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From Deep Cover to Fight Back

Rapid Drug Test Systems
Published by in Fight Back ·
Tags: FightBack
The Trillion Dollar No-Win War on Drugs and its True Hero's  
In 1987, my 22nd year as an international, undercover narcotic agent, I was asked by the Drug Enforcement Administration to head a deep cover sting operation that would target Bolivian and Mexican government drug traffickers and the Panamanian money launderers who accommodated all South and Central American drug trafficking. It was, according to many experts, one of the most ambitious covert operation in the history of the war on drugs. The operation was dubbed "Trifecta."  The very top levels of illegal drug trafficking in this hemisphere were targeted.
As the operation neared success, DEA experts realized that for the first time in drug war history, we were about to stop the flow of as much as 90 percent of the white powder from South and Central America into the veins and brains of our children and halt the outflow of hundreds of billions of dollars in drug money. Our nation, since President Nixon had declared a war on drugs in 1971, had paid more than a trillion dollars in total federal, state and local budgets to fight drugs, yet more illegal drugs were available then ever before. We believed that Operation Trifecta could be the harbinger of the turning of the tide.
The true story of Operation Trifecta would become the New York Times Bestseller DEEP COVER. The tactics used were described by the Washington Post as the best fly-on-the-wall look at how international undercover work is done. Covert operations experts called it a masterpiece of planning and execution.  The book is still used as a textbook on the planning and execution of undercover operations by police agencies and universities.
Yet, Deep Cover was a story of failure. Not a failure of tactics, courage or imagination, but a failure brought about by sabotage from within.   Operation Trifecta was in fact too successful.  The undercover team had penetrated to the top of the Bolivian Cartel making a 15 ton cocaine deal with its ruling faction, la Mafia Cruzeña; the organization that at that time in our history controlled 90 percent of the cocaine production in the world.We had traveled to the headquarters of the Panama based money laundering operation used by both the Bolivian and Colombian cartels to negotiate methods of payment; an operation that was protected by Manuel Noriega himself.
Finally, our undercover "Mafia" team secretly video-taped meetings with Mexican government officials, including the grandson of the Mexican President who wrote that nation's constitution, to arrange Mexican government military protection and logistic support in smuggling the cocaine into the United States. The operation was proceeding ahead flawlessly with breathtaking speed. We had gained trust and acceptance by the very top of the drug and money trafficking world.  They were exposing the innards of each of their individual operations to us. All we had to do was complete a single transaction and American undercover cops would be sitting in on drug trafficking meetings with the heads of three governments.
Most of our team had major drug problems in our own families. I had a daughter addicted to crack cocaine and had lost a heroin addicted brother to suicide. My son, Keith was a rookie New York City patrolman who at that moment was four years from having his life ended by a crack addict gunman. The victory would be a delicious one that we would savor for the rest of our lives. We were about to be the first team of American undercover agents to scale the "Mount Everest" of international drug trafficking.
When the rug began to be pulled out from under us, at first we thought the orders we were getting from the Washington D.C. suits was just the typical kind of boobery that comes from placing lawyers, politicians and bureaucrats in charge of cops and spies.  We just couldn't believe that any suit with any kind of real experience would be capable of telling men and women who were literally acting for their lives to do and say the kinds of nonsensical things we ordered. It was the kind of inept leadership that would be the hallmark of the events leading to 9-11.  We could work around it, we thought.  You work for DEA, CIA, FBI, you get used to that kind of dance.
But when we learned that the United States Attorney General, who had been receiving emergency-couriered videotapes of our undercover meetings with Mexican government officials, had telephoned the Attorney General of Mexico (one of our targets) to "advise" him of the existence of Operation Trifecta, we all learned a valuable lesson: that, when you get to the top of the drug world what you find is-- as Snoopy says--"The enemy is us." The Bolivian drug cartels had to be protected from DEA because they were a prime source of funding for the US supported Contras.  The Panamanian money-laundering operation had to be protected from us because Manual Noriega, a CIA asset at that time, was also key to moving money to the Contras.  And the Mexican drug-dealing government had to be protected because at that moment in our history NAFTA was before congress and if the American people had learned that Mexican government representatives were promising an American Mafia a "wide-open Mexico for drug trafficking," it might never have passed into law.
I wrote the events precisely as they had happened in Deep Cover, every word backed up by recorded conversations and video, partially because it was a lot cheaper then spending the rest of my life on a psychiatrist's couch but mainly because it was the only way I could FIGHT BACK against the so-called "good guys" who had an investment in a no-win war on drugs. During one wild, drunken confrontation in a Panama hotel room, recaptured in the pages of Deep Cover,  a Washington suit, "mysteriously" sent to take charge of the operation said words that resonate in me to this day.
He looked at me with a serious expression and said: "I've got a plan that will succeed even if it fails."
My first thought was that he had, in that sentence, analyzed the entire philosophy of the war on drugs.  If you make a living off it,  win or lose it's a success. In fact, it's in your best interest that it continue as a perpetual failure for ever, or at least until you cash in your retirement bennies. In essence, those words gave birth to FIGHT BACK.
***The purpose of FIGHT BACK was to empower the American people to do what their trillion dollars in taxpayer dollars had failed to do, win the drug war that raged within their own families, schools and communities, and do it on their own.  To teach the average citizen how to use the tools and tactics that the street experts knew were effective and that the drug barons feared most. To provide Americans with a plan that would both save drug addicts like my brother and daughter and the scores of police officers, like my son, who would lose their lives trying to stop a flow of drugs that in many cases was being enabled by people with a vested interest in a perpetual no-win drug war.
When FIGHT BACK was first published in 1991, it was reviewed by the Swedish Carnegie Institute as "The only anti-drug plan ever to come out of America that made any sense" and listed as "recommended reading for communities with drug problems," by President Clinton's Drug Policy Office.   Yet, it got almost no coverage from American media. Media showed no interest in the fact that Fight Back tactics virtually wiped out drug trafficking in those few communities in which its tactical approach was utilized. Editors and TV News Producers showed no curiosity at to why, wherever FIGHT BACK appeared police agencies whose budgets and federal funding depend on numbers of arrests, came out against the program.
A federally funded narcotic task force in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, where I headed one of the first programs, demanded that I take the citizens off the street because their investigations were stalled.  The citizens on the street had stopped all drug trafficking--how were they going to make their cases?  The local organization funded by the Partnership for a Drug Free America would not support us. One of their in-house memorandums said it clearly:  "If the FIGHT BACK program is a success, it will take the wind out of the sails of the Partnership..."
No journalist had the courage to point out that the media itself was receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded advertising revenue for anti-drug ads that experts said were "promoting" drug use.
Individuals who tried to bring the program into their own communities found that the drug dealers were a lot easier to defeat than the agencies and individuals who made a living from the no-win drug war.  They came under immediate political, media and personal attack.  It took as much courage for a citizen to brave the attacks of the "good guys" as it did to go against the drug barons.
The true heroes of this trillion-dollar, no-win war on drugs that is now in its fourth decade, are those who have had and continue to have, the courage to go against the "good guys"? the special interests who make a living from losing.
I have known some of the true heroes personally and can attest to the tenacity, courage and personal sacrifice that they displayed in attempting to bring FIGHT BACK into their communities.  Some are still fighting back as I write these words.  Some, but far from all, are honored here:
ABC's "Good Morning America" producers and staff for being one of the precious few mainstream media outlets to bring FIGHT BACK to the public's attention.
CBS's "Eye on America." Meredith Viera, producers and staff that brought FIGHT BACK in Greenville Mississippi to the public's attention.
The Boston Herald.
The Cape Cod Times.
The Barnstable Record. WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM in New York City for giving me a voice.
Jack DeMillo, former Sheriff of Barnstable County, Mass., for the extraordinary political courage and love of community that brought FIGHT BACK to Barnstable County.
Dave Jenest, Director of Citizens Watch, Sacramento, California.
Peter Kenney, Community activist and journalist, Barnstable County, Mass, for a long on-air and in-the-streets battle in support of FIGHT BACK.
Heidi Matton, Community activist, Barnstable County, Mass.
The late Paul O'Malley, City Councilman, Natchez, Mississippi.
Leonore O'Malley, Community Activist, Natchez, Mississippi.
Peter Robbins, Former Director of Safety, Barnstable County, Mass.
Kirby Slaton, former Sergeant, Greensville, Mississippi Police Department and all those citizens and police officers who gave it their all in the Greenville Fight Back program.
John and Marion Stitt, community activists, Connolly, New York.
The individual street and patrol cops across the nation who, on their own and with no support, bring the FIGHT BACK tactics into the communities they serve, whom cannot be named here without jeopardizing their careers.
And at this moment, waging one of the most hopeful FIGHT BACK wars since the plan was first published is Michael A. Bonventre, Operations Manager of RDTS, Johnson City, New York, a drug and crime prevention consultant who himself was a former undercover operative and narcotic consultant to Federal State and County agencies and his wife, family and friends, who in turn have gotten vital support from:
Citadel Broadcasting Company -1290 First News Talk Radio (Binghamton, NY).
WLEA NewsMaker Radio Show  (Hornell, NY)
Riverrow Bookshop Inc (Owego, NY)
Rotary Clubs of Deposit and Owego, NY
And, as Mike himself said it: "The hundreds of priceless confidential sources of information of all levels of our community and the citizens who invited Fight Back into their neighborhoods to prove its power in fast and safe elimination of drug users and dealers.



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