The envelope, please:
Army Colonel James Hiett
For those who believe
that the US government is sincerely fighting against drugs in
Colombia and other Latin American lands, the story of Col. James
Hiett, 48, and his wife Laurie, 36, reveals the sad truth of US
The following facts are
from the Associated Press and Washington Post stories
published in April 2000 on the Hiett case.
Colonel James Hiett was
stationed at the US Embassy in Colombia. There, he was the commander of 200 US military advisors and "anti-drug"
agents: the Embassy's drug czar.
His wife, Laurie, has
already pled guilty to smuggling $700,000 US dollars worth of
heroin -- she was so, ahem, confused that she thought
it was cocaine -- from Colómbia into the United States.
One report says she used "diplomatic pouches" from
the US Embassy to evade inspection by Customs Officials. On April
17, as Narco News goes to press, Colonel Hiett was scheduled
to plead guilty to his involvement in the case.
The Hiett file reveals
evidence of the following crimes:
-- Hiett personally stored
and hid at least $45,000 US dollars from the cocaine smuggling
operation in the US Embassy safe!
-- Hiett laundered that
money by depositing it in small amounts in different bank accounts
to avoid the scrutiny that comes with deposits of $10,000 or
Any average US citizen
trafficking that volume of illegal drugs and money would likely
recieve a mandatory sentence of 15 years in federal prison and
So how did the US government
and armed forces respond to these crimes? First, they denied
his guilt. Then, when it couldn't be avoided, they slapped him
on the wrist.
-- When Mrs. Hiett was
caught red-handed smuggling cocaine, they insisted that her husband
-- the highest ranking anti-drug officer in the US Embassy in
Colombia -- knew nothing about it. Here's all the Embassy's press
office would say about it, according to its own web site:
Official Statement from
the US Embassy in Colombia_______________August 6, 1999
against wife of ex-official"
"The case of the
wife of an official of this Embassy allegedly involved in sending
drugs from this country is currently in the hands of the legal
authorities of the United States. The person in question left
the country a few months ago. There are thoughtful considerations
in the privacy law that do not permit this diplomatic mission
to comment about judicial cases while they are under process."
-- Then they transfered
Colonel Cocaine -- not to a prison cell -- but to the military
base at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, where he was allowed
to remain on active duty.
-- The US Army's Criminal
Investigation Division cleared the Colonel of all charges, saying
he had "no prior knowledge" of Mrs. Hiett's drug smuggling
-- Then, when US prosecutors
learned from other defendants in the conspiracy that the Colonel
was indeed involved in the money end of the operation, they let
him plead guilty to a lesser charge.
The Washington Post
to the government documents filed in federal court for the Eastern
District of New York in Brooklyn, Hiett will plead guilty on
April 17 to a crime called misprision of a felony - that is,
not reporting what he knew of his wife's illegal activities.
Both Hietts have insisted he told his wife he did not want to
know where the money came from, and Col. Hiett - who earlier
had been cleared by Army investigators of any involvement in
his wife's crimes - is not charged with drug smuggling.
Any normal US
citizen using the excuse that "he did not want to know where
the money came from" would have been prosecuted and convicted,
at least, of conspiracy to traffic drugs. If Coronel Cocaine
was so innocent, then why did he launder the funds through small
deposits and money orders?
guidelines set the penalty for knowledge and concealment of a
felony at no more than three years in prison and a possible fine
of up to $500. Sources said the plea agreement with Hiett would
likely lead to a sentence of no more than 18 months, to be served
"At the time of
his wife's smuggling, Hiett was in charge of the estimated 200
U.S. troops in Colombia training security forces for counter-drug
operations and protecting three large radar bases used primarily
to track drug flights. He asked to be reassigned after his wife's
arrest and was transferred to the Army's Training and Doctrine
Command at Fort Monroe, Va., where he remains on active duty.
He is scheduled to retire in November."
In sum, Colonel Cocaine got away
with the crime
without serving a day in jail and pays only a $500 fine after
he and his wife enriched themselves by at least $700,000 US dollars.
Why would US
officials let him get away with it? As commander of the US military
and anti-drug forces in Colombia, Colonel Hiett knows too much about the institutional corruption among
US officials there. His receipt of no prison time and a very small
fine amounts to the equivalent of legal hush money: He is being
rewarded for not blowing the whistle on the larger conspiracy,
and for not turning in his superiors.
For this level
of impunity and arrogance, and for getting away with the crime,
Narco News awards Colonel James Hiett the first Narco-of-the-Month
award, a shining example of the hypocrisy and farse of the US-imposed
drug war in Latin America and throughout the world.
Send your nominations
Next Narco of the Month Award:
May 15, 2000
Cinco de Mayo: Update on Colonel
Cocaine. Click here.