The Devil They Knew

How Noriega was transformed from CIA asset to public enemy

As early as 1972, a U.S. antinarcotics official had a suggestion for cutting down the shipment of drugs through Panama into the U.S.: assassinate Manuel Antonio Noriega. Not only was that proposal rejected; some time later Noriega, then head of his country's intelligence service, went on the payroll of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Among his bosses: George Bush, director of the CIA in 1976. As late as 1983, Vice President Bush used Noriega to pass a message to Fidel Castro. And as late as 1987, the Reagan Administration was arguing that Noriega had been "fully cooperative" with U.S. antidrug efforts.