Nov 1 1991

Time Suppresses Contra Drug Story

As Time magazine’s resident expert on narcotics trafficking, Elaine Shannon was a predictable choice for the New York Time Book Review (7/28/91) to critique the book Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America by Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall. Predictably, she slammed the book, whose central thesis is that the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Contras “trafficked extensively in cocaine while the CIA, National Security Council, and Justice Department ignored the evidence.”

In her review, the Time magazine correspondent poked fun at Scott and Marshall for believing that media timidity had helped the CIA’s alliance with drug dealers: “[The authors] believe that the ‘establishment media’ have not pursued the story strenuously enough because their practitioners are ‘reluctant to find themselves at odds with the government.'”

A farfetched notion on the part of conspiracy-minded authors? Consider how Time handled the Contra/cocaine story. In the fall of 1987, Time assigned a staff reporter to assemble any evidence that the Oliver North network supplying guns to the Contras was also bringing cocaine into the U.S. The reporter found serious evidence, and wrote it up. As the former Time reporter explained to Extra!, after the article was written and rewritten, finally, a senior editor told the reporter to give up on the story. “The senior editor leveled with me,” the reporter told Extra!. “His words were: Time is institutionally behind the Contras. If this story were about the Sandinistas and drugs, you’d have no trouble getting it in the magazine.'”