Dr. Death Revisited

In French TV documentary, ex-CIA official admits ties to CIA-cocaine scandal character


In August 1996, the San Jose Mercury Newspublished a three-part series in which reporter Gary Webb—who committed suicide last December—connected the CIA to California's crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. One of the key players in Webb's "Dark Alliance" was ex-Laguna Beach cop Ron Lister, whose Mission Viejo home was raided by police in October 1986 as part of a massive operation targeting Southern California crack-cocaine sales. Lister, who besides smuggling cocaine pitched security contracts to the military in El Salvador and sold weapons to the Nicaraguan contras, famously told police that the CIA wouldn't be happy about the raid. Then he threatened to contact his agency handler, Scott Weekly.

The CIA swore in court it had no tie to Lister and has always denied ever employing Scott Weekly. A 1998 CIA Inspector General report found "no evidence" linking Weekly, a Vietnam War veteran and right-wing mercenary, to the agency. But in a just-aired Canal Plus documentary on the French television show 90Minutes,Milton Bearden, who supervised the CIA's covert war in Afghanistan, says otherwise. While not mentioning Weekly by name, Bearden confirmed that the CIA was behind a bizarre training operation for Afghan mujahedin fighters in the Nevada desert in early 1986. Besides violating the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, the top-secret training resulted in Weekly's later conviction for smuggling plastic explosives onto commercial jetliners.

As the Weeklyfirst reported in December 1996, the San Diego resident was a three-year Naval Academy classmate of a more well-known Iran-Contra figure: Oliver North. Although various newspaper articles attacking "Dark Alliance" refer to Weekly not as a CIA operative but as a former Navy SEAL, an organization that monitors such claims, Veri-SEAL, says that can't be verified.

After serving in Vietnam, where he reportedly won two Bronze Stars, Weekly became a soldier of fortune who accompanied Bo Gritz, an illustrious highly determined ex-Green Beret, to Laos on the latter's ill-fated 1982 hunt for U.S. prisoners of war. When the pair returned from Laos empty-handed, both men were briefly jailed by Thai authorities for illegally possessing high-tech radio equipment. A United Press International story from that time described Weekly as "a steely-eyed weapons wizard who goes by the nickname 'Dr. Death.'"

During their search of Lister's home, police found Weekly's name at the bottom of a list that included Bill Nelson, the CIA's ex-deputy director of operations, and Roberto D'Aubuisson, the founder of El Salvador's right-wing death squads. In his notes, Lister identified Weekly as a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) "subcontractor" and scribbled, "Scott had worked in El Salvador for us."

After Webb wrote about the raid on Lister's home in his "Dark Alliance" series—highlighting Lister's claim of a CIA connection—the LA County Sheriff's Department interviewed Weekly about Lister's notes. Weekly refused to elaborate. "Let me put it this way," he told investigators. "There is not one ounce of love lost between the DIA and me. It is even more aggressive than that . . . It's a non-subject—that's as much as I'm going to say about it. As far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't piss on them if their face was on fire."

Weekly's anger may stem from his 1986 conviction in an Oklahoma City federal courthouse for smuggling C-4 explosives aboard two civilian airliners bound to Las Vegas. After turning himself in to federal agents, he pleaded guilty but refused to give authorities the names of anyone else involved. But after Weekly served 14 months of a five-year prison sentence, the court granted him a new hearing that focused on new evidence about the explosives.

As the Weeklyfirst reported in December 1996, courtroom records show the explosives were used in a covert operation aimed at uniting the leaders of various Afghan rebel factions by providing them with lessons in explosives. At Weekly's re-sentencing hearing, he and Gritz testified they carried out the operation in the Nevada desert and had the permission of a U.S. Army colonel named Nestor Pio, a Bay of Pigs veteran who then worked with Oliver North's National Security Council. Gritz and Weekly also said they were paid by Osman Kalderim, who worked for Stanford Technology, a private company established by two of North's Iran-Contra associates, Richard Secord and Albert Hakim, to help arm the contras.

Following that testimony, a federal judge released Weekly from custody and sentenced him to time served. "The CIA could have been involved in that Bo Gritz thing," Bearden says in the French documentary that aired April 25. He was apparently unaware that he was acknowledging agency involvement in an illegal covert operation. "If we did some romantic training in the Nevada desert with a few Afghans . . . I'm aware of that. I know about that. There's something like that. But it doesn't matter."

Bearden's statement was the first confirmation that Weekly was an agency operative. And it runs contrary to the CIA's oft-repeated assertion that it had no ties whatsoever to Weekly.

According to the show's producer, French reporter Paul Moreira, Bearden made those comments during a late 2001 interview, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "He was very surprised that I even knew about the existence of Bo Gritz," Moreira said. "In France, we call people like Gritz and Weekly 'barbouzes' or fake beards because they are a bunch of illegal guys who get used from time to time by government agencies when some action is not strictly legal. You cannot wage a war without these type of guys."

NSCHOU@OCWEEKLY.COM

 
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