Pubdate: Tue, 10 Jul 2001
Source: New York Times Drug Policy Forum
Note: This, and the series of forums, is being archived at MAP as an 
exception to our web only source posting policies.


Tues. July 17, 2001 8PM Eastern/5PM Pacific - NY Times Drug Policy Forum: 
Steve and Michele Kubby

Sun. July 22, 2001 8PM Eastern/5PM Pacific - Drugsense Chat Room: Steve and 
Michele Kubby

Future guests already scheduled in the series include Al Giordano, Renee 
Boje, and Al Robison. See for 


On Tuesday, July 10, the's Drug Policy forum hosted Al 
Giordano, publisher of This discussion was part of the 
speaker series organized by forum participants.  This transcript is located 
on the web at

algiordano: Good Evening America!

This is Al Giordano, publisher of Narco News ( ), 
reporting on the drug war from Latin America.

Thanks to Dean Becker and the Drug Policy Forum of Texas for inviting me.

I must say it is a little bit strange for me to appear on the New York 
Times website, because in covering the war on drugs South of the Border, I 
often find it necessary to criticize the way that the North American media 
including, but not limited to, the Times does its work throughout our 

However, it's still a pleasure to conduct this citizen journalism 
cyber-press conference, in an unedited, uncensored, unrestrained format 
where anybody and everybody can speak.

algiordano...And speaking of speaking freely, did anybody see today s issue 
of Columbia Journalism Review? There s an article by Alan Wolper there 
about a conflict of interest by the NY Times reporter in charge of covering 
the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

You can read the whole story at this link:

Here are the first two paragraphs from Columbia Journalism Review, and this 
story demonstrates one of the reasons why New York Times readers aren t 
getting the full story out of Latin America about how the US-imposed war on 
drugs is waged. Wolper writes:

Here is the conflict-of-interest situation: James Risen, a New York Times 
reporter who covers the CIA, received an advance in late 1999 to co-author 
a book with Milton Bearden, a retired chief of the intelligence agency's 
Soviet-East European division.

Bearden submitted their proposed project to the CIA's Publications Review 
Board (PRB) -- the clandestine group's censoring operation -- before it was 
sent to Random House. The CIA will vet the final manuscript before it is 
published, sometime in late 2002.

That's what Columbia Journalism Review says. I wonder what folks North of 
the Border think about the quality of information you are getting from the 
U.S. media about what goes on down here in the South.

algiordano Dean writes:

"The Times has shown a willingness to allow our free discussion here, even 
posting links to drug reform sites. From your perspective, do you see a 
change in the overall US attitude towards drug reform?"

Al replies:

Yes, Dean, the Times should promote the people who run this democratic 
participatory web forum and put them in charge of the newspaper. And then 
ought to make the newspaper people serve some time here in cyberspace, in 
order to develop and understanding of what it means to be responsive to the 

At Narco News we fight daily against the idea that journalism is an ivory 
tower or a club that only a select few can belong to. Every human being can 
be a journalist. And every journalist ought to be a human being.

Sadly, that's not the present reality. But if it were, I don't think we'd 
have drug wars...

But I digress, I'll answer your question in the next post...


algiordano Hi aahpat!

Thanks for your kind words. I'll answer Dean's remaining question first, 
and then yours second.

Dean asks if I "see a change in the overall US attitude towards drug reform?"

You must understand, I have spent very few weeks in the United States in 
recent years, although Latin America's press pays a lot of attention to 
things like the five referendum victories last November for medical 
marijuana and against mandatory sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders, 
and that governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, is already a kind of folk 
hero in the rest of the hemisphere.

And of course we receive a lot of mail at Narco News from U.S. Citizens - 
like with the recent wave of responses we published to U.S. Ambassador to 
Mexico Jeffrey Davidow's speech against drug legalization in Mexico City.

There are links to all of them from the front page at

It's clear that public attitudes are changing North of the Border. In 
Canada too! The untold story is how they've already changed in the South.


algiordano  Hello Celeya and NYTimes554,'

I'm going to answer every question I humanly can. I had put aahpat next in 

aahpat asks:

"is there a way that a volunteer effort could monitor the south of the 
border media and/or do some translation work to get the stories out and 
keep the visibility of at the level that you achieved with it 
last year?"

The strange thing is that Narco News has ten times the daily readership it 
had a year ago.

aahpat mentions the lawsuit brought against The Narco News Bulletin, 
against Mexican journalist Mario Menendez, and against me, by the National 
Bank of Mexico (aka "Banamex") as an attempt to silence us.

We have our first Court hearing coming up at the New York State Supreme 
Court on July 20th. Get out your pencils and paper if you can attend. It's 
open to the public and I'll shortly give all the details on where and when 
and what.

aahpat asks whether volunteers can help. Absolutely yes. Narco News would 
be nowhere without the help and participation of real people everywhere.

Once the July 20th hearing is done, we're going to unleash a new wave of 
reports and news, and if folks have Spanish-to-English translation skills, 
please contact me at Hang on a second. A neighbor just dropped by and I need to explain what 
this is to him...

algiordano  Celaya has two questions here.

The first is:

"I was fortunate enough to participate in the "debate" you created with 
Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow. Have you perceived any kind of response from 
the White House on that excellent project?"

Al replies:

I received a form letter from the U.S. Embassy saying that our invitation 
to Davidow (to respond to all the articulate responses to his ridiculous 
and not factual speech made in Mexico City) had been "forwarded" to the 
appropriate department.

In other words, once again, no response from U.S. government officials.

"We live in an age of non-response!" said Jacques Ellul. He said it fifty 
years ago. It's even more true today.

That's why I'm trying to reply to each and every question here. Keep 
clicking that "recent" button, folks, and we'll get to them all.


kate_nyt   To Pat and others-

I always find that hitting the hotlinked number of the last post is the 
best way to reload the page. If you hit "reload" or "refresh", that's what 
causes the duplicate postings.

And welcome, Mr. Giordano, to the forum.

algiordano   Celaya also notes that Mexican president Vicente Fox has 
publicly expressed his agreement with the wisdom of legalizing drugs as a 
policy to fight crime, corruption and violence. He asks:

"Is there any sign of more movement in this direction by the Mexican 
government since more and more countries are moving toward marijuana 
legalization, especially now with the recent actions in the U.K. and 
Canada? Do you think Mexico consults these countries on this issue?"

Al replies:

Well, Mexico is campaigning right now for a seat on the United Nations 
Security Counsel and is talking to every nation - but not necessarily about 
drug reform.

It's a difficult situation, since the United States government puts so much 
pressure on Mexico, and uses the drug war as an excuse to weaken that and 
other nations' sovereignty and pressure economic agendas like free trade, 
the privatization of oil, electricity, education, etc.

Fox is not exactly being bold on the issue. The real heat is coming from 
the grassroots in Mexico. The indigenous rights movement, the labor and 
environmental movements, the human rights networks, authentic 
journalists... these are the people who are, more and more, calling for an 
end to US-imposed drug prohibition. And that's the hopeful sign.

In our opening statement of Narco News, we spoke specifically about this 
point 15 months ago:

Mexico is the speedbump on the road to global drug-policy tyranny. It's a 
very interesting and fluid situation.


algiordano   Dean mentioned earlier the specter of torture as part of the 
Mexican drug war. Then he asks:

"I have seen some stories about the veneration of the drug lords, songs and 
memorials, etc. Please tell us more about the attitudes of those in the South."

Al replies:

Let me tackle those two questions together, Dean.

Torture is still a terrible reality of the drug war. And drug laws 
encourage it. Because by banning plants that grow freely on the earth, that 
plant can be placed in anyone's hands by dishonest police (this happens in 
the U.S. on a daily basis, too), and torture is typically used to extract 
confessions. And I'm talking about very brutal tortures: electric shocks, 
genital mutilation, suffocation, savage beatings, sexual abuse... the movie 
Traffic offered a very understated version of the harsh reality.

As for the songs, Dean, in Mexico they are called "narco corridos," and 
sing of the outlaws - much like Woody Guthrie sang of Pretty Boy Floyd:

Guthrie said:

"As through this world you travel you'll meet many angry men some will rob 
you with a six gun and some with a fountain pen

"But as through this world you ramble and as through this world you roam 
you'll never see an outlaw rob a family from its home..."

The narco-corridos, at least many of them, have this same theme. Because in 
Mexico it's no secret that government officials and bankers are the real 
bosses of the drug trade, the ones who make the most profit and literally 
order the cartels around.

Saying this, of course, is what has placed Narco News under such savage attack.

But we'll keep saying it and documenting it.

Someday I hope we can print translations of those songs, the 
narco-corridos, so that English-speaking people can see that the rest of 
the world doesn't think like many North Americans. Few outside of our 
borders believe the drug war is about fighting drugs.


dirac_10  The lawsuit against you is a perfect example of the rather grim 
limitations against freedom of speech.

Seems you have the freedom as long as you don't mention humans or 
companies. I suppose you are free to discuss dirt or dogs though.

There are other rather grim limitations on freedom of speech but the 
slander/libel laws are perhaps the strongest.

Sounds like a good idea, protecting little people from powerful forces 
slandering them, but in practice, it is just a method of silencing 
criticism of the powerful.

Big Brother is alive and well.

You are a brave man. Keep up the good work.

johnson29   Al....Good Luck in court and thank you

algiordano  Thanks, Kate of the NYT for your warm welcome and advice on 
hitting the hotlinked number of the last post to refresh the page.

Please let us know when you are editor in chief. The Gray Lady could use 
such a common sense approach!

Meanwhile, Skywalker5 asks:

"How vast, then, is Akin Gump's influence over our political system? And 
who among the Bush administration can be seen as loyal and connected to 
this firm?"

Al replies:

The Akin Gumpsters. Now there's a topic! It's like the Addamms Family of 
lawyer-lobbyist firms. Except the Addamms Family was actually filled with 
sympathetic creatures. The Akin Gumpsters are pure mercenaries: Big 
economic powers pay them to do anything and everything!

They've already set a record with our own court case. Never before in the 
history of First Amendment law has a plaintiff so wealthy (Banamex, which 
Citigroup is paying $12.5 billion to buy), fronting for an owner so wealthy 
(Roberto Hernandez, #387 on the Forbes List, worth at least $1.3 billion 
dollars), hired a law firm so gigantic (Akin Gump is 7th largest law firm 
and 3rd largest lobbying firm in the country) to sue somebody as poor as me.

My most valuable real property are my guitar and my laptop. I figure 
Hernandez wants my guitar. He ain't gettin it though!

As for the Bush administration - just as the Clinton administration before 
it - it follows the money. And the Akin Gumpsters and their clients are 
prolific at the legalized bribery of campaign funding.

Check out the Akin Gump Data Dump for details:

Or come to the hearing on July 20th in NY and see how these overpaid legal 
rocket scientists fare against an amateur pro se lawyer.


algiordano   Donaldway asks for specifics on the Court Date.

Lemme blast that info out! (Wonder if the NYT will send a reporter that is 
not a deposable witness to the case!):

Hearing on Oral Arguments on Motions to Dismiss by the Defendants

New York State Supreme Court Manhattan District 71 Thomas Street, Room 205 
(a few blocks east of Foley Sqare, near City Hall)

Friday, July 20th 9:30 a.m. Justice Paula Omansky Presiding

Order of arguments:

1. Attorney Martin Garbus on behalf of Mario Menendez

2. Al (that's me) representing myself

3. Attorney Tom Lesser on behalf of Narco News Bulletin

4. Some creepy collection of Akin Gumpsters to rebut us: Probably that 
humorless slash-and-burn artist Tom McLish, who helped lose the Food Lion 
v. ABC case on appeal.

I'm looking forward to it.

Hope to see you all there!


aahpat   Thanks Kate. Always happy to have more options.

After I posted some references to NarcoNews and the Colombia issue my pages 
got a visit from the Gumpers. I'm so proud knowing that I cost that gang a 
few hundred dollars. That is probably what it cost them to have an intern 
look at my pages.

I just might drive to the City on the 20th.

ajdectis  Al, Have you ever felt your personal safety has been at stake?

kate_nyt - Ha, thanks Al.

algiordano  Wanja1 asks:

"A lot of attention has been paid to the profits from the illegal drug 
market but the legal market gets very little air time in discussions about 
the drug war. Do you have any thoughts as to why?"

Al replies:

Because one group advertises in the media and the other is not allowed. 
Thus, the media, with precious few exceptions, knows which team it is on.

In the early 1990s, Cynthia Cotts and I both did investigative reports on 
the Partnership for a Drug-Free America - y'know, the group that put those 
ads all over TV "This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs, any 
questions?" With a fried egg as the image.

Cotts - now the Village Voice media critic - was the first to scramble that 
egg, exposing that the "Drug-Free" partnership was in fact founded and 
funded by the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical empire. Not only that, it 
had lots of alcohol and tobacco industry funding. Go figure!

What did this tell us? There is a competition between drugs in the 
marketplace. Make some illegal, and others will sell more.

This is why there is so much support for drug legalization from people who 
don't use any drugs or alcohol, or people recovering from alcoholism, or 
addiction to prescription pills... They know, from their first-hand 
experience, that the prohibition makes the total situation worse at every 

This is your war. This is your war on drugs. Any questions?


patient1 George_McMahon  Before I threw away the baby with the water, I 
would take a tour of Americas by ways, Outside the belt are people who are 
tired . For many reasons. And they are listening. They are worth it. To 
save their america is to begin saveing the rest of the world. . Now 
Beltline...Nuke it. I will make my rights known, I will take them, And then 
I will help other men take theirs back. Love Narconews. It stands up, and 
for the other man as well! as should be . Thanks Al, for the integrity and 
audacity to tell the truth! Good hunting in Court , may you be mighty David 
, and they goliath about to fall.

reberbo - For a narco corrida composed and performed in New Mexico by good 
hearted gringos, check out "Cumbia Culpa" at

The head of Citigroup, a bank reputed to be the world's largest and oldest 
money launderer (it just bought Banamex) was paid over $150,000,000 last year.

- - Reber

algiordano  Celaya comments:

"We have been discussing here lately the great lack of activism on the part 
of U.S. entertainers. In the past, many of them strove to be on the cutting 
edge of social revolution but it seems like the vast majority have now sold 

Al replies:

It's not all sell-out, although that's a factor. It's fear. It's that 
artists and musicians are mistreated in their industries the same way that 
journalists - or any workers - are mistreated in theirs.

As for Arlo Guthrie, the guy does scores of benefits for causes and gets 
THOUSANDS of letters pleading with him to do other benefits. He's not the 
problem! When was the last time you heard a top radio station give him airplay?

Okay, this is a press conference. I'll let you all in on a little secret. 
Various figures from the entertainment, in particular the music and comedy 
communities, have taken a great interest in the Banamex lawsuit against 
Narco News. And after the July 20th hearing, hopefully by early autumn, we 
will make some specific announcements about this question.

What I'm hearing from the entertainers is that various of their issues 
intersect here: The drug war (freedom of impression) and free speech 
(freedom of expression). As well as the environmental, war-and-peace and 
economic issues inherent in the things we report on, like Plan Colombia.

The Drug War is not just going on trial in court. It shall go on trial in 
the streets, and in the music halls, and in the comedy clubs, and even in 
Madison Square Garden.

In fact, this is a good time for musicians and other entertainers to get in 
on the ground floor of this effort - take that Akin Gumpsters! - and if 
there are people of talent and conscience that want to be part of this 
effort you can contact me at  or America's favorite 
outside agitator and political humorist, Barry Crimmins, at  who is spearheading the organization of this effort.

It's modeled upon the MUSE Concerts - Musicians United for Safe Energy - of 
1979 and 1980.

Stay tuned!


algiordano  Okay, the questions are coming in fast. I hope I can get to 
them all. I do appreciate everybody's participation here. I can't wait to 
listen to Cumbia Culpa!

Groomlake9 writes:

"With regard to the "war on drugs" in Mexico and Colombia, what is your 
take on the journalistic guidance sometimes provided by US Embassy officers 
to reporters working in the foreign bureaux of US-based newspapers abroad.?

Al replies:

The Embassies are nefarious in terms of their role with the press.

A US correspondent in Mexico, in Colombia, in Peru, in Venezuela, the 
Caribbean (we won't even mention Bolivia here because that goose was 
well-cooked last fall), has instructions from his editors: "Get close and 
stay close to U.S. officials."

That disgraced ex-New York Times Mexico Bureau chief Sam Dillon even told 
the Village Voice that any accusation of drug-trafficking needed the 
endorsement of "official sources."

That kind of sums it up, no?

So when Uruguay President Jorge Batlle attended last fall's presidential 
summit in Panama, with all the Latin American presidents, he made a speech 
in front of all the U.S. correspondents: from the Times, the Post, the 
Trib, the LA Times, the Dallas AM news, and the wires (AP, Reuters, UPI), 
and he called for legalizing drugs.

And not one of them reported this historic news.

So then, on December first, Batlle, who is no slouch, repeats his 
statements - confirming that he is the first head of state IN ALL AMeRICA 
to call for ending the US-imposed drug war - in front of the same and 
additional US correspondents during President Fox's inauguration in Mexico 

And not a single US correspondent reported that news.

It took Narco News - a tiny little website without advertising, without a 
staff, without a bank account! and being sued by billionaires - to report 
that story on December 22nd when we found out about it. And the very next 
day, the Embassy bum-kisser Clifford Krauss of the New York Times was 
forced to put a tiny little brief item in about Batlle's position.

That was pretty funny because he quoted Batlle from a TV show in Uruguay 
but, notably, didn't report the date of the TV show, which had been weeks 

The power of the citizen-Internet to push the big boys of the official 
press became very clear on that day. Krauss followed up with an attack 
interview on Batlle, but the LA Times and Marcela Sanchez of the Washington 
Post followed up with real journalism about it.

We, on the outside, have to push push push and then push some more upon the 
people on the inside. I'm tempted to quote another folk song - "It isn't 
nice" by Malvina Reynolds. The press is not moved when you kiss its ring. 
It is moved when you expose it. "But if that's freedom's price, we don't 


algiordano   Adjectis writes:

"Hi Al, Could you share some background with us? Where in Latin America do 
you publish from? Are you a Mexican national? I apologize if everbody 
already knows the answers to this and if so please ignore it"

Al replies:

Tonight I'm writing you from Mexico. Tomorrow night, who knows?

I am a United States citizen and have always had the expressed written 
permission of any country I have been in to be there. I do move around as 
much as I can on a limited budget.

I think I would be crazy to reveal my exact location at all times. 
Banamex's lawyers may try to make me do that, and thus expose me to the 
guns of every Colombian paramilitary or narcobanker nutcase out there. That 
could get interesting. But on July 20th my residence for a few hours will 
be the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

By the way, Narco News has a free subscription service. And we may have 
some surprise announcements in the coming days. You can sign up at:

We may even, after the Court hearing in New York, host a fundraising party 
for the defense. It's a little difficult to organize the details by remote 
control from down here. But as soon as I know, the subscribers will know.

It's free speech. Free means you don't pay. So we keep our subscription 
service gratis.


richard1028c  Al

Great story about the behind the scenes Batlle story!

I greatly admire your courage and dedication. Give 'em hell!

algiordano  William Courmier writes:

"I keep trying to post my message to this board, but they won't let me. I 
worked deep undercover for the DEA for almost ten years, and in the process 
I killed a Columbian that got the drop on a DEA Agent. (I wasn't an agent - 
paid Bounty Hunter) Why won't this board let me post what happened?? I 
posted the message to your site this morning. Thanks"

Al replies:

I received your letter today, and read it. Very very interesting stuff. May 
I have permission to share it with a few of the good guys and gals in 


algiordano  Okay, have I missed any questions? It wasn't intentional. Is 
there anyone lurking who has a question on the tip of your tongue.

I'll take a few more questions and then it's back to the Law Library.

Are there any reporters out there?

kelinsmart  The WOD's is a Constitutional Parasite

dean_becker  Before you go Al, I just want to say thank you, so much! I 
knew your words would have impact, but you have been fantastic! I know the 
fire is burning brighter for me now and I am certain for the others who 
joined in. Please come back and see us again after the court dates.

ajdectis  Al, Thanks for being here and the great info - especially 
Battle's story. And thanks for your wonderful efforts and taking the risk 
and hassle for doing the right thing.

algiordano  Ah, a few more news items...

This coming Saturday night we'll do it again at the chat site

AND, for those of you in New England, I have only so far been sued in New 
York. I went to New Mexico and spoke there recently but nobody sued me. So 
many states, so little time....

But on September 15th I am coming to Boston, where I lived for so many 
years, and will speak at the umpteenth annual Hemp Freedom Rally on Boston 
Common, sponsored by MassCann. And maybe we'll hold a little Narco News 
defense party there too. So put it on your calendars and come say hi. If 
it's July 20 it must be New York. If it's September 15 it must be Boston...

donaldway  Thanks for coming Al... you're inspiring. A rare thing these days.

hiddenvoice   Thank you for some great work. Please keep it up! :)

patient1  George_McMahon Glad to see you Al. Good to see the voice of 
dissent still speaks out.Especially happy to hear of resistance in South 
America to North Americas invasion.

algiordano  Okay, thank you everybody!



10-4 and out...

from somewhere in a country called America,

Al Giordano Publisher Al
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