Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs & the Press

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

On March 16, 1998, the CIA’s Inspector General, Fred Hitz, finally let
the cat out of the bag in an aside at a Congressional Hearing. Hitz told
the US Reps that the CIA had maintained relationships with companies and
individuals the Agency knew to be involved in the drug business. Even more
astonishingly, Hitz revealed that back in 1982 the CIA had requested and
received from Reagan’s Justice Department clearance not to report any knowledge
it might have of drug-dealing by CIA assets.

With these two admisstions, Hitz definitively sank decades of CIA denials,
many of them under oath to Congress. Hitz’s admissions also made fools of
some of the most prominent names in US journalism, and vindicated investigators
and critics of the Agency, ranging from Al McCoy to Senator John Kerry.

The involvement of the CIA with drug traffickers is a story that has
slouched into the limelight every decade or so since the creation of the
Agency. Most recently, in 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published a sensational
series on the topic, “Dark Alliance”, and then helped destroy
its own reporter, Gary Webb.

In Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press (published in September
1998 by Verso) CounterPunch editors Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair
finally put the whole story together from the earliest days, when the CIA’s
institutional ancestors, the OSS and the Office of Naval Intelligence, cut
a deal with America’s premier gangster and drug trafficker, Lucky Luciano.

They show that many of even the most seemingly outlandish charges leveled
against the Agency have basis in truth. After the San Jose Mercury News
series, for example, outraged black communities charged that the CIA had
undertaken a program, stretching across many years, of experiments on minorities.
Cockburn and St. Clair show how the CIA imported Nazi scientists straight
from their labs at Dachau and Buchenwald and set them to work developing
chemical and biological weapons, tested on black Americans, some of them
in mental hospitals.

Cockburn and St. Clair show how the CIA’s complicity with drug-dealing
criminal gangs was part and parcel of its attacks on labor organizers, whether
on the docks of New York, or of Marseilles and Shanghai. They trace how
the Cold War and counterinsurgency led to an alliance between the Agency
and the vilest of war criminals such as Klaus Barbie, or fanatic heroin
traders like the mujahedin in Afghanistan.

Whiteout is a thrilling history that stretches from Sicily in 1944 to
the killing fields of South-East Asia, to CIA safe houses in Greenwich Village
and San Francisco where CIA men watched Agency-paid prostitutes feed LSD
to unsuspecting clients. We meet Oliver North as he plotted with Manuel
Noriega and Central American gangsters. We travel to little-known airports
in Costa Rica and Arkansas. We hear from drug pilots and accountants from
the Medillin Cocaine Cartel. We learn of DEA agents whose careers were ruined
because they tried to tell the truth.

The CIA, drugs…and the press. Cockburn and St. Clair dissect the shameful
way many American journalists have not only turned a blind eye on the Agency’s
misdeeds, but helped plunge the knife into those who told the real story.

Here at last is the full saga. Fact-packed and fast-paced, Whiteout is
a richly detailed excavation of the CIA’s dirtiest secrets. For all who
want to know the truth about the Agency this is the book to start with.

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch. Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

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