This Sunday on 60 Minutes:
(Copyright 2000, CBS News, 60 Minutes program) The sight of a "beautiful" one-pound brick of cocaine not only rekindled her addiction but led her to smuggle drugs, even while her Army colonel husband fought America's war on drugs in Colombia, Laurie Hiett tells Mike Wallace. Hiett, the wife of Col. James Hiett, the former head of the U.S. drug-fighting effort in Colombia, describes her descent into disgrace in her first interview, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes on May 7.
A few months after the Army posted them to Colombia, Hiett says, an inquiry to her driver about cocaine resulted in him getting her much more of the drug than she had ever seen. "I had this one-poundof pure cocaine underneath my Jacuzzi and it was never ending," she recalls. "I was just doing it and doing it...it was making me crazy...it was so beautiful."
She soon realized the drug might kill her, so she decided to give it to friends in the U.S. "When you're an addict, you can't throw it out," she tells Wallace. She flew back to the U.S. with the cocaine brick in her bag, made it through customs, and was able to give it to a friend. When her Colombian driver heard about the risk she took, he offered a less risky way to move drugs to the U.S. that could be lucrative. Hiett saw gold at the end of the rainbow. "We could get rich. [The driver] could build a house and I could pay bills," she says. "I had a lot of credit card bills that were never...ending," she tells Wallace.
She and the driver smuggled heroin and cocaine using the U.S. Embassy pouch from Bogota, which became U.S. mail in Miami. Hiett says she made $40,000 before getting caught. But, she said, the whole operation should never have started because the Army knew better than to send her, a drug addict, to cocaine country.
"There's documentation in the military computer system that...I was a drug addict and manic depressive," she tells Wallace, referring to her rehabilitation in an Army hospital. The Army relied only on her husband saying she was clean and could be trusted when they posted them to Colombia, Hiett said. "[My husband said] what all good husbands who love their wives would say," says Hiett, "'She's fine. She can do it.'" Hiett added that she was not asked to take a drug test.
Facing several years in jail for drug smuggling, Hiett acknowledged the embarrassment she caused the U.S. "[I feel] ashamed and I am sorry to [the U.S.]. I am sorry every day," she tells Wallace. But the Army should be sorry, too, for allowing a drug addict to live in Colombia, she says. "It's ironic. It's almost silly," she tells Wallace.