How The CIA Watched Over The Destruction Of Gary Webb

Having looked into American history over the years, the most disheartening insight is how closely tied the corporate media has been to the intelligence agencies. Released government documents and investigative journalism shows that it goes back to the early Cold War. And it has continued ever since. But it rarely gets talked about, especially in the corporate media. Funny how that works.

“On September 18, the agency released a trove of documents spanning three decades of secret government operations. Culled from the agency’s in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, the materials include a previously unreleased six-page article titled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story.” Looking back on the weeks immediately following the publication of “Dark Alliance,” the document offers a unique window into the CIA’s internal reaction to what it called “a genuine public relations crisis” while revealing just how little the agency ultimately had to do to swiftly extinguish the public outcry. Thanks in part to what author Nicholas Dujmovic, a CIA Directorate of Intelligence staffer at the time of publication, describes as “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists,” the CIA’s Public Affairs officers watched with relief as the largest newspapers in the country rescued the agency from disaster, and, in the process, destroyed the reputation of an aggressive, award-winning reporter.”

Hurn Publications

Gary Webb

Eighteen years after it was published, “Dark Alliance,” the San Jose Mercury News’s bombshell investigation into links between the cocaine trade, Nicaragua’s Contra rebels, and African American neighborhoods in California, remains one of the most explosive and controversial exposés in American journalism.

The 20,000-word series enraged black communities, prompted Congressional hearings, and became one of the first major national security stories in history to blow up online. It also sparked an aggressive backlash from the nation’s most powerful media outlets, which devoted considerable resources to discredit author Gary Webb’s reporting. Their efforts succeeded, costing Webb his career.On December 10, 2004, the journalist was found dead in his apartment, having ended his eight-year downfall with two .38-caliber bullets to the head.

These days, Webb is being cast in a more sympathetic light. He’s portrayed heroically in amajor motion pictureset to premiere nationwide next month. And documents newly released…

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19 thoughts on “How The CIA Watched Over The Destruction Of Gary Webb

  1. The movie is ok – mnot bad but seemingly a bit hasty.

    And no reasonable person should doubt the basic truth of the story – of course the drug deallers and the gvbernment are two sides of the same coin.

    • I haven’t watched the movie. But I’ll probably get around it at some point. I remember first hearing about Gary Webb on Coast to Coast AM in the late 1990s.

      That was an interesting time. Starting in that decade, one could feel the rightward shift in the country. There was right-wing terrorism and school shootings. It was the era of the rise of Fox News and right-wing talk radio. The mood was darkening, such as the LA riots and Seattle WTO protests. And there was the bullshit of the Clinton impeachment, not that I cared anything about him since he was a major reason politics went so far right: racialized tough-on-crime, mass incarceration, privatized prisons, and corporate deregulation.

      A greater sense of cynicism took over in both parties. Whatever optimism that was left over from the Progressive Era and the New Deal had fully evaporated. The space program sputtered out after the Columbia explosion. The idea that America would attempt to be a great nation was lost. Rather than being a paternalistic empire of Whiggish progress, the US simply became a brute superpower without any aspirations to achieve anything other than assertion of its power. Late stage capitalism coincided with late stage imperialism.

      The mask of power began to slip. Overt authoritarianism and fascism was peaking through, along with new forms of racism, supremacism, and xenophobia. The collapse of the Soviet Union turned the ruling elite into an even darker force, as all our collective fears turned inward. The sense of a society in decline became undeniable. Gary Webb had the misfortune to catch American society at an unforgiving moment. The ruling elite, including the corporate media, were not going to tolerate someone speaking truth at a moment like that.

      • Living in California at the time the story began slowly and the built to an extraordinary peak with the head of the CIA attending a public meeting in S. California.

        Like most of these issues what goes missing is the approach of a film or good novel – that conveys the ways in which corruption is systemic and therefore a direct “conspiracy” isn’t required although that doesn’t mean one hasn’t occurred.

        As to the transitional mood I find it interesting for a lot of reasons but it crosses over with my recent thoughts on the literary art scene and the contemporary gallery/art scene. It’s become so militantly dismal and mirthless and has what I’ve come to call a retrograde East German chic quality.

        The past 40+ years certainly powerfully manifest in the Reagan regime era there really was a kulturkampf and were very much in it now – a general mood of both hysteria and reaction on all sides and a militant walking coma.

        The movie points out that one of the media hitmen at the WashPo was a former hack for the spooks.

        It’s the sort of thing our self righteous media would excoriate someone in another country for but of course here well yawn

        Webb probably screwed up on verifying some sources but the story reeks of legitimacy.

        The biggest gang in the world is the federal mafia.

        Murder Incorporated.

        • I can’t say I exactly keep up with the literary art scene and the contemporary gallery/art scene. Why? What exactly have you noticed? I’ve looked at some of your recent posts, but I don’t recall what you said about this.

          One definitely can look early than the 1990s for the beginning of a collective mood shift. The Cold War, including late into the period, had all the oppressive paranoia and whatnot that had built up over decades. But it was always mixed with an aspirational imperialism of greatness. The ruling elite were still willing to invest in major national projects with the space program being the last symbolic project of such caliber. The ruling elite stopped pretending to care. The major national projects became simply those of overt fear-mongering and social control such as mass incarceration.

          Anyway, the former hack you mention is what is most concerning. And even more concerning is that so few are concerned. Also concerning is how right-wingers have increasingly shown themselves in public and how much they are able to get away with. The Bundy Ranch incident had private citizens point guns at Federal agents and no one did anything. There was that incident in Oregon where the right-wing militants with guns took over the Federal building in a park and no one was hurt. Everyone knows if those had been poor minorities, in both cases many of them would’ve been killed.

          Are the authorities afraid to antagonize the right-wing in fear they will turn to terrorism again as they did in the past? Or is it simply because so many of the authorities are sympathetic with the right-wing? Reporting has shown how far the right-wing has infiltrated the police, military, etc. By the way, Trump pardoned the individuals involved in the second incident, the national wildlife refuge standoff. More recently, the right-wing militia surrounded the Oregon statehouse and shut it down. Could you imagine if an Islamic militia or Black Panther militia tried to do the same thing? It would have been violently stopped, probably with Federal troops brought in.

          When authoritarians and fascists are able to act so openly with few if any consequences, that doesn’t bode well for our country. That is precisely the kind of thing that happened in the rise of the Nazis. The Brownshirts continuously made their presence known in public. It is the normalizing of intimidation that can only get worse over time. As you’ve said, all these liberals with their bullshit, what exactly is their plan?

          • I’m working on a new piece on “poetry” and I’ll defer greater detail until I post but will say here that both in a material sense (money, access, etc) and philosophically (what gets published and how it’s discussed) all reflect the other issues you’re raising – and crucially – to borrow a phrase: The first rule of the Culture Industry is, don’t discuss the Culture Industry.

            The art world including writing, film and TV, all operate with a memory of a goldfish attitude precisely because having been commodified “art” cannot have a memory and “what’s next” or a kind of planned obsolescence is enforced via the 24/7 media thunder dome – the relentless soul crushing presentation of the next big thing with amnesia inducing hype that also ironically produces agitation – so a combo of emotional speed and emotional coma.

            As a result the art world maintains the illusion that it has escaped the all consuming capitalist Borg cube reality of mass production and “art” is presented as if it has occurred organically/spontaneously and is authentic.

            Ill be focusing on a famous poet shortly who is a perfect example of this but so is the establishment criticism as it correctly identifies the writer’s bs manufactured reputation but scrupulously avoids connecting the prefabrication to the wider capitalist paradigm.

            Again, first rule of the Culture Industry…

            Which then connects to your point about the Brownshirts.

            I posted some points about that a while back vis the NRA and mass shootings especially after Las Vegas.

            The entire issue is as you say – analogous to Germany between the wars and the rise of Freikorp/Brownshirts.

            The normalization and the spineless hand wringing by liberals and the ignorance of the anti-gun cadres – who cannot and will not bring themselves to comprehend the nature of fascism – in conjunction with the media cacophony have produced a crisis atmosphere into which carnival barker demagogues insert themselves.

            The republicans have always been Trump but always kept that in the basement and took it out privately or via dog whistle.

            The liberals of course can never publicly denounce it as fascism because that requires admitting their part in creating it and their responsibility to fight it.

            “Were capitalists get used to it” is 50% of Trump.

            But admitting that means a purge of the Democratic establishment and a political war against Wall Street and that means a left wing party not a liberal branch of Vidal’s one party state.

            Poverty is not an accident but a strategy – the not so secret sauce to the ris eof value for stocks and commodities and “poverty” includes a vast arena of drugs, violent paramilitary police, gangs, mafia, “war on drugs” and media and all of that of course informs the sham politics which both is a colony of the miasma and the hysteria but also benefits from it.

            A thousand examples but the recent mud fight over Biden illustrates all of this: Michael Hayden made the same point as AOC just a few months ago but no one – not even her supporters – remembered he had publicly connected Trump to Auschwitz.

            The media in turn offered zero historical context to illustrate that Biden’s odious tone is SOP going all the way back to 1776.

            Thus, AOC+Biden+Republicans+Alternative media+establishment media = a media thunder dome of hysteria in which it is gladiatorial and reactionary and no one “wins” except the machine which profits via clicks which becomes “$” which is fed right back into the system as hysteria/media heroin which then repeats the cycle.

            Take a dive into Weimar or “1920s Jazz Age” America and you’ll see the echoes.

            Now add in the looming collapse of the environment (which multiple groups are using to achieve a breakdown of the remains of civil society and the establishment of tanks on the street tyranny) and you have an authentic crisis.

            And yes what is the plan?

            Bernie correctly has called for the elimination of student debt via a Wall St. tax.

            But a failure to address how debt is currency and how the system must have debt in order to function means the system will just move the debt to some other part of the Borg Gulag if Sanders wins or it will prevent him from winning by backing a liberal-republican like Biden who favors incrementalism and smoke and mirrors because he doesn’t believe capitalism is bad it just needs to behave.

            That’s liberalism out of the 19th century – make money but be quiet about it and be nice by given alms to the poor because it’s the Christian thing to do.

            Obama did that when he told Wall St. i’m all that’s standing between you and the mob with their pitchforks and torches.

            But via Trump who in turn has exposed McConnell’s crypto-confederate fascism the cat is out of the bag.

            At least for a sizeable number of people.

            There’s still a majority who are brainwashed and believe the system can work it just needs a tweak.

            But, what me worry?;-)

          • I’ve previously seen you discuss your thunder dome theory of media. But I had forgotten about it. In your comment here, I get the connections you’re making and agree with your argument. So, yeah, I understand what is happening. It just seems so strange. Even the ruling elite appear to be clueless.

            There is no way this can end well, not even for most of the rich and powerful. During the world war era, think about how many of the aristocracy and plutocracy were killed or had all their wealth wiped out. Entire social hierarchies were overturned. Games of power often don’t benefit even those wielding the power. Now we are on to the next phase of this madness.

            What is the point? What does all of this achieve other than some psychotic death impulse? Are these the actions of a civilization that, on some unconscious level, has decided to solve its problems through self-destruction? Individual people get to that point when they directly kill themselves or find other means to do it. Are we watching the collective equivalent of suicide by cop?

            I don’t know. I’m trying to wrap my mind around the incomprehensible.

  2. https://opensociet.org/2019/06/25/guardians-direct-collusion-with-media-censorship-by-secret-services-exposed/

    These facts are damning proof of the Guardian’s total integration into the propaganda wing of the MoD following its involvement in the WikiLeaks and Snowden files releases. Indeed, the work of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange has served to expose and confirm the deep ties of the entire mainstream media to the military-intelligence complex.

    The Guardian has been viewed historically as the voice of British liberal dissent, critical of the worst excesses of British capitalism at home and abroad. But it has always acted as a political policeman—filtering the news “responsibly” and channelling the resulting anger into impotent moral appeals to the state and other authorities. Its dealings with Assange and Snowden transformed political allegiance into direct subservience. Its liberal, critical pretensions unravelled in a matter of a few months. […]

    In the end, two GCHQ security officials directly oversaw the Guardian’s destruction of its own material. Three Guardian staff members, including Paul Johnson himself, destroyed the hard drives in the Guardian’s possession with angle grinders and other equipment provided by GCHQ officials.

    The Guardian had been put in a position it never wanted. Its liberal reputation, and previous disclosures, had made it the newspaper of choice for WikiLeaks’ and Snowden’s revelations. But the scale of what had been uncovered threatened the fundamental interests of British and US imperialism. It therefore rolled over when the government told it to cease and desist, before taking its place alongside the rest of the right-wing media on the secret committee responsible for press censorship and propaganda dissemination. […]

    An unintended but valuable consequence of the WikiLeaks exposures is to explode the fraud of the Guardian’s claim to any critical independence from the state. The crimes of the major imperialist powers against the world’s population made available by WikiLeaks were so great they could not be neutralised, even by the Guardian’s professional gatekeepers of the “truth.” Not a word published in this imperialist propaganda sheet ever can be taken at face value.

  3. https://opensociet.org/2019/06/25/ny-times-admits-it-sends-stories-to-us-government-for-approval-before-publication/

    The New York Times publicly acknowledges it sends some of its stories to the US government for approval from “national security officials” before publication.

    This confirms what veteran New York Times correspondents like James Risen have said: The American newspaper of record regularly collaborates with the US government, suppressing reporting top officials don’t want made public. […]

    The neoliberal self-declared “Resistance” jumped on Trump’s reckless accusation of treason (the Democratic Coalition, which boasts, “We help run #TheResistance,” responded by calling Trump “Putin’s puppet”). The rest of the corporate media went wild.

    But what was entirely overlooked was the most revealing thing in the New York Times’ statement: The newspaper of record was essentially admitting that it has a symbiotic relationship with the US government.

    In fact, some prominent American pundits have gone so far as to insist that this symbiotic relationship is precisely what makes someone a journalist.

    In May, neoconservative Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen — a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush — declared that WikiLeaks publisher and political prisoner Julian Assange is “not a journalist”; rather, he is a “spy” who “deserves prison.” (Thiessen also once called Assange “the devil.”)

    What was the Post columnist’s rationale for revoking Assange’s journalistic credentials?

    Unlike “reputable news organizations, Assange did not give the U.S. government an opportunity to review the classified information WikiLeaks was planning to release so they could raise national security objections,” Thiessen wrote. “So responsible journalists have nothing to fear.”

    In other words, this former US government speechwriter turned corporate media pundit insists that collaborating with the government, and censoring your reporting to protect so-called “national security,” is definitionally what makes you a journalist.

    This is the express ideology of the American commentariat. […]

    In their renowned study of US media, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” Edward S. Herman and Chomsky articulated a “propaganda model,” showing how “the media serve, and propagandize on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them,” through “the selection of right-thinking personnel and by the editors’ and working journalists’ internalization of priorities and definitions of newsworthiness that conform to the institution’s policy.”

    But in some cases, the relationship between US intelligence agencies and the corporate media is not just one of mere ideological policing, indirect pressure, or friendship, but rather one of employment.

    In the 1950s, the CIA launched a covert operation called Project Mockingbird, in which it surveilled, influenced, and manipulated American journalists and media coverage, explicitly in order to direct public opinion against the Soviet Union, China, and the growing international communist movement.

    Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein, a former Washington Post reporter who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, published a major cover story for Rolling Stone in 1977 titled “The CIA and the Media: How America’s Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up.”

    Bernstein obtained CIA documents that revealed that more than 400 American journalists in the previous 25 years had “secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency.”

    Bernstein wrote:

    “Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.”

    Virtually all major US media outlets cooperated with the CIA, Bernstein revealed, including ABC, NBC, the AP, UPI, Reuters, Newsweek, Hearst newspapers, the Miami Herald, the Saturday Evening Post, and the New York Herald‑Tribune.

    However, he added, “By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.”

    These layers of state manipulation, censorship, and even direct crafting of the news media show that, as much as they claim to be independent, The New York Times and other outlets effectively serve as de facto spokespeople for the government — or at least for the US national security state.

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