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The CIA, the MSM and the politics of drugs, guns, money and the news

By Greg Maybury - posted Tuesday, 7 October 2014

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the suicide of investigative journalist Gary Webb, author of Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, the seminal account of the proliferation in the U.S. of cocaine and its deadly derivative crack. It is timely then that we see the release of the much-anticipated film "Kill the Messenger,"the story of Webb's brave attempt to blow the lid off the CIA's complicity in drug smuggling and profiteering throughout the 1980s at the height of the Nicaraguan civil war between the Sandinista government and the U.S.-backed Contra rebels.

The journalist - whose death was the end result of a vicious smear crusade, orchestrated by the CIA and conducted by the mainstream media (MSM) - was not the first to draw national attention to CIA links to the drug trade.

Moreover, many people would argue the CIA's core business was and still is as much about drug production and distribution, gun smuggling and money laundering and any number of other criminal activities as it was about protecting America from the evils of communism and other assorted (real or imagined) existential threats to democracy, freedom, truth, justice and the American Way.


In his iconic three-part exposé called "Dark Alliance," originally published in 1996 in the San Jose Mercury News, Webb ignited a firestorm by alleging that Nicaraguan Contras, trained and supported by the CIA to fight that country's leftist Sandinistas, were funded by the traffickers directly responsible for the explosion of crack cocaine in America's inner cities.

Although Webb did not claim that the CIA were directly involved, he left open the possibility that the Agency at least knew about it and turned a blind eye. The big questions were whether the CIA directly and knowingly facilitated the trade itself and if so, to what ends. Were such "ends" simply to finance their own and the Contras' operations, or as some have suggested, was there some other nefarious purpose such as a deliberate attempt to undermine then destroy the social fabric of black and Latino communities in urban America?

Few would argue the Agency was oblivious to the trade or could lay claim to not being aware of the domestic legal, social and political blowback of doing so. Either way, such revelations as those made by Webb and the questions his exposé posed presented the Agency arguably with its biggest public relations blowback since the Bay of Pigs disaster.

Such is the nature of this story that we need to ransack history a little more in order to appreciate the context of Webb's revelations and to give us additional perspective.

Truth, Justice and the American Way (Just Say No)

The revelations of CIA involvement in the active, albeit covert, proliferation of drugs – marijuana, cocaine, heroin in particular – are well documented, albeit not so much on the Agency's official website. And along with that aspect of its under-the-radar operational "brief" are the illegal arms dealing and money laundering that frequently – and by necessity – accompany such criminal enterprise. All this not to mention the odd murder or three along the way.


Even in my country of Australia we were not immune from the CIA's drug-smuggling, money laundering and gun-running enterprises, as anyone vaguely familiar with the Nugan-Hand Bank Scandal would be aware. The full story behind Nugan-Hand would arguably qualify as Australia's most complex, and as yet unresolved, mysteries in our criminal and political narrative. But there is little doubt that Nugan-Hand throughout most of the 1970s was up to its dirty spook armpits both in Australia and elsewhere in the very enterprises at the heart of the Webb exposé.

Although a story for another time, suffice it to say that despite there being no less than four official investigations into the murky machinations of this notorious CIA front that operated up until the murder in Sydney of Frank Nugan in 1980, there is still much we don't know about what went down. And a big part of the reason why we don't know is because the CIA – with the collusion of its mates in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) – didn't want us to know. Which is to say the Nugan-Hand "Thing" serves to remind us that the Langley Lads do not like having their dirty linen aired in public, and will resort to any means necessary to prevent this. Frank Nugan's demise is ample evidence of that.

Which of course brings us squarely back to the Webb story.

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About the Author

Greg Maybury is a Perth based freelance writer. His main areas of interest are American history and politics in general, with a special focus on economic, national security, military and geopolitical affairs, and both US domestic and foreign policy issues.

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