Gary Webb (journalist)

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Gary Stephen Webb (born August 31, 1955 in Corona , California , † December 10, 2004 in Sacramento , California) was an American investigative journalist and a Pulitzer Prize winner . Webb was best known for his series of articles Dark Alliance , in which he described links between the US foreign intelligence service CIA and organized drug trafficking in 1996 . As a result of the harsh criticism of the extensively documented series of articles by major US newspapers, he lost his job and was never able to gain a foothold professionally. According to the results of the investigation by the responsible coroner , Webb died in 2004 by suicide . The fact that he died from two bullets in the head has led to many conspiracy theories ever since.


Gary Webb wrote after an aborted journalism studies at Northern Kentucky University in 1978 as a reporter for the Kentucky Post . In 1980, he received the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award in the small newspaper category for a series of articles . In 1983 he moved to the Cleveland Plain Dealer .

From 1988 to 1997 he was with the San Jose Mercury News . In 1990 he and his team from the San Jose Mercury News won the Pulitzer Prize for a report on the Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989. In 1994 he received the Mencken Award.

In 1997, Webb resigned from the San Jose Mercury News after they withdrew their support. The campaign against his Dark Alliance series virtually ended Webb's career as an investigative journalist for major newspapers. In 1998 he published his research in the book Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion .

For 2005, Webb announced a documentary and a book with further revelations about the affair. To this end, he again interviewed the key figures in the affair at the time. However, he was unable to complete this work. Gary Webb was found shot dead in his Sacramento home on December 10, 2004 . He was killed by two gunshots in the head from a .38 caliber gun . These facts, combined with the suicides of other well-known critical journalists in the United States (e.g. James Hatfield and Hunter S. Thompson ), have led to much speculation that Gary Webb may have been murdered. However, it was also known that Webb had already received several treatments for depression years before his death.

The Sacramento coroner in charge of the violent death of Gary Webb said: "Two shots are unusual in a suicide case, but it has happened in the past, and it is indeed quite possible." ( Robert Lyons , German: "It's unusual in a suicide case to have two shots, but it has been done in the past, and it is in fact a distinct possibility ")



  • Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion. Seven Stories Press, 1999, ISBN 1-888363-93-2 .
  • As a co-author in: Kristina Boriesson (Ed.): Zensor USA. How the American press is silenced. Pendo, 2004, ISBN 3-85842-577-X . (In a 23-page article, Webb describes the events after the publication of his series of articles. Good overview of the matter, Webb's only publication in German.)

"Dark Alliance"

Webb became known in 1996 through a series of articles published in the San Jose Mercury News under the title Dark Alliance . In it he explained in detail and with numerous documents and testimonies that the Nicaraguan Contra rebels had smuggled cocaine into the USA in the 1980s with the knowledge of the CIA in order to finance their guerrilla war against the Sandinista . According to Webb, the contra connection he uncovered was responsible for around half of the cocaine smuggled into the United States during this period, while the other half was due to the Medellín cartel .

The series met with a great response, with the newspaper's website receiving 1.3 million visitors a day in its peak phase. The revelations sparked an uproar in the black community, as African-Americans in particular were victims of the crack wave of the 1980s caused by the influx of cheap cocaine into California . At the height of the turmoil in public opinion , then CIA chief John Deutch found himself faced with an angry crowd at a public event in Los Angeles that he could only appease with the promise of an official investigation. Michael C. Ruppert , a former drug investigator for the Los Angeles Police Department , also performed at the event . He confronted Deutch with the allegation that the CIA had also made sure that the police did not interfere with the distribution of the cocaine in the city centers. In particular, he himself was contacted by the CIA in the late 1970s to help cover up drug activities. He named three corresponding covert operations of the CIA: Amadeus, Pegasus and Watchtower.

Main theses of Webb in the Dark Alliance articles

The Dark Alliance series consisted of articles published on three consecutive days with a total of around 20,000 words (see web links).

  • The Contras, organized by the CIA, had actually sold cocaine to fund their activities. This claim had been vehemently denied by the major media and the CIA since journalists first reported on the Contras drug trafficking in the mid-1980s ( see web links ).
  • The Contras had been selling cocaine in the Los Angeles ghettos , and their main customer had been Los Angeles' biggest crack dealer.
  • Elements in the US government at the time knew about drug ring activities and did little or nothing to stop them.
  • The drug ring played a central role in the creation and maintenance of the first major crack-based cocaine market in the United States.
  • The gangs Crips and Bloods , originally limited to Los Angeles, were able to gain a foothold in other cities with their profits from crack sales and spread the crack abuse there in black quarters too, turning a serious regional problem into a serious national problem has been.

In no way did Webb accuse the CIA of specifically promoting the events or in the sense of a conspiracy against the black population of the United States, as many critics countered him. Rather, he assessed the event as follows: A stupid idea had led to disaster thanks to stupid political decisions and devastating historical timing. ( Censor USA , p. 252)



After initially positive evaluation of Webb's work, for example in Newsweek magazine, a wave of criticism from the major US newspapers began about three months later, with the New York Times , the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times standing out in particular . They presented witnesses from the intelligence community such as Vincent Cannistraro , who vehemently denied the allegations. Although the facts and contexts outlined by Webb were never refuted in detail, under pressure from the mainstream media, its editor-in-chief finally gave in and apologized for the articles. The CIA regards the Dark Alliance release as a PR disaster. However, according to an article from the internal CIA journal, it was able to prevent a major catastrophe, partly also through "a basis of already productive relationships with journalists".

In essence, many of the facts Webb presented were not new. Already in December 1986, had Robert Parry and Brian Barger in an article in the news agency Associated Press (AP) on the cocaine smuggling the Nicaraguan Contras in the United States reported (see links). Senator John Kerry took this story as an opportunity to begin a Congressional investigation (see below).

Webb himself has stated that the extreme effect of Dark Alliance probably resulted from the fact that at this time (1996) the Internet was just becoming a mass medium and the story spread accordingly quickly.

Official investigations

An investigative commission of the American Congress, which was run practically single-handedly by the then young senator, later presidential candidate and US Secretary of State John Kerry , had already brought to light the essential facts described by Webb in 1986. However, the results were largely ignored by the major media. In 1998, two CIA oversight reports triggered by Webb's article confirmed the key facts of the series of articles and the book published in 1998. One of the major Los Angeles dealers named by Webb, Danilo Blandon , had testified in a California court in February 1994 that he had made drug deals with Contra functionary Norwin Meneses .

Film adaptation of the biography

In the film adaptation Kill the Messenger (directed by Michael Cuesta ) Webb is portrayed by Jeremy Renner .

See also


  • Gary Webb: Dark Alliance: the CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion. Seven Stories Press, New York 1998, ISBN 978-1-888363-68-5 (and other editions)
  • Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair : Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press. Verso Books, 1998, ISBN 1-85984-139-2 . (Building on the results of Webb, the authors, both well-known US investigative journalists, claim that the actual involvement of the CIA in drug trafficking was far greater than that described by Webb.)
  • Daniel Hopsicker : Barry and the boys. Barry Seal, a key figure in American secret history. Two thousand and one, 2005, ISBN 3-86150-727-7 .
  • Alfred W. McCoy : The CIA and Heroin. World politics through drug trafficking. Verlag Zweiausendeins, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-86150-608-4 . (Standard work on the CIA and drug trafficking, with its own chapter on the contra issue.)
  • Robert Parry : Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & "Project Truth". Media Consortium, 1999, ISBN 1-893517-00-4 .
  • Peter Dale Scott , Jonathan Marshall: Cocaine Politics. Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America. University of California Press, April 1998, ISBN 0-520-21449-8 .
  • Jürgen Roth : Dirty hands. How the western states cooperate with the drug mafia. Goldmann, 2000, ISBN 3-442-15134-1 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  2. Sam Stanton: Reporter's suicide confirmed by coroner . In: The Sacramento Bee , December 15, 2004. Archived from the original on May 7, 2008. 
  3. ^ Crack the CIA. Short documentary about CIA drug activity from, starring Michael Ruppert and John Deutch.
  4. The following summary of the main theses is quoted from the contribution by Gary Webb in the book Zensor USA , p. 252 listed under “Literature” .
  5. Managing a Nightmare: How the CIA Watched Over the Destruction of Gary Webb , The Intercept, September 25, 2014
  6. ^ Robert Parry: Kerry's Contra-Cocaine Chapter. In: , October 29, 2004 (English).
  7. ^ Robert Parry : CIA's Drug Confession. In: Consortium News , October 15, 1998 (English). See Report of Investigation Concerning Allegations of Connections Between CIA and The Contras in Cocaine Trafficking to the United States (96-0143-IG). In: , January 29, 1998 (English).
  8. ^ Statement by Danilo Blandon about his contra connections. ( Memento of May 2, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) In: , February 3, 1994 (English).