A state assassin is a job that no one ever talks about. Ever since Gerald Ford issued an executive order in 1976 that “no employee of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination” there are not supposed to be any state assassins. Jimmy Carter dropped the word “political” and Ronald Reagan made that official with an executive order. But in 1996 Gene (Chip) Tatum was charged with treason. He felt that the only way he could save his neck was by going public with the assassinations that he committed under George H. W. Bush, both when he was vice-president and president. That’s how the radio interview came about that year where Tatum described how he assassinated Amiram Nir, 37, in Mexico Nov. 30, 1988. Nir had been Israel’s point man in liaising with the Iran-Contra program, one of the biggest scandals in US history.
Tatum did four assassinations on direct orders from Bush in the 80s (counting a guy who died in a car crash while being pursued).
Tatum had an eventful career in the military and intelligence. He joined the Air Force during the Vietnam War intent on becoming an air traffic controller and so avoid combat but within a year he was sent on a suicide mission into Cambodia. Out of 13 soldiers, only two came back. They were captured and subjected to gruesome torture. His captain was skinned alive. Once rescued, Tatum was shunted into intelligence to work as a pilot.
Like Solzhenitsyn Tatum surreptitiously kept records in precise detail of his experiences and although he did not have the literary flair of the great Russian, the ire he inspired in his government was similar. At one point he was threatened with execution if he did not turn over the documents, the documents, the documents.
Iran-Contra had two sides, all of it well-meaning but illegal, in violation of explicit laws. On one side the US, relying on Israel, was selling arms to Iran then involved in a war with Iraq, in return for releasing hostages held by Islamic extremists in Lebanon, and on the other side arms were being supplied to Contra rebels fighting a socialist regime in Nicaragua. Money from the arms sales to Iran supposedly went to the Contra rebels. Other funds were being generated by the CIA purchasing cocaine from Colombian drug cartels. The cocaine would then go to Arkansas managed by the governor Bill Clinton and sold to organized crime. The proceeds from that too were supposed to help the Contras. I’ve given you this in broad strokes.
Iran Contra began in 1985. At that point Tatum was in the military and he was moved into a special CIA black ops unit answerable directly to Bush, then vice-president, but also former head of the CIA.
By the early 90s Tatum wanted out. He was told, as he testified, “no one leaves the operation.” Meanwhile he was being pressed hard to turn over his documents. Tatum was working as a mortgage broker in Colorado newly married to his second wife Nancy, a real estate analyst who knew nothing of his life as a spook. What he did was cross state lines, sent himself $70,000, which was illegal in the real estate world, asked for a plea bargain, and the conviction would put him out of the service.
The response was brutal. He was arrested and all their property was confiscated, but the police were good enough to hand Nancy $30. Fortunately she had a family to look out for her. They put Tatum on “diesel therapy;” the prisoner is loaded on a truck, which travels around the country for weeks, and that way they avoid having to appear before a judge.
Tatum ended up in Florida. They charged both with embezzlement, carrying a 30 year prison sentence. The main witness was an actual embezzler who had stolen $80,000 and he would be rewarded for his testimony with a mere six-week sentence and could keep the money. The first time he went before a grand jury, they did not indict, so he went back a second time with a different story.
They played dirty the whole time. Nancy was given a drug test and showed positive. This woman didn’t even know what hard drugs were. Fortunately again her mother was there, made a fuss, and they redid the test. Nancy’s lawyer went to a bar one night, a DIA agent came by, that’s the military CIA, and told him he had better play ball or he’d be in big trouble himself. After that he just went through the motions. Tatum’s lawyer did not even bother going through the motions. Tatum wanted to call 80 witnesses; his lawyer called none.
The breaking point came when they told Tatum he was being charged with treason and could be executed. Up to then he had no thought of going public, but now he asked Nancy to find a court reporter in Tampa Bay. The newspaper printed the story that there was a man charged with treason in the county jail. The authorities responded that there had been a clerical error. Tatum began seeking out journalists and that’s how the radio interview about the Nir assassination came about. In the end Tatum was sentenced to 27 months for conspiracy to embezzle. After 13 months an appeals judge ruled the conviction was illegal and he was set free. The couple then lived abroad for a dozen years.
The ayatollahs took over Iran in 1979 from the shah. The next year Iraq invaded. All their arms were made in the USA. If they didn’t get resupplies they were up the creek without a paddle. The Iraqis were rolling through their country.
Yaakov Nimrodi had sold arms to the shah. The ayatollahs asked him if he would sell to them. The Israeli government said okay and Nimrodi supplied them with $138 million in arms. Iran drove back the Iraqis on all fronts.
Now in 1985 the Iranians were again in trouble. They again came to Nimrodi and he renewed sales. He would then give way to Nir. In 1984 the prime minister Shimon Peres had appointed Nir his counterintelligence adviser. Nir had no experience in intelligence. He had been a tank commander in the army and then a journalist, but he was a leading figure in the party. Nir had to learn intelligence fast because now he was dealing with the Iranians on one side and Oliver North, head of Iran-Contra for the Americans, on the other.
His fatal mistake, literally, was taping a meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1986 involving four people, himself, Bush, and two CIA agents Charles McKee and Matthew Gannon, experts in the area of hostages.
The scandal exploded later that year when a Lebanese newspaper reported what was going on and early the next year Nir left government service. Besides North, Nir knew more about Iran-Contra than anyone else in the world.
By 1988 Nir had a company in London working with a Swiss-based avocado company called Nucal. Israel had 80 per cent of European sales in avocados at that time. What else Nir may have been doing, if anything, is a matter of speculation.
On Nov. 28, 1988 he was in Madrid in the company of a Canadian woman named Adriana Stanton, 25. Ari Ben Menashe, a journalist who fished in troubled waters, showed up, and told Nir “beware of that woman.” He did not spell it out but she may have been CIA.
They travelled from Madrid to Mexico City to Uruapan from Nov. 28-30, 1988. There they chartered a Cessna T-210 and were joined by someone named Pedro Huntado.
So there was a pilot and three passengers. Clear skies. After 100 miles the plane crashed.
The pilot and Stanton suffered severe injuries. Huntado was killed. Nir died. But Stanton would say that Nir was alive and talking to her after the plane went down and was killed on the ground.
The first “rescuer” on the scene was Pedro Cruchet. How he got there in the bush in mountainous terrain so quickly was never explained. He claimed he worked for Nucal, but the plant was a considerable distance away. When the police asked to see his identification, he told them he had lost it at a bullfight.
Apparently he was an Argentinian in Mexico illegally. By the time that was determined, he had vanished.
Cruchet identified Nir’s body and accompanied Stanton to the hospital.
Stanton told this to crash investigators, according to Ran Edelist in 1997: “While injured and shocked, she saw Amiram Nir a few metres away and waving and comforting her in a normal voice. ‘Everything will be okay. Help is on the way!’”
In 2009 Channel 10 talked to Stanton and she repeated that Nir was alive and in no pain after the plane went down.
No autopsy was performed to determine the cause of death.
The first person to publicly suggest foul play was a German arms dealer Herman Moll in 199l. He told a German publication that he had learned that the CIA had sabotaged Nir’s plane because “he knew too much.”
That same year burglars broke into the home of Nir’s widow Judy Nir Mozes and walked off with all his tapes and documents without taking any valuables.
The first insider to discuss foul play publicly was Lieutenant Commander Robert J. Hunt.in 1993. He was responding to questions from an author doing a book on CIA scandals, who brought up Nir’s death.
Hunt had accompanied Nir on a trip to Teheran and was at the Jerusalem meeting in the capacity of bodyguard.
He said after the crash he went to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. and asked North, what happened? North replied that that Nir was killed “because he threatened to go public with the recording of the Jerusalem meeting in 1986.”
Hunt said Bush killed Nir to save face. From the moment the scandal erupted whenever Bush was asked, did you know about the trading of arms for hostages? he replied no. If he said that once, he said it a hundred times. When Bush learned that Nir had taped the meeting, he knew that if Nir made that tape public, he would be exposed as a liar with a capital L. It also would have reflected badly on everyone in his inner security circle because they all knew and they all lied.
Tatum did his radio interview in 1996 with Robert Lori at WNMF in Tampa Bay. He was also working on a book around the same time. At first he was just going to write about Vietnam but kept going. Sales were few. His reputation among the public then was that of an embezzler.
Here is some of the interview. Tatum flew the helicopter.
LORI: “So in terms of ‘taking out’ Amiram Nir, what was your role in that?”
TATUM: “I was to fly a four-man team to a southern Mexico town, outside of Morelia. Mr. Nir was involved in an avocado packaging plant which, I don’t know if it did or didn’t package avocados, or packaged something else. I was not involved in that. I was involved in eliminating him before he could appear before the commissions to testify in 1989.
“I flew a four-man team in. There was a radio beacon put in, with the frequency given to us, put on Mr. Nir. We triangulated the position. The four-man team went to that position to eliminate Mr. Nir. However apparently there were two signals, and one was in an aircraft, a small aircraft. I think it was a Cessna T-210, a small, charter aircraft.
“When I fly a mission as a combat helicopter pilot, into a foreign country, we normally fly in what’s called ‘the Archer Mode,’ which is an armed mode. We would fly an aircraft with full stingers on one side of the pod, and we would fly about a one-quarter to one-third charged missiles on the right side of the aircraft, so that we could scare away base aircraft based in the country that we were in, rather than shoot them down. We would rather scare them away than shoot them down.
“Unfortunately, this missile, the proximity missile that I fired, took down the aircraft and killed two people on board.”
LORI: “And one of them was Amiram Nir?”
TATUM: “That’s correct.”
I pick up the interview here.
LORI: “Who ordered you to ‘take out’ Amiram Nir?”
TATUM: “It came through Major Rodriguez, …. Felix Rodriguez. Most of the orders that we would receive would come through that particular mode. Now this, you have to understand, was after Iran-Contra. So the order came from Rodriguez, but it was actually from George Bush.”
LORI: “Now how do you know it was from George Bush?”
TATUM: “Because I spoke to Mr. Bush concerning it.”
LORI: “And how did you speak to him? Did you speak to him face-to-face?”
TATUM: “Via land line.”
LORI: “And what did he tell you?”
TATUM: “He explained to me that Mr. Nir was a threat, that he was trying to expose the movement and the trafficking, and that he needed to be ‘taken out.’ And he told me to pick up my Archer Team, relocate to El Salvador, that tactical fuel (unclear) and tactical beacons would be set up. I was to move my aircraft to those beacons for refuelling, and eliminate Mr. Nir.”
LORI: “Now what was your frame of mind, as…”
TATUM: “Let me qualify that: I was also told that this was an approved mission by the Mossad and that it was primarily for the Mossad that we were doing this.”
LORI: “So the Mossad viewed Amiram Nir as a renegade agent, and they wanted him ‘taken out’ as well.”
TATUM: “That’s the understanding that was given to me, yes.”
To say what Bush claimed about the Mossad is evidence that Bush’s proper place was in a mental hospital. He was nuts. Yitzhak Shamir had dedicated his life to saving Jews. That he would countenance killing a Jew is an impossibility. It’s one thing for Bush to take responsibility for his actions. It’s quite another to blame others, blame the Jews. Bush ordered an estimated 14 assassinations. Whom did he blame the others on? And let’s see, you had an American vice-president visiting Jerusalem and speaking to an emissary and then when he becomes president he kills the emissary. That’s something that Stalin would do.
So Tatum took down the plane but Nir is alive. There had to be a team on the ground to finish the job. Maybe that’s why the mysterious Argentinian was at the scene. There was also an Argentinian woman hanging around at Stanton’s room at the hospital shooing away snoopers.
McKee and Gannon, the CIA agents at the Jerusalem meeting, would outlive Nir by 21 days. Iran offered terrorist Ahmed Jibril $10 million to blow up an American passenger plane. They chose Pan Am 103 because McKee and Gannon were on it. The Iranians feared they were about to lead a raid in Lebanon to free all the American hostages, which numbered then more than a half dozen.
Tatum’s knowledge of Iran-Contra was encyclopedic. While piloting a helicopter one day he was listening in, as was his custom, to what passengers were saying. Because of the noise they spoke through the intercom system. On board was Mike Harari, legendary Mossad agent where he had been known as the Zionist James Bond, now living in Panama and under contract to the CIA. Harari said: “Look — one gun and 3,000 rounds of ammo is $1,200. A kilo of product is about $1,000. We credit the Contras $1,500 for every kilo. That’s top dollar for a kilo of cocaine. … On our side we spend $1,200 for a kilo and sell it for $12,000 to $15,000. Now, that’s a profit centre. And the market is much greater for the product than for weapons. It’s just good business sense — understand?”
That $12,000-$15,000 was the price of the cocaine being scooped up in Arkansas. Where did that money go? Vince Foster, later deputy White House counsel, handled the money laundering in Arkansas. That question they might have asked Foster before Clinton had two .22 calibre bullets pumped into his neck at a honey trap at the White House July 20, 1993, a day after Clinton fired the FBI director so that the coast would be clear.
Foster’s body was dumped in an obscure park in Virginia known only to two groups, transient homosexuals who hung out there and the CIA, whose HQ is not far away. The CIA chose it because the Park Police had no experience in homicides. Robert Goetzman, an FBI agent, was on the hit squad. Well lubricated he called Debra von Trapp, related to the Sound of Music family, that night, and she taped the call. He said, “We dumped him in a queer park to send Clinton and his queer wife a message.”
In my book “Lockerbie, Bushnaq, Iran” I only cover one of Bush’s assassinations Nir, but four of Clinton’s because three were prominent Americans and one was the son of the new husband of Foster’s widow. Linda Tripp, who formerly did covert ops for the military’s top secret Delta Force and then worked alongside Foster, knew way too much; she said the reason she called Newsweek about Monica Lewinsky was in the hope that this might keep her alive.
The Syrian-born Basel Bushnaq, an American citizen, was Jibril’s triggerman who took down the plane at Lockerbie, killing 270. He’s still on the run. It’s not too late to bring him in. The US government didn’t even go so far as stripping him of his citizenship.
The e-book is at Amazon; the paperback at Sweek.