Discussion of Inter-Agency Issues
At this point it is appropriate to explain how conflicting interests can make inter-agency operations such as Operation Shift Lock difficult. The interest of DEA in closing the case of their agent's disappearance was one factor motivating the operation. Another interest of DEA was in gaining positive publicity by carrying out a low-risk drug arrest in Colombia. This interest directly conflicted with the CIA interests. CIA had hoped to learn about Cartel plans that were adverse to the interests of the United States, and to check the accuracy of other human intelligence gathered in the region. CIA, as this commission discovered, also had an interest in gaining exclusive access to a mind-altering substance about which little reliable information had been gathered. CIA apparently sought to keep the very existence of this substance secret from DEA.
In December the go-ahead for the operation was given during a meeting between CIA and DEA representatives, a meeting which Gus Fortan attended. Because CIA wanted control of the substance for future applications, they offered to staff the operation with some of their operatives, if DEA supplied agents and funded the operation's military component. The soldiers were supposedly under DEA direction, but CIA would eventually transfer control of them to CIA and attempt to marginalize the involvement of DEA agents, relegating them to areas of the compound which did not contain the substance of interest to CIA.
CIA's involvement in Operation Shift Lock began with reports from LA Division's Agent At, whose real name, like that of all currently active agents mentioned in this report, has been withheld. At provided information direct to DEA under special authorization, but it is not clear that he reported the existence of the new substance to them.
Agent At had reported, more than three years before the beginning of the time period under consideration, regional folk rumors that suggested a very rare flower, called lenguaje, grew in the mountains of Bolivia. A drug obtained with little effort from the flower was rumored to have psychoactive properties of great potency and to act in ways unlike any known psychopharmocological agent. The talk of the flower among indigenous peoples suggests that those who eat it become incapable of lying. Further, they are said to intuitively believe anything told to them, even if it contradicts the evidence of the senses. The state described bears some similarity to hypnosis but more compelling and impossible to disrupt while the effect of the drug runs its course.
Although early information on lenguaje was very vague, in November 1997 Agent At obtained three detailed and independent reports of a particular incident involving the flower. The correspondence between these reports strongly suggested the existence of lenguaje in some form. (see attached)
CIA had a strong interest in obtaining the flower for study. There seemed to be some limited potential for use in medicine, but, more urgently, CIA recognized numerous applications for intelligence operations - applications that could be realized in the short term.
After months of exhaustive undercover work coordinated by CIA and with limited DEA involvement, Agent At was able to establish a connection to a supplier in the region. At worked with DEA Agent Tilde, who posed as a half-Cuban, half-Jewish South American drug dealer. The two succeeded in making contact with Roberto Diaz, a politically-connected Bolivian cocaine dealer. Diaz said he had a connection to lenguaje. Additionally, Diaz told the two that he knew of a jungle cocaine laboratory where the flower was cultivated.
That laboratory was believed to be located near the mountain village of which Julio Humbaba was mayor. As details fell into place, and the original, unrelated plan for Operation Shift Lock was obsoleted while still in early stages, CIA repurposed Operation Shift Lock as a raid to help them acquire the flower.
Agent Tilde provided the first reports about an important operative of unknown affiliation apparently involved at the highest levels of the supposed lenguaje ring. Known only as The Colombian, he was described as a softspoken and intelligent man in his 70s. Our investigation revealed that The Colombian had access to extensive resources. The scope of these could only be roughly estimated, but they seemed to include influential ties to the governments of Costa Rica, Mexico, Bolivia, and Argentina, and some influence in intellectual circles within the United States.
About one year before the beginning of the time period under consideration, Agent Tilde met with The Colombian. Agent Tilde reported that the man was a smooth talker who apparently had worked as a journalist and later a fiction writer. It became clear to him that the man had managed to infiltrate a number of influential organizations to their highest levels in order to gather material for novels. Although CIA tried to limit DEA knowledge of the flower, and made it difficult for Agent Tilde to acquire intelligence concerning it, he did gain some additional information during this meeting, which later reached CIA.
The man Agent Tilde met with, The Colombian, seems to be the same man as the man encountered prior to the operation by Ed Fluegel. Because of his stomach problems, Gus Fortan had decided that Ed Fluegel should be taken by helicopter to see a medical examiner. This was done on the day before the operation was scheduled, Day 7 of the time period under consideration. Fluegel's medical condition improved en route, and, after being examined, he was sent back without receiving treatment. It was during Fluegel's eventful return trip that, after his capture by opposition forces, he is believed to have encountered The Colombian.