L. David Scott Weekly
Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News alleged that Lister's ties to the CIA were through David Scott Weekly. Webb stated that Weekly, also known as "Dr. Death," was working on an assignment to free prisoners of war from Southeast Asia for the National Security Council (NSC) and had just finished working on a State Department-authorized guerilla training program for Afghan rebels in the Nevada desert.
Gary Webb later contacted the OIG and suggested that we review Exhibit 5 to the Congressional deposition of Criminal Division Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Richard in the Iran-Contra hearings. This exhibit was Richard's handwritten notes of a conversation with the U.S. Attorney from Oklahoma on December 11, 1986 in which the arrest of Weekly on charges of illegal transportation of explosives was discussed. Weekly had claimed in taped conversations that he was "tied into the CIA and Hasenfus" and reported to the "people reporting to Bush." The notes indicate that ATF had checked with the CIA and found that Weekly had no affiliation with the Agency. The notes also indicate that Weekly's toll records showed calls to Nestor Pino, Special Assistant Undersecretary for Security Assistance; Tom Harvey of the NSC in Alexandria, Virginia; and U.S. Customs.
The OIG investigated David Scott Weekly's alleged relationships with the CIA or DIA, because of Webb's claims and because of Lister's claim to LASD deputies in October 1986 that his contact at the CIA was "Mr. Weekly."
1. OIG interview of Weekly
FBI records indicate that Weekly attended the U.S. Naval Academy but dropped out of the Academy, joined the Navy and was sent to Vietnam. He was discharged from the Navy in 1970 and awarded the Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze stars and the National Defense Service Medal.
When we interviewed Weekly, he gave us very little background information about himself, stating that he felt very reluctant to meet with the OIG at all. He said he met Lister in the early 1980s, either 1980 or 1981. Weekly said he had been told that Lister worked on security matters and traveled to South and Central America. The two became friends, and Lister began soliciting Weekly's advice on security questions. Weekly said a lot of these questions were "stupid" or "irrelevant," such as, "Can I take this type of equipment out of the country?" Weekly said he answered some of these questions and ignored others. He wanted Lister to do his own research on these questions. Weekly stated that Lister probably had come to him for advice after hearing the stories and the myths that were circulating in the media about him. Weekly claimed that he had been deeply involved in POW/MIA issues during the 1980s, working with a government agency that Weekly refused to name.
Weekly described Lister as a good "resource guy," who could talk anyone into or out of anything and knew how to track down sources of information. But he said that Lister "tended to exaggerate." When Lister discussed matters associated with his life they tended to be "bigger, faster, and shinier." Weekly maintained that he knew little about Lister's security company. Lister kept the details of his company quiet and Weekly did not know the reasons for his secrecy. Lister never mentioned having any ties to the CIA to Weekly. According to Weekly, Lister was constantly traveling, often to Central America or Europe, purportedly to negotiate security contracts, but he would never discuss his clients. Weekly said he thought that Lister's security business provided personal security, advised on creating secure environments, and sold security equipment.
Weekly also related that he believed that Lister had sought to cultivate officials in foreign governments in order to get business. He thought Lister had some involvement with the Minister of Defense for El Salvador or Brazil and a ranking Air Force officer in a Latin American country. According to Weekly, Lister did not actually have a particular commodity to sell. Rather, he would see what was needed and convince clients that he could meet those needs. Weekly was not sure that Lister could have made a living through his security business.
Weekly recalled that, in approximately 1980, he had gone with Lister to El Salvador for a demonstration on special tactics and operations for the Minister of Defense. Weekly said that there was no discussion of drugs during the trip. He said that had he stumbled on a drug operation, he would have tried to sabotage it. He had warned Lister that he would have nothing to do with drugs, and that he would refuse to take the trip if there was any drug tie. Weekly stated that he had thought it was necessary to make such statements because he knew that the region of the world had a lot of drug activity, but he had no information at the time that Lister was involved in drugs.
Weekly stated that, to the best of his knowledge, he was never hired by, or gave any help to, the FDN or any organization or person associated with the Contras. Weekly qualified his statement only because he said many people in Central America used pseudonyms and were not necessarily who they claimed to be. He noted that he never met with Eden Pastora or any other leader of the Contra movement. Curiously, however, when LASD investigators had asked Weekly whether he had ever met Pastora, Weekly had replied "I can't talk about that." Avowing that he had never done any sales business with Pastora, Weekly had said: "I never met him personally, let's put it that way." Weekly then referred to Senate hearings in 1986 and announced that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had decided that, "Nobody knows anybody and nobody did anything. Hell, if they decided, that's got to be the way it is."
Weekly recalled that Lister had discussed the Contras, but had never mentioned Blandon. Lister had said he was supporting the Contras by selling to them and making himself available to them in El Salvador. But Lister had not approached Weekly to help with the Contras.
Weekly said that his relationship with Lister ended in the 1980s. He said the last time he spoke to Lister was probably 1990 or 1991, and the last he heard, Lister was in prison. Weekly added that Lister "had probably arranged to get out early," since he was the type to cooperate in exchange for early release.
We asked Weekly whether, during the October 1986 search of Lister's home by the LASD, Weekly was in Washington, D.C., meeting with a National Security Council contact as a San Jose Mercury News report had claimed. At first, Weekly said he thought it was unlikely, because he thought he had been incarcerated in a federal prison in October 1986. After further reflection, however, he stated that he was not incarcerated until February 1987, following the "Burma debacle," which he said he said he could not talk about. He then said that it was likely that he was in fact meeting with an NSC contact in Washington, D.C., in October 1986 about POW/MIA issues.
Weekly confirmed that he has been called "Dr. Death." He explained that this name goes back to his days doing special operations, and had to do with his familiarity with weapons. He stressed that this name far predated any involvement with Lister, and suggested that it might have appeared in articles related to his POW/MIA activities.
2. Federal Investigative Files on Weekly
The OIG located two DOJ files on Weekly. The most recent is a prosecutive file on Weekly reflecting that he was convicted of bank fraud in the Southern District of California, for withdrawing funds from his bank account that had been mistakenly placed there by the bank.
The other is a file from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Oklahoma concerning an investigation of Weekly that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) began after learning that on September 17 and 18, 1986, Weekly had shipped two loads of C-4 explosives on commercial planes from Oklahoma City to Las Vegas. In the course of its inquiry, ATF learned that Weekly had been an informant for U.S. Customs for approximately five years, providing information on narcotics and munitions. His Customs handler reported that Weekly had attended the Naval Academy but had flunked out in his second or third year, and had then become associated with the Navy Seals. Through his Navy association, he had gained contacts in the intelligence community, including the CIA and NSA.
When interviewed by ATF agents, Weekly had initially denied that he knew the C-4 would be shipped by commercial plane. Then he admitted that he had obtained the C-4 for use in the Nevada desert in training Afghani "freedom fighters." He said that he and Bo Gritz were involved in training these "freedom fighters" in programs that were handled "nebulously" by the United States government and paid for by different private "trading companies." Asked about records showing he had made telephone calls to the National Security Council and Colonel Nestor Pino at the State Department, Weekly stated that he had dealt with Tom Harvey at the NSC about POW matters he was working on and with Colonel Pino concerning the "freedom fighter" programs. Weekly told the ATF agents that he had no direct contact with the CIA.
Weekly also told ATF agents that he had been involved with the Contras in the past, "when Pastora was in power," but that, with Pastora no longer in power, he had nothing else to do with the Contra issue. Weekly later claimed to the ATF that he had been very close to "controlling the Contras in Nicaragua," but that the "deal fell through" with the fall of Pastora. Weekly told ATF he was going to provide banking and bank accounts for Pastora -- whom he had met through Ron Lister -- and the entire Contra operation. Ronald Lister told the OIG that Weekly had no relationship with the Contras to his knowledge, and that he had never seen Pastora and Weekly together. As discussed above, Weekly told the OIG that he had never aided the Contras or met Pastora.
According to the ATF file, the U.S. Customs agent working with Weekly told ATF that Weekly was acting at the direction of Customs when he was involved with the Contras. Weekly's informant file at Customs does not reflect any discussion of the Contras or any other political group. The OIG interviewed Weekly's contact at Customs. The agent told us that Weekly had no relationship with the Contras and that Weekly made false statements to the ATF agents in an attempt to avoid prosecution for the C-4 shipment. The agent admitted that he did not expose Weekly's false statements to the ATF agents, as he should have done, because of his personal relationship with Weekly and his desire to help him.
In connection with his shipment of C4 explosives on the commercial airline, on Dec. 23, 1986, Weekly pled guilty to interstate transportation of explosives and was later sentenced to a prison term of five years. Thereafter, he filed a motion to withdraw the plea, which stated that he had been promised a sentence of probation by ATF in exchange for his cooperation, and claiming that the operation he had been involved with had been sanctioned by the government. In support of this motion, Weekly's counsel submitted an affidavit by Colonel Nestor G. Pino-Marina, United States Army. Pino reported that, in the summer of 1986, he had been assigned to the Department of State as Military Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology. During that time, Pino had met with retired Army Lieutenant-Colonel James "Bo" Gritz, who expressed interest in training Afghan rebels. Pino was concerned that Gritz was not aware of the level of Soviet penetration of the rebel factions, and therefore sought to introduce Gritz, through a colleague named William Bode, to an Afghan freedom fighter he knew. Pino stated that Gritz dropped off a copy of his "program of instruction" for the training with a note indicating that the first group of Afghan freedom fighters had completed training. Pino noted that his discussions with Gritz had been on personal basis, and were not sanctioned by the United States government. Pino stated:
Neither I nor Mr. Bode authorized, coordinated, supervised, encouraged or discouraged a training program for the Afghan Resistance, nor, to our knowledge, did any other official in our office, the Department of State, or any other government agency. . . . That notwithstanding, I am convinced that the effort taken by Colonel Gritz to train Afghan Freedom Fighters are [sic] in consonance with and complementary [sic] of U.S. policy for Afghanistan and that Colonel Gritz and Mr. Weekly saw it that way. . . . I believe strongly that whatever actions have warranted the imprisonment of Scott Weekly were inspired by a strong desire to support the Afghan resistance against Soviet occupation and by an even stronger desire to advance the interests of the United States. For these reasons, I urge reconsideration and lenience for Mr. Scott Weekly.
The district court held a hearing into Weekly's motion, at which time Weekly dropped his allegation that he had been promised probation in exchange for his cooperation. However, the prosecutors agreed to a resentencing in the case because they had become aware that Weekly's handler at the U.S. Customs Service had promised to send a letter detailing Weekly's past assistance to the government, but had failed to do so.
At his resentencing, Weekly testified that Pino and Bode had introduced him to a "CIA operative" who was his Afghan connection. This operative, named "Rashid," was to advise Weekly's group on "certain key elements, with the permission of the Agency, and with direction by Bode, to assist us in circumventing wasted time and making things a bit more efficient." Weekly also testified that Pino and Bode had been aware of the training plan and that the plan included explosives. Bo Gritz testified that Bode had looked over the plan and made some changes to it. He stated that he, Weekly, and the others in their group operated with the "blessing" of Bode and that it was his understanding that the money to pay for the operation came from Stanford Technology, a company owned by Albert Hakim. Weekly's attorney argued for his immediate release. The government made no argument and requested only that if the court released Weekly, probation should be imposed. The court sentenced Weekly to time served and placed him on probation for three years. Weekly had served 14 months in prison.
According to the CIA OIG, CIA records indicate that Weekly was involved in a private effort in the early 1980s that purported to seek the freedom of American POWs and MIAs. Upon arrival in Thailand in November 1986 he was deported. The CIA informed ATF that no information was found indicating that the Agency had a relationship with Weekly.
As we have previously stated, the OIG has not made, and indeed cannot make, any final assessments about many of the claims regarding the relationship between United States intelligence agencies and the Contras that have emerged in the course of our investigation. To rely on Lister's statements about Weekly or Weekly's statements about Lister would be particularly foolhardy.
M. Timothy LaFrance
Gary Webb contacted the OIG and suggested that we should interview Tim LaFrance of San Diego, because his name had also arisen in a document submitted by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Richard during the Iran-Contra hearings in 1987. As discussed in section L, above, the document is a note that Richard made during a telephone conversation with the Oklahoma U.S. Attorney's Office regarding the planned arrest of David Weekly for transportation of explosives aboard a commercial airline. The notes indicate that Weekly had boasted of ties to the CIA, and state "Weekly works for Tom [sic] LaFrance out of San Diego and Bob Gritz (MIA)."
According to an article published in The Los Angeles Weekly (The Weekly) on May 22, 1997, an individual named Timothy LaFrance worked with Pyramid International Security Consultants, the company that Lister founded in 1980. The Weekly quoted LaFrance as saying that Pyramid was a "private vendor that the CIA used to do things [the CIA] couldn't do." It also reported that LaFrance had claimed that he had gone to El Salvador with Lister under the cover story that they were selling security systems to the Salvadorans. According to The Weekly, the real mission of the trip was to provide weapons to Contra forces based in Honduras. LaFrance was said to have claimed that Scott Weekly, who on occasion worked for both the CIA and the DIA, and Richard Wilker, a former CIA agent, were also involved in this operation. LaFrance was quoted as saying that although Lister was not getting a paycheck directly from the CIA, he was connected through Wilker.
When interviewed by the OIG, LaFrance said that his company, LaFrance Specialties, manufactures automatic machine guns and sells them to SWAT teams, other law enforcement agencies, and foreign governments around the world. Indeed, ATF records reflect that LaFrance is a licensed dealer for this type and other types of weapons. LaFrance also said that he speaks fluent Spanish and has dealt with numerous governments in Latin America. According to LaFrance, Pyramid Security was run by Richard Wilker, who claimed some CIA affiliation. LaFrance believed that Wilker once did have some contact with the CIA, but he also had heard that Wilker was using fake CIA regional letterhead for some of his correspondence. LaFrance stated that he was not aware of any affiliation between Pyramid and the CIA. (According to the CIA OIG, Wilker never had any relationship with that agency.)
LaFrance told us that he had worked for Pyramid Security in El Salvador, but explained that going to El Salvador with Lister and Wilker was like working with the "Keystone Cops." Lister and Wilker would argue loudly about why they were traveling under their real names and not using fake passports. LaFrance commented that the two were a "SNAFU looking for a place to happen." He noted that he had done some legitimate work for Pyramid in El Salvador; he had performed a weapon demonstration and overhauled and repaired automatic weapons seized in the Salvadoran civil war. But neither he, Lister, Wilker, nor Pyramid had manufactured weapons in El Salvador for the Contras, or airlifted weapons to the Contras in Honduras. LaFrance noted that he was not aware of any affiliation between Lister and the CIA.
When we read to LaFrance portions of the article in The Weekly that quoted him, LaFrance avowed that the article was completely inaccurate and added, "No wonder the writer never sent me a copy of it." LaFrance stated that he did tell The Weekly that there were operations manufacturing weapons in downtown San Salvador that he believed were to supply the Contras. LaFrance stated, however, that this operation was run by the Salvadoran military and that outside contractors such as himself or Pyramid had not been involved.
The article in The Weekly also claimed that a May 12, 1987 FBI report from Mobile, Alabama supports its allegations. The report is a record of interview of Frederico Cruz by FBI agents acting on behalf of the Iran-Contra Independent Counsel. Cruz said he owned the Ramada Inn in San Salvador, and he reported that Eugene Hasenfus -- who was the only American survivor when the Sandinistas shot down one of the Contra resupply planes in October 1986 -- and individuals named "Cooper, Sawyer, and Hamilton," were staying at his hotel at "the time of the airplane being shot down in Nicaragua." Cruz reported that after the crash, someone cleaned out everything from the Americans' rooms. The last paragraph of the report states:
CRUZ's main purpose in requesting the interview was to request help from the [Office of Independent Counsel (OIC)] to collect money he claimed was owed by RON LISTER. LISTER was in San Salvador in 1981 or 1982 and stayed 2 or 3 months. CRUZ claimed that LISTER was selling weapons to the Contras. LISTER allegedly left El Salvador owing CRUZ a large amount of money. CRUZ requested that the interviewing agents assist him in collecting this money. This request was declined. . . . CRUZ also requested that the interviewing agents do whatever possible to allow CRUZ to come to the USA for citizenship. CRUZ was advised that the OIC could not aid in this matter and that he should contact the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador to initiate his request for citizenship.
Based on our extensive review of Ronald Lister's activities, we reach the conclusion that Lister -- a twice convicted drug trafficker who has also been the subject of several FBI investigations regarding his "security business" --had no affiliation with the CIA, as he from time to time has claimed, and as others have claimed.
The available evidence supports the conclusion that his ties to the Contra movement were mostly through Blandon and were not extensive. It appears that, while Lister certainly wanted to be involved in supplying the Contras with weapons, he was never able to make such an arrangement.
In his interview with the OIG, Lister admitted that he had never been involved with the CIA, and that he had used it as a "ruse" to get law enforcement off his back and to avoid having to cooperate against his friend Blandon. Lister stated:
I may have said something like this [that he had an affiliation with the CIA] to [the FBI], but it was just a ruse. It was nothing to it. There was nobody to talk to about that. It was just my way of probably getting him to back off. Because you've got to remember, I just explained to all three of you, I spent a lot of time with Meneses and more time with Danilo and his family, and here I've got myself in trouble, I'm using coke, my head's not straight at all, and I'm doing all these good things for them, and I'm willing to get the bad guys, but you don't want to go back to do anything against [Blandon's] family.
Lister noted that his allegation that Blandon was involved with the CIA was an "opinion" based on "the fact that Blandon was involved with the Contra fundraising. And in doing that, there was an impression, even though I'm telling you he was not involved with the CIA, that maybe he and other people involved were. And it just sounded like a good thing to say at the time."
In the course of our investigation, a common theme emerged when people who knew him described Lister. They characterized him as a "con man," a "bullshitter," and "a liar," but admitted that he is very charming and a great salesman. Lister told a number of these witnesses over the years that he was affiliated with the CIA, but all said they did not take him seriously. The OIG, too, did not find Lister to be credible or reliable. He changed his story frequently in the interview when confronted with documentary evidence that disproved his statements.