Democracy Now!

CIA-Contra Cocaine Scandal

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  • As Neil Gorsuch begins his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, we look at his extreme right-wing political positions as a student at Columbia in the 1980s and speak with his former classmate, Jordan Kushner. While on campus, Gorsuch co-founded the right-wing campus newspaper the Federalist Paper. The Associated Press reports that in Gorsuch’s writing both for the Federalist Paper and the Columbia Daily Spectator, he criticized anti-apartheid protests, saying divestment could hurt the university’s endowment. He also criticized racial justice protests and black-led movements on campus, while he defended the Reagan administration during the Iran-Contra scandal.

  • The new Hollywood film "Kill the Messenger" tells the story of Gary Webb, one of the most maligned figures in investigative journalism. Webb’s explosive 1996 investigative series "Dark Alliance" for the San Jose Mercury News revealed ties between the CIA, Nicaraguan contras and the crack cocaine trade ravaging African-American communities. The exposé provoked protests and congressional hearings, as well as a fierce reaction from the media establishment, which went to great lengths to discredit Webb’s reporting. We revisit Webb’s story with an extended clip from the documentary "Shadows of Liberty," and speak with Robert Parry, a veteran investigative journalist who advised Webb before he published the series.

  • We look back at Democracy Now! interviews with Gary Webb, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who is the subject of the new film, "Kill the Messenger."

  • In its latest issue, Vanity Fair reports that the White House tried to organize the armed overthrow of the Hamas-led goverment after Hamas swept Palestinian elections two years ago. According to the article, the Bush administration lied to Congress and boosted military support for rival Palestinian faction Fatah in the aim of provoking a Palestinian civil war they thought Hamas would lose. Vanity Fair dubbed the episode “Iran Contra 2.0” — a reference to the Reagan administration’s funding of Nicaraguan Contras by covertly selling arms to Iran. We speak with David Rose, the journalist who broke the story. [includes rush transcript]

  • Gary Webb, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who wrote a series of stories linking the CIA to crack cocaine trafficking in Los Angeles, is dead at age 49. We hear an 1998 interview with Gary Webb on Democracy Now! and we speak with his colleague, veteran investigative journalist Robert Parry. [includes rush transcript]

  • In August 1996, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb stunned the world with a series of articles in the San Jose Mercury News reporting the results of his year-long investigation into the roots of the crack cocaine epidemic in America, specifically in Los Angeles. The series, titled "Dark Alliance," revealed that for the better part of a decade, a Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to Los Angeles street gangs and funneled millions in drug profits to the CIA-backed Nicaraguan contras. Now, Gary Webb pushes his investigation even further in his book, "Dark Alliance; The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion," published by Seven Stories Press. Drawing from recently declassified CIA documents, undercover DEA audio and video tapes that have never been publicly released, federal court testimony and interviews, Webb demonstrates how our government knowingly allowed massive amounts of drugs and money to exchange hands at the expense of our communities. Congressional inquiries into these allegations are ongoing. Results of the internal investigations by both the CIA and the Justice Department are pending.

  • Investigative reporter Gary Webb, who exposed the link between the CIA and the crack cocaine epidemic in his groundbreaking "Dark Alliance" series, officially resigned from the San Jose Mercury News. The resignation followed a settlement between Webb and the newspaper over a grievance Webb filed over his transfer from the paper’s Sacramento bureau to its suburban Cupertino office. He was transferred after the publication of his 1996 "Dark Alliance" series, which linked the rise of crack cocaine in urban America with the CIA and the U.S.-organized contra army in Nicaragua. While the series struck a sympathetic chord throughout much of urban America, it also provoked a fierce reaction from the media establishment, which denounced the series. Following the controversy, San Jose Mercury News Executive Editor Jerry Ceppos demoted Webb to the suburban office.

  • Jerry Ceppos, editor of the San Jose Mercury News, has made statements that the integrity of his paper’s story connecting the CIA to crack cocaine distribution in South Central Los Angeles and the military contras in Nicaragua. Amy and Juan are joined by Gary Webb, the journalist that first broke the story. Webb defended his journalistic integrity as well as the information in his articles about the L.A. drug ring.

  • When The San Jose Mercury News last year ran an expose linking the CIA Contra Army in Nicaragua and Crack Cocaine trafficking in the United States, the mainstream media studiously ignored the revelations. But when the Dark Alliance series by reporter Gary Webb sparked grassroots outrage and sharp attacks on the CIA for — at a minimum — sanctioning illegal narcotics trafficking, the major newspapers were forced to pay attention. However, The LA Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post — among others — all published stories downplaying the story or attacking the San Jose Mercury News. Now community activists and media watch groups are organizing against both the media and the CIA with two major actions next week. Joining us to discuss the press reaction to the San Jose Mercury News stories and the mobilization next week are Steve Rendall, a senior analyst at Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting otherwise known as FAIR, a media watchdog group based in New York. FAIR is helping to organize demonstrations at offices of The LA Times, the New York Times and The Washington Post in five cities nationwide on Monday.

  • Salomon asserts that establishment newspapers have done damage control for the CIA after San Jose Mercury News series reported on the CIA contra-drug story. He cites their reliance on CIA officials and implicated CIA agents as sources to exonerate the CIA. Peter Cornblue, who wrote an article in the Columbia Journalism Review on the subject, agrees with Salomon in that mainstream newspapers have endeavored to discredit SJ Mercury News in an effort to cover up their own failure in reporting the story. Cornblue, while acknowledging the importance of such reporting as the SJ Mercury News series, also notes the shortcomings of Gary Webb’s piece and how an even-handed reading of the series shows Webb went out of his way to implicate the CIA.

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee held its second hearing on charges that the CIA helped facilitate the rise of crack cocaine use in Los Angeles because Nicaraguan drug dealers were funneling the profits of their drug trade to Anti-Sandinista Contra forces. The charges first surfaced last summer in a series of investigative reports published by the San Jose Mercury News that there may have been a connection between the CIA and the sale of cocaine in Los Angeles to fund the Nicaraguan war. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania presided over the hearing/inquiry. This second hearing focused on the testimony of the two Contra leaders, Adolfo Calero and Eden Pastora with regards to whether either man knew of CIA involvement and their familiarity with the key individuals identified in the investigation. In addition to Specter, the hearing was presided over by Alabama Senator Richard Shelby and an unexpected invitation by Specter for Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters to begin the questioning. Waters probed Calero about his affiliations, as a businessman, former head of a division of Coca Cola in Nicaragua and the political and military head of the FDN army. She asked if he knew Norwin Meneses (a known Nicaraguan narcotics kingpin) and members of the U.S. Embassy who may have been affiliated with the CIA. She also asked about his role in transferring funds on behalf of US Embassy officials to certain Nicaraguan organizations. Martha Honey, author of Hostile Acts: The US Policy in Costa Rica in the 1980s, and the director of the Peace and Security Program at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, offered her assessment of the hearing and believed that the right questions weren’t asked and that the background work had not been done. Dennis Bernstein, Pacifica Correspondent, cautioned that it is important to look closely at the composition of the committee and questioned whether there is a cover-up involved. The excerpts also include vocal audience frustration, from a predominately African-American audience, with the nature of the proceedings.

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee held its second hearing on charges that the CIA helped facilitate the rise of crack cocaine use in Los Angeles because Nicaraguan drug dealers were funneling the profits of their drug trade to Anti-Sandinista Contra forces. This segment presents excerpts from the hearing as well as a discussion with two investigative journalists, Martha Honey and Dennis Bernstein. The charges first surfaced last summer in a series of investigative reports published by the San Jose Mercury News that there may have been a connection between the CIA and the sale of cocaine in Los Angeles to fund the Nicaraguan war. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania presided over the hearing/inquiry. This second hearing focused on the testimony of the two Contra leaders, Adolfo Calero and Eden Pastora with regards to whether either man knew of CIA involvement and their familiarity with the key individuals identified in the investigation. In addition to Specter, the hearing was presided over by Alabama Senator Richard Shelby and an unexpected invitation by Specter for Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters to begin the questioning. Waters probed Calero about his affiliations, as a businessman, former head of a division of Coca Cola in Nicaragua and the political and military head of the FDN army. She asked if he knew Norwin Meneses (a known Nicaraguan narcotics kingpin) and members of the U.S. Embassy who may have been affiliated with the CIA. She also asked about his role in transferring funds on behalf of US Embassy officials to certain Nicaraguan organizations. Martha Honey, author of "Hostile Acts: The US Policy in Costa Rica in the 1980s," and the director of the Peace and Security Program at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, offered her assessment of the hearing and believed that the right questions weren’t asked and that the background work had not been done. Dennis Bernstein, Pacifica Correspondent, cautioned that it is important to look closely at the composition of the committee and questioned whether there is a cover-up involved. The excerpts also include vocal audience frustration, from a predominately African-American audience, with the nature of the proceedings.

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee held its second hearing on charges that the CIA helped facilitate the rise of crack cocaine use in Los Angeles because Nicaraguan drug dealers were funneling the profits of their drug trade to Anti-Sandinista Contra forces. This segment presents excerpts from the hearing as well as a discussion with two investigative journalists, Martha Honey and Dennis Bernstein. The charges first surfaced last summer in a series of investigative reports published by the San Jose Mercury News that there may have been a connection between the CIA and the sale of cocaine in Los Angeles to fund the Nicaraguan war. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania presided over the hearing/inquiry. This second hearing focused on the testimony of the two Contra leaders, Adolfo Calero and Eden Pastora with regards to whether either man knew of CIA involvement and their familiarity with the key individuals identified in the investigation. In addition to Specter, the hearing was presided over by Alabama Senator Richard Shelby and an unexpected invitation by Specter for Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters to begin the questioning. Waters probed Calero about his affiliations, as a businessman, former head of a division of Coca Cola in Nicaragua and the political and military head of the FDN army. She asked if he knew Norwin Meneses (a known Nicaraguan narcotics kingpin) and members of the U.S. Embassy who may have been affiliated with the CIA. She also asked about his role in transferring funds on behalf of US Embassy officials to certain Nicaraguan organizations. Martha Honey, author of "Hostile Acts: The US Policy in Costa Rica in the 1980s," and the director of the Peace and Security Program at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, offered her assessment of the hearing and believed that the right questions weren’t asked and that the background work had not been done. Dennis Bernstein, Pacifica Correspondent, cautioned that it is important to look closely at the composition of the committee and questioned whether there is a cover-up involved. The excerpts also include vocal audience frustration, from a predominately African-American audience, with the nature of the proceedings.

  • On the eve of the congressional hearings into the controversy surrounding the CIA and its knowledge of the illegal drug trafficking into Los Angeles by Nicaraguan drug dealers, Larry Bensky speaks to Peter Dale Scott, author of Drugs, Armies and CIA in Central America.

  • 10 years since the announcement by Attorney General Edwin Meese regarding the Iran-Contra affair, this show discusses the Iran-Contra scandal and the cover up. The show discusses the Reagan administration conspiracy to deceive and defy congress with its illegal arms sale to Iran, an avowed enemy, in exchange for securing the release of American hostages in Lebanon. The proceeds from that sale were used to illegally fund the Nicaraguan contras. When this news broke, it caused a major political stir.

  • CIA director John Deutch attended a town hall meeting at Locke High School in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles on Friday to discuss allegations that the US facilitated the distribution of crack cocaine to inner cities from anti-Sandinista forces of Nicaragua.

  • CIA director John Deutch attended a town hall meeting at Locke High School in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles on Friday to discuss allegations that the US facilitated the distribution of crack cocaine to inner cities from anti-Sandinista forces of Nicaragua.

  • The Los Angeles Times published a report yesterday saying that the Central Intelligence Agency did not introduce crack cocaine into L.A.’s black community. In August, the San Jose Mercury news published a series of investigative reports by Gary Webb revealing that the CIA allowed a Nicaraguan drug network to sell cut-rate crack-cocaine in the U.S. because profits from the drug trade were helping arm the Nicaraguan Contras. The LA Times, however, said its investigation which included interviews with officials, drug dealers and researchers, showed that crack-cocaine was already flourishing in South Central long before Nicaraguan traffickers were on the scene. The paper also said it found no evidence of significant drug profits were sent to Contra rebels.

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