"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay
Friday, December 22, 2006
What Keeping It Real Actually Means
New York politics: white minds and Black pawns


A critical thinker is a keen observer of the environment and its elements and who classifies persons or situations and identifies any emerging patterns. Other tools are also employed to allow for political and economic forecasting. The Bible warns us that “people without vision shall perish.” Blacks lack visionary leadership.

Over the past two weeks, I have been listening to Sunday morning talk programs concerning the terroristic acts perpetrated against Sean Bell, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman. I have grouped the guests into three categories: Black law enforcement agents, Black selected officials and Black attorneys.
In looking for the common thread, you will find that they are all oath-takers. This means that they can be severely punished for violating the oath. In disciplinary proceedings, none of them are entitled to be tried by a jury of their peers. These disciplinary proceedings are akin to the Star Chamber, and free speech is no defense.

Critical thinking is an anathema in this country to Black success. The common thread that binds me to Kwame Ture, Louis Clayton Jones and Dr. Khalid Abdullah Tariq Al-Mansour is our graduating from Howard University and being taught logic by the same philosophy professor.

Except for Dr. Al-Mansour, the rest of us have lived beyond 55 years of age as paupers. This is the price that critical thinkers pay for living in colonialism. Other critical thinkers include Malcolm X, Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers, Paul Robeson, Harry and Henrietta Moore, Marcus Garvey and Dr. Amos Wilson.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, stated in “The Mis-education of the Negro,” “We need workers, not leaders. Such workers will solve the problems which race leaders talk about.”

Consequently, police terrorism is on the rise and no relief is in sight. After each act of police terrorism, Black selected officials promise that it will never happen again. Police terrorism is profitable for the tort industry.

Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, I have observed that as Blacks elect, but not select, more Blacks in public offices, the worse our conditions become and that while urban rebellions were on the rise before 1965, they have now become virtually non-existent.
Thus, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a huge success since the purpose of politics is to protect private property and to maintain the status quo. Since 1965, Blacks have gone backward. There were under 200,000 Blacks in the criminal justice system before 1965 and now there are over 5,000,000 Blacks in the criminal justice system.

Hopefully, the Black community will commission the esteemed mathematics scholar, Dr. Abdulalim Abdullah Shabazz, to establish a mathematical paradigm to explain the relationship between police terrorism and Black politics. Dr. Shabazz is presently at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. His brilliance has led Black universities to play ping-pong with his academic tenure.

A greater likelihood of police terrorism occurs in DeKalb County, Ga., and Prince George’s County, Md. Both counties have substantial, Black middle classes and, from top to bottom, the selected officials are Black. In fact, Prince George’s County is the wealthiest Black county in the nation and DeKalb County is on its heels.

The Black voters in both counties are endorsing their own oppression. Stated another way, voting for Black selected officials can be dangerous to your health. The problem is Black selected officials. After an incident of police terrorism, they organize marches rather than writing and passing new laws to address the issue.

All solutions can be found by looking to the past. Lawyers call it the doctrine of stare decisis. I found a present rationale for police terrorism in Dr. Benjamin Quarles’ “The Negro in the Making of America”: “As a rule, a slave code was an accurate reflection of the fears and apprehensions of the colony. Hence, the more numerous the Blacks, the more strict the slave codes.”

If you correctly conclude that Blacks still live in colonies, you will find not only an explanation, but also a solution. To be sure, Malcolm X concluded that Blacks live in colonies. Ture and Jones reached the same conclusion. They were critical thinkers. Black selected officials disagree. This should be your first clue.

In “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation,” Ture and Charles V. Hamilton argue, “Black people in this country form a colony, and it is not in the interest of the colonial power to liberate them.” That being the case, “institutional racism has another name: colonialism.”

Terrorism is a tactic of institutional racism, and it is also a public crime and no particular victim’s family has a greater say in how Black people should address the problem. All Blacks are victims. The KKK once employed the tactic with great success. Today, the NYPD employs it with great success. The NYPD is the KKK in blue.

Eric Adams, who was recently selected to the New York State Senate, made the most profound revelation on the operations of the NYPD. He revealed that in white communities, white elected officials influence the appointment of a precinct commander. This practice is consistent with the history of the NYPD.

In the 1840s when the city’s police department was being developed, elected officials had a say in police personnel. Thus, this present practice in white communities has historical roots. Of course, this current practice only occurs in communities. The practice is different in colonies. Ture and Hamilton assert, “Politically, decisions which affect Black lives have always been made by white people.”

If anyone critically analyzes the November 25 terroristic acts at the Kalua Cabaret in Queens, it stands out that the selected officials in the area are Congressman Gregory Meeks, New York State Senator Ada Smith, New York State Assemblywoman Vivian E. Cook and New York City Councilman Leroy G. Comrie.

They are all Black, and they are the political representatives for white, absentee landowners. These landowners are the heirs of the earlier slave masters. These Black selected officials have no say in the appointment of a precinct commander. If they did, the precinct commander would be on the unemployment line.
A similar paradigm existed in the election district where Amadou Diallo was assassinated, except that all of the selected officials were Latinos. Cong. Jose Serrano topped the pyramid. Neither Black nor Latino officials have any political power. Their white, political bosses select precinct commanders.

All Black or Latino elected officials in an area signal to the police the powerlessness of the area’s residents. Another layer of our powerlessness is the absence of legal representatives like Chokwe Lumumba, Louis Clayton Jones and Michael Warren. The American Revolution started over “taxation without representation.” Blacks need to connect the dots.
Charles Hamilton Houston said, “Any lawyer who is not a social engineer is a social parasite.” He was the greatest lawyer of the 20th century and was Thurgood Marshall’s mentor. Houston recognized that any legal assault on white supremacy had to have an institutional base and be staffed with social engineers.

A decision was made by Gov. Mario Cuomo and State Attorney General Robert Abrams that Blacks would never benefit again from the services of social engineers. Our fate would be placed in the hands of social parasites who accommodate police terrorism for a profit. Their interest is in maintaining police terrorism.

In the past 16 years, Blacks have moved from liberation politics to plantation politics. It will be exemplified at the “Shopping for Justice” march down Fifth Avenue. Black people should not have to march when they elect statewide, public officials to address their grievances.

Blacks did flips to put Charles Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo in powerful political positions; yet, Blacks will be marching and hollering alone while these white officials remain in the Big House drinking mint juleps and observing Black selected officials and HNICs organize physical education classes to amuse whites on Fifth Avenue.

No student has ever secured an academic degree by only taking physical education courses. An intelligence test is required for admission into the military, and military training includes an academic curriculum. When Black selected officials, activists, lawyers and preachers respond to terrorism by marches only, it is a tell-tale sign of ignorance running amuck.

The United States is a republic. It means that no group can guard freedom without political and legal representation. When I arrived in New York in 1973, there was a “Lone Ranger–Tonto” paradigm in the law. It was also the political paradigm and it is still in existence today.

Any Black lawyer invited into a high-profile case in New York is “Tonto.” Johnny Cochran was a legendary lawyer. Yet, when he represented Sean Combs in Manhattan Supreme Court he was “Tonto” and Benjamin Brofman was the “Lone Ranger.” In California, he had to form a “Dream Team.”

The buffoon in Amos ’n’ Andy was Algonquin J. Calhoun. Hollywood developed this show to breed distrust for Black professionals. In law, for example, there is an attorney-client privilege. I was put into a Catch-22 situation in People v. Sharpton. I chose the unexpected option. I chose to suffer personally to uphold Black professionals and my clients.

At times, I was a social architect and, at other times, a social engineer. My legal credits are legion, like forcing the first appointment of a special prosecutor. It happened in Howard Beach, and it had never happened before in this country. Without my pro bono representation, many Blacks would still be behind bars. I believe in the uncompromising representation of Black people.

I have had to suffer for refusing to become “Tonto.” My plight is unspeakable on radio. Within the next month, an effort is afoot to put the final nail in my legal coffin. I need your support immediately. Please send any expression of support to UAM Legal Defense Fund, 16 Court Street, Ste. 1901, Brooklyn, NY 11241. The struggle must continue. Asante sana.
UAM’s weekly forum will continue December 20 at the Elks Plaza, 1068 Fulton Street (near Classon Avenue) in Brooklyn. Alton Maddox will unveil “A Legal Blueprint to End Police Terrorism.” Take the “C” train to Franklin Avenue. For more information, call UAM at (718) 834-9034.
See: www.reinstatealtonmaddox.com
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Tuesday, December 12, 2006
where ya'll at
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Nas is Like
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Gerald M. Boyd, Who Broke Barriers as an Editor at The Times, Dies at 56
Gerald M. Boyd, who began work as a teenage grocery bagger in St. Louis and rose to become managing editor of The New York Times, then was forced to resign in a newsroom revolt after a young reporter was exposed as a fabricator, died yesterday in Manhattan. He was 56 and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was complications from lung cancer, said his wife, Robin Stone. Mr. Boyd had kept his illness from most friends and colleagues.

Mr. Boyd’s career, which took him from the end of the civil rights era to the beginning of the Internet era, was built on competitiveness and a determination to get the story right. As he rose in prominence, he became a beacon of possibility for aspiring black journalists.

Giving a lecture in honor of one of his early editors in St. Louis a few years ago, he told the hometown audience, “Throughout my life I have enjoyed both the blessing and the burden of being the first black this and the first black that, and like many minorities and women who succeed, I’ve often felt alone.”

He was, in fact, the first black journalist to serve in many of the jobs he held at The Times, including metropolitan editor and managing editor. At 29, he was chosen for a prestigious Nieman fellowship at Harvard.

“He really did have a drive,” said Tom Morgan, a classmate at the University of Missouri and later a colleague at The New York Times. “Most people spend their college years trying to figure out what to do. Gerald always knew. There was no doubt.”

After covering the first Bush administration for The Times, Mr. Boyd was elevated to the editing ranks by Max Frankel, The Times’s executive editor in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was given a variety of editing responsibilities before being named metropolitan editor.

Mr. Boyd went on to lead coverage that won the newspaper three Pulitzers: for articles about the first World Trade Center bombing, for a series on children of poverty, and for a series on the complexities of race relations in the United States. He also shared the leadership of The Times during the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, coverage that earned six Pulitzer prizes.

During his steady advance up management ranks in the 1990s, he put some colleagues off with his occasional irascibility and brusqueness. But he won the respect of many others for his determination to beat the competition, both by publishing scoops and by providing comprehensive coverage.

“Gerald was always very demanding,” Mr. Morgan said. “He just had very definite ideas about how he thought things should be, and how they related to him. He always wanted to control things.”

The reversal of Mr. Boyd’s fortunes came in June 2003, when he and Howell Raines, the paper’s executive editor, resigned after revelations of fabrications and plagiarism by a young reporter, Jayson Blair, ignited a firestorm of newsroom criticism against their management.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement: “Gerald was a newsman. He knew how to mobilize a reporting team and surround a story so that nothing important was missed. He knew how to motivate and inspire.

“And, tough and demanding as he could be, he had a huge heart. He left the paper under sad circumstances, but despite all of that he left behind a great reservoir of respect and affection.”

George Curry, a colleague of Mr. Boyd’s at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the 1970s, said, “When Gerald came out of college he always talked about being the editor of The New York Times. That was his single most important goal. To get the position and have it blow up was extremely disappointing. It was what he always wanted to do.”

Gerald Michael Boyd was born in St. Louis in 1950; his mother, who had sickle cell anemia, died when he was a small child. His father, a delivery truck driver and an alcoholic, moved to New York and played little role in his childhood.

Mr. Boyd and his older brother, Gary, were raised by their paternal grandmother, who was also raising their two cousins. Their younger sister, Ruth, was raised by their maternal grandmother in California.

In his unpublished memoir, he wrote, “I learned to survive by learning to rely on no one other than myself. Over time, I would travel further and rise further than I could ever have imagined as a child growing up poor in St. Louis. I would become as familiar with the powerful as I had always been with the powerless.”

Throughout high school, Mr. Boyd worked up to 40 hours a week after school and on weekends at Cooper’s, a grocery in his west St. Louis neighborhood.

In his 2000 speech in St. Louis, Mr. Boyd said he understood why people described him as having overcome poverty, but added, “I was rich in the ways that matter. You see, I had a grandmother who devoted her life to keeping me fed and clothed, even when it meant getting up before dawn to take care of me and three other boys. A strong-willed woman who led by example.”

He also had a newspaper-reading aunt who instilled the journalism bug, he said, and the support of his brother and cousins.

Mr. Boyd, whose work schedule prevented him from playing sports at Soldan High School, found time to write for the school newspaper and was encouraged by a teacher to apply for a scholarship for aspiring black journalists sponsored by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“In his senior year he did apply, and to his surprise he won a full ride to the University of Missouri at Columbia, with a guaranteed job to follow at The Post-Dispatch,” Mr. Boyd’s brother, Gary Boyd, said.

Not long after he arrived at the university, he met Mr. Morgan.

“There weren’t very many black people on campus, period,” Mr. Morgan said. The two were friends, then colleagues on Blackout, a newspaper for black students that Mr. Boyd founded.

“He always had a drive to run a newspaper,” Mr. Morgan said. “That was his love.”

Mr. Boyd joined The Post-Dispatch after graduation, in 1973. His first story, he said during the 2000 speech, was about “owls mysteriously attacking city residents,” and it appeared on the front page, at least in the first edition. He was soon assigned to cover City Hall.

Mr. Curry, his colleague at The Post-Dispatch, added: “Gerald’s always been very aggressive — breathing, eating and sleeping journalism. He was like that coming out of school.”

He continued: “I don’t think it would cross Gerald’s mind that he would not beat someone competing against him. That’s part of his DNA.”

Together, Mr. Curry and Mr. Boyd founded the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists in 1977, and one day, sitting in the Original, a soul food restaurant near City Hall, the two men sketched out a program to train black high school students in the basics of the business. Alumni of the program have gone on to organizations like The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Curry said.

Mr. Boyd joined The Post-Dispatch’s Washington bureau in 1978 and covered the 1980 presidential campaign and then Ronald Reagan’s White House.

In 1983, he joined The Times’s Washington bureau and its team of political reporters. Mr. Boyd covered Vice President George H. W. Bush during the 1984 campaign and continued to cover the White House during the Iran-contra scandal.

He then covered the 1988 presidential campaign, focusing on Vice President Bush’s pursuit of the presidency. After the election, Mr. Boyd wrote about the new administration, its appointees and its plans and programs.

The Times’s executive editor at the time, Mr. Frankel, discussed moving Mr. Boyd into an editing position. Mr. Frankel told Mr. Boyd that he would be put on a fast track — and that, like Jackie Robinson, he would face pressure and skepticism about his talents.

“I said if he could withstand the raised eyebrows and whatever pressures might attach to my putting him on the fast track, I would love to give him that opportunity,” Mr. Frankel said.

The decision to promote Mr. Boyd, who first worked as a special assistant to the managing editor as he toured the desks, set him on a path to the top ranks of the newsroom at The Times.

Mr. Boyd’s marriages to Sheila Rule, a hometown neighbor and later a colleague at The Times, and to Jacqueline Adams, a newscaster, ended in divorce. He met Robin Stone, a journalist, during a recruiting trip after he joined The Times’s management. They were married in 1996 and had a son, Zachary.

Besides Ms. Stone and their son, he is survived by his brother, Gary, of Gurnee, Ill., and sister, Ruth, of Oakland, Calif.

Mr. Boyd was selected by Mr. Raines to be managing editor in 2001. The following year, the National Association of Black Journalists honored him as its journalist of the year.

In his new post, he continued to be demanding, as he and Mr. Raines were faced almost immediately with the immense task of covering the news events of a generation: the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan.

But the revelation of Jayson Blair’s string of deceptions cut the foundation out from under Mr. Boyd and Mr. Raines. Newsroom complaints about the pair’s management style reached a peak, forcing their resignations.

In the years since his resignation, Mr. Boyd worked as a consultant in journalism and kept an office at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Two of his particular interests — the quality of journalism and race as the most fraught issue in America — were twinned in the summation of his speech in St. Louis in 2000.

“To be different in this society, even a little different, means additional pressures and responsibilities and hardships that really don’t change, no matter how high up you climb,” he said. “And no matter how much progress we’ve made where race and gender are concerned, we’re not close to being where we should be.”

He then concluded: “Many of you know I’ve spent my life trying to be a good journalist. But what matters more to me is whether I’ve been a good man and a decent man.”
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Tuesday, December 05, 2006
America's Debt to Journalist Gary Webb
America's Debt to Journalist Gary Webb

By Robert Parry

In 1996, journalist Gary Webb wrote a series of articles that forced a long-overdue investigation of a very dark chapter of recent U.S. foreign policy – the Reagan-Bush administration’s protection of cocaine traffickers who operated under the cover of the Nicaraguan contra war in the 1980s.

For his brave reporting at the San Jose Mercury News, Webb paid a high price. He was attacked by journalistic colleagues at the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the American Journalism Review and even the Nation magazine. Under this media pressure, his editor Jerry Ceppos sold out the story and demoted Webb, causing him to quit the Mercury News. Even Webb’s marriage broke up.

On Friday, Dec. 10, Gary Webb, 49, was found dead of an apparent suicide, a gunshot wound to the head.

Whatever the details of Webb’s death, American history owes him a huge debt. Though denigrated by much of the national news media, Webb’s contra-cocaine series prompted internal investigations by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department, probes that confirmed that scores of contra units and contra-connected individuals were implicated in the drug trade. The probes also showed that the Reagan-Bush administration frustrated investigations into those crimes for geopolitical reasons.

Failed Media

Unintentionally, Webb also exposed the cowardice and unprofessional behavior that had become the new trademarks of the major U.S. news media by the mid-1990s. The big news outlets were always hot on the trail of some titillating scandal – the O.J. Simpson case or the Monica Lewinsky scandal – but the major media could no longer grapple with serious crimes of state.

Even after the CIA’s inspector general issued his findings in 1998, the major newspapers could not muster the talent or the courage to explain those extraordinary government admissions to the American people. Nor did the big newspapers apologize for their unfair treatment of Gary Webb. Foreshadowing the media incompetence that would fail to challenge George W. Bush’s case for war with Iraq five years later, the major news organizations effectively hid the CIA’s confession from the American people.

The New York Times and the Washington Post never got much past the CIA’s “executive summary,” which tried to put the best spin on Inspector General Frederick Hitz’s findings. The Los Angeles Times never even wrote a story after the final volume of the CIA’s report was published, though Webb’s initial story had focused on contra-connected cocaine shipments to South-Central Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times’ cover-up has now continued after Webb’s death. In a harsh obituary about Webb, the Times reporter, who called to interview me, ignored my comments about the debt the nation owed Webb and the importance of the CIA’s inspector general findings. Instead of using Webb’s death as an opportunity to finally get the story straight, the Times acted as if there never had been an official investigation confirming many of Webb’s allegations. [Los Angeles Times, Dec. 12, 2004.]

By maintaining the contra-cocaine cover-up – even after the CIA’s inspector general had admitted the facts – the big newspapers seemed to have understood that they could avoid any consequences for their egregious behavior in the 1990s or for their negligence toward the contra-cocaine issue when it first surfaced in the 1980s. After all, the conservative news media – the chief competitor to the mainstream press – isn’t going to demand a reexamination of the crimes of the Reagan-Bush years.

That means that only a few minor media outlets, like our own Consortiumnews.com, will go back over the facts now, just as only a few of us addressed the significance of the government admissions in the late 1990s. I compiled and explained the findings of the CIA/Justice investigations in my 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth.’

Contra-Cocaine Case

Lost History, which took its name from a series at this Web site, also describes how the contra-cocaine story first reached the public in a story that Brian Barger and I wrote for the Associated Press in December 1985. Though the big newspapers pooh-poohed our discovery, Sen. John Kerry followed up our story with his own groundbreaking investigation. For his efforts, Kerry also encountered media ridicule. Newsweek dubbed the Massachusetts senator a “randy conspiracy buff.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Kerry’s Contra-Cocaine Chapter.”]

So when Gary Webb revived the contra-cocaine issue in August 1996 with a 20,000-word three-part series entitled “Dark Alliance,” editors at major newspapers already had a powerful self-interest to slap down a story that they had disparaged for the past decade.

The challenge to their earlier judgments was doubly painful because the Mercury-News’ sophisticated Web site ensured that Webb’s series made a big splash on the Internet, which was just emerging as a threat to the traditional news media. Also, the African-American community was furious at the possibility that U.S. government policies had contributed to the crack-cocaine epidemic.

In other words, the mostly white, male editors at the major newspapers saw their preeminence in judging news challenged by an upstart regional newspaper, the Internet and common American citizens who also happened to be black. So, even as the CIA was prepared to conduct a relatively thorough and honest investigation, the major newspapers seemed more eager to protect their reputations and their turf.

Without doubt, Webb’s series had its limitations. It primarily tracked one West Coast network of contra-cocaine traffickers from the early-to-mid 1980s. Webb connected that cocaine to an early “crack” production network that supplied Los Angeles street gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, leading to Webb’s conclusion that contra cocaine fueled the early crack epidemic that devastated Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.


When black leaders began demanding a full investigation of these charges, the Washington media joined the political Establishment in circling the wagons. It fell to Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s right-wing Washington Times to begin the counterattack against Webb’s series. The Washington Times turned to some former CIA officials, who participated in the contra war, to refute the drug charges.

But – in a pattern that would repeat itself on other issues in the following years – the Washington Post and other mainstream newspapers quickly lined up behind the conservative news media. On Oct. 4, 1996, the Washington Post published a front-page article knocking down Webb’s story.

The Post’s approach was twofold: first, it presented the contra-cocaine allegations as old news – “even CIA personnel testified to Congress they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers,” the Post reported – and second, the Post minimized the importance of the one contra smuggling channel that Webb had highlighted – that it had not “played a major role in the emergence of crack.” A Post side-bar story dismissed African-Americans as prone to “conspiracy fears.”

Soon, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times joined in the piling on of Gary Webb. The big newspapers made much of the CIA’s internal reviews in 1987 and 1988 that supposedly cleared the spy agency of a role in contra-cocaine smuggling.

But the CIA's decade-old cover-up began to crumble on Oct. 24, 1996, when CIA Inspector General Hitz conceded before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the first CIA probe had lasted only 12 days, the second only three days. He promised a more thorough review.

Mocking Webb

Meanwhile, however, Gary Webb became the target of outright media ridicule. Influential Post media critic Howard Kurtz mocked Webb for saying in a book proposal that he would explore the possibility that the contra war was primarily a business to its participants. “Oliver Stone, check your voice mail,” Kurtz chortled. [Washington Post, Oct. 28, 1996]

Webb’s suspicion was not unfounded, however. Indeed, White House aide Oliver North’s emissary Rob Owen had made the same point a decade earlier, in a March 17, 1986, message about the contra leadership. “Few of the so-called leaders of the movement … really care about the boys in the field,” Owen wrote. “THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Capitalization in the original.]

Nevertheless, the pillorying of Gary Webb was on, in earnest. The ridicule also had a predictable effect on the executives of the Mercury-News. By early 1997, executive editor Jerry Ceppos was in retreat.

On May 11, 1997, Ceppos published a front-page column saying the series “fell short of my standards.” He criticized the stories because they “strongly implied CIA knowledge” of contra connections to U.S. drug dealers who were manufacturing crack-cocaine. “We did not have proof that top CIA officials knew of the relationship.”

The big newspapers celebrated Ceppos’s retreat as vindication of their own dismissal of the contra-cocaine stories. Ceppos next pulled the plug on the Mercury-News’ continuing contra-cocaine investigation and reassigned Webb to a small office in Cupertino, California, far from his family. Webb resigned the paper in disgrace.

For undercutting Webb and the other reporters working on the contra investigation, Ceppos was lauded by the American Journalism Review and was given the 1997 national “Ethics in Journalism Award” by the Society of Professional Journalists. While Ceppos won raves, Webb watched his career collapse and his marriage break up.

Probes Advance

Still, Gary Webb had set in motion internal government investigations that would bring to the surface long-hidden facts about how the Reagan-Bush administration had conducted the contra war. The CIA’s defensive line against the contra-cocaine allegations began to break when the spy agency published Volume One of Hitz’s findings on Jan. 29, 1998.

Despite a largely exculpatory press release, Hitz’s Volume One admitted that not only were many of Webb’s allegations true but that he actually understated the seriousness of the contra-drug crimes and the CIA’s knowledge. Hitz acknowledged that cocaine smugglers played a significant early role in the Nicaraguan contra movement and that the CIA intervened to block an image-threatening 1984 federal investigation into a San Francisco-based drug ring with suspected ties to the contras. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’]

On May 7, 1998, another disclosure from the government investigation shook the CIA’s weakening defenses. Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, introduced into the Congressional Record a Feb. 11, 1982, letter of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department. The letter, which had been sought by CIA Director William Casey, freed the CIA from legal requirements that it must report drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered both the Nicaraguan contras and Afghan rebels who were fighting a Soviet-supported regime in Afghanistan.

Justice Report

Another crack in the defensive wall opened when the Justice Department released a report by its inspector general, Michael Bromwich. Given the hostile climate surrounding Webb’s series, Bromwich’s report opened with criticism of Webb. But, like the CIA’s Volume One, the contents revealed new details about government wrongdoing.

According to evidence cited by the report, the Reagan-Bush administration knew almost from the outset of the contra war that cocaine traffickers permeated the paramilitary operation. The administration also did next to nothing to expose or stop the criminal activities. The report revealed example after example of leads not followed, corroborated witnesses disparaged, official law-enforcement investigations sabotaged, and even the CIA facilitating the work of drug traffickers.

The Bromwich report showed that the contras and their supporters ran several parallel drug-smuggling operations, not just the one at the center of Webb’s series. The report also found that the CIA shared little of its information about contra drugs with law-enforcement agencies and on three occasions disrupted cocaine-trafficking investigations that threatened the contras.

Though depicting a more widespread contra-drug operation than Webb had understood, the Justice report also provided some important corroboration about a Nicaraguan drug smuggler, Norwin Meneses, who was a key figure in Webb’s series. Bromwich cited U.S. government informants who supplied detailed information about Meneses’s operation and his financial assistance to the contras.

For instance, Renato Pena, a money-and-drug courier for Meneses, said that in the early 1980s, the CIA allowed the contras to fly drugs into the United States, sell them and keep the proceeds. Pena, who also was the northern California representative for the CIA-backed FDN contra army, said the drug trafficking was forced on the contras by the inadequate levels of U.S. government assistance.

The Justice report also disclosed repeated examples of the CIA and U.S. embassies in Central America discouraging Drug Enforcement Administration investigations, including one into alleged contra-cocaine shipments moving through the airport in El Salvador. In an understated conclusion, Inspector General Bromwich said secrecy trumped all. “We have no doubt that the CIA and the U.S. Embassy were not anxious for the DEA to pursue its investigation at the airport,” he wrote.

CIA's Volume Two

Despite the remarkable admissions in the body of these reports, the big newspapers showed no inclination to read beyond the press releases and executive summaries. By fall 1998, official Washington was obsessed with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, which made it easier to ignore even more stunning contra-cocaine disclosures in the CIA's Volume Two..

In Volume Two, published Oct. 8, 1998, CIA Inspector General Hitz identified more than 50 contras and contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan-Bush administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations, which had threatened to expose the crimes in the mid-1980s. Hitz even published evidence that drug trafficking and money laundering tracked into Reagan’s National Security Council where Oliver North oversaw the contra operations.

Hitz revealed, too, that the CIA placed an admitted drug money launderer in charge of the Southern Front contras in Costa Rica. Also, according to Hitz’s evidence, the second-in-command of contra forces on the Northern Front in Honduras had escaped from a Colombian prison where he was serving time for drug trafficking

In Volume Two, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a tiny fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking. But Hitz made clear that the contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of contra crimes from the Justice Department, the Congress and even the CIA’s own analytical division.

Hitz found in CIA files evidence that the spy agency knew from the first days of the contra war that its new clients were involved in the cocaine trade. According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, one of the early contra groups, known as ADREN, had decided to use drug trafficking as a financing mechanism. Two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981, the CIA cable reported.

ADREN’s leaders included Enrique Bermudez, who emerged as the top contra military commander in the 1980s. Webb’s series had identified Bermudez as giving the green light to contra fundraising by drug trafficker Meneses. Hitz’s report added that that the CIA had another Nicaraguan witness who implicated Bermudez in the drug trade in 1988.


Besides tracing the evidence of contra-drug trafficking through the decade-long contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of the contra-drug problem but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government.

According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. … [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the contra program.” One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”

Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the contra war hid evidence of contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analytical division. Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and the major news organizations – serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his series in 1996.

Though Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it passed almost unnoticed by the big newspapers.

Two days after Hitz’s report was posted at the CIA’s Internet site, the New York Times did a brief article that continued to deride Webb’s work, while acknowledging that the contra-drug problem may indeed have been worse than earlier understood. Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a similarly superficial article. The Los Angeles Times never published a story on the release of the CIA’s Volume Two.


To this day, no editor or reporter who missed the contra-drug story has been punished for his or her negligence. Indeed, many of them are now top executives at their news organizations. On the other hand, Gary Webb’s career never recovered.

At Webb’s death, however, it should be noted that his great gift to American history was that he – along with angry African-American citizens – forced the government to admit some of the worst crimes ever condoned by any American administration: the protection of drug smuggling into the United States as part of a covert war against a country, Nicaragua, that represented no real threat to Americans.

The truth was ugly. Certainly the major news organizations would have come under criticism themselves if they had done their job and laid out this troubling story to the American people. Conservative defenders of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush would have been sure to howl in protest.

But the real tragedy of Webb’s historic gift – and of his life cut short – is that because of the major news media’s callowness and cowardice, this dark chapter of the Reagan-Bush era remains largely unknown to the American people.
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