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News :: Media
17 Jan 2005
Gary Webb, former investigative reporter for the *Mercury News* newspaper, and award-winning journalist who uncovered the nefarious CIA links to the burgeoning cocaine and crack epidemics of the '90s, was found dead in his suburban Sacramento home recently, reportedly of a suicide.

[Col. Writ. 1/2/05]

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Gary Webb, former investigative reporter for the *Mercury News* newspaper, and award-winning journalist who uncovered the nefarious CIA links to the burgeoning cocaine and crack epidemics of the '90s, was found dead in his suburban Sacramento home recently, reportedly of a suicide. Webb, 49, also wrote the best-selling book, *Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras and the Crack Cocaine Explosion*, which told the sordid story of how the U.S. government, through the CIA, allowed its assets in the Nicaraguan Contras to smuggle in cocaine to Los Angeles, to fund the Contra wars against the Sandanista government in Managua.

Webb's body was found on Friday, Dec. 10th, 2004, about 8:20 a.m., when a moving company arrived at his home. According to published reports, a note was posted on the front door reading: "Please do not enter. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance."

Webb's expose of the CIA-crack connection, which began as a *Mercury News* exclusive, resulted in a flood of criticisms from the nation's major papers, including the *New York Times*, the *L.A. Times*, and the *Washington Post*. Indeed, after a time, even the editors of the *Mercury News* critiqued some parts of the story, but, over time, many, if not most of the facts brought to light by his earth- shattering series have been either admitted by the CIA itself, or supported by other sources.

Webb's resignation from the newspaper about a year and a half later, marked the power of the press to discipline one of its own for committing an unpardonable sin: uncovering the actions of the powerful, in this case, the nation's intelligence agencies.

Once again, the media ate its own, to protect power and privilege.

It may very well be true that Webb committed suicide: but it seems, at the very least, odd to post a note on one's door before doing so.

Recently, in a book sharing the contributions of a wide range of American reporters, Webb penned an essay sharply critical of what he called, the "Mighty Wurlitzer", or the media machine that serves as an accompaniment to those of means or power. His words give a stark picture of the so-called 'free press':

Do we have a free press today? Sure we do. It's free to report all the sex scandals it wants, all the stock market news we can handle, every new health fad that comes down the pike, and every celebrity marriage or divorce that happens. But when it comes to the real down and dirty stuff -- stories like Tailwind, the October Surprise, the El Mozote massacre, corporate corruption, or CIA involvement in drug trafficking -- that's where we begin to see the limits of our freedoms. In today's media environment, sadly, such stories are not even open for discussion. Back in 1938, when fascism was sweeping Europe, legendary investigative reporter George Seldes observed (in his book, *The Lords of the Press*) that "it *is* possible to fool all the people all the time -- when government and press cooperate." Unfortunately, we have reached that point. [From: Gary Webb, "The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays On", in Borjesson, Kristina, ed., *Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press* (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2002), pp. 309-310.]

We haven't the faintest idea whether Webb died through suicide or intrigue. We don't pretend to know. What we do know is that the media elites in the nation's big cities, pointed their big guns at a colleague, and blew away his career, for what now seems to be little more than professional jealousy. For years, scholars have shown how intelligence agencies (especially the CIA!) have planted people *within* the U.S. media to protect their agencies. Many an 'editor' in New York and Washington began his 'career' in Langley, Virginia, and not at journalism school. We know that Webb got it mostly right; a) the CIA- created Contras *had* been selling cocaine to finance their 'dirty war' against the Sandanistas; b) the Contras *had* sold coke in L.A. ghettoes, and they supplied the area's biggest crack dealer; c) people in the U.S. government knew about it at the time, and did nothing; d) these sales fueled and powered the first major crack cocaine market in the U.S.; and, finally e) this crack explosion fueled the growth and national expansion of the Crips and the Bloods, as crews, to push the crack game across the nation. In Webb's words: "It wasn't so much a conspiracy that I had outlined as it was a chain-reaction--bad ideas compounded by stupid political decisions and rotten historical timing." [id., 298].

Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal

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