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Celerino "Cele" Castillo

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Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras & the Drug War
Celerino, III Castillo  More Info

About the Drug Enforcement Agency

The tradition of federal drug law enforcement began in 1915 with the Bureau of Internal Revenue. In the following decades, several federal agencies had drug law enforcement responsibilities. By the 1960s, the two agencies charged with drug law enforcement were the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control (BDAC) and the federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).


In 1968, with the introduction into Congress of Reorganization Plan No. 1, President Johnson proposed combining two agencies into a third new drug enforcement agency. The action merged the Bureau of Narcotics, in the Treasury Department, which was responsible for the control of marijuana and narcotics such as heroin, with the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control (BDAC), in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which was responsible for the control of dangerous drugs, including depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens, such as LSD. The new agency, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), was placed under the Department of Justice, which is the government agency primarily concerned with federal law enforcement.


In 1973, President Richard Nixon declared "an all-out global war on the drug menace" and sent Reorganization Plan No. 2 to Congress. "Right now," he pointed out, "the federal government is fighting the war on drug abuse under a distinct handicap, for its efforts are those of a loosely confederated alliance facing a resourceful, elusive, worldwide enemy. Certainly, the cold- blooded underworld networks that funnel narcotics from suppliers all over the world are no respecters of the bureaucratic dividing lines that now complicate our anti-drug efforts."


When John R. Bartels, Jr., was confirmed as the DEA's first Administrator on October 4, 1973, he had two goals for the new agency: (1) to integrate narcotics agents and U.S. Customs agents into one effective force; and (2) to restore public confidence in narcotics law enforcement.

In 1970, Celerino “Cele” Castillo served in the US Army and was sent to Vietnam where he was awarded The Bronze Star for bravery.  In 1976, after returning to the US, Castillo earned a BS in Criminal Justice degree.  In 1979, he joined the Drug Enforcement Administration as one of the few Latino agents. In 1980 he was assigned to New York City as the first Mexican-American agent.  In 1990, Celerino Castillo was transferred out of Central America because of the assassination plot. He was assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administration San Francisco office.  In 1992, he medically retired.  Celerino Castillo is the co-author of Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras & the Drug War.


According to a reader of Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras & the Drug War, “Castillo, a former DEA field agent, stationed in Central America became an unwitting witness to the CIA's, Oliver North's, and the Reagan Administration's involvement in the smuggling of cocaine to fund the Contra army. Published years before the 1997 San Jose Mercury News/Gary Webb article, "Dark Alliance", about the CIA's role in bringing crack to the streets of America, Castillo provides a shocking but entirely credible story from the inside. Castillo, during the course of his field investigations into cocaine smuggling, inevitably ran into the CIA's cocaine network. A fly-drugs-up/fly-guns-down network operated by Oliver North, Richard Secord, and CIA front company Southern Air Transport out of the Ilopango airbase in El Salvador. He was repremanded time and time again by his DEA superiors for sticking his nose places it didn't belong. Warned off by claims he was endangering missions critical to our National Security. Yet, Castillo continued to file tell-all reports to the DEA in Washington. This is the story of the uncovering of these revelations, and one man's fight to expose the truth and bring these injustices to light. I highly recommend it.”

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