Cover of the 1998 first edition
|Publisher||Seven Stories Press|
|November, 1998 (hardcover)|
|Media type||hardcover, paperback|
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.
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”.
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.”
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.
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.”
- Chitwood, Adam (February 1, 2013). "Jeremy Renner to Star in Real-Life CIA Story ‘Kill the Messenger’". Collider. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- "Pen Oakland Award Winners". Pen Oakland. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- "Dark Alliance". Amazon. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- Devereaux, Ryan (25 Sep 2014). "Managing a Nightmare: How the CIA Watched Over the Destruction of Gary Webb". The Intercept (First Look Media).
- Corn, David (August 9, 1998). "Dark Alliance". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
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- Adams, James (September 27, 1998). "Moonlighting?". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- Archived Dark Alliance series, hosted by Narco News
- Dark Alliance: Supporting Documents, Photos, and Audio from Gary Webb's Reporting on CIA Links to Crack Cocaine (1996), hosted by the Internet Archive
- The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations and Iran-Contra Revisited by the National Security Archive
- The CIA/MSM Contra-Cocaine Cover-up by Robert Parry (Consortium for Independent Journalism)
- How the Press and the CIA Killed Gary Webb’s Career by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair in CounterPunch
- Snow Job: The Establishment's Papers Do Damage Control for the CIA by Norman Solomon (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's Extra!)
- Managing a Nightmare CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Theory
- THE CIA-Contra-Crack Cocaine Controversy: A Review of the Justice Department’s Investigations and Prosecutions, USDOJ/OIG Special Report, Dec. 1997