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Internal Probe By Cia Disputes Allegations Of Crack Connection

A CIA internal investigation found no evidence linking its employees, agents or operatives with the crack cocaine drug epidemic in the United States and no connection between the agency and three men at the center of that drug trade.

The findings, released Thursday, dispute allegations made in a series of 1996 newspaper reports of a CIA link to cocaine trafficking in California. The CIA released the first of two volumes of conclusions reached by agency Inspector General Frederick Hitz, who led a 17-member team that reviewed 250,000 pages of documents and conducted 365 interviews.

The report found no evidence that CIA employees or agents colluded with allies of Nicaraguan Contra rebels to finance their guerrilla operations by bringing crack cocaine into the United States.

“I am satisfied that the IG has left no stone unturned in his efforts to uncover the truth,” CIA Director George Tenet said in a written statement accompanying the IG report.

Tenet called it the most extensive investigation ever undertaken by the inspector general.

In August 1996, the San Jose Mercury News in California published a series of stories that concluded a San Francisco Bay area drug ring sold cocaine in Los Angeles and funneled profits to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels for the better part of a decade. It traced the drugs to dealers who were also leaders of a CIA-run guerrilla army in Nicaragua during the 1980s.

The newspaper series reported that two Nicaraguan cocaine dealers, Oscar Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses, were civilian leaders of an anti-communist commando group formed and run by the CIA during the 1980s. The newspaper articles traced the explosion of crack cocaine abuse in the United States to a crack dealer named Ricky Donnell Ross and said he was supplied through Blandon and Meneses.

The CIA report said there was no such CIA link.

“No information has been found to indicate that any past or present employee of CIA, or anyone acting on behalf of CIA, had any direct or indirect dealing with Ricky Ross, Oscar Danilo Blandon or Juan Norwin Meneses,” the CIA report said.

“No information has been found to indicate that the drug trafficking activities by Blandon and Meneses were motivated by any commitment to support the Contra cause or Contra activities undertaken by CIA,” it added.

The Mercury News’s executive editor, Jerry Ceppos, declined to comment on the CIA report. Last spring, Ceppos wrote a column published by the paper that critiqued the series, saying it “did not meet our standards” in key areas.