June 14, 2001
Narco News 2001
GUMP'S DEADLINE IS TOMORROW, JUNE 15, TO RESPOND TO NARCO NEWS'
MOTIONS TO DISMISS BANAMEX CASE
WAR ON TRIAL HEARING SET FOR JULY 20th IN NYC
"Sean launched into a story about how Al had helped put his
boss, a regional DEA chief who trafficked cocaine, behind bars.
Sean also said Al had called him 'The dirtiest DEA agent in the
US' on his radio show - a claim Sean said was off base. But instead
of being angry at Al, Sean had the utmost respect for him."
June 14, 2001
An Open Letter To Narco News Readers from
known and respected Al Giordano and
his work for several years. I was working at HIGH TIMES magazine
and he was up at the Boston Phoenix and I'd get copies of some
of the stories he'd written. I think we finally met at either
a NORML or Drug Policy Foundation conference in Washington, DC,
about ten years ago, and since the beat we covered, the War on
Drugs, was the same, we stayed in touch periodically.
Then, some years ago, I moved my family
from New York to Iquitos, Peru, for a break from the grind. While
there I heard that Al had also taken a break, heading down to
Chiapas to cover the indigenous-rights fight there.
Soon after I moved, I opened a bar, The
Cold Beer Blues Bar, right across the street from the oldest
port on the Amazon. Now I'd been traveling in the Amazon annually
for more than a 15 years by that time, and Iquitos was a second
home to me. More than that, my wife was from Iquitos, so heading
there was a natural.
Opening the bar was my way of opting out
of the Drug War for a while, to charge my batteries. Of course,
with Iquitos the number one transit point for Peru's coca base
en route to Colombia's finishing labs, I couldn't quite escape
it. And being across the street from a port where tons of coca
base was being moved monthly, the US soldiers and DEA stationed
there made a point of coming into my place to keep an eye on
who was doing what.
day a new DEA agent came in. His name
was Sean. A great big guy with Marlboro Man looks. He came in
with my friend Tim, another DEA guy and asked for a beer. In
an accent purely Boston, Sean asked Tim if I was the guy. I interrupted
and asked "What guy?"
"The guy who knows Al."
"I know a lot of Als."
"Al Giordano! Who else?"
I laughed and said sure and Sean launched
into a story about how Al had helped put his boss, a regional
DEA chief who trafficked cocaine, behind bars. Sean also said
Al had called him 'The dirtiest DEA agent in the US' on his radio
show - a claim Sean said was off base. But instead of being angry
at Al, Sean had the utmost respect for him. He said Al was the
only journalist in Massachusetts who had the guts to not only
go after dirty DEA agents, but had the guts to go after the mob.
And from what I understand he'd gotten a few of them.
A compliment from your political enemy
on the quality of your political work is a rare thing, and my
respect for Al's work, already there, increased exponentially.
Hell, if the DEA agent you tried to put
in jail says you've got balls, you got 'em.
And Al does. He quit his radio and newspaper
gigs, shipped himself off to Mexico with very little money and
learned Spanish to understand the conflict there.
About five years ago, during a trip to
the States, I ran into Al at the HT office. He had a manifesto
he wanted published. I explained I was no longer a guy who could
publish what he wanted at the mag - two years away had made them
leery of me, and my old position had been filled, so I really
couldn't help. I'm sure Al went away pissed-off.
And then about a year ago, somebody sent
me a story about Chiapas with a link that led me to the Narco
News website, Al's then-new project. The story came from the
Mexican newspaper Por Esto!, and dealt with Roberto Hernandez,
owner of the Mexican bank Banamex, and allegations of cocaine
dealing on his property. I wondered why I didn't know the story.
I looked through more of the site: there were a number of things
there I'd missed, some of them because I'd been away, but some
of them simply because the US press didn't bother to cover them.
Instantly the site seemed like a brilliant idea - one I was jealous
I hadn't conceived. I wondered if he'd have the backing and guts
to keep printing translations like the Por Esto! story. Well,
it turns out he did.
I still don't know how he keeps the site
afloat, since he won't take advertising, and he's probably living
on tortillas and frijoles, but that hasn't stopped Al from making
the Narco News Bulletin perhaps the single most vital Latin American
Drug-War-news resource on the planet.
when I've had the opportunity I've
contributed stories to Narco News that most places in the US,
outside of HIGH TIMES, wouldn't touch - not because they're not
true, but because corporate journalism doesn't allow poking too
deeply into corporate interests. It simply doesn't pay for them
to stir the muck from the hand that's feeding them. But Al doesn't
care. More folks read Narco News than many commercial periodicals.
Al's Narco News Bulletin has become indispensable.
And so of course, it has to go. The man
leading the charge is Roberto Hernandez, the same man Por Esto!
accused as a major cocaine dealer, the same man Al, doing a parallel
investigation, wrote similar things about in the Boston Phoenix.
The same man who just sold Banamex to Citibank, preferred bank
for money launderers throughout the western hemisphere.
Hernandez has filed suit, through Banamex,
against Por Esto!'s editor Mario Menendez, the Narco News Bulletin,
and Al Giordano. He's alleging that the allegations that have
been made about him have hindered his bank's ability to do business
- the business, we've all recently discovered, being to sell
the bank to Citibank, which has enough scandals without buying
a banker soiled by more. The thing is, Hernandez has brought
essentially the same suit against Por Esto!, its reporters, editors
and photographers, twice in Mexico thus far. Both times it was
tossed out as without merit since the allegations about the drug
dealing on his property and his money laundering were found to
be legitimate, and therefore not libelous. So now he's filed
the suit again, this time in New York and this time adding the
Narco News Bulletin and Al Giordano to it.
Hernandez, through Banamex, isn't after
money. He knows that neither Por Esto! nor Al have enough between
them to buy him lunch. What he wants is to do is shut them down.
He's miffed at being exposed and so he wants to curtail the free
speech that exposed him. He filed as Banamex but he represents
much more than that. He represents all the dirty banks and politicians
and dirty wars that Al and Por Esto! and myself and the other
journalists fighting to end the War on Drugs plan to expose in
the years to come. He won't win in court, but he doesn't need
to. He plans on bleeding Por Esto! and Al dry with court costs.
He's hired Akin Gump, one of Washington, DC's biggest lobbying
groups, to represent him.
Mario Menendez of Por Esto! Is being represented
by attorney Martin Garbus, who has won 21 free speech cases before
the U.S. Supreme Court. Narco News is being represented by Tom
Lesser, the anti-nuclear movement's most successful legal defender
and, with Narco News co-counsel Leonard Weinglass, who successfully
put the CIA on Trial in 1986 with presidential daughter Amy Carter
and Al's longtime mentor, Abbie Hoffman.
the catch: Al Giordano is being represented
by Al Giordano. It's not a job Al relishes, but one he's forced
to take because of the exorbitant costs. As you know, Al's been
out there raising money not for himself or even for his own defense,
but for that of Narco News, in which there are super-technical
Internet freedom issues at stake. Once again, Al has put the
cause before himself.
And the costs are exorbitant, even with
the lawyers involved working for considerably less than they
normally would. Courtroom transcriptions, travel expenses and
a host of other concerns add up in this kind of suit to hundreds
of thousands of dollars if it goes to trial. If I had it, I'd
give it all. The War to end the War on Drugs is one of the good
fights to be involved with.
Those of us in the middle of it know how
entrenched it is in every level of society, particularly at the
top, with the big money boys and big money politicians and how
difficult it is to root all that rotting flesh out of the body
of humanity. We watch as Plan Colombia, which has no interest
in eliminating cocaine from the world market, has already cost
the lives of hundreds, even before it begins. We watch our friends
going to jail just to keep a politician's prison-builder friend
in business. We see what happens to inner cities when governments
make deals with the devil for the sake of expediency. And now
we're watching one of the big boys squirm. Squirm and try to
undermine free speech. To fight him you got to have balls (or
Al Giordano has guts. Just ask Sean in
Help keep him going. Twenty bucks, fifty
bucks, a Grand
Make the check out to "Drug War on
Trial" and send it to the address below. Whatever you can
muster in the name of free speech, Al and Narco News need it
now, for travel and expenses related to his next court date in
The legal clock begins to tick very fast
now. Tomorrow, on June 15th, the Banamex attorneys must respond
to the motions to dismiss filed by Narco News (they are posted
on the web site), and then Al and the Narco News attorneys have
only a few weeks to finalize their memoranda to the Court in
time for the live hearing on July 20th in New York.
You won't be surprised when I tell you
that Al, giving his all to this fight - your fight and mine -
doesn't even have a plane ticket to get to his own hearing in
New York. He's been keeping the legal fight and the Narco News
Bulletin afloat all at once. I've made him promise to use part
of the next round of contributions to transport himself to the
court hearing. Let's get Al to New York, and make sure that Narco
News and he are able to mount the most effective defense at this
crucial moment in the lawsuit.
Send your checks, made out to "Drug
War on Trial," to:
Drug War on Trial
c/o Attorney Tom Lesser
Lesser, Newman, Souweine & Nasser
39 Main Street
Northampton, MA 01060
Or make a contribution to Drug War on
Trial (on the form, send the contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org)
by credit card at:
You keep Al floating, and keep his legal
defense fighting, and he'll keep rocking the boat.
Info on July 20th
Court Hearing on...