An article Wednesday about a House panel's investigation of links between the Nicaraguan contras and drug trafficking incorrectly reported that the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control has taken testimony from hundreds of witnesses. The committee has received information from hundreds of individuals outside of formal hearings, according to a committee spokesman. (Published 7/24/87)
A House committee that has been investigating allegations that leaders of the Nicaraguan contras were involved in drug smuggling yesterday reported it has discovered no evidence to support the allegations.
"None of the witnesses gave any evidence that would show the contra leadership was involved in drug smuggling," said Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control.
The strongest evidence the committee has gathered shows that known drug traffickers participated in the U.S. effort to funnel supplies to the contras, Rangel said after a closed hearing.
The committee, which has received reams of testimony from hundreds of witnesses since it began its inquiry in June 1986, will give its material to another House panel that is taking over the investigation.
The key question facing the House crime subcommittee, members said, is whether officials in the U.S. government deliberately ignored drug dealing by individuals who carried supplies to the contras.
"There were flights going down with goods and guns, and there were flights coming back with drugs," said Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. (D-Ohio). "I don't know how it could occur without someone in this country knowing what's going on," he said.
Republican members sharply disagreed with Traficant's conclusion but concurred that Congress should continue the investigation.
"I just don't believe any of it, frankly. I haven't seen one scintilla of evidence," said Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.).
The narcotics panel yesterday heard more than three hours of testimony from private organizations that have been scrutinizing the Nicaraguan resistance.
Rep. William J. Hughes (D-N.J.) said the witnesses repeated the same unsubstantiated allegations that have been publicized for months. "They're just allegations," said Hughes, chairman of the crime subcommittee, which has voted to issue subpoenas to three federal prosecutors in connection with its own ongoing investigation.
Documents provided to the Rangel panel yesterday included three letters showing that a firm whose vice president was under indictment on cocaine charges participated in the effort to transport nonlethal supplies to Central America.
Rangel said that Michael Palmer, vice president of Vortex Aircraft Sales and Leasing, was under indictment in 1986 when he billed the State Department's Nicaraguan Humanitarian Aid Office approximately $100,000. A State Department official said the department did not know that Palmer was under indictment.