Professor Peter Dale Scott sees what the rest of us miss. His decades-long investigation of the connections between the hugely lucrative and unstoppable global drug trade and the national security apparatus is unparalleled. The details are also highly complex and a challenge to absorb. Nevertheless, they demand our attention.
In this excerpt from his new book, Scott focuses on the troubling relationship between Ronald Reagan’s CIA director, William Casey, and BCCI, a still-mysterious “outlaw bank” with tentacles everywhere, and extensive ties to the drug economy.
Excerpt from American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan ( Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014), Introduction. Deep History and the Global Drug Connection:
Creating an International Islamist Army: Casey, BCCI, and the Creation of al-Qaeda
The other most significant case in which the CIA became a front for sanctioned violence was CIA Director William Casey’s use of the CIA in the 1980s to promote his own plans for Afghanistan. Casey’s Afghan initiatives aroused the concern of the CIA’s professional operatives and analysts, including his deputy directors, Bobby Ray Inman, and John McMahon.(35) But this did not deter Casey from making high-level decisions about the Afghan campaign outside regular channels when meeting in secret with foreigners.
One man Casey dealt with in this fashion was Agha Hasan Abedi, a close adviser to General Zia of Pakistan and, more important, the head of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI):
Abedi helped arrange Casey’s sojourns in Islamabad and met with the CIA director during visits to Washington. Typically, Abedi would stay in a hotel and Casey would go to his suite. The two men, who met intermittently over a three-year period, would spend hours talking about the war in Afghanistan, the Iran-Contra arms trades, Pakistani politics, and the situation in the Persian Gulf. (36)
Members of Senator John Kerry’s staff, who investigated this relationship, concluded that Casey in his dealings with Abedi may have been acting not as CIA director but as an adviser to President Reagan so that his actions were“undocumented, fully deniable, and effectively irretrievable.” (37) (Casey’s dealings with BCCI may not have been at arm’s length: the weapons pipeline to Afghanistan allegedly involved funding through a BCCI affiliate in Oman, in which Casey’s close friend and business associate Bruce Rappaport had a financial interest. (38)
Unquestionably BCCI offered Casey an opportunity to conduct off-the-books operations, such as the Iran-Contra arms deal, in which BCCI was intimately involved. But the largest of these operations by far was the support to the Afghan mujahideen resistance against the Soviet invaders, where once again BCCI played a major role. Casey repeatedly held similar meetings with General Zia in Pakistan — arranged by Abedi (39)— and with Saudi intelligence chiefs Kamal Adham and Prince Turki al-Faisal (both BCCI shareholders).
As a result of such conclaves, Prince Turki distributed more than $1 billion in cash to Afghan guerrillas, which was matched by another billion from the CIA. “When the Saudis provided the funding, the administration was able to bypass Congress.” (40)Meanwhile “BCCI handled transfers of funds through its Pakistani branches and acted as a collection agency for war matériel and even for the mujahideen’ pack animals”:(41)
To access the CIA money was relatively easy. Bags of dollar bills were flown into Pakistan and handed over to Lieutenant-General Akhtar Abdur Rahman, the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] director. Rahman banked the cash in ISI accounts held by the National Bank of Pakistan, the Pakistan-controlled Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and the Bank of Oman (one-third owned by the BCCI).(42)
Yet there is not a word about BCCI in Ghost Wars, Steve Coll’s otherwise definitive history of the CIA’s campaign in Afghanistan. Similarly, there is no mention of BCCI in Coll’s excellent book The Bin Ladens, even though he provides an extended description of how Prince Turki arranged for “transfers of government cash to Pakistan.” (43)