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For the past decade and a half, the US government has sponsored the ?War on

Drugs.? This has been a massive law enforcement effort aimed at stamping out the flow

and use of illegal narcotics. The main focus of this effort has been aimed at a relatively

new, yet extremely potent drug – crack. However, this massive crackdown is much more

than a simple effort aimed at protecting US citizens. Rather, it is instead a case of the

federal government?s trying to undo its own massive blunder. For much of the 1980?s the

federal government was involved in the sale and distribution of crack. At the very least,

they simply turned a blind eye towards the problem. At the worst – and what is the most

likely possibility – the government condoned and facilitated the crack trade in the United

States. All of it was done through the CIA and was meant as a quick source of funding to

overthrow a hostile regime in Nicaragua. Yet, there was no care given for the long term

consequences. In what is perhaps the worst example of racial discrimination taken by

our government in decades, they aimed this effort primarily at the black communities of

America. In financing this ?little war,? our government created a monster which it now

has no way to control.

The history of our government – specifically the CIA – in the drug trade is

astounding. The CIA?s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), helped forge

the original drug ties for our government. Created during World War II, the OSS often

worked closely with Mafia heroin dealers in order to gain the US army access to the

mainland of Italy so they could wage an attack (Parry; ?CIA, Drugs & the National

Press?). After its creation in 1947, the CIA kept this connection alive. This first started

when the CIA formed an alliance with Corsican drug gangs in order to fight Communists

at Marseilles. As a result of this, the Corsican drug lords became the main suppliers of

the US heroin trade for two decades (?Time to Abolish the CIA?). Despite our early

alliance with the Corsicans, Uncle Sam had bigger plans. US police waged a massive

crackdown on the Corsican drug lords to free up the heroin market (CIA: Things Go

Better With ? Pepsi!). By the early 1960?s, as communist influence continued to expand

in Southeast Asia, the CIA went operational in producing heroin. When the French lost

French-Indochina in the 1950?s the CIA managed to inherit its drug trade. In order to

fight strong Chinese nationalism, the CIA turned Burma and Laos into one of the world?s

largest opium producers (?Time to Abolish the CIA?). They used US government-owned

aircraft to fly this heroin to market (Parry, ?CIA, Drugs & the National Press?). This

operation continued into the Vietnam War and, as a result, some 30,000 US servicemen

became heroin addicts. By the early 1970?s over seventy percent of the heroin entering

the United States came from areas controlled by CIA mercenaries (?Time to Abolish the


After the loss of Vietnam, the CIA?s drug trade cooled down. At the same time

though, there was a major international affair heating up. In Nicaragua, communism was

taking hold. Backed by Fidel Castro, a regime of communists known as the Sandinistas

had overthrown the Somozas, who had the backing of the United States (Overbeck,

ParaScope). Soon, a flood of semi-capitalist immigrants began flowing to the United

States to avoid persecution. Among these refugees were some of Central America?s

largest cocaine dealers, particularly Norwin Meneses and Danilo Blandon (Overbeck,

ParaScope). Seeing this large communist ?threat? to the United States, the CIA began to

forge some political ties with these refugees in order to plan an overthrow of the

Sandinista government. However, due to conflicts with the Carter administration, the

CIA was prohibited from beginning the revolution. However, when Ronald Reagan came

to power, he had a very different outlook on the situation. Reagan viewed the Sandinista

regime as a major threat ? the possibility of another Fidel Castro ? and he granted the

CIA permission to deal with this problem (Overbeck, ParaScope). He authorized the CIA

$19 million to cover the expenses, although this amount was ?officially acknowledged as

insufficient? (Michels, ?CIA Corruption?). This funding was authorized under the

Boland amendments, which were supposed to actually serve to restrict covert military

operations through the will of the people. Instead, it only encouraged the worst from the

CIA. In order to gain funds, which Congress could not provide under these amendments,

it allowed the CIA to bypass Congress completely to gain funds ? in most cases, by

means of selling drugs (Castillo, Case File: CIA and Drugs).

The CIA quickly set up a provisional revolutionary army in 1981 that came to be

known as ARDEN. The CIA knew from the start that members of ARDEN were

stooping ?to criminal activities to feed and clothe their cadre,? but they did not care

(Parry, ?CIA?s Drug Confession?). It quickly became apparent that ARDEN and the $19

million would not be nearly enough money to oust the Sandinista regime. The CIA

combined ARDEN with several other small revolutionary groups to form a revolutionary

army which became known as the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, or FDN (National

Catholic Reporter). To address the lack of funds, the CIA raised money in the way to

which it had become accustomed – selling drugs. So, the CIA instructed its top FDN

agent, Enrique Bermudez, to deal with this problem. Bermudez met with Blandon and

Menses, the Nicaraguan refugees, in Honduras. Bermudez told them that the FDN

needed money, and that he wanted them to raise it. He said to use whatever means

necessary because the ?ends justified the means? (Overbeck, ParaScope). Since he was

dealing with two powerful drug lords, it was implied that the funds would be raised

through drug sales.

Even the CIA knew of the connection. It sent internal cables throughout much of

the revolution referring to him as a ?drug kingpin? (Honey, ?Don?t Ask, Don?t Tell?). In

1982, the year the FDN really started gaining power and the drug running was taking off,

the CIA and the Department of Justice worked out an agreement ? known as a

Memorandum of Understanding – which gave the CIA the blessing to ignore drug

trafficking by anyone who was an ?agent, asset or non-staff employee of the CIA?

(Honey, ?Don?t Ask, Don?t Tell?). This essentially gave the CIA free rein to run its drug


Blandon had been given the California drug market at his meeting with

Bermudez, so in late 1982, he began funneling cocaine into the United States. However,

Blandon had no real street connections to sell the cocaine to. To alleviate this problem,

he began doing business with a high school dropout by the name of Ricky Ross. Ross had

done some small-time drug pushing before, but Blandon gave him a virtually unlimited

opportunity to expand that business. There was a small problem though. Blandon

provided only cocaine, which at $5,200 per ounce was mainly the drug for the Hollywood

elite (Michels, ?CIA Corruption?). Ross associated mainly with lower class

African-Americans. So, Blandon came up with an ingenious plan. He showed Ross how

to cook up a new form of cocaine on the stove which added impurities to the cocaine but

made it more addictive (McCoy, ?Drug Fallout?). Ross called this new invention ?Ready

Rock? and it sold for about twenty dollars a hit (Michels, ?CIA Corruption?). Ross

began to wholesale this ?Ready Rock? – which soon became known as crack ? to a

couple of local gangs known as the Bloods and the Crips (Overbeck, ParaScope). A crack

epidemic was soon born, and it spread like wildfire. With Blandon?s constant supply of

cheap cocaine, Ross was able to sell his crack to gangs at bargain basement prices. By

1984, Ross was selling 500,000 crack nuggets daily (Muhammad, ?A Pawn in the CIA

Drug Game?). Soon, he expanded his market to areas all over the United States. All the

while, he was unknowingly funneling profits back to Blandon who used them to help

finance the FDN (National Catholic Reporter).

Eventually though, Blandon began to get nervous. Funneling millions of dollars

worth of cash, drugs, and arms into and out of the United States was a very risky

business. So, he and Menses, who was now his Colombian supplier, quit supplying

cocaine in 1985. This left the FDN without any major source of funding. So, the

operation was indirectly handed over to Oliver North, who was the National Security

Council?s point man (Bernstein and Knight, Pacific News Service). Although North did

not directly sell the cocaine, at the very least, he turned a blind eye towards its

continuance. He allowed for the use of CIA-owned planes to transport the cocaine

(Parry, ?The Kerry-Weld Cocaine War?). His own journal even documents these events.

One entry, dated August 5, 1985, reports, ?Without the Honduran army, there would have

been no Contras. $14 million [to finance arms] came from drugs? (Ruppert, ?Iran-Contra

Era?). Shortly after, on August 9, 1985, he wrote, ?Honduran DC-6 which is being used

out of New Orleans is probably being used for drug runs into the US? (?The Contras,

Cocaine, and Covert Operations?). The CIA knew that its operatives were selling drugs

to fund the FDN and condoned this action by looking the other way.

Despite going well at first, these covert drug operations didn?t go unnoticed for

long. People began to notice that the crack epidemic was primarily striking black

communities. Since traditional drug epidemics strike all races and all economic classes,

the only explainable reason for this phenomenon was because the supply was only going

into black communities (Overbeck, ParaScope). This was soon picked up by the media

which further investigated it. The story was finally broken by two reporters, Robert Parry

and Brian Barger, in late 1985. This first link did not imply that the CIA was directly

involved, only that several contra groups were engaging in ?cocaine trafficking, in part to

help finance their war in Nicaragua? (Kornbluh, Columbia Journalism Review).

Nevertheless, this kind of negative exposure had the CIA and the Reagan administration

on the defensive. Rather than simply stopping these atrocities though, the Reagan

administration took an approach which it found more appealing. Through use of such

groups as Accuracy in the Media, the Reagan administration arranged to strongly criticize

and threaten the reputation of any journalist who spoke out against the Nicaraguan

guerillas. (Parry, ?CIA, Drugs & the National Press?). To further this effort, Reagan

introduced a measure which came to be known as ?public diplomacy? that had a primary

effort of ?perception management? for issues which might have been sensitive to the

CIA. (Parry, ?CIA, Drugs & the National Press?). These actions amounted to the

Reagan administration?s manipulating the media in order to prevent any negative


The small amount of negative media that was generated was enough to arouse

Congressional suspicions. The main flash point was an incident which came to be known

as the Frogman Case. In 1983, several swimmers in wetsuits were caught smuggling 430

pounds of cocaine ashore in San Francisco. The swimmers were arrested, and any

confession made by them could have created a very embarrassing situation for the CIA.

Claiming that the money they were found to possess belonged to the Nicaraguan Contras,

the CIA arranged for their release and the return of $36,000 (Parry, ?Contra-Cocaine:

Bad to Worse?). This arrangement was done in secret to avoid any negative publicity.

However, the story was uncovered by the San Francisco Examiner in March of 1986

(Parry, ?Contra-Cocaine: Bad to Worse?). Senator John Kerry picked up on this and had

Congress establish the Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism and International

Operations (National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 2). The main focus

of this committee was to figure out why the US Attorney in San Francisco, Joseph

Russoniello, had returned the money (Webb, San Jose Mercury News). This

investigation led them on the trail of the Contra drug operation. With the threat of

exposure, the CIA, Department of Justice, and Reagan administration collaborated to

form a massive stonewall. This effort was fronted by the Justice Department?s Criminal

Division chief, William Weld. (Parry, ?Kerry-Weld Cocaine War?). When Kerry and

other Senators began asking for information, their requests were either ignored or denied

by the Justice Department on national security grounds. Jack Blum, who was the

committee?s chief counsel, recalls this investigation as being ?one of the most frustrating

exercises? that he could ever recall because ?the Justice Department flipped out to

prevent them from getting access to… anything? (Webb, San Jose Mercury News). The

investigation continued for almost two years. The final conclusions of Kerry?s

committee report were that ?our covert agents have converted themselves to channels for

drugs? (Bernstein and Knight, Pacific News Service). But, the Reagan administration

took no action against the CIA to further investigate these allegations. Rather, the CIA

conducted its own investigation – which lasted only 12 days – which found that the CIA

and the Contras had no connection with any drug-related operations.

In many instances, this report is still being cited by the CIA today to absolve itself of any

major drug smuggling charges (Parry, ?Kerry-Weld Cocaine War?).

This cover up continued throughout the rest of the 1980?s. The conspiracy

continued to spread until it started to affect other government agencies. The US Drug

Enforcement Agency as well as the FBI both were forced to cover up for the CIA during

this time. In order to make arrests of crack pushers, the DEA originally worked with

several CIA operatives who were smuggling cocaine into the United States. However, in

short order, the DEA was forced to ignore the massive amount of cocaine that the

Contras were shipping into the US. Ricky Ross was known to have obtained cocaine

from some of these DEA operations (Muhammad, ?A Pawn in the CIA Drug Game?).

Dennis Dayle, who was the chief of an elite DEA unit in Central America, noted in his

journal, ?In my 30 year history in DEA, the major target of my investigation almost

invariably turned out to be working for the CIA? (Ruppert, ?Iran-Contra Era?). Some of

the most startling revelations came from a Central American DEA agent named Celerino

Castillo. He witnessed drugs and arms being loaded onto planes and sent to the United

States, yet he was obligated not to report it because of the Memorandum of

Understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department (Bernstein and Knight,

Pacific News Service). The FBI also used coercion methods to keep reporters and

government officials from digging too deeply into the Contra-cocaine connection. When

CIA drug operatives were arrested in the US, the FBI pulled strings with local

prosecutors to allow for their release (Bernstein and Knight, Pacific News Service).

Ultimately, the CIA and the FDN waged a losing battle against the Sandinista

regime. In 1989, the Contras lost U.S. support, and the government decided that it was

time to finally do something about the crack problem that it had created. The War on

Drugs had been going on for several years, and the black community felt the brunt of it

(Muhammad, ?Lawmakers Demand CIA Drug Probe?). The government had arrested

Ricky Ross in 1988 for pushing crack, but he struck a deal with prosecutors, became a

DEA informant, and got off with a minimal sentence. The police had been after Blandon

since 1986, when they raided several of his suspected crack storage areas, but they

always came away empty. They finally managed to get him convicted in 1992, which

resulted in a two year prison sentence (Webb, San Jose Mercury News). During

Blandon?s trial, the government tried to force him to testify about his drug connections in

Central America, but the CIA got a court order preventing it. Most of his testimony

from that trial is still under lock and key. The only public testimony hinting at CIA

involvement is Blandon?s testimony saying ?we received orders from the ? from other

people? (National Catholic Reporter). Blandon also became a DEA informant, and in

later court testimony which was recently made public said he sold cocaine to ?raise

money for the CIA?s army? (Michels, ?CIA Corruption?). Blandon was also used in a

?reverse sting? to arrest Ricky Ross again. Ross still remains in prison (Webb, San Jose

Mercury News). Norwin Menses, the Colombian drug lord who supplied Blandon with

cocaine, still remains free, despite the fact the US government had numerous

opportunities to arrest him (Webb, San Jose Mercury News).

With all of the strings tied up, the CIA hoped that the Contra-crack connection

would be forgotten. Unfortunately for them, it was not. The story was again exposed in

August of 1996 by San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb (National Security

Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 2). The three part series which Webb produced

caused a massive public outcry, especially among the black communities of Los Angeles.

There was a massive backlash by the mainstream media, who were quick to point out that

Webb?s story was full of holes (Kornbluh, Columbia Journalism Review). By January of

1997, the Mercury News denounced the story and fired Gary Webb (Parry,

?Contra-Cocaine: Bad to Worse?). However, the fire had been ignited. Representative

Maxine Waters continued to pressure the CIA to reveal the Contra-cocaine connection,

but to no avail. Then, on October 8, 1998, the CIA released the results of the longest

internal investigation which it had ever conducted about the contras and cocaine

smuggling. Although the executive summary of the document said the CIA had no

connection to any drugs, the report itself shows otherwise. Among the report?s findings:

[In some cases, CIA] acted to an end a relationship after receiving

drug trafficking allegations or information. In another six cases, CIA

knowledge of allegations or information indicating that organizations or

individuals had been involved in drug trafficking did not deter their

use/employment by CIA. In at least two of those cases, CIA did not act to

verify drug trafficking allegations or information even when it had the

opportunity to do so. (?Errata?)

This report only sparked further outcries by the victims of the crack epidemic.

Most recently, a lawsuit was filed against the CIA on behalf of those Los Angeles

residents who were affected by the crack epidemic (MSNBC). The lawsuit?s aim is to

force the release of classified information about the CIA?s involvement in the cocaine


With its long connection to the drug trade, the CIA has continually worked

against the American people. They knowingly condoned the flow of cocaine into the

United States, and turned a blind eye when they were asked to stop it. They caused an

outbreak of one of the most addictive drugs the world has ever known. They knowingly

targeted American citizens in order to advance their objectives. In the name of protecting

national security, they have only hurt the overall well being of the United States. All

evidence points to the fact that, unless they are stopped now, they will only continue this

practice of channeling drugs onto American soil.

Bernstein, Dennis and Knight, Robert. DEA Agent?s Decade Long Battle to Expose

CIA-Conta-Crack Story. 4 October 1996.


Castillo, Celerino. Case File: CIA and Drugs. 27 April 1998.


?CIA Sued Over Cocaine Epidemic.? MSNBC. 1 March 1999.


CIA: Things Go Better With… Pepsi! http://www.ionet.net/~everett/CIADRUGS.html

?Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations.? National Security Archivwe Electronic

Briefing Book No. 2. 1997.


?Errata.? CIA Website. 8 October 1998.


Honey, Martha. ?Don?t Ask, Don?t Tell.? In These Times. May 1998.


Kornbluh, Peter. Columbia Journalism Review. January/February 1997.


McCoy, Alfred W. ?Drug Fallout.? Progressive. August 1997. pp 24-27 [SIRS].

Michels, Paul. CIA Corruption?? The Collegiate Times. 8 October 1996.


Muhammad, Rosalind. ?A Pawn in the CIA Drug Game.? Final Call. 1996.


Muhammad, Rosalind. ?Lawmakers Demand CIA Drug Probe.? Final Call. 1996.


Overbeck, Charles. ?Transript: Gary Webb Speaks on CIA Connections to Contra Drug

Trafficking (and Related Topics).? ParaScope.


Parry, Robert. ?CIA, Drugs, and the National Press.? The Consortium. 23 December

1996. http://www.consortiumnews.com/archive/crack5.html

Parry, Robert. ?CIA?s Drug Confession.? The Consortium. 15 October 1998


Parry, Robert. ?Contra Cocaine: Bad to Worse.? The Consortium 16 February 1998.


Parry, Robert. ?The Kerry-Weld Cocaine War.? The Consortium 11 November 1996.


?Report Says CIA Dealings Led to US Crack Outbreak.? National Catholic Reporter.

6 September 1996. http://www.mosquitonet.com/~prewett/cokencrsep96.html

Rupert, Michael C. ?Iran-Contra Era.? CIA & Drugs Fact Sheet. 1998.


?Time to Abolish the CIA.? In These Times. 30 September 1996. [SIRS].

Webb, Gary. ? ?Crack? Plague?s Roots are in Nicaraguan War.? San Jose Mercury

News. 18 August 1996. pp. 1-3 [SIRS].


This paper is true and the sources are real. If you have any questions, you

may e-mail me at bigskank@hotmail.com

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