CRIMES OF PATRIOTS: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA by Jonathan Kwitny

CRIMES OF PATRIOTS: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA

Email this review


A curiously inconclusive exercise in geopolitical muckraking that suffers from a near-terminal case of righteousness and a surfeit of often discontinuous detail. In sorting through the murky circumstances of the Sydney-based Nugan Hand Bank, which collapsed in 1980 following the violent (unsolved) death of its founder, Wall Street Journal correspondent Kwitny (Vicious Circles, Endless Enemies) raises as many questions as he answers. After-the-fall probes by journalists like the author as well as Australian authorities have left little doubt that Nugan Hand and its illicit offshore branches were engaged in mainly felonious enterprises--laundering drug money, financing arms sales, masterminding tax fiddles, defrauding innocent investors, et al. Kwitny focuses on the near certainty that clandestine Cold War schemes gave retired military men and other Americans with intelligence-community ties the moral equivalent of a license to steal through Nugan Hand. With few exceptions, the evidence that US agents used the bank to commit nest-feathering crimes in the name of anti-communism is circumstantial. Despite obviously exhaustive investigation, Kwitny can't provide unambiguous proof that outlaw operatives were instruments of extralegal CIA policies or plots. As one consequence, he is forced to rely on inference and innuendo to make a case for the above-reproach proposition that uncontrolled covert activities can subvert the democratic principles they are presumptively employed to support. Several figures in the Nugan Hand affair subsequently surfaced in the Iragua intrigue, and Kwitny apparently felt obliged to add a sketchy, last-minute update on their roles. There's also an 11th-hour afterword from a retired admiral who offers an evasive, disingenuous rebuttal to the attacks made on him in the text. Overall, though disturbing in its implications, Kwitny's rambling, frequently tedious narrative will prove tough going for all but the most dedicated conspiracy theorists.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1987
Publisher: Norton