Colonel James Atwood had a long career as a CIA asset who could get weapons and just about anything else. It appears he was assassinated by the old boy CIA network after it was found out that he talked too much, specifically about an alleged deal involving him and the CIA's James Critchfield (visitor Le Cercle) selling atomic shells to Pakistan. Most other details mentioned here about Critchfield have become known after his death in 2003, but not this specific deal.
The discussions are between former CIA assistant deputy director of operations Robert T. Crowley, a director of the AFIO in the 1980, and the peculiar and enigmatic Gregory Douglas, who allegedly recorded the phone conversation between him and Crowley.
December 31, 1987 | L.A. Times |
It began as a shipload of weapons for the Nicaraguan Contras, secretly bought in a dark corner of the international arms bazaar from a notorious Mideast terrorist by private agents of White House aide Oliver L. North.
But when the cargo of Polish rifles and grenades and Portuguese land mines finally slipped into a CIA arsenal late last year, it had become part of a "highly unusual" scheme to generate a multimillion-dollar surplus for companies secretly owned by the CIA, sources have told The Times.
The disclosures show that the agency bypassed its normal accounting safeguards in September, 1986, to finance a hastily arranged $2.2-million purchase of weapons from North's private-sector associates, Richard V. Secord, Albert A. Hakim and Thomas Clines. ...
The financial details of the deal, uncovered this fall by Iran-Contra investigators but not previously made public, were compared by one official close to the probe to an organized crime money-laundering scheme. ...
The case provided federal investigators with a rare and troubling glimpse of the CIA's covert weapons procurement operation, a netherworld of dummy companies, secret bank drafts and anonymous arms buyers that spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually to supply U.S.-backed guerrilla wars worldwide. ...
One of those [involved] was with retired Army Col. James P. Atwood of Savannah, Ga., who successfully brokered the CIA purchase from the Enterprise after another middleman's effort had failed. At the time, investigators discovered, Atwood was helping set up a private arms business for the son of a CIA covert procurement official who approved the deal.
Moreover, a series of congressional depositions of CIA employees and others revealed that Atwood had curried favor with CIA covert procurement officials in the past with personal gifts varying from watches and buckets of shrimp to rare chrome-barreled Chinese AK-47 rifles.
Atwood, who was granted immunity to give sworn testimony to congressional investigators, ultimately received $180,000 and 3 million rounds of ammunition as apparent commissions for the transaction. He refused to be interviewed by The Times.
The latest disclosures also renew lingering questions about why the agency bought the arms in the first place.
As previously reported by The Times, North's Enterprise bought the weapons with $2.2 million in proceeds from secret sales of arms to Iran.
The purchase of the Polish rifles and grenades was arranged through Manzer Kassar, a European-based arms smuggler to the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Administration officials identify Kassar as a known associate of Abu Nidal, the architect of the 1985 Christmas massacres in airports in Rome and Vienna, among other notorious attacks.
But in the summer of 1986, Kassar, with an apparent gray-market monopoly on Polish-made arms, was selling to North, one of America's most ardent anti-terrorists, and his agents. At the time, with a congressional ban preventing direct U.S. military aid to the Nicaraguan rebels, the Enterprise intended to sell the weapons to the Contras.
So sure of success were the Enterprise's private partners--Secord, Hakim and Clines--that they paid themselves more than $860,000 in advance commissions for the deal by tapping accumulated profits from the Iran arms sales, according to the congressional Iran-Contra committees. ...
Atwood approached the CIA in early September and offered to sell the Erria arms cargo. He reportedly warned that if the CIA failed to act quickly, the entire cargo might be sold to Kassar and end up in the hands of international terrorists.
Atwood, who, according to acquaintances, has been known to attend social events in Savannah with a gun concealed in his sock, had done business with the CIA before. Once when the covert procurement officers urgently needed bomb-sniffing dogs, he came up with six Chesapeake Bay retrievers in 24 hours, a find worth a reported $100,000.
"He was a professional ferret--a scavenger," said a former congressional official. "When the agency needed something, he could find it."
To the agency's buyers, he also had a reputation for his gifts. At least one covert procurement official quietly returned a desk pen set to Atwood in a brown paper sack. More often, however, the gifts were not returned.
"RTC: "As I understand it, Atwood is still very angry with you because you cheated him. ... You murdered two [of his] British intelligence people, as I understand it. ... And you gave Atwood a trunk full of stones covered with gold paint. That got some of our people very angry. I think they were mad at him. Atwood is known to be dishonest."
RTC: And [Critchfield] mentioned this Atwood several times. I know something about him and he claims you have made false accusations about some explosives deal.
GD: I got that from Atwood while he was drinking. It had to do with the two of them [Critchfield and Atwood] plotting to sell ex-Soviet atomic artillery shells to a Pakistani terrorist organization.
RTC: Jesus. Is that true?
GD: I don't make these things up, Robert.
RTC: I'm not saying you do, Gregory, but could this Atwood have been indulging in fantasy?
GD: No. From Critchfield's verbal reaction, some or all of it must be true.
RTC: ... Do you have some time there?
GD: Sure. Not a problem.
RTC: It’s about that Atwood person we spoke of earlier. Remember the one?
GD: Oh, yes, I do remember Atwood. Did old [James] Critchfield off him?RTC: No, not as I understand, but there is unhappiness about Atwood's proclivity to talk to the wrong people and you are certainly considered the wrong people. By Critchfield's crowd. Jim does not like me anymore over that Angola business, but one of our mutual friends was in touch with me yesterday about this and I thought I ought to discuss it with you. There are, or were, certain aspects to Atwood's activities, both on and off the board, that there is some anxiety about. It's known he had very dubious dealings with you six or seven years ago and you are considered to be a loose cannon. Atwood is considered to be a loose mouth and in my calling, that is not considered to be either wise or conducive of a long and happy life. Might I ask you what, if anything, Atwood discussed with you concerning his activities with the Company? Can you recall? ... It has slowly dawned on certain exalted people that perhaps you might have gleaned some forbidden information about brother Atwood in the course of your wild career. ...
GD: Well, as Jimmy [Atwood] told me, about 1992, he and your Jimmy Critchfield, along with a Russian Jew, formed a partnership in order to obtain a number of obsolete Soviet atomic artillery shells which they then sold to the Pakistanis. I think the two of them kept the money and no one ever saw the Jew again, alive that is. If you don't know this, I can tell you that both Critchfield and [Sam Cummings'] Interarmco people had supplied weapons to the rebels in Afghanistan during their long and vicious guerrilla activities against the Soviet Union. Critchfield also worked with the Dalai Lama of Tibet in a guerrilla war against Communist China and headed a CIA task force during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He ran regional agency operations when the U.S. and the Soviets were engaged in a grabbing match secure satellites first in Eastern Europe, then in the Middle East. And note that in the early 1960s, Critchfield recommended to the CIA that the United States support the Baath Party, which staged a 1963 coup against the Iraqi government that the CIA believed, was falling under Soviet influence. Critchfield later boasted, during the Iran-Iraq war that he and the CIA had created Saddam Hussein.
RTC: Gregory, where in the sweet hell did you get all of this?
GD: From Atwood, when he was drunk.
RTC: You've just guaranteed that he will pass to his reward very soon. Does that bother you?
GD: I never liked him. He tried to rip me off once but he was so crude about it that I have no respect for him. Shall I go on?
RTC: I have approach-avoidance conflicts here, Gregory. You might as well ruin the rest of my evening. Proceed. ...
GD: As you wish. When Arab oil became paramount, your Critchfield became your national intelligence officer for energy and was also an energy policy planner at the White House. He also fronted a dummy CIA corporation in the Middle East known as Basic Resources, which was used to gather OPEC-related intelligence for the Nixon administration. Critchfield was the chief of the CIA's Near East and South Asia division in the 1960s and a national intelligence officer for energy as the oil shortage crisis began in the early 1970s. Of course your people, along with the oil barons, forced the price of oil up and up. My, I wonder how much money you all made. Oh well, not important here. Critchfield retired in the mid '70s and ended up as both a consultant and the CEO of Tetra Tech International a Honeywell Inc. subsidiary and which managed oil, gas, and water projects in the strategic Masandam Peninsula. This, in case your geography is weak, is located on the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the West's oil is transported. And at the same time, Critchfield was a primary adviser to the Sultan of Oman, focusing on Middle East energy resources, especially those in Oman.
RTC: I should never have asked you about this.
GD: The Bible says ask and ye shall receive.
RTC: Yes. We can forget the Bible here. It has no part in the intelligence business. You mentioned Merex. Do you know of other friendly assets?
GD: Surely, Try Aero Systems, Arrow Air, Global International, and how about Zenith?
RTC: Did you get these names from Atwood?
GD: Of course I did. I told you Jimmy was not discreet while he was drinking. I listened to his tales of self-importance and remembered them all. Oh, and I wrote it up as well.
RTC: Gregory, for the Lord God's sake, if not mine, or more important, yours, do not discuss any of this with anyone else, your son or people like Willis Carto. If you aren't careful, Critchfield will have you eliminated. I shall have to warn him off on that topic, but, I mean, why would Atwood tell you such terrible things and if he told you, who else could he have told?
GD: One of his German whores, probably. Jimmy goes on and on.
RTC: So I note. And we can ring the curtain down on that one asap.
GD: From your reaction, Robert, I assume Jimmy was accurate.
RTC: No comment, but Atwood is a dead man.
GD: Well, I might have gotten my insights from the back of a Wheaties' box but Jimmy is a better candidate. Do you know why I dislike Jimmy and would frame his death notice? His wife stuck with him when he was arrested for tax evasion and smuggling in the '60s and as a mark of his appreciation, he deserted her and his two daughters to run off with one of his bar girls. The rest of his activities are one thing but I do not tolerate such domestic treachery. Do you think I’m being too critical?
RTC: What a question. Who cares about his wife and children? This man has gone way beyond the bounds. Way beyond. Of course I believe you. You could never have made all that up and I can assure you it was never in the New York Times.
Savannahnow.com/stories/072297/NWSobits.html (accessed: July 15, 2014): "Retired Lt. Col. James P. Atwood, 67, died July 20 at Memorial Medical Center. He was a native of Savannah. He served in the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Army, from which he retired. He was twice wounded in combat during the Korean War. He received numerous awards and decorations, including the Purple Heart, during his military career."
RTC: I decided to let the phone ring for awhile, Gregory. I'm glad I got you. You appear to have won some money from me.
RTC: Oh yes, I thought you might like to know that your friend James Atwood is dead.
GD: Ah! Start the week with good news, Robert. How did this totally unexpected thing happen? Shot to death in a Savannah mall by a drug crazed dwarf? Dead elephant fell out of a passing cargo plane and landed on him while he was walking his dog?
RTC: (Laughter) No, nothing so noticeable. One of our people took James out for Sunday brunch and he had a sudden embolism and fell face down into his salad.
GD: An embolism? Into the salad? (Laughter) My, my, such a tragic but somehow expected death. An autopsy?
RTC: I doubt it. He was getting old. Sixty seven by my information. I'll send you a check. ...
GD: And just think, if I hadn't filled Critchfield in about James [Atwood] that time, Jimmy might still be operating down there; spreading joy wherever he went.