Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion

Author: Lisa ArbercheskiMay 11, 2015
Tags:american drug war, cia, Contra rebels in Nicaragua, crack-cocaine trade, Dark Alliance, Dark Alliance Series, DEA, Gary Webb, Government Drug Trade, Kill the Messenger, Los Angeles, Mercury News, suicided, War on Drugs

Gary Webb was an American Hero. 

A modern day muckraker with true grit; he was a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and author of the densely researched, well documented, passionately argued, acronym-laden 548-page tome “Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion”.

Webb began his career on newspapers in Kentucky and Ohio, winning numerous awards and building a strong reputation for investigative writing and integrity. Hired by the San Jose Mercury News, Webb contributed to the paper’s Pulitzer-prize winning coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Webb is best known for his “Dark Alliance” series, which appeared in the Mercury News in 1996. The series examined the origins of the crack-cocaine trade in Los Angeles and claimed that members of the anti-government Contra rebels in Nicaragua had played a major role in creating the trade, using cocaine profits to support their struggle. It also suggested that they may have acted with the knowledge and protection of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The series provoked outrage in Los Angeles, particularly in the African-American community, and led to four major investigations of the series’ charges.The series became even more controversial when the Los Angeles Times and other major papers published articles suggesting its claims were overstated. After an internal review, the Mercury News ultimately published a statement in May 1997 acknowledging shortcomings in the series’ reporting and editing. Webb resigned from the Mercury News in December 1997.

He moved on to become an investigator for the California State Legislature, publishing a book based on the “Dark Alliance” series in 1998, and doing free-lance investigative reporting.

On December 10, 2004, Webb was discovered dead, shot twice in the head with his father’s .38. His death was declared a suicide. 

That being read, I personally feel that the official story regarding Webb’s death defies logic and reason… in a word, it is irrational, and in my humble opinion, Webb was more likely “suicided”… well known CIA protocol in dealing with information leaks and risks to this criminal institution.

When I think of Gary Webb’s demise, I’m reminded of the 2010 film “Red” wherein CIA Agent William Cooper, played by by Karl Urban, is carefully arranging a suicide.

Since I can not find better words to describe Gary’s heroic plight, I’d like to quote from Professor, historian and author Joseph A. Palermo’s excellent article, “The Gary Webb Story: Still Killing the Messenger” (Huffington Post, 10-20-2014):

“Few things are better at getting the word out about a past injustice than a Hollywood movie and Kill the Messenger starring Jeremy Renner and directed by Michael Cuesta does so with depth and drama. For the first time the true story about the courageous investigative journalist, Gary Webb, is being told in movie theaters across the country where people can draw their own conclusions unhindered by the noise and static of establishment naysayers in the corporate media.

This powerful film uses an “entertainment” format to assess the compelling evidence that people tied to the Nicaraguan Contras, who President Ronald Reagan called “the moral equivalent of our founding fathers,” were involved in bringing cocaine back to the United States at the dawn of the crack epidemic.

Writing for the San Jose Mercury-News, Gary Webb had traveled repeatedly to Central America and uncovered what appeared to be the story of the decade: people associated with a U.S.-backed mercenary army had become international drug traffickers. If “agents” or “assets” of the Central Intelligence Agency’s war against Nicaragua were implicated, even indirectly, in importing one gram of cocaine to America’s cities that should have set off alarm bells in the journalistic community and possibly won a Pulitzer Prize for Webb.

Instead, the mainstream press went after Webb in a coordinated smear campaign that ignored the potential abuses he had uncovered and effectively allied itself with the Contras. “Journalists” and editors from the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times, essentially toed the line of right-wing rags like the Washington Times by citing unnamed sources from the CIA and national security establishment to burnish the image of the Contras and their taskmasters.

Despite a mountain of evidence from witness accounts, law enforcement and court records, a Senate subcommittee inquiry, Oliver North’s notebooks, congressional testimony, and even the CIA’s own internal review that backs up Webb’s original reporting, these mainstream hacks found that the best way to defend the CIA was to sully their colleague Webb.

Webb wasn’t working in a vacuum. Robert Parry and Brian Barger exposed the Contra cocaine connection for the Associated Press in 1985. Congressional testimony from Oliver North’s liaison to the Contras, Robert Owen, during the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings also confirmed the link.

After the attacks on Webb reached a fever pitch, the editors of the San Jose Mercury- News chose not to run his follow-up articles that backed up what he had originally wrote, while publicly pretending to be unaware of Webb’s additional evidence. Webb found himself in a situation that no journalist ever should be in. His own editors at the San Jose Mercury-News not only abandoned him but painted a big target on his back after first forcing him to cut his original story down and insisted he sex it up to highlight some of its more sensational findings. Webb later wrote that his preference always had been a methodical and revelatory series that enabled the facts to speak for themselves. He also wanted to run his own brief response to the Mercury’s retraction of his story but was denied even that professional courtesy. (Dark Alliance, p. 460-461)

The New York Times had not even mentioned Webb’s story when it was first published but ran the retraction by the editor of the Mercury on its front page accompanied by an editorial praising the Mercury for bravely dealing with “egregious errors” from one of its reporters. (p. 462) (The Mercury, which was my hometown paper, has since been reduced to a stripped down newsletter and a joke.)

No one had a better understanding about what was really happening than Webb himself. His detractors among mainstream journalists, he later wrote, had U.S. “officials whispering in their ears” and were dutifully reporting “there was no evidence the CIA knew anything about the dealings of Danilo Blandon, Norwin Meneses, or Freeway Ricky Ross” — a few of the individuals Webb had uncovered as being involved in drug trafficking. “I tried to imagine,” Webb writes, “what the reaction would have been had those same reporters gone to their editors with unnamed sources citing unobtainable reports claiming the CIA was involved in drug trafficking. Journalistic standards can be wonderfully flexible when necessary.” (p. 467)” 

Would you like to learn more?

Ex-L.A. Times Writer Apologizes for “Tawdry” Attacks

Kill The Messenger: How The Media Destroyed Gary Webb

The Gary Webb Story: Still Killing the Messenger

Key Figures In CIA-Crack Cocaine Scandal Begin To Come Forward

Inside the Dark Alliance: Gary Webb on the CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion

Gary Webb and Media Manipulation

Gary Webb was no journalism hero, despite what ‘Kill the Messenger’ says

Gary Webb And The Limits Of Vindication

The truth in `Dark Alliance’

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