Robert Plumlee: Deep Cover; Shallow Graves


in August 1981 in Grant Colorado, Plumlee’s house was firebombed, his manuscript; “The Black Knights of Cuba”, along with other sensitive papers had been removed, and the Internal Revenue Service soon came after Plumlee alleging unpaid taxes. When friends in Arizona law enforcement learned about his problems, they offered him a job posing as a drug pilot in an effort to infiltrate the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels then establishing themselves as middlemen in a broad conspiracy to smuggle cocaine from South America into the United States

The 1981-83 drug interdiction program devolved into a program to illegally arm the Nicaraguan right-wing rebel group in their efforts to overthrow the newly elected Sandinista government. U.S. military weapons, in an effort to conceal their origins, were shipped to Honduras ostensibly for U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division’s staged maneuvers to ward off and invasion by neighboring Nicaragua– an extremely far fetched scenario In reality, the weapons were being ‘laundered’ According to Plumlee, although the military told the Government Accounting Office that the weapons were a total loss, the equipment was in fact transported back to the U.S. and retrofitted before being flown back to Central America and into the hands of the CIA’s Contra army.

The weapons were taken to the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station and the U.S. Army Proving Grounds near Yuma, Arizona, because they needed to be repaired, Plumlee remembers making three trips into El Toro, including one that may have involved bringing drugs into the military airstrip.

Plumlee became concerned that the drugs he and other CIA contract pilots were bringing into the United States were not actually being interdicted, but were being used for other matters. The record being clear, neither the U.S. nor Mexico was moving to shut down the Mexican and Central American airstrips and staging facilities being used for the cocaine and drug shipments into the United States. it appeared to Plumlee that the U.S. Government was not really interested in shutting down those drug routes, nor shutting down the cartels of South America. The flow of drugs in American cities increased as time went on.
It appeared to many who were associated with government, “Black Ops” and the so-called drug interdiction program was a cover to illegally supply weapons to the right-wing Contras in their attempts to overthrow the government of Nicaragua. The weapons transportation into southern Mexico and Central America continued unabated and was in total violation of the U.S. Congressional mandate designed to prevent weapon shipments to those countries. That Congressional resolution to stop such activities was known as the Boland Amendment.

Soon federal authorities began indicting some of the U.S. CIA contract pilots for drug trafficking despite the fact that they were flying government-sanctioned operations. To protect himself for prosecution as a drug trafficker, Plumlee, in 1983, contacted staffers for U.S. Senator Gary Hart, Democrat of Colorado, and told them everything he knew about the phony drug interdiction program and how it had been used by the CIA as a cover for the agency’s secret – and illegal – -shipment of arms for the Nicaraguan Contras he provided to Senator Hart maps, names, and other supporting evidence to the Senator. Plumlee took the measure to go on record before the fact – before they could arrest him on weapons charges and drug running. On May 5th, 1987. The joint congressional hearings on the Iran – Contra fiasco began – four years after Plumlee’s discussions with Senator Hart and his staff. These hearings would become known as the Iran – Contra hearings. Senator John Kerry chaired those hearings on Narcotics.

Robert Plumlee’s direct involvement in this complex web of drugs and arms trafficking made him a valuable resource to a number of congressional committees. Plumlee provided first-hand accounts of the intricacies of the phony drug interdiction program as well as the methods wherein arms were secured and provided to the illegal armed group, known as the Contras.

Iran – Contra: Drug and Arms Running for Uncle Sam:

Plumlee and other pilots were secretly working for the Arizona based Tri-State Drug Task Force. His contact was the Phoenix organized crime detail. The federal agents didn’t know of his existence. Plumlee flew under and assigned fake name: William H. Pearson. “All of us ops guys used alias”, he says. When Plumlee first started flying drugs into the Unites States he was certain the information he collected—flight routes, drop points and cargo loads—was being passed onto the federal drug agents, along with the tons of cocaine he was ferrying. The whole operation was a set up to be used as an interdiction program operating through Mexico. The pilots were transporting weapons and drugs on C-130 aircraft. Plumlee and the other pilots were flying drugs into the United States and weapons back into Central America via Mexico. The pilots were working undercover to log and record the aircraft ID numbers and landing strip location. The covert operation was to log staging points and flyways.

Iran-Contra, a covert operation Plumlee had stumbled into would later be known (“Iran” being a reference to the Reagan administration’s secret missile-for- hostages exchange with the Iranian government), began as a way to circumvent the congressional ban on arming the Nicaraguan Contras. The Contras were the right-wing army partly created by the CIA to topple the countries Sandinista Government, which had taken over the country during a popular uprising in 1979. When the U.S. congress banned any aid to the Contras, Oliver North, then a lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps working for Reagan-era National Security Council, secretly continued arms shipments. In 1986, the crash of a C-123 Aircraft in Nicaragua that was owned by Southern Air Transport and piloted by a friend of Plumlee’s, Bill Cooper, exposed the covert operation.

Unfortunately, little has changed as a result of the sacrifices of those who exposed this corrupt operation. In fact many went to prison-unjustly charged with drug trafficking in order to protect a White House covert operation and upon their release threatened with other reprisals if they spoke up despite the fact that their credibility had been ruined-as we as their lives and livelihoods. Perhaps exposing this story will motivate the American people to demand accountability for illegal operations that continue to be perpetrated in their name, One can only hope….. DEEP COVER SHALLOW GRAVES a manuscript by; WM. Tosh Plumlee 1998


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