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A Correspondence with the CIA

Paramilitary Activities and Heroin Refineries

Wherever there have been refineries in areas in which there is some American influence, action has been taken to eliminate them. In spite of this, Mr. McCoy states on page 301, “In fact, there are some American officials who believe that Chao La only works with the CIA to get guns (which he uses to buy opium from Burmese smugglers) and political protection for his opium refineries.” With the access Mr. McCoy claims to have had, he should have been able to discover that last year CIA identified a refinery operated by Chao La and had it confiscated. The production equipment was dismantled and forwarded to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) in Washington, D.C. This is hardly “political protection” of the type Mr. McCoy alleges.

Ger Su Yang

A similar failure to attempt verification of information from a doubtful source appears in connection with Mr. McCoy’s account on page 289 of an interview with a Long Pot district officer, Ger Su Yang. This is an account of how American helicopters flew from Long Tieng to Long Pot to take opium back to Long Tieng. Within the last two weeks, Ger Su Yang was interviewed by an officer of this Agency designated for this purpose. Ger Su Yang denies making any statement regarding Muong officers arriving at Long Pot to collect opium harvest for transport back to Long Tieng in American helicopters.

Ger Su Yang spoke of two Americans, one of whom apparently was Mr. McCoy, who visited his village, but he said they were interested in village life and he did not discuss the sale of opium with them. He added that Long Pot grows only enough opium for local consumption, but neighboring villages grow more for sale. He said all the opium sold in this sector was sold to Muong Kassy and Vang Vieng but never to Long Tieng. Knowing the proclivity of individuals in this area to say what they think the questioner wants to hear, we do not have too much confidence in what Ger Su Yang told our interviewing officer. Our point is that Mr. McCoy accepted his word without any apparent attempt at verification of his or other villagers’ stories. In addition, the Meos of the Long Pot area are not only anti-Vang Pao but have on occasion collaborated with the Pathet Lao.

KMT Irregulars

Mr. McCoy’s charge that CIA’s relationship with the KMT was a key factor in the latter’s involvement in the opium trade is without foundation. CIA’s early contacts with the KMT ceased in August 1951 and since that date the Agency has had no substantial contact with KMT irregulars in Burma or elsewhere. Opium production in the area where the KMT irregulars located after the fall of China in 1949 had long existed and was not, as suggested by the author, started by the irregulars. That they ultimately became involved appears to have been motivated by survival rather than any other known reason.

The Mafia

Mr. McCoy presents the theme that there has been an association of the U.S. Government with Sicilian and Corsican Mafia types in the past and that this has somehow been responsible for the fact that those types play a large role in the illegal narcotics traffic today. The argument simply does not hold water. There have been Mafia groups, just as there have been Chinese and other groups, who have been famous for participation in smuggling and other illicit traffic for centuries. They appear wherever large illegal profits can be made, and the existence of governmental authority whether passive or antagonistic often has little effect on their activities. We do not believe Mr. McCoy has made a case to the contrary.

Support for U.S. Narcotics Control Efforts Overseas

On page 350, Mr. McCoy states that the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics’ attempts to conduct investigations in Laos were blocked by the Laotian government, the State Department, and the CIA. BNDD reports that, “…programs to effect control of narcotic trafficking could not be initiated without Laotian national drug control laws. Ambassador Godley was instrumental in assisting the Laotian government to formulate such laws which became effective in November 1971. BNDD agents were assigned to work in Laos in December 1971, soon after the law became effective. BNDD is unaware of any opposition by CIA in this process. Rather, CIA has assisted in furtherance of the BNDD mission in Laos.”

As part of his thesis that the U.S. Government is covering up for local officials who may be engaged in narcotics traffic, Mr. McCoy states on page 218 that, “The CIA avoids gathering information on high-level involvement, and even in its closed-door sessions with high Embassy officials discusses only minor pushers and addicts.” This is completely untrue, but Mr. McCoy makes this serious charge apparently on the word of an unnamed Embassy official, who may not have had access to such reports. Mr. McCoy could easily have ascertained the facts. He apparently made no real attempt to do so.

9 After talking with me and seeing my notes, Harper and Row’s legal department prepared the following rebuttal to the CIA. This rebuttal is simply a point-by-point response to the CIA’s objections and does not go into some of the broader issues raised by the Agency’s statement. I will comment on this later.

Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.

August 4, 1972

Lawrence R. Houston, Esq.

General Counsel

Central Intelligence Agency

Washington, D. C. 20505

Dear Mr. Houston:

Thank you for your letter of July 28, 1972 together with its enclosures.

Together with the author, we have now completed a thorough review of the comments made in your letter and in the enclosures, checking them against Mr. McCoy’s manuscript and notes. Based upon this careful review, it is our sincere opinion that Mr. McCoy’s scholarship remains unshaken and we do not see any reason for making any changes in the text. I am appending hereto a list of the points made in your memorandum to us, together with an explanation of our reasons for believing in each case that no change is either necessary or appropriate.

As you correctly point out in your letter, Mr. McCoy’s theme is that the CIA’s role in the heroin traffic has been principally inadvertent and a consequence of other tactics which it has pursued. I believe that this theme is amply documented throughout the book and that it constitutes an eminently reasonable assessment of the effect of the Agency’s activities in this area. We regret, as you do, the fact that some writers have mis-characterized the allegations which Mr. McCoy makes in the book. With this fact in mind, we believe that the best service we can render the author, the CIA and the general public is to publish the book as expeditiously as possible, and that is what we intend to do.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your courtesy to us and for honoring the conditions which we imposed when we sent you the manuscript.

Sincerely,
B. Brooks Thomas

Appendix to Letter of August 4, 1972 to Lawrence R. Houston, Esq.

Air America

Your Comment

  1. Statement of Paul Velte June 2, 1972 labelling McCoy allegations relating to Air America “utterly and absolutely false.”

Our Response

  1. Mr. Velte’s statement refers to Mr. McCoy’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Operations Committee. The statement referred to does not appear in the book. Mr. McCoy believes that Mr. Velte’s statement may well be accurate as of the date it was made. He does not believe that it accurately reflects conditions in the period 1965-1967 to which the passage which does appear on page 278 of the book refers.

Your Comment

  1. You state that Gen. Ouane Rattikone has recently denied that Air America was in any way involved in transporting opium.

Our Response

  1. Mr. McCoy interviewed Gen. Rattikone in Vientiane on September 1, 1971. We have seen his notes, and are satisfied that he accurately transcribed what was related to him on that occasion. Support for this allegation is also derived from Mr. McCoy’s interview with Gen. Thao Ma in Bangkok on September 17, 1971. We note also that Mr. McCoy’s allegation has recently been confirmed by Nelson Gross (whose earlier testimony is relied upon in your letter of July 5, 1972) in an interview with a staff correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor reported on July 27, 1972. In that interview Mr. Gross stated, inter alia, as follows:

Sure, Air America was probably used as a vehicle for some transit, just as all commercial and military aircraft probably were, until the fall of 1970 when we really became aware of the narcotics problem in the area.”

Vang Pao

Your Comment

  1. You state that the BNDD has no credible evidence implicating Vang Pao in the narcotics traffic, contrary to the statements made on pp. 244 and 248-9 of the text.

Our Response

  1. The source of Mr. McCoy’s statements is an interview he had in New Haven, Connecticut on November 18, 1971 with a present employee of the BNDD, who stated that BNDD had received a report implicating Vang Pao. Because of the circumstances under which the interview was given, Mr. McCoy refuses to disclose the name of the employee involved, but we have satisfied ourselves that such an interview took place and that the statements referred to were in fact made.

Your Comment

  1. You state that Ger Su Yang’s testimony on page 289 is not credible because the Long Pot Sector has traditionally refused to accept Vang Pao’s leadership and has maintained friendly relationships with the Pathet Lao.

Our Response

  1. The description of the system by which Meo mercenaries purchase opium from villagers in the Long Pot area is based not only on the interviews with Ger Su Yang described on page 289, but also on interviews with the Headmen of Nam Suk Village and Nam Ou Village, both of which were conducted on August 21, 1971. We believe that their credibility is a highly subjective matter which is best evaluated by the interviewer in a face-to-face meeting.

Your Comment

  1. You state that Gen. Ouane Rattikone has recently been questioned and is adamant in asserting that Vang Pao has not been involved in the drug traffic.

Our Response

  1. Mr. McCoy does not rely primarily on Gen. Rattikone in connection with the assertions made about Vang Pao’s involvement with the drug traffic. In any event, it would not be at all surprising if Gen. Rattikone’s assertions to a representative of your Agency are markedly different from the information he gave to Mr. McCoy.

Paramilitary Activities and Heroin Refineries

Your Comment

  1. You state that the CIA has identified and dismantled a heroin refinery operated by Chao La and that this contradicts Mr. McCoy’s assertion that Chao La received political protection for his refineries.

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