The French Connection Revisited: The CIA, Irving Brown, and
Drug Smuggling as Political Warfare
by Douglas Valentine
When they hear
the words "the French Connection," most people think of
the 1971 Gene Hackman movie, in which a rough and tumble New York
City detective corralled a group of Mafia heroin traffickers in
January 1962, but failed to capture the suave, insouciant Frenchman
who was their source of supply. Indeed, most people think of "the
French Connection" as an action-adventure story not
as an example of political warfare. But, in fact, the French Connection
is a keyhole through which to view the CIA's use of the underworld
in its larger strategy of political and psychological warfare.
this secret war is a function of American capital's use of organized
criminals in the employ of its private police force, the CIA, to
smash Communism everywhere; to suppress labor and undesirable minorities
at home; and to expand its influence worldwide, at the expense of
unfriendly and friendly foreign nations alike.
on four newly discovered documents, generated by the defunct Federal
Bureau of Narcotics (19301968), it is now evident that the
U.S. government, through the CIA, has historically employed drug
smugglers to effect its unstated domestic agenda. The French Connection
is a prime example, and a principal player in that sordid episode
was labor leader Irving Joseph Brown, the American Federation of
Labor's chief overseas representative from 1945 until 1962.
a long history of involvement with the CIA, gangsters, and drug
smugglers; but it was not until April 1962 that he first came to
the attention of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). The circumstances
are both bizarre and revealing, and center on Etienne Tarditi, a
short, potbellied, Corsican drug smuggler, who first implicated
Brown in drug smuggling activities.
in the 1950s was twofold: on behalf of his underworld sponsors,
he purchased morphine base in Lebanon and smuggled it to France,
where it was converted into heroin; then he "recruited"
diplomats to smuggle the heroin to Mafiosi in America.
operation began to unravel, however, in mid-1960, when a rival drug
smuggler told the FBN Agent in Beirut that a diplomat named "Maurice"
was carrying heroin to America. The ensuing investigation revealed
that the diplomat, whose luggage was passed through U.S. Customs
without being checked, was Maurice Rosal Bron, Guatemala's Ambassador
to the Netherlands. Rosal, it was discovered, had an unrestrained
sexual desire for young boys fatal flaw which Tarditi used
to blackmail the dapper diplomat into carrying heroin to America.
Further investigation revealed that Rosal made frequent trips to
America, often with Tarditi, and that he always left with less baggage
weight than when he arrived. The investigation itself climaxed in
October 1960 in New York City, when FBN agents busted Rosal, Tarditi,
TWA purser Charles Bourbonnais, and Nick Calamaris of the Gambino
The bust netted
100 kilograms of pure heroin, and the intelligence take provided
the FBN with enough leads to keep it busy for the next five years.
Most of the information, notably, came from Tarditi, who identified
his sources in France, and claimed that he "was involved in
intelligence work beneficial to American interests." Tarditi
would also, after 18 months of steady interrogation, implicate labor
leader Irving Brown in drug-smuggling activities.
two related cases unfolded. One was the famous French Connection
case of January 1962, in which FBN Agents and NYPD detectives busted
Mafioso Patsy Fuca, along with his father Joe, French heroin smuggler
Francois Scaglia (co-leader of the Trois Canards Gang in Paris),
and Scaglia's unsuspecting courier, Jacques Angelvin, the host of
a popular French television show. Eluding authorities in the case
were Jean Jehan, the debonair mastermind of the plot, and mystery
man Jacques Mouren, who was never identified.
in March 1961 (right after French President Charles de Gaulle decided
to negotiate with nationalist rebels in Algeria), when Air France
stewardess Simone Christman was arrested by U.S. Customs agents
for smuggling heroin in her brassiere. Christman said the powder,
which she thought was perfume base, had been given to her by a Mr.
Mueller in Paris.
In March 1962,
Christman was sentenced to four years in prison but at the
intervention of an unknown outside force, she was quietly and quickly
an FBN agent on the scene at the time, Christman was, in fact, a
spy for the Secret Army Organization (OAS), a group of French soldiers
who, with the support of the CIA, were fighting the forces of President
de Gaulle in Algeria. The OAS was known to be financing its operations
through the drug trade, and, being "a good soldier," Christman
"took a small fall to protect her bosses" who in
return continued to receive CIA support.
to Christman's quiet and quick release, the FBN agent stationed
in Paris was told not to investigate the mysterious "Mr. Mueller."
The agent was told that U.S. Customs was handling the case; but
he knew that the CIA had, in fact, blocked the investigation in
order to conceal its involvement with the protected OAS drug-smuggling
is conceded by FBN agents that they were not allowed to follow up
leads relating to Jean Jehan and Jacques Mouren in the French Connection
case, for the very same, intelligence-related reasons.
does happen, however, and just as Customs agents had inadvertently
uncovered a protected CIA drug route when they busted Simone Christman,
"Mr. Mueller's" identity was revealed in April 1962, when
Etienne Tarditi, seeking leniency in his case, named Irving Brown
in connection with the busts of Ambassador Rosal in October 1960,
and of Simone Christman in March 1961.
professional crooks, Tarditi's allegations about Brown (as well
as his own work for U.S. intelligence) normally would not have been
believed. But all of the information he had provided about the drug-smuggling
milieu had proven accurate, so in May 1962, FBN agent Andrew Tartaglino
launched an investigation of Irving Brown. And through a routine
background check, Tartaglino learned that Brown (who was then the
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions' representative
to the United Nations) frequented a restaurant owned by George Bayon
in Paris. Tartaglino subsequently learned that Irving Brown was
Bayon's friend; that Bayon used the alias "Mueller"; and
that Bayon's restaurant was used by drug smugglers to "recruit"
diplomats, like the hapless Ambassador Rosal, as couriers in their
fueled the agent's curiosity, and his investigation of Brown was
widened; and after checking with other government agencies, Tartaglino
learned that Brown had been granted port privileges in New York
(meaning that his baggage was never checked by Customs); that his
wife, Lilly, was a secretary for Carmel Offie, a CIA agent who owned
an import-export business in Manhattan; and that there was "a
possibility" that Brown himself was "connected in some
manner with the CIA."
were unmistakable, and at this point in June 1962, Tartaglino was
told to drop his investigation; that another Agency was handling
it. Which begs two questions: 1) who were Irving Brown and Carmel
Offie, and 2) were they smuggling drugs for the CIA?
In regard to
the second question, leads to the CIA's notorious chief of counter-intelligence,
James Jesus Angleton, had emanated from the Rosal case. Specifically,
inside Ambassador Rosal's pocket at the time of his arrest was the
address of Stig Wennerstrom, a former Swedish military attaché
to the United States, and a close friend of Philippe de Vosjoli.
De Vosjoli at the time was the French intelligence service's liaison
to Angleton. But more importantly, de Vosjoli was also a double-agent
working for Angleton against his own country.
By de Vosjoli's
account, Wennerstrom was "an associate" of several French
intelligence officers stationed in Washington. De Vosjoli's charge
led Angleton to believe that the Soviet intelligence service, the
KGB, had penetrated the French intelligence service, SDECE. In Angleton's
mind, this belief was confirmed in December 1961 by the famous KGB
defector, Anatoly Golitsyn. And for this reason, Angleton, who had
long been associated with Irving Brown, apparently decided to penetrate
the French drug-smuggling milieu, as a way of uncovering further
evidence that SDECE, which had long been involved in smuggling narcotics
out of Indochina, was penetrated by the KGB. And Angleton's use
of drug smugglers as counter-intelligence agents brings us back
to the first question: who were Irving Brown and Carmel Offie?
Brown was a disciple of Jay Lovestone, who in the 1920s was the
leader of America's Communist Party. But after a dispute with Stalin
in 1929, Lovestone defected, and with Brown's help, began rooting
Communists out of American labor unions. In return for his counter-espionage
work, Brown was assigned as the AFL's representative to the War
Production Board during World War II, and afterwards began to work
for the CIA under AFL cover in Europe and Africa.
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