Soviet Union

Timothy Leary’s Dead.

Left: Timothy Leary in the custody of Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs agents in 1972. Right: Leary’s 1970 California mugshot. (photos courtesy of the Berkeley Historical Society.)

A 1992 interview with the LSD guru, first published in the Riverfront Times.

by C.D. Stelzer

After your dismissal from Harvard in 1963, both a local television station and Washington University here in St. Louis canceled programs that were to have featured you and colleague Richard Alpert. Which do you believe the establishment feared more at that time, your actual experimentation with LSD or the ideas you espoused?

Timothy Leary: The basic theme I’ve ever done in public is to encourage and empower individuals — think for yourself and question authority. I’m a dissident philosopher based on the Socratic method. My trade union has been practicing this dangerous and risky profession for several thousand years. We have to have every establishment angry. If I’m not in trouble with the establishment, then I’m in trouble with my union card as a socratic philosopher.

It’s not the drugs they were concerned about. It’s much more subversive telling people `just say know — K-N-O-W — just think for yourself.’

When you think that the establishment was angry and upset back then about gentle little vegetables like marijuana and LSD and mushrooms, look what they’ve got now — tons of cocaine on every street corner and every city in the United States.

It was not just the drugs. Deeper than that, it was our defense of humanism as opposed to religion and government. Individualism, dissidents, we were against the war. Stand up for yourself that was the message, it’s always been controversial with Big Brother.

In 1969, you stated that drug dealing was “the noblest of all human professions.” With that in mind, and in light of government and corporate opposition over the last decade, what is your attitude toward drug use today?

That was pulled out of context. What I was saying was throughout history, the chalice, which holds the sacraments, which illuminate and enlighten and allow people to face their own inner divinity. Dealing dope should be the most sacred, precious and conscientious profession. … In that particular interview I was denouncing the drug dealers that were doing it for profit or that were dealing drugs in a dishonest way.

What do you believe is the greatest achievement of the psychedelic revolution that you pioneered? Do you have any reservations about your involvement in disseminating LSD to the American culture?

Put it into historical context. The use of sacramental vegetables has gone back, back, back in history to shamans and the Hindu religion and Buddhist religion. They were using Soma. It’s an ancient human ritual that has usually been practiced in the context of religion or of worship or of tribal coming together.

I didn’t pioneer anything. The use of psychedelics for spiritual purposes was started in the 50s by Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs.

What we did in the 60s, we just surfed a wave. In the 1960s, there was this sudden, new, enormous generation of young Americans brought up on television. Their parents had been told by Dr. Spock, `treat your children as individuals and let them become themselves.’ When they hit college, here was this new movement.

The pioneering, the real work in spreading the word about psychedelic vegetables, (was done by) the rock n’ rollers. Electronic amplification messages going around the world at the speed of light. Bob Dylan and John Lennon and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. They spread the word around.

I’m not a leader, I’m a cheerleader, urging people to be careful and think for yourself.

You’ve met or tripped with Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey and Jack Keroac among others. Who was the highest individual you have ever encountered?

I’m not talking about that, you can’t count …

You can’t put it on a scale.

Y
eah, everyone of those people are a human being and they had their flaws. They were dedicated humanists that’s the key thing. Divinity is found not in the churches or the palaces of the powerful, divinity is found inside. That’s the oldest message, and we all agreed on that, and we expressed it and sang it and chanted it in many different dialects.

Do you still experiment with drugs now?

I don’t experiment. Yes, I use any vegetable or chemical that I feel is necessary at the time to further my life plan. Anytime I want to turn on my right brain, I use chemicals to do that. But I do it carefully, I do it cautiously. I know what I’m doing.

I’ve have been told that your appearance in St. Louis will include a hyper-video display. Could you describe what hyper-video is and how it differs from past multi-media productions?

I don’t know what you mean by past. Yes, it’s true that in the 60s we went down to Broadway and put on what we called the `Psychedelic Salvation.’ We had 19 or 20 slide projectors, overloaded sound — to produce a trance state, to produce a right brain experience, where you’re open and vulnerable to learning new stuff.

Now we have a computer-generated stuff, an enormous empowerment of individuals, who have access now to computer programs CD-Rom programs and special effects. I can’t do a real immersive trance state because its a bright room. But I will have videos to show how it works, and I’m going to try to get the lights to go on and off a little bit so we get some little flavor, to get a group of people who are sharing the same visionary or trance situation.

How is the youth movement of today different from the 1960s?

A lot has happened since the 1960s. In 1980, the American government was taken over by a military police-state or coup. In the last 12 years, you’ve seen an erosion of personal rights, personal freedom, and more power to the police and the military. … The main thing that the Reagan-Bush administration does is they send guns all around the world and they ship out all of our jobs.

So the kids that have grown up today have grown up in a very different world than the 60s, when there was a tremendous feeling of innocence. … And the different races were encouraged to express themselves, and women’s liberation. It was a glorious moment of renaissance, but it was cracked, which often does happen, in 1980.

So the kids today, to answer your question, have to deal with a much more grim economic situation, a grim lifestyle situation. Young women of today are afraid today that they could be arrested if they control their own reproductive rights. The abortion police, these right-wing Republicans, sticking their noses into women’s reproductive organs. Urinating in a bottle.

Kids growing up today are harassed and their is a sense of violence and conflict. So therefore, kids today are much tougher.

There is a youth movement developing now somewhat connected to raves, where young people get together to have celebratory dances. It’s different, and I have a great deal of sympathy and admiration for young people growing up today.

In a recent interview, you said one of the greatest pranks you enjoyed was escaping from prison in 1970. You were convicted of marijuana possession, but why were you really in jail? Was your imprisonment analogous to society at large; are we all prisoners and guards in one big prison yard as Dylan says?

Well, that’s a very philosophic statement. You’re only in prison, if your mind tells you are. When I was in prison, behind bars, I was freer than most people who came to visit me.

Richard Nixon called me `the most dangerous man alive.’ That’s not because I was found in a car where someone else had five dollars worth of marijuana. (It’s) probably because I was the most eloquent and most influential voice encouraging young people to think for yourself and question authority, and don’t follow leaders and watch your parking meters.

It was my ideas that were very dangerous. I found myself in 1970 facing between 20 and 30 years imprisonment for less than $10 of marijuana (found) in cars that were not my own.

I did four-and-a-half years in prison for less than $10 worth of marijuana at the same time cocaine gangsters from Peru were doing four or five years for a ton of cocaine. Everyone I think would agree that I was in prison for my ideas, and that’s why I escaped from there.

Are computer hackers of the 1990s akin to the 60s outlaw drug dealers?

The thing about the computer situation is it changes so quickly. The concept of hacker — the programmer who spends all night eating bad food and drinking Pepsi-Cola and getting pimples and cracking codes — that’s kind of over now. They were wonderful heroes.
There is a strong growing counterculture in the computer culture, people who don’t think that computers and electronic devices should be used just for Big Brother, the CIA and American Airlines, but to use these wonderful electronic powers to enrich yourself as an individual and to help you communicate.

The hot thing that is going on in electronic computer culture today is networking, communicating with one another on electronic bulletin boards. That’s where the notion `cyberpunk’ came as invented by William Gibson in the book Nueromancer.

The cyberpunk is someone who is very skillful and understands how to use technology, and can mix film, and edit their own audio-visual stuff, do your own MTV at home on your Macintosh, or do it in school on your McIntosh. Cyberpunks are these individuals who use this intelligence not to make a lot of money for a big corporation, but to enrich human life and enrich human communication.

Instead of just talking on bulletin boards or typing in letters, within two or three years, we’ll be sending incredible multi-media graphics. So instead of just talking, within two or three years, I’ll be able to send you an MTV-type audio-visual stuff with some words.

Almost 20 years ago you foresaw that “language thought and custom were becoming electrically energized” through technology. At the time, you predicted “science … cannot be controlled by a national leader or restrained by national boundaries. You stated that: “Those born into the electronic culture will soon learn how to govern themselves according to the laws of energy. Do you believe this to be the case today? If so, how has it manifested itself in the world of 1992?

I think you can learn a lot about America by seeing what happened in the Soviet Union. The Republicans are saying Reagan had the Soviet Union in his gun sights and it was Bush who pulled the trigger to kill communism. Now that’s a truck load of you know what.

The Soviet Union collapsed because million and millions of citizens, particularly young people, particularly college people and scientists, intellectuals — and there were many of them there totally silent during Brezhnev — began communicating electronically.

In East Berlin, for example, they had guards that would go around and make sure that satellite disks at apartment houses in communist Germany were not turned to the west. And you would get busted, if were picking up electronic signals from the West.

But you can’t stop electrons. Electrons are not like tanks. You can’t build a wall of bricks to keep out videotapes and MTV tapes and rock n’ roll records.

After moving west to California in the late 60s, you became connected with a group called the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. In 1973, Nicholas Sand, a chemist for the Brotherhood, was arrested in St. Louis for operating two LSD laboratories. Indictments in California around the same time also named Ronald H. Stark, who allegedly operated a LSD lab in Belgium, In the book Acid Dreams, the authors name Stark as being a CIA informant. In retrospect do believe the CIA was involved in putting acid out on the street to preempt a possible political revolution?

I don’t know about that. But it’s a matter of fact that most of the LSD in America in the late 50s and early 60s was brought in by the CIA and given around to hospitals to find out these drugs could be used for brainwashing or for military purposes.

You talked about Nicholas Sand. The whole concept of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love is like a bogeyman invented by the narcs. The brotherhood was about eight surfer kids from Southern California, Laguna Beach, who took the LSD, and they practiced the religion of the worship of nature, and they’d go into the mountains. But they were not bigshots at all. None of them ever drove anything better than a VW bus. They were just kind of in it for the spiritual thrill.

Nick Sand was a very skillful chemist. He may have made LSD that the Brotherhood used. He was just a very talented chemist, who was out to make a lot of money for himself.

The guy Stark. I was accused of heading this ring. I never met Stark. Never knew he existed. I heard he’s a European money launderer. But that was not relevant to what was going on out here.

What is relevant to your question is … yes, the CIA did distribute LSD. As a matter of fact, the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Agency) is out there right now setting up phony busts, setting up people, selling dope. And it’s well known that during the Reagan administration Ollie North was shipping up tons of cocaine to buy money to give to the Contras and the Iranians.

The CIA has always used drugs very cynically. They [control] opium poppy plantations in the golden triangle of Thailand and Burma because it helps the anti communist group there.

The CIA doesn’t care about drugs, they’re just interested in playing there game of power and control, and in the old days, anti-communist provocation.

Wasn’t the Human Ecology Fund, which financed LSD research at Harvard, also connected to the CIA?

Yeah, these are minor little details. The professor who led to Richard Albert and I getting fired from Harvard, it turned out later was getting money from the CIA.

When you ran for governor of California in 1970 against Ronald Reagan, how many votes did you receive?

I never ran, Reagan threw me in prison. They wouldn’t give me bail for $5 worth of marijuana. Murderers, rapists were walking out with $100,000 bail. They did that to keep me from registering to keep me from running for governor.

What do you think of the presidential campaign thus far this year?

I think it’s obvious the United Soviet States of America — the federal government in Washington — is finished. No one likes it, and its just like the Communist Party bureaucracy in Moscow. Now the strategy is learn from the Soviet Union. When Brezhnev was in charge, we were for Gorbachev. As soon as Gorbechev got in charge and tried to keep it going, we were for Yeltsin.

You always have got to vote for the person who is going to loosen up the central power. So obviously you’ve got to vote for Clinton and Gore because they’re going to loosen things up and bring [down] the incredible police state, totalitarian situation that Reagan and Bush got.

Yeah, I’m enthusiastically, passionately cheering for Gore and Clinton. (But) I really don’t think anybody should be the president of the United States. You’ve got to break the central government down just as they did in the Soviet Union. Go back to the original states. That’s the original American dream. We don;t want a federal monopolistic bureaucracy in Washington.

As a new millennium approaches, how do you perceive the future of post industrial America?

... I’m not really that interested in the politics, I’m interested in the psychology, the power of individuals to communicate with each other. So I have high hopes there will be a new breed in the 21st century.

There is a new breed popping up in Japan, popping up in London, popping up in Germany. These are a new generation of kids who don’t want to go back to the old Cold War. They’re not going to work on Mitsubishi and Toyotas farm no more.

They believe in individual freedom. They don’t want to work, work, work for the company. They enjoy above all a global international movement. We’re going to get what Marshall McCluhan predicted thirty-forty ago — a global village — which will be hooked up by electronic networks. … Globalization will be the big thing of the future.

Spy vs. Spy?

In 2015, the Russian news service landed in North County to cover the troubles at West Lake Landfill and Coldwater Creek. The question now is whether the CIA mounted a counter-intelligence operation here.

KWMU reporter Vérinique La Capra aims a microphone at  Mary Oscko as cameras captured the moment in August  2015 at the Hazelwood Community Center.

It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely place for an espionage operation to take place than the Hazelwood Civic Center. But recent revelations by the U.S. intelligence community suggest that it may have been one of the locations in North St. Louis County where a secretive propaganda battle quietly played out in August 2015.

Hundreds of people gathered at the civic center for a community meeting that month had no inkling they were bit actors in this Cold War revival. The overflow crowd that jammed the conference room on August 20 attended  out of concern for the health of their families and the safety of the community. Radioactive contamination leftover from the Manhattan Project and its aftermath still plagued the St. Louis suburbs and residents wanted answers from government officials about the long-delayed clean ups.

Questions were asked, testimonials were given and frustrations were vented at the event, all captured on video by camerapersons, including at least one with ties to RT America, the Russian foreign news service.

In the heat of the moment, those present were not aware that they were pawns in a larger political struggle between the U.S. and Russia. Evidence of the covert chess game didn’t surface until January of this year, long after the meeting had faded in the community’s collective memory.

That’s when the CIA took the unprecedented step of releasing a classified report on alleged Russian interference in American politics. The unusual act by the agency was spurred by the continuing controversy over Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Those allegations remain the focus of  congressional investigations, and a probe by an independent counsel appointed by the Justice Department.

Allegations of the hacking of email accounts of Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton and her campaign staff by Russian operatives prompted the CIA’s release of the report. But the majority of the declassified information in the report is unrelated to the furor over whether Donald Trump and his cronies benefited from the alleged Russian intrusion.

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RT honcho Margarita Simonyan briefs Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in October 2012 in Moscow. (photo courtesy of the CIA’s declassified report)

Instead, the CIA released an intelligence assessment put together in 2012  that details how RT America is allegedly used by the Kremlin as a propaganda tool to cast the U.S.  government in a bad light.

The obvious question this now raises is whether the CIA mounted a domestic counter espionage campaign to offset the perceived damage being inflicted by the negative image that the Russian news service allegedly broadcast not only in America but to a global audience via the Internet.

The CIA report was compiled in 2012 three years before the Russians showed up in North St. Louis County and four years before the U.S. presidential campaign. Though classified, it can be assumed that its contents were shared with the White House and other federal departments and agencies.

It is therefore reasonable to surmise that the CIA and other government agencies were not simply monitoring Russia’s interference in America — but actively combatting it with their own surreptitious operations.

If this is true, it begs the question as to whether American intelligence assets were present at the Hazelwood Civic Center that sultry, late summer evening back in 2015.

Only The Shadow knows.

Correction: Originally, this story identified the meeting as taking place at the Machinist Union Hall in Bridgeton. Instead, the meeting took place at the Hazelwood Community Center. 

 

The CIA’s French Connection and Other Footnotes to History

At right, Irving Brown, American labor leader and CIA spy.

CD Stelzer peers into the CIA’s murky operations and finds ‘Old Europe’ ain’t what it used to be.

(written for Ireland’s Island magazine in 2006)

Former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld set the stage for the conflict in January 2003. Vexed by Germany and France’s opposition to United States plans to invade Iraq, Rumsfeld labeled the two nations as ‘Old Europe.’

‘Germany has been a problem and France has been a problem,’ Rumsfeld told Washington’s foreign press corps. ‘But you look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe, they’re not with France and Germany. … They’re with the US. You’re thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don’t. I think that’s old Europe.’

The comment led to a diplomatic war of words and pointed to the growing rift between America and its longstanding allies. Three years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, mounting domestic opposition to the war in Iraq forced Rumsfeld to resign under pressure. The administration of George W Bush now finds itself politically eviscerated, mired by escalating violence in Iraq and weakened diplomatically elsewhere abroad.

In ‘Old Europe,’ opposition to US foreign policy has moved from words to action.

German prosecutors in Munich issued arrest warrants in February for 13 Central Intelligence Agency agents for the alleged kidnapping of Khaled el-Masri, a Lebanese-born German citizen. Munich prosecutors are basing their case on evidence provided by authorities in Spain, Italy and the European Union. The German charges preceded by about a week those issued in Italy against more than two dozen CIA operatives for the alleged abduction of Hasan Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from Milan in February 2003. The Italian trial is scheduled to begin in June. The kidnappings are part of a covert CIA programme of ‘extraordinary renditions’ in which terrorist suspects are illegally nabbed and flown to undisclosed locations for interrogations. In both cases crew members of Aero Contractors, a CIA-connected company based in North Carolina, are named as participants. According to the charges, Aero employees transported el-Masri to Egypt and Omar to Afghanistan, where they were allegedly tortured.

A report approved by the European parliament in mid-February accused the governments of Ireland, Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland and other European Union states of permitting the CIA flights to operate within their borders. Base on a 12-month investigation, the report found that Ireland allowed 147 CIA flights to use Irish airports. In addition, European investigators concluded that nine CIA kidnap victims passed through Ireland on their way to so-called ‘black sites,’ where torture was allegedly used to gain information. The report says the Government’s acceptance of US diplomatic assurances failed to protect human rights as obligated under the law. It also criticised Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern for withholding some information to the committee investigating the CIA flights.

As evidenced by the indictments and EU report, the CIA continues to operate in much of Europe. Some activities are apparently conducted in plain sight, more overt than covert. In Northern Ireland, for instance, the three-member Independent Monitoring Commission, which oversees demilitarisation of loyalist and republican factions, includes Richard J. Kerr, a retired deputy director of the CIA. Despite his espionage background, the involvement of a former top American spy doesn’t seem to raise any eyebrows in Dublin or Belfast.

Overall, however, the CIA’s current involvement in internal European affairs pales in comparison to the Cold War era.

The defeat of Nazi Germany by allied forces in 1945 set the stage for a power struggle between victors, with Britain and the US on one side and the Soviet Union on the other. In July 1947, fearing that Western European governments would fall under the influence of Soviet communism, the United States implemented a multi-billion-dollar foreign aid package – the European Recovery Plan – more commonly known as the Marshall Plan. The four-year programme, named after then-US Secretary of State George Marshall, is credited with leading the way for economic recovery in much of postwar Western Europe.

A few months later, US President Harry S Truman made another decision that would have lasting impact. He signed the National Security Act of 1947, creating the CIA.

In the autumn of 1947, the nascent intelligence agency would set a course of action that would be repeated dozens of times in years to come. To further US foreign policy objectives, the CIA would employ various proxies, including criminals, to infiltrate and ultimately subvert political parties, labor unions and other organizations. Politicians would be bought. Elections thrown. Coups engineered. Murders carried out. All in the name of democracy and freedom.

It all started in Marseilles, France.

In October 1947, the conservative mayor of Marseilles hiked public transit fares, sparking outrage among downtrodden workers. Fueled by the frustrations of postwar poverty, a Socialist-Communist coalition mounted a boycott of the city’s trams. Political tensions escalated for the next month, culminating in the events of November 12, when mass protests erupted. That afternoon Communist city councilmen were attacked at a city council meeting. In the evening, the violence spread. Gunfire wounded several demonstrators, killing one. The suspects in both the beatings and shootings were political allies of the mayor, members of the Corsican gangs that ruled the Marseilles underworld.

Brothers Antoine and Barthélemy Guerini, Marseilles leading Corsican gangsters, were arrested for the shootings, but within days charges were dropped, after police witnesses inexplicable recanted testimony. Meanwhile, Marseilles’ unions went on strike, which pushed the Confédération Génerale du Travail (CGT), France’s leftist labor affiliation, to follow suit nationwide. Millions of workers walked off the job in industries throughout France.

Marseilles’ dockworkers represented the most militant of the strikers. Their closing of the port of Marseilles threatened to derail the Marshall Plan. Moreover, in the eyes of Washington policy wonks, the French labor strife smacked of Soviet subversion. To stem the perceived red tide, the CIA called upon two leaders of the American labor movement to act in its behalf.

The CIA’s chief labor assets were Jay Lovestone of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and his top lieutenant Irving Brown. Over the next decades, the two men would use their respective positions in the international labor movement to clandestinely manipulate trade unions throughout the world.

For his part, Lovestone had perfect credentials: he helped found the Communist Party in the US. His long association with Local 22 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union provided further cover. In 1929, Lovestone and the Lovestonites, as his minions came to be known, severed ties with Moscow following an ideological dispute the previous year. By 1944, Lovestone had shucked his communist ties altogether and moved up the bureaucratic ladder to head the AFL’s rabidly anti-communist Free Trade Union Committee (FTUC), the organization’s international arm.

Marching in lockstep with Lovestone’s political reversal, Brown moved the FTUC in the same direction in Europe. To counter the 1947 general strike in France, he devised a strategy of splitting the left by pitting the socialists and communist against each other. With the cooperation of Lovestone, Brown used money diverted from the US garment workers to set up Force Ouvrière, a non-communist union in France. After Brown installed Leon Jouhaux, a French socialist as its leader, the union broke with the communist-led CGT federation. When American union dollars dried up, Brown tapped the CIA for funding.

Losing little time, the agency funneled an estimated $1 million into the French Socialist Party, allowing it leadership to orchestrate a successful campaign against the strikers. CIA largesse bought cooperation of politicians such as Marseilles Socialist Gaston Defferre and Socialist Interior Minister Jules Moch. As a result, the latter official purged communist sympathisers from the ranks of law enforcement and then sanctioned savage police attacks on the picket lines.

More importantly, the CIA helped forge a lasting alliance between the Marseilles Socialist Party and the city’s Corsican gangsters. With money and arms supplied by CIA operatives, the Corsicans harassed communist union officials, and assaulted and murdered rank-and-file unionists. Overwhelmed by the reaction, the CGT called off the strike on Dec. 9. The CIA’s arranged marriage of Marseilles’ Socialists and the Corsican underworld endured for the next 25 years.

In 1950, the CIA sealed the bond by calling on Marseilles’ Socialists and their Corsican enforcers to once more do its bidding. In January of that year, Marseilles’ dockworkers, the vanguard of French labor, ordered a selective boycott of American military cargoes bound for the French colonial war in Indochina. The CGT endorsed the boycott a month later and the shutdown quickly spread to other sectors of French industry.

To crush the labor stoppage, the CIA channeled $2 million through the US government’s Office of Policy Coordination. Brown, the CIA’s European labor asset, used some of the money to furnish Corsican strongman Pierre Ferri-Pisani with Italian strikebreakers. By mid-April the dockworkers strike had been broken.

Due to their strong-armed support of the strikebreakers, the Guerinis’ political fortunes improved immediately. Having first aided Marseilles Socialist Gaston Defferre during the resistance movement, the two brothers had now established a secure footing in his postwar municipal government. Mayor Defferre and the local Socialist Party would employ Guerini bodyguards and campaign workers for the next 17 years.

The CIA nurtured partnership also wrought unintended financial benefits for the Marseilles underworld. With the waterfront now under its domination, the Guerinis and other Corsican outfits found themselves free to pursue their most profitable venture – heroin trafficking. Within months of breaking the dockworkers strike, the port of Marseilles began manufacturing and exporting large quantities of heroin to the United States, according to the Politics of Heroin by Alfred W. McCoy. At its zenith in 1965, the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics estimated that Corsican syndicates operated as many as 24 heroin-processing plants in or around Marseilles. French traffickers smuggled nearly five tonnes of pure heroin into America that year, according to the bureau. As a consequence, US heroin addiction skyrocketed.

The French connection relied on a steady supply of raw materials: opium from Turkey and morphine from Lebanon. Once refined, heroin shipments often traveled a circuitous sea route, entering the US either through Cuba or Canada. With their political connections at home, the Guerini brothers’ had literally found a safe harbour. But for the far-flung enterprise to succeed, it needed a well-established wholesale buyer.

The American Mafia filled that role.

Honouring a request by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), the state of New York in 1946 granted Salvatore C. ‘Lucky’ Luciano an early parole under the condition that he be deported to Sicily. The unusual clemency was based on his supposed wartime cooperation. During his incarcertion, the ONI conducted extensive interviews with the notorious Mafia chief. With his criminal partner Meyer Lansky acting as a liaison, Luciano provided leads that, according to the Navy, helped secure New York harbor and also prepare the allies for the invasion of Sicily.

After he arrived in postwar Sicily, Luciano’s innate entrepreneurial spirit led him into the narcotics trade. He swiftly cornered the market by diverting legally produced heroin, manufactured by Shiapareilli, an Italian pharmaceutical company, to the United States. When that scheme collapsed, Luciano turned to the Corsican syndicates in Marseilles, including the Guerini brothers. Lansky again acted as the Mafia don’s emininence grise, hashing out an agreement in 1951 soon after the CIA had crowned the Guerini brothers overlords of Marseilles’ waterfront. Lansky, the American mob’s financial wizard, then went to Switzerland to set up untraceable bank accounts through which to launder the drug proceeds.

The French connection, at least the Guerinis control over it, fell apart in 1967, when a gang war claimed the life of Antoine and led to the imprisonment of Barthélemy. That same year, the United States belatedly bankrolled a crackdown on Turkish opium production.

By then, however, other Corsican traffickers had begun to shift their interests to Southeast Asia, where US troops, coincidentally, had replaced French forces. Not surprisingly, the CIA would also play a prominent part there, too. In 1973, press accounts alleged that Air America, the CIA’s proprietary airline, had participated in heroin smuggling in connection to the agency’s secret war in Laos.

In modern day Europe, 60 years after the fall of Nazi Germany, the Cold War is a fading memory, but the CIA continues its misdeeds on the continent. Only the names and faces of the enemy have changed. The communist ‘menace’ of the former Soviet Union has been replaced by the so-called ‘war on terror.’

In this new era, though, the agency no longer commands the dominant position it once did. Across the breath of Europe there has been an undeniable shift in public perception and political power. Italy, Germany and other European Union states are now demanding respect for their individual sovereignty and adherence to the rule of law. Despite this, the US is not expected to approve the extradition of the CIA agents wanted for kidnapping. The accused may, nevertheless, be tried in absentia, setting the stage for a spectacle that would further damage America’s tarnished reputation abroad.

When it comes to ‘Old Europe,’ the US may have better served its geo-political interests if it had chosen to honour its elders.

To Russia with Love

At the height of the Cold War, the St. Louis city streets director took a hiatus to help build a chemical plant in the Soviet Union for a subsidiary of Slay Transportation. Meanwhile back in the Gateway City, the same company was busy developing a process for disposing of contaminated waste in area landfills.

If this were part of the plot of a spy thriller, it would be hard to suspend disbelief. Midwest business and politics have never been a hotbed of international intrigue. Nevertheless, despite  the anti-communist fervor of the Cold War era,  then-St. Louis Mayor John H. Poelker — a former agent in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI — granted a subordinate time off  to work in the Soviet Union.

In December 1975, William J. Wilson, then-director of the St. Louis Street Department, took a leave of absence to work on a chemical plant in the Soviet Union for Ecology Controls Inc., a subsidiary of Slay Transportation, a St. Louis-based company owned by Missouri Democratic powerbroker Eugene Slay. The local trucking magnate had no previous experience in international business, but his firm did transport materials for Monsanto and Mallinckrodt Chemical, two St. Louis companies that did.

Wilson, a Slay crony and a chemical engineer, was hired by the city in May 1973 by Mayor John H. Poelker — a former FBI agent. Prior to his work for the bureau, Poelker Poelker was employed by the DuPont Co. in St. Louis. He had hired Wilson at the urging of St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Francis R. Slay, Eugene Slay’s cousin. The late Francis R. Slay is the father of Francis G. Slay, the former mayor who left office earlier this month.

 

In 1979, Wilson’s close ties to Slay became the subject of  a federal grand jury impaneled to probe whether riverfront leases and mooring rights granted by the city to Slay Transportation received favored treatment.  By then, Wilson had quit his post as city streets director to become general manager of Bi-State Development Corp., St. Louis’ mass transit agency.

The Soviet chemical plant, which was located 800 miles southwest of Moscow, was built to produce synthetic parasecrol, a material used in rubber products. Ecology Controls Inc., the Slay subsidiary, was a subcontractor of Ste. Entrepose, a French corporation. Wilson was paid $30,000 by Ecology Controls for his work on the project. He spent approximately three weeks in the Soviet Union. Wilson did the remainder of his work from St. Louis, while continuing to work full-time as the city’s streets director.

At the same time, Ecology Controls was also pursuing other ventures, including a process for disposing of chemically-contaminated waste in area landfills without harming the environment. Collis C. Bryan, a former Monsanto chemical engineer and Parkway School District chemistry teacher, was involved in that project.

Ecology Controls Inc., which was incorporated in 1971, remained an active corporation in Missouri until April 2011, when it merged with J.S. Leasing Company Inc, another Slay-owned company.