Albion Monitor /Commentary

U.S. Media Ignores Drug Smuggling, Covert Research Story

by Alexander Cockburn

Activities at this secret facility included the testing and manufacture of poison gas, apparently used in combat at least once in Mozambique, whose government South Africa, in collusion with the United States, was seeking to subvert
So which spy agency smuggled drugs to raise money for terror schemes including chemical experiments on blacks? No, we're not talking about the CIA but about South Africa. A South African agent now awaiting sentencing has admitted to drug smuggling on behalf of the Directorate of Covert Collections, a super-secret unit within South Africa's military intelligence apparat.

This agent and his colleagues flew drugs -- cannabis, Ecstasy and Mandrax have been mentioned -- into England in the nose cone of an aircraft carrying sports fans to the first Springbox rugby tour of the United Kingdom after ties were re-established in 1992. The plan was to raise money to buy arms on the international black market.

The Ecstasy and Mandrax consignments were manufactured in labs run by Dr. Wouter Basson, one of the chieftains of South Africa's chemical and biological weapons program. Basson was arrested last January after diving into a river in an attempt to escape from police arresting him for trying to sell 1,000 Ecstasy tablets. Basson is a cardiologist who has numbered former President P.W. Botha among his patients. Basson has been privy to so many state secrets that the Mandela government had to re-hire him after he was retired by the Botha regime in 1992.

Basson ran a secret factory called Delta-G Scientific to make Mandrax and other drugs, and a former research manager there is to testify against Basson about the international smuggling scheme. Also part of Basson's empire was Roodeplaat Research Laboratories, a military installation near Pretoria. Activities at this secret facility included the testing and manufacture of poison gas, apparently used in combat at least once in Mozambique, whose government South Africa, in collusion with the United States, was seeking to subvert.

Also tested at the Roodeplaat Research Labs were lethal poisons designed to leave no traces. There were efforts to develop skin pigmentation pills to change white government agents into blacks, the better for infiltration. In a reprise of the smallpox blankets given to American Indians in the 19th century, infected T-shirts were to be distributed in the black townships to spread disease and infertility. Tests on baboons involved cancer-spreading drugs. An anti-riot dog weighing 200 pounds was bred from a mix of Alsatian and Russian wolf.

It's going to be hard to make the claim traditional in these cases that Basson was a "rogue agent" acting without state authorization. Documents found in his house were so highly classified that they were apparently on a CD-ROM that not even the military could access without clearance from the president. As details of these vile enterprises were made public in the South African Truth Commission, the British press ran substantial stories in The Observer on June 30 and in The Sunday Times on July 6.

But the U.S. press has been curiously quiet. This is not entirely surprising. The Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times have all devoted much space across the last nine months in seeking to discredit Gary Webb's series in the San Jose Mercury News about CIA connivance in drug smuggling by the Nicaraguan Contras, with large amounts of the smuggled drugs ending up in the poor sections of Los Angeles. The South African saga plainly suggests that these are indeed exactly the kind of ventures secret services get involved in.

Neither The New York Times nor the Los Angeles Times have mentioned the story at all. Back in February, the Associated Press put a story on its wire about the arrest of Wouter Basson, but the AP report was picked up only in a few local papers. Major papers, notably The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, covering Basson's arrest back in February focused primarily on the implications of the possibility that Basson may have sold or traded chemical warfare information to Libya and other "rogue states."

Those asking themselves the obvious question -- how much did the South African secret service and the CIA collude -- should recall that it was a CIA tip that put the police onto Nelson Mandela, enabling them to arrest him and put him away on Robben Island all those years.

© Creators Syndicate

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Albion Monitor August 19, 1997 (

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