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Probes Begin Into Claims of CIA-L.A. Drug-Smuggling Tie

September 21, 1996|GEBE MARTINEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Responding to requests from California's U.S. senators and a Los Angeles congresswoman, the Justice Department, the CIA and a key House committee have begun separate investigations into charges that the CIA blocked efforts to curb cocaine shipments into South Los Angeles.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) on Friday released a letter from House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) stating that the House Intelligence Committee is reviewing charges raised by the San Jose Mercury News concerning the alleged drug pipeline from Colombian drug cartels to black neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

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Also, CIA Director John M. Deutch, under pressure from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) as well as the Congressional Black Caucus, has ordered the agency's inspector general to investigate whether the CIA was involved in the alleged drug network.

And at the request of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Justice Department's inspector general has begun its own questioning into the CIA's alleged involvement.

An initial investigation by Deutch found no substance to the charges against the CIA, but he told a Senate panel this week that the allegations "go to the heart and integrity of the CIA enterprise" and will be addressed "in a forthright and complete fashion."

Deutch also met with the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday and promised to report back to the group in 60 days.

Waters applauded the reviews. "It's an investigation that's taking place because, I think, the pressure has mounted," she said. "The outcry by the black community in this country is substantial."

Last month, the Mercury News reported that during the 1980s, a San Francisco Bay Area-based drug-smuggling ring funneled narcotics into Los Angeles and then sent the resulting profits to the CIA-backed Contras, who were at war with Nicaragua's left-wing Sandinista government.

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One of the alleged recipients of the Colombian drugs was convicted crack kingpin Ricky "Freeway" Ross, who awaits sentencing on a federal drug conviction in Los Angeles.

His sentencing has been delayed while the judge in his case reviews his claims that he was snared into a CIA plot to fund the Contras.

In a letter to Waters earlier this month, Deutch said a review of the agency's files concluded that the CIA "neither participated in, nor condoned drug trafficking by Contra forces." He also said that the two Nicaraguan drug smugglers mentioned in the Mercury News articles had never been employed by the CIA.

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