TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS -- FROM BEIRUT TO LOCKERBIE -- INSIDE THE DIA
At the end of August 1987, the Colemans returned home from Cyprus.
Mary-Claude was sad to leave because, after spending much of the summer visiting her family with Sarah, she was not looking forward to an indefinite stay in Alabama, where she knew hardly anyone and where, after Beirut and Larnaca, the sheer difference in the scale of everything made her feel uneasy and exposed. But as a dutiful wife, she managed to put a good face on it, particularly after her husband promised they would return again in the spring. And that was settled. Coleman had agreed to Hurley's request that he renew his DEA consultancy contract for the 1988 opium-growing season, and had cleared this with the DIA.
Donleavy was highly complimentary about Coleman's work that summer. The back-channel reports on DEA operations that he had transmitted twice a week from his arrival in Cyprus were on file in a classified computer data bank, codenamed EMERALD, at Bolling Airforce Base, near Washington, and the first order of business upon his return was a systematic debriefing at a hotel near Fort Meade to fill in the gaps. Knowing Hurley, Coleman was pretty sure that the DIA now had a better grasp of what was going on at DEA Nicosia than the DEA itself.
Concerned above all else with preserving the integrity of the Asmar cell in Beirut, Donleavy cross-questioned him closely about the calibre and affiliations of the DEA's network of Lebanese CIs, and in particular, about EI-Jorr, the Kabbaras and Jafaars. Now that Coleman had been seen working with DEA agents in Cyprus, there was a clear risk that he might also have been identified by one of their Beirut informants as a friend of Tony Asmar's. In which case, if the informant happened to be working both sides of the fence, the connection might prove embarrassing for Asmar. Or worse.
As Coleman had been at pains to point this out before taking on the DEA assignment, he could hardly disagree, but the risk had seemed acceptable at the time and he had taken particular care to underline his academic credentials whenever he met Hurley's people. And there seemed little doubt that the results had justified the risk. The Kabbara case in Italy, for one, had proved of particular interest to the DIA, for it showed that DEA Nicosia, in conjunction with the CIA, was in the habit of operating outside its law-enforcement brief.
Zouher Kabbara and his cousin Nadim Kabbara had been arrested at Rome airport with half a kilo of heroin about a month before Coleman arrived on Cyprus. After hearing the evidence, tht Tribunale Penale di Roma found that they had obtained the drugs from Hurley for the purpose of entrapping Italian nationals, among them Mario Cetera, the husband of joan Schumacher, American heiress to the Prentice Hall publishing fortune.
Cetera was subsequently cleared (only to die later in mysterious circumstances) but the real worry, for the DIA, was that the Italian court 31so found that the drug trafficking had been merely a cover, to justify payments to the Kabbaras as DEA informants. Their re31 function, it went on, was to assist the CIA in selling military equipment to Iraq through their Rome company, Kabbara International Export (KINEX).
KINEX quoted several telephone numbers on its letterhead, one of which (80 49 88) was assigned to the American Embassy in Rome, which paid the bills for it. A link was also established with APEXCO, a DEA front company in Larnaca, when Zouher Kabbara told the court that he could contact Hurley there as necessary by telex.
Donleavy was equally intrigued by the DEA's relationship with the Jafaars, bitter enemies of the pro-Syrian Kabbaras, but like them, hiding their CIA status behind their cover as DEA informants. He took Coleman several times through Sami Jafaar's part in the Fawaz Younis affair and the circumstances of Jafaar's subsequent posting to Switzerland for Operation Polar Cap, which was just getting under w3y as the debriefing took place. As with the Kabbaras in Rome, Jafaar's involvement in Polar Cap for the DEA masked a deeper CIA interest in hiding its role as 3n arms supplier to Iraq.
The DIA was also anxious to get its hands on Syrian George, who had gone to Switzerland with Polar Cap to sit on the wiretaps. As a Russian-trained former officer in the Syrian Army, he had seemed to Donleavy a potentially useful source of background military and political intelligence from the moment Coleman first reported in about him.
'But he belongs to Hurley " Coleman said. 'You could ask him, but he'll turn you down.'
'You mean, he won't talk to us?'
'No, I mean Hurley won't hand him over. He's too useful.'
'Then how are we going to get hold of him?'
'Well, that's no problem - if you're not worried about upsetting Hurley.'
Donleavy was so obviously unworried about upsetting Hurley that Coleman laughed.
'Fine,' he said. 'Hurley's always stringing him along, saying he'll get him a green card. If you give George a visa, he's yours. And once he's alone, what cann Hurley do about it?'
'Okay.' Donleavy looked at him thoughtfully'. 'Then we'll give him a visa'
'Well, you've got to do something this winter. And if you're going back to Cyprus next spring, you'll need a new cover.' He found the paper he was looking for in his briefcase. 'How does Director of the Office of Visiting International Scholars, University of Alabama, Birmingham, grab you?'
'Birmingham? My Mom'll like it.'
'Well, there you go. It's a good slot. Means you'll work with all kinds of academics from overseas -scientists, graduate scholars, professors. And who knows what you'll pick up? Maybe you can find a few sources for us. You know, people we can persuade to keep in touch after they go home? And maybe keep us posted with scientific and industrial data? Stuff like that?'
Coleman nodded ruefully, and Donleavy smiled.
'Anyway " he said, 'as director, you got the power to authorize J-1 visiting scholar visas - it goes with the job. So you'll give Syrian George one of those when you get back.'
'My pleasure. Can't wait to see Hurley's face.'
'Okay. But first you're in for a couple of months in Florida. There's something you can do for us down there.'
'You know, said Coleman, 'working for you guys is a real strain.'
He found himself on loan to the faculty of the National Intelligence Academy (NIA) in Fort Lauderdale as director of Video Operations. The NIA was housed on the premises of Technos International, a manufacturer of electronic surveillance equipment sold only to US government agencies and countries with special export clearances.
After setting up NARCOG's listening post in Larnaca, training the Cypriot police to use their UN-funded radio equipment, fitting out police boats and King Edmondo with satellite tracking gear and installing short-wave transmitters in Beirut and Larnaca for DEA intelligence traffic, Coleman had acquired something of a reputation in the area of advanced electronics. At the NIA until just before Christmas, he worked with Martin McDermott, on loan from the Irish police in Dublin, instructing mixed classes of us Army personnel, Federal agents and state law-enforcement officers in the latest audio and video surveillance techniques.
In setting up his assignment at the University of Alabama, Donleavy had assumed that Coleman would return to Cyprus with Mary-Claude and Sarah in February 1988, but analysing the personal histories of foreign scholars produced such interesting results that the DIA several times postponed his departure. Coleman had no objection. He felt it necessary in any case to establish himself on campus before leaving for Cyprus, in order to avoid arousing suspicion among his university colleagues, and to connect with the Fulbright Commission, which administered its scholarship programme through offices in American embassies overseas.
To further strengthen his cover, he also became a member of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors, and attended its conference in Washington, taking advantage of the opportunity to confer with Donleavy and DIA agent Neal Miller, who later took over as Control for Operation Shakespeare. It was only when Hurley called Coleman direct at the end of March 1988, telling him to get his ass over there in a week or he would find somebody else, that Donleavy agreed to release him.
There was too much going on at DEA Nicosia for Control to risk losing the back-channel reports the DIA needed to maintain its overview of American operations in the Middle East. Nor could it afford indefinitely to be without a direct, local link with Asmar's network, which was still using the agency's video equipment to keep track of the hostages in Beirut as well as monitoring the activities of DEA/CIA operatives.
Exactly one week later, on 5 April 1988, the Colemans arrived back in Nicosia, moving into an apartment just vacated by lbrahim EI-Jorr, the Lebanese-American DEA informant whom Coleman had met briefly the previous year and who was now to be his co-worker in Operation Dome, reassessing the Lebanese narcotics trade at the start of a new opium- growing season.
The scene of operations had also changed. Instead of working from home or at the DEA office, Coleman was given a desk at the Eurame Trading Company Ltd., a DEA/CIA 'front' newly set up by the Cypriot Police Narcotics Squad in a luxury three-bedroomed penthouse apartment down the street from the US Embassy. It gave him the creeps from the start.
Intended as a place where DEA and CIA agents could meet unobserved with informants and clients, as a message drop for CIA arms dealers supplying Iraq and the Afghan rebels, as a waiting room for DEA CIs and couriers from Lebanon, and as a transit point, not just for heroin, but for cash, documents and bootleg computer software moving to and fro along the Beirut-Nicosia-US pipeline, Eurame, as run by EI Jorr, was more like a low-life social club than a secret intelligence centre.
Officially, my job was to work with EI-Jorr on raw intelligence data supplied by DEA sources in Lebanon. I had to evaluate this stuff and sit on his case because he was always behind with everything. People would come over and be debriefed in the office. Then we'd draft reports, prepare maps, collect photographs, collate lists of growers and traffickers, plot their relationships, determine which illegal ports they were using and who they were paying off, make eight copies of everything and finally send it up the street to the embassy.
We were monitoring everybody, from the opium farmer in the Bekaa to the end-customer in Detroit or Los Angeles. The DEA's on-going, controlled deliveries were going right past the end of my desk. '\Y,1ho are these people, Ibrahim?' I'd ask him when the couriers came in, because I wanted him to introduce me. 'Mules,' he'd say. 'C:3rrying khouriah.'
As a place to observe what the DEA was up to in Nicosia, Coleman found the Eurame Trading Company ideal, but from his very first day on the job, he had an uncomfortable feeling that the same might be true for the opposition. Security was non-existent. All sorts of people, Cypriot and Lebanese, wandered in and out all the time, sometimes escorted, sometimes not, and although EI-Jorr seemed to know most of them, there were clearly some who had simply been told to drop in and introduce themselves.
When Coleman took this up with Hurley, he brushed it aside. 'Listen, if I could trust Ibrahim to handle this alone, you wouldn't be here,' he said flatly. 'He's a flake. But he knows all kinds of people over there and he's getting me what I need. So don't worry about it. It's your job to evaluate the stuff and keep him on the ball. If he gives you any problems, lemme know and I'll kick his ass.'
'It's not Ibrahim I'm worried about, Mike. I'm talking about security. You're getting all kinds of people in there, including some he doesn't even know. And that's bad. So what 1 think we ought to do is -'
'Yeah, yeah. I'll take care of it. You just concentrate on getting those reports out. I want you to milk that sonuvabitch.' There was little Coleman could do in the circumstances except fill out an IAP-66 authorization form for Syrian George and take him over to the embassy for a J-1 visa to admit him to the United States for a course of study at UAB.
The expression on Hurley's face when George told him the news was reward enough in itself, but there was an altogether different reaction from the DIA when Coleman reported in about EI-Jorr and his key role as the DEA CI fronting for Eurame.
You could feel the pillars shake at the Pentagon [he recalls]. I got back a two-word coded message. 'Watch him.' So I did. I arranged for Tony Asmar to send over Walid, one of our best Muslim assets, to track him day and night. And sure enough, he watched Ibrahim visit the Lebanese Embassy several times a week, an(l he photographed lbrahim's Dutch girlfriend meeting with a member of the PLO delegation in a side street near the Churchill hotel. Turned out later she was a Mossad agent, but even so ... What the hell was going on?
As Hurley obviously knew nothing about it, it began to look as if Ibrahim was working both sides of the street. When I reported this to Control, Donleavy told me to warn Hurley, who told me to mind my own business. I guess he was still mad at me about Syrian George. Anyway, when I saw he wasn't going to do anything about it, I figured it was up to me to make friends with Ibrahim and find out what he was doing.
The number of DEA-controlled deliveries of heroin down the pipeline to the United States had increased noticeably during the winter as a result of Fred Ganem's special knowledge of the Lebanese communities in Detroit, Houston and Los Angeles. Members of the Jafaar clan and other DEA couriers would arrive at Larnaca with suitcases full of high- grade heroin, white and crystal, and be met off the bo3t from the Christian-controlled port of Jounieh by officers of the Cypriot Police Narcotics Squad, who then drove them up to the Eurame office in Nicosia.
Greeted there by El-Jorr , they would gossip over coffee until summoned to the embassy to receive their instructions from Hurley. After that, the Cypriot police would take them out to the airport and put them on flights to Frankfurt, where the bag-switch routine used by 'legitimate' smugglers was employed to bypass the airport's security arrangements and load the 'dirty' suitcases on to trans-Atlantic flights.
On arrival in New York, Detroit, or points west, the DEA 'mules' would be met by DEA agents in the baggage claim area and escorted through Customs, the loads being kept under continuous surveillance until deals were struck and the heroin changed hands.
Hoping to enlist Coleman as an ally in his grievances against Hurley, which were many and various, EI Jorr lost no time in describing his own experiences during the Christmas holidays in a 'sting' operation against drug dealers in Southern California. Posing as a Lebanese cocaine buyer, he had flown to Los Angeles with a suitcase full of counterfeit US currency provided by DEA Nicosia and checked into a room booked for him by the DEA at the Sheraton Universal hotel.
Ten days later, when the agents moved in to round up their targets,El-Jorr checked out and returned to Cyprus, charging the hotel bill to his American Express card as instructed. But when he presented the bill to Hurley for reimbursement, Hurley refused to pay, insisting the DEA field office in Los Angeles should pick up the tab. And when El-Jorr sent the bill to them, they, too, refused to pay, claiming that most of the charges on it were unauthorized. Meanwhile, tired of waiting for its money, American Express cancelled his card.
It was a serious blow. El-Jjorr felt the loss as keenly as he would have mourned his cowboy boots or his 4 X 4 Chevy with the Texas plates - the card was a basic prop of his all-American image. When Coleman tried to console him, suggesting that the DEA had a reputation for screwing its informants, he was immediately overwhelmed with supporting case histories. Sometimes informants and subsources in Lebanon had to go for weeks without pay because of budget cuts and red tape, EI Jorr complained, citing names, chapter and verse. Then, when word got out that Hurley again had a drawerful of money to pay for information, everybody in Beirut would try to get in on the act, making things up if they had to. And who got squeezed? EI-Jorr, of course. And all the people who worked for him.
Coleman naturally lent a commiserative ear, and was soon able to provide Donleavy with a complete run-down on the DEA's network of informants in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley. Warmed by Coleman's sympathy, EI-Jorr made a point of introducing him to all the CIs and 'mules' who arrived at Eurame on their way back and forth along the pipeline, including him in the conversation as they brewed up endless cups of Lebanese coffee.
Among the informants he met in this way was a Lebanese Army officer known as 'The Captain', with close connections to the Jafaar clan. Sami Jafaar's nephew, Khalid Nazir Jafaar, was a subsource of his, and one of whom EI Jorr seemed particularly proud as he was the favourite grandson of the drug clan's patriarch, Moostafa Jafaar.
A strongly built, blue-eyed young man who had chosen to live with his father in Detroit rather than stay with his mother and grandfather in the Bekaa, Khalid Nazir was a regular commuter between Beirut and Detroit. In the two months Coleman spent at Eurame, he met him there three times, including one occasion when 'Nazzie' volunteered the information that he was on his way to Houston with a load.
When not debriefing EI Jorr's subsources and evaluating intelligence data to meet Hurley's insatiable appetite for maps and quadruplicate reports, Coleman kept track of the other uses to which the pipeline was put. He had first reported to Donleavy on the use of counterfeit money for DEA stings during the 1987 season, after Dany Habib had produced a sample from his desk drawer, but it was soon clear from what he observed at Eurame that this, too, had become standard operating procedure in his absence.
Working with the Secret Service station at the American Embassy in Athens, DEA Nicosia now regularly employed huge sums of counterfeit US currency to make drug buys in Europe, the US and Mexico. When Coleman looked into this, DIA assets in Lebanon reported that much of it was being printed there, with large numbers of genuine $1 bills being bleached to provide the right paper for phony $100 bills. Fakes of even better quality, however, were coming out of Iran, where forgers had the advantage of using presses sold originally to Shah Reza Pahlevi's government by the us Mint.
Most of the counterfeit currency used by the DEA was supplied by Monzer al-Kassar, who received no separate payment for this service as it was covered by his regular CIA stipend deposited to his credit at the Katherein Bank, Vienna (A/c No. 50307495) and at the Swiss Bank Corporation in Geneva (A/c No. 510230C-86). From Hurley's point of view, this was a vast improvement on the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo required to obtain cash for flash rolls and drug buys from DEA headquarters. After a successful sting, like EI- Jorr's in Los Angeles, the DEA agents would turn the counterfeit currency over to the Secret Service and both could claim credit for the seizure.
Thinking back, Coleman often wonders how many of Hurley's confidential informants in Lebanon were, in fact, paid with funny money.
The business of Eurame was not just drugs and cash, however.
During the previous summer, Coleman had acted as technical adviser to the Cypriot Police Force Narcotics Squad (CPFNS) and helped train its officers in the use of communications, surveillance and other electronic gear paid for by the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control (UNFDAC). On returning to Cyprus that spring, he found that the march of technology had continued in his absence and that all the CPFNS field offices had been hooked into a central computerized database installed by Link Systems, Ltd, a US government 'cut-out' company set up to carry out the contract for UNFDAC.
At CPFNS headquarters, he saw several of the officers he had worked with unpacking software from boxes marked PROMIS Ltd, Toronto, Canada. Sensing another Hurley enterprise that would interest Donleavy, Coleman poked around discreet1y and discovered that Eurame had supplied, or was in process of supplying, copies of this software to othcr national police and military forces in the region, including those of Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Turkey, Kuwait, Israel, Jordan, Iran and Iraq.
Puzzled as to why the DEA and CIA would choose to do this through a front operation in Nicosia rather than through official channels, Coleman duly reported all this activity to Control, but the response was so muted he could only conclude that the DIA knew about it already.
(Much later, he discovered that PROMIS had been developed for the US Department of Justice by Inslaw, Inc. of Washington, D.C., as an information system for law-enforcement agencies and government prosecutors with heavy workloads to keep track of their cases. The systems sold through Eurame, however, were bootleg copies, made without the knowledge of lnslaw, to which a 'backdoor' software routine had been added. No matter how securely the front door might be barred with entry (.~odes and passwords, American operators, holding the key to the secret back door, could break into the PROMIS systems operated by Cyprus, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Turkey, Kuwait, Israel, Jordan, Iran and Iraq whenever they wished, access the data stored there and get out again without arousing the slightest suspicion that the security of those systems had been breached - an incalculable advantage, not only in collecting and verifying intelligence data from those countries, but also in assessing the actual, as opposed to the professed, level of cooperation extended by their governments.)
Coleman had already transmitted to Control his first HOTSIT (hot situation report) to the effect that NARCOG and the Eurame operation, like everything else connected with DEA Nicosia, was coming unravelled. With Hurley's indifference to security, Coleman felt personally at risk.
It was open house [he recalls]. From first thing in the morning until we closed at night, there were people drifting in and out all the time.
We'd get Cypriot narcotics cops stopping by for a free cup of coffee or to make a call to their relatives in England on Uncle Sam's nickel. We'd get the day's batch of informants from Lebanon, picked up in Larnaca off the morning ferry. We'd get all kinds of weird people.
From Asmar's reports, I knew that some of them were into arms trafficking as well as dope and that meant they had to have close ties with Syrian-supported terrorist groups like the PFLP-GC.
It was crazy. With El-Jorr coming off the wall from working both sides of the street, it was only a matter of time before the whole operation came unglued. And I didn't want to be around when that happened. In the Middle East, you can get yourself killed that way. So what did Control advise? 'Communicate your concern to NARCOG Director Hurley.'
Coleman had already done that, but he tried again. At the embassy one day, he was talking to Fred Ganell when they were interrupted by a sudden commotion in the outer office. Moments later, an irate, gesticulating EI Jorr was ushered through to Hurley's inner sanctum by the long-suffering Connie, who pushed him in, closed the door and leaned against it, pretending to mop her brow.
Almost at once, the decibel level inside soared from an angry mumble to a full-blown shouting match.
'I can't do this any more,' yelled EI-Jorr. 'I can't. What you're asking is impossible.'
'Listen,' Hurley roared. 'You will do what I TELL you to do, WHEN I tell you to do it. I don't want to hear anymore of your SHIT, Ibrahim.'
'But no one will WORK for you anymore. What's the matter with you, Mike? Don't you understand what I'm saying? They're all fed up with this shit. You want us to work like dogs ... You want us to risk our lives, our families ... There's no money. You don't pay. How am I to pay my people?'
'That's YOUR problem,' bellowed Hurley. 'You get money. How do I know what you do with it?'
They went on in this vein for several minutes while Ganem, occasionally shaking his head in disgust, tried to continue his conversation with Coleman. Then EI Jorr wrenched open the door and, ignoring everybody, left as abruptly as he had arrived, muttering to himself.
Hurley followed him out, and caught sight of Coleman in Ganem's office.
'You hear that?' he said gloomily. 'Either he's on something or Ibrahim's blown his stack. You better watch that guy pretty close.'
Coleman nodded. Even as they spoke, Walid was probably following EI Jorr back to Eurame. 'I told you you had a problem there, Mike,' he said. 'Now you better do something about it, and fast. That place is wide open.'
Hurley bristled, but let it pass. 'Has he taken anything out of there?' he demanded. 'Any files?'
'How the hell should I know?' Coleman said. 'He's the one with the office key.'
'Well, I want you and Fred to go around to his house right now and bring back whatever he's got over there. Tell him we're putting all the files in one place, or some such shit. Tell him anything you like, but make sure the apartment's clean.'
'Okay. But you better watch him, Mike. Several people have told me he's been seen at the Lebanese Embassy .'
'Yeah?' Hurley looked at Coleman doubtfully. 'What do you think he's doing over there?'
'Hell, I don't know, Mike. Why don't you ask him?'
, And why don't you stick to what I pay you for?' he retorted irritably, heading back to his office. 'What are you - some kind of wise-ass?'
Hurley had not forgiven him for the loss of Syrian George, and he was still under heavy pressure from Washington to show results, but in general Coleman made sure they got along for the sake of his back-channel reports to MC/10 Control. At a time when DEA Nicosia was so frenetically overextended in so many sensitive areas, he needed to stay close to Hurley, and the key to that was to make himself useful.
For that reason, he volunteered to look after Ron Martz, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and his 'primary assistant', Lloyd Burchette, when they arrived in Nicosia at the invitation of the DEA to work on a series of reports about international drug trafficking. Coleman knew them already - they had been to see him at the University of Alabama while planning the trip - and so it was natural enough that he should now take on the chore of shepherding them around the island during their stay.
The DIA was also interested in their visit.
In October 1987, at the agency's request, Coleman had looked up his best man, Michael Franks, a.k.a. Schafer, who by then was back in the United States and running a military supply business called Minihawks in the Atlanta area. Soon after his call, they met for a meal at Shoney's Big Boy restaurant where Franks/Schafer introduced him to Burchette, who was then working from home as a one-man security service, and to Jack Terrell, a former operative of Oliver North's in Central America. Affectionately known in the group as 'Colonel Flako', Terrell had acquired his military training by reading army field manuals while imprisoned in Alabama State Penitentiary. All three, it turned out, were close friends of Ron Martz, and it was as a result of this meeting that Martz and Burchette visited Coleman at UAB to solicit his help with their Cyprus trip.
The DIA's interest in them sprang from their association with a Chinese arms dealer named David King, also known as David Loo Choy, who represented the People's Republic of China and had played a part in the North network's illegal supply of arms to the Nicaraguan Contras in association with Monzer al-Kassar.
Though Coleman found out nothing more about him from Franks/Schafer and his friends, he would remember his conversations with them later when, after the Lockerbie disaster, it emerged that US intelligence agencies had intercepted a series of telephone calls to the Iranian Embassy in Beirut from an arms dealer and presumed double agent by the name of David Lovejoy (Loo Choy?) advising the charge d'affaires of the movements of the American intelligence team who died on Flight 103. (He would also discover later that an alias for David Lovejoy was Michael Franks!)
Even after the scene with EI-Jorr, Hurley did nothing to tighten up on security for the NARCOG operation. Indeed, the last straw as far as Coleman was concerned was when Hurley took a group of his Lebanese CIs, whose identities he needed to protect at all costs, to lunch down the street at a cafe full of officials from the Bulgarian Embassy. ,
Coleman had had enough. On the morning of 18 May 1988, he hooked up his tape recorder to the telephone at Eurame and called Hurley at the embassy.
'The situation here is getting out of hand.'
'What do you mean?'
'Well, we've got people coming in and out of here like a train station. Pinko's people bringing in all sorts - I don't know who they are. Lebanese I know are close to the bad guys. Lebanese with names we have in the files, you know what I mean? We had an agreement. It really worries me that we are being exposed like this.'
As always, criticism made Hurley irritable. 'Let me worry about that,' he said. 'You just help Ibrahim get those reports out. I'll deal with the Cypriots. Who's over there now?'
'Just me and Ibrahim. Bitching and complaining as usual. Says he can't do this any more. Wants to quit. He's driving me nuts. Goddamn it, Mike, this isn't why I came back here.'
'You'll just have to do the best you can,' said Hurley.
'And what about protecting security? Me? Mary-Claude is in Lebanon.'
'That's your problem. I told you to come alone.'
'Wait a minute.' Coleman was taken aback. 'That was never our deal. We don't even have housing - remember our agreement?'
'That was last year. You know things have changed. Budgets ...'
'Nice of you to tell me after I get back, after I haul myself over here,' he said angrily. 'Your promises, phone calls to me at the university .... "Come on back," you said. So I took leave. Now this is a mess. Do you know who these Lebanese are up here?'
'Look, Coleman,' Hurley shouted. 'Don't fuck around with me. Just get those reports finished. Stay on Ibrahim's ass.' He breathed out heavily, and they were both silent for a moment. Then he said, almost apologetically: 'Keep an eye on him. Is he taking anything out of there?'
'How the hell should I know? He could be. I told you he's making regular visits to the Lebanese Embassy.'
'Yeah, we know about that.'
'Doesn't that bother you?' asked Coleman, walking around the desk to see if El-Jorr was eavesdropping, but he was still busy at the computer terminal in the next room. 'Who is this guy, Mike? Phony pictures in a US Army uniform. Running around in a Chevy Bronco with Texas licence plates - everyone has to know he's working for you. And that means they know I am, too. That was not our deal, Mike.'
'I'll worry about Ibrahim,' he said. 'just process the paper.'
'No, I don't like it. This is not what I bargained for. We're going home. I don't need this.' Coleman felt he was working himself up quite convincingly. 'Strange Lebanese walking through here. Crazy Ibrahim bouncing off the walls, appearing at the Lebanese Embassy, and you apparently don't give a damn. This operation is coming apart. The whole fucking island must know about Eurame. I feel exposed, and all you can say is, don't worry about it? Remember the PLO operation that suddenly appeared next door in Larnaca? Who found that? I did. Don't you give a shit about security?'
'This is a law-enforcement operation,' said Hurley, and Coleman was so astonished he took a moment to reply.
'Do you think people with several tons of TNT know the difference? Or care? Fuck it, Mike. I'm out of here.'
He looked up to see EI Jorr standing in the doorway, looking at the wire that connected the receiver to the tape recorder on his desk.
'Don't fuck with me, Coleman,' Hurley roared, finally losing all patience. 'You'll never work for the government again. The Cypriots are already on my ass about you.'
'You ran off last summer and didn't pay the bill at Filanta.'
'That was your bill, goddamn it. I got clearance from Fred to move. The apartment was sweltering. We never got the a/c you promised. All the gear was overheating. My family was suffering from the heat -'
'You forgot the rule, Coleman,' Hurley interrupted. 'Fred doesn't approve budgets. I do.'
'You were in the States,' he yelled, genuinely angry now. 'What were we supposed to do? Sit in that hot apartment? Lose the gear? Shut down completely until you got back from leave? That's a lot of crap, Mike. Look, I'm not one of your Lebanese or Cypriots or Iraqi CIs. You requested my services, remember? And I was told, if I didn't like it, I could pull out any time. You talk to whoever you went to to get me involved in this candy-assed operation. Tell 'em - or I'll tell 'em when I get back to the States - I'm pulling.
'This is a disaster waiting to happen,' he added, in a prophecy that would come back to haunt him. 'Even your own people think this is bullshit.'
'Don't fuck with me, Coleman.'
There was another brief silence. 'I'm not fucking with you, Mike,' he said tiredly. 'I'm just leaving.'
'Let me speak to lbrahim,' said Hurley.
Disconnecting the wire, Coleman pocketed the recorder, handed the receiver to EI-Jorr and walked out of the room.
A few minutes later, EI-Jorr brought him a cup of coffee. 'You really pissed him off,' he said. 'You can't do that. He'll ruin you.'
'What did he say?'
'He wanted to know if you taped the call.'
'So what did you tell him?'
'I said I didn't know.'
Coleman threw the last of his personal things into his briefcase.
'Tell him the truth,' he said.
He encoded a message to Control saying he had decided to abandon the DEA assignment and would await clearance for departure. He had no intention of leaving immediately. Mary-Claude was in Lebanon with Sarah having too good a time with her family for him to wish to cut it short. The DIA was in no hurry either. When Control acknowledged his message, he was told not to leave until he had retrieved the video equipment from Beirut.
But then, on 26 May, everything changed.
When he called Mary-Claude, he learned that Tony Asmar had been fatally injured in a bomb explosion at his office in Karantina.
Coleman's dismay was profound. The unremitting pressure of their role in the politics and violence of Lebanon's civil war had bonded them into a partnership that meant as much to him personally as professionally. For once in the treacherous business of intelligence gathering, the question of mutual trust had been answered on sight. From the start, they had worked together like brothers, with respect and affection, and Coleman's grief was in no way lightened by a suspicion that the killers might have fingered Asmar through him.
To this day, he blames the Drug Enforcement Administration for Asmar's death.
'I blame it on the fact that someone linked me with the US government,' he says. ' And they were able to do that because DEA Nicosia used the Eurame office as a waiting room for unscreened Lebanese coming in from Beirut. My exposure exposed Tony Asmar, and I believe that is why he was killed. I blame the DEA for that.'
The murder was also a heavy blow for American interests in the Middle East. Asmar's death virtually closed down MC/10's operations in Lebanon by breaking off contact with his agents in place. From then on, the US government was blind in its policy-making about the Beirut hostages, for example, because there were no longer any reliable day-to-day reports about their location and condition.
This may well have had a bearing on Washington's decision later in the year to send out the hostage intelligence team, headed by Major Charles McKee of the DIA, who died in the bombing of Flight 103. Indeed, the loss of the Asmar network's continuing surveillance of NARCOG's operations in Lebanon may well have had a bearing on the bombing itself.
After my warnings and reports, and then Tony's murder, [says Coleman] I assumed that somebody would have the CIA on the carpet and close NARCOG down. After all, the US had just lost one of its most valuable assets in the Middle East. Never even crossed my mind that Hurley would carry on like nothing had happened -that he'd keep Eurame open and go on using the pipeline.
After NARCOG's security was blown, that was madness. But knowing the DEA, the attitude was probably that the fucking military was being fucking paranoid as usual and to hell with them. And I guess the DIA felt, well, go up in flames if you must but keep away from us. We're going to pull our agent and leave you to it. Because as far as I can see, that's all that happened. And then seven months later, everybody's in a jam because 270 innocent people died at Lockerbie - and I'm odd man out.
For three days, while Asmar lingered on in a Beirut hospital, Coleman stayed in the apartment and slept with a gun under his pillow. On 28 May, the DIA video gear arrived from Lebanon, and on the 29th, he flew home alone with it, having been assured that Mary- Claude and Sarah would be protected until such time as they could join him in the States with Mary-Claude's sister Giselle. If Coleman was next on the hit list, they would in any case be safer travelling on their own.
Debriefed in fine detail by Donleavy and DIA agent Neal Miller, largely to see what could be done to patch up a new link with the Asmar network, Coleman was told to keep the video gear pending a resolution of 'this goddamn DEA fuck-up' and to take charge of Syrian George, who, as it happened, had arrived two days earlier on his J-1 visa and was staying at the International House on the University of Alabama campus.
To avoid giving the impression that he had been suckered into coming by US military intelligence, and any reluctance he might feel in consequence to talk freely, Coleman was told to take George home to the family lake house near Auburn, Alabama, and to set him up for questioning by saying that the FBI routinely interviewed all students from the Middle East. Suspecting nothing, Syrian George responded happily to his debriefing by DIA officers posing as FBI agents, and was afterwards turned over to Special Agent Robert Sleigh, of the FBI's C3 counter-intelligence section in Birmingham.
And that was it. When Coleman drove to Atlanta airport on 13June to meet Mary-Claude, Giselle and Sarah off the plane from Lebanon, he had a distinct suspicion that his usefulness as a DIA agent in the Middle East was at an end. And in September 1988, Donleavy seemed to confirm this by placing him on the 'inactive' list and arranging for him to rejoin the Boy Scouts of America as Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Chicago Area Council. ,
By then, the DIA had satisfied itself that Asmar's murder was the work of drug-trafficking elements in the Lebanese Forces, the ultra right-wing Christian faction whose secret war council complex was barely half a block from Asmar's office in Karantina. The Eli Hoobaka group, involved in the 1985 North/Contra/CBN arms deal, were prime suspects, and the likeliest motive, as Coleman had suspected all along, was that a DEA informant in the Lebanese Forces had identified him at Eurame as a friend of Asmar's.
If that was the case, it seemed unlikely that he would ever be able to return safely to the Middle East, but three months later, the DIA showed it still had plans for him.
Appalled by the Flight 103 disaster, perhaps more than most as a result of his recent experiences, but still entirely unaware of any possible connection between his Cyprus assignment and the bombing, Coleman appeared with Tom Brokaw on NBC's 'Nightly News' without realizing that, inactive or not, he was still expected to clear such engagements first with the DIA.
Although he had made it a condition of his NBC appearance that his whereabouts not be disclosed, Neal Miller called next day to say that he had taken over as his handler and to reprimand him for doing the broadcast without permission. For security reasons, he insisted that Coleman change his telephone number and arrange for a new mailing address.
Astonished he had not heard from Donleavy himself about Miller taking over, Coleman sometimes wondered afterwards, in exile, if Donleavy had been a code name for Matthew Kevin Gannon, one of the intelligence agents who had died with Major Charles McKee on Flight 103.
It would have been like Donleavy to try to clear up the Asmar mess himself. And besides the coincidence of his getting a new handler, without explanation, right after the disaster, Coleman could not help remembering the schoolboy password routine he had been given on joining the DIA.
'I'm a friend of Bill Donleavy's ...' his contacts were supposed to say. 'His friends call him Kevin ...'
In the end, he decided that, too, was just a coincidence. Gannon's reported age was thirty-four. If he were Donleavy, he would have had to have been at least ten years older than that to have served in Vietnam.
At any rate, Coleman soon realized that Miller's fears for his safety were well-founded. Immediately after the NBC broadcast, his mother received a series of calls on her unlisted telephone number threatening his life and the safety of Mary-Claude's family in Beirut.
After she changed the number, Coleman himself began to get similar calls at the apartment he had taken for the family in Palatine, a commuter train ride from the Boy Scouts' office on Lake Street, Chicago, although these, too, stopped after he took the DIA's advice and obtained an unlisted number. As his new Control explained, the faction of the Lebanese Forces involved in the aborted Contra arms-for-drugs deal in 1985 were known to have members who were DEA CIs, and they were probably tracking him through credit reports, listing his current address, employer and so forth, obtained through Bank Audi, a Beirut bank with a branch in New York.
With Mary-Claude pregnant again, that was worrying. It was one thing to suspect that he might be on a terrorist hit list, and quite another to realize that Asmar's killers knew where he was. The idea of being sent out again to the Middle East lost what little charm it had left.
Knowing what I do now [he says], I think the DIA was looking for a way to get me back to Beirut to salvage what it could from the Asmar wreck. But what I didn't know, and what Control probably didn't know either, was that by then the DEA, as well as the terrorists, was gunning for me.
You can see how it must have looked. I'd pulled out of NARCOG after a blazing row with Hurley. I'd turned up on NBC talking about Middle East narco-terrorism right after Flight 103 crashed. And now, in January and February 1989, Pan Am investigators start poking around in Frankfurt and Nicosia. I guess at that point DEA assumed I had jumped the reservation and was feeding information to Pan Am. But the fact is, at that point, I didn't even know I had any information to feed anybody. And even if I had known, as a DIA agent the only person I would have told was Control.
With a new mailing address and telephone number, the Colemans tried to get on with their lives. Mary-Claude still found it difficult to match the popular image of America with her experience of it. Living there undermined her self-confidence. The sheer scale of the country, its unpredictability, its generally unstructured attitude to life seemed to call everything she knew into question, turning her inward to the family for security and, for a social life, to other Lebanese who shared her sense of exile.
Being pregnant again helped in the first respect. When Coleman took her to the hospital for a routine scan, he said jocularly:
'What is it? Twins?'
'How did you know?' asked the obstetrician.
Breaking the three-generational run of Lester Knox Colemans, his sons, Joshua and Chad, were born on 16 September 1989, at about the same time as the DIA decided to dust him off for his next assignment.
Now experiencing at first hand with the Boy Scouts of America the role of 'spook-in- residence' that he had observed at a distance during his earlier incarnation as a BSA executive, Coleman was engaged mainly in recruiting local captains of industry as sponsors and committee chairmen. But whereas before he had seen scouting as a gateway of opportunity to the big time, 20 years on, the movement seemed narrow and provincial somehow, more concerned with preserving an America that was fast slipping away, if it had ever truly existed, than with helping to shape the country's youth to face an uncertain future.
Distracted also by his own uncertain future, he began to spend less time on Lake Street and more on getting back into journalism. If the Lebanese Forces were seriously gunning for him, there was nowhere to hide in any case. And if he surfaced again in the public eye, maybe the DIA would lose interest and decide to retire him permanently. He started to write a regular column for a Chicago weekly newspaper, and embarked on a series of radio interviews, talking about Syria's occupation of Lebanon and its involvement in narco-terrorism.
'After years in investigative reporting, years of exposing deceit, and then, from 1984 to 1990, years of creating it, I was fried,' he remembers. 'All I wanted to do at that point was change direction. I wanted to put all that two-faced stuff behind us and settle down with Mary-Claude to live a half-way normal life. I let it be known I wasn't really interested in going out again, and hoped they'd get the message - that I was finished with it.'
But in New Orleans, he took part in a radio programme with Joe Boohaker, an attorney from Birmingham, Alabama, and the driving force behind the National Alliance of Lebanese Americans (NALA), a group determined to resist the drift of the Bush administration towards rapprochement with Syria.
Sharing Coleman's opinion of President Hafez Assad as the evil genius of state-sponsored terrorism, NALA had been formed to press for the withdrawal of Syrian and Israeli troops from Lebanon and for the restoration of democracy under the aegis of General Michel Aoun, who, in September 1988, had been appointed head of an interim military government in Beirut by outgoing President Amin Gemayel.
An austere Maronite Christian who commanded the loyalty of both Christian and Muslim brigades in the US-trained and equipped Lebanese Army, Aoun had many friends in the Pentagon but none in the State Department, which saw his ambition to let the Lebanese choose their own government without foreign interference as a threat to America's interests.
The fact that Aoun's position also commanded wide popular support among Lebanese otherwise determined to kill one another on sight merely reinforced his reputation in Washington as a troublemaker. And the Bush administration was confirmed in this judgment when, after it had refused to recognize his military government, Aoun turned to Iraq for help against the Syrians and the ultra-right Christian militias. As far as the State Department was concerned, Aoun was now clearly an obstacle to a satisfactory peace settlement in Lebanon - satisfactory, that is, to the United States, Israel and Syria.
Finding they had much in common, Coleman and Boohaker arranged to meet after the broadcast, and their subsequent friendship would doubtless have flourished anyway, even if the DIA had not pulled Coleman's string in the autumn of 1989 and instructed him to cultivate the connection.
The agency now wanted him back in Lebanon for two reasons. The first, and hardest to resist, was that Charles Frezeli, another MC/10 agent, had just been assassinated in Beirut, leaving three others cut off from contact who had to be brought out before they, too, were killed or induced to talk.
The second reason, strategically more important, was that the Pentagon wanted a closer look at what was going on between Aoun and Saddam Hussein. There were signs that Iraq was withdrawing the military support it had sent in to bolster the Lebanese Army against the Syrians, and the reasons for this could be established more discreetly in Beirut than in Baghdad.
In November 1989, Coleman reluctantly agreed to resign his commission with the Boy Scouts of America, giving as his reason that he was returning to journalism with a job in Germany. To flesh out the story, the DIA provided him with a German mailing address, Postfach 1151, Geilhausen 6460, from which all correspondence, including anything from the DIA, would be readdressed to Coleman's maildrop in Barrington, Illinois.
The next move, planned at a series of meetings with Control at the Washington Court hotel in Washington, D.C., was to use the Boohaker connection to worm his way into the heart of General Aoun's constituency in the United States as a stepping stone to the general himself.
Boohaker's NALA was one of several groups affiliated to the national Council of Lebanese-American Organizations (CLAO) headed by Joseph Esseff, of Los Angeles, California, whose wife Pat and brother, Monsignor John Esseff, ran the CLAO's associated relief operation, Mission to Lebanon. A Roman Catholic priest who had been in charge of the church's Beirut aid mission to orphans and refugees in the Middle East while Coleman was out there, Msgr Esseff had returned to the US to become director of the Pontifical Mission Aid Societies, responsible for Catholic aid and refugee work globally.
In January 1990, Boohaker introduced Coleman to the Esseffs in California, and at Joe Esseff's suggestion, Coleman took on the job of freelance public relations adviser and lobbyist for the CLAO. In this capacity, he attended meetings around the country to organize opposition to American attempts to remove Aoun from office in favour of a new Syrian-backed president, and later that month conferred in New York with Dr Muhallad Mugraby, Aoun's envoy to the United Nations, and the consul general for Lebanon, Victor Bitar.
Present at that meeting was Walid Maroni, officially an Iraqi member of the UN press corps, who told them that his government was prepared to support the CLAO financially as well as in other ways. Afterwards, Coleman urged his new colleagues to reject this poisoned chalice, but only the Esseffs heeded his advice. Unable to carry the rest of the council with him, Joe Esseff would later resign the chairmanship of the CLAO in disgust, but meanwhile, on 3 March, he took Coleman to Paris to introduce him to Aoun's senior advisers.
At 32 Rue St Honore, they met with Raymond Eddi, a distinguished Lebanese parliamentarian in exile, and Marcel Boutros, Aoun's personal envoy, who invited Coleman to meet the general himself at the presidential palace in Baabda. When Coleman encoded a message to this effect to Control, he was instructed to conclude the arrangements at once, if possible before he left. He was then to return home at once via Montreal, using his Thomas Leavy identity on re-entering the United States so as to avoid any tell-tale entry stamp in his passport.
On 9 March, Coleman received a detailed encrypted message from Control setting up Operation Shakespeare, clearing his visit to Lebanon and instructing him to carry out the mission as Thomas Leavy, of Westinghouse Group W News.
The reason for this was that his real name was probably known to the Syrian forces controlling Beirut airport, and certainly to the pro-Syrian Christian Lebanese Forces under Shamir Geagea who controlled the port of Jounieh and had already threatened his life after the NBC broadcast.
Coleman was to proceed to Israel, cross into Lebanon, escorted by the Israeli-backed South Lebanese Army, and from there drive to Baabda under the protection of pro-Aoun elements in the Druze faction. Satisfied that these arrangements were as safe as any in the circumstances, Coleman decided to beef up his cover by inviting Peter Arnett, Cable News Network's correspondent in Jerusalem, to join him in interviewing the general - without, of course, revealing his identity as an intelligence agent or even suggesting that there might be a hidden motive for the visit.
On 16 March, Coleman was summoned to Washington for a final briefing and to complete his Thomas Leavy documentation. After an overnight stay at the Washington Court hotel (at the government rate as the reservation had been made by the Pentagon), he obtained a Washington driver's licence in the name of Leavy and was given a Social Security card (no. 326-84-2972) in the same name.
He remembers asking Control why he was not also given a Thomas Leavy passport, and being told that, as there was enough time for him to go through normal channels to get one, a legitimate passport was always a safer bet. Like the birth certificate, it would come in handy for future missions.
'If I survive this one,' he said, still uneasy about it, and Control had laughed dutifully.
Funds for Operation Shakespeare had been paid into Barclays Bank, Gibraltar, he said - Account No. 35078565 - and when the mission was over, the Colemans were to establish residence in Spain. The Koldon Moving and Storage Company should therefore ship their household and personal effects to Eglin Airforce Base in Florida, after which the Pentagon would take care of their delivery to a US base near Cadiz. As soon as the passport came through, Coleman should wait for the first convenient lull in the fighting in Beirut and then leave immediately. General Aoun was then engaged with the Syrians on the one hand and Shamir Geagea's Christian Lebanese Forces on the other.
On 26 March, back in Chicago, Coleman applied for a US passport in the name of Thomas J. Leavy, using the birth certificate given him by the CIA in 1982 and the documents issued in Washington. He then took the family south to Alabama for a short vacation before they all left the country. It had been agreed that Mary-Claude and the children would make their way independently to Spain, and wait for him to join them there.
On 12 April, Coleman went over to the courthouse in Jefferson County, Alabama, and for a $5 fee, legally changed his name to Thomas Leavy. He did this on the advice of his father, who shared his misgivings about travelling on a passport in that name. If anything happened to him during the mission, Coleman was worried there might be a problem in claiming on life insurance policies taken out in his real name. To make certain Mary-Claude and the children would have enough money to live on if any such problem arose, he took out some short-term life insurance in the name of Thomas Leavy.
But on 2 May, three armed FBI agents took Coleman into custody for 'wilfully and knowingly making a false statement in an application for a passport', and threw him into Mobile City jail.