Analysis: How the CIA bedded down in Burma



It is a story that was largely ignored when it surfaced last year: since 1994, US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officer Richard A. Horn had been claiming that CIA agents illegally wiretapped his conversations while he was stationed in Burma. It appears that, at the time, the US diplomatic representation in Burma and the CIA station in Rangoon were at loggerheads with the DEA. The latter, represented by special agent Horn, had a policy of publicly commending the Burmese government for its significant efforts to end the vastly lucrative illegal drug trade in the country. But the diplomatic leadership at the US embassy in Rangoon, supported by the CIA, felt that their inroads with the Burmese military junta, which has controlled the country since 1990, were being obstructed by the DEA. Horn claims that, in an effort to sabotage the DEA activities in the country, Franklin Hurdle Jr. (who was then US ambassador to Burma) and CIA officer Arthur Brown (who later headed the CIA’s East Asia division) illegally eavesdropped on his telephone communications with his DEA superiors and others. In July of 2009, a US court ruled that CIA attorneys committed fraud in alleging that US national security would be threatened if details of Richard Horn’s lawsuit were openly discussed, and determined that the CIA had kept the case secret for years simply in order to avoid embarrassment. Soon afterwards, a worried CIA was forced to settle the lawsuit out of court. The CIA, the DEA, and –it seems– the American media, are trying to quickly put behind them the grim details of that bloody turf war in post-Cold-War Burma. But in a brave piece written for the Eurasia Review, Joseph Allchin revisits the DEA-CIA clash, and explains the crucial function of the CIA in the turbulent internal politics of Burma. Most definitely essential reading.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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