WASHINGTON -- The Central Intelligence Agency continued to work with about two dozen Nicaraguan rebels and their supporters during the 1980s despite allegations that they were trafficking in drugs, according to a classified study by the CIA.
The new study has found that the CIA's decision to keep these paid agents, or to continue dealing with them in some less-formal relationship, was made by top officials at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Va., in the midst of the war waged by the CIA-backed contras against Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government.
The new report by the CIA's inspector general criticizes agency officials' actions at the time for the inconsistent and sometimes sloppy manner in which they investigated -- or chose not to investigate -- the allegations, which were never substantiated by the CIA.
The inspector general's report, which has not been released publicly, also concludes that there is no evidence that any CIA officials were involved in drug trafficking with contra figures.
"The fundamental finding of the report is that there is no information that the CIA or CIA employees ever conspired with any contra organizations or individuals involved with the contras for purposes of drug trafficking," one U.S. intelligence official said.
The new report is the long-delayed second volume of the CIA's internal investigation into possible connections between the contras and Central American drug traffickers.
The investigation was prompted by a controversial 1996 series in the San Jose Mercury-News, which asserted that a "dark alliance" among the CIA, the contras and drug traffickers had helped finance the contra war with millions of dollars in profits from drug smuggling.
The second volume of the report dismisses those specific charges, as did the first volume.
The Mercury-News series alleged that this alliance created a drug trafficking network that was the first to introduce crack cocaine into South Central Los Angeles.
The series prompted an enormous outcry, especially among blacks, many of whom said they saw it as confirmation of a government-backed conspiracy to keep blacks dependent and impoverished.
The Mercury-News subsequently admitted that the series was flawed and took its reporter, Gary Webb, off the story. He later left the paper.
Pub Date: 7/17/98