The envelope, please:


April 2000

"Colonel Cocaine"

US 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 drug prohibition.

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 more.

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 steep fines.

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

"Accusations against wife of ex-official"

Entire Text:

"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."



What happened next?

-- 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 operation.

-- 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 reports:

"According 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?

The Post continues:

"Federal sentencing 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 on probation."

"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 for Narco-of-the-Month:

Next Narco of the Month Award: May 15, 2000

Cinco de Mayo: Update on Colonel Cocaine. Click here.