Standing Up


(SALEM, OR) – Standing Up is posed to be an award wining documentary of a convert operation gone wrong in the 1980s and early 1990s and the murders of Marine Colonel James E. Sabow and other Marines who were a threat to blow the whistle on illegal narcotrafficking into the US on CIA proprietary aircraft. 

The documentary is directed and produced by Scott Goldie, an established Hollywood script writer, director and producer.

I have not seen the trailer or talked in depth to Goldie, but several years were involved in interviewing witnesses and other players involved in the Colonel James E. Sabow story.  From my discussions with Dr. David Sabow and others, the fill should be a ‘earth shattering’ documentary for the Marine Corps, and the entire federal government.  

It is a testimony to the fortitude and brotherly love of Dr. David Sabow and his 23 year fight for justice in the murder of Colonel Sabow, his older brother and the courage of Goldie to pursue this investigatory report with the risks inherent in such a project.  

Ruled a suicide by the Orange County California Sheriff/Coroner, the cold blooded murder of Colonel Sabow in his quarter at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, CA, on January 21, 1991.

The murder of Marine Colonel James E. Sabow and other Marines are tied to the use of El Toro’s assets to ferry weapons and supplies to the Contra rebel faction in Nicaragua and cocaine into the U.S. to fund an undeclared war in Nicaragua.  

Relieved from his position pending an investigation of personal misuse of government aircraft, Colonel Sabow demanded a court martial to clear his name of false charges. Until the day before his murder, he had no idea that civilian aircraft used in an NSC covert operation (remember LtCol Ollie North) were involved in narcotrafficking.

The cocaine flown into El Toro and other military bases fueled the crack cocaine epidemic in the US and caused the deaths of thousands of Americans.  In particular, the back communities in major urban centers was hit hard by crack cocaine.

Congressional testimony from a former CIA pilot and other witnesses reported that MCAS El Toro was used by unmarked C-130’s to fly weapons to Central and South America and drugs (cocaine was the drug of choice) back into the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s. These were not Marine Corps aircraft and the planes were not flown by Marines.

Colonel Sabow had to know about the authorized shipment of weapons and may have known about the illegal shipment of drugs shortly before his death. He met at least three times with Lt. Colonel Oliver North, widely recognized as the point man for Iran-Contra, with Bill Callahan, his longtime friend and wingman, driving him to the meetings in a hotel off Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. Accused of personal misuse of military aircraft that he was not certified to fly in January 1991, he refused to go quietly, demanding a court martial to clear his name. In doing so, he unknowingly signed his own death warrant.

Confirmations of the cocaine shipment from El Salvador to the US were documented by Celerino “Cele” Castillo, a DEA agent, in numerous reports to his superiors. No action was taken. Enrique Kiki Camarena, another DEA agent, paid the ultimate price for getting too close to the money tail weapons for drugs.

Enrique Kiki Camarena, a DEA agent and former Marine, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Mexico in February 1985. The official Mexican and US government version is that Rafael Caro Quintero, a Mexican drug cartel leader, was responsible for the torture and death of Kiki Camarena. Quintero was convicted of Kiki’s murder but freed from a Mexican prison in August 2013 after serving 28 years of a 40 year sentence.

In October 2013, the Borderland Beat reported that Camarena was murdered on orders of the CIA because he had discovered the connection of drug trafficking and its profits to support the “counterrevolution” (the Contras).

The motive for the murder was to prevent him from blowing the whistle on narcotrafficking of cocaine into the US to fund the Contra War in Nicaragua, according to El Diario de Coahuila and Proceso, the two Mexican newspapers who first broke the story.

The story attracted media attention in South America, Europe, and on FOX in the US. Except for FOX, the US major media did not report the breaking news story—the involvement of the CIA in Kiki’s torture and murder.

Lt. Colonel Ollie North’s meticulous diary entries documented the transport of drugs on CIA proprietary aircraft. A former CIA pilot flew tons of drugs into the country and lived to tell about it in Congressional testimony. In the end, it didn’t matter. No one in Iran/Contra was prosecuted for narcotrafficking and murder.  Yet, he was never questioned about the cocaine shipments during the Iran-Contra hearings.

Before they could be impounded, North took his notebooks (2,848 pages of daily notes from September 1984 through November 1986) from the While House after he was fired from the NSC staff by President Reagan in November 1986.

North turned the notebooks over to his lawyer who asserted his Fifth Amendment Rights when the notebooks were requested by the Senate’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations (the Subcommittee).  North or his attorney censored 1,269 pages of the notebooks before turning them over them over for review in December 1987.

Congress granted North immunity but he still objected to handing over the full notebooks.  The Subcommittee concluded that the deletions in the notebooks made it difficult to determine the full extent of “narcotics trafficking.”

Despite the deletions and refusals to hand over all of the notebooks in the possession of North (now a former NSC employee whose classification clearance had been terminated), the White House’s position was that the notebooks were “federal property and subject to classification at the highest level.”  Some of the entries in North’s notebooks found to be related to narcotics include:

May 12, 1984…contract indicates that Gustavo is involved w/drugs (Q0266)

June 26, 1984, DEA—followed by two blocks of text deleted by North (Q0349)

June 27, 1984, Drug Case—DEA program on controlling cocaine—Ether cutoff—Columbians readjusting—possible negotiations to move refining effort to Nicaragua—Pablo Escobar—Columbian drug czar—Informant (Pilot) is indicted criminal—Carlos Ledher—Freddy Vaughn (Q0354)

July 9, 1984, Call from Claridge—Call Michael re Narco Issue—RIG at 1000 Tomorrow—(Q0384)

DEA Miami—Pilot went talked to Vaughn—wanted A/C to go to Bolivia to p/u paste—want A/C to p/u 1500 kilos—Bud to meet w/Group (Q0385)July 12, 1984, Gen Gorman—Include Drug Case (Q0400)

Call from Johnstone—(While House deletion) leak on Drug (Q0402)

July 17, 1984, Call to Frank M—Bud Mullins Re—leak on DEA piece—Carlton Turner (Q0418)

Call from Johnstone—McManus, LA Times—says/NSC source claims W.H. has pictures of Borge leading cocaine in Nic (Q0416)

July 20, 1984, Call from Clarridge—Alfredo Ceasar Re Drugs-Borge/Owen leave Hull alone (Deletions)/Los Brasiles Air Field—Owen off Hull (Q0426)

July 27, 1984, Clarridge—(Block of White House deleted text follows)—Arturo Cruz, Jr.—Get Alfred Caesar on Drugs (Q0450)

July 31, 1984, –Finance:  Libya—Cuba/Bloc Countries—Drugs…Pablo Escobar/Fredric Vaughn (Q0460)

July 31, 1984, Staff queries re (White House deletions) role in DEA operations in Nicaragua (Q0461)

December 21, 1984, Call from Clarridge:  Ferch (White House deletion)—Tambs—Costa Rica—Felix Rodriquez close to (White House deletion)—not assoc.  W/Villoldo—Bay of Pigs—No drugs (Q0922)

January 14. 1985, Bob Owens—John Hull—no drug connection—Believes (Q0977)

July 12, 1985, $14 million to finance came from drugs (Q1039)

Colonel Sabow had a reputation as a straight arrow Marine and was threat to blow the whistle on those involved in narcotrafficking. The circumstances surrounding his death and the forensic evidence from the crime scene support murder by a government assassination team, crime scene tampering and government cover-up at the highest levels, including a ‘doctored autopsy photograph’ submitted to a federal district court and in a Defense Department report to Congress to support suicide. There’s no statute of limitations on murder and a formal inquest and reversal of the manner of death to homicide is a threat to the ‘shadow government’ and powerful individuals who operate outside the rule of law.

The Marine Corps has long been the country’s premier fighting force. Marines have a long history of service to the country and loyalty to each other. They can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Marines who served honorably and met violent deaths because they knew too much deserved better treatment from a government intent on burying its misdeeds. 


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Robert O’Dowd served in the 1st, 3rd and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings during 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. While at MCAS El Toro for two years, O'Dowd worked and slept in a Radium 226 contaminated work space in Hangar 296 in MWSG-37, the most industrialized and contaminated acreage on the base. Robert is a two time cancer survivor and disabled veteran. Robert graduated from Temple University in 1973 with a bachelor’s of business administration, majoring in accounting, and worked with a number of federal agencies, including the EPA Office of Inspector General and the Defense Logistics Agency. After retiring from the Department of Defense, he teamed up with Tim King of to write about the environmental contamination at two Marine Corps bases (MCAS El Toro and MCB Camp Lejeune), the use of El Toro to ship weapons to the Contras and cocaine into the US on CIA proprietary aircraft, and the murder of Marine Colonel James E. Sabow and others who were a threat to blow the whistle on the illegal narcotrafficking activity. O'Dowd and King co-authored BETRAYAL: Toxic Exposure of U.S. Marines, Murder and Government Cover-Up. The book is available as a soft cover copy and eBook from See: