Thomas G. Clines

Thomas G. Clines was a Central Intelligence Agency covert operations agent who was a prominent figure in the Iran-Contra Affair.

CIA career[edit | edit source]

As a CIA agent, between 1961–1962, Clines was involved in covert operations in Cuba.

Between 1966-1970, during the Vietnam War, Clines worked as Ted Shackley's deputy in charge of the CIA's secret war in Laos.

Clines later joined Ted Shackley, David Atlee Phillips and David Sanchez Morales at JM WAVE, the CIA's operational headquarters in Miami, Florida for the Cuban Project also known as Operation Mongoose, a project to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro in Cuba.

Clines left Laos in 1970 and spent a year at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

In 1972, Clines was put in charge of CIA operations in Chile, and in 1973, he helped Augusto Pinochet overthrow Chile's democratically elected president, Salvador Allende.

While working on the attempt to undermine the government of Fidel Castro in Cuba, Clines became friends with Rafael Quintero ("Chi Chi"). When he was given responsibility for Nicaragua in 1978, Thomas Clines recruited Quintero to help the CIA in its efforts against the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) that governed Nicaragua. This included helping Anastasio Somoza Debayle to develop a counter-subversion program in the country.

After the CIA[edit | edit source]

In 1978, Clines left the CIA and joined several other ex-CIA agents, including Rafael Quintero, Ted Shackley and Ricardo Chavez in establishing API Distributors.

In 1979, Clines established International Research and Trade Limited in Bermuda. Later that year, he worked with Hussein Salem to provide Egypt with U.S. military hardware. He made "illicit millions" through EATSCO (the Egyptian American Transport and Services Corporation), but in prosecuting Edwin P. Wilson the U.S. government made a plea bargain that enabled him to escape prosecution, though he had to pay an addition $100,000 to settle civil claims.[1]

Iran-Contra[edit | edit source]

On July 27, 1986, the first article on the Iran-Contra scandal appeared in the San Francisco Examiner after Gene Wheaton told a lawyer named Daniel Sheehan and two Washington journalists that he had been recruited to use National Air to transport $27 million dollars worth of weapons to Nicaragua (money that Congress had funded for non-lethal aid for the Contras in Nicaragua), and that Thomas Clines and Ted Shackley had been running a top-secret assassination unit since the early 1960s. According to Wheaton, it had begun with an assassination training program for Cuban exiles and the original target had been Fidel Castro.

On October 5, 1986, a C-123K cargo plane that was supplying the Contras was shot down by a Sandinista patrol. Eugene Hasenfus (a CIA Air America veteran) survived the crash and told his captors that he believed the CIA was behind the operation. It eventually emerged that Clines, as well as Oliver North, Edwin Wilson and Richard Secord, were involved in the conspiracy to provide arms to the Contras, and Clines himself as a key player[2] in the web of business operations founded by Secord and Iranian arms dealer Albert Hakim known as the "Enterprise".

The Brill Memo[edit | edit source]

In 1988, Shirley Brill, a former CIA official who had lived with Clines in 1977, published an affidavit claiming that Clines was involved in illegal activities with Rafael Quintero and a drug dealer living in Miami.

Brill claimed that after Clines retired from the CIA in 1978, Clines had partnered with Ted Shackley, Richard Secord and Edwin P. Wilson to gain Pentagon contracts. Brill also argued that she heard Clines, Secord, Quintero and Shackley plotting to frame Wilson. Nonetheless, Wilson, Clines, Secord and Shackley were all working together in the summer of 1984, when Oliver North sought out Secord to seek help in obtaining arms for the "Contras," a group of armed rebels trying to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua.[3]

Trial[edit | edit source]

On February 22, 1990, Clines was indicted on four felony counts of underreporting to the IRS his earnings from his business enterprises for the 1985 and 1986 tax years by at least $260,000, and failing to disclose on his 1985 and 1986 tax returns that he had foreign overseas bank accounts.

On September 18, 1990, Clines was found guilty of all charges.

On December 13, 1990, U.S. District Judge Norman P. Ramsey sentenced Clines to 16 months in prison, $40,000 in fines, and Clines was ordered to pay the cost of the prosecution. The Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, on February 27, 1992, upheld his convictions, and Clines served his prison sentence.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Joseph J. Trento, Prelude to Terror: Edwin P. Wilson and the Legacy of America's Private Intelligence Networks (Carroll and Graf, 2005), 170, 261-62, & 267-68. It is the thesis of Trento's book that Clines helped Theodore Shackley run a private intelligence network in the post-Watergate period and participated in plotting to making Wilson appear to be an ex-CIA agent turned rogue. As part of this plot, Clines's involvement in EATSCO was covered up. See Chapter 29 of Prelude to Terror.
  2. Walsh Iran/Contra Report
  3. "Jane Mayer and Doyle McManus, Landslide: The Unmaking of the President 1984-1988 (Houghton Mifflin Co.: Boston, 1988) p. 142."

External links[edit | edit source]

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