The Kerry Committee report were hearings chaired by Senator John Kerry which found the United States Department of State had paid drug traffickers. Some of these payments were after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges or while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies. The Kerry investigation lasted two and a half years and heard scores of witnesses; its report was released on April 13, 1989.[1] The final report was 400 pages, with an additional 600 page appendix. The committee stated "It is clear that individuals who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking...and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers."[2]


In the wake of press accounts concerning links between the Contras and drug traffickers' beginning December, 1985 with a story by the Associated Press, both Houses of the Congress began to raise questions about the drug-related allegations associated with the Contras, causing a review in the spring of 1986 of the allegations by the United States Department of State, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice and relevant U.S. intelligence agencies.[3]

Following that review, the State Department told Congress in April, 1986 that it had at that time "evidence of a limited number of incidents in which known drug traffickers tried to establish connections with Nicaraguan resistance groups."[3]

Hearings beginEdit

In April 1986, John Kerry and Senator Christopher Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut, proposed that hearings be conducted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding charges of Contra involvement in cocaine and marijuana trafficking. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the Republican chairman of the committee, agreed to conduct the hearings.

Kerry's findingsEdit

Meanwhile, Kerry's staff began their own investigations, and on October 14, 1986 issued a report which exposed illegal activities on the part of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, who had set up a private network involving the National Security Council and the CIA to deliver military equipment to right-wing Nicaraguan rebels (Contras). In effect, North and certain members of the President's administration were accused by Kerry's report of illegally funding and supplying armed militants without the authorization of Congress.[4]

Kerrys staff investigation, based on a yearlong inquiry and interviews with 50 unnamed sources, is said to raise "serious questions about whether the United States has abided by the law in its handling of the contras over the past three years."[5]

Kerry Committee reportEdit

The Kerry Committee report found that "the Contra drug links included...payments to drug traffickers by the U.S. State Department of funds authorized by the Congress for humanitarian assistance to the Contras, in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges, in others while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies."[3] The US State Department paid over $806,000 to known drug traffickers to carry humanitarian assistance to the Contras.[2]

Public reactionEdit

Kerry's findings provoked little reaction in the media and official Washington.[6] When the report was released on April 13, 1989, coverage was buried in the back pages of the major newspapers and all but ignored by the three major networks. The Washington Post ran a short article on page A20 that focused as much on the infighting within the committee as on its findings; the New York Times ran a short piece on A8; the Los Angeles Times ran a 589-word story on A11. ABC's Nightline chose not to cover the release of the report. According to Doyle McManus, the Washington bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, the report "did not get the coverage that it deserved." This was in sharp contrast to those same newspapers' lengthy rebuttals to the Gary Webb "Dark Alliance" series seven years later in the Mercury News, which collectively totalled over 30,000 words.[1]


On May 4, 1989, North was convicted of charges relating to the Iran/Contra controversy, including three felonies. On September 16, 1991, however, North's convictions were overturned on appeal because North's testimony before Congress under immunity may have affected testimony in the trial.[7]

Almost a decade later, the CIA inspector general would release a study confirming the conclusions of the Kerry Committee report.[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Template:Cite web Hosted on National Security Archives
  2. 2.0 2.1 Template:Cite book
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Template:Cite web
  4. Template:Cite journal
  5. Template:Cite journal
  6. 6.0 6.1 Template:Cite journal
  7. Template:Cite journal

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.