Various sources allege the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been involved in several drug trafficking operations. The CIA is accused of working with groups which it knew were involved in drug trafficking, so that these groups would provide them with useful intelligence and material support.
In order to provide covert funds for the Kuomintang (KMT) forces loyal to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, who were fighting the Chinese communists under Mao, the CIA helped the KMT smuggle opium from China and Burma to Bangkok, Thailand by providing airplanes owned by one of their front businesses, Air America.
The Central Intelligence Agency was involved in smuggling opium produced in Western Vietnam and Eastern Cambodia to heroin producers in the United States. Agents of the U.S. Government used drug production and trafficking operations to fund covert military activities in Vietnam. Large amounts of this heroin were sold to U.S. soldiers in Vietnam.
The CIA worked in concert with the Corsican crime families, and Laotian drug lords, who assisted the CIA in their fight against communists. One of the CIA's primary contacts was Hmong leader Vang Pao, who was attempting to gain complete control of the local opium trade, and was using the income from this to fight against Laotian and Vietnamese communist forces.
Released on April 13, 1989, the Kerry Committee report concluded that members of the U.S. State Department "who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking...and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers."
In 1996 Gary Webb wrote a series of articles published in the San Jose Mercury News, which investigated Nicaraguans linked to the CIA-backed Contras who had smuggled cocaine into the U.S. which was then distributed as crack cocaine into Los Angeles and funneled profits to the Contras. The CIA was aware of the cocaine transactions and the large shipments of drugs into the U.S. by the Contra personnel and directly aided drug dealers to raise money for the Contras.
In 1996 CIA Director John M. Deutch went to Los Angeles to attempt to refute the allegations raised by the Gary Webb articles, and was famously confronted by former LAPD officer Michael Ruppert, who testified that he had witnessed it occurring.
The CIA - in spite of objections from the Drug Enforcement Administration, allowed at least one ton of nearly pure cocaine to be shipped into Miami International Airport. The CIA claimed to have done this as a way of gathering information about Colombian drug cartels. But the cocaine ended up being sold on the street.
In November 1996 a Miami jury indicted former Venezuelan anti-narcotics chief and longtime CIA asset, General Ramon Guillen Davila, who was smuggling many tons of cocaine into the United States from a Venezuelan warehouse owned by the CIA. In his trial defense, Guillen claimed that all of his drug smuggling operations were approved by the CIA.
In the mid 1980s, the CIA created a unit in Haiti, whose purported purpose was anti-drug activity, but was in reality "used as an instrument of political terror", and was heavily involved in drug trafficking. The members of the unit were known to torture Aristide supporters, and threatened to kill the local head of the DEA. According to one U.S. official, the unit was trafficking drugs and never produced any useful drug intelligence.
In 1989, the United States invaded Panama as part of Operation Just Cause, which involved 25,000 American troops. Gen. Manuel Noriega, head of government of Panama, had been giving military assistance to Contra groups in Nicaragua at the request of the U.S. which, in exchange, allowed him to continue his drug trafficking activities, which they had known about since the 1960s. When the DEA tried to indict Noriega in 1971, the CIA prevented them from doing so. The CIA, which was then directed by future president George Bush, provided Noriega with hundreds of thousands of dollars per year as payment for his work in Latin America. However, when CIA pilot Eugene Hasenfus was shot down over Nicaragua by the Sandinistas, documents aboard the plane revealed many of the CIA's activities in Latin America, and the CIA's connections with Noriega became a public relations "liability" for the U.S. government, which finally allowed the DEA to indict him for drug trafficking, after decades of allowing his drug operations to proceed unchecked.
In the 1990s, the CIA and DEA were involved in a drug smuggling operation with Lebanese and Syrian drug traffickers, which used Pan Am aircraft to smuggle opium out of Frankfurt, Germany.
Watch: "American Drug War, The Last White Hope"