This page is meant as a minor resource to those researching the historical background to the 9/11 attacks. Sooner or later I hope to present moderately detailed summaries of many books, including all listed in the provisional bibliography below. For now, there is only one review, of Daniel Hopsicker's "Barry and 'the Boys,'" submitted by a man who calls himself Bookworm. I will be glad to accept submissions from others! 
June 19, 2002

Daniel Hopsicker, "Barry & 'the Boys'"
Reviewed by BOOKWORM

SO A GOOD NUMBER OF US KNOW that the CIA and the Mafia killed Kennedy, that the serious drugs trade in the USA began with secret operations during the Vietnam War, and that Bill Clinton and Bush Sr. were very willing conspirators in the arms-'n-coke airport out in Mena, Arkansas.  The interested all know these individual events, though some, the more concerned, might even try to do the discovery work necessary to thread them all together. That, of course, is perhaps the insurmountable task daunting all investigators: who did what to whom, and how does it all come together? The irony is just that now, as we are losing our "inalienable rights" indefinitely through the angry clauses of the Patriot Act, we are probably also moving closer to seeing the whole picture than we ever have before. The effect is as if having a series of soul-quenching revelations while marching out to the salt mines. 

Which leads us in to "Barry & 'the Boys.'" Now, through a lot of investigation and even more pluck, one can reel a slippery catch close enough to shore that you can see its skin. Here, we're talking about the skin of Mr. Barry Seal, drug and weapons dealer extrordinaire, megalomanic whistle-blower and successful assassination target. The premise of the book lies in a kind of skewered American dream, in small part public service, in large part merely criminal opportunism. Seal, not one of the decision makers, of course, but an instrumental participant, moves from being a college drop-out to one of the largest cocaine dealers in the 1980's. In discovering how he got there, the book lends an understanding of how many pieces of the current conspiracy puzzle could fit together. It is the story of a rank-and-file man who worked his way up to near the top, then fell down, permanently, after a lukewarm change of heart; and of the contacts of this small-fry gone big, which spotlight many a tenuous connection between events and persons one usually hears individually. 

The book begins with the end of Seal, explaining the mysterious circumstances of his death at the hands of at least one killer, who ended his life with a MAC-10 submachine gun, just before he was going to open his heart and let out his secrets. Then we go back to the man's beginnings, to the tempermental, bayou-bred roots of a boy whose parents scraped by to remain respectably lower-middle class. Rising up by his interest in aircraft, Seal takes lessons, and by fifteen is flying solo and making good pocket money with airborn advertizement banners. The next year, 1955, he joins the Civil Air Patrol, a quasi-military organisation of private pilots originally formed during the Second World War.  There, he meets David Ferrie, a man questioned by the Houston police 48 hours after the Kennedy killing, and Lee Harvey Oswald, a man killed two days after the assassination. According to "Barry and 'the Boys'", Seal knew Ferrie, a man it claims had intelligence connections leading back to 1942 and who was well networked throughout the shadowier side of Lousiana life, including its Mafia and homosexual communities. It draws connections between Seal and Oswald, double agent of dubious intellect and obvious stool pigeon. Apparently, all three knew each other, and Seal, thereafter, is wrapped up in the conspiracy to kill the president, piloting the aircraft which carried the assassins from Houston to safety. 

Next, Seal turns up in South East Asia, bumping into Mssrs. Secord and Singlaub in Air America planes, which apparently he piloted back to the states, when not busy working for TWA. (Howard Hughes is again named here as a long-standing CIA asset.) Seal is put in the middle of the heroin trade, riding bundles of smack from the Golden Triangle to newly won addicts in the States.  Afterwards, he turns up in a conspiracy to overthrow Castro in 1972, and is arrested trying to arrange a planeload of C-4 explosive to Mexico. Acquitted just before the Nixon removal, he returns to the drugs trade, this time running cocaine with Southern Air Transport out of Central America. Later, in 1980, he becomes his own agent, beginning heavy shipments into the backwater international airport at Mena. This is when he goes big, the bucks rolling in for everyone involved. 

Seal's greed and ambition get the better of him; he refuses to tow the line or take a fall for the card-callers. Eventually, he becomes lord of an international smuggling outfit encompassing two continents and some two hundred foot soldiers. Loud and brash, he places himself too wide into the open, perhaps from vanity, perhaps hoping the shady limelight might save him, if his taskmasters decide to end his employment.  In the mid-eighties, at least one attempt is made on his life, and Seal starts to leave the drugs trade -- and the company, it is implied -- ready to tell his story to investigators and to Hollywood. Then he's killed, gangland style. 

The book moves energetically over a timline spanning six decades, moving backwards and forewards from the Second World War to Whitewater to show Barry Seal's activities within the framework of both conventional and sinister covert activities. Here is the interesting element of the book, the timeline weaving the deeds of a fellow traveller with the momentous, if secretive, decisions of more significant others. If only all of it would be so easy to explain. Much of the theory in the book is supported by other sources, including the books "The Secret Team" and "Silent Coup." Some is public record, corraborated by standard information which can be retrieved from common libraries and national newspapers.  But, tantilizing as it is, much of the information in "Barry and 'the Boys'" comes from second- and third-hand sources, the he-said, she-said routine, and from a Rolodex of unnamed confidants who fill in the gaps with innuendos wherever the more solid information ends. 

Much of the information is obviously true. Yet the lack of immediate and namable sources casts doubt on some of the thinner sections of the book, which take on the feel of a whodunnit instead of being clinically critical. Then there is the matter of the writing style -- normally not a matter for consideration, each author writing as he or she can -- but here the pages are full of truncated paragraphs, colloquial turns of phrase and just-short-of-swearing exclamations, though all of it smacking oddly of professionalism. The effect is as if serious muckracking had been taken over by the National Enquirer. Obviously, this tack is effective if the Fox television crowd is to be spoken to. But if one is to believe in more than aliens, ghosts, and the Loch Ness monster, a bit more professionalism might have a better effect. After all, the book wants to place Seal in Houston on that November day in '63, to tie connections between Watergate and his plastic explosives arrest in '72, and to imply Lt. Col. Oliver North's involvement in the hit that eventually took his life in '86.  This is serious stuff, more than just a thing for yellow journalism. And yet just when these questions are raised, the information it delivers is more hear-say than up-front, and the writing degenerates to the Murdoch level. 

"Barry and 'the Boys'" is still an important work of investigative journalism.  It provides a fascinating character examination of Barry Seal. It offers plausible, if oft-repeated, conspiracy theories, revolving around the same tired cast of characters who sadly star in each sequel.  That it offers a timeline of events elaborating Seal's nefarious activities in the USA and abroad and tying these to various political and economic outrages (Bay of Pigs, Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Savings and Loan, Whitewater) is pretty ambitious stuff, and again, no doubt much of it is correct. The best would be to hope that anyone tackling the subject again could fill in all the blanks, eloquently.  



A Useful Bibliography 

If you read only one book cover-to-cover this year, make it this one: 

Dan Russell. DRUG WAR. Covert Money, Power & Policy.  Kalyx.com, Camden, NY, 1999. See also www.drugwar.com and www.kalyx.com 
On Afghanistan, Islamism, Taliban, Binladin, Qaeda and the United States, I put my trust in the authors who published at least once before the avalanche of post-9/11 instant books:  
Richard Labeviere. DOLLARS FOR TERROR. The United States and Islamism. Translated from the French by Martin DeMers. Algora Publishing, New York, 2000. 

John K. Cooley. UNHOLY WARS. Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism. 2nd ed. Pluto Press, London, 1999.  

Ahmed Rashid. TALIBAN. Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2000. 

Michael Griffin. REAPING THE WHIRLWIND. The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan. Pluto Press, London, 2001. 

Yossef Bodansky. BIN LADEN. The Man Who Declared War on America. Prima Publishing, Roseville, CA, 2001.  

Simon Reeve. THE NEW JACKALS. Ramzi Yousef, Osama Bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism. Northeastern University Press, Boston, 1999.  

The plan for the Central Asian war?  
Zbigniew Brzezinski, THE GRAND CHESSBOARD. American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. Basic Books, New York, 1997. (By one of the three most influential intellectual mercenaries in the U.S. foreign policy establishment alongside Huntington and Kissinger: a look into the geostrategic mindset, with Central Asia as the key square of the "chessboard" and the remark that the American people sadly are reluctant to wage the wars Brzezinski says they need to wage without a new Pearl Harbor.) 
The book that revealed "Operation Northwoods," the Pentagon's 1962 plan for faking domestic terror to gain a pretext to invade Cuba:  
James Bamford, BODY OF SECRETS. Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency. From The Cold War Through the Dawn of a New Century. Doubleday, New York, 2001. 
On Drug War, CIA drug dealing, and the drug economy:  
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. WHITEOUT. The CIA, Drugs and the Press. Verso, London, 1998. (Most comprehensive treatment other than "Drug War.") 

Gary Webb, DARK ALLIANCE. The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion. Foreword by U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Seven Stories Press, New York, 1998.  

Alfred W. McCoy. THE POLITICS OF HEROIN. CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. Lawrence Hill Books, Brooklyn, NY, 1991. 

Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain. ACID DREAMS. The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, and Beyond. With an Introduction by Andrei Codrescu. Grove Press, New York, 1985, 1992. 

Daniel Hopsicker, BARRY AND THE BOYS. The CIA, The Mob and America's Secret History. MadCow Press, Noti, OR, 2001.  

On history of U.S. foreign policy, wars, CIA, covert operations and the spook world:  
William Blum. KILLING HOPE. U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME, 1995.  

Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks. THE CIA AND THE CULT OF INTELLIGENCE. Dell, New York, 1980 (1973).  

Jonathan Kwitny. ENDLESS ENEMIES. The Making of an Unfriendly World. Penguin, New York, 1986 ed. 

L. Fletcher Prouty. THE SECRET TEAM. Out of print. Full text available online at http://www.ratical.org. 

Jeffrey T. Richelson. THE U.S. INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY. 4th Ed. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 1999.  

Frances Stonor Saunders. THE CULTURAL COLD WAR. The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. The New Press, New York, 2000.  

Andreas von Bülow. IM NAMEN DES STAATES. CIA, BND und die kriminellen Machenschaften der Geheimdienste. Piper Verlag, Munich, 1998. 

James Bamford, THE PUZZLE PALACE. Inside the National Security Agency, America's Most Secret Intelligence Organization. Penguin Books USA, New York, 1983.  

Edward Boorstein. ALLENDE'S CHILE. An Inside View. International Publishers, New York, 1977. 

Peter Dale Scott, DEEP POLITICS AND THE DEATH OF JFK. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1993. 

William Blum. ROGUE STATE. A Guide to the World's Only Superpower. Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME, 2000. New foreword of Sept. 19, 2001. 

On the Bush (Reagan) administrations, wars in Central America, Iran-Contra, family business and spook operations (very incomplete):   
Gary Sick. OCTOBER SURPRISE. America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan. Times Books, Random House, New York, 1992. 

Pete Brewton. THE MAFIA, CIA & GEORGE BUSH. The Untold Story of America's Greatest Financial Debacle. S.P.I. Books, New York, 1992. Out of print. 

Russell S. Bowen. THE IMMACULATE DECEPTION. The Bush Crime Family Exposed. America West Publishers, Carson City, NV, 1992.  

COVERUP. Behind the Iran Contra Affair. Film by Barbara Trent, written by Eve Goldberg. Narrated by Elizabeth Montgomery. 

HIDDEN WARS OF DESERT STORM. Film by Audrey Brohy and Gerard Ungerman. Narrated by John Hurt.  

On collaboration with Nazis, from the 1920s to the 1980s:   
Charles Higham. TRADING WITH THE ENEMY. An Expose of the Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949. How the Allied multinationals supplied Nazi Germany throughout World War Two. Robert Hale, London, 1983. (The classic treatment. Out of print.)  

Linda Hunt, SECRET AGENDA. The United States Government, Nazi Scientists and Project Paper Clip, 1945 to 1990. St. Martin's, New York, 1991. (On Operation Paperclip and other programs that recruited Nazi war criminals into influential positions within U.S. intelligence and military services.) 

Christopher Simpson. BLOWBACK. America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War. Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1988.  

John Loftus and Mark Aarons. THE SECRET WAR AGAINST THE JEWS. How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People. St. Martin's Griffin, New York, 1994. 

Billstein, Fings, Kugler and Levis. WORKING FOR THE ENEMY. Ford, General Motors and Forced Labor in Germany during the Second World War. Berghahn Books, New York, 2000.  

Anthony C. Sutton. WALL STREET AND THE RISE OF HITLER. Bloomfield Books, Suffolk, England, 1976.  

Mary Ellen Reese. GENERAL REINHARD GEHLEN: The CIA Connection. George Mason University Press, Fairfax, VA, 1990. (On how the CIA after World War II recruited Nazi spies into a network known as the Gehlen Org, which later became the West German intelligence service BND.) 

Almost fifty years later, still the bible for social theory, plus a study of the power elite that remains astonishingly contemporary:   
C. Wright Mills, THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION. Oxford University Press, New York, 1959.  

C. Wright Mills, THE POWER ELITE. Oxford University Press, New York, 1956. 

On media, PR, and related disasters of modern education:   
George Orwell, 1984. New York, London, 1949.  

MANUFACTURING CONSENT. Noam Chomsky and the Media. Ed. Mark Achbar. Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1994. 

Stuart Ewen. PR! A Social History of Spin. Basic Books, New York, 1996.  

Marshall McLuhan. UNDERSTANDING MEDIA. The Extensions of Man. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1998 (1964). 

Nicholas Lemann. THE BIG TEST. The Secret History of the American Meritocracy. Farrar Strauss Giroux, New York, 1999.  

DEGRADED CAPABILITY. The Media and the Kosovo Crisis. Ed. Philip Hammond and Edward S. Herman. Pluto Press, London, 2000. Collection with 18 reports on media coverage of Kosovo war from many countries around the world. 

On an important organization within the global elite:  
TRILATERALISM. The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management. Ed. Holly Sklar. Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1980. 
As yet unread:   
James D. Sanders. ALTERED EVIDENCE. Flight 800: How and Why the Justice Department Framed a Journalist and His Wife. www.altered-evidence.com. (Unread.) 

Rodney Stich. DEFRAUDING AMERICA. Encyclopedia of Secret Operations by the CIA, DEA and Other Covert Agencies. 3rd Ed. www.defraudingamerica.com 

Jim Keith. BIOWARFARE IN AMERICA. Illuminet Press, Atlanta, 1999. 

Two divergent views of Lockerbie:   
William C. Chasey. PAN AM 103. The Lockerbie Cover-Up. Self-published, 1995. 

Rodney Wallis. LOCKERBIE. The Story and the Lessons. Praeger, London, 1993. 

Three random picks on interesting general history, economics, big picture:  
Anthony Sampson. THE SEVEN SISTERS. The 100-Year Battle for the World's Oil Supply. Bantam, New York, ed. of 1991. 

Howard Zinn. A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Harper & Row, New York, 1980.  

Noam Chomsky. YEAR 501. The Conquest Continues. Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1993.