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Deutch confronts angry L.A. residents in town hall meeting


Crowd skeptical about CIA director's assurances

November 15, 1996
Web posted at: 11:50 p.m. EST

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- John Deutch stepped into the lion's den Friday evening.

In an emotional town hall-style meeting in South Central Los Angeles, the CIA director confronted allegations that his agency was involved in dealing crack cocaine in L.A's inner-city neighborhoods. (4 min. Vivo movie)vivo icon

"I will get to the bottom of it and I will let you know the results of what I found," Deutch told the packed auditorium, guarded by sharpshooters and hundreds of Los Angeles police.

But that wasn't enough to soothe a boisterous and angry audience that was in no mood to accept assurances.


At one point, when a speaker stood up and identified himself as a former LAPD narcotics officer and said he had encountered CIA drug dealing, the crowd erupted. (13 sec. /160K AIFF or WAV sound)icon

Amid the rancor, Deutch had a hard time keeping order and getting his points across. He was shouted down several times as he tried to encourage anyone with evidence of a crack conspiracy to submit the information to the LAPD, the CIA Inspector General or a local Congress person.

"It is an appalling charge," he said. "It that goes to the heart of this country. It cannot go unanswered, that the CIA, an agency of U.S. government founded to protect Americans, helped introduce drugs and poison into our children and helped kill their future. No one who heads a government agency can let such an allegation stand." (35 sec. /416K AIFF or WAV sound)icon

"No one who heads a government agency can let such an allegation stand."

-- John Deutch

The allegations were sparked in August by articles in the San Jose Mercury News that purported to trace the origins of the U.S. crack epidemic to a pair of Nicaraguan drug traffickers linked to the U.S.-backed Contra rebels.


Deutch isn't the only one who has disavowed the reports. CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz last month denied that the agency was involved in the Los Angeles cocaine trade. "The agency neither participated in nor condoned drug trafficking by Contra forces," he said.

Despite these assurances, the rowdy response at Friday's meeting confirms the deep skepticism, particularly in the African-American community, that the government had something to do with the influx of cocaine into their communities during the 1980s.

Correspondent Jennifer Auther contributed to this report


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