Related topics

Attorney: U.S. Hid List of Secret Noriega Files

June 13, 1990

MIAMI (AP) _ The U.S. government has illegally hidden from Manuel Noriega’s lawyers thousands of secret intelligence documents seized in Panama, a defense attorney charged Wednesday.

A five-page list found by a private investigator shows that during the U.S. invasion in December, the Army confiscated dozens of file cabinets, said Michael O’Kane, attorney for Noriega co-defendant Daniel Miranda.

O’Kane said the file cabinets contained Panamanian G-2 intelligence files, weapons import-export records, confidential correspondence and files on Noriega foes who plotted a coup.

The list is far more extensive than an inventory turned over to the defense by the U.S. attorney’s office, O’Kane said.

″This (government) inventory is a fabrication,″ O’Kane said before he filed a motion Wednesday in federal court to force the government to hand over a revised list.

He called the government inventory ″a coverup effectuated in Panama by unknown elements within the government of the United States.″

Noriega is being held on drug-smuggling charges.

Attorneys for the ousted Panamanian dictator have insisted that many of his activities were sanctioned by the United States. They have said that U.S. and Panamanian intelligence records would show he cooperated with the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The prosecution’s shortened list violates an order by U.S. Magistrate William Turnoff for the government to provide the defense with a complete list of documents seized during the invasion, O’Kane said.

O’Kane said there was no indication the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami knew its list was sanitized. He said prosecutors also may have been misled by U.S. officials in Washington or Panama.

Diane Cossin, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, said she would not have any immediate comment on the motion.

Jon May, an attorney for Noriega, said the general’s defense was eager to examine the lists and documents when the question of their fees is resolved. The defense attorneys say the government must free Noriega’s frozen funds to provide adequate resources for his defense.

U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler has scheduled a hearing for June 20 on the question of Noriega’s legal fees.

The disputed records are in the custody of the U.S. Southern Command’s 470th Military Intelligence Group at a warehouse in Corozal, Panama. O’Kane said he sent a private investigator to the warehouse to rummage through boxes of documents listed by the government.

″We found wadded up in one of the boxes as garbage what we think is the real inventory,″ O’Kane said.

The five-page list submitted with the motion included about 40 items taken to the warehouse. Most of the items were file cabinets apparently packed with secret documents, he said.

″The government inventory lists only one file cabinet,″ O’Kane said.

He said it appeared some of the documents - such as records of a coup attempt and Panamanian Defense Force payroll records - were removed from the cabinets and submitted in a pile of evidence to the defense team.

The defense never heard of thousands of other documents, however, he said.

A file cabinet containing ″G-2 target files″ and another with ″G-2 interrogation detention reports″ were listed on the wadded-up inventory, but missing from the official government version, he said.

Also missing were records of cabinets that included files of arms import- export and explosives companies, although the defense did get separate records of Israeli arms sales to Panama, O’Kane said.

The attorney said many of the missing documents appeared to be essential records, not marginal items.

″From the label it seems these are sensitive things,″ O’Kane said.

O’Kane’s client, Miranda, is out on bond on charges of helping to fly drug money from Fort Lauderdale to Panama. If convicted, he could be sentenced to five years in prison.

Noriega, confined at the Metropolitan Correctional Center outside of Miami, faces up to 145 years in prison if convicted of accepting $4.6 million in bribes from Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel to turn Panama into a safe haven for U.S.-bound drugs.

Update hourly