CIA Crack Cocaine Conspiracy

It’s no secret the CIA gave money to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s. It was a morally questionable move. But was there a CIA crack cocaine conspiracy per se? Did the feds willingly endorse the Contra’s drug trafficking, helping fuel the crack epidemic in Los Angeles and USA? I take a look. As usual, the truth is stranger than fiction.

Contra fighters waged a long running insurgency in Nicaragua from 1979 to the early 90s. CC Image Courtesy of Tiomono on Wikipedia.

Garry Webb, the Contras, and the CIA Crack Cocaine Conspiracy

The CIA was up to some dirty business in South America in the 1980s. Nicaragua’s Contra rebels were heavily bankrolled by the US government, even though they were fighting against the country’s democratically elected government, the left-wing Sandinista party. Reagan’s propaganda tried to paint the rebels as “la resistencia” (or the democratic resistance), but in reality they often behaved as terrorists, committing war crimes and fueling the drug trade, destabilizing Nicaragua and leaving thousands dead. The Contra drug smuggling operations were supported by CIA money, but according to the 1986 Kerry Committee investigation, these actions were “not authorized.” They took place inadvertently. In other words, they sent hundreds of thousands of dollars in “humanitarian assistance” money to known drug traffickers “by accident.” It looked a lot like the CIA crack cocaine conspiracy was real, but nobody much noticed. For years, the story of CIA collusion went to sleep, but it roared back with a vengeance in the 90s thanks to one man – a journalist named Gary Webb.

The Dark Alliance Conspiracy Theory

In 1996, Gary Webb began publishing a series of articles in the San Jose Mercury News about the alleged links between the CIA, the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, and cocaine trafficking. In short, what he proposed was that the CIA was complicit in promoting a drug trade that was getting thousands of economically disadvantaged, vulnerable and primarily African-American people hooked on crack cocaine. The theory ties into the idea of how the “war on drugs” turned into a kind of “Empire Strikes Back” scenario in USA, with anti-drug operations used as a pretext to shake down black communities and roll back the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. Anyhow, Webb’s articles quickly attracted a huge readership. In 1998, he stirred the pot more when he compiled and released his findings in a book. Now, Webb was not your average conspiracy theorist going into all this. He had built up a career as a respected journalist from California, contributing to Pulitzer-prize winning journalism about the Loma Prieta earthquake. He also worked as an investigator at the California State Legislature.


CC Image Courtesy of CamelNotation on Wikipedia.

Was Journalist Gary Webb Murdered for his CIA Crack Cocaine Conspiracy Theory?

In 2004, Gary Webb was found dead at home with two gunshot wounds in the head. Investigators concluded it was a suicide, despite the strange addition of a second bullet. Naturally, thoughts turned to foul-play. From organized crime to the CIA, many parties had an interest in knocking him out of the game. Do I think any of those nefarious parties actually killed Gary Webb though? No, multiple gunshot suicide is a real thing, however rare – and even his ex-wife thinks he must have killed himself on account of his long years of unhappiness. This unhappiness, she noted, had a lot to do with his inability to find good work after an informal blacklist settled over him, the fall-out of his controversial book. In recent years, Hollywood flick Kill the Messenger (2014), directed by Michael Cuesta, has taken a very sympathetic look at Gary Webb, lending credence to his theories. After all, in an era of NSA and big data spying, why would this particular conspiracy seem so far-fetched?  For the record, I really do believe the CIA bankrolled drug trafficking by giving money to shady characters, knowing they would re-invest the money in the narcotics business and thus decreasing the cost of the CIA’s support. They knew what was going on, but either didn’t care or felt it served their goals. What do you think? Very interested to hear, so let me know in the comments!