NARCO-POLITIK: Exposing the CIA’s Complicity In America’s Cocaine Trade – By Nathaniel Downes

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The CIA fought back hard against Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” allegations, but its own reports paint a picture of a deeply corrupted agency:

It has now been nearly 20 years since Pulitzer-winning journalist Gary Webb’s groundbreaking exposé, Dark Alliance first appeared among the pages of the San Jose Mercury News. The articles were met with criticism in a campaign now demonstrated to have been coordinated by the Director of the CIA’s Public Relations staff and was enabled due to close ties between the Central Intelligence Agency and the media – a relationship which continues today.

The CIA’s effort for “spreading criticism” as one internal memo now released to the public revealed, was widespread and involved directly discrediting Webb’s story through misinformation and cover-ups. They had an internal investigation produced and published, but while the summary claimed that the report exonerated the agency, once you got past the cover page the report itself reads as an indictment of the complicity of the CIA with the drug cartels. While specific cases where the CIA was not involved were listed in the summary, within the report we find examples of agents ignoring or even supporting various groups which they knew or suspected were involved in the drug trade. When testifying before Congress, the Inspector General, Frederick Hitz, who prepared the report, stated that while the particular cases he was tasked with verifying did not show any direct ties to the CIA, it did show systemic problems within the CIA which did make the agency complicit in illegal drug trafficking.

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.

In writing his articles, Webb qualified his statements regarding specific individuals later cited by the CIA’s report. By focusing on the individuals, rather than the allegations, the report presents a misleading narrative. For example, the report pointed out that Danilo Blandon did not work for the CIA. However, the article by Webb discussed Blandon’s work for the DEA, which had been long proven by the time of the article, not the CIA, making the CIA’s report of what was claimed in error.

Long Proven Accusations

Webb’s article was a report based on existing material going back decades in some cases. As early as 1985, CIA-based rebels were demonstrated to have ties to drug smuggling. Then-Senator John Kerry even chaired an investigation into the rebel’s ties to drug trading and found “considerable evidence” linking these groups to the cocaine trade. Senator Gary Hart had even been made aware of these ties in 1983. These kinds of rebel groups had already been christened the “CIA’s Army” by media reports in the 1970’s, making the agencies association fair game for articles such as Webb’s. Kerry’s report further implicated complicity, but not a conspiracy, between these rebels and the CIA.

…the Contra drug links included … [p]ayments 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 cocaine Scandal remains In The Headlines

The documentary Freeway: Crack In The System, directed by award-winning director Marc Levin, the subject is looked at once again, showing that contrary to the criticisms levied against Webb in the 1990’s, there was indeed solid evidence linking the CIA to drug smuggling during the last two decades of the 20th century. Freeway tells the story of Freeway Rick Ross, at one time the largest cocaine dealer in Los Angeles. Webb’s article pointed to Ross as one of the first dealers to popularize crack cocaine.


Ross himself was part of the rise of the west coast drug networks which helped displace the Columbian Medellin cartel as the primary cocaine distributors within the United States. While not the largest distributor, he helped to popularize it by marketing to local gangs in the Los Angeles area. Crack cocaine was easier to move, and cheaper to produce than powdered, resulting the rapid rise of its abuse within urban areas. And Freeway’s sources tied back to the rebels in Central America, and by association their allies, the CIA.

Implication Of Omission

In all of these investigations, the evidence is not that the CIA willingly set out to flood the streets with illicit narcotics. Instead, we witness a situation where the CIA accepted that the ends justified the means. To topple the Soviet-friendly government in Nicaragua, any means were justified. From arms trading to drug smuggling, illicit activity was willfully ignored rather than face the fact that the CIA had sold the American soul the devil. By pretending that these horrors were not happening on their watch, the CIA became a participant to crimes. And yet, nothing will likely ever be done to address this history. The pride of old men, and the blindness of young, makes it unlikely that the agency will ever willingly admit to what has transpired.

The CIA’s relentless campaign to obfuscate their culpability to drug abuse had tragic results for the reporter who dared air it, Gary Webb. Under attack by CIA-affiliated media sources, he was forced to resign. His name and reputation were destroyed by the CIA and their allies, and eventually, he took his own life in 2004. Despite that, the accusations within his report have

Despite that, the accusations within his report have stood the test, with the CIA’s culpability in the rise of cocaine within the inner city laid out for all to witness. While some conspiracy theorists have claimed that Webb was eliminated by the CIA once he had vanished sufficiently from the public eye, citing that his suicide was done by two bullets to the head, there is no hard evidence to give credit to such a claim. His death, however, did clearly benefit the CIA regardless and gave a stark warning to any other journalists who dared point out that the emperor has no clothes. If they were to dig too deeply, they could wind up like Webb, discredited, unemployed, and alone.

As for why the CIA became involved in drug trafficking, the agency’s former Inspector General, Frederick Hitz put it best.

Having studied the agency over a period of eight years and the bureaucracy that is involved, it grieves me but doesn’t surprise me that nobody grasped the nettle and got the right information to the field.

No conspiracy. That’s ineptitude.

Cover Photo courtesy WikiCommons. Used with permission


FREEWAY: CRACK IN THE SYSTEM tells the story of broken dreams, drug dealers, dirty cops, and government complicity – more compelling than fiction, it’s the real story behind America’s longest war.  This documentary by award-winning filmmaker Marc Levin (SLAM, Mr. Untouchable, Brick City) exposes how the infiltration of crack-cocaine destroyed inner-city neighborhoods across the country.  At the center of it all is the rise, fall and redemption of Freeway Rick Ross, a street hustler who became the King of Crack and journalist Gary Webb who broke the story of the CIA’s complicity in the drug war.  Featuring exclusive interviews with Freeway Rick Ross, not to be confused with the multi-gold selling rapper who stole his name; Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gary Webb, his source Coral Baca, and wife Susan Webb; former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff Robert Juarez, drug trafficker Julio Zavala and many more.

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