The emergence of crack cocaine devastated American inner cities between 1981 and 1986. The first known appearance of the drug was in L.A. in 1981. According to an expensive news report in 1996 by San Jose Mercury News journalist Gary Webb, it was by no coincidence that crack first hit South Central L.A. and then the rest of the inner cities in the U.S.
Webb’s report, which was published in August 1996, pointed the finger at the U.S. government as the culprit that introduced crack to Black-dominated neighborhoods.
Webb’s report, “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion,” of course, got push-back from the government. Central Intelligence Agency director John M. Deutch went so far as to visit Los Angeles to offer his denials.
Webb reported the Contra rebels in Nicaragua were shipping cocaine into the U.S. In the mid-’80s, and the cocaine was being turned into highly addictive crack. Then, crack flooded Compton and South Central Los Angeles. The Contras were right-wing rebel groups who opposed the socialist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
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They were backed and funded by the U.S. and active from 1979 to the early ’90s. Webb reported that profits from cocaine sales supported their fight against Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government in the 1980s.
In November 1996, Deutch came to L.A. and attended a 90-minute intense town hall-style meeting. He denied charges that his agency helped Latin American cocaine dealers. More than 800 people were in attendance.
“No one who runs a government agency can let such an allegation stand,” Deutch said, refuting Webb’s claims. “I will get to the bottom of it.”
Deutch explained that a CIA internal investigation concluded that there was no link between the CIA’s efforts to help the Contras and drug-dealing activities of Nicaraguans who were reported to have provided tons of cocaine to a high-level South-Central dealer, “Freeway” Ricky Ross, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Deutch said, “no evidence of a conspiracy by the CIA to encourage drug trafficking from Latin America during this or any other period.”
A photographer closes in on CIA Director John Deutch on Capitol Hill, Feb. 22, 1996, prior to a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Deutch refused to rule out using U.S. journalists as spies when American lives are at stake or there is an imminent threat of the use of weapons of mass destruction. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)