The CIA and the Art of the "Un-Cover-Up"

cockburn, Alexander; St. Clair, Jeffrey

Publisher:  CounterPunch
Year Published:  2014   First Published:  1998
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX16790

Down the decades the CIA has approached perfection in the art of the "un-cover-up". The "uncover-up" is a process whereby, with all due delay, the agency first denies with passion then concedes in profoundly muffled tones charges leveled against it. One familiar feature in the "uncover-up" paradigm is the frequently made statement by CIA-friendly journalists that "no smoking gun" has been detected in whatever probe is under review.



The CIA was uneasily aware that its failure to advise the Contras to stop drug trafficking might land it in difficulties. Hitz documents that the Agency knew that at that time it was obligated to report Contra plans to run drugs to the Justice Department and other agencies such as FBI, DEA and Customs. Nonetheless the CIA kept quiet, and in 1982 got a waiver from the Justice Department giving a legal basis for its inaction.

Hitz enumerates the Contra leaders (“several dozen”) the CIA knew to be involved in drug trafficking, along with another two dozen involved in Contra supply missions and fund raising. He confirms that the CIA knew that Ilopango air base in El Salvador was an arms-for-drugs Contra transshipment point, and discloses a memo in which a CIA officer orders the DEA “not to make any inquiries to anyone re Hangar No. 4 at Ilopango.”

Thus, the CIA’s own inspector general shows that from the very start of the U.S. war on Nicaragua the CIA knew the Contra were planning to bring cocaine into the U.S.A. It did nothing to stop the traffic and, when other government agencies began to probe, the CIA impeded their investigations. When Contra money raisers were arrested, the Agency came to their aid and retrieved their drug money from the police.

So, was the Agency complicit in drug trafficking into Los Angeles and other cities? It is impossible to read Hitz’s report and not conclude that this was the case.


In that single paragraph just noted we have four momentous confessions by the CIA’s own inspector general. One: the Contras were involved in drug running from the very start. Two: the CIA knew the Contras were smuggling drugs into the U.S. in order to raise money. Three: this was a decision not made by profiteers on the fringe of the Contras, but by the leadership. Four: the CIA, even before it got a waiver from the Justice Department, was concealing its knowledge from the Congress and from other U.S. government agencies such as the DEA and the FBI. Remember also that the Contra leadership, was handpicked by the CIA, both in the form of its civilian head, Adolfo Calero, and of its military director, Enriqué Bermudez.

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