Drug Trafficking

from the book

The CIAs Greatest Hits

by Mark Zepezauer


Even before the CIA was officially founded, it was intertwined with major drug-trafficking organizations-its parent organization, the OSS, cooperated with the Mafia during World War II. After the war, one of the first covert operations of the new CIA was to break the strength of left-wing labor unions in southern France. To do this, the CIA cemented an ongoing tie to the Corsican Mafia, then the biggest heroin traffickers in the world.

By the early 1960s, much of the world's heroin production had shifted to Southeast Asia, due to another major CIA operation. The agency had trained Nationalist Chinese forces to invade Communist China; when that operation failed, they settled in northeastern Burma and became the world's largest opium producers (mainly by terrorizing the local villagers into growing it for them). This area, known as the Golden Triangle, continues to lead the world in opium production.

Meanwhile, as the US moved into Indochina, the existing opium trade there gradually became integrated into other US operations. While President Nixon, full of law-and-order rhetoric, made a great show of busting the famous "French connection," his allies in the Florida Mafia moved into Vietnam. By 1970, the US was flooded with pure Asian heroin, some of it smuggled home inside the corpses of US soldiers.

In Laos, the CIA was running a 40,000-man mercenary army. It included many Hmong tribespeople, who were longtime opium farmers. The CIA airline, Air America, ran weapons to the army and brought the Hmong's crop back out to market. Some of the massive profits from the operations were laundered by CIA agent Michael Hand through an Australian bank he founded and were used to finance other CIA operations behind Congress' back

Many veterans of CIA drug operations in Asia went on to star in the agency's secret wars in Central America in the 1980s, where the above pattern was repeated. The Nicaraguan contras were partially funded by cocaine operations, smuggled to and from the US on customs-free supply flights. CIA assets in Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Panama helped facilitate the trade.

In the CIA's secret war in Afghanistan, the Afghan rebels and their Pakistani hosts also partly financed themselves with heroin profits. Much of their product ended up, once again, in the veins of US addicts.

CIAs Greatest Hits

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