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June 14, 2001

Narco News 2001




Defend Narco News

"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."

- Peter Gorman

Iquitos, Peru Correspondent

June 14, 2001

An Open Letter To Narco News Readers from Peter Gorman:

I've 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.

One 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.

And 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.

Here's 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 ovaries).

Al Giordano has guts. Just ask Sean in Iquitos.

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 New York.

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 by credit card at:

You keep Al floating, and keep his legal defense fighting, and he'll keep rocking the boat.


Peter Gorman

Info on July 20th Court Hearing on...

Narco News Defense Dept. Page

Ready or Not...