Saying the CIA can't police itself, several lawmakers from inner city districts strongly contested the agency's assertions that it had no part in bringing crack cocaine into Southern California and other parts of the United States in the 1980s.
"This report is not credible, this report does not do the job," Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, told the House Intelligence Committee Monday of CIA findings that it did not collude with drug traffickers who helped start an epidemic of crack abuse in urban America."The ultimate question is can the CIA investigate itself," said Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif. Like Waters, she represents an inner-city area of Los Angeles that has been hard hit by crack cocaine.
Questions of CIA links to Latin American drug dealers arose when the San Jose Mercury News in August 1996 published a series concluding that for the better part of a decade drug rings were selling crack in Southern California and funneling profits to the Nicaraguan Contras. It traced the drugs to dealers who were also leaders of a CIA-run guerrilla army in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
The executive editor of the Mercury News, Jerry Ceppos, later wrote a column that critiqued the series, saying it "did not meet our standards" in key areas. Among other things, Ceppos said the series often presented only one interpretation of complex evidence, oversimplified the spread of crack and used graphics and language "that were open to misinterpretation."
The CIA inspector general's office, in the first part of its report published in January, said it had found no evidence linking its employees, agents or operatives with the crack dealers and no connection between the agency and three men, two with Contra links, at the center of the California drug trade.
CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz, also testifying before the Intelligence Committee, said his office had reviewed 250,000 pages of documents and conducted 365 interviews in four continents over 18 months, and concluded there was no evidence of a conspiracy by CIA employees to bring drugs into the United States.
Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., said Hitz had produced a "solid body of work" which the panel would use in its own separate investigation.
"We are keenly aware that this entire episode has fueled suspicions some people have about the advent of the scourge of crack cocaine in the United States. Any suggestion of government complicity in that terrible outcome is one that must be seriously considered and answered."