The Skeptic Tank Chairman comments: I have received this material
from "Larry-Jennie", (email@example.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
I have left the text alone however I have reformatted it to make it
easier to read.
- Fredric L. Rice, (firstname.lastname@example.org) (818) 335-9601 24 hours
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A letter the Post refused to print.
November 3, 1996 11:24 AM
By: Gareth Gordon
Mercury News Executive Editor Jerry Ceppos' Letter to the
Oct. 18, 1996
The Post's 5,000-word Oct. 4. critique of our series about drug
dealers who were linked to the CIA obscures the key issue:
The year-long investigation by the San Jose Mercury News
established that cocaine dealers working with the CIA-sponsored
contras sold large amounts of cocaine powder that was turned
into crack in predominantly black neighborhoods of Los Angeles at
the time that the crack epidemic was beginning there, and some of
the drug profits were sent to the contras to buy war supplies.
The Post did not disagree with that key finding but did raise
For example, did a reading of our series lead to the
conclusion -- a conclusion the Post apparently reached -- that
the CIA is directly responsible for the outbreak of the crack
epidemic in Los Angeles?
While there is considerable circumstantial evidence of CIA
involvement with the leaders of the drug ring, we never reached
or reported any definitive conclusion on CIA involvement. Do we
bear responsibility for making the limits of our reporting as
clear as possible? Of course -- and we think we did so quite
carefully. We reported that men selling cocaine in Los Angeles met
with people paid by the CIA. We reported that they received fund-
raising orders from people paid by the CIA. We reported that the
money raised was sent to a CIA-run operation. But we did not go
further -- and took pains to say that clearly.
Another important question raised by the Post: Did large-scale
crack use begin in South Central Los Angeles, as we maintained, or
did crack explode in a number of places simultaneously?
Even in the murky world of drugs, there is significant
evidence to support our position.
An April 1988 study for the National Institute of Justice
by University of Southern California sociologists Malcolm Klein
and Cheryl Maxson (Klein is quoted in your articles) states that
Los Angeles police began noticing crack on the streets in 1982 and
it ''soon thereafter appeared in more reports in 1983 in the
predominantly black areas of South-Central L.A.''
At a July 1986 congressional hearing -- four years after
crack infested part of Los Angeles -- Isaac Fulwood, then assistant
chief and later chief of the Metropolitan Police, testified: ''Locally,
in the Washington. D.C. area, crack is not at this time a serious
problem. It is just beginning to surface in the streets at our
drug-market locations.'' Officials from New York and Detroit said
The Post also put the drug sales in a national context, saying
the Nicaraguans named in our series ''accounted for only a small
portion of the nation's cocaine trade.'' We never said otherwise.
More important, the Post suggests that two of the key
characters in our series, DEA informant Danilo Blandon and cocaine
trafficker Rick Ross, couldn't have wrought as much horror as we
The Post says that Blandon handled ''only'' about five tons of
cocaine over a decade. Even if that were true, that strikes us as a
lot of pure cocaine being dumped into one section of a city,
especially considering that it would have been diluted three to
seven times before hitting the street.
But we're talking about far more than five tons -- and you
needn't take our word for it. Blandon himself told the DEA in a
1995 statement (posted on our Web site for all to see) that he sold
cocaine to Ross for 10 years and supplied him with an average of 50
to 100 kilos a week. That works out to 2.8 to 5.7 tons a year, and
Blandon testified that Ross was not his only customer. The assistant
U.S. attorney who prosecuted Blandon told a 1995 grand jury (the
transcript is also posted on our Web site) that Blandon was ''the
biggest Nicaraguan cocaine dealer in the United States.''
As for Ross, the Los Angeles Times described him this way
on Dec. 20, 1994: ''If there was an eye to the storm, if there was
a criminal mastermind behind crack's decade-long reign, if there
was one outlaw capitalist most responsible for flooding Los
Angeles' streets with mass-marketed cocaine, his name was "Freeway'
Did we do something wrong by talking to a defense lawyer?
For eight months we had tried to interview Blandon -- even going to
Nicaragua to track him down. Blandon finally said the DEA wouldn't
let him talk to us. In a last-ditch effort, our reporter suggested
some questions to the defense lawyer.
The Post criticizes ''the articles' racially charged allegation
that the CIA's army of contras deliberately targeted the black
community in an effort to expand the market for a cheap form of
cocaine.'' This is a total mischaracterization. We directly said
on the front page: ''But why -- of all the ethnic and racial groups
in California to pick from -- crack planted it's deadly roots in
L.A.'s black neighborhoods is something only Oscar Danilo Blandon
Reyes can say for sure.''
The logo for the series was not the CIA emblem superimposed
over a man smoking crack, as Howard Kurtz reported in the Post on
Oct. 2. But that logo was used on our Web site and in a reprint.
We have changed the Web site logo and remade the reprint because we
don't want such a question to overshadow discussion of the truly
The Post has every right to reach conclusions different from
those of the Mercury News. But I'm disappointed in the ''What's the
big deal?'' tone running through the Post's critique. If the CIA knew
about illegal activities being conducted by its associates, federal
law and basic morality required that it notify domestic authorities.
It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of story that a newspaper
should shine a light on.
Ultimately, we agree wholeheartedly with the conclusion of
your Oct. 9 editorial: ''For even just a couple of CIA-connected
characters to have played even a trivial role in introducing Americans
to crack would indicate an unconscionable breach by the CIA. It is
essential to know whether the agency contributed to this result or
failed to exercise diligence to block it.''
Jerry Ceppos Executive Editor San Jose Mercury News
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