Whiteout:The CIA, Drugs, and the Press

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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 admisstions, 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 s Klaus Barbie, or fanatic heroin traders like the mujahed in 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.

    San Diego Union Tribune
  • A probing examination of the CIA’s chilling history of coddling major drug traffickers, gangsters and Nazi psychopaths.

    Philadelphia Tribune