200 attend forum on probing alleged CIA-drug link Speakers say records act is needed to reveal truth

November 19, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Speakers at a forum on the alleged CIA-crack connection last night in East Baltimore called for a national records act that would enable the release of documents that could reveal the full extent of U.S. intelligence involvement in importing crack cocaine from Latin America.

The forum last night at Dunbar High School -- sponsored by Sojourner Douglass College, the Central American Solidarity Committee and Radio One Inc. -- attracted more than 200 people, who heard speakers allege that CIA operatives were involved with drug traffickers in the 1980s to raise money for the contra army, which was fighting the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

But to get to the bottom of the story, a national records act must be adopted, speakers charged.

"The problem is there is a wall of secrecy," said John M. Newman, a lecturer at the University of Maryland College Park. A records act would make documents available "so we can see for ourselves what's been going on."

The allegations of CIA drug-dealing have been made in the past but arose again in a recent series of articles in the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News that claim that a Nicaraguan drug ring with links to the CIA sold crack to Los Angeles street gangs in the 1980s.

The articles said the drug ring used the profits to finance the contras' war against the Sandinistas. The stories did not document direct CIA involvement in the drug ring but said the Nicaraguan traffickers were meeting with CIA operatives at the same time they were selling crack to the Los Angeles gangs.

The speakers echoed Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California, who urged people to educate themselves about the allegations and develop community action.

Stuart Adams, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union's national prisons project, said the allegations prompted an initial furor, especially in the African-American community. "But then there is silence," he said. "People, we can't afford to be silent." Adams called for accountability. "We must know who the decision-makers were. We must hold them accountable. We must make sure these decisions are never made again," he said.

Journalist Martha Honey was based in Costa Rica during the 1980s, when that nation became a southern base for the CIA-backed contras. "Almost from the beginning, we ran into charges and evidence of drug trafficking," Honey said, adding that the contras were "laced with drug traffickers."

Newman presented documents that he said came from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation that showed Ilopango airport in El Salvador, a center of the CIA's Central American operations, was used as a base both for arming the contras and for drug trafficking.

Pub Date: 11/19/96

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