21st Century Wire
The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been accused of involvement in drug trafficking. Books and investigations on the subject that have received general notice include works by the historian Alfred McCoy, professor Dale Scott, journalists Gary Webb and Alexander Cockburn, and writer Larry Collins. These claims have led to investigations by the United States government, including hearings and reports by the United States House of Representatives, Senate, Department of Justice, and the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General. U.S. Government Officials admitted in 1990 the supposed Anti-Drug Unit at the CIA “accidentally” shipped a ton of cocaine into the US from Venezuela as part of an effort to infiltrate and gather evidence on drug gangs. The cocaine was then sold on the streets of America. As expected, no criminal charges were brought, although CIA officer Mark McFarlin resigned and one officer was disciplined. The CIA issued a statement on the incident saying there was “poor judgment and management on the part of several CIA officers”. We are meant to believe that it all ends there. But this story is much bigger and more wide-ranging than even the issue of drugs on the streets on America and the targeting of black communities with the new deadly drug known as crack.
According to a PBS Frontline investigation, DEA field agent Hector Berrellez said, “I believe that elements working for the CIA were involved in bringing drugs into the country.”
“I know specifically that some of the CIA contract workers, meaning some of the pilots, in fact were bringing drugs into the U.S. and landing some of these drugs in government air bases. And I know so because I was told by some of these pilots that in fact they had done that,” he added.
The impact on poor communities in large cities like Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Chicago and others was nothing short of devastating.
Interestingly, the CIA’s criminal operation plot also tracks back to Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport where narcotics, weapons, and ammunition were smuggled in both directions – with weapons to the Contras in Nicaragua, and drugs back into the United States. This connects these events directly to Oliver North and former US President Bill Clinton. The recent Hollywood film depiction of some of these events, American Made, is a dramatization of the story of Barry Seal, a pilot working for both Medellín Cartel and US intelligence, who ran his operations out of Mena, Arkansas.
According to the Kerry Committee report, “it is clear that individuals who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the Contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers.”
In 1996, Gary Webb wrote a series of articles which appeared in the San Jose Mercury News, investigating a number of aspects of this illicit trade, including Nicaraguans linked to the CIA-backed Contras who had smuggled cocaine into the U.S. which was then distributed as crack cocaine into Los Angeles and funnelled profits to the Contras. His articles exposed how the CIA helped facilitate cocaine transactions and the large shipments of drugs into the U.S. by the Contra personnel, and how the US intelligence agency directly aided drug dealers to raise funds for the Contras. Webb went on to publish a book based on his article series, Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, which was later made into a film in 2014 called Kill the Messenger.
In 1989, the United States invaded Panama as part of Operation Just Cause, which involved 25,000 American troops. General Manuel Noriega, who ruled Panama at the time (and who was later outed as a CIA informant), had been giving military assistance to Contra terrorist groups in Nicaragua – ordered by the US, which, in exchange, allowed him to continue his own drug-trafficking activities and money laundering which US authorities were fully aware of since the 1960s.