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PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE : Is the CIA's New Openness Just Another Con Job on a Naive Public?

September 12, 1993|MICHAEL LEVINE | Michael Levine, director of the Drug Information Bureau of Cape Cod, is the author of "Deep Cover" (Delacorte) and, with his wife Laura Kavanau-Levine, is the author of "The Big White Lie," which will be published next month by Thunder's Mouth. He was a DEA agent for 25 years

BARNSTABLE, MASS. — When I first read that the CIA planned to open up its files to usher in a "new era of openness and understanding" and because of the agency's "deep desire" for Americans to trust it, I laughed out loud. I could hear echoes of my laughter from many of my former agents at the Drug Enforcement Administration. From the agents whose high-level drug investigations had been destroyed because their targets happened to be "CIA assets," or because the war on drugs had to take second and third place to what the CIA said were "national-security interests." From the agents--myself included--who had spent more than a decade working on drug trafficker Manuel A. Noriega while he was protected and paid by the CIA.

To an undercover narcotic agent experienced in manipulating people, a kinder and gentler Central Intelligence Agency is nothing but a con job. "When they're hot on your tail, you gotta give 'em a bone to throw 'em off," were the words of Paul Yates-Little, an old-timer who taught undercover tactics at the Treasury Law Enforcement School in 1965. It's that simple. And it works--especially with a gullible press and public.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), after hearing evidence of CIA involvement in drug trafficking--much of it kept secret from the public on the ground of national security--said that Americans had been deceived; that "our covert agencies had converted themselves into channels for drugs." Later, his chief council, Jack Blum, resigned saying, "I am sick to death of the truths I cannot tell."

Those are the words we want from the CIA. But those truths will never be forthcoming.

I, for example, was witness to the most devastating of those truths when I was stationed, in 1980, as a Justice Department country attache in Buenos Aires. I saw firsthand how the CIA used ex-Nazis, Argentine assassins and some of the most notorious drug dealers on the face of the Earth (yes, even bigger than Noriega) to overthrow the Bolivian government. It was Bolivia's bloodiest revolution, at the end of which--for the first time in history--drug dealers took over a nation. At the time, Bolivia was the source of about 90% of the world's cocaine.

It was also the beginning of a cocaine/crack epidemic that, to date, has cost the American people more in misery and death than all our wars combined and continues to cost our economy a minimum of $300 billion a year, according to Bush Administration estimates. Few American families have remained untouched by some drug-related tragedy. I've lost a son--Keith Richard Levine, a 28-year-old New York City Police officer killed trying to stop a robbery by crack addicts--and a brother, David--a drug-addicted suicide. Then there are the many friends and fellow narcotic agents who were either killed or wounded trying to take drugs off the streets while the CIA protected those who put them there.

I am not indicting the CIA as an agency. There are some wonderful and dedicated people in the agency who hate what a sinister and corrupt minority has been able to get away with under the guise of national security.

But the fact is, when was the last time you heard about a CIA agent being arrested for using his position of trust to protect drug traffickers? Despite Kerry's words, not a single U.S. official has been indicted, nor has a U.S. grand jury heard any of the evidence, nor has there even been a real investigation by a capable Drug Enforcement Administration into those "convert agencies" who had "converted themselves into channels for drugs."

Is the CIA going to admit to their role in drug trafficking? I think not.

To open those files would be tantamount to admitting to the kind of high treason against the American people that would make the Rosenbergs look like jaywalkers.

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