Deals, Double Deals in the War on Drugs,

Article excerpt

ROBERT DARIAS had fallen on hard times. He had been convicted of evading taxes on real-estate profits and owed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) more than $200,000. Desperate for money, he offered to spy on drug traffickers for the United States government.

Darias's activities are the backbone of David McClintick's new book, "Swordfish: A True Story of Ambition, Savagery, and Betrayal." The Clinton administration would be wise to study this story as it evaluates how to apply the $13.4 billion committed annually by the US to keep drugs off America's streets.

McClintick chronicles a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) scheme devised by one of its agents in Miami in the early 1980s. As part of Operation Swordfish, the DEA set up a phony corporation to infiltrate drug cartels and target leaders.

The operation gladly accepted Darias's offer to become an informant. Trained by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in espionage and an officer in the force that invaded the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961, Darias fancied himself well-suited for undercover work. When he volunteered his services, he told DEA agents he was familiar with several drug traffickers in South America, because he had sold them electronic equipment. He also said he knew people in US banks who helped drug traffickers launder money.

The DEA agents and Darias targeted several people involved in the drug trade, including Marlene Navarro, a multilingual Colombian who was the American banker for Colombian drug lord Carlos Jader Alvarez.

Darias became friends with Navarro and taped their conversations. …