- News Analysis
- Special Reports
- Arts & Culture
The more one studies the dark history of the US national security state, the more transparent the CIA – Wall Street connections become. The links to the international drug trade are less obvious, but have existed from the beginning, that is, from the days of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA. Time and again, the same pattern has played out: US military interventions in Southeast Asia, Central America and, since 2001, Afghanistan and Iraq, have been accompanied by a sharp increase in narco-trafficking, with all of the attendant evils. These include the plague of drug addiction, drug-related crime, the devastation of the family and as I hope to show, the corrupting of democratic institutions at home and abroad.
The morally bankrupt policies that are responsible for all of the above have had another deleterious effect: They have crippled our nation’s capacity to play a positive role on the world stage. It is no wonder that foreigners no longer view the United States with admiration and respect, but increasingly with fear and loathing. But US elites are oblivious to such concerns. They do not care, and are quite candid about what they view as the CIA’s pragmatic “need” to associate with unsavory individuals and criminals in the interest of furthering US foreign policy goals. Their realpolitik can be read between the lines of the policy papers. Take, for instance, the 1996 intelligence report, already noted, prepared by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg for the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and for which Greenberg was nominated to replace John Deutch as director of the CIA. In the paper Greenberg affirms that “the capability to undertake [covert operations]….constitutes an important national security tool.” Later, in the section titled “Intelligence and Law Enforcement” he insists that
foreign policy ought to take precedence over law enforcement when it comes to overseas operations. The bulk of U.S. intelligence efforts overseas is devoted to traditional national security concerns; as a result, law enforcement must ordinarily be a secondary concern. FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents operating abroad should not be allowed to act independently of either the ambassador or the CIA lest pursuit of evidence or individuals for prosecution cause major foreign policy problems or complicate ongoing intelligence and diplomatic activities.
This means, over and above diplomacy, that when criminals are judged to be intelligence assets, they are granted protection from prosecution for narco-trafficking, money laundering, extortion, rape, even terrorism and murder. In 1982, the CIA and the US Department of Justice actually worked out a secret agreement to this effect. The deal exempted the CIA from having to report drug trafficking by CIA assets, which, notice, made a mockery of then presidential wife Nancy Reagan’s much ballyhooed “just say no” anti-drug campaign. At the time, most Americans trusted Ronald Reagan and believed that his administration was serious about the so-called war on drugs. But hindsight shows that the Reagan White House badly abused the public’s good faith.
The foreign policy advocated by Maurice Greenberg, above, is in large part responsible for the drug-related violence on the streets of our cities, and for the epidemic of narcotic addiction among our children, who have been sacrificed to the false god of national security. But the social carnage is not limited to the United States. Drug addiction in Muslim Iraq was almost unknown prior to the US invasion in 2003; but has since become a major problem. A similar recent explosion of heroin use has occurred in Iran, which, notice, is right next door to Afghanistan, where the poppies are grown with the blessing of the CIA. Such foreign policies are evil, a scourge upon the planet, yet, are intimately associated with US empire building. Quite simply, the US power elite has followed in the footsteps of the British and French who, in their day, also exploited the immensely profitable opium and heroin trade. The writer Chalmers Johnson has termed this descent into darkness the sorrow of empire.
The CIA’s secret collusion with the Department of Justice [sic] gave the CIA veto over law enforcement, effectively blunting the capacity of US drug enforcement agencies to interdict the flow of illegal drugs into the US. The timing was no accident. The deal coincided with the start of the CIA’s Contra war in Central America. This explains why, the next year, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), under pressure from the Pentagon, closed its office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The flow of drugs through Honduras had not diminished; in fact, just the opposite. For years, the country had been a transfer point for illegal drug smuggling into the US, a reality that Contra leaders readily exploited to finance their war against the Nicaraguan Sandinistas; and they did so with the full knowledge and approval of the CIA. For many years after, Langley’s veto blocked legitimate efforts by US law enforcement to curb the drug trade.
I must emphasize that, meanwhile, the American people were kept in the dark about the policy and its effects, at every point in the chain: from the formulation of the policy to its implementation to the phony packaging of the policy for mass consumption. In fact, we only know about it, today, thanks to a courageous journalist named Gary Webb, who published a groundbreaking series of articles in 1996 in the San Jose Mercury News, exposing Contra links and CIA complicity in the crack cocaine epidemic that ravaged the black communities of Los Angeles in the 1980s. The series, appropriately titled “Dark Alliance”, was one of the first big stories to be carried on the Internet; and later, Webb expanded it into an important book by the same name, in which he lays out the voluminous evidence in stark detail. But it was Webb’s series of articles in 1996 that initially focused media attention on the drug issue; and which compelled CIA director John Deutch to announce an internal investigation. Meanwhile, the agency simultaneously launched a disinformation campaign to discredit Webb, whom it viewed as a serious threat.
The campaign against Gary Webb has been called “one of the most venomous and factually inane assaults on a professional journalist’s competence in living memory.” The fawning mainstream press, always eager to do the CIA’s bidding, appeared to take pleasure in savaging the messenger, even while tacitly conceding that his facts were basically correct. One of the low points occurred on live TV, on November 15, 1996, when NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, wife of Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, referred to Webb’s exhaustively documented expose as “a conspiracy theory,” the kiss of death for any serious journalist. At this same time, as we know, Greenspan was busily engineering the deregulation of Wall Street, setting the stage for the 2008 financial meltdown of the global economy.
CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz led the internal probe, and even though his conclusions later confirmed Webb’s main thesis, the CIA suppressed Hitz’s report, even while leaking a denial of the allegations. The CIA’s minions in the press corps did the rest. On December 19, 1998, an article by Tim Weiner in the New York Times and another by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post cited “unnamed sources” who insisted that Hitz had found no “direct or indirect” links between the CIA and cocaine traffickers. This was a blatant lie; indeed, a breathtaking example of deception. But it had its intended effect. Neither reporter bothered to ask why Hitz’s report was still under wraps.
How could the mainstream press fumble the ball so badly? There are a number of reasons, but probably the main one is that, in the 1990s, the issue of CIA complicity in the drug trade was politically out of bounds, simply unthinkable, beyond the realm of the possible. Today, things are a little different. In 2011, the CIA’s support for Afghan drug lords is out of the closet. Even the major US papers have reported it. However, in the 1990s, the political climate simply would not allow an honest airing of the issue (much as 9/11 is taboo, today). Webb’s publisher ultimately caved under pressure and threw his Pulitzer Prize winning reporter under the bus, even as Webb was turning up fresh confirmatory evidence which indicated that, if anything, he had under-stated the case against the CIA.
When CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz finally testified before the House Intelligence Committee, in March, 1998, he admitted it was all true. Said Hitz: “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…” On hearing this, Congressman Norman Dicks of Washington button-holed Hitz with the obvious next question: “Did any of these allegations involve trafficking in the United States?” “Yes,” Hitz replied, and went on to explain about the CIA’s secret arrangement with the Department of Justice. According to Webb, who was in attendance, at that point, a murmur swept through the hearing room as the meaning of Hitz’s testimony sank in.
Of course, by this time, Webb’s career as a journalist was over, destroyed. The CIA’s vilification campaign had produced the intended result; and, next day, the Washington Post buried its story about Hitz’s testimony deep in the paper, along with its own culpability for helping to trash the reputation of one of America’s bravest muckraking writers. And why? Quite simply: for the crime of telling the truth.
We need to ask: How can such a miscarriage happen in a nation that prides itself on being a free and open society? I suspect the reader is not prepared for my answer, which I will present on the following pages. I must admit I was not prepared for it myself. The truth, as the reader is about to learn, is that complicity with narco-trafficking is both insidious and inexorable. It affects a corrupting influence on government at all levels, for government officials are not immune to the temptations of the drug trade, which, after all, is the most profitable business on the planet by a wide margin. Arms smuggling comes in a distant second. As with derivatives and insider trading, the possibilities for abuse are as unlimited as the human imagination. The outcome of a secret policy of complicity was entirely predictable. I must admit, though, I was shocked to learn just how far up the food chain the rot extends.