By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
It's not clear what happened to the notes Lister says he gave investigators or to his testimony about his work with a "major Central American cartel." What is clear is that he put on quite a show. In 1998, the U.S. Justice Department noted, "An FBI special agent was convinced that Lister [and] Blandon . . . were connected to the CIA."
Lister's appeal was successful in erasing a conviction on tax evasion charges. After completing a drug-treatment program, he walked out of prison in 1996, three years early. His whereabouts are unknown, and he has refused repeated offers to share his story with the press. Nelson, Lister's "big CIA contact" at Fluor Corp. in Irvine, died six years ago in Corona del Mar.
Fluor officials refused to comment for this story but have previously told the Weekly the company had no business in El Salvador in the 1980s. That would suggest that Nelson's "Central America" meetings with Lister had nothing to do with Fluor and everything to do with Pyramid—and perhaps Nelson's former employer, the CIA.
Tom Crispell of the CIA's public-affairs office said the agency has already denied any involvement with Lister. "This individual [Nelson] had been retired from the agency for a number of years, and we're not in a position to comment on his private life or conversations he had in his private life," Crispell remarked.
But Crispell's claim runs headfirst into the facts, chief among them: the CIA refused for years to release any documents on Lister and, when it finally did so, released them in heavily redacted form citing national security concerns.
"Now we know that Lister was meeting with Nelson and that the grand-jury investigation was somehow tied into this," responded Gary Webb, who left the Mercury News shortly after his editors backed away from his Dark Alliance series focusing on the CIA-contra-crack connection in May 1997. "What we don't know is how Lister even knew Nelson, why Nelson would continue to meet with [a man dismissed as] a bullshit artist, and why anyone would even consider helping Lister once he cleared himself with the FBI."
The documents are mute on one other, particularly chilling mystery: What kind of top-secret "business"relationship could Nelson, a retired CIA deputy director, possibly have with Lister, a drug-dealing, gun-running "security consultant" and D'Aubuisson, the leader of El Salvador's death squads?