Celerino Castillo III was born in 1949 in South Texas. He came from a family of a long tradition, tracing his heritage back to the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. His father, a decorated disabled veteran of World War II, was his role model and hero. Because of his father's influence, throughout his life, Castillo strove to live the life of a hero, fighting for causes in the interest of the US and its citizens. In 1970, as the only son in the family, he served in the US Army and was sent to Vietnam where he was awarded The Bronze Star for bravery. While in Vietnam he repeatedly saw fellow soldiers lay low from heroin overdoses. This powerful experience convinced him to devote his life to combating the illegal drug trade and its devastating effects on Americans. In 1976, after returning to the US, Castillo earned a Criminal Justice degree (BS) from Pan American University, now University of Texas at Pan Am.
On New Years Eve, 1979, he joined the DEA as one of the few Latino agents. In 1980 he was assigned to New York City as the first Mexican-American agent. There he was a key figure in deep undercover investigation that led to the incarceration of drug traffickers connected to major organized crime families.
Cele's career history clearly shows his dedication to his work, his patriotism and his love of the United States, his tireless attempts to fight a true war on drugs and his unwillingness to compromise his beliefs despite pressure from his superiors. While his government shouted "Just Say No!" entire Central and South American nations fell into what are now known as cocaine democracies.
In August 1984, Castillo was assigned to Peru where he engaged in conducting search and destroy mission on clandestine air strips and cocaine laboratories. In the summer of 1985 he helped conduct "Operation Condor", the biggest seizure of a South American cocaine labs valued at 500 million dollars and involving the confiscation of four tons of coca paste.
In October of 1985, Castillo was assigned to Guatemala in Central America. At that time, two (2) agents covered 4 countries in that region. In El Salvador he trained anti-narco terrorist units, working alongside the infamous death-squad leader, torturer and dentist, Dr. Hector Antonio Regalado (the alleged murderer of Archbishop Oscar Romero.)
In Guatemala, Castillo was ordered to conduct his drug raids with the Guatemalan Military Intelligence (G-2), better known as "La Dos", despite the fact that the G-2 runs the death squads that have murdered thousands of people including Americans in that country. In the course of his investigations Castillo discovered that almost every top official in the Guatemalan government (under President Cerezo) was a documented drug trafficker.
Cele was next assigned to represent the DEA in El Salvador at the height of the Contra war. It was there that he began to record intelligence on how known drug traffickers, with multiple DEA files, used hangars four and five at Ilopango airfield to ferry cocaine north and weapons and money south. Hangars four and five were owned and operated by the CIA and the National Security Council. He found out that the traffickers were also being given US visas by the CIA, in spite of their well known activities. Castillo also documented and spoke out about CIA and National Security Agency abuses in a manner utterly consistent with his heritage and the reats of his life.
Then Cele discovered that the Contra flights were under the direct supervision of US Lt. Col. Oliver North (DEA case file GFGD-91-9139) and had the additional protection of Felix Rodriguez (a retired CIA agent) who ran hanger 4 at Ilopango. Castillo was repeatedly warned that the drug profits were being utilized to support the Reagan-Bush backed right-wing "Contras" in Nicaragua and surrounding countries and that he should stop his investigations. Nevertheless, he continued to file DEA 6 reports and telex/cables on these operations. Castillo's reports contain not only the names of traffickers, but their destination, tail numbers, cargo and the date and time of each flight. Some Contra files were reported on DEA case file # TG-87-0003, under the name of Walter "Wally" Grashiem. The other Contra files were reported on GFTG-86-9999, Air Intelligence (El Salvador) and GFTG-86-9145 El Salvador.
Castillo's detailed reports on the cocaine laden planes went unheeded by DEA officials in Washington. Castillo was warned by his boss, Bob Stia and the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, not to interfere with the covert operation because it was protected by the White House.
On September 01, 1986, Castillo's Salvadoran anti-drug unit raided a house in San Salvador and found a huge shipment of US-issued munitions and weapons. Records and equipment belonging to the US embassy were found at the residence. The residence belonged to a US Contra pilot by the name of Wally Grasheim. He was mentioned in DEA, FBI, and US Customs files. The raid was executed after every department in the US Embassy denied that Mr. Grashiem was in no way shape or form associated with them.
In April, 1987, one month before the Iran-Contra hearings, DEA Latin American foreign office chief, John Martch, traveled to Guatemala to investigate Castillo and warned him not to reveal his information about the Contra drug operations. At one point, the DEA ordered Castillo not to close some of the Contra files so that the records would not be unavailable to Senator John Kerry's committee under the Freedom of Information Act. In 1988, Senator John Kerry's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations finished its investigations, having never called Castillo to testify.
In September, 1987, Castillo, along with CIA agent, Randy Capister, and 100 elements from the Guatemala Military G-2, conducted a drug raid in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. In one of the largest drug busts ever, more than 2 1/2 tons of cocaine were seized. Just after the bust, the G-2 agents raped and murdered the two daughters of a Mexican trafficker and killed their father and others they apprehended in the raid. Their bodies were dismembered, stuffed into 55 gallon drums and disposed of by being dropped into the ocean. This was reported on DEA case file # TG-86-0005, Garcia de Paz, Carlos Ramiro (Guatemalan Congressman).
After denial of a US visa (drug trafficking) to Guatemalan Military Lt. Col. Hugo Moran Carranza, head of Interpol, Moran retaliated by ordering Castillo's assassination. The elaborate plot involved ambushing Castillo in El Salvador to divert suspicion from the Guatemalan Colonel. Luckily for Castillo, the plan was taped recorded by an informant and placed into evidence in a Houston DEA file M3-90-0053. Col. Moran was attempting to attend a War College in the US invited by the CIA. Despite the danger, the DEA continued to order Castillo to travel to El Salvador. Because Col. Moran was an asset of the CIA, he was never prosecuted in the US on the attempted capital murder of a US drug agent.
In 1990, Castillo was finally transferred out of Central America because of the assassination plot. He was assigned to the DEA San Francisco office, as the only latino agent generating excessive undercover work.
In 1991, Castillo secretly met with a representative of the Office of Independent Council of Iran Contra where he reported his intelligenceís gathering reference to CIA and NSC's cocaine-contra operations. Castillo's remarks never appeared in Walsh's final report but Castillo's interview notes were found at the National Archives.
In 1992 Castillo received an early retirement from the DEA due to stress and damaged nerves to his arms and hands. Since his retirement he has had numerous TV, radio and newspaper interviews in order to expose what he knows about the CIA and DEA collaboration with drug traffickers and murderers in Central America. His TV appearance include "Current Affair" (1994); a one hour documentary aired in 1994 by the Australian Broadcasting Company exposing Oliver North's drug trafficking activities; ABC's "Prime Time Live" on December 27, 1995 (on the US protection of criminal military officers in Guatemala) and Date-Line (NBC) June 13, 1997.
Foreign news stories aired on both Univision and the CBS-owned Telemundo in 1996 on Guatemala and El Salvador. In April 1997, Cele was interview for a special series on The Discovery Channel "Secret Warriors of the CIA". Castillo has also begun to lecture at universities all over the country and held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC In July, 1996 an Associated Press wire story quoted his comments about a recent US government report on Guatemala and the CIA (The Intelligence Oversight Board) an investigation ordered by President Clinton to ascertain if US agents were involved in atrocities in Central America.
In 1994, Castillo was able to co-author his book "Powderburns" Cocaine, Contras and the Drug War . Which included journal entries with case file numbers and other direct information from his investigation.
In September 23, 1996, Castillo joined Southern Christian Leadership Conference President , Joseph E. Lowery and Activist Dick Gregory with Joe Madison, at a press conference in Washington DC. Also jointing Castillo at the conference was Prof. John Newman, author of the books "Oswald and the CIA" and "JFK and Vietnam". The University of Maryland history professor has been helping to draft the Records Act legislation that would declassify all documents related to the CIA's possible involvement in cocaine trafficking.
Also in September 1996, Castillo joint DEA G/S Rick Horn in his Class Action Complaint against the CIA for violation of 4th Amend. rights.
In 1995, after the lessons he learned in Central America, Castillo made a pilgrimage to the Vietnam Wall where he renounced his Bronze Star pinned to his last combat boots that he wore in Vietnam, Peru, Guatemala and EL Salvador. Attached to the Bronze Star was a letter to President Clinton requesting that he take actions on the atrocities. He did this in protest of the atrocities his government had committed and the massive cover ups.
In March 1998, The US House of Representatives Permanent Select
Committee On Intelligence held a one hour hearing in regards to CIA/Contras involvement in drug trafficking.
During the hearing CIA Special Agent Nitz, of the CIA Inspector General Office, advised the committee that Mr. Celerino Castillo III refused to be interviewed by his office. What Mr. Nitz failed to advise the committee was the reason Castillo rejected the offer. Nitz strongly refused for Castillo to record the interview citing National Security. This would had been the only evidence Castillo would have to proof what statement he did or did not make. Castillo offered to testify before any committee as long that it was an open door hearing.
On March 12, 1998, Castillo received a certified letter from the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. This time it was from Norm Dicks, Ranking Democratic Member and CIA Porter J. Goss, Chairman of said committee. Again they requested for Castillo to be interview for the up coming hearings in late June. Castillo contacted Mr. Calvin R. Humphrey at 202-225-7690 and advised him that he would be available for the interview. He advised Castillo that he would get back to him at the end of May. On September 11, 1998, another letter arrived from the committee advising him that the time had come for him to be interview and that someone would contact him for the interview. On January 15, 1999, Castillo was finally interviewed by members of the committee.
Some people have asked Cele why he is coming foreword with his story. Castillo replies that a long time ago he took an oath to protect The Constitution of the United States and its citizens. He has thought about quitting but there was no time limit on that oath. In reality it has cost him so much to become a complete human being, that he lost his family and that there is a possibility that he might be incarcerated for telling the truth.
For all of his work, even a direct protest to the Vice President George Bush about CIA involvement in drug trafficking, Cele Castillo was ignored, nearly assassinated and then forced out of DEA into early and very lean retirement.
Celerino Castillo III has now become a veteran of his third and perhaps most dangerous war - the war against the criminals in his own government.