'The CIA fights drugs'

November 24, 1996

John M. Deutch, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, appeared Nov. 15 at a town meeting in Watts to discuss allegations that CIA-backed contra rebels sold crack cocaine in Los Angeles' black neighborhoods to fund their covert war in Nicaragua. Here is his opening statement: Thank you, Congresswoman [Juanita] Millender-McDonald, for holding this public meeting, for giving me the opportunity to talk with members of this community about charges that the CIA introduced crack cocaine into South Central Los Angeles in the mid-1980s. Thank you Principal Webb, for allowing us to use this high school.

I'm going to be brief. I want to make four points, and only four points.

First, the people of the Central Intelligence Agency and I understand the tremendous horror that drugs do to Americans, that drugs do to families and communities, and the way drugs kill babies. We understand how ravaging drugs are to this country. CIA employees and I share your anger at the injustice and lack of compassion that drug victims encounter.

The second point I want to make to you is the following: The CIA is fighting to stop drug lords from bringing drugs into the country. For example, in the mid-'80s, at the same time as the allegations that are being made here about the CIA bringing drugs into Los Angeles, the CIA was helping bring down the drug lords of the Medellin cocaine cartel in Colombia.

During the past two years while I have been director of central intelligence, our case officers' intelligence operations have directly worked to capture all, all, of the Cali cartel drug lords. We have seriously disrupted the movement of cocoa paste between the growing areas of Peru and Bolivia to the cocaine processing facilities in Colombia, and we have seized huge amounts of heroin grown in the poppy fields in Southwest Asia. Our purpose is to stop drugs from coming into the United States. So my second point to you is that the CIA is fighting against drugs.

Our activities are secret, and, accordingly, there is not a lot of public understanding of what we can do. I understand that people are suspicious of the CIA. In the course of recruiting agents to penetrate drug cartels, to break up those groups that bring drugs into the United States, our case officers, our men and women, deal with bad people - very bad people - sometimes at great risk to their lives. These are criminals with which we must deal if we are going to stop drugs from coming into the country. They frequently lie about their relationships with us for their own purposes. So it is hard for members of the public to know what is true and what is not true.

Now we all know that the U.S. government and the CIA supported contras and their efforts to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the mid-'80s. It is alleged that the CIA also helped the contras raise money for arms by introducing crack cocaine into California. It is an appalling charge. It is an appalling charge that goes to the heart of this country. It is a charge that cannot go unanswered.

It says that the CIA, an agency of the United States government, founded to protect Americans, helped introduce drugs and poison into our children and helped kill their future. No one who heads a government agency - not myself or anyone else - can let such an allegation stand. I will get to the bottom of it, and I will let you know the results of what I found.

I've ordered an independent investigation of these charges. The third point I want to make to you is to explain the nature of the investigation. I've asked the CIA inspector general to undertake a full investigation. He is the right official to do so for the following reasons:

First, the inspector general is established by law, by law of Congress, to be independent, to carry out activities to look for fraud and crime within the CIA.

Secondly, the inspector general has access to all CIA records and documents, no matter how secret.

Third, the inspector general has the authority to interview the right people.

Fourth, he is able to cooperate with other government departments, for example, the Department of Justice, the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], the Department of Defense, all of which had operations ongoing in Nicaragua at the time.

Finally, the inspector general has a good track record of being a whistle blower on past misdeeds in the CIA. For example, just last month he uncovered [that] CIA employees were misusing credit cards, and they are now in jail.

In carrying out this investigation, I've asked the inspector general to consult with several groups: the House and Senate intelligence committees, I the Congressional Black Caucus and others, to build public confidence that this inquiry is fair and thorough. Your elected representatives will be kept informed.

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