CIA Director John M. Deutch stoicly fended off hostile -- and frequently abusive -- questions about alleged CIA links to crack cocaine trafficking during a tumultuous town hall-type meeting tonight in the heart of drug-ravaged Watts, where anger over a perceived government conspiracy has run the strongest.

The meeting, believed to be unprecedented for a CIA chief, frequently degenerated into near bedlam, with some members of the predominantly black audience shouting at the nation's top intelligence official and branding him as a "murderer."

Deutch sat unruffled through tirade after tirade shouted from the floor of the Alain LeRoy Locke High School auditorium, and on those occasions when he was allowed to speak without being shouted down, he repeatedly promised to fully investigate all allegations of wrongdoing in his agency.

He also repeatedly said that "no one previously has come forward and told you there was going to be an investigation" and pleaded with the audience to wait until the inquiry is complete before judging the CIA.

"This is some {expletive}, baby, bringing this man here," one speaker shouted at Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.), who arranged the community meeting and invited Deutch. "Why are you bringing this man into the community?" Deutch smiled nervously and did not comment, a posture he adopted throughout the meeting when confronting the most abusive questions or declarations from the floor.

Another participant, who identified himself as Tarik Ricard, director of the Community of Wellness Association, said, "You come in this community and insult us by telling us you're going to investigate. You got to be crazy!" The audience roared in approval as Millender-McDonald struggled to restore order.

Most of the questions -- or more often, speeches -- focused on an investigative series published in September by the San Jose Mercury News, which implied that a substantial portion of the cocaine that a Nicaraguan drug trafficker brought into black neighborhoods in the mid-1980s was linked to the contras and the CIA.

A belief that the government played a role in the devastating influx of cocaine and, indirectly, the resulting wave of gang wars and drive-by shootings that accelerated in the 1980s, has struck such a responsive chord among blacks that both the CIA and the Justice Department have launched separate investigations along with congressional committees and the Congressional Black Caucus.

Meanwhile, the drug dealer who first claimed the CIA encouraged and assisted Nicaraguan drug traffickers to sell cocaine in Los Angeles to finance the contra rebels has modified his charge.

The dealer, Ricky "Freeway Rick" Ross, now says the U.S. government "condoned, if not actively supported . . . the Nicaraguan contras in their drug dealing," according to papers filed by his lawyer this week in U.S. District Court in San Diego.

Los Angeles attorney Alan Fenster is using the issue of government involvement in drug dealing as one reason Judge Marilyn L. Huff should set aside Ross's narcotics trafficking conviction last March.

Frequently during today's meeting, the questions and comments from the floor strayed far afield from the newspaper's investigation and alleged a conspiracy by the agency to systemically destroy black communities as part of a racist strategy planned at the highest levels of government.

Deutch repeatedly denied that an overreaching plot existed, saying at one point "at this moment, we have no evidence of the CIA engaging in drug trafficking." He nonetheless repeatedly pledged a "thorough" investigation by the CIA inspector general and said that anyone found guilty of wrongdoing "will be brought to justice." He said the inspector general's office had a "good track record" of uncovering past CIA misdeeds and cited one investigation of the misuse of credit cards that resulted in jail sentences for some agency employees.

That response was met with loud and derisive laughter and more shouted insults that lasted until Deutch stared down his accusers and continued with a promise that all of the facts uncovered will be made public and reviewed by congressional intelligence committees.

Some of the most raucous moments came when a speaker who identified himself as Michael Ruppert, a former Los Angeles Police Department narcotics detective, claimed the CIA attempted to recruit him in the late 1970s to "protect CIA drug operations" in South Central Los Angeles.

Ruppert, who said he was forced out of the LAPD, said, "I will tell you Mr. Deutch, as a former narcotics detective, that the CIA has dealt drugs in this community."

When Deutch invited Ruppert -- who is white -- to take his information to the Los Angeles police, the audience hooted derisively until the CIA director continued, "or your congressional representatives." Again, the audience shouted, prompting Millender-McDonald to warn the hecklers she would not tolerate such disruption.

When more obscenities were shouted at Deutch, she said, "Anyone who uses that kind of language does not deserve an answer." On several occasions, participants argued among themselves, demanding time at the floor microphone as Deutch waited patiently.

Security at the town hall meeting was tight, with scores of police officers, including members of a SWAT team deployed around the high school.

At the end, Deutch said: "I go away with a better appreciation of what's on your mind." But at that point, with Millender-McDonald signaling an end to the meeting, many in the audience had begun to angrily walk out, shouting insults at the empty stage.

Following the meeting, some in the audience stayed for the taping of another town hall meeting -- without Deutch -- for Ted Koppel's "Nightline" show on ABC television.