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1998-05-11

"Dark Alliance": CIA Crack Connection Reporter Gary Webb Releases New Book

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Gary Webb, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, formerly of the San Jose Mercury News, and the author of Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion (Seven Stories Press).

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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.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. In August of 1996, 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. "Dark Alliance" is a story that should be fiction, whose characters seem to come straight out of Central Casting—the international drug lord, Norwin Meneses; the contra cocaine broker with an MBA in marketing, Danilo Blandon; and the illiterate teenager from the inner city who rises to become the king of crack, "Freeway" Ricky Ross. But, unfortunately, these characters are real, and their stories are true.

Now, Gary Webb pushes his investigation even further in his book, Dark Alliance: The CIA, The Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion. Drawing from recently declassified CIA documents, undercover DEA audio and videotapes 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. And Webb’s own stranger-than-fiction experience, his denunciation by the mainstream media, his expulsion from the Mercury News is also woven into the book. And Gary Webb now works for the California State Legislature Task Force on Government Oversight. He joins us now from Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Gary.

GARY WEBB: Yeah, hi, Amy. How are you doing?

AMY GOODMAN: Good. Well, it’s really great to have you back again on Democracy Now! I’m very sorry you’re not working as a reporter right now, but very glad that you have published this book, Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion. For listeners who perhaps haven’t been listening for long or who hadn’t gotten a chance to read your San Jose Mercury News series, I think we should start at the beginning, because this story is so much to comprehend and has such tremendous implications. Tell us what it is that you have found?

GARY WEBB: Well, I mean, the book, a lot more so than the series, sort of tells four different stories. The first story is about how crack came to the United States and how it got here, how it spread from South Central Los Angeles to city after city after city. The other story—and, frankly, the best part of it, as far as I was concerned—was the sort of strange personal relationship that developed between this Nicaraguan contra cocaine broker, this fellow Danilo Blandón, and, you know, a sort of street-level dealer named "Freeway" Ricky Ross, who was, at the time this all happened, 19, 20 years old, selling tiny bits of cocaine when he could find it. And the way that this relationship sort of changed, I think you could say—you could safely say it changed American history. It took, you know, a drug habit that had been pretty much confined to Central and South America for many years, brought it onto the streets of Los Angeles, and then, combined, these two men spread it from Los Angeles to, you know, hundreds of cities, from the West Coast towards the East Coast.

The other story is about what happened when I sort of stumbled on this amazing tale of these two men. You know, Mercury News, to its credit, published a three-part series that I did in August of '96 sort of explaining, I guess in very general terms, the activities of these men, how they involved the contras, how they involved the CIA, and what happened as a result of that, which is this horrible explosion of crack use in South Central, and the reaction by the federal government, which was to change the drug laws to throw everybody and their brother who was caught with the slightest amount of crack into jail for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years. And I sort of had to weave this all together into one narrative, which, surprisingly, was a lot easier than I thought it would be, because it was a very easy story to tell. It's a horrifying story, when you get right down to it, but, you know, the book sort of gave me the chance to expand and explain things that we never really had when we did it for the newspaper.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, as you point out, for the book, you did this whole second series of articles, actually originally for the San Jose Mercury News, that never got printed in it. It was about the time of your demise there.

GARY WEBB: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you learned that they wouldn’t print?

GARY WEBB: Yeah, basically, the first series stopped with the question of the CIA involvement. I mean, we had documented meetings between the drug traffickers and two specific CIA agents, a fellow named Enrique Burmúdez and another fellow named Adolfo Calero. We had, in Calero’s case, a picture of him meeting with the drug lord Norwin Meneses in San Francisco in 1984. We had court testimony involving the meetings with Blandón and Meneses with this fellow Bermúdez down in Honduras. And that’s sort of where the series ended.

What happened afterwards was I went back down to Central America. My colleague down there, Georg Hodel, who was a freelance journalist in Managua, we went down to Costa Rica. We interviewed people who were, you know, police investigators who were investigating the contra drug trafficking that was going on down there in 1984, 1985. We also interviewed people in Nicaragua, the Nicaraguan police, who managed to put this—put two and two together and arrest, finally—after, you know, 25 years of major international drug trafficking, they put this international dealer, Norwin Meneses, in jail. And then we took a look at who in the United States government, which agencies, knew about this and how it was possible that a drug ring of this size was able to operate pretty much unhindered from 1981 until 1991, 1992.

And what we found was that the head of the ring, Norwin Meneses, had been working for the DEA in Central America as one of their sort of top-level informants from about 1985 until his arrest in Nicaragua in 1992, which opened up, I think, a whole lot more questions—at least it did for me—which is, how could this man have run a drug ring, that was bringing all this cocaine into the United States for that many years, simultaneously working as a DEA informant—how does this happen? And the conclusion that we came to was that he was protected. He was protected by the government because his work in Costa Rica was far more important than what he was doing here in the United States, which was, you know, dumping tons of cocaine into the inner cities of Los Angeles and San Jose and Oakland and, you know, those kinds of areas. What he was doing down there was basically running a money-laundering operation for the contras. He was also shipping cocaine north, and which they were using as either barter for guns, or they were selling it in the United States and paying money for the guns. And this was all during a period when the contras were desperate for money. This was after the Boland Amendment cut off. They had run out of money very early on after that, and they were scrambling. I mean, if you recall your history, this was a time when, you know, the national security adviser to the president was running around twisting arms of Arab sheikhs to try to get money out of them. That was part of the story.

The other part of the series that was not published was—concerned this drug raid in Los Angeles that happened in 1986, where, finally, some U.S. law enforcement officials—in this case, a unit for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department known as the Majors II—they got wind of what was going on. They determined that this drug ring was supplying the contras. They had a lot of evidence of it. They went to court, got a search warrant, and in October of 1986 they raided about 14 locations connected to the contra drug operation down there. And then this investigation fell into a black hole, and nothing was ever heard of it again. And all the officers who were involved in it ended up, several years later, being indicted for a variety of crimes, and they all went away and went off to jail. After the series that I did in August, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office did an investigation, an internal investigation, of what happened to this drug raid and what happened to these officers. And they concluded, you know, as was expected, that, well, this was just sort of a bad circumstance, that the CIA had absolutely nothing to do with this. They couldn’t explain why all these locations they had raided were wiped clean of any incriminating evidence at all, considering the fact that they were dealing about 400 kilos a month. But as an exhibit to this report, they released about 3,000 pages of documents that they insisted for months never existed. And we used these documents to show that there was an advance warning that had been given to these officers by the DEA in, of all places, Costa Rica, saying that—you know, "Don’t do this raid. Don’t put anything in your search warrants." You know, they know about it. And we came up with documents that had been sealed at least a decade showing that the U.S. law enforcement community was very well aware of what these men were doing. They were well aware that these drugs were going into South Central specifically. And yet, nothing happened to these men. So that was the other part of the story that the Mercury decided not to publish.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to former investigative journalist Gary Webb, who, thank God, has put out a book that has compiled all of his research to date on the "Dark Alliance," the story of the CIA, the contras and the crack cocaine explosion. Gary, maybe you can talk a little about, and remind our listeners, what happened when your first series came out, the kind of response you got. In fact, at the beginning, you didn’t get much of anything.

GARY WEBB: Well, the problem was—and this certainly wasn’t planned—we dropped the thing right between the Republican and the Democratic national conventions, so this was like a week where the entire press corps takes a week off and goes on vacation. And so, this thing sort of landed with a dull thud, and nobody heard anything about it. But the thing was that we—and frankly, if we hadn’t been doing it for the Mercury News, and we hadn’t done this simultaneous story on our website, I think that would have been the last you’d ever have heard of it. What we had done, however, was put the story up on our website, and we had attached all of our documentation, all of our supporting evidence—sound clips, pictures, anything you wanted—which made the story accessible to anyone anywhere in the world that had a computer and a modem. And what happened was that the word got out, mainly through the Internet, that there was this fairly remarkable series of stories in this little newspaper in Northern California. And people could read it, wherever they were in the world.

And people did read it. I mean, the hits on the web page started going from 300,000, which I think was a normal, to 600,000 to 800,000 to 1.2 million. And then talk radio picked it up. And the combination of those two things—you know, talk radio and the Internet—was able to break the story out of the, you know, sort of the big media conspiracy of silence, if you will, that had attended this topic ever since the 1980s, when Brian Barger and Bob Parry with the AP first broke the story. And then, you know, the story sort of kicked up a lot of dust. I mean, there were protest marches down in Los Angeles. Congresswoman Maxine Waters got a hold of it and, you know, justifiably, I think, was outraged. And she began making this sort of a national issue.

AMY GOODMAN: I remember seeing Maxine Waters, the congressmember from Los Angeles, at the Democratic convention. It was soon after you had written the piece.

GARY WEBB: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: And she was outraged. And then, of course, the speeches she gave and the mass meetings that were held, some of which you actually attended, were—well, put this—

GARY WEBB: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —gave it the kind of attention that it deserved.

GARY WEBB: Yeah, and it sort of forced the national media to pay attention to the story. Like I said before, the response was, "Oh, well, these are just drug dealers talking. Let’s not pay any attention to them, and they’ll go away." And that’s what happened. This time, because people could read the story anywhere in the United States, and because you had, you know, I would think it’s safe to say—call Maxine a firebrand—making sure that this issue didn’t get swept under the rug, you had a very volatile combination.

And then you had the outrage in the black community, which really has borne the brunt of this war on drugs ever since it started. And here, in this case, you had, I think, a fairly reasonable explanation for why crack use started in black neighborhoods. That’s because that’s where they started selling it. That’s where they were bringing in all this cheap cocaine. And what I try to show in the book is how, you know, it wasn’t a plot, it wasn’t a conspiracy by anybody, it was sort of a bad accident, that the contras started selling cocaine in South Central right at the time that the knowledge and the know-how, how to turn powder into crack, finally arrived from South America, and it arrived in the United States at approximately the same time the contras started bringing in this cocaine. And when you put those things together, you had this crack explosion down there. And, you know, the neighborhoods in South Central, they believe the story because they’d seen it with their own eyes. I mean, this stuff had come literally out of nowhere.

And the other thing that I show in the book was that at the same time that this crack problem was starting, this contra drug gang was not only selling cocaine, they were selling weapons. They were selling automatic weapons—AR-15s, AK-47s—because they had access to them. And that was one of the most startling things, I think, I found when I continued the research, was that this wasn’t just a drug ring. This was an arms operation, too, and it was a fairly large one. So, it was sort of a really deadly combination. You had crack going into the streets. You had it being sold by gang members, who suddenly had access to something they never had before, which was a lot of spending money. They spent it, for the large part, on automatic weapons. And, you know, things sort of snowballed from there. It doesn’t take much to start this kind of fire when you’ve got the right ingredients.

And so, that’s really—that sort of all percolated to the top, and it finally made the national media realize that, well, maybe there’s a story here. And the response was to go out and find people who would say it isn’t so—you know, the sort of reassuring role that the media always plays whenever something horrible happens. And then you had them going to a lot of unnamed government officials who assured them that the CIA would never be involved in something so sinister as turning the other way when their assets and their agents were involved in drug trafficking, which is just ludicrous on its face. I mean, the CIA does a lot of things worse than allowing drug trafficking. I mean, just go ask the people in Guatemala and go ask the people in El Salvador what the CIA is capable of, and they’ll tell you, you know, drug trafficking is sort of the least of their worries.

AMY GOODMAN: Gary, you have a very moving dedication at the beginning of your book. "Dark Alliance," you write, "does not propound a conspiracy theory; there is nothing theoretical about history. In this case, it is undeniable that a wildly successful conspiracy to import cocaine existed for many years, and that innumerable American citizens—most of them poor and black—paid an enormous price as a result. This book was written for them, so that they may know upon what altars their communities were sacrificed." Talk a little more about that.

GARY WEBB: Well, I think that’s sort of the essence of what I was—what sort of outraged me about this whole thing was the fact that, you know, you go to any prison in the United States, and you will see people doing—you know, young kids doing 10- and 20- and 30-year sentences for selling ounces of cocaine, when the men who made the whole problem possible, these international cocaine brokers, were in—you know, in the case of the men that I found, were working with the DEA, working for the DEA, on the DEA payroll, at the same time they were flooding the streets of America with drugs.

And in the situation with crack, you know, it was—unfortunately, for the citizens of South Central, it sort of came along at a bad time for them, because the people that were bringing those drugs in were also helping the United States—as I said in the book, they were furthering official U.S. policy in a very unofficial way. I mean, they were helping fight communism, they thought, in—and they sincerely believed that. I mean, I don’t mean to belittle their beliefs. They thought that selling cocaine to Americans was the way they were going to get their country back. And you don’t really realize how callous they were about it until you talk to them and realize, you know, why do they care about the Americans buying drugs? This isn’t their country, first of all. And second of all, they regarded the United States as having betrayed them. Their goal was to get Nicaragua back from the socialists and from the Marxists and whoever else they perceived to be in power down there. And so, you had a situation where the United States government—I think for ill—decided that, well, you know, what are a few tons of cocaine here and there, when we’re talking about world strategy, when we’re talking about fighting the communist demons on the beachheads? And the idea that, you know, you can lock up American citizens for doing something that the government was turning a blind eye to otherwise was sort of lost on—that sort of insanity of that policy sort of got lost in the woods.

And, you know, what I try to do with this book is show that, you know, first of all, what a fraud this whole war on drugs is. I mean, it really is—I’ve told a lot of people this, but 50 years, 100 years from now, I think we’re going to look back on this era like we look back on the McCarthy era now and wonder how in the world we let things get so out of control, how we could have been so blind and so crazy to do the kinds of things we’re doing. You know, and these guys call me from prison. They’re doing 10, 20 years for selling ounces of cocaine, when the man that was allowing them to make it, this Blandón guy, was making $166,000 from the DEA. I mean, that, to me, was outrageous, the idea that American citizens are languishing in prisons for doing something that the government, in essence, made it possible for them to do. I mean, you can’t get cocaine—like they say on the streets of South Central, you know, "We don’t have planes. We don’t have boats. We can’t bring the stuff in here. Somebody’s got to bring it in." And that’s what—that’s the sort of outrage that I felt when I saw the scenario unfold here, was that, you know, communities were just sacrificed—and I have to say, knowingly sacrificed, because, as I point out in the book, the government knew very well, from 1979 on, that crack was a problem they were going to have to deal with, and it did absolutely nothing about it. They hid their heads in the sand and said, "Well, maybe it will go away. Maybe it won’t get here." And it happened, just like the scientists told them it was going to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: Gary Webb, there was a report that was put out by the inspector general of the Central Intelligence Agency, Frederick Hitz. We have yet to see a report from the Justice Department. They, too—Attorney General Janet Reno asked for a report. That was from Michael Bromwich. Apparently he’s written it, but it is being kept under lock and key right now. They will not release it.

GARY WEBB: Yeah, that’s a very strange situation. I mean, Bromwich had the report done in December. It was all declassified. It was all ready to go. And then at the last minute, he said the Justice Department raised these concerns about how it might interfere with pending law enforcement investigations, which is a pretty lame reason, when you think about it. I mean, everything he’s writing about happened over a decade ago. Either these are the longest—I mean, these are the longest-running criminal investigations known to man if they’re still going on now.

The other thing that’s interesting, and I think a thing that a lot of people missed, is, you know, the CIA report, I think, was rightly criticized—Hitz’s report was rightly criticized for sort of glossing over a lot of problems that they found by pretending there was nothing to them. When you actually read the report, you find a lot of things in there—and I was, frankly, delighted to see it come out when it did, because I was able to incorporate a lot of its findings into the book. It plugged a lot of holes in the story that I saw. It explained a lot of things that appeared inexplicable.

On May 6, the CIA Inspector General’s Office delivered to the House Intelligence Committee its second volume. There were two volumes of this CIA internal investigation. The first volume dealt with the issues that I raised in my reporting. The second volume dealt with the whole question of contra drug trafficking and what the CIA knew about it and when it knew about it. That has yet to be declassified. Who knows how long that’s going to take before we actually get to see a sanitized version of that?

The one interesting thing was, though, that on the 7th, Maxine Water got copies of documents, I believe that were attached as exhibits to the second volume, and they concern this secret deal that had been cut between the Justice Department and the CIA back in early 1982, in which they were implementing regulations requiring the reporting of crimes by CIA employees and by CIA assets and agents. And it was amazing. They listed this—took this big, long laundry list of crimes that to be reported to either the attorney general or the inspector general of the CIA, and included such things as sabotage, you know, unlawfully entering the United States, trading with the enemy, aircraft piracy—like four or five pages of crimes that had to be reported. Noticeably absent was anything dealing with narcotics trafficking. And when you think about, you know, this is the "just say no" administration, why would they have left narcotics trafficking off this list of crimes that needed to be reported by CIA officials?

Well, Representative Waters got an answer to that question, as well, and it was a letter that had been written by then-Attorney General William French Smith to the Honorable William J. Casey. I’m just quoting from the document here: "Dear Bill." And this letter goes on to say that, you know, we’ve got these regulations in place, thanks for forwarding your concerns. And then he says, "I’ve been advised that a question arose regarding the need to add narcotics violations to the list of reportable non-employee crimes." And these involve assets, agents, pilots, whatever. And he says, "In view of the fine cooperation the Drug Enforcement Administration has received from CIA, no formal requirement regarding the reporting of narcotics violations has been included in these procedures." And Bill Casey writes back a couple of weeks later another "Dear Bill" letter and says he’s "pleased that these procedures ... strike the proper balance between enforcement of the law and protection of intelligence sources and methods."

Therefore, from 1982 until 1995, there was absolutely no requirement that CIA report to anybody if its agents or assets were involved in narcotics trafficking. And it was not—as we know now, it was not an oversight: They did it on purpose. So now the question becomes: Why would they exempt CIA non-employees from reporting of drug crimes? I mean, it just makes no sense whatsoever—unless they knew what they were getting into.

AMY GOODMAN: Expand a little more on why this is so incredible.

GARY WEBB: Well, what’s incredible about it is, for years and years and years, whenever the issue came up as far as the contras dealing drugs—and it came up quite a number of times during the '80s—the stock response of the DEA and the CIA was: "We have no evidence of this." Well, now we know why they have no evidence of it: They were not required to report it. Nobody was reporting it. So, they could easily say, you know, "Well, we don't have any evidence to substantiate that." And the reason for that is they weren’t gathering any evidence. It was official policy, we now know, you know, 15 years later. It was the official policy of the U.S. government to look the other way when it came to CIA drug trafficking. I don’t know how—I don’t know what other spin you could put on it.

And I will be very interested to see the CIA’s response to this, as to why it was in the best interest of the nation to exempt drug trafficking from this list of crimes that were required to be reported. You know, the only conclusion you can draw is that they were using, knowingly using, drug traffickers—and, you know, as you’ll see in the book, it’s fairly obvious—they were using drug traffickers as agents. I mean, we had a number of situations where they were having pilots flying guns out, and they were flying dope back, and nobody had to report it. I mean, that’s just mind-boggling, when you consider the sort of drum beating that went on over the evils of drugs by the Reagan and Bush administration. And what’s even more mind-boggling is the fact that this policy stayed in effect until 1995. They changed it in August of ’95 to require reporting of narcotics violations now. The other question is: What prompted them to do that?

AMY GOODMAN: Gary Webb, you said earlier that Michael Bromwich’s report, the Justice Department report on involvement of the U.S. government in drug smuggling into this country, had been—well, is being withheld right now, at least is not being declassified—

GARY WEBB: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —because they said it would in some way jeopardize ongoing investigations. It sort of makes you think that—you say, well, how could that be, because these are investigations of 10 years ago, but maybe this is ongoing activities and this is continuing today.

GARY WEBB: Well, that’s one conclusion you can draw, I suppose. I think it’s just—I think it was just an excuse so they didn’t have to release this report. See, the problem is, you know, from the research that I did on the series and the book, the DEA was a lot more involved in this contra drug ring than the CIA was. And I think that was for a reason. You know, you have a lot more plausible deniability when you’re meeting with drug traffickers as a DEA agent than you do as a CIA agent. And secondly, at the time that the most of this trafficking was going on, particularly down in Costa Rica, the CIA was prohibited from involving itself in the contra war effort. So what you saw was a handoff from the CIA to the DEA in Central America, and they proceeded to do the CIA’s dirty work for them.

You know, one of the amazing parts of the book, one of the parts that I really liked, was going through this list of contractors for this organization called the Nicaraguan Humanitarian—NHAO office—Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Office. They contracted with four companies that were either owned or operated by drug traffickers. And this is a matter of historical record, and you can go look it up. The reason for that, there was a deposition taken by the director of the NHAO by the Iran-contra committees, and they asked him, you know, "Why would you have used these companies?" And his response was that, well, those are the companies that Oliver North told him to use. These were companies that the CIA had already been using, and he was instructed that under no circumstances was he to disrupt these transportation arrangements that they had made. And when you think about it, you know, you can pick cargo companies from anywhere in the world to do anything; why would you select cargo companies that are owned by drug traffickers? Unless you wanted to bring some goods back in that maybe an honest company wouldn’t agree to do. I mean, this is part of the history of this whole thing that’s sort of been swept under the rug and ignored for a number of years.

And one of the things I try to do with this book was take all these strange strings and bring them all together into one kind of picture so you can see what was going on. I mean, a lot of what was in the book—what is in the book, I found in libraries, I found in—you know, little tidbits in congressional hearings, I found in Iran-contra depositions, I found in depositions that were taken by the Christic Institute during their RICO suit against the government. You know, nobody had ever taken all these stray bits of information and put it together to make sense out of it. They were just odd occurrences that happened seemingly years and people apart. And when you put them all together and looked at it, as, you know, I think most people should do, as one large operation, it begins to make a lot of sense. And that is—you know, one of the reasons I decided to do this book was sort of to set the historical record straight. You know, frankly, my goal in doing this was to preserve this part of history, because history gets lost and trampled so easily, and to gather this stuff together and make it a permanent record so 10, 20 years from now, somebody can go back and say, "OK, this is what happened," because you’re never going to read it in the newspapers.

AMY GOODMAN: Gary Webb, one of the chapters in your book, Dark Alliance, is "The Assistant U.S. Attorney Was Found Dead." Who was that U.S. attorney?

GARY WEBB: That was a U.S. attorney named Darryl McIntyre, who was a veteran narcotics prosecutor for the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. He was given—after the sheriffs raided the contra drug ring in October of '86, this case ended up on his desk. And he had had some familiarity with these contras before, because he had prosecuted some of the people who were involved in a very famous case called the Frogman case, which was really the first indication that U.S. law enforcement had that the contras were dealing drugs. He prosecuted some of the sideshow cases from that. He was given the Blandón case to investigate and told another U.S. assistant attorney that he was going to be going to Washington to present this case to a special prosecutor in Washington. And he went and came back and said that the special prosecutor in Washington had absolutely no interest in it. And within two weeks of that happening, the police found him dead in a car in Pacific Palisades on a Saturday afternoon. He'd allegedly taken a gun and blown his brains out.

Now, the thing that was interesting about that is, you know, I talked to some of his friends, and they all described this man as, you know, being the last person in the world they would expect to commit suicide, because he was one of these rock-hard, macho, gung-ho prosecutors. The other interesting thing about that is, about two weeks earlier, there was another sort of self-inflicted death involving a guy named Steven Carr, who was a former contra, who had gone to Costa Rica and seen a lot of drug trafficking and tried to blow the whistle on it. Two weeks before the U.S. attorney was killed, Carr wound up on a driveway dead of an allegedly self-inflicted cocaine overdose. The funny thing is, Carr was telling people before this that if they ever found him dead, they’d find him dead of a cocaine overdose, because somebody was going to try to kill him to shut him up. Carr died of a cocaine overdose. The U.S. attorney goes and kills himself. And then the case just disappears. Nobody picks it up from there. And I found that just an amazing set of—I suppose you could call it a coincidence-plagued investigation. You know, it was just inexplicable.

The interesting thing is, when the sheriff’s office did their reinvestigation of this case in '96, they heard about this suicide. They looked into it and announced that they could find no evidence that it ever happened. Well, the problem was that they had spelled the prosecutor's name wrong, so when they went out looking for death certificates and when they went out looking for newspaper articles about it, they couldn’t find him. And they pronounced that this must be some conspiracy theory. Well, I mean, they’re there. I found them. I just had to figure out how to spell the guy’s name right.

AMY GOODMAN: Gary Webb, thanks for joining us. He’s author of Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, here on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!

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