- A former CIA deep-cover agent turns whistleblower
at great risk. His shocking allegations expose powerful names controlling
the international drug trade in very high places.
- Part 1
- Vietnam Special Forces Air Combat Controller;
25-year CIA deep-cover agent; US Army pilot flying classified missions
during the US invasion of Grenada; Iran-Contra pilot flying cocaine shipments
labelled as medical supplies; and member of the ultra-secret, international
G7-run Pegasus "hit team"...this is the extraordinary story of
Gene "Chip" Tatum.
- From sensitive, highly secretive (and
hitherto largely unknown) Special Forces covert operations in Cambodia,
to wandering CIA asset; through to "black ops" activities in
Grenada and Oliver North's Iran-Contra "Enterprise", as well
as membership in an international "hit team", Gene "Chip"
Tatum has seen it all, done it all and is now telling it all.
- Tatum claims to know where the skeletons
are buried. Above all, he is aware that his testimony implicates serving
and former US Presidents plus a whole list of high-level government officials
and others in a welter of nefarious activities - including assassination,
blackmail, coercion, gun-running, money-laundering and cocaine-trafficking.
- Tatum, a lanky Floridian, turned whistleblower
following his arrest on a treason charge in early 1995. The charge was
both astonishing and patently ludicrous, and was later dropped and replaced
by a fraud charge - a drastic step-down. Found guilty, he was sentenced
to serve a 15-month sentence. In March 1996, an additional charge - conspiring
to embezzle - was brought against him. Found guilty, he was incarcerated
in Jesup Federal Correctional Facility, Georgia, where he is serving a
27-month concurrent sentence. Ensuing press interest resulted in one article
appearing in the Tampa Tribune on 4 May 1996.
- Many questions continue to hang over
the conduct of the trial. His defence lawyer refused to call any of the
80 witnesses whom Tatum nominated for the defence. Later, his lawyer freely
confessed to having come under pressure from the US Department of Defense.
Tatum says the first charge was a set-up to discredit him following his
"resignation" from "Operation Pegasus". The second
charge he views with greater scepticism and concern.
- Tatum's resignation from Pegasus followed
his refusal to "neutralise" a leading US political figure in
the 1992 US presidential elections. Tatum declares he will not "participate
in assassinations of any sort, character assassinations or anything, of
American citizens". He goes on to explain that back in 1994, in a
telephone conference call involving Oliver North, Felix Rodríguez
and the late William Colby of the CIA, he was warned to turn over incriminating
documents and tapes he had accumulated for his "retirement".
He wryly observes that had he done so, he would probably have been quickly
"terminated" in an "extreme" way - a speciality of
the Pegasus team of which he was once a member.
- Countering this demand, Tatum volunteered
to plead guilty on a fabricated felony count and serve a 12-month sentence
- so that his credibility would be damaged in the event he ever decided
to speak out. His incarceration for the second charge - and especially
the six- month sentence of his wife, Nancy - led him to speak out about
his life, almost 30 years of which he served as a "black" operative,
and to reveal and destroy the command structure of Pegasus. It is an extraordinary
- "OPERATION RED ROCK"
- Tatum has written of his early career
in the military, and his involvement in a highly sensitive and classified
operation, in an unpublished manuscript entitled "Operation Red Rock".
Joining the Air Force in February 1970, he went through Army jump school,
escape and evasion training, jungle training, sea survival school and diving
school and was assigned along with six others as "Combat Controllers"
(the USAF equivalent of Special Forces), receiving his distinctive Special
Forces burgundy-coloured beret. From there he was assigned to Tinker Air
Force Base, Oklahoma, and then on to Fort Bragg, North Carolina - home
of the "Green Berets" - for training in C4 plastic explosives,
mines, nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, plus indoctrination in
electronic and psychological operations.
- Posted to South-East Asia as Airman First
Class (A1C) in December 1970, he was assigned as a radio operator on a
Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft attached to Task Force Alpha at Nakhon
Phanom, Thailand. In short order he was recruited (an involuntary "volunteer")
to "Team Red Rock". The team was composed of eight US Army Green
Berets, three US Navy SEALs and two "cowboys" - a euphemism for
CIA paramilitary specialists. With Tatum attached, Team Red Rock totalled
14 in all, and was about to be tasked with an operation that came directly
from the White House.
- In January 1971 the team received a final
briefing from General Alexander Haig, who had flown in specially, along
with CIA Saigon Chief William Colby - nicknamed by the team as "Mr
Peepers" because of his resemblance to a well-known character in a
TV sitcom. Haig and Colby outlined the plan, stressing its importance and
extreme classification. President Nixon, desperate to quell domestic riots
over an increasingly unpopular war, sought to withdraw all US personnel
from South-East Asia. Withdrawal would - and, in the end, ultimately did
- cause a military vacuum, quickly leading to the defeat of South Vietnamese
- During those years, Nixon was also running
a "secret war" in Cambodia and Laos. In Laos, a dwindling number
of Meo tribesmen, together with covert US personnel employed by the CIA
proprietary company, Air America, were battling against superior North
Vietnamese ground forces. A much similar pattern was occurring in Cambodia,
amid grave fears that the "domino theory" would result if either
of these two nations were to fall to the Communist North Vietnamese. Nixon
hoped that the vacuum caused by the withdrawal of US covert forces could
be filled by native Cambodian forces. Lon Nol, the Cambodian leader, stubbornly
continued to resist Nixon's diplomatic overtures to take up the slack,
being anxious to hedge his bets and realistic about his chances of survival
as Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese forces prepared to swarm in, unhindered by
US air power.
- A plan had been drawn up at the highest
levels of Nixon's administration. Team Red Rock were to enter Cambodia's
capital, Phnom Penh, in secret and attack the airport and military and
civil installations, wreaking as much havoc as possible. The plan called
for the team to parachute into the outskirts of Phnom Penh, carrying captured
NVA "Sappers" with them. Taken in unarmed and alive, the Sappers
would be "sacrificed" and their bodies left to be discovered
by Cambodian forces. A furious Lon Nol would assume North Vietnam was to
blame. It was hoped that such an act would stiffen Lon Nol's backbone.
With nowhere else to turn, the US puppet would urgently seek US hardware
to strengthen his forces and continue the battle.
- The team members were not told that they,
too, were to be sacrificed by their President to ensure that word of the
operation never reached the light of day. A detachment of Montagnard tribesmen
("the Yards"), in the pay of the CIA, was assigned to liquidate
each member of the team and dispose of the bodies. The attack went successfully,
but the team's suspicion of "the Yards" foiled the betrayal.
Using their knowledge of "escape and evasion" tactics, the team
decided to trek to the Vietnamese border and back to safety with US forces.<#11
- Casualties thinned out their numbers
until only eight of them remained. Soon these, too, were captured by NVA
regulars and underwent hideous torture at the hands of Chinese and Russian
interrogators. Ultimately, only Tatum and one other team member survived
- Convalescing, Tatum was debriefed by
CIA station chief, William Colby, and told he would, in future, be kept
close to "the Agency". Recruited into the CIA, the yawning door
of future "black" operations creaked open. Life would never be
the same again for Chip Tatum.
- CIA DEEP-COVER AGENT
- For the next 10 years or so, Tatum's
covert activities were varied. For a while, he worked out of Homestead
Air Force Base where he was NCIOC of the tower receiver sight and MARS
station. This was the base which then-President Nixon used for his frequent
visits to the Key Biscayne, Florida, "White House". Much of this
period remains obscured behind a thick blanket of classification.
- From there, he was stationed in northern
Italy, tasked with visiting the border towns of Yugoslavia and Italy. Colby
felt that as a young Air Force man, Tatum might be "approached"
in these towns for "information". The idea was to make contact
with foreign agents and covertly gather information about them and their
operations. Later, he was tasked with infiltrating Yugoslavia in order
to gather intelligence on potential successors to the then Yugoslavian
- Tatum was also sent to search for missing
US POWs from Vietnam and elsewhere in South-East Asia.
- By 1976, Tatum was operating out of Lamar,
Colorado, in a communications facility called OLAB. His contact there was
Don Holmes, president of Valley - a Savings & Loan bank.<#22 Tatum
acted as his courier, shuttling between Lamar and Springfield, Colorado,
with transaction files. From there he was transferred to MacDill Air Force
Base, Tampa, Florida.
- Shortly before his MacDill posting, Tatum
received a call from Colby telling him he was resigning his position as
Director, Central Intelligence, and recommending Tatum should deactivate
his clandestine CIA activities. Colby continued, saying that remaining
active without Colby there to protect him might place him in personal "jeopardy",
as he had powerful enemies in Washington. This warning referred to Nixon,
Kissinger and Haig, and Tatum's role in and survival from "Operation
- Tatum took good notice of the warning
and became deactive. Later, in 1979, he requested and was granted entry
into a USAF Reserve program. Leaving active military service he moved to
Gunnison, Colorado, and took up a position with Bo Calloway, owner of the
Crested Bute ski area. The appointment was arranged by Colby.
- During 1980 he received a visit from
two men who informed him he was being reactivated, but into the US Army
instead of the Air Force. He was sent to the US Army Flight School for
rotary- wing training at Fort Rucker. From there he was assigned to the
160th Aviation Battalion/Special Forces at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Shortly
afterwards, the 160th combined with others to form Task Force 160.
- It was in this unit that Tatum played
a "spooky" role in the US invasion of Grenada. A photograph of
him standing in front of his MD-500 Defender gunship on the beach-head
in Grenada, appeared along with a feature story in the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Tatum will only say of this episode that he "wasn't there", in
the same sense that he "wasn't in Cambodia".
- At that time he was attached to the US
Army's 160th air wing at Fort Campbell. Not only was the Hughes helicopter
then not in the Army's inventory, but the 160th didn't officially exist.
Jim Malone, of the Louisville Courier-Journal, finds this extraordinary.
He has documents showing the 160th was stationed at Fort Campbell, even
though officials in the Pentagon continue to deny it - as they deny the
wing's role in Grenada. Malone, in a telephone conversation with this writer,
advised that the 160th is now stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina -
home of the famous Special Forces, the Green Berets. Their mission is to
fly "Delta teams" on covert assignments, Malone added.
- THE CONTRA COCAINE TRAIN
- During 1983, Colby established contact
again, advising Tatum he would shortly be contacted by "a man called
North". This, as Tatum was to discover later, was none other than
Lt Col. Oliver North - the central architect of America's Nicaraguan Contra
campaign. Besides fighting a covert war, North was also the link-man in
much, much dirtier work.
- The "Contragate" years teem
with well-documented accounts of illicit wholesale gun-running and dope-smuggling.
The exposé series published in Autumn 1996 by the San Jose Mercury-Post,
entitled "The Dark Alliance", openly finger-points at the CIA
and the Reagan administration for turning a blind eye to massive cocaine
smuggling. Moreover, the series of articles claims that the explosion of
"crack cocaine" in Los Angeles resulted entirely from the Contra
leaders-cum-dope peddlers who made vast personal fortunes from their activities.
Today, the official argument remains that the Contras were "freelancing"
without the knowledge or consent of their CIA "handlers" or North's
so-called "Enterprise". Despite these assertions, mountains of
hard evidence point in a different direction. Included in this evidence
is an entry from North's own diary which shows his knowledge of cocaine
- In stark contrast to these denials, Tatum
says that North's "Enterprise" not only set up the cocaine factories
and "ran" the Colombian cartels, but was also responsible for
masterminding the massive shipments of narcotics into the US. Significantly,
he is not alone in making these accusations. A number of those involved
in Col. North's operations have subsequently come forward and spilled the
beans. Almost all of these "whistleblowers" have been hounded
and imprisoned. Some have died, whilst others have fled. The whole Contra
thing, Tatum states, was also being used by an extremely covert group called
- During February 1985, Tatum was piloting
"Dustoff" (Medevac) flights for the US Army's 3/498th Medical
Company, stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Two flight crews, including
Tatum's, were transferred to Palmerola Air Base, Honduras. Each flight
consisted of a pilot, copilot, medic and crew chief. Once familiarised,
they assumed the Medevac mission for Joint Task Force Bravo. Previously,
in 1984, Tatum infiltrated the 3/498th on the instructions of Lt Col. Oliver
North who had established contact under the code-name "Jake"
(North had "control" of the 160th air wing and was also deeply
involved with the tactical planning of "black ops" missions in
the Grenada invasion).
- On 15 February 1985, during a flight
to La Ceiba, Honduras, he was instructed to contact his local "handler",
Major Felix Rodríguez - later to prove a major figure in the Iran-Contra
investigation. Rodríguez informed Tatum that in addition to his
Army "Medevac" duties he was to support covert "Pegasus"
missions. These, he was told, would take priority over his other duties.
He was also given his "chain of command": three individuals,
any of whom could authorise Pegasus missions.
- In addition to Oliver North and Felix
Rodríguez, Tatum would henceforward take orders from Amiram Nir,
a former Mossad agent and advisor to Vice President Bush. Aviation support
for Pegasus missions operated out of Ilopango Air Base, Honduras (home
of the CIA proprietary airline Corporate Air Services) plus numerous Contra
camps located in the jungles and mountains along the Honduras-Nicaragua
border.<#33 A common feature of all future Pegasus missions was the
transport "of large white coolers in and out of the Contra camps".
- On 26 February 1985, Tatum and his crew
were instructed to fly two individuals to one of the larger Contra camps
on the Honduran border. His flight log lists the names of the two individuals
as Bill Cooper and Buzz Sawyer, both of whom worked for Corporate Air Services.
Following a meeting between the CIA agents and Contra leaders, Tatum was
given a sealed cooler, marked "Vaccine", weighing approximately
200 pounds, and instructed to deliver it to a USAF C-130 transport plane
at La Mesa Airport, Honduras. Two crew members offloading the cooler accidentally
dropped it, breaking the seal. Inside were over 100 bags of cocaine. Tatum
resealed the cooler and later watched as it was transferred aboard the
C-130, outward bound for Panama.
- On his return to Palmerola Air Base,
Honduras, Tatum phoned Col. North to advise him of his discovery. North
replied that it was "a trophy of war" and that the "Sandinistas
are manufacturing cocaine and selling it to fund the military". North
closed the conversation by saying that "the cocaine was bound for
the world courts as evidence" against the Sandinistas.
- The whole incident struck Tatum as odd
and reminded him strongly of earlier missions dating back to 1983-84 when
he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as a Special Operations pilot.
Regularly he would trans-ship white coolers, marked as "Medical Supplies",
to Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. On two occasions he carried similar
coolers to Mena Airport, Arkansas. Deliveries of medical coolers to Little
Rock AFB were picked up by Dr Dan Lasater - a close confidant of the then
Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.
- By now, almost two years later, Tatum
had decided to document his discovery to safeguard his "retirement".
Thereafter, he documented all Pegasus flights on the reverse of his flight
- This was a difficult time for Tatum,
since he had three balls to juggle at the same time. On the one hand he
was flying classified active-duty missions for the US Army; on the other,
he was flying CIA missions arranged through Mil. Group A (CIA), located
at the embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; and thirdly, he was flying Pegasus
missions under the control of William Colby, Oliver North and George Bush
following his recruitment into Pegasus by Colby in 1986.
- Tatum completed numerous missions during
his rotation out of Honduras. Picking up and trans-shipping coolers containing
cocaine was a regular event. Extraordinarily, this included infiltrating
Nicaraguan airspace (Tatum says it was not difficult to infiltrate any
country and that "foreign powers" would kill to know how it is
done), and landing at Bluefields Air Base with deliveries for placement
aboard civilian C-123s and C-130s.<#44 This mission was followed by
a brief stint in Colombia, where he was assigned to assist the Drug Enforcement
Administration's "War on Drugs", only to discover the DEA was
heavily engaged in narcotics trafficking.
- THE "BOSS HOG" LIST
- One of the most flamboyant individuals
involved in the cocaine trail from Columbia through Honduras to Panama
and on into the United States, was Barry Seal. Seal flew an assortment
of aircraft, offloading shipments of weapons in South America and picking
up deliveries of cocaine for his return flight to the US on behalf of Col.
North's Enterprise. His primary base of operations was Mena Airport, Arkansas.
- A CIA "asset", Seal was later
arrested and became a DEA informer. Prior to his killing in 1986 - allegedly
by a Medellín cartel assassination squad in revenge for informing
on them - Seal openly boasted he had information that implicated high-level
government officials, including then-Vice President Bush, in the Enterprise's
- Tatum would soon get to meet Barry Seal
and become close friends. Tatum recalls being present during a meeting
between Oliver North, Felix Rodríguez, Amiram Nir and General Alvarez
from Honduras, when North stated that Vice President Bush was going to
have his son Jeb arrange "something out of Columbia". This conversation
focused on Barry Seal's increasingly notorious activities. When Tatum later
heard Seal had died, he immediately understood who was behind the killing.
The discussion also made it clear that VP Bush, Governor Clinton and his
three respective "handlers" were knee-deep in the cocaine venture
and making fistloads of money.
- Unknown to all those present, Seal had
earlier provided Tatum with a list of names of those high-level government
officials deeply involved with or responsible for controlling the narcotics
business. Seal called them the "Boss Hogs". Tatum has kept this
list a tightly-held secret until recent weeks. The list cites the surnames
only, and is reproduced above, as I received it, complete with misspellings
as written. I have appended their full names and titles in brackets.
- "BOSS HOGS" UNITED STATES
- ¥ Casey (William Casey, Director
- ¥ Clair-George (Clair Elroy George,
Head of CIA's Central American Task Force)
- ¥ Bush (Vice President George Bush)
- ¥ Kissinger (Dr Henry Kissinger,
Chairman, Kissinger Associates; former US Secretary of State; former National
- ¥ Haig (General Alexander Haig, former
Secretary of State)
- ¥ Greg (Donald Gregg, former National
Security Adviser to VP Bush, Ambassador to Korea and alleged joint "Controller"
of Panama's Manuel Noriega, along with William Casey)
- ¥ Clairage (Duane "Dewey"
- ¥ Fernandez (Joseph Fernandez, CIA
Costa Rica Station Chief)
- ¥ North (Lt Col. Oliver North, National
Security Council aide)
- ¥ Singlaub (John Singlaub, CIA covert
- ¥ Colby (William Colby, Director
Central Intelligence, 1973-76)
- ¥ Secord (Richard V. Secord, regarded
as a "brilliant" CIA black operative)
- ¥ Weld (William Weld, head of Criminal
Division, US Department of Justice; instrumental in "blocking"
Senate investigations into narcotics, according to testimony of former
Senate special investigator, Jack Blum)
- ¥ Rodriguez (Felix Rodríguez,
CIA officer with close connection to VP Bush)
- ¥ Peroot (General Peroot, Defense
- Most, if not all of these names are readily
familiar to Contragate investigators and journalists covering this story.
Allegations regarding the involvement of former President George Bush in
the cocaine business are by no means new - they abound in plentiful supply.
The fact that Bush pardoned a number of his closest advisors, who were
facing criminal prosecution and possible imprisonment, late on Christmas
Eve 1992, just weeks before Bill Clinton's inauguration, left a sour taste
in the mouths of many. If prosecuted, they clearly would have fingered
the President himself.
- PEGASUS: DIRTY MONEY LAUNDERING
- But Tatum's story takes us even further
along the dark road of power, greed and corruption. During l986, he had
left Honduras and set up a money-laundering business in Watertown, New
York State, close to the home base of the Army's 10th Mountain Division
at Fort Drum. The location was chosen with care. With access to Fort Drum's
telephone lines for secure communications, he was assigned a Cherokee-140
fixed-wing aircraft,<#55 used to ship personnel and supplies across
the Canadian border under radar cover. His tenure with these companies
lasted from 1986 through to 1990. This was a pure Pegasus operation.
- It was at Watertown that Tatum was provided
with a civilian cover in the form of three construction companies: American
National Home Builders, American Constructors and American Homes. Funding
was provided by Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican politician and well
known as the CIA's "black money" man. Hyde provided a US$250,000
line of credit with Key Bank, Watertown. Although Tatum was listed as the
president in all three companies, in reality all were under the control
of Ben Whittaker, a lawyer from Rochester, New York. Whittaker, Tatum says,
is closely associated with Tony Wilson of the Wilson family who owned Xerox
Corporation. They are extremely wealthy and "friends of the Rothschilds
and Rockefellers". In addition, he was also closely associated with
South Eastern US Investment Group (SEUS) - an investment bank in Savannah,
Georgia - from 1985 through to 1989. Another proprietary he was involved
with was Irving Place Development, a service organisation of Irving Bank
and Trust Company. Cocaine proceeds were laundered through these companies
by an ingenious use of construction loans.
- In response to a question asking why
the "drug-related money" was placed in "Arkansas, Colorado
and Ohio", Tatum simply explains that he doesn't know why, adding
that "It was being done before I got there. I assume banking laws
and whether or not Bush had people in his pocket in these areas."
He does explain that the primary figure involved in the laundry exercise
in Arkansas was "Jack Stephens". Jackson Stephens, owner of Worthen
Bank & Trust Company, is closely aligned with President Bill Clinton.
Tatum states that "...Clinton received the cash and divided it up
between Stephens and [Dan] Lasater to clean it up. Stephens' company [Worthen
Bank] was used as the guarantor, providing 'warehouse' lines of credit."
- Developing this theme in more detail,
Tatum explains that the Enterprise was receiving drugs in exchange for
the guns they supplied to the Contras. The raw product in the form of coca
leaves was supplied by the Colombians and pressed into large cube-shaped
bales and then shipped to Nicaragua and Honduras.<#66 All the "product"
was pre-sold and the delivery into the US "guaranteed".
- This eventually resulted in the sale
proceeds being pre-paid to Panama, under Noriega's control. Some of this
money was washed through banks and other companies operating in Panama
and elsewhere. The rest was sent to Arkansas, Ohio and Colorado. Thereafter,
the dirty money was filtered via construction loans with permanent "takeouts"
"arranged by banks and mortgage- lenders". These, in turn, were
later sold to Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's - negotiable US Federal Mortgage
Securities that are traded globally on a daily basis. Each laundry "cycle"
lasted from six months to a year. The result was dirty money transformed
into good, clean, US currency.
- This system wasn't arbitrary or accidental.
One initial "test-bed" was a small residential mortgage lender
named Carl I. Brown (CIB) in Kansas. Others were larger, and still others
became national. All were ultimately destined to be purchased by a bank
(proprietary) from Japan within a specific time-frame, 1996, as part of
ongoing Pegasus plans. Eric Brown, the son of the founder of CIB, was heavily
involved in these activities. Three additional companies were involved,
to Tatum's knowledge: US Homes, Pulte Homes and Richmond Homes. All became
very successful, providing "the American dream - as VP Bush put it
in a meeting in 1987".
- PEGASUS: ASSASSINATION & NEUTRALISATION
- Tatum has gone into considerable additional
detail regarding the role of Pegasus as he knew it. He believes Pegasus
was established during the Eisenhower years as a secret group inside the
CIA to spy on that agency on behalf of the President. At some point - believed
to be after the assassination of President Kennedy - Pegasus went AWOL
from direct US Government control and came under the direction of an international
Board of Directors which Tatum alleges now includes George Bush and Henry
- The directors of Pegasus meet once a
year in secret conclave following G7 meetings. The group has "representation"
from a number of intelligence agencies throughout the world. Included are
the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) as well
as agents from British, Israeli, Turkish and Danish Intelligence plus "others
who performed various functions for Pegasus".<#77 The mission of
Pegasus, Tatum explains, is "to 'align' world leaders and financiers
to our [US] policies and standards".