The Tragic 2004 Death Of Investigative Journalist, Gary Webb

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According to the PBS news program Frontline, Gary Webb himself later said there was no solid proof that the CIA had a direct connection to the trafficking of crack cocaine into America’s major cities. American interest in the Sandinista-Contra conflict was to stem the perceived rise of Communism in Central and South America. Journalistic problems aside, Webb’s three-part series did lay out a compelling case that, if nothing else, there was cause for suspicion over the link between American intelligence agencies, the flurry of crack cocaine, and subsequent addiction and death in Los Angeles in particular, and the Nicaraguan Contra rebels. 

On the emerging alternative internet media landscape and with the rise of talk radio, Webb’s story took root. Some speculate the CIA pulled strings behind the scenes to encourage The NY and LA Times and other voices in mainstream media to point out faults in Webb’s series, as The Intercept writes. Among other problems, he never explicitly wrote the CIA knowingly trafficked crack cocaine, or knew of the Contra rebels’ drug smuggling activity. Webb also never reached out to the CIA for comment — a standard journalistic practice. 

Close reading exposed a raft of other problems in Webb’s details. Still, as The Intercept points out, Associated Press reporters made similar claims about a decade before Webb. Around that same time, a senate subcommittee was formed, led by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. The U.S. government likely knew of the Contra drug smuggling operation, among other committee findings.

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