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CIA, Drugs, Social Control & Black Folks

Over twenty-five years ago, Marvin Gaye, commenting on the direction of the country said, “It makes you want to hollar and throw up both your hands.”   Marvin was right, and it’s  the natural response to what passes for democracy in the United States.   The newly published  “Whiteout – The CIA, Drugs and the Press” Written by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair,  lays out the connection between drugs, the CIA and social control and how this complex of interests is aided and abetted by the major media.

In the December 1996 issue of Our Time Press, we called the CIA Headquarters in Langley Virginia, the “Mother crack house of them all.”   We realize now that we were being naive with this understatement.  The involvement of the CIA and the drug trade goes far beyond comparison to a crack house or drug dealer.  As revealed in the exhaustively researched “Whiteout”, the CIA is the Mother of all Drug Lords.  The work of the Agency–the Company– the Boys– can more accurately be compared to the gangland muscle for a covert government funded partially by taxes, and partially by drug sales.   Illegal drugs are useful in that they enable control of populations both where they are grown and where they are sold.  And the business of social control is the prime mission of the CIA, and they use any means to attain that end.  After reading “Whiteout”, it is possible to see that recent terrorism has only a couple of degrees of separation between the acts and the CIA. For example, people from the Afghan areas where the CIA used to arm, support and train the Mujahadin, were reportedly connected with the bombings in Kenya and and the Sudan.

Another terrorist attack with a possible CIA pedigree, would be the recent arrest of seven exiled Cubans with a plan to assassinate Fidel Castro.  “Whiteout” gives background to the history of the CIA plotting against President Castro; a history that is long, comic and perverse.   The CIA relationship with aggressive elements within the Cuban expatriate community is well known to be as close as kittens at a nipple.   And while they may not be directly involved in this latest fiasco, they certainly created an environment friendly to the plotters.
When the bombs first went off in Africa, my first thoughts idled on the CIA,   but then I thought  not even the CIA would bomb that many people for no apparent reason,  So I said let’s see what happens.   Well, what’s happened is “heightened security”.   This appears to be perfectly proper.  The barricading of government facilities and the long lines where people are asked to show their papers before they can “move along”.   These are reported as unavoidable but cautious responses to a world wide terrorist threat.   So it seems that the only thing that has actually happened is the increasing deployment of security forces and their apparatus home, and a one day airstrike by the U.S. at what are reported to be former CIA training camps in Aghanistan and a pharmeceutical company in the Sudan.   Then there is the labeling of Khalid Muhammad, an African American leader well outside the mainstream, as a “terrorist”, and a convocation of Black youth as a “hate march.”   The history of United States government in general and the CIA in particular as outlined in “Whiteout” suggests that these are not necessarily unrelated topics.   To the kind of people you read about in “Whiteout”, people receiving US government checks, the 12 Americans who died in the bombing in Kenya could easily be considered “unavoidable collateral damage,” and the thought of a million black youth united behind an agenda for changing their lives would be considered totally unacceptable.

After recapping Gary Webbs’ “Dark Alliance” series and the CIA orchestrated media firestorm of denial of the evidence and destruction of Mr. Webb’s journalism career,  “Whiteout” takes a look at some of the basis, of what the major media calls “Black paranoia.”   That is, African Americans, after looking at the evidence revealed by Webb and the empirical evidence on the corner and in their lives, are left with a feeling that yes, “they” are out to get us.  Well if you’re Black and  weren’t paranoid before reading “Whiteout”, it’s only because you didn’t know enough.    Check out the following excerpts from chapter three, “The History of Black ‘Paranoia’.”

“In the early years of the century, Lieut. Col. Ralph Van Deman created an Army Intelligence network targeting four prime foes: the Industrial Workers of the World, opponents of the draft, Socialists, and ‘Negro unrest.”  Fear that the Germans would take advantage of black grievances was great, and Van Deman was much preoccupied with the role of black churches as possible centers of sedition.


“By the end of 1917 the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division had opened a file on Martin Luther King Jr.’s maternal grandfather, the Rev. A. D. Williams, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and first president of the Atlanta NAACP.  King’s father, Martin Sr., William’s successor at Ebenezer Baptist also entered the army files….By 1963, so Tennessee journalist Stephen Tompkins reported in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, U-2 planes were photographing disturbances in Birmingham, Alabama, capping a multilayered spy system that by 1968 included 304 intelligence offices across the country, “subversive national security dossiers” on 80,731 Americans, plus 19 million personnel dossiers lodged at the Defense Department’s Central Index of Investigations.

A more sinister thread derives from the anger and fear with which the army high command greeted King’s denunciation of the Vietnam War at Riverside Church in 1967.  Army spies recorded Stokely Carmichael telling King, ‘The Man don’t care you call ghettos concentration camps, but when you tell him his war machine is nothing but hired killers you got trouble.’
“After the 1967 Detroit riots, 496 black men under arrest were interviewed by agents of the army’s Psychological Operations group, dressed as civilians.  It turned out King was by far the most popular black leader.  That same year Maj. General William Yarborough, assistant chief of staff for intelligence, observing the great antiwar march on Washington from the roof of the Pentagon, concluded that the empire was coming apart at the seams.  There were, Yarborough reckoned, too few reliable troops to fight in Vietnam  and hold the line at home.
“In response, the army increased its surveillance of  King.  Green Berets and other Special Forces veterans from Vietnam began making street maps and identifying landing zones and potential sniper sites in major US cities.   The Klu Klux Klan was recruited by the 20th Special Forces Group, headquartered in Alabama as a subsidiary intelligence network.   The army began offering 30.06 sniper rifles to police departments, including that of Memphis.

“In his fine investigation, Tompkins detailed the increasing hysteria of Army intelligence chief’s over the threat they considered King to pose to national stability.  The FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover was similarly obsessed, and King was dogged by spy units through early 1967.  A Green Beret special unit was operating in Memphis on the day he was shot.  He died from a bullet from a 30.06 rifled purchased in a Memphis store, a murder for which James Earl Ray was given a 99-year sentence in a Tennessee prison.  A court-ordered test of James Earl Ray’s rifle raised questions as to whether it in fact had fired the bullet that killed King.”

COINTELPRO & Political Prisoners
One of the items on the agenda for the Million Youth March is that of political prisoners.   Some people, even black people, may think this involves some drug dealer or violent criminal who got “caught up in the system by the man”, yada, yada yada.  Actually, in recent history, the term “political prisoners”  grew out of the FBI’s  Counter Intelligence Program.   COINTELPRO as it was known began in 1956.  Cockburn and St. Clair write, “A memo from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover described the program as it stood in August 1967; the purpose of COINTELPRO was to ‘expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize’ black organizations the FBI didn’t care for.  And if any black leader emerged, Hoover’s order was that the Bureau should “pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them before they exercised their potential for violence.’
“‘Neutralize’ has long been government-speak for assassination.  At least six or seven Black Panther leaders were killed at the instigation of the FBI, the most infamous episode being the assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark  Clark in Chicago.  These two Panther leaders were shot in their beds while asleep, by Chicago police who had been given a detailed floor plan of the house by an FBI informant who had also drugged Hampton and Clark.”

In jail right now there are men and women for whom this is not history.  It is a life held in a prison cell because that person stood up when others did not, and said “No”.    They will not be forgotten at the  million youth march, and they must not be forgotten at the ballot box either.
When you think of cocaine you may think of the CIA.  But the use of cocaine as an excuse to attack black people is not new.   “In 1900 the Journal of the American Medical Association printed an editorial alerting its leaders to a new peril: ‘Negroes in the South are reported as being addicted to a new form of vice – that of ‘cocaine sniffing or the ‘coke habit.”   One of the authorities of the time, Dr. Christopher Koch of the State Pharmacy Board of Pennsylvania, in testimony before Congress in 1914, said, “Most of the attacks upon the white women of the south are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain.’”
This is the kind of thinking that guided the war on drugs in the early years, and the linking of cocaine and blacks continued unabated through the decades.   “Whiteout” reports that, “After a Nixon briefing in 1969, his top aide, H.R. Haldeman noted in his diary:  ‘Nixon emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks.  The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.’”    Nixon was at least respecting black sensibilities.  “Whiteout” shows that appearances were tossed aside during the Reagan-Bush-Clinton years when black people were seriously dissed in the War on Drugs.   This war has many components.  One that is explored by Cockburn and St. Clair, is the forfeiture program.  “Even if only a small amount of drugs is found inside,” and Orange County narcotics detective explained, “the law permits seized vehicles to be sold by law enforcement agencies to finance anti-drug law enforcement programs.’


“In fact, the forfeiture program became a tremendous revenue stream for the police.  From 1982 to 1991 the US Department of Justice seized more than $2.5 billion in assets.  The Justice Department confiscated $500 million in property in 1991 alone, and 80 percent of these seizures were from people who were never charged with a crime.”
In 1986 the Ant-Drug Abuse Act was passed.  “It contained twenty-nine new minimum mandatory sentences….In 1995 the US Sentencing Commission reviewed eight years of application of this provision and found it to be undeniably racist in practice:  84 percent of those arrested for crack possession were black, while only 10 percent were white and 5 percent Hispanic.  The disparity for crack-trafficking prosecutions were even wider: 88 percent blacks, 7 percent Hispanics, 4 percent whites.   By comparison, defendants arrested for powder cocaine possession were 58 percent white, 26 percent black and 15 percent Hispanic…..Between 1986 and 1991 the incarceration rate for white males convicted on drug crimes increased by 106 percent.  But the number of black males in prison for kindred offenses soared by a factor of 429 percent, and the rate for black women went up by an incredible 828 percent.”

Using drugs as a weapon to attack blacks extends well beyond “illegal substances”.   In “Whiteout”, we are introduced to “Jolly” West, a UCLA psychiatrist and Government researcher.   Mr. West put it this way, “‘The role of drugs in the exercise of political control is also coming under increasing discussion,’ he wrote in Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience and theory, a book he edited in 1975.  ‘Control can be impose either through prohibition or supply.  The total or even partial prohibition of drugs gives government considerable leverage for other types of control.  An example would be the selective application of drug laws…against selected components of the population such as members of certain minority groups or political organizations.’  As we have seen, sentencing patterns vindicate West’s analysis.”
Sterilization and the history of bio-chemical warfare here in the US is also instructive.  One of the most frightening possibilities should be of interest to anyone who has heard of the Human Genome Project, the world-wide search to map every human gene.  “In a 1970 article in Military Review, a journal published by the US Army Command and General Staff College, a    Swedish geneticist at the university of Lund  named Carl Larson discussed genetically selective weapons.  Larson stated that though the study of drug metabolizing enzymes was in its infancy, ‘observed variations in drug responses have pointed to the possibility of great innate differences in vulnerability to chemical agents between different populations.’ Larson went on to speculate that in a process similar to mapping the world’s blood groups, ‘we may soon have a grid where new observations on this can be pinpointed.’  In the same vein, a January 1975 US Army report noted in its conclusion that “it is theoretically possible to develop so-called ‘ethnic weapons’ which would be designed to exploit naturally occurring differences in vulnerability among specific population groups.’”

With all of that and more as prelude, Cockburn and St. Clair then begin to tell the murderous, torturous, system controlling, drug running saga of the CIA.   In spite of recent reports that they no longer assassinate people, assassination has always been one of their options.   Well known is the case of Patrice Lumumba, leader of the Congo.  CIA director Allen Dulles had decided that his removal was “an urgent and prime objective.”    First they tried a bio-poison created by the CIA’s Technical Services Division.   The poison was to be applied to Lummaba’s toothbrush and food.   “However, the CIA’s bio-assassins couldn’t get close enough to Lumumba, so the ‘executive action’ proceeded by a more traditional route.  Lumumba was seized, tortured and murdered by soldiers of the CIA’s selected replacement, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Lumumba’s body ended up in the trunk of a CIA officer who drove around Lumumbashi trying to decide how to dispose of it.”

Looking at the Congo today, with all her minerals and boardering countries, we see the results of the CIA’s work then, and probably the work they’re doing right now.  The chapter dealing with the connections between the CIA and its predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), with Nazis after WW2 is instructive in the kinds of people the CIA is willing and even eager to work with.

Their exploits in the realms of torture and human experimentation are detailed at length and the relationship of the CIA with people such as the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbi extended into the 1970’s.    But we don’t have to tar the CIA with the Nazi brush.  It is revealed that the CIA is quite capable of creating its own horrors.  Take the effort to interrogate Vietnamese prisoners in July of 1968.  “In one such experiment, three prisoners were anaesthetized, their skulls were then opened and electrodes were implanted by CIA doctors into different parts of their brains.  The prisoners were revived, placed in a room with knives and the electrodes in the brains activated by the CIA psychiatrist who were covertly observing them.  The hope was that they could be prompted in this manner to attack each other.  The experiment failed.  The electrodes were removed, the patients were shot and their bodies burned.  This rivaled anything in Dachau.”


“By the early 1950’s the CIA’s relationship with drugs stretched from alliances with criminal smugglers of heroin to research in, and application of, lethal or mind-altering chemical agents.”

After reading about the blatant drug running, the plane buying, the court fixing, the coups, the third-party slaughtering, the creation of deniable hight ground, once again we see that the people in the barbershops, beauty parlors, and on the street corner are right: The volume of guns and drugs that are in the Black communities would not arrive without the active aid and assistance of a government authority. The evidence has been compiled again; it’s the Central Intelligence Agency.  Once again there are hundreds of pages of documentation, interviews, sworn testimony, eyewitnesses, etc., all compiled from a wealth or sources.  And once again there is a collective shrug.    There was a brief flurry of activity last December, when “news” of the results of the CIA internal investigation of drugs charges was leaked.  The actual report was due out the following January but has not been issued yet.  The Amsterdam News reports Maxine Waters charging that “the leaked CIA report remains classified, sitting at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.”   The December 16th issue of CounterPunch anticipated the non-release.  “As for the January release, don’t hold your breath.  This is not the first CIA Inspector General’s report that’s been laggard in appearing.  In 1988 the Agency conducted an IG’s report on Contra-CIA drug running.  We’re still waiting.  In 1973 the Agency promised an IG report on CIA relations with opium smuggling in Southeast Asia (this was after McCoy’s book raised a storm and was duly denounced in the mainstream press.)  We’re still waiting for full publication of that one.  In 1953 and in 1963 the Agency undertook self-examinations of its role in drug experimentation, with reference to LSD.  We’re still waiting for complete disclosure of those reports as well.”
People had better start caring about this, and not leave it up to Congresswoman Maxine Waters to fight this battle with thin troops.   Africa risks being depopulated, and black people here in the states are employed as company labor or as product for the criminal justice system and social service agencies.
The solution that worries the ruling elite,and their operatives the most, is the prospect of a black voter turnout in the 80% range.  At that level, we would leverage a movement that would fundamentally reform the political system and the exercise of power around the world.   That is why so much time and energy is spent trying to keep black folks down, and why the fate of the nation depends on our rising up.

(“Whiteout – The CIA, Drugs and the Press” is published by Verso 212-807-9680)
CounterPunch is published by Ken Silverstein and Alexander Cockkburn.  For subscription info: CounterPunch, P.O. Box 18675, Washington, D.C.

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