The Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement in drug trafficking is back in the media spotlight after a spokesman for the violence-plagued Mexican state of Chihuahua became the latest high-profile individual to accuse the CIA, which has been linked to narcotics trafficking for decades, of ongoing efforts to “manage the drug trade.” The infamous American spy agency refused to comment.
In a recent interview, Chihuahua state spokesman Guillermo Terrazas Villanueva told Al Jazeera that the CIA and other international “security” outfits “don’t fight drug traffickers.” Instead, Villanueva argued, they try to control and manage the illegal drug market for their own benefit.
“It’s like pest control companies, they only control,” Villanueva told the Qatar-based media outlet last month at his office in Juarez. “If you finish off the pests, you are out of a job. If they finish the drug business, they finish their jobs.”
Another Mexican official, apparently a mid-level officer with Mexico’s equivalent of the U.S. Department of “Homeland Security,” echoed those remarks, saying he knew that the allegations against the CIA were correct based on talks with American agents in Mexico. “It’s true, they want to control it,” the official told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity.
Credibility issues with employees of the notoriously corrupt Mexican government aside, the latest accusations were hardly earth shattering — the American espionage agency has been implicated in drug trafficking from Afghanistan to Vietnam to Latin America and everywhere in between. Similar allegations of drug running have been made against the CIA for decades by former agents, American officials, lawmakers, investigators, and even drug traffickers themselves.
Some of the most prominent officials to level charges of CIA drug trafficking include the former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Robert Bonner. During an interview with CBS, Bonner accused the American “intelligence” outfit of unlawfully importing a ton of cocaine into the U.S. in collaboration with the Venezuelan government.
Even the New York Times eventually covered part of the scandal in a piece entitled “Anti-Drug Unit of C.I.A. Sent Ton of Cocaine to U.S. in 1990.” And the agency’s Inspector General, Frederick Hitz, was eventually forced to concede to a congressional committee that the CIA has indeed worked with drug traffickers and obtained a waiver from the Department of Justice in the 1980s allowing it to conceal its contractors’ illicit dealings.
An explosive investigation by reporter Gary Webb dubbed the “Dark Alliance” also uncovered a vast CIA machine to ship illegal drugs into the U.S. to fund clandestine and unconstitutional activities abroad, including the financing of armed groups. Webb eventually died under highly suspicious circumstances — two gunshots to the head, officially ruled a “suicide.”
Responding to Webb’s discoveries, top officials and even lawmakers eventually acknowledged that the CIA almost certainly had a role in illegal drug trafficking. “There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, or on the payroll of, the CIA were involved in drug trafficking,” explained U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) after the Dark Alliance series.
Top-level Mexican officials have suggested complicity by U.S. officials in drug trafficking as well — even recently. “It is impossible to pass tons of drugs or cocaine to U.S. without some grade of complicity of some American authorities,” observed Mexican President Felipe Calderon in a 2009 interview with the BBC.
Last year, an explosive report in the Washington Times, citing a CIA source, speculated that the agency may be deliberately helping certain Mexican cartels to beat out others for geopolitical purposes. According to the sources, the intelligence outfit might have also played a key role in the now-infamous Fast and Furious scandal, which saw the federal government providing thousands of high-powered weapons to Mexican cartels.