Thomas G. Clines

Thomas G. Clines

Thomas G. Clines joined the Central Intelligence Agency after the Second World War. He was involved in covert operations in Cuba (1961-1962) before joining Ted Shackley, David Atlee Phillips and David Morales at JM WAVE in Miami.

In 1966 Ted Shackley was placed in charge of CIA secret war in Laos. He appointed Clines as his deputy. Shackley also recruited Carl Jenkins and David Morales for this project. Clines left Laos in 1970 and spent a year at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1972 Clines was put in charge of CIA operations in Chile and the following year he helped Augusto Pinochet overthrow Salvador Allende.

After the election of Jimmy Carter was a severe blow to Clines career. Carter appointed an outsider, Stansfield Turner, as head of the CIA. He immediately carried out an investigation of into CIA covert activities. Turner eventually found out about Shackley’s “Secret Team”. He was especially worried about the activities of Edwin Wilson and the Nugan Hand Bank.

One of the men Wilson employed was former CIA officer Kevin P. Mulcahy. He became concerned about Wilson's illegal activities and sent a message about them to the agency. Ted Shackley, Deputy Director of Operations, was initially able to block any internal investigation of Wilson. However, in April, 1977, the Washington Post, published an article on Wilson's activities stating that he may be getting support from "current CIA employees". Stansfield Turner ordered an investigation and discovered that both Shackley and Clines had close relationships with Wilson.

Clines became friends with Raphael Quintero while working on the attempt to undermine the government of Fidel Castro in Cuba. When he was given responsiblity for Nicaragua in early 1978 he recruited Quintero to help the CIA in its struggle with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). This included helping Anastasio Somoza to develop a counter-subversion program in the country.

In 1978 Clines left the CIA. He now joined with Raphael Quintero and Ricardo Chavez (another former CIA operative) to establish API Distributors. According to David Corn (Blond Ghost) Edwin Wilson provided Clines with "half a million dollars to get his business empire going". In 1979 Clines established International Research and Trade Limited in Bermuda. Later that year he joined forces with Hussein Salem in providing U.S. military hardware to Egypt.

In October, 1985, Congress agreed to vote 27 million dollars in non-lethal aid for the Contras in Nicaragua. However, members of the Ronald Reagan administration decided to use this money to provide weapons to the Contras and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. Gene Wheaton was recruited to use National Air to transport these weapons. He agreed but began to have second thoughts when he discovered that Richard Secord was involved in the operation and in May 1986 Wheaton told William Casey, director of the CIA, about what he knew about this illegal operation. Casey refused to take any action, claiming that the agency or the government were not involved in what later became known as Irangate.

Wheaton now took his story to Daniel Sheehan, a left-wing lawyer. Wheaton told him that Tom Clines and Ted Shackley had been running a top-secret assassination unit since the early 1960s. According to Wheaton, it had begun with an assassination training program for Cuban exiles and the original target had been Fidel Castro. Wheaton also contacted Newt Royce and Mike Acoca, two journalists based in Washington. The first article on this scandal appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on 27th July, 1986.

As a result of this story, Congressman Dante Facell wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger, asking him if it "true that foreign money, kickback money on programs, was being used to fund foreign covert operations." Two months later, Weinberger denied that the government knew about this illegal operation.

On 5th October, 1986, a Sandinista patrol in Nicaragua shot down a C-123K cargo plane that was supplying the Contras. Eugene Hasenfus, an Air America veteran, survived the crash and told his captors that he thought the CIA was behind the operation. He also provided information on two Cuban-Americans running the operation in El Savador. This resulted in journalists being able to identify Raphael Quintero and Felix Rodriguez as the two Cuban-Americans. It gradually emerged that Clines, Oliver North, Edwin Wilson and Richard Secord were also involved in this conspiracy to provide arms to the Contras.

On 12th December, 1986, Daniel Sheehan submitted to the court an affidavit detailing the Irangate scandal. He also claimed that Clines and Ted Shackley were running a private assassination program that had evolved from projects they ran while working for the CIA. Others named as being part of this assassination team included Raphael Quintero, Richard Secord, Felix Rodriguez and Albert Hakim.

It was eventually discovered that President Ronald Reagan had sold arms to Iran. The money gained from these sales was used to provide support for the Contras, a group of guerrillas engaged in an insurgency against the elected socialist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Both the sale of these weapons and the funding of the Contras violated administration policy as well as legislation passed by Congress.

Shirley Brill, a former CIA official, published a 24 page affidavit in 1988. Brill had lived with Clines in 1977 and claimed that he was involved in illegal activities with Raphael Quintero and a drug dealer living in Miami. After retering from the CIA in 1978, Brill claims Clines joined forces with Ted Shackley, Richard Secord and Edwin Wilson in order to gain Pentagon contracts. Brill also argued that she heard Clines, Secord, Quintero and Shakley plotting to frame Wilson.

On 23rd June, 1988, Judge James L. King ruled that Sheehan's allegations were "based on unsubstantiated rumor and speculation from unidentified sources with no firsthand knowledge". In February, 1989, Judge King ruled that Sheenan had brought a frivolous lawsuit and ordered his Christic Institute to pay the defendants $955,000. This was one of the highest sanction orders in history and represented four times the total assets of the Christic Institute.

In 1990 Tom Clines was charged with under-reporting his income from his various business enterprises by at least $260,000 and with failing to disclose on his tax returns that he had an overseas bank account. Clines was found guilty and sentenced to sixteen months and a $40,000 fine.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Gene Wheaton, interviewed by Matt Ehling on Declassified Radio (4th January, 2002)

While running back and forth to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Egypt in the ‘80s, early, mid 80s... I kept my contacts with the embassies around the world and with the State Department, and with the Agency, so that I could get quicker access into countries whenever I got a project that I could work on. In 1985 I became the vice-president of a cargo airline called National Air. It was during that period, summer of ’85, that some of my old CIA contacts -- who were no longer full-time employees of the agency -- but when they retire these guys they usually give them a contract as an outside contractor on the side, and then they have deniability for working for the agency. They can say, "No, he’s not an employee of the agency," but in fact they are contractors and they still carry security clearances and have to be polygraphed once in a while. I was recruited into Ollie North’s network by that group during the summer of ’85 because they wanted my airplanes for missions to the Contras, and they wanted my Middle East background for helping devise a plan for movement of weapons to the Mujahadin in Afghanistan. I had traveled across Afghanistan before, and again, I speak the language, and had been in and out of in Afghanistan and Pakistan more so than anybody they could find within the agency.

The guys that I had known for several years, uh, primarily Carl Jenkins, who was a long-time career CIA paramilitary mercenary operator, uh, probably the most highly respected of those people in that division of the agency... he was the commander of the biggest CIA base in Laos while Shackley was over there, and while Bill Sullivan was over as ambassador. Carl and I became very close friends in the early 80s, to the point where I would keep a bedroom in his home in Washington with clothes and papers and things so I didn’t have to carry them from California. I was commuting regularly back and forth when I was going overseas, and Carl and his wife, who was an active super-grader in the agency - he was her case officer and she had been his interpreter, and then he got her a master’s degree and then she got her Ph.D. She went on to head one of the branches of the agency - we became like brothers and sisters, between me and them.

So I was back in Washington trying to drum up business for this little cargo airline, and Carl agreed to be my Washington representative, uh, for marketing purposes to open doors for me in Washington, D.C. ... to see if I could get some cargo contracts. It was in that vein that Carl told me it was time... that the guys in the national security council wanted to bring me into the inner circle. And that’s where I sort of got at the very national level of this. I had previously attended some black-tie functions with Bill Casey and the veterans of the OSS; had been invited to a party where the guest of honor was Vice President Bush. My wife and I were invited. We were running with a fairly high-level crowd. In December of, uh, ’85 was the scheduled time for me to actually meet with Ollie North, so they had a black-tie dinner at the Palm Restaurant in Washington D. C. on the 4th of December. It was the day that Bud McFarland resigned as national security advisor.

At that black tie party at the Palm Restaurant on the 4th of December in 1985, I was specifically invited by Neil Livingston and to come in and meet Ollie North, and it was a party to promote Neil Livingston’s book, called "Fighting Back", and the subtitle was "The War on Terrorism". He and a State Department/CIA spook by the name of Terry Arnold wrote that book together and this was the coming-out party for the book, and all the covert operations community, the real snake eaters, were going to be there with black ties. Ollie North was there and Bud McFarland and I don’t know, 75 or 100 people in black ties, having drinks and dinner and hobnobbing and they felt like... the atmosphere at that party was one of ‘We are the shadow government running the United States.’ It was almost like a diplomatic party or a State Department coming out party for a regime. These guys were in charge, and that was how they presented it.

There was a plan that was approved later on by the Congress in August, no, excuse me, October of 1985 - Congress was going to vote in 27 million dollars in non-lethal aid for the Contras and it was going to be a legitimate but covert, uh, program to supply the Contras with everything from medicines to tents and uniforms and food and whatever else they might need that was non-lethal, but as it turned out, that program became a lethal one too, because they would ship what they would laughingly refer to as hard rice, meaning weaponry, in with the $27 million worth of stuff.

Carl took me to the, what they called the Humanitarian Aid Office for the State Department in Roslyn, Virginia, and I met with Chris Arcos who was the deputy for that program to a guy, an Ambassador Dumeling. We were trying to get some of the 27 million dollars of cargo to haul to Honduras for the Contras that Congress had approved, and we were told several times in no uncertain terms that the only way we could do it was to work through Dick Secord and that aviation supply route, and I refused to do that because I knew that Secord had an unsavory reputation; he been forced into retirement out of the Air Force as a major general in ’83 over the Ed Wilson scandal in Libya. So I was advising the people around Ollie North, the liaison people between me and him, that they were dealing with a bunch of unsavory characters that had a reputation, an official public reputation, of causing extreme embarrassment to the government. At that time I didn’t... I thought the contractors - Secord and that group - I thought they had a legitimate covert contract with the government, but they were also diverting aircraft and hauling illegal cargo on the side, and I was receiving direct information about their movement.

Well, in May of ’86, I personally briefed CIA director Bill Casey, and of course he looked startled. I had no idea at the time that he was one of the masterminds behind all this illegal stuff, but he said he’d look into it and get back to me. And he said he had to leave the country the next day, and would be back in touch with me in two or three weeks. It was exactly the same weekend, or the week, I think the 30th of May, when I met with him, or the 31st, when Ollie North was on that secret trip with Bud McFarland to Tehran. So I suppose Casey was going over to Israel to brief them about it. I didn’t know that at the time. Casey sent a message to me after he got back saying that the agency wasn’t involved in any of this stuff, and that the government wasn’t involved in this illegal diversion, and "If you think you can do anything about it, let the chips fall where they may," as a bluff. I’m just a raggedy little old Oklahoma country boy, retired chief warrant officer, and I guess he figured I couldn’t do it.

Anyway, as result of those briefings in the summer of ‘86, and I was kind of - this struck me as being treason and grand larceny on a major scale, stealing from the taxpayers’ money, - and having been a cop all my life, I thought it was kind of wrong. So I got with a couple of Washington D.C. journalists that I knew. And one of them was a two-time Pulitzer prize winning journalist by the name of Newt Royce. And Newt Royce and Mike Icoca, who was a free-lancer who was writing with him - Newt at that time was with the Hearst newspaper chain in Washington D. C., with their bureau. I had information - direct knowledge from the Saudi royal family - that kickbacks were being, from the Saudi AWACS program, were being used to help fund the Contras, to buy weapons from different countries around the world. And I furnished Newt with the names of other people that could back up what I was saying, and that this was a scam because Secord, who was on active duty after the Iranian revolution, was the chief architect of the Saudi AWACS program. The Saudi AWACS program was identical to our Iran IBEX program that we had to close down in Iran. They just moved it across the Persian Gulf to Saudi Arabia and renamed it. It was an 8 billion dollar program, and those guys were talking about 10 % or 15%, so you’re talking about an 800 million dollars minimum, estimate, that that these guys could get whenever they wanted it, out of the bag.

And Newt and Mike Icoca wrote it up on the wire service for Hearst newspaper chain, and it went out on the wires and was made a front page headline of the San Francisco Examiner on the 27th of July of 1986. As a result of that article in August of ‘86, Congressman Dante Facell wrote a letter to then secretary of defense Casper Weinberger asking him if it was true that foreign money, kickback money on programs, was being used to fund foreign covert operations. And in September of ‘86 Cap Weinberger wrote a letter back to Facell denying that it was being done by the U.S. government, with any knowledge of it being kickback money. That eventually, one of George Bush’s last acts - and Larry Walsh, the special prosecutor, indicted Weinberger as a result of that correspondence - and Bush pardoned him as one of his last acts. And that’s how this whole mess got started.

This stuff goes back to the scandals of the 70s... of Watergate and Richard Helms, the CIA director, being convicted by Congress of lying to Congress, of Ted Shackley and Tom Clines and Dick Secord and a group of them being forced into retirement as a result of the scandal over Edmond P. Wilson’s training of Libyan terrorists in conjunction with these guys, and moving C-4 explosives to Libya. They decided way back when, ‘75-’76, during the Pike and Church Committee hearings, that the Congress was their enemy. They felt that the government had betrayed them and that they were the real heroes in this country and that the government became their enemy. In the late 70s, in fact, after Gerry Ford lost the election in ’76 to Jimmy Carter, and then these guys became exposed by Stansfield Turner and crowd for whatever reason... there were different factions involved in all this stuff, and power plays... Ted Shackley and Vernon Walters and Frank Carlucci and Ving West and a group of these guys used to have park-bench meetings in the late 70s in McClean, Virginia so nobody could overhear they conversations. They basically said, "With our expertise at placing dictators in power," I’m almost quoting verbatim one of their comments, "why don’t we treat the United States like the world’s biggest banana republic and take it over?" And the first thing they had to do was to get their man in the White House, and that was George Bush."

Reagan never really was the president. He was the front man. They selected a guy that had charisma, who was popular, and just a good old boy, but they got George Bush in there to actually run the White House. They’d let Ronald Reagan and Nancy out of the closet and let them make a speech and run them up the flagpole and salute them and put them back in the closet while these spooks ran the White House. They made sure that George Bush was the chairman of each of the critical committees involving these covert operations things. One of them was the Vice President’s Task Force On Combating Terrorism. They got Bush in as the head of the vice president’s task force on narcotics, the South Florida Task Force, so that they could place people in DEA and in the Pentagon and in customs to run interference for them in these large-scale international narcotics and movement of narcotics money cases. They got Bush in as the chairman of the committee to deregulate the Savings and Loans in ’83 so they could deregulate the Savings and Loans, so that they would be so loosely structured that they could steal 400, 500 billion dollars of what amounted to the taxpayers’ money out of these Savings and Loans and then bail them out. They got hit twice: they stole the money out of the Savings and Loans, and then they sold the Savings and Loans right back to the same guys, and then the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation - the taxpayers money - paid for bailing out the Savings and Loans that they stole the money from.. and they ran the whole operation, and Bush was the de facto president even before the ‘88 election when he became president.

See, when Harry Truman signed the National Security Act creating the CIA, he specifically stated in that act that they could not have any police powers. And they could not operate domestically in the United States, because he feared a secret police coup. By creeping in a little at a time, that coup has taken place.

This crowd really believes that the unwashed masses are ignorant, that we are people who are not capable of governing ourselves, that we need this elitist group to control the country, and the world -- these guys have expanded. They look at the United States not as a country, not in any kind of patriotic mode now, but they look on it as a state within a world that they control. And that’s this attitude that they have. They’re not unlike any other megalomaniac in the world. They’re nutty as fruitcake, but they’ve got distinguished gray hair, three-piece dark suits and they carry briefcases, and they’ll stand up and make speeches just as articulate as anybody in the world, but they don’t socialize and function outside their own little clique. My experience with them is that they could be certified as criminally insane and put away in a rubber room and have the key thrown away. That’s how dangerous they are. But they’re powerful, and they’re educated. And that makes them twice as dangerous. And that’s basically what’s running the world right now.

If I had not been part of this, and hadn’t seen it first hand, I would not believe a word I’m saying. You couldn’t convince me that something like this - and the American people will not believe it. Because you can’t get the average citizen... I’ve talked to judges and lawyers who have invited me in to talk to them. Some of them really patriotic concerned people. It turns them off, because it changes their entire life experience, and the reason that they have existed, and the things they have believed in all their life if you tell them this.

I have sat on the banks of the Potomac in restaurants with 75 and 80-year-old retired CIA people and retired generals, West Point graduates, honorable people... these old men have sat with tears in their eyes and told me that, "Gene, what you’re into, you understand it more than we did, and it’s absolutely true, but it’s just so big you can’t do anything about it." I guess if I believed that, I’d go off to some South Sea island and drink a few Cuba Libres laying in the sand or something, but somebody has to keep charging in there, you know. The biggest chink in their armor - and it would take somebody smarter than me to figure out how to exploit it - is their insecurity. They are afraid of a peasant with a pitchfork. And the reason they react so strongly and violently against anybody who opposes them, is because they’re afraid someone will grab a thread and unravel it, and their whole uniform will come unraveled...

The only way I can think of to get this thing exposed, would be to coordinate with all of the different independent small newspapers and radio stations in the United States - and television networks - and get them to start blasting this thing - and some universities - because the major media’s not going to do anything about it.

(2) Lawrence Walsh, Final Report: Iran-Contra (4th April, 1993)

Thomas G. Clines, a retired CIA agent, earned nearly $883,000 helping retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord and Albert Hakim carry out the secret operations of the Enterprise. Clines oversaw the logistics of purchasing weapons from private suppliers in Europe and arranging for their delivery to Central America. In early contra weapons sales in 1985, he received 20 percent of the profits; in 1986, he began receiving a third of the profits from the contra sales.

In February 1990, following the guilty pleas and promises of cooperation by Secord and Hakim, Clines was indicted and charged with concealing from the Internal Revenue Service the full amount of his Enterprise profits for the 1985 and 1986 tax years. He was charged also with denying on his 1985 and 1986 income-tax returns his foreign financial accounts, in which he hid his Enterprise profits and from which he and his surrogates transferred thousands of dollars to his U.S. bank accounts...

The central prosecution witnesses at the Clines trial were Secord, who was compelled to testify under a cooperation agreement with Independent Counsel, and Willard Zucker, the CSF financial manager of the secret Swiss Enterprise accounts and shell corporations, who also testified under a grant of immunity from prosecution. Thomas Cusick, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service, testified about the complex financial structure of the Enterprise.

Clines, a 30-year veteran of the CIA, after leaving the agency in 1978, had developed significant contacts with arms dealers in Western Europe and behind the Iron Curtain. In 1985 and 1986, after becoming involved in the Enterprise, Clines was responsible for locating and purchasing weapons abroad and shipping them to Central America. He worked primarily with the arms company Defex Portugal, maintaining a small office at the company in Lisbon. When the Enterprise became involved in secret U.S. weapons shipments to Iran late in 1985, Clines also became active in this aspect of its activities.

Clines accompanied Secord in late November 1985 to Europe to facilitate a snagged shipment of U.S. HAWK missiles from Israel to Iran. In the summer of 1986, Clines became involved in an unsuccessful Ross Perot-funded hostage-rescue operation in which the Enterprise's Danish freighter, the Erria, waited off the coast of Cyprus where a $1 million exchange was to be made for a hostage release. This operation did not result in a release.

In 1985, Clines began receiving 20 percent of the profits from each arms shipment, plus expenses. He received his first share in April 1985, when $310,840 was distributed among Secord and Hakim, who each received $124,366, and Clines, who got $62,168. A capital account was maintained by CSF for Clines. He had some of this money wired from this account to the United States, withdrew some of it in cash, and transferred some amounts to a third party for his benefit. In 1985, a total of $155,000 was wired from Clines' capital account to his account at First American Bank in Virginia. Clines also made cash withdrawals from the TC capital account totaling $217,820. At trial the evidence showed that Clines' gross receipts in 1985 were at least $468,431. This figure represented $423,431 from the Enterprise and $45,000 from non-Enterprise sources. The estimate was conservative.

In 1986, as the Enterprise continued selling arms to the contras, its involvement in the secret U.S. sale of arms to Iran generated a new source of funds for Clines, Secord, and Hakim. Clines' share of the distributions increased to 30 percent, like Secord and Hakim. (The final 10 percent of the distribution went to Scitech, a company jointly owned by Secord and Hakim.) As a result of these pro-rated distributions, Clines received $420,238 in 1986. In addition, Clines received four small distributions from the Enterprise in 1986. On February 18, 1986, CSF transferred $7,000 to the bank account of a friend of Clines in South Carolina for Clines' personal benefit. On May 2, 1986, CSF wired $1,137 and on July 7, 1986, CSF wired $1,147 to the Klinik Buchinger to pay for Clines' attendance at that weight-reduction clinic. On November 10, 1986, CSF transferred $30,000 into an investment account that Clines maintained with CSF. Thus, Clines' total receipts from the Enterprise in 1986 were at least $459,522.

Clines also received $70,000 in other payments from the Enterprise in 1986. But since the underlying documents did not clearly establish the nature of these additional funds, they were not included in the estimate of Clines' underreporting. In addition, in 1986 Clines' bank accounts in the United States received wire transfers of $160,000 from unknown foreign sources. This money was not included in calculating Clines' true gross receipts.