“For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found.
This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the “crack” capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.’s gangs to buy automatic weapons.
It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union of a U.S.-backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting “gangstas” of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles.”
These are the opening sentences of Gary Webb’s three-part series “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion“. Published for the San Jose Mercury News, Gary Webb’s year long investigation culminated in the “most talked about piece of journalism in 1996“. It was released on the internet at the same time of its print publication, making it one of the first national security stories to “go viral” by bringing the Mercury‘s website over 1 million hits a day. “Dark Alliance” prompted congressional hearings by Rep. Maxine Waters, an internal CIA investigation in 1998, and now, 18 years later, a major motion picture starring and produced by Jeremy Renner.
The movie Kill the Messenger is based on the book of the same title by Nick Schou, subtitled How the CIA’s Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb. In the film, Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) is cryptically warned by a Washington insider, “They’ll make you the story”, and that, more than the CIA-Contra-Cocaine controversy itself, is what the book and movie are about.
In today’s era of Snowden’s NSA revelations and government distrust at an all-time high, the allegations made in the Mercury series and Gary Webb’s follow-up book Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Cocaine Explosion seem almost quaint in comparison. While it was as early as 1986 that the government publicly acknowledged that cocaine smuggling was funding the CIA-backed Contras, Gary Webb was the first one to answer the question of where that cocaine went and where the money came from. The answer was found in “Freeway” Rick Ross, the “king of crack” who sold $3 million worth of coke a day, bought 455 kilos a week, and in today’s dollar had earnings over 2.5 billion between 1982 and 1989. Rick Ross was a true entrepreneur in his field. Unlike typical drug dealers, he didn’t get bogged down in petty street rivalry because the whole nation would be his market. He would introduce himself to other dealers by giving them a kilo for free and then offering them his price that was $10,000 per kilo lower than anyone else, thereby turning all of his would-be competitors into customers.
The reason “Freeway” Rick Ross had a seemingly never-ending supply of the cheapest, purest product was because his supplier was Oscar Danilo Blandón – a protected CIA asset. Blandón sold cocaine through Nicaraguan kingpin Norwin Meneses and thereby funded the “freedom fighting” Contras against the Sandinista government. While Webb’s investigation sparked outrage across the country and prompted many black leaders to accuse the government of purposefully creating crack to destroy inner city minorities, “Dark Alliance” never claimed anything so conspiratorial. What it claimed, and what the CIA’s 1998 investigation later admitted, was that the CIA worked with known criminals as a “means to an end” and merely looked the other way when it came to their drug smuggling activities.
Yet, for such a tame accusation, the major papers of the time unanimously rose against Gary Webb and denounced his reporting, his sources, and his ethics – even making straw man arguments by claiming that he went farther than he did in his accusations. In the beginning of the attack his editors stood up for him, even writing a letter to the Post saying, “While there is considerable circumstantial evidence of CIA involvement with the leaders of the drug ring, we never reached or reported any definitive conclusion on CIA involvement. We reported that men selling cocaine in Los Angeles met with people on the CIA payroll. We reported that the money raised was sent to a CIA-run operation. But we did not go further.”
But soon his editors betrayed him. The Los Angeles Times assigned 17 reporters to join the “Get Gary Webb Team”, with Nick Schou writing that some former LA Times writers thought it was their mission not to investigate the allegations but to debunk them, commonly saying “We’re going to take away this guy’s Pulitzer”. Ultimately, they printed more material attacking “Dark Alliance” than the 20,000 words that comprised the series itself. When the Mercury editor printed a letter acknowledging that some mistakes were made in “Dark Alliance”, it was seen as a full retraction and sealed Gary Webb’s fate as a professional journalist.
While many reviews of Kill The Messenger are favorable, often echoing Nick Schou’s conclusion that “His big story, despite major flaws of hyperbole abetted and even encouraged by his editors, remains one of the most important works of investigative journalism in recent American history”, there are still elements that want to downplay the truth that Gary Webb exposed.
Keeping in the tradition of his former peers at the Washington Post, Jeff Leen, the current assisting managing editor of investigations, says that Gary Webb was “no journalism hero”, that an “extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof”, the Hollywood version of the story is “pure fiction” and finally, he believes it “significant” that the 1998 CIA internal investigation “found no CIA relationship with the drug ring Webb had written about.”
Of course, Gary Webb addressed this problem of the CIA investigating itself in Dark Alliance. CIA Inspector General Fred P. Hitz appeared before the House Intelligence Committee in March 1998 and after admitting that the agency did not cut off relationships with drug traffickers that supported the Contra program, he testified “the period of 1982 to 1995 was one in which there was no official requirement to report on allegations of drug trafficking with respect to non-employees of the agency, and they were defined to include agents, assets, non-staff employees”. As Webb explained, “the CIA wouldn’t tell and the Justice Department wouldn’t ask” – so no wonder the CIA didn’t find any relationship to drug traffickers – they didn’t have to keep any records!
That such a response the Post could still be given today reminds me that Walter Pincus, the Washington Post reporter who had been assigned to debunk “Dark Alliance”, had collaborated with the CIA in spying operations in the late 1950s and early 1960s and openly written about it! It’s also interesting that in promoting their new film, Focus Features presents an article Unbelieveable but True that details six political conspiracies that “turned out to be true”. The first conspiracy they document is Operation Mockingbird, which details how the CIA recruited and worked with 25 news organizations and 400 journalists to create pro-American propaganda and “help paint the appropriate image of United States foreign policy”.
With curious timing, less than two months ago the CIA declassified a six page article titled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story.” As described by The Intercept, “Dark Alliance” was initially a disaster for the CIA that “could hardly be worse”, but luckily, due to “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists”, the CIA was able to sit back and watch “with relief as the largest newspapers in the country rescued the agency from disaster, and, in the process, destroyed the reputation of an aggressive, award-winning reporter.”
Was it a lucky coincidence that large papers with formal ties and “productive relations” to the CIA came out so aggressively to attack Gary Webb? It’s probably just as much of a coincidence that Gary committed suicide with two shots to the head. While Nick Schou makes a strong case that Gary Webb killed himself due to depression from his “controversial career-ending story – and the combined resources and dedication of America’s three largest and most powerful newspapers” combined with going off anti-depressants, financial woes, and having to move back into his mom’s house after being denied by both his ex-wife and ex-girl friend, others view the suicide with understandable skepticism.
According to Alex Jones, he had interviewed Gary Webb a dozen times over the years and reports that months before his death Webb had told Jones he was “receiving death threats” and was “regularly being followed”. Jones states that Gary Webb was working on a new book that would vindicate his claims and he wanted Jones to build a website to host all of the documentation, similar to how the San Jose Mercury News hosted the material for the original “Dark Alliance” series. Freeway Rick Ross also recalls Webb speaking about a new book and his gut feeling is that “they killed him, because I think it’s pretty hard to shoot yourself in the head twice.” If Jones and Ross are correct, it would be odd timing for Webb to commit suicide on the verge of publishing a new book and building a website to reclaim his reputation, but it would be the perfect time to be murdered.
When reflecting on his expulsion from the journalistic community, Gary realized that the reason he’d had prior success wasn’t because he was a careful and diligent reporter, but because he “hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress”. If Gary Webb had gone deeper down the rabbit hole there would have been no limit to the amount of additional evidence he could have found establishing the relationship between the CIA and drug dealers across the world. There is so much information to be found that the film Kill the Messenger, far from being an exaggeration, is just the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t go far enough. Instead, when taking the evidence in its entirety, the reality we face is a nightmare scenario only found in a children’s tale.
CIA Cocaine Trafficking Collaboration
The documentation and allegations of CIA drug trafficking are legion, so where to begin? We could start with former Panama leader General Manual Noriega’s decades of drug-trafficking under CIA protection that only ended when his connection became a PR liability. Venezuelan General Ramon Guillen Davila was another CIA asset that smuggled tons of cocaine into the US with CIA approval. In more recent times, the Costa Rica Star reported on a curious shipment of 24 tons of cocaine that was loaded onto a U.S Air force transport aircraft in route to Miami. In the category of poetic irony, two blemishes in the history of the CIA collided on September 24, 2007 when a CIA torture plane ran out of fuel over the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula. Jet aircraft #N987SA, known to have been used on at least 3 rendition flights to Guantanamo’s torture chambers, was carrying 3.6 tons of cocaine when it crashed. How embarrassing when the “logistical coordinator” for a top Mexican drug-trafficking gang that was responsible for purchasing the jet told the U.S. District Court in Chicago that he had been a government asset for the DOJ, DEA, FBI, ICE and Homeland Security since 2004.
These examples are noteworthy for their historical legitimacy, but there are plenty of other whistle-blowers that directly confirmed Gary Webb’s accusations of the CIA’s cocaine complicity. When the black community of South Central L.A. was at its height of unrest over the “Dark Alliance” revelations, CIA Director John Deutch made an unprecedented move by going directly to LA and speaking at a town meeting. His plan to placate their concerns and promise that he’d “get to the bottom of this” fell to pieces when he was confronted by former Los Angeles Police department officer Michael Ruppert. Ruppert told Deutch that “the agency has dealt drugs throughout this country for a long time” and referenced three specific agency operations – the crowd went wild, chanting “we told you”.
Another whistle-blower tied to Gary Webb was former DEA agent Celerino Castillo III. Castillo spent 12 years at the DEA where he assembled and trained anti-narcotics teams in several countries and raided drug rings from New York to the Amazon. But it all came to an end one day in El Salvador when he was given a tip to investigate possible drug smuggling by Nicaraguan Contras. As documented in his book Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras & The Drug War, Castillo discovered that the Contra pilots were smuggling cocaine using the same pilots, planes, and hangers as the CIA. He thoroughly documented dates, places, names and DEA file numbers, bringing his superiors reams of evidence warranting a full scale investigation. Instead of being commended he was told to back off. When he kept going he was reprimanded and then placed under an Internal Affairs investigation that would help destroy his marriage, his career, and nearly his life.
Someone that would not succeed in escaping this controversy with his life was lifelong CIA agent Barry Seal, infamously known as “the most successful drug smuggler in American history, who died in a hail of bullets with George Bush’s private phone number in his wallet.” According to Daniel Hopsicker’s Barry & ‘the boys’: The CIA, the Mob, and America’s Secret History, Seal had an active role in scandals such as the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy assassination, and Watergate – but his most well-known and undisputed role was in the Iran-Contra Affair. Seal owned and operated numerous planes out of the CIA cocaine drop point at the municipal airport of Mena, Arkansas. This included the plane used in the DEA sting operation against Pablo Escobar and other members of the Medellín Cartel to implicate the Nicaraguan Sandinista government. In the height of hypocrisy, one month after Seal was murdered, one of the photographs that Seal took was paraded on television by Reagan to suggest that top Sandinista government officials were involved with drug smuggling in order to boost support for the Contras.
When the IRS came to seize Seal’s property and claimed that he owed back taxes for 30 million made in drug dealing, Seal’s response was a presumptuous “Hey, I work for you… we work for the same people!”. When that didn’t work, he started making threats that “If you don’t get these IRS assholes off my back I’m going to blow the whistle on the Contra scheme.” One week after that conversation he was sentenced to a halfway house as a condition of his plea bargain, making him an easy target. Within two weeks he was dead, shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on February 19, 1986.
Another CIA asset that knew Barry Seal, worked with him, and confirms his drug dealing and money laundering activities was former Air Force Intelligence operative Terry Reed. In Reed’s book Compromised: Clinton, Bush, and the CIA, he documents how he was recruited into the Contra operation by Oliver North himself. Reed was initially recruited as a pilot instructor to train the Contra pilots at rural airstrips in Mena, Arkansas, as his last tour of duty was to in South East Asia to equip the Cambodians to fight a covert war – a skillset that was very transferrable for this operation. At Mena, Reed was introduced to Barry Seal, who he was told was the CIA contractor who had the contract work to equip the Contras. Reed was told that George Bush himself was overseeing the project to insulate the executive branch from constitutional violations and he even encountered then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton during this time. Barry Seal told Reed that more than $9 million a week was dropped from planes at Mena that were laundered through an investment banking firm with direct ties to Clinton. But where did that money come from? For two years Reed didn’t understand that question. He worked with the Contras “with blinders on” until one day in 1987 when he came face to face with a C130 filled with tons of cocaine stored in ammo crates. Like others before and after him, Reed asked for a full-scale investigation that went directly to Oliver North, causing him to be labeled a “security risk” and a threat to the operation. While Oliver North is a well known key player in Iran -Contra, Reed was the one to go on record putting George Bush and Bill Clinton squarely in the middle of the CIA-Cocaine-Contra-Arkansas loop. When Hillary Clinton said that we can’t legalize drugs because “There is just too much money in it”, Reason magazine assumed it was because she didn’t understand how drug prohibition itself causes the high prices. But instead, maybe Hillary meant exactly what she said.
The Politics and Money of Heroin
Suffice to say, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times didn’t find the CIA-cocaine testimonies of Michael Ruppert, Celerino Castillo III, Barry Seal, or Terry Reed compelling enough to corroborate Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance“. However, these individuals were making claims far more bold than Gary Webb ever did. Instead of pointing to agents that “looked the other way”, they had direct knowledge of the CIA-Contra-Cocaine policy being run by the highest levels of power, from the director of the CIA all the way to the presidency.
Taking a step back on the conspiracy spectrum, we can review the work of Alfred W. McCoy, a well-respected academic who holds his Ph.D in Southeast Asian history from Yale University. In McCoy’s voluminous work The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, he goes through great lengths to document his thesis that organized crime throughout American and Europe collaborated over several decades to establish new centers of opium production, heroin refining, and distribution in Southeast Asia that was often aided and accelerated by the CIA. His detail-oriented book is known as the first to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking, something that even CIA mockingbird papers can’t deny. McCoy writes,
“Looking back on the forty years of the cold war, it is clear that the CIA’s four major covert wars transformed tribal warlords into major drug lords and protected covert assets from criminal investigation. Under the pragmatic policy of accepting any ally effective against Communism, the CIA used tribal leaders for proxy warfare in the mountains of Asia, unconcerned when these same warlords used its protection to become drug lords. In the history of drug trafficking during the cold war, there is repeated coincidence between CIA covert assets and major dealers.”
In the 1950′s you find the CIA working with the Corsican Mafia to fight communism at the expense of strengthening them as they became America’s leading Heroin supplier. At the same time, two of the CIA’s covert wars developed the Golden Triangle drug trade, giving arms and logistics support to the Nationalist Chinese (KMT) in Burma that turned the region into the worlds largest opium producer. The same thing happened in Laos during the Vietnam War, with the CIA working with opium-growing Hmong tribesmen and Laotian generals to create heroin laboratories and direct routes to ready buyers, first in the U.S. forces in South Vietnam and next to the U.S. domestic market. Into the 1980′s the CIA’s support for Afghan guerrillas aligned with Central Asia becoming the major heroin supplier – and we’ve already heard enough about the Nicaraguan cocaine trade.
For McCoy, he looks at this legacy of CIA complicity and finds plausible answers that ring of the theme “the ends justify the means”:
“American drug agents, with limited budgets and side arms, tracked the drug flow as it moved toward America, occasionally intercepting a shipment but never approaching the source… … Their ultimate enemies in this war on drugs were … ruled … with the arms and support of the CIA and its allied agencies. In the invisible bureaucratic battle for these strategic highlands, the DEA’s weak, distant attempts at drug interdiction were overwhelmed by the CIA’s direct alliances with drug lords. … Critics who look for the CIA’s agents to actually dirty their hands with drugs in the line of duty are missing the point. Under its covert warfare doctrine, the CIA avoided direct involvement in combat and instead worked through local clients whose success determined the outcome of the agency’s operation. The CIA’s involvement thus resolves around tolerance for, or even complicity in, drug dealing by its covert action assets – not, in most instances, any direct culpability.”
McCoy’s magnum opus ends in several key questions: Was the agency ever allied with drug traffickers, did the CIA protect these allies from prosecution, and did the CIA’s alliances with drug lords contribute significantly to the expansion of the global drug trade? To those three questions, he gives a resounding yes, beyond any doubt. When it comes to the question of, “did the CIA encourage cocaine smugglers to target African-American communities”, McCoy takes a queue from Gary Webb:
“Instead of targeting downstream drug flow, the CIA, in its mission myopia, simply ignored it. The agency’s complicity in the drug traffic was an inadvertent consequence of its tactics of indirect intervention through paramilitary operations. … Whatever the global impact of CIA covert warfare might have been, the agency’s alliances with drug lords has left, in the aftermath of the cold war, a domestic legacy of illegality, suspicion, and racial division. From their mission myopia, CIA agents fighting secret wars in Laos, Pakistan, and Central America seemed to regard narcotics as mere “fallout” – even when the victims were U.S. soldiers in South Vietnam or Americans in the inner cities.”
Apparently, as if 60 years of CIA complicity in drug-trafficking wasn’t enough, the fallout must continue. This year, publications such as Business Insider and the Guardian have reported the embarrassing statistic that, despite spending over $7 billion on counter-narcotics efforts since 2001, opium cultivation is at an all-time high in American-occupied Afghanistan.
So let’s get this straight. In July of 2000 the Taliban declared growing poppies un-Islamic and led one of the most successful anti-drug campaigns of all time, resulting in a reduction of 99% of the opium poppy farming and cutting off roughly three quarters of the world’s supply of heroin. Next comes a supposed attack by men mainly from Saudi Arabia on 9/11, so we do the logical thing and invade Afghanistan. According to McCoy, it’s an unfortunate coincidence that given we had to fight the Taliban we had to ally with regional warlords that just happened to be the country’s top drug pushers – and then we’re off to the races. Afghanistan’s opium cultivation and heroin production were revived as if the 1 year drought had never happened and now we’re seeing all time highs – an “unprecedented” 523,000 acres of opium poppy in 2013.
If that isn’t enough to get you thinking, recall the bizarre Geraldo interview of Marines openly guarding the opium fields of Afghanistan. Geraldo reports that if the U.S forces were to destroy the opium then “the population would turn against the Marines”. But don’t worry, they are confident that providing the local Afghans with resources and alternatives will help them grow things like wheat, watermelon and cucumber. What a “dilemma” they are in, we should all feel sympathy for that Marine because guarding the opium just “grinds in his guts”. Who could have guessed that instead of having record bumper crops of cucumbers we are setting a record in heroin production?
Follow the money and it’s pretty easy to guess. With Afghanistan now producing more than 80% of the worlds opium and the estimated value approaching $3 billion, you have to ask where all that money is going. Are Afghan drug lords putting it all under their mattresses? No – worldwide drug organizations launder their billions through the largest banks, and any google search will find countless examples of bankers admitting to money laundering on massive scales with hardly a slap on the wrist in response.
In April of 2006 when a DC-9 jet was seized by Mexican soldiers with 5.7 tons of cocaine valued at $100 million, the real prize was the paper trail exposing banking complicity in laundering billions of dollars. The investigation ended with Wachovia settling the biggest action ever brought under the US bank secrecy act, paying a measly $100 million in forfeiture and a $50 million fine when the bank was sanctioned for transferring some $378 billion dollars without applying the anti-laundering regulations. That’s almost half a quadrillion dollars, one-third of Mexico’s gross national product, and they paid a fine less than 2% of the bank’s 2009 profit. To make matters more humiliating, Wachovia was then acquired by Wells Fargo during the 2008 crash as it gobbled up $25 billion in taxpayer money for the Wall Street bail out.
This is hardly the only example of large banks getting caught with billions of drug dealer money. HSBC paid a hefty $1.9 billion fine to settle money laundering accusations after a Senate report alleged they were “playing fast and loose with U.S. banking rules” and doing business with Mexican drug lords, with their affiliate HSBC Bank Mexico going through $7 billion in a single year.
Citigroup was hit with enforcement actions for breakdowns in money laundering but they were able to get away without admitting wrong doing. Citibank had $1.8 million seized from drug dealer accounts after a massive undercover money laundering investigation, but only after Citibank had moved $300 million through their accounts known to be tied to Mexican drug dealers because they “had not realized that anything might be amiss”.
Whole books are dedicated to the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which takes the title of “the outlaw bank” and “the dirtiest bank of all“. What a surprise that there are indications that CIA officials were involved in the founding of BCCI, with Alfred McCoy pointing to evidence that “the boom in the Pakistan drug trade was financed by BCCI”.
But where would we be without one last “ends justifies the means” argument. The UN’s drug and crime chief says that during the height of the banking crisis of 2008 $325 billion in drug money was laundered by the major banks and kept the financial system afloat. It was “the only liquid investment capital available” to those fine institutions of the public good, whew! So not only do we need the CIA working with drug dealers to fight our covert wars but we need that drug money to keep our banking system propped up too! If it weren’t for the millions of lives that are absolutely ruined in the drug war, you’d think there was no down side to this story.
Who Benefits, Who Suffers?
Far off in Washington, sitting at the top of their would-be world empire, our leaders look down on us common folk with pity. How could we understand the tough choices that must be made? To make an omelet you have to break some eggs. What’s more important, stopping a nuclear 9/11 or allowing a few more kilos of cocaine or heroin to hit America’s streets? As Dick Cheney said, “We have to work the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world… It’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal to achieve our objective.”
As McCoy concluded in The Politics of Heroin, we have two choices, “We can either deny the agency the authority to conduct covert operations, or we can accept that these missions will involve the CIA in criminal alliances that may well compromise some future war on drugs.”
So let’s assume that we accept the premise that our national interest extends across the globe in a way that forces our highest government officials to work side-by-side empowering, collaborating, and protecting the largest drug trafficking networks across the globe. I get it, “drugs are bad”, but there are other ways for society to deal with vices. What really keeps us from having a rational discussion about prohibition and ending the hypocrisy where a government asset can do one thing with total impunity but someone without the a special badge can do the same thing and have his life absolutely ruined? If we are a nation of laws and not of men, then this schizophrenic policy must not continue.
As documented in books like Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we’ve gone from a country raised on Andy Griffith and “peace officers” to battle-hardened “law enforcement” troops – and this change could never have happened without the specter of the drug war. Today we have 80,000 SWAT teams raids per year, some 220 per day. They were sold to Americans as the necessary response to Uzi-toting gang-bangers, but now they are in 80% of small towns across the country.
The personal examples of how the drug war utterly destroys innocent families are endless and horrifying. “Smoke a joint, Lose your Kids“, says the Huffington Post. We’re not talking about child abusers here, these are parents that are using legally prescribed medical marijuana to treat diseases like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis only to have their children kidnapped by CPS workers that are far more likely to abuse them.
Her name was Alexandria Hill
One particularly horrible example recently took place in Round Rock, Texas. The parents of Alexandria Hill made the biggest mistake of their lives when they admitted that they had smoked some pot after putting her to bed. For his act of “neglectful supervision” the Texas CPS stole her away and put her in foster care. While the Hill’s maintained that Alex had never been hurt, abused, or gone to the hospital while with her family, the first home the state put her in quickly had her coming to her visitations covered with bruises. The next home they put her in would be her last, as she would be air-lifted to a hospital where she would later die due to blunt force trauma to the head. Ironically, an investigation into the foster parents revealed the foster father himself had been twice convicted of selling marijuana.
Her name was Rachel Hoffman
Consider the story of Rachel Hoffman. She was a bright young lady, having just completed her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University. She smoked marijuana occasionally and her troubles started when she was arrested for having some weed during a traffic stop. Months later her apartment was searched and revealed more government-trafficked contraband which prompted the police to give her a choice: turn over other dealers or face the wrath of the state. They eventually pressured her into participating in a drug sting, giving her $13,000 in cash to purchase 1,500 pills of ecstasy. Scared out of her mind, with no training or supervision, her attempt at playing secret agent with the police got her summarily executed by the dealers, her body thrown in a ditch fifty miles away.
The children of John Horner
Finally, in a story that the Atlantic called “a heartbreaking drug sentence of staggering idiocy“, you have all the elements of injustice come together: a first time “offender”, entrapment by a police informant, and a zero-tolerance jail sentence. John Horner, a 46-year-old fast-food worker, was legally prescribed painkillers for an eye he lost in 2000. When a “friend” related the pain he was under and asked for help, John agreed to sell him some of his pills. The “friend” was a police informant and John was sentenced 25 years in prison. He has three children and he will be 72 when he’s released.
It may be the stories of untimely deaths of the innocent that tug at the heart strings and stir our sensibilities the most, but it’s arguable that serving 25 years, 25 years, is a far worse fate. But at least with a 25 year sentence Mr. Horner can dream of the day when he’ll see his children all grown up with families of their own. For many others they have no hope at all. A 24 year-old named Tyler was given life without parole for mailing LSD to a friend and he is one of thousands of examples of nonviolent drug offenders that will spend their entire lives behind bars. An ACLU report reviewed 646 life sentences and instead of finding murderers and rapists, 83% of the time they found nonviolent “criminals”. The ACLU shakes their heads at the waste of it all, $1.8 billion in cost to the tax payers to house 3,278 such inmates. But is it a waste? To whom? Where is that money going?
This is where the individual parts of the government drug running conspiracy come together, as it all begins to make a kind of sick sense: Private Prisons. As reported by non-US media, America enjoys Chinese style labor camps from coast to coast, bringing the stockholders of America’s for-profit prison industry a healthy return on investment with a cheap and readily available workforce. They aren’t just making license plates. During a time of high unemployment, millions of prisoners are performing slave labor for companies like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, Starbucks, and Walmart in a variety of industries such as “making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing“.
That’s right, the next time you call customer support for a company or government agency you’re probably talking to a poor soul that’s behind bars for possession of government-run narcotics. The Fed calls it “the best-kept secret in outsourcing”, making hundreds of millions a year with their 75-year-old “Federal Prison Industries” program that deceptively markets itself through company names like Unicor.
When the inmates of private prisons aren’t busy raising Tilapia fish for Whole Foods, they enjoy extracurricular activities such as getting raped, being placed in solitary confinement for weeks and months at a time, beatings by security guards, fighting off giant rat infestations, and eventually resorting to madness or suicide. The best part is if the cops aren’t catching enough people using government-run drugs then the private prison corporations can always pay off the judges to keep their prisons full and their profits up. The documentary Kids for Cash relates one such instance where a Pennsylvania Judge was caught and sentenced to 28 years for accepting more than $2 million in bribes for jailing over 3,000 juveniles – some only 10 years old.
Conclusion – The True Story of Pinocchio
Just like when I woke up and saw how 100 different puzzle pieces only formed a coherent picture when taken together, watching Kill the Messenger in isolation may result in one walking away with the feeling that the story of government drug-dealing must be exaggerated. Sure, there may be a few bad apples, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. But first, take a look at decades of government complicity, collaboration and encouragement of worldwide drug-dealing, from the forests of Nicaragua to the mountains of Afghanistan. Think of the hundreds of billions of dollars of drug money laundered through the largest and most prestigious banks on the planet. Contemplate the additional billions spent by tax payers to “fight” a hopeless war that does nothing to stop drugs, but if anything just takes out the government’s small-time competition in the drug-dealing business. Finally, review the network of industries making hundreds of millions in building jails, housing inmates, and profiting off of their slave labor. Taken together, this is something so diabolical it only belongs at the doorstep of a shadowy group like the Illuminati.
Our predicament is so awesome in its scope and sinister in its consequences that it’s easier to grasp by relating it to a children’s tale. In the movie Pinocchio, the young puppet is lured away from his loving father and the guidance of his conscience to a place called Pleasure Island. Here, Pinocchio can drink, smoke, gamble and engage in other vices with his peers without a care in the world. But the owner of Pleasure Island, the one who encourages the children to engage in vices, the one who runs the “drugs” of Pleasure Island, he’s not providing this service from the good of his heart. No, this enterprise is going to make the owner a lot of money. Once the children have crossed the line and tasted of his forbidden fruit a magic spell transforms the helpless boys into donkeys. After their metamorphosis is complete they are stripped of their human remnants, packed into crates, and shipped to the salt mines by shadowy figures to work and die – all for the benefit of the owner and all according to his master plan.
If there is one honest and effective anti-drug PSA out there it would be this: don’t do drugs because it’s a TRAP. The criminals that run the planet ship the drugs, launder the money and handsomely profit when the legal system catches drug users and turns them into slaves. Don’t do drugs: don’t become a jackass like the prisoners of Pleasure Island.