Richard Brenneke

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Person.png Richard Brenneke  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(spook, pilot, businessman)
Richard Brenneke.jpg
BornDecember 5, 1941
DiedJuly 23, 2015 (Age 73)
Milwaukie, OR, USA
NationalityUnited States
Alma materSeattle University, University of Toronto
ChildrenJohann Brenneke
Exposed • Mena
• CIA Drug trafficking
A CIA and Iran-Contra insider who testified to participation in drug dealing, Iran Contra and the October surprise conspiracy.

Richard "Luck" J. Brenneke was a businessman and spook who testified about CIA drug trafficking to the Senate's Kerry Committee and to the House October Surprise Task Force about the 1980 October Surprise conspiracy.


He was born on December 5, 1941. He graduated from Jesuit High School in 1960 and received a B.A. from Seattle University in 1964 and M.A. degree from the University of Toronto in 1966.[1][2]


By his own account, 1968 Richard Brenneke started work with the CIA as a an "independent contractor" in 1968. In a sworn affidavit, he stated that he "Specialized in two activities; I handled money for them, I handled East Bloc weapons purchases primarily made in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia," and that he was a pilot for them from 1968 through 1980.[3] He has also stated that he worked in Southeast Asia with Air America[1][4] He ceased working with the CIA in 1985/1986.[3]


In December 1986 Brenneke was listed by the Philadelphia Inquirer as one of 16 of a "cast of characters" involved in Iran-Contra. He was described as "An Oregon real estate developer with extensive contacts in Iran. Says he was involved, with the CIA and NSA, in an attempt to sell 39 F-4E fighter planes to Iran in 1985. Says he met with several Iranian officials."[5]

"Called before a Senate subcommittee on narcotics and international relations in 1988, Brenneke claimed to have run drugs from Colombia to the U.S. as part of a Contra supply operation. He also testified to having purchased arms in Czechoslovakia for the Nicaraguan rebels. That testimony was called slanderous by then-Vice President Bush.

Senate report

A 1989 Senate committee report concluded that Brenneke never had the CIA connections he claimed.[6][7]

Heinrich Rupp trial (1988)

On 23 September 1988, Brenneke voluntarily testified at the sentencing hearing of Heinrich Rupp, a "close friend" who had been convicted of bank fraud.[6] Brenneke testified that Rupp believed he was acting on behalf of the CIA in carrying out the fraud, which Brenneke said was part of a much wider CIA scheme to gain funding for covert operations by defrauding savings and loan associations. Brenneke cited Indian Springs State Bank as an example - the bank had loaned money to Global International Airways, a company involved in Iran-Contra, and the Iranian Farhad Azima had been a major shareholder of the bank and also owner of the airline.[6] A 1975 ID card Brenneke supplied to a Houston Post reporter showed Rupp as a pilot for the airline.[6]

Brenneke said that he and Rupp had been involved in various covert operations for the agency in the past. He said he and Rupp and been involved in such matters since Brenneke's days at the CIA's Air America, beginning in 1967.[1][6][8] As an example of the kind of covert operations he and Rupp had been involved in, Brenneke said that he and Rupp had been involved in some of the meetings at which the 1980 October Surprise affair was arranged.[6] Brenneke said that on the night of 18 October 1980, Rupp had flown William Casey from Washington's National Airport to Paris' Le Bourget Airfield for a series of secret meetings. These meetings (on 19 and 20 October) involved negotiations between Iranian representatives and members of the Reagan-Bush campaign. Brenneke testified he was present at the last of three meetings, on the details of the cash and weapons involved, at which Casey and Donald Gregg were also present. Brenneke also testified that George H. W. Bush was present in Paris for the meetings, but a month after his deposition he amended his statement by letter to the judge, clarifying that his knowledge of Bush's presence was not first-hand but came from Rupp.[6]

Perjury charge

For his role in the Rupp trial, Brenneke was charged with five counts of making false declarations to a federal judge, a charge slightly stronger than perjury.[9] He was indicted on 12 May 1989, accused of lying about his and Rupp's CIA connections and about the October Surprise meetings.[6] The timing caused some speculation that the charges were intended to avoid political embarrassment for Donald Gregg, whose Senate confirmation hearings for his appointment as Ambassador to South Korea began the same day: the charges prevented senators from raising accusations Brenneke had made in 1988 that Gregg had directed Iran-Contra out of the Vice-President's office.[6][10]

CIA Employment

The prosecution produced a CIA personnel specialist who testified that he could not find Brenneke or Rupp in the Agency's employment records, but under cross-examination admitted that Rupp had been trained by the CIA's Intermountain Aviation, and that the Agency had "files" on both Rupp and Brenneke. Frank Snepp testified that CIA contract agents were often not listed in employment records where the agents were involved in sensitive operations.[6] Two intelligence operatives from Texas testified to collaborating with Brenneke.[11]

October surprise conspiracy

Full article: October surprise conspiracy

Donald Gregg testified that on 18 October 1980 he was not in Paris but on holiday in Delaware, providing in evidence family photographs he said were taken that weekend. A meteorologist testified that the sunny weather conditions made it highly unlikely that they had been taken that weekend in that location.[6] The prosecution failed to prove that William Casey and George H. W. Bush could not have attended the Paris meetings.[6] Defense witnesses included William Northrop, an Israeli intelligence agent indicted in the Brokers of Death arms case, which had been dropped in January 1989 on the grounds that the prosecution could not disprove the defendants' claims that they believed the planned arms shipments to Iran were or could be government-sanctioned. Northrop testified that Israeli arms shipments to Iran began "within a fortnight" of the Paris meeting.[6] Northrop had previously worked with Brenneke in the CIA’s effort to supply the Afghans fighting the Russian Army.[12]

Plea Deal

The prosecution offered Brenneke a deal that would keep him out of prison if he pleaded guilty; he refused.[6]


On 4 May 1990, after only five hours of deliberation, the jury found Brenneke "not guilty" on all five counts. Following the trial, jury foreman Mark Kristoff stated, "We were convinced that, yes, there was a meeting, and he was there and the other people listed in the indictment were there.... There never was a guilty vote.... It was 100 percent."[6]

Brenneke's records

In 1991, Peggy Adler was retained by Brenneke to co-author his autobiography.[13] Discovering evidence in his files contradicting some of his claims regarding his presence at October Surprise conspiracy meetings, she contacted former CIA agent-turned-journalist, Frank Snepp. Snepp included this evidence (of credit card receipts showing a presence in Portland when Brenneke said he was in Paris) in a February 1992 article he wrote for the Village Voice.[14] Adler's work was the subject of a chapter in Robert Parry's book, "Trick or Treason: The October Surprise Mystery" and she was interviewed by PBS' Frontline in this regard, aired in April 1992.[15] In mid-1992, learning that the House October Surprise Task Force was investigating whether or not there actually had been an October Surprise, she contacted investigative journalist and author Steven Emerson,[16] who put her in touch with the Task Force so that she could turn over to them the seventy cartons of documents she had hauled east from Brenneke's home in Portland, Oregon, in order to write his memoirs. In the month of June Adler worked as a consultant to the Task Force.[17]

In a 17 December 1992 press conference at the US National Press Club, responding to the Senate report, Barbara Honegger (who published a book on October Surprise in 1989 on the day Brenneke was indicted for false declarations) introduced new evidence, saying that an expert graphologist's examination of the critical credit card receipts for a motel and a restaurant in October 1980 indicated the handwriting was not Brenneke's. Honegger also said that a manager of the relevant restaurant who had been there since 1979 told her that no waitress by the name on the receipt had worked there. Honegger also spoke to the organisers of a Kendo tournament Brenneke was said to have attended, who told her that there was no record of Brenneke attending the event, while five eyewitnesses agreed that Brenneke had not been present on 19–20 October (one said he had been there on 18 October).[18]

Later activities

In mid-1990 Brenneke provided documents to Italian journalists indicating that the CIA supprted the activities of Licio Gelli and Propaganda Due (P2).[19] Brenneke told Rai 1 that he had been involved in CIA payments to P2 of $1–$10m per month or more, with the money used to finance "terrorism" and drug trafficking. The CIA rejected a FOIA request regarding Gelli on grounds of "national security".[20][21] Gelli and others were later convicted of subverting investigation into the 1980 Bologna Massacre.


  1. a b c New York Times, 6 June 1990, Man Cleared of Lying in Remarks On Reagan Aides and 52 Hostages
  3. a b
  4. Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, 25 October 1988, 1980 Deal Alleged : Leads, Leaps of Faith in Hostage Tale
  5. Philadelphia Inquirer, 7 December 1986, The Iran-contra Arms Deal: A Cast Of Characters
  6. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o David Armstrong and Alex Constantine, "The Verdict is Treason", Z Magazine; July/August 1990. Key excerpts here and via google groups search here
  7. David Johnston, New York Times, 11 June 1988, Senate Panel's Top Republican Says Chairman Politicized Drug Inquiry
  8. Bush's Irangate role: in deeper and deeper , EIR Volume 16, Number 17, April 21, 1989
  9. Marilynn Wheeler, Associated Press, 6 May 1990, Jury Foreman Says He Never Doubted Brenneke's Innocence
  10. Lee May, Los Angeles Times, 13 May 1989, Panel Probes Ex-Bush Aide on Contra Supply Scheme
  11. Sandro Mitromaco, Jury refuses to buy Bush's Iran-Contra story, Executive Intelligence Review 17(21), 18 May 1990
  12. 18 Crile, George, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, Grove Press, New York, 2003, p. 372; Deposition of Richard J. Brenneke, Joint Investigation by the Arkansas State Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Congress, Little Rock, Arkansas, June 21, 1991.
  17. Peggy Adler employed as an Assistant Investigator by the U.S. House of Representatives' October Surprise Task Force (pdf)
  18. October Surprise Press Conference - Barbara Honegger - 1992, c 8-20 mins into recording.
  20. Philip Willan (2002), Puppetmasters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy, iUniverse, pp77-82
  21. Philip Willan (2013), The Vatican at War: From Blackfriars Bridge to Buenos Aires, iUniverse, pp90-97

External links