Michael C. Ruppert
Surprise hearings in House Intelligence Committee Backfire
Maxine Waters not alone in criticizing Agency
More hearings certain
In a move which caught many by surprise, the
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a
surprise hearing on Monday March 16, to officially receive
and review Volume One of the long awaited report by CIA
Inspector General Frederick P. Hitz investigating allegations
of CIA involvement in drug trafficking. Volume One of the
report, which examines allegations of CIA drug ties during
the Contra era, focuses specifically on Southern California
connections while the uncompleted Volume Two will look at
the broader involvement of CIA during the eighties. The
announcement of the hearing was so sudden that key House
members who have been leaders on the issue, such as Maxine
Waters, were not present in the Committee chamber as the
hearing began. The suddenness of the rare public hearing,
however, did not prevent Waters, (D) California, and Chair
of the Congressional Black Caucus, from arriving with a
sling full of arrows which she promptly shot through the
heart of the C.I.A. report.
Committee Chairman, Porter Goss, (R), FL,
himself retired from C.I.A., announced that the hearing
was prompted in part by the imminent retirement of Hitz
who is scheduled to teach at Princeton. Hitz was charged
in 1996 by then CIA Director John Deutch with thoroughly
investigating charges that CIA had been involved in cocaine
trafficking to support Contra rebels in the 1980s. As the
hearing unfolded it became apparent that what started out
to be a fete for the departing Hitz was going to be a major
embarrassment for the Agency. The suddenness of the hearing
precluded coverage by any electronic media organizations
other than C-SPAN, which covered the hearing from gavel
In remark after remark from Democratic members
of the Committee, opinions ranging from mild skepticism
to outright disbelief of the hundred plus page Volume One
were expressed. Julian Dixon (D) California, while stating
that, "no matter how thorough any investigation may
be, there will be skeptics who will challenge any conclusions
which are reached" added, "This is only one step
in our investigation".
Other members such as Nancy Pelosi, (D), Ca,
whose bay area district has demonstrated a long and deep
felt concern over the issue and Norman Dicks (D), WA. who
is the ranking member of the Committee were far more open
in their skepticism. The bay area of California was the
focal point of one 1983 aspect of the investigation known
as the Frogman case, which turned up direct links to C.I.A.
after a massive cocaine seizure. Dicks represents an area
north of Seattle which has felt a dramatic and painful incursion
of L.A. based street gangs in recent years. All members
of the Committee who spoke, including California gubernatorial
candidate Jane Harman, (D) Torrance; Ike Skelton, (D) Mo.;
David Skaggs (D), Co.; and Jim Gibbons (R), Nev., were clear
in their statements that Congressional examination of C.I.A.
involvement in drug dealing was far from over.
After opening remarks from Committee members
present, almost all of whom were democrats, Goss took testimony
from the two L.A. area Congresswomen, not Committee members,
who had been outspoken on the issue.
California Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald,
(D) Ca, who had sponsored two town hall meetings on the
subject from her Compton area district, delivered a mildly
rebuking statement about the C.I.A.'s effort by raising
questions as to the Agency's ability to investigate itself
and questioning the timing of the hearings. "C.I.A.
turned a blind eye at best to drug connections," she
said. "I look forward to subsequent hearings."
Having arrived with an aide, several large
stacks of documents, photographs, charts and former San
Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb in tow Maxine Waters
testified next and turned a ten minute allotment from the
Chairman into a thirty plus minute evisceration of the C.I.A.
report. "I am here to talk about the failure of the
C.I.A. to conduct a serious and thorough investigation into
allegations of C.I.A. drug trafficking," she said in
her opening sentence.
"The Inspector General's report lacks
credibility. It is fraught," she continued, "with
contradictions and illogical conclusions. The report's sweeping
denial of the CIA's knowledge of drug traffickingÉ defies
the evidence and the logic that the CIA should have known."
Waters continued on a point by point basis to refute Hitz's
own conclusions in the report and his methodology by using
both evidence which CIA had included in the report and which
she had produced during her own investigations. She criticized
the Agency for not interviewing key witnesses and for not
disclosing the names of the people they had interviewed.
She listed meetings and relationships, which the Agency
had previously documented, to show concrete relationships
between CIA assets and drug traffickers. In a particularly
angry portion of her statement she referred to the 1986-7
Senate hearings Chaired by John Kerry and the eleven hundred
page report which clearly documented CIA's ties to drug
"How can this report include these incriminating
findings by elected officials including Senators Kerry,
Brock and Moynihan while simultaneously dismissing any CIA
knowledge or involvement in Contra drug trafficking in the
U.S.," she said to an attentive panel. " This
is a damning contradiction."
Goss interrupted Waters once as she was fifteen
minutes over her allotted time and asked her to conclude
her remarks. He acquiesced as Waters continued for another
five minutes stating that it was simply not possible for
her to present all the evidence in ten minutes. Waters concluded
her remarks by stating that as a public servant, neither
she nor the Committee could rest until the American people
were given what they deserved, a fair but honest investigation
of this long festering and improperly addressed scandal.
Several surprises followed. In one of the
strongest statements made, Norman Dicks promised that as
ranking member of the Committee he would see that credible
hearings would take place. He then dropped a bomb by pointing
out that Oliver North had never been questioned about drugs
in the previous Iran-Contra investigations. After having
that fact conformed by Hitz he added, "Well we won't
be doing our job unless we hear from him, will we?"
Hitz, in a stunning revelation, which occurred
during his testimony, foreshadowed the contents of Volume
Two of his report, by disclosing the existence of a secret
agreement between CIA and then Reagan Attorney General William
French-Smith. The agreement stated that the Agency was absolved
from reporting drug-related activities of its assets or
agents during the Contra years to the Justice Department.
Porter Goss, who holds the power to
determine the course of future hearings announced that there
would be a continuing investigation and that the matter
was not concluded with this hearing. He acknowledged a great
many unresolved questions and contradictory facts. He did
not state whether future hearings would be open or closed
and he did not give a date certain for those hearings. Volume
Two of the Inspector General's report is due sometime in