Evergreen International Aviation, Inc.
the CIA's covert airline
Evergreen International Aviation, Inc. is an Oregon-based aviation company with longstanding ties to the CIA. Its huge Evergreen Maintenance Center in Arizona was bought from the Agency, which offered the property to no-one else. In 1980 an Evergreen plane flew the recently deposed Shah of Iran from Panama to Egypt, hours before the Panamanian government was due to receive an extradition request from the new government in Tehran. Giving rides to dictators is something of a specialty for the company - it also allowed El Salvador's President Duarte to use its helicopter, which was officially in the country to help repair power lines.
And according to a series of articles in The Oregonian in 1988, Evergreen's owner and founder Delford M. Smith "...acknowledged one agreement under which his companies provide occasional jobs and cover to foreign nationals the CIA wants taken out of other countries or brought into the United States. However, neither Smith nor CIA officials would say whether any broader agreement existed."
Offering help to Oregon county clerks on Election Day 2008
In October 2008, Evergreen president Tom Wiggins emailed Oregon county clerks, offering his firm's services on Election Day. "During this crucial election Evergreen Defense and Security Services has recognized the potential conflict that could occur on November 4," the email stated. "Never has there been a more heated battle in the race for president and voters seem more involved and determined to achieve their respective goals. EDSS proposes to post sentries at each voting center on November 4 to assure that disputes among citizens do not get out of control. All guards will be unarmed but capable of stopping any violence that may occur, and detaining troublemakers until law enforcement help arrives." 
The offer "baffled county clerks and the Elections Division, who did not solicit the security help" and didn't anticipate security problems, according to PolitickerOR.com.  Moreover, the state has "no actual polling places, since Oregon went to vote by mail several years ago," noted the News-Review of Roseburg, Oregon.  Counties do set up areas where voters can drop off their ballots. EDSS "didn't get any bites from the counties," reported The Oregonian. 
1988: We don't know when the CIA uses us. 2006: We know our planes aren't used for extraordinary rendition
In April 2006, Evergreen denied that its planes had ever been used for extraordinary rendition:
- "Evergreen President Tim Wahlberg, commenting through a spokeswoman, emphatically denied any company involvement in the program when contacted Wednesday about Amnesty's allegations. Evergreen founder Del Smith stood by the denial in a letter published in today's News-Register. He points out that the company hasn't flown passengers since 1995."
However, back in 1988 Smith gave a rather different impression about how much Evergreen knows about when and how its planes are used by the CIA:
- "Smith said he normally wouldn't know if or when Evergreen did anything to help the CIA. 'I want to make it perfectly clear -- I believe in their cause,' Smith said. 'I think America needs it, and it worries me that we're in a decline. And I think that we've done more for the world than any other country in the history of man on Earth. But I respect what they've done. And we don't know when we supported them and when we didn't -- as a contract carrier.'"
Service with a scowl at the Evergreen Maintenance Center
Reports from private pilots who have attempted to refuel at the Evergreen Maintenance Center in Arizona indicate that it is a militarized facility:
- "Tried to drive to MZJ on Memorial Day. Armed guard refused us entry to FBO. Found out later that this is where TCA is training air marshals. This is a full military base; don't even think about going there."
- "Last time I landed at Pinal I got an armed escort directly back to the departure end of the runway. No options. Nice. I been flying Arizona for 10 years."
- "FBO was rude and a mechanic told us it was a private airport. Evergreen practically chased us out."
However, some pilots reported a more positive experience:
- "Great FBO, very helpful and offered good suggestions on food, lodging etc. Will visit again!! Thanks Evergreen and Craig!!"
Until January 2007 the site was called the Evergreen Air Center.
Allegations of impropriety over Evergreen's non-profit museum
In 2000, Evergreen opened an aviation museum near its headquarters in Oregon. The museum's prize exhibit is Howard Hughes's "Spruce Goose", an early and unsuccessful attempt at a heavy cargo plane. In 2005 the museum's former director, William Schaub, filed a lawsuit against Evergreen. According to the McMinnville News-Register, the suit alleged that:
- "...$600,000 in museum funds were 'withdrawn' by Evergreen International Aviation for expenses that were not the museum's responsibility. Schaub says he complained in an internal September 2001 memo 'that earnings of the museum were being used for the benefit of Evergreen International Aviation, and Smith personally.'"
- Evergreen attorney Gwenna Wootress "...contacted the IRS and directed the agency to withdraw the museum's public status... 'without the authority or a vote of the Museum Board of Trustees,' and without his own knowledge as museum director. Schaub said that when he contacted the IRS to overrule Wootress, he was called on the carpet by one of Evergreen's New York attorneys. Schaub said he refused to withdraw the museum's public charity status because such a change had not gone through its legally constituted governing board."
According to the same article,
- "Previously, an attorney for Schaub alleged the museum was improperly paying thousands of dollars to Evergreen, Smith and Smith's family. In his letter from early 2003, Schaub alleged that profits from the museum's ice cream parlor were being funneled to Smith relatives, and that the museum staff was being pressed into service in connection with Smith's private aircraft collection."
Evergreen denied the charges:
- "When Schaub's allegations surfaced in early 2003... an Evergreen attorney called them 'one made-up story after another' containing 'not a shred of truth.'"
Business is booming, thanks to the Iraq war
According to a 2004 article in The Oregonian, Evergreen has benefited from the Iraq war:
- "...the Iraq conflict is pumping some new money into Oregon. Defense Department spending in the state rose in fiscal 2003 to $491.2 million, up from $404.1 million in fiscal 2002, according to a department Web site. Evergreen nabbed a good chunk of those new dollars. About 40 percent of Evergreen's $568.6 million operating revenues last year came from cargo bound for U.S. military operations in Iraq, according to a March 1 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission."
A big spender on lobbying
Flying Bill O'Reilly and Fox News into Iraq
- "Thanks to Evergreen International and its President Dale [sic] Smith, the "Factor" team, and all the cargo got to Kuwait and Iraq in very good shape."
Alleged terrorist worked for Evergreen - but when?
In 2007, former Evergreen employee Russell Defreitas was accused of involvement in an alleged terrorist plot to attack New York's JFK airport. Media reports gave conflicting dates for his service with Evergreen subsidiary Evergreen EAGLE:
- Portland based KGW-TV "...obtained public records that indicated Defreitas worked for Evergreen from July 2000 to May 2001."
- According to Newsday, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly "...said Defreitas last worked at Kennedy in 1995 as a baggage handler with a subsidiary of Evergreen..."
The junk bonds bailout
In 1992, Evergreen issued $125 million in junk bonds, but in 1994 financial pressures forced it to default on them. By 1996 it was facing the prospect of bankruptcy. The company was eventually saved from filing under Chapter 11 by a $400 million bailout organized by William Repko at Chase Manhattan Corp. Evergreen's lawyer was Jay Goffman of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Evergreen exec: "No easy answer" to The Oregonian's investigation
The high water mark of press scrutiny of Evergreen's operations was probably "The Evergreen Story", a major nine part series of articles in The Oregonian in 1988. The series's authors, James Long and Lauren Cowen, traced in sometimes exhausting detail the personal and business connections between Evergreen and the CIA. According to a 1999 article in another Oregon newspaper,
- "[Evergreen's Vice Chairman Ron] Lane says that in retrospect, the series raised questions that had "no easy answer" and was ultimately of no consequence to the company."
The library of the University of Texas at Dallas holds a collection of James Long's interview notes and other primary research materials for The Evergreen Story.
Freighting missiles to Israel
- "...wanted to attack the airport because in the early 1990s he had seen missiles being shipped to Israel while he was working for Evergreen International Aviation."
Repairing power lines in El Salvador, and chauffering President Duarte
According to The Oregonian's 1988 investigation,
- "On Dec. 14, 1981, Evergreen Helicopters began flying on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to repair war-damaged power lines in El Salvador. [Evergreen executive Robert D.] Fox said Smith learned of the work through a State Department 'aviation expert' who was reliably identified as a CIA agent with experience in Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. He has since been posted to the Persian Gulf region.
- "...In late 1982 and 1983, the Salvadoran electrical utility was headed by Col. Nicolas Carranza, former commander of the Salvadoran Treasury Police, who were linked to death squads and other human-rights abuses. Roberto Santivanez, a former director of El Salvador's intelligence agency who fled the country in 1979, has said that during Carranza's tenure as Treasury Police commander, the CIA paid Carranza $90,000 a year. Another former Treasury Police commander, Col. Francisco Antonio Moran, succeeded Carranza at the utility. Moran was removed from the job June 7, 1984, after two intelligence officers who served as his bodyguards were implicated in the murder of a wealthy Salvadoran landowner.
- "The El Salvador contract thrust Evergreen into the center of debate over U.S. policy in Central America and in 1984 led to picketing of Evergreen headquarters in McMinnville by a variety of groups opposed to the U.S. role in El Salvador. It also fueled speculation that the company's helicopters were doing intelligence work -- a charge the corporation angrily denied.
- "...Hans Kindermann, a Colombian national of German descent who was Evergreen's chief pilot in El Salvador, said by telephone from Bogota that he had spent most of his time flying electric company workers to and from downed power lines. Salvadoran rebels have been blowing up the lines with regularity there for eight years. While Evergreen's contract stipulated that none of the work could serve military purposes, Kindermann occasionally was asked to perform related tasks. They included flying Duarte to meetings with rebels, flying visiting U.S. diplomats and politicians and rescuing Duarte's daughter when she was kidnapped by rebels. Kindermann said Duarte liked to use the Evergreen helicopter because it was civilian and he thought it was safe."
Evergreen denies CBS report about gun running to Central America
According to the Associated Press in 1984:
- "CBS News, in a report broadcast Sunday, said airlines in Delaware, Florida and Arizona have flown CIA missions to Central America several times. The network said one mission took place on April 9, 1983, when Southern Air Transport of Miami carried 22 tons of small arms to a Honduran military base on a propeller-driven Hercules transport plane with a special crew... Also listed in the report were Summit Aviation of Delaware and Evergreen Air of Tucson, Ariz. In McMinnville, Ore., vice president Donna Nelson of Evergreen International Aviation, parent company of Evergreen Air, said the story was 'totally an untruth.'
- "'Wherever they got their news, we don't appreciate the customer damage that such a devious type of reporting causes. We're going to serve them with a letter. If they want the facts, they should get them ...,' Ms. Nelson said. 'We don't have fixed-wing aircraft hauling artillery into Central America. We have one helicopter involved in some power line work there.'
Picking up Nicaraguan 'missionaries' - "the area will be secure"
Donna Nelson's assertion that "We don't have fixed-wing aircraft hauling artillery into Central America" may have been strictly true... but in the early 1980s Evergreen certainly was flying fixed-wing aircraft on other types of missions there. According to The Oregonian's 1988 investigation,
- "About the same time the helicopter work started in El Salvador, two former Evergreen pilots said, they were asked to fly into Nicaragua to pick up some people and relay them to Houston. As outlined to them by Smith's former personal Learjet pilot, the plan was to fly a short-takeoff-and-landing DeHaviland Twin Otter in to a grass airstrip in Nicaragua about 5 a.m., fly the people out to a highway where a Lear 24 could land, still inside Nicaragua, and take them in the jet from there back to Houston. The two former pilots recalled the time of the proposal as somewhere around December 1981 to February 1982.
- "The pilots were told that the people in Nicaragua were refugees. Neither believed it. Separately, each got the sense that the potential passengers were 'operatives' -- mercenaries or intelligence agents. The pilots refused to make the trip, and to their knowledge it never took place. 'I couldn't see what they had in mind,' said one pilot, Steve Howard. 'They said some cock-and-bull story about it being missionaries or something like that. I just laughed when they told me that. I said, 'Don't give me that.' I said, 'Mercenaries, huh?' Missionaries didn't quite fit into my line of thinking. You don't fly in at dawn and pick 'em up off the middle of the road.'
- "Howard, who was flying a Twin Otter at the time, said he had checked maps and calculated times and distances before turning down the trip. 'I just simply told them, 'I cannot fly all night to get down there because a Twin Otter goes too slow.' And then they told me, 'Don't worry, the area will be secure,' ' Howard said. 'That's when I sort of said: 'Hold it. Hold on just a minute.' I mean, Christ, the area will be secure? Those are famous last words.'
- "Evergreen executives said they couldn't recall anything of the kind. Smith's former Learjet pilot -- the man who had proposed the trip -- can't be located. But William V. Spicer, president of Evergreen International Aviation, did say the Twin Otter was assigned at the time to an emergency medical unit, and he suggested that perhaps the people who were supposed to be flown out were medical missionaries."
A mysterious in-flight death
In February 1989, Evergreen pilot Dean Clinton Moss died while flying from Utah to Texas. The Texas pathologist who examined Moss, Dr. Ralph R. Erdmann, never determined what caused him to bleed internally to death:
- "Erdmann said in his autopsy report that Moss had suffered 'acute hemorrhagic gastritis' -- sudden bleeding into the stomach -- but Erdmann pointed out that this merely stated the obvious. 'I couldn't come up with a reason why a young man in otherwise excellent shape -- I mean excellent, an athlete -- suddenly would bleed to death and have it in his stomach,' said Erdmann, who is board-certified in both forensic and general pathology. 'I've done over 8,000 autopsies, and this is only the second one I blanked out on. It's very frustrating.' "
Coroner L.J. Blalack of Lubbock County, Texas, sparked controversy when he ruled the death was homicide:
- "I can't go into the evidence specifically because an investigation is in progress... It's a question of collective evidence from everything surrounding the situation. I can rule that a death is from natural causes or that it's accidental or that it's suicide or homicide. For the last three weeks I have been getting information from different sources, and I reviewed it and talked it over with our police department and pathologist. And I made a decision over the weekend."
However the National Transportation Safety Board disputed the coroner's ruling, according to a later report in The Oregonian: "'Obviously, we don't think it was homicide or we wouldn't be in it (instead of the FBI),' said Dr. Dennis Shanahan, a pathologist with the safety board's Survival Factors Division in Washington, D.C."
And Erdmann himself was sceptical it was homicide, telling The Oregonian "...that homicide wouldn't be high on his list of possible causes, although the death is still unexplained."
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- Central Intelligence Agency
- Delford M. Smith
- International Peace Operations Association
- Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates
- U.S. presidential election, 2008
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 James Long and Lauren Cowen, "The Evergreen Story", Part 1, The Oregonian, August 14, 1988. Payment req'd. Also available via Lexis-Nexis.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Britten Chase, "Aviation/security firm proposes posting sentries at Oregon voting centers," PolitickerOR.com, October 31, 2008.
- ↑ John Sowell, "[ County declines Election Day security offer]," News-Review (Roseburg, Oregon), October 31, 2008.
- ↑ Michelle Cole, "Company pitches election sentries, strikes out," The Oregonian (Portland), October 31, 2008.
- ↑ David Bates, "Amnesty hedges on Evergreen allegation", McMinnville News-Register, April 8, 2006.
- ↑ Evergreen Air Center at Pinal Airpark, airnav.com. Undated, accessed August 11, 2006.
- ↑ "Evergreen International Aviation Announces New Business Unit Name To Reflect Growth And Expansion In Aircraft Maintenance", press release, January 2, 2007.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 David Bates, "Suit targets Del Smith, Evergreen", McMinnville News-Register, February 24, 2005.
- ↑ Brent Hunsberger, "War pumps money into firms", The Oregonian, April 16, 2004. Payment req'd. Also available via Lexis-Nexis.
- ↑ Bara Vaida and Lisa Caruso, "Billable Hours", The National Journal, March 26, 2005. Available via Lexis-Nexis.
- ↑ Bill O'Reilly, "The 'Factor' Goes to Iraq", FOXNews.com, December 19, 2006.
- ↑ Chrish, "O'Reilly denies allegations of White House/FOX symbiosis in one segment, thanks CIA-linked private airline for lift to Iraq in another", Newshounds blog, December 20, 2006.
- ↑ "JFK alleged airport plot may have McMinnville link", Associated Press (via Salem Oregon Statesman Journal), June 3, 2007.
- ↑ Tom Incantalupo, "JFK terror plot: three under arrest", Newsday, June 3, 2007.
- ↑ Peter Sleeth, "Evergreen leaves new contrail: red ink", The Oregonian, June 7, 1994. Payment req'd. Also available via Lexis-Nexis.
- ↑ "Chairman's grit, savvy stave off bankruptcy", Wall Street Journal (via Tampa Tribune), September 7, 1997. Available via Lexis-Nexis.
- ↑ James Long and Lauren Cowen, "The Evergreen Story" (9 parts), The Oregonian, August 14-22, 1988. Payment req'd. Also available via Lexis-Nexis.
- ↑ David Bates, "An Airline with An Attitude", McMinnville News-Register, December 21, 1999.
- ↑ James Long Collection (82KB PDF), library of the University of Texas at Dallas, December 20, 2005 (from PDF metadata).
- ↑ James Bone, "‘Plot to blow up New York airport would have made 9/11 look small’", The Times, June 4, 2007.
- ↑ "Air Freight Firms Deny Report They Work for CIA", The Associated Press, July 9, 1984. Available via Lexis-Nexis.
- ↑ James Long, "Pilot bled before dying aboard flight", The Oregonian, March 23, 1989. Payment req'd. Also available via Lexis-Nexis.
- ↑ James Long, "Death of NW pilot on plane in Texas declared homicide", The Oregonian, March 21, 1989. Payment req'd. Also available via Lexis-Nexis.
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 James Long, "Foul play doubted in pilot's death", The Oregonian, April 6, 1989. Payment req'd. Also available via Lexis-Nexis.
- Nathan Hodge, "Mercenary Firm Offers to 'Detain Troublemakers' on Election Day (Updated)," Wired.com blog "Danger Room," November 3, 2008.