The Skeptic Tank Chairman comments: I have received this material from +quot;Larry-Jennie+

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The Skeptic Tank Chairman comments: I have received this material from "Larry-Jennie", (lar-jen@interaccess.com) on Sat, 11 Jan 1997 at 08:37:59 -0600, under the subject heading "CIA drugs: Urban legend?" It came in with various other files which I've enumerated below. There is further materials of the same nature to be found at ftp://pencil.cs.missouri.edu/pub/mena/ though I have not examined them. I have left the text alone however I have reformatted it to make it easier to read. CAQ text that comes in lacks the reference entries normally found in the original, by the way, so you will not find the indexed references sited in the main-body text. - Fredric L. Rice, (frice@stbbs.com) (818) 335-9601 24 hours C:\WWFILES\NORTH6IC.TXT, C:\WWFILES\BLUMCIA.TXT, C:\WWFILES\UPI11106.TXT, C:\WWFILES\CAQ59.TXT, C:\WWFILES\SJMREBUT.TXT, C:\WWFILES\SJMCIA26.TXT -=- Begin text -=- Path: interaccess!news.sprintlink.net!news-dc-9.sprintlink.net! www.nntp.primenet.com!nntp.primenet.com!howland.erols.net! feed1.news.erols.com!news.idt.net!mr.net!winternet.com! alpha.sky.net!news.missouri.edu!pencil.math.missouri.edu!rich From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel) Newsgroups: misc.activism.progressive Subject: CAQ #59: Cracking CIA-Contra Drug Link Followup-To: alt.activism.d Date: 5 Dec 1996 17:30:11 GMT Organization: PACH Lines: 699 Approved: map@pencil.math.missouri.edu Message-ID: <5870r3$udm@news.missouri.edu> NNTP-Posting-Host: pencil.math.missouri.edu Resent-From: rich Originator: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu /** covertaction: 61.0 **/ ** Topic: #59 Cracking CIA-Contra Drug Link ** ** Written 10:30 AM Dec 3, 1996 by caq in cdp:covertaction ** CRACKING THE CIA-CONTRA DRUG CONNECTION by Clarence Lusane RECENT REVELATIONS HAVE LINKED THE CIA TO THE CRACK PLAGUE. BUT ONLY BY FRAMING THE DISCUSSION INTHE CONTEXT OF A CRITIQUE OF US FOREIGN POLICY OBJECTIVES THAT HAVE BEEN OPERATING SINCE AT LEAST THE MID-1940S, CAN THE SOLID LINK BETWEEN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, RACISM, AND ILLEGAL DRUGS BE GRASPED. In a series of explosive stories for the San Jose Mercury News, investigative reporter Gary Webb asserts that US-backed Contras and Contra-supporters imported cocaine into the United States; that the cocaine was sold to at least one major Los Angeles black drug dealer with ties or membership in the Crips street gang; and that the CIA was aware of the Contra drug activities and chose to either ignore them or to protect the traffickers. *1 The response to the series from the black community has been phenomenal. Reprints sold on the streets of Harlem, Washington, DC, and other cities have ensured wide access, while Internet postings have spread the story like wildfire around the world. Forums and meetings as well as demonstrations and other protests have demanded action; congressmembers and black leaders have called for investigative hearings. The CIA-Contra-crack story is a complicated saga with many layers and serious implications for the black community and the nation. Although hard documentation of CIA involvement in drug trafficking had been on the record for decades, Webb's articles add hard, specific evidence of the consequences at home. It would be a grave mistake either to blow up the issue of the CIA's role in drug trafficking to one of conspiratorial genocide, or to reduce it to the excesses of a few undisciplined operatives. Only by framing the discussion in the context of a critique of US foreign policy objectives that have been operating since at least the mid-1940s, can the solid link between international affairs, racism, and illegal drugs be grasped. The role of US intelligence agencies in narcotics trafficking has been a direct function of US foreign policy both during and after the Cold War. Under the cover of anticommunism, every US administration from Truman to Bush justified global covert operations that led directly to the opening and expansion of trafficking routes for illegal narcotics. Operatives associated with US intelligence agencies then either ignored or even supported the flow of drugs that predictably followed. *2 And even without the ideological justifications of anticommunism, the pattern of running covert operations linked to drug traffickers continues today under Clinton. *3 These policies are not race neutral. In the US, the consequences of drug trafficking for the black community and subsequent growth in substance addiction has been nothing short of devastating. But it is also critical to note how people of color throughout the developing world have seen their economies skewed and some of the most corrupt elements of their societies strengthened by narcotrafficking. The cultivation of coca leaves, opium, hashish and other crops essential to illegal drug production is propelled by global capitalist economics that have relegated developing nations to producing -- under profoundly inequitable circumstances -- for the developed world. Virtually all the media stories, including the Mercury News series, have ignored the economic imperative driving the production of illegal drugs in the developing world and their marketing in the US. In conjunction with whatever role the CIA and other intelligence agencies have played in narcotrafficking, Washington's corporate-driven international policies are central to economic woes of millions of people both in the developing world and in the inner-city and rural poverty belts of the US. *4 WHAT IT SAID, WHAT IT DIDN'T What is new and particularly shocking in Webb's series is his charge that US-backed Contras and Contra supporters imported cocaine into the US and sold it to black street gangs in Los Angeles. The Contra drug dealers, according to the Mercury News, "met with CIA agents both before and during the time they were selling the drugs in LA." *5 Despite their US backing, Nicaragua's Contras were often hard up for cash. Most of them were supporters of the US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza, who had seized power in 1936 and whose dynasty ruled Nicaragua with notable corruption and brutality. In 1979, a group of rebels, the Sandinistas, took power and instituted numerous literacy, health, and land reform programs. Washington was appalled both by their overtly Marxist cast and by their policies that favored the interests of peasants and workers over those of large landowners and international corporations. In response, with White House approval, the CIA created a Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN) in mid-1981. This coalition of several groups, mostly Somoza loyalists, waged Washington's surrogate war against the Nicaraguan people even after internationally certified elections were held. By the mid-1980s, the FDN had racked up a horrifying human rights record while the Sandinistas had garnered strong support around the world from both governments and solidarity groups. Under pressure, Congress cut off funding, but some US money authorized by President Reagan continued to pass covertly through the CIA. Some of the Contras looked to drug money to supplement the clandestine flow. Webb's revelations added to the picture by showing that from around 1982 to 1986, two men linked to the Contras -- Los Angeles cocaine trafficker Danilo Blandon and his San Francisco-based supplier Norwin Meneses -- sold large quantities of cocaine to "Freeway" Rick Ross. *6 Ross, a black 22-year-old street dealer with ties to the Crips street gang in Los Angeles, turned the cocaine he bought from Blandon and Meneses into crack. Because the Nicaraguans' prices were well below normal costs, Ross quickly became a major dealer with broad influence over the spread of crack in Los Angeles. Part of the profits made from the drugs that Blandon and Meneses sold to Ross, according to Ross' testimony cited by the San Jose Mercury News, were "then used to buy weapons and equipment for a guerrilla army." At first the CIA and Contra leaders, including Adolfo Calero, the US-based political leader of the FDN, insisted that Meneses was not a key player in the Contra war and that they were surprised to find out that he was involved with drugs. These disclaimers don't ring true. Meneses says that, for at least five years, he raised funds for the Contras, visited Contra camps, and sent people to Honduras to work for the Contras. *7 Calero concedes Meneses visited Contra camps numerous times during the 1980s and the two men were even photographed together at a Contra fundraiser in San Francisco. *8 Also, Calero's professed ignorance of Meneses' trafficking is not credible. A detailed San Francisco Examiner story linked Meneses' drug trafficking to his Contra connections. *9 Not only was Meneses well- known in the US as a large-scale dealer, Nicaraguan newspapers dubbed him "Rey de la Droga" (King of Drugs). *10 After being instructed to conduct a search, the CIA admitted that it had records going back to 1984 implicating Meneses in drug trafficking. *11 MEDIA ROLE IN THE MISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN The major media, which had been overlooking or debunking CIA links to drug-dealing Contras for a decade, responded to Webb's series by either ignoring them or running a story on the story impugning Webb's motives, facts, and research skills. The corporate press responded to outrage in the black community by chalking it up to what the Washington Post termed "black paranoia." While noting that a long history of government-sponsored activities against the black community have justified black suspicion, the majors have categorized those suspicions as baseless conspiracies comparable to tales of UFO abductions. There are inaccuracies and exaggerations in Webb's series which the major media seized on, but instead of correcting the record on specifics, they used the flaws to dismiss the piece out-of-hand. They also created straw men only to tear them down. For example, while Webb exaggerates the case when he writes that the cocaine sold to Ross and later turned into crack created "the first mass market in America" for the drug, *12 he never states, as some of his debunkers have charged, that Ross alone was responsible for the proliferation or for its invention. It is generally agreed that the stunning spread of crack in Los Angeles did occur around the time Blandon and Ross entered the market, but Webb explains how they took advantage of, rather than created, the circumstance in which "street-level drug users were figuring out how to make cocaine affordable ... by changing the pricey white powder into powerful little nuggets that could be smoked crack." *13 Nor does the series allege that the CIA as an agency or any of its identifiable employees directly sold drugs in the US or specifically targeted the black community. These charges have been made by both critics and proponents of the series. Even though the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times successfully challenged some of the Mercury's details -- such as the amount of cocaine sold to Ross and the profits they made -- they do not address the broad issues and their implications. By asking the wrong questions they have diverted attention from critical points. For example: Even if the US-created taxpayer- paid Contras dealt only one rock of crack with the tacit approval of US officials, then serious policy and ethical problems exist (not to mention legal ones). Despite some factual errors, the Mercury News series has not only added evidence on how racism intersects with US drug and foreign policies, but also raised two key questions to which the black community has long sought answers: 1) Did the CIA or other US officials authorize and participate in the marketing and distribution of crack cocaine to the black community as a matter of policy or strategy? 2) Have the CIA and other US intelligence agencies, through covert operations and other activities, facilitated a flow of drugs into the United States that has resulted in increased use and sales in the black community? The answer to the first question, so far as can be determined, is no. Neither the series nor other reports and studies provide evidence of such high-level authorization and targeting of the black community. While there are examples of convictions of US officials for narcotics trafficking, no conspiratorial network inside the CIA has ever been identified. If the question were rephrased to ask if the blight of drugs in the black community has had serendipitous effects -- the blunting of social protest and organizing, an excuse to warehouse in prisons hundreds of thousands of young black men for whom there are no jobs -- the answer would be yes. But a useful consequence that is tolerated or even appreciated is not the same as a deliberate conspiracy. The answer to the second question is an unqualified yes and the evidence is overwhelming. The CIA, FBI, National Security Agency (NSA), State Department, Justice Department, Military Intelligence, and other agencies have repeatedly employed operatives and agents known to be involved in narco-trafficking. At various times the US agencies have either turned a blind eye or knowingly allowed their facilities to be used for major dealing. This policy was approved at the top of these agencies in the White House and, many believe, by successive presidents. Jack Blum, chief investigator for the Kerry subcommittee, concluded after years of investigation and access to classified information: "If you ask: In the process of fighting a war against the Sandinistas, did people connected with the US government open channels which allowed drug traffickers to move drugs to the United States, did they know the drug traffickers were doing it, and did they protect them from law enforcement? The answer to all those questions is yes. *14" HISTORY OF INVOLVEMENT Official collaboration between US government entities and known drug traffickers dates back at least to World War II. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), predecessor of the CIA, made deals with Corsican heroin traffickers as well as with US gangster and known heroin dealer Lucky Luciano to prevent communists from gaining a political foothold in post-war France and Italy. *15 )From 1924-44, the US heroin addict population had dropped from 200,000 to about 20,000.16 Then Washington, "through the CIA and its wartime predecessor, the OSS, created a situation that made it possible for the Sicilian-American Mafia and the Corsican underworld to revive the international narcotics traffic," according to the leading academic study on the topic. *17 After Luciano established a worldwide network of traffickers, distributors, and retailers for the drug, the number of US addicts grew rapidly again. *18 Similar alliances led to similar consequences in Southeast Asia. In Laos, beginning around 1960, the CIA created a secret army of 30,000 Hmong tribesmen to fight their communist government. Hmong Gen. Vang Pao (who eventually moved to Montana) was allowed to use the CIA's Air America planes to traffic opium, the Hmong's major cash crop. Turned into heroin, this crop not only addicted thousands of US soldiers fighting in Vietnam, including a disproportionate number of African Americans, but by the war's end in the mid-1970s, comprised about one-third of all heroin in the US. *19 By 1989, Southeast Asia was producing 73 percent of the world's heroin. *20 Beginning in the late 1970s, in Southwest Asia's Golden Crescent -- where Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran come together -- the US supported the anticommunist mujahedin guerrillas fighting against their Soviet-backed government. The CIA's covert activities in the region created new trafficking lines and a tremendous wave of heroin that flooded the lucrative US market. Scholar Alfred McCoy noted one of the consequences: "As heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan poured into America throughout 1979 ... the number of drug-related deaths in New York City rose by 77 percent." By the late 1980s, the surge in heroin from the Golden Crescent "had captured 60 percent of the US market." *21 The pattern of exploding narcotics trafficking would be repeated when the Reagan administration made the decision to support anticommunist governments and rebels in Central America. Between 1982 and 1985, covering the first Reagan term, the number of US cocaine users grew to 5.8 million, a 38 percent rise. *22 During that period, the CIA and other agencies employed drug traffickers throughout Central America to assist their covert wars against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and guerrillas fighting to overthrow military and political dictatorships in El Salvador and Guatemala. Gen. Paul F. Gorman, former head of the US Southern Command, captured the rationale for these unsavory alliances: "The fact is, if you want to go into the subversion business, collect intelligence, and move arms, you deal with drug movers." *23 It is critical to note that it was not just the CIA but the entire US foreign policy apparatus -- including all branches of the military, the NSA, and the State Department that helped implement the covert war against Nicaragua and was complicit in the drug trafficking. Many of their activities were revealed in the investigations and hearings by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the late 1980s. McCoy notes that the committee found, for example, that "The US State Department paid four contractors $806,401 to supply humanitarian aid to the Contra forces in Central America. All four of these companies were owned by known drug traffickers." *24 The report went on to say that the State Department made "payments to drug traffickers ... for humanitarian assistance to the Contras, in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted ... on drug charges." *25 The committee's report was unambiguous in assigning guilt: "On the basis of this evidence, it is clear that ... elements of the Contras ... knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers. ... In each case, one or another agency of the US government had information about the involvement." The Kerry report also concluded, "The logic of having drug money pay for the pressing needs of the Contras appealed to a number of people who became involved in the covert war. Indeed, senior US policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras' funding problems." *26 RACISM AND THE WAR ON DRUGS The flood of drugs into the US, Contra-carried and other, had a devastating impact on the black community; the harmful effects were only compounded by the "war on drugs" -- pursued in turn by Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton that disproportionately targeted African Americans. That effect is consistent with a long history of drug wars that have, without exception, demonized communities of color as the main traffickers and users. In the 1880s, the growing Chinese American population was targeted by oppressive anti-opium legislation. While they were deported and imprisoned, whites comprised the largest group of users. They were mostly women who consumed great quantities of opium-based over-the-counter "tonics" and male Civil War veterans seeking pain relief. After opium was declared illegal, these white users were channeled into the medical rather than the criminal justice system. The turn of the century "war on drugs" made cocaine the boogie monster, and the press was full of sensationalized stories about black men -- crazed by the demon drug-- who raped white women and committed horrible and depraved crimes. The "responsible" New York Times joined the chorus, at one point running a headline that blared "Negro Cocaine `Fiends' Are a New Southern Menace," and reporting that southern sheriffs were forced to switch to higher caliber handguns to effectively stop drug-empowered blacks. *27 There was, in fact, no evidence of a wave of cocaine-induced crime. During the anti-marijuana wars of the 1930s, Mexican Americans were targeted at a time when they were moving in large numbers into cities and competing for scarce jobs. Again the papers were peppered with reports of drug-crazed attacks on innocent whites. The 1950s heroin war, which coincided with the rise of the civil rights movement, followed the same pattern-- once again aimed against blacks. *28 "The drug war is always the pretext for something else," noted political analyst Noam Chomsky. "In the United States [it] is basically a technique for controlling dangerous populations internal to the country and doesn't have much to do with drugs." *29 Politicians have long used it to excuse failed social and economic policies that have generated unrest and as an expedient campaign issue. Richard Nixon took advantage of drug war rhetoric in the 1960s and early 1970s and set the stage for the ingenuous sloganeering campaigns of the 1980s. Then, while Nancy Reagan intoned "Just Say No [to drugs]," the president did just that to spending for social programs, aid to the cities, and most policies which had the potential to ameliorate conditions in the black community. *30 President George Bush and his drug czar William Bennett continued the Reagan program with greater hyperbole but with no more effect in reducing trafficking or addiction, and Dole in his 1996 failed bid for the presidency unimaginatively varied the theme to "Just Don't Do It." Meanwhile, in the 1980s and into the 1990s, the black community has been ravaged by a drug crisis of historic proportions, resulting in "crack" babies, record drug overdoses, unprecedented numbers of black male youth incarcerations, arise in AIDS, and numerous other harms. In Los Angeles County alone, according to the Mercury News, there are more than 70,000 children in foster care for drug-related reasons. *31 In Washington, DC, of the thousands of cases of neglected and abused children removed from homes, 90 percent involved crack mothers. *32 In fact, however, most drug users are white, while a disproportionate number of people incarcerated for a disproportionately greater number of years are black. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who represents the Los Angeles district at the center of Blandon's and Ross' activities, wrote Attorney General Janet Reno: @XASAS = In addition to the stress caused by crack cocaine use, I am also terribly disturbed by the heavy-handed, arbitrary, and discriminatory mandatory minimum sentences which politicians have attached to crack cocaine use and possession. These sentences have the effect of severely punishing small-time users, and are prosecuted in a discriminatory way which disproportionately impacts African American males. *33 POLICY IMPLICATIONS It was into this context that the San Jose Mercury News story fell. One word characterizes the black community's response: outrage. That reaction has sparked a mass movement of sorts to distribute the Mercury News series as widely as possible and to force investigations into the allegations. Black community leaders and activists are mobilizing around the issues raised. From Washington, DC to California, there have been protests, rallies, and forums. Howard University law students held a march and rally on the US Capitol steps.34 More than 1,500 showed up at a forum held by the Congressional Black Caucus on the issue. *35 In Los Angeles, 1,000 turned out for a forum while 1,500 waited outside. *36 Activist Dick Gregory, radio host Joe Madison, activist Mark Thompson, and President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Rev. Joe Lowery, have all been jailed for demonstrating at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia or at the Justice Department. Gregory and Madison also have gone on hunger strikes. Politicians are turning up the heat. In a letter to Attorney General Reno, Rep. Waters requested "a full and complete investigation into the connection between law enforcement agencies, most particularly the CIA, and the early 1980s importation of crack cocaine. In addition, I would like to know what actions may have allowed these drug shipments to continue. I would also like to know the status of any efforts to investigate, punish, or prosecute those involved in this matter." *37 " California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, *38 San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan have all written letters calling for an investigation. Rev. Jesse Jackson is demanding that Clinton order his Intelligence Oversight Board to conduct a full and independent investigation and calling for the release of all classified documents on the CIA's involvement in the Contra war, all DEA records related to the Contras, and all DEA files on Meneses and Blandon. *39 While promising internal investigations, the Department of Justice, CIA, and other US agencies all issued quick denials. At an October 23 Senate hearing, for example, CIA Inspector General Frederick P. Hitz testified that based on the investigation up to that point, there is "no credible information" to support the Mercury News' stories.40 WHAT NEXT? The controversy around this issue underscores the necessity for black community awareness and involvement in US foreign policy issues. The creation of the Contras was a policy initiative that emanated from the White House and was supported by policy makers. The fact that the policy was consistent, sustained, and sanctioned by the highest US officials is far more disturbing than any conspiracy theories about secret teams or rogue operations. Black leaders must move beyond criticism of the Contra involvement in drug trafficking to questioning a foreign policy that shows little regard for democratic processes or the interests of the poor and working people in the developing world. It is not enough that those involved in drug dealing be brought to justice -- an unlikely prospect at this point. What is essential is an overhaul of the mission and practices of US intelligence agencies. It is also time to renew the call for major reform of the nation's drug laws. The current laws and policing practices are racially discriminatory in regard to arrest patterns, sentencing, imposition of mandatory minimums, crack-powder sentencing discrepancy, and punitive character of laws such as the "three strikes and you're out" provisions in a number of state and federal statutes. It is also important to reiterate the demand that education and treatment access be given a higher priority in the federal drug budget. Under Reagan and Bush, 70 percent was aimed at law enforcement while only 30 percent was focused on education, prevention, and treatment. Under Clinton, two-thirds of the budget is still focused on law enforcement.41 In this presidential election year, both parties played the game of who was toughest on crime, and neither raised concerns about increasing treatment monies or the racialized nature of the nation's drug crisis and drug war. If the concerns raised by the Mercury News series are to be answered, then these reforms are only just the beginning. CAQ SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION CAQ (CovertAction Quarterly) has won numerous awards for investigative journalism. In 1996, it won 4 of "Project Censored" top 25 awards for investigative reporting. CAQ is read around the world by investigative reporters, activists, scholars, intelligence buffs, news junkies, and anyone who wants to know the news and analysis behind the soundbites and headlines. Recommended by Noam Chomsky; targeted by the CIA. Each article in the 64-page magazine, which is in its 19th year of publication, is extensively footnoted and accompanied by photographs and graphics. For a single issue, send $6. A one year subscription: US $22; Canada/Mexico $27; Latin America/Europe $33; Other areas $35. A two year US subscription is $38 Please send check or money order in $US to: CAQ 1500 Massachusetts Ave. #732 Washington, DC 20005, USA Mail, phone or fax Mastercard or Visa with address info and expiration date Phone: 202-331-9763 Fax: 202-331-9751 E-mail: caq@igc.org CHECK OUT OUR WEB SITES: http://mediafilter.org/caq http://www.worldmedia.com/caq ** End of text from cdp:covertaction ** *************************************************************************** This material came from PeaceNet, a non-profit progressive networking service. For more information, send a message to peacenet-info@igc.apc.org ***************************************************************************

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