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Gary Webb

Gary Webb

Overview
Gary Webb was a Pulitzer prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

-winning American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 investigative journalist
Investigative journalism
Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, often involving crime, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Investigative journalism...

.

Webb was best known for his 1996 "Dark Alliance" series of articles written for the San Jose Mercury News
San Jose Mercury News
The San Jose Mercury News is a daily newspaper in San Jose, California. On its web site, however, it calls itself Silicon Valley Mercury News. The paper is owned by MediaNews Group...

and later published as a book. In the three-part series, Webb investigated Nicaraguan
Nicaraguan
Nicaraguans are people inhabiting in, originating or having significant heritage from Nicaragua. Most Nicaraguans live in Nicaragua, although there is also a significant Nicaraguan diaspora, particularly in Costa Rica and the United States with smaller communities in other countries around the world...

s linked to the CIA
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

-backed Contras who had allegedly smuggled cocaine into the U.S. Their smuggled cocaine was distributed as crack cocaine
Crack cocaine
Crack cocaine is the freebase form of cocaine that can be smoked. It may also be termed rock, hard, iron, cavvy, base, or just crack; it is the most addictive form of cocaine. Crack rocks offer a short but intense high to smokers...

 in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, with the profits funneled back to the Contras.
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Encyclopedia
Gary Webb was a Pulitzer prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

-winning American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 investigative journalist
Investigative journalism
Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, often involving crime, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Investigative journalism...

.

Webb was best known for his 1996 "Dark Alliance" series of articles written for the San Jose Mercury News
San Jose Mercury News
The San Jose Mercury News is a daily newspaper in San Jose, California. On its web site, however, it calls itself Silicon Valley Mercury News. The paper is owned by MediaNews Group...

and later published as a book. In the three-part series, Webb investigated Nicaraguan
Nicaraguan
Nicaraguans are people inhabiting in, originating or having significant heritage from Nicaragua. Most Nicaraguans live in Nicaragua, although there is also a significant Nicaraguan diaspora, particularly in Costa Rica and the United States with smaller communities in other countries around the world...

s linked to the CIA
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

-backed Contras who had allegedly smuggled cocaine into the U.S. Their smuggled cocaine was distributed as crack cocaine
Crack cocaine
Crack cocaine is the freebase form of cocaine that can be smoked. It may also be termed rock, hard, iron, cavvy, base, or just crack; it is the most addictive form of cocaine. Crack rocks offer a short but intense high to smokers...

 in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, with the profits funneled back to the Contras. Webb also alleged that this influx of Nicaraguan-supplied cocaine sparked, and significantly fueled, the widespread crack cocaine epidemic
Crack Epidemic
The United States crack epidemic refers to the surge of crack houses and crack cocaine use in major cities in the United States between 1984 and 1990...

 that swept through many U.S. cities during the 1980s. According to Webb, the CIA was aware of the cocaine transactions and the large shipments of drugs into the U.S. by Contra personnel. Webb charged that the Reagan administration
Reagan Administration
The United States presidency of Ronald Reagan, also known as the Reagan administration, was a Republican administration headed by Ronald Reagan from January 20, 1981, to January 20, 1989....

 shielded inner-city drug dealers from prosecution in order to raise money for the Contras, especially after Congress passed the Boland Amendment
Boland Amendment
The Boland Amendment was the name given to three U.S. legislative amendments between 1982 and 1984, all aimed at limiting U.S. government assistance to the Contras in Nicaragua...

, which prohibited direct Contra funding.

Webb's reporting generated fierce controversy, and the San Jose Mercury News backed away from the story, effectively ending Webb's career as a mainstream media journalist. In 2004, Webb was found dead from two gunshot wounds
Multiple gunshot suicide
Multiple gunshot suicide occurs when a person commits suicide by inflicting multiple gunshots on himself or herself before becoming incapacitated. It excludes suicides where the firearms are operated by other people, such as suicide by cop....

 to the head, which the coroner's office judged a suicide. Though he was criticized and outcast from the mainstream journalism community, his reportage was eventually vindicated as many of his findings have since been validated: since Webb's death, both the Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

and the Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Tribune is a major daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois, and the flagship publication of the Tribune Company. Formerly self-styled as the "World's Greatest Newspaper" , it remains the most read daily newspaper of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Great Lakes region and is...

have defended his "Dark Alliance" series. Journalist George Sanchez states that "the CIA’s internal investigation by Inspector General Frederick Hitz
Frederick Hitz
Frederick Porter Hitz is an author and former Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency .Hitz graduated from Princeton University and the Harvard School of Law.Hitz entered the CIA in 1967 as an operations officer...

 vindicated much of Gary’s reporting" and observes that despite the campaign against Webb, "the government eventually admitted to more than Gary had initially reported" over the years.

Early life


Webb was born to a military family in Corona, California
Corona, California
Corona is a city in Riverside County, California, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 152,374, up from 124,966 at the 2000 census...

. At 15, Webb began writing editorial
Editorial
An opinion piece is an article, published in a newspaper or magazine, that mainly reflects the author's opinion about the subject. Opinion pieces are featured in many periodicals.-Editorials:...

s for his suburban Indianapolis
Indianapolis
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

 high school newspaper. At the height of the protests against the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, he created his first controversy when he criticized the use of a female drill team
Drill team
A drill team can be one of four different entities:# A Military Drill Team is marching unit that performs routines based on military drill. Military drill teams perform either armed or unarmed....

 to rally students for the war. Webb attended journalism school at Northern Kentucky University
Northern Kentucky University
|type = Public|president= Dr. James C. Votruba|city = Highland Heights|state = KY|country = U.S.|endowment = $68 million|students = 15,405|undergrad = 13,206|postgrad = 2,199|faculty = 1,159...

, where he was on staff at the student newspaper The Northerner, but dropped out. He started his professional career at the Kentucky Post, then worked as a statehouse correspondent for The Plain Dealer. Webb found a lifelong passion in investigating government
Political corruption
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by...

 and private sector corruption
Corporate crime
In criminology, corporate crime refers to crimes committed either by a corporation , or by individuals acting on behalf of a corporation or other business entity...

. In 1988, Webb joined the San Jose Mercury News as a staff writer. He helped expose freeway retrofitting problems in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake
Loma Prieta earthquake
The Loma Prieta earthquake, also known as the Quake of '89 and the World Series Earthquake, was a major earthquake that struck the San Francisco Bay Area of California on October 17, 1989, at 5:04 p.m. local time...

 and wrote stories about computer software problems at the California DMV
Department of Motor Vehicles
In the United States of America, a Department of Motor Vehicles is a state-level government agency that administers vehicle registration and driver licensing. Similar departments exist in Canada...

.

Series


In August 1996 the San Jose Mercury News published Webb's "Dark Alliance," a 20,000 word, three-part investigative series which alleged that Nicaraguan drug traffickers had sold and distributed crack cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 during the 1980s, and that drug profits were used to fund the CIA-supported Nicaraguan Contras. Webb never asserted that the CIA directly aided drug dealers to raise money for the Contras, but he did document that the CIA was aware of the cocaine transactions and the large shipments of cocaine into the U.S. by the Contra personnel. "Dark Alliance" received national attention. At the height of the interest, the web version of it on the San Jose Mercury News website received 1.3 million hits a day. According to the Columbia Journalism Review
Columbia Journalism Review
The Columbia Journalism Review is an American magazine for professional journalists published bimonthly by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism since 1961....

, the series became "the most talked-about piece of journalism in 1996 and arguably the most famous—some would say infamous—set of articles of the decade."

Webb supported his story with documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, subsequently including a 450-page declassified version of an October 1988 report by CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz
Frederick Hitz
Frederick Porter Hitz is an author and former Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency .Hitz graduated from Princeton University and the Harvard School of Law.Hitz entered the CIA in 1967 as an operations officer...

. According to Webb and his supporters, the evidence demonstrates that White House officials, including Oliver North
Oliver North
Oliver Laurence North is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer, political commentator, host of War Stories with Oliver North on Fox News Channel, a military historian, and a New York Times best-selling author....

, knew about and supported using money from drug trafficking to fund the contras, and these officials neglected to pass any information along to the DEA
Drug Enforcement Administration
The Drug Enforcement Administration is a federal law enforcement agency under the United States Department of Justice, tasked with combating drug smuggling and use within the United States...

. The 1988 report from the Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism and International Operations of the Committee on Foreign Relations led by Sen. John Kerry
John Kerry
John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

 commented that there were "serious questions as to whether or not US officials involved in Central America failed to address the drug issue for fear of jeopardizing the war effort against Nicaragua."

Immediately, denials began to emerge refuting the assertions Webb made in "Dark Alliance." Reports in the Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

(Oct 4, 1996), Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

, and New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

(Oct 21, 1996), tried to debunk the link between the Contras and the crack epidemic. Post ombudsman
Ombudsman
An ombudsman is a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency while representing not only but mostly the broad scope of constituent interests...

 Geneva Overholser agreed with critics that her paper's response to Webb's series showed "misdirected zeal" and "more passion for sniffing out the flaws in San Jose's answer than for sniffing out a better answer themselves." Richard Thieme
Richard Thieme
Richard Thieme , is a noted business consultant, author, media commentator and speaker.-Biography:Richard Thieme was born in Chicago. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1965 with a B.A. in English literature. He later earned a M.A. in English at the University of Chicago, where he...

 argued in an opinion piece that the major news outlets focused on attacking Webb or less relevant parts of the story, leaving Webb's thesis largely intact. Overholser concluded there was "strong previous evidence that the CIA at least chose to overlook contra involvement in the drug trade.... Would that we had welcomed the surge of public interest as an occasion to return to a subject the Post and the public had given short shrift. Alas, dismissing someone else's story as old news comes more naturally."

Robert Parry
Robert Parry
Robert Parry is an American investigative journalist. He was awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 for his work with the Associated Press on the Iran-Contra story and uncovered Oliver North's involvement in it as a Washington-based correspondent for Newsweek. In 1995, he...

, who in 1985 became the first reporter to accuse the Contras of involvement in drug trafficking,http://www.motherjones.com/news/special_reports/total_coverage/coke.html wrote that the Posts denunciation of Webb was ironic, because the paper "had long pooh-poohed earlier allegations that the Contras were implicated in drug shipments" but now "the newspaper was finally accepting the reality of Contra cocaine trafficking
Illegal drug trade
The illegal drug trade is a global black market, dedicated to cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of those substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. Most jurisdictions prohibit trade, except under license, of many types of drugs by drug prohibition laws.A UN report said the...

, albeit in a backhanded way."

In response to these attacks, Webb created a web site that contained primary documents, transcripts, and audio interviews. By January 1997, Webb's editors no longer contacted him about his stories. In March, Webb was informed that the paper was going to address the readers about his series. On May 11, 1997, Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos published an editorial describing the series as an "important work" and "solidly documented," but criticized the series for: a reliance on one interpretation of complicated, sometimes-conflicting pieces of evidence; failing to estimate the amount of money involved; for oversimplifying the crack epidemic; and for creating impressions that were open to misinterpretation through imprecise language and graphics. Webb was reassigned to a suburban bureau 150 miles from his home. Because of the long commute, Webb quit the paper in December 1997.

Webb alleged that the 1997 backlash was a form of media manipulation
Media manipulation
Media manipulation is an aspect of public relations in which partisans create an image or argument that favours their particular interests. Such tactics may include the use of logical fallacies and propaganda techniques, and often involve the suppression of information or points of view by crowding...

. "The government side of the story is coming through the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post," Webb stated. "They use the giant corporate press rather than saying anything directly. If you work through friendly reporters on major newspapers, it comes off as the New York Times saying it and not a mouthpiece of the CIA." In 2004, Webb wrote a long piece, "The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On," describing the role the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 played in bringing the "Dark Alliance" story to international attention in 1996, and describing at length the backlash against the story at first externally, through the larger newspapers, and later internally by the paper's editors:


"How do we know for sure that these drug dealers were the first big ring to start selling crack in South Central?" editor Jonathan Krim pressed me . . . "Isn't it possible there might have been others before them?"

"There might have been a lot of things, Jon, but we're only supposed to deal in what we know," I replied. "The crack dealers I interviewed said they were the first. Cops is South Central said they were the first. and that they controlled the entire market. They wrote it in reports that we have. I haven't found anything saying otherwise, not one single name, and neither did the New York Times, the Washington Post or the L.A. Times. So what's the issue here?"

"But how can we say for sure they were the first?" Krim persisted. "Isn't it possible there might have been someone else and they never got caught and no one ever knew about them? In that case, your story would be wrong."

I had to take a deep breath to keep from shouting. "If you're asking me whether I accounted for people who might never have existed, the answer is no," I said. "I only considered people with names and faces. I didn't take phantom drug dealers into account."



James Aucoin, a communications professor who specializes in the history of investigative reporting, wrote: "In the case of Gary Webb's charges against the CIA and the Contras, the major dailies came after him. Media institutions are now part of the establishment and they have a lot invested in that establishment."

Book


In 1999, Seven Stories Press
Seven Stories Press
Seven Stories Press is an independent publishing company. Located in New York City, the company was founded by editor Dan Simon in 1995 after he parted company with Four Walls Eight Windows. The company was named for its seven founding authors: Annie Ernaux, Gary Null, the estate of Nelson Algren,...

 published Webb's Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, complete with extensive source citations. The book received mixed reviews.

The book includes an account of a meeting between a pilot (who was making drug/arms runs between San Francisco and Costa Rica) with two Contra leaders who were also partners with the San Francisco-based Contra/drug smuggler Norwin Meneses. According to eyewitnesses, Ivan Gomez, identified by one of the Contras as a CIA agent, was allegedly present at the drug transactions. The pilot told Hitz that Gomez said he was there to "ensure that the profits from the cocaine went to the Contras and not into someone's pocket."

According to Webb, Judd Iverson, a San Francisco defense attorney who represented former Contra Julio Zavala, discovered compelling evidence demonstrating that "agents of the U.S. government were intricately involved in sanctioning cocaine trafficking to raise funds for Contra revolutionary activity." Soon after, members of the Justice Department persuaded U.S. District Court Judge Robert Peckham to seal the documents in the case.

Critics


Webb’s reporting on the CIA’s dealings with cocaine dealers was not without its critics. The Nation
The Nation
The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States. The periodical, devoted to politics and culture, is self-described as "the flagship of the left." Founded on July 6, 1865, It is published by The Nation Company, L.P., at 33 Irving Place, New York City.The Nation...

magazine contributor David Corn
David Corn
David Corn is an American political journalist and author and the chief of the Washington bureau for Mother Jones. He has been Washington editor for The Nation and appeared regularly on FOX News, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and BloggingHeads.tv opposite James Pinkerton or other media...

, while crediting him that "it is only because of Webb that US citizens have confirmation from the CIA that it partnered up with suspected drug traffickers in the just-say-no years and that the Reagan Administration, consumed with a desire to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, allied itself with drug thugs," also criticized Webb for overstating the case and for not proving "his more cinematic allegations."

Reason
Reason (magazine)
Reason is a libertarian monthly magazine published by the Reason Foundation. The magazine has a circulation of around 60,000 and was named one of the 50 best magazines in 2003 and 2004 by the Chicago Tribune.- History :...

magazine’s Glenn Garvin was critical of Webb’s sources and of the evidence he presented. Garvin wrote that Webb’s evidence that the Contra leadership was selling cocaine is almost entirely drawn from the claims of a few Nicaraguan traffickers facing long jail terms, and argued that they were using the CIA as a convenient scapegoat. Garvin also wrote that every guerilla group, including the Mujahideen
Mujahideen
Mujahideen are Muslims who struggle in the path of God. The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad .Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mudžahedin, mudžahidin, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn and more.-Origin of the concept:The beginnings of Jihad are traced...

, FARC and Shining Path
Shining Path
Shining Path is a Maoist guerrilla terrorist organization in Peru. The group never refers to itself as "Shining Path", and as several other Peruvian groups, prefers to be called the "Communist Party of Peru" or "PCP-SL" in short...

, has used the narcotics trade as a way of bolstering its funding efforts, and that far from the Contra-related drug trade being widespread it came down to a small handful of Contra pilots and their associates who were involved in narcotics. He also argued that while these covert narcotic relationships were alleged to be most rampant, the Contras had the least need for funds, as the United States was supplying them with millions of dollars a year in support.

Supporters and Corroboration


According to historian Mark Fenster,
[T]he common view among journalists and researchers who have reviewed Webb's stories and have expertise on the Contras and the CIA's role in Nicaragua is that the stories sometimes overstate and overplay the largely testimonial evidence Webb had gathered but were nevertheless neither false nor fantastic. This is true whether the commentators are sympathetic to or critical of Webb. The historical consensus -- to the extent that such a thing is possible concerning controversial covert operations -- indicate that the basic outlines of the Mercury News stories were largely correct.


In 2006 the LA Times published The Truth in `Dark Alliance,’ in which L.A. Times Managing Editor Leo Wolinsky is quoted saying "in some ways, Gary got too much blame...He did exactly what you expect from a great investigative reporter." The article surveys mainstream reporting at the time of Webb's pieces and states that while Webb had committed "hyperbole" and included some unproven allegations, articles by the New York Times "didn’t include the success he achieved or the wrongs he righted – and they were considerable" according to Walt Bogdanich, now a New York Times editor, who had known Webb earlier.

The LA Times piece criticizes its own unfair portrayal of Webb -- "we dropped the ball" -- and notes that "spurred on by Webb’s story, the CIA conducted an internal investigation that acknowledged in March 1998 that the agency had covered up Contra drug trafficking for more than a decade" and concludes that "History will tell if Webb receives the credit he’s due for prodding the CIA to acknowledge its shameful collaboration with drug dealers. Meanwhile, the journalistic establishment is only beginning to recognize that the controversy over “Dark Alliance” had more to do with poor editing than bad reporting [on Webb's part]".

Writing in 2005 in the Chicago Tribune, about "the Dangers of Questioning Government Actions," Don Wycliff, the Tribune's public editor, wrote, "I still think Gary Webb had it mostly right. I think he got the treatment that always comes to those who dare question aloud the bona fides of the establishment: First he got misrepresented -- his suggestion that the CIA tolerated the Contras' cocaine trading became an allegation that the agency itself was involved in the drug trade. Then he was ridiculed as a conspiracy-monger."

Media Critic Norman Solomon's analysis, "The Establishment's Papers Do Damage Control for the CIA," includes various corroborating evidence that a witch-hunt to discredit Webb was pursued more vigorously than the truth of some of Webb's allegations, including corroboration internal to one such paper, the Washington Post. Notes Solomon:


The Post's ombudsman, Geneva Overholser, was on target (11/10/96) when she re-raised the question of the U.S. government's relationship to drug smuggling and noted that the three newspapers "showed more passion for sniffing out the flaws in San Jose's answer than for sniffing out a better answer themselves."

Citing "strong previous evidence that the CIA at least chose to overlook contra involvement in the drug trade," Overholser found "misdirected zeal" in the Post's response to the Mercury News series: "Would that we had welcomed the surge of public interest as an occasion to return to a subject the Post and the public had given short shrift."

Investigation timeline


Facing increasing public scrutiny from the fallout after Webb's "Dark Alliance" series, the CIA conducted its own internal investigations. Investigative journalist Robert Parry
Robert Parry
Robert Parry is an American investigative journalist. He was awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 for his work with the Associated Press on the Iran-Contra story and uncovered Oliver North's involvement in it as a Washington-based correspondent for Newsweek. In 1995, he...

 credits Webb for being responsible for the following government investigations into the Reagan-Bush administration's conduct of the Contra war:
  • On December 10, 1996, Los Angeles County Sheriff
    Sheriff
    A sheriff is in principle a legal official with responsibility for a county. In practice, the specific combination of legal, political, and ceremonial duties of a sheriff varies greatly from country to country....

     Sherman Block
    Sherman Block
    Sherman Block was the 29th Sheriff of Los Angeles County, California from January 1982 until his death.He was preceded by Peter Pitchess and succeeded by Lee Baca....

     announced the conclusion of his investigation into the issue, publishing a summary of the investigation at a press conference. He announced at the press conference that "We have found no evidence that the government was involved in drug trafficking in South-Central." Nevertheless, the report included information that supported some of the charges. Charles Rappleye
    Charles Rappleye
    Charles Rappleye is a writer and editor working in Los Angeles.-Life:He is the co-founder, along with his wife Tulsa Kinney, of the art magazine Artillery....

     reported in the L.A. Weekly that Block's "unequivocal statement is not backed up by the report itself, which raises many questions." Much of the LAPD investigation centered on allegations made in a postscript article to the newspaper's "Dark Alliance" series.
  • On January 29, 1998, Hitz published Volume One of his internal investigation. This was the first of two CIA reports that eventually substantiated many of Webb's claims about cocaine smugglers, the Nicaraguan contra movement, and their ability to freely operate without the threat of law enforcement.
  • On March 16, 1998, Hitz admitted that the CIA had maintained relationships with companies and individuals the CIA knew were involved in the drug business. Hitz told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that "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 or take action to resolve the allegations." Senator John Kerry
    John Kerry
    John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

     reached similar conclusions a decade earlier in 1987. (See:)
  • On May 7, 1998, Rep. Maxine Waters
    Maxine Waters
    Maxine Waters is the U.S. Representative for , and previously the 29th district, serving since 1991. She is a member of the Democratic Party....

    , revealed a memorandum of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department from 1982, which was entered into the Congressional Record
    Congressional Record
    The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published by the United States Government Printing Office, and is issued daily when the United States Congress is in session. Indexes are issued approximately every two weeks...

    . This letter had freed the CIA from legally reporting drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan rebels.http://www.vcsun.org/%7Ebattias/cia/980507.cr.txt
  • On July 23, 1998, the Justice Department
    United States Department of Justice
    The United States Department of Justice , is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated...

     released a report by its Inspector General, Michael R. Bromwich
    Michael R. Bromwich
    Michael R. Bromwich is a litigation attorney who was designated by Barack Obama on June 15, 2010, to be the first director of the newly created Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which replaces the Minerals Management Service in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil...

    . The Bromwich report claimed that the Reagan-Bush administration was aware of cocaine traffickers in the Contra movement and did nothing to stop the criminal activity. The report also alleged a pattern of discarded leads and witnesses, sabotaged investigations, instances of the CIA working with drug traffickers, and the discouragement of DEA
    Drug Enforcement Administration
    The Drug Enforcement Administration is a federal law enforcement agency under the United States Department of Justice, tasked with combating drug smuggling and use within the United States...

     investigations into Contra-cocaine shipments. The CIA's refusal to share information about Contra drug trafficking with law-enforcement agencies was also documented. The Bromwich report corroborated Webb's investigation into Norwin Meneses, a Nicaraguan drug smuggler.
  • On October 8, 1998, CIA I.G. Hitz published Volume Two of his internal investigation. The report described how the Reagan-Bush administration had protected more than 50 Contras and other drug traffickers, and by so doing thwarted federal investigations into drug crimes. Hitz published evidence that drug trafficking and money laundering had made its way into Reagan's National Security Council
    United States National Security Council
    The White House National Security Council in the United States is the principal forum used by the President of the United States for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and Cabinet officials and is part of the Executive Office of the...

     where Oliver North
    Oliver North
    Oliver Laurence North is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer, political commentator, host of War Stories with Oliver North on Fox News Channel, a military historian, and a New York Times best-selling author....

     oversaw the operations of the Contras.http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB2/nsaebb2.htm According to the report, the Contra war took precedence over law enforcement. To that end, the internal investigation revealed that the CIA routinely withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, Congress and even the analytical division of the CIA itself. Further, the report confirmed Webb's claims regarding the origins and the relationship of Contra fundraising and drug trafficking. The report also included information about CIA ties to other drug traffickers not discussed in the Webb series, including Moises Nunez and Ivan Gomez. More importantly, the internal CIA report documented a cover-up of evidence which had led to false intelligence assessments.

Aftermath and death


After leaving San Jose Mercury News Webb went to work for the California Assembly Speaker's Office of Member Services and served as a consultant to the California State legislature Task Force on Government Oversight. As a member of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Webb investigated charges that the Oracle Corporation
Oracle Corporation
Oracle Corporation is an American multinational computer technology corporation that specializes in developing and marketing hardware systems and enterprise software products – particularly database management systems...

 received a no-bid contract award of $95 million in 2001 from former California Governor Gray Davis
Gray Davis
Joseph Graham "Gray" Davis, Jr. is an American Democratic politician who served as California's 37th Governor from 1999 until being recalled in 2003...

. Webb was hired by the Sacramento News and Review
Sacramento News and Review
Sacramento News & Review is an alternative weekly newspaper in Sacramento, California. It is one of three papers published by Chico Community Publishing. Noted as the last place of employment of investigative journalist Gary Webb. Webb allegedly committed suicide while working for the...

, after being laid off in 2003 with the rest of the former Speaker's staff as part of a house-cleaning when the new Speaker took over.

On December 10, 2004, he was found dead from two gunshot wounds to the head. Sacramento County coroner
Coroner
A coroner is a government official who* Investigates human deaths* Determines cause of death* Issues death certificates* Maintains death records* Responds to deaths in mass disasters* Identifies unknown dead* Other functions depending on local laws...

 Robert Lyons asserts that it was suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

, noting that a suicide note was found at the scene. Webb's ex-wife, Sue Bell, said that Webb had been depressed for some time over his inability to get a job at another major newspaper. The day before he died he mailed notes to family members, and during the months before his suicide he had taken steps to settle his financial affairs.

In April 2011, a second book-length collection of his work, The Killing Game, was released by Seven Stories Press
Seven Stories Press
Seven Stories Press is an independent publishing company. Located in New York City, the company was founded by editor Dan Simon in 1995 after he parted company with Four Walls Eight Windows. The company was named for its seven founding authors: Annie Ernaux, Gary Null, the estate of Nelson Algren,...

.

Notable Stories

  • 1980 – "The Coal Connection" (with Thomas Scheffey), Kentucky Post (organized crime in the Kentucky coal industry)
  • 1983 – "I Create Life" (with Maria Riccardi), Cleveland Plain Dealer (early surrogate parenting arrangements)
  • 1985 – "Doctoring the Truth," Cleveland Plain Dealer (ongoing malpractice and collusion concerns on the Ohio Medical Board
  • 1989 – "Caltrains Ignored Elevated Freeway Safety" (with Peter Carey), San Jose Mercury News (detailed CalTrans negligence in construction of the Cypress Structure in Oakland which collapsed during the Loma Prieta Earthquake)
  • 1990 – "Good Cop, Bad Cop," San Jose Mercury News (police brutality)
  • 1996 – "Dark Alliance," San Jose Mercury News (CIA-crack cocaine-Contra connection)
  • 1999 – "Driving While Black," Esquire (racial profiling in traffic stops)
  • 2001 – "Sex and the Internet," Wired (investigation of the online sex industry)
  • 2004 – "The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On," from Into the Buzzsaw (retrospective on the media's handling of the "Dark Alliance" story)
  • 2004 – "The Killing Game," Sacramento News & Review (military's use of first-person shooter
    First-person shooter
    First-person shooter is a video game genre that centers the gameplay on gun and projectile weapon-based combat through first-person perspective; i.e., the player experiences the action through the eyes of a protagonist. Generally speaking, the first-person shooter shares common traits with other...

     video games as recruitment tools) http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/killing-game/content?oid=31755

Reporting

  • 1980 — Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Award, small newspaper division.
  • 1980 — Laurel, Columbia Journalism Review.
  • 1980 — Gerald M. White Memorial Prize for Investigative Reporting, Cincinnati SDX.
  • 1980 — Investigative Reporters and Editors Award(IRE), for co-authoring a 17-part series at the Kentucky Post in Covington, KY with Tom Scheffey on organized crime in the American coal industry. http://www.ire.org/contest/past/1980.html
  • 1981 — First place, investigative reporting, Kentucky Press Assn.
  • 1981 — Second place, deadline news reporting, Cincinnati SDX.
  • 1981 — Third place, investigative reporting, Cincinnati SDX.
  • 1982 — Third place, investigative reporting, Kentucky Press Assn.
  • 1983 — First place, municipal reporting, Kentucky Municipal League.
  • 1983 — Reporter of the Month, Scripps Howard Newspapers.
  • 1984 — Second place, series, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1984 — Third place, series, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1985 — Laurel, Columbia Journalism Review.
  • 1985 — First place, investigative reporting, Northeast Ohio SDX.
  • 1986 — Honorable mention, enterprise reporting, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1986 — Honorable mention, series, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1986 — First place, investigative reporting, Northeast Ohio SDX.
  • 1986 — Gold Medal, health reporting, American Chiropractic Assn.
  • 1987 — First place, legal reporting, Ohio Bar Assn.
  • 1987 — Second place, spot news, Central Ohio SDX.
  • 1987 — Third place, projects, Central Ohio SDX.
  • 1987 — Honorable mention, features, Central Ohio SDX.
  • 1987 — Freedom of Information Award, Central Ohio SDX.
  • 1987 — First place, investigative reporting, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1988 — First place, investigative reporting, Ohio Associated Press Assn.
  • 1989 — Honorable mention, features, Central Ohio SDX.
  • 1989 — First place, series, Central Ohio SDX.
  • 1990 — Pulitzer Prize
    Pulitzer Prize
    The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

    , in General News Reporting, awarded to the Staff of the San Jose Mercury News for its detailed coverage of the October 17, 1989, Bay Area earthquake and its aftermath. http://www.pulitzer.org/cgi-bin/year.pl?year=1990&FormsButton1=Show+Winners
  • 1993 — Second place, series, Peninsula Press Club.
  • 1994 — H.L. Mencken Award, by The Free Press Association for the series in the San Jose Mercury News on abuses in the state of California's drug asset forfeiture program. 1995—California Journalism Award, Center for California Studies, CSU.
  • 1995 — Honorable mention, Gerald Loeb Award, UCLA School of Business.
  • 1995 — First Place, local news reporting, Peninsula Press Club.
  • 1996 - James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, Hunter College, City University of New York.
  • 1996 — Freedom Fighter Award, California NAACP.
  • 1996 — Journalist of the Year, Bay Area Society of Professional Journalists.
  • 1997 — Media Hero Award, from the 2nd Annual Media & Democracy Congress.

Literary

  • 1998 — Firecracker Alternative Book (FAB) Award, politics, Dark Alliance
  • 1998 — Nominee, Best Nonfiction Book, Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, Dark Alliance.
  • 1998 — Finalist, PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award, Dark Alliance.
  • 1999 — Oakland PEN First Amendment Award, Dark Alliance.
  • 2002 — 25 Books to Remember, New York Public Library, Into the Buzzsaw (contributor)
  • 2003 — Rouse Award for Press Criticism, National Press Club, Into the Buzzsaw (contributor)

College journalism

  • 1975 — First place, specialty column, Kentucky Intercollegiate Press Assn.
  • 1977 — Third place, specialty column, Kentucky Intercollegiate Press Assn.
  • 1977 — Third place, non-editorial cartooning, Kentucky Intercollegiate Press Assn.

See also

  • CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US
  • CIA drug trafficking
    CIA Drug Trafficking
    A few sources indicate the United States Central Intelligence Agency might have been involved in several drug trafficking operations...

  • American Drug War: The Last White Hope
    American Drug War: The Last White Hope
    American Drug War: The Last White Hope is a 2007 documentary by writer/director Kevin Booth about the War on Drugs in the United States.- Synopsis :The film states the War on Drugs has become one of the longest and most costly wars in American history...

  • Iran-Contra Affair
    Iran-Contra Affair
    The Iran–Contra affair , also referred to as Irangate, Contragate or Iran-Contra-Gate, was a political scandal in the United States that came to light in November 1986. During the Reagan administration, senior Reagan administration officials and President Reagan secretly facilitated the sale of...

  • Oscar Danilo Blandon
    Oscar Danilo Blandon
    Oscar Danilo Blandón Reyes headed Nicaragua's agricultural imports under Anastasio Somoza. He has a master's degree in marketing. When the Somoza government was overthrown in 1979, Blandón fled to the United States, and then raised money for the Nicaraguan Democratic Force , a Contra group...

  • William J. Casey
    William J. Casey
    William Joseph Casey was the Director of Central Intelligence from 1981 to 1987. In this capacity he oversaw the entire United States Intelligence Community and personally directed the Central Intelligence Agency ....

  • Danny Casolaro
    Danny Casolaro
    Joseph Daniel Casolaro was an American freelance writer who came to public attention in 1991 when he was found dead in a bathtub in room 517 of the Sheraton Hotel in Martinsburg, West Virginia, his wrists slashed 10–12 times...

  • Mark Lombardi
    Mark Lombardi
    Mark Lombardi was an American Neo-Conceptualist and an abstract artist who specialized in drawings attempting to document financial and political frauds by power brokers, and in general 'the uses and abuses of power'.- Biography :...

  • James Hatfield
    James Hatfield
    James Howard Hatfield was an American author.- Fortunate Son and controversy :Hatfield was the author of Fortunate Son, a book which alleges that George W...

  • Ricky Ross (drug trafficker)
    Ricky Ross (drug trafficker)
    Ricky Donnell Ross , also known as "Freeway" Rick Ross, is a convicted drug trafficker best known for the "drug empire" that he presided over in Los Angeles, California, in the early-1980s...


External links



Commentaries

  • "Gary Webb: a Great Reporter", Alexander Cockburn
    Alexander Cockburn
    Alexander Claud Cockburn is an American political journalist. Cockburn was brought up in Ireland but has lived and worked in the United States since 1972. Together with Jeffrey St. Clair, he edits the political newsletter CounterPunch...

     and Jeffrey St. Clair
    Jeffrey St. Clair
    Jeffrey St. Clair is an investigative journalist, writer and editor. He is the co-editor, with Alexander Cockburn, of the political newsletter CounterPunch, and a contributing editor to the monthly magazine In These Times. He has also written for The Washington Post, San Francisco Examiner, The...

    , CounterPunch
    Counterpunch
    Counterpunch can refer to:* Counterpunch , a punch in boxing* CounterPunch, a bi-weekly political newsletter* Counterpunch , a type of punch used in traditional typography* Punch-Counterpunch, a Transformers character...

  • "America's Debt to Journalist Gary Webb", Robert Parry, Consortiumnews
  • "Gary Webb: Do What He Did", Al Giordano
    Al Giordano
    Al Giordano is a journalist who operates the Narco News Bulletin, reporting on the War on Drugs, the political blog The Field, reporting on American politics, and the School of Authentic Journalism...

    , Narco News
  • "Gary Webb: In his own words". video (length 8:07min) - Webb discusses the media battle that erupted in the aftermath of his investigations. Produced at School of Authentic Journalism. Mirror site: Archive.org.
  • "Gary Webb is Dead", David Corn, The Nation
  • "Gary Webb's Death Confirmed as Suicide by two shots", E&P Staff, Editor & Publisher
    Editor & Publisher
    Editor & Publisher is a monthly magazine covering the North American newspaper industry. It is based in New York City. E&P calls itself "America's Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry" and describes itself on its website as "the authoritative journal covering all aspects of the North...

    December 15, 2004
  • "Gary Webb's Final Days", Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher
    Editor & Publisher
    Editor & Publisher is a monthly magazine covering the North American newspaper industry. It is based in New York City. E&P calls itself "America's Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry" and describes itself on its website as "the authoritative journal covering all aspects of the North...

    , January 25, 2005.
  • "Gary Webb, RIP: No thanks to the L.A. Times", Marc Cooper, LA Weekly, December 17–23, 2004.
  • "Kill The Messenger Gary Webb, 1955-2004", Nick Schou, Orange County Weekly, December 17–23, 2004.
  • Gary Webb, 1955 - 2004, ed., Esquire
    Esquire (magazine)
    Esquire is a men's magazine, published in the U.S. by the Hearst Corporation. Founded in 1932, it flourished during the Great Depression under the guidance of founder and editor Arnold Gingrich.-History:...

    . Obituary with reprint of the article The Pariah, Charles Bowden, 1988.
  • "Gary Webb Speaks", by Charles Overbeck
  • "R.I.P. Gary Webb -- Unembedded Reporter", Jeff Cohen, Dissident Voice
  • "R.I.P. Gary Webb -- Unembedded Reporter", Badtux (pseudonym), Kuro5hin
    Kuro5hin
    Kuro5hin is a collaborative discussion website. Articles are created and submitted by Kuro5hin's users and submitted to queue for evaluation. Site members can vote for or against publishing an article and, once the article has reached a certain number of votes, it is then published to the site...

  • "The day the writing died" Chrisanne Beckner, December 23, 2004, Sacramento News & Review
  • "Why They Hated Gary Webb", Alexander Cockburn
    Alexander Cockburn
    Alexander Claud Cockburn is an American political journalist. Cockburn was brought up in Ireland but has lived and worked in the United States since 1972. Together with Jeffrey St. Clair, he edits the political newsletter CounterPunch...

    , CounterPunch
    Counterpunch
    Counterpunch can refer to:* Counterpunch , a punch in boxing* CounterPunch, a bi-weekly political newsletter* Counterpunch , a type of punch used in traditional typography* Punch-Counterpunch, a Transformers character...

    , December 18/19, 2004
  • "Written in pain", Tina Daunt, March 16, 2005, Los Angeles Times
    Los Angeles Times
    The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

  • "'A NATURAL STORY': A Tribute to 'Dark Alliance' and Journalist Gary Webb" (three parts), Brian Covert, December 10, 2006, San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center