Two commissions of inquiry found some fraction of the truth about the assassination of a Liberal politician 30 years ago come July 15. What follows is a small attempt to join a few circumstantial dots concerning the murder and possibly related events.
Richard Helms, head of the Central Intelligence Agency 1966-73, is said to have given Theodore Shackley (pic) an accolade:
“Ted is what we call in the spook business a quadruple threat – drugs, arms, money, and murder.”
Shackley (1927-2002) joined in 1951, the year Allen Dulles, Deputy Director for Plans, began perverting the CIA from an intelligence-gathering agency to one which included drug-running, murder and destroying foreign governments. CIA agents in Vietnam learned from the French to run heroin to finance Black Bag operations.
Theodore Shackley was involved in destroying the Guatemala government in 1954, and he used the Mob in Miami in 1962: he supplied a Chicago hood, Johnny Roselli (1905-76), with material to murder the Cuban head of state, Fidel Castro. (Gene Wheaton, who was associated with Shackley and Tom Clines in the Iran-Contra conspiracy in the 1980s, was quoted in 1986 as saying that Shackley and Clines had run a secret assassination unit since they trained Cuban exiles to assassinate Castro in the early 1960s.)
From 1966, Shackley ran opium to finance a secret guerrilla war in Laos with Tom Clines as his deputy, and Michael Jon Hand (1941-?) on contract. Hand is said to have shipped heroin to America in the corpses of dead soldiers.
Harold Holt was Prime Minister when the Pine Gap Treaty, signed in December 1966, allowed the CIA to spy on Australians and everyone else. His mistress, the ravishing Mrs Marjorie Gillespie, 48, last saw him swimming strongly towards China 12 months later.
Shackley, station chief in Saigon from 1968, was involved with William Colby, who was on leave from the CIA, in Operation Phoenix, a torture and assassination scheme which killed between 20,000 and 60,000 Vietnamese.
When US soldiers, on leave from Vietnam, introduced an agency product, heroin, to Sydney, NSW was ripe for a drugs explosion. Premier Bob Askin and his police chiefs, Norm Allen and Fred Hanson, were corrupt, and detective-sergeant Frederick Claude (Froggy) Krahe (1919-81) is believed to have murdered:
1. Chief Superintendent Don Fergusson at police headquarters in February 1970 because he refused to take the “dirty quid”, i.e. drug bribes.
2. Shirley Brifman, a whistle-blowing working girl, in Brisbane in March 1972. (Krahe was forced out of the police later that year and became a private enforcer.)
3. Juanita Nielsen, who opposed a Kings Cross development by Krahe’s employer, Frank Theeman (d. 1989), in July 1975. Her body has never been found.
In 1970, the CIA financed opposition parties in a failed attempt to prevent Salvador Allende from becoming President of Chile. Shackley, head of the Western Hemisphere Division from February 1972, used Tom Clines to destabilise the Allende government.
Australian Prime Minister Billy McMahon (pic) risked charges of accessory to crime and/or the politics of poltroonery. The CIA asked him for help, and he supplied two Australian Secret Intelligence Service agents to bribe Chileans for economic information damaging to Allende.
William Blum says (Rogue State, Zed 2005) “the CIA channelled millions of dollars to [McMahon’s government] in the election year of 1972”. It did not work, and the new Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, had the ASIS agents recalled from Chile early in 1973.
In 1973, Shackley’s old chum, Michael Jon Hand (left), and a flaky lawyer, Francis John Nugan (right, 1942-80), who had an interest in a Griffith fruit and vegetable business, started a perversion of a merchant bank – virtually a CIA front. The Nugan Hand Bank engaged in drugs and arms running, money laundering, and tax fraud.
John Jiggins, a Brisbane academic, notes in The Sydney Connection (Network to Investigate the Mackay Murder, 2004) that cannabis seizures in the 1970s indicated that Australia was producing far more than customers could consume, and hence that much was for export.
Given CIA expertise in that area, he speculates that Bob Trimbole’s Griffith Mob, the ‘Ndrangheta, might actually have been working, with the nod from NSW police, for Nugan Hand.
In 1974, Whitlam appointed NSW chief justice Sir John Kerr (pic) to the post of governor general. As a lawyer, Kerr had a long association with CIA fronts.
Shackley became deputy director of the CIA’s Black Bag operations in 1975. Australia had the option of rescinding the Pine Gap Treaty in December 1975. Michael Hand is said to have helped forge documents to discredit the Whitlam government during the Loans Affair of September-October 1975.
On Saturday, November 8, 1975, Shackley delivered a note to a Washington representative of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. The note is given in full in The Crimes of Patriots (Norton 1987), a book about Nugan Hand and the CIA by Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitny (1941-98).
Shackley noted that on Thursday, November 6, Whitlam repeated that he “knew of two instances in which CIA money had been used to influence domestic Australian politics”, and uttered a threat/ultimatum:
“This message should be regarded as an official demarche ... They [CIA] feel that if this problem cannot be solved they do not see how our mutually beneficial relationships are going to continue.”
But only the government was assassinated. In a perversion of democracy at 1.10 pm on Tuesday, November 11, Kerr mounted a coup d’etat. Gerald Ford was president, Dick Cheney was his chief-of-staff, Henry Kissinger was foreign minister, Donald Rumsfeld was secretary for war, and Bill Colby was head of the CIA.
Whitlam says in The Whitlam Government (Viking 1985) that in July 1977 Ford’s successor, Jimmy Carter, arranged for assistant foreign minister Warren Christopher to make a detour to Sydney for the sole purpose of assuring him that, “the US administration would never again interfere in the domestic political processes of Australia”.
That undertaking has been spectacularly broken in recent years by President George W. Bush, Cheney, deputy foreign minister Rich Armitage, and ambassador Tom Schiefer.
Donald Mackay (pic), a former Liberal candidate for the state seat of Murrumbidge and later the federal seat of Riverina, had learned in October 1975 of the jewel in the (Nugan Hand/CIA?) crown – a huge (12.6 hectares, 31 acres worth at least $600 million at 2007 rates) cannabis plantation at Coleambally south of Griffith.
Mackay spoke to an honest Sydney drug squad detective, senior constable Ron Jenkins, who later became a lawyer. Jenkins and two other detectives raided the plantation on the day of Kerr’s perversion. They arrested three ‘Ndrangheta types and found evidence of a previous crop or crops.
Ford sacked Bill Colby on January 30, 1976 and replaced him with George H.W. Bush. Colby became legal counsel to the Nugan Hand Bank.
At the Coleambally trial in March 1977, Judge Russell Newton, then 66, allowed defence lawyers, over objections from detective Ron Jenkins and the prosecutor, to peruse Jenkins’ notebook, which mentioned Mackay as his informant.
Mackay was murdered on Friday, July 15, 1977. The corrupt NSW Police Commissioner, Merv (The Sculler) Wood (pic, 1917-2006), put it about that Mackay had run off with a woman. Krahe was working for Nugan Hand at the time. The body has never been found.
Shackley was dismissed in December 1977 from his black bag job by CIA director Stansfield Turner, and left the CIA in 1979. He and Clines, who left in 1978, privately continued to do the same sort or work.
The Nugan Hand bank was now insolvent. Frank Nugan committed suicide outside Lithgow in January 1980. Hand destroyed the bank’s documents, and assisted by Tom Clines, left Australia in June 1980. It is assumed that the CIA gave him a new identity.
John Jiggens sees Fred Krahe as Mackay’s probable killer, but a Melbourne heavy, James Frederick Bazley (b. 1926), got life in 1986 for allegedly conspiring to murder him. He is now out of prison.
The price for the hit was said to have been $10,000. The late Dr Bert Wainer, whose campaigns against corrupt police put him in touch with other Victorian criminals, said at the time: “Jim Bazley would not break your arm for $10,000.”
Bazley’s conviction may thus have been just one more in a litany of perversions.