Appendix D: Enrique Miranda's Entry Into the United States and Return to Nicaragua
San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb concluded his August 1996 article entitled "America's Crack Plague has Roots in Nicaragua War" by writing that Enrique Miranda, Norwin Meneses' chief accuser in the 1991 prosecution of the two men, failed to return from a weekend furlough to the Nicaraguan jail where he had been incarcerated since 1992, and "has not been seen in nearly a year".
The investigation of Miranda's allegations regarding the ties between the Contras, Meneses, and the CIA, revealed that after Miranda's 1995 escape from the Nicaraguan prison and his arrival in Miami, the DEA began to use Miranda as an active informant. In 1996, the Nicaraguan police tracked down Miranda to Miami, and asked the United States authorities to return Miranda to Nicaragua. The INS, in coordination with the FBI, arrested Miranda for being in the United States illegally, based on Miranda's fraudulently obtained visa. Miranda elected to return to Nicaragua voluntarily, and was sent back to Nicaragua on December 2, 1996, to finish his prison term there.
Miranda has alleged that he was coerced to return to Nicaragua. The INS, DEA, and Nicaraguan authorities deny any coercion. The facts about Miranda's use as a DEA informant while a fugitive from Nicaragua and his eventual return to Nicaragua are addressed in this appendix.
I. United States-Nicaragua Extradition Status (DOJ OIA)
According to the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, the office that coordinates requests for extradition with foreign countries, a treaty signed in 1905 provides the basis for extradition proceedings between the United States and Nicaragua. Despite the existence of the treaty, there have been no extraditions from Nicaragua in the recent past. The treaty does not allow for Nicaragua to extradite their own citizens to the United States, but, it does allow Nicaragua to request the return of a Nicaraguan citizen from the United States.
The treaty specifies a list of offenses that an individual may be extradited for, rather than the more common "dual criminality" treaty which requires that an offense be criminal under the laws of both countries to be an extraditable offense. The treaty with Nicaragua does not include drug offenses, but two multilateral treaties that Nicaragua has signed amend the 1905 treaty to include drug offenses. Generally, prison escape is not an extraditable offense, but an extradition request could be based on the underlying charge for which the person was in prison at the time of the escape.
If Nicaragua makes a request to the United States for the return of a defendant and provides the appropriate formal request with proper charging papers and other basic information, the return would be made. Such a request would probably be made through the Department of State and eventually executed by the United States Marshals Service. In the absence of an official request, the United States would be under no bilateral treaty obligation to return a Nicaraguan fugitive, and there appears to be no statute requiring the United States to inform a foreign country when a fugitive from that country is discovered in the United States.
II. DEA Policy for Establishing Informants
DEA's Domestic Operations Guidelines define an "informant" as any person, who under the direction of a specific DEA agent, and with or without expectation of compensation, furnishes information on drug trafficking or performs a lawful service for DEA in its investigation of drug trafficking. A "restricted use informant" is any informant who meets any of the criteria that require that the DEA monitor the informant's activities more closely than another informant, such as informants who are less than 18 years of age, parolees, or have two or more felony convictions. According to the DEA guidelines, if there is reason to believe that an informant has committed a serious criminal offense, the appropriate law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the crime and the appropriate U.S. Attorney's Office must be notified. DEA procedures also dictate that all informants established by domestic field offices be checked in DEA, FBI, and NCIC files.
While the Domestic Operations Guidelines do not apply to informant development and handling by DEA's foreign offices, they require that the policies be applied in foreign offices to the maximum extent possible, with any deviations specifically approved by DEA Headquarters. All informants established by DEA foreign field offices must be approved by the DEA SAC or Country Attache in that country, and be fingerprinted for identification by the FBI Identification Division. Once one DEA office establishes an informant, a second office can use him concurrently without running a second background check.
Field agents use DEA form 512, entitled "Confidential Source Establishment," to establish an informant. On the form, the agent provides identifying information on the individual, explains the type of source and support for this categorization, records necessary criminal history checks, and obtains the approval of a number of his supervisors, depending on the individual characteristics of each new informant. A copy of the DEA form is then distributed for approval through the agent's supervisors and ultimately to DEA Headquarters. In cases of extreme sensitivity, the SAC may waive the normal distribution of the Form 512 copies.
III. DEA Miami Field Division Established Miranda as a Confidential Source
When interviewed by the OIG, Miami Field Division DEA Special Agent Joseph Evans said he had met Miranda through another informant soon after Miranda's arrival in Miami in November 1995. The DEA was interested in Miranda because he was offering his knowledge of Central and South American drug traffickers. Evans confirmed that Miranda told Evans about his past trafficking activities and about his arrest and incarceration in Nicaragua. Miranda said he had paid someone to be able to leave the prison in order to apply for a United States visa, but he did not admit having made false statements in order to obtain the visa. Evans recalled that Miranda was hoping to gain resident alien status in the United States by assisting the DEA. Evans said he told Miranda that the DEA was not going to get involved in immigration issues; it would be Miranda's responsibility to apply for extensions on his visa.
B. Miami DEA's Inquiry Into Miranda's Background
Evans also told the OIG that, during Miranda's initial interview with the DEA, he presented his Nicaraguan passport with an official United States visa. Evans said that he had someone examine the passport to confirm its authenticity. Evans said that the DEA confirmed that Miranda had an official visa that had been issued "on some glitch." Evans stated that he checked with someone at DEA Headquarters and learned that no extradition treaty exists with Nicaragua, but he could not remember the person or office at Headquarters with whom he spoke. Evans also checked with INTERPOL, which had no records on Miranda. Evans said he did not notify Nicaraguan officials about Miranda because DEA Headquarters, after reviewing the informant paperwork, would normally handle such matters through the U.S. State Department, if necessary. Evans stated that, based on the database of DEA sources, it appeared that Miranda had never previously worked with the DEA.
C. Decision to Establish Miranda
The DEA quickly moved from using Miranda merely as a source of information to using him as an active informant in an investigation into the cocaine smuggling activities of Colombian Luis Alfonso Carvajal and his associates. In early January 1996, SA Evans completed a Confidential Source Establishment form for Miranda. The form indicates that Miranda was to be a Restricted Use Confidential Source. Evans noted:
Although [Miranda] has no criminal record, NADDIS indicates that he was arrested in Nicaragua in 1991 for drug trafficking and is a fugitive of Nicaragua. However, there is no existing extradition treaty with Nicaragua and the C/S is in the U.S. legally.
The form also indicated that a criminal history check of NADDIS, NCIC and INTERPOL had been conducted with negative results.
Evans told the OIG that he had established Miranda as a informant based on the information that Miranda had no United States criminal history, and was not wanted by INTERPOL, and that no extradition treaty existed to require the return of Miranda to Nicaraguan authorities. Evans said that he took the extra precaution of establishing Miranda as a "restricted use source" because of Miranda's fugitive status, which warranted a closer watch.
When interviewed by the OIG, DEA Special Agent George Papantoniou, who, as Evans' Group Supervisor had approved Evans' decision to establish Miranda, recalled knowing that Miranda was a fugitive from Nicaragua, but that he also had legal United States immigration status, no criminal history in the United States, no "wants" on INTERPOL, and was not extraditable. According to Papantoniou, Miranda was established as a "restricted source" probably because of his prior drug conviction.
D. INTERPOL Records
The OIG contacted INTERPOL to determine if Miranda had a warrant lodged against him after his escape. If, when DEA conducted their background check of Miranda, INTERPOL contained a notice that Miranda was a fugitive, the DEA may have had an obligation to notify the Nicaraguan authorities of Miranda's whereabouts.
Our request for copies of all warrants against Miranda was forwarded to INTERPOL Managua by the INTERPOL U.S. National Central Bureau. Managua responded by providing an October 8, 1996 request for assistance in locating Miranda's wife (who was believed to be residing in the United States) in an apparent attempt to locate Miranda, who is described in the communication as the "subject" and a fugitive from Nicaraguan justice. Although this INTERPOL communication did indicate Miranda's fugitive status, it was not entered until more than ten months after Miranda's escape, and more than nine months after the DEA had checked Miranda's background. Thus, there is no evidence that DEA ignored information regarding Miranda's fugitive status that was available.
IV. Miranda as a DEA Informant
Once it had established Miranda as an informant, DEA's Miami Field Division sent him to Panama, Costa Rica, and Colombia to infiltrate trafficking networks there. But this operation never came to fruition. According to the DEA, efforts to use him in Miami did not amount to much, either. SA Jose Delgado, one of Miranda's handlers, later noted to the OIG that while Miranda was in prison, drug trafficking methodologies had changed from aircraft to sea transport, and Miranda did not have the necessary knowledge to be of assistance to DEA operations.
When interviewed by the OIG, Miranda recalled Evans having told him that there would be coordination with the INS and the U.S. Customs Service to allow Miranda to reenter the United States whenever he traveled on behalf of the DEA. Nonetheless, INS personnel often stopped Miranda when he returned to the United States, and he would have to call SA Evans for assistance. SA Evans told the OIG that the DEA does not typically make arrangements for their informants to enter into countries, because targeted traffickers will often tail the informants to verify their bona fides.
DEA's confidential source database indicates that Miranda is still active, and Miranda has told the OIG that, as far as he is concerned, he is still working for the DEA. However, all DEA agents interviewed by the OIG have stated that Miranda is not currently being used as an informant.
The OIG's investigation made clear that the DEA used Miranda as a informant for almost one year with full knowledge that he was a fugitive from Nicaragua. Although probably due to the infrequent use of the existing treaty, it appears from the interviews that OIG conducted with DEA personnel that there is the mistaken belief that no extradition treaty exists between the United States and Nicaragua. Moreover, their lack of knowledge about the treaty would not have made a difference, because Nicaragua made no formal request for Miranda's extradition when DEA began using him.
There is also no formal requirement, either by statute or under DEA written policy, for an agent of the DEA to notify a foreign country when a fugitive from that country is discovered, or to refrain from using that fugitive as an informant. While this issue should be addressed by DEA, it may not have made any difference in this case, because SA Evans did check the INTERPOL system to see if Nicaragua was seeking Miranda's return and found no requests for Miranda.
V. Miranda's 1996 Arrest in Miami
A. The Arrest
Nicaraguan National Police Sub-Director Eduardo Cuadra Ferrey told the OIG that, soon after Miranda's escape, the National Police began contacting law enforcement officials in neighboring countries. With help from authorities in Costa Rica, Cuadra tracked Miranda to Miami. He then waited for Miranda's visa to expire, and worked with FBI Supervisory Special Agent Fernando Rivero to ensure that Miranda would be returned to Nicaragua. On December 2, 1996, the INS, in coordination with the FBI, arrested Miranda for being in the United States illegally, based on Miranda's fraudulently obtained visa. FBI and INS files indicate that Miranda was taken to Metro-Dade Police Department in Miami and advised of his illegal immigration status in the United States and the charges he faced in Nicaragua. He then elected to return to Nicaragua voluntarily, signing forms agreeing to a voluntary departure.
Miranda told the OIG that, on December 2, 1996 in Miami, the FBI came to his home in the early morning, pointed guns at the house, and ordered him to open the door. He asked the FBI if he could call DEA agents Evans or Delgado, and was told he was not allowed to. He was then taken to the Miami police station, where an INS agent told him that he was being arrested as an illegal immigrant, and he was shown a legal order from Nicaragua requesting his return. Miranda said that SA Evans arrived at the police station and told Miranda not to worry, because he would not be taken back to Nicaragua. Miranda asked to call his attorney, Alejandrina Cruz, but he was not allowed to do so.
SA Evans told the OIG that he found out about the arrest from a telephone call from Miranda's wife, who told him that her husband had been arrested by the FBI for immigration problems and was going to be deported. Miranda's wife asked Evans to contact FBI SA Rivero. Rivero confirmed that Miranda had been arrested because his visa had just expired, and that the Nicaraguan police were in the United States to take him back. Rivero noted that if Miranda did not go back to Nicaragua, it might make it harder for the DEA to open a new office in that country. When Evans arrived at Metro-Dade police Headquarters, Nicaraguan police officials were in a room with Miranda, and an INS agent told Evans that Miranda had signed a voluntary departure form. Evans became angry because foreign police had been allowed to interview Miranda before anyone had checked his claim that he was a DEA informant. Evans believed that this was contrary to proper procedures. Evans did not know how the Nicaraguans knew Miranda was in Miami.
B. Miranda's Allegations Relating to His Arrest
1. Coerced to Sign Voluntary Departure
While admitting that he signed a document agreeing to voluntary departure, Miranda told the OIG that INS Officer "Curtis" [Clark] had "forced" him to sign by telling him that if he did not, Curtis would arrest Miranda's wife and children and deport them all. Only Curtis and Cuadra were present during this conversation. Miranda said that Curtis also told him that if he signed the document then he would eventually be allowed to reenter the United States, but if he did not, he would never be allowed to enter again.
Cuadra told OIG investigators that Miranda had opted to depart the United States voluntarily when given the alternative of being processed through INS deportation proceedings according to regulations. SA Evans recalled that he had met with Miranda alone and had advised him that he should request an INS hearing. Miranda had appeared terrified and said that it was better to return and face the charges in Nicaragua. Evans said Miranda made no claims that he was coerced into signing the form.
Miranda's INS file contains a telefax cover sheet attached to the case report on Miranda's arrest and departure. On it, INS Supervisory Special Agent Bill West wrote that Miranda's "wife, per Clark, is an illegal Nicaraguan [her Alien number] who has not yet been [ordered to show cause]." This appears to indicate that Miranda's wife was also in a position to be deported, but that Clark had not initiated the proceedings.
SA Clark told the OIG that he did not coerce Miranda into signing the voluntary waiver, and explained that it did not matter to him whether Miranda returned voluntarily or through normal deportation procedures. Clark said that he did take Miranda's wife's passport after determining that she was in illegal alien status. Within a few days of the arrest, Clark returned the passport to DEA SA Evans, who returned it to Miranda's wife. Clark said that because she was a non-criminal alien and had at least one child in school, he did not detain her but instead told her to report to his office later for initiation of deportation proceedings. Clark thought that this was a standard INS procedure with non-criminal aliens. He said that, not surprisingly, Miranda's wife did not report back to his office.
In short, the weight of the evidence, particularly Evans' account, does not corroborate Miranda's allegations that threats were made and that he was coerced into signing the voluntary departure form.
2. Miranda's Personal Papers
As noted above, Miranda later claimed in his interview with Representative Waters that a letter written by Norwin Meneses, which suggested a connection between Meneses and the CIA, was included in materials he left in Miami after his arrest and that these materials were returned to his wife by the FBI. In fact, Miranda's wife gave the documents to the DEA.
SA Evans told the OIG that, soon after Miranda had left the United States, Evans called Miranda's wife to return her passport. She informed him that her husband had a briefcase of documents in the house. Evans told the OIG that he sent an informant to the Miranda residence to pick up the briefcase and to pay his wife for telephone calls Miranda had made in connection with his work for DEA. Evans then sent the briefcase and its contents to Agent Delgado in New Orleans. At the request of the OIG, Agent Delgado provided the contents of that briefcase to the OIG. We reviewed them and found no letter written by Meneses.
With regard to the DEA's use of Miranda when it knew he was a fugitive from Nicaragua, we found that the agents who established him performed the required background investigation, followed DEA procedures, and checked into the possibility that Miranda was to be returned under the authority of an extradition treaty. Although the agents were incorrect in their belief that an extradition treaty does not exist between the United States and Nicaragua, no extradition request was made by Nicaragua in this case and, at the time that DEA queried INTERPOL, they did not acquire information indicating that Miranda was wanted by Nicaraguan authorities.