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01 Feb

The Ghost of “Dark Alliance”

projecy censored

The Ghost of “Dark Alliance”

A new movie, an old story, and a discredited corporate press

Editors Note: Project Censored connected Gary Webb with Seven Stories Press for publication of his book Dark Alliance.

By Brian Covert

The McGlynn: Highly recommended

The newly released Hollywood film “Kill the Messenger,” now showing in theaters across the United States, takes on a subject that some of the mightiest media corporations in the USA no doubt thought they had killed, buried, and delivered the eulogy for a long time ago — the “Dark Alliance” investigation by newspaper reporter Gary Webb.

A groundbreaking investigation at the dawn of the Internet age in 1996, the “Dark Alliance” series, like no other newspaper reportage had done before, documented the firm links between the United States government, Central American cocaine traffickers and a domestic U.S. cocaine epidemic that had ravaged entire American communities. It was a news story that shined the spotlight on U.S. government complicity in international drug trafficking and revealed the U.S. government’s much-vaunted “war on drugs” to be a sham.

But while the U.S. government agencies involved in those illegal activities — the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in particular — had plenty of reasons for wanting this story to go away, in the end it was elements of Webb’s own profession, the press, that had been offended most by “Dark Alliance” and worked hardest to not only debunk the findings reported in “Dark Alliance” but also to discredit and destroy the journalistic credibility of Webb himself.

But like a ghost that comes back to haunt its killers, “Dark Alliance” is now being revived and retold on the silver screen for a new audience, with actor Jeremy Renner starring in the role of Gary Webb. Nearly two decades on, “Dark Alliance” is still proving to be a story that is too big to be ignored and too important to forget.

Significance of the Series

Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion” was originally published in three parts on August 18-20, 1996 in the San Jose Mercury News, a respected daily newspaper in northern California’s Silicon Valley, and carried on its new Mercury Center website. This was significant because it marked the first time for a U.S. newspaper to make use of the rising new technology known as the Internet and the World Wide Web as part of a major news investigation.

Webb had wanted to use his newspaper’s website especially to show the detailed documentation and evidence he had gathered as a counterweight to what he called the “high unbelievability factor” of his investigation. And that is where the next significant aspect of “Dark Alliance” comes in: It was the first news media investigation to expose the ties between the “3Cs” — the CIA, the contras and crack cocaine.

Other journalists, most notably Associated Press reporters Brian Barger and Robert Parry, had investigated and reported on the links in the mid-1980s between the U.S. government’s Central Intelligence Agency and large-scale cocaine trafficking by the anti-communist paramilitary forces in Nicaragua known as the “contras.” (original archived AP report here)

Webb, in his “Dark Alliance” investigation a decade later in 1996, provided the crucial missing leg of the triangle: what happened to the powdered cocaine once it had been smuggled into the United States by contra supporters and turned into dried “crack” cocaine, and how the money made from such crack sales on American streets reportedly found its way back to the contras in their CIA-backed campaign to overthrow the government of Nicaragua.

Although “Dark Alliance” did not directly link the CIA itself to specific acts of drug smuggling into and within the United States (and Webb was always very clear in publicly emphasizing that point), his series did provide strong circumstantial evidence that the CIA, at the very least, knew of the cocaine smuggling into the U.S. by the Nicaraguans and did not halt the activities. As Webb also demonstrated in “Dark Alliance,” some U.S. government agencies even went as far as offering legal protection and bureaucratic cover to some of the most notorious cocaine traffickers in the western hemisphere.

Webb had specifically documented in his series how the crossing of paths of three main characters — Nicaraguan drug traffickers Norwin Meneses and Danilo Blandón, along with a young American drug dealer named “Freeway” Rick Ross — had eventually led to an epidemic of the crack cocaine addiction in Los Angeles that then spread to other U.S. cities, invariably hitting African-American communities the hardest.

And thirdly, Webb’s “Dark Alliance” investigation was significant in the way that it was treated by the influential Big Three newspapers. Instead of building on Webb’s groundbreaking investigation and advancing the story forward, the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times attacked the “Dark Alliance” series and sought to discredit both the investigation and Webb himself as a journalist and as a person. This was unprecedented, certainly in modern American press history.

Attack of the Lapdogs

If there is one group of people that is portrayed in the new movie “Kill the Messenger” even more unflatteringly than the Nicaraguan drug traffickers and the CIA, it is the lapdog journalists of the American establishment media.

The film accurately recounts how a mere two months after “Dark Alliance” had been published in the San Jose Mercury News, igniting a firestorm of public outrage over its findings, the Big Three newspapers began to hit back. They gave ample space to news and opinion articles that dismissed the core facts of the “Dark Alliance” series, often relying on the shakiest of sources, and essentially defended the U.S. government in its denial of complicity in the whole affair.

Reference

Dark Alliance

Stories by Gary Webb
Mercury News Staff Writer

For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found. This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the crack capital of the world.

 

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