August 30, 1996
Janet Reno
Attorney General
10th & Constitutional Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Madam General:


I am writing on an issue of utmost concern to me, my constituents, and, indeed, the fair application of justice in our society.

As you are probably aware, the San Jose Mercury News did a recent series of newspaper articles outlining the origins of the crack cocaine trade in the United States. What those articles traced, among other things, is the long-term relationship between Norwin Meneses, a Nicaraguan drug trafficker, Danilo Blandon, a Nicaraguan businessperson connected to the Contra rebels as well as a drug trader, and Rick Ross, an American who worked with Blandon distributing crack cocaine in this country. These individuals represent a much broader and more troubling relationship between U.S. intelligence and security policy, drug smuggling, and the spread of crack cocaine into the United States.

The information contained in the newspaper articles -- as well as related issues highlighted in other fora over the past several years -- raises concerns on many different levels. But what is clearly established by the San Jose Mercury News is the implication of the United States government, in particular the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in using the services of both Meneses and Blandon, and their use of the proceeds of drug sales to implement CIA-directed efforts to raise money for weapons to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Thus, portions of this country may have been exposed, indeed introduced, to the horror of crack cocaine because certain U.S.-government paid or organized operatives smuggled, transported, and sold it to American citizens.

Crack cocaine has ravaged many communities in this country. You know I am deeply concerned about this problem. In addition to the stress caused by crack cocaine use, I am also terribly disturbed by the heavy-handed, arbitrary, and discriminatory mandatory minimum sentences which politicians have attached to crack cocaine use and possession. These sentences have the effect of severely punishing small-time users, and are prosecuted in a discriminatory way which disproportionately impacts African-American males.

In contrast, the San Jose Mercury News documents the exceeding light punishment that has been applied to both Meneses and Blandon, despite their years of involvement in massive scale drug trading. Again, the notion that a U.S.-government agency knew about the drug-tainted resources that were funding a war in Nicaragua, and the idea that those involved allowed a major infusion of cocaine onto the streets of America because of its blind devotion to win a war -- a war which was at the time being conducted secretly -- is among the more devastating assertions one could make about this government. As someone who has seen how the crack cocaine trade has devastated the South-Central Los Angeles community, and as a public official, I cannot exaggerate my feelings of dismay that my own government may have played a part in the origins and history of this problem.

Moreover, Danilo Blandon, is currently on the payroll of the government of the United States, an agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This mastermind drug dealer recently testified against Rick Ross, in essence freeing himself for the years of torment, devastation, and ruined lives for which he is responsible. Blandon's testimony against Ross is only the most recent example of a large-scale, international drug importer who scapegoats a local distributer for his own evils. Amazingly, by virtue of Blandon's years of pumping drugs into this country, his intimate knowledge of the inner-workings of drug trafficking, and his connections to the crack cocaine trade in the U.S. -- and thus, his żuse┐ to federal prosecutors -- he has shifted all his responsibility and punishment onto Ross, while Blandon now lives a comfortable life. The unfairness of this arrangement is so obvious so as to offend any American's sense of justice.

As a U.S. Representative of South-Central Los Angeles, one of the communities most ravaged by crack cocaine, I have a keen desire to get answers to the many questions that have been raised by the San Jose Mercury News expose.

As you know, in the late 1980s, Congress held extensive hearings on the connection between foreign policy, narcotics, and law enforcement. Those hearings produced damning evidence of wrongdoing. However, due to continual obstruction, from many different sources -- including federal law enforcement agencies -- those hearings were not able to establish as precise a trail of guilt as the recent San Jose Mercury News article has, at least as it pertains to the origin of the crack cocaine trade in the U.S.

Given the severity of these assertions, I would like to obtain as much information as I can about the particulars of this disturbing case. I see thousands of young men being sent to jail for five, ten, twenty years, with no hope of parole or another chance -- because of relatively small-time drug use and possession. Yet, it seems, our own government may have been a key initiator -- knowingly or unknowingly -- in bringing this killer into our neighborhoods. You can imagine what message this sends to the millions of young people who see their communities destroyed by this foreign substance. A story like this, and the terrible example it sets for those who struggle every day against a drug culture desperate for converts, can ruin years of work to imbue a sense of self-respect and trust in government efforts to break the drug cycle in our communities.

Please know that I want to be in close touch with your office on this matter.I would like to request a full and complete investigation into the connection between law enforcement agencies, most particularly the CIA, and the early-1980s importation of crack cocaine. In addition, I would like to know what actions may have allowed these drug shipments to continue. I would also like to know the status of any efforts to investigate, punish, or prosecute those involved in this matter.

I understand there are legal proceedings underway which makes it more difficult to share certain information. However, much of the information has already been made public, and surely, much more is available. The impact and the implications of the Meneses/Blandon/Ross/Contra/C.I.A. crack cocaine connection cannot be understated. As such, I would request in the most urgent manner I can, that your organization work with me to bring some resolution to this critical matter.

We all have an obligation to get to the very bottom of the origin, development, and implementation of this seedy enterprise. I look forward to working closely with you to bring about greater understanding, a full airing of the events surrounding this incident, and, hopefully, a satisfactory conclusion to this entire ordeal. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Maxine Waters