01/14/09 - Fred Burton

Fred Burton, author of "Ghost - Confessions of a Counter Terrorism Agent" & Marijuana Policy Project grades the Bush Administration + Terry Nelson reports for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Fred Burton


Cultural Baggage, January 14, 2009

Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

It’s not only inhumane it is really fundamentally un-American….. ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’

My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am so very happy you could be with us. We have, what I think is, a very important show for you today. We’ll be hearing from some of our regular contributors but, our main guest for today is, Mr. Fred Burton.

He’s author of a wonderful book, "Ghost - Confessions of a Counter Terrorism Agent" He’s also one of the featured speakers in the new movie, Drug Wars: Silver or the Lead. He’s a former agent for the DSS which I think is, kind of, the diplomatic CIA, if you will. With that, let’s go ahead and bring in Mr. Fred Burton. Hello, Fred.

Fred Burton: Hello, Dean. Thank you for having me on.

Dean Becker: Thank you so much. I just finished your book and I want to tell you, it’s a wonderful read. It’s informative, it’s human and it’s got some truths in there we can all from it. Tell us a bit about your career, please.

Fred Burton: I started out as one of the first three U.S. Counterterrorism Agents back in the early 80’s and my responsibilities were the Middle East. That means the investigation of any terrorist attack that occurred in the Middle East as well as any Middle Eastern terrorism group that planned or launched operations from, what we call, the sandbox.

Of course with that, that led us to groups such as Abu Nidal, the PFLP, the PFLPGC, Black September, this group of loose-knit Afghans that became Al-Kida and Hezbollah, which is very big into the drug trade and still is. So, it was a very interesting career and it was a fascinating time to be engaged in the counterterrorism arena.

Dean Becker: As I finished the book, I saw a man who I don’t think necessarily had regrets, other than perhaps needing more time with your family; more time to just be a part of that life. Right?

Fred Burton: Yes, indeed. I felt I had pretty much done all I could do. I choreographed the arrest of Ramsey Yosef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing and came on a little heat by my own agency, for that and as a result of that incident, it was best for me to move on and now I work for a private intelligence company called Stratfor and it’s a wonderful company.

I write a Terrorism Weekly and we also put together a Mexico weekly, which discusses the deteriorating violence in Mexico as well as the activities of the various narco cartels and their encroachment into the United States.

Dean Becker: Now, let’s talk about that. You, as I said earlier, you were one of the speakers, the principles, whatever you call it, in the movie, Drug War: Silver or the Lead and as a former government agent you have seen; I mean, there’s a little bit of dark side to this drug war… (I’m trying to phrase this right) …that you reach back to the Iran Contra Affair.

You were involved with contacting Ollie North during the time of that ’bru ha-ha’ and there are those… (I want to get your opinion on this) …there are those who say the CIA was trading weapons for cocaine, bringing it back to the US. Did you see any indications of that?

Fred Burton: I did not, personnaly. My portfolio were strictly the hostages that were held by Hezbollah in Lebanon and our efforts to get them out. I was part impartial to the actual debriefing teams flying over to talk to them and so forth. So, I knew nothing about the Tow Missiles being traded for hostages and so forth. But again and looking at this from a counterterrorism perspective, and I think folks don’t equate that to, from a Homeland Security aspect.

When you look at what’s taking place Mexico and the violent insurgent kinds of activities that’s being fueled by the drug trade and you look at just the tactics and the military control over certain areas and then the poaching into the United States of targeted assassination’s and kidnapping’s and burglary. This is a Homeland Security problem that makes it a Counterterrorism issue.

What I mean by that is, the drug trade in itself is bad enough but, if you can get in thousands of pounds of cocaine and /or marijuana, what kind of precursor to ‘weapons of mass destruction’ could you get in? What kind of special interest alien’ or OTM’s, other than Mexicans, can you facilitate into the United States for the purposes of carrying out terrorists attacks?

This is where I see we have no national strategy to deal with this and to be blunt, I‘m not optimistic we‘ll ever get one. I’ve worked for republicans and democrats and I’ve really seen nobody address this on a National scope.

Dean Becker: Just recently, last week the City Council of El Paso voted 8-0. They included this, couple of lines, in a resolution that called upon the federal and state governments to consider legalizing drugs and the Mayor immediately vetoed it.

Yesterday, they voted again to override the Mayor and the vote came out 4-4 and the reason, let me read this email I picked up. “The El Paso council voted 4-4 to sustain the Mayor’s veto of resolution calling for a national debate on drug legalization.

Three of the four council members who voted to uphold the Mayors silencing of the discussion said, on the record that, ‘They did so only because congressman Silvestre Reyes and El Paso’s State Legislative Delegation sent letters threatening that the city would loose federal and state money, should it take this stance.’

There’s a lot of back door shenanigan’s, I think, that just keep this drug war working or not working (however you want to say it), but that negates the rights of the people to even discuss the subject. Your thoughts on that, Fred.

Fred Burton: Well, personally I’m not a proponent of the legalization of drugs and I think we have statutes on the books that, at the local, state and federal level, that could be enforced. I think this is back to my point from a National Strategy perspective, that we really don’t have a comprehensive plan to secure the border and /or stop this spill-over violence and /or look at the demand factor here.

Now, of course, this is an extraordinarily lucrative North American market. This is the center of gravity and Texas is specifically at the tip of the spear for the infusion of drugs into the United States and conversely the theft of stolen weapons and stolven vehicles, South.

I think we’re doing a pretty good job, here in Texas, under the direction of Homeland Security director, Steve McCraw, with some intelligence lead policing. But as you look across the contry, you have a very dysfunctional approach to this and in essence, Washington is letting the states fend for themselves and I know why. We’re commited globally.

I would hate to be sitting around the National Security Council and deciding what’s a bigger priority. Is it the jihad activities in Afghanistan? Is it the potential collapse of Pakistan? Is it the terrorist attacks in Mamba, India and the threat to the multi-national corporations there? Is it our border? Is it the horn of Africa?

I mean, we are faced, globally, with challenges that presents a unique ban, with issue to us. But, if you look at it from defending our country, it’s the federal governments responsibility to defend our borders.

Dean Becker: Fred, I wanted to back up to the initial part of your response.
You know, the US already leads the world in it’s incarceration rate, by far. If we could take drugs off the face of the earth, I would be with you. I would do that.

But the truth of the matter is, to make this policy of prohibition work, it means, we have to change the mind of hundreds of millions of users, worldwide and tens of millions of growers and smugglers and street corner venders, to deny them their way they make their living.

It’s just not going to work out and I want to just ask you if , ‘Do you think perhaps there’s a middle ground; a better way?

Fred Burton: Well, I think there certainly needs to be discussions at a National scope, to look at this from a strategic threat.

Dean Becker: Yes.

Fred Burton: Meaning, if you look at this from a National Security problem, this is a National Security issue. What’s amazing to me is, I go around the country and doing various talks and speeches and as part of my book tour, it’s amazing to me how people in most cities don’t see the cause and effect from the drug violence and when they step back and understand the issue, they inevitably say to me, ‘Well, why isn’t more being done either on the demand issue, on the rehabilitation issue and so forth?

I think the problem is, that there’s still a perception out there, Dean, that this is just happening on the other side of the tracks. This doesn’t affect me in my community. Now, you and I both know that’s not true.

Dean Becker: Yes.

Fred Burton: So, I think it becomes one of awareness and again one of, calling attention to the problem.

Dean Becker: Yeah. OK my friends, we are speaking with Mr. Fred Burton, author of "Ghost - Confessions of a Counter Terrorism Agent". I highly recommend the book. It’s a wonderful read. He’s also a VP of Counterterrorism at Stratfor. They’re based in Austin, Texas and Fred is also a speaker within the movie, Drug War: Silver or the Lead.

You know Fred, while I was in Victoria a couple of weeks back, for the premier of that movie there, I talked to a couple of the sheriffs. They agree with you and me, that at least we should talk about this situation. What do you think it is that binds this together? That keeps the federal and state reps. from even wanting to talk about it?

Fred Burton: I think again, it’s one of focus. I mean, I know from my time in Washington, that I really can’t remember a time when we would sit around and discuss the border. It appeared that we were always focused on Palistinian peace issues, Middle East peace and so forth and I think again, it becomes one of awareness.

I do recall being actively engaged in the drug wars in Columbia and the hunt for Pablo Escobar. But in essence, what it took there was the cartels to move to the VBIED, the car bomb, a level the equivalent of building of (say for example here, the FBI headquarters in Washington) and then Escobar and the Columbian cartels were specifically threatening to kill the United States Ambassador to Columbia; attempting to blow up the US there and they even had made threats against the President of the United States.

So, what I think the cartels have been very effective in doing is managing this process. Meaning, if you notice, they haven’t gone after the US Embassy in Mexico City. They haven’t made attempts on the US Ambassador’s life. Now, that doesn’t mean they can’t or are not capable of doing it but, it just hasn’t reached that spectrum yet, from a violence perspective, so people here in the United States aren’t reading it in their daily paper or listening to it constantly on the radio.

Folks like you and I here in Texas, that are tuned to border issues, know what kind of a threat it is. But again, as you move from a proximity issue, you’ll find a lot of ‘information vacuums’ specifically in the Washington D.C. / New York corridor.

I can’t tell you the times or the TV shows I’ve been on where the host will ask me, off the record they’ll say, ’Well, why is this important to me? I’m in New York City.’ and I’ll say, ’Have you looked at your homicide rates here? Have you looked at the drug violence and the cause and effect and the relationship between the violent cartels and Mexico? That they’re controlling the drug supply chain? That the cartels in Mexico can order a hit in New York City or Detroit or Chicago?’ So I think again, it’s an awareness issue.

Dean Becker: Yeah. It is, Fred. I think about it this way, you were talking about Pablo Escobar and his cartel, Medellin cartel whichever, Cali; I forget which one he was. They all patted themselves on the back and brushed their hands and said, ’Job well done.’ But the fact is after a few month, not even years, a whole group of new cartelidos, little cartels, formed up and they’re still supplying the bulk of the cocaine coming in through Mexico.

I don’t mean to pour water on it but the point of it is, through this policy of prohibition, we ensure enormous profits for these violent criminal actors, worldwide. Your thoughts on that.

Fred Burton: I have no doubts that they’re making extraordinary amounts of money. If you look at some of the figures I’ve seen in just the money going into Mexico alone, from the lucrative North American market, it’s been figured at anywhere between 100 to 120 billion dollars. That’s the amount of money that’s flowing into the cartel coffers and clearly what we’re doing as a nation, is not working and as a society, is not working. I think we need to have some very smart people look at this from a National Security threat posture and I think we’re starting to see that.

I don’t know if you saw this report or not, Dean, but the US Joint Special Forces Command has just issued a very interesting report where they’re predicting the potential collapse of the Mexican government and the National Security ramifications of that on our Homeland Security. So as that happens, as you start to see more media interest and programs like yours strive this, I think you’re going to finally wake some folks up in Washington to get this issue addressed then.

I would like to say, the incoming administration may show some more interest in this, based upon President-elect Obama’s meetings with President Carter around this week in Washington.

Dean Becker: Let’s hope there’s some progress made. Your thought about some bright folks looking at this kind of coincides with my thought and I think many of drug reformers. Let’s have a ‘blue ribbon’ commission. People who’s opinions we should value and appreciate. Look at this and come forward with ideas pertinent to our current and desperate situation.

Folks, once again we’ve been talking with Mr. Fred Burton, author of "Ghost - Confessions of a Counter Terrorism Agent". Fred, I’m marveled at the intricacies and the way that you guys handle things, like the first bombing of the World Trade Center and those ugly situations that develop and the extremes to which you guys went to find the truth. I want to thank you for that. Any closing thoughts you’d like to relay, Sir?

Fred Burton: Well, the only comment I would like to make in closing, Dean, is again and I know you know this, but perhaps your listening audience doesn’t. The violent cartel relationship with the criminal gangs inside the United States, is a real issue and it’s one that I would hope that your listeners bring to the attention of their local elected officials and ask them, ‘exactly what are they doing about it?’

Dean Becker: Exactly, exactly. Because we can’t just hide from this. It’s very real and potentially extremely dangerous to our nation. Right?

Fred Burton: Absolutely. It’s a National Security problem.

Dean Becker: Alright. Well Fred, thank you so much. I hope to call upon you again as we get into this new year and I appreciate all the work you do, Sir.

Fred Burton: Thank you, so much.

Dean Becker: Alright. Bye-bye.


It’s time to play: "Name That Drug - By It’s Side Effects!"

Swelling of hands and feet, rash, hives, blisters. Swelling of the face, lips, tongue and neck. Trouble breathing. Changes in eyesight, muscle pain, fever, skin sores, dizziness, sleepiness, weight gain, feeling 'high'.


Time's up! The answer from Pfizer:

Lyrica! For fibromyalgia.

This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Most of my three decades service to my nation was in the war on drugs and during that time, I only saw informental successes.

As a speaker for LEAP, a ten thousand member international organization of cops, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens, FBI, DEA and others that believe that the war on drugs is a colossal public policy mistake. I occasionally see a politician with the courage to speak up about the failure of this effort. This past week, one such politician spoke up.

El Paso City Councilman Beto O’Rourke attached an amendment to the Border Relations Committee Report. The eleven point resolution was amended by twelve step, calling for the federal government to seriously study the legalization of narcotics as part of the solution to violence in Juárez. The resolution with the amendment received an 8-0 council approval.

However, that amendment triggered a veto by Mayor John Cook. He said, ‘The action of council undermines the hard work of the committee by adding new language which may affect the credibility of the entire resolution.’ and he goes on to say, ‘It is not realistic to believe that the US congress will seriously consider any broad based debate on any legalization of narcotics. That position is not consistent with the community standards, both locally and nationally.’

So the mayor believed that talking about solution to the drug war is a bad thing. I suppose he thinks that we should just continue for another four decades doing what does not work.

The El Paso Times reported that DHS Secretary Chertoff was developing plans to address the violence if it spills over the border. He said, ’If Mexico’s drug war ever spills into El Paso, the United States has several response plans. One of which calls for a military surge along the US / Mexico border.

With all due respect to Secretary Chertoff, the violence has already spilled over the border and the economic effect is hurting border cities during this time of hard economic times and I do not think that the US Military really wants to deploy troops to the border, as they have plenty on their plates from two other foreign wars that are proving very difficult to win.

An alternative solution to fortifying our borders is to discuss a system of legalization, regulation and control, which Councilman O’Rourke called for, and couple it with education and treatment. This will reduce the crime and violence to manageable levels and there will be no need for the US Military as our law enforcement is more than adequate to handle our other border problems.

Legalization will remove the drug cartels money train and they will no longer be able to corrupt officials and arm their private armies that are carrying out the violence.

Let’s call for an open dialog to discuss this issue. There has to be a solution that will work for all of us.

This is Terry Nelson of LEAP. www.leap.cc Signing off.

The following audio was taken from a video produced by the Marijuana Policy Project.

Hello. My name is Noah Brozinsky with the Marijuana Policy Project. As we prepare to say farewell to President George W. Bush and his Whitehouse drug czar John Walters and other political appointments who’ve had a significant impact on this issue, we thought it would be helpful to look back at the last 8 years and see what kind of record they leave regarding America’s most costly war in particular to one specific area, Marijuana Policy.

Now, even though marijuana access is legal in thirteen states and the issue is supported by a clear majority of Americans, the Bush administrations policy of raiding and arresting medical marijuana patients and their caregivers has continued throughout his two terms with dozens upon dozens of DEA, SWAT style paramilitary raids in medical marijuana states.

These actions accomplish little more than terrorizing and complicating treatments for sick people in need of their medicine, that doctors had recommended for them. Congratulations! You’ve successfully created a climate of fear for patients and providers. A+

How well did the President and his administration do to impede important scientific research on the therapeutic and palliative benefits of marijuana? Masterfully. The Bush administration has waged a surprisingly successful campaign aimed at stifling medical marijuana research through red tape and excessive bureaucracy, preventing the types of studies needed to get medical marijuana approved by the FDA.

All the while, the government continues to fund and waste millions on research trying to study the harms of marijuana. After decades, the case against marijuana has provided only the most minimal evidence. A handful of small studies had been allowed here, but research on marijuana and it’s beneficial properties is booming in Europe and beyond.

Congratulations! You keep saying that marijuana can’t be medicine because it’s not FDA approved, while blocking the research the FDA would need in order to approve it and how did the Bush Administration do spending money? {ca-ching} Very well, of course.

The US Federal Government spent over $19 billion in 2003 on the war on drugs at the rate of about $600 per second. The budget has since been increased by over a billion dollars. To examine just how wasteful this entire war is would take us hours to illustrate so let’s examine just one aspect. The Office of National Drug Control Policy, for example, spent lots of money to pay for these ads, which appeared in print all across the county.

Dean Becker: Here they show a series of print ads that were sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, offering jobs to pot smokers like: Burrito Tester, Couch Security Guard and TV Remote Control Operator.

Noah Brozinsky: It’s pretty embarrassing that this is the best our government can do in trying to engage young adults on marijuana use. Also, you’ll be interested to know this ad campaign was designed by the same agency responsible for marketing the much more dangerous and much more toxic Southern Comfort Liquor to an obviously college aged target demographic.

What about marijuana eradication efforts? Over the last eight years, President Bush and the DEA have engaged in an entirely futile effort to eradicate marijuana grow operations from national parks and forests.

The DEA spends over 2.3 billion dollars maintaining their armada of 106 aircraft devoted to eradication and surveillance efforts. The DEA’s approach has only made these grow operations more dangerous. But now for the most important grade.

How well did the President and drug czar John Walters do, keeping marijuana away from the Americans? A new World Health Organization study of seventeen countries, found that the United States has the highest rate of marijuana use, despite some of the strictest marijuana laws and hyper-aggressive enforcement.

Dean Becker: They show over 800,000 marijuana arrests.

Noah Brozinsky: The vast majority for simple possession; not distribution; not manufacture. They were arrested for owning dried flowers.

Recent studies show that marijuana use among high schoolers is now about equivalent to cigarette use and teen cigarette smoking has dropped remarkably while marijuana use is up. Regulation works. Cigarette use has declined because we’ve approached cigarettes honestly and because regulation lets us crack down on tobacco sellers who break the law by selling to kids.

Why are we continuing to lie about marijuana? Every 36 seconds, an American is locked up for a marijuana related offense. President Bush, Director John Walters and company: You failed!

Dean Becker: They show a big F and the logo of the Marijuana Policy Project. MPP.org

Criminals get so emboldened
Rip you off thinkin’ you’re holdin’
Can’t tell the policemen what you know
Got no recourse to the law

Bad guys duct tape and beat ya
They’re just lookin’ for that easy score
They will rob, rape and kill ya
‘cause we got no recourse to the law.

George W. Bush: We’ll embrace tyranny and death as a cause and a creed. Things didn’t go according to plan, let’s put it that way. {applause}

We can be summed up in one word. Evil {more applause}

{music playing} Don’t let that doorknob hit you, going out. {music} Don’t let that doorknob hit you, going out.

Dean Becker: I actually hope it does hits him going out, to be honest with you. You know folks, we have to stand for truth. We have to become investigators. We have to determine what’s going on. We have to look around us and say, ’Is this democracy? Is this justice? Is this something on the benefit of all the people? Or is it just the way that they fleece us and screw us, time after time?

You know, we have to become full citizens of this nation and I think that the one way that you can begin that process that will serve you well for your neighborhood, your community, your town, your state, this nation; is to work with us. Try to help us end this drug war. It empowers our terrorist enemies, the deadly cartels. It gives reason for the violent street gangs to exist. It needs dealt with.

Alright my friends. You are the answer so I’m waiting on you to do your part and help bring it to an end… and as always, I remind you. Because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.

Submitted by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org