Why Immunity for the CIA?
Amidst the controversy over the doctrine of qualified immunity for cops, no one is talking about the full immunity accorded to the Central Intelligence Agency, an agency within the national-security establishment that wields omnipotent power.
Among the most interesting lines in the new Amazon Prime series The Last Narc is what a CIA official says to DEA investigator Hector Berrellez, who was charged with leading the investigation into the kidnapping, torture, and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. The official tells Berrellez that the CIA is not a law-enforcement agency and, therefore, doesn’t have to comply with the Constitution. Its mission, he said, is to protect the United States. Therefore, the implication is that the Constitution cannot be permitted to serve as a barrier to that end.
That’s the way it’s been since the beginning. The CIA has had omnipotent power to do whatever it deems necessary to protect “national security.” That includes, of course, the power of assassination, a power that the CIA assumed practically since its inception. In fact, as early as 1952, the CIA was developing a formal assassination manual for its assassins.
The CIA also wields the power of torture, the power to record its torture sessions, and the power to destroy such recordings to prevent Congress or the public from listening to them or viewing them.
The CIA also wields the power to lie, at least if it’s in the interest of “national security.”
No one jacks with the CIA. Not the Justice Department, including every U.S. Attorney in the land. Not the Congress. Not the president. Not the military. Who is going to mess with an organization that wields the omnipotent power to destroy or kill people and is more than willing to exercise that power in the name of protecting “national security”?
The kidnapping, torture, and execution of Kike Camarena
A good example of this phenomenon is found in The Last Narc, which I wrote about in a blog post last week.
In 1985, 37-year-old DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was kidnapped on the streets of Guadalajara, Mexico, and brutally tortured for 36 hours before finally being executed.
It was commonly believed that the crime had been committed by the Guadalajara drug cartel, which was headed by Rafael Caro Quintana, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, and Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, all of whom are featured in Netflix’s series Narcos: Mexico. But Mexican officials steadfastly refused to extradite the three drug lords to the United States for trial.
The DEA assigned Berrellez to take charge of the investigation. Berrellez, who felt as comfortable operating in Mexico as he did in the United States, found three former members of the Jalisco State Police who were willing to talk. They came to the United States and told Berrellez that back in 1985, they had been working double jobs — as state policemen and also as bodyguards for Caro, Fonseca, and Gallardo.
Berrellez interviewed them separately to ensure the integrity of their statements. They each pointed toward complicity of high Mexican officials with the cartel in the distribution of drugs into the United States, which I don’t think would surprise anyone.
The three former cops and bodyguards told Berrellez that they were in the room while Camarena was being tortured. Each of them stated that there were several high Mexican officials present in the house in which Camarena was being tortured while he was being tortured.
The heroism of Hector Berrellez
But then Berrellez discovered something else. According to the three former Mexican state policemen, a man named Max Gomez, also known as Felix Rodriguez, was inside the torture room and taking an active role in the brutal interrogation of Camarena. Berrellez investigated and determined that Rodriguez was a “retired” CIA agent.
Among the principal questions that was being addressed to Camarena was the extent to which he had discovered, in the course of his investigation, the nexus between the drug cartel, the CIA, and the Mexican government in the drug trade.
It was later learned that the interrogation was being recorded, which is something that one would not expect drug lords to do but that one would expect a CIA agent to do.
At that point, Berrellez was in trouble. It’s one thing to conduct an investigation that leads to the Mexican government’s involvement in Camarena’s torture and murder. It’s another thing to conduct an investigation that leads to the U.S. government’s involvement in the torture and murder of a DEA agent who is also an American citizen.
As Berrellez states in The Last Narc, he was warned to back off and let sleeping dogs lie. He was warned that if he didn’t, his life would be in jeopardy. U.S. officials even threatened to forcibly return him to Mexico to face criminal charges that the Mexican government had leveled against him.
But Berrellez refused to back off, and so U.S. officials removed him from the investigation. Even though he could have remained silent, he instead decided to go public with his findings. He cooperated in the making of The Last Narc, where he comes across as a heroic figure in the series.
For his part, Rodriguez denies that he was in the torture room or that he has had anything to do with Guadalajara cartel and with drug dealing, The problem, however, is that CIA agents will lie if they believe that it is in the interest of “national security.” And they all know that they have immunity when it comes to lying anyway on anything else that relates to “national security.”
Full immunity for the CIA
Here you have a prima facie case of U.S. governmental involvement in the torture and assassination of a U.S citizen, one who was an agent of the DEA. The alleged purpose of the torture was to determine if Camarena had uncovered evidence of CIA complicity with the Guadalajara Cartel and the Mexican government in the drug trade. Three witnesses, all giving their testimony separately, identified Rodriquez as one of Camarena’s interrogators.
That’s clearly enough evidence to launch a formal and aggressive investigation into the matter, whether by federal grand jury or congressional hearings. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that Camarena’s murder took place during the Iran Contra scandal, when U.S. officials were breaking the law to raise the money to give to the Nicaraguan contras.
Has any of this evidence caused any U.S. Attorney or the U.S. Congress to launch an aggressive investigation into the matter?
Don’t make me laugh. This is the CIA we are talking about. No one investigates the CIA, which makes the U.S. government as crooked and corrupt as the Mexican government. If you want to get a good sense of how both governments operate, I highly recommend watching The Last Narc.
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