CIA Drugs: Gary Webb: Vindicated

Sometimes, they kill the messenger, and the message takes flight, only to return later, with its truth self-evident to a new generation. And then, the messenger is resurrected.

Investigative journalist Gary Webb wrote a series of stories in 1996 for the San Jose Mercury News that documented the US-government-backed Contra insurgents’ drug pipeline into Los Angeles. More importantly, Webb’s reporting revealed that CIA assets were involved in the sale of millions of dollars worth of cocaine in South Central LA to raise funds for the Contras, who in the 1980s, during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, were seeking to overthrow the democratically elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The cocaine — transformed into cheap, addictive crack rocks at the street level — hit Los Angeles and spread like the plague. The proceeds from the drug running by the “CIA’s army” were then used to buy weapons for the Contras, fueling more misery and bloodshed in Nicaragua.

The series was pioneering in that the stories and all the documentation also were posted on the Internet, and quickly went viral without the help of the establishment media, creating a national sensation that threatened to buckle the CIA’s pretense. A media smear campaign against Webb, seeded by the CIA, followed on the heels of that threat, a campaign that attacked Webb personally while sidestepping the facts he had uncovered. The major agenda-setting media — including the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times — were unrelenting in their assault, with the Los Angeles Times putting some 17 reporters on the assignment to destroy Webb, the messenger.

The Mercury News’ top editor, Jerry Ceppos, ultimately buckled, threw Webb to the wolves and penned a letter of apology to the readers for the Dark Alliance series. Webb was subsequently banished to a small Mercury News bureau in Cupertino, Calif., south of San Francisco — and some 125 miles from his home and family in Sacramento. He was forced to write stories normally assigned to cub reporters. His career was effectively destroyed, and he would never again get a job with a daily newspaper. He took his own life on Dec. 9, 2004.

“Gary saw the writing on the wall. It took him a long time to sign a resignation letter, and I don’t blame him,” recalls Sue Bell Stokes, Webb’s widow, ex-wife and enduring friend — since they began dating in high school. “Then he finally signed it, on December 10, and that was the day he was found dead, on December 10, seven years later.”

But in Webb’s case, his message did not die. And it has now returned, in the vessel of a major Hollywood movie set to hit theaters nationwide on Oct. 10, starring box-office sensation Jeremy Renner. And that means Webb’s legacy, and his Dark Alliance investigate series, are about to push back hard against the lies and petty self-interests that worked to destroy his life — though they could never vanquish his spirit. You see, you can’t kill the truth, because it survives even death. …

Gary Webb, a prize-winning investigative journalist whose star-crossed career was capped with a controversial newspaper series linking the CIA to the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles, died Friday of self-inflicted gunshot wounds, officials said.

Mr. Webb, 49, was found dead in his Carmichael home Friday morning of gunshot wounds to the head, the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office said Saturday.

NEW YORK The death of investigative reporter Gary Webb has been confirmed as a suicide, according to a coroner’s statement. There has been speculation that he may have met with foul play because he had received two gunshot wounds to the head, The Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday.

“The cause of death was determined to be self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head,” said a statement issued by the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office. “Information and evidence gathered at the scene of death, including a handwritten note indicating an intention on the part of the decedent to take his own life, resulted in ‘suicide’ as the determined manner of death.”

The statement was issued because of numerous calls to the Coroner’s Office following a Bee report Sunday that Webb’s death was caused by more than one wound. A former San Jose Mercury News reporter, Webb was found dead in his Carmichael, Calif., home Friday morning. …

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