[1991 deposition about Mena and other CIA operations.] PIML
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 10:26:52 -0400 (EDT)
From: Patricia Neill
Subject: L&J: Brenneke Deposition (fwd)
Date: Sat, 15 Jun 1996 22:16:00 -0500 (GMT-0500)
From: "Joseph W. Gaut"
Subject: Brenneke Deposition (fwd)
Date: Sat, 15 Jun 1996 21:47:44 -0500 (CDT)
From: Edward Immler
Subject: Brenneke Deposition
The Oral Deposition of Richard J. Brenneke
Joint Investigation by the
Arkansas State Attorney General's Office
and the U.S. Congress, June 21, 1991.
The following deposition was taken from Mr. Brenneke at the Office of
Attorney General, 323 Center Street, Little Rock, Arkansas on June 21,
1991 at 10:10 a.m.
Excerpts are from pages 3, 4, 6, 7-12, 13, 14-21, 22, 23, 24, 25,
26, 28-30, 39-41.
MR. ALEXANDER: My name is William Alexander, Jr., and I'm an
and a member of the United States Congress. I'm a member of the Bar of
the State of Arkansas as well as the District of Columbia and other
states. And I'm taking this deposition today as a member of the United
States Congress in my investigative authority under the Constitution,
as a member of of the Appropriations Committee having jurisdiction
all agencies of the federal government, specifically those agencies of
the Departments of Justice, State, Commerce and the Federal Judiciary.
For some time I have been involved in investigating the subject of
inquiry today with full authority as a member of the United States
Congress. In addition, I'm acting as a Special Assistant to the
General of the State of Arkansas, who is represented here today. And,
Chad, would you state who are you, and what you're doing here?
MR. FARRIS: My name is Chad Farris. I'm the Chief Deputy Attorney
General for the State of Arkansas. And Representative Alexander is
that he has been so designated, and I am attending as a representative
for the Attorney General's Office and will participate in this
MR. ALEXANDER: I'll state further for the record, that the nature
this inquiry is confidential. And that it is - the evidence is
to be used to produce for the benefit of the Special Prosecutor in the
Iran-Contra case now pending in Washington and for other purposes. And
I'd now like to ask the reporter if he would swear the witness.
(The witness was sworn.)
BY MR. ALEXANDER:
Q. Would you state your name, age and residence?
A. Okay. The name is Richard J. Brenneke, B-R-E-N-N-E-K-E. My home
address is [deleted] Street in [deleted], and that's [deleted]....
Q. So you were an independent contractor with the Central Intelligence
A. That's correct.
Q. Beginning when and through what years?
A. 1968 through about 1986, somewhere in 1985, '86 is when I called
Q. So what services did you perform for the Central Intelligence
A. Specialized in two activities; I handled money for them, I handled
East Bloc weapons purchases primarily made in Yugoslavia and
Q. And you were a pilot for the CIA?
A. That's correct.
Q. During what period?
A. During the whole period I worked for them.
Q. And that was what years?
A. That would be '68 through '80 -- I think the last flying I did for
them was in '84.
Q. Did you ever pilot an aircraft to a location at Mena, Arkansas?
A. Yes, sir. I did on a number of occasions.
Q. And what aircraft did you fly into Mena?
A. I generally flew a C-130. Aircraft would be brought into Mena, the
first trips that I made started in early '84.
Q. I see. Were you based out of Mena for a period of time?
A. That would be a very appropriate description.
Q. How many flights would you say that you made from the Mena,
airport for the CIA during the period of time that you worked for
A. Ten to twelve.
Q. Ten to twelve flights? And you flew a C-130?
A. Generally flew a C-130. I did, however, on occasion come in -- on
occasion specifically I recall coming in on a Lear Jet, on one
occasion on a
400 Series Cessna.
Q. You kept flight logs of all of your flights for the CIA?
A. Yes, sir. I certainly did.
Q. You have those logs?
A. They're lodged with my attorney.
Q. And would you submit to us copies of -- exact copies of those logs,
and make those an attachment to this record?
A. I certainly will....
Q. All right. Now, Mr. Brenneke, could you tell us when you first
flight for the CIA from Mena, Arkansas?
A. It would have been March, April of 1984.
Q. 1984. And what was the cargo that you transported for the CIA from
A. From Mena?
A. Okay. From Mena I would generally take people who had been trained
the area around Mena, generally paramilitary or military forces from
Central America. They would be taken back to Panama City, where I
drop them. And, in addition to that, we would carry weapons that were
being shipped down there. The weapons, as I've said, frequently came
either from government stores or through [deleted] Gun Shop in Miami,
Q. Now, were the shipments made from Mena, though?
A. Yes, sir, they were.
Q. Okay. Now, the guns, how did you know they were guns?
A. I could see them being loaded on my aircraft.
Q. Were the guns in boxes?
A. The guns were in crates, and they were stamped clearly on the
as to what they were.
Q. Now, can you identify for the record some of the kinds of guns that
were being shipped from Mena to Central America?
A. M-1's, M-1 rifles, recoil -- small recoilless rifles, [illegible],
I've forgotten the exact caliber on it, grenades, ammunition for these
weapons, fuses, detonator fuses. And I remember that one very
because it only happened once. But we had detonator fuses on board,
my concern was that we might have the equipment being detonated on the
same flight, and I didn't want that.
Q. Did you inspect the crates yourself prior to airlifting?
A. No, sir. I didn't look at every crate. But I would, from time-to-
open one because I wanted to make sure of the weights on them.
Q. And who was with you as co-pilot on the first flight?
A. [deleted], a friend of mine who lives in Denver, Colorado.
Q. Did he accompany you on all the flights or were there other co-
A. No, there were other co-pilots from time-to-time.
Q. Can you describe -- name for us the co-pilots that accompanied you
the several flights that you made to Central America?
A. No, sir, I can't. It's been too long.
Q. Do you recall names other than [deleted]?
A. Yes. Unfortunately only nicknames. There was a fellow that I flew
regularly that was called "The Hippie." He worked out Medellin, would
frequently fly the trips up north to us.
Q. "Up north," what do you mean?
A. Up to Mena.
Q. To Mena?
A. And also into Iron Mountain Ranch in Texas.
Q. Into Texas. So you -- let's deal with the Mena location at the
and we can go to other locations today if we wish --
Q. -- at a later time. There is an airport at Mena, and what's the
A. It's Mena Airport.
Q. Mena Airport. And who did you see personally involved in the
of these crates and the management of these cargoes that you knew
personally and you can identify for the record? Did you see anyone
you would --
A. Yes, a man by the name of [deleted].
Q. Were there -- [deleted], is he from Mena?
A. [deleted] owns and operates [deleted].
Q. In Mena, Arkansas?
A. In Mena, Arkansas. And he would be the individual directing his
workers, because they followed his direction in loading and unloading
Q. How many workers do you recall were used for the purpose of loading
and unloading aircraft?
A. Depending on the equipment, it could run as high as twelve, more
than not it was around five or six people.
Q. Five or six people. Would you -- do you recall any of the names of
people who participated?
A. I was never introduced to who they were.
Q. I see. So as I understand it, they would load the guns and
on the C-130, and you and a co-pilot, one of whom you've identified as
Q. -- would fly these munitions and equipment to locations in Central
America. Where was the cargo destined for; where did you fly it to?
A. We flew it to Panama City and off loaded it there.
Q. Do you remember where in Panama City?
A. Panama -- at Tecuman Airport.
Q. Which airport?
A. Tecuman, T-E-C-U-M-A-N.
Q. Tecuman Airport. That's in Panama City?
A. In Panama City.
Q. Did you fly them to other locations?
A. Yes, sir. We also flew to a point on the East Coast of Panama and
A. It's a Greek word.
Q. Now, could -- were the shipments met by people in Panama?
A. Yes, they were. They were. They were met by military types who wore
military uniforms and were easily identified as members of the
Defense Force, which essentially is the Palace Guard....
Q. I see. Now, what would happen to the cargo once you landed in
at either of these locations when it was met by the Panamanian Defense
A. The cargo would be immediately off loaded off the aircraft and
either onto trucks or stacked in warehouses. If we were going into
there are bonded warehouses where it would simply be stacked in
warehouses where it would simply be stacked.
Q. Were these military trucks?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Could you identify the military insignias on the trucks?
A. No. They were just --
Q. They were military trucks?
A. Drab olive green.
Q. Olive green trucks?
A. With numbers stenciled on the side.
Q. I see. Operated by --
A. Operated by people in military garb. I assume they were military
Q. Okay. And then what would be your actions following the arrival
when the -- after the cargo was unloaded; did you stay the night, or
would you immediately turn around an return to the United States? What
was your --
A. No, we always stayed the night. Generally we would stay just one
night, there were times when we stayed two or three.
Q. Now, you would stay a night or a couple of days and you returned.
would you return with cargo?
A. Yes, sir, we would. We would come back with individuals and from
time-to-time unmarked boxes of items that were put in one aircraft
with the individuals. Now, being conservative by nature and not
death-wish, I opened the boxes on a number of occasions to find out
I was flying. And what --
Q. What did you discover the cargo to be?
A. I found the cargo to be cocaine, in some cases marijuana.
Q. How, would you describe what you saw when you opened the boxes?
A. What I saw when I opened the boxes were plastic bags filled with a
white powdery substance. On one occasion I wanted to know more about
it was, so I cut one of them open and tasted it; and I have tasted
in a controlled environment before at the request of law enforcement
officials, so this --
Q. So you positively identified the substances that you were carrying
A. Yes, sir, I did.
Q. How much cocaine would you judge that you were carrying?
A. In the course of time there?
Q. Well, in each load?
A. In each load, 4 to 600 pounds.
Q. 4 to 600 pounds. And did you see people loading this cargo onto the
A. Yes, sir, I did.
Q. And who -- can you identify those people?
A. Those were Panamanian Defense Force soldiers. They were in military
uniform and easily identifiable as such.
Q. The same people that took the guns off, put the cocaine on?
Q. Is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. Now, what would you do with the load of cocaine once it was loaded
onto your C-130; where would you go with it?
A. We would bring it to Mena, Arkansas.
Q. And how long would it take you to fly to Mena?
A. Four to six hours, depending on the wind.
Q. And you have a flight log that would identify this flight?
A. Yes, sir, I do.
Q. Each one of the flights?
A. Yes, sir, I do.
Q. And when you landed at Mena, what would be the disposition of the
A. On one or two occasions the cargo was taken off by people who were
residents of the Mena area and put into other aircraft which departed
from there. However, the most frequent activity was that the aircraft
would be unloaded in front of [deleted]'s hangers and it would be
in the back of the hanger....
Q. And go back in your mind to the first trip you took and describe
the disposition of the cargo; that is, the cocaine, once it returned
Arkansas, once it was delivered to Arkansas? And I am especially -- I
particularly interested in the identification of persons other than
[deleted]. You've talked about [deleted]. You've identified him. Can
identify other people who might have received this cocaine?
A. Yes. I can identify people who in fact received the cocaine, not
"might have." And --
Q. Can you tell us who they were?
A. I can tell you that they were members of John Gotti's family in New
York. One of them was an individual know to me by the name of Sal
Q. Could you spell that name for us?
Q. Sal Reale?
A. Salvatore Reale.
Q. Salvatore Reale?
Q. And how did you know Mr. Reale?
A. Mr. Reale at that time was the Director of -- I believe it was that
time, was the Director of Security of Kennedy International in New
Q. In New York City. Speak to the subject of your knowledge of Mr.
and his activities as the head of security at Kennedy? Tell us what
know about him and what he did?
A. Okay. Mr. Reale was a -- was one of Mr. Gotti's lieutenants. I
the two of them interact. Mr. Gotti would provide directions, Mr.
would carry them out. It was his job to make sure that cargo being
shipped through Kennedy was not lost, but properly located, and in
cases avoiding customs -- avoided the customs procedures....
Q. So you worked for Mr. Gotti as well as for the CIA?
A. Actually the CIA told me to do that on his behalf.
Q. So the CIA was in, would you say, partnership or association with
A. Yes, sir. I would say a partnership.
Q. And can you describe the nature of that partnership?
A. Sure. The organized crime members had a need for two things: they
needed drugs brought into the country on a reliable, safe basis; they
needed people taken out of the country or people brought into the
without alerting customs or INS to the fact that they were being
into the country; they also needed their money taken offshore so that
would not be subject to United States tax where they might have to
declare its source. And so we performed these kinds of functions for
Q. Mr. Brenneke, are you saying that the CIA was in the business of
bringing drugs into the United States?
A. Yes, sir. That's exactly what I'm saying.
Q. And that they were in partnership with John Gotti in this
A. I would say that they worked with Mr. Gotti and his organization
closely. Whether it was a formal partnership, I don't know. But there
certainly was a close alliance between the two.
Q. All right. Now, let's go back to Mena Airport in Arkansas for a
moment. At a time when you saw Mr. Reale there, did he receive any of
shipment, the cargo of the drugs that your brought back from Panama?
A. He did not personally take any of the drugs. He did, however, see
that they were transferred into aircraft and vehicles so that they
be moved off the field, and that was his function. His function was
to load the vehicles, but to see that nothing got lost on transit.
Q. Are you saying that drugs that you brought back from Central
to Mena were for the purpose of delivery to Mr. Reale, who was in the
employ of Mr. Gotti, the New York crime syndicate boss?
A. Yes, sir. I would say that.
Q. And Mr. Reale was there to manage the transhipment of those drugs?
A. From time-to-time there were other people from the family down
Q. Did you have any conversations with him about where he intended to
take those drugs?
A. Yes, sir. I asked on more than one occasion where the drugs would
taken, and I was told the New York City area, specifically Kennedy
Q. Now, I was asking you about whether or not the CIA had a "black
operation at [deleted] in Mena, Arkansas. And maybe a more interesting
way to ask that question would be, you knew that you were dealing with
criminals; is that correct?
A. That's correct, sir.
Q. You were dealing with criminals that were transporting and selling
cocaine in the United States?
Q. Now, did the Gotti organization, through Reale, pay money to the
for the drugs?
A. Yes, they did.
Q. Do you know how much money?
A. Firsthand knowledge, somewhere in the $50,000,000 bracket.
Q. How do you know how much money?
A. Because I banked that money for them in Panama City, and ultimately
transferred it to other locations in Europe....
Q. So what would be the procedure for you to receive the payment from
Gotti organization for the drugs?
A. Generally the money was -- okay. Let me restate that. The money was
given to us in cash.
Q. "Us," you mean the CIA?
A. "Us," meaning the people I worked with, who were also associated
the Central Intelligence Agency. We would transfer that money to
Central and South America. And from there transfer via accounts that I
had established back in 1970 -- they were accounts which I was a
beneficial holder and the named signee on it....
Q. Can you recall any conversations you had with any of the CIA agents
about the money, and tell us the nature of that conversation, the
A. Sure. When I found that we were bringing drugs into the United
and that we were receiving money which was being put into accounts
I knew to belong to the United States Government, as I'd set them up
specifically for that purpose, I called Mr. Don Gregg, who was a CIA
officer with whom I was acquainted, and complained about the nature of
what we were doing.
Q. Now, who is Mr. Don Gregg?
A. At that time, he was George Bush - Vice-President George Bush's
National Security Advisor.
Q. And do you recall the date that you had this conversation with Mr.
A. I am more than willing to look for it in my telephone records.
Q. And when you discover that, you can provide it for us?
A. I will provide you with --
Q. You have records of the conversation?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. And will you make a copy of that record available for this --
A. Yes, sir, I will. Including my handwritten notes that are
Q. Now, you don't have any notes with you at this time?
A. No, I do not.
Q. But do you recall the conversation with Mr. Gregg?
A. Very well.
Q. And can you tell us what you remember about that conversation?
A. I surely can. I was told that it was not my business, what I was
flying in and out of the country. That I was hired to do specific
and if I would do those things and not pay any attention to anything
else, we would all be very happy. I didn't like that.
Q. Well, what else did he say?
A. Shut up and do your job.
Q. He said, "Shut up and do your job?"
A. Essentially, yes.
Q. Did you have any further contact with him?
A. I talked to him in 19 --
Q. "Him," I'm talking about Mr. Gregg?
A. Yes. Subsequently I talked to Mr. Gregg on a number of occasions as
well as to other people in the Vice-President's office to voice my
concern over the use of drugs in -- importing drugs into the United
States and using the cash generated from that to perform operations
I perceived to be not put before Congress in any form....
Q. I think, finally, I want to ask you if you have any knowledge of
money that you're talking about coming from the Gotti organization
used for any other purposes, other than depositing in the bank
for the CIA?
A. Sure. We had to run the operations at Nella, for instance. The
training facilities at Nella had to be paid for.
Q. Now, where is Nella?
A. Nella is about 10 miles out of Mena, north.
Q. North of the Mena Airport. We've not talked about that, Mr.
Can you tell us what your know about Nella; what it is, and for what
purposes it was established?
A. Sure. Nella was a training base for military and paramilitary folks
from south of the border, Mexico, Panama.
Q. Who managed the base? Who operated the base?
A. Don't know the names of the operators.
Q. What agency operated the base?
A. Central Intelligence Agency, as far as I knew.
Q. Did you know anyone from the agency that was responsible for the
A. I knew the names of some of the people over there. I didn't spend
time at Mena, so I'd have to answer that by saying, no, I really don't
know. I did know one of the folks who was a flight instructor over
and that was Terry Reed.
Q. Terry Reed.
A. And on another occasion, I did provide Mr. Reed with a deposition
case in which he was acquitted.
Q. Mr. Brenneke, I have here in my hand a copy of a videotaped
which was presented as evidence in the United States District Court
the District of Kansas in the case United States of America, Plaintiff
versus Terry Kent Reed, Defendant. And I will ask you if you can
A. (Witness viewing document.) Yes, sir. That is the testimony that I
under oath in Portland, Oregon....
Q. (BY MR. ALEXANDER) Mr. Brenneke, I don't want to dwell on this too
at this point. But I think it's important just to summarize the
between the Mena CIA operation and the Nella CIA operation. And can
tell us briefly what distinction there was, if any, and whether or
operations were one in the same? And let's move onto something else
have explained that.
A. The operations were one in the same. The equipment that was used
would frequently transport people and equipment to the truck, for
you know, would drive up to Nella and leave people and equipment
Q. So, in other words, the CIA had an operation in Mena which
End of Deposition
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