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Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press

The explosive truth behind the CIA and its dirtiest secrets

On March 16, 1998, the CIA’s Inspector General, Fred Hitz, finally let
 the cat out of the bag in an aside at a Congressional Hearing. Hitz told 
the US Reps that the CIA had maintained relationships with companies and 
individuals the Agency knew to be involved in the drug business. Even more 
astonishingly, Hitz revealed that back in 1982 the CIA had requested and
received from Reagan’s Justice Department clearance not to report any knowledge 
it might have of drug-dealing by CIA assets.

With these two admissions, Hitz definitively sank decades of CIA denials, 
many of them under oath to Congress. Hitz’s admissions also made fools of
 some of the most prominent names in US journalism, and vindicated investigators
and critics of the Agency, ranging from Al McCoy to Senator John Kerry.

The involvement of the CIA with drug traffickers is a story that has
slouched into the limelight every decade or so since the creation of the
Agency. Most recently, in 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published a sensational
 series on the topic, "Dark Alliance", and then helped destroy 
its own reporter, Gary Webb.

In Whiteout, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair
 finally put the whole story together from the earliest days, when the CIA’s
 institutional ancestors, the OSS and the Office of Naval Intelligence, cut
 a deal with America’s premier gangster and drug trafficker, Lucky Luciano.

They show that many of even the most seemingly outlandish charges leveled
against the Agency have basis in truth. After the San Jose Mercury News 
series, for example, outraged black communities charged that the CIA had 
undertaken a program, stretching across many years, of experiments on minorities.
 Cockburn and St. Clair show how the CIA imported Nazi scientists straight
from their labs at Dachau and Buchenwald and set them to work developing 
chemical and biological weapons, tested on black Americans, some of them
 in mental hospitals.

Cockburn and St. Clair show how the CIA’s complicity with drug-dealing
 criminal gangs was part and parcel of its attacks on labor organizers, whether
on the docks of New York, or of Marseilles and Shanghai. They trace how
 the Cold War and counterinsurgency led to an alliance between the Agency 
and the vilest of war criminals such as Klaus Barbie, or fanatic heroin 
traders like the mujahedin in Afghanistan.

Whiteout is a thrilling history that stretches from Sicily in 1944 to 
the killing fields of South-East Asia, to CIA safe houses in Greenwich Village 
and San Francisco where CIA men watched Agency-paid prostitutes feed LSD 
to unsuspecting clients. We meet Oliver North as he plotted with Manuel
 Noriega and Central American gangsters. We travel to little-known airports
in Costa Rica and Arkansas. We hear from drug pilots and accountants from 
the Medillin Cocaine Cartel. We learn of DEA agents whose careers were ruined 
because they tried to tell the truth.

The CIA, drugs … and the press. Cockburn and St. Clair dissect the shameful
 way many American journalists have not only turned a blind eye on the Agency’s
 misdeeds, but helped plunge the knife into those who told the real story.

Here at last is the full saga. Fact-packed and fast-paced, Whiteout is
 a richly detailed excavation of the CIA’s dirtiest secrets. For all who 
want to know the truth about the Agency this is the book to start with.


  • “Cockburn and St. Clair present a litany of CIA misdeeds, from the recruitment of Nazi scientists after WWII to the arming of opium traffickers in Afghanistan. All of this is extremely well documented... A chilling history that many will take issue with of what the CIA has been up to in the past 50 years.”
  • “A solid, pitiless piece of muckraking,... Cockburn and St. Clair raise troubling questions about the role of a largely secretive government agency in a democratic society.”
  • “A probing examination of the CIA's chilling history of coddling major drug traffickers, gangsters and Nazi psychopaths.”
  • “A convincing, well-researched, comprehensive condemnation of the CIA.”


  • Alexander Cockburn (1941-2012)

    It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Alexander Cockburn, our good friend and staunch comrade, a wonderfully gifted writer and courageous journalist. We were privileged to publish half a dozen of his books, each major contributions to the culture and politics of the Left. Corruptions of Empire, published in 1988, displayed the impressive range of his writings, from trenchant indictments of imperialism and biting satire of liberal humbug to lyrical memories of his childhood and sardonic observation of the ruling order. Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon, written with Susanna Hecht, remains an exemplary account of a ravaged planet. Washington Babylon, written with Ken Silverstein, is a classic exposé of US politics and business.  Each of these books went through many editions.

    Across more than four decades Cockburn was a relentless and prophetic opponent of  US  militarism—his brothers Patrick and Andrew ensured that Alexander’s polemics were very well informed. We were proud to publish such works as Imperial Crusades (2004), written with Jeffrey St Clair and exploring the interconnections of the US wars of intervention. Alexander wrote for a wide spectrum of  publications,  with columns at different epochs in the Los Angeles Times  and the Wall Street Journal as well as the Village Voice (in its heyday) and the Nation.  ‘Press Clips’ in the Village Voice set new standards for scrutiny of print and broadcast media.  Alexander’s ‘Beat the Devil’ column in the Nation ran for nearly three decades and established him as the most radical, literate, consistent,  uncompromising—and witty—voice of the Left in the United States.  Cockburn was a long-time editor of the London-based New Left Review.  In the 1990s, with Jeffrey St Clair, Alexander founded Counterpunch, the much-consulted political newsletter and website. The response to 9/11 was soon to show the necessity for independent media outlets. At some future date we hope to contribute to an appropriate memorial to ‘Alexander the Brilliant’ - as Edward Said once called him. In the meantime, all our sympathy goes out to his cruelly-bereaved family and friends.

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