Archive for September, 2006

Media: Cocaine Airways

Cocaine Airways

A Former CIA Pilot Says Secret Flights To El Toro Could Explain A Marine Officer’s `Suicide’

By Nick Schou

When we first spoke, a decade ago, the fear in his voice — the staccato pace, the tremor — was unmistakable.

“I can’t talk to you,” he said. “This is all classified.”

He answered just one question: if he told me what he knew, he’d go straight to federal prison for violating U.S. national security laws.

Then he hung up the telephone.

Two weeks ago, I tracked the man to his home in rural Pennsylvania. This time, he didn’t hang up on me. The terror in his voice was gone, replaced by the cheerful nonchalance that maybe just comes with being 69 years old and knowing that your kids have finished college, you’re well into retirement, and it’s too late for anyone to ruin your life for talking to a reporter about matters that powerful people would rather keep secret.

He laughed when he recalled our conversation a decade ago. He apologized for not answering my questions. He asked me what I wanted to know.

Over the course of the next several days, the man told me his life story.

* * *

William Robert “Tosh” Plumlee was a CIA contract pilot. He worked where the agency sent him. That meant that he ran guns to Fidel Castro in the 1950s, and then, when Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista, Plumlee ran guns to Castro’s opponents. In the 1980s, he flew guns again, in and out of military bases including Orange County’s El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, March Air Force Base in Riverside, and Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. The weapons were destined for the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras, a right-wing army aiding the agency’s war on communism.

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