The Justice Department has asked Iran-contra prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh's office to review allegations that the Central Intelligence Agency used the ranch of a notorious Mexican drug trafficker as a training base in the early 1980s, knowledgeable sources said yesterday.
The allegations, made by a Drug Enforcement Administration informant in an interview with DEA officials, were contained in a DEA report that a judge ordered released this week in the trial of four men accused of involvement in the 1985 torture-murder of DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena.
Rep. Robert E. Wise Jr. (D-W.Va.), chairman of the House Government Operations subcommittee on government information, justice and agriculture, called the matter "serious" and said he intends to conduct a separate inquiry. He asked DEA for all its files on the informant, Laurence Victor Harrison.
The DEA report quotes Harrison as telling DEA agents last February that the CIA trained "Guatemalan guerrillas" at a ranch in the Mexican province of Veracruz. He said the ranch was owned by drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, who has been convicted in Mexico of the Camarena murder.
Harrison, who ran a communications network for Caro Quintero and other drug traffickers, charged that the CIA used Mexico's Federal Security Directorate, or DFS, as a "cover" for the training operation.
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said yesterday the allegations that the agency trained Guatemalan guerrillas at the ranch were "nonsense, absolute nonsense." Asked if the CIA had ever used the ranch for any purpose, Mansfield said "no."
Caro Quintero's attorney, Francisco Alatorre, said in Mexico that his client does not own a ranch in Veracruz.
A spokeswoman for Walsh's office declined to comment.
Walsh is responsible for investigating any illegal activity relating to U.S. support of the Nicaraguan contra guerrillas that fought for 10 years to overthrow the Sandinista regime in Managua. The fact that he was asked to review the informant's charges suggested that officials suspect the reference to "Guatemalan guerrillas" may be related to CIA support for the contras.
Sources said the CIA allegations were among several potential investigative leads from the Camerena trial in Los Angeles that have been called to Walsh's attention by Justice Department officials.
According to another report made available at the trial, Harrison told DEA agents in a separate interview in September 1989 that CIA operations personnel had stayed at the home of Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, another Mexican drug trafficker and ally of Caro Quintero.
CIA spokesman Mansfield dismissed the report as "ridiculous."
Harrison has testified that he lived at Fonseca's house for several months in 1983 and 1984 while he was installing radio systems for him.
A DEA spokesman said the agency would have no comment on the reports because they are part of an ongoing trial.