The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA

Jonathan Kwitny, Author W. W. Norton & Company $19.95 (424p) ISBN 978-0-393-02387-9
Kwitny, a Wall Street Journal reporter who now also conducts a very unorthodox TV-interview show, has become one of our most important investigative journalists. He is endlessly thorough, eminently fair but appropriately skeptical and writes with welcome touches of humor. His last book, Endless Enemies, remains the best-researched critical account of current U.S. foreign policy. This time his subject, loaded with topical significance in the wake of the Iran-contra scandal, is the Nugan Hand Bank, an Australia-based institution top-heavy with high-ranking retired U.S. military men and CIA operatives, which failed spectacularly in 1980, leaving one of its cofounders dead (whether by suicide or murder is still unclear) while the other vanished. With remarkable patience and industry, Kwitny has pieced together the whole sordid story, involving an institution clearly designed to facilitate the laundering and rapid movement of dubious money (much of it originating in arms deals and dope smuggling) around the Far East and even the Middle East. Lured by the big names on the masthead, many Australian and American citizens, including numbers of U.S. servicemen, were bilked out of their life savings when the bank failed and it was discovered that the entire edifice was largely a masterly exercise in shuffling paper; a few large and aggressive customers got paid, several officers got rich, most depositors lost everything. Australian investigators were either respectfully inclined to accept absurd explanations or the more energetic of them were stonewalled by American authorities. The bank's chief executive, retired U.S. Navy Adm. Earl Yates, having ducked Kwitny's attempts to interview him, is allowed to contribute his own rebuttal to the author's findings as an afterword. It suggests either an inconceivable degree of naivete on the part of such a senior officer or complete duplicity, and the flag-waving in which he indulges (his Nugan Hand associatesincluding names like William Colby, Guy Pauker and Gen. Edwin Blackare ""the True Patriots,'' and Kwitny is merely serving ``the interests of the Soviet Union'') fails to impress. Much of the book was being written as the Iran-contra scandal began to unravel, but Kwitny is able to point up many fascinating correspondences, in both methods and personnel. One can only hope that in time he will turn his formidable talents to a book on that debacle. (September 28)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1987
Release date: 09/01/1987
Paperback - 424 pages - 978-0-393-33665-8
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