January 19 2022 — On January 19 1991, the US Federal Government finally admitted that the Central Intelligence Agency had paid General Manuel Antonio Noriega during his three decade long relationship with the United States. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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Noriega was recruited as a CIA informant while studying at a military academy in Peru. He received intelligence and counterintelligence training at the School of the Americas at Fort Gulick, Panama, in 1967, as well as a course in psychological operations at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was to remain on the CIA payroll until February 1988.
After a military coup in 1968, Noriega quickly rose through the ranks and became head of Panama’s military intelligence and a key figure under General Omar Torrijos, the military ruler who signed a treaty with the US to restore the Panama canal zone to Panamanian sovereignty in 1977.
After Torrijos’s death in a mysterious plane crash in 1981, Noriega consolidated his power, becoming Panama’s de facto ruler, promoting himself to full general in 1983. [The Guardian — Manuel Noriega – from US friend to foe ]
In what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, the Reagan administration armed CIA-trained Contra fighters in Nicaragua using money obtained from illegal arms sales to Iran. Declassified U.S. documents reveal that Noriega offered to help U.S. officials
“The relationship with the CIA and the Pentagon was quite intense in the early ’80s, He was considered an important asset, and everyone in the documents I’ve read spoke very highly of him. He was trusted to the extent that you trust someone who is a paid intelligence asset.” [John Dinges, author of “Our Man in Panama: How General Noriega Used the United States and Made Millions in Drugs and Arms (1990)]
“Noriega was a pawn in an international game that was way bigger than him. He was a small-time player catapulted to international fame by the U.S. government and the media to drum up support for a ruthless invasion.” [Barbara Trent, a filmmaker who directed “The Panama Deception,” a 1992 documentary about the U.S. invasion.]
Of course, geopolitical and intelligence experts had suspected for years that general Noriega was on the payroll of the CIA. But the confirmation was quite welcome.
Still, the US Government would not explain what general Noriega did in exchange for the payments from the CIA.
To this day, all details about these payments remain classified.
Former aides to general Noriega and government documents have disclosed that he assisted the US military and the CIA with their operations in Latin America.
In the Iran-contra affair, documents disclosed that General Noriega offered to conduct sabotage raids inside Nicaragua in support of the Reagan Administration’s efforts to oust the Sandinista government.
The jury in Noriega’s trial never heard about his contacts with Oliver North, John Poindexter, CIA chief William Casey and other key figures in the Ronald Reagan and Bush administrations who connived in the supply of arms to Nicaragua’s Contra rebels paid for with Medellín cartel drug cash.
Manuel Noriega, Dictator Ousted By U.S. In Panama, Dies At 83 | The New York Times
“Removing Manuel Noriega, the dictator of Panama, from power in 1989 not only entailed what was then the largest American military action since Vietnam, but also set the stage for future actions by the United States. ” NYT
U.S. Admits Payments to Noriega — NYT (Jan 19 1991)
CAMPAIGN ’88 : Former CIA Chief Says Bush Rehired Noriega — Los Angeles Times (Oct. 1 1988)
On This Day — U.S. Admits CIA Payments to Noriega (January 19 1991)