True Lies?

Ken Bucchi says he was a drug-running spook. The CIA says hes an impostor

Bucchi has since been shit on, too. But first we've gotta backtrack.

This much we know is true about Kenneth C. Bucchi: he did attend Murray State. Got a B.S. in criminology in 1984. Joined the Air Force a year later. His discharge papers say he was in aircraft maintenance. His discharge papers say he was a captain. That he was in for six years. That he received two Air Force commendation medals and an achievement medal. That he served in the Gulf War from 1990 to 1991. That he was discharged in '91.

He told me he left the service to become a private investigator. Two years later, he became a corporate investigator. Undercover. Why was he living in Newport at the time we first met? He was spying on employees for a local defense giant. Then he moved to Oregon to do the same thing at a paper plant. His experiences led to his first nonfiction book, Inside Job: Deep Undercover as a Corporate Spy. It hit the bookstore shelves, and the TV yakfests started calling. Bucchi made the rounds. He also did radio: National Public Radio, Howard Stern, John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten). During the Stern interview, Bucchi's CIA past came up. He told the shock jock that part of his training involved trying to keep a straight face while asking girls if they were wearing underwear.

The publisher of Inside Job is Granite Bay-based Penmarin Books, a small outfit with a big jones for the CIA. Publisher Hal Lockwood asked Bucchi if he had any other experiences worthy of a book. Bucchi mentioned Operation Pseudo Miranda. Bucchi showed Lockwood CIA: Cocaine in America. Lockwood looked at real documents Bucchi said backed up his story. What's that they say about truth being stranger than fiction? Lockwood wanted Bucchi's real-life CIA exploits on the printed page. Lockwood wanted Operation Pseudo Miranda: A Veteran of the CIA Drug Wars Tells All. It came out last year.

Bucchi made the media rounds again. Reluctantly. He didn't mind voicing his opinions on the latest spy incident in the news—and there have been a bunch, in case you haven't been paying attention. But talking about his own involvement in The Life bothered Bucchi. Fox called this past January. They wanted Bucchi to talk about Pseudo Miranda on the Jan. 29 The O'Reilly Factor. Blowhard host Bill O'Reilly hedged his bets on the air. "Now, once you put this in a book, they said you were a psycho," O'Reilly said. It had come out somehow, despite supposedly sealed military records, that the Air Force had tagged Bucchi as "delusional." Bucchi tried to offer O'Reilly his defense. "So you can prove it by these documents that you have," the host remarked. "And we've looked them over. But, you know, documents can be doctored." Fox had called the CIA and the State Department. No comment. A common response. From the time I first interviewed Bucchi in 1994 through his O'Reilly Factor appearance, no government agency ever publicly commented on his story. When he appeared on Fox News with former FBI directors a short time before O'Reilly to discuss the Robert Hanssen spy case, no one questioned the veracity of Bucchi's Drug War games. The closest he had ever gotten to official reaction was a couple of phone calls. Anonymous. Always women. Always late at night.

April 23: Bucchi tells CNN the CIA ran coke.
April 26: CIA says Bucchi never worked for the agency.
Photo by Jack Gould

"You're rubbing the Agency the wrong way."

April 20, 2001. CIA-contract employees are flying a U.S. plane in the skies above Peru. They're tracking small aircraft. They spot a single-engine Cessna. Must be a drug runner. They radio for a Peruvian fighter jet. The jet shoots the plane down. Holy shit! It wasn't a drug plane! It was a missionary plane! An American woman and her baby perish in the crash. The same American public that couldn't give two shits about that region before suddenly wants answers. CNN wanted Ken Bucchi to provide them. He was in the Rolodex as a former CIA contractor. He was in the Rolodex as having fought in the Drug War. He was in the Rolodex as being media-savvy. He apparently wasn't in the Rolodex for being "delusional." That wasn't important right now. The public demanded to know how such a horrific incident could happen? Bucchi was booked on the April 23 CNN afternoon newscast. He laid out the shady ways the government works in the southern hemisphere. Anchor Stephen Frazier was appalled. Bucchi reasoned with him. Pseudo Miranda may have let half the drugs in, but at least no missionary planes were shot down back in the day. Bucchi did so well that he was held over for that evening's telecast of The Point With Greta van Susteren. Among the other three guests was Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), one of the nation's leading critics of the CIA. Bucchi said the CIA purposely distances itself from contractors like those who sicced the Peruvian Air Force on what was thought to be a drug plane. Meanwhile, the CIA takes the credit for stopping 60 percent of the drugs coming out of Peru. "Does anybody in America today feel like 60 percent of the drugs came off their streets?" Bucchi asked. Waters found those words revelatory. Like they came from on high. "Ken, I want to thank you for being the clearest voice that I have ever heard coming out of the CIA or any related agency about what is going on in this Drug War," she said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

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