G. The 1987 Los Angeles OCDETF Investigation
1. Investigative Steps
Pursuant to the OCDETF investigative plan, Aukland leased office space, with FBI funds, near Guerra Auto Sales to manage the investigation, and he also rented vehicles to use in the investigation. He placed pen registers on five business telephones of Guerra Auto Sales and Blandon's residence, and followed up by trying to identify the numbers to which calls were made. The FBI also installed a closed circuit television camera to observe activity at Guerra Auto Sales. According to FBI sources, however, Blandon had become "almost a recluse" after the LASD search warrant, and Ivan Torres was believed to be handling most of the drug trafficking of the organization. Aukland and the FBI's Los Angeles Special Operations Group conducted physical surveillances and "spot checks" on several subjects, including Torres and Lister, but did not see evidence of drug trafficking.
2. Confidential Informants
a. FBI Informants
Aukland also used three or four informants, including LA CI-1, to attempt to infiltrate the Blandon organization and to purchase cocaine. None of these efforts were successful.
In early 1987, at the FBI's behest, LA CI-1 went to Guerra Auto Sales. LA CI-1 reported that Blandon gave no indication at that time that he was still in the drug trafficking business and did not discuss any other businesses he might be opening.
In May 1987, in another investigative report, Aukland stated that further informant information suggested that Blandon directed associates to traffic the cocaine but that Blandon was very cautious, especially since the search warrants on October 27, 1986.
In a June 30, 1987, investigative report, Aukland related that his sources had been unable to purchase cocaine from the subjects and had been unsuccessful in obtaining up-to-date trafficking and money laundering information.
Stymied in his efforts to infiltrate the Blandon organization with other informants, Aukland was forced to rely on Norwin Meneses, who had agreed to cooperate with DEA. However, there were significant problems in coordinating the use of Meneses among the federal agencies involved, which we now describe.
b. Norwin Meneses
(1) Meneses agrees to cooperate with DEA
As we describe in greater detail in the chapter of this report on Norwin Meneses, he was the subject of several investigations by law enforcement authorities in both Nicaragua and the United States before 1986. Meneses was believed to be involved with stealing cars and drug trafficking in both Nicaragua and San Francisco for many years. In the early 1980s, the DEA in San Francisco and elsewhere opened several cases against Meneses, but in none of them was sufficient evidence developed to prosecute him. In 1983, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in San Francisco initiated a "net worth" tax case against him. The IRS was only able to determine Meneses' income for one year, and because he was from Nicaragua and could have had sources of income there, the IRS closed its investigation. Several of Meneses' relatives were successfully investigated and prosecuted for drug trafficking between 1982 and 1985, but Meneses was not. [See Meneses section]
In July 1986, Meneses walked into the Costa Rica DEA office and told Special Agent Sandalio Gonzalez that he wanted to cooperate with the DEA. Gonzalez knew about Meneses because he had received information from a confidential source in 1984 describing Meneses as the head of a criminal organization in Costa Rica that smuggled kilogram quantities of cocaine into the United States.(15) After talking with Meneses in July 1986, Gonzalez wrote a report stating that Meneses had given several reasons for his cooperation offer:
(a) his desire to clear up a minor problem he has with the IRS, (b) his decision to totally terminate his involvement in drug trafficking activities, and (c) his desire to help the present U.S. Administration's fight against drugs in view of President Reagan's total commitment to free his native land, Nicaragua.
Gonzalez told us that he did not know Meneses' true motives for offering to cooperate, although Gonzalez suspected that Meneses wanted to "get even" with other drug dealers, such as Blandon. Gonzalez said he also thought that Meneses, who allegedly had a wife in Costa Rica and one in the United States, wanted to be able to travel to the United States to see his family.
In his July 1986 debriefing report, Gonzalez noted that Meneses appeared to have the capacity to assist the DEA in major investigations. Meneses related that he was not willing to testify in a United States court, but he was willing to introduce informants to known drug violators inside and outside of the United States. Meneses also claimed to have helped the DEA in the past.(16)
Meneses identified to Gonzalez approximately twenty-one major drug dealers. One of these was Danilo Blandon, whom Meneses described as a Sandinista sympathizer who distributed hundred kilogram quantities of cocaine in the Los Angeles area. Meneses described Lister as a close associate of Blandon who, in addition to cocaine trafficking, smuggled sophisticated weapons into Latin America and Asia. Orlando Murillo was said by Meneses to be involved in large scale money laundering from Miami.
Meneses refused to be seen near the U.S. Embassy and said that if his cooperation became known, he would be killed. Meneses also indicated that he did not want to be a registered DEA informant and did not want money for his efforts.
On July 21, 1986, Gonzalez sent a memorandum asking that the DEA's intelligence database be checked for information on Meneses. DEA's intelligence unit responded that its database contained no outstanding warrants for Meneses, but there had been a prior lookout for him which included remarks that he was alleged to be a financier of a Colombian cocaine connection. On August 25, 1986, Gonzalez sent copies of a report describing the debriefing of Meneses to various DEA offices, including the Los Angeles and San Francisco DEA offices.
Gonzalez said that he suspected, though he had no proof, that Meneses might still be involved in drug trafficking activities. Gonzalez said that he also thought Meneses would be difficult to control, so Gonzalez planned to use Meneses only to introduce other informants into the Blandon organization. Gonzalez told us that when he proposed using Meneses in this way, he was aware that Blandon was the target of a federal OCDETF investigation, but he said he did not know that Meneses was a current target of that case or of any other case, either in Los Angeles or San Francisco.
In the summer of 1986, Meneses began providing Gonzalez with intelligence about Blandon. Meneses reported that Blandon had asked him to participate in flying 500 kilograms of cocaine to the United States through Costa Rica, and that Meneses had been asked to arrange for a refueling stop for the plane in Costa Rica. The plane would then fly to Oklahoma, and the cocaine would be delivered to Blandon in Los Angeles. Meneses also said that Nicaraguan government officials were involved in smuggling cocaine into the United States, which Blandon thereafter distributed. In addition, Meneses gave Gonzalez information that allowed DEA to initiate several cases in Costa Rica and elsewhere, including against Colombian drug traffickers.
In September 1986, Gonzalez proposed in a cable to the Los Angeles DEA office that Meneses be used to introduce a professional informant (referred to here as "DEA CI-1") to cocaine traffickers in the United States. DEA CI-1 was considered to be a "reliable professional" who had successfully worked with the Los Angeles DEA in the past. DEA CI-1 had already begun working in Costa Rica with the DEA and Meneses against a drug trafficker unrelated to Blandon. Gonzalez told us that DEA CI-1 claimed to have worked for the CIA many years before in Europe and the Soviet Union, and the CIA had then turned DEA CI-1 over to the DEA.
On October 9, 1986, Gonzalez formally opened a DEA case on Blandon based on information from Meneses. He forwarded this information to the Los Angeles and San Francisco DEA offices, and it also appeared in the DEA's NADDIS database. Likely in response to this information, on November 6, 1986, DEA Riverside cabled DEA Costa Rica, stating that the DEA and FBI in Riverside were conducting an investigation targeting Blandon, Lister, and others, and that Meneses was a subject of this investigation. The Riverside DEA requested copies of any reports in Costa Rica related to Blandon and Meneses.
In a cable dated November 14, 1986, Gonzalez wrote back that Meneses intended to travel to California in December with DEA CI-1 and was willing to introduce DEA CI-1 to every violator Meneses knew in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, including Blandon and Lister. The cable noted that several DEA agents, including Schrettner in Riverside and Rudy Bareng in Los Angeles, were pursuing cases against these subjects. Gonzalez's cable requested permission from DEA Headquarters for Meneses and DEA CI-1 to travel to California, Miami, and elsewhere to penetrate drug trafficking organizations. This cable was sent to the Los Angeles DEA, but not to the San Francisco office. Gonzalez said this was an oversight on his part.
On December 3, 1986, Gonzalez sent another cable stating that he had received no reply from the Los Angeles DEA concerning his proposed operation with Meneses, and that a reply was needed as soon as possible. This cable was also not routed to San Francisco. Gonzalez reported that Meneses had been identified in the leading Costa Rican newspaper as a major drug trafficker and was being investigated by the Costa Rican government; Meneses was afraid of publicity or deportation and was considering going into hiding. Gonzalez reported that if that happened "DEA would lose what appears to be one of the best sources of information to 'walk-in' to a DEA office in years."
Gonzalez's next report, on December 22, 1986, stated that Meneses and DEA CI-1 had left Costa Rica on December 21 for the United States to participate in the proposed undercover operation. The DEA paid for the informant's travel, and Meneses, who also intended to visit family members, paid his own way. Gonzalez's report was sent to various DEA offices, including the DEA offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Gonzalez also opened a file called "Operation Perico" to document information provided by Meneses and DEA CI-1. Gonzalez told us that "perico" means parrot in Spanish, was also slang for cocaine, and also was a nickname used for Meneses.
On December 23, 1986, the Los Angeles DEA sent a cable to Gonzalez stating that it agreed with Gonzalez's proposed use of Meneses to penetrate the Los Angeles drug trafficking organization. But the cable noted that the Los Angeles DEA office had not yet contacted the Riverside DEA office to discuss this issue.
(2) Meneses and DEA Informant in California
In Los Angeles, Meneses arranged meetings among himself, DEA CI-1, Blandon, and Ivan Torres on January 7, 1987, and January 15, 1987. Gonzalez also traveled to Los Angeles during the week of January 12 to coordinate the activities of Meneses and DEA CI-1. On January 18, 1987, after returning to Costa Rica, Gonzalez described in a report what DEA CI-1 had reported regarding the meetings with Blandon and Torres. According to Gonzalez's report, DEA CI-1 related that Meneses had been able to give DEA CI-1 easy entry to numerous traffickers, who openly conducted business in his presence. DEA CI-1 noted that his conversations with the drug traffickers indicated that Meneses apparently had left the drug business two or three years ago; still, they all respected Meneses and referred to him as "El Maestro" (the teacher).
According to DEA CI-1, Ivan Torres, a Colombian national, said that his brothers, Jacinto and Edgar Torres, were distributing up to 1000 kilograms of cocaine on a monthly basis in Los Angeles. Ivan Torres was interested in purchasing chemicals used in cocaine manufacturing and he asked DEA CI-1 to supply the chemicals to his relatives. DEA CI-1 noted that Ivan Torres was reportedly a high official in the West Coast arm of the FDN. Torres had told DEA CI-1 about receiving counter-intelligence training from the CIA, and had avowed that the CIA "looks the other way and in essence allows them (contras) to engage in narcotics trafficking as long as it is done outside the United States."(17)
DEA CI-1 was also told (the report does not specify by whom) that, up until two years before, Blandon and his organization had been supplying Contra leader Eden Pastora with weapons. Pastora was reportedly living in a residence owned by Blandon in Costa Rica and possibly was involved in drug-related activities with Blandon in Costa Rica. Gonzalez's report noted that some of the subjects appeared to be pro-Sandinista, and others may have been involved in the Contra movement, but that, according to Meneses and DEA CI-1, "these political ideological differences are ignored when the huge profits from drug dealing come into play."
DEA CI-1 also reported that Blandon had become aware of police surveillance of him approximately two weeks prior to the LASD search warrants because Blandon's maid had spotted surveillance vehicles and men with radios near his residence. In the wake of his arrest in October 1986, "Blandon was keeping a low profile and may have turned over cocaine distribution to a black group in South Los Angeles to Jacinto Torres." Blandon apparently cleaned up all his stash houses and dealt through intermediaries, if at all. Both Blandon and Torres told DEA CI-1 that the recent raid was the result of information given to the police by Carlos Rocha, Roger Diaz, and an unidentified third person, and that these individuals would be killed sometime in the future.(18)
DEA CI-1 and Meneses were also planning to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in January 1987, where they intended to meet other drug traffickers. Before DEA CI-1 left Los Angeles, Gonzalez arranged for him to meet with Aukland and Schrettner, on January 14.
The information Aukland related in his report about his meeting with DEA CI-1 was much like that in Gonzalez's report, with some small differences. According to Aukland's report, DEA CI-1 said that Blandon had given approximately half his trade, involving the selling of cocaine to Los Angeles "black organizations," to other individuals in Los Angeles, including Ivan Torres. When DEA CI-1 had offered to help Blandon launder money, Blandon had said he had been using Orlando Murillo and a Cuban to launder his funds. DEA CI-1 noted that, according to Torres, Meneses, and Blandon, Torres was the head of the West Coast Branch of the FDN, which was supplying the Contras with weapons. Aukland's report stated, "[DEA CI-1] and Meneses also told DEA that Eden Pastora was then living in Meneses' residence in Costa Rica. Pastora has told Meneses that he (Pastora) wants to be personally involved in cocaine trafficking with the specific purpose of funneling money to the contras in Nicaragua."
In a later report describing additional debriefings of DEA CI-1, Gonzalez related more information from DEA CI-1 about his January 1987 meetings with Blandon and Torres. When DEA CI-1 had asked to borrow a car from Guerra Auto Sales, Blandon assumed DEA CI-1 and Meneses would use the car to deliver drugs, and Blandon had refused to even rent them a car. DEA CI-1 recalled: "Blandon has apparently distanced himself from the people who work for/with him in the cocaine business, is behaving in a strange way, and has become sort of a recluse. He is having nothing to do with them, but most important, he hasn't paid them any money recently." And according to DEA CI-1:
Ivan Torres claims to be in contact with FBI and CIA representatives as a result of his involvement with the Frente Democratico Nicaraguense (FDN). He claims to have been trained by the CIA in San Bernardino in an area made to resemble Nicaraguan terrain. He said the CIA wants to know about drug trafficking but only for their own purposes and not necessarily to assist law enforcement agencies. He stated that someone in the FBI warned him to stay away from Danilo Blandon and to be careful because Blandon was going to be arrested. (Blandon was in fact arrested by local authorities and was released due to insufficient evidence.) He was allegedly told that Carlos Callejas was under investigation by the FBI, and to stay away from him also. Torres told [DEA CI-1] that CIA representatives are aware of his drug-related activities and that they don't mind. He said they have gone so far as to encourage cocaine traffic by members of the contras because they know that it is a good source of income. Some of this income has gone into numbered accounts in Europe and Panama, as does the money that goes to Managua from cocaine trafficking.(19)
Torres was said to be extremely upset with Blandon for failing to help him financially, and, according to Meneses, might even have agreed to cooperate with the DEA.
This report added that Meneses had told of being contacted by Eden Pastora, who had asked Meneses to find a buyer for a DC-3 aircraft located at Ilopango Airport in San Salvador. Pastora's representative in El Salvador was Marcus Aguado. Meneses said that he thought Pastora contacted him because Meneses had contacts in Colombia who were always looking for this type of aircraft for drug smuggling.
According to another report from Gonzalez, in mid-January 1987, DEA CI-1 and Meneses traveled to San Francisco to meet with drug traffickers there, including someone reported to be an intelligence officer for the Nicaraguan government. Gonzalez informed Aukland that Meneses and DEA CI-1 would be traveling to San Francisco.
We found no reports in DEA or FBI files detailing what occurred when DEA CI-1 and Meneses went to San Francisco in January 1987. But DEA CI-1 claimed to us that, one week into their visit, he was warned by DEA agent Eddie Hill that the FBI had issued a warrant for both DEA CI-1 and Meneses because the FBI suspected them of conducting drug deals in San Francisco. According to DEA CI-1, he and Meneses quickly made their way back to Los Angeles and, three days later, returned to Costa Rica.
When we interviewed Hill, who was a DEA agent in Los Angeles at the time, he denied that he ever heard that the FBI had a warrant or was trying to arrest DEA CI-1 or Meneses in San Francisco, and he denied ever telling DEA CI-1 that.
(3) Reaction from other law enforcement authorities concerning the use of Meneses
Our interviews and our review of the law enforcement files suggested a breakdown in communications among the DEA offices and between the FBI and the DEA concerning the DEA's use of Meneses as an informant, as discussed in the previous sections of this chapter. While Gonzalez told us that he was not aware that Meneses was a target of any investigation in Los Angeles in 1986, the November 6, 1986, cable that DEA Riverside sent to Costa Rica asking about the information that Meneses provided about Blandon specifically listed Meneses as a target. As a result Gonzalez should have been aware that Meneses was a target of a case in Los Angeles.(20)
FBI agent Aukland told us that he did not learn that Meneses was cooperating with the DEA until January 1987 when Aukland met with the DEA agents in Los Angeles to coordinate the use of DEA CI-1. Although Schrettner and other DEA agents in southern California should have been aware, through Gonzalez's cables, that Meneses was coming to the United States to infiltrate the Blandon organization, they apparently did not share this information with Aukland, who told us he was surprised when he learned it. Aukland said he was particularly angry that he did not get a chance to debrief Meneses and that he only had last minute notice that he could speak to DEA CI-1.
Similarly, the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office and FBI offices were disturbed to learn that Meneses and DEA CI-1 were being used as informants in the Blandon investigation. As we describe in detail in the chapter on Meneses, in the fall of 1986, the San Francisco FBI office, in conjunction with the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office, had begun collecting information on Meneses in anticipation of building a historical drug trafficking case against him under the federal Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute. According to FBI Agent Donald Hale, the FBI in San Francisco had three informants willing to testify against Meneses and FBI files contained significant source information on Meneses' drug trafficking activities. But the DEA office in San Francisco, which had received cables from Gonzalez in 1986 about Meneses' proposed use, apparently did not share that information with the FBI in San Francisco or with the San Francisco United States Attorney's Office.
On January 22, 1987, Aukland wrote a teletype to FBI Headquarters, copying the FBI's San Francisco office, describing his meeting with Gonzalez and stating that Meneses was being used by the DEA. Gordon Gibler, an FBI agent working on the Meneses investigation in San Francisco at this time, told us that the DEA's use of Meneses was a surprise to him, and that he was upset that the DEA had not shared this information with the FBI.
(4) Agreement concerning Meneses
On January 29, 1987, the DEA San Francisco office cabled DEA Costa Rica, complaining that it had no knowledge of who was being targeted by Meneses and DEA CI-1. The cable claimed, apparently based on discussions between the DEA and FBI in San Francisco, that the San Francisco FBI had "an indictable case against the CI" (a reference to Meneses), and inquired as to which cocaine traffickers Meneses and DEA CI-1 had met in California. The cable asked DEA Headquarters to find out from DEA Costa Rica whether an indictment of Meneses by the San Francisco FBI "will result in national security problems with other agencies. FBI has requested that [DEA San Francisco] advise them on this issue."(21)
DEA Costa Rica responded in a cable on February 9, 1987, pointing out that in the fall of 1986 it had sent cables and reports via diplomatic pouch to DEA Headquarters and various offices, including San Francisco, describing the proposed use of Meneses and listing the targets identified by him and DEA CI-1. The cable also stated that it regarded Meneses as "a major narcotics trafficker whose potential as a [confidential informant-source of information] appears so far to be excellent." Meneses had already introduced DEA CI-1 to numerous major violators. In return, all Meneses wanted was to maintain his anonymity, clean up a problem he thought he had with the IRS, and be able to return to the United States and establish a business. The cable noted that Meneses claimed to have left the narcotics business two years earlier.
The cable also noted that Meneses and DEA CI-1 had met with Blandon and Torres in Los Angeles, and pointed out that while the Costa Rica DEA was not aware of any national security issues that could arise from his indictment, indicting Meneses would prevent DEA from investigating what appeared to be a group of significant traffickers with connections to the present Nicaraguan government as well as the Contras and Colombian sources of supply.
According to a letter in February 1987 from the San Francisco FBI office, San Francisco FBI agents Gibler and Donald Hale met with San Francisco U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello and Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Swenson to discuss Meneses. The San Francisco FBI agents indicated that they would be presenting an historical drug conspiracy case against Meneses to the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office for a prosecutive decision. We also found in Swenson's file a note regarding a conversation he had with Los Angeles Assistant U.S. Attorney Andersen on January 30, 1987, in which Andersen reported that "Norwin says won't testify."
On February 17, 1987, the FBI in San Francisco presented its case to the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office in a letter discussing Meneses' background and the source information about his past drug trafficking. The San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office responded with a letter on February 27, 1987, noting that, at a meeting between San Francisco U.S. Attorney Russoniello, FBI Special Agent Hale, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Swenson, it had been agreed, based on representations from Assistant U.S. Attorney Andersen in Los Angeles, who was supervising the OCDETF investigation there, that the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office would defer prosecuting Meneses in San Francisco while the Los Angeles investigation into the Blandon organization was pending. The letter stated that the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office had been assured by the Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles that Meneses would "be required to plead guilty to a cocaine-related charge as part of his cooperation agreement," and that the charge would likely be related to cocaine transactions in San Francisco. The letter also stated that Hale and Swenson intended to meet with Assistant U.S. Attorney Andersen and FBI agent Aukland in Los Angeles to confirm this agreement. It concluded by noting that, while the Los Angeles investigation continued, the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office would keep its file on Meneses active, and should the cooperation agreement not be carried out, the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office would reconsider prosecuting Meneses.
When we interviewed him, Los Angeles Assistant U.S. Attorney Andersen had no recollection of the cooperation agreement to which this referred, or of meeting with anyone from San Francisco concerning the Blandon case. San Francisco Assistant U.S. Attorney Swenson did not remember there ever being a written cooperation agreement, and we did not find any written agreement in U.S. Attorney's Office or FBI files. Swenson told us that although the San Francisco case against Meneses was old and not overwhelming, his office wanted to ensure that Meneses would plead to a charge relating to San Francisco drug trafficking if law enforcement authorities were going to use Meneses as an informant in Los Angeles.
As a result, the FBI in San Francisco opened a case on Meneses, which it placed in inactive status pending the results of the Los Angeles OCDETF investigation.
(5) Attempts to get Meneses and DEA informant back to California
After DEA CI-1 and Meneses returned to Costa Rica in February 1987, the Los Angeles OCDETF investigators tried to arrange for them to come back to the United States to work on the Los Angeles OCDETF investigation against the Blandon organization. On February 23, 1987, DEA Headquarters reported in a cable to DEA Costa Rica that Assistant U.S. Attorney Andersen had conferred with the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office and that there were no immediate plans to indict Meneses, and that any information supplied by Meneses would not be used against him in legal proceedings.
Also in February, the DEA in San Francisco suggested a meeting among Los Angeles and San Francisco DEA and FBI personnel to discuss the cases involving the use of Meneses and DEA CI-1. DEA Costa Rica proposed attending this meeting, along with a coordinator from DEA Headquarters. However, it does not appear that any such meeting occurred.
In March 1987, Schrettner and Gonzalez spoke by telephone concerning the return of DEA CI-1 to Los Angeles to infiltrate the Blandon organization. On April 7, 1987, however, Gonzalez wrote that DEA CI-1 would not travel to Los Angeles without Meneses and that Meneses would voluntarily cooperate only under certain conditions that could not be met as long as he was the target of a domestic United States drug investigation. Gonzalez wrote that the DEA Costa Rica had therefore "terminated contact" with Meneses and awaited his indictment and a request for extradition by the FBI.
Meanwhile, DEA CI-1 continued to provide information on Blandon to Gonzalez in Costa Rica. In a May 13, 1987, debriefing report, Gonzalez noted that, according to DEA CI-1, Blandon had relocated to Miami, where Orlando Murillo was reportedly buying a house for Blandon, and that Blandon was planning to continue to distribute cocaine to his customers through intermediaries. This report was provided to Aukland. Days later, Aukland and Schrettner met with Assistant U.S. Attorney Andersen, who called Gonzalez in Costa Rica to ask whether DEA CI-1 would return to Los Angeles. Although Gonzalez stated that he doubted that DEA CI-1 would travel to Los Angeles without Meneses, Gonzalez promised to tell DEA CI-1 that Assistant U.S. Attorney Andersen wanted him to continue his infiltration of Blandon's organization in California. Gonzalez noted that DEA CI-1 did not want to work with the FBI, because of a bad experience with the FBI in the past. Gonzalez also said that he was being transferred to Bolivia soon and would be handing the matter over to another DEA agent.
On May 19, 1987, DEA Headquarters cabled Gonzalez that the Los Angeles DEA was requesting that Meneses and DEA CI-1 return to California to meet with Blandon. The cable noted, based on information from Assistant U.S. Attorney Andersen and the DEA in Los Angeles, that there was no indication that the FBI planned to have Meneses indicted and no indication that he would be arrested if he came to the United States.
In a response on June 8, 1987, Gonzalez wrote that, based on the representation that Meneses would not be indicted, the DEA in Costa Rica had reestablished contact with Meneses. Gonzalez reported that Meneses would be willing to continue to provide information to the DEA under certain conditions: (1) that his identity not be revealed to anyone outside DEA; (2) that he would not be required to testify in any court of law and not be interviewed by any government prosecutors or any government agents outside of the DEA; (3) that he speak only to DEA CI-1, Gonzalez, or Los Angeles DEA agent Rudy Bareng, and (4) that he be allowed to live in the United States and that his resident alien status be reinstated. Gonzalez wrote that if these conditions were met, Meneses agreed to do everything possible to assist the DEA, "to go anywhere at anytime and give completely of his knowledge and experience of over 20 years in the drug business. Considering [Meneses'] background and potential [DEA Costa Rica] is requesting [DEA Headquarters] concurrence that his identity be protected . . . "
On June 24, 1987, Gonzalez wrote another cable stating that Meneses' continued cooperation hinged on DEA's willingness to guarantee that his identity would not be revealed in judicial proceedings initiated as a result of his information. It also stated that Meneses was fully capable of initiating major investigations in the United States, Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia.
DEA Headquarters responded on June 26, 1987, refusing to guarantee that Meneses' identity would not be revealed in any judicial proceeding. It noted that, in extraordinary circumstances, such guarantees could be given with the concurrence of a prosecutor, but that this case did not meet such criteria.
15. The confidential informant also provided information about other persons who smuggled weapons to leftist guerrillas in El Salvador, and that information was passed to the CIA.
16. This referred to Meneses' meeting with a DEA agent in 1982, which we discuss in the chapter of the report on Meneses.
17. When we interviewed DEA CI-1, he said that Torres had said that the FBI, not the CIA, "looks the other way" while the Contras engage in drug trafficking.
18. As a result of DEA CI-1's report, the FBI decided to inform Rocha about the threat from Blandon. On February 19, 1987, an FBI agent called Rocha and warned him about the alleged threat.
We interviewed Rocha concerning these issues. He said that he had met Blandon in 1981 through the FDN in Los Angeles. In 1984, Rocha started working at Blandon's car dealership, running errands for Blandon. Rocha also met Aparicio Moreno in 1985.
Rocha said that in the summer of 1986, FBI agents questioned him about Blandon's drug operation. Rocha reported the FBI contact to Blandon. When Rocha told Blandon that he had mentioned to the FBI about Blandon's rich uncle in Miami, Orlando Murillo, Blandon became angry. Rocha thought that after this Blandon believed that Rocha was working for the FBI. Rocha stated that in 1987, he received a call from an FBI agent, who said to be careful because "they" were going to try to kill him. The FBI agent did not identify "they."
In November 1987, Rocha traveled to Guatemala to pick up a plane for Aparicio Moreno, but the plan was disrupted by a Guatemalan coup. On November 13, 1987, while Rocha was in Guatemala, a gunman entered his room and shot him five times in the legs and the groin area. Rocha said that he spoke to Blandon recently, in the spring of 1997, and Blandon denied any involvement in the shooting.
We also interviewed Blandon about this allegation. He denied threatening to kill Rocha or having anything to do with the shooting of Rocha. Blandon said that Moreno reported that Rocha had been with a woman friend of a Colombian, a "big guy in Guatemala," who tried to have Rocha killed in Guatemala.
19. We interviewed Torres about these claims. When asked about any ties to the CIA, as he had claimed to the confidential informant, Torres denied having any. Torres stated that he recalled a meeting at a restaurant with Blandon, Meneses, and a third man who was Meneses' friend. Torres said he thought he may have said that the CIA was helping them, but it was "bullshit," and everyone went along with the joke. He said everything he had said about the CIA was a joke, and that they were trying to impress the third man, who they suspected might be an informant.
20. From the summer of 1986 to the summer of 1987, Gonzalez used Meneses as a "source of information" rather than as an informant. The DEA's manual of procedures describes a "source of information" as "a person or organization, not under the direction of a specific agent, who provides information without becoming a party to the investigation itself." By contrast, "an informant [is] a person who, under the direction of a specific DEA agent, and with or without expectation of compensation, furnishes information on drug trafficking or performs a lawful service for DEA in its investigation of drug trafficking." The DEA's manual of procedures states that the record of all informants must be checked in federal law enforcement databases (NADDIS and National Crime Information Center (NCIC)) before the informant is used, and if there is a reason to believe that the informant has committed a serious criminal offense, the appropriate law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the crime and the appropriate U.S. Attorney's Office must be notified. The procedures also require "thorough coordinat[ion] between the DEA and FBI" whenever there is an attempt to recruit an informant who is a "significant target in an active or pending DEA or FBI investigation."
Gonzalez said that he used Meneses as a source of information rather than as an informant because Meneses initially refused to sign DEA's informant registration. Gonzalez admitted that this was unusual but said he did it because of Meneses' background and potential to make cases. Gonzalez said the DEA had no "hammer" over Meneses, who refused to testify in court but who was willing to make introductions and provide information to the DEA. Gonzalez said that Meneses did provide valuable information and, in fact, was the first DEA source of information about heroin processing in Columbia. However, Meneses was not listed as an informant in the DEA's database, and other DEA offices could not get information on Meneses' use by the DEA through this database.
Schrettner reported to us that he did not consider Meneses a target, notwithstanding his November 1986 cable listing Meneses as one of the subjects of the investigation. He said that while Meneses was one of numerous individuals whose name was involved in the investigation, the Los Angeles case started with the Blandon organization but never got past Blandon to target Meneses.
21. The cable does not state why the FBI in San Francisco was questioning whether an indictment of Meneses would result in national security problems. However, as noted above (see Chapter III, section E), the San Francisco FBI had source information claiming that Meneses may have worked for the CIA. In addition, the Iran-Contra Independent Counsel's investigation was just beginning at the time of the cable, and Meneses was known to have ties to the Contras.