Lawsuits Charge CIA Inaction on Cocaine Trade

Inner-city residents who say the Justice Department and the CIA had information about crack cocaine dealing in their neighborhoods but failed to take any action filed class action lawsuits Monday in Los Angeles and Oakland.

The lawsuits are based, in part, on a CIA report released last year disclosing that the agency did little or nothing to respond to hundreds of allegations about Contra links to cocaine contained in about 1,000 cables sent from Central America to the agency’s headquarters.

The class action lawsuits were filed on behalf of mostly black, inner-city families who suffered from the ravages of crack cocaine, said Katya Komisaruk, an attorney for the families.

The controversy over drug trafficking and the CIA erupted after the San Jose Mercury News claimed in a 1996 story that a San Francisco-based narcotics ring introduced crack cocaine to Los Angeles, sent millions of dollars to the CIA-backed Contras and operated under the protection of the U.S. government.

But while the Mercury News series was criticized because it made a number of broad charges, the lawsuit is narrowly focused.


“We’re not going to assert that the CIA was actively involved in drug peddling,” Komisaruk said.

“What we do have is the CIA’s own admission that they deliberately failed to report to law enforcement--such as the LAPD--information they had about the primary narcotics traffickers,” she said.

In 1997, after a yearlong investigation, the CIA completed a reported declaring it was not responsible for introducing crack cocaine to Los Angeles.

But the next year, the agency issued a report disclosing that in 1982, after the CIA’s support of the Contras began, Atty. Gen. William French Smith and CIA Director William Casey agreed to drop a previous requirement that CIA personnel report allegations about criminal activities when undertaken by persons “acting for” the CIA.

Everyone involved in the Contra effort was covered by this agreement, which remained operative until 1995, the report stated.