The characters seem to come straight out of central casting: the international drug lord, Norwin Meneses; the Contra cocaine broker with a marketing MBA, Danilo Blandon; and “Freeway” Ricky Ross, the illiterate teenager who grows up to becomes the king of crack. Yet these people are real and their stories are true.
In Dark Alliance, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb recounts how tons of cocaine were sold to the poor of Los Angeles, and the proceeds then channelled to the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras. Meanwhile the Reagan government waged a strident, hypocritical ‘war against drugs’.
This is a masterpiece of reportage whose tale of CIA wrongdoing is as relevant as ever.
Gary Webb’s life and tragic suicide after a smear campaign following publication of Dark Alliance is the subject of a major Hollywood biopic (KILL THE MESSENGER, directed by Michael Cuesta and starring Jeremy Renner), due for release in early March 2015.
GARY WEBB was a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who specialised in government and private sector corruption. In 1996, Webb wrote a shocking series of articles for the San Jose Mercury News exposing the CIA’s link to Nicaraguan cocaine smuggled into the US by the Contras, which had fueled the widespread crack epidemic that swept through urban areas. Webb’s bold, controversial reporting was the target of a famously vicious media backlash that ended his career as a mainstream journalist. When Webb persisted with his research and compiled his findings in the book Dark Alliance, some of the same publications that had vilified Webb for his series retracted their criticism and praised him for having the courage to tell the truth about one of the worst official abuses in our nation’s history. Others, including his own former newspaper and the New York Times, continued to treat him like an outlaw. Webb committed suicide on December 10, 2004, at the age of 49.