CIA-Crack Cocaine Scandal Resurfaces in New Film, Documentary

By Brent McCluskey 10/14/14

Both Kill the Messenger, starring Jeremy Renner, and the documentary, Freeway: Crack in the System, have shined a new light on the Contra-cocaine scandal uncovered by journalist Gary Webb in the 1990s.

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Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb. Focus Features

It’s been over 18 years since journalist Gary Webb first investigated the Central Intelligence Agency’s ignoble connection with the cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles and the CIA’s army in Nicaragua. Now those involved in the age-old scandal are finally stepping into the limelight to share their stories.

In his 1996 investigative series “Dark Alliance,” Webb claimed money from an L.A. drug ring was being siphoned to the CIA’s Nicaraguan Contra fighters. While Webb’s work spurred public outcry and acted as the catalyst for various federal investigations, major media outlets worked vigorously to discredit his allegations. Webb was ultimately edged out of journalism and later committed suicide, but an upcoming documentary, Freeway: Crack in the System, and recently released film, Kill the Messenger, may ensure the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist gets the last word after all.

The investigations launched subsequent to Webb’s "Dark Alliance” series exonerated the CIA, but Webb’s primary source, Coral Baca, said Contra leader Adolfo Calero knew exactly where his money was coming from. “If he was stupid and had a lobotomy [he might not have known it was drug money],” Baca told the Huffington Post. “He knew exactly what it was. He didn’t care. He was there to fund the Contras, period.”

Others, like the CIA’s inspector general Frederick Hitz, confirmed the agency’s possible complicity in the Contra-cocaine scandal. “Let me be frank about what we are finding,” Hitz said during a congressional testimony in March 1998. “There are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity to take action to resolve the allegations.”

In an interview for Freeway: Crack in the System, Danilo Blandon, a Contra supporter and one of the most significant Nicaraguan drug importers during the 1980s, confirmed the allegations against him are true, but said his role in the overall Contra-cocaine scheme was insignificant. “The big lie is that we started it all - the crack epidemic – we were just a small part,” Blandon said. “There were the Torres, the Colombians and others. We were a little marble, pebble, rock and [people are] acting like we’re a big boulder.”

Kill the Messenger, in theaters now, chronicles Webb’s work uncovering the CIA's role, and the smear campaign that drove him out of journalism and to his eventual suicide.

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Brent McCluskey is a Social Media Editor at International Business Times as well as a Jedi with Sith tendencies.  He is also a reader of books, slayer of dragons, and level 80 mage.

“Yeah, I have a broad skill set. If I had to pick between being a Divergent or a wizard, I'd pick a wizard.”  His wizardness can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.