Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dark Alliance, Dark Dalliance,

* LATimes:
TEN YEARS AGO today, one of the most controversial news articles of the 1990s quietly appeared on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News. Titled "Dark Alliance," the headline ran beneath the provocative image of a man smoking crack — superimposed on the official seal of the CIA.

The three-part series by reporter Gary Webb linked the CIA and Nicaragua's Contras to the crack cocaine epidemic that ripped through South Los Angeles in the 1980s.

Most of the nation's elite newspapers at first ignored the story. A public uproar, especially among urban African Americans, forced them to respond. What followed was one of the most bizarre, unseemly and ultimately tragic scandals in the annals of American journalism, one in which top news organizations closed ranks to debunk claims Webb never made, ridicule assertions that turned out to be true and ignore corroborating evidence when it came to light. The whole shameful cycle was repeated when Webb committed suicide in December 2004.


All three major U.S. dailies, The Times included, debunked a claim that Webb actually never made — that the CIA deliberately unleashed the crack epidemic on black America. The controversy over this non-assertion obscured Webb's substantive points about the CIA knowingly doing business south of the border with Nicaraguans involved in the drug trade up north.

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