Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press

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9781859848975: Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press

In the late summer of 1996, a young reporter on a California newspaper electrified the United States with the charge that the CIA had conspired in the smuggling of cocaine into the US, subsequently disseminated in the form of crack into black urban neighbourhoods. Within days, black communities erupted in fury. Radio stations in Los Angeles, Washington DC and Detroit broadcast thousands of Gary Webb's series in the "San Jose Mercury News". Black politicians seized on the issue, demanding a thorough investigation. As the furore mounted, with the "Mercury News" coming up with fresh disclosures and putting many of the basic documents up on its Internet Web site, the Washington establishment struck back at allegations that challenged the very credentials of the state. First came formal government denials. Then, convoluted and self-contradictory rationales began to appear in the nation's most influential newspapers. This is a survey of the violent storm provoked by Webb's articles. It outlines the charges and dissects the government and media counter-attacks. Webb is by no means the first investigator to explore the CIA's hidden history of drug involvement. The book goes back to the very origins of the Agency, and lays out a saga which shows that the CIA: promoted mind-control drugs in the 1940s and 50s, sponsoring LSD research on unsuspecting citizens - many of them black males, locked up in mental hospitals; was involved in the heroin trade in South-East Asia in the 50s and 60s; backed anti-Castro Cuban drug smugglers in South Florida; struck deals with heroin-trafficking Afghan mujahideen; and organized drug smuggling from Latin America, through Central America, into the US. Alexander Cockburn is the author of "Corruptions of Empire", "Fate of the Forest" (with Susanna Hecht), "The Golden Age is In Us" and "Washington Babylon" (with Ken Silverstein).

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Review:

Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair take the revelations of the links between the Central Intelligence Agency, the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Los Angeles crack market that journalist Gary Webb exposed in 1996--revelations that are the basis of Webb's book Dark Alliance--and use them as a springboard for a tale of the U.S. government's involvement with the illegal drug trade that extends much further back than Webb's tale.

The specific revelations are not, perhaps, entirely new; many know, for example, that even before there was a CIA, the WWII-era Office of Strategic Services enlisted the aid of gangster "Lucky" Luciano in arranging support among the Sicilian Mafia for the American invasion of Italy, or that the CIA was actively involved in the Southeast Asian opium trade during the Vietnam War. But Cockburn and St. Clair persuasively argue that the traditional explanation for such events--"rogue elements"--is deliberately misleading, and that the mainstream "liberal" press plays an active role in this obfuscation (noting, for example, that Webb's three biggest attackers were the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post). By providing an overarching narrative rather than treating these incidents as isolated, the authors present a damning indictment of the CIA--but one that fully admits that the agency was not acting on its own, but was merely fulfilling the mandates of the American government. --Ron Hogan

About the Author:

Alexander Cockburn co-edits CounterPunch with Jeffrey St. Clair. Together they have written Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press and A Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils.

Jeffrey St. Clair co-edits CounterPunch with Alexander Cockburn. Together they have written Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press and A Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils.

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