Noriega Papers Claim CIA Sent Him Millions


Gen. Manuel A. Noriega, Panama's former strongman leader, was paid more than $11 million from a Central Intelligence Agency slush fund, according to a Noriega defense document released Wednesday.

And despite federal charges that Noriega was heavily involved in drug smuggling, the document contends that he once warned the CIA to put an end to cocaine shipments to the United States that were being used to raise funds for the Contras in Nicaragua.

Those assertions--and others suggesting Noriega was a CIA operative under extreme pressure from U.S. officials to overlook many instances of American-sponsored illegal actions--were included in a 107-page document prepared by lawyers defending Noriega against the charges here.

The rambling, highly censured document released by a federal court also recounts a secret meeting with former National Security Council staff member Oliver L. North and claims that Noriega helped the CIA supply Argentina with Exocet missiles for use against Britain during the Falkland Islands War. The CIA "was concerned that Argentina's forces . . . would be crushed," the document states.

The filing from defense attorneys Frank A. Rubino and Jon A. May was reviewed and edited by the Justice Department under provisions of the Classified Information Procedures Act, which requires the defense to make known any defense strategy that could involve the disclosure of classified information. Noriega is scheduled to go on trial July 22.

The Justice Department deleted key sections of the document, including details of Noriega's contacts with President Bush.

Among other allegations in the filing, which is unsupported by documentation:

--Noriega knew that planes carrying arms to Nicaraguan rebels returned to the United States loaded with illegal drugs. He understood that the U.S. government "clearly was involved in a guns for drugs policy" and warned the CIA against it.

--When Noriega refused to assist the Contras in an invasion of Nicaragua, John M. Poindexter, Ronald Reagan's national security adviser, "responded by threatening Noriega specifically and Panama in general." Later, after meetings with North on a yacht in the Potomac and in a London hotel room, Noriega was pressured to order Panamanian commandos to take part in Contra operations. "Noriega just listened," the defense document says.

--Less than eight weeks before he was indicted on drug charges, in February, 1988, Drug Enforcement Administration chief John C. Lawn reported there was insufficient evidence to charge Noriega.

--Noriega served as a conduit for cash payments from the CIA to onetime anti-Sandinista leader Eden Pastora.

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