A History Of The CIA And Drug Trafficking

By Michael D. Jacobsen
Staff writer for Fighting the Tyranny

The very beginnings of what is now known as the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, started in 1942. This was done, of course, in response to the US involvement in WWII under the name of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).  The role of the OSS was to collect and analyze the information required by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their war efforts and to conduct special operations that are not assigned to other agencies.  After the war, the OSS was mostly dismantled and transferred to the State and War Departments.  Next came the Cold War, and under the National Security Act of 1947, the CIA was born.  At first, its limits were similar to the OSS. Still, in 1949 the Central Intelligence Agency Act was passed, which allowed the Agency to be excluded from the budget limitations of other agencies.  Notably, CIA funds could be handed to other agencies, then gave back to the CIA to ensure the secrecy of the Agency’s budget.

This leads us to the Vietnam War and the CIA’s secret war in Laos.  While officially neutral, Laos was a significant staging area for the North Vietnamese.  The Ho Chi Minh trail, which was a paved highway running parallel to Vietnam, was used to move troops into and out of the country. The North Vietnamese also sponsored a communist rebellion to put pressure on the Laotian government. The CIA, in an effort to counter this without direct military involvement, began arming and training around 30,000 hill people.  The way the Laotian army was kept supplied was by a CIA owned company called Air America.

air america

Air America operated in Southeast Asia from 1950 until 1976. Its official purpose was to bring weapons and supplies to the CIA surrogate. General Vang  Pao commanded the military region 2 in northern Laos. The CIA would bring in weapons and supplies and would export opium to sell in the United States to continue to finance their efforts. According to Fred Platt, a former pilot in Laos, “When a farmer raised a crop of opium, what he got for his year’s worth of work was the equivalent of 35 to 40 US dollars.” He followed with “that amount of opium, was it refined to its morphine base, then into morphine, then into heroin and appeared on the streets of New York, that 35 dollar crop of opium could be worth $50,000, $60,000 or sometimes reaching upward to a hundred thousand dollars in 1969.”  After the Vietnam conflict wound to a close, the CIA shifted its sights elsewhere.

In 1986, it was discovered by the United States Senate Committee that the CIA backed Contra rebels, were smuggling cocaine into the United States. Most reports claim that this was done by CIA owned planes that again were bringing weapons and supplies and taking out drugs that were sold on the streets. A reporter by the name of Gary Webb exposed this in a series of articles published in the San Jose Mercury News. These articles investigated Nicaraguans linked to the CIA-backed Contras shipping crack cocaine to Los Angeles and funneling part of the profits back to the Contras. The articles made light that the CIA was aware of this and not only allowed but helped this to happen. Gary Webb also wrote the series Dark Alliance: the CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, which went into further detail about these events. In 2004, Gary Webb was reported as having committed suicide by not one, but two gunshots to the head.


In 1989, Manuel Noriega was overthrown in Panama by Operation Just Cause. Noriega was a CIA asset, and he was trained in intelligence and counterintelligence at the School of the Americas in Fort Gullick, Panama, in 1967. He also received a course in psychological operations at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, and remained on the CIA payroll until 1988. When the DEA tried to indict Noriega in 1971, for drug trafficking, the CIA prevented them from doing so. Noriega had been providing assistance to the Contra group in Nicaragua at the request of the US who in turn overlooked his drug-dealing activities, which they had known about since the ’60s. The decision to finally remove Noriega from power was the result of the shooting down of the CIA pilot Eugene Hasenfus. Documents aboard the plane revealed many details involving the connection between the CIA and Noriega and how the CIA knew of his activities and allowed them to continue.

In the 1980s, the CIA supported Mujahideen rebels in Afganistan via Operation Cyclone. The insurgents were also involved heavily in drug smuggling. The main CIA client was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a leading drug lord, and heroin refiner. The CIA supplied truck and mules to carry arms in and on the way out used them to send opium to the refiners. The output from this operation was said to amount to around half of the heroin supply in the United States. For a time, the DEA referred to Afganistan as the new Columbia of the drug world. In 2000 the Taliban ordered opium production to cease, dropping the opium coming from Afganistan to almost zero. After the events of 9/11, the United States invaded Afganistan, and once again, it has become the heroin capital of the world.


It is rather apparent that the CIA has been facilitating the production of many illicit drugs and allowed the shipping of them back into the United States. The excuses seem to range from the need to gain intelligence in areas of the world to the need to support someone who is helping the people we want. The cost is the health and lives of American citizens.

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