Many Americans still count on the mainstream media to define reality for them, but too often the MSM spins false narratives that protect the powerful and diminish democracy, as happened in the long-running denial of cocaine trafficking by President Reagan’s beloved Nicaraguan Contra rebels, writes Beverly Bandler.
By Beverly Bandler
The sad tale of the mainstream U.S. media’s destruction of journalist Gary Webb for reviving the Contra-cocaine scandal in the 1990s a story recounted in the movie “Kill the Messenger” is important not only because of Webb’s tragic demise but because the case goes to the central question of whether the American people are getting information and facts to which we are entitled in a free society, or whether we are being manipulated with half-truths, propaganda and straight-out lies.
What is ironic about the recent patronizing anti-Webb commentary by the Washington Post’s Jeff Leen claiming that “an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof” is that the Post was a prime salesman for the Iraq War in 2002 and 2003. And just what “proof” did the Post require for the “extraordinary claim” about Iraq hiding stockpiles of WMD, the chief selling point to the American people? Apparently nothing more than “jingoism,” the beating of war drums and empty assurances from the Bush administration’s neocons.
As journalist Michael Massing pointed out in February 2004 after the U.S. invasion force failed to find the promised stockpiles “‘Iraq’s Arsenal Was Only on Paper,’ declared a recent headline in The Washington Post.”
But Leen’s commentary in response to “Kill the Messenger” was just the latest example of the mainstream press covering its own tracks for its failure to pursue the Contra-cocaine scandal and for its complicity in destroying Gary Webb.
It’s now clear that the CIA has long been trying to fend off the reality of the Contra-cocaine scandal, often with the help of what a newly released CIA report described as its “productive relations with journalists.”
Americans need to know about such “dark alliances,” the title that Webb gave his original series at the San Jose Mercury News and later his book. This posting is about two such “dark alliances”: 1) The Contra-cocaine scandal that surfaced in 1985 when then Associated Press colleagues Robert Parry and Brian Barger first broke the news. 2) The concerted effort by U.S. major news media, specifically, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post to not only disparage the scandal but also discredit investigative reporter Gary Webb who, in 1996, revived the story by explaining the Contra cocaine’s impact on U.S. cities in the 1980s.
‘Just Say No’
Webb’s revelations, of course, flew in the face of the conventional wisdom that President Ronald Reagan was a stern enemy of drugs and a fierce threat to drug traffickers. On Oct. 27, 1986, Reagan budgeted $1.7 billion for the drug war and federalized Rockefeller law-style mandatory-minimum sentences. The message was: “Just say no.”
It also turned out that the CIA’s “productive relations with journalists” proved so strong that it didn’t even seem to matter when official government investigations confirmed key facts about the Contra-cocaine scandal.
For instance, Sen. John Kerry chaired a 2 ½-year investigation of the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations that reported in 1989: “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.”
Commenting on Kerry’s investigation and the major U.S. media’s response, journalism professor Jeff Cohen wrote: “Contra drug dealing was tolerated in the U.S. frenzy to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftwing Sandinista government. Kerry’s work was ignored or attacked in big media — Newsweek labeled him a ‘randy conspiracy buff.’ ”
With Kerry and his investigation dismissed as irrelevant by the big newspapers, the scandal remained largely suppressed for the next seven years until Webb revived it in 1996.
Webb (1955-2004) was an investigative journalist whose awards included a Pulitzer in 1990, as part of a team at the San Jose Mercury News, and at least four other major prizes for his solo work. Webb tried to reveal the impact that some of the cocaine that came through the Nicaraguan Contra pipeline had on American cities, saying:
“It’s not a situation where the government or the CIA sat down and said okay, let’s invent crack and sell it in black neighborhoods and let’s decimate black America. It was a situation where we need money for a covert operation. The quickest way to raise it is to sell cocaine and you guys go sell it somewhere. We don’t want to know anything about it. And you had this bad luck of them doing it right around the time people were figuring out how to make crack.”
A Sad But True Tale
“This, sadly, is a true story,” Webb wrote in his 1999 book, Dark Alliance. It is a story now told in the Hollywood film, “Kill the Messenger,” based on the book of the same name by Nick Schou and Webb’s Dark Alliance.
The story begins with Webb’s 1996 series “Dark Alliance” in California’s San Jose Mercury News. Webb investigated and told how for a better part of a decade, in a “wildly successful conspiracy,” a San Francisco Bay area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to Los Angeles street gangs and funneled millions of dollars in drug profits from those sales to the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras.
For his investigation, Webb drew from newly declassified documents, newly released undercover DEA audio and videotapes, federal court testimony, and interviews, and he demonstrated how the federal government knowingly allowed massive amounts of drugs and money to change hands at the expense of U.S. communities.
The “Dark Alliance” Mercury News series “might have vanished without a trace had the paper not chosen this story to create a splash for its website, complete with graphics and links to original source documents,” wrote Dan Simon, editor of Webb’s book and publisher of Seven Stories Press.
“It became, arguably, the first big Internet news story, with as many as 1.3 million hits on a single day. Talk radio picked it up off the Internet, and citizens’ groups and media watchdogs soon followed. The CIA launched its own internal investigation. Gary’s star had never shone more brightly
“The mainstream print media was ominously silent until October and November 1996,” Simon continued, “when The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all finally picked up the story. But instead of launching their own investigations into whether the CIA had shielded drug traffickers, these papers went after Gary’s reporting, although they ‘could not find a single significant factual error,’ as Gary’s then-editor at The Mercury News, Jerry Ceppos, would write in an internal memo.
“But after that, the series was described frequently as ‘discredited.’ Soon the story and Gary himself were spoiled goods. Gary’s editor switched sides and penned an apologia distancing the paper from the series. Gary was forced out of his job, even though the body of evidence supporting Gary’s account was actually growing. Two years later, the CIA’s internal investigation would prove to be a vindication of Gary’s work.”
There was also an important social and political dimension to Webb’s revelations. “The investigative series sparked protests in African-American and congressional probes,” noted Democracy Now! “It also provoked a fierce reaction from the media establishment, which denounced the series. The Los Angeles Times alone assigned 17 reporters to probe Webb’s report and his personal life.
“Recently declassified CIA files show the agency used a ‘a ground base of already productive relations with journalists [at other newspapers]’ to counter what it called ‘a genuine public relations crisis.’
“Following the controversy, the San Jose Mercury News demoted Webb. He then resigned and pushed his investigation even further in his book, Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion.
“The CIA’s inspector general later corroborated Webb’s key findings, but, by then, his career was wrecked. The newspapers that denounced Webb largely ignored the CIA’s own report, it was released in 1998 amid the scandal over President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.”
“The second CIA report not only vindicates me,” wrote Gary Webb to a fellow journalist in July 24, 1998, “but all the other reporters and activists who have been trying to bring this to the public’s attention for the last 13 years. It also proves that, once again, the CIA lied to the American public and was assisted in this effort by our national news media, which denigrated anyone who challenged the official denials.”
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, an outspoken member of the Congressional Black Caucus, recalled that “The night that I read [Webb’s] ‘Dark Alliance’ series, I was so alarmed, that I literally sat straight up in bed, poring over every word. I reflected on the many meetings I attended throughout South Central Los Angeles during the 1980s, when I constantly asked, ‘Where are all the drugs coming from?’ I asked myself that night whether it was possible for such a vast amount of drugs to be smuggled into any district under the noses of the community leaders, police, sheriff’s department, FBI, DEA and other law enforcement agencies
“The time I spent investigating the allegations of the ‘Dark Alliance’ series led me to the undeniable conclusion that the CIA, DEA, DIA, and FBI knew about drug trafficking in South Central Los Angeles. They were either part of the trafficking or turned a blind eye to it, an effort to fund the Contra war and that the drug money was used by both sides
“It may take time, but I am convinced that history is going to record that Gary Webb wrote the truth. The establishment refused to give Gary Webb the credit that he deserved. They teamed up in an effort to destroy the story, and very nearly succeeded. We will not let this story end until the naysayers and opponents are forced to apologize for their reckless and irresponsible attacks on Gary Webb.”
A Disgraceful Episode
Charles P. Pierce, a political writer for Esquire.com, said: “Of all the disgraceful episodes regarding the press and the Reagan administration, the discrediting of Gary Webb was probably the worst, given the fact that so much of the elite press was complicit in what was done to him.”
But Webb’s brave reporting had a lasting historical impact because it finally forced the Central Intelligence Agency to conduct a serious investigation of the Contra-cocaine problem and what the CIA knew about the scandal and what actions the agency took or didn’t take.
“[CIA Inspector General Frederick] Hitz completed his investigation in mid-1998 and the second volume of his two-volume investigation was published on Oct. 8, 1998. In the report, Hitz identified more than 50 Contras and Contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s,” reported journalist Robert Parry.
Andrew Hehir of Salon.com wrote: “Here’s the important thing to say about Webb’s big story: In general terms, and in most of its specifics, it was true. Virtually no one would deny that today; congressional commissions, internal CIA investigations and scholarly articles by historians have reached similar conclusions, shrouded in more lawyerly or diplomatic language.
“You can say that the CIA was apparently complicit in drug-dealing but not directly involved; you can say that the agency ‘turned a blind eye’ to evidence that smuggling revenue was being used to fund the Contras; you can say that ‘the CIA knew or should have known that some of its allies were accused of being in the drug business,’ in the exceedingly careful phrasing of New York Times media reporter David Carr.
“If the tone of Webb’s reporting was sometimes inflammatory, what he said happened pretty much happened. Webb never stated or implied that the CIA had deliberately imported crack cocaine into African-American neighborhoods; that construction or interpretation came later, from other people.”
Filmmaker Marc Levin noted at HuffingtonPost, “The idea that the CIA works with drug traffickers and other criminals and sometimes facilitates their operations and protects them as assets in return for their help in defeating our enemies (i.e. Communists during the Cold War and now Islamic fundamentalists) is not ‘an extraordinary claim.’ It’s a fact.”
See the Movie
I believe each one of us can do something of value: we can go see the film, “Kill the Messenger,” encourage others to do so, read and share the references in the “recommended reading” list below among others and come to our own conclusions.
This issue is not only about a movie and what it reveals, but it is about what Alternet’s Don Hazen states has become a basic tenet of American politics: “that corporate power rules the roost. Nothing significant that will become law in America if corporate power, profits, global competitive advantage, military might, national security and privatization are in any significant way threatened.”
DemocracyNow’s Amy Goodman added: “That’s really what will save us, is when we really know what’s going on, not filtered through the lens or the microphone of the corporation.”
In 2004, rejected by his profession, essentially unemployable, impoverished, divorced, alone, and facing eviction, the 49-year-old Webb prepared for his own cremation and sent suicide notes to family members. He was found dead at his Sacramento County, California home with two gunshot wounds to his head, an apparent suicide.
“Now when I reread the opening sentence of the ‘Dark Alliance’ series,” writes book editor Dan Simon, “I realize Gary had found the big story, the one about the betrayal of a people by its own government. A monumental sadness remains.”
Simon added, “The alternative media, to its credit, honored Gary. But the community of his peers in corporate journalism never again embraced him. He could never quite get over their betrayal. When you are an investigative reporter armed with the truth, the gun often fires backwards.”
America is not what we think it is.
Beverly Bandler’s public affairs career spans some 40 years. Her credentials include serving as president of the state-level League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands and extensive public education efforts in the Washington, D.C. area for 16 years. She writes from Mexico.
“Kill the Messenger” Resurrects Gary Webb, Journalist Maligned for Exposing CIA Ties to Crack Trade” on Democracy Now! The video includes an extended clip from the 2012 documentary “Shadows of Liberty” that talks about how freedom of the press in the United States is eroding under increasing corporate control.
“Gary Webb: In his own words.” Anthony LappÃ© and Stephen Marshal. Guerrilla News Network, 2004. https://archive.org/details/Gary_Webb
“Kill the Messenger.” http://www.focusfeatures.com/kill_the_messenger/
“Shadows of Liberty.” Jean-Philippe Tremblay, director. http://shadowsofliberty.org/ http://shadowsofliberty.org/the-film/
“CIA: America’s Secret Warriors.” (1997). Directed by Marc Levin. The series included a brief history examining the allegations that the agency worked with drug traffickers at the end of World War 2 in Sicily, the KMT in China, the Hmong tribesmen using Air America during the Vietnam war, the various anti-communist insurgents in Latin America and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the late ’70s and ’80s.
“Freeway: Crack in the System.” Documentary by Marc Levin. October 2014. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE4JQkRuQlM
Sources and Recommended Reading
Baldwin, Sam and Daniel Luzer. “The Altered States of America.” What a long, strange trip it’s been: a drug war timeline.” MotherJones, 2009-07. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/07/altered-states-america
Bowden, Charles. “The Pariah.” Esquire, 2012-09-12. http://www.esquire.com/features/pariah-gary-webb-0998
Brian Barger and Robert Parry. “Reports Link Nicaraguan Rebels to Cocaine Trafficking.” Associated Press, 1985-12-20. http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1985/Reports-Link-Nicaraguan-Rebels-to-Cocaine-Trafficking/id-c69eaf370de9884f907a39efd90337d3
Bernstein, Carl. “The CIA and the Media.” Rolling Stone, October 20, 1977. http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php
Blum, William. “The Real Drug Lords: A brief history of CIA involvement in the Drug Trade.” Global Research, 2008-08-31. http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-real-drug-lords-a-brief-history-of-cia-involvement-in-the-drug-trade/10013
Blum, William and Peter Scott. Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. Common Courage Press (July 1995).
Central Intelligence Agency. Directorate of Intelligence. “CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story.” Managing a Nightmare. “In the world of public relations, as in war avoiding a rout in the face of hostile multitudes can be considered a success.” 2014-07-29. www.foia.cia.gov/…/DOC_0001372115.pdf
Cockburn, Alexander and Jeffrey St. Clair. Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. Verso (November 17, 1999). “On March 16, 1998, the CIA’s Inspector General, Fred Hitz, finally let the cat out of the bag in an aside at a Congressional Hearing. Hitz told the US Reps that the CIA had maintained relationships with companies and individuals the Agency knew to be involved in the drug business. Even more astonishingly, Hitz revealed that back in 1982 the CIA had requested and received from Reagan’s Justice Department clearance not to report any knowledge it might have of drug-dealing by CIA assets. “With these two admissions, Hitz definitively sank decades of CIA denials, many of them under oath to Congress. Hitz’s admissions also made fools of some of the most prominent names in US journalism, and vindicated investigators andcritics of the Agency, ranging from Al McCoy to Senator John Kerry.”
Cohen, Jeff. “The Resurrection of Gary Webb: Will Hollywood Give Journalist Last Word Against CIA’s Media Apologists?” CommonDreams, 2014-10-06. http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/10/06/resurrection-gary-webb-will-hollywood-give-journalist-last-word-against-cias-media_______“R.I.P. Gary Webb — Unembedded Reporter.” CommonDreams, 2004-12-13. http://www.commondreams.org/views/2004/12/13/rip-gary-webb-unembedded-reporter
Davidson, Lawrence. “How the US Propaganda System Works.” ConsortiumNews, 2014-05-09. https://consortiumnews.com/2014/05/09/how-the-us-propaganda-system-works/
Democracy Now! Amy Goodman. “Inside the Dark Alliance: Gary Webb on the CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion.” 2014-10-06. http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2014/10/6/inside_the_dark_alliance_gary_webb
Gilson, Dave, Michael Mechanic, Alex Park and AJ Vicens. “10 Fascinating Articles from the CIA’s Secret Employee Magazine.” MotherJones, 2014-09-19. http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/09/10-declassified-articles-cia-intelligence-journal
Grandin, Greg. “The New York Times Wants Gary Webb to Stay Dead.” The Nation, 2014-10-10. http://www.thenation.com/blog/181940/new-york-times-wants-gary-webb-stay-dead#
Grim, Ryan. “Kill The Messenger: How The Media Destroyed Gary Webb.” Huffington Post, 2014-10-10. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/10/kill-the-messenger_n_5962708.html
Grim, Ryan, Matt Sledge and Bart Ferner. “Key Figures in CIA–Crack Cocaine Scandal Begin to Come Forward. HuffingtonPost, 2014-10-10. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/10/gary-webb-dark-alliance_n_5961748.html
Hart, Peter. “A ‘Worthless and Whiny’ Attack on a Genuine Journalistic Hero.” Fair, 2014-10-21. http://www.fair.org/blog/2014/10/21/wash-post-webb/
Hazen. Don. “Apocalypse Now: Seriously, It Is Time for a Major Rethink About Liberal and Progressive Politics.” Alternet, 2014-10-25. http:/www.alternet.org/activism/apocalypse-now-seriously-it-time-major-rethink-about-liberal-and-progressive-politics
Hedges, Chris. The Movie that Completely Exposes the Myth of the ‘Free Press.” Kill the Messenger reveals the media’s subservience to power. Alternet, 2014-10-27. http://www.alternet.org/media/movie-completely-exposes-myth-free-press
_______“The Myth of the Free Press.” TruthDig, 2014-10-26. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_myth_of_the_free_press_20141026
Hehir, Andrew. “From Gary Webb to James Risen: The struggle for the soul of journalism.” Two courageous reporters dug up dark government secrets. Only one was betrayed by his peers. Why did it happen? Salon, 2014-10-25. http://www.salon.com/2014/10/25/from_gary_webb_to_james_risen_the_struggle_for_the_soul_of_journalism/
Kornbluh, Peter. “The Storm over ‘Dark Alliance.’ ” Columbia Journalism Review, January/February 1997. http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB2/storm.htm
Kurtz, Howard. “The Post on WMDs: An Inside Story. Prewar Articles Questioning Threat Often Didn’t Make Front Page.” Washington Post, 2004-08-12. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58127-2004Aug11_4.html
Lee, Martin A. and Norman Solomon. Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in the News Media. 1st ed. 1990. LGLA (January 13, 2013).
Leen, Jeff. “Gary Webb was no journalism hero, despite what ‘Kill the Messenger’ says.” Washington Post, 2014-10-17. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/gary-webb-was-no-journalism-hero-despite-what-kill-the-messenger-says/2014/10/17/026b7560-53c9-11e4-809b-8cc0a295c773_story.html See Hart 10-21 and Parry 10-18.
Lippmann, Walter and Charles Merz. “A Test of the News.” The New Republic, August 1920. “Their study came out as a forty-two page supplement to the New Republic in August 1920 and demonstrated that the Times’ coverage was neither unbiased nor accurate. They concluded that the paper’s news stories were not based on facts, but were “dominated by the hopes of the men who composed the news organizations.” The paper cited events that did not happen, atrocities that never took place, and reported no fewer than ninety-one times that theBolshevik regime was on the verge of collapse. “The news about Russia is a case of seeing not what was, but what men wished to see,” Lippmann and Merz charged. ‘The chief censor and the chief propagandist were hope and fear in the minds of reporters and editors.’ ”
Mackenzie, Angus. Secrets: The CIA’s War at Home.University of California Press; New Ed edition (April 22, 1999).
Marcy, William L. The politics of cocaine: how U.S. policy has created a thriving drug industry in Central and South America. Chicago Review Press. (2010).
Mackenzie, Angus. Secrets: The CIA’s War at Home. University of California Press; New Ed edition (April 22, 1999).
Massing, Michael. “Now They Tell Us.” New York Review of Books, 2004-02-26. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2004/feb/26/now-they-tell-us/
McCoy, Alfred W. The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. Chicago Review Press; Revised edition (May 1, 2003). “The first book to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking” Amazon reviewer: “A historical study of the opium and heroin trade and its political context, based on primary and secondary sources, including interviews with some of the key players of the developments in Indochina in the 1950s through 1970s.”
McGovern, Ray. “Truman’s True Warning on the CIA.” ConsortiumNews, 2013-12-22. https://consortiumnews.com/2013/12/22/trumans-true-warning-on-the-cia/
_______ “Break the CIA in Two.” ConsortiumNews, 2009-12-22. https://consortiumnews.com/2009/122209a.html
New York Times. Featured Subject: “The Dark Alliance Expose.” With Articles From the Archives of The New York Times. (9-21-1996 to 1-30-1998). http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/09/27/specials/cia.html
Parry, Robert. “How the Washington Press Turned Bad.” ConsortiumNews, 2014-10-28. https://consortiumnews.com/2014/10/28/how-the-washington-press-turned-bad/
_______“WPost’s Slimy Assault on Gary Webb.” Consortium News, 2014-10-18. https://consortiumnews.com/2014/10/18/wposts-slimy-assault-on-gary-webb/
_______“The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga.” ConsortiumNews, 2014-10-09. https://consortiumnews.com/2014/10/09/the-sordid-contra-cocaine-saga/ “If you ever wondered how the mainstream U.S. mediachanged from the hard-nosed Watergate press of the 1970s into the brown-nose MSM that swallowed the Iraq War lies, a key middle point was the Contra-cocaine scandal of the 1980s/1990s.”
_______ “NYT’s Belated Admission on Contra-Cocaine.” ConsortiumNews, 2014-10-04. https://consortiumnews.com/2014/10/04/nyts-belated-admission-on-contra-cocaine/
_______ “The CIA/MSM Contra-Cocaine Cover-up ConsortiumNews, 2014-09-26. https://consortiumnews.com/2014/09/26/the-ciamsm-contra-cocaine-cover-up/
_______ Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth.’ Media Consortium; 1 edition (July 1, 1999). Amazon reviewer: “This book is a real gem. It outlines a tale of both corruption and ideological mendacity within the White House, and of ignorance and unprofessionalism with the Directorate of Operations in the Central Intelligence Agency.The editors of the history of the Department of State have on several occasions complained, both publicly and privately, that an accurate history of the foreign relations of the United States of America cannot be written without more complete disclosure of our various covert operations.”
Pew Research Center. “Who Owns the News Media Database.” Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2012-06-26. http://www.journalism.org/commentary_backgrounder/who_owns_news_media_database_summary_findings?src=pp-footer
Pincus, Walter “Inspector: CIA kept Ties With Alleged Traffickers.” The Washington Post, 1998-03-17 A12.
Prouty, L. Fletcher (author). Jesse Ventura (foreword). The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World. Skyhorse Publishing; Second Edition edition (April 1, 2011). Prouty is controversial but it is a fact that he “was a retired colonel of the U.S. Air Force, served as the chief of special operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Kennedy years, and was directly in charge of the global system designed to provide military support for the clandestine activities of the CIA.” One Amazon reviewer writes: “This is an extremely important book. The proof of it is that even the official copy in the Library of Congress disappeared (!). Moreover, even after his death, the author continues to be the object of a smear campaign.”
Risen, James. Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. War corrupts. Endless war corrupts absolutely. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (October 14, 2014).
______State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. Free Press; First Edition edition (January 5, 2006)
_____ “C.I.A. Says It Used Nicaraguan Rebels Accused of Drug Tie.” New York Times, 1998-07-17. http://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/17/world/cia-says-it-used-nicaraguan-rebels-accused-of-drug-tie.html
Schou, Nick. Kill the Messenger (Movie Tie-In Edition): How the CIA’s Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb. Nation Books; Revised Edition edition (September 9, 2014).
_______“The truth in ’Dark Alliance.’ ” Los Angeles Times, 2006-08-18. http://articles.latimes.com/2006/aug/18/opinion/oe-schou18
Scott, Peter Dale. American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (War and Peace Library). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 1St Edition edition (November 16, 2010).
Solomon, Norman. War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Wiley (June 1, 2006).
Spartacus Educational. “Walter Pincus.” http://spartacus-educational.com/MDpincus.htm “Walter Pincus also led the attack on Gary Webb when he published his series of articles on CIA involvement with the Contras and the drug industry. After Dark Alliance was published Pincus wrote: “‘Washington Post investigation into Ross, Blandon, Meneses, and the U.S. cocaine market in the 1980s found the available information does not support the conclusion that the CIA-backed contras – or Nicaraguans in general – played a major role in the emergence of crack as anarcotic in widespread use across the United States. “The Washington Post refused to publish Webb’s letters when he attempted to defend his views on the CIA. This included information that Pincus had been recruited by the CIA when he was at Yale University in order to spy on student groups at several international youth conferences in the 1950s. Later, Geneva Overholser, the Washington Post ombudsman, criticized Pincus and other reporters working for the newspaper: ‘A principal responsibility of the press is to protect the people from government excesses. The Washington Post (among others) showed more energy for protecting the CIA from someone else’s journalistic excesses.’ “When Gary Webb committed suicide, French journalist, Paul Moreira, made a television documentary for France’s Canal Plus. He interviewed Pincus and asked him why in October, 1998, he had not reported on the CIA’sinspector general report admitting the agency worked with drug dealers throughout the 1980s. Pincus was unable to explain why he and other mainstream journalists completely ignored this report that helped to support Webb’s case against the CIA.”
Umansky, Eric. “Total Coverage: The CIA, Contras, and Drugs.” The CIA-coke connection was detailed long before Dark Alliance — and the evidence keepscoming. Mother Jones, 1998-08-25. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/1998/08/total-coverage-cia-contras-and-drugs
Webb, Gary. Dark Alliance: Movie Tie-In Edition: The CIA, the Contras, and the Cocaine Explosion. Seven Stories Press; Reprint edition (September 30, 2014). 1st ed. June 1999.
Wikipedia. “CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_and_Contras_cocaine_trafficking_in_the_US _______“Gary Webb.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Webb _______Kerry Committee Report. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerry_Committee_report#cite_note-white-2
An open Letter to Jeff Leen:
Jeff, I want to write you a quick note about your recent attack on Gary Webb.
I simply cannot understand what would motivate you to write such a thing other than envy pure and simple, given the large body of evidence now supporting Mr. Webb.
Given the sheer size and power of the Washington Post you have arrogantly assumed that the people would take this lying down, but this time you are wrong.
Gary Webb did get the last word on CONTRA COCAINE. Generations of people will be watching the movie KILL THE MESSENGER.
I will be there and I will remind them what the owner of your newspaper Katharine Graham once said at a 1988 speech at CIA Headquarters:
“We live in a dirty and dangerous world … There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.”
Its therefore no surprise that a culture of ignorance has grown at the Post to the point that it could Ignore the CIA’s front page admission of GUILT.
In 1998 Congresswoman Maxine Waters wrote:
Quite unexpectedly, on April 30, 1998, I obtained a secret 1982 Memorandum of Understanding between the CIA and the Department of Justice, that allowed drug trafficking by CIA assets, agents, and contractors to go unreported to federal law enforcement agencies. I also received correspondence between then Attorney General William French Smith and the head of the CIA, William Casey, that spelled out their intent to protect drug traffickers on the CIA payroll from being reported to federal law enforcement.
Then on July 17, 1998 the New York Times ran this amazing front page CIA admission: “CIA Says It Used Nicaraguan Rebels Accused of Drug Tie.” “The Central Intelligence Agency continued to work with about two dozen Nicaraguan rebels and their supporters during the 1980s despite allegations that they were trafficking in drugs…. The agency’s decision to keep those paid agents, or to continue dealing with them in some less formal relationship, was made by top officials at headquarters in Langley, Va.”. (emphasis added)
………The CIA had always vehemently denied any connection to drug traffickers and the massive global drug trade, despite over ten years of documented reports. But in a shocking reversal, the CIA finally admitted that it was CIA policy to keep Contra drug traffickers on the CIA payroll. The Facts speak for themselves. Maxine Waters, Member of Congress, September 19, 1998
Mr. Leen, I would also remind you that Congresswoman Waters also found CIA EMPLOYEES DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE SMUGGLING:
â€œSeveral informed sources have told me that an appendix to this Report was removed at the instruction of the Department of Justice at the last minute. This appendix is reported to have information about a CIA officer, not agent or asset, but officer, based in the Los Angeles Station, who was in charge of Contra related activities.According to these sources, this individual was associated with running drugs to South Central Los Angeles,around 1988. Let me repeat that amazing omission. The recently released CIA Report Volume II contained an appendix, which was pulled by the Department of Justice, that reported a CIA officer in the LA Station was hooked into drug running in South Central Los Angeles.â€
(Excerpt from the Dark Alliance Book)
â€œWhen CIA Inspector General Fred P. Hitz testified before the House Intelligence Committee in March 1998, he admitted a secret government interagency agreement. `Let me be frank about what we are finding,â€™ Hitz said. `There are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity.â€™
â€œThe lawmakers fidgeted uneasily. `Did any of these allegations involved trafficking in the United States?â€™ asked Congressman Norman Dicks of Washington. `Yes,â€™ Hitz answered. Dicks flushed.â€
â€œAnd what, Hitz was asked, had been the CIAâ€™s legal responsibility when it learned of this? That issue, Hitz replied haltingly, had `a rather odd historyâ€¦the period of 1982 to 1995 was one in which there was no official requirement to report on allegations of drug trafficking with respect to non-employees of the agency, and they were defined to include agents, assets, non-staff employees.â€™ There had been a secret agreement to that effect `hammered out between the CIA and U.S. Attorney General William French Smith in 1982,â€™ he testified.â€
Hitz concluded his testimony by stating â€œThis is the grist for more work, if anyone wants to do it.â€
Mr Leen, I will also leave you with a copy of the agreement which exempted intelligence agencies from reporting drugs:
Exhibit 1 U.S. Attorney General William French Smith replies to a still classified letter from DCI William Casey requesting exemption from reporting drug crimes by CIA agents, assets and contractors.
Exhibit 2: DCI William Casey happily agrees with William French Smith and signs the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) exempting his agency from reporting drug crimes. This agreement covered both the Latin American conflicts and Afghanistan war. It remained in effect until August, 1995 when it was quietly rescinded by Janet Reno after Gary Webb began making inquiries for his series. The 1995 revision of the DoJ-CIA MOU specifically includes narcotics violations among the lists of potential offenses by non-employees that must be reported to DOJ.
Exhibit 3: On February 8, 1985, Deputy Chief of DoJ’s Office of Intelligence Policy andReview (OIPR) from 1979 to 1991, A. R. Cinquegrana signed off on this letter approving the MOU. Mark M. Richard, Deputy Assistant Attorney General with responsibility for General Litigation and International Law Enforcement in 1982, states that he was unableto explain why narcotics violations were not on the list of reportable crimes except thatthe MOU had “other deficiencies, not just drugs.”
AND Finallly, Mr. Leen, if that is not enough, I would remind you of what Senator Kerry found after interviewing dozens of witnesses:
“There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, on the payroll of, and carrying the credentials of,the CIA were involved in drug trafficking while involved in support of the contras.”â€”Senator John Kerry, The Washington Post (1996)
“It is clear that there is a network of drug trafficking through the Contras…We can produce specific law-enforcement officials who will tell you that they have been called off drug-trafficking investigations because the CIA is involved or because it would threaten national security.”
–Senator John Kerry at a closed door Senate Committee hearing
â€œBecause of Webbâ€™s work the CIA launched an Inspector General investigation that named dozens of troubling connections to drug runners. That wouldnâ€™t have happened if Gary Webb hadnâ€™t been willing to stand up and risk it all.â€
Senator John Kerry (LA Weekly, May 30, 2013)
â€œThe Contras moved drugs not by the pound, not by the bags, but by the tons, by the cargo planeloads.â€
–Jack Blum, investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, testimony under oath on Feb. 11, 1987
“We were complicit as a country, in narcotics traffic at the same time as we’re spending countless dollars in this country as we try to get rid of this problem. It’s mind-boggling.
I don’t know if we got the worst intelligence system in the world, i don’t know if we have the best and they knew it all, and just overlooked it.
But no matter how you look at it, something’s wrong. Something is really wrong out there.”
— Senator John Kerry, Iran Contra Hearings, 1987
Any further questions Jeff Leen?
While at the Buzzflash site reviewing the headlines I saw one titled “Racism Drove the Backlash Against Gary Webb”.
Racism? But when I tried the link there was a “page not found” message. Further investigation showed that the story had been completely removed from the site. But Google Cache was working, and here is the link – until whoever wanted the story gone causes that to disappear too.
Very curious: it seems all the Big Boys want to trash Webb’s memory.
99% of the time journo’s make for great investigative current affairs/social history reading. Better than academics. However fall too often into sensationalism to be sensational. Everybody knew drugs-Contras were happening back during President Raygun’s regime. And the phony wars on drugs and drugs to keep urban inner city scenes destabilized and used as a weapon of overt control. What these investigators missed is that they want to pander to moral outrage. If they said that if we legalize all drugs then no problems but no they want to ramp up the outrage with their out-takes. No one should loose their lives of course but I think this is all confected.
Not to mention how next to impossible it was/is to but drugs during an election campaign season.
Let us not forget my personal favorites:
Cele Castillo III (DEA Ret.)
National Security Archives declassified records on Oliver North – North’ diary submitted to congressional investigators contained hundreds of references to drug trafficking, even after North was given time to expurgate sensitive information from it before handing the diary oiver to investigators.
“went and talked to Vaughn, who wanted to go to Bolivia to pick up paste, wanted aircraft to pick up 1,500 kilos.”
–Oliver North’s July 9, 1984, Diary entry
“$14 million to finance came from drugs.”
— –Oliver North’s July 12, 1985, Diary entry
Testimony of Peter Kornbluh, Senior Analyst, National Security Archive October 19, 1996 (Includes declassified documents)
â€œ..I can and will address the central premise of the story: that the U.S. government tolerated the trafficking of narcotics into this country by individuals involved in the contra war. To summarize: there is concrete evidence that U.S. officials– White House, NSC
and CIA–not only knew about and condoned drug smuggling in and around the contra war, but in some cases collaborated with, protected, and even paid known drug smugglersâ€
â€œ..Mr. North called a press conference where he was joined by Duane Clarridge, the CIA official who ran the contra operations from 1981 through mid 1984, and the former attorney general of the United States, Edwin Meese III. Mr. North called it a “cheap political trick…to even suggest that I or anyone in the Reagan administration, in any way, shape or form, ever tolerated the trafficking of illegal substances.”
Mr. Clarridge claimed that it was a “moral outrage” to suggest that a Reagan Administration official “would have countenanced” drug trafficking. And Mr. Meese stated that no “Reagan administration official would have ever looked the other way at such activity.”
The documentation, in which Mr. North, Mr. Clarridge and Mr. Meese all appear, suggests the opposite. Let me review it here briefly:
Lawrence Victor Harrison Testimony in DEA agent Enrique Camarena Case Ties Contras and Drugs
DEA: CIA Trained Guerrillas At Ranch Owned By Drug Lord July 5, 1990 |Los Angeles Times
PBS Frontline Special on Drugs. #613 Original Air Date: May 17, 1988 Produced and Written by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn. Includes an interview with legendary Intelligence officer Tony (â€œTony Poeâ€) Poshepny. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Poshepny
(Poshepny was a legendary covert operations officer who had supervised the CIAâ€™s secret war in Northern Laos during the 1960s and early 1970s. In the interview, Poshepny stated that the CIA had supplied air transport for the heroin shipments of their local ally, General Vang Pao, the only such on-the-record confirmation by a former CIA officer concerning agency involvement in the narcotics trade.)
The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations â€” Documentation of Official U.S. Knowledge of Drug Trafficking and the Contras
This electronic briefing book is compiled from declassified documents obtained by the National Security Archive, including the notebooks kept by NSC aide and Iran-contra figure Oliver North, electronic mail messages written by high-ranking Reagan administration officials, memos detailing the contra war effort, and FBI and DEA reports. The documents demonstrate official knowledge of drug operations, and collaboration with and protection of known drug traffickers. Court and hearing transcripts are also included. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB2/nsaebb2.htm