Host: I’ve heard whispers
Host: I've heard whispers about the financial support
your government receives from the drug industry.
Guest: Well, the irony of this, of course, is that
this money, which is in the billions, is coming from
your country. You see, you are the major purchaser of
our national product, which is of course cocaina, cocaine.
Host: On one hand, you're saying the United States
government is spending millions of dollars to
eliminate the flow of drugs onto our streets. At the
same time, we are doing business with the very same
government that is flooding our streets with cocaine.
Guest: Mmm-hmm, si, si. Let me show you a few other
characters that are involved in this tragic comedy.
There has been tons of controversy stirred about with regards to the involvement of the United States Central Intelligence Agency during the Reagan Administration in cocaine trafficking in Central America - using the Contra War in Nicaragua as its drug and money-laundering front.
It all began when U.S. government officials were flooded with reports of Contra cocaine trafficking. This was before there was a direct link to the CIA, therefore three officials reported to journalists that the sources and reports of this drug trafficking was “reliable.”
The first sign of faulty play was when Dr. Hugo Spadafora, former Panamanian deputy health minister and guerrilla fighter in Guinea-Bissau in Nicaragua was disgusted with the rise of Manuel Noriega, an avid protector of drug trafficking, as dictator of Panama. This provoked Spadafora to provide an in depth outline of cocaine trafficking to Noriega. Because of this detailed outline in September 1985, Spadafora was detained and tortured by Noriega’s forces when entering Panama from Costa Rica. His body was later found mashed up in a post office bag - decapitated. Nicolas Ardito Barletta, who was the Panamanian President at the time attempt to investigate the murder but before any investigation could ensue, Noriega made Barletta resign which heightened everyone’s suspicion that Spadafora’s beheading was of Noriega’s doing. However, Spadafora’s death was not in vein, as he began the unravelling of various political heads involvement in cross-national drug trafficking.
Sebastian Gonzalez Mendiola, another Contra leader,
“told U.S. authorities that his group was being paid $50,000 by Columbian traffickers for help with a 100-kilo cocaine shipment and that the money would go ‘for the cause’ of fighting the Nicaraguan government.”The National Intelligence Estimate of 1985 was responsible for uncovering the involvement of Contra leader Eden Pastora. Pastora felt that these charges were invalid and unsubstantiated, he claimed, “two political figures in Washington told him last week that State Department and CIA personnel were spreading the rumor that he is linked to drug trafficking in order to isolate his movement.” Somehow, all the pieces were not adding up. The reports of various officials and Contra leaders were not corroborating and this lead to a sort of tattle-telling warfare.
In the contents of an Associated Press article from December 20, 1985 was an outline of the drug charges after an substantial investigation which had interviews with “officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Custom Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Costa Rica’s Public Security Ministry, as well as rebels and Americans who work with them.” These charges outlined by the Associated Press were further authenticated when five American Contra supporters noted that
“two Cuban-Americans used armed rebel troops to guard cocaine at clandestine airfields in northern Costa Rica. They identified the Cuban-Americans as members of the 2506 Brigade, an anti-Castro group that participated in the 1961 Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba. Several also said they supplied information about the smuggling to U.S. investigators.”The Associated Press quoted one of the American Contra supporters as saying that
“in one ongoing operation, the cocaine is unloaded from planes at rebel airstrips and taken to an Atlantic coast port where it is concealed on shrimp boats that are later unloaded in the Miami area.”It was this quote that began arousing speculation from the populace of America of their own government’s involvement with the Contra cocaine smuggling, because people wondered how could their government be aware of these operations and do nothing to seize these illegal drugs.
After the bold reporting that came from the Associated Press, other papers followed suit in exposing America’s involvement with the widespread trafficking of cocaine. For instance, the San Francisco Examiner published a report on March 16, 1986 on the seizure of 430 pounds of cocaine from a Colombian freighter in San Francisco 1983. This report drew a direct link between the San Francisco Bay area cocaine ring and the financing of Nicaragua’s Contra rebels. Julio Zavala, convicted on trafficking charges, said that he gave $500,000 to two Contra groups based in Costa Rica - and that the primary source of this money was from cocaine trafficking in the San Francisco Bay area, Miami, and New Orleans. Carlos Cabezas, also convicted of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, said that the monetary gains that he saw from his drug trade belonged to the Contra revolution. In an interview with the Examiner he was quoted as saying, “I just wanted to get the Communists out of my country.”
David MacMichael, a former CIA agent, blatantly elucidated the immanent relationship between CIA activity in South America and drug trafficking:
“Once you set up a covert operation to supply arms and money, it’s very difficult to separate it from the kind of people who are involved in other forms of trade, and especially drugs. There is a limited number of planes, pilots and landing strips. By developing a system for supply of the Contras, the U.S. built a road for drug supply into the U.S.”
The Reagan Administration constantly attempted to separate themselves from the Contra-cocaine connections, but as time passed, the relationship became more and more apparent, and the administration had no other choice but to admit a slight connection. The Reagan Administration, on April 17, 1986, offered a report to the public that admitted that there were some Contra-cocaine connections in 1984 and 1985, but in an attempt to save-face said that the connections happened only at a time when the rebels were “particularly hard pressed for financial support” due to the aid of the U.S. being cut off. By saying this, the U.S. government was admitting to the foul play of foreign nations but also clearing their name from any possible association with the drug trade - the only involvement they claimed to have was the removal of financial support to these “hard pressed” rebel groups. An example of the type of admissions the report made is as follows:
“We have evidence of a limited number of incidents in which known drug traffickers have tried to establish connections with Nicaraguan resistance groups.”The report claimed that all of the players in the drug trade undermined the resistance leaders, and did it without their knowing.
After this report was released by the Reagan Administration, Senator John Kerry and Senator Christopher Dodd proposed a series of hearings in 1986 at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with regards to the links between Contras and drug trafficking. On April 13, 1989 the Kerry committee released the report saying that
“Contra drug links included...payments to drug traffickers by the U.S. State Department of funds authorized by the Congress for humanitarian assistance to the Contras, in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges, in others while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies. The U.S. State Department paid over $806,000 to known drug traffickers to carry humanitarian assistance to the Contras.”This investigation provided conclusive and direct evidence of the U.S.’s involvement in the drug trade - and many asked the question, “what is to be done next?”
Gary Webb was a journalist for the San Jose Mercury News and gained the most notoriety from his famous series of articles named the “Dark Alliance” which he later made into a book. Webb blamed the U.S. government for the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s in Los Angeles. Webb investigated Nicaraguans linked to the CIA-backed Contras and highlighted the CIA’s involvement and knowledge of the drug trade, and how they turned a blind-eye to all of the drug trafficking in order to raise money for the Contras. The reporting done by Webb reached millions of Americans and provided substantial evidence for direct connections between the CIA and cocaine trafficking - and this stirred an immense amount of controversy amongst the public. The Columbia Journalism review was quoted as saying that the series became the “most talked-about piece of journalism in 1996 and arguably the most famous -- some would say infamous - set of articles of the decade.”
Webb was able to get his hands on a 450-page declassified version of an October 1988 report by CIA Insepctor General Frederick Hitz through the Freedom of Information Act. Webb used this report as a means to demonstrate that Oliver North, and other White House officials, not only were aware of and supported the use of drug trafficking money as a means to fund the contras, but they also did not give any of this information to the DEA. Senator John Kerry was quoted as saying
“serious questions as to whether or not U.S. officials involved in Central America failed to address the drug issue for fear of jeopardizing the war effort against Nicaragua.”
After the “Dark Alliance” series garnered so much attention, there were numerous reports in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times that attempted to show fault in the link drawn by Gary Webb between the Contras and the crack epidemic. Richard Thieme, in an op-ed piece said that the reports of the various news outlets were more focused on discrediting Webb as a person, and attacked irrelevant parts of the story, thusly leaving Webb’s main thesis undefiled.
However, the Mercury News turned its back on Webb and reassigned him to a suburban bureau 150 miles from his home - obviously knowing that he would not be able to make the commute without uprooting his family. Webb was forced to resign and that marked the decimation of his career as a journalist as a whole.
Webb felt that heat that came upon him was a direct result of “media manipulation.” Webb felt as if the government used story-hungry reporters from major newspapers as a means to make it seem like it was coming from an unbiased newspaper and not from the “mouthpiece of the CIA.”
In the book Into The Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press Webb stated,
“If we had met five years ago, you wouldn't have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me ... I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests. So how could I possibly agree with people like Noam Chomsky and Ben Bagdikian, who were claiming the system didn't work, that it was steered by powerful special interests and corporations, and existed to protect the power elite? And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job ... The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything important enough to suppress...”One can easily see the disappointment and mistrust of the system he had once been associated with. Webb was found dead from two “self-inflicted” gunshot wounds to the head on December 10, 2004.
Due to Gary Webb’s reports the CIA investigated a published report, by former DEA agent Celerino Castillo, about their alleged involvement in cocaine sales in the U.S. CIA director, John Deutch, assigned CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz to investigate the numerous allegations. Doesn’t that seem weird to anyone else? How can the CIA investigate itself? I would like to know when in any court of law has the alleged criminal been provided with the luxury of investigating himself/herself. Surprise, surprise Hitz found “no direct or indirect” links between cocaine traffickers and the CIA and stated that:
Volume II... will be devoted to a detailed treatment of what was known to CIA regarding dozens of people and a number of companies connected in some fashion to the Contra program or the Contra movement that were the subject of any sort of drug trafficking allegations. Each is closely examined in terms of their relationship with CIA, the drug trafficking activity that was alleged, the actions CIA took in response to the allegations, and the extent of information concerning the allegations that was Shared with U.S. law enforcement and Congress.
As I said earlier, we have found no evidence in the course of this lengthy investigation of any conspiracy by CIA or its employees to bring drugs into the United States. However, during the Contra era, CIA worked with a variety of people to support the Contra program. These included CIA assets, pilots who ferried supplies to the Contras, as well as Contra officials and others. Let me be frank about what we are finding. There are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity or take action to resolve the allegations.”
Does it make any sense to give a child a piece of chocolate, and then reprimand him for being in the possession of candy? No, it doesn’t - so then why is America so ready to fight the “War on Drugs?” Is it because Nancy Reagan is trying to make up for all the bullshit that went on during her husband’s presidency? I don’t know, just a thought, you be the judge.