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This Day in History: Panama’s General Manuel Antonio Noriega surrendered to US military to face Drug Trafficking Charges

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Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega is pictured in this January 4,1990 file photo. VOA
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January 4, 2017: Twenty-seven years ago on January 3, Panama’s General Manuel Antonio Noriega surrendered to the United States military to face charges of drug trafficking.

The Panamanian military dictator finally gave up after hiding for 10 days at the Vatican embassy in Panama City where he fled after a U.S. military invasion. Crowds lined the streets of the capital the next day when Noriega was flown to Miami.

U.S. soldiers carry an American flag through the streets of Panama City as they celebrate with Panamanian citizens in Jan. 1990 following the surrender of Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega. VOA

In 1992, the former dictator was convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering in Miami, Florida, and sentenced to 40 years in prison. He made history again by becoming the first foreign head of state to be convicted in a U.S. court.

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Noriega was employed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency as an intelligence source from the 1950s, and remained on the CIA payroll until the late 1980’s. He was instrumental in transporting weapons, military equipment and cash to the U.S.-supported “contras” – a guerrilla force fighting against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. He also was a high-end seller of cocaine, though his U.S. handlers reportedly knew about this activity but looked the other way because of his value to their secret military operations.

Panama’s newly appointed President Manuel Solis Palma stands next to his friend General Manuel Antonio Noriega who appointed him during a rally in 1988. VOA

Noriega emerged as general of Panama’s military forces — and the de facto leader of the country — after the death of former leader General Omar Torrijos, who seized power in a 1968 coup.

Noriega’s rule was marked by corruption and violence. He also became a double agent, selling American intelligence secrets to Cuba and Eastern European governments. In 1987, when Panamanians organized protests against Noriega and demanded his ouster, he declared a national emergency, shut down radio stations and newspapers, and forced his political enemies into exile.

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That year the United States cut off aid to Panama and tried to get Noriega to resign; in 1988, the U.S. began considering the use of military action to put an end to his drug trafficking. Noriega voided the May 1989 presidential election, which included a U.S.-backed candidate.

In December, he declared a state of war with the United States. After an American marine was killed by Panamanian soldiers, then President George H.W. Bush authorized “Operation Just Cause.”

A United States soldier stands guard by a Christmas tree inside the house of Manual Noriega in Panama City, Dec. 23, 1989. U.S. troops are still searching for the deposed Panamanian leader. VOA

On December 20, 1989, 13,000 U.S. troops were sent to occupy Panama City, along with the 12,000 already stationed there in the Panama Canal Zone, and seize Noriega. During the invasion, 23 U.S. troops were killed in action and more than 300 were wounded.

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Noriega was sentenced to 40 years in prison, later reduced to 30 years, by a Miami court after being tried on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering. In 2010, Noriega was extradited to France to face charges there and then, a year later, he was sent to Panama where he is now in prison for the crimes committed during his rule. (VOA)

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USA: Everything you want to know about Security Clearance; Find out here!

A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas.

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Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA
Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. We take a look at what that means.

What is a security clearance?

A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas after completion of a background check. The clearance by itself does not guarantee unlimited access. The agency seeking the clearance must determine what specific area of information the person needs to access.

What are the different levels of security clearance?

There are three levels: Confidential, secret and top secret. Security clearances don’t expire. But, top secret clearances are reinvestigated every five years, secret clearances every 10 years and confidential clearances every 15 years.

All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance. VOA
All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance. VOA

Who has security clearances?

According to a Government Accountability Office report released last year, about 4.2 million people had a security clearance as of 2015, they included military personnel, civil servants, and government contractors.

Why does one need a security clearance in retirement?

Retired senior intelligence officials and military officers need their security clearances in case they are called to consult on sensitive issues.

Also Read: Governments Across The World Request Apple for 30,000 Device Information

Can the president revoke a security clearance?

Apparently. But there is no precedent for a president revoking someone’s security clearance. A security clearance is usually revoked by the agency that sought it for an employee or contractor. All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance, which can include criminal acts, lack of allegiance to the United States, behavior or situation that could compromise an individual and security violations. (VOA)