Congressional Black Caucus demands probe of CIA drug smuggling. (fwd)

marta rodriguez (rmarta@world.std.com)
Wed, 25 Sep 1996 09:31:29 -0400 (EDT)


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 23:42:43 GMT
From: Duane Roberts <duane@rigel.oac.uci.edu>
Newsgroups: wstd.mail.peacenet
Subject: Congressional Black Caucus demands probe of CIA drug smuggling.

From the Friday, September 13, 1996 issue of *The San Jose Mercury News*

CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS DEMANDS INVESTIGATION

More than 1,500 blacks attend meeting

BY VANESSA GALLMAN and LEWIS KAMB
Mercury News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- At an angry
meeting that drew an audience of
more than 1,500, members of the
Congressional Black Caucus
Thursday called for an
investigation into Central
Intelligence Agency connections to
a San Francisco Bay Area drug
ring that helped touch off the
''crack'' cocaine epidemic of the
1980s.

The revelations were raised in the
Mercury News' three-part series
last month, ''Dark Alliance,''
which detailed how a drug ring
based on the Peninsula sold tons
of cocaine to the street gangs of
South-Central Los Angeles and
funneled millions in drug profits to
a CIA-run guerrilla army. The
series traced the crack cocaine
explosion to two Nicaraguan
cocaine dealers, Danilo Blandon
and Norwin Meneses, who were
civilian leaders of the Frente
Democratica Nicaraguense (FDN),
an anti-communist commando
group formed and run by the CIA
during the 1980s.

The director of the Central
Intelligence Agency, John Deutch,
has ordered the agency's inspector
general to look into the allegations,
but also has said he does not
believe they are true.

On Thursday, however, more than
1,500 blacks attended a hastily
called meeting here to say they do
believe it.

Encouraged in recent weeks by
black radio talk-show hosts,
community activists and local
elected officials, they met to start
planning street protests and
legislative action. Also on
Thursday, the president of the
NAACP, Kweisi Mfume, called
for an congressional investigation.

In a campaign season in which
''the drug war'' has become
political fodder, the controversy
could provide momentum for
those opposed to the sentencing
disparity for crimes involving
crack and powdered cocaine,
which has resulted in high rates of
black incarceration.

Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters,
who represents the Los Angeles
area in Congress, praised the
crowd ''for having the audacity to
be outraged. ... that the
government put drugs in our
communities.'' She convened the
meeting, held during the annual
gathering of the Congressional
Black Caucus.

The Mercury News' series
reported that Danilo Blandon, a
former Nicaraguan government
official, was the conduit for
thousands of kilos of cocaine that
flowed to the Los Angeles street
gangs between 1982 and 1986.

Blandon, who pleaded guilty to
cocaine trafficking charges in 1992
and went to work for the Drug
Enforcement Administration as an
informant, recently testified in
federal court that he sold the
cocaine in the city's black
neighborhoods as a way to raise
money for the guerrilla army
seeking to overthrow a
revolutionary socialist
government.

His biggest customer was a drug
kingpin, Rick ''Freeway'' Ross,
who turned the drugs into crack, a
cheaper, smokable form of
cocaine. Ross is now in jail, set up
by Blandon in a 1994 drug bust.

The reporting reinforces
conspiracy theories deeply held by
some blacks, going back to
rumors that the government used
heroin to weaken the Black
Panther Party, a black nationalist
group popular in the 1960s.

Such theories have gained
momentum in recent years as
prisons have increasingly filled
with black street dealers and
addicts.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson put it this
way at a breakfast meeting of
reporters: ''Just because I'm
paranoid doesn't mean no one is
after me.''

Yet some political leaders are
clearly hoping to turn the
controversy to their advantage to
fight the sentencing disparity on
cocaine charges.

Currently it takes possession of
500 grams of powdered cocaine --
a $7,500 value -- to qualify for a
five-year federal sentence. It takes
5 grams of crack cocaine, worth
$750, to get the same penalty.

''That is not fair. They are the
same drug. So they should be
treated the same way,'' Phyllis
Newton, staff director of the U.S.
Sentencing Commission, told the
crowd.

The commission, appointed by
President Clinton, sought to
equalize the penalties last fall.
Despite endorsement from the
attorney general and his drug
adviser, Clinton rejected the
recommendation. Another
commission report on the issue is
expected in the spring.

Members of Congress -- Sen.
Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen.
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and
Waters have all called for
congressional hearings in the last
few weeks. Some Bay Area
lawmakers have added their voices
to the chorus, including Rep. Tom
Campbell, R-Campbell, and Rep.
Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.

In a letter asking Comptroller
General Charles Bowsher to
investigate, Campbell said he was
concerned that federal money may
have been misused ''to traffic
drugs in California.''

Lofgren wrote to U.S. Attorney
General Janet Reno and asked for
the appointment of an independent
counsel, saying she had ''some
reservations about potential
conflicts of interest that could arise
in an investigation by the
Department of Justice'' and asked
Reno to request the appointment of
an independent counsel.

Such investigations were made
into Watergate, the Iran-Contra
scandal and, most recently, the
Whitewater investigation.

Deutch, in a letter responding to a
call for investigation, said a 1988
CIA study presented to intelligence
committees already concluded the
CIA ''neither participated in nor
condoned drug trafficking by
Contra forces.''

But Eric E. Sterling, a Judiciary
Committee staffer who oversaw
drug policy during that period,
said congressional staff never had
the time or resources to fully
investigate leads on drug
trafficking. ''That was a clear lack
of interest on the part of the
congressional leaders,'' said
Sterling, head of a drug-policy
think tank.

Too many people think the
Mercury News stories are ''old
news'' because of the Iran-Contra
hearings, said John Newman, a
University of Maryland professor
active in pushing for public access
to government records.

But the controversy may finally
open up the details of what he said
was the greater tragedy of
''cocaine-Contra.''

''In our goal to win the Cold War,
we lost sight of a more worthy
goal -- peace at home,'' he told the
crowd. ''Our zeal made us as
ruthless as the enemy we fought.''

Mercury News Staff Writer Gary
Webb contributed to this report.