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26.Nov.1996 Drugs, Impunity and the CIA

06.Sept.2001 Drugs, Impunity and the CIA


10.May 2003 01:48:00

Date:Thu 06.Sep.2001 12:08 pm
Subject:Drugs, Impunity and the CIA
Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2001 23:55:46 EDT
Subject: [CIA-DRUGS] Drugs, Impunity and the CIA
Click Here: <A HREF="
https://www.connix.com/~harry/cia-drug.htm">Transcript of
CIP intelligence seminar on the C…</A>
Drugs, Impunity and the CIA
A seminar sponsored by the

Center for International Policy's Intelligence Reform Project
Dirksen Senate Office Building,

Seminar participants
Jack A. Blum,

former chief investigator,

Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee

investigating the

Central Intelligence Agency-contra-drug connection in


former chief of staff,

Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee

headed by

Sen. Frank Church that investigated the CIA in the

00.000.1970 s
Jonathan Kwitny,

former prizewinning

Wall Street Journal investigative reporter,

author of Endless Enemies:

The Making of an Unfriendly World

(New York: Congdon & Weed, 1984)
Alfred W. McCoy,

professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Wisconsin;

author of The Politics of Heroin:

CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (Lawrence Hill, 1991) and

The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia
Clarence Page, columnist, Chicago Tribune
Melvin A. Goodman, director of CIP's Intelligence Reform Project;

former chief of Soviet-affairs division, CIA
Mr. Goodman

welcomed the seminar participants and audience.

He noted that it
had just been reported that another former CIA ally faced drug charges.

A Miami grand jury had indicted a former general in Venezuela

on charges that he smuggled cocaine into the United States.

Gen. Ramon Guillen

headed a special CIA-financed Venezuelan National Guard antinarcotics unit.

This was a sting operation that went massively awry.

The CIA had said that it was regrettable.
It was right of the press to critically review the

San Jose Mercury-News's
series, Mr. Goodman considered.

He just wished it had similarly gone after
the CIA's activities in concert with drug dealers globally, particularly in
I. CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade — A Presentation by Prof. Alfred
W. McCoy
Professor McCoy said that

this August,

the San Jose Mercury News reported
that a syndicate allied with Nicaragua's CIA- backed Contras

delivered tons of cocaine to Los Angeles gangs

during the 1980s.

The Mercury concluded,

"The contra- run drug network opened the first conduit

between Colombia's . . .cartels and Los Angeles's black neighborhoods . . .

It's impossible to believe that the Central Intelligence Agency didn't know."
At first, the story attracted little notice.


by mid-September

Internet hits at the Mercury passed eight hundred thousand daily

and black anger was rising.
On talk radio,

some commentators—

going far beyond what the Mercury said—

accused the CIA of

willfully destroying their communities with crack.
The Congressional Black Caucus demanded an investigation.


CIA director John Deutch

shot back that

"the agency neither participated in

nor condoned
drug trafficking

by Contra forces."


the Washington Post published a

front- page "investigation"
denying that

the rise of crack in Los Angeles

was the work of just one syndicate and

charging the Mercury's exposé merely

"echoed decade- old allegations."

Two weeks later,

the New York Times and Los Angeles Times
followed with their own investigations,

attacking the Mercury's story and
accusing that paper of fanning the flames of racial discord in America.

This racially- charged debate

raised four questions


the CIA and drugs—

questions which


demanded answers.

Did the agency


ally with drug traffickers?

Did the CIA protect these allies from prosecution?

Did such alliances and protection

contribute significantly

to an expansion of the global drug trade

over the past forty years?


did the CIA encourage drug smugglers

to target African-American communities?

For those of the audience who might have to leave early,

the answers were:
a.) Yes. b.) Yes. c.) Maybe. d.) No.
For the past quarter century,

Professor McCoy said,

he had been looking at this question,

focusing on the alliances between the agency and Asian drug lords

during the forty years of the Cold War.

He believed that

this history
could shed considerable light on the current debate over

alleged CIA involvement in the contra cocaine trade.
Throughout the Cold War

the CIA used gangsters and warlords,

many of them drug dealers,

to fight communism.

As the Cold War ended,

the list of CIA assets

who used their alliance with the agency to deal drugs

had grown longer—

Marseilles Corsicans,

Lao generals,

Thai police,

National Chinese irregulars,

Afghan rebels,

Pakistani intelligence,

Haitian colonels,

Mexican police units,


Guatemalan military.
During the forty years of the Cold War,

government intelligence services,

the CIA included,

forged covert- action alliances

with some of Asia's key opium traffickers,

inadvertently contributing to an initial expansion of opium production.

In one of history's accidents,

the Iron Curtain fell along an Asian opium zone that

stretched for five thousand miles

from Turkey to Thailand—

making these rugged highlands a key front of Cold War confrontation.
As the CIA and allied agencies mounted operations in the opium zone

during the forty years of the Cold War

it found that

ethnic warlords were its most effective covert-action assets.

These leaders exploited the CIA alliance

to become drug lords,

expanding opium production and exporting refined heroin.
The Agency tolerated such trafficking and,

when necessary,

blocked investigations.

Since ruthless drug lords made effective anti- communists

heroin profits amplified their power,

CIA agents did not tamper with the requisites of success

in such delicate operations.
Surveying the steady increase in America's drug problem,

since the end of World War II,

Professor McCoy discerned

periodic increases in drug supply
that coincided

rather approximately —

with covert operations in the drug zones.
He turned to

Southeast Asia,

the site of

the earliest

CIA alliances with drug lords.

Southeast Asia—CIA Operations
On the eve of World War II,

most Southeast Asian governments sponsored state monopolies

that sold smoking opium to registered addicts

and generated substantial tax revenues.

Golden Triangle.
Despite extensive opium consumption during the colonial era,

Southeast Asia
remained a major opium consumer


very importantly for our story—

a minor producer.



Southeast Asia harvested a total of only 15.5 tons

in a region that


produces over 3,000 tons.



British India supplied these government monopolies with limitless low- cost opium,

Southeast Asian governments had no reason to encourage local cultivation.


growth of Golden Triangle opium production

in the 1950s

in retrospect,

a response to two stimuli

prohibition and protection.


Responding to pressures from the United Nations,

Southeast Asia's governments abolished legal opium sales

between 1950 and 1961,

thereby creating

a sudden demand for illicit opiates

in the cities of Southeast Asia.


An alliance of three intelligence services

Thai, American and Nationalist Chinese—

played a catalytic role

in promoting the production of raw opium

on the Shan Plateau of northern Burma.
During the early 1950s,

the CIA covert operations in northern Burma

political alliances that,



the poppy fields of Burma
with the region's urban drug markets.

After the collapse of the Nationalist Chinese government in


some of its forces

fled across the border into Burma

where the CIA equipped them for several abortive invasions of China.
„To retaliate against Communist China for its intervention in the Korean War“,
President Truman

ordered the CIA to organize these Nationalist remnants inside Burma

for an invasion of southwestern China.

The records remain secret

Professor McCoy suspected,

it was one of the most foolish operations
mounted by any agency of the U.S. government.

their invasions of


were repulsed with heavy casualties,

Nationalist troops camped along the Burma border

for another decade

turned to opium trading to finance their operations.


local hill tribes to produce opium,

the Nationalist troops supervised

a massive increase of poppy cultivation on the Shan Plateau.


the Burmese Army evicted them in


the Nationalist forces established new base camps

just across the border in Thailand and

from there dominated the Shan States opium trade

the early

00.000.1980 s.

the early

00.000.1960 s,

Burma's opium production had risen

from 15 to 300 tons—

thus creating the opium zone

that was now called the Golden Triangle.

As in Burma, so in Laos

distance would insulate

the Agency,CIA,

from the consequences of complicity.
During their Vietnam war,

the French military

integrated opium trafficking
with covert operations

that the CIA would



After abolition of the opium monopoly in


French military intelligence,


centralized, covert controls over an illicit drug traffic

that linked

the Hmong poppy fields of Laos

with the opium dens operating in Saigon

generating profits that funded French covert operations in their Vietnam war.
When America replaced the French in Vietnam



the CIA fell heir to these covert alliances and their involvement in opium trading.

In Laos

during the 1960s,

the CIA battled communists

with a secret army of thirty thousand Hmong highlanders

a secret war that implicated the CIA in that country's opium traffic.

Although the Agency did not profit directly from the trade,
the combat strength of its secret army

was nonetheless integrated with the Laotian opium trade.


The answer lay in

the CIA's doctrine of covert action

and its consequent reliance upon

the influence of local military leaders or warlords.
In Laos,

a handful of CIA agents relied on tribal leaders

to motivate their troops and Lao generals to protect their cover.


the fighting in Vietnam
spilled over into Laos in


CIA recruited some thirty thousand Hmong highlanders for its secret army

making this tribe a critical CIA asset.

00.000.1965 and 00.000.1970,

the Hmong

recovered downed U.S. pilots,

battled local Pathet Lao communists,

monitored the Ho Chi Minh trail, and

most importantly—

protected the radar that guided the bombing of North Vietnam.



according to a U.S. Air Force study,

every Hmong family had lost members.
To fight this secret war,

the CIA sent in American agents

on a ratio of one per thousand Hmong guerrillas

numbers that made the Agency dependent upon tribal leaders

who could mobilize their people for this bloody slaughter.
The CIA gave

its chosen client,

Hmong general Vang Pao,

control over all air transport into the Hmong villages

scattered across the mountaintops of northern Laos —

over both the shipment of rice, the main subsistence commodity,

into the villages + the transport of opium,

the tribe's main cash crop, out to markets.
With his

chokehold over the household economy of every Hmong family,

General Vang Pao was transformed into a tribal warlord

who could extract boy soldiers for slaughter

in an endless war.


opium trading reinforced the authority of these Hmong officers,

the CIA found it necessary to tolerate the traffic.
Heroin Production.

The CIA's policy of tolerance towards its Laotian allies
did not change

even when they began producing heroin

to supply U.S. combat forces fighting in South Vietnam.



CIA assets opened a cluster of heroin laboratories in the Golden Triangle

the tri- border area where

Burma, Thailand + Laos converge.


Hmong officers

loaded opium on the CIA's Air America

and the Lao Army's commander

opened a heroin laboratory

to supply
U.S. troops in Vietnam,

the Agency was silent.

In a secret internal report compiled in


the CIA's inspector-general

said the following to explain their inaction:
<<The past involvement of many of these officers in drugs is well known,

their goodwill . . . considerably facilitates

the military activities of Agency- supported irregulars.
All this heroin was smuggled into South Vietnam where,



according to a White House survey,

34 percent of U.S. troops were addicted.
Instead of

trying to restrain drug trafficking by its Laotian assets,

the Agency, CIA, engaged in concealment and cover- up.

Professor McCoy recalled that
when he went to Laos to investigate in


the Lao army commander
graciously opened his opium accounts

but the U.S. mission stonewalled.

In a Hmong village,

where he was investigating opium shipments on Air America,

CIA mercenaries ambushed his research team.

A CIA operative threatened to murder his Lao interpreter unless he quit.
When his book was in press,

the CIA's Deputy Director for Plans

pressured his publisher to suppress it


the CIA's general counsel

demanded deletions of all references to Agency,CIA, complicity.


the book was published unaltered,
CIA agents in Laos

pressed his sources

to recant and convinced investigators from the

House Foreign Affairs Committee

that his allegations were baseless.

the CIA's inspector-general

conducted a secret internal investigation that confirmed his allegations.

"The war has clearly been our overriding priority in Southeast Asia

and all other issues have taken second place,"

the inspector-general said in defense of their inaction on drugs.

"It would be foolish to deny this + we see no reason to do so."


Southeast Asian syndicates were supplying

a quarter of U.S. demand with Golden Triangle heroin.


Asia was too remote for allegations of CIA complicity

to pack any political punch.

CIA in the 1980s

Central Asia and Central America
CIA operations again played a role

in the revival of the U.S. drug problem

in the 1980s.



the Soviets




the Sandinistas


prompting two major CIA operations

with some revealing similarities.


heroin production in

Southwest Asia—Afghanistan and Pakistan—


expanded to fill gaps in the global drug market.

Pakistan- Afghanistan had zero heroin production

in the mid 00.000.1970s,

by 00.000.1981
Pakistan had become the world's largest heroin producer.
Reporting from Teheran

in the mid-1970s,

U.S. ambassador

Helms, Richard

the former CIA director,

insisted that

there was no heroin production in this region

only a localized opium trade.

This region


supplied zero percent of U.S. heroin supply.



the U.S. attorney-general

announced that

Pakistan was supplying 60 percent of U.S. demand.


rising from zero heroin addicts in

Pakistan had five thousand in


and 1.2 million in


the world's
Why was Pakistan able to capture the world's heroin market so quickly?

the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in


the White House assigned the CIA

to mount a major operation to support the Afghan resistance.

Working through Pakistan's ISI,

the CIA began supplying covert arms and finance to
Afghan forces.
As they gained control over liberated zones inside Afghanistan,

the Afghan guerrillas required that its supporters grow opium to support the resistance.
Using CIA and ISI protection,

Pakistan military and Afghan resistance

opened heroin labs on the border.

According to the Washington Post of

00.May 1990,
among the leading heroin manufacturers was

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar,

an Afghan leader

who received half of the

$2 billion in covert arms

that the

United States shipped to Pakistan.
Although there were many complaints about

Hekmatyar's brutality and drug trafficking within the ranks of the Afghan resistance,

the CIA maintained an uncritical alliance

and supported him

without reservation or restraint.
During the

decade of this operation,

the substantial DEA contingent in Islamabad

brought about no arrests or seizures—

allowing the syndicates a de facto free hand to export heroin.
Former CIA operatives had admitted that

this operation led to an expansion of the Pakistan- Afghanistan heroin trade.



the former

CIA director of this Afghan operation,

Cogan, Charles admitted sacrificing the drug war to fight the cold war.

"Our main mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets.

We didn't really have the resources or the time to devote to an investigation of the drug trade,"

he told Australian television.
"I don't think that we need to apologize for this.

Every situation has its fallout . . .

There was fallout in term of drugs, yes.

But the main objective was accomplished.

The Soviets left Afghanistan."

distance insulated the CIA from political fallout.

Once the heroin left Pakistan,

Sicilian mafia exported it to the United States

and local gangs sold it on the street.

Most Americans

did not make the equation

between Afghan drug lords and the heroin in their cities.

Contra Operation
In Central America,


simple proximity

has made the fallout from the CIA's operation


Unlike the CIA's Asian warlords,

Nicaragua's contras did not produce drugs

and had to make money

by smuggling cocaine

Proximity brought these operations to the attention of Congress,


in the late

00.000.1980 s

Sen. John Kerry's subcommittee

investigated the contra- cocaine links.

His investigators established that

four contra- connected corporations

hired by the State Department

to fly "humanitarian relief" goods to Central America

were also involved in cocaine smuggling.


committee heard the pilots give eyewitness testimony

saying that

they had seen cocaine loaded on their aircraft

for the return flight to the United States.
The DEA operative assigned to Honduras,

Thomas Zepeda,

testified that

his office had been closed in


since it was generating intelligence

the local military was involved in cocaine smuggling

thereby threatening the CIA's relationship with the Honduran military

in this key frontline state for the contra operation.

In effect,

CIA, Agency


had once again

created a de facto zone of protection

closed to investigators from outside agencies.
Read closely,

the Kerry committee established a

pattern of

CIA complicity in Central America

strikingly similar to

the one seen in Laos and Afghanistan—

tolerance for drug dealing by its assets



to protect


larger covert operation.

San Jose Mercury-News story
The Mercury's story

tried to go to the next step—

establishing a direct link to the distribution of drugs in the United States.

According to

Mercury reporter Gary Webb,

this "dark alliance" began

in the early



the contra revolt against Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government

was failing for want of funds.

His scenario was:



the CIA hired ex- Nicaraguan army colonel Enrique Bermudez

to organize

what became main contra guerrilla army,

the FDN.



turned to two Nicaraguan exiles in the United States

to supplement meager agency support with drug profits.

In California

Danilo Blandon,

the former director of Nicaragua's farm marketing program,

used his formidable business skills

to open a new crack distribution network

for the contras.

Sensing the potential of the Los Angeles ghetto,

Blandon allied with the
then neophyte, now legendary black dealer

"Freeway Rick" Ross

to convert tons of cocaine into low- cost crack

and thus exploit

what was still an untapped market among the city's poor blacks.

During its decade of operation,

this crack network

enjoyed a de facto immunity from prosection.


the DEA, Customs, or the Los Angeles County sheriffs

tried to investigate,

the CIA and the Justice Department

denied information

on grounds
of national security.



Los Angeles sheriffs raided

what their warrant called

Blandon's "sophisticated cocaine smuggling and distribution operation,"


found every location wiped clean of evidence.

The police were convinced that

investigation "had been compromised by the CIA."

By the late


the operation had lost its contra connection


both dealers were soon arrested on drug charges.


Freeway Rick started serving a ten- year sentence,

the Justice Department

intervened to free the contra- connected Blandon, Danilo.

the Agency, CIA 's relations with Asian opium lords

were lost in the mists of faraway mountains,

Rep. Maxine Waters,

the Black Caucus leader from Los Angeles,

has police documents to charge the CIA

with protecting contra cocaine dealers.
Professor McCoy returned to the four questions he asked at the outset:

Question No. l:

Did the Agency ever ally with drug traffickers?

Yes, beyond any doubt.

Although this question was once controversial,

not even the CIA any longer bothered to deny

that it had often allied with major and minor drug dealers.

Question No. 2:

Did the CIA protect these allies from prosecution?

Yes, there was a recurring pattern of protection.

During a major CIA operation,
the operational zone became a special "protected area"



was subordinated to the prosecution of the covert operation.

For the duration of the operation,

key assets were given a de facto immunity to prosecution.

protect the integrity of the operation, the CIA blocked all investigation—by
the DEA, Customs, Congress + the police. Whenever anyone connected with
this effort was arrested outside this protected area, the CIA blocked
prosecution that would compromise its operations.
Lest it be forgotten, there was only one element that any criminal needed to
become a powerful entrepreneur of vice and violence — protection against


Question No. 3:

Did such alliances and protections

contribute significantly

to an expansion of the global drug trade


the past forty

This was a question that was open to interpretation.

If Clio, the muse of history,

were to waft in and place perfect information

on two tables

for two academics,

they would probably produce two books

with two

very different answers.

Professor McCoy believed that

in Burma, Laos + Afghanistan,

CIA operations provided critical elements

logistics, arms + political protection—

that facilitated the rapid growth of opium and heroin production
in both areas.

the ,CIA, agency alliance was central to the rise of some major drug dealers


catalytic in the expansion of production or processing in certain zones.

It would not be unreasonable to conclude, therefore, that

such CIA operations

led to an increase in the production and processing of illicit drugs
in these covert war zones.

it was difficult to state unequivocally that

these individual dealers or zones

did or did not

shape the long- term trajectory of supply and demand
within the vastness and complexity the global drug traffic.

Question No. 4:


did the CIA encourage drug smugglers

to target
African- American communities?

The pattern of CIA complicity in drugs

proceeded from the internal logic of its covert operations,

an inadvertent consequence of

indirect intervention abroad.

There was a

striking similarity

in the patterns of CIA complicity

drug dealers in




Central America.

Just as

Professor McCoy

could find no evidence,

nor any logic,

to the proposition that

the CIA in Laos


one- third of the GIs in South Vietnam to become heroin addicts,

he could see no evidence or logic of

CIA targeting of blacks

in south-central Los Angeles.

During the 1980s,


there was every indication that

the CIA was aware that

its Afghan and Central American allies

contributed to the export of cocaine and heroin to the United States

and did nothing to slow this drug flow.

a substantial portion of the African- American community

suspected the worst

that the CIA willfully flooded their communities with drugs—

the time had come for

a unflinching search for the answers

to these
four questions.
As Congress investigated,

Professor McCoy had a good idea what it would find.


there was evidence

that the CIA actually trafficked in drugs

targeted any Americans,

whether GIs in South Vietnam or blacks in South Central.

investigators would discover CIA alliances with

warlords, colonels + criminals

who used its protection to deal drugs.

Suffering from

what Professor McCoy called

"mission myopia,"

CIA agents regarded narcotics as mere "fallout."

For CIA agents in Laos, the heroin epidemic among GIs in Vietnam was only fallout.

For agents in Pakistan and Central America, drug shipments to America were just fallout.
For Vietnam veterans and African- Americans who lived with the pain of this fallout,

these findings would be profoundly disturbing.


the CIA
apparently regarded increased drug shipments to the United States as
acceptable fallout

from their Afghan and Central American operations

might spark considerable controversy.


these findings would be better for this nation's political health


the CIA's blanket denials which could only fan the flames of allegations that

it willfully targeted black communities for drug distribution.

Separating Fact from Fiction


the CIA's Drug Role —A Presentation

Jonathan Kwitny
Mr. Kwitny noted that

he had written a review of Professor McCoy's book in

He had told his editors that

these were not wild charges, unsubstantiated or unverifiable.

On the contrary,

Professor McCoy had named every name.

His reporting was factual.

In his review,

he had called for an official investigation of Professor McCoy's charges.
Twenty-five years later,

Mr. Kwitny said,

he was still waiting for that investigation.
Mr. Kwitny showed the audience a copy of a refueling slip from the Ilopango airport,

the Salvadoran military facility,

in the mid-


They were refueling a C-47 identified as PPCED.

It was signed by

Marcus Agualdo,

a contra, close to

John Hull,

the American who had a munitions base in Costa Rica.

The plane was owned by

Jorge Morales.

He was then indicted for cocaine dealing in the United States and

was serving sixteen years in a Florida jail.
He showed another refueling slip signed by

Geraldo Duran, identified by the Department of Justice as a major drug dealer.
He showed a bill of sale for a Cessna 404 sold by Adolfo Calero to a front organization.

The agent handling the sale was

Sam Vieres of Memphis

and the receiver was

Dennis Martin.

It was sold for $264,000 in small bills brought by

Jorge Morales.
The importation of cocaine by CIA people


the use of dollars to buy equipment for the contras was a fact, Mr. Kwitny said.

It had been known

for nine years.

At that time,

he recalled that he had accumulated documents on it.

No one was interested.

The only one they were interested in prosecuting was

Barry Seale

because that would implicate

Sandinista leaders.


they never had evidence that Sandinista leaders were involved in the drug trade.
They only had an allegation against a minor official.

The information was totally unreliable,

which didn't keep it from being used in a U.S. president's speeches.


false charges

got far more attention

than the substantiated charges

against the contras.
At the time,

Mr. Kwitny recalled, he couldn't

get the Wall Street Journal to run articles

on the importance of cocaine-running by the contras.

The Wall Street Journal did run gutsy articles on a number of other issues.
So Mr. Kwitny was surprised that

the San Jose Mercury-News's series sparked this major controversy.

He noted, too, that

the denials of the series' charges always lumped several quite distinct statements together.

They accused the series

of saying


the CIA intended to channel cocaine into the black community


was responsible for the epidemic of drugs in the community.
In fact,

the San Jose Mercury-News articles were detailed and impressive on this point:


the CIA


have had knowledge of the contras' drug-running.

Added to that were

a couple of charges the reporters


should not have made:

What the contras did with the money.

Mr. Kwitny doubted that they used much of it for the war.

Implications about the attitude of the CIA.

The series made no false statements


it made suggestions that should have been presented skeptically.

There was no evidence that the CIA did it deliberately to target the black community.


Robert Owen wrote a letter to Oliver North

saying that

a contra group they were allied with had a questionable past,

including potential involvement in drug-running.

The letter writers were disturbed that the contras were running drugs,

and wished they could stop or minimize it.

the war was much more important to them.

Drug-running on the side was inherent to the sort of war they were promoting.


the CIA mounted an operation

to remove socialists from the leadership of a Marseilles union


put in Corsican drug dealers in their place.

The United States dealt with Noriega

for many years,

and knew that he was dealing in drugs.

Lebanese working for the CIA

in the early 1970s

were engaged in it.

The DEA found that

Lebanese working for the CIA in the early


were responsible for an enormous volume of shipments.

DEA investigation was stopped by the CIA.


World Finance Corporation,

involved with drugs,

was set up with the involvement of CIA Cubans.

An FBI and DEA taskforce investigated the corporation

in the


The investigation was stopped.

Mr. Kwitny recalled being told by a senior investigator that

the CIA stopped the investigation

because more than half of the people on the suspect list were CIA.
When investigating the

Nugan Hand Bank,

founded by CIA and DOD veterans,

all DEA agents were told to back off.

There were heavy drug deals by the Nugan Hand Bank.
Mr. Kwitny recalled that

the Senate Intelligence Committee used questions
that Mr. Kwitny had drafted in questioning CIA witnesses

in the


The answers
were classified.

when the government secretly used people who were pledged to secrecy,

those lured to the operation would include people who wanted secrecy for criminal activity.

Of these activities, drugs were the most lucrative.
This was a necessary tradeoff of covert operations.

At the height of the Cold War,

a case could be made for it. [???????]

But now,

Mr. Kwitny asked,

was the threat so serious as to justify it?

Investigating the CIA-Drugs Connection

A Presentation by Jack A. Blum
Mr. Blum said that

if one made a list of covert operations involving drugs,
there were many including the Vesco operation and many others.

It would include Burma, Afghanistan + Thailand.

Covert action and criminality went together.

Watergate was only the most reprehensible case of blowback.
The most important failure,

however, was

the failure to discuss a future policy to end this problem.

Intelligence had a legitimate role to assess the real threats to the United States,


to equip the country's leaders with this knowledge.

when intelligence agencies engaged in covert operations, this was something else altogether.


the intelligence service became more interested in its daily operations

than in gathering information about genuine threats.

The massive inflow of drugs into the country was such a threat, Mr. Blum considered.
There were exposes of drug-running operations in the Bahamas —

the Carlos Leder and

Robert Vesco operations,

which flew in drugs to the United States.

the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas, Lev Dobriansky,

said to leave Prime Minister Pindling alone.

Pindling even hired a public-relations firm [PROPAGANDA]

that put out the line

that the root of the problem

was demand.

This was the origin of the Just Say No campaign.

The firm also ran Paula Hawkins's campaign.[PROPAGANDA]

Not only did they enter into the U.S. political process,

they developed it into a wedge issue in U.S. politics.

In so doing, they made the victims into the

How could the nation keep intelligence honest enough to focus on the real threat?

The intelligence community had never learned that the Cold War was over.
This might be generic to intelligence services, Mr. Blum considered.

Ten days after the wall came down,


Stasi agents were arrested in Bonn.

They were still doing their espionage work, even though they had no government to work for.
The intelligence agencies operated on the notion that

a corrupt general was better to work with than an honest politician

who might have some differences with U.S. policy.

For example, in Panama and Chile.

Why did they consider the general better?

The corrupt general appeared to make a more reliable ally.
This was

a dilemma that went back to Thucydides,

who wrote about how democratic city-states were reluctant to ally with generals.
The US constitution gave Congress control of the purse and established a budget process.

The U.S. black budget was growing bigger and bigger.
General Noriega got $200,000 a year from the CIA.

This was only small change for him.

But the serious money came from drug trafficking.

It would be impossible for the CIA

to directly pay a corrupt foreign leader enough money to make him a loyal agent.

A hard-pressed intelligence agency kept them in line by giving them the opportunity to steal.
The nation couldn't stop the machinery of stealing in Mexico, Mr. Blum said.
It could only protest it from afar.


if the country didn't stop it

it would get a more aggressive variant of the lawlessness of the

Calero, Adolfo

was working for the United States, as a man who could lobby Congress.

Calero, Adolfo influenced U.S. public opinion.

That was out of the nation's tax dollars.

That was about as dangerous to the constitution as it could get.

If it was okay for the CIA to silence domestic criticism, the country was endangering its freedoms.
The agency picked its own leadership.

If anyone who wanted genuine reform were nominated, that person wouldn't be confirmed.

The CIA agency vetoed

Sorenson, Ted

after President Carter publicly chose him.

After that,

candidates were quietly "cleared."
If the nation cherished the constitution

and wanted to protect its freedoms,

it must take action now.

Comment by Clarence Page
Mr. Page said that

in his effort to make the black community take some responsibility for the problem,

he had said that it must reduce demand.

He was struck by what Mr. Blum had said

about the demand argument being planted by the drug dealers themselves.
He still wrote in his columns that the community was a co-conspirator by consenting to use it.

At the same time,

the government should not be giving aid and comfort to the enemy

the international drug shippers.
He agreed with Professor McCoy that

the black community had not been deliberately targeted.

That was clear from the available evidence and argument.


Mr. Blum had pinpointed the problem of the intelligence agencies allowing the drugs to come in.
Mr. Page said that

if he were to write a book on the pathologies of the press, he would include:

If one could not recover the other guy's scoop, knock it down.

This happened with the San Jose Mercury-News stories.


a variant of this,

the Kerry committee report came out,

the press stories were full of the government's denials.


if one read further in the

New York Times,
Washington Post,


Los Angeles Times

stories on the

Mercury series,

they said that

the basic question was

whether the CIA knew.


Los Angeles Times

story even brought forward additional information on the connection to Blandon's nephew.

The old news syndrome.

The editors said that this story was déjà vu.

They said that they had heard all this before.

The other-than-beat-reporter syndrome.

The story was done by a regional newspaper.

Major newspapers found it hard to admit they were scooped.

Healthy skepticism could cross the line into cynicism.

This accounted for the fact that

the story was dismissed too rapidly.
In the African-American community,


the COINTELPRO revelations,

the Tuskegee experiment,


the Black Panther ambushes,

this episode reinforced paranoid notions that

the community's problems were attributable to an external enemy.


Mr. Page recalled that

Henry Kissinger had once said,
"Paranoids have enemies, too."

All were in agreement that

there was a degree of hype in the San Jose Mercury-News story,

Mr. Page continued.


all editors had also admitted that one could not pursue the story this far

without upsetting the black community.
One could not criticize the Mercury News for starting the debate, Mr. Page considered.

Maybe it got too excited, but it started the debate.

although the story about the conspiracy to commit genocide had not been published, it did not die.
It was not a conspiracy,


Louis Farrakhan made a good point when he said that

there was an element of government criminal liability in letting the drugs in.

It was the same as with tobacco.

There was government liability there.

Mr. Page asked why this argument should be left to Mr. Farrakhan to make.
Mr. Page said that he did not compare this scandal to



J. Edgar Hoover

had thought that

the Black Panthers were the number-one enemy of America.

Question-and-answer session
David MacMichael,

Association of National Security Alumni

referred to Mr. Blum's comment that

it was the primary task of intelligence

to identify and analyze the threat to the United States,

not to engage in covert action.

Mr. MacMichael



it was the job of the intelligence service, CIA to define the threat.

He asked


that was not the job of the elected leadership.
Mr. MacMichael recalled that

the speakers had said that the drug-running was not used to fund the contras.

He noted, however, that

Mr. Casey

had looked at that possibility.
He asked

why the district attorney of Dade County,

after all the evidence of drug-trafficking in his district,

had not indicted anyone.
Mr. MacMichael noted that

the seminar participants had said that

the black community had not been targeted.

However, he noted that

the Mafia had very specifically targeted the black community.
Mr. MacMichael recalled that

when he was in the government,

he had laid out in a memo

the links between the Colombian government and the MAS drug-trafficking group.

The station chief in Colombia flew up and vetoed any mention of this in the paper.
One of the panelists,

before commenting on Mr. MacMichael's questions,
recalled an earlier remark that

countries should be permitted to make their own mistakes;

e.g., Chile should be allowed to elect a government that the U.S. government might not like.

He recalled that

he had met with an anti-Sandinista Nicaraguan businessman in


This businessman acknowledged that

the Sandinistas had brought honest government to Nicaragua.

he said that

the ruin that was befalling Nicaragua was due to the fact that

the United States would not permit the Sandinistas to rule.

So, in the end it was the Sandinistas' fault.
Response by Clarence Page
Mr. Page

addressed the question of targeting of the black community brought up by Mr. MacMichael.

He noted that

the country's racial misunderstanding could revolve around particular words.

He asked whether it was targeting blacks,

or merely poor people,

when a cheap drug was invented

that cost only ten dollars a hit.

The biggest gangs in America were in Los Angeles.

They constituted a ready-made network.
He asked Professor McCoy whether he believed the black community had been targeted.
Response by Alfred McCoy
Professor McCoy said that

there was not a scintilla of evidence that the CIA had deliberately targeted the black community. Nor was there logic.

What occurred was that

the CIA made an operational compromise for the sake of the success of its covert action.

It essentially said,

"You mobilize for us and we'll look the other way."
In its operational zone,

Professor McCoy said,

the CIA kept the DEA away.
Outside the zone,

if anyone investigated or arrested its operatives,

the CIA intervened to get the charges taken off.

These were the tradeoffs it made to insure that the operation succeeded.

The CIA did not concern itself with nor control the downstream trafficking.

Inside the operational zone the CIA controlled, outside not.
Response by Jonathan Kwitny
Mr. Kwitny said that

the word 'targeting' implied will, intention.

There was no evidence that the CIA so intended.

The only possibility was that it favored it for its Laotian clients so

that they could have a healthy economy.


he did not have evidence for that.
Response by Jack Blum
Mr. Blum said that

it was necessary to separate the concept of targeting from the distribution network and recipients. An addict with money was not seen as a problem by society.

The problem came when the addict had no money.

Some of the top users had been NBC stars.

The real money in drug-running was made there.

The country focused on the inner city

because there was a distribution network of talented risk-takers,

people who were willing to take risks to make a hundred dollars overnight.
Commenting on the definition of the threat,

Mr. Blum agreed with Mr. MacMichael

that it was not the job of the CIA to define the threat.


it was the job of the intelligence community to advise of the threats.

The objective reality was that

the intelligence community was not telling the truth about the real threats to the nation,


was advancing the careers of its members

by providing what the policy-makers wanted ideologically.
Question by Ambassador William DePree
Ambassador DePree

asked about the CIA's blocking of prosecution to protect its operatives from drug charges.

He wanted to know

how much was on the public record of the CIA's actually blocking prosecution.
Professor McCoy said that

there were two phases to the CIA's protection of its assets.


when the CIA had an operational zone, it was closed to investigation by other agencies.

The DEA and other agencies had elaborate investigatory capabilities.

In the CIA's zone, however, assets made heroin with absolute impunity.

For example, the DEA had seventeen agents in Islamabad.

It had an elaborate network.

Yet it was a detective from Oslo,

using basic investigatory techniques, who first tracked the heroin back to Islamabad,

even though the DEA had seventeen agents there.
The DEA set up an office in Honduras in


but it was closed during

during the period of clandestine CIA support of the contras.

Then when the Boland amendment was rescinded in


and the contras fully funded by Congress,

the office was reopened.

outside the zone, this raised the question whether Blandon's operation was protected.

That needed further investigation


it would be unusual,

because the protecting was usually in the zone,

not downstream.
Mr. Kwitny said,

in response to Ambassador DePree's question

about whether the CIA's blocking of investigations was on the public record,

that he had printed it.
Mr. Blum said that

the protection was similar to the way in which the United States had handled

Salvadoran human rights abuses

it had covered them up to advance the anti-guerrilla war.
He noted that

it was policy that CIA agents would sit in in meetings with US criminial prosecutors,

when their assets were involved.
Question by William Root
Mr. Root asked

whether the CIA was a rogue agency that was not disciplined,
or whether there was discipline,

and it was part of the country's foreign policy to contain Communism.
He also said that

he found it troubling that presidents would operate in an unaccountable way.
Mr. Blum considered that the CIA was not a rogue agency at all.

In Iran-contra, the record was clear that

Admiral Poindexter

and the others

were all pushing for it.
He addressed Mr. Root's second question about

how the public could hold the political leadership accountable.

The country's political leaders had found it desirable to operate in secrecy.

Governments liked to operate in secret.
As for the future,

the question before the country was whether it would try to reinstall constitutional governance.

For example,

legally treaties were the law of the land.

He asked how the CIA could legally intervene in another country in violation of a treaty.

He noted that their response to this argument was laughter.

What the nation ended up with was not a government of laws.
Question about militarization of the CIA
A member of the audience noted that

there was a tendency in the CIA to militarize.

The covert operations were military.

The intelligence community involved the army and the other military services.

And the CIA budget came under the Pentagon's.

He asked how this problem should be handled.
Mr. Blum said that

to have military people in intelligence was equivalent to their escaping the chain of command.

It was a situation dangerous to constitutional government.
Mr. Kwitny said that

when Senator Church made his famous remark about the rogue elephant,

all the things he was investigating

the murder of Patrice Lumumba, for example —

had come right out of the Oval Office.

This included the contras.

It was not a rogue agency at all.
Mr. Kwitny also saw a conflict of interest between the military and the CIA.
There was a financial incentive for the military:

the Pentagon budget was influenced by what the CIA had to say about the degree of threat.
Mr. Goodman said that

CIA director Deutch

was moving the CIA closer to the Pentagon than any other director.

The national intelligence estimates had been downgraded.

Most dangerous of all, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency had been put in the Pentagon. That meant that

a policy-making organization was interpreting satellite data important to its budget.

The CIA was supposed to be the honest broker.
Question by Robert H. Johnson, former National Security Council official
Mr. Johnson asked what the country could learn from the intelligence operations of other countries.

How did they deal with the criminalization of clandestine operations?

Were they more cynical, or more effective in handling the problem?
Mr. Blum considered that the other countries were more cynical.

Britain had no constitution + the French were totally cynical.

There was no foreign model for the United States to follow.

To the extent that there was a model, it was the Russians.

The United States patterned itself after them.
Question by Louis Wolf
Mr. Wolf raised the issue of CIA proprietary companies and the huge sums they made.
Mr. Blum said that the intelligence game may have had to be played.

But he asked whether this was necessary at all times.
Returning to Mr. Johnson's question about foreign models,

Mr. Goodman acknowledged that Britain operated without a written constitution.

But it at least clearly separated intelligence from policy agencies.
Comment by Kit Gage, National Committee Against Repressive Legislation
Ms. Gage noted that the FBI was expanding rapidly internationally, using some CIA assets.
Mr. Blum said that there did not exist an international civil society,

even though reality had negated borders.
Question by Sean Cairncross, American University

he asked the panel whether it agreed that some secrecy was still necessary.

He asked how much publicity could be allowed without destroying intelligence capabilities.

what reforms did the panel propose?
Mr. Blum considered that these would be good questions for the Senate Intelligence Committee.
On the question of reforms,

a member of the audience recalled that

when he was at the CIA and a question of criminal activity arose,

he had said that he wanted to call the FBI.

He was shut down for saying that.

He asked what the statutory chart was of the CIA's authority.
Mr. Blum agreed that that was essential.
On the question of the statutory chart, Mr. Goodman recalled that

the National Security Act of


creating the CIA

said nothing about covert
Question by Ambassador Robert E. White
Ambassador White said that as he listened to Professor McCoy and Mr. Kwitny,
they were talking about paramilitary operations, not covert action.

With the


end of the Cold War,

the paramilitary operations would diminish.

Would the CIA link with drugs therefore also diminish?
Professor McCoy said he believed it would.

The complicity of the CIA in the global drug trade arose from a series of alliances of the Cold War. That was less likely now.

The whole debate about drug-running and CIA complicity was about history.

The question was nevertheless a sensitive one for the war against drugs.
If it turned out,

from an examination of that history,

that a substantial amount of drug imports were encouraged by these operations,

that raised big questions of money liability.

It raised the question of

whether there should not be an amnesty for all those caught using narcotics

on the ground of entrapment.
Question by Ralph McGehee
Mr. McGehee said, commenting on Ambassador White's question, that

there was no evidence of a diminution of paramilitary operations.

They were going on

in Iraq and Sudan,

for example.
Mr. Goodman said that

he also did not share Professor McCoy's optimism
regarding the abatement of the problem with the end of the Cold War.

The director of the CIA thought that covert action was a unique tool.

The budget of the CIA was increasing.

The agency was looking for a justification.
Question by Robert Dreyfuss
Mr. Dreyfuss referred to the record of the CIA's involvement in drug operations.

There was operation in Marseilles in the



there had been an operation in Sicily.
He noted that

much of the convervative press in the


referred to the Cuban government as engaged in drug-trafficking.

Was there any evidence of that?

Or was that a CIA covert operation itself?

A general was executed by the Cuban government.
Mr. Blum considered that

the parallels between what happened with Cuban and US intelligence operations were striking.

The Cubans wanted to get around the U.S. blockade.

That sent them to Panama and


got them into the drug trade.
Question by James Morrell, Center for International Policy
Mr. Morrell said that

the rebuttals of the San Jose Mercury's story

that appeared in the

New York Times and Washington Post

stressed that

the Meneses-Blandon drug activities were only a drop in the bucket in the total U.S. drug market,


the story said that Blandon started the whole crack epidemic.

In some other respects, the Times and Post reviews corroborated the Mercury series,

but that on the question of volume the two newspapers found great fault with the story.

That appeared to be their major objection to it.
He asked the panelists to comment.
Mr. Blum said that

Blandon and Meneses were not the principal movers.
Ballasteros in Mexico was much bigger.

There were many others involved,
including the Haitian generals.
Professor McCoy said that

the San Jose Mercury had overemphasized the "Johnny Appleseed" angle,

maintaining that Blandon had spread the crack epidemic to Los Angeles,

and that sparked the national debate over the question.

In that respect, the rebuttal that appeared in the other newspapers was important and valid.

if one stepped back and asks,

Did CIA assets supply significant amounts of drugs to the black community,

the answer was yes.
Mr. Page noted that the San Jose Mercury had been contrite.
A member of the audience,

formerly a CIA and State Department official, said that

the nation certainly needed a CIA.

It could be called something else, but an intelligence capability was needed.

It did not need a Murder, Inc.

It did not need involvement with druggies.

It needed a government agency that worked on the basis of a charter.
Although the Washington Post had been critical of the Mercury's articles,

the Washington Post's ombudsman,

Geneva Overholser,

had written

ten days ago

that the Mercury series provoked a debate and applied an important corrective.
Mr. Page noted that the First Amendment was sometimes messy, but it got results.
Mr. Blum said that

as a result of the Mercury series,

there was a constituency in the United States

that saw that what went on overseas affected them.

That might help undo the immunity of foreign policy from domestic criticism.
Index of participants
Blum 1, 13, 14, 17- 22
DePree 17
Dreyfuss 21
Gage 20
Goodman 1, 14, 19- 21
Johnson 19
Kwitny 1, 11- 13, 17- 20
MacMichael 16, 17
McCoy 1, 11, 14, 17, 18, 20, 21
Morrell 21
Page 1, 2, 14- 16, 22
Root 13, 18
White 5, 6, 20
Wolf 19
Aloha, He'Ping,
Om, Shalom, Salaam.
Em Hotep, Peace Be,
All My Relations.
Omnia Bona Bonis,
Adieu, Adios, Aloha.
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