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Lawmaker Releases Documents Linking CIA to L.A. Drug Trade

By Ralph Frammolino and Victor Merina
Los Angeles Times

Hoping to bolster allegations of CIA complicity in South-Central Los Angeles' crack epidemic, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., on Monday released documents that she says provide further evidence of links between the spy agency and city's drug trade during the mid-1980s.

Waters said the documents - including a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department report - show that one suspected player in the South-Central cocaine network told authorities during a 1986 drug raid that he "worked with the CIA." The documents also state that evidence seized from his home included military films and training manuals - material Waters said proves the ring had ties to the Contra army in Nicaragua.

Waters said, moreover, that the documents discovered during the raid have disappeared from the Sheriff's Department or are being hidden by the department, a contention disputed by Sheriff Sherman Block on Monday.

For the most part, the information released by Waters first surfaced in 1990 during the trial of seven Los Angeles County sheriff's narcotics officers accused of skimming money and drugs during undercover operations. At that time, the Los Angeles Times and other news media reported that one of the deputy's attorneys filed a motion in which he recounted the statements of the man who claimed to work for the CIA and an allegation that documents were taken from the Sheriff's Department by federal authorities.

But with the controversy surrounding a series of articles by the San Jose Mercury News suggesting that the CIA was behind Los Angeles' crack explosion, even previously disclosed information has been given new life.

The Mercury News attributed the crack's spread in Los Angeles to a fund-raising effort by the Nicaraguan Contras, who allegedly used drug riches to arm their CIA-backed rebel armies. At the center of the effort, according to the newspaper, was a Nicaraguan ex-patriot named Oscar Danilo Blandon and a South-Central dealer named "Freeway" Ricky Ross, who is awaiting sentencing on drug charges in San Diego federal court.

Although the CIA has denied involvement with the cocaine sales - and the series has been criticized for failing to offer evidence of a CIA link to the traffickers' efforts - the stories have generated immense interest and outrage, fueled by Waters.

"It is important to understand that law enforcement officials knew that Blandon and his operation sold cocaine mainly to blacks in the South-Central Los Angeles area," she said.

Waters also distributed copies of a search warrant affidavit and sheriff's reports about an Oct. 27, 1986 police raid on the Blandon operation, which led to no charges being filed.

One report shows that a location police raided was the home of former Laguna Beach policeman Ronald Lister, then a private security consultant. Waters said that in a jailhouse interview, Ross identified Lister as a member of the Danilo ring who not only sold drugs but provided Uzis, AK-47s, telephone scramblers and money-counters for street gangs pedaling crack.

According to a report by one sheriff's deputy involved in the raid, Lister warned that "he had dealings in South America and worked with the CIA and added that his friends in Washington weren't going to like what was going on."

Waters also questioned Monday why materials taken from Lister's home - including the military training films and manuals - were not returned to him.

"These were the training films of the FDN (Nicaraguan Democratic Force), this is the army of the Contras," she said, adding that the "evidence is somehow being held on to by the L.A. County sheriff's."

Reacting to Waters' suggestion of a cover-up in the sheriff's department, Block told reporters during a news conference that evidence taken from Lister's home, such as television monitors and ammunition, were used by the department. Other materials, including the training films and miscellaneous papers, were destroyed pursuant to department policy and state law because no charges were filed.

"There has been no effort to conceal anything," Block said.

Asked whether the CIA took any of the evidence seized in the raid, Block responded: "I'm saying it categorically, absolutely" that no one in the CIA removed the materials.