Print Friendly, PDF & Email

True Lies this week focuses on Michael Hand and the menagerie of CIA and military alumni whom he worked with in the 1970s in Australia’s infamous Nugan Hand Bank. To Australia conspiracists, the mysterious 1980 death of Hand’s partner Frank Nugan, the collapse of Nugan Hand Bank (“NHB”), and Hand’s disappearance following his flight from Australia are still topical issues despite the passage of thirty-five years. Like Churchill’s Russia, the lives of US Special Forces and CIA agents who ran Indochina operations in the 1960s and 1970s are riddles wrapped in enigmas intertwined in a mystery.

Sea of Lies has a bunch of fictitious bad guys who were active in Indochina in the 1960s and 1970s. Hand and his colleagues and cohorts provide ample real life stories of derring-do and, possibly, malfeasance that a novelist can seek inspiration from. The list of intelligence luminaries around Hand in NHB’s late-70s heyday is simply too long to ignore.

William Colby’s story as the former head of the CIA in Vietnam who eventually ran the entire Agency prior to George H W Bush is well-known to Boomers, so Bill merits scarcely a mention below. (Younger readers are encouraged to do a deep dive: there are ample sources online and Colby’s career was certainly a polarizing event.) In particular, Colby’s legacy will forever be debated as the thought-leader behind the successful (albeit illegal) Phoenix Program of targeted assassinations of suspected Viet Cong leaders in South Vietnam. Though his highest role in NHB was that of legal advisor, William Colby’s involvement meant that the start-up bank had the US government’s seal of approval from day one.


William Colby 2

Source: CIA History of DCI Colby by John Prados, 31 October 2011 as sourced online from

Ted Shackley spent the 1960s through the 1980s in the middle of almost every US covert operation in the world from the Bay of Pigs aftermath in which the CIA hired mafia hitmen to kill Fidel Castro to successive jobs as chief of station Vietnam and Laos, to Iran Contra. Blond Ghost tells Shackley’s story.

The Crimes of Patriots describes Edwin Wilson’s life in-and-out of the CIA over twenty-plus years. After officially going off the CIA payroll, Wilson earned fifty-six years in prison after many convictions, prominently for selling arms and arranging illegal training to Gadaffi’s military in Libya in the mid-1970s. Wilson steadfastly proclaimed his innocence. His defense? He’d never left the Company despite the official retirement in 1971. Everything he’d done in Libya had been with the CIA’s off-the-record support. Only after Wilson’s ex-CIA lawyer (with the necessary security clearances) sourced eighty documents showing that the CIA was using Wilson to track Libya’s nuclear weapons program did a federal judge set him free after twenty-two years. The jurist wrote in his ruling that, “America will not defeat Libyan terrorism by double-crossing a part-time informal government agent.”1


David Simon Quote 2015 Jun

Source: David Simon, creator of The Wire (2002-2008)

This week’s blog draws from The Crimes of Patriots (1987) by Wall Street Journal investigative reporter Jonathan Kwitny, the Michael Hand and Frank Nugan articles from Spartacus Educational (, How Aus Bank Financed the Heroin Trade by John Rainford (2013), The Politics of Heroin by Alfred McCoy (1972), discussions with a Special Forces contemporary of Hand, and various Wikipedia biographies of the men profiled below.

Bradley West, British Columbia, 28 June 2015


Nugan Hand Bank existed from 1973-1980. When the bank failed in 1980, officially, US$15m was missing. But in light of most depositors being money launderers, drug traffickers or arms dealers, quite a few claimants didn’t come forward. So the unofficial amounts missing were at least fifty and could have been over a hundred million dollars. Nugan Hand Bank was a drug-financing, money laundering, tax-evading, investor-defrauding organization that was independent of, but inextricably linked to, the CIA.

Nugan Hand Bank logo

Source:, from what appears to be a stock photo, but the text is in Vietnamese

The trigger for the bank’s failure was the alleged suicide of co-founder Frank Nugan on 27 Jan 1980. Co-founder Michael Hand fled Australia in June 1980, never to be seen again (though former colleague Bernie Houghton testified that in the 1980s Hand was living in Pretoria, South Africa). On closer inspection, it turns out that Nugan Hand was a mammoth criminal funding engine that filled a void in the criminal and espionage worlds when Castle Bank & Trust of the Bahamas closed in 1974. And once Nugan Hand imploded, better known and equally corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International (“BCCI”) arose to take its place from humble beginnings in Pakistan.

Former high ranking intelligence and military officers managed and served on the board of Nugan Hand Bank. NHB luminaries included ex-CIA Director William Colby; Rear-Admiral (retired) Earl “Buddy” Yates, ex-Chief of Staff for US Navy Pacific Command, former commander of carrier USS John F. Kennedy, and a counter-insurgency specialist; and General (retired) Leroy Manor, former chief of staff of the US Pacific Command and deputy director for counterinsurgency and special activities. Anyone looking at the organization chart would have concluded that NHB was either a CIA proprietary (i.e., fully-owned and operated, like Air America); or a CIA front company (i.e., controlled by the Agency, but on an unattributable basis).

Victor Marchetti, ex-CIA senior officer, provided a more nuanced view. According to Marchetti, “[Nugan Hand] seems to be more of an independent organization with former CIA people connected with it, and they’re in business to make money, but because of their close personal relationship with the agency, they will do favors for the agency.2 Favors included money laundering, providing cover jobs for agents, and anything else that the CIA needed to claim plausible deniability in the event of discovery. The CIA in turn shielded Nugan Hand from criminal investigations and ensured that its principals were aided by sister intelligence organizations such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (“ASIO”), the Aussie equivalent of the CIA.

From 1981-83, Australia convened the Stewart Royal Commission to investigate the drug trade in general and the Nugan Hand Bank scandal in particular. The final report published in 1985 ran to 1200 pages, and concluded that “Nugan Hand was at all times insolvent . . . and flouted the provisions of the legislation as it then stood in that large volumes of currency were moved in and out of Australia.3 (Australia had exchange controls in place when Nugan Hand existed.) No one at the bank other than Michael Hand, Frank Nugan and Hand’s secretary was ever blamed for any wrongdoing. Most smelled a cover-up, particularly when long-time Hand cronies such as Bernie Houghton continued to flourish in Australia after being exonerated by the Commission.



Nugan Hand bank headline Crime

Source: How Aus bank financed the heroin trade by John Rainford, 7 Dec 2013, as sourced online from

A Nugan Hand Bank crib sheet includes the following nuggets:

  • Hand told friends that “It was his ambition that Nugan Hand became banker for the CIA.”4
  • The coincident demise of Castle Bank and Trust (“CB&T”) of Nassau and the rise of Nugan Hand weren’t chance incidents, according to The Crimes of Patriots. CB&T had become a liability due to an IRS investigation over tax evasion, so the CIA simply switched institutions as Nugan Hand opened a Cayman Islands branch at the same time CB&T shut down at end 1976.
  • Michael Hand fronted NHB to arrange the financing of the acquisition of small arms in massive quantities (3000 AK-47s and 10 million rounds of 7.62mm ammunition) for the UNITA rebels in Angola who were fighting Cuban troops and their local allies. Edwin Wilson (see below) played the lead role in brokering this record-setting transaction.
  • Funded the sale by current and former CIA agents of an electronic warfare spy ship to the Shah of Iran’s Navy in 1976.5
  • Murray Riley, an ex-NSW detective, suggested that NHB open a Chiang Mai, northern Thailand operation. The Chiang Mai Branch shared a floor with the DEA office, and featured a common receptionist. [Riley later was convicted of smuggling 4½ metric tons of marijuana buds (“Thai sticks”) from Bangkok to Australia and received a ten-year jail term.6] Chiang Mai soon became the leading deposit-taking branch in the entire bank with Burma-origin heroin-derived funds being laundered before being used to fund the CIA’s secret war in Laos.7 The main depositors of the bank were linked to the Middle East and Asia narcotics trade, including the notorious trafficker Khun Sa (see Haunting Burma: the Ghosts of Khun Sa and the Shan States, True Lies 21 June 2015).
  • After Nugan’s alleged suicide, the Australia New South Wales police never sealed off the bank’s offices or Nugan’s home. This allowed Michael Hand and his CIA compadres the time to ransack both, and destroy or take away scores of documents. Assisting Hand were bank president Buddy Yates and Bernie Houghton, plus sundry underlings.8
  • Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) filings asking for the US government’s take on Nugan Hand either weren’t honored, or 60% redacted out with the code “B-1” in the margin indicating that disclosure would “endanger US national defense or foreign policy”.9


The biographies of the major players in the Nugan Hand Bank saga read like something out of a Tom Clancy novel.

Michael (“Mike”) Hand

Michael Hand portrait

Source: John Simkin profile of Michael Hand in Spartacus-Educational, © September 1997 (updated August 2014), and sourced online from

  • Born in 1941 in New York State. A devote Christian Scientist, he neither smoked nor drank even caffeinated beverages. Joined Special Forces in 1963.
  • As a Vietnam Green Beret (MAC-SOG), Hand won a Distinguished Service Cross for valor in Vietnam in 1964 for almost singlehandedly holding off a fourteen-hour NVA assault on a Special Forces base.
  • Hand mustered out of MAC-SOG to become a CIA contract fighter in 1966 in Northern Laos under Bill Colby’s direction where he led Montagnard soldiers (a.k.a. Hmong). Hand and his men distinguished themselves in combat, fighting to a draw much more numerous People’s Liberation Army regulars and their Pathet Lao allies.10
  • In 1967 Hand finished the Laos CIA contract and moved to Sydney where he invested real estate (e.g. three G.I. R&R bars in Sydney’s King Cross red light area) with Bernie Houghton, a Texan with US intelligence ties (see below).
  • Hand co-founded Nugan Hand in 1973 with Frank Nugan (see below) with a stated paid up capital of A$1,000,005. However, Nugan’s $1m check was cashed and then A$999,900 was refunded to him, leaving an initial NHB net worth of A$105.11
  • From 1975-76, Hand spent over one year in Southern Africa arranging a major arms purchase for the UNITA rebels in Angola. Hand worked with Bernie Houghton and Edwin Wilson (see below) on the huge deal for ten million rounds of 7.62mm ammo and 3,000 AK-47s.
  • Back in Sydney in 1976, Hand became friends with drug smuggler Murray Riley. Riley laundered money through Nugan Hand Bank at 22% cost (see above for more on Riley).
  • Hand was in control of international operations of the bank. In 1976 Hand set up the Cayman Islands branch of the bank. Later in 1976, Hand moved to Hong Kong to coordinate international growth and branches. By 1980, NHB had twelve overseas branches.
  • Hand moved to Singapore in August 1977 to run Nugan Hand’s branch there. In 1977-78, Hand brought many US intelligence and military figures into the bank.
  • After Nugan’s death in January 1980, Hand led the cover-up and clean-up efforts at both Nugan’s home and the head office. Hand allegedly told the bank’s directors that they needed to obey orders or they could “finish up with concrete shoes” and would be “liable to find their wives being delivered to them in pieces”.


Frank Nugan

Frank Nugan portrait Spartacus

Source: John Simkin profile of Frank Nugan in Spartacus-Educational, © September 1997 (updated August 2014), and sourced online from

  • An Australian playboy lawyer, he left Australia after graduating with a law degree and worked in Canada in the mid-1960s
  • Returned to Australia in 1968 to work as a lawyer
  • Director of Nugan Group, a fruit and vegetable distribution company run by his brother Kenneth Nugan. In 1978 police charged Frank and his brother with fraud, with Nugan Hand Bank funds siphoned off to pay for their defense.
  • Director of a mining company that listed in 1970
  • Co-founded Nugan Hand Bank in 1973
  • Before he died, he was planning for his American wife, their three children, and him to emigrate to Florida
  • At 04:00 on 27 Jan 1980 Nugan was found dead at the wheel of a locked Mercedes parked on a dirt road near Bowenfels New South Wales. Cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head from a .30-06 bolt-action rifle. One hand was on the barrel and one was near the trigger.
  • Police found pieces of paper with “Bob Wilson” and “Bill Colby” written on it in Nugan’s pocket. Another pocket held Colby’s business card with Colby’s upcoming Hong Kong and Singapore travel dates written on the back.
  • In Nugan’s suitcase was a typed list containing scores of names of prominent Australian personalities with handwritten dollar amounts next to their names, most of them five and six figures.
  • The coroner returned a suicide verdict on the basis of the police report alone, but rumors that Nugan was murdered circulated with claims that: (a) No fingerprints were on the gun: wiped clean. The official police report says that no fingerprints were taken; (b) There was a fresh round in the chamber of the rife. Not mentioned in the police report; (c) The rifle barrel was too long for Nugan to have pulled the trigger while having the butt and trigger down at his feet. Nugan was wearing leather closed toe shoes and couldn’t have used his toes, either. The police declined to take photos of the crime scene.
  • Rumors that Nugan had faked his death also circulated, so much so that authorities exhumed his body in February 1981 to ascertain who was in the grave. It was Nugan.


Bernie Houghton

  • Born in Texas in 1920, died in 2000 in Australia. He was a beefy man.
  • A US WWII veteran. Knocked around the US for the next 20 years.
  • From 1964-67 Houghton was in Indochina making money off the escalating Vietnam War. Chartered planes that flew goods in and out, including opium and slot machines. An Australia government task force later said he was in the CIA then.12
  • 1967 saw Houghton move to Sydney. In October 1967 he opened the Bourbon and Beefsteak Bar (later renamed ‘the Bourbon Bar’). The first GI’s arrived in Sydney a month later, and he had a hit. Houghton later opened the Texas Tavern and Harpoon Harry’s, all in the red light Kings Cross area.
  • Mike Hand was an investor in Houghton’s real estate deals.
  • The Bourbon went bankrupt in 1976 with debts exceeding US one million dollars.
  • John D. Walker, CIA man and chief of station Australia 1973-75, frequented Houghton’s bars.
  • In 1969, Houghton received a security clearance from the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO).
  • In 1972, Houghton returned to Australia without a visa. He called the director of the ASIO who got him into the country.13
  • In 1975 Houghton flew to DC with two Nugan Hand employees to work with Ed Wilson at the Office of Naval Intelligence on the AK-47 and ammunition deal for UNITA. (Michael Hand spent most of 1976 in southern Africa working on the same deal.)
  • Wilson and Houghton also brokered the 1975 sale of the previously-mentioned spy ship to Iran. Houghton and a US colonel flew to Iran to close the deal.
  • In 1976 Houghton recruited US Admiral Earl “Buddy” Yates to be president of Nugan Hand Bank starting in early 1977.
  • In 1979 Houghton opened Nugan Hand’s Saudi Arabia branch and collected at least US five million (and up to ten million) dollars in deposits from oilfield workers at Aramco, Bechtel and similar. US military staff endorsed Nugan Hand Bank, and the companies lent their premises for presentations and client meetings. No one got their money back when NHB went bust in 1980.
  • In 1979, Maj. Gen. Richard Secord, then chief of the US Air Force Military Assistance Advisory Group which marketed US arms overseas, introduced Houghton to ex-CIA senior officer Thomas Clines. With the support of Ted Shackley (see below), they brokered a deal to sell Philippines jeeps to Egypt.
  • Once Nugan died, Houghton fled NHB’s Saudi operations with staff and him getting on the last flight out before authorities could arrest them.
  • Safe in Geneva, in late January 1980 Houghton dropped bank documents at Ed Wilson’s office. Shackley subordinates Thomas Clines and Rafael “Chi Chi” Quintero later went through these, pulling out and destroying any files that referenced Richard Secord. “We’ve got to keep Dick’s name out of this,” Clines said.14
  • Thomas Clines helped Houghton leave Australia in mid-1980. Houghton returned to Australia for good in October 1981 when it became clear that the NHB bankruptcy and fraud investigations weren’t going to result in his arrest.
  • Houghton lived out his days as a bar owner in Kings Cross, later becoming a philanthropist. He was cited for his good work with a commemorative bust in 2002. However, according to the Stewart Commission, in the 1980s Houghton was still ferrying drugs around Indochina in chartered airplanes.


Edwin (“Ed”) Wilson

Edwin Wilson portrait Libya

Source: Newstalgia Reference Room – Libya And The Strange Case Of Edwin Wilson – 1981, Gordon Skene, 24 Feb 2011 as sourced online from

  • Born in Idaho in 1928 and died in Seattle in 2012, aged 84. 6’5” tall, charming, rugged and a great networker.
  • Earned a BS in Psychology from University of Portland.
  • Joined the CIA in 1956, initially guarding U-2 spy planes at their base in Turkey.
  • USMC 1953-1956, fighting at the end of the Korean War. An impressive soldier till a knee injury forced him out.
  • In 1960 Wilson undertook graduate studies in Labor Relations at Cornell University.
  • In the early 1960s, Wilson helped the CIA subvert communism in trade unions worldwide, especially in Europe.
  • Later joined the CIA’s Special Operations Division (“SOD”) where Wilson set up Maritime Consulting Associates (1964) and Consultants International (1965) which were used to ship supplies around the world.
  • In 1965 one of Wilson’s jobs was to ship boat pieces to Lake Tanganyika where they were welded together and used by ex-SEAL James Hawes and his CIA-trained African mercenaries to combat Ché Guevara, Cuban troops and their recruits in the Congo.15
  • Wilson also supplied arms for dissident officers in Indonesia when Suharto overthrew the leftist Sukarno regime in 1965. A failed coup which resulted in six generals’ deaths, the successful counter-coup by Suharto and subsequent purge of the PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia) claimed 300,000-400,000 lives and was dramatized in The Year of Living Dangerously, a 1983 Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver movie.

 Sukarno pistol shot 2011

Source: Soekarno blog (anonymous), 4 Feb 2011 as sourced online from

  • Wilson stopped working at the CIA in 1970, and negotiated a year’s severance making his official separation date 1971. In addition, he kept ownership of some of the front companies he’d set up for the Company.
  • In 1971 Wilson joined the Office of Naval Intelligence (“ONI”) where he worked full-time for Task Force 157 (a.k.a. the Naval Field Operations Support Group, or NFOSG). Task Force 157’s principal goal was tracking Soviet naval activity.
  • From 1966 through its disbandment in 1977, the NFOSG was “The US military’s only network of undercover agents and spies operating abroad using commercial and business cover”16
  • Wilson “retired” from ONI in 1976 for disputed reasons. He later made an offer to Admiral Bobby Inman (later head of the CIA under President Carter) to use Wilson’s influence in Congress in return for being made head of Task Force 157.
  • Inman shut down Task Force 157 and reported Wilson to the FBI. There may have been ulterior motives for Inman’s action, though he was determined to purge Shackley and his so-called “Special Team” from the Agency.
  • Wilson continued to run Consultants International, and reportedly amassed a personal fortune of USD twenty million. Throughout this time, Wilson continued to support the CIA as-and-when he was asked to help out.
  • Ted Shackley (see below) asked Wilson to move to Libya in the early 1970s to keep an eye on terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal. (Wilson helped trick Sánchez into going to Paris where he was captured and jailed.) Wilson helped Libya smuggle guns and uniforms into the country. Wilson recruited ex-Green Berets to train Libya’s special forces and assassins in contravention to US law and international sanctions.
  • The Libyans used their newly trained armed forces to train terrorists, and Wilson’s provisions ended up in the hands of the IRA, Palestinians (e.g. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command), and the main suspect behind the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am 103, Ahmad Jibril. Also, a gun supplied by Wilson was used by a Libyan agent to kill a dissident in Bonn, West Germany.
  • Wilson’s defense was that he was working undercover for the CIA throughout, with his principal focus being to gather intelligence on Libya’s nascent nuclear weapons program.
  • Wilson’s largest deal was to arrange the export from California twenty metric tons (forty-four thousand pounds) of C-4 plastic explosives, equal to the US’s entire military stores at the time. The C-4 was hidden in barrels of drilling mud and airfreighted from California to Libya.
  • Wilson had another company in partnership with ex-Laos CIA number two Thomas Clines and with Richard Secord as a silent partner. This company ended up convicted of overcharging the US Government USD eight million for shipping military aid to Egypt. Later, Thomas Clines reimbursed the government USD three million to settle the charges.
  • In 1984, Ted Shackley was working with all of the above characters (save Hand) when Oliver North approached the group for help in buying arms for the Contras in Nicaragua. This was the genesis of Iran Contra, a scandal that could have toppled Reagan’s presidency.
  • Meanwhile, the US Justice Department indicted Wilson. Libya wouldn’t extradite him, but Wilson and the Libyans fell out. Wilson attempted to resettle in the Dominican Republic, but he was set up. On arrival in Santo Domingo, the US arrested Wilson and flew him to New York.
  • The US put Wilson on trial four separate times. He was convicted on the C-4 and gun smuggling charges and sentenced to thirty-two years in jail.
  • The US also set up a sting whereby they recorded Wilson hiring an informant to kill the federal prosecutors, six witnesses and his ex-wife. Wilson drew another twenty-four years for conspiracy to commit murder, though he denied that the voice on the tape was his.
  • The CIA abandoned Wilson at trial, saying that, after his retirement in 1971, Wilson had never done any additional work for the Agency.
  • Wilson eventually hired an ex-CIA lawyer who had classified clearance. The lawyer David Adler filed FOIA writs that unearthed eighty separate memos showing Wilson working for the CIA post-“retirement”17
  • In 2003, a judge overturned Wilson’s conviction on the explosives export charges due to government lying.
  • Wilson won his release at age seventy-six, and spent the rest of his life fighting to clear his name.


Theodore (“Ted”) Shackley


Ted Shackley portrait young

Source: The CIA (Criminals in Action), 29 June 2004, by Yuri Dowbenko as sourced online from

Ted Shackley had the most fascinating career of them all. Shackley was one of the most highly decorated CIA officers ever and seemed to be in the middle of every major scandal worldwide for over twenty years.

  • From 1962-65, Shackley was Miami station chief after the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco. Shackley led the CIA’s JM/WAVE program to assassinate Fidel Castro using mob figures for reasons of plausible deniability. That failed, but CIA-recruited and trained exiles returned to Cuba to commit over a hundred sabotage operations in the early 1960s. He was also in charge of the Miami office during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962.
  • Shackley was CIA station chief in Laos from 1966-1968, overlapping with when Michael Hand was in country.
  • Shackley moved to Vietnam in 1968 to become chief of station. There he took over the controversial Phoenix Program. Phoenix was a CIA-led secret counterintelligence initiative that ran from 1968-1972. The aim was to identify Viet Cong sympathizers and spies in South Vietnam, and to capture, convert or kill same. As many as 40,000 died in the program through targeted assassination, and after the war one NVA general said that, had Phoenix continued beyond 1972, the North would have lost the war as the VC leadership had been decapitated in the South. However, when news of Phoenix’s existence became public, US anti-war factions rallied against its extra-juridical killings, secrecy and CIA-origins. Congress began investigating Phoenix in 1971 and it was officially shuttered a year later. Shackley left Vietnam in 1972 as well.
  • In 1972, Shackley was involved in planning the overthrow of leftist Chilean president Salvador Allende. Though Allende was a democratically-elected official, the CIA supported a right wing coup by General Augusto Pinochet which resulted in Allende’s murder, the imposition of martial law, and the installation of solidly pro-US government in Chile.
  • In 1975 Shackley was appointed Associate Deputy Director for Operations and put in charge of the CIA’s worldwide covert operations where he reported to CIA director George H. W. Bush.
  • Shackley officially “retired” from the CIA in 1979, forced out by Admiral Stansfield Turner, the new CIA director. The official reason was Shackley’s off-the-books support of Edwin Wilson’s Libyan misadventures.
  • Later, Shackley was involved in orchestrating what became the Iran Contra scandal in 1984. President Reagan signed a secret directive aimed at securing the release of Americans held hostage by Iran or its proxies. William Colby recruited Shackley.
  • Shackley’s motives were noble, however. In 1984 Hezbollah captured Lebanon CIA station chief William Buckley, and held Buckley in an unknown place (later to be revealed as the Bekka Valley in Syria). Buckley had worked for Shackley in the past as part of Shackley’s “Secret Team”. Oliver North and Richard Secord were put in charge, and this became Iran-Contra.
  • Shackley was directly involved with negotiating with expatriate Iranians thought to be influential. Shackley authorized the shipments of arms to Iran in return for the release of four American prisoners (including Buckley, who was already dead, a fact unknown to the Americans).
  • The profits from the Iranian arms sales were being used to train Nicaraguan rebels (“Contras”) trying to overthrow a democratically-elected leftist Sandinista government. In 1986, the Nicaraguan military shot down a CIA-funded cargo plane flying arms into a rebel-controlled area of country. The capture and interrogation of the ex-Air America CIA pilot blew the lid off Iran Contra. The program to supply the Contras stopped and their insurgency failed.
  • Shackley died in 2002.

*  *  *  *  *

True Lies readers will have fun seeing how the people and events covered in this blog tie back to Sea of Lies and its successor Pack of Lies. As noted, a fictional composite of this rogues gallery becomes the bad guy that Sea of Lies protagonist Bob Nolan must overcome. Back in the real world, William Colby, Edwin Wilson and Ted Shackley cast long shadows in the history of Asia covert ops.


End Notes

1Obituary of Edwin Wilson, Daily Telegraph, 28 September 2012 as sourced online at

2The Crimes of Patriots, Jonathan Kwitny, 1987, Chapter 8

3 The Stewart Royal Commission report was published in June, 1985 and as quoted in Spartacus Educational

4The Politics of Heroin, Alfred McCoy, 1972, pp. 461-472

5The Politics of Heroin, Alfred McCoy, 1972, pp. 461-472

6 How Aus bank financed the heroin trade by John Rainford, 7 Dec 2013, as sourced online from

7A Secret Country, John Pilger, 1989, p. 209

8 The Crimes of Patriots, Jonathan Kwitny, 1987

9A Secret Country, John Pilger, 1989, p. 211

10 An essential part of the secret war was US air power, both bombings and close air support provided by ex-USAF personnel flying for the CIA in a clandestine operation that was so large that more bombs were dropped on Laos than on occupied Europe in WWII. Air America (1979) by Christopher Robbins is an excellent book (and a poor movie with Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr.) that tells the story writ large while Robbin’s The Ravens (1989) focuses on the airmen and the air war. I recommend both books to anyone interested in the non-Vietnam conflicts of Indochina, especially the largely unknown secret war in Laos.

11How Aus bank financed the heroin trade by John Rainford, 7 Dec 2013, as sourced online from

12Stewart Royal Commission report, 1985

13The Crimes of Patriots, Jonathan Kwitny, 1987, pp. 17-23

14North’s Aides Linked to Australia Study, Keith Schneider, New York Times, 8 March 1987

15onversations between James M. Hawes and Bradley West (1985-present)

16Wikipedia biography of Edwin Wilson,

17 Wikipedia biography of Edwin Wilson,



The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money and the CIA, Jonathan Kwitny, 1987


The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Drug Trade, Alfred McCoy, 1972


Air America, Christopher Robbins, 1979 for the story of the CIA’s secret war in Laos


The Ravens, Christopher Robbins, 1989 for the story of the airmen, aircraft and air war over Laos