December 21, 2004 by

Gary Webb


Categories: Government, Media, Writers/Editors

gwebb.jpgGary Webb, an award-winning investigative journalist, committed suicide on Dec. 10. He was 49.
Born in Corona, Calif., Webb was only 15 when he launched his journalism career as an editorialist for his high school newspaper. He dropped out of college just before graduation, opting to work for The Kentucky Post instead. Webb covered state politics and private sector corruption for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, then moved back to California to write for the San Jose Mercury News.
From 1988 to 1997, Webb wrote about computer software problems at the California DMV and abuses in the state’s drug asset forfeiture program. He contributed to the newspaper’s detailed coverage of the 1989 Bay Area earthquake, which earned the staff a Pulitzer Prize for general news reporting in 1990. Webb also won the H.L. Mencken Award, a Journalist of the Year Award from the Bay Area Society of Professional Journalists and a Media Hero Award.
The biggest story of Webb’s career also lead to his downfall. In August 1996, Webb published “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion,” in the San Jose Mercury News. The 20,000-word investigative series claimed that Nicaraguan drug traffickers based in San Francisco had sold tons of cocaine in Los Angeles ghettos during the 1980s and used the profits to fund the CIA-supported Nicaraguan Contras. Webb never accused the CIA of aiding the drug dealers, but he implied that the Agency was aware of the transactions.
Webb used numerous sources for his story, including a 450-page declassified report from the Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism and International Operations. The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the CIA later conducted independent investigations that discredited Webb’s reporting. Nine months after the story’s publication, the San Jose Mercury News issued a public apology and reassigned Webb to cover local news in a suburban bureau. He quit in 1997.
Webb stood by the story, however, and in 1999 he published the book “Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion.” He worked for the California Assembly Speaker’s Office of Member Services and for the Joint Legislative Audit Committee before taking a reporting job with the Sacramento News and Review, an alternative weekly newspaper.
On Dec. 10, a moving company arrived at Webb’s Carmichael, Calif., home and found a note on the front door that read: “Please do not enter. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance.” Although rumors spread on the Internet that Webb had met with foul play, the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office reported on Dec. 15 that he died from two self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head. A handwritten suicide note was found near the body.
Webb’s ex-wife, Sue Bell, told the Sacramento Bee that Webb had been distraught in recent weeks over his inability to land another job at a major newspaper. In the final year of his life, Webb paid for his own cremation, named Bell as the beneficiary of his bank account and sold his house because he could no longer afford the mortgage payments.
Watch an Interview With Webb

9 Responses to Gary Webb

  1. carlos arturo

    Please do not insuIt my intelengence. Gary Webb was murdered because of his book Dark Alliance. La CIA and drig Groups are behiand that killing they settled scores with him. How is that posible that a brilliant journalist like has committed suicide? I blame the sistem, and all the jornalist that prefered to shut up and accepted the facts.

  2. gilberto

    It is said that Gary was about to expose the Jewish connection to multibillion drug trade in South America. Apparantly Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is making a move to destroy this connection. The Mossad is said to have been the ones who orchestrated this killing to look like a suicide with the help of the CIA. And they will get away with it because anyone who questions it will be labeled a conspiracy wacko

  3. J. E. Sands

    In 1999, Webb published the controversial ”Dark Alliance” series in its full, uncensored form, complete with extensive source citations. The book entitled, ”Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion”, received favorable reviews.
    Although moved to investigate itself concerning Webb’s premise of a “Dark Alliance” between the Contras and elements of the CIA, Inspector General Hitz found “no direct or indirect” links between the CIA and the cocaine traffickers.
    The report itself received almost no examination from journalists writing in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, even as they “slagged” Webb virtually ruining his career. Those who studied the 149 page report found “one damning admission after another including an account of a meeting between a pilot who was making drug/arms runs between San Francisco and Costa Rica with two Contra leaders who were also partners with the San Francisco-based Contra/drug smuggler Norwin Meneses. Present at this encounter in Costa Rica was a curly-haired man who said his name was Ivan Gomez, identified by one of the Contras as CIA’s “man in Costa Rica.” The pilot told Hitz that Gomez said he was there to “ensure that the profits from the cocaine went to the Contras and not into someone’s pocket.” The second volume of CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz’s investigation released in the fall of 1998 buttressed Webb’s case even more tightly, as James Risen conceded in a story in the New York Times on October 12 of that year.” (WhiteOut, Cochburn & St. Clair).
    Excepting a written confession by top CIA officials, Webb’s book offers the willing reader a gorging of documented facts making the alliance chillingly clear. Judd Iverson, a defense attorney in San Francisco representing former Contra Julio Zavala discovered compelling evidence demonstrating that “agents of the U.S. government were intricately involved in sanctioning cocaine trafficing to raise funds for Contra revolutionary activity” (Dark Alliance 92-5).
    Iverson had come upon information revealing the traits of a nefarious kind of government most Americans could not imagine. He suffered the consequences. The U.S. District Court (Judge Robert Peckham) sealed relevant documents damaging to the CIA after being persuaded by members of the Justice Department flown out from Washington. The doors were closed to Iverson, and the case came to an abrupt halt.
    In 1987, New York Times reporter Keith Schneider prefigured Webb’s demise in explaining the reason some stories must never be told: (Such factual accounts could) “shatter the Republic because of their implications,” implications which if pursued in “newspapers of record” could precipitate unwanted reaction from a suddenly mature political public sensing betrayal and encouraged to act in manner unacceptable to reigning elites. (J. E. Sands).

  4. Steve Elkin

    I still have a tough time believeing Gary took his own life!! Men like him are few. I don’t know what it is something stinks about this whole thing. I smell CIA.

  5. BILL

    As Mr. Webb urged all, please demand your congressional rep. to investigate cia drug involment in south central L.A.
    They can’t kill all of us.

  6. John Smith

    “The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office reported on Dec. 15 that he died from two self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head.” They expect you believe that?
    I haven’t heard anything so ridiculous since the LBJ gang got a Texas Justice of the Peace to declare the multiple-rifle-shot-slaying of a Department of Agriculture inspector, who was accusing LBJ of corruption & had evidence, declared a suicide.

  7. Andrew K

    Gary Webb, First and Foremost served the public interest best by writing the Dark Alliance series in the San Jose Mercury. Before this point only few knew the CIA’s involvement in drug trafficking. I can only hope Gary Webb died peacefully.
    There is still, though, that needs to be investigated in this death. Unfortunately truth and rumors swirl together on the internet, take a look at two sides here, they both support Webb’s work with Dark Alliance, yet one guarantee’s CIA’s involvement in Webb’s death, while the other “seems” to prove his suicide, you check it out, and draw your own conclusions
    Peace to Gary Webb

  8. mike kelley

    No one ever gets away…with anything…there will be a moment when a choice is made for most of us. The people who were involved in Gary Webbs’ death have already made their choice only they aren’t aware of it….the times they are a changin’…….as I speak, the money grubbers are grabbing. Too bad they won’t be able to eat it. God/Allah/Bhudda/Vishnu/Creator….bless Gary Webb….and Jim Garrison…and John Kennedy…and John John….and Martin…..and?

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