LICENSED TO KILL.
"Vote! Bah! When you vote, you only change the names of the cabinet. When you shoot, you pull down governments, inaugurate new epochs, abolish old orders and set up new."
--Andrew Undershaft, the munitions magnate of George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara
"Arms dealers provide the grease that makes foreign policy work. If you're going to have a covert war somewhere, somebody has to provide the bullets."
--John Miley, former weapons dealer for the CIA
At the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about twenty miles south of Charlottesville, sits Nelson County, one of Virginia's most bucolic corners. Unimpeded by a single traffic light, the main thoroughfare is Route 56, a two-lane country road that wends among vineyards, orchards, and farms. The rolling landscape draws plenty of weekenders, who come to take in Crabtree Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi, and to stop by the Walton's Mountain Museum, which celebrates the series that brought John-Boy and his family to millions of TV viewers.
Despite this nod to good plain folk, Nelson County seems destined to be overtaken by the horsy set and carpet-bagging celebrities as they push south into Falwell country. Nelson is still cheaper than Charlottesville or Middleburg, but new money is attracted by the Wintergreen ski resort and spectacular estates such as Level Green, built in 1803 for the Revolutionary War leader Major Thomas Massie, and Bellevette (pronounced "believe it"), constructed fifty years earlier by Charles Rose on land granted to his family by King George II. Across the Tye River from Bellevette lies Markham Farm, a plot of land once held by a granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson's. Markham Farm has changed hands many times, most recently in 1980, when it was bought by a German named Ernst Werner Glatt. He subsequently purchased adjoining lands and turned the estate, valued in 1994 at $2.4 million, into a modern sheep farm. The entrance to Glatt's farm from Route 56 is announced by a sign that sports a crowned black eagle, a symbol hearkening back to imperial Prussia and the past of the farm's owner, who as a teenager fought in the Nazi army.
Given Nelson County's boutique intimacy, most residents have heard of Glatt and his Black Eagle Farm, but few seem to have pondered the sign's meaning or know much about their neighbor at all. And why should they? They might have heard that Glatt spends most of his time in Europe, but that's hardly atypical of the Town & Country set. They probably figured Glatt to be the kind of man who spends money to buy privacy.
In that they are correct. But perhaps it would surprise locals to learn that their reclusive neighbor is one of the most important and enigmatic arms dealers of all time. For more than a quarter century, Glatt has had a hand in some of the most sensational U.S. covert operations. He secretly funneled weapons to a number of American-backed guerrilla forces and client regimes during the Cold War, and was the leading supplier for the Foreign Materiel Acquisition Program (FMA), a still-active "black" U.S. military operation that obtained huge amounts of weaponry from the former Soviet bloc and other "enemy" states. Yet he and his government sponsors have so successfully hidden his activities that Glatt is barely known outside of intelligence circles.
I first came across Glatt when the National Security News Service told me of an unreported 1995 lawsuit between Glatt and a former Pentagon official named Charles Petty. The lawsuit, filed by Glatt at the Fairfax County Courthouse in Virginia and settled on terms sealed from the public, stemmed from a botched effort to sell Hungarian-made mortars to the U.S. Army. During the discovery process, Petty's lawyer asked Glatt to reveal his connections to dozens of people. In addition to many retired and active-duty military officers, these ranged from the notorious--Oliver North and Ed Wilson, the former CIA agent now serving a fifty-two-year jail term for selling explosives to Muammar Qaddafi and then attempting to kill Lawrence Barcella, the U.S. attorney who prosecuted
him--to the obscure--"Loftur Johannesson the `Icelander'" and "One Mr. Martin in Miami," both of whom I later discovered are arms dealers. Glatt v. Petty was settled before Glatt responded to the motion for discovery, but the list of names provided a useful guide for investigating his career. I tracked down most of the people named, and the majority were willing to talk to me, as were many in the U.S. intelligence community, though often they asked to remain anonymous.(1)
Glatt had never before given an on-the-record interview, but over the twenty months I investigated him we did have several friendly phone conversations and correspondences, though he skirted most of my questions. Not only was Glatt's cooperation limited but his acquaintances often provided confusing and contradictory information. A number of people insisted that Glatt is Austrian, not German. Some denounced Glatt as a Nazi, while others said with equal certainty that he is secretly Jewish. From his current home at the maximum-security Allenwood Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, Ed Wilson sent a cryptic remark: "Yes, I knew Werner. But no one knew Werner well! He is a smooth character."(2) Another source claimed that Ernst Werner Glatt is not a real person but merely an alias for a U.S. intelligence agent.
What I discovered about Glatt is nonetheless a remarkable and revealing story. His business holdings include factories, farms, and real estate spread across Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. In addition to the Black Eagle, he owns three Swiss chalets, an apartment in London two blocks from Harrods, an estate in Austria, and another in Luxembourg, his principal residence. His most lavish holding is a vast forested estate near Edinburgh, bought in the early 1980s from a former lord mayor of London; Glatt, an avid equestrian, built an enormous indoor practice ring so that the Scottish weather would not deter him from riding. His friends and colleagues are just as baroque and diverse--they include European aristocrats, Middle Eastern officials, and Third World defense ministers--and his ties to the American military run deep--he helped fund the High Frontier, the "Star Wars" lobby headed, until his death, by Glatt's close friend General Daniel Graham.
Combined with his military brush cut, tailor-made suits, and dueling scar, Glatt's trade and appetite for luxury make it easy to typecast him as the kind of shadowy villain who populates the James Bond genre. But the uncomfortable truth is that Glatt and his ilk are simultaneously 007 and SPECTRE's Ernst Stavro Blofeld,(3) acting as both government agents and mercenaries with only the "pure motive of pure profit" in mind. "Do you want him to be a hero or a snake?" asked one former intelligence official, "because he's both." The Bond movies are of course a soothingly jingoistic version of the Cold War. If we are truly to understand that era we must examine the men who were the means by which the United States asserted its political agenda on the rest of the world. Glatt had a major role in almost every action the United States orchestrated to fight Communism: the arming of the Contras, the wars in Afghanistan, Somalia, Angola, and on and on. A virtual how-to guide for covert operations, Glatt's tale reveals the relationship between governments and black-market arms dealers, and affords us new insight into American foreign policy since World War II, when anti-Communism, national security, and other dogmas were invoked as rationales for conducting secret wars, supporting military dictators, and ignoring national and international laws, all in the name of democracy.
MERCHANTS OF DEATH
The term "merchants of death" arose in the early 1900s, when the giant munitions makers of the day dispatched agents around the globe to advance their commercial interests. Salesmen sold to both sides of a conflict, bought off government officials, and used their power to increase international tension, this being the most practical means of generating demand.(4) Basil Zaharoff, the most famous of these merchants, represented several big Western munitions firms and was thought to be the inspiration for Shaw's Andrew Undershaft. (Undershaft's Motto: "Give arms to all men who offer an honest price for them, without respect of persons or principles.") Zaharoff pioneered the use of credit, thereby paving the way for arms races among cash-strapped nations, and was especially adept at fueling military insecurity. His most noted accomplishment came in the late 1800s, when, as a salesman for the Swedish company Nordenfeldt, he sold a submarine to Greece, a country he claimed when it suited him, explaining to a Greek official that he was "first a Greek, a patriot like yourself," and only second a salesman. Whereupon Zaharoff immediately went to the Turks, the Greeks' most hated enemy, and so terrified them with tales of the sinister new Greek submarine that they bought two of their own.
The activities of Zaharoff and other arms salesmen outraged the public, and by 1934 the call "to take the profit out of war" led the U.S. Senate to convene a special committee, which concluded that dealers "produce fear, hostility, and greater munitions orders on the part of neighboring countries, culminating in economic strain and collapse or war." But the subsequent reforms (henceforth all arms makers had to seek an export license from the State Department) hardly put an end to weapons manufacturing, which was an ever more important component of modern economies. As George Thayer wrote in his 1969 book, The War Business, "Instead of operating at 10 to 20 per cent of capacity ... the free-world's arms industries have been operating since the late 1940s at 80 to 90 per cent of capacity. With governments ensuring high production levels and buying nearly the entire output, arms industries have had no need of Zaharoff-type salesmen who roam the world in search of sales."
Far from restraining the arms trade, government oversight merely institutionalized it. The State Department won't release its list but says that "tens of thousands" of companies and individuals are registered to sell weapons abroad. As Thayer wrote, the officials who supervise the trade "control budgets that would stagger the imagination of a Zaharoff, and they operate in bureaucracies that are so large, so Byzantine, so powerful that effectively they are beyond the control of elected representatives...."
The bulk of the global weapons business is composed of tanks, planes, ships, and other big-ticket items sold by and to governments. (In 1998 the U.S. government sold $7 billion worth of weapons--roughly one third of the $23 billion world market--and delivered another $10 billion that had been ordered in previous years.) But private arms dealers still come in handy, especially when governments wish to ship materiel discreetly to controversial clients: guerrilla armies, regimes facing international arms embargoes, and states that are notorious human-rights abusers. In this regard, nothing has changed since 1934, when H. C. Engelbrecht and F. C. Hanighen wrote in their famous book, Merchants of Death: A Study of the International Armaments Industry, "The international sale of arms ... has far deeper roots than the `conscienceless greed' of the arms makers. If all private arms makers decided to discontinue their international traffic tomorrow, a world-wide protest of governments would not permit them to do it."
A 1997 article in Jane's Intelligence Review estimates that such black-market sales come to about $2 billion in lean years and up to five times that much in good ones. Private dealers such as Glatt primarily supply rifles, machine guns, mortars, grenade launchers, antitank rockets, and other materiel used in small-scale wars. And by arming combatants in border skirmishes and civil and proxy wars, they play a far more significant role in geopolitical affairs than is reflected by this relatively small percentage of the global arms trade. To keep such sales out of the public eye, brokers break the paper trail by setting up shell companies and offshore bank accounts, securing needed documents such as end-user certificates--which serve as a pledge by purchasers not to reexport military materiel to third parties, but which, for the right price, some governments are willing to issue regardless of the true destination of the arms--and handling the delicate task of paying off government officials and customs agents. Most important, middlemen provide governments with "plausible deniability" if a deal is exposed or otherwise bungled. "That old opening to Mission Impossible is true," says one arms dealer. "The secretary really will disavow any knowledge of you if things go wrong."
Buyers, especially pariah regimes, also employ brokers. Identifying a source of merchandise, shopping for a good price, and arranging shipping and financing can be complicated, especially if the parties involved prefer to operate in the shadows. "Why do buyers use brokers?" asked Val Forgett, as we sat in the modest offices of his company, Navy Arms of Ridgefield, New Jersey. "For the same reason you use one when you're looking to buy a house."
Forgett decided to become a weapons trader when, as a child, he read about Zaharoff's exploits; during our interview, he pulled his 1948 high school yearbook from a bookshelf and pointed to the words below his graduation photo: "Will design and export arms." Today, Forgett sells mainly to collectors, but he has dealt with controversial regimes, such as Augusto Pinochet's, that were supposedly under international arms embargoes. "Ninety percent of the things that are said about the `black market' in arms are the figment of writers' and politicians' imagination," Forgett says. "There are no secrets in this world. Everybody knows what you're doing. If weapons are being `smuggled,' some government agency is behind it." For example, despite a worldwide embargo, in 1993 $2 billion worth of arms flowed to Balkan war combatants: Germany helped arm Croatia, Russian entrepreneurs supplied Serbia, and Iran, with help from the United States, funneled weapons to Bosnia. I asked Forgett if there is a regime he wouldn't sell to. "There might be, but I can't think of one off-hand," he replied. "Our government is the biggest arms dealer in the world, and if they issue me a license I'll sell."
There are modern arms dealers who have made more money than Glatt, among them Adnan Khashoggi, who for many years represented Lockheed and other U.S. companies that sold weapons to Saudi Arabia, and Sarkis Soghanalian, who began by arming Christian militias in Lebanon at the request of the CIA and was the leading supplier of Saddam Hussein during the 1980s. But these men largely made their money on registered transactions that went through official channels. Glatt, to the best of my knowledge, never engaged in an aboveboard deal. When, as was frequently the case, he arranged for a shipment at the behest of the U.S. government, it always involved a phony paper trail to obscure the true buyer and seller of the weapons. Glatt was a tool that the U.S. government used when it didn't want the public to know what it was doing.
If the one page of information released by Army Intelligence is to be believed, Glatt was born on April 13, 1928, and raised near the small German town of Lorrach, on the edge of the Black Forest. The forest was the setting for many of the traditional German fairy tales that Glatt read voraciously as a child. And perhaps for that reason he identified with an important figure in those legends, Wieland, a magical smith who could fashion elaborate armor, shields, swords, and even metal wings he once used to escape an evil king. A hero is a conqueror, Glatt has told acquaintances, but Wieland is the real professional. His family grew prosperous, Glatt says, in textiles, tires, and real estate. They were also avidly pro-Nazi during Hitler's years in power. A former Army Intelligence officer who became an arms dealer, and whom I will refer to as "Colonel Ryan," has reviewed Glatt's CIA file. Colonel Ryan said that Glatt's father, an officer in the Nazi army, was badly wounded on the Russian front. Glatt himself joined the Hitler Youth--as did the great majority of young Germans--and served in an air defense unit sent to occupied France. Allied forces captured his unit in the waning days of the war, and at the age of seventeen Glatt spent time in a French POW camp. "He grew up as a thoroughly indoctrinated young German," Ryan says. "Germany's defeat at the end of the war was crushing for him, as was the fact that he lived in an occupied, divided country. He [became] an ardent nationalist with severe right-wing tendencies, but ... he didn't do any stoking of the ovens."
After returning to Germany, Glatt graduated from the University of Heidelberg, where he studied economics, political science, law, and history and joined one of the university's dueling societies, which were incubators of the German right wing. Glatt sports a scar on his cheek from a match, considered a mark of honor, and still clearly views Fascism as being preferable to Communism. "Since my early days in university, I wanted to know why there are still people which do not hate Communism, for Communism had killed until 1939 [the year Hitler invaded Poland] 40 million people. Until 1989 the Communists killed approximately 180 million people," he wrote me. "I wonder why the mass media keep the `public' in the dark, and a number of Communists are back in power and politics, and I wonder even more why people ask me why I am anti-Communist."
Originating with Nazi indoctrination, Glatt's virulent anti-Communism was later reinforced by his interaction with the American military and his obsessive love of money. But his acquaintances differ over whether he shows any residual traces of anti-Semitism. The vast majority of people who know him say he doesn't, pointing out that in 1960 he married Vera Gmelin, the daughter of an aristocratic Jewish family that fled Austria when the Nazis annexed it. (Although she converted to Glatt's Calvinist faith, he was detained during a trip to Saudi Arabia when a German competitor informed security forces that Glatt was married to a Jew. Glatt was freed a day later on the orders of his Saudi contact, who was a relative of King Faisal's.) Over the years, Glatt has made significant investments and many friendships in Israel. "He was a Deutschland uber alles type of guy and would never apologize for what the Germans did," says a retired American general. "But if you asked him if it was a good idea to weed out the Jews, I presume he'd say no." On the other hand, I spoke to a few people who had an experience similar to that of gunrunner John Miley, who recounts meeting Glatt for the first time: "He starts off on this Nazi routine, that the one thing he'd like to see before he dies is the resurrection of the Third Reich," Miley says. "He didn't care about a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, because it would create a power void that Germany would fill. Maybe he was just trying to shock me, but it was offensive."
My own sense is that this posturing is too straight out of central casting to be taken very seriously. Certainly Glatt likes getting under people's skin, and he displays the exceedingly black humor common in these circles. And so it makes perfect sense that he would enjoy playing with his own stereotype, perhaps because it amuses him and perhaps because, in his business, such a stereotype might sometimes work to your advantage.
BUILDING A GUNRUNNING EMPIRE
In any case, postwar Germany was not the best place for a man with Glatt s ambition to make his mark, and he soon "decided that I needed to study languages if I wanted to succeed in international business." By 1959 he was a student at the University of Geneva, where he met Sam Cummings, the most famous arms dealer of the time. After serving as a gun instructor for the U.S. Army during World War II, Cummings went to work for the CIA. He was sent to Europe with a cover story of purchasing weapons on behalf of a Hollywood studio, but his real task was to buy up surplus wartime stocks, which the CIA funneled to organizations and governments friendly to American interests. In 1953, Cummings launched his own company, Interarms, which supplied weapons for the 1954 CIA-led coup in Guatemala and for pro-U.S. dictators such as Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua and Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.
Impressed with Glatt's linguistic skills, Cummings asked Glatt to try to buy weapons in Budapest, which was difficult for Americans to enter. When Glatt was successful, Cummings sent him on other trips to the Eastern bloc, and this hobby soon became a full-time job. Glatt rose quickly within company ranks, eventually becoming a vice president. The two men became so close that Glatt served at Cummings's wedding as his best man. (Or so says Glatt. Cummings has claimed it was the other way around--just one of the ways these two would play out elaborate dominance issues.)
Glatt left Cummings's employ in the early 1970s, but the two men continued to collaborate until later in the decade, when Cummings accused Glatt of cheating him out of a major deal. For his part, Glatt told me that he cut ties with Cummings when the latter became persona non grata at the Pentagon because of what Glatt called "his love for stupid publicity, [which] caused all sorts of difficulties with the competent authorities in the trade and affected my income." Glatt told me that another reason for Cummings's diminished stature was that in the 1970s he renounced his U.S. citizenship for tax purposes. Given that the CIA has worked with Nazi war criminals and Guatemalan death squad members, I found it hard to believe that this act could get one blacklisted, until several intelligence sources corroborated that it did.
Whatever the circumstances, the falling-out coincided with Cummings's eclipse in the arms world. From the mid-1970s until his death in 1997, Cummings sold mostly to collectors, though he would brag to journalists that he still kept enough weapons on hand to equip forty army divisions. In the end, "Cummings was the P. T. Barnum of the gun business," says Colonel Ryan. "He had a warehouse full of junk--old, antiquated arms--and there were probably enough rifles to outfit a division. But there's no magic in having a warehouse. I could buy rifles in lots of 1,000 today without blinking an eye. All he did was every once in a while dump a few thousand rifles into some African countries that nobody gave a flying fuck about."
After his break with Cummings, Glatt became obsessed with outdoing his former employer. Like Cummings, Glatt got into the business of refurbishing used weapons and for a time was a co-owner of a company called Collector's Armoury, in suburban Virginia. Cummings had a huge farm in Middleburg,(5) so Glatt bought the Black Eagle. "He often said he wanted above all else to be bigger in the arms business than anyone else, particularly Sam Cummings, so that one day the West German government would call him to Bonn and offer him the position of defense minister," says a former business partner. The call from Bonn never came, but by the late 1970s Glatt was known as one of the top international arms dealers.
It was a marvelous time to be in the arms business. After selling for years almost exclusively to close allies, the United States had begun offering up sophisticated arms to Third World countries as a means of winning support in the Cold War. Buyers were also plentiful. In 1973, OPEC raised oil prices by 70 percent, and a number of once poor countries were awash in "petrodollars," great quantities of which were recycled back to Western countries via arms purchases. The American government's sales soared from less than $5 billion in 1970 to $27 billion in 1982 (figures adjusted for inflation).
A proliferation of U.S. covert operations in support of anti-Soviet guerrilla groups brought about a simultaneous boom in the black market. Private weapons brokers were in great demand, especially after CIA Director Stansfield Turner began dismissing some 800 agents in mid-1977. The firings--which came in response to revelations about the agency's involvement in the Chilean coup that brought Pinochet to power, its attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro, and other embarrassments--left the CIA badly uninformed about the international arms market. "Turner fired the old boys, and they were the memory bank," says Vietnam veteran John Miley, who in 1979 became a junior partner to Loftur Johannesson ("The Icelander" from Petty's list) after having served as an assistant army attache to the American Embassy in London. "The new boys couldn't find their names in a telephone book."
Miley now lives in suburban Tampa, and we spent the better part of two days going through old files in his small study, where a solitary air purifier was hopelessly overwhelmed by the cigarettes Miley ferociously consumed. Once Miley armed revolutions; today he publishes a community newsletter and, like virtually every former gunrunner I met, dreams of writing his memoirs. He told me how Glatt would sometimes team up with Johannesson, a former commercial pilot and Red Cross flyer who ran a Panamanian-registered shell company called Techaid International out of an eighth-floor office at London's Roebuck House. One of Techaid's most lucrative operations came in 1980, when Miley and Johannesson supplied the CIA with rifles and other weapons for anti-Communist guerrillas in Afghanistan. The CIA could, of course, acquire all the American-made equipment it desired, but for covert operations the agency preferred Soviet materiel. Not only was it cheap and of high quality but its use obscured American fingerprints. Carrying Russian equipment also allowed U.S.-backed groups to rearm themselves on the battlefield with weapons captured from Soviet-supplied opponents. "You're not sending Fedex," a U.S. Special Forces veteran patiently explained. "Shipping routes are often difficult, and you might not be able to send in American weapons whenever you want."
One of the perverse secrets of the Cold War was that, if properly greased, Eastern bloc officials were more than willing to sell Russian equipment to arms dealers working with the West. Russia's allies were so desperate for hard currency that such sales were frequently approved at the highest levels of government, even when it was obvious that the materiel would end up in the hands of anti-Communist armies. No one was better at quietly tapping into Soviet bloc armories than Glatt, who had worked extensively in Eastern Europe during his years with Cummings. And as a European, Glatt was exempt from the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits Americans from bribing foreign officials. "He liked the idea of bribing Communist officials to sell us Communist weapons that could be used to kill Communists," retired U.S. General John Singlaub, who worked with Glatt in the 1980s, told me. "He thought that was neat."
Ready access to Soviet equipment and exemption from American laws also made Glatt a valuable source to the Foreign Materiel Acquisition Program, the "black" operation run by the three military services and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Unlike the CIA, which passed Russian materiel on to its Third World allies, the services used Eastern bloc equipment to test against their own equipment and design countermeasures. "What Glatt [along with other U.S.-linked dealers] was able to do just boggles the mind," says a former CIA official. "They were dealing with Communist officials at the highest levels and getting factory-fresh weapons out of the Eastern bloc. There was nothing money couldn't buy."
Indeed, it was Glatt's great wealth, which grew by leaps and bounds as he prospered in the arms trade, that often gave him a leg up on his rivals. Colonel Ryan recalls that he once had a jump on a deal but didn't have sufficient funds to secure a $7 million letter of credit needed to close it. As Ryan began the process of arranging a bank loan, Glatt used personal funds to secure a letter of credit, and the weapons in question disappeared from the market. Money was also vital in obtaining an end-user certificate showing a false destination--a piece of paper essential to any secret-weapons transaction. Viennese arms dealer Heinz Baumann said the going rate was around $50,000 and fondly remembered the flexibility of Peruvian officials in supplying this vital document. "If all the end-users issued over the years by Peru were legitimate, the country would have a bigger army than the United States," he said. A retired CIA agent waxed nostalgic over Chad in the same regard. "The country was poor, the government corrupt, communications almost nonexistent, and for a long time the Soviets didn't have representation there," he said. "It was an ideal situation." Glatt is said to have secured end-users from a variety of Third World countries, including Syria, Nigeria, and Oman, which was more or less run as a subsidiary of Western intelligence services.
Beyond that, Glatt's success stemmed from a keen intellect, a powerful personality, a fiercely competitive business drive, and what several arms dealers described as "steel nuts."
HOW THE WEST WON SOMALIA
Glatt's first major operation for the United States, and one that made him a small fortune, involved a 1977 deal to arm Somali dictator Muhammad Siad Barre. That year, Somalia and Ethiopia went to war over the disputed Ogaden region, a desolate stretch of desert lying between the two countries. Siad Barre had been the Soviet Union's closest client in Africa, but Moscow decided to back Ethiopia--which had been in the American orbit until a 1974 left-wing military coup--in the Ogaden conflict. The Carter Administration officially declared that it would play no part in the war, but the Pentagon, promising weapons and economic aid, quietly encouraged Siad Barre to break with the Soviets. "The Carter government clearly understood that the Horn of Africa was endangered," Glatt wrote me. "The situation in Iran had just started to worsen as well, and the support of Somalia became a necessity."
Fearing that the still sharp memories of Vietnam might provoke public opposition if U.S. involvement was exposed, the Pentagon gathered a web of foreign players to handle the deal. The Saudis, who frequently supported American covert activities, picked up the tab for the operation, which was coordinated by Glatt and ICW Systems, a private Swiss arms firm. Glatt, who had a personal relationship with the Somali defense minister, was in charge of securing the needed weapons, which he got from Technika, Hungary's state-owned arms company. He presented Hungarian officials with a fake end-user certificate showing that the arms were destined for Nigeria, which then had close relations with the Soviet Union.
Charged with moving the arms to Africa, Loftur Johannesson hired his friend Hank Warton, a freelance adventurer who owned the three Boeing 707s that carried the weapons from Hungary to Somalia. A German Jew, Warton fled the Nazi regime and joined the U.S. Army. After the war ended, he obtained a pilot's license under the G.I. Bill, and for the next two decades, until his doctor grounded him following a heart attack, Warton was almost always in the air. In the mid-1960s, he gained a certain notoriety when he ferried food and weapons to the Ibo tribe after it seceded from Nigeria and declared the independent state of Biafra. The Nigerian government ended the rebellion by cutting Biafra's links to the outside world--it put a $250,000 bounty on Warton's head for running the blockade--with the result that a million people died from starvation and disease.
Now eighty-three, and still disabled from a crash landing he once made in Cameroon, Warton recounted his role in the Somalia episode as we sat in his apartment overlooking Miami Beach. Warton supplied the planes and rounded up crews to fly them (including Larry Raab, a retired U.S. airman; Alberto Alberty, a Cuban exile who helped lead the Bay of Pigs operation; and Bill Lear Jr., son of the inventor of the Learjet). "The crews were mostly Americans, and they weren't allowed to go to Budapest, which was behind the Iron Curtain and off-limits," Warton recalled. "Glatt said not to worry because it was all sanctioned by the CIA and was basically a CIA operation." Between runs from Budapest to Jeddah--where the Saudis let them refuel--to Mogadishu, the pilots stayed in Salzburg,(6) where Glatt put them up at the Hotel Vollerhof. Between August and December of 1977, Warton's crews hauled 580 tons of weapons on twenty-eight separate flights to Mogadishu.
All went smoothly until a feud erupted between ICW and Glatt over dividing the profits. Like most arms dealers, Glatt was an ardent practitioner of what one broker calls the trade's First Commandment: Fuck Thy Neighbor. When the Swiss company tried to squeeze him out, Glatt leaked details of the airlift to newspapers in Switzerland and England, and the ensuing publicity shut the operation down. Still, from the U.S. perspective the operation was a rousing success. Siad Barre gave the United States rights to highly desirous naval and air bases. Things didn't turn out as well for Somalia itself. Ethiopian troops decimated Siad Barre's forces, inflicting some 100,000 civilian and military casualties. The United States maintained support for the dictator, and all the weaponry that poured into Somalia destabilized the country, which fell into a state of complete anarchy following Siad Barre's overthrow in 1991, which coincided with the end of the Cold War. Despite the Bush Administration's brief and disastrous intervention in Somalia the following year, the country no longer holds any interest for the United States. "The thing about Somalia," an unnamed "regional analyst" told the Washington Post in 1998, "is they really don't get the fact that nobody gives a shit about them anymore."
DEALING WITH THE CEAUSESCUS
Somalia was such a success that Glatt and Johannesson teamed up to acquire weapons for the Foreign Materiel Acquisition Program. The FMA dates to 1973, when the Israelis captured large quantities of Soviet equipment from Egypt and Syria during the Yom Kippur War. Grateful for the help President Nixon had provided to Israel, Prime Minister Golda Meir decided to share the captured weapons. The Pentagon concluded that it needed a steady supply of Russian arms to test U.S. weaponry, and the FMA was born.
Johannesson had already made one deal for the FMA, and perhaps for that reason, when he and Glatt teamed up in 1979 to acquire Russian armored personnel carriers from Romania, Techaid's London office was their center of operations. Their secretary was Nini Baring, whom associates recall as the estranged wife of an heir to the Baring Bank fortune. For transportation, Techaid sometimes turned to Farhad Azima, an Iranian exile who ran a CIA-linked airline out of Kansas City. (Azima later became a large donor to the Democratic Party, thereby winning himself three White House coffee klatsches in 1995 and 1996.) Anthony Sykes, who ran in royal circles thanks to his marriage to the sister of the Duke of Devonshire, sometimes traveled abroad to meet with potential customers. So, too, did Clyde Ferguson, who'd served as a deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs during the Nixon years and, following his brief career in the arms trade, became a Harvard law professor specializing in international human rights. An equally exotic cast of characters occasionally dropped by Techaid's offices in hopes of drumming up deals of one sort or another, not all of them involving arms. Of particular note was Sheila Petrie, a one-time burlesque dancer who had access to a small cargo plane and was running whiskey to Idi Amin, to whose regime she also sold French locomotives. "Do you have a good impression or a bad impression of Idi Amin?" she asked during my initial call. "Because my experience with him was very good."
This was the first major deal that Western arms dealers made with Romania, and it set the tone for those that followed. Transactions generally required bribing the brothers of the country's dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu: Marin, who headed the Romanian trade mission in Vienna until 1989, when he committed suicide after Nicolae was overthrown and murdered; and Ilie, who served as deputy defense minister until being incarcerated in Bucharest. Nicolae Ceausescu often took a cut himself. As a result, millions of Pentagon dollars found their way into Swiss bank accounts controlled by the Ceausescu family.
In this case, according to a senior military official who read the relevant intelligence reports, Glatt paid off Marin Ceausescu, the Peruvian generals who supplied a bogus enduser certificate, and officials aboard the Klek, the Yugoslav passenger freighter that picked up the Soviet personnel carriers at a Romanian port. The Klek headed for America, where first the passengers were supposed to disembark and then the vehicles would disappear into the hands of army officials, bound for a military base in Charlottesville, Virginia. But when the vessel stopped at a navy facility in Earle, New Jersey, the vehicles were unloaded before gaping passengers, who were furious about being delayed. Some talked to the press, and an Associated Press story reported: "In a move tinged with mystery, the U.S. Army has obtained some new Communist Warsaw Pact military equipment through a private company whose identity is being kept secret." Even worse, one passenger took a picture of the carriers that somehow got into the hands of Eastern bloc officials. "Heads probably rolled in Romania, but the vehicles finally ended up in Charlottesville," recalls the military official. The foul-up created a flap at the Pentagon and led to a bitter split between Johannesson and Glatt when the inevitable dispute arose over the division of spoils.(7)
MAN ABOUT GEORGETOWN
Somehow the fallout from the Klek didn't taint Glatt. Having established Romania as a major source of Soviet weaponry, he soon became the darling of the U.S. military. He established close personal friendships with a number of high-ranking military officials, hosting some at the Black Eagle or at his European estates. Over the years, Glatt conducted business of one sort or another with various retired military officers and spooks, among them General John Singlaub and General Ed Soyster, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. One intelligence officer's daughter became the godmother to one of Glatt's grandchildren. Through his friendship with General Daniel Graham, Glatt helped the daughter of a retired general get a job at the High Frontier.
Nevertheless, he was not universally admired. "I'm no Pollyanna," says one former military officer. "You've got to deal with people you wouldn't want as friends. I've done a lot of work in intelligence and I accept that. But Glatt's political views were repugnant to any decent human being." Another says, "Arrogant. Dictatorial. Stubborn. Go down the list of all the endearing qualities of the German people and Glatt has them."
By the time Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, however, U.S. intelligence agencies were fighting to court Glatt. (Army Intelligence won out and became his main handler.) That year, the Pentagon threw a birthday party for Glatt at Washington's George Town Club,(8) an exclusive private club where government insiders and prominent locals discreetly gather to discuss affairs of state. Held on the same night that then vice president George Bush was feted in another part of the club, Glatt's birthday party was a heady affair, hosted by club cofounder Milton Nottingham--a friend and sometime shipping agent for Glatt--and attended by senior intelligence officials, generals, and bankers who laundered money for the Pentagon's "black" programs. The George Town Club is secretive (membership is usually revealed only in one's obituary), but Colonel Ryan, who attended the party, describes the club as elegant yet reserved. "It bespeaks good taste, power, and sophistication.... There are no Robert Hall suits to be found anywhere."
On several occasions, I spoke with Ryan at his Washington-area boutique-weapons firm; the nondescript office was notable only for a sign-in sheet that asks visitors to declare if their appointment is of a classified nature. "There were some people who felt Glatt was not a nice man. But who cares?" he told me. "Western civilization required his services." Didn't anyone object to his choice of the Black Eagle--a symbol of Nazi Germany--as a name for his Virginia property? I asked. Not at all, Ryan replied: "Glatt was viewed as a source, potentially our most lucrative source, of Russian arms. We weren't considering him for citizenship, we were hunting for Soviet weapons that had great military value to the United States. The more virulently right-wing he was, the more we felt comfortable with him, because we knew he wouldn't deal with the Russians. We weren't running a de-Nazification program. If he wanted to call his farm the Black Eagle, that was his business. We weren't going to tell him what to name his property."
Ryan's point is logical, but such ends-justify-the-means paternalism has also led U.S. intelligence agencies to hire assassins, rig elections, and arm fanatical guerrillas. "Governments need gunrunners and arms dealers because they don't want to put the question of whether the cause they are supporting is acceptable to their own populations," says Jack Blum, former special counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "To me this is disdain for the democratic process. If they believe in the cause they should be willing to face losing the next election." But why run that risk when you can wrap yourself in the flag and claim to know what's best? Arms dealers justify their actions with the same sour mix of pragmatism and patriotism as intelligence operatives (and, given the revolving door between the two professions, the distinction seems mostly semantic). Governments sell some 90 percent of the world's military arms, they point out; besides, "guns don't kill people"--a philosophy that evidently remains just as soothing when writ large. And when you're operating at the behest of the U.S. government, you can also take additional comfort in the "I was just following orders" defense. But as Dr. Daniel N. Nelson of the Marshall Center points out, "No one who transfers weapons across borders can excuse or rationalize his activity on the basis of presumed governmental approval. The people who profit bear the burden of their own defense. If I sell you a weapon to kill someone--knowing that you will kill with it--I cannot create a case for my normative exoneration based on governmental stupidity or collusion. When you sell instruments of death, you deal in death."
MAKING THE WORLD SAFE FOR CAPITALISM
The American military intelligence community, however, perceived the Communist threat to be so great that it was willing to set aside almost any moral qualm or pesky law to combat it. With ICBMs being paraded through Red Square, the American public was so terrified by the prospect of nuclear war that it paid little attention to the regional wars through which the United States and the Soviet Union fought by proxy. According to a 1984 CNN documentary made on the arms business, of the 160 countries then in the world, the United States was arming (directly or through men like Glatt) 130 of them, and 40 wars were being waged.
Ronald Reagan's CIA director, William Casey, greatly expanded the scope of government-run covert actions. The agency's support for the mujahedin rebels in Afghanistan, which started under Jimmy Carter, grew to become a multibillion-dollar effort. The United States also ran huge programs in support of forces seeking to topple left-wing governments in Nicaragua and Angola. Directly or indirectly, Glatt had a hand in arming all three of those guerrilla groups. "I realized that the monolithic bloc of the so-called Soviet empire showed big cracks which were beyond repair.... As a student of history who knew what Communism means, I wished to work on the widening of the cracks," he wrote me.
It was also a good business opportunity. In the case of Angola, Glatt purchased Soviet weapons for South African military officials, who in turn passed the materiel on to UNITA, a right-wing guerrilla group led by Jonas Savimbi. (The CIA also supplied Savimbi and was surely aware of Glatt's activities.) Glatt insisted to me that he did not arm the fundamentalist Afghan rebels, who were fighting a pro-Soviet regime as well as Russian troops sent by Moscow to support it. "With the mujahedin in Afghanistan I never had any dealings," he wrote "It is my understanding that this ... was done by professionals in this special type of business." While technically correct, I later learned that the reply was a classic Glatt feint. According to at least three intelligence sources, Glatt bought huge quantities of weapons for the mujahedin--land mines, grenades, rifles, machine guns, and other small arms--from CENZIN, the Polish state arms agency. However, his client was not the mujahedin but U.S. Army Intelligence, which turned the materiel over to the CIA, which in turn transported the weapons to depots the agency set up in Pakistan. From there, Pakistani agents sent Glatt's provisions across the border into Afghanistan for distribution to the guerrillas.
Glatt's biggest find for the mujahedin were hundreds of Russian-made Strela-1 shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles. Glatt arranged for a Polish plane to carry the Strelas to a military airstrip in Oman, where it was met by an American plane, which then departed for a U.S. naval base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. From there, the Strelas were shipped to the CIA's depots in Pakistan. The mujahedin used the Strelas against helicopter gunships flown by Soviet pilots, and although they weren't nearly as effective as the American-made Stingers the CIA began sending in 1986 they prevented pilots from acting imperviously. "We wanted to see the Russians get their asses kicked, and it was demoralizing as shit to have your own weapons being fired at you," says a person directly involved in the Strela deal.
GOD'S MIGHTY TEAM
In the summer of 1987 the Iran-Contra hearings were broadcast on national television, and not since 1934 were the merchants of death on such public display. Glatt had, of course, played a part in the Iran-Contra affair, though so sensitive was his role that the FBI took his testimony in secret. Glatt's involvement came about through his association with eccentric former beauty queen Barbara Studley. Then a right-wing radio host in Miami, Studley had gathered archconservative military and political leaders to establish a Washington-based arms company called GeoMiliTech Consultants Corporation (GMT). Her board members and employees included General Singlaub, head of the World Anti-Communist League; John Carbaugh, a top aide to Senator Jesse Helms; and Robert Schweitzer, an army general who supervised Oliver North at the National Security Council until he was fired in 1982 for declaring to a reporter that the Russians were preparing to invade Poland. In his IranContra deposition, Schweitzer said the real meaning of GMT's initials was "God's Mighty Team."
Within GMT, Studley was known by the code name of "Cleo," as in Cleopatra, and Glatt--"The Baron"--was her arms dealer of choice. (In internal memos I obtained, GMT dubbed rocket launchers "mothers" and rockets "children.") Through Glatt's longtime financial adviser, Eddy Maisonneuve of the Banque Nationale de Paris in Geneva, Studley set up a Swiss account to handle GMT's funds.
GMT was one of the three important suppliers to the Nicaraguan Contras, the other two being The Enterprise of Oliver North and retired Air Force major general Richard Secord, and the Honduras-based Arms Supermarket run by Ronald Martin, the CIA-linked arms dealer based in Miami who was on Petty's list. Studley declined a request for an interview, but I did speak with Singlaub at the 1998 Soldier of Fortune convention in Las Vegas, an annual affair at which the retired general is a perennial VIP. The four-day event culminated at a shooting range on the outskirts of Las Vegas, where conventioneers machine-gunned and dynamited a white van with the words "Bin Laden's Explosives Express, Worldwide Deliveries" painted on its side. Peter Kokalis, an SOF editor, emceed the assault, telling jokes--What do you get when you cross a bisexual Communist with a congenital liar? Answer: Chelsea Clinton--and berating reporters in attendance for being a bunch of pansy-assed liberals.
Inside the vast exhibition hall rented by SOF, exhibition booths offered a vast array of guns and ammunition, photo ops with women clad in American-flag bikinis, and spacious underground bunkers where buyers could comfortably ride out the apocalypse. I caught up with Singlaub as he signed copies of his 1991 autobiography, Hazardous Duty. I had read Singlaub's book, which mentions a Western European arms dealer referred to only as "Sam." Yes, Singlaub conceded, Sam is a pseudonym for Glatt(9) who came to GMT on the recommendation of two old friends--General Daniel Graham, who had held top positions at both the CIA and the DIA; and CIA Director William Casey. Singlaub first met Glatt in early 1985, at the Palm Court of Washington's Sheraton Carlton Hotel. According to Hazardous Duty, Studley and a top Contra official, Adolfo Calero, were also in attendance:
"As he perused the shopping list I had drawn up with [Contra leader] Enrique Bermudez, Sam nodded calmly and made notes on a pad with a gold mechanical pencil. He might as well have been pricing out a plumbing job. Sam looked up and said he could procure brand-new, high-quality Polish AKMS-47 assault rifles in quantity for only $135 each ...
"Barbara and I looked at each other. We had learned that AK-47s normally retailed for between $200 and $300 on the international arms market. These were the lowest prices we had ever heard quoted.
"`This is new equipment?' I asked.
"`New from the factory,' Sam assured us. `This is even better than Soviet manufacture.'
"`Why are the prices so low?' Barbara asked.
"Sam shrugged. `I'm a good client.'"
The deal under discussion came together in May of 1985, seven months after Congress passed the Boland Amendment forbidding any U.S. aid, direct or indirect, to the Contras. Glatt obtained a fake end-user certificate--from Syria, Singlaub recalled--and lined up a Greek freighter that docked in Gdansk to pick up the materiel. From there, the weapons (in addition to AK-47s, there were machine guns, grenade launchers, and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft rockets) were delivered to Contra bases in Honduras. Calero subsequently described the shipment as the "biggest and best" deal arranged for the Contras by the private arms suppliers.(10)
Glatt's low prices threatened The Enterprise's profits, and Oliver North went to Casey and blackballed Glatt with a bogus story that the German was a Soviet double agent. (North told me he'd never heard of Glatt, which is hard to fathom given that Glatt's name appears several times in North's infamous National Security Council diaries.) Ron Martin was also displeased. He swiftly dispatched an employee to make an unannounced call at the Polish Embassy in Washington; to the horror of officials there, he demanded that the Arms Supermarket be offered weapons at the same prices. "It took all of Sam's considerable diplomatic finesse (and probably a fair amount of hush money) to calm down the offended government officials," Singlaub writes in Hazardous Duty.
The following August, Glatt and Singlaub offered a surprising deal to CIA Director Casey. This was at a point when Congress had restored funding for the CIA's Contra effort, but the appropriated moneys would not be available for several months. So Glatt agreed not only to sell the CIA millions of dollars worth of Soviet arms from Poland but also to float the agency money to pay for the merchandise. "Our banker [Maisonneuve] is prepared to fly to Washington and take care of the Letter of Credit directly with your designated bank," Singlaub informed Casey in a confidential letter. "This eliminates all bank tested telexes or paper trails. The loan can be in the name of a corporation of your choice. It is not necessary for our bank to know your identity, only your banker. Our bank has been exceptionally discreet in processing our transactions in the past. At the close of the transactions, the bank file will only show corporations, numbered items and amounts. No reference will be made of ... the individuals or actual organizations involved." Casey turned down the offer--perhaps because of North's efforts to discredit Glatt--and GMT's trail in the Iran-Contra affair goes cold at this juncture.(11)
For the American military, all of the operations Glatt supported were huge successes, especially Afghanistan, where the mujahedin's defeat of the Red Army accelerated the breakup of the Soviet Union. As with Somalia, however, there was a significant problem of blowback. In 1998, President Clinton ordered cruise missile attacks on what he described as a terrorist training camp run by Osama kin Laden in a remote corner of Afghanistan. Other mujahedin supporters have not only been responsible for acts of terrorism around the world but are busily destabilizing Pakistan, thus increasing the likelihood of nuclear war on the subcontinent. In Angola, the CIA's old ally Jonas Savimbi was defeated in a 1992 presidential election. He refused to honor the results and has again taken up arms against the country's government. Ten years after the Sandinistas were ousted in elections in Nicaragua, that country has yet to recover from the U.S.-sponsored war. It is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and its current president is an old crony of the Somoza dictatorship. Having armed dubious allies in the name of preventing the spread of Communism, we find that those allies have often turned against us and, in some cases, turned the very weapons we supplied upon us.
BOMBING THE OUTHOUSE
If Glatt was an important supplier of weapons to Reagan's "freedom fighters," he was more vital yet in securing Russian weapons for the Foreign Materiel Acquisition Program. Other than a few stories in the Washington Post--which didn't mention the name of Glatt or any other weapons dealer who supplied the Pentagon--the program's history is all but unknown.
The Defense Intelligence Agency and the military services would give shopping lists to a small group of Beltway firms with strong ties to intelligence agencies: BDM International, which was bought in 1997 by defense contractor TRW; Vector Microwave Research Corp., whose executives included Lieutenant General Leonard Perroots (Retired), a former director of the DIA; and Electronic Warfare Associates, whose board of directors included, until his death in 1996, former CIA director William E. Colby. The American companies relied in turn on a cabal of European-based arms brokers to buy the desired goods in the Eastern bloc, a strategy that allowed the U.S. government to skirt the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
By all accounts, Glatt was far and away the program's single biggest supplier. During the lawsuit with Petty, he revealed that he handled between $150 and $200 million worth of FMA contracts between 1983 and 1993. His competitors say that's less than half the true amount and complain that Glatt exercised undue influence on the FMA, citing his relationship with Lieutenant Colonel Larry Caylor, who headed the army FMA office from 1985 to 1991 and upon retirement went to work as Glatt's assistant in the arms business.
The FMA's precise budget is hidden in the Pentagon's "black" account ("It's a democracy, but there are ways of being creative," one player said), but I was told that over $100 million per year was allocated to the program throughout much of the 1980s. The FMA's black dollars were laundered by a Washington branch of the American Security Bank (now owned by Bank of America), where the Pentagon and the Beltway firms set up accounts for their respective dummy corporations. "We were asked to do it as a favor to the U.S. government, to do our patriotic duty," says former American Security executive James Kleindienst. "We didn't know what the hell they were buying, and we didn't want to know. What made me feel damn good was that after the Gulf War I got a call from somebody--I won't mention who--at the big house there in Virginia saying that thanks to all your work we knew what that bastard Saddam Hussein had."
The FMA sometimes revealed enormous problems with U.S. weapons systems. In 1984, an Israeli arms dealer helped to obtain a Soviet-made attack helicopter that was brought to a military testing ground and matched up against a fantastically expensive anti-aircraft gun called the DIVAD. Made by a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company, the DIVAD was designed to home in on the sound of helicopter blades. The demonstration not only showed that the range of the Russian attack helicopter surpassed that of the DIVAD but revealed in embarrassing fashion that the DIVAD's homing mechanism was fatally flawed. Since a number of military poobahs attended the demonstration, someone decided to install a portable toilet near the V.I.P. bleachers. To ensure that the generals faced no unpleasant aromas, a fan was installed in the outhouse. In the midst of the test, the DIVAD's guns mistook the sound of the fan for helicopter blades, swiveled on the chassis, and blew the (empty) outhouse to smithereens. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger immediately killed the DIVAD program.
Glatt declined to discuss his work for the FMA, so I paid a visit to Heinz Baumann, who has brokered deals on behalf of BDM and Electronic Warfare Associates. Now retired, Baumann resides in Bad Fischau, a spa town in the hills outside of Vienna. I was put in touch with him by John Miley, who e-mailed me: "[Heinz] is one helluva nice guy ... suspect you'll be expected to partake of a healthy ration of schnapps. Might be useful to go with the flow and then do the necessary penance." This advice proved prescient. Wearing a leather jacket and jeans, Baumann was waiting at the international arrivals area and, though it was only 11 A.M., escorted me to an airport bar for three rounds of beer and schnapps. We then moved on to his comfortable home, where over many more glasses of beer he reminisced about his biggest coup, purchasing infrared-seeking missile heads from the Ukraine, and other FMA deals. For each successful transaction--and the process could take up to a year from start to finish--many more fell by the wayside. "There was no steady income," Baumann sighed, lifting his glass. "In this business you have to be a dreamer." He paused and ground out another cigarette. "You couldn't get a screw out of the Eastern bloc without bribes. I wouldn't call it a bribe; it was a reimbursement for services. If they did a good job, they deserved the money." (Sometimes, in addition to money, they wanted Western electronics. Miley recalls always providing Chinese officials with current issues of Playboy and Penthouse: "Quite a few bottles of Tsingtao beer were consumed in my hotel room discussing the degenerate ways of the West." Today, says Colonel Ryan, Russians request Viagra.)
According to Baumann and others, Glatt had carte blanche at CENZIN, the Polish state arms company. Glatt became close friends with CENZIN's head, General Boguslaw Likowski, a man known affectionately as Bolo. "Bolo was the key at CENZIN, but he was also the managing director for all FMA business in Europe," Baumann said. "When he told you that a piece from Bulgaria will arrive at three o'clock tomorrow, it was there--at five to three. He knew about all the deliveries, who was involved, and who to call if there was trouble."
Over the years, CENZIN sold Glatt everything from an antidote kit issued to Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan to protect them against their own chemical weapons (by analyzing it, the Pentagon could better understand the Soviet chemical-weapons program) to three Russian-made torpedoes worth $3.5 million. In the mid-1980s, Likowski died in a car crash, but Glatt remained in good standing at CENZIN through his ties to two other key officials, Zbigniew Tarka and Tadeusz Koperwas. They were arrested in 1992 in a sting operation conducted by U.S. Customs agents in Frankfurt and accused of illegally attempting to sell $15 million worth of weapons to Iraq. The charges were later dropped, reportedly at the request of the CIA, which was grateful for their service to the United States.
Glatt has credited NATO's easy success in Kosovo to his work with the FMA, saying he had bought everything in Serbia's arsenal years ago. Yet the FMA has seen as much profiteering as patriotism. In 1997, Vector's offices were raided by federal officials who claimed that, among other things, the company was double-dealing: trading highly sensitive Stinger missile technology with the Chinese in order to gain Chinese weaponry to sell to the United States.
TWILIGHT OF THE GODS
With the end of the Cold War, the world of gunrunning has been radically transformed. The CIA still stages covert operations but nothing on the scale of the huge Reagan/Bush-era programs, and now that the conflict in the Balkans is relatively contained, there are no decent wars to speak of. The Russian Army has dumped huge quantities of small arms in the course of its brutal downsizing, and China, which is in the process of rearming its troops, recently added another 2 million old rifles to the global arms pile. Combined with the growing production of countries such as the Czech Republic, Pakistan, and Israel, the end result is a textbook case of oversupply and underdemand.
The players have changed, too. Where once a few mega-brokers held sway, today hundreds of small-time mafiosos who also traffic in drugs and prostitutes have emerged. "The old guys could get a pistol and a tank," says Keith Prager, a former weapons-trade specialist for U.S. Customs. "The new guys can get one or the other, but not both. They're the kindergarten class compared to the old Ph.D.'s." Some former Communist states, most notably Bulgaria, sell arms to embargoed regimes and controversial clients without the help of middlemen, further narrowing the domain of brokers who exploited Soviet bloc contacts. "Ten years ago, if you wanted to get something out of CENZIN you had to go through Glatt," says a Washington-area arms broker. "Now anyone can show up in Eastern Europe with an end-user certificate and buy whatever he wants."
Glatt is now seventy-two, and he likes to portray himself as retired. Slowed in recent years by a heart bypass and a bout with cancer, he spends more time with his family and has taken up philanthropy. He has paid for an irrigation system for Swiss farmers, incubators for Polish newborns, and is a large donor to his alma mater, Heidelberg. At the behest of the eminent American cardiologist Dr. Robert Matthews, Glatt met with the cardinal of Hungary and offered to put up $2.2 million to help finance a heart laboratory for a Catholic hospital in Budapest. "My `charitable activities' are my tribute for having had a wonderful and interesting life," Glatt wrote me. "But I do not want to talk about it. I am not a Pharisee!"
But if, as he insists, arms now make up a much smaller part of his business activities, he remains a player. Glatt still hosts High Frontier conferences at his various estates, and since 1996 he has carried out at least two large deals for the FMA. China and North Korea are currently targets, as is Russia, which is no longer art official "enemy" but which sells to countries that are. Now materiel comes straight out of the Kremlin, which is so broke that it is willing to sell virtually anything--short of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons--to the United States. In one of those bizarre twists in the arms world, the Russian military uses the Pentagon's money to finance its next generation of weaponry. Rosvoorouzhenie, the Russian state arms agency, publishes a glossy seven-volume sales catalogue that includes everthing from small arms to submarines, planes, and even warheads. Such an atlas would have constituted the single biggest intelligence find of the Cold War; now it's available for $1,500.
Yet Moscow and Washington still insist on the use of middlemen who can play the enduring role of scapegoat in the event that things go sour. And as always, Glatt has positioned himself well. Some years ago a Russian general needed a hip replacement. The general--now in a position of some power--couldn't afford the operation, so Glatt paid for it himself. And as corporations start to eclipse nation-states, arms deals may be decided by board meetings. In 1997, a private company seeking to do business in Azerbaijan came up with four options to curry favor with the government, one of' which was to broker a $20 million arms deal for the country, which is under sanction for its aggresion against Armenia. The firm chose another course of action but had identified Glatt as the preferred supplier if the arms plan were to move forward. "There are a lot of fly-by-nights in the private arms business," says a person familiar with the details. "Glatt has been around, and he's trustworthy. He's one of only four or five men in the world who can quickly obtain and transport large quantities of Russian equipment."
Like Glatt, many of the other arms dealers who supplied Cold War combatants continue to profit from the war business. In 1998, Barbara Studley and John Singlaub tried to sell an Israeli missile guidance system to the American government. Ron Martin's company advertises itself on the World Wide Web as "The #1 Supplier of 40 mm Grenade Launchers." Richard Secord was seen not long ago in Azerbaijan, attempting to sell its military a package of equipment and training. Sarkis Soghanalian, who has offices on the Champs Elysees and works closely with French intelligence, helped funnel weapons to the military officers who overthrew the president of the Congo Republic in 1997. "There's nothing as big as the Iran-Iraq War, but there's still a lot going on," he told me from Paris during a phone interview. "The countries change, but there's always business." (Indeed. A few months later he was arrested in the United States on bank-fraud and money-laundering charges.) Even Oliver North, the would-be senator and talk-show host, heads a floundering body-armor company called Guardian Technologies International. "Every time you think one of these guys has died he turns up somewhere peddling arms," says an American weapons broker who himself still dabbles in the field. "These guys never die. Once you're in the business, you're in the business."
And why not? Arms dealing is an extremely profitable enterprise conducted remotely by fax and wire transfer. Unlike soldiers, arms dealers rarely put their own lives on the line and never have to confront the carnage caused by the weapons they sell. To them their trade is a game: a lot of money, a little espionage, but few personal consequences. As long as governments employ them, arms dealers like Glatt will grow rich and old and happily live out their days in the shadow of patriotism. For the moment, there may be less business than in the 1980s, but as Sam Cummings once noted, "In the broadest sense, the military arms business is based on human folly. And that is an extremely reliable element."
(1) That I encountered such secrecy is hardly surprising. Arms dealers operate within a maze of front companies, aliases, and Swiss bank accounts. Charles Kerr, assistant counsel for the Senate during the Iran-Contra hearings, told me that one weapons broker he interviewed confessed to having "operated in a hall of mirrors for so long that he himself didn't know the difference between fact and fiction anymore." Furthermore, Glatt's universe is a tiny one, and before long I'd bumped up against its outer limits. Former arms dealer Arif Durrani called me unsolicited; he was "curious." When I rang Michael Kokin, an American who brokered deals for the CIA during the 1980s, the first thing he said was, "I've been expecting your call"; the second was, "I won't talk with you." Because Glatt's activities on behalf of the United States remain classified, even friendly sources revealed only a fraction of what they knew. And not everyone was friendly. One person refused to help because, he said, there were people within the national security establishment who would prefer that I not write the story. The CIA would neither confirm nor deny a relationship with Glatt but said that if there were an association, the agency wasn't prepared to discuss it.
(2) Wilson, who unsuccessfully tried to interest Glatt in selling arms to Libya, says, "I liked him a lot." Wilson's affection was apparently not reciprocated. Lawrence Barcella, who ironically became Glatt's attorney after serving as the assistant U.S. attorney who put Wilson behind bars, says that Glatt provided the Justice Department with information about Wilson's movements after he had been indicted but remained at large in Libya.
(3) Like Bond's archnemesis, Glatt has a soft spot for animals. After Pan Am declined to let his dachshund sit in a first-class seat, Glatt deplaned and never flew the airline again.
(4) The spirit of the times was captured in a 1932 letter sent by a Colt Firearms executive to a company representative. "Dear Mr. Foster," the letter opens. "In view of the flareup in some of the Latin American countries, it would be most advisable for you to keep closely in touch with the Colombian, Bolivian, and Peruvian consuls, advising them that we understand their respective countries may be in the market for munitions and it is our desire to extend them every cooperation. As you know, these opera bouffe revolutions are usually short-lived, and we must make the most of the opportunity."
(5) It was there that in 1997 Cummings's daughter Susan killed her Argentinean polo-player boyfriend Roberto Villegas with a Walther P1. Prosecutors claimed that she shot him four times as he ate a croissant, but her lawyer (best known for defending Lorena Bobbitt) persuaded the jury that it was self-defense. Convicted of voluntary manslaughter, Cummings received sixty days in jail and a $2,500 fine.
(6) Glatt attends the Salzburg Mozart festival every year; his wife's family helped found the festival, Glatt says, and at one time owned 80 percent of the librettos of another great Austrian composer, Johann Strauss.
(7) The arms trade is marked by an atmosphere of paranoia and greed, and business partnerships are frequently short-lived. "There are a lot of bribes paid, so it's hard for one partner to know the real expenses being paid by the other partner," says Miley. "You may say you paid $250,000 in bribes and you may even have a check stub to prove it, but the guy you wrote it to gave you a kickback of $100,000." After splitting with Glatt, Johannesson developed excellent contacts in the East German Stasi. He became a top supplier to the FMA, and in 1987 bought a dozen T-72 tanks for the CIA. With his earnings he bought a home in Barbados and an estate on Maryland's Eastern Shore that was previously owned by a member of the Dupont family.
(8) The club was founded in 1966 by power brokers such as Robert Gray, head of Hill & Knowlton; FDR aide Thomas "Tommy the Cork" Corcoran; and Tongsun Park, later revealed to be a South Korean agent who'd paid members of Congress some $800,000 to influence policy on Korea.
(9) Singlaub also protected Glatt's identity before the Iran-Contra committee. Asked by House investigators to identify his arms dealer, Singlaub spelled out his name as C-L-O-T-S. Later, confused investigators asked if Singlaub knew the dealer in question as Werner L-O-T-T. Singtaub now spelled Glatt's name as K-L-O-T-Z. No one noticed the obfuscation.
(10) The deal violated the spirit if not the letter of the congressional ban on military aid to the Contras. Glatt's attorney Lawrence Barcella, who was an assistant U.S. attorney at the time, told me that a government official he would not identify came to him for a legal opinion about the deal. Barcella insisted then, and now, that the deal broke no laws. "They were foreign arms from a foreign port sent on a foreign ship to a foreign group and Glatt himself was a foreigner. It was not illegal."
(11) GMT's activities were never fully explored by the Iran-Contra committee. A wealth of information can be found in a 1992 sworn statement given by Ron Harel--a former Israeli Air Force officer who ran a GMT office in Tel Aviv--in an unrelated lawsuit that involved Studley. Harel sub,fitted dozens of internal company documents in support of his account. One 1984 memo discusses a series of meetings that Singlaub arranged between American officials--including Oliver North--and Shapoor Ardalan, an Iranian opposition leader whom the CIA hoped to enlist to overthrow the Ayatollah Khomeini and put the former Shah's son in power. During one meeting, a CIA official is described as offering a briefcase full of money to Ardalan. Either an honest man or embarrassed to be receiving so public a bribe, Ardalan asked that funding for his group be routed through its Swiss bank account.
Ken Silverstein is a contributing editor of Harper's Magazine. His last article, "The Radioactive Boy Scout," appeared in the November 1998 issue. His investigation on the arms trade for Harper's has led to a book, Private Warriors, which will be published this June by Verso.
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|Title Annotation:||arms dealer Ernst Werner Glatt|
|Date:||May 1, 2000|
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