"Kill the Messenger,” directed by Michael Cuesta, 2014. Webb played by Jeremy Renner.
“Kill the Messenger” is a docu-drama based on the work of Gary Webb, who wrote ‘Dark Alliance’ about the CIA’s 1980s alliance with drug dealers to earn money for the Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries, the Contras. The real story was not just “Iran-Contra” but also “Cocaine-Contra.” Ollie North is mentioned in this account too. The news that the CIA works with drug dealers should be nothing new, but in the 1980s and 1990s – Reagan and Clinton time – this was explosive. Reporters have documented CIA work with drug lords in Afghanistan, Thailand, Mexico, Nicaragua, China, Burma, Panama and Columbia. Webb was only the most personal and persistent, as he tied it to the crack epidemic in Los Angeles, which outraged the black population of that city.
Webb was an aggressive and non-conformist reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, who got a tip from a drug-dealer's girlfriend that her jailed boyfriend, Danilo Blandon, had worked for the CIA. This tip – involving a transcript of Grand Jury testimony – she did in order to get her boyfriend freed, but it led Webb down the rabbit-hole to discovering the CIA’s role in profiting from drug deals. In open court, Blandon, one of the biggest drug dealers in the U.S. admitted to working with the CIA to run drugs from Nicaragua to airports in the U.S. The money was used to support the Contras. Webb later got confirmation from a Nicaraguan banker and a jailed drug dealer in Nicaragua, a frightened U.S. government bureaucrat and a former CIA officer who visited him clandestinely.
It is not news that the CIA would threaten Webb and his family physically. The CIA are killers and thugs. But what is more illustrative is that they sought to destroy his relationship with is wife, with his editors and with himself. They revealed an affair he had with a reporter at a Buffalo newspaper. They knew he had issues of manic/depression. They carefully destroyed his story with mainstream opinion by lining up their assets in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the LA Times to lambast Webb for ‘sloppy’ reporting. The classic line in the film is that from a Washington Post editor in response to Webb's allegations: "Well, I'm talking to Langley." The news that the CIA has friendly, sometimes paid reporters in top newspapers should not be news either. Yet at that time, the editors of the San Jose Mercury News – a small-time paper that did not understand the power of the ‘deep state’ in the U.S. – folded and sent Webb into exile writing stories about constipated horses in Cuppertino, California. As the Mercury News editor said, "We got a call from Corporate."
Webb’s marriage fell apart, he quit the News, and 7 years after resigning he was found shot twice in the head. This was declared a suicide, but twice seems a bit too much. The coroner said it was possible, but didn’t explain how it happened. Webb was a real journalist, not a chair warmer. He was the ‘Serpico’ of the newsroom. He was supported by the black community in LA, including Maxine Waters, one of the few honest Democrats in Congress Media interviews with Webb were held with loaded questions, then media interviews were scheduled, then canceled. Now Secretary of State, then Congressperson John Kerry concluded that there was meat to Webb's story. The U.S. inspector General in a 400 page report “acknowledged that the CIA had indeed worked with suspected drug-runners while supporting the contras."
The story has been buried on the ‘conspiracy theory’ page by the corporate news machine. But what is true is not a conspiracy ‘theory.’ Most of the problems with the series are not with the essential points but with generalizations that even Webb might not have made, or are inessential. The film is worth watching, the acting convincing, the story tense, the situation familiar. It’s sad but true, like so much else in this country. As the source in the U.S. government said, "You get the most flak when you are right over the target..."
Another book on the drug trade: "Drug War Capitalism," reviewed below. Use blog search box, upper left.
May 10, 2015