Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) said Tuesday that she supports continuing federal inquiries into allegations that the CIA helped spread crack cocaine in South-Central Los Angeles, even though the San Jose Mercury News has retreated from some assertions in a series that sparked the investigations.
“The investigations started by the House Intelligence Committee, the inspector general of the CIA, and the inspector general of the Justice Department certainly should continue,” Waters said at a news conference. “I am pleased that they are continuing.”
Waters, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, was among the first national leaders to demand federal inquiries stemming from the Mercury News series last summer. Tuesday, she repeated her arguments backing the investigations, saying that the public must know whether the CIA played a role in drug dealing.
“The idea of the investigation is to document or not whether or not the CIA had direct involvement [in selling drugs in South-Central]; whether it just knew and turned its head; who knew, when did they know it and how high did it go,” Waters said.
The admission by the Mercury News that the series suffered from shortcomings does not “undermine the basic story,” she said.
The series sparked alarm within black communities and among anti-government activists nationwide. While many inner-city residents previously had expressed suspicions that crack was forced upon poor, black neighborhoods, the Mercury News series gained widespread attention because it seemed to document the CIA’s involvement in drug dealing.
The series, Mercury News Executive Editor Jerry Ceppos wrote in a column published Sunday, “strongly implied CIA knowledge” of drug dealing in Los Angeles in the early 1980s by two Nicaraguans who then sent millions of dollars in profits to the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
But Ceppos wrote that a reexamination by the newspaper found that the series’ central assertions were not sufficiently proven. Ceppos also wrote that the series’ clear implication that the Nicaraguans’ drug dealing “played the critical role in the [U.S.] crack explosion” was an “oversimplification.”
Waters portrayed Ceppos’ column as an effort to make clear what the series actually reported.
“Not one dime of dope money should have supported a war in Nicaragua of a group that was organized and supported by the CIA,” she said.