CIA on Defensive Over Drug Peddling Charges

The Anarchives (tao@lglobal.com)
Thu, 19 Sep 1996 22:43:22 +0000 (GMT)


CIA on Defensive Over Drug Peddling Charges

WASHINGTON (Reuter) - The CIA has been thrown on the defensive by
charges that it helped flood U.S. ghettos with cocaine
to finance rebels fighting Nicaragua's Marxist government in the 1980s.

CIA Director John Deutch, under pressure from the Congressional Black
Caucus and a wide range of others, has ordered an
internal probe of the charges, which appeared in a three-part series
last month in the San Jose Mercury News.

``Although I believe there is no substance to the allegations in the
Mercury News, I do wish to dispel any lingering public doubt
on the subject,'' Deutch wrote to the heads of the congressional
intelligence oversight committees and two members of the
California delegation on Sept. 4.

He said he had asked the CIA's inhouse watchdog, Inspector General
Frederick Hitz, to finish within 60 days a review of ''all
the allegations concerning the agency published by the newspaper.''

And what a set of allegations it is.

Rep. Cynthia McKinney, a Georgia Democrat, lashed out Wednesday on the
House floor at what she called the ``Central
Intoxication Agency,'' calling the drug allegations a ``cloud of
shame.''

In its series titled ``Dark Alliance,'' the Mercury News detailed a
scheme that allegedly funneled tons of cocaine to black Los
Angeles neighborhoods and returned millions in drug profits to a
CIA-funded guerrilla army in Nicaragua.

``It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union
of a U.S.-backed army attempting to overthrow a
revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting 'gangstas' of
Compton and South-Central Los Angeles,'' the paper said.

The series traced the U.S. crack cocaine epidemic to two Nicaraguan drug
dealers, Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses, who
were civilian leaders of the CIA-backed FDN, the largest Nicaraguan
``Contra'' group fighting to overthrow the leftist
Sandinista government.

Citing newly declassified material, court testimony and interviews, the
paper alleged the pair had been recruited by the CIA to
raise money for the Contras and turned to drug-running with at least
tacit spy agency approval.

In his letter to members of Congress, Deutch said the CIA had ``never
had any relationship with either Blandon or Meneses.''
Nor, contrary to the newspaper report, had it sought to have information
regarding either of them withheld at the recent trial of a
convicted Los Angeles drug dealer, he said.

The internal CIA investigation under way seems unlikely to satisfy many
prominent blacks and others who want an independent
probe. On Saturday, the White House drug control policy director,
retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, joined those calling for
a ``full and thorough investigation.''

Asked if the CIA would welcome an outside probe, spokesman Mark
Mansfield declined to answer directly but said: ``We will
cooperate fully with any review of this matter.''

An investigator who looked into Contra drug trafficking for a Senate
panel in the late 1980s said he concluded that individual
CIA officers in the field knew of the trafficking but the information
was not passed up their chain of command.

``To say that the CIA was moving crack cocaine into California is, I
think, clearly wrong,'' said the former Senate aide, who
spoke on condition that he not be named. But he said it was ``absolutely
true'' that cocaine traffickers of the period had sought
to buy ``good will'' in their shadowy netherworld by funding Contra
guerrillas.