Theodore (Ted) Shackley was born in 1927. His mother was a Polish immigrant and he spent much of his childhood living with his grandmother. Shackley was raised in West Palm Beach, Florida and in October, 1945, joined the United States Army. After basic training he was sent to Germany where he was part of the Allied occupation force. As a result of his knowledge of the Polish language he was recruited into the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corp. In 1947 he was sent to study at the University of Maryland.
Shackley returned to Germany in 1951 as a 2nd Lieutenant. As a member of Army Counter Intelligence Corp he was involved in recruiting Polish agents. He was also recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency. By 1953 he was working for William Harvey at the CIA Berlin Station.
Shackley, whose nickname was the "Blond Ghost" (because he hated to be photographed) became involved in CIA's Black Operations. This involved a policy that was later to become known as Executive Action (a plan to remove unfriendly foreign leaders from power). This included a coup d'état that overthrew the Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 after he introduced land reforms and nationalized the United Fruit Company.
After the Bay of Pigs disaster President John F. Kennedy created a committee (SGA) charged with overthrowing Castro's government. The SGA, chaired by Robert F. Kennedy (Attorney General), included John McCone (CIA Director), McGeorge Bundy (National Security Adviser), Alexis Johnson (State Department), Roswell Gilpatric (Defence Department), General Lyman Lemnitzer (Joint Chiefs of Staff) and General Maxwell Taylor. Although not officially members, Dean Rusk (Secretary of State) and Robert S. McNamara (Secretary of Defence) also attended meetings.
At a meeting of this committee at the White House on 4th November, 1961, it was decided to call this covert action program for sabotage and subversion against Cuba, Operation Mongoose. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy also decided that General Edward Lansdale (Staff Member of the President's Committee on Military Assistance) should be placed in charge of the operation. One of Lansdale's first decisions was to appoint William Harvey as head of Task Force W. Harvey's brief was to organize a broad range of activities that would help to bring down Castro's government.
In early 1962 Harvey brought Ted Shackley into the project as deputy chief of JM/WAVE. In April, 1962, Shackley was involved in delivering supplies to Johnny Roselli as part of the plan to assassinate Fidel Castro. Later that year he became head of the station. In doing so, he gained control over Operation 40 or what some now called Shackley’s Secret Team. Shackley was also responsible for gathering intelligence and recruiting spies in Cuba. Most of the anti-Castro Cubans that the CIA managed to infiltrate into Cuba were captured and either imprisoned or executed.
In the winter of 1962 Eddie Bayo claimed that two officers in the Red Army based in Cuba wanted to defect to the United States. Bayo added that these men wanted to pass on details about atomic warheads and missiles that were still in Cuba despite the agreement that followed the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Bayo's story was eventually taken up by several members of the anti-Castro community including William Pawley, Gerry P. Hemming, John Martino, Felipe Vidal Santiago and Frank Sturgis. Pawley became convinced that it was vitally important to help get these Soviet officers out of Cuba.
William Pawley contacted Shackley at JM WAVE. Shackley decided to help Pawley organize what became known as Operation Tilt. He also assigned Rip Robertson, a fellow member of the CIA in Miami, to help with the operation. David Morales, another CIA agent, also became involved in this attempt to bring out these two Soviet officers.
In June, 1963, a small group, including William Pawley, Eddie Bayo, Rip Robertson, John Martino, and Richard Billings, a journalist working for Life Magazine, secretly arrived in Cuba. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to find these Soviet officers and they were forced to return to Miami. Bayo remained behind and it was rumoured that he had been captured and executed.
In the autumn of 1963 Ted Shackley and Carl E. Jenkins were using members of Operation 40 in their attempts to try and kill Fidel Castro. According to the interview he gave in 2005, Gene Wheaton claims it was Jenkins who redirected this team to kill John F. Kennedy.
According to recently released AMWORLD documents it would seem that Shackley and Jenkins continued to use Operation 40 against Castro. In his book, The Crimes of a President, Joel Bainerman argues that during this period “Theodore Shackley headed a program of raids and sabotage against Cuba. Working under Shackley was Thomas Clines, Rafael Quintero, Luis Posada Carriles, Rafael and Raul Villaverde, Frank Sturges, Felix Rodriguez and Edwin Wilson.”
In 1966 Shackley was placed in charge of the CIA secret war in Laos. He appointed Thomas G. Clines as his deputy. He also took Carl E. Jenkins, David Morales, Raphael Quintero, Felix Rodriguez and Edwin Wilson with him to Laos. According to Joel Bainerman it was at this point that Shackley and his "Secret Team" became involved in the drug trade. They did this via General Vang Pao, the leader of the anti-communist forces in Laos. Vang Pao was a major figure in the opium trade in Laos. To help him Shackley used his CIA officials and assets to sabotage the competitors. Eventually Vang Pao had a monopoly over the heroin trade in Laos. In 1967 Shackley and Clines helped Vang Pao to obtain financial backing to form his own airline, Zieng Khouang Air Transport Company, to transport opium and heroin between Long Tieng and Vientiane.
According to Alfred W. McCoy (The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade) Shackley and Clines arranged a meeting in Saigon in 1968 between Santo Trafficante and Vang Pao to establish a heroin-smuggling operation from Southeast Asia to the United States.
Shackley employed David Morales to take charge at Pakse, a black operations base focused on political paramilitary action within Laos. Pakse was used to launch military operations against the Ho Chi Minh Trial. In 1969 Shackley became Chief of Station in Vietnam and headed the Phoenix Program. This involved the killing of non-combatant Vietnamese civilians suspected of collaborating with the National Liberation Front. In a two year period, Operation Phoenix murdered 28,978 civilians.
Shackley also brought others into his drug operation. This included Richard L. Armitage, a US Navy official based in Saigon's US office of Naval Operations, and Major General Richard Secord. According to Daniel Sheehan: “From late 1973 until April of 1975, Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Armitage disbursed, from the secret, Laotian-based, Vang Pao opium fund, vastly more money than was required to finance even the highly intensified Phoenix Project in Vietnam. The money in excess of that used in Vietnam was secretly smuggled out of Vietnam in large suitcases, by Richard Secord and Thomas Clines and carried into Australia, where it was deposited in a secret, personal bank account (privately accessible to Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Secord). During this same period of time between 1973 and 1975, Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines caused thousands of tons of US weapons, ammunition, and explosives to be secretly taken from Vietnam and stored at a secret "cache" hidden inside Thailand."
This money, with the help of Raphael Quintero, found its way into the Nugan Hand Bank in Sydney. The bank was founded by Michael Hand, a CIA operative in Laos and Frank Nugan an Australian businessman.
Saigon fell to the NLF in April, 1975. The Vietnam War was over. Richard Armitage was dispatched by Shackley, from Vietnam to Tehran. In Iran, Armitage, set up a secret "financial conduit" inside Iran, into which secret Vang Pao drug funds could be deposited from Southeast Asia. According to Daniel Sheehan: “The purpose of this conduit was to serve as the vehicle for secret funding by Shackley's "Secret Team," of a private, non-CIA authorized "Black" operations inside Iran, disposed to seek out, identify, and assassinate socialist and communist sympathizers, who were viewed by Shackley and his "Secret Team" members to be "potential terrorists" against the Shah of Iran's government in Iran. In late 1975 and early 1976, Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines retained Edwin Wilson to travel to Tehran, Iran to head up the "Secret Team" covert "anti-terrorist" assassination program in Iran.”
When Shackley was recalled in February, 1972, he was put in charge of the CIA's Western Hemisphere Division. One of his major tasks was to undermine Philip Agee, an ex-CIA officer who was writing a book on the CIA. The book was eventually published as Inside the Company: CIA Diary, but did not include the information that would have permanently damaged the reputation of the CIA.
Shackley also played an important role in the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile. As his biographer, David Corn points out: "Salvador Allende died during the coup. When the smoke cleared, General Augusto Pinochet, the head of a military junta, was in dictatorial control... Elections were suspended. The press was censored. Allende supporters and opponents of the junta were jailed. Torture centers were established. Executions replaced soccer matches in Santiago's stadiums. Bodies floated down the Mapocho river. Due in part to the hard work of Shackley and dozens of other Agency bureaucrats and operatives, Chile was free of the socialists."
After Richard Nixon resigned, Gerald Ford brought in George H. W. Bush as Director of the CIA. This was followed by Shackley being appointed as Deputy Director of Operations. He therefore became second-in-command of all CIA covert activity.
Donald Freed (Death in Washington: The Murder of Orlando Letelier) claims that on 29th June, 1976, Townley had a meeting with Bernardo De Torres, Armando Lopez Estrada, Hector Duran and General Juan Manuel Contreras Sepulveda. The following month Frank Castro, Luis Posada, Orlando Bosch and Guillermo Novo established Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU). CORU was partly financed by Guillermo Hernández Cartaya, another Bay of Pigs veteran closely linked to the CIA. He was later charged with money laundering, drugs & arms trafficking and embezzlement. The federal prosecutor told Pete Brewton that he had been approached by a CIA officer who explained that "Cartaya had done a bunch of things that the government was indebted to him for, and he asked me to drop the charges against him."
One Miami police veteran told the authors of Assassination on Embassy Row (1980): "The Cubans held the CORU meeting at the request of the CIA. The Cuban groups... were running amok in the mid-1970s, and the United States had lost control of them. So the United States backed the meeting to get them all going in the same direction again, under United States control." It has been pointed out that George H. W. Bush was director of the CIA when this meeting took place.
Shackley was hoping to eventually replace Bush as director of the CIA. However, the election of Jimmy Carter was a severe blow to his chances. 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. Shackley 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 Thomas G. Clines had close relationships with Wilson. Shackley was called in to explain what was going on. His explanation was not satisfactory and it was made clear that his career at the CIA had come to an end. Richard Helms, reportedly said: "Ted (Shackley) is what we call in the spook business a quadruple threat - Drugs, Arms, Money and Murder."
After leaving the CIA in September, 1979, Shackley formed his own company, Research Associates International, which specialized in providing intelligence to business. He also joined with Thomas G. Clines, Raphael Quintero, and Ricardo Chavez (another former CIA operative) in another company called API Distributors. According to David Corn (Blond Ghost) Edwin Wilson provided Clines with "half a million dollars to get his business empire going". Shackley also freelanced with API but found it difficult taking orders from his former subordinate, Clines. Shackley also established his own company, Research Associates International, which specialized in providing intelligence to business (in other words he sold them classified information from CIA files).
According to Daniel Sheehan: “In 1976, Richard Secord moved to Tehran, Iran and became the Deputy Assistant Secretary of defense in Iran, in charge of the Middle Eastern Division of the Defense Security Assistance Administration. In this capacity, Secord functioned as the chief operations officer for the U.S. Defense Department in the Middle East in charge of foreign military sales of U.S. aircraft, weapons and military equipment to Middle Eastern nations allied to the U.S. Secord's immediate superior was Eric Van Marbad, the former 40 Committee liaison officer to Theodore Shackley's Phoenix program in Vietnam from 1973 to 1975.”
From 1977 until 1979, Richard Armitage operated a business named The Far East Trading Company. This company was in fact merely a "front" for Armitage's secret operations conducting Vang Pao opium money out of Southeast Asia to Tehran and the Nugan Hand Bank in Australia to fund the ultra right-wing, private anti-communist "anti-terrorist" assassination program and "unconventional warfare" operation of Theodore Shackley's and Thomas Cline's "Secret Team". (Daniel P. Sheehan’s affidavit).
In his book, The Crimes of a President, Joel Bainerman argues that the "Secret Team" still used the Nugan Hand Bank to hide their illegal profits from drugs and arms. The President of the Nugan Hand Bank was Admiral Earl P. Yates, former Chief of Staff for Strategic Planning of US Forces in Asia. Other directors of the bank included Dale Holmgree (also worked for Civil Air Transport, a CIA proprietary company) and General Edwin F. Black, (commander of U.S. troops in Thailand during the Vietnam War). George Farris (a CIA operative in Vietnam) ran the Washington office of the Nugan Hand Bank and the bank’s legal counsel was William Colby.
The bank grew and had offices or affiliates in 13 countries. According to Jonathan Kwitny, Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA, Crimes of Patriots), the bank did little banking. What it did do was to amass, move, collect and disburse great sums of money.
In 1980 Frank Nugan was found dead in his car. His co-founder, Michael Hand had disappeared at the same time. The Australian authorities were forced to investigate the bank. They discovered that Ricardo Chavez, the former CIA operative who was co-owner of API Distributors with Thomas G. Clines and Rafael Quintero, was attempting to take control of the bank. The Corporate Affairs Commission of New South Wales came to the conclusion that Chavez was working on behalf of Clines, Quintero and Wilson. They blocked the move but they were unable or unwilling to explore the connections between the CIA and the Nugan Hand Bank.
The Secret Team (Shackley, Thomas G. Clines, Richard Secord, Ricardo Chavez, Rafael Quintero, Albert Hakim, Edwin Wilson, and Richard L. Armitage set up several corporations and subsidiaries around the world through which to conceal the operations of the "Secret Team". Many of these corporations were set up in Switzerland. Some of these were: (1) Lake Resources, Inc.; (2) The Stanford Technology Trading Group, Inc.; and (3) Companie de Services Fiduciaria. Other companies were set up in Central America, such as: (4) CSF Investments, Ltd. and (5) Udall research Corporation. Some were set up inside the United States by Edwin Wilson. Some of these were: (6) Orca Supply Company in Florida and (7) Consultants International in Washington, D.C. Through these corporations the "Secret Team" laundered hundreds of millions of dollars of secret Vang Pao opium money.
Shackley had still not given up hope that he would eventually be appointed director of the CIA. His best hope was in getting Jimmy Carter defeated in 1980. Shackley had several secret meetings with George H. W. Bush as he campaigned for the Republican nomination (his wife, Hazel Shackley also worked for Bush). Ronald Reagan won the nomination but got the support of the CIA by selecting Bush as his vice president. According to Rafael Quintero, during the presidential campaign, Shackley met Bush almost every week.
It is believed that Shackley used his contacts in the CIA to provide information to Reagan and Bush. This included information that Carter was attempting to negotiate a deal with Iran to get the American hostages released. This was disastrous news for the Reagan/Bush campaign. If Carter got the hostages out before the election, the public perception of the man might change and he might be elected for a second-term.
According to Barbara Honegger, a researcher and policy analyst with the 1980 Reagan/Bush campaign, William Casey and other representatives of the Reagan presidential campaign made a deal at two sets of meetings in July and August at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid with Iranians to delay the release of Americans held hostage in Iran until after the November 1980 presidential elections. Reagan’s aides promised that they would get a better deal if they waited until Carter was defeated.
On 22nd September, 1980, Iraq invaded Iran. The Iranian government was now in desperate need of spare parts and equipment for its armed forces. Carter now proposed that the US would be willing to hand over supplies in return for the hostages.
Once again, the CIA leaked this information to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. This attempted deal was also passed to the media. On 11th October, the Washington Post reported rumours of a “secret deal that would see the hostages released in exchange for the American made military spare parts Iran needs to continue its fight against Iraq”.
In October, 1980, Shackley joined the company owned by Albert Hakim (he was paid $5,000 a month as a part-time “risk analyst”). Hakim was keen to use Shackley’s contacts to make money out of the Iran-Iraq War that had started the previous month.
A couple of days before the election Barry Goldwater was reported as saying that he had information that “two air force C-5 transports were being loaded with spare parts for Iran”. This was not true. However, this publicity had made it impossible for Jimmy Carter to do a deal. Ronald Reagan on the other hand, had promised the Iranian government that he would arrange for them to get all the arms they needed in exchange for the hostages. According to Mansur Rafizadeh, the former U.S. station chief of SAVAK, the Iranian secret police, CIA agents had persuaded Khomeini not to release the American hostages until Reagan was sworn in. In fact, they were released twenty minutes after his inaugural address (October Surprise).
The arms the Iranians had demanded were delivered via Israel. By the end of 1982 all Regan’s promises to Iran had been made. With the deal completed, Iran was free to resort to acts of terrorism against the United States. In 1983, Iranian-backed terrorists blew up 241 marines in the CIA Middle-East headquarters.
The Iranians once again began taking American hostages in exchange for arms shipments. On 16th March, 1984, William Francis Buckley, a diplomat attached to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was kidnapped by the Hezbollah, a fundamentalist Shiite group with strong links to the Khomeini regime. Buckley was tortured and it was soon discovered that he was the CIA station chief in Beirut.
Shackley was horrified when he discovered that Buckley had been captured. Buckley was a member of Shackley’s Secret Team that had been involved with Edwin Wilson, Thomas Clines, Carl E. Jenkins, Raphael Quintero, Felix Rodriguez and Luis Posada, in the CIA “assassination” program.
Buckley had also worked closely with William Casey (now the director of the CIA) in the secret negotiations with the Iranians in 1980. Buckley had a lot to tell the Iranians. He eventually signed a 400 page statement detailing his activities in the CIA. He was also videotaped making this confession. Casey asked Shackley for help in obtaining Buckley’s freedom.
Three weeks after Buckley’s disappearance, President Ronald Reagan signed the National Security Decision Directive 138. This directive was drafted by Oliver North and outlined plans on how to get the American hostages released from Iran and to “neutralize” terrorist threats from countries such as Nicaragua. This new secret counterterrorist task force was to be headed by Shackley’s old friend, General Richard Secord. This was the beginning of the Iran-Contra deal.
Talks had already started about exchanging American hostages for arms. On 30th August, 1985, Israel shipped 100 TOW missiles to Iran. On 14th September they received another 408 missiles from Israel. The Israelis made a profit of $3 million on the deal.
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.
The following month, Shackley traveled to Hamburg where he met General Manucher Hashemi, the former head of SAVAK’s counterintelligence division at the Atlantic Hotel. Also at the meeting on 22nd November was Manuchehr Ghorbanifar. According to the report of this meeting that Shackley sent to the CIA, Ghorbanifar had “fantastic” contacts with Iran.
At the meeting Shackley told Hashemi and Ghorbanifar that the United States was willing to discuss arms shipments in exchange for the four Americans kidnapped in Lebanon. The problem with the proposed deal was that William Francis Buckley was already dead (he had died of a heart-attack while being tortured).
Shackley recruited some of the former members of his CIA Secret Team to help him with these arm deals. This included Thomas Clines, Rafael Quintero, Ricardo Chavez and Edwin Wilson of API Distributors. Also involved was Carl E. Jenkins and Gene Wheaton of National Air. The plan was to use National Air to transport these weapons.
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.
Gene 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 Rafael Quintero and Felix Rodriguez as the two Cuban-Americans mentioned by Hasenfus. It gradually emerged that Thomas 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 Shackley and Thomas Clines 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 Rafael Quintero, Richard Secord, Felix Rodriguez and Albert Hakim. It later emerged that Gene Wheaton and Carl E. Jenkins were the two main sources for this affidavit.
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.
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.
Ted Shackley died in Bethesda, Maryland, in December 2002. His autobiography, Spymaster: My Life in the CIA, was published in April, 2005.