Life of a Scandal
Likewise, the vast majority of political and social activists working on drug reform have not allowed the scandal to dominate their agenda or distort their priorities; rather, they have used it to increase public interest in reconsidering other aspects of the "war on drugs." Even at the Compton meeting, the CIA debate helped draw attention to issues like drug-related violence that might not otherwise have received such scrutiny. In the aftermath of the scandal, the Institute for Policy Studies created a Citizens' Fact-finding Commission on US Drug Policy. Its first meeting, held in Los Angeles in May, covered everything from the CIA-crack scandal to the social costs of the drug war and how the drug economy functions, and examined policy alternatives such as harm reduction. And when the Congressional Black Caucus, chaired by Representative Maxine Waters, drew up its agenda last year, the goal of "investigating allegations of involvement in drug trafficking by intelligence agencies" was the last of six CBC objectives, including:
§ Increase funding for drug prevention, treatment and education for at-risk communities.
§ Refocus federal resources to target and punish large-scale drug smugglers, suppliers and distributors.
§ Propose enhanced sentences for law-enforcement personnel convicted of drug-related offenses.
§ Organize town-hall meetings, workshops and educational forums to take our drug-eradication message to communities across the nation.
§ Eliminate sentencing disparities.
The CIA-contra-crack scandal remains a salient issue of history and accountability--one that will not be fully laid to rest until Congress bars the CIA from secretly putting traffickers on the US payroll. As a confidence-building measure with the public, the agency must also declassify all documentation on its sordid relations with drug traffickers posing as freedom fighters. Full disclosure, along with a concrete apology, would not be just an academic exercise. The lasting impact of this scandal is not that it distracted the left from engaging in the drug policy reform debate but that, throughout the communities most affected by the horrors of drug abuse, it has reinforced cynicism and skepticism about the willingness of the US government to address this issue credibly and fulfill its responsibility to protect our citizens from true threats to their security and well-being.