A shocking exposé of the CIA's role as drug baron

In 400 explosive and exciting pages, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair excavate the CIA's 50-year-long intimacy with criminal organizations and drug trafficking. They describe how midwives around the infant Agency's cradle in 1947 included Nazi doctors fresh from Dachau, Sicilian gangsters and Chinese opium traders. Five years later, CIA officers were paying prostitutes in New York and San Francisco to slip LSD and other drugs to their clients while the Agency’s Peeping Toms sat behind one-way mirrors drinking in the scene.

By the late 1960s the CIA’s own secret war in Laos ensured that a steady supply of heroin was entering the veins of US servicemen in Vietnam. In 1979 the Agency started to mount the biggest operation in its history, bolstering the opium lords of Afghanistan, who responded gratefully by escalating their shipments of opium, duly processed into heroin for the US and European markets.

In detailed chapters, Cockburn and St. Clair show how charges that the CIA was party to drugs-for-arms swaps by the Nicaraguan Contras are true.

The often shameful role of the US press is a vivid skein in this saga. The CIA's intimacy with gangsters and drug trafficking is a tale that courageous investigators have managed to unearth, only to be savaged by some of America's most prominent reporters and newspapers.

As Cockburn and St. Clair narate, the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times joined in 1996 in one of the most shameful and unrelenting smear campaigns in journalistic history, trying to exonerate the CIA. Indeed, the CIA has actually managed, in its own cryptic self-investigations, to be more forthright about its drug-trade ties than the big-time journalists defending the Agency.

But the cat's out of the bag now. By March of 1998, the CIA Inspector General was admitting to the US Congress that in 1982, just as the Contra War was heating up, the Agency won from Reagan's Justice Department an agreement that it need not report the drug dealings of its paid and unpaid assets.

It’s been twenty years since the Church Committee’s probes of the CIA shocked Americans. The ultimate irony is that as the CIA struggles desperately to redefine its mission, it proposes to act as global cop, battling international crime. The Mafiosi, Asian drug traffickers, and Central American smugglers featured in Whiteout would laugh uproariously at the effrontery by their old comrade-in-arms in making this proposal.

“Cockburn and St. Clair present a litany of CIA misdeeds, from the recruitment of Nazi scientists after WWII to the arming of opium traffickers in Afghanistan. All of this is extremely well documented . . . A chilling history that many will take issue with of what the CIA has been up to the past 50 years.” — Kirkus

“A solid, pitiless piece of muckraking, . . . Cockburn and St. Clair raise troubling questions about the role of a largely secretive government agency in a democratic society.” — San Diego Union Tribune

“A probing examination of the CIA's chilling history of coddling major drug traffickers, gangsters and Nazi psychopaths.” — Philadelphia Tribune

“It is laughable to suggest that today's CIA has the imagination or the courage to manage a cover-up on the scale that [Cockburn and St. Clair] suggest . . . they give no indication in their book that they even tried [to call the CIA].” — New York Times Book Review

Alexander Cockburn is a columnist for The Nation, New York Press and a range of other newspapers. He is the author of Corruptions of Empire, Fate of the Forest (with Susanna Hecht), and The Golden Age Is In Us, all from Verso. Jeffrey St. Clair is an investigative reporter who has written extensively on politics and the environment. He publishes Wild Forest Review. Cockburn and St. Clair write the newsletter and website CounterPunch.

Cloth: August 1998
Paper: October 1999

408 pages

1 85984 258 5
£10 / US$15 / CAN$21

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