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Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press

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ISBN-13: 978-1859842584
ISBN-10: 1859842585
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Paperback, November 17, 1999
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Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press + Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion + The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade
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Editorial Reviews

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Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair take the revelations of the links between the Central Intelligence Agency, the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Los Angeles crack market that journalist Gary Webb exposed in 1996--revelations that are the basis of Webb's book Dark Alliance--and use them as a springboard for a tale of the U.S. government's involvement with the illegal drug trade that extends much further back than Webb's tale.

The specific revelations are not, perhaps, entirely new; many know, for example, that even before there was a CIA, the WWII-era Office of Strategic Services enlisted the aid of gangster "Lucky" Luciano in arranging support among the Sicilian Mafia for the American invasion of Italy, or that the CIA was actively involved in the Southeast Asian opium trade during the Vietnam War. But Cockburn and St. Clair persuasively argue that the traditional explanation for such events--"rogue elements"--is deliberately misleading, and that the mainstream "liberal" press plays an active role in this obfuscation (noting, for example, that Webb's three biggest attackers were the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post). By providing an overarching narrative rather than treating these incidents as isolated, the authors present a damning indictment of the CIA--but one that fully admits that the agency was not acting on its own, but was merely fulfilling the mandates of the American government. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Cockburn and St. Clair present a litany of CIA misdeeds, from the recruitment of Nazi scientists after WWII to the arming of opium traffickers in Afghanistan. All of this is extremely well documented ... A chilling history that many will take issue with of what the CIA has been up to in the past 50 years.”—KIRKUS

“A solid, pitiless piece of muckraking, ... Cockburn and St. Clair raise troubling questions about the role of a largely secretive government agency in a democratic society.”—San Diego Union Tribune

“A probing examination of the CIA’s chilling history of coddling major drug traffickers, gangsters and Nazi psychopaths.”—Philadelphia Tribune

“A convincing, well-researched, comprehensive condemnation of the CIA.”—Maximum Rock 'N Roll

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 418 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (November 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859842585
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859842584
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Earl Hazell on April 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Down the decades the CIA has approached perfection in one particular art, which we might term the 'uncover-up.' This is a process whereby, with all due delay, the Agency first denies with passion, then concedes in profoundly muffled tones, charges leveled against it. Such charges have included the Agency's recruitment of Nazi scientists and SS officials; experiments on unwitting American citizens; efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro; alliances with opium lords in Burma, Thailand and Laos; an assassination program in Vietnam; complicity in the toppling of Salvador Allende in Chile; the arming of opium traffickers and religious fanatics in Afghanistan; the training of murderous police in Guatemala and El Salvador; and involvement in drugs-and-arms shuttles between Latin America and the US.... Charges are raised against the CIA. The Agency leaks its denials to favored journalists, who hasten to inform the public that after intense self-examination, the Agency has discovered that it has clean hands. Then, when the hubbub has died down, the Agency issues a report in which, after patient excavation the resolute reader discovers that, yes, the CIA did indeed do more or less exactly what it had been accused of."
Alexander Cockburn and
Jefferey St. Clair
From Chapter 15: "The Uncover-up"
Two strange feelings came over me as I finished this book, which I could not put down when I picked it up until I spent an entire weekend devouring and digesting its contents until my eyes hurt. First was a complete and total numbing. No matter politically sophisticated or cynical you think you are, left, right or center, the contents of this book will kick you in the stomach repeatedly.
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74 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Mark Wylie on March 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The CIA has always been a very secretive organization, and remains one today. In 1996, the publication of Gary Webb's "Dark Alliance" series threatened the CIA with unwelcome public scrutiny by exposing its complicity in the drug trade: the CIA-created Nicaraguan contras were funding their operations, in part, by selling crack cocaine on the streets of Los Angeles, with the agency's knowledge.
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair's "Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press" jumps off from here. Wisely, Cockburn and St. Clair do not make Webb's story the core of their book; Webb's own book does that job admirably. What they do contribute to this story is a devastating account of the shameful way that the mainstream press, led by former intelligence officer Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, turned on Webb in an effort to discredit him and his story. Cockburn and St. Clair repeatedly expose the flaws in mainstream efforts to "debunk" the Dark Alliance series, and catch many reporters acting as little more than flacks for the CIA, often writing stories that said little more than "we know Webb's story is false because the CIA told us so."
But the core of "Whiteout" has a more historical perspective, as the authors set out to review the underside of the history of the CIA and its precursor, the OSS. And an ugly picture it is, too, as we see these agencies:
-recruiting the Mafia to assassinate foreign leaders.
-recruiting Nazi scientists to conduct experiments (often on blacks) in torture and mind control.
-helping war criminal Klaus Barbie escape Europe, and justice, to become a South American drug lord, arms dealer and apparent CIA operative.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 3, 1998
Format: Hardcover
In Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press, authors Alex Cockburn and Jeff St Clair have synthesized a vast amount of information into an easy to read, cogent history of the CIA's involvement in the illicit trafficking of narcotics.
This unforgettable and very important book proves several things. First, that the CIA has been the world's biggest drug trafficker for the past 50 years. Second, that the major newspapers and TV networks have always known about it, but have chosen not to report it, under the aegis of national security. Third, that the end result of CIA drug dealing and the attendant media "whiteout" is the pacification of minority communities in America. And last but not least, Whiteout proves that when independent journalists like Gary Webb report the truth, they are inevitably smeared by the same powerful forces that put this unjust system into motion.
Whiteout is a volatile book and is sure to arouse the wrath of both Big Media and Big Brother. But it has been meticuously researched, and it is so well written that the case it makes is beyond any reasonable doubt. Authors Cockburn and St Clair are to be commended for their courage in providing such a valuable public service. Five stars for covering all the bases.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Whiteout, by investigative journalists Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, begins with the CIA's attempts, largely successful, to smash the career of a California reporter, Gary Webb, who had exposed the agency's ties to a ring of Nicaraguan exiles who were running a cocaine enterprise and sending some of the profits to the Contras in the 1980s. But that's just the beginning. Whiteout is really an alternative history of the CIA and other American intelligence outfits, beginning w/ the OSS and Office of Naval Intelligence's ties to Nazi spies, scientists and the doctors who performed heinous experiments on Jews and Gypsies at Dachau. It traces the agency's reliance on criminal gangs in France and an Italy, often invovled in the heroin trade, to bust striking dockworkers. It tells of the fixing of elections in Italy and Greece. The backing of drug gangs in Burma, Thailand, Laos and Afghanistan. The support for Klaus Barbie and generals behind the Cocaine Coup in Bolivia. It tells how US supported generals in South Vietnam made millions selling heroin to US troops. And it explores the mysteries of Mena airport and its sister operation in El Salvador. All in all horrifying and exhaustively documented expose. And a fast, if uncomfortable, read. Highly recommended.
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