Chapter XII: Conclusions

The San Jose Mercury News articles that prompted this investigation contained allegations that, if true, would be extremely shocking. The allegations contained a volatile mixture, linking the activities of the CIA, the Nicaraguan Contras, and the crack explosion. The articles also implied that the pursuit of the foreign policy to aid the Contras resulted in the manipulation of the judicial system, the protection of certain people by the CIA, and the failure of the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute substantial drug traffickers. These allegations resonated with a substantial number of people and fueled suspicion that our system of criminal justice was corrupted by foreign policy considerations.

We therefore expended significant resources in a lengthy and exhaustive review of the investigations and prosecution of the various individuals who were the center of the allegations in the articles -- Blandon, Meneses, Ross, Lister, and others. Our review found that the allegations in the articles were exaggerations of the actual facts. Although the investigations and prosecutions of these individuals suffered from various problems, their success and failure were determined by the normal dynamics that affect many investigations of drug traffickers, such as the availability of credible informants, the ability to penetrate drug distribution organizations, the ability to make seizures of physical evidence, the availability of sufficient resources to pursue cases, and the aggressiveness and judgments of the law enforcement officers involved. These factors, rather than anything as spectacular as a systematic effort by the CIA to protect the drug trafficking activities of the Contras, determined what occurred in the cases we examined.

We found that Blandon and Meneses were plainly major drug traffickers who enriched themselves at the expense of countless drug users and the communities in which these drug users lived, just like other drug dealers of their magnitude. They also contributed some money to the Contra cause. But we did not find that their activities were the cause of the crack epidemic in Los Angeles, much less in the United States as a whole, or that they were a significant source of support for the Contras.

We did find troubling aspects of the cases we examined. Blandon did receive a green card improperly. For a period of time, the Department of Justice was not certain whether to target Meneses or use him as a cooperating witness against other drug dealers. The government was not anxious to have DEA agent Castillo openly probe the activities at Ilopango airport because of the sensitive operations there. The CIA did intervene in the Zavala case concerning the return of seized money to him. But these specific problems and issues fall far short of the type of manipulation and corruption of the criminal justice system that the articles suggested.

We also recognize that it is impossible to draw conclusions about these matters with absolute certainty, given the age of the cases, faded memories, the dispersion of witnesses and evidence, and the biases and special interests of many of the people we interviewed. We are also realistic enough to realize that suspicion of the actions of federal law enforcement in these matters may not end with our report, especially because in any complex investigation there are inevitably unanswered questions, which are multiplied when the investigation takes place so long after the events being investigated. But we believe that a full and fair consideration of our report will demonstrate that our review was exhaustive and that our findings are supported by the evidence.


Michael R. Bromwich
Inspector General

December 17, 1997


Glenn A. Fine
Director, Special Investigations
and Review Unit
Tamara Jaycox Kessler
Special Investigative Counsel


Principal Contributors
Office of the Inspector General

Leonard E. Bailey
Mary M. Chiu
Robin R. Clements
Dorothy Foley
Gary A. Fishell
Willie Haynes
Priscilla A. Jones
Jeffrey D. Long
Cynthia A. McGrory
Daniel Richman
Kimberly A. Thomas