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Crack and the CIA

By Colin McCullough
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 14, 1999

Donna Warren, South Central Los Angeles resident and mother of deceased crack addict, Joey Warren, is one of two plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit that names the CIA and the Department of Justice as the primary defendants. The CIA is being sued on the grounds that the 1980s crack epidemic was rooted in a specific, identifiable cause: the actions of the CIA in the Iran-Contra affair. Sound ridiculous? Perhaps. But, it reflects the best part of our court system. The torts system needs to allow all individuals to have their case heard, even if it appears to be a ridiculous charge - this is what allows for our own government and large institutions to be held accountable for their actions.

Warren's attorneys contend that three documents released indicate the CIA had knowledge of agents who partook in drug trafficking and did nothing to stop them. The lawsuit contends the transfer of cheap narcotics to areas such as South Central Los Angeles allowed for residents to get a hold of illegal drugs at a low price, thus promoting addiction and intensifying gang wars. The CIA denies these charges.

Some may scoff at the concept of suing the government for what ultimately comes down to a decision of one's own free will. A few will be concerned that the conspiracy theorists are clogging up the courts, and others will decry the actions of the CIA, saying that they contributed to the downfall of urban America. We, on the other hand, should all take joy in the fact that we have a system where this lawsuit can be filed.

It seems frustrating at first, the idea that individuals can garner millions of dollars for what the use of common sense could have prevented or that one citizen clogs up the courts with outlandish accusations against the government. But the structure of the torts system allows for everyone to be heard no matter what the claim.

Currently, the structure of the torts system creates an environment where all groups, including our most discreet government agencies, are subject to accountability. Injustice can be brought to the public's attention, any victims can be compensated and, most importantly, those found responsible get the message in the form of a blow to the wallet, which ensures that action is taken to prevent further abuses.

Take, for example, the recent case against General Motors. A jury awarded $4.9 billion to a mother and daughter who were terribly disfigured when their car was rear-ended, and a faulty gas tank design caused the car to go up in flames.

Though this settlement may sound outrageously high, two things need to be considered. First, no amount of money will necessarily make the pain of the accident go away for either victim. I'm sure they would trade the money to have their lives from before the accident back. Second, for GM to feel any repercussions for their actions, it needs to be told in figures that impact its bottom line. This most recent settlement sent a clear message to GM to change their car design. Now, as a result, any cars you and I purchase will be that much safer.

Likewise, Ms. Warren's claims may sound outlandish, but they're being heard and that's what is so great about them.

Think of the alternative. Countries around the world have no forum for an individual to seek financial compensation for wrongdoing, and, more specifically, they certainly wouldn't allow for a lawsuit to be filed against government agencies.

Despite its flaws, the American torts system allows for individuals to hold large organizations and government agencies responsible for their actions. This is what has made our environments safer and has allowed for justice and accountability to thrive in both the private and public sector.

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