Excerpt #1 from
The Underground Empire -
Where Crime and Governments Embrace
by James Mills
Doubleday, New York, 1986

[Page 3:] The inhabitants of the earth spend more money on illegal drugs than they spend on food. More than they spend on housing, clothes, education, medical care, or any other product or service. The international narcotics industry is the largest growth industry in the world. Its annual revenues exceed half a trillion dollars -- three times the value of all United States currency in circulation, more than the gross national products of all but a half dozen of the major industrialized nations. To imagine the immensity of such wealth consider this: A million dollars in gold would weigh as much as a large man. A half-trillion dollars would weigh more than the entire population of Washington, D.C.

Narcotics industry profits, secretly stockpiled in countries competing for the business, draw interest exceeding $3 million per hour. To what use will this money eventually be put? What will be its ultimate effect?

Though everyone knows narcotics is big business, its truly staggering dimensions have never been fully publicized. The statistics on which the above statements are based appear in classified documents prepared with the participation of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. These studies are circulated in numbered copies with warnings of "criminal sanctions" for unauthorized disclosure. Why is this information withheld from public view?

The international narcotics industry is, in fact, not an industry at all, but an empire. Sovereign, proud, expansionist, this Underground Empire, though frequently torn by internal struggle, never fails to present a solid front to the world at large It has become today as ruthlessly acquisitive and exploitative as any nineteenth-century imperial kingdom, as far-reaching as the British Empire, as determinedly cohesive as the states of the American republic. Aggressive and violent by nature, the Underground Empire maintains its own armies, diplomats, intelligence services, banks, merchant fleets, and air lines. It seeks to extend its dominance by any means, from clandestine subversion to open warfare. Legitimate nations combat its agents within their own borders, but effectively ignore its power internationally. The United States government, while launching cosmetic "wars" on drugs and crime, has rarely attacked the Empire abroad, has never substantially diminished its international power, and does not today seriously challenge its growing threat to world stability.

Why is this so? Do the world's governments not want to eliminate this expanding source of criminal wealth and power? Has there in fact never been an attempt to mount a truly effective global assault against it? Has there never existed -- does there not exist today -- some hidden, unpublicized, international force struggling against the Underground Empire?

[Page 4:] I arrived through layers of security -- uniformed guards with side arms, bulletproof glass, closed-circuit television, magnetic locks, solemn-faced men with pistols concealed beneath three-piece suits, color-coded tags chained to their necks -- and now my escort knocked on an unmarked door, watched it open, and left me on my own.

I was on the sixth floor of a shabby, featureless building in one of Washington's most notorious wino-junkie neighborhoods. Across the street something called The Olympic Baths advertised "A man's world of pleasure and enjoyment," and "Benny's, home of the porno stars" was just up the block. I stepped through the door and found myself in a cubbyhole office. Mozart played faintly from an unseen radio and potted plants lined the sill of a window that looked down through venetian blinds to a park filled with snow, squirrels, hookers, and drunks.

A man came at me from behind a pipe-strewn desk, and I knew he was the one I had been asking about, hoping to meet. His name was Dennis Dayle, but his agents called him "D squared," Devious Dennis. To me he looked like Santa Claus -- plump, rosy-cheeked, eyes sparkling, wearing a wide, welcoming smile that had nothing devious in it. He shook my hand and said, "I hear you've been asking about Centac."

[Page 5:] The previous night, at a dinner party in a Washington suburb, I had first heard the word "Centac". When I asked what it was, my questions were politely evaded or ignored. But now, without warning or explanation, I had been brought to Dennis Dayle's office for what turned out to be four hours of answers to every question I could think to ask.

After thirty minutes the Santa Claus image faded, replaced by a vision of John le Carre's fictional masterspy George Smiley. Before me was a reserved, pleasant, knowing man who behind a carefully crafted reputation for ruthlessness and cunning concealed an extraordinary past. Driven by a romantic's dreams and passions, studying and conquering the symphonic complexities of global criminal conspiracies, he controlled something called Centac -- the most unorthodox, effective, and least-known international police organization in the world.

Intrigued by what he told me -- wanting to learn more about him, about Centac, and about the powerful criminal conglomerates Centac fought -- I asked if I could remain with him, sit in his office, travel with him, observe him and his agents around the world.

The answer came some weeks later, not from Dennis Dayle but from a man named Ted Hunter, chief of the Special Action Section of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who had been given the task of deciding whether or not I should be allowed access to Centac. Whoever it was in the Washington bureaucracy who gave him that responsibility clearly wanted to make sure they'd have someone to hang if things went wrong.

During one of my meetings with Hunter (his nickname, of course, was Head) he stood with his back to me, staring silently out a window of his office, and after what seemed like several hours remarked painfully that all the training and experience of two decades in federal law enforcement told him not to do what I was asking. The possibility of disaster was too great. What if I exposed secret methods and techniques? If Centac let one writer in the door, how could it turn down others, how would it ever again be able to conduct business in private?

I explained that publishing was the only industry in the world that functioned more slowly than criminal justice, that probably by the time my book appeared half the principals in it would be in jail, retired, or dead. I said I would let him read the manuscript and if he could point out errors of fact I would correct them. If he took exception to interpretations, opinions, or conclusions, I would listen to his side. I might not change anything, but I'd hear him out.

[Page 6:] After a couple of weeks of consideration, Hunter agreed. Anxious not to jeopardize what might be a fragile decision, I did not ask why. On January 7, 1980, I walked back through Dennis Dayle's door -- it was like walking through Alice's looking glass -- and began what became a five-year odyssey through a labyrinthine underground world I believe no journalist has ever before traveled end to end, a meticulously filigreed web of conduits, passages, arteries within which hums and clatters a multibillion-dollar market of drugs, assassins, weapons, and spies. It was a world of diplomats, statesmen, global politics, and crime, where everything could be bought for cash -- lives, armies, the governments of nations.

Never did I feel secure. I knew there were any number of politicians and bureaucrats who with one phone call could pull the rug out from under me. "He's doing what?" Trying to remain as unobtrusive as possible, I discovered that a vague personal approval could open almost as many doors as an official security clearance. A Centac agent in an American embassy in Asia, asked by one of the local bosses what gave me the right to wander through the restricted upper floors, said he had no idea, "but the last time I saw him he was in Washington in Dennis Dayle's office with his feet up on the desk." The boss accepted that.

In another city an intelligence analyst reaching for a file cabinet with red SECRET markers on it, said to a Centac agent, "Can he see this?" The agent nodded, and the cabinet was opened. The analyst felt safe because the agent, a superior, had agreed. The agent felt safe because it wasn't his cabinet. I began to see how spies work.

An informant repeatedly encountering me in the midst of Centac operations on different continents, failed to believe I was a writer, dubbed me "Jim from Washington," and kept dropping small complaints he plainly hoped would be relayed to my superiors back home.

As I traveled, tape cassettes and classified documents collected in bank and hotel vaults around the world. In San Francisco my room at the Fairmont Hotel was burglarized, a locked suitcase broken into. What interest the burglar might have taken in Centac material I don't know (probably none), but in any case it was all locked downstairs in a vault normally reserved for fur coats. Eventually I gathered the research into three large safety-deposit boxes at a bank in New York, traveled further abroad, then returned to New York and hand-carried everything back to a bank in Europe, where I was living at the time. By then I had followed Centac through four continents, had collected hundreds of pages of classified documents, 183 two-hour tape cassettes (these eventually produced more than 77,000 pages of transcription) and 22 notebooks. Information continued to pour in. Phone calls came from as far away as Hong Kong, classified documents appeared in envelopes with no return addresses, a forty-pound cardboard carton arrived packed with CIA documents stamped SECRET.

From the beginning, I found my interest expanding from Centac to a much wider subject, to the Underground Empire itself, to the secret alliance of criminal conglomerates and national governments. Centac became at once a lens through which to view that Empire, and a vehicle to take me to its center, face to face with its leaders, their wives and lovers, into their mansions and yachts, their banks and counting rooms, to a secret wonderland of wealth so vast it threatened the economic stability of the world.

This book, I hope, will take the reader there too. For its subject, finally, is not merely Centac or Dennis Dayle. Its subject is the Underground Empire.

Excerpt 2 The "War on Drugs"
The CIA Serendipity Home Page