CIA Says It Has No Record of Links to Drug Dealers; Crack Dealer Rick Ross Gets Life Sentence; CIA Director Faces Angry Crowd at Los Angeles Meeting
In a document filed in federal court in San Diego on November 4, the CIA said it has no records of any relationship with members of a Nicaraguan-American drug ring alleged to have started the crack epidemic in California during the 1980s. Federal prosecutors in San Diego requested the CIA declaration and attached FBI and CIA documents in connection with the trial of Los Angeles drug dealer Rick Ross (Doyle McManus, "CIA Says It Has No Record of Ties to Drug Trafficker," Los Angeles Times/Washington Edition, November 6, 1996, p. A9; Walter Pincus, "No Links to Drug Dealers Turn Up in CIA Records," Washington Post, November 6, 1996, p. A14).
The CIA released a statement on November 5 regarding the court filing, which said that its search "identified no records indicating that CIA had any kind of operational, contractual or employment relationship" with Norwin Meneses, Oscar Danilo Blandon or Rick Ross. In a series published in the San Jose Mercury News, the paper reported that Meneses and Blandon supplied cocaine to Ross, and allegedly used the drug-profits to fund CIA-backed Contra rebels fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua during the early 1980s. In the filing were CIA records from 1984 and 1985 identifying Meneses as a weapons smuggler, money launderer and "the kingpin of narcotics traffickers in Nicaragua" before the 1979 Sandinista revolution.
The agency also found no records of any relationship with Ronald J. Lister or David Scott Weekly. Lister, a former police officer and former colleague of Blandon, told police when he was arrested on drug charges in 1986 that he "worked with the CIA." Weekly was the man that Lister named as his contact inside the CIA.
William H. McNair, information review officer for the CIA's director of operations, said that CIA Inspector General Frederick P. Hitz was still looking into the allegations, and that the court filings in San Diego focused only on whether the agency had a relationship with these drug traffickers. The Justice Department and Congress are pursuing their own inquiries into the allegations.
Rick Ross, 36, was arrested again on March 2, 1994 and convicted of attempting to buy 100 kilograms of cocaine from Blandon in a federally run sting operation. During the sentencing hearing, Ross' attorney Alan Fenster charged that Blandon was working for the CIA and that Ross was "a victim of the most outrageous government misconduct known to man." Sentencing had been set for September 13, but U.S. District Judge Marilyn L. Huff delayed sentencing so that she could study the allegations raised by the Mercury News series and receive a report from the CIA. On November 19, Huff denied Fenster's motion that his client's conviction should be set aside and sentenced Ross to life in prison. "The conduct of Ross [and two other accomplices] ... is not excused by any tenuous ties to the CIA," Huff said before the sentencing (Amanda Covarrubias, "Dealer Alleging CIA Drug Link Gets Life Term," Washington Post, November 21, 1996, p. A18; "Crack dealer who alleged CIA involvement gets life term," Chicago Tribune, November 21, 1996, s. 1, p. 10).
On November 15, CIA Director John M. Deutch addressed a hostile, sometimes abusive neighborhood meeting in Watts in Los Angeles. Participants frequently interrupted the CIA Director, called him a "murderer," shouted obscenities at him, and laughed at Deutch, who repeatedly pledged a "thorough" investigation. U.S. Representative Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA), who arranged the town hall-type meeting and invited Deutch, often had to intervene to restore order. Deutch said "at this moment, we have no evidence of the CIA engaging in drug trafficking," and asked the crowd not to draw conclusions until the inquiry is complete (John L. Mitchell and Nora Zamichow, "CIA Head Speaks in L.A. to Counter Crack Claims,"Los Angeles Times, November 16, 1996, p. A1; William Claiborne, "CIA Chief Faces Angry Crowd at Los Angeles Meeting on Drug Allegations," Washington Post, November 16, 1996, p. A6).
For more information about Rick Ross and the CIA-crack allegations, see "CIA Inspector General Extends Investigation of CIA-Contra Crack Cocaine Allegations; Senate Holds Intelligence Committee Hearings; Rep. Waters Mobilizes Anger Over the Allegations," NewsBriefs, November 1996 and "CIA Allegedly Linked to Crack Epidemic in Los Angeles; CIA Director Orders Investigation; African American Leaders Outraged; DEA Agent Supports Charges; Charges Minimized," NewsBriefs, October 1996.