspicions of law enforcement cover-up are so widespread?
In the early 1970s, the younger Barr obtained a master’s degree in Chinese studies from Columbia and then worked at the CIA as an analyst, including during the pivotal year of 1976 when CIA Director George H. W. Bush, fresh from his post as U.S. envoy to China, rallied the agency against Watergate-era congressional investigations and reforms in order to reassert the agency’s long secret power to undertake covert activities that historically included propaganda, regime change, infiltration of groups, creation of scandals, assassinations and revolutions.
We cited credible books on these topics in our series last December, “Poppy Bush’s Seed and Bitter Harvest: Half Truths / History (Part 4),” on the life, corruption and other legacy of President George H.W. Bush, who served as Barr’s patron at the CIA when Bush was CIA director (as shown in the file photo at right).
One pivotal moment during this era came when retired CIA operative David Atlee Phillips refused to answer questions during the House Select Committee on Assassinations’ probe into potential CIA involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Deputy Committee Counsel Robert Tanenbaum resigned in protest along with his boss, Richard Sprague, when House leaders dared not require Phillips and the CIA to answer questions. As part of the context, Cuban exile assassination squad leader Antonio Veciana has said that he worked with Phillips on unsuccessful plans to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro and that Veciana at one point in the fall of 1963 met Phillips in Dallas in the company of Lee Harvey Oswald, who would be accused several weeks later of killing President Kennedy.
In 1975, Phillips, right, had retired from the CIA and organized AFIO (the Association of Former Intelligence Officers), which became a powerful organizing force on behalf of the spy agencies.
AFIO, while established as a non-partisan non-profit, helped also to show how former intelligence personnel could use the means at their disposal to support agendas congruent with the GOP’s CIA-friendly Reagan-Bush 1980 Presidential campaign against incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter, a former Naval officer who supported reforms.
The Reagan-Bush campaign manager was William Casey, a financier and media executive who would lead the CIA as director for the first seven years of the Reagan-Bush administration.
Barr & Reagan-Bush Justice Department
President Ronald Reagan, right, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, left, greeted in a White House 1983 meeting future Attorney General William P. Barr, a former CIA staffer who was then deputy assistant director of legal police at the Justice Department (Reagan Library photo)
The Washington Post published on May 14 a useful account of Barr’s career in How William Barr, now serving as a powerful ally for Trump, has championed presidential powers by the experienced reporter Tom Hamburger.
“Embracing a theory that the Constitution grants presidents sweeping authority,” the story begins, “Barr is part of a group of conservative intellectuals who have been leading the charge to expand the powers of the executive branch over the past four decades. The doctrine, which gained support amid a backlash against post-Watergate constraints on the presidency, is back in the fore as President Trump and Congress are locked in a bitter fight over the bounds of executive power.”
An even deeper look shows that Barr had been trained in the dark arts as a CIA intern, analyst and attorney in the 1970s. This was during the pivotal directorship of CIA Director George H.W. Bush (shown at left at the CIA).
Bush, during his year-long appointment mostly during 1976, had turned the agency away from post-Watergate reforms pushed by Congress and instead reasserted instead the agency’s its role as a decisive unelected “Deep State” force at the service of the nation’s most powerful private-sector oligarchs pursuing their covert adventures in the United States and abroad.
These power brokers are not necessarily presidents (unless their politics are congruent with those of the agency’s true masters in the private sector, as we documented in Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters).
Barr went on to demonstrate a career-long willingness — as did Roy Cohn — to use his unusual legal talent in all-out defense of powerful officials, especially in the radical right, even when their actions are unconstitutional, grossly damaging to the American public, or degenerate on a personal level.
In May 1982, in a secret memo signed by President Reagan’s National Security Advisor William Clark (and later declassified), Vice President Bush was appointed chief of all U.S. covert action. A Special Situation Group (SSG) was appointed, chaired by Bush.
Later investigations showed that during this period federally coordinated “off the books” Iran-Contra smuggling operations began that violated a law forbidding aid to overthrow Central American governments. The smuggling of arms and drugs was ostensibly focused primarily on fighting leftist elements in Central America.
But it developed into a vast illegal money-making scheme that reached a peak between 1983 and 1986 under North’s leadership from within the White House.
The operation was exposed in October, 1986 after an American arms smuggling airplane was shot down over Nicaragua. Cargo handler Eugene Hasenfus, the only survivor, confessed CIA involvement after he parachuted to safety and was captured by Nicaraguan soldiers.
One common denominator for those that Barr and Cohn have defended is the kind of sinister business dealings and crimes in which Donald J. Trump has immersed himself.
More generally, both Barr and Cohn have extensive track records in hiding such crimes as massive money laundering and tax fraud, which typically (and we can strongly suspect in Trump’s situation also) involve income derived from foreign-born mobsters and their dope dealing, arms smuggling, massive financial frauds and corrupt relationships with high-ranking officials.
The most visible disgraces in own Barr’s career, at least so far, involved his role as a high-ranking Justice Department official during the Reagan-Bush administration. Barr’s cover-up work at the Reagan-Bush Justice Department helped thwart investigations of the huge scandal known as Iran-Contra that reached fruition from 1984 to 1986.
Compelling evidence shows the covert crime spree was under the direction of Vice President Bush (although Bush denied it, most famously during an interview with CBS Anchor Dan Rather). Oliver North worked closely with Bush’s team, which maintained plausible deniability even while other evidence amassed of massive drug-running and arms-smuggling (in part through a small town airport located in Mena, Arkansas where the smuggler Barry Seal was particularly active until he was gunned down in 1986.).
Other evidence — including several congressional investigations and many federal prosecutions and books — indicates that the officially sanctioned crime spree was only partly to benefit the right-wing “Contras” in their CIA-assisted military activities against left-wing officials.
Al Martin’s memoir The Conspirators and Daniel Hopsicker’s biography Barry and the Boys about Barry Seal specifically show that such massive operations could only have occurred with the help of high-level federal and state officials who were profiting along with their backers from the crime, even while honest law enforcers fought an oft-losing battle to stop it.
The damage? Hopsicker, who obtained exclusive access to Seal’s remaining papers after he was murdered in 1986 with many of his papers stolen at the time, reported the damage as including $5 billion in narcotics personally smuggled by Seal. Much of it was through Arkansas, Florida and Seal’s native Louisiana for redistribution throughout the United States, helping fuel the crack cocaine epidemic and the massive imprisonment of lower-level distributors under “tough on crime” political leaders.
Hopsicker’s book cover (shown at right) displays a photo taken at a celebratory 1963 dinner of the CIA’s assassination squad Operation 40. Seal, third from the left, is sitting next to future CIA DIrector Porter Goss, second from the left.
Another photo shows Seal’s early training as a pilot in Louisiana’s Civil Air Patrol under the leadership of expert pilot and notorious smuggler David Ferrie. The actor Tom Cruise portrayed Seal in the 2018 Hollywood major production American Made.
Besides narcotics and arms smuggling, other purposes of Iran-Contra criminality are reported to have included massive financial frauds involving major officials and banks, with taxpayers and gullible investors absorbing what Martin estimated as $350 billion in losses.
He describes how much of the loot went to well-connected insiders and their primarily (but not exclusively) Republican political backers, leaving a greatly empowered political class and a corrupt justice system.
And, sitting at the top, according to some accounts like Hopsicker’s iconic (and expensive to buy) Barry and the Boys, was billionaire banker Jackson Stephens, referenced mostly by underlings as “The Old Man” and by Seal as “the real boss of the operation.” Stephens, with a military, intelligence and banking background, would go to become one of the largest contributors to both Bush and Clinton presidential campaigns.
For those Republicans who wonder why Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, left, and his financial backers were not prosecuted for Iran-Contra activities involving the Arkansas airstrip in Mena the answer could be fairly simple, albeit alarming: Iran-Contra was a covert “federal” matter during the Reagan-Bush administration, which appointed the U.S. attorneys and many of the judges and other federal authorities with relevant jurisdiction.
An especially interesting career path is that of current Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican.
He was the Reagan-Bush U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas from 1982 to 1985 during the height of Barry Seal’s and other CIA smuggling via Mena, which is located on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border 56 miles from Hutchinson’s longtime home in Fort Smith. Hutchinson led the Arkansas Republican Party, was elected to Congress and then served as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administrator during the Bush-Cheney Administration, which later named him as Homeland Security Undersecretary.
Hutchinson, right, could surely argue, as have many, that he’s never been in a position to know enough to do anything about big-time crime allegedly involving the CIA and national security, including in Mena.
So might many other officials (in the unlikely event they are ever questioned), including 1990s Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and his ambitious Republican aide Brett Kavanaugh, Starr’s aide on years of “Whitewater” investigations of the Clintons and later Trump-nominated U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Starr, Kavanaugh and the rest of their rabidly anti-Clinton Republican-appointed “Independent” investigators surely knew that Mena clues would lead back to fellow Republicans and patrons. So they kept their Whitewater investigation of the Clintons far away from major crimes of the kind described here.
Al Martin claimed to be so much in the thick of Iran-Contra crime that he said he wrote his book to become sufficiently prominent to avoid sharing the fate of what he estimated as 400 of his former Iran-Contra colleagues who died early from “suicide” or “accident” or “Columbian drug dealers.”
Martin described also how the careers of many congressional investigators, news reporters and whistleblowers were destroyed by a cover-up system that he alleged included Barr at or near the top of the Justice Department.
He cites a Mother Jones 1991 article called Shredded Justice by Mary Fricker and Steve Pizzo that mentions two names now much in the news. According to the Martin version:
[Bobby] Muller [sic] had said Barr would go around to the sixth floor of the Justice Department building. That’s where all the shredders are. And Billy would call himself “Billy, ‘I never saw a document I didn’t want to shred,’ Barr.”
As a reader warning: Martin is himself not above suspicion, either as a capable researcher or honest witness. As noted above, his book contains multiple misspellings of well-known figures, including Robert Mueller and former Clinton Associate Justice Department Attorney General Webster Hubbell, and others. Plus, Martin admits that he became a fraudster with numerous arrests following his post-military career.
But his book does contain accolades from former U.S. Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Arkansas), who led a major House probe of Iran-Contra using Martin as a witness. The spelling mistakes, the most obvious all involving phonetically correct usage, might be because the book was dictated in a low-budget operation. Most importantly for current purposes, few sane people accuse powerful people of drug-dealing and murder in print without reason. Defamation litigation is one reason but an arrest or unfortunate accident are other possibilities.
From other sources also, we know that beneficiaries of financial corruption include major corporations and top officials from both major parties. Among them were the Republican Bush family and the well-connected Democrats, including Washington luminaries Clark Clifford and his finance partner Robert Altman, both leaders at the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) when it was exposed as a huge money laundering operation for smugglers and fraudsters. Clifford ended his life in disgrace but Altman has bounced back to assume prominent positions.
Most of these facts, aside from the most recent, are amply documented in the public domain for those who dare read the material with a reasonably open mind.
Barr Bombshell Allegations
Investigative historian Anton Chaitkin has raised serious, specific allegations against Barr from his work at the CIA through his first stint as an attorney general, ending in early 1993. Chaitkin’s main allegations appeared in “William Barr, the Bush clique and their friends at Dope, Inc.,” a five-page feature published by the Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) in its Oct. 21, 1994 edition.
The article stands as one of the most disturbing treatments of Barr. This was congruent with a treatment of George H. W. Bush in George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography that Chaitkin (shown at left) co-authored with Webster G. Tarpley.
As background, Chaitkin, Tarpley and their publications were affiliated with the historian, political activist and presidential Lyndon LaRouche, who died in February at age 96. LaRouche and his colleagues had long argued that a number of otherwise prestigious British and American families and institutions have long profited from covert trading in narcotics, dating back to “The Opium Wars” with China during the 1800s. Those allegations were first published at book-length in Dope, Inc. in 1978, which has since undergone many editions and updates implicating many well-known leaders in covert drug running and money laundering.
In 1988, federal authorities sent hundreds of agents to raid LaRouche’s Virginia and Massachusetts offices. That began long-running prosecutions of the LaRouche organization — including a mistrial where most jurors were reportedly inclined to acquit — that resulted in a speedy trial in Virginia and prison sentences for LaRouche and several colleagues, primarily on claims they had misused credit cards to bilk prospective donors out of millions.
The defendants and their supporters have maintained that the prosecution was unwarranted political retribution for their advocacy and research.
Regardless of fund-raising methods and those convictions, some LaRouche-affiliated research and researchers are been well-regarded in certain Washington insider circles for their acumen even though they are almost totally ignored by the mainstream media.
Thus, the CIA collections at the National Archives have extensive materials from EIR and some of the substance seems clearly drawn from close contacts with the agency and other experts. There even reports from DC insiders that the CIA invited LaRouche on more than one occasion in the early 1980s to brief Agency Director Bill Casey’s staff at on the top floor of CIA headquarters. Those headquarters are now named for Bush but Casey was far closer on a personal level to Reagan than Bush.
In contrast are such works as Destiny and Power, the widely praised 844-page authorized biography of George H.W. Bush by his friend Jon Meacham (Random House Trade paperback, 2016).
Destiny and Power carries the appearance of comprehensive and authoritative study of Bush by Meacham, a Pulitzer-winning author of a biography of Andrew Jackson and a former Newsweek and Random House editor-in-chief who frequently comments on television about historical events.
The Bush family had selected Meacham, shown at right in a 2014 photo, to write Bush’s biography and invited him also to give eulogies at the recent separate funerals of the former president and his wife, Barbara Bush.
Meacham’s book does not once mention Barr, much less any of the disturbing incidents and players described in Chaitkin’s 1994 article, which includes these paragraphs:
Barr was already in the CIA’s legal office in 1976 when Bush became Director of Central Intelligence. Bush promptly brought back assassinations manager Theodore Shackley as associate deputy CIA director for covert operations along with Shackley’s deputy Thomas Clines. Shackley had been head of the CIA Miami Station in the early 1960s, following the disastrous invasion of Cuba. Shackley and Clines has assembled the Cuban irregulars, who had been trained assassins and smugglers, into a permanent covert action force. Men like Felix Rodriguez had served under Shackley as he ran the opium-growing projects in Laos and the Operation Phoenix mass murder project in Vietnam….
William Barr joined this team as it matured under George Bush’s hand at the CIA. Barr prepared briefs for Bush’s stonewalling responses to congressional probes, led by Sen. Frank Church and Rep. Otis Pike, that attempted to bring the Bush and [Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger covert action under the rule of American law….
On George Bush’s recommendation, the 27-year-old Barr was hired in 1977 as clerk to Federal Circuit Court Judge Malcolm Wilkey. During the 1960s, Wilkey had been general counsel to a copper-mining conglomerate operating in Chile under the political management of Prescott Bush’s banking partner, Spruile Braden. Salvador Allende became Chile’s President and confiscated Braden’s huge El Teniente mine. Allende was soon overthrown and murdered in 1973.
In 1976, Chilean opposition leader Orlando Letelier had been blown up by a car bomb in Washington, D.C. Though the U.S. media generally blamed the Chilean secret police for the killing, it is well established that then-CIA director George Bush had penetrated the Chilean agency and had squelched all U.S. police investigation into the murder [which killed also Letelier’s American aide Ronni Moffett in Sheridan Circle in the city’s downtown]. Bush’s new boss, Malcolm Wilkey, later served as George Bush’s ambassador to Uruguay and arranged cool-out payments to Chileans who might have fingered Bush’s CIA for the Letelier bombing.
Later, in 1992, Chile’s Supreme Court decided that President Bush could be legally ordered to appear in Chile, to testify on the role of the CIA in the Letelier case; Chilean generals claimed that they have been wrongly blamed for the killing, and that the Bush’s CIA ordered the 1976 bombing. The U.S. chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General William Barr, did not respond. But what he did was to hire Malcolm Wilkey as a special prosecutor to intimidate the Democratic Congress in the House Post Office affair.
Chaitkin, the author of the article excerpted above, went on at considerable length in that vein with other allegations. They include reporting that Barr was involved as a private attorney with the BCCI drug money laundering operation as early as 1978 when he represented B.F. Saul, chairman of Financial General Bankshares, a component of what was later revealed as the CIA-affiliated money laundering operation BCCI. Saul was so prominent that he was succeeded as his bank’s chairman by Clark Clifford, one of Washington’s most eminent foreign policy advisors and lawyers of his time.
Chaitkin asserts that by the 1990s federal investigations of most of the 40 major banks affiliated with BCCI had been “sabotaged and shut down.” Chaitkin continued:
And in December 1991, Attorney General Barr announced that BCCI had entered a guilty plea to certain racketeering charges, in return for which the U.S. Justice Department agreed to drop all other federal and state charges that might be brought against BCCI entities in the future. In the plea bargain arrangement, BCCI forfeited all of its estimated $550 million in assets in the United States, and there were some minor jail sentences. But the global drug apparatus, which had for a time been publicly challenged, was safe.
Again, not one name from the account above, including BCCI, is mentioned in the Meacham biography of Bush aside from Kissinger, who is referenced in other contexts. This is lost history but could well be highly relevant these days when Barr is again in charge of the U.S. Justice Department, with unprecedented power also to declassify intelligence to achieve his goals.
William Barr’s Senate Confirmation Hearing
This editor attended Barr’s Senate confirmation hearing in January. Democrats challenged Barr’s independence, sometimes in blunt language. Republicans extolled his virtues before his confirmation along party lines.
As is often the case, some of the most telling history (such as that above) or commentary was too disturbing for anyone to mention at an official proceeding, even to raise questions.
Thus it was a blogger, Wayne Madsen, a former Naval intelligence officer and longtime investigative reporter, who pulled no punches in a column on the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), published the day Barr’s confirmation hearing began. His column started this way:
Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, the former Attorney General under George H. W. Bush, has a sordid track record that would make him the envy of any criminal syndicate, including, obviously, the Trump administration.
After describing Barr’s key role in helping Bush arrange pardon of “the Iran-Contra Six” of high-level criminals, Madsen noted the curious circumstance that a high-level U.S. Senator and former Senator investigating Iran-Contra crimes had died in separate airplane crashes, thereby helping also to thwart the Iran-Contra investigations:
Barr became Attorney General under Bush on November 26, 1991, six months after the back-to-back deaths of a sitting and former senator who were involved in investigating Iran-Contra and the October Surprise. They were John Heinz III, right, Republican of Pennsylvania, and John Tower of Texas, respectively. Tower’s nomination by Bush to be Secretary of Defense in 1989 was defeated by his one-time Senate colleagues over allegations surrounding Tower’s drinking and “womanizing.” When Bush discovered that Tower, who chaired the Tower Commission that investigated Iran-Contra, was coming out with a tell-all book about his experiences, Bush leaked the damaging information on Tower to media allies like New York Times columnist William Safire. Tower’s book is titled Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir.
Heinz died in a suspicious plane crash on April 4, 1991 over Lower Merion Township, outside of Philadelphia. Heinz and the two charter pilots of his Aerostar PA60 aircraft were killed when it collided in mid-air with a Sun Company Bell 412 helicopter dispatched from the Sun Company’s plant in Chester, Pennsylvania to investigate a problem with the landing gear on Heinz’s aircraft. Coincidentally, on October 24, 1980, the U.S.-flagged merchant vessel, SS Poet, departed from the same Sun shipyard in Chester — where the Sun helicopter was based — laden with illicit U.S. arms for Iran.
A personal aide to Teresa Heinz Kerry, who married Senator John Kerry in 1995, told WMR that she believed foul play was involved in the death of her husband and that it involved his knowledge of criminal activity of Bush in relation to both the October Surprise and Iran-Contra. One of the chief Senate investigators of the money laundering involved in Iran-Contra and the related Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) scandal involving weapons shipments to Iraq and the scandal surrounding the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was Kerry. And two senators who Kerry worked with closely, included Heinz and Tower.
On April 5, 1991, Tower and his daughter and research assistant, Marian Goodwin Tower, were killed while flying on board Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) flight 2311, which crashed while approaching the Brunswick, Georgia airport. The crash killed all the passengers and crew members.
Tower, left, and his daughter were attending a book party, sponsored by his publisher, Little, Brown & Company, at a resort on Sea Island. WMR learned that Marian was carrying copies of documents linking George H. W. Bush to various aspects of Iran-Contra. Little, Brown & Co., was a subsidiary of Time Warner. Time-Life, the firm’s previous incarnation, had deep connections to the CIA through its owner Henry Luce and his wife, Clare Boothe Luce.
Barr, as Bush’s Attorney General, not only helped Bush in his pardon of the Iran-Contra Six but he did everything in his power to stymie the Walsh investigation and efforts by Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations, and House Banking Committee chairman Henry Gonzalez of Texas, to get to the bottom of Iran-Contra, the October Surprise, BNL, BCCI, and the Inslaw scandals.
WMR has learned from a relative of a victim on the ASA crash that Tower and his daughter, as well as four other passengers — a NATO official; a Department of Defense cyber-security expert; NASA physician, chemist, and Shuttle astronaut Manley “Sonny” Carter; and American College of Physicians president-elect Dr. Nicholas Davies — were all attending a secretive and classified meeting at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia.
Bush not only wanted Tower and his daughter permanently out of the picture but plans for a second edition of Tower’s book and the secret FLETC meeting to be scrubbed. Bush’s willing accomplice in these acts of murder was William Barr, the man who will be undergoing questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), someone else with many skeletons in his closet.
Many books and congressional investigations focused on the Iran-Contra scandal and related frauds and money laundering. “Mainstream” books and news articles seldom raise the possibility of foul play, as do Madsen, Martin, Hopsicker and others who publish with small, independent book outlets.
Among the many disturbing incidents described by Martin in The Conspirators is that longtime San Antonio Congressman Henry Gonzalez, who served from 1961 to 1991, pulled back from his aggressive leadership of Iran-Contra crimes after his empty car, parked in front of his home, was riddled with bullets from an automatic rifle by an unidentified shooter. Gonzalez, part of JFK’s motorcade in Dallas on the day of his 1963 assassination, had called for the impeachment of President Reagan and later of President Bush.
One of the pioneering Iran-Contra reporters of the 1980s, former Associated Press and Newsweek reporter Bob Parry, left, alleged during a lecture before independent researchers at the National Press Club that the mainstream media lost much of its stomach for in-depth reporting in the late 1980s on topics associated with “national security” — and that’s why he founded an independent web-based site, Consortium News.
Yet mainstream print and broadcast media are not just intimidated but are now economically ravaged by Internet competition. In that case, where are the watchdogs?
Parry’s 1999 book Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & Project Truth keeps some of this history available to an increasingly jaded public. (It’s one of a number of books by his colleagues from the Iran-Contra probe
At the Barr Senate confirmation hearing in January, not one senator, not even one of the Democrats, questioned Barr about his CIA past or Iran-Contra pardons during public questions of the nominee, as the Justice Integrity Project reported in Senators Fail To Grill Barr On His CIA Past, Iran-Contra Cover-up.
If, as so often is the case, the U.S. Senate cannot drill down on a nominee’s history, who does that leave as society’s watchdog?
The courts? The Trump Administration, including the Barr Justice Department, are in the process of transforming the federal judiciary into their image. And, if Al Martin and a great deal of reporting is to be believed, the courts and Justice Department have a long tradition as fixers on the bench and at the department skilled at using legal acumen to punish designated targets harshly and avoid serious prosecutions of favored insiders.
That would seem to leave William Barr as society’s watchdog, with powers occasionally interrupted by interim federal court decisions on appeal to the Republican-run U.S. Supreme Court.
‘Where’s My Roy Cohn?’
Film producer Matt Tyrnauer premiered in January his documentary Where’s My Roy Cohn? at the Sundance Film Festival.
From a film summary:
“Roy Cohn personified the dark arts of American politics, turning empty vessels into dangerous demagogues — from Joseph McCarthy to his final project, Donald J. Trump. This thriller-like exposé connects the dots, revealing how a deeply troubled master manipulator shaped our current American nightmare.”
Mob assistance to the CIA for repeated assassination attempts against Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro would inevitably require the assistance of fixers both in the private sector and in government.
The late Air Force Col. Fletcher Prouty, the top Defense Department liaison to the CIA for covert operations, entitled his breakthrough 1973 memoir The Secret Team to show how what he called “The High Cabal” of U.S. and U.K. oligarchs deploy operatives widely and covertly to manage events and information flow.
Roy Cohn and Bill Barr are part of this tradition. A distress signal is surely warranted at this point.
One lesson from this overview is that readers here, like citizens everywhere, must assemble and digest information from varied credible sources even when we are continually bombarded by propaganda from prestigious sources whose track record can be mixed, depending on the situation.
Read more and trust your own judgment.
Attorney General William Barr, center, flanked by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, right, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Edward O’Callaghan of the National Security Division are all Republicans and stand united for their version of justice. (Justice Department news conference on April 18, 2019 on release of the Mueller Report.)
Contact the author Andrew Kreig