Bad Company

Every Tuesday evening, several hundred profoundly disaffected citizens gather in the ballroom of a hotel near Dallas Love Field.

Tax protesters, survivalists, anarchists, conspiracy nuts, and Biblical literalists, they are drawn together by a shared conviction. Some force beyond the Ramada lights--the government, bankers, Jews, maybe all three--is relentlessly closing in, intent on wresting away their liberties, guns, canned goods, and the weary station wagons they've parked outside.

Murmuring in smoky hallways, pulling sheaves of documents from briefcases and paper bags, the all-white, virtually all-male crowd trades intelligence on the impending imposition of one-world government and the immorality of municipal traffic courts.

From behind folding tables, prophets hawk the wares of paranoia. There are political tracts and videotapes telling the real story of the Branch Davidian siege, portent of a secret federal government plan to imprison the populace in concentration camps. There are hair brushes with attack knives hidden in the handle--for those unplanned encounters with agents of evil.

The conspiracy theories can be self-fulfilling. Convinced that the United States government is part of an international cabal out to enslave them and seize their property, many refuse to file income tax returns. When, as is inevitable, the government seizes their property in lieu of unpaid taxes, the theory proves itself true, and there is another story to start heads nodding at the Tuesday night communion of the fearful.

Bo Abbott attends these meetings with some trepidation. Many of those in attendance strike him as half-educated fools skittering from shadows. "They are ignorant people who talk funny," he says.

But Abbott is 52 years old, three months out of federal prison, dead broke, and collecting food stamps. He's living now with his retired mom in Richardson, almost whipped by his own 12-year running battle with the government. He'll take kindred spirits wherever he can find them.

Besides, Abbott figures he can hold his own when it comes to discussing the inner workings of government conspiracies.

Specifically, he says he's seen how the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Israeli Mossad control the world's cocaine trade and skim off millions in "black" slush funds to finance covert political operations and the occasional assassination.

Until he was indicted for hauling a load of cocaine out of Bolivia, Abbott was part of the conspiracy, he says, although just a bit player. For five years, as an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, he hopscotched across Central and South America flying planes laden with drugs, money, and guns to various destinations ordained by his government handlers.

A mailman, of sorts, for the international cabal.
"I was not a decision maker," he says. "I was a grunt at the bottom. If I hadn't been making money, I doubt I would have done it."

To some extent, Abbott's claims can be verified. Court records show he was a federal drug informant during much of the 1970s. The DEA taught him how to fly, with special training for takeoffs and landings on short, hazardous runways.

He did, federal court files show, drift in and out of places like Bolivia, Belize, Panama, and Nicaragua with some frequency and on some business. And he did have more than a small hand in international drug trafficking. In fact, Abbott and a former DEA agent, since sent to prison himself, used to fly planeloads of drugs into the Addison airport.

During his salad days, Abbott claims, he was making between $75,000 and $100,000 a year from his various drug deals and informant pay.

It is a far leap from the available record of Abbott's curious life to his assertions that the CIA masterminds the world's cocaine trade. But if he can just find someone to listen, Abbott wants to rip the lid off the whole stinking mess.

"If I'm full of shit," he says, "what was I doing in Panama? What was I doing in Belize? Ask the government that."

What Abbott was doing, the government says, was running drugs, pure and simple. That's why assistant United States Attorney John Murphy of San Antonio decided over 12 years ago that it was time to put Abbott away.

"He was bringing in loads in private planes, several hundred pounds at a time. That's not some college kid bringing in a little for some spending money," Murphy says. "They weren't the biggest loads at that time, but he wasn't a rookie."

Murphy and several of the numerous attorneys who have represented Abbott over the years characterize him as a resentful, deluded man who can't get over his anger at being caught and jailed.

"He now wants to justify himself with this self-aggrandizing stuff that he was some kind of pawn in this grand intrigue with the CIA," Murphy says. "Well, I don't know what the CIA does, but Bo Abbott was in it for the money."  

In and out of prison since his initial arrest in 1983, Abbott has become a bitter veteran of the international drug trade. He blames the government for his impoverishment and the death of his second wife. He claims that forces are still at work trying to shut him up, to keep him from telling the world all he knows about the CIA's dirty dealings.

Abbott's own paranoia has become self-fulfilling. He wonders who is following him or listening from the next table. He carries a pager and calls people only from pay telephones.

Once a hotshot pilot running at the edges of drug deals and political intrigue, Bo Abbott is now adrift, a middle-aged man and washed-up drug smuggler, seeking his own orbit within the intertwining constellations of conspiracy nuts who gather each Tuesday at the Regal Row Ramada Inn.

"Every time I get up, I wonder if they're going to put me back in the pen," Abbott says. "I know if I hit them with the real truth about what I saw happen, I'll be dead."

Basil Norris Abbott III is a Virginian, born and raised in Richmond. His father worked for the railroad, and his mother, ironically, was a secretary for the U.S. Department of Justice, the DEA's institutional parent.

Though he left Virginia in his late teens, Abbott still carries a certain Southern gentility, with his pleasing manners, soft voice, and gracious hazel eyes. His high cheekbones and fine, graying hair make him look vaguely Scandinavian.

He has one sister, married and living in Louisiana. She has a "bunch of degrees," Abbott says, though he never managed to get even one.

When he was 21, Abbott left Richmond in a stolen car, according to court records. He says he wanted to enlist in the Army, and the local recruiting station was at quota and wouldn't take him, so he had to go someplace else to sign up.

He was placed on probation for stealing the car, and about two years later was arrested for petty theft after being found with two stolen tires in his possession. That charge was dismissed after Abbott paid restitution, but he was arrested again the next year in Beaumont--where he was attending college--for forgery of a credit card sales slip. Abbott spent a few months in jail on that charge, which he blames on some friends.

He moved to Houston, married, had a daughter, and began what would become a long and lucrative partnership with federal drug authorities.

As Abbott tells it, he spent the 1960s as a "hustling businessman," working various jobs for the Olivetti typewriter company and running his own import-export business in Scandinavian sweaters.

His business often took him to Sweden, he says, where intrigue would occasionally simmer. Abbott claims that, for several years, he fed a CIA agent in Stockholm named "Axel" information on Communist agents who were trying to buy advanced U.S. computer equipment.

In the late 1960s, Abbott says, he spent most of his time back in Houston and had opened a motorcycle shop. He made arrangements, he says, to import bikes directly from England and Japan, bypassing the normal distributors, which allowed him to sell more cheaply than other shops.

One day in 1972, some "biker types," as he calls them, came to his shop, and one of them offered to swap his girlfriend for a motorcycle. "This guy was gonna trade his number two old lady for a motorcycle," Abbott says. "I went home and told my wife. She was shocked, and I was shocked--by this type of existence where someone would trade a motorcycle for a woman."

Abbott declined the offer, and a few days later his shop was broken into. He figured it was the biker gang, and told police so.

One thing led to another, and he began talking to a local DEA agent named Ron Gospodarek. They struck a deal under which Abbott would feed the DEA information on biker customers and their drug activities and get paid in return.

(The DEA's Washington office declined to comment on Abbott's claims, and wouldn't forward a request to Gospodarek for an interview. In at least one 1976 drug case out of Houston, however, court files show that Abbott was Gospodarek's informant. Leon Hirsch, a Houston attorney who represented the defendant in that case, also remembers that Abbott was an informant and key witness against his client.)

As time went on, Abbott says, he became more and more involved as an informant, and spent less time on his own business. Snitching paid better. He claims to have traveled across Texas and the Southwest acting as a middleman for drug deals and helping the DEA set up dealers and buyers.  

"I found out very quickly that I was very good undercover," Abbott says. "I was making case after case after case. They were paying me. I got to do unbelievable things."

While the details cannot be confirmed, the government would later reveal in court records that Abbott was a "Documented DEA Cooperating Individual," who had worked with several different DEA agents and offices on drug cases during the 1970s.

The arrangement was lucrative in a second way, Abbott allows. A recreational marijuana user himself, he says, the DEA let it be known they didn't care if he ran a little dope on the side.

"They were interested in heroin, cocaine, speed, and pills, the hard stuff," Abbott says. "I was smuggling pot myself, and the DEA knew it. They weren't paying me enough, so they were willing to turn a blind eye and let me deal."

In 1975, Abbott was arrested for selling marijuana in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he had moved after his marriage broke up. He claims the DEA stepped in and protected him from prosecution. There are no records available to reflect exactly what happened, but the charges were indeed dropped.

In Colorado, Abbott says, he began taking flying lessons to further his utility as both an informant and businessman. Between snitching and dealing, he says, he was clearing over $75,000 a year and the prospects seemed only brighter.

Sometime in the mid-1970s, Abbott met a DEA agent and pilot in Colorado named Bill Coller. During the next few years, Coller would introduce Abbott to realms of drug dealing beyond his imagination. But ultimately Coller and Abbott would go down in flames together.

With maps of Central and South America spread before him, Bo Abbott can discuss terrain, landing fields, and flight paths in disturbing detail.

He points to northwest Belize, inland from a major swamp. That is a tract of land owned by a U.S. citrus company, he says, containing a dirt landing strip. A pilot who leaves the area around Forrest City, Arkansas, in a small plane with extra fuel tanks can make it to this strip, refuel, and continue on to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, or Panama.

In Nicaragua, he points to two places--the southern coastal town of Bluefields and the northern town of Bonanza. He has landed outside of both, he claims, carrying loads of weapons for the Contras.

In Costa Rica, there is the ranch near the San Carlos River owned by an American. In Panama, there are multiple strips, including one each on Punta Naranjas and Punta Mala. Mostly, he flew money into those strips, hard currency to be fed into Panama's notoriously lax banking system and laundered.

In Bolivia, where coca plants are grown, harvested, and made into paste, Abbott points to Cochabamba, in the central mountains, and Santa Cruz to the east. That is where he used to land, he says, to make contact with some of Bolivia's biggest drug dealers.

"They keep their planes in Asuncion [Paraguay] until they need to fly a load," Abbott says.

Abbott is describing the web of dirt strips and supply centers that comprise the Central and South American drug trade, things he says he learned from DEA agent Bill Coller, and others to whom Coller introduced Abbott.

Building on Abbott's success in the United States and Mexico, Abbott claims, Coller recruited him to begin working farther south. For several years, Abbott says he bounced around these clandestine strips, hauling drugs, money, and weapons at the DEA's behest.

As Abbott tells it, the CIA, using cooperative DEA agents and informants, tried to keep a stranglehold on as much of the drug and arms trafficking as it could.

The purpose was twofold. The CIA was able to tap into the streams of cash that naturally course through the smuggling world, using the money to finance covert operations--like supplying arms to the Contras--for which the agency was unable to obtain legitimate government funding.

Secondly, he says, by nurturing certain drug organizations, the CIA was able to gain political influence in countries where drug profits constitute a significant part of the national economy.

"They told me dope is money, and money is power," Abbott says. "They didn't care who used the drugs. They just didn't want the wrong people making money off it."

To those ends, Abbott says, the U.S. government was constantly involved in illicit commerce and needed pilots like him to shuttle around drugs, money, and guns. Small planes would be stolen--usually in the United States--and then fitted with extra fuel tanks and fake ID numbers.  

Exactly what trips Abbott made during that time cannot be proven. Coller, now in prison for dealing drugs himself, did not respond to a letter requesting an interview. The DEA declined to discuss Abbott's recollections.

But at a later court hearing, Abbott's lawyer was able to present to the judge a log book containing entries that showed Abbott was trained in special flying techniques by the DEA, including short field landings and takeoffs.

Abbott says he also frequently hauled loads into the United States, landing at strips in West Texas near Big Bend, at the Addison airport, and in fields in eastern Arkansas near Forrest City and Marianna.

Coller, he says, showed him a spot six miles east of the McAllen tower where a plane could slip through a radar seam undetected from Mexico, and then begin zig-zagging to confuse the radar operators and lessen the risk of being caught.

During this time, Abbott says, he was a "deep undercover" informant, helping the DEA track major drug merchants. "I started playing with the big boys," he says. "They [the DEA] gave me all kinds of fake IDs and credit cards. I used the name Bob Anderson a lot."

He was also bringing in his own shipments of marijuana on the side, he says, with the government's tacit approval.

It might be easy to dismiss Abbott's claims of intrigue as grand self-delusion, but they dovetail eerily well with other more accepted tales from the southern drug battlefields--including some material written after Abbott had already been imprisoned.

Abbott, for instance, says that he had frequent contact in Bolivia with two particular drug kingpins--Roberto Suarez and Sonia Atala. Neither has been as widely publicized in the United States as, say, Colombia's Pablo Escobar. Atala, in fact, has scarcely ever been mentioned in the U.S. press.

But Michael Levine, the former DEA bureau chief in Buenos Aires, identifies both Suarez and Atala as pivotal Bolivian drug merchants in his 1993 book The Big White Lie.

Abbott says Atala had a warehouse in the free-trade zone on Colon, Panama, and that he witnessed drug flights in and out of that facility. Even now, reports still surface that the Colon free trade zone is a major hub in the hemisphere's drug and money trade.

What he began to learn, Abbott claims, is that the U.S. government did not really want to catch the major drug kingpins. Instead, the goal was to control the traffic and protect certain dealers. He claims it was the CIA's way of maintaining political control over Central and South American countries.

Controlling Manuel Noriega by letting him make millions off the drug trade, for instance, helped secure U.S. control over the Panama Canal, Abbott says.

Some countries, like Bolivia, were constant battlegrounds with the Soviets, and the CIA had to step in to ensure that pro-Moscow governments would not take power. "The Russians had Peru, and we had Bolivia," Abbott says.

In 1980, the Bolivian government was overthrown by the military, and for the next several years was notoriously corrupt. Bolivian newspapers reported that in 1985 and 1986, the government was unable to account for more than $20 million worth of cocaine it had seized in its own war on drugs.

Abbott claims that is because the CIA installed the military government to ward off a Communist regime, and then allowed the friendly government to enrich itself with drug profits.

The scenario, farfetched as it may seem, is also what former DEA agent Levine argues in his book The Big White Lie, a book which Abbott says mirrors many of his own experiences.

During his stint as head of the agency's Argentina office, Levine writes, he was frequently frustrated in his efforts to make major drug cases--often by his own agency. He was blocked, in particular, while trying to arrest Suarez and Atala in Bolivia.

Levine says he eventually came to believe--and at one point was told by a high-level DEA official--that the CIA wanted certain drug dealers protected so it could continue to exert influence on South American governments.

The United States, Levine writes, at least knew of the impending Bolivian coup in 1980 because Levine warned them about it.

Abbott says that unknown to Levine, he was the one sent by Coller and other agents to warn drug dealers like Suarez and Atala when their labs or warehouses were going to be raided. Abbott says he also relayed messages to Luis Arce Gomez, one of the coup leaders.

(Arce Gomez, dubbed the Bolivian government's "minister of cocaine" for his corruption was ultimately convicted in Miami in 1991 for smuggling cocaine into the United States. He was also charged with human rights violations in Bolivia for allegedly using Nazi-style death squads during the coup.)  

"I would go to selected people and sell them the information," Abbott claims. "The CIA didn't want these people to get busted. They controlled Bolivia, the CIA. Levine is going nuts. He's trying to catch these Bolivians, but everything he's doing, I'm getting undone."

Abbott's detailed knowledge of the Central and South American drug trade, bolstered by court documents in later cases against him, leave little doubt that he was moving in the worlds that he describes during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Substantially harder to verify are Abbott's intimations about what the CIA and other government agencies were doing at the time.

Abbott, for instance, claims to have flown five planeloads of arms into Nicaragua, mainly semi-automatic rifles, some shotguns, and hand grenades. It is now known that the United States did, indeed, arrange secret arms shipments for the Contras.

Abbott claims to have met with Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega and dealt with his subordinates while flying money into that country to be laundered.

Noriega, of course, was arrested after the United States invaded Panama in 1989. Noriega's lawyers were blocked in their efforts to present, as a defense, proof that Noriega's involvement with drugs and money laundering was blessed and encouraged by the U.S. government, including former CIA Director George Bush. Noriega was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in a federal prison.

Whether Abbott actually had direct knowledge of any nefarious political dealings or has skillfully woven them into his narrative after the fact is not clear.

One thing is, however: that by the time he was arrested in 1983, Abbott was up to his gracious hazel eyes in serious trouble.

Disturbing reports began reaching federal drug officials sometime in 1981--field agents and informers were reporting that an unknown DEA agent in the Southwest had gone bad and was involved in bringing large drug shipments into the United States.

John Murphy, an assistant U.S. Attorney in San Antonio, was apprised of the matter and kept tabs on the ongoing investigation.

"We started hearing about a DEA agent who was able to fly airplanes and who was involved in the smuggling of controlled substances into the U.S.," Murphy says. "We began investigating it, secretly."

As the investigation progressed, one name kept popping up--Bo Abbott. "It became apparent that Bo Abbott was the guy who was the link to the agent," Murphy says. Needless to say, authorities began looking for the man.

By late 1982, Murphy says, officials believed that the wayward agent they were seeking was Bill Coller, who had been stationed at Addison airport for several years as part of the DEA's flight operations. Coller and Abbott, he says, were partners in a smuggling ring.

According to later court testimony, agents staked out the home of Abbott's parents in Richardson and searched his ex-wife's apartment in Houston. They had investigators keeping an eye on Abbott's house in Colorado.

But for months, there was no sign of the elusive federal informant. Abbott claims that at least twice while he was being hunted he attempted to surrender to the DEA--and that his attorney was repeatedly told Abbott was not being sought.

One of the DEA agents investigating the case would later testify that Abbott's name was not entered into the DEA computer precisely because he was suspected of being involved with a rogue DEA agent.

The break for investigators came in June of 1983, when Abbott was arrested in Cancun, Mexico, supposedly for traveling with false papers and violating Mexico's immigration laws. When they heard of Abbott's arrest, Murphy and several DEA agents flew to Cancun to question their prime suspect.

"We wanted to prosecute him, and we were also hoping he would identify who the agent was," Murphy says. "We went down there and tried to get his cooperation, but he was as uncooperative as he could have been."

Abbott claims--though he cannot prove it--that the Mexican authorities arrested him on orders of the U.S. government. While in Mexican police custody, he says, he was beaten repeatedly and tortured by agents who sprayed carbonated water up his nostrils.

Murphy says Abbott provoked his own beatings. "He acted as foolishly as you could imagine. He was foolhardy. He was stupid," Murphy says. "In the presence of the Mexican police, he called them 'fucking thieves' and screamed that they had stolen his 'fucking money.' Anybody who's been in the real world knows if you're in the custody of the Mexican police, you don't do that.

"If he was tortured, we didn't cause it. To the contrary, we tried to warn him about making those kinds of accusations."  

Unable to secure Abbott's cooperation in their investigation of Coller, Murphy says, the U.S. authorities left Abbott to the Mexicans. About two weeks later, Mexico threw Abbott out of the country and shipped him back to the United States.

Federal agents awaited his arrival and arrested him when he stepped off the plane. By that time, Abbott and nine other alleged smugglers had been indicted on various drug offenses.

Abbott himself faced nine counts of smuggling and attempting to distribute marijuana and cocaine. According to a later pre-sentencing report, Abbott and Coller were flying some of the cocaine and marijuana shipments right into the DEA's air operations base at Addison airport.

All of Abbott's co-conspirators pleaded guilty or were convicted by juries for their parts in the scheme. Coller, now a former DEA agent, pleaded guilty in 1983 and was sentenced to three years for his role.

Ken Wincorn, one of two Dallas attorneys who represented Abbott after his arrest, says Abbott was caught in an unenviable bind. He had served for years as a government informant. But he had also fallen in with Coller and others in a smuggling scheme that far exceeded the bounds of criminality.

"He was encouraged to do illegal acts, and he went beyond what was condoned and sanctioned," Wincorn says.

Until that time, Abbott says, he had always counted on the DEA to handle any problems--like they had when the earlier drug charges in Colorado had simply gone away.

But with Coller in jail there was clearly no protection to be had, so he agreed to plead guilty to one count of the indictment. He was hoping to get three years, like Coller had, which didn't seem so bad under the circumstances.

While he was in prison awaiting trial, Abbott's common-law wife, who had returned with their daughter to Stockholm, was found dead on a railroad track in Berlin, Abbott says.

The death was ruled a suicide, but Abbott says he believes she was murdered by the government to send him a chilling message.

"They know I've been working for the government," Abbott says. "I said I'd promise to keep my mouth shut."

But instead of three years, U.S. District Judge Fred Shannon sentenced Abbott to eight years in prison, followed by highly restrictive parole.

Abbott was ticked off.
"I figured I was getting shafted," he says. "So I appealed."
John Augustine, an Austin attorney who was appointed to handle Abbott's case on appeal, says Abbott's plea "was not voluntarily given," because Abbott was under pressure to keep quiet about his activities as an informant.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Abbott's guilty plea in August1984, ruling that Judge Shannon had not followed federal court rules when accepting Abbott's plea. Shannon, the appeals court ruled, failed to advise Abbott of the specific charges against him and ensure that he was pleading of his own free will.

The court appointed Houston attorney Phil Green to represent Abbott as he again faced trial on the nine-count indictment. "Bo was an angry man," Green recalls. "Even though it's probably true that Bill Coller got Bo involved in a lot of shenanigans, Bo was viewed as the guy who corrupted Bill."

Abbott insisted on a trial, and remained in prison until the summer of 1985, when a jury was selected and his case was days away from proceeding. Then Abbott reversed field and again pleaded guilty to a single count.

His abrupt reversal, Abbott says, was prompted by fears for his life. In trial, he would have to detail all his claims and theories about what the government was doing in Central and South America, and he decided it wasn't worth the risk.

"I know what these fucking people will do," he says by way of explanation.
This time, Abbott was offered five years in prison to be followed by 15 years of special parole for his plea. He took the deal.

"Quite frankly, Abbott was a pain in the ass about everything," says prosecutor Murphy. "His entire attitude was 'Fuck you.' Every time he would come to court with his attorney, all he wanted to do was make accusations and rant."

Abbott did not go quietly after his second plea. He filed more appeals and lost. He served his time and was released from federal prison in the summer of 1986.

By the time Abbott got out, Coller was out as well, and Abbott says he hooked up with his old DEA running buddy. The two had started on a book about their exploits, but then Coller got arrested again for smuggling drugs and was sent back to prison.  

Abbott was also sent back to the pen in 1991 for violating his parole. Abbott says investigators claimed he was trying to line up another drug shipment through the Austin airport.

While he was being held at a minimum-security federal prison in Alabama, Abbott ran away and was recaptured about eight months later. He was shipped to the federal prison's nut bin in Springfield, Missouri, for psychological analysis.

Abbott was released from Springfield in November of last year. Broke, unable to find work, his pilot's license revoked, Abbott had little choice but to move in with his mother on a quiet street in Richardson.

With plenty of time on his hands, Abbott walks almost daily to the nearby University of Texas at Dallas campus to use the library, reading the Wall Street Journal and the Economist.

He also has plenty of time to rethink his ill-fated career as a government informant. He has no lack of conspiracy theories, grand ones and small ones, to explain how his life became such a mess.

Conversations with Bo Abbott tend to be wide-ranging affairs, literally. Seated in a booth at a Richardson ice cream shop, Abbott becomes suspicious of a young Hispanic man who sits at a nearby table. "He's too clean-cut," Abbott says. "He may not be an agent, but that's what agents look like."

The meeting moves to the UTD library, where Abbott stakes out a pair of study carrels in the corner, away from traffic. After some time, he becomes uncomfortable there, and the interview moves to the Student Union building.

During one conversation, Abbott insists on moving from the ice cream shop to a cheap hotel on North Central Expressway. A recent acquaintance of Abbott's--a man from Arkansas named Gary who dresses in all black and keeps a semiautomatic rifle next to his bed--agrees to let Abbott use his room for several hours.

Gary takes his rifle--and a shoebox from the dresser--with him when he leaves the room. Abbott is a felon on parole who cannot be near firearms, or whatever is in the shoebox.

The room is safe from prying eyes, Abbott figures, and the interview continues.

Abbott says he wants the world to know his story. That he was just a dutiful foot soldier in the drug wars who got caught up among forces larger than himself.

He swears he was sent to prison only because he knew too much, and was sent back because government officials were afraid he was about to talk.

"I tried to get into the Noriega trial and testify for his defense," Abbott explains. "Noriega was only a puppet. He did what he did because he was working for the U.S. government and the CIA. Just like me."

Recounting his travels and travails now, Abbott is able to see the hidden hand of the CIA everywhere--masterminding political coups, arranging for him to deliver drugs and arms, even instigating his arrest and torture in Mexico.

"The government picked me up and carried me along. I thought I was doing the right thing," Abbott says. "Then they made me a political prisoner. They tried to shut me up. If I fuck up between now and 2007, they ship me back to prison. They've got a leash around my neck."

Abbott is trying to hook up with others like himself, good citizens who have been used and cast aside by the government plotters. He listens to Bo Gritz on the radio and corresponds with various attorneys who specialize in representing patriots who've been steamrolled by government.

"My story is going to get out," Abbott says.
John Murphy, the man who first sent Abbott to prison, has another take on his former quarry: "He's sick."

No one is watching Abbott anymore. The conspiracy to silence him, the secret agents watching Abbott's every move, all of those things are in Bo's mind.

"He's filled with anger and rage and resentment and all this stuff," one of his former attorneys says. "He's bought into this scenario where he has been victimized ad nauseam by these people. He thinks the government owes him something."

Wincorn, who represented Abbott after his initial arrest and still hears from his old client, says Abbott can't accept the fact that he fell in with the bad crowd and got caught. "It's not a problem with the CIA intending this and such to happen, or the DEA intending this to happen," Wincorn says.

Sure, the DEA used Abbott as an informant, Wincorn says. But when Abbott decided he was invincible and began bringing in large drug shipments, the trap was sure to spring. "At some point he got involved with some bad people, and it became more doing their bidding than the agency's."  

One disgruntled ex-con, Murphy says, does not a grand CIA conspiracy make.
But Abbott is intent on spreading the word.
On a recent Tuesday night, he is at the Ramada Inn to share his woes with several hundred other disaffected citizens.

Abbott sits in the audience as a short man, clad entirely in black, tells the assembled audience how the IRS just that day illegally seized his cars. Marty has not filed taxes in eight years, and is outraged that the government would respond in such heavy-handed fashion.

The receptive audience identifies with his plight, and talk turns to the latest intelligence that has been unearthed concerning the federal government's war on its own people.

Reliable information has it--says "a source in Washington state"--that the government will soon begin staging fake chemical spills in Kansas and Texas. After entire towns are evacuated under false pretenses, federal agents will search each home for weapons and contraband. If the tactic proves successful, it will be tried next in California.

Even Abbott has trouble relating to this meeting. He had hoped to show the crowd his copy of a videotape called "The Panama Deception," a documentary exposing the true story of the 1989 U.S. invasion.

But the crowd is clearly more interested in railing against the IRS. One woman rises to offer a detailed explanation of how she is avoiding taxes by working strictly for cash.

Another man offers the names and phone numbers of the towing company the IRS used to seize his cars. Crowd members take note, so they can keep an eye out for lurking tow trucks.

After about an hour, Abbott and his new friend Gary from Arkansas discern that this is not the night to air their particular conspiracies.

Gary suggests adjournment to Cabaret Royale. Abbott concedes that life has been a little dull of late, and so is this meeting. A topless bar might not be all that bad.

"Well," Abbott offers with a grin, "I was in prison for quite a while.

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