Money makes the world go round.
Nowhere is this motto more relevant than in the shadowy world of smuggling weaponry and drugs, not to mention legal arms sales which all too often lead to modern weaponry falling into the hands of America’s worst enemies.
This all becomes evident when dissecting recent events such as the 2011 ouster of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the death of US Border Agent Brian Terry with weapons obtained through the government’s “Fast and Furious” program, the 2012 murder of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, and the arming of Syrian rebels attacking the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
According to various sources, behind all this bloody turmoil lies a program known as Direct Commercial Sales (DCS). This group operates within the US State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC). The DCS program regulates private U.S. companies’ overseas sales of weapons and other defense articles, defense services, and military training. It is separate from the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, which manages government-to-government sales. It is within little-known programs such as this that vast sums of money are shuffled through international banks, corporate business and foreign governments.
In a program entitled “Blue Lantern” the DDTC monitors end-use recipients of weapons and services licensed by the State Department provided by Direct Commercial Sales. Some defense industry sources now claim that DCS is “playing both sides against the middle for corporate or political gain.” Such activity has been traced back to operations in Cuba in the 1950s and 60’s, the Iran-Contra Scandal of the Reagan administration and the long-lost War on Drugs. An objective look at this program also lends tremendous support to critics who contend that the United States is the “arms merchant of the world.”
In Blue Lantern reports going back to the early 2000s, it was found that many investigations of end users of weaponry supplied by US firms were “unfavorable,” with arms sometimes ending up in the hands of foreign enemies. Such reports were handed to law enforcement agencies for possible legal action but usually have been dropped for foreign relations considerations.
William Robert “Tosh” Plumlee, a former CIA contract pilot who flew arms and ammunition for the agency as far back as the overthrow of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, questioned if such arms dealing might be another “off-the-books” covert operation run by the CIA’s Special Tactical Unit akin to the arms-for-drugs deal in Iran-Contra and the Cuban Project of the 1950s, in which both Fidel Castro and the Batista Government in Cuba were sold weapons from American stockpiles for corporate profit. Numerous field reports have stated Plumlee flew arms to Nicaragua during the Iran-Contra Scandal. In testimony to the US Senate, Plumlee also said he returned to the US with loads of cocaine during the Reagan years. Recently, Plumlee has worked as a photojournalist along the US-Mexican border and participated in investigations into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Fast and Furious sting operation..
Plumlee said he perceives the same type of operations being conducted today in the Middle East. He reported to federal officials large shipments of “High Impact” weapons as well as small arms and ammunition being funneled through a network of clandestine CIA safe houses in Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, Pakistan and other Middle Eastern locations by hired civilians and mercenaries financed by private US corporations and the CIA’s “Black Budget.” Plumlee said he worked with a unit called Task Force Seven under Able Charlie Command headquartered at Ft Bliss, Texas.
According to a recent article in a June 2013 edition of Defense News, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) informed Congress of $13 billion in potential defense trade. Heading the list was Saudi Arabia with a potential sale of $6.4 billion for a “National Guard modernization program, new Mark V patrol boats and follow-on support for the Royal Saudi Air Force.” Saudi Arabia, home of the bin Ladens, is run by the fundamental Wahhabi sect of Muslims, one of the most vicious opponents of Israel.
Iraq was named as a pre-approved buyer with $4. 7 billion in possible sales which could include a $2.4 billion integrated air defense system and $900 million worth of Stryker vehicles. Other Mid-East potential buyers include Qatar, Libya and Kuwait. According to the DSCA, such sales would “advance US foreign policy and national security interests.”
According to Plumlee, for several years American intelligence agents operating from a number of safe houses in Syria aided in the sale of arms to the Syrian rebels even to the extent of deciding which terrorist gang or commander should receive the weapons as they arrive. The New York Times in March 2013 reported the scale of arms shipments was “very large,” and that the Turkish government exercised oversight over much of the operation. “A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,” stated Hugh Griffiths, an illicit arms transfers monitor for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. “The intensity and frequency of these flights are suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation,” Griffiths added.
On September 17, 2013, the White House announced that President Obama has waived portions of a federal law aimed at preventing arms being sold to terrorist groups. He did this so that the Syrian rebels could legally be supplied weaponry and ammunition. This waiver could prove problematic, according to The Washington Examiner, since a significant portion of the Syrian opposition has been connected to radical Islamic terrorist groups including al Qaeda.
It was only in mid-June 2013 that the White House finally announced that President Obama had authorized “direct military support” to Syrian rebel forces. According to a Reuters news dispatch, “Syrian rebel and political opposition leaders immediately called for anti-aircraft and other sophisticated weaponry. The arrival of thousands of seasoned, Iran-backed Hezbollah Shi’ite fighters to help Assad combat the mainly Sunni rebellion has shifted momentum in the two-year-old war, which the United Nations said … had killed at least 93,000 people.”
A report issued by Watchdog.org revealed that even as the US Senate debated authorizing an air strike against Syria, a number of prominent senators had received large donations from the military-industrial-banking complex. “It is hardly surprising that uber-hawk Sen. John McCain led the way with more than $176,000 in contributions from defense interests,” commented Watchdog’s Eric Boehm. He added that senators indicating approval of the strike resolution received, on average, 83 percent more money from defense contractors than the others.
Several researchers, including Plumlee, have stated the CIA was smuggling weapons from seized Libyan depots to the Syrian rebels even before the 2012 attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. CNN reported the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi were covered up to conceal the arms smuggling, which had been taking place since at least September 2012. US agents were running the operation out of safe houses as well as the Benghazi “annex,” not far from the embassy. The media even has reported CIA has muzzled their employees and foreign ground assets regarding the circumstances of this still-controversial incident.
One allegation is Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya, along with four other Americans were killed by a heavily-armed group in 2012 in a planned attack designed to prevent them from revealing the arms-for-profit activities there. The Obama administration and the US corporate media claimed the attack was a spontaneous act by Lyban demonstrators against Gaddafi. However, investigations by US groups, including several congressional committees determined the attack was premeditated. Some of Stevens’ colleagues have claimed the ambassador was attempting to buy back Stinger missiles provided to al Qaeda by the State Department during the Libyan civil war in 2011.
“It appears America is again…destabilizing a region, escalating the conflict, all for the sake of corporate and political profit. Is history again repeating itself?” asked Plumlee. “Mainstream media is not allowed to cover these subjects [as] it’s classified a matter of ‘National Security’.”
The Direct Commercial Sales program also involves weapons sales to Central and South America, mostly connected to the War on Drugs, which often have backfired on the US. For example, a federal operation dubbed “Fast and Furious” allowed weapons from the U.S. to pass into the hands of suspected gun smugglers purportedly so they could be traced to Mexican drug cartels. The ATF lost track of hundreds of firearms, many of which have been linked to crimes, including the shooting death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December2010.
In 2012, Danny Cruz Morones, 24, of Phoenix became the first of 20 Fast and Furious defendants indicted in 2011 for buying high-powered firearms in Arizona to be used by Mexican drug gangs. Morones pled guilty to acting as a “straw purchaser” of weapons, including AK-47 assault rifles, as well as recruiting others to buy the weapons. He was sentenced to 57 months in prison. The Fast and Furious cases were shifted to San Diego after the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix recused itself because of its ties to the local ATC office.
According to investigative reporter Bill Conroy writing for Narco News, in 2006-2007 alone the DCS program involved the sale of $3.3 million in ammunition, explosives and ammunition-manufacturing equipment; $11.6 million in semiautomatic rifles and pistols, $518,531 in grenade launchers; $78,251 in explosive projectiles including grenades; and $963,201 in night-vision equipment.
The San Antonio Express News reported Mexican authorities in Reynosa across the border from McAllen, Texas, recently seized the country’s single largest stash of cartel weapons — nearly 300 assault rifles, shoulder-fired grenade launchers and a half million rounds of ammunition.But weeks later, Mexican authorities still have not allowed the ATF access to serial numbers that would help them track down the buyers and traffickers on the U.S. side.
One Blue Lantern report detailed how a Latin American arms dealer served as a front for another company which only existed on paper and provided small arms to “gangs in [a] third country”.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon told the Associated Press in 2009, “…[W]e’ve seized in this two years more than 25,000 weapons and guns, and more than 90 percent of them came from the United States, and I’m talking from missile launchers to machineguns and grenades.”
Conroy said his investigations confirmed that the deadliest weapons now in the hands of Mexican drug gangs came from perfectly legal private-sector arms exports measuring in the billions of dollars and sanctioned persons within the US State Department.
In July 2013, retired United States Border Patrol agents, writing on behalf of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers (NAFBPO), issued a public letter warning that violent Mexican drug cartels are operating all across the US. In part, the letter noted, “Organized crime on [the] scale we are speaking about cannot exist without political protection.”
Such activities prompted Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to complain in a 2006 letter to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “You surely know that all of this began when a group of about 30 traffickers of influence and corrupt politicians, using the cover of so-called neoliberal economic policies, took control of the Mexican State…these policies of pillaging that has enriched a minority in an exaggerated and obscene manner …[and] has condemned the Mexican people to exile and survival.”
The arms pipeline begins with the large multinational banks which loan and manages the large sums of money involved. Next, private US arms manufacturers gain licenses from the State Department to sell arms to other nations. But the status of the end use of such weapons then becomes murky. For instance, in Mexico, arms were sold to the government of former President Vicente Fox and then were diverted to drug gangs, such as the violent Zetas, by Mexican soldiers who defected from the military. Plumlee said American agents could not have been unaware of such activities in corruption-ridden Mexico.
Conroy cited a former US Customs Inspector, who requested anonymity, as saying, “I would agree entirely [that] DCS (and DoD gifted, as opposed to DCS sold) weapons are obviously the simplest explanation for the massive rise in the number of fully automatic weapons, grenades, rockets, etc., obtained by the narcotics gangs…That is to say, they are obtaining their weapons from their own, Mexican, government, by various illegal means.”
Plumlee revealed the Zetas have reportedly bought property in the Columbus, NM, border region to stash weapons and other contraband. “From the intel, it appears that a company was set up in Mexico to purchase weapons through the US Direct Commercial Sales Program, and that the company may have had a direct link to the Zetas,” he said. According to US Government statistics, the DCS program has approved more than $4.7 billion in private-sector weapons exports to Mexico since 1996. In 2010 alone, Direct Commercial Sales provided Mexico with $416.5 million worth of weapons and equipment.
Phil Jordan, who served as director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso Intelligence Center in 1995, told the El Paso Times the Zetas drug organization shipped large amounts of weapons purchased in the Dallas area through El Paso. However, a spokesperson for the El Paso DEA office said the agency does not have any information about the Zetas operating in the border region.
Recipients of arms sales include the Department of Homeland Security, which, according to mainstream media reports, has been buying millions of rounds of ammunition, much in calibers not used by the US military. Such ammo stockpiling promoted retired United States Army Captain Terry M. Hestilow to write Texas Sen. John Cornyn on Facebook labeling the Obama administration’s recent appropriation of weapons a “bold threat of war” against citizens of the United States of America.