Review by Carlo Parcelli

“Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal,
rape, and pillage with the sanction and the blessing of the All-Highest.”
-George White, Federal Bureau of Narcotics & Central Intelligence Agency        

The Strength of the Wolf:
The Secret History of America’s War On Drugs

by Douglas Valentine
Verso Press, London/NY, 2004. 554pgs.

Back in the 1980's, during the era of William Casey’s CIA, there were reports circulating in the alternative press about an international drug smuggling operation involving the mujaheddin in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Pakistani military, including elements of its intelligence service, the Inter Service Intelligence or ISI. At one point the CIA, in an effort to ramp up this smuggling operation, sought to requisition 400 vehicles, including dozens of transport trucks from the Department of Defense. The Pentagon refused, but the CIA appealed to Reagan’s Vice President, career spook George H.W. Bush, through the National Security Council. The CIA got its trucks.

At that time there were 17 Drug Enforcement Agents stationed in Islamabad, the largest contingent in the world at the time outside of the United States, according to Alfred W. Mc Coy in his classic history The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. (The number I remember reading at the time was 14 agents, still a formidable number for a single overseas station.) This contingent of DEA agents was “pushing paper” in Islamabad when “[i]n marked contrast ...a single Norwegian detective, [Oyvind Olsen,] broke a heroin case that led directly to the leader of Pakistan, General Zia ul Haq’s private banker.”

The CIA’s close relationship to elements in the Zia regime, including the ISI, were well known. Also the agency's ties to heroin and raw opium smuggler and mujaheddin leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, were becoming problematic as revelations of U.S. complicity in the drug trade bloomed. Hekmatyar has turned on his American allies and is currently battling the CIA-installed Hamid Karzai regime in Afghanistan. This is not surprising. He was a founder of the Islamic brotherhood and led student demonstrations in Kabul in the 1970's and remains a member of the Jamaat-i Islami (Party of Islam), “a fundamentalist and quasi-fascist Muslim group with many followers inside the Pakistani officer corps.” The U.S. State Department and the mainstream media never fail to mention in their public comments that Hekmatyar is a “narco-terrorist,” as though all those years he worked hand in hand with the CIA he was a choirboy. He was particularly close to another drug dealer, Jesse Helms, former Senator from North Carolina.

What was the Reagan administration’s response to this torrent of reports tying the CIA to mujaheddin/ISI drug smuggling? As the Islamabad branch of the DEA began to stir around the reports of convoys of arms going up to Afghanistan and bringing drugs back, the Reagan people reassigned all but two agents, lest they interfere with the CIA drug operation. Pakistan virtually overnight went from a country with a few thousand heroin abusers to 1.3 million addicts.

And this is where Doug Valentine’s study of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs, proves itself essential. The FBN was a precursor of the DEA and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, or BNDD; and as such, repeatedly, both worked with and ran afoul of the CIA and the national security apparatus in its pursuit of national and international drug cartels. Valentine draws much of his narrative from interviews with former FBN agents whose frustration with and anger at interference by the CIA and the national security apparatus interference is palpable.

The amount of information Valentine crams into his text is formidable and often takes on the texture of the dense web of law enforcement, felonious behavior, and intrigue he’s illuminating. Some sets of passages reveal corruption so deep and pervasive that it's “thrilling”, to borrow Dirty Lenny’s term. Any one of dozens of cases Valentine touches on could have become one of Mark Lombardi’s elegant and complex graphs of corruption.

For example, Valentine quotes from a memo from Ed Lansdale, the head of Operation Mongoose, part of JM/WAVE, which in part plotted to assassinate Castro as well as other Cubans and destroy Cuba’s infrastructure. Lansdale wrote: “Gangster elements might prove the best recruitment potential for actions [murders] against police G-2 (intelligence) officials. CW [Chemical Warfare] agents should be fully considered.” And recent documents have proven that CW were used as well as biological weapons against crops and the hog population of the island nation. Lansdale is ubiquitous in the annals of U.S. foreign policy. He can be found at the Huk rebellion, Vietnam/Laos, as well as Kennedy assassination. There is a hagiography on Lansdale which has its uses if you can read between the lines. But for biting insight into just how cultural chauvinists like Lansdale or Ted Shackley can fuck things up, read Richard Drinnon’s chapters on the former in his Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire Building.

As it turns out, the gangsters in Lansdale’s employ were the very gangsters the FBN was chasing--Carlos Marcello, Santos Trafficante, Meyer Lansky, and Lucky Luciano.

On the very next page, we get Bobby Kennedy et al. Not the indefatigably noble Bobby Kennedy of the current Emilio Estevez hagiography, but the historical Bobby Kennedy:

While Bobby Kennedy was using Mafia drug smugglers in murder plots against Castro [Robert Kennedy was intimately involved with Operation Mongoose], and thus neutralizing the FBN, the CIA was relocating its Havana station and anti-Castro terror activities to Miami. Known as JM/WAVE, the station was managed by Theodore Shackley, a protée;gée; of Bill Harvey from Germany. It included Lansdale’s Mongoose unit, and some 400 CIA case officers. Already the preferred habitat of America’s mobsters, Miami was soon packed with dozens of CIA front companies. Thousands of CIA informers and assets, and several drug smuggling terror teams financed by wacky privateers like William Pawley, mentioned in Chapter 5 as having engineered the Pawley-Cooke Advisory Mission in Taiwan.
Reader’s Digest Press published career spook Ted Shackley’s book The Third Option in 1981. The book is such self-righteous bluster as to be laughable coming from a man who was stung by the Church and Pike committee reports and forced to fake his retirement from the Agency. “Shackley, having met drug lord General Vang Pao in Miami during his cooling off period, was reassigned as station chief to Laos.” He needed to chill in Vientiane because “he’d been caught selling 50 kilograms of morphine base to FBN agent Bowman Taylor.”

“How could the United States project power into distant lands, thus restoring some control over events which threaten our very survival?” Shackley asks. His answer: counter-insurgency and para-military operations like JM/WAVE, the Phoenix Program, and Operation Mongoose. Shackley is never clear how events in Nicaragua, the Congo, Bangladesh, Chile, Burkina Faso or Haiti etc. ad nauseum “threaten [the] very survival” of the U.S., a piece of political hyperbole obviously designed to disguise naked imperialism. But the global nature of American hegemony is clear in the statement.

So Ted Shackley in Florida! No wonder it was so easy for him to plug into the drugs and illegal arms side of the Iran-Contra affair, along with a bevy of Miami Cubans accused of drugs and arms smuggling, sabotage and murder, including Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, who blew up a Cuban airliner, killing all aboard. Is that in your Bobby Kennedy legacy, Emilio? It's what you often find among American politicians; relatively benign domestic policy – fodder-friendly -- yet a foreign policy, the tool of empire, that is cruel, vindictive, even sadistic.

But wait, it gets better, Golden Triangle fans! “To cover a fraction of the costs of this massive enterprise, former spymaster Paul L. E. Helliwell established and directed a string of drug money laundering banks for the CIA. At the time, Helliwell was general counsel for the Thai consulate in Miami, an active leader in the Republican Party, and a friend of Nixon’s cohort, Bebe Rebozo. Among his drug smuggling credentials, Helliwell had worked with Chiang Kai-Shek’s intelligence chief, General Tai Li, and had set up the CIA’s drug smuggling air force, CAT [Civil Air Transport](later Air America), as well as the Bangkok trading company Sea Supply, which provided cover for CIA officers advising the drug-smuggling Thai border police.”

Against this new OSS/CIA backdrop of international criminality disguised as national security, the FBN was assigned the task of keeping America’s streets safe from drugs. As Valentine points out, the long and bitter dissolution of the FBN had begun.

The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, FBN, which was formed on June 30th, 1930, from the remnants of the Narcotics Division, the corrupt Prohibition Unit of the Internal Revenue Service, and the Treasury Department’s Foreign Control Board, antedates the Office of Strategic Services or OSS, the precursor to the CIA, by over two decades. The CIA’s role in the international drug trade and how it warped, thwarted, and finally made a mockery of U.S. drug policy cannot be stressed enough. Valentine himself begins his introduction with a discussion of how, after finishing work on his excellent study of the ‘Phoenix Program’, he turned to the FBN. The Phoenix Program was turned over to the CIA by the DoD midstream. This put the CIA in an ideal position to protect its Golden Triangle drug smuggling turf and infiltrate and subvert DEA efforts to stem the international drug trade after the end of the U.S. incursion into Vietnam and Southeast Asia (see mujaheddin story above).

Not that the FBN, anymore than the BNDD or DEA, was a sainted organization. From its inception in 1930 to just under a decade before its dissolution, it was headed by Harry Jacob Anslinger, who was recommended by then head of the Foreign Relations committee, Stephen G. Porter (R-PA), and that paragon of truth and beauty, yellow journalist, the Rupert Murdoch of his day, William Randolph Hearst. Anslinger was a bureaucratic brown-noser with little interest in real drug enforcement and little idea of how to proceed. His main concern was preserving his power and maneuvering his little fiefdom politically while in the shadow of J. Edgar Hoover’s far more powerful FBI. Lucky Luciano appropriately nicknamed Anslinger, Harry ‘Asslicker.’

Post-World War II American foreign policy is often grotesque, and as Valentine makes clear, the FBN managed to find itself entangled in more than its share of bizarre machinations. Sometimes FBN agents pursuing a case were suddenly told to back off, often without explanation, or removed altogether. Other times they were willing participants eager to take part in the Bureau’s sexy, Ed Wood-like cross-dressing fantasies or to abet felonies like drug dealing and murder.

Not that the FBN didn’t have its law enforcement moments. One of its best agents was Charles Siragusa, who nearly became Anslinger’s heir to head the bureau. Siragusa opened the FBN’s first overseas office in Rome and liaisoned there with the CIA.

Siragusa drew the line at facilitating drug trafficking, but helped the CIA in other ways. For example he helped black-bag CIA money to Italian politicians for James [Jesus] Angleton, the CIA’s aggressive counter-intelligence chief...
Siragusa was especially helpful to the CIA when it came to investigating diversions of Marshall Plan aid. In one case he learned through an informer that the commercial attachée; at the Romanian Embassy [the U.S.’s secret Communist ally] in Berne was diverting American-made ball-bearings to the Soviet Union, which the Soviets used to build tanks for North Korea. According to Siragusa, the attachée; traded the ball-bearings for heroin as part of a sinister scheme to steal strategic materials with one hand from the West, while the other poisoned it with smack.

As a result of the Berne case, a CIA team was sent to Rome under military cover to stop diversions, and with Siragusa’s help it intercepted all manner of strategic items, including uranium for the Soviet atomic energy program. James Jesus Angleton is loosely portrayed by Mat Damon in Robert DeNiro’s film ‘The Good Shepherd.’ But it's doubtful that Damon communicates the very non-photogenic, spidery creepiness of the alcohol-soaked real thing. One retired CIA officer told me about a dinner party he attended where Angleton was also a guest. Angleton turned to the young spook and began asking him questions about his family background, beliefs, aspirations, etc. As he posed his questions, he pulled a small notebook from his jacket pocket and began keeping notes on the answers. The paranoid Angleton continued taking notes the entire evening. So much for Emily Post meets Skull and Bones.

The FBN was involved in other notable cases, for example the famous French Connection and agent Frank Selvaggi’s Valachi investigation. Much of the FBN’s drug enforcement activity, however, was directed at street level dealers and users, especially among America’s blacks and disenfranchised. Much like today, street busts were easier and the numbers could be used to justify funding. And if you didn’t go too high up you wouldn’t run afoul of the powers that be like the CIA and get your ass fired or worse. When in the early 1950's the FBN was closing in on the Pahlavi family and the Shah of Iran through the Shah’s brother, Mahmoud Pahlavi, who along with other members of his family owned huge opium farms, they sat on the information because “the CIA was plotting to overthrow the government in Iran, and reinstall the Shah.” And indeed in 1953 the CIA overthrew the elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh and installed their favorite Persian drug dealers, the Pahlevis. Numerous other drug dealers from the Kuomintang to the Thai royal family and the Contras got a similar free pass flooding the streets of the world’s major cities with drugs.

Take a more recent analogy. Reporter Gary Webb, for his reporting on the CIA/Contra drug smuggling connection to the ‘Freeway’ Ricky Ross and the Los Angeles crack epidemic, was roundly vilified by the mainstream media protecting its masters. Webb was also hounded by various agencies of the U.S. government. The Los Angeles Times went so far as to contradict without explanation its own earlier reporting on ‘Freeway’ Ricky and his influence on the L.A. crack epidemic in order to protect the CIA in the name of national security. The whole hypocritical episode is laid out by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair in Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and The Press. As for Gary Webb: despondent over the outing of such a fine Ivy League crew as the CIA and their noble 'founding father'-like buddies, the Contras, he allegedly committed suicide à la Danny Casolaro in December of 2004.

Valentine’s book also expands on the FBN’s role in one of the seediest episodes involving the CIA, the creation of the American counter-culture or MKULTRA. As you might recall, MKULTRA was a program under the supervision of OSS/CIA scientist, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb. Gottlieb approached Harry Anslinger to enlist the services of FBN agent George White, in effect making White both an employee of the FBN and the OSS/CIA. All of this is nicely reprised in John Marks’ The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control The Story of the Agency’s Secret Efforts to the Control Human Behavior. For the perpetually naive I recommend the Church and Pike congressional committee reports or the books of CIA Inspector General Lyman B. Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick, for example, closed the case, ruling the mysterious death of Frank Olson a suicide. The CIA scientist, who specialized in airborne diseases like anthrax, was surreptitiously slipped LSD at a CIA social gathering. After a bad trip, Olson plunged to his death from a window of the Manhattan Statler Hilton several days later, in the presence of CIA psychiatrist Robert Lashbrook. Police initially called the crime scene a homicide until Kirkpatrick stepped in.

The ostensible reason for this CIA ‘research’ which embraced LSD and other hallucinogens was to create a ‘truth serum.’ Added to that project were various attempts to control behavior, in effect creating assassins chemically, the Manchurian Candidate. Better assassins through chemistry. But mostly it was used as a party drug by the Agency and a small group of elites who were creating the nascent vocabulary of mind expansion. The OSS project began under the supervision of Dr. Winfred Overholser of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, who also oversaw Ezra Pound’s treatment there during the 1950's. Overholser used a dozen unsuspecting guinea pigs from the Manhattan Project, possibly searching for Soviet or German spies. A liquid concentrate of marijuana was used but with no discernible results other than to make the young scientists ill. Whether Overholser was tripping while treating Pound is lost to posterity.

When George White came on board, he had bigger plans. White used FBN ‘safe houses’ and apartments around the country, including the birthplace of the counter-culture, San Francisco, for illicit trysts and parties among FBN, CIA, and other law enforcement and intelligence people. The ‘program’ expanded to include unwitting victims, acquaintances, prostitutes, musicians, etc. White would spike the punch with a cocktail of hallucinogens and their variants, often triggering hallucinations & even psychosis in his unsuspecting victims. Many suffered permanent psychological damage. For many more no record exists of what effect this clandestine drugging might have had on them. Years later in a personal letter to Sid Gottlieb, George White wrote an epitaph for his role in the CIA:

"I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape, and pillage with the sanction and the blessing of the All-Highest?
The breadth of drug-related events in the post-World War II world the FBN had a stake in is extraordinary. Though corruption flourished within the bureau throughout its history, it’s the FBN’s connection with broad historical events from a relatively unique perspective, often in the agents' own words, that makes Valentine’s reprise fresh and informative.

Valentine makes clear that three of the forces most prominent in defining the underlying international drug trade are the Mafia, the anti-Castro Cubans, and the CIA, with the CIA shielding the other two entities at every turn. Of the three, the Mafia is the most pervasive. Its underworld figures, like Arnold Rothstein who, besides running drugs, fixed the 1919 World Series, helped establish a need for a law enforcement agency that focused specifically on drugs. The anti-Castro Cubans were often Mafia figures unhappy about the Commies cleaning up their little island whore house. No more could a U.S. Congressman be lured to Havana with promises of unlimited sex with eight-year old boys in exchange for political favors.

The CIA’s connection, of course, began with ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan’s old OSS and its recruitment of Lucky Luciano and the Corsican mafiosi to beat and murder Communist union dockworkers in Marseilles and elsewhere along the Mediterranean Coast, and to seize Sicily from the Communists. With CIA blessing, and using drug running as a way of financing activities, the Mafia set up drug supply routes back to the U.S. Many an FBN operation would trace the drugs back to Mafia sources, in turn supplied through Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East, only to be thwarted by the far more powerful CIA stepping in and terminating the investigation on national security grounds.

But nowhere has CIA drug smuggling been more pervasive, longstanding, and crucial to the financing of black ops and low intensity conflict than in the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia. This raw opium and heroin preserve straddles northern Burma/Myanmar, southern Yunnan province in China, and northern Thailand stretching to Vientiane in southern Laos. The CIA officially took over drug smuggling operations from the French after Dien Bien Phu and along with the Corsicans, and especially the darlings of Washington political establishment, Reader’s Digest, and Claire Chennault, Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang.

The Kuomintang were involved in the drug trade in southern China well before there was an American presence in the region. But corrupt allies like Meo tribal leader Vang Pao who now resides in Orange County, California, were actually enlisted by the Agency. Vang Pao, a persistent critic of the godless and comparatively drugless Vietminh and Pathet Lao, helped organize the recent anti-Vietnam protests, in advance of George Bush’s visit to Hanoi, with the help of the California Republican Party, as the two have done on many occasions.

Competition for the drug trade remains fierce in the Golden Triangle to this day. As Valentine points out, the CIA then as now remains in the thick of it, even as the FBN proved ineffectual or too corrupt or bureaucratically incompetent to be effective. Drawing from Alfred McCoy’s earlier classic The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, Valentine reprises a popular story of the CIA’s heroic defense of its opium trade and life-and-death free market competition of the Golden Triangle:

As world attention focused ever more closely on America’s conduct in the Vietnam War, the CIA’s need to conceal its major role in the regional drug trade became a top priority. The climactic point came in June 1967, when Burmese War Lord Khun Sa decided to sell 16 tons of opium in Houei Sai. Construing this as a challenge to their precious monopoly over supply, the Kuomintang generals mobilized their forces in Burma and marched across the border into Laos. Apprised of the situation, CIA station chief Ted Shackley in Vientiane informed Pat Landry, chief of the CIA’s major base in Udorn, Thailand. Landry ordered Air Force Major Richard Secord to send a squadron of T-28s to the rescue. Within hours, the battle had ended with both Khun Sa and the Kuomintang in full retreat, and the Laotians in total control.
Most readers probably first heard of Richard Secord during Iran-Contra when he and his partner, Albert Hakim, supplied the U.S. proxy army fighting against the Sandinistas and flooding U.S. drug markets with Contra cocaine. Especially hard hit was South Central Los Angeles, which Contra and Agency asset Danilo Blandon and ‘Freeway’ Ricky Ross flooded with Colombian cocaine with the enthusiastic support of the CIA and Reagan administration officials. This is the story Gary Webb broke. And the spread of coke, especially crack, is why you ended up with Crips dealing in Mineola and Duluth and Scranton as well as the AIDS epidemic and the hundreds of millions of dollars made from the mandatory sentencing craze and the penal housing boom it fuels. (The sad saga is also reprised in Cockburn and St. Clair’s White Out, cited above.)

CIA agent Ted Shackley, called the Blond Ghost, the consummate ‘spook,’ shows up in the index of practically every book ever written on the illegal drug trade, political assassination, and sabotage from the earliest days of the U.S. takeover from the French in Vietnam to Operation Mongoose and the Phoenix Program, right through Iran-Contra. He famously said: “I fought the communists for twenty-eight years. I did a lot of bad things for my country. But I loved my country and did what I thought best.”

Of course, the case is easily made that Shackley also did a lot of bad things TO his country. Jonathan Kwitny, in his book The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA, sums up Shackley’s career thus: “Looking at the list of disasters Shackley has presided over during his career, one might even conclude that on the day the CIA hired Shackley it might have done better hiring a KGB agent; a Soviet mole probably could not have done as much damage to the national security of the United States with all his wiles as Shackley did with the most patriotic of intentions.”(p.291)

Valentine points out, and as ‘Freeway’ Ricky Ross and Contra cocaine confirm, [that the FBN as well as the CIA, DEA, FBI, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post et al.] racism and class warfare play an enormous role in who is the enemy in the so-called ‘war on drugs.’ It was the Danilo Blandon Contra drug connection with ‘Freeway’ Ricky Ross in Los Angeles than led to the pandemic of crack use in the U.S., and the seeming anomaly of finding Crips establishing drug markets all across the heartland. During the 1980's Ted Shackley and his friends Thomas Clines and Felix Rodriguez were part of the drug smuggling operation out of Ilopango Air Base in El Salvador that fueled that pandemic. CIA asset John Hull served the same function forming what was known as the 'Southern Front' from his ranch in Costa Rica along the Nicaraguan border.

Apropos of the customary targets of the FBN, and the FBN’s history of cutting law enforcement corners and corruption, agent Jim Attie summarized his experience as an agent as follows: “I’m not proud of what I did. It was dirty job. It was a form of amorality, and to this day I feel tremendous guilt and have unending nightmares as a result of what I did as a narcotic agent.” Attie himself exited the FBN after his fellow agents in the New York office, where he had recently been reassigned, slipped LSD into his coffee. Attie merited the reassignment because he had called his boss Anslinger “a manipulator and a cheapskate” who knew nothing about real narcotics work.

The FBN was involved in myriad aspects of the investigation of the infamous French Connection. The French Connection had its origins in French intelligence, the SDECE, operating in French Indo-China. This drug smuggling operation provided essential funding to the French military and enhanced its ability to wage war against insurgencies in that region. This is the operation the CIA would inherit working with the traditional drug lords in the Golden Triangle and the French Corsican mob. Further, “In 1963 Laos would withdraw from the UN’s 1961 Single Convention and, under the guidance of the CIA, start mass-producing narcotics to support the CIA’s own secret army of Laotion hill tribesmen, some 450 more of whom just surrendered to Laotian authorities in December of 2006.”

The FBN also made the initial bust on Joe Valachi, laboriously working their way up through his contacts. They also elicited some of his notorious revelations about the mob. A rookie agent in late 1958, Frank Selvaggi, along with his senior partner Art Mendelsohn and veteran NYPD narcotic detective Harold Kunin, arrested Helen Streat, a heroin addict and a prostitute in Harlem. Eventually through a series of busts, payoffs and ‘vigorous’ interrogations, a Selvaggi informant, Robert Wagner, ‘gave’ the FBN Valachi and he was arrested. Facing sentencing in court, Valachi began to set up and talk about members of the Genovese crime family.

And because the FBN was mandated to pursue illicit drugs, and because illicit drugs were a core business of the Mafia, the anti-Castro Cuban community, and the CIA, the FBN found itself smack dab in the middle of the Holy Grail of all conspiracies, the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But as Valentine points out, you’d be hard pressed to find relevant FBN activity in any official investigation of Kennedy’s assassination. For example, in 1958 the FBN was aware that Joseph Civello was Carlos Marcello’s “deputy in Dallas” and that Jack Ruby was part of Civello’s organization. FBN agent John Cusack linked Civello with Marcello, Santos Trafficante, and Jimmy Hoffa - the House Select Committee on Assassinations' three prime suspects in the Kennedy assassination. But the FBN was never called to testify, nor were their files requested.

Valentine lays out other FBN connections that went unexplored by the Warren Commission and other official investigations, none ‘eerier’ than the connection with the main figures in the aforementioned MKULTRA project which had for one of its main goals the creation of a Manchurian Candidate, a ‘patsy,’ to borrow Lee Harvey Oswald’s term.

"The three main suspects in the assassination [of JFK] - Marcello, Trafficante, and Hoffa - were million dollar men” e.g individuals who for services rendered and classified information were privy to were shielded from prosecution by the CIA. “And the CIA prevented the FBN from going after these drug traffickers, or investigating CIA agents like Irving Brown - and perhaps even Michael Mertz - in Angleton’s French connection."

There’s Oswald’s claim of being a mere ‘patsy’ in the assassination of Kennedy. Then there’s the connection that FBN files and interviews with former agents reveal between Ruby and the Marcello crime family and a number of other connections that Valentine lays out. In this light, not only Oswald but Ruby himself and Sirhan Sirhan, Robert Kennedy’s assassin, could have been patsies.

On 29 November 1963, a week after the president was murdered, Marshall Carter, the deputy director of the CIA, met with Richard Helms, John Earman, James Angleton, Sid Gottlieb, and Lyman Kirkpatrick. What a group! At this meeting the CIA chiefs agreed to continue testing unwitting subjects through MKULTRA using the FBN and its safehouses. To this end they launched MKULTRA Subproject 149 in New York in January 1964, specifically to provide a replacement for [FBN agent] Charlie Siragusa.
Siragusa had gotten tangled up in MKULTRA, Operation Mongoose plots to murder Castro, and other CIA intrigues when his boss Bill Anslinger sent Siragusa to solicit the help of Cuba’s new leader Fidel Castro in the apprehension of 50 major drug traffickers that had formerly called Batista’s Cuba their second home. Castro, who was in the Sierra Maestra when Batista was pimping for the mob and the CIA, couldn’t be of much help, and Siragusa began to suspect what was eventually to become the obvious, that Trafficante was protected by the CIA and that a recent murder charge in the Albert Anastasia assassination case was dismissed at the Agency's behest.

This review can't do Valentine's book justice. The rich detail of the CIA's effectiveness in blocking FBN efforts to pursue international drug traffickers is worth the price of admission alone.