by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Though mounting evidence, with substantive and alarming implications in terms of U.S. foreign policy and Reagan administration propriety, pointed to a large-scale contra/CIA drug smuggling network, the major U.S. media largely underreported it in 1987.

Testimony by convicted drug smugglers as well as private citizens for CBS’s “West 57th Street” program, the Christic Institute’s federal lawsuit under the RICO statutes, and before congressional committees provided a startling picture of large-scale drug trafficking under the auspices of the U.S. government/contra supply network.

According to the Christic Institute (a Washington, D.C., based inter-faith legal foundation), “Contra narcotics smuggling stretches from cocaine plantations in Colombia, to dirt airstrips in Costa Rica, to pseudo-seafood companies in Miami, and finally, to the drug-ridden streets of our society.” The Christic Institute’s investigation, sanctioned by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, provided evidence supporting allegations that 1) a major “guns-for-drugs” operation existed between North, Central, and South America that helped finance the contra war; 2) the contra leadership received direct funding and other support from major narcotics traffickers; 3) some contra leaders were directly involved in drug trafficking; 4) U.S. government funds for the contras went to known narcotics dealers; and 5) the CIA helped Miami-based drug traffickers smuggle their illicit cargo into the U.S. in exchange for their help in arming the contras.

Revelations of this U.S. contra/drug network first surfaced in 1986 when the Christic Institute filed suit against the U.S. government alleging complicity in the 1984 La Penca bombing in which eight journalists were killed and dozens of others wounded. The original lawsuit named 29 men associated with the contra supply network and alleged to have ties to the drug trafficking network. Among those charged with complicity in the La Penca bombing were ex-CIA and military officers including Oliver North, Richard Secord, Albert Hakim, Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines, and Rob Owens.

The Christic Institute’s case cited evidence such as sworn statements about their missions for the contra re-supply network by Michael Tolliver and Gary Betzner, Senator John Kerry’s subcommittee’s report, sworn testimony by reputed ex-CIA “asset” and money-­launderer Ramon Milian-Rodriguez, and numerous other documents. Despite the extraordinary allegations and supporting evidence, the major U.S. media did not commit the resources necessary to explore those charges and their validity. In fact, few media even made significant note of Attorney General Edwin Meese’s efforts to stop the Miami-based contra/CIA drug connection investigation.

The U.S. media owe the American public better investigative reporting so that we can “just say no” not only to drugs, but also to government complicity, impropriety, and possibly illegality.


THE CHRISTIC INSTITUTE SPECIAL REPORT, November, 1987, “The Contra-Drug Connection,” by The Christic Institute, pp 1-12; NEWSDAY, 6/28/87, “Witness: Contras Got Drug Cash,” by Knut Royce, pp 4, 15; THE NATION, 9/5/87, “How the Drug Czar Got Away, by Martin A. Lee, pp 189-192; IN THESE TIMES, 4/15/87, “CIA, contras hooked on drug money,” by Vince Bielski and Dennis Bernstein, pp 3, 10.