Dark Alliance

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Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion
Dark Alliance.jpg
Cover of the 1998 first edition
Author Gary Webb
Publisher Seven Stories Press
Publication date
November, 1998 (hardcover)
Media type hardcover, paperback
Pages 548
ISBN 978-1-888363-93-7
OCLC 38281498

Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion is a 1998 book by journalist Gary Webb based on a series of articles written in 1996 for the San Jose Mercury News. The book documents that, in order to help raise funds for efforts against the Nicaraguan Sandinista Government, the CIA supported cocaine trafficking into the US by top members of Nicaraguan Contra Rebel organizations and allowed the subsequent crack epidemic to spread in Los Angeles. The book also recounts the media’s reaction and initial dismissal of Webb's original newspaper expose.

Webb supports his thesis with the testimony of Contra leaders Oscar Danilo Blandon and Juan Norwin Meneses, as well as documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). He also took much from the earlier reporting on the Iran-Contra scandal by Robert Parry, whose footsteps he followed in his investigation for the piece. The book contains 476 references, extensively laying out the trail of proof for his claims.

Dark Alliance was published by Seven Stories Press in hardcover in 1998 and in an updated revised edition in 1999. It contains an introduction authored by U.S. Representative Maxine Waters.

The book serves as part of the basis for the 2006 book Kill the Messenger by Nick Schou, along with the book's 2014 film adaptation by the same title starring Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb.[1]

In 1999 the book won a Pen/Oakland Censorship Award[2] as well as a Firecracker Alternative Bookseller Award in the Politics category.[3]


Webb documents that in the 1980s, when the CIA exerted a certain amount of control over Contra groups such as the FDN, the agency granted amnesty to and put on the agency’s bankroll important leaders known to be cocaine smugglers. Later, at the behest of Oliver North, the Reagan Administration began to use Contra drug money to support the Nicaraguan rebel’s efforts against the Sandinista government. The Sandinistas were disliked by the administration for their support of “Marxist” revolutions happening throughout Central and South America.

Blandon, a noted smuggler and leader of the FDN, found a seller for his cocaine in Los Angeles, Freeway Ricky Ross. Ross was an illiterate high school graduate who failed to procure a tennis-scholarship for college and was introduced to drug dealing by a former teacher. With access to cheap, pure cocaine and the idea to cook the cocaine into crack, Ross grew his drug empire and fueled the popularity of crack. At his peak, Ross was selling $3 million worth of product a day. All the while, Webb alleges, the CIA was supporting the Contras supplying him with the cocaine.

After outlining the conspiracy, Webb turns to discuss the reaction to his newspaper articles about the conspiracy. He notes that the use of the Internet and the uploading of the documents on which his assertions rest helped ensure his articles would not be stamped out by the government. Nonetheless, the media slowly turned against Webb and attempted to discredit him. Notably, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times ran articles calling his argument unfounded. The Mercury News originally stood by Webb’s reporting, but, amidst the denunciations by other news sources, executive editor Jerry Ceppos published an apology for much of the series’ content in May 1997. The classified papers of the CIA were released on September 18, in which Nicholas Dujmovic, a CIA Directorate of Intelligence staffer at the time of publication, describes the reaction of the media as “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists”.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

The book was met by generally positive reviews. Notably, two of the three main papers that had besmirched Webb's article series, The Washington Post and the L.A. Times, gave the book positive evaluations. Writing for The Washington Post, David Corn mentioned his paper’s prior rejection of Webb's claim and wrote, “He had kicked open an old trunk and discovered it full of worms—real worms, ugly and nasty…With this book, Webb advances his newspaper series and supplies more muck to make a decent citizen cringe.”[5]

Peter Dale Scott of The San Francisco Chronicle referred to Dark Alliance as "gripping... Richly researched and documented..." in a review featured in The San Francisco Chronicle.[6]

The Baltimore Sun, Esquire, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Newsweek all gave positive reviews.[7]

The book did receive some criticism, notably from the NY Times. In his review of the book, James Adams wrote that it suffered from “an inability to reach inside the intelligence community to cross-check sources and allegations.”[8]


  1. ^ Chitwood, Adam (February 1, 2013). "Jeremy Renner to Star in Real-Life CIA Story ‘Kill the Messenger’". Collider. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  2. ^ "Pen Oakland Award Winners". Pen Oakland. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "Dark Alliance". Amazon. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Devereaux, Ryan (25 Sep 2014). "Managing a Nightmare: How the CIA Watched Over the Destruction of Gary Webb". The Intercept (First Look Media). 
  5. ^ Corn, David (August 9, 1998). "Dark Alliance". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "Dark Alliance". Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  7. ^ "Dark Alliance". Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Adams, James (September 27, 1998). "Moonlighting?". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 

External links[edit]