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Column: New School Dedicated to the Late DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, Who Lived a Life of Bravery

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Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

The opening next week of the Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School in Chula Vista, California celebrates the legacy of a courageous DEA agent who was murdered by Mexican drug cartel members in February 1985.

No doubt Special Agent Camarena’s family, especially his son Enrique S. Camarena, Jr., will pause this week, particularly because the school opening coincides with their father’s birthday, and remember what a special father and husband he was.

The rest of us can remember him for his sacrifice and commitment to contributing to a safer world.Like Special Agent Terry Watson, whose life and recent death were the subject of a column a couple weeks ago. Enrique “Kiki” Camarena lived a full life of bravery and service. He was born in Mexicali, Mexico, but his family moved to the United States in Calexico, California.

He became a naturalized U. S. citizen and served in the Marines, as a firefighter and police investigator before joining DEA.

Assigned to the Guadalajara office in 1981, he was fearless in pursuing the illegal activities of the drug smugglers in the area. Despite the danger he acted undercover and had infiltrated the cartel. In 1985, his investigation led to the discovery and destruction of 2,500 acres of marijuana worth an estimated $ 9 billion.In spite of information, that he had been targeted by the cartel, he stayed on to continue his investigations.

On February 7, 1985, in broad daylight, he was kidnapped as he left the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara. He was on his way to meet his wife Geneva for lunch. For two days he was tortured and then bludgeoned to death by cartel henchmen with the aid of corrupt police officers.

A massive manhunt by U.S. federal law enforcement resulted in the capture and conviction of his killers and their aider and abettors. Special Agent Camarena’s life continues to make a difference. The activities of the Camarena Foundation support education and drug-free living for America’s youth.

Every year in October thousands of schools and law enforcement offices around the country participate in Red Ribbon Week to support the goals of the Foundation.Enrique Camarena Jr. was 11 when his father died, but he made a commitment to follow in his father’s footsteps. With the support of the DEA Survivors Benefit Fund he went to law school and became a Deputy District Attorney for San Diego County, where he continues to serve.

He is also active in the work of the Camarena Foundation and in contributing to the efforts to support other children who have lost a father or mother who were killed in the line of duty. The new school bearing Agent Camarena’s name will employ innovative teaching methods and the latest technology to provide a quality education to its 975 students.As they stream into their beautiful new school, boisterous with excitement, Kiki Camarena will be somewhere watching, no doubt proud and happy for the promise that they hold for America’s future.


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Comment from msfreeh
Time July 22, 2013 at 12:20 pm

I Volunteer to Kidnap Oliver North
by
Michael Levine

Undercover DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was tortured to death slowly by professionals. Every known maximum-pain technique, from electric shocks to his testicles to white hot rods inserted in his rectum, was applied. A doctor stood by to keep him alive. The heart of the thirty-seven year old father of two boys refused to quit for more than twenty-four hours. His cries, along with the soft-spoken, calm voices of the men who were slowly and meticulously savaging his body, were tape-recorded.

Kiki, one of only three hundred of us in the world (DEA agents on foreign assignment), had been kidnapped in broad daylight from in front of the U.S. Consular office in Guadalajara, Mexico by Mexican cops working for drug traffickers and, apparently, high level Mexican government people whose identities we would never know. They would be protected by people in our own government to whom Kiki’s life meant less than nothing.

When teams of DEA agents were sent to Mexico, first, to find the missing Kiki, then to hunt for his murderers, they were met by a the stone wall of a corrupt Mexican government that refused to cooperate. To the horror and disgust of many of us, our government backed down from the Mexicans; other interests, like NAFTA, banking agreements and the covert support of Ollie North’s Contras, were more important than the life of an American undercover agent. DEA agents were ordered by the Justice Department, to keep our mouths shut about Mexico; an order that was backed up by threats from the office of Attorney General Edwin Meese himself. Instead of tightening restrictions on the Mexican debt, our Treasury Department moved to loosen them as if to reward them for their filthy deed. As an added insult Mexico was granted cooperating nation in the drug war status, giving them access to additional millions in American drug war funds and loans.

Somehow a CIA—unaware that their own chief of Soviet counter intelligence, Aldrich Ames, was selling all America’s biggest secrets to the KGB for fourteen years with all the finesse of a Jersey City garage sale—was able to obtain the tape-recordings of Kiki’s torture death. No one in media or government had the courage to publicly ask them explain how they were able to obtain the tapes, yet know nothing of the murder as it was happening; no one had the courage to ask them to explain the testimony of a reliable government informant, (during a California trial related to Camarena’s murder), that Kiki’s murderers believed they were protected by the CIA. Nor did our elected leaders have the courage to investigate numerous other reports linking the CIA directly to the murderers.

Our government’s sellout of Kiki Camarena, of all DEA agents, of the war on drugs, was such that United States Congressman, Larry Smith, stated, on the floor of Congress:

“I personally am convinced that the Justice Department is against the best interests of the United States in terms of stopping drugs… What has a DEA agent who puts his life on the line got to look forward to? The U.S. Government is not going to back him up. I find that intolerable.”

What does Oliver North have to do with this?

A lot of us, Kiki’s fellow agents, believe that the Mexican government never would have dared take the action they did, had they not believed the US government to be as hypocritical and corrupt as they were and still are. And if there was ever a figure in our history that was the paradigm of that corruption it is the man President Reagan called “an American hero”; the same man Nancy Reagan later called a liar: Oliver North.

No one person in our government’s history more embodied what Senator John Kerry referred to when he called the US protection of the drug smuggling Contras a “betrayal of the American people.”

Few Americans, thanks to what one time CIA chief William Colby referred to as the news media’s “misplaced sense of patriotism,” are aware that the Nobel prize winning President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias—as a result of an in-depth investigation by the Costa Rican Congressional Commission on Narcotics that found “virtually all [Ollie North supported] Contra factions were involved in drug trafficking”—banned Oliver North, U.S. Ambassador Lewis Tambs, National Security Advisor Admiral John Poindexter, Presidential Advisor Richard Secord and C.I.A. station chief José Fernandez, by Executive order, from ever entering Costa Rica— for their roles in utilizing Costa Rican territory for cocaine trafficking.

In fact, when Costa Rica began its investigation into the drug trafficking allegations against North and naively thought that the U.S. would gladly lend a hand in efforts to fight drugs, they received a rude awakening about the realities of America’s war on drugs as opposed to its “this-scourge-will-end” rhetoric.

After five witnesses testified before the U.S. Senate, confirming that John Hull—a C.I.A. operative and the lynch-pin of North’s contra re supply operation—had been actively running drugs from Costa Rica to the U.S. “under the direction of the C.I.A.,” Costa Rican authorities arrested him. Hull then quickly jumped bail and fled to the U.S.—according to my sources—with the help of DEA, putting the drug fighting agency in the schizoid business of both kidnapping accused drug dealers and helping them escape; although the Supreme Court has not legalized the latter . . . yet.

The then-President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias was stunned when he received letters from nineteen U.S. Congressman—including Lee Hamilton of Indiana, the Democrat who headed the Iran-contra committee—warning him “to avoid situations . . . that could adversely affect our relations.” Arias, who won the Nobel prize for ending the contra war, stated that he was shocked that “relations between [the United States] and my country could deteriorate because [the Costa Rican] legal system is fighting against drug trafficking.”

In my twenty-five years experience with DEA which includes running some of their highest level international drug trafficking investigations, I have never seen an instance of comparable allegations where DEA did not set up a multi-agency task force size operation to conduct an in-depth conspiracy investigation. Yet in the case of Colonel North and the other American officials, no investigation whatsoever has been initiated by DEA or any other investigative agency.

The total “public” investigation into the drug allegations by the Senate was falsely summed up in the statement of a staffer, on the House select committee, Robert A. Bermingham who notified Chairman Hamilton on July 23, 1987, that after interviewing “hundreds” of people his investigation had not developed any corroboration of “media-exploited allegations that the U.S. government condoned drug trafficking by contra leaders . . . or that Contra leaders or organizations did in fact take part in such activity.” Every government official accused of aiding and covering up for the contra drug connection, Colonel Ollie included, then hung his hat on this statement, claiming they had been “cleared.”

The only trouble was that investigative journalists, Leslie and Andrew Cockburn—after interviewing many of the chief witnesses whose testimony implicated North and the contras in drug trafficking, including several whose testimony was later found credible enough to be used to convict Manuel Noriega—could find not one who had been interviewed by Bermingham or his staff. In fact, the two journalists seem to have caught Bermingham red-handed in what can only be described, at best, as a gross misrepresentation of fact, when he (Bermingham) quoted the chief counsel of a House Judiciary subcommittee, Hayden Gregory as dismissing the drug evidence and calling it “street talk.” Gregory told the Cockburns that the “street talk” comment was taken out of context; that he had not even met Bermingham until July 22 (two days before Bermingham wrote the report) and that he had in fact told Bermingham that there were “serious allegations against almost every contra leader.”

When President Bush said, “All those who look the other way are as guilty as the drug dealers,” he was not only talking about a moral guilt, but a legal one as well. Thus, if any U.S. official knew of North and the contra’s drug activities and did not take proper action, or covered up for it, he is “guilty” of a whole series of crimes that you to go to jail for; crimes that carry a minimum jail term; crimes like Aiding and Abetting, Conspiracy, Misprision of a Felony, Perjury, and about a dozen other violations of law related to misuse and malfeasance of public office. I’m not talking about some sort of shadow conspiracy here. As a veteran, criminal investigator I don’t deal in speculation. I document facts and evidence and then work like hell to corroborate my claims so that I can send people to jail.

What I am talking about is “Probable Cause”—a legal principle that every junior agent and cop is taught before he hits the street. It mandates that an arrest and/or criminal indictment must occur when there exists evidence that would give any “reasonable person” grounds to believe, that anyone— U.S. government officials included—had violated or conspired to violate federal narcotic laws. Any U.S. government law enforcement officer or elected official who fails to take appropriate action when such Probable Cause exists, is in violation of his oath as well as federal law; and under that law it takes surprisingly little evidence for a Conspiracy conviction.

As an example, early in my career I arrested a man named John Clements, a twenty-two year old, baby-faced guitar player, who happened to be present at the transfer of three kilos of heroin—an amount that doesn’t measure up to a tiny percentage of the many tons of cocaine, (as much as one half the U.S. cocaine consumption), that North and his Contras have been accused of pouring onto our streets. Clements was a silent observer in a trailer parked in the middle of a Gainesville, Florida swamp, while a smuggler—whom I had arrested hours earlier in New York City and “flipped” (convinced to work as an informer for me)— turned the heroin over to the financier of the operation. Poor John Clements, a friend of both men, a “gofer” as he would later be described, was just unlucky enough to be there.

The twenty-two year old guitar player couldn’t claim “national security,” when asked to explain his presence, nor could he implicate a President of the United States in his criminal activities as Colonel North did. John Clements wrote no self-incriminating computer notes that indicated his deep involvement in drug trafficking, as North did; he didn’t have hundreds of pages of diary notes in his own handwriting also reflecting narcotics trafficking. John Clements did not shred incriminating documents and lie to congress as North did; nor was he responsible for millions in unaccounted for U.S. government funds as North was. Clements did not have enough cash hidden in a closet slush fund to pay $14,000 cash for a car, as North did while earning the salary of a Lieutenant Colonel. John Clements only had about $3 and change in his pocket.

Nor did John Clements campaign for the release from jail of a drug smuggling, murderer whose case was described by the Justice Department as the worst case of narco terrorism in our history, as North did. Poor young John wouldn’t have dreamed of making deals with drug dealer Manny Noriega to aid in the support of the drug smuggling Contras, as North did. No, John Clements was certainly not in Ollie North’s league, he couldn’t have done a millionth of the damage North and his protectors have been accused of doing to the American people, even if he wanted to.

But John Clements did do something Ollie North never did and probably never will do—he went to jail. A jury of his peers in Gainseville Florida found more than enough evidence to convict him of Conspiracy to violate the federal drug laws. The judge sentenced him to thirty years in a Federal prison. Ollie North on the other hand was only charged with lying to a Congress so mistrusted and disrespected by the American people that he was virtually applauded for the crime.

Criminality in drug trafficking cases is lot easier than proving whether or not someone lied to Congress and is certainly a lot less “heroic.” Statements like “I don’t remember,” “I didn’t know,” and “No one told me,” or “I sought approval from my superiors for every one of my actions,” are only accepted as valid defenses by Congressmen and Senators with difficulties balancing check books—not American jurors trying drug cases. And when you’re found guilty you got to jail—you don’t run for a seat on the Senate.

And why would I volunteer to kidnap Ollie? For three reasons: first, kidnapping is now legal; second, I have experience kidnapping; and third, it is the only way those tens of millions of Americans who have suffered the betrayal of their own government will ever see even a glimmer of justice.

Several years after Kiki’s last tape-recorded cries were shoved well under a government rug, a maverick group of DEA agents decided to take the law into their own hands. Working without the knowledge or approval of most of the top DEA bosses, whom they mistrusted, the agents arranged to have Dr. Humberto Alvarez Machain, a Mexican citizen alleged to have participated in Kiki’s murder, abducted at gun point in Guadalajara Mexico and brought to Los Angeles to stand trial.

On June 16, 1992, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Machain Decision that the actions of those agents was “legal.” The ruling said in no uncertain terms that U.S. law enforcement authorities could literally and figuratively kidnap violators of American drug law in whatever country they found them and drag them physically and against their will to the U.S. to stand trial. Immediately thereafter the Ayatollahs declared that they too could rove the world and kidnap violators of Islamic law and drag them back to Iran to stand trial. Kidnapping, therefore, has now become an accepted tool of law enforcement throughout the world.

Resorting to all sorts of wild extremes to bring drug traffickers to justice is nothing new for the U.S. government. At various times during my career as a DEA agent I was assigned to some pretty unorthodox operations—nothing quite as radical as invading Panama and killing a thousand innocents to capture long-time CIA asset Manny Noriega—but I was once, (long before the Machain Decision), assigned to a group of undercover agents on a kidnapping mission. Posing as a soccer team, we landed in Argentina in a chartered jet during the wee hours of the morning, where the Argentine Federal Police had three international drug dealers—two of whom had never in their lives set foot in the United States—waiting for us trussed up in straight-jackets with horse feed-bags over their heads, each beaten to a pulpy, toothless mess. In those years we used to call it a “controlled expulsion.” I think I like the honesty of kidnapping a little better.

By now you’re probably saying, “Get real Levine you live in a nation whose politicians ripped their own people off for half a trillion dollars in a savings and loan scam, a nation whose Attorney General ordered the FBI to attack a house full of innocent babies, and this is the decade of Ruby Ridge, Waco and Whitewater-gate; your own people sent Kiki Camarena to Mexico to be murdered and then gave aid and comfort to those who murdered him—how can you expect justice?”

If you aren’t saying these things you should be. And you’d be right. Under the current two-party, rip-off system of American politics with their complete control of main stream media, I expect Ollie North to have a bright future in politics, while hundreds of thousands of Americans like John rot in jail. Ollie North, after all, is the perfect candidate. But there is one faint glimmer of hope remaining, and it isn’t in America.

Since the democratic and staunchly anti-drug Costa Rica is, thus far, the only nation with the courage to have publicly accused Oliver North, a US Ambassador and a CIA station chief of running drugs from their sovereignty to the United States, I find myself, duty-bound to make them, or any other nation that would have the courage to make similar charges, the following offer:

I, Michael Levine, twenty-five year veteran undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, given the mandate of the Supreme Court’s Machain Decision and in fulfillment of my oath to the U.S. government and its taxpayers to arrest and seize all those individuals who would smuggle or cause illegal drugs to be smuggled into the United States or who would aid and abet drug smugglers, do hereby volunteer my services to any sovereign, democratic nation who files legal Drug Trafficking charges against Colonel Oliver North and any of his cohorts; to do everything in my power including kidnapping him, seizing his paper shredder, reading him his constitutional rights and dragging his butt to wherever that sovereignty might be, (with or without horse feed-bag); to once-and-for-all stand trial for the horrific damages caused to my country, my fellow law enforcement officers, and to my family.

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